Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Random Ten of the Day

Left work today feeling that I had accomplished a fair amount, and also liking my coworkers overall. I also had to take a nap when I got home, but that's mainly the weird hours I've been keeping.

1. The Clash - Four Horsemen
2. Fleetwood Mac - Think About Me
3. Nick Drake - Fly
4. Stevie Wonder - Maybe Your Baby
5. Battles - Race: In
6. Grizzly Bear - Central and Remote
7. Neko Case - Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
8. Kat Edmonson - Hopelessly Blue
9. Sara Vaughan - Linger Awhile
10. Sun Ra - Jet Flight

Thursday, August 30, 2012

October (no) surprise

When I went grocery shopping last Sunday I - of course - saw Halloween decorations on the shelf. It's become a standard joke, but it's still weird to see these black cats and pumpkins when kids aren't quite back from summer vacation. But they know that as stupid as it may look, there's money to be made. Just think of all the people who buy Halloween candy early, eat it themselves, and are on their fourth bag by the time the trick-or-treaters arrive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wash day writing

I have a friend who's always asking if I'm writing anything. This past weekend I couldn't really say yes. There was an idea, it seemed interesting but... Every time I tried to do anything with it I lost my way.

Now I think I may have something. It's a weird idea, still, but Hugh Greene's The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes anthology is helping. I needed a structure to work with, and one of the stories therein sort of provided me with it. This is a story I can actually look forward to working on.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday Random Ten un-Limited

Today I borrowed a library DVD of eight episodes from the original Outer Limits.  It was "The Architects of Fear", a story involving the creation of a false alien meant to unite the peoples of earth.  The story has a not-so-coincidental similarity to part of Alan Moore's Watchmen comic. 

Boy, do people sweat in this episode.  At the end of the day that may be what makes it work.  The story has its share of problems.  Not least of them is the fact that these "Thetans" the hero is supposed to be transformed into are actually supposed to be a real race, and I don't imagine they'd be pleased about being framed for an invasion of Earth just so that we can get our shit together.  But it's played matter-of-fact, and everyone seems so affected by it that it's hard not to get pulled along.

Now the music.

1. Neko Case - This Tornado Loves You
2. The Beatles - The Word
3. Roxy Music - If It Takes All Night
4. Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
5. Sarah Vaughan - I Cried For You
6. Sonic Youth - Dude Ranch Nurse
7. Louis Armstrong - St James Infirmary*
8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
9. Pink Martini - Ohio Ohayoo
10. The Clash - The Card Cheat

* A ballad whose authorship has long been disputed, this has to be one of the most impressively assholish songs of all times.  He sees his girlfriend in the morgue, and after a couple of lines is all "but enough about her..."

Of time & Jerry Nelson

You can't tell me that wasn't beautiful.

Ah me. Tell Jim hi for us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guy talk

This sounds like a potentially fascinating project, documenting the lives of men in the Middle Ages.

One of the themes that emerged at the University of Huddersfield conference was that there considerably more resistance to clerical celibacy than previously thought, said Dr Cullum.

She added that research into medieval masculinity is a much more recent development than the study of women’s lives in the Middle Ages – a well-established field.

“But we have had relatively little study of men as gendered beings, so we need to think about whether elements that we have identified as, for example, women’s piety really were that or whether they were something that men participated in as well. We are trying to explore whether men did other things or did them differently,” said Dr Cullum.

I do know men who have a sort of distorted nostalgia about this period. This was a time when men were men, had their choice of beautiful women much younger than themselves, and spent their days hunting exotic game. Well yes, nobles had those options. Most men were sources of cheap-to-free labor, and that's about it.

Of course the truth about any time is complicated, so these scholars should be turning up some unexpected stuff.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aargh 2.0

There's nothing like repeatedly entering a password you know to be right, only to have it fail with some kind of "that doesn's seem to be a valid..." boilerplate. I wonder how many websites are administered by HAL 9000's alcoholic brother.

Monday, August 20, 2012


The tumblr-specific but widely-known practice of using "fuck yeah" for the titles of fan pages (case in point) makes me suspect that everyone's favorite rhyme for "duck" is becoming the equivalent of "golly gee." In which case, there's a void. We need new obscenities. Perhaps "qlood" would be a good start.

Of course having published the word "qlood" I half suspect that the post will be forcibly taken down by sunrise.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Crosshatched Friday Random Ten

Tonight I finished China Miéville's The City & The City, and I have to say I'm impressed and surprised by it. Not so much by new and interesting stuff that happens - although there's some of that - as by the things that pop fiction formula pretty much demands will happen, but which here don't. Miéville is a master averter.

He's also sort of a red, so it's not hard to see a critique of globalism in here. Neither is it really a hammer over your head. It's one of the elements.

