Thursday, March 31, 2005

Sometimes a cigar

An afternoon filled with jargon-laden liberry tech blather; first Eskimo filled me in on an upcoming update of our inter-library loan software and some connectivity issues and software communication problems we're likely to encounter next week. Then, a meeting to discuss some cataloging software changeover, and changes in batch functionality and OCLC connectivity and Aleph and Connexion and CatMe and holdings and admin records and meanwhile I'm daydreaming about running away to Mexico or Alaska or Iceland and just sitting and listening to water and watching sky and mountains, never again to worry about servers or inputs or outlets or who has version 1.5 and can't talk to us because we have version 1.7.

All of this unconcious anti-work hostility bubbled up in a Freudian slip. I just took a monthly cataloging stat sheet upstairs and asked the two coolest Aunties to whom I should give it, but instead of asking "Where do I put this stat sheet?" I asked "Where do I put the stat shit?" Awkward, I tells ya!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Just like that

I filled out a form here and suddenly I've got five contractors coming to my house to bid on various projects. Good Christ, are we actually going to take out a second mortgage and totally re-do the house?

It's exciting and mortifying all at once. We really want solar panels.

I Pity the Poor Immigrant

Contrast this and this with this, and then see if you can't spare some $$$ so Cristian Arcega, Lorenzo Santillan, Luis Aranda, and Oscar Vazquez can go to college and build more cool stuff.

My mother-in-law lived in a hole in a field under a piece of sheet metal while the Japanese were beheading the intelligentsia in her town and using her parents' house as an ammo dump. She barely made it out of Manilla during the Marcos clamp-down and came here, built a new life from scratch, and went on to raise five extremely productive kids (one of whom died serving in the US Navy). While there certainly are security concerns the US needs to address, I get sick of all the immigrant-bashing; most of the immigrants I know can out-work the lazy shits who grew up here!

Emotional Illiterates

I love Bergman's stuff, and of course know what I'm getting into when I watch it, but this one in particular left me feeling gut-punched and withered. Marianne and Johan skim along contentedly until suddenly the shiny gold plating wears off their marriage, resulting in some of the most painful, brutally honest dialogue ever. Think Persona was rough going? This ranks right up there! Perhaps it's the "child of divorce" baggage I still carry around, but when Liv Ullman was ambushed by her husband's decision to leave I almost couldn't watch--I swear she acted herself into appearing 15 years older, and as she began unraveling emotionally I went along for the ride.

Having been married for almost 11 years, I was totally freaked out by Scenes from a Marriage; sometimes Cha and I find ourselves playing out evasive routines that don't work anymore, or standing hip-deep in quagmires avoided a dozen times before, and the temptation to blow off problems or ignore them is enormous--marriage can be work, and grave dangers lurk for those who don't take it seriously. I've never seen a film which captured the precariousness of a "happy" relationship so minutely. The best (meaning most devestatingly frank) novel about divorce?

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for contacting us at regarding women's prescriptions for birth control. Your comments and concerns are very important to us as we strive to meet your needs.

Wal-Mart does not carry emergency contraceptives. Our pharmacists may decline to fill a prescription based on personal convictions. However, they must find another pharmacist, either at Wal-Mart or another pharmacy, who can assist you by filling your prescription.

Again, we thank you for your comments regarding this issue.


Customer Service at

This form email in reply to my complaint about Walmart pharmacists who can deny prescriptions "based on personal convictions" (NARAL is campaigning against such practices now).

What kind of world are we living in? I suppose we're heading toward a society where we'll need "Christian Pharmacist" and "Secular Pharmacist" designations. Then, I suppose, your credit card company can decide at which one you are allowed to make purchases, "based on personal convictions."

"Sorry, can't fill your Lipitor prescription! If God means for you to die from high cholesterol, well, you're fucked buddy!"

"No Cialis for you, chum, unless you can prove to me you're only fucking in a Christian manner, using the ordained orifice and the proper position!"

"I didn't see you in Church last Sunday. Until you start attending more regularly, I'm withholding your heart pills."

Perhaps Wal-Mart will allow pharmacists to replace prescribed medicines with placebos when said prescriptions trouble their "personal convictions."

Why not allow all retailers to make similar decisions?

At the Gas Station: "Sorry, muthafucka, we at Exxon don't sell gas to hybrid drivers. Bad for business!"

At Borders: "Yes, I know we stock the Koran, but I refuse to ring up your purchase because I find it offensive."

At McD's: "You're way too fat to be eating this Quarter Pounder with Cheese. I'll only sell you the side salad with Lite Vinagrette."

At Sam Goodie: "Ugh. I hate .50 Cent. You'll have to buy that somewhere else, because I only sell music I enjoy."

At Applebee's: "As a member of PETA, I refuse to serve you because you're wearing a leather vest."

At Movie Time Video: "I find miscegenation morally repugnant--I refuse to rent you White Chicks and Big Black Dicks 11."

No life support, please

Falwell famously claimed the 9-11 attacks were God's revenge for America's decadence; I wonder for what failings Falwell's own affliction is retribution? Guess one of my least favorite public figures won't live to see the End Times after all!


I'm lazy today. With sun and temps in the 60s I had to drag my ass in here this afternoon, particularly after spending another hour with the tax man this morning (with further itemizations we achieved a mere $400 deficit--yes, it sucks sending money rather than getting it back, but I can deal with $400 as opposed to $1200 or $2000).

Cha is off all week and rubs it in every opportunity she gets, damn her!

"Work" today consists of going through old hard-to-find orders and seeing if I can track them down. I've got no cataloging and no withdrawals and no special projects, so I'm decorating the newly painted walls in my "office" with postcards, cheap National Gallery reproductions, a Johnny Cash poster, and a variety of photos and knick-knacks (I wish I'd kept all those posters I trashed years back--my Slayer poster would look great down here). I tried to load a chess program onto my PC but lack the administrative authority to do so (normally when I scan old orders I'll listen to my language CDs, but they disappeared from my desk when my furniture got moved--now I need a game until the next issue arrives. I don't think the others were stolen--they probably ended up falling out of the drawers and down into the innards of my 1950s desk, never to be retrieved).

Yes, this entry is worthless, because I have nothing to say right now.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Just a test...

I'm so tired of the continual Blogger malfunctioning that I'm switching comments to Haloscan.

Googling old staff

Had I known about this, I'd a gone and seen it. And we were at the Creative Alliance a couple times during the winter, too. Good to see former Borders cats doing cool stuff.


I don't know where to situate this entertaining film--at times it treads a bit too close to territory typically reserved for Hogan's Heroes and The Three Stooges; much of the subject matter is terribly sad (not only because it deals with Warsaw during the Nazi occupation, but also because it's Carole Lombard's last work), and at times we get dark humor and satirical bathos reminiscent of Monty Python. Let's just say you have to see it to believe it. Jack Benny has great comic timing and is a master of the double-take but cannot act to save his life; Carole Lombard is simply hubba-hubba; Robert Stack is poured into his Polish aviator's uniform. A lot of fun, but very strange, particularly considering the timing of its release.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Just Spectacular!

DeLay is the worst.


Saturday I watched part three of Cocteau's

Testament of Orpheus is the weakest link in the trilogy, but has some very memorable moments (including fun cameos by Picasso and Yul Brenner). Cocteau cautions Poets about celebrity, authority, and how to exist in the eternal and the current simultaneously without descending to madness (when the Goddess kills Cocteau with a spear, he says, in French of course, "The horror, the horror, the horror"--well, actually he says "what horror!"--this of course will be familiar to fans of Apocalypse Now). I enjoyed participating in his personal mythology, and must now read his book on cinema

which was excerpted on the DVD. Also included is a cute little 16 mm documentary made by Cocteau of his murals in a villa located in the south of France.

Happy Equinox

The Rembrandt show, which we saw Friday, is exceptional. The portrait of Christ is particularly compelling; tender, evocative, compassionate. With enough ambiguity in his face to suggest "I pity you, but don't fuck with me," this Savior has the look of a man who could either hug or slug you--note the powerful hand resting on his chest, so unthreatening and yet ready for action!

