About Me

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Go out with you? Why not... Do I like to dance? Of course! Take a walk along the beach tonight? I'd love to. But don't try to touch me. Don't try to touch me. Because that will never happen again. "Past, Present and Future"-The Shangri-Las

Friday, December 30, 2005


There is this thing in Japan called "moi." It's not French for "me" moi, although that raises interesting connotations; instead it's a subset of anime aesthetics that involves "children you would like to nurture."

So why do I mention it? because it got me thinking about how nerd culture creates fantasy worlds that can be used as substitutes for real life, and how that relates to porn. Moi is not porn in the usual sense-it's not trying to entice sexual fantasies about the imaginary children that the cartoonists are cranking out, thank God. It's enticing paternal or maternal feelings. So it's not offensive the way child porn is offensive, but something about it still makes me go ick.

I think it's the fact that it makes such a base and simple appeal to the emotions, the same way that porn does to the sexual drive, or that sleazy power-fantasy action movies do to the thanatos, that leads me to lump moi in with exploitation. A base appeal is a base appeal, no matter how potentially sophisticated the emotion to which the appeal is made may be. Sexuallity and nurturing are both potentially rich or cheap, depending, and the nurturing drive often kicks in earlier than the sex drive. Three-year-olds will coddle a baby or a baby doll, and good for them, but adults should save the serious coddling for real babies, and leave the dolls for the kids, whether the dolls are three-dimensional or merely lines on paper. Kids can justifiably use cartoon characters as imaginary testing grounds for their own emotional development. Adults can justifiably regard cartoon characters as sources of entertainment and symbolic, totemic significance (heaven knows I do.) But adults who spend much time coddling dolls are probably in need of emotional counseling, at the very least. I suspect the same of adults who indulge in moi. Kids who indulge in moi are another story, of course.

Apologies for any inchoate prose; it's been a night of fun, frolic and refreshing beverages.

Edit 03/07/07: Moe like the stooge, not Moi like French. In retrospect Moe probably appalled me as much as it did because I had a Moe sensibility in college. A female friend set me straight. I was well aware that holding boys to a bogus young masculine ideal ("mommy's little athelete/soldier") was awfully limiting to boys, but needed to understand that holding girls to a bogus young feminine ideal ("daddy's little princess") was just as bad.

P.S. The show is going full tilt and New Year's Eve is your last chance to see it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Oh, Christmas was grand! I got to spend some quality time with my family, and that's really gift enough. As usual the gifts I gave met with a wide range of responses, from excitement ranging through polite gratitude all the way to the occasional protest. (No more Steve Reich albums for my parents.)

And our play opened so, so strong. It was one of the best nights I've ever had in a theatre, either as an actor or as an audience member. And then we went out for some cool refreshing beverages. And I sat next to a smart, beautiful jazz-piano-playin' woman who had seen and enjoyed the show. I fell in love but couldn't think what to say to her. My life in a nutshell; pretty good, but with more room for improvement than will be filled in this lifetime.

I'm currently reading Life Before Men by Margaret Atwood. It's my first Atwood, but it won't be my last. What is it about Canadian female writers? Carol Shields, Alice Munro... In fact, I think I'll go read some now. Bye!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Intelligent Design

You know what Intelligent Design is like? Back when computers had cassette tape drives instead of disk drives, my Dad put Michael Jackson's Thriller in the TI 99 4A Cassette Drive to see what the TI would make of it. Of course the answer was: nothing. As far as the TI was concerned there was no readable data on the tape. Not because there was nothing on the tape: the tape contained some of Quincy Jones's most commercially succesful music (and that Jackson guy.) Not because the computer was useless: it was great for spreadsheets, Zork, etc. The computrer could do nothing with the music because the computer could only function within a specific set of parameters, and no amount of naivete or wishful thinking could make it dance to Quincy's beat.

Science is that TI 99 4A, and God is that cassette of Thriller. Sorry, not God; the Intelligent Designer. Those Heritage Foundation drones have adopted denying Him three times before the cock crows as a key legal strategy.

And another thing that leaps to my mind when I think of ID: the first edition AD&D Deities and Demigods sourcebook. AD&D rules statistically quantified the strength, intelligence, heath etc. of all the characters and monsters in the game, and so the Deities and Demigods sourcebook, devoted to mythological figures whom one might wish to incorporate into the game, tried to quantify mythological figures in a comically procrustian fashion.

Science is all about the measurable, the quantifiable, the testable. I was raised to believe God can't be measured or quantified, and that He Himself declared "Do not put The Lord Your God to the test." Trying to shoehorn God into science per se is like the D&D sourcebook declaring that Zeus has 400 hit points. It's a heretical reductionism, a confusion of catagories, that may be well intentioned but belittles God and coarsens science.

But wait, they say. "Teach the controversy." What controversy? The philosophical controversy about whether or not God made the universe is perfectly legit for a philosophy class; the subject of the controversy is fine for a social studies class. But there's no real scientific controversy here. Just because the IDs have duped one or two tenured activist professors into siding with them doesn't mean that the scientific community is really split over ID, any more than the existence of a few tenured history teachin' holocaust deniers means that there's any legit controversy over the reality of the Holocaust. "Teach the controversy." Harumph. Any controversy that was whipped up in a right-wing think tank isn't a controversy; it's a distraction.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Yeah, yeah...

Sorry it's been almost a week since my last post, but I've been really busy with the play... Once the holidays are over I'll probably get back in the bloggin' scheme of things.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Frosty Philharmonic

Apparently Ubuweb is down, right after I linked to it. I guess so many people followed the link from here that there was a system overload.

Anyway, the other day the Birmingham Symphony did its annual Holiday Concert at my workplace. I didn't go this time... It always makes my stomach hurt to see classically trained musicians sawing away at Frosty the $%&@# Snowman. They worked so hard in hopes of doing Charles Ives, but now they're doing Burl Ives. It's like they got culinary degrees but have to work at Shoney's.

Speaking of music that hurts my stomach...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bible Tales

Today on NPR they interviewed Bart Ehrman, the author of Misquoting Jesus, a book which I recently started. Between the reading and the hearing my head is spinning... the amount of key Gospel material that appears to have been added or changed comes as a surprise to me. The "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" story? An apocryphal late addition (though as Ehrman points out, it is a brilliant story. We're better off with it, late addition or no.) The passage in John Chapter One that's pretty much 99% of the scriptural support for Trinitarian theology? Probably shoehorned in by folks who had dreamed up Trinitarianism with no solid Scriptual support (And who'd burn your house down if you disagreed, as explained in "When Jesus Became God" by Richard E. Rubenstein.) Several passages about Jesus taking pity on lepers are actually about Jesus getting angry and curing them by striking them? Erm.

Ehrman also points out that the Gospels were each written as unique stand-alone texts, and we do them an injustice when we try to mash them all together as if they were fully compatable. This makes me want to reread the Gospels with an emphasis on the individual character of each narrative. Still, as one who believes in printing the facts and the legend both, I'm more in awe than ever before of the way the distinct tellings of the Gospel story are often melded together. Every Good Friday service I've been to weaves everything Christ's reported to have said during the crucifixion together into one story that has an astonishing arc to it... I have to honor that reweaving of the narrative strands as an artistic triumph, even if it has blunted our awareness of each Gospel's identity. I'm not troubled by apparent contradictions between the Gospels, since I imagine four biographies of JFK will have contradictions as well. Ehrman also asks if it's worth trusting that the original texts are divinely inspired when we don't have the original texts... one could argue that if God inspired the writing then God could just as easily inspire the rewriting.

Of course I also read an essay about Shakespeare's texts recently (in an introduction to my Twelfth Night script) that explained how the different existing folios of Shakespeare's texts are rife with inaccuracies and contradictions. It demonstrates how familiar Shakespeare passages are really best-guess editorial concoctions; when they had three different versions of the same passage they crafted an "official" version that didn't exactly match any of the folios. Of course as wonderful as Shakespeare is, no one claims it's the inerrant Word, so a little fudging isn't exactly a sin...

BTW in this radio interview Harold Bloom calls the works of Shakespeare, the works of Chaucer, and The King James Bible the three great works of English prose (or something like that) but flatly states that the New Testament in Greek is no match for the Talmud as far as its writing quality goes. I can't read Greek or Hebrew so I can't comment.

Enough profound and troubling stuff! Here's a few delightful websites:


Wonderful wacky musical downloads.


Online dictionaries speak the hits! My faves are Tomorrow Never Knows, And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going (from the Broadway musical Dreamgirls) and Anarchy in the UK.

Best of all: http://www.ubu.com/

Jam-packed with artsy films and audio i've wanted for years, all for free (and apparentlky legal) download.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Time, She's A'Wastin'!

No time for a proper post, except to say that The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues is coming together quite well; yesterday instead of rehearsing as such we brainstormed production ideas. As an actor I'm not used to having that kind of input, but it does remind me of my days with the improv troupes, when we'd create shows from the ground up. It's shaping up to be the kind of simple and concise production I like best. I was astonished to have people in church Sunday express both knowledge of and excitement over the show... I have a feeling that it's going to be a memorable way to end the year. Cast member Tom W. describes it as "not a Christmas play. It's a Christmas hangover play." It's strange how making something so gloomy can be so joyful, and not in a lip-smacking adolescent wallowing-in-voluptuous-misery way. Production can be such a joy!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I am sick of people with cars that cost more than, say, a hungry child's yearly needs, taking up all the parking spots at my apartment building. Today there are Jaguars and such taking up all the (clearly designated as for residents only) spots, and I am so, so tempted to go deface them (I've never defaced anybody's vehicle, FWIW) but I won't because our preacher told us today in the dismissal to give people good before we give them bad. Maybe I'll tie a rose to someone's antenna and THEN scratch their cherry-red paint job.

