Monday, December 29, 2008

If You Need It, So Do I

Not too long ago, I was looking up the lyrics to the Rosebuds' song, "El Camino". It turns out I couldn't find them, which was a shame. It' s one of my favourite songs and has been for yonks, so I was surprised I couldn't locate them on teh Interwebz. So here they are.

The first time I heard the song was live. It was called "El Camino in the Night"then, and the first recording I have of it is on a split album from the Rosebuds, My Dear Ella and the Sames called "A Show With..."

Probably because of all those live shows, my hearing isn't what it could be, and I can't quite be sure of all the lyrics. Anything I'm reasonably uncertain of is in brackets [].

Don't ask me what the second word in the third line is. It sort of sounds like "box-a" to me on the first version, which kinda, sorta makes sense, but in the other recording sounds more like "boxer", which even if it sounds more distinct, makes even less sense.

Mister Fun, what have you done?
You took our toys and left us one
Shiny [boxer] filled with tears.

And in the haze, you've gone too far
In all my ways a perfect car
No rust, [not common] dear.

And through the field light appears
Please hold on close and know my dear
The El Camino is burning tyres.

The El Camino's in the night
Fighting crime and saving lives
And like that, it disappears.

But if you need it, so do I
Away from the traps and the lies
We can ride away and have no pain, my dear.

And through the fields he's coming [my dear]
Shining brightly from our rear
The El Camino is burning tyres.

The El Camino's in the night
Fighting crime and saving lives
And like that, he'll disappear.

But if you need him, so do I
Away from the traps and lies
We could ride away and have no pain, my dear.

The more produced, shined-up version that appears on The Rosebuds Unwind is entitled just "El Camino" and the lyrics are slightly different:

Mister Fun, what have you done?
You took our toys and left us one
Skinny [boxer] filled with tears.

And through the haze, you've come so far
In all my ways, a perfect car
No rust, [not common], dear.

And through the field, the lights appear
Just hold on close, Let's go my dear:
The El Camino was burning tyre.

The El Camino in the Night,
Fighting crime and saving lives
And like that, it disappears.

But if you need it, so do I,
Away from the [traps] and the lies.
We can ride away and have no pain, my dear.

And through the hills it's coming near,
Shining brightly from our rear.
The El Camino is throwing fire.

The El Camino in the Night
Fighting Crime and saving lives
And like that, they re-appear.

So if you need it, so do I
Away from the traps and the lies
We can ride away and have no pain, my dear.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Vapid Prettyboy Seeks Horse-Faced Bitch with whom to Flog Ugly Fashions.

I don't hate /all/ TV ads. In fact, I don't even hate most TV ads: thanks to the wonders of Tivo, I don't even see all that many. For any ad to come to my consciousness, it needs to a) be repeated roughly 100 million billion times and b) pose some manner of inscrutable question.

Take, for example, Future86's caterwauling about the boons of bundling cable, phone, and internet, or Interactive Male's odd service*.

Or the above ad.

First of all, just who is this guy trying to kid with the "I can't get a date" routine? He's hott. Dullness comes off of him in waves like heat from the sand, but still... One expects some excitement when talking about how one fell in love. Except she's not much better. More bitter, but not more better. It looks suspiciously like she's been using her own features to grind whatever axe she's got going against the rest of the world. Perhaps -- like Mynheer with Vrouw van Winkle -- Joshua's emotional response to her is just to turn low-key and 'bide it out. I can only assume some incipient Carmelita Spats awaits us all in Utero...

Anyway, the Joshua "I can't connect" bit the ad is predicated on: I'm not buying it. I'm certainly not buying it if he has cojones enough to spread his legs like that and show off just what Tanya Lee is getting on a regular basis now that they're married.

Presumably. I mean, has thinly-veiled Christian fundamentalist leanings -- they wouldn't match up teh Gays till the courts pointed out the 14th Amendment to them and suggested they open up a same-sex sister site** -- so one can only assume that Joshua's visible assets notwithstanding they pulled a Twilight and just held hands till they got hitched.

It makes me wonder how just pathetic the other 87 million people they claim to have connected are, since they won't let any of them on the air to describe the process. Cue Mort and Muriel Goldman's testemontial, I s'pose...

*Have you seen their new ad that covertly replaces the Hispanic guy (but nothing else) with yet another little white thing?

** made great ad along those lines.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Conclusion:

For some years I've been wrestling with this question, since the lovely Helen (ever so lamented in her absence) recommended The Mighty Boosh to me*, but I have decided.

Vince Noir is fucking hot, right down to the (admittedly) incredible hair. Noel Fielding, on the other hand, who has more than once been sighted in the company of Amy W(h)inehouse, is not.

A contributing factor that is by no means exclusive to him is the hipster belt that wraps oh-so-clingingly-and-oh-so-inviting-of-the-rimming 'round the lower part of his arse. Frankly, it does wonders for anyone height/weight proportional, but he can work that shit, down.

The whole post-modern-awareness bit is almost but not quite gilding the lilly.

And I'm happy with this sort of dichotomy, as the exact opposite (actor v. character) holds true for David Tennant, and comes damn close to working for Chris Eccleston.

*The reruns of The IT Crowd on IFC have helped in this as well, as well as complicating my idea of just how cute Richard Ayoude is after Garth Marenghi's various incarnations (but that can be tied back to the Emotionally Feckless Fucker...). Turns out he's straight, but still... cute is as cute does.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I don't like Christmas.

It's not that I hate it, as such -- though I occasionally I am driven to that -- I just don't care for it. And this pisses people off. More often that not, it's like an affront to their very existence. Every year, I have to listen to someone go on and on about how special and wonderful it is for them. And this is fine. I just wish they'd go be special on their own and leave me the fuck alone.

It was best when I lived in Durham. I somehow got in the tradition of driving my friend IGP to the airport to catch a red-eye flight on Christmas Eve. We'd spend the night before drinking and watching bad movies, often in the company of another friend I'll call Roweena (spot the Romantic-era joke there, folks!). That would descend into inebriated debates over local scenesters' sexual proclivites over The Sound of Music.

I still don't know about Neil and that was always a hot topic. As it were.

The next day I'd head over to the radio station with Roweena and refuse to play Christmas music for a huge shift. It was prinicipal: I was atheist and R. was Jewish. And we both felt like the world needed far more girly pop played in Decemeber.

I'm not sure exactly why I dislike Christmas. (Other than, you know, the atheism...) The only really nasty Christmas run-in I've ever had was when the person I lived with felt obligated to put up a string of lights and was stupid enough to do it on the stair railing. A few mornings later, dashing to work at 5 am, my foot got caught in it and I fell down the stairs.

That was no fun.

I think it mostly comes from indentured labor in my youth. For a period of ten years or so (inclining towards 15), I was forced to be in my parents' church's Christmas play. This meant the wasting of four or five perfectly good Sunday afternoons in Advent* watching a bunch of awkward, poorly-educated children mumble the same tired sing-song Bible verses.

For years, I didn't even have to learn the words since I had the same verse**: "Unto Us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulders and he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Unlimited Rice Pudding*** etc., etc.

When I finally was old enough to complain about this -- my father was the Sunday School Superintendant and I was therefore an example -- I got cast as a rock. A rock.

This is separate from the obligatory family Christmas tree decoration. The least said about that the better; suffice it say I was once beaten and told "You will come hear and you will have a good time. Or else."

So I have no love of the Yule. The only thing I /do/ like is music. But only a certain kind. My parents are old; they almost were when I was born, and their taste in music betrays that. Growing up, the Christmas music they played was from the eeaaarrllly 1960s: The Living Strings. Andy Williams. Laurence Welk. Johnny Mathis.

To this day, it ain't Christmas till somebody breaks out The Andy Williams Christmas album and plays "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells"****. And my favourite single Christmas collection is the one album of their multi-disc Laurence Wellk Christmas Set they disliked enough to let me ruin. I still have it.

Naturally enough, when I'd been gone a few years, I got a hold of some Esquivel and it suits me perfectly.

So... after bitching about the holidays for a while, I am now going to deliver some goods. Good, free Christmas music:

The Real Deal:

The good folks over at Ultra Swank still have available their Retro Christmas album. For Free!

Over at Pyschotic Leisure Music present you with a whole album of Senor Esquivel. Also For Free!

And last but not least -- and also gatis -- our benefactors over at Romantic Air Records have their Christmas album up, and it's a modern take on the same sort of sounds. It's keen!

So take that Christmas cheer and stick it, yo.

