Sunday, December 31, 2006

2007

Happy New Year, everyone. Let's hope it's a good one, without any tears.

Rob

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Oh, ho?

Had a lot of amazing Christmas surprises yesterday and the day before. But possibly the most surprising of all was how much I enjoyed sitting down with my brothers and watching the Eagles crush the Cowboys. A Christmas miracle -- not just the victory itself, but that I was so into it.

Go Birds!

Rob

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Coal For Your Stocking

Celene Dion. Singing what?

You don't wanna know.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Try to behave next year, willya?

Rob
(Via TPM, believe it or not)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

McCain Gets Cold Feet


Why else would he hire NJ sock puppet Jill Hazelbaker to be communications director for his New Hampsire campaign?

Oh, what fun we'll have.

Rob

Naughty/Nice

Let’s start out with Nice. Here’s “There’s Something About ‘Merry,”’ a great article from Entertainment Weekly on the evolution of one of my favorite Christmas songs, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I surprise myself by liking the 1957 Sinatra lyrics best, which I thought were the originals until I read this. What’s your favorite set?

And then, since you’ve been so nice, let’s get a little naughty. Here’s an episode of one of my favorite shows, Deadwood – with just the swearing. What’s your favorite swear word?

But remember… if your press play before Christmas, Santa will know you’ve been naughty. And then he’ll smother you in your sleep.

Rob

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Evolution of Bumper Stickers

In the train station parking lot this morning, I saw a bumper sticker that read, "Marine Aunt." Which is a nice show of support for the driver's nephew, and a reminder that those with immdiate family members aren't the only ones affected by this (or any) war.

But the sticker got me thinking -- something about it seemed a little odd, like there might have been a clever idea at the heart of it, and then it went through a variety of permutations for different situations. Giving it some thought, I concluded that it's probably a variation on another bumper sticker: "Army Aunt." Which is pretty funny, actually.

Rob

Monday, December 18, 2006

Loofah Trouble


We've got a loofah (not a falafel) that hangs from an attached suction cup in our shower. Which is well enough, I guess. Except that sometimes the cup and the shower itself are too wet to hang it well, and it just slides down the wall. But what's worse is when the loofah just pops off the wall and lands on the shower floor. Because then I'm bent over, trying to pick up the loofah despite a suddenly very functional suction cup.

It's moments like these when I'm glad I'm not in prison.

Rob

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Because Mark Doesn't Blog Enough


My friend Mark sent me this link to this performance by Jerome Murat in an email. It's fascinating stuff, and I think you'll want to watch.

Thanks, Mark!

Rob

A Little More Christmas Cheer

First up, a video of Styx's James Young singing Tom Lehrer's "A Christmas Carol." Kathy & I were at this performance at the Bottom Line in NYC -- it was part of Glen Burtnik's annual Xmas Xtravaganza.

Second, I thought I'd pass along the holday wishes from Chris' Invincible Super-Blog (one of the funniest comics blogs in the whole of the interweb) and Marvel's primary spokesman for holiday cheer: Luke Cage.

Rob

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Regifting

Jeri's written about this, but I just have to pass on her link to The Sneeze, where you can hear a version of "Oh Holy Night" that will forever change your standards of "so bad it's good." I heard it at work a couple days ago, and couldn't stop smiling. At home, playing it for Kathy, we were both doubled over in paroxysms of laughter. It starts out run of the mill bad, but then ups the ante... and then ups it again.

Go. Behold.

Rob

Maybe I'm Just an Old Fogey


But "modernizing" the art in Archie Comics seems so wrong to me.

So very wrong.

Then again, it's their business, and these images might appeal to today's kids more than the old waffle-iron-headed Archie. They've gotta do what they think is right for the property. But man, seeing more realistic versions of the Riverdale gang gives me the screamin' heebie-jeebies in a way I can't quite explain.

Rob

Santa Scare


Santa scared the shit outta me.

Despite the picture at right, I'm not talking about a bad Santa experience back when I was four or five. No, I'm talking about this morning.

Kathy & I were awakened by a banging on the door. (Yes, it was 11:00. Yes, we were asleep. No, we don't have kids. Why do you ask?) So, I threw on some PJs and went to answer it, when suddenly I heard the wailing of sirens. LOTS of sirens. We live a block away from a firehouse, but I don't think I've ever heard so many sirens. Someone's house was burning down. Was it ours? I didn't smell smoke, but my sniffer has never been a particularly reliable instrument. Maybe a neighbor's place. Maybe the knock was a signal for us to evacuate. Terrorist attack? Jesus, who knows?

I looked out the window and saw an ambulance, driving slowly. Weird enough, but it was followed by a fire truck. Why aren't they moving? They should be hauling ass! Then I heard something under the wail of the sirens, something out of place. "Winter Wonderland"?

And there was Santa, sitting with a couple of reindeer on a second fire truck. Happy to bring joy into people's lives.

Ho ho ho.

Rob
(The banging was a UPS delivery, by the way. Total coincidence.)


P.S. This is probably a good time to link once again to the Chicago Tribune's gallery of Kids Crying at Santa Claus.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Must...not...explode....

Jim the Bastard goes off the handle ‘bout work. Similar things have been going on with me (and I’m involved in this one, too), but JtB’s post covers the frustration pretty well.

Rob

From The New Republic

Michael Crichton, dick.

(You’ll need a username and password for this site, but bugmenot.com says loginB and password are a combo that works right now.)


Rob

The Team-Up You Never Expected


Peanuts Meets Marvel. (There’s some ads at the top of the site… just scroll down)

Rob
(Thanks, Shlabam!)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Dear Everyone,

I'm pretty much through the big work whammy, and seem to have reached the other side of it relatively unscathed. I even got to leave a little bit before 7 tonight. All is well.

Now onto Christmas busyness...but I should have time to blog through that.

Rob

Monday, December 04, 2006

Just worked a fifteen-hour day

...and when the morining light comes creeping it, I'll get up and do it again, amen.

In other words, don't expect much blogging from me this week. I'm deep in it.

Rob

Friday, December 01, 2006

In Which I Admit an Error

Longtime readers of this blog will recall that late last night, I nominated Reese Witherspoon for the part of a tough-talkin’ Texan, because she is, in fact, from the Lone Star State.

I was in error. I had confused Reese with Renee Zellweger, who is from Texas. Reese is, in fact, from Louisiana.

Which, after further consideration, is close enough to Texas for me. Go Reese! Down with Renee!

Rob

Prayers Answered

Time for a new post, I think.

I would have blogged about this earlier if I hadn't been both busy and miserable, or, as they say in contractionopolis, biserable. But better late than never, I always say. (They always say blaythenver.)

HBO is producing one of the funniest, foulest, most out-and-out, joyfully blasphemous comics every printed, Preacher. As a series. This is good news, brother, good news indeed.

See, Preacher is about a minister who thinks/realizes that God abandoned the world, and so he's gonna go hunt God down, because God's got a lot to answer for. He meets Tulip, his ex-girlfriend, on her way to kill someone, and along the way becomes pals with an Irish vampire named Cassidy. Hijinks ensue, and just when you think you've got the book pegged as a nonstop stream of obscenety and profanity...it rips your heart out. This is great stuff, and a movie wouldn't do it justice. But an HBO series... that's the brass ring, my friends.

So last night some buddies at work were talking about who should play the reverend Jesse Custer in this series. We talked a bit about his look, and frankly, I'm not even sure who we said looked a bit like him if he let his hair fluff out a bit. But I had a more pressing concern. Jesse is a Texan. He's Lone Star, through and through. It's important to get his accent right, and that Texas attitude has to be genuine.

So really, with that in mind, there's only one person who should play Jesse Custer:


Reese Witherspoon.

C'mon, Reese! You're from Texas! And... and... you're from Texas! Throw your hat in the ring!

