Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dude, you are so glowing

Lower Dens are a band from Baltimore - lovely city, or at least what I've seen of it is - that are starting to get attention. I like the video below both for the haunting song and the reassuring proof that musicians still do massive amounts of mind-altering substances. I mean, the only people who deeply discuss the Singularity are stoners and horrible management consultant types, and they don't seem like the latter.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

That's ruff

My next-door neighbor has a dog, and a big one at that.  The dog barks a lot.  Not at night, but I hear him when I go out and come in during the day.  It sounds to me like the dog is bored and/or lonely, hence the big reaction at vague sounds in the hallway.  A dog is something I'd like to get one of these days, but I'd want them to keep themselves amused while I'm not there.  Although probably not to the extent where they turn into a cat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Noirish Friday Random Ten

I watched The Hitch-Hiker tonight.  It's a 1953 movie directed by Ida Lupino, about two husbands on a weekend getaway (what now would cutely be called a man-date) on the Mexican border.  A serial killer hijacks them and their car to make his getaway.  The killer is played by William Talman, who I just knew as DA Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason.  He wears a belted leather jacket that in itself must have gotten him an unholy amount of tail, and makes him look like Frank Booth.  In fact the character is pretty much a dry run for every David Lynch villain ever.

1. The White Stripes - I Want to Be the Boy That Warms Your Mother's Heart
2. Todd Rundgren - Song of the Viking
3. Fleetwood Mac - That's Enough For Me
4. Ladytron - 90 Degrees
5. The Clash - Brand New Cadillac
6, The Beatles - Girl
7. Charlie Parker - Embraceable You
8. Roxy Music - Triptych
9. Neko Case - The Next Time You Say Forever
10. Stevie Wonder - Big Brother

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Just a little (or not so little) film from German animator Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981). Silhouette animation isn't something that's often done at all, but it's done beautifully here. And I have to say that the evil nobleman does do things with style up til his inevitable bad end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Someplace else

Last week I read The Beginning Place, the first novel by Ursula Le Guin that I've read. It's not long. It's a fantasy book that takes place partly in an all-too realistic suburb of an unnamed city. I think it's been listed in some places as YA fantasy, although conservative school districts and cautious parents might have a problem with it.

The story in a nutshell is that Hugh Rodgers is a twentyish guy whose life is going nowhere and who lives with his subtly mentally ill mother.  He finds a gate on the edge of town that leads to another place, one where time doesn't pass the way it does here.  Less than happy to find him there is Irene Pannis, because the strange land and its people are her thing.  Her living arrangement in the real world isn't ideal either. 

This isn't a perfect book, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.  First, one flaw.  There's a sex scene in the book that may well be necessary in terms of motivating what comes after.  Unfortunately when you look at what's come before, it seems pretty left-field.  Maybe that's the downside of the book being short.

One thing that's interesting is that Hugh and Irena's lives are dissatisfying in contrasting ways, in a "Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice" kind of way.  Hugh's world is all stifling order, living with a mother who demands that he be home at night, but who is never happy to see him when he's there.  Irena fled the home of her overwhelmed mother and abusive stepfather young, and now has to tolerate living with a squabbling couple.  (Roommate breakups, gotta love 'em.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is Le Guin's unromantic depiction of the Evening Land.  In a lot of ways it's nothing special.  The static nature of time in this place also means there are no stars, no moon or sun, which sounds to me like it would get maddening after a while.  The nobles of the land seem to like the protagonists, but they have a backstabbing side.  From what I gather of Game of Thrones, they'd be minor cannon fodder on the show.

And that captures an odd truth.  Fantasy has sent homely youths to bright and magical places like Wonderland and Narnia and Oz.  The Evening Land isn't so colorful.  It's attraction lies in being elsewhere.  And yes, for bored and lonely people just out of their teens, that could be enough.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hygienist visit

So I went for a dental cleaning today.  Since I've been paying more attention to my gumline lately it was relatively pleasant, as compared to what's gone before.  Still felt the metal, albeit not this kind.

But while I felt it I wasn't hurt so bad that I wanted to jump out of the chair. Progress.

While waiting for the bus afterwards, I saw a poster for a singer. Miriam Perez, I think? Spanish language singer, she seemed to be. It was an attractive woman on the poster. Someone had drawn a mustache on her face. This is a time-honored form of vandalism, of course, but I was disappointed at the execution. It was just this ballpoint curl they couldn't even be bothered to keep on level with her upper lip. Maybe this level of craft isn't always attainable but jeez people, at least try.

