Friday, March 31, 2006

Dammit



I love this film. I adore Zhang Yimou and Gong Li. I've waited for this on DVD since DVD began. And what do we get? A shit video transfer with picture quality inferior to my worn-out ten-year-old VHS tape, awful sound, and poorly synched subtitles. WTF!?

Thank God I got it via Netflix instead of buying it (that's how I ended up with a shitty DVD of Ju-Dou). I couldn't sit through ten minutes.

I suppose the new Story of Qiu Ju is probably as poor. These films cry out for Criterion treatment!

Censure

Enjoying very much the C-SPAN coverage of hearings re: Feingold's cenusre resolution. Lindsay Graham is a pipsqueak and John Dean just smacked him with a rolled up newspaper.

Hatch, Specter, Leahy--how long have I been watching these guys?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Home Alone



Cha leaves next Thursday for 10 days in Milan, then upon her return almost immediately leaves again for five days in Miami. I used to be the busy business traveler, dammit! Now I'm home more often than not pining for the absent Mrs.

I don't miss business travel, however. Bleary-eyed layovers in Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, Detroit, Taipei, Cleveland, LA, Logan. Wretched experiences on Northwest, the world's worst airline. Staying in those abysmal "suites" in Ann Arbor in January, negative 7 plus (minus?) windchill and snow every day.

I do miss Vegas once a year. I recall fondly getting so drunk playing dollar roulette at the Hard Rock that Shank and I missed the morning meeting where we both were awarded awards but were embarrassingly not present when called to the podium (and our boss called us on the carpet for it too). Good days, those. I could stretch $50 into 10 hours of free drinks at those tables, and usually left a few hundred bucks ahead; attending seminars and workshops and trainings and giving presentations and winning awards were not a priority in Sin City.

I could've gone to the Maryland Librarian Association convention in a few weeks in goddamn Ocean City, MD. The Liberry would have even paid for half a room.

Mmmm, no thanks.

Chinese Checkers



As my Grandfather's possessions were divvied up amongst my Mother and her two brothers I held out scant hope that I'd get the one item I truly cared about, but last week it was delivered to me: his Chinese Checkers set.

I can't really explain how important this is. At a time when my parents were at each others' throats in a vicious divorce, when my Mother and my sister and I lived with my grandparents, I had no male role model aside from my Grandpa. I didn't even have male friends my age--my friends were all girls. But no matter how tired he was after working at the shoe factory or the book factory all day, after mowing the lawn and weeding the garden and changing the oil, Grandpa would always play Chinese Checkers with me, his fat fingers with yellow nails like horn almost too big to pick up the round pieces and move them. I think after Yahtzee that Chinese Checkers was my favorite game, and Grandpa taught it to me. We'd flip the set over and play regular checkers on the back after a while.

I'd rather have this tin game with its glass marbles than thousands of dollars.

Those were odd times. I remember my Mother waking me up in the middle of the night when I was seven and saying "Look what your father did to me." She had an enormous black eye--it wasn't the first time Dad had hit her, but it was the first time he'd made a visible mark, as if to announce he didn't care if everyone knew he used his fists on his wife. More often than not our neighbors would make comments like "she musta had it comin'." A few weeks later she woke me again in the middle of the night and the police were in the house and a friend of my Mom's was there and all of my sisters' and my clothing was in plastic garbage bags on the living room floor. Dad worked third shift at Caterpillar in York and we left around midnight while he drove a forklift load of bolts around.

At that time, and in small-town Southern Pennsylvania, divorce was unheard of. I might not be close to my Mom, whose politics embarrass me no end and whose naivite makes me uncomfortable, but she was a hero to do what she did, and she might despise feminism but at least once in her life she was a feminist heroine. So was her buck-toothed red-haired friend whose name I can't remember for the life of me--Peg? We lived in Peg's(?) living room for three weeks until Mom made arrangements to move back home with her folks, and I had to walk up a half-mile hill to the busstop while we were there (and no, not barefoot in the snow because it was spring).

Grandpa had a temper, but he never hit his wife. He beat his kids when they were little, but never spanked me (Grandma took care of that) or my sister. Their home was a haven. No more screaming and physically violent fights, no more drunken sloppy Dad barking at me to "stop wearing those glasses, sissy" and punching me in the stomach or head in a rage. I never played a game with my Dad. Not once. I never touched a baseball or basketball until I lived at Grandpa's house, and my Dad was an all-star athlete in those sports. My Grandfather took care of himself and lived at home until a couple months before he died. My Dad got evicted years ago, has been unemployed for a decade, and lives at the Y. My sister says he steals from local retailers and sells the stuff to buy cheap wine. Hope he gets his just desserts.

Today's Music

Again I'm going through old stuff I haven't heard for a while. Having fun, too.



Sometimes I need The Who to get through the day. Keith Moon rules, elephant tranquilizers aside.



I remember when I thought this music was scary and new. Now it's almost quaint.

I can say the exact same thing about:



Still love them, though! The intro to this LP makes me nervous to this day. It's just wrong.



Neil kicks ass. Love the harmonies by Emmylou Harris, Nicolette Larson, and Linda Ronstadt--and that crunchy country rock guitar.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Laura Ingraham's dream



We took this photo of dowtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq.
Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it - in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism.
-Howard Kaloogian, Republican candidate hoping to replace the disgraced Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

I'd say he's qualified. Dumbass.

Perchance to Channel Surf


I love the first spring night each year when I can sleep with the bedroom windows open and the down comforters on the bed and the air is fresh and cool and moist but almost too chilly.

Of course when I can sleep is the operative phrase. Last night it simply wouldn't happen. Sleep was a vague glinty outline in the full-length mirror, a whisper of the curtains in a steady breeze, the restless sussurating of the fish tank filter. Sleep was my wife soundly breathing and occasionally kicking the blankets as I lay watching shadows move gradually across the ceiling. Sleep was all about but I could apprehend her not.

I gave up trying around 4:30am and channel-surfed infomercials for a while; they've really deteriorated since my last bout ineffectually wrestling Hypnos. Yoga Booty Ballet? Get the fuck out of town. I want to punch those people. Eric Estrada tried to lure me into buying land in Florida for ten minutes, and Kirk Cameron and some rude Aussie bastard force-fed Revelations to passers-by on an LA street corner. At least that was entertaining for a half hour. I imagined Kirk trying to pull that shit on me on a dark street one night and had a good laugh.

Imagine Arabic class at 8am after 24 hours with no sleep. Then imagine trying to learn a plural system more erratic than any I've encountered before in such a state. Some nouns change their vowels in a haphazard way to form plurals, others take a variety of endings depending on an astrological chart, a third group shifts form based on gender. I was in hell. After class I went for a four-mile run, tried to nap before work, failed, and then began drinking coffee. We'll see what tonight holds.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Kutsinta


My mother-in-law excitedly told me she'd remembered a long-forgotten filipino dessert recipe. "I remember how to make kutsinta!" she said, at the same time of course proferring a Tupperware bowl full of them. "You try!" I ate one of the very tasty steamed rice pastries, then she gave me another, and then she gave me another. "Ok, ma, they're delicious! Thank you!" She gave me a fourth, watched happily as I ate it, and then said in a scolding tone:

"You know, don't eat too many kutsinta. It's very bad for you!" She cackled at the dismay on my face.

