Sunday, March 31, 2013

He'll Have to Go - Tell him to take an umbrella

March came in like a lion and appears to be going out like a very wet lamb, if the sounds outside my window are any indication. Anyway, this song seems like a nice way to transition out. Ry's isn't the first take on this song, but it's a really sweet one.

As to why the subtitles (Japanese? Korean?) are over and done so quickly, I really don't know.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Random Ten? Friday Random Ten

It sort of feels weird to tell people to "have a nice holiday" at the start of a reg'lar two-day weekend. That's Easter for ya. (Actually I do know at least one guy taking an extra day off.)

1.    Elvis Costello & the Attrractions - Hand in Hand
2. Lou Rawls - Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
3. Sarah Vaughan – Pinky
 4. XTC - Love on a Farmboy's Wages
 5. The Beautiful South - I Love You (But You're Boring)
 6. Depeche Mode - Never Let Me Down Again
 7. Ben Folds Five - Away When You Were Here
 8. The New Pornographers – Unguided
 9. The Magnetic Fields - All You Ever Do Is Walk Away
10. Edith Piaf - Un Refrain Courait dans La Rue

Thursday, March 28, 2013

In media res

Some interesting points are made here, even if the movie references at the end are less than current.

Until quite recently, as, once again, British novels bear witness, educated people had a cultural common ground based on literature that they could draw upon and refer to in a reasonable expectation of being understood. Everybody who read had read Shakespeare and Alice in Wonderland. Lord Peter Wimsey could quote from either, and we knew what he was talking about. We had even read Homer, if not in the original like Lord Peter (when I went to college, the Iliad and the Odyssey were required reading in Humanities 1), and could field a reference to Achilles or the Trojan War with ease. In contrast, I remember a conversation with a fourteen-year-old cousin in 2004 or so about the movie Troy, which reduced that epic conflict from ten years to three days and took many liberties with the plot. “Have you read the book?” she asked.

Nowadays, not only have our culture’s reading habits changed dramatically, but there’s too much to read. Politics have decreased the attention in the school curriculum that was once paid to “dead white males” like Shakespeare and Lewis Carroll. This is not all bad. I would have loved to be made to study Little Women or The Help instead of Silas Marner and Giants In the Earth, the two most stultifyingly boring novels I can remember being assigned in school.

As the fact that a billion people worldwide watched the Oscars this year attests, movies occupy the space in the collective unconscious that used to belong to books. Movies provide the material by which we communicate through common points of reference. Most people know The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind and The Godfather from the movies they became, rather than the books they were based on. Instead of “To be or not to be, that is the question,” “My kingdom for a horse,” “I can believe six impossible things before breakfast,” or “It was the best butter,” we all resonate with “We’re not in Kansas any more,” “Tomorrow is another day,” and “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.” How many people nowadays know that Dorothy originally had silver shoes, not ruby slippers? Some of us have read the books. But the reason everybody knows these references with all their implications is that we’ve seen the movies.

Authors now do face a situation where they can't count on other literature as a common cultural touchstone for their readers. In a way this puts them in the position of pre-Classical writers, those from the time when written language as an artistic medium - as opposed to simply a business tool - was a new thing. Of course that was so long ago that it's effectively new territory, and difficult to trek.

Of course L. Frank Baum is a natural victim of this displacement because of his very creativity. The movie of The Wizard of Oz became the definitive version for most Americans soon after it started airing regularly on postwar TV. To the extent that elements present in the books but not the movie seem outright bizarre to young readers, the silver-not-ruby slippers. And the fact that it's the books that seem strange and not the movie is itself weird. It's the film that casts as a pigtailed little moppet a teenage singer who in most respects was older than her years, not younger.

Seriously, that look was what befit a gay icon most?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

They're creepy and they're kooky

Stoker has got an incredible visual sense, obvious from the elegant minimalist credits sequence.  (An increasing number of Hollywood movies, of course, have no opening credits at all.)  It's a film where the story is more a matter of shots than of plot, but those shots are so graceful it kind of works.  The acting is mannered to the extreme.  If you've watched as many episodes of old B&W anthology shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Boris Karloff Thriller as I have, Nicole Kidman's performance will ring a few bells.  (Actually you're about a half hour in before there's any indication this is taking place in the 21st century.)