*Yes, I know perfectly well there are only four Sundays in Advent. I just don't care.

**Lutherans love memorising things almost as much as they do not changing things.

***Obligatory Doctor Who reference. See how I sneaked that in effortlessly with Isaiah, Chapter Nine? See, I /told/ you Lutherans were into memorising.

****For years, the whole album was unavailable on iTunes. Now it is. Merry Christmas to me, iTunes.

This Isn't a Common Lament of Mine...

... if anything, I tend to think the exact opposite of this, yet oddly, today was the second time in as many weeks it's run across my mind: it's always very sad when the very pretty aren't very bright.

I am -- properly or not -- deliberately conflating bad taste and militant inexperience with "not-very-bright"-itude.

One of tonight's Jeopardy! contestants* (not the champion, obv.), Daniel, was very pretty and handled himself reasonably well. Through the wonders of Facebook**, a man might be privy to his likes and dislikes and such, and they are disappointing to say least. You really should have a decent book as a favourite before you go on Jeopardy!(.)


The other instance, which I'm not sure I ought to mention, happened when I was in Durham recently, when someone quite fetching said something more or less deeply stupid.

*Yes, another Jeopardy! contestant. Shut up.

**Oh, do the hard work yourself.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

They've revived those ads for Britney Spears' perfume -- "Fantasy: Everyone's Got One". I suppose my fantasy would be finding out just who would want to smell like /her/.

(Or more to the point, who would pay $40 to do so when all you really need to do is wake up on a stranger's floor after pack of smokes, a pint of Jack Daniels and a broken condom...)

But this defies me even more. If it's a gag, then it doesn't work; if it's real, it's far more terrifying than smelling like Britney. *

It sort of backs of my theory that American culture is Teh Fails.

*Although really, the Obesity epidemic being what it is, this oughtn't to be as shocking as it is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Happiness Is...

Hearing one of your favourite bands on one of your favourite TV shows, like when I heard "Keep it Clean" by Camera Obscura on Skins last night. (Or, indeed, when they were on Gilmore Girls.)

Sadness is when you realise they were saying something mean about that song and the kinds of people who listen to it.

Bad Skins writers. Unfortunately, short of bitching about it here, my only other form of protest is not to watch the show any more, and *that* is unlikely. So I'll just sit here and stew.

In Which We Learn That The Recitations Of An Asthmatic Hamster May Be More Salubrious Than The Entire Corpus of William Faulkner

I am very susceptible to suggestion. Virtually anyone who knows me will agree to that. Part of it is just natural... gullibility, I guess. But part of it is training.

Any sort of criticism is essentially a response to the stimulation a work of art gives; formal criticism is just putting that gut reaction into a more informed context.

And while this is true for all art, I think it is even more so for the drama. Most modern acting in the US is more or less based on Stanislavski's System, and all that boils down to is a schemata for making yourself extremely open to the imaginative suggestion of an author's script.

Dramaturgy and directing are even more so, in that dramaturgy is preparation for the more literary, theoretical suggestions underpinning a script, and direction is dealing with the the concrete realities of working actors and their inter-relating physical and mental positioning.

So where is this going?

I finished reading Faulkner's Go Down, Moses not long ago, and it's made me want to go hunting.

This is, of course, ludicrous.

I have none of the necessary skills, nor (really) any of the necessary desires. I mean, sure, I hate deer. I /really/ hate deer, and it must be loads of fun to take one down, but the whole sitting half-way up a tree at 4.30 in the morning of the off chance one might stroll by is pretty much the opposite of how I'd like to spend my time.

And the idea of giving me a firearm ought to appal everyone. I mean, technically speaking, I can fire them -- and have been licensed to do so in front of people in state-run institutions, even -- but my knowledge runs out for anything produced after 1580 or so.

Had I spent more time learning to shoot in Boy Scout camp instead of learning to kiss from the instructor, this might not have been an issue. (And no, for the record, it was not some gross Scoutmaster. It was some over-eager older scout.) In an amusing twist of fate, the state of South Carolina got rid of sales tax on guns the weekend after Thanksgiving. And my brother was going to be there. I asked him to pick one up, but he (wisely) laughingly refused. He was in the army and knows the danger of me packing heat.

But for a few weeks yet, I'll still think the whole hunting thing is something I ought to try. I even learned all about seasons for various game, and the licenses required and bag limits and so forth. One might even hunt bears in the vicinity of where my parents live, which I find equally fascinating and appalling. I didn't know there were bears left there to hunt, but next time I'm there, I'll be more aware of the dark.

Perhaps fortuitiuosly for everyone involved, I've started reading a collection of the works of Washington Irving, an author with whom I have no familiarity. (Other than he used to hang out with Walter Scott and that Mary Shelley carried a torch for him...) I quite like it so far, if for no other reason to find out what Isobel Campbell was going on about in "I Could Be Dreaming".

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


As I sees it, few there be with better claims to piracy than me. I knows my way around a sword; I've worked upon an antique sailing vessel, I've studied up on me history. I can do the funny talk with authority.

And I has me a pirate name, now:

What kind of pirate am I? You decide!
You can also view a breakdown of results or put one of these on your own page!
Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I love pirates.

I love Weebl.

I love topical news references made into satire.

I love THIS:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dear The (Twilight) World:

Concerned as I am over The Curse of the Cullen Hair* -- it's moved into poor Kristen Stewart's real life, and it seems the film version of poor Jasper has been hit upside the head with the clown-hair stick -- I have to take more drastic measures.

Today I saw pictures of Jackson Rathbone in real life. Let it be known: to hell with Team Edward. I'm defecting to Team Jasper. Actually, make that Team Jay** to ensure Beautiful Green Eye Continuity.

*A Horror Movie in its Own Right.

**So says who am I to judge if fate has destined this?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sic Probo, or Q.E.D.

This is a Fraggle (Wembley, to be precise). Note the resemblance to the picture below, specifically in the hair area. This should end all disagreement with my pronouncement.

In Which Our Author Is Pointlessly Catty

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised (given the contents of the novel) that a Twilight personality quiz would be almost painfully sexist, and certainly not gender neutral. So I played along and took the "Which Male Character Are You?" to this result:

I'm a Carlisle! I found out through Which Twilight Male Are You? Take the quiz and find out!
Take the Quiz and Share Your Results!

Reasonable, I suppose, although the picture reminded me of a jovial bisexual Bavarian tourist in 1930s Berlin the morning after one too many absinthes.

Out of curiosity, I also took the female version and got this:

I'm a Alice! I found out through Which Twilight Female Are You? Take the quiz and find out!
Take the Quiz and Share Your Results!

Which I objected to. Not because she apparently warrants an exclamation point and Carlisle doesn't(!). Not because of the result. But because of Alice's hair. As I've said before, just because she received electro-shock therapy in the '20s is no reason to feather her short hair to give the impression her toe's permanently wedged into a light socket. I mean, she looks like a Fraggle.

(I've also pointed out that, judging by how Edward's pompadour cut gets bigger in each new ad, he'll be able to go Pom to Pom with Liberace in a 'Who's the Gayest Corpse in Hollywood" by the time the film's released...)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Love Without Hope

Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher
Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter,
So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly
Singing about her head, as she rode by.

--Robert Graves

No reason for posting this other than it's quite lovely. It's exactly what lyrical poetry is supposed to be.

(Okay, I've been reading the Patrick Troughton Doctor Who Annuals, which insist on showing him with that hat from his first few stories and it always makes me think of this poem... And bugger all if you can find a picture of the dratted thing)

Edit: oops! No weird agenda with the wrong colour scheme. Just an amusing mistake!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Another quick thought...

A passing reference a friend made in conversation the other day made me remember some thing. Something that that pricked my conscience.

I never slept with any of teachers*. I was never even tempted (although lots of people thought I had**). One of my stage-managers in college, whilst attempting to get me drunk***, told me she'd slept with her PE TA.

At the time, I thought this was a low mark in sluttiness -- this was before Carolina made you do things like write down your daily calorie intake for a week in your PE classes, so all you really had to do was show up once a week for class and not be dead. I even got credit for an advanced fencing class without ever having been in it. That's how easy they were.

So, at the time, sleeping with the TA just seemed like ultimate in pointlessness and wanton promiscuity.

This is, of course, stupid and very naive. Of all the TAs you'd have, the PE one is the one you'd most want to sleep with: the grade thing is only tangentially related, if at all.

So dear Sarah, I apologise for several years of falsely ascribed low morals. You were clearly more sexually aware than I was.

*Which isn't to say I didn't sleep with people who were TAs, just not my TAs.