"Ma, you gave me four!" I shouted (she's nearly deaf). I asked her what was in it, and she laughed: "Half white sugar, half brown sugar, and a little rice flour." With shaved coconut and powdered sugar on top!

I love my mother-in-law, but she is bonkers.

...in the Loop



St. Peter: Straight to hell!

Cap Weinberger: But I have a pardon from Bush père...

Lucidity



Sunday night I had a dream that I was in the downtown of some megalopolis beset by tornadic storms. All the windows of the high-rises were blown out, and some survivors including myself were trying to decide if we should look for wounded people or seek shelter because the winds were increasing dramatically and the sky was again purple and dark and twisty.

We decided to head for the hills and from a distance we looked back on the city as five or six twisters snaked around the skyscrapers. I thought to myself "I always dream about tornados," and then I thought "I AM dreaming." Immediately all the lights in all the buildings came on. I elbowed some anonymous dude to my right and said "Watch this!" I raised my hands up Moses-parting-the-waters style and instantly the giant cloud system above town burst into golden sparks that faded to blue skies. The pyrotechnics I caused were so mesmerizing that I forgot I was dreaming and lost the lucid thread.

To my knowledge I've never had a lucid dream before, although once I dreamed I had a lucid dream, but that was only my dream-self dreaming that.

Pix

It's rare that Cha leaves our camera home so I can take pictures. I typically only get to touch it during vacations. But today:

One future project is to replace the den ceiling and build built-in bookshelves. I have too many books scattered around the house without a home.

Danger Bird flies alone.

We picked up this carving at Chichen Itza.

My dining room/greenhouse is in full effect.

Spring!
One of 3 salvia plants. For a rainy day...

Monday, March 27, 2006

"A warrior treats the world as an endless mystery and what people do as endless folly."



After quitting his apprenticeship to don Juan for a few years, Carlos Castaneda returns to Mexico to show off his first book. Don Juan is unimpressed, but coaxes Carlos back to sorcerer's training, and teaches him about spirits, otherworldly powers called 'allies,' will, and the Yaqui way of the warrior. There are fewer drug hallucinations in book two, as a true sorcerer needs such things only when starting out. Once he learns to see the world as it truly is, instead of seeing what one expects to see, Carlos might make headway. He proves an obstinate pupil, however, and don Juan enlists the aid of another sage named don Genaro, who performs marvels in order to shock their pupil out of the chains of rational thought.

Castaneda's Yaqui mysticism is an interesting blend of Baghavad Gita, Watercourse Way, Kabbalah, Buddhism, Yoga, Samurai codes of behavior, and Nietzsche. Of course all religions are to varying degrees mixtures of such stuff. Interesting and at times harrowing.

"Penguins is practically chickens."



Yeah, it's good. It's beautiful, and moving, and birds are fucking cool--but March of the Penguins isn't any better than a million other animal films I've seen, most being National Geographic or PBS documentaries that certainly made far less money. Cha and I watched a show about flamingos last year that was equally lovely, and featured a forced-march desert migration of baby flamingos. Many of them had balls of dried clay form on their little wings that weighed them down until they collapsed and died.

There are similar scenes in March of the Penguins, so be forewarned. I like to imagine that the way penguins shoot out of the water at high speed is how flight orignated millions of years ago. I also think that birds mirror the origins of our own ritual behaviors in their instinctive mating routines, migratory patterns, songs, and struttings.

Good bonus features on the DVD, including a making of documentary, but best of all is the WB cartoon Eight Ball Bunny, which is a personal fave.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

NCAA

I've been watching a lot of NCAA hoops instead of reading or doing homework, but this is the only time of year I get involved in sports any more so cut me some slack. Been a great tourney too, with lots of ridiculous close games and buzzer-beaters and OTs.

How about GMU? Cha's earning her Master's there--what fun it must be now that the Patriots are in the Final Four. Who'd a thunk it? When I was in grad school my boys barely lost to Michigan's Fab Five in the Elite Eight--I recall watching in horror as Derrick Battie geeked a wide-open slam dunk; that play stung not only because it let Michigan pull away at the end, but because Battie was in my remedial writing class at Temple at the time.

I'm always happy when Duke loses, and this year all the one seeds are out, so I'm ecstatic. Go LSU!

La Chrysalide



I loved this book! We follow a couple generations of an Algerian family through French occupation, civil war, and into independence, with a focus on the struggle for women's rights. Khadidja, first wife of a rich Muslim farmer, is unable to bear a son. She goes to a French doctor against the wishes of her family and society and is able to conceive following treatment. She has a boy, but finally is made sterile by the attempts of local traditional herbalists to make her conceive again. Her husband, who thinks his bookish child an insufficient heir, marries again and again, which is his right, but Khadidja puts her foot down more often than not and begins to get her way. Faiza, the daughter of the second-wife, becomes extremely close to Khadidja in spirit, carrying on her struggle for liberation by going to school, bucking traditional mores, and leading an independent life. Fundamentalism, feminism, and decolonization all merge in an illuminating family drama whose themes are still vitally important in these clash of civilizations times.

[An Englishtranslation exists, but I can't vouch for it.]

The Buck Stops Here


Where I grew up in South Central PA Hee-Haw was a fact of life--Hee-Haw and Laurence Welk (I much preferred Soul Train as I approached puberty, but had to watch before Mom came home from work). Cornpone folksy jokes were a-ok when I was a wee-one, and so was fine singing and gittar playin'. Buck Owens could do both. He's no longer grinnin', alas, but even if he were only remembered for influencing The Beatles, his place in music history would be assured. He done did much more'n that. You like fine harmonies and fine guitar soloing, do yourself a favor and check out Buck and his Buckaroos:

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Blegh



Had this sentimental confection lasted much longer I'd have required an insulin shot. Starts out well with sufficient chuckles and an endearing quaintness, then descends into Hallmark Channel bathos of the most merciless type. Should have avoided the director's cut.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Mescalito



Strange to revisit this beloved book of my youth. Back then my favorite album was An American Prayerand the idea that Jim Morrison was possessed by dying Indians as a child seemed the coolest thing imaginable. More than 20 years later I've got a wealth of exploration under my belt and therefore my POV and understanding of what Castenada was doing are radically different. I've seen the Simpsons episode where Homer goes on his own spiritual trip after eating Guatemalan chillies, and his spirit-guide fox is voiced by John R. Cash; no greater evidence exists of the cultural impact of Castenada's work. Homer even has his own carved spoon in a sack, exactly as don Juan carries his own pipe.

At 16 I'd not yet used hallucinogens, and the florid, frightening descriptions of non-ordinary reality drove my interest in Castenada's apprenticeship to don Juan. I also enjoyed the impish, often bullying character of the Yaqui sage. The series reminded me of Madeleine L'Engle and C.S. Lewis--stories of a slippage between worlds always piqued my interest.

Now I bring more to the table. I've used psilocybin, salvia, and have met Mescalito. I've also read widely in myth and spirituality and comparative religion, and have a grounding in the esoteric traditions of "perennial philosophy." I'm also aware that Castendada's work has been mercilessly (and perhaps correctly) attacked by anthropologists for its distortions and omissions and un-scientific approach.

The story still moves me. Perhaps Castenada did raid other spiritual traditions and mix them up into the teachings of his Yaqui Indian Man of Knowledge. I don't care, because there's still wisdom here whether it's "true" or not. Like don Juan says when Castenada asks if he actually turned into a crow: "Such questions are meaningless. Did you fly?"

