Monday, December 31, 2007

A world without Starbucks

So I flipped through the local paper online and saw that the local Krispy Kreme (home of the whipped-air donut) is closing. I know that it's not "symptomatic" of anything, but for once, I'm sympathetic with that media urge to take a factoid and spin it out into a whole realm of wishful thinking. If only this was a crack in the facade of Corporate MegaObscureMidwesternCity!

Now, I'm not intrinsically opposed to the Krispy Kreme, and it was certainly handy having them at the gas station to bring to random "pot luck" work functions. It's just that once it opened, all the hype was inexplicable to me. Some people talked like they were the best donuts in the world, like they'd change my life. Now, the first time I went from cheap grocery store ice cream to Haagen-Dazs, that was something. But I found the Krispy Kreme too sweet, and way too insubstantial.

Of course, it was a still a donut, so they weren't bad or anything. They just weren't really any better than any other. Certainly not up the caliber of the Quality Bakery donut.

The Krispy Kreme opened in 2002, thus lasting 5 years, which is pretty impressive for the current times. Still, when the Quality Bakery and Coffee Shop location that I frequented closed down (victim in part of an almost two-year road closing, part of one of the so-called revitalization projects we're so fond of), I'd personally been going there for 22 years. And like the beloved dive bar that was a more direct, targeted casualty of the same revitalization, it was still doing decent business. I understand that the cities would like to do more business, but their first act so often seems to be driving out the places that have survived decades of ups and downs...

So by all means, bring in the Krispy Kremes when they come around. There will always be businesspeople who want to jump on what's trendy and make a lot of money in the short term. That's fine. But it's nothing to base a whole economy around.

Oops, too late.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Live fast, die young, leave a great library

Spent some time yesterday updating my LibraryThing account, and I added a classification called "all-time faves." Thus far, these are:

All-City: The Book About Taking Space by Paul 107

City of Darkness: Life in Kowloon Walled City by Greg Girard

The City of Dreadful Night by James Thomson

Clarissa, Or The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany

Divine Excess by Ichiro Ono

Jambalaya: The Natural Woman's Book of Personal Charms and Practical Rituals by Luisah Teish

The Last Days of Louisiana Red by Ishmael Reed

The Mabinogion by Anonymous

Must You Conform by Robert Lindner

Nightmare Abbey & Crotchet Castle by Thomas Love Peacock

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Tokyo: A Certain Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki

Uncle Silas : a Tale of Bartram-Haugh by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Valis by Philip K. Dick

Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality by Paul Barber

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Man Bites Pope? Pope Bites Dog?

Not sure which cliche-twist I prefer.

Saw a headline yesterday -- the top headline in fact -- to the effect that "Pope Celebrates Christmas." The story went on to say that the Pope celebrated Midnight Mass at the Vatican.

Now, this doesn't entirely strike me as a newsworthy turn of events. A headline like "Pope Ignores Christmas," or maybe "Pope Snubs Midnight Mass." That would pique my interest.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Life on the Naughty List

Pleasant Christmas Eve, with candles, Old English carols on the stereo, a bottle of red wine, and, eventually, a viewing of 1980's Christmas Evil, the tragic tale of a mild-mannered toymaker who loves Santa too much, and is eventually driven mad by memories of seeing Santa fondle his mom's leg, and the shoddy workmanship at the toy factory where he works. 

The early portion moves pretty slowly, like it's a serious character drama about psychological disintegration. But this isn't The Machinist we're dealing with. When Harry finally snaps, he alternates between giving gifts to needy children (for which he is profusely thanked, and treated like a Christmas miracle) and axing undeserving toy executives. Eventually true cinematic lunacy sets in: there's a police line-up of Santas right out of Reno 911, and a scene in which the inhabitants of a working-class tenement go after him in a torch-lit mob, like it's suddenly turned into a Frankenstein movie. 

Highly recommended. After all, sick minds need stocking stuffers too!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Bada Din!

As you may have noticed, I've been on a Bollywood kick. Yesterday afternoon I watched a movie called The Killer, which some people condemn outright as a plagiarism of Collateral. I mean, sure, it's plagiarism, but it's hard to get worked up when it's Hollywood being ripped off. It's like the episode of Veronica Mars I also watched yesterday, when she catches a guy breaking into her dad's desk and gets in a moral outrage. Of course, she's already broken into the perp's office TWICE and also hacked his computer, but she didn't get caught.

Anyway, the moral (ha!) of the story is, that I will probably never watch Collateral anyway because of the Tom Cruise Factor. I just involuntarily cringe and back away. People keep telling me that Minority Report is good, and I try to watch it, but then at the last minute I can't go through with it. Also: hit man movies? Borrrrrring.

On the other hand, if you put Irfan Khan in the Tom Cruise part (Khan totally passed the bad B-movie test, being very good and interesting to watch in the mostly terrible I Know What You Did Last Summer/Diabolique "thriller" Dhund), I'm immediately intrigued. Plus music by Sajid Wajid, the guy behind the ludicrously contagious tunes from Partner? Top of the queue!

As a thriller, The Killer was quite serviceable. The music was all integrated into the story semi-realistically: a song came on the radio, or someone performed in a nightclub, and then it segued into an obvious fantasy sequence. And the kid playing the slacker cab driver did a pretty good job, although Irfan Khan was still definitely the best thing about it.

So this morning, in a completely unrelated topic, I've decided that it's officially too late for me to get into any kind of Christmas spirit. I baked some cookies, listened to some Gregorian chants, and got the tree turned on, so I've maintained a trace element of tradition to build on if I ever feel in the mood again in years to come. Since my parents moved away and left the house and town where I grew up, there's no center anymore. There doesn't seem to be any point. Not that they should have stayed there for my purposes -- it's just the way it is.

So this morning, I idly thought, maybe if there were Hindi Christmas music.... Not exactly, that I was able to discern in a quick search, but I did find some articles on "Bada Din," or "Big Day," a secular Hindu Christmas, representing the positive values people talk about at Christmas, but obviously not really in a religious sense. With trees, lights, Santa, etc. Then I did a general search on the phrase Bada Din, and what came to the top? A listing on the IMDB. Yup, there's a Bollywood Christmas movie! ("It's Christmas day in Calcutta...")

One guess who has a small role as a Police Inspector?

My man Irfan Khan!

This ease of global communication is starting to make even stranger coincidences wash up to my door, even as I exist in an Obscure Midwestern Town.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The pain of disco, Pt. 2

My honey came home last night to find me disco dancing around the apartment to Hindi tunes. He joined in for a minute, although he was still listening to Tom Waits on his headphones (and if I were ambitious enough, there's a musical editing project!) I just got this new soundtrack (Om Shanti Om) in the mail, and mentioned that I had to lend it to SpyGirl.

"We're encouraging each other's silliness," I said.

"That's good," he said sincerely. Then he added, "There's safety in numbers."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kitten smokes a clove

Sounds like a good name for a totally whacked picture book, don't you think?

The other day I walked through, well, in another life I think it was a dining room, and I came across a clove cigarette in the middle of the floor. Bent in half, tobacco leaking out, partly chewed. Believe me, the last thing we need around here is more overly-stimulated felines.

Then today I found Charlie stalking a small rubber rat that has been sitting behind my kitchen sink unnoticed for at least a year. Which would be one thing, if I could trust him not to eat any pieces of rubber rattail he might chew off. But I can't, so I had to steal his prey, like a bigger, meaner cat, not letting him have any fun. I stuck it up by the little squishy skull (it's like one of those squeezy stress balls, but in skull form), on the high shelf.

That's when my honey came in and said, "That's where your clove cigarettes were. I had to move them because someone was trying to knock them down."

At least Charlie was after a pretend rodent, which is reasonable cat behavior. Little Chloe tabby wants to be a hipster!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eat at own risk

When I went to my place of work yesterday, there was a package of bagels sitting on the table in the break room. A note was attached:

"Found in the bathroom. Not opened. Eat at own risk."

All day, a parade of wary looks, and people leaning over to read the slip of paper, then backing away.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Red Herrings and Black Leather

The controversial Cruising just came out on DVD this fall, and I've finally gotten around to seeing it. I read the movie tie-in novelization in 1980, when I was 15, which is amusing in retrospect. The book is long-gone, so I can't see how much reference it made to the hankie code and the detail of S&M clubs, but the movie is fairly graphic, especially for its time. Nonetheless, I don't think I was scarred for life.

The plotline: a serial killer is preying on young dark-haired Al Pacino types in NY's underground gay clubs, and Al Pacino himself is recruited to go undercover. As the Hottie Librarian pointed out, the film yadda-yaddas over exactly how far he's going so as not to blow his cover (so to speak), but he looked awfully comfortable to me when the cops burst in too early and find him tied up by the prettiest red herring.

Actually, the whole film is a fiesta of good-looking young men. There's Jay Acovone as that tempting wrong suspect, Gene Davis in drag (I always wanted cheekbones like his!), and the beautiful James Remar living next door to the undercover cop. He of course played the hot-headed Ajax in The Warriors, so that was two leather films in a row.

Oddly, it had never really fallen into place before that Ajax played Samantha's lover, the real estate tycoon, on Sex and the City. And Mr. Big, Chris Noth, made his fillm debut in a tiny role as a campy prostitute in 1982's Smithereens. My dad sometimes pretends he thinks an actor is the same character in different roles, if it will have humorous effect, and that would certainly work here.

Let's say that the young Big was on the streets, hustling; after he got busted, he eventually became a cop. Then he took some business classes, made a million, and drove around in a limousine on the same streets where, etc. Then one night he goes out with his girlfriend's group of gal pals, and one is dating a guy he recognizes from the old days at the leather bar.

Richard is all like, "Hey, remember when that serial killer stabbed my roommate?" And Big is like, "Yeah, did they ever catch the guy or what? That was all really confusing." And Richard says, "That's nothing. Did the cops ever drag you downtown and have that big black guy in the jock strap jump out and slap you? What was up with THAT?"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The glaceous salt of the earth

The clock radio strayed onto a Christian station at some point, and it's just stayed there because, well, it isn't static, and besides, it only plays for a few seconds at a time. Depending on my tendency to hit the snooze alarm. Besides, sometimes it provides me with entertainment.

