Saturday, December 31, 2011

Odd and neat stuff

I made a trip to the RISD gallery today, which I do every so often. After all, it's there. The main room was filled with Nancy Chunn's Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear maxiseries. Emphasis on maxi; I lost count of the panels, and some weren't even on display. It was more fun and less preachy - or maybe just more fun about being preachy - than you might think. Very acrylic-y.

I'd gone there to see the "Made in UK" exhibit, which varied. Most of the pieces in the Young British Artists corner weren't really my thing, although Gillian Wearing has an interesting approach to portrait photography. But there were a few paintings by Bridget Riley, the OG of op-art. And a still-life by William Scott, the late Scottish painter, that I found arresting even though I wasn't 100% sure what the subject was.

The above picture is by Lucy Williams. She wasn't part of the UK exhibit, even though she's English. But in another room they had one of her mixed media pieces. These are kind of fascinating, like dollhousees in two dimensions. Well, two-point-something.

And because it was the last Saturday of the month, admission was free. That's certainly a nice bonus.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Wrap-up Friday Random Ten

So today was my last day at the job... for 2011. No, not leaving there just yet. But I'm taking Tuesday off, and Monday is considered a holiday, New Year's being on a Sunday and all. So officially I'm not in until Wednesday, January 4. Unofficially I need to stop in Tuesday morning because I forgot to send in my timesheet. Ah well, give 'em a surprise.

1. Bob Dylan - Absolutely Sweet Marie
2. The Clash - Guns of Brixton
3. The New Pornographers - Centre for Holy Wars
4. The Magnetic Fields - Busby Berkeley Dreams
5. Joe Jackson - Pretty Girls
6. The Kinks - No Return
7. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Be Easy
8. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - Summertime
9. Lou Rawls - You Can Bring Me All Your Heartaches
10. Tom Waits - Talking At the Same Time

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The somewhat improvement

The writing has been going surprisingly well the last couple of weeks. I don't want to jinkx it - so I won't - but I may have hit on a method for keeping my productivity in a decent place. Along with creativity, one hopes. In some instances they sort of go hand in hand.

Thing is, I'm still prone to dawdling and getting late starts. It's just that once I do start, I finish the writing session later too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's (a) murder

During my morning routine, I'd say between getting up and shaving, I heard a big ruckus. Plenty of cawing outside. Ravens and/or crows were having a confab about something. It might be jarring at first, but for me it was nice to know they were there. And I was glad to be living in the city, because in the country I'm sure one of the neighbors would have driven them off with a shotgun.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Unique Christmas cheer

Safe to say neither of them know quite what they're getting into.

Friday, December 23, 2011

X-Mas season Friday Random Ten but...

Without Christmas music. Maybe in a couple of days, or months, if I feel like it.

This year's Christmas and the upcoming New Year both fall on Sunday. Monster truck announcers are getting antsy.

1. Lou Rawls - Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
2. Yo La Tengo - When It's Dark
3. R.E.M. - Old Man Kensey
4. Nick Drake - Sunday
5. The Beautiful South - From Under the Covers*
6. The New Pornographers - The Fake Headlines
7. The Magnetic Fields - Bitter Tears
8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Long Hot Summer Night
9. Sly & the Family Stone - Everybody Is a Star
10. Wes Montgomery - Canadian Sunset

* And how could I not love a song like this?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Burning down the house

I'm reading Mark Z Danielewski's House of Leaves now. Being a rather massive book with copious footnotes, I saw a comparison with Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. While that book is longer, this one probably takes a lot of people longer to read. The reason is that while JS&MN is a fairly straightforward narrative, and the notes basically do their own thing, Leaves is all gnarled up. There's a section in the first half where the type runs backwards and forwards (lot of printing tricks here) and it gets hard to tell text from footnotes from footnotes to footnotes.

How is the tale itself? It's kind of a trip. I might have enjoyed Clarke's book more, but this one has its rewards, certainly. Johnny Truant is an interesting creation in that his LA wastrel life brings him smack against the uncanny. In the main he's a Chuck Pahlaniuk character—which essentially means a Bret Easton Ellis character with more intelligence and less money—but sometimes he turns into a raving genius out of Lovecraft.

There are a couple of genuinely disquieting scenes, like Holloway's freakout in the labyrinth and the Pekinese story. MZD isn't an author I see myself emulating, but I'm sure there are pluses to doing so.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quarrel between friends

It's always been something of an exaggeration to say that Christopher Hitchens has blood on his hands in re the was in Iraq. It's impossible to imagine Cheney and Rummy on the edge of our seats, saying, "We need at least one of the two snotty English guys at The Nation, and then it's a go." Similarly just about all of Congress made up its mind without much thought to the intellectuals. And if Hitch's job was to sell the left on the enterprise, well, mission unaccomplished.

But the thing about claiming the principled high ground is that inevitability isn't much of a defense. If the evil effects of your actions were a fait accomplit anyway, that doesn't mean you did the right thing. Only that you had company.

And the thing about being morally superior in the face of opposing evidence is that you tend to double douwn on the indefensible. Many cases in point here.

Katha Pollitt has a good and thoughtful in memoriam here. There's personal affection, but she certainly doesn't let him off the hook.

Having had some complications from acid reflux, I can only imagine that esophygeal cancer is a very painful thing to have, and a crappy way to die. I felt for him in those last months. Never prayed for him, though. In his case it would have been disrespectful.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

O orangutans

How much can I say about this? Digesting your muscles is a neat trick but it's gross and not good for you in the long run. I think we're getting to the point where preserving habitat for animals will mean creating new habitat where it didn't exist before. In cases where that will work, anyway.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Laborious Friday Random Ten

My department looks to be short a few people for the next couple of weeks. So, my boss and another person look to be kind of swamped for that period. I volunteered to take on a couple of things, split between myself and a guy I work with. It seemed like the right thing to do and a pragmatic thing to do as well. It's always good to demonstrate your value.

1. The Clash - Brand New Cadillac
2. Bob Dylan - Visions of Johanna
3. R.E.M. - Kohoutek
4. Frank Sinatra - You Make Me Feel So Young
5. Mika - Any Other World
6. Tori Amos - Marianne
7. The New Pornographers - The Body Says No
8. The Beautiful South - Straight In At 37
9. Lou Rawls - A Natural Man
10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Burning of the Midnight Lamp

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Emptying the world

Both are pieces that I just found out about and read today, but kudos to this fellow for rebutting that one on the issue of Amazon versus what bricks and mortar bookstores. Manjoo's piece is predictable and short-sighted, for reasons it's not too hard to point out. Predictable because whenever corporate America wants to get its way, you can count on a cadre of intellectuals to patiently explain to all of us why the behemoth should get everything it wants. Short-sighted because the case rests almost entirely on Amazon's cheapness.

Now, we all like to save money. More and more, we need to save money. But low cost is not the only value worth preserving. Accepting that it is has caused the collapse of manufacturing in this country and the narrowing of retail options. An economic death spiral, in other words. So it's good to see Doig point out the value bookstores bring to the community.

Of course, as some will say, "communi-wha?" There are lots of places where his argument will fall on deaf ears.

Like farmers’ markets, bookstores are an example of what urbanists refer to as “third places” — places that usually exist to sell something but that also contribute to a city’s public realm, like coffee shops. “In this way, ‘literary culture’ may also translate to ‘urban culture,’ and the appreciation urban residents have for the inherent qualities of urban life,” says Mike Lydon, principal of the Street Plans Collaborative, an urban planning firm. “One might describe Amazon as the fast, cheap, standard, virtual suburban big-box model, while the indie bookstore is the urbane alternative that is seemingly rising alongside the rediscovery of America’s urban neighborhoods.” He may be right: after a long decline, the number of independent bookstores stabilized in the last few years and has even ticked slightly upward, according to the American Booksellers Association.

Not everybody sees the need for "third places" because not everyone is invested in there being a public realm. For a lot of suburbanites, exurbanites, and people who want to be as such, life is home, car, work. The idea of spending time in a place you don't own in order to soak up some kind of cultural aura is alien to them. Which is why nihilistic pundits will always find a willing ear. (And a paycheck, but that's a different story.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Don't you just love culture war?

If there is a compliment that needs be payed to American television, it's that there's stuff on it that pisses off these people. It's hard for me to comprehend being more offended by seeing Chaz Bono on a dance competition than lynch mob stirrer Nancy Grace on the same show, but there it is. Unfortunately they actually seem to have some power. Of course the forces of backlash usually do.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hair hair! Friday Random Ten

Took part of the day out yesterday and got a haircut. Which means that I'm still fuzzy-headed, but not in such an obvious way.

And on that note I gotta hit the rack.

1. Reading Rainbow - Wasting Time
2. The Clash - Rudie Can't Fail
3. The New Pornographers - The Mary Martin Show
4. Bob Dylan - Most Likely You'll Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine)
5. The Kinks - Lazy Old Sun
6. Alexander Brailowsky - Polonnaise # 2 in E Flat Minor (Chopin)
7. Lou Rawls - Righteous Woman/I Want a Little Girl
8. Kendra Shank - Moves
9. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
10. R.E.M. - Maps and Legends

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Can't all be good

Had a sort of disappointing reading experience recently with Jonathan Balcombe's Second Nature. The subtitle promised a look at the inner lives of animals. In retrospect the generalness of that mission statement maybe should have been a warning. That is, the animal kingdom is pretty big. Promising to look at the inner lives of all of them is so doomed to failure that one might suspect the author was out to do something else instead. And guess what?

