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 28, 2007

Think Zinc

You know what happens when, in an effort to beat a narsty bug, you eat your body weight in zinc? You turn into the Goodyear Blimp. Or perhaps the Hindenburg. Learn from my mistake.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Pass the homeopathic Teas, Please

One of the supervisors around my workplace just told me he had the same symptoms I have now (a head full of bilgewater, a throat full of lichens, anhedonia and wooziness) and it lingered for three weeks. "And I never get sick!" My Dad had the same affliction when I went home for Christmas, and had been suffering for weeks as well. I'm cramming my mouth full of zinc, and I'm listening to Vestal Goodman nonstop for a little Grace from Above. I wouldn't take nothin' for my journey now, but I'm taking lots of stuff for my health. I better darn well be back in action soon. It's pathetic enough that I've fallen for a woman who's moving away in a few weeks; to be sick during those few weeks would be too lame a way to usher in the new year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Stocking Stuffers

Christmas was dope. Got to spend time with the family, they seemed to like my gifts, and I liked theirs. In case you didn't know, Nelly Furtado is an astonishing pop artist. Kudos to my brother, who bought me all of Furtado's albums.

Also, I suddenly seem to have a girlfriend. She's cute and smart and nerdy, as she ought to be. But she's moving away. Plus I got a bug over the weekend and my head has become a mucus factory. Ain't that the way. The Lord giveth, and he taketh away.

Anyway, check out my buddy Marc's website. He's got tunes available for download. He's no Mp3.com wannabe; he's a composition major with commercial and academic cred. I love his stuff. Don't overlook his sexy, sexy photos. Marc Lemay sizzles.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Swingin' Christmas With Aaron White

My God, I've been making the nerdiest posts lately. You'd think I didn't have a social life or something.

You'd be pretty much right, but all that changes tonight, when I go to a real live Holiday party for grownups and stuff. I'm so excited. I even have a semi-date-that's-not-really-a-date. Hot-cha-cha! Swingin', baby, swingin'!

Acting/singing lessons from El Bowza

I've been thinking about my frustrations with the Sweeney Todd movie (sure, I haven't seen it, but every day NPR plays more excepts, accompanied by various critics unpersuasively assuring us that the stars' wimpy pipes don't detract a whit from the end result) and I've been listening to David Bowie. Say, ya know who's a really interesting acting singer? David Bowie.

Of course he's an accomplished actor as well as a big rock star, and he's got a really multifaceted voice. The weird whimsical nasal voice he used a lot in the early days and the rich sexy baritone he used in stuff like Labyrinth are boundary markers of his vocal styles, but on albums like "Heroes", Outside and Heathen he is very clearly making character choices even when he isn't explicitly playing a character. I wasn't crazy about his apparently tentative vocals on Heathen until I read an interview in which he discussed each song as if it were being sung by a character; while most of them are first-person, they're not exactly Bowie's perspective. On Heathen his vocal choices where more about characterizatino than about pure musical beauty or forcefulness. In musical theatre this kind of singing-in-character is expected, but not many pop-rock vocalists would even consider singing as anyone other than themselves.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

31 flavors of Nerd

As a nerd one gets to know a lot of nerd subculture effluvia that ain't your preferred flavor. Writing about Star Trek got me thinking about other all the flavors of nerdery with which I'm familiar, despite not liking the stuff. Here's an off-the-top-of-my-head list:

Furry (aka yiffy, aka cartoon animal fetish)

Barbarian art (Frank Frazetta and his imitators)

Filk songs (aka "folk" songs about Doctor Who or whatever)

Fanfiction, fan art...

Collecting figurines/statuettes/action figures of favorite imaginary characters

Online gaming (Or PBM, play by mail games, for that matter).

Making little movies with images and code ganked from electronic games


Phew! I'm sure I'll think of more. I'm not judging; I'm a big nerd, so who am I to sneer at other nerds? But these things are like Paris Hilton. I don't care about Paris Hilton. I never will. So why do I know about Paris Hilton? Why is this stuff in my head?

* * *

This editorial by Carol Strickland does a good job of explaining why beauty in art doesn't always mean pretty.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sweeney Trek

My favorite episode of Star Trek wasn't an actual episode.

I've never cared for Trek. It's tapioca pudding, comfort food. although it has a social fantasy that pleases many people, it's not ambitious in any way that I find compelling. But I used to watch a lot of it in college, because if I wanted to spend time with my friends it meant making sacrifices. Sacrifices like watching Star Trek.

Well, my buddy Scott had a Trek screen saver. It wasn't just one screen saver; it was a pack of many, many savers with many different styles. One was an imitation of an average Trek episode, but with no plot; just footage of people staring at controls and saying Trecknological stuff in a slightly randomized, repetitive, hypnotic cycle.

It was the best Trek I've ever seen.

* * *

Re: the forthcoming Sweeney Todd movie: Have you ever heard the Burl Ives version of Old Man River? He took a song that is usually delivered with a powerful operatic force and reworked it as a jaunty ditty. It's fine, but I prefer the traditional arrangement, which is like a mighty river swelling by; those final notes, as my voice teacher Andy Gainey put it, are like the sun coming out.

I've heard a few singing clips of the Todd movie on NPR, and it's the Burl Ives Sweeney Todd. Humph. I'm sure I'll like it for what it is, but George Hearn just about split me in half in the video production of Todd (available on DVD; check it out!) and as awesome as Johnny Depp is, Hearn could swallow him in one bite.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Name Your Poison

I'm not quite sold on Hillary or Obama, but God will punish anyone who nominates or votes for a white man in Nov. '08 (Well, mabe not Ron Paul or Kucinich just because they're so far out, and Guliani's Italian so he squeaks by), so I think I'll nominate Bill Richardson. He's got a record he can run on, and, uh, thassall I got. Like most Americans I make these kinds of decisions on the basis of whatever observations or misobservations have washed ashore.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Netflix Rentals of My Year

Because I love you all, here's my list of the best movies I've
Netflixed this year. You don't have to thank me. Special Bonus: since I originally posted this in a private forum, this has bonus commentary by Professor Cox.

(and years later I've done another.)

Five Easy Pieces: Jack Nicholson and a bunch of cool actors
(including Alabama novelist Fannie Flagg!) in a gloomy character
study. Funny, too. Flawless acting all around. Laslo Kovacs,
Cinematographer of such edgy films as Easy Rider and Ghostbusters,
photographs it, so it looks great. (Cox Comment: Dudes that get their heads chopped off in immortal combat: 0)


Blood Tea & Red String: Stop-motion fantasy. Has a crow with a
human skull for a head. (Cox Comment: Car chases: 0 (Though the crow sounds way cool))


Secret Honor: Fictitious drama in which Richard Nixon records his
secret memoirs. (Cox Comment: Scenes with Scottish guy getting revenge on other Scottish guys by riding a HORSE through their living rooms: 0)



La Belle Captive: Arty mystery; kinda like a cheap, funny Eyes Wide
Shut. (Cox Comment: Guys in Bat costumes with Bat shaped boomerangs: 0)


Muriel: A drama about frustrated French people. Funky new-wave
editing helps make this film as dense as a novel. (Cox Comment: A subtle, precise, and wrenching film, shot largely without recourse
to the stylistic flourishes that made Resnais' reputation.

Ed. Note: I believe the good Professor is having a bit of fun here, meta-commenting on the widespread cyberplagerizing his students try to pass of as academic work.)

Zombie: You may think you've seen a zombie fight a shark, but you
haven't really seen a zombie fight a shark until you've seen Zombie!

Seven Men from Now: Randolph Scott and Lee Marvin try to steal a
woman from her wimp husband. (Cox Comment: The plot is unrealistic, Lee Marvin would annihilate Randolph Scott two minutes into the opening credit sequence. Course, then he'd take off his hat and say "Randolph Scott" reverently while standing over Scott's body with a smoking six iron.)

Blood for Dracula: AKA Andy Warhol's Dracula. This thing is
insane. Vulgar, funny.

Anxious Animation: Liquid Television type artiness. (Cox Comment: Talking pigs: er probably 0)

Chocolat: Not the one about the chocolate shop in the French
village; this one's about steamy jungle fever in Africa. Beautiful
camerawork. (Cox Comment: I have actually seen this, it is pretty cool. Its the one French movie where the French don't surrender to something. It would have
been cooler with a French guy in a white suit and an submachine gun
saying, "Okay Jones, you win, blow up the Chocolats, right back to
Count Chocula!")


Alice: Stop-motion Alice in Wonderland. This ain't the usual sugar
and spice Alice; this one restores all the cruelty and futility of
the novel. (Cox Comment: Hookah Pipes: 1)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning: Whaddaya know, a
Chainsaw sequel that doesn't suck. Horrible hillbillies live in
squalor and chop people up. They could make a million movies with
that premise, and I'd watch them all. This one, though, I'd rewatch. (Cox Comment: A great documentary of rural Texas life!)

By Brakhage: An Anthology: Disc 1 (2-Disc Series): Stan Brakhage is
a total art-nerd, but when he photographs his wife making funky
shadows with a waving candle, it looks pretty cool. Plus his
autopsy footage of fat corpses getting sawed into reminded me that I
need to get in shape, for real. (Cox Comment: Why film this when we live this?)

Alien: Collector's Edition: It's easy to take this movie for granted
or to prefer the action oriented sequel, but this flick is the most
elegant horror movie about space monsters I've ever seen. (Cox Comment: Aliens coming out of a dude's stomach: 1)

Tomorrow We Move: A charming French feel-good-in-a-bittersweet-way
comedy. I LUV it. (Cox Comment: See review of Chocolat!)

The Man Who Fell to Earth: David Bowie is an alien(Cox Comment: Why do we need a film to tell us the obvious?). He gets hooked
on crappy American culture and forgets to save his race. Ain't that
the way?

The Lovers of the Arctic Circle: Spanish romance; the kind of
entertainment Hollywood is famous for but hardly ever actually
makes. It takes a Spaniard to make a good Hollywood romance. (Cox Comment: Scenes with Mr. Freeze: 0)

The Love God?: Don Knotts becomes mistaken for a smut-magazine
publisher. You will Laff.

The Old Dark House: The perfect old-tymey Halloween movie.

