Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Random Ten of technological doom

Will have to be quick with this one. The surge protector is beeping whenever the laptop is plugged into it, which means said laptop isn't getting any juice. A sad state of affairs, but mostly an annoying one.

1. Sarah Vaughan - Body and Soul

2. Nick Drake - Bryter Layter

3. U2- Stay (Faraway So Close)

4. Steely Dan - The Fez

5. The Squirrel Nut Zippers - It Ain't You

6. Ladytron - Cracked LCD

7. Yo La Tengo - Periodically Double or Triple

8. The Beautiful South - Woman in the Wall

9. Morphine - Cure for Pain

10. Nat "King" Cole - This Can't Be Love

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sylvie and Bruno, together again

I've had the omnibus collection of Lewis Carroll stories for years now. I bought it when I worked at a discount bookstore, so in addition to it being cheap at that point anyway, I also got an employee discount. Since I bought it I've been meaning to read Sylvie and Bruno, but never got around to it. Until now, natch.

S&B was written much later in Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's life than the Alice books. They were at this point something of a burden for him, at least the way he saw it. As an author he was seen as something of a one hit wonder. Hence this story of a brother and sister who are both human and fairies, and how they cope with their father being betrayed by political underlings.

Here instead of the children transporting themselves to the fantasy world through a rabbit hole or a porous mirror - or a wardrobe, as a later author might have done it - they just toggle back and forth with not much thought and really no warning. This dream like jumbled-up quality may be the story's most interesting element. James Joyce was an admirer.

From what I've read so far, the lack of quality villains is the biggest problems. In Carroll's Alice books, the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen are horrible and monstrous, but they're also colorful. They don't take away any of the story's fun. In Sylvie and Bruno, the Vice Warden and his wife and their son Uggug may be evil, but it's in a drab way. In fact Uggug is less creepy than retarded, simply drawing the short straw to become one of the antagonists.

I'm still in the process of reading, so I'm also in the process of deciding how successful the venture is. If nothing else I am inclined to keep on until the end.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Kickin' it

No, not Henson levels of sophistication. Yet it's interesting. Despite the limited range of movements below and above the neck, puppets like this can convey emotion and personality. It's an understanding between performer and audience.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Less ill Saturday Random Ten

Felt awful this morning/early afternoon. It showed, and I wouldn't be surprised if some people thought I had a hangover. Not so. I didn't drink last night, rarely drink in large amounts, and when I do I know the precautions to take so that I don't feel like hell in the morning. This was something else. Luckily I had toast at brunch. Headache/nausea usually succumbs to toast, or any bread that's hearty enough so you really have to chew it. That's good for most actual hangovers too.

1. Morphine - Mary Won't You Call My Name

2. The Kinks -Victoria

3. Talk Talk - Living In Another World

4. Duke Ellington - Crosstown

5. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Nobody's Baby

6. Finn Riggins - Dali

7. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Yoake No Scat (Melody for a New Dawn)

8. Nick Drake - Sunday

9. Sly & the Family Stone - Poet

10. They Might Be Giants - When Will You Die

Never knew this was a Marvin Gaye cover

I'm glad these two made up at the end. Sometimes ex-band members (or ex-Band members) show a kind of bitterness that divorced couples can only dream of. In both cases it's shared passion gone wrong. BTW, this is the first post since Google/Blogger changed its gears. I'm still getting used to it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We got spirit...

"Did you ever look at the stars so long," she continued, "that you almost became a part ofthem, so that when a lightning bug flew past your vision it got all mixed up with the Milky Way?" Did you ever sit alone for hours chewing the cud of your own futility, hating yourself for being yourself and blaming life for making you so? Well, that's the way I feel to-night. It's time for me to be moving on. I've enjoyed this sort of stuff too long. There are other things to do. I don't mean better things, merely more interesting ones. Our capacity to enjoy life should be measured by our ability to create life, or beauty or some form of happiness. So far I've created nothing, only a constant confusion, a restless, discontented stirring in the ether."

I'm glad to have read Thorne Smith's Topper. As far as I can recall, I never saw the movie. My guess is that Cary Grant's George Kerby character was expanded from the book.

For most of its length it's a well-made but very much of-its-time comic fantasy. In the final chapters, it achieves an ethereal beauty, and the dissatisfied middle-aged husband of the title finds a new kind of contentment. Sort of a fairy tale ending, but an unexpected one.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Keep conscious and carry on

I was doing clerical work today, humdrum kind of data entry stuff, but I don't mind it. The room didn't seem to be well ventilated, though. That plus I guess being a little tired meant that I kept feeling dozy. When this happened I'd get up to walk or stretch. Which isn't a bad thing to do in general. Was glad to get my second wind, though.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Things to ponder, part ???

Can't blame her for not dating guys who approach her on the basis of seeing her show. That must get old pretty quick

But I have to wonder how you find out that this is one of your talents. How do you learn that you are one of the few who can successfully pull off this truck, and not one of the many who would painfully and perhaps fatally lacerate your internal organs.

Even more so, how did the first sword swallower come about? Since the Stone Age swords had been used to kill food animals and battlefield enemies. Who first said, "I can fit one of those in my trachea, and I'll be just dandy." My first thought was "failed suicide attempt", but that's about the least attractive method.

