Thursday, September 29, 2005

It's Miller Time

As usual, Jane is all over the latest Judy Miller news. I'm worried The Queen of All Iraq will get into a car accident, or open her veins in a steamy bath, or have a "heart attack" before she gets to testify. Those powerful friends who gave her access and book sales in exchange for whoring their Iraq bullshit may go all Abramoff associate on her ass.


For the first time this year I'm excited about new releases at the box office. David Cronenberg's A History of Violence looks to die for--I love his stuff--and of course there's Nick Park's latest Wallace and Grommit vehicle, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

I'd like to see them back-to-back on Saturday, in hopes that my head will explode--but Were-Rabbit isn't out until next weekend, alas.

The Charles is also showing the latest Bergman film, Saraband. An update of Scenes From a Marriage simply can't be missed. Too many choices.

I've also got L'Avventura from Netflix.


I watched the Roberts vote live on MSNBC, figuring this might be the last Chief Justice vote I see until I'm in my sixties or seventies (if I get there). Why were Schumer and Kerry absent? So they could avoid taking a position?

I'm on pins 'n needles over the next choice--and feeling rather confident. With Bush's polls in the loo and the Repugnants awash in scandal, I think the Dumbs will be emboldened to fight on the next nominee if s/he turns out to be a fire-breather. They'll even perhaps be emboldened enough to filibuster, and the "nuclear option" will not be viable for four simple reasons: Snowe, Collins, Chafee, and Specter.

Oops, with Jeffords that's still only 59 nays--so the "nuclear option" will still be viable unless the stench of scandal scares Hagel, Voinovich, and/or McCain out of the fold as well; I'm counting on that potentiality. Hagel and McCain want the White House, and may have to distance themselves from the fundies and try to claim the middle--voting against a Priscilla Owens would give them that opportunity. Voinovich might be in deep trouble as Ohio turns more purple as he stands for re-election in '06 as well.

Whatever happens, we'll see some great theater on C-SPAN.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


I love this book! Not only is this the most accurate and hilarious description of boyhood in America outside of Twain, but Happy Days is also a lavish recreation of Baltimore in the 1880s. So much had changed by the '30s that Mencken was wistfully trying to document what had vanished since his boyhood, and much more of course has vanished since.

Plus, I simply adore Henry's prose--here he laments the fact that music was only a passionate hobby and never taken as a career:

Meditating on this, my lifelong libido that has never come to anything, I become aware of the eternal tragedy of man. He is born to long for things that are beyond him, as flight through the air is beyond a poor goldfish in a globe, and stardom in Hollywood must remain forever outside the experience, though not outside the dreams, of all save a few hundred of the girls in the ten-cent stores. Not many men of my unhappily meagre equipment have ever had a better chance than I to fling their egos into the face of this world. I have, in fact, made a living for many years by thrusting myself upon the attention of strangers, most of them reluctant. I have written and printed probably 10,000,000 words of English, and continue to this day to pour out more and more. It has wrung from others, some of them my superiors, probably a million words of notice, part of it pro but most of it con. In brief, my booth has been set up on a favorable pitch, and I have never lacked hearers for my bally-hoo. But all the same I shall die an inarticulate man, for my best ideas have beset me in a language I know only vaguely and speak only like a child...Why should a man so completely devoid of fitness for the tone-art yet have so powerful an impulse to practise it, and get so much pleasure out of it?...Every concert audience probably swarms with frustrated Beethovens and Wagners...The gods, in the main, are vicious, but now and then they show an unmistakable touch of humor.

Check out Rob Thorworth if you get the chance! He's currently in Baltimore and plays gigs locally and in Annapolis--I think Dig It Up is really impressive, and particularly so given the fact that Thorworth did all the production himself. I first heard him when Yahtzee lent me Life is Suffering; the songwriting on that album isn't up to the par of Dig It Up, but it's a helluva blues guitar album of the sort that I find instantly appealing. He's got a Thin Lizzy/70s Springsteeny vocal style, he plays a wicked blues-infused rock guitar, and even his piano ballads are bangin'. Good stuff.


Tonight the Graduate Assistant couldn't work so I'm stuck at the Liberry until midnight. That's ok, because I got to watch the first half of Martin Scorcese's American Masters Dylan doc this afternoon, and it's really really fucking great. Bob looks and sounds good in the new interview segments, his visage chiseled as a butte in Montana, his perspective absolutely unique. This is more than a portrait of an essential cultural icon, it's an encapsulation of a strange and fertile time in the USA, when people thought the world was doomed and at the same time had enough hope to agitate for change. I love the way he describes listening to music on the radio late at night in rural Minnesota: "Some of that music made me feel like I was somebody else, like I was born in the wrong place." People who know at such a young age what they were meant to do are always fascinating--I'd recommend this documentary even to people who dislike Bob's music, and they are (*alas!*) legion. Watching it made me pick up my guitar, which is what listening to songs like A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall and The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carol did for me 20 years ago; I taught myself how to fingerpick because of those tunes. I've heard many of his songs 100 times, and some of them still make me cry. Can't wait for part two.

At last...

The Hammer gets nailed.

