Thursday, December 18, 2008

I feel so hip...

The Airborne Toxic Event has a station identification spot for NBC! Caught it at the end of L&O last night! They're all crammed in a limo with their instruments like in their acoustic "Does This Mean You're Moving On?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Shoes at Bush--Important enough to post twice

I'm going to mail old shoes to Bush--I encourage you to do the same.

Some suggested messages:

It's not just one Iraqi, Mr. President.

Over 4,000 dead Americans--nearly 100,000 dead civilians. Injuries for decades to come.

Nice insurgency, Mr. President.

You said we'd be greeted as liberators.

Hey, hey, GWB
There's no saving your legacy.

And my personal favorite:
But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.
Henry V, Act IV--William Shakespeare

Monday, December 15, 2008

Music on the radio

Isn't it funny, that one may have a CD/album at home, or even on one's mp3 player, available with a few flicks of the finger, and still be irrationally pleased to hear an old/obscure song on the regular radio?

This evening I heard 'Pulling Mussels From the Shell' by Squeeze and 'Call Me' by Blondie, both of which I can call up in seconds, but instead listened to on air.

No Libs

Driving up to Lowell yesterday I was behind an enormous pick-up truck with a McCain sticker and a vanity plate that said, "NO LIBS." And I so wanted to follow him and ask, "No liberals? No libertarians? No women's lib? No liberation? No librarians? Or just no liberties?"

But I didn't because I'm not that crazy yet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's Not Easy Being Green

A couple of months ago I bought at Target a little shopping bag that folds up and fits in one's purse. My husband had been using canvas bags and a large cooler bag to shop for groceries for some time, but I kept finding myself at a CVS or Target buying shampoo or something and having to either shove the item in my purse, carry it out to the car in my hand, or take a plastic bag.

For a little while I would forget I had it until the clerk had already bagged my item. Or I wouldn't say, "I don't need a bag," fast enough or loud enough. Sometimes I would forget to unpack it after buying, say craft supplies, and so wouldn't have it on the next shopping trip. But over time I've used it more and more.

We reused our plastic bags as much as we could already. Using them to line small trash cans, pick up after the dog, etc. But that only postpones their deposit in a land-fill. It's not like I was rinsing them out. Likewise at my job (which does not recycle) I use both sides of paper when it doesn't need to be fancy, but that only postpones, doesn't eliminate. My husband's office does shred and recycle--thank God.

At home we bag magazines, newspapers, catalogs, envelopes. Rinse out cans and boxes. The standard stuff. I have friends who have been sorting trash into 12 pails since the 60's or 70's depending on their age. Who've had a brick in their toilet and EnergyStar appliances as soon as they became available. They would think we don't do enough.

For instance, like parents debating cloth or disposable, the better option would be to use paper towels after my dog, but I buy sandwich bags or use plastic grocery bags because it's "icky." I recently bought a slightly larger trash can for my bathroom that won't take the plastic bags. I'm using large trash bags for the moment because our town just went to "special" garbage bags so these are useless, but when these run out, will I buy special sized ones or clean out my trash can each week?

Or the Christmas Tree. Any environmentalist would tell you what a waste that is. That a tree should be left alive in the woods, that the land used to grow Christmas Trees should be used for something useful and sustainable.

But I love real Christmas Trees...

Which is the same lame excuse that someone could use to justify their need for an SUV or cigarettes or any other thing that I consider beyond the pale. That we love it or it is more convenient.

Boycott Black Friday

I hate Black Friday, always have and can't foresee a time when I don't. I mean that number one shopping day, the day after Thanksgiving. This is because I've been in retail and worked it, but fortunately I never worked at a store (as a salesperson) that really did well out of it--people aren't buying fabric on Black Friday.

But now someone has died, and quite frankly, I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner. And the real horror isn't that this young man was accidentally trampled, but the fact that the shoppers became ANGRY when they were told that they had to leave. I can't even imagine--"Sorry, you died because somebody needed that big screen TV at Walmart prices."

I remember when I was working in visual merchandising and I was decorating a Christmas swag on Columbus Day (and before you wonder why stores have to decorate for Christmas before Halloween, let me remind you that our Macy's put up 52 Christmas Trees and 30 swags, plus numerous other decorations and displays--thank you to all of the shoppers who felt it was OK to come and insult us as we stood teetering on ladders--but that's a rant for another day) and the store was opening at noon. I was on a ladder near a mall entrance and for an hour before we opened I watched a crowd gather--faces pressed against the glass, as if they were starving and we were the only food.

And I thought, "I have to get off this ladder and have it packed away before that door opens or I am going to be knocked off."

Visual didn't even work the day after Thanksgiving--there was no point. We'd have spent our day directing traffic.

I also remember times when the power went out--both at House of Fabrics and at Macy's when people didn't want to leave--claimed they could keep shopping in the dark, even though we couldn't have rung them up. What is this madness?

And now you have stores opening at 4 AM, and shoppers waiting in line over Thanksgiving night all for some lottery on the lowest prices. Will this tragedy cause laws to be enacted like after the concert tramplings in the 70's?

My husband and I boycott Black Friday--we always have. We see no reason to go out at all, even if someone had $5 big screen TVs and $1 Wii's. We don't get groceries. We don't go to a movie. The only time I can remember going out was when we had just gotten our dog Guinness and we had to go to the vet.

I urge you and your family to do the same next year--stay home and be with your family instead of shopping for things.

Updates

You will note that I have added both a simple Twitter link (now you can know what I'm doing EVERY MINUTE--aren't you excited?) and a topic cloud which is of course huge shoving my friends blogs way down to the bottom.

But now you can find any post quickly and easily--as can I--except for those I wrote before Blogger added tags... because you know, I should really stop and go back and tag those...

Wow, I didn't know that I wrote about myself so much, but I guess I'm not that surprised.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

God Bless...

I saw a banner today that said:

BUFFET
God Bless America

I tried to take a picture but somehow didn't frame it right.

Thank you God for all-you-can-eat buffets.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Airborne Toxic Event and Franz Ferdinand

We went to a concert last Saturday. I bought the tickets on mad impulse just before my job went into freefall. The mad impulse was because I had only heard one song by the first band at that point. But I loved it, loved it, loved it. So after I had bought the tickets I bought the album and didn't love it on first listen, but it grew on me--BUT I knew my husband wouldn't like it. So I told him to listen to it and the Monday before the show he sends me an email that says, "You were right. I don't like it."

Aggghhhh!!!

But I heard the band live on the radio and they were more amazing live so I convinced him. Plus he likes Franz Ferdinand more than I do. In retrospect he gave in more easily than I expected. Must be the meds.

It was part of a two night show by my favorite radio station called "Miracle on Tremont Street." The second night was The Black Kids (how do they get away with that name?) and Vampire Weekend, and I'm sorry I'm just not that into VW.

So the show was terrific. The venue, the Orpheum Theater, is a great place to see shows and we had very good seats, the second closest we've ever been at the Orpheum. Unfortunately we were on the front corner of a section so we tended to have people crossing in front of us during the set changes.

We only caught the last two songs of the opening act and were quite underwhelmed.

This is the song that I love by The Airborne Toxic Event:


This is the same song done acoustically--squee.


My husband had to agree that they are better live--you have to love a rock band with a viola player. During the show the bassist played his bass with a bow on some songs. I think they need a good producer to really tighten them up while keeping the rawness--rather as Eno did for U2. The album is a little overproduced and several songs have the same shape as if they can't trust a song to just be but need to add the crashing guitars each time.

This is the second single done acoustically as well. I NEED to get an album of the acoustic stuff.


And this is also the acoustic version and very funny:


The name is from a Don Delillo book in case you are wondering. Followed by a band named after the assassinated Archduke. Gotta love it.