**Story of my life. Always the blame for the thing I didn't do, and never any credit for what I did. Except possibly in the stalls of the Greenlaw Hall.

***Talk about causes for St Jude. We found a bottle of white wine in the prop closet. She had one glass, I had three and I practically had to her carry up the stairs of Graham Memorial. Whatever it was she wanted, she didn't get it.

Sundry Observations on Doctor Who

David Tennant announced he's leaving Doctor Who after the run of 2009 specials. I am surprisingly okay with this. (Not that it would matter if I wasn't...)

It'll be four seasons of him as the Doctor, which makes him one of the longer-lasting incarnations (only Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker lasted longer*) and he's had a good innings with stories like "Blink" and "Human Nature". And he's doing the lovely thing of quitting while he's ahead. He's certainly one of the best Doctors ever, and he -- or the new production team -- won't bugger that up in his time left (*fingers crossed).

Soon, I'll be able to go back to fancying him, which is impossible to do with someone playing the Doctor.

And I'm excited to see who the new Doctor is. If I were as famous as Brian Blessed is, I'd just /say/ it was me and the papers would publish it. But I'm not.

I'm not quite as excited as everyone else seems to be about Steven Moffat taking over as executive producer. I haven't mentioned it because I'm still pondering it over. Lawrence Miles posted his thoughts on the subject, and I was inclined to agree. He may be mad, but he is a very good critic**, and he pointed out that this season's "Silence in the Library"/"The Dead Forest" two-parter is a fairly weak retreading of Moffat's previous stories. However, all the rest of his stories are top-notch, so I'm keeping a sort of guarded optimism. His casting of the new Doctor will be very telling...

By a weird coincidence, I managed to get a hold of the Trial of a Time Lord box set and The Brain of Morbius release both this week, and have been drowning in a sea of stories I haven't seen since... well, since the VHS of Trial came out and... a long, long time for Morbius. The older story is a bit better than I remember; Trial is... well, Trial.

Some observations:

1) Joseph Lidster (Who writer and audio playwright for Big Finish and screenwriter for Torchwood) is way cuter than I expected. He appears on an extra for "Terror of the Vervoids", a special that talks about cliffhangers. Could maybe somebody stick him in front of the cameras for the roughly 800,000 spots BBC America needs for ads shilling their up-coming broadcast of Series 4 instead of Moffat?

2) Apparently, the production team of "Vervoids" asked Bonnie Langford to scream in the same key Dominic Glynn's Season 23 arrangement of the theme tune stings in on. This is, unintentionally, hysterically funny once you know. It gives visions of the Mouse Organ from Monty Python.

3) I have all three novels of the extant "Missing Season" published by Target. Now I want to read them again, although they seem pretty fishy.

4) Brian Blessed is god.

*There's an argument to be made that both McCoy's and McGann's tenure was longer (both at 9 years apiece, 1987-1996 and 1996-2005, respectively, since work featuring their Doctor came out, but it's non-TV work.

**I'd link to it, but like most of his more... contentious posts, it's been taken down.

Friday, October 24, 2008

You know, I was never a big fan of The X-Files. Largely because the acting was (well, is) pretty awful: the only really good episodes were the jokey ones that sort of went with that. Even Duchovy is under no illusions about his talent. And I can go with that.

But for a good four or five seasons, the character of Dana Scully was one of the stupidest characters in TV (up there with Lois Lane). And Gillian Anderson's performance was about 180 degrees where it should have been, which called more attention to that fact than was strictly necessary:

Dalek Th... Scully: No, Mulder. You are wrong. Even though you have been correct in every mystery every week now for four years now, the Yeti/teh Saucer Pplz/intelligent viruses cannot exist.

I mean, old school Doctor Who girls never believed, either, but then no one mistook them for the brains of the operation. (Except poor Liz Shaw, who got booted out after 25 episodes...)

So imagine my joy in finding Anderson in a bitchy little article for MSN:

It's possible that Anderson doesn't have any dramatic ability. However, it's more likely that she tried for nonchalance, but overshot and achieved nonliving... She and David Duchovny went together like peanut butter and cheese (or is that macaroni and jelly?).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Au plaisir d'un gentlhomme

Sounds like a Bond title, doesn't it?

But I'm thinking "Property of a Lady", one of the sources for the film Octopussy.

Anyway, I've be positioned into... No.

Set up to... Grrr.

Put up to... Jeez, isn't there any way into this that isn't vaguely slutty sounding? Apparently not.

So, I've been asked to either a) put up a Sinister post here that I wrote not long ago so a non-Sinisterine can read it or b) relate a story of how I was compared to a certain race of little, blue cartoon... I'm not sure what a Smurf is really, but whatever it is a Smurf is, and how the name stuck.

I'm choosing a), since as sole prop. of this site, I have forbidden all reference to me/Smurf comparison.

"My First Time"!

Sounds racy, doesn't it? Of course, unlike other Sinisterines (looks in askance
at Ken Chu and pines -- pines! -- at the memory of Markelby) I'm
not actually tarty. I just like to pretend I am, sometimes. And I've no idea
why, but in my head just now, I sounded just like Tevye the Milkman
saying that. Anyway.

I want a go at telling my "First time I heard Belle and Sebastian" story!

It's a bit of a long story, so you'll have to indulge me. And it's long
because it's part of a much longer story about a boy (one of /those/ kinds
of boys) and I have to tell at least a little of it for the B&S story to
make much sense.

The boy's name was Daniel. I met him my first year of college, back in the
mid 90s. When I think of him now, I think of him all in corduroys and
Argyle sweaters, but I think most of that is sort of layered on, memories
filtered back through TV and movies. Or maybe this time of year just lends
itself to thinking of people in browns and greys.

He was a year older than me, and I since I was still so fresh out of high
school, I still thought that was a very big deal: in addition to being
very pretty -- all dark curls over bright green eyes and snowy skin -- he
was that much more older and sophisticated. Or so I thought.

I'll spare you all the tedious details of how I actually met him (shoved into
him by the proprietress of a charity shop on Franklin Street that liked to
bill itself as a "vintage" store) and how we got to know one another, and
skip to the part where he decided to go to a Study Abroad semester in London
the next Spring. He was away all that semester, and when it ended he
decided to stay in London through the summer, too, loafing, in my
opinion, in a sort of louche hipster grandeur.

I, on the other hand, spent the summer dressed as an Elizabethan soldier
for tourists at the seaside and tried not to pass out from heat exhaustion

We met up again, of course, that Fall. We were lying together on my twin
n bed in my dorm room, comparing stories about our summers and listening
to the musical treasures he had brought back with him. We were talking about
t something trivial when he remembered something. "Oh man," he said,
"You have to listen to this. You'll love it."

He dug around in his bag and fished out another cassette. It was a copy of
a record he'd heard. He took out the tape we were listening to and put another
one in the little boombox we were listening to, and then cued up the
song he wanted to play. It started, and he looked at me, his eyes shining
with expectation. (Or was it Expectations?)

I listened.

I thought it was crap. I said so. He sort of visibly sank and looked
disappointed. "I'm no big fan of techno," I said. "but that isn't even very
/good/ techno."

To this day, I have no idea why, out of all the songs on Tigermilk, he
picked "Electronic Renaissance", or why he didn't give me some prep for
it, like "Wait, listen to the lyrics!" or "The next song is better!"

I felt really awful, because he had been so excited to share this. I mean,
I know: I've felt exactly that sort of evangelistic glee, too, before
and since, and for the exact same music. But I didn't get it that night.
Not at all. And I really liked him, too, but I was too dumb then to
even try to give it another listen, just for him.

In the end it was all right. He had brought back a ton of music, and we
listened to most of it that night. We ordered awful pizza and stayed up late,
annoying my roommate, laughing and trying to correct the faults in each
ch other's musical tastes, till we found other ways to occupy ourselves.

And clearly I managed to hear some other Belle and Sebastian not much later
and liked it. A lot. But that's another story.

So there you go. I'd've done this for no other reason than ce certain gentilhomme inspired me to break out my old Go-Betweens albums. I had almost forgotten "Love Goes On!" is one of my favourite songs. (Am... Em... Bm... C... G... Em... D... C...)

If all goes to the good, I may not post again this week.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You know, nothing will make you think twice about stupid, off-the cuff tweets like the sentence:

"Stephen Fry is now following you on Twitter!"

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I did something quite sad this evening. It's finally gotten cold in these parts -- well, cool. For a long time, it's always been my tradition to mull some wine the first really cold night of the year.

