Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Arrested

Lately one of my big guilty pleasures is Magic's Greatest Secrets Finally Revealed, one of the masked magician shows that, well, do what the title promises. There are some neat tricks, it's true, although most of them can be explained like this: "She's hiding somewhere. Here's where." It's full of smarmy, leering voice-overs by the boss from the X-Files, and often seems to be an excuse to show a lot of scantily-dressed assistants crouching or otherwise contorting themselves.

But hey, magic!

Anyway, the simplicity of those tricks (even many of the big ones) brought my favorite tv magician, Gob Bluth to mind--and his arch-nemesis, Tony Wonder:


Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eye of the Spider

I don't know why I hadn't seen this before, but it's absolutely brilliant: Peter Parker's photo essay for the New York Times on "The Mutant Problem."

It's really creative and well-imagined. Check it out.

(And Pete? I'm proud of you for finally leaving JJJ behind.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rob's Getting Old! Everybody Shimmy!

In a few weeks, my friends, I will be 40. And before that happens, I want to celebrate. Because I could very well bust a hip or something if I wait until afterward.

So, on October 3rd, five days before the clock strikes old, Kathy & I are going to the New York Burlesque Festival at BB Kings. We're buying $25 general admission tickets. The doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show begins at 7:30. Meet us in line (we'll probably line up around 5:30 for good seats), and we'll all go in together!

If you haven't been to a burlesque show before, let me tell you what it isn't: It's not some sleazy strip club. There ain't no lap dances, ain't no "champagne room." What it is is a bunch of grownups putting on a sexy, funny show, full of bawdy jokes, risque dancing, and maybe even a little carnival sideshow thrown in for good measure. It's so much better than stripping: It's what you thought stripping was when you were a little kid. You'll have a blast.

So check out the link above, and this video preview. Or read this review of a Starshine Burlesque show from a few years ago. And join us as I get old before your very eyes!

(P.S. No gifts, please -- tickets are 25 bucks apiece, plus service charges, so go easy on yerselves!)

(Also: I realize this *is* an expensive night out. If you can't make it, I totally understand.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Did You Know?

Four out of five dentists recommend Soylent Green to their patients who eat people.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Maybe You Oughta Rephrase That

Did anyone else see the Bill Clinton interview on last night's Daily Show? Does anyone else think he should avoid the phrase "suck up to the boss" for pretty much the rest of his life?


Good. Good. Excellent. Incredible.

So I was wondering at four in the morning:

Just when did my computer turn into a Bejeweled Blitz machine?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

High School Reunions

Sunday morning, bleary-eyed and half awake, I stopped into the neighborhood Wawa to buy some coffee for a drive to Atlantic City for a writer's conference. Not my neighborhood, to be clear--Wawa doesn't reach this far. Kathy and I had stayed over at my mom's place the night before, so we were in my hometown Wawa.

And as I walked in, someone already in line said my name. I looked over, and for a moment, my first thought was "who's this man?" Because while I've seen my old friend John now and then since high school, it always takes a moment for me to connect our grown-up avatars with the kids I used to know.

Anyway, John, Kathy and I had a brief little chat, then he was on his way and soon we were on ours.

I think the encounter prepared my brain for later in the day. I was in a memoir-writing workshop that I was quickly realizing wasn't really for me, when i noticed a guy in the front row, and thought, "That's how Anthony looks his Facebook profile picture..." And the more I looked at him, the more I thought he was my old high school buddy Anthony -- someone I might've bumped into twice in the last twenty years. And as he turned around as the instructor was wandering the aisle, I caught his eye and was about to write his name and a question mark on a pad of paper. When he saw me, he said, "Holy shit! Rob?" and moved back next to me for the rest of the workshop, and we hung out for the rest of the conference.

With close friends--even long-lost ones--sometimes it's easy to fall into the same conversational cadences you've always had. At one point, during a discussion of the reasons and pitfalls of using pen names, Anthony said sotto voce, "I'm going to use your name as my pseudonym." I shrugged, and said it was only fair: "I leave your name on all my victims."

