Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Inn trouble

Currently watching - watching, not binging, because I go to work in the morning - the fifth season of American Horror Story. AKA "Hotel", noted for bringing Lady Gaga into the franchise. You can tell she's not a really seasoned actress, but she makes an impression.

This is the second iteration of the show that I've seen, and there are a few constants:

* It's really campy. The actors do a lot of nighttime soap emoting, regardless of how overqualified they are. (The gay associations with camp are certainly there too. Most men in the cast either are gay or could be really successful if they tried their hand at it.)

* There are a lot of shock tactics, sometimes sexual in nature and sometimes not, which have the effect of making the show less scary rather than more.

* Once you get past those there's actually a twisty and interesting story.

The story here has elements of The Shining, The Hunger, and Seven. There's a hotel that was basically built as a giant instrument of torture. There are vampires who hunt to throbbing goth rock music. And a serial killer is trying to make his punishments biblically appropriate.

An LAPD detective played by Wes Bentley ties the three stories together. He alternates between wooden determination and blind panic. His estranged wife is played by Chloe Sevigny, and she might be giving the best performance. She's the control in the experiment, the most "normal" character, a grieving mother and dedicated pediatrician. But normalcy is an illusion and you know things are going to go bad for her/in her.

In all, entertaining, which includes giving you something to goof on.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


I'm close to finishing Edgar Pangborn's Davy now. It was a fairly big deal when it came out in 1964, nominated for the Hugo award. It's a post-apocalyptic novel, picaresque, about coming of age in rebellion against a rigidly backward community. In premise it seems very similar to Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker. Pangborn even includes American city-states that bear corrupt variants of their pre-apocalypse names, as Hoban would later do with English cities. (Both authors were American, though.)

Pangborn's novel came first. But while it's easier to penetrate, I don't think it's as successful as Hoban's later would be. Riddley Walker is mythic, and reads like it could be produced by a primitive society of the future. Davy sounds a little too much like the product of a council of Hume scholars.

In other news related to science fiction, I approve. I don't really know Whittaker's work very well, but I suppose I have time to learn.

Friday, July 14, 2017


I just watched Good Neighbor Sam, a movie where an ad man pretends to be his wife's best friend's husband so she can inherit 15 million dollars. All the while they have to dodge a PI hired by her grandfather's relatives to prove they aren't really man and wife. And at work he needs his image as a wholesome choirboy to keep an account with a showily moral client.Jack Lemmon is in the lead, and with him are Dorothy Provine, Romy Schneider, and a memorable turn by Edward G Robinson as the client.

The 60s were weird. I don't mean the counterculture. Just the straight world, with its oddly ambitious "shot like a suburb" movies.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Now the waiting starts

I finished a short story recently, or at least it seems finished or what passes for it right now. Tonight I was planning to send it off to an ezine that seemed like it might be a receptive market. Had everything all formatted and ready to go. Then I noticed the announcement saying they were close to submissions and wouldn't be open again until September.

There's another ezine I just found out about. After weighing my options I sent the story to them. Largely because I didn't want to just sit on it for another two months. Still, the first one still seems like an interesting outfit, so I plan to submit something else to them, not sure what or when.

Also I transplanted a ladybug from the indoors to the outdoors tonight. They're cute enough so I'm not quick to squash them, but I'm not keen on having a lot of bugs living under my roof.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lend an ear, bend an ear...

On impulse I bought a few ears of corn earlier today. So part of tonight's dinner was corn on the cob. I'm pleased to relate that cooking them in the oven, damped with a little water and sprinkled in salt, works just fine. Didn't even need butter, although there was bread and butter.

No, the excitement never stops.

Saturday, July 8, 2017


According to Wikiquote, Richard Pryor said:
I'd like to make you laugh for about ten minutes. Though I'm gonna be on for an hour.
The man was Richard Pryor, but he knew to keep expectations at a realistic level. Maybe I should say "and" instead of "but."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Some truth to that

I heard this song on Amanda Nazario's show on WFMU tonight. It hit the right nerve with me: catchy and disarming. Certainly this video is what you could call "minimalist." The album cover definitely has some miles on it. The record itself sounds to be in good shape.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

On the next...

Finally getting my ass in gear on a story again. It's something I'd written a first draft of weeks/months ago. Not bad, but not ready for the spotlight, either. I had to figure out a way to pull it all together. Think I may have found it. Hope so, anyway.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Capitalism is contradictory as soon as it is complete, because it is dealing with the mass of men in two opposite ways at once. When most men are wage-earners, it is more and more difficult for most men to be customers. For the capitalist is always trying to cut down what his servant demands, and in doing so is cutting down what his customer can spend. As soon as his business is in any difficulties, as at present in the coal business, he tries to reduce what he has to spend on wages, and in doing so reduces what others have to spend on coal. He is wanting the same man to be rich and poor at the same time. 
This is from GK Chesterton's The Outline of Sanity. It's an interesting read. Chesterton was one of the leaders of a school of thought known as distributism, which was opposed to capitalism and Marxism alike because both led to centralized, monopolistic outcomes. I'm still sort of sussing out which parts of his agenda could work and which probably wouldn't, but his analysis is so clear-eyed that I think in terms of economics, there is little going on today that would truly surprise him.

Friday, June 30, 2017


Lazos from Juliette Fonseca on Vimeo.

Damn, who knew that being a circus sad clown required such a commitment to being sad and tragic? That must be how they weed out the amateurs.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Good morrow to you, magistrate!

For my birthday I got a couple of Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee novels. I'm reading one of them now, The Chinese Bell Murders.

Dee is loosely based on a real person, a magistrate active in the Tang Dynasty. And in fact before van Gulik he had already been subject of proto-mystery novels during the Ming Dynasty. This was a character van Gulik was obviously fond of working with.

One of the more interesting aspects of the character is how much he relishes playing the bad cop. The plot would actually be at home in any number of contemporary TV cop shows: a scholar candidate - grad student, basically - carries on an affair with the virginal daughter of a small businessman, and becomes the prime suspect when she's raped and murdered. The judge expresses a loud disgust with his behavior. It's sincere enough, but he doesn't mistake one kind of guilt for another. His sternness is real but also a tool to find the truth.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Stealth heat

Strange thing. A couple of hours I was home and watching TV. It felt like there was a chill in the air. Nothing serious, just enough of a dip to make the ceiling fan seem like a misplaced run, much less AC.

Then the heat climbed again. I don't know, or Mother Nature is trying to get my attention.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Tha's all, folks

Some cultural artifacts also function as anxiety dreams. This cartoon is one of them. Why is there a lever in some room whose only function is to end the world? Why is this room so insecure a sad clown and his dumb dog can get in? How is it the clown can bury his head in the dirt and come up with a severed demon head in place of his own?

