Friday, June 29, 2007

Donald, Gerald, and Robert

I learned a lot of things during my recent trip to Minneapolis, but the most important was how to solve logic puzzles. The fact that I can now tackle a reasonably difficult puzzle is pretty striking, since I used to be hopeless at them.

So when I ran across this classic I just HAD to try and solve it, and I'm proud to say it only took me...errr, fifteen minutes. That might not be so hot but I'M pretty pleased with myself.

"DONALD + GERALD = ROBERT" is a mathematical cryptogram. Each of the ten letters stands for one of the digits from 0 to 9. None of the digits stand for more than one letter. As a starter, the letter "D" stands for "5".

For those of you (like me) who hate puzzles that require trial and error to solve, don't worry; this one is unambiguous.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ye Olde Novelty Songs: "Slow Poke" by Arthur Godfrey

I listen to a lot of old time radio so I'm bound to hear a lot of weird mid-century novelty songs. Occasionally I get a yen to share a particularly strange one.

So here's Arthur Godfrey singing "Slow Poke," which was apparently a big hit for him in the '50s. This was actually recorded sometime during the late '60s or early '70s -- hence the distinctive reverb -- and I think the guy singing with him was named "Cy." He was probably one of the ex-"Little Godfreys."

"Slow Poke" was actually a pretty popular song -- read about it here -- and it was covered by anybody and everybody. But nobody could sing a weird song like Arthur Godfrey, probably because he was such a creepy guy to begin with.

To future visitors: the link to the song will probably break in a month or two.

I'd Buy Anything By...Marc Almond

I'm not a huge fan of Soft Cell, but Marc Almond's solo work is stunning...most of the time. Thanks to "Tainted Love" and his rodent-on-ecstacy looks, Almond's songwriting ability has been largely overlooked. Folks, he doesn't just SING those songs, he WRITES them.

I'd buy anything by Marc Almond -- when I can FIND his music, that is. I've missed out on the last few albums due to their rarity and their high prices. But I'll still pick up anything I see, especially the singles (to find all those tragic B-sides about aging, drugged-up drag queens that he loves to write).

First, here he is with Gene Pitney performing "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart" live. This is to prove that he can really sing, and that -- even though Pitney sounds pretty awful -- they can harmonize and give you goosebumps.

This song breaks my heart whenever I hear it.

Now, to prove that he can WRITE a song as well, here's another sad one: "Waifs and Strays," off his album "Enchanted" (which contains some of his best work).

I don't know how I first discovered Marc Almond -- if you grew up in the '80s he was lodged somewhere in your subconscious no matter what -- but I think I started to ADMIRE him when I heard "What Makes a Man a Man" in the Wigstock film, and his album "Open All Night" turned admiration to LOVE. His collborations with Annie Hogan in the short-lived "Marc and the Mambas" turned love into unconditional respect. So here's to you, Mr. Almond.

Shuffle On the MuffyPod

Here's the shuffle from yesterday, June 27'07:
  1. Super Charger Heaven (Adults Only Mix) -- White Zombie. Great music to work to. You can't understand what he's saying, so Rob Zombie's lyrics don't magically end up in my documentation.
  2. Bedroom Shrine -- Marc Almond. More on Marc soon.
  3. Music for My Mother -- Funkadelic. Stoned man does harmonica solo, and it's sublime.
  4. Twilight Zone -- Golden Earring.
  5. Put Me On Top -- Aimee Mann.
  6. Kuu Kuu -- Nits. There's a lot of Nits on my iPod.
  7. Playing Canasta -- Kate Bush. One of her lesser early piano demos.
  8. Blood Money -- Nitzer Ebb.
  9. No Purpose No Design -- Meat Beat Manifesto.
  10. Flashdance...What a Feeling -- Irene Cara. Often the happy songs are the most welcome!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


After finishing "Moby Dick" I needed a quick and easy book to relax with. I would never recommend Robert Coover's novels as "quick and easy" reads, but his novella-sized "Stepmother" (illustrated by Michael Kupperman) can be finished in a day, with very little pain done to the reader. Unless it hurts you to read about women who are married to the hedgehog king.

First off, what a gorgeous book. McSweeney's is a publisher who REALLY CARES about presentation. It looks like a sturdy collection of children's fairytales, complete with a hard fabric cover and a recessed picture. It's not a book you want to prop up a sofa with, that's for sure.

Secondly, fairytales are a shoe-in for Coover. Disregarding his books that are overt fairytales to begin with ("Briar Rose," "Pinnochio in Venice"), most of his characters are already subverted archetypes who repeat stereotypical behaviours from beginning to end. "Ghost Town" had its doomed schoolmarm, its cowboy, and even its sentient train. "The Babysitter," his best-known story, features compressed variations on all the archetypal babysitters, all their boyfriends, all the parents, and all their children. Oh yeah, and a suffocating girdle full of butter.

In "Stepmother," these elements aren't disguised...they're the entire point. The small cast of characters are distilled from Brother's Grimm: The Old Soldier, The Reaper, The Stepmother, The Ogress (Stepmother's name for the "holy female" character who tells victims to accept their suffering as grace), the king and his three princes.

What's more, the characters are doomed to repeat their small set of character traits. The Old Soldier, always discharged with nothing but a crust of bread, has an arsenal of magic items that he uses frivolously. The Stepmother must help the unfortunate and punish the fortunate -- which is difficult, since by helping the unfortunates she turns them into people she must subsequently punish. There are always three princes: the older two must betray the youngest, who -- of course -- is a simpleton.

In typical Coover fashion, the protagonist -- Stepmother -- refuses to accept the constraints of her world and is tantilized by ways to break the pattern...ways that end up being part of the pattern itself. If we can take one thing from Robert Coover's writing, I think it's the idea that escaping the system is simply another part of the system, and the only people who are truly at peace are those who just relax and "let it happen." His characters are never more at pain than when they discover that yet another door leads back to the same old courtyard.

I've already read far too many fairytale deconstructions, but Coover approaches his characters so naturally -- and with such humour in every piece of predestined, cliche'd dialogue -- that I loved "Stepmother" from beginning to end. It's particularly fun when it's nasty, revealing the undercurrents that Brother's Grimm never spelled out explicitly:
She had a stepsister who was a snotty little saint who got up our noses at every opportunity with her sanctimonious wheedling and rehearsed meekness and dead mother worship, suckered by the Ogress as she was, and so as not to strangle the simpering twit in a fit of impatient rage or mark up her irritatingly pretty little face, I would send her on impossible errands just to get her out from underfoot. So one day I sent her to pick strawberries in the snow and she came back, not only wth strawberries but also coughing up gold pieces whenever she spoke. At home of course the smug little vixen clammed up, wouldn't burp a farthing, just gazed upon us all with a fat-faced beatific smile.