I of course love Rembrandt's self-portrait as Paul (and saw it in the Rijksmuseum a couple years ago); is Paul weary? Fed up? Surprised? Resigned to his fate? Gassy? He captures astounding psychological depth in these images, and the moods and emotional tone of his portraits are engagingly obtuse.

Unlike many of the Dutch/Flemish painters I adore (Vermeer, van Eyck, etc) Rembrandt is unafraid of murk and suggested detail--many of these portraits are surprisingly vague up close; around the central figure will be mere slashed lines or daubs akin to something seen more commonly after Cezanne--in contrast we have the precision of van Eyck's Annunciation (is it possible he painted every single fiber in those garments?) and Vermeer's Lady with a Balance, with careful distinction between colors, and nearly every bit of canvas minutely attended. And yet Rembrandt's handling of light and shadow is every bit as intricate and masterful.

Equally marvelous are the etchings. Gone are the ambiguities, the careful absences; the detail in these masterworks is exquisite.

I also got to visit a few old friends, and noted that my favorite Grunewald looked spectacular and vibrant--they must've cleaned it recently. Cha and I saw the art and then phoned Em for lunch. I called from the most inconvenient possible spot; the poor soul works in the East Gallery--had I known we would have met her there instead of making her hike a half-mile to find us at the 7th Street entrance.

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Much as it pains me to support an organization headed up by the likes of Bob Barr and Grover Norquist, I really support what their new PAC is trying to do (as does the ACLU, which counters the libertarian/right heavyweights in Patriots to Restore Checks 'n Balances with a principled lefty presence).

Barr is a hypocrite on abortion and was involved in the impeachment foolishness a few years ago, but he is eloquent and driven when it comes to limiting government secrecy and government intrusiveness; his concerns about the Patriot Act are mine, and their CSPAN news conference the other day was excellent.

There are conservatives worried about the direction of the Republican party--the blogosphere is abuzz since the Schiavo controversy because old-school Buckley/Goldwater conservatives are starting to buck the system a bit; even Brooks and Will have trashed the DeLay crowd this week. It's particularly significant to see guys like Paul Weydrich (Heritage Foundation founder, recipient of lavish support from Scaife, Coors, Mellon, Pew, D. Rockefeller, and primary architect of the "Reagan Revolution") participating in Barr's PAC. Send them money.

15 Years

So tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of the day I asked Cha out, and what better way to celebrate than a trip to DC for Rembrandt? She's got Friday off, and then she's off all next week for her spring break--since I'm working there's no other weekday we could make it, and I can't abide weekend exhibition crowds at the National Gallery. The weather looks to be crappy tomorrow...but with R. von Rijn and de Bray to boot, it's a veritable wet dream for fans of Dutch painting!

Maybe we should head down tonight and stay at some swank hotel on the Mall? That Loew's on L'Enfant Plaza is pretty nice; I forget why we stayed there before--the 2000 inaugural protest? the 1999 World Bank/IMF protest? What jerks we are! "Hey, rich capitalists suck, but we're going to stay in a hotel tonight instead of driving 45 minutes home."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Ring 2

So The Ring 2 suffers from the same terminal afflictions that have caused many other horror film franchises to linger on for a few painful and awkward years before dying. Let's list them:

*scenes or ideas from the first film--interesting and effective the first time--redone with slight variations

*soap opera plot twists involving a newly discovered family member sharing a cursed past

*a painfully stupid "rah-rah!" moment when the heroine pauses to say "fuck you!" to her nemesis before defeating her

*A series of done-to-death cinematic cliches, including:

A)an eerie music box in the basement which starts playing when touched

B)a mother, aware that her child is in supernatural danger, who inexplicably and continually decides to leave him somewhere to fetch something from the car, or from another house, or from another room

C)a mother--hearing dreadful noises upstairs where her supernaturally beset son has been left alone--who goes to investigate said noises but instead asks him questions from the bottom of the steps, including my personal favorite: "Is that you, Aidan?" I'm surprised we didn't get the king of horror cliche: "Stop kidding around, guys, this isn't funny"--oh, never mind, we did!

D)thinly disguised elements from good horror films which have little to do with the plot: The Omen, The Shining, The Exorcist, the first Ring, etc.

Of course afficionados of horror will accept a certain number of these elements, much as readers of romance and mystery will accept certain obviously contrived scenes over and over; part of the pleasure of genre fandom lies in their comforting recurrence. I actually enjoyed Ring 2 despite its obviousness--it had enough flair, enough directorial style, to keep me engaged even whilst grumbling at the occasional over-obvious moment. The Senator was largely empty during our Tuesday evening showing--but ten people are enough of a crowd to have two different cellphones go off at two different times, and to contain idiots who have to ask questions about what's happening. To the young lady seated in front of me and her moronic boyfriend: (*mini spoiler alert*) Yes, a syringe filled with nothing but air and injected into the juggler is deadly, so shut the fuck up! We had to endure a five minute discussion along the lines of: "Oh my God, there's no poison in that needle--like she'd die from nothing!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Always read your monthly statements....

Just when I'd been thinking I don't remember paying my credit card bill last month, I received my March statement. Sure enough, there in the lower righthand column of the sheet was a $90 overdue fee, a $39 late fee, a $15 penalty, a scorpion, and a skull and crossbones emblem.

I NEVER miss payments; even in graduate school when my monthly expenses were $153.23 more than what I took in each month, I managed to pay everything on time. I never got my February statement, I realized--either it was mailed and never showed up, or perhaps it was stolen from my mailbox. Either way I needed to examine a copy. So I got on the phone to my credit card company, which is of course everyone's least favorite exposure to corporate America.

[Of course I'm on hold after fighting my way through a blizzard of touch-tone options, none of which have anything to do with what I need; 20 minutes of New Age keyboard jangling interspersed with recorded 15-second blurbs telling me how important I am and how apologetic they are to only have one person answering 78,000 phone calls, the occasional offer of "services" thrown in for good measure as well.]

Operator: Thank you for calling MBSA Bank, how can I be of assistance this evening?

Me: I just received my March statement and there's a late fee on there--I've never missed a payment in my life and I realize now I never got my February statement. I'm concerned you may have sent it and I want to make sure it wasn't taken out of my mailbox.

Operator: Of course, of course. 90% of identity theft and credit card fraud cases involve stolen mail. I'll send you a copy of your April statement immediately. We'll also delete your--Can you please hold?

Me: Sure.

[Do YOU have credit problems? Allow MBSA to help you with a home equity line of credit...blah blah blah.]

Operator: [Suspiciously just as the commercial ends] Thanks for holding. I'd like to take this opportunity to ask you if you're interested in our home equity line of credit?

Me: No, thanks, we...

Operator: Fine, fine. No problem. Ok Mr. G_____, I've deleted all of the late fees and put in a request to have your delinquency status removed.

Me: Deliquency...

Operator: Hold, please.

[We offer a variety of financing and credit services for the small business owner. From blah blah to blah blah...As I'm filtering out the sales pitch I see my interest rate has gone from 3.99% to 25.99%. I become filled with rage.]

Operator: [Again, timed perfectly to the end of the commercial] Thanks again for holding, Mr. G_____. Sorry about that. Ok, I've taken care of the problem. We apologize for not sending your April statement.

Me: Wait. Did you just say you didn't send me my April statement.

Operator: Yes, according to our system you were not issued an April statement. I'm sure it was just an oversight somewhere. Can I interest you in our small business services? We offer....

Me: So, if I didn't pay attention to my statements or billing cycle, I would've eaten over $100 in fees because you didn't send me a statement last month? I also notice...

Operator: I'm sorry, hold please.

[TWO commercials this time--car financing and mortgage services]

Operator: [Timed again to coincide with the conclusion of commercial #2] Hello Mr....

Me: Ok, if you put me on hold once more I swear I'll cancel this account immediately! I want to know why my interest rate went from 3.99% to 25.99%. I was supposed to be locked in at...

