Monday, April 30, 2007

Inapt Abstract

There was an art festival thing in town last weekend (Magic City Art Connection, to be exact), and after a'gawkin' and a'grinnin' at all the pretty pictures I made a couple modest purchases. One was a tiny but thick book of lovely landscape sketches... I haven't delved into it yet, so I have no particular comment. The other was a tiny abstract by an out-of-town artist. I have a case of buyer's remorse now, because it's a pretty weak work. I bought it after perusing her exhibit, and she's got a complex and compelling style; her paintings really drew me in. This tiny square I bought has all her motifs, but little of the richness of her better work. It's like a student imitation of her style, or a hastily commodified version. Rather than a compressed miniaturization of her work, it's just a bashed-out self-imitation, quickly made and sold to low-budget abstract-hungry shmoes like me. It looked better in the context of her exhibit, when it fit into a continuum, but removed from that continuum it stands revealed as a flavorless crumb from a tasty meal. I ganked a postcard with tiny reproductions of her work, and it persuades me that I hadn't taken total leave of my senses; her developed work is quite rich and lovely. But my share of it didn't get the love the big canvases got.

Nonetheless, I've taken down a Ranma 1/2 wallscroll I've had hanging there since the Clinton Administration and put this tile of offhand abstraction in its place. I intend to buy more art to spruce up the place. Let this underwhelming offshoot of a rather more impressive corpus serve as a warning for this wayward art buying novice. Perhaps I'll buy more tiny abstracts and make a mosaic of them. If I were more ambitious and good at construction I'd make a cheap-abstraction-mobile. Or something like a bead curtain, only with palm-sized paintings instead of beads. But I won't do these construction projects, because I'm lazy and bad with my hands. The mosaic, OTOH, might happen.

I think one reason I've tolerated the jaw-dropping messiness of my room for so long is that if you fill a room waist-deep with books, comics and clothes, then squint in bad light, it kinda looks like Paul Klee. Maybe getting some real art on these walls will be a more fruitful way to meet my aesthetic hungers.

* * *

Yesterday at church we had the youth-led Sunday. I always enjoy this stuff; I participated in one back at Signal Mountain Presbyterian, and it's always excited me to see teens stepping up to the challenge of providing spiritual sustenance. They did a great job. I don't know any of them but they're bright, funny and thoughtful. I learned something from watching them; whenever they spoke, sang, danced, whatever, they would usually betray lack of confidence for a second, through a grimace, uneasy grin, or eye roll. But then they'd jump into whatever they were doing, and do it well. Confidence, it turns out, is a choice. I kinda knew that, but I didn't really know that.

The youth also talked about how they recently attended a Unitarian youth camp where they lit candles for the victims of the VTech shootings. They discussed whether to light 33 candles or only 32. They finally decided on 33, because Unitarianism is rooted in a belief in the worth and dignity of all life. It would have been hard for me to light that 33rd candle, but it was the right decision.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Candle Light and Soul Forever

T'other night I finally made it out to McAnally's pub (yes, that's the name) to see my buddy Chris and some other roustabouts do standup. It was a casual affair due to the low turnout, but while the material was painfully uneven the comics were all genial types who knew how to make that personal connection which, according to Woody Allen at least, is what people mainly seek from a comic. A guy billed as Super-King was particularly genial and amusing, even when the gags were flat. It was less "Laaf-Out Loud Comedy" than it was "Pleasantly amusing guys talk to you." I've had worse nights. There was karaoke after the show. A cute young couple toyed with the vintage rap number "It Takes Two," and while it wasn't good rappin' it was a high-spirited demonstration of playful and affectionate relationship dynamics. I love it when people who really care about each other get up and sing together, even when it's as bad as this stuff usually is.

I sang "Survivor" by Destiny's Child and "2 Become 1" by Spice Girls. Darn it, I gotta start singing songs for guys. I can sing these songs, just not in the set keys. Even when I sing along with the recordings I sound okay to my ears, but the karaoke tracks always seem to be pitched so I have to keep flipflopping my octave range. Boo!

Plus I'm tired of getting beat up in the parking lot.