Lady Pepperell Sheets

I'm becoming intimate with the weekly advertisers for The New Yorker, particularly the ones that tell stories.

It wasn't unusual at the time for each weekly advert to be different, and for the ad to be a thinly disguised "story" about trendy subjects or current events. They always ended with a product pitch. It's fun to see the copy writers contort themselves in order to bring all the elements together.

Here's a typical "story" advertisement from December 17, 1927. How do you write Lady Pepperell sheets, the Lindburgh crossing, and female pilots into a single advert? In case you were wondering, here's how THEY did it:
Nancy Lee had been brought up to fear neither God nor the Devil. Always two jumps ahead of her crowd when it came to trying something new and reckless--she was the first to get a pilot's license. Apparently no stunt was too difficult for her.

Then came the thrilling achievement of that lone youth who courageously crossed the ocean. Nancy couldn't wait to follow in his path of glory.

Up before dawn on the day of her hop-off for Europe, she started to examine her beloved plane. Imagine her surprise when she saw an infant cozily sleeping in the pilot's seat.

Golden fuzz and pink cheeks, just visible in a snowy white bundle, captivated Nancy's heart completely. But naturally she couldn't take the baby so she took for good luck the sheet in which he was wrapped--a Lady Pepperell.

And after the flight--during which she triumphantly established a flying record for women--she found that Lady Pepperells were as conducive to much-needed sleep as to world records.
The poor writer! What's with the baby? Either it's a reference of some kind to Lindburgh's flight, or it's been slipped in there for readers who think Nancy Lee should become a housewife instead of being a dare-devil pilot.

These "story" advertisements were prominent in the world of radio, where it was extremely cheap to keep the audience's attention by re-writing the brief script every week. Some companies did this exceptionally well -- I'm thinking of the "stealth" advertisements of Lever Brothers -- but others made only a minimal effort.

In the latter case are the Odgen's tobacco advertisements from 1944's "The Weird Circle." The scripted connection between the show's plot and their tobacco is always embarassing to listen to. For instance, their adaptation of Frederick Marriot's "The Werewolf" is repeatedly interrupted by this sort of thing: "Werewolves frequently appear in folk literature throughout the ages. Something else you'll frequently see is Odgen's tobacco...easy to roll, delightful to smoke."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Coolest Dog of Pride!

This year I'm giving the game away by immediately showing you the winner of "The Coolest Dog of Pride!" That's Brutus, and there never was a cooler dog. Not in 2007, anyway.

Click the picture to see the rest of the contestants, and a few other shots from Toronto Pride.

Coolest Dog of Pride: THE WINNER!

PS: For reasons that aren't very interesting my Toronto Pride Impressions appear below the "Moby Dick" post, even though they were posted after it. So scroll down a bit if you're curious.

Finally Caught Up to Moby Dick

Being a whaler was a complex and arduous profession. Sighting, chasing, catching, and flensing a whale was another complex and arduous procedure. All the exciting and beautiful moments on the sea, the way waves and birds behave, the varied characters of Christians and cannibals...

Well, reading "Moby Dick" is a complex and arduous pursuit, and you don't even get a "lay" for finishing it -- unless you want to get laid by a bibliophile, of course. I can't possibly do this behemouth justice -- I leave that to Thinkulous, who has even made a pilgrimmage to New Bedford in honour of the book -- but I can at least tell you how I FELT about it during the beginning, middle, and end.

At the beginning of the book I was sprightly and enthusiastic, full of devil-may-care derring-do. I was prepared to read slowly and carefully. From previous experience I knew that "Moby Dick" requires commitment and concentration; if I "skimmed" I'd find myself adrift like poor Pip, watching the narrative float away, and the only review I'd finally offer would be "I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look." Which is just plain confusing.

In the middle I was getting into the swing. I'd found my sea legs. Every digression was a new revelation. Every word was essential. I loved Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. I loved their theatrical asides. I loved Tashtego's gruesome descent into the Great Heidelburgh Tun.

But somewhere around chapter 99 ("The Doubloon") my mind began to wander. The book had given up all pretence of "adventure," and had even left behind much of its naturalism, and was becoming more and more concerned with ethereal notions...and by chapter 104 ("The Fossil Whale") I found my mind wandering. Where the heck was Moby Dick? Did it matter? I could still appreciate the ideas behind Melville's digressions, but I no longer wanted them to be in this particular book.

The final chase and climax was a bit like watching a constipated person on the toilet. We know the whale is in there somewhere, but it just won't come out. It seems like Melville's pushing and pushing -- chase number one, chase number two, chase number three -- and when finally -- ah! -- the release...well, it's not a whale in the bowl, it's just a small porpoise turd.

I'm not saying I didn't like the ending. I am saying that it doesn't do justice to the lead-up or to the route we've taken to get there. And I still love the book and I think it's something special, but -- on first complete reading -- I appreciate it more for its digressions...and, strangely enough, it's the PLOT that prevented me from enjoying the digressions as much as I might have. When Melville described the whale and the ocean and the slickness of spermicetti, I was in love. When he brought us back to Ahab's insane quest, however, I wished Ahab would just GET THE HELL ON WITH IT.

PS: It turns out that I DIDN'T know how it ended after all. I thought that Ishmael was telling us the tale from the bottom of the ocean, no doubt thanks to these lines from Laurie Anderson's song "Blue Lagoon":
Full fathom five thy father lies.
Of his bones are coral made.
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
Nothing of him that doth fade.
But that suffers a sea change.
Into something rich and strange.
And I alone am left to tell the tale.
Call me Ishmael.
Now I realize that the bulk of those lines do NOT come from "Moby Dick." Anderson has a long obsession with the novel, and this has inspired me to go back and have another listen to her "Life on a String" album, which contains some songs inspired by the book. Songs I didn't like much the first time around.

PPS: I did see a "Moby Dick" movie adaptation about ten years ago. I remember not caring much for it, but I do recall one haunting image: Fedallah flopping back and forth in the tangled lines.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Toronto Pride Impressions

On Seeking Attention: A few years back, Annie, Victoria and I would dress up in showy outfits during Toronto Pride and march up and down Church Street on Saturday night, which was an ego stroke. Hundreds of people would take our pictures, they'd stand around and point, and guys with video cameras would stand there tell us to shout things like "Happy Pride, Puerto Rico!"

But while part of me loves to wallow in attention like a dog loves rolling in roadkill, the other part believes that this craving for attention -- and achieving it in such an easy way -- is pandering to a part of my nature that should be controlled, not encouraged. It like eating too many sweets on Hallowe'en night. It seems cheap and desperate and fleeting. So I stopped going.

But taking part in Pride to promote Pridetoberfest? That's a different story!

