Thursday, July 30, 2009


When I was in the peak of my Lovecraft phase-somewhere between 1984 and 1989-I devoured just about everything I could find by the guy. For some reason, however, I never read At the Mountains of Madness. Looking back, it's likely because I read the rather tedious Randolph Carter dream cycle novellas, and wrote a lengthy paper on their Jungian symbolism, and I was simply exhausted by the ornate and often leaden prose and ready to move on. The idea of plowing through another HPL opus became distasteful, and I put him aside for a couple decades.

Of course I never really put HPL aside, aside from in the literal sense that I stopped reading him. Those stories, in the Del Rey paperbacks with the Whelan covers, continued to haunt me in the pleasantest sense of the term. Just last fall on a camping trip I took a half-hour walk into the woods alone after dusk, and HPL was there in full force. Any time there are mysterious and vaguely discerned figures half-lit in the woods I am totally immersed in Lovecraft again, and while traveling I often think of eldritch horrors while scrambling on some antideluvian ruin or other. And whenever I read words like: eldritch, antideluvian, shambling, nameless, unmentionable, bizarerie, etc, I know where I first read them, and think of falling into a merciful faint lest I remember some indescribable horror or other.

So I read At the Mountains of Madness at last, and while there were a few moments of the old HPL magic, I think the story is mostly an overblown drag, like many of his novellas. There's simply too much to strain credulity, like the fact that engineers and biologists have carefully read the Necronomicon before their arctic expedition, or that a couple of scientists with a few hours would be able to read a gazillion years of history on an alien culture's carved ruins, to make the book a pleasure. HPL is at his best when he has next to no description of his creepily imagined horrors: At the Mountains of Madness has too much description, and could lose 60 pages or so for superior mood and effect. Michael Chabon might be a huge fan of the book, but he's from Columbia, MD-what the hell does he know? Give me "The Horror at Red Hook," or "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," or best of all, "The Case of Charles Dexter Ward," which I'm re-reading tonight.

Of course I'll gladly go see a film version if Guillermo del Toro does so as rumored...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


I'm planning sometime this fall to take a stab at the Praxis II exam in French. I would like to get certified in another subject on top of Language Arts, and since my 2nd BA is in French Lit it makes sense to dust off my rusty grammars and do some practice.

Man, I forgot a lot after a couple years of dis-use! But this book is excellent, and I used it before to brush up when I was considering a government linguist job. It's funny how frustrating things which used to be second nature have become. My brain is rusty.

I wonder if there is a similar book for Spanish? It's a good method to gradually introduce grammar and vocabulary via real untranslated chunks of text. Make the reader figure out what's going on with a few clues!

Monday, July 27, 2009


I've about had it with caped crusader/superhero flicks. I find the genre more than bien épuisé, and the prospects of new Spiderman or Iron Man movies makes me want to puke. I didn't see Watchmen in the theater because Dark Knight was enough for one year.

I loved every minute of it, however, including the corny sex scenes, and at 2 hours and 40 minutes that's a lot to love! One of the themes of Moore's book is of course the exhaustion of the caped crusader story, so that helped. But the film stands on its own as quality entertainment: I think the performances were almost all up to par (sorry Silk Spectre II: you are the weakest link), and some of the actors were very good. I liked the look and feel of the flick, the special effects and costumes, and I really enjoyed Rorschach in prison.

[Of course, after imbibing a carafe of quality cab sauv, some quality "coffee," and a Percocet, any movie would be fun.]

And to all the purists/fanatics who decry changes to plot? I think this is an excellent adaptation of a dense comic, and the ending in the movie is BETTER than in Moore's book. Sorry!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Me and Ronaldinho in the Same Pic

kids are hilarious

Cha roped my niece and nephew into helping out at her Teaching Artist Institute conference in Annapolis, so they stayed the night last night. This morning I made them pancakes, eggs, and bacon, and while they were cleaning up after eating I asked my nephew if he fed the fish upstairs for me. "No," he said, "but I will now." Then he asked for Post-It notes, and brought one back which said "Dead Fish Declaration" at the top. "You need to sign this waiver so if your fish die it's not my fault," he said.

My niece is staying in Annapolis for a few days, but I'm fetching my nephew tonight because he has football camp tomorrow. I'm glad to have some time to kid-proof the house before his return. They were amused this morning because they looked in a beer stein on a bookcase last night and found a Plamegate condom with Karl Rove on it and the motto "Stop Leaks!" "We found your condom, Uncle Geoff," my niece said this morning. I was confounded until they described it to me, and I told them about Plamegate and how the condom was handed out at a political protest. Even though it was true, the story wasn't nearly glamorous enough for them. So now I'm going to make sure there are no other small surprises around for kids with "long fingers," as Great Grandma used to say!


the big 6-oh, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Occasionally I like the film adaptations of books better than I liked the source material. This is one of those times.

