Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Midterms went well, I think, though only time will tell. Actually, I only had one midterm, on Tolstoy. Now I can direct my efforts at Anna Karenina. It's actually not that long, 850 pages or so, and with 2 1/2 weeks left to read it, I don't anticipate it being an issue. And it's a good book, so that's a plus.

Saw Blind Shaft yesterday at the Ken. Overall I found it interesting, but felt the film tried to distance itself a bit from the bleak view that opened the film. What's so different about the kid they set out to kill from the man they killed the first time around (and presumably the other people they have killed in the past) that they suddenly have flashes of compassion? Not to mention a billion-to-one coincidence thrown in for good measure. But I enjoyed the grittiness of the plot, if I wouldn't go as far as the New York Times, comparing it to the work of Cornell Woolrich.

There were six trailers before the film, not including promos for a film festival and a contest. Thanks, Landmark Theatres. I thought the five they showed when I worked there was one too many. At least their pre-show advertisements are more civilized than those shown by their competition. I get particularly annoyed by the anti-piracy spots at AMC and others. Thanks for showing your appreciation that I paid to see your movie with a lecture about how it's wrong not to pay for movies. What annoyed me the last time I saw the stuntman trailer, it had multiple emulsion scratches, and an awkward splice half-way through it. Why watch a high-quality digital product at home, when you can come to AMC Theaters, where they don't give a damn about the product we put on our screens. Grrr...

The Adams Avenue Roots Festival is this weekend, May 1st and 2nd. I'll be out of town Saturday night, but hopefully will see some of it, Saturday morning or Sunday.

Mary Chapin Carpenter will be on Letterman tonight. Haven't heard much about the new album, read a review in No Depression that sounded like damning with faint praise. Looking forward to hearing her perform something from the new album.

Jane Goodall will be here at the Birch Aquarium Friday night, 7:15, accepting the Nierenberg Prize for Science in the Public Interest. I'm off Friday, but might come in to hear her speak.

CHP hit with $4.5 million judgement for malicious ticketing.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

My, how time does fly. The academic quarter is already reaching the half-way point, mid-term week and all that fun stuff. School is going okay. I'm finding that Tolstoy is an amazing writer. And with our occupation of Iraq, quite timely to read about the analogous situation in Chechnya in the 1860s. That Chechyn situation was wrapped up pretty quickly, wasn't it?

I've spent the last week or so mired in self-pity, which is probably no news. Feeling like I've lost control of my destiny. And deciding that maybe I had my one chance at happiness about 5 years ago, and that was it, and now it's all over. Which is ridiculous, but at least I've found a new moment from my past to dwell on, most of the others were becoming worn out, like Rosaries I'd worried away. But hey, why look to the future, that's more depressing.

Though I suppose I have been looking a bit to the future, trying to figure out some summer trips. Vegas, of course, but I'd like to take a non-gambling vacation as well. I've never been to the south, was thinking Tennessee, or Kentucky, hear the Blue Ridge Mountains are beautiful. But having given it some thought, I'm thinking the South might be more of a spring break thing, might be a bit too hot and humid to hike around in the summer. So the two choices I'm giving the most serious consideration to is Colorado, the Rockies, which I haven't seen in at least a decade, or the Pacific Northwest. Once I get Anna Karenina read for class, I plan to research the matter a bit and try to make a decision.

Got The Complete Peanuts in the mail on Wednesday. It is, of course, awesome. All the reviews emphasize how different the strip was in its infancy, but I was surprised more by what was there from the beginning, especially with Charlie Brown. He doesn't take life's slings and arrows with quite the awkward grace (if that isn't a oxymoron) in later strips, getting angry more often then usual, but the pathos of the character is there from early on. In one strip, Patty is fighting with Shermy, and calls him a Charlie Brown, to which he replies that she has gone too far, while Charlie Brown just watches the conversation despondently. But the strips are quite a bit different, especially in visual style, with a lot of pac-manesque profiles. And a lot of the humor early on depends on the children's playing with adult roles and failing to recognize their youthfulness. In an early strip, some of the kids stand below a sign, "Look Out For Children." In the last panel, they decide the children aren't coming, and leave. (Later on, they realize a similar sign refers to them, and are delighted that they are famous). The books will get even better once Shultz hits his stride, but even this first volume had me laughing, a lot, and feeling touched as well. The book itself is well-designed, incidentally, with decent supplemental material, including a great interview with Shultz from the 1980s, and a helpful (and sometimes amusing) index.

Keep watching the Freaks and Geeks DVD, and loving every moment of it. Only two episodes remain, after which I will be very sad. Saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, after several false starts (turns out the stomach upset that prevented me from seeing it two weeks ago was a lingering illness, which was probably partly to blame for my recent depression). I really didn't care for it, felt the whole film was hollow, but can't really put my finger on it. I can say I did not share the critic's rapture with Kate Winslet's performance.

