March 31, 2008
When I was teaching, you see, I used the anecdote as a tool to get wandering minds to start listening to me again ... like watching hockey for the wrecks, or Nascar for the fights. People listen if they think you're going to say something scandalous. It was all well planned in advance.
So anyhow, I thought I'd provide a haircut update. A haircuptate, if you will. my barber told me today that he's retiring ... he's only cutting hair from nine to one. I went in at 12:15 and there were five guys waiting. I had to leave unshorn. Not normally worth discussing, but in light of the previous post, what the hell.
So I went to this great new topless salon across town.
Okay, no, I went to Quizno's for a sandwich, with my sloppy hair waving in the wind.
But anyhow, what I really wanted to document was that last night I dreamed I was staying at my cousin's place, and he wasn't there, and there were these two weird awful animals and I had to kill them. After that, I totally trashed his place; I don't know why. Then he came back, and he had my aunt and uncle and our grandmother with him. That was kind of awkward!
So now I can cross Tylenol 3 off my list, along with Percocet and all the other real painkillers ... do not take at bedtime! Although I do enjoy a good nightmare.
Style note: I'm going for more short paragraphs ... I think the long paragraphs put people off. They interfere with the whole surf/browse/don't actually read thing we do instead of reading now that we have the internet.
My first stylist was my mother, who trained as a cosmetologist and favored the indeterminate hairstyles popular in the decade of my infancy. My father soon took over, and his specialty was the crew cut, at that time a clear marker of gender and politics. If you're thinking of the haircutting scene in Sons and Lovers, you're not far off the mark. My father cut my hair in the basement; the barber chair was a stool made from a wooden chair that had the back cut off of it.
At some point in the early 1970s it was decided that my father and I would get our haircuts at the barber shop in "town" ... town being two stores and a post office along a road with no real intersection, much less a stop light. But town it was, and the barber shop had a proper barber pole and all. Soon after, the barber, Randy, set up shop near his home, which was a few more miles out. Randy and his wife were friends of my parents, and their sons were friends of mine as well, so getting a haircut was an event; we'd usually spend the evening over there. Randy was tall, with an Amish style beard, and he chewed tobacco. He cut hair with immense concentration. My chief recollection is of him bending down, inches from my face, peering unblinking not at my face but at my forehead, his tongue jammed in his cheek to keep the wad of chaw from falling out in my lap.
I think he cut my hair until I started college, although at some point his sons and I were no longer close friends. In college, everything changed. If I could have afforded it, I would have got my hair cut twice a month--okay, twice a week. That's when I temporarily got over the awkwardness of seeking a haircut in a "salon" and entered a brave new world.
I don't remember the name of the stylist, but she was beautiful, and she was nice, nicer than women that beautiful usually were to me. Why? Was it because, as an older woman (that's funny ... she was probably twenty-five, certainly not even thirty) she viewed me as a child? Maybe. I've read "Araby," and I understand that kid very, very well. But still ...
I hadn't thought of her in years, until when rewatching Firefly I realized that the woman who played Saffron in a couple of episodes reminded me of her. I don't say that the stylist looked like that actor, only that the actor reminded me of her. Fantasy tempered by realism. She did have reddish blonde hair and very fair skin. She was of medium height, with a generous figure.
"Generous figure." Go ahead and laugh. I'm trying to be a gentleman here. So why does this woman, who cut my hair maybe half a dozen times, still occupy my selective memory after so long? I'd like to be able to say it's because she was nice to me. But come on. Was it because when she pulled my head up to behold the finished haircut in the mirror after leaning it forward to use the electric razor on my neck, her hand was cool on my forehead and I could feel her standing behind me, my head leaning on her slightly, feeling her chest rise and fall through maybe two breaths? And that her eyes were looking at mine in the mirror? Now what do you think?
I go to a barber shop now. One guy, one chair. At nine bucks a haircut, I don't see how he makes rent on his shop. He's an older guy, and he likes to talk. In the middle of the conversation, he'll whap me with the back of his hand and say "hey!" as if to get my attention, as if he didn't already have it, waving scissors around my eyes and talking about politics.