Still, I have enough of an interest in animal psychology to go in with an open mind. Hopefully Balcombe, a trained ethologist, would have some worthwhile insights.

He's not entirely lacking. There is a neat passage on bat migration. But the real meat (pun possibly intended) of the book is a push for radical vegetarianism. The scientific observations are secondary to the message of "Animals think and feel so don't eat them. And meat is bad for the environment, so no one should eat it."

Now I'm not personally on the verge of converting to veganism, but my personal sense of inertia doesn't invalidate the book. Nor am I comfortable with telling the rest of the world what to do. But again, that doesn't mean Balcombe doesn't have the right to make his case.

No my real problem with all this is the simple fact that I didn't go looking for advocacy. I went looking for insight, and hopefully a kind of beauty that can be illuminated by science. Enough of that might have justified more preaching, but the balance was all off.

Definitely a case where I was glad to be borrowing instead of buying.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Brace yourselves

What does the end of the world even mean? There really aren't many predictions - at least imminent ones - that our entire Big Blue Marble will be atomized. Most predictions are for the end of some aspect of the world or other. And sometimes that means the end of our dominance as a species. Which I'm not sure would be a bad thing, although I'm really just musing here.

In any case it's kind of amusing that we still need to be assured that the Ancient Mayans aren't making spoooooky noises in their tombs about our imminent demise. If their work on the calendar was going to be taken as apocalyptic science fiction, it's too bad they weren't able to profit from it.

Friday, December 2, 2011

That's Friday for You Friday Random Ten

A woman at work was talking to one of her employees - she's sort of a boss, I guess, but without the negative connotations - and was using a different voice every few seconds. I asked if the voices were a regular Friday thing. She said yes, in so many words. People get giddy at the end of the week.

1. John Lee Hooker - Burning Hell
2. k.d. lang - Help Me
3. Tori Amos - Doughnut Song
4. Duke Ellington - Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
5. Nancy Wilson - If It's the Last Thing I Do
6. Reading Rainbow - I See Light
7. Ben Folds Five - Smoke
8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Rainy Day, Dream Away
9. Nick Drake - Hazey Jane I
10. The New Pornographers - The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Welcome, December

This is, I think, one of the first nights of the season in which the radiator has clicked on. That's a milestone. It also means that I'll probably be wearing toasty warm socks tonight.

And it's doing so honestly. No one's set the building thermostat up to a crazy temperature. If the heat is on and you go out and non-insane people are walking around in t-shirts, something's wrong.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's only a paper 'toon

Okay, so the animator went some distance to getting on my good side by starting with a Stephen Wright quote. Even aside from that, though, it's an eye-popping piece of work.

Paper Daydream from Jun Iwakawa on Vimeo.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The future is here. A future is here. Who ordered this future?

Passing by the Apple store in the mall, it looks kind of futuristic in a way between The Jetsons and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Something you can marvel at. Whenever I step inside, though, I get a sort of sinking feeling. It's a combination of business casual uniforms that announce the takeover of leisure time by commerce, the ever-present LED video screens, the sleek countertops that discourage any sales associate from tarrying.

A lot of the postindustrial landscape is like this: a machine where people aren't really necessary parts. I wouldn't really put all of this on Steve Jobs' shoulders, but I really don't think Maria Bustillos' recent essay is just a posthumous attack on the man. (Warning: By some weird irony, you may be redirected to a Chevy ad. Just hit the X and you'll be returned to The Awl.) It's more an examination of the cycles of design, how it goes from personal and democratic to impersonal and autocratic. And the Dieter Rams pieces that illustrate the former really are kind of nice.

21st century Friday Random Ten blues

I just tried logging into this blog and initially it didn't work. I was getting a message that said "password changed within last 24 hours. Didn't change password?" No, no I didn't, I thought. Then I remembered that for some convoluted reason I had changed my login for Google accounts, and apparently that changed the password for Blogger too. So again I manage to make myself paranoid without drugs. Triumph!

1. Jimi Hendrix - Crosstown Traffic
2. R.E.M. - Life and How to Live It
3. Mika - Lollipop
4. 8½ Souvenirs - Sharp-Dressed Man
5. Soul Coughing - Idiot Kings
6. Elvis Costello - Veronica
7. Tom Waits - Raised Right Men
8. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
9. Joe Jackson - Happy Loving Couples
10. John Lee Hooker - Whistling and Moaning

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The musicality of my surroundings

Another absurd tempest in a teapot, but this one has kind of an awesome side. There's been the usual grousing about liberal media bias, as if the drummer for a late night talk show was NBC's chief opinion-maker. Conservative persecution complexes haven't gotten any more interesting over the years.

But everyone who's offended is spreading the word about fishbone. Without some knowledge of their work, the music is just a tight little jingle, which is why Bachman herself showed no reaction to it during the show. So there's no such thing as bad publicity here. Not that Fishbone would consider it bad publicity. As sort of confirmed here, I doubt Angelo Moore would piss on her if she were on fire, unless he really needed to take a piss.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

And a four-footed friend shall lead them

Not much mystery as to why African painted dogs would make a good teaching situation for kids (inner city kids, in this case.) They're badass hunters from hot, unforgiving grasslands. And as some of the squee-riffic pictures at the link show, they're also cute as all get-out. Geared to a young audience, they truly have something for everyone.

Scents of decorum

At the library I was sitting next to a gentleman who I guess had put on some kind of talc after shaving. It was a pleasant smell, but it's the kind of thing you have to pretend not to notice. You can't just tell another man you don't know, "Hey man, you smell good." It could lead to misunderstandings, and ugly situations in general.

Of course if you compliment a female stranger on her perfume she might think you're creepy too. I thnk you probably take a slightly different path to discomfort there.

Friday, November 18, 2011

An exchange and Friday Random Ten

Someone at work said that I'd been quiet all day. Which I had been, I suppose. I said that everyone seemed pretty quiet to me today. She shook her haid and said no. So I was like "What did I miss?"

1. Reading Rainbow - Always On My Mind
2. The Kinks - Two Sisters
3. Brian Eno - No One Receiving
4. Nick Drake - One of These Things First
5. Soul Coughing - Soft Serve
6. Arcade Fire - Wake Up
7. Gnarls Barkley - Going On
8. Tom Waits - Raised Right Men
9. The New Pornographers - Jackie
10. Nancy Wilson - For Heaven's Sake

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's a snap!

Slapsticky occurrence tonight. After work I walked to the store, and from there home. All this time it happened to be both windy and raining. So I had my umbrella up. A gust of wind rises, I struggle.

A standard thing to happen is for all the ribs to go inside out, perhaps permanently. But that's not what happened. Instead, the pole broke in half, the top flying out of my hands. I actually yelled "What the fuck was that?" so luckily there were no toddlers nearby.

Somewhat fortunate in that I was able to sort of fit things back together later in the evening. So this one may last a bit longer.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Having followed the career of Peter Milligan for some time, I had to pick up on Justice League Dark, if only out of curiosity. The first issue was nicely drawn and had some good scenes, but I was concerned it might be given over too much to decompression. That is, I thought the creators might be spending six issues telling a one issue story - yes comics industry, there is such a thing - and that this could be a bad omen for the series' future.

I'm less worried about that now, after having read the second issue. Artist Mikael Janin, not known to me before, is applying mad skillz. The story is delivering unexpected twists, in terms of what mysterious femme Madame Xanadu is doing, so that it could be said a new plot is already launching.

And the character work is taking a turn for the funny. In this issue, Deadman tries to get with his girl Dove in the body of another man. Even though he really doesn't have his own body - on account of the whole "dead" issue - she's not havin' it. Nor do his efforts taking on the body of a woman come to anything. It seems real life isn't like the movies, even if your real life is in a superhero comic.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Dank White Returns

Well that's teaching us. Apparently Occupy Wall Street's protets against corporate malfeasance are going to allow those wily Islamicists to make America part of their global caliphate. Thanks, Frank. Bosses everywhere will now be using the same line everytime some pissant holds out for a raise.

In re io9's header: I had thought that Miller had been a parody of himself for a solid decade at least. Guess there's always room to grow.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Slowly brightening Saturday Random Ten

I recently bought and installed a CFL light for the first time. It looks a little better than the ones I've seen previously because there's a frosted shell around the tubes. It's weird, though. When you first turn it on, the room is still dim. It's somewhere between lighting a votive candle and randomly throwing glitter on stuff. You do get to the desired point of brightness, but it takes a couple of minutes. I wonder how many people bring them back for refunds before they even get to that point.

1. Bob Dylan - One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)
2. John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillen
3. Lou Rawls - Love is a Hurtin' Thing
4. Joe Jackson - (Do the) Instant Mash
5. Gnarls Barkley - Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)
6, Neko Case - South Tacoma Way
7. Tom Waits - Chicago*
8. Wes Montgomery - Prelude to a Kiss
9. The Kinks - Love Me Till the Sun Shines
10. Reading Rainbow - Prism Eyes

* Off his latest album. Man's still got it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why hasn't there been a Cookie Monster cover?