Rob

P.S. We also determined she should play Iron Fist.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Littlest Ferret


I wanted to take a few more minutes and write a bit more about Blink. She, like our other ferrets, was given to us by a family who had way too many pets to take care of. She was always the smallest of the group of four, and truthfully, the smallest grown ferret I’ve ever seen. I used to joke that she’d fit in a little teacup. My little teacup girl.

She was always an affectionate ferret – especially toward me. I could pick her up and she’d give me little ferret kisses all over my face. I think it’s because I’m a sloppy eater, but just the same, none of the others go so crazy about me. I’ll miss that most of all.

What happened was this. Blink apparently had gotten a blockage inside her somehow – probably from grooming one of the other ferrets. (Like I said, she was very kissy.) I guess because she was having trouble getting rid of waste, she lost her appetite and stopped eating. She seemed really light to us when we came home from Thanksgiving, and Kathy planned to weigh her periodically until we could take her and the rest to the vet on Friday for checkups. (We hadn’t yet realized she wasn’t eating.)

Then, on Monday night, Kathy picked her up for a cuddle, then set her down on the floor (a few inches above, actually – a height that any ferret would find a comfortable landing). Blink landed and sprawled on her side on the floor. She got up and wobbled around. Kathy immediately went to make mushy food with water and a bit of Karo syrup to boost her blood sugar a little. We fed her a little of the mush with our fingers, and she seemed to take to it okay. A half hour later, we fed her some more. We tried again before going to bed, but she wouldn’t take any more.

In the interim, her friends came by one by one to see her. To say goodbye, I thought, but I said “to say hi” out loud. I didn’t think it would come to that, at that point. I thought she’d pull through.

Our plan was for me to wake up around 3:30 in the morning to feed her again, and then we’d take her to the vet when it opened. When my alarm went off, I went downstairs and took Blink from her separate cage (we’d isolated her so she could have her own food) and tried to give her more of the mush. She actively resisted it – using what little energy she had to walk or turn away whenever I tried to give her some. I decided not to force her to eat. If she was blocked, I thought, she knew her body better than I did. And she was very clearly saying she wanted no more food.

Maybe she did know. She probably did, by then.

I went back upstairs, and dreamed we took Blinky to Dr. House. He (or rather, Cameron) was going to give her an MRI, but she started getting very active at that point, and House concluded that she couldn’t get an MRI because she had a little metal plate in her head from a previous injury. So then I took her to the doctors from Scrubs. They each were able to cure her in a different way, but when I got to Turk, and he had found a way to help her that left her walking on two legs like a little furry person, I thought, “This is one of those fantasy sequences, isn’t it?” And I know what those silly scenes set you up for.

When we woke up, Kathy made it down to Blink before I did. I heard her cry out from downstairs, and ran down immediately. Blink was clinging to life, just hanging on.

Until I got there. Within a couple minutes of holding her, she was gone for good.

I don’t want to tell you how we cried. You can’t imagine the noises I made, I sounded hollowed out, just howls echoing inside me. Eventually, we got ourselves together – a little – and buried her. Then we let She-Devil, Gus and the Dude out of the cage for a few minutes, and composed ourselves enough to go to work.

And now I’m back. And I’ve written a lot more than I’d expected to, but not nearly enough to do this little ferret justice. She was a sweetheart, a tender little friend. And while there’s a Blink-shaped hole in our hearts right now, it’s much, much bigger than she ever was. My little teacup girl, who always had a kiss for me.

If you’ve read all this, my apologies for being so maudlin. I wanted to get this down while my feelings were still fresh, and it shows. But I’ll close with a picture of Blink and me in happier times (with Gus as ferret hat).


Rest in peace, Blinky girl.

Rob

Sad News

I’m sorry to report that our beloved ferret Blink passed away this morning. She’s survived by her siblings Gus, She-Devil and the Dude, and of course Kathy and me, who miss her terribly.

I’ll post more about her (and hopefully a photo) when I get home and have some time. For now, I just thought everyone should know.

Rob

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another Disappointment

I just saw a video of Michael Richards ("Kramer") going off on a racist rant in response to a heckler.

I'm gonna turn this damn box off. There's nothing good on today.

UPDATE: I should add that Richards has since apologized for his outburst. He did it on a satellite hook-up on the Letterman show, with Jerry Seinfeld sititng in the guest seat. The apology was awkward and somewhat disjointed, but -- probably in part because of the disjointed quality -- I believe it was very much from the heart. Richards seemed to be really not sure how to express how sorry he was, or even how to explain his actions. But, it seems to me, the important thing is not an explanation, but that he's taking responsibility for them. Letterman tried to throw him a couple lifelines during the conversation, and I thought, as a whole, it was really affecting. Richards said he had some "personal work," to do, and I hope he does it soon and well.

Rob

Why I’ve Been in a Bad Mood All Day

Last night before going to bed, I stopped by comicsworthreading.com, a blog I visit now and then. And I read this post by Johanna, which led me to another blog, Occasional Superheroine. In it, the writer (anonymous, but apparently a former assistant editor at DC Comics) talks about a horrifying physical experience she had, interspersed with incidences of sexism she’s experienced in the comics industry.

What she describes, it’s horrible stuff: Some of it cruel, some of it repulsive, some of it just thoughtless, but really cumulatively gut-wrenching. And I realize it’s just one side of the story, but it’s a pretty compelling side.

I don’t know how to write about this, so bear with me. I’m trying to be honest. Which is hard, because I know I’m going to come off as a heel.

I don’t know the writer. I feel, naturally, normal human compassion for her. She’s obviously going through a very tough time right now, as is her friend, and I hope she gets a handle on some new possibilities in life.

But she’s distant, several times removed from me, and you can only care about a stranger so much. Or maybe I can only care about a stranger so much. Or… I don’t know. I’m not writing about her, really. I hope she’s okay, but I can’t dwell on her any more. I need to move this essay forward.

Her story rattled me on a personal level, in very much the same way that one of the incidents she mentions (which I’d heard before from another perspective) rattled me. This is a company I’ve wanted to work for my entire life. It may not be the pinnacle, but it’s the peak I can see from here. And the people there act like this?

It’s ugly, and nothing I wanted to know. But at the same time, part of me says that some of it’s understandably human. She writes about an incident in which an artist sent in his most recent pages, in which a character is raped:

It started with my associate editor running gleefully into our boss’s office, several boards of art in his hand.

“The rape pages are in!”
I don’t know how to react to this. There’s a callousness to it that’s hard to take. But at the same time, no one real was harmed. It’s fiction. And what else was he supposed to call the pages, anyway? I imagine they called the rape scene in The Burning Bed “the rape scene,” too. What else could they call it? If you’re going to work with the story element, you can’t be afraid of the word.

So really, it’s the word “gleefully” that’s the most disturbing part of that passage. And that’s a characterization of his behavior, not the behavior itself. It all gets subjective, and subjective is messy. And again, no rape took place. Fiction is fiction.

But while that’s undeniably true, it still feels like I’m being selfish, like I should be more concerned, that I should give up my hobby and my hopes of being involved with it professionally one day and just chuck it all in the sewer.

All because of something that happened to someone else? How far does compassion go? How far does outrage go? Far enough to shoot myself in the foot?

I don’t know. I don’t know how to feel about any of this.

But I’ve been dreaming this dream since I was 8 years old, and I don’t want to give it up when I’m finally making some headway. Particularly for incidents that have more (but not everything, a little voice nags) to do with people than the medium itself. But when I do think about it, it can be paralyzing.

Everything is flawed. Everything.

It’s a lot harder to face in the ivory towers you build when you’re a kid.

Rob

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More Science!

Chris's Invincible Super-Blog gets totally badass with Batman and the Atom.

All fans of badassery will want to check this out.

Rob

Friday, November 17, 2006

Science!

You've probably heard about the Diet Coke/Mentos thing. Here's what happens when a guy tries it in his mouth:



And one day later, an explanation:



Rob

The Return

Little Bo Peep has lost her _________?

