Wednesday, December 30, 2009

stopgap/excuses/what have you

Okay, I will start posting here again. I just need to thaw out my brain. It's as frozen as the rest of me. For some reason the heat has only been going on around the time I go to bed. And that sounds like a boast, but I'm very much single.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Friday Random X-Mas

Yeah, it's been kinda dead around here. But it was a nice Christmas day. Not too cold, but we still have lots of snow on the ground for visual effect. Meant to call the 'rents today, but spaced on it, so hopefully tomorrow.

Yes, we have Random Tennage.

1. Brian Eno--Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd)
2. The Go-Go's--I'm the Only One
3. Sarah Vaughan--Nobody Else But Me
4. Little Richard--Miss Ann
5. The Rolling Stones--Stupid Girl*
6. Child's View--The Cradle of Light
7. The Squirrel Nut Zippers--Hell
8. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle
9. The National--Apartment Story
10. Grizzly Bear--Foreground

*Gotta love the line "Her vanity grows and it grows." Pot-kettle, Mick, pot-kettle.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Demolition derby

Another video post. It's easy and not too filling.

I don't know this band really well, but this is a pretty nice song. Not sure why they're going crazy with the hammers. But it's weird to think how it looks so ancient, then realize that I sort of remember this period.

UPDATE: I'm correcting my crass error from before. As to the previous question of why they were going nuts, somehow the onscreen titles got past me before.

Friday, December 18, 2009

pre-Blizzard of Doom Friday Random Ten

There's a lot of talk about how we may get 3-6 inches of snow tomorrow, or as much as TWELVE INCHES! of the fluffy stuff. Which we've apparently never seen before and don't know how to deal with. My only complaint? Sunday night going into Monday morning would be better timing. Then again, we've already got a short week.

For this week, this Friday, there are these.

1. Nellie McKay--Toto Dies
2. The Kinks--Misty Water
3. Bonzo Dog Band--You Done My Brain In
4. The Rolling Stones--Lady Jane
5. Stan Kenton & His Orchestra--Peg O' My Heart
6. Ladytron--Startup Chime
7. Sarah Vaughan--Star Eyes
8. Joni Mitchell--In France They Kiss On Main Street
9. James Taylor--River
10. The Beatles--Don't Pass Me By

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's a little weird, you gotta admit

This is a gentle-sounding song, sure. But the Mills Brothers brought forth one of the most alienated sets of lyrics in pop music history. Much moreso than anything on OK Computer, that's for sure. "You guys can keep all the actual women. I'm gonna make me an artificial homunculus from my fantasies." It's like David Lynch running a white noise generator weird. Thank God for their jovial voices and that lady's spazzy dancing, or I'd never get to sleep.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The not-so clears

Saturday night I was at Borders in their café. At the table behind me was a guy--Old world Indian but with an American accent--talking to three other people. I wasn't eavesdropping, exactly. But after a few minutes, I had gathered enough to realize that he was giving a Scientology spiel. There was something about how "We don't worship L. Ron Hubbard" which I guess I had heard before. And he was articulate, but kind of peevish. He kept stopping to say that you can't compare Scientology to any other religion, taking a tone that sounded like a teacher who's seen one too many spitballs go flying. My guess is that his small audience were less likely to sign up afterwards, not more.

Maybe that's why the church wants every celebrity it can get recruiting for them. Aside from (the somewhat reticent) Beck, few of these people actually come off as cool. But it seems to be a message that carries better in mass media than in the one-on-one.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Random brrrrrr Ten

Safe to say this was the coldest day since last February. As the psychologists and social workers at my job left for nefarious activities, one noted that like, a week ago, people had been walking around with short sleeves. Which some may still be doing, if they're part sasquatch.

1. Emmylou Harris--The Magdalene Laundries
2. Ry Cooder--Low-Commotion
3. Lou Rawls--Breaking My Back (Instead of Using My Mind)
4. Beck--Que Onda Guero
5. Child's View--Sabure
6. The Rolling Stones--Don't Bother Me
7. Johnny Mathis--Chances Are
8. Brian Eno--Kurt's Rejoinder
9. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--100 Days, 100 Nights
10. Finn Riggins--Icy Sparks

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Item: Living Dennis Miller still not as funny as dead Bob Hope

Yes, I'm still alive. Anyway, this kind of thing always bugs.

My top three fascinating people — my top three fascinating people this year are Ayn Rand, because I think she’s at the front of an objectivist movement that’s coming in this country. It’s exhibited through No. 2 on my list, which is John Q. Public, as exhibited by these people at the tea party. And the No. 1 fascinating person to me, as it is every year, is the American man and woman in our military forces who afford us the opportunity to sit back here and have capricious endeavors like top 10 lists at the end of the year.

This sort of playing to the balcony "and God bless the troops" sentiment is the kind of thing that may seem classy to your pet rock. 98% of the time the intended message from the speaker is "Hey, check me out! I'm patriotic!" And "making the world safe for top ten lists" is as depressing a mission statement as I can think of.

I'm not sure if I qualify as "John Q Public." I don't intend to go to any tea parties unless and until I have a daughter with imaginary friends. If that makes me less fascinating, so be it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

No justice, no Peanuts

If I were Barack Obama I would have stood stone-faced at the lectern and announced, "That's it! No more Charlie Brown specials until our oppressed brother Franklin gets his own show." Then followed up with a black power salute. Goofy, sure, but I bet it would be enough to make Glenn Beck's head explode.

Of course if I were ever elected to office, I'm sure my sense of humor would have me out again PDQ.

True confessions and a Friday Random Ten

My ambition is to be either the friendliest unfriendly person or the unfriendliest friendly person in the world. Both are tightrope walks, but I think I can pull off at least one.


1. Dirty Projectors & David Byrne--Knotty Pine
2. Talking Heads--Air
3. Ry Cooder--The Very Thing that Makes You Rich (Makes Me Poor)
4. Mika--Blue Eyes
5. XTC--Love at First Sight
6. The Beatles--Julia
7. Talk Talk--Dum Dum Girl
8. Bonzo Dog Band--Hunting Tigers Out in India
9. Annie Lennox--Ladies of the Canyon
10. Soul Coughing--Pensacola

And here's another version of "Hunting Tigers" introduced by a young and fetching Terry Jones.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tug of war

Had a tooth pulled yesterday. Was kind of tense about it all day, mainly because my trusted regular dentist farmed the job out to someone else. But afterwards I eventually hit an even keel. Got a prescription for Vicodin, which is luckily not making me too dopey during work hours.

More later. On the road to dentureville.

(The pronouns and stuff are just sort of dropping by themselves. Swear, am not converting blog to a twitter feed.)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Neutrality fail

Gotta say, not helpful.

The sponsors of the initiative provoked complaints of bias from local officials and human-rights groups with campaign posters that showed minarets rising like missiles from the Swiss flag next to a fully veiled woman. Backers said the growing Muslim population was straining the country “because Muslims don’t just practice religion.’’

“The minaret is a sign of political power and demand, comparable with whole-body covering by the burqa, tolerance of forced marriage, and genital mutilation of girls,’’ the sponsors said.

They said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey compared mosques to Islam’s military barracks and called “the minarets our bayonets.’’ Erdogan made the comment in citing an Islamic poem many years before he became prime minister.

First of all, a law that this explicitly targets one religion, well...? How do you not call that religious discrimination.

The security rationale boils down to, "We heard this guy in Turkey say something once that sounded sort of threatening."

And laws like this make it difficult to tell the Muslim world that the West isn't making war on them en masse. The fact that this law seems to have shown up on the streets before it was written into the books doesn't help either.

The Swiss People's Party, which embraces fringe right policies well beyond immigrant policy, seems to have political power in the country out of proportion to their membership. American progressives disgusted by the Big Two often envy Europe, where parties are smaller and people give a damn about them. Both systems appear to be flawed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gale force Saturday Random Ten

Sunny day but a windy one. It makes things colder, but not unbearably so, at this point. Watching the leaves bet picked up and whisked through the air is pretty impressive.


1. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--Tell Me
2. Lou Rawls--Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
3. Child's View--Sabure
4. The Go Go's--Girl of 100 Lists
5. Yo La Tengo--Nothing to Hide
6. Ry Cooder--Going Back to Okinawa
7. Stan Kenton and his Orchestra--Opus in Pastels
8. The Decemberists--Sleepless
9. Moby--Hyenas
10. The Squirrel Nut Zippers--Meant to Be

Friday, November 27, 2009

A shame

Wow. I knew Roger Ebert was off his movie review show permanently, and I knew he had been undergoing treatment for cancer. But until reading this I figured it was him and his bosses not being able to come to terms. The fact that he's physically unable to speak now is sad, even if he can obviously still write.

On a lighter note, Gene Siskel's mustache back in the 70s was a thing of glory. Wonder why he got rid of that bad boy. Possible that his wife didn't like it. I'd like to think he had it preserved under glass, anyway.

Friday advisory

No Random Ten for Friday. I spent much of the day at a day-postponed Thanksgiving dinner with a couple of friends, their kids, and a sister/boyfriend combo from out of town. Which was a good time, hanging out with them. Also saw the fourth Futurama movie, which sort of goofily backed into some heavy metaphysics. Douglas Adams would approve.

Anyweasel, Saturday Random Ten should be on the horizon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The antidote

Hope your Thanksgiving was happy, filled with grace and good will, not to mention good food.

Of course, if you overdosed on giving thanks and want an excuse to gnash your teeth and question the Lord's mercy, I give you Mandy and Randy.

I was referred to that video with the implication that it contained nudity. Whew, no. I believe I owe what's left of my sanity to the fact that all three of those digital homunculi remained fully dressed at all times.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Not to take anything away from Gary Busey, but the real Buddy Holly was much geekier. And cooler. I did love that movie, though.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Still available: The Friday Random Ten.

Light blogging at best this week. Has to do with me having vague ideas for a post and then either A) lacking the time and energy to get into what I wanted to get into or B) forgetting what I was going to say. Well, I have off weeks and relative on weeks.


1. XTC--Respectable Street
2. Nancy Wilson--The Nearness of You
3. Mika--Touches You
4. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings--Answer Me
5. Johnny Mathis--When Sunny Gets Blue
6. The Beatles--While My Guitar Gently Weeps
7. Bonzo Dog Band--The Monster Mash
8. Brian Eno--By This River
9. The Kinks--Rosemary Rose*
10. Ry Cooder--Paris, Texas

* One of the songs Ray Davies wrote for the more pop-oriented companion to "Village Green", which unfortunately never came together. At least this song and a few others got a (very limited) exposure on the Great Lost Kinks Album, then wider hearing through expanded CD reissues.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just waiting...

"If I could predict the future, I would be at the track."

That's something I am so going to start telling people if they give me the opportunity. Mainly because everywhere you look, there are people who can predict the future, at least by their own telling.

Every philosophy has to start somewhere.

Monday, November 16, 2009

John Cleese comes to us all

A little more Python.

I guess most of us let things build up inside.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Random Ten as the reservoir fills

When I got up this morning I thought I heard rain, so I brought my umbrella. Turned out to be just the wind. Actually it didn't rain all the time the sun was up. It is now, and I think we had a shower earlier tonight. I didn't get caught in it, but afterward the ground was wet and my sneakers weren't doing much to keep my feet dry. Which just goes to show you. (No I don't know what. Something.)

Anyway, here is the Random Ten. Again, didn't really do iTunes editing this week, but tha's okay.

1. T. Rex--Midnight
2. Lou Rawls--Trouble Down Here Below
3. The Go Go's--Our Lips Are Sealed
4. Brian Eno--Spider and I
5. The Kinks--Where Did My Spring Go
6. The New Pornographers--The New Face of Zero and One
7. Talk Talk--Life's What You Make It
8. k.d. lang--Help Me
9. Johnny Mathis--The Twelfth of Never
10. Ladytron-- Re: Agents

Thursday, November 12, 2009

At the breaking point, things break

So. Fort Hood. It's been about a week now, and while that's a long time in the digital age, the wounds are still fresh.

No doubt I could dredge up a lot of racist blog posts and speeches, then refute them by using other people's refutations. By now I've learned this is about as effectual as getting drunk late at night and getting up at dawn to drink a pot of coffee. Just less fun.

The relevant question--much asked--is "How was this allowed to happen?" Hasan was a ticking time bomb who went off in the most horrifying way. Why did no one see it and remove him from any position where he could do harm?

The answer partially comes together when you look at what else he got away with. Not anything drastic, but from a basic human resources point of view, cause for concern.

As a psychiatrist in training, Hasan was characterized in meetings as a mediocre student and lazy worker, a matter of concern among the doctors and staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences military medical school, the official told the AP.

The AP reported that a law enforcement official says a terrorism task force did not refer early information about the Fort Hood shooting suspect to superiors because they concluded he wasn’t linked to terrorism.

Not to put to fine a point on it, Nidal Hasan sucked. While whatever combination of mental disease and hostility to America that made him explode may not have surfaced, it seems that as a psychiatrist he was indifferent at best. And considering the high stakes involved when treating soldiers, that is a menace in itself.

For the better part of a decade, the military has been involved in two full-fledged wars/occupations. There is currently no conscription, a fact which helped build public support in the early days, but has left the services high and dry. There have been other ominous instances of standards being lowered. At the end of the day, they take who they can get.

The push for more and more military action has left the military overextended. Overextension has consequences. Does that mean that more Fort Hoods are on the horizon? We can only hope not. But the signs aren't healthy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Today a boy appeared in the doorway of my office. Seemed maybe a little high strung, but not really upset at the time. He asked me and the other fellow I work with if we liked the Patriots. I muttered something vaguely positive and we shook hands. (Should be noted that in the context of my workplace this is not as strange as it sounds.) It was a pleasant encounter over all.

Luckily I kept some opinions to myself. Like how football is basically an ice age, but longer and with helmets.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Oh man. Too tired tonight to even think about coming up with a real post. Gotta restore. Hopefully tomorrow.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stay with me long enough to hear the Friday Random Ten

Know how sometimes you're typing and one of your hands is misaligned, so that you're not just getting a little here and a little there wrong but actually typing xomplwrw fivvweiah*? Well I almost logged in with something crazy like that. Probably good for me if I get this day done. Don't get me started on the cursor suddenly jumping a line up.

1. Chic--Real People
2. Talking Heads--Air
3. The Beatles--Glass Onion
4. Sarah Vaughan--You're Mine You
5. Luciana Souza & Romero Lubambo--Muita Bobeira**
6. XTC--Generals and Majors
7. Bonzo Dog Band--In the Canyons of Your Mind
8. The New Pornographers--The End of Medicine
9. Lou Rawls--Righteous Woman/I Wanna Little Girl
10. Mika w/ Imogen Heap--By the Time

* "complete gibberish" by the way
** Brought to you by Windows Vista

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A medal just for showing up

Congressional seat opens up in traditional GOP district. (Thanks to White House Democrat giving Republican congressman a job.) GOP nominates relative moderate, par for the course in this district. Club For Growth and other conservative pressure groups start yapping. Third party candidate forces official Republican nominee out of the race. Safe Republican seat is won by Generic Democrat.

Variations of this story are likely to play out many times next year, especially since so many "conservatives" find all of this to be good news. Sometimes the results will be similar to this, leading to Democratic victories. In some districts they'll be very different, and some scary-ass people are going to get elected. The fact that so many citizens mete out political support based on how well the politician howls for liberal blood is both depressing and disturbing.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Caution: Existential crisis ahead

That's pretty bleak. Is this from Kafka's "vodka and codeine" phase?

Possible return to actual blogging tomorrow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's the Great Saturday Random Ten, Charlie Brown

Maybe you'd have better luck with her brother?

As promised, I've brought the postponed Friday Random Ten. Miracle of miracles, there may actually be a couple of holiday-appropriate songs.

