Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Roy Orbison in Clingfilm Webpage. It takes all kinds, I suppose.

Friday, November 28, 2003

So, what have I been up to since last Saturday? Work, school. This upcoming week is the last week of school. I'm done with finals and everything the Wednesday after. I'm basically caught up, except I still need to read about half of the Annie Dillard book for my nature-writing class, and finish a novel we're supposed to debate in class on Monday. This quarter has not gone that great, but I think I'll at least get through it sucessfully, which beats failing miserably. Then I have a few weeks to regroup, and next quarter will be the quarter where I turn everything around! Huzzah!

I bought a Gameboy. I bought it in anticipation of buying a GameCube, which can connect to a Gameboy, and then neat things happen, or so I'm told. I like it. I got it at CostCo bundled with Donkey Kong Country, which it turns out is a pretty fun game. I just like the idea of playing old-school Nintendo video games like Super Mario Bros. 3. In fact, one of the neat combos available by owning both a Gameboy and GameCube is, if you finish the GameBoy Metroid game, and hook up to the GameCube Metroid game, you can unlock the original Metroid. So I was playing around with Donkey Kong over Thanksgiving, and today I bought Wario Ware: Mega Microgames, which involves some 200 mini-games which you can play in less than 5 seconds. Weird game, but playing it over my lunch break, it looks addictive.

So, having gotten my Gameboy, it was time to get a GameCube. I was waiting for the Friday after Thanksgiving (today), to see what the deals were. Wal-Mart was $80, Circuit City was $99 with a free memory card, and Best Buy was $99 with a free Nascar video game and free portable CD player. I decided to go with Best Buy. I arrived around 5:40, and the line stretched almost to Parkway Plaza's parking garage (that's a long line). The place was pretty packed by the time I finally got inside, but with much manuvering, I was able to get a GameCube with the Zelda bonus disc (why do they still sell the ones without the Zelda disc, who's going to buy it?). I grabbed the CD player, but couldn't find the game. Eventually, I did confirm that they were sold out of the game, which didn't really make sense, that they would run out of 1/3 of a three-part package. But given the crowd, I was just glad I got a system. I picked up Crazy Taxi for $9.99, and some cheap DVDs. Then I went to get in line, which was no easy feat. Eventually, I'd followed the serpentine line through the entire store to find its end near the entrance. I got in line and settled in for a long wait.

I was somewhat annoyed about not getting the game, wishing I'd gone to Circuit City instead (I don't need a CD player; a memory card I could use), and feeling the pangs of anger one experiences when facing a bait-and-switch (granted, they fully acknowledged that supplies were limited, but it stil struck me odd that they would have portions of the set in stock). But I was understanding, given the magnitute of the crowd, that I wasn't going to get everything I wanted, and was getting a good enough deal on Crazy Taxi and the DVDs to make a two-hour wait reasonable, and I didn't get too worked up by the situation. About thirty minutes later, my mood began to change, when salespeople began wandering the line offering to let people cut ahead if they bought a magazine subscription or Netflix subscription. I thought that was a bit odd, but after another fifteen minutes or so, didn't seem like too bad an idea. So I asked about the Entertainment Weekly subscription, but suddenly, no, you can't cut the line with that offer, you have to sign up for a free trial of MSN. Just cancel when you get home (you always know you're dealing with a top-drawer, fully ethical outfit when they actively encourage you to abuse their promotions). Knowing it was going to be a pain in the ass, I agreed to accept the offer and get out faster. They made a point of calling people's attention to me, the smart guy getting out faster, showing a mastery of timeshare sales techniques (at least if I'd gone to a timeshare presentation, I probably would've gotten a free GameCube). So I got in a line of about five people waiting to sign up for MSN. For ten minutes, the line doesn't move. Then they say the computer is down, but it will only be five minutes or so. Deeply disapproving of their boiler room sales techniques, I got upset about the relatively poor value of the GameCube deal, and also considered whether I really needed the DVDs. Sure, $5 for Young Frankenstein is a great deal, on a movie I'd love to own, but would I really be buying Say Anything and Spaceballs if I wasn't filling my quota for their five for $25 offer? So, long story short, I left my merchendise sitting where I stood, and ended up buying a GameCube, for the full retail price, with no bonuses besides the Zelda disc, at Target. And Best Buy can suck my balls.

Yet again, I find myself deficient in posting to this blog in a timely matter. Of course, with the end of the academic quarter fast approaching, I suppose I have an excuse. Except, of course, that I did not spend the time I wasn't posting on academic matters, so I suppose that's a lame excuse.