P.S. I'm unapologetically putting a "theatre" label on this post cuz standup is a variation on the theme. Plus inflating my number of "Theatre" posts makes me feel like more of a theatre person.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Gospel According to Leatherface

I got another thought about Texas Chainsaw. In Chainsaw, violence is the favorite tactic-and entertainment-of the stupid, mentally deficient, ugly and weak. The movie is a devastating critique of violence fetishism. Why didn't Cho, the VTech shooter, get the message and learn from it? After all, he took the class on the movie, didn't he?

Sure, he took the class. Then, according to the news sources, he sold the textbooks. Not the first time a callow kid took a film class expecting it to be a breeze, and then found that, lo and behold, the professor actually wants the students to engage the texts with critical thinking, not just sit back and munch popcorn! Books like Men, Women and Chainsaws (one of the texts he sold after the class, in which he did not participate) demand that the reader think deeply about the meaning and significance of these films. Well, Cho didn't/couldn't do that. He was precisely the kind of intellectual invalid to whom the film was impenetrable, and exactly the kind of violence fetishist the movie scorns.

Chainsaw 2, the other good Chainsaw film, deepens the critique of violence. Of the two protagonists, one (played by Dennis Hopper) yearns to battle evil with violence, and soon goes nuts. The other (played by Caroline Williams, a wonderfully knowing scream queen) survives with wit, compassion and guile, until the end, when she finally takes up a chainsaw to fight back against her enemies. The film ends with her striking out in violence, then doing her own version of Leatherface's insane dance. It's funny, but significant; when you use violence against the violent, you take on their awful madness. These movies have profoundly moral truths to impart about violence, and it's no wonder so many people hate them. TCM tells us violence is aways the problem, never the solution. That's not a very sexy notion to lots of Americans, but I agree with it.

In an effort to get all the TCM stuff out of my system, here's what I hope is my last thought on it for a while. Throughout TCM the cannibal family tells us all about how big and strong Grandpa, dealer of death in the stockyards, beefcow killer extraordinaire, is. He's a patriarch who exemplifies the one thing the family revers; killing. So when he finally appears, he looks like a mummified corpse in a wheelchair. He can barely lift his hammer, which is good news for the heroine whom he weakly tries to kill. The big strong patriarch is an invalid. He can't even eat meat anymore; he slurps blood from the poor girl's fingers like a suckling baby. No wonder so many people hate this film; so many people want to believe in the lies (about the nobility and grandeur of violence, the authority of the patriarch, etc.) that TCM mocks.

And I haven't even touched on the cognitive dissonance of The Cook, who claims to have no stomach for killing, but who giggles and cheers when someone else kills. Or the marvelous scene in TCM 2 in which a sidekick makes a personal sacrifice after being skinned, his musculature shining and beautiful, a validation of the meathood of the body. I needed that scene at the time; I was all et up with worry about the meathood of the mortal body, and that scene made it something to celebrate.

This post has been lightly edited to clean up an estimated 20% of the grammatical sloppiness. Please note that I misspelled "grammatical" three times before getting it right.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Catfish and Chainsaws

Last night my parents came to town and we had a lovely dinner together. It's astonishing how rewarding it is to spend time with people I've always known. Real family, real community, real love, is endlessly replenishing.

Dad told a cute story about how as a boy he used to catch catfish that rose to the surface of the sewage-polluted lake and then sell them to fish dealers, who shipped these poop-eatin' fish to fancy city restaurants. It reminded me of the damage we're doing to aquatic life, and of how time has passed since Dad was a boy, since I was a boy. It also reminded me of a recent trip to The McWane Center with a friend who was my almost-semi-girlfriend. The center had catfish and such critters on display, and she told me specifics about the needs of these animals, and the damage we're doing to them. It's no complement to say that thinking of ugly ol' catfish reminded me of her, but so it goes. (She's much cuter than catfish... ah me.) A tale of catfish triggered thoughts of the passage of time, the inevitability of mortality, environmental holocaust, and dashed hopes for romance. The fact that I don't think I betrayed any overflow of emotion is a testimony to my stiff, inexpressive nature. Every once in a while it pays off.

On a different topic, I've posted before about why I love Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but there's more to say. I'm inspired in part by a hysterical editorial someone showed me (and I'm not going to give it the dignity of a link) which blames a class on horror movies (including TCM) and lit for warping that V. Tech school shooter's mind. The editorial insists that there's a very simple choice between being a Christian or enjoying horror stories.