Operator: We reserve the right to increase rates at any time, particularly for deliquent accounts.

Me: But you didn't send me a statement last month, and that's the reason why my...

Operator: It's the responsibility of the cardholder to...

Me: Ok, I can transfer this balance to another card in ten minutes. Either you get me back my original rate or I'm...

Operator: I have to transfer you to another department. Have a good evening!

[I'm on hold again. And I'm fuming. Usurious, unscrupulous bastards. They set me up. I bet this is their new tactic. "Forgetting" to send out monthly statements. Then they can market a bunch of services to you while you're trapped on the goddam phone, because they know nobody opens their stupid mailers anymore, and no one watches TV commercials any more. Oh, I'm angry. That interest rate is truly...Another long commercial ends, and of course, as it finishes...]

New Operator: Hello Mr. G_____. How can I help you?

Me: I'd like my interest rate reduced. I have several competing offers from other companies and...

She: [Immediately combative] I'm sorry sir, but your account is listed as deliquent (I try to cut in). We can't make changes to percentage rates so long as any account (I try to cut in) so long as there is a deliquency flag on the system (I try again). When we get this problem...

Me: HOLD IT, HOLD ON A MINUTE--AND DON'T PLAY ME ANOTHER COMMERCIAL! I am not responsible for this deliquency, and you know it...the other operator took that off my account...

She: It takes 24 hours to process...

Me: also know the reason for the deliquence, which was not my fault!

She: The cardholder is respo....

Me: Don't give me that. You change my rate back now or I'll...

She: I can't do that for 24 hours when the deliquency on your account will update. We're removing all the fees...

Me: This is a scam. You are not a business. You are...

She: We'll do what we have to do. You've been a cardmember in good standing for 16 years, and...

Me: I am no longer a cardmember.

She: Well let me...

Me: This account is closed as of tomorrow--DON'T CUT ME OFF! You will not get another 24 hours of 25.99% out of me. I know what you're doing, and pity those poor suckers who don't read their statements. Despicable!

She: I can remove your status might find it difficult to transfer balances from a card with a deliquency...

Me: [Hanging up with satisfaction]

I immediately sent MBSA a check for half my balance and transferred the other half to a card with a 3.99% rate. I'll have that one paid off by the end of April as well anyway; it's only a small amount left over from the Honduras trip. What bullshit. What fucking bullshit. These are the slick bastards who own your Congresspeople. These are the buzzards who wrote the bankrupcy bill. Fuck them.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Le Weekend

Busy, busy, busy!!!!


I ran 7 miles Friday. I haven't run 7 miles since May, 1987, my last season as captain of the varsity track team. In fact, we were probably supposed to run 7 miles twice a week and I probably lead my boys on a shortcut most of those times.

I felt really great, even going up some rather wretched hills that I did not anticipate while mentally laying out my course. Friday evening, however, I noticed an ache in the top of my right foot near the ankle whilst playing a spot of billiards with Yahtzee at Ye Olde Angel's Grotto Pub, and sure enough, there's a gushy welt of fluid there. Some sort of tendon injury, presumably? So now I'm sidelined at least until tomorrow. Muthafucka!

Yahtzee cleaned on up me at pool, too. At one point he was only winning 5 games to 4; I think when we were done I'd lost 12-5. That's ok, I'm better at analytical psychology.


Saturday was a long day. Lenore and Schott's baby shower was an enormous undertaking--something like 70 people showed up! Philippinos treat even distant cousins as close relatives, so there were obscure groups from all up and down the eastern seaboard, including Cha's sisters (Bibs and Baron Munchausen from NC, Leesha from NY--our house guests this weekend). I spent the entire party entertaining small children with balloons and watching So. Ill. vs. somebody in the NCAAs.

Home after that, and I completely absconded my responsibilities as a host and left our houseguests to head over to Conniption's for dinner (Indian from Yeti--yum) with him and Double Engine (I hadn't seen her in ages; I was so overjoyed I had to caution her to keep away, "lest I spille madam..."). Little M is not-so-little now, and looks lovely like her mother--she's registering for kindergarten today! Little I has a great head of wavy red hair and gave me a big hug as soon as he saw me. Their dog chewed on me for a half hour, which I liked because I can't have a dog due to Cha's allergies, and then Conniption's friend showed, the kids went to bed, Double Engine joined us briefly before retiring, and then we started to drink beer in earnest. I haven't drunk beer with guys in a LONG time. We watched several videos of people doing astonishing things on their bikes, including many crashes that hurt my teeth and nards to see. We talked about porn and pullups and popshots and farts and I got turned on to new (for me) music--Killdozer, Gang of 4 (fucking amazing!), some punk trucker/southern rock band whose name I forget but whose band photo took me back to Hereford High, The Minutemen, and Husker Du. I hope Conniption hydrated before bed! (BTW--happy birthday today!) I should have gone home at 9pm to entertain Cha's family while she was running her fund-raiser event, but was having too much fun; I didn't get home until 2:20am. Her sisters and Baron Munchausen entertained themselves with my DVD/VHS collection, and apparently even dug out some porn!?


Cha's folks came over and then after 2 we finally had some time together by ourselves, which we used to great advantage. Then I was lazy all afternoon and watched basketball and read.

Now I'm back at work. Wah.

Show and Tell

There's just been a mass exodus of Aunties! I'm covering the desk so they can meet Eve, whom Ferocity has brought in today for a visit.


Julio recommended this, and as one of the few films he and Yo! Adrienne have in common I thought why not check it out? I'd seen the trailer at The Charles last year and had no desire to see it, but on their recommendations gave it a shot. Cha and I enjoyed everything from the engaging opening cafeteria-themed credits to the tether-ball finale. A pleasant blend of cute and creepy. I ate lunch with Pedro and Napolean every day at the misfit table from 8th thru 11th grade.

Old faves--another reason to have Netflix! Of course this film rules, everyone knows that, so I don't need to say anything. I will point out, however, that DVDs are great because you can pause them and there are no annoying VHS lines across the screen--and this function is particularly wonderful when Kate Hepburn's dress is torn off to expose great gams and tush in high stockings and garters, and when she's sliding across the floor in a dangerously open bathrobe. YES! Bringing Up Baby is replete with extremely subtle sexual innuendo as well, starting with the first lines:

Cary Grant: "I'm sure this bone must go in the tail."

His wife: "Nonsense, dear. You tried it there last night and it was simply too big."

Today's Conservatives

So today's "conservatives":

*Care not a whit about using the federal government to intervene in a what amounts to a distasteful and ethically thorny family squabble

*Are willing to use the Congress to interfere in a case already reviewed abundantly by several State courts, including a State Supreme Court, as well as federal courts--including the US Supreme Court, who decided not to hear the case

*Will ignore the Constitution so long as they can "excite the base," violating the separation of powers and long-standing conservative doctrine re: the sovereignty of states in a federalist system

*Will suddenly and conveniently forget their "sancticty of marriage" horseshit when it's politically expedient, siding with Schiavo's parents

*Will ignore evidence found sufficient in several court hearings that Terry Schiavo wanted in no way to be kept alive artificially, evidence supported by the testimony of numerous witnesses, thereby ignoring Schiavo's civil rights and her privacy

*Will use testimony by doctors and "experts" who have only seen Schiavo on videotape carefully selected by the lawyers of Schiavo's parents, while ignoring the opinions of the individuals who have actually examined her

*Will gleefully derail the New Deal while slashing welfare, veteran's benefits, Medicaid, and Medicare benefits, but work to ensure that one medically hopeless vegetative case remains alive contrary to her wishes and the wishes of her legally recognized caretaker

*Claim to be working for "God's will" and a "natural" death for Schiavo, who is kept alive through the "natural" means of having nutrients pumped into her body-- in the same way a respirator artificially pumps air into a patient--nutrients she is incapable of asking for, seeking out, eating, or even desiring because her cerebral cortex is "liquified"