1. D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus--From Ev'ry Kind of Man Obedience I Expect
2. The Who--Boris the Spider
3. Talk Talk--Happiness is Easy
4. Ladytron--cease2exist
5. The Beatles--Back in the USSR
6. Todd Rundgren--Torch Song
7. Child's View--Assi Que Dodo
8. Nellie McKay--It's a Pose
9. Mika--Blame It On the Girls
10. Sarah Vaughan--Moanin'

Friday, October 30, 2009

Special appearance by God

No Friday Random Ten. Saturday, probably. That way it can be a special Halloween list.

Now, I have tended to make a point of seeing the films of the Coen Brothers when they've first come out, or soon after. So I caught A Serious Man at the end of its only confirmed week at the Avon. While it's possible to find fault with it, I would say this is at least one of their 3 or 4 best, and maybe their most original.

A large part of the film's uniqueness is creditable to Roger Deakins. He's been the Coens' chief cinematographer since Barton Fink, but his images have never looked like this before. An uneasy shimmer lies over the Minnesota suburb seen here, and the movie is at its spookiest when it's daylight and people are outside. Deakins captures the feel of a home movie that's been moldering in a can while the family forgot it. The relative obscurity of the cast helps get this feeling across as well. The biggest names are a handful of supporting actors from TV, the leading actor has appeared little outside of live theatre, and much of the cast is making its first on-camera appearance. So while you know the actors aren't the characters they play, you probably won't have any previous images of the actors either.

This is the Brothers' deepest exploration of the Jewish faith, or more precisely, Jewish doubt. Michael Stuhlbarg's Larry Gopnik is both a harried sitcom dad and an updated Job. If his life isn't completely going to hell, it's at least going somewhere he doesn't like. And the tension shows, all over.

While the three rabbis in the movie all prove to be unhelpful in their own ways--the eldest can't even be lured out of his private sanctum to meet with Larry--the ritual aspect of Judaism is beautiful in its presentation. Maybe there should be more bar mitzvahs in the movies.

The plot unravels in a way during the last fifteen minutes or so. It does so in a way I'm pretty sure is intentional. "Embrace the mystery" is a recurring catchphrase. Someone's been following this advice.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More useful notes

First of all, there is no need to panic, because I'm basically doin' aiight.

But, if you go to the emergency room, know two things.

One. That's basically your day. Bring a good book for the waiting room. Try not to freak when your in the exam room for extended periods by yourself.

Two. If you don't have chest pains, be real clear on that fact. If you're all, "well, maybe" they won't leave you alone on it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Chuckwagon

Looking through the archives, here's something I never knew existed. It's from the Mike Douglas Show. John Lennon said that Chuck Berry was the first to write intelligent rock n' roll songs, and "Memphis" may be first and foremost among them. It's only fitting that John get to jam with his idol on it (along with Yoko). The results are... interesting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Low profile Friday Random Ten

Not too much to report. I've heard from a good, fairly old friend this week. And tonight I finished reading Virginia Woolf's Orlando which I have to give high marks to. (Sex-changing immortals. Woo!) Otherwise, mostly just chilling. So I hope this list finds you well.

1. The Beatles--Martha My Dear
2. Stan Kenton--Chorale fro Brass, Piano and Bongo
3. The New Pornographers--The Laws Have Changed
4. Chic--Le Freak
5. Talk Talk--It's My Life
6. Todd Rundgren--Dust in the Wind
7. Grizzly Bear--Ready, Able
8. Little Richard--Lucille
9. Jomi Mitchell--The Jungle Line
10. Mika--Pick Up Off the Floor*

* One of the best album-enders I've heard recently, so not a bad place to finish.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The burn in Hell form letter

To accentuate the positive, this op-ed does imply in its last paragraph that homosexuals love dogs. Which is true. If you're going on vacation, leave Fido with the most stable m/m couple you know and he'll get the care of a lifetime.

Other than that, it's notable that Catholic Andrew Sullivan is appalled to see Donohue's ravings in the Post. Sullivan is gay but also a huge pro-lifer, and was pretty allied with the right wing until recently.

The assumption seems to be that being a person of faith means loathing everyone outside your neighborhood watch group. To be fair, Christ did say something about throwing the first stone. Something like, "For the love of Dad, throw the first stone already." What, that wasn't it?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Night of the Video Posts Pt 2: David had a little glam

This is a clip of The Bowie from Britain's Top of the Pops series. Looking quite fetching in orange hair and Harlequin tights. Even beyond that, it's infectious how much fun he's obviously having. And yes, he does let all the children boogie.

Night of the Video Posts Pt 1: Oh Oh Seven

It would be hard for me to describe the convoluted thoughts and clicking that led me to this short. But it's cracked me up every time I've seen it. Best silences ever.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Deep Autumn Friday Random Ten

Yes, true Fall is truly upon us. There are red and brown leaves, yes. And it's getting frosty too. Cold enough to be warm, in fact. To clarify, it got cold enough this week that they turned on the heat in my building. Which was a relief after the couple of frigid nights where the landlord hadn't gotten the message yet.

Some music with which to curl up in front of the fire?

1. Elvis Costello & the Imposters--The Delivery Man
2. Brian Eno--King's Lead Hat
3. T. Rex--Liquid Gang
4. Yo La Tengo--I'm On My Way
5. The Squirrel Nut Zippers--The Interlocutor
6. Green Peppers w/ Sandra Belda--Carry Me Away
7. The New Pornographers--All For Swinging You Around
8. The Who--Whiskey Man
9. Talk Talk--Give It Up
10. Nancy Wilson--For Heaven's Sake

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Make mine mynah

Can't say much here but this is pretty amazing. Can you believe this man-size voice is coming out of that little bird.

It can do dialects too. I wonder if it could handle sexually ambiguous and Southern. I have this Tennessee Williams part in mind.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chinese? Well, that explains the hair

Here's a nice li'l essay on John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate, one of my favorite movies. D'Angelo is right in that the film is weird in a way that it doesn't prepare you for, unlike David Lynch or Peter Greenaway's works. (I'm not familiar with Harmony Korine, except for Kids which he didn't direct.) It's too bad Frankenheimer couldn't really follow it up, but it is a tall order. Seven Days in May is a good thriller, but not as interesting. Seconds is intriguingly weird (and has a surprisingly graphic orgy scene for a movie with fifties stars and production values) but gets dragged down by a clunky script.

Anyway, the article is a good opportunity to see that weird-ass conversation between Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh. The part where she says she introduced herself as "Eugenie" because she was feeling fragile is pretty rich. She's fragile? He's the one who looks like he's about to vomit out his eye sockets.

How great thou arts and crafts

What can I say about this painting, mentioned in passing by Doghouse Riley? Well, the artist certainly gave his brush hand a workout. He's got potential. But there may be just a little too much worry about his process. As he explains on his website, the images represent his conservative values. Why not relax and let the conservatism take care of itself? Looking at the schoolteacher in the lower left grouping, I think what he really wants to paint is Sarah Palin as Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks. And why not? Literally hundreds of art lovers would be interested.

The idea of scrollover explications is intriguing, though. It's too bad Edward Munch never had a website. Can you imagine what he could have told us about this?

BRIDGE: Won't take you anywhere except another horrifying vortex.

DUDE: Screaming. In pain. Life sucks and then you die. The end.

Oh, and for alternate interpretations, do check out Shortpacked.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Random Ten just under the wire

Lest we forget, there is Friday Random Tennage. Last night I was a little too spaced to do any iTunes library editing, but that's not a big disaster. Certainly not for one week.


1. Brian Eno--No One Receiving
2. D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus--Nevermind the Why and Wherefore*
3. The Fiery Furnaces--Keep Me in the Dark
4. Sarah Vaughan--Perdido
5. Todd Rundgren--One More Day (No Word)
6. XTC--Rocket From a Bottle
7. The New Pornographers--From Blown Speakers
8. Nancy Wilson--Never Let Me Go
9. Nellie McKay--Toto Dies
10. Sun Ra--Jet Flight

* This one is from Pinafore.


When I was in high school I got to be something of a political junkie, wanting to know who all the US Senators were and what they were arguing about. So since the school library had many back issues of The New Republic. I found a lot of the articles informative and well-written, and if you want to interpret the latter as "bitchy" go right ahead.

