Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We're in...

Everything fell into place amicably this morning and afternoon. For the briefest of moments we actually had a six-figure check. Poof! Mostly gone for a down payment.

We took a load of boxes down today after the second settlement because it was a gorgeous day.

Tomorrow is a heavy lifting day. Rain is expected, of course. I'm ecstatic anyhow.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

I think I'm special

Study me.

The researchers could simply have sat in my ENGL102 classes, or spoken to the fraternity brats on my block, and come to the same conclusions.

Monday, February 26, 2007


Moving sucks. Every aspect of it sucks. Looking at houses, selling a house, buying a house, signing contracts, doing inspections. It's a pain in the fucking arse long before one even has to endure the actual physical move itself.

All systems were go for our move this week until late Friday, at which point our title company found a ground rent lease attached to the home we're buying. This was not disclosed by the seller, who had claimed it was a fee simple property on their listing, and our contract of sale was written and accepted with this understanding. (A ground rent indicates that somebody owns the lot upon which your house sits and that instead of owning the ground you lease it. There has been much scandal of late in Baltimore over this practice, with good reason. Fee simple designates the more traditional whole-kit-and-caboodle, lot and house included in the sale.)

The sellers, notified of the problem, said that the property is indeed fee simple and that they would resolve this easily.

Now our mortgage underwriter wants to delay settlement because they are suspicious of such a title discovery this late in the process. ANY delay in settlement on the new house could fuck us, because we have to move out by the end of this week, and settlement is scheduled for Wednesday. If settlement got pushed back to next week we'd have to put our stuff in storage, settle on the new house, and then move again. That's assuming the ground rent/fee-simple issue is easily resolved, and doesn't result in lawsuits and breach of contract claims, which could result in us starting the house search over again, this time based out of a studio apartment or--worse yet--based out of the in-laws' basement.

I can't do anything but wait for the hired guns to wrangle over this. I'm not sure if that's good or bad for my mental health.

Wide Open

Yes, I'm betraying an adolescent sense of humor, but this headline made me laugh.

Ministry of Silly Laws

Just my luck.

The car I bought not three days ago has pinstriping. Amongst its whorls and delicately wrought concentricities one can trace without imagination the genital structure of holothuria floridana.

Where once I found Beauty only Filth and Shame remain.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Jesus Camp brings back those wonderful days spent in the creepy churches my maternal grandparents attended. People lathered and spitting gibberish, the laying on of hands, continuous re-interpretation of the news using The Book of Revelations. One fun afternoon featured the condemnation of a waitress at the local Denny's as a witch because one church-goer got ill after her Grand Slam breakfast: eye of newt, frog's leg, mandrake and salmonella. Fortunately Evangelical cultists can't sally forth with brands and ignite the targets of their wrath any more. At least not yet.

There are terrifying scenes of brainwashed children hugging a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush, and several close-ups of beautiful babies bawling out their desire for righteous judges made me want to contact social services. But I'm not so horrified by this documentary as other lefties. I lived through many Vacation Bible School experiences, complete with End Times Puppet Theater and the condemnation of everyone whose mindset didn't precisely mirror the conventional wisdom of rural Adams County, PA. I have faith that many of the charismatic, talented, and bright kids featured in Jesus Camp will end up like the youngins I knew at VBS: suspicious of the entire Jesus industry at the least, and diehard contrary to organized faith at best. We always found a place during break to smoke and play doctor just behind the brick barbecue on the far side of the parking lot, and I don't doubt the same things go on at Jesus Camp, where the kids are compelled for a variety of reasons to behave a certain way while the parents are around.

Ironically in my experience the most devout Bible-thumpers get knocked up at 16 and have abortions, then start in on Glade huffing before moving to less aromatic crystal meth use. The firebrand preacher at Gramma's Gettysburg looney bin absconded with the church till after being found with a suitcase full of heroin in the rectory. He ended up in China.

Many Evangelicals whose shuttered beliefs are based in fiery self-loathing find fuel in hateful churches, and none of us should get too exercised about them. Yes, they are alarming, their views are painfully moribund and childish, and their Christianity is buffoonish thuggery based in the worst bits of Leviticus. There are many millions of them to boot, and they are organized and powerful and anti-democratic.

But they have always been organized, powerful, and anti-democratic, and the Republic has fumbled forward. Read any page at random in the collected works of H.L. Mencken, who had the best solution. Expose their foolishness, hypocrisy, and influence wherever possible, and drive a stake of bitter satire through their hearts. Let's hope the crashing fall of Bush and his fundy crowd minimizes Evangelical/Pentecostal political influence for a generation at least.

Most of the right-wing end-timers I grew up around were good citizens with limited exposure to outside ideas. Perhaps we need secularist missions to go deep into red country, funded by Soros.