I suppose the most notable events of the past week or so revolve around last Saturday. I spent the morning and afternoon in Julian, surveying the fire damage on a class trip. Friends of the professor was kind enough to allow us into their home, and onto their property to witness the effects of the fire. Driving through Cuyamaca, it was shocking, even when you're expecting it, the extent of the damage. There were isolated patches that were spared, but virtually the entire park (at least as visible from the roads) was just black rubble. And of course you pass the empty holes that were once houses, where now only a chimney and a bit of rubble are. It was remarkable that the professor's friends still had a house; two neighbors did not, and trees were burnt less than 50 feet from their house. It was helpful to see the damage, but I could not help feeling like a tresspasser. The people we met were friendly, and unlike the signs I saw on Wildcat Canyon yesterday, no one was pre-emptively asserting the right to shoot looters, I felt that it was not exactly right to go gawk at people's recently incinerated dreams. I'm glad I went, though.

That evening, after driving to Julian and back, I drove to Los Angeles to see Michael Moore. I like his movies unequivicably, and his television shows, especially T.V. Nation, were for the most part spot-on. And I imagine the left needs voices like Moore's. All that said, I must say I had ambivalent feelings about the evening. I should say first that I was over thirty minutes late, having got off the freeway at Wilshire rather than Sunset and getting lost. When I arrived, Moore was just finishing a discussion of Rush Limbaugh's recent problems, which I really wish I had heard. He then tore into Joe Scarburough, essentially claiming that their was substatial evidence he murdered an intern. It seemed like a rather incindiary charge to raise simply to work up a crowd, seeing as a mass rally is not the best place to detail the allegations in detail (perhaps if I'd read his new book already, I'd be more familiar with the matter). Besides, going after someone on MSNBC is like, to quote Triumph, "pooping on poop." He read a chapter from his new book, Dude, Where's My Country, written from the voice of God. Its intent was to lambast the right's claim of divine guidance, yet it came off, if possible, as even more pompous. At least Bush claims his views as those of God; Moore takes personal credit for being right on every issue. And the humor fell flat. I think that's my main complaint; Michael Moore ain't as funny as he used to be. Yes, times are bleak, but that's all the more reason to give the people something to laugh at as you try to mobilize them again the Bush junta.

Other things that bothered me: He should just give up on Clark. Moore sent out an e-mail urging Clark to run, so I think he feels obligated not to immediately abandon him, but let's face it, Clark is a huge disappointment, who has no chance of getting the Democratic nomination unless the party leadership imposes their will on the voters. Also, in discussing Kucinich, Moore mocked him for saying he's in favor of abortion rights yet morally opposed to abortion. He compared that to a candidate who was morally opposed to inter-racial dating. If Moore can't see the difference, he's more out of touch with middle America than most of the politicians and corporate honchos he ridicules.

There were other things that bothered me, but I'm being too negative. I paid almost $30 to see him (the ticket prices were a bone of contention brought up during Q&A; apparently the prices were beyond Moore's control, as it was part of a larger lecture series at UCLA), and so must have been positively inclined towards him. And he did have some good things to say about the war and what needs to be done to mobilize against Bush, and a contest he organized pitting the dumbest Canadian in the audience against the smartest Americans (the Canadian won in a landslide) was funny. But overall, as I said, I think Tucker Carlson actually has a point (God forgive me for saying that) when he says Bush has made the left lose its sense of humor, much like Clinton did to the right. I love Al Franken, but watching him get interviewed makes me squirm sometimes now. I completely understand where he's coming from (except his unconditional love of Clinton), but its frustrating. Laugh! Political satire is supposed to be funny! Bowling for Columbine dealt with horrible facts about our culture, yet didn't lose the comedic elements Moore has always used to help get his message across to mainstream audiences. But I'll shut up now, no need to keep beating up on a good man and a great filmmaker.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Dictionaraoke. Most of the links I tried are broken, but I did enjoy Cameo's "Word Up."'s music library to be destroyed.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I assume you've all seen the Michael Jackson booking photo. Having spoken to my mother and sister, I've discovered that we all had the spontaneous first reaction to the photo, that it's a picture of Grandma. They both have Bette Davis eyes.
Columbia Journalism Review on the campaign to recall Walter Duranty's pulitzer.
I liked Calvin Trillin's poem in the new issue of The Nation, dated December 1, 2003:

A Silver-Lining View of George Bush's Not Attending Military Funerals, Lest He Become Associated With Bad News