Let's hope the Rove and Frist indictments flow swiftly upon the heels of DeLay's.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Fun Poll

Here is a nifty little poll ranking public intellectuals--you can vote for those on Prospect Magazine/Foreign Policy's Hot 100, or add your own.

My list:

Noam Chomsky (on the left)
Christopher Hitchens (formerly on the left, now mostly on the right)
Niall Fergueson (firmly on the right, but interesting)
Umberto Eco (what are his politics?--I like his lit crit and novels)
Fareed Zacharia (typically on the right, but very critical of the neo-cons of late)

And my "Bonus Ball" addition:

Howard Zinn (on the left)

My criteria? If I've read them and been challenged by what I've read--and if I admired them whether or not I disagreed--they made the list (though my admiration for Hitchens fades fast). Altnernates would include Zizek and Boudrillard and Coetzee and Naomi Klein. An altnerate "Bonus Ball" is Amartya Sen.

Dagum Telemephone


I thought European Magnum icecream ads were racy--Puma is really bad--or good, depending on your POV.


This is the sixth of Fellini's films I've seen this past year, and I grow more and more convinced that this guy could've wiped his arse with celluloid and made a classic. From its cut-throat beginning straight through to the bitter end, Nights of Cabiria is simply a perfect film. Nobody captures the strange juxtapositions of Rome like Fellini--his whore Cabiria wistfully watches a line of barefoot penitents on their way to the Altar of Mary, only to have a huge lumbering dumptruck overwhelm the screen, its scuzzy driver leaning down to solicit her. Giulietta Masina broke my heart in La Strada, and she does so again here with an astonishing range and openness. She's wildly entertaining and can do genuine rage and fear and ecstacy and despair all in a row, and she's funny as hell to boot. Those big eyes were potent tools, indeed. Highly recommended.

Mick O'Seamus--9/23/05

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Top Five Patron Requests This Week

5) Where is the Library?

4) Do you have Kleenex?

3) Can I watch TV here?

2) Can you help me find Harvard Business Review out there? I mean I know the alphabet and all, but there's more than one letter in the word Harvard and I get confused.

1) Give me that sexy over-the-glasses librarian look. Oh, yeah! (asked by a forty-something male patron of student employee O., who obliged his creepy ass)


Blogging has destroyed five years of rather successful journaling, begun in my late 20s, and ending shortly after I started this blog more than two years ago. It took a long time to build up that discipline, too.

I picked up my last journal yesterday and read at random:

Keats thought poets could deal with disheartening, debased subjects and still render them beautiful. I think I just accomplished half of that equation, without the other half.
The entry preceeding this is spectacular, but it is so mean, so awful, so WRONG that I could never advertise it. Who writes such venomous stuff? Freaks! Emotional mutants!

Even on a super-secret blog I wouldn't post the shit I used to journal about, because no place on the internet is wholly untraceable.

Another problem of 'blog vs. journal is the inability to doodle amongst the words, which is necessary.


You know, films simply don't get less depressing than this. All sunshine and hope.

Kidding aside, this is one of those Films You Must See if you hope to be a person who has seen all those Films One Must See. I've seen it now, and loved it, though I had to fortify myself with a couple extra fingers of Maker's Mark at the midpoint.

And another of Those Films. Magnificent, ground-breaking and technically masterful. No wonder all those Warner Bros. cartoons used Peter Lorre caricatures for villains (and occasionally for pathetic love-struck losers). Brrrrr! (I watched this after being awakened once again by our new neighbors and forty or fifty of their closest friends--one of them I chased out of my yard at 2am, another I caught pissing on my front porch before I finally called the cops who came and broke things up. As a result my experience of M was less than satisfactory despite its greatness).

I found this cheap at Record and Tape Traders--a major score. Hank wrote all the fucking tunes, man.

I think "Save Me" from the Magnolia soundtrack is a nearly perfect track, and "Voices Carry" was one of the few radio hits from the '80s that I actually liked during the '80s. So when I saw The Forgotten Arm used I picked it up; I've only heard it three times now but find it excellent. I think Aimee Mann's chunky rhythmic style is very engaging, and the way she transitions from a strong tenor to breathy falsetto is most attractive. Lyrically the album is clever but I don't know it well enough for further analysis [yet].

DC Protest, 09/24/05

I've got dozens of photos from yesterday's immense rally and march in DC, but the CD of said photos is not working here on the Liberry PCs and my home internet connection is too slow to upload photos. I'll figure it out eventually and get some shots online.

I've been to many DC marches; this was by far the biggest. It took Silenus and I two hours to go a block because there were masses of people jammed all along the route, and there were masses behind us. Heading up the east side of the White House we could see to the Capital, and the huge swarms of protesters finishing off a block to our east. The route was packed so tightly that for much of the march we were at a standstill. The Washington Post this morning says in their first paragraph that "tens of thousands" marched, then they quote a DC Police Captain who said "150,000 is as good a guess as any"--but at least it's on the front page with a photo. The NYTimes gets it right, saying "vast" numbers were present, but bury their story on p12, with a brief mention and small photo on A1.