I can't explain it, but it feels true on some level.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Fridaying

Well, if nothing else it looks like I'm headed back into the world of weekends meaning something. Why not celebrate with a little Ladytron?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Welcome to the Passive-Aggressive Arms

There's a new hotel being built in Providence. I forget the exact chain right now, but it's a lesser known imprint of a brand you know. The plot it's being built on is about the area of a single hotel suite. That's the entire plot, by the way. It doesn't look like they'll have any grass around the place. What they will have is cars, because it's an island in the middle of a high traffic intersection. I'm thinking this will be the place businesses will put up executives whom they want to quit and who just aren't taking the hint.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

What's in the box

Joseph Cornell, known for his little boxes, was associated with the surrealist group between the wars. This is an interesting circumstance, because nothing in his past made it obvious he'd fall in with an avant garde. In fact he was a self-taught artist and more than a little shy. So he came into it honestly. His art just grew out of who he was.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Behind the wheel

Okay, so I just finally watched Taxi Driver all the way through. That is one beautiful movie. I mean, I can't imagine that it did much for New York's tourism industry (they survived) but the colors and the camera movements are gorgeous. Sounds beautiful too. It's basically Bernard Herrmann's last score, and he gives it a classic noirish romanticism.

Robert De Niro is phenomenal as Travis Bickle, of course, a social misfit despite his youthful beauty. There's not really a weak performance in the movie. Harvey Keitel could have disappeared after this one. He plays a pimp whose star attraction is a tween, he's screwing her himself, and manipulating her besides. All of his scenes are hard to watch. But his career survived, because he's just that good.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Believe in you later, alligator

I read a Harlan Ellison story this evening that ties into folklore about alligators in the New York sewer. This has to be one of the sillier urban legends out there. Just try flushing a baby alligator down the toilet, or better yet, don't. If you still have both hands and manage to pull the handle, then still the only thing you'll manage to accomplish is blocking your own pipes.

On t'other hand, I can see why people flock to this one. It's colorful. We might have a need to credit florid situations, or at least keep them in mind.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

H2. Oh.

It can be hard to remember to stay hydrated in the winter. Or rather it can be hard to force yourself to do so. Cold water is hard to get down because it hurts your throat. Even if the water isn't that cold it's not something you crave.

Summer is a different story. You always want to drink something cold. Not necessarily ice cold, but if a glass of water is ice cold when you take it out of the fridge, it won't stay so for long. In fact before too long the water will be lukewarm, so you definitely want to down it before that.

There are a lot of downsides to hot weather, so you have to look on the bright side as well.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The big block party

Some things seem unlikely candidates for nostalgia, and Brutalist architecture is among them. A severe and forbidding style characterized by huge geometrical structures, it faced criticism from all corners. I have a random memory of WKRP in Cincinnati, of all things. Bailey leads a drive to save examples of Art Deco architecture, which does exist in Cincinnati, and credits it with being the last attempt to bring beauty to the buildings of the city. The implicit rebuke to Brutalism is pretty clear. Then there was Tom Wolfe, who did a whole book - From Bauhaus to Our House - about how it subverted everything good about America.

And yet people are again embracing the Brutalist style, both in the US and elsewhere, and while I'm an agnostic on the subject I can see why. On the aesthetic level its determination not to be too much can be a little much, especially if it's everywhere. But it's a remnant of a time when cities were for everyone. These structures were made with the working class in mind. With urban rents rising catastrophically, more precious buildings now being erected for one percent, and the suburbs/exurbs as faceless as they've ever been, that inclusion counts for a lot. This was once the face of the future, albeit not a future everyone embraced. What does the future look like now?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Last of the red hot brothers

There was at least one Marx Brothers movie I hadn't seen up till now, and that's Love Happy. It's their last film together, and generally thought to be their weakest. Sad to say, this assessment isn't wrong.

The plot, which doesn't seem to be anyone's top priority, concerns a struggling stage musical whose director and male star hopes to take to Broadway. They have one of their circle (Harpo) shoplift food from them. He lifts a can of sardines from one of the countless delis which double as fences for hot jewelry. The can contains Romanov diamonds that a private investigator (Groucho) has been hired to find, and a femme fatale grabs up Harpo while an inept mentalist (Chico) holds off the play's creditors.

The main trouble is that this isn't really a Marx Brothers movie, not one where they're all together for much of the time. It's mainly Harpo's show, with Chico getting a few key scenes and Groucho mostly limited to narrator duty. I'm not sure that the idea of a Harpo-centric movie even works, since he was always best in short, intense doses. By 1950 he had lost some steps, too, with some of his physical humor achieved through undercranking and other special effects. Things do pick up at the end when Groucho can finally join Harpo in the action.

The cast of Love Happy the musical within the movie basically means that there's a coed army in the unfunny Zeppo role, except that where he was tied into their rhythms they're just kind of flailing on their own. The exception is Marion Hutton, nearly-as-manic sister of Betty Hutton, who has fun and gets a troubling but entertaining pro-child abuse song number.

As I said, when the three brothers are finally united there's more fun to be had. But they're off their game. Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera suddenly seem like a long time ago. Really I wish they'd kept making movies after this, but figured out a new way to use their strengths together.

Among those strengths: Groucho has a real mustache now, which is nice.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Caterpillars: Not the cool Alice kind

Everywhere, there are caterpillars. Mostly black, with a few light brown spots on the back. They look like bits of rubber tubing, cut out of machines and just barely animated. And they're everywhere, which is a little freaky because you get leery about leaving stuff on the ground. Also I'm almost positive that they're gypsy moth larvae, so that's something we'll have to brace for later in the summer and early fall.

The caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland is kind of a paradox. Smokes a hookah and generally seems very worldly, even though he's basically an insect baby.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Mallet good!

I was looking for unusual covers involving vibes because... well, I just was. This actually isn't that weird. The song in its original form is downtempo and melancholic. They capture the mood well, though. Good team.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

As you recall

People seem to remember things in a way that makes them look good. Some do this more than others. It's not entirely a bad thing. As Eliot said, "humankind cannot bear very much reality." But it can have unfortunate effects. Put yourself in the center too much and it becomes impossible to appreciate what others see.

One red flag? Heavy reliance on "Then I sad/So I said" punch lines. I've heard people recount conversations they had with me, and the way they tell it I didn't say anything, or just set them up to deliver a zinger. Everybody likes having a "drop the mic" moment, but that's not all of what life is.

All at once, by the way, cool nights are something to look forward to, not just something we're stuck with.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Submitted for your approval... The daxophone. A tuned slab of wood, it can look like a wooden bat'leth sword you'd use in a middle school play about Klingons. When bowed, it sounds alternately like a whale, Chewbacca, and a baritone sax. And it's the primary instrument on this track. Which I'm not positive I love, but it does gain points for uniqueness.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Person of the books

I'm about halfway through reading A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in the Trash by Alexander Masters. Following Masters' discovery of a group of abandoned journals, it's an odd and fascinating kind of detective story: Masters is actively trying not to discover who his subject is, because he wants to keep her universal. It's looking like he might not be able to avoid finding out, though.