The Sacrifice / Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky: I thought about this
movie for weeks afterward. An atheist turns to God when a nuclear
war breaks out; God reveals to him that the only way to save the
world is to have sex with his foxy maid. And so he does. Way to
take one for the team! (Cox Comment: Sounds cool! Who drives the getaway car?)

The League of Gentlemen: Series 1: Monty Python: The Next Generation. (Cox Comment: She turned me into a Victorian hero!(Ed. Comment: I trust I don't need to explain the Python/LXG joke, but for the sake of clarification I should point out that League of Gentlemen is a comedy troupe, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a splendid comic book, and LXG is a movie that didn't even try to match the comic.))

L'Avventura: My new favorite movie. Reminds me of my cooler
dreams. Don't show it to Natalee Holloway's family, though. (Cox Comment: See review of Chocolat.)

Films of Kenneth Anger: Vol. 1: The short film Inauguration of the
Pleasure Dome is my other new favorite movie. (Cox Comment: Two nerds enter, one nerd leaves!

Alucarda: The best movie about demon-possessed schoolgirls and nuns
EVER. (Cox Comment: Better than the Exorcist? (Ed. Note: I actually haven't seen The Exorcist, but I doubt it has as much girl-on-girl action as Alucarda, nor as much nun-whipping-nun action, so I give the edge to Alucarda.)


Comic Book Pajama Party: Women Who Love Comic Books!: Shut up, I
rented it and I enjoyed it. It's not good by any stretch of the
imagination, but when I'm a toothless old man I'll be looking for a
copy of this to guide me into the twilight. (Cox Comment: Awesome in a creepy way . . .)

The Long Goodbye: Elliot Gould plays Phillip Marlowe. It shouldn't
work, but it does.

Without You I'm Nothing: Sandra Bernhardt (Cox Comment: Stop the sentence here. We don't need to know anymore. Avoid at all costs) shows us why all those
people who hate her are WRONG.

Daisies: Mean girls are mean for an hour and a half. Arty and
funny. Made in Communist Poland; the DVD includes an angry speech
some official made about how this movie spits in the face of Commie
values.

Not on the Lips: Alain Resnais, one-time cutting-edge art-movie
guru, films a corny old french musical. It's a Gallic hoot.
Subtitles whiz by too fast, but what can you do? The guy who played
the Merovingian in the Matrix sequels plays an American, and has an
obvious blast making fun of us. (Cox Comment:See review of Chocolat.)


Tetsuo: The Iron Man: Cheap black-and-white SF movie about a guy
who's infected with a disease that turns him into a machine(Cox Comment: Otherwise known as "The Al Gore Story"). Explosive and weird, like watching a hardware fight on scrambled cable.

Spider Baby: If the Addam's Family actually killed people, they'd be
the Spiderbabies.

The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting / The Suspended Vocation: Two
inscrutable art-movie conspiracy puzzles. Show those Da Vinci's Code
fans what wimps they are by screening this at 'em (Cox Comment: Scenes with S-Mart workers killing zombies with a shotgun: 0)
.

This public service was sponsored by a grant from the Bored At Work
Foundation. Thanks again to Professor Cox for upgrading my nerdy little list and for letting me share his comments!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Very busy can't post

Forthcoming... my list of the best movies I Netflixed in 2007. With special color commentary by a respected member of Texas academia Professor Cox. If I don't get to it today It'll happen monday. So weak... must work...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Simple Joys

Here's a representative tale of my life and how I live it: I've been anxious because the extended warranty on my car is about to run out. The extended warranty has more than paid for itself, and that safety net has given me the kind of peace of mind that someone with a 1997 Saturn needs. A one-year warranty. One year, that's all I got. And my car makes funny noises, has odd crochets, could break down any minute. And in a city with nominal public transportation, a car breakdown can bring one's life to a long halt.

So on top of feeling ill I've been all stressed about the safety net being yanked away. The other night, out of grim curiosity I pulled out the paperwork to find out what the exact expiration date will be.

It's December 08.

2008.

I've got another year.

It's a relief, but why did I spend all that time stressing? What kind of nincompoop thinks he's got a one-year warranty when he's got two years? This is the way I stumble through life. Gimmee a beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

URG

I've been ill for a while now, but not stay-at-home ill, just groggy and nauseous. And broke. Tis the season. I'm glad I'm getting the broke and sick thing out of the way before Christmas proper. Thassall I got today.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lately

For most of the embarrassingly long time I've lived in this apartment I've kept the walk-in closet filled waist-deep with books. Not stacked books or shelved ones; just piled up. I've corrected this by pulling all the books out, hanging up some clothes, setting up cheap cinder block shelves, and shelving, shelving, shelving. It's a fresh patch of tidiness in my formerly hopeless home. Sadly I am still left with mounds, hillocks of books. A few can be given to Goodwill, but throwing out a bunch of them is out of the question. I need more shelving, I need to move junk around to clear space for the shelves, etc. So much to do... Still, it's wonderful to see so many of my books, spines out in orderly fashion, at once. It makes me want to read, read, read.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'm allergic to home improvement

I started putting in my poverty-row bookshelves (you know, planks on concrete blocks) in my walk-in closet, but the simple act of changing my head's elevation made my head spin, and I spent most of the rest of the weekend barely moving. The actual physical work was by no means extreme, so I'm wondering if it isn't the eustress of seeing my apartment begin to look like some kind of reasonable dwelling that's overwhelmed me.

My smelling salts!

* * *

Okay, Langford's proposed $500 fine for people who don't pay parking tickets is a good idea. Lessee, the fine applies the tickets from 2003-2007 per the B'ham news... So tickets from before then aren't involved? Phew.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Happy Sad, are you feeling good or feeling bad?

I want to steer away from political blather since it's not my strong suit, but this week two conservative pundits on Yahoo.com's editorial section, Maggie Gallagher and Larry Elder, have written articles about polls which indicate that, respectively, conservatives have better mental health than liberals, and Republicans are happier than Democrats. Is this the new conservative meme for turning the next election around? Unable to confidently promise a better economy or improved safety, are conservatives falling back on promising "happiness?"

OTOH it's true that within my circle of acquaintances, liberals tend to be more depressive than conservatives. Maybe it's because fewer of us believe we're going to heaven. That's only true for some, though. Maybe it's because, as a group, conservatives are more likely to value a degree of conformity and uniformity, while liberals are more likely to value avaunt-guard envelope-pushing, which easily shades into various flavors of neurosis and confusion, or at least being more open about neurosis and confusion. Maybe frustrated conservatives are more likely to deny their problems in order to maintain an upbeat facade. Most leftys I know love to be all too honest about their problems, while righties are more likely to sweep it under the rug.

Of course the poll (as distinct from a study) Maggie Gallagher cites relies on self reporting; in other words they asked people if they were in good mental health or not. Self-described conservatives were more likely to say they were in fine mental health. Perhaps conservatives would also be more likely to describe themselves as smart, funny and charming? I suspect liberals tend to be more inclined to self-questioning, and therefore less likely to blithely claim to be in fine mental health.

Am I happy and in good mental health? Well, I'm functional, generally happy and upbeat, and I'm not gonna go Columbine over minor frustrations. OTOH I'm a slovenly 34-year-old near-virgin whose apartment still looks like a little boy's playpen despite almost a year of claiming I'm gonna clean it up. So my happiness clearly exists within parameters, parameters which, for some, could be described as "sadness." You could spin it two different ways. I suspect this is true for many people. Maybe libs are more prone to spin it the negative way, or more likely to vacillate between two ways of framing their situation.

Another thought; before AIDS pushed Republican homosexuals out fo the closet, a self-reporting poll of homosexuality would have shown Democrats to be more likely to be gay. Certian socio-cultural factors meant gay people on the left were more likely to be open about their sexuality than homosexuals whose sociopolitical leanings were to the right. But right-leaning pundits would have titled their articles "Does the Democratic Party Make You Gay?" Maybe unhappy Republicans are just on the DL.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Little, Big, Blood Tea and Red String

I'm posting out of habit at this point.

But last night I started a movie titled "Blood Tea and Red String." Though I'm only twenty minutes into it, I suggest checking it out. It's a stop-motion story about strange animals going on a journey to retrieve a stolen doll. Lovely picture-book stuff. There's a sequence where two characters play stop-motion cat's cradle that is jaw-dropping; so smooth, quick and complex!

I'm five pages from the end of my current lunchtime book, Little, Big by John Crowley. Like an Iris Murdoch novel, it's big, but it's not fat; it's all muscle, baby! A rewarding and entertaining novel about an oddball family out in the country, and I'll hate to wave goodbye.

A shout out to Sisters of Mercy, whose song "This Corrosion" is the most effective workplace song I've got. It blocks out all the chatter, the neurotic guy's singing, and it's bouncy enough to keep me working. Plus it's got a cool choir on it that makes me wanna sing. I should. Have a taste of your own medicine, neurotic coworker guy!

Oops. Now someone's eating... well, it smells like dog fried in mayonnaise. Guess the Sisters of Mercy can't do anything about THAT little workplace annoyance.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Second post of the day-Mutter

One of my new coworkers is a mutterer. Actually he's more of a singer-under-his-breath. This drives me nuts. It's a classic case of someone's habit bugging me because it's a more intense version of my own bad habits. I WANT to sing under my breath with no regard for the folks around me. I just don't. I keep it in my pants. We're crammed in too close to be letting our neurotic little tics run rampant.

In the privacy of my own home, though, I'm a muttering, singing, yammering fool. I just have the decency to confine my shuffling mental patient act behind closed doors. Weirdness is fine so long as it is contained. Your right to be neurotic stops where my touchy sensibilities begin, and vice versa.

My last post mentioning Larry Langford, honest

It's "Mission Accomplished" for Larry; he's been allowed to put a big tax burden on the poor with a regressive tax, no one seems to care, and now he better provide all the stuff he's promised to supply (rotsa ruck). I want lower crime, better education, and economic prosperity in Birmingham as much as anyone, but there's a difference between loud promises and actual accomplishments. Would it have killed us to put the tax burden on folks who can afford yachts, rather than people who can't afford rowboats?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Only In My Dreams

Last night I had a really vivid dream in which an attractive woman tried to seduce me in order to get me to stop saying nasty things about The Honorable Mayor Langford on my blog. In the dream it didn't work. In real life it would. Not that my blog has that kind of clout, but Mayor, if you're reading this, you can shut me up the pretty lady way. Just tell her not to try it in a bookstore the way she did in my dream.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I pretty much made another post in the comments section of the older post here in response to the great Laura K.