Even then Marty Peretz's fixation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict weirded me out. Whenever things heated up, you'd see these denunciations of the entire Arab people that made them sound like one was about to burst from John Hurt's chest. I do remember Michael Kinsley being something of a voice of dissent, reminding readers that being Jewish didn't have to translate into rubber-stamping Israel's every move. (Yes, he is. Yes, the surname can confuse the point.) But by and large the "Palestinians as vicious parasites" view held sway.

Which hasn't changed at all, according to Philip Weiss. And the latest berserk button is the Goldstone report.

Another hit at the Goldstone Report in the New Republic, this by the American/ Israeli tribal minder Yossi Klein Halevi. Perverse, flailing, almost incoherent. He argues that Goldstone’s vicious report, by the blame it lays on Israel, will encourage Israel to act next time with much less restraint. (So as to leave NO witnesses behind?) By shining a light on dark deeds, and driving deeper-in the anger and resentment of those who committed the deeds, Goldstone thus becomes a chief bearer of prospective responsibility for the wickedness of all the future
atrocities committed by the state of Israel.

I've said this in so many words before. When you're doing something self-destructive, your real friends will tell you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stuff it

One of the best things about the digital conversion has been the addition of Retro Television (RTV) to local broadcasting. And maybe the best thing about that is that you can see old episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents without cable.

Tonight's rerun was about a taxidermist, but not exactly like that one. No, he's a regular married guy who makes a living at it. Well, his wife's little brother comes to stay with him, and he's a sleazy malingerer. And to make a long story short, the jerkwad in-law's crazy demands start endangering his own sister's health. Well, the husband is stuffing a horse for the town's 100 year time capsule. And there happens to be a lot of room in the horse. Enough for a grown man's body, even...

This story will help me get through tomorrow. If that guy can look his problems in the face and come up with a workable solution, maybe I can too.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Robert Plant sez "Better Led than dead"

Mark Patinkin is one of the few parts of the Providence Journal that's still locally produced. That's generally not enough of a value-added for me to buy it. Look here to see what I'm talkin' 'bout.

"If you don't like it here why don't you fly to Russia. Then travel back in time 25 years."

I mean, how fucked are we if that's the system's best defense?

For the record, I ain't no red and I don't think competition is the problem. The problem is us internalizing the results and assuming that those who wind up ahead are just plain worth more. That's how you wind up with people showing up at town hall meetings with guns, demanding that the government not cover their health care. Three-block lines for toilet paper in Red Square may have been a problem, but ours are different.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Random Ten lolcat edishun


1. Johnny Mathis--WANDERBL! WANDERBL! [Wonderful! Wonderful!]
2. Talking Heads--ELECTRIC GUITAR [Electric Guitar]
3. Little Richard--OOH! MAH SOUL [Ooh! My Soul]
4. Joni Mitchell--EDITH AN TEH KINGPIN [Edith and the Kingpin]
5. Sarah Vaughan--DREAMY [Dreamy]
6. The Who--DISGUISEZ [Disguises]
7. Matthew Shipp--PARADOX X [Paradox X]
8. The Squirrel Nut Zippers--TWILIGHT [Twilight]
9. XTC--BURNIN WIF OPTIMISMS FLAME [Burning With Optimism's Flame]
10. Yo La Tengo--HER 2 FALL [Here to Fall]

Well, according to the official translator half the titles didn't really change. That might seem disappointing, but also shows that we may have more in common with cute kitty macros than we thought.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I stand up straight and tall

Recently I've discovered isometric exercises. The purpose of them is, I guess, to build strength by using muscles against each other. Mainly for me it's a way to jumpstart creative thinking. Or sometimes just to stay awake when I need to be.

Of oourse bullies aren't so quick to kick sand in my face either. This is partly because I have the look of a world-weary loner who has nothing left to lose. And partly because the beaches are closed.

Anyway, using that particular header, it would be a cheat not to show the song as well.

Rock and roll.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Minimalist blog post

I've been thinking.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Down in front

Not sure what's going on, exactly, but the chicken and the snake/earthworm thing are really gettin' down.

Wow. I just thought that should be shared.

Friday, September 25, 2009

FoggyFriday Random Ten

Ro be clear (arf arf) it was I and not the weather that was foggy on Friday (yesterday). To the point where I put the header up and then wandered off, eventually going to sleep without filling in the list. Well, I was a little Nyquilized. Anyway, the songs are from stuff I heard yesterday.

1. Chic--Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)
2. Yo La Tengo--When It's Dark
3. Nancy Wilson--But Beautiful
4. Beck--Emergency Exit
5. D'Oyly Carte Opera Chorus--On a Tree by a River a Little Tom Tit*
6. The Go Go's--This Town
7. David Bowie--Time
8. Todd Rundgren--Some Folks Is Even Whiter Than Me
9. The Knife--From Off to On
10. Stan Kenton and His Orchestra--Ecuador

* From The Mikado, natch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alimentary, my dear Watson

I... What can I even say?

Unless the trailer is badly representing the movie--something that admittedly does happen--this is a horrible mistake for everyone involved.

Rough Victorian sex? A [BEEBEEP} Roadrunner dive out the fifth story window? Really?

In isolation, Robert Downey would seem a good choice for Holmes. Brooding, intelligent, a bit aristocratic. Hell, if he wanted to play the great detective as one of his patented troubled drug addicts, Doyle gave him cover.

But this doesn't look like Sherlock Holmes. It looks like Eddie Murphy's Axel Foley soaked in bleach and stuffed with a flimsy English accent. I'm not sure why it's not called "The Playboy Action Figure." It would probably sell.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doen these trippy streets

Reading Jedediah Berry's The Manual of Detection was so enjoyable that it behooves me to talk about it. It also makes me envious that Berry wrote this before anyone else did. Hero Charles Unwin is a sheltered clerk who edits the cases of a two-fisted detective into proper form for the archives. He gets an unwanted promotion to detective himself when (palindrome alert) Travis T Sivart goes missing. Beyond that I don't want to say much.

But the telling of this story is informed by dreams and fairy tales. It's appropriate that the speakeasy where Unwin must trawl for clues is called the Cat and Tonic. (Say it aloud.) There are a lot of influences at play here: German expressionism, film noir, Calvino. Sort of like if Thomas Ligotti scripted The Big Sleep, although that only takes you so far. But really the important thing is how the elements are jumbled as if by an unconscious mind.

What the New Yorker reviewer was thinking I don't know. A 9/11 allegory? Berry may well have been influenced by living through the War on Terror and the PATRIOT act. But reducing it to simple political allegory takes you far away from what Berry is doing. I mean, find a new buzzword already.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hey! Fever! and the Friaday Random Ten

Yes, it's that time of year when all the crazy stuff is floating around on the breeze. Think I have my own allergies medicated into abeyance now. Which is probably a relief to my neighbors. Lordy, who did I wake up last night.

Anyway, the music.

1. Sun Ra--Of Sounds and Something Else
2. Chic--Just Out of Reach
3. The Fiery Furnaces--Even in the Rain
4. Stone Temple Pilots--Bi-Polar Bear
5. Little Richard--Baby
6. XTC--Travels in Nihilon
7. The Who--A Quick One, While He's Away
8. Grizzly Bear--While You Wait for the Others
9. The Kinks--Berkeley Mews
10. Ladytron--Flicking Your Switch

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Holy embarassment, Batman!

Wow, talk about an off day. The Joker is among the criminals sandbagged and kept prisoner by this barely-mobile fungus dressed like Chef Boy Ardee. The Joker I know would have planted birthday candles in Simon the Pieman's face as the hapless wannabe breathed his last.

Well, maybe Mista J knew Simon was in for a humiliating defeat and didn't want to keep it from it. I choose to think that. It helps life make a little more sense.

Peanut farmer addresses elephant in room

Here's a fun little timewaster. Google phrases like "nigger socialist" and "president Obongo." Go to the links relating to Barack Obama. Read the comments and subtract the blatantly racist language, then see how well the comments match statements in the blogospher, in the conservative press and at teabag-style protests. And you might not have to do the subtraction part.

