Thursday, May 31, 2007

Net findings

Bock the Robber can angry up the blood with thundering righteous indignation, but he's also got a gift for old-time storytelling.

Check out the latest in his series of fairy tales:

The Last Songbird


The Sailor Who Drank the Sea

Now it remained me alone in the bush

You think you've got it rough? Try getting separated from your family during a guerilla insurgency and spending decades living in the Bush of Ghosts. Or, imagine losing the only palm-wine tapster who can keep up with your appetite for drink. After which you pursue the dead tapster into--you guessed it--the Bush of Ghosts.

Amos Tutuola writes an English liberated from its crusty grammatical and stylistic moorings, and this pidgin cleverly recreates a rhythmic oral storytelling style. The tales are absolutely ridiculous and feature one outlandish creature after another, constant ju-ju battles, and unendurable miseries. "The Short Ghosts and Their Flash-Eyed Mother," "On the Queer Way to Homeward," and "Invisible Magnetic Missive Sent to Me from Home" are only a few of the treats contained herein.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is nothing sacred?

You're Invited

Mark your calendars: June 30th is our tentative house-warming party date.

We had a gathering of wedding party members from Leesha and John's knot-tying, and an assortment of Cha's professional artsy associates dropped by that evening as well, but this will be our First Real Party at the New House.

Perhaps by then I'll find some bookcases and then we'll be fully unpacked!

An Evite or perhaps even snail mail invite will be forthcoming.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Receiving good customer service is always a pleasure, but after Prostatis Tax and Comcast treated me shabbily the effect was multiplied. I must relate that there are still organizations where customers ae treated reasonably and sympathetically.

I ordered a package from Amazon two weeks ago, and it was shipped shortly thereafter. I used a Gift Certificate to pay, and bought enough to qualify for free shipping. The book was marked as "delivered" via Amazon's package tracking capabilities last week, but I had not received it. I waited a couple days to see if the carrier had left it with a neighbor, but that turned out to be a false hope.

I emailed Amazon telling them that my order was marked "delivered" but I'd not received it. No less than four hours later a replacement shipment was in the mail at no cost to me, and I didn't have to fill in forms or complain to the USPS. And the email notifying me contained an APOLOGY and a PROMISE TO DO BETTER.

This wasn't even Amazon's fault. The mail carrier either lost it, mis-delivered it, or left it to be stolen off my stoop. And yet Amazon assumed full responsibilty. On a gift certificate reward order, for the delivery of which they'd paid shipping.

At Prostatis, greed trumps competence and accountability, and at Comcast the customer is immediately assumed to be either mentally deficient or lying.

Amazon didn't even ask me questions. They didn't suspect me of shenanigans or subject me to abuse or never-ending phone queues. At Amazon they do things right.

Happy Memorial Day

Can we just make it stop, please? Jesus.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Enter Sandman

We missed Spiderman 3 at the Historic Senator Theater, but saw it tonight at the Rotunda. Some flick called The Waitress was playing in the other theater, and a large number of octogenarians were waiting in line for that. Many of them were saddened when they couldn't get a ticket after it sold out, and opted to see Spiderman instead.

Good Lord. I thought teenagers in movie theaters were bad.

The woman next to me kept up a running commentary: "What's that thing? This chair is broken. I can't hear. This is crazy. Who's that man? I bet he comes back again! Who would marry that pipsqueak? See, I knew he would come back! That's that fella from Wings, isn't it? He's always playing dumb guys. Who could like this?"

Her companion was no better: "Your seat ain't broken, you just have to put it down before you sit on it. That gal is ugly. All these fellas in their tight costumes are light in the loafers. Who's that guy? Why is the mirror talking?"

There was an old guy two rows down from us who shouted everything that happened: "That's Stan Lee, fer Christ's sake! That's Thomas Haden Church! Look at that, he sliced him with a blade! That's a sticky mess! He's throwing bombs!"

It was hell. I didn't much like the movie anyhow, but admired Thomas Haden Church's gritty performance. I also liked Bruce Campbell as a French waiter. I saw Bruce in an Old Spice commercial recently and it made me sad.