The young are always depraved, always monsters. History shows it to be true. And there is always a frantic search to find out just why this is. The old hysteria about "Louie Louie" is a case in point.

Once concerned parents began to report their outrage about this allegedly "obscene" song to the FBI, the Bureau made the mistake of expending all their effort in proving it true rather than investigating the rumor itself. It was as if a frightened mother had written to J. Edgar Hoover concerning a story she'd heard about a maniac with a hook being on the loose, and Hoover responded by sending out field agents to investigate whether or not a criminal with a missing hand had recently escaped from a psychiatric hospital. The FBI didn't try to find out where these dirty lyric sheets were coming from; instead, they spent two and a half years analyzing "Louie Louie" played at a variety of speeds and interrogating nearly everyone connected with the song, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Richard Berry, the Kingsmen, and even record company executives. One person they never, ever talked to was the one person who indisputably knew what words had been sung on the Kingsmen's recording: singer Jack Ely. (Ely had been fired from the band well before "Louie, Louie" hit it big, a fact the remaining Kingsmen were not anxious to publicize.) After thirty-one months of trying to unravel the mysteries of "Louie Louie," the FBI could conclude only that they were "unable to interpret any of the wording in the record."

Need it be said? If the new Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover movie doesn't explore this incident, it must be considered a failure.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sure, may as well make it Bird Week

This is an excerpt from the book Bird Brains by Candace Savage, which is both interesting and beautiful.

"Teenage" ravesns don't spend their whole lives scrabbling over food. Like most other young corvids, they also take generous breaks for what looks like fun and frolic. Until quite recently, the drybones of science insisted that birds never played. At most, the experts said, birds experienced random and uncoordinated firings of their reflexes, little more than behvioural twitches. But this position has now been revised, largely through a consideration of crows and their allies. As a group, corvids are recognized as the most playful of birds, much given to games for one player such as drop-and-catch, hang-upsdide-down-under-the-branch and balance-on-the-flimsy-perch. Occasionally they invent complex social games, such as tug-of-war or king of the castle. (In the latter, one bird stands on the top of a mound and brandishes a small stick, while its playmate charges towards it and attempts to grab the object.) Sometimes their play even reaches out to engage a member of another species. For example, a young rave developed a game with a dog, in which bird and mammal—apparently reading each other's gestures and signals of intention—took turns chasing one other around a tree trunk. Ravens have also been known to play catch-me-if-you-can with wolves, a challenging pastime in which the birds are always at risk.

Play both exhibits and develops intelligence. Perhaps not the same intelligence that we have. It seems to work for them, though.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Starling central

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

How is it that we as human beings still allow something as amazing as this to exist? It's a pleasant surprise.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mostly over-the-weather Friday Random Ten

Well, being sick for almost the whole month of October sort of sucked. Largely because having planned certain things as I did I didn't really have the option of taking time out. But things are better now. I'm still coughing a little, but my lungs aren't trying to escape from my body. You get to appreciate that.

1. Neko Case - Guided by Wire
2. Nick Drake - Poor Boy
3. Cassandra Wilson - For the Roses
4. Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)
5. Tom Waits - Back in the Crowd
6. Mika - Love Today
7. John Lee Hooker - I'm Gonna Kill That Woman
8. Lou Rawls - A Natural Man
9. The Kinks - Funny Face
10. Wes Montgomery - Dreamsville

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In which I fail at clever headers

Last Sunday I read something in the paper and had the idea of using the article as the basis for a blog post. So I just had to wait until it came online. Except that as of Monday night, it apparently hadn't done so. And still hasn't from the Google searches I've done. Philosophically I'm fine with this. Publishers aren't necessarily obligated to put everything on the interwebs. I'd be happy if holding out managed to sell a few more copies of the paper edition and save some jobs. (Although this last part seems like a big if.) It's just a little inconvenient as a blogger.

Anyway, it was Erin McKean's "The Word" column from the Boston Globe, and it touched on a new fad. That fad is called "ignore-ing", and centers on placing an order at a drive-thru window, and driving away without taking the food. This strikes me as beyond annoying. If you can afford food that you don't need, try treating someone else.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Waking dream

One good thing about R.E.M. breaking up is that it may keep the real band, the band it once was, from getting lost in the shuffle of history. I don't mean just that they haven't been the same since Bill Berry retired from music. They haven't been, of course, but it was honorable to soldier on after that, and they've still put some neat sounds together.

What I mean more is that people have come to think of them as a slick, professional pop group focused on liberal politics. Whereas I like to think at heart they were always a goofy outfit all about the hammy stones covers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Wiggly Friday Random Ten

I guess you could call the place where I work fairly informal. And I'm mostly an informal person myself. In fact today I got up from my desk to ask a question and realized I was in my stocking feet. This seemed a little much, so I fixed the situration.

1. John Lee Hooker - Low Down Midnite Boogie
2. The Kinks - Harry Rag
3. Tom Waits - Downtown
4. Soul Coughing - How Many Cans
5. R.E.M. - Auctioneer (Another Engine)
6. Ladytron - Versus
7. Duke Ellington - One O'Clock Jump
8. Blossom Dearie - I Won't Dance
9. Elton John - Grey Seal
10. Reading Rainbow - To My Gemini

Thursday, October 27, 2011


A freeze warning has been issued for tonight. Really, they mean early in the morning, but the sun will still be down and so will almost everyone else. But I believe it. It's been a chilly day. That despite our having, earlier this month, nights so warm you'd go to sleep with the window open and the fan on. So October is squeezing in summer, autumn, and winter. It's nine months' action in one. Kind of impressive, rea.lly

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Putting it down

One book I've trid to read recently is Charle's Dickens' Dombey and Son. I had a good time over the summer with Barnaby Rudge, so my hopes were pretty high. Myabe too high.

D&S isn't boring. I'm not sure Dickens was even capable of that. But it is quite It is, however, misguided.The fact that the defining picture dies about a third o the way in doesn't help. The thing is that while Ebenezer Scrooge is kind of a bastard, he's the believable, relateable kind. Dombey the Elder is ten times worse, much more pompous, and he surrounds himself with old biddies who are even worse than him.

So this one I'm putting aside for now. Everyone makes some mistakes in life, which this sort of looks like. If I'm wrong maybe I'll find out later.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Hoodoo you think you are?

Don't worry! I'm not posting this because Dr. John has died. Not that I've heard about anyway. This is just a delightful clip. I love the juxtaposition of the Doc himself at his bad-news freakiest, and then you have the host with his hilarious rap session sincerity. It just goes to show you how big the world is.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy Count Olaf

I think this is a particular gem.
3. Money is like a child—rarely unaccompanied. When it disappears, look to those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on it while you were at the grocery store. You might also look for someone who has a lot of extra children sitting around, with long, suspicious explanations for how they got there.

That's from Lemony Snicket's page at Occupy Writers. Snicket (and/or his employee Daniel Handler) seems perfectly suited to the project. The author of the "Unfortunate Events" books knows that life isn't fair, but that fairness isn't some impossibly alien subject.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It doesn't pay to be too ahead of the times

From An Empire of Plants: People and Plants That Have Changed the World by Toby & Will Musgrave, a funny story. Or not, if you were directly involved with it.

Europeans firs made the acquaintance of tobacco on 12 October 1492 when, after 71 days at sea, Christopher Columbus first sighted the coast of America. He named the island where he landed San Salfvador, and here, according to his logbook, the indigenous people 'brought fruit, wooden spears, and certaind dried leaves which gave off a distinct fragrance'. The gifts were accepted, the fruit eaten, but the yellowish leaves were tossed overboard. Columbus sailed on, arriving off the Cuban coast on 28 October, where two conquistadors, Rodriguo de Jerez and Luis de Torres, were sent inland to scout. The natives they encountered wrapped dried tobacco leaves in palm or maize 'in the manner of a musket formed of paper', and after lighting one end, they commenced 'drinking' the smoke through the other. Rodriguo took a hesitant puff and became the first European to smoke tobacco. Columbus returned to Spain with some dried tobacco leaves, and Rodriguo, who by now was a confirmed smoker, took his habit back to his home town, where he unwisely lit up in public. So frightened were his neighbors b the smoke billowing up from his nose and mouth that he was imprisoned by the holy inquisitors, only to discover upon his release several years later that smoking had become a national habit.

Yeah, just imagine Rodriguo getting out of prison, and being told, "Hey, you know that crazy thing the inquisitors nailed you for? Everybody does it now, completely free of legal consequences. Have a nice rest of your life.

I imagine there was smoke coming out of him at that point, no tobacco needed.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maybe, maybe

It's been a while since I put any poems up here. That's always a nice change of pace, so maybe I should do it again. I'll have to go and read some, first, but that's also a nice change of pace.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Eucalyptus-infused Friday Random Ten

Because I have a little bit of a cough this week, I'm also taking Hall's cough drops here and there. The wrappers have these pep-talky messages printed on them, like "Get back in there champ!" and "You can do it and you know it." All of which makes me wonder if Cadbury Adams is planning to market antidepressants and/or ED medication next.