1. Fleetwood Mac - Save Me a Place
2. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Yuzuki (Evening Moon)
3. The Clash - Train In Vain (Stand by Me)
4. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - The Wind Cries Mary
5. Stevie Wonder - You've Got It Bad Girl
6. The Bird and the Bee - Witch
7. Kat Edmonson w/ Lyle Lovett - Long Way Home
8. Grizzly Bear - Marla
9. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
10. Sarah Vaughan - Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Medicine for melancholy

Katherine Sharpe here has a deep and rich look at the history of depression as a concept. The idea that melancholy and sadness are in and of themselves a kind of illness, and that they should be treated as such, is fairly new. And as with many things, my own instinct is to follow the money. There is a big profit to be made from psychopharmaceuticals, but to really maximize it, you need a big base of customers. Sort of like how the plastic surgery industry can't simply satisfy itself with burn victims and people born without skin. Sharpe sees more at work, though.
That’s why depression is not a disease like diabetes. Diabetes isn’t a metaphor. It was discovered, not invented. Its cause and nature are known. Depression exists—all those disparate societies acknowledged and named it. But it is among the most conceptually malleable of illnesses. Its borders are fuzzy: at the extreme, depression is eminently disease-like, a true madness, but its mildest forms are fleeting and banal, comprising thoughts and feelings that we’ve all had a taste of. Most of all, perhaps because it affects consciousness, depression cries out for interpretation. Throughout history, each culture has given depression a meaning, or meanings. Each has told a story about it, and the story reflects much about that culture’s values, fears, and aspirations. Chemical imbalance is our chosen story, and it speaks volumes about the way we would like to approach the world.
Breaking thoughts and feelings down into matters of chemistry makes them more manageable, more controllable. What's lost in poetry is, the hope goes, gained in certainty. But that control is quite likely illusory.

Gettin' dirty with Harry

In my summer spree of checking out the library's DVD collection, I took out Dirty Harry and watched it last weekend.  Curiosity got the better of me.  I found it to be a pretty effective movie, overall.  A solid 90 minutes of railing against liberal judges would be a drag, but that aspect really just comes up at the 2/3 mark.  Also I think there's a lot of Don Siegel in Christopher Nolan.  Both this and his movies are rich with queasy bird's-eye shots, like the last view of a man about to be trhrown out of a helicopter.

Other things I got from it:

  1. The sixties aren't over:  Dirty Harry was released in 1971, still essentially the sixties.  It shows, and not just in the disc's Pop Art cover.  Scorpio, based on the never-caught Zodiac Killer, comes off as an evil flower child, yes.  But Harry himself is rather shaggy, not just in his hair but also his lanky movements.  He comes off as a hippie cowboy who took to actual gunslinging.  Unlike Clint Eastwood's friend Ronald Reagan, he seems to be telling the young of the time that they had won a victory in the cultural battle.  After that it's back to brutal business, though.
  2. The bosses are paper tigers.  Harry's methods raise hackles from the mayor, the DA, his superiors on the force.  It doesn't make a great deal of difference.  They need him, and they don't have any better ideas, so he's gonna do what he does.
  3. Who wins?  Scorpio may be a giggling psychopath who enjoys hurting people, but what is he really after.  The script depicts him as one step up from homeless, allowed to live under the bleachers of a football stadium by the caretaker's kindness.  If he were a good citizen, he'd very quickly be forgotten.  What's apparent to me is that while he's shaking down the city for 200 grand, his goal isn't money, sex, or even the pleasure of killing others.  He wants his miserable life to have a splashy end.  Not to spoil anything, but he is dealing with Dirty Harry Callahan.
  4. A spoonful of sex helped the violence go down.  There's a surprising amount of nudity in DH.  First Harry accidentally peeps on a BBW prostitute, then he delibartely spies on the opening stages of an orgy while on rooftop stakeout, then a dead girl is dug up naked, and finally Harry follows Scorpio to a nudie bar.  If the movie were made now, I'm guessing the violence would be much less visceral and the nudity would be gone.  For whatever reason, the studio would want a PG-13.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bubble boy

A perfect lab bred specimen. A man who, since adolescence, has spent his entire life in the atmosphere of Randian think tanks and Congressional humidors. He's got the absolute faith in the Free Market of a manchild who's always adored it from afar. Whenever I see Paul Ryan speaking I wonder if he's ever talked to real live people. If he hasn't, I truly wonder if it's a good idea for him to start now.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We have met the enemy and they are dumb

I believe this will be my 1,000th post on this blog.  Let's see if we get a blare of horns or something.

