June 30, 2008

Go, bad guys

Last night I watched The Mask of Fu Manchu ... and once again, I find myself on the side of the bad guys. Not because they really know how to indulge in some hot man-bondage (and they do!). Not because this film was effectively ripped off throughout the second, (and as I have previously argued) underrated Indiana Jones film. Not because it was ripped off to even greater effect by one of my all time favorite movies, Big Trouble in Little China ... But because, dammit, once again, the bad guys are right.

First you have Fu Manchu ... Doctor Fu Manchu to you, dude. He's got about nine advanced degrees, but to the imperialists, he's just another heathen. If he wants to become the latter day incarnation of Genghis Khan and eradicate the white menace from the face of earth, I can't blame him. This is one racist movie, and it wears its racism proudly. You don't need to take that crap, Doctor Fu.

The second reason to cheer on the forces of evil is the daughter, Myrna Loy. I realized yesterday that somebody I've known for many years reminds me strikingly of Ms. Loy. Even when she's not Nora Charles, she's fun to watch ... especially as the depraved daughter of DOCTOR FU MANCHU!

On a side note, it has been pointed out that my taste in actresses is ... idiosyncratic: Barbara Stanwyck (as in Double Indemnity), Myrna Loy, hmm. Joan Cusack? That will have to be the subject of a future article. In the meantime, if Boris Karloff is going to lead a rebellion against the British Empire, I guess I'm on board.

June 29, 2008

Addicted ... to sloth?

I was thinking today about how I tried for several years to start smoking but could never develop the habit. I finally just gave up. I don't claim to be a paragon of virtue, or anything else of which one can reasonably be said to be a paragon. I mean, paragon of sloth just doesn't sound right, does it? How many sides does a paragon have anyhow?

In fact, of the four or five of the seven deadly sins that come to mind as I write this, I'm pretty much guilty, depending on how you define them, and unrepentant, which now that I think of it is probably one of the ones I've forgotten.

The good news, though, is that sloth as I understand it has probably saved my ass on more than one occasion. Take the idea of addiction, for instance. Folks, while I've been something short of temperate in periods of my life, I've also avoided succumbing to the temptations of infinite repetition ... exploring the "gateways" to ruin did not result in sliding down any slippery slopes. Not because of will power, not because good judgment, but because of good old fashioned sloth.

In the case of drugs, a lot of your apparently addictive substances just seem to make people more active, high-speed, and nervous, as well as being bad for your complexion. Those ones, frankly, are out. I don't want to do more ... I want to do less. And of the drugs correctly termed "narcotics," while they might induce a pleasantly slothful experience, from what I've seen it looks like they turn into a full-time job sooner or later. And yeah, I already have one more of those than I'd have in a perfect world.

Sloth also saves on stupidity. I've always been too lazy to develop obsessions with unattainable women, for instance. Okay, maybe I'm lying. But I've certainly been too lazy to act on them. I never went out of my way to drive past somebody's house, if that's what stalkers do, only because it's too much work and mental effort to behave that way. I've never been one to call again and again and leave multiple messages or pick up the phone just to see if there's a dial tone in case somebody was trying to call me back. Again, too much effort.

If sloth is a sin ... then let me be guilty!

June 26, 2008

I know a lot about art ...

... but I don't know what I like. And yet, I do find the website of "the foremost Irish painter of the 20th century" to contain some pretty compelling stuff.

I have a poster from the 12th Int'l James Joyce Symposium framed in my spacious office; it has one of le Brocquy's Joyce faces on it. Everybody comments on it. I also have a postcard with Beckett's face in the same style. And my copy of the Tain (my favorite cattle-rustling story) is illustrated by him also, in a very different but no less compelling style.

In addition to the heads, which I like all in one page of thumbnails even more than individually, I very much like the last one shown in the Irish Landscape Series.

June 24, 2008

Good writin'

If you're one of the thousands of people who read this blog religiously, you probably know that if I had to choose among Dylans I'd choose père over fils, either biological or otherwise. And yet ... there's this:

As a composition, this song is frankly almost too good. Good to see that JD can fill out the old man's shoulder pads!