The Castle Cinema has been empty for years now and still is. I keep hearing the problem is that there's no parking in the neighborhood. Well that hasn't changed, not recently. What has changed is the ethnic and linguistic makeup of the people living there. Now I think there should still be a way to make the theatre and the restaurant attached to it serve the neighborhood as it is. But no one's been willing to put up the money to do that. Or maybe it's easy for me to say.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chill Friday Random Ten

Walking around after work tonight I actually needed a coat.  Well, light jacket, and "needed" is a matter of interpretaion, but I felt better wearing one.  That's rare enough this month.

1. The Clash - Hateful
2. Stevie Wonder - I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)
3. Nat "King" Cole - This Can't Be Love
4. The Beatles - Wait
5. Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)
6. David Bowie - It's No Game (Part 1)
7. Morphine - I'm Free Now
8. Neko Case - People Got a Lot of Nerve
9. Kat Edmonson - Champagne
10. The Bird and the Bee - What's in the Middle

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The shadows know

I am not making this up!

Here are two articles on Tim Noble and Sue Webster, a pair of British artists who I'm guessing are also a couple. They were a new one on me when I read the piece in Weird Fiction Review. It's kind of an intense thing they've got going, isn't it? In a way the piles of stuff that casts a completely different shadow idea seems like something that should have been thought of long ago. A Victorian or WWI-era novelty. The details are very contemporary, though. The rubbish and dead animals they use in their work probably bother quite a few viewers, but the images aren't easy to shake.

Bet they have to use thick rubber gloves.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Yesterday I told a co-worker of mine that Donald J. Sobol the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, had died. Neither name appeared to mean anything to him, which just further illustrated to me the vast gulf between us. But now that I think of it I kind of want to quiz my friends on how much they remember of these books. Every book of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries had at least one story where neighborhood bully pulls some kind of scam and Brown easily proves his guilt. It sort of makes life easier when your nemesis is always the criminal and never gets better at it. So yes, the books were silly in their way. They hold up in their silliness well, though. As often mentioned, Brown would hesitate for a few seconds when a grown-up asked him a question, so they wouldn't feel bad when he gave them the answer. That's a bit of courtesy I still sometimes use.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Inspection time

At work we have people coming in tomorrow from a foundation. They help fund our work. Word went out that they'd be touring our locations. Management was concerned that our spaces look neat for them, so that they wouldn't get the wrong impression. So this afternoon before I left, I went on a whirlwind cleaning of my work station.

As it happens, I'm scheduled to take tomorrow off. I requested the vacation day last week, and didn't find out about the visitors until today, so it's not like I'm avoiding them. I'm definitely okay with it, though. This way I get the rush of cleaning, but during the visit I'll be out of everybody's hair and vice versa.

Friday, July 13, 2012

(Not) live from Alabama Friday Random Ten

Tonight I watched a movie from 1964 called Nothing But a Man. The plot isn't very involved. It's about a laconic laborer who falls in love with a teacher who's also the daughter of a minister. Important things to remember are that the central characters are all black, the story is set in the vicinity of Birmingham, Alabama, and as mentioned before, 1964. Despite being white myself I started to get tense whenever a white man entered the frame, because they usually mean trouble. The director was primarily a documentarian and the film often feels like a vérité photoessay. It's easy to forget the presence of a few somewhat fairly famous people, such as the lead actor being Kinchloe from Hogan's Heroes. I did notice that Gloria Foster, who plays the girlfriend of Duff's broken-down father, is stunningly gorgeous, but she never seemed out of place because of it.
  1. Ladytron - White Gold
  2. Sonic Youth - Dripping Dream
  3. The Beatles - In My Life
  4. Ruby - Tiny Meat
  5. Brian Eno - By This River
  6. Kat Edmondson - I'm Not In Love
  7. Neko Case - Vengeance Is Sleeping
  8. The Clash - The Guns of Brixton
  9. Charlie Parker - Out of Nowhere
  10. Fleetwood Mac - Never Forget

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Take your protein pills...