On New Shoes: Since I'd be wearing my "sexy dirndle" outfit, I decided -- on a whim -- to try on the only pair of shoes I owned that would match it. Both shoes fell to pieces as soon as I put them on, they were ancient and the plastic was dried and cracked. They were like mummy-shoes.

I raced out to buy replacements. I wore the new shoes around the house on Friday night, trying to break them in. Making dinner in heels, doing the laundry in heels, cleaning the catbox in heels. They didn't hurt at all! They felt great!

Walking and standing on pavement is very different.

A Resolution: We arrived in Toronto at 9am and I decided to follow through with another of my recent resolutions: to not meticulously plan EVERYTHING. The thing I didn't plan this time was to double-check Jason & Craig's address. With only two hours to get ready, I wandered in the general vicinity of their apartment without actually finding it, maybe because I was on the wrong street. Payphones are a dying breed, they now cost fifty cents a call, and they don't give you any change back. My call to Jason gave me the right address and it only cost me a dollar.

On Human Relations: Flyers, flyers, flyers. It was very sunny and we were handing out flyers. Most people were very friendly and were happy to receive the flyers. Many were genuinely interested in the event. Other people smiled and shook their heads, which was okay; I think that when somebody smiles at you, you should at least smile back, and if you don't you're a jerk.

I got an inkling of how panhandlers feel, even when they're not asking for money. Some people, as soon as they saw my flyers, looked at me in a strange way that seemed almost animalistic; they turned their heads at an angle, squinted slightly, and stared at me aggressively from the corners of their eyes when they passed. This meant "don't you DARE waste my time with another stupid flyer." It was like getting a dart from hell right into your forehead.

I also didn't want to discriminate, but with so many people approaching I needed to quickly decide who was most likely to be interested and approachable. I didn't want to assume that twinky boys would be better targets than -- for instance -- a guy who looked homeless. People in wheelchairs? Sweet old Oriental couples? The older lesbian and gay couples? Kids who appeared to be underage? Naked men? The Village People? The Human Pony?

Would a homeless man be offended if I gave him a pamphlet, or would it give him a feeling of integration, or would he just be indifferent? I decided to exclude those who were obviously homeless, on the grounds that it would be like giving tap shoes to a person with no legs. After doing this for a few hours, a homeless man walked right up to me and held out his hand. So heck, I gave him a flyer.

On Picture-Taking Tourists: Many of the Japanese girls are giving "peace" signs when they take pictures this year.

On Daytime Drag: My face fell apart at 3pm on Saturday, due to a number of factors that were all my fault. On Sunday, Jason introduced me to the joy of Ben Nye Fixing Spray, which was a huge revelation.

Still, there's simply no way to do totally convincing drag in direct sunlight. Sun dries out foundation and makes it curdle. It's difficult to strike a balance between "understated" and "overdone." Anybody who gets within three feet of you will have their illusions shattered.

Context: I have recurring anxiety nightmares about failing exams and screwing up a DJ set, but the most common -- and nightmarish -- of them all are my dreams about Being Only Half In Drag. Like, being out in public and realizing that I'm wearing men's shoes (or even just shoes that clash), or getting out on stage to perform and realizing I'm not wearing any makeup, or -- the most nightmarish of all -- being out in a sunny event with tens of thousands of people, and realizing that my face looks sort of like a wooly cottage cheese.

On Sunburn: I had a vivid and sort of pretty negative version of a dirndle halter top on my skin. No wonder I'd been getting woozy; I always feel that way when I've been out in the sun too long. I hadn't put any lotion on my shoulders, back, or chest, which was only slightly less stupid than the time I didn't put any on my feet, and had to crawl to the telephone the next day to tell my supervisor that I wouldn't be in to work, because my ankles were so swollen they could no longer flex.

On Cel Phones: During dinner, the woman at the table next to me was on her cel phone from the moment she sat down to the moment I left, which was halfway through her meal. Her five-year-old son played a game with his auntie (or nanny). The game was called "I'm Going Away Now." I can't help thinking his mom plays this game an awful lot with him, for real.

On Repetative Vision: When I shut my eyes to sleep I saw people walking towards me...face after face after face, not realistic but sort of like a crowd you'd see in a comic book. They were all walking towards me and I could see my hand and I was giving them flyers. I never saw the way the faces reacted, I just saw them aproaching, and they shifted and wobbled like a film about LSD.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I apologize for not updating the blog much during the last few weeks. Besides a general busy-ness (I'll be in Toronto this weekend staffing the Pridetoberfest booth, and in July I'll be playing a non-speaking role in a webcast film series) and ongoing work on a complicated UPhold track ("The Road to Avondale"), I've mostly been nursing my hand.

As work gets more hectic (and involves more quick fiddling with documents), the strain on my tendonitis gets more extreme, and the less I can do outside of work. This includes typing blogs, cooking, opening windows, picking stuff up, and generally being useful.

I've found that soaking it in icewater makes a world of difference. But it's awfully hard to type when one hand is completely submerged in icewater, believe me.

Hopefully things will get back on track on Monday. And I'm sure I'll have lots of adventures to tell y'all about...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Classic Doctor Who DVD Commentary Skin-Crawling Game

