Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Small Revenge

Years ago, my pal Chris and I were in a Pizzeria Uno in Pennsylvania that was just god-awful. Bad food, bad service, unfriendly staff, etc. Just a hellhole of a place. Before we left, we went to the jukebox, and as a parting gift, set it to play "Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner" five times in a row. Just so they knew what something was like if it wasn't served cold.



Roll out the headless thompson gunner! We'll have a headless thompson gunner of fun!

Rob

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A Room with a Wild Party

The other day, in search of a movie completely out of my regular wheelhouse these days, I watched our DVR recording of the Merchant-Ivory film A Room with a View. Which makes great use of an amazing cast, some at the start of their careers, and some more experienced actors who've just gotten better and better in the decades since. But once I wrapped it up, I started scanning around for other M-I films I'd missed (which is most of them, most alarmingly The Remains of the Day).
But I'd noticed that one of their earliest films was an adaptation of Joseph Moncure March's poem The Wild Party -- a favorite of mine ever since Art Spiegelman reissued it with his illustrations in the 90s. Now, this is a loose adaptation -- the action has moved to Hollywood rather than NYC, and the old vaudevillian is now a Fatty Arbuckle-type fading silent-movie star (played by James Coco), trying to launch one last picture. And Queenie is Racquel Welch, and she doesn't really have any chemistry with anyone who's not named Racquel Welch. She's got a little with James Coco in the beginning, and barely any with her young lothario, played by Riptide's Perry King. It's just not a good movie. (From what I can tell, it didn't open in NY until an early Merchant-Ivory retrospective, some 6 years after its release.)
And yet as a mid-70s version of 1920s excess, it's kind of fascinating to behold. It could have used more -- a lot more -- of March's verse hanging the scenes together. I was really hoping to hear some of that out loud, especially since I'm not quite sure where my book is at the moment. But que sera, and all that. And at least I got to hear this song, a faux-20s paean to hedonism: "Ain't Nothin' Bad About Feeling Good."


Rob

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Maybe He Was Singing About Manimal

They must've heard we had moonshine. 
In my defense, I never thought the Duke Boys had gills.
But in the Dukes of Hazzard theme song, Waylon Jennings sings about the Good Ol' Boys "straight'nin' the curves...flatt'nin' the hills..." And for a not inconsiderable period of time, I mis-heard that line as "flapping their gills."
Picture 10-year-old me, wondering if "flapping their gills" was down-home country slang for "talking tough."

Rob

Monday, March 05, 2018

So Apparently This Blog is Going to an All-Poetry Parody Format

This is just to say
I have eaten
the leftover queso
that was in
the fridge
I microwaved it
And finished the jar
with tortilla chips.
My bad.
If it makes you
feel better
I burnt the
ever-loving shit out of my tongue.

Rob

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

With apologies to Poe

Oh, the rapping and the tapping
And the wet and ceaseless slapping
Of the rain as it relentlessly does fall!

How I need a long vacation
From the tintinnabulation
As it strikes the air conditioner down the hall!


And yet I edit these notations through it all.

Rob

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Very Model

"I am the very model of a modern stable gen-i-us/
A presidential pussygrabber, Hail to the Obscen-i-est/
Who can’t help tweeting Rocket Man, whose button is the teeniest/
And other flimsy metaphors for measures of the peen-i-us"

CHORUS: His hands are tiny metaphors for measures of the peen-i-us!

Rob

Sunday, December 24, 2017

"They're putting up reindeer, and singing songs of joy and peace"

I discovered the musical equivalent of Die Hard being people's favorite Christmas movie: Joni Mitchell's "River" is one of my favorite songs to hear around the holidays. It's not a Christmas song; it's a song about sorrow over a breakup that happens at Christmas. But like Die Hard, its setting is clearly Christmas, and like Die Hard, it uses a Christmas tune in a minor key to set the mood (in this case, phrases from "Jingle Bells").
It's not a Christmas song, but it's such a large part of my holidays, and such a counterpoint to the prevailing sentiment, that it's easy to mistake it for one. And sung beautifully tonight, as always, at Glen Burtnik's Xmas concert in New Hope.

Rob

Friday, December 01, 2017

NaNo, and NaNo Some More

So National Novel Writing month did not result in my churning out 50,000 words of my novel, Oubliette 7. However, I did manage to put nearly 20,000 words on virtual paper before the wheels came off the cart -- a confluence of the good (sudden work from a few new clients) and bad (a cold that took me out of the running for a few days).
But in doing what work I did, I made significant progress on learning about: How the prison planet works; the aliens that populate the cell block I focus on; some galactic history, and how it can turn on at the whims of a booking agent for a Canadian morning news show; the underpinnings of one of the cases my detective is investigating; a number of other characters in the prison. 
I also questioned my decision to spell guardbot as one word; had it been two, I'd probably be another thousand words closer to my goal. 
Regardless, I know a lot more about this book than I did at the beginning of November, and have been writing notes to myself about new characters to introduce and directions to go.
One other thing: On Thanksgiving morning, I got an email from an editor I'd pitched the book to (sending him an overview and a first chapter) back in May. While he won't be publishing it, he called it "a strong SF/noir pitch with a great protagonist." So that's a little extra fuel to propel me to finish this sucker and get it out into the world.

