Thursday, April 30, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

Today was dental hygiene day. While confined to a high-tech dentist's chair as the hygeniest roto-routered my mouth, I tried to decide where to rest my gaze. I didn't want to close my eyes because, based on past experience, that would cause her to ask "Are you okay?" every 30 seconds, apparently out of concern that I had fainted. And then I would have to mumble "uh huh" over and over while she pick-axed my teeth.

I didn't want to look into her eyes, which would be rude, or stare at her neck, which would be weird. So I looked, as I usually end up doing, at a large oil painting on my dentist's wall. It depicts white, puffy clouds against a cerulean sky and a single soaring seagull.

There's something ironic about forcing patients who can't move, who have fingers and power scrubbers in their mouths, to stare at a scene that calls to mind the phrase "free as a bird." Seagulls don't have teeth. They don't have to endure oral torture and then pay for it. They can fly. I wish I could fly.

I had plenty of time to think about what it would be like to be a seagull as I sat immobilized in that chair. I finally decided I wouldn't like it. I'd rather have aching gums than make detestably annoying "k'kaw" noises while I fight over garbage at the beach.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Random Acts of Poetry

The Seeds

The seeds multiply under leaves
while bystanders, with their truths,
study you carefully; you ignore them.

The light arranges a gallery of porcelain.
Ah vague
dove, the lover of confusion,

feathers, humble minds--
every second this
day has vibrated,

like a tumbleweed solstice.
Your fingers form a flower, the languid
willows praise your cheek.

They promise
to convey you to a radiance
inner and secret, a rich knowledge.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Brain Dump

Swim like a fish out of water falls down and out of your mind your own business trip over your own feet first. Don't get your knickers in a twist and shout it from the rooftops of the city limits on executive compensation for lost luggage carousel horse feathers. Busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest rules of the road to nowhere man making all his nowhere plans for nobody knows or cares about face the facts of life of the party pooper scooper. Shit happens to make sense of humor me and you can bet your bottom dollar beer night. OK kids?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Word of the Day: omphaloskepsis

omphaloskepsis (n)

Navel-gazing, or preoccupation with oneself.

"From the omphaloskepsis of my writing I have been dragged back into life."
--Brian Moore, An Answer from Limbo

Another good alternative name for this blog....

My little brother had an "outie" bellybutton as a kid, and I used to press it while saying "ding dong!" as if it was a doorbell. He would laugh.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Weekend Loew's Report

I saw two classic films at the Landmark Loew's Jersey Theatre here in the JC this weekend. Yeah, I could see these on DVD on my plasma, but watching these old chestnuts in CinemaScope on a 50-foot screen is quite a different experience.

The Lion in Winter (1968)

This is one of those 1960s highbrow films, the sort they don't make too often for theatrical release anymore; they're now considered BBC/PBS fare. Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, as medieval royals, make like George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, tearing each other apart with verbal barbs, even though they clearly love each other on some level. As King Henry II, he's obsessed with finding a successor among his three smarmy sons, and as his queen, she's a plotter who's so manipulative that Henry keeps her locked up in a tower for most of year, only letting her out on holidays. Hepburn won an Oscar for this, her third of four, and she's a "great actress." But the thing about Hepburn, it seems to me, is that she was always playing herself. How hard is that, really? Lucky for her, all the roles she was cast in called for a "Hepburn type" -- strong-willed, intelligent, witty. Hard not to admire that sort of character, but I wonder if she could have played an airhead or a maniac. Anyway, an excellent film of this type. The director, Anthony Harvey, was on hand and talked a bit about the making of the film before the show.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

The CinemaScope restoration print of this was gorgeous. I didn't see the recent remake, but I've heard that the original (as usual) is better. They don't make this kind of earnest, straight-forward, sci-fi-for-the-whole-family movie anymore; these days, they're full of wisecracks and stomach-churning digital eek-fex. This was an elaborate production for the time. Some of the effects, like using tiny lizards to portray dinosaurs, seem hokey now, but much of the film was shot in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, and that realism makes up for a lot of the unavoidable cheesiness. Good acting and art direction. Pat Boone? Well, he didn't ruin it, and James Mason and Arlene Dahl were quite effective. Dahl was present in person for this showing (she's still pretty glamorous), and talked about the film afterward. She said she hadn't seen it on the big screen in 50 years. I would call this film fantasy, by the way, not science fiction. You'd be crispy long before you reached the center of the Earth, I'm afraid, dear reader -- Geology 101.(Bonus points for the terrific Bernard Herrmann score.)