I've spent way more time watching and reading horror stuff than the VTech killer did in his life, and guess how many people I've killed? Go on, guess. (Hint: 33 fewer than he did. I suspect people who find TCM's horror to be incompatible with Christianity would be equally against Flannery O'Connor's horrific, gruesome, nastily funny, and deeply Christian stories. If O'Connor had been a low-budget filmmaker in the seventies, she might have made TCM.)

Something I love about TCM is a transubstantiation that takes place midway through the film. The protagonists in this film are, to me at least, really annoying, whiny, bickering, unlikable kids. They spend about half an hour getting on each others' (and my) nerves.

Then they get attacked by sickos and I start rooting for them to escape and survive.

Granted this viewer-response stuff is pretty relative, but for me it's a pretty remarkable shift. Usually in a movie when one goes from disliking a character to rooting for the character it's usually because the character changes to a more sympathetic type or because the film gradually reveals that the character is more sympathetic than s/he initially appeared to be. But here the shift is purely circumstantial; once these annoying characters (or more accurately, characters whom I find annoying) become sympathetic (or more accurately, become sympathetic to me) it reveals to me that people have worth, their lives are important, even when I don't have any compelling reason to "like" them. For me this movie remains an overwhelming affirmation of the worth of human life.

The other thing that inspires me to post about this is a dream I had last night in which I'd bought a new chainsaw and was testing it on a log in the back yard. The chainsaw turned out to have a flexible blade which swiveled and sliced my wrist. This was probably inpired more by the Robert Frost poem Out, Out than by TCM, but it was a prototypical horror dream. One message of horror is that our attempts to cut will cut us. Our attempts to hurt will hurt us. Our attempts to rule will rule us. The VTech killer was too callow to read these horror texts with any insight, or they would have helped him heal. So it goes when you hide inside yourself and stew in your own juices; You can't interpret anything. You can only accept or reject input based on whether it appeals to your undeveloped palate.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm a Bad Theatre Community Member

I never give people static about missing my shows, because I miss shows all the time. But this time I was gonna go! Saturday I was going to go see a local production of one of the Great Plays of the 20th Century. I was really ambivalent about seeing it. I want to see a production of this show; I've never seen it and only read the script last month. I liked it a lot and was curious how some of its peculiar moments could be staged. But this production stars someone I reeeeeeeeeeally don't like. I'll save the tale for later, but suffice it to say that while I'd help her out of a ditch or pass her the potatoes should the situation arise, the idea of paying attention to her for two hours really upsets me at the intestinal level. Further, the director is talented and a chum, but I always find his stuff a bit lugubrious. This is a show that could be really deadly if it's played heavy, and this guy plays it heavy. He's a substantial talent, I respect and like him, but getting me to his shows takes some prompting.

So I spent much of Saturday hanging out with a friend, and let the time get away from me. by the time I thought to ask the time it was too late to catch the show, so I decided to catch the Sunday Matinee. I spent a good chunk of Sunday cleaning my apartment, really vigorous work, moving stuff around, stirring up dust. Tiring work. Had to take a nap. I just couldn't have dragged myself into a dark theatre to watch a gloomy play, no matter how fine the script and worthy the production. I feel guilty, since I'm aware of how much work they must have put into it, but I accidentally on purpose eased myself out of going. I still want to see a production of it; just a different one.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Disconnect

How dreadful. Five men have decided that if a woman discovers that her forthcoming baby will be so riddled with birth defects as to be unable to live, and its birth will threaten the mother's life, then it may be that they both have to die to satisfy the anti-abortion rabble. For crying out loud, vote Democratic in November 2008, not because Democrats are particularly impressive in and of themselves, but so the next justice will be someone who values actual human beings more than potential human beings.

And now, with only this flimsy excuse for a transition, a delightful poem by Dorothy Parker:

FAME

If I didn't care for fun and such,
I'd probably amount to much.
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.

Edit: I stumbled across a wonderful John Cage quote. Maybe I'll just keep extending this post with fragments, like a crow piling up pretty things.