*Will distort the meaning of random electric discharges by a destroyed brain which result in spasmodic "smiling" and "attempts at communication" and call these evidence of consciousness, despite the fact that her round-the-clock caregivers say she makes the same gestures and expressions and sounds randomly throughout the day and night

*Will cynically and callously distort the true pain of Schiavo's parents for political purposes, when they need to let go of their daughter who has been dead for 15 years with no hope of recovery

*Will work to block stem cell research, which may someday result in medical solutions for people with conditions similar to Schiavo's, again because they have some special understanding of God's will

*Will allow their ethically challenged Majority Leader to deflect attention from his mounting legal troubles as he engages in corrupt manoeuvering, shamelessly grandstanding on this issue

*Claim all along that "liberals" are the ones who use government to interfere in citizen's private lives, that "liberals" abuse the power of government, that "liberals" are hypocrites

I watched C-SPAN's coverage of the House debates for two hours last night--it felt good to shout at the TV again as fire-breathing Social Darwinists argued (at times using liberal programs like the ADA!) that we should keep this unfortunate young woman's body going in perpetuity. Terry Schiavo is a set of empty parentheses the Republicans are filling with their agenda, a vegetative Rohrschach blotch, and should be allowed the dignity to die as she would have more than a decade ago without radical medical assistance.

The only good thing about this entire controversy? People might realize the importance of taking legal action--via "living wills"--to ensure they're not kept alive contrary to their wishes by politicos bent on firing up a fevered religious minority for their own nefarious ends.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Times Have Changed

A funny incident today: a dapper, rather arrogant and brusque 60-ish gent in a knit sweater and beret stormed in and demanded that I "shut up" a young lady speaking on her cell phone. Said young lady--most likely 19 or 20, African-American and very attractive, was reading a homework assignment off the computer screen to someone on the phone.

I excused myself gently and asked if she could refrain from using her cell phone; their use is barred in the library outside of the lobbies.

"I have to read this to Shondra and I can't do so from the lobby," she said.

"That may be, but the use of cell phones here is not permitted, particularly if it disturbs other patrons, which is the case now."

"Again, I understand that..."

Loud, rude honky: "If you understand it than get out!"

Sista: "Why don't you shut your fucking mouth, old man!"

Things devolved rapidly from here on out. I'd done all I could do--so far as I know the next step is to call the campus police and have an unruly patron escorted out, but in this case the young woman needed to read her assignment to her group project mate, and it was only a three-paragraph business letter, so I figured I'd let her take care of things herself. None of the other patrons were bothered. Plus, the guy was obviously a prick, even if he did have Liberry policy on his side.

I returned to the desk and picked up the phone, pretending to call campus police, and watching the young woman, now with four or five other patrons on her side, yelling at the old white guy. He made a contemptuous gesture at them all, stood, and put on his leather mack before huffing out the door red-faced.

This sort of thing happened all the time in book retail--so often, in fact, that I rarely felt even the slightest bit of confusion or annoyance when people screamed at me because that was simply part of the job. When these two started shouting at each other, however, I immediately slunk off, wholly intimidated and feeling out of my depth, and I loved it! No longer am I responsible for handling such situations! No longer am I forced to absorb invective. No longer do I have to be diplomatic in any way with patrons.

I'm officially de-programmed of all retail management traits.

Back at it

So last week I ran 1.5 miles one day, and realized I hadn't run before that for five weeks, and that five weeks ago I'd run three days in a row, but before that I hadn't run for a month--and after some quick math it dawned on me: in 2.5 months I'd only run four times. There are excuses: I was sick for four days, there were two significant snows and no one shovels their sidewalks, etc., but mostly I have to chalk up this lack of athletic activity to plumb consarn-it laziness.

Typically when I have a hiatus of this magnitude, I'll ease myself back into a routine, doing three two-milers a week for a couple weeks, then maybe throwing in a fourth day for a couple weeks, until I build back up to 15-20 miles a week. Not this time! I was so aggravated by my Netflix-aided couch potato status that I decided to run 20 miles this week, no matter what. I did 3.5 miles Tuesday, 3.5 Wednesday, and 3.5 today. I'll do 5 tomorrow and 4.5 Saturday to finish the total.

I haven't run 5 miles in a row since--1994? But I'm determined to get my 20 miles done in five days in order to heal my joints on Sunday and Monday.

Surprisingly, I've felt rather good for taking so much time off. Tuesday was a bit awkward: I couldn't find my stride, my arms were flailing a bit too much, my back cramped up, but today I was clipping along and managed to finish 3 and a half miles in under 22 minutes. Normally I get angry if someone says "I saw you jogging in Towson yesterday." "I don't jog, goddamit, I run!" is my usual response. But this week, I've been jogging. When I can do the 3.5 in 19 minutes again I'll be satisfied.

You Go, California Supreme Court

I don't know why I watch cable TV discussion shows; they simply angry up the blood, and often the discourse is at a lower level than when my ENGL102 students debate controversial issues. I have cut way back, but sometimes I'll check in on MSNBC or Fox to hear over what foolishness the pundits are currently bloviating. Yesterday Reagan and Crowley had a particularly adolescent discussion of gay marriage, though I give Reagan props for stepping up to the plate and pointing out holes in the conservative guest's arguments that his liberal guest was unable to counter.

I'm aggravated by attempts to claim that marriage has "always" been defined a certain way, and should therefore remain stagnant. "Marriage has always been defined as being between one man and one woman who love each other."

Yeah, right. Tell it to those Old Testament patriarchs and their dozens of wives, concubines, courtesans, slaves, etc. Tell it to those who until relatively recently had their mates chosen by families without any regard to love. Tell it to those 50% of Americans who call it quits because their marriages turn out to be less than sacred after all.

Hey Protestants! A schism over marriage rights helped free you from the dread influence of nefarious Papery. Remember that when you claim marriage has "always" been this or that.

Two consenting adults should be able to get hitched if they want. As heteros, my wife and I had that right; if others are denied that right because they want to marry someone of the same sex, then it's descrimination, plain and simple. Conservatives used to be all about limiting state involvement in people's lives, and limiting the role of government regulation. When it comes to gay marriage, however,many conservatives seem to want to limit freedoms and increase regulation. WTF?

I think Evangelicals should be more like Christ--give away all your possessions, remain single your entire life, and go sit in the desert for 40 days and get your nose out of everyone else's business. What you think consigns people to Hell is none of my concern--worry about preparing your own asses for the Rapture.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Comfy, but damn noisy

So I'm in my new "office," which, in actuality, is a corner of the storage/HVAC room behind the Periodicals service desk. It's a bit bright back here, and the HVAC equipment is so noisy I can hear it over the Buddy Guy CD blaring in my headphones right now, but I like it nonetheless. I'm going to put up posters and pictures and bibelots next week, and might even bring in an Ikea throw rug, a bean-bag chair, some paper lanterns and an incense burner. I have a bookcase which hides me from the occasional journal-searching soul who sneaks back here, and next week I'm getting some cubicle walls to further my isolation.

I'm all alone back here! Hooray! Though today's kind of annoying because all the Aunties want to see how I set it up, and then they want to comment on how I set it up, and each one tells me how "cozy" it is, and then asks if the noise bothers me.

Yes, it does--but she is not here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Eskimo--so quick to perceive any slight, however innocent, so quick to pick up on gossip--is otherwise often wholly clueless. Tonight she was in rare form, standing at the service desk and holding forth on a variety of topics: politics, art, the military, pop culture, music--after two hours of this many patrons were shushing her (she had her back to the room, leaning against the desk) and saying "stop talking please!" And yet, Eskimo kept on chattering, God Bless Her. She started going off on a riff about the public schools--there were three young women behind her making faces full of murderous intent--when finally the student assistant said "Eskimo, I hate to be rude, but I got a complaint from several patrons when I went to the restroom. They think you're being way too loud." Eskimo turned, scowled at the women behind her, and said rudely "Well they could've just said something to me--I'm standing right here!" In response, there were gasps of disbelief and nervous titters.