Move it!

This weekend I spent more time cleaning, and got more done, than I have in years.

But I was helping a couple of friends rearrange their house in preparation for renovations, rather than cleaning my own crib.

Happily I think the discovery that I actually have the power to pick things up and move them around will inspire me to do a bit of that at the ol' homestead. So thanks Andy and Tommy, for giving me another learning opportunity!

Friday, November 30, 2007

I wanna be karaoke

Work is hectic and will continue to be hectic for a while, so I'll be posting lighter. Anyway, last night was fun even though I didn't see the woman I was hoping to see.

A few things I noticed about gay-bar karaoke as distinguished from straight-bar karaoke(although admittedly my sample size is really small):

Generally better singing at the gay bar.

More gospel songs at the gay bar (People who think gay=depraved take note).

More general friendliness and less strict cliquishness at the gay bar.

Singing about how I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist doesn't go over any better at a gay bar than a straight one (people who think gay=depraved take note).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

SPECIAL TO MY READERS

Yesterday was awful, so today I'm planning to compensate. There's a cute lady I met recently who allegedly hangs out at the Lakeview Yacht Club on Thursdays, so that's where I aim to be. Come by and I'll buy you a drink. If all my readers show up, we might be able to get our own table.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Third Post of the Day: did I mention that Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford Sucks?

From this Alabama News article Re: Langford's regressive sales tax increase:

Olivia Thompson, a former city bus driver forced to leave her job because of a disability, said she lives on just $607 a month.

"They're saying one penny's just one penny," the West End resident said. "It's not just one penny if they double and triple taxes for business owners. That's going to spill over to us, and we won't even be able to afford food stamps."

Langford, who dropped in for about 10 minutes of the evening meeting and took the microphone, dismissed such fears.

"If a penny's going to break you, you're already broke anyway, so don't worry about it," he told the cheering crowd.


What a callous little man. A domed stadium might be a good idea, but don't put the burden on those least able to bear it.

It's the cheering crowd that gets me, though. Birmingham is dumb. Dumb like a frog.

Second Post of the Day

Realtor-wise I now have two offices to contend with; one has come onto the scene but the other hasn't left. As I've labored these past few days to correct my realtor issue (which seems to hinge on confusions between the two offices, confusions which are outside my sphere of influence) I've been uncertain which of the two offices is the boss and which is the subordinate. People at each office seem to think they're the top, and that the other office is topping from the bottom. I now think the relationship isn't a linear hierarchy; more like a bad marriage. Mommy-office and Daddy-office are fighting, and they were taking it out on me. Now I've reestablished the equilibrium by getting them to fight with each other. I feel semi-safe but precariously perched. I'm glad my real Mommy and Daddy are happily married. I feel like I've gotten a demo of what it's like to be the child of squabbling parents, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

P. S. to whom it may concern: Mr. Goldstein did a one-man show at Virginia Samford theatre a few months back, and it was dope. I will not be doing a one-man show at Virginia Samford, but I might do a one-man scene at an open-mike if I can find one that seems hospitable.

I won't bore you with the details

Various things involving my money seem to have gone awry. I've tried to be reasonable about it whenever the person on the other end was hoping for me to be gracious. Perhaps I'll get a positive karmic payback when I'm depending on the other person to be gracious. As it is, I'm playing phone tag with the woman who's in charge of attacking deadbeat tenants; despite paying my rent on time I've been mistaken for a deadbeat. I hope getting a refund on a lost money order is a painless transaction.

Meanwhile I'm working on a solo-performance text. Where does one do solo performance texts in B'ham? If you're Goldstein the answer is Virginia-Samford, but I'm thinking a bit smaller than that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Move along, "Navel S--b" fans. There's no navel s--bbing to be enjoyed here.

I'm making a s--b at writing a monologue (do you suppose my use of the phrase "making a s--b" in conjunction with the tag "navel gazing" is why so many people come tripping across my blog in their search for "navel s--b?" Every day these people come to my blog. It's kind of disturbing) for some kind of performance, but it's nowhere near being ready to reveal. That's all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I lost weight over Thanksgiving weekend

Heaven knows I needed to. My family eats light and lean compared to me, so I kept the eating thing under control. Also the actual Thanksgiving dinner was an extended family potluck, and my extended family is a mixed bag on the cooking front. Half the desserts were from Sam's Club. C'mon, people.

The time with my nuclear family was time well spent, indeed.

Anything else? I'm reading the anthology Extreme Exposure, Ed. Jo Bonney, full of text excerpts of various performance artists. There's some tasty stuff in here. Future audition monologues, for sure, but also a source of inspiration. I may try my hand at writing and open-miking, just to see if B'ham wants performance monologues, and if I can help meet that need.

Look, I had all these lovely little observations over the weekend, but I came home to a Landlord Letter which banished all such thoughts from my head. Home Office thinks I haven't paid my rent. I have. They've promised to clear it all up, but even the suggestion that a Kafkaesque eviction nightmare might open up through no fault of my own changed all my pastel sunlit ruminations into dark inky stormclouds. All's well (probably) but never underestimate McFate's power to make a sow's ear of a silk purse.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Unnatural Marriage

My Mom used to work at an office. One of the salesmen there was an outspoken racist who said (bear in mind you're getting this thirdhand: my version of Mom's version of what this guy said) that "We keep the black people in their place in Nashville" and that we should handle the war on terrorism thing by bombing Mecca, as if that'd settle things down.

Mom was miserable there and didn't hang around long (for a variety of reasons, not just a loathsome coworker), but she befriended a nice woman at an office-related party. This woman was (per Mom)sophisticated, well-spoken, a professional writer who had numerous published books to her credit. I bet you can figure out the punchline: she was married to the racist guy.

I'm unlikely to ever meet this couple, but as my Mom told me more and more stories about them (each of which pretty much reenforced my initial impression: the Klansman and the college grad) I found that they inhabited my imagination to an unsettling degree. I think the key reason (aside from my guilty white liberal daydreams of retorting to bigots) is that they provide a sort of miscegenation nightmare for me; the sophisticate who marries an unrepentant bigot. This repels me the way race-mixing upsets Klansman. How could she mix her genes with a person of such inferior, degraded stock?

If someone could map the dynamics of their marriage it might provide a sort of Rosetta stone to the mysteries of human attraction.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Second Post of the Day: Can You Tell Me How To Get

This article about early Sesame Street starts off snarky, but touches on some interesting elements of the original Sesame Street production. Despite being a white suburban kid, I always felt at home in the pasteurized inner city environment of Sesame Street.

My favorite part:

People on “Sesame Street” had limited possibilities and fixed identities, and (the best part) you weren’t expected to change much. The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing that numbers and letters would lead you “out” of your inner city to Elysian suburbs. Instead, “Sesame Street” suggested that learning might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier. It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off — taking baths, eating cookies, reading.

This is exactly the point of all non-vocational learning, isn't it?

So cute

Today I saw a mom and dad leading a pair of identical twin girls, and don't you know those cute little girls were dressed exactly alike? They made me smile, but my smile melted into a frown, because everything I've ever heard from grown twins on the subject is that you should dress twins differently and encourage them to be their own persons. I have twin cousins who grew up with complementary but different wardrobes; their dresses might have the same pattern, but one girl's color scheme would be different from the other. That seems like a good way to balance it out. Today my cousins are as connected as any pair of sisters, but are very aware of themselves as distinct individuals.

Still, I totally understand the urge to turn twins into a perfect pair. It reminds me of the urge to have white carpet. When I was a carpet cleaner I discovered that every conventionally-minded newlywed bride wants white carpet in her first house. She soon discovers, though, that there is no such thing as white carpet. There is only mottled gray carpet with brown and black streaks. Any "white" carpet you see is simply a preliminary to the inevitable.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pseudo-Good Deed

I was strolling along a walking path when I found a cel phone lying in the grass. The only other person around was a jogger. I called out to him and asked if it was his. He addressed me as "Ma'am, uh, sir," once, which made me wonder. I don't believe he actually thought I was a woman. Did he think I was trying to pick him up? Whatever.

It wasn't his phone, and so I called Sprint and made arrangements to drop the thing off at the local Sprint shop this morning. Everyone at Sprint, whether on the phone or at the shop, acted like I must be a wonderful standup guy to turn the thing in instead of keeping it.

The reality is that I don't use cel phones, don't know how they work, and have no idea what to do with the things (My brother makes a living helping people understand the gadgets, but I haven't asked him for help). I'm always panic-stricken when someone hands me a cel phone for any reason. All I know about them is that they're pestilential noisemakers that make the whole world sound like a Chuck E Cheese. I can't operate them, and they do too give you brain cancer no matter what those studies say. If I were less neurotic about the things I might have called all my long-distance friends on someone else's tab.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Birmingham, Alabama has the Mayor it deserves.

The winner of the new Platinum Douchebag for Excellence in Sucking is Birmingham's new mayor, Larry Langford, for proposing a sales tax increase to pay for the products of his synapse misfirings. Please help me hate him for pushing this regressive tax. Why does he like regressive, poor-people-punishing taxes so much? What is he, a Republican or something?

Pictures! We got pictures! Or, That Hair Reflection'll Get You Every Time

A couple years back a friend sent me some photos of myself in which it was very clear that I had a patchy bald spot. This was before I could see the patchy bald spot in the mirror. I responded to my friend with some cockamamie tale about how it wasn't actually a bald spot, just the way the light was reflecting off my hair. Was I desperate or what?

The other day I saw some photos of me in which I appeared to have an absurdly protruding pot belly. I'm not in denial about my need to lose weight and get in better condition (yeah, like I'm gonna whip it into shape around the holidays) but this picture really strained credulity. I'm not one of THOSE guys with low-slung pot bellies that don't match their frames and look like some kind of comical false pregnancy, am I? I looked closer and was relieved to see that it was just the open flap of my jacket, not an actual part of me, that was extending so far from my center.

Or was it? I remember how certain I was, or tried to be, that my baldness was just that old bugaboo hair reflection.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

No Place at the Table

I'm thinking about the family I'll see at Thanksgiving, which gets me thinking about someone we won't be seeing at Thanksgiving: Uncle Lenny.

Uncle Lenny was a charming, brainy pilot and an early dabbler in home computers. He was married to Aunt Carol, who was my blood relative in this situation. They were a fact of family life when I was a child, Aunt Carol and Uncle Lenny.

Then one day it was announced that they were separated.

Much later they were back together, attending church and family social events hand in hand, smiling, talking about the counseling they were getting.

Then they were divorced.

A sad but typical story. But it's not like they just went their seperate ways. The message that came down after the divorce-and I wanna emphasise that this was from my Mom and other Aunts, not from Aunt Carol herself-was "Uncle Lenny is gone. He is Dead. His name has been blotted out of the Book of Life. You will never see him again." I was sad because I liked Uncle Lenny; he was charming and knew how to make a little boy feel important. But indeed I never saw him or heard from him again.

I'd kinda like to drop him a line, but I don't know his name. He's Uncle Lenny. And while my parents are generally open with me, I don't think they'd want to help me track the guy down.

Anyway, some years after all this I asked Mom why Aunt Carol and Uncle Lenny went through all that, and Mom's answer was "He had a girl in every port." Which explains everything and nothing. You can imagine how that would lead to divorce, but it doesn't in and of itself tell the whole story. Did he keep cheating after all his happy Scripture-verse-laced talk about staying together and counseling and the sacredness of the marriage vows?

And even if he were a repeat cheater, I could understand how my family would hold him in low regard, but there's more than low regard in this family for the man. There's a deep, dark, plentiful well of hard hate. Maybe there's more to the story than infidelity; or maybe when it gets personal such stock elements as "adultery" and "divorce" take on a fiery, frightening and epic force.

Anyway, my family is pretty pokey in most regards, and I prefer it that way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Second post of the day: melancholy laced with cheer

Please put some Son House on for this post.

Me am melancholy because there's a woman I wanna see again but the time is not yet ripe. I'll spare you the details, but I've got to get myself properly situated before I'm ready to make a play. It's a pretty banal situation, but at least I'm planning for the future; I sense that I've been taking what came to hand too often lately, instead of going forth and finding opportunities on which to jump. Despite the onset of Autumn I'm in a Springish mood, a regenerative mood. I'm ready to get out of the all-too-comfy rut I've plowed for myself. I'm too comfortable; it's the comfort of lazy resignation. Time to shake things up.

Cleanup

I was telling one of my Shakespeare at Sloss co-performers about my filthy-apartment woes and said "I've got four big trouble spots. If I can clear those up I'll be out of the woods." She said "you can probably clear up each spot in about a week, right?" I dunno, but her saying it motivated me to tackle some of those trouble spots that I've done nothing more than furrow my brow at for a while.

I've got a pile of clothing that I haven't worn in years; for various reasons I decided these clothes didn't fit the bill, and I threw them in one of the semi-closets that pepper my apartment. Today I finally started sorting through them... they'll need serious cleaning, but most of them will be wearable with a bit of care, and some of them are startlingly nice clothes that my parents bought me, years ago. I'm dumbfounded that I didn't appreciate these things, and just left them in a lump.

* * *

Three comics from Picturebox (see link to left!) arrived yesterday: 1-800-MICE ishs 1 and 2, and Free Radicals. 1-800-MICE is by Matthew Thurber, whose contribution to acclaimed artcomix anthology Kramers Ergot 6 spellbound me. I'm savoring this new comic; it's like a mashup of the perfect long-form improv show, the perfect dream, and the perfect Saturday morning cartoon that never was (including the cereal ads).

Free Radicals is an anthology which blends new-school artcomix with prisoner art. New-school artcomix kids thought it would be interesting to solicit art from convicts, and they aren't wrong. So you get short narratives, some elegant and enigmatic images, and then, y'know, nekkid ladies with devil horns. The book is wildly uneven, but at ten bucks the best of it redeems the worst.

* * *

I recently saw the movie Elephant by Gus Van Sant; it's based on the Columbine shootings. It takes Steadicam about as far as it can go, and builds up compassion for the victims without yanking at our heartstrings. One thing that struck me about it was that Van Sant presents the fictionalized shooters as affectless, bland, without overt passion. I had imagined the Columbine shooters acting out of an overflow of poorly-channelled passion.

I wonder what the Columbine shooters would think if they could see their fictionalized selves kissing in the shower.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Getting my look together

On the Saturday final rehearsal for Shakespeare at Sloss I wore contacts. The director told me she preferred my big clunky glasses, as they made me look more Horatio-ish or something. I got contacts so I could do theatre without either wearing glasses or being blind, but ever since I did my directors have all wanted me to wear the glasses. Directors love my glasses because these coke-bottle specs are so ridiculous that they make me look like a "character."

One of the ushers for our show (who has a Betty Boop voice, and with whom I instantly fell in love) met me in my contacts; after the actual show she told me "You look really nerdy."

"Well thank you" I replied.

I guess she thought they were costume specs, but no, they're part of my normal look. Finally someone was impolitic enough to blow the whistle on my dorky appearance; I hadn't quite fathomed the effect my glasses have on how I come across. It turns out she has a thing about nerdy glasses, though, and she likes to wear clear-lensed frames as part of her nerd-girl look. Hmmm.

Post-Sloss

The show went nicely! Doing the same scene three times in a row is a new experience for me; I guess I can go work at a theme park now. Hamlet and I really felt a connection this time; I have trouble connecting with people; I'm always abashed about looking people in the eyes. Connecting with Hamlet in the scene got me on a roll, and I managed to connect with several folks later that evening.


More later... I'm a bit behind at work.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Spare change?

This account of a statement by authors Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore dovetails with some of my recent thoughts:

Moorcock was fascinating on this subject, and I'd like to hear him talk more about it - he was essentially riffing on Shelley's line about poets being the unacknowledged legislators of humanity, talking about how "we can't get real change, and the only way to get actual change is to change the rhetoric", as well as talking about how other people had often come up to him and described remembering events from his fiction.

Moore's thoughts were broadly similar, but subtly different. While Moorcock spoke about the need to change rhetoric as a stepping-stone to real change, Moore says "we are living in text - we live by manipulating language".


I think reframing the nature of things is one of our only effective means of dealing with life. So much of life hinges on how we conceptualize it. And on some level we all understand this. So much of the way we talk about events reflects our knowledge that we have to understand events in useful ways. "Everything happens for a reason." But sometimes we have to supply the reason, or try.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Like Us

Today the Workplace lunch bunch (which is to say, my coworkers who eat hot stinky nasty food at their desks) are really in top form. The smell of what appears to be dog fried in mayonnaise has been assaulting my nostrils for two hours. I am a peaceloving person, so I shall seek the inner strength to live through this. Which is not to say that the fantasy of microwaving a bowel movement and just letting it sit on my desktop hasn't crossed my mind.

* * *

Last night I watched a good portion of the DVD The 70s Dimension courtesy of Netflix. You gotta see this. 70s era commercials, public service announcements, and remixes of the same by such artists asPeople Like Us. The ads are more basic versions of the same cheap emotional pornography that is the stock in trade of advertising today. These back pages of media history are kind of like seeing your relatives in their underwear. I wonder what happened to the endearing muscleman who pitches cheap exercise gear? I'm serously considering learning the "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer" announcer's spiel as an audition piece.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Little Shakespeare Video

Click here for a clip of the TV coverage. Click the teensy other video link in the corner to see the clip with me in it. Please note that they cut me out of the frame during the "I knew him, Horatio" bit which was the whole reason for my standing there. At least at Thanksgiving I get to tell my relatives that I was on TV. Being on TV is wonderfully impressive to my extended family. Although we don't subscribe to Noel Coward's rule that television is something one appears on, not something one watches.

BTW in actual performance I'm hoping not to be wearing enormous glasses (my contacts contact seems to be dragging her feet on stocking my contacts).

Also note that we cut the word "whoreson" out of the scene. Shakespeare is 2 HOTT 4 TV.

Birmingham:City Without Risers

This morning I shivered my way to Sloss Furnace so I could be Horatio in an excerpt from our excerpt from Hamlet. I was there so that when Hamlet said "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio" he would have a Horatio next to him. It was cold, but good company kept it light.

Anyway, it turns out we can't do the scene in the awesome cooling tower ruin after all! The plan was to have risers so the audience could see over the big wall of our playing field, but apparently there are no sturdy yet portable outdoor risers available in B'ham. So in the tradition of old Doctor Who episodes we'll do the whole thing in a gravel pit. Actually we'll be on the lip of the pit, elevated over the audience with Sloss's magnificent towers as our backdrop, so our second-best plans are pretty good. Still, one can't help lamenting what might have been. Alas, poor industrial ruin.

* * *

The long-awaited happy ending to the gripping saga of the electric blanket: I tried it out last night, and it was like being swaddled in amniotic fluid. Yay electric blanket! I think feeling like a happy baby all night made it easier to be a grown-up about getting up so early today. I have to let the baby and the man work in alternating shifts.

* * *

My new bloglink is to Noah Berlatsky, an iconoclastic art-comics critic. I often disagree with him, but he often gives me food for thought. Since I know my readers are such hardcore art-comics nerds I figured you'd be pleased.

Between electric blankets and art-comics weblinks, you can't say I don't give the good stuff. But most of my non-regulars are still looking for "navel s--b." They totally snub my plea for someone to give us the scoop on the navel s--b phenom that's apparently sweeping the globe. They show up, realize Google lead them down another blind alley, and scurry out, holding newspapers over their faces. Or so I imagine it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Washing My Electric Blanket: The Adventure Continues

Last night I stayed up late washing and drying my electric blanket. I had to handwash it, then ring it out by hand; machines would screw it up. It wasn't hard, but it took a sustained effort (over an hour, easy) to get the blanket from waterlogged to merely wet, and the expenditure of what I laughably call my upper-body strength left me with a good kind of exhaustion. I slept great. Hard work and clean living pay off. Someday I may try them for more than one night.

Anyway, tomorrow I gotta get up at HelpmeJesus O'Clock to do a Shakespeare shoot for Fox TV. I haven't really talked about how much I love engaging Shakespeare and Sloss Furnace at the same time. The magnificent industrial ruin and the complex, challenging material (although my part is simple) really displace me from my day-to-day reality. I feel like I'm living a different life when I do this. Doing it at dawn in front of cameras will add an extra level of distortion to the affair.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Fire up that furnace; it's cold this morning.