Franz Ferdinand came out of Scotland in 2002 as part of that new British Invasion (that somehow also contained The Killers f(O_o)

I first saw the second half of this video and told my husband that he would love it. I was right.
(The embedding has been disabled so here's the link)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM4dxI0mO1k

You have to watch until at least the minute mark to really appreciate the genius of Franz Ferdinand.

My husband said that he understood why I like TATE so much--it's a lyric band. The lyrics are full of longing, loneliness and loss.

FF on the other hand is not so much about lyrics--although they are often clever.
This is my favorite song by them:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_uhyeVrkig

I think the lyrics are hilarious! "Not to look you in the shoes, but the eyes." Even funnier if you know who Terry Wogan is.

Both bands were brilliant live--serious musicianship and showmanship, which I was not entirely expecting.
On this song, as in this live version, they ended by all four band members and a roadie playing on the drum set with no other instruments. Amazing.


I also found that the lead singer sounded even better live. That doesn't happen that often.

And one last one--for Musing--smexy...

One shoe down

The really cool job no longer exists--maybe by 2nd quarter.

Trying not to let this discourage me into a deep and immobile funk.

Having little confidence in my present company and even less desire to work hard for them, I am struggling with my happy face.

Monday, December 08, 2008

WARNING--Bad Pun alert

Getting ready to watch House a few weeks ago, I said to my husband, "So, since we watch House on Tuesdays, does that make them our Housian (halcyon) days?"

He rightly threw a pillow at me.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Things You See When You Don't Have Your Camera (and where I've been)

One morning last week, as I was walking out to my car, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the darting shadow of a squirrel, but something seemed wrong--the shadow seemed distorted, like some grotesque Tim Burton squirrel come to terrorize my morning ritual. But no, walking around the tree I could see that the distortion was due to the intrepid squirrel holding an ENTIRE bagel in his mouth as he danced up the tree...

Then, working through the giant rotary (the nightmare curse of New England) I found myself behind some modest behemoth of an SUV wherein every surface was covered with yellow chintz! The seats the headrests, even down to the little useless one in the middle of the backseat!
So I didn't have a camera, and digging for my camera phone with its limited capability didn't seem worth it.

I did have my camera in Scottsdale, AZ where I went for our Summit.



The first picture is of the golf course. The resort was very beautiful--very new, and so shiny that it gave me the eerie feeling that I was in a game of Myst. This postcards shows it even more. Of course, all photos are suspect now--colors tweaked, imperfections removed--but it really had a hyper-real quality.




At night it was cold and we gathered around the fire pit while a bagpiper played.




And next to the coffee shop was this statue--Ode to the coffee bean... In Myst it would be a vital clue, or guardian of a passageway.

Anyway--like last year, the conference had me busy, but also, the thing that I referenced in my last post had me distracted.

Basically, my company came to me and said they had no money and needed to lay me (and three others) off, but would I mind getting them through the Summit in a month? They'd understand if I didn't want to...yada yada. The conference was already paid for--much as AIG claimed as an excuse for their going ahead with their retreats after their bailout--so that cancelling would cost more than going. Well, having a job seemed better than not having a job AND I could look for another job openly, rather than furtively. And I believed that I could stay true to the job. I tried, but there were certainly afternoons when I thought, "Why am I working hard for this company again?" But the conference is like designing a show. Somehow something has to be there when the audience arrives. So I did everything I had to do to the best of my ability, but the things that were more optional or long-term I found I didn't start.

I also went on a very good interview for a very cool company for a position that seemed designed for me. As someone who rather fell into Marketing, I was finding positions that wanted Marketing degrees, wanted years of experience, wanted specialization in web design, or SEO or research, etc. This company wanted someone who understood marketing, but wasn't too high and mighty to do the grunt work on a website or a mailing.

So with that interview behind me I went off to the summit, enjoyed Scottsdale and got a facial. During the conference my current company said they appreciated how hard I had worked and that they felt they really couldn't afford to let me go. However, I am still wary of their precarious financial position, but unfortunately, the cool company can't make a decision on that position because of the precarious financial situation in the country.

So....I am waiting for something to shift--for the other job to come through, or for this company to go under. I continue to look for work, and to spend money for Christmas and other things, but there are certainly things I've denied myself that I wouldn't have if things were more stable.

And jumping back into blogging. It seemed wrong to just come and post some random tidbit without explanation. But by the nature of posting, this will move down and people checking in won't find it under all the other things.

I'd like to get back into it, as it helps me clarify thoughts. And there are things I'd like to put out there.

Another reason for silence has been my discovery of Facebook (and the addiction to my new phone--an expenditure I probably didn't need, but cannot regret). Social Media is a strange world, but more on that later.



Saturday, October 25, 2008

Seen

Smoke hangs in the air
Earthbound fading cloud
The smoker is gone

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blog Action Day--one day late

Some events in my life yesterday put it out of my head (and I'll write more about this soon), but interestingly it ties into an online discussion I ended up on so I'm just going to post that here. It also ties into something I want to post on, and hopefully will this weekend.

The subject was poverty. I'm afraid I don't offer solutions here, just my place in it, and the words of a high school friend I recently reconnected with.


The country has been "socialist" since the 1930's. Social Security, Medicare and other such programs are all socialist and FDR was hailed as a hero for implementing them when the country was in crisis. George W. Bush has just pushed through the Nationalization of the banks to prevent such crisis.

That said, I do understand the fear that your hard-earned cash is going to be given to the undeserving poor, but in this country right now there is such a divide between the rich and middle-class that every middle class family is inches away from falling through the cracks.

I have a scenario for you. When I was a child, my father opened a book-store. In the late 70's the county was in a recession and it failed even though my father did everything right. Because of his anti-socialist beliefs, he refused help from anyone, ended up living alone in a one room apt., barely able to afford his medicines and died, well, younger than I think he should have.

I spent my teenage years in a variety of socialist programs which allowed me medicines and healthcare and glasses, but not my mother who ended up briefly homeless when I went off to college--college made possible both because I worked very hard, but also because of more government programs and private charity. If, God forbid, someone should lose a business, or otherwise slip off of the path of what conservatives like to think of as the "right" way, whether that means, being laid off by a company that goes out of business, or taking too much credit to get your business started, will these anti-socialists refuse a helping hand?

Other examples of slipping off the path, "making other choices"--debilitating illness including depression, sudden death of a caregiver, sudden divorce, change in the industry for which you were trained, natural disaster such as Katrina, injury in the military.. I could go on. Obama has never pushed for this kind of pure Marxian Socialism that people seem to be implying, any more than conservatives are actually for the pure Adam Smith capitalism which would not give tax breaks to big business or provide tax loopholes for the wealthy.

(From my friend) ...on the "socialism" issue... I was raised by two pretty strong Republican parents, and I agree that there are problems with the Social Security and Medicare and Welfare programs, but those problems have to do with the government's ability to run the programs effectively... not with the fact that these programs exist at all.

In fact, I would be homeless if not for Social Security. See, I did everything "right". I went to school, went to college, even got a master's degree and was headed out into the world of big business to make my mark. Then something happened that no one planned for... I was diagnosed with MS. They don't know what causes MS, so it wasn't like I could even blame something about my lifestyle or genetics on this. BOOM. It just happened. Life totally changed.Less than a year after I was diagnosed I lost my eyesight. Completely. For 3 months. I lost my job. I was completely on my own, but for the help of my parents and the grace of God. I am virtually unemployable because of MS, and most certainly not full-time employable. My body shuts down if I try to work 40 hours a week (and I know this because for 3 months I tried, and I ended up in the hospital).