I've always liked Bruce's hillbilly harmony, and he uses it to good effect here. it's weird how this song turns into a Springsteen song as soon as he starts singing it ... and in the last verse, when they're trading lines, I like the way JD delivers the Springsteenesque inflection.

And how about Bruce on the guitar. It's good to be reminded that these famous folks are actually pretty good musicians. For further evidence, see this. Does this mean I have to start respecting Vince Gill?

And on a final note, I'd like to point out that if you're a harmonica player, it's hard not to stand around looking like an idiot much of the time ... it's not just me!

June 22, 2008


Today I'm the happiest man in the world. According to Sitemeter, somebody visited my blog after searching Google for "dye in tandoori chicken." Yes!

Thank you, Charlie and Mare!

June 21, 2008

I'm on page 18!

I may have mentioned before that I have a lot of nostalgia for the Cold War. I wish we were still in the Cold War, because I think it would beat the current warm/hot war by a long shot. I loved The Spy Who Came In From the Cold ... the film more so than the novel. I think I would have made a great Cold War spy, because I'm content to live with contradictions. I'm more an egologue than an ideologue. I get along well with people, even people I don't like. I'm nondescript. The perfect spy! Note that I'm talking about being a LeCarre-slash-Graham Greene style spy, not a James Bond type. I know my limitations ... and the dinner jacket is beyond them.

Okay, I'm going to come clean. My lingering Cold War suspicions are, I must confess, largely fabricated to justify my ignorance of Russian literature ... and the whole spy thing is just a smoke screen (Or ... is it?). Usually when I brag about being ignorant of something, it means I'm getting read to read it ... in this case, I've begun reading Anna Karenina. My copy is a Modern Library edition with a few color illustrations ... probably more than 50 years old. It smells a little--like old books. This makes it even more fun to read ... after all, how should it smell? I have to say, so far so good ("so far" being page 18). When people I respect recommend a book to read, I generally add it to my list. It's already a hell of a lot better than A Tale of Two Cities, the last book somebody shamed me into reading. And before that it was The Scarlet Letter, the most overrated book in American literature.

In other Cold War news, I saw Get Smart today. It was better than I thought it would be, I must confess. Predictably, they changed the character of Maxwell Smart somewhat--but it's a feature film, not a half hour sitcom, so it makes sense. Steve Carell has a lot more depth to him than we ever saw in Don Adams. So the film was entertaining without being any smarter than it needed to be. For what it's worth, it exceeded my expectations, but that's not saying a while lot.

June 20, 2008

Night shift

Most of the fun people are supposed to have in college I didn't have until most of the way through graduate school, when I was too old to have an excuse and too broke to afford it. And frankly, if I'm honest, I didn't have that much fun then either ... but the selective memory of nostalgia tells me grad school was pretty great.

Most of my positive memories of college are of passionate conversations about music, movies, books, and stuff like that, either in my dorm room or in the music listening lab. Most of my positive memories of that period of time, though, are of working in the mill in the summer. Again, there's some serious cherry picking going on down in memory lane. I was talking to my dad on Father's Day and we were reminiscing about that time. It was pretty great working with him every day, and driving back and forth with him. I of course got to leave when school started, but he had to stay. On the other hand, he ran the crane, which was a relatively clean job. As summer help, I got dirty.

What I never got used to was working night turn. I couldn't sleep during the day; we didn't have AC, so the house got very hot. Usually I'd sleep about three hours a day. This led to interesting hallucinations by the end of a week or so--giant rats just out of the corner of my eye--not to mention a volatile outlook on life. I don't mind getting up before dawn, in fact I do it just about every day, but I never got used to seeing the sun come up if I'd seen it go down the night before. It makes one reflective. Even if it's not work--even if you're sitting in the Olentangy Inn having a greasy breakfast after a long night out having fun, it's a bleak feeling watching the sun come back around to bite you in the ass.

June 19, 2008

That Samuel Beckett!

The poem that gives this blog its title is just so full of good lines, almost any of which would make a good title. I'm particularly taken with this passage:

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words

Sound, sense, image ... it all comes together so wonderfully.