Also I've learned a new bit of British English: "skip" for "dumpster." Not sure where it came from, but it sounds expressive.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Odd dogs

In order to comprehend the meaning of this event, you must understand that the town was already full of surgically altered dogs and other kinds of animals, in various states of completion, most of them running wild in the streets, scavenging from garbage heaps. The tradition of turning them loose had been started shortly after Rank's day, as a way of celebrating individual successes and displaying them to the town. Most of the monsters, at that time, were too horrible to be kept as pets.
This article got me curious about Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis. Published in 1997, it's her only novel to date. I'll pay attention if she has a follow-up.

The account of a group of surgically modified dogs who move to New York after overthrowing the humans of the German colony in Canada where they were created, it's narrated in the main by two characters. One, Ludwig von Sacher - a name reminiscent of Leopold von Sacher Masoch - is a Monster Dog himself, and the designated historian of his people. The other, Cleo Pira, is an aimless human writer who gets a career boost when she profiles the Monster Dogs for Vanity Fair. It's a little unsettling to realize how much more central print was to culture when the book was written not too long ago.

The book feels like a spiritual heir to both The Island of Dr. Moreau and the Caliban portions of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The Monster Dogs are surgically altered dogs, yes. They're also humans, albeit uncomfortable in their skins as humans. And they're a commentary on German romanticism as well.

It's an unusual book, and arresting. I'll be talking about another book I'm reading soon.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Baby mine

While David Lynch is in vogue now due to the Showtime revival of Twin Peaks, I figured I'd go back a little further. About as far as you can go, in fact.

The baby in Eraserhead has all the vulnerabilities of a regular baby, but not the cuteness. It is cute, but in a reptilian or amphibian way. And no one raises their pet salamander with the expectation that it will live on after you and carry on your legacy. You know you'll eventually flush it. Then there's the fact that Henry is a prime screwup overall, not that I'm throwing stones. It's not too hard to figure that Lynch made this while experiencing some angst about parenthood.

The black and white is canny. It bleeds the seventies out of the movie. Makes used but newish furniture look like antiques. But Eraserhead doesn't look or feel like a movie from the thirties. It looks and feels like a nightmare experienced by someone who's watched a lot of old movies and gazed at a lot of Diane Arbus photos.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Kee-razy collage

Tuesday in Tartu from Mari Kivi on Vimeo.

Some French words appear in this but I think the animator is actually Finnish. Anyway, there's something about this I really like. Maybe the horse-sized telephone.

Monday, May 22, 2017


There are times when nighttime jazz radio is truly a joy. Much of this has to do with the jazz deejays. Their voices are preternaturally calm, their delivery rhythmic but a little off. This is the way you talk when you've survived some overwhelming catastrophe and haven't seen another living human since. You practice speaking to others, try to reassure yourself that you'll get a chance to do so. Soon, you hope.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

He's in the bestselling show

Just watched the first episode of the first season series of Life on Mars tonight. Richly entertaining. One thing I noticed was the particular flavor of nostalgia, going beyond the wide collars and classic rock. You hear a lot about nostalgia for New York in the 1970s, when the city was grimier and more dangerous but before gentrification had made it dull and expensive. Life on Mars isn't a New York show, but there's a similar principle. The 1973 Manchester he wakes up in looks like the Nazis had bombed it just the day before, but it feels exciting and full of possibility as well.

Sam Tyler seems like the sort of young professional who, regardless of what happened to him, would be well advised to find some kind of guide figure. Someone who could help him be less of an uptight technocrat. Gene Hunt fills the bill, even if some of his old school copper ways are old school for a reason. Of course for someone who comes from the politically correct 2000s, Sam is awfully quick to put his hand on Annie's tit. In a non-sexual context (uh-huh) but still bears an eerie resemblance to harassment.

Speaking of eerie, the scene of him waking up in the middle of the night to see and hear one of his surgeons talking about him on the TV is a classic bit of Twilight Zone-y nightmarishness.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Kneip 2015 - Objects of Curiosity from stiankorntvedruud on Vimeo.

These little motorized sculptures seem strangely haunted. In truth, while I couldn't tell you exactly how all this was done, they seem to be powered by magnets and very simple electric generators. So on some level the tech may have been accessible to people of the nineteenth century. The ideas are contemporary, though.

The thing that seemed to be taking flight like a bat was very interesting.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Calvin and Moe show

In truth you could say that Calvin has a point in the fourth panel AND in the first. Life is multifaceted.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

One crazy night

I had never heard this story until tonight, when one of my card-playing companions related it. One detail.
As things continued to escalate, club security attempted to remove the drunken and enraged Lennon, who lashed out, losing his trademark specs in the scuffle. He then, according to Tommy Smothers, kicked the valet. “My wife ended up with Lennon’s glasses because of the punches that were thrown,” Smothers said.
Challenging John Lennon to heckle an act on-stage just seems like a monumentally bad idea. Any of the Beatles, really, even Paul, but especially John.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Bottles and cans just clap your hands

Is the city going green?

The other day I was walking through the train station and I saw a couple of transparent recycling containers. One was for bottles and cans, and another for paper/cardboard I guess. It was handy, because I did have a couple of plastic bottles on me, that I'd picked off the street and had been planning to bring home.

Downtown, where the bus stops are, I saw that three arrow recycling sign on the sidewalk a couple of times, apparently indicating the location for a couple of other containers.

So yeah, it's convenient if you're already inclined to pay attention to that stuff. I'm skeptical about how many people will use it, though. You see a lot of trash on the streets, some recyclable and some not. In some cases there are trash cans within a few feet of where it got tossed. Littering is the product of indifference bordering on hostility.

Side note: wonder if anyone will try to recycle dead witnesses and blood sacrifice victims.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


After calculating a few mathematical results in both base 8 and base 12, I've concluded that base 10 is the best at combining practicality and fun. (For one thing, there's more variety in the final digits of square numbers.) Now does this mean we live in the best of all possible worlds? Obviously not. But we have one of the better possible maths.

Yeah, my mind works like that when it has time to. And I can always find time.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The chow line

You're not supposed to eat on buses around here. They put up signs inside the bus. Nonetheless, some people do. Not furtively, either. I've seen people just openly grab a slice of pizza out of the box or munch away on a pizza.

When this happens it has to be with the tacit consent of the driver. Some folks must have an understanding with the driver, or just have worn him down. I don't have that kind of luck. I'm not the kind of person that minor authority figures are going to give a break to. Then again I'd much rather have lunch at a table, so no big loss.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

What's surreal today?

