Monday, December 31, 2012

Some 'splainin' to do

Ball, Lucille (b. Aug. 6, 1911 d. Apr. 26, 1989), beloveed comic actress who was one of the first female television stars, the first woman to be pregnant on screen, and, in 1953, the first woman to give birth in front of a live, cheering studio audience.  The six-hour special made TV history on several levels with its unedited, single-camera shot of a sweating, profanity-spewing Ball laboring through contractions while surrounded by a crew of attentive doctors and nurses.  The episode smashed all previous ratings records as more than 70 million Americans gathered around TV sets in living rooms or stood outside electronics stores to watch doctors successfully perform a caesarian section on Ball.  In commemoration of the classic TV moment, portions of Ball's placenta are on permanent view at the Paley Center For Media in Los Angeles.

A friend gave me a copy of The Onion Book of Known Knowledge for Christmas.  Learning so very much here.  And yes, I thought it might be an apt way to wrap up my blogging for 2012.

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's quiet, too quiet, Friday Random Ten

It's been a relatively slow week at work, due to a lot of people not being there.  Some people you certainly miss.  One lady is fun to talk to, and she also keeps things running smoothly in ways that the people who stand in for her during vacations don't really do.  The other nice thing is that I know between me and her the respect is mutual, which is cool.

1. Irma Thomas - Time Is on My Side
2. Brian Eno & David Byrne - I Feel My Stuff
3. The xx - VCR
4. Roxy Music - Casanova
5. TV on the Radio - I Was a Lover
6. Patti Smith Group - Break It Up
7. Diana Krall - I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face
8. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Third Stone From the Sun
9. Grizzly Bear - Ready, Able
10. The New Pornographers - Mutiny, I Promise You

Thursday, December 27, 2012


One conversation starter is to walk up to someone and out of the blue say, "Still thinking about it."

They say, "Still thinking about what?"

You shake your head, laugh ruefully, and say that you envy their clear-headedness. 

Could probably be adapted for a longer discussion as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Of good cheer

Merry Christmas to all

I like to spread my Christmas out a little. Largely because after the Big Day it becomes possible to start doing stuff again. The paralysis caused by either overcrowding (days before December 25th) or near-universal closings (the day itslef) lifts. Also I'm a creative procrastinator.

Spent much of today at a friend's house. I brought some gifts over, including for the baby. She's pre-literate, but one of the things I bought her was a copy of Eric Carle's The Very Grouchy Ladybug. Her mother can read it to her, and once I saw it in the store there was no way I wasn't buying it

I also saw a bit of this game. One of the boys got it and gave me a little demonstration. The concept is very screwed up, which is a compliment. The graphics look refreshingly handmade.

Anyway, best Christmas wishes to all those who may be reading.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

War is funny, but hell

My current reading project is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  I'm pretty sure I remember seeing a copy at home, although I never read it then.  A friend of mine has been raving about it not too long ago, and I guess it moved into my to-read pile then.

It's a bleakly funny book.  Bleak mainly in that it's largely the most evil or venal characters who seem to prosper.  Good men are either weak and easily dominated (Major Major, the chaplain) or fatally naive (Nately, Clevinger).  Yossarian is stronger, but he seems locked into an inescapable pattern.  Like the one that gives the novel its name.

From a contemporary viewpoint, it is striking that there aren't really any female characters.  Woman appear, but they're described almost entirely in terms of tits and ass.  Fondly remembered tits and ass, but still.  If this is forgiveable, it's because that does seem to characterize the experiences of the World War II generation.  It's a side-effect of being abducted from the everyday and thrust into an all-male environment.

Friday, December 21, 2012

After the end, Friday Random Ten

I seem to have missed the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing. Was it spectacular?  I have to say, the cleanup crews have done a fine job.  Considering.