Sam Raimi and Pete Jackson need to do zombie flix again. Soon.

Fruit Man

We don't have the luxury of a walk-to market anymore, but the produce man comes to visit us weekly. Today he was excitedly showing off his new cart and new horse. I wonder what happened to the old horse?

Friday, May 25, 2007


proves that Mel Gibson has more in common with Leni Riefenstahl than anti-Semitism and a penchant for Fascism. Gibson also shares her keen eye for capturing the athletic human form in aesthetically pleasing and sumptuous ways. I found the film at once shockingly beautiful and troubling, and enjoyed it more than The Departed, The Queen, or The Last King of Scotland.

Gibson may be a raving lunatic at times, but whatever demons he's wrestling don't prevent him making interesting films. Upon its release, A.O. Scott wrote a review in the New York Times which was backhandedly enthusiastic. Scott simultaneously praised Apocalypto and damned it as more interesting than good. I'd agree with that assessment, but found Apocalypto very interesting--definitely interesting enough to overcome its plot shortcomings. I think Scott complained about the pornographic violence, while admitting the film was technically superior. It's a stirring evocation of a lost culture, an imaginative and brutal achievement, and was perhaps intended as a visionary plea for ecological sense and against imperial hubris.

Would I call Gibson an artist? I don't know. He's tackling vital current issues* in this film, which is his best directorial effort--much better in fact than the oft-lauded Braveheart. The story? Mostly forgettable, but I was enthralled throughout. As a recreation of a lost civilization it's on a par with another underappreciated masterwork, Fellini's Satyricon. The sequence in the Mayan city is brilliant. The Mayan religion at last has its own Sign of the Cross. And no, it is no exaggeration to compare this film to a Cecil B. DeMille classic.

Good Lord, perhaps I am calling Gibson an artist.

*Gibson opens with a quote by Will Durant, something to the effect that internal decay defeats an empire before external threats can. Is this the standard right-wing twaddle about moral decadence leading to God's wrath? Gibson's film does imply the Mayans had it coming when the Spaniards arrived to wipe them out. Their naughty and brutally repressive political and religious classes are wonderfully portrayed in the film. I think, intentionally or not, that Apocalypto is richer and more subtle than one would expect, knowing what we know about Mel's personal belief system.


More often than not, reading children's lit and writing curricula is a rather tedious business, but it was fun to re-read Island of the Blue Dolphins after nearly 30 years. I enjoyed it as much this second time as I did when I was a wee lad. In fifth grade O'Dell's novel opened my mind to the joys of reading, so I owe him a debt of gratitude. I went from O'Dell to The Hobbit and haven't stopped questing for good books since.

I had no idea that O'Dell based the book on a real island. Nor did I know that he based it loosely on a true story.

[Spoiler Alert] It's still sad when Rontu dies.

It's also fun to note that a book I found tedious as a child

still strikes me as clumsy and uninteresting. I don't get its popularity. I don't like the characters, and the story is boring. Perhaps the others are better?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Get yer kicks at age 66

Happy Birthday, Bob.

里奈写真 828

里奈写真 828, originally uploaded by shinpei.

I reiterate: you find the strangest things on Flickr.

Keith is the word...

Olbermann did a Special Comment last night about the Democratic leadership caving to Bush on Iraq. It's indeed special, and worth a watch. While other networks were discussing the mortal combat of those titantic intellectuals Rosie and Elizabeth on The View, Olbermann was kicking ass and naming names.

I blame this situation on the selection of conservative Blue Dawg Steny Hoyer ("D"-MD) over Jack Murtha as Majority Leader.

Keith is right: throw the bums out.

If the Congress doesn't have the balls to end the war, the people will have to take more direct action.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Not my department

Customer service "online chat" with Comcast rep:

Me: Hello. Back in late December I spoke on the phone with Comcast about transferring service to my new address. I spoke with a nice woman who told me service was not available at the new address. She gave me the number of someone to call the next day. I was on the phone with her for more than 30 minutes as she searched for information. The next day I was again on the phone for 30 minutes. The second person—a male—advised me again that Comcast had no service capabilities at my new address. I asked him to cancel my service effective in February. He said that was no problem. He said I should return my equipment within six months of the cancellation. He said he was sorry they could not transfer my service, but that he would put in a service call and alert me if they installed cable at my new address.

