Sunday, December 31, 2017


New Year's Eve plans fell through at the last minute. No one else wanted to brave the cold, and I could see why. Maybe tomorrow?

There was a wild party going on upstairs earlier. They're quiet kids, in general. But, you know, everyone is multifaceted.

To better times in 2018!

Friday, December 29, 2017

On the brrrr-ight side

Okay, with just a couple of days to go in 2017, I think it can be said that this has been an...aggressive December. Many days and especially nights where going outside feels like walking into a meat locker. You begin to see why bears hibernate. And I don't mean large hairy gay men. Or do I? The literature is ambiguous.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pluck pluck

Harpsichord isn't used much in jazz. It doesn't slide into the combo easily like the piano does. .So I'm interested in hearing the results when jazz musicians do play harpsichord. This tune by Garner is a little baroque and a little bluesy. It does make you sit up and pay attention.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Navidad update

So, had Christmas dinner at the house of a couple of friends. It was them, their kids, another friend who I'd met, and his wife who I hadn't. With a father/grandfather and his girlfriend showing up later.

The male half of the couple would usually be the one to drive me home, but he had done some drinking - as had I - and the roads were a bit icy. Thus the lady drove me. Which was nice. It was a different kind of conversation I had with her than I guess I would have had with him.

Anyway, Happy Hollandaise!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Where the streets have no friction

Last night and this morning we got a tremendous amount of frozen rain. That means that if you walked on the sidewalk today, you got to play that funnest of games, "Guess Where the Ice Is." Somehow I didn't actually fall anywhere, but it was hairy in a few spots.

I haven't heard that much complaining for drivers. The roads must have been better salted.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Red letter day

In this year's end clickbait listicle the author says, "I'll admit it: I can’t stand Jake Paul because this is the first time in my adult life where I truly believe that what the kids like is scary and wrong. " Well, I've never heard of Jake Paul, don't know who he is, and feel no obligation to find out. So I guess I've reached a different phase of adulthood: the one where you can remain blissfully ignorant of those aspects of youth culture that might annoy you. Hey, I'll take my meager comforts where I can get them.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Three arms to hold you

I'm currently reading Matt Hill's Graft, which is so named because it features a woman named Y with three arms. One growing out of her back, and it's artificial. And appropriately enough for the name, I don't really know why she does. Admittedly I'm only about halfway through, so when I'm finished maybe I'll get it. Her voice and memories have been taken away, which makes it look like some kind of slavery, although there are also indications she signed up for this treatment. But I don't entirely see why this kind of body modification is worth the trouble.

Hill writes fairly well, which is one reason I haven't given up on the book. But his best writing tends to focus on relatively ordinary carjackers, madams, and hit men. He might be better at writing straight noir crime fiction set in the North. Maybe the biological engineering is so his book can be sold in the sci-fi section?

Monday, December 18, 2017

The red sea

I'm just finishing up a temp job, tomorrow being the last day. Won't say exactly who it's for, but they are involved in debt collection. And to anyone reading this who might someday need to declare bankruptcy, I can only say, don't go it alone. Have someone with you who can tell you how to protect yourself. A lawyer, if possible. Your creditors will definitely have (more than) one of those.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

In the neighborhood

Talked to a couple of the neighbors today. Not from inside my building this time. A little ways up the street. Well, one's from the building next door. She's a security guard and used to work at the library I go to until they had to lay off their guards due to budget cuts. She asked me to tell them she said hi, which I did. The other one used to work at Staples, which is where I first met him. We just chatted a little.

I'm an introvert, but I am glad to have the chance to talk to someone. Although when nestled into a group I'm likely to be known as "the quiet one."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Let there be...

An update on the lighting situation. The super came by last week and fixed it. Part of this, though, was installing a new bulb, a small incandescent bulb without a lot of lighting power. This was just temporary, though. This one's an LED. Nice and bright, lighting the room evenly without using too much power. I did prefer the clear halogen bulbs I was using before, but they did have a tendency to short. So overall, a B+.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


A song to congratulate Roy Moore on his richly deserved new status as historical footnote.

But it being R. Crumb is reason enough.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Plant life

ZOOTROPO from Pablo Kondratas on Vimeo.

Pine cones. Thistles. Acorns. Things that in my part of the world and quite possibly in yours are easy enough to ignore. But brought to life - well, a different kind of life - here. Of course there was a reason Whitman called his landmark collection Leaves of Grass as well.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Don't judge

So, Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman. This is a YA novel I bought at a library sale some time ago. Pretty much on impulse. The jacket art by Maria Carluccio was appealing. So anyway, I had this novel written for teen or preteen girls in my possession for a while, and tonight I started reading it. It's about a Jewish girl who's curious about religion and starts living as...well, you read the title. It's from 2005, post-Harry Potter, but while a lot of YA and older children's literature was about global threats and deep personal trauma, this is a small scale character piece, and Littman keeps it light.