I'm no good at drinking games, so instead I present a "Skin-Crawling Game." See how far your skin can crawl away from your body next time you watch a classic Doctor Who DVD commentary track.
  • 20 feet every time Matthew Waterhouse mimics a line that has just been said on-screen. An extra 10 feet if somebody else tries to talk over him because they're embarassed for him.
  • 10 feet when Tom Baker flirts with his female co-stars. 5 extra feet if he says something blatantly sexual.
  • 5 feet when Mary Tamm says "awww, bless."
  • 5 feet if Anthony Ainley makes a cheesy and obvious joke, but acts like he's not joking.
  • 15 feet every time Matthew Waterhouse describes the obvious emotions of a character ("Oh, look at him, he's CROSS.")
  • 5 feet when a person simply interrupts Lousise Jamieson as though she weren't saying anything important. 5 bonus feet if that person is Terrance Dicks.
  • 10 feet every time Terrance Dicks feels hard-done-by.
  • 5 feet for every story told about William Hartnell's grouchiness. 5 additional feet if another actor follows up with a story about how nice he could be in certain situations, really.
  • 10 feet for every tantalizing lead-in to a story about Tom Baker throwing a tantrum. 5 bonus feet if the person stops telling the story because it sounds like they're afraid Tom Baker will hurt them.
  • 15 feet for Katy Manning suddenly talking in a funny voice.
  • 5 feet each time one of the '60s personalities (eg. William Russell, Verity Lambert, Richard Martin) confesses that they have only a vague, confused memory of the show. 5 more feet if Carole Ann Ford jumps in to fill in the details for them. A final 5 feet if it's obvious that they still don't remember.
  • 10 feet for each backhanded swipe at John Nathan-Turner.
  • 5 feet whenever somebody says that the show would be different nowadays (longer credits, faster credits, CGI effects, better sets, more convincing monsters, no rehearsals, jump cuts). 10 feet additional feet when somebody says "oh, but I like it BETTER the old way!" A whopping 25 feet if somebody else says "oh, sure, but the new series is BRILLIANT, have you seen it?"
  • 10 feet when Richard Martin portrays himself as a maverick.
  • 15 feet when somebody says they used to watch the show "from behind the sofa." 5 bonus feet if everybody laughs.
  • 10 feet every time you wonder why Nicola Bryant doesn't just state outright that her acting was horrible and her fake accent sucked.
  • 5 feet each time a guest star admits that they had no idea what the script meant, they only did it to make their children happy.
  • 5 feet every time Philip Hinchcliffe says "I think we went too far on this one." Subtract 5 feet every time he's correct. Aww, bless him.
  • 10 feet each time it becomes obvious that Nicholas Courtney's life has dwindled down to a depressing string of convention appearances.
  • 10 feet for each sexual comment made by Frazer Hines. Subtract 5 feet if it's obvious that his co-stars considered him to be charming instead of creepy.
  • 5 feet if a female says she liked her costume back then because "that was the fashion at the time."
  • 5 feet any time a female says it was hard to run in Those Boots.
  • 5 feet any time a female says it was awfully cold, but they weren't allowed to wear practical cold-weather clothing, you men sure were lucky.
  • 5 feet if ANYBODY says it was awfully cold, but it was supposed to be summer so they weren't allowed to look cold.
  • 10 feet if a "moderator" asks a question as though he doesn't know the answer, but you know darn well he does.
  • 10 feet each time John Levene confesses a deep, personal insecurity.
  • 10 feet if Debra Watling sounds senile, but cheerful.
  • 15 feet if somebody is about to tell an interesting story, but somebody else jumps in and says "no, you'll give the ending away!" as though people will watch the commentary before watching the actual episode. 10 more feet if the story remains forever untold.
  • 5 feet if somebody laughs and says "we're all so absorbed in the show, we're forgetting to talk!" 10 more feet if you suspect they just can't think of anything to say.
  • 10 feet if somebody starts pointing out mistakes that were made during filming, and somebody else says "nobody wants to hear about that stuff!"
  • Your skin is not allowed to crawl when Sophie Aldred is on the commentary.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Photojourney 2.0!

Current Events

Updating the old Photojourney was an incredible pain in the butt. Photos had to be cropped, resized, exported, uploaded...then the numbnails needed to be copied and cropped and overexposed and...geez, it's no wonder I got tired of it!

So I got myself a Flickr account. In fact, I've spent all weekend figuring it out and uploading the 90-some pictures from the last few months, including some odd stuff that I wouldn't have put on the old site. Go on over and have a look, and feel free to comment or whatever else you can do.

Based on my limited experience, Flickr is super-cool.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Because It's Friday: Emergency Broadcast Network

Oh man, EBN. Eli introduced them to me in the best possible way, by showing me the videos at the end of their only full-length CD ("Telecommunication Breakdown").

Through some obsessive-compulsive technique that nobody else would dare reproduce, EBN created video-songs using reams and reams of recorded footage. They didn't have a "video sampler" (as the sort of shoddiness of their VHS tape makes clear)...they just meticulously catalogued and sampled and trimmed. And in the process they made songs with themes, usually involving television overload and media manipulation.

EBN is no more, but every month it seems like more and more goodies are appearing on YouTube, both full-length videos and strange experiments from the EBN archives. This song, "3:7:8," is my favourite, and I'm thrilled to finally see an unedited version (with the "Beginning of the End" section at the end). It doesn't have a "theme" and it's one of their more polished efforts, and it's a great song to boot.

Are you a savvy culture-spotter? See what you can recognize. I'll put my discoveries below the video.

I think the falsetto boy at the beginning is from "Prospero's Books," but I haven't seen it in a long time. The Dalai Lama is laughing in one clip, and Danny Kaye is definitely yelling "CONGA!" (Jeez, his mouth!) That's Ann Miller doing "I've Gotta Hear That Beat" from "Small Town Girl" (two bars forward, two bars backward, but no audio from the actual number). The surprise footage in the "Beginning of the End" segment is partially from "Carnival of Souls" and "Brainstorm." The singing woman looks and sounds an awful lot like Virginia O'Brien, ol' stone-face herself.

So what did I miss?

PS: When the fancy menu pops up at the end, do yourself a favour and watch the next EBN video, "Rock This Base." Shiver.


During the final funny seconds of the April 1st 1951 episode of "The Big Show":
Joan Davis: Fine. If none of you fellas wanna take me out to dinner, I'll just go shadooin' after the show.

Bob Hope: What's "shadooin'" after the show?

Joan Davis: Nothin', and it's a date!

Bob Hope: Trapped! And by a corny joke!

Thoughts about "The Big Show"

In a last-ditch effort to keep variety radio viable in the face of television, NBC produced "The Big Show," an unprecendented weekly 90-minute extravaganza. It had the biggest movie and radio stars, both old and new. They even snagged television actors who took sly jabs at the media, in between commercials by one of their three big sponsors: RCA Victor. Ironic, that.

"The Big Show" is sort of tedious to listen to. It's so carefully scripted with endless running gags -- and it's so long -- that it tends to sound like a bloated one-joke comedy sketch, which is particularly bad if the joke that week is a bad one.

The hostess is the "glamorous, unpredictable" Talullah Bankhead, and though she can hold her own when the scripts are good, she's totally unable to deal with the stinkers, and she sounds REALLY awful when dealing with sharp-witted improvisers like Fred Allen, Ed Wynn, and Groucho Marx. Being a half-drunk, bitter, middle-aged stage actress probably precludes you from being either glamorous OR truly unpredictable.

As you'd expect from comedy of the time, most of the jokes are about Bankhead's aggressive baritone (Meredith Willson always refers to her as "Well sir, Miss Bankhead"), her inability to get a date, her rivalry with Bette Davis, her Confederate sympathies, and her terrible singing voice (which may have only become a gag when the audience kept laughing at her when she sang).

The effectiveness of the shows depends entirely on the chemistry between the guests. Put opera star Ezio Pinza or Lauritz Melchior into a comic situation and you get an embarassing fizzle that never seems to end, punctuated by Bankhead's forced laughter. Put Judy Holliday in there, however, and the show's a riot from start to finish. Jimmy Durante and Fred Allen also keep things going; Durante especially seems to have genuine compassion for wobbly Talullah (always calling her "Taloo.")