Sexy Sadie, What Have You Done?



Originally uploaded by David Lynch Foundation Television

This is something I never thought I'd see. But it makes sense to me. A weird kind of sense, but sense. Click it bigger.


~~~
David Lynch & Crispin Glover's Big Blockbuster

These videos are dumb, but the guys nail the vocal impressions.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Word of the Day: alible

alible (adj)

Having nutrients; nourishing.

"'I care not how alible it is,'" Humphrey hissed as he tossed his Christmas gift, a colorful fruitcake, out of the window."
--Claudio Westhoven, The Masticator

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Give Peas a Chance

I've always had a taste for "weird" music -- I'm the only person I know who has actually purchased a Yoko Ono album, and I have a thing for obscure film scores. So I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the mp3 samples available from the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. The orchestra "consists exclusively of vegetable-based instruments, although where necessary, additional kitchen utensils such as knives or mixers are employed."

The mp3s I listened to all had a nice beet (sorry!). Rather than an orchestra, the music made me think of a chorus of joyful mutants on some very damp alien planet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

Ever call the Verizon customer-service number? You don't get to talk to a human (unless you press zero and wait a loonnnggg time while listening to meandering chill tunes). Instead, a sweet but no-nonsense female AI voice asks you to say various phrases as she entices you through an endless audio flow chart of service menus.

"Please say 'yes' or 'no'" is "her" favorite command; ambiguity she will not tolerate. If you give a more complex response (like "nah" or "absolutely baby"), she doesn't understand, and a hint of annoyance drifts into her voice as she says "I didn't quite get that." Balloon pop: it's as if you've told a joke to someone with no sense of humor.

"All right, let's start over. I can [blah, blah, blah] or I can [blah, blah]" she says, as if speaking to a child. "I can perform the following operations to your account: change of services, cancellation, speak to an agent....Please say 'speak to an agent'". OK, android lady. Whatever sweet nothing will turn you on.

I picture a woman in an audio-recording booth, repeating banalities like "Okay, what number are you calling about?" for hour after hour, trying to achieve a perfect blend of chipper solicitude and patient-but-firm authority. "A little more assertive this time, Sheila," the director says. "But not too bitchy."

Monday, April 20, 2009

What Have You Done Now?

There's nothing like an apology to clear the air -- especially a sincere apology. Sometimes a heartfelt-sounding excuse works, too. If you aren't feeling particularly sincere, though, there's always the Excuse-O-Mat. This text generator furnishes an endless supply of self-justifying rationales for all forms of perfidy.

I probably need an excuse for this:

Bad Haiku

Dear little puppy
Alone in the soft sunlight
Smashed to smithereens

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend Netflix Report: 'Cassandra's Dream'

Cassandra's Dream. Brothers Ian and Terry (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) are two Brit idiots caught up in a fairly predictable murder plot/morality play, courtesy of Woody Allen, writing and directing in a genre he shouldn't attempt. The actors struggle (admirably at times) with a contrived and synthetic script that has them talking more like abstractions in Allen's head than real people. And who would ever believe that Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor are brothers?

Some of the actors in minor roles are quite good, and I liked Philip Glass's score, but it's wasted on this.

WA, go back to something you're sometimes good at: erudite comedy set in an idealized Manhattan.

(Why did I watch two Colin Farrell hitman movies in a row? Because I'm working through a list that a cineaste friend gave me. I thought he was giving me recommendations, not a rundown of everything he's watched over the past year. Oh well.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shot in the Back of the Head


Shot In The Back Of The Head from Moby on Vimeo.

Music by Moby, video directed by David Lynch. Thumbs up.

Breakfast Bites Back

Marvel at the Adventures of Super Egg, a comic strip created by two guys in my office: Phil C. and Mauro B.

Here's the official blurb: "Join the adventures of Superegg and Stoney as they set out to fight the evil Zero egg and his not so smart henchmen."

In other news, some of my "Much Ado about NOTHING" persiflage is now in print and online at the Hudson Current -- here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Say It in Engrish!

