Friday, October 28, 2005

Line of the day

Fitzgerald to reporters today:

I know that you want to know what we know, but I can't tell you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A history of violence

Yesterday, in celebration of the 2G carnage mark (that is, the 2,000 American enlisted boys death toll--the real figures of human waste being exponentially higher), I went to see Cronenberg's latest, History of Violence, with a couple of friends. (And probably some of the below constitutes spoilers so don't read on if you're touchy about that kind of thing.)

Because I am a geek, I often read reviews of movies after I go see them, particularly if I like them. And I did like HoV--though my movie companions were not so impressed I think. Anyway, I just read about 1/2 dozen reviews and I suppose it's not too surprising that mostly it's the British reviews that talk about the movie as an investigation of American history, an implication that seemed obvious on a "no duh" level to me, but hey, I spent a decade of my life writing papers no one will ever read about things like this so there you have it.

What was surprising to me though was how few reviewers talked about gender. Really none of them did. Some reviews talk about the marriage in the movie--the ways that the violence inflects the intimacy between Tom Stall and his wife, but nobody really talked about the "this is a man's world" aspect of the film. Maybe it's my own bleak outlook in the whole man/woman debacle these days, but I left the movie feeling depressed about the whole message that, on some level, men can only really be deeply intimate with other men and that intimacy is built on a foundation of violence. Please don't get me wrong. I really am not trying to man bash here. You guys (Yella, Ep, Gordon, Fixer, Conor, and so on) you know I love you. I don't think you're a bunch of brutal naked apes or anything. But zooming out some away from the personal relationships and looking more at the Fight Club aspects of America (past and present), it's just a bit sad that's all. There's this moment when father and son embrace--blood spattered father and rifle clutching son--and it's so intimate; that's what I'm talking about here.

Somewhat brilliantly, in my opinion, IMDB staffer Keith Simanton calls attention to the parallels between HoV's closing scene and the scene in It's a Wonderful Life when Jimmy Stewart comes home and yells at the family (a scene that, I will confess, has never failed to make me cry even though I have seen the movie countless times). Of course, talking about Cronenberg next to Capra is like comparing Francis Bacon and Maxfield Parrish or something, but that's the beauty of it. I think the movie is saying not just that underneath the idyllic pastoral is a lot of bloodshed, but that neither of these visions are the truth in and of themselves. The movie makes much of the Tom vs. Joey conflict--who is this person really--is he Tom? Is he Joey? And the reviews that do talk about the marriage in the movie talk about the paired sex scenes as playing out this conflict in his relationship with Edie. But really isn't the movie saying you can't bifurcate Tom/Joey?

I guess in that way I found it pretty impressive. I think it's easy in this present political landscape (and maybe it's always been easy) to think of "reality" as the violence that underpins our day to day life here. What I mean is, reality is the war we are fighting in Iraq not the cars I share the road with in the morning that are dropping kids off at school. (And of course, there are those who see the kids/commute as the reality and the war as something to be erased or denied.) But I think what HoV says is it's not an either/or situation. As someone who has always had a real love/hate relationship with America (shit, I am an "Americanist" according to the academy--or was) this resonates with me and I guess that's why I liked the movie so much.

So did any of y'all see it? What did you think?

Friday, October 21, 2005

She fills her head with culture

So I am trapped in a board meeting for the next two days, typing a quick note here during lunch break. No time to say much except I didn't want to wait to say Gang of Four was outstanding. Really an amazingly great, great show. There was a point in the evening, in fact, when I thought that maybe I just didn't need to ever go to another rock show again--that this was like the period at the end of rock's sentence and I could move on to a new genre. Of course, then this morning I got a ticketmaster spam email saying "don't forget the social distortion show" and I thought, hmmm...

But in any case, they did not disappoint. I feel a lot like someone threw me downstairs today (got a fierce cold as well) and I am on the nod in the board meeting sucking down coffee like nobody's business, but it was so, so worth it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why I love my job

Because I get to be around people like this all day.