The episode I'm listening to right now is from April 1st, 1951. Groucho Marx, as always, does his best to keep up with limping scriptwriters who don't know how to write for him, then degenerates into a steamroller of ad-libbed craziness. Bob Hope does a similar thing, turning his segments into short machine gun gags about Bing Crosby's weight, age, family life, and bank account (in other words, the usual Bob Hope stuff). Van Johnson is totally underwhelming; he does a poor reenactment from a generic movie about patriotic Japanese soldiers ("Go For Broke")...and Meredith Willson keeps presenting us with more of his formulaic, overwrought schlock (which is only slightly better than his sickeningly goofy novelty stuff...his "Jing-a-Ling" from show #8 invoked uncontrollable dry-heaving in me...and then he followed it with "Ting Ting-a-Ling in show #11...boy that guy could write crappy songs quickly!)

But along comes 71-year-old Ethel Barrymore. The scripts always call for rivalry between the actresses, but Barrymore -- with her grace, gravity, and prestige -- is simply SLAUGHTERING Bankhead. And it's not all part of the script, either. Maybe the final 45 minutes will be good afterall (Joan Davis is scheduled for the second half, and I love her to death).

So I'm venting, but I will be the first to say that "The Big Show" can be very good. It's ESPECIALLY good when Talullah does a serious dramatic reading of some sort, followed instantly by a cruel spoof by the comic guests (usually Holliday and Durante).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Old UPhold: Songs About Neighbours

Nothing inspires like anxiety so it's no wonder that I've recorded so many songs about neighbours. I've just posted two old GREENman songs about living in close proximity with other human beings.

The first, an excerpt from "September," is part of an entire ALBUM about bad neighbours in student housing. We'd just moved into a student slum and I found the place to be incredibly stressful; the Bunny Killer was alternating wild sex with masochistic beatings on the other side of my particle-board bedroom wall, most of our neighbours were drunken frat boys, and there was pasta in the toilet.

I recorded "The Grey Yonder" over the first six months (which were by far the worst). "September," the first track, packs in all the chaos and fear and anxiety that I felt during the first few weeks, with Scott Irving whacking away on his bass guitar. I like it a lot but it's ugly. It's no coincidence that I'd been listening to a new cassette by Antiform at the time.

The second "bad neighbour" track is "Hot Comfort, Small Comfort," which originally appeared on "Drabbletales" (though this is a slightly remixed version from the "Snakes on Ice" CD). Also recorded in The Grey Yonder, this was about trying to sleep during the daytime while working night shifts in a donut shop (see an early draft of the words, above, written illicitly while on the job). Just when I'd finally begin drifting to sleep, the guy downstairs would blast his bad techno at top volume and my bed would literally begin to shake.

PS: Synchronicity! "Hot Comfort, Small Comfort" is mostly based around samples from Frida ("Comfort Me") and Agnetha ("The Heat is On.") See the post about ABBA, below. ABBA was my obsessive solice while living in The Grey Yonder.

Both songs were recorded on cassette 4-track. "September" is pretty much a free-form composition (with an additional two tracks layered on afterward), while "Hot Comfort, Small Comfort" was sequenced on a nutty Yamaha QX-21.

Ein Prosit, Part Two!

Once again I've been tapped to DJ Kitchener/Waterloo's Pridetoberfest event, which will be happening this year on October 6th. Woo-hoo!

We have yet to nail down the format and the finer details...but there is a more important consideration here: what the heck am I going to WEAR?

The Stag Shop dirndle is so perfect that I'm loathe to leave it at home, but I can't wear the same thing two years in a row, especially not when I'm standing up on the stage half of the night (looking pensively at CDs, as this screen snap from the website illustrates).

Delirium Clothing to the rescue. We've already started talks, trying to figure out how to combine "showgirl" with "fraulein" into a single fabulous (and daring) outfit. And if I wear a headdress, nobody will be able to crown me with an unflattering hat! An Oktoberfest Superhero theme is a win-win for everybody.

For the second time in as many years I'm finally LOOKING FORWARD to Kitchener's big tourist trap!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'd Buy Anything By...ABBA

I haven't kept up with the times. Is it cool to love ABBA again, or not? Are we supposed to just dismiss them as happy "Bang-a-Boomerang" fluffsters, or is it alright to acknowledge their songs about single parenthood ("Hey Hey Helen"), spousal abuse ("Should I Laugh or Cry") and Soviet dissidents living in fear ("The Visitors")?

Should we be focussing on Agnetha's "sexiest bottom of 1977" award, or on her charity work and strangely reclusive, almost withdrawn lifestyle? Was Frida just a bad haircut with odd teeth or did she have one of the best jazz voices around? Was Benny chubby and Bjorn short, or did they write a string of brilliant their second language? Wasn't their Swedish accent silly, or did they have a more lyrical grasp of English than most of us could ever hope to achieve? Was their engineer (Michael Tretow) a guy with an apallingly bad sense of humour who should never have been allowed to write liner notes for a box set, or did he meticulously create a sound so distinctive that nobody's heard the like of it since?

Okay, yes, Bjorn WAS short.

I would buy anything by ABBA, either as a group or as solo musicians. This includes interview discs, remastered versions, and -- yes -- "Oro" and "Mas Oro," as well as Benny & Bjorn's "Lycka" and the pre-fame albums by Agnetha and Frida (aka "Connie Francis" and, erm, "Frida"). I'd buy albums by "The Hep Stars" and "The Hootenany Singers" if I ever saw them in front of me.

In celebration of ABBA, here are clips from both sides of their career: "The End" and "The Beginning."

First here's "The Day Before You Came." It was their second-last single and wasn't even on the final album...this song -- along with the wealth of unfinished material that ended up on the box set -- is evidence that ABBA had a lot of music left in them before they called it quits. This is my favourite ABBA single by far: beautiful in its minimal production and visuals. Life-affirming but somehow sad.

"There's not, I think, a single episode of Dallas that I didn't see." This is obviously part of Benny & Bjorn's movement toward musicals. It's long and wordy, it doesn't repeat, it has no chorus, and the theme is rigidly maintained throughout.

Now, in contrast, here's some terrifying pre-ABBA cabaret by Frida. It's "Baby Love," featuring "two glamorous backup singers." Frida, Benny, and Bjorn all mourn the bad cabaret they did early in their careers...and now we know why.

Synchronicity with Phyllis Ryan

Phyllis Ryan wrote a few very funny pieces for The New Yorker, most of them of the catty "female psychology" type. In this one ("Evening of a Lady," from December 3, 1927) she describes a particular woman's thoughts about a party between 9pm and 3:30am. It's a predictably cynical, but it's still funnier than the average "guy talking to the bellhop" sort of New Yorker stuff.

