Friday, March 27, 2009

Thicket

Our back yard is bound by a chain link fence, and behind the back fence is a thicket of brush and trees. It's close to our garden, and sometimes when I'm out weeding I'll hear a tumbling ruckus in the thicket. I'll look deep into the branches, and see that one little bird hopping about is setting off a chain reaction of noisy friction and vibration. One little bird. As I type this I'm gazing out the kitchen window at a chubby bunny on the visible side of the thicket. The bunnies were thin last year; they disappeared for the winter, and are back, plump and plush.

One can see chimneys peeking over the treetops, and it was fun to imagine they were the tops of ruins buried in a forest... I was reading the fantasy novel Mythago Wood around the time I moved in, and its story of a mysterious forest probably shaped my way of looking at the thicket. Recently our cat escaped from the back yard and I went stomping around, trying to find him. I'd avoided the thicket, largely because I didn't want to see the other side and have my Mythago Wood daydreams scuttled, but now I waded in. Of course the other side of the thicket was almost a mirror image of our side, and the chimney-topped houses on the other side don't look much different from ours.

As it happens, all the chimneys in this town are non-functional relics of a time when they were important parts of the residents' heating system. They're all plugged up now. Every house has a fireplace that has been stuffed closed.

Anyway, the cat is home safe, and the springtime greenery of the thicket seems as lovely and haunting as ever, despite my glimpse of the other side.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Intelligences Flat, Crude and Unsympathetic

The Mars Institute, a non-governmental organization, wants to drive a Humvee around on Mars. I suppose the thinking is that if there really is any kind of life on Mars, it's vitally important that Humanity render it extinct with pollution, habitat destruction, and tread marks. In order to assist in this process I suggest we send everyone with a Hummer to Mars.

Textile Ghosts

Little balls and streams of fluff keep appearing in our yard. For a while I've assumed that someone burst a pillow or something and the stuff has been drifting to us

This town is an old mill town where the mill closed. A while back a Kannapolis old-timer told us about how our house was built on land where the mill dumped textile byproducts. No wonder the soil's so rich and dark. But we decided to get the soil tested; who knows what chemicals may have been in those byproducts?. Still waiting on the results. Another old-timer tells us that it'll probably be a while...

The other day I chatted with a local preacher who bemoaned the stuck-in-the-past "lintheads" who yearned for the demolished mill to be rebuilt and reopened. Lintheads, huh?

Later I took a walk around town, and noticed those bits of fluff in the yards of houses far from ours.

Fluff... lint... textiles... suddenly it all made somber sense. Little tactile ghosts, byproducts of a lost mill, tumbling on the wind or oozing up from below to remind us, again and again, that this town was built on textiles.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Believing Monsters

So, I got that Man After Man book I mentioned here. It chilled me as a kid. Nowadays it looks like Deviantart's tribute to Where The Wild Things Are. After decades of comics, anime, fantasy art bad and good, I can't imagine getting freaked by monster illustrations. OTOH I loved stuff like Where the Wild Things Are when I was a kid, so I think these monster pictures freaked me not because I was vulnerable to monster pictures, but because I mistook the book's veneer of scientificness for scientific certainty. When I knew monsters were imaginary I didn't take them too seriously, or rather I didn't take them seriously in the wrong way. But when I thought they were, or might be, verified truth I let those monsters terrify me the way monsters are meant too. It's a bit like religion... stories that seem like obvious fantasy to an unreceptive perspective become deeply powerful truths from a receptive perspective.

I guess horror fiction in general works that way. H. P. Lovecraft and Blair Witch Project are more familiar cases of stuff that's either deeply frightening or Flight-of-the-Valkyries-played-by-a-kazoo-orchestra goofy, depending on whether one is receptive or not.

Oh, there's one other thing... the images I remembered from the book are nowhere to be found in the book. My visual literacy was rather poor as a child, so my recollections of the book's images wound up being a tribute to the imaginative rather than reconstructive nature of memory.

Friday, March 13, 2009

An Open Letter to a Dear Friend Who Doesn't Actually Read This Blog; or, No More Football Tests

Get out the list of attributes you require from The Woman In Your Life. Go down the list till you get to the part that says "validates my nerd-ass hobbies by fully sharing in them."

Now get out a Sharpie and mark through it. Totally redact that requirement.

I promise you'll be happier, luckier in love, and your blood pressure will defuse.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Clod and his Podcasts

I'm working in the garden a bit, and I need pleasant podcasts. Nice people discussing matters of moderate interest. I haven't cast my net very far, but I've found a few:

The University of Minnesota's Science Fiction and Fantasy literature audiolessons. Okay, they never once mention Mervyn Peake, and the audio quality is kinda ramshackle, but the former is (just) forgivable and the latter makes the audiospace that much cozier.