Here's a fun way to waste a few minutes or hours on the Internet. Pushing Ahead of the Dame is a blog examining in (a lot of) detail every song from David Bowie's career. The blog's author, Chris O'Leary, started with David Robert Jones' pre-"Space Oddity" work a couple of years ago. Now he's up to Tin Machine II. A while back I discovered a blog that similarly examined Paul Simon's work. That project could go for a while, as Simon is still writing and recording music. With Bowie's apparent retirement after Reality, it looks like the primary purpse of "Pushing" will be exhausted in about a year. I wonder if he'll keep it going, repurposed. It's a good read in any case. O'Leary knows an intimidating amount about music, and he ties that knowledge to very opinionated and witty prose. Also he has nice taste in Flickr pictures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Jesuit and his brain

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is a fascinating figure, one I first heard about in Catholic school. He was a man of enviable energy, as I'm learning in the book The Jesuit & the Skull, written by Amir Aczel. A Jesuit priest by vocation, he also had a strong scientific curiosity, leading him to the study of human origins. Plus a stint as a stretcher-bearer in the Great War, showing what's described as a "contempt for danger."

Teilhard de Chardin advanced a kind of post-Darwin mysticism that the entire cosmos was evolving toward the body of Christ. I'm not sure I agree with this, but it has a certain beauty. The world if ideas is poorer without some that acknowledge substance in the universe beyond the mechanical.

He might have a more difficult time of it now, being both a man of faith and a dedicated amateur scientist. Admitting to any kind of religious faith seems to cost scientists a lot of respect now. On the other side, religious poeple who angrily reject evolution, science, and seemingly the idea of evidence are an organized political force now. Of course the amount of trouble he got from the Vatican was bad enough. Plus ça change, perhaps.

There's also this blackly humoroous anecdote about Teilhard de Chardin's cohort, Canadian anatomist Davidson Black

Black procured cadavers for research, obtained from the Peking pilice department. These cadavers were mostly of people who had been executed for various crimes; the police regularly sent Black truckloads of the bodies of these executed convicts. Execution in China was by beheading, and thus the cadavers Black received lacked heads and had mutilated necks. After some time, he asked the police whether there was any possibility of getting better dead bodies for research—corpses that were intact. The next day, he received a shipment of convicts, all chained together, with a note from the police asking him to kill them in any way he chose. Hoffified, Black sent the prisoners back to the police, and thereafter obtained all his cadavers from the city morgue.
Um, yikes.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Here's a classic "did they really mean that headline for you.
Facts about key parties in Libya’s election
Guess Western-style decadence got there pretty fast after all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Personal best (for some) Friday Random Ten

One of the buses I take in the morning is sometimes driven by a woman who takes pride in knowing where all her regulars are going.  This means she doesn't like it when I ring the bell when I get to my stop.  Not that she gets really mad, but a little exasperated maybe.  So I try to remind myself not to do that.  We all have our little things.

1. Louis Armstrong - West End Blues
2. Stevie Wonder - You and I
3. Sonic Youth - Pattern Recognition
4. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Mayanaka No Bossa Nova (Midnight Bossa Nova)
5. Talk Talk - Life's What You Make It
6. David Bowie - Up the Hill Backwards
7. Kat Edmondson - I Don't Know
8. The Clash - The Right Profile
9. Ruby - Flippin' the Bird
10. Todd Rundgren - The Night the Carousel Burnt Down

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Good scouts

On this fine, albeit humid, Independence Day, I stopped in to the movies. An American movie, as it happens. Actually Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is not only American but somewhat local, having been filmed at various seaside locations in RI.

The movie has an excellent cast. Edward Norton, the "I am Jack's..." guy from Fight Club especially brings it as a scout troupe leader struggling to hide his self doubt. For all that, long stretches of the film have to be carried entirely by the two young leads who play the runaway lovers. They prove up to the task, although I fear the dewy budding sexuality of the characters will bring a massive number of ephebephiles to the theatre. (Then again, their money's green, so the studio doesn't want to turn anyone away.)

Given the habit of audiences even at the Avon to leave quickly and silently as soon as the action is over, it means something that the audience here clapped audibly at the fadeout. And many of us stayed through the update of Benjamin Britten's "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" for the closing credits.

Also good: Again as change, the ticket counter gave me a two dollar bill. They're rare, but as you can see here, they're a thing.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Let's give him a hand

Why I Love Last Days by Brian Evenson from Victoria Blake on Vimeo.

This is a pretty concise and apt synopsis of Last Days, by Brian Evenson, a book I'm in the midst of reading now. What can I say? It's got an interesting plot, and some pretty humorous passages. It's also got a premise involving a religious order that believes lopping off body parts is the way to get closer to God, and it does its best to live up to that premise. I can see why a larger publisher might not find this a good investment.