Rob

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Rififi Riff

So in my dream last night:
There was a trick, performed live on the Conan O'Brien show, where Penn & Teller for some reason had to change clothes in the back of a moving pickup truck, and when Teller took off his socks he wiggled his toes and said, "Sweet freedom!" on a live mic. Which was a big deal, because Teller doesn't talk onstage.
This was all part of an orchestrated uproar, for P&T and crew (of which I was a peripheral part) to steal $1.3 million from the Vatican. Which seems like money they don't really need, and is pretty much a rounding error for the Vatican, so I don't quite know what the point was.
Anyway, we were all celebrating at a casino afterward, and more and more people left, and suddenly more and more of the tab was being left to me. I'd told a couple people I'd pay for their drinks, but I started looking at what was left on the receipt, and their were lavish meals and acrobats and prostitutes to pay for. Which was not part of the bargain. (And not really part of my dream, aside from the accounting, either! Which is irritating.)
So as I'm starting to look around for someone else to pay this tab, since I'm not gonna get my expenses reimbursed by the company because I'm a freelancer, my phone rings, and it's my bank already calling me about suspect credit-card charges. (As it does about twice a year, but never *before* the fact!) And I realize...I don't have to deal with this. I'm dreaming, and this is paperwork. I have better things to dream about.
Never got back to the sex acrobats, though.
Rob

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rise Up

The Rise Up Chorus concert of thanksgiving for veterans was an incredible success -- both the adult and the children's choruses sounded amazing (as did the oboe interlude, playing an Ennio Morricone piece I'd never heard, "Gabriel's Oboe"). The songs were well-chosen and well-sung, and I'm thrilled and proud for Kathy to be a part of this group.
There was one moment toward the end, when the choir was singing a tribute medley to the armed forces, where the members of the various branches were asked to stand (or raise their hand) when their branch's song came up. There was a gentleman in front of us who stood when "The Army Goes Rolling Along" was being sung, and then sat down for "The Marines' Hymn." Then he stood up again for the Navy's "Anchors Aweigh," and I thought, "How many branches did this guy serve in?" But then he reached down, and helped the man sitting next to him to his feet, and then sat again while the rest of the naval theme continued. At which point he stood up and helped his friend back to his seat.
I guess what I'm saying is, it's important to remember we're all on the same team. We should lift each other every chance we get.
Rob

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

This Fucking World

“A zombie virus has spread throughout the world. The item to your right is your weapon. What is it?”

Got that meme on my Facebook feed today. The item to my right was a coffee mug. But it doesn’t really matter what it is, does it? We’re all humans here, and if there’s anything we’re good at, it’s using whatever item we have at hand and killing people with it.

Follow your bliss, I guess.

Rob

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Charlie and the Kibble Mush Factory

And now, a word about Charlie.
We'd been feeding him by hand all week, as he hadn't shown much interest in food. Just wet, mushed up kibble (sounds delicious, right?) scooped up off our fingers, a little bit at a time, at various intervals during the day. It was just an upset stomach, we figured, and he'd get over it in a couple days.
And he seemed to be, as he was a lot better off on Wednesday than he'd been on Tuesday.
I wasn't home for a lot of Thursday, so that was a setback, but we thought he'd probably go for his regular food soon. He didn't. Not Thursday, and even yesterday he would seem interested in it, but never take a bite. So yesterday I decided I'd take him to the vet today. Kathy wound up taking him instead, because she's a hero, and also because the bakery a block away makes some of the best doughnuts we've ever tasted. Nothing fancy, but oh, so good. So fluffy and sugary and...
I'm getting off topic. My apologies.
Anyway, it turns out that there's a small foreign body in Charlie, which is upsetting his stomach. He'll be able to pass it, but we're going to be giving him antibiotics and something to ease his stomach distress for the next week or so. (And laxatives, which are sure to bring joy to the entire household.)
So Kathy brings Charlie home, $288 lighter from the X-rays and the medicine and the doctor's visit. And she lets him out of the carrier...
...and he goes straight to the food bowl and starts chowing down.
Great timing, buddy. But we're glad you're feeling better!