I'd been praying for a complaint myself for at least 45 minutes--I know better than to try and shut her up, and I'm not willing to risk pissing off The Beast until tomorrow, when my desk moves out of the back office once and for all.

TCM and Netflix are eating my life

Last night on TCM I saw Midnight starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche--I laughed heartily two dozen times; this is significant as I rarely laugh out loud at films. It's a crime this is only available on VHS--Criterion needs to get their asses in gear!

Colbert sneaks into high society posing as a Hungarian Baroness--her charade nearly falls apart within minutes of its execution, but some other old lady is thought to be the imposter and thrown out of a rich soiree as Colbert is adopted by a smitten Frenchy and taken into his high-stakes Bridge game; from there she somehow ends up involved in a multi-faceted marriage plot/conspiracy. When the "Baroness Czerni" hears the hostess boast of chucking out the old imposter, her forced laugh had me actually falling off the couch. The film has an odd flair: one scene features a series of double-takes by uppercrust stereotypes, including a perfectly timed and surreal comic gesture by a poodle, seated, for some reason, at breakfast--this was so unexpected I spit out a mouthfull of $30 shiraz. The dialogue is great (John Barrymore: "We've certainly landed in something, my dear, but it's not butter!" or my favorite Colbert lines: "Yeah, well every Cinderella has her slipper!" and "I know quite well the dangers that lurk in hotel lobbies.") Mary Astor, Barrymore, Ameche--all excellent! Don't miss this if you get the chance (and a big thanks to The Dazzling Urbanite for turning me on to another truly excellent film).

I also watched brief bits of It's a Wonderful World (Colbert and Jimmy Stewart) and Boom Town (Colbert, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Heddy Lamarr).

Monday, March 14, 2005

The Tax Man

I did our taxes twice after we bought the house--that was enough! The last time it took me nine hours, what with our numerous jobs and 401ks and itemized teacher receipts and travel expenses and whatnot. I guess now that there are computer programs which make tax preparing easier, I should get back to doing them myself--I could save a hundred bucks that way, but then I think "hell, I probably get $100 in refund I would've missed by consulting an expert."

So today I went to H&R Block because our local dude lit out either because he went out of bidness or because he got audited and had to hit the road. Either way the H&R Block guy was cool--he turned out to be a Green Party dude and had visited Singapore and really liked Borders in Towson until 2000, when, he said "I guess the management changed and it started to really decline." Arguably, the decline started long before yours truly quit as GM, but I still have to admit I was happy to hear my tax preparer say that (he didn't even know I was once a manager there).

H prepared our taxes all the way down to the grand finale, and was about to award us some $2000 from the Feds and State when he realized he'd left out one of Cha's umpteen gazillion W-2s. Because this W-2 was for an uncontractual State job as a teacher trainer, and because there was no withholding of her wages, and because this falls under schedule C self-employment compensation, we got fucked royally and ended up owing $700 to the Feds and a couple hundred to the State after he added in her two-week MATI summer gig.

Can't wait for the porn parody title...

I'd heard that if you've read Fast Food Nation then there's really no reason to see this film. While I didn't learn anything new from SuperSize Me, I still disagree; the physical toll of Morgan Spurlock's diet comes across rather powerfully in a visual medium. Reading about cholesterol and liver problems and cancers is less likely to change behavior than watching a rather athletic and vigorous guy turn into a tub 'o lard nearing liver failure in a single month. Seeing him--in the name of science--force himself to eat an upsized Quarter Pounder with Cheese meal, and the resulting technicolor yawn--mmmm, better than Fear Factor. SuperSize Me is not a great film, but it's well-done (imagine Michael Moore's Roger and Me formula created with today's production tools--very slick) and Spurlock is appealing enough to keep us interested and concerned. Seeing the genuine shock on his GP's face when those liver test results come back is in itself worth the price of admission! I found watching this as difficult as Leaving Las Vegas; at times I felt an acute physical revulsion.

McD's and the other "fast food" joints are certainly rude bastards as far as corporations go, but what about those other big chains (Applebee's, Ruby Tuesdays, TGIFridays, ChiChi's, etc.) that also upsize their portions and use the same processed schlock? I bet America's growing middles owe as much to these not-quite-fast-food pre-packaged gloop factories as they do to Taco Bell and Wendy's, and neither Schlosser nor Spurlock mentions them.

The DVD features interesting extras, including deleted scenes, an interview with Schlosser, and an experiment featuring McD's fries that must be seen to be believed. I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I'm responsible for two or three zeroes on the 1,000,000,000,000,000 people served sign. I met my wife working at McD's!

Sunday, March 13, 2005


Another smashing film by Cocteau--I liked Blood of a Poet much more, but it's an entirely different sort of film--Orpheus is not nearly so allegorical, and is constrained by a more traditional type of narrative, but there are several instances of Cocteau magic nonetheless. Orpheus must avoid the trap of celebrity, a self-indulgent concern with immortality, and an egotistical superiority to his loved ones--barring that, he must un-learn what he knows in order to defeat these character traits and re-engage his art.

I enjoyed particularly his visit to the underworld.

Le Weekend


We were to meet The Bus and Co. for her pre-birthday bash at Patterson Bowling downtown. We arrived and Earthdragon and Damnyeller were present with many of their cohorts, but no Bus and Co.--she'd fallen ill at dinner and gone home. Here's hoping her bug was of the 24-hour variety, and that all will be well soon. We bowled two games of duckpins--which I loathe--but had fun nonetheless, and got to shoot the shit with folks we hadn't seen in a while. I also got my first duckpin spares and my first ever duckpin strike. Mmmmm, satisfying!


The Burkleigh Square Community Association's annual fundraising dinner. Cha, VP of the Comm. Ass., very busy all day--and on top of her hecticity she was off to some fair trade warehouse in western MD for a big sale in the am, bringing home: a buttload of handcrafted musical instruments (singing bowls, thumb drumbs, gourd shakers, flutes, cymbals, didgeridoos), kites, batik cloths, silk lanterns, African dolls, chocolates, various items requisite for the implementation of voodoo curses, a freezedried coelacanth mummy, six of the seven daggers of Medigo, a series of Dogon tribal masks of frog people from the dark twin of the star Sirius, a monkey's cloven hoof that grants ironic wishes, a napkin scrawled with a portrait of Cocteau and signed Pab. Pic., a hermetic key to Poussin's Bergers d'Arcadie, George Washington's masonic apron, and a coffee cake from Starbucks which was most assuredly not fair trade in origin. I played with many of these toys for much of the afternoon. At one point I had four singing bowls singing at once--this caused my fillings to ache and our bird devolved into a reptilian, underwent several distinct metamorphoses, announced a certain ennui based in its opinion of canary seeds, and slept.

At the fundraiser we were fortunate enough to have friends: The Traveling Joneses showed and were kind enough to endure the woeful caterwauling of local karaoke-ers (not to mention the foamy beer and cheap red wine). They look well and we got to catch up a bit but they couldn't alas, hang out after due to a run of strep fever; Sam, a wise old soul in a young, tiny body, was feverish and asleep but talking with his eyes open the night before, saying "I'm broken, I want to go home to my room," which alarmed his parents a bit considering they were in his room in his home at the time. It's Australian for Beer!--who can sing, thankfully--showed, as did Seoul Shiksa and Virginia Monologues--who can't, alas; I was compelled to bust out my best Freddie Mercury channeling Elvis on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," before dying while accompanying Virginia Monologues at "Eye of the Tiger." The eggplant parmesian was killer! AND, to top it all off, I think the Comm. Ass. made some money.

I talked to the Traveling Joneses for a while about traveling, and wonder will we wander together again some day?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Blogger gone haywire!

Yes, Blogger has been on the blink much of the last few days--comments won't post, posts won't post, those that do work are posted twice or only partially.

Blogger is a free service; we get what we pay for! Actually, that's unfair, because it works really well most of the time.