That's why it strikes me as kinda nutty that Jimmy Carter's observations are at all controversial, buch less fuel for a Republican backlash. Obviously it would be stupid to say that all criticism of the president is racist, and Carter didn't say that.

But consider that Bill Clinton was also a Democrat. He was about as liberal as Barack Obama in most ways. And he had a truth problem in certain areas that his enemies made the single defining fact of his life. Yet never did some hillbilly legislator yell "You lie!" during one of his addresses. Why? Because it was understood you didn't do that to the Chief Executive. For some reason, that understanding is now being eroded. Hmmmmmm.

Michael Steele calls Jimmy Earl's comments "a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president’s wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose." But while Jimmy Carter may still be a registered Democrat, he is so long out of the game that he doesn't have much of anything to do with the official party. That's why he can state obvious truths others ignore. And if Steele believes his own rhetoric, he's gotta get a lot of echoes in that bald head of his.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tribute to the fucking AntiChrist

Okay, that header is easy to take out of context. It becomes clearer if you remember the movie that this infomercial comes from.

Swayze was awesome in both that and Ghost. Gets cursed at in both. Hm. Bore it well.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Random Ten with a side of grousing

The one thing that can be a little annoying about the iPod is that it can be hypersensitive to accident and undersensitive to the wishes of its user. Stray objects brushing against it can make it freeze. A slightly greater impact makes it stop in the middle of one song and start playing another. You try to rewind as it were and instead you go back to the menu and have to shuffle again. Accidental reshuffles, bah!

But as Louis C.K. says, everything's amazing, nobody's happy. And now the tunes.

1. Little Richard--True Fine Mama
2. Nellie McKay--Suitcase Song
3. The Fiery Furnaces--Staring at the Steeple
4. Talking Heads--Drugs
5. Sun Ra--New Day
6. David Bowie--Panic In Detroit
7. Elvis Costello & the Imposters--Bedlam
8. The Who--Doctor, Doctor
9. Feist & Ben Gibbard--Train Song
10. Office--The Big Bang Jump!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dear dairy...

First off, this looks to be another Saturday Random Ten week. Patience.

Second, the reason for that is that I saw a movie at my friend Mark's place. He asked me earlier for a recommendation for movie night, and it hit me: Comfort and Joy. Well, going to Netflix for the movie only led him to an unfortunate-looking Lifetime movie with Nancy McKeon and Dixie Carter. That... perhaps made him worry about me.

He did find the right film almost by accident through the local independent video store (Acme Video on Brook St.) It apparently hasn't made the transition to DVD* so we watched on VHS. C&J, which was director Bill Forsyth's follow-up to Gregory's Girl and Local Hero, more than lived up to my somewhat distant memories of it. And it turned out to be a big hit with the other four guys watching it, which was a pleasant surprise.

Low key and whimsical comedy that sometimes erupts into violence, but not to the point where anyone actually gets hurt. Although tragically some car upholstery does. Here's a taste.

* Actually since there's clean footage on YouTube, it probably is out on DVD, somewhere.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Where does he get all those wonderful toys?

This is avant garde composer Harry Partch. Might be considered a big brother figure to John Cage. The Residents seem to be big fans as well.

And why not? Just look at those giant crazy musical instruments he invented. Such Seussian grandeur, the fact that they actually produce music is a bonus.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Annals of clean

Yesterday I cleaned out my bathroom sink. Within a few minutes it went from looking like an altar to filth to being actually rather presentable. So that felt good. But attention must be paid to the warnings on the label of (ahem) Kaboom Ultra Scrub. No, prolonged contact is not good for the skin. Oh, it's just a little peeling on the backs of a couple of fingers, I've had worse. Still, maybe a pair of rubber gloves is in order.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two points about Van Jones

1. Gotta say, I love how helpful Republicans are being. All you have to do is say offhand that they're "assholes" and they'll go out of their way to prove it. Democrats can't even be bothered to get out of bed.

2. Via Roy, The NatReview's Andy McCarthy is dropping the C-bomb that the right has been so fond of since always. Careful Andy. It wasn't Jones who was carrying water for the Chicoms this past July. People who live in Red houses should not throw sickles, da?

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Friday Random Ten keeps it simple

It's been an up and down day. I've had psyched periods and a few times when I wasn't really in the game. Anyway, we've got a three-day weekend coming up. Just staying down to the one post tonight so I don't sleep away half of Saturday.

1. Ladytron--Fire
2. The Fiery Furnaces--Charmaine Champagne
3. Talking Heads--I Zimbra
4. Jimmy Smith--Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Part 2)
5. The Who--Heatwave
6. Yeasayer--Tightrope
7. Johnny Mathis--Chances Are
8. The Posies--I Guess You're Right
9. The Kinks--This is Where I Belong
10. Beck--Earthquake Weather

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Feat of clay

These credits are for one of those beach blanket bingo movies from the Johnson administration. The animation is by Gumby creator Art Clokey. The song comes from Diana Ross and the supremes, who I like even though I think Flo Ballard got the rawest of deals. Part of me is curious to see this movie, which has a nog-half-bad cast. Another part is pretty sure I've already seen the best part.


It's nice that this guy is at least getting reimbursed, somewhat. But even if there have been worse miscarriages of justice (executions, twenty and up year sentences), seventeen months at Rikers is no joke.

He was initially convicted on a partial fingerprint, i.e. the kind of evidence that's supposed to corroborate an already strong case. Not one that should condemn a man who had the alibi of being about 800 miles away from the scene of the crime. It does show you something about the arrogance of the system.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It's a small small world

Surprised that something like this--Disney's acquisition of Marvel Comics--didn't happen earlier. Marvel is a tempting prize because they have readily identifiable characters. Of course now comics themselves are probably not going to be the top grosser for that division. No, this is a matter of synergy, and of course books on how to treat at bridge.

Mickey and Donald can take a couple of days off a week now. On those days, visitors in Orlando will have a Beretta trained on them by a tense and sweaty Frank Castle.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Random Ten Sales Resistance Edition

Tonight I was in the coffee shop at Borders. The guy at the table next to me had a meeting. It turned out to be a pitch for Amway or something like that. Without making a deal about it I switched tables. It was apparent we were working at cross purposes.

Anyway, music without any further ado.

1. Talking Heads--Life During Wartime
2. Ladytron--Evil
3. The Squirrel Nut Zippers--It Ain't You
4. David Bowie--Aladdin Sane
5. Elvis Costello & the Imposters w/ Lucinda Williams--There's a Story in Your Voice
6. Grizzly Bear--Cheerleader
7. Todd Rundgren--Black Maria
8. The Who--I Need You*
9. Burning Airlines--The Deluxe War Baby
10. Joni Mitchell--Don't Interrupt the Sorrow

Keith sings!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Check it with Beckett

My congressman recently lost his dad, as you may have heard. What will be the long-reaching effects? Don't know. It does make for a sad week.

As might other things. But hell, let's go for the mood changer. How about a brilliant avant garde one-act about eighties toy cartoons?

"It's today here, too." True that.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

This just in

Looks like the Democrats may sort of be thinking about closing that barn door. California's Senator Boxer says:

"I think we can do better on the messaging and I think we will do better once we have a final (Senate) bill," Boxer, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference in Kaiser Permanente's new medical office building, soon after watching an electronic medical record demonstration and holding a round-table meeting with Kaiser doctors, nurses and administrators.

"There's no question we're being out-shouted" by Republicans, she said, adding "all this hullabaloo" about public funding for abortions or government "death panels" deciding who'll live or die "is made up." She said she's especially offended by the "chutzpah" of Republicans who claim Democratic health care proposals would gut Medicare coverage for seniors; she's appalled by "the nerve of folks who were against Medicare, who said it should die on the vine, who now say Democrats are against Medicare."

Being outshouted? Where'd she get that crazy idea?