Portia on the post-40 punk rock crowd:

If you try to be too punk rock when you're older, it's like bread that's gone bad. Everybody can see the mold, but the bread thinks it's fine.

Tom on quitting smoking:

When I quit smoking I wanted to pick my kids up by the ears and chew their faces off.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I love lists

After School Snack alerted us to Time magazine's list of the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923. It's embarrassing how few of them I have read--43--though apparently I am above the mean, judging by the comments thread at Snack.

In any case, I pass it along for the other list-lovers among you (Conor, Andrea...). One wonders about some of the choices really. I mean, Judy Blume? Really?? Possession? Um, okay.

The things that keep us hanging on

So I'm here to tell you that day 18 of not smoking is hardly a fucking cake walk. I have now lived in California long enough that two days of unremitting rain is enough to make me feel totally like the Eli Lilly poster child. Plus I am behind at work and continuing to have a hard time focusing. (Did anyone see Cold Turkey? I feel so much like that drunk guy who cries because he can't smoke when I'm trying to write.)

But...Girl Wants (to say goodbye to) Rock and Roll is cheering me up a little bit (thank you Conor). And Tony came by and managed to actually put a smile on my face--a tough job today I tell you.

A reality TV show dying to happen

Are you with me on this one? Can you envision it?

Bad marketing

From a spam email Amazon sent me today:

Dear Customer,

We've noticed that customers who have purchased Bipolar Disorder: Family-Focused Treatment Approach, A by David J. Miklowitz also purchased books by Jennifer Hudson. For this reason, you might like to know that Jennifer Hudson's Psychopathology and the Family will be released soon.
Those of you who know me will immediately understand why this is so wrong-headed. To the rest of you I will merely say the divorce was finalized five years ago. So much for the family-focused treatment approach.

When my time does come

Please someone write me an obituary with as good a closing line.

From Sunday's Chicago Tribune:

Theodore Roosevelt Heller, 88, loving father of Charles (Joann) Heller; dear brother of the late Sonya (the late Jack) Steinberg. Ted was discharged from the U.S. Army during WWII due to service related injuries, and then forced his way back into the Illinois National Guard insisting no one tells him when to serve his country. Graveside services Tuesday 11 a.m. at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery (Ziditshover section), 1700 S. Harlem Ave., Chicago. In lieu of flowers, please send acerbic letters to Republicans.


Rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, rain.

Not wimpy, drizzly, meltaway rain but serious, no-holds-barred, your-city-is-sliding-into-the-ocean rain.

The whole "we have angered god" theory of weather patterns is beginning to resonate with yours truly.

AP reports about the hail, mudslides, deaths, freeway closings, and--so sad--the forced cancellation of INXS's rooftop concert for the new Virgin Megastore opening.

Myself, I am instituting a weather meme: favorite songs about the weather. I'd have to name
"About the Weather"--Magazine
"Have You Ever Seen the Rain"--Creedence
"Heat Wave"--Martha and the Vandellas
(Famous Blue Raincoat doesn't count, right? If it does, that goes in here too.)
Anyone else?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Jesus Darwin smackdown

I have already expressed my skepticism about the whole intelligent design theory here at NMTE. I've written about my own theory that Earth is, in fact, a beta-test and God went on to create other, more successful worlds where people don't have free will and do have one detachable arm to make it easier to spoon with their lovers.

So of course, these are the thoughts that are going through my head when I'm reading today about "intelligent design advocate," Michael Behe, testifying in Pennsylvania court. Behe apparently achieved fame among the flat earth proponents intelligent design people by making "a scientific argument that blood-clotting is poorly explained by Darwinian processes but well explained by design."

Blood clotting. Yeah.

My personal favorite line in the article is this: "The intelligent design concept does not name the designer, although Behe, a Roman Catholic, testified he personally believes it to be God." Right, but it could be what--space aliens? Buddha? a distant relative of Frank Lloyd Wright? Spare me, really.