I should mention that Mary Chapin Carpenter and Nellie McKay will both be on tv this week, Carpenter on Letterman Tuesday, McKay on The View on Thursday. I've been listening to a lot of good stuff lately, which I always mean to mention here but only do sometimes. I see where some people preface their posts with what they're currently reading and listening to, maybe I should do that. Today I was listening to Magnetic Stripes' 69 Love Songs, disc 2, which seems to be the only one I ever listen to. That replaced The Pine Valley Cosmonauts Salute the Majesty of Bob Wills, a truly amazing piece of Western Swing. God, have I started listening to a lot of country lately. But good stuff. But Nellie McKay has spent the most time in my CD player since I got my copy, though I'm making a point of giving it a bit of a rest. Shakira and Lyle Lovett round out what I've been listening to the most. Because I'm sure you cared to know.

Museum of Bad Art.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I just took a nice walk down memory lane with this review of issue #1 of Nintendo Power. I had forgotten about the old Nintendo Fun Club. Nintendo folk really are good folk.
Hero monkey gets royal funeral.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

What kind of quiz taker are you?

You are an

Find out what kind of quiz-taker you are

Another accurate illustration of beagle ownership thanks to the late Charles Shultz. My copy of Vol. 1 of The Complete Peanuts should have shipped Thursday, so that is very exciting.
I have been enjoying the new Freaks and Geeks DVD very much since that glorious day it came in the mail. Trying to pace myself, since once I watch these episodes, there will be no more to watch. But after watching Mr. Grosso tell Lindsay he has herpes, I did a search for Dave 'Gruber' Allen, and found The Naked Trucker Show. Awesome. Vaguely recall seeing him on Conan some time back, but thought it was a one-off thing, didn't realize it was a Los Angeles tradition.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Had dinner at Mandarin Dynasty. My mom was visibly shaken by her fortune cookie, which confused me, when I read it: "You will witness a miracle." Apparently, she didn't bother to finish the last word (busy busy), and concluded her fortune was, "You will witness a murder." That's a fortune cookie I'd like to see. It reminded me of this fortune I received the other day, at the China King Buffet in Lemon Grove:

Which wouldn't have been an awful fortune; bland as it is, at least it's a fortune. But when I opened the cookie, this is the side I saw first:

Pretty weak. Of course, it's not the worst "fortune" I've got. That would have to be this one, received some time back from a chinese restaurant in La Jolla, the name of which escapes me:

Now that's a new low.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Pictures from and the trailer for Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Can't say it looks all that promising, but the news that Billy Connelly will be Uncle Monty is exciting.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I've been so tired lately. Slept in to 10 on Monday, but still lagging from Sunday, I guess. And yesterday I wasn't feeling good. Was going to go see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind yesterday, but thought better of it after throwing up in the mall's parking lot. But instead of going home, I just drove around for an hour or so. Not sure why, and it was sort of stupid considering gas is close to $2.20/gallon. I was listening to the Nellie McKay CD that everyone is talking about, which came in the mail yesterday. I must say I just love it, at least judging from the first disc, haven't listened to the second yet. But really amazing stuff. It first caught my attention because I have a Google News alert set up to search for Randy Newman, and it kept e-mailing me about reviews of the album, because Randy Newman was mentioned in a lot of them. Seems a little bit of a stretch, but I guess there is a similar mix of cynicism and hope, biting lyrics with melodies that hearken back to an earlier time. And I suppose it's just as enlightening a comparison as the one on the sticker on the CD, that proclaimed her a combination of Doris Day and Eminem. Perhaps I'll say more after I've listened to the whole thing, but since the critics seem to be falling over themselves praising her, what could I add, really?
I was reading an article about William Hung's recording success. It followed a predictable enough path, talking about the bafflement of music insiders as to his unlikely success, until late in the article, the author apparently felt the need to put the phenomenon into its proper historical context. A music insider is quoted as observing "that Hung isn't the first bad singer to sell albums." Hard to argue with that. "A housewife who went by the name Mrs. Miller scored a #15 hit in the mid-1960s with a collection of off-key covers that included the smash 'Downtown.'" This is a matter of opinion, but I don't really think it is fair to describe Mrs. Miller as an off-key warbler. She may not have the kind of voice I like to listen to, but she was mechanically rather proficient. The humor in Mrs. Miller was more the juxtaposition of this matronly housewife singing pop songs in a classical style (and later recording a pathetic attempt at a drug-themed album). But what really got my goat is this: "And Tiny Tim was a smash a few years later, despite having a horrible voice." Tiny Tim, a horrible singer?! You might not care to listen to a falsetto crooner rehashing the hits of yesteryear, but how can you justify this claim? It's bad enough when he's dismissed as a novelty act, a tenuous position to hold, but we're all entitled to our opinions. But to equate Tiny Tim with William Hung? Unforgivable.

