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.