Or maybe I'm just frustrated because today was a reminder of something I don't care to acknowledge about myself; when it comes to Relationships I'm at the developmental level of a ten year old. Several marvelous women around my age spoke to me in church today, and I felt like I was going to spontaneously combust. I made a point of learning their names and now can't remember their names. One of the key reasons I returned to church was to meet people, but meeting people is excruciating. Actually I met people at the coffee shop yesterday too, but that was low stress because there was less at stake. One woman was my Mom's age, one was a high-schooler. No Relationship potential there. Fling maybe; not relationship.

Here's a tip for young, attractive married women, BTW. Don't talk to us lonely straight guys. Just go away. No, I take it back; you can talk to us if you're holding your husband's hand or blinging your wedding band right up front. Every time a friendly woman strikes up a conversation with me and waits ten minutes before letting it drop that she's married, I can't help entertaining the notion of spinning on my heel and walking away without a word. I would never do such a rude and futile thing, but the idea of it as a gag amuses me far more than it should.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Reindeer Games

I haven't posted as often as I'd like because I've been trying to learn a monologue for this show I've been cast in, The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues. The show's being done as a post-Christmas bonus to the Birmingham Festival Theatre schedule, and although I had declared a moratorium on acting until 2006 they tempted me into this one. The gimmick is simple: Vixen claims Santa's raped her, and so each reindeer has a say. If that sounds funny to you, come see it! If that sounds to you like the kind of cheap pop revisionism that hasn't been fresh since R. Crumb got tired of it... you and me both, kiddo. But as it turns out, the script is sharp, funny stuff, a real actors' showcase. It doesn't settle for coasting on the gimmick. And with this cast it's going to be the kind of show I'd love if I weren't in it. I'm sorry that it's apparently going to be a limited run, since it has cult potential. Doing it after Christmas is a neccessary evil since the impetus to do it started so late. It'll shine briefly, but I expect it to shine bright.

I'm playing Comet, a Santa apologist who appears to have been prepped with talking points and speech coaching courtesy of the Heritage Foundation. All those anti-drug assemblies in high school will finally pay off, and I'm so excited about putting that secularized evangelical speaking style to work.

BTW I got a voice work tip from NPR's Fresh Air last week that's really working for me; Terri Gross spoke to a voice trainer who said that you should never think about your diaphragm at all. Don't breathe from your diaphragm, but think of taking sips of air. What she calls "by the ways." Like when you've just made a statement, and then you think of something else to say, and you sip a little air so you can say "By the way?-" That's how you breathe. That may or may not make sense or seem worth worrying about, but I've been so self-concious about breathing from my diaphragm that it's given me a really labored and unnatural speaking pattern... Back in the day I needed to be made aware of the diaphragm because I was breathing from my ribcage, which is no good for a would-be actor, but I didn't understand that once I started breathing from the diaphragm I needed to get out of my resperatory system's way. This sips of air stuff seems to be helping me get the air I need to speak while keeping my from taking forced and unnatural-seeming bellows-breaths. And yet I'm too lazy to look up the name of the woman who passed on this tip and give her credit. That's gratitude for you.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I'm an Expert on being an Amateur.

I've got a followup to that post a few weeks back about why I can enjoy amateurism in performance and visual arts but not in writing... I think it's because there's more room for easy, natural human expression in performance and visual arts. Singing and acting are extentions of normal behavior and communication anyway, and the most unskilled drawings can have their charm, but prose is less suited to "from the hip" expression for anyone who isn't particularly skilled with writing. One of my English professors in college had a slogan: "writing=thinking." That's probably intended more as a statement of an ideal principle than a matter of fact; I have a friend who's as intelligent, thoughtful, lucid and subtle on a bad day as I am on a good day, but his hastily typed non-proofread emails usually seem to be the product of a sweet but subnormal child; his thinking is clear in a way that his writing isn't. When he actually makes the effort to write well his writing does match his thinking; it's a neverending Flowers for Algernon loop with this guy (who is one of my dearest friends and I hope he doesn't read this or he'll whip me.)

Really, I love "artless" singing almost as much as I like artful singing; same goes with acting. You can get a really strong sense of the performer's personality shining through when they aren't skilled enough to craft the expected illusion. Bad prose is usually all the embarrassment with little of the charm.

And for anyone who's keeping track, one of the guests on that NPR show about fanfiction is now a published novelist. I dug up her website, skimmed the sample prose, and though it looked very much not like anything I want to read. Judge for yourself at her website.

Of course I write this knowing full well that I've hardly got a leg to stand on when it comes to carping about less-than-sublime writing. All I can say in my defense is that I regard my blog as an extention of any other means I might use to foist my opinions on the world, rather than as a writing forum; or as Samuel Johnson put it: "You may abuse a tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your trade to make tables." And so I hope no one will mistake this blog for an assertion that it is my trade to write any finer than the next fool!

BTW Blogger's spellchecker doesn't include the word "Blog."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Homosexual Lifestyle

I'm supposed to keep this under my hat, so of course I'm posting it on my blog: I've been cast in a show. I vowed not to do any more shows until after New Year's, but this seems like a pretty low-impact short term thing. It's a monologue show (8 monologues, 8 performers) that's being shoehorned into a theatre's regular schedule; the details are still up in the air. All I know is I've read the script, and since none of the monologues have been assigned I've chosen the one I wanted to do and been doing some basic prep work on it. Ever the optimist.

There's a young man who lives upstairs from me, and there's something he does that is a textbook example of the homosexual lifestyle; what it leads to, what it amonuts to. He may not be aware that I can hear what goes on up there. Not conversations, but anything loud, I can hear. Far be it from me to judge anyone's lifestyle, but I never heard this from any previous tenants. Every night.

Every night.

He vacuums the whole apartment. I don't know why he does. He's not trying to impress girls. It's not like he works in the coal mines and is tracking in filth.

I don't own or want a vacuum. I have hardwoods and tile (and so does he, unless he's added a throw rug or something.) A broom and a mop work just fine, added to which there's hardly any visible floor space anyway for all the comics, books, etc. lying about.

(This post has been slightly edited in an effort to set up the joke a little more effectively. Of course now I have misgivings that it may seem to be genuinely homophobic, so I may edit again in order to clarify that it's daily vacuuming which I'm holding up as 1. typically homosexual and 2. offensive. Any suggestions are welcome. Let's make my lame blog jokes a team effort!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Quick jottings

I liked this comic about the original Aeon Flux.

Another thing about that Girl group box: it consists mostly of forgotten songs that were never hits, most of which are better than four/fifths of the songs on the radio. It's a useful reminder of a truth we learned in high school: there's no direct relation between merit and popularity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

One Kiss Can Lead To Another

In an unadvisable burst of reckless spending I have purchased the CD boxed set One Kiss Can Lead To Another, a collection of obscure and forgotten girl-group songs. It's pretty pricey but it works out to about a dollar a song, with a cool book and package to boot. I listened to the whole freaking thing today, and it was a blast. Never before have so many badass biker boyfriends gotten killed in motor vehicle accidents. Never before have so many boys treated girls' hearts like some kind of toy. Never before have so many instructions on how to do dances no one ever did been delivered (at least not since the Lambada.) Every third song unveils a singer who should be a star now, but isn't. Every fifth song has a gimmick so hokey that I'll listen to it again and again.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanksgiving and some links.

Thanksgiving was great! Seeing my family is always a pleasure (This was not always true when I lived with them, but 200 miles can really boost a relationship.) I ate a lot but didn't gorge myself, which is about the right balance for a happy holiday diet. Also we went to the Frist, a splendid Nashville art museum, and the results are in: I like the Impressionists better than the Hudson River School, although the HRS has its virtues. On the other hand it's indirectly responsible for Thomas Kinkaide. Ecch.

Instead of actual content I'm going to take the easy way out and post some links to amusing sites. Most of the following are not recommended for workplace viewing. None are porn sites or anything, but they are obvious wastes of time:

Seanbaby.com is a snarky humor site that derides cruddy pop culture artifacts of my generation's misspent youth. I haven't really looked at in in a while (I'm just scrolling down my bookmarks for this stuff, frankly) and I don't promise that it would make me hyperventilate with laughter the way it did back in 200- when I bookmarked it, but hey.

If you're not down with Perry Bible Fellowship then get smart! Admittedly this week's entry is a weak one, but most of them are at least cool looking.

Mattotti is an artist, illustrator and cartoonist who has often befuddled but never disappointed me. He's done work for the New Yorker, and some extraordinary comics.

Oblique Strategies Were created by celebrated musician Brian Eno and some other guy as a way to productively shake up the musicmaking process. They're just cards with odd pithy bits of advice for breaking out of creative ruts.

Mark Martin is a delightful cartoonist. Be sure to check his "Ditties" page for odd and occasionally good music.

Cool vintage european comics Odd and lovely stuff. Some of it's pretty spicy.

Readyourselfraw is a totally phat comics page. I come here regularly for info and recommendations. They've got interesting quote-packed lists of top comics pros' fave comics.

Sacred-texts is packed with interesting material. Check the Tolkien section for some fantasy classics online, including my high-school fave The Worm of Ouroboros.

Zombie Astronaut has old radio shows and such, mostly horror and SF. It doesn't update very often since Hurricane Katrina, but it's full of interesting stuff for the radio drama fan.

Old newspaper comics are better than what I imagine sex is like. YMMV.

Pokey the Penguin is from back in the DAY.