Here's an email comment from the Earl of Pembroke--I can't post it to the Lost Highway review because the Comments function is not working:

For some reason I'm prevented from responding on your Blog about your review of Lost Highway. It's important to point out that there is no official DVD release of the film; I borrowed it from a Borders employee, and it was obvious that it is a bootleg DVD copy of a videotape. So colors and values are wrong, and even the proportions are questionable.

Somehow I think that you're way off in slamming the film. Though Mul.Dr. is a masterpiece in comparison, LH broke ground which later flowered into MDr, particularly in the way it played with the dream/reality theme. I think Lost Highway needs to be seen in relation to Wild At Heart and Blue Velvet - Lynch returned to sheer darkness after WAH, with dream as the drive.

I really want to buy a DVD of this - I wonder whether Blake's woes are holding it up?

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I just waited on a patron who reeked bad; he was so stoned he couldn't find the journal Cell in the Bound Periodicals because he was looking in the Qs. This brought to mind my friend Burnt, with whom I worked for many years, and with whom I destroyed many brain cells.

One night Burnt and I were smoking hash with Snidely Whiplash at Dawn Tarnished's place. I think it was the first time Dawn had smoked; after about five or six hits she was wide-eyed and flushed. "I think I see why people like this," she said, which started a giggling fit, and before we knew it we were all laughing. I can still, after nearly 18 years, see her seated on the floor at the end of her flea market coffee table, leaned back against the sofa with her mouth open, head lolling around, that great head of Crystal Gale hair parted down the middle and glistening in the candlelight. Snidely was so high he started riffing on the texture of Doritos: "It's like a code, like Braille, like a bubble language. I wonder what it says!? You know, it's got messages and WOAH!" he shouted, jumping up, obviously agitated, and shaking his hands over and over as he paced back and forth. "Man, I just flew through the big gear in the sky!"

Burnt and I gave each other a quizzical look; smoking with Snidely and Dawn was like going to the zoo--they could not handle themselves, and became an exotic specie. All the more fun for us! We were dying with laughter as Snidely sheepishly sat down again, still shaking his hands up and down like some neurotic out of Sherwood Anderson. "Did I say something?" he asked. "What was I talking about?" He started eating the Doritos again, and finished an entire jumbo bag before moving out to the kitchen. He came back with a new loaf of Wonder Bread and proceded to ball up each slice into a tight little wad which he'd eat in one bite. "This bread is good!" he kept whispering. Every time we laughed at him he'd say "I'm not high at all--you guys are messed up!" When we left, totally hammered ourselves, Snidely had his entire forearm in the eampty bread bag, searching for crumbs, while Dawn was talking to her socks.

We were heading back to Burnt's house to smoke and drink some more--he lived in his parents' basement out in the Hereford Zone. I had a baggie of some sharp skunk I picked up from the Evil Twin, and we smoked a couple bowlfulls on the back roads through Railroad, PA. "Remind me," Burnt said, smoke seeping through his clenched teeth as he held a deep toke, "that I have a case of oil in the trunk for my Paw." I was driving a Colt Vista wagon at the time--what a fucked-up party machine that was! A few weeks before I'd taken a crew down to Fell's Point on a Wednesday to see jazz at Bertha's. The Evil Twin found a kerchief in one of the back seats, put it around his face like a bandit, leaned out the window, and screamed "Give me your strong-box muthafucka!" at passing cars on the JFX. I pulled up behind Burnt's Mustang GTO and left my lights on as he popped his trunk to get the case of Quaker State.

"Man, that skunk is some fucked-up shit!" he said. "I'm high as hell!"

I laughed, said in Snidely's voice: "I'm not high at all! I haven't even caught a buzz yet."

We went in the kitchen and Burnt's dad was sitting at the table watching a small color TV on the counter, his enormous beer belly straining a stained and torn white T-shirt, a short-sleeved cheap flannel shirt unsnapped over the gut, his knuckly fibrous forearms near bursting. Burnt told me his dad could lift a .305 engine block out of a Nova without using equipment if he was mad enough, and looking at him I believed it.

"Hey Paw," Burnt said, his eyes dark and red and sunken. Fortunately, Paw didn't look at us, he just sort of grunted non-commitally. Burnt took the Quaker State box and sat it on the counter by the 'fridge. Before I could get my head around what he was up to, he'd opened the box, opened the 'fridge, and begun putting quart plastic bottles of motor oil on the middle shelf next to the Coke cans and margerine. I was stoned enough to understand where he was coming from, what malfunction he was experiencing--hey, bottles go in the 'fridge, don't they? But I wasn't so stoned not to know his Paw was going to notice what the hell he was up to if he didn't stop, and then it happened.


Burnt had an endearing way of shaking himself out of a buzz when necessary, and he did so now with a quick back and forth of the head and cartoonish little "yipes" barely audible across the room. "Sorry, Paw, I just was tired I guess, and wasn't thinking."


From upstairs I could hear some stirring around as Burnt's mom got up and moved to the top of the stairs: "You leave him alone, Dale. He probably had a long day."

Paw turned back to his TV and we went downstairs to Burnt's room, where he showed me the bullet hole in his mattress and told me Kermit Stanbaugh had shot a .357 into it for fun.

I Love Canadians

I'd really enjoy being a fly on the wall if and when Condi Rice reads this.

...also, a great pic of Howie.

Fuck this movie

Although not his worst film (that distinction belongs to the forgetable and lamentably awful Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), this one is rather wretched. Several kindly souls had warned me not to bother, but I figured since it's by David Lynch I had to see it--let's just say the kindly souls were correct. Lost Highway is bad, with only two things going for it:

A) Fans of Mulholland Drive may be interested in seeing a less interesting, less elegant exploration of the same themes here

B) Fans of T&A may enjoy Patricia Arquette's near continuous nudity

Otherwise, avoid at all costs. Robert Blake plays a psycho-killer/pornographer. Not much of a stretch, given what we know now, eh? Cameos by Gary Busey and Marilyn Manson and Henry Rollins can't save the day either. The DVD itself is of the lowest caliber--the colors are washed, the images are at times distorted (even beyond Lynch's intentional shimmyings), and the pan-and-scan is inept.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ok, you can rinse now!



This news doesn't bode well for Yo! Adrienne. She was supposed to go interview with him sometime soon for a conservator job.

(remember for passwords)


So Yahtzee decided to get a new car; his Saturn served him well, but when the sunroof begin dribbling and moldings started popping he chose to give the old car to his sister.

Look what he bought tonight!

Self indulgent

I still love checking out SiteMeter to see what Google searches lead here:

Love it!






So I finally got off my ass and met Eve before work today, and she was completely pleasant and tolerated me as I paced around the kitchen and dining room with her in the crook of my arm (all the while thinking "Oh, God, I'm holding somebody's baby, and may drop her at any time!"--a dread feeling). She's more beautiful even then her photos, however, which helped calm me down. Mommy looks great and seems completely at ease--confident, comfortable, and only a bit weirded out by the whole experience. Baby toots and spit-up before work, hooray!

After a pleasant lunch with red wine and Springeresque family story chit-chat, I'm back in my hole at the Liberry, surrounded by Aunties talking about knitting, their cats, their grumpy hubbies, haircut disasters, and hair dye! Sometimes you don't get the headphones on in time and then it's too late; I had to exist on the periphery of this conversation as it unfolded around me--three Aunties standing right at my desk, another seated across the way. No escape!

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

March 8th?

March 8th already. WTF? I haven't even thought about 2005 yet and we're almost .25 done with it. Whole weeks disappear unremarked. The weather tries to shock me out of such complacency. Yesterday, 70 degrees, almost too warm, last week's snow melting in a matter of hours and mucking up the yard. Today another inch of new snow, windchill in the teens, and I can't even open my composter because the lid is frozen shut. Sorry banana and orange peels--you'll have to wait!

The student assistant tonight has shown me:

A) randy poetry submitted to Grub Street

B) the randy cover of Stern magazine

C) her randy midriff

At Grand Cru Saturday I bought 12 bottles of wine only to have my former boss--the former head of the TU English Department, suddenly behind me at the counter--compliment me on my purchase. "Who else would have such a delicious selection? Enjoy it," she purred, a jaunty knit cap tilted to one side of her head, nails bright red, audacious earrings situated on the folds of a fat scarf with which they clashed. "Of course, how could one do otherwise?" she added.