Now it is May and I just received, forwarded from my old address, a bill for two months service.

Hi. I am sorry. You will have to call Comcast. I cannot help you in online chat.

Me: I refuse to spend another 30 minutes on the phone with a new person.

Lynda: You have no choice.

Me: I have no choice?

Lynda: You have no choice.

Me: I was billed for service at my old address, where I no longer live. Just look at my account, see that I called Comcast in the past as I said, and cancel my service.

Lynda: I can only answer customer service questions.

Me: So billing complaints are not customer service questions?

Lynda: No. They are billing complaints.

Me: Actually, I emailed customer service from your website. They told me to chat, and gave me this link to do so. They sent me to you after I told them what my problem was.

Lynda: Customer service made a mistake. They should have sent you to billing.

Me: Is there a billing chat?

Lynda: No. There is only the phone number.

Me: I told you, I am not calling again. I was told this was resolved months ago. It was not. This is YOUR mistake, not mine. I should not be troubled any more than I already have been.

Lynda: You have no choice.

I have no choice? I already made my choice. I got DirectTV.

Lynda: I mean about your bill. You must contact us by phone.

How about if I continue to allow you to bill me at my old address, for service that does not exist, at an empty house that is undergoing renovation?

Lynda: Then we will continue to charge you and your file will be referred.

Me: My file will be referred to whom?

Lynda: Collections. Collections uses third-party contractors to coerce payment.

Me: Is there a collections chat?

Lynda: No. This is the only chat. We answer customer service FAQs. We do not answer billing or collections or maintenance or equipment.

Me: What do you answer?

Lynda: Questions about who you should call.

Me: So the chat is functionally useless? You only exist to tell me I have to call anyway?

Lynda: You would have to ask complaints.

Me: Let me guess.

Lynda: There is no complaints chat. You have to call Comcast.

Me: What are you wearing?

Lynda: A Comcast shirt and black jeans.

Me: I read this Kafka story.

I ended up driving to Comcast in White Marsh at lunch. It took 20 minutes to get there, and I was yelled at by some guy for calling TOO SOON to cancel my service. “You should call the same week, not six weeks ahead,” he screamed. I told him that the customer service at Comcast was beneath contempt, and asked him who I should complain to. He gave me the link for the online chat. They are still trying to bill me for two months' service at the old house.

Plastic Fantastic Lover

Another sign of imminent Apocalypse.


a47, originally uploaded by jodoherty42.

As Leesha and Big Red snorkel around the Galapagos on honeymoon, we get to babysit their Yorkie/Chihuahua mix Chalupa. Needless to say, all the street-cred I developed walking Shino the pitbull around town has evaporated. Now I get sneers from the local toughs, who comment about that "cat on a leash," or that "guinea pig," or that "ferret."

Of course the local ladies adore Chalupa, and they stroke her with their long fake fingernails, painted with Van Gogh or Picasso complexity. The neighborhood kids love her too, and flock around her at the Park.

We had a dog sleep in our bed last night for the first time since we were dating, when Thor the Great Dane would squeeze in with us. Thor weighed 30 times what Chalupa weighs. The big worry with Thor was that he'd get into a position and remain fixed there all night. If his position was your chunk of bed, you were fucked. The big worry with Chalupa is rolling over and smothering her.

Because of Cha's allergies, we made Chalupa sleep on the floor the first night. This just didn't work out. Every hour Chalupa would circle the bed (which is too high for her to jump onto), toenails clicking nervously, whining softly, until I would reach down and pet her, at which point she'd harrumph and retreat to her little rug, only to stir moments later and begin circling again. Last night I put an Ikea stepstool by the bed so she could join us, and we enjoyed an uninterrupted repose.