Comicsreporter.com may be of limited interest for people who aren't hardcore comics nerds, but Tom Spurgeon's reviews and commentary are often hilarious, and he's my fave comics reviewer.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I am sad. Why am I sad? Because SCATOLOGY ORIGINAL FIGURE COLLECTION is no longer available. This, for those of you who aren't in the know, was a series of anime figurines; you know, the pricey kitch statuettes of cute anime girls that you can buy at finer nerdcaves everywhere. Except these anime girls were dropping their drawers and pooping on the ground. I don't have or want whatever fetish inspired these, but I do have a fetish for the jaw-droppingly stupid, and this fit the bill. Amazingly they were actually really nice looking statuettes, poop aside; if the artist responsible had just made them hot girls instead of hot defecating girls he (I'm guessing about the "he" part, but it seems like a safe guess) might have moved more units. Sadly the old website is down; for some reason they just didn't sell, I guess. Don't think I wasn't tempted to buy one.

some stuff prior to stuffing.

Today we had a jolly Thanksgiving lunch at work, and tomorrow I'm going to try to compress a full work day, some initial Christmas shopping, and a trip to Nashville to see the family all into one day. I'd better hit the sack. Before I go, though, a few thoughts about the arts'n'entertainment on which I've been stewing.

I'm reading Richard Ford's short story collection "A Multitude of Sins." In many ways it's a kindred spirit with the work of two other authors I love, Carol Shields and Alice Munro. Yet I can't say I enjoy his work as much. I can't quite put my finger on it; maybe his prose is a little plainer. Maybe his characters are a little further from the type I enjoy reading about. There's a different kind of character evaluation going on in his work. It's got a brusqueness to it; I left the volume at work or I'd cite examples. But I think it's worth my while to finish the book. To paraphrase a recent Norman Mailer speech, great writing isn't just there to meet your immediate entertainment needs; it's there to live with you. Ford may not brighten my day the way Munro and Shields do, but he resonates with me on the same level they do, and that's the greater accomplishment. He knows how to explain and express some of the deeper elements of life and human relations, and I really feel like I learn a little with every story. I never finish a book out of a sense of bookworm obligation, but I'll finish it out of a sense of spiritual need.

I finished J. G. Ballard's The Drowned World last night; it's a sixties novel in which an environmental disaster causes global flooding and high temperatures. When Ballard writes about peoples' slow descent into what he terms a new psychology (a sort of sun worship that ties into an embryonic biochemical drive) I'm entranced. When he describes the choreography of the action as people navigate around a sunken London, I'm bewildered. He shifts tenses in ways that throw me right out of the story, leaving me wondering if he was a little weak on tenses or if he was really sophisticated and I'm the one who's weak. I don't have these problems with his later writings, so either he got better or he just clicked into a style I could follow. The novel is also chock full of primal negro savagery, although I imagine Mr. Ballard, who's unquestionably my intellectual superior, has become more enlightened since the sixties.

I watched the last episode of Rahxephon last night; Rahxephon is one of those Giant Robot animes. You know Neon Genesis Evangelion? A crash course for those who don't (And BTW there's a billion web sites where you can read about these shows, but presumably if you're reading this blog at all it's because you're interested in my take on things more than the subjects themselves...) Neon Genesis Evangelion was a Giant Robot cartoon series that was masterminded by Hideaki Anno, an animator who didn't want to make giant robot cartoons. He wanted to do a drama about the angst of life, but toy manufacturers don't sponsor shows like that. So he used the Giant Robot (or Mecha) genre as a Trojan horse (Trojan robot?) to get on the air at all. It was a hugely popular show (around the mid-nineties) that had two effects on popular anime, the first minor, the second major. It upgraded the Jungian aspect of the mecha anime (the giant robots the cute but troubled teen pilots use are basically symbols of puberty writ large) and it downloaded the concerns and techniques of nouvelle vague filmmaking into pop anime. Granted, it did the latter in an often clumsy and clunky way, but it created a demand for more challeging anime that has influenced anime for the better. A movie sequel (End of Evangelion) tidied up the fumbled, bungled or abandoned narrative threads and thematic elements of the show, but in an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink fashion. It was like they were afraid if they left an idea out of the film they'd never get another chance, so they threw a lot of stuff into it, resulting in a semi-brilliant semi-dopey mishmash. Still, with all its faults, Eva suggested, if not exemplified, some fresh approaches for anime.

Rahxephon is the show for people who think Eva was a great mecha show that screwed up by trying to be arty. It's largely a buff and wax on Eva; sometimes it seems like the makers had no intention of copying Eva; it's just that Eva was the only show they'd ever seen and they didn't have any other model for what a show could be. Other times it seem like if Eva had talking dogs, Rahxephon has whispering kittens. If Eva had clogging, Rah has techno-squaredancing. If Eva had Free Candy Day, Rah has Complementary Ice Cream Weekend.

But Rah's not a ripoff, somehow; despite a hundred overly-familiar elements it manages to create a bit of an individual identity. Its like the Monkees of Mecha. Unlike Eva, which eventually lets its improvised plot threads get snarled, only to treat that snarl like a Gordian Knot, Rahxephon has a carefully worked-out double acrostic plot scheme that pretty much works (although I'm the worst person for spotting plot holes, so don't trust me on that.) The final episode is like a reconsideration of Eva's final episode, which was basically Last EST Session at Marienbad with some Ranma spliced in. (Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, another series from the makers of Eva, also has an improved Eva-style ending.)

But I prefer Eva. Even in its filler episodes there's the sensation that the folks behind the show are striving to give you your money's worth. Sometimes they fail you, but they never short you. Even when they fall on their faces it's because they were trying for something impressive. Rahxephon's a little too carefully worked out; in some episodes you can imagine the creators thinking "We're only scheduled to hit two plot points this episode, so we gotta do a lot of vamping this week." Really, there's a ton of padding. The best episodes can stand with the best Eva episodes, but a bad Eva episode still has some gonzo elements that make it interesting; the weaker episodes of Rahxephon are just... weak. Rahxephon is tidier than Eva, but Eva was the breakthrough.

Enough of that; you want to know about the Gormenghast Opera soundtrack, right? Well, I'm pretty ignorant about opera in general, so I really don't have much business evaluating this, but I really like it. I've been interested in musicals most of my life, and many of the songs on this album could work just fine with a more musical-comedy vocal approach. Still there's a power to operatic vocals that is unique. When I studied singing under the dear departed Andy Gainey I tried my hand at some arias. As I believe he told me, I'd never, ever get to the point where I could do these well, but I'd learn by doing. He was right. The melodies may sound pretty darn simple, but singing them with that full-bodied opera voice, with correct enuciation, is such a vocal workout... As for Gormenghast, the lyrics are in english, and are brilliant distillations of the novel's implications, without ever directly quoting Peake's prose. I intend to buy a few of librettist Duncan Fallowell's books. A sample lyric: "I swoon at the thought/of thighs swimming in port/or a quivering portion/of pallid abortion/because veal to be right/must be unborn and white/with veg round the edge/to assist the excreta/of this humble meat eater." I'll save any further notes for a later post (I also hope to comment on BBC's radio adaptation of Gormenghast soon) but I'll add that nothing's sexier than dueling coloraturas.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Raving, Lost

Remember Ravenloft? If you are or ever were a role-playing game nerd my age or older, you do. It was a Dungeons and Dragons module (A module being a prefabricated story setup on which to base a DND session) in which the premise was simple: Dracula-in-all-but-name has set up shop in a big old castle and you have to break, enter and dispatch. Most DND modules have similarly basic premises, but this module was different, and made a big splash at the time.

A few years back my old college role-playing group started a new campaign which alternated our DM's original adventures with old modules; it seemed like the perfect balance of fresh material (and our DM was very good) with nostalgic favorites. Only it turned out those old modules sucked; early role-playing was a real cottage industry, and the writers of those old modules were pretty much coasting on enthusiasm. A module should provide the basis for a really satisfying, unified experience of semi-improvised group storytelling but the early module designers basically knew nothing about storytelling, legend and lore, or medeval architecture, and it showed. All they knew was that they really dug hack fantasy. So we didn't really play these modules; we deconstructed them.

Not Ravenloft, though. It seemed to work on its own terms really well, and we played it on those terms. Perhaps Ravenloft was the first module designed by people who really knew how to make these things work as vehicles for truly satisfying role-playing sessions; if so, Ravenloft may be role-playing's D. W. Griffith moment; the moment someone fulfilled the form's implicit potential. Someone should, if someone hasn't, examine this in a scholarly way; what have been the key works in the development of role-playing games as a genuine artistic form?

It just recently occured to me that the tragedy of role-playing games is that from the beginning they were shackled to pedestrian, hack genre material. If Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson had been as wide-ranging in their scope as Viola Spolin, RPGs may be a lot further down the road than they are. Or did RPGs need that genre connection as a selling point? Who can say. Something like Gurps, which allows for any genre but requires none, might have been a better way to start the RPG phenomenon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Re: twist endings. This short film is by one of the judges of the latest Sidewalk Scramble. Talented young filmmaker J. K. cited it as the reason why he's glad this judge didn't care for J. K.'s Scramble entry. I have mixed feelings about the film-I think the visuals, while attractively photographed, are largely gratuitious; the film is essentially an audio story, and the narrator is awkward at best. But it got me thinking about twist endings. The best twist endings of O. Henry and Daphne Du Maurier weren't just surprising. They revealed something about the paradoxes of life. But it's all too easy to do twist endings which amount to little more than a shock. I think this film was striving for the kind of twist ending that comments on the ways life (and death) can pull the rug out from under us, but it was weakened by the vague nature of the twist. The climax seems like a post-it note reading "Insert lethal danger here." Ambiguity isn't the same as vagueness. The Du Maurier story "Escort" has a similarly surprising and ghoulish twist, but it is improved by the specificity of the menace and the way it directly undercuts the protaganists' expectations. I've been reading short stories by Alice Munro and Richard Ford lately, and they are particularly skillful at laying bare the ambiguity of life. They don't use twist endings exactly, but they demonstrate the paradoxical ways our goals, desires and assuptions get snarled. I think we need art that deals with the disparity between our agendas and our lives; twist endings can be useful tools toward that end, but they must reflect the paradoxes of life, not mere storyteller's cleverness, in order to do so.