Plus, there's a rip-roaring and scary battle against a witch at its climax--and many of the hallucinations are so vividly realized I remembered them clearly decades later. Read The Teachings of Don Juan as a fantasy novel, as a hippy sacred text, as an allegory, or as avant-garde anthropology--it's a fun book no matter your take. I'll likely do the whole series again.

Netflix



This uncomfortable film nails divorce and joint custody as well as any I've seen. Jeff Daniels is an emotionally distant and self-described intellectual whose literary star has faded, Laura Linney plays his cheating self-described intellectual wife whose star is on the rise. Their two sons bear the scars: Walt, the oldest, plays Pink Floyd's "Hey You" at the high school talent show and says he wrote it, winning $100. He parrots his father's opinions about works he's never read, and uses lines about Kafka and Fitzgerald to pick up his girlfriend, who actually reads the books. The younger son Frank jerks off at school and wipes his spooge on lockers and library books. One gets the sense that these emotionally disturbed kids were headed toward crisis states before their parents separated.

I thought the movie was often hilarious; I've got enough distance now from my own miserable childhood to see how funny people are when things fall apart. But mostly The Squid and the Whale is painful because each character is a shallow egotist without true empathy. No one recognizes his or her own culpability, no one is accountable. At least Walt has a chance at redemption. The cast is superb.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Like a Borges Story...

AJ the Memorious.

I don't think she's really 'remembering' all this stuff--she's merely reading the Akashic Records.

[Link via Fortean Times]

Netflix



Gore Vidal speaks unkindly of the dead--it's one of the reasons I adore his writing so much. He's repeatedly trashed Truman Capote as incapable being truthful, as a nearly inhuman shell, and the film Capote focuses on this, as the famous writer of Breakfast at Tiffany's heads south to write a New Yorker piece about the murder of a rural family in Kansas, Harper Lee in tow.

When Capote meets killer Perry Smith, there's an obvious fascination. They're mirror images of each other, both naturally gifted and intelligent, both somehow empty. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote is exquisite as usual, and when he says to Harper Lee "It's like Perry and I grew up in the same house. One day he left out the back door, and I went out the front," the means by which Truman gets Smith's story becomes doubly monstrous.

Capote manipulates everyone, lies continuously, uses people and throws them aside like dried-up ballpoints, and only feels emotion at those moments when his own cold detachment becomes obvious. One particularly great scene features Lee asking Capote at the premier of the movie To Kill A Mockingbird what he thought of the film. At his childhood friend's greatest achievement Capote wallows in self-pity. He's unable to finish his own book because of repeated stays of execution, and thinks Smith and the Supreme Court are torturing him. Keener and Hoffman are perfectly in tune here.

Wholly self-absorbed and calculating, Capote managed nevertheless to write a great book. I read In Cold Blood as a junior undergrad and its chilly landscape and sad portrait of Perry Smith helped gel my personal beliefs about capital punishment. Of course Capote never finished another after witnessing Smith's execution, instead putting his energy into the talk-show circuit and drinking himself to death.

Hoffman isn't the only standout here: Catherine Keener as Lee, Clifton Collins as Smith--in fact the entire cast--so fully inhabit their parts it's hard to imagine others in the roles. Director Bennett Miller is of the Merchant/Ivory school, focusing on allowing the actors to shine in lovingly crafted period sets without stylistic pyrotechnics. Great stuff.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Misc

Last evening Yahtzee swung by after some work at Loyola College. He graciously shared an aged Wild Horse from his cellar, which has about peaked--a fine filly indeed, with powerful reddish orange legs. I made my own modest contribution in return. We played with a set of dominos inherited from my grandfather for a while before retiring to the den for some smoking and further swilling.

After he left, Cha knelt by me where I sat on the couch and hugged my legs with her head on my lap. A very Renaissance Classical portrait! "Your job makes me feel like Ladyhawke," she said. The allusion escaped me, because I never saw the film. She told me a sad story about lovers bewitched into a bird and a dog who have limited time because one is nocturnal and the other not. I said something not lyrically apt, along the lines of: "I'd love to quit but our health insurance is now through TU." She said she'd go back to teaching because she feels she's not helping as many kids now as she was in the classroom. Her dream job is less dreamy than supposed? At times like this one is less an observer of the world, more consciously a participant. Somehow suddenly there we were, married adults talking, life unfolding mysteriously around us.

Last weekend was major busy--a dentist appt, a doctor appt, the tax prep session, Big Red's birthday, Cha's family over, Mick O'Seamus Saturday night, both our families over Sunday, dinner with my parents, looking at houses. I took today off and have slacked all day.

Tone Deaf

"I need to continue speaking as clearly as possible about the consequences of success and the consequences of failure."

George W. Bush in response to a question by the Post's Jim Vandehei just moments ago. We all know how capable the President is of "speaking clearly."

The White House is obviously in crisis mode, trying to shore up sagging poll numbers. This strategy of having Bush stumble and bumble his way publicly through an embarrassing litany of tired cliches can't work. He's like an earnest but tone-deaf karaoke singer who hogs the mic, annoying bar patrons who simply want to drown their sorrows with his tin-ear versions of Air Supply and Little River Band tracks. Putting Bush in the public eye is not the solution. Keeping him out of sight and mind is. He's a buffoon and his smirking condescension is now tinged with desperation. Not pretty to behold. He actually just said "I don't pay attention to polls." Then why this rare sudden press conference?

Update: The post-press conference fluff job on the President's sagging flagpole by Noron O'Donnell was a sight to behold. Where she found him "energized" and "engaged" I found him petulant and testy and clueless. She thought his fiery exchange with Helen Thomas evidence of media culpability in the negative view Americans have of Iraq and prospects for success. Actually Helen exposed Bush as a liar and an ignoramus.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kris Kuksi


Julio turned me on to this site featuring the work of Kris Kuksi. Despite some of the more extravagant H.R. Geiger/Alex Grey material, I think his stuff is pretty interesting--if I had some cash at the moment I'd buy the Eve sketch or the Giorgio. The drawings are tight, very reminiscent of Martin Schongauer or Durer. I like the portraits a great deal too.

Here is his homepage.

An un-enthusiastic non-reply


I wrote letters to our Maryland Senators requesting they support Feingold's censure resolution. Today I received the following masterpiece of fence-sitting from the retiring Sen. Sarbanes:

Thank you for getting in touch with me to express your
views on S. Res. 398, a resolution to censure President Bush. I
appreciate the benefit of your comments on this important matter.

S. Res. 398 would censure President Bush for his actions
related to eavesdropping on communications of Americans, within
the United States, without obtaining the court orders required by
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The resolution
was introduced on March 13, 2006, and referred to the Senate
Committee on the Judiciary for review.

I certainly understand your concerns about the NSA
program, particularly as Congress has given the President authority
to obtain orders for such surveillance on an expedited basis - even
after the fact - from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The NSA program appears to contradict long-standing restrictions
on domestic spying and subvert constitutional guarantees against
unwarranted invasions of privacy. Allowing government officials
to engage in domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens without proper
authorization undermines the very basis of a free society, and I
believe the NSA program must be fully investigated.

Although I am not a member of the Judiciary Committee,
you may be certain that I will keep your views in mind should this
resolution come before the full Senate for consideration. Again,
thank you for taking the time to contact my office.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further
matters of interest or concern to you.