March 27, 2008
Please note that I do NOT hate 38 Special, because hate suggests passion, and I cannot understand anyone feeling passionate about that music (nothing against the guys making the music; I'm sure they're talented, and they seem quite earnest as well, and they've certainly enjoyed a measure of commercial success). But their music seems as processed and prepackaged as anything contemporary radio today. I mean, put "Hold On Loosely" next to "Caught Up on You"--aren't they the same song? And "Back Where You Belong"!
I thought about linking to Youtube with those song titles, but really, you've heard the songs before, right? And I won't link to anything I won't sit through. I know these guys are from the south and are related to Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I don't think it's fair to southern rock to lump them in there. I'm not a Skynyrd fan by any stretch of the imagination, but at least they earned their keep.
For some decent southern rock, you could check out the all but forgotten Wet Willie (not to be confused with the finger in the ear prank of the same name), or howzabout some Little Feat?
If you know anything about me at all, you know where I'm at with those shots of Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris from back in the proverbial day. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about.
March 26, 2008
March 25, 2008
If you're interested, the Garcia & Grisman version is posted on Youtube.
And here's a slightly different take on the song, from Quicksilver Messenger Service. The video looks vaguely familiar!
March 24, 2008
It's also largely devoid of special effects. There's no magical running through the treetops here, no wirework ... or at least not much. There is elephant throwing, a transsexual villainess, and a whole roomful of broken arms. The film is not ironically self-aware (no Tarantino-esque "hey, look what I'm doing--I'm slumming! Look at me, I'm slumming! Hooray for me!"). And it's not a funny Jackie Chan flick either.
In fact, given the fact that it's about protecting elephants, I feel pretty damned green and smug for liking it. Because dammit, baby elephants are cute.
Junkre: a type or category (as of art, film, music, literature, etc.) that is, by nature, crap.
This word is to be pronounced in a burlesque pseudo-French accent if at all possible. No offense to my burlesque psuedo-French readers is intended.
I coined this word about fifteen minutes ago in relation to the vampire romance junkre, and now I'm hoping it will propagate itself, erotic vampire style, across the universe. A cursory Google perusal--a "perugle," if you will--suggests that the coinage might be original. But if not, that's okay too.
I'm willing to let perugle go, if only my brainchild junkre can live.
Aside from allergy to sunlight, there's little concern here with the biology of vampirism, or any of the fetishistic rules that vampire romance fans obsess over like Dungeons and Dragons rules geeks or baseball stats geeks. These vampires f---ing KILL YOU. They don't patiently exsanguinate you. They don't seduce you. They don't wait to be invited in. They don't turn into bats or control rats. They don't turn you into a vampire in order to carry on some weird pseudoerotic don't touch me mindscrew.
If you like movies where that stuff happens, you probably won't like this one, because for the protagonists, the point is to kill and or avoid the vampires, not to experience erotic tension with them. And they take some killing. They're not Buffy-style martial arts vampires, but they're pretty tough, and though this film is apparently based on a comic book, physics is pretty much earth normal here aside from some crazy vampire jumping. If you're cutting off a head with an ax, for instance, it doesn't go flying, Green Knight style ... it takes a few swings.
I,uh, assume that's realistic, but I don't have a whole lot of basis for that assumption.
March 23, 2008
This movie has its share--okay, more than its share--of cliches, but it could have been worse. Yes, Dennis Hopper is the protagonist's mobster dad, but he's not in the film much, and he's pretty low key. Hey, it could have been a lot worse. It could have been Christopher Walken.
Seth Green is, well, Seth Green, and Vin Diesel is certainly Vin Diesel. But they're part of the ensemble. Barry Pepper, who has quite the remarkable list of credits, was actually quite good in this role. Did this performance lead directly to his being cast in the role of a lifetime: The Intimidator? We can only speculate.