We're doing some TV promotion for our Shakespeare At Sloss thing: we have to show up at 6:15 in the freakin' morning this Wednesday to tape our segment. I begged off, claiming work conflict, but the only real conflict is that I want to be snug in my bed at 6:15 in the freakin' AM.

Then I thought about what a professional actor has to do in order to get and keep jobs, and I told the bosses that I will show up after all. Although they said they could work around me (and indeed, Horatio isn't exactly the linchpin of the scene) it would work better with me there, and I expect once I get past the heartache of getting up early on a cold morning I'll quite enjoy Sloss at sunrise, doing a little Shakespeare for the B'ham public, and working with some of B'ham's top thespian talent. John, our Hamlet, is a joy to hear every time he intones his lines. Another chapter in my struggle between ambition on the one hand and laziness+infantilism on the other has been penned.

The other day I got to watch some of my favorite folks rehearse a bit of Lear in another part of the park, and it was a thrill. I'm glad they're taping the performances for an eventual documentary on the Shakespeare at Sloss adventure.

Sickening

Over the weekend I stood in a concrete ruin, roasting in the hot afternoon sun, and occasionally said "E'en so, my lord." Doing Hamlet in an industrial ruin is the coolest thing ever, but cold as it is, the sun is pitiless. I burn easily, and sunburn isn't just a skin thing for me. It extends down to the brain. Ow.

The other night I decided it was about time to take the electric blanket out of storage. When last winter ended I zipped the blanket up in the plastic cover in which it (the blanket, not winter) came. Perhaps I should have washed the blanket first. I've never experienced a mustard gas attack, but I think I get the idea thanks to the frightening funk that billowed from this blankey. This wasn't a wafting odor; this was an olfactory attack. I hung the blanket over the shower curtain rod, soaked it with Lysol, turned an electric fan on it and went to bed. Around 2 in the AM I woke to the odor of Lysol mixed with mustard gas permeating the apartment, so I ran water in the tub and rinsed the blanket, then squeezed it out and hung it up again. I've only begun the decontamination process. Yeah, I want to put it on my bed, but I don't want it to make me sick.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Polish posters

Heck, just check out the Polish Poster Archive. Wowsers. Movies, theatre... Thanks to Shoot The Projectionist for setting me hip to this feast for the eyes.

Hamlet, My Fair Lady, Cheap Ginger Ale

My new bloglink, Shoot the Projectionist, which features, among other things, unusual Polish film posters. Just for Frank, here's a My Fair Lady poster you don't see every day... it took me a minute to make sense of it, but it's worth a look.

Last night's Hamlet graveyard scene rehearsal was fun, but everybody got the giggles and we had to drink a lot of ginger ale (in lieu of alcohol). The ginger ale helped me out because it killed my sweet tooth; I find a little cheap nasty sweet stuff from time to time saves me from spending money on the expensive and fattening sweets to which I seem to be addicted. OTOH the Solar Monarch (in the role of the gravedigger) is going to have to drink about twelve cans of cheap soda on performance day if we stick with the very precise beer choreography our director has mandated. Better him than me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Theatre Surplus

Wow, there's a lot of theatre going on. How are po' folks supposed to keep up? In addition to which I'd like to see a lot of musical acts and dance recitals in town, but it's no use: I got to save if I'm gonna buy a Christmas. I've decided that 2008 needs to be the year I get serious about uprooting. I love Birmingham, but if I wanna make some kind of living as an actor I'd better get out of my cozy B'ham burrow and move along.

I'm told that cities with strong pro theatres have much less in the way of community theatre. I guess that means fewer shows to keep up with. I love having a vibrant and viral theatre scene, although it's no Chicago on the improv front.... Having one big pro theatre owning it all would be an interesting switch from startup theatre groups putting on a show in every other walk-in closet.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scary

Edit: this was an incoherent bull-session monologue about why people do evil things, the Will to Power, blah blah blah, but upon rereading I realized it didn't A. make a lick of sense or B. make any points that wouldn't get red-penciled in an Intro to Philosophy course. That's what happens when you try to force a blogpost. It wasn't anything I'd want to read on anyone else's blog, so I apologise for inflicting it on ya'll.

* * *

Here's what's really on my mind: going for a walk (as I usually do in the evening) will be a bad idea tonight. I hate dodging trick-or-treaters. They're doing the right thing, and I loved doing it in my day, but I feel all squirrely when I have to constantly tack around slow-moving kids in costume. I'll probably stay in and watch scary movies like Halloween (which I've never seen) and Muriel. Okay, Muriel isn't scary, but so far it's good.

New link-the Modite.com blog. Maybe it will inspire me to shift out of second gear. Its questioning about career and family has me wondering-since I'm not, and probably never will be, a good provider, will I never marry? Maybe that's not so inspiring after all.

Here's a great big mashup (a monster mashup?) from DJ Food. Bootleg remixes of pop tracks and found sound, with a little lesson in electronic music. It's a huge download, but I've been listening to it obsessively.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dream Dollies

I don't want to be one of those people who talk about their dreams (I don't mind people sharing dreams, but it seems to be a serious pet peeve for a lot of folks) but I had an odd dream recently. I'm not gonna lay a plot synopsis on you, but the odd thing was that it was just about entirely negative: one lousy thing after another happened to me in this gloomy dream world. Thinking about this led me to realize that most of my dreams are like my life: an equal blend of positive and negative events and situations. I suppose I'm due a really happy dream now.

Oh, all right, twist my arm, here's the dream:

I'm at a dingy party, where I meet my real-life friend The Alabama Sister. Unlike in real life, she doesn't even pretend to be happy to see me. She chats with some rich guy who invites her to a much cooler party. I pretend that I was invited to the cooler party, but I'm blowing it off; no one buys it.

I leave the party and walk through cold, dark city streets, fretting over The Alabama Sister's no longer liking me. Soon the streets are full of happy, wonderfully dressed young couples, all of them on an Event Date. I keep walking, wishing I could find my home, resenting all the pretty rich young happy lovers.

Suddenly the streets have become a shopping mall, open late for some reason. I'm in a toy store, full of kids and their parents. I want to get out, but suddenly there's a doll in my hand. A whole table of discount dolls, all with scratches and scars on their realistic pretty faces, is somehow mine; I'm holding an impossible number of dolls in my arms. All the children in the shop are indistinguishable from the dolls, and they crowd me like zombies; they're drawn to the dolls. I fear the children, I fear the parents who may think I'm some kind of predatory Pied Piper, I don't want the dolls, I just want to go home, but I can't move as the child zombie-dolls press in... then I woke up.

Like I say, none of the ingredients of this dream were all that unusual for my dream life; it's the relentless yuckiness of the dream that's unusual.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gaffing my kibe

Saturday we rehearsed the Gravedigger Scene from Hamlet. We're doing it as part of the Shakespeare at Sloss benefit production on November 11th, where patrons (at these ticket prices they're not just audience members; they're patrons) will be guided around the park and accosted by Players around every corner. Our scene is set in what's left of a burned-down cooling tower. We had lots of fun industrial ruin to play in, and I suspect the scene will prove to be a lucid and richly textured rendition of this marvelous contemplation of death... if we can be heard over trains and traffic. Sloss Furnace is a magnificent setting, but acoustically you'd be hard pressed to find a worse location for Shakespeare.

Anyway, because it was chilly out I made my annual mistake of thinking I didn't need sunscreen. You can't get burned if it's cold, right? Now I'm the color of a cheap hotdog, and I had to spend Sunday in bed. Happens every year.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

All I need is a bonnet.

Last night I did my laundry at the laundromat, and I suspect that the front-loader machines don't give you your own detergent; I think they pour in the detergent of the last person to use the machine. I suspect this because I poured in my tasteful nonscented (and non-petroleum-based, as a nominal attempt to be green) detergent, and it came out reeking of perfume. Perfume that a ten-year-old girl would refuse to wear. Why do people disdain to wear cheap perfume, but they want cheap perfume to saturate their wardrobe? Plus there seems to have been about a gallon of softener in the machine's system, because all my garb feels like baby clothes now. Waaah!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm Mr. Ghost; Tonight I'm Gonna Shake My Bones

I'm thinking about Halloween critters I'd like to be, not for Halloween, but for real, and I think Ghost takes the prize, especially if I get to haunt a theatre, a museum or a Victorian Mansion. If I had to haunt a grocery store or something, though, that would suck.

A vampire could be fun, although I prefer comic-relief vampires like The Count from Sesame Street or Count Chocula to scary or goth vampires.

Chainsaw killers? Although deranged hill folk hold an undying fascination for me, the last thing I wanna do is join their ranks. I like my Halloween characters defanged, as it were.

Mad scientist? Why not? Castle on a hill, messed-up hair, cackling and screwing with nature. Of course mad businesspeople turn out to be the real problem; mad scientists can only get anywhere with $$$.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Man of Conviction

A while back I participated in a Cabaret (The Politically Incorrect one) and Amnesty International took part. They hung in the lobby and got folks to sign petitions, take home promotional goodies, etc. There were some cute women working for Amnesty International, so I decided to join. Sadly I can't find up-to-date info on when and where they meet; the one time I tried to attend a meeting, the coffee shop at which the meeting was alleged to take place was closed. Perhaps Amnesty is more underground than I thought, and I needed to make a special knock or something.

Anyway, now they're filling up my email with constant messages about atrocities and petitions and requests for money. Look, I was ready for all that, but only AFTER I got to meet some cute women. No sermon without a supper.

Monday, October 22, 2007

House of a Thousand Curses

I'm in a Halloween mood, so I saw the movie House of a Thousand Corpses recently. I enjoyed it, but nevermind that: I wanna talk about the ways folks who reviewed it on Netflix responded to it. Lots of gripes about this cult film, most of them revolving around excessive gore and profanity.

I wonder what kind of decision-making process led these people to add this film to their queues. "House of a Thousand Corpses! That sounds cute. It says here that it was written and directed by heavy metal musician Rob Zombie. I bet it's nice and tasteful." C'mon, people.

Anyway, what's with fussing about profanity in a flick like this? "I don't believe homicidal hillbillies would express themselves so crudely." Look, I grew up around degenerate, if not murderous, hillbillies, and they come in three basic flavors: uptight religious nuts, pottymouths, and uptight religious nuts with pottymouths.