1. The Dave Clark Five - Any Way You Want It
2. Wes Montgomery - Baubles Bangles and Beads
3. Reading Rainbow - White Noise
4. 8½ Souvenirs - Life Style
5. Elton John - This Song Has No Title
6. Neko Case - No Need To Cry
7. Duke Ellington - The Mooche
8. Arcade Fire - Crown of Love
9. John Lee Hooker - Drifting From Door to Door
10. Joe Jackson - One More Time

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Another Booooooom! discovery here. The artist's (working) name is Spunky Zoe, and she has her own website. It's in Korean, but there are ways to translate if you don't speak the lingo. Anyway, these pictures are grotesque in an absolutely beautiful way. A little like Max Ernst, a little like stills from Terry Gilliam animations, a bit like a classy heavy metal cover. If I see something like this in my dreams, I'll be freaked but impressed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Evolve already

Interesting story here based on an anthropological field study in Quebec. The people behind the study would certainly be fun to study. A decrease in age at first child from 26 to 22 wouldn't be fertility per se. Human females have always been fertile much younger than 26. One could ascribe it to social mores. That's not entirely convincing, though, because teenage mothers were fairly common before the 20th century. My other thought is that for some reason miscarriages used to happen more often. So many questions.

Overall I do believe the implications of the study. In a way, microevolution is just an extension of the little mutations that always occur between parents and children. Plus ça change and all that.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Random Ten, and you bet it's fall!

Today was the first day since early in the spring where I noticed the heat being on while I rode the bus. Ah, the seasons...

1. Elvis Costello - Wouldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4
2. John Lee Hooker - Crawlin' Kingsnake"
3. Lou Rawls - A Natural Man
4. Mika - Billy Brown
5. Neko Case - Whip the Blankets
6. Yo La Tengo - Nothing to Hide
7. k.d. lang - Help Me
8. Gnar;s Barkley - She Knows
9. Joe Jackson - Baby Stick Around
10. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross - Gimme That Wine

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mail of mystery

Black Mail by Doris Miles Disney is a mystery novel first published in 1959. The Zebra edition I read this week came out in 1989. Going by the stamps in the back of the library book, I seem to be the first person to take it out since 1993. So it's fair to say this is a somewhat forgotten title. The same could be said of the author.

Disney was a New England author, originally from Connecticut. So the book gives a not-bad impression of New England small town life in the post-WW2 era. It's part of a short-running series centered on Postal Inspector David Madden. The fact that there aren't many detective stories about Postal Inspectors made me curious to read this one.

As far as writing goes, this is pretty good, not spectacular. For prolific authors of popular fiction, pretty good is nothing to sneeze at. But the book is also a document of its time, in ways that might not have been intended.

The barebones of the plot is this. An imperious upper middle class housewife - Inez Blaine - is incensed that young banker Lucia Ruyter broke up with her son, who then moved to a new job in Seattle. The son doesn't seem to be all that broken up about being turned down, but never mind that. On instinct, Inez tried to run Lucia down with her car. That doesn't work, so she tries a new tack of writing poison pen letters to Lucia and to the bank, hoping to get the girl fired and generally ruin her life.

Some values haven't changed in the past half century. Inez Blaine would be considered a lunatic now, and she's presented as a lunatic in the novel. This despite a couple of nicely written passages that show her own feelings of outsiderdom in the small town community. But the obscene letters she writes essentially make the charge that Lucia has screwed a bunch of guys without being married to them. It's not true, but even if it were it's hard to imagine a woman now being blackmailed or blackballed on those charges. Whether it's the sexual revolution, the women's movement, or the fact that it's a pain in the ass to train new loan officers when the old ones sleep with their boyfriends, society has moved on.

As it turns out, the Postal Inspection Service parts of the novel are interesting too. As is the unconsciously condescending attitude toward working women. One of these things is intentional and the other is a matter of weird luck.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The real macaw

The video description of this piece on Vimeo says that it has something to do with Michel Foucault's theory of postsexualism. To be honest, I had a little exposure to poststructuralist thinkers like Foucault in college, and found them rather mind-numbing. So I prefer to just appreciate the neat bunraku puppetry and the nicely performed Beatles song.

Scarlet Macaw from Amber Marsh on Vimeo.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Watch this space

Hm. Just thought about something to blog about, but I'm on the verge of not getting nearly enough sleep for the big day I have tomorrow. I'll remember, though. I think.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Thinking out loud Saturday Random Ten

Reading comments on blogs, reading letters to the editor, or just listening to people talk, a commmon theme tends to show up. People believe that other people, very often the majority of other people, agree with them. This can be expressed as "Real Americans know..." or "People are finally waking up to..." Sometimes you see the inverse, where a person believes that the majority of their fellow citizens/humans have been duped or brainwashed.

It may be a trait inherited from our pre-Iron Age ancestors, who lived in small band societies and actually could do headcounts of everyone--everyone they knew about--and find out who thought which way about what. But we're not in that situation anymore. There are polls that try to statistically pinpoint what most people believe, and some are more reliable than others. But with 7 billion people in the world, the very concept of majority is a fairly squishy abstraction. It can only be taken with many grains of salt.

1. Reading Rainbow - Animals Take Control of Me
2. Pink Martini - Ou Est Ma Tete?
3. The Dave Clark Five - Can't You See That She's Mine
4. Grizzly Bear - Colorado
5. Wes Montgomery - Tune Up
6. Lou Rawls - I Can't Make It Alone
7. Neko Case - Guided By Wires
8. John Lee Hooker - Burning Hell
9. Talking Heads - With Our Love
10. Kendra Shank - Softly, As In a Morning Sunrise

Friday, September 30, 2011

Deep tracks

This is a project I can get behind. You can turn just about anything at hand into a musical instrument. So indeed, why not an entire tunnel. Oh yes, of course, I hope the sound doesn't crack the Earth's core or rouse Cthulhu. Still, these are the risks you take as an artist.

The particular train station they're working at has a musical history, of course.

(Oh, and probably Saturday Random Ten this week.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Shut off

Not long after I came home today, the few appliances I had on went off. Annoying, yes, but I knew I wasn't alone in losing power. I knew this because the light in the hall wouldn't go on either.

But it didn't stop there. I went out a little later and saw that basically every house on my street was dark. The stores had their own generators, apparently. And it turned out much of Angell St was down too. I learned this by talking to a girl at a coffee shop who I'd overheard talking about flashlights.

The blackout only seeme to have lasted for an hour or two, but it was surprising. We didn't lose power when we had an actual--if diminished--hurricane. But we did during tonight's much more modest rainstorm. Expect the unexpected, I guess.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good pictures of stuff

I've watched DVDs of several seasons of PBS' Art 21 series. It's an interesting window of the creative thinking and processes of various artists, only a few of them are annoying enough to make me want to escape.

The organizzation has also put a bunch of profiles online of artists who they haven't covered on TV. This is one of those.

Lucas Blalock's 99¢ Store Still Lifes | "New York Close Up" | Art21 from Art21 on Vimeo.

From what's shown, Blalock is an interesting guy. He admits to going down some blind alleys, which is I think a potentially embarassing subject for creative types. I also enjoy the physicality of the photos he's shown making. Guess using the old view camera is a good move. (Isn't that the same kind of camera that keeps getting wired as a bomb in all those old Warner Bros cartoons?)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Notes from a sound sleeper

I'm a pretty sound sleeper. Once I'm in the land of nod, a fair amount of noise and ferment can occur without disturbing me.

Still, when ten pounds of wet plaster and wood fall from your bathroom ceiling, that's not really something you can sleep through. Not if you have hearing.

Going back to bed until you feel up to dealing with it? Different story.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wet weekend Friday Random Ten

Due to my prospects of working in a hospital, this week I got a PPD test for tuberculosis. I went back today to get it checked on. Turns out I'm 100% TB free. Not that I had any reason to doubt the outcome, but you take your good news where you can find it.

In other news, we're heading into the weekend with a heavy drumbeat of rain. But the weather's not being all drama queeny about it like it was in late August.

1. Blossom Dearie - A Fine Spring Morning
2. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Kinder Murder
3. Roxy Music - If It Takes All Night
4. Reading Rainbow - Cut in Two
5. Annie Lennox - Ladies of the Canyon
6. Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
7. Wes Montgomery - My Romance
8. Talking Heads - Found a Job
9. Simon & Garfunkel - Mrs Robinson
10. Patsy Cline - Strange

* Like so

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Polarized visions

Through Matthew Cheney, I caught sight of this feature today. It's an ad from 1968 with various science fiction authors of the day declaring their position on the Vietnam War.

A lot of the names are unfamiliar to me. This includes much of the "pro" side. R. A. Lafferty is an exception, as he's one of my favorite all-time writers. Despite being progressive on race--especially for an Oklahoman who turned 50 around the time the Civil Rights era started in earnest--he was pretty conservative overall, so I'm not really surprised.

There are fiction authors now who specifically appeal to right-leaning audiences, and who often seem to be popular for their politics as much as anything else. The field of science fiction definitely has some. From the excerpts I've seen Dan Simmons' latest is basically a hundred Glenn Beck rants poured into a Strange Days novelization. So could some of the names I don't know belong to sixties equivalents? Or is this more of a contemporary phemomenon?