Sidenote: I haven't been good about responding to comments, mostly because I've been logging in while minutes away from passing out. But I'm getting to that.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hexed Friday Random Ten

Seem to have gotten through Friday the 13th without major outbreaks of bad luck. Of course I'm still sick, albeit past a certain turning point. I could probably tie other things together to make it an unlucky day too, although I don't really think it was. But the idea of it being a bad day lives on largely due to good old confrimation bias.

1. Sly & the Family Stone - Spaced Cowboy
2. Ladytron - cease2exist
3. Brian Eno - Julie With...
4. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Du Soleil Plein Les Yeux (Eyes Full Of Sun)
5. The Magnetic Fields - Xylophone
6. Nick Drake - At the Chime of a City Clock
7. Morphine - Candy
8. Talk Talk - Desire
9. The Beautiful South - I'll Sail This Ship Alone
10. SArah Vaughan - They Can't Take That Away From Me

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The weather, under it

I've been more than a little coldish since the weekend, certainly by Sunday. On the one hand, it's always a pain in the ass to be sick, especially when it interferes with your plans. (Was too ill to do my volunteer gig yesterday.) On the other hand, having something that's so obviously a cold is nice and knowable. You can kind of adjust your routine accordingly, having been through it before.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Writing and reaching

This young writer has, I think, an enviable head on his shoulders. The essay is a few months old, but not especially time-sensitive. The topic is writing different genders. To some extent this is important for non-fiction writers. It's absolutely crucial for fiction writers, but that makes it no easier.

The truth is, I want to be known as a writer who can write almost anything. That extends to character. I don’t want to spend my career specializing in twentysomething white guys with a college education who come from working class backgrounds because that would get really boring, really fast. When I take a roll call of the characters I’ve written over the past few years and check them for gender alone… well, it’s embarrassing.

Know the feeling.

It may be an excuse, but I find women harder to write because girls are more thoroughly socialized from a young age. My own rather pronounced introversion and terseness make me kind of an odd duck as a man. If I were a woman those traits would be outright discouraged, maybe on threat of witchburning.

Of course whatever the reason, it's better to at least know this is a deficit and to work on it. Some male authors "know" that they understand women and can write them naturally, in the same way that Peggy Hill knew she was a fluent Spanish speaker. It's not pretty.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Paradox-driven Friday Random Ten

Queen-sized fitted sheets used to not cover my queen size mattress. Then I tried king-size, and that didn't work either, just leaving extra fabric where I didn't need it. Now I've bought new QS sheets and they do fit. Life is funny.
On another note:

1. Talk Talk - Living in Another World
2. Sarah Vaughan - I Cried For You
3. The Cramps - Jungle Hop
4. The New Pornographers - Mystery Hours
5. Jimmy Smith - Memories of You
6. Sly & the Family Stone - Thank You For Talkin' to Me Africa
7. Morphine - All Wrong
8. Brian Eno - Through Hollow Lands (For Harold Budd)
9. The Kinks - Nothing to Say
10. Steely Dan - Sign in Stranger

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Various readings for make glorious nation

As I mused about doing before. These are a few books I've been reading, and my responses to them. Sort of a snapshot.

The Angel Esmerelda, by Don DeLillo: This is an author I've been greatly marked by, and have I guess made some attempts to copy. It's been a while since I've read anything new by him, though. This is his first short story collection, as he's more associated with novels. As it turns out he doesn't always need a novel-length canvas. "Midnight in Dostoevsky", which first appeared in The New Yorker a couple of years ago, makes its self-consciousness a virtue.

Dororo, by Osamu Tezuka: I got this as a gift recently, and it's an inspired one. It's a massive omnibus book, and I've just read the first few chapters. They stand pretty well on their own. It's about a warrior who, as a baby, had all his vital organs sold by his father to demons. (The old man doesn't seem to have considered that the demons might just be testing his pliability.) The results are kind of nightmarish but as they say, it gets better. You have to train yourself to read things in revrse if you're not used to reading manga, but Tezuka gets great use out of white paper and black ink.

'Salem's Lot: Vampires invade small town Maine. Early Stephen King. I read it a long time ago, and I'm rereading it for a book club I'm in. Sort of. It's been expanded to at least double length since I first read it. While I think it mgiht lose a little focus, I don't see a lot of obviously tacked on stuff. One thing that hasn't changed, I think, is that while the hero and heroine aren't that interesting, the doomed (even before the bloodsuckers showed up) townies are well drawn.

Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior, by Christopher Boehm: Sort of dense anthropology stuff, but readable by the layperson. I think I may give this one its own post later.

So I'm not sure what any of this proves, if anything. Basically I try to keep things diverse. I've got Thorne Smith's Topper from the library, and I have a feeling that will be fun.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

New look?

People at both my job and my volunteer gig may think I'm growing a beard. This would be inaccurate. I just woke up late enough that it seemed better to cut shaving out of the morning routine. I wouldn't have arrived at work as early as I'd hoped to if I'd done it. But I'll play along. If I have time to shave tomorrow, I'll just tell everyone I changed my mind.