Chanting "Shame!" at the White House? Most edifying indeed, even if Bush was bunkered down under the Rockies and Cheney was under the knife. We were exhausted after more than six hours on our feet, and found Cha selling bunches of her shirts and buttons on the Mall. It took a bit under two and a half hours to get home because of an accident on 495--from the New Carrollton Metro to College Park is typically a ten-minute ride; yesterday it took 55 minutes. We saw Virginia Monologues speaking before Jesse Jackson, Cindy Sheehan, George Galloway, Ramsey Clark--The Usual Suspects at these events, and later ran into It's Australian for Beer.

Meanwhile, here are enough photos to give you an idea of the size of this rally. I took some small movies amidst the chaos as well.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Random Stills from Favorite Movies

[Stolen from DVDBeaver]

A Hoot

Shirley Jackson is a favorite of mine. She writes prose worthy of F. Scott Fitzgerald, is funnier than Evelyn Waugh, and is often as creepy and mysterious as M.R. James. These effects occur on the same page with regularity; the alternation of hilarious and frightening bits heightens the effect of each. Reading The Sundial in the tub this morning I became uncomfortably aware of the small creaky noises every house makes, and then I'd laugh loudly at some ridiculousness perpetrated by Aunt Fanny, only to grow steadily uncomfortable anew as my laughter echoed away down the corridor.

A drawing-room satire of 1950s American Victorians beset by a vision of Armaggedon, The Sundial lampoons Spiritualism, eschatological enthusiasts, class conscious blue-bloods, erotically surpressed necromaniacs, and the Cold War. And it's downright chilling to boot. Shirley Jackson, a true sardonic visionary!

How Green are my Valleys

As Homer Simpson said in Lisa's Rival:

"I want it all! Give me the dizzying highs, the terrifying lows, and the creamy middles."

This was lent to me by an insane patron who overheard Silenus and me chatting about Netflix. Now, I must see everything Jafar Panahi has ever done, because this elegant and harrowing film about the plight of women in Iran devestated me late last night. I love its whirling structure; as we become involved in the catastrophe of one life, another character on its periphery whisks us off to show us her own despairing circumstance. No resolution is offered, and little hope, and the shattering spiral culminates with a dread reunion of sorts. A brave, resolute film--I'm sure Mr. Panahi and his cast and crew got into trouble for it, and frankly I wanted to go to war with Iran at its conclusion. See it!

A National Embarrassment

Bush's "press conference" on the War on Terror at noon was arguably his worst performance yet. Obviously scripted (he'd try to glance at his sheet of names on the sly in order to call on the right reporters), awkward, petulant, arrogant--this is a President wholly out of his depth.

Quote of the day: "I'm lookin' for Bianca!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why do I even have the internets?

Now that the FBI has made porn a priority, I'm wondering if I should purge my hard-drive of all those Charmane Star , Lilly Thai, and Peter North mpegs before the Feds come a-knockin'.

We'll have to ditch my wife's favorite DVD--the Rocco/Dierdre Holland scene and the Dierdre/Jon Dough scene are among the best ever!

[Of course we'd never actually watch such filth, Mr. Gonzalez. We only read the descriptions.]

The only things actually produced in the US now are porn and hamburgers, for goodness' sake!

Delicious Irony

During my dinner break I watched a bit of Wolf Blitzer. He was doing his little audience question segment with Jack Cafferty (this is only a parascript-a paraphrased transcript):

Wolf: Jack, what are people saying?

Jack: Well, our question today was whether or not the saturation coverage of these hurricanes--excuse the pun--has hurt coverage of the Iraq War. At least nine Americans have died in Iraq the last two...

Wolf: Excuse me Jack but we've got Breaking News!

[Insipid Music and silly Breaking News graphic]

Wolf: This just in...Hurricane Rita is now a Category FIVE.

Don't Mess with Texas [please]

To those Fundies who think hurricanes are signs of God's displeasure--to those who think God bowled a nice hookshot up into New Orleans to make a Sodomesque example out of the Big Easy--why is He targeting the reddest of red states?

I have an idea...

In all seriousness, though, let's hope this one diminishes somehow before it destroys another third of the Gulf Coast. The potential cost of Rita is dreadful to consider.

Fill your tanks now.

We're Through the Looking-Glass, People!

Jane and Arianna are my go-to sources for Plamegate, and have been for months. Neither has allowed the story to vanish the way much of Left Blogistan and the MSM has in the wake of Katrina. Arianna's most recent post is most interesting; what if W. stood by Bolton for so long not because he really likes him, but because Bolton knows too much, and denying him a promised position would be very costly?

I remember watching Dodd and Biden and Durbin foaming at the mouth about certain unavailable intelligence documents requested by Bolton; the thinking at the time I believe was that Bolton had gotten dossiers on intelligence officers who weren't playing ball on Iraq and WMD in order to pressure them.