Monsieur Magritte (2017) from Georgia Giang Do on Vimeo.

This little stop motion film brings the whimsy. I don't know that it looks like the work of Rene Magritte, but I like to think he'd approve of it. Spiritual kinship, you know.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Songs new

There's always good music being made, but charting popular music now seems to be as bad as any time in my life. I blame EDM to a large extent. There seem to be, like, ten EDM tracks, and they just keep tossing different vocals in.

There are exceptions, though. I'm starting to warm to Haim. They remind me of the Shaggs if their dad had been able to put them through finishing school. One run by Stevie Nicks, I'm guessing.

Songs old

Even among people who like the band and the album, this song seems to have generated its share of  offense. Should it, though? It's never seemed to me like Knopfler is mocking anyone but himself, by highlighting what weirdly unlikely subject matter this is for him. Maybe that's just my reaction.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

O the pain, the pain

This morning I woke up with a headache, and no ibuprofen or acetaminophen or anything to take for it, so I just tried to ignore it until it went away. Didn't work so well. Wound up getting nauseous, which is all I'll say about that for now. Anyway, I restocked, which should last me for a while.

Better that it happen today than tomorrow, at least. Have to be on the move tomorrow morning.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Absolutely hysterical

I'm currently reading - and will likely finish tomorrow - Megan Abbott's The Fever. I previously read another one of her books, Dare Me, about high school cheerleaders in way over their heads. The Fever is a different story, but they both share certain qualities. Abbott is a hyperreal author. Her stories seem eerie and quotidian at the same time. Her narrators and reader identification figures have a lot to do with this.

The fever takes as its topic conversion disorder, which is essentially hysteria, rebranded for a new and antiseptic age. It's inspired by an apparent Tourette's epidemic in Saratoga County, New York, a case that could bloom nonfiction books, plays, action figures. As in that case, teenage girls spasm and pass out, with no known medical cause. As in the real case, there's a brief attempt to rationalize it by blaming the HPV vaccine. The daughter of the protagonist family isn't infected, which raises the possibility she'll be shunned as a kind of Typhoid Mary.

In Abbott's telling there is hysteria going on, and while it explain's the girls' illness, they're not the only ones affected by it. In fact while they have the symptoms, the illness spreads well beyond, into the adult world,

Friday, April 28, 2017

Covering a lot of ground: Wed, marshy ground

It's kind of funny to think about this, but things are changing quick now. A couple of days ago we still had weather, which was cool and rainy during the day, and during the nighttime the temperature sometimes dropped low enough so that the heater in my building would kick on. That last part definitely doesn't seem to be happening now.

Saturday Addendum
Ah, the dangers of blogging when you've already nodded off once late at night. I just fixed one of the typos, but I'm going to leave the one in the header. See if you can catch it.

But yes, the weather has changed quite a bit over the last few days. I just got in a few minutes ago with so much sweat falling into my eyes it looked like I was weeping. It's nice and comfy now, with a window open and the ceiling fan going full blast.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Busting out

The beginning of life is a neat thing to witness, and having a bird's nest within view like this is a lucky break. Of course it's also slow. There's at least one edit here. So the fact that the offscreen but audible child has been following along is nice to observe. Maybe not all of the nascent generation has had their attention spans hollowed out.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On tour


The question of whether it's right to play Israel is a personal decision for the artist. Roger Waters and Thurston Moore, among others, have made a decision not to do so as a means of protest, and you have to respect that decision.

Radiohead have the right to make a different choice. There's a case for cultural engagement across national lines. And of course the audiences they'd be playing for wouldn't necessarily be made up of supporters of Netanyahu and his policies.

It might be in their best interest to address the matter before going through with the trip, though. Explain their thinking. Like it or not a kind of political engagement is part of their identity now. They've got a huge left-leaning fanbase. This matter isn't just going to go away.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


For whatever reason I was thinking of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest today. Why did it have such an impact? The movie feels very real. Cinéma vérité style realism isn't the only way to go, of course, but it the context of Hollywood at the time it was new and fresh. The camera finds the action, the source of conflict in the scene, of course. But its view is unsettled, as if it were another person in the room not quite sure where to look.

Casting enhanced this feeling. Jack Nicholson was the only actor anywhere near being a star. Louise Fletcher had done a lot of TV guest roles, but very few films up to that point. A few supporting roles were filled by non-actors.

Seen above, Christopher Lloyd was experienced onstage, not much known outside of it. It's different now, and strange seeing him as a borderline abusive mental patient. Also, it's weird to see him with such short hair, especially in the seventies.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A tale of one storefront

Something curious is happening on Thayer St in Providence.

Around the end of last year, Au Bon Pain went out of business. Not the whole company, just the Thayer St. location. I wasn't sure why, although I had my theories. Someone who worked at another location in Providence said the landlord had raised the rent and they just didn't think it was worth paying. This is a thing that happens.

The storefront stayed empty for a few weeks, gathering graffiti. Then the windows were covered in black paint and promotional material for By Chloe. By Chloe is a vegan restaurant chain headquartered in New York. Me? Not a vegan. I don't eat that much meat, but I don't have any great ambition of cutting it out completely, and dairy is life to me. But it seemed like this could be a good way to make sure commerce continues to flow in that spot. Also I suspected that if ABP had left because of the rent the landlord had these other tenants lined up ahead of time.

But much time has passed since then. By Chloe hasn't opened for business. In fact, I haven't seen construction people or outfitters at work on the place either. It's just sort of been taking up space. So have the new renters had second thoughts about moving in? Or did they only secure the spot so they could perform Satanic rituals in the wee hours of morning?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Of the vanities

Arden las penas. from Angie Guerrero on Vimeo.

An interesting, slightly macabre, and also a bit touching stop motion film from Colombia. The title translates to "the pains burn."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017

This was, indeed, Easter. In both the Western churches and the Orthodox ones, I read.

It's also a few weeks into spring. When the weather gets warmer people get rambunctious, bursting out of their shells more. That's not really my thing, but okay.

Today while waiting for the bus I saw a convoy of motorcyclists. One guy reared up like he was on a horse. Actually I'm not sure I'd call it a bike. It seemed to have four wheels.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Gran Canaria - Fotografias estenopeicas Guillaume Roumeguere - Batteria Alejandro Ramos from Guillaume AIR on Vimeo.

Some eerie and interesting pinhole images taken in Spain's Canary Islands, accompanied with groovy drum-heavy jazz.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

There are a surprising number of coulrophobes in the world

I've recently started to read Stephen King's IT, after it/It came up in conversation. It's a long novel, which a lot of King's books are. But it has a particular approach to being a long novel. It's made up of chapters and sub-chapters which in many cases could stand on their own, and which initially appear to be disparate.

