August 27, 2008

Worst news all year

I've been brooding about this for a while now, and I guess it's time to talk about it: the American version of Life on Mars.

I'm the only person I know who saw the real Life on Mars on BBC America. I loved it, not because it was British, but because it was good: science fictiony police procedural. What's not to love?

And I'm not an Anglophile. Ask anybody. When you teach English, especially British lit, people seem to expect you to go weak-kneed over all things British. Not me ... for one thing, my main interest is in Irish lit, which is a significant distinction. For another, I don't like the idea of being a fanboy.

So, yeah, Life on Mars. The American version will probably suck ... suck the life and novelty out of the idea and spit it all over the inside of my TV screen. Part of what was good about the real version was the fact that it ended ... they understood that a series is a novel, and all good novels end, many of them sooner rather than later. Think The Prisoner. And the series ended well: convincingly and satisfyingly.

And it started nicely. They had me, I have to admit, at Archie Panjabi ... but aside from the show's kind of silly premise, I love the way it plays with the cop show genre and the opposites-attract-and-repel buddy dynamic as well. Watch the American version if you must ... the casting doesn't look half bad, with Harvey Keitel as Gene Hunt (but the British Hunt is kind of large and menacing). But if you get a chance, try to see the original. I'm guessing, sight unseen, that it's far superior ... and even if it isn't, it's damned good.

August 24, 2008

And speaking of Leonard Cohen covers

This one is pretty transcendent, IMHO. Sorry for the maudlin, but hey, it beats this one:

"Sore eyes for meddlers"

That's how my maternal grandparents (and occasionally my mother) would often answer when I'd ask, "What's that?" Apparently other people say "layover for meddlers" in the same circumstances.

The other day my daughter came in to report that she'd seen a grinny on the front porch, and it kind of cracked me up. A grinny, of course, is a chipmunk. I was pleased to learn that this was not merely a piece of family linguistic weirdness but is an honest to god regionalism, like "red up," which I won't waste your time with. I'm no linguist, mind you, but I thought I'd do a lazy Google search on some of my favorite grandpa-isms to see what else I could come up with:

Gornick: A fist-sized rock. Googling "gornick rock Pittsburgh dialect" turned up among other things the resume of an actor/model whose credits include "physically remove accountant." I'm not linking to it because I don't want him to think I'm making fun of him. Even though I'm not an accountant! The word feels like it ought have an origin in English coal country, Scottish, or Scotch-Irish dialects, but I don't know.

Board's a-play!
: This was my grandfather's way of crying shenanigans during a card game or board game. My grandparents were great players of games ... I think it was a generational thing. But if you got around my grandfather in a game, or if you miscounted something, he'd say "board's a-play." We still say it, but I don't know what origin, if any, it has. He's been gone going on 23 years, but this phrase more than any of the others, more than anything I think, reminds me of him. I always looked forward to him coming over for a visit because I was an only child with a great store of board games I never got to play (cue violins ...).

More to follow as they occur to me.

August 21, 2008

My "staycation"

I was planning to head south this week, but it was not meant to be ... the AC went out, and that became a priority. No, I didn't fix it myself--but we ended up replacing the outdoor part of our heat pump outfit. Rather painful.

Not that this kept me from spending some money, however. I picked up a pretty hefty sander on craigslist. I wish I had taken some better "before" shots, because it was very rough ... most of the paint was off of it, and there was quite a bit of surface rust. The cast iron tables were in very bad shape and the whole thing was of course filthy. So I spent the last couple of days rehabilitating the sander, tearing it down, cleaning it thoroughly, sanding and polishing the cast iron tables, and painting the whole thing. I can honestly say that I know a lot more about how this thing works than I do about most of my other tools (since this is a sander, which is pretty basic, that might not be saying much). You can get a little bit of an idea of its original appearance from this shot, maybe:

The older Grizzly tools were a much sicklier shade of green. The Rustoleum I used was a pretty close match for the current color scheme. Because that's so important to me! I thought about making it some dramatically different color, just for kicks, but for some reason, I didn't.

I probably have about 15 hours in this thing. I did have to order a part for it that will be delivered tomorrow, so that's why the disc table isn't on there; the mounts are pretty fragile, from the look of them, and one was shattered.