Perhaps those grandstanding Dems knew or at least suspected Bolton was implicated in the Plame outing? Was Valerie Plame/Wilson in one of those dossiers? Maybe Fitzgerald's net is even bigger than I've been hoping all along? Great, great stuff.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I've had some epic dreams of late--most too scandalous to share! Here's one from this morning:

The brick studio addition behind my parents' old farmhouse (long sold) is a music/video store. We're holding some sort of swank event there and two well-dressed matrons are complaining to me because we've sold out of the Saving Private Ryan DVD. The caterers announce that dinner is served, and dozens of people begin lining up for eggplant parmesan, chicken and noodles, potatoes, etc. For some reason I'm unable to serve myself--everything I try to put on my plate either falls off as the plate breaks, or my fork breaks. When I'm finally able to get portions onto a fork, my plate becomes too small to hold them. I'm laughing at my own haplessness when a chamber orchestra begins playing baroque stuff, first Vivaldi, then Bach. Strangely, the musicians have mixed in extended Prog Rock masterpieces--suddenly Brandenberg Concerto #4 becomes Rush's Xanadu for a few minutes before switching back, and a Vivaldi suite for mandolin becomes Close to the Edge by Yes. At first I think, "God, I hate this shit," but actually the note-for-note reproductions of guitar/synth/bass lines by these classical musicians is really excellent, as is the seamless blend of extended rock bits into the classical canon (the long instrumental section of Rush merges magically into a harpsichord solo, for instance). One particularly attractive young woman works over an Alex Lifeson guitar solo on the viola.

Having failed to eat or to quiet the two dowagers angry about Spielburg, I retreat upstairs to find my mother in bed. She's baked cookies there somehow and I'm pleased even though I don't eat cookies; I want to take them to the Liberry with me to share.

Then, I wake up.

It's strange, but typically insomniac moi has been sleeping ten hours plus the last four days. I'll wake up at 8am, then roll over, dream heavily for an hour, wake again, roll over again, sleep until 11, and then finally force myself to get up. I'm sure this morning I could've slept again; I had much more dreaming to do!

The Occasional Joys of Cataloging

Sometimes plowing through a cart of new books for the Liberry is rewarding. Today's interesting find is:

A splendid mixture of the grotesque and sublime. My favorite section is called "Memorial Photography," and features lovingly posed archaic images of dead children and old people. There are also several fantastic and mysterious brooches entwined with the hair of one's dearly departed. Troubling, yet interesting stuff.

The author's photo is perhaps the best I've ever seen: she's dressed in full 19th century mourning regalia, standing before a huge mortuary monument with an angel before a cross that must be fifteen foot high, smiling in a wholly inappropriate manner.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Please Shut Up

There are still some talking heads who think Bush is popular. It takes a while for reality to sink in.

Even worse on the same program was Elizabeth Blumiller's claim that she wasn't defending Bush's performance, when she clearly was--she's one of the Queens of Bush rim-licking.

An Obligatory Post about Politics

I've been neglecting politics for a while--mostly because there are much sharper knives in the drawer taking care of that stuff online--but also, frankly, because I'm too tempted to type "I told you so assholes!" over and over again. But here's a brief run-down of some recent thoughts:

Bush: Not only will this Administration likely top Reagan's as the most criminal of all time, but the Bush II regime will be regarded by future historians as the most inept and least popular as well. Even die-hard red-staters in my social circle are beginning to abandon this guy, for whom their enthusiasm reached unendurable levels just a year ago. I can't wait until P. Fitzgerald drops a few indictments into the mix; with Bush's poll numbers already reading more Celsius than Fahrenheit, I for one am doing the limbo chant "how low can they go?" with anticipation. [ahem: I told you so!] At last the George Romerification of the post-9/11 electorate is wearing off.

Iraq: Without the FDR/Truman approach (total war, complete societal commitment, 90% tax bracket, general sacrifice including a draft, a new Marshall Plan) this war is going to end in complete catastrophe for the Iraqi people, said catastrophe a likely civil war followed by Mullah rule (and the war as it is has already been a complete catastrophe for at least 30,000 Iraqi people and their families). Since we're not going to take the FDR/Truman approach we should pull out immediately. A failed state is unquestionably going to destabilize the region and result in continuous blood-letting into the forseeable future, and neighboring states will enter the melee to back those whose interests are aligned with their own--but if the US stays this is going to happen anyhow and our troops will be in the middle, and arguably the region is already destabilized and the best hope for its future is for us to get out. I'll be saying as much this Saturday in DC.

The Deficit: I'll take tax n' spend over cut tax n' spend any time.

The Democrats: Did any of those Judicial Committee bloviators mention Judge Roberts' rather shocking conflict of interest (deciding court cases in favor of the Bushies as he was being interviewed by the Bushies)? I saw about three hours total of the hearings but not a peep about that. Fuck 'em. They'll find a way to blow their chances in '06, and I'm worried that a DLC candidate will get the nod in '08. If it comes down to Biden or Bayh or HRC, I'm voting Hagel. (Saying that makes me cringe, but it's true). If it's Biden vs. McCain, I'm voting Hagel as an Indie, unless Feingold runs 3rd party.