Meryl Streep could have made one film and been remembered for this one performance-it's a great one. Who was her dialogue coach? And Kevin Kline? What a great turn as brilliant nut-case Nathan. An actor of great physicality and charm and wit, whose career alas never matched the early promise here (loved him in A Fish Called Wanda). Of course Sophie had to make more than one choice, and all of them perturb.

Back to Work August 24th

I got up at noon today-well, actually yesterday, given that it is now 12:40am. I don't think I've slept in until noon since I was like 23 or 24. It was awesome! I woke up at 7, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Then I did the same at 10:30. At noon I was still tired but forced myself to get up and go for a run.

One month until school resumes, and I think I'm almost ready. I knew my job was stressful but didn't realize the burden of negative energy I was hauling around; I was still having work anxiety dreams-which are a lot like school anxiety dreams I used to have (forgetting the locker combo, or going to school with no pants on), but now I'm the teacher instead of the student-until about a week ago. I composed a resignation letter in my head about a dozen times in June and July, but never committed it to paper, and I think I'm over that now, and am back to thinking of lesson plan ideas, etc. I saw a couple former Booker T. students at ArtScape last weekend, and instead of cringeing I was able to smile and be friendly. A good sign.

Speaking of ArtScape--Ellen Cherry was freakin' fantastic. She had a good crowd and they were really attuned to what she was doing; they were listening to the words, and were responding to the songs. The trio format works well for EC. I like Mike Prout's guitar playing a lot, and her new old bassist is a fine addition. The weather was nice, some dude on a double decker bike rode through at one point, and there were even real live church bells which blended particularly well with the mood of a song. Kudos!

Tonight at rehearsal Kristen had a new song. She cooks up rhythmically interesting stuff, and I had about a half-hour to learn the song before we recorded it. It was fun to just kind of fire-off guitar parts on a brand new tune. (not all of them were good.) We spent most of our four-hour session recording harmonies and background vocals and experimenting. Poor Kristen, I hope she liked what we did to her tune. She is playing with Matt Rocks this Saturday at the Recher. Moonlighter!

Tomorrow night we are going to see AC Milan v. Chelsea at M&T Bank Stadium. Occasionally it's kind of nice to live less than 2 miles from the stadium. I'm hoping for Ballack to step up; he's faced Ronaldinho before, and for higher stakes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


The first time I watched Scenes from a Marriage I saw the theatrical release, winnowed down from three lifetimes to a mere one. I remember falling hard for Liv Ullman's performance, but not much else four or five years later.

The TV version is of course looser and there is much more space between the perfect marriage presented at the series' opening and the eventual post-apocalyptic relationship. Space is good for the most part, and I could happily watch these two actors (Ullman and Erland Johannsen)reading something totally worthless, like Family Guy scripts. Of course, Bergman's scripts are never worthless, and are only occasionally lame or banal. This one is excellent, and Bergman chose the right actors from his stable to bring this project home.

Ullman's performance is so good it makes me physically uncomfortable; I am literally right back in my childhood watching my mother go through her breakup and divorce. And Erland's role demands he play emotional Twister, which he manages with aplomb.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

long story short

my hard-drive kept crashing after 30 or 40 minutes, and because I couldn't get Windows to shut down properly it started generating crazy errors which required a re-install of Vista. Since I own a VAIO I have no re-install discs, so I was screwed for a few days, and offline.

I went to Best Buy yesterday, had a new, ultra-fast and twice as big hard drive installed. Then I called Sony and ordered the $60 re-install discs, which took an hour to load this morning. Now I'm re-installing security packages, purchased software, and things like QuickTime and iTunes.

I intend to be fully operational by this evening.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Not sure why this is considered Phil Dick's 'masterpiece.' I enjoyed The Man in the High Castle, but I much prefer the crazy pre-cog alternate-consciousness relgio-mystical Dick of say "Ubik" to the altnerate history Dick.

Of course there is a bit of the typical Phil, what with the I-Ching writing an alternative history novel within his alternate history novel. A couple of characters go completely berserk in a manner only Dick can pull off; you read Dick writing a nervous breakdown and you feel like he writes what he knows.

I like the way he imagines America under Japanese occupation, with clever changes in English syntax amongst the native Americans to match the diction of their oppressors.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

just do it

ratus interruptus, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Vial Behavior

Dear Junkies:

I appreciate that you have lived in my neighborhood longer than I have, but please stop putting your vials in my daisy pot. Every day I find new vials, and they're always empty! Help a brother out.