I'm still in the first quarter, and I have to say I'm impressed with how sparingly the monster, Pennywise the Clown has been used. There've just been a couple of appearances. What the reader sees is the effect that Pennywise, or at least the supernatural evil he represents, has on the adults who came in contact with him when they were kids.

I haven't seen the miniseries, but Tim Curry does seem like ace casting.

Monday, April 10, 2017


This article is from about a year ago, but I've been seeing more ads on TV/online for hard soda. Not sure I get it. I mean, you could just pour some whiskey into a glass of root beer yourself. It's not a forbidding process.

People are in such a hurry for oblivion now. It's the national mood.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


So a while ago a British astrologer proposed a new zodiac with thirteen signs. Okay, adding one sounds fun, and Ophiuchus has some interesting imagery associated with it. Unfortunately the sidereal measurements have caused things to become a bit lopsided. Like, I don't know if my mother would get behind suddenly becoming a Libra. Which by this zodiac she would because Scorpio is only a week long. On the other hand, Taurus refuses to end, so my sign would become that much more common. I already have O positive blood.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A fab act

This is something I saw for the first time a couple of days ago. The Beatles performing a panto skit based on the "Pyramus and Thisbe" play-within-a-play from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In a way they're all what you'd expect them to be. Paul is knowingly cute. John hams up the drag part. George has sung onstage but forgets that he needs to project. Ringo comes alive in an animal part.

It's the background that makes it so interesting. They had debuted about a month before on The Ed Sullivan Show, sending them from thriving regional pop act to global rock stars. Not too surprisingly TV producers came to them for help in celebrating Shakespeare's 400th birthday. And yet at this point they're not too big. The audience heckles them, and what's interesting is they expect to be heckled, take it in stride.

That's a rare sight, especially when you consider in a little over two years they'd retire from the road and embark on a new hermit stage of fame.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tough town

This time, I went into the alcove in the living room where I used to hand-print a newspaper of little neighborhood notes I called "The Flash." It made me the Neighborhood Gossip. But this time I tried much more. As the story had more than one strand, it was complicated and took me over a week. Now, when I finished "The Flash," I took it around to Worship's candy store and asked him to put it on the newsstand. My headline said, "Mother Tried Suicide." Later, I learned that the headline should have been in the present tense: "Mother Tries Suicide." Without looking, Worship said, "Put it out there yourself." He sold candy and booked horse bets. Worship was a small man who wore a gray truck driver's cap down over his forehead and had thick glasses perched on a sharp nose. He was behind the candy counter listening to the race results that came over all afternoon. After each result, he checked a betting sheet to see if any of his players had won anything. His wife, who had short hair and wore the uniform of the candy store owner, a drab dark red buttoned cardigan sweater, noticed my hand-printed "Flash" and said, "Let me see what you got." When I gave it to her, her face was alarmed. "Did this happen today?" she asked. I said no, that it happened last week. "Then it's over," she said. Her face showed no expression as she crumpled up the paper. Usually when she did this with paper, it was bet slips, which she grabbed as police were either just outside or crashing in, and she popped the slips into her mouth, chewed htem up while holding a pack of Wrigley's to the cops. This time, the paper had something totally unimportant on it. A suicide that was a scratch.
With the recent death of Jimmy Breslin, I've started reading his memoir I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me. It's framed by his doctor's diagnosis of an aneurysm that almost killed him a number of years earlier.

Really, though, what's best about it is his description of New York in the time he was growing up and starting out as a journalist. A New York that doesn't seem to be there anymore but maybe, hopefully, lies under the surface, waiting for a chance to awake. (Yes, I know I make it sound like Cthulhu.)

For context, the mother in that headline was his own mother. It's an ineffectual attempt, which may or may not mitigate things.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Ostrich Babies from Open Lens Productions on Vimeo.

Little ones, you take your first awkward steps into the world. Know that in a few years you'll be poised and graceful... Okay, not really, but you'll get by.

Friday, March 31, 2017


Earlier this evening I was looking for my umbrella and couldn't find it. I figured I must have left it someplace public, which is something I've done many times before. Turns out I'd just left it in my bedroom. That's progress of a sort.

During the day it was raining. Later in the day it turned to sleet. Since I remember seeing hailstones a couple of weeks ago that means we've had all the major kinds of precipitation this year. Luckily it wasn't sleeting that hard when I was out.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Man cave

It's not surprising that DC Comics has been publishing an adaptation of The Flintstones, as they and Hanna-Barbera have a common owner in Time Warner. What is surprising is that it's being taken seriously and has come in for a lot of praise. I haven't really been reading comics lately, but at some point I may take a look.

The new "realistic" depiction of Fred really isn't, though. I look at his arms and think, "What are those muscles even supposed to be?" Even the Neanderthals, the high school wrestling team to modern humans' basketball team, faced an upper limit to their pumpitude. If anything it was more realistic in the animated series, where he was drawn like a pudgy contractor from Ohio.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Real men

"Well, these books are all scientific," insisted Tom, glancing at her impatiently. "This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It's up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.
"We've got to beat them down," whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.
"You ought to live in California—" began Miss Baker, but Tom interrupted her by shifting heavily in his chair.
"The idea is that we're Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and—" After an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod, and she winked at me again. "—And we've produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?"
The Great Gatsby is, I think, one of those books I pretended to read in high school and/or college. I learned some of the names and was able to pass a test by osmosis, but avoided the actual reading. Now I actually am reading it. It's short, brisk, and so far more rewarding than I always figured it would be.

As for the above-quoted Tom Buchanan, he was born at the wrong time. In the previous century he could have been a presidential adviser. Or in, you know, the next one.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

More a sort of après-vie

Ancient Egypt is sufficiently far away in time so that we may never really understand the culture. Still, the Egyptians were likely not nearly as alien as they're sometimes presented as being. And it appears that those curses on tombs were not what they're cracked up to be:
Other objects found nearby the tomb which are on display include a Book of the Dead which belonged to a powerful Egyptian vizier – equivalent to prime minister - called Useramun, and a stone with an inscription warning people not to disturb a tomb.
But Dr Margaret Maitland, senior curator of Ancient Mediterranean at the museum, said rather than a curse the message was more of a gentle reproach to stay away.
She said: “Tomb curses are quite rare and they actually more often [say] just a vague ‘please don’t remove anything from this tomb’ or warn people that they could be prosecuted in the afterlife.
“There is just this sort of warning not to remove anything or the gods will reproach them greatly.”

So basically, "Listen, guys, be cool. Love, Horus," Something like that.

Actually this is all very interesting. The disposal of the dead in one of the first really urban settings in human history had all sorts of practical as well as spiritual aspects.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mucho Marco

It's easy to forget that there are still classical music composers in the world. Not that "classical" is always the most descriptive term, but it's the most widely understood. But yes, it's a living, evolving form too.