"The highest purpose is to have no purpose at all. This puts one in accord with nature, in her manner of operation."- John Cage

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Maybe it was all because I played your records just before

I had some notion that I'd whip up a rant or something, but I'm listening to John & Mary (CD courtesy of The Alabama Sister) and it's just too soothing for rant-writing. So, in the general spirit of rambling, ill-written, self-aggrandizing rants, the following may be considered notes towards the development of a rant (Guaranteed 100% original-insight free):

As awful as the VA Tech shooting was, several times as many victims died this week so far in Iraq.

The shooter's boyifestos don't merit distribution. I'm as curious as anyone, but what's it tell us? He's just another chump who thought the world owed him a suck job. As this Guardian editorial says, school shootings have become a genre, and in this case working in the genre represents an astonishing failure of imagination. That's the best you could think of? A copycat crime? A petulant, meanspirited suicide? And make no mistake, gun fetishists: if you think video games about guns or movies about guns had more to do with this than, y'know, GUNS, then you're so desperate. And you don't need to be. Your precious guns will stay legal, because exactly two congress persons aren't turning tricks for the NRA. The dissonance on guns in our culture is amazing. Here in Alabama the street legality of cop-killer weapons was recently upheld after four cops were murdered for serving a (misdemeanor) warrant, but dildos are BANNED. This is everything you need to know about the Alabama state of mind.

As a highschooler I imagined myself walking through the school halls and shooting people at random. I didn't want to think about this; I just did. All the time. You know why I didn't actually do it? Because I had a sense of what my options were. Options like: suck it up until puberty's over. Once puberty ended those daydreams fled, never to return, and good riddance.

Martin Amis wrote an article about a then-current case in which some guys killed a woman while chanting catch phrases from a horror movie. Amis watched the same movie and found it only inspired him to avoid crappy horror movies. To paraphrase his conclusions, the guys didn't kill because they had a crap movie in their heads; they did it because they didn't have much else in their heads. If you've got a good number of ideas in your head then there's an ideological pecking order working things out in your cranium. Ideas like

"Let's kill someone cuz a character in a crap movie did it"

or

"Let's shoot people at random because I'm not getting suck jobs"

or

"Let's break into a school, rape and kill students, then commit suicide because it's better to have a few minutes of monstrous pleasure and then cease than to live a grueling long life"

or

"Let's blow ourselves up along with a bunch of infidels because a 'man of god' told me to and it's better to have a few minutes of monstrous pleasure and then cease than to live a grueling long life"

find their place in the pecking order real quick. The place is in the barrel.

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest. I'm so glad I'm not even going to revise it for clarity or anything.

Edit: In the proud tradition of NBC News, I'd like to point out that I've used the term "suck job" with extreme sensitivity.

Monday, April 16, 2007

You're Always Sorry, You're Always Grateful

Last week there was a cute item in the news about a wacky book title contest in which one of the finalists was "Better Never To Have Been: The Harm Of Coming Into Existence" by one Professor David Benatar. According to a cursory web search, Benatar argues that (quoting from the cover copy) "Although the good things in one's life make one's life go better than it otherwise would have gone, one could not have been deprived by their absence if one had not existed. Those who never exist cannot be deprived. However, by coming into existence one does suffer quite serious harms that could not have befallen one had one not come into existence." In other words, if I stub my toe (Bad Event) on my way to my Dream Date with Gillian Anderson (Good Event) then I come out behind. A Bad Event (stubbed toe) is inherently more significant than the Good Event (Dream date with Gillian Anderson).

The obvious response to this logic is to move to the other side of the bus. Or to tell Prof. Emo to get off the cross cuz we need the wood. Still, I feel compelled to s--b this argument in the groin, because once I would have found it a fairly persuasive notion, with possibly horrid results.

Caveat: Admittedly I haven't read the book, but I'll tear up the cover copy, by gum.

So, for starters, only someone who's been hiding out in the academic oxygen tent for a lifetime could ever buy the arithmetic of Benatar's logic (not that academia is bad, but there are those who use it to hide out from the real slings and arrows). This notion that Bad Things in a life always have more "weight" than the Good Things doesn't add up. Get your thumb off the scale, Benatar! If I get to skip through the park hand-in-hand with Gillian Anderson, I'll happily kiss a stubbed toe up the The Man Upstairs.