If that makes you ask all of those "what about dinosaurs walking the earth--how did everything fit in the ark" kinds of questions, those fish-bumpered hoodoo people have answers to that as well. (Thanks to A Civil Tongue for the link.)

And let's not forget the tee-shirts. All good movements need tee-shirts.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Hee hee

From Knight Ridder reporting on Pew's latest Bush numbers:

-38 percent of Americans approve of how Bush is handling his job, down from 50 percent at his inauguration in January;

-29 percent are satisfied with the way things are going in the country, down from 40 percent in January;

-Americans believe it was wrong to invade Iraq by a margin of 50 percent to 44 percent, a reverse from the January margin of 51-44 that thought it was the right decision.

The public is also skeptical about whether Bush had made most things better or worse. By a margin of 66-6, they think he's made the federal budget deficit worse. By 40-12, they think he made Social Security worse. By 57-19, they think he's made the economy worse. By 35-25, they think he's weakened morality in the country.


From yesterday's White House press briefing:

MR. McCLELLAN: Steve said "thank you" a second time. I think the first time -- the first time --

Q I know, but my question is --

MR. McCLELLAN: The first time, we probably should have stopped it at that.

Q Right. I know. Aren't you sad that you didn't go for -- that you went past, "thank you"?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. Actually, I'm not. I'm glad we had this discussion, John.

Q Okay, good. But my only question was, the very last thing that you said there, why didn't you just say that in response to my question instead of attacking me and getting into this whole brouhaha?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I was trying to, but some people kept jumping in, including yourself when I was responding to your question.

Q Well, excuse me, you attacked me. I just wasn't going to let it sit.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not attacking. I'm just pointing out that a lot of the coverage is not focused on the record and the qualifications and the philosophy -

Q I'll bring you transcripts after the briefing.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and that's where it should. Did it focus on it last night? Let's look at the transcripts.

Q You spoke about a dignified process, do you think it's dignified to --

Q Are you -- let's talk about truth and honesty. Are you trying to say that the White House has not talked to conservatives and pointed them to the church that she goes to, and to her religion --

MR. McCLELLAN: I answered all those questions yesterday.

Q -- to show that she has religion -- but you're just saying right now that we're making an issue of it. You're making an issue of it by having White House officials --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying --

Q -- tell conservatives that that's a reason they should trust her. Then they tell us that --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm not saying that. You're putting words --

Q -- that that's what's happening.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- in my mouth. I'm saying the focus ought to be on records and qualification and philosophy.

Q I'm not putting any words in your mouth.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, you are.

A stunning reversal of the usual pattern

I've been pretty damn blue these past couple of days. The whole becoming a nasty and stupid person upon quitting smoking thing is really, really getting to me.

So I'm talking to Becky last night and she is mystified about how I can be in a bad mood when the right is so totally disintegrating--elbowing each other out of the way to fall on their swords. And so this morning I determined to take Becky's advice, that has fallen on my deaf ears for so long, and listen to Stephanie Miller. Oh my god. What was I thinking to wait so long?

I love this woman!!! If anyone else out there is feeling a little blue, give her a listen. I am here in my office with my headphones on, listening to this morning's archived broadcast laughing out loud somewhat hysterically. First there was Scott McClellan's new nickname--Chummy McSharkbait, the President's Spokesliar--and then there's the riff on the new reality TV show "Barbara Bush on Negro Island."

"In what universe do you look at a 2% approval rating among blacks and say 'it's not so bad?' I mean, there's one digit before you get"

"Yeah, and there's a three percent margin for error, so it could be as much as 5%...Or -1%."

So yes, it's one of those rare moments in history where listen to the news can actually act to cheer you up if you're left of center. I'm soaking it in. This is my new quitting smoking strategy--I'm just going to immerse myself in the news as much as possible.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oddly satisfying

This is.

(And you can click and drag him too.)