On another subject, I listened to this radio show recently, and it got me thinking about the phenomenon of fanfiction in a more engaged and sympathetic way than I previously had. Heaven knows I don't want to read the stuff, but the guests talk about how fanfiction allowed women and other underrepresented voices to seize the means of production in a bootleg, DIY fashion in order to explore personal concerns within the context of established narrative formats. The host compares it to music; he cites classical composers reworking each others' motifs, and Coltrane's brilliant reworking of showtunes. I'd add punk and lowfi for its proudly unskilled appropriation of pop music, hiphop for sampling, folk for its community-centered interpretive approach... On the other hand a closer comparision can be made with filk songs, songs written by genre fans about genre subjects. Or karaoke, especially if you futz with the lyrics. (My friend "J'mza" once went karaoke-ing and did Alanis's "Thank you" with Pokemon characters- "Thank you Pikachu, Thank you Geodude...") And it's telling that the two fanfic writers on the show repeatedly refused to read any fanfiction aloud. They defended it as a cultural phenomenon but when pressed about the material as literature they hemmed and hawed around the unstated confession that even the best fanfic won't really survive scrutiny outside of a "hooray for us" circle of like-minded collage artists. This bashfulness was counterbalanced by the notion (which, to their credit, they merely cited rather than asserted) that fanficers are actually "purer" than the professionals who make the shows; after all the fans do it for love, while the pros do it for money and are therefore hacks. What a petulant way to deny one's dependence on those same pros, who, hacks or not, often deliver a better product than the fans... As a sometimes community theatre actor I certainly have a lot invested in "purely-for-love" artistic endevours, but I'm well aware that sometimes folks who do it for love aren't better equipped to do it well than the pros are. And my limited exposure to fanfic suggests that much of that fannish love is a solipsistic, selfish love. Would you rather watch the X-Files or read a story about me getting slapped around by a naked Agent Scully? I'd find it easier and more instantly gratifying to produce the latter than the former, but what good does that do anyone else?

One more thought on the subject before I go ponder that Scully scenario. While the guests refused to read any fanfiction, the show did have an actor reading an excerpt from an erotic but tasteful Star Trek slashfic that I actually found to be sweet. It dealt with body issues and tenderness in a way I found truly touching. Still, if I want to read substantial stories about human relations I can go to Carol Shields or Alice Munro and get the straight sauce... I'm also reading Dervish is Digital by Pat Cadigan; it's a delightful cyberpunk novel. As I listened to that show I thought: why is Pat Cadigan a professional cyberpunk novelist instead of a Neuromancer fanfic writer? Because she's really, really good.

On the other hand I'd rather listen to Beat Happening, with their barely-proficient playing, than pop bands with similar sensibilities but better chops. Why do I like the amateurish in music but dislike it in prose? It only just occured to me to ask that question, so I don't have any answers... Also: who am I, a blogger with a clunky prose style, to sneer at anyone else who engages in unprofessional solipsistic internet wordsmithing? Uh, well, I, uh... Lemmee go see if Mistress Scully has any answers.

P. S. Andrei Molotiu is a cartoonist-this comic of his really shook me up.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ikkoku Again, Naturally

As long as I'm taking a wink-wink nudge-nudge approach to downloading boots of commercially unavailable material, here's
a low-quality but entertaining credits clip from Maison Ikkoku featuring the song "Alone Again, Naturally." Maison Ikkoku is a charming manga and a clunky anime, a romance that I fell in love with near the end of my college career. The clip includes direct visual quotes from some of the manga's cover illustrations. I'm quite taken with this clip because 1. it has a kind of animated graphic design approach that I enjoy (this approach reached its full flowering in the anime His and Her Circumstances) and 2. it's obvious the animators either didn't know or didn't care that the song is about suicidal depression. Anyway, I'm told the clip wasn't included in domestic releases of the Maison Ikkoku anime because of high licensing rights for the song, so in keeping with my dubious "bootlegging is a gray area if the material isn't for sale" ethic... check it out.

Peake Condition

Gwangi's Radio Review has links to MP3s of the BBC Radio Dramas of Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast! If they'd sell it on CD I'd buy it, but until then these downloads will have to do. I haven't listened to them yet but that will soon change.

On top of that I found out today that there's a Gormenghast rock opera, composed by one of the guys from the great german band Can! I had a Can album in college that started with one of the most wonderfully distessing recordings ever made, Father Can't Yell. When the dorm neighbors got too loud I'd blast that item at top volume and they'd quickly concede defeat. As my then-roommate told me, they were nice guys who would have turned it down if I'd asked nicely, but asking nicely was too confrontational for a shrinking, wilting violet like me, so I used the passive-aggressive no-direct-contact approach instead.

Anyway I listened to the Amazon.com clip of a track from the album, and it was the perfect blend of opera vocals with techno instumentation. I ordered it at Laser's Edge, a fine local music shop, and soon I'll be posting a companion piece to my last look at Gormenghast, the books and the TV miniseries.

I've got a few musings on the subject of twist endings that I promised someone I'd make. But not tonight. Stay on my case, though. Don't let me punk out. I also wanna talk more about opera singing, but that too will have to wait until I'm not sleepy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What's the blather with Kansas?

So the Kansas school board has decided not only to allow Creationism-in-a-petri-dish in science classes, but to redefine science so that now your creation myth of choice is ScienceXtreme! Here's why it doesn't matter. If it weren't for Wizard of Oz, would you know there was such a thing as a Kansas? No you would not. I bet even the band Kansas named their band after the state only because of Dorothy Gale. I dunno, maybe they came from Kansas, but that's hardly a prerequisite for naming your band Kansas. Everybody in the band Asia came from Europe, so hey. Kansas gets more attention than it merits because it's mentioned in one of the all-time classic movie quotes, not because it has any significance in and of itself.

In the unlikely event that anyone from Kansas is reading this, lemmee just say that this is written in a jolly spirit; I'm from Alabama, so I know how it is to have one's state mocked. But Alabama's declined a bit in the great Hateful States competition; we used to do really horrible things out of bigotry and petulant pig-ignorance; now we just pretend Ex-Judge Roy Moore is a moral hero. It's a bit of a dropoff; we've gone from bigoted monsters to harmless figures of fun. And of course we have stickers on biology texts that point out that the contents are only theories (we could put a similar sticker on bibles, but we won't) so sure, we're really just as backwards as Kansas.

So why don't Alabamians and Kansians join together in mocking Oklasantorumhoma? Increase the peace, I say.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Sorry it's been a while since my last post, but hey, everything's been placid. I just watched Persona by Ingmar Bergman. I watched it in college and retained almost nothing from it. This time it made more of an impression: it speaks to my own sense of isolation, lack of volition, and impending death in a way that few films would want to approach. I'm trying to reconstruct the cognitive operating system I must have been using in college, but I'm glad I'm not so obtuse now. It reminds me of all the (mostly young) anime fans I've met who can't process shows like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Serial Experiments Lain, shows which try to harness popular anime to the concerns and tactics of art film, with mixed but intriguing results. I wonder how many of those young fans will revisit the shows with fresh understanding, later in their lives?

Monday, October 31, 2005

Soul Fooled

This NPR essay got me thinking about the nature of the soul.
I once believed as this woman does, that the soul is a ghost in the machine, a thinking, feeling beam of light that's temporarily trapped in a crafty prison of meat. Now I believe otherwise; the still-mysterious interaction of the electricity arcing between our uncharted synapses and modulated by myriad hormonal reactions suggests that what we call the soul proceeds directly from our biochemistry. This in no way refutes or diminishes the idea of the Soul, so why dismiss it as abruptly as, for example, that NPR commentator does? As one of my cyberaquaintances puts it, 2+2=4 unless that makes someone sad. The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on the Soul shudders at the thought that the Soul might be impossible apart from the body since that would work against the idea of a supernatural afterlife. I sniff a certain Pauline hatred (or at least mistrust) of the material, organic world here. Doesn't the New Testament speak of putting on new bodies in heaven? My belief that the Soul is a mystical expression for the biochemical arc of electricity through the brain is no refutation of the afterlife if one regards the body as hardware and the Soul as software. That may sound like the Ghost in the Machine argument, but it's different because it requires the hardware as a means for the software to function, while ghost in the machine regards the body as unneccesary. I'd like to think there's plenty of substantial literature on this subject, and I'm sorry that I haven't done the reading. But neither has that NPR commentator, and she got on NPR.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Scramblin' Screwup

The Sidewalk Scramble began Friday night... I met the teammates and followed them to the team leader's house, where we had a story session-I think I made a productive contribution, but the finished product will be essentially the work of the regular Outlaw Film members. I promised to meet them Saturday for the filming but I screwed up by not getting contact info or addresses... so I drove all over the Gardendale/Fultondale area, an area with which I am completely unfamiliar, and I couldn't find my way there. I'm sure that since everything was kind of provisionally planned and my character was a small character part they were able to shoot around it with no problem. I dunno what penance they'll demand, but I hope it doesn't extend beyond buying them a round of drinks at the screening. Still, I'm angry with myself for once again neglecting to make sure I had the practical stuff hammered out.

One observation from the plotting session: sometimes the most important person in the room is the one who says "I liked you idea about Rosebud being his sled," the person who picks up on someone's good but overlooked idea and refocuses attention on it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Become a Republican!

Admittedly this semi-animated cartoon takes a few semi-cheap shots that could just as accurately be turned against the left, but it's sharp and funny, so hey.