Ah, good times.


A Facebook Friend Said:

"I can't believe I just met Nick Cave in the flesh!"

My question: Whose flesh?


Sunday, September 13, 2009

My Cell Phone's Alarm Scares the Hell Out of Me

Especially since I was dreaming I was a member of the Avengers, and we were all hooked up to some sort of weird brain-scan-transfer machine, and suddenly WHOOOOOONKONKONK! Something was going horribly wrong...


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Best Fan Costume I've Ever Seen

From Steve Bunche's report of this year's Dragon Con, which looks like about as much fun as a geek can have. I might just have to make the trek to Georgia some year...


Lend Him an Ear

Ella Taylor has a good interview with Quentin Tarantino up at the Voice.

"My movies are painfully personal, but I'm never trying to let you know how personal they are. It's my job to make it be personal, and also to disguise that so only I or the people who know me know how personal it is. Kill Bill is a very personal movie.... It's not anyone's business. It's my job to invest in it and hide it inside of genre. Maybe there are metaphors for things that are going on in my life, or maybe it's just straight up how it is. But it's buried in genre, so it's not a "how I grew up to write the novel" kind of piece."


Mouse Hunt

It's mouse time again!

As the weather gets colder, Kathy & I had noticed an increased incursion of mice. So, the other night, I pulled out the old standby: glue traps. I set one by the fridge, two at the corners of the stove, and another by the trash can. All places I've caught mice in the past.

After two days of having the traps out, results were poor. No mousies had been caught, and I was waking up early and going downstairs before Kathy could for nothing.

So last night, I decided to bait one of the traps. I plopped an orange gumdrop in the center of the glue trap and set it on a counter the mice visit now and then.

This morning, I took trap inventory. The one by the trash can was there, but there was only one trap by the stove. The one by the fridge had been moved to the counter, and there it sat, gumdrop untouched.

I looked around for the missing trap. I grabbed our LED flashlight, but it seemed to be going dead. So I grabbed the clunky orange flashlight, and directed the beam under the stove. I couldn't see anything down there. I stalked around the kitchen, peering into nooks, squinting into crannies. Nothing.

Somewhere along the line, I lost track of my orange flashlight. I looked all around for it, and just couldn't fine the thing. I felt like I was living in a cartoon, that a little cadre of mice had scampered up to the flashlight and stolen it when I wasn't looking. I looked over at that lone gumdrop on the trap. Suddenly it looked like a middle finger that they left waiting for me.

I found yet another flashlight--my third--and then noticed the second one on the dining room table. And when I crouched down on the kitchen tile and took another look under the stove, I saw the mouse on the trap, waaaaay in the back. I eventually was able to fish it out with the help of a yardstick--luckily, the traps are kinda sticky--and then tossed the mouse in a grocery bag and the bag in the outside trash. He's on his way to a landfill by now.

Ah, well. At least there's one gumdrop in the house I won't eat.


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I've been push polled!

I was gonna vote for Corzine for gov, and I'm still planning to, but I just got a call that started out as a regular poll, but then became an excuse to list a bunch of unpleasant things about Chris Christie. (They didn't mention his 2002 ticketless accident for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, where he was not only not charged, but given a lift to his office as U.S. Attorney, but that's possibly because in the middle of the list, I said "If you're gonna ask about the traffic accident thing, I'm strongly opposed to that too.") From what I could tell, they're all true, and most of them were about policy issues, but I had the distinct impression that my answers weren't nearly as important to them as my listening to their questions.

There's not a chance I'd vote for Christie anyway, but I can't say this is a tactic I'm fond of.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Call For Droogies

Hey, remember a few years ago, when I was excited about a local production of a theatrical version of A Clockwork Orange? Something derailed the production then, but now it's back, set for mid-October at Middlesex County College (in conjunction with Metuchen booksellers & cultural hub The Raconteur). Auditions are scheduled for next Monday and Tuesday, Sept 14 & 15. Details are here.