In the future please visit my web site at http://sarbanes.senate.gov
rather than
clicking reply.

With best regards,
Paul Sarbanes
United States Senator


Shorter Sarbanes: The Feingold Resolution to censure the President would censure the President. The President broke the law, which is serious. If it comes to the floor for a vote I'll think about it, but now I'm not taking a position.


Dear Paul: If you made a public commitment supporting Feingold now we'd have a much better chance of getting it to the floor for a vote. Jesus! You're not even up for re-election.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Netflix



Not sure what all the fuss is about. Walk the Line isn't bad, but it's not new or surprising--every musician biopic ever made has the humble beginnings, the youthful encounter with tragedy, the not-so-perfect love, the redemptive love, the drugs, the rages, the drying out. Here we have more drugs and booze than necessary--Cash's odd blend of mysticism and dirtfarm Evangelical Christianity is barely hinted at. We rarely get a glimpse of Cash the artist and innovator, but spend an hour and a half watching him pop pills. Ray was also the same-old same-old, but Jamie Foxx's mimicry was spot-on. Joaquin Phoenix is tolerably good, and gets down certain quirky gestures of an amphetimine-addled John R. Cash, but he can't croak a note, and one must endure his attempts to do so for more than two hours. Reese Witherspoon is endearing but turns June Carter into a Hee-Haw caricature. Maybe I'm too picky because I regard Cash as a totem pole uprooted and walking, a piece of Mt. Rushmore made quick through some pow-wow magic, and frankly Walk the Line fails to satisfy.

I like the idea of seeing a movie with Jerry Lee, Elvis, June Carter, Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, and Roy Orbinson on tour more than I liked actually seeing this one. There are good bits--Sam Phillips giving Cash hell when he walks in with a rote gospel performance, for example. But mostly this is standard Hollywood fare.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Netflix



Based on other stand-up routines of hers I expected more. It's funny, it's raw, it's a bit shocking--but too often she has to resort to the physical (exaggerated facial expressions, over-the-top mimicry) to sell what is simply sub-par high-school cafeteria material about fisting and handjobs. A couple political rants feel tacked-on instead of seamlessly evolved through the jokes. But she's finding her voice, she's working out her place. She wants to be George Carlin and Richard Pryor--filthy and irreverent, but with an intellectual veneer and political savvy. Not easy to do, and she's not there yet. She's got a lot of confidence and she's very smart, so I expect great things down the road. Same goes for Sarah Silverman.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Some Like it Hot



And apparently for good reason!

(and yes, that El Yucateco Green Hot Sauce is my favorite bottled hot-sauce. It's not the hottest I've tried, but it is very tasty and has quite a kick)

Shut the Fuck Up


I'm amazed Chris Matthews gets respect as a journalist--I think if he sticks his head any further up his own ass he'll be able to suck his own uvula.

The guy's just another right-wing shill in a lineup of partisan hacks (excepting the mighty Olbermann, of course).

Plus he's got a big giant head like a pumpkin, and foamy spit forms at the corners of his mouth when he rants nonsensically. The last time I watched him all the way through was during the Argentinian riots last year. He droned on and on about how amazed he was that protesters were covering their faces with handkerchiefs. "You don't see that in the US, do you?" he kept shouting. "It's because down there the police will kill you." I could only think dumbass...maybe if you actually went to one of the protests like a news reporter then you'd see what happens there. Another reporter kept trying to tell him that many people cover their faces at protests, even in the US--and not only anarchists, but also people who don't like to inhale nerve gas. Matthews kept going off about how novel it was, however, as usual not hearing what other people have to say, watching himself talk on his stupid monitor. He's daft.

BFD



Verdict: VASTLY over-rated.

Pretentious, clusmily constructed, replete with POV errors and senseless anachronisms, Grendel is a good idea poorly handled. Toss it in the recycling bin and instead re-read Shelley's Frankenstein, which is far more elegantly done, far more interesting, and deals with the same major themes (Art, Isolation, the Monstrous in Man) in much more complex and illuminating ways. This book comes highly recommended by people who should know better. The 'witticisms' are painfully unfunny, and Grendel can somehow see through walls and into the inner chambers of meadhalls and houses without being seen himself. He can make elaborate metaphors about "misers caught at their counting" despite having been raised in a subterranean cave with his mother (and no, having the monster think "I don't remember who taught me language" when his mother doesn't speak at all is NOT sufficient). Grendel witnesses several funerals--all of them burnings on pyres--and yet he thinks "darkness lay over the world like a coffin lid."*

This book is bullshit. What technique does Gardner employ to make it appear he was writing a sophisticated book about lofty ideas? Why, he has Grendel talk to a dragon who spews ten pages of high-fallutin' nonsense. Let's not try incorporating our ideas into the action...that might require work.

Years back I read On Moral Fiction and thought it bunk. Then I read Gilbert Sorrentino's "John Gardner: Rhinestone in the Rough." You were right Gilbert--he sucks! Skip it.

*I don't want to give the impression that I'm that much of a stickler for precise technique in fiction--but when a book is as dull as the begats chapters in the Old Testament, I'm bound to notice such faults.

Feelin' Groovy

Feeling dramatically better today. I ran seven miles this morning without a hitch, went to French class and talked about symbolism in Amie Cesaire, and worked a full day for the first time since Sunday.

Of course watching the news made me feel sick again.

George: Hey Dick, my polls are in the crapper! What can I do?

Dick: Go take a flying fuck, dipshit.

George: Hey Rummy, help a brother out!

Rummy: Let's blow up some shit.

George: That always works!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jonesin'


Feeling moderately better today after a 12-hour Nyquil-induced coma. I think I awakened three or four times between 7am and 12pm this morning, and simply turned over and went back to sleep, finally dragging my weary carcass out of bed at 12:30. Missed my 8am class and took another afternoon off as well.

The heating oil truck stopped by today. Bastards. I have no money, leave me alone! February was a cold month too...

Perhaps it's the virus talking but I'm feeling the urge to get out of this Liberry gig. I've only been here two years, but if you count my five years on the English faculty I've been at Towson U a total of seven. Typically I tire of employers after seven years and find a way to move on. The Classifieds list few companies looking for folks with graduate degrees in English, however. There's simply no way to advance at this joint without 'seniority' and/or an MLS. Perhaps one of the Aunties will retire and I can move upstairs to the same low pay but to at least a more reasonable schedule, but I'd be bored up there too.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Midterm



I got an 88.75% on my Arabic midterm, and that makes me mostly happy. Yes, I'm the type of person who would much prefer an A, but when I saw that the class average was 61% I found those silly needs for academic superiority sated.

We're finally learning WORDS, and GRAMMAR. I can ask QUESTIONS! Yes, they're adolescent (Mommy yours works at?), but communication is possible. I can even count to TEN.

I finally learned how to roll my Rs, too.

But I took Arabic mostly for that gorgeous script and the glorious calligraphy. I got no problem with the workable Roman alphabet--but c'mon, it's obviously hewn from wood and stone and ice. Simple, carved, efficient but artless (the grass is always greener, eh?). Arabic script climbs the tendrils of incense smoke, evokes the weaving of pulled wool into magnificent patterns, suggests the tail ends of constellations and the shifting landscape of the whispering dunes. The veil and barely visible eye...