Sheer vanity (plates)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


A good one. Beatty nails this role with the appropriate warmth and intensity, and even shows off an exquisite comic timing. Diane Keaton is also excellent in what amounts to the most substantial role I've seen her play. Jack Nicholson is superb as the brutal cynic Eugene O'Neill, and Paul Sorvino, Gene Hackman, Jerzy Kosinski, and Maureen Stapleton round out a great cast.

Reds is not only about John Reed and the American socialist/communist Left leading up to and following the Bolshevik takeover in Russia--it is also a powerful romantic film. What Louise Bryant went through to try and rescue her husband from a Finnish jail is truly harrowing.

The entire history of America's response to the Bolsheviks is here: the Palmer Raids, the witch hunt trials and Congressional investigations, the jailing of dissidents, the little-known active military campaign against Russia after Lenin and his cohorts siezed power. At 3 hours plus the film is not wearying, which is an achievement in itself. Beatty impresses as writer/director; this is an enormous epic, and it stands the test of time.

Mixed into the narrative are documentary snippets featuring reminiscences by veteran reds and fellow travelers. These old souls, dessicated by an idealism gone monstrously wrong, remain largely unrepentant, and add an interesting historical backdrop. Henry Miller talks about fucking then and fucking now. Now, of course, being 26 years ago.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Whatever happened to...?

Instead of eating lunch today I sat on a bench in the Courthouse garden and read. As I sat I thought about a freaky dude I used to know when I worked at the bookstore more than 10 years ago. Doogie was a quiet, unassuming artistic type for the most part, but with a violent temper that left--literally--holes kicked through sheetrock walls in the back offices on occasion. Doogie used to sit on a bench in the Courthouse garden at lunch, instead of eating in the breakroom with the rest of us. We thought he was weird, because there were cool people at Borders back then, and the lunchroom was a riotous place to be, particularly during the Cosmo sex quiz era. Doogie would stay at the store overnight sometimes to use the store VHS and laserdisc players to watch movies because he lived in a cabin in the woods with no electricity.

So now I avoid eating with co-workers, and opt to spend my lunch time alone, sitting where odd Doogie used to sit. It's hard to find alone time these days, and harder to find time to read, so I guess maybe Doogie wasn't all that strange. Most of the fun, cool people who work in my office are recluses too anyhow: there's the fantastically brilliant woman who--were she capable of overcoming a painful shyness--would break records on Jeapardy!; there's my office-mate, an amateur ornithologist who spent 30 years teaching science in Catholic school; there's the woman whose husband keeled over in a midwestern airport recently when they were going to visit their daughter. He was barely into his 50s, and was thought to be in good health, and now she floats wraith-like amongst the cubicles. There are many hyper-intelligent and likely fun people here who, like me, just want to be alone.

Doogie seems to have moved on to better things, and I wish him well. Funny how Google can solve little mysteries.

And speaking of dudes I used to work with at Borders:

A Done Deal

The Cruz/Vondracek wedding went smashingly Saturday. Father Dave--who I suspect was pulling on a three foot bong before the Mass--enlisted the attendants' aid in constructing a "force field of love" to deflect a gathering rainstorm. It worked for the duration of the service, which included all the traditional Filipino touches (binding the couple in cords which function like Hephaestus' trap for Ares and Aphrodite, wrapping them in a coccoon of silk, and a parade of titos, titas, ninongs, and ninangs). Father Dave rushed through the Mass in a record 45 minutes*, as he was badly jonesing for Cheetos (Corpus Christi CRUNCH!). He only referred to Leesha as 'Theresa' once, and then denied it, but his faux pas was caught on tape.

The reception was a great time, and featured the triumphant return of Move Like Seamus after a too-long hiatus. I pulled out all the drunken-white-man dances in my vast repertoire: the Funky Chicken With Its Head Cut Off, the Running Man with Sciatica, the Mashed Mr. Potatohead, and the Tangoed Up in Blue. Some of the Canadian contingent of Flip Aunties objected that there was no linedancing tune, but Cha got them up to do the Hustle anyhow.

It took a while to find Dadong for the daddy/daughter dance, but all turned out well.

Now the happy couple are off to Ecuador and thence to Galapagos for two weeks of relaxation. We wish them the best, and will make the most of our babysitting duties.