Monday, April 12, 2004

I was watching a bit of a Phil Hartman documentary on A&E, and got to wondering why the DVD of NewsRadio hasn't come out yet (it was originally set for February). Decided to do a quick search on the web, and found this: NewsRadio - Delay Explained. Glad to know...I was concerned that maybe the studio had cold feet and it wasn't going to come out at all.

But I must keep this short. Freaks and Geeks arrived in the mail, and I want to watch a few more episodes before bed.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Got up at 5:45 to go to sunrise service with my mom at El Camino Memorial Park. Put on by a Baptist church; you would think a Baptist service would have good music, but its that same old praise music Creed-without-soul crap. Swung by the various family members that reside there afterwards, then went to D.Z. Akin's for breakfast.

Got home around 9, and then was on the computer off and on until noon, trying to remove a trojan horse that somehow got on my computer. Reset the home page (and kept resetting it back when I would change it), and kept redirecting me from any web site to some lame search-engine-cum-viagra-ad. Renewed Norton Anti-Virus, which didn't help at all, and ad-aware failed me (which is unusual, as it's usually a fine program). Fortunately, even though I couldn't get to google, the google toolbar (god bless it) worked, so I found a website that said it would remove the offending spyware. Did some more google searches to make sure this page was legit, and after finding some media mention of the site, downloaded CWshredder, which found the offending code and removed it from my computer. So huzzah and kudos to Merijn.org for saving my ass this Easter morning. Not sure how I got infected, Mom said the computer was working fine when she got on it, but it was all funky when I got on it, so at least it appears to be her fault.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Texas Tornados will be performing at 4th and B on May 4th. $20 general admission if purchased in advance. Nothing on the web site that I could find about the line-up (I was unaware they still performed after Doug Sahm's death), but regardless, it should be a good show.
Weird Al's parents killed in fire.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Just watched Arnold Palmer play his last hole of golf at the Masters. I'm sure my father would have liked to have seen that.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Sweeney Todd is coming to DVD. I taped this off TV years ago, but my copy has seen better days, so this is really exciting. I also see there is a concert version of Sweeney Todd from 2001, also with George Hearn in the title role (but no Angela Landsbury). Can't vouch for that version, though.
San Diego Opera had a promotion with the Sledgehammer that enabled me to get 1/2 price tickets to last night's production of Don Carlo. I hadn't been to the opera in three or four years (Falstaff being the last one I attended), and enjoyed myself very much. The Union-Tribune mentioned the length of the opera, but the four hours went by remarkably fast. The King's aria in Act III was especially beautiful, if a bit out of place (Act II ends with his son pulling a sword on him, and so in Act III he worries that his wife doesn't love him). Too bad the guy behind me sounded like a foghorn, coughing through the entire performance. But I had a good time.

My calves were killing me yesterday. I went running in the morning, and after about a mile I had to stop and stretch, they were so tight. Stretching seemed to help, but I decided to cut my run short anyway, given that I knew I had a fair amount of walking to do at school. Now my feet are bothering me from the uncomfortable shoes I wore to the opera. But I shouldn't complain.

Where are the 'cuter' Iraqi war photos?
Boondocks on The Passion.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