There are some notable omissions. Theodore Sturgeon and Roger Zelazny are nowhere to be found on either list. I can kind of guess their positions, but I have to wonder. Did no one ask? Or did they make themselves scarce?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Man with a brush

I just learned of this artist, Andrew Young, from an entry about him on Booooooom! I won't go off on any long tangents and make big claims, but I like what I see of his style. The texture reminds me a little of old masters and a little of old paperback covers. And his frinds certainly seem to be game models.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Welles family outing

The Lady from Shanghai is a film noir that Orson Welles made with himself and then-wife Rita Hayworth in the leads. If you know anything about the genre, you can guess that they won't be playing one of those happy ending couples.

He's an Irish sailor, and Welles overdoes the brogue a wee bit when the movie starts, toning it down as he goes along. Her husband (yep, warning #1) hires him to work on their yacht. Welles is unable, largely because of his own nature, to stay out of their bacstabbing and headgames. These also involve the husband's law partner, who says he wants to be murdered.

The word on this movie is that Welles took on the directing job because he needed money to finish a play he was working on, and that he chose to adopt a novel he hadn't yet read. If this haphazard way of choosing the project shows, it's not because the film is bad, because it's not. In 1947, though, Welles already seems to have been bored with the genre elements of cheating spouses and elaborate capers. He shows more interest in creating dreamy set-pieces.

The Lady from Shanghai really comes alive when they're out on the yacht, in Mexico, and the wacky partner is singing along with the piano. Welles is creeped out by the lawyers and goes to the lower deck, where one of the other laborers is playing guitar. Almost seamlessly Hayworth, still in the piano room, starts singing along with the guiarist. It's a little disorienting and a lot trippy.

Following later in the movie are a tryst set in a brilliantly shot aquarium, and of course the funhouse mirror scene depicted above. All in all, you come for the treachery of women. You stay for the erosion of reality.

Friday, September 16, 2011

And just to go nuts, let's have us a Friday Random Ten, too

Over the past couple of days I've been re-reading Jonathan Lethem's Amnesia Moon. Man, that book throws some wild ideas at you, and a lot of them. Then the next chapter starts.

Haven'had one of these in a couple weeks.

1. Arcade Fire--Crown of love
2. Tom Waits--On the Nickel
3. Grizzly Bear--On a Neck, On a Spit
4. John Lee Hooker--Drifting From Door to Door
5. Teh Veldt--Dusty Blood
6. Neko Case--Bought and Sold
7. Fol Chen--If Tuesday Comes
8. Wes Montgomery--God Bless the Child
9. Elvis Costello--Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over)
10. The Dave Clark Five--Bits and Pieces

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hot enough for ya?

This is one of those nights where I have the window fan on high, but I'm still a little sweaty. Not so much that I'll have trouble sleeping, thank God. But when nights like this occur in September you have to beware. Because the summery weather can end at any time, and you may not be prepared for it. I assume someone finds it funnier that way.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The constant refrains of "Never forget!" and "Remember 9/11" get more inexplicable the more you think about it. It's not really the kind of thing you forget. They don't really encourage lobotomies that extensive anymore.

So while you're remembering, what should you do? Learn? Empathize? That would be a healthy response. Then there's the path of stewing and resenting. I don't want to dwell too much, but there are certainly people out there making that choice.

Excerpted from a thoughtful and probing response:
Then that goddamn Saving Private Ryan movie and Tom Brokaw's book about "the greatest generation" came out, and every Baby Boomer in the country, especially the millions with access to a microphone or an op-ed page, were begging the fates to send them their very own Hitler to sock on the jaw like Captain America. I'm pretty much convinced that the response to 9/11, or rather the response to Bush and Cheney's response to 9/11, would have been very different if it hadn't been timed to coincide with so many Boomers' midlife crises.

But this is the baffling part. I can understand envying the soldiers of World War 2. If you weren't there and your only source is the movies, it's easy enough to believe it was all the adrenaline rush of battle, alternating with being serenaded by the Andrews sisters.

But envying the homefront? Being nostalgic for a time when everyone had to agree on the war or be exiled from polite society? The idea of wanting to go back to this is hard to fathom.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Get Bach to where you once belonged

Borrowing movies from the library, it's better to get them on DVD, because you don't have to deal with rhe rewinding rigamarole. But sometimes curiosity gets the better of one even when the film is only available on VHS. Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould was one such case.

It came out in 1993. partly financed by the CBC. Colm Feore, who plays the eccentric musical figure, has also done a lot of B-movie villains. That's not too surprising. His Gould is cerebral, cunning, and a little arrogant, the way a good Bond villain is. It just happens that he's a benign character. (And if he were evil he'd probably be too smart to explain his deathtraps.)

It's an unusual movie. Not weird, because nothing weird happens. But it has a fittingly playful structure which makes it enjoyable to watch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Non-Facebook status update

Right now I'm writing this in a Starbucks with wi-fi, because I don't have Internet service at home. Why not? Because I don't. The bill's paid up, the equipment is hooked up, and it's just not working the way it should. Anyway, I took the day off today but the only time the cable guy could make it today didn't work for me, so I have to wait until tomorrow evening to get it fixed.

What else is up? Various and sundry things.

When a man starts losing his hair, he'll at least think about shaving his head to cheat the hangman, as it were. Monday I actually went ahead and did it. May or may not keep it up, depending on whether I like the results. This I can tell you: Anyone who does this, at least the first time, isn't going to get much more use out of that razor blade.

Also I put my number on the Do Not Call Registry. That's probably overdue. I used to have a roommate--and we're still friends--who enjoyed telemarketing calls because he liked fucking with the salespeople. I could see enjoying that, but what I'm getting now is an unending stream of auto dialer calls. Don't pick up, they'll call back in five minutes. Pick up, say "hello" and you won't get an answer, but they'll still call back in five minutes. There's a company in Seattle called "technologygolf" that's apparently too shy to ask me out. This I do not need.

And today I went to Miriam Hospital for prospective volunteer orientation. Even during the week, I think I can squeeze in four hours to help. There were apout eight people at the meeting, not counting the volunteer organizer. There were a few high schoolers and at least one pre-med student looking for experience. The remainder were adults like me, bored and/or at loose ends. I was kind of surprised not to see any retirees. Maybe it's more of a summer thing for them.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ground to Major, bye-bye Tom

A Golden Book-ish illustrated version of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" is an unlikely idea, but damned if it doesn't work. First found it through Popped Culture, to give credit where credit is due. Since Bowie himself could easily be floating in a tin can for all he's made known of himself lately, I guess it's good to make use of the music he's already given us.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Let love in

If it's possible to not love Billy Wilder, I don't know how. There's an infectious joy running through his movies, even when the subject matter gets dark.

Which it doesn't in Love in the Afternoon. It's a sprightly romantic comedy where the sexual innuendo is pretty single-entendre. But that's okay. It's not as gloriously wacky as Some Like It Hot, and it doesn't have the heart of The Apartment, but those two are among my all-time favorite films, and a high standard to match. It has a lot of great jokes, and gives them a good summary in its last act.

The trailer below isn't that great. I'm starting to think trailers that managed to sell the movie without giving away the entire plot have always been the exception. But it does have a glimpse of the sauna scene, complete with gypsy musicians. That's one you have to see.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Ongoing service advisory

Hi there. I'm having connectivity problems, and have to varying extents for a few days now. Thus the sparse blogging.

Update: Yeah, this was weird. I began having loading problems just after Irene, although I can't say the two things are related. Over the course of a few days it became impossible to watch videos online (they'd play for three seconds then have to buffer for an hour) or listen to radio stations online. The latter is a problem because reception on my actual radio is limited to half a dozen tightly formatted commercial stations. Also it got to the point where any page might get stuck while loading.

I cleaned out my Internet history, which did nothing. I ran Norton antivirus, which turned up four pissant tracking cookies. I downloaded the latest version of Flash, but nothing helped. Until it did, and today the problem seemed to have been solved, somehow.

In deference to the late Mr. Clarke, technology has advanced to become indistinguishable from really annoying magic.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Low-key Tokyo weirdness

Some time ago I bought a copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I immediately lost the book, so I put off reading it (and I'm sure that sentence would sound strange in translation.) Now I'm remedying that non-achievement.

I'm about halfway through, so there's a lot I can't really predict. I'm definitely interested. And I'll think twice before climbing into any old wells.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sadly Zeppelin-free Saturday Random Ten

A little more storm preparation today. There's a chance of power outage, so if you like reading you don't want to be caught unprepared. The flashlight I already had runs on batteries roughly the size of a baby's head. Since those batteries aren't sold that many places, and because I had frankly forgotten the right way to hook them up, I decided to buy a new torch. That sent me to Radio Shack, where all they had left were LED lights. So that's what I got. Decent price considering that it comes battery-loaded. The high beam will only last 3 hours, but the low beam is sufficient for most purposes and will last for 72.

What to do if they're advising everyone to stock up on bottled water but you're too cheap? I happened to have an 89 fl. oz. orange juice jug that I'd just emptied Friday morning. I rinsed it out with boiling water and used it to stockpile water from my filter pitcher. The water will taste like... Opportunity!

And of course I finished putting crisscross patterns of masking tape in all my windows, so everyone will know just whose side I'm on.

Also, music.