This is of course the exact sort of exoticism loathed by Edward Said. But indulge me.

Nerve Tonic

Sometimes a song just hits perfectly our mood, environment, and inner state--the resonance is often deliciously uncomfortable. Right now it's Dylan croaking through the Benadryl haze and into my flourescent tomb, jangling my nerves.

I regard this as not merely a great Dylan track, but as one of the greatest tracks ever, and from a mind-bogglingly good albumto boot.

Standing in the Doorway

I'm walking through the summer nights
Jukebox playing low
Yesterday everything was going too fast
Today, it's moving too slow
I got no place left to turn
I got nothing left to burn
Don't know if I saw you, if I would kiss you or kill you
It probably wouldn't matter to you anyhow
You left me standing in the doorway, crying
I got nothing to go back to now

The light in this place is so bad
Making me sick in the head
All the laughter is just making me sad
The stars have turned cherry red
I'm strumming on my gay guitar
Smoking a cheap cigar
The ghost of our old love has not gone away
Don't look like it will anytime soon
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Under the midnight moon

Maybe they'll get me and maybe they won't
But not tonight and it won't be here
There are things I could say but I don't
I know the mercy of God must be near
I've been riding the midnight train
Got ice water in my veins
I would be crazy if I took you back
It would go up against every rule
You left me standing in the doorway, crying
Suffering like a fool

When the last rays of daylight go down
Buddy, you'll roll no more
I can hear the church bells ringing in the yard
I wonder who they're ringing for
I know I can't win
But my heart just won't give in
Last night I danced with a stranger
But she just reminded me you were the one
You left me standing in the doorway crying
In the dark land of the sun

I'll eat when I'm hungry, drink when I'm dry
And live my life on the square
And even if the flesh falls off of my face
I know someone will be there to care
It always means so much
Even the softest touch
I see nothing to be gained by any explanation
There are no words that need to be said
You left me standing in the doorway crying
Blues wrapped around my head

Copyright © 1997 Special Rider Music

[With a nod to Steven Hart; his daily Dylan quotes inspired my CD selections this evening]

Dude, like woah


This short vid clip is pretty amazing. If you don't speak French the guy is discussing how scientists have been able to reconstruct sounds 'recorded' in pottery as it was made in Central American and other ancient societies BC. Basically these pots were turned on wheels and scratched with sticks that picked up noises and conversations and transferred these frequencies to the surface of the pots as they were made. Firing preserved these sounds for posterity! You can even hear a 10-second clip re-engineered from a Pompeii vase if you can sit through le blah-blah for just a minute or two--sounds like muffled Latin conversation and chuckling!

Here's hoping we can at last experience the music of ancient cultures! There may have been singin' and strummin' going on as some of these jugs were made.

[Link via Fortean Times, of course!]

UPDATE: Dammit, I knew this 'sounded' too good to be true. Turns out it's a hoax. The whole presentation struck me as Graham Chapman-esque initially--that was a valid instinct.

Blech



Trying to visualize whatever little beasties are replicating in my sinuses and throat and lungs. Bastards--stay out of the stomach! Another half-day of work, and skipped French today to lay on the couch coughing and drinking tea. Silenus bravely mans the Desk for me now as I deal with accumulating paperwork and orders in the back. I still feel like I'm "getting" sick as opposed to "being" sick, and that fills me with dread. I've had this feeling off and on since last Wednesday night, and it grows tiresome. Part of me simply wants to give in and say "bring it on." Some of the staff here were laid low for more than a week...I have my annual physical exam Friday, maybe Doc Hartig can fix me up good.

Making things more unbearable is E. in full merciless Angel of Death mode. Dressed completely in black, hair unforgivingly pulled back, she launched into a harangue that made poor Benadryl-addled me want to curl up fetally at her feet.

Of course one staff member had her house burn down last weekend, which puts everything in perspective. Fortunately she and her husband and all their pets--dogs, horses,etc.--are alive and well. Their house and most worldly possessions are a total loss. I try and feel sorry for myself in my sickness and simply can't muster it in the face of such a thing. A weird negative start to '06--I thought the joss of the year was bad from the get-go, and haven't been disappointed. Nor have most people I know.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Man of


Look! Up in the sky! It's a jerk! He's lame! It's...Lieberman!

Faster at stabbing his friends in the back than a steaming locomotive...Able to leap to the defense of Bush in a single bound...Fighter for half-truths, injustice, and the Republican way.

Diagnosis: Apotheosis!


What has happened to the wee Buddha of Nepal?

The Buck Stops (somew)HERE

The Url of Pembroke sent me this link. I'm not sure it's a bad thing at all for Bush to delegate most of his duties--I'd feel uncomfortable letting him run the produce section at my local grocery, let alone The Free World.

Of course Cheney and Rummy get much of the work. What's worse? Dumb, incompetent, corrupt, incoherent President or sharp, politically savvy criminal masterminds running things? And don't tell me Cheney and Rummy are incompetent. Their handling of foreign policy and Iraq and domestic policy might seem incompetent, but that's not their true job, at least as they see things. Their true job is transferring public resources to private hands, and they're doing a magnificent job. If Iraq or anything else was going smoothly it would be harder for them to rob us all blind.

Netflix

Lying on the couch a lot, trying to shake the virus. Lots of time for DVDs.



I remember vaguely seeing Timothy Treadwell on TV and thinking he was slightly goofy and enthusiastic about animals but probably an OK dude. I also vaguely remember news reports about his death. When I heard that Werner Herzog had made a documentary using Treadwell's footage I thought "why would a director who specializes in fucked-up characters and despair choose such a sun-shiny guy as subject?"

Watch the film and you'll see that Timothy Treadwell is not what he seemed on the surface. This was a deeply disturbed individual who attempted to project a pathetic fantasy idealization of Nature onto grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. He had surprising success for more than a decade, and then got eaten. The footage of this mentally ill, sexually repressed, addictive personality is often heartbreaking and at times unintentionally hilarious (as is Herzog's Stroszek--but intentionally).

In the words of a helicopter pilot who assisted in the recovery of Treadwell's remains: "He got what he deserved." Treadwell's quest to "save" grizzlies likely hurt their chances by allowing them to become accustomed to humans. And yet Treadwell's emotional involvement with the creatures is a sight to behold, and much of his footage is as Herzog says exceptional. He was, in fact, an artist trying to forge himself. The documentary confronts Treadwell's quirky optimism about Nature and love amongst man and beast with Herzog's bleak view of the bears as emotionless hunters merely out for food. Great Richard Thompson soundtrack to boot.



Hamlet of course is a play featuring a play in its action, so Tom Stoppard forged a play enclosing them both from the perspective of two throw-away characters who die senselessly, pawns in a court intrigue. The result is great fun and a well-made flick. Gary Oldman as Rosencrantz--or is it Guildenstern?--proves that rationality and pragmatism are no hope where Art and Death and Human Nature are concerned, and Tim Roth cooly keeps his enthusiams in check. Bits of Hamlet seep in, and a thrice-layered drama works wonders. Po-mo Shakespeare.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Russ to Judgment



No, it's not the long-hoped-for Full Monty of impeachment, but in the current political reality censure is about all we can hope for. Kudos to Senator Russ Feingold for having the guts to try. I wonder if he watched that Harper's Mag impeachment emporium on C-SPAN and heard John Conyers say "Congress has to act now"?