I believe the wine makes time slide by; time is not only relative to speed, but to one's level of intoxication as well. Beer, curiously, deadens one's perception of time, and whiskey nigh on stops time in its tracks.

Here's what I told Eskimo today:

1) Do not read this month's Harper's magazine cover story!
2) Don't watch the rebroadcast of Frontline!
3) Americans care not a whit about morally questionable or objectionable behavior when they find themselves ideologically aligned with those engaged in said behavior.

Completely out of the blue I remembered The best line my mom ever came up with. Our family was staying in a cabin in the remotest region of Canada I've yet visited, and while some of us were eating breakfast Porc Heaven was rather audibly engaged with his girlfriend Dawn in their room. The thumping, gasping, growling, and squealing were hard to ignore, and my mom said: "Sounds like Porc Heaven woke up in the crack of Dawn this morning!" Dad coughed an entire unchewed raisin out his left nostril, Uncle Area 51 woke from his gin-induced stupor and proclaimed himself cured of all Philadelphia Experiment-related illnesses, BroJ caught four sizable perch, a 36 inch bass, a pike longer than his arm, then said simply: "I don't get it," and I went outside and skimmed stones across a lake surface solid and reflective as flecked glass. Later that night BroJ, Porc Heaven, Dawn and I would nearly die capsizing our boat in a drunken accident--but that story is for another time, as is the one about Bill Funk the decorative arts collector trying to get Julio and I into his bed at the same time in San Fran; the one about Buf losing his cool when some truckdrivers were harrassing his wife in the Hofbrauhaus--I finally had to intervene because he wouldn't help her out and he ran off into the Englischer Garten at 2am; or the one about the confidence scammers on the Dingle Peninsula who could've robbed us all blind were it not for the ever-alert M. Traveling Jones; or the time I misbehaved so badly at my grandma's house she called the preacher and told him I had a devil in me, and he and I debated Scripture for hours seated at her clear-plastic coated kitchen table with the Bible verse placemats and bottles of Watkins vitamins.

These tales all come later.

TCM, the best thing for insomniacs

Claudette Colbert is currently TCM's "Star of the Month," and I'm not complaining. I caught Imitation of Life by chance last night, and at several points almost gave it up but found myself unable to do so. I was torn throughout by a combination of liberal guilt (the stereotypes in this film are morally objectionable! I wonder what Chuck D would have to say about this!? I can't believe our societal expectations were so fucked up for so long!) and admiration for a film that was assuredly intended to show American whites their own hypocrisies, albeit in subtle ways. I found this internal debate delicious, and enjoyed the movie enough to find myself wailing at its maudlin death scene, thinking between sobs "this is so contrived--I could see it coming miles away, wah-ahhah, how cliched!--boo hoo," sniffle, sniffle. I was such a mess!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Time to Trim the Fat

I'm hankering to divest myself of about 100 DVDs; the convenience of Netflix has rendered my video library an unnecessary luxury, and I plan to dispense with most either through Ebay or some sort of yard sale.

In preparation last night I was going through the collection and trying to decide which films I absolutely wanted to keep, and based on the sheer number of times I revisit them, here are the films I must have in my house at all times:

I saw EWS in the theater three times and have watched the DVD in its entirety at least 10 times, and every time I see it I notice small details that shift or challenge my interpretation. This is also an aesthetically pleasing film.

I love everything about this film! The performances are great, the art direction and sets are sublime, the music is perfect, Lena Olin is nude, Polanski manages to be funny and spooky at the same time. I've seen this a dozen times and never tire of it. Mysteriously, Polanski explores much of the same thematic territory covered by Kubrick in EWS; the films even share some common scenes and scenarios.

Every time I see this I think "How can I watch this again?" Apocalypse Now is more than a film--I inhabit this film when I see it.

I've spent many hours in the Overlook Hotel, and plan to revisit it again and again. The remastered DVD is a revelation after my old washed-out VHS tape.

Another film, like The Shining, which manages to confine its characters in a wide open landscape cinematically shrunken by circumstance. Suffocating, dreadful, and mysterious. Wilford Brimley rules, as do the special effects. A film infinitely better than E.T.

Holly Hunter is simply the greatest, and I'm a huge fan of Harvey Keitel. I know a lot of folks don't "get" this movie; I think it's endlessly fascinating.

I could watch these movies back-to-back every month for the rest of my life and not tire of them.

I love Scorsese's stuff, and enjoy his more gritty, violent fare as much as anyone--but his two great religious pictures stir me profoundly. Scorsese's violent pictures always feature spiritual rejuvenation; his spiritual films explore the connection between suffering and redemption in more detail.

Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche, and Lena Olin--how could I not watch this over and over?

Cronenberg reminds us again and again that pain can be beautiful.

Fresh every viewing! I love it to death.

These will stay, but most of the rest can go (I'll hold on to all the Kubricks/Scorseses/John Carpenters/Cronenbergs/Lynches/Criterion Collections). I hope to rake in a significant chunk of change.

Wow--70 degrees

Sometimes my stupid 1pm-10pm schedule doesn't suck; an example would be today. While all the other suckers in Tech Services had to work during a simply gorgeous morning, I was going for a run, cooking a marinated rainbow trout on the grill, reading on the patio with a glass of wine, and thinking: "If I worked 8-5, I'd have missed this entire day!" Even the fact that Wednesday we're supposed to get snow showers and a bitter cold front couldn't dampen my delight.

Because I neglected reading so much this winter, I'm starting to go nuts again, reading too many books at one time:

Very pleasurable--the "friction" that often exists in the act of reading, the knowledge that "I'm reading words now"--nearly vanishes here. Twain is so charming and ebulliant, so funny, and so powerfully descriptive that I actually lose all sense of time and awareness of the act of reading while experiencing this book.

My new hero! Or, I suppose I should say: My new heroine! This is my second foray into Doniger's many books, and rarely have I encountered writing so erudite, so packed with surprising and challenging associations, and yet so accessible. She's got one foot in Hollywood, the other in the Ganges, and is apt to use popular music and TV shows to explain myths and philosophical ideas at any time. Fantastic.

Yes, I started this a week ago and I'm only halfway through. Not as punishing as most modernist bruisers, but still a tough slog. Twain is a good counterweight to Mossman, who leans toward Faulkner and thereby loses any sense of humor. Still, despite some self-indulgent prose, a worthy trek.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

I just finished Harper's current cover story, AWOL in America: When desertion is the only option by Kathy Dobie, and couldn't help but think about Eskimo's son. He had no prospects, no skills, had failed out of community college, given up his classical music training, was unwilling or unable to get and keep a job, and hadn't even gotten his driver's license by age 20. The world's greatest slacker, living with his mom and attached umblilically to her and his XBox.

Instead of living in Eskimo's house and playing video games for all eternity, he decided to enlist. In the Marines. And they took him, despite the dreads, the lack of skills, the history of psychiatric problems and therapists and medications. And now he's going to be a soldier, whereas a few weeks ago he went with other war protestors to raise hell at W.'s second inaugural. Reading in Harper's about the lies recruiters tell made me fear for Eskimo's boy--he was assured a position as a mechanic and told he wouldn't have to fight if he didn't want to. This was no small consolation to Eskimo herself. But there's no question the Marines will do whatever they want or need to do with him now that he's at Paris Island.

Perhaps this is his path--for some it's a necessary thing, a valuable experience. I hope that's so in his case. What happens to others is truly horrible.

I thought not teaching this semester would shield me....

Some things various student assistants have asked or said to me this year that filled me with dismay:

10) "Like, what is a Fahrenheit? I didn't know there was more than one temperature. What's the point?" This from a biochem major?!?!?!?