Roberts: He's in. I bet he'll get at least 70 votes. I'm concerned because the guy really is slippery (not to mention creepy), but I'm not that concerned. We're replacing Dracula with The Invisible Man here after all, exchanging one monster for another--perhaps he'll be better than Rehnquist, perhaps not. Maybe he's a closet tree-hugging gay rights proponent? Doubt it. But I want to see blood 'n guts during the next confirmation, because this crew of reactionaries will be around for a LONG time, and too much is at stake (yes, arguably too much is at stake to let Roberts in, but with the Kurrent Krew in Kontrol in DC we're fucked). Bush and crew are on the ropes and they're replacing a swing vote. Let 'em have it next time, when a few of those purple state R Sens will be looking ahead either to '06 or to '08 (I'm thinking Chafee and Santorum and Voinivich in particular), and a filibuster almost certainly will succeed. I'm not sure a filibuster would go over well right now, with 60% saying Roberts should be confirmed in most polls.

Katrina: Everybody's enthusiastic for giving the Fed emergency powers now. It's a mistake to allow those fuckers to mobilize the military domestically without state invitation--who gets to decide what crisis rises to that degree? I can see W. sending troops into Mass to stop gay marriages...

That's enough. Back to "I did this today," "I read this today," "I saw this today," blah blah blah.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


You know, I appreciate the growing concern about the northern ice cap melting--the sea levels, the wildlife dying off--all those potentialities are alarming.

But isn't there another dire consequence? Imagine a top twirling--affixed to the top of said top is a thick heavy layer of dense material. Imagine what happens to that twirling top if that extra dense material at the top diminishes? Won't it wobble? Won't the entire skin of the earth (which floats on hot liquid) shift and fluctuate if the momentum of its rotation continues at speed but its polar density diminishes?

Is such a thing possible?
Over at Leftwich Neal was musing about America's "greatest living writer." This seems the sort of topic for which I'd easily be able to muster some suggestions--alas, nope. Here's a list, though, of currently living American writers who've been my favorite at one time or another:

Nicholson Baker
Russell Banks
Samuel R. Delany
Stephen Dixon
Norman Mailer
Philip Roth
Gore Vidal
Kurt Vonnegut

Wow, that's a short list. I suppose that's due to the fact that all the others are currently DEAD (i.e. not "currently living") or NOT AMERICAN. I'd also point out that five of these dudes (yes, they're all "dudes") are likely to be dead in the not-so-distant future, pointing out my lack of knowledge (interest?) in most of what passes as "current."

Neal mentioned Mamet in particular; I've read a few essays (including a recent rambling Harper's editorial about Hollywood), and have seen perhaps a half-dozen films based upon Mamet scripts/dramas, but that's it. This means I've not read adequately at least one potential America's Greatest Living Writer, and I'm sure there are dozens of others. Who am I to judge in that case? Mamet writes about politics, he writes drama, he writes screenplays--are we going to choose only writers of a variety of product? Those who move with facility betwixt fiction and non-? Can purveyors of non- alone qualify? Or those who are 'merely' novelists? Writers of criticism? philosophy? poetry...?

My brain always shuts down when asked to produce a superlative of this sort. Upon finding out I've got a graduate degree in English, for example, people at soirees will often ask:

Who's your favorite writer?


What's your favorite book?

Each question is unanswerable--and not just because of drunkeness--it's largely because the answers change regularly, as old enthusiasms become tiresome, or as new enthusiasms become obsessions. 20 years ago I was mad about Delany. Then it was Dostoevsky. Then it was John Hawkes, then Vidal/Mailer, then Roth; but all the time Henry James has been there, my favorite in-between those other favorites. William Gaddis, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Tolkien, Joyce, Umberto Eco. Typically the writer who's written the best book I recently read will get a nod, so suddenly Iris Murdoch will be my favorite, or Paula Fox, or Toby Olson, or Melville.

So, here are my Top Ten Books that Once Upon a Time were the Best Book I'd Ever Read:

[in no particular order, and only novels to make it simple]

More crowd in, I must stop. I've had dozens of Best Books Ever Read.



[Link via Fortean Times, of course]

Too Funny

This is the funniest book I've read since A Confederacy of Dunces. Gogol always surprises:

He slept deeply, wonderfully, as only the fortunate can sleep, who know nothing about hemorrhoids, lice, or overdeveloped mental faculties.

It's my first Gogol novel; previously I'd read (and re-read) several of his short fictions (The Overcoat and The Nose--stories don't get any better than that!--in particular). There's a lot in Gogol that later will become Kafka-esque and Surreal. A true clownish literary innovator.

Through the humor, of course, we see the great tragedy that is Russia.


While not as engaging as Koyaanisqatsi, nor so skillfully and rhythmically stitched together, Powaqqatsi is nonetheless striking. Seeing people work and struggle under desperate conditions makes me want to choke our student patrons who've never had a job and who think they've got it tough because of an 8am class thrice a week.

Le Weekend

Gone, in a poof!

I pledged to myself after a busy social calendar last month that I would see no one other than Cha this weekend, and it worked out. I did speak to Julio on the phone, and saw Professeur le Cool as we walked by his outdoors Paolo's table Friday night after leaving Kyodai, but other than that we were alone. Cha even begged out of a party her friends were throwing Saturday.