1. Beck—Modern Guilt
2. Elvis Costello—Tramp the Dirt Down
3. Fol Chen—The Believers
4. Blossom Dearie—More Than You Know
5. Gnarls Barkley—No Time Soon
6. Wes Montgomery—Pretty Blue
7. Roxy Music—All I Want Is You
8. Sly & the Family Stone—Hot Fun in the Summertime
9. The Dave Clark Five—Glad All Over
10. Ladytron—I’m Not Scared

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sometimes I take a great notion to jump...

Given the difference between safe and sorry, I guess overreaction isn't the worst that can happen. Still, as a resident of Providence I feel the need to point out that this isn't Doomsday coming. It's a bunch of rain threatening to hit a city where most of it will run downhill. We may get some flooding, but the odds are way against it being the kind of flooding that carries away mobile homes. So I'm buying a little extra in the way of supplies, I'm putting masking-tape x'es on the windows, and that's really about it. Act like someone who's incapacitated and you may start to believe it. (A propos of nothing, probably a Saturday Random Ten week. I left the paper with the songs on it at work and there are too many gaps in my memory to reconstruct it.)

The worst thing about the storm coming is that it stands to shut down the commercial and social worlds* for a day or two. Annoying, but surviveable.

The best thing is that the writhing and gnashing over Irene will come to an end. And for me, maybe a chance to get to know the neighbors better.

*It's a deregulated capitalist society, so there's not much difference.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shake rattle and roll over

I swear I didn't feel a thing from that earthquake yesterday. Wouldn't have known about it except for the news reports and a few other people who did feel the tremor. I'm a heavy sleeper, but I was working at the time. So I guess let's just keep this between us.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday mood swing

With Ray Bradbury turning 91 today, I thought I'd look around to see if there were any good short films online inspired by him. This one is interesting, not much in the way of plot, but atmospheric. It's adapted from one of the stories in The Martian Chronicles and overlays a Martian feel on its upstate NY locations.

The Visitor from Robert Loughlin on Vimeo.

And on another note entirely, I had no idea Ladytron had appeared on Yo Gabba Gabba. The things you miss by not having kids.

The critters sure seem to like what they hear.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red-stapled Friday Random Tlen

Watched Office Space tonight. If there's a better depiction of working life in post-industrial America, I don't know of it. Ah well...

1. John Lee Hooker--I'm Gonna Kill That Woman
2. Neko Case--We've Never Met
3. My Brightest Diamond--To Pluto's Moon
4. Gnarls Barkley--A Little Better
5. The Veldt--Juicy Sandwich
6. Blossom Dearie--I Hear Music
7. Roxy Music--A Really Good Time
8. Tom Waits--Jersey Girl
9. Fol Chen--No Wedding Cake
10. Lambert, Hendricks and Ross--Moanin'

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bread and jihads

I like David Letterman, but I'm sorry, no. As far as I can tell, this is not a real story. From his perspective, there's some reason to be cautious for the next few days. But it's probably nothing.

Because, as noted in the link, the threats against the (actually gentile) comedian appeared on a pro-Al Qaeda website. An extremist website attracts humorless rage addicts with extreme beliefs? Shocking! But it's pretty meaningless if the person doesn't have the means to back the threat up. The guy who watches iCarly marathons while touching himself may be a creepy psycho, but he's not much threat to Miranda Cosgrove.

What's interesting is that this story is being promoted after Anders Breivig's rampage in Norway and the post-Mark Duggan riots in London. Those stories raise new questions. This is a rehashing of old aughts business.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Do you Lear what I Lear

This isn't brand new, but it's new to me. I love what the filmmaker/animator has done with the mixed media approach.

The Owl and the Pussycat from Gil Manor on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Two of 'm from Lewton

This past week I took out a DVD with two features on it, both from Val Lewton. Once I saw this was available through the RI public library system it was only a matter of time. The Seventh Victim and The Body Snatcher both made great impressions on me. (I haven't seen the Lewton-produced Cat People. I'm guessing that it outclasses Paul Schrader's remake in all but the admittedly important bareass Polish girl department.) This was an interesting double-feature, spread over two different nights. The two films varied in execution and impact.

Of the two films, The Ghost Ship is the one that has the greater reputation. Part of the reason may be a questionable but successful plagiarism suit that kept it out of circulation for about half a century. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.

The plot concerns a young sailor named Tom Merriam (Russell Wade)who attains position of third officer on a ship called the Altair. Ship's captain Will Stone (Richard Dix) greets Tom with the kind of soft-spoken self-control bound to set off fire alarms in the viewer's head. He also warns Tom not to kill a moth because it's not dependent on him for survival. ?!?

The ship's crew depends on the captain for survival, and he has a tendency to risk their lives just for the hell of it, a prime example being a hook that he allows to fly around unsecured on its chain. When one of the sailors complains, he has an "accident" sponsored by the captain. This belatedly convinces Tom that all of them are in the wrong hands.

It was kind of ballsy to release a parable about the perils of unquestioned authority smack dab in the middle of WW2. And certainly it's less formulaic than the Tom Cruise movie that would have been made 20 years ago or the Robert Pattinson version that would be made today. (But you do know when the affably cynical radio man takes Tom's side that the man is not long for this earth.) But it's blatant and unformed in a way that makes you realize why the formulas have come into play. Tom goes directly from "Gee whiz, what a great captain" to "Can't you see? He's a murderer!" in no time flat. What might have seemed like a guileless hero to the filmmakers comes off now as a hopeless goober. And Will Stone seems more like a tantrumy three year old than anything else.

Full props for the crisp black and white photography, though. And for a convincing sense of life at sea.

More interesting is The Leopard Man, also released in 1943. The plot is pretty simple. Showgirl Kiki (Jean Brooks) feels overshadowed by her fiery Latin rival Clo-Clo (Margo). (And you can see how she might be. Brooks looks like a young Edith Sitwell, which is a striking look but not what the cocktail crowd is looking for.) Her manager/boyfriend Jerry (Dennis O'Keefe) comes up with a novel solution. He buys a leopard from an Indian showman (Abner Biberman) and has Kiki work it into her act. Alas, it doesn't stay in her act for long.

Clo-Clo scares the cat and it escapes. Soon after, a teenage girl is mawled to death while running an errand for her mother. Other victims follow, but after the initial attack, the remaining victims show signs of being killed by human hands.

There are at least three kinds of story going on here. The weakest of them is the murder mystery as such. If you can't figure out who the murderer is, you probably don't know who ate the last cookie when your toddler's face is covered with melted chocolate chips. But this is also the story of a New Mexico border town under siege, and the mostly Mexican-American natives are presented with an impressive sensitivity. And then there's the story of shadows and creeping terror, and Lewton is in his wheelhouse there.

A possible fourth story? The redemption of Jerry Manning and Kiki Walker, both of whom soften from self-involved beginnings. It's a little corny, but I think it works.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Loose ends left loose Friday Random Ten

Work might move me to a new location. Not one far away. Like, same side of the same city. Ah well, I'm idly curious about what happens next.

Possibly movie post tomorrow.

1. The Veldt--Revolutionary Sister
2. Wes Montgomery--Dreamsville
3. Ladytron--I'm Not Scared
4. Alexander Brailowsky--Impromptu in C Sharp Minor (Chopin)
5. Roxy Music--Bitter-Sweet
6. Blossom Dearie--It Might As Well Be Spring
7. John Lee Hooker--Talking Boogie
8. Grizzly Bear--Marla
9. Nancy Wilson--My One and Only Love
10. Yo La Tengo--Nothing to Hide

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Stock joke

Q: How many lightulbs does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: That's deep, man

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Are you hot or not?

I can't really say that I'm a big fan of the Competent Man in fiction. My belief is that stories are more interesting when based around people who can barely keep up, although I'll grant some exceptions. So that's probably why I've never really gotten into Robert Heinlein. Still, he was an interesting man and this essay on his continuing influence is extremely intriguing.

The opening paragraph sets up the key idea, as it classically should.

If the zeitgeist has a face, it supposedly belongs to Ayn Rand and her capitalist philosophy of Objectivism. Talk radio hosts adore the author’s demands for limited government; Congressman Paul Ryan insists that his staffers read her overstuffed opus Atlas Shrugged; picket signs at Tea Party rallies suggest that we all “READ AYN RAND.” And yet, some pieces are missing. Ayn Rand was anti-war, but spending for hundreds of military bases and two-and-a-half wars remains sacrosanct even as Congress made the debt ceiling a major issue. She found homosexuality “immoral” and “disgusting,” and yet gay marriage has regained the initiative in the public square. And Randian heroes are explicitly — nay, objectively — elitist. They are genius millionaire square-jawed heroes who walked right off the screen at the movie matinee. The average Tea Party rallier, not so much.

As you may or may not know, the first of a projected Atlas Shrugged film trilogy was released earlier this year. And as you may suspect, it tanked, perhaps endangering the next two films.

In what would seem like it's historical moment, why would this be? Well, from the IMDB page you might gather that the leads are rather bland compared to the collectivist trolls trying to bring them down. (In an intersection of ironies, both Michael Lerner and Jon Polito reperesented the dark and corrupt side of Hollywood in Barton Fink.) But movies don't have to be good to be hits. It may be that, per Mamatas, the people who were politically in sync with the film couldn't see themselves in the high cheekbones of the heroes. The rage of Caliban and all that.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

SFX Saturday Random Ten

There's been overcast and a little spitting throughout the day. Now it's raining. Not brutally hard, not so you'd get soaked in 15 seconds. But it's noticeable. It's a relaxing sound.

