Sunday, August 31, 2008

nonsense made sense

excerpt from a rough draft of a letter to a friend, 7/29/08
(unsent but suddenly afforded new relevance)

... i thought i'd vote obama,
because he's skinny and left handed,
but it doesn't mean that much to me
and given leave i'd
rather vote for pretty girls in glasses.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Athletics & Aesthetics

To those in the know, Dennis Rodman was quite a fine basketball player apart from the shenanigans he is more widely known for. This is why I was not (that) surprised when I read that Phil Jackson recently named Dennis Rodman the best athlete he ever coached (also, if I am not mistaken, this is not the first time he's gone on record as saying this). Reading his name in the news again after so many years prompted me to search on YouTube for some Dennis Rodman vids. I began typing "Dennis Rod..." and a drop-down suggested search terms list popped up, blithely suggesting "Dennis Rodman Kicking Cameraman." Who am I to say no?

At 4:15, Rodman extends his foot into the crotch of a seated, defenseless cameraman. Classless? Yes. But seriously, that guy has introduced himself as the guy Dennis Rodman kicked in the balls so many times, I'm sure the pain is gone. The real question I suppose is if it has gotten him laid.

Monday, August 25, 2008

"It's lonely at the top"

Vicky Christina Barcelona. Slow motion? Zooming fade outs? Voiceover narration of semi-obvious plot details? Threesomes? Bicycle rides through the European countryside? Woody Allen is Julesing you Jim.

And it's delightful.

Read his behind the scenes production diary HERE. He dishes on giving an Oscar winner acting tips and his own ability to satisfy three randy and insatiable actresses simultaneously.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Are you afraid of the dark?

Recently, I watched the History Channel's "The Unexplained: Hauntings," an A&E program that interviews three families who have lived in purportedly haunted houses as well as interviews with ghost experts and ghost skeptics. For me, it was the second family that reported the most fascinating haunted house tale. They claimed they saw a lit cigarrette hover by them in the air one night while they were eating dinner. They also had a psychic channel the angry ghost during a seyonce and the ghost, in a very threatening voice growled, "This is my property. Get out," as well as saying his name and what year he bought the property (all, the family found out via town records, were true). However, the icing on the cake was when the family would find crosses and the words "GO DEAD" scribbled on the interior walls of the house and on random scraps of paper. Absolutely horrifying. I think the one thing that the family didn't experience was having the piano played in an illogical manner in the dead of night. (This idea of a piano playing by ghost hands is one of the top most frightening things I can think of.) If they had a piano, though, I wouldn't have put it past this ghost to have gone wild with it.

My mom is always asking why I watch such shows when they scare me so much. My answer is always, I don't know. I have just always been fascinated by the magical and the surreal. I clearly remember stumbling upon "unicorn" hoofprints in the dust of the path that wound through a blueberry thicket in the back of my childhood log home. (Of course, I now know they were most likely deer hoofprints, but just maybe they were the genuine article?...) This powerful imagination of mine coupled with the fact that I was exposed to horror movies at a very young age (i.e. 3 years old) has instilled a deep, unshakeable, and oftentimes very illogical belief in the supernatural and all of its ghosts, hauntings, Sasquatch, little Nessie, etc. So of course, I'm easy to convince if you say you've seen a ghost.

But I really think I've seen a ghost. Or rather, I've seen strange things that I can't explain.

In 1998, when my family moved into our sprawling yellow farmhouse built in 1787, we all thought it was a creepy place. We loved how large it was, how everyone got their own bedroom (a first for me), the beautiful view of the Ossipees, and the woods and pond in our backyard, and yet there was a strange feeling that seemed trapped in the old place. It didn't help that most of the interior walls were painted barn red, brown, mustard yellow and army green, making the place even darker, heavier and more ominous. Places in the house that seemed especially off-putting were the old front hall (the large door leading to the old front hall shown above), the piano room, the dining room, the basement, and above all, the master bedroom. Friends who have visited tend to agree with this assessment.