We all make mistakes, and when it comes to using English words and phrases in ads and product designs, the Japanese make plenty.

Engrish.com showcases numerous examples, including a clothing store that calls itself COWPOO and a snack food named GERM BREAD.

As the website explains, most of these unintentionally hilarious errors are "not an attempt to communicate -- English is used as a design element in Japanese products and advertising to give them a modern look and feel (or just to "look cool"). There is often no attempt to try to get it right, nor do the vast majority of the Japanese population (= consumers) ever attempt to read the English design element in question..."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Word of the Day: oblomovism

oblomovism (n)

Indolence, apathy, indifference or laziness.

"He was reduced to Oblomovism, and spent his days sitting miserably at home, reading Schopenhauer...."
--A.N. Wilson, Tolstoy

I'm sitting on the couch as I type this, after a long day of chopping trees and sawing lumber (or whatever), and the pull of oblomovism is almost irresistible. In fact, I think I will

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Random Acts of Poetry

In Your Dreams

A fisherman becomes a flounder, then swims off
into the mouth of a sperm whale.

The whale spits out a howling baby
that grows up into a weeping widow.

A woman jumps off a twenty-storey building
and bursts into a million ball bearings.

They roll everywhere and make us slip
and crack like china dolls.

Condors descend and fly off with the pieces,
then drop them onto an orange desert.

Millions of cacti sprout and point their spikes
into a blackening sky.

Rain falls for the first time in twenty years,
and rivers wander off to the sea.

A fisherman drops his hook off a dock
and waits for something to happen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weekend Netflix Report: 'In Bruges'

In Bruges. I thought this was a well-made, well-acted but, in the end, silly film about sentimental, conscience-ridden hitmen (yes) hiding out, for some reason, in the medieval section of Bruges, Belgium. Colin Farrell does a good job with his conflicted character, and the other actors are fine. The dialog is sharp and sometimes humorous. But the plot over-stretches credibility, especially near the end.

Why Bruges? It seems the only reason is to provide some beautiful cinematography. As "Ray" (Farrell) says, "Why not the Bahamas?"

Less here than meets the eye.

Brain Dump

Ready for the funny farm animal shelter from the storm warning label. It just goes to show or tell a white lie down in the dumps him for another day job search engine of economic growth and development. As every schoolboy knows somebody cares about it anyway you want it takes a village idiot box tops. Come hell or high water the garden path of least resistance movement. Throw the baby out with the bath water is deeper you dig a hole big enough to drive me crazy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Eastover!

rabbits

I would like to report that the e-bunny came last night -- and brought edible grass!

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Way I Feel

Did a lot of personal financial crunching yesterday. Felt grimly determined.... Tired of wearing a winter coat. Give it up, Frosty.... Netflix has dropped In Bruges on me. Meh.... Watched Southland, the new NBC cop show. Not sure why, except that my otherly significant wanted to watch The Office, and when that ended, it came on, and I didn't feel inspired to change channels or jab the OFF button. I don't like policers, at least not the type that attempt shaky-camera realism. Give me a dancing dwarf....

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Word of the Day: obdormition

obdormition (n)

Numbness, or the tingling felt when a limb is "asleep."

"[I] lay there in a state of obdormition, more dead than alive, but alive still, alive nevertheless, relentlessly alive to the mysterious and deathless...."
--Alexander Theroux, Darconville's Cat

Yeah, I hate limping around when my foot falls asleep; don't we all? Sometimes, late at night, I just wish my head would fall asleep.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Much Ado about NOTHING

Driving Rain

There are few activities I hate more than driving in a heavy rain in the dark.

My night vision isn't great, and the combination of pounding rain, windshield wipers that smear as much as they clarify, a shiny roadway that looks like a dark mirror (doubling every tail- and traffic light), and a pitch-black sky always tempts me to pull over and wait it out.

Windshield wipers annoy me. After a while, their rubbery scraping and thwacking sound reminds me of a throbbing headache. And the harder it rains, the faster they go.