I like best documentaries about things I don't know, and I know very little about the hardcore scene in the early 1980s. I was living in northern Baltimore County at the time, attending a school with its own space/time fabric. We didn't even have suburbia to rebel against. Any movement whose primary goal was anti-Reaganism is alright by me, and American Hardcore brings those days back with a vengeance.

There were a handful of Black Flag devotees at Hereford High, but they were merely another clan amongst the dozens of others: burnouts, jocks, hippies, cheerleaders, nerds, metal heads, etc. They didn't fit in with the prevailing Southern Rock aesthetics to say the least.

American Hardcore
has lots of VHS footage of old shows by bands like Bad Brains, DOA, the Circle Jerks, Jerry's Kids, etc. There are interesting interviews about the scene with lots of key players from DC, LA, Austin, OC. My favorite part was a great clip of some guy in the audience trying to get into a fight with Henry Rollins, who tautingly plays with his tormentor before punching the shit out of him. A good time was had by all. I'm sure fans will kvetch that certain bands are ignored, but I'm out of the loop there.

What ties the doc together most are its fantastic graphics and innovative design. Love the clever logo play and the appropriately gloomy gray and black maps. Excellent use of montage and rapid-fire collage. Very polished and engaging.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Wicker Man does for paganism what Jesus Christ Superstar did for Christianity, namely dumbing down the tenets of the belief system for hippies and setting it to painfully bad music. A totally square copper investigates the disappearance of a young girl on an outlying Celt island. There is more outdoors fucking on Summersisle than in a Zola novel, and quickly Detective Howie realizes that the residents are practicing that really old time religion. They play him for the Fool, literally. Christopher Lee hams it up, and Brit Eckland can't act, can't dance, and definitely can't sing, but she's very skilled at being naked.

Belongs in that groovy class of unscary horror films which includes such classics as Let's Scare Jessica to Death, Equinox, and Season of the Witch.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Rabbit Redux is, to quote James Marshall Hendrix, "a frustratin' mess." Instead of running at the end of book one Rabbit returns to Janice and makes a go of the American Dream: bland suburban house, bland alienation from labor in a factory, an increasingly narrow-minded small-town PA conservatism. He grows fat and impotent, his wife ditches him for a Greek car salesman, and Rabbit is off to the races. Silly Rabbit, such tricks are for kids! Drugs, loose teenagers, radical blacks, pimps--what doesn't Rabbit do in a mere 350 pages? There are men on the moon, York PA suffers racial violence, Ted Kennedy drives his car off a bridge, Viet Nam and Nixon. Sometimes the novel's so current it's scary, as characters debate fighting the Viet Cong over there so we don't have to fight them over here, etc.* And yet many of the characters are embarrassing stereotypes and the action often left me incredulous.

Though "a frustratin' mess," Rabbit Redux is also magnificent. Like the country and time period it documents, Updike's book at once exceeds one's wildest dreams and seems to fall far short of an even greater potential. The perfect note, I'd say.

* "We have all been here before," to quote CSN&Y

Watch it

As the Mrs. and I wait none-too-patiently for the fourth season of The Wire on DVD, we've switched over to Deadwood, kindly lent us by Leesha and Big Red. It fills the void nicely. A lawless illegal prospector's camp open in Indian Territory serves as the setting. A naive East-coast dandy gets taken for a worthless stake by the more sophisticated, less edumacated members of a crime syndicate running things in town. The dandy's wife sips laudanum and hides out in the hotel. There are whores, gunslingers, snitches, a Chinaman whose pigs eat a questionable diet, and a marvelous over-the-top villain named Swearengen. A steely upstanding former Kentucky lawman named Bullock arrives with his Jewish partner to open a general store in town just as a dissolute Wild Bill Hickok rides in with Calamity Jane. Swearengen worries about every detail in his camp, and there are delicious conspiracies to ensure he maintains control. There is swearing on an Olympian scale. We've fallen hard already after only three episodes. A marvelous cast.

TV on DVD is awesome.

Right Neighborly of Ya

Cha received this email from D., the last tolerable resident in the house next door to us in Towson:

I was in the Towson area over the weekend and noticed the "For Sale" sign outside your house. It just made me think of you guys and I just wanted to write a quick email to you.

I miss my York Road house, more the time I was living then my time as landlord. I enjoyed having you guys as my neighbors. I still have that picture up of you and I as Captain America and Wonder Woman. I enjoyed that house greatly, as well as the area. I wished I still had the house and probably wouldn't have sold it if I had owned it alone. I am living downtown now though and love it there. Lots of action.

Anyway, just wanted to drop a quick note and say hi to you and Geoff.


PS - I hope the neighbors (my renters and/or current) aren't what are driving you to sell.