We soon came to find out that the place had a substantial history: it was once part of the Underground Railroad, was the home of Governor Bean and fam way back when, and that old man Leighton who lived across the street sat down on the front porch sometime in the middle of the last century and drew his last breath. We found Indian shutters tucked inside the wood frames of the downstairs windows in the piano room (to pull in front of the windows if any Indians decided to attack you with arrows), and two long, musty sectioned-off places in the basement that were used primarily to store coal for the house and secretly for hiding runaway slaves. There was also an "unfinished" room in the basement that had a lone, naked bulb dangling by the doorway (by unfinished, I mean, a room that ran the length of the main house, was filled with sand, and was accessible through a rickety screen door). My family ended up using this sand to sprinkle on our icy driveway in the wintertime, but it was never a pleasant experience to lurk about in the basement alone, scooping shovelfuls of sand into a wheelbarrow that then had to be hauled up the basement stairs to the backyard. Even after living there for a decade, the unfinished room is nowhere near being cleared of sand. Finally, the house contained a secret passageway that wound from the smaller closet in the master bedroom (where you lifted up four attached, very inconspicuously cut boards to begin your descent), wound around the chimney down to the little closet (whose door was, oddly enough flush with the wall -- they were big on this feature in the old days) located in the old front hallway. Yes, a few of the siblings did try to successfully use the passage, but it was too sooty and very narrow for us to fully complete the journey. You would have to really want to hide to go in there.

We found turn-of-the-century binoculars, shoes, old cow bones, glass bottles for things like Lady Pinkham's, ink bottles still containing wet ink, loose goldleaf, schoolbooks circa the 1880s, newspapers dating 1906, an old horse harness, farm tools and broken china in the property's grounds, walls and ceilings. Among the more ominous discoveries, a ball-and-socket joint extracted from the basement walls by my brothers and a heavy, rough, square-shaped granite doorstop that when turned over was found to be half of a gravestone. I discovered this one day when, talking on the phone downstairs, I happened to look up at the ceiling (where we had used the doorstop to cover a temporary, coffee can-sized hole in the bathroom) only to see the inscription of dates and a last name carved elaborately into the stone.
In the decade my family lived there, the place was oftentimes a goldmine of history. Especially in those early days of living there, anywhere you looked, a once forgotten relic was staring you in the face. It was all very thrilling in the good sense of the word, except for the strange things that a few of us saw and all of us felt.

Historically, I have never slept soundly in the old farmhouse, be it nightmares or sleeplessness. The old farmhouse was (and still is, in my mind) a place that didn't seem to sleep. I hated waking up in the middle of the night, not knowing why I was suddenly so awake and too scared to open my eyes or get out of bed to turn on the light. I was scared mostly because I have always felt that you're never alone in the farmhouse, that you're always being watched. Naturally, my ability to overindulge in my imagination (as noted above) did not alleviate me of these feelings. But it was when I wasn't the only one with these convictions, that my fears seemed justifiable.

It started with the doorknobs. In the master bedroom, my parents started reporting that the doorknobs would turn back and forth for a few seconds and then the door would lazily open. I myself saw this one late night when we were all watching TV. I heard the sound of the doorknob turning back and forth, turned my head to see it doing just that and then the door slowly opening. I was dumbstruck. I asked my mom and my stepdad what the hell was that about, and they said it had been happening here and there but not to worry about it. My mom said she had holy water next to her bed, so she wasn't too scared. But I was sincerely shaken. And I didn't have Pope blessed holy water. After the doorknobs, my mom and stepdad said they began seeing strange balls of light moving about very independently in their bedroom, the upstairs bathroom, and the upstairs hallway. They were unexplainable primarily because there would be no lights on in the house save the soft green or red glow of the alarm clock numbers.

Finally, one late November afternoon, about a month after we had moved in I had my own little encounter. I was seated at the computer desk, which was at that time located in the master bedroom, a large window looking out on the backyard to my right and the door to the good-sized walk-in closet to my left. Unlike the other doors in the room (four, to be exact), this door had a latch instead of a doorknob, and while I was playing the Sims, I heard the sound of a latch going up and down very quickly. I turned my head only to see that what I had heard was exactly happening: the latch was indeed going up and down vigorously. This carried on for about 10-15 seconds more before, as with the doorknobs, the closet door slowly opened. It took me all about a second to realize that what I had seen was utterly unexplainable, and without further ado, dashed pell-mell from the room. Unfortunately, this was not a prank played by a devious little brother on his gullible, older sister as I was the only one home that afternoon.
Since that first year, the sightings have all but gone away. Other than that terrible, eery feeling I get in the previously noted rooms, the ghosts (if they're still there, or as some might say, if they were ever there) seem to like us now and so there are no more door knobs moving or unexplained lights drifting about the night.

However, this early spring, my mother did say she spotted a man walk briskly by the kitchen window heading for the ice house (a small outbuilding on the edge of the pond that once stored large blocks of ice that were kept cold with abundant amounts of sawdust). She assumed it was my stepdad, and the next day asked him what he was going to the ice house for at 10PM at night. He said he'd been in the house at that time. My brothers, too, claim it wasn't them. So maybe it was a figment of my mom's imagination? Maybe she only thought she saw a man walking outside? (our ice house pictured at right)

An interesting argument presented by a few of the the non-believers in the History Channel "Hauntings" video: We want ghosts, so we make ghosts or unexplainable things happen. They assert that our brain is powerful enough to create these things. I can understand them to a certain extent; after all, I am quick to believe, regrettably gullible, and genuinely love the idea of the supernatural, be it "Lord of the Rings" mythology or horror movies. However, when more than one or two people see the same thing at the same time, I'm reluctant to call it simple fiction.

So, what's your take on the whole ghost/supernatural thing? because I'd love to hear some stories.

*Note: If you have Netflix, you can instantly watch the above mentioned "Hauntings" movie. I definitely recommend it, if only for that second story which I didn't even tell the half of.

Vicky Christina Barcelona Right Now

FYI, Vicky Christina Barcelona is out in wide release this weekend. Woody Allen's latest features Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz, and Rebecca Hall. It's like a love triangle with four sides; a love square if you will.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Who's Afraid of Ingmar Bergman?

I'm afraid of Ingmar Bergman.

The last three episodes of the Scenes From a Marriage miniseries have been sitting on my coffee table for almost a week now and I just can't bring myself to watch them. I've seen some unsettling films over the years; gruesome crimes; wanton animal slaughter and rape; pregnant women forcibly Caesarianed; Marlon Brando whispering sick-sweet nothings; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

But Marianne and Johan make me shiver.

I finished the first three episodes (over an uneasy five day span) and had to open all the windows and watch half a dozen mid-period Woody Allen movies (same themes and questions but mostly happy endings) just to feel right again.

Over two hours of gorgeously lit close-ups of Liv Ullman (most expressive face in cinema?) and Erland Josephson in their suddenly cruel relationship and I don't have any idea just when it started to go wrong but I do know that I'm not sure if I want to find out how it ends.

Two nights ago I opted to watch a Holocaust film instead. I thought it would be less emotionally jarring.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Modern Story

this is old news to a bunch of you, but I just wanted to share it on a public forum as I must now get into fundraising / PR mode - I was recently lucky enough to secure a fellowship with "The Modern Story". The Modern Story (TMS) is a grassroots organization begun about a year ago by two recent college grads which focuses on teaching middle school children in India how to use such technology as still cameras, video cameras and video editing equipment in order to create digital stories about their lives and environments. it also attempts to teach the kids to think creatively and actively question their surroundings, thereby empowering themselves. i will be working in Andhra Pradesh in Southeast India, near Hyderabad. the program will be from October until January of this year. from now until i leave at the end of September, I must raise $2,500 so if anyone knows anyone in a position and with an interest in supporting such a venture please let me know. the program is very new and very grassroots - aside from the founding two members, it has had two other fellows. i will be a part of the third group to do work for the program. i apologize for the solicitous tone this post may have, but more than anything to do with my personal involvement in the program i think it's just an excellent thing to know about - please check out the website - - where you can find the videos made by the students as well as a detailed blog of each fellow's experience and lesson plans during their time in India. i will be posting on the Modern Story's blog thoroughly, just as the previous fellows have, during my time in India. i recommend checking out the videos in the media page - i enjoyed "Kings" and "Women and Education in India". and for anyone interested, i found the fellowship from browsing a database titled - - which focuses on posting non profit jobs and volunteer work openings throughout the world. i know a lot of the people reading this already have some kind of future plan in place but if you know of anyone else looking for something give them the heads up and i'd love to answer any questions though i'm green and still have much to learn about the program.

Rise of the Superman

Yesterday Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set a new 100m world record (9.69s) en route to an Olympic gold medal.

Impressive? Not really, this is the seventh time the record has been either lowered or met in the last three years (Bolt held the previous mark at 9.72s). Advanced training techniques and equipment technology (and sometimes drugs) designed to enhance elite-caliber athlete's freakish, innate physical gifts all make times that were once unthinkable almost routine.

A new record is neither unexpected nor surprising. BUT, in a world where any stumble, lapse in focus, or change in environment can cost precious hundredths of a second, closer scrutiny of Bolt's race reveals what may be the most remarkable athletic performance in recent history:
  • At 6'5" Bolt is a natural 200m runner who was considered too tall and lanky for the explosive 100m event. He had only run one 100m at the senior level before this season.
  • In preparation for the race Bolt woke at 11 am, watched TV, ate some McDonalds chicken nuggets, took a three hour nap, ate more chicken nuggets, then warmed up.
  • A notoriously poor starter, Bolt had the second slowest reaction time out of the blocks.
  • He was running with no tailwind - usually a crucial factor in WR performances.
  • 70m into the race, Bolt, sacrificing form and aerodynamics, turned his head to check his competition. No one was there.
  • 80m into the race, he spread his hands to his side, slowed, and pounded his chest in jubilation. Percentage wise, this would be the equivalent of a marathoner deciding to finish the last 2-3 miles of their 26.2 mile race at a leisurely jog.
  • All of this was accomplished with his left shoe untied and his shirt partially untucked.

Bastards at NBC are squashing YouTube videos of their coverage - here's a French version

Even if Bolt's performance was drug-aided - a distinct possibility given sprinting's recent history of tainted champions - his doctors should be lauded for their efforts; no other human has ever made moving so fast look so absurdly easy. It's like the last scenes of the Incredibles when they finally let Dash compete in a track meet and he dials back his superhuman speed to make the end result look at least remotely plausible.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


as i haven't posted in some time, my blog mind is confused and unfocused. this post will be varied and buckshot as a result. here are some thoughts:
*fear: i had the novel experience several weeks ago of being able to positively identify the moment i became scared of something. i was swimming in a "pond" in south berwick, ME with some friends when about two minutes into the swim i became horrified at the thought that my feet couldn't touch any kind of "bottom". i panicked, began to breathe hard and then without being able to express what was happening to my nearby swimming friends, I immediately swam to the bank off to the right and walked the rest of the swim in the woods alongside my swimming partners. prior to beginning the swim, I had the utmost confidence that i could make it from the bank to the large rock destination in the middle of the water (it's about a 20-30 minute swim). it didn't even cross my mind that i'd have a hard time. one of my friends was smoking prior to the swim. in my mind, i thought "if she can do it and she smokes then I can definitely do it..." Anyway, i didn't do it and i mark the experience as one of the more frightening moments in my recent life. my new fear: water deep enough where i cannot touch the bottom.

*randy newman: i came across The Randy Newman Songbook: Volume 1 at some point during High School. at the time, i fell in love with the songs, found them appropriately dark and depressing for my varied dark and depressing moods and began to cultivate an interest in Newman's non-Toy Story catalogue. the other Newman albums i picked up at the time (the actual releases, not the anthology) have fallen out of my mind but just recently i went for a re-listen of the Songbook and came away quite pleased. after having not given the compilation a listen in probably over 4 or 5 years, i was surprised at how much i still enjoyed the songs. i highly recommend the anthology to anyone looking to get into some solo Newman piano / voice arrangements (without the sometime distracting production that can be added to the songs in other releases). the anthology is a mix of painfully personal numbers, character pieces, social critiques, and sweeping historical analyses.

*elvis: i have an instinctual pull to learn things about elvis. my grandmother enjoyed his music and movies. my father took my mother to graceland shortly after their marriage. and i somehow feel like i have something in common with the man. the iconography accompanying elvis is often distracting and dumb. in an effort to get away from banal commodified fandom, i felt the need to learn about the actual life of elvis. i came across a two part biography in the UNH library. it is by Peter Guralnick and the volumes are titled Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. I am just now starting Careless Love and I can say that Last Train was very enjoyable. The biography has the consent of the estate of Elvis Presley and it's not a bull shit attempt to propogate myth. in Last Train, Guralnick painstakingly (but never to the point of boring the reader) chronicles Elvis' career and life as a musician, son, respectful player of the field, and gentleman. The story of Elvis' rise to stardom is fascinating in that as the story develops you can truly sense that he has worked hard for something but is also getting very lucky along the way and is undeniably going to be in over his head in a short amount of time. after reading Last Train (which takes the reader to 1960 = elvis is 23, just about to be shipped off to the army and has a gold record, many sold out and riotous live shows under his belt and also several successful acting roles in films to his credit) i was left with the basic opinion: "i like evis. elvis is a good guy. i respect elvis" interesting note - elvis hated the idea of being in a "musical". he thought having the actors sing in the middle of a movie was absurd and dumb. he wanted to pursue acting alongside his music career and spent much time studying lines in preparation for his various film roles. he won the respect of a young marlon brando for his troubles. *that's a child Elvis with his parents in the pic*

*bikes: several months ago, i switched from night shifts to morning shifts. along with that change, i junked my car and began riding bikes for commuting purposes. i first grabbed an old True Value road bike from an old man's front yard for $10. the bike had a generator hooked up to the back wheel which powered a front lamp and it also had a leather bound seat. it was incredibly heavy, the gears were frozen and the seat bar was rusted into the pipe. i soon realized the True Value Kingston was a better idea than reality. the straw that broke the camel's back came when i found myself stranded on the UNH campus one night, needing to ride the Kingston back to Dover. in the course of the 30 minute commute, i found the generator light a minor comfort alongside the awful and labored performance of the bike. the slow commute rendered me helpless to the consistent string of horrified thoughts flying through my head: "there's someone in the woods...there's someone in the fucking woods" was literally going through my mind while riding through a distinctly unlit wooded area near Dover. which makes me lament the incongrous impact horror movies can have over past lived experience (i.e. that man in the woods has never appeared prior in my actual life outside of movies). i soon ditched the Kingston for a Fuji Crosstown hybrid road / mountain bike. the Crosstown is perfect for my commutes from dover to durham and dover to portsmouth. i find the biking life alternately a pain in the ass and surprisingly tranquil and harmonius. highlights to the biking life include: 1 while biking through Pease airforce base complex, i have come across young deer not once, but twice. the second time it happened, i somehow managed to ride alongside one of the deer for several seconds as it made a dash attempting to flee (this was truly enjoyable). 2 i drove through a pack of geese crossing the street one day and as i approached i rang my meager bike bell. i was surprised to find that the geese could care less about my bell, remained where they were and one actually leaned over to hiss at me - impressive. 3 you get a lot of interesting hecklers while on a bike. my favorite was the time when i was riding down new york street in dover at about 4:50 a.m. just starting my commute to portsmouth when i passed a group of young men seated on their outside porch. i didn't get a good look at them, but i certainly heard one yell "faggot" at me. interesting associations going on indeed and also a telling anecdote for these characters' life situation - 4:50 a.m. hanging on the porch shouting crippling explitives at innocent passersby = a shining future ahead for them, i expect. 4 riding a bike in a rain storm is fun. doing anything in a rain storm is fun. what is especially fun about being on a bike during a rain storm is the speed mixed with the feeling of being soaked mixed with the super dramatic image you have of yourself as the only person in the world possibly man enough to ride a bike during a rain storm.

*dogs - i recently had the opportunity to dog sit for some friends in portsmouth, NH for a week. the dog's name was Jo and it was a mix of Australian shepard and perhaps Pit Bull and perhaps something else. it was a bit over a year old. it was a shelter dog and was both skittish and obedient. i found it entertaining to shout the dog's name and then walk fast around the house, working the dog into a frenzy of confused excitement. the dog would also seriously believe i was another dog if i simply barked or made any kind of dog sound with my mouth. after hearing me bark, it's face would immediately shift into an expression of urgency as if to say "why the hell didn't you tell me you were a dog you dumb ass???!!!" Jo enjoyed going for walks which made sense, however there were many things about her behaviour which surprised me. she seemed to not hear very obvious sounds but then become absolutely insistent on things not heard / seen / smelled. she could spend the lenghth of entire streets with her nose down to the ground as if a dead body was soon to be discovered. but when crossing the street would act as if we had just walked into a park and it was time to jump on my chest and prance about. she would also act remarkably surprised at obvious encounters. i recall an older woman passing us on the sidewalk and Jo almost doing a full barrel roll when the woman grazed her side as if, to Jo, the contact was the last possible thing that could have happened at the moment. perhaps her most endearing behaviour is the way in which she greets cars on the street, or better put, the way she greets the people inside cars on the street. as cars passed us during our walks, Jo would seem to pick out certain cars, jerk her head around to get a better look at whoever was inside and shift her expression into a smile of absurd recognition, acting as though she just saw a friend in the driver's seat. *questions about dogs that need to be answered: why do dogs hump humans? why do girl dogs hump boy dogs?

*virginia woolf - no matter your opinion on Virginia Woolf (which if you were forced to read her in high school is probably negative) the following anecdote is bad ass - just to clarify, i love v.w. and find her writing a treat. after picking up mrs. dalloway for a re-read i began doing some woolf research on wikipedia. i came across some info on the bloomsbury group (the intellectual group she belonged to while in London in the early to mid-war 20th century). then i saw a delightful tidbit on an epic prank the bloomsbury group managed to pull off without a hitch - check it out:
virgina woolf in black face? who'd have thought. *virginia's all the way to the left*

Friday, August 15, 2008

Performance Notes: Radiohead - Mansfield, MA / Aug. 13th 2008

Admittedly, it has been quite awhile since I've called Radiohead my favorite band, but thanks to a brilliant setlist and a physically inspired performance, I may have to rethink that. To me, Radiohead is still the only band from the last two decades that have the deserved swagger of a historically significant artist* (I regrettably was not around to see Nirvana play live) -- and seeing the agreement of the other 50,000 people there was enough to remind me of the potential enormous breadth of influence music has.

They played a really nice mix of new stuff (the entire In Rainbows record), classics, and a few really rare live tunes. Highlights for me were "Jigsaw Falling Into Place," "How to Dissapear Completely," "Exit Music," "Bodysnatchers" and "I Might Be Wrong."

I'm not entirely sure what has made me skeptical of Radiohead in the past few years. Maybe I've given in to the "anyone who has made it that big is somehow full of shit" opinion, but I've been unable to be legitimately moved by a Radiohead album since at least 2005. But after seeing them I think I've been turned back on to whatever it is that moved me about their music when I was in high school. I've also adopted a new fondness for the In Rainbows songs, one by one, especially "Reckoner."

On a side note, I think there is an unfair pressure on the concert-goer to have an incredible experience. I know I've fretted plenty of the times in the past in the middle of a sub-par show that I had been looking forward to. Everyone wants to make a live interaction with one of his or her favorite artists as memorable an experience as possible. Its unfortunate that that preoccupation has kind of hindered my experiences before.

Full Setlist and Live Report

* Impossible to disprove the subjectivity here, but I sincerely think this opinion is without agism or generational bias.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Never put me in your box if your shit eats tapes"

Presently the highlight of my work day is the ten mile commute, which depending on traffic takes anywhere from fifteen to forty five minutes (yesterday an accident on the bridge into Newington stretched the ride home to almost ninety minutes). I've learned to pack an extra snack for the drive and I've been using the time to rediscover some old favorite albums.

This week's soundtrack:

Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid: Bob Dylan Soundtrack - If I could only take five Bob Dylan albums with me to a deserted island, PG&BtK wouldn't make the cut. Give me six and this shambling, ambient afterthought would be a lock. Three chord instrumentals bleed into three chord western fairy tales ad nauseam - multiple songs named "Billy" with only the slightest of variations - but the effect as a whole is oddly moving. Having seen the movie definitely improves the experience; every time I hear the opening of "Knocking on Heaven's Door," I see Slim Pickens, gut-shot and brokenhearted, staggering down to the river to die in his baby's arms and I get all choked up.

Key track: "Final Theme," woodwinds carry the melody and Dylan harmonizes a wordless, moaning eulogy for the dying West.

Illmatic - Nas - "Stop fucking around and be a man" advises the intro sample (from the graffiti film Wild Style) and stuck in traffic, pondering the wrinkles in my business casual attire, the grim existentialism of Illmatic resonates in a far different way than it was probably intended to. Illmatic stands head and shoulders over other hip hop classics in both lyrical and production consistency; the beats are uniformly forceful and Nas transitions seamlessly from documentary style street narratives to metaphysical musings. No skits, no bullshit dance tracks for MTV, just line after line of tough, thoughtful hip-hop.

Key Track: "Life's a Bitch," AZ and Nas trade verses about a world where "fuck who's the baddest/a person's status depends on salary."

What's in your car or on your headphones on the way to and from work?

Hamilton!, Ohio

Speaking of punctuation, did you know that, in order to make their small town seem more exciting, the citizens of Hamilton!, Ohio legally added an exclamation point to the end of the town's name?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Commander-In-Chief

Ever since he awkwardly presented the national budget (or "e-budget" as he called it in jest) using a laptop a year ago, I have found there is a very endearing side to President Bush.

My first reaction to the clip above was utter disgust and embarrasment: "This is our president?". Not a novel reaction. But upon further viewings, I realized: "This was our president!"

I suppose I'll never believe that President Bush was a decent or even competent president, but I'll be damned if he can't make me smile.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Multilingual Nation

Now that we're on the topic of language, here's an article to read about multilingualism, or the lack thereof, in America.

Now for a joke:

What do you call someone who speaks four languages?

What do you call someone who speaks three languages?

What do you call someone who speaks two languages?

What do you call someone who speaks one language?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

sweet Virginia; punctuation princess

Depending on your feelings towards the semicolon (and freindirekterede), the first pages of Mrs. Dalloway are either willfully wonderful or indulgently insipid.

"Real men... don't use semicolons."

I've read and re-read Lynne Truss' "Eat, Shoots & Leaves." I list "punctuation" as one of my interests on my Facebook page. And, in all honesty, I find a man infinitely more attractive if he knows how to punctuate properly. Which leads me to this article I read about the gender bias of one of my favorite punctuation marks: the semicolon. Apparently, the semicolon is considered by some men to be "the most pusillanimous, sissified, utterly useless mark of punctuation ever invented." Why are males so afraid of the little tick and dot?

I've always loved the semicolon; at least, that is, since the day I learned how to use one. Soon after that day, I used it every chance I got; it allowed me to continue a single train of thought without ever having to justify my occasionally spotty transitions and jumps in logic. The semicolon was empowering; it forced my reader to conform to my way of thinking and to see it my way: "Yes, these two thoughts are related; get over it!"

How do YOU feel about the semicolon?

Friday, August 8, 2008

God Bless Tiny Tim

I remember hearing about Tiny Tim when I was younger, but I didn't really look into who he was until recently when I discovered that an incredible recording of "Fill Your Heart" by Biff Rose used in the documentary Charles Manson Superstar was Tiny Tim's. Here is the recording:

Tiny Tim was a very unique person, a consummate showman trapped in a large, neurotic man-child. Here is a nice little biographical essay:

Hello, stranger

In his own words:

'My greatest unfulfilled to be one of the astronauts or even the first singer on the Moon. But most of all, I'd love to see Christ come back to crush the spirit of hate and make men put down their guns. I'd also like just one more hit single.'


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pulp Love

Paperbacks Galore has an excellent collection of exploitation paperback covers. I recommend the "Hillbilly" and "Drug-themed" sections.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Product Review: Bud Light Lime

Bud Light Lime, Anheuser-Busch's (InBev?) answer to Miller's Miller Chill is a light beer that "combines the superior drinkability of Bud Light with a splash of 100% lime flavor". I believe it was the Mexicans that put lime in their beer originally to protect said beverage from flies. Although it may have added a nice citron flavoring to the beer I'd like to think it was more to evade flying insects from getting in their bottles. The fad caught on so it seems and many a drunk college student on spring break or perhaps even you (the reader) or I have enjoyed a Corona with a lime or even a lemon wedge lodged in the bottle. Bud Light Lime takes this idea and just mass produces it.

The first sip of Bud Light Lime tastes nothing like the most popular beer in America (Bud Light) for the simple fact that it tastes like pure lime with a splash of Bud Light, but perhaps this is an obvious observation. I did not buy this beer however I tried one at a friends house last evening (you can purchase Bud Light Lime for about $6.99 a six pack at your local grocer) and I have to say I wasn't dissapointed because I wasn't expecting much. Like your Coca-Cola to your Pepsi, your Dorito's to your generic store bought nacho cheese flavored chips there probably isn't much of a difference to Miller's Miller Chill, unless these tiny discrepancies truly bother the consumer. I haven't tried Miller Chill but I like the name more.

Rating: 3.5/10
I have selected this rating based on the taste of the beer, the idea that this is the only thing Anheuser-Busch has produced all year besides being bought out by Belgian InBev company and the pure lack of creativity behind the actual product and it's marketing campaign. I also think the "last" new thing from Budweiser was Budweiser Select; a grown-up, fancy version of regular Budweiser and I've only seen the boys on "Entourage" drinking them in those sneaky product placement parts of the show which happens to be every other scene. This is supposed to be a fun, summertime beer for anyone on a modest budget. Unfortunately in the end it fails to live up to that because although one may be fine, multiple in a row may be a little daunting.

That's Hot

I think Paris Hilton is great.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Monday, August 4, 2008

That Crap Danny Listens To

What was the number one song on your birthday? You can find out here. Mine was "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince & the Revolution from the motion picture soundtrack to the movie Purple Rain. Do I remember this? Of course not.

"Prince is lame," cried the world when I was growing up and I believed it. Perhaps he was everywhere in 1984, but by the early '90s when my memory began he was nowhere to be found. I didn't consciously listen to a Prince song again until freshman year in college.

Now I listen to a Prince song nearly every day.

"Prince is lame?" But we were perfect together. As an infant did I subconsciously absorb the then ubiquitous Purple Rain soundtrack over FM radio, only to have it repressed during my childhood?

Innocent unconscious > repression > rediscovery > guilty pleasure > unrepentant conscious celebration.

A few years later I discovered that Jonathem Lethem's Tourettic private eye, Lionel Essrog, was a kindred spirit. He hears "Kiss" on the radio for the first time:

... twitching and throbbing within obsessively delineated bounds, alternately silent and plosive. It so pulsed with Tourettic energies that I could surrender to its tormented, squeaky beat and let my syndrome live outside my brain for once, live in the air instead.
"Turn that shit down," Minna said.
"I like it," I said.
"That's that crap Danny listens to," said Minna.
Danny was code for too black.

Too black but too powerful to be ignored and Lionel tracks the record down. His reaction to what he finds makes perfect sense to me:

Prince's music calmed me as much as masturbation or a cheeseburger. When I listened to him I was exempt from my symptoms. So I began collecting his records, especially those elaborated and frenetic remixes tucked away on the CD singles. The way he worried forty-five minutes of variations out of a lone musical or verbal phrase is, as far as I know, the nearest thing in art to my condition.

Faced with the absurdity of rational life in the modern world? Let's go crazy indeed. Zizek must have had Prince in mind when he advised us to enjoy our symptoms. Simultaneously unrepentant and devout, there is no line between prayer and orgasm. Horror movie screams live side by side with trite romantic couplets; wanton dominatrices masturbate in public, luring unsuspecting innocents back to their castle for a night of mind blowing pleasure; the drives and desires are looped ad infinitum, endless variations on endless themes.

A throbbing, twitching world, exulting in exhaustive repetition. Nothing is complicated.

One week later, "I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder was number one ...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

According to occasionally accurate pre-production details on The Internet Movie Database it seems Martin Scorsese's next big biopic will focus on a young pre-presidential Teddy Roosevelt. The film, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt is set to star non-other than his new best friend and De Niro replacement, Leonardo DiCaprio as a youthful Roosevelt. The source material from the film will be taken entirely from Edmund Morris' original 1979 Pulitzer Prize winning biography of the same name. Morris' book is simply fascinating--including journal entries by a nine year old Roosevelt and a glimpse into the pre-pubescent years of a boy fascinated by natural history and a borderline almost unhealthy love for athleticism. Edmund Morris is clearly the foremost expert on the subject of the twenty-sixth President of the United States and has authored two other biographies an other on Roosevelt, Theodore Rex and Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan.

The real focal point in this story is young Teddy's relationship with his father Theodore Senior whom he admired greatly. This excerpt taken from an early journal entry by Teddy:
I bit my elder sister's arm. I do not remember biting her arm, but I do remember running down to the yard, perfectly conscious that I had committed a crime. From the yard I went into the kitchen, got some dough from the cook, and crawled under the kitchen table. In a minute or two my father entered from the yard and asked where I was. The warm-hearted Irish cook had a characteristic contempt for "informers," but although she said nothing she compromised between informing and her conscience by casting a look under the table. My father immediately dropped on all fours and darted at me. I feebly heaved the dough at him, and, having the advantage of him because I could stand up under the table, got a fair start for the stairs, but was caught halfway up them. The punishment that ensued fitted the crime, and I hope-and believe- that it did me good.

There is a lot that occurs in this early look at a president from a young child to a man well into his thirties. He falls in love multiple times, graduates from Harvard, and soon takes on many public positions before succeeding President McKinley in 1901.

Some facts about Theodore Roosevelt:
He was the youngest governor of New York
He was an Imperialist
He suffered from extreme asthmatic problems as a young child
He was an avid boxer, hunter (despite his conversationalist views) and swimmer
He graduated 21st from Harvard out of a class of 177
He spent two of his teen years in Europe becoming fluent in both German and French
He originally wanted to pursue a career in natural history but was persuaded by a professor at Harvard to go into politics
His father was a noted philanthropist
Theodore Senior established the Metropolitan Museum of Modern art and Museum of Natural History in NYC
Theodore Senior died from a bowel obstruction when Teddy was a Sophomore at Harvard

Friday, August 1, 2008


If I could go back in time - or anywhere in time - I would want to go to a place where I could feel like one of the children at this puppet show: unselfconsciously wonderful.

Les Quatre Cents Coups by Francois Truffaut

This clip never fails to make me smile, then feel a little sad.