Brrr. I remember a few years back I deliberately lived without heat because I loved the cold-the extreme cold-so much. I felt like all the heat of summer became trapped in me, and only extreme chill could empty me of the heat. I guess my blood has thinned and I'm an Alabama person now. I find I actually still like the cold, but I need more protection from it than in days past. At least I've been getting to work earlier lately since it's easier to sleep in when it's hot and muggy, but easier to get up early when it's crisp.

The other week I was about to microwave something when I saw that a big roach had gotten into my microwave. (That's another advantage of cold weather; the bugs disappear.) Although I'm a big slob I do try to keep a hygenic kitchen, but there's not much of a buffer between the outside world and my kitchen and so the little horrors get in. I'm against inflicting pointless torment on any life form; I don't even kill most bugs, but just leave them be or scoot them outside. But I've heard all the stuff about how invurnerable roaches are to radiation, etc., so I figured just this once, in the interest of science... Now I'm dubious about those stories one hears regarding how roaches will survive a nuclear holocaust, because this thing was cooked in seconds.

The worst part? Cooked roach actually smells pretty good.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Church and all like that

Today I actually got up in time to attend church for the first time since they got the new building (it's been over two years; sheesh!) On the way over I heard an NPR interview with a linguistics professor who suspects "No Child Left Behind" ties into the rapture notion of "Left Behind." It seemed pretty outragiously paranoid to me, but my tendency to give the Bush administration credit for basic not-being-full-of-sewage has mislead me before.

Anyway church was great. Friendly people, some of whom I knew but didn't know attended UU. Excellent music (according to their website the music leader/pianist teaches at Montevallo-her Debussy was delightful!) The guest preacher read a Lord Dunsany article (speaking of writers who both influenced and surpassed Lovecraft) and spoke about the gains and losses we made when we switched from polytheism to monotheism. My kinda church.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


Today I went to the laundromat, which is usually a purgatorial experience anyway, but today it was even more harrowing than usual. As I approached the place there was a guy sitting in a chair by the door who had that kind of desperate, haggard look that usually precedes a demand for money. He didn't hassle me when I went into the building, but I had to go back to my car for my detergent, and as I came back the second time he said "You're doing some serious laundry, aren't you?" I glanced at him and he seemed like a totally different person from the guy I thought I saw at first; handsome, well dressed and groomed, with a charming smile and a twinkle in his eye. I was quite relieved. About fifteen minutes later he came into the laundromat and struck up a conversation with someone about how he had come from New Orleans, had lost everything, but had made the best of it in Birmingham. He sounded pretty balanced; this wasn't a warmup to a request for money, just a friendly chat. But then a latino family left the laundromat-a family that had simply been doing a load of laundry, not bothering anybody-and this guy burst into a foul-mouthed rant about how much he hates Mexicans and Mexico. Apparently Mexicans come up here and take all our money while failing to love America.

This is the kind of thing that makes me wonder if I'm missing something-why do so many people hate immigrants? Why does the hatred seem to be tied to (or rationalized by) an economic factor? If a shmuck like me can get a good job then I have a hard time buying the idea that Mexicans are taking all the jobs, and since there doesn't seem to be a bunch of wealthy Mexicans in Alabama I don't get the idea that Mexicans take all the money. It seems to me they take the money they can get, just like anybody else. You'd think that living in New Orleans would make a person a bit relaxed about racial and cultural differences, but racism is founded on stubborn blind spots that must not be so easy to erase.

Anyway as I left he had finished his tirade and slumped into a chair (no one had said anything once he started ranting) and he seemed like the sullen, desperate, diminished person I'd seen at first. I wonder if the handsome, charming face was the norm for him before Katrina, and if his friends would recognise the bitter little troll he'd become. Not that I blame him for being sullen and desperate; I would be too. I'm trying (to paraphrase a gospel song) to look past all his faults and see his need... I wonder if he ever ranted against Mexicans before? Maybe he sees them as undeservingly living off the fruit of the country, while he undeservingly has lost his share. Perhaps in a submerged way he thinks they take the equivalent of his fair share; an absurd way to think, but if humans were consistently lucid it would be an unrecognizably different world..

John Rah

This started as an attempt to list a few genre fiction recommendations with pithy commentary; now it's become mini-reviews and you can do as you please with them.

The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. If H.P. Lovecraft were all he's cracked up to be he might have written something like this; a peculiar novel that reels from mystical visions of our place in the cosmos to attack-of-the-monsters adventure, then to further visions of the planet's future. The conclusion suggests that the mysteries and terrors of the novel are more closely interconnected than is immediately obvious. This book was a clear influence on Lovecraft, who said it would be a perfect novel if only it didn't have those dreadful three pages about icky mushy kissing stuff. If you, unlike Lovecraft, aren't a mewling little racist gimp who's scared of anything with a vagina then you probably won't mind the brief allusions to lost love, especially since they heighten the stakes for the unnamed protagonist.

There's a comic book version by famed cartoonist Robert Corben, and it's kind of like the Emerson, Lake and Palmer versions of orchestral compositions; bombastic but interesting. It's really good Corben; his three-dimensional monsters have real, sculptural mass, as if they've been carved out of enormous slabs of meat. Writer Simon Revelstroke contributes the script, which rings I-hope-deliberate changes on the plot (changing the protagonist's frightened sister into an incestuous amazon, and giving short shrift to the more philosophical passages of the novel.

The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. Tolkien's all well and good, but Brian Aldiss's comparision of LotR with Gormenghast (In Billion-Year Spree, his critical history of SF and Fantasy literature) makes a pretty stong case for prefering the latter. Certainly lovers of dense, ornate language will find more to love in Peake's work, but the languid plotlessness that characterizes much of the tale will test the patience of readers who are impatient for someone to make a savings throw. In fact most of the first book, Titus Groan, consists of richly poetic introductions to the people and places of Gormenghast, a crumbling city-palace where a gallery of grotesques carry out ancient, useless rituals. The second novel, Gormenghast, is where most of the actual story takes place as the british class struggle filters through a sort of euro-Chinese culture (Peake's father was a diplomat to China, and little Mervyn spent much of his boyhood there.) In fact the more I learn about the British class system the better I understand, and the more I respect, this story. Book Three, Titus Alone, is sadly unfinished due to the cerebal palsy that wrecked Peake's health and had him consigned to a sanitarium. The published book is essentially a first draft, and the result is a bit like looking at unpolished marble fresh from the quarry after touring a brilliantly designed and perfectly constructed mansion of polished marble. Angsy, callow teen Titus's misadventures in the outside world seem a bit random to this reader, although there's a wonderfully wicked sequence in which a spurned lover forces him into a nasty parody of Gormenghast. An absurdly over-the-top misogyny shows up here; one wonders if Peake would have softened it in rewrites or if this was a new development. While his female characters in the other books were terribly limited creatures they nonetheless had positive qualities, however compensatory, and one could sense some degree of authorial approval for them.

The BBC miniseries is a mixed bag; it boasts a dream cast, splendid costumes and some ideal sets. The special effects are more than a bit Doctor Who-ish and the action scenes are complete writeoffs (what few action sequences there are in the books are wonderfully choreographed, begging to be realized with sophisticated staging that they just don't get from the Beeb.) And while the sets are good one never really gets a strong sense of place; in the books the many rooms and halls of Gormenghast are as important as the freaks who inhabit them, and much is made of how all the seperate locations interrelate. The miniseries needed a director who could, like Peter Jackson or Peter Greenaway, not only show us a bunch of cool sets but show us how people moved through them, and how they all intertwined. There's a making-of book that lets us really soak in the costumes and sets; it's actually a lot closer to the ideal visual representation of Gormenghast the the choppily editid show. What's more, key dramatic sequences and grace notes from the books are attempted but muffed; Titus's pseudo-baptismal ritual takes a taboo turn that is the climax of the first novel, but is so badly presented on the miniseries that it doesn't register at all. I suspect the direction's to blame; the script itself is a praiseworthy bit of work, turning a sprawling and epic 700 page slab of prose into a tight four-hour tale, not by doing violence to the plot but by restructuring the plot points and finding ways to blend elements which in the books were handled seperately. Read at least the two finished books; then watch the mini for the cast and clothes. (The opening theme song's a musical setting of a poem from the books and is an ideal opener.) The making-of documentary on the DVD has some interesting and insightful comments from the cast.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Happy birthday to Elliot David Mathews, born today to Scarlett and Brian "Brain" Mathews! Happy birthgiving day to Scarlett! Elliot's got two big sisters, so who knows if he'll grow up babied or bruised. Hopefully a little bit of both.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Moderate Update

It looks like I'm finally gonna be doing a Sidewalk Scramble! My friend and improv associate Debbie S---- told me her group needs more actors, and I've been lusting after a chance to do a Scramble for years now. Now the group just has to accept me on Debbie's say-so. I also got an Email from another friend and improv associate, Chris D----, insisting that the Feminist Debutante Guild get back together for a show or three. The Guild was just on the cusp of becoming something really special when various factors led to our taking a year-long hiatus, so I'd love to see if we can try to start anew. Granted, I've sworn off doing theatre for the rest of the year in an apparently futile effort to focus on work and exercise, but obviously I haven't gone Straight Edge if I'm diving into Scramble and improv activity. I'm pretty rusty on the improv, but it's always good for me to get back into it.

A big shout out to Jennifer W., production design guru for many local film things, who's evidently so freakishly obsessed with me that she's found my blog. Here's hoping she won't set me on fire if I've said something snarky about one of her productions.

Check this out: Time magazine's list of the hundred best english-language novels since 1923. I've only glanced at it in passing, and have no immediate objections.

A cool blog here. Kenneth Hite writes role-playing supplements and stuff; I haven't played a role-playing game in years (not since I started improv) but I buy his stuff because he's like the Alan Moore of role-playing games. Check out his Suppressed Transmission books to see what I'm talking about. Anyway please note that a footnote to his latest post is the only review of Donnie Darko you'll ever need.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This, That

Kim Riegel of www.kimriegel.com Tells me she's making additions to her website, which already has some splendid art on it.