I'm more intrigued by the folks who complain about more nuanced matters of tone and such. I'm a recent convert to horror flicks, and it's interesting to me that fans all seem to have really personal views on which films are the good ones. Is a film too goofy, too grim, too distanced, too manipulative? Too implausible, too straightforward? Too slick, too crude? I think horror films appeal, when they appeal, because they plug directly into the viewers' personal concerns. More formal considerations of narrative and technical qualities are insignificant next to the extent to which a film reflects the individual viewers' nightmares. Okay, that's hardly a fresh observation, but it seems that technical excellence, imaginative filmmaking, etc. are less important to horror fans (myself included) than correspondence to the individual viewers' dream life. Horror movies all aspire to be nightmares, but my nightmares are different from yours, which explains why, say, I prefer (even bad) movies about deranged hillbillies to (even good) movies about zombies. I never dream about zombies.

Friday, October 19, 2007

be kind

The title of this post is a reference to the play Tea and Sympathy. The recently deceased Deborah Kerr starred in the film, which I haven't seen. It's about a kind woman who gently initiates a less-than-masculine and sexually timid boy (homosexual? It's ambiguous) into sexuality. She's lonely and compassionate; he's all mixed up. It's a bittersweet tale. I played the boy in a college student-directed one-act cutting from the script. Playing a wimpy and sexually unthreatening guy was not exactly an acting stretch. The student in the Deborah Kerr role was a large, gentle butch lesbian, who gave a luminous performance but was probably a surprise to anyone in the audience who was expecting a Deborah Kerr-alike. I hadn't thought about the play in years, until someone mentioned it in relation to Kerr's passing. The play is a charmer, but it's the kind of fantasy about sexual awfulness averted by sexual kindness that doesn't match up to life as I've lived it. You can't spell "excruciating sadness" without S-E-X.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Macbeth Funnies

This blogpost is from a teacher who asks students to draw comics illustrating Macbeth. It's a cool way to gauge the kids' comprehension, and I think the comics he posts are pretty amusing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Shakespeare at Sloss; or, Shakespear Eats Loss

My next theatre gig (and last for the year. Phew.)

Bodega

New link: Bodega. They publish some tasty looking comics, and unlike most comics publishers I'm into nowadays the comics are available in small affordable formats, not enourmous expensive coffee-table formats. Although I like the coffee-table formats too.

Someday I will be able to afford a two-dollar comic book, and on that day I will place an order with Bodega.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Over the weekend I...

1. saw a couple of shows, both on their last night (Chicago, which I've never seen but which is now on my short list of favorite musicals, and 'Night Mother, which the women in the audience seemed to respond to on a deep level, but us guys just found it depressing).

2. Didn't do all the cleaning I meant to do.

3. Bought Jason Thompson's new book Manga: The Complete Guide. It's pretty depressing. It's mostly capsule reviews of manga titles available in English, and for all that Thompson is a manga translator, editor and fan, his book really drove home the corporate-driven formulaic sameness of most manga. I was an early adopter of manga in the West, but the novelty value's worn off. Osamu Tezuka and Moyoko Anno are two I'm still willing to spend money and time on, and I don't regret my big collection of old Rumiko Takahashi stuff, but otherwise the thrill is gone.

4. Reread Chekov's The Seagull (Chekov is evergreen).

5. Waddled around a bit but compensated by eating a wheelbarrow full of chocolate.

6. Woke up nauseous on Sunday and missed church. Is there such a thing as a dessert hangover?

7. Watched Pootie Tang, a movie my friend J'miza swears buy. It more or less spoofs junk TV and junk movies. I can see why it would resonate with J'miza, whose sensibilities have been shaped by loads of junk culture, but my parents mostly banned TV when I was growing up, so it didn't really hit home with me. My favorite parts involved hysterical women, for reasons I'm afraid to think about too hard.

Last week I watched The Passenger, about which I wrote nothing. This week I watched Pootie Tang, about which I wrote quite a bit. How embarrassing! I guess I'll say this about Passenger, which was directed by Antonioni and stars Jack Nicholson:

1. Nicholson's famous for his hammy acting, but he's really good at subtle underplaying too.

2. Antonioni's color stuff doesn't excite me the way his black and white stuff does. Black-and-white suits the spareness of his films, and brings out textures that color overpowers.

3. They should steal the ending of The Passenger for a Bond movie. Bond fans would argue about it forever.

4. I'm one of the many viewers who wanted to like the film but thought the thriller aspects of it got in the way of the angsty drama, and the angsty drama got in the way of the thriller aspects. Bring back old Antonioni where the whole story is people who love each other, but only a little bit, meandering around and feeling bad!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A couple jottings

Ancient abstract art. It pleases me to think that abstract painting isn't a Twentieth Century invention, but that it has an ancient pedigree.

* * *

A few days ago I read the prologue to a book titled "Tales Before Tolkien" which stated that Tolkien himself saw his work as an outgrowth of the Heroic Romance, rather than the novel. This cleared up one of the big questions in my life as a nerd: as much as I love Fantasy, Tolkien doesn't thrill me. A few years back I decided to reinvestigate the genre I loved as a kid, and I found that, like Brian Aldiss (who, in his critical history Billion Year Spree, compared and contrasted passages of Tolkien with passages from Peake) I regard Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast as my preferred key fantasy novels (although, also like aldiss, I'll concede it's a matter of taste). Peake's novels, like most fo the genre novels I enjoy, draw more from the lineage of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens than from this stuff. Although I was spellbound by The Worm Ouroboros in high school, and loved the Arthurian romances I read in college, so I guess I can enjoy the Romances (not to be confused with romance novels) too. Looks like I need to revisit Tolkien with my new understanding of his genre lineage

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Larry Langford Elected Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
-H. L. Mencken

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tidy Art Vs. Drunk Art

Over on the M. John Harrison blog the idiosyncratic fantasy writer offers Dionysian advice to those who would be his peers. Check it out here. I posted a link in the comments to fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay's website In which Kay offers a more Apollonian approach to fantasy. I like both writers and both approaches, but in thinking about this I got to thinking about how Apollonian or Dionysian I am.

As I understand it, an Apollonian approach emphasises form, specificity and structure. It's controlled and conscious. A Dionysian approach breaks down the orderly distinctions of Apollonian art much like drunkenness breaks down our conscious and subconscious social controls. Bach is Appolonian; G. G. Allin is not.

Well, personally I'm just Apollonian enough to be uptight and just Dionysian enough to be a slob. As an actor I suppose I try to blend the two approaches. Appolonianism(?) helps me learn my lines, Dionysianism (??) allows me to tap into all the parts of myself that I usually try to keep under tight wraps and put them on parade when it's time to play someone who's letting the icky side of the Human come out. I reckon most actors have the same basic blend of A and D. I've noticed improvists do better with "drinking a lot before a show" than actors do, which says it all about the level of Appolonianism (???) in improv.

Minor grammatical editing because I'm ashamed to think folks from these skilled writers' blogs would check this post out and have their retinas burned by awful English usage. There's probably a host of remaining solecisms I'm missed, though.

Monday, October 08, 2007

At Last, Poor Yorick

Everything's great except I'm broke and out of shape. And my apartment is still not in a state I'd feel comfortable showing to anyone. But hey, this gives me plenty of goals towards which to work, right? "One must imagine Sisyphus happy" as Camus said.

Anyway, I'm doing the Shakespeare at Sloss Autumn gig, and it promises to be a blast. I'm Horatio in the graveyard scene; basically Hamlet talks and I interject the occasional "E'en so, my Lord." The premise of this show is that guides lead the audience around Sloss Furnace, an old industrial site, and at various points along the tour folks do excerpts from The Bard. Our site is an enigmatic patch of the Furnace park; a walled-off, arid abandoned industrial field straight out of J. G. Ballard. No one seems to know what it was for, but they call it Industrial Stonehenge, and it does look like some sort of graveyard memorial site. I can't wait to stage this scene on the site: this is the kind of play (in the verb sense) I think I'm ready for; classic material, modern industrial setting. Something about this blend satisfies my soul.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Can You Kill Me Now?

I've remained a Luddite on cel phones. For some reason I can't put my finger on, I always get depressed whenever I see more than two pedestrians in a row talking on cel phones. A while back it occurred to me that I should actually celebrate this; instead of walking alone, these people are connecting with their fellow human beings, and it's so important that we make and maintain those connections, right?

Then I heard this on NPR's Fresh Air. Jeez louise, cel phones cook brains. A few decades from now will people's cel phones have been absorbed into their rippling, pulsating head tumors like some kind of infected cybernetic graft?

That may be an appropriate fate. Twice now-twice!-I've gone into public restrooms and heard guys pleading with their women to take them back while simultaneously taking thunderous bowel movements. And once I walked into a public restroom and heard a guy openly having phone sex in a toilet stall. Giving the whole world brain cancer may be God's way of correcting these errors.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sidewalk Revue

I saw a lot of groovy films at Sidewalk, a few fair-to-middlin', and a couple of stinkers. My only regrets are :

I didn't get there early enough for the first batch of Alabama Short Films,

I went to Dirty Country (Uplifting story, didn't care for the music) instead of the third Alabama shorts block,

and I went to the reprise screening of Murder Party (slick and amusing but rather hollow) instead of... something else.

I bought a DVD copy of the documentary Lost and Found in Mexico. I got a free DVD from the Reining Nails guys. I'm a satisfied customer.

Re: Reining Nails: I'd put these guys on the same shelf as Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Peter Greenaway, that kind of filmmaker. Their short films tend to seesaw between witty and idiosyncratic narrative fragments (they remind me a bit of writer Donald Barthelme: "Fragments are the only forms I trust") and instants of semi-abstraction a la the aforementioned Stan Brakhage. They're young men, just getting started. The best is yet to come, and I can't wait to see where they go next. A lot of the most talked-up local shorts are stylish, slick and amusing, but their collective theme seems to be "Please let me direct a car commercial." These guys are doing something way more exciting, at least to me. No local filmmakers excite me more.

Daniel Scheinert was part of Team Soppy Suit, makers of some of the smartest and funniest Sidewalk Scramble films. This year he did a lovely cinematic tone poem titled "I'm Nostalgic" in which the story is a pretty standard "Cute Gen-X relationship flames out" deal but the acting, camerawork and sound are loverly. I hope he'll blend the confessional confectionery aspects of this short with the wit of his Scrambles.