Like this morning. Somewhere in the range of 6:30 a.m., it goes off in the middle of a sermon. A man is saying, "If God is a glaceous God...that is, a gracious God."

Ha ha!

Much to my delight, the only definition I could find online was from my old friend, Sir Thomas Browne, author of Pseudodoxia Epidemica (aka, Epidemic of False Beliefs.).

"Definition of Glaceous:Gla"cious (?), a. Pertaining to, consisting of or resembling, ice; icy. Sir T. Browne. - Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913)"

(Obviously, Webster's used to use the old OED trick of defining things via pre-existing quotes, since Browne predated this edition by at least a couple hundred years).

Then I strayed onto the Wikipedia, where Virginia Woolf is quoted as saying, "Few people love the writings of Sir Thomas Browne, but those that do are the salt of the earth."

That Ginny, she had me totally pegged.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Which of these personas am I?

Not a quiz! On Yahoo Shopping, they have Holiday Gift Guides to "inspire & surprise everyone on your list."

The "Gifts for Her" are broken down into these seven categories of woman that anyone might be shopping for:

Girlie Girl
Executive Woman
The Fashionista
Super Mom
Female Techie
Accessories Addict
Martha Stewart Devotee

If anyone has any idea which category is appropriate for me, please let me know.

In a nutshell, this is my gripe against the mass media. Find your slot and get into it!

To be fair, they do have a generic list of Best Gifts For Her Under $25, but if anyone buys me Rhett Butler's People for Christmas, it's coal in the stocking for you!

Friday, December 14, 2007

They used to be friends...

So we all know that the music industry is really messed up. If you want details, well, read anybody's behind-the-scenes book, actually. Occasionally good music squeaks out, and we all get lucky, but in the meantime, nobody should be surprised by all the bad.

Having just watched the documentary DiG!, a documentary about several years in the lives of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols, I can add "delusional" to "messed up." In the first place, both bands have done some decent music, but neither of them is revolutionary or one-of-a-kind. My perception may be whacked from living in Mpls at a time when you couldn't throw a paisley tie without hitting someone from a 60s revivalist punk-influenced garage rock band. When I first saw Anton Newcomb's sideburns and dashiki, it threw me into a 7th Street Entry flashback, and I kind of moaned "Noooooo...."

Honestly, the way he (and some fans in the movie) talk, you'd think nobody ever thought of this style of music before Newcomb did. They need to check out the Children of Nuggets collection from their local libraries and get a grip.

At the same time, I was dumbfounded by the sequence where the Dandy Warhols, signed to a major label, think they're going to have a monster nationwide hit with a song called "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth." The people at Capitol seem to think this is possible, too, since they set up hugely expensive photo shoots and a $400,000 music video to promote it.

As soon as I saw the song title, I thought, are they fucking kidding? Someone honestly thinks this is going to break through to mainstream America? I mean, Camper Van Beethoven might have been able to do something with that title back in the 80s, but they weren't seriously trying to compete with Duran Duran. And that's what I thought before I heard the song, which isn't funny enough or catchy enough to face such an uphill battle. (OMG, the Amazon review calls its catchprase, "Heroin is so passe," a "memorable chorus." I'd call that more a passe chorus).

And then, behold! They and the record company are all disappointed that a 60s revivalist garage rock band with poppy undertones doesn't have a huge hit record right out of the gate! I understand the band being delusional, but shouldn't people who make money in their business have a better understanding of how it all works? I thought that's why they put out all that crap!

So if you'll pardon me, I'm going to rustle up my Nomads CD...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The date is arbitrary, but any excuse for a party

Shortly before the last of my revelers and I left the dive bar, I half-overhead a group of guys at the tall tables behind us.

"You've gotta trust the government," one said. There was no cue as to whether he was being sincere, or sarcastic, or if it was (as I wasn't quick enough to catch, but our bud Al did) an allusion to "Comfortably Numb," which had played a song or two ago on the Crappy TouchTunes System (TM).

The next thing I heard was "grow my own wheat." At first I doubted myself, and wondered if he'd said "weed." But the phrase got repeated, and it was obviously wheat.

Then a reference to Taco Bell, and "I could be a super-human."

I said out loud, "I'm not going to get this written down before I forget." But apparently, just saying that was the magic trick.

Then we all bundled up and went out the back door to walk home. You're never to old to enjoy hollering goodbye to your friends on an icy street at one in the morning, when the whole world is dark and cold and asleep.

Monday, December 10, 2007

"My heart is full of the pain of disco"

Went to see Om Shanti Om at the art deco theatre yesterday, so I have a new favorite Bollywood tune. Which you'll hear on my MySpace profile, if you're configured that way. It comes from a film-within-a-film, in which the actor is supposed to be playing a deaf, blind, legless man in a wheelchair. He says they need a musical number that will express his inner pain, and proudly announces: "Disco!"

When the director asks how they can have a legless man in a wheelchair do a disco number, he says, "Idiot. Dream sequence."

You can see a non-subtitled version of the number from the movie at I don't think you need the words to the song to know why I fond it funny. Except that the chorus is "My heart is full of the pain of disco. Pain of disco. Pain of disco."

Good yin/yang contrast here with The Golden Compass. The book is very harsh, but great. All the stuff about the souls getting severed seems much more painful and terrifying in the book than it could be represented in a movie. And the whole idea of personifying ... uh, wrong word .... embodying the soul in a companion animal is brilliant. So obvious, and at the same time so original. It's like, how would we treat our souls if we could actually see them and touch them?

It's pretty obvious that, metaphorically speaking, Charlie is my daemon and Chloe is my honey's, although it would be tragic if I couldn't pet my little girly cat for some reason. "That's what marriage is," I said. "We can share each other's daemons."

No pun intended, but I'll take what I can get.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Baking Workout Plan

Left early to see The Golden Compass and wow, good! If possibly a little "heavy," a little dark and philosophical, to really make it as a blockbuster. I hope they make the rest of the movies though, and I will definitely have more to say on the "controversy" now that I've started to read the books.

But since I'm reading books all the time, I'm going to hold forth first about the real novelty of my weekend -- after the movie, and a recon voyage to Barnes & Noble, I spent most of the rest of the day baking Christmas cookies. There were these Swedish knot-shaped cookies, and Russian teacakes, and a kind of sugar cookies with a lot of honey in them, so they have a graham cracker quality. And SpyGirl made some oatmeal M&M chocolate chunk cookies, just, you know, on the side.

I've got to say, Home Ec. is tougher than it looks. All that beating and stirring is really a workout for the upper arms. I felt like I should have started a little smaller, trained a little more, but on the other hand, I'm only slightly stiff today, and there are cookies to show for it. So all's well.

And yes, blackmail photos were taken of me performing alien acts like flouring a rolling pin, as well as one posing with my Betty Crocker Cooky Book, a vintage floral apron around my waist, and the word HOMICIDE emblazoned across my shirt....

Friday, December 7, 2007

Follow me, Stereo Jungle Child

I'm perversely fond of the '80s radio station one of my dear (and very young) colleagues has on her Pandora. And I think she enjoys my snickering. After all, dissecting song lyrics for their absurdity has long been a habit of mine. I remember holding forth about the inane rhyme of "Abracadra/I'm gonna reach out and grab ya" when it was first a hit, so I can't help mocking it when I hear it now.

One song I truly loathed in the '80s was "The Warrior" by Scandal (Featuring Patty Smythe). Since nobody had ever heard of Patty Smythe, that billing was a little puzzling, and I was really surprised when she was married to Richard Hell. I mean, she may be a fine person, but I had a hard time forgiving musical sins in my intolerant youth. (And, yes, the prejudices still linger, although I've mellowed. Really).

(Footnote: the Wikipedia says that she "dated" Hell, although at the time, it was billed as "married." So who knows? It also says she's now married to John McEnroe, but his entry avoids pretty much any mention of his personal life. Fallout from the whole Tatum O'Neal tell-all book?)

Anyway, I'd pretty much forgotten this song ever existed when it played yesterday, and the lyrics were even worse than I remembered them. Not that I want to tame anybody's animal style here....but we mainly used to mock the contortions she made out of the word "Warrior," (wah-ree-AW? I can't do it phonetically), which made me imagine her lips rubbered into a non-human form to pronounce it.

But..."feeding on your hungry eyes/I bet you're not so civilized." Ummm...I think the eyeball chomper is the uncivilized one, even metaphorically speaking. Or is the object of her affection feeding on his OWN eyes? Ew. That's beyond Hannibal Lector. And I have to quote this verse in its entirety:

"You talk, talk, you talk to me
Your eyes touch me physically
Stay with me, we'll take the night
As passion takes another bite"

I shouldn't be this giggly this early in the day. I may never recover. Just thinking about the mental picture of eyes touching someone...physically...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Hunter Thompson Xmas

We've been on a mini-Hunter Thompson kick at my house. In the back of my mind, there's a faint amused bell of the time my old roommate and I were taking turns reading Lipstick Traces and England's Dreaming, and she said we had formed a Sex Pistols Study Group.

Anyway, I rounded up all my old paperbacks and have been flipping through them. On the inside cover of The Great Shark Hunt, I discovered a pencil notation in my loopy adolescent handwriting: "A wonderful Christmas present from Sandy and Camilla, 12/23/80." When I opened it up at random, my eye struck the word "pigfuckers." Knowing Sandy and Camilla, I think they'd have been surprised to know what they were getting me. (I've always had a Wish List going, long before Amazon came along, and hence the disparity between the nice, normal gift-givers and, well, me).

And then just the other night, in the half-a-second, between hitting the button on the remote that switches from the dvd back to the tv, and the button that shuts the tv off, I went, hey! That's Reverend Billy! There's a new documentary about Reverend Billy in limited release, produced by Morgan Spurlock, who was very articulate in the face of the smug nightly news woman. (Check out if I'm totally puzzling you).

So if you don't get a Christmas present from me again this year, it's all about the higher purposes. Not cheapness or laziness. Except sometimes...