09) "What is the UK?" I responded that Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland formed the major part of the United Kingdom, but this answer was unsatisfactory, so I showed her the UK on her map. "That's England, so it can't be the UK," she said. I explained that UK meant England and all of her possessions united, to which she replied "You said it was Great Britain before! How can it be England now?"

08) "Is the current president of the United States a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent?"

07) "How many US Senators are there?" Me: "There are two per state." "How many does that make?"

06) "Genetics is hard. I don't understand it at all." Me: "What's your major?" "Biochemistry."

05) "I thought Christoper Columbus was a Pilgrim."

04) "Your parents live all the way in Pennsylvania? Isn't that next to New York?"

03) "While listening to .50 Cent's new album today, I was struck by his classist view that other rappers designate him as nouveau rich and somewhat vulgar. He ridicules them for believing his street cred a mere social construct designed to sell more thug albums to white suburbanites."

02) "I'm writing a big Kierkegaard paper."

01) [Not a student assistant, but a patron who interrupted me as I typed this] "Where are the periodicals?" Me, gesturing: "Over there..." She: "I was just over there and it's only magazines and newspapers."


Wasn't a CNN dude forced to resign for suggesting the US military has targeted journalists? Strange to note that the wounded Italian journalist, just freed by Iraqi insurgents and shot up by our boys, thinks the same thing!

A Turd

This film has cold-hearted Gene Tierney watching imperiously as her crippled brother-in-law drowns in a lake; outside of this crafty, deliciously mean-spirited scene, there's nothing to recommend here. I call this genre "Hollywood discovers Freud"--and here some hacks maul the Electra Complex and manage to make a turgid, senseless movie that drags on painfully for two hours. The acting is wooden as any I've seen in a Lassie episode, the dialogue is foolish, and the audience is asked to believe that a DA (Vincent Price) who was jilted by Tierney's character would be allowed to prosecute a case invovling his former fiancee. A catastrophically awful film.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Netflix again...

Damn you Netflix for consuming all liesure hours!

I watched part one, The Blood of a Poet, last night. I'm going to watch it again today just to double-check, but this may be one of the greatest things I've ever seen. A series of allegories about the creative impulse, the suffering of poets, the trappings of cheap success, and the obstacles artists face and must overcome. I loved this much more even than Cocteau's other masterpiece, Beauty and the Beast, and can't wait for the other discs in the trilogy.

The disc also includes an excellent biographical documentary featuring interviews with Cocteau in which he tells stories, discusses his work, comments on contemporaries, and bares his soul.

I mean, yeah, I liked it ok, but this occasionally stilted biodocudrama isn't as good as Crumb.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

So very sad

I think I'm putting myself back on the no-meat diet again after six months off the wagon.

I've got to have chicken wings one last time before I go, however...

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child...

My granddaddy just used a switch.


Took a half-day today and came in at 5pm instead of 1pm. The infection has spread to my throat so now I can barely speak on top of being barely able to breathe.

Despite being sick, I had a great time today watching VH-1 list things. I'm unfortunately not up to reading anything deeper than Seuss, what with the medicines and the teas and the tissues all over, and the book I started two days ago makes Faulkner look like Judy Blume:

As a result it's TV and vegging out on the couch. I heard about The Stones of Summer through a fantastic documentary I got the first couple weeks I had Netflix:

A cowboy and his boy Posted by Hello
World's best coffee? And great tortillas Posted by Hello
New friends Posted by Hello
Coffee farm Posted by Hello
Honduran market Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Decisions, decisions

So it's that time of the semester when we're supposed to submit classes and times we'd like to teach next year, and I've been thinking I should teach one or two classes again next semester, but then thinking "Why in God's name would I want to do that?"

Mysteriously, four former students have been in here tonight asking for help. I've seen two others while roaming the stacks, and just now ran into another sitting in the lobby. It's as though some mystical force has brought them out of the woodwork to help make up my mind.

Then, I picked up The Towerlight, and there on the cover is a former student, just back from her American Idol experience (she did rather well, apparently).

Seeing all these folks tonight has decided me: I never want to teach again if I can avoid it!

More Netflix

I liked American Movie a great deal, though I didn't much care for Mark Borchardt as a person--he's a tragic figure because he's a driven guy, serious about his "art," trapped in the life of a trailer trash slacker (Let's list the characteristics: four kids between two women when not married to either, living with his folks, high-school dropout, mullet, Iron Maiden T-shirts, affable burnout buddy, tough-guy jailbird buddy, uncle in the trailer park, newspaper delivery dude/part-time laborer at a cemetary). He's also, like many driven and creative people, a petulant, spoiled, self-centered bully who needs a good beating.

Borchardt is manic to make films, and has been since he was a child. Some of the sequences featured show promise--and his short film Coven (included in its entirety on the DVD) is rather charming. This only makes his situation more painful to watch; if he had money, time, no other responsibilities, and a worthy script, this guy might make a good horror film. As it is, he drives himself and a small community of local volunteers nearly mad while filming on weekends and in between odd jobs. How he keeps his group of unpaid laborers interested in helping him with these projects is a mystery--the guy has a lot of gumption, a fierce desire to make it big, and through bluster and an off-the-hook Puritan work ethic he manages to hold his team together and get the job done. Along the way are many painful and many hilarious sequences.

I felt like I knew all these characters; anyone who went to Hereford High in the 1980s knew these characters. Borchardt reminded me of Robbie A., who could play Beethoven's piano sonatas on his flying V after hearing them one time, but who gave up a scholarship to Peabody for a job in a plumbing warehouse. He still works there, and has a kid with one of the Graul's Market Bakery girls. At one time he had bands with guys who went on to be Live and Blind Melon, but Robbie couldn't give up swilling a twelve-pack of Natural Light every day, and it cost him. I remember Robbie had a Marshall stack that covered one whole wall of his bedroom. On the floor under his bed were hundreds of vinyl metal records: Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, Celtic Frost, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica. Laboriously, Robbie would listen to these albums until he could play every note by heart, then he'd throw them sleeveless under the bed where his blind poodle Nicky would piss on them. The guy went through about a case of Vaseline Intensive Care every week, and these bottles were lined up on his basement steps like trophies in a whack-off contest. Borchardt's buddy Mike Schank reminds me of Ben Sawyer; my Mom found Ben on our porch one morning and thought he was a dead guy. He actually was only bombed on homemade blotter acid and cheap tequila. Ben went out to SF and was arrested living in a van on some guy's property--the guy didn't give Ben permission to squat there. When the cops picked him up he was living in Hunter S. Thompson's wet dream of a medicine cabinet. Last I saw him he'd lost about 80 pounds and his front teeth.

Yeah, I liked it. Not as much as Before Sunrise, but this film is without pretense and I warmed to it despite a bit of awkwardness early on. It ends as it should.

Long Overdue

I haven't been sick in more than two years and I'm paying the price. Last week one of our inter-library loan students was a mucus-spewing avian flu-toting zombie; I started downing echinacea tea by the Thermos last Thursday to combat her germs and thought I had this thing licked. Yesterday, however, the aches started. Then, at 2am today, I woke stuffed as Norman Bates' owl, barely able to suck enough air through my swollen throat to swear at the universe.

I tried blowing my nose but the only result was a pain behind the eyes rather similar in intensity to a dentist's needle jabbed in the gums. The only alternative was to try and pull the blockage out the other direction, by sucking it out through the sinuses in the top of my throat. This was equally painful, but more effective.

Whatever's going on in there is awful--those two little drainage ducts feel raw and tender and angry. Trying to move whatever was jammed in my skull was as difficult as pulling a full-size paper grocery bag through a balloon's opening. When it finally emerged the goo was the consistency of brains and not dissimilar in color to Christo's Gates; it took ten minutes of painful sucking and hacking to deposit a jellyfish of woe in the bathroom sink, and two hours later I was at it again.

I'm miserable, and I have a pointless meeting in 30 minutes. I'm hoping whatever this infection is stays above the jawline--I'd prefer to avoid a recurrence of bronchitis or walking pneumonia, the curse of adjunct faculty and teachers everywhere.