The puzzling thing here is that if you want horror stories about healthcare as it's practiced now--rather than some dystopian future where Obamanazis shove grandma into the gas chamber--they're out there. Take the opportunity of the townhall meetings to wheel out some people who have been there, and the game would go differently. If protesters want to shout down nurses, patients, ER doctors, they'd lose much of their PR advantage. Yelling at Senators and Representatives, by contrast, is fairly risk-free. We all know that if people in suspenders flip out at a guy in a suit, they must have a good reason for it.

For a while now I've had serious doubts about whether the liberal side is at all serious about passing substantive reform. I know conservatives are quite serious about blocking it. That tends to make the difference.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Not just adorable, this is also pretty interesting. The reason New Zealand has (or had) so many flightless birds is of course because of its isolation. No mammals meant that a lot of niches opened up. The motions and body language of this kiwi are subtly mammalian, in fact. Like a cross between a mole and a prairie dog, or something. Anyway, it's fun to watch.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dog Days of Summer Saturday Random Ten

As suggesticated earlier, this turned out to be a week when Friday Random Ten came on Saturday. Again, a steaming Saturday, which I guess is to be expected in late August.

Building the library back up from square one (except for a few iTunes purchases that transferred over) is actually kind of exhilirating, in a way. Anyway, here goes.

1. Johnny Mathis--It's Not For Me to Say
2. David Bowie--Lady Grinning Soul
3. My Brightest Diamond--Feeling Good
4. Stan Kenton & His Orchestra--Lover
5. Elvis Costello & the Imposters--Button My Lip
6. The Kinks--Autumn Almanac
7. Soul Coughing--Fully Retractable
8. Todd Rundgren--Little Red Lights
9. The Squirrel Nut Zippers--Blue Angel
10. Grizzly Bear--Hold Still

Friday, August 21, 2009

All together no


The Fab Four's legacy will endure, no doubt. But I'm starting to think there's a shortage of quality drugs.

And Bob Zemeckis may never exactly have been Orson Welles, but he was a good director for a time. Rather than an elderly child who only plays with one toy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Retroactive service advisory blues

So where've I been? Right here.

The blog? Collateral damage for the past few days. Monday night, I noticed the screen image was all gimped out. Somewhere along the line something in the monitor broke, leaving my laptop in a Terri Schiavo-like condition. Long story short, I wound up replacing the laptop.

No Friday Random Ten tomorrow. I have to rebuild my iTunes library as well. We'll see about Saturday.

As Samuel L. Jackson said in Black Snake Moan, "I've had it with these motherfuckin' snakes in my motherfuckin' black moan."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Here come the weekend and the Friday Random Ten

It's Friday so it's that time. It'll be nice to be able to sleep in tomorrow. And hopefully if I wake up at 6:30 I'll just lie back down and have a good laugh. (A good solitary laugh, but thanks for asking.)

1. Ladytron--Light & Magic
2. Tom Waits--Metropolitan Glide
3. The White Stripes--300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues
4. The Dresden Dolls--Missed Me
5. Nancy Wilson--All My Tomorrows
6. Harry Nilsson--Salmon Falls
7. Grizzly Bear--All We Ask
8. Captain Beefheart--Dirty Blue Jean*
9. Walter Wanderley--Voce e Eu
10. Bjork--Earth Intruders

* The 1980 song, not the 1967 instrumental. Keeping us on our toes Cap'n?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This is just to say...

Yes, this is a lame week for updates. Last night I was hampered by a sudden and total loss of Internet service, which I think was common to Cox subscribers in this area. Tonight I was stymied by (something something mumble mumble). Yeah, that's totally it.

Tomorrow a (hopefully) exciting Friday Random Ten.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mmm, that's good anthropomorphism

Always on the lookout here for good animation and puppet clips, so Puppetoon stuff is a natural winner. But this one is right off the charts. It's George Pal's Tubby the Tuba, from 1947.

That's got to be one of the most charming pieces of film ever put together. And credit where credit is due, YouTube user videos4everyone did a fine job putting it on the site.

Being a tuba needn't be a source of shame. Something to remember.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Seems like old times: The Friday Random Ten

Sigh of relief. Sigh of frustration. Generalized sigh.

It's a different iPod now, for reasons that I won't go into right now. Still getting adjudted, because the clickwheel works a little differently. And the syncing problem turned out to have a simple solution that made me feel a lil dumb.

But anyway, it feels good to be back.

1. Mimi & Richard Fariña--Pack Up Your Sorrows
2. Tori Amos--Pandora's Aquarium
3. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--All This Useless Beauty
4. Tom Waits--Sins of My Father
5. Dave Sitek--With a Girl Like You
6. Prince--Let's Pretend We're Married
7. Dinah Washington--Big Long Slidin' Thing
8. Sarah McLachlan--Blue
9. Battles--Leyendecker
10. Stan Kenton & His Orchestra--Incident in Jazz

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Weird to do list

This is Sue Savage-Rumbaugh--whom I've blogged about before--and Kanzi, the bonobo she and other researchers have been studying all his life. One difference between her and previous ape language researchers is that her primary focus is on word comprehension rather than syntax (which other animal subjects turned out to have learned by rote rather than true understanding.) Kanzi does actually seem able to put together these crazy requests of hers.

Of course it's lucky when she said "Put the soap on your ball" he didn't think she said "balls." Knowing bonobos, that could've gotten messy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Foxy Roxy

This I found on the 'tube a while ago and thought it a cool blast from the past.

That's pretty damn trippy. And even in the '70s, you'd have to know that a gold lamé V-neck sweater is inadvisable. But that guy is just so good at playing the transparent violin, he knows he can get away with it.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How to screw yourself in a browning America

Really, now. This is quite the golden opportunity, isn't it? Recycling the "but he still hasn't shown us his real, honest-to-Godfrey birth certificate" line some more. Yes, I'm sure that's going to appeal to that growing throng of Hispanic and Asian voters. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings have done such wonders already. Yeah, if you like hearing "what, you just get off the boat?" and "you speaka de English Pedro?", you'll love it on the national stage.

I wonder how many conservatives believe George Bush's downfall was his failure to be a complete bigoted asshole.

Friday, July 31, 2009

This foot came through the line

Above is Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes' 2007 flick I'm Not There. I've never hidden how underwhelmed I was by Haynes' David Bowie crypto-biopic Velvet Goldmine, mainly because it has no real understanding of its subject. This is a whole different kettle of fish, though. It may be that narrative through-lines aren't Haynes' bag. I'm Not There is a tangle of yarn that can go from anywhere to anywhere in an instant, and is better for this. You can imagine Godard making films like this in the late sixties if he hadn't taken that long, ideologically driven leave from narrative cinema.

Blanchett as "Jude Quinn" does give the best performance. She's the wired Dylan who floats through Swinging London and lives on the verge of physical/mental/spiritual collapse. There's no bad acting really, although Ben Whishaw's parts suffer from him not having anyone or anything to play off of. But his narration does give a sort of ghost of a structure.

To anyone else who has seen the film: Christian Bale re-emerges as the Christian Dylan of the late seventies. His sermon is supposed to sound like Dubya, right?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Abandoned shop

Went downtown today and saw it. A sign in the window saying "The Arcade is officially closed." How did they screw that up? I remember when I was a kid--hell, even in my last year of college--it was a thriving little indoor neighborhood. And that was before Providence as a whole got its vaunted development boom.

In truth, I think selling it to Johnson and Wales University was a bad move. The school never got that even though the building was now their private property, the public were a necessary part of its success. And the city didn't/doesn't seem to recognize its value at all.

Wyatt Earp syndrome endures

I'm too old to believe that my expressing myself on any particular topic is automatically a boon. Therefore I haven't hurried to say anything on Henry Louis Gates. The incident did leave a bad taste in my mouth, but I couldn't quite identify the flavor. This came from being pretty sure I didn't see the whole picture. But this double essay at Perpetual Post does strike at what I think is the heart of the matter. Howard Megdal puts it quite acutely.

First, the act itself. Those trying to find a middle ground have pointed out that Mr. Gates did not act respectfully toward the police officer harassing him in his own home. It’s awfully hard for me to hear this, and think anyone legitimately believes Sgt. Crowley had the right to continue harassing Gates, particularly once Gates produced ID, and as Crowley made clear himself, was obviously the owner of the house.