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Gossip Ghoul

Surprise, surprise, the Gossip Girl books have totally jumped the shark. And the ones with the ghost writer? Fallen in the water and been eaten. I have standards, even for trashy froth.

It got me thinking, though, that maybe I should lobby to write the next book. If CSI can spin off into different cities, spreading its unrealistic DNA test results all over the country, then why not Gossip Girl: Obscure Midwestern City? Welcome to my pastiche.

Hey people!

You know who we are. We may not be rich, we may not be beautiful, but we're what everybody wants to be. The hottest, the coolest, sometimes the coldest: we have it all and we know it. Classic blaxploitation movies coming in the mail, friends who'll hand-knit us skull-patterned tea cosies, still a few coffee shops that aren't Starbucks. You'll know us when you see us walk down the icy streets in our to-die-for knee-high boots and enormous vintage coats, the must-have look of the season!

I know they say that size matters, but that chain-link fence by the Art Deco Theatre is ridiculous. Hope they open the sidewalk soon, because we need to get from the Biz/Dirty E axis to the Montes/Atomic/Dempseys line, and back again. Not to mention fortification at the Pita Pit before and/or after. Believe me, nobody wants any drunk girls sliding in front of their SUVs.

Speaking of the E, early Friday morning we spotted a can and some unopened cans of Bud lying in the entrance to their driveway. There's gotta be a story there. If anyone knows it, I'd love to hear it!


K. at the E, buying a round for the table. She must have mistaken that sudden cold snap for hell freezing over.

A certain hot coffee slinger and some of his friends coming into the Latin Bar just as the alumni writers' party was breaking up. Actually, a whole gaggle of boys wandered in about 10 o'clock. Close quarters, flattering lighting, not a bad place to stop for a casual drink, if you're in the market.

That lovely, too rarely seen artiste at a retro diner with my favorite cross-dresser. I don't know how they know each other, but I'm dreaming -- collaboration! Just keep your art out of the alleys, kids, at least until this town gets its sense of humor back.

Oh, and that Local Boy Made, uh, Successful has a new book coming out next year. A novel. I'm placing bets now that it'll be set at Duffy's, if you want to get in on the action.

You know you love me,

Gossip Ghoul

You know, that was just too easy. Kinda scary. Don't worry; tomorrow I'll be me again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"It's the profanity of the future"

So I've always been curious about the Amityville Dollhouse movie, because, you know, it's a movie about a dollhouse. That's rare enough, but ... one that's supposed to be scary?

The movie follows a bland blended family. The mom has a prepubescent son with a black Spock haircut and unnervingly dark circles under his eyes. The dad has a teenage son, a jock asshole, and an elementary age daughter who's mainly an excuse to get a dollhouse in the picture. The dad has built an enormous house on a vacant desert lot, but waits until the day they move in to open the old tool shed that was on the property, now in their backyard. Mightn't a tool shed have come in handy whilst you were building a house?

Never mind. In the shed, he finds the malevolent dollhouse, and gives it to the little girl for a birthday gift. Fortunately, his flakey New Age sister and her biker boyfriend are experts in the occult, and recognize its evil nature immediately, so I was fairly confident of where the story was going when I turned it off after half an hour or so, bored with the domestic drama. I was vaguely curious if and how they were going to explain where the house came from, but not that curious.

The dollhouse itself, a replica of the house from the original movie, is quite cool, and if the price was right, I'd take my chances with the curse.

So then I switched over and started watching season 3 of Veronica Mars. I bought season 2 sight unseen, and was kinda disappointed in it. Still well-written and all, but lacking the spark, wandering into some time-wasting subplots that detracted from the more interesting characters. (Hmm, Twin Peaks deja vu). So I'm test-driving this season, and two episodes in: so far, so good.

It's probably the best transition to college I've ever seen on a tv show. Also, it's nice that Veronica's in a temporarily angst-free relationship. I mean, why not? I always think tv shows break up couples too much and too fast, just because they're afraid of our short attention spans. Then the breakup/makeup wheel gets more tiresome than the perceived dullness of a happy couple could be.

The second episode featured a meaty Wallace/Logan subplot (always a good thing; they're the two characters whose occasional neglect is most criminal). They totally got to match wits, with Logan getting some hilarious lines, and Wallace quietly turning the tables on him. And Veronica's storyline put her in new moral dilemnas, this time based on her having too many scruples rather than too few. So far, everybody's new twists are still in character and true to their previous selves. Which is why (gush, gush), despite the occasional misstep, it's such a great show. If there's such a thing as psychological continuity, here it is.

Oh, and I loved Veronica's introduction to the word "frak," especially when she starts using it later herself. Thumbs down to the new mellow theme music, though.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Got caffeine, running around my spleen"

Well, actually, the tune has cocaine running around the brain, but in my case, caffeine is more apt. And you know that's what's important around here: strict accuracy. And efficiency. I run a tight ship.

Anyway, we listening to the reggae Club Dread soundtrack on a brief road trip through the snow flurries and the enormous pine forests, the winding roads of Middle of Nowhere Minnesota.
So actually, I guess odd juxtaposition is really what's important to me. I'm going to write a self-help guide on the Habits of Highly Incongruous People. The message will be, yes, your life could be more organized. But it could also be more fun! Why waste your time with consistency?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sexiest Men in Show Business

Yes, it's that time again, when People magazine tells me what celebrities I'm supposed to find hot, and I respond with a mocking "Ha!"

Since I did a full list of ten last year, it's been hard to come up with fresh contenders, and not just rearrange the same names, like People does. Since I just watched Series 3 of Hamish Macbeth, it was a real temptation to bend the rules for Robert Carlyle, but I'm showing super-human restraint here. But my list does continue to be dominated by British character actors. Another of the many ways in which I differentiate myself from the other, more Neo-Rat-Pack heavy listings.

1. Christopher Eccleston. I never would have dreamed I'd be saying this back in the Shallow Grave days. But mmm, mmm. You never know who'll suddenly blossom into hottiness. Doctor in Leather (that sounds kinky) -- sweet, cheerful, damaged, possibly psychotic, all rolled up in one. Invisible Man you most want to look at.

2. and 3. The Men of MI-5: David Oyelowo and Matthew Macfayden. Sadly, neither of them are on the show anymore, but that's why God made DVDs. Newer cast member Rupert Penrey-Jones is okay, too, but not quite up to their stellar standard. Worth an honorable mention. Macfayden actually did a great job in the quintesstially romantic role of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Oyelowo is probably the least known of the three, but definitely the most missed. He'll be in the upcoming No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency movie, so maybe he'll get more on the radar, where he belongs.

4. Jason Dohring. Starting out as a seemingly stereotypical character (screwed-up rich boy) on Veronica Mars, he unrolled layers of heart-breaking emotional sensitivity. I've pondered the casts of several teen and young adult shows full of pretty boys for this list, and Dohring's Logan stands way, way out as the realest and most charismatic.

5. Okay, "sexy" isn't quite the right word. He belongs on People's "Most Beautiful People" list, but I can't possibly come up with enough people for that. So as a special guest, "Most Beautiful Man in Show Business," I give you Battlestar Galactica's Alessandro Juliani. Uh, that's Lt. Gaeta to you. He's so low on the show biz totem pole that the IMDB doesn't even have a PICTURE of him. Are they freakin' blind?

And there you have it! Ten last year, five this...that's more hot guys in Hollywood than I thought I'd find when I started looking. Feel free to add your current crushes in the "Comments" section, and let's remember them all at Thanksgiving!

(For all my Blogger readers, who didn't get to read the debut list, here's last year's post. Still relevant.)

Sexiest Man Alive: Anarchivist Edition

People, Schmeople. It's really the Sexiest Actor in Hollywood, and actually, I think they just take the same bunch of guys every year, of the same level of stardom and career longevity, and throw them in a hat. So it's Brad one year and George the next, and then Brad again. Otherwise, I picture the people in a board room with a chart saying that Matthew McConaughey is inching ahead one tenth of one percent.

The Sexiest Man Alive (other than my honey) is probably some guy in India or Nebraska or the Congo that nobody knows about except the lucky local ladies. Given the impossibility of truth in advertising, here are my current picks for Sexiest Actors in Show Biz. We can just assume that Ewan McGregor has been the winner for a few years past...okay, several years...and this year I'm giving someone else a chance.

A quick word about my taste: In 1977, there was a heyday of pretty-boy teeny bop idols, a frightening precursor to the (shudder) "boy band" phenomenon that would flourish later. While Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb, Leif Garrett, and Scott Baio were on the covers of all the "Nonthreatening Boys" magazines (to quote the Simpsons), the year I turned 13, who was my teen idol? Richard Dreyfuss. Especially Jaws-era Richard Dreyfuss. Still totally my type! I think that's why there are so many non-American actors on my list, because in the U.S. there are too many pretty boys who rise to the top of the heap, and in the U.K. it's still more a land of character actors. As a sweeping generalization.

So, to unveil the Anarchivist's Sexiest Actors in Show Biz!

In the top slot: Michael Rosenbaum. We were a handful of episodes into Smallville when I realized how hot Lex Luthor is. What a bizarre and unlikely statement that is. I felt kind of weird about it until I read a commentary on the great Television Without Pity site for an episode where Lex is stalked by a psycho admirer. They said, "If lusting after Lex Luthor is wrong, then nobody on the TWP posting board is right." Amen! Of course, now I think he looks goofy when I see a picture of him with hair, but you can't have everything.

My first runner-up is Hugh Laurie. Those punks on Grey's Anatomy have nothing on Dr. House. Here's a guy who's been around for ages, obviously funny and talented, but now that he's all grizzled and world-weary looking, I'm all "yum!" And his character is mean, which is much more fun than the "Oh, I say!" characters I'm used to seeing him play. But it's not just the meanness. It's smart, funny meanness, and when it's clever and apt, how can you not like it?

