Thursday, January 31, 2013

Short order

Here's what should be a fun end to the month of January. Nat King Cole and his trio in an early venture into the music video, one predating the widespread ownership of TV sets. In a lot of ways it feels more like a comedy skit. (A beautifully scored one, to be sure.) Nat's mugging while sitting at the table is very improv.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Touch wood?

Hmm. Around this time the past couple of nights my modem stopped working. The send/receive lights just went dark for the duration. Usually this is a sign that you forgot to pay the bill, but I'd paid it just a few days previously. But now everything seems to be wroking. Which is why I'm able to be here. Can't think of anything to blog about, though. Isn't that always the way? (Could find a subject, but it's the kind of night where I'm likely to wind up coherence-deprived.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The painted ponies

I went to a Quaker memorial service on Saturday. It was new for me. I've been to many Friends' worship meetings, but this was the first time I had been to one like this, something close to a funeral. The woman passed away near the end of last year. She was very much a larger than life personality, with all that implies, so her passing came as a shock.

Her association with the Quakers was a recent thing, through book swaps. This particular house wasn't one I'd been to before. They were very hospitable, though.

Part of the service was a sing-along of this song. Also on the Joni front one of her friends (small f) sang "Carey" beautifully. Funny what you keep learning about people.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Tuckered Friday Random Ten

I'll be short-winded (as opposed to long-winded) tonight.  It's been a weird week and I'm looking forward to a nice restful sleep.  Knock on wood.

1. The Magnetic Fields - Sugar World
2. Talking Heads - First Week/Last Week... Carefree
3. Nat King Cole - The Very Thought of You
4. Fol Chen - Winter, That's All
5. David Bowie - Oh! You Pretty Things
6. The Electric Six - I Invented the Night
7. The Kinks - Where Did My Spring Go
8. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - (I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea
9. Ben Folds Five - Hold That Though
10. Diana Krall - The Boy From Ipanima

Thursday, January 24, 2013

That's cold, man

So I've been without heat the last couple of days.  Bad time for it, you might say.  We're in the middle of a massive cold snap so the past couple of nights I was sure the radiator would click on, but it never did. There's other stuff going on here too, more on which as it develops.  But the borrowed space heater I'm using now is helping somewhat.

I'm revising a story for hopeful publication.  Basically what I need now is a good awkward scene with a school administrator and I'll be done.  Well, mostly done.  So I'm doing some research and I'm sleeping on it.  Way to get my conscious and unconscious minds working on the same project.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Everybody's a crowd

Took maybe the crowdedest bus trip of my life today.  It was on the way to a dentist's appointment.  When I got on not only was it standing room only, I could barely get behind the yellow line.  Probably the driver shouldn't have picked me up, but I'm still glad he did because the buses were running on Sunday/holiday schedule.  Which is probably why there were so many riders to begin with.

From there I arrive in the late afternoon at the dentist's office.  Empty waiting room.  This i also because of the holiday, I think.  As well as the impending snow flurry.  But it's interesting how tow opposite conditions can have the same cause. 

Beside needing a couple of new fillings, which I'm getting next month, my teeth seem to be in great shape.  And of course happy birthday, MLK.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Slightly gross Saturday Random Ten

There's a big difference between just before you throw up and just after.  Before it hurts to move, it's agonizing to be still, you probably have some mixture of headache and dizziness.  Afterward, once your system has settled down, it feels like the weight of the world is off your shoulders.  This is one of several key activities that involve getting rid of excess fluids and result in feeling better.  Which gives you some insight into how for centuries bleeding was the go-to medical procedure.

Part of what inspires this observation is that I just finished reading a Regency romance (a first for me.)  At one point the heroine shoots the antihero to defend herself from his advances.  Then she calls for a surgeon, who is of course a guy with leeches.  The antihero who becomes more heroic over the course of the book refuses the surgeon, which certainly helps make the case for his intelligence.

1. The Electric Six - She's White
2. Kat Edmonson - I Just Wasn't Made for These Times
3. A.C. Newman - Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns
4. The Kinks - Berkeley Mews
5. Brian Eno & David Byrne - I Feel My Stuff
6. The New Pornographers - All the Old Showstoppers
7. Grizzly Bear - Dory
8. David Bowie - Queen Bitch
9. Ben Folds Five - Sky High
10. Diana Krall - Where or When

Friday, January 18, 2013

Freaked-out fun with felt

I read about this short in today's Boston Globe, wherein it was reviewed as part pf a festival of short films. Ty Burr compares it to Pee Wee's Playhouse and brown acid, neither of which I'd argue with. There's also something in here about the inherent contradictions of teaching creativity. Anyway, it's a prime bit of English-accented weirdness.

