Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Most Magical Organ Failure on Earth

I came across this card a while back. It's part of the Disney edition of Trivial Pursuit. And it set me to wondering:


What in Goofy's name is a question about renal failure doing on a Disney trivia card?

Rob

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Where We'll Be

A local bookstore whose name I have a hard time spelling, The Raconteur, is presenting a live performance of The Maltese Falcon as a radio play tonight at 8. Which is awesome in and of itself, but complementary wine seals the deal.

Rob

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cool Turkey

I read the mail today -- oh, boy! -- and discovered that the money I'll get from unemployment will be somewhat (heck, significantly) less than I'd thought it would be. Which made me look at my already cut-down comics spending, and think: Are you crazy? You can't buy all this!

So instead of thinking about what titles I'd drop, I dropped them all cold turkey, and then added a couple books (not series...individual issues) here and there... until this almost-ended story or that one runs its course. Two more issues of JSA. One more of Flash. Two more of Legion. The last three issues of Final Crisis. And one or two more...

And then that'll be it. No more comics until I get a new job or a fairly dependable stream of freelance work.

I've got plenty of things to reread. And there are some trade paperbacks on my shelf that I've yet to get around to. But man... Wednesdays are not going to be the same.

Rob

Chicago is Bizarro Philly

A couple of months ago, on facebook, I got a friend request from someone I didn't know. He was Rob Staeger, from Chicago, Illinois. Not many people have the same name as me, so I friended him. At first I thought of him as my evil twin, but then I realized: He's a tall blond guy, and I'm a short bald guy with a goatee. Who's really the evil one here?

So I made my peace with being an evil twin... until I got hit with the newest monkeywrench.

I got a notification that one of my facebook friends became facebook friends with another one of my facebook friends through the "people you may know" tool. These two guys are from totally different parts of my life, though they might have some similar interests. But I thought: How does Tom know Greg?

That's when I found out: He doesn't know my Greg at all. There's another Greg Miller in Chicago, Illinois. And he's tall and blond, as opposed to the short, bald, bearded Greg Miller I know.

Reality is collapsing upon itself. We are duplicating at an alarming rate. Soon, Robs and Gregs (and Jeffs and Andys and Chrisses and Tims and Bills and Toms) will be appearing in other cities -- redheaded ones in Knoxville, older versions in Milwaukee. A Pakistani version of us will apear in Paris; we'll all be lefthanded in Prague. We will crowd the planet with our expanding geekery. Nowhere is safe.

Fear the future.

Rob

Thursday, November 27, 2008

We'll Have to Bring Our Own Tunes to the Thanksgiving Day Parade

I'm just about to sit down for dinner, but I wanted to share a Thaksgiving song you might not have heard before: "Thanksgiving Day Parade," by Dan Bern. It's a dreamlike, slacker thanksgiving, but it gives me a warm feeling whenever I hear it.



Some sample lyrics:

And Michelangelo finally came down
After four years on the ceiling
He said he'd lost his funding
And the paint had started peeling
And he told us that his patron
His Holiness, the Pope
Was demanding productivity
With which our friend just couldn't cope
And he rode off on his skateboard
With his brushes and his blade
Muttering something 'bout some food
And the Thanksgiving Day Parade


I like that. You've suffered some setbacks, but dammit, pick yourself up. It's Thanksgiving, for chrissakes.

Here's another verse:

And I love whoever's next to me
I love them so, so much
They let me lean against them
Like a beautiful crutch


Man, I've been there. There's nothing like the gratitude of the intoxicated.

And everyone should come up
On the stage and grab the mike
And tell us one by one
Who they are and what they like.


This is one of the bits that I absolutely love about this song; everyone, take a minute on stage. Tell us a little bit about yourself. We're glad you're here.

And the babies are the only ones
To have lately gotten laid
And I'm feeling young and eager
For the Thanksgiving Day Parade


And this just cracks me up -- it's a weird little play on words, and it carries over to two more lines that I read as a strange mix of childlike wonder and adult anticipation as the parade gets closer.

