Saturday, May 31, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Twilight (2005) is the NY Times best seller by Stephanie Meyers; it is the first in a series of the same characters.Part romance, part suspense, part teen angst story, Twilight chronicles the unrooting of Bella from her life-long home in Arizona to her new home in Washington state, where she is now living with her father. The mother's re-marriage and the step-father's Farm team baseball career are what prompts Bella to move to the cold, damp Pacific Northwest. To say that she doesn't like the weather is a bit of an understatement.Likewise, the transition from her old school in Arizona, where the population was in the thousands, is a far cry from her new school, which is little more than a small group of trailers and outbuildings. The town itself, probably has a lower population than her former school. Culture shock rears its ugly head pretty quickly...But, it's a case of friends to the rescue as the new girl in town become the popular IT girl. She doesn't embrace her new-found popularity well, though, and instead is drawn to a reclusive family of incredibly beautiful, intelligent people. Or are they people?Turns out the answer is no: they are vampires.But this isn't your typical vampire story, with vamps running around biting and blood sucking. These guys are above all that...Personally, I was a bit disappointed with this book. I thought the main character was not at all believable (for instance, what teenager wouldn't like snow?). Someone I know felt that the vocabulary was limited.Over all, I'd suggest you save your money: wait for the movie, instead (there's bound to be one).Image from Amazon.com
I was recently given the novel A Spot of Bother. It was written by Mark Haddon, who also penned one of my favourite books of the last few years, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. While 'The Curious Incident...' is written from the perspective of an autistic teen, 'A Spot of Bother' parachutes us into the late mid-life crisis of George, a recently retired Englishman whose wife is having an affair, whose daughter is about to marry a most 'unsuitable' man, and whose gay son is about to 'come out' to the family's friends and neighbours.If you were expecting both novels to have the same sort of tone, think again: although I have seen 'A Spot of Bother' described as a comedic book, I found it anything but. The tone was very serious, the protagonist very disturbed, and the situation very usual. The story takes you into the mind of someone who thinks he is losing his own; is it stress, or Alzheimer's, or is he correct in his perceptions after all? The author also looks at the still-remaining class structure in Britain, where certain levels of society view themselves as being better than others. George's wife, especially, is guilty of this; however, she soon learns that one's background neither determines one's competency nor one's superiority over others.I personally found this book depressing. It's well written, but it put me in a real funk. Image from fantasticfiction.com
Saturday, May 17, 2008
"Jesus Christ! I'm not sure I can handle this kind of news and frantic stimulus at four o'clock in the morning - especially with a head full of speed, booze, and Percodan. It is extremely difficult to concentrate on the cheap realities of Campaign '76 under these circumstances. The idea of covering even the early stages of this cynical and increasingly retrograde campaign has already plunged me into a condition bordering on terminal despair, and if I thought I might have to stay with these people all the way to November I would change my name and seek work as a professional alligator poacher in the swamps around Lake Okeechobee. My frame of mind is not right for another long and maddening year of total involvement in a presidential campaign... This time, on the 200th anniversary of what used to be called "The American Dream," we are going to have our noses rubbed, day after day - on the tube and in the headlines - in this mess we have made for ourselves."- Hunter S. Thompson, 1976The sage was right. And if he hadn't offed himself three years ago, he surely could find reason to in this foul year of Our Lord 2008.It's been difficult for me to follow this insane campaign. Every election is a bigger heap of watery shit than the last, the choices seeming more and more like picking who you'd want to send screaming into a vat of sulfuric acid at some kind of hellish county fair dunking-booths. 2004 was nightmarish enough, ending in the re-election of the stupidest, most wretched individual ever to hold the highest office in this country; only because the other side was so out of touch with reality they couldn't come up with anyone better than a dipshit doppleganger of a Hell-muppet beast named John Kerry.I drank a lot in those days.As I did last night. I was just into my first crappy can of American piss-water when I received a text message from my ex-wife. She informed me that our daughter was making references to "Monty Python & The Holy Grail" over dinner; surely this good news would restore some balance to the life of a father trying hard not to pay attention to the primary elections that were just finishing.Then my ex-wife asked me to explain Hillary and Indiana. Fear and loathing crept into my heart.I wanted to reply "explain that vile bitch and ANYONE?" but finally I settled for my own Grail joke."What manner of Democrat are you that you can summon votes without ideas or substance?"I opened my second can of brew.Something strange happened to me as I looked through the county-by-county results in Indiana. I began to CARE. Fuckin' Jesus, this was getting DANGEROUS.I am no fan of the talking-head, empty-suit full of great words and little else, known as Barack Obama. I am certainly not fond of the dried-up hack Republican he'll be facing in November. But I began to pray to Gods I no longer believe in that The-Opportunistic-Bitch would bite the dust on this wretched night in North Carolina and my home state of Indiana.It's amusing to look back on how Republicans would instantly morph into rabid fuming dogs at the very mention of Hillary Clinton back when her husband was President. Now she seems so much like them it's laughable that they'd find so much evil in their blackened