Emphasis mine. It was his renters two years ago who drove us into the housing search, and the new owner/renters who drove us to sell.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Might as well be spring

I seriously doubt winter is finished in Baltimore but one could be forgiven for thinking so today. It's fucking gorgeous outside, close to sixty degrees and sunny. The solid-frozen snow and ice that seemed so permanent a mere 48 hours ago have dwindled to pockets of wet grey sludge. We had a very short winter, with days like today running all the way through December and deep into January, but the cold snap we endured the last six weeks was brutal.

I took a long walk instead of eating lunch, and now I can't face the pile of editing on my desk. According to forecasts, similarly warm weather is expected when we move next week. Of course it's going to rain, because EVERY TIME I HAVE EVER MOVED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE IT HAS RAINED LIKE HELL.

Saw Double Engine and baby Holden on my walk around Towson. Cute little guy!


Can any hell be more horrible than now and real? -James Douglas Morrison, Lament

I've been sorely neglecting this space for weeks now, and the traffic numbers reflect that fact. I apologize. My mind is elsewhere.

I live in a shambles of crates and boxes. There's no heat in our house. The frat boys are partying hard core in our neighborhood, gleefully anticipating our departure. Insurance companies need this, banks need that, mortgage providers want those, real estate agents want these. Inspections, utility services, address changes occupy my time. Soon I'll be throwing a car purchase into the mix, with the requisite trips to the MVA and further confrontations with insurance company types.

The bureaucracies are nearly sated, leaving the actual physical move, which is always unpleasant, but which will be accomplished by Saturday next week. Then, the purchase of rugs and curtains and curtain rods and new furnishings and the installation and hanging and positioning of such things.

Look for a housewarming party in May. I'll be wearing more than one lampshade that day.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Missed it by that much

One week and three days before we move the heating oil ran out. I miscalculated a bit, but couldn't have anticipated the cold snap we had the last three weeks. Fortunately we've got highs in the upper forties to mid fifties coming up.

And lots of firewood and a space heater for the bedroom. Poor Cha. I tolerate the cold a bit better than she does.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Here We Go Again

Hang in there, Tom.

If so inclined, you can help save the Senator Theater here.

[Photo via Luminouslens]


The Corner is grittier and more painful even than Simon and Burns' latest project The Wire, which says a lot if you're familiar with that TV novel. This mini series will break your heart. A formerly middle-class family of dealers and junkies struggle through a year in Baltimore as they try to stabilize themselves in a marginal society. Scoring a blast occupies most of their time. The show doesn't deal in types, however. These are real people with dreams and hopes whose addiction destroys them slowly, and it's painful to watch.

I knew people in "the game" about 17 years ago, and wonder how they're doing today. When Fran gets clean and has to ride the bus to Hunt Valley for work every day I had to laugh; I thought of T and Chief and H-Man and Hawk and all those cats who used to work with me at Hunt Valley Mall and did the same--that's 2.5 hours on the bus every day. They were struggling to keep steady employment, to keep off the streets, but one by one they went from dealing to using to stealing in order to keep using. All of them but T fell to long prison terms last I'd heard. All of them were smart people in a terrible environment with few options, and I learned a lot about dignity from knowing those East Baltimore guys and gals. Last I saw T he was manning the register at the Timonium McDonald's, and he still had that big grin on his face. Some make it, many don't. The Corner strikes an occasional hopeful note but exposes the War on Drugs for the sham it is.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Worst Fear Confirmed

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Book Snob

You like to think you're one of the literati, but actually you're just a snob who can read. You read mostly for the social credit you can get out of it.

Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Haint that a shame, Part VIII

3:19 am. I wake up as the crappy electric space heater in our bedroom clicks on and paints the ceiling an unholy orange. For months I have been waking at 3:19 am for no apparent reason. Sometimes I hear something in the attic, but not tonight. My feet are cold, and I note that the down comforter has slid off the bed. I retrieve it from between the mattress and whatever the fuck the headboard at the bottom of the bed is called (the footboard?). I tuck its edge around my sleeping wife, and get back into bed. Immediately I fall asleep, and then at 3:39 I wake. My feet are cold again, and I look down incredulously at my bare toes, sunset colored in the toaster coil glow of the heater. The comforter is off the bed. We have two we use, one for the top half of the mattress, one for the bottom. The bottom one slides off regularly, but twice in a half hour is ridiculous. I get up again and fumble around. The comforter is nowhere to be found. I turn on the reading lamp by the bed, which is now perched on a stack of books because I gave my nightstand away; the more crappy furniture we ditch before moving, the better. I have to be careful not to topple the entire arrangement, which would wake the Mrs.

