Friday, February 27, 2009

Early spring thaw Friday Random Ten

For now at least. Cold weather and probable snow seem to be coming over the course of the weekend. Good. Winters that are too short make me uneasy. I'm always rooting for the groundhog's shadow. At least one person at work knows where I'm coming from.

1. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--Opportunity
2. Tom Waits--All the Time
3. Beck--Girl
4. Don Byron--Charley's Prelude
5. Fiona Apple--Not About Love
6. Nick Drake--Cello Song
7. David Bowie--Boys Keep Swinging
8. Jimi Hendrix Experience--Burning of the Midnight Lamp
9. Heidi Brühl--Mister Love
10. Sarah Vaughan--I Wish I Were In Love Again

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The alarmingly green Lene

I have some things on my mind. Yes, Mr. Rogers was right, I will have things I want to talk about. For now I need to get to sleep. So I hand over the floor to Lene Lovich and her Cesare-influenced stage biz.

Tomorrow or Saturday, probably.

That is such an outstanding song.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Betting on ignorance

I don't have much to add to this takedown of Alabama Senator Richard Shelby. Yes, he has less than no credibility on the alleged porkiness of the stimulus bill, his own record considered. Yes, he is and was a huge backstabber, throwing the Democrats over when the class of '94 already had a GOP majority.

As to his stance on Pres. Obama's eligibility for office:

During a community meeting at the All Steak Restaurant on Saturday, a local resident asked Shelby if there was any truth to the rumor, which appeared during the presidential campaign.

“Well his father was Kenyan and they said he was born in Hawaii, but I haven’t seen any birth certificate,” Shelby said. “You have to be born in America to be president.”

Well, if he hasn't seen the birth certificate, it's his own lack of initiative. Websites both hostile and friendly have posted pictures of it, in an inane fight over whether it's genuine. Which the state of Hawaii backs to the hilt. Quick, Dick, prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were born in Birmingham.

But it's really not about that, is it? The distinguished gentleman knows that to many of his constituents, it wouldn't matter if there were videotape of Barack Obama being birthed at a Tuscaloosa Denny's. A black man with that name just isn't who they want in the White House thankyouverymuch. And this is not just an Alabama thing certainly. But is it more prominent in Alabama than a lot of other places? Probably.

All of which makes Shelby's statements not so much outrageous as dull and craven.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rock n' guignol

So, Friday night, saw Repo! The Genetic Opera. I'm not all that familiar with the work of Darren Lynn Bousman. I did see a fairly-done zombie story he directed for the short lived Fear Itself anthology series, but I've yet to see any of the "Saw" movies. But I do know that he's had a fair measure of success in R-rated horror. So directing a splatter musical is a notable risk. One that has not initially paid off, since Repo didn't get national distribution.

It has, however, started to become a midnight-show sleeper in the vein of Rocky Horror, complete with costumes.

The movie's a lot to take. Explicit organ stealing, non-stop goth-metal songs, and the whole thing seems to be filmed on a wired soundstage. Any scene claiming to be an exterior is a lie. But it's too distinctive, too crazy, not to respect. There actually is an operatic sense to it, with Tony Head's Nathan Wallace emerging as a frightening tragic hero.

And really, if I can sit through a move where PARIS HILTON SINGS! someone must be doing something right.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another Friday delayed til Saturday Random Ten

Yesterday my ability to compile a list was compromised by other plans I had, which I might talk about here. Today I learned that as long as the volume is crazy I can get away with listening through headphones at the library. Which is handy since one of my fellow patrons was talking to herself about things I didn't want to hear about.

1. Harry McClintock--Big Rock Candy Mountain
2. Tom Waits--LowDown
3. Electric Six--I Invented the Night
4. Barenaked Ladies--For You
5. Dinah Washington--My Ideal
6. Heidi Brühl--Ich Liebe Den Mondschein
7. Velvet Underground--What Goes On
8. Charles Mingus--Minor Intrusion
9. Talking Heads--The Great Curve
10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience--Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hey, this is a family paper!

He does look like he's screwing that board, right? It's not just me?

Osh Kosh B'Gosh?

Late announcement: The "Friday" Random Ten will be tomorrow. Other stuff came up today.

For now, enjoy this short video about a beautiful woman with what just might be a dealbreaker in her past.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A mermaid he turned out to be

There's no way. No way that I'm going to do tonight the post that I reserved Monday night. I work during the day, so it'll have to wait. Watch this space.

Right now I'm listening to Jimi Hendrix, circa 1968. I have no idea why he didn't like his singing voice. It sounds amazingly expressive to me. Maybe it was just an artist's need to be self-critical, which is valid.

Ah sweet mattress, I'm coming to ya!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Wholly Bat-funeral

There are a couple of nice reviews of Neil Gaiman's Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader? storyline currently unfolding in Batman and Detective Comics. One of these comes from Wild Tyme, while the other is by Stephen Schlecter at Both give deserved praise and some context.