And Another Thing: Professor Weteyed Wimpywuss seems to think that Good Things and Bad Things are steady-state. No. Often what seems like a Bad Thing in one's life (say, working as a carpet cleaner, and thus spending 12+ hour days driving all over the county, cleaning filthy homes and/or bowing and scraping to the idle rich) turns out to be a good thing (got me out of my insular poor-little-rich-boy bubble, showed me how a diverse array of humans live, taught me that happiness and sadness aren't tied to income). I'm not a moral relativist, but often good and bad aren't Good and Bad, they're "good" and "bad." A life is open to interpretation, and attitude is key. For example, is the sadness of heartache bad? Sometimes it's achingly delightful. Sometimes it motivates one to seek more successful love.

Also from the cover copy: "...it would be better if humanity became extinct." You first, Dave. I sometimes suspect that humanity has done more harm than good, but I could be wrong, and we may do better with time. I also suspect that we are accidental side effects of cosmic forces, rather than the glorious end product, but so what? Grant Morrison pointed out in an interview (that I can't find right) now that once England realized it couldn't be the Big Bad Empire anymore, it also realized it could have The Beatles and Swinging London and other fun, relaxed things. Perhaps humanity should adopt a similar attitude. If we don't matter in the cosmic scheme of things, that's cool. Stop grubbing for power and have a good time.

You know that popular quote from Reverend Chuck Swindoll about attitude? It ends with "I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it." Preach, Chuck!

P.S. Holla to Frank Thompson for inspiring the Sondheim quote in the title.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Blahdeblah

I'm so torn. I want to talk about some intriguing political commentaries I've read recently, I wanna talk about some fondly remembered items from my college days, and I wanna talk about the funky dream I had last night. The dream is probably the least likely to yield good blog, so suffice it to say it was a mash-up of various favorite locations with spooky movies. Plus chaste romance with mysterious damsels in distress. My kinda dopey dream.

I'll save the more complex stuff for a day when I'm not late for work and can afford to post.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Alison Bechdel's Movie Rule

The Rule.

I think this rule (a movie must contain two women having a conversation about something other than a man) is too Procrustean if taken straight, simply because it excludes Citizen Kane. Any movie-watching rule that keeps you from Kane is a rule that needs revision. But it's a great yardstick that addresses a blind spot, a blind spot I've had but never thought about. I'm mentally reviewing my fave films to see if they follow the rule.

Summer, AKA The Green Ray: Yes. Women discuss vacation plans, the etiquette of nude sunbathing. Still, it follows the letter more than the spirit, since the impetus of the story is a timid woman's uncertain quest for love, and one could argue that all her conversations about things other than men are presented as avoiding the real issue, which would, for our heroine, be men.

Le Eclisse, AKA The Eclipse. Yes. Women discuss playing the stock market, living in Africa, "What shall we do tonight?"

Claire's Knee. Nope. A man is the central character, and it's tuff to fulfill The Rule with a man at the center of the narrative. But it's full of substantial conversation in which women are almost always included; it disobeys the letter of The Rule, but it comes closer to an ideal of female inclusiveness and equality than most flicks.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Nope. Still, it's proven fertile ground for feminist readings. "Men, Women and Chainsaws" is a book I wanna read, about the gender politics of horror flicks.

TCM2. Ditto.

Daisies: not quite one of my favorites, but a terrific film I've seen recently, that satisfies the Rule. Although the heroines are women of action more than of conversation.

Spirited Away: Need to rewatch it, but IIRC women discuss job requirements, dealing with a fearsome Matriarch, etc. A delightful animated fairy tale that you should watch, BTW.

Alison Bechdel's masterwork, Fun Home (highly recommended) is about a man, so I doubt she's really trying to get everyone to avoid stories about men.

Also, I'm reading L'Morte D'Arthur by Mallory; women rarely play a role in the stories other than as McGuffins, but a lesbian feminist professor of mine specialized in these stories. The Rule brings a blind spot to light, but we needn't develop a manufactured blind spot in response to that blind spot. My professor is no doubt very aware of women's peripheral role on these stories, but doesn't let it prevent her from engaging and speaking on behalf of the tales.