Sam McDavid does manic non-sequiter animation that seem like a hybrid of Gilliam and Cartoon Network. His relatively epic-length short was like a fulfillment of his Scramble shorts. Cartoon Network should headhunt this guy.


Two shorts had "Lunch" in the title: "Lunch With Lincoln" and "Lunch." Both were perfectly told jokes. I want more from both creative teams.

Chauncy Van Vandervan gave me a pass to the after party. He's the wind beneath my wings. I drank more that night than I have in the previous month, which isn't that much, but it was enough to take me to the magic happy land to which alcohol is the passport. I re-met, re-fell in love with, and re-made a fool of myself to a hypnotically charming woman whom I don't wish to embarrass, so I'll refer to her only as "Bear's wife." She and Bear have an awesome relationship that I admire and honor, so it's not like I'd try (and unquestionably fail) to impose on that. It was wonderfully freeing to be able to flirt like a goofball in front of her husband, since everyone was very clear on the scrimmage nature of the flirtation.

Later that night I went to Redmont Hotel. Here's the deal: a few years ago Mongo the Magnificent hosted a keg After-After Party on the roof of Redmont Hotel. Lots of folks showed, lots of folks had a blast. Just a bunch of film nerds hanging loose above Birmingham and beneath God's night sky.

So now every year the rumor circles that there's another Redmont roof party. And there never is, but people show up and make the best of it. I went this year and while it was a pale shadow of the One True Redmont Roof Party it still built up to a pretty decent gathering. I held the elevator for The Jesus Guy (subject of the documentary The Jesus Guy) and spent the rest of the night in a guilt-gloom because a representative of Jesus saw me stupid drunk.

Sidewalk ROOLS.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Second Post of the Day: The Lunch Bunch Strikes Again

Someone who works in my area has complained to my supervisor that they are seeing insects, and they think the potted plant on my desk is what's drawing bugs. Hmmm. A gaggle of people move into the area, proceed to wolf down hot stinky food... and insects appear. As these folks squash insects beneath ketchup-stained paper napkins they decide to blame my plant. Way to throw the boss off the track, you crafty gluttons.

I know this may seem like a picayune thing to be whining about, but it's reaffirming to find that there are some things I'll take a stand for. They'll take my desk plant away when the pry it from my cold, dead fingers. Which wouldn't be too hard, because they've got plenty of ketchup, grease and BBQ sauce at their desks which they can use to lubricate my fingers and make the prying go smoothly.

Ratings board

This won't be the Sidewalk account I'm hoping to write (that'll have to wait until I have some time to spare) but I've noticed a few things about the reviews on the Sidewalk website. If you review a movie you have to post a rating of one to five stars, then you have the option of writing something. I think it should be the other way around. When I give a film a five-star rating and someone else gives it one star, I wanna know why. It's cool that they disagree, but let's hear their reasoning. That's one thing I like about the Netflix website-lots of written viewer reviews, so you can figure out which viewers look at movies the way you do and which ones don't. If a movie gets really mixed reviews, but all the high ratings come from people who seem to be your kinda movie watchers, you know you should check the movie out, right?

On a documentary called Lost and Found in Mexico on the Sidewalk board someone gave it one star, while I gave it four. The cool thing is we both wrote detailed explanations of why we rated the way we did, so you can decide between two different points of view, not just two different abstract ratings.

Another thing that struck me, and I'm sure statisticians have a term for this: a movie that everyone gives three stars will have the same aggregate rating as a movie that half the voters give five stars and half give one star. But which movie would you rather watch? The one everyone thought was okay, or the one that really polarized people? I'd rather check out the one everybody disagrees over.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Side Walk.

I plan to post some thoughts about the Sidewalk fest this evening, but in the meantime I've posted some thoughts on the Sidewalk website. I've reviewed all the films I saw there. It seems that to see the reviews you have to click on the title of the film, then click on "review this film." I'll have a summary report maybe tomorrow evening.

Edit: I think you can see all my reviews (then click on each film title to compare with other folks' opinions) here. Lemme know if I've screwed up the link.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sidewaddle

I'll be waddling through the Sidewalk Film Festival this weekend. I'd talk about it on Sidewalk's message board, except they refuse to bot-proof it, so bots have swamped it with spam. Before the board was unreadable I kept hassling the staff to put up elementary bot-blocking ice, but they acted like I was asking for a pony. I bot-proofed my blog. Trust me, if it involves computers and I can do it, then anyone can do it.

Anyhow, most of the films I wanna see are playing at the same time, so I'll probably focus on locally produced films. Expect cranky reviews Monday.

I'm in suspense because sometimes someone I know who's well connected gives me a pass to the after-party, or just takes my arm and claims I'm a date who lost his pass. I dunno if I'll want to lug my bloated tired self into a late loud party this time, but it's always interesting to see what serendipity washes ashore.
* * *

Quote O' the day: "You trade what you had as a child for what you have as a grown-
up. Or if you don't, you lose it anyway, and get nothing in return."- Little, Big by John Crowley.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Everybody Burns

Carpet Cleaning in Alabama, Part 2:

Z and I went on another cleaning trip out in... I believe it was Helena, but don't quote me. Anyway, it was a house as full of junky clutter as my apartment. The clutter extended out into the yard. There was a little girl standing in the bed of a truck, roughly five years old, pretty as a postcard, but wearing nothing but a saggy diaper. Big bonfire in the front yard; they were burning trash. Cleaning carpet involved carrying a bunch of equipment into the house and hooking it up to our truck, so we had to go in and out of the house making the connections, walking back and forth past the fire, inhaling plenty of smoke. The man of the house threw huge sheets of plastic on the fire, and the poisonous reek of burning plastic filled the air, clogging our lungs, filling the air around this trashy Dogpatch domicile. The actual cleaning went pretty quick because they didn't want us to move anything; just clean the carpet we could see. Since almost no floor was visible it was a quick job. Afterward we presented the receipt and the little old pink-eyed lady of the house explained (no one had asked) that it may be illegal to burn trash, but it costs too much to afford trash service. "Everybody around here burns," she said. "Everybody burns."
For the next few work days I expect to be doing my posts late in the afternoon rather than around lunchtime. Just a heads-up for those of you who schedule your day around my blogposts. I hope no one actually does that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cleaning

I spent a year working for a well-known carpet cleaning company, a job for which I was completely unsuited. I'm glad I did it because it broke me out of my comfy suburban boy bubble. Anyway, many odd things happened. Here's one of them.

My coworker for the day (let's call him Z.) and I were called to a house in Ensley. The customer was a big friendly guy who answered the door in a T-Shirt advertising a gang ministry. He offered to share his dinner with us ("I'm not weird or anything, I'm just offering you dinner") which we declined. Then he led us to his bedroom, which we were to clean. By his bed was a pile of magazines; Christian magazines. Z., the customer and I started moving stuff out of the room, starting with the mags. We soon found that beneath the Christian mags were porno mags, though. Really creepy ones; the cheezy kind that look like they were shot in a garage. And the pinup girl is the editor's Mom. Special bonus: swinger newsletters, the kind with classified ads for "Polyamourous activity partners" that turned me off the human body when I was in grade school and found an issue in the road on my walk home from school. Ewww. Z. and I instantly fled from the mags and started moving the furniture. We figured we'd let the customer move his own strokebooks, but no dice. He hung back and let us move his mags. Then we cleaned, collected payment, and left.

Was the guy hoping we'd confront him on the contrast between the Christian stuff and the smutty stuff? Was he genuinely unaware of the incongruity? I've always wondered. People balancing faith and filth is no surprise, but the fact that he'd let us discover what looked like a guilty little secret seems like a cry for help that we didn't want to answer.

Speaking of which, there's a lot of lonely people out there. Some of them turn to carpet cleaners for human contact. We had women answer the door in nothing but towels, obviously considering a seduction, then changing their minds when they got a load of the fat smelly goofballs the company sent. We've had people dish all their grandkids' drug problems as we cleaned the grandkids' rooms. I suspect I'll do a few posts on my carpet cleaning misadventures.

Graduate

Quick, before NPR takes it offline, check out this comment (From Fresh Air) on The Graduate. I need to rewatch it, because I suspect commentor John Power's point is on target: today Mrs. Robinson is the real rebel and the most interesting character.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Belief

I was looking for a famous G. K. Chesterton quote about belief when I found this article which demonstrates that the famous quote was actually someone else's paraphrase of a recurring idea in Chesterton's work. Anyway, the idea is that if you cease to believe in God you will believe in anything.
I recently took a class on sortilege, a divination process that's a bit like reading goat entrails, except instead of cutting into a goat and spilling its innards you take little items (stones, bones, coins) out of a bag, scatter them, and read the ley lines between them. Do I believe that we can tap into some kind of supernatural truth-teller-ma-tron this way? No. Do I believe that intuitive people can use this to construct a reasonable, resonant and surprising narrative about our lives? Sure. I guess I regard my investigation into this as an extention of my interest in improv.

Sortilege may not tell the future, but by putting a sortilege bag together I've gotten into the habit of really looking at pebbles and such, trying to glean what I can from them. It's opening up a new angle on the poetry of life. Once I held divination-stuff in contempt as obvious superstition, but now I get it; it's about new-minted narratives and finding meanings where we might never have looked.

Plus the lady who taught the class is HOTT. But married.

* * *

M. John Harrison has a blog and I've added it to my links. Everybody needs a hobby, and mine is adding links.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Cubicle Potluck + I Am A Nerd

OMG, today the Sub Rosa Desktop Lunch Bunch actually brought big steaming casserole dishes to share. At their desks, not in the break room or cafeteria. It would smell good if there were some for me, but there isn't so it smells bad.

* * *

Last night I idly switched on NPR and heard a bit of one of those new age ambient music shows they play on Sunday night. They were interviewing Roger freakin' Dean, the cover artist for a bunch of the Yes and Asia albums I loved as a student. I dug his paintings as much as the music (His Asia covers hold up much better than the cheesy pop music inside) and bought two books compiling his art: Views, with crude early efforts along all the groovy Seventies stuff, and Magnetic Storm, which focused on his publishing companies: Paper Tiger and Dragon's Dream. I would loll in bed, listening to old Yes albums and flipping to my favorite images in these books, floating through an idealized land of green grass, improbable icebergs and bombastic Limey prog rock.