So the proximate reason I started reading this was because I had gotten Roberto Bolaño's The Savage Detectives from the library, after a couple of chapters I was positive I'd already read it. And while I don't think I hated it, I didn't love it to the "hey, let's reread this a year from now" extent either.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A little of this, a little of that

It's a little amusing that when - very recently - paleontologists found this fossil they were so unsure what to do with it some thought it could be a Piltdown-style hoax. And you can't really blame them. A prehistoric creature combining aspects of swan, penguin, and alligator does sound too good to be true. Reconstructed, it looks to have been awkward, all arms and legs. But it must have had some success, enough at least to leave evidence behind.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Moving wallpaper

I've always liked Stuart Davis, who really does seem to have foreseen Pop Art decades ahead of time. One of these days I'll have to do a post on him. For now there's this video, which I realized after a couple of minutes just repeats the same images over and over. I still put it up because, hey, "Bolero."

Saturday, December 2, 2017


There are times when it becomes necessary to become quiet within yourself. And it strikes me that this isn't a matter of not thinking - fill in joke here - but not thinking the most familiar thoughts. Not telling yourself the same thing over and over.

And refraining from this is hard. And how many people even attempt it? But it's the only way to make way for something new.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Throw the book at 'em (except you can't cuz it's a library book)

I'm currently reading I tried reading Andrew Pyper's The Demonologist, but ran up the white flag after just a few chapters. Couldn't get into it at all. You ever hear the maxim "show, don't tell"? Well, a writer can feel free to disregard it if said author can make their narrator a great teller. Pyper disregards that rule, but his narrator isn't. The guy just says everything, which isn't engaging.

One problem with a lot of books aiming for popularity is that what they're really aiming for is a movie adaptation, so a lot of the work is shunted off to the hypothetical filmmaker and crew. The novelist's only job is to put the plot through its paces. Character, atmosphere, the things that make the book something to experience, are simply not the author's job.

This book had a lot of blurbs on the jacket, though. All the reviews I saw online were glowing, too. Maybe critics just get trained not to expect much of certain books.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lights out

The light in this room is out. That is, it won't come on. It's been like that for a few days. I flipped the switch on Saturday night and nothing happened. It's not a huge problem, but it's an annoying one and over the long haul would be pretty unbearable. It makes it impossible to read a book in this room and much harder to type because you have to peer at the keys.

There is a guy who can fix stuff like this. First you havve to call the owner's answering service, though. There's a number downstairs on the wall but it seems to be out of date. Luckily I got the real, new number from one of my neighbors tonight. Before that I called the other number and seem to have just gotten some lady's answering machine. Because she didn't say she wasn't with the property company I left a message about the light. She probably wondered what that was all about.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Lobster Thermidor au Crevette with a Mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam.

I see here on my dashboard that Blogger has enabled spam filters on comments. I've checked and it seems to be working. Of posts that are at all recent the only comments are by my regular commenters, or at least legit commenters. So good job there.

When I did get spammers on here they pretty much all wrote in Mandarin, which was...optimistic of them.

Friday, November 24, 2017


With the recent passing of Jon Hendricks, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross join the Ramones in getting back together. That gives me all the excuse I need to play one of their delightful songs, or it would if I needed any.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Was going to do a post comparing the commutes of students at various high schools in the Providence area. Abandoned that idea because I couldn't find the right opening.

Remainder: I do notice that Hope, the East Side school, doesn't actually have many East Side kids going to it. East Siders in public school, I'd guess, more often go to Classical, which is somewhere in what they call the West End.

Based on traffic today I'd guess that Hope was open the day before Thanksgiving, but Classical might not have been. Of course some schools start their year before Labor Day now, so maybe they already had a one day head start.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Tokens of...

For one reason and another I find myself thinking about crows again tonight. I hope her bond with these birds is something that sticks with this girl as she grows older.

Thinking of you.

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Recently I leafed through The Hobo Handbook by Josh Mack. Really, it was just something I picked up on a whim at the library. The book offers advice to those thinking of setting out on the rails as a hobo, although that's not the only method of transit discussed. Bits of history are interspersed as well.

The word "hobo" conjures images of the Great Depression or earlier. But the culture is still around, in a form. Even thriving in a sense.

How to feel about this? It's good that there's an escape hatch for people who want to live outside the grind. But in a way the piecemeal and makeshift aspect of hobo life is spreading throughout society, especially in the profusion of gig economy jobs. That might not be so good.

Also read Christopher Fowler's Bryant and May Off the Rails recently. Including it in the same blog post because it also deals with rail transit. The London Underground, to be specific. There are murders being committed in and near Victoria Station. A faceless escapee named "Mr. Fox" seems to be responsible.