So it turns out I loved The Ladykillers. As you may know, I was very apprehensive going in, being so fond of the original. But it turns out, while it may be a matter of comparing apples and orangutan, the Coen Brothers' version surpasses the original in some ways. The different members of the gang are more developed as individuals (if still caricatures), and most notably, the old woman is a far more interesting woman in the remake. There are deficiencies as well, mainly in the remake's tendency to paint everything in broad strokes. For instance, the notion that the sheriff must suspect the old lady of being a raving loon if the ending is to be believed, so that we get a grating scene of Tom Hanks hiding under the bed while Irma Hall laughs and pratters on. But as I say, you're better off not comparing the two films; the first was full of dry and urbane British humor (I don't know if Alec Guiness could have played off "You brought your bitch to the Waffle Hut?!" as well as Hanks), and the last, well, was directed by the Coen Brothers. I laughed more than I have at any movie in some time. Great soundtrack as well. One of the year's best, no doubt.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Never did get around to posting about anything this week. To start with, it was the first week of school. First day was a tad unpleasant. I have class MWF at 11:00 and 12:00, with a Monday class in the evenings. Since I wouldn't have time to run that evening, and since Sunday indicated it would be a hot day, I got up a bit early to run before school. Unfortunately, by the time I got to Lake Murray around 9, it was already a scorcher (it got to be about 100 that afternoon). I was going to run a half-hour, but after about ten minutes I was feeling like crap. I ended up running about fifteen minutes, walking five, and then running the last five minutes or so back to my car. I took a shower, and found I didn't have time to grab lunch somewhere like I'd planned, so I went straight to school, and bought a smoothie on my way to class. I made it to where I thought my class was right on time, but the room I was looking for, U413, was not, as I assumed, next to U412. I started searching for U413, making concentric circles around U412, but found nothing. Finally, I overheard someone else getting directions to the room, so I headed in the general direction indicated, passing the 400s, the 500s, 600s and 700s. I assumed the directions were bunk and made a detour, then decided to just keep going in the direction indicated come hell or high water. Finally, I find the room, sitting on a corner all alone, with no possible logical explanation why this is numbered 413. I was about 15 minutes late, but so were a lot of people, so I didn't feel too bad. Class on late Victorian literature, Stevenson, Conan Doyle, Kipling and the like. The reading seems light, and the lectures, a bit dull, but straightforward. Then I hiked to my Tolstoy class, where the reading load seems a bit heavier (though not as bad as I feared, we have three weeks to read Anna Karinnina, and we aren't reading War and Peace), but a more enriching experience. I went home, my knees hurting quite a bit, and then came back for my evening class. A film professor who doesn't know how to use a DVD player is a tad pathetic. We stared at the menu screen for Nosferatu while the professor waited for it to start, then the professor hit the fast-forward button, so that we could watch the menu animation in double-time. Finally, someone helped him start the film, but since he apparently is unaware of the chapter feature, we only watched some expository opening scenes, and barely saw the meat of the film. It seems like a frightfully dull class to spend three hours in every Monday.

Thursday I spent the day in Los Angeles, where I saw "Let's Eat: Feasting on the Firesign Theater." I went up early and explored the neighborhood, so I wouldn't have to worry about traffic. Went to Griffith Park, until the rain forced me to my car. Did some shopping, bought a book and a magazine at Book Soup, and some touristy crap at Farmer's Market, where I had dinner. Also bought Tanner some gourmet dog treats from the bakery there.

Then it was on to Royce Hall at UCLA, for the Firesign Theater tribute. I'd been looking forward to this for some time, and about five minutes into it, I had to wonder, why? I mean, should it have really been a surprise that the evening was, for the most part, terrible? The skits of the Firesign Theater, performed by people other than Firesign Theater, hastily assembled, with little if any rehersal time, why is this necessary? It wasn't that their wasn't a lot of talent on-stage, or that the acting was horrendous, it was just a matter of the timing always being a little off, just enough to make it truly painful to watch, probably more painful then if it truly had been spectacularly bad. Howard Hessman was okay, but most of the people on-stage just didn't quite have the Firesign Theater style, which isn't a put-down, just a fact. One exception was Bob Odenkirk, who limited his involvement to a few brief appearances as Ralph Spoilsport, a character very much in spirit with the fake ads on Mr. Show (i.e. Cock Ring Warehouse). But once he'd done his bit, he had the sense to get off the stage. Todd Rundgren and Stan Ridgeway (the latter being a saving grace of Hal Wilner's last such show, the Randy Newman tribute) both proved themselves adept at comedy, outshining the established comedians like John Goodman. I stuck it out through intermission, and the second half was better, probably because it was more plot-driven material, like "High School Madness," where the off timing wasn't as damaging. But I left early, in order to get home at a decent hour (about 1:30). So if they did "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger," probably my favorite routine, I missed it. All in all, it made for a disappointing evening. Though it served as an excuse to sleep in 'til noon and miss both my classes Friday (we were just watching a documentary on Tolstoy in one, so I can make that up on my own).

Rear Window was on TCM yesterday, so I watched that for the two-hundredth time. The Trouble With Harry was on after that, but I figured I should do some reading for school, so I passed on that. Read some Tolstoy, and played some video games; Target had a good sale on video games, so I bought several, and got a Target credit card, so I got an extra 10% off my purchases that day. Bought Super Mario Bros. 3 (using the original nomenclencure), Yoshi's Island, and Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga (I believe called Paper Mario in the original release). Nintendo has a real racket going re-releasing old games, but at least it's win-win. I remember badly wanting Super Mario Bros. 3 as a kid, but not getting it, for whatever reason. Now I can fill that void that has haunted me my whole life. Thank you, Nintendo, thank you.

Nice to see Randy Newman get a plug in the funny pages.
Memento mori: This Sunday's Pickles cartoon was rather dark. And Family Circus touched on a similar theme; the Sunday strip is apparently not available on-line, so I'll summarize: Who's one day closer to death? "Not me!"

Thursday, April 01, 2004

The good news is David Byrne will be in San Diego, August 29th. The bad news is he will be at Humphrey's, so you know the ticket price will be atrocious. But I'll be there (even if the new album sounds an awful lot like the last one).