Quote of the day

Free-roaming, managed cheetahs in the south-western United States could save the fastest carnivore from extinction...

Pleistocene re-wilding is an optimistic alternative.

(Pleistocene re-wilding sounds to me either like a band name or a bad crafting trend. Like: "Did you see her bathroom? It's frightful. She got into that pleistocene re-wilding and now all of the grout is chartreuse."

I'm so restless; I'm bored as a cat...

Chris just reminded me of the excellence of Postsecret. I hadn't been there in a long time, and they've gotten better.

This one's for Portia:
I am almost done with the first draft of this "blood from a stone" report. (My lord the smoke bone is connected to the writing bone!)

I know the nicotine is pretty much out of my system but I still have these almost hallucinatory moments. This morning, passing the church next to my building, this flock of church ladies came clustering into the street in their weird tan skirted, white shirted church lady auxiliary outfits. It was highly surreal and I am just out of it enough that I almost turned several of them into hood ornaments as I was absorbing what was happening. Be careful church ladies!!! You're not made of titanium. And I shouldn't be operating heavy machinery.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Since I'm in a quoting mode

I love this from Yelladog:

Standing over finished work and musing is a great and honorable passtime in the South, and there are certain protocols that must be followed. Someone has to say "Yep," and the other party has to say "Glad that's done." What follows is situationally dependent. If it's a fresh engine rebuild, someone has to say "Purring like a kitten!" even if the engine is thumping like a disco and belching blue smoke. If it's a freshly painted barn or a rebuilt well house, someone is supposed to say "Damn, looks like new, doesn't it?" Digging up a clothesline pole is kind of unusual, so we were in virgin territory. Andy broke with protocol and said "You're never going to bust that ball of concrete."

Well, never say never to a redneck. Especially, never say never to a redneck with a sledgehammer.
Patrick writes so well--he is a regular renaissance redneck, I tell you. In fact, we "met" over this post-election post that someone forwarded me in email and I googled to track down. Almost a year later and still a brilliant post.

Utter submission

From this month's Los Angeles magazine:

The brilliant ad line "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" understands that the vast majority of people who come to Vegas won't really have wild affairs or run off with showgirls or indulge in anything more than the garden-variety debauchery of a few too many White Russians at the roulette wheel. The allure of "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" isn’t what happens in Vegas but the unfulfilled possibility of what might have happened the last time and what might happen the next, even as nothing is likely to ever happen. Vegas is a Sodom of the mind, the City of the Free Pass that you never use, and that it's not free at all is beside the point, because the other thing that Vegas shares with LA is the utter submission of reason to hope. In fact, your chance of winning an Academy Award outdistances any chance of ever winning "big" in Vegas. Every intelligent person understands this and it doesn't matter; once again unfulfilled possibility overpowers comprehension.

Taking my tongue back from the cat

I am still alive out here. And still a non-smoker (day 12 thank you very much). The combination of being half crazy from desire to smoke and a mongo project at work have me silent, but tonight I hope to crawl out from under the writing rock.

Writing without smoking has been humbling at best. It is getting better, but thank heavens this is not the final draft, is what I'm saying.

In other news, I am very excited to have bought Gang of Four tickets today. Thank you Yelladog and Eponymous for the heads-up. Ep has pix from the Athens show.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Just now on the phone

Me: I ate an entire bag of red vines yesterday.

Andrea: You mean the ones you said weren't very satisfying.

Me: Yeah.

Andrea: snicker

Me: If they'd been satisfying I wouldn't have had to eat the whole bag.

I really don't understand men

It's official. I really don't get them--this sudden realization brought on by the announcement of this year's Ig Nobel winner: Gregg Miller, the creator of Neuticals, testical implants for dogs who've gone under the knife.

I know it's tiresome....

...and for that I apologize. I do get that there are about a zillion more important things to be talking about (DeLay, Miers, the NY subway...) than my addiction to the demon weed. But hey. It's day seven.