I started doing it in college. I remember the first year I did it, I was in a dorm -- Stacy Hall -- doing it for a load of friends crammed into my room. We had chased The Idiot Steve out by telling him we were having an orgy. It almost backfired because he apparently fancied one of the girls, but then Daniel smiled and put his hand on The Idiot Steve's shoulder and he was off. I was greatly complimented when my English(/Greekish/Frenchish) friend Lucie said it was 'just like Fireworks Night!"

I think that may have been one of the nights we went chasing after the Gimghouls. If it was, then it would have been the midnight on 31 October, so a few days later than now.

After I graduated, I remember doing it a couple of times with my friends Christina and Jamie, at Christina's little duplex. And at least one of those was a party (very possibly her birthday party) with at least a dozen DJs from 'XDU jockeying to spin.

It was always a trip in New York, too. It was one of the first things people I started with did en masse. There was -- is -- a liquor store just across the street from Hunter, so w, dropped in and bought several bottle of cheap red, then went back to somebody's Manhattan place. There were five or six of us crammed on somebody's fire escape, smoking and drinking and actually talking for the first time.

Well, anyway, I did alone by myself tonight for the first time. I couldn't go out and get any, but there was a bottle of something alarmingly labelled "Indiana Grape Wine". I used it without trying any. I added the spices (ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and a dusting of allspice) and the rest (lemon juice, a touch of vanilla, and more sugar than is seemly) and heated it accordingly.

It was just as bad as something labelled "Grape" Wine should be. For tradition's sake, I forced a few gulps down my throat, but it was so bad I wound up pouring most of it out. I poured it down the sink lest it kill the grass in the yard.

I think I'm glad of that, actually. Had it been good enough to drink, I'd have drunk all of it and gotten pointlessly maudlin. As it is, I can (just) manage to sort of cheerfully reminisce without falling prey to nostalgia. Although if I brood, I may just fall prey anyway. So I'll stop.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fate. I temtptz it.

I don't believe in much, but I do believe in not tempting fate. You don't go around just asking for trouble, for trouble will be sent unto to you.

Looking back on it now, I started to tempt fate just by deciding to go to a Barnes and Noble's. But it's the only -- literally the only -- bookstore in 30 or 40 miles. And I really wanted to get Sarah Vowell's new book, The Wordy Shipmates, which came out this week. For I love her work with a passion roughly equal to Sarah Caudwell, William Faulkner and Uncle Terry*.

Fate can't be blamed for not announcing itself, either. When (of course) I couldn't find it, or even the essays section of the store (for lo, nothing so fancy is to be found in that branch), I walked up to the customer service desk. The girl who helped me was named Laura.

I did not take the hint. When I said what I was looking for, she squinted and harumphed, and asked me to spell the author's last name.

This was clearly a bookstore girl who was not familiar with Sarah Vowell. Another hint wasted.

She took me to where she /thought/ the essays were. There were no essays. Just Westerns. We returned to the CS desk.

"Oh," she said. "It's a new release. It'll be in the front."

I had looked there, you know. First thing. I ignored this hint, too. We went to the front table, where the book was conspicuous by its absence.

"I'll look in the back," she said. She did. No luck.

"You'll have to order it special," she said.

"But it's a new book. Out this week. Major publisher..." By the end, it was more a series of hopeful suggestions than statements of fact.

I ordered the book. It might be here in two weeks. :(

The whole situation was a bit mitigated when the other girl from the Customer Service booth, who was a more typical bookstore girl of about 21, followed me away from the desk and offered to buy me a coffee. It was sweet, but also sad, since it was exactly the right trick from exactly the wrong person. I'm chalking this up as karma for featuring someone I hardly ever talk about -- or even really let myself think too much about -- in a Sinister post I wrote this week, since there's nobody who'd get that more than him...

*Terrence Dicks, who taught at least two generations of Doctor Who fans how to read and unlocked the Doctor's past adventures to legions of his fans before the days of VCRs by turning the episodes into books. Granted, usually by adding "he said" and a few odd epithets to camera scripts: "said the Doctor, with his young-old face and shock of white hair" or "said the Doctor with his pleasant, open face."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Come /on/, Big Finish:

Let me start out with a compliment: Big Finish does a lot, and it does a lot well. The stories you think are going to be quite cracking ("Time of the Daleks" and "Bloodtide" spring to my mind) almost inevitably are, but -- more impressively -- the ones that sound awfully dull and quite possibly a waste of time ("Assassin in the Limelight" and "The Boy That Time Forgot") almost invariably aren't.

And no, I don't know why the former examples above are so old and the latter so new. And there are some that counts as both in the middle.


I just finished listening to "The Haunting of Thomas Brewster". It counts more as the latter than the former (although me just happening to read "The Cloud Exiles" in the Doctor Who Annual 1967 removes a little of its originality).

The ending of part three. Victorian ragamuffin Pickens dies saving the boy he loves, choked off by the baddies whilst crying out "I lov--".


It might have been edgy 15 years ago, but now it just seems gratuitously melodramatic. Their (pointedly one-sided) relationship wasn't worth overtly developing in the preceding episode(s), apparently, and subsequently throwing that element to the death scene is an emotionally false way to raise the stakes.

In fact, it sort of falls back old images of the poor gay getting what's coming to him for daring to be out of the social norm. Giving him a little dignity is just a way to appease the straight audience's potential reservations before they can let situation effectively carry out their judgment.

It's why AIDS tragedies are such a popular thing for teh straight people. They can pity the poor fag before he gets exactly what he has coming to him for having all that gay sex. It flatters their egos /and/ their prejudice.

And it's why Tony Kushner and his awful Angels in America, 8-hour-foray into his own ego that it is*, should occupy roughly the same place in the gay noosphere that Vidkun Quisling does for the Norwegians.

[Nor does it help that his pointless complexities are gleefully confused for meaningfulness by audiences too lazy to do the sort of thinking that would recognise it for what it is. But this isn't a slam-Kushner post. It's just hard to get around how much he sucks.]

Anyway, you can't blame just the writer, Jonathan Morris, who generally does wonderful stuff, and in toto "Haunting" counts as that; this, I think, is just a freak of collective something (Laziness? I'm not sure... ) Somewhere, there was an editor or a dramaturg or a director who should have caught this and seen it for what it was.

Of course, I could just be full of myself. ;)

*Angels in America is in exactly the same category as Almost Famous. It's fine if people want to masturbate, and it's fine to watch someone masturbate, if that's what you and them want to do. But it's not okay to /make/ people watch you masturbate by calling that jacking-off a film or a play.

And you deserve a special place in hell if you con people into thinking it's art while you do it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Dear Teh World:

So what's her name, you know, Claire Kincaid, her off Law and Order. And Crossing Jordan. Jill Hennessey*. That's it. She was also in RoboCop 3.

I can't help but think /that/ is a wasted cross-over opportunity. But what would it be about?

It hit me.


Back from the dead and ready to kick ass like he never could. For justice.

Best. Idea. Ever.

Admit it, you want to see this series.

I mean, it couldn't possibly be worse than the new Knight Rider or The Sarah Connors Chronicles.

Why am I not working for Network TV?!

Please return to your regular lives.

If you can!

*Did you know she is a) from Canada and b) half of a set of twins?
I haven't been sleeping very well lately. The pay-off for this -- if you can call it a pay-off -- is that during the 15 or 20 minutes a night I sleep, I have incredibly vivid dreams. I must have dropped off while thinking of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia last night, because that's what I dreamt about.

I don't remember it all, or particularly coherently (if indeed the dream was coherent to begin with). But it started off with me in Paddy's pub getting hit on by Sweet Dee, who was across the bar. I remember thinking that was odd for several reasons, but I was pretty pleased with myself for hitting it off with that attractive a female, even if I had no romantic intentions at all. It ended with her writing her number on the back of my hand with a mascara wand and rubbing my thigh.

The next part (and only I would have dreams with A and B plotlines) had something to do with me throwing coconuts at Mac and Charlie to get them into a swimming pool. Whatever it was, it didn't work, because I ended up in the pool. But so did they. And we decided we needed to pick up Dennis from school.

Then we were all in a second floor classroom, paneled in wood (maybe an old-fashioned chem lab), at night. I was trying to shove an infeasible number of old Dr Who Annuals in a back-pack and trying to clear out before the next lecture started. Mac and Charlie were using gas taps to blow up condoms. Students started coming in, and a female lecturer started a lesson. I managed to pack all the books away with some pencils and crayons, and all the four of us left. As we exited we passed the pool again.