The rest of my picks, in library associate-ish alphabetical order:

Jason Bateman: Believe me, nobody's more surprised about this than I am.
Robert Carlyle: You all saw that coming, with my Hamish Macbeth obsession.
Chiwetel Ejiofor: I just saw 2002's Dirty Pretty Things not long ago, and how exciting was it to see him turn up in the Serenity movie!
Denis Lawson: Yep. Wedge. Not quite as unlikely as the Jason Bateman thing, but also unexpected.
Dominic Monaghan: Who I used to call "the cute hobbit." I've finally started to think of him as his character on Lost: cute drug addict? Still typecast as "cute."
Gary Oldman: In Batman Returns, the reverse of the Hugh Laurie trajectory. He's much hotter here playing the heroic nice guy than I ever found him playing intense bad boys. Go figure.
David Straitharn: Who finally got a little respect last year as the smokin' (literally) Edward R. Murrow.
Tony Todd: Okay, I haven't seen him in anything lately, but darn it, I should!

Feel free to add your selections. I promise not to mock you too much if you like those pretty boys.

Friday, November 16, 2007

By the way, I too am "completely unauthorized"

Tv tie-in books and episode guides are among my guilty pleasures. Although, as always, I think some of them totally miss the point, this bunch of essays on Veronica Mars is actually better than most of the tv-show essay collections that I pick up. Maybe that's because the book is actually edited by Rob Thomas, the show's creator, primary writer, and executive producer, who also writes an introduction to each essay, talking about the behind-the-scenes, origins of ideas and themes, etc.

But I've never seen a book with such mutally exclusive book jacket marketing. The book cover says the title, Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigations Into Veronica Mars. The phrase "Completely Unauthorized" is emblazoned over the top of the cover. And at the bottom, "Edited by Rob Thomas, Creator of Veronica Mars."

On the back cover, Thomas is quoted, "This is a must-read for Veronica Mars fans." And lest there be any doubt about his credentials, it also tells us "Rob Thomas is the creator and executive producer of the critically-acclaimed drama Veronica Mars."

But when you open the book, the copyright page says prominently, in all caps, "The publication has not been prepared, approved, or licensed by any entity that created or produced the well-known television series Veronica Mars."

WTF? Obviously this is some sort of legal ass-covering vis a vis the network, which must be "the entity" in question (and yes, The Entity was the name of a horror movie, and sounds like it). As opposed to the person who prepared and approved the publication, and actually created and produced the series.

So in the end it's all understandable. Just a bit more, uh, aggressively contradictory in its approach than one usually sees. Hmm, maybe "aggressively contradictory" will be my new Facebook status...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Speaks for itself

In 1868, French physician Adam Raciborski "recommended a total ban on novel-reading before the age of 20, with entry to public libraries being forbidden. Like many writers of the late nineteenth century, he regarded fiction as giving a deceptive image of the world, and encouraging immorality." (Helen King, Disease of Virgins: Green Sickness, Chlorosis, and the Problems of Puberty, p. 41)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Saint Me

When I found a pink flamingo charm on the floor of a public restroom, I did not pocket it, even though it is my totem animal. I picked it up and set it by the sink, in case its owner came looking for it.

I expect some good karma to come my way, lost-item-wise.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I wasn't myself in my dream

So where did that person come from?

Between broth and brothel

Alas, "broth" comes from the Old English "breowan," to brew. "Brothel" comes from the Old English "breothan," to decay. Here I thought I was going to crack the etymological connection between soup and prostitution once and for all...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Lifestyles of the rich and DAMNED

One rant, as promised.

The trouble with rich people is that they're like Godzillas. They just stomp over other people's lives in order to walk wherever they want to walk. The first offender, Donald Trump: this time it's personal.

My favorite area of Chicago is at the drawbridges by the Chicago Sun-Times. There's always someone playing music under the watchtower (this time, a clarinet), the boat rides are just below, and you can lean over the railing and take in some fabulous, ornate architecture.
Underneath the Wrigley building, there's a nice little courtyard full of greenery that spread over into a park with a view of the river, a little McDonald's and cozy convenience store behind them, perfect for stopping off in mid-excursion. This whole spot is like my Platonic ideal of city life.

So Donald Trump wants to plunk another monument to himself in downtown Chicago. Fine. The Loop is a mighty big place, right? Nope. Trump has to stick his architecturally boring (but egocentrically massive) highrise, with his name in gigantic letters, right smack-dab in my favorite corner of Chicago.

Most of the park has been wiped away, and I was pathetically grateful that the Wrigley courtyard is still the same. The shop is still there, but obviously struggling through the construction, the cartoon map of Wrigleyville gone from the wall. All the people who were always hanging out in the park on their lunches, breaks, sightseeing...there's nowhere left for them anywhere to sit with a view of the river. Grrrr.

Fortunately, standing at the stone railing by boat launch, the new building is sort of behind my shoulder, so I can do my best to ignore it.

But Trump isn't the most egregious offender against, well, me. My honey and I always stop at the Trader Vic's in the Palmer House Hilton for pina coladas and authentic vintage Polynesian atmosphere. Every trip, the place has always been doing good business at the random times we've stopped there. This year we trooped down from a picture-taking expedition at the Carbide and Carbon Building, not an inconsiderable walk, only to discover that the Trader Vic's is gone from that spot forever, in what would have been its 50th year of operation.

The decor and memorabilia were bought out by another restaurant group, who are serving "authentic" Trader Vic's Mai Tais at the Harry Carey's steakhouses, and are supposedly planning to re-open in Chicago. Crossing my fingers -- but that doesn't mean there's any forgiveness in the offing.

Oddly, we don't have the Hiltons to hate for this, except indirectly. They sold the building to a group called Thor Equities. Or Inquities, as the case may be, since they are obviously a disgrace to their Nordic namesake. They're the ones who booted it out to open all-new bars and restaurants.

Turns out, it's the same corporation behind the current round of carnage, a.k.a. development, at Coney Island, which is trying to drive out all the people who survived the first round started decades ago by...Donald Trump's father. (See good article about the Coney Island situation in the Chicago Sun-Times at,TRA-News-Detours07.article)

As far as I'm concerned, it's all Six Degrees of Evil!

What I ate and drank on my autumnal vacation

Pizza, garlic and fresh tomato: super-deep dish by North Dakota standards, "medium crust" by Chicago's.

Exquisite crab wantons (okay, wontons) and pat Thai at the randomly selected Thai Classic. They had an item on the menu called "Squid Disco," which is totally a name for a poem, but I didn't have the nerve.

Hummos for an appetizer and fish-n-chips for the main course at the Exchequer, an English-esque pub, with food selections from all over the place. Delicious. And the coffee....mmmmmmm.

Speaking of coffee, a "jack-o-lantern latte" at an artsy hipster cafe called Uncommon Grounds. I'd forgotten about those enormous bowls of coffee, this one with pumpkin spice and an enormous amount of whipped cream. Practically a meal in itself.

A cheeseburger at the Billy Goat Tavern which is, as guessed by Trish (who knows that what I'm reading is always a dead giveaway to something), is my new second-favorite bar in the world. On one my first trips to Chicago, we were walking near the river there and saw a placard on the sidewalk for the Billy Goat. My sister-in-law mentioned that it was the place known as the inspiration for the Saturday Night Live sketch, and that it was supposed to be a dark, divey bar in the basement. It was a hot day and we'd been walking, and I thought a drink in a basement dive bar sounded like heaven.

Because we had places to go, and I was sight-seeing with non-drinkers, we never got around to it then. But this place is totally up my alley, or one floor down my alley, as the case may be. It's basically under the street (and you still go down the stairs!), so it's always like nighttime inside.

My instantaneous sense of feeling at home made me realize what I like best in a bar: a place that's just been left the fuck alone. Maybe there's something to heredity after all. My great-uncle owned a nothing-fancy bar with much that character (get a drink, a burger, and maybe some free b.s.) in a small North Dakota town. We had a cheeseburger the night we went there with the Ghost Tour, and then back a few afternoons later to take pictures, buy the book, and have a quick gin and tonic, which was perfectly crisp and refreshing. If I lived in Chicago, this would totally be my home bar.

One of the million yellow clippings on their wall, from the Chicago Times, August 18, 1944, with a picture of a bunch of women on barstools, headlined "Women Without Men." Grammar is (sic), by the way: "In moderation, tavern drinking can be innocent means of relaxation; where carried to excess, girl can become 'female barfly.' "

Ha ha ha!

And I love the fact that, hey! There was a war on! They didn't have time to waste with "an" and "the."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It’s Just Your 19th Literary Conundrum

When I first heard about Dumbledore being gay, I thought, well, you know, that explains some things. So much like it usually happens in real life. But I didn't think it was anything that was going to bear on my life.

Then I started trying to smooth out the tangles in that novel I've been working on, and had a realization about why so much writing is so "on the nose." It's because the author is in a can't-win situation when it comes to character revelation and development. Well, some people can win, in my opinion, but I bet everybody has their detractors. If you tell too much, then it's bad writing. If you don't tell enough, then it's not there.

What I mean is: my favorite Dumbledore articles here are the ones that talk about authorial intentionality. A clear example is at "Rowling would not appear to have any authority to declare the print version of Dumbledore gay, straight or bi. Her views on such matters are naturally of interest to fans of her books, but the work must stand on its own."

Now, I studied literary criticism. I know all about the intentional fallacy, and how you have to use the text as evidence. (Which prevents people from just making up other stories, like Jane Eyre was really a man. Hey, maybe she was!) Read up on New Criticism, at, if you want more info on how college utterly warped my mind. No, I'm kidding. Some of these ideas are actually useful. But everything can be taken too far. And because of my background, I know that they can.

Talk about inhibiting!

As the author, I can make up anything about the character I want, and it'll be "real." But the intentional fallacy hardcores seem to imply that it's only if I do it explicitly. Which would lead to the kind of writing snubbed by the kind of people who know terms like "intentional fallacy."

In a Harlequin romance, they'll come right out and tell you what they mean. "He made her feel so vulnerable. It was important to her to be in control, and she was afraid of letting go. If she fell in love, she'd risk getting hurt."

I'm making that up, but I'm pretty sure I read that plot in several romances when I was in junior high. When I flip through more "mainstream" fiction, I see loads of this: spelling out the character. Obviously, I'm hoity-toitier than that. I want to write well. To do that, I'm supposed to infer. Let the story get those ideas across without just saying "Plunk! Here's the character."