Le Weekend

For once having Friday off instead of Sunday was a great thing: this past Friday was a perfectly lovely day, with blue skies, a light breeze, and temps into the '70s (whereas today is gray and chill). I ran 6 miles, I took a long bath, I looked at art books, I read a lot, I cleaned the bathroom. Then Friday night we went to Federal Hill with K'wali and Klezma and had an excellent Thai meal before a rousing game of Boggle (yes, we are old. Parcheezi soon). I teased K'wali that he should write on his blog more often than once. He started it two months ago, after all. We returned home from their place to find our garage blocked and the entire student body of Towson U. crammed into our neighbor's back yard. Turns out the driver who parked illegally in the alley was a student of mine three years ago. "You my teacher!" he said, exhibiting that command of grammar so characteristic of those who passed my ENGL102 class. Although for once I didn't call the cops when the party got out of control at 2:30am, another neighbor did. Six rather militant officers showed and shut the shit down. One beefy crewcutted pig had his big flashlight on one of the renters next door when I looked out the window at 2:50am: "You've got underage drinkers with open containers roaming the neighborhood, you've got one lane of York Road blocked, you have three cars illegally parked in the alley, and you're way too loud in a residential neighborhood. You will not waste my time any more. If you have one more party I will arrest all the residents here. Do you understand me?" The cops actually went inside and cleared the place--the last time I called the responding officer said "keep it down," let the party continue, and told me "You should move."

Saturday I woke with a hard fiery burn in the back of my throat, and coughed up something the color and consistency of magma. A wretched virus has been making the rounds at Cook Liberry, laying low several Aunties and student employees for long periods. I thought "just what I fucking need" and stayed on the couch or in bed much of the day, eating vitamins, slugging Airborne tablets, sipping herbal teas etc. Cha and I took a walk around 3 and I felt weak and rough, so we unfortunately missed Poptart's birthday shindig at Earthdragon and Damnyelli's joint. I certainly could have made it, but didn't want to spread the TU plague into an environment with an infant (and likely other toddler visitors). So--happy birthday Poptart, we owe you a six pack! We took a two-hour nap and I felt ok enough to hit the Lyric. Didn't want to waste those $30 tickets, after all. I'm sure I gave everyone on the Grand Tier Level my germs, but I don't know them, so tough. Excepting of course Virginia Monologues and The Hulk and co, that is.

Can't Wait

Tonight at The Historic Senator Theater:


From the Baltimore Sun two-part A+ review:

Even a refrain to a hit as familiar as "Heart of Gold" - "and I'm getting old" - took on a stabbing immediacy. Demme found himself surfing on pure feeling in the editing. "I swear to God, I was having a weird physiological thing. 'Harvest Moon' always makes me think of 'Moon River,' one of the great old American songs from anyone and any time; 'Harvest Moon' is right there, and it makes me go, 'Gosh, Neil can really write a beautiful song.' Then I'd hear the chords of 'Heart of Gold' when I haven't even recovered from 'Harvest Moon' yet. My body is saying, 'I don't want another wave of emotion, because I'm still dealing with the other one!' And then 'Old Man' comes in right on top of that, and I'm giving in: 'OK, go ahead, wash right over me.'"


Jonathan Demme made arguably the greatest concert film ever, so I can't wait to see this one.

My First Live Opera



I'd always imagined my first live opera would be Rossini, Mozart, Verdi, Wagner-- perhaps Berg or Messiaen. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be Jake Heggie's Dead Man Walking, and when The Hulk called in January asking if I were interested I made some sarcastic remark along the lines of "Sure! Then the following week we can see Driving Miss Daisy the Opera."

The Lyric's production involved me entirely from start to finish. Yeah, I know the story, and I've run myself through many mind-spinning speculations about capital punishment and how fervent my opposition would be to state-sanctioned murder were I to lose a loved one to a senseless killing. I'd seen the film with Penn's gut-wrenching performance. But something more primal emerged with the confluence of live stage performance and anxious modern classical music. At the climax of the first act Helen Prejean is in the middle of a layered set full of prison mesh and bars, tormented by chanting representatives of public opinion, by victims' families, by death row inmates, by guards and wardens and a priest, by her own growing doubts about her faith and her mission. The orchestra swells, the volcanic chorus grows to dizzying heights, and I was buffeted and exhausted when she collapsed and the curtain dropped.

I found Theodora Hanslowe's Helen a bit weak vocally--she seemed to disappear when others sang simultaneously, and it struck me as odd that the least powerful singer on the cast would take the lead role. She certainly can sing but I could at times barely hear her. Perhaps the intention was to accent her meakness, her lack of confidence, her sincerity? Everyone else was electrifying, particularly Diana Soviero as the killer's mother. The cast who sang the victims' parents were crushing; the scene where the female victim's father confronts Mrs. De Rocher at Joe's funeral? AWEsome. Heggie--about whom I was totally unfamiliar until last night--has written a great piece of American music.

We even had the bonus luxury of a curtain call by the composer and Sister Helen Prejean in the flesh.

Poor Cha--she HATES modern classical music with a steely revulsion, and sat through 2.5 hours' worth last night! She talked me into going, however, after Virginia Monologues scored some cheap last-minute tickets.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Poussin



It's funny--I've seen this painting in person on three separate trips to the Louvre, I've looked at reproductions numerous times--and today was the first time I noted the ingenious fault of perception at its core. Take your eyes away from the magnificent and somber action of the figures and the Grail is at once mysteriously foreground to the scene, background, and beneath Christ's eventual wounds. I wish I could paint...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I Grok Grof



I like reading books about psychoanalytic theory. I also enjoy books about drugs and drug experiences. Further, I'm known to peruse on occasion books about the paranormal, so of course I enjoyed Stanislav Grof's The Adventure of Self-Discovery, which combines all of the above. Grof is a proponent of a sort of modern shamanism; instead of the laborious lingual give-and-take of traditional psychoanalysis, he proposes dosing patients up with hallucinogens like LSD or ketamine and supervising them as they trip their asses off. During these hallucinatory settings, sitters and therapists coax patients through their journeys and document their experiences. Grof claims his method can work out much more negative emotional baggage in three sessions than typical analysis can in years.

Because of drug war hysteria and consequent prohibition of lysergic acid and psilocybin derivatives, Grof and his crew at Johns Hopkins and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center have developed other, more legal means of altering consciousness (music, hyperventilation, meditation techniques), and his book is a catalog of recurring themes and images from these altered states and an attempt to classify them.

I'm sold--Grof comes out of the Jungian school by way of Wilhelm Reich and Paramahansa Yogananda, and documents a lot of extraordinary synchronistic and telepathic occurences. Particularly great are the paintings of patients as they work out traumatic birth canal memories and chakra blockages. A painter named Guenn Eona Nimue made spectacular drawings of archetypal entities she encountered during "a powerful spontaneous inner process." Whether or not you think these are transpersonal beings from another plane of existence, or merely the spontaneous creations of a disordered individual, reading about them is fascinating. Grof is mostly careful to temper his New-Aginess with Science; his book suffers during those few bits where he attempts to warn analysts about demonic possession and aliens and telekinesis--stuff he thinks might happen but which he's never witnessed personally in his practice. Stick to what you know, Stanislav--that shit's weird enough!