I forgot to mention another couple performers who really delivered the goods in the Terrific New Theatre production of Dearly Departed-Penny Thomas and Donna Littlepage. Penny played the truth of her character (a less manic role than most in the show; a goodhearted housewife who tried to get along with everyone) and never hit a false note; a lovely performance. Donna Littlepage played a tart-tongued evangelical woman with vinegar and pepper. Good stuff!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Later That Day.

I hesitate to post this because it might come back to bite me, but here's a couple of wise lessons I've been taught about acting that came to mind tonight:

Talk to your scene partner. Anytime there's a dialogue onstage, don't "act" at the other performers; talk to them.

Never tell stories. If you've got a big long monologue about how your kitten died, don't play it as if your objective as the character is to explain how your kitten died; telling the story is a means to an end. Figure out what that end is and use the story as a tactic to achieve that end.

Never play an emotion. Your objective isn't to feel an emotion; it's to achieve something. The emotions will rise out of the striving.

Anyway, the show was an unevenly acted broad comedy; drink your wine and wait for the funny bits. My heroine Melissa B. stole the show with a one-scene character. A guy named Capers D. played a preacher, and he rocked out! I've seen him before in a best-left-unmentioned show elsewhere, and he lit up the stage there. There's some inexplicable gonzo element to what I've seen of his work that takes it beyond mere craft, though he has craft as well. There were other performances I enjoyed: Thom S. channeled Divine at her most overwrought in a drag role, and Shanda B. got to wear a big fat suit. Fat suits fill me with joy. They're never not funny. Sadly she didn't get to do much; she did a flawless, splendid monologue in another TNT show that really made me want to see more from her.

The place was packed, it being closing night. Why wasn't BFT packed for closing night of First Lady Suite? It was a good show! I hate to see people work so hard on a good production and get nothing for it.

A day.

Tonight I'm going to see Dearly Departed, a play at Terrific New Theatre. I have several aquaintances in the cast, and director Carl S. hasn't let me down yet. I had a date but she bailed; I've gotten an emergency backup date (we're talking just-friends date now) and all's well (edit: she bailed too).

As it happens I neglected to mention the last show I saw in town:, First Lady Suite. I'll try to post my thoughts when it isn't sunny out...

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Finally DC has a counterpart to the Marvel comics Essentials line-classic (aka old) comics in cheap black-and-white newsprint editions, with lots of comics for the money! I picked up the Metamorpho book yesterday, and a big wet kiss goes out to whomever decided to start the line with underhyped but groovy comics like this! Metamorpho is the usual dopey superhero, but the stories have a verve and energy that make them pop. It's from right around the time that the basic superhero paradigm was no longer a novelty and they had to find fresh ways to play with it without abandoning the basic parameters of the genre; Ramona Fradon, Joe Orlando and Sal Trapini really knew how to illustrate this kind of stuff. It's funny, cheerful, gleefully absurd.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

May I see your ID please?

Here's the core of my problem with Intelligent Design/Creationism (And let's face it, the former is simply a key element-the Argument From Design-of the latter gussied up in a lab coat.) It assumes that complexity, usefulness, whatever characteristics one could attribute to the universe or any of its aspects, are of necessity the products of a guiding Intelligence. While I sympathize with the conclusion this argument seeks to justify-a trancendent, loving God-I don't think this is a very hardy argument for it. I suspect we overvalue intelligence, will, and sentience for the same reason a dog overvalues teeth, jaws and slobber-it's what we've got to work with, so we see the world through that reality tunnel. Let's boil down all the wonderful things we might use as proof of design to "complexity" (you can insert your adjective of choice, such as beauty, usefulness, whatever.) Early on there was Complexity, and our ancestors observed it, studied it, and using their intelligence, will and so on, emulated it. Then somewhere along the way we assumed that intelligence was a key ingredient in the generation of complexity, since after all we use our intelligence to create our works of complexity. But all we can really say for certain is that intelligence is a key ingredient in how we create our works of complexity, not how any and all works of complexity come to be.

I know this isn't a new response to Intelligent Design, but since intelligent design isn't a fresh response to Evolutionary theory it's only appropo. Old wine, old wineskins.


Oops! I just noticed that I had this here thing set up so that you had to have a Blogger account and be signed in to leave comments. No more! Now I've adjusted the settings so that all the riffraff can come in and spray graffitti on the walls. Noblesse oblige and all that.

Monday, October 10, 2005



Link courtesy of Ray Tan.
After snarking on the Vatican I should mention that they've apparently worked out a deal whereby gay men who can stay chaste for a couple years can be priests (in the rough draft I accidentally wrote this as "can bone priests," but I swear it was a typo.) I'm sure the all-or-nothing crowd on both sides of the issue are cranky, but I'd call it a perfectly reasonable compromise. Nice work, Holy See!

I remembered a few more funny comics I forgot to mention:

Cromartie High School. This is a manga that non-manga fans might enjoy, about a low-grade high school full of thugs and wannabe thugs. It understands the comic value of sincere dullwittedness. One of my favorite gags involves a tough, smart gang leader who gets motion sick easily, but always has to travel. The comic never goes the obvious route of vomiting humor; instead it milks laughs out of the guy's ludicrous attempts to keep his cool and not let on how sick he is: micromanaging peoples' conversations so they won't talk about things that might upset him, etc. The art is pretty clip-arty, but it works in much the same way those manipulated "found-object" figures on shows like Sealab do. Volume 1 is a scream; Volume two has major sophmore slump, but still has a few laugh-out-loud bits. I'm told Volume 3 ups the ante considerably, but I haven't gotten that far yet..

I'll get to the others when I'm bored. Other planned when-I'm-bored projects include comparing and contrasting Mervyn Peake's Titus novels to one another and to the BBC miniseries Gormenghast, an account of my days in the improv troupe Torrential Downplay, and the tale of the local production of Angels in America II (to go with my largely-ignored account of AiA1.).

Hole in your old brown overcoat

I heard a couple of interesting items on the radio (NPR natch) today:

Apparently there is a disease called asperger's syndrome in which you are pretty smart but a daydreaming socially inept dingdong who can't get it together. I don't know how they test you for this, but I don't need the test; I got it. The question is, can I get some kind of aid for it? By aid I mean cash.

Also there was a story about how the government in Connecticut has decided to require insurance companies to provide coverage for infertility treatments for patients up to 40 years of age. This is pretty unusual; a lobbyist for Conn. health plans says it'll be as expensive as any mandate the legislature has ever passed, and the forty-year cutoff was intended to reign in the total cost a bit. So naturally they're hearing howls of entitled rage from women over forty who haven't gotten wind of this newfangled "adoption" thing they've got now. Pardon my insensitivity, but the last I checked there wasn't a human being shortage; I certainly don't think any prospective parents should be prevented from providing love and care to a child, but why not give that love to a child that currently exists? And before anyone accuses me of sexist callousness let me point out that I take a dim view of erectile disfunction pills being covered by anything other than out-of-pocket money, no pun intended. Why should your and my insurance rates go up because people refuse to adopt, use their tongues, or do without? I have to pay for anything I do that involves the reproductive system; is it a hate crime that Blue Cross doesn't pay for my dates? Giving birth is to women over forty what nailing a prom queen is to men over forty; if you can, good on ya, but you're left to you're own devices.

Next time on But Don't Try To Touch Me: kids these days with their jitterbug and bathtub gin, why back in my day we gathered around the piano-forte and sang hymns together.

In other words feel free to set me straight on this issue.

BTW it occured to me today that the word "responsibility" seems to combine the words "response" and "ability" so responsibility consists, perhaps, of an ability to respond. This thought may prove useful when trying to determine who can be held responsible for what.

Edit: I just realized I have an older married female friend who's having infertility treatments, but I believe she's 39 so she scoots in under the bar and hopefully won't beat me if and when she reads this. As I say I'm open to reconsideration; the above rant was of the off-the-cuff, seat-of-pants, ill-thought-out variety.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Hide and Creep

I've now seen the first twenty minutes or so of a locally produced zombie movie called Hide and Creep, the kind of thing I wouldn't watch if I didn't have friends in it. It's pretty garden-variety drivein filler so far, but there's one specific scene I feel driven to complain about. One character, played by the writer/co-director, is presented as a guy who isn't taken in by dumbed-down pop culture, a guy who can seperate the wheat from the chaff. But in one scene (that has no apparent effect on the plot so far; unless there's a payoff later in the film it seems to be a mere vanity bit for the writer/performer) he tries to order a coke in a restaraunt, only to go into a tirade when he's told they only have Pepsi. The thrust of his would-be Bill Hickish rant is that he isn't fooled by Pepsi's marketing department; Coke is the real thing, and Communist China doesn't let you choose what you want to drink either. And because it's a vanity scene for the writer/performer the server just has to stand there and take it, instead of riposting that for a guy who's awfully proud to not be a dupe for Pepsi's marketing department, he sure is presenting his hindquarters to the Coke marketing department Taking sides in the sugar-water wars is a naive person's idea of how to appear sophisticated; it's like when I was in high school and I disdained people who couldn't recognise the musical sophistication of Yes.

So why do I care about such tepid would-be cleverness in a home-grown film? I dunno why it gets under my skin, but I suspect it has something to do with my wish for folks who are 1. in local films, 2. really talented and 3. my friends to get work that is equal to their talents. Also I hate hearing blowhards bellow their opinions, especially if they're taking it out on someone. This despite the fact that I am one of those blowhards. It's a bit like smelling farts; other peoples' are disgusting, but one's own are fascinating. At least I saved this smelly little rant for the blog instead of Taj India's lunch buffet. Petulant jeremiads on minor topics don't bother me in print; it's that self-satisfied tone of voice that we all get when in rant mode that bugs me. Of course it's always one's own bad habits that most annoy one when they manifest in other people...