A lot of the time I can't walk on my own... I either need a walker or a wheelchair. Sometimes I am not strong enough to use either and I'm more or less immobilized. The bad part is, these attacks of MS are totally random, unannounced, and can happen at any time. I might wake up tomorrow and be blind again. There is no way to know.So, without Social Security what would be my fate? Without parents who could take care of me (which I thankfully have, but a lot of people in my position do not), what would be my fate?Further, a lot of people don't realize this, but once you get into the "system", you are income controlled. Now while this has good intentions (to keep people who can make enough money to support themselves from taking advantage of the system), it is not managed well. I get $700 a month from Social Security. Can you live on $700 a month? But if I try to earn extra income (above what they allow), they will stop sending me even that much. It is kind of the same with welfare and other programs... it is easy to get "stuck" in the system when you have the potential of getting out. I don't, but there are those who do... and while they are good programs they just aren't run or managed very well when the "stuck in the system" garbage is the case.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bike Riding 101

Ten years ago I learned to drive (I renewed my license this year). It took me years and many learner's permits--the written was easy, the fear, not so much. When I got my license, in those far off days before social media made notifying everyone too easy--I sent out a mass email. I also joked that I would learn to ride a bike by 35.

Well, 10 years later I have learned to ride a bike! Missing my deadline by a few years, but I won't hold that against myself. Like learning to drive, it only happened when I paid someone to teach me, despite kind efforts by dear friends. And like driving (and granted, I haven't done that much of it yet) I find I enjoy it very much. I love driving (traffic notwithstanding) and cannot fathom now why I resisted for so long. I still have some of the same fears--the fear more of injuring others, rather than the fear of injuring myself, but I do my best not to ever put myself of others in danger.

With biking, I was more afraid of personal injury--after all, I'm unlikely to kill anyone on a bike, but it has been known that people have accidentally killed themselves. I was also afraid that I would not actually like it, and why waste the effort when I wouldn't continue, or would find it hard on my knees, etc. And after those failed attempts with friends last year, I was seriously contemplating buying an adult tricycle, but my husband pointed out that I wouldn't want to ride it. He bikes and (don't laugh) Hyde bikes, and friends bike and it just seemed stupid that I couldn't, but at the same time I thought that I must be the only adult in the world who wasn't shoved down a driveway on a bike by their parents. And then I saw in the catalogue from the Cambridge Center for Adult Ed., Adult Bike Riding $100. Well, it seemed a sign, and I have $100 now, so I signed up before I could talk myself out of it, and once I had paid I was committed.

The first weekend was rained out, but last weekend I was there with 6 other grown-ups. I wasn't the oldest, and I wasn't the youngest, and I wasn't the best, but neither was I the worst. The instructors were old hippy's (it was outside Davis Square, after all) and very kind and encouraging. I have to say, I recommend their method wholeheartedly. We went to a playground with a gentle slope from one edge to the other and we started at the top with no pedals, seats lowered to where our feet could rest flat on the ground. And at first we just coasted, knowing we could put our feet down, following the "nose" of the bike and learning that turning into the fall really will stop you from falling. After, and at our own pace, we had mastered that, then you tried it with one foot on a pedal. At the very end of last week's session, I managed to get both feet on the pedals and actually turn the wheels for a few feet. I thought about posting then, but I wanted to wait until I really had steered and pedalled and ridden a bike. I knew then that it would happen, something that I wasn't sure of at the beginning of that class, but I wanted to feel what it was like before I said--yes, I can now ride a bike.

So today, we started again, at our own pace and after a few false starts (and a lot of dramatic bruises on my calves--don't ask), I was peddling in laps around the playground. A few laps more and I was able to change gears and keep in (almost) a straight line. This last is important because next week we go to the bike path--with other people. Other people who know how to ride. I couldn't quite manage to take a hand off of the handlebars or stand up on the pedals yet, but I'm not that concerned about that. I also couldn't show my husband when we went to look at bikes in the sporting goods store, as I wasn't wearing good shoes, but I have no doubt now that all of that will come in time.

Most importantly, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed when I felt in control--coasting down hill with the wind in my face, motion but not motion. I could see the pleasure in just biking out and on your own. I also feel that physical things might not be beyond me, or too hard or something I just don't have a knack for.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Since we all need a little humor...

Thanks Red Queen--my favorite is number 4.

1. The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
3. She was only a whisky maker, but he loved her still.
4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.
5. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.
6. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
7. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
9. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.
11. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
12. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
13. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, 'You stay here, I'll go on ahead.'
14. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger... Then it hit me.
15. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'
16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, 'No change yet.'
17. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
18. It's not that the man did not know how to juggle, he just didn't have the balls to do it.
19. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
20. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
21. A backward poet writes inverse.
22. In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.
23. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
24. Don't join dangerous cults: Practice safe sects!

Engglish words, we got a million of 'em (actual spam subject line)

Dear Beloved American:
I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion USD. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.
I am working with Mr. Phil Gramm, lobbyist for UBS, who (God willing) will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a former U.S. congressional leader and the architect of the Palin / McCain Financial Doctrine, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. As such, you can be assured that this transaction is 100% safe.
This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.
Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.
Yours Faithfully Minister of Treasury Paulson
(not actual spam)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Avatar

Since I usually make my avatar into things I don't get to be during the day, I decided to make her look like I really look at my desk every day.

Sarah Piglin

Gotta love this--and he started this theme BEFORE the whole lipstick on a pig kerfluffle.
http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=2931

This is sooooo cool!


seed by ~N-Dr01d on deviantART

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace...

...has killed himself.

I've quoted him often. I picked up Infinite Jest off of some free book shelf and read it a few years ago. It was a frustrating novel but I've quoted the brilliance of certain passages over and over.

And he went to Amherst. And he killed himself. RIP

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Proust (ongoing)

I have almost finished the first Volume. Have read a great chunk since last I posted.

Rather on the topic of the last post but one:
Three-quarters of the mental ingenuity and the mendacious boasting squandered ever since the world began by people who are only cheapened thereby, have been aimed at inferiors. And Swann, who behaved simply and casually with a duchess, would tremble for fear of being despised, and would instantly begin to pose, when in the presence of a housemaid.

In his younger days a man dreams of possessing the heart of the woman whom he loves; later, the feeling that he possesses a woman's heart may be enough to make him fall in love with her.

I fear that I do this:
Sometimes, in spite of himself, he would let himself go so far as to express an opinion on a work of art, or on someone's interpretation of life, but then he would cloak his words in a tone of irony, as though he did not altogether associate himself with what he was saying.

And I would like to be someone who does this and am perhaps too proud of it when I think that I have succeeded:
There are certain original and distinguished authors in whom the least outspokenness is thought shocking because they have not begun by flattering the tastes of the public and serving up to it the commonplaces to which it is accustomed;...

We have learned of the monstrous Verdurin's who, like characters in Dickens one flinches to realize one knows--who judge Swan for his honesty while engaging in mock social niceties:
...as one sees in people who are doubtful whether the sight of the sea and the sound of its waves are really enjoyable become convinced that they are--and convinced also of the rare quality and absolute detachment of their own taste--when they have agreed to pay several pounds a day for a room in an hotel from which that sight and that sound may be enjoyed.

And then the exquisite beauty of this--referring again to that musical phrase I mentioned in the last post on Proust:
...that the field open to the musician is not a miserable stave of seven notes, but an immeasurable keyboard (still almost entirely unknown) on which, here and there only, separated by the thick darkness of its unexplored tracts, some few among the millions of keys of tenderness, of passion, of courage, or serenity, which compose it, each one differing from all the rest as one universe differs from another, have been discovered by a few great artists who do us the service, when they awaken in us the emotion corresponding to the theme they have discovered, of showing us what richness, what variety lies hidden, unknown to us, in that vast, unfathomed and forbidding night of our soul which we take to be an impenetrable void.