Once that fact became clear, it was incumbent upon Sgt. Crowley to leave. I have heard many make the point that Crowley needed to make it clear that he was in charge. HE DID NOT. Crowley’s job isn’t to prove some subjective standard that he is the boss of the neighborhood. His job is, and I quote, “To serve and protect.” He is there to make certain crimes aren’t committed. No crime was being committed. Job done. Go home, and leave the citizen alone. This is reprehensible behavior otherwise. To take it beyond harassment, to then arrest Gates for what Crowley then knew was utterly justifiable frustration at having to prove he lives in his own home, is particularly egrigious.

There has been quite a bit of talk about how Sergeant Crowley is stung by accusations of racism and how he gave Reggie Lewis mouth-to-mouth. That's very nice and very sad and if I were Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, I'd be inclined to wave him in. But it's not just a matter of whether a particular cop hates or disdains black people. It's a question of what quality justice gets handed out.

Urban policemen are trained to be--among other things--the cock of the walk. Beyond simply enforcing the law, the goal is to forcerully communicate the message that you are the boss, and that your authoritah is not to be questioned by those wishing to keep their heads in one piece.

Now there may be times that the hard guy approach is necessary: drug dealers, violent street gangs, etc. But people also get hit by the blackjack of the law when they're just trying to get a fair shake for themselves. As it happens, a large number of these people are black. Were a larger number of them white, I believe the reporting on the Gates-Crowley fracas would have a very different tone.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The nutcracker

Crows are quite possibly the smartest of birds. And adaptable.

Granted, this little guy definitely was glad he had wings at the end there. But there's an impressive amount of looking and learning and strategy at work here.

Hell, I could take a whole day off and sit at that intersection watching.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Get ur (carnival) freak on

Here's one of the more interesting tidbits that have trickled out from comic-con. Terry Gilliam was down in San D talking about his upcoming film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. His comment on "all the things I used to be good at" seems an admission that he hasn't been at the top of his game for a while. Whether this movie will put him back there remains to be seen.

The minute shown of the late Heath Ledger is absolutely magnetic. Ledger came to Gilliam straight from his (yes, majority opinion got this one right) definitive portrayal of the Joker. He's wearing a commedia mask similar to the one Alex wore during the home invasion/rape in A Clockwork Orange, which may be a sign this character isn't meant to be trusted. I do want to like him, though.

No close-up view of Tom Waits as the Devil, though. It's a good casting choice. He's taken on the role of either the Devil or a damned soul on a few of his songs. "Lucinda" from Orphans certainly sounds like it's coming from a lake of fire.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Eight arms to hold you

In the game Animal Crossing there are a couple of octopus characters. I have one of them living in my town now. Marina, sweet gal. Funny to see a cephalopod bat her eyelashes at you.

Anyway, I'm guessing the friendly octopi are a sign of the game's Japanese roots. I've seen other examples in manga and advertising cartoons. (Not getting into Dream of the Fisherman's Wife right now.) It would seem to predate The Little Mermaid by quite a bit too.

I guess if you live on an island in the middle of tropical storm country, you'd best get to know and love the things of the sea.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

And that's the way it's unlikely to be now

I haven't said anything about Walter Cronkite as of yet. I remember him, although some time has passed. He signed off the evening news for the last time when I was 10 or 11. But I do remember him being fair and open. At this point it might be for the best that there's no "most trusted man in America." Who could really be, well, trusted with all that trust? But Uncle Walter never abused his audience or dumbed down his stories.

This bit from Canadian TV writer Jaime Weinman struck me.

One more thing that’s notable about Cronkite’s CBS Evening News is how incredibly low-tech it was. This was back when TV news departments functioned as though they were semi-independent of the network’s entertainment arm, and part of that was the contempt for production values: no flashy graphics, little music, and very crude video and audio for the correspondents’ reports. Today, there’s no local news show that would have so little showbiz glitz. Of course, this production style helped the show by re-enforcing the idea that the anchor was telling it “the way it is,” that he wasn’t just an entertainer.

The lack of entertainment TV slickness was a big difference between then and now. Cronkite's successor Dan Rather was/is--I believe--a good and hardworking journalist. And Peter Jennings always struck me as a remarkably thoughtful man. But neither of them were able to stem the tide of Miami Vicification in the newsroom. They didn't have the leverage, even if they saw the problem.

Of course manipulation and obfuscation have long been part of the picture. At present, however, they've reached new heights of professionalism and aggressiveness. And most of us aren't much prepared.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Teach your children well

Here's the climax of an old Davey and Goliath, one that has more of a forward-looking social message than you may expect.

Here Davey learns that while we may have different colors, creeds, and national backgrounds, there's something more important that binds us together: tiny mouths that barely move.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

(title here)

Blogging has most definitely been light of late. After a rainy June and early July where the mercury didn't rise that much, we're definitely in the thick of summer now. It's more a time for erratic sleep patterns more than for writing.

Thought this was worth looking at/listening to, though. I've been checking out online some of the bands from the Boston Phoenix's survey of the best new bands in each of the fifty states and DC. This is Finn Riggins, who hail from Ezra Pound's hometown of Haily, Idaho. All their stuff sounds cool, and I can't think of who they remind me of. Which points to some level of originality.

Wonder what the weather is like in Hailey, Idaho.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thats Bull Run? That's Bulldog Drummond? Getting Warmer

Here are the first Q and the first A from a little Q&A with PJ O'Rourke.

The A.V. Club: How do you feel about Barack Obama becoming the de facto president of General Motors?
P.J. O’Rourke: I think it’s a really, really bad idea. It’s one of these situations where Dad burns dinner, so you say, “Oh, I know. Let’s have the dog cook!” The only people that could possibly be worse at running a car company than the current crop of car executives—who have proven themselves to be plenty bad—would be a politician. There are lots of levels of fear and complaint about the government getting involved in business. First and foremost, of course, is incompetence. We actually have experiential evidence about this. In England, all the English car companies were beginning to circle the drain in a series of well-deserved failures and bankruptcies, earned by making lousy products with very poor production at high prices. So, the government, back in the ’70s, nationalized all the British car companies. The result was British Leyland, a name that perhaps doesn’t resonate much with you. Many of your friends probably drive Humber Super Snipers, or perhaps not. [Laughs.] That’s certainly one thing that we’re headed for. The other thing is that there’s a very good reason that governments aren’t supposed to compete with private-enterprise companies. Governments have monopolies on certain things, like eminent domain and deadly force. What’s another example of an organization that gets into the same business that you’re in, except that their guys have got guns? That would be the Mob. Ford is like the last honest trash collector in the New York metropolitan area, the last one that’s not mobbed-up. How long is that gonna go on for?

To be honest, I was disappointed that the whole interview didn't keep up that pace. So here are some suggested questions for further talks with Mr. O'Rourke.

1. So, what are your thoughts on the sun being replaced with a Spongebob nightlight?
2. Why do so many people think compasses point North, when they really just point to the nearest bathroom?"
3. What should goldfish do in order to receive the credit they deserve for inventing the Cyrillic alphabet?
4. Big government doesn't want kids playing in abandoned refrigerators. So how are the tykes supposed to get to Narnia?
5. The brain is made of peanut butter and raisins. But when I make a peanut butter and raisin sandwich, it can't think or talk. What am I doing wrong?

I'm here to help.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Justice Alvy Singer?

There's a pretty funny account here from the Sotomayor confirmation hearings. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions got cute and quoted Judge Miriam Cedarbaum as someone with a judicial philosophy opposite to Sonia Sotomayor. He apparently didn't consider the possibility that the two colleagues might have developed a mutual respect, and may have even talked about this very issue. So he wound up hoisted by his own petard. And never have a man and his petard deserved each other more.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book notes

I've recently started reading W. Somerset Maugham's Cakes and Ale. Or rather I've gotten more serious about reading it since finishing Kanzi, the book by Sue Savage-Rumbaugh concerning ape language studies.

Anyway, I like Maugham's way of putting things that paradoxically make sense. Case in point, "He could use a man very shabbily without afterward bearing him the slightest ill will."