Magnetic Storm had a few thumbnail images of art by Ian Miller, a much edgier artist who fascinated and repelled me in equal measure. Now I wish I'd bought some of that dude's books; he worked in a photo realistic fantasy vein similar to that of Dean, but Miller had a scary edge and a formal playfulness not present in Dean's bucolic visions of floating islands bearing idealized British countryside. Dean's stuff is mostly the same stuff over and over, but if you must have kitch art he's preferable to Thomas Kinkaide in my book.

Dean's Paper Tiger books published a book titled Realms of Fantasy which included Miller's illustrations of my beloved Gormenghast. It's long out of print, but it sounds like one to sniff out.

Anyway, here's a link to a link, with some astute comments, regarding J. R. R. Tolkien's own art. Like Dean he had a gentler approach to fantasy illustration. I think Alan Lee (you know, the guy with the awful teeth in those LotR Making Of featurettes) is the Tolkien illustrator who comes closest to matching Tolkien's gentle view of his imaginary world.


I'm more of a Gormenghast fan myself, so I'm enjoying In Viriconium by M. John Harrison. It's a slender volume set in a fantastic but gloomy city not unlike the decaying city-fortress of Gormenghast. Like Mervyn Peake, Harrison's prose is demanding but rich, and goes for hard-won beauty over easy prettiness.

P. S. Roger Dean's website

And Ian Miller's.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Here's To The Ladies Who Lunch

At work we're not supposed to eat at our desks, but they've moved a few Bad Influence types into my sector of the Cube Farm, and these Southern Belles/Insurance Clerks have got to put away the food, rule or no rule. At first it would be every now and then... someone would tiptoe in with her head down as if this sneaky stance would compensate for the odor billowing out of her barbeque sack. Now they're much more blatant. It's a non-stop gastronomic orgy around here, and the clashing odors of hot nasty southern fast food is overpowering. The constant chewing, slurping and gobbling isn't stopping the ongoing chatter, though; just punctuating it.

I'm the kind of tightlipped, sphincter-clenching Puritan who thinks everyone should do it like he does it; cautiously sneak a bit of bread and water on an as-needed basis. Bread and water vs. barbecue. If I had any sense I'd join the fun instead of hatin'.

Of course we're not really supposed to update blogs on the job either.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Keep Me Healthy

I gotta admit I'm relieved that all the Presidential Nominee health plan proposals involve a Socialist wedding of government and existing health plans like my employers. For a long time I've been conflicted about what the future of health care should be, since I believe everyone should have good coverage, and it's soothed my moral nerves to have various doctor and patient friends assure me that my employers are far better than the average health insurance company. I thought as much; I've temped at other insurance companies, and this is the one with a culture of really providing for the customer. I think it's possible for the government to get involved in insuring everyone has access to coverage which our company provides. Of course sometimes government action is a ginormous conflagration of expensive failure on all levels. Oh well.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vice Versus Vice

Lately I'm eating too much. As a result I'm so full that when I consider drinking a beer or something I decide not to because I'm too stuffed. By getting fat I'm staving off the vice of drunkeness.

It reminds me of a weight loss scheme a guy once shared with me; spend all your food money on stuff that isn't edible. Some of us can't do right across the board, so we have to pit our vices against one another and hope the lesser evil wins.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Warren Jeffs and such

I don't have any useful comment on the Warren Jeffs case-you know, the cult leader (there I go again with the cult leaders!) who allegedly forced a 14 year old girl to marry her first cousin. I heard a bit of her tearful testimony on the radio, saw Jeffs' smug "I'm-the-Prophet-of-God-so-bite-me" smirk, and decided this was way more interesting than O.J. bum-rushing a sporting-goods auction.

2 things: in theory I have no problem with polygamy, but it always seems to lead to old patriarchs pushing girls around. Maybe if it were legalized and regulated polygamous abuses would be as rare as monogamous abuses. Uh, never mind, then.

Second thing. FLT3 is the Warren Jeffs of Birmingham Theatre. On The Christmas Carol he gave me a teenage wife and ordered me to hug and kiss on her. I reluctantly-so reluctantly-complied. It would be funny (in a not-funny way) to see Becca weeping in the witness box and pointing an accusing finger at Birmingham favorite Frank Thompson, but I don't think it'll happen because she was actually pretty cool about it. I gave her the whole "let me know if I do anything that makes you uncomfortable" rap and she looked at me like I was nuts. What could possibly be upsetting about having a balding tubby old creep slobbering on her? Phew. But it's the principle that counts, so I hope that in the sad event that Frank makes me hug and kiss more pretty young women, we will face justice for our crimes. The Law is proving slow to take action, so we must force their hand. Frank, I call on you to give me more roles in which I get frisky with teenage girls! Only thus can we bring this matter to a fair and just resolution.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A brief glimpse of a doomed face

A couple years ago an adjunct professor from my alma mater (who started teaching there a few years after I graduated) was shot and killed by a teen guy on the street. According to the boy the prof had driven up, waved the boy over, and solicited sex. So the boy (teenaged, but legal-ish) shot the prof, took his car and used his credit card to buy a bunch of junk. He got a couple decades in prison, but it was a relatively light sentence because apparently some Alabama judges think the gay panic defense doesn't seem like a crap excuse for murdering someone.

A friend of mine was really upset about the case because she knew the late prof; his death was bad enough, but she had known him as a clean-living straight guy, so the assertion that he was on the down low being splattered over the news really distressed her. I never knew the guy, but I did a Google search for his picture. I found a nice headshot, and I instantly thought "Oh, it's that guy!"

One night I was on my way to my car from a laundromat that's in a cruisy part of town, and a guy who looked like the late Prof pulled his sports car up by me and said "Hello." I didn't shoot him; I don't approve of cruising, but I don't approve of lots of stuff I do, so it's not like I'm gonna play judge, jury and executioner. Either he could tell I wasn't interested or he decided my tubby balding self wasn't up to snuff, so he said "Sorry" and drove away.

Maybe it's on my mind because last night I saw a movie (Teorema, or Theorem) which includes a character who cruises, and was directed by a guy (Pasolini) who was apparently killed by a guy he picked up while cruising. It's haunting to me that I may have caught a glimpse of someone's not-so-secret life shortly before it ended in stupid, pointless death.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Masks of God

I stumbled across this article on an unrelated Google search, and although I haven't read it all (that would require an attention span) it got me ponderin'. It distinguishes between the God Concept (what we intellectually believe about God) and the God Image (how we feel about and perhaps what we picture when we imaginatively envision God), and how both our God Concepts and our God Images tend to be patchworks made up from various things from various sources, and sometimes the parts don't fit together very well, leading to cognitive dissonance. I never really thought about it, but I guess that between all the different ideas and images in the Bible, the different ideas I picked up from various preachers, Sunday School teachers and books, and just plain stuff I made up, my God Concept and God Image are Frankenstein monsters. A Medieval mystic wrote that God dwells behind a Cloud of Unknowing; seems we've put a lot of graffiti on that Cloud.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Continuing a Week of Morbid Fixations

The Sidewalk Film Festival is coming up, and as usual all the films I really want to see are showing at the exact same time. The documentary "Join Us" is one I really wanna catch; it's about a family that realizes the church they just left was a cult. I recently read a book titled Rogue Messiahs by Colin Wilson; it's all about cult leaders, and it's pretty intriguing, not least because seemingly intelligent people seem awfully slow to realize the preacher who's sodomizing their children as part of the Sunday worship service is a derange-o cult leader. Here's a health tip from the book:

If you go to a church and the preacher says the whole congregation has to move onto a compound and sever ties with friends and family, and you do it, and then he announces that he's the Second Coming of Christ and the end times are about to begin, and all the women and girls of the congregation have to have sex with him, and you try to leave but they stop you, then you sneak away in the dead of night, then they call you up a few months later and say "Hi! We're having a barbeque, and thought it would be fun to see you there. Hey, bygones, no worries about old conflicts. Just drop by. It'll be fun!" then (here's the health tip part) DON'T GO TO THE BARBECUE. THEY'RE GONNA KILL YOU.

This might seem pretty obvious to you, but it didn't seem obvious to a lot of people who wound up buried in barns.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Horror

Some folks-like my Mom-remain mystified by my love for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I'm grateful that I've watched it and other films of its ilk, though, because when I read about this (warning: horrible) I have a sort of myth that helps me make sense of it. A curdled hillbilly family pointlessly torments an innocent young woman. Slasher flicks tell us that humans are capable of doing such things to one another, but also that humans are capable of dealing with it-sometimes.

Speaking of horror, Osama's still alive. What can one say? If Dems had won the elections in 2000 and 2004, and Osama were still alive (which I doubt) Repubs would ceaselessly harp on Osama's alive-and-well status as proof of the yellow-bellied gutlessness of Democratic Presidents.

(BTW I'm in a fine mood personally, despite focusing on awful stuff today. It's odd how my mood can be so out of sync with the subject matter I'm considering. I dunno if that's indicative of excellent mental health or lousy mental health.)

Edit: In the Associated Press account of that first story the mother of the victim says that she "didn't know there were people like that out there." How does one not know that? Anyway, it occurs to me that while my TCM fixation may help me deal with stories like this, it also draws me to stories like this. There is a bit of a self-sustaining feedback loop about morbid fixations.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Second post of the day: random blather

Would comprehensive health and dental coverage for all US citizens cost more than the bazillion bucks a day we're spending in Iraq? If not, then it's dopey to pretend there's anything left to debate except how, exactly, to implement universal health care.

Much news coverage about a recent study asked single (and apparently straight) people to list what they looked for in a mate, then followed them through speed dating. According to reports on this study it turns out guys really choose potential mates on the basis of looks, while women choose mates who seem attractive but not... TOO attractive, since supercute guys tend to cheat and/or leave.

Well, I'm not one to argue that guys aren't shallow, but it's important to note this was determined on the basis of speed dating. In speed dating only first impressions matter. But in my experience the more time I spend with a woman the more the superficial elements of her appearance recede as her personality, conversation, values, opinions and general behavior come into focus. So maybe guys really do pick mates on the basis of deeper values... if they have the chance to get to know someone. As the old saw goes, good looks get attention, but don't hold it.