I like the way Grof grounds his theories in the old--shamanistic and esoteric practises and kundalini techniques--and the new, including quantum physics and the holographic model of the universe (he mentions Einstein's enthusiasm for Jung's ideas about consciousness underpinning all matter, for example). Grof is as learned as Ken Wilbur but far less demanding. Worth a read.

Old Times


Just had a visit from The Dazzling Urbanite (who hasn't blogged since the Paleolithic)--he's staying at his folks' here in town and commuting to DC every day for training with his new company. Must be great to buy a house in Naples, FL, relocate from Manhattan, redo the house, get settled, get a job--only to be sent to Baltimore for a daily 4-hour commute to DC to learn a computer system.

It didn't seem proper for us to chat in the dingy HVAC room behind the Service Desk. One needs Charlie the barkeep, a pitcher of Bass Ale, and a pack of Camels for the occasion. Of course Charlie the barkeep was fired when Angel's Grotto became L'il Dickie's, and a decade has tempered the desire for both Bass Ale and chain-smoking cigs in a dive bar.

The conversation, however, is still top-notch. Also nice to know that The Dazzling Urbanite and hubby are happy and healthy and dealing with blue-state/red-state culture shock rather well.

*That picture actually is from the Angel's Grotto, but I didn't take it. Found it on Google Images....

USPS


I love the US Mail--sure, they fuck up my Netflix envelopes occasionally, and my carrier only comes to our house three times a week because he's too lazy to trudge up the last row of houses most days--but for the most part you get great bang for your buck.

Today however I received a letter for a woman whose street address is the same as ours(2 York Road), but the city was Sheffield--and the COUNTRY was UK. There were a half-dozen international stamps across the top, and one of those weird UK postal codes, and somehow this letter got delivered to Baltimore. This is the THIRD TIME this has happened recently. The last time was a letter for somebody who lived at 2 York Road in AUCKLAND FUCKING NZ. I put a Post-It note on that envelope saying, "um, not at this address," and a week later the USPS delivered it to us AGAIN.

Today I put a Post-It reading: "Not at this address, not on this street, not in this state, not in this country, not on this continent, not even on this side of the Atlantic" in hopes that poor Elizabeth Weyrich in Sheffield gets her letter this century.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Odomentary, my dear Watson



William Odom, Director of the NSA from 1985-1988, has a brief analysis comparing Vietnam and Iraq over at Niemann Watchdog. It's absolutely uncanny how similar Odom's analysis of Vietnam is to that of Noam Chomsky (Chomsky goes further and says the US 'invaded South Vietnam.' Odom can't quite give away the entire truth.) Of course Chomsky's analysis is anything but brief, and can be found in any number of volumes.

Link via HuffPo

Whew

Ok, I might have forgotten Geometry, Algebra I and II, Trigonometry, College Algebra, Physics, and Calculus I, II, and III--but I can still rock the 8th grade math:


You Passed 8th Grade Math



Congratulations, you got 10/10 correct!

Great



Most of the excellence of Glengarry Glen Ross comes from Mamet's play/script--Willie Lowman updated with an '80s conservative revolution cold-hearted capitalist edge. I can't decide whose performance is best because the entire cast is on point: Alec Baldwin is perfect and soul-less as a steely merciless executive; Jack Lemmon is the most earnest Lowman imaginable, a veritable slick Willie; Alan Arkin and Ed Harris are two of the greatest character actors of their generation and don't miss a beat; Kevin Spacey is oily and clueless and spot-on; and Al Pacino--well, Al hits one last role out of the park before deciding that en lieu of acting he'll just shout his lines.

I dug it lots, and unlike many late-80s early-90s flicks, this one holds up. When one's work is trying to sell rather than make or do, the Marxist 'alienation from labor' is exponentially increased. Nothing has meaning for these characters except cash and ranking. Arkin's character says "I can't close. Something stops me, something inside." He can't acknowledge that the protestations originate in his conscience.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A Goal

I'm stuck at 20.5 books read so far this year--not bad at all, because I have in mind a goal of 100 titles consumed by the end of 2006, and that's a bit ahead of the pace I'll need to maintain.

Any cushion is a good thing given the amount of homework I'll have this semester and in the fall.

And on the topic of books: Library Thing is great, but humbling. I thought I had a big library, and have cataloged about two thirds of it online, and I'm nowhere near the top 100 Library Thing users!

Of course many of my books are single volume Library of America editions with multiple novels contained therein! (note how I'm making excuses) Also, my 52-volume set of classics shows up as one entry...

But were I to catalog every title individually I'd still have less than 1800 books!

It's bad

It's bad enough when I'm trying to study Arabic adjectives and nouns to have occasional patrons ask moronic questions, but Eskimo's 45-minute varietal harangue about ILL/politics/how bad things are was particularly awful timing. I just know Tiny Drum is going to bug me about his analytical essay too.

Mid-term at 8am tomorrow, ugh. Perhaps I'll take the afternoon off before work and eat some mescalin.

Update: I'm struggling to remember the Arabic words for big/small and far/near and the confoundedly similar words for table/tall/student when Tiny Drum approaches. He's trying to serruptitiously slip me 20 bucks the way made guys in Scorcese films tip people. I refuse the money, though I've earned it, and tell him to give it to Amnesty International.

Monday, March 06, 2006

D'oh!


I'm wracking my brain over the Arabic midterm Wednesday--the script and the very basic grammar we've learned so far are no problem, but the vocabulary I'm finding exquisitely elusive. Just learning to count to ten is taking me much longer than I'm accustomed to...

Of course I've never learned a non-Romance tongue (excepting a semester of German and a semester of Auld Englisch), so this is understandable to a degree. I can't help, however, thinking it has much to do with old age and rapid depletion of brain cells!

Netflix

Decided to slum it for a few titles on the Netflix queue.



Fuck this movie. Described as a "comic thriller" with evidence of neither in the 1 hour 45 minutes of precious existence I flushed away on it. I've seen late-night Discovery Channel re-enactments of rural hauntings and exorcisms done with more elan--and better acting. Adolescent, stupifyingly dull, featuring many of the worst performances I've seen. Any respectability the presence of Christopher Walken might have lent this catastrophe is drained away by the other actors, imbeciles all. Particularly woeful are that punk ass kid from Roseanne--he sucks hairy taint in the sorriest excuse for acting I've seen since Pia Zadora hung up her chemise--and Jay Mohr. Mohr is definitely less! Standing out for ineptitude amongst this cast of hamfisted schmucks is an achievement indeed. Dennis Leary has charm, but his character is un-funny and wholly unbelievable. And he's the comic relief! There is no relief from Suicide Kings, which presumably is arthouse fare to those who find Porky's ingenius. Cha and I both despised it.



This was harmless and even funny at times. Not nearly as bad as expected. Steve Martin reminds us that once he was a skilled actor who could rise above the material he had to work with. These days he slums it abysmally, of course. Bernadette Peters is hot.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Pay Up, Beyotches!


My blog is worth $9,597.18.
How much is your blog worth?

I suppose I can print this out and take it to the bank--perhaps they'll let me mortgage the 'blog for a new bathroom?

Le Weekend

As usual, it's over in a flash. I'm back at the Liberry for my loathsome Sunday shift at the Service Desk. I'm sure Tiny Drum will be in with his latest prose abomination for me to critique. I've got an Arabic midterm threatening mid-week, and some drills to do and vocab to struggle through, and also a French essay on Godot to write today if I'm bored.