I don't recall putting this in my queue; I don't remember who recommended it or how I heard of it. Until I put it in the player, I didn't know it was Vietnamese.

Cyclo is satisfyingly grim art-house fare. The driver of a pedal trike in Hanoi has it stolen, likely by the woman who rents it to him. In order to pay back his deposit he begins doing thug work for her criminal gang. Because he's lost his family's major source of income, his sister has to endure the perverse fetishes of old men for money, and things deteriorate from there. A goldfish suffers horribly. Strobe lights flash. A local club plays Rollins Band and Radiohead. The upper crust eat meals at an outdoors restaurant decorated with US military equipment. There are murders, rapes, thefts.

One of the first art-house flicks I saw was The Scent of Green Papaya. Cyclo has a peculiar beauty akin to that other Vietnamese classic; perhaps I should re-watch it after 20 years.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Doubt holds my personal record for longest unwatched Netlix disc: I had it for more than 2 months before watching it yesterday. Just one of those choices which turned out to be less interesting upon arrival, and I kept shuffling it to the bottom of the pile.

It's worth seeing. Philip Seymour Hoffman is always worth watching, and here he goes head-to-head with Meryl Streep, who plays Bea Arthur as Maude playing a nun. The story hinges of course on doubt, the question being whether or not Meryl is correct in getting rid of a parish priest who may or may not be molesting children, when in fact she really is going after him because she dislikes his new-agey ways. The ambiguities are left to the viewer to untangle, which is as it should be.

Friday, July 10, 2009


I read at a snail's pace this year. I feel curiously unmotivated, unimaginative, and unmotivated, like I've lost my soul or spirit animal. I'm not writing much, not doing any deep thinking, and when I play word games on Facebook I score far below my typical levels.

When in the dumps it never hurts to get some good Dick. Here Phil splits himself into two characters: one called "Phil," which is the rational sci-fi writer, the other called "Nick," the part of Phil who had synchronistic and mystic experiences and visions. The things that happen to "Nick" are things which actually happened to "Phil," but in his novel Dick makes "Phil" the questioner, the seeker of logical explanations. "Nick" gets to serve as Host to a re-awakening 1st-century saint of some kind, in communication with an alien satellite. Or a Communist conspiracy? Who knows for sure?

Worth a read

If, like me, you're concerned that much of President Obama's 'change' is of the 'plus ca change, plus la meme chose' variety, then the current issue of Harper's will not disabuse you of this notion. Of particular note is this article by Kevin Baker, which compares Barack Obama to another self-made intellectual from humble beginnings who confronted a global economy in rapid decline. Everything about Hoover in this article directly contradicts what I was taught in high school and college history classes.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


jigsaw, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

tourist trap

tourist trap, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

until i get my laptop back online--hopefully sometime tomorrow--this will have to suffice.

back home. tired. house a mess. blech!

Monday, July 06, 2009


getting to nazca from lima via bus was difficult. i mean, the bus was very luxurious, with comfy seats, blankets, pillows, and snack service--but an 8-hour bus ride sucks no matter what the quality of conveyance. And unfortunately despite the comfort there was no way to turn off or turn down the sound of occasional kenny g tracks. and even worse were the movies: a Tim Allen xmas movie which ranks right up there with melanoma excision among the least favorite things i´ve experienced. And on the way home we saw some Disney flick about the Rock meeting his daughter for the first time. And Get Smart. And some David Mamet bullshit with Gene Hackmand and Danny DeVito. I want to punch David Mamet in the mouth for that one.

But the nazca lines were worth the bullshit. We got hustled right off the bus, exhausted and disoriented, and into a shuttle van to the airport. The entire ride down the coast was under gloomy skies, but just outside nazca the sun burst through, illuminating one of the bleakest environments i´ve ever seen. rocky mountains, hardscrabble towns, fake cacti shaped like crosses with ¨inti¨ instead of 'inri' on the top.

at the airport we were put in a tiny Cessna piloted by a 13-year-old with a kiwi business exec. Cha and I were lashed to the back seats and our companion got put up front as co-pilot. She didn´t seem pleased. But just before take off we were ordered out of the plane and told it was too windy to fly: worst nightmare! To come all that way and not get to flyover...