Tomás Marco, in his seventies and still active, is an interesting creator. This piece is quite playful. I guess having two pianos to play with unlocks something.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

From the soul jazz precinct*

On sort of a whim, because I saw it at my branch, I took out the third season of Barney Miller from the library. This is still one of the all time greats. It took anxieties that were in the air about urban decline, energy, disaster preparedness et al and made it less overwhelming. I think this is one of the jobs of comedy.

During this season Phil Fish was being eased out to a short-lived spin-off and Steve Landesberg's Arthur Dietrich was still being phased in. It's interesting to note that Dietrich is a bit of a wet blanket in some of his earliest appearances. One of the first things they had written into his character was that he'd spent nine months in medical school. Therefore he spends a lot of time giving unsolicited medical advice. Over time Landesberg and the writers would find a more fruitful avenue for comedy and character development.

Much the same thing had happened before, with Wojo. In the first season he was mainly a dense, braying guy and borderline Polish stereotype. After that they played up his vulnerability more, which was a good choice and gave Max Gail more to do. It's interesting to see characters who could be and at times are kind of vague come to life.

*as heard here:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

After these brief messages

Here's something that happens to me sometimes, most recently just a couple of nights ago. I'm lying in bed, usually in the early AM hours. Something is keeping me awake, usually a noise. Could be lights too. There's something off about the sound, it doesn't seem right for the context. I'll say something to myself like "Why are they running a pile driver in the middle of the night?" I'll do my best to curl up and ignore it, but it's too persistent.

Then I open my eyes. The noise stops. I realize that it was just some lame kind of dream state while I was in a shallow slumber.

In general my response to this is a delight that the night is so blessedly quiet. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Pwca dust

The pooka is an interesting myth. They seem to have been dreamt up as an embodiment of everything a child would want to be - and if not be, then at least associate with. A pooka friend would be fun. You could have one as an enemy and not know it, but God help you if you do.

I recently read "Penguins of the Apocalypse", a William Browning Spencer story about an alcoholic threatened by his pooka. It's sort of a darker take on Harvey. Also reminiscent of this Who song.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

rock on

I love this cover. It truly shines light on some facets of the song that mightn't have been apparent before.

Sadly Robert Plant has not reciprocated by singing "Gingerbread Coffin" or anything like that. At least not as far as I know.

Monday, March 13, 2017


I'm curious to see how this snowstorm plays out. It seems likely to be the last major fall of the winter. Although maybe I shouldn't say that. In any case, it'll be funny to see some St. Patrick's Day parades where the floats are replaced with tractors.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Yes, they're on a cloud

CumulonimBAAAHs from Matt Bogacki on Vimeo.

The animator here is working in a familiar formula - Coyote/Roadrunner and other Looney Tunes - but he finds new opportunities for weirdness within it. Very enjoyable.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Everything's waiting for you

For most of the past fifteen years I've worked on the East Side of Providence. The thing to remember is that this is an elevated part of town. Most of it is atop one hill or another. So if you work even on the second floor of a building you look out and just about everything is below or across from you.

This week I returned to work after a few months' unemployment. My new job is downtown, or Downcity as some insist on calling it. The part of downtown that's in the direction of South Providence but safely short of it. And this part of the city is in the valley. Plus most of the taller buildings around here are in the downtown section. So you spend more time looking up. It's a different feel.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

American beauty & others

American beauty resided far more in nature than i culture. Thus the intelligent American, if he or she got the chance to visit Europe, could find his taste transformed in a sort of pentecostal flash by a single monument of antiquity, as Jefferson's was by the sight of the Maison Carrée at Nimes, the Roman temple that created his conception of public architecture. One hour with the Medici Venus or the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican could outweigh all one's past aesthetic experience, as the raw child of the new republic. One's own inexperience endowed the English or European work with a stupendous authority.

The late Robert Hughes' Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America is an interesting book. It's filled with arguments that are debatable - hence the fact that they're arguments - but well made. The Australian critic made the lectures the book is based on at an earlier stage of the culture wars: the first half of the nineties. The side he takes is that of culture.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


A guy walks into a bar with a monkey perched on his shoulder. The bartender says "You can't bring that thing in here." Taken aback, the guy says, "Sorry, my bad." He turns around and leaves.

That night the bartender lies awake, wondering if he's missed the opportunity to have a more interesting life.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Things change

Yesterday I ran into a guy I used to work with. Like up until 9-10 months ago. The two of us were the data entry department, and then things started getting slow. I transferred to a different department, which eventually led me out of the organization. Yesterday I found out he doesn't work there anymore either, not since December.

Like I said, we did data entry for the whole place. Now we're gone, with no replacements. It's a whole different system.

He's back in school now. Best of luck to him.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Stake in hand

I heard this song in a different context earlier tonight. Short and sweet. I didn't actually know that much about Sainte Marie. Just that she showed up on Sesame Street a few times when I was a kid. First person I'd heard of named "Buffy." If she slew vampires, it was not discussed.

Monday, February 27, 2017

No. No.

The fact that most of the words mentioned in this article have no meaning for me I'll attribute less to my getting old than to my always having been old. But about this Four Loko. It somehow survives strictly as a promotional giveaway, right? Because I can't wrap my brain around the idea of walking into a liquor store and buying it. At the very least I'd hope the cashier would talk me out of it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Oh, by the way, it hit 70 in Providence this past Friday. That's just wrong. I don't mind getting a little break from winter here and there, and when you're learning to drive there's an upside to less snow on the streets. But come on now, that's like being thrust into the middle of the year. Hopefully things will moderate a little this week.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Ain't love grand

Just this week I started reading Art Taylor's On the Road with Del and Louise. This is Taylor's first book - he's published a bunch of short stories - and it comes from a small Dallas specialty publisher. Nonetheless, it's got a reputation already. It took a while for the library system's copy to become available. Last night a barista told me it was one of her favorite books when she saw it in my hand.

The titular couple are lovers on the road. They met when he was robbing the 7-Eleven she worked at. They tend to straddle the line, one foot on the right side of the law, the other not. He was pulling heists to pay for tuition, by the way. Their life sees them solving crimes and committing them at about the same time.

Henery Press, the publisher, specializes in mystery. This book does fall under the broad category of crime fiction. The shambolic tales defy genre expectations, though. They're marked by low-key charm and a feel for the West.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A time of waste

When possible I try to pick up some litter. There's a lot of it. If something is recyclable I'll hold onto it until I get home, or - as today - until I see a recycling can that's left over from the morning's trash pickup. If not I'll just drop it in the nearest receptacle.

But here's the thing: A lot of time the nearest receptacle is only a few feet from where the litter was dropped. There are times when not littering is about as easy as littering, but people still go for the latter. It's like keeping the streets and the ground beyond them clean is not just not a priority; it's not even recognized as something good.