The comforter is folded neatly on top of the goldfish tank in the far corner of the room. “Fucking bullshit,” I say, and Cha stirs in her sleep, drawing her feet up under the remaining comforter. I know I have walked in my sleep before, because once I woke up in the closet wrestling hanging clothes when I was a teen. To my knowledge, however, I had never done any folding while sleepwalking. I rarely do any folding while awake. I pause to turn on the light in the tank, and observe Goliathan and Ophelia sleeping upside down. They scuttle when the light comes on, and watch me expectantly, hoping for flakes. I turn off their light and put the comforter back on the bed, climb in, and just as I manage to begin drifting off I feel a tug.

When I was in graduate school the dorm had a major mouse infestation. Routinely mice would wake me climbing up the blankets hanging off my bed. This tugging is very similar to that, but much more regular, and much more insistent. Whatever is pulling is more hefty than a mouse. I think of the dreadful story Eskimo told me at Cook Liberry about a raccoon climbing into the bed of her aunt and eating her face off, and I turn on the lamp just as the comforter balloons up and over onto the goldfish tank, unfolded this time.

I see no raccoon, no mouse, no nothing. There is little sense in trying to sleep again. I make coffee and watch infomercials until I can go to work. Cha sleeps under the remaining comforter and I periodically look in on her. Reluctantly.

Quand le mystère est trop impressionnant, on n’ose pas désobéir.

-St. Exupery

[photo credit: corzblog]


Reading barely a book a week so far this year. What better way to try 'n get back on track than to tackle the source material for a movie I've seen a half-dozen times, written in dialect? A book about slag punters and poxy mancos shooting shite and double-dealing their families, the government, and each other. Junkies are so cute.


Poor Martin Scorcese. He's never won an Oscar for direction, and has been nominated a fifth time this year for The Departed. He was nominated for the masterpiece Raging Bull but that year's award went to the deservedly forgotten Ordinary People. The magnificent The Aviator was deemed unworthy in comparison to Clint Eastwood's euthanasia melodrama Million Dollar Baby. I have a feeling Clint might take the directing Oscar again this year, leaving Scorcese a perennially-nominated bridesmaid. A sad Susan Lucci. Frankly The Departed doesn't deserve to win a directing award, but neither did last year's Crash.

I like Scorcese's moral ambiguity and his interest in violence, the will to power, and mysticism. His films often explore the relationship between suffering and personal renewal, making them the cinematic equivalent of the Issenheim Retable. This time the gangsters are Boston Irish instead of New York/New Jersey Italians. Nicholson stands in for DeNiro. Two moles on opposing sides of the thin blue line try to find each other while trying to find themselves.

The Departed is a frenetic cartoon with a ludicrous plot, and like Scorcese's Cape Fear it's a zippy remake of an earlier film. The cast chews scenery at an alarming rate while serving up a big juicy buffet of ham, and it's a delight to watch them all try to outdo each other. I found it an exhilarating ride for 45 minutes but more fizzle than sizzle after that. Still, a flawed Scorcese is great fun, and is superior by leaps and bounds when compared to most of the tiresome dreck coming out of Hollywood. The Departed isn't as interesting as Bringing Out the Dead or as well-crafted as Kundun--two films which were seen by three or four dozen people, and which were nominated for nothing, and The Age of Innocence is far superior to his latest effort. But Marty's got more masterpieces in him, so long as he keeps plugging away. I'd rather he didn't win for this one, but will cheer if he finally gets the nod.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Uplifting Valentine's reading from Harper's. Ken Silverstein interviews four CIA dudes about the likelihood we'll be fighting Iran. Their input makes me even more uncomfortable about the entire situation.

How many major empires have clashed with the Persians at some point? All of them, barring the Incas, Mayas, Aztecs and others logistically incapable of reaching that far. How many empires who've clashed with the Persians are still empires? None of them.

I wonder what Vegas bookmakers are saying about the prospects for such a war?

The military is already over-extended, but we can always send our 2,000,000 incarcerated to fight.

Re: The mysterious assertion by Andrea Mitchell to Don Imus that it was "widely known" that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. I wonder if she got that rescue-Rove-and-Scooter talking point from her hubby?

Happy Valentine's Day

Everything is closed today because of the ice/sleet/freezing rain/snow storm: the government, the local retailers, the schools and universities, the courthouses are all shut down.

And here I am at work because we're not closed. It's no big deal because I only walk three blocks, but I had to walk in the streets because the sidewalks are buried under plowed snow which has frozen solid. The streets are a soupy mess of chemical slush with icy patches and salty gloop everywhere. Everybody else in my department is using personal time or working from home; I don't have any personal time to spare because I'm new and need to save what I have for moving in two weeks. And because the house is packed up I can't really get anything done at home. Particularly given it's Valentine's Day and the Mrs. is off.