And then I woke up.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I'm feeling particularly sad and lonely at the moment, so I'm going to console myself by writing a virtually useless review.

1) The Doctor Who Annual 1966. The text is written by David Whitaker, Doctor Who's first script editor (credited as story editor) and a writer of the series from the beginning up until Jon Pertwee's first season. Whitaker really is the one of the founding fathers of Doctor Who and probably was the first to give it any sort of coherent vision. He was also very, very far out there in some of his writing: the best path to putting it in any sort of context is the virtually ingenious article about him in About Time 2.

The artist was Walter Howarth. I'm not a comics person, but even I understand he's something of a legend in British comics. Certainly his work in this book deserves the highest praise, if for nothing else the colour effect he manages with four colour ink.

This counts as one of the first print versions of the Doctor's adventures. One of the few earlier ones was also written by Whitaker: his version of the events of The Daleks. If you haven't read then... well, you've missed out on one hell of a trip.

At this point, continuity isn't even a consideration. If anything, it's a hindrance. As it probably should be. This volume has (what might be) the Doctor's first encounter with the folk of Vortis and the Sensorites and return brushes with the folk on Vortis and with the Voord from The Keys of Marinus.

But the Doctor here keeps a great deal of his secrets. He might be from Earth (sometimes it's his home, sometimes it's not). Sometimes the TARDIS (err, the Tardis) works perfectly; sometimes it's quite untrustable after a run-in with the Daleks (ho ho -- I'm not even touching the dating od that!).

What we have then is a collection that reflects some of the earliest ideas of the Doctor: always a scientist and traveller. And -- just as Syndney Newman always wanted -- the Doctor survives on a dependence on basic scientific ideas. Although knowledge of more advanced ideas might just be a hindrance...

All in all, the stories are simple (though longer than they ever will be again in the Annuals) but not simply written. They're engaging, and clearly written by someone who not only cares about how the Doctor is presented and developed but by someone who cares that his readers develop something themselves.

But he's not quite the same Doctor we recognize -- or is he? He's happy to drop people off deep in their own past ("Peril in Mechanistria") and to hell with the web of time, and he's happy to maim one of the Voord and let them die at the hands of an angry mob ("Fishmen of Kandalinga"). Be it come to that, he' s happy to let the Menopt(e)ra kill off the last of the Atlanteans ("The Lost Ones").

In the end, as someone viewing these stories from 42 years later, it's hard to say these stories are of /the/ Doctor as much as they are stories of /a/ Doctor. And that makes it all the more fascinating. I love the sort of fluidity it implies, and as long as it's based on a sort of respect for the character, I can go with it. I mean, I didn't throw fits over Richard E. Grant's 9th Doctor, either, even though I loved Chris Ecclestone.

Too bad the next annual wasn't a Whitaker creation!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

One Fish, Two Fish; Red Fish, Blue Fish

Again, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia was amusing in just the right ways. I mean, Glenn Howerton at a glory hole is no bad thing, right?

But they had to have Charlie losing teeth. That'll haunt me tonight. I mean, I've gotten to the point now I'm know I'm dreaming when I dream all my teeth fall out of my mouth, but I can't make myself wake up, so it's still gross.

In completely different news, I got a new cell phone yesterday, a Sanyo Katana XL. It's the cheapest one in the store, but I like it. It has a camera, which is all I really wanted. Not that I know what I'm going to take pictures of, but I can.

I almost -- almost -- went out of my mind and got the Samsung UpStage. Actually, this one. Not because it was sleek (though it was). Not because it had an mp3 player (but it did). But because it was red*. Thankfully, before I blew the extra money, I came to my senses and realized I would never use any of its features and if I did, I would run up stupidly large charges at least once.

So now I have my little blue phone with the neat translucent OLED display to amuse me. But when it's folded up, it is rectangular, and it has a little light on top when you take pictures. And it is /dark/ blue. More than anything, I want it to make TARDIS dematerialization sounds when it rings. But I'm not clever enough to do that. :(

*I like red things. My dream kitchen -- and yes, I have fantasized about exactly what it would be like -- would have all read appliances. The closest I ever came to this was a neat red trashcan with a dome lid and a super-duper toaster/oven with red trim.

Needless to say, I retain neither. But I will have a red kitchen.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

So I was reading this article about Michael Cera, and agreeing, thinking, "Yeah, I'd go down on that," when it occurred to me this article is actually about my friend Ross. (Well, except the bit about baby fat. Ross is such that I can't imagine even an ounce of that on him.)

Ross Bryant is everything that they say about Cera, but funnier. More acidly wittier funnier, to be precise. /And/ he was doing it first. So there.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Two Things...

...which are, so far as I can tell, unrelated.

1) I've been listening to Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 a lot recently. He's fab. I grew up listening to him, you know. When other people were poisoning themselves with New Kids on the Block, Paula Abdul or Snow (ahh, the early '90s, when pop music rolled over and died), I was listening to LPs swiped from my mother's music collection. Sergio featured heavily: she had (and now I have) Ye-Me-Li, Crystal Illusions, and Fool on a Hill. It's bedrock cool: original yet influenced, hot but cool, mellow but intense. Of its time, as it were, but for all ages. Go get you some. I hear he cut a track not long ago, a re-mix of Mas Que Nada with the Black Eyed Peas.

[It's odd, but my mother's music collection for a period is pretty damn cool: Sergio, Fifth Dimension, Jim Croce. It soon sort of fades into mid 70s Streisand and Neil Diamond, and from there into really awful early 80s country and from there into Jesus music. I cannot imagine my mother as someone Into Music, like an Indie kid, for whom music is important, talking about music to other people and really being affected by it, and loyal to a sound, but I had to get it from somewhere. And there was always music in out house. Good music, be it Bach or Bacharach, so maybe she was.]

2) So did you know Tennessee Williams' first published work was in Weird Tales? Yeah, it was: "The Vengeance of Nitocris", (1928). Very clearly of the sub-Lovecraft genre, it's exactly as bad as you'd think. But it's also the lodestone of everything he ever wrote: brother/sister weirdness, revenge, canny women, pretty boys, untrustworthy narrators, death...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Dear It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

Thank you for proving that old adage "Be careful what you wish for": tonight's episode was pretty much exactly what I thought I wanted to see for a while now.

But you did exactly what you always did: you made that creepy.

Fortunately, beefcake of TJ Hoban is excessively easy to find on teh internets, proving once again that love should be held on for teh internets.

And, should I ever get rid of my new willies about Glenn Howerton, photo evidence of his time on That 80s Show is still extant to put the kybosh on that.

Also: So, umm, how long before the Waitress and Sweet Dee bang? It's all that's left.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

2-D Boys, 3-D World

So these would be DJ Judas (third from the left) from Lucy, the Daughter of the Devil and Jacob from Octopus Pie.

I know they're fictional, but they're still pretty hot. I have mixed feelings about admitting that. A part of me would like to say "Ah, but I know their real-life counterparts" -- or the type of their RLC -- but I don't.

Having actually worked in a Manhattan organic food store, I can say with authority that there was no-one like Jacob there. Or in the Chapel Hill store, for that matter. In fact, the closest I ever saw was Crazy Brian from Dairy, who was crazy. And worked in the dairy department. And was last seen fleeing to Chicago.

I'm uncertain of the inter-relation of those three things, if any.

Oddly enough, I mentioned him when I was with Laura this past weekend, despite having not once thought of him in years*. He took me to Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill (well... Carrboro) to see a band called Cursive. It was the most awful show I'd ever seen, and was the only one I've ever walked out of, including Pedro the Lion. I hope his taste in music got better.

The closest thing I ever saw to DJ Judas**, despite being an actual DJ, was half of a bizarrely similar, androgynous hipster couple also in Chapel Hill, half of which I once danced to "Cemetery Gate" and sang along to "This Charming Man" with.

Que est-ce que c'est passe a vous, Les Androgynes, mes amours?

Noontime youths,

thighs and groins tight-jean-displayed,

loiter onto Union Square,

junkies flower-scattered there,

lost in dream, torso-bare,

young as you, old as I, voicing soundlessly a cry ...

Androgyne, mon amour,

shadows of you name a price

exorbitant for short lease.

What would you suggest I do,

wryly smile and turn away,

fox-teeth gnawing chest-bones through?

Androgyne, mon amour,

cold withdrawal is no cure

for addiction grown so deep.

Now, finally, at cock's crow,

released in custody of sleep,

dark annealment, time-worn stones

far descending,

no light there, no sound there,

entering depths of thinning breath,

farther down more ancient stones,

halting not, drawn on until

Ever treacherous, ever fair,

at a table small and square,

not first light but last light shows ...