At least there's no Bush eulogy On Why they had to die. It's better that they're laid to rest Without another lie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Photos of Mission Trails after the fires. I'm going to take Tanner on Friday to explore some of the regions that have re-opened.
Neal Pollack on his band's Eastern tour. It's a shame about his record label going bankrupt. Also a shame the one song I've heard on the CD so far kind of sucks. But hey, give the guy a few bucks, the world needs laughter. I hope his site's hiatus is short (strangely, his post announcing his departure and the follow-up love-fest post, are both missing now).
Speaking of Rhino, I should also mention their new Devo DVD, which also looks sweet.
Rhino has released a new Talking Heads boxed set. Looks pretty sweet.
The FTC is investigating KFC, over their new "Fried Chicken is good for you" ad campaign. To quote Jon Stewart (on another matter), "Do they think we're retarded?
Overshadowed by Michael's latest problems (let's see him buy his way out of trouble this time), Eminem also finds himself in hot water.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Apparently Vegas is where pinball developers go to die...or at least get rich. The video poker machine in question does sound fun (though its not hard to see why the odds suck), and seeing as it's by the developer of the Twilight Zone pinball game, which is one of the best ever, I'm sure it's well-designed.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Ran in the Shelter Island 5K this morning. The weather was nice for it, no rain, the sun was out but it was still cool. I was concerned about my performance, as I had not yet recovered from the layoff due to illness and then the fires. The run felt very hard, but I managed a respectable 21:17 (a personal record or very close, I'll have to check when I get home). Under-seven-minute pace, and placed me right on the midpoint of my age division (this was my first race since entering the 25-29 group). Coming that close, I would have liked to have broken the 21:00 mark, but not being as prepared as I would have liked, I couldn't really push myself as hard as I would have liked, in that second mile. Afterwards, they provided a champagne brunch, which I was really surprised how nice it was. Omelette bar, sushi, and a wide variety of other breakfast foods. I had an omelette, a little sushi, and fruit, and some champagne. I intended to go back for seconds, but the line was horrendous by that point, and in any event I wasn't that hungry. I believe this is the first time they've put this event on, in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Shelter Island (I find it hard to believe it's that recent an addition to our coastline), but I hope they hold it again, it was a nice course, and the brunch was excellent, even if champagne isn't really what I'm longing for after a run.

So I'm at work, and it finally occurs to me, for the first time when I had a computer handy, that I should see when my appointment time to schedule classes for next quarter is. It was Monday. No problem, since nothing I wanted to take is impacted or anything. Unfortunately, there is precious little being offered that I want to take. I found one class that meets MWF at 9:00 AM, and another MWF at 3:00 PM. I can't find anything in between those two, so I guess I'll just have a lot of time to kill between classes (maybe I'll make it to the gym occasionally). There is a class TuTh at 6:30, so I could run after work and then go there. Only the 3:00 class (earth science) advances me directly towards graduation, the other two are literature classes, but offered through literature of the world and cultural studies, respectively, so other than elective credit (which I have in spades), they do me little good. But "Words and their Vicissitudes" sounds interesting in a snooty, "A Way With Words" sort of way (do they still make that show? I don't see it on KPBS' web though I should be shocked to learn of one less locally-produced program on KPBS), and surely "Representing the Economy" will be a hoot. I figure I'll enroll in those three, and hopefully I'll find something to replace "Representing the Economy" by the time January rolls around.

Salon has a nice review of Tim Curry's audiobooks for The Series of Unfortunate Events.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Starting Monday, you can buy a Nintendo GameCube for $99, and get a Zelda Collector's disc, with the two NES Zelda games and the N-64 Zelda games. I'd been ever-so-slightly tempted to buy a GameCube when they cut the price, but figured I really didn't need it. But for Zelda, I gotta go for it. After all, Final Fantasy: Origins rocks, so I'm sure playing the old Zeldas will be fun, too.
My presentation for my literature class went well. I did ramble on a tad, I suppose, about twenty-five minutes into my supposed ten-minute presentation, the professor told me to wrap it up. But overall, I thought it went okay. I'm just glad to be done with it. Now I can focus on my end-of-quarter papers.

Last night, I went to a book signing for Don Novello, AKA Father Guido Sarduchi, AKA Lazlo Toth. He has a new Lazlo Letters book out. He spoke about the new book and the origins of Lazlo Toth for about a half-hour. He started writing the letters during Watergate, and took the name Lazlo Toth from the man who attacked the Pieta in the Vatican with a hammer and chisel. One interesting story Novello told, he was scheduled to appear on a morning show, to promote the new book. During the pre-interview, they asked him what he wanted to read from the book, he suggested a letter to Donald Rumsfeld, in which he mentions that there must be 50 ways to leave Afghanistan ("Just take a sled, Achmed," and so on). He was told that they don't joke about such things. Novello suggested he read a letter about soup, instead. The next day he was informed the show decided he was more suited to late-night. Somewhat disturbing the chilling effects of our current political environment on the way even a somewhat insubstantial comedian like Novello is received. When asked what he was working on, he discussed a possible book of photographs, taken of the now-ubiquitous cheap plastic chair, found in such incongruous settings as Kracatowa and the Wailing Wall. Overall, Novello was very funny; a story about being arrested (in full Father Guido garb) in the Vatican was one highlight. I picked up a copy of the book and got it signed. I mentioned one of his letters which appeared in The Believer a few months ago, encouraging the Girl Scouts to sell oysters door-to-door; he said he'd provided the magazine with several letters, so hopefully future issues will feature more Toth.