What makes the movie work is that in the tradition of a lot of great noir films, this one takes the mobsters out of the city and sticks them in the middle of nowhere, where they have to tangle with dramatically bad luck as well as a corrupt, but not typically corrupt sheriff, played by the brilliant character actor Tom Noonan. He was great in Mystery Train, which I just rewatched the other day (see it if you haven't), and he was great here. My new goal is to watch Tom Noonan's complete oeuvre. Next on my list: They're Made Out of Meat.
March 21, 2008
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Putting aside the ongoing--apparently perpetual--timeliness of this poem, it continues to amaze me as I come back to it periodically just how damned good it is. Read it out loud--at least with your lips moving--and listen for the meter. Check out the unusual placement of the prepositional phrases in lines three and four, and then that three-word sentence in the next line.
"Blood-shod": that phrase could have been crafted a thousand years earlier. That and "Ecstasy of fumbling" represent what I see as the perfect convergence of art and craft in this poem.
And check out the rhyme of "drowning" with "drowning" where the poem turns--you want it to go somewhere away from drowning, but it doesn't. A poet can't play that card very often, but Owen makes it count here.
I won't drag you through the last stanza again, but the way the meter and rhyme push the reader toward the poem's conclusion continues to impress me, and the conclusion is at once surprising and inevitable. It amazes me how much subtlety there is in such an unsubtle poem.
March 19, 2008
I've got the second kind of dog. Not that she's encountered a porcupine. But it's storming, the first storm of the season. And she's sitting here shaking like proverbial leaf. She's inconsolable when there's thunder and has been for years, although no thunder has ever hurt her. If she were the first kind of dog, maybe she'd be able to piece it all together. And maybe I wouldn't be slipping her a mickey in the form of Benadryl wrapped in a slice of cheese.
March 18, 2008
It must be acknowledged (if I can use that word YET again) that since I banged my head 23 years ago, months and days of the week have become kind of difficult for me, in that when I mean April I'm liable to say "August! November! Wednesday! April." And to be fair, I might have done that some even before sloshing my brain (and facial features) around.
The good news is, I can often sneak up on birthdays. I remember my mother's birthday, April 23, because it's Shakespeare's birthday. I remember another important birthday because it's only a day away from James Joyce's birthday, which is memorable because it's also Groundhog Day. But isn't my mom more important than Shakespeare, at least to me? And where does Joyce fit into all of this? And what about Punxsutawney Phil? The trick is to come at these things sideways. If your birthday is a day away from something else, like the famous 5/8/77 Cornell Grateful Dead show, or maybe 4/20, you pick the year, maybe I'll be able to hang onto it.
My own birthday is a day away from a major historical event, but I guess I'm probably going to remember it anyway. I wonder what it's like to have a birthday when something major happened, instead of having your nativity being the most important thing that happened on that date.
Hubris? I've been accused of worse.
Anyhow, this is the long way around saying that I've failed to wish a happy birthday to one of my oldest friends, whose birthday was on the 16th. We were quite the thing back in 1982, and then in 1986, and though we haven't seen each other since, I guess, 1990, we still keep in touch sporadically, except that I've lost her damned email address. And we don't have any friends in common. We write to each other every couple of years and talk about raising kids and stuff. So happy birthday! What are the chances she'll see this?
So if you see her, say happy birthday for me.
March 17, 2008
Stache's is no more, but the Principality of Monaco is still hanging on there. Both places were startlingly small. And both places were rocked, briefly, by the Drovers. There's a generous amount of their music available for free download at their website. They flirted with fame and appeared in a couple of films, Blink and Backdraft. If I recall correctly, they were the highlights of both films.
Check out "Juliette" if you get a chance. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
March 16, 2008
Scary ... really scary movie. First time I saw this, I was with a close friend in somebody else's house; she was housesitting. It got dark while we were watching the movie. It was a great experience. The point of a scary movie is to f--ing scare you, after all.
- Paul Dirac
Okay, I didn't find that ... in fact, I don't know who Paul Dirac is, but I get a "quotation of the day" from these folks. This one struck me as being well put, a veritable Bon Not if you will.
