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!