I wonder if my 'guaranteed delivery' Valentine's package will make it today? When it doesn't show up I wonder if they'll refund my hefty shipping fee? Ha!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Monday, February 12, 2007

Haint that a shame, Part VII

Saturday the buyers of our house asked to do a walk-through. They wanted to get a head-start on planning some remodeling work, and I had no problem with that. The house is a catastrophic mess of boxes and dis-assembled furniture, but that couldn't be helped. Just before 3pm our agent Gabe showed up. We talked politics for a while until the listing agent arrived with her clients. There were two forty-something guys with their wives and two teenagers who are apparently going to live in the house when they start at Towson University next year.

Everybody went to the basement except for the teens, a boy and a girl, who were talking about what art work they were going to hang and how cool the fire I had going was. The boy admiringly looked in the 'frige and told the girl he could fit plenty of cases in there. After a few minutes the boy went down to the basement and the girl went upstairs because she wanted to pick which bedroom would be hers. I think the buyers are planning to take out the old hot water radiators and install some kind of forced-air heat pump, hence the lengthy subterranean conference.

Gabe and I talked the Scooter Libby trial for a bit and then the teen girl came back downstairs. "I'm soooo sorry," she said. "I didn't realize somebody else was up there!" She had both hands sheepishly stuffed in the front belly pouch of her Towson hoodie.

"What?" I asked, as Gabe laughed in surprise.

"The old man in the bedroom chair. He seems really nice, and smiled when I said hello. Is he your grandfather?"

I didn't have the heart to tell her.

Weather or not

Man, I'll be bummed if I don't get a day off this week because of weather. One of those weird mid-Atlantic fronts is coming in, where the ice-snow-rain line and Gulf moisture all join in a sinuous dance along the DC-baltimore corridor. Two days ago the local media were predicting figures between 6 and 24 inches of snow. Now they're saying 1 to 3 inches mixed with sleet and freezing rain.

I don't feel like working tomorrow. Ice, ice baby!

These are the sorts of weather events that nobody can predict accurately, and which have in the past given Baltimore its worst February blizzards. Sock it to us! Sledding on Charles Street would be grand.


If you get a chance check out A Family Undertaking. It's less than an hour long but packs quite a whollop. I'm all for a return to home-based celebrations at death, and a cardboard box decorated by friends and family would suit me fine. The ill and quite old should not be carted off to sterile institutions for their final days--they should be at home with their nearest and dearest (one laid-out corpse in the movie is guarded by his dog companion, who sits under the bed growling at guests). The funeral industry too often whisks remains away from hospitals without families even knowing there are far cheaper options for their dearly departed. A scam of the first order.

A Family Undertaking includes touching footage of several home funerals, and follows two families through the deaths of loved ones. The Nebraska grampa who assists in the making of his own coffin is a hoot.


Friday, February 09, 2007

Good Riddance

Anna Nicole Smith was to insipidness what a black hole is to gravity. Nothing could escape the suction of such densely concentrated pointlessness, not even light. That her entirely expected death merits any mention by a media outlet purporting to be a "news" organization indeed signifies how retarded our culture has become. During a week when more than a dozen US soldiers and perhaps a thousand Iraqi civilians were croaked in a war concocted by ideologically blinkered buffoons whose machinations are at last being exposed in the Scooter Libby and Doug Feith investigations, the self-inflicted demise of some half-silicone trainwreck is about as newsworthy as the yellowing nail on my big toe.

I have to hear Donald Trump sing her praises on Don Imus? There's a noontime roundtable discussing her cultural significance on MSNBC? [Someone during this particularly un-illuminating segment actually intoned with all the gravitas due an expert in 'celebrity' that Anna "had a real reality about her." This in response to the question "Why did people care about her so much?"] Wolf Blitzer dedicates an entire afternoon to this veritable emblem of emptyheadedness? My local news outlets have to spend the ten minutes not relegated to weather or commercials each hour singing her praises?

A real reality. That's what I always think of when confronted by the likes of Anna Nicole Smith.


Speak, friend, and enter:

The entry to the vault, which will shoot out of the mountainside, will be a narrow triangular portal made of cement and steel, illuminated with artwork that changes according to the Arctic light.

In summer, "in the midnight sun, it will look like a large diamond," said Tveiten. In winter, when the sun does not rise above the horizon, "it will glow into the darkness," he added.

All Systems Go

The financing is in place, settlement on both houses is scheduled for February 28th, and the packing progresses nicely. We've sold some furniture and given some other stuff away.

We've got the signing of documents and the moving of belongings to accomplish, but as of March 1st we will begin inhabiting our new house, and on March 3rd we will be completely moved out of the old one. We'll be busy buying curtains and rugs and new furniture and all that horseshit for weeks.