"Batman: Whatever Happened..." is meant to be analogous to the Superman story Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? That was the last adventure of the pre-Crisis Earth One Superman, and something of a counterpoint to Supergirl's death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. The current story follows Grant Morrison's polarizing "Batman: RIP" epic and Batman's transparently temporary death in Final Crisis. But it's a different situation. Wild Tyme makes a compare and contrast.

When I saw Gaiman at a Q+A / reading event for The Graveyard Book on Halloween last year, he was in the process of writing this issue, and described it as 'weird' - even in relation to his previous Batman story, from Batman: Black and White, which cast Batman and the Joker as actors in a television show, sharing chit-chat in between takes. In practice, 'Whatever Happened to...' certainly is weird, especially when read alongside its similarly-named Superman cousin 'Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?' (written by Alan Moore). Even though both comics were touted as being the 'end' of their respective characters, the approach is fundamentally different. Moore wrote a touching, warm-hearted send-off for a simpler age of super-hero; Gaiman, here, writes in a metafictional , abstract mode that blurs the boundaries between content, continuity and canon. The result, as marked by many readers and bloggers is stylistically very close to Grant Morrison's run on the series, especially in his concluding two-part Final Crisis tie-in Last Rites. Nevertheless, there are themes found in both these Batman stories that contrast.

Even though Gaiman has befriended Moore, and learned comics writing from him, the type of talent is quite different in the two stories. Moore was a hot talent, a game-changer, and a couple of years from falling hard out of love with mainstream comics. Gaiman is a mature creator now, successful in several media. Moore teamed up with artist Curt Swan, then the definitive Superman artist for three decades. Gaiman is working with Adam Kubert, who hadn't drawn Bats much until Morrison took over as writer a couple of years back. So where the Superman story was written by a young man working both with and on an idol of his childhood, the Batman story is written by an established man consciously writing against the grain.

As WT says, Moore's story was a sendoff to a more innocent era. Gaiman isn't doing that, because that innocence has been gone a long time. In fact the stories he pays homage to--while gently and subtly warping them--in many cases precede his birth.

The frustrating thing about reading superhero comics is the gap between what they could be and what--in the vast majority of cases--they are. There's a potential to reinvent reality on the fly, to celebrate difference and initiative. The medium has, if anything, gotten further from that kind of ideal as it has tried to function as a part of the big-event entertainment industry. Superhero comics now are mostly soapy potboilers involving people with powers. They're too locked into a pattern to really connect to anything else.

Gaiman and Kubert break this pattern, in part by reviving the conventions of Batman comics in the forties. Of course there are some twists, potentially disorienting. Catwoman arrives at the bar where Batman's wake is being held as a sleek young woman. When she gets up to give her eulogy, there's a considerable amount of grey in her hair. Then there's Alfred's tale, which deconstructs the Caped Crusader's entire career, and which also contains a grimly funny parody of Frank Miller's "I'm the goddamn Batman" bit.

In all it's done with good style and with good heart. The sad thing is that as popular as Gaiman is, others are not likely to follow him here. Oh well, you enjoy what you can while it's there.

Friday, February 13, 2009


For nearly a week after Blossom Dearie died, I didn't know about it. Either I'm dangerously out of touch, or her passing didn't attract the attention it should have. It's only through DJ Trouble* at WFMU that I heard of it last night.

The quaintly-named singer and pianist greatly enriched our culture. She took an intelligent and individual approach to those ol' standards. And that voice! Gentle and childlike, and a little sexy as well. Which sounds wrong when you put it all together, but it's not.

Here she is Hammersteining it on the Jack Paar show.

*Trouble is originally from these parts and played "Rhode Island is Famour For You" on her show. I looked for Blossom singing that song on YouTube. No cigar, but she seems to have popularized it with a lot of younger singers.

Pre-V-Day Friday Random Ten

Being single, I live Valentine's Day as just another day. I don't know if it's true that spinsters angst through the day if they're not part of a couple, or if that's mainly media-driven stereotype. If it bothers you, just remember: no matter what kind of bonds people think they have, ultimately we all die alone.

What, that didn't cheer you up? Anyway, lets review the music.

1. The Velvet Underground--After Hours
2. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention--Why Don'tcha Do Me Right?
3. The Sons of the Pioneers--Wind
4. Nick Drake--Man in a Shed
5. Brian Eno--China My China
6. The Brunettes--Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth
7. Dinah Washington & Brook Benton--Baby, You've Got What It Takes
8. Nat King Cole--That Sunday, That Summer
9. Outkast--Pink and Blue
10. They Might Be Giants--Whistling in the Dark

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

We have met the paparazzi...

Via The Poorman, here's some well-deserved Daily Show mischief at Billo's expense.

