Monday, March 31, 2008

"The Mist"

As much as I'm annoyed by some of Stephen King's bibliography I'll be the first to admit that he has written a lot of memorable books. But my favourite King creation, by far, was "The Mist," a novella that I first read as a teenager in his "Skeleton Crew" collection.

The story continues to disturb me every time I read it. The idea of the mist alone is an innovative one, but on top of that the monsters are terrifying, the characters perfectly crafted, and the claustrophobic, slow burn setting is ideal. Most importantly, though, the actual reason for the mist phenomenon -- and the ending of the story as well -- was tantalizingly vague and open-ended. When you're finished reading the story you're left with a lot of wonderfully meaty possibilities that you can mull over all on your own. With the lights on.

People have continually promised to make a movie out of the story. The problem has always been: how should it end? I've told myself that no film studio -- at least not one with the budget to even ATTEMPT "The Mist" -- would ever allow the story's open-ended finale to stand...a Hollywood producer would HAVE to insist on a resolution, and that resolution no doubt would be super-happy and spoil everything. Better the movie never be made.

So I was worried about watching the Frank Darabont adaptation. And while I'm ultimately unhappy about the ending they finally decided upon, it's not for the reasons I'd assumed...and the rest of the movie is so wonderful as to render the actual ending almost unnecessary.

I've already said that the Stephen King monsters were unique and horrifying, but the film manages to make them even MORE bizarre. The scenes of graphic and grotesque body horror have been actually RAMPED UP in the film; maybe this disturbed me more than usual because I'd assumed the film would PLAY DOWN that sort of thing. I was very, very wrong.

What really makes the movie exceptional, however, is the pacing. The action sequences are slick and shocking, but the director knows when to pull back and just let everybody simmer once in a while, always with a barely audible score and understated performances. The Mrs. Carmody plot was a bit heavy-handed I think -- though it isn't hard to see why an American director under the Bush administration might feel particularly driven to bring such scenes to the forefront -- but even when the Carmody scenes started to drag, the quirky script and convincing performances kept me grounded.

The inclusion of Dead Can Dance's "The Host of Seraphim" -- no song is more beautiful or more heart-wrenching -- was an added bonus, though it must be one of the most overused soundtrack songs ever.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but: maybe the movie adaptation is actually BETTER than the book. I eat crow publically. If you love horror movies and you haven't seen it yet, you really really should.

Incidentally, I just realized that Darabont wrote the screenplay for the remake of "The Blob," another quirky script which went slightly "over the edge" in terms of gruesome body horror.

King for a Day

Every issue of The New Yorker has run a weekly advertisement from Brunswick Records ("Panatropes, Radiolas, Records") containing a list of the lastest two-sided 78s, along with an illustration meant to represent one of the higher-profile hit songs.

The illustrator was Frank Hoctor and I believe he rarely listened to the songs he was illustrating, instead just drawing something crazy that had some tangential relationship to the title.

Here's how he represents "King for a Day" from the variety musical "Blackbirds of 1928."

I can't find the lyrics for this particular song but is it really about a man who holds a broom and a chihuahua, while standing on the chest of a terrified woman?

This does not inspire me to pick up the album.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Week of Beckzy

A month ago I set my father a task: find me a car, daddy-o! This is a point-form summary of the results, covering the last week and perhaps explaining why I haven't been up to blogging.

Saturday: While spending Easter with my parents, my father -- who works at a car dealership -- is sad to report that the perfect car for me -- actually exceeding my minimum requirements as to practicality, price, efficiency, and age -- has slipped through his fingers. Oh well, at least the family gets to come together and eat ham, car or no car.

Monday: My father calls me at work to tell me that the aforementioned car, under miraculous circumstances, is once again available. She's a blue '95 Chevrolet Corsica named Beckzy, in perfect running order, very fuel efficient and small enough for my limited spatial skills to handle. He can bring it by my workplace tomorrow for a test drive.

Tuesday: For the first time in fifteen years I am behind the wheel of a car. I have no insurance and haven't even set my eyes on Beckzy before now. A horrendous rain/sleet storm has arrived with gusting winds, and I re-learn my driving skills by sliding my white-knuckled father around the block. Even this short experience is enough to tell me that I'd be CRAZY to pass up this opportunity. I'll take it!

Wednesday: My father calls to say that Beckzy has passed her E-test and is going in for her safety. Things have taken on a sudden immediacy. Vanilla, conscious that this may be the last time she needs to drive me someplace, takes me to State Farm where I get both auto and renter's insurance at surprisingly low prices. I have a payment plan. If somebody breaks in and steals all my showgirl outfits, I will now be able to afford NEW showgirl outfits.

Thursday: It turns out that I will have to go to New Hamburg in order to get plates and ownership as my father is not allowed to forge my signature. I have 24 hours to brace myself for tomorrow's ordeal.

Friday: My father shows up at my workplace, driving Beckzy. He hands me the keys and we begin what is simultaneously a right of passage, a refresher course, a final legal hurdle, and an impromptu driver's exam. I discover that Beckzy has a ridiculous blind spot: when I turn to my left to check for oncoming traffic I can only see my headrest. We take the Expressway all the way into New Hamburg, allowing me to re-experience city streets, on-ramps, merging, highway driving, and extremely pokey small town navigation.

In New Hamburg I get the ownership, we put the plates on, I sign a ridiculously miniscule check for my dad, and Becky is mine...if I can get her home again.

After the return trip I swear that I'll never drive again: I'll just park the car in my lot and look at her, and maybe sleep in her when it's hot outside. Gradually I come to grips with the situation: I'll simply need to keep ramping up my experience until I'm really comfortable driving.

Saturday: I go to Hakim Optical for an eye test and glasses, only to discover that they don't do such things without an appointment. Since Beckzy has a quaint little tape deck I go looking for one of those audio-adapters which allow you to plug in an iPod, but I have no luck. Now I know why I kept all of those mix-tapes from my University years...driving Beckzy will be a '90s experience in more ways than one!

Monday, March 24, 2008


Margaret: That scar on your face is very romantic.

Bob: That's my mouth.

(Paraphrased from The Bob Hope Show, March 4, 1953)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon"

The first time you read one of Thomas Pynchon's epics you can barely grasp the substance of the story. Each paragraph has the potential to throw you off. You flounder and sputter, your only sustenance the undeniable beauty of his style (and the odd slapstick moment).

The second time, you get a grasp for the characters; you remember their names and their roles and you recognize them when they resurface throughout the book. You get a better sense of what the longer digressions are about, and you begin to acknowledge the themes, though most of them remain obscure and difficult to integrate into the book.

On subsequent readings, however, the real joy begins. Now that you know the characters and have a better sense of the book's structure, you can pay closer attention to what it all MEANS. You stop skimming over the inscrutable bits and realize that there's something buried deep inside them. Gradually you tease out those pieces of meaning and you recognize the book as a whole. No longer distracted by confusing surface details, you understand, appreciate, and enjoy.