And plotwise Swann--in love with or at least possessive of the unfaithful Odette:
For what we suppose to be our love or our jealousy is never a single, continuous and indivisible passion. It is composed of an infinity of successive loves, of different jealousies, each of which is ephemeral, although by their uninterrupted multiplicity they give us the impression of continuity, the illusion of unity. Could that not be said of any of our emotions?

Who indeed can say whether, in the event of his having gone elsewhere that evening, other happinesses, other griefs might not have come to him, which later would have appeared to him to have been inevitable?

And with those thoughts we move from Swann in Love to our narrator's love for Swann's daughter. In this book, Proust captures so much of adolescent love--so much that we feel as adolescents that we alone must feel. For instance, when I was a teenager I would imagine certain events--my meeting Nick Rhodes for instance, or being "discovered" or even simply being asked on a date by someone in class and then when I had pictured the event in ever detail I would worry--had I just made it not happen because it could not now happen as I had pictured it?
I had realised that if I was to receive a letter from Gilberte, it would not, in any case, be this letter, since it was I myself who had just composed it. And from then on I would strive to divert my thoughts from the words which I should have liked her to write to me, for fear that, by voicing them I should be excluding just those words,--the dearest, the most desired--from the field if possibilities.

Too, he describes going to see an actress of whom he has read great things, Berma in Phedre and he cannot help but be disappointed because he has built up in his mind this transcendent experience that is supposed to be and so the reality cannot compare. I know that I do that still--in planning an evening at a play or concert I have trouble emptying my mind of expectations so that I may actually enjoy reality and not be disappointed.

And again, referring to Musing's question:
For it is difficult for any of us to calculate exactly the extent to which our words or gestures are apparent to others. Partly from the fear of exaggerating our own importance, and also because we enlarge to enormous proportions the field over which the impressions formed by other people in the course of their lives are obliged to extend...

...she knew a great deal of the pleasure which a woman finds in entering a class of society different from that in which she has previously lived would be lacking if she had no means of keeping her old associates informed of those others, relatively more brilliant, with whom she has replaced them.

On historical significance in the arts:
No doubt it is easy to imagine, by an illusion similar to that which makes everything on the horizon appear equidistant, that all the revolutions which have hitherto occurred in painting or in music did at least respect certain rules, whereas that which immediately confronts us, be it impressionism, the pursuit of dissonance, an exclusive use of the Chinese scale, cubism, futurism or what you will, differs outrageously from all that has occurred before. This is because everything that went before we are apt to regard as a whole, forgetting that a long process of assimilation has converted it into a substance that is varied of course but, taken as a whole, homogeneous, in which Hugo is juxtaposed with Moliere.
This is a remarkable observation and one which deserves a longer post.

It is always thus, impelled by a state of mind which is destined not to last, that we make our irrevocable decisions.

Oh, how tragically true I find his description of beginning his writing--that he can picture so well how it will be in a few days when he has written something that it seems foolish to begin in the evening but rather better to wait until the morning and then the morning finds other distractions:
...in the empty frame of the following day where everything was so well arranged because I myself was not in it, my good intentions would be realized without difficulty, it was better not to start on an evening when I felt ill-prepared.
Unfortunately the next day was not that vast, extraneous expanse of time to which I had feverishly looked forward. When it drew to a close, my laziness and my painful struggle to overcome certain internal obstacles had simply lasted twenty-four hours longer. And at the end of several days, my plans not having matured, I had no longer the same hope that they would be realized at once, and hence no longer the heart to subordinate everything else to their realization:...

In a language that we know, we have substituted for the opacity of sounds the transparency of ideas. But a language which we do not know is a fortress sealed...

We are all of us obliged, if we are to make reality endurable, to nurse a few little follies in ourselves.

One more on the Human League

Having developed something of a small obsession with them for the last week, I feel I would be remiss to not point out that pop songs aside, in the first incarnation they really remarkable innovators in the field of electronic music--that some of their early stuff sounds better than things being mixed and sampled today and this was in the days when computer storage was reel-to-reel.



I have to agree with many of the posters at You Tube that in some ways the girls ruin it--that several of the songs might be better if they weren't included, but after 30 years I rather doubt that Oakey is going to suddenly remaster everything without them.

In answer to Musing's Question

From some time ago--Self-Deprecating Minds Want to Know

For the most part I presume that people will not take the energy to either like me or dislike me, but will rather be indifferent to me. I do have trouble networking because I have not mastered that fine art of appearing interested and retaining names, faces, etc. (I can do one or the other). My boss, who is otherwise a cad, can appear terribly friendly at those things and still get his own pitch across.

What I do worry about is whether friends really like me. Friends who say they'll email me after some event in their lives is past, but never do. I stress over people turning down my parties--do they really have something else to do or do I give crappy parties. Do I bore them? Annoy them? Do they tolerate me for my talents, but really don't want to spend time with me (this is partially guilt, because I have other friends that I decline invitations from because they bore me or annoy me or tax me or just drain me). So I spend a lot of energy wondering if my friends like me, but very little wondering if strangers do. Am I at the bottom of their friendship list and if so, is that like being a doctor from the bottom of your class--what is the point?

What is odd is that I find most people would rather imagine active antagonism than realize that they are simply not important enough to rate.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hyde is vindicated

http://engrishfunny.com/2008/08/22/engrish-gives-it-to-us-raw-and-wriggling/

Regeneration Tour

Yes, we indulged in nostalgia. On Wednesday we went with three friends to the Regeneration Tour (not to be confused with L'Arc's Regeneration tour after Sakura left)--Naked Eyes, A Flock of Seagulls, ABC, Belinda Carlisle, The Human League. Ah, the 80's live again.

I think I am learning to enjoy myself in the moment. Because I did mind so much that we are getting old and so are they, just enjoyed a pleasant evening.

Naked Eyes I like, but in the way one enjoys some foods. They aren't your favorite foods and you don't search them out, but it's pleasant to eat them when they come up. One of the members died in 1999 so it was just one and a back up band. He was a better performer than I expected. Paunchy but working the crowd despite the fact that the audience was thin at that point.

A Flock of Seagulls is one of those bands everyone remembers because of the hair, without being sure of what they sang. Unlike Naked Eyes I actually seek out Flock of Seagulls music. I had seen the lead singer on a tv show fairly recently, so knew that he would appear much as he did--paunchy, Hawaiian shirted, hair in a baseball cap, pony tail through the back--like the aging boomer that he is. And it is to be noted that no matter how old we get, the bands of our youth will always be older. Perhaps it is that that keeps the Boomers flocking to Eagles and Stones concerts.

With the exception of Belinda, it was an evening of bands known for being synth bands, but the live shows were surprisingly lively with some serious guitarists, bassists and drummers--all studio musicians for despite the band names, it was really lead singers and..., not original line ups.

What I always enjoyed about Flock of Seagulls was that for the most part, despite the cold, mechanical sound of their music (as synthesizers are often labled) and the space age trappings of their look and their titles, the lyrics are simple love songs that could almost be from the days of standards:

It's not the way you look
It's not the way that you smile
Although there's something to them
It's not the way you have your hair
It's not that certain style
Though it could be that with you

If I had a photograph of you
Just something to remind me
I wouldn't spend my life just wishing

It's not the make-up
And it's not the way that you dance
It's not the evening sky
It's more the way your eyes are laughing
As they glance
Across the great divide

(chorus)

It's not the things you do
There must be something more
If I feel this way for so long
Tell me is it all for nothing
You still walk out the door
-Wishing (If I Had a Photograph of You)

or

I never thought I'd meet a girl like you
Meet a girl like you,
With auburn hair and tawny eyes
The kind of eyes that hypnotize me through
Hypnotize me through
-I Ran

In contrast, there was a cleverness to the lyrics of ABC that made me listen to them over and over--that and Martin Fry's jaw line and sneer, oh, and the orchestra, can't forget the orchestra.




