Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Because You Demanded It!

We live in interesting times, indeed... but rather than textually fret, I'm going to use my blog as a respite from, rather than a sounding board for, my worries Re: current events. So now some poorly-bibliographed nerdnotes on the comics I read the other night. These little reviews grew out of control, but I've tried to scale them back to terse yet informative blurbs...

Doom Patrol: Celebrated comics scribe Grant Morrison made an early splash with his run on this superhero team book by sprinkling esoteric occult lore and college-eddicated poesy over the usual superheroic shenanigans. It established the basic template for his later works like The Invisibles, yet is basically familiar food with exotic spices, while Invisibles is like exotic recipies with familiar utensils. The artists were on their learning curve, delivering uneven but often clever cartoony art; landscapes and original character designs are often imaginative, but facial expressions are often crude, more indication than expression.

Drawn & Quarterly Showcase Volume One! This came out a few years ago and features work by two different artists, Kevin Huizenga and Nicolas Robel. Huizenga's three stories center around a guy named Ganges, but feature a diverse array of topics. Two thoughtful comics essays (one on missing child notices, one on starlings) and one italian legend retold with hilarious gags and gloomy contemporary detail. Robel tells the story of a gloomy girl musing on her life to date; it is remeniscent of Debbie Dreschler's luminous early comics, but I don't think I've ever seen comics that communicated internal feelings and inclinations so effectively without sacrificing the sense that the story "takes place" in the world outside the protaganist, never shifting the "story space" to a purely internal space.

Marshal Law: A Judge Dredd writer and the artist of Alan Moore's way-better-than-the-movie series League of Extraordinary Gentlemen produce ultra-violent tales of science-fantasy mayhem with a cheeky drunk-testosterone-rage sense of humor. It's notable mostly for Kevin O'Neill's almost sculptural art. His oddly chunky compositions are allowed more flow and overlap here than when following Alan Moore's infamously detailed and rigourous scripts, and the whole thing feels like a visionary version of the kind of comics that guy you knew in high school who drew monsters might have gone on to do.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Hoo-Hah.

Today in church there was a discussion about Intelligent Design, and one guy pointed out that a problem with comparing the world to designed machines is that with most complex machines there isn't one designer; there's a slew of people who worked on it. So Intelligent Design theory would seem to work better with Polytheism than Monotheism. Ouch.

I'm also signed onto a church program where you send little anonymous gifts to a child in the congregation, then there's a little cookies-and-juice (no liquor) party where everybody meets each other. My kid likes Yui-Gi-Oh (sp?) so now I have to go research which kinds of Yui-Ji-Oh cards are hip and which are passe. Why am I doing this? Because I have a crush on the lady who was working the sign-up table after church. Piety alone won't keep a church running! If I had a buck for every guy who's only in church because his wife or girlfriend requires it, I could start my own church. A Crystal Cathedral. And then there's the slobs like me who see church as (among other things) a classy alternative/supplement to the bar scene.

I swore I wouldn't do any more theatre type stuff for a while, but a friend is slapping a movie together and so I went ahead and auditioned. I don't know how the film will turn out, but the writer/director/friend is a wonderfully talented guy who is only just now putting his talents to active use, so even if the film turns out cruddy it's still cause for celebration. Ya gotta walk before you can run.

Weight loss update: Fuggidaboutit. I've kept my no-chocolate pledge, but since I'm scarfing all kinds of non-chocolate sweets it doesn't seem to matter. On that note I better go out and waddle around a little. Seeya!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Muppets

I've been watching the Muppets Season One DVD set, and it's interesting how much of the pleasure of the show is in the "acting" of the puppets, or of the puppeteers through the puppets. I never really thought about it when I was a kid grooving on the slapstick, but the way the puppeteers are able to simulate real human physical responses to emotional stimuli (little things like slouching, shrugging, lowering ones' eyelids in weariness) is just as important as the exciting and colorful character designs. On the other hand it's a bit disappointing how uneven the jokes are, and how weak Jim Henson's ubiquitious singing is. Still, Gonzo's willfully impenetrable avant-guarde routines and Miss Piggy's deranged courtship of Kermit are still funny, and I like how they stole a page from Jack Benny's playbook: female guest stars flirt outrageously with Kermit. Of course Benny always acted like it was only his due, while Kermit always seems abashed... Another surprise, at least for me; the more serious musical routines that emphasis strong singing (from the guest) and lyrical puppetry (like the graceful green dancing things in the first episode) are some of my favorite bits now. When I was a kid they couldn't be over and out of the way fast enough. Not that they aren't open to accusations of kitchiness, but they suggest possibilities for puppetry that the Jim Henson crew continued to explore over the years. I remember some show they did around 1988 with great fondness, in which they really worked the full cinematic possibilities of puppetry and did more storytelling along with the sketch comedy.

Monday, January 23, 2006

What a cut-up!

Are you familiar with cutups? William Burroughs popularized them... it's an approach to manipulating words in ways that can yield surprising results. Here's a digital cut-up device which admittedly defeats part of what Burroughs regarded as the point of the exercise: allowing writers to physically manipulate their materials, much as visual artists do. A sort of word sculpting. Still, digital toys for digital times...