When she first arrives at the party at 9:00pm, the woman has this to say:
You were discussing what, Mr. McNulty? "Ulysses?"...My God, so it's that kind of party! I've never read it. Is it good? Has it lots of plot? I adore a book with lots of plot, don't you? ... Why, certainly, I'll excuse you. There he goes. Goody, goody, it worked again. Surest way to clear my side of the room of the young intellectuals.
Yes, another moment of synchronicity. In any case, this is my favourite moment:
1 A.M.

I am not shrieking, Jerry Twombly. And if you were the really correct sort of host you'd encourage your guests to shriek and shriek and shriek. Like this.
1:00am really IS the best time at a party.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Shuffle On the MuffyPod

Everybody (and I mean everybody) is posting the first ten songs that show up during a random shuffle on their iPod, so I thought I'd better too:
  1. Bobby Solo -- Nits
  2. Danger Zone (Live) -- Nash the Slash
  3. Angel in Her Kiss -- Marc Almond
  4. For Tomorrow's Sorrows -- Toni Halliday
  5. I Need a Man -- Grace Jones
  6. Pimpf -- Depeche Mode
  7. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill -- The Beatles
  8. When You're Smiling -- Tones On Tail
  9. I'll Take Your Man -- Salt n' Pepper
  10. Be Like Me -- MDFMK
Caveat #1: If some of these seem like strange selections ("Pimpf?"), that's because I take an AOR approach to my iPod. I try to dump the whole album on there and only remove the REALLY bad songs.

Caveat #2: I didn't actually LISTEN to these songs. I'm still plodding through those Neil Young albums, which can make for either a really good or a really annoying workday.

Things that Bother Me (But Shouldn't)

Morgan James just emailed me this link -- a sort of "photo caption" contest for people who engage in baby-slash-cat talk -- and's terrifying. I first ran across these people many years ago (via Portal Of Evil) and while I'm unable to track down an official name for them I refer to them by one of their more commonly-used words: "Meowmies."

The Meowmies own cats and appear to live vicariously through them, which I think is sort of sad. They meet in forums and chat rooms -- pretending to be their cats -- and socialize in a formalized "cat speak" that closely resembles baby talk. I quote an example from this site:
I luff my meowmie, she pampers me to da max.
Anyting I want or need, I don't efen havf to ask!
She rescued me frum da wild place when I was small, helpless & alone.
Gavf me luff, food, shelter & toys, It's sure a wonderfur home!
When I look at that Meowmie's Day Poem, my blood boils with absolute revulsion. First of all I think baby talk is 100% awful, and I am particularly disturbed when adults "baby" non-infants. I'm not just talking about Adult Babies -- who I also find highly disturbing -- but also about couples who cootchie-coo and poodgie-woo with each other. I want to lock such couples in a room without food and water and see just how long their babying will last, maybe after sawing off their arms.

Secondly, I just can't see how people can perceive cats as baby-like. They're selfish, vicious predators who -- at best -- relate to humans on a more-or-less equal basis. I'll never forget my father telling me that cats have small heads so they can squeeze them inside ribcages. Such animals don't call people "Meowmie," they call them "encased offal."

In a fit of pique I once crashed a Meowmie forum, pretending to be a stray cat with mange and a clot of feces tangled around its butt. I said things like "Yeow, effur time I breafe, my lungs is cut by da sharp chicken bone I ate!" and "dees pinworms makin' me always HUNNNGRY!" I did this for a few days, and when my trolling got no response I started asking pointed questions like "who ARE you people?" and "why are you doing this?"

One man emailed a plain-English response to me. He said he didn't expect me to understand their intense personalizing of their cats, but HE wondered why I had bothered to seek out a group of harmless people just to insult them. He thought that behaviour was much sadder than gentle baby-talk with a bunch of friends, and I, he was right. I'd been a total jerk. For some reason I'd gotten so ANGRY about the Meowmies that I'd become the kind of person I otherwise condemn.

Whenever somebody gives me grief about doing drag -- especially in an online situation -- I try to remember the Meowmies, and all those people who are just doing their thing. I'll still make fun of such people if they're otherwise jerks (or if they are really BAD at their "thing" but think they're super-great), but otherwise...truce!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Moby Dick

Only two books have ever defeated me: "Ulysses" and "Moby Dick." I tried to read both of them during my eager first year of University, and I put both of them down halfway through.

"Ulysses" annoyed me because the references seemed deliberately obscure, and I felt that I didn't have a hope in hell of understanding even the simplest layer, let alone any of the layers that would make the struggle worthwhile.

But why didn't I like "Moby Dick?" I'm loving it now -- like, I'm REALLY in love with it -- and I can only assume that, back then, I expected faster pace and less florid language. At that time I was reading Ballard, Barth, and Barthleme, so Melville with all of his wordy digressions sounded like a bloviating old coot.

Maybe I've grown to appreciate bloviating old coots, or maybe my long-ago first attempt has softened the way a bit. The book is constantly surprising me. It's inventive and detailed, and Melville manages to describe the stark world of whalers in a paradoxically rich way. The cannibal Queequeg is a special delight, both in his satirically primitive oddness and in the gentle way that Melville treats him. Of all the "Christian" men, Queequeg is the most worthy...and also the funniest.
He put his hand upon the sleeper's rear, as though feeling if it was soft enough; and then, without more ado, sat quietly down there.

"Gracious! Queequeg, don't sit there," said I.

"Oh! perry dood seat," said Queequeg, "my country way; won't hurt him face."

Brilliant, Weird, and Stupid Neil Young

I've never thought much about Neil Young. My parents owned some of his early albums and I was friends with an obsessive Young-ophile, but he only entered my consciousness when he did something brilliant, weird, or stupid.

A guy named R. loaned me Neil Young's "Human Highway" DVD, which I was anxious to see because of its colourful reputation and its high Devo-goodness conent. The movie, true to form, is a cynical, stoned-out, incomprehensible mess...but it captivates somehow, like an exotic and somewhat scary child's toy.

I also found myself liking Young's music in the film, which was largely pulled from his equally infamous vocoder-dominated album "Trans." I asked R. if I could borrow the album. Typically, R. gave me a DVD containing Young's entire music catalog from 1963 to 2006. And I can't possess an exhaustive catalog without listening to it all.

So I'm working my way through Neil Young's music, from beginning ("The Mynah Birds") to the end (so far). Sometimes I think he's one of the best songwriters around, and sometimes I think he writes like somebody who couldn't care less. I love his crunchy Crazy Horse stuff and I'm less enamored with his sort of whiny, over-serious folk material. I remember how gratifying it was to see decrepit, ugly Neil kicking Pearl Jam's butt during the MTV Music Video awards many years ago. The guy can really play guitar. Eddie Vedder bothers me.