If I were to say to you
"Can you keep a secret?"
Would you know just what to do
Or where to keep it?
Then I say"I love you"
And foul the situation
"Hey girl I thought we were
The right combination

"Who broke my heart?
You did, you did
Bow to the target
Blame Cupid, Cupid
You think you're smart
Stupid, Stupid
-Poison Arrow

I'm not saying they are great lyrics and certainly not great poetry, but there is a certain word play that always entertains. And hearing Martin yell out, "I've Seen the Future, I can't afford it," to start How to Be A Millionaire brought back some memories:

Roulette and blackjacks - gonna build us a paradise
Larger than life and twice as ugly
If we have to live there, you'll have to drug me

Something about the rhyme of ugly and "drug me" is just fantastic to me.

Belinda...well she did three Go-Go's songs, so it wasn't a total waste, but if I drank I'd have probably gotten a refill then--especially to avoid ever hearing either Circle in the Sand or Heaven is a Place on Earth ever again. However, notwithstanding her effect on our little group, people who hadn't seemed into any of the first three seemed into her. No accounting for taste. We wanted to ask if any of them even knew what the Go-Go's sounded like (or looked like) when they began:




And then there was The Human League. I think that "Don't You Want Me" was the first New Wave song I ever heard. It was probably one of the first rock and roll songs. I was 10 or 11 and we were at a cousin's house. She had just bought the single and insisted on playing it (she was 9 or 10). I could tell that my parent's were appalled, but I wanted more only I didn't know where to go (if I'd seen Phil Oakey I'd have wanted it even more).




The copywriter of the program (after waxing rhapsodic about Belinda and comparing her to Madonna???) mentioned the impact of seeing Phil for the first time on a show. Bowie supposedly caught a live show of The Human League opening for Siouxsie & the Banshees and declared that he had seen the "future of pop music." But then Bowie is always saying stuff like that, and this would have been the original line up. Phil Oakey has of course commented (as all good 80's bands do) on his own debts to Bowie and Roxy Music. But still the high-heeled, lipsticked and eyelinered and be-earringed Oakey on the screen would have been radical.

For those who don't know The Human League, second incarnation is a study in style becoming substance. Oakey was recruited as he has said, because he was tall and looked like a pop-star. And the girls (as they are still known--though looking them up, I realize that they are only a few years older than my husband, though Oakey is 53) were 17 and 18 year olds dancing one night in a night-club when Oakey asked them sans audition to come sing back-up. And here they are, now 30 years later, considered highly influential in their own right. And, damn, if Phil isn't still, strangely sexy (same song as above).


Because they were the final act they had the most stage with 7 screens in the back showing artsy films because they have always fancied themselves as "prog. rock" more even than glam. It is Phil and "the girls" with a new back up band--including Mac as instrument. Behind Phil in this clip you can just see the screens playing morphing images of politicians--the American version featured the Bushes, Obama, McCain, Rumsfeld, and even Fred Thompson. Brainless escapism, my fanny.

My husband loves them for the progressive side (this is a guy who has all of Genesis pre-Phil Collins on vinyl)--the instrumentals and the hard stuff. I don't know if most of the crowd was ready for as Phil put it, the serious songs--Seconds about the death of JFK:
Your knuckles white as your fingers curl
The shot that was heard around the world
For a second

It took seconds of your time to take his life
It took seconds

or the harsh, The Lebanon:

And who will have won
When the soldiers have gone
From the Lebanon
The Lebanon

Before he leaves the camp he stops
He scans the world outside
And where there used to be some shops
Is where the snipers sometimes hide

The 80's when lyrics said so much behind a dance beat. Because the crowd was there to hear the dance favs.--the ones I like least. Their biggest hit, Human, I never listen to because I dislike the lyrics and it was played to death, and over time, the creepy, obsessiveness of "Don't You Want Me," have become too much for me.

Performancewise, Phil started out as something from Dark City:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/31046907@N00/2784079290/
but he quickly shed the coat and glasses down to a very well cut Armani (I only know this because I read it--not because I can tell an Armani from 50 rows away) and finally down to a black shirt with trou. The girls had three costume changes in a 45 minute set.

We had seen them 10 years ago on another nostalgia tour {have you ever noticed that none of the bands want to be called a nostalgia tour? Each band points out that they never went away--"It's the pictures that got small."} with Howard Jones and Culture Club which I don't remember particularly well--which makes me sad--but at which our friends said Phil moved very little. I do remember that The Globe review was famously--the girls still look great, still can't sing. As if to make up for last time, Phil spent the whole show running back and forth from one side of the stage to the other looking (on the side screens and through binocs.) as if he would get to one side only to realize that he NEEDED to be on the other side. He also did a strange, awkward little rocking dance from side to side. He also smiled a lot, which was nice, and different from 30 years ago.

Which is not to say I don't enjoy their pop. After closing with Human and Don't You Want Me they returned with an encore of Phil's song for the soundtrack to the piece of fluff film "Electric Dreams." It's a piece of fluff too, but I love it.

I'm listening to them as I write--it's like rediscovering them because we only had them on vinyl. I hadn't really listened to their songs in quite awhile--even though it's a short list of albums--and the concert prompted my husband to download the discography. Louise, for instance is a sweet little ballad that prefigures British "rap" like the Streets.


I am ga-ga over Tell Me When, which I had heard briefly when it came out in the mid-90's but somehow forgotten.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Transformers

Is a terrible film (bad use of slo-mo, dreadful signalling music, etc.) that somehow manages to be quite a fun ride. I swear I am getting old, though, because some of the "hand-held" shots were too fast for me.

I'll go with this quote from Roger Ebert:
"It's goofy fun with a lot of stuff that blows up real good."

AND I will say that someone, somewhere (probably a room full of people) put some serious thought into how things transformed, which is pretty impressive for a movie called, oh, I don't know, Transformers. Oh, and it was very, very funny. John Turturro in particular was very, very funny. And one doesn't get to say that very often.

Dreadful coincidence

Bernie Mac died. Bernie Mac was in Ocean's 11-13. I enjoyed his comedy. Didn't love, love it, but thought he was good. Damn.

Friday, August 08, 2008

13

Ocean's 13 was quite fun. I really loved Ocean's 11 but it is a boy's club and having women in Ocean's 12 was a mistake. Even though it WASTED Eddie Izzard it pulled together (and Ellen Barkin was having fun).

AND it's so damn meta. Is it just me or was the whole walking through a Toys are Us at the beginning a little too Mr. & Mrs. Smith? Plus the small talk--settle down, have some kids. Heh, heh.

Marketing

I have been contemplating for some time the possibility of creating another blog based on my experiences as an accidental marketer, called either--The Accidental Marketer or Confessions of a Marketing Moron (Vote now). Neither of which is particularly creative, but then marketing is just taking the familiar and repackaging it.

I can't decide if I would show my work there which would open up the possiblity of someone at my job finding it and thus making it impossible to vent, or keep it as a venting plus what I've learned area. If I have any "marketing" aspirations for it, it would simply be to see if others who wear many hats would come and answer my questions, post their own, etc.--way down the road.

Anyway--part of Marketing these days is the place of Social Media, FaceBook, MySpace, Blogger, Linked In, Twitter, and I thought about making this my opening post, but decided it's a little dark for that.

My husband sent it to me. DO NOT WATCH THIS if you are easily offended and think Nazi-ism should never be funny. The film is Downfall--a very dark and interesting film (I really have to tag better because I could have sworn I posted on this and now I can't find it--I'm thinking it might have been comments on someone else's blog--Mirror's maybe???) which I will now never be able to watch again.