Do we actively want to poison the planet to death and then expire while straddling its corpse? Maybe we do.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Swinging the axe

Having just turned 64 ("Will you still need me...") is Kristy Marlana Wallace, a.k.a. Poison Ivy Rorschach. A great guitarist. Hasn't been much heard from since Lux shuffled off this mortal coil. Wonder what she's up to.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Talked to a guy tonight about the steps we'll have to take before we can explore/settle Mars. It's an interesting topic, in theory. In practice I'm not expecting to see it anytime soon.

As far as moving people there, well... The thing is, it can only have as much biodiversity as we can export from Earth. At a maximum, that's if you can somehow transport breedable samples of everything. So that's something we have to maintain here, which we should be doing anyway.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gathering moss

This afternoon/evening I was waiting for a bus. I got to the stop about five minutes early, by my own estimate. Buses aren't supposed to go by the stops early, but sometimes they do, so it's best to be prepared if you can.

As it happens, this one didn't run fast. I waited five minutes. Then ten. To cut to the chase, the bus I was waiting for was about twenty minutes later than I expected. So late, in fact, that another one on the same route was the next vehicle behind it. One of them was only a few minutes behind, the other much more.

I actually am not sure which is which. The one I climbed aboard was crowded, although I've seen worse. The one that had been behind but leapfrogged ahead was about empty. One of them was supposed to be there just a little before four. I don't know which was which, but one picked up almost all the passengers, myself included.

And continued to do so. The other driver could have picked up the girl at the next stop, unless - possible but unlikely - she arrived between that bus and ours. I kind of felt bad for the driver whose vehicle I was on. He's one of the genuine nice ones.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Meeting of the minds

From a New Year's Eve special that Frank hosted. I wasn't able to unearth it this past New Year's, but there's a case to be made that it's more needed now.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

See the sea cow

Hoovering the ocean floor might not be the most dignified way to get a meal, but it will do in a pinch.

What's crazy here is when you remember that dugongs are mammals, and thus must breathe air. This is an awful long time to stay down.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Don't call us...

So not too long ago, a recruiting/placement agency left a message on my answering machine. I recently figured that just to cover all the bases I might as well call them and see what if anything they could do for me. So I tried calling the number they left me. No answer. No, that's not quite right. I got an automated message telling me the number had either been changed or was out of service. If it's been changed they don't publicize what it's been changed to.

Google the company and you see another number. I tried calling that as well. The same thing happened.

The website doesn't provide a public email address. There is a link you can send things to, but it's pretty much limited to uploading resumes. You can't tailor your message.

So the question is how are you supposed to get in touch with these people? Apparently you're not.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Sharks have it made. They just keep growing new teeth throughout their lifetime. First of all that means that you always have a full set of teeth. Also, if you're cranky and out of sorts, you can always blame it on teething pains.

Babies also have it made, but that won't last forever.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


I am not learning to drive a stick shift. I seem to remember saying that I was, but I'm not. Automatic transitions have something that looks like a stick, thus the source of my confusion. May learn someday, but there aren't as many manual transmissions as there used to be.

Did drive in the rain today, though. And I'm learning from men for whom English isn't their first language. So points somewhere.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

This Sunday

Tomorrow is the Superbowl. New England is playing Atlanta. Providence is close enough to Foxboro to get personally involved on a citywide basis. Different stripes of rowdiness could result from the Patriots winning or losing. I've seen this. Probably not fires, though. Who wants to work on a Sunday?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

I think therefore I wood

Je suis donc je bois from Yseult Renard on Vimeo.

If your French is sufficiently rust free, please let me know what these drinks are talking about. The title apparently translates to "Therefore I am wood." Another puzzler

Definitely a handsome bit of film making, though.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Passion

From Superman is Jewish?: How Comic Book Superheroes Came to Serve Truth, Justice, and the Jewish American Way by Harry Brod:
By the time we reached the 2006 Superman Returns film that brought Superman back to the big screen after a long hiatus, Superman's de-Jewification had proceeded so far that he was not only the ultimalte all-American, he was even being claimed as a Christ figure. Another nice Jewish boy was being resurrected as a Christian god. The Warner Brothers/DC Comics publicity machine launched a two-pronged campaign before the film's release, one aimed at the usual action-adventure crowd, and the other aimed at conservative Evangelical Christians and flying under the general cultural radar, specifically positioning Superman Returns as the next Christian blockbuster, hoping to cash in on the trend following The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Strictly speaking, of course, casting the Big Blue Boy Scout as a Christ figure would make him more Jewish, not less. But many Christians forget that very thing.

The film's sub rosa marketing as a Christian blockbuster isn't a surprise. To the extent there was a messianic theme, though, it hurt the movie. Superman does indeed seem to be carrying the sins of Mankind in Superman Returns. This doesn't leave him with much chance to enjoy, or be enjoyable. The 1978 Superman knew enough to get out of Christopher Reeve's way and let him be his charming self, which also jibes with him being Superman. Brandon Routh doesn't get the same opportunity, always having to stick to the margins and deny himself. It's a shame, because the one scene - after an airplane rescue - that allows him a little twinkle shows that he's good at it.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Across the border

I'm an immigrant. A white immigrant from a country whose national language is a fairly American-sounding English. Do these modifiers make me luckier than most? Oh, I know they do. Been getting a lot of reminders lately of how bad it can be for others and how much worse it can get.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A buck an ear

Glenda Jackson Sings "Battle at Sea" with the... by taxidrivermow

A friend loaned me a VHS copy of Nasty Habits not too long ago. Based on Muriel Spark's The Abbess of Crewe it's a black comedy metaphor for Watergate with Glenda Jackson in the lead, which is to say the Nixon part.

I've remembered this episode of The Muppet Show for a long time. Jackson, give or take a scheming nun, is best known as a serious dramatic actress. So it's admirable that she's so willing to throw herself into the part of a high seas pirate taking over the Muppet Theater.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Pour another one out

A few delightful moments with Rob and Laura Petrie, along with the spooky invisible horn section that no one is freaking out about for some reason.

Monday, January 23, 2017


It's a little embarrassing to admit, but I didn't know until just now that Ray Davies had been knighted. Congratulations to the Queen on her excellent taste.

Curious as to what the Jayhawks collaboration will sound like. He's always had a little country in his sound, mixed in with the Britishness. An alt-country move isn't unnatural, although it is unexpected. No one can accuse him of resting on his laurels.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Market report

One thing it's getting harder to find? Men's underwear with a fly in the front. Looking at pair after pair today I saw just a smooth front, no opening. So did I miss a memo? Is the whole "pee while standing up" thing over? That's a shame. I was just getting the hang of it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

You deserve a break today

First time in a while that I've seen a movie in the theaters. I went to see The Founder today. It's an interesting picture about Ray Kroc,who wasn't the founder of McDonalds restaurants, but did found "McDonalds" as a corporate behemoth. The first of the restaurants was built in San Bernardino by Mac and Dick McDonald, migrants from New Hampshire, who eventually hit on the idea of applying Henry Ford's industrial techniques to the making of burgers and fries. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Kroc screws them out of their part in the business while taking it national. Of course there's a little bit of huckster to them as well, and this quality might leave them more vulnerable than they would be to a more vicious - if alcoholic and unpromising - con man.