Don't Hug Me I'm Scared from This Is It on Vimeo.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


What does "insert jump break" mean, I wonder?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


From The Secret Life of Sharks by A. Peter Klimley, Ph.D.:

In part because of my dawning awareness of the complexity of their behavior, I became more and more interested in learning about the real nature of sharks.  I didn't want to study them in the man-made, artificial habitat of aquariums, however; I wanted to swim with them in their own environmnet, the ociean, where I might discover their true nature.  I wanted to emulate Dian Fossey, who had gotten close to gorillas in order to study them.  I had read in an issue of National Geographic magazine how dominant male gorillas allowed Fossey to approach member of their families unharmed because she imitated the submissive postures and movements of subordinate gorillas.  There had to be some way to get close enough to sharks to observe them in their own environment without being attacked.  Because I was a good swimmer and intersted in fish, I wanted to study the most fearsome and powerful fish in the oceans. As my graduate education progressed, I began thinking about some of the questions I wanted to answer in my career as a marine biologist.  Are white sharks the insatiable and indiscriminate feeders suggested by film documentaries showing multipe sharks biting a cage?  Do sharks realy seek out humans as frequently as depicted in Jaws?  I decided to see for myself how sharks behaved in the wild instead of as "actors" in a film.

Dian Fossey wasn't an air-breahter surrounded by water breathers, at least.  But if Klimley is a lunatic, he's the best kind.  I mean, he really loves his job.  And sharks.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Headgame Hotel

I haven't written that much about television on this blog. Certainly I haven't done a single episode review like this. But I feel sort of compelled in this case. Plus there's video up for a relatively recent Doctor Who that's not on a paid download site or a shifty semi-legal operation that might have to take all its videos down soon. So:

"The God Complex", from September 2011.

A good rule of thumb in writing fanstastic material - any material really - is to just go for it. Don't feel you have to justify anything. Find what interests you and hit it. Toby Whithouse does this right. He starts with the premise of a creepy Overlook-ish hotel, one with Escher bends in the architecture. Then he fills it with seemingly every creepy cool thing he can think of. Sad clown? Seen briefly, but here. Crowd of evil ventriloquist dummies? Check. Obviously fake gorilla? Oh yes. And the "obviously fake" aspect is interesting. Back in the late 80s, when the budget barely covered the show's reduced schedule, playing up the fakeness of the visuals in a Brechtian way was par for the course. In the 21st century Doctor Who is a big deal with a big CGI commitment, so going the Poverty Row route is going against the grain.

I also love the way director Nick Hurran plays with the format in these opening moments, alternating between regular footage, security cam video, and typed text. The editing soon slows down to a human level, but the sense of disorientation remains.

Some of the guest characters are certainly types. Gibbis, the Wind in the Willows fugitive, seems to embody those French jokes all of us Yanks were yukking it up over when Operation Iraqi Freedom started. And Howard is the prototypical wally/anorak/nerd/dork/what-have-you. This is perhaps by way of contrast. Rita is a whole other story, and a very sad one.

Interestingly Whithouse subsequently wrote another DW episode called "A Town Called Mercy", which some have taken as a kind of Christian allegory. This, on the other hand, seems like a frontal assault on the whole idea of faith, starting with the title. So did the writer have a huge philosophical turnaround? Probably not. Close examination finds they're not really at these thematic extremes. In this case, the minotaur has been exiled and imprisoned by the people who no longer worship him. Of course they've sent him out without thinking about the fact that he'd be, you know, feeding on people. So not so wise.

Mainly, though, I love this because of all the weird things going on at that haunted hotel. As if there's any other kind.

What's the buzz?

I don't know if Marilyn vos Savant is trying to disprove the usefulness of IQ scores, but this tidbit assaulted my brain today.
Readers usually ask this question about mosquitoes! I reply that complete eradication of these flying disease vectors would be a boon to mankind. More than 200 million people were infected with malaria last year; mosquitoes also spread encephalitis, yellow fever, ­meningitis, dengue fever, and more. But then I hear from people who worry about the food chain. They say that if it weren’t for mosquitoes, certain other animals—those who feed on them—may die off, and so on. These people believe that every organism fills a crucial niche and that the balance of nature is delicate. Bedbugs provide some evidence this is not true. After World War II, insecticides such as DDT ­virtually eliminated these pests in this country, Canada, and Europe. Bedbugs were gone for decades and didn’t reappear until almost the new millennium. Did anything bad ­happen to the food chain in these parts of the world? No. The food chain isn’t static. ­Living things evolve and dis­appear; environments are transformed. In short, nature is all about change.

One thing that vos Savant neglects to mention is that the extinction of mosquitoes isn't going to happen on its own. While non-freaks may not like to think about mosquito sex, the fact is that these critters aren't spontaneously going to lose their drive to procreate. So eliminating them - as opposed to the necessary control of their populations - would involve a staggering amount of pesticide. And yes, that would adversely affect birds, small mammals, and ultimately people

Also if nature abhors a vacuum it's not too crazy to imagine another species stepping into the role of human blood feeder/occasional disease vector. But I assume that will remain a moot point.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Random Ten in spite of it all

Not so fun fact: it sometimes looks as if a document is saving onto disc, when really that CD-R has decided for some reason not to accept any more saves.  Also you can have Word always make backup copies, an option I chose today, but it's not the default.  The upshot of this nerd talk is that I seem to have lost work forever.  Not a lot of work, but still irritating.  But, tomorrow is another day.