This is the second time I've slogged through "Mason & Dixon" and I'm very much on track. What I got out of it this time was the complexity of the characters of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, the themes of loss and regret, the division (in this case with the Mason-Dixon Line) which serves as a conduit, enclosure, and barrier, with all the attendant opportunities (the search for power, ownership, exclusivity, and -- ultimately -- civil war).

I also better understand when Pynchon is bullshitting me. Talking dogs, self-organizing automata (the Duck who searches for love, the organic perpetual-motion watch), The Ghastly Fop's endless publication, all the impossible creatures that Mason and Dixon hear about during their survey (the Black Dog, the invisible golem, the were-beaver, the Lambton Worm, assorted ghosts and spooks), and -- most significantly -- the paranoid mysteries of the Jesuits which I realize now were taken quite seriously at the time (William T. Vollmann's "Fathers and Crows" takes a more realistic look at Jesuit paranoia).

What's the book "about?" I don't know if there's any answer to that, but the Mason & Dixon wiki might be a good place to find out. Myself, I'd rather find the meaning on my own, because it's bound to be a very individual thing.

If you're looking to tackle the book, you might do well to learn a bit about the longitude problem, and reading up on the line itself (and its geography) might help you keep your head. Since the book is written in 18th century idiom and style, keep in mind that "huz" means "us" and "Phiz" means "face."

I'd Buy Anything By...James

First James were uncouth, experimental post-punk rockers, then they became shoegazers...then Brit-pop stars, and that's when I first heard them. Wow, did I ever hear them.

In 1993 was spending a week in Toronto, staying with a good friend in her enormous apartment. My friend -- always on the college radio cutting edge -- had just discovered the single "Laid" by James, and every morning she would play it...over and over again...on repeat...jumping around and around on the other side of the wall.

To this day "Laid" is the only James song that really broke into the consciousness of anybody in this area. It's an exceptional song, but it wasn't until a few years ago -- thanks to a greatest hits compilation -- that I realized that James was a FACTORY for exceptional songs, and that -- in context -- "Laid" wasn't the dumb college sex-rocker that it appeared to be.

Here's the video for "Sometimes," a song unlike anything thing else that pop radio was playing then (or now), a strangely chugging song without bridges or transitions, just one long story that culminates in amazing James harmony (this is an edited version of the song, missing a verse and rushing headlong toward the climax...but it's still greatness).

So you've got these Manchester pop darlings being nursed along by Brian Eno, playing legendary live shows and putting out hit after hit...but eventually lead singer/songwriter Tim Booth decided he'd had enough. One of the final concerts was filmed and put on DVD, showing -- among other things -- the tightness of the band, and the oddness of football hooligans shouting along with sensitive lyrics about dolphins.

Case in point, here's the title track from that DVD, "Getting Away With It," a song from one of their two final albums (which their record company never bothered releasing in North America). I love the bassline, I love the plaintive quality, I'm less of a fan of Booth's dancing, however.

Yup, they split up. Booth released a solo album (and a lacklustre collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti) before everybody decided to get back together again. Their new album is due for release next month. James is alive!

Must-have albums: to be honest their albums tend to have a high number of throw-away songs on them, but the sublime moments make each one worthwhile. I like "Whiplash" myself. Albums to avoid: I hear their first two albums were pretty shoddy, but I've never been able to dig them up. For fans only: "Wah-Wah," a collection of improvisational pieces recorded during the "Laid" sessions, and the perfect way to kill a band's marketing momentum. Silly, James.

Nightmares About The Old Homestead

Whenever the holidays creep up on me I am besieged by nightmares about living "at home."

In these dreams I am back in my old bedroom -- though it's somehow mixed with my current bedroom -- with all the old (long-dead) pets and problems. I am always an adult, but all my family members are the same age they were when I left home fifteen years ago.

I wake up wondering if this is some sort of "arrested development" thing, like I'm still the person I was back then, or still clutching the apron strings. This makes me nervous.

But last night I woke up and had a sudden revelation: I don't dream about "the old home" because I somehow wish I were back there...I dream about it because it is still accessible. The lines of influence between me and the family are still there. I'm just a phone call or a car ride away, so even though I'm no longer physically INSIDE the house I am still connected TO it, and these dreams about "the old homestead" are really just dreams about the continuing relationship that I have with my parents...the house itself is merely a convenient setting, the old bedroom a symbol for my own apartment here, the hallways are places where my family and I meet again.

So I'm NOT necessarily regressive or conflicted, I'm just dreaming about meeting my parents again. Whew!

This doesn't, however, explain all those dreams about being naked in highschool.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Winter Threshold, 2008

Each winter there comes a time when I can no longer handle it; I get edgy, hateful, and obnoxious to be around. I look at weather reports and I want to scream. When I open the curtains I curse the fickle whims of nature, then close the curtains again and collapse into a furnace-dried, hot-headed, untidy heap.

This year it happened on March 18th, the day when I became so fed up with the weather (and the prospect of working with RoboHelp) that I couldn't even drag myself out of bed to go to work. Yessir, the winter blues have got me bad.

I know that I documented this threshold last year as well, and I'm amazed to learn that it happened EARLIER in 2007...I officially got sick of winter on March 8th then, which is weird because last winter was comparatively mild.

But I can explain. In psych class we learned about "Approach/Avoidance Syndrome," which explains why certain tasks become most intolerable just before we're finished them: we don't mind suffering through something as long as there is no end in sight, but once we think that the end is near -- the end of a prison term, the end of a chapter we're studying, the end of a work day -- we can perfectly imagine what it will be like when the task is over...and we can't stand the task any longer. Our anticipation begins to torture us.

This year my winter edginess started immediately after the beautiful thaw we had last week; snow was melting, sun was warm, birds were singing. Now that the snow is falling again and the birds have shut the hell up, the continuance of winter is UNBEARABLE.

What Went Wrong with "Twin Peaks?"

The generally-accepted story about the decline of "Twin Peaks" is that David Lynch went off to work on "Wild at Heart," leaving the show without any ultimate direction during the second season. Now, over fifteen years after I last watched the show, I find myself wondering if there was really any hope to begin with.

The second season starts off well. Lynch was still involved at the time and the episodes he directed -- not surprisingly the most pivotal ones -- still stand out as distinctly "Twin Peaks-ish."

But the show's tone was significantly affected by the revelation of the long-standing mystery: "Who killed Laura Palmer?" When we finally found out (and got over the shock)...well, what else was there to care about?

I'm over halfway through re-watching season two and I've seen the show slide into a self-made mess. Part of the problem is the vacuum left by the resolution of the central mystery, which the writers tried to fill with a sudden surge of new storylines and characters. Another part of the problem is that, in the process of resolving the "Laura Palmer" storyline, they'd altered (or outright killed) many of the programme's most notable characters.