Oh...oh it's so wrong...but so funny. I hate myself for laughing at it. - Novel's husband

http://www.crunchgear.com/2008/08/08/twitter-is-down-again-mein-fuhrer/

And speaking of Gallow's Humor

I want to launch my friend Derek's (it's ok, he uses his own name) blog. I've known Derek for about 10 years so he went pretty high in the list. We met at R&S's annual Halloween party when he and his wife were dressed as dead Heaven's Gate cult members. We knew we were going to like them.

Derek is always fun to speak with (and once won some money on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, but don't hold it against him) and I feel it's high time he dumped some of that into a blog.

Check out his mash up of Sexy Beast and Gandhi.
http://www.derekleif.blogspot.com/

He also is learning L'Arc's Ready, Steady, Go on the Ukulele which is a bizarre coincidence and still hasn't told me why.

I wish I were Amanda Palmer

She's reinvented Cabaret; she never let anyone tell her she couldn't sing; she's played the ART and the Boston Pops; Neil Gaiman's written songs for her and now she's singing a Neil Gaiman song.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Guinness is 10!


Happy Birthday, Guinness!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Doctor Who...

DID NOT SUCK! All in all, a very tight ending. One moment that bugged me, but it was in another universe and not really the Doctor, so not really counting, and maybe, just maybe it means that it is the end of Rose Tyler, amen.

It had some nice "human" moments, the gathered group was a little wasted--a problem whenever you have too many people in a story--why you end up with J'onn J'onzz staying on the space station all the time in the Justice League, or groups being isolated in stories. Someone always ends up twiddling their thumbs. When they (the writers) do manage to really use everyone's talents well--well, it's very exciting.

It posed the interesting problem of which is worse, to have traveled with the Doctor and not to be traveling with him any more or to have traveled with him and not be able to remember it--to have saved the universe and have to go back to being the sad loser you were before the Doctor made you better. Rather like the question that comes up repeatedly in Doctor Who circles, which is better--the world we have with our Doctor Who adventures, or a world with no stories, but a real Doctor. Perhaps we have both but how would we know? I would almost call this "The Flowers for Algernon Problem." Donna will never know what she has lost, except in the sad looks her grandfather gives her.

As to the bit I didn't like--am I the only one who never wanted to have sex in the Tardis? Who thinks that the Doctor should be asexual--beyond petty human desire? Of course in the early days it was easy--I doubt anyone was lusting after William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton or Jon Pertwee, but it got a little strange with Tom Baker (partially because he, the actor, in fact married his costar) and then Peter Davison was young and attractive, but never to me. I suppose I had a little trouble with how hot I thought Paul McGann was, but again I never wanted that to intrude into the show. It made Human Nature that more poignant--that the Doctor had to become human to feel emotions. But I always liked Spock and Data too--fully functional, but emotionally isolated.

Ah, Doctor Who. It can go to A-Z, the biggest of them all, world's destroyed and back to A in another time and another place. In fact, A is constantly changing. I mean, it started life as a sort of soft history show for children with the curmudgeonly grandfather and his granddaughter and just kept evolving.

The problem that that constantly moving A can bring is the Superman problem. When you have some one who is well nigh indestructible with super powers--how do you make the outcome uncertain? Who can beat Superman? Other Superheroes. Who can beat the Doctor? He can otuthink anyone, he'll regenerate if you kill him, etc. And then he's an alien (and they did fall into this trap). There's always some "previously" unknown physical quirk or circumstance that can save him (in this the residual regenerational energy channeled into the hand that he lost the last time he regenerated that was touched by Donna creating a duplicate but human Doctor--got it?). But aside from that, well done.

Eastern Promises

Gah, I could have sworn that I wrote about "A History of Violence" but I can't find it!

A subtle film, for all of the bloody and brutal violence and even those are relatively (for Cronenberg certainly) few. And an ambiguous one. Part (I vaguely remember hearing) of a triptych of films about whether the mark of violence is always on you. In this one quite literally.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Quality is in the ear of the beholder???

Came across this in a newsletter that was sent to me. I'd have stopped a) because I stop for people who play well and b) for people who play music that I like and play it well, but I probably would not have recognized him, and I probably wouldn't have given money.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html

I am not at all surprised at the results.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mad Men and Frank O'Hara

Watched the first episode. More on that as I digest it.

Don was reading Frank O'Hara. I have a small book of O'Hara poems (not the one in the show) which my poetry teacher encouraged me (made me) read because I do not write like him.

I like some of it--and I like it more than I did 15 years ago (how impossible that seems) now.

Poem

Instant coffee with slightly sour cream
in it, and a phone call to the beyond
which doesn't seem to be coming any nearer.
"Ah daddy, I wanna stay drunk many days"
on the poetry of a new friend
my life held precariously in the seeing
hands of others, their and my impossibilities.
Is this love, now that the first love
has finally died, where there were no impossibilities?

-Frank O'Hara, 1956, Lunch Poems

(For Matt, who is NOT writing about coffee and may have thought I had not noticed)

100 days to the election.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On getting it wrong

Heh, so it turns out that this week was not the last episode of Doctor Who, it was the last episode but one. My big rundown on how Doctor Who both does and doesn't have to follow the A to B scenario will have to wait until next week.

Mad Men starts tomorrow, against the end of Foyle's War. Thank God for multiple channel taping.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The level of geekness to which I have descended

So I saw this T-shirt, and then I attended a seminar on SEO and realized that it's only true if you're not a spider. :)

And if that were not enough:
http://www.flashninjaclan.com/zzz2013_Gates_vs_Jobs.php

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Yes

I ate a salad with chopsticks tonight because it was too hot to do dishes.

Signs from my radio

Twice in the last week I've heard 'Every Breath You Take' on one station and flipped to another to hear the end of 'Don't Stand So Close to Me' (The Police--late 70s, early 80s).

Should I be worried that I'm being stalked? Is it a sign that I should stalk someone? ^.^

Today I heard 'Can't Stand Losing You.' Oh, well.

EDIT: Of course, it could be simply attributable to the fact that The Police are back in town next week. Also heard 'King of Pain.' Gotta love 25 year old songs.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

So, why do I watch...

what I watch?

Aristotle's Poetics defines the essential ingredients of drama as:
Plot, Character, Theme, Speech, Melody and Spectacle

Greater minds than mine have debated and discussed these points and what they meant in the time of Aristotle and what they might mean in terms of today's drama at length, and will certainly continue to do so as long as there is drama for entertainment. I'm only going to use them as a guideline for what I look for in a story, any story, and here specifically in television shows.

Most of the shows below are character driven. House certainly, Bones and Medium are a small cast of characters, L&O is more plot driven, although in CI the resolution certainly hinges on the characters of Goren and Logan in their respective episodes, CSI can be a mix, although I watched it primarily for Grissom and maybe Warrick, but also for the plot. Since Warrick died and Grissom is leaving I wonder if it will still hold the same appeal as I never managed to be interested in either CI: Miami or NY because I didn't like the characters. Life is entirely and only interesting (at this point--it's still very new) for Damian Lewis' performance. Eli Stone was a mixed bag. 24 is actually mainly plot and has long stretches without Jack Bauer.

House, Bones and Medium all have great dialog as well. Really great dialog, and this, for me makes up in part for plots which are often not particularly exciting and rather formulaic. House is particular has a very definite shape to the hour, to the point where one can almost say, "Oh, the patient is suffering a mysterious reversal after seeming to get better? Must be 9:23. I'm going to the kitchen, do you want anything?" or "It's 9:47 and House is talking to Wilson. Here comes the seemingly unrelated thing that will give him his epiphany." It is also almost as easy in Bones and Medium to pick the culprit as in an Agatha Christie. Not quite as easy as knowing the red shirt is going to die, but close. Occasionally they stump me, and me more than my husband and the season finale was so much of a dark horse that I felt a little betrayed as if pieces were lost in the writer's strike that might have made the ending more believable--more on Dr. Addy's experiences in Iraq perhaps? I used to watch Monk with the quite brilliant Tony Shalhoub as the detective with OCD, but the ONLY reason to watch the show became his performance. The mysteries were laughable and the dialogue repetitive.