Cut the Shirt

So at the end of Friday's Rachel Maddow Show broadcast, guest anchor Ana Marie Cox revealed the teeshirt she'd been wearing underneath her jacket for the whole broadcast: an "I'm ready for Teddy" tee, in what she called a tribute to the late senator. A supposedly vintage campaign shirt (though Kennedy didn't run in '76, so if it is indeed vintage, it'd have to have been some sort of "draft Teddy movement. But what do I know; I was six at the time.)

So what do I see on Facebook today? An ad for, a site that sells "vintage" campaign tees to political-junkie hipsters. The ad featured the same "Ready for Teddy" design that Cox wore.

Now, this could simply be a case of a T-shirt biz striking when the iron is hot, and taking advantage of the national exposure they lucked into. There's a lot of room for benefit of the doubt.

At the same time, this could have been coordinated between RetroCampaigns and MSNBC or Cox herself. The corporate media term for this is "synergy." What everyone else calls it is "product placement," or "putting commercials right in the middle of the show I'm trying to watch." And as Kathy discovers whenever I see that damn Subaru (or deodorant) on Eureka, I find it incredibly annoying. (Eureka does it shamelessly; they had an entire plotline devoted to that friggin' car.)

Look, Ana; I'm sold on the liberalism. And Ted Kennedy did great things for America. I'm with ya 100 percent there. Just... don't try to sell me a T-shirt too, 'kay?


Friday, September 04, 2009

Empty Garden

The Bastard writes the saddest thing I'll read today: that one of my favorite bars has new owners.

A moment of silence, for un jardín muy hermoso.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Putting a Face on the Opinion

I'm sure there are plenty of people who disagree with me on this, but I really like the occasional political status update on Facebook. I certainly don't want a steady diet of them--I'd rather know that your kids are going back to school or your opinion of Inglourius Basterds--but it's good to know where people stand on this and that.

This is particularly true of the stuff I don't agree with. Personally, I think it's silly to fret about political indoctrination when the President is going to deliver a stay-in-school message to kids. Especially since that ship has pretty well sailed: Bush addressed children with his "Freedom Agenda," for instance, and I don't think anyone said boo. And ABC's Jake Tapper reminds us that Reagan spoke about opposition to gun control to school kids back in 1988... presumably without any permission slips being signed. Not that the administration did a great job promoting this one: as Kevin Drum points out, the original phrasing of an after-speech activity ("Write letters to themselves about what they can do to help the president. These would be collected and redistributed at an appropriate later date by the teacher to make students accountable to their goals") was sure to raise some eyebrows.

Anyway, the purpose of that tanget is to illustrate one of those fairly inconsequential things that people disagree on for a little while and then forget about. But one of my Facebook friends put up a status report saying she didn't want people talking to her kids with one of their parents present without their permission. Which sounds fairly reasonable--laudable, even--until you realize that it's not like they personally vet every bus driver and cafeteria worker, or the countless other adults that come in contact with their children every day at school. They trust the school to do that. I'm willing to bet that the school will vouch for the president, the same as it does for Lunchlady Doris. So what's the prob?

But again, I'm off on a tangent. Facebook statuses: What I like about seeing these statuses is it forces me to not stereotype the people I disagree with. It's very easy to fall back on the idea that everyone who disagrees with you is either criminal or stupid in these times; I know I've been guilty of that myself on occasion. But it's very, very good to get a reminder that some of these people are our friends, our co-workers, our family members, our old school buddies, our neighbors. If we can all just ease up and give each other a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt, if we can all just refrain from pointing fingers, we might not get them bitten off.


Buy This Book!

Sweet Tooth #1, from Vertigo. The first-issue introductory price is only a dollar, which makes it a good deal however you slice it. But writer/artist Jeff Lemire sweetens the pot: If you buy the book and send it to him (with return postage) he'll sign it and send you a free sketch! Details are on his blog.

I haven't gotten to my local comic shop to get my copy yet, but once I do, you can bet I'll be sending it off to Jeff for cartoony goodness.