The following paragraph is a cutup I made using this device-I just wrote a little paragraph about my life at the moment, which was a little too plain and a little too direct. I think this cut-up makes it more interesting and more truthful.

Lately I've been in an odd floating on a lake, feeling the grilling on the beach yet unable like life is a constant stream stream of minor problems and causes it is. I love her her better when I'm just trying state; enervated yet enthusiastic, like I'm sun's rays, excited about the food to swim to shore. It's of splendid things with a constant for concern. Well, I suppose she but I seem to love to be her friend.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

An odd day. But a restful one.

I slept late and woke up five minutes before church service was set to start; feel a bit bad about that. But I needed it; perhaps this will be an especially productive week now that I've gotten a head start on good, healthy sleep.

Anyway, it was oddly warm for this time a year, and cloudy. Dim and humid, almost like living at the bottom of a lake. I spent much of the day just strolling around; It's the first time I've felt sweat plastering my shirt to my back in months.

I've been reading Rumi: the Book of Love, a collection of poems by a Sufi mystic, translated by Coleman Barks. Lovely stuff. "Stop weaving, and watch how the pattern improves." I'm slowly learning how to live the truth of this.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Things I love about Karaoke

Black people singing country songs. Something about this just fills me with delight... maybe because it suggests that the melting pot is really working.

Exuberantly bad singers. Mrs Miller types.

When two or three nervous singers band together to do a song as a group.

When you can't tell how much of the singing you're hearing is from the people onstage, the people in the crowd or the prerecorded voices.

When gals do songs that are written for guys and vice versa.

My friend J'mel's story about singing "Thank You" by Alanis and making Pokemon characters the subjects of his thanks. "Thank you Pikachu, Thank you Geodude..."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why magic box no SING?

My computer's audio device thingy (Riptide audio or somesuch) has developed a deep spiritul need to not work. Being the kind of doofus who can't pick his nose without putting an eye out, I am certainly unable to rise to this occasion. It's probably for the best; one more reason to turn off the computer, go outside and soak up some sunshine, if there were any sunshine this time of year for a wage slave like your Humble Author.

But if the computer won't sing, no worries; I will! Tomorrow a few folks from my last show are heading to Starz on Valley Ave. to warble a bit of karaoke. Karaoke, the sport of kings, is actually an ideal activity for me at this point; I've gotten really passionate about outsider music, and karaoke brings it to your neighbourhood.

I have a few actual thoughts I'd like to share on a subject that's been nagging at me for a while, but I'm too sleepy to share them yet... but soon I'll have a few things to say on the subject of vicarious living. Take care till then!

Monday, January 16, 2006

In which I mention food more often than I expected to.

I'm feeling pretty fresh today, despite a mild headache (no doubt induced by sinuses and dim, drizzly weather.) Part of the good feeling is the residue from a splendid dinner with my buddy Chris at Taj India last Friday. Taj is probably my fave restaurant in town, but I'd only ever had lunch there, so having dinner there was a treat in itself. Chris was able to clarify some worrisome ambiguities (about which I need to remain ambiguous for now) and give me fresh confidence. A year or two back, and all the years prior, it never would have occurred to me that if I've got issues that I can't quite sort out, all I need is to ask a wise friend to lunch. When I sought advice it was usually through imposition, calling or knocking on the door and demanding an audience. Having yummy dinner is a far more pleasant and profitable activity for all concerned.

I neither have nor want a scale of my own, but I weigh in after lunch every day at the nurses' station at work, and I expect to see that giving up chocolate has paid off. Not that giving up chocolate is the only thing I've done towards losing flab... but giving the stuff up was my signal to myself that it's time to bolster my seriousness about loosing weight. I've also improved my (mild) weight training regimen... I've been wondering why some exercises that should be building up my chest, which looks utterly tuburcular, haven't had the anticipated results, and a brief fitness tips internet check reveals the nature of the problem-when I thought I was doing chest exercises I was actually doing back exercises. I wasn't even aware of it, although I was certainly aware of my backaches later. My mind-body connection has improved over the years, but it's still got a long way to go. I'm not looking to be buff, but I don't want a physique that inspires pity.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bald

Today I went for a walk out in the cold, came back in and rubbed my fingers through my hair. It was a much chillier sensation than I'd expected, since I had far less insulating hair protecting my scalp from my icy fingers than I'd expected.

This bugs me, and not because I'm vain. I always thought going bald wouldn't bother me, because I like the way bald guys look. But it bugs me because it's a reminder that my body's eroding, corroding, and that I can do some damage control but the end result is never really in doubt. Mortality is jive.

MLK Weekend

I promise you that sometime over the course of this long weekend I'll make a post of some kind. Lemmee simmer on it a while; stuff's happening in my life but it's too tender to talk about yet. I cooked up a little comic routine with the advice and consent of a Professor in Texas, which may or may not eventually be worth posting...

(Edit 03/07/07: said routine will be lost to the ages.)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

I QUIT!!!