Androgyne, mon amour.

--Tennessee Williams

*She probably would have liked him. She also liked Carl though she never met him, and Carl's claim to fame was that he had been dumped by an albino circus midget. Yes, really. Pity that was the only interesting thing about him.
And no, for anyone who's heard the story, that Carl wasn't the same one who was going to marry a Vietnamese girl to fund his coke habit.

**Although... I *do* know someone who looks like DJ Judas (sort of) but is named Jacob. Weird.

I have this theory...

...that stupid people think the rest of the world is as stupid as they are. I think that Clay Aiken
actually taking time to say he's gay
, as if anyone was unaware of it, is solid proof of this.

But then again, most of his fan base was upset with him for having a child out of wedlock, so his fan-base must self-select some level of functional daily delusion. Maybe some of them /didn't/ figure out he was gay.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Top Five Events of the Weekend

1) Ms Laura Llew. The best time of the weekend came exactly when I should have known but exactly when I was too stupid to realise. I spent the late morning one day talking about nothing specific but everything important. I'd tell you the topics but... No.

2) Fried Eggs on Hamburgers. Sounds foul, but is the height of delicious. I literally did not eat for almost 36 hours because nothing could ever be as good or as filling. You think endless French Fries sounds hot? THEY FADE TO NOTHING NEXT TO RED ROBIN BURGERS. Even with the Red Robin crack on the Fries.

3) Maxxie from Skins. Oh, how I'd love to put up a picture to illustrate this, but I can't find a picture that does justice to the character over the actor. Anyway, watch the "Maxxie and Anwar" episode of series one, the pre-title scenes have at least one lovely, up-close shot of him (freckles and all) that is pretty much a wet dream. Of course he isn't actually gay. This was the last thing I watched before I left for Charleston, and it gave me not one useful idea.

4) Brazilian Soccer Boys. What, your team had five people to a room in the Charleston hotel? Why, I had one whole empty queen bed, a sofa-bed and a roll-away! For the merest snog, you could have got you some! I can even pretend to speak Portuguese:

"O aria raio, oba oba oba

Mas que nada

Sai da minha frente, eu quero passar

Pois o samba esta animado

O que eu quero e sambar

Este samba que e misto de maracatu

E samba de preto velho, samba de preto tu!"

5) Local Comic Store Boys: Maybe I was spoiled in Chapel Hill, but Comic Store Boys ought to be more than a little cute. Certainly they ought not to insult me for liking Doctor Who. It's not like the Star Trek bitches gots a TV series on at the moment!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I wonder how much of this will last 24 hours?

It almost seems ungrateful to write the following, considering the lovely weekend I just spent. But my gut tells me this post has a minuscule shelf-life. Self-indulgence*, and that is what this post is, I make no bones about it, is the evil Siamese twin of self-loathing. And like a boil, if it's not lanced, it will only get worse. So onwards and up words (as it were), up my own arse. FTW!

It's amazing just how often you see New York City. On television. In movies. In adverts. I mean, you can make a concerted effort not to see it -- I don't know, cancel the Tivo's season pass to Law and Order or something -- but it will creep up on in something as seemingly innocuous as behind the opening title on Newsnight. Even something as unlikely as a Faulkner novel -- The Mansion, his final novel in the Snopes trilogy, a series about the effects of one family on one county in the Mississippi Delta -- gets a chapter in the City, complete with a beautifully evocative description of the kind only he could write.

Thanks, Billy, we'll chalk that up to the hooch, too. It's either that or think you have a personal vendetta against someone born a decade and a half after you died. And that's just crazy. Isn't it?

Anyway, I don't think you notice as much before you move there, or even while you are there, as much as you do after you leave. And it kills me to see it. It hurts. It leaves a big, five-borough-shaped hole right where my heart would be.

It might be the time of year. This time of year is a just a few weeks after I first moved there. It was long enough after that everything had sort of settled down. I had a rhythm going. I was learning where things were, and how to get around. The summer heat had finally broken, and it was nice to be outside, so I got to take a walk every day between Columbus Circle and Park Ave and 68th Street, right through Central Park.

And even if I didn't have a penny to /do/ anything, it didn't much matter, because just walking around experiencing New York is doing more than you can actively do anywhere else in the world. It's a part of the process that changes you from someone from somewhere else into a New Yorker.

And for a big hunk of the world, that means something. People who are from a city, any city, I think, can never understand that. But being a New Yorker has an allure all its own. You can say it's purely mythical, but it's not. Like any myth, there's some scruple of truth buried in it somewhere. It's a worldliness, a bored kind of savoire faire that comes from too much experience with endless possibility.

And that gets coupled with economic reality. It may be a cliche to repeat "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere", but it is true. And there are industries there that don't exist in the rest of the country. Nobody ever ran away to Des Moines to be a fashion designer; no little kid dreams of making it to the bright lights of Buffalo's Broadway shows. To be there, to be a part of it, just to actively work there is a culmination and success in and of itself, the answer to the prayer of a thousand days of work and the validation of a thousand nights of dreaming. Heady stuff.

And to leave against your will is... I don't know. Whatever the antithesis of hope is. The actualisation of despair? The physicalisation of failure. Langston Hughes wrote about the results of a dream deferred, but is it any more dangerous to shove your face up against the factual negation of an actualised dream than it is to explode? Exploding, at least, does something. It has power.

Hope is a powerful thing. So is the ability -- or is that right? -- to fool yourself into potential. I think someone's who's lost both, hope and its alchemized form, potential, has lost one of the things that makes himself. Or herself. Or hirself.

When I left, I expected to feel this way. I also expected it to get better after a while. It hasn't. What keeps me up at night, what I do now that I don't really sleep in any meaningful way any more, isn't the thought that I couldn't make it back there again. I could, I suppose, if I really wanted to. I just... why? Why slave for a decade and take all the hits in expectation of success when it can all go away in just a few days? Why hope?

It's funny. This weekend, I had a discussion with someone about blogging. "Ahh," I said. "I'm vain enough to think people will want to read what I have to say, but not so vain that I think they want to hear me read it aloud, audio-blog or podcasting style." The point of 95% or so of what I post is legitimately for that purpose, to be read. I think this falls into the other 5%; its purpose is mainly cathartic, I think, though it may then have better been written on flashpaper: to have served its purpose in organizing my thoughts, physically writing them out and editing them into the semblance of coherence, then to let catharsis, that reaction of the heart whose results we all know so well, but whose process remains shrouded in proud Athenian secrecy, work its magic thereon, and then to be burned so purely that no reliquary ash remains.

Through no active desire of my own, nor via any self-teaching, I remain deeply imbued with that deeply Protestant work ethic -- so basic and inherent that it transcends even the notional boundaries that separated the C. of E.nglish from their Dissenting fellows, and even the boundaries of that England from her Continental Reformed siblings, and so became the bedrock of both halves of early America, and which still may be the only thing in common between the South and the rest of the Country -- which holds as self-evident that work is of itself good and that a spell of productivity is the easiest way, not barring even love, for any man to heal himself of afflictions spiritual, romantic or political and that might be my cure**. So my impulse is to work. And I can and do devise a thousand petty tasks a day in the idea that some of it will do something good somewhere, but the little inky spot in the back of my brain keeps pointing out how that isn't working and ultimately a sort of permanent Doing Nothing seems like as a viable an option as doing very little.

And this, in the end, is one of those thousand daily tasks that add up to nothing. Well, I say nothing, but all it does is stir up within me anger and pity and loathing. Loathing all the more since I know mere loathing never did accomplish much (see above). And as much anger and bile it stirs up, it isn't aimless, at least. Never that. I know where it goes. As they say, I have a man for that.

*Mika and his Momma, of course, are wrong. Too much candy won't rot your soul. Self-indulgence will. Wait... No, Mika is cute enough for slack. I'll give this one to him.

**Which is, of course, why our president betakes himself to Crawford Ranch and clears brush all the time.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Southern Comfort*


I'm in Charleston, despite the fact that SC officially discourages my people from making it a deliberate destination. The smell is appalling.

I'm all kitted up to do a sword-fighting demonstration tomorrow night for the release party of Brisingr, a few hours away in South Carolina's up-country, so I have cutlery, WD-40, Brasso and a charged-up iPod for driving music. If I'm lucky, I won't get pulled over: the authorities don't look to kindly on transporting dangerous weapons across state lines (although I guess I've already done that bit, and anyway, I'm pretty sure I can persuade the SC Highway Patrol that a Norman broadsword is just a big ol' Bowie knife).