In a bad novel, the author would have no compunction about saying, "Albus was gay, but he could barely acknowledge it even to himself. Not after the disaster that had been his first love..."

So, yes, when it comes down to it, it's all ME, ME, ME! How do I do this in my writing? How do I get across those things that are important to me to get across, without saying them? When I know that some readers will say that if I don't say them, they don't exist? (Whoa, that's pretzelly, even for me. Hey, I'm on one cup of coffee here).

I guess I escape all my conundrums in the traditional Anarchivist way: aw, screw what other people think!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

My own vineyard is mine to give

I'd been vaguely aware of these "Biblezines," I guess they call them; they look like teenybopper girls' magazines, but one of them includes the text of the New Testament. The one I picked up cheap is called Revolve, and contains all my favorite books of the Bible: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Yes, it's the suffering of Job...with beauty tips! And the despair of Ecclesiastes (or as I know it, Qoheleth. Sounds Klingon, doesn't it?) with quizzes on your instant messaging style!

How I wish I were clever enough to be making this stuff up.

Normally it's Job and Ecclesiastes that interest me, and depending on my attention span, I might get more into that. This time around, though, it was the atypically sexy Song of Solomon that caught my eye. I'd forgotten about the kind of "really like your peaches/wanna shake your tree" stuff (see Song of Solomon 7:7-8).

Then there's the whole repeated thing in 3:1-4 and 5:6-8, where the girl goes out alone in the city at night to track down her missing lover. In both, she runs afoul of the "watchmen." In the first example, she finds her man and brings him back to her place. In the second, she can't find him until the next book, but in the meantime, she wants him to know she is "weak with love."

Since I've been thinking about whether I was, in fact, warped by my childhood reading, it occurs to me that I read this book in its entirety when I was in elementary school. And since I've always been a fairly forward gal (I am batting my eyes, looking coy and innocent, even as we speak!), it's another of those chicken/eggs. At least I've got Biblical support for my bad behavior.

The translation I'm using puts in a heading in both scenes that "The Woman Dreams," maybe to get out of the implications. But the text clearly states that she was sleeping and woke up to find her man gone. So for once I don't think I'm the one making things up.

It's the same translation they use in the "zine," a New Century Version I'm otherwise unfamiliar with. Revolve includes their footnote at the first mention of the heroine wearing a veil, that "This was the way a prostitute usually dressed." But they pass quietly by the fact that her wearing a veil gets mentioned several times more in the book.

So is the beloved a hooker? I mean, that's fine with me. I don't know if it would be so fine with them. But they brought it up!

This translation, accurate or not, does put a good spin on the protective verses (labeled here "The Woman's Brothers Speak") about how "We have a little sister, and her breasts are not yet grown." (8:8) The Woman responds that "my breasts are like towers," which implies that she can take care of herself, and she's not as young as they think she is. (8:10) Then she mentions how Solomon had a great vineyard that he rented out. "But my own vineyard is mine to give." (8:12)

Amen, sister!

For a million dollars, I'll write the whole screenplay


A dim library corridor, shadowy shelves visible.

As the camera travels slowly down the corridor, there is a faint, unsettling squeaking sound. Otherwise, there is absolute quiet.

A pair of feet, wearing flip-flops, and the wheels of a grey book cart. The squeaking continues until the cart stops, and camera stays on the wheels as the feet step away.

A second of silence, broken by the loud whirr of a pencil sharpener.


An attractive female LIBRARY ASSOCIATE, apparently alone, is startled by the sound. She is holding a few books in her left hand, and drops the one that was in her right hand.

An old hardcover copy of Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library.


Bright sunshine flows over the library's check-out desk. The phone is ringing. The same young LIBRARY ASSOCIATE picks up the phone.

Circulation Desk. How may I help you?


A CREEPY-LOOKING GUY, dark circles under his eyes, sits at a reading room table with newspapers spread out in front of him. He looks up with a glare.

At a small public library…


A CREEPY-LOOKING WOMAN is using the photocopier, a bunch of file folders stacked up on the table next to her. She mutters darkly to herself, as if making an incantantion.

A dark secret has been misshelved….

A library card is being cut in half with a very sharp scissors. A "Reference Desk" label is visible on the side of the scissors.

And terror….


In the dim stacks, a LIBRARIAN'S back, as she stretches to reach a book on the top shelf, obviously out of her reach. The shadow of another figure falls across her back.

Is long overdue…


The LIBRARY ASSOCIATE, backed against the wall of books.

You killed her!

She holds up her hands in front of her, in a defensive position. They are covered with blood.

She was out of date.

The LIBRARY ASSOCIATE screams as the screen goes black.


Coming Soon.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Torturing the neighbors with my snooze alarm

Hey, I somehow erased the screen again. I wish I knew how to do that on purpose. I was going off about how the guilt is sometimes the only thing that dredges me out of bed in the morning, when the clock radio blares startling snippets of bad music into the quiet morning. Especially when my honey should be getting to sleep in late, and I'm the one with the problematic early schedule. But at least he married me voluntarily, and the poor neighbors are probably cursing me.

I don't even know what station it's on. Whatever we'd actually picked degenerated into static, and boy, was that unpleasant to wake up to. This morning there was something intrumental, then a commercial, and then it cut into a song right at the lyric "She's out of my league." I jumped up and hit the "off" button. (Of course, when I went to get my glasses, little Chloe jumped on my chest and tried to pin me back down. I thought cats were supposed to wake you up, not force you back to bed).

The coffee was starting before I even realized what the song was. "She's Like the Wind." Eek!

Of course, I'm listening to REO Speedwagon right now, so I'm not in any position to judge. (But pre Hi Infidelity, of course). I was thinking about a few of those other songs I heard a million times in my childhood and never hear anymore. I was particularly taken with the lyrics, "A woman can't be high class in a lonely farmers' town."

Damn right. That's why I grew up, escaped, and came all the way to....North Dakota. Because I'm so sophisticated. But at least it's the Manhattan of North Dakota.

Oh, I do crack myself up, and it is sad.

We're Having Much More Fun

First a study says that swearing boosts morale and team spirit. I mean, fuckin' DUH!

And now a study says that "women with egalitarian attitudes do find mates and men do find them attractive. In fact, results reveal they are having a good time, maybe a better time than the non-feminists."

I better stay offline before my luck runs out.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"I need something to scoop the guts out!"

...I called into the kitchen last night, then realized how it would sound out of context. Maybe because I was holding a "big, sharp kitchen knife" and wearing a shirt of Michael Myers wielding the same.

Yes, it was carving time at the Anarchivist household. Jacks were lanterned. Styrofoam tombstones were removed from plastic wrap. A light rain spattered at the windows, and when I took the bag of innards out to the garbage, I tracked in a bunch of wet yellow leaves when I came back in. And the whole porch ended up smelling like warm pumpkin.

Then we went in and watched Hellraiser. Perfect night.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

But if they made bioluminescent lipstick...

The world is full of crazy critters!


Like so many people who read Jaws as a kid, I have a big soft spot for marine biology. I'm particularly fond of the cephalopods. The story, however, reminds me of the other day when they ran the dramatic story about how our lipsticks might be dangerous. Hundreds of common lipsticks have been tested and contain lead! My reaction was, uh, is there a list? Where can I go to see the results of the study? Might be important if I have a killer in my handbag.

In this case, I was thinking, this is a nice little blurb about this expedition I haven't heard of. But if you want more content, not only doesn't the media give it to you, it doesn't give you much to go on to find it yourself. Fortunately, I'm an excellent searcher.

The real website of the organization (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at is also a little publicity-heavy for my taste, but I guess that's what works. But I was able to go into the expedition page and find out more info about that cute little jellyfish:

"This lovely red medusa, Atolla gigantea, about 15 cm in diameter, was collected in midwater by the ROV and photographed in the bigger kreisel. When a species like this is caught with a net, the soft gelatinous tissue is shredded by the net fabric or squashed by other captured animals and the tentacles are torn off. This beautiful red color is common among mesopelagic “jellies” because it isn’t visible in the perpetually dark water, yet it masks any bioluminescence emitted by prey inside the pigmented predator’s gut. Image courtesy of 2007: Exploring the Inner Space of the Celebes Sea."

Now that's a caption! I've actually always thought that the bioluminescence, while very, very cool-looking (the disco balls of the sea?), might have negative consequences. The revenge of the eaten?

(For those of you who can't read my mind, at the aquarium in Chicago they have some totally clear, see-through jellyfish, and they'll each have a shrimp glowing in the middle of them. Freaky looking).

Anyway...usually in these cases, it's obvious that it would have taken almost no work on their part to give us a little extra "for more info" link. I can't be the last person in the world who'll read something and want to know more about it. Even in America.

In a related question: when people (for convenience, let's include individuals, organizations, the news media, anybody really) have communication problems...and there are so many of people not really want to communicate, or don't they know how? How do we tell the difference?

Uh oh, I'm veering into the sociology of everyday life again. Better to think about jellyfish! Hmm, maybe that's my "power animal."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One of the Beautiful People

I read the first Gossip Girl book last night. It took about an hour, but it wasn't terrible, and certainly all the people howling about its immorality can't have read it, or didn't read it carefully. (As carefully as I did in an hour, ha!)

As you may or may not know, this is a very popular teen book series, now a tv show, all about the spoiled, privileged children of the super-rich. They're depicted as basically the richest, most beautiful, most stylish people on the planet. Two lipsticks were namechecked in the first book: Urban Decay's Gash and Chanel's Vamp. I have owned and worn both of these lipsticks. They're probably still floating around in various handbags, which is where I always find my lipsticks. I don't even know where my Pallor is (also Urban Decay), and that's probably the one I wear the most.

Anyway, the book came out in 2002, and I associate Gash and Vamp with, oh, '95-'97, so I was all like, hey, I'm the it girl! Waaay ahead of the Manhattan trendies! (More likely that the author had it in manuscript awhile. Gee, I don't know what that's like).