A) sheep
B) marbles
C) girlish figure.

It’s probably no surprise to you that the answer is D, All of the above. Lemme ’splain.

Kathy & I had spent a great night in a rainy city, having a delicious Italian meal (I had an amazing rabbit ragout on these thin, wide, perfectly-cooked noodles I could eat for the rest of my life), and then going to see the restored version of Renoir’s Rules of the Game (which is SO much more engaging than I remember it being when I saw it in college…but I dozed off through many a masterpiece there, yes I did). All of this is to explain why we were walking to Penn Station at a little bit before midnight.

And there, about half a block ahead of us, I saw a figure emerge from I know not where. A figure with linebacker shoulders and treetrunk legs, in a pink frilly dress that juuuust about covered the ass… with poofy white bloomers underneath. Add a shepherd’s crook and you’ve got Little Bo Peep. Well, make that Big Bo Beep.

As luck would have it, Peep entered the station, too. Once inside, we checked the schedule. Our train wouldn’t be boarding for about a half hour, so we decided to kill some time. “I don’t know about you, but I want a better look at that transvestite,” were, I believe, my exact words.

So we walked through the station, and sure enough, Peep appeared, wandering seemingly aimlessly. Kathy & I passed her, and were going to circle around a stairwell, intending to catch a glimpse from the other direction. Kathy said to me quietly that her closer look from behind – something about the wrists – suggested that Peep might actually be a girl. This prospect was even scarier, to be honest. If Peep was indeed female, she must have been a throwback to the females of prehistory, downing trees and eating triceratopses with one gulp. But then we turned the corner, and underneath the mane of pigtailed blonde hair we saw…

…oh, that’s DEFINITELY a guy. Old and leathery, he looked like Charlie Watts on Let’s Make a Deal. And as we walked away, I looked at Kathy and said:

“Looks like I’m blogging again.”

Rob

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Killing Time

Since I seem to have totally lost my blogging mojo for the moment, here are a few videos for the betterment of your moral and spiritual self.

First, from the mezozoic era of MTV, Graham Parker's "Local Girls." He's one of my favorite songwriters, but I don't think anyone needs to see him sing from this close up. Yikes!



And now, a quick word from Tom Wilson, the guy who played Biff in Back to the Future.



Rob

Friday, November 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Still Alive

Needless to say, I'm happy about the election results. I'm kinda swamped with work lately, but posting should resume soon.

Rob

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

You...the Heroes


Want to know which political party your favorite superheroes belong to? The always-funny Dave's Long Box clues you in.

A sample:

* THE HULK – LIBERTARIAN “Hulk just want to be left alone.”

Happy election day.

Rob

Ignition



Rob
(Via Atrios)

Show 'Em What You've Got


The Republicans want you too mad to vote. In many districts, they're sponsoring constant, harrassing robo-calls that only mention the Democratic candidate's name, in the hopes that the recipients will be too pissed off at the named candidate's supposed tactics to go out and vote for them.

Do it anyway. Prove them wrong. Throw their asses out.

Rob

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Edison Hillbillies

A few months ago, a panel dropped off of our garage door, exposing the ugly-looking unpainted wood underneath. This missing panel has been bugging me ever since -- it looks a little too hillbilly, and kind of reveals our garage to be the glorified shed that it is. But between the book, the weather and other things, I just never seemed to be able to get it together to set to work on what I thought would be a two-person, half-hour job. (It's a long panel -- one person can't held it up and nail it in at the same time.)

So today, after I mowed the lawn for the final time, and Kathy got back from the gym, we took care of it. The construction glue didn't work out as well as we'd hoped, but when all was said and done, the panel is up, and it took us about a half hour. We're not gonna win any Better Homes & Garages awards, but at least now we can get to work on putting in that cee-ment pond.

Rob

Friday, November 03, 2006

Into the Night, Into the Light

Today's classic music video holds up pretty well, I think. Probably because it focuses on universal huuman emotions, rather than a fear of imprisonment by Japanese robots. I also like how the images work in counterpoint to the words. May I present...Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out."



Rob

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A few words on the election.

Iraq.

Katrina.

Torture.


Anyone who’ll rubber stamp the president will give us more of the same.

Rob

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

KT’s Got a Meme

The inimitable KTBuffy set me to shuffling my iTunes to discover the Soundtrack to my Life. To wit:

Here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle/Random
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button


Opening Credits: "You Don’t Pull No Punches, but You Don’t Push the River" by Van Morrison. There’s an ominous inevitability here, almost as if the story is already told, and is just waiting to play out.

Waking Up: Languid and gentle: Bill Morrissey singing Mississippi John Hurt’s “Hey, Honey, Right Away.” The best part of waking up…

First Day At School: Insanity! A 30-second clip from Davinci’s Notebook, with yodeling – “Uncle Buford #2.” “I’ve never used a spoon, but I heard about ’em.” Downright hyper.

Falling In Love: “Perfect World,” the Pietasters. “In a perfect world, I’d know our name…but it doesn’t seem to be that way.” Pure frustration. Been there, baby.

Breaking Up: Lotta horns. The Anders Osbourne Orchestra, “Pleasing You.” “You’re just pleasing you, that’s all you ever do.” Grievances expressed, check.

Prom: The Decemberists, “The Sporting Life.” A tale of humiliation in front of your entire school. I actually had some pretty good prom experiences, but this sort of thing could have happened at any minute.

Life's OK: “The only reason you used to need to be around me was me.” Dan Bern’s “Sweetness.” Ringing guitars, but not exactly the happiest of songs: “Sometimes I feel like an experiment,” and, of course, “Where has the sweetness gone?” If this is okay, I’m nervous about what’s next.

Mental Breakdown: The Rascals, “Little Dove.” Harps and all. This is the most serene mental breakdown I’ve ever had. My loony bin is an island paradise. Ahh…

Driving: ”Night by Night,” Steely Dan. If the Dan’s playing while you’re on the road, you know you’re going somewhere cool. “I don’t really car if it’s wrong of if it’s right, but until my ship comes in, I’ll live night by night.” Oh, yeah. I’m cashing in this ten-cent life for another one.

Flashback: Holy crap. “Angel of Lyon,” by Tom Russell, as a flashback? This is a song about a guy with a big-city job who leaves everything he has to search for the titular angel. :And he sang, Ave Maria, or at least the parts he knew…” He winds up as a saint of rag and bone himself. And as I flashback, I wonder how a guy can come back from that.

Getting Back Together: Oh, this doesn’t bode well – Dada’s “8 Track.” Baby’s got an eight-track mind… and I’m number nine. Yeah, that’s a good match. Things were so much happier during my mental breakdown.

Wedding: Weirdest Wedding Evah. “The Eyeball Kid,” by Tom Waits. The life story of a guy that is litterally just one big eyeball. “He was born without a body, not even a brow.” (And later, even better: “He’s not conventionally handsome.”) Mazel Tov!

Birth of Child: Buckwheat Zydeco, “Changes.” You don’t know how you touch my heart, honey. Got me goin’ through changes. You great big friggin’ eyeball, you.

Final Battle: “When You Dream,” Barenaked Ladies. When you dream, what do you dream about. Apparently in my final battle, I’ll be daydreaming about what my baby eyeball will be dreaming in his crib, and all his past lives. I should really get my head in the game before I get my ass handed to me.

Death Scene: “I Forgive You,” by Thomas “Big Hat” Fields. Another zydeco tune. Pretty happy way to die – and it’s good to know that whatever betrayal got me killed, I’m all right with it. (I think, anyway – it’s in French.)

Funeral Song: “Hard Times,” Eddie Bo. “Oh Confucious say, every dog got his day.” A nice piano blues to send me off with the promise of revenge.