I'm reminded of all the black guys I know who have been enthusiastic from childhood about kung fu movies, perhaps in part because they short-circuit the specific racial politics of our culture. Representation is important, but sometimes getting away from the whole representation/lack-of-representation either/or is a good idea.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year

A cold snap that kills all the new leaves is an ambiguous way to usher in Easter, the holiday of renewal and new life, but my Easter visit with my family was invigorating nonetheless. Spending time with my family was a blessing, and it sounds like my brother's going through a potentially rewarding set of trials. He's interning at one of Music Row's many song publishing companies, and now he's got the gig of listening to their song demos, pairing them up with likely performers, and pitching the songs to the performers' staff. The next country album you listen to, if you listen to modern country, might include a song my brother matchmade. Of course if they give this gig to interns it may not be quite as hot a job as it sounds like to starry-eyed l'il Aaron.

I sat in on a Sunday School lesson my Dad taught; it's obvious Dad would like to get more intellectual dialectic going, but the sweet elderly people in the audience were obviously more attuned to folk wisdom and familiar pieties than to the eggheadedness of Dad's Robert Nouwen-inflected lesson. They seem awful impressed by him, though. There's another Sunday School group there that I usually attend when I visit, and it's much more up for brainy discourse and Scriptural parsing. It's also about a half-dozen people.

We watched Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller, which is one of my Dad's faves; Mom seems a bit ambivalent about it. I loved it, and it inspired a family discussion about violence. I was intrigued that the first violence in the film takes place about two-thirds of the way in. Dad pointed out that I'd forgotten a s--bbing early in the film, probably because it's done in Altmanesque mise-en-scene rather than more upfront Hollywood Violence Mode, and Mom pointed out that the story is violent against women almost from the start, since most women in it are subjugated in prostitution. McCabe is a wanna-be Alpha Male who succeeds on a tiny scale, but soon finds that as more people come to town he is neither the best business mind nor the hardest tuff guy in town. It's a familiar story, since we've all seen or lived it, but it's more familiar in life than in movies. There are plenty of underdog stories in movies, but not many that deal with a gap between the underdog's self image and the reality. Also; although I've never indulged in illegal drugs, stories about opium and heroin, the numbing drugs, appeal to me somehow. Naked Lunch, novel and film, intrigue me just as hard-headed Mrs Miller's succumbing to opium intrigues me. Burroughs writes that a heroin-user can stare at a shoe for hours, and that the heroin junkie's surroundings have NO EMOTIONAL AFFECT. I can't sit still and get focused, and everything in my surroundings is coiled with explosive emotional affect for me. So it's a good thing for me that Burroughs points out this artificial Buddha mind dissolves as soon as the junk runs out, and the junkie goes mad for more junk.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Fragments, again.

I've added a new link; Ken Levine. He's a writer from some smart sitcoms. He writes about stuff I don't care about (like sitcoms. Also American Idol, celebrities and TV in general) but does it with such wit that I find it entertaining. As the old saw has it, it's the singer, not the song.

Hey, just read a press release (no link; Google it yourself, ya lazy bums!) that they're making a feature film of The Doubtful Guest by Edward Gorey. This peculiar and hypnotic book spellbound me as a boy; it's the story of a strange penguinlike creature that enters a typical Gorey residence and very benignly weirds everybody out. I gave it to a boy recently, and he found it just as enthralling as I did, so it still casts a spell, even over Manga kids. Making a feature film from a slender picture book seems like an interesting exercise in the unlikely event the result doesn't suck. It'll have to be a matter of playing with a motif rather than straight adaptation, since the original work is, like, a short picture book.

Speaking of playing with motifs, I'm listening to Charles Mingus's Mingus Ah Um and recommend it unreservedly. I have no insightful commentary, though.

You know who's under appreciated? Nina Simone. Perhaps because of the diversity of her corpus; she's a tough artist to get a handle on, because on one album (such as Silk and Soul) she'll do such a wide range of styles and moods. From bumptious R & B to tender ballads, from the warmest of tender balladry to the fiercest of frightening anger, there's not one thing she does well, there's dozens of things she does brilliantly. And the diversity of her work never comes across as mere eclecticism; there's a blistering intelligence behind her song choices, behind her original material, her arrangements... The more one hears of her broad and diverse body of work, the richer the underlying personality of the artist reveals itself to be. And she plays piano at a professional level. How many top singers can say that? But because she doesn't rely on one or two kinds of songs with which to make he mark, she doesn't get brought up as often as she should.