Why I Love Autumn

Every summer I forget how good it feels to lie in bed with the sensation that it's cold out, but warm under the covers. I know no more peaceful feeling.

On the other hand I've become a true Alabama person over the years, meaning I now like heat and fear extreme cold. I'll be okay for a few months but when winter hits I'll be glum about it. It wasn't that long ago I would leave the heat off and revel in freezing temperatures; it felt like all the dreadful heat of summer was being washed out of my body. Now it just feels cold. But during Autumn everything's perfectly balanced; cool but not cold, and balanced between the color of summer and the starkness of winter.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Edit 5/10/2013: I recently posted comments on a few comics-related websites, and shortly thereafter someone looked at this post.  Please note that I wrote this language-of-hype-trying-to-serve-as-critical-insight post 8 long years ago.  I've grown, okay?

A few funny comic books:

Plastic Man. The current version of Plastic Man is by Kyle Baker, one of the funniest people in comics. His graphic novels The Cowboy Wally Show and Why I Hate Saturn knocked readers out with some of the smartest, funniest writing in comics, and witty, expressive but underplayed art. Baker's characters are always really sharp actors. His Plastic Man is done in a more Warner Bros. style of cartooniness, and Baker's mastery of that kind of humor makes me wonder why he isn't running Warner Bros. animation department now. He writes and draws the whole comic himself, which is quite unusual for a regular color comic, with the occasional fill-in issue by Scott Morse, another comics virtuoso whose stuff is always really impressively drawn and/or painted but which lacks Baker's tangy gag craftsmanship.

Tales Designed to Thrizzle. This is by Michael Kupperman, who does a lot of illustration work for upscale clientele, but his fans know him primarily for his absurd gag cartooning. His drawings tends to look like really high-grade clip art and his jokes are similar to the type you get on the hipper Cartoon Network shows, but he was there first. A favorite sample gag: the cover of a comic titled Two-Fisted Poe shows Edgar Allen Poe clobbering a crook and saying: "Quoth the Raven: LIGHTS OUT!"

Franklin Richards. This is a one-shot from Marvel Comics about Sue (Invisible Woman) and Reed (Mister Fantastic) Richards of the Fantastic Four. Basically it's Richie Rich with off-brand Calvin and Hobbes style art. Eh. You'd do better to buy an actual issue of Richie Rich.

I know I'm missing something (edit: meaning "I'm forgetting a title or two" rather than the manner in which I usually miss something).

The weather's suddenly turned Autumnal. Very pleasant!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Funny funnies.

I said I'd run down some funny comic books; I didn't say I'd post about them on the blog! Sorry to my legion of fans, but I decided to make eyes at my cute neighbor instead of sit around talking to whomever reads this about comics. We'll try for tonight!

BTW I got a phishing email from a bogus Ebay site trying to dupe me into giving them personal info. I forwarded it to the real Ebay and they confirmed its obvious bogosity. I know this is a common problem and you are probably already aware of it; it's just that until it happens to my solipsistic self it's only a rumor.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


No dears, I haven't abandoned you-I tried to post last night but Blogger was down. But just to let you know how much I love you, consider this; Blogger's trying to get me to have ads on this blog, but I wouldn't do that to you. Not even for the money they assure me I'd be making. I'm living my life as a refutation of the idea that you need a lot of money to live a fulfilling life. Is it any wonder I'm single?

There is one way that money can buy you happiness, however, and that is by buying funny comic books. Tonight I'll run down some current highlights of this sadly neglected genre, which humor cartoonist Sam Henderson describes as being like the trampy girl at school-all the guys like what she does but they don't respect her.

Anyway there's not much news in my life post-birthday, which was quietly nice the way a good Eric Rohmer film is. Far less gloomy than I expected, what with the mortality concerns and all.

Friday, September 30, 2005

This article about gay priests didn't have any surprises for me until near the end; I never would have guessed there were thought to be that many gay priests (25% at a conservative estimate!) This implies that the priesthood has been an important haven for commited Catholic homosexual men, and the Vatican may be about to shoot itself in its infallible foot. I'm not sure why I care about this, since I'm a hetero non-Catholic, but it's an interesting case of an organization being torn between its on-paper values and the realities of how it stays afloat.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mood for a day. Posted by Picasa


Today I went for my evening constitutional (a.k.a. waddle around the neighbourhood) when who should pass me but Jennifer W. , the props and art production guru on Modest Proposal, the short film I'm in that apparently won some minor award at the Sidewalk Film Fest. Apparently both she and Sam F., the author and director of MP, live in town. I'm not sure why this makes me nervous...

Anyway tomorrow I'm driving to Nashville to see my family for my 32nd birthday. I'm afraid I'm gonna start whining about aging and death to them and they'll have to smack me down. Not that they've ever smacked me, but there's a first time for everything. Worse yet they might make me talk to their preacher, who is a nicc guy but tends to irk me...Remember when that surfer girl got her arm bit off by a shark? He claimed in a sermon that it was because human sin had bolloxed the world. Oh really? She got bit because I was on the other side of the continent watching Sorority Girl Pillow Fight? Are you sure it wasn't because sharks are hungry and surfers smell like food?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Some deliciously odd and compelling flash games here.

Mood for a day. Posted by Picasa


Today I had a lunch appointment with Karla, the lovely and talented star of our recent Twelfth Night production, who says she's aware of my blog. Hi Karla! Anyway, we both got there early, sat at opposite ends of the restaurant, and slowly got pissed at each other for standing each other up. I saw her as I finally left. Since the basic point of the lunch was for me to give her back her copy of Things Fall Apart, and that goal was achieved, one might conclude the lunch was a success, but since we missed out on a jolly discussion of the novel in question I consider it an opportunity lost. For some reason this put me into a really foul mood; I'm turning into a crank with an eye on the deathbed ledger. How many regrets vs. happy memories will I have? Today was one more minor regret, one less happy memory. Boo hoo hoo. What's worse is it's one more instance of me failing someone else. I know it's not a huge deal, but letting people down takes a toll on one's soul.

In cheerier news an Alabama State Senator got a lot of attention today for saying the hurricanes were God's judgement on the sins of New Orleans. Tee hee! I'm past caring about Alabama politicians saying ignunt trash like that. In the wise words of Skip James, "I'm so glad, I'm so glad, I'm so glad, so glad. I don't know what to do, don't know what to do, I don't know what to do..."

Monday, September 26, 2005


Oh yes I had me a blast at the Sidewalk. We started with a batch of Alabama Shorts. Watching the home-grown is always one of the main Sidewalk attractions for me, and thanks to the Festival and the Scrambles there's a pretty exciting local scene; maybe not so exciting if you're looking to work in film for a living, but pretty cool if you see filmmaking as a groovy hobby. So, this batch of shorts started with Sewing a River, directed by Sidewalk celeb Alan Hunter from the script that won the Sidewrite competition last year. (My entry, a spoof of the bonus features on the Lord of the Rings DVDs, was not the one. I keep telling myself it's because of formatting errors...) I thought the script (as refracted through the production) was fine, a story about how legends and real life can intertwine, with unified complexity and clarity. I was frustrated by the production; the look of it (production design, lighting and all) was lovely and rich, if a bit diabetic at times with its easter egg colorfulness, and some of the performers did themselves proud. (A dignified priest and the lovely young woman who played the bride at the center of the story (who sat next to me at the screening! Along with her boyfriend, natch) can put their perfomances in this on their demo reels.) But much of the acting was hammy, okay for the stage but too much for tight medium shots. A lot of little things, line readings and such, seemed like inadequate first takes that they printed and used when they should have shaped the performances better. I know one of the actresses and know she can light the stage up, but I wish she had been scaled back a bit. I have also been really impressed with Alan Hunter's direction on a few other projects, so I was quite disappointed. There was also an eye-popping CGI-heavy opening relating the legend that underlies the story, and I loved it until two things happened right on top of each other. First, as the narrator was rhapsodizing about how the river loved the magical girl and she was perfectly attuned to it, we saw her reach toward a lily pad and the pad scooted away as if it were fleeing. It was funny for the wrong reason, almost like a Marienbadian ironic counterpoint except it was unintentional. Then there's a shot of a CGI fish leaping out of the water which looked great until they went in for an open-mouthed leaping fish money shot that just looked a little too contrived; it was the kind of awkward CGI fakery that makes one long for Harryhausen or George Pal.

There were two animated shorts that I enjoyed: cozmic Cola blended old-school Fleischer Bros. designs and animation with more modern graphics. It's a great aesthetic, but for their next project they need a unifying concept, a story of some kind, to take it beyond a mere demo reel of bits and pieces. The other one, The Fanciful Gentleman, is a well-told joke from the auteur of several wonderful animated Scramble Shorts. Simple flash animation, good voice work, perfect timing. Yay!

The Birthday Midget, about a midget who decides to become a holiday icon, had a good premise, good cast, decent film values... it was just padded out too long for its slender premise. The core story could have been a sharp and funny four-minute film, and a prologue interview with the protaganist's mother is a cute performance, but the interview show in the middle is way too extended.

Phone A Clone is an ad for a company that ships an exact replica of you in to handle your boring or unpleasant tasks. Unfortunately it's barely developed beyond the premise's most obvious possibilities, and is also at least three times as long as it needs to be. I liked the pitchman though.

The Music That Is Changing The World is a faux newsreel about a jazz legend; cute period recreation and a funny gag that could have been punched a bit harder. Basically the band plays really sweet jazz but the star clarinet player starts doing a repetitive, unswinging toodling that drives the crowd wild and earns raves from the narrator but irks his more tuneful cohorts. It's exactly the right length, has cute dancing girls in flapper costumes, and the guy with the afro looks cool. A promising short.