Can't wait to fire it up and try it out ... it's bigger than it looks, maybe ... 1 hp motor, 6 x 48" belt, 12" disc. The little Harbor Freight model I have looks like a toy next to it, but that thing has held up wonderfully. I don't think I'll retire it, but it's quite puny in comparison ... it's very easy to stop the motor entirely by exerting too much pressure on the belt. And the plastic table on the HF sander is puny to the point of being useless ... it won't stay where you put it. Still, the belt sander is useful; maybe I'll keep a finer grit on it and use coarser grits on the Grizzly for hogging off lots of wood (not that my measurements and cuts are anything but precise!).

Ain't that purty?

Yes, I read Don's blog, not because I knit, but because I understand and respect his devotion to/obsession with his craft. I sometimes wish I felt this way about my job.

August 20, 2008

Art should bother you sometimes

If I'm the last person to see this, why didn't you tell me about it? A film website I enjoy had a link to this short film, which is, I think, worth your time:

The film has a bit of a "devo" feel to it, if that makes sense, and I like the way it taps into the viscera (if you will) of childhood ... because there is something fundamentally effin' weird about childhood and children. Laugh, but you know what I mean.

Undeveloped point #1: An economist should write a paper about this.

Undeveloped point #2: The idea of tigers running around a tree until they turn into butter has always bothered me.

Anyhow, the filmmaker's website is here.

August 18, 2008

The Olympics!

You know I like to keep up with current events ... turns out the Olympics are going on. Woo Hoo! Okay, I'm not a big fan of this event. I've watched a few swimming events, and they were okay. The problem is that most of the sports I watch during the Olympics, I wind up watching for the wrong reasons: gymnastics, I mean, and beach volleyball ... stuff like that. Hey, I'm not a bad person ... I'm just not very good.

I also think that the anti-doping rules are just wrong. If I can have a elective hysterectomy in order to make myself more competitive (and yes, that's a big if, since I don't have a uterus or any of the accessories), then why not some performance-enhancing drugs?

And thank God they inviting those swimming caps ... otherwise our swimmers would be having their ears cut off in order to cut down on drag.

August 12, 2008


Evidence of the essential nastiness of marsupials--courtesy of linguist, animator, software guy, writer, nature photographer, cultural observer and renaissance man Rodney Hill:

There. Is. No. God.

And check this one out:

As you can see in the detail below, it has birdseed up its nose. All creatures great and small, huh?

Writes Rodney:

The O’Possum clan, ... after eating, defecates all over the remaining food – looks like wet, mostly cylindrical, partially digested granola bars. Eli and I refer to them as “marpoopials.” Can one assume they intend to ward off other diners and return, in spite of the mess, to resume the meal later? I have no empirical evidence, but it is a theory.

Thanks, Rodney, for supplying this heartwarming image of interspecies harmony ... reminds me of a picture of heaven from the copy of Watchtower somebody gave me one time:

August 10, 2008


Marsupials? I'm against them.

I remember hearing in a class or maybe reading in a book of Stephen Jay Gould essays that there were once marsupial analogues out there to most normal, placental mammals. I just don't care for that idea ... it's kind of unheimlich. Know what I mean?

Marsupials are nasty. Those beady little possum eyes that catch your headlights from the ditch? Demonic. Man, I hate possums, with their insidious little possum teeth. (I refuse to call these rat-tailed gremlins by their proper name, which I consider to be some kind of obscure ethnic slur against the Irish.) I'm glad to live in a neighborhood with only one native marsupial.

So okay, you're saying, what about kangaroos? Kangaroos are interesting enough ... I guess they're the deer of the marsupial world? I don't know. But if you ask me, marsupials are kind of gross, period. Look, carry your young until they're ready to be born, and then pop them out. AND KEEP THEM OUT. I'm really glad people don't have little larval PEOPLE clinging to them for months after giving--or should I say "loaning"?--birth ... clinging to their fur and crawling in and out of their pouch at will. As my mother used to say if I couldn't make up my mind between going outside or playing indoors: "In or out."

I don't wish ill upon marsupials, mind you. I think extinction is pretty tragic, even if the animal itself is an abomination:

And there's something tragic about watching what might have been the last one of them wandering around in a zoo. But don't be lulled into too much sympathy ... these are marsupials we're talking about!