Friday we had dinner with Julio and Yo! Adrienne at a new joint called B in Bolton Hill--this is Qayum Karzai's* latest Baltimore venture, and the food took forever but was excellent all around. Cha had a tasty pizza, I had a lamb gnocci**, Julio had some whitefish thang, Yo! Adrienne stuck with a basic burger. Also tasty--the red wine. Echelon pinot noir.

We retired to la casa Moore/Lundgren after for tea and cookies, and were made aware of Big News concerning the decision to engage in future activity of a nuptial variety. I'd become convinced that Julio was never going to settle down...Congratulations!!!! We're very excited, and oggled her ring and their new king-size bed. Julio took me upstairs and showed me the hole in his studio roof where he had some monstrously huge skylights installed. I told him to do some huge Rubenesque canvases up there when it's all done.

Saturday we went to the new Manor Hall at Our Lady of Grace parish in Parkton for a PTA fundraiser/bull roast/oyster shuck. Mostly it was an opportunity to see friends we see far less often than we should--the Traveling Joneses, Buf and MA, Sluggo and Spooge Whore, the Caps. They all live in the wilderness of northern Balto. County with their broods; Cha and I are more city-ish in temprament these days, and not living in the same five-mile radius as the rest keeps us apart, alas. We had a good time drinking shitty beer in vast quantities, watching E. win four times at the Liquor Wheel, dancing to hip-hop with an all-white red-state crowd, and coming in first place for a winery wine-tasting for 12 in a silent auction. The Traveling Joneses sound ready to move again, now that Boy #3 is sleeping through the night. We've not ventured abroad with them since the Irish Adventure in 2000.

My friends are old.*** I can't believe we were talking about our 20th high school reunion, which, were it to happen, would happen next year. It was weird to be back at Our Lady of Grace--that's where Cha and I tied the knot almost 12 years ago.

Sadly, we missed Klezma's art show opening downtown--it was postponed after the big snow a couple weeks back. Our intention was to catch a half-hour before the oyster roast, but it didn't work out. We'll get down to the show next Saturday.

*Yes, Qayum is Hamid Karzai's brother.
**Eventually I've got to get back to fishitarianism. I fell off the wagon almost two years ago and need to get back on board.
***Of course they're all my age or younger--Ugh.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Coetzee Coetzee Coo!



Dude's a fucking genius. He turns a clever constraint--a young woman in search of her daughter in the colonies gets diverted to Brazil and ends up shipwrecked on the same island as Caruso and Friday, surviving to bring their story back to Daniel DeFoe--into a magnificent meditation on language, story, self, character, authorial consciousness, the boundaries between the Real and Fiction, Truth and Lies, master and slave, symbol and symbolized...

Coetzee manages to write extraordinarily complicated little books that aren't extraordinarily complex. This is somehow a simple novel, and engages the reader as swiftly and totally as the adventure yarn which inspired it. And yet at the same time it's encyclopedic in its reach--so long as you're paying attention.

J.M. Coetzee is a clever, clever man. I read a few of his novels in grad school and then swore off him for a decade because he makes my head explode. Only in the best way, of course. An excellent novel.

Current Tunes

I've been going through my CD library and trying to find stuff I used to listen to a lot that I've forgotten. I've found some true gems:



Kicks off with a heartbreaking rendition of In A Sentimental Mood and never lets up. A beautiful mind-meld of extravagant geniuses, and refreshing after all the late-phase 'Trane I've been fracturing myself with lately.



Even at the height of my adulation of Frank I wasn't a fan of this LP; I much preferred the brash muscular swing of the other Riddle/Sinatra colaborations. One 4am bout of insomnia, however, changed my mind forever when I played In the Wee Small Hours and found its sense and mood delicately nuanced and Sinatra's restrained vocals pristine:


My cigarette burns me
I wake with a start
My hand isn't hurt but
there's pain in my heart...

Lovely stuff.



This is a listening-station promo I got from Borders--one of hundreds. It's delicious for fans of guitar. Mr. Green was ahead of his time.



At times this album is a bit too extravagant--Getz is a great soloist but at times he clutters up and drowns out Evan's stately playing with too much high-end blowing. Still, this LP is ebulliant like few others and perks me up every time I hear it.



If Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz played bass and drums I couldn't imagine their rhythm section sounding any more apocalyptic than that of Mr. Ward and Mr. Butler. Tony Iommi has that fucked-up liquid trill and spooky reverb blues tone working overtop those crunchy granite powerchords, and Ozzy wails like a coked-up banchee. I love it.



Another promo--I think this LP rules, and was glad when I saw Office Space to note that several tracks from this Geto Boys release made that soundtrack. Great for lifting weights or smashing things.



I should check out more Merle, because there are several great tracks on this CD; my favorite is The Bottle Let Me Down:


I've always had a bottle I could turn to,
And lately I've been turning every day.
But the wine don't take effect the way it used to,
And I'm hurting in an old familiar way.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Attendez



Nous attendons, nous attendons, nous refusons de vivre maintenant. Quelque chose vient, quelque chose progresse, le demain est meilleur qu'aujourd'hui. Nous attendons. Il ne change pas. Le désespoir ne nous quitte. L'espoir diminue pendent les répétitions de cycle.

Beckett a employé Joyce qui a employé Vico et les a distillés vers le bas aux essentiels.

J'attends l'extrémité de Godot, mais l'extrémité n'arrive jamais.

Netflix



Poor Terry Gilliam--he becomes that crazy dude in American Movie while trying to realize his dream of bringing Don Quixote to the big screen. What a litany of disasters! This is the best documentary about film-making since Hearts of Darkness.

And poor us, deprived of the film!

37 is the new 20



I don't know what's going on but I feel magnificent lately. Physically, that is. I had a miserably un-athletic fall with back and sinus problems and don't think I ran more than 30 miles between September and Christmas. Now I'm doing 20 miles a week and I feel great--this morning after class I ran 5.5 miles and barely broke a sweat. I've been lifting weights thrice a week, doing 100 crunches a day, and might increase to 25 miles a week around Spring Break (depending on my homework load and the weather).

Perhaps it's a mid-life crisis, but I'm nearly in the best aerobic shape I've been in since I was a teenager and captain of the track team. On Monday one of the Aunties asked if I was losing weight and I'm sure I blushed.

I've gotten cocky like this before--back in 2002 I was confidently working my way down to a five-minute mile when I rolled my ankle on a trail run and was out of commission for almost half a year. I'm sure some new catastrophe awaits.

This morning Cha went running for the first time ever. I left for Arabic class as she was doing reverse leg-lifts, face down on our big red ab sphere. This image has kept me agitated all day.

Papa Rules



I read artsy-fartsy complimacated shit for awhile, then I need to cleanse the palate. Hemingway is good for that, because you get his straight-on, no-frills prose. People go to war, they get wounded, their friends die, there's a love affair, and it's all presented in that marvelous crisp and detached style. Papa doesn't intrude his judgments into the text, and he never writes purple. That same even keel takes you from a dreadful mortar attack where the hero is blown up a bit to sex with a nurse in a hospital bed to the delivery room months later.

Yes, the lovers' dialogue is not only tiresome, but outright bad ("lovely," "fine," "swell," "gorgeous" are used ad infinitum ); let that slide and get through to the manly existential heart of this great read. An outstanding anti-war novel, and you can polish it off in a couple evenings.