This is the first entry in Fowler's "Peculiar Crimes" series that I've read. I liked it. What I especially like is that Fowler writes a contemporary murder mystery in a fanciful way. It's there in the flash mob distractions and the arguments with Bryant and May's boss over just how ridiculously ancient they are. Most contemporary crime fiction tries for realism, with diminishing results. Nice to see an author not bothering.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Green with...

Learning. Deals at the grocery store aren't always what they appear.

Say they sell bagged salads. There's an offer: buy one get one free. All well and good if you're a family and can consume both in a week. If not, check the sell-by date really well.  Not that it's a lot of money, but you do have food spoiling on your hands.

Actually if I had a still and was indifferent to taste, I might be able to get drunk off this.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Senseless bling

I saw some daytime chat show today. They were talking about this new product. It's a jewelry box for an engagement ring that's also a phone box. That way your phone comes out when your proposing so you can immediately post video on social media. So to sum up, the world makes less and less sense to me by day. First of all, what if she says no? Second of all, is there no such thing as a private moment now? Third, the first two combined.

To be fair, one of the hostesses also seemed less than dazzled with the idea.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Seen a little

Recently at a friend's house (actually the house of a couple of friends and their kids) I saw the first two episodes of Stranger Things. Netflix show, set in Indiana. Seems to be sort of a cross between ET and the works of Stephen King, especially IT and Firestarter. A brief breakdown.

Best thing: The acting. Fair dialogue, too. Even the characters who come off as sort of jerky are pretty well drawn. I liked Barb, although I knew from hearing things that she wouldn't be around that long.

Worst thing: The suspicion that I had just watched the opening act of a nine hour story Rod Serling could have wrapped up in 25 minutes.

Middle thing: While the show is supposed to have a "summer movie" feel, the video cinematography undercuts it. The picture is sharp and clear, but flat with no feel of a world beyond the edges of the frame. Sometimes this works for the mood of the story. Other times less so. And the teenage makeout scenes wind up looking like porn.

Still, I can see why people have gotten into it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Connect for

So I finally hooked up the new router I'd gotten from the broadband company. Didn't go well at first. I couldn't keep the coaxial cable connected so I tried using an ethernet cable. Which didn't work because apparently the ethernet port is dead. Long story short, I finally made a breakthrough on how to use the coaxial cable. Probably no closer to hanging out a shingle as an electrician, but it was satisfying.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Potent potables for $400

Today I picked a liquor bottle off the street and took it home for eventual recycling. Not a little nip bottle, either. It could hold, like, a quart. And it used to hold pineapple vodka.

I've never been a big vodka drinker. It doesn't have much of a flavor and the flavor it has is unpleasantly medicinal, like cough syrup that doesn't do anything abut your cough.

Apparently even a large portion of those who do drink it agree, because the market has been flooded with variants that just add one soda poppy flavor before you even start mixing. Pineapple, raspberry, blueberry, etc. And if you wonder whether the trend has hit the point of absurdity yet...
...wonder no longer.

Monday, November 6, 2017


Two persons of average appearance and demeanor walk into a drinking establishment. One turns to the other and says, "That's 'bar' you idiot! It's always '...walk into a bar.' You've blown our cover already!" They turn and leave, the senior still cursing the junior as their ship rises into the ionosphere and beyond. The junior vows to rise above this scapegoating.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

? again

Not sure when it happened that teenage boys started calling each other "nigga" all the time, but it's gotten dirt common. And this is, like, independent of race, so you hear it from and to white kids, black kids, brown kids. This is better than one group hurling it as a weapon - which obviously still happens - but the whole unthinking nature of it has some serious downsides. That kind of thing is all well and good with everyone until it's not.

Plus, job interviews. I don't think "Nigga just look at my résumé" is going to fly.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The way we were

Haven't read this book yet, but hearing about it has gotten me curious. Was civilization, which is to say the organization of society around permanent settlements, a mistake? Did prehistoric band societies have a better idea? In a sense, I'm sure this is true. Modern civilization prioritizes many things that perhaps don't need to be priorities.

On the other hand, how many of us are equipped to live outside of civilization? I don't have any illusions about myself on that score. So perhaps the challenge is to find lessons from outside our own society and learn them. And be humble.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chilling? Perhaps not. Chill? Most certainly.

Vince Guaraldi was a real find in the making of the Peanuts specials. He did the Christmas special first, of course. Halloween isn't a sentimental holiday in the same way Christmas is, or at least isn't always thought of as such. But it does have its own feel, its own tenderness. Which Guaraldi and his combo captured without apparent effort.

Monday, October 30, 2017

...und drang

You may or may not have heard, but Rhode Island got hit with quite a storm on Sunday night. While it didn't have a name, I can attest that it at least felt more intense than some of the hurricanes we've been touched by. (Up here, that is, not in the areas further south where they first landed.) You can trust me on this as someone who was taking out the trash while some of the less full containers were flying into the street.

