Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Random Ten: And it's deep, too

Tomorrow is the 72nd anniversary of Richard Pryor's birth.  This came up in a list of daily trivia that a coworker of mine was looking up and chatting about.  Then from the Wikipedia article he was looking at titles, saying "these are so dirty" and "filthy mouth."  With genuine horror, understand.  There are things to say about what Pryor was trying to get at, and why he felt justified to use the words he did.  I didn't say them.  The coworker and I come from different worlds, and I couldn't get over that divide.

1. Ladytron - Runaway
2. Nat King Cole - Straighten Up and Fly Right
3. The xx - Basic Space
4. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - I'm Not Rough
5. Soul Coughing - Mr. Bitterness
6. Annie Lennox -Precious
7. Fol Chen - If Tuesday Comes
8. Roy Brown - Let the Four Winds Blow
9. Fleetwood Mac - That's All For Everyone
10. Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finishing one, starting another

Okay, howsabout another update on what I've been reading?  Good.  If there are any objections I can't hear them with this waterlogged ear.

There's The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox by Stephen Jay Gould, about the compatibility of science and the humanities.  The late Mr. Gould was ingenious and charmig, but I don't have too much to say about the book right now.  I might come back to it in a future post.

A novel - or is it a novel?  It was in the fiction section - that I recently finished is The Emigrants by the late W.G. Sebald.  Sebald, who died in an auto accident in 2001, was a German who lived for decades in the UK.  It's not really a surprise that The Emigrants, as its title suggests, is built around four men who've been forced to leave their homeland.  There's a lot of documentary material here, including copious amounts of photographs.  At the same time, Sebald clearly embellishes things, adding connecting images like a boy with a butterfly net who all the men see at some point.

To be honest, I didn't entirely get it.  There are arresting passages, yes.  The tragic arc of these men's lives is poignant.  But the layout of the book doesn't really do it any favors.  There are many more narrators than just the four main characters, including the author figure himself.  What the book doesn't have is quotation marks.  There aren't many text breaks either.  So within each section things tend to run together in a frustrating way.  But I'm keeping my mind open to the possibility that the book needs more than one reading to really stick.  Since it's not really that long, I may go back to it in the near future.

The next novel for me, of which I just read the first five chapters tonight, is John Dickson Carr's The Three Coffins.  Carr was an American author, but he was fond of Britain as a setting.  Coffins is set in London and is part of Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell series.  Fell was based, as many sources reveal, on G.K. Chesterton.  He might be characterized as the overweight Golden Age detective who isn't penned up in his brownstone.  (I'm as enamored as ever by the one who is, of course.)

The plot has to do with a proto-James Randi type who's threatened by a man claiming a vampiric nature.  It's the kind of story that Chesterton embraced, and in its ghostly overtones it would have appealed to Doyle too.  I'm coming to the conclusion that the Golden Age detective story was a kind of fantasy fiction, albeit one whose characteristics entailed a voluntary adherence to physical realism.  That's one of the things that interests me about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


This falls under the heading of "service advisory", I guess. I'm still at this blog. I'm just too beat to do an actual, substantive post now. I intend to be back on it tomorrow or the day after, though, as well as replying to some of the comments left on recent entreis. (Would have done that last night but there was a technical hiccup.) Keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I remeber the original Red Dawn, it was a dumb movie but it had a point. When someone is occupying your home, the rules of Queensberry civilization go out the window. There's some truth to that, which we managed to forget by the time of the Iraq war.

Also, while its geopolitical paranoia was dated even by then, it was at least rooted in something. The Soviet Union still existed, and many Americans were frightened by it. So even if the Russkie invasion of the Pacific Northwest was never going to happen, it could at least sound plausible.

Not so with North Korea. The country has a fairly paltry economy, not much in the way of natural resources, and almost no diplomatic presence. (There's a reason why it's called the Hermit Kingdom.) NK was shoehorned into being the vilain of the new Red Dawn after the studio nixed China in that role, But no one was actually going to buy the North Koreans as epic villains, were they?