June 17, 2008

I finally saw X-Men: The Last Stand

I know this isn't exactly a timely film review ... hell, it's not a review at all. It's a response--and therefore I take no responsibility for it. Anyhow, I've had a hell of a time staying awake through this movie, which I've tried to watch at least three times. It's those damned angst-ridden quiet spots that get me, I guess. Then I wake up at the loud parts, wondering what the heck is going on.

(It must be acknowledged that putting me to sleep is not necessarily a sign that a movie sucks. I still don't know how Cary Grant gets from the cornfield to Mount Rushmore. And I used to fall asleep daily in somebody's comfy chair, regardless of what was on the television (I think it was Roseanne usually). It wasn't the company or the entertainment ... honest!)

Well, this time, I stayed awake through the whole thing, which until just now I thought was called X-Men 3. I don't know what it says about me that Mystique's mystique (if you will, as it were) pretty much disappeared when she changed from scaly blue Star Trek-type woman to plain old naked, demurely posed Rebecca Romijn-minus-Stamos. Not worth exploring, I guess, until I meet a scaly blue hot mutant. "Why Smurfette, my how you've grown!" (The link is SFW, gang ... that's how we kick it here in the Wordshed. But don't search Google for Smurfette with Safe Search off).

And Kelsey Grammer is every bit as annoying as his misspelled last name even when he's a furry blue knowitall pompous ass. The more things change, the more they remain things, as somebody used to say. Minor, insignificant denouement spoiler: Rewarding Beast by making him ambassador to the UN is only slightly less funny than making Indiana Jones an assistant dean, but not much (fun fact: both are named Henry!).

But here's the point. I don't think these films work for me--or maybe they do work for me--because basically, Magneto is right. The humans are stupid, bad and bent on genocide. The Xavierites are well-meaning collaborationists. Magneto isn't selfish, greedy, or hedonistic. He is an overly enthusiastic ideologue, full of passionate intensity, but lots of people are. Go, bad guys!

June 16, 2008

Here it is Bloomsday again ...

... and though I had the pleasure of spending last week with a veritable omnium gatherum of Joyce scholars, alas, today has been relatively joyceless. So I thought I'd regale you with a few notations from my undergraduate copy of Ulysses.

(Wait ... I did just use the word "Protean" in conversation with the dean here, a classicist ... so that kind of counts as a Joycean interaction, right?)

OK, here goes:

new sight - double sight,
End of the world.
What you laugh at, you will nevertheless serve:
Cuckold horns,
Old Man Cancer,
Song he sang at mother's deathbed ...
Third train ride

I don't write in my books much ... I consider it a bad habit that bespeaks a certain hubris. A more interesting read than these meager interlinear ejaculations would be reading only the passages I've underlined throughout the novel. For the life of me, I can't guess why I marked some of them. At least I didn't mark the word "buttocksmothered." (Bring it on, Googlists ... I'm ready for the traffic.)

Hmm, maybe I should read Ulysses again. Or maybe we all should.

June 14, 2008

Treat yourself

If at all possible, use the word "festoon" in conversation today. I invite you to document your use of the word in the comment section.

That is all.

June 13, 2008

Changing Channels

Bouncing around basic cable tonight, I thought about dropping in a video of Springsteen's "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)" or even Dylan's "TV Talkin' Song" ... but I'm not that motivated by the former and really not willing to promote anything from Under the Red Sky ... which in my opinion is not even as good as Down in the Groove, which at least has "Silvio" on it. Still, these lines from "TV Talkin' Song" are relevant.

"It will led you into some strange pursuits,
Lead you to the land of forbidden fruits.
It will scramble up your head and drag your brain about,
Sometimes you gotta do like Elvis did and shoot the damn thing out."

I think he was actually talking about the internet without knowing it. But the original context also works; if the best thing on TV is an infomercial for Girls Gone Wild videos or some kind of colon cleansing scheme, where are we exactly? Post-rapture maybe? Bah.

(What follows, just to cheer me up, is a non sequitur: Dylan doing "Silvio" at the Prince's Trust concert in '96. If you look close, you'll see that he's got "Wood.")

'What follows is a non sequitur.' That might be the funniest thing I've ever said.