Sex Scene: At last, after all this killing, now I get to get laid. And what’s on the radio? A “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” sequel, “Grandpa’s in Jail, He Shot a Reindeer.” If anyone in the world has ever had sex while this song is playing, they should get the clap. As should the DJ of my life. This is a cruel trick.

Dance Sequence: Rufus Wainwright, “The Consort.” Looks like I get a slow dance, with a threat to the status quo. “Together we’ll wreak havoc, you and me.”

End Credits: And finally, a moment to reflect over what’s gone before. As Richard Cheese’s lounge interpretation of “Rock the Casbah” caps what’s possibly the worst movie of all time. R-O-C-K the Casbah!

Oh yeah.

Rob

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Zombie Night

Spent Halloween night dispensing candies to trick-or-treaters and watching zombies kill villagers. The kids seemed to like our decorations – we’ve got a faux-neon Bates Motel sign in front of the house, and “KEEP OUT” is smeared in blood all over the storm door. Kids seemed to dig it. Kathy & I tend to appreciate the holiday’s creepier decorations. We’ll take a skull over a smiley ghost any day.

As for the movie, Dead Alive, what can I say? It’s got more zombies than you can shake a Sumatran rat-monkey at. It’s directed by Peter Jackson, and watching the movie is certainly a different experience than seeing the Lord of the Rings films. There’ you’re seeing the work of a director who’s clearly at the top of his game. In Dead Alive, it’s the work of a director doing the best he can with what he’s got—a limited budget, some cheesy effects, and endless—endless!—imagination when it comes to visualizing how can people kill zombies and how zombies can kill people (and what zombies can do to each other, for that matter). I mean – zombie, meet lawn gnome. Genius.

These aren’t scary zombies—they’re silly zombies. While there are some shocks, they’re more surprising than fearsome. And the ways they’re dispatched is astounding in their variety and gruesomeness. Yes, there’s something that kills zombies faster than a chainsaw. It’s bloody and beautiful.

I’m looking for words to describe this movie, and really, only one does it justice. Dead Alive is totally airwolf.

Rob

More Spooky Goodness

Neil Gaiman has an op-ed in today’s New York Times. Go see.

Rob

Spooked

So in her Tell It To Me Tuesday style, Janet asks: Do you believe in ghosts?

Good question, with a short answer: No.

So far, I haven’t seen any evidence that’s the least bit convincing that ghosts exist. I’d like to believe in them, as I think their presence would make the world a cooler place (and not just because of those unexplained temperature drops that they supposedly cause, although if we could harness ghost power to solve global warming, I’d start killin’ right away).

Sometimes I talk to dead people. They don’t talk back. But I can imagine what they’d say if they were around, and that usually works out fine for me. Imagination is a big part of any ghost.

Once, years ago, I did go to a meeting of a ghost hunting society, researching a newspaper story I never wrote. A bunch of nice people with a kooky hobby. Dspite their gadgets like tape recorders and electromagnetic detectors, they struck me as a bunch of Mulders in need of a Scully. Their group would have been a lot stronger with a few skeptics in their midst, trying their hardest to debunk various “hauntings” and “spectral resonances” on videotape.

They showed a number of videotapes with supposed ghost sightings on them, and most of them were pretty ridiculous. One was filmed in a graveyard. It was a mostly dark screen, but eventually there were three lights in a pattern moving around the screen. The videographer was at the meeting, and he claimed that there were no such lights in the graveyard. Still, anyone who wasn’t intent on seeing ghosts would recognize the lights as the sort of floodlights situated around a convenience store parking lot. The only reason they were moving is that the cameraman was stumbling around in the dark.

But the last video they showed was genuinely creepy. I wouldn’t call it evidence of a ghost – it was almost certainly a trick of the light – but we rewound it several times and couldn’t come up with an explanation from the evidence on the video.

The first thing about the video that was different from others we saw is that it wasn’t filmed to find ghosts. It was a wedding reception video, and the cameraman walked around the dance floor, watching Aunt Hildy and Uncle Mike do the funky chicken. As the camera moves, it looks like we see a little boy standing in the curtained doorway. He seems to be dressed strangely, in frilly cuffs and a collar, like Little Lord Fauntleroy. The camera moves past him, and we see more people dance. Then the camera swings around again, and we catch sight of the doorway. The little boy is still there.

And suddenly one of the caterers walks right through him. And then he’s gone.

It’s creepy, and I honestly can’t explain it. It almost certainly wasn’t a boy (or a ghost boy), but instead some sort of pattern on the curtain that looked like a kid. But the curtain was black, and didn’t seem like it had any sort of pattern on it. Maybe a napkin was sticking to it, maybe it had been patched and maybe perspective played some sort of trick. But man, it looked like a little kid.

Apparently this happened at the Knights of Columbus hall in my hometown of Springfield, which made it a little bit creepier to me.

What drove me nuts the most about this is that I really wanted an explanation for this. But the ghost hunters looked at this genuinely intriguing video with the same inquisitiveness that the showed the other obvious trick-of-the-light footage: that is, none at all. If it looked remotely like a ghost, that was enough for them.

So no, I don’t believe in ghosts. But I do believe that some people will stumble around in the dark for the slimmest of reasons.

Rob

Old Buisiness

A few things I’ve been meaning to take care of that have slipped through the cracks:

First, in my post Liar’s Poker, I listed 13 facts about me, only 12 of which were true. The lie was #6, that I saw a barracuda while snorkeling a couple of years ago. In fact, Kathy saw the barracuda swim under me; I never saw it myself.

Second, I also recently posted some garbled song lyrics: “Jedi lungfish, Darla Mae.” It’s long past time I should’ve given a hint on this, so here goes: the artist/band that sings these lyrics (or rather, lyrics that sound sorta like these) has been mentioned in one of my Tell It To Me Tuesday music lists. Only four decades to search through, there, and I don’t like all that much. Also, the title of the song is in the lyric.

And who knows: maybe one day this week I’ll post the final 10 of my Top 50 DC Comics characters!

Rob

Monday, October 30, 2006

Attention Sharon

You might be interested in this.

(The rest of you might, too.)

Rob

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Shelved

It occurs to me that I kind of miss working in a bookstore.

Yesterday, I stopped by the Borders by Madison Square Garden to use some gift certificates. (I picked up Roger Ebert’s book Awake in the Dark and the Criterion Collection DVD of Rififi. So thanks, folks!)

While I was there, I stopped by the fantasy/science fiction section, and found Jeri’s book, and took a moment to rearrange the shelves to give it some face-out time. When I worked in Barnes & Noble, it was a task I always found pleasant, and this really only took a second—there was a little breathing room down below, so just a couple-book shift did the trick. So there was that – a familiar action in a familiar environment.

And then I got to the cashiers. A customer had just left a register, and they were joking about her. They listed an incompatible selection of books she’d bought, topped off by Diary of a Satanist. “She said, ‘I have a coupon, I’m supposed to get 25 percent off,’” her cashier joked. I said: “She’s a Satanist, shouldn’t she just take it?”

It reminded me of a call I got when I worked at Barnes & Noble. A woman called up and asked me “Do you have The Ultimate Kiss?”

“Well, um…that’s what I’ve been told, but I don’t think it’s official.” I’m a card, I am.

“It’s a book on oral sex,” she informed me.

“Okay, let me check.” I checked the computer, and it wasn’t in our inventory. I told her so.

She didn’t take it well. “Does Barnes and Noble have a problem with oral sex?” I told her that I wasn’t aware of any B&N policies, one way or the other.

“So do you have something against oral sex?” she asked, somewhat accusatorily.

“Oh, no. I’m very pro oral sex.” (This was a professional conversation. The very definition of “grey area,” I’d imagine.)

Then I checked to see if we could order it for her, but our distributors didn’t carry it, either. She ended the call thinking that the distributors were conspiring to keep her from getting off.

I like my current job, but I sure do miss getting calls like that.