So, while slowly leading into the season two "Windom Earle" theme, we were left with conflicts that were either blood-curdlingly silly (Nadine's mental regression and anything involving Little Nicky) or utterly banal (The Endless Angst of James and Donna in a World Without Pity).

There were still highpoints -- Agent Cooper's drug charges and the wonderful "Shelly-Bobby-Leo" scenes in particular -- but everything else was just a bunch of "Windom Earle is capable of things you'd never imagine" dialogue and more of Josie's terrible acting.

I'll come right out and say it: I think season two, by the halfway point, had become Bad TV. It lacked consistency, the characters had (mostly) become cardboard cut-outs, and any attempts at "Lynchian" touches had become forced and embarassing. In their desire to provide the audience with a few resolutions, they'd turned the whole "Bob" mythology into a boring battle between Good and Evil (and Owls). Sigh.

I do remember, however, that the final episode -- the only other one directed by David Lynch -- was a brutal, beautiful tour-de-force. I look forward to that, but I'm really tired of the start/stop music cues, and I don't anticipate the number of times I'll need to see James on the verge of tough-guy tears.

(David Foster Wallace, in his behind-the-scenes essay about David Lynch and the making of "Lost Highway," had this to say about season two of "Twin Peaks":
...Lynch is way better at deepening and complicating mysteries than he is at wrapping them up. And the series' second season showed that he was aware of this and that it was making him really nervous... Part of the reason I actually preferred Twin Peaks's second season to its first was the fascinating spectacle of watching a narrative structure disintegrate and a narrative artist freeze up and try to shuck and jive when the plot reached a point where his own weaknesses as an artist were going to be exposed...
It should be remembered that Lynch wasn't the only writer for the series, but I imagine he had most of the responsibility for the Laura Palmer resolutions at least).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"My Papa's Leg"

As of October 20, 1928 it seems The New Yorker is starting an "Ad of the Week" feature.

As if the regular ads within the magazine weren't enough fun to the 21st century reader, they're now giving us advertisements from other magazines that THEY thought were bizarre even at the time. Bliss!

So here's to the Universal Artifical Limb Co., Inc., and their "sad child with leg" advertisement, which sure makes ME want to buy a false limb and donate it to an orphanage.

"I Can't Stand My Husband's Snoring Since We Bought an Electrolux"

The fake lady pictured in this advertisement -- apparently the wife of Rasputin -- has this to say:
Dear Sirs:

Can't yo do something to make our Electrolux just a little noisy? I can't sleep at night with everything in the apartment so terribly quiet--everything, that is, except my husband.

He snores.

When we used to own one of the old-fashioned mechanical refrigerators with things inside that rattled, I never minded his snoring. In fact, I couldn't hear it because the sound blended perfectly with the noise of the icebox machinery. I know the Electrolux has no machinery, but isn't there something I can do? I haven't slept soundly in weeks and I'm growing desperate.
This is part three in the "Electrolux Complaint" series of clever reverse advertisements. Homeowners -- represented by mannequins for some reason -- write in to complain that their Electrolux icebox is too quiet.

This, sadly, is not a problem for me, which is why I don't keep my fridge in my bedroom.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fred Waring: "In My Arms"

If you're a fan of old time radio you simply MUST pick up the (almost complete) collection of "Command Performance" episodes. Smarmy at times and often sounding somewhat rushed to air, it featured ALL of the best-known and best-loved performers of the era, spitting out strings of silly GI mailbag names, along with heavily scripted puns about killing Hilter and Tojo.

The music in "Command Performance" is particularly good, with at least one gem per show. During the special "Broadway edition" of December 21, 1943 the gem is provided by Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians in the form of a song called "In My Arms."

I don't know how other people arranged this Frank Loesser wartime waltz, but Fred Waring has packed it full of disconnected vocals and that odd "funny frog-voice" that you often hear in novelty songs of this time. Since one of the dialects is a silly Irishman I suppose this counts as a St. Patrick's Day treat.

I've put an mp3 of the song here for your puzzled, kitsch-hungry enjoyment.

That song link is bound to disappear eventually, probably two months after this posting. Get it while it's hot!

The Last 24 Hours

No I'm not being stylistic, I just can't bring myself to write this in "prose" (which requires some sense of meaning, direction, and endings).

* Greyhound bus terminal, standing in the cold, wondering why bus drivers only arrive at the last minute. This route to Toronto is the "molasses" run, which stops at all of Guelph's most picturesque locations along the way. The 130-minute trip should give me lots of time to find an iPod soundtrack but for some reason I can't choose one.

* I have decided at the last minute to bring Thomas Pynchon's novel "Mason & Dixon" with me, because I am so involved with it that I can't picture myself reading anything else. But it weighs at least ten pounds and is huge and unwieldy, and difficult to concentrate on when the guy in the seat behind you is talking about his favourite "keggers." "Dude, Cathy was GREEN, man. I mean GREEN. What? Like, she was SICK, man, Cathy was GREEN."

* At the Toronto Bay Street terminal I pile up all my luggage and begin the trip to Chez J&C. It is very cold, Sunday afternoon, downtown Toronto relatively unpopulated. In the lobby of J&C's apartment, two parents are trying to wrangle a stroller, an infant, and a toddler into the elevator, meanwhile retrieving the mitten that a man had dropped while exiting. Their hands full and their baby-equipment blocking access to all but the smallest person, they send the toddler in to find the mitten, which he is unable to do. The doors keep closing, the parents lunging in to knock the doors open again, the man with one mitten stands with me and we watch the show.

* Jason greets me and we begin the relatively mechanical process of getting into drag. Fortunately the Chez has two bathrooms. Both have been newly renovated in honour of the night, and the hard-working renovator -- Craig -- soon joins us to mix the cocktails. Craig doesn't fool around with cocktails. When Craig makes a cocktail, it is "a glass of vodka with a shot of Diet Pepsi." This explains why, when we leave the apartment, I tell the cab driver to take us to "Queen on Play."

* At Play on Queen -- the venue for the night -- I make myself comfortable in the change room and re-meet both Teran Blake and Fahrenheit. Not only do I not instantly recognize Fahrenheit, but I happily tell her that she "made fun of me once," failing to provide context or explain that I wasn't lodging a complaint with her. This is why my Facebook "agreeableness" score is at 25%. Setting up a sort of Marx Brothers situation, the bar staff begin to pile tables and chairs within the change room. Soon the room contains two small islands, each with a mirror, tenuously connected by a narrow path. When the flock of hispanic queens arrive this becomes particularly surreal.

* Still coming out of a week of insecurity and general "off-ness," I perform two shoe-in numbers that I know I can ALWAYS do well: "Don't Tell Mama" and "Love and Truth." The response is good, as far as I can tell through the blazing spotlight, though the crowd is hardly demonstrative. I make the silly move of trying to pick up tips while wearing well-worn gloves, which results in a spray of coins on stage. Craig cheerfully documents this with his video camera.