It's somewhat strange for me reading about the niceties of the British class system. I'm basically American, and asocial enough to ignore stuff like that anyway. My grandparents were English, and knew they were working class, and dealt with it in slightly different ways. So I sort of know what's being discussed here. But the social context of the story is one where a novelist's wife who used to be a barmaid might as well have been blowing sailors in front of the tattoo parlor. At points it's like reading dystopian science fiction.b

Saturday, July 11, 2009

War! What is it good for? Teaching your kid manners, that's what.

One thing that's fun about the internet is... okay, sure, porn, but you don't need me to tell you about that. Bur for people like myself who have an interest in odd or out of fashion animation, you can find samples of just about anything online.

This one is a collaboration between cartoonist/novelist/playwright Jules Feiffer and animator Gene Deitch--the latter father of underground comics genius Kim Deitch. I was surprised to find out from the Wikipedia page that it was made before American escalation in Vietnam. Still, the habit war has of picking out the young and naive is a pretty clear aspect of the film.

Mom and Dad really didn't do anything about that, did they?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Going the extra mile

I have my doubts about whether Bruno will be any kind of match for Borat, but you can't fault Sacha Baron Cohen for not trying. And it's nice to see he can be funny as himself.

Of course it would have been quite the kicker if the Al Aqsa guy had said, "So, are you really with that Isla Fisher babe?"

Monday, July 6, 2009

Baby, don't ever change

Sarah Palin continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, and if that statement is redundant it's only fitting. Her farewell speech--in which she launched a new stage of her national career by bailing on the governor's mansion after 2.5 years--was a blast to watch. A little derivative of Tina Fey, but still not bad.

And apparently now she's threatening to sue everyone who was not-nice to her in print or online. Wonder why Bill Clinton never thought of that. I mean besides wanting to still be taken seriously.

Look out, Courtney. Somebody's coming for your train wreck title.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Unusual faith-based venture

This is a road safety animated film from 1958. It seems to take the position that drunk and reckless driving will offend the Christian sensibilities of Martians who just discovered God. I can't fault the intentions of the makers, but am not sure that this was the most effective tack.

Great music by immortal jazz drummer Art Blakey, though. And the minimalist but creative animation is something you just don't see anywhere now. In itself it could have come from another planet.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Heroin, it's my life and it's a great conversation piece

Just a brief video post today. The Velvet Underground in EXTREME CLOSEUP!!!

It might not strike some people as Summer music. Around here, though, even our flood warnings have had flood warnings. You have to be flexible.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A special good night

I've been hearing from a coworker of mine who complains that with all that's going on in the world today, the thing the media is hung up on is Michael Jackson. It sounds reasonable enough on the surface, but given the source I wasn't too surprised to find out that it was a right-wing talking point. It's keeping the Iranian drive for democracy down? Whatever, I say. Apparently nothing good can happen in the world until all Americans clap their hands and say they believe.

As for MJ himself, it is sad, yes. But in a way it was a long time coming. The surgeries had increasingly made him look like the Jeff Koons sculpture of him. He took both his person and his music out of contact with the world. This may be necessary for the artist up to a point, but there's a point beyond that.

Anyway, on a brighter note, I tracked down my favorite skit from Monty Python's Flying Circus. With a Portuguese lesson, to boot!

Of course those priceless Cleese expressions transcend language.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Adventures in retrolesbomodernism

Been letting the blog slide a little. Partly because of the thumb, which is an annoying distraction. Right now I have (ICK ALERT) a flap of loose skin hanging on the tip, raw dermis underneath. So I should have a fully functional opposeable thumb soon.

Just doing a quick comics post now. Today I picked up a copy of Detective Comics #854. This was the first issue to feature Batwoman as the lead character, while Bruce Wayne is majorly in absentia as Batman. There was basically one factor determining my purchase. The character of Batwoman (a gritty update of a Silver Age femme) hadn't made much of an impression on me. Writer Greg Rucka has always struck me as okay/middling, and reading one of his novels hadn't helped my opinion.*

Then there's the artist. JH Williams III may have a name that smacks of mediocre political appointee, but he's one of the true artists in mainstream comics today. His work shows the influence of predecessors like Gil Kane and Neal Adams, but he has also absorbed lessons from classic illustrations and fine art. He was about as much of a selling point on Promethea and Seven Soldiers as their celebrated writers. Which is a roundabout way of saying that at least there was a guarantee of pretty pictures.

It's better than that, though. Rucka has upped his game. There's no half-assed attempt at realism here. Kate Kane's world is dramatic, expressionist, and not afraid of its own silliness. In place of Alfred she has her father, an old soldier who's never taken off his uniform and could work as Aldo Ray's double. And Batwoman is a wonder at work, scary and seductive. Williams is key here. In his hands the character is not just hot in the J-cups and wasp waist way. She's achingly beautiful. And that spills over into the civilian scenes as well. A lunch with a new girlfriend goes badly. It's an obvious irony--Kate has to put on basically the same spoiled playboy act as Bruce Wayne--but it's poignant in its presentation.

The weak point is plot. No one can, or at least usually does, tell a story in fifteen pages anymore. So it's basically just shake up a witness, talk to Dick Grayson as Batman, and track down a(nother) freaky Lewis-Carroll-themed villain who doesn't get a chance to do anything. But it's fun to read nonetheless.

The Question back-up--featuring Batwoman's ex--only has about seven pages to get started. It essentially establishes that there are a lot of tough, mean Hispanics out there. It too has good art from Cully Hamner, though. And it's nice to see that Renee Montoya is making Web 2.0 pay.

*If you crave unlikeable cardboard heroes facing off against ridiculous cardboard villains, Smoker will be a treat.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pop goes

Andy Warhol is known to have said, "Pop art is liking things." And I am all in favor of liking things. Okay, that sounds like the blandest sentiment in history. But it takes commitment to remain easygoing. For instance, typing all ten letters of the word "commitment" without wandering off. You think that's easy?

Anyway, I'd like to welcome The Booberry Alarm Clock to the blogroll. It's a poppy blog, with one of the best names I've heard on the 'net. There's also an awesome and somewhat frightening collection of '70's gum wrappers.

The picture below--a silkscreen--is by Matthew Brannon, who's still young and seems to like a lot of stuff. His stuff looks simple, but there's a twist if you look again. Anyway, it seemed to fit.

Monday, June 22, 2009

President's pocket protector pal

I thought this was worth looking at. John Hodgman, best known for playing Brand X in Apple's Get a Mac ads, addressing the Radio and TV Correspondents dinner.

Certainly there's some geeky genius schtick going on here, but Hodgman is also a pretty cogent arguer. The concept of God as a "cold and distant Dungeonmaster" is the best explication I've heard of Jefferson et al's deism, at least for those familiar with D&D.

Believe it or not I never knew about the Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois. Guess that's why Sufjan Stevens put that song about Superman on his Illinois-themed album when Supes was created in Cleveland, Ohio. (Yes, I quite frequestly scare myself.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Let's make a deal

I've written before about Southland Tales, a movie I'll champion any day of the week. Sony should probably think about leasing it out for midnight shows at least. With Fringe offering both parallel universes and straight-faced absurdity to a willing public, maybe some more groundwork has been done.

Anyway, director Richard Kelly is talking about his yet unreleased movie The Box, which I think is supposed to be out in the fall. What can I say? I hope it's good, and it should be of interest. Richard Matheson wrote some spooky stories, only a few of which made it onto The Twilight Zone. This one was adapted on the 80's version, but I'm curious to see how it plays out at feature length.

Also I hear there are a lot of seventies cars in it. Gremlin fans take note.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bumbling henchmen

Over the weekend I developed this nasty steak-mold-green abscss under a thumbnail. Today it got intolerable so I went to the ER and a nice PA lanced it. Right now the thumb is wrapped up in this blue rubber turban. So I can't write much, really.

But I thought this Juan Cole post from over the weekend was worth looking at. It's a list of suspicious stuff about the big-show election in Iran. Notable:

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidates who hailed from that province.

Ahmedinejad should have hired James Baker as his campaign chair. He knows how to do this stuff.