Just about everything to be said about Bill O'Reilly has already been said. Still, for someone who so enjoys the sound of his own voice, it's rather shocking that he doesn't even really listen to that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Coming out party

Saw Barack's first pulse-pounding presidential press conference earlier tonight. On balance I'd have to say he did a fine job. Last year, when it looked like McCain/Palin might just get in there, a lolcats-style poster of Obama started circulating online, with the text, "Chill motherfuckers, I've got this." I sort of got that feeling watching him. There's panic in the air about how much the stimulus will be watered down. And it's no secret that most congressional Republicans don't want to give him anything but tax cuts. So it's good that he went out there and made a forceful case for spending on education--for example--and also on transportation. He did talk about Elkhart, Indiana a lot, which strikes me as a little much. But that's me, and I've got a lower "Okay, we get it" threshold than a lot of other people. So he probably threw in just the right amount of Elkhart.

UPDATE: I figured that the The
Rude One
would have a good time watching, and I was right. He brings up a question, though.

8:09: The first question is already about trying to undermine his credibility. A question: why don't reporters act like this is just post-9/11? This is arguably a worse actual crisis, if not quite as spectacular. It's more like a tragedy directed by Ingmar Bergman, not Michael Bay. No, deference is not pretty. In any circumstance. But the stink of hypocrisy is as pronounced as a fart in an old elevator.

But really, it's better that he's not getting his ass kissed, Bush in '02 style. In fact it's not an entirely bad thing that reporters bring piddling and petty gossip rag questions to him, like the guy who basically asked, "What's with the no bipartisanship? Is that your fault or what?" When Barack hears the Fox-y questions directly it gives him a chance to show how well he suffers fools. Or not, if the situation warrants it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Mind-blowing image of the week

From Dr. K's Final Final Crisis post-mortem.

But if this interpretation holds up, then it turns out to be a huge risk. It's not what a lot of readers want from a superhero comic, but because it is a huge, company-wide crossover with promised significance, a lot of readers felt compelled to follow it despite the fact that they would otherwise reject such unconventional storytelling. It would be like if MGM and the Broccolis handed over the next James Bond movie to Guy Maddin--it would definitely change the way we think about James Bond movies, but most moviegoers aren't there for that.

Wow. Imagine.

As to my own view on the FC finale, I do like the fact that much of it is focused on rebuilding the world rather than defeating the enemy. There is some of that, but Darkseid winds up screwing his own pooch, really. And I have a certain fondness for nonlinear storytelling.

The beginning.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oops, nearly forgetted the Friday Random Ten

Had it on paper, but that doesn't do you any good I suppose. (So sleepy.) Anyway, here goes.

1. 8½ Souvenirs--Under Your Skin
2. Arcade Fire--I'm Sleeping in a Submarine
3. Cannonball Adderley--One Man's Dream
4. Tom Waits--Lord I've Been Changed
5. Annie Lennox--Stay By Me
6. Gang of Four--At Home He's a Tourist
7. Brian Eno--The Great Pretender
8. Nick Drake--Way to Blue
9. Electric Six--Improper Dancing
10. Elvis Costello & the Attractions--Beaten to the Punch

Thursday, February 5, 2009

High Cramp

A man died yesterday after a life of doing just what he was meant to do. Erick Lee Purkhiser, better known as Lux Interior. What made him tick?
"It's a little bit like asking a junkie how he's been able to keep on dope all these years," Interior told The Times some years ago. "It's just so much fun. You pull in to one town and people scream, 'I love you, I love you, I love you.' And you go to a bar and have a great rock 'n' roll show and go to the next town and people scream, 'I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.' It's hard to walk away from all that."

Rest assured, here's a guy guaranteed a place in Heaven. Hell truly is afraid he'll take over.

Brace yourself.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In which I continue to fail to be in awe of the Hockey Mom

This HuffPo article details some of the steps that Sarah Palin will have to take before she can really be a serious national candidate. "Formidable", in Stuart Whatley's own words. He brings up a good point near the end.
One thing that surely won't help is her ongoing row with "the media." Her media-blaming gambit with filmmaker John Zeigler following the election was ill-received and seen as gratuitously souring, revealing that she is still rather naive when it comes to safely navigating the public sphere. Needless to say, the video footage of Palin in front of a turkey-beheading machine is precisely the type of thing she needs to avoid. Much of this will depend on luck, but Palin should indeed follow Gingrich's advice to recruit the best and the brightest advisors available. Still though, beyond cramming up on policy, the "hockey mom" must become a real person again.

"Souring" is a pretty good descriptor. You can see the video and a recap of the highlights here. There is very much a "have it both ways" attempt going on. If you go on Saturday Night Live to face off against Tina Fey, it doesn't really do to sputter with shock and sadness when the parodies turn out to be popular. Of course the "it's all rigged" complaint will resonate with some voters. I know a few. But it's not the way to charm swing voters.

Which is not to say that the right couldn't have a resurgence in the next few years, or that she won't be leading it. But in the Republican Party, the "conservative" vote is in high demand. Palin's competitors won't just hand it to her out of politeness. How savvy they are will determine who's holding the whip.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Brain washing

This is making laundry night twice as much a chore as it might otherwise be. Yeah, look at that long list of internal links on the left side of the screen. He's got words of wisdom on all those things. Each and every goddam one!

Forgive me. I don't respond well to unsolicited advice. Especially unsolicited one-size-fits-all advice. So please, somebody get this guy to shut up and mind his own damn business.