Rob

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nick Cave at the Beacon, June 14, 2017

I didn't know a lot of the songs he sang. A lot of it was new, and there's a lot of old stuff I don't know, too. But even when I didn't know the song, it was intense.
And the ones I did know were some of my favorites. There was "Red Right Hand," of course. Which was incredible. And he shocked the hell out of me by playing "Tupelo," which was the song that really first blew me away. (Although it was watching him sing "The Carny" in "Wings of Desire" that first turned me on to him.) It was so much like the album version -- the driving, insistent bass line, Cave's growling delivery -- but subtly different, and delivered with such thunder.
And then, in the encore -- as he pulled person after person from the audience, creating a writhing, dancing crowd onstage -- Stagger Lee. An old, violent song, and Cave modernizes the brutality, making it so crude and over-the-top, giving it almost Tarantino-like hilarity:

She saw the barkeep/
said, 'O God, he can't be dead!'/
Stag said, "Well, just count the holes/
in the motherfucker's head!
Pat Boone also sings a version of this song. Let THAT sink in.
Of the three go-into-the-bar-and-kill-everybody songs on Murder Ballads, my favorite is probably "O'Malley's Bar" -- but seeing this performed live, with all this infernal energy, makes me revise that opinion. Besides, with the similarity of our names, I've always felt like Stagger Lee was like this badass criminal relative my parents never told me about.
(He's not, of course -- "stagger" was a nickname. The real Stagger Lee was "Stag" Lee Shelton, an African-American pimp who killed Billy Lyons -- another relative's name! -- in St. Louis on Christmas night, 1895. Anyway, that's what Wikipedia tells me. Cave sets his version of the song in 1932.)
And after bringing the crowd into the gutter with Stagger Lee, Cave closed with a beautiful rendition of "Push the Sky Away." I'll leave you with that here.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Thumb in the Eye

There's an old board game called Wiz War I've played a few times with my friends. The original edition has this card:

THUMB OF GOD (Attack/Anywhere)

This spell allows you to flip, drop, or throw the die from a distance of no less than 6 inches onto the board so as to hit playing tokens. Whichever space the displaced tokens land closest to is where they must be placed. Tokens knocked off the board are put back on onto the nearest space. There is no COUNTERACTION against this spell.

I feel like we're living through this right now.

Rob

Monday, September 12, 2016

Ain't Nobody Like to Be Alone

I just looked up the setlist to Friday’s Springsteen concert in Philly, and I’m even more impressed by the scope of the thing now than I was that night. Thirty-three songs!

A few memories of the show:

First off, had a blast tailgating with brothers Ed and Jim, sister-in-law Lindsay, and cousins John and Suze. How’d I go through 46 years of life without ever doing this? By not being a sports fan and not seeing a lot of big-arena concerts, I guess. (And after the show? More tailgating. So much better than pointing the car into the endless scrum of escaping vehicles.)

For someone who’s not really a big Springsteen fan, I sure know a lot of his songs. Out of the 33 songs he played, I could have hummed 24 of them before heading into the show...and walked out amazed that he hadn’t even gotten to “Jungleland,” “Born in the USA,” or “Thunder Road.” (Not to mention “The River,” the title song of the album this tour is celebrating.) The man has a catalogue. 

My favorite stretch of the show came early on, a four-song stretch beginning with “Spirits in the Night,” and then moving on to “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” “Kitty’s Back,” and “Rosalita.” I like other Springsteen songs, but I’d be hard-pressed to name another four that I like better and go so well together.

Then again, there’s “American Skin (41 Shots),” inspired by the police shooting of Amadou Diallo and still so relevant today. It's a song that can't help but stand apart. Springsteen is a curious phenomenon, in that he’s so beloved, and yet more liberal than a significant portion of his fans. I’m trying to think of another artist who are similarly outspoken (in either direction) and still enjoy the broad swathe of fans that Bruce has. (On a much smaller stage, I’m a big fan of Bill Willingham’s comics, and Nick Searcy’s Deputy Art Mullen was always a joy to watch on Justified; two conservatives whose work this liberal can’t get enough of.) Anyway, back to “American Skin”: Absolutely haunting, marred only by my minor annoyance that the people next to me took the opportunity to step out to get a beer. (The conservative version of football players not standing for the National Anthem? Maybe so, judging by my irritation.) 

I was really impressed that Bruce would pull signs from the audience, show them to the cameras, and then play them with the band. They seemed prepared for anything, including inviting a college student to come up and jam with them on “No Surrender.” And then at another point, a handful of other fans came up to the stage, including a little girl with a guitar. Bruce tried to adjust her baseball cap to let the camera see her face a bit better; this’ll be a memory she’ll have a chance to look back on forever. Her ponytail wended through the hole in the back of the hat, so there’s was only so much he could do, but it was a thoughtful gesture that stood out for me. 

And then there was “Hungry Heart.” The band played, and we all sang the lyrics on our own, with Bruce urging us to continue between the lines. He wandered through the audience, found a woman with a sign that said she was a breast cancer survivor, on her 7th week of chemo. He held up the sign and we sang our hearts out -- a cascade of love going toward her, music and love rising into the sky. It’s a fanciful idea that something like that can help in any tangible way. And yet there are tears in the corner of my eyes as I type this. I’m some kinda romantic, I guess. 

Overall, Bruce played for nearly four hours, so there’s plenty I’m glossing over. (One silly moment worth a mention: When “Dancing in the Dark” started up, some fans began waving giant poster-size heads of Courtney Cox.) But it was a phenomenal show, made all the better by the time spent with family not as family, but as friends.


Rob