1. Fol Chen - No Wedding Cake
2. The Kinks - Misty Water*
3. Stevie Wonder - Superstition
4. Dave Bartholomew - The Monkey
5. TV on the Radio - Tonight
6, Sarah Vaughan - Lover Man
7. The Magnetic Fields - The Trouble I've Been Looking For
8. The New Pornographers - Go Places
9. The xx - Crystalised
10. Sun Ra - Where Is Tomorrow

There was no way these guys weren't getting back in rotation in the near future, and this obscure song (for years only available on the Great Lost Kinks Album) never fails to put me in my happy place.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nice naivete

On something of a whim I picked up a book at the library last weekend on naïve painting. It's an interesting field.  The best known naïve artist is probably Henri "le Douanier" Rousseau, although he's a strange example.  His attention to things like perspective and foreshortening varies widely from picture to picture, so that at times you suspect he's being unsophisticated on purpose.

Even those who are definitely true naïves aren't always simple to talk about.  One French painter in the book paints the Rouen Cathedral as this gloriously intricate pointilist thing dappled with bright candy colors.  At the same time, all the cars he paints at the base are semicircles with two wheels each.  The way I drew cars when I was five, basically.
Simon Schwartzenberg - Rouen Cathedral
Of course trained artitsts have imitated aspects of naïve ones since the nineteenth century and still do.  That muddies the waters too, in an interesting way.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A modest proposal

Here's the problem.

Weaver put a realistic rubber turtle in the middle of a lane on a busy road near campus. Then he got out of the way and watched over the next hour as seven drivers swerved and deliberately ran over the animal. Several more apparently tried to hit it but missed.

"I've heard of people and from friends who knew people that ran over turtles. But to see it out here like this was a bit shocking," said Weaver, a 22-year-old senior in Clemson's School of Agricultural, Forest and Environmental Sciences.

To seasoned researchers, the practice wasn't surprising.

The number of box turtles is in slow decline, and one big reason is that many wind up as roadkill while crossing the asphalt, a slow-and-steady trip that can take several minutes.

Sometimes humans feel a need to prove they are the dominant species on this planet by taking a two-ton metal vehicle and squishing a defenseless creature under the tires, said Hal Herzog, a Western Carolina University psychology professor.

Here's my idea:

Box turtle robots wired with explosives. The next macho asshole who swerves to hit a turtle goes up in a geyser of flame and shrapnel. After a few guys get roasted in their SUVs you gotta figure word will spread.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Mated Saturday Random Ten

Was at the library today.  After I left I talked to a guy who goes there to play chess.  Intersting scene.  I've never really played myself.  But apparently there's a lot of friendly competition going on in the basement of that building.  Anyway, you can potentially hear some intriguing things taking public transportation.

1. TV on the Radio - A Method
2. Ladytron - Season of Illusions
3. Diana Krall - Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry
4. Fol Chen - The Longer U Wait
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Red House
6. Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five - Basin Street Blues
7. Lou Rawls - Trouble Down Here Below
8. Aaron Neville - Over You
9. Electric Six - Naked Pictures (Of Your Mother)
10. The New Pornographers - Entering White Cecilia

Friday, January 4, 2013

By way of reasurance

Don't worry.  Still here.  Meant to do some other blogging, although I'm a little foggy on about what.  Anyway, I'll do some sleeping now and figure it out tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Brief review

So imagine there are two movies playing in the same cineplex.  One of them is a sodden indie movie about a bipolar guy with intermittent episodes of violent rage.  Filmmakers love mental illness because economically sheltered white people can speak on it with some authority, unlike seeing your father beaten to death by Minutemen.  Anyway, doesn't seem too promising.

The other movie is a romantic comedy with mutual stalking, climaxing with a ballroom dance competition.  So precious, and the cinemas are littered with this kind of thing all spring.  Anyway, that doesn't sound like a real good time either.

So you could definitely see Silver Linings Playbook as two mediocre films smooshed together.  The surprising thing is that together they make up a movie that's actually good.  The whole is much more than the sum of its parts.

It certainly helps that onscreen one of those parts is embodied by Jennifer Lawrence.  It's not just that she's got a great rack, although there is that.  She's also able to sell her character's bullheaded determination and obvious scheming as part of her makeup.  It feels like a surprise when she influences Bradley Cooper's character to be better, inevitable as it may be.

The gambling subplot also shows more taste for depicting economic distress than the vast majority of film and TV.  One supporting character has a model home with his wife, iPod ports on the wall of every room.  This is contrasted with the more down-at-heel main characters, but the resulting job stress is destroying him.  Just a little bit of light is shed on the blind spot here.