Some of you who know me are chuckling at the idea of me wearing makeup at all. It has happened, on occasion. I think the Revlon Red Tomato is still my favorite. I used to buy it at the drugstore in the hood, and at least one friend told me it was their Grandma's shade. But alas, it's probably full of lead.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thrill me with your straight razor

Hmmm. That sounds like an homage to Dressed to Kill. Inadvertent!

We've gotten caught up to the invisible man episodes of Heroes, and when I saw Christopher Eccleston's name in the credits, I actually squealed. I hadn't realized how much I've missed having him on Doctor Who. Then when he turned up all scruffy and morally ambiguous...ah, qualities I like in a man!

Also on Heroes: you know, I'm not positive I've ever seen a straight razor in my life. I have no idea where you'd even buy one. But nobody in the land of television ever shaves any other way. Usually with a chick holding the razor. I don't know if this is a fantasy for guys, but trust me, nobody wants to put a straight razor into my hand and say "Here, make sure it's really trimmed near the jugular." Jesus! Razor technology has come a long way, people.

Also in the weekendness, watched a movie called Neon Maniacs that was promising, but it turned out to be no Future-Kill. I guess that's too much to expect. I did, however, love Night of the Creeps. I especially loved Tom Atkins (likeable in the original The Fog, serviceable in Halloween III) as a jaded, sarcastic police detective. I want to get to the point in my career where I can answer the phone by saying, "Thrill me."

Look at that! A professional goal! Hey, it can't be all 80s B-movies and nattering about Old English here.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Zealand Gruesome

I don't know what's going on there in these scenic islands, but the New Zealand cinema certainly has a way with the gore. Black Sheep is a very odd movie, with strong comedic elements and an obviously comedic premise (zombie sheep attack humans, and their victims become weresheep). But that doesn't stop them from pouring on buckets of offal. Funny that I saw this just after I finally ordered Peter Jackson's finest moment, Dead-Alive, which also mixes off-beat humor with tons o' splatter. (In fact, when I saw it, I thought: the splatter film to end all splatter films! But of course, just like wars, there's always someone with a new twist).

Seriously, there are a few moments that are not for the weak of stomach. Some of them involve just ... meat cooking, which isn't something I like to think about if I want to actually eat it. (I'm not a vegetarian; just grossed out about being a carnivore. Self-conscious but not actually evolved. Story of the human race?) Otherwise, I definitely recommend it. The reaction shots of ordinary sheep just get funnier as the movie progresses. Sort of like in Frogs, although that makes way less sense.

Less sense than zombie sheep? Oh yeah!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trainspotting goes all cyber on us

Now that I'm a stranger to the town where I grew up (well, to be fair, I was always was), I attempt to keep in touch with it in little ways. I have the local paper in my Google Reader; I've been doing a little research on the kidnapping case and other historical news events; and last night I plunked the town's name into YouTube.

I don't know why this seems so wacky to me, but it does:
Yes, people film the trains that go by in small towns. They ID the types of the cars, and then post the videos to the Internet. The main poster I found here seems to travel around the country, filming trains. I'm not sure how you'd get into such a thing. But I'm always glad to find other people's peculiar interests, even if I can't fathom where these interests would come from.

Unless you were looking for grafitti trains, which would make perfect sense...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Where else would it come from but beyond?

From Beyond (1986)

A super-young-looking Jeffrey Combs (1986) plays a physicist more normal than Dr. Herbert West, but possibly more hysterical. He's assisting in research to stimulate the pineal gland, largely because for his genius mentor, "The five senses weren't enough...He wanted more." Things go awry and havoc is wreaked, what with the carnivorous otherworldly jellyfish and assorted creatures which people can suddenly see under the influence of the Resonator they've invented. Even worse, the creatures can see the people.

This time, Re-Animator's sweet Barbara Crampton gets to play the ambitious scientist, but she still winds up naked and screaming, and eventually strapped to a table. Some things never change. Then, under the Resonator's influence, she dresses up in leather S&M gear, and starts getting freaky with Combs, who's been rendered hairless and alien-looking, remarkably like Mr. Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Hippies talking about the third eye will never be the same again.

My new teen literacy slogan: "Read. It pisses people off."

I haven't watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in years, and while I knew it was an intended satire on the belief in Santa Claus, I hadn't really appreciated what a total religious analogy it is. You have Linus being mocked and harassed for his (admittedly groundless) beliefs. At the same time, it's implicit that the people mocking him uncritically believe on Santa Claus, mainly because it's the irrational thing that everybody else believes in. Hmmm...

So it came up in conversation yesterday that, deep down, I still don't understand the idea of appropriate reading levels for kids any more than I did when I was a kid. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm raising cats. A valid point was made about the frustration level some kids feel when reading something that's beyond them on a technical level, that turns some kids off...But that seems more like a function of the standardized education lumping all the individual levels together.

I mean, the kid's in a class, being made to read something that s/he can't understand. Or if they understand the words, they can't really "get it." I can see how that could be a problem, but that's already a symptom of an unhealthy attitude to the whole thing. (Frankly, I think the whole educational system is unhealthy, but that's a whole book, so, sorry to skim over the surface of an abyss of controversy).

What I mean is a kid who's at the "correct" level in school, who's got the basic concepts, and wants to go to the library and get more ten more books. To read for themselves. The idea that they'd be prevented, because the books might be too advanced for them, is crazy to me.
I didn't get such a ludicrous vocabulary by learning ten words a week in English class. I flung myself into things that were too advanced, because I wanted to. Nobody was there to make any kind of big deal out of it if I found something really too advanced; I just deemed it "boring" and read something else. In the beginning, I pestered my big sisters for the meanings of words I didn't know (big sisters are a definite advantage in precocious learning, so I got lucky there). Then I graduated to looking them up. And eventually I learned to mainly pick up the meanings by context. (Still the best method).

But enough about me. Ha ha, just kidding! This is all just my background in the mechanics, if you will, of reading. Because as we were chatting, an intelligent person of my acquaintance put in the viewpoint that kids shouldn't read beyond their emotional or mental level. That if they don't have the experience to understand something, and are exposed to some ideas before they're ready, it could have some adverse effect.

I actually thought for a minute, maybe I'm wrong. (OMG, mark your calendars). It was almost an existential moment. Maybe my whole existence is based on something that was actually damaging to me, and I just don't recognize it, because of the damage that was done.

Or is this a concept that's been peddled to make even intelligent, liberal, well-educated parents think that knowledge and reading and thinking for themselves can hurt their children? I was reassured to think that as a kid, that's the view I would have taken, when I was all about how much I wanted to read and know. And it was clear that this made even some of the teachers nervous.

Maybe I'd have been better socialized if my reading had been curtailed. On the other hand, I always managed to find and read what I wanted to, as if it were porn or something. Like, "the Man can't tell me what to read!" Which again, is maybe why I'm still such a voracious reader today. My reading in general, and many of my selections in particular, either freaked people out, or pissed them off.

So kids! Nothing makes your teachers madder than being smart! Nothing upsets your parents like thinking for yourself! (I know, there are cool teachers and cool parents. I know plenty of them personally. But there's a lot of the alternative out there too).

Tabby Luchadore

I had to turn the heat on last night, which is always like admitting defeat. That's what all that keeping the thermostat turned down will do to a kid in her formative years. Like I'm not just saving money and energy, I'm proving my moral superiority over the elements by holding out as long as possible.

So his morning, Charlie was staring at the vent like it was possessed by an evil spirit. It could be that last winter is like a dream in his little head.

He and Chloe slept pretty much all day on Sunday, waking up only to yawn. The consequence? A Monday of tearing through the house, jumping on the high shelves they've never bothered before, knocking and dragging boxes around, a whiskers-breadth from a literal bouncing off the walls. And the wrestling! Along with the squealing!

Fortunately, they were friends again by bedime. Now this morning, after vent investigation, I've got a Charlie on my lap, purring like he's never been anything but mellow. That's my bipolar baby!

PS, review of Equinox up at www., for those with time on their hands...

"What’s that in your ear, Randell?"

I was browsing the local paper online when I came upon a column by a gal I know. And she's nice and well-meaning, so I hate to pick on her, but since I am from the older generation, I feel obligated to comment. She was describing a relaxing walk in the park with a friend, and how they kept passing joggers with iPods. "We agreed that we didn't quite "get" the need for noise that is a hallmark for the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings."

I keep hearing stuff like this about the iPod, and about the plugged-in, multi-tasky world of today's teen, and how they read or study while listening to their headphones. Does this mean they're more technologically in-tune? Or is it having a negative effect on their brain? Does this mean that they're solipsistic and isolated, or trying to distract themselves with constant noise?


Haven't these people ever heard of a Walkman? "Kids today" didn't invent listening to music while they do other things, for pete's sake, and they certainly didn't invent the headphone. Twenty years ago, I used to walk down by the river in this same town, and I never did it without my Walkman. My favorite park-walking music was X's Under the Big Black Sun and Siouxise and the Banshees' Kiss in the Dreamhouse, just to date myself.

Come to think of it, in elementary school I had an earpiece that fit the transistor radio and my Panasonic tape player...just like the one Riff Randell, Rock 'n' Roller, goes everywhere listening to in 1979's Rock 'n' Roll High School.

Nobody's going to convince me that there's such a drastic difference between people my age and kids today unless they stop using examples that just don't add up.

Besides, the whole Generation Gap is soooooooo 60s.

The Honesty's Just Too Much

I stayed home from work yesterday with this cold (and I still have the sneeze, which is something like an enormous balloon inflating and deflating again, but compressed to a second). So on the one hand: nothing much to talk about from the outpost of relative isolation. For someone who's always been pretty sociable, I could get used to life as a hermit.

The funny thing about not going to work is that I dreamed about work. My unconcious says: you're not getting away that easily! The last thing I remember is looking for a stash of specially designed paper products that we use, and as I was retrieving them from a shelf, the song "Sometimes When We Touch" came on the radio, and my coworkers and I joined in mockery.

But Dan Hill gets the last laugh. I woke up with the song still in my head.