1. Grizzly Bear - Southern Point
2. XTC - In Loving Memory of a Name
3. Neko Case - Don't Forget Me
4. The Beautiful South - Woman In the Wall
5. Talking Heads - No Compassion
6. Brian Eno & David Byrne - I Feel My Stuff
7. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Two Deuces
8. Patti Smith Group - Kimberly
9. Stevie Wonder - Looking For Another Pure Love
10. Eric King - Trick Bag

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vive la 'vieve

This feature does indeed highlight a great song. And one that is generally overlooked, a deep cut in the truest sense. The author, who is of course named "Genevieve" herself, calls Preservation Act 1 a "falled concept album", which is in a way a redundancy. While there have been a few successes in the form (it's done all right by Pink Floyd a couple of times), it usually requires a lot of tolerance. Ray Davies, being a very smart man, made sure to leave himself some escape hatches so that he wasn't imprisoned by the concept, and this is one happy result.

Reading the article reminded me of a girl I used to work with. Her name was Jen, short for "Jennifer," but she'd heard from her mother that the mother had wanted to name her "Genevieve." In this case, the name was supposed to have the original French pronunciation of ZHAHN-vee-EV. Mom said that she decided against it because people would always be misproununcing it. Jen's response was, "Mom, you know me. You know how much I'd enjoy correcting them."

Ah well, as some other British Invasion stalwarts wrote, you can't always get what you want.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Friends in (yes) high places

This was a somewhat accidental cool find, even though I do look at the site on a semiregular basis. This woman seems to have befriended some crows and scrub jays (which are also corvids) in her neighborhood. It's a cool process, and something I'd like to try. I do see them sometimes, once recently in a CVS parking lot. It seems to me this could be a nice form of companionship for people who don't have room for pets or whose leases won't allow them.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


This week I've been reading Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others. Chiang is an unusual writer in contemporary science fiction. He's so far been exclusively a short fiction writer, and not a very prolific one. Also whatever out-there ideas he writes about, his prose remains measured and balanced, having the feel of fifties fiction from the slicks.

From my perspective it was coincidental to find out that his novella "Story of Your Life" had been optioned by Hollywood. The story is about a linguist whose contact with an alien race who experience time non-linearly affects her own perception of time. Being unusually structured and largely made up of conversations, it's an odd fit for a sci-fi movie. And if this one gets made there's a good chance it will be awful. CGI will make it easier than ever to visualize the Heptapods, but that's arguably the least important part.

"Hell is the Absence of God" could make a good movie. I don't know if there's a market for Christian fundamentalist fantasy noir, but it seems like there should be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day two cold watch Friday Random Ten

Have to make this short.  If anything I'm a little more under the weather than I was last night.  Hopefully that means the whatchamacallit has what-have-youed and I'll be on the mend tomorrow.  Anyway, got to make this short.

1. Grizzly Bear - About Face
2. Nat King Cole - Our Love Is Here to Stay
3. XTC - Human Alchemy
4. Fol Chen - Winter, That's All
5. Ladytron - Tomorrow
6. Lou Rawls - You've Made Me So Very Happy
7. Kat Edmonson ft Lyle Lovett - Long Way Home
8. Talk Talk - I Believe In You
9. Simon & Garfunkel - We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'
10. Ben Folds Five - Away When You Were Here

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A good night of feeling bad

Man oh man.  Obviously I've caught myself some kind of cold.  Sneezing and congestion for most of the night/much of the day.  About to fall off into a much-needed OTC cold med oblivion.

Not a bad night writing-wise, though.  I may have gotten a handle on a story with potential, one that I could never quite swing before.  Also recharged my iPod, to add a tiny bit to my bragging rights.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time out for fun

If science hasn't proven that Gahan Wilson makes life better, science is doing something wrong. Please enjoy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Out of the (recent) past

Civil War guy Ken Burns has co-directed with his daughter a documentary on the Central Park Five. The case popularized the word "wilding" in American English, although perhaps mercifully it has not remained popular. Burns talked about the CP5 in a recent interview


Q. What I found most affecting was, from the point of view of a parent, inevitably thinking, what if my son had been one of these kids? Maybe the most powerful moment, for me, was when Raymond [Santana]’s father says —

A. “I sent him into the park that evening.” This has been very moving for me to work with my daughter. Also very moving to get to know these five —

Q. Who are such impressive men.

A. Incredibly impressive. With a noticeable lack of overwhelming bitterness. With a kind of weariness, but also wisdom. We’ve been out on the road with them appearing before audiences, and it suddenly felt as though we were merging families.