[For context, a thumbnail description of the plot is as follows: A girl's father dies.  Her uncle she never knew about moves in, then starts working his seductive charm on both her mother and her.  With any experience of the genre you can fill in a lot of other things, but not all of it.]

The violence is  treated mainly as another element of the film's visual design.  And there are some troubling sexual undercurrents here as well.  Or at least there would be, if "undercurrents" weren't such a laughably inapt way to describe them.

In short I'd say that Stoker is the kind of movie that David Lynch has apparently retired from making.  That's true in the good sense and the bad.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

At least more fun than Hitchcock's "I Confess"

This seems to me like it would be a fun thing to do.  Walk into a confessional and say, "Forgive me father, for I have sinned.  It has been half an hour since my last confession, and boy!  Do we have some catching up to do."

Problem is that I'm not Catholic.  I have some friends who are, but they don't seem to be in the market for new material.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Headscratchers Friday Random Ten

Yesterday I woke up late, although I made up the time to bepretty much on-time for work.  Figured it had something to do with taking Bendadryl the night before.  This morning I wake up not so late, but still later than I'd meant to, and without ever hearing my clock radio.  When I get home tonight, I notice that the alarm function has been turned off.  Sleeping me is not to be trusted.

1. Brian Eno - On Some Faraway Beach
2. Los Campesinos - I Warned You: Do Not Make an Enemy of Me
3. The Magnetic Fields - The Flowers She Sent and the Flowers She Said She Sent
4. The Kinks - Rosemary Rose
5. Edith Piaf - Le Roi a Fait Battre Tambour
6. XTC - Ladybird
7. David Bowie - Changes
8. Depeche Mode - Behind the Wheel
9. Love - Live and Let Live
10. Nat King Cole - This Can't Be Love

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Figuring stuff out

On the writing front, I sent a story out to a planned anthology within the last couple of weeks.  Not naming it, simply because I don't want to get anyone's hopes up before there's reason for it.  Least of all my own.

I think it's good, though.  And just as importantly, I'm figuring out how to put a manuscript together.  A lot of stuff used to just go over my head.  Page numbering, especially.  I had no idea how ot number the pages so that A) the information on each page is in the needed format and B) there's no numbering on the first page.  (You don't number page 1, I guess because it's obvious.)  Now I understand that stuff.

There's another story I'm working on.  It's had its share of false starts. Now it's feeling more like it has a true start, knock on wood.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mamma mia!

I took a look outside just a few minutes ago.  As the weatherfolk predicted, it's snowing again.  Which means that not only was St Patrick's Day bitter cold and windy, but we'll wake up on St Joseph's Day morning with snow on the ground.  The contrast is striking.  Last year March belonged almost entirely to spring.  This year, winter is making sure it gets every day officially coming to it. 

And there's a source of concern there.  Most people aren't going to keep in mind the potential climate change has to push cold air currents south from the Arctic.  This winter will come as evidence that global warming is a mistake, if not an outright hoax.

You can worry about that, certainly.  Or you can find the whole phenomenon interesting.  I'll confess that it's in my nature to stand back and go with "interesting."

And I'm curious as to whether tomorrow's snow will taste like zeppoli cream.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Wrapped Saturday Random Ten

Yesterday on the way to work my scarf fell out of my pocket. (I was on my way to work. The scarf doesn't have a job, and would have accompanied me.) I didn't notice until too late. When I got home I retraced my steps outside, not entirely hopeful.  But along the way I saw that someone had picked it up and placed it on a parking lot sign.  Good of them, lucky for me.

1. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - You Belong to Me
2. Patti Smith Group - Kimberly
3. The New Pornographers - All the Old Showstoppers
4. Kat Edmonson - Hopelessly Blue
5. Brian Eno - Some of Them Are Old
6. Love - Alone Again Or
7. M83 - Strong and Wasted
8. Fol Chen - You and Your Sister In Jericho
9. The Magnetic Fields - Strange Powers
10. Nat King Cole - Nature Boy

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Our nation's capital and legendary jazz composer

Whew. It's been an impressively cold day. Rolling quarters, if you have the time and inclination for piecework, is kind of fun. More so since the state quarters project started. Now you get to go on a little tour of all the states, as well as the island territories like Guam and American Samoa. And you don't have to worry about jet lag, unless you're just naturally jet laggy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Here's something I never knew existed: a Thomas Ligotti movie. Well, short film, about the length of a half-hour TV episode minus commercials. Which makes sense. Spinning short stories out into feature length movies is a tricky business. Then you have the fact that this particular story is kind of nasty, so...