Earlier in the dream, a childhood friend, someone I haven't talked to in -- twenty years? -- asked me to help her track down a video. Of course, this is something that could actually happen...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

At least there's cool jazz in Hell

It must have been the hot, humid, sweltery weather yesterday that put me in the mood to watch Jigoku. I bought this movie at least two years ago and have never gotten around to watching it; a bad record, even by my lax standards. The edition I have, by the way, is not the swanky Criterion, but a one-disc Asian import. Most of the DVD menu was in Japanese, but the selections were organized in the obvious way, so no problemo. It is, however, the original 1960 version, and not the '99 remake that proved other countries are willy-nilly redoing their classics, and pissing off the fans. (Screams of "sacrilege!" and "crap!" on the Interweb).

Worth the wait? Oh, yeah. I think I put it off because I knew it was a little more on the serious side; not for when I'm in the mood for Something Weird. But it was one of the stranger horror films I've ever seen, actually. The first half follows an earnest student, just engaged to his professor's beautiful daughter, who seems to have everyhing going for him. Then he accepts a ride home from a sinister buddy, and a drunk walks in front of the car. Suddenly it's a hit-and-run, and before you can say "I know what you did at your engagement party," his life goes to, well, hell, and the deaths start piling up at an improbable level.

They all end up at a nursing home in a country village, where hero Shiro's mother lies sick, and his father is already shacking up with a new babe. Almost exactly at the hour mark, every single surviving character in the movie gets killed off, some individually by other characters, some by poisoned sake, and the rest by tainted fish.

And THEN...the whole cast moves to a Buddhist Hell, which looks as nasty as the Christian one, and the hapless Shiro becomes a hero after death by ignoring his own plight, asking forgiveness from the other characters, and striving to rescue the soul of the unborn baby he didn't even know about when he was alive. The imagery is artistically done, even frequently beautiful, and the torment-effects are quite disturbing. With minimal special effects! This was 1960, after all. But CGI couldn't possibly improve the scenes of the screaming heads on the flayed, skeletal bodies.

Probably not for everybody, but art-film fans need some grotesquerie, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If I wasn't so hopeless in the kitchen, I'd consider it an omen

Weird dreams last night. I was traveling to a small town, I think one that I've dreamed about before, but I don't think it actually exists. My impression is that it's a composite town. There's kind of a little river running through it and a small park, near the edge of town, but closer to a "downtown" that's always a little bit too bustling with activity. That's one of the tip-offs that it's a dream.

So I was in that general area and a little girl was standing in the doorway of a shop, wearing a black cat Halloween costume. She seemed to recognize me, and beckoned me across the street. I went across to her store, and it was an enormous (but Wonka-less) chocolate shop. Another of those ways I knew it was a dream: it was about ten at night, and the store was full of people.

Anyway, I went around tasting and sampling things, each one more melt-in-the-mouthy than the last, and I thought to myself, this is what I should do with my life. I should learn to make chocolates, or work in a candy shop. Because everybody likes candy. People would come in, eat sweet, yummy things, and they'd always be happy to see you.

If I see a "help wanted" sign in the window of the fancy pastry shop on my way to work today, I won't be held accountable for the consequences.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Grindhouse VHS

Seriously, I could write a book about Mardi Gras Massacre. I'm only sixteen minutes into the tape and had to stop to record my impressions. That's quality! Or something. So, a guy walks into a bar and asks the hookers which woman there is the most evil. They immediately send him over to Shirley, who continually strokes the plunging neckline on her blouse in a manner that I think is supposed to be sexy, but looks like a nervous tic. She tells him, "Listen, honey, I could probably take first prize in any evil contest."

That could totally drive Miss America off the air!

This movie, directed by the genius behind the oiled-interdimensional-swamp-witch epic Crypt of Dark Secrets, has a release date of 1978, but its packaging is such classic early 80s/birth of home video kitsch that it's worth the price alone. The movie is just gravy.

There's an ad, framed in cartoon theatre marquee lights, for blank videotapes ("The VCX difference!"), that could be right out of Videodrome, and the cheesiest early computer graphics trying to make flying video boxes look exciting. It also has a trailer for a film version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler...with Mardi Gras Massacre!

Low budget filmmaking makes for strange bedfellows...

Update at 42 minutes: the murder scenes are a little Blood Feast for my taste (which I guessed might happen when I read the phrase "Aztec priest" on the box), but the soundtrack is pretty great. Breathing, moaning, rattling electronica interspersed with porno music and some disco that's downright parodic.

And some of the dialogue hits the spot. When the so-called Aztec priest is tying up his second prostitute in the sacrificial chamber, she gets some fabulous lines, like "I don't know what kind of scene you've got cooked up here with all your dewdads on the wall," and my favorite so far, "This reminds me of back in Baltimore." Ha ha ha!

For the record, I can't possibly recommend this movie, except for those specialized tastes that just won't be dissuaded. I can't resist mentioning a few other quick points of interest, however: the cop/hooker falling-in-love-montage, after which the cop's partner (the deadpan victim/faux beefcake in Crypt of Dark Secrets) tells him that a former vice detective and a hooker would be a marriage made in heaven -- and he's serious! He thinks the girl is getting the worse part of the deal, since he knows what a dick his partner is. That was unexpected, especially since the most popular one-word description of this movie on the IMDB is "misogynistic," and it made me chuckle.

Then the Aztec priest picks up a prostitute he seems to like, and hesistates to sacrifice her. He tries to throw her out, but, offended, she insists he get his money's worth, so he sort of grudgingly puts on his hood and ties her up. Before that, though, he gets Chinese food delivered for her when she mentions it's her favorite. This may be the best scene in the movie, because when he calls in his order, he does it with the same intensity he has when talking about evil: "Aaaaaaannnnnddddd........a fortune cookie."

I promise this will be out of my system by tomorrow. Or maybe I'll be entrenched in a Talk Like a Pirate Day kind of thing: Talk Like a Low Budget Dracula. "Greeeetings, my friends..." That could really annoy people at my work place. Which would be really fun up until the point where I got fired.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

But there are only 19 nervous breakdowns

The other day we had two movies come in the mail, both in that genre of "what the heck, they're on Netflix, we won't really lose anything": Club Dread, and The Number 23. The former was way better than Scary Movie as a horror comedy, although I don't mean to damn with faint, etc . Bill Paxton is a hoot as Coconut Pete, the washed-up, burnt-out rock star bitter at Jimmy Buffett for stealing his schtick. (We checked out the soundtrack on Amazon, and everyone who's ever even looked it up seems angry that it contains none of Coconut Pete's ridiculous ditties).

The premise is that he now owns a tropical resort based on his own songs, where a mad killer is picking off the various attractive and/or eccentric employees. The murders seem to be based, Ten Little Indians style, on an old song Coconut Pete doesn't even remember, a nonsensical "Octopus's Garden" kind of tune, off a 70s album called Sea Shanties and Wet Panties. "Our lives depend on interpreting the stupidest fucking song I've ever heard!" the most sensible babe complains.

I immediately started contemplating a movie based on that classic piece of acid-related whimsy, "A Giant Crab Comes Forth." I've got the LP handy. And I've seen way more implausible set-ups for horror movies that were supposed to be taken completely straight.

So yesterday, just for the heck of it, I went to see how many people are out on MySpace claiming to be Coconut Pete. The number? 23. Spooooky. Although we still haven't watched the movie yet, so I don't know what it's going to end up signifying, other than sound and fury.

Fortunately my life doesn't actually depend on any of my interpretations. It's all still subjective. Whew! But if someday I sound a little tense, well, it could happen.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dubious Kitten Face

Somebody in my house kept me up all night, pouncing on my feet for no good reason. It's not as if I have strange new feet that she has never seen before. They didn't just materialize under the covers like some form of unusual cat toy.

Then that same someone would rush up to about chest-level and heap herself in one giant flop into my chin, purring like a maniac. Like nothing in the world could be more fun than chasing stationary feet. Then she rolled around a little to maximize the skritching I felt compelled to provide about her head and chin. And then just stopped, looked up, and stared at me with this expression of complete skepticism, like she'd just decided I was the most unfathomable thing I've ever seen.

I know I'm an incredible anthropomorphizer, but that's a look of judgment if I've ever seen one. I could almost see the wheels of thought whirring behind her half-closed eyes. Absolute dubiosity, and then, what the heck, pet me!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Red Eye Twerp

My sister and I visited the historical society in our old hometown yesterday, and of course I picked up a few books. One was an enormous "the old days" book from the town where we lived when I was a preschooler, the kind half-filled with family histories and what all the granchildren are up to, but still interesting, since I remember a lot of the names and even some of the people.
Flipping through it, they kept referring to "Red Eye Twp," which I know is short for "Township," but my red eye insisted on seeing it as "Twerp." I guess that's what I was when I used to live there.

Of course, this type of book leaves out a lot of information. For example, there's a family history section on one of my dad's old coworkers, whose kids I played with a lot when I was little. It blah-blahs about his work, his church activities, and so on, never once mentioning his single most identifying feature, which is that he's the guy who was missing an arm. A supposedly historical record that doesn't mention that he lost his arm in an accident (much less how) seems somewhat...insufficient. And since he went on to lead a successful life, it's not like it's anything to be ashamed of.

Once, I was at their house, playing with the kids, and he was in the driveway working on the car. He walked around from the car and Yowza! I suddenly noticed that his arm was gone. Of course it had been gone for years, so he didn't appear troubled in any way. I think it's because, well, I was little and not too aware of things, and also it was summer, so he was probably wearing a short-sleeved shirt. Anyway, I thought his arm had just fallen off right then, but it wasn't bothering him, so I couldn't say anything. (Thank goodness for that: it would have been a new low in the annals in tact). After he went in the house, I kept circling around the car, thinking, did he misplace it back here?

I don't think I even knew a person could lose body parts before that. Kinda funny, considering the movies in my collection. Fortunately, I never did find any stray limbs lying around.

Hey, this could be my contribution to Memories of the Good Old Days!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

There are plenty of human curiosities outside of the tent.