Now, I really like this version (performed by Bern with Moxy Fruvous), but there's one problem: My favorite verse was cut, and because of it, the friggin' parade never arrives. I have a feeling they were cut for time during the concert. On the album, the song builds and builds and builds until you get to a long string of names, everyone playing an instrument. It's an amazing climax. You can hear it in another performance here (or on the album New American Language), but here's how it goes, wordwise. I get the feeling Bern is just picking out all his friends, and giving them all something to do. And that kind of friendship, that vast community of people, is what I'm so thankful for. So here it is, the unsung verse:

And somewhere in the distance
An orchestra shows its face
With Natalie on the oboe
Ty on double bass
John plays the viola
Slik the tenor sax
James he blows harmonica
In vanilla skin-tight slacks
Hugo oozes alto sax
Ivory the trombone
Masuda squawks the trumpet
Andre xylophone
Ron he shreds the violin
In a green Italian suit
Mike talks on the telephone
On a tape with an endless loop
Geoff he blows the clarinet
With an old-time rockin' feel
Charlie dings the triangle
Dave the glockenspiel
Chris puffs on the tuba
H a big bass drum
Alfonso throbs the cello
Like he would a woman, with his thumb
And high up on the podium
In tails with his baton poised
Banksy leads the orchestra
In a glorious, awful noise
And on a float of dripping oil paint
The orchestra, it played
Kissing the whole universe
In the Thanksgiving Day Parade.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Rob

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Straight Outta Terminal C

I signed up for the Northwest Airlines frequent flier club, and the airline sends me regular e-mails called "NWA Weekly Deals". Of course, I'm of the generation that NWA means only one thing:


Some possible deals?

"When I'm called off, I got a sawed off
Squeeze the trigger, and bodies are hauled off."

Hmm... that's value for money.

"MC Ren controls the automatic
For any dumb muthafucker that starts static."

Customer service is obviously a priority.

"The security is maximum and that's a law."

Especially since 9/11.

"See, I don't give a fuck, that's the problem
I see a motherfuckin' cop, I don't dodge him."

And while their safety standards are lax, they'll comply with the law when confronted.

"But I'm smart, lay low, creep a while
And when I see a punk pass, I smile."

Or will they?

Peace out. Fly safe.

Rob

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back in the Saddle

What better time to rededicate myself to shedding some weight than two days before Thanksgiving? I went to meeting for the first time in a month, just to see how my weight had changed in 30 days of inactivity and general glumness. The result?

Goose egg.

Time marches on, but somehow my weight stood still. A pleasant surprise, to be sure.

Rob

Looking Back to Two Days Ahead

Now that it's almost Thanksgiving Day... I thought I'd set the WABAC machine to go back eighteen months to a post I wrote about Graham Parker's song, "Almost Thanksgiving Day."



You get the world that you make, they say.

Rob

Funny Because It's Terrifying




Rob

Jalopy Jam

Friday night, Kathy & I drove into Brooklyn to meet our friend Steph, eat some tapas, and check out the music at a little performance space called Jalopy. The place was great -- they served coffee, beer and wine, and the performance area (the seats on the edges comfy-style, the ones in the center like pews) was one-of-a-kind. The walls were lined with odd, handmade guitars, banjos and fiddles -- made from frying pans, cigar boxes, turtle shells, and a wooden clog. A big head of some decapitated statue peers eerily into the audience.

And the music! We only heard a little bit of the first act (Hillary Hawke and Hot Owl), but I can tell you they play a great version of "The Cuckoo." But soon they were off, and the Kings County Strings took the stage. A Brooklyn bluegrass group, they had a ball with their set, playing with speed, precision and heart -- truly a treat to listen to.

After they wrapped up, they mentioned that they'd be setting up in the audience space with some of the other people in the audience, and would just jam for a while. Turns out the room was full of some amazing pickers. Kathy, Steph and I stuck around to enjoy some more music, spontaneous and warm, before braving the cold. The cluster of musicians were still playing when we left -- playing for their peers, and for the sheer exuberance the music brings.

Rob

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Batclock R.I.P.

We lost power for a little while on Friday afternoon. I know this, because when I got home from a career seminar, all of the clocks in the house were blinking.

Generally, this is an inconvenience, nothing more. But there's one clock that has become increasingly difficult to set: the Bat-clock my brother and sister-in-law gave me as a present a few years ago. While the time and bat-signal can still be projected onto the ceiling (the clock's coolest feature, which would have been even cooler if my eyes were good enough to read it without glasses), the time-set controls have gotten ornerier over the years.

