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.

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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.

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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.