Some people lost power for a few minutes. Some for longer. There were stores in the suburbs that never opened today because they were still off the grid. School was canceled everywhere.

Also, it seemed today like there was a greater number of fire engines out. I'm guessing that had to do with the power outages. I mean, October 30 is Devil's Night, but that doesn't start until sundown.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Spooky times

So there seems to be an unwritten rule that if Halloween falls on a weekday, the Saturday before it is basically Halloween (observed.) For adults, anyway. Kids trick-or-treat on October 31 as they always did. But the costume parties and other events crest on Saturday night.

And sometimes there are things going on Saturday during the day. Today I was in the supermarket and saw Freddie Krueger. Well, a guy dressed as him. Minus the scars. And the knives on the hands. I don't think the store would have appreciated him slicing up fruit he wasn't going to buy.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Giant steps

A book I'm reading now is American Goliath, by Harvey Jacobs. It's inspired by the Cardiff giant, a hoax meant to prove that America was actually the Biblical birthplace of humanity. As supporting evidence, though the connection isn't obvious, a statue was produced which was meant to be a fossilized giant. Again, this is a true story. The book is fictionalized, though. Jacobs was a science fiction writer, and there's an undercurrent of fantasy throughout and many tall tale moments. Still, the whole thing was so over the top to begin with that it can be hard to tell where reality ends and embellishment begins. America had at least been metaphorically considered as a new Israel since before the War for Independence, which probably didn't hurt in finding some believers.

And that's Cardiff, New York. Cardiff, Wales has its own share of bizarre incidents, I'm sure, but this isn't among them.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


We're getting some rain tonight, but what really stands out are the strong winds. So strong, in fact that my bedroom door is being slammed shut, then opened again, then slammed again, all without me touching it. The noise was startling at first. Then I decided it was cool as long as it didn't bother the neighbors. Knock on wood.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Foxes have been domesticated at least once, in an experiment with interesting results. Some of their special vulpine traits fade in later generations, though. They seem to thrive as wild animals. A cute sort of wild, obviously, but still.

Fox Kits Playing from Dale Bohlke on Vimeo.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Note to self/Listen, self

I keep forgetting, but need to remember. Don't leave anything on a ceramic place if you're heating it up in anything but a microwave.What happens is the food may only get to lukewarm, but the plate absorbs all the heat and you can't pick it up without startling pain. There doesn't seem to be any way around this.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Something to ponder

I wonder, how can you tell when you're learning? I mean, if you're learning algebra, you have the answers at the back of the book. If you learn to cook something, you're successful when the product is edible. But on larger stuff? Things with less immediate results? That's the rub. It's hard to tell what you know from what you're just guessing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Getting cool

The biggest seasonal transition in the year is probably from summer to autumn. True autumn, that is, which can be delayed by any number of natural and man-made causes. But yes, whether or not you need to dress in layers in order to keep warm is more of a distinction than just how many layers you need, or how thick.

It feels like we're finally crossing that rubicon this year. Definitely you needed a substantial jacket today. That's sort of a homecoming. The heater didn't quite click on. That's not too far off, though.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Straight Man Problems

Above is a recreation of the first scene of the Marx Brothers' I'll Say She Is. This was their first Broadway hit, which was never adapted for the movies, although Monkey Business did reuse the dueling Chevalier imitations.

Notably, the first Marx Brother we hear speaking is Zeppo. He's confident, he's got good delivery. His only problem is the material. He gets all the generic lines. So even before Hollywood made him the not-funny one, he didn't have much opportunity to cut up. Groucho once reported telling a producer that they were twice as funny without Zeppo, thus ending his time with them on-screen. Maybe the act just worked better with three that with two. And maybe it was a bad time to be the baby of the family.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

See, observe

My own complete happiness, and the home-centred interests which rise up around the man who first finds himself master of his own establishment, were sufficient to absorb all my attention, while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.
That is, of course, from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which I just started rereading this week. The ascription of "drowsiness" to cocaine jarred me. I've never touched the stuff but my understanding is that its effects are quite the opposite. Did Doyle not know what the drug did? He had medical training, I'm pretty sure, so that shouldn't be the case. According to possibly reliable sources a drowsy effect might result if the coke is cut with something. So it might have been with Holmes, although what I don't know. Anyway, Doyle would drop that aspect of the character soon enough, and maybe the sniggering of actual druggies was another reason.

The stories are highly enjoyable, of course. Holmes and Watson are a natural pair even though they're no longer roomies. These shorter cases have a low-key charm, an ambling quality, that doesn't generally make the jump to the Sherlock TV series. Oh well, you enjoy what you can, and Benedict Cumberbatch does have the ideal voice for the character.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Monk Diamond Anniversary

In honor of Thelonious Monk hitting his centennial.