Re-setting the current time always takes a little finessing, but getting the alarm right is so much of a pain that I've considered just keeping it at midnight and adjusting the time setting so that "midnight" is at 7-something in the morning. And this latest power outage, coupled with the fact that where the hell do I have to go in the morning, anyway?, has kept me from messing with it all weekend. And I think it may be time to retire the clock to the attic. Or maybe the basement-slash-Batcave. In any event, I'm certain to put it in a glass case downstairs, as I do the plastic shells of all the clocks who have served me over the years. Because that's what heroes do: We decorate with our dead.

Rest in peace, Batclock. Gotham mornings won't be the same without you.

Rob

Friday, November 21, 2008

Piggy Bank

My sister called up today, and part of the conversation was like we were in an Aaron Sorkin TV show:

Her: So how does Kathy feel, now that she's bringing home all the bacon?
Me: I've got some severance. I'm still bringing bacon.
Her: Oh, right. And after that's unemployment, so that's a little bacon.
Me: That's pretty lean bacon.
Her: Yeah, turkey bacon.
Me: Well, y'know. Any pork in a storm.

Rob

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Moment of Silence

It's the 10th annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance, and too few news outlets are reporting on it. The day raises awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, and commemorates those who have been killed in violence fueled by prejudice.

Judging from Google News, the national media has very little to say about it.

I would never have heard of it, if not for my friend Ami. But now I have, and now you have too.

So take a moment of silence, and think about some people gone too soon, for the worst of reasons.

And then tell someone else. Because silence doesn't do anyone any good.

Rob

What's Your Blog Type?

"ESTP - The Doers The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities. The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."

Via Kevin Drum, I've just learned there's a tool that can analyze the text of your entire blog output and determine your Meyers-Briggs personality type. It's called the Typealyzer, and I'm apparently a "doer." Which seems like a kind way of saying scatterbrain.

Rob

I Am Powerless Before It

If there's one thing I can't resist, it's the Marx Bros. in A Night at the Opera. Once I start watching, I just get sucked right in. Here's a scene that makes me realize how much Joseph Heller owes to these guys:



Rob

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Book of Love

I'd seen this Olbermann "Special Comment" floating around the net for a while now, but never had the time to watch it. Didn't feel any real urgency to, either, since I figured I knew the gist and he wasn't going to change my mind (or even try to). But I've seen it on Kevin's blog, and I've seen it at Geoff's, and the praise it's been getting has prompted me to finally watch it -- which in turn has made me want to share it.

This one stands out for me: For once, Olbermann is not directing righteous fury at our leaders. He's saddened--deeply disappointed--in the results of the Prop 8 vote in California, and instead of railing against the government, he's actually trying to persuade. I find it much more effective than his usual stance during the Special Comments, which are great for catharsis, but I can't see them changing many minds. This is different; he appeals to the heart, not the gut.



I said my piece about equal marriage
a while ago, and don't really have much to add. Other than that I have a hard time imagining how someone could stand against love and still think they're one of the good guys.

One more thing: Andrew Sullivan had a great series of posts on November 15, called The View from Your Protest, about the protests that sprang up all over the country (and even elsewhere) in favor of equal marriage. I can't figure out how to link to them all, so I've linked to the Iowa City post, with a photo I really like. Check out all of his Nov. 15 posts... some are just images, some have on-the-scene comments. Taken as a whole, it's downright inspiring.

Rob

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Irony: It's Good for the Blood!

On my last day at work before my position was eliminated, for some reason my passwords wouldn't work. I checked with IT, and they told me I hadn't been intentionally shut out; it was just a glitch.

So they set me up with a new password: "Welcome1."

Rob

Friday, November 14, 2008

Epiphany Project Tonight

I'm not sure what you've got going on tonight, but if you're in the Princeton area, I'd suggest heading to Looking Glass Pond at 7:30 to see the Epiphany Project. EP is the duo of Bet Williams and John Hodian, and I've long been a fan of their music. And to be honest, I have their newest album, Hin Dagh, and have been meaning to write about it for a while now. But time's slipped away from me while I was collecting my thoughts, and suddenly they're in town tomorrow. (They're also at Drom in NYC on Friday the 21 and the Tin Angel in Philly on the 23rd.)

(You can hear samples of the tracks here, by the way. Listen, you'll be enveloped.)

At any rate, my job hunt/freelancing got away from me today, or else you'd see a review of the album in this space. But I wanted to give a heads-up in case you're able to make it to one of these shows. You won't regret it. As good as they sound on disc, in person Epiphany Project is jaw-dropping.