Perhaps by May or June we'll be set for a house-warming shindig.

I'll be driving to work for the first time since 1994. Time to buy a car.


Been a while since I could recall my dreams. Last night was a doozy.

I'm sitting with Julio and Yo! Adrienne. We're looking at books, and mine is a hefty astronomy tome. There's one of those Magic Eye dealies on the lower left corner of the left page. I look at it and say "I can't do these fucking Magic Eye things," and then some squiggles and lines emerge from a confused daub of colors. There are three rows and three colums of I Ching hexagrams. "Wait--I see something but it's just a bunch of lines!" I say, getting excited.

"Those are what you need to focus together," Julio replied, busting my balls.

I focused more closely and behind the hexagrams was the constellation Sagittarius. I was about to tell Julio what I saw when he said sarcastically "Is it perhaps the constellation Sagittarius?" Then I realized there was a caption above the image that said precisely what it was.

Suddenly I was a teen living in my parents' house. We had an enormous crocodile living with us for some reason. My parents were trying to get it to eat me. Apparently this was some kind of joke, and the crocodile had eaten me before. I was tired of it all, however, and was sick of being eaten and returning to life. As the crocodile chased me around the house, its dreadful toenails clicking on the wood floors, I eluded it by jumping on top of furniture, going upstairs, closing doors. I was about to escape the house. The door was bolted and I was fumbling with the lock. The croc was right behind me when I woke. Immediately after I woke the alarm went off.

Yesterday I dreamed a similar dream about a bear. The bear was just about to eat me when I woke and the alarm went off. The bear lived in my house as well, and so long as he was asleep under the covers in my bedroom all was well. Then he woke.

The last time I dreamed so clearly about a constellation, I was lying on a beach and a crab was biting my left shoulder. The sun was intense but I could see Cancer anyhow. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with melanoma on my left shoulder.

I wonder what a dream about Sagittarius means? I'm developing club foot? Or perhaps my archery skills are improving?


After reading about his death in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking I resolved to check out one of Dunne's novels. True Confessions was the only one available at the local B&N. I liked it fine. A crime novel loosely based on the Black Dahlia case, featuring whores, mobsters, monsignors, and cops all connected in seedy double-dealings. Tom Spellacy is the anti-hero detective, his brother Des is in line to be the next bishop. Because of a murder investigation both of them pay heavy prices for past sins. Ego te absolvo is not an option.

Apparently there's a movie version with De Niro and Duvall as well:

Rob Thorworth

Sorry these vids are so dark but I was using a Kodak digital camera--not ideal for video capture. Rob and crew again blew the roof off the joint in Canton. They're playing the next two Thursdays at the Austin Grill, and if you like good song writing and/or quality guitar playing you should check them out.

Two covers by the Rob Thorworth Trio. John Lee Hooker and I believe Little Feat, respectively.

Nice to see a few butts in the seats last night. Ellen Cherry stopped by after the Move Like Seamus rehearsal and we talked The Wire. I think our table ate about six baskets of free chips and dip. Cha put one basket in her dinner doggie bag.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A tangled web unweaves

Generally I watch Don Imus for 20 minutes each weekday before work, typically between 6:30 and 6:50 while drinking my coffee. Say what you will about the often barely coherent curmudgeon, he gets good guests. This morning Republican uber-skank Mary Matalin was typically full of shit about herself, her boss Cheney, and the Libby Trial, spewing demonstrable falsehoods. To his credit, Imus gave her a hard time about everybody knowing the trial was really about the lies of the Bushies. He was likely teasing her more than actually saying what he felt, but it was still fun to hear her squirm. Imus asked her about telling Libby that Tim Russert hates Chris Matthews, and she squirmed around uncomfortably.

I didn't know Matalin called back to further clarify her strange verbal contortions. It's obvious some very big spinners are hard-at-work trying to play the media coverage of Plamegate. And they're in crisis mode.


Since Unforgiven Clint Eastwood has specialized in Hollywood films drained of moral clarity. Remember when Dirty Harry was a darling of the right wing? Harry went after bad guys, and was unafraid of legally questionable means. Reagan said "Go ahead, make my day." Clint served alongside Sly Stallone and Chuck Norris in the '80s conservative entertainment backlash. These days Harry--instead of relying on his partners Smith and Wesson--says "Let me point out the intricacies and question the assumptions of this situation, and I'll get back to you." As a result, upon the release of Flags of Our Fathers the right wing lather machine bubbled over. Eastwood's portrayal of the history behind an iconic and sacred image--the photo of US Marines (and one sailor) raising Old Glory on Mount Suribachi--reeked of course of historical revisionism and Hollywood liberalism. How dare Eastwood question the PR manipulation of the "heroes" of Iwo Jima? Why should the distasteful post-war experience of Ira Hayes get so much focus? Why parse the projection of individual and societal necessities onto three young men who served as little more than blank slates, and who were embarrassed by the idolatry? Can't we have any myths untouched by fact? Must everything be deconstructed? Is nothing clear-cut?