The cast is excellent, led by Michael Keaton as Kroc and Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch as the McDonalds. Lynch might be best known - at least by me - as Marge Gunderson's husband Norm in Fargo. He's not the only Coen Brothers connection either. The music is done by their favorite composer, Carter Burwell. He earns gratitude for saving the audience from a soundtrack full of Mickey D's jingles, as thematically appropriate as they might have been.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Nothing up my sleeve

Something I've learned recently. Overcoats are most often worn with suits, which I guess is part of the idea. So they're designed with the idea that you'll have other pockets. An overcoat might have only the two hip pockets, which aren't that deep and don't have anything covering them. That makes an overcoat a less than great place to carry, say, an extra pen you might need. You gotta come up with a different plan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


Question on my part. Today I saw a flock of pigeons swoop down on the street when a kids was throwing peanuts - or some kind of bar food at any rate - on the sidewalk. In their midst were some smaller birds. They had brown plumage, curved beaks, and they sort of hopped while they were on the ground? Any idea what kind of birds these might have been?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Movies on ridding yourself of troublesome priests

Last night I watched Becket, a historical epic from 1964. "Epic" in the realm of film usually implies "really long" and this one moderately qualifies. It's about two and a half hours. It holds up pretty well for that duration, though.

It's what you might call loosely based on the historical record. Thomas Becket is counselor to King Henry II (which he was) his friend and companion in drinking and whoring (hard to tell at this distance). He's also a representative of England's old Saxon guard in the Plantagenet court (quite false, as Becket was really a Norman.) Henry appoints Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, thinking he'll have his own man in the pulpit. Instead the duties of the Church cause Becket to define himself against his king, and their friendship ends.

The inciting incident, by the way, is a priest arrested for "debauching" a nobleman's young daughter, who then tries to escape and is killed by the nobleman's guards. Becket excommunicates the nobleman. This case comes off a little differently in contemporary times. Yes, it seems like an injustice was done to the priest, but the Catholic Church hasn't always had the best record of policing its own.

The two main performances are a fascinating study in contrasts. Peter O'Toole plays Henry, and does bring his blasé charm to the role at times. But Henry isn't a distinguished gentleman. He's a passionate friend and also a petty tyrant, one who's enslaved by his own immature whims. Between his hot-blooded rants and his Van Dyke beard, the character is almost Klingon. And yes, there are questions of what kind of love he has for Becket, the man who spurned him.

Becket is played by Richard Burton, moving through the scene at his own pace. Whatever debauchery he commits in his days as a sensualist takes place off-screen, seeming more theoretical than anything else. He's somewhat self-denying from the first. The change is more that he goes from enjoying the use of power in service to his king to seeking guidance from Heaven. It would be difficult to name another actor who got so much mileage from playing the quiet one, which is why he's perfect here.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why you buggin'?

I'm in the middle of reading Norman Spinrad's Bug Jack Barron. This came out in 1967, which may have been the height of the New Wave of science fiction. It's about the battle of wills between a rabble rousing talk show host and a corporation that sells the promise of immortality. As with a lot of stories written in the past about what to them was the future it's fun to compare it to how things really turned out.

Stuff that's sort of right:
* There's legalized and commercialized pot in the novel's setting. That's sort of a patchwork issue in the United States. A lot of people in the late sixties probably expected this to happen at a much faster rate than it actually has.

* Portable networked telephones that people take everywhere. The book also has vidphones, which sort of exists. Apps like Skype and FaceTime seem more popular in real life

Stuff that's mostly wrong:
* Jack Barron's show is called "Bug Jack Barron" and it's a call-in show where ordinary citizens call in with their grievances and Barron helps them take on the institutions that are oppressing them. Populist TV hasn't really played out like that.

* Mississippi is a nation within the nation, ruled by blacks. Ha ha, no. At least to the second part.

Of course it's not really a prediction form, it's a novel. So how does it stand up? Pretty well. Spinrad does the police in different voices, making sure various characters sound distinct from each other. Of course then we come to women, and I'm not sure it's actually good in that respect. There seems to be a lot of hysterical housewives, even if they're supposed to be something other than that.

Still, worth digging up.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


One challenge in life is to perceive what other people are seeing, to understand how they might feel about something. Some people, I'm sure, are better at it than others. Me? I at least expect other people to feel something. As far as getting inside their heads I guess a lot. Some guesses are more accurate than others.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Who will bell..?

Marionettes Petting Cats Ver. 1 from Krista McGuigan on Vimeo.

If you're held up by strings, I'm pretty sure getting in a cat's face counts as living dangerously.

And yeah, I know, cat videos on the Internet, dime a dozen. Still I loved some of the expressions in this.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

White outside, dark inside

Today was the first big - really big - snowstorm of the winter. I had a couple of things I was going to pick up at the library. Couldn't of course. The library never opened, as I was pretty sure they wouldn't. In fact nearly anything that required leaving the house was out. But by now I know the signs, so I'm at least not particularly disappointed.

(Header explanation: White outside because of the snow, while a lot of places have the lights off because they're closed. Just in case you were wondering.)

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Watched an old Veronica Mars tonight. Having to do with the theft of Troy's car and some steroids another guy had stashed away in it. Quite good.

And I thought Troy was such a nice guy. Well, actually I thought he was a complete and utter simpleton, but the harmless kind. Guess you shouldn't assume.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Easy as...

While I do read mysteries on a fairly regular basis - among other things, as variety is the spice of life - I don't gravitate that often to Agatha Christie. And when I do read her it's more often Miss Marple than Hercule Poirot. Nonetheless I did read her Poirot novel The ABC Murders and was glad I did. Notable things about it:

* It was published in 1936 and concerns an apparent serial killer, although not described in those terms. Christie was well ahead of the curve here in terms of cultural obsessions. Classic detectives like Poirot don't generally look into serial killings, although Ellery Queen did in Cat of Many Tails.

* But the case isn't quite what it appears to be. Christie changes things up in the eleventh hour, momentarily getting the reader off-balance perhaps.

* While Christie might have a reputation as something of a snob, that doesn't really come through in this novel. The victims cut across class lines and all are taken seriously. All the families have complex reactions, too.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


I have to think it must be pretty fascinating - breathtaking at times - to see foxes in your backyard. They've evolved for stealth and speed, and in a way they're the most catlike of wild canines. City life is more my speed than the country, but spying the occasional fox would be one of the better compensations.