Monk's music takes me to a serene place, and often a joyful one. I know some people are put off by it, find it discordant. Oh well. You get different responses to the call of an owl as well.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


For much of the day I had a headache I couldn't seem to shake. I'd take a couple of ibuprofen and it would fade, then come back. Most of the day, like I say.

A little after dinner it seemed to have faded. Just to kind of put a stake in its heart I went out for a breath of fresh air. It was well after dark, but a nice night. We'd had some rain earlier in the day.

I saw a couple of women outside of the library. The library is closed for the whole three day weekend we have for Columbus Day. They had their laptops open and were chatting with each other. One I know from seeing her around is a little touched, but they seemed to be having a nice talk.

Friday, October 6, 2017


So I'm trying to learn more about body language. I figure there must be a lot I miss, that I could pick up from other people but don't, and messages I don't know I'm sending out. Reading is a big part of my lesson plan, of course. The first book I read gave some tips had kind of a different focus from what I was looking for. Plus there was a lot of repetition about how women are just better at it. Not helpful. I'm not going to just suddenly become female. That's a whole job in itself.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Say what?

I don't know about this (non-embeddable) ad. The creators never seem to have met an actual dog. The dog won't go near the baby because the baby is crying? Huh? And needs a lion costume so (s)he can join in the family fun?

Dogs just dive in, man. They go where they want and aren't really hung up on accessories. This spontaneity is one of the reasons I'm more of a dog person. Not because I'm already like that, but because it's something I'd like to emulate.

Monday, October 2, 2017

If the rain comes

The Storm - A Stop Motion Short from Paper House Studios on Vimeo.

Simple forms seem to work well with stop-motion animation. From what I can suss out this one tells us something about making the best of things.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Diving Deep

The above painting by Samantha French depicts the sensation of being underwater with an eerie clarity. There's a temptation to call it photorealistic, even. I'm not sure it is, though. That is, I don't know that this is what a camera would pick up, as opposed to a hyperreal feeling of what this pool would be like. Interestingly, French's portrayal's of people outside the pool and thus on dry land are openly stylized, Matissean, faces obscured. The water portraits give more an impression of physical accuracy, but I'm not sure it's the point.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

View from the tents

Grownups can deal with scraped knees, dropped ice cream cones, and lost dollies, but if they suspected the real reason we cry they would fling us out of their arms in horrified revulsion. Yet we are small and as terrified as we are terrifying in our ferocious appetites.

We need that warm adult stupidity. Even knowing the illusion, we cry and hide in their laps, speaking only of defiled lollipops or lost bears, and getting a lollipop or a toy bear's worth of comfort. We make do with it rather than face alone the cavernous reaches of our skulls for which there is no remedy, no safety, no comfort at all. We survive until, by sheer stamina, we escape into the dim innocence of our own adulthood and its forgetfulness.
Katherine Dunn's Geek Love is a book that had sounded interesting to me, and when I got a copy of it through interlibrary loan I looked forward to cracking it. Then when I first started reading it I was pretty sure I didn't like it. The language was too showy, the characters too pleased with their own perversity. But I stuck with it out of lack of anything better to do.

I'm glad I did. The story of a group of circus freaks, most of them deliberately bred to be such, it offers insight that might not come out in another setting. Plus it turns out to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Είναι όλα ελληνικά για μένα

Above is a clock face using  Greek numerals. I've wondered for a while if there was a Greek equivalent to the Roman numerals. Turns out there is, although the system is a little different. It uses more of the Greek alphabet. And it's still somewhat in use to this day, for certain things in Greece.

Anyway, a bit of useless trivia? Perhaps, but I'd like to use it for something one of these days.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


Are there actually differences in color preference between men and women? Interesting idea, but I don't know. Sexual dimorphism exists in humans, but it's mild to moderate as compared to, say, the arachnid kingdom. Certain patterns will emerge in studies just because the researchers are looking for them.

At least this is research into something fairly innocuous, though.

Friday, September 22, 2017

All fall down

Have to admit to not being in the best of moods when I saw it tonight, but damn Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows is entertaining. A familiar setup: guy hates his boss, has the hots for the boss's wife, so with her approval he kills the boss. But in this case absolutely everything goes wrong. Not just for him, either. While other idiots seem to be making out while he's trapped - I won't say where - his bad fortune turns out to be contagious.

There are certainly familiar elements here, but Malle has fun jumbling them up and throwing them against Bohemian Paris. Then there's Jeanne Moreau as the boss's wife and protagonist's lover, who takes her time revealing what she's capable of.