hearts for her.Still, it is not difficult for anyone with brains (or even not) to find loathing for this twisted bitch, who seems so determined to remind us that she DESERVES our votes. The Clintons behave as if public office is their birthright. It's a vile spectacle to witness and I for one, have waited long for this bitch to be kicked to the curb so we can go about the business of deciding if we want the 'black guy' or the really, really, 'white guy' manning our sinking ship.I looked over the results and saw that Obama had easily taken North Carolina, but it was still too close to call in Indiana, though Clinton appeared to have the lead.Another can of sin was opened.I went about other business here at home, but would check in every hour on the results. This soon became every half-hour. Then every five minutes. I was becoming obsessed and the hideous absurdity of this fact had not gone unnoticed, even several more cans in. It only was thrown into sharp relief. I was caring, CARING about a political race that no sane person should. But of course, this was all over the Goddamn TV and Internet news channels and, of course, it was happening in my home state.Half an hour from the state line here in Ohio, I reflected on the state of my birth, where I return every weekend. I fucking hated it there. The one year I spent in Indianapolis was the only exception to this. Out in the rural areas and the smaller towns, I always felt alienated. These are 'my people', but I tend to avoid them like the Black Death whenever possible. Finally finding a few kind souls to make noise with on weekends is heartening, but hardly enough to erase the fear I feel when I cross that state line and remember just how many Jesus-swilling, redneck, bags of shit I had to endure growing up.Fact is, they surround me here in southwest Ohio as well. These red states are not good places for people of my temperament.This would be the first Indiana primary in my lifetime to mean a goddamn thing, and it would get us that much closer to making The Cunt go away. For a while, anyway. Oh, it will ALWAYS return. But perhaps we could get a breather for a moment in time.But as the night progressed, terrible things were afoot. Lake County was behind on counting votes, and while in the early stages Obama had three quarters of the vote tallied in that corner of the state, that margin shrank steadily.More cans of doom.Finally, at 3:00 a.m., I gave in. Being faced with yet another month of Clinton/Obama nonsense in the news is not the kind of evil stimulus I can handle easily with a head full of booze at this time in the small hours.I dived for my keys. I heated four beef and bean burritos in the microwave and loaded up the rest of my beer.Half an hour later I stood in the middle of a country road at the Ohio/Indiana border under the stars, and dropped my pants.I began to sing the wise words of those imminent composers Gene and Dean Ween."I'm waving my dick in the wind,waving my dick in the windIf it all goes right, I'll be in your arms tonightBut I'm waving my dick in the wind"I let fly a torrent of beery piss. Then, with the power of a shotgun blast, I peppered the road with the remnants of my evil late-night snack.I howled into the wind, "I'll be back Friday night, Indiana! You fucking swine!"Driving back, merrily singing along to the Black Flag albums I downloaded this week, I felt cleansed. Whole.I fell into a heap in front of the television at 4:15 a.m. and watched a "Discovery Science" show on the eventual fate of the universe. In a google years, after all the stars have burned out and the last black hole dissipates into nothingness, a universe full of ice and blackness, even this 2008 nightmare will not be considered for footnote status. The horrors of Earth pale next to The End.I was full of hope. Ahhh, entropy. Heat-death. I'll drink to that.I awoke at 10:30 and somehow craved more Mexican food. Terrible longings. So I grabbed my copy of "The Great Shark Hunt "for reading material and headed to the restaurant that opened here two months ago.Towards the end of my lunch, a few bits of beef enchilada and beans left, something hideous happened.The normal stream of Latin pop can be treated as atmosphere, but not this time. Dear God, what twisted rat bastard would choose to play THAT song, at THIS time in our society's evolution?Some sociopath was singing Achy Breaky Heart in Spanish in the house speakers.Jesus creeping shit. Doom has arrived. At times like this, one can only PRAY for a sudden interruption in the broadcast that Hillary Clinton is ready for a four-hour speech to the nation.Then I began to laugh. Ahh, yes. Absurdity comes home to roost again. The dumbass Kentucky shitbag who performed that song originally, all those years ago, is back in the spotlight these days, riding the coattails of his far more tolerable 15-year old daughter on Disney.But the dingbat south-of-the-border asshole singing to me, in this moment, likely has a young daughter of his own. A daughter who has already bore him six grandchildren, all of them right now trying to escape the consequences of yet another Clinton policy. Somewhere the denizens of NAFTA's Mexico are swimming or running or creeping across the border, and foolish Republicans and Democrats alike are all too ready to send them back without so much as a pat on the back.Let 'em in, I say. Even the swine singing that inane song. Anyone at this point in history who wants to rumble in the failing embers of the American Dream should be welcomed with open arms. With third-rate shitheads seeking the seats of power and an economy that resembles a homeless man beaten senseless with his own flea-ridden shoes, what harm are a few million immigrants going to do?Come join in the games, guys. I've got the hot sauce. But remember one thing when coming to our Great Land (tm) from Mexico - don't drink the water. Everyone in DC has been pissing in it for decades.Images from adamzyglis.com/ and informedstudents.com
Capacity Crowd (1,200) - sold out
Twenty-nine years after his “Look Sharp” debut, Joe Jackson is still actively touring the world, basking in the consistently warm reception of his fans. The stage at the Chan Centre contained an trio of instruments usually found at a jazz show: an electric bass guitar, an elaborate drum kit, and a full-size grand piano.