But back to TV: I liked it better back in the late 80s and early 90s when ESPN was all Australian rules football. At least it was a sport. I couldn't figure it out, but it was a sport. Folks, poker is not a SPORT. It's a game. I don't like splitting hairs of classification, so I'm not going to argue about bowling or Nascar or horse racing/abuse, but I know for sure that poker ain't a sport. What's next? Uno? Yahtzee? Smoking?

And MTV of course had videos. It's '91, son.

Comedy Central, instead of steering the course of American government, was mostly standup clips from the like of Emo Phillips.

More channels, more noise ... I guess that's about right.

June 10, 2008

A quiet week

Truly it has been a quiet week, and if you keep coming back here hoping that something magically appears, I appreciate it and am sorry there's not more to read.

As I hinted, I'm in Louisville, KY for the week, scoring AP essays and hanging out with a hell of a number of English teachers and professors from all over the country.

You know how certain nouns have certain appropriate words that go with them to indicate a quantity of them? Like a flock of seagulls (brought to mind because somebody was making fun of my 80s-ish glasses earlier in the week), a murder of crows, etc.?

I have often thought that a gathered quantity of English professors should be called "a pretension of English professors."

Friend and colleague Andrew H. proposes "a wank of English professors."

Each has its merits, it seems to me. Mine, with its Latinate feels, strikes me as more pretentious and therefore more appropriate. His, on the other hand, has a kind of Anglo-Saxon directness that I approve of. And no, I do not know the etymology of "wank." Although discussing the etymology of the word "wank" is, in fact, wankery and underscores the aptness of the term.

June 07, 2008

Somebody say keep on rockin'?

No, this post is not going to be a defense of the genius of Rick Derringer, though that is an argument I've advanced whenever I've been given the opportunity. In fact I would submit that he requires no defense (Exploring hands encounter no defence; / His vanity requires no response / And makes a welcome of indifference):

You can be the judge.

But no, I didn't come to talk about Rick Derringer. I'm writing from Louisville, a town about which I can't think of anything else to say without being a little nasty, just to tell you that should you be interested, there's a song called "Labor Day" available for listening and download at our isound.com site, which as I write this refuses to load.

Could we have killed this site the way we killed mp3.com?

June 02, 2008

"Superior Drinkability"

I'm tired of hearing about the advertised "superior drinkability" of certain beers. What does that mean? That the advertised beer makes little or no impression on the drinker? That's a good thing?

And what does it say about me that I've found few beers difficult to drink? Aside from, ironically, the "lite" beers that so shrilly insist on their drinkability ...

And another thing ...

I'm sorry, but I'm not quite done hating the new Indiana Jones movie. I just wanted to observe a couple of things. Mild spoilers may follow, but baby, it done been spoiled already.

1. Nowhere in the first three movies do we see Jones leaning toward becoming a Cold War spy ... he seems to have a healthy disdain for ideologies. Sure, he hates Nazis, but does that mean we need the clumsy backstory that Janitor from Scrubs is planted in there to elucidate?

2. I'm glad the dean gets his job back, but is Jones's "promotion" to Associate Dean at the end of the film supposed to be seen as some kind of victory?

At least I can say this, quoting Wu Han, Indy's unfortunate sidekick from Temple of Doom:

"I followed you on many adventures--but into the great Unknown Mystery, I go first, Indy..."

Don't be sad, Dr. Jones--you will soon join me. Ha. Ah ha ha. Ah HA HA HA!

June 01, 2008

Where do I start?

There was a time when I essentially had Raiders of the Lost Ark memorized. Of course, novelty carried that film a long way, which is why neither of the next two came close to the first one.

But none of the first three Indiana Jones films was stupid. Crystal Skulls was stupid.

Look, I'd have to see it again to keep track of everything I didn't like about the film, and that's just not going to happen any time soon. I'd rather go see the Sex and the City film daily for the next three weeks than sit through the Indiana Jones film again. The story wasn't compelling, the characters were singularly uncharacterized, the editing was abysmal (several apparent incongruities and continuity problems), the action was implausible even by Indiana Jones standards. Implausible without being interesting or impressive. Honestly, this film would have been disappointing as a Goonies sequel.