In other news, I'm pretty sure that my brain is in need of a diagnostic. I was watching an ad for Steven Bochco's** new series, Raising the Bar. Oh, I thought, I'll watch that. the lawyer lad seems intriguing. Until I realised it was Mark Paul Gosselaar. Zack Morris. Eight-six that, then.

But almost immediately afterwards, I watched an ad for It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (season premiere tonight) and thought, "Now that Charlie Kelly is rawr."

*Of which I haven't had since a cast party in college for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of the few parties I've ever been to with photographic evidence.

**In semi-related news, this is the most intriguing item of the day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Of course the night only got better when the married straight girl quoted Morrissey to me. Morrissey. To me. From a straight girl."

Someone's Tweet tonight reminded me of that quote. It was from a friend of mine late one night at the late and lamented (by some*), Chapel Hill bar, Henry's. He had just ditched a party full of lesbians and one straight girl and was suitably vaincu.

Of course, it being Chapel Hill, odds were she was probably bi, at least that night, but quoting Moz to a gay Chapel Hill indie kid like Christopher really was bearing coals to Newcastle. He claimed he had repaired to Henry's for round two of the night's stab at amour, but I suspected he remembered I was going to be there and felt I would be a consoling audience. No idea where he got /that/ from, but it turned out to be a moot point in the end**.

It was about this time of year, I think, sort of the last hurrah of summer. We were drinking gin and tonics -- and, come to think of it, just merry enough to insist on calling them ginantonix in honour of Douglas Adams, who had died in the not too distant past -- because we figured it would be one of the last nights of the year to warrant them.

I think we moved indoors about half past twelve or one o'clock, when the first wave of our friends left the christmas-tree-lit ficus trees and patio table we were at. We switched to vodka 'round about the time we realised that Neil, the local heart-throb cum bartender cum bassist, was tending bar.

We were talking Shelley. Mary, not Percy, and I was trying to make Valperga seem a great deal more interesting than it is. He was trying to convince me to read her mother's Letters from Norway, and wouldn't be convinced I had, even when I quoted the last paragraph from Letter VIII:

What a long time it requires to know ourselves; and yet almost every one has more of this knowledge than he is willing to own, even to himself. I cannot immediately determine whether I ought to rejoice at having turned over in this solitude a new page in the history of my own heart, though I may venture to assure you that a further acquaintance with mankind only tends to increase my respect for your judgment and esteem for your character.

I had used it as the introduction to a production of Williams' The Glass Menagerie; I still thinks it works for that.

You know, this post was supposed to wend itself around and come to a posting of the lyrics of the Rosebud's "El Camino", but I think I'll save that for next time.

*Eric, of course, who lives there now, is one. I'm sure we're not the only two.

**I think I went home with Chris when we both realized neither of us would be escorting Neil home.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Paging the Pious Infant Henry Clump

I'm not a religious type, nor a fervent patriot. Well, not in the traditional American sense that involves swilling cheap lager beer, lots of shouting and not a lot of thinking, not that I think the Founding Fathers ever anticipated that. Well, they /did/, but never thought the folks that do that would actually take part in government, let alone lead it. During a national crisis.*

So I never say things like "God Bless America". We did a reasonably good job of not including him in the government -- Yes, we did: go read the Constitution -- and I see no reason to drag him in these days.

Especially after 9/11. As I see it, it's people invoking the name of god, and of his special interest in their political affairs, that got us into that mess. In between the death and destruction of that day, and all the wars and invasions and suiciding bombings it's been the cause for, you'd think the people of this country might just stop to think about chucking out the odd "God Bless the USA".

But no. They must reckon /their/ god is better than other people's god, and that our country is better than theirs.

Ahhh. That sort of thinking just ensures nothing like 9/11 will ever happen again, right?

[The title is a reference to Gorey's The Pious Infant, wherein the titular tot goes through books "removing frivolous references to the deity."]

*Oh, all right. John Adams and George W.: nihil novum sub sole, even if Adams didn't get a second term...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We Americans have, over the years, done a reasonably good job of working through gender and racial stereotypes. Which is pretty impressive considering the northern half of the country was settled by some of the most bigoted people history ever produced. It's saying something that they found Protectorate England so very liberal and permissive that they left it in a fit of pique that would do Victorians novel heroines proud. What's really impressive is that their children managed to construct a mythology where their fathers were virtuous heroes, escaping cruel persecutions that have remained vague and uncertain (and virtually unsupported by fact) at the hands of evil royalists.

One of the up-shots of this is that American entertainment was severely retarded at birth. For instance, we never seemed to go in for one of the most cherished of British comedy standards that pre-dates the colonisation of America by centuries and is still very much at the heart of British comedy. We don't think men in drag are all that funny.

So maybe we started out on a good foot. We did soon develop the Yankee trader figure that appears in the first American play, The Contrast but that's largely faded away. Virtually nobody remembers the 3-or-less limbed Civil War veteran, usually named Snarky or Scumpy, who delivered messages and such in melodramas for the span of five or six decades after The Late Unpleasantness.

Almost completely faded away too have the minstrel shows -- although their ghosts still popped up in cartoons even when I was little, but even those get edited these days -- an black-face as a performance techniques finally keeled over in the last century.

Which isn't to say we don't have our own modern-day stereotypes, but I'd wager to say most of them aren't quite as hurtful or just plain stupid as they were in the not too distant past.

So I'm totally baffled about the entertainment industry and teh Gays. Nobody in their right mind would cast a white man as a woman or a black man and expect him to black up. Nor would they break out the shoe polish when an Arab is called for.

But it's perfectly fine for a straight man to play a gay role.

I just don't get it. Do the people responsible for making TV and film honestly think we think that can't find enough legitimately gay actors? Please.

All of which is a more or less massively round-about way of setting up for the commercial above. I can't quite decide who it's for or just quite what it's trying to say.

First of all, just who is it /for/? All the young men in it seem to be under 30. Okay: young people, then. But I literally do not know one single gay male who doesn't know how to use the Internet to find somebody to fuck. It's far easier, far cheaper and you can get a good lock at the prospective penis. And maybe even the human attached to it, but people looking for that are largely mythical.

Okay then, so it's for older gentlemen who never quite made the leap to the 'net. Then that really changes what those younger men are doing in the ad. It's not the sort of audience identification that you'd might expect (and that gets paid lip service in the copy): it's a presentation of goods: "Gramps, get your chickens here and none of that interweb, computer-y jargon!"

That might explain the gross use of stereotype in what they guy is looking for: gyms, clubs and sex. Very 1978: you'd almost expect to see sleeveless flannel shirts, cut-off jeans and jerky dancing, maybe even a foreign accent and over-developed muscles.

...and you'd be right.

What holds this ads together though is the bizarre subtext. Notice in this ad, the guys aren't dancing together. I mean, I suppose that makes sense if it were a phone sex ad, but this alleges itself to be a way to meet up with people. Oughtn't they to... I don't know, meet?

In both ads, you do get a brief shot two men at the same table, but in both cases, they're literally as far apart as they can be from each other. And making very little actual contact. To me at least, it screams "Yes, we all know I'm straight, but look! I'm touching another man to show I'm supposed to be a gay!" It looks and feels phony to an almost deliberate degree. I wouldn't want to meet somebody who'd look that uncomfortable just talking to me.

Maybe it's my own sense of stereotype working overtime, but it seems like these ads are for closet cases, or maybe old, old school fags, either of which retain a deep-set sort of shame about who they are and what they want, and that hang on to these (hopefully) outmoded stereotypes. I don't think the ads project a healthy attitude, somehow, and that's the sort of resonance they're looking for.

I mean, I don't disapprove of random hook-ups or casual sex. At all. I'm not sure that it does any favours to normalize homosexuals to hetero culture and to valourize monogamy. One of the downsides of doing that is to make all casual sex sleazy, even when it's done respectfully and maturely. Something about these ads, for some reason, manages to make them seem just that sleazy. I think that thing is the weird stereotypes they use and weird subtext the straight actors give them.

Anyway. The guy in the first ad isn't really my type (too much hint of corn-fed goodness and that I'd have to sit down and watch some sporting event with him on TV) but it does seem sad that he's going to grow up to be one of those guys in the second ad.

Friday, September 05, 2008


Or not, as the case may be.

I just realised that my free sample of Astroglide never arrived. Granted, my address has changed numerous times since I ordered it, but still. It's galling.

Please carry on.