Rob

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I Just Wrote a Press Release

Pretty much the first one I've ever written. I think I did some in-house for Dreamchaser back in the day, but looking back on that, I didn't quite know what I was doing. Now, I know, and I did it. And I suddenly feel professional again, even though I'm still in pajama pants and a sweatshirt.

I could get used to this.

Rob

You Want Me On That Wall! You Need Me On That Wall!

Caught another mouse this morning. Boo-yah!

Rob

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Progress

Steve Benen brought my attention to this overlooked milestone of the recent election: The New Hampshire state Senate is apparently the first legislative body in the country to have a majority of its members be women. Cheers to the Granite State!

Rob

Journal Entry: November 12, 2008

Got another one. Or the same one. Visual evidence of at least one more running around. Looked me in the eye. Set traps. Many traps. Must remain vigilant.

Hurm.

Kathy, Honey, Don't Read This

I have to talk about this morning's mouse, and there are details you don't want to know. It's in no way gross (other than the essential skeeviness of having an uninvited animal in the kitchen) but I doubt you'll want to hear this story anyway. You already know the essentials. There's no need for you to venture past this perfectly innocuous picture of Speedy Gonzales.


Okay, the rest of you? Here's what happened. We've been having mouse difficulties in the house since the temperature started dropping a few weeks ago. We tried some no-kill traps that the mice simply started avoiding. We're loathe to use any sort of poison, since we don't want the ferrets exposed to that stuff. And those traditional snap!-and-break-your-back traps are hideous, and certainly only a last resort.

So we've been going with glue traps, and had some success with them. When they catch one (about once a week) I come downstairs to see the trap has been disturbed and then look in logical places for the stuck rodent to have dragged it. (I need bigger glue traps.) Then I find it, pick it up in a supermarket plastic bag, and take it outside to the garbage. Sometimes—usually—the mice are still alive. A friend told me I should drown them, but I can't bring myself to do it.

It all breaks my heart a little, but I think, At least they're going into the garbage. Which has to be something akin to food heaven for a mouse.

So last night, I stayed up late on the computer, and came down to check the traps before bed. And there was a mouse, stuck in a glue trap on the kitchen counter (yeah. The counter... ugh.), and he looked up at me with this big, deep black eyes. It was horrible. He was... cute.

So, I steeled myself and did what I had to do. I put him and the trap in a plastic bag, and threw him into the garbage. But because it was late, and because I was lazy, and because I didn't want Kathy to wake up to the sound of our back door opening and closing, I stuck him in our kitchen trashcan.

If that wasn't a bad mistake, I wouldn't be telling you this story.

This morning, I looked over the kitchen (no new mice) and remembered I had to take out the trash, even with the bag half-full. So I opened up the lid to get it, and the mouse scurried out. Somehow he'd gotten free of the trap, but couldn't get free of the trash can until I'd opened it.

I friggin' jumped a foot in the air. I spent the next couple minutes trying to catch the mouse with an old Kool-whip container—I had him cornered behind the trash can—but he escaped. He scurried under the radiator, free again. And, having been completely unprepared for this confrontation, I was and remained completely and utterly skeeved by the encounter.

And now I know he's out there. Waiting. With revenge in his cute, cute eyes.

Rob

Good Advice


On Blog@Newsarama, DC Publisher Paul Levitz offers a list of 10 ways to make your letter-writing campaign more effective. He's a comic book guy, but his advice is applicable to pretty much everything from entertainment to ice cream flavors. Plus, you can amuse yourself by reading how quickly the Newsarama commenters ignore his advice.

Rob

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jacksonville

"They gave me a ticket, pointed me South,
Gave me five hundred bucks to shut my mouth."
--Graham Parker, "I'll Never Play Jacksonville Again"

I'm in a weird place, blog-wise, lately. The election's over, so I don't have the ins and outs of that to blog about anymore. And on the personal side, there's not too much I want to say about getting laid off. There's nothing sinister about it, despite the quote above, but I've never blogged much about work, and don't plan to start now that any applecarts I knock over aren't necessarily my own. And besides, it's depressing.

Blogging about a job search? Even more depressing. What's horrible is that it feels like the only thing I have to talk about, and I can't bear to talk about it, perhaps even less than you all want to hear about it.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have something to say soon enough. I won't let the radio silence continue for too long.