I'm quitting chocolate until I weigh in at under 195 pounds for five business days. Hold me to this.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Depopulation

A recent USA Today editorial (here for as long as Yahoonews keeps it up) draws a connection between a decline in European religious faith and a decline in European birthrates. Hmm. Certainly both have been on the decline, but how direct is the connection? The article makes an obvious connection between the decline in religion and the increase in things like abortion, birth control, gay marriage and a general rejection of traditional families. That's not totally out to lunch, but it is very conservative Catholic (and the author acnowledges being a staunch Catholic.) Here in the States we're majority Protestant and we have loads of abortion and birth control. We've also got lots of babies.

The author also worries that secularism in America suggests that we may go the increasingly secular way of Europe. Not in this part of the country we won't! I think it's important to note that "Secularism" in the States is kind of a contextual thing. A lot of European secularism is coming from indifference or hostility towards religion, but many devout people in the States are in favor of ousting the Judge Roy Moores of the world from positions of political influence, not out of hostility towards religion but out of hostility to using the government as a bully pulpit for a specific theological point of view. Oh, and a desire to protect the interests of cultural minorities. On the other hand, something like France's recent ban on the wearing of religious signifiers in schools, including head coverings that are mandatory for some Muslims, was clearly done out of hostility to cultural minorities and to religious practice. But unabashed hostility to religion isn't likely to get very far around here. Flannery O'Connor, herself a devout Catholic and a southerner, saw that the religious threat in the Southeastern US wasn't a decline in religion but a perversion of it.

I suspect economics plays an important role in declining European birthrates. I know a few Swedish people who've expressed sincere confusion as to why anyone would want to get married. Maybe when a country uses socialist collectivism to create a really secure social safety net and dependable health care then people are less likely to feel the need to band together in more traditional ways, like nuclear families.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

ADD

Big ups to new ButDontTryToTouchMe reader and my unofficial ADD adviser Sarah H., Although she only grudgingly admitted to ever trying my blog and claims she didn't inhale. Maybe she'll yield to my siren song and return for a second helping.

It's pretty damn obvious that I'm ADD; I feel like this will be a year of new growth for me, but every time I think I'm making some progress in life I seem to hit a self-imposed invisible barrier. Perhaps freebasing some Ritalin will unlock a door or two.

Our Reindeer play was such a short production that we in the cast and crew aren't sick of each other yet, so we've started planning a few social outings, antlers optional. This goes a long way toward persuading me that we need more shows that can be thrown together at a moment's notice; the short production times keeps everything fresh, including the social aspects. I'm usually distraught at the end of a production run because it means the shantytown community is ending, but we've stumbled across a way to keep it going past the final show!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Love despite

Loving all of it even while he had to hate some of it because he knows now that you don't love because: you love despite; not for the virtues, but despite the faults.-William Faulkner

I read that years ago and promptly forgot who said it; I didn't forget the quote, though. I've been paraphrasing it to myself ever since; it's been important to me, and I think it struck me precisely because I read it at at time when I was ready to understand how true it was. I think I was a junior or senior in college, and had been through enough arguments and make-ups with my pack of friends by then to understand that you have to accept that everybody, including yourself, is seriously flawed. Anyway I just stumbled across that attribution today, so thank you Bill, you cranky old lush you!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Another Great Thing About Not Being Quite As Young As I Used To Be

Warning! Possible overshare ahead...

The age of innocent crushes has returned. As a boy, of course, I often had innocent crushes on any number of girls and women. Classmates, teachers, Mom's friends, the gal who cut my hair... Then adolescence hit and turned me into a priapic troll for a couple of decades. But now my sex drive has been relegated to the position of the loyal opposition, and I notice I have innocent crushes on lots of women. As a matter of fact, I hardly have carnal crushes anymore. Ever had the experience of wanting to fantasize about sex, but not being able to think of anything that turned you on? That happens to me a lot now. Maybe this isn't so great after all...

Monday, January 02, 2006

2006 Begins!

2005 ended thusly: our final production of The Eight: The Reindeer Monologues was... I'm gonna say a triumph! Apparently the theatre made some much-needed money with this crazy show, and we had a blast. I love everybody involved; we've discussed having a reindeer reunion dinner in a month, and I aim to make sure those aren't just idle promises. Anyway, I went to a party a few friends held; we sipped Old Peculier, traded wisecracks and dozed. The hosts retreated to their bedrooms; the remaining guests paired up into sweetly cuddling couples except for one guy. Guess who?

I have to keep reminding myself that the impenetrable Romance Barrier that surrounds me is like the Mark of Cain; a curse and a blessing combined. It's a protection; most people I know who are in relationships aren't really any happier than the rest of us, after all.

That gloomy note aside, I really do sense that this will be a year for some new shoots to bud; something about the vigor of this last show, both onstage and backstage, fills me with confidence. Boo-Yah, Gentle Readers; Boo-Yah!

P.S. I have been informed that the sentimental slop I sneered at in my last post is actually Moe, not moi. I was also informed that my misspelling invalidated my post's logic. Dream on, chilluns.