At 8:40 the musicians took the stage; Graham Maby playing bass, Dave Houghton on drums, and Joe on piano. The tour is to promote his latest album, Rain (also known as Volume V, it being the fifth album the original members have recorded together).
Jackson, dapper in a charcoal grey jacket, matching striped pants, and a white shirt, appeared amused by the polite, Canadian audience. He remarked several times on how ‘clean’ and ‘nice’ the audience and venue was, and joked modestly that he didn’t really ‘deserve’ the Chan Centre.
The Chan Centre is an acoustically wondrous oblong “soft seat” venue, more often used for string quartets, visiting sopranos, or jazz offerings. There is no dance floor, and the audience for Joe Jackson was much older than for the shows we usually attend.
Then too, so is he. Joe Jackson’s music began as witty New Wave pop songs, but then very quickly matured into sophisticated fusions of jazz, Caribbean, and world music, all with an appealing urban flavour. He’s a musician’s musician, and has developed a trademark style, instantly identifiable as a “Joe Jackson song.” This style is rich in percussion, with Joe’s piano playing many roles, and, of course, his distinct voice.
The set list offered up six songs from “Rain,” interspersed with some oldies, some hits, and a few covers. The trio performed well, and Joe played his piano as a rhythm instrument, as a lead instrument, and as a percussion instrument - sometimes simultaneously. There’s only so much a trio can do, though, and there were spells where some more instruments would have been welcomed. The occasionally abrupt and strained mix would have been softened and extended beautifully by a horn or two, and the absence of a guitarist was noticeable in places. Mr. Houghton’s battery was occasionally a bit hyperactive, but this is not uncommon in trios.
Those quibbles aside (and the adoring crowd certainly did not appear to care), the show was a success. He made us wait until the encore before he played “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” but he also delighted us with a cover of Duke Ellington’s “Don't Get Around Much Anymore,” and finished with his own “A Slow Song.”
Joe Jackson is as valuable as he is unclassifiable. A guy who started by making New Wave singles, and who then went on to win a Grammy for a symphony, is still experimenting, still proving his musical diversity, and still writing really good songs.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
- challenger's name- smiling headshot of the challenger- challenger's slogan in a pleasing and easy to read fontThe only, and exceedingly rare, variations to this formula are the image of the "challenger giving a thumbs up" and a small graphic flourish, like a star or a check mark.That's weak. Modern voters want a little 'pizazz' in their campaign propaganda.That's why my posters will be gigantic.I'll still be smiling, but with more of a "You know you want it" smile as opposed the the classic "You can trust me 'cause I'm old" smile.And it'll be a full body shot.And I'll be wearing a top hat and perhaps a tasteful cape.My left hand will be clutching a large sack of money. And in my right hand, a long, thick chain. At its end, the Devil, whom I've beaten and captured for the good of the people.The poster's font? Iron Maiden, and you already know what my slogan will read.So if you already know it, it must be true.So vote... Or don't.It doesn't even matter.See you in the Fall.
•1. Add screen crosshairs. You know in a spy flick, when a sniper looks through his eyepiece, and it shows you what he's seeing with the crosshairs superimposed? Do that, but superimpose the crosshairs over the WHOLE MOVIE, even if it's not a spy flick. Especially if it's not a spy flick. This will give the audience a feeling of constant anticipation, like, "When's he gonna shoot these people?". But, since it's the audience who are peering down through the crosshairs, this technique may also add an existential element to the picture, like, "When are WE gonna shoot these people?". That's way more interesting.•2. Add a CG ghost of a deceased person. Not as a character, and not as a part of the plot or narrative; just have them kind of float by at random intervals. Maybe howling and rattling chains if you're feeling dramatic. The trick to making this method work is absolute denial. When people/the press come up to you after a screening and say, "Man, that CG ghost of John Candy was weird", hit them with a confused look and claim that you have no idea what they're talking about. Maybe imply that they're crazy if you're feeling dramatic. After doing this a few times the public will pick up on it and conclude that your film must be haunted. And if I learned anything at Bible Camp, it's that haunted = interesting.•3. Try smoking some weed. And throw some boobs in there.