We bought a 30-gallon aquarium on a whim. This started when we were looking at a bamboo plant in the sushi joint--actually several bamboo plants in two levels in one pot, with frogs circling the rim of the pot. We happened to see this same arrangement in the window of a shop called Fairy Tale on York Road, and because we were looking the Chinese proprietor came out and asked us in. "All pottery 50% off!" he said. We were going to get the bamboo pot for Cha's new office at her new job, but then I walked back further and saw they had fish, and then Cha saw a tank of blood parrot fish and she fell in love with them. So we bought an unusual three-gallon tank and I picked out a fat copper-colored goldfish who waddles when he swims and she picked out a pink and orange parrot fish and the proprietors assured us they'd be ok in the tank together. We hauled all this shit down York Road.

We cleaned the tank, filled it a third of the way with water, and then I tried to lift it, intending to put it on our mantel and fill it the rest of the way.

My right hand went through the glass.

Water went everywhere, as did broken glass.

There was a lot of blood, but as I was standing by the kitchen sink, I was able to wrap myself quickly with paper towels.

We cleaned up the mess, put the fish into a small glass salad bowl for the night, and I was able to bandage my two sliced up fingers before going to bed. On Saturday we went to PetSmart and bought a full-fledged aquarium with all the fixin's. This is something I've always wanted to have, and because of her allergies we can't have dogs or cats, and because our bird is so hateful and anti-social we thought: why not get some fish?

This is the sort of lunatic thing childless middle-aged folk do on a whim.

I named my fat goldfish Leviathan, and her parrot fish is Polly (tho it's a male). They get along sometimes, but the parrot fish keeps punching the goldfish in the gills with its nose. We'd built a little outcropping out of a broken stone sculpture and some rocks. The parrot fish dug out the gravel beneath this and built himself a lair. Any time Leviathan roams by, Polly flies out and punches him again and again. This morning I came downstairs to find Cha punishing Polly by holding him against the side of the tank with a net. "He's going to kill Leviathan," she said.

"We shouldn't mix goldfish with tropical. It's our fault." That said, we're both already attached to both fish, after watching them for hours yesterday.

Her fish was $15, mine was $4. We're going to get more next week, but perhaps we should return one and get only compatible types.

Thursday, September 15, 2005


Cha wanted to see this so I got it, and was pleasantly surprised. I recall reading Stephen King's The Body as a young teen and laughing my ass off at the blueberry pie contest story, which is lovingly re-created here by Rob Reiner (whose other King adaptation is also great fun). Sadly, I don't read King much any more--after [sh]It and The Tommyknockers I gave up on him almost completely; I tried last year to re-read The Shining and found it ridiculous--when I was a kid it scared the shit out of me (Kubrick's still does)! His stuff is still as close as I came to a "children's literature," however, so I'll always have a soft spot for the King.

The novella upon which Stand By Me is based is cute and crafty and is the kind of piece you can teach to reluctant English students who don't want to read anything, but who might try Stephen King if pushed (also worthwhile is Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, another story from the same collection that got the touchy-feely film treatment). Its carpe diem theme is effectively handled and is just obvious enough for the back-of-the-class crew to puzzle out without prodding. The novella translates well to the big screen, and you get to see an excellent performance by the long-dead River Phoenix, and another by that debauched reprobate Corey Feldman. And Kiefer Sutherland was so skinny back then! Worth a look.

One of my heroes!

Damn! Faulty Landscape just clued me in that Robert Wise kicked off. For editing Citizen Kane alone he'd be remembered; but throw in his direction of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Haunting, and The Sound of Music and we're talking a major loss. I think he also worked as editor/cinematagrapher on several of those moody and delicious Val Lewton classics.

This guy changed the world, literally. I never knew the power of The Sound of Music until I went to Salzburg and saw Americans everywhere re-enacting entire scenes (my wife and MA included). The long-suffering locals have had to move that gazebo again and again because tourists drive the owners mad with their incessant caterwauling!

RIP Robert--I'm going to watch The Haunting for the umpteenth time tonight in your honor, and I'm sure we'll watch Sound again too this weekend.

Perhaps also his truly bizarre Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Quand mon verre est vide, je le plains ; quand mon verre est plein, je le vide!


From Reuters--Bush writes a note to Condi at the UN. Is this really her job?

[Found via Eschaton]


I dreamed that I opened the bathroom door at home and there was some sort of half-cylindrical wire structure hanging from the plaster of the ceiling and spiders were spilling out of the attic onto this device; rather quickly it turned into a seething hairy mass of arachnids. I yelled for my wife and asked her why she'd put that thing up there, but can't remember her reasoning. As we watched, horrified, an enormous spider the size of my head crawled down over the ball of spiders--it had red eyes, blue legs, and was almost a crab. The bathroom was not our bathroom, but the bathroom in my paternal grandparents' house from when I was a small child.

Then I woke up, but not really, and in that strange semi-conscious waking state I was watching The Six Million Dollar Man fight Bionic Bigfoot:

Yes, TV sucked when I was a kid.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Top Five List

The Top Five Worst Reasons the Service Desk sucks today:

5) Germs

I've been coughed at/on and sneezed at/on at least a half-dozen times in the past three hours. Cover your mouths, morons!