Well apparently... Love the guy who forgets about the 140 character limit and gets cut off by Twitter. I think that's called a "small mercy."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tram Saturday Random Ten

It's a little amusing to see those baby carriages that are pointed like a canoe with one big wheel at the front.  Given their purpose and the terrain on which you use them, I'm not sure how much speed parents think this streamlining will get them. Have to admit they look kind of cool, though.

1. Diana Krall - Too Marvelous For Words
2. Simon & Garfunkel - We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'
3. Talking Heads - Pulled Up
4. Benny Spellman - Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)
5. The Clash - Four Horsemen
6. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Tight Like This
7. Fol Chen - The Idiot
8. Ladytron - Deep Blue
9. Ben Folds Five - Draw a Crowd
10. Sarah Vaughan - I Cried For You

Friday, November 23, 2012

A tale of two cities

The neighborhood I live in shuts down after a certain time at night.  It's got a Starbucks and a couple of other coffee shops, a bar/pub, several shops and restaurants.  From what I can tell, only the Japanese steakhouse is able to stay open after eleven.  The Starbucks used to stay open until eleven, but a couple of years ago it was permanently rolled back to ten.  The bar can't stay oepn light, and doesn't seem to have been open at all on Thanksgiving.

That's why taking a late night walk in the direction of Thayer Street is such a culture shock.  The sidewalks are still full, and whatever establishment sells food has a bunch of people going in and coming out.  Tonight I passed by a bar that had a rather overbearing DJ exhortign the crowd to dance, which was audible way across the street.  And it sort of fascinates me that there are only a few blocks between these worlds.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I got a flu shot today, which I hadn't done in years.  Since some people get sick from it, the idea seemed like a wash.  But it's apparently a requirement if you do any kind of work in a hospital. So now I have a little pinprick, a not entirely unpleasant ache below the shoulder.  Hope I don't have to use having the flu as a cover story anytime soon.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Don't be a Ding-Dong

Vital news from the snack cake front:

Mediation hearings will begin Tuesday, but the original hearing to consider the wind-down plan was adjourned until Wednesday morning, just in case reconciliation talks don't work out. Production "remains shut down," according to the Irving, Texas, company.

But the scales are out of balance, with the union at a deep disadvantage, said Gene Grabowski, a Washington crisis communications expert at consulting firm Levick.

If discussions fail, Hostess probably will sell itself at a loss and wash its hands of the situation, Levick said. Buyers — potentially major food companies such as ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. or Nestle — then probably would absorb the brands into their operations without hiring former Hostess workers.

"It's hard to see what they could accomplish at this point," Grabowski said. "It looks like Hostess management is holding more cards right now than labor. This is really the last hope for employees to save their jobs."

Well management very often holds more cards than labor. It's funny how many times it works out like that. It's almost like they know the dealer or something. Still, the head Ho-Hos at Hostess should consider what the future holds if they let the company slip away. In the short term they'll still profit. But if Hostess becomes a branch of Kraft or ConAgra, it's no longer its own thing. Up till now, Twinkies and their ilk have gotten prime store placement and spandex publicity because they were the priority for their parent company. As a subsidiary they'd be one product among many, and at some point the new owners could deemphasize them in order to boost rival products they also own. Nobody's too big to become a ghost brand. All of which is to say that if the sugar pimps want the good times to keep rolling, they should listen to what their workers have to say.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Strollin' Friday Random Ten

I went out for a walk just a little while ago, when most people were asleep. Or were they? It was late and dark, making for some neat chiaroscuro with the street lights.  I appreciate being able to walk through residential neighborhoods without causing undue alarm.  Realistically the way I look (white, not too imposing) helps.

Of course one thing about walking in the city is that if you keep going through a residential area, you'll eventually hit something else, whether it's a store or a church or what have you.  I stayed with a friend in the suburbs recently, and that's always been one of my discontents with the suburban landscape.  You get into these areas that are just house after house, lawn after lawn, for miles it seems.  It makes orienteering really hard.

1. Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence
2. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Poor Boy
3. Irma Thomas - Wish Someone Would Care
4. Fleetwood Mac - Not That Funny
5. Talking Heads - Happy Day
6. Lower Dens - Lion In Winter Pt 2
7. Diana Krall - Quiet Nights
8. Nat King Cole - Non Dementicar
9. Fol Chen - If Tuesday Comes
10. The Beautiful South - Straight In At 37

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A moving experience

Just indulging my love of marionettes again. This is from a British theatre troupe. What I find interesting is that you have a very Brechtian setup here: the puppeteer is out in the open wearing a scientist's white coat, the lighting is provided by an unshaeded desk lamp. And yet still you get that feeling of life from the little dancing figure.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not Another Service Advisory Movie

To let y'all know, I won't be able to blogg in the evenings for another couple of days, probably.  My laptop is out getting vajazzled.  Okay, not really, because that's a made-up word to entice gullible women into paying extra for bikini waxes.  It's not getting a bikini wax, but it is getting a new keyboard and general tuneup.  The old keyboard had several keys go unresponsive on me, including the space bar.  Whichisokayreallyifyoulikeputtingeverythinginonereallylongword. (Only imagine that with no c's, d's or e's.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Drawing board Friday Random Ten

I had an idea for a story a little while ago.  I've been working on it.  There is a good opening scene.  But I've come to the conclusion that I've been taking the wrong approach here.  So I'll give it a rest and maybe try something else in a couple of days.  At least I was able to read the signs.

1. Nat King Cole - Almost Like Being In Love
2. Neko Case - I'm an Animal
3. Lower Dens - Lamb
4. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Fire
5. Shirley & Lee - Feel So Good
6. The Bird and the Bee - My Love
7. Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence
8. Talking Heads - Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town
9. The Beautiful South - From Under the Covers
10. Diana Krall - Walk On By

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Snow big deal

Well how about that? Late this afternoon and this evening, genuine New England snow. Quite a bit of it too, accompanied by high winds. Touch wood, maybe this will be a break for our nation's maple syrup industry.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rock around the block

I've voted in Rhode Island for a few elections running now.  It's always been a pretty quick process.  Walk in, wait in a short line, fill out the ballot, and leave within about five minutes.

It was a different deal this year.  I went in and immediately somone told me I had to use another door.  When I came in again I saw that there was a line snaking all around the store.  Seems they weren't really ready for the turnout.  Or some elderly voters were more confused than usual.  I was at the polling place for easily an hour.

On the bright side, the people right in front and back of me were nice.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The life of Reilly

I just finished reading a book I'd meant to get to for awhile, but had never gotten around to.  That's A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.  Wow.  It's a shame that Toole killed himself when he had only written two novels, and before either had been published.  He truly had a gift, and it would be hard for me to point to a better example of a satirical novel.

Two things about Ignatius J. Reilly.  One, I know people like that.  Maybe not down to the last detail, but some of the major characteristics.  The old-time religiosity, the submerged sexual perversion, the codependent relationship with a doting/abusive mother.  As absurd and exaggerated as he may be, Reilly seems real to me.

In addition, a kind of transformation happened in regards to my view of the character.  He's overly proud of his (not really exceptional) scholarship, and he's generally unpleasant to everyone, sometimes destructive.  At first he's a supreme irritant.  But gradually I found him earning my respect.  Part of it has to do with comparison between him and some of the other characters, by which he actually does come off a lot smarter.  And it could also be the author's affection for his own creation rubbing off on the reader.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mellow-sipping Friday Random Ten

Tonight with dinner I had a glass - not a full glass - of this chocolate wine I had on hand.  A friend and his wife gave it to me for Christmas, which gives you an idea of how long it was hanging around.  I was planning to polish it off as part of a special occasion, probably not by myself.  But, I finally figured I'd clear out some space.  Now watch "clear out some space" become a euphemism.  Anyway, it's called "Desiree", and it's good stuff.  Kind of like sherry but it goes down smoother.

1. Soul Coughing - Sugar Free Jazz
2. The Beautiful South - Oh Blackpool
3. Sun Ra - China Gates
4. Joni Mitchell - Banquet
5. Ernie K-Doe - A Certain Girl
6. The Bird and the Bee - You're a Cad
7. Lower Dens - Candy
8. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Life is Long
9. Pink Martini - Ohio Ohayoo
10. Sarah Vaughan - Pennies from Heaven