*Our wedding took twice as long.

Friday, May 18, 2007


Yesterday was Leesha and Big Red's wedding rehearsal. The priest was a no-show, so Cha and Leesha did their best to organize everyone for a couple basic run-throughs.

"I cursed a priest."

Exhausted from her labors, the flower girl found a small desk at the rehearsal dinner. It was intended of course for decoration, but Emily thought it a practical and inviting nook for the consumption of chicken fingers and fries.

The cutest picture evah.

For much of dinner the flower girl and ringbearer treated Tita Leesha like a jungle gym.

Much later I fell victim to the same treatment.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Once upon a time Gore Vidal claimed Christopher Hitchens as intellectual heir. I'm sure Vidal regrets that decision lately, as Hitch spends his time sucking up to neocons and spreading sunshiney falsehoods about the Iraq war.

But his old contrarian genius still exists, as this clip on Jerky Falwall illustrates. One hopes Hitch someday returns to his senses full-time.

Meme Spirited

Steven Hart whacked me with The Eight Things Meme. It's been a LONG time since I was similarly tagged*, and answering these questions will only delay me from starting his new book, en route from Amazon at last.

Eight [random things about me] is enough:

1. I met my wife working at a McDonald's. She was 15 and I was 18 at the time. We went to the same high school but never met there.

2. I'm continuously skeptical and suspicious to a fault, but I also believe bizarre and foolish things. I adore conspiracy theories of all shapes and sizes. I blame this on Leonard Nimoy and his craptastic speculative TV show In Search of..., which poisoned my mind back in the '70s.

3. I used to rail against the Bush family during the late '80s and early '90s, and told people the Bushes would one day destroy America. Like all prophets, I was maligned for outlandish and unsupportable statements, the painful truth of which has now been revealed to all global citizens, excepting 29% of Americans.

4. My most intense aesthetic experiences have been in Gothic and Romanesque churches. I could sit in Chartres for a couple hours every day for the rest of my life.

5. A list of my greatest intellectual heroes would include Sigmund Freud, Noam Chomsky, Carl Jung, David Attenborough, and the Marquis de Sade. The list is typically much longer, but today I'm feeling particularly anti-intellectual.

6. I almost choked to death on a chicharrone while driving a desolate highway through the Yucatan. Completely unable to breathe, I pulled over, opened the car door, and was nearly struck by a speeding tractor trailer as I stepped out of the car. Although I was in great pain and my wife was freaking out, I was prepared to sit on the shoulder of the highway and meet Death. As soon as I accepted Death the chicharrone slipped down my gullet. I'd had a very similar experience nearly drowning when I was two years old.

7. I believe Darwin's Theory of Evolution is correct in its description of processes, but I'm convinced evolution is actually the result of conscious self-awareness. In my opinion, the gradual unfolding of life forms has little to do with random mutations and/or the weeding out of useless traits. I think Intelligent Design is bunk, however, and that it only accurately describes its proponents' lack of intellectual capacity.

8. I was horribly disappointed when Y2K didn't happen.

The tradition is to share the wealth when you get a meme, lest some broken-chain-letter fate befall you. It's likely nobody will bother, but let's see what the following people have to teach us:







Any of you non-blogging lurkers can post your random 8 in the Comments bin.

*The last time I got tagged was when Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake hit me with a music meme. Back then she had about 8 readers. Now, of course, she gets 2,000,000 hits a week, and deservedly so. I of course claim no causal connection between digitally tagging me and an explosive increase in traffic, but The Opinion Mill and STEVENHARTSITE deserve a similar increase, and you should check them both out. Steven wields an incisive--nigh Menckenian--wit.

Bop-bop boppin' along

One of my earliest memories is of finding a baby robin on the sidewalk in front of our home in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. I must have been five years old. I was playing with a cap pistol, or perhaps with a water-pressure-propelled rocket toy I loved. My idiot father was seated on a green-and-white lawn chair on the front porch, sipping freshly brewed iced tea that was still hot despite the melting cubes. I remember the way the tea confused me when I tasted it, the hot and cold distinct sensations in the same green cup. The birdling was in a sorry state after falling from its nest, but it was alive. I remember squatting next to it and poking with my finger at its grey mass. Weakly, it lifted its head and began to gape. The interior of its mouth was hideous, and I became scared, but was also filled with pity.