Rob

Friday, October 27, 2006

Spread the News, Change the Country

I'll add links to the source code and Sharon's site when I get a chance, but I'd rather not wait on this. Googlebombing seems worth a try:

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl --AZ-01: Rick Renzi --AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth --CA-04: John Doolittle --CA-11: Richard Pombo --CA-50: Brian Bilbray --CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave --CO-05: Doug Lamborn --CO-07: Rick O'Donnell --CT-04: Christopher Shays --FL-13: Vernon Buchanan --FL-16: Joe Negron --FL-22: Clay Shaw --ID-01: Bill Sali --IL-06: Peter Roskam --IL-10: Mark Kirk --IL-14: Dennis Hastert --IN-02: Chris Chocola --IN-08: John Hostettler --IA-01: Mike Whalen --KS-02: Jim Ryun --KY-03: Anne Northup --KY-04: Geoff Davis --MD-Sen: Michael Steele --MN-01: Gil Gutknecht --MN-06: Michele Bachmann --MO-Sen: Jim Talent --MT-Sen: Conrad Burns --NV-03: Jon Porter --NH-02: Charlie Bass --NJ-07: Mike Ferguson --NM-01: Heather Wilson --NY-03: Peter King --NY-20: John Sweeney --NY-26: Tom Reynolds --NY-29: Randy Kuhl --NC-08: Robin Hayes --NC-11: Charles Taylor --OH-01: Steve Chabot --OH-02: Jean Schmidt --OH-15: Deborah Pryce --OH-18: Joy Padgett --PA-04: Melissa Hart --PA-07: Curt Weldon --PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick --PA-10: Don Sherwood --RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee --TN-Sen: Bob Corker --VA-Sen: George Allen --VA-10: Frank Wolf --WA-Sen: Mike McGavick --WA-08: Dave Reichert

Rob

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Booth Strummer

A bunch of the guys from work went out to lunch at Live Bait on 23rd Street today. Had a good bbq pork sandwich, but the whole thing wouldn't be worth mentioning here if it hadn't been for this guy:


Yep, a guy in the booth next to us was playing the banjo. We couldn't hear him -- the restaurant had music playing -- but there he was, a-pickin' and a-dinin'.

Rob
(Thanx to Angry Bald Man for the pic!)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ego on Video

I mentioned to Janet in the comments down below that I'd try to post a Jim's Big Ego video here. Not much luck; there are a few videos on YouTube, but most are made by other people (although I have to say I really liked this video someone made out of this minute-long exerpt of "Stress," even though the voice-over at the beginning doesn't really work for me).



But here are a couple of links to the videos at the JBE website. The first is for a really clever video I think I've linked to here before, but it's just as clever now: "Little Miss Communication."

The other is for "Love What's Gone," a sadder song, that nonetheless showcases the band's telent.

Rob

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Title Bout

So, as Halloween approached, I thought I'd submit, for your consideration, what might be the best horror movie title ever.

Click here...if you DARE.


Once you've seen my pick (and be sure to check out the second tidbit on the IMDB trivia page!) , name your own contender in the comments.

Rob
(Title brought to my attention by Jeff of Earth-J at the Captain Comics forums. Thanks Jeff!)

The Fear Machine

Sharon's right: You should see this Keith Olberman special comment on the recent Republican bin Laden ad. Here's the merest glipse of Keth's comments, from the transcript:

The key to terror, the key to terrorism, is not the act—but the fear of the act.

That is why bin Laden and his deputies and his imitators are forever putting together videotaped statements and releasing virtual infomercials with dire threats and heart-stopping warnings.

But why is the Republican Party imitating them?

Bin Laden puts out what amounts to a commercial of fear; The Republicans put out what is unmistakable as a commercial of fear.

The Republicans are paying to have the messages of bin Laden and the others broadcast into your home.

Only the Republicans have a bigger bank roll.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That's why the Republicans are in the fear business.

Rob

Wrap Your Savior Up in Cellophane

A quick response to Janet’s no-surprise-to-anyone Tell-It-To-Me-Tuesday question: Who are your favorite artists of today?

The Avett Brothers. Country music with the energy of punk. “November came and went like the summer that I spent with a no-name girl who walked in jelly shoes.”

Ani DiFranco. I've known some of her music since the nineties, but she really impressed me at the Philly Folk Fest a few years ago and we bought the recording she made at Jazzfest in New Orleans this year. “Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel, there's a fire just waiting for fuel.”

Tom Waits. Any year, any decade, he’s the man. “She left Marty Rio's son, just like a bullet leaves a gun.”


Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer. Dave, alas, has passed on, but he left us with lyrics like “This is an ordinary town, and the prophet stands alone; this is an ordinary town and we crucify our own.” “Ordinary Town” is one of the most cynical songs I’ve ever heard, but Tracy’s vocal is so bright that it gives it a good-morning-neighbor cheeriness. An amazing duo.

The Decemberists. There’s something in their music that seems so much older than it is; nu-folk of the best kind. “I am a writer, writer of fictions, I am the heart that leads you home. And I’ve written pages, upon pages, trying to rid you from my bones.” Those lines never fail to hit me in the gut.

Iron & Wine. They sound like centuries-old velvet; there’s a warmth to the tone of the vocals that holds you in its grasp until the song is done. Makes no sense, I know, but those are my impressions. “Who's seen Jezebel? She was gone before I ever got to say ‘Lay here my love, you're the only shape I'll pray to, Jezebel’"

Jim’s Big Ego. Quirky, energetic pop. The Barenaked Ladies you don’t know about. “I don't think we should be changing horses in midstream, even if the horse is on fire and stream is made of gasoline.” Plus they sing about the Flash, which is extra-cool.

Taj Mahal. Again, any decade you want, Taj is tops. The coolest man in any room. “Honey, I woke up this mornin' feelin' so good, you know I laid back down again. Throw your big leg over me mama, I might not feel this good again.”

So there you have it. Aside from the ones I forgot.

Rob

Monday, October 23, 2006

System Error...Does Not Compute

Okay, this is weird.

The PA Republican party has sent out a mailer attacking Democratic candidate Chris Carney…

…for helping start the debacle that is the Iraq War.

If you tilt your ears toward northeastern Pennsylvania, you can hear Bush supporters' heads explode.

Rob

It is accomplished.

My book Ancient Mathematicians was transferred electronically to my editor late yesterday afternoon. All that’s left is to mail him a hard copy and return library books.

And to go out and see The Prestige, and generally take some time to smell the magicians.

Then it’s on to talking cats.

Rob

Saturday, October 21, 2006

All Hail... Me!

Archimedes, using Eudoxus' method of exaustion, found a workable approximation for Pi.

I, using the paperclip's method of the help screen, figured out how to inseft the character π into a Microsoft Word document.

I'm not saying the two feats are comparable. But I'm going to compare them anyway.

Rob

Juxtapolicious!

Want to see what happens when you juxtapose a random quote from Nietzche with a random Family Circus panel? Sure you do!

Rob

Friday, October 20, 2006

Signing Alert

Heads up! Jeri Smith-Ready is having a book signing for Eyes of Crow today at A Likely Story in Sykesville, Maryland. Also, she’s coming up to Springfield, Pennsylvania for a signing at the Borders Express in the Springfield Mall on Saturday, November 18. You can read more about it on Jeri’s blog. I primarily mention today’s signing for my reader Chris, who I know lives in Maryland.

Rob

Big Time Show Business

Three of my favorite entertainers in one clip: Martin Mull, Fred Willard...

...and Tom Waits. Enjoy.



Rob

Thursday, October 19, 2006

...and the Joker Got Away

As I was taking out the trash just a few minutes ago, I heard a car drive past on the turnpike with a tire that was shredding into tatters with each rotation. It was loud, leathery flapping, like an armada of bats.




Rob

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When ABC Begins With X

Scott at Polite Dissent teaches the ABCs: X-Men style. It's Goreytastic!