1. Yo La Tengo--Here to Fall
2. Wes Montgomery--All the Way
3. Blossom Dearie--Everything I've Got
4. Jookabox--Light
5. Beck--Gamma Ray
6. The Veldt--Until You're Forever
7. XTC--Yacht Dance
8. The New Pornographers--Star Bodies
9. Nancy Wilson--But Beautiful
1/0. Roxy Muxic--Three and Nine

Friday, August 5, 2011

Not another separated at birth movie

Earlier tonight I watched Hayao Miyazaki's aviation adventure Porco Rosso. It's a fun movie with beautiful animation, but something struck me. Namely, the eerie resemblance between the hero...

... and Andy Kaufman's troublesome friend Tony Clifton.

Ha. Clifton could only wish that a beautiful singing restaurateur would fall for him.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The tippling point

You know what's fun? This personal essay is fun. It's also perceptive about workplace behavior.

I'm now working for another company. We manufacture green technology, and we're experiencing tremendous growth, and it's all very exciting. Especially the part where I could totally stash booze in my desk drawer in violation of the drug and alcohol policy quoted above because I only have one co-worker and he's easy to hide shit from. Also, my phone never rings, so I could drink all the freaking time and no one would know except the security guard who strolls past my suite a couple of times a day.
If you're wondering how any of that equals "tremendous growth," I have three words for you: Government contracts, baby.

However, I do not have alcohol stashed in my desk drawer. I don't drink on the job. When I did that before, it wasn't because of the stress or the long hours. It wasn't just because of that, anyway. It was because I had really cool people to drink with. And because we all worked really hard together and enjoyed taking a break from it together. And that was worth committing a firing offense for. Now, I'd just be sitting alone, drunk and miserable, wondering how things got to this point. I can do that at home.

Could I get away with drinking on the job? I actually haven't thought of it that much. Since I tend to work drowsy to begin with, alcohol might send to to the point of all-out sloppiness.

Still, as someone interested in defiance and the flouting misguided rules, the idea that someone out there is getting soused in the office comforts me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mysophobes will not want to know this

The human navel is apparently quite the gathering place.

Human skin is teeming with microbes—communities of bacteria, many of which are harmless, live alongside the more infamous microbes sometimes found on the skin. Nina Rountree from North Carolina State University and colleagues set out to dispel the myth that all bacteria on the skin are disease-causing germs. The researchers cultured the bacterial communities living within bellybuttons of 391 individuals from across the U.S. and published photos of the cultures anonymously in the online Bellybutton Bacteria Culture database. They chose bellybuttons as an area of the body that is generally protected from excretions, soaps and ultraviolet ray exposure.

The experiment generated interest among citizen scientists and provided clues about the stability of bacterial communities over time, the significant turnover between participants' bacterial communities and similarities of bacterial communities between family members. The Bellybutton Bacteria Culture database received 55,000 visitors in only three months.

The authors of the study note that most bacteria found on the skin is actually very harmless. This actually stands to reason. They're so common that if they made us sick, we'd all be chronically ill or dead.

Of course we don't think of bacteria as having communities, as a general rule. Much less do we think of those communities as being on us. Which suggests just how much we filter out in order to go about our business.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Did I just see that, or did I imagine it?

This is pretty weird and, on a superficial level, kind of primitive. I get a good feeling from it, though.

William Tyler's The Cat and Chicken They Go Swimming from CGAC VPW on Vimeo.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Open question Friday Random Ten

I just may or may not have cured myself of the hiccups. For the night, I mean, not forever. Which remedy would you say works best?

1. Grizzly Bear--Knife
2. Beck--Walls
3. Ladytron--The Lovers
4. Talking Heads--With Our Love
5. Patsy Cline--True Love
6. Wes Montgomery--Days of Wine and Roses
7. Roxy Music--All I Want Is You
8. The Beatles--Drive My Car
9. Fol Chen--The Longer U Wait
10. Lambert, Hendricks, & Ross--Charleston Alley

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eye to idea (not all headers can be good)

Can pictures spark ideas? Most definitely. What's the best way to derive an idea from an image and see it through to fruition? I'm still trying to figure that out for myself.

I think it has something to do with picking up on a quality of the picture, something in the thing depicted and the way it's depicted. And at some point you have to let it go and go off in your own direction. More than that it's hard to say.

Anyway, a recent discovery whose work does seem to pluck the narrative strings is Canadian Brad Phillips. He's a versatile painter, from still lifes to mysterious group scenes. He does his fair share of nudes, too. These it's harder to work off of from a narrative point of view. If you as a writer ask "Why is she naked?" the obvious answer is "Because she took off her clothes. That's how it works where I come from." Still, these are worth appreciating.

But he's very good at shadows and light. Shadows that highlight, and light that looks like it's coming from somewhere. I find it evocative, even if I don't know right away what it's evoking.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

At home with horns

While I'm a little late here, and I know there have been a zillion Amy Winehouse tribute blog posts already, this is a nice song, so I'm running it.

Oscar Wilde said, "Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground." Let's just say that tends to get forgotten in the rush of YouTube comments.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Forgot what I was going to say. Oh well, I'll recover it in some form later.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Running for (no) class president

He knows, doesn't he? It would be pretty hard to miss. So yes, I'm quite sure that Herman Cain knows that he won't be president, won't be the nominee, won't get to point at Obama face to face and scream, "Look! Look! I'm blacker 'n you!" Regardless of what victories he may score in meaningless polls and penny-ante endorsements, it won't happen. Try to find a picture of the man looking relaxed or even slightly upbeat. No, he's always got the expression you wear when you smell something putrid, hope it's not you, and really hope that no one blames you either way.

So what's with the raw meat he throws at Muslim haters? Sure, saying that communities can ban mosques 'cuz they feel like it is a great way to show that you've skipped over all the faggoty passages in the Constitution, but is it a path to victory? Of a sort. It's almost inevitable that when the chips are down, the GOP will hand the sash to Mitt Romney. Rick Perry if they're feeling bold. But win or lose, these guys will never go far enough in pushing the Christians-on-top agenda. Especially not Romney, who a lot of the base don't believe is Christian himself. Cain will always have run, and no one can take that away from him. And he will always have run the most hardcore anti-Islam campaign. Which means that for right wing groups who believe in the uniqueness of Muslim evil against all opposing evidence, Cain will always be a welcome and well-renumerated speaker. In the English language, nothing can match the sweet melancholy of the words "if only."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Off the fritz Friday Random Ten

Whoo boy. Well, this may be the ultimate in short posting weeks. For a few days I was just too preoccupied to post anything. Then last night I was going to do something, and pretty much the exact moment I tried going to Blogger, I lost internet connectivity. It seems to have been a regional thing, related to the heat, which by the way has been and is horrendous. In conclusion I may try rescuing some near-forgotten post in the next couple of days. Await with baited breath.

1. Pink Martini--Ohio Ohayoo
2. They Might Be Giants--Alienation's For the Rich
3. Talking Heads--The Good Thing
4. The Beatles--You Won't See Me
5. Shannon Stephens--In the Summer In Mthe Heat
6. Fol Chen--Please, John, You're Killing Me
7. Simon & Garfunkel--Overs
8. Fiona Apple--Tymps (The Sick in the Head Song)
9. Roxy Music--Prairie Rose
10. Nancy Wilson--If It's the Last Thing I Do

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Awk? Nevermore?

The Raven_by Sam Huf from vca animation on Vimeo.

The claymation work here is pretty fantastic. I'm not sure the flat/computerized reading does Poe's words any favors, but the animation is there to pick up the slack.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Boz-ian Friday Random Ten

Reading Barnaby Rudge now. In fact I was reading it in a coffee shop tonight, and that broke the ice with a barista who's a Dickens fan. Now the barista is male, I'm not gay, and I don't think he is either, so you may have to adjust your icebreaking expectations down a little, depending on where they were. But positive social interaction is never a bad thing.

The book's 22nd chapter contains a robbery that also stands as a vivid scene of barely-averted rape. It's very effective, and Victorian English novelists were working under more content restrictions that French writers of the same period. But you knew that.

1. Grizzly Bear--Central and Remote
2. Devo--Mongoloid
3. Nancy Wilson--The Nearness of You
4. Roxy Music--Out of the Blue
5. Yo La Tengo--Nothing to Hide
6. The Dresden Dolls--Good Day
7. Talking Heads--I'm Not in Love
8. They Might Be Giants--(She Was a) Hotel Detective
9. Soul Coughing--Collapse
10. Patsy Cline--Strange

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Strings attached

I know I've blogged about—or at least posted video of—the Muppets before. But their media presence—and phrases like that may be considered "part of the problem"—looks set to explode to perhaps unprecedented levels. And this is a surprisingly thoughtful essay on what's become of them since their acquisition by Disney. The writer makes a salient point here.