I told my father about the baby bird, and he attempted to pick it up, at which time two robins attacked him in sheer parental protective rage. The were flapping furiously around his head and I can vividly see to this day my father running south along the sidewalk down Main Street, his arms above his head, the birds squawking and lunging at his eyes. They chased him around the block to the cemetary and thence to the backyard of our house, from where he finally escaped into the kitchen.

This memory brought to you courtesy my office mate, who forwarded this Baltimore Sun story, which cracked me up.

[Image courtesy of The Animal Communication Project]

Have I relieved myself on his provisions?

After Cormac McCarthy's dire post-apocalyptic The Road, I needed a more optimistic and silly post-apocalyptic read. Tatyana Tostaya's The Slynx fit the bill.

Centuries after The Blast, life in Russia is hard. Peasants struggle to eek out a living catching mice for food. The great ruler Fyodor Kuzmich employs some of them in the copying of books, which he claims to have written. The few remaining Oldeners--who became mysteriously immortal upon surviving The Blast--know better, however. There are a variety of mutants with a variety of Consequences. Some breathe fire (which no one knows how to make), some have extra limbs, some have tails, some exhibit strange growths. But there is rusht to smoke, rusht beer to drink, and mice stew to keep one going through the harsh winters. A mysterious catlike monster meows pitiably from the woods at night, and everybody fears the Slynx will get them and drain their souls.

Benedikt copies books for the great leader daily, but never really gets what they're for until he copies The Little Gingerbread Man and is powerfully moved. Then he marries into a rich family with a full library, and the Consequence is a new Russian revolution. Meet the new boss, same as the old: even the Apocalypse can't change Russia.

Tolstaya is Leo Tolstoy's great-grandniece, and she's written a clever novel that projects Russia's current state of dystopia centuries into the future, but with humor rather than doom and gloom. A Gogolesque fantasy worth checking out.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


You know you're getting old when the space probes launched in your youth are somewhere far beyond Pluto.

The contents of the Gold Records [by K-Tel] attached to the Voyager craft were selected largely under the supervision of the late Dr. Carl Sagan. In reading up on the history of the Voyager program, I found out that Dr. Sagan was a life-long inhaler of cannibus fumes, and credited much of his creativity and ingenuity to snapping bong hits.

Far out, Carl. This knowledge has led me to a deeper understanding of some features of the Cosmos series, such as you riding down the graphic representation of a black hole as though it were a sliding board, and the prevelance of Vangelis on the soundtrack.

Happy Birthday

Drink some suds in honor of Studs.

Let the Eagle Soar

It's hard to admire John Ashcroft. His politics are disturbing to say the least. Statue boob-covering and the anointing of Justice Department staff with oil a la some Old Testament patriarch? Looney Toons indeed.

But Comey's testimony yesterday shows that there are depths to which even Ashcroft wouldn't go for the Cheneyites. He stood his ground from a hospital bed, and perhaps preserved a bit of Constitution that otherwise mightn't have made it.

maybe--the doorway to another world?

Yahtzee alerted me to this musical, which ideally will sweep the Tonys some day.

It could work. It worked for Planet of the Apes, after all:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Farewell, Falwell

I hope at Baltimore Pride that there is a big parade in Jerry's honor. He deserves it, for spreading so much love.

It continues

A streak of bum luck continued with the illumination last night of my car's engine service light, and the commencement of alarming sounds from beneath its hood.

Then, my Inspiron laptop croaked at the tender age of 4, taking stupidly un-backed-up files with it. "No bootable devices found" = dead hard drive. Bullshit.

Eh, what can one do?

I did get wine, a shoe-fly pie, a living room rug, and cookware for my birthday. All part of the great trade-off we call life.