Rob

Eyes of Crow


We just got our copy of Jeri Smith-Ready's Eyes of Crow yesterday, and I can already tell you it's a terrific book. You can buy it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or if supporting indy booksellers is your bag, from Mysterious Galaxy. You'll be glad you did.

Rob

Gollum! Gollum!


From the I’m Not Making This Up Files: Rick Santorum has compared global terrorism to the Eye of Mordor.

For once, my hat’s off to Man-On-Precious. He knows the value of the geek vote.

Rob

UPDATE: But come to think of it, isn't it the Eye of Sauron?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Big as Grapefruits!

So Janet’s asked about the nineties. I knew we’d get here eventually. But the truth is, the nineties was the decade where I turned off the radio and said “There’s gotta be something better, because this stuff fucking sucks." No offense to any of you that like grunge, but the ascension of Nirvana is when music turned to noise for me, and it’s never fully come back. Kurt Cobain is a genius and all, but I think he makes a better wallpaper.

Okay, that was unnecessarily cruel. So without further venting, here are my top ten artists that ruled MY nineties, while the world turned without me.

1) Dan Bern. I heard him singing “Jerusalem,” and thought He sounds like Bob Dylan’s crazier little brother. His music has changed a bit since then, and the Dylan comparison isn’t as apt, but when you listen he’s simply a fount of engaging, sometimes outlandish songs. And as much as I love his early stuff, his later album New American Language is probably my favorite, with the sprawling “Thanksgiving Day Parade” and the hopeful “Albuquerque Lullaby” and the title track.

2) Sharon GR said it, and I will, too. Neo Pseudo. You’re poorer for having missed them. Ceaselessly inventive, they were like a cross between William Blake and the Talking Heads. The number one reason I’ve gained weight over the past ten years is that I haven’t been dancing my ass off at their shows.

3) Joan Osbourne. To be honest, I bristled when I first heard her single, “One of Us”—the question it asked, “What if God was one of us, just a slob liked one of us?” seemed deliberately provocative without any compelling reason. Then one day I heard it on the radio something struck me—the very reason this song seemed offensive was actually the central tenet of Christianity. And suddenly I loved that offensive veneer it gave it. Listening with new ears, and then getting swept up in “Pensacola,” I bought her album Relish and played it over and over again. There’s not a bad song on the album, and her follow-ups have been terrific, too.

4) Dada. Male harmony. I got a chance to interview Dada, and they said male vocal harmony was what they built the band around, since there was so little of that on the radio. There’s also not enough music that surprises the listener even half as much as Dada does. “Dizz Knee Land” was catchy, but every one of their albums has better stuff, including “Dorina,” “Feet to the Sun,” and “Sick in Santorini.” I’m sorry I never got to see them live. And the episode of Homicide that featured “Feel Me Don’t You” was out-of-my-mind good.

5) Lyle Lovett. What first caught my ear was the lighthearted mix of big-band and country music on his And His Large Band album, but his sheer songwriting ability kept me around, from through more thoughtful releases like Joshua Judges Ruth and The Road to Ensenada to lighter fare like I Love Everybody. I wish I could find my copy of Step Inside This House, though. I haven’t seen it for years, and he sings some great versions of songs by other Texas songwriters.

6) Richard Thompson. Yeah, he’s been around forever, but I didn’t know about him until 1991’s Rumor and Sigh. Come to think of it. His “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” may be the closest thing I could name to a “standard” from the decade – I’ve heard so many other artists cover it I’ve lost count. Red hair and black leather; my favorite color scheme. But his 1993 box set Watching the Dark is not to be missed, either. And “Beeswing” never fails to make me happy I’m not so sad as I could be, if only a certain girl had stuck around longer. “Cook’s Ferry Queen” is probably my most recent favorite song of his, about a 70s gangster thug’s love affair with a granola girl.

7) John Hiatt. Slow Turning and Walk On are my two favorite Hiatt albums, but you can’t go wrong with any of his stuff. Y’all Caught? is a good sampler of his earlier stuff, too – pulling out the gems from when he wasn’t quite as polished. I saw him play live once at the TLA in Philly, and he was a real goofball onstage, which was an added bonus.

8) Wilco. I got into Wilco because I loved Son Volt’s first album, and wanted to hear what the other half of Uncle Tupelo sounded like. Man, they’re a great listen, and a great band to see live as well. (We caught a short set at an XPN-sponsored concert years ago, around when Mermaid Avenue came out.) Speaking of which, the two Mermaid Avenue albums, in which they interpret Woody Guthrie songs will Billy Bragg, are incredible. There’s magic on every track.

9) Largo. Just one album, by a collection of talents too great to be ignored. Sadly, they were ignored anyway. But there’s guys from The Hooters and The Band, Taj Mahal, Joan Osbourne, the Chieftains and a revelatory performance from Cyndi Lauper singing “White Man’s Melody.” And it’s all based on Dvorak’s New World Symphony. This music seeps into your genes: If you play it during sex, any kids that result will be born humming it.

10) Daniel Lanois. He’s best known as a producer, but his album For the Beauty of Wynonna is a layered, atmospheric masterpiece. Check out “The Unbreakable Chain,” “Rocky World,” and “The Abduction of Marie Claire.” Also, his song “The Maker” has been covered by a number of great people, among them Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews and…

11) Bet Williams. Around the same time I was going to dance my ass off to Neo Pseudo, on weeknights I was heading out to hear Beth Williams, a singer-songwriter of singular lyrics and astonishing voice. She now splits her time between The Epiphany Project, a showcase for her ethereal vocals and her husband John Hodian’s piano chops, and leading the Bet Wiliams band in more rock-oriented tunes. Whatever the genre, she knows her way around a song like nobody’s business. And as far as I know, she’s no relation to…

12) Lucinda Williams. Very early on as I listened to Lucinda Williams, I started comparing her to Neil Young. Like Neil, she’s not everyone’s cuppa tea, but her songs and her singing have such a bracing honesty that commands the attention. Most critics think 1998’s Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is her best album—and songs like “2 Cool 2 B 4 Gotten” and “Can’t Let Go” make it easy to believe—but my favorite is 1988’s self-titled album. It’s a little less ambitious, perhaps, but “Crescent City,” “The Night’s Too Long” and “I Just Wanted To See You So Bad” say everything anyone’s ever needed to about longing.

Well that was a lot longer than I expected. Whew!

Rob

UPDATE: I forgot Morphine. How could "Buena" slip my mind?

Oh, I Got Rage

I don’t know why the story I linked to below got me so upset: it’s just another slimy ad. But it’s been a few hours since I’ve seen it, and I’m still angry. It’s honestly ruined my day, and I shouldn’t let it get to me like that.

(I have cut so many phrases out of this post in an effort to seem calmer than I am.)

Rob

Giving What We Get

You know, every now and then I regret something political I write here, wishing I’d toned down the venom a notch.

And then I read something like this and all of a sudden I want to crush some motherfucker’s head in a vise.

Terrorist-loving, baby-killing Klansmen. That’s what they say we are. This fucking racebaiting piece of shit douchebag pedophile-by-association J. Patrick Rooney deserves to choke on a hefty bag full of piss and vomit. Hell isn’t good enough for this asshole.

Rob

Monday, October 16, 2006

Swabbin' the Deck

This ad, designed by Ursula Vernon, gave me my biggest laugh of the day.

Rob
(Via the Sideshow.)

Leon: Still Hot

That's right, Ladies and Gents. Leon, the Most Popular Jawa on Tatooine, is still in demand. Recent searches for him have come from Sacramento, Montreal, an unspecified location in the United States (thanks, Mr. Cheney) and... The Houston Chronicle.

Yeah, you heard me.

Just so there's no confusion, let me say once and for all...

Leon is available for interviews.

But you'll have to accommodate his schedule. After all, he's The Most Popular Jawa on Tatooine.

Peace out.