What they all have is great themes (and here I think I am varying widely from Aristotle's definition). That is the concept of the show--the maddeningly brilliant Dr. who is horribly damaged; the maddeningly brilliant forensic specialist who is quirky; the soccer Mom with visions, etc. What might be termed the "conceit" of the piece in poetry through which the deeper meaning might be seen--if we buy that television shows have a deeper meaning.

Speech we've covered--great dialogue can cover a multitude of sins for me. Melody--hmm, shall we take melody to mean the timing of the show? Then House is weak. There is a three act structure to most hour long televisions shows. It's considered TV writing 101. Set up of problem, deepening of problem, solution. Most shows follow it to a greater or lesser degree. Off the top of my head I can't really think of a show that truly breaks that shape. So we'll leave that out for now.

And the final piece is Spectacle--this has always been a hotly debated point about what it means in contemporary terms. Is it all spectacle since we can do so much now--greater and greater imitation of life or larger than life. Is that enough? Then Pixar is the master of spectacle, but is spectacle more than just an "Oh, Wow" kind of effect. Television and movies are always going to be more realistic than stage, but stage can be much more spectacular.

Let us use Spectacle here to refer to the bits that transcend the genre. Joss Whedon for instance is a master of spectacle. Buffy had an all silent episode and an all singing episode. Moments when Hugh Laurie is allowed to play instruments has something of spectacle about it (for me at any rate), of knowing that Hugh Laurie IS this accomplished musician--a meta moment, if you will. Eli Stone is primarily spectacle over everything else. The eponymous character gets visions in the form of musical interludes--primarily from George Michael, but with other bits thrown in.

I would say, for me there has to be at least three of the six present to make a show worthwhile. For House it's Character, Speech and Theme. For Eli Stone, Theme, Spectacle and Character.

I run into trouble when discussing Lost. I think the only thing that Lost has going for it is Theme, it's conceit of the plane crash and mysterious island. I find the characters dull and one level and the dialogue wooden. Certainly the spectacle can be interesting, but they've been traversing this island for awhile now--there isn't really that much to see and the "Easter Eggs" require frame by frame viewing which I am not interested in pursuing. If Lost were a book I'd have skipped ahead already. I'm watching only to find out the answers and every Thursday this season I'd think--is this really worth it? It isn't for my husband and often I find myself doing other things while it plays in the background.

A good friend has recently started dating a Lost fan. They've been watching his DVD's of the first season together. She (a seasoned theater veteran with an MA in directing) can often guess the next point or certainly, the next line. This puzzles him no end, but really the dialogue is that simplistic, the characters that repetitive. Enough, we get it. I have a terrible feeling that by the time the answers start coming I won't care anymore.

Having a set timeline can save a show because it requires the writers to meet certain points. There was a shape to Avatar that kept it tight and lean but with plenty of room for side tangents. Babylon 5 in the mid-90's had a 5 year shape--ambitious for a writer/director with few other credits to presume that his show would last 5 years, but that was what the story needed. Unfortunately the clever TV execs made him do it in 4 and then gave him a 5th year which had nothing of note in it. Well, d'uh. Contrast that with the X-Files. The success of the X-Files kept propelling it on, so that answers could never really be given and as a result the last seasons are feeble floggings of dead horses. (Can he possibly have resurrected it for this new movie?)

If you know you have a timeline, then you can progress, from A to B, B to C etc. You don't have to keep coming back to A so that you don't run out of story before your popularity wanes.

Actually, as I think about Melody, the further along a show is, the more it can play with it's own rhythms. CSI could have a season finale about a member being buried, or a background story of the miniature killer because so much has already been established. They can go from A to E in a story and need only return to C in the next episode. The Simpsons too can play more freely with the shape of a story--stories change direction all the time from what it seemed it was going to be about (sometimes successfully, others less so). The Simpsons (and indeed most cartoons) can go from A-Z in an episode and return to A at the beginning of the next without the blink of an eye. Homer has been famous too many times to count. Lisa has tried every sport out there. And each week Homer is back to his job at the plant and Lisa is back to being unpopular and Maggie never speaks. And we don't care because it's a cartoon.

Obviously in cartoons I require spectacle above much else, but we are very picky about dialogue and plot as well. Good voices (funny/quirky) help too. People assume we like all cartoons, but we search long and hard for a cartoon that can hold our interest--that strikes the right blend.

And, as I said I look for these elements in everything. There are writers of speculative fiction (a better term for sci-fi/fantasy, much of which is neither sci-fi or fantasy) whose concepts are amazing but unfortunately fail in terms of character and dialogue.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Avatar Rocks

and kicks butt. And was a dark as Satoshi Kon in places and as imaginative as Miyazaki in places, and you know I don't say that lightly.

I would recommend this movie to anyone who likes anime--well, the whole series, but like FMA: Shamballa, it stands on it's own as well.

Oh, and it paved the way for at least one other movie--we shall see if it happens--I mean, once you've saved the world a little adventure to save someone's mother looks like chump change, but I remain hopeful.

Happy Fan Girl dance now.

Shows ending

So, Avatar is ending tonight in a big two hour movie. Avatar is a cartoon on Nickelodeon. It's been running for three years. I'm sad it's ending, but it is inevitable. Ang, the Avatar, is the last air bender in a world where there are benders for the four elements. He already knew air, first season was water, second season was earth and now, tonight, he has to defeat the Fire Lord who has conquered the world. He has to bring balance.

Avatar is an American cartoon made by people who (apparently) love Anime. Really, really love Anime. It looks like anime, it breaks with reality into chibi or SuperDeformed like anime, where in the midst of serious battle a character will have the anime sweat or the throbbing vein on his forehead. I can't find any good pictures of this, unfortunately. It's generated a lot of cosplay which should tell you that it's been embraced as anime. I've dragged my husband into being a big fan of the show. It's well written for children and young adults, with young adult problems and at the midst of it, this magical power and some kick-ass fights. It's very well animated and has lots of comedy relief.

EDIT: So here is what the show looks like
And this is the show in Chibi mode.

It also has moments of magical and delicate beauty. There is one episode--Tales of Ba Sing Se--where a character we love is setting out on a picnic to honor his dead son and a little creature, Momo, is mourning his missing friend, the flying Bison Appa. Heartbreaking and spare they are haunting art and not often found in any medium, esp. one designed for children.

When I say the ending was inevitable, I view that in a good way. Like I said below, the story cannot keep going from A to B forever. It's strength lies in the fact that it has all been building, like Harry Potter towards this end, and along the way we know that the Avatar cannot kill the Fire Lord, so what will happen? I think they will handle it well, as well as Harry Potter. I'll let you know tomorrow.

On the other hand, next week the Sci-Fi channel will show the last episode of this season's Doctor Who. The last two episodes have been very, very good. But so were last years penultimate and third to last. Will they be able to solve it? I've avoided spoilers, but the news from Britain (which watched this some three or four weeks ago) is supposedly good. Their cramming everybody in it--from past seasons, other spin-off shows--that's often a bad sign.

And, in addition there is the news that there will be no series next year so that David Tennant can go off and play Hamlet. Cha? Just some specials... I've gone longer without the Doctor, but I liked having it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Sidenote of interest

Have you noticed how many British actors are playing Americans in shows? It's really an epidemic.

There's most famously Hugh Laurie in House but also Jake Weber in Medium, Linus Roache in Law & Order, Damien Lewis in Life, Jonny Lee Miller in Eli Stone. And those are just the ones I watch and know about because I've tracked all of their pre-America careers.