Then this morning, I went to the post office. Lo and behold, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's new CD, Come Poop With Me, arrived. I haven't listened to the CD, but I watched the included DVD. It's mostly hiliarious. The cavalcade of stars who appear to match wits with Triumph is impressive: The Dell Guy, Jared from Subway, Big Pussy from Sopranos, Conan O'Brien, Kurt Loder. Two really stand out, though: Blackwolf, made famous by Triumph's appearance at the Star Wars premiere, and Horatio Sanz as "Stinky Faye." Blackwolf sings his theme song, to the tune of "The Monster Mash", while Triumph interjects his jabs. Stinky Faye, an ancient comic very much in Triumph's mold, sings about the abomination of modern observational comics, and claims that you have to work blue. This song is funny and crude, but what is most remarkable is that it is truly disturbing, even for this jaded gen-xer. I won't spoil the surprise, but I'll just say his Nixon impression almost made me vomit. Fun times. I haven't even gotten to the CD yet, but just from the DVD I can highly recommend it. And check out his new PETA campaign.

And to switch gears dramatically, I'll remind you the Johnny Cash tribute concert is on CMT tonight.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

An interesting musical illusion.
In a desperate attempt to get a few blogs to link to its obscure site, The Onion presents: Mom finds out about blog.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

More pictures from the Tammy Faye book signing. I think I might have to order wallets of me getting a hug from Tammy Faye.

Sorry I haven't posted, just trying to get caught up in school. Giving a presentation Wednesday on hunting. I'm finishing up reading Eating Apes tonight; disturbing book.

Monday, November 03, 2003

The cast of A Mighty Wind will be playing in Los Angeles Saturday. I won't be attending, sadly, but sounds like it promises to be a delightful evening if you can make it.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

A nice bonus in attending the Tammy Faye book signing, I learned that Don Novello will be in town in two weeks. The bookstore is also screening Night of the Hunter that weekend. I'm not sure how that will work, exactly, the place isn't very big, and I don't know where exactly they would have a screening, but I love that movie, so I'm sure I'll go check it out.
I've uploaded some pictures from the Tammy Faye book signing. Which reminds me, I really need to upload the pictures from my summer vacation. Maybe tonight I'll do that, beats studying.
Today I went running for the first time in over two weeks. Felt good to finally get outside and be able to breathe. I only ran three miles, but it was a challenge. I've definitely lost some aerobic conditioning over the time off. But still, I ran fairly fast, about 7'40" pace, and my leg muscles were as strong as ever. I got a blister on my toe, which was strange for such a short run, when I don't usually have a problem with blisters. I've decided I let my toenails get too long, and cut my toe on one.

I attended the book signing with Tammy Faye Messner at Current Affairs Bookstore. She spoke for a half-hour or so, and then signed books. She is a wee little thing, as you might imagine, but you get a better impression of her size in person. She just finished filming of The Surreal Life 2," along with Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice, among others. Tammy Faye answered questions on a variety of topics, including her health, the PTL scandal, her following in the gay community, and The Surreal Life 2 (why hasn't the first version made it to DVD yet?). No matter the topic, she always effused the positivity and joy that has gotten her through so much hardship in the past, and which makes her both so inspirational and so completely vulnerable to mockery. She repeated the parable she tells about how she got over hating Jerry Falwell, explaining that in olden times, if you murdered someone, they strapped the corpse to you, and that corpse, weighing you down and festering on your back, would eventually kill you. She did add that she had it particularly bad, as her corpse was 250 pounds. In a question about The Surreal Life, one person mentioned how M.C. Hammer's role in the first series turned out to be an unusual pulpit which Hammer put to good use. When asked if she had any similar opportunities, she nodded energetically, but wouldn't comment beyond saying, "You'll have to watch."

After she had spoken for a half-hour or so, she took her seat inside, and we lined up to get her autograph. Even though we ended up near the end of the line, it didn't seem like too long a wait. My mom got her copy signed for Michelle, for a Christmas present, and got her photo taken with her. Then it was my turn to get my book signed, give her a hug, and get my picture taken. Meeting her, you realize just what a nice person she is, a little bundle of positivity. You can't help liking her. I, like most people, had written off Tammy Faye as nothing more than a tired punch-line, but after seeing The Eyes of Tammy Faye, one of the best documentaries I've seen in recent years, I realized that it was more complicated than that. Her husband was a crook, I believe, no matter what she says; but you have to appreciate the fact that she herself believes in his innocence with all her heart. And yes, its hard not to make fun of her, but she understands that, and on some level is in on the joke, too. It is odd, though, that I can go to an event like this, as a non-believer looking for a laugh, and get that laugh, and yet find the whole thing inspirational on some level, too.