You can see where I'm going with this, right? Here's a scary headline for you: "Marsupials And Humans Share Same Genetic Imprinting That Evolved 150 Million Years Ago." If you ignore the article, you'll see why I'm afraid that marsupial people are living among us. I didn't make this up! More than twenty years ago, the visionaries who created the so-called fiction film Howling III predicted the same thing. What they didn't predict was that people weren't ready for this idea (hence the 2.4 star rating on IMDB). Look, it's got a Roman numeral in the title. Roman numerals, people ... that gives it a gravity that's almost Biblical, if you ask me.

I have a pretty strong opinion about sea horses, too ... remind me to tell you about it sometime.

August 07, 2008

Musical interlude

This song strikes me as one of those that's in a class by itself. I don't like the video, but it's the easiest way to direct your attention to the song. Feel free not to watch, just listen. I saw these guys on Conan O'Brien (I think) a while back, and the song just kind of blew me away ... kind of breaks my heart. I'm a sucker for that hillbilly harmony, as I've said.

You know I don't usually get political here, but here's a love song from Steve Earle with some possible subtle political overtones. Might be funnier in the overall context of Earle's oeuvre, which I wholeheartedly encourage you to check out.

Here's another cut from the same Steve Earle album that's not safe to crank up at work. It's also somewhat political and makes me love my country more than the Olympics.

August 06, 2008

Local news

I've always had a love-hate relationship (more accurately, a hate relationship) with the local news. This goes back to my childhood growing up halfway between the Pittsburgh and Youngstown markets. One Youngstown station had a guy who was kind of ugly but very professional, so I usually watched that one (I won't identify him because I'm afraid that it might lead to him having a minor auto accident, like Morgan Freeman). This was before beauty became the most important thing about local news ... back when, if you were lucky, you'd catch a news broadcast on channel ll that featured Chilly Billy, the weekend horror host, who also played a newsman in Night of the Living Dead.

Clearly George Romero isn't just a genius ... he's a metagenius. But that's a topic for another entry.

How local news has devolved over the last few decades! I'd say something kind of negative about how hotness has apparently become the main requirement for local morning news teams, but to do so would imply that local morning news has substance that deserves more gravity than the average colon cleansing infomercial. So why do I watch the morning news rather than Night Court and Designing Women on TVLand? This is one of the mysteries that will continue to plague us. I hope it's not because the women on the news are, uh ... hmm. Well. Anyhow.

August 04, 2008

Magical Thinking

Okay, I'm going to work harder to avoid badmouthing people here. I mean, the lengths people will go to to make me look like a dick. Seriously, Mr. Freeman, you could have just snubbed me in an elevator or something. You didn't have to go and wreck your car.

But I have to say, the news story makes him sound pretty damned cool, even to the asshole who's trying to take his picture. I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

August 03, 2008

Procrastination leads to productivity

I've been putting off embarking on my next woodworking adventure by taking care of some other odds and ends I've been meaning to get to. I'm not being thorough, I'm procrastinating.

One of my earliest projects, in fact one that I started before I had many tools at all aside from some hand power tools, (drill, sabre saw, circular saw) was a bass guitar.

See, several years ago I acquired a bass: brand name "Series 10." Apparently they used to give these things away with Ampeg amps. Cheesy sparkly plywood body, sloppily dipped chrome plated bridge, tuner, etc. But the neck was okay and the frets seemed to be located in basically the right places. So I thought I'd build a new body for the bass. I went and bought a hunka hunka solid mahogany because I didn't even have the clamps to glue up a body, and I got my dad to cut it out on his bandsaw and drill out the neck pocket with forstner bits.

And then I brought it home and started shaping it. by hand. With rasps and files. It was a lot of work, unrewarding and, in my South Carolina garage, damned hot. Everything I did made the thing look worse. So ... I quit.

Fast forward to the present day, maybe five years later. I have tools, now, an embarrassment of tools, and a nice cool basement woodshop. And a large, ambitious project I'm kind of avoiding! So yesterday I decided to have at the bass.

Shape-wise, it's about where I want it to be. The curves and contours are pleasing to the touch. The next steps will involve fitting the neck and routing and drilling for the electronics (once we've settled on what the electronics will entail). Then I'll give it the final sanding, allow the color to even itself out (age and exposure to light seems to change the color of the mahogany dramatically, hence the blotches you can see in the photos.

Soon I'll be cranking this "Series 10" up to 11!

August 01, 2008

Side effects may include ...

A few funny moments here ... as indicated by Colbert's deep mental breath before telling us who's pooping in our pools at about 4:10. I think I've experienced a few of these side effects.

Have fun!