but the chattering in Spanish was saying it was too windy for the kid to fly us. we were moved to another plane, with a big pilot called El Gordo. This time I was put up front as co-pilot, not that there were any controls on my side, and not that i could have done a thing had El Gordo kicked off, given that the stick was lodged deep between his man bosoms. he in fact steered with his gut several times, gesturing to with both hands often as we buzzed along. 'the monkey, you see, beneath the wing! es ok?' he´d fly by banking so Cha and i on the right side could see, then he would bank hard, turn, and dive in so the lady on the left side could see. after a few minutes the kiwi stopped taking photos and turned green. el gordo was playing with hi-g pulls and turns and swooping us vigoursly. despite the earphones i could hear cha screeching in fear and delight. i thought it was a riot too, and got some video clips with my camera, but doubt any of pictures of the glyphs turned out. there was no time to focus, no time to zoom, and no room to manoeuver for shots anyhow.

after the flight we ate a late late lunch and crashed hard at 9pm. i was awakened by loud salsa music which blared from 1am until about 3 from the houses around the hotel, and then roosters woke me at 5 for good. we ate breakkies and went to the Didacto Antonini museum, which has a functioning nazca aquaduct in its yard, and which is very nice. There was a dog, a cat, a peacock, and about six peahens to keep us company as we toured the ceramic collection.

time to go get the mrs. her massage is done. we have time maybe for a snack before we go back to the hotel to meet our ride to the airport. i love peru, but now it´s time to go home.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Lima been

image source

much as we did with our four days in Cusco, we're using our time in Lima to chill a bit. We stroll, we take a cab somewhere, we eat, we stroll some more, we eat, we nap, we stroll. yesterday we saw a public and a private archaeological museum; both were fantastic. i love me some Mochica pottery and Chavin culture carvings! the number of advanced ancient civilizations in Peru continues to astonish...

at the Larco museum, we not only saw a marvelous array of pornographic pottery, we got to pet a really sweet Peruvian hairless. Today I got to pet three more at an adobe ziggurat here in Miraflores called Huaca Pullanca. Some of the dogs have no hair, others have comical mohawks and hair on the very ends of their tails. They are pretty cool, and would solve the 'Cha is allergic to dogs' problem we've always had with dog ownership. They also don't shed!

ate lunch on a cliff by the Pacific today. Cha is recovering from a bout of 'riding the bicycle,' a pleasant local euphemism for tourist's trots. Poor soul. I'll take getting pick-pocketed in Cusco over that any time.

Tomorrow we have a five-hour bus ride to Nazca, followed by a flight in a small plane over the lines. Can't wait. I've wanted to see the lines since I saw 'In Search Of...' with Leonard Nimoy back in like '74 or '75.

Can't believe the trip is almost over. We fly home late Monday night. How many more celebreties will die back home before we leave? On the same day MJ kicked off, a major Peruvian singing star was found murdered down here. Turns out her lesbian lover hired someone to kill her in a fit of jealous rage.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


the adventures just pile up. here i sit on the 2nd level of the Faraona Hotel in Miraflores, Lima. Pretty swank digs, really swank part of town. Cha is a bit under the weather so I just ran around town alone a bit to soak up the nightlife. It amuses me that when we were out and about earlier together, the locals sort of scowl at me, but when I walk around alone the chicas run out of shops and flirt. Aggressive marketing techniques!

We had a really fantastic time out on the lake. Puno, where we spent three nights total, is kind of a dump. There are fine restaurants, and the Dreyer Museum of pottery and gold pieces is very nice, but I didn't dig the town too much. But it was only the launching pad for our two-day tour of islands out on the lake, so Puno was worth it. There is also a grand black market if you need anything smuggled in from Bolivia across the water.

Uros is one of the most peculiar places I've been. The folks build islands out of reeds and float around in the lake. We visited a couple of these islands for a while and the people were very open and friendly, inviting us into their huts and showing us how they cook and weave and whatnot. They sang songs for us and we learned some Quecha.

Amantani, where we spent the night, is further out on the lake and is the quietest, cleanest place i've been. No cars, no phones, little electricity or plumbing. We slept in an adobe house where Anselma took quite good care of us. Our tour guide Kate spoke Quecha, English, Ayamara, Spanish, and a bit of French. She was awesome. When we arrived the islanders all hugged her; they've known her for years. I won't say much now because I want to get back and check on the mrs. and see if she is ready for dinner or if she needs meds. I'll just say that on Amantani I saw the stars of the southern hemisphere clearly, including the splash of Milky Way which is rare these days, and we climbed an immense mountain to circle a Tihuanico sun temple three times. Young girls molested us with their wonderful knitted wares for sale, and then we danced with the locals after they dressed us in traditional garb. And we slept on the lake in a room with no heat. Brrrr.

more later little ones. Lima is quite exciting. We walked to the beach earlier. VERY cosmo, like Rome or Paris.