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.


More Spooky Goodness

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



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.


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!


Monday, October 30, 2006

Attention Sharon

You might be interested in this.

(The rest of you might, too.)


Saturday, October 28, 2006


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.


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


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'.

(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.


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.

(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


Big Time Show Business

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

...and Tom Waits. Enjoy.


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.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

When ABC Begins With X

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


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.


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.


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!


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.)


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.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Swabbin' the Deck

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

(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


Habeas Corpse

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


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.


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.


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?

*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.


Monday, October 09, 2006


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.

(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.


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.


Friday, October 06, 2006




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.


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.


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.


Profiles in Courage

Firedoglake reports that NRCC head Tom Reynolds, hip-deep in the Foley scandal, decided to hold a press conference today with a whole mess o’ kids, apparently to keep reporters from asking him uncomfortable questions.

Check out this classic exchange:

Reporter: Congressman, do you mind asking the children to leave the room so we can have a frank discussion of this, because it's an adult topic. It just doesn't seem appropriate to me.

Reynolds: I'll take your questions, but I'm not going to ask any of my supporters to leave.


Reporter: Who are the children, Congressman? Who are these children?

Reynolds: Pardon me?

Reporter: Who are these children?

Reynolds: Well, a number of them are from the community. There are several of the "thirtysomething" set that are here and uh I've known them and I've known their children as they were born.

Reporter: Do you think it's appropriate for them to be listening to the subject matter though?

Reynolds: Sir, I'll be happy to answer your questions, I'm still, uh…

"Hey, I'm not saying you can't ask your questions. Fire away. Don't mind the fragile sensibilities of innocents or anything." Sheesh.

I think the bet part is the question: "Who are these children?" It gives the impression that he never even mentioned why there were there, he just was ready to duck behind them for cover. Sorry, buddy. A +2 bonus to AC isn't gonna make that much of a difference in this one.


Hey Droogies!

So, sleepy though I am, I promised another post about an upcoming New Jersey happening, and I want to deliver. Besides, this looks like a lot of fun.

From October 26 through November 4, the Raconteur bookstore in Metuchen is presenting a staged version of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange. Directed by Alex Dawson, the play stars Michael Nathanson, and will be a stylistic departure from the Stanley Kubrick film (which I own on DVD but still haven’t seen – gotta do it before opening night!). Costumes are by fashion designer Anu Susi, and the press release says she “abandons the sleazy seventies vibe of Kubrick’s film for a sort of banged-up, industrial elegance: Victorian suits with goggles, massive buckled boots and, of course, the iconic bowler.” It’s a Steampunk Clockwork Orange, and I couldn’t be more intrigued.

The show is appropriate for ages 16 and up. I’m reproducing the nuts and bolts of the press release:

Oct 26 – Nov 4.
With shows on Mischief Night and Halloween!
Preview: Thurs 8pm (pay what you can!)
Fri 8:00pm/ Sat 8:00pm & 11:30pm/ Mon 8:00pm/ Tues 8:00pm/ Thurs 11:30am/ Fri 8:00pm/ Sat 8:00pm.

Tickets: $15 (student/senior/artist); $25 (general)

Tickets available in advance at both The Forum Theatre and The Raconteur (431 Main Street, Metuchen).
For reservations contact Alex at raconteurbooks@aol.com or 732.906.0009

Special weekday matinee for high schools: 11:30 am, Thurs. Nov 2
Q & A with cast and crew followed by a short discussion of the philosophical implications of Burgess' relevant fable.

I don’t know what night Kathy & I are going, but we’re not going to miss it.

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

Monday, October 02, 2006

Schecter 3:16

Too busy for a proper post right now (one on an upcoming NJ event is coming tonight), but I thought you might like to see Dem strategist Cliff Schecter lay down the smack on MSNBC. He lists the current Republican scandals with such speed and glee that it's like listening to Adam McNaughton's "Three-Minute Hamlet."

So yeah, it's a political talk show, the equivalent of professional wrestling for political junkies. But Schecter's litany is like a spinning headlock elbow drop.*


*I think; I had to go to Wikipedia for a list of wrestling moves, but that one sounded sufficiently terrifying.
(Cross-posted at The Center of New Jersey Life.)

Press 3 For Link

The Bastard speaks of a workplace adventure. And Lo, I shall make a cameo.


empeethree of the week

Those of you who are parents (aside from you, Mom) will probably love this song by Hammell on Trial. But you’ll love it a lot less if you listen to it in front of your kids. I don’t usually put parental warnings on things, but to not put one on this would kind of defeat the purpose. So, without further ado: “Inquiring Minds”.

(Via Atrios)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Down So Low

For all my low opinion of Republican politicians, I'm genuinely shocked that some of them, including the House Speaker Dennis Hastert (IL) and Majority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), as well as the Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee Tom Reynolds (NY), have been covering up for a sexual predator. Not in a million years would I have expected them to do this. Oh, and let's throw in Reps. Rodney Alexander (LA) and John Shimkus (IL), making it an even five congressman involved in this coverup.

That's beyond unreal. And beyond vile.