Also, there had been crime movies before this with jazz scores, certainly. But putting Miles Davis on the soundtrack was something else again. Bolder.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

You just need to hear this

Which is funnier? Ray's patronizing childspeak? Or Bob's aggravated slow burn? Both are such profound things of beauty.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Geocentrism, egocentrism, ethnocentrism: you can see where they come from. Our perspectives put us at the center of it all, which is just an outgrowth of having survival skills. And you can't get away from this perspective. You can train yourself to look past it, though, or aspects of it.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

That's the sniff

For a big part of the day I noticed this weird smell. Sort of like wet tobacco, which is not pleasant, but at least it wasn't strong. Just persistent. I'd notice it in one room at home, and in another, and when I was out.

Finally I figured out that it was from this shirt I hadn't worn in a while. Never rolled it in tobacco or anything, but that probably wasn't the source of the odor. The olfactory sense is an erratic one, or at least our knowledge of it is. Anyway, the smell eventually went away. Or got sweated out, or something.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

From the Hart

Just getting word that Grant Hart has passed. Hart was, of course, one third of Husker Du, drummer and singer/songwriter. He also had a fitfully brilliant solo career after that, heard by too few. While I won't relitigate the feuding that occurred between him and Bob Mould during and after Husker's time together, he truly elevated the band. RIP.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Traces of summer

Generally I've been wearing shorts at home at night. Regardless of what the day's been like, or whether it's cooled off outside by nighttime, it tends to be quite warm in the apartment. I'm sure it's like this for a lot of other people too, and that it drives kids crazy they're back in school when they can hardly tell it's fall.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Complete field

The ganzfeld effect is a new term to me. I've heard of something like it, though. It's a limited form of sensory deprivation effect, where the lack of new information coming in through a particular sense - most often sight - can cause hallucinations. Besides Brion Gysin's Dreamachine the principle has also been used in artist Robert Irwin's installations. It's an interesting effect. Best if you have the option of walking away from it. But if anything we're subject to sensory overload most of the time.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The key to happiness

I've been re-watching the second season of Happy Endings really for the first time since it went off the air a few years ago. I remembered it as being very funny. It's committed to being nothing more or less than a show with a lot of well-written jokes, and one where every character has good chemistry with every other one. When it first started it was supposed to be a rom-com about a couple who split up when she left him at the altar, and how they learn to deal with this. As a focal point this was kind of dull, and the four supporting characters were a lot more fun. Taking the hint, the writers put that premise in the background for the most part. They also made the erstwhile romantic leads more eccentric, essentially making everyone a wacky supporting character. Expectedly or not, this worked a lot better.

It's well-suited for home video, too, given how easy it is to miss one of the funny throwaway lines. They come fast.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


This is Robert Maxwell's "Solfeggio", known to be the song played by the Nairobi Trio on Ernie Kovacs's show, so it feels like there should be another musician. You know, just for visual balance. Nonetheless it's a nice rendition.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Labor Day post

Summer draws to a close now. In meteorological terms it lasts three more weeks, but by schoolchildren's criteria it's over. And this year summer has been largely mild, sometimes chilly. This has meant less frolicking by the water, and maybe it's been a little harder to convince people climate change is real. On the plus side, if there's been a summer with fewer mosquito bites, I don't remember it.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The difference

If your face is hairy and your neck - front, under the chin - is hairy, it looks like you've just been neglecting to shave. If your face is hairy and your neck isn't, you look like you have a well-maintained beard. All it really takes is a few seconds in the morning. For a few days running I just shaved underneath because I was running late, but it didn't show. I didn't really feel like keeping the beard, though, so it went this morning.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Down the aisle

So, fairly big Labor Day weekend coming up in that I'll be attending the wedding of a good friend. He is or will be the first person of whom I can say I saw him get married twice. Should be a pretty festive occasion as the happy couple are getting married at an outdoor music festival. Which is, like, right up there with a miniature golf course?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Radio, radio

I have to admit that, even though it's happening in my backyard, it's only within the past couple of weeks I learned the sale of WBRU was even a possibility. Now it's actually happened.

The first effect I'll feel is that I've changed the tuning on my clock radio, since I'd been waking up to 'BRU for the foreseeable past. It's on a classical station for now. In the future, who knows?

In a way the Brown student community was foolish to let the station go. While it's easy to conceive a time in the future when a good digital-only stream has as much influence or more than a terrestrial radio station, I don't think that time is quite here yet. Then again the level of actual student involvement seems to have been pretty low for a while.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

That's life

The Friar and the Pea - The Life and Legacy of Gregor Mendel from Eric Power on Vimeo.