Those sheets of rain can make the car feel claustrophobic. Poor visibility means I suddenly become more aware that I'm inside a small capsule, rather than feeling like I'm outside -- the feeling I get when I can concentrate on a clear road ahead.

When I'm out in the car on a rainy night, I often remember the "driving in the rain" scene in Psycho -- and the relief that Marion Crane/Janet Leigh feels when she sees that Bates Motel sign materialize through a curtain of rain. I can identify. Though, of course, there are worse things than a wet ride....

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Dryad

dryad

A little backyard surrealism....

(Click for a larger version.)

Weekend Netflix Report: 'Synecdoche, New York'

Synecdoche, New York. A theater director (Philip Seymour Hoffman), whose life is unraveling, attempts to mount an enormous production based on his own life as he is living it. He casts actors as himself and all the major figures in his life, and as pre-production drags on (for many years), he gradually becomes a character in his own play -- though not a character based on himself. I would call this a "sad" film, but it made me laugh at times.

The director (of the film), Charlie Kaufman, has said that Synecdoche, New York is not a dream. But it isn't realistic, either. This is one of those films that seems to take place mostly in the protagonist's mind, which usually appeals to me when it's well done. And it is here.

(A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part is used to represent a whole or a whole represents a part. When Shakespeare wrote "Take thy face hence" in Macbeth, he was using a synecdoche. The word sounds a lot like "Schenectady," the city in upstate New York where the early scenes of the film take place.)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Hatching a Plot

Hey, cheese wiz... how many of these late-night cable movies have you seen?

Bikini Secrets

Mistaking aesthetics for ethics, a philosophy grad student (Harry Hamlin) convinces the neighborhood girls to wear nothing but bikinis after witnessing a hot-body contest. In the brief moments she wears clothes, Jennifer (Julie Strain) heats up the pool, the screen, and the sales figures. Richard Roundtree exceeds expectations as the Christ figure, Mitch.

Sins and Summer

Taking a break to get some surf and sun, Ashley (Ashlie Rhey) dances exotically for money to win the custody of her daughter. A sensitive hunk with a guitar (Wil Wheaton) won't let her forget the past. Todd Bridges and Dana Plato won't stop till they get enough. We've had enough the moment they appear onscreen.

Dialing for Merit Badges

Left with his kids' troop after the Scout Master falls ill, Brian (Steve Guttenberg) finds love in the yellow pages in opposition to his friends' advice. Local sheriff and recent divorcee Lisa Cliff (Shelly Long) learns the true meaning of a dead line. Marilyn Chambers tries (unsuccessfully) to hide with the scouts while disguised as a teenager.

Sins and Secrets

A frustrated poet with a flair for purple clothes (Robert Davi) hires a hit-man for a secret job on the brink of losing it all. Undersexed and underpaid, Linda (Shannon Whirry) trades what she knows for what she can never have. Tom Bosley plays the improbable "Mr.Nookie".

Intimate Desires

A man suffering from impotency (Nick Cassavetes) enters a deadly affair while attempting to commit his wife to a mental institution. Hiding her own history, the mysterious Brenda (Deborah Shelton) can't say no. Edward Albert confuses as a palmist and soothsayer.

~~~

They may sound vaguely familiar, but the correct answer is "none." These are all plots created by The Late-Night Cable-Movie Plot Generator. That last one sounds like it might make a nifty David Lynch movie.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Random Acts of Poetry

Solstice

Winter calls you back like a long-lost pearl.
The sky unfreezes at your gaze. Old stars blink out
as you rise above these ringing hills.

We can exhale at last, our faces tilting like pious flowers
at an outdoor revival. Your forgiveness
defies cold logic. Our mouths gape; we're stupid fish.

I don't deserve to live,
any more than a scabrous lizard deserves to bask on a rock
in the palm of the desert.

Ultra-violet
burnt me one summer; I could only stagger, red and tight.
I learned to fear you that year.

But the paltry days twist every misgiving inside out.
I wear layers of woolens,
my breath steams our cold panes, I shiver in the dark.

Today this spinning planet bows to sanity.
Ice will crack and slide
from the roof. Each new year, a gift.
---

My ode to spring, from a few years ago.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Enigma

secret door

This is a picture I took of a door on my street. I want to know what's behind it, or maybe not. Isn't it more fun not knowing? Wondering?