Follow that link if you followed the Black Sabbath link from the earlier post. It's the antidote!
There's nothing inherently impressive about identifying yourself, no matter how cool you are when I do it--sorry, James Bond! Yet last year I spent a couple of hours sitting through a silly cartoon about some Greek battle in which the whole dialogue consisted of people identifying themselves. "This is Sparta!" "We are Spartans!" Enough already, Pecs. If the movie had been called Sparta, it might have been a good marketing move.
And the ads for Beowulf. I am Beowulf! Actually, you're almost a Weird Al parody of a Black Sabbath tune. And if you read the poem, you'll see that Beowulf was not content merely to proclaim himself Beowulf. He went on to lay out his whole resume. Does he do that in the movie? I don't know ... the last version I saw was the one with Christopher Lambert.
Don't. Just don't.
Instead, start going up to people and identifying yourself by name. It's apparently what we're reduced to on our way back down into the primordial ooze.
Okay, if you followed that Black Sabbath link, I'm truly sorry. But if you're young, try to imagine a world in which that band scared people and pissed them off. Try to imagine a world in which people would pay to see that band play live. Some people probably more than once.
The NY Times review was clearly phoned in by somebody who read no farther than the dust jacket. I'll paraphrase his(?) deathless words: "Stephen King is popular, so I have to write about him even though I'm a snob. King was in an accident and so was the protagonist. This is a novel by Stephen King. It is a Stephen King novel." I want YOUR job, buddy. But not your attitude. Hey, Duma Key is not Henry James; it's not even Shirley Jackson. But it was a pretty good read, even if it took a while to get going.
I feel bad for people whose tastes are so refined that they can't enjoy most stuff. Beer snobs who can't enjoy a cheap beer in its time and place (sorry, after mowing the lawn, I'll take a Miller High Life over Sam Adams). I like being able to appreciate the good stuff and the great stuff, but I also like a lot of the other stuff.
March 15, 2008
Somehow I'm guessing that that's no longer tolerated. And probably just as well, since he was pretty wild with that paddle when we went for him next year, and the year after, and the year after that.
So where do I start? Paris Hilton? No, she's okay, though I have to confess that her disproportionately small face is a real problem for me. But I'll save that for another entry. With the "kids get lost in the creepy small southern town motif?" Yawn. But no. Everybody knows the south is a scary place! My gripe is with the dramatically fussy waxing method with lots of cool, nasty apparatus. The fetishization of torture that you see in films like Saw, Hostel, etc. doesn't do this one any favors. You see this when it goes back and forth between the girl getting chased and the guy getting waxed ... her scenes are suspenseful, but his are clinical and fairly tiresome. But obviously people love watching this stuff, right? Who? And whose side are we supposed to be on when we watch a horror movie?
Finally, the allusion/quotation/ripoff of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? just underscores the crappiness of this movie. Watch that one if you want to see a good movie. Joan Crawford is great, as always.
Oh, and I'm tired of these Guinness ads. I guess that's the price we pay for free TV.
Wait--there's a great twist towards the end of the film (I told you I'm still watching it). Not to spoil the film for you, but conjoined twins = horror gold!
And if this were an actual conversation, this is where I would repeat the often-repeated rumor that Andy Garcia is a formerly conjoined twin.
Next time: Why Andy Garcia is one of my favorite actors. Hint: It's NOT because he's a formerly conjoined twin!
March 13, 2008
The Minstrel Boy
The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you'll find him;
His father's sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him;
"Land of Song!" cried the warrior bard,
"Tho' all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy right shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!"
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman's chain
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov'd ne'er spoke again,
For he tore its chords asunder;
And said "No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav'ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!
The only value I see to this story is that it might help red-haired guys talk red-haired women into sleeping with them. "I mean come on, it's for the good of the SPECIES."
Not buying it? Better check this out.