Monday, May 14, 2007


This goofy re-hash of the premise of Three's Company works surprisingly well. Danny Auteuil plays Pignon, who is about to be fired as an accountant at a condom factory because he's a dull dimwit. His neighbor concocts a scheme to save Pignon's job by having Pignon pretend to be homosexual. Under the prevailing PC sensitivities, firing a homosexual is a non-non, particularly given the condom manufacturer's customer base.

So Pignon stays on, and in steps Gerard Depardieu as Santini, the macho HR man and homophobe. Some of his office mates are tired of Santini's un-PC humor, and start the rumor that Santini is about to be fired for a lack of sensitivity to Pignon's plight. Let the games begin!

Auteuil and Depardieu prove that fine actors can rescue sub-par material. Depardieu in particular carries the burden here, demonstrating the same uncanny authenticity that made Spencer Tracy great in similar corny rolls. If French cinema were a French meal, and Renoir and Godard were the entree or plat principal, then Le Placard would be at best a digestif, perhaps with a side of cheese. I liked it nonetheless.

Friday, May 11, 2007

y Coca-Cola tambien

Every seven years or so, my birthday falls on Mother's Day. This makes for a convenient 2-birds-with-one-stone celebration. Actually, if you celebrate the Lemuralia, it's 3-birds-with-one-stone. And if you celebrate, as I do, Harvey Keitel's birthday, it's 4...

Sunday Mommie Dearest is visiting, and the mother-in-law, and Sis and her brood. We're going to cast beans over our shoulders while walking barefoot around Reservoir Hill. Damn lemurs!


Downtown, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Withering Heights

Withering Heights, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

From the fire escape outside our master bath.

At the Mountains of Madness

Alpine, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Cloud porn

Get to the root cellar!, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

For two days in a row we've had these wonderful cloud formations just to the east. Had to go up on the roof and take some snaps.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bye Bye Blair

I saw this video in France in 2002, but never saw it here in the US.

Public Service Announcement

One more note about the 2005 back-taxes fiasco, then I'll leave the topic forever:

Don't, under any circumstances, use Prostatis*Tax, Estate & Financial Planning**. The errors made on my 2005 return were obvious upon review, and cost me hundreds of dollars in late fees and interest. Prostatis does not guarantee their work, and will not re-imburse clients if errors result in fees and interest charges. They won't even refund the amount paid for faulty services, nor will they offer a credit or coupon for future services. All I got was an an admission of guilt and an apology: "I'm sorry. I wish there was something more I could do. You should send a check to the IRS immediately."

The entire point of using a tax preparer is to avoid costly errors.

Prostatis strongly encourages clients to show their loyalty via client referrals. I'm taking the liberty to use the Internets to chase clients away from them.

*Who names their financial organization after a prostate condition that results in urinary incontinence?

**I'm referring specifically to the location at 809 Glen Eagles Court, Suite 109 Towson, MD 21204--but doubt there are different or better customer service policies at other offices.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What goes around

I was reading about Vajrayana Buddhism earlier today. One of its doctrines is that every event in life is specifically geared to teach you something about your present circumstance. Painful occurences emerge from a boiling cauldron of karmic debt to say: "Hey, fuckhead, wake up you miserable bastard and PAY ATTENTION." The problem is being awake enough to notice and interpret these continuous synchronicities.

I can't get over the fact that out of the blue I received an enormous bill for back taxes from 2005. I mean, we owe more than I paid for my car a few months ago. The IRS found three errors in our return for that year, 'professionally' prepared and all.

What is most striking is the specific amount owed. It's precisely the amount I'd saved, the exact amount of the cushion I'd been so pleased to have between check-to-check living and a comfy worry-free existence. Only slightly less striking than the amount is the timing of this bill. I'd been gleefully thinking about this money for weeks, about how I was going to put it in a CD for a rainy day, about how nice it was to have money to think about.


Were I enlightened I'd be able to puzzle out what karmic obligations brought this about. For now I resolve not to care. It could be worse, after all--we could owe MORE than I have in savings. I suppose being comfortable is bad for my degree of enlightenment. I needed an event that, in the words of Reginald A. Ray, "adresses [my] entrapment." Unfortunately I don't feel liberated.

[Image courtesy of]

Won't somebody think of the children?!