Rob

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hush, Hush.

Kevin Drum provides a frightening rundown of free-speech issues here and abroad. When I heard about the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya last week, it sent chills up my spine.

Rob

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Force Is Strong In This One

Okay, I’ve been outguyed by my own wife.

The other night, Kathy was watching the Rangers get beaten 6-5 by the Pittsburgh Penguins. After the game ended, Kathy said “They’re gonna take Lundquist out and put Weeks in next game.” (They’re both goalies, by the way.) Sure enough, Kathy starts watching the game tonight, and lo and behold, that’s just what happens. Granted, that probably wasn’t a very hard call to anyone who follows hockey. But while I’ve watched baseball games and known what a certain player would do (bunts, intentional walks, that sort of thing), I’ve never known what a coach would do for the next game down the road. So my hat’s off to you, curlyhead.

The other interesting thing in this whole incident is that I just can’t get it through my head that Lundquist’s first name is Henrik. I keep thinking it’s “Jedi.” What’s even more amazing is, I know why.

Years ago, my friend Chris brought over a quiz of 100 rock lyrics for us to identify. We got most of them (although “My middle name is Earl” has begun haunting me again every Thursday night at 8), and I wanted to try my hand at a similar quiz. But mine would have a twist so complicated that I would never actually complete the thing.

My quiz wasn’t going to be the lyrics themselves, but homophones of the lyrics. (Apparently they're called mondegreens.) In other words, if the question was “The girl with colitis goes by,” the answer would be “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes,” from “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles. (I’d seen a standup comic talk about this as a routine, although the book 'Scuse Me While I Kiss This Guy hadn’t come out yet.) And one of my misheard lyrics was “Jedi Lungfish, Darla Mae.” And somehow, I’ve come to associate Jedi Lungfish with Henrik Lundquist.

So there you have it: Why I Am Crazy In This One Very Particular Way.

Oh, the lyric? I figure I’ll hold off and see if anyone guesses it in the next couple of days.

Rob

An "Artist Friendly" Video

I'm way down in the hole with Archimedes today, but check out this video by a pre-South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It's 14 minutes long, but it's a stone riot and well worth your time. Instead of embedding this one, I'm referring you to Mark Evanier, since he gives it much-needed context.

Take it away, Mark.

Rob

Friday, October 13, 2006

And now, please stand

I listened to What's Going On today, but my mp3 player was playing the tracks out of order, so I had to keep consulting the CD jacket in order to get them right. So I took a few minutes to relabel the tracks to put them in their proper order, and since the CD was downstairs, I went to allmusic.com. While I was there, I spent a little time looking over Marvin Gaye's biography, and I read about this performance, singing the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game. It's his last public appearance, and just sublime.

Enjoy.



Rob

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Liar's Poker

Playing Nat’s game, her Thursday Thirteen. Thirteen of these things are true. One is a lie.

1. I knew a guy in high school who worshipped Thor. No, make that two guys.
2. I’ve got an ugly scar on my elbow from a skateboarding accident.
3. I like to add a little brown mustard to the classic tuna fish/mayo recipe.
4. The Flash is my favorite superhero, but Fables is my favorite comic.
5. I’ve got a tiny hole on the palm of my right hand that I can always peel skin away from. I call it my stigmata.
6. I saw a barracuda when snorkeling a few years ago.
7. My favorite Mel Brooks film is Young Frankenstein, but I’ve seen History of the World, Part I more often.
8. I’ve owned more ferrets than any other type of pet.
9. The trunk of my car leaks like it’s telling state secrets to Bob Novak.
10. I still haven’t removed two of our house’s window air conditioning units.
11. I prefer iced tea to just about any other drink. If it’s good iced tea, that is.
12. My parents considered naming me “Dean.” Or that’s what they once told me.
13. From where I’m sitting right now I can see two animal skulls.
14. Taj Mahal’s In Progress and Motion is probably the best CD box set I own, but Richard Thompson’s Watching the Dark comes close.

Any guesses?

Rob

One of US!

My baby really gets me. A Sin City boardgame, Marvin Gaye's What's Goin' On, and a DVD of Tod Browning's Freaks as birthday gifts? Man, does she get me.

Rob

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Column A or Column B?

Thought you might need a palate cleanser after that Styx video. Here's some live Eric Schwartzy goodness, with some help from his friends. Funny stuff.



Rob

Biting my nails...

I just switched over to Blogger Beta. Expect to see a few changes around here as I spruce the place up a bit. But right now I'm mostly hoping I can still do all the things I used to be able to.

Rob

UPDATE: Okay, one change right now. See this label underneath my post? Click it and it'll select similar posts. I'm going to eventually go back and label old posts, but I took care of a bunch of recent ones already. I've always wanted this capability, ever since I first learned to ride a bike.

UPDATE UPDATE: Man, I'm loving this. I've got about 100 posts catalogued.

Can't.... look... away...

In the comments below, Chris expressed an interest in getting "fair and balanced" with the Kilroy controversy, and letting Dr. Righteous have his due. The video for Styx's "Heavy Metal Poisoning" is a bit more lively than the "Mr. Roboto" video, but no less creepy. As I was seeing Dr. Righteous lurk over that poor kid, I couldn't help but think of Mark Foley.

Which made what came next all the more horrible.

So here it is, another reason to pluck out your eyes and feed them to snakes:



I warned you.

Rob

Habeas Corpse

Keith Olbermann on the death of Habeas Corpus. Funny on the surface, heartbreaking at its core.



Rob

Mira. Escuche.

Spanish is the language of the kitchens in New York, and possibly all over. I read that in Anthony Bordain’s terrific memoir Kitchen Confidential, and it certainly is true wherever I stop to get breakfast on my way to work.

And it makes me happy. The other day, I was buying a sandwich at a bodega. I brought my sandwich (bag o’ chips and can o’ cream soda included) to the counter, where two people were ringing things up on the cash registers. My sandwich wasn’t wrapped quite right, so my cashier rewrapped it—but not before getting the other one’s attention to show him how it’s done. “Mira,” she said. Look.

Both of these people were Korean. But they were still using Spanish to communicate. I love this country, this city—anywhere that lets cultures mix it up and surprise me.

The next time you’re getting lunch, escuche. Listen.

Rob

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Arrgh! That Purple Jumpsuit!

Thinking about the 80s, I stumbled across the Batman TV show of music videos: Styx's "Mr. Roboto." What strikes me most about watching it now is how little the other band members are in this. I think as a kid, I thought they were in the Mr. Roboto suits, but those were probably dancers. Or derelicts. Or even genuine racial-stereotypotrons imported from Japan. I think any of those possibilities is more likely than Dennis DeYoung convincing JY and the other guys to carry him around like a group of robot cheerleaders.

A word of warning. You're really only gonna want to watch this once.



Rob

Yes, I Completely Forgot The Police

Another Tell It To Me Tuesday, another Tuesday when I’m Telling It:

First off, I should mention what’s apparent to anyone who knows us: I’m not as cool as my wife. While she was listening to all sorts of new wave and off-the-beaten-path music in the 80s, I was listening just around the edges of what everyone else was listening to.

Also, I didn’t stop listening to my 70s bands when the odometer flipped on the decade. Hell, I just started listening to my own music around 78-79, and the Cars were just getting started. But I’m not listing any of them here, just the same (well, aside from one cheat*).

So here they are – my top 10 eighties bands, in no particular order.

1. Joe Jackson: I lied about no particular order. This guy rules my musical Olympus. Like Zeus, he changes from rock to classical to jazz to a swan. Unlike a lot of artists, he’s not making the same album over and over – each one is a brand new experience. And if I still think Look Sharp! is his best album, it’s no reflection on him or his talents: it’s just that I was 14 when I heard it, and it makes me feel like I’m fourteen wanting to be nineteen every time I’ve heard it since. I play this loud in my car every summer.