I can't see myself going on a massive music-buying spree here, but my respect for Neil Young has gone up significantly. And he mixes with Devo better than you'd ever imagine.

PS: I agonized over whether to add a "Canadiana" tag to this post. We treat Neil Young like a native son when he succeeds, and we deride him as an American sell-out when he embarasses us. I doubt that Young himself considers himself to be a Canadian after all these no tag for you, Mr. Yankee.

Impressions from the Unofficial Waterloo Park Nature Show

Sitting on a park bench inside a boardwalk gazebo, Silver Lake spread out in front of me. The lake is motionless and looks like a child's science project: stagnant clouds of algae and bird shit. Big green fish swim in and out of sight, catching water striders while a young rough-looking kid tries to entice them with a fishing rod. His lure is an algae-coloured blob with a bright red mast. The fish aren't fooled and they go about their business.

To my left is a mother duck, with five ducklings just out of the egg. She's the most non-chalant duck I've ever seen and I can't decide whether she's stupid or just unconcerned. They have a tiny patch of gravelly duck-beach among the weeds, and while the babies swim languidly through the muck the mother just stands and stares. She stares at the swans and at the ubiquitous single blue heron in the middle of the lake. It's a lazy day for ducks, apparently.

Human parents bring their children to look at the dirty-water-nature-show. They come and go under the shade of the gazebo, some of them pushing elaborate multi-child carriages with embedded toys and little grasping hands. Everyone is enchanted by the swans, who glide back and forth like stage performers, sometimes diving under to clean their feathers, sometimes floating lazily with only one foot docked on tailfeathers.

Two siblings are particularly interesting, a boy and a girl. The boy is the face of evil, a well-spoken manipulator already, he knows how to work his mom. He throws a piece of garbage at the baby ducks, and his mother says no..."garbage goes in the garbage can." He picks up a scrap of paper and says "this garbage goes in the garbage can!" and then walks slightly away from his mother and throws the paper on the grass when she isn't looking. He tells his mother how beautiful the baby ducks are, and then throws pebbles at them when his mother is distracted. The younger sister does the same.

Meanwhile there's an ongoing sparrow drama above my head. Two different families have established nests opposite to each other in the rafters. In between bobbing around looking for gravel and cheerios and nesting material, the parents stand by their nests and yell at each other. Tension builds until one male finally encroaches on the wrong nest, and then the chase is on. The males attack each other, pecking viciously. A third sparrow, apparently a bystander, joins in the fight. One of the mama sparrows flies down and now there are four of them in a big, jumping mass of feathers and beaks and little kicking feet. They roll behind the bushes and carry on fighting for no reason other than revenge and wounded pride. The squawking is terrible.

Far off is the giant blue heron in a position of prestige. You often see him around town. He is aloof and serious, the king of the birds, unmolested by virtue of his size and solitude. When his head is up he looks like a dinosaur ancestor; head down, he looks like a hooded ghoul. He alone among the waterfowl has too much pride for begging.

The rough-looking fisherman has gone. A long-haired couple sits on the dock, quietly, girl's head on boy's shoulder. There's a chipmunk here and a gentle father with his son. The son is fat and totally absorbed with the water; he sees sunfish and points them out, and the father follows, approving, loving him.


From February 5, 1948's episode of "It Pays to Be Ignorant"
Lulu McConnell: Before I left home this morning, I rocked my husband to sleep.

Tom Howard: Awww, that's sweet.

Lulu McConnell: Yeah, you should've seen the rock I used.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rick Veitch

I am not a reader of comics, I guess because I rarely find a comic that I like. I don't think superheroes are exciting and lycra just doesn't appeal to me. Even when comics get all dystopian, I still can't help thinking that most of them are mass-produced pulp.

Way back in February 1983 I was suffering through an extremely dull visit with my grandparents. My father -- equally bored -- took me down to the Short Stop and promised to buy me a magazine. I saw a brilliant cover of a dead angel in the water and decided that it was the one for me: Epic Illustrated #16, a quote-unquote "adult comic" monthly that gradually died under the commercial pressure of rival Heavy Metal's T&A.

Epic was great. After tossing out all my issues when I first moved from home, I've managed to re-collect them all and see them again through adult eyes. Sure they were selling sex -- even a little kid could see that -- but more often than not their stories were also complex, intelligent, and downright strange. And they could be really gross too.

Strangest, grossest, and brainiest of all in issue #16 was an episode of Rick Veitch's ongoing saga, "Abraxas and the Earthman." A looney re-telling of the Moby Dick saga, it had the great (red) whale pursued by a peg-legged madman...through space, assisted by an earthman with all his skin ripped off, his disembodied head sidekick, a six-breasted leopared-woman, and a swarm of manipulative insect creatures who could creep into the subconscious and smush your brain together. And that's just for starters.

I loved all of Veitch's Epic comic creations -- man-eating banana-plants, sentient suns, pre-Matrix men caught in a computer virtual reality, sexy bulls, a John Waters look-alike with a horrific sexually-transmitted disease -- and I later discovered his work on Swamp thing, and then his TRULY twisted graphic novels. I love his loose plotting style, the long story detours that usually end up in the most unexpected places. I love his depressingly average people who suddenly suffer catastrophic revelations. Most of all I love his human faces: greasy people with brow-wrinkles and acne, messy stubble, inbred chins and stupid eyes. Nobody draws a redneck like Rick Veitch does.

Not only has "Abraxas and the Earth Man" finally been released on graphic novel format, but Veitch is working on a six-part mini-series called "Army@Love." I'm coming into it late and I've just read the first six issues. It's a vile satire of the Iraq war. Sometimes it clubs you with a sledgehammer, but it's most effective when it's subtle.

Veitch doesn't have much love for war profiteers and bumper-sticker it should be. In his "Afbaghistan," soldiers are being enticed with promises of excitement and kicks, where the ultimate high is to have sex during combat and therefore join the "Hot Zone Club." This is the only way the government can continue to market the conflict after ten years of an impossible war.

As sick and tasteless as that Lynnie England cover of issue #2 is, Veitch is dead on...but he's also weaving a great story, and he's the only person who could get me buying a monthly comic again.

And I'm not just saying that because I've been in love with him since 1983.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"Constant Reader"

In the latter months of 1927, "Constant Reader" started a series of book reviews in The New Yorker called "Reading and Writing." True to the title they were much more than just simple reviews. In this article from the distressingly-long November 19, 1927 issue (the issues got fatter around Christmas, mainly due to increased advertising), "Constant Reader" spends most of her word count telling us about her paper-cutter:
There was a time when that paper-cutter and I were like sisters. Whever I went, there was the paper-cutter. I would sit down in a comfortable chair, and there it was; I would step out of bed on a crisp Winter morning, and there it was; I would reach into the dim depths of a bureau drawer, and there it was, again. I grew to know it so well that I had my own secret pet-name for it. I used to call it "that lousy thing."
Yes, "Constant Reader" was actually Dorothy Parker, and it's a delight to have her finally join the magazine full time. As anxious as I am for The New Yorker to finally get somewhat SERIOUS -- beyond Morris Markey's brilliant news columns and the ongoing expose of Broadway graft -- at least Dorothy Parker's jokes are DIFFERENT. She had a unique style that I won't try to analyze until I've finally read that huge collection of her work that I have sitting in my bookshelf.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Strange Case of Anna Kavan

The first blog entry I ever wrote had something to do with Anna Kavan; I think I was reading her book "Let Me Alone" at the time. I've just finished George Saunder's "In Persuasion Nation" -- funny, cynical, nasty, and ultimately touching -- and tonight, waiting anxiously for a thunderstorm that is taking its own sweet time arriving, I'm following it up with Kavan's "Mercury."

My parents bought me a collection of her stories (called "My Madness") about ten years ago, apparently because it looked like something I'd enjoy. But I didn't read the book until last summer. The stories were choppy, undisciplined, and sort of aimless -- and I was less than impressed with "Ice," her supposed masterpiece -- but the genius (and her madness) of Anna Kavan really got under my skin: the Kafka-esque protagonists, the woman with a mouse in her bra, and the terrifying dance that birds do when they think nobody's watching.

It's taken a lot of effort to track down her novels. Kavan originally published under two different names -- her maiden name and then her married name -- before suffering a catastrophic nervous breakdown, bleaching her hair, becoming uncomfortably thin, and changing her name to "Anna Kavan," a recurring tragic character from her earlier novels. She also worked for different publishers and most of her books never went beyond an initial small run.

Kavan basically wrote the same story over and over again, and I don't mean that in a subtle way. Many of her novels are about overbearing mothers who raise emotionally stunted daughters, who in turn marry unappealing men who take them to live in a far-eastern country and -- eventually -- drive them to desperate acts. Her other novels are about alienated, awkward, post-breakdown (and potentially post-apocalyptic) men and women who grasp feebly at unattainable goals. "Mercury" is shaping up to be the second type of story, and at first blush it seems like either an early draft or a reworking of "Ice," right down to...well, all the ice in it.

Her books make me uncomfortable, partly because I can see so much of ME in her characters, but mainly because they're so personal. Kavan writes about herself in a uniquely ugly magic realism style; she's rarely funny or hopeful, and the surreal elements just circle around and around, repeating, never reaching a conclusion. I guess you'd expect that sort of writing from a life-long heroin addict, though according to her doctor the heroin was the only thing that kept her going at all.

While you're waiting for the rain to come and the trees lean ominously in the intermittent wind, Anna Kavan is certainly the author to read.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Keeping Cool

We're deep in a hot, muggy period in Kitchener, the first test of the hot, cold, active, and stagnant areas of my new apartment. By keeping the lights off and building a chain of fans on the second floor I can create a nice column of moving air from west to east, even if the air isn't necessarily cool.

My cat's paws are extraordinarily hot and she likes to put them on my arms while she's sleeping. Otherwise she spends much of her time behind the TV set, which is on the first floor and therefore cooler. Up here on the second floor I find myself bumbling around in the dark a lot. When working in my "Little Lemuria" music studio I do my best to tune the fans out and have as few pieces of equipment running as possible.

One way to beat the heat? Sleep in the afternoon! I decided to take a short nap and ended up sleeping deeply for four hours. Now I'm awake and it's relatively cool (or rather "no longer stifling") and I'm thinking it would be nice to go out on the balcony and sit with the cat.

Some ways to stay cool when you're a pedestrian:
  1. Walk slightly slower than normal; the more humid air you breathe in, the more exhausted you get.
  2. Plot your route so that you avoid reflective and radiating surfaces (ashphalt, glass, steel) and, instead, walk through places with lots of grass. Hell, just walk on the grass, even if they tell you not to! Blame it on the city planners.
  3. Love each and every tree you walk under. Their shade is essential.
  4. Stay away from cars; they're sources of heat and bad air.
  5. Drink something cold as you walk.
In short: two-way roads are bad, parking lots are REALLY bad, residential streets are good, and parks are an absolute blessing.

Elizabeth Arden Lifts Your Organs

I've run across this image in the last few New Yorker issues, and even though I (sort of) know what they're doing, I still think I'm looking at people with severe physical disabilities.

But no! They're doing corrective exercises! As described in the November 19, 1927 issue:
EVERY WOMAN wants a figure of smooth flowing lines. Corrective exercise and relaxation, as taught by Elizabeth Arden, will proportion your figure, lift your organs and correct every fault of carriage, of slugishness and of weight. Elizabeth Arden builds a lovely skin and a lovely figure on a foundation of superb health.
If I'd end up looking like THESE women, I'll pass, 'Liz.

Drag Conflict

After Saturday night's Guelph Pride event -- which I STILL need to write about -- I started thinking that getting back into drag shows might be fun. I stopped regularly going to shows for a lot of reasons, mainly to avoid the politics, the hassle of preparation, the endless waiting for the next number, the personal insecurity, and the sadness of dealing with occasional damaged people. Not to mention feeling like crap at my job the next day.

Tonight I wanted to see some of the Miss Tri-Pride pageant, and it was also a bit of a test to see if I could get back into Thursday night drag shows without suffering too much the next day. I saw four excellent performers, all with different styles, all whom I feel a great deal of affection for. I watched the well-known phenomenon of a crowd simply not responding in an obvious way to a great performance, which gives me cold chills and makes me start viewing all human beings -- myself included -- as a bunch of Skinner rats in an inbred social experiment that I prefer not to be a part of.

But I also see love, and creativity, and continuity, which I tend not to notice when I'm actually PART of an all-night open drag show. The good stuff is there, but I'm too busy worrying about costume changes and alcohol intake and blood sugar to just relax and have fun. Not to mention that, sometimes, when I have "fun" I become socially disconnected and relate to other people in confusing ways.

My boiled-down generalized point is that -- as always -- there are reasons for and against doing drag. I see a lot of happy things and a lot of sad things, and I also see the best and worst of myself, and the best and worst of the other performers and the audience. I'm struck by the extremely complex, multi-layered social event that is a drag show: competition, comeraderie, sexual attraction, gender confusion, insecurity, stupidity, creativity, viciousness, misunderstandings, jealousy, favouritism, booze & drugs, energy, adulation, honesty & fakery, fakery, fakery.

Do drag kings have it easier? I'm curious. How about strippers? Cage dancers? Karaoke queens?