Now, Jim Henson was always a willing participant in the marketplace, and as Malcolm Gladwell points out in The Tipping Point, Grover began as an IBM spokesman. Which is certainly true, and Rowlf the Dog did films for corporate meetings. He sold typewriters door-to-door in Henson’s early “meeting films,” a peculiar subgenre of the commercial designed for business-to-business sales pitches. It’s all there on YouTube. Gladwell argues that "Sesame Street" was an extension of these commercials, but he’s got it the wrong way around. It’s the commercials that embody the ethos of "Sesame Street." I laughed—forcefully, involuntarily and out loud—at one reel in which a character was shot at point blank because he said he didn’t use the product. Later, I couldn’t even remember the product’s name. These works are not just making a buck for the buck’s sake. There’s a willfulness in them, a refusal to ever place the market’s demands above one’s own values. We see it again in The Muppet Movie when Kermit refuses to do a commercial for Doc Hopper’s frog legs. Like Kermit, Henson was unwilling to compromise his vision, and as best as I can tell, he made the buck to pay for making more Muppet shows.

In a 1979 interview with Morley Safer for "60 Minutes," Henson describes his job this way: “Kermit finds himself trying to hold together all these crazy people, and there’s something not unlike what I do.” Why would anyone choose a job like this? With a hypothesis clearly in mind, Safer asks him, hardball-style, how much the “Muppet Empire” is worth, “scores of millions, millions?” Henson, visibly uncomfortable, defers to Kermit, seated beside him, who riffs nervously on the cost of green fleece and ping pong balls. Under Safer’s stare, Henson eventually admits his business is worth millions, “probably.” As Henson awaits the next question, his eyes appear dewy, perhaps hurt or angered, at the insinuation that money is his real game. This is, after all, a man who stayed up all night painting numbers for "Sesame Street"’s Number Songs.

It might seem like hyperbole or some kind of lard in our cynical era. Netflix categorizes "Fraggle Rock" as both “feel-good” and “family-friendly,” and descriptions like these can make the work seem unserious. But it’s no small feat to balance art and commerce. So few of us actually attempt that “Rainbow Connection” and fewer still succeed. It's not naive to admit that what we like about the Muppets is this willful spirit—that art is something to do for its own sake.

Participating in the marketplace is not necessarily selling out. That does not mean, however, that there's no such thing as selling out, or that it's not a danger. It's a matter of whether the dog wags the tail or vice versa.

There's a video readily available online of all the Muppet Show characters doing a lip dub of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." It's cute and all, but I can't shake the suspicion that it was dreamed up by a young marketing exec using the equation "classic characters + classic rock = massive web hits."

Some form of this doubt is going to follow just about every new project featuring these characters. Part of it is that the appearance and the broad character tics keep recurring, but the details of characterization and performance are lost. Or maybe the lightning just doesn't want to go into the bottle now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Sea life

There's such a great picture at this link, and it's an illustration of a very impressive culture. The Bajau Laut spend almost all their lives at sea, something that for the most part even professional sailors don't do.

It's not too surprising that they've come up against troubles caused by modern industrial fishing. But you have to hope that they can keep their way of life going.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


There's a hoary joke about a Texan who goes to Paris, sees the Eiffel Tower, and says, "How many barrels a day do you get out of that one."

Texan actor Owen Wilson is never that gauche in Midnight in Paris. He loves the City of Light so much that he wants to marry it. His fiancee and prospective in-laws are another story, namely the story of the Ugly American. If the movie has a serious flaw it's that you might not understand how Wilson came to be engaged to Rachel McAdams. Of course there's a brief scene where she starts to kiss him on their hotel bed, suggesting that her character can be persuasive when she cares to be.

So, time travel. Yes, it's a big part of the movie, and accomplished without any special effects to speak of. A blessing to Gil in that he gets to spend time with his Lost Generation idols, including a jaw-dropping Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway. (I know very little about this actor except that he was on Law & Order: Los Angeles, which I didn't watch and apparently no one else did either. But he'll turn up in more places, I'm sure.) The charm of the past never dims, but the film winds up stating that the present has it's place too.

All in all a pleasant experience. Also when I saw it I got a $2 bill as change. Those give you a distinctive way to leave a tip.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Paradoxical Friday Random Ten

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who make sweeping, generalized statements and those who don't. You're either one or the other.

1. Elton John--All the Young Girls Love Alice
2. The Veldt--Wanna Be Where You Are
3. The Beatles--I'm Looking Through You
4. Simon & Garfunkel--At the Zoo
5. L'Attirail--Ouzeri Dabanonghy
6. The New Pornographers--Use It
7. Blossom Dearie--Thou Swell
8. Devo--Jocko Homo
9. Grizzly Bear--On a Neck, On a Spit
10. Duke Elliington--Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why is this beer different from etc etc

Just tonight picked up a six-pack of Hebrew--The Chosen Beer: Messiah Bold. It's a dark ale, which I tend to favor. They went out on the packaging. The letters in "Hebrew" are shaped to look like, well, Hebrew letters. There's a picture of a guy I'm guessing is supposed to be Hassidic, although it looks kind of like Trotsky starting a rap career.

The flavor is strong, again, which I like. It's also strong enough alcohol-wise so that drinking a second isn't a great idea on a weeknight. Three and you're on your way to a lost weekend.

Pretty good, although I wouldn't start any beerhall putsches with it. (Too soon?)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Strange, true

Indulging some comics geekery here.

The idea of Dr. Strange as Marvek's equivalent to Superman is an interesting one, and holds water in a couple of ways.

Stephen Strange is powerful on a Superman level. Which is to say, if he joins a battle, in most cases that means he's already won it.

And he does have the same calm determination to do good. If anything even more serene.

The analogy falls apart a little when you look at the characters in their respective social environments. After all the changes the DC Universe has been through, Superman is still the unifying force. He's the hero all the other heroes look up to, who they look to for inspiration,

In the Marvel Universe, that role is largely filled by Captain America, although the Fantastic Four in aggregate may also play it at times. Strange is, for all his godlike power, a specialist. He's the man you go to for mystical answers no one can give. But he doesn't have a high profile and doesn't really want one.

So there's a public hero on one hand and an intensely private one on the other. Each is ideal and untouchable in their own way. And also relateable in their own way.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The better part of valor and Saturday Random Ten

Last Sunday one of my friends was bitching about the previous Sunday. That Sunday another one of our friends had been out with us. And he talked about stuff that I thought was pretty interesting. The first friend thought it was boring, and seemed to think the boringness was so obvious that everyone would agree. Needless to say I didn't, and I'm not telling the person in question about this. I've learned there's nothing really to be gained there.

The first guy also wants me to tell the other guy that he needs to lose weight. Um, no. That's a no-brainer.

1. Fionna Apple--O' Sailor
2. Patsy Cline--Walkin' After Midnight
3. Radiohead--Weird Fishes/Arpeggi
4. Fol Chen--Winter, That's All
5. Grizzly Bear--Plans
6. The Welcome Wagon--I Am a Stranger
7. XTC--English Roundabout
8. Miles Davis--Deception
9. Soul Coughing--Soft Serve
10. David Bowie--African Night Flight

Friday, July 1, 2011

Not just another pretty face

Tonight I finished reading Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a book I had somehow never cracked open all through high school and college. What I had done, a few years ago, was watch the 1939 movie with Charles Laughton. As I recall he did a good job, but it was a different kind of thing. For one thing, while Quasimodo's body may be ravaged, he's only a couple of years older than the teenaged heroine Esmerelda. Laughton, never young when he was onscreen, filmed this when he was 40.

Quasimodo is no more right in the head than he is in body, and he is not in point of fact the title character of the novel in it's original French version (Notre Dame de Paris.) However, he is as much a hero as the story has, or needs. Pierre Gringoire is a coward and a dupe. Dom Claude Frollo is compassionate, but his better nature curdles into villainy. The loathsome stud Phoebus would have his own "______ is a Date Rapist" Facebook page in contemporary times. And Esmerelda is in love with Phoebus, which tells you all you need to know.

The author of this editions afterward excoriates the 1996 Disney version. Haven't seen it, but it just seems like a bad idea. I can't see them keeping anything like the original ending, for one thing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Two girls, two cups

Just a little video post. This is an English folk outfit called Lulu and the Lampshades, and they do have access to guitars and a drummer. But can apparently make do without.

You're Gonna Miss Me, Lulu and the Lampshades... by FestaMesta

Sunday, June 26, 2011


A couple of people who made the seventies that much more liveable passed on this past week. One of course is Peter Falk. 83 at the time of his passing, he'd reportedly been suffering from Alzheimer's. Still, he made his last film in 2009, titled American Cowslip. It's not well known, but sounds eccentric enough to be worth trying.

Falk made impressions as himself in Wings of Desire, as the storytelling grandfather in The Princess Bride, in several raw films directed by his friend John Cassavetes. And of course, the good lieutenant. This here is a nice message delivered by Lt Columbo, after his introduction by Ruth Gordon.

Also taking leave was Gene Colan, one of the best artists to ever work in mainstream comics. In some ways he was a late bloomer. While he started working for Timely (which later became Marvel) right after his service in World War II, it was in the sixties that his style started to gel, and the horror-infused wave a decade later when he really took off. The keywords for his art were "mystery" and "sensuality". His figures breathed heightened, soap opera emotion, and violence was beside the point.

Along with Daredevil, Batman, Doctor Strange, Dracula, and a brief and underrated stint on the Spectre, Colan was the artist for most of the late Steve Gerber's classic Howard the Duck comics. And in these panels, Howard's new friend Winda Wester drops some more wisdom.