From this clip, though, I'm impressed with the way the guy playing the psycho hillbilly underplays it.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Have it your way

Recently started reading Alan Watts' Buddhism: The Religion of No Religion.  This is one of the early passages, concerning the difference between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

What is the great difference between these two schools?  The Theravada is very strict.  It is a way for monks, essentially, rather than laymen.  There are many ways of living Buddhism.  The Theravada Buddhists are trying to live without desires: to have no need for wives or girlfriends, husbands or boyfriends; not to kill anything at all; living in the strictest vegetarian way; and even straining their water so that they do not eat any little insects with it.  Also in this very strict way, they meditate all the time and eventually attain nirvana, which involves total disappearance from the manifested word.

This branch of Buddhism is associated with Southern Asia, including Thailand and Cambodia.  Which shows you how much it isn't practiced by laypeople, at least if restaurateurs are any guide.  Seriously, a Thai restaurant in almost certainly not a vegan restaurant.

But the Buddhist religion interests me.  Not necessarily as a practitioner or adherent, but certainly as an admirer.  More than any other major world religion it seems to be a way of thinking rather than a set of beliefs.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Fizzy Friday Random Ten

They seemed to be expecting the worst with the snowstorm going from Thursday into Friday.  We got an email on Thursday of emergency plans if the agency was closed.  Turned out to be not quite like that.  The flakes were big, but in most spots they didn't really accumulate.  I'd call it a picturesque storm, with an eerie wind sound effect.

1. The Magnetic Fields - Torn Green Velvet Eyes
2. Brian Eno - Here Come the Warm Jets
3. Depeche Mode - The Things You Said
4. The Kinks - Lavender Hill
5. Love - You Set the Scene
6. The New Pornographers - Adventures in Solitude
7. Sarah Vaughan - Nice Work If You Can Get It
8. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Pump It Up
9. TV on the Radio - Blues From Down Here
10. Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five - Basin Street Blues

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Taking criticism

This morning a coworker reported the death of Hugo Chavez - which I already knew about - and followed up by saying, "Thank God." So, Chavez was our enemy then? I mean, I have to ask, because while I know he said some things, I can't remember him harming America, or acting against our interest in any material way. Have we become so thin-skinned that anyone we suspect isn't 100% thrilled with us is inflated into Joe Stalin?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Head of Light Entertainment in the sky

I had intended to do some blogging after I checked my email, but my email provider isn't letting me log in. Oh well, guess I can do some light blogging now.

Here's a neat and thoughtful reminiscence of Monty Python's Flying Circus. In other places I've seen it noted that Python's political humor was vague and general, not aimed at anyone or anything specifically. There was mention in one episode of "Margaret Thatcher's naughty bits", but that was a random bit of silliness. Bustillos makes the point that this abstractness gave them freedom to ask questions about the nature of authority.

The article also provides an excerpt of John Cleese's eulogy for Graham Chapman, which may actually be the last classic Python skit.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Timeless Saturday Random Ten

My wrist watch has been losing time.  Like, a significan amount of time per day.  So a few days ago I took it into a jeweler to be repaired, and he had to keep it.  Not having a working watch is an adjustment, and a couple of times I've grabbed for it while getting dressed in the morning.  Plus I keep asking "What time is it?" and "Is it day or night?" and "What that strange disc in sky?"

1. Bobby Mitchell & the Toppers - I'm Gonna Be a Wheel Someday
2. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - This Year's Girl
3. Kat Edmonson - Hopelessly Blue
4. XTC - The Beating of Hearts
5. The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!)
6. Diana Krall - How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
7. The New Pornographers - Go Places
8. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Everything That Happens
9. Ben Folds Five - Do It Anyway
10. Love - Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale