Sunday, July 31, 2005

you can't feel terribly proud of yourself for criticizing a michael bay picture. in fact, levy any sort of criticism, however justified, and you run the risk of sounding like a middle-schooler proud of himself for having won a fight against that one kid who isn't retarded exactly, but certainly ain't right in the head.

so, before i present my one criticism against the island, let me first preface it by saying how much i enjoyed the film.

i was entertained for two solid hours. i laughed in several places (sometimes appropriately). it was exactly what i paid for--a stylish, futuristic, glitzy ride with two beautiful leads who fight well and drive fast and emerge unscathed from terrific explosions. if that weren't enough, steve buscemi falls through several panes of plate glass. in a word: SCORE!

now, my criticism. i don't think i can recall a movie with that much product placement since...ever. it was a commercial from beginning to end and i couldn't even find a thread, some parent company, to tie all of the products together.

i was without paper and pen and, naturally, it took a few instances before i started to take mental notes. some of the companies/products i remember were:

microsoft (MSN & X-box)
anheuser busch (michelob ultra, budweiser)
daimler chrysler (chrysler 300, dodge magnum)
johnny rockets

what made it so memorable was how overt it all was.

it wasn't the slightly off-center red coke can in the bottom of the frame with the familiar wave symbol peeking out to you, planting the subconscious consumer seed.


it was the ewan mcgregor opens a beer and puts it on the kitchen counter and cut to a full-on close-up shot of the michelob ultra label which fills the entire movie screen for a few seconds.

it made me wonder how much those corporations paid to be in the movie and what products billy bob thornton might be hawking on the screen next door.

last seen: un chien andalou, the island, destry rides again
last heard: patsy cline 'let the teardrops fall'
last read: it's no surprise that Democrats want to know how Sanders wins tough races in an overwhelmingly rural state by drawing the enthusiastic support of precisely the sort of white working-class voters Democrats have had such a hard time hanging on to in recent elections.
follow-up: per last week's post, i am officially an uncle. my niece arrived early friday morning. her name is lillian and i can't wait to meet her.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

summer colds are the worst.

i mean, you halfway expect to be sick in the wintertime. there are cans of soup and woolen socks; you're prepared. summer colds are something different.

i called in sick yesterday and knocked off a little early this afternoon. tuesday was apparently one of our hottest days recorded this year, a heat index above 100 degrees, but my fever and chills found me perched on my front porch reading a book, not breaking a sweat.

with all of that time on my hands, i caught up reading everyone's weblogs. tucked away on amanda's sidebar, in really tiny print, it said i can't get enough of movies about the south right now.

since movies and the south are two of my favorite things, i came up with a couple of lists--just random, not ranked--as a public service. besides, everyone likes movie suggestions, right?

ten southern films which aren't streetcar named desire, to kill a mockingbird or deliverance

thunder road
mystery train
cat on a hot tin roof
all the real girls
down by law
suddenly, last summer
big bad love
3: the dale earnhardt story
george washington
southern comfort

sometimes when people talk about The South they don't include texas, but that state was a member of the confederacy--what to do? a state that big gets its own list.

five films set (or shot) in texas

sugarland express
tender mercies
the last picture show

...and, finally, two films set in west virginia, which is not, technically, The South, but, if you're a yankee, you probably think--it might as well be anyway

night of the hunter

i'm sure there are many movies that could be added to the lists above. that's what comments are for.

last seen: junior bonner, z channel, bad day at black rock, jazz: episode one
last heard: yo la tengo 'my little corner of the world'
last read: i hate you and your youth for all of its inspired possibilities.

Monday, July 25, 2005

my niece is late. she was supposed to arrive last week, but has decided to hunker down in utero. i don't usually walk around with my cell phone, but i've been doing it for the past week, waiting for that call, the one that tells me my sister is OK and the new woman in my life has arrived, waiting to be spoiled.

to that end, i walked around a department store on saturday picking up all manner of little tiny clothes. i opted for an armload of things for 3-month-olds, figuring--i later found correctly--that my sister had been buried by outfits for newborns at the baby shower.

did you know that baby clothes can get expensive? i had no idea. i figured that smaller things equalled less fabric equalled less money. i was wrong, but i'm a big dumb boy, what do i know?

i thought a lot about her this weekend. places i will take her and things we will talk about and music i might play when she comes to visit.

last seen: heathers, open water, hustle and flow, crumb
last heard: conway twitty 'i'd love to lay you down'
last read: laura esquivel like water for chocolate
reading: lorrie moore like life

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

for many years, the librarians were lazy. they weeded cautiously or not at all. they saved too many things. maybe they just loved every single book and were afraid to kill them.

then, one day, our library hired a new head of collection management and she started cracking the whip. she put every branch on a monthly schedule. she ran reports of what wasn't circ-ing and handed out lists of books that should have been pulled a long, long time ago.

with this months-long project finally complete, we held a booksale to unload the thousands of titles weeded from our twenty-plus branches.

i volunteered a few days to help set-up and spent part of today working the actual sale. sometime in the middle of all that, i managed to browse and buy things; even though, more books is the last thing my apartment needs.

my soft-spot is for children's biographies. not biographies about children, you perv, but books about famous historical figures written for children.

i especially like the older editions from the 40s and 50s, because the pages are yellowed and the covers are plain and they actually smell the way libraries used to when you were little.

J-Biographies are a nice way to catch up, if you're like me and didn't take a particular interest in history until you were already out of school.

no need to feel weighed down by a sprawling 3-volume set on the minutiae of LBJ's life, written in dry grown-up talk, when you can learn most of what you need to know in about two-hundred pages worth of J-Biography.

for fifty cents apiece, i scored books on the lives of annie oakley, wild bill hickok, stonewall jackson, will rogers, paul robeson, plus, a cool-sounding anthology called the great dissenters.

last seen: 2046
last heard: the beatles 'girl'
last read: rebecca's problem patron

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

the other night, a buddy of mine who mentors a teenaged boy recounted the story of when he took the kid to lunch at hooters.


then, in a completely separate conversation the following day, another friend of mine said that the energy bar she ate tasted like body of christ with cinnamon on cinnamon toast christ.

it's OK if you're jealous. i know i have the best friends ever.

last seen: wedding crashers (yes, for the second time in three days. i can't help it if vince vaughn is pee-your-pants funny.)
last heard: i live the life of a movie star secret hideout 'indochine kru (come and see)'
last read: a traditional Masai war dance until you can no longer feel the pain in your badly infected feet, then slip into the fuzzy comfort of your complimentary Lion King slippers. $2,200 per person.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

we're sitting at the movies last night, just chatting and waiting for the previews to begin, when a piece of popcorn jumped out of juicy fruit's hand and into her decolletage.

this would have been funny enough on its own, but she began to giggle, then the first words she uttered were--now you have something to write about.

i laughed, but was shocked.

i promised, right then, that i would never write about the incident; even though, as anecdotes go, it was essentially harmless and would, i thought, provide the three loyal readers of this weblog a light chuckle with which to begin their dreary monday workdays.

since i am a man of my word, this is most definitely not a post about the rogue kernel. no, this is a post about what she said right after, the bit about having something to write about. i was confronted with some profoundly unsettling questions.

do my friends and family see me as essentially heartless? a crass exploiter? a man willing to prey upon the embarrassments of others, circling above, waiting for each of them to succumb to completely human frailties?

more importantly, how do they know me so well?

last seen: fantastic four, when the daltons rode, wedding crashers
last heard: liz phair 'divorce song'
last read: anthony bourdain a cook's tour
reading: laura esquivel like water for chocolate [i must complete this in time for a book club next week and i'm not the quickest reader. eleventeen days--time me.]
bonus: vicky's a cult a day posts

Saturday, July 16, 2005

the line for the ten o'clock screening stretched diagonally across the lobby, creating a blockade between the front doors and the concession stand. along said line, patrons arriving to see other films politely asked if they could cross. everyone was very cordial, but the entire exercise would have been unnecessary had the staff devised a better plan. we all waited patiently for the doors to open.

in line, a young couple stood directly ahead of me and looked to be on a first date. they were the quiet sort, like me, just out to see a movie about a boy and a chocolate factory. at one point, the young man walked off in the direction of the watercloset, leaving her there to shuffle awkwardly from foot to foot and stare at the ground. her face lit up when she spotted a second young lady approaching, a friend of hers, dressed in full movie-usher regalia.

they exchanged giddy pleasantries, then the usher turned her head in my direction, smiling. her eyes took me in from bottom-to-top like a pair of searchlights. is this stud him?

the first girl and i looked at each other and chortled. finally, i said, um, no, but thank you.

it isn't very often that doughy, introverted sorts of boys get called stud, even in jest.

last seen: in the mood for love, charlie and the chocolate factory, speedway
last heard: sufjan stevens 'the lord god bird' [editor's note- i bought my ticket. did you?]
last read: It was not our class president but another who I just remember as being a very quiet person who wore a cape and asked people to call her by her elfin name.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

raised, as i was, in the catholic tradition, the word confession implies a degree of shame. you've done something so humiliating or vile that you can't even live with yourself. the only way to feel absolution is by telling someone else about the transgression.

i may have that all wrong, but i never claimed to be a good catholic.

what i've done, i'm not really ashamed of or even humiliated by, so perhaps this isn't a confession. maybe this is just a simple admission.

what i've done is listen to night moves on repeat lately. a lot. like more than ten times in a row. there i said it. i can't help myself. sometimes i like a song that's longer than two minutes and, also, not led zeppelin.

for those special times, there's night moves.

it has everything-- fast parts, slow quiet parts, parts when bob is waiting on the thunder. plus, those girls singing backup.

so there's my admission.

my confession is that i've been listening to a little molly hatchet and marshall tucker band as well. now, for that, i am ashamed.

last seen: seconds [editor's note- aside from one gratuitous scene of bacchanalian revelry which ran a bit long for my taste (everyone knows i like my bacchanalian revelry brief), i really enjoyed this creepy frankenheimer film. go rent it now.]
last heard: see above
last read: ...even Interbrand, with its stay-the-course view of American brand power, admits that American corporations may only be succeeding to the extent that consumers can separate US government policy from American brand identity.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

there's a short stretch of road on the east side of town. this strip of blacktop connects two main arteries. not much else sits along this stretch except a few trees and an enormous red barn which is actually a restaurant. for many years i've driven past and wondered what it looked like inside. i imagined rows of wooden picnic tables, full of families who didn't know each other, passing serving platters from group-to-group.

i finally went in the other night and i'm sorry to report that there were no picnic tables or family-style dining options. however, they had long lacquered logs which served as handrails and, hanging above each table, the old scratched and dented hoods off of retired stock cars.

i forced my friend, amber, to go and she was a good sport about it. we were not the youngest people in the restaurant, as she thought we might be. in fact, several senior citizens had grandchildren in tow who looked slightly younger than the both of us.

last seen: land of the dead, grosse pointe blank, in the realms of the unreal, shenandoah, 3: the dale earnhardt story
last heard: laurel music 'dreams and lies'
last read: Principal import: remittances from Salvadorans in the United States, known as remesas and estimated at $2.5 billion annually, 17.1 percent of gross domestic product.
bonus: hijacking catastrophe

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

when i was a boy, i'd hear these phrases come out of my dad's mouth and not really know what they meant, but, like all kids, i mimicked well. if my dad laughed after he said something, i would laugh, too. if he put on a mad face, i would scrunch my own and angrily whisper my assent, equally violated by i knew not what.

it would take years before i grew into each expression or witnessed some physical manifestation that brought clarity to each obscure turn of phrase. one of my favorites is pissing contest.

imagine being a kid and hearing that for the first time, the sorts of images it might conjure. i cannot recall when the meaning of that phrase became clear to me, but i imagine it was associated with my first job or perhaps academia. where else but at work or school, each with its petty in-fighting and politics, could a phrase like pissing contest be more clearly demonstrated?

the definitions might vary slightly for this particular colloquialism depending upon your country of origin or region within these united states, but i always took it to mean-- two people trying to outdo one another when it isn't exactly clear what is to be gained except maybe a higher place in some kind of arbitrary pecking order.

it remains, to this day, one of my favorite expressions and i was reminded of the term recently, at a fourth of july cookout of all places. this might say something about the kinds of people i hang out with, but i've witnessed similar exchanges in the past.

when two people meet for the first time they do this kind of conversational dance. it sounds like normal discourse, but really they are just trying to feel each other out. if a person expresses an interest in music or movies or books, the other person will drop more and more obscure references, in the hopes of getting the first person to admit that they don't know or haven't heard of it.

on monday, i listened to two grown men--friends of mine, in fact--go back and forth for twenty minutes about comics. when i heard one of them say of course, you know what the best issue was after #205, right?

i immediately knew the answer...pissing contest.

last seen: shoot the piano player, gunner palace
last heard: stereolab 'doubt'
last read: Some know that [Wood's] sister posed for it, fewer know that his dentist posed for it, and fewer still seem to know that this was a real house...
bonus: dig the homage. thanks, troy.

Monday, July 04, 2005

i had to give bryson the boot. i still feel guilty when i abandon books halfway through. it was my first foray into bryson's work which several friends had recommended as witty and informative.

indeed, bryson manages to take some really dry subjects--geology, chemistry, physics--and make them interesting, but, even after the first two-hundred pages, i wasn't getting that feeling, the one where you can't wait to go on break at work so that you can read ten more pages. i may revisit a short history of nearly everything, but i put it down in favor of a cook's tour which moves quickly. apparently, i crave a faster read nowadays.

with it being independence day, i awoke this morning needing to hear woody guthrie sing this land is your land. while digging around, i found a short piece he'd written which pretty well sums up my own feelings about america. here's an excerpt:

You will hear whole gangs of travelers and settlers arguing about her. What she is, how she come to be, what you are supposed to do here.

and you will hear some argue at you

That she is so beautiful you are supposed to spend your life just feeling her pretty parts, Sucking in her sweetest breezes and tasting her fairest odors, looking at her brightest colored scenes,

And I would say that gang has the wrong notion.

And there are some bunches that tell you she is all ugly and all dirty, that there is nothing good about her, nothing free, nothing clean, that she is all slums, shacks, rot, filth, stink, and bad odors, loud words of bitter flavors,

Well, this herd is big and I heard them often and I heard them loud, but I come to think that they too was just as wrong as the first outfit,

Because I seen the pretty and I seen the ugly and it was because I knew the pretty part that I wanted to change the ugly part, Because I hated the dirty part that I knew how to feel the love for the cleaner part

last seen: the day of the jackal, batman begins, the women
last heard: holly golightly 'any way you like it'
last read: He suggested that natural selection could encourage altruistic behavior among kin so as to improve the reproductive potential of the "family." He also introduced the idea of reciprocity: that unrelated but familiar individuals would help each other out if both were altruistic.
reading: anthony bourdain a cook's tour

Friday, July 01, 2005

what do you think? calling it a redesign makes me sound like some kind of computer whiz but don't be fooled. all i had to do was click use this template and then cut and paste some code. i'm a simple man, just happy that the colors are neutral and the layout has my archives at the bottom.

wednesday's sleater-kinney show was as you may well know, the new album is big and loud; the sound feels full. janet's drumming on this record is even better live. i felt punched in the chest. and, carrie. ah, carrie. she had me at the pete townshend windmills.

my only complaint was the venue. they played at this rickety wooden club in winston-salem that had no air north the summertime. it was like breathing water for 4 hours.

ed joined me for this show. i've only road-tripped to one other concert with ed and, ironically, it was for the last SK show. we drove the 90 minutes back to charlotte after midnight, both of us practically deaf, happy that we didn't work until noon on thursday.

last seen: war of the worlds
last heard: the clientele 'the house always wins'
last read: he made you feel that he had sweat and dust on his neck and behind his ears.