* As a whole, we raise a substantial amount of money for the TICOT charities. This is a good feeling indeed. My blood sugar has remained PERFECT all night. Plus, through some accident, I get not one but TWO free drinks. My good feeling knows no bounds.

* After the wonderfully-brief show I begin to understand the bar dynamic a bit more: at 11pm the TICOT performers are followed by a regular show put on by 10,000-volt hispanic queens, a subculture notorious for its crowd loyalty. While watching their show I have my second great bar-stranger conversation of the night, followed finally -- on the way out -- with a nice chat with Michelle DuBarry, who recommends that I improve my diet.

* Back at Chez J&C we review the night's documentary evidence, and Jason informs me that I do a trademarked maneuver with my bum but I'm not sure yet exactly what that is yet. Pizza at 1am. The John Barrowman Experience. A tranquil sleep only once interrupted by the garbage man.

* 8:30am, I assess the situation; Jason has gone to work and Craig is still asleep. I suffer typical morning restlessness and decide I should at least transport my luggage to the Greyhound station, leaving all future possibilities open. As usual when I visit J&C, I exit the apartment with more things than I came with. It's like magic!

* Another cold walk with lots of luggage. A suitcase full of feathers is surprisingly heavy. At the bus station I realize the only "good" breakfast option is an eggs & bacon thing at "Kramden's Kitchen," which I'm sure Michelle DuBarry would berate me for. Nevertheless it is good. My bus will not arrive for ninety minutes.

* I sit and read "Mason & Dixon." This book, along with the constant lifting and pulling of my luggage, is turning my hand into a burning witch's claw. The old lady beside me is very angry about the pigeons, which appear to spend their entire lives inside the terminal. Pigeons are very individualistic. They make coordinated "sweeps" periodically across the floor, and though they look intelligent they keep pecking away at the same specks of indigestible dirt.

* I decide to find a bathroom so I can get some paper towels to wipe my nose with. I take the elevator down to the terminal basement and discover that the bathroom there is a "closed for cleaning." A sign directs me to use the bathrooms in the adjacent Ainsley terminal. I take the elevator back up and pull my luggage across to Ainsley -- which is always deserted, disgusting, and post-apocalyptic -- and discover that the bathrooms there can only be reached by going downstairs. I will not carry my luggage down and then up again. My hand would not survive. Instead, my nose must drip.

* My iPod soundtrack is easier to choose for the ride home: The Fall's "Infotainment Scan." The bus takes a strange and unexplained detour through Mississauga via the mostly-vacant toll roads. The outskirts of Mississauga are surrounded by lakes, barely frozen with patches of rotten ice. These lakes are everywhere and they do not look natural or healthy. Trees are buried within them, their branches poking out. Beyond the lakes, the biggest and most generic suburb of semi-detached houses I have ever seen. I suspect that the lakes are just house foundations waiting to sprout.

* As always when I drive past the Niagara escarpment, I wonder what that huge gouge in the rock is, which you can see going west on the 401 past Halton Hills. Some sort of footpath appears to cross the vast canyon, but it's so far away that you can't see what's really happening. I vow that when I get a car I will investigate this.

* Home. A feeling of goodness, both from the going away and the coming back. My hand will ache for days, burning while I work. The cat is aloof at first, punishing me for leaving her alone for the night, but soon she has come around and we are watching "Constantine." Even she dislikes Keanu Reeves, but she's too polite to complain.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Invasion" and Horror Now

My general dislike of Nicole Kidman aside, I think she can sometimes be an effective actress. And yeah, she's good in "Invasion." And she's so gosh-darn willowy.

Now that I've got that out of the way, I have to ask why every second horror movie nowadays must focus on a single parent and their single, traumatized, super-cute, intelligent, eight-to-ten year-old child. Are we so desensitized by violence against adults that we can only be frightened when CHILDREN are menaced, and only when those children appear old before their time?

This theme is an effective one in itself, but when spread across SO MANY MOVIES it becomes more than a little tiresome. Why just one parent? Why only single, lovable kids? What's going on here?

Anyway, I enjoyed watching "Invasion." I particularly like the "body snatchers" movies which involve large cities, because you get wonderfully paranoid shots of groups of menacing people standing in solidarity amongst bustling, chaotic, disconnected crowds.

It always seems necessary to provide a topical subtext for these movies, so I suppose this 2007 remake is about a distrust of government motivation -- the officials only invite reporters into press conferences so they can vomit in the coffee -- and the idea that we might be better off WITHOUT emotions such as jealousy, fear, and hatred.

So yeah, it was fun, but I have no urge to see it again (let alone watch the featurettes). And the happy ending was particularly blah.

If *I* were writing the next installment of this pseudo-series, I'd want to explore what happens after the body snatchers have taken over. I want to know what their television programs will be like. I want to know how they reproduce. Do pod-people have fights about money problems? Can a pod-person pay to have her husband "re-grown?"

PS: When I made a generalization about "half" of today's horror films being about single adults with single children, I intended to say that the other half tend to be about a bunch of unlikeable young adults getting abducted by a subtle, methodical, coldly logical maniac and then tortured one-by-one in a grimy institution that is strangely desaturated. This is very different from the slasher films of the '80s, wherein the maniac was simply out to kill people for little or no reason, and torture rarely occurred, and the colours were garish, and the kids were asking for it anyway because they were all having premarital sex (except for the lone survivor).

How to Stop a Habit

I'm no stranger to semi-voluntary habits. As a child I was such a bundle of twitches, shakes, and clenchings that it's a wonder they ever got a clear school picture of me.

My tendency to twitch is entirely related to stress. In periods of relative calm I find that I never twitch at all, but when I have a lot of things on my mind I begin to give occasional shakes and twitches, and when I'm in that state and I start to do something that REALLY stresses me out -- like write a letter about squirrels to my landlord, or prepare to go on stage at a drag show, or come up with a blog entry -- I begin to jitter like an electrified tumbleweed.

I usually find myself twitching a part of my face, and this is the most involuntary of the habits. I'm good at making sure that I don't do this where anybody can see, but I'm still convinced that it gives me wrinkles, and I don't need any help when it comes to THAT.

If I can stop the facial twitches they usually move into my hands. I had hand spasms throughout my entire five years of working at Tim Horton's, and I used to mentally berate myself, thinking it was terribly obvious to everybody I worked with. It probably wasn't.

When hand spasms don't do the trick I sometimes clench my stomach, which leads to general abdominal problems. Stomach-clenching was my habit of choice as a child, and I like to think it causes more permanent damage than all of the other habits combined.

Finally -- and this is one that I've only noticed in the last five years or so -- I tend to tightly clench my toes, usually while sitting at a computer or while taking a bath. This didn't seem to be a problem in my old apartment, where everything was carpeted, but now it seems to be having a negative impact on my joints...or maybe I just have rheumatism. If it persists I'll need to see a doctor.

Anyway, I've found a way to stop these habits, and I'm sharing it with you. "They" say that habit-stopping must involve the transference of "bad" habits into a similarly stress-relieving "good" habit -- like squeezing a stress ball for example -- but I've found that I can just stop ALL the habits with this simple method:

At work -- where most of the twitching occurs, probably because I'm stuck in one spot where I can do all the face, hand, stomach, and toe-clenching that I desire -- I write "Twitch" on a post-it note and stick it to my monitor.

Each morning I write today's date, and every time I clench-up -- even the slightest bit -- I draw a tick-mark under that date. When I go out for lunch I count up an estimated number of clenches and add them when I get back to my desk. Clenches which occur at home are not counted.

The very act of acknowledging the sheer number of habits per day is enough shameful mental reinforcement to eliminate the tics and clenches. The first day always has the most clenches -- somewhere in the area of 30 usually -- and then all subsequent days show a decline. After two weeks the clenches number only one or two per day, and even those are so minor that they may have been reflexive as opposed to actual habits.

I leave the post-it note affixed to my monitor, but I remain habit-free for weeks, if not months, until the next big wave of stress arrives.

This may not work for you -- I think its effectiveness involves the amount of personal shame you can heap onto yourself without feeling overwhelmed -- but it has certainly been effective for me. I am, after all, a bottomless reservoir of shame!

And hey, if you feel like sharing your own spasm-stories, please do! I'm always curious to hear how other people deal with such "secret problems."

Friday, March 14, 2008

An Early Queer Cruiseline?

Yes, way back in 1928 you could join a "jolly band of Pleasure Pirates" for a tropical cruise. Pardon me if this doesn't sound (and look) just a tad "of the other."

I thought this was all a touch queer even BEFORE I read the line about the "shouts of gay buccaneers."

A "To Hell With It All!" Weekend

Sometimes -- for chemical, psychological, social, and environmental reasons that I can barely understand -- I find myself feeling SO BITTERLY MISANTHROPIC that I need to have a "to hell with it all" weekend. Like the spoiled, petulant child that I sometimes am, I just want to close the curtains, unplug the phone, turn off the lights, shush the squirrels, and moan in a corner until it all just goes away.

When I'm in the throes of this mood I find myself desperately craving an undefinable something, a medicine or a cure that will make me happy again. Unable to find such a thing I fall back on the second best option: lots of movie rentals and a big bag of Ched-a-Corn.

The thing about Ched-a-Corn is that it makes you physically ill, especially if you start at the bottom of the bag where the puffies have literally melted due to high oil content. My craving for Ched-a-Corn makes me wonder if I'm short-sighted, a masochist, or if I'm merely missing certain essential greases in my diet. In any case it's just the ticket for how I'm feeling.

The movies?

The Invasion

With Nicole Kidman as protagonist I can finally root for the body snatchers. The emotionless nature of the alien replicants will at least prevent them from the curse of syrupy overacting. My heart will always lie with the '70s version (which I should have included in that "scariest movies ever" list I made a few months ago, simply on the basis of sound design alone).

Can you forget Donald Sutherland walking between rows of alien pod trees towards a deserted government landmark, while Veronica Cartwright screams and pulls her hair and rehearses next year's encounter with a Gigerrific alien? I can't. God, that movie freaked me out.

The Corpse Grinders II

I was intrigued by the alien catwoman on the front cover, and then I saw that Liz Renay was in it. She inspired me in a way that only John Waters fans can ever understand. R.I.P.


Once again, thanks to Keanu Reeves, I can root for the villains. I picked it because it was alphabetically next in the "horror" section, and also because I enjoyed Constantine's "Swamp Thing" appearances (though I was less impressed with the first Constantine trade paperback, which seemed so DESPERATELY new wave).

Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

I firmly believe that one of the most insidious forces at work in the modern world is the manipulation of words for dishonest ends. "Intelligent Design" is a case in point, and I rented this documentary simply so I could "top up" my already-bubbling fury.

This is the only one of these movies that I've watched so far. Through my gut-aching Ched-a-Corn haze I can at least say that it made the ID proponents look suitably deluded and/or deceptive, and it's awfully funny to see an actor portraying Michael Behe get totally trashed.

I'd rather see Michael Behe HIMSELF on the hotseat, but he's too smart to expose himself to real scrutiny on film. What a maroon!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Know Your Neighbours

I've heard intermittent thumps and squeaks from the pests in my attic since I moved into this apartment, but this winter has been particularly loud. I have heard them fighting, chasing each other, and having brief but joyous rodent-sex.

Sex I can handle, but I draw the line at chewing, especially when it's done just above my bedroom. I have told the landlords several times that something is chewing up their property but they always act as though I'm saying something obscene in a foreign language; they smile and nod in a non-committal way and then ask me for the rent cheque.

My neighbours last year said that the landlords denied that anything was actually IN the attic, blaming our reports on structural settlage, overactive imaginations, or perhaps ghosts.

This afternoon -- while taking a nap before tonight's drag show -- I was rudely awakened by cacophonous chewing above my bedroom ceiling. Banging on the walls and yelling "shut up!" didn't stop it. Earplugs and box fans were useless. No, I was at the mercy of the Creatures in the Attic, and I was determined to finally get photographic proof of their presence, and also to verify that they were actually squirrels (and not raccoons...they stay up awfully late).

Getting into the attic isn't easy or fun. I need to remove the shelving in a tiny closet -- first finding a place for hundreds of tubes of lipstick and nailpolish bottles -- then contort myself up through a hole that is otherwise blocked by a piece of wood. By the time I'd done this the chewing was still going on.

With camera and flashlight I poked my head into the attic, and here's the monster who was waiting for me:

Awww, cute! Noisy! Destructive! Territorial!

While his invisible sex-buddy continued non-chalantly chewing in one of the corners, this guy circled me several times, seeming more baffled than angry. He made that "chattery" sound that squirrels sometimes make, as if to say "yeah, I'm definitely a squirrel, and I DO like to stay up late."

Then he darted in for the kill:

When you're hanging by your elbows on a thin wooden ledge, your body twisted into a cramp-inducing L-shape, wearing only a robe and with your hands busy with both flashlight and camera, you get a little spooked when wild animals dart at you. Terrified, I shouted "NO!" and he ran away.

I'm going to send these pictures to my landlords and I'll write a typically polite email about it. When I don't receive a reply I'll wait until they come to collect my rent, and then I'll hand them print-outs of the pictures and say "there are squirrels in the attic, and they're chewing holes in the building."

I know what'll happen next. The landlords will nod and smile and walk right back out the door. Later, they'll show the pictures to their children and say "look at these imaginary things, I wonder what they are and where they live?"

"Driving Hands...One Minute at the Wheel, the Next at Tea"

Finally, a 1920s celebrity endorsement that I actually care about!

I don't care about the Cutex Liquid Polish. I care about Anita Loos whose books were outrageously funny.

Seriously, when you need some quick summer reading, pick up "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." It has nothing to do with the movie musical and you can read it in a day.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I'd Buy Anything By...Goldfrapp

I first heard Goldfrapp when a CKMS volunteer played the newly-released "Utopia" for me. Sounding like a cross between a James Bond theme and a piece of degraded electronica, it seemed to be a whole new form of music, something fresh and beautiful and strange. It was like somebody had taken all of my convoluted thoughts and emotions and turned them into one single song.

Eventually Goldfrapp got all glam-sexy, and that's okay too. I haven't heard their new album but I bet it has the same strengths and weaknesses of all the others: five absolutely transcendent songs, mixed in with six or seven pieces of forgettable zilch.

But I'll buy it anyway, because Goldfrapp makes me happy. They're brilliant, unorthodox, individualistic and slightly annoying people.

They haven't released enough to justify "must have" and "stay away" lists. Instead -- tangentially related to the below post about sexy dogs and cats -- here's their "Number One" video. Ridiculous, wonderful, and cute.

Feline Love Symphony

Whenever I delve into pre-60s entertainment I am bound to run across more than one account of cats and dogs getting sexy in the night. You can find tons of novelty songs about this situation (my favourite is "Mama Will Bark"), folks in television shows were always throwing boots and cans at cats on their fences, and the love-howls of cats were a notorious part of the typical "tenement symphony."

So why don't I ever hear them?

I think I heard a cat in heat once -- a brief unearthly howling under my window that was hopefully feline in origin -- and I remember seeing two dogs hopelessly coupled many years ago, but other than that...nothing. The cats just skulk around in search of squirrels, and the dogs just bark out of housebound anxiety, not because they're trying to entice.

(I do have to mention the platonic man-dog love affair carried on between my neighbour and his whippet named "Frodo." Whenever Frodo disappears, my hulking, car-fixing, hyper-masculine neighbour goes staggering around the block screaming "FROOOODO!!!")

Do I live in a well-mannered neighbourhood? Or have we so absorbed the "have your pets spayed or neutered" mantra that we've cut down on late-night amorous yowling? I don't know. But I think I'm glad I'm missing out.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Seen at Reuben's

For a few weeks I've been coming across these disturbing 1928 New Yorker advertisements for Reuben's Restaurant and Delicatessen. They were pretty laid back at first, but now they've exploding into a voyeuristic combination of celebrity-taunting and food fetishism. I quote:
Of course you didn't hear us chuckle, Mr. DUDLEY FIELD MALONE, but odds bodkins, our sense of humor just won't down when we see a legal luminary engaged in victorious debate with a fragrant, savory Reuben's hot Turkey Sandwich! No schoolboy at the jam pot (again) ever displayed more earnest, unqualified appreciation. The pleasure was ours as well as yours, Mr. Malone?
If *I* went someplace for dinner, and then the next day read an advertisement that said "Muffy St. Bernard came into our restaurant and ATE LIKE A CRAZY PIG!" I don't think I'd come back. But I guess any publicity is good publicity...

Here's another:
When a wit once asked us, mock-seriously, "Is this table large enough for a Reuben's apple pancake?" did we rush pell mell to the kitchen to reduce portions? No, we merely smiled smugly--for we knew that GEORGE WHITE would happen along shortly and--demon for details that he is--would surely detect the difference in his pet dish, inimitable spicy deliciousness or no. When you did arrive, Mr. White--did order--did demolish one of our famous over-stuffed apple pancakes--we knew there was little the matter with our blooming policy after all. Reassurance is a great tonic!
Odds bodkins, what a pancake that must have been!

"Yeast Stimulates the Intestine," He Says In Newspaper Interview

I know you rely on me to keep you abreast of all the most serious health menaces, so here's a picture of Dr. Victor Pauchet, Parisian doctor:

According to this October 16, 1928 advertisement in The New Yorker, Pauchet was a real authority about health because he wrote "numerous medical works" including "Surgical Practice" and -- everybody's favourite book -- "Constipation."

This ad for Fleischmann's Yeast (who else?) also contains this choice snippet from the "New York American" newspaper:
PARIS DOCTOR NAMES MENACES TO HEALTH. Dr. Pauchet names the three scourges as alcoholism, social disease and intestinal stagnation. It is for the last that he recommends yeast.
Strangely, in all the testimonials that have appeared for Fleischmann's Yeast throughout the years, I've never seen anybody complaining of a social disease. I guess yeast couldn't cure everything.

Movie Quote Muh-leem

Over at The Mind Wobbles, Hilda posted a fun movie quote muh-leem...and it's interactive so you get to play along!

As a blog mistress, my job was to pick ten of my favourite movies, go to IMDB to find a representative quote from each, post the quotes here, and strike out the quotes when readers guess them correctly.

Here's my list. If you know which movies they're from, write a comment and I'll give you credit. And hey, no cheating by using Google! That wouldn't be any fun. Do this the olde-fashioned way with your brain. No calculators either.

1. You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility. (Anonymous)

2. He does the killing, I do the grave digging. You don't do anything. You're just a cook! (Anonymous)

3. I came into this game for the action, the excitement. Go anywhere, travel light, get in, get out, wherever there's trouble, a man alone. Now they got the whole country sectioned off, you can't make a move without a form. (Anonymous)

4. I am a professional. I have been in this business a long time. Now if I don't want to do a show, it's not because I got stage fright. It's because some creature from beyond doesn't want me to do the show! Now gangway! (Morgan James)

5. Men keep taking advantage of me. I always realize it when it's too late. Look how the Arab world treated me. I sure didn't deserve that. (Morgan James)

6. And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten. (Anonymous)

7. It's a hard world for little things. (Anonymous)

8. You oughta feel proud that three sailors from the United States Navy got off the ship for one day, and what did they do? Were they thirsty for hard liquor? No. They were thirsty for culture. Were they running after girls? No. They came running to the museum to see your dinosaur. (Anonymous)

9. And what charming underclothes you both have. But here. Put these on. They'll make you feel less... vulnerable. It's not often we receive visitors here, let alone offer them... hospitality. (Anonymous)

10. I looked for you in my closet tonight. (Anonymous)

I tried to pick movies that people have actually seen to, you know, make this fair.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Don't Ever Antagonize The Horn

This weekend I decided to re-read Thomas Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49," and it's the first time I've immersed myself in Pynchon's writing for several years.

It's beautiful. He tickles you with immediate, funny dialog, then he begins to dip you into the world's chaos, and suddenly you're reduced to unweaving the unconventional, almost cryptic prose that comprise the novel's most important revelations. If you can stay on the track and concentrate intensely, you are left with a nugget of meaning that could not have been conveyed any other way. If you get lost, you're angry. Go back and read it again.

The theme of "The Crying of Lot 49" is one that has always intrigued me: the search for meaning, pattern, and design in an apparently random world.
And the voices before and after the dead man's that had phoned at random during the darkest, slowest hours, searching ceaseless among the dial's ten million possibilities for that magical Other who would reveal herself out of the roar of relays, monotone litanies of insult, filth, fantasy, love whose brute repetition must someday call into being the trigger for the unnameable act, the recognition, the word.
The characters in Pynchon's best-loved works are following up on tantalizing hints that something is going on behind the official scenes. What is "V?" What is "Tristero?" And what shape do you see when you connect the dots around "Gravity's Rainbow?" Is there a conspiracy? A hoax? Or are you simply seeing "order" because humans are hard-wired to see such things?

A beautiful book, it has inspired me to re-tackle "Mason & Dixon" in preparation for Pynchon's most recent novel, "Against the Day." Time to work on my upper-body strength.

Domestic Drag Show: "Fever" by Annabella Lwin

For those who enjoy watching me scamper around my living room, here's a new domestic drag show: "Fever," performed by Annabella Lwin (of "Bow Wow Wow" fame). With a special cameo by Melody Valentine (and not a seal in sight)!


I think I've compared "editing a video with iMovie" to "herding cats." Well, it's more like herding donkeys, but the more I use it I discover additional tips and tricks.

This one was storyboarded, but it mainly came together within iMovie itself. By using "split video at playhead" as opposed to any of the cropping tools, I find I can better organize and synchronize multiple clips on the single video track. So this one is very much edited "on the fly," as required by the spunky-modern song.

This process is still very tedious. Every single edit must be individually synchronized, you must work from beginning to end, and you don't have a hope of changing anything once you've done it. But it's still better than endlessly cropping and uncropping the clips.

PS: I buy most of my props at Home Hardware because their ugly stuff is "over the top," and anything more subtle wouldn't show up on video. Hence that terrifying red "seedpod" thing, which cost me $10 but was well worth the embarrassment.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Thwarted By Mother Nature

Jan, Victoria and I had scheduled a "wine, chat, bitch, and bar" night tonight. Then Mother Nature came along and blew it all away.

Victoria wisely called in to cancel at 9pm; it was simply looking too terrible outside. Jan called several times from each of the three buses he was in, each bus stuck about 100 meters in front of the last one. He, too, finally decided to call it a night (but you can't fault him for perseverance!)

As for me, I'd spent two hours getting into drag and wasn't going to go down without a fight. I have a long record of kicking Mother Nature's butt...I'm hardly squeamish about snow, wind, and cold.

Knowing that cabs were not an option I donned my most practical boots and began to walk. The snow came up to my knees. Seriously, even with my six-inch platforms, I was walking through knee-deep snow.

So after a few minutes of this I veered into the road to take advantage of the single line of tire tracks available. It was exhausting to walk in tire tracks, and whenever a car came I needed to flounder away into a snow bank.

The wind was nearly blowing me off my feet. Snow was still falling. After two blocks I turned around and came back to my warm, snow-free apartment. Mother Nature won this one hands down. I pity the fool who's out tonight.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Burnt Holes in a Blanket

One wonderful thing about the complete collection of New Yorker DVDs is the odd, blotchy compression algorithm that turns jolly pictures into snapshots from hell. For instance, witness this mutilated advertisement for Fougere Royale aftershave lotion, which looks like a still from a Tod Browning picture.

Just based on the illustration I'd think the copy should read "Your dead ancestors, newly jealous, will melt your face if you use our product!" But the story is actually more prosaic:
Suppose you were out most of the night. No need to tell the world about it. Greet the cold, grey dawn with a smile--with a sparkle in your eye, instead of the "burnt holes in a blanket" effect. Chase the tired, sleep-famished look from your face. The set wooden expression that everybody knows is the "morning after" look.
For the provincial boor (that's you and me!) a convenient note reminds us: "Pronounced Foo-Zhaire Royal."

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Not Irish, But Game!

On Sunday, March 16th I'll be fleeing my winter cocoon in order to be part of the TICOT "Kiss Me I'm Irish" show.

Princess of the Realm (and owner of the Jenna-Duck) Morgan James is organizing and hosting the night as a fundraiser for reign XXI.

It'll be at Play on Church (504 Church St) in Toronto, so if you're in the area you should drop by and see the show...and help us raise some money! It'll be the one night you can hand me a solid bar of gold and I won't be able to keep it.

A Vehicle: Edging into Adulthood

I've done without a car for thirteen years. I live in a city with lots of cabs, good bus service, and plenty of sidewalks to walk on. I have friends and family which will transport heavy goods in a pinch, and if I need to get out of the city there is always the Greyhound.

But jeez, I think it's time to get a car. I hate sponging off of friends. I hate being unable to visit people in other cities. When I'm invited to do a show in Guelph, I hate forcing them to pick me up and drive me home. I hate taking the bus to Toronto.

Most importantly -- and positively -- I would love to be able to drive during the summer. I want to drive to little towns and explore without worrying that other people will be bored. I want to visit the Bruce Penninsula again. I want to see Lake Huron.

To do all of these things I need a car.

So I've started the ball rolling. My father works at a car dealership and he knows his cars, so he's scouting out a practical used vehicle. I've called an insurance company to find out how much I'll need to pay for the privilege of driving...I'll get the bad news tomorrow. I've decided that -- for the first time in my life -- I need to go into temporary debt to achieve a useful and substantial goal: geographic independence.

Hopefully this will all happen.

I need to balance this with two other desires. First off, I want to go to the 2008 Pennsylvania STC Summit in June, and though I'll be reimbursed for everything it always involves my paying upfront, out of my own pocket.

Also, while editing a new "Domestic Drag Show" in iMovie, I finally decided it would be worth it to get better (that is, ADEQUATE) video editing software. But that would require upgrading my operating system, which would ultimately require just getting a new computer. As nice as it would be to enjoy all the perks of a spiffy new iMac (not to mention the ability to make better videos, and to make them faster), I have to admit that this is hardly essential.

So the car wins.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Too Much Henry Rollins

On Monday night I attended the weird spectacle of Henry Rollins in Kitchener...almost as weird as Elton John in Kitchener, which happened on the same night. I've never been a Henry Rollins fan -- in fact I've been more annoyed by him than anything else -- but I'd never seen his spoken word and I tried to keep an open mind.

Well, it took a while for him to warm up, and most of the time he was "preaching to the converted." Extolling reproductive rights, global understanding, and "sticking it to the man" was hardly a unique perspective to the crowd who came to see him. In fact the most significant statement he made, I thought, was that he himself is pretty much "the man" nowadays, which was nice to hear him admit at least.

His first ninety minutes were pure gold. Of course, there's such a thing as TOO MUCH gold -- visiting my Italian uncle's rumpus room was enough to make me queasy, for instance -- but Rollins managed to pace himself pretty well, staggering his funny stories with "heartfelt insights." He railed on American politics, patriotism, and isolationism. He poked fun at his own shortcomings -- his inability to have normal interactions with people, his need to always be frantically doing something -- and he tackled the usual suspects of the American right-wing.

He was funniest, though, when he simply told stories about the small children in his extended family circle. His anecdotes about the twelve-year-old daughter of his manager (who speaks like a jaded drag queen and constantly puts Rollins in his place) were the best of the night. I think he's right, little girls ARE potentially excellent liars, and he handled this material PERFECTLY.

But then he said he was going to tell us a "little punk rock story," and in the next ninety minutes I saw the egocentric, self-concerned, disconnected, and not particularly critical part of Henry Rollins, otherwise known as "the fanboy."

In short, this story he told was about Rollins being invited to perform at a very significant benefit show for a band he had always idolized (The Ruts), his extreme anxiety about the event, and how it all turned out well in the end. This would make a good ten-minute anecdote, but it just kept going on...and on...and on. He stuffed it full of colourless reportage about people's names, playing style, and previous affiliations. His insights were shallow and pointless. Since Rollins never tells you in advance how a story will end -- and since his tales perpetually telescope with "And so the next day..." and "That reminds me of..." elements -- the whole Rut story took AN HOUR for him to tell, and it was pointless from beginning to end.

It was unbelievable. People were fidgeting and coughing as we watched him string the story along. It was like being stuck at a dinner party where the host just simply MUST tell you about his WONDERFUL vacation, and each time you think he's coming to the conclusion you find out that his vacation included ANOTHER trip, and then ANOTHER trip. I have never been so bored in my life, and I'm including a lot of dull university lectures. Rollins just didn't seem to understand that he was stretching out "his moment" too long, and that it wasn't really significant to anybody.

Then he told us that he was almost done...and spent an additional half hour telling banal stories about his trip to South Africa. Besides being intrinsically boring, it was almost midnight, it was Monday, and we'd ended up sitting there for over three hours. It was simply too much (and, in terms of substance, WAY too little).

So the fun of the first half was overshadowed by the crushing monotony of the second. I can only assume that Rollins is either testing out new material or that he needs some sort of medication. If you're going to attend this tour make sure you bring a pillow and a good book.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Lullaby In An Apartment House

My good fortune can't hold out forever; someday people will move into the unit adjacent to mine, and all my neighbour-troubles will begin again.

When I come here to whine and moan, please sing me this lullaby from the October 6, 1928 issue of The New Yorker.
Sleep, little one, sleep.
The sandman's going his rounds once more,
While red-hot jazz from the Palais d'Or
Steals in from Apartment 24.
Sleep, little one, sleep.
Sleep, little one, sleep.

Sleep, little one, sleep.
Drift off to the land of slumber, pet.
The Smiths have a brand new five-tube set.
If you wake at twelve 'twill be going yet.
Sleep, little one, sleep
If you can.
Sleep, precious one, sleep.

Sleep, little one, sleep.
Skim the sky on a fleecy cloud,
As Jenks next door makes drinks for the crowd.
In another round they will get quite loud.
Sleep, little one, sleep
For your own protection.
Sleep, angel one, sleep.

Sleep, little one, sleep.
The silver moon casts a magic spell.
From the Roxy organ comes "William Tell,"
As Dr. Cadman discusses hell.
Sleep, little one, sleep.
In your trundle bedlam
Sleep, harried on, sleep.
(Howard Cushman)

Admittedly my potential neighbours may require a verse for themselves:

Sleep, little one, sleep.
Permit your tired mind to heal
While 'cross the wall shouts Schnapps the Seal,
With "Doctor Who" on endless reel,
Sleep, little one, sleep
Or that freak will getcha,
Sleep, little one, sleep.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Bit More About "Family Feud"

Game shows are a form of drug. They're breezy and slick and fast-paced, with all of their drama resolved in a few minutes...this element appeals to our lazy, spectacle-seeking sides. The winners are genuinely ecstatic and we celebrate with them. The losers are gracious and we admire their good sportsmanship. On top of all that we get to test our OWN knowledge, participating as though we were actually there, albeit without the inevitable pressure of making asses out of ourselves on network television.

All drugs take their toll, though, and after a weekend of "Celebrity Family Feud" I feel slightly nauseous. I never want to hear that theme song again. I have a headache from the endlessly-repeated "Survey SAYS!" At night I dream about the members of "Eight is Enough" and "Love Boat" moving into my house and snorting coke off the back of my cat. Don't tell ME that I've never suffered.

I do have to temper somewhat my negative impression of Richard Dawson. I still think he's a pig, but it appears that 95% of the women were either indifferent to or flattered by his attentions; when I wrote my last screed I had only watched about six episodes, in all of which he was particularly drunk. Dawson was an aggressive man-handler of both women AND men, and I realize that this was considered an attractive part of his "schtick."

Dawson may have been an effective woman-killer, but the children sure hated him. It's painful to watch him try to "draw out" precocious Hollywood preteens who can barely disguise their disdain for him; Dawson acts like the slightly perverted, faux-hip grandfather that you dread visiting on Christmas. As messed up as MY grandfather was, though, at least he never launched into pointless impersonations of W.C. Fields. Nope, my grandfather just peed.

Picture this: the show's producers have already made the dubious decision to pair pre-adolescent Ricky Schroder with reigning "Playmate of the Year" Shannon Tweed. With the two of them at the podium, Dawson initiates this classy bit of comedy:

DAWSON: She's pretty, isn't she.

SCHRODER: (Shyly) Yeah.

DAWSON: There's a whole book about her. (Gasps of surprise from everybody on stage).


DAWSON: How old are you?

SCHRODER: Twelve and a half.

DAWSON: When you're eighteen I'll show it to you. (More gasps and nervous laughter. Dawson points at his belly-button) She's got a staple right here.

Richard Dawson has a quick wit, don't get me wrong; he can banter with the best of him and he can come up with some amazing thing. But put him next to a kid and he veers completely off the rails, and then continues to veer until he has crushed everything and everybody in sight. What a weirdo.

As "risque" as the '80s were in many ways, these shows have given me an eyeful of "conventional network sexuality," which might explain why titillation is often so boring to watch.

So yeah, enough is enough. Somebody has to invent a sort of "colonic purge" for the gameshow-addled brain.

Playing the Game Episode 7: "Wolf"

Shameless, happy self-promotion! Episode seven of the WebTV series "Playing the Game" is now online...and I'm in it! See for yourself (it's not R-rated, but you probably shouldn't watch it at work):

(For a much higher-quality version go here to the official site).

I think this turned out very, very well; the story is lots of fun, the narration is suitably chirpy, and Mitch's camerawork -- one long shot, for most of the episode -- shows not just his own skill but also the amount of work we put into "getting it right." And kudos to Delirium Clothing for the "Freedom Turkey" outfit that I'm sporting!

Yes, believe me, we did this over and over again. The first few takes I recall as being particularly sedate, but as we went along things got more frantic; I think this is from one of the middle takes, before we lost control and I knocked over the bar.

Even though it's a "silent" film, Steve Hutton did in fact record our mostly-improvised lines "for a DVD extra." Yikes!