Today's headline: "Drivers' blind trust in bridges is gone." Ya think? I don't know how exactly most people are going to be able to avoid them. Maybe someone should have listened to my Crazy Ralph naysaying years ago. (Crazy Ralph being, of course, the prophet of doom in the early Friday the 13th movies. "It's got a death curse!")

Anyway, I'm supposed to be leaving on a short excursion today. Barely a trip, but somewhere I'm planning to be outdoors and take pictures. So of course I've woken up to gloom and damp. It's true, I have some skill at drawing the precipitation, although it hasn't been tested scientifically, so I can't really hire myself out. But I swear, the minutes I'm going somewhere, the rain is going to fall, a blizzard is going to come out of nowhere. When I went to the Atlantic Ocean, water-going activities were limited because there'd just been an enormous, unseasonal storm, and the waves were still dangerous.

Now that I think about it, there were two years when the town I lived in had terrible droughts. At the same time, I was at my brokest, and wasn't attempting to travel. I was just stuck in town, sweltering. If only I'd taken donations for a couple of bus tickets, there'd at least have been rain the days I left and the days I came back, which would have been good for the farmers...

Come to think of it, my anecdotal evidence is at least as sound as that in, say, the Mothman Prophecies book. I could totally write up an account and print business cards advertising myself as a human curiosity. But I'd need to either have no shame, or believe my own bullshit. Neither of those options are really possible. So I guess I'll just keep amusing myself. And try to remember my umbrella.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jane Austen is laughing at you from the afterworld

You know, I've been irritated by the "USA Today-ification" of America since at least, let's see...1985. That's the earliest rant on the subject that I actually committed to paper. This morning I strayed onto the MSN homepage, and it's obviously still going strong. Probably I've learned to block it out, because a person gets older, and just can't be completely full of venom all the time. Believe me, I've tried!

This is the headline that set me off: "Why are we so obsessed with Jane Austen's love life?" My immediate response was: "I'm not." But I decided to click on it and see where they were going with this. First line of article: "Why does Jane Austen's spinsterhood bug us so much?" Response: "It doesn't." And it concludes, "we have to imagine Austen as Elizabeth Bennet and grant her a Darcy of her own—even if in the end we take him away again. We can't bear to think that her wisdom was not based on experience."


Speak for yourself. Learn from Jane's example how to use an objective third person narrator: which is why her tone is so often cool and ironic, entertaining but not revealing too much about herself. Maybe that's why she's apparently so mysterious to some modern folks, because she wasn't sticking herself in where she doesn't belong. Of course, I'm wildly guilty of that myself, also being a pushy modern American, but at least I try to be aware of it and not pass off the personal as the general. It's fair to jump in and talk about how Pride and Prejudice means so much to you. Saying that P&P is "everybody's favorite Jane Austen novel" (a sentiment I know I've heard many times) is quite another.

Okay, it's not quite the besetting sin of the 80s USA Today, which still lives on in headlines polls and studies: America is doing this! America is doing that! Like America is this one single hive-mind, and if you have a difference of opinion, then you're not really an American. To bad: we're here, we're weird, get used to it.

For the record, my favorites are Persuasion and, duh, Northanger Abbey. And my theory about Jane is that she was too aware of the risks and problems of marriage as it existed in her day. Taking into account the dangers of childbirth, the iffy legal status of women and their economic dependency, etc. If a single woman, through luck, had any kind of income as a single woman, then marriage would take control of it out of her hands, and she'd be again at the mercy of luck and whim. And Jane seemes to see the situation with a clear eye throughout her work. It's almost as if her heroines and their heroes are representing what it ought to be like, while surrounded by a whole cast of the people having more miserable, realistic lives.

Or maybe she just never met a guy worth upheaving her whole life for. It's a fluke that I did, so I can see how it could work out that way.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In the Defoeish/Richardsonian mode

So I actually got a crappy book from an online seller yesterday -- amazing how rarely that actually happens. Usually I don't even notice cigarette smoke, but this was one of those smells like the book was dipped with tongs into a vat of boiling nicotine. Nasty! Then when I tried to email the seller, there's something wrong with their contact info. I didn't pay that much, so I may just mark it down to experience. But the funny thing is getting ripped off on Daniel Defoe's History of the Pyrates. I mean, you can't really trust pirates, can you?

Then I came across a newish Penguin edition of one of Defoe's long out-of-print books, called The Storm, a nonfiction account of (supposedly) the only hurricane to ravage the UK, and of course I want that too, spending resolutions be DAMNED!

And I got to browsing through his life history. After a lot of different careers that went nowhere, he started publishing some political writing at the age of around 38. He didn't do his first book until he was 45. And he published the first of the books he's known for (Robinson Crusoe) when he was 60! Hmm, I thought, just like Samuel Richardson, my main man. He didn't start writing until he was 44, and published his first novel at 51.

I'm always hearing that, like, 40 is the new 30, that we're living longer, etc. That's what I see on the covers of the magazines. But both of these guys' lives spanned from the 1600s to the 1700s, and they still didn't even get started until they were around my age. So there's hope for us late bloomers yet...

The Music of My Life

Eee, that's the tagline of a radio station that specializes in big band music. It's weird to see your life become Oldies. Don't worry, kids; it'll happen to you too. Ready or not.

Anyway, I see that bad pop music is one of the subjects that people get passionate about. And believe me, that's a good thing! I have a suspicion, or maybe it's a dork-born hope, that a lot of people who are into music started out the same way I did...sitting around listening to the radio nonstop, loving almost everything irrationally and, once in awhile, hating something vehemently. I like to think my taste has grown more sophisticated over time. Rock snob? Guilty! (But better that than a reverse rock snob. Bring it on, Chuck Klosterman!) But I'm still a sucker for the time-machine lure of the songs that started me down the garden path.

Then the same day I was pondering such subjects, this Rob Sheffield book (Love is a Mix Tape) came in for me at the library, and it's pretty good. When he describes himself as a Dr. Johnny Fever in a Les Nessman body, I laughed out lout. I warn you, though, there's sadness, so I don't recommend reading it in a public place if you're prone to the teary-eyed-ness.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Oldies But Baddies

That's what we used to call the radio stations playing so-called "Oldies But Goodies" when I was a kid. Of course, much of the contemporary music consisted of Newies But Baddies, and some of them we weren't even under any illusions about at the time. Along our travels, my honey and I have picked up a few of those Rhino "Have a Nice Day" compilations, which usually include a half-dozen songs by bands I have NEVER heard of, yet whose songs I still remember with painful vividness. (Toby Beau? Rockets? Jigsaw? Who were these people?)

For some reason I was torturing myself yesterday with Volume 15. I was looking up the song "Eighteen with a Bullet," which we had thought was a pretty cool tune circa 1975-1976, probably for that bitchin' rhyme, "Got my finger on the trigger/I'm gonna pull it." In retrospect, I have to say that's pretty tough talk for a guy with a falsetto and a fifties doo-wop chorus behind him.

I also listened to "Convoy," which, despite having a linear narrative and an accumulation of detail, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It sounds great on this compilation, however, just by virtue of not being a mushy squash of sentiment, the besetting sin of Top 40 radio in my early adolescence. Heck, the Bay City Rollers sound fairly aggressive in this it's no wonder I was so desperate for the Sex Pistols to invent themselves.

For the record, the highlight of Vol. 15 may be the epitome, the very quintessence, of the Icky 70s (as another friend and I used to call the genre). It was another song that looked completely unfamiliar: "Rocky," by Austin Roberts? Never heard of it. But it's the song with the chorus "Rocky I've never been in love before/Don't know if I can do it/Yadda yadda yadda/Take my hand, I might get through it," so I rolled my eyes and went, oh yeah, THAT song. The tune sounds very like the Mystery Science Theater theme, which is amusing in and of itself, and begins...

"Alone until my eighteenth year, we met four springs ago (Sha la la)
She was shy and had a fear, of things she did not know (Sha la la)
She worked at Gizmonic Institute, just another face in red jump suit..."

Okay, I'll stop that! But come one, the rhymes in those first few lines are just terrible.
Anyway, it's the third line that earns it a place in the Hall of Fame:

"But we got it on together in such a super way."

I can't even type that without giggling. We got it on together in such a super way. I don't know if it's possible for someone to express themselves in a more bland and banal way. What's even worse is that this is another of those schmaltzy songs in which she's going to die and leave the utterly uninteresting narrator a grieving single father...all of which is also, sadly, rendered completely without actual emotion.

Oddly, the chorus concludes with "God knows, if the world should end, your love is safe with me."

How did the world ending get into this? Dullest apocalypse ever!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Isn't it Romantic?

The other night we were out at our favorite dive bar and talked briefly to an acquaintance-of-an-acquaintance who seemed to feel really bad that he couldn't remember my name, even though there's really no reason why he should. I don't know why, but I noticed that he was wearing a t-shirt that read "Kiss Me, I'm Shit-Faced."

Then yesterday, we went on the little riverboat cruise on the muddy greenish-grey river we call the Red. It's nice to get out in an area where you can almost blot out the presence of so-called civilization behind a screen of trees. Except of course for the distracting presence of all the people on the boat with you....

Anyway, we passed by the side of a familiar underpass, where I've found lots of very nice spray-paint art over the last few years, now sadly painted over. But there was something new...big, plain black letters, clearly visible from the middle of the water: "Kiss Me, I'm Shit-Faced."

"You don't suppose it's the same guy?" I asked my honey. No, that would probably be even more of a coincidence. And then, the other day I was reading an article with some BS about memes, and thought to myself, here's a classic example of a meme spreading suddenly. The screaming meme-ies!

The tour meandered slowly on its way. I got all relaxed and dreamy-like, ignoring the spiels about conservation. Too soon we had to go back to solid ground, and run to the convenience store to pick up a few supplies before we could get to phase two of our day: the sci-fi club picnic. Cutting through the parking lot, we passed one of those pay-phone shells, an open frame around the standing phone. And on the inside wall, in black magic marker: "Kiss Me."

No sign of "I'm Shit-Faced," but I'm willing to bet if I really scavenger hunted, I'd find that half of the phrase written somewhere in the ten-block radius.