Atrios posted a couple links about underage kids who make their own pornography and who face prosecution for violating child pornography laws. I've thought about this in the past, and not because I'm a perv, but because I saw it coming years ago, during "controversial issues" discussions in ENGL102 classes I taught.

If teenagers film themselves having sex without adult coercion or an intended adult audience, should they be charged as criminals? A huge swath of murky gray area exists around current laws, particularly given the conflicted state of sexual morality in the US and the level of accessible technology.

Students in my classes as early as seven or eight years ago were discussing saucy pictures of themselves that they'd sent to friends during middle school. Kids have access to the technology to easily make their own films nowadays, and of course kids also have easy access to pornography--they don't have to hunt it down like we did when I was in middle school. No amount of parental supervision will prevent them finding every possible genre of video with relative ease.

Of course teens being put in jail for violating laws designed to protect them is ridiculous, but it's an inevitability. Imagine the hysteria coming down the pike! Hopefully we get a Supreme Court capable of looking at the issue rationally in coming years.

What Ma told me

A couple times a week I walk over to my mother-in-law's for lunch. This is partly out of guilt for moving her in across the alley from us in Towson and then ditching her when we moved to Baltimore 6 months later, but mostly it's because Ma is a good cook. I can't go every day because she makes so much food I might get taba. Yesterday I got chicken adobo, fried tofu, fried rice, steamed broccoli, and candied mongo beans. That's a better buffet than most of the local restaurants, and the price is right to boot. Oh, and we watch the Price is Right. I had no idea Bob Barker is stepping down at long last. His retirement will leave Big Bird as the only TV character still around from my childhood.

Sometimes I ask Ma about her life in the Philippines. She was a child when the Japanese invaded and took over the family home for use as an ammo dump. Ma and her family lived in a field by digging a hole and putting metal and plastic over top. The Japanese executed people in her village by beheading them with swords in the town square.

Ma, like many people of her age, has severe racial prejudices. She doesn't like African-Americans. She hates the Chinese. But despite her youthful experiences during the war, she has no prejudice against the Japanese. I can't figure it out. But recently she told me a story that helped:

"You know? There are good Japanese. They are like us. Some of them had to do what they did. They didn't want to, but they had to. Some of them take care of us children. They think we look like their babies at home. Some of them help when they can with food and water. When the Americans are coming the Japanese General, he say 'kill everybody. Kill the villagers.' We did not know. We thought we were saved because the Americans are coming back. But the Japanese are sending soldiers to kill us. Two of the Japanese soldiers run very fast ahead. They run for miles, and it is dangerous to do it because they might get catched. They come and they say 'Run away, the Japanese General says to kill you! The soldiers they are coming!' Everybody is running. We escape into the jungle. Those men save the town. Why did they do that? They are like us."

Ma also tells great stories about escaping Marcos's martial crack-down with the family gold stuffed in her bra. She was incredibly lucky to get out, but then was a Marcos supporter over here, and supported Reagan who adored that wretched fascist. People make no sense. If they did they'd be less lovable.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hair net? What's that?

E., our gregarious next-door neighbor. On Sunday he hosted a brunch welcoming us to the neighborhood. Several neighbors dropped by, and we met many members of E.'s family.

On the menu: fried chicken, eggs, sausage, bacon. And for "you vegetable-eating types": baked apples, grits, croissants, danish.

Monday, May 07, 2007


I'd been too happy of late, and figured a reckoning of sorts was in order. Be careful what you wish for! We love our new house, our neighbors had a big welcoming brunch for us Sunday, we were settling into a comfortable rhythm of life. We were planning to spend the remaining money from the sale of our old place on a trip to Europe, when...

the [brand new] toilet in the master bath started running 24/7.

the [brand new] HVAC system in our house went haywire.

Cha's VW failed to start at IKEA this afternoon.

I got a bill from the IRS saying we owed a ludicrous amount in back taxes and penalties from 2004 [I hire a pro to do my taxes--he'll be paying the interest and fees if I get my way].

All in all, a good day. I'm drinking wine tonight. To excess. Let's hope this streak ends now.