It almost goes without saying, and yet still needs to be said, that no one was talking in 1989 about how impressive these men were. The assault on the Central Park jogger was one of a series of highly publicized racial incidents - most of them occurring in New York City - during the late 1980s and early 90s. The publicization of these incidents seems to have been aimed expressly at raising moral panic against black and Hispanic urbanites and creating an us-v-them mentality

An admittedly quick web search failed to turn up any stories contemporary to their arrest and trial. Whether this is by accident or design I don't know. It would be morbidly interesting to see again how it was covered in, say, The New York Post. My memories align with this.

The Central Park Five are the five men who were wrongfully convicted for the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. A few weeks ago I wrote about the Central Park Five for the Guardian. It’s a heartbreaking case — the jogger barely survived the attack, and suffered enormous physical trauma. The city was enraged and hungry for a conviction. Donald Trump put out a “bring back the death penalty” ad in response to the crime. Five black and Latino boys were interrogated for hours and deprived of sleep until they confessed; once actually arrested and charged with the crime, they recanted. Racial tensions boiled, with racist caricatures of of-color youth going “wilding,” prowling the streets in a “wolf pack” for innocent white victims proliferating in the white-dominated media. While the woman was generally treated as an innocent victim, even she didn’t totally escape victim-blaming — writing about this case even 20 years later inevitably leads to many people asking, “Why was she jogging in Central Park late at night? What did she think was going to happen?”

The point to remember is that these youths weren't just unjustly convicted, although that is an abomination unto itself. They were also unjustly condemned, and held up as the worst of humanity. And all because there was a culprit-shaped hole that the law couldn't fill with the right guy

The other thing that needs to be remembered is that this isn't ancient history. It's not even distant history. If you were to compile a list of people who made gravy on this, who profited in politics or the media, you'd almost certainly find some who still have high positions. The eddies are still rippling out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Concentrated Friday Random Ten

One handy thing about writing on a machine with Internet access is that you can research anything you need to for your story or piece.  One less-than-helpful aspect is that you can surf anywhere, so sometimes you do and you lose focus.  This is probably more of a thing now than it was even ten years ago, because so many places have wi-fi.  In any case, you often have to be vigilant against yourself.

1. Annie Lennox - The Gift
2. Patti Smith Group - Land
3. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Knee Drops
4. Diana Krall - You're My Thrill
5. The Clash - Hateful
6. Simon & Garfunkel - A Most Peculiar Man
7. XTC - Wonderland
8. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Everything That Happens
9. Neko Case - Polar Nettles
10. Ladytron - I'm Not Scared

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Z for

And now I've just started reading Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. And yes, certainly, Ms Oates is a national treasure. To give you something like the full picture, though: Zombie is mainly a disjointed internal monologue by the main character, who's explicitly based on Jeffrey Dahmer. So... a little offputting, maybe.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Let it grow

The First Tree from Henry McGuire on Vimeo.

This is kind of an unusual format for animated shorts to take. Each successive image seems to have been painted impasto style just before the frame was shot. There's not a lot of story here, but the very tactile way of showing the images gives it a unique feel.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The fine print

Yesterday I was grocery shopping.  We're getting into the cold months, but I have indoor heat.  So I figure I might pick up a carton of ice cream.  Friendly's - a brand of ice cream associated with a restaurant - was on sale.  I was pondering which flavor to get, and then I took a closer look.  In the space on the box where they describe the flavors, all said they were "frozen dairy product."  They can't even commit to the term "ice cream."

Don't know about anyone else, but I found this off-putting.  It's like those urban legends about how KFC can't use the word "chicken" anymore.