4) Mass Comm students

Do you have that cable and TV thingy? (meaning Broadcasting and Cable)

3) Accounting students

Him: I need the Journal of Accountancy.

Me: Fill out the form and I need your ID.

Him: I hate filling out those forms.

Me: Well, no form, no journal.

Him: (fills out his name, throws the form at me) I'll be over there. (tries to grab the journal)

Me: You need to fill out the form--ID #, title of the journal, and date.

Him: Fucking bullshit.

Me: (walking to the back with his journal)

Him: Ok goddamit. Why do you keep them in the back? Who the fuck would steal one of these?

Me: Oh, I dunno, someone too lazy and inconsiderate to fill out three lines on a simple form perhaps?

Him: You need your ass kicked buddy!

Me: I get off at ten!

2) Instructors Who Don't Bathe

And he comes in every night! He smells progressively worse! And tonight he told me he doesn't do laundry either!

1) The Equipment

Nothing works tonight: not the printers, not the printcard readers, not the PCs, not the microfilm readers. I am not a technician!



Moyers on the Religious Right

Bill Moyers has made it his mission of late to Evangelize on behalf of Evangelical Christians who don't agree with the American Taliban. Here is more evidence that he is a national treasure.

Money quote: "...the country is not yet a theocracy but the Republican Party is..."


This is my second Didion novel, and is better than the first, which was

The two books are thematically similar: a female American protagonist ends up in a Central American nation buffeted by underhanded political manipulation both domestic and DC-based. A Book of Common Prayer has as its protagonist one Charlotte Douglas who, through a series of personal cataclysms, ends up in an equatorial city in a fictional country at a time of upheaval. Her daughter is a detached Marxist terrorist, her husband is a civil rights lawyer and gun-runner, her ex husband is an awful bore and an academic of some standing. Charlotte herself is no one in particular, and she stands metaphorically for the clumsy US meddling in other nations' politics. A more modern, slightly less overtly covert Quiet American; Charlotte is not what she seems to the pseudo fascists in this backwater banana republic, but appearances don't matter when the shit hits the fan.

Didion's style here is precise, clipped, and nearly stoccato in its rhythyms--think Hemingway but more Minimalist. Her evocation of that time and place and its surreal politics is not only vividly realized, but prescient given the US-backed horrors of the 1980s and the fates of certain American nuns. Short and involving.

What can I say? I pre-ordered it from Amazon and they let you listen to 5 tracks when you do so. Brilliant (well, at least two of the available tracks). And I just got over a two-year obsession with Greendale. On Harvest Moon, the second in this trilogy, Young gave up the politics and the grungy guitars from Harvest and sang gentle love songs (as he did again on Silver and Gold). Now we're back to the country/grunge/folk mix, and he's full of (hopeful?) rage:

Somewhere a senator sits in a leather chair
behind a big wooden desk
The Arab who he killed
means nothing to him
he took his money
just like all the rest

The same tune gives a simultaneous nod to Chris Rock and Willie Nelson...Yeah, baby. Also included is Young's anti-theo-con hymn "When God Made Me," previewed to much acclaim during Live 8. It made me cry in Toronto last summer. I'm genuinely sorry for those of you who don't listen to Neil because he's "whiney" and looks like a scarecrow. He's also one of the key figures in American pop over the last 40 years, and is currently writing songs as good as the Buffalo Springfield/CSN&Y stuff that made him a legend.

At Flea's Wedding

(Photo courtesy Damnyelli)

Monday, September 12, 2005

World War 7

WW7 went as planned--by me. Again Yahtzee was in command for much of the game--he controlled North America early and earned many extra armies because no one could muster the strength to shove him out. I played conservatively, building a small but significant and isolated stronghold in Siberia and Japan, and controlling Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe much of the game. B. did the same in Asia, holding onto Australia for most of the conflict, and Stewie held South America and was able to muster small stretched strength across Eastern Europe. There was a great deal of small-time blood-letting: Stewie and I traded East Africa several times, I took and lost several wintry wastelands in Asia time and again, and Yahtzee made sure to harrass B. repeatedly from Alaska and me from Iceland and Great Britain again and again. But by the midpoint of the game things looked remarkably similar to the early rounds. Once the cards started to cash in, however, things changed dramatically. I waited as long as possible to collect armies, which cost me initially but paid off long-term. Yahtzee got a big score of re-enforcemnts and was able to butcher me--he drove me out of Europe, then Africa, but actually fell right into my trap. I'd left a swath of thinly protected territories to draw him in. He wanted to ensure I had no re-enforcements coming from controlling a continent, but I maintained significant strength in Japan and Middle East--he could've knocked me out of one, but not both, and not without losing his own dominance. Bogged down, he had to stop. Stewie and I and B. maintained a calm detente for much of the match, only doing what we needed for cards, building strength when possible. Then B. attacked me when Yahtzee had me on the ropes, and all bets were off. Yahtzee saw that 60 armies were coming and he obliterated Stewie, taking all of South America, swooping down out of Alaska, kicking B. out of Australia, before solidifying his hold on half of Europe when things turned sour for him. I had a fortuitous stretch of lucky card draws, and managed to win back Africa, conquer South America, and knock Yahtzee out of Europe. Even though he'd knocked Stewie out and got his cards, I had the three I needed and cashed them in for the major score. Very quickly I destroyed Yahtzee, chasing his sorry ass out of North America, then finally bringing my Japanese armies into play, and again destroying his last standing men in New Guinea. The very next turn I took care of B. to earn the crown--at last.