A lot of neat colors and textures in this animated look at the "father of genetics." A pioneering scientist who remains important, even as some miss the point of his work, or insist on finding implications that aren't really in it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Don't thINK so

I've come to admit to myself that I don't really "get" tattoos. Not that I think they always look horrible, and in the past I may have even thought to get one myself. The impulse passed. It's more that I don't see the appeal of getting one, then another, and then a bunch more. As a hobby, it costs you money. And going in to get inked, you're not doing anything or experiencing anything. They're just there from then on.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


I'm reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch now. I can safely say that I'm enjoying it. The setting is some unconfirmed date in the 21st century, but it's got a more old fashioned feel. Despite reference to video games (mostly fictional) and texting it has a hint of the Interbellum. That was true of Tartt's first novel, The Secret History as well, but she's grown into it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The moon is a night shift worker that sometimes gets restless during the day

The eclipse was perceptible where I live, if not as dramatic as some places. It might have been a little darker than usual for the time of day, but it was hard to tell how much of that was clouds.

Still, it's kind of a neat effect. Some young folks at work had built a viewer, basically a cardboard box with an aperture cut into it and some more paper. So I saw a reflection of the eclipse anyway. As for staring directly at the sun, I'll just go back to doing that tomorrow.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The darkest Bogie

Last night I watched Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place. It's the kind of movie that I will probably wind up watching more than once, and writing about at length. (And getting paid for it? Would be nice, but not the main thing.) I'll keep it short here, but it's safe to call it one of the highlights of the first wave of film noir pictures after the war.

It's also a movie from the last leg of Humphrey Bogart's film career. It's a fascinating and revealing use of his talent. He plays a screenwriter wrongfully accused of killing a coat check girl he brought home so she could summarize a book he's supposed to adapt and doesn't want to read. There's some indication he's thought about seducing her as well but her naive personality kills it for him. While it's obvious from the start that he's innocent of this particular crime, there's also the sense that he's, if not a full-blown psychopath, at least a highly troubled and dangerous man. He killed when he was in uniform, and it's never completely gotten out of his system.

As an actor Bogart was full of tics and pauses that worked their way into a kind of charm. The charm isn't gone in this film, but you can never trust it. Even when he's riding high he's only seconds away from being swallowed by his demons. In a Lonely Place is a high wire act for him much as White Heat was for James Cagney.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Playing defense

Probably it will be a while before I see Netflix's The Defenders, so I'm not about to judge its execution. But conceptually it seems to be a waste of the title.

Some background. The Defenders are Marvel's other super team. Well, the other collection of previously existing superheroes, after the Avengers, since both the X-Men and Fantastic Four started with all new characters. But while they seemed to be destined for also-ran status, the Defenders found their own niche as Marvel's quirky, nocturnal team. Credit must go to the writers who handled them in the seventies, notably Steve Englehart and Steve Gerber.

Doctor Strange, not really the Avengers type, has been the team leader of the Defenders for much of their existence. Other members include:
* Valkyrie, an honest-to-Nibelungenlied Valkyrie who oddly enough fights crime in New York
* Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan, an occultist with demonic powers and crazy horn hair
* Hellcat, star of a fifties teen romance comic refashioned into a feline themed crimefighter

By contrast the TV series group is made up of Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Iron Fist. Netflix, I guess, wanted to get the full use out of the characters they were already licensed to use. But collectively they would seem to promise a tackle-punch-kick "gritty" action series, while a real Defenders adaptation would go more interesting places.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Situs inversus.  That's what it's called when your vital organs are on the opposite side from the average person.

Today I heard a woman say that one of her relatives had this, although she didn't use the Looney Tunes-y Latin name. At first I thought she meant the cousin was born with vital organs on the outside, a condition that exists and which I think is still pretty much a death sentence. Situs inversus, by comparison, is just a way to keep ER doctors on their toes.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

In fairness...

I think it should be pointed out that Annie isn't just angry, but also articulate. Might be hard for her parents to credit her for that, though.

(Fetching animation by John Korty.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

No eyes in team

Just watched Attack the Block, about eyeless attack dogs from space(?) invading a council estate residential block. It's a good action comedy with the emphasis on "action."

And it's not much more than 90 minutes. Not that brevity is a universal must with movies, but it's almost exactly right for this material. It basically knows that it's a B-movie and moves fast to do its job. If it were a Hollywood movie I imagine it would be a good 40 minutes longer because anything with a theatrical release and a greater-than-Troma budget needs to feel important.

Although we might see Jack Black in the Nick Frost role, so it wouldn't be all bad.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The nature of things

Can't let another summer go by without playing some Beach Boys, and this might be my favorite song of theirs. Neck and neck with "God Only Knows" at least. It has a lot of the Brian Wilson hallmarks, but in a slightly spooky format. The lyrics are sort of like what Gerard Manley Hopkins might come up with if he wrote R&B love songs.

Monday, August 7, 2017

All comes out in the wash

Commemorating the fact that I'm at that point in the fortnight where I need to do some laundry. Hopefully none of the staff at the laundromat bear this kind of hostility towards me. Frankly I just don't get it. Is it one of those New York things? You need to have a couple of unprovoked knifings to your name just to belong?