It's not much of a secret that I think conspiracy theories are stupid. Stupid in the worst way, because 99% of them are totally derivative of something CTers are too stupid to recognize as fiction --The Manchurian Candidate, The Matrix, V For Vendetta, 1984, Doctor Who (for which, see below) -- but insist as passing off as their own unique theory.

Generally speaking, they're cooked up by people with fundamental social flaws as a way to make themselves feel superior to the rest of us because they've figured out What's Really Going On(TM). It's no doubt a good thing that their retarded social skills prevent the vast majority of them from actually going out and doing anything about Them -- I mean, Timothy McVeigh was a CTer who /did/ go out and do something, but not even the CTers think he managed to accomplish anything useful. Just killing 200 innocent people.

I think that's 0-1 for the CT community, then.

The New World Order people are almost the worst, just under the 9/11 conspiracy idiots who don't even deserve to be mocked: they can't tell you who the NWO is (except maybe the Rockefellers, or maybe the Jews as a fungible mass*, or just possibly shape-shifting reptile people who may or may not be from Earth**) or what exactly they want, but by god, they know they're out there, waiting in the wings to enslave the human race, blow up planet Earth, initiate nuclear fusion in Jupiter (or is it Saturn?) with the Galileo space probe (or is it Cassini?) and live in wealth and luxury on Europa (or was it Titan?).

No, seriously. People think this. And sadly, they expect to be taken seriously, and vae tibi should you point out normality to them.

So needless to say, I don't buy into them. Except one that I heard last year that I thought about today when I saw they're making a live-action G. I. Joe movie***.

This is also stupid. But I will go see it, just like I went and saw the live-action Transformers film. Me and several million other people (uhh, mostly male) who were young in the 1980s are now the dupes of a clever marketing strategy begun by Japan in the mid 1980s.

Of course, back then, all it was was programming us to make our parents via incessant whining go buy the dolls we saw on TV every afternoon after school. And, oh, we did. And we thought that after puberty, it was all over and done with. But no.

Now that exact same programming is making us paw over $12 a pop (Plus dates. Plus popcorn. Plus soft drinks. Plus the damn Fandango surcharge) to see crap movies without a second thought. Really, I just ought to mail Hasbro two $20 bills and save myself the trouble, but I won't. I suppose that even though I'm a lot smarter than I was in 1986, I still don't know.

And knowing is half the battle.

*Yes, just like the Nazis. They even still tend to use 70-year-old "Aw-shucks, we're not really talking 'bout the Jews, but we're talkin' 'bout the Jews"-type circumlocutions like "the International Banking community"...

**Yes, the Silurians off Doctor Who. At least, I've never seen any Terran pre-historic, super-advanced lizard man theory that pre-dates Mac Hulke's 1970 version of them, anyway.

***Joseph Gordon-Levy is playing Cobra Commander****, which pretty much makes it a cert he's a big 'mo. Is he out of the closet yet?

****Honestly, he's not ugly. At all. Especially for a college drop out. Why stick him under a mask?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I suppose it isn't summer any more. Officially.

It's noticeable that it's getting dark sooner, and it's a little cooler, and the quality of the light in the late afternoon has just subtly changed, proving (I guess) that the sun isn't following quite the same path in the heavens as it did a few weeks ago.

So I suppose it's time to start the transition from summer music into fall -- Dressy Bessy or The Essex Green or The All-Girl Summer Fun Band into Belle and Sebastian and the Tindersticks, winding up with the Field Mice and (appropriately enough) the Decemberists.

It brings on melancholy. Which, like nostalgia, the Elizabethans properly diagnosed as a form of self-indulgence and disease. Such thinking always reminds me of Basil Fawlty in the "Basil the Rat" episode of Fawlty Towers.

So enough with it.

I finished reading Eldest not long ago, and I was fairly disappointed. The sort of disappointed you often get from reading lazy students' work: that from from undelivered promise.

Paolini is not particularly original -- for all intents and purposes, his works are set in Tolkien Middle Earth. Which isn't the worst thing in the world (it worked well enough for Christopher Tolkein), but it does sort of insist that your work either be suitably beholden to the original maker of the world and hold strictly true to his/her style. This is what C. Tolkien did most of his life, and while he never created anything truly memorable, he also never made people throw down his novels in disgust.

What worked in Eragon was that it showed the promise of not going down this road. If he chose to create a carbon copy of Middle Earth, he at least escaped a lot of the tiresome traits that keep people from taking the genre of fantasy too seriously. He didn't, for instance, much try to use a sort of cod-archaic English to convey (in the cheapest possible terms) the seriousness and old-fashionedness of his characters. Eragon let slip a few "okays" in the first book, and there's no better word in English to drag someone kicking from a medieval setting.

But somewhere in the hundreds of pages of Elder, that disappears. The dialogue slowly spirals down into the tedious "thees" and "thous" of yore. If it's an effect to make the dialogue seem old, I don't think it works because often enough, it's used incorrectly (and whether that's a fault of Paolini or his editors, I can't say -- there's a reason William says "to thine own self be true" and not "to thyself be true"...) And just for the record, if you insist on using the verb "to wend" you really ought to know its simple past is "went". Yes, it not coincidentally is the same as for the verb "to go" , but that's the English language for you.

I think it might also be an attempt to add a sort of faux-Tolkien sense of gravitas. If it is, then that fails, as well. The prose of The Lord of the Rings moves along at a snail's pace, but its tempo matches the weeks and months and years that the plot covers. Elder is a long book, but it has a pretty small a mount of plot. It isn't equal to the amounts of verbiage potted on top of it, and you wind up with a story overtold.

If LotR is a sort of lumbering giant, it's one that is bulky and muscular rather than flabby. Eldest is flabby, largely for the same reason people are: a lack of discipline and of understanding. Considering Paolini's age, the novel would have been served by a far more exacting editor that would foster a more practical sort of creativity and a hone the author a little more in his basic writing skills.

Not that many people since Truman Capote have cared that much about being a writer rather than telling a story. (I suppose Stephen King thinks he does, what with his book and all, but like a lot of authors, from Zola and Hugo to Brecht, he has trouble putting theory into practice. There's a reason anyone with literary pretensions should be forced -- forced -- to read Pope's An Essay on Criticism regularly and prove they understand it. Writers like Sarah Caudwell, who write as they do naturally, are vanishingly rare.)

There are some good points to the novel, and some signs of improvement from Eragon. Paolini wisely chooses to paint with a broader palette this time around, and includes sections from the perspective of people other than Eragon. This is a sound choice, since it allows for a much larger scope for the novel and does a good job of providing an international(ish) view of the situation. In the hands of another author, it might also allow for more than one narrative voice to come through, even in third person, which would be an ideal way of underscoring the use of the device, but if Paolini intended to do so, then it just doesn't come through. Which is a shame, because it would prevent some of the drag in the middle.

In the end, there's one good way to judge the quality of this book: Am I going to read the sequel(s)*? Probably. Well, I will give the next one a chance. If more isn't better in the third novel, and disappointments out-weigh promise, then I certainly won't bother with the fourth.

Also: Is it just me, or is that picture above Portrait of a Melancholy Young Man by Isaac Oliver (c. 1590-5) alarmingly similar to the Corpus Christi portrait, allegedly of Christopher Marlowe?

*The fact that what started out as a trilogy is now a tetrology (at least) should speak volumes.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I Just Noticed Something...

Ever since the BBC (well, Warner Bros. for the BBC) has been releasing DVDs in the American market, they've felt the need to replace the British release covers. And without exception, the US releases are hideously ugly. As in "Oh my god, put that /down/: someone might see you!" ugly.

I will, for sake of example, use the release of Remembrance of the Daleks, where the dichotomy is most obvious:

Yes, in the last few moments of the story, a Black Dalek goes mad and spins around a bit, but I've yet to determine why the designer put two in full spin on the US cover, nor why he thought a sort of neon pus color would be an ideal background.

But with the release earlier in the summer of the Under the Surface* collection, the US and UK releases have been identical! Hurrah!

*Oh, how I long for this! However, since it took me a month to scrounge together the cash for The Time Meddler, I won't see this collection -- which is more than double the price -- for ages. It's not like I don't already have all three stories it contains on trusty BBC Enterprises (RIP)
VHS**, but it's still a better buy than, say, Time-Flight at any price.

**Well, The Silurians and The Sea Devils. I still have an off-air recording of Warriors of the Deep -- "WUNE-TV. Channel 17, Linville." Cor, that doesn't half reveal my age. Or level of sadness.