There was also another Trainspotting alum, Kevin McKidd in the short lived Journeyman (I guess famous from Rome which I never saw). Jack Davenport is in that summer filler Swingtown. Rufus Sewell is going to be in an American remake of a British show (that originally starred Patrick Stewart) called Eleventh Hour. Oddly that was one British show I didn't like, despite Patrick.

In addition, of course, there's the other British remake of Life on Mars which I liked until the ending--wonder what they'll do about that...

Again, I think there are some others that I'm not remembering. Strange to have actors I've always admired suddenly become household names (stranger for them, I should imagine), especially since so many things don't make it across the pond. They absolutely could not sell John Hannah as sexy over here--just as funny sidekick. They couldn't sell Robson Green and they couldn't sell Robbie Williams. Very strange.

On Television

Two of my favorite shows are ending between this week and next. One for good and the other for an extended hiatus. I am rather sad about this.

Mad Men begins in a week--which is exciting but there is something inherently tragic about Mad Men which makes one feel as if one is watching too much Eugene O'Neil.

So, I would like to take this time to talk about what I watch and why.

I watch too much television, I know that. And I realized as I went through things that I can track my life in other people's milestones--the shows I watched, the albums I bought, the clothes that other people designed. I can also track some of my life in shows that I've done, friends that I've had, jobs I've tried--so I'm not so helpless as some.

In this year I've watched pretty faithfully the following:

Bones
House
Medium
Law & Order (which got good again), L&O: SVU (which sucked a bit), L&O: CI (with two detectives for the price of one)
CSI (but NOT CSI: NY or CSI: Miami)
Lost (which my husband does not watch with me--he watches everything above--more on that later)
Life
Eli Stone (which he also does not watch)

Torchwood
Doctor Who
Sarah Jane Adventures

Mad Men (coming soon)
The Riches
Nip/Tuck (though not faithfully as it was a bit over-the-top for an over-the-top show)
{Interestingly I have been unable to interest my husband in any of these}

Avatar
Chowder
Simpsons

Masterpiece Mystery (selectively) or as I like to call it, Misterpiece Mastery
British Mysteries wherever I can find them--Waking the Dead (though I've seen all the ones they're showing), Silent Witness (though she annoys me), MI:5, Wire in the Blood

Keith Olberman for news, since the hip have moved on from John Stewart

Sporadically--Mythbusters, Ace of Cakes, America Eats, Phantom Gourmet (a restaurant critique show up here), other science and discovery shows

We'll also watch reruns of The Simpsons, SpongeBob, James Herriot (which we've both seen all the way through about 8 times). Selected other cartoons--my husband watching Family Guy without me though I find it funny just in small doses.

I feel as though I've forgotten some. Would have watched 24 but that didn't happen and we had some discussion as to whether it was worth watching anymore. I managed to go the entire season without ever watching ER but my husband got sucked into one episode and sucked it did.





You will notice that there are NO "reality" shows in the competitive style. There are also no sit-coms (unless you count The Simpsons). I have watched sit-coms in the past, the last one being Scrubs, and we'll watch reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, but for the most part it doesn't satisfy me as a genre. And here's why. At some point I remember reading someone famous saying that in writing for television you had to have an adventure, but somehow return to the exact same spot 20 minutes later. Nowhere is this more true than in a sit-com, because the comedy comes from the same situation week after week. People make the same mistakes over and over and we keep laughing. People don't take jobs elsewhere. A minor character might marry, but only to further the original joke. All of television used to be like that, but thank God we have moved away from that model. Jack Bauer will (probably) live through the season, but any of his co-workers are fair game, or worse, they will be revealed to be traitors--to be not at all what we thought they were. That kind of transition used to be used only if someone wanted out of their contract.

Of course, Jack will be back next season making many of the same mistakes so the fundamentals won't be changed, but at least it's more interesting getting there.

Contrast this with any other form of entertainment. A play, a movie, a book is about the most important moments of a person's life in a contained amount of time. The characters should be deeply changed by the end of story or what was the point.

Of course, that's not always true--there is certainly an interesting genre of literature and film where almost nothing happens, but in the grand sense a good story is about getting from A to B, whatever that may mean--internally, externally, internally and externally. Television writing or at least sit-com writing is going to B but coming back to A.

On the chessboard

http://redqueenday.blogspot.com/2008/07/art-of-day-is-persistence-it-does-take.html

So after a good week of vacation, where I sorted many things and put away some things IN THE ATTIC...

You will remember that they were working on my roof while I was on vacation. Now, I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but the we have an attic space accessible by a low door. It's not finished, but there are pieces of vinyl on the floor and two lightbulbs and the previous tenants had fastened a bar, about 4 1/2 feet off of the ground, some 10 feet in length and I presume they hung clothes there. So, since closets in old house pretty much suck, I have hung the bulk of my clothes on this bar and use the attic as a walk in closet. The first month or so I covered them with sheets, but as nothing seemed to ever be on the sheets, I had stopped bothering.

Monday morning, first day back going back to work, I go in, get an outfit, leave.

Tuesday morning, step into attic, feel something sort of crunching beneath my bare feet--strange. Flip on the light. Wonder why it's so dark. Wonder why all my clothes look so DARK.

Yes, all my clothes were covered in 1/4 inch to a 1/2 inch of very fine, black ash. I flick one garment to reveal a white sleeve--well, at least it comes off.

It was one of those moments when the mind goes, to quote Captain Malcolm Reynolds, "Hunh." Not as in a question, but as in a sort of declaratory way. As in, CAN'T THINK ABOUT THIS NOW way.

So I turned out the light, walked down the hall to the bathroom and wiped off my feet. Took a handtowel and wiped up my black footprints, and set about finding something else to wear since all of my work clothes were inaccessible.

I ended up wearing gym clothes and my husband's shirts for the rest of the week.

Well, the good news is that none of my clothes were ruined as far as I can tell so far. My landlady really outdid herself (and I can't imagine my old landlord doing anything like this). First the roofers (who apologized profusely--saying they thought all of the roofs were finished) went in with a leaf blower and blew all of the dust into the back of the room. Then my landlady spent some 6 hours total with a shop vac. Did I mention that there is NO ventilation in this room? That it was a very hot week? That the temperature in the attic had to have been over 100 degrees at all times?

On Saturday my husband and I developed a routine. He would stand with a laundry basket. I would take the clothes off of their hanger, drop the hanger into a box to be washed in the tub, shake the clothes lightly onto a sheet (we threw away that sheet) and put them in the laundry basket. When the laundry basket was full we would walk down a flight of stairs, out onto the little porch where we would vigorously shake every piece again and then I would sort them into trash bags--between dry clean only, washable but delicate and laundromat.

Sunday we took six trash bags to the laundry and spent 50 dollars, (though less time than I had imagined). Then we brought them home and hung them up.

In there too my husband scrubbed the bar, vacuumed again, and wiped the floor. I did loads of laundry in our washing machine (two flights down).

All in all, not the way I wanted to spend my weekend. The dry cleaning is still lying over the stair railing because I can't bring myself to hang it in the attic, and my clothes are all out of order--I was fairly meticulous about woven shirts together, blouses together, pants together... and tomorrow is supposed to be very hot and sticky.

Ah, well...it was not a tragedy. It was an annoyance, a problem, a difficulty, yes, but not a tragedy. I suspect that we will be fighting that soot for a long time to come. When we open the Christmas decorations, for instance, or need the wrapping paper, but each morning there is nothing on the sheets I lay across my clothes each night, so we move forward.

And to think, if I had been lazy and NOT hung everything up at the end of vacation, or moved those shoes into the attic...well, no good deed goes unpunished. So two weeks later I find myself precisely where I was on the last day of vacation--with an awful lot of running in between.