Perhaps Eastwood made this film because of Pat Tillman or Jessica Lynch. The same cynical and hypocritical game was played with their images. I'm glad to see a Hollywood conservative making a film critical of democracy at war, during war time. Are there ever really good or bad guys? Not according to the "heroes" themselves, whose words are used in the film. I look forward to Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima, which commits the cardinal sin of telling the Japanese side of the story.

Although worth seeing, I have major problems with the structure of Flags of Our Fathers. The pacing is clumsy, the narrative disjointed, the flashback technique became artificial after two or three uses--and downright tiresome after five or six. The leads are barely given time to flesh out their parts. Perhaps Eastwood intended this; the leads after all are manipulations, and are portraying guys who were wholly manipulated to the point of nearly losing their individuality. Another cost of war.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Before he started making bank as a peddler of digital-effects-driven arthouse Kung Fu movies, Zhang Yimou was a powerfully efficient filmmaker. Nobody could so quietly build up to a devestating finale. A piece of broken chalk in a poor rural school; a bowl of spilled dumplings; an ornate box intended for shadow puppets filled with baby chicks--that's all it took to ensure there wasn't a dry eye in the house. He's made four of my twenty favorite films.

Yimou has been riding the Crouching Tiger coat tails for so long, however, that he struggles with the material in Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles. All the elements are there but the trademark cathartic pay-off never happens. The story is interesting and deftly handled, and includes Japanese and Chinese characters and all the 20th-century baggage that entails. A Japanese father estranged from his son for years gets a call from his daughter-in-law. His son Kenichi is in the hospital, will he come visit? The son is a specialist in Oriental folk arts, with a particularly keen love of Chinese masked opera. Mr. Takata arrives at the hospital only to find Kenichi refuses to see him--it was merely his daughter-in-law's dream that they would reconcile. She gives Takata a tape of her son's last trip to China, in which a renowned local singer promises to sing "Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles" to Kenichi if he returns. The story of King Guan in this opera mirrors the quest Takata decides to take; he will voyage to China and film this singer singing this song in order to present it to Kenichi. Perhaps this is Takata's only way to reconcile with his boy.

Takata's quest turns ridiculous (a la Yimou's masterpiece The Story of Qui Ju), but along the way he begins to understand what fatherhood means, and he must grapple with his failures and his terrible loneliness. It might be too late to reconcile with his own son, but Takata can help others.

There are flashes of Yimou's former brilliance as he coaxes fantastic performances from his actors and situates them in artfully planned widescreen shots, and the dense symbolism of Takata's experience in a land where he doesn't speak the language but struggles to be understood is wonderfully resonant. Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles barely misses its mark. Perhaps 15 minutes of editing would elevate the emotional impact a bit from the level of Hallmark Channel mini-series. Yimou always managed to elude melodrama before, here he falls a bit short. A Yimou near-miss is still worthy, however. I'm ecstatic that he's moved away from shooting Zhang Yi-Yi doing fake harness martial arts before a blue screen. I thought he'd never come back!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Fox Series?


I worried at a couple points that the third season of The Wire would derail. The scope of this TV novel was sufficiently enormous after season two, and with further additions to an already complicated fictional Baltimore I didn't think they could pull it off. Simon and Burns involve the machinations of the police brass, the mayor's office, and the city council this time around, fleshing out the context of street-level drug operations and police detectives from season one, and the story line never loses its edge despite taking on more bureaucratic themes. Richard Price, George Pelecanos, and Dennis Lehane help add realistic grit.

It's amazing how each of the three seasons is radically different. The first focuses on a loose band of detectives and grunts who try to crack a powerful drug operation, the second focuses on longshoremen and corrupt union officials trying to save a dying local industry by using money from smuggling to bribe politicos, and the third gets more deeply into the politics and corruption while tying up dangling plot lines from the first year. Cha and I are miserable now because Season Four isn't on DVD yet. We'll have to fill in time with Deadwood.