Motion Picture Purgatory. Cartoonist Rick Trembles' NSFW website is on my links list; he does comics-format movie reviews. He also did this audio series with Michael Will for a while, and I enjoy listening to their fannish, cranky, idiosyncratic reviews. I got to meet Rick Trembles in Montreal last summer, and he was full of good info and anecdotes about odd comics and flicks. I instantly picked him out from the crowd because he looks exactly the way he draws himself. Burn brightly, Rick Trembles. (P. S. His book of comics, Motion Picture Purgatory, occupies a special place on my bookshelf. Buy one so his publisher will do a second volume.)

Retrobits Podcast show 60. I looked for podcasts about Zork, the old computer game, and found this. The guy behind it doesn't have anything to tell that I didn't already know, but the last section where he and his little boy play the game is heartwarming.

Winecast. I know little about wine, but I kinda enjoy listening to wine talk. When I start to take too much pleasure in the tranquil intimacy of host Tim Elliot's on-air wine-tasting sipping sounds, I know I've gotten too much sun and it's time to stop gardening for the day.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Quick and The Dead and The Trash

The other day I was driving down South Cannon, a key road here in Kannapolis. I saw a guy walking on the side of the road FLING a plastic bottle into the woods. It was repression rather than restraint that prevented me from turning the wheel and sending him flying into the woods as well.

There's garbage all along the roadside around here, and trash is constantly blowing into our yard, our gardens; plastic bags like smoke ghosts clinging in our branches. I've lived all my life in the American Southeast, so I'm accustomed to filth and litter all over the place, but it seems to be more concentrated in this depressed small town. Probably a stagnating vicious cycle... if the place is a trash bin, why bother being clean?

* * *

I just finished The Quick and The Dead by Joy
Williams
. At first I almost gave up on it because the adolescent characters seemed too arch to be believed, but I finally accepted the stylization and slid into a splendid examination of American Enigma. Consider reading it. Thank you.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Our haste from hence is of so quick condition, that it prefers itself, and leaves unquestion'd matters of needful value.

-Measure For Measure, Act One, Scene One.

I voted for Obama and I'm rooting for him, but I'm unnerved by two things:

The economic crisis is to Keynsians what 9/11 was to Neo-Cons: a chance to test their pet theories on a mighty, costly scale.

And on a cheezier level, the recent Democrat-led attempts to position Rush Limbaugh as the face of the Republican Party resembles the greasy game-playing that was Karl Rove's weapon of choice. I had hoped that Rove's crapola had worn out its welcome...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Let's build a Snow Squid!

It snowed quite a bit the other night. I can't decide which I like better: the Currier and Ives view out every window, or the concert of eery dripping, slushing, sloughing sounds I hear every time I step outside... the gentle harmonies of melting and sliding snow.

* * *

And the nerd grapevine tells me SPOILER WARNING that the squid isn't in that Watchmen movie. I don't know whether to commend the filmmakers for shaking things up or wag my finger at them for dropping one of the elements of the story that I found most distressing on my first reading. Aah, their checks will cash the same either way. I suspect they didn't wanna give aid and comfort to the 9/11 Truthers.

Someone should make a buddy movie where the squid and Old Tom Bombadil go on a road trip to Hollywood, bent on vengeance.

Monday, March 02, 2009

SHUT UP NERD

Elizabeth Taylor won an Oscar for her performance in Butterfield 8. Most folks agreed it wasn't her best work or a very good movie, but she had a life-threatening disease and got the sympathy vote. What does this have to do with this year's Best Supporting Actor award? Oh, nothing.

I can't seem to stop running in nerd circles so I've gotten an earful recently about how wonderful the latest Batman movie is and how it got robbed at the Oscars. I'm ambivalent about the flick: I saw it because Laurie wanted to (how's that for a role-reversal: my girlfriend drags me to superhero movies!) and was prepared to hate it, since the trailers made it look like a gloomy slog. It was smarter than the average shoot-em-up and deserves credit for that. On the other hand there's something rancid about making a Batman movie that you can't take children to. This film is like a fat grownup stealing a Batman toy from a child and shouting "Mine, not yours!" as millions cheer. And let's face it; just as we'd never have heard of Elvis if he'd been black, we'd never have heard all this gush about how wonderful that Joker performance was if the guy were still alive. Dadgummit.

And now the nerds are carrying on about the Watchmen movie. Snore. And I love the Watchmen comic, as much as any nerd out there, I do. But adaptation is only interesting if it creates its own identity, an identity that stands on its own, like Miles Davis' Porgy and Bess. Who needs a "faithful" adaptation? When was the last time you enjoyed something because it was "faithful" to something else? Movies should be faithful to themselves alone. The Watchmen movie looks like Beatlemania.

Obviously I wouldn't get so worked up about this stuff if I weren't a nerd myself. As Evan Dorkin points out, the me of a decade ago would be aghast that I wouldn't go see a Watchmen film.