Finally; Bums.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Opportunity schlocks.

A couple days back I got a phone call from a Chris who said he knew a friend of mine who had given him my contact info so he could talk to me about being involved in an unspecified project. I assumed, due to my friend's activities, that this was about a small locally produced film. Either that, or the guy was a scam artist trying to rope me into a pyramid scheme. Or being a drug courier. Or a fluffer. I agreed to meet him at Panara Bread.

So yesterday I walked into Panara and asked a guy if he was the Chris I was looking for. Nope, but he recognized me from a local film I'd been in. I thought that was an auspicious omen, but omens took a dive because when I found Chris it became immediately apparent that this was the pyramid scheme thing. I actually sat through a whole pyramid scheme pitch once in my young, foolish and unemployed days, and I've learned that if the recruiter won't tell you up front what the nature of the work is, the nature of the work is selling Grit, the family newspaper. Or being a drug courier. Or fluffing. Not that I think I'm too good for any of these jobs, but they're not for me.

So anyway, as soon as I sniffed the nature of his game I decided to use it as an actor's exercise; I'm about as far from the pitchman type as you can get, so it couldn't hurt to observe and learn. The main thing I noticed (beyond his good grooming and well-rehearsed pitch) was that he maintained constant eye contact. I'm the kind of scared little bunny rabbit who's uneasy about looking folks in the eye; I fear that I unnerve people by looking bang at them then instantly flinching away. This guy put me at my ease by looking right at me, not challengingly, just confidently. Sure, he was up to no good, but I felt pretty comfortable with him looking at me. It was the pitch, not the pitchmaking, that annoyed me. I got to remember that: eye contact makes you look confident, not aggressive.

A big part of his pitch was designed to convince me that the mysterious organisation he was representing was "working with" some movers and shakers, but the fact that he met me at Panara bread rather than, y'know, his office, pretty much blows the "we're a big awesome company" facade. There's no shame in having to do business in Panara bread, but don't try to convince me you're already moving and shaking. Anyway, the guy wouldn't tell me what the job was: "That's what you'll learn in the workshop that takes place over the next few weeks." I said it didn't seem like something that needed me. He said, with an undertone of either contempt or frustration, "It's not." Having mutually rejected one another, we shook hands, I grabbed my tea, and I split.

Unflinching eye contact. I'll remember that.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wonder If They'll Ever Know

Space Exploration continues.

According to Yahoonews, they've found caves on Mars. They're hoping to find microbial life or the remains of it in these caves. This reminds me of Conquistadors coming to South America and trying to find gold instead of taking note of everything that was there. Don't get me wrong; I'm a big fan of life. I think it's swell. But if you're on a completely arid planet, do you

A. Keep looking and looking and looking for life?

B. Figure out how to make an arid planet work for you?

C. Figure out how to make you work for an arid planet?

D. Go home and give your Tang to a hungry child?

E. Come to my apartment? You want microbial life, I got the hook-up.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Like The Top of the Chrysler Building

The pollen is totally stealing my lunch money. Apologies to people I've been owing a phone call too, but I can't talk now. Literally.

It's hard to clean up a shockingly messy apartment when you never have. I've only ever done the most nominal cleaning and sorting, mostly to keep things sanitary. I'm compulsive about personal cleanliness (thanks Calvin!) and so I'd occasionally spot-clean this dump to make sure I wouldn't have to touch anything dirty. But beyond that I've allowed things to get really Grey Gardens, and now I'm trying to turn over a new leaf. That leaf is big and heavy, though.

I'm culling my oversized comic book collection. I'm doing this by reading it. I read a comic, ask myself if it'll be worth reading in five years, and again in ten, and again in fifteen. Many comics which have survived other culls are landing on the recycling pile now. No, I won't sell them or give them away. Some of them have mildew or spores, so I'd hate to pass that junk on to anyone. A friend tells me to get a dehumidifier. I need to, but that's one item on a very long list.

My latest DVD recommendation: Without You I'm Nothing, a Sandra Bernhardt concert-style performance. This demonstration of cabaretesque divahood was just what I needed, considering I've got to slog through our cabaret one more time, this time after traveling to Atlanta. I'll try to borrow a little of her carefully crafted sparkle.