March 12, 2008
So I woke up the other day musing rather tritely about how far Leonard Cohen would have gotten on American Idol. I guess it depends to some degree on whether by "American" we mean "Born in the USA" or from the Americas. Let's assume that his country of origin would have been no barrier. Hell, there's no point in even pursuing this ... he definitely never had "what it takes," whatever that is, just like most people who have made music that should have mattered in the last fifty years or so. Elvis, who was a hero to most, is an exception.
I don't know whether Leonard Cohen's greatest commercial success to date has been the version of "Hallelujah" Rufus Wainwright did for the Shrek soundtrack. If so, more power to both of them, but in spite of how much I liked the movie, I think the song is somehow above it. One could probably argue that the song's juxtaposition of Old Testament imagery and allusion with contemporary life makes it a good fit for the film, which derives a lot of its humor from similar juxtaposition between fairy tale an contemporary pop culture, but one would need to be smacked for doing so.
While there have been several musical constants in my life, there through thick and thin, Leonard Cohen music has been a more mercurial thing for me, attracting my attention briefly but intensely. The first time I listened to New Skin for the Old Ceremony I was driving up the interstate after--well, never mind after what--and it hit me as viscerally as an album ever has. This was twelve years after I became aware of Leonard Cohen as a result of my Spanish professor loaning me Cohen's first album ("grooming," I think they call it), and six years after a colleague loaned me The Future. (Said colleague, a tenure track guy at a place where I adjuncted, will forever be associated in my memory with The Future and Schindler's List, since I saw it with him. No story there.)
I don't suppose being anointed by the Rock Hall will get Leonard Cohen a new audience, but it's worth hoping, and it's worth checking him out ... as opposed, say, to the always irrelevant Madonna. I like the work of the other inductees well enough, but none of them is in Cohen's class, aside from the "Class of 2008."
March 11, 2008
and lay this down.
When I was old enough to walk on the "big road" (two lanes and paved, that is), I'd walk up there in the summer to buy my mom's cigarettes and use the change (from a ten, for a carton!) to buy a coke out of the machine, which was a very big deal. Glass bottles you had to yank out of there HARD ... and then drink them on the premises and leave them in the crate next to the cooler.
I do miss those glass bottles: the curvy coke bottles and the long skinny pepsi bottles. I tell my kids about that, and about buying cigarettes for my mom when I was ten (because the lady knew they were for my mom), and they look at me like I'm from the moon. I haven't thought about that store in years--roughsawn plank floors, half an inch of dust everywhere. It was like shopping in somebody's barn. If you went in there without knowing what you needed, the proprietor could probably tell you, because he sold the guy who had the house before you whatever it was you were trying to fix. And if he didn't know, he'd send you home with three different ones, and you'd bring back the ones you didn't need.
I try not to think about this stuff too much when I go into Lowes or HD now ... and I try not to expect too much help from the "help" there when it comes to advice about what they're selling. Some are knowledgeable. There used to be a guy at the local Lowes who knew a lot about woodworking tools, but he's not there anymore. When I need electrical stuff and advice, I go to the electrical supply store in town, not early or late in the day when the pros are trying to do their jobs, but in the middle of the day. I've gotten good advice there. Same with the glass shop, the family-owned lumberyard, and even the local Ace, which still has the family name attached to it.
Funny thing is, I'm not talking about the 40s or 50s here ... I'm talking about rural PA in the early 1970s ... not that long ago. But we're farther away from that time than American Graffiti (or even Happy Days) was from the 50s ... so I guess I can be permitted a little nostalgia for fly paper, nails you buy by the scoop in paper sacks, pipe smoke, etc.
Out through the fields and the woods
And over the walls I have wended;
I have climbed the hills of view
And looked at the world, and descended;
I have come by the highway home,
And lo, it is ended.
The leaves are all dead on the ground,
Save those that the oak is keeping
To ravel them one by one
And let them go scraping and creeping
Out over the crusted snow,
When others are sleeping.
And the dead leaves lie huddled and still,
No longer blown hither and thither;
The last lone aster is gone;
The flowers of the witch hazel wither;
The heart is still aching to seek,
But the feet question "Whither?"
Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?