Tonight I was working on a short story and came to a point where I wanted to describe how a police detective would be dressed.  Or at least how someone looking to look like a detective would dress.  For the second, pop culture images would be fine, and I have watched cop shows on TV.  But still, I went to Google image search for a refresher.  One of the images that came up was unusual because the subject had a tattoo on her neck.  She was also black, a detail that becomes relevant in a moment.

I was curious, so I followed the image to its source.  From what I can tell, the person in the picture wasn't a cop.  The site I had arrived at was a blog dedicated to obsessively cataloguing every murder and assault committed by black Americans, with cute comments along the lines of  "What do all these people have in common?"  I didn't stay long because that's not the kind of place I like to be, online or off.

It further demonstrated what I've thought for a while though.  Privacy on the Internet is a fine thing, and I wouldn't want it to go away.  At the same time, it encourages people to express opinions and feelings that people were learning to keep to themselves for the previous thirty years or so.  They were learning that because these opinions are stupid and hateful.  Now you get a lot of chances to see them.  One hopes visibility is higher than influences.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dripping Friday Random Ten

We had torrential downpours for about an hour today, and then the weather was perfectly clear.  Of course I would have to get out of work near the start of that hour and walk home.  Somebody was nice enough to loan me an umbrella, but with the wind and flooding, it didn't really do anything.  Meanwhile no one was actually nice enough to give me a ride.  Still figuring the whys and wherefores for that one.  Suffice it to say I was grumpy for longer that I was wet.

1. The Bird and the Bee - Meteor
2.  Ruby - Carondelet
3. Roxy Music - A Really Good Time
4. The Clash - London Calling
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Love or Confusion
6. Grizzly Bear - Little Brother
7. Neko Case - Prison Girls
8. Sara Vaughan - Prelude to a Kiss
9. Fleetwood Mac - What Makes You Think You're the One
10. Johnny Mathis - It's Not For Me To Say

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It's generally said that nobody else is interested in hearing about your dreams. I mean the literal, REM-sleep kind. I don't have that kind of hostile indifference to hearing about them. I have a couple of friends who retell theirs very energetically, so it doesn't come off as a bore.

I'm not sure I can get away with that myself. It depends on the audience, really. But I tend to remember them as being fragmented and kind of static to begin with. Like sometime last weekend I dreamed about working retail in men's clothing, and there was some kind of anxiety but I'm not postive what it was. Beyond my not-so-great experiences with sales and retail jobs. Still, there's something interesting about an incomplete narrative like that. Interesting to me, anyway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Can't think of a header

What's up with all the racial violence lately? Is this what happens when a dominant group starts to think it won't be soon? Have we imported sectarian violence through gunboat diplomacy? Is this just something getting more play because of the numbers involved? Whatever the case, the man did his part to give apathy a good name.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Heavy hitter

I'm in the middle of this book now. Halfway through it, in fact. Not with this cover, though. The edition I'm reading was printed in the 1980s, and has a photo cover of the two series heroes. The model they have as Nero Wolfe looks right, but they gave Archie Goodwin a mustache that I don't think quite fits.

Anyway, yes, I'm halfway through it, as it's a very short novel. And oh! what fun it is too. Rex Stout writes New York, it's rough spots and its police department as a contemporary Wonderland. Making Wolfe himself... I'm going to go with the Caterpillar. It's refreshing to see a series with such a willfully difficult hero.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Black-on-White Friday Random Ten

86'ed movie night tonight.  I had a DVD of Something of Value on-hand.  It's a problem picture from the fifties with Rock Hudson and Sindey Poitier about th eMau Mau uprising in Kenya.  Well-intentioned, but the problem with problem pictures is that they tend to make their case in only the safest way.  There is some amusement to be had in the fact that Hudson is mostly passive in the face of his girlfriend/wife Dana Wynter pursuing him, and shows more interest in early scenes of horseplay with Poitier, but not enough to last me two hours. 

1.  The Clash - Four Horsemen
2. Lou Rawls - Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
3. Todd Rundgren - Breathless
4. Neko Case - The Pharaohs
5. Morphine - In Spite of Me
6. Ladytron - Moon Palace
7. Fleetwood Mac - Sara
8. Grizzly Bear - On a Neck, On a Spit
9. Nat "King" Cole - Tenderly
10. Kat Edmondson - Whispering Grass

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Peaches do NOT come from a can, nor were they put there by a man

Peaches tend not to be ripe when you buy them. Or at least when I buy them. Thus if you put them in the fridge right away and never take them out, they never do ripen. So when you eat them, they're mainly hard pulp. This can be avoided by putting them by a window for a little while. A couple of hours before sunset, or all night if there's not enough daylight.

I include this only as an example of real basic stuff that I've only learned recently.