I am actually in my office here at work--rather than working from home as I have been most of the week. I have a big writing project that I am behind on, but plugging away at. X Unclogged is playing, I am chewing away on my polar ice gum, thinking fondly about the past when I used to be a smart person.

Yeah. I think I'm leaving here soon to go home and work from there some more. That way when I really start to lose my shit I can blast the music and dance through my apartment.

This link from Conor pretty well captures how I am feeling today.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

If I were a farmer...

...waking up at four a.m. would make sense. It was like this actually. "Yikes, what time is it? I'm wide awake!!!....look at clock...Oh, it's four a.m. Go back to bed, Travis......Yikes, what time is it? I'm wide awake....Oh, it's four o three...." Repeat until 4:24 at which point you surrender and get out of bed.

I think we should get RJ Reynolds to run for president. Because surely with that level of evil genius in the White House we can both win the war on terror and regain our rightful place as world dominating superpower.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Soothing the savage beast

So I am working from home on a big writing project. Chewing tea tree toothpicks until they transform into a wood pulp substance and listening to Sigur-Rós' Takk, which I just bought yesterday on Eponymous' recommendation. It's a fantastic CD. At the risk of being misunderstood as someone who listens to way too much music described as "ethereal" (first Dead Can Dance, now this) I really cannot recommend it enough. Thank heavens I don't have a roommate because I'm just going to listen to this over and over today while I write and turn tea tree toothpicks into wood pulp.

(And I'll confess that no matter how many times I play this, I will remain completely clueless as to the different titles of their songs as I do whenever I like a band like this--witness my relationship to the Cocteau Twins, for example and their song titles are in English not Icelandic.)

You can hear sound clips on Amazon, of course; though you really should buy from someone with better labor practices.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

So far I haven't killed anyone

Hell, I haven't even punched anyone in the face, and I'd say that's damn good.

So this morning they kept me waiting an hour for the fasting blood test. Have I mentioned that patience is the personal quality most severely depleted by not smoking? Well, so it seems for me. And so I'm waiting there an hour. Hungry. Daytime TV is on--The View, which is apparently four women spouting off about things they don't know much about ("Well, if I had to nominate a supreme court justice, I'd nominate someone I know who shares my views"). Bad enough, right? Well then on comes Air Supply to do a medley of their "greatest hits." That was the point I realized god was mocking me and it was going to be alright.

Once again

Conor recommends the finest:
OK Go's A Million Ways video. He's calling it "possibly the best heavily-choreographed-bad-dancing-in-the-back-garden music video ever" and I have to concur.

Happy New Year

Mazel Tov everyone. So far day four is beginning fabulously. DeLay has been indicted on more charges. Two of my best friends called me already to wish me a happy anniversary. My in box is filled with well wishes and I'm on my way to get a fasting blood test taken (which I've been putting off for a week).

More soon. Thank you to all for the non-smoking encouragement. Believe me it helps and I need it. I told Andrea I felt like I was in Lamaze classes. I'd get this wave of compulsion and just need to breathe--it does feel like the addiction equivalent of labor. She says I'm going to give birth to a camel.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I know I should say something about Miers

But I'm not going to. What I'm going to say is simply day three of not smoking is drawing to a close. It was, in fact, harder than day one or two. I'm not sure I can really stand it if day four gets any harder. I don't think I will smoke but I do think my head may explode like in Scanners. I don't think I can become much more of a misanthrope without representing an immediate threat to myself or others.

In other news, if nothing extraordinary happens in the next hour and half, tomorrow will mark twenty years since I've used drugs, including alcohol. I'm going to have to start telling people I got clean at eight to be sure. If I have time and enough functioning brain cells I may post something a little more about this tomorrow. For now, I'm going to bed.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Just for today

So I didn't smoke a cigarette today.

That's all I really wanted to say--that for the first time in oh, maybe 18 years, I went a whole day without smoking.

That and I really feel like chewing my arm off.

I'm thinking if I did it today, I can probably do it tomorrow.


This is really funny.