Aside from the great writing, the characters and incredible casting help make this series something special. The gifted but self-destructive Jimmy McNulty; the smooth gangster turned real estate mogul Russell "Stringer" Bell; tough-as-nails and sexy Detective Kima Greggs; the heroine addict and police CI Bubbles; the conflicted and vengeful Deputy Commissioner Rawls--I could go on. My personal favorite character has his shining moment as a righteous Angel of Wrath in season three:


Monday, February 05, 2007


Giving this CD a workout lately. I might like it as much as I Can Feel the Heart Beating as One, which is my favorite Yo La Tengo*. I Am Not Afraid is specifically rooted in the 1960s/very early 1970s, with extended acid jams reminiscent of Ummagumma/Atom Heart Mother/Meddle-era Pink Floyd. There are aesthetically-pleasing nods to John Cale("Black Flowers") and Roger McGuinn ("The Race is On Again"), to Velvet Underground and the pop psychedelics of bands like the Electric Prunes. The album is not stale, however, and manages to innovate while successfully weaving its way through more than a dozen musical styles. The singing is interesting, the harmonies more complex than other YLT I know. There is lots of gorgeous guitar shredding, of course. At times moody, challenging, and mysterious, I Am Not Afraid is not afraid to include pure pop ditties either.

I might be too busy this weekend to see their Friday show at Sonar--hopefully I can get away!

*Tip of the hat to Silenus, who started this.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Bull's Eye

Dan Savage has some appropriately acid words for Mary Cheney:

Again, Mary, nice try. You kept your mouth clamped shut when your father needed the political support of assholes like Dobson. And now that your dad is a despised lame-duck VP, dad?s gay-bashing political allies feel free to treat you with the same contempt with which they have long treated other gay and lesbians. And now you cry foul?

Sorry, Mary, and fuck you. You and your whole fucked-up family crawled into bed with bigots like Dobson when it suited you. And now you and your whole fucked-up family have some explaining to do. So welcome to the political debate, Mary, and remember?

Your side started it. It only serves you right that you?re going to have to finish it.

I'm a piggy

The Mrs. is off work today, ostensibly to pack some junk for the move, but in actuality to watch TV and surf the 'net all day.

So I called her and asked if she wanted to "do" lunch since she's close by, and we went to the Cafe Spice lunch buffet. I'm a piggy, because that's the second day in a row. Yesterday Flea and I ate there. The waiter asked me today which one was my wife and which one my girlfriend.

Cafe Spice is damn good. They've only been around for a couple months but I've eaten there six times. I think it's the best Indian buffet in Baltimore--certainly better than the Ambassador (and half the price), better than India Palace, better than Mughal Garden, better than that joint on 25th whose name I always forget, better than Akhbar, better by far than Bombay Grill, and is even better than Kumari, which previously was my favorite (though that's a blend of Nepalese and Indian). I like the fact they rotate through more obscure dishes, like broccoli masala and lentil paneer, and they always have a variety of veg and carni dishes. Their spicing is more intricate, more subtle than the other joints. The mulligatawny soup is amazing. Check it out.

A Rude Reminiscence

His Rudeness celebrates Molly Ivins:

She was goddamned smart, so smart she didn't have to flaunt it. So smart that she could use the down to earth side to say what she meant so all of us could understand it. She didn't suffer bullies. She loved Texas like a parent loves her child even after that child has gone on a three-state killing spree. She was unfailingly polite. And she could eviscerate anyone who was failing all of us with just an image or two. Those guttings will be desperately missed. That sense and celebration of the decency of the average American will be missed even more.

We've lost one of our defenders.

So does Paul Krugman, but without profanity.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


I'd planned about seven years ago to read Updike's Rabbit novels, but bumped into a skewering of the project by Gore Vidal that convinced me to push them off. Despite Vidal's criticisms I enjoyed Rabbit, Run. The characters are finely wrought, the banal and mundane existence of the hero is made to scintillate through authorial ingenuity, and the Molly Bloom-style moment of tragedy is quite effectively handled.

Plus, I'm a small-town PA boy myself, and I recognize the landscape, the characters, the worldview. On to the next three in the series.

RIP Molly Ivins

Silenced far too soon.


"Quirky" used to be an adjective, but now it's become a genre of film. Gather together some pitiably awkward and clueless characters and send them on an improbable mission. At the end, offer them redemption of some limited sort to show the audience it's ok to be pitiably awkward and clueless. Roll credits.

Into this increasingly tired formula, Little Miss Sunshine injects the following characters: a heroin-snorting foul-mouthed pornography hound granddad (Alan Arkin), a pudgy homely girl in ridiculous glasses who aspires to be a child beauty queen, a wholly uninspiring inspirational speaker (Greg Kinnear), a teenaged fan of Nietszche who hates everyone and who has taken a vow of silence, a gay Proust scholar who has attempted suicide over a series of catastrophes commenced by an unrequited love for a grad assistant (Steve Carell). What zany-ness! How much quirk can one insert into a single script?! Yawn.

Fortunately there's sufficient charm and some good performances, otherwise I would have shut this off twenty minutes in. The quirky formula quickly grows stale. Napolean Dynamite is a previous (and better) example, and has the same basic plot, including unaccountably hip nerd dancing at the end. Cha liked Little Miss Sunshine much more than I.