Rob

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Rachel Getting Married

More often than not, the movies I go to see are one of two kinds: Popcorn movies or Classics (often popcorn movies from another era, with enough ambition, heart and craft to stand the test of time). I like mystery, comedy, heroism and suspense.

But every now and then--not nearly often enough, recently--I try to make it to a movie that doesn't wear those things on its sleeve. Sure, it's all there--those things are a part of any life, in varying doses--but on their own, it's like listening to music with the bass cranked all the way up: It makes your heart pound, but you lose a lot of complexity.

Rachel Getting Married
gets all the elements right, in proper balance. It's a movie about a family with a devastating past and a strained present, on one of its happiest days. Kym (Anne Hathaway) has come home from a treatment center; she's nine months sober, and is still struggling with it. Her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt) is getting married to Sidney (TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe), and their families are meeting for the first time. And like Kym, we're dropped into the middle of it all.

I don't want to say too much about the plot of the movie, or even how the different characters relate to each other. It's not giving too much away to mention that Rachel thinks of Kym as ticking time bomb that could potentially ruin her wedding day, but that diminishes both women. Rachel loves her sister, and Kym isn't trying to make trouble... but in some ways she is trouble, both by her actions, and even by the feelings her presence evokes.

Of course, that doesn't say it all about what's between the two sisters, or them and their families and guests. It's probably best to approach the movie knowing as little as possible. Not because of any big surprises, but because any line of dialogue can contain a small revelation, and it's best to get the pleasure or sting of it for yourself. Suffice it to say that the cast (also including Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, Mather Zickel and Debra Winger) never disappoints.

One of the things the movie does best is include the viewer in the wedding and its preparations. You feel like you've been invited, and get to enjoy the ceremony, cringe at an awkward toast, and party it up...but as you glance around the reception tent, you might notice details of countless stories happening around you. And one in particular, mixing hope and joy and grief in ways that will blindside you.

I can't recommend it highly enough.

Rob

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I May Get More Comments On This Post Than Any Other I Have Done Before.

You stand at the door of a castle. There is a knife on the ground.

Rob
(Thanks, JtB!)

Guilty As Charged.




Rob

Six True Things

1) When I was knocking on doors to get out the vote for Obama in Darby, Pennsylvania, one kid told his father that John McCain was at the door.

2) I find it much, much easier to write a cover letter when I have a specific job to apply for.

3) The ratio of leftover Halloween candy in the house to leftover Halloween candy in my stomach is decreasing. Hopefully, it will reach some sort of nougat equilibrium.

4) It's a weird feeling, to be emotionally girding yourself for long hours of hard work, and then have that pulled away from you. It's one thing to take my job, but I feel like I'm losing my closure.

5) I have a lot of good friends pulling for me through this.

6) Without comfort and certainty, the universe would have no need to throw pies.

Rob

Yes.


Rob

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Oasis

Yesterday I had the chance to take some time off from thinking about my job, politics and all the other things that have been dominating this blog of late, and go downtown to enjoy my friend Nicole Maynard's show at the Bowery Gallery, Images of Optimism. Her paintings here are mostly nature scenes, from backyard landscapes to close-ups of butterflies, and upon viewing them, one can't help feel a soothing calm.


The painting accompanying this post, Fall III, was one of my favorites in the show. Part of it was just the notion that there's this cycle of life, practically on fire with life, just over the threshold. I was admiring the trees on either side of the painting, and a friend suggested they're a proscenium: they frame the action on stage, as it's presented to us. And like in a play, the action is just beyond the proscenium: A little out of reach, but right there for us to experience just the same.

I walked around some of the other galleries on the floor, and noticed the way some of the other artists showing there approached their landscapes and city scenes; in almost all cases, there was more direct representation between the place and the painting, the sense that one moment has been frozen on canvas. Nicole's recent paintings are different. All shapes and colors and textures, they seem almost taking a step further into memory, as if all other details of the experience outdoors will fall away, and it is only these few keenly felt things that will persist.

What's interesting to me now, a day away from the gallery, is how these painting seem to grow in my memory -- like that fiery hedge, extending beyond the trees that frame it and out of sight.

If you're in New York, you can see Nicole Maynard's Images of Optimism show at The Bowery Gallery through Nov. 22. Otherwise, you can see her paintings every week at her blog, Art Weekly.

Rob