Just What We Need, More Violent Idiots.

I truly believe the universal healthcare coverage is crucial to our remaining a just, humane society. I've believed it since the early 90s, when two things happened: a, the Clintons started selling their healthcare reform plan, so it became a topic of many conversations, and b, I got out of college and needed to get a 9-to-5 job to get health insurance before I aged out of my parents' plan. Everyone's advice to me about health insurance signaled that they were terrified of not having it. (I, as a 21-year-old and therefore immortal, couldn't have cared less.) No one should have to choose between crushing debt and their life and health, or the health of their family.

It seems to me that the moral high ground in that argument is pretty damn clear: there's very little to be said for putting the profits of giant insurance companies over the health needs of everyday people.

Well, it would be clear if idiots like this guy weren't biting people's fingers off. Yeah, he was punched. So what? Ideally, he should just take it. Find a cop, get the guy arrested for assault. Then it's a whole other story. (Another point: Ideally, you shouldn't provoke someone into punching you in the first place, which seems to have happened here.)

Plan B should be to punch back. Plan B is a bad, bad plan. It's especially bad if the guy punching you is a senior citizen. It's human nature to fight back, sure, but no good will come of it. It will potentially escalate the violence, and of course it brings you down to their level.

Plan C is to bite your assailant's finger off. Screw Plan C. There is no Plan C. Plan C changes the whole story. Suddenly, instead of a garden-variety jerk, you're a raving dirtbag psycho. What kind of idiot would think this is acceptable? I'm sure we'll find out later today, as an arrest is made and the media does its frenzied little dance. Plan C sucks... and worse yet, it obscures the high ground.

So bottom line, don't fight. Just don't. But if you must fight, fight like a man, not a goddamn dog.

(And if you must bite someone's finger off? Do it over a topic where the health and livelihood of so many people don't hang in the balance, m'kay? Maybe argue about the infield fly rule or something?)

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Invisible Blog

It's the beginning of the month, and I figure I'll give a monthly shout-out to my other blog, Weight That Can't Be Carried. So far, it's working... I'm keeping track of (and staying honest about) what I eat, which is the important part. If you want to see, follow the link. (Warning: Not Always That Interesting.)


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Join the GOP Cult

Michelle Bachmann (R-Crazytown) is starting a cult, and she wants you to join!

"What we have to do today is make a covenant, to slit our wrists, be blood brothers on this thing," said Bachmann.

She's talking about healthcare reform. She doesn't like it, and she thinks we should all kill ourselves to prove it, apparently. Maybe there are no 10-hour lines in the emergency rooms in the tail of the death comet.

As ways to kill ourselves go, slitting our wrists at least seems a healthier alternative to poisoned Kool-Aid, which has all sorts of artificial colors and preservatives in it. So I'm with her there. And if we have any last-minute regrets? It's not the weekend. Maybe an ER doctor might be able to squeeze us in before we bleed out.


Separated at Birth?

I'm astonished I hadn't heard about this before: Indiana Pacer Danny Granger is building his own Batcave.

Which, as far as rich people doing crazy stuff with their money goes, is flat-out awesome. I'd like my own Batcave, too, but since there really can be only one, I'll have to settle for a skyscraper shaped like a big S. Not just for Staeger... also for "structurally sound," which I have no doubt it will be. Nothing like balancing tons of steel, concrete and glass on a curved foundation.

Anyway, Granger's Batcave plans have come up against the dastardly state of New Mexico, which has ensnared him with regulations and building codes. For one thing, they've nixed the underground tunnel he was planning.

It's not all bad news, however. As Granger explains, "I've got cars and things that turn my cars and I even got sort of like a moat thing going on so it will be interesting to see." Cars and things that turn my cars. Next up: a 20-foot-tall Bat-computer with the M.O., known associates, shot tendencies and play styles of every member of the Gotham underworld and the NBA.

Will our hero get out alive? Will he be able to complete the underground lair of his dreams before getting strangled with red tape? Tune in next time: Same Bat-time, same Bat-Channel.