!2 miles to Einstien and Who Killed Tangerine had audio problems, so we didn't see them.

A Modest Proposal! My local film debut is a better film than I feared it would be, although I'm hardly able to evaluate it with a fresh perspective. I sure am bald, and too hammy for film! Now that I know what I look like (mirrors don't give you the third-person perspective) I understand why women won't date me. The director was very nice to me later that day, and told me that one of the two cinematographers complemented my work, which made me feel a lot better.

Later I saw DeRailroaded, a full-legth documentary about Wild Man Fisher. It was amazing. There but for the grace of God, but what a wild ride! His duet with Rosemary Clooney (no I ain't kidding) bowled me over.

Then another block of home-grown shorts.

Mindwalk was a groovy little dollop of slick MTV pop surrealism.

Something (that's the title) was a music video with an okay but overlong and repetitive song. The greytoned visuals of two lovely young women, one white, one black, emoting in an old house were often striking; trim the song and cut the more OTT visuals (smashing a bowl on the floor like a David Mallet video) and I'd be delighted! The director was a young woman with a cute frilly granny dress, a refreshing change from all the too-cool-for-school guy directors.

Murder Inn and Gratuitious both star Brad, a guy I know. I've never really seen him act, and he's got an obvious sense of how to scale his performance for the lens; underplayed but not wooden. I loved watching him and hope to achieve something of the same quality ni future film work (if any.). Murder Inn is an EC comic type story with a poor performance by the cranky wife and a little too underlit and murky for my tastes, even given the dark and gloomy story; Gratuitious is better; I'm sure cool-but-confused-hitmen stories are now officially the least favorite thing for a festival judge to sit through, but the pace never falters and it looks great for homegrown. Both films were basically auditions for drive-in movies, but the second at least promised good drive-in.

The 3 R's was a mock educational film about how to hide a body. The basic idea may be a bit hackneyed but the short rises about it with funny performances, witty writing and the perfect rich-voiced but friendly narrator. Maybe just a little too long, but charming and fun. I actually laughed several times, which can't be said about many local comedy shorts. More please!

The Girlfriend from Scramble favorites Team Bloodjet was an extended reworking of some favorite Bloodjet motifs; Kubrickian pacing, slowly building tension, innocents caught up in a creepy situation that erupts in horror. The photography is stunning, suitable for framing, and director Adam Wingard obviously knows more about directing actors than most other local filmmakers all put together. My friend Debbie Smith gets to show her graceful and well-calibrated acting in a supporting role; she's one of the most underappreciated performers in town, and it's a credit to Bloodjet's eye for talent that they saw fit to cast her. The story is teasingly ambiguous but the storytelling is clear and compelling. My favorite short of the festival.

We also got to see 12 Miles To Einstein after all, and it was a nicely filmed and skillfully acted but predictable ghost story, played lightly but not for laughs. I want to see more from all involved, only with a less pat story.

I also bumped into Sarah El Kouni, an old college chum, as well as a bunch of local rapscallions, and the weekend was a joy for the company alone!


I had a blast at the Sidewalk Film Festival this year! I didn't see a lot of films, partly because it's jsut hard to spend all day watching movies now; I'm starting to see the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks, who had one theatre festival a year or so and that was it for big entertainment. I'll post a full account later, including my thoughts about Modest Proposal tonight!

Friday, September 23, 2005

A few years ago I had a dream in which I was a very, very old and sick man in a hospital bed. I had tubes and wires stuck up my nose, in my arm, and one of those beeping machines that show your heart's beating. I realized that my life was going to end soon, and I screamed "I don't wanna die!" over and over. I woke up weeping and moaning "I don't wanna die." It had never occured to me before, but I realized that it was true. It is true. I don't want to die; life is too sweet, and the inevitability of death, coupled with the likelihood that there is no afterlife, fills me with a horror I've never known before. Furthermore, my parents recently went on a long vacation and dropped out of contact for months; during that time I realized that once we are seperated by death, that's it. We will be seperated forever. I'd understood for years that the afterlife is a faerytale, but the full ramifications of that are only now appearing to me.

This blogpost brought to you by Hoegaarden.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Last night a few friends and I saw a Hong Kong movie called 2046 that was quite nice; a drama about a womanizing writer who never finds lasting love because he keeps acting the playah. Not the most original of topics, but it's developed with a novelistic discursiveness and visual richness that kept me excited, even though it suffers from what my friends call Blue Fairy syndrome (after the Blue Fairy in A. I., or D.A.R.R.Y.L.2 as I like to think of it) in which a movie goes on long after you think it should have ended. An important part of the film's visual scheme consisted of walls, doors and other barricades partially blocking the view of the characters (usually in tight medium shots) creating a claustrophobic and alienated feeling nicely balanced by the intimacy of the performances and voiceover narration.

Today I heard that the Vatican is about to unveil some new document forbidding homosexual priests. My policy on such things is: their clubhouse, their rules. If you aren't a het man and want to be a priest, join the Epicopalian church already. The only thing that bugs me is that the news bulletin I heard stongly implied that this was being presented as part of the Church's attempt to deal with the child-molesting priests thing. Gimme a break! The difference between a gay man and a boy-touching man is the same as the difference between a straight man and a girl-touching man. Besides, plenty of women came forward and announced that they'd been touched by priests, but you didn't hear much about that, which played right into the Church's sleazy attepts to reframe homosexuality as evil by linking it to pedophilia. My admittedly nominal understanding of the situation is that most if not all of the allegations of clerical abuse centered around priests who came along prior to a number of reforms in the priesthood training and selection process, which suggests that they've done a fine job of cleaning up the priesthood and bravo for that; now it seems the key thing is to make sure bad priests aren't protected by the old boys' network, which was a key part of the problem.

I'm reading Dawn by Octavia Butler, and it's exactly the kind of thoughtful science fiction I've been craving. She is the true heir to Arthur C. Clark's legacy; Gentry Lee my hiney!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Stuff I got at Camelot Music

Life's been pretty placid lately, and it doesn't hurt that I'm listening to a lot of jazz vocalists at work; Billy Holliday's Lady in Satin is particularly dreamy, putting me into a sort of expansive, cheerfully melancholy mood, while old Louis Armstrong has just the right blend of grit and mathematics to keep my brain and bollocks engaged with the day. I've also picked up an acoustic guitar album by some canadian lady, and it is a perfect blend of classical and contemporary material, taking me back to cheery days in the music department at the dear old alma mater, then taking me forward to the atonal math-messes I enjoy today. If you were hoping for insights into the current socio-political situation, I'm sorry to have let you down.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Last night I saw a very poor stand-up comedy show which I attended on the grounds that performers I like would be in the show, and people I like would be in the audience. The later statement proved to be true, but not the former. I had no choice but to drink a lot in order to stave off bad-live-comedy depression, but all my friends in the place have apparently joined the Birmingham Temperance League, because they turned down my post-show drinks-for-companionship exchange offer and split outta there almost immediately.

I have no desire to be unduely harsh towards people who do bad comedy, since I have been one of those people on many occasions. Still, experience shows that negative reenforcement inspires the good to get better and the bad to find something else to do, something at which they are not bad. Bogus positive reenforcement keeps people bad. I think the guys from the show felt the negative vibes and if they're truthful with themselves they will do something about it. I won't be at the next show, though.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Aha! These disks are copy-protected. In order to stop us from bootlegging the songs they use a technique that reduces them to bootleg quality. It's a wierd self-hating business model worthy of the Federal Government.
Today I bought a cheap compliation of 80s songs, some new wave, some chart toppers, from EMI. I knew cheap compliations always suck, but this is EMI, not some chop-shop, right? Well, now I'm ready to put on the Sex Pistols and chant along with its closing track, because it sounds like they burned these disks with a bic lighter and a lot of patience. What makes it worse is that there's a lot of really good stuff on them, but the terrrible noise makes it sound like the digital equivalent of a scratched-up LP. Perhaps if I weren't listening on headphones I wouldn't be dying right now.

P.S. Waaaaaah.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Heck Yeah!

My car repairs came in at about half the initial quote. How did that happen? When has that EVER happened? I'm going to celebrate by paying all the bills I thought I wasn't going to be able to pay.

One chapter to go in things fall apart, and I'm torn between savoring it tomorrow or going ahead and gobbling it up now. The outcome for the culture is all too obvious at this point, but there's plenty of suspense Re: the protaganiist's fate. It's a good example of how to keep the audience involved in a historical tale when the historical outcome in never in doubt.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'm, woah, I'm still alive

I'm not dead yet (which doesn't mean I don't wake up in terror over another dream about the inevitability of death) but I've just been too listless to post anything... the next time I'm at work and I start thinking that it would be great to just lounge around I need to remember this week. Although my car being in the shop has been part of the problem I think my current ennui is really a result of the usual post-show fallout. Every time a play ends I go through some kind of bleak period, no matter how grueling or frustrating the show may have been. Play productions around here take about two months from soup to poop, and very intense short-term communities develop in that time; the cast and crew may love or loathe each other, but there we are, in each others' lives...then we aren't anymore. The bubble formed by this sudden vacuum always leaves me without air. This time it was particularly hard because the community that formed with Twelfth Night was (apart from race) so diverse; people of all ages, kids, folks who are and aren't familiar faces on the local theatre scene. It gave me a really warm sense of being in a well-rounded and complete social situation, and then BAM! back to stewing in my own juices.

I've really enjoyed the beauty of Forest Park over the last week, but I can't wait to be mobile again. Oddly enough I think my commute to work gives me a sense of literally and metaphorically going somewhere that has become important to my emotional equilibrium. I'm not one of those people who enjoy driving for its own sake, but I really FEEL like I'm stagnating when I never travel farther than I can comfortably walk, which has been the case this week.