Although I was at the library today. The guy was very rude. I said, "I'd like a card." He says, "You have to prove you're a citizen of New York." So I stabbed him.~Emo Phillips

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Something real

Last year (I think) I saw a movie called Rubber. Directed by a French musician named Quentin Dupieux, it was an ultra low budget but brainy monster movie parody about a tire that gains sentience and goes on a killing spree. Working in California with American actors, Dupieux retained his Frenchness as much as Alex Cox made an English punk movie with Repo Man.

This gave me fairly high hopes for one of his follow-ups, Reality. The film follows a few different strands. A French cameraman on an American cooking show wants to make a movie - which sounds terrible - but can only get it produced if he finds the perfect groan of pain. The host of the cooking show (Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder) suffers from an unexplained sudden rash. A little girl named Reality finds a videotape in the guts of a pig her father killed in the wild. These storylines impact each other over a few levels of, yes, reality.

My hopes weren't really met. Rubber worked like gangbusters because it had a set of genre conventions to play up and deconstruct, which Dupieux did by essentially going for the most slacker option whenever possible. Reality is obviously a surreal art movie from the start, which gives Dupieux more freedom than maybe he knows what to do with. That's not to say it doesn't have its moments. There were a few times when I laughed out loud, and the weirdness is sometimes fetching. But the energy dissipates after a while.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Hearing the call

The guy's not wrong about the call being a very peaceful sound. If you're in tune with it at least. It's often amazing to see the kinds of big sounds relatively small animals can make.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Got those blues

Woke up headachey and vaguely sick this morning. 'Twas my own fault. Last night with dinner I had bread and butter. Liked the bread, with a nice firm crust. When I spread butter on it, I saw a few blue spots. Turning the bread over there was nothing on the back. I convinced myself the spots must just be pores in the bread. Only when I got that unpleasantly woody taste from that part of the bread did I know what I'd just done.

Felt better after coffee and a muffin. Lesson learned.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The new neighbors

A book I'm reading, Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs by David Grimm, shares a theory. It's not original to grim, but interesting nonetheless. It has to do with what's called self-domestication. This is when an animal attaches itself to a human community and evolves the traits of a domesticated animal without direct intervention on our part.

In the case of dogs the theory goes something like this. Groups of humans in prehistoric times were nomadic. They were also none too neat, with scraps of meat and other food being dropped everywhere. Wolves took notice and their mouths watered. These temporary human settlements presented a way of supplementing their diet without additional hunting. Waiting for the humans to move on would mean getting to the food after much of it had gone bad. Therefore the best option was to hang around while the people were still there. The wolves that did this thrived, producing more pups.

It's interesting to project ourselves into the past and think how these prehistoric persons responded. I can see four stages, distinct but perhaps overlapping.

1) Fear: We know the wolves have the power to kill us or otherwise harm us. We certainly don't want them around our children. This can't be good.

2) Annoyance: Okay, they're only coming here to be fed. How does that make them any different from large, heavy rats?

3) Opportunity: There's an advantage to having these creatures in our camp. They help fend off other predators and parasites. Plus they still have hunting instincts, and can help us.

4) Affection: Rex is part of the family. We wouldn't dream of leaving him behind!

And to some extent, all of these responses are still part of our makeup, surfacing at one time or another.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Not particularly original thought

The world is filled with noises. More every day. Many, no doubt, are entertaining. Through all that, very few seem to be listening to what's underneath, what has lasted and what will last.

There have been others who have said similar things before. They have also been right. In different times I'm sure it's been true in different ways.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


I like this Milt Jackson piece as a bit of hump day cheer. It's expansive, yet still short and sweet.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Head, it is spinning

Within 24 hours we went from a heat wave to "It is October now, right?" Waiting for a bus back from Rumford I realized the t-shirt, sweatshirt, and light summer jacket I was wearing weren't cutting it, and if I went out again I'd have to wear my heavier autumn jacket. Not necessarily the weather I'd choose for July, but it will be easier to sleep tonight.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

What else is new?

At breakfast the radio was on. A lady, the radio personality, spoke. There'd been a question earlier. Name something you remember that kids today wouldn't understand.

A listener had written in, responding that she remembered when telephones had long cords attached that kept them in place, unable to go further afield than the length of the cord. And when you had to make a private phone call, you also needed to take the telephone as far as it could go and shut the door.

To me, it seems like young people today can understand the existence of corded telephones, whether or not they previously knew such a thing existed. What they might have trouble getting their minds around is the concept of a "private phone call." In few places nowadays does such a thing exist.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The fan

In a room where a ceiling fan is going, running at top speed because of the heat, it can sound like the wind. Air, after all, is air. Of course it's too regular to be the wind, and the sound is only inside. It is the next best thing, however.

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.