2. Elvis Costello: Okay, everyone seemed to put Elvis Costello in the 70s lists, and I couldn’t figure out why (and was too lazy to look him up). Turns out My Aim is True was released in 1977 and I’m a total wanker for not knowing that. I first heard him in the 80s, playing a cassette of that album over and over again on the way to the beach with my friends Mike, Anita and Evelyn. It sounded so fresh to me I thought it was brand new. Since it’s too late to shoehorn him into his proper decade (not that he didn’t produce some great work in the 80s), I’m putting him here.

I’ve gotta make these shorter.

3. Cyndi Lauper: I like her more in retrospect than I did at the time, I have to admit. You really never knew what she was going to say or do next. She bop? And she put Steve Forbert in her first video!

4. Steve Forbert: Yeah, there’s “Romeo’s Tune” (or, as it’s better known, the “Meet Me in the Middle of the Day Song"), but Forbert is an amazing songwriter that gets less than a hundredth of the acclaim he deserves. Alive on Arrival is a great album, but his Streets of this Town wasn’t a bad way to close out the decade. “The nineteen seventies was ten long years, ten long years to sing a song. It kicked off madly with a New Year's cheer. I blinked once and it was gone.” I like Steve so much he bumped the Talking Heads. Someone cooler’n me will have to pick up the slack.

5. Nik Kershaw: Everyone I’ve ever met with whom I’ve talked about Nik Kershaw is amazed that someone else remembers Nik Kershaw. I listened to Human Racing until the heads on my walkman wore down – and even loved the awful songs (like “Cloak & Dagger”).

6. Rick Springfield: Now here’s a guy who doesn’t get enough credit. A friend of mine (hey Chris!) made up a compilation cassette of his hits (way more than you remember) and lesser known songs a few years after his star had faded a bit. Without the glimmer of being an MTV darling, two things are clear: one, the man knew his way around a hit record, and two, he had a vocabulary that wouldn’t quit. I still can’t hear the word “acquiesce” without thinking of him, and those two souls, looking for heaven, rolling the dice, looking for a seven.

7. Men at Work: These guys are well-known for their goofy songs like “Down Under,” but I don’t think they get enough credit for the poignance that many of their tunes have. Not just the better-known stuff like “It’s a Mistake,” but odd little tunes like “Helpless Automaton” struck me as having an emotional core, even if it’s about a kid who thinks he’s a robot.

8. Weird Al: On the other hand, Weird Al just goes for the goofy, and he’s still remarkably good at it. The eighties were his heyday, but he hasn’t missed a step. (And parody is a much tougher job now that the Top 40 has splintered into a dozen or more different charts.)

9. Violent Femmes: When I first heard this band in high school, I had no idea anyone else had ever heard of them—let alone what kind of touchstone their first album would be for my generation. Resolutely antiglamorous, it kicks the holy crap out of Duran Duran.

10. The Clash: In the eighties, I really just knew “Rock the Casbah” and “Train in Vain.” I was an ignorant laddie. I don’t care if it was released in 1979, London Calling is one of the best albums ever, and it makes the list. Wrong ’em, boyo.

11. Chris DeBurgh: A guilty pleasure. Before hitting the lottery on “The Lady in Red,” DeBurgh wrote much cooler stuff than how much he really really really loves you. He had songs about vampires (“Ecstasy of Flight”), stranded boats (“Ship to Shore”), the Cold War (“Borderline,” “Moonlight and Vodka”) and, of course, the journey to the land of the dead (“Don’t Pay the Ferryman.”) And then “The Lady In Red” happened and he suddenly forgot he grew up watching Dark Shadows and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ah, well.

That’s eleven. Whaddya think, sirs?

Rob
*I lied about the cheat. The Traveling Wilburys didn't make the cut.

Get Back To Where You Once Belonged

Sharon's back at The Center of New Jersey Life, so go visit her. Consequently, my drivel will once again be confined to these pages.

Rob

Monday, October 09, 2006

Hic!

I had the hiccups something fierce after lunch. But Paul Harris's guaranteed hiccup remedy made them go away on the first try.

I don't know about guaranteed, but I can report that it worked for me.

Rob
(Cross-posted at The Center of New Jersey Life.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Stupid AND Stubborn

Looks like we may be getting a second helping of Brownie:

President Bush reserved the right to ignore key changes in Congress's overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- including a requirement to appoint someone with experience handling disasters as the agency's head -- in setting aside dozens of provisions contained in a major homeland security spending bill this week.
And we've got 28 more months of following this fool down whatever blind alley he wants to lead us.

Rob

Clockworks Broken Down

I'm sorry to hear that the production of A Clockwork Orange I mentioned here has been postponed. I'm not sure what happened; the mailing list I'm on said the production was dealt a "sudden and temporarily debilitating blow." I have high hopes that the show will go on in mid to late winter.

Rob

Friday, October 06, 2006

Innuendo?

Hoo!

Rob

Great Moments in Class Clownery

I was thirteen or fourteen, and the first congressional page sex scandal of my lifetime – the one back in 1982-83 – was still fresh in everybody’s mind. We were on a field trip with our gifted studies class – to Hawk Mountain, I think, but I could be wrong. (I do know that our teacher loved birdwatching, so fitting some biology and ecology into the curriculum in a way that would let her glass the skies was right up her alley.)

It was a lengthy bus ride, and we were high school kids, so we were loud and rowdy pretty much the whole way up. As we approached the mountain’s education center, Dr. Taylor handed out study sheets while we kept talking. Finally she said sternly to quiet us down: “For the next ten minutes, I don’t want to hear anything but the sounds of pages.”

And the guy who shouted “Oh! Oh! Mister SENATOR!” and cracked everyone up? That was me.

Hell, I made the teacher laugh at that one.

Rob

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Crustacean Speaks!


Bill West, voice of Dr. Zoidberg (and so many other characters on Futurama and a zillion other shows) was on the Paul Harris radio show the other day. I love hearing interviews with voice actors -- you never know who's gonna pipe up next. Go listen.

Rob

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Rockin' the Paradise

I’m really busy, but here are my Top 10 1970s artists. Don’t let Janet say I never told her anything.

1. Styx. My absolute favorite band of the era, cheese and all. They had a hopeful grandiosity that was exactly what I needed in junior high. All hail to the Lords of the Ring!
2. Elton John. Don’t go beyond the seventies, but Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Tumbleweed Connection and Madman Across the Water are crazy good – and all in different ways.
3. David Bowie. Ashes to ashes, funk to funky. The sleazy, sideways world he created endlessly fascinates.
4. Laura Nyro. Man, she could write, and she’d change the meter of her songs at the drop of a hat. Eli & the Thirteenth Confession was the freshest thing I’d ever heard for a while – and I’d first heard it in 1988.
5. Eagles. Yeah, everyone loves to hate the Eagles, but I wore my Hotel California cassette down to ribbons, and so did you. They called it paradise, I don’t know why.
6. Todd Rundgren. A wizard. A true star. A local guy made mindblowingly good.
7. Hall & Oates. Yeah, two more locals. I’m not talking about “Private Eyes” or anything after, I’m thinking of Abandoned Luncheonette and Bigger Than the Both of Us. That first side of Abandoned Luncheonette still holds up great. (Side 2 is self-indulgent as hell, but there ya go.) Oates should sing more.
8. The Cars. The music of my cousins, and it had me from groove one. Just what I needed.
9. Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Another band I first heard from my cousins. Petty’s “Refugee” had me utterly baffled and transfixed.
10. Joni Mitchell. Again, I didn’t hear a lot of her work until later, and I’ve still got a lot to explore. But Court and Spark is still a dart to the heart, and I listened to Blue maybe a million times on one of the longest nights of my life.
11. Steely Dan. This one goes to 11, because nothing says glorious excess like the Dan. So many of their songs are like seeing something pornographic out of the corner of your eye. A mix of temptation and the art of the con.

Rob