Of course, we drank enough wine to drown Mike Brown, so details are sketchy--excepting the most important detail: my overwhelming tactical skills.

Polanski in Drag

Another of Polanski's experiments in urban detachment and paranoia. This film is always classified as a "thriller," but it's actually--like Rosemary's Baby and The Ninth Gate--a subtle and quirky comedy. Imagine Rear Window, but all the other tenants in the building are watching the protagonist...or so it would seem.

Sam Raimi made the merciless and harrowing Evil Dead and then revisited the same story later in a Three-Stooges-style parody of his own idea. In much the same way, The Tenant is a goofy send-up of Polanski's notably un-funny masterpiece Repulsion, with himself as lead. I found it a laugh a minute--Polanski's a cinematic genius playing witty games with his audience. Just as Brian dePalma has a tendency to say HEY LOOK AT THIS CINEMATIC TROPE I'M USING HERE for effect, Polanski continuously draws attention to the man both behind and in front of the camera/curtain. A lot of genuinely interesting 'thriller' techniques are de-constructed, but The Tenant does feature some innovative and effective chills later mimicked in Eyes Wide Shut and Jacob's Ladder. Good fun, but probably only for fans of his other work.

Strangely, as I type this I'm listening to Fantomas' delicious cover of the Rosemary's Baby theme. Fucking awesome!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Big News

Yahtzee, aka Mullet Man, has cut his hair off. He looks 20 years younger.

Now mullets will make a comeback, guaranteed.

A Ass Pocket Full of Whiskey


I regretted not having seen Crash during its initial run because I heard great and wonderful things about it. But now that Hurricane Katrina has blown away the comforting myths of America as melting pot and "classless" society, I'm glad I waited. Those sugary bed-time tales designed to comfort the middle and upper class lie swamped in the eaves-high toxic gloop being pumped into Lake Pontchartrain. There's no better context for this film.

Crash is far from perfect; too often the issues raised by the narrative are inelegantly crafted into unnecessary and preachy dialogue. There are enough incidents of deus ex machina/synchronicity/serendipity to keep all twelve Olympians, Shiva, the Apostles, the Saints, Metatron, and General Honore busy for a month. If you've seen Magnolia you'll recognize the borrowed underpinnings here.

But Crash is powerful stuff--brooding, troubling, thoughtful, stylistically accomplished. The actors (and I include typically deficient Sandra Bullock and Ludicrous) are all fantastic (Matt Dillon, the always-magnificent Don Cheadle, and Terrence Howard are particularly excellent). The "good" characters sometimes do awful things. The "worst" character in the film does the right thing. Those who are racist can be heroic and vice-versa. Asians, blacks, Hispanics, Persians, whites--how we get along, how we don't, and how fragile the existing societal detente can be--all is thrown into question. Some are redeemed, some punished, often with no evident justice. Writer/director Higgins doesn't provide facile closure, and refreshingly he foils expectations at every turn.

Crash uses an odd unrealistic realism; its often too-convenient contrivances point out how mysterious and confused about self and other most of us are. At each point where an overly contrived scene occurs, the randomness of life is curiously amplified.

Thinking about race honestly can be incredibly painful, and the goal of Crash is to force us to do so. As a graduate student I took a class with David Bradley and I spent the entire semester working on a single short story about race relations where I grew up. Bradley, as was his style, humiliated me publicly over the first draft--but he was correct. I was cushioning my own deeply held prejudices and trying to uncomplicate myself--I wanted to appear as a good guilty liberal and was evading some awkward truths. Bradley knew I was being deeply dishonest and let me have it, but on succeeding drafts he coaxed the nasty shit out and we began to admire each other after early contention.

At a time when too many Americans are surprised by the poverty in New Orleans, Crash is the sort of film that can continue to provoke much-needed debate and dialogue. Were I teaching now I'd gladly use it in class. My wife yesterday was amazed to hear a group of midwestern tourists on the DC Metro ridiculing evacuees: "Why didn't they just buy 25 bucks in gas and get out?" Barak Obama nicely summed it up this morning on This Week: far too many Americans believe that everyone has an SUV, a hundred bucks for gas, and a credit card to check into a hotel. When they see predominantly minority populations who don't have these things, they begin to make ugly assumptions. Crash challenges us to face those assumptions, even those of us who think we're right-thinking on race and class. See it now.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


One of my favorite things about traveling in Europe is seeing posters and adverts for Magnum ice cream, featuring beautiful women fellating Magnum products. They're downright pornographic, and are plastered everywhere, and Cha and I will race to spot one first when we arrive in a new city or town.

If you're going to use sex to sell, why not go all-out?

You can view their racy TV spots here.