Thursday, December 20, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #10 (December 20th)

There is a Christmas tie in the Men's room, hanging on the knob you depress to activate the hand drier. Its been there for a few days now, I don't think anyone is going to claim it. Been a while since the bathroom has provided me with any post worthy shenanigans... yet somehow this development makes me sad.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 14, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #9 (December 14th)

Back in the Olden Days when the Earth was new and there were no such things as animals or ducks and ghosts and demons populated the dark places of the world I wrote a wee little review of a peculiar and wonderful album released last Spring. The review was always supposed to grace the digital pages of Jack Black's Body. Sadly, that never came to pass. It was entirely my fault, and I take sole responsibility for JBB's subsequent slide into hibernation (pray, tell me it isn't a coma or death!).

The band's name is Menomena and their album Friend or Foe was fucking terrific. My sprawling (and somewhat terrible review, sorry editor ladies) won't be repeated here for it was promised to JBB and shall stay his/hers/theirs forever more. Just know that it kept me nice and happy during those bleak Spring months that have more to do with February than they do with May. And oh, the Oline. I just went back through my email box and searched for the key word Menomena only to find countless pleading entreaties to just submit the damn review, and it breaks my heart. Forgiveness?

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #8 (December 13th)

Normally I'm an NPR guy. well, actually, normally, I'm a no radio at all, put in my favorite CD of the moment to listen to sort of guy. But I like to stay informed, abreast of the political situation, blah blah menomenablah. But sometimes I can't help but switch over to something a little more, shall we say, low-brow. Over the Summer Croftie introduced me to a morning radio show called Drex in the Morning (spelling... not sure). It is the drive-time show for the local top 40 channel (Souljah boy OOOOh! er, sorry) so its listeners are mostly teens, tweens, and folks who never managed to grow up out of that mind-set. And, i guess, slumming NPR listeners who have tired of the current piece on west Texan wind turbines and how they are going to revitalize old mining towns that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Where was I? Oh yeah, crappy morning radio shows. Yesterday the topic was the supposed outrage over a state-wide law where it is illegal for persons under the age of 17 to purchase condoms. Callers spoke of how they were turned away at Wal-mart, or daughters who had to steal from their dad's stash (gross!), or 'cool' dads who handed out condoms to his sons like some sort of prophylactic fairy (er, double gross?). Anyways, the pro-condom side argued that here we have kids (yes, when you are under 17 you are a kid) who want to practice safe sex not being allowed to do so, that this will lead to an increase in unplanned pregnancies and the spread of STDs. Because it is not like a kid who has the opportunity to have sex but no resource of condoms is going to say to themselves, "Aw shucks, maybe i will just wait until next Summer."

The naysayers say that kids shouldn't have access because they are too young and too stupid and shouldn't be having sex anyway. While I agree with the too young and too stupid part, I know i was an idiot at the age of 16, I'm not quite sure a state law is the answer. Especially when teens are getting sex education in public schools. So, we're going to tell them exactly what their bodies are capable of and then tell them to hold on until they are older. Because kids never want to do the things their parents say they are forbidden to do. And the whole illicit aspect doesn't make it even more attractive to the same folks who would be inclined to do this sort of thing anyhow.

Now, my fictional completely unrealized and Croftie-unsanctioned daughter (let's call her Kit) will be chained in the attic until her 40th birthday whereupon she will be allowed to greet pre-approved suitors in the parlor. Okay, so that is a bit much, I'd probably make a good dad, or at least a decent one.

So yeah, let's get this straight, I'm a terrible, incorrigible prude. Not a judgy prude, just a prude to myself. I could care less what you do, but I was not ready for a long time for anything my peers in high-school were getting into (alcohol, sex, etc) because I totally bought in and thought that my soul was in danger of being eternally roasted if i had a sip of Bud Light or that a puff on a cigarette would lead me down the schute of oblivion to hardcore heroin use. So yeah, I wish kids wouldn't have sex, I wish they would just come to the understanding that there is no rush here, but i know damn well, especially in Small Town America, that teens are boredboredbored and that sooner or later the topic of sex is going to come up. Maybe they should at least have the chance to play it safe?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #7 (December 12th)

Over the weekend the missus and I partook us a film. I haven't been to the movie theater in a good long while, plans have been made, and abandoned, to do so--most recently with the Oline's requests for Western fun being demolished by General Ennui. Not on my part I should add, to use the Oline's descriptive words, I'm a fan of dusty mustachioed men as anyone else. So this weekend I saw the next best thing this side of a Western, the Golden Compass.

The movie was fine, the book was better, blah blah blah, how many more times can i write that before it loses all meaning, throws us all into a semantic void and rearranges the world into a Lacanian hellscape where words no longer bear any relationship to the things they used to represent. But it was fine. The acting was good, the story packaged as well as it could be into a film form making things a wee bit more expository I suppose, and oh all those 'location' shots of ships flying/sailing all over the place that Croftie pointed out sardonically after the 6th time. okay, we get it, the boat is a placeholder for time passing and spatial advancement and a chance for your Industrial Light and Magic folks to sprinkle tech dust all over create some slick CGI machines.

By far the best part of the movie is the Aeronaut Lee Scoresby, played by Sam Elliot. I simply cannot convey the amount of hero worship I have for this man, and that i covet his mustache with a biblical zeal. Someday, when i grow up and my face decides to sprout more than five or six blond bristles I will become a man and rock a 'stache so proudly it will end world hunger. Just you wait.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #6 (December 11th)

Over the years I have become able to hide (or at least shelter) the fact that I am a complete geek with varying degrees of success. Today... is not one of those days.

Last week i stumbled upon what might be the single most nerdling thing that has ever made me laugh out loud and then follow religiously. It is something called 8-bit Theater, written by a genius named Brian Clevinger since (roughly) 2000 and now in its 900-something strip showing no signs of stopping. Let me bring you down the slippery slope. Using a rating system where 1 equals 'embarrassingly but by no means hopelessly geeky' to 10 which figures as 'appallingly apocalyptically geeky' here is how the following transition works out.

Comics (in general) = 2 (mildly geeky) ----->
Internet or 'Web' comics = 6 (outrageously geeky) ----->
Pixilated 'Sprite' Web-comics = 8 (unabashedly, you just can't believe how geeky these are)----->
Sprite Web-comics whose material is gleaned almost entirely from Final Fantasy 1 = 10 (congratulations, you cannot possibly hope to manifest your geek to a higher level)

8-bit Theater is just such a web-comic. 99% of its images are from the 1990 Nintendo video game Final fantasy 1. These images are captured screen shots, manipulated in various ways to present characters and show settings, emotions, actions, etc. The characters are all drudged from the pool of those found in the video game and spun wildly out of proportion with absurdist humor and tongue in cheek self depreciative in-jokes about the silliness of things like Dungeons and Dragons and the like. In other words, you, reader, probably just wouldn't understand how hilarious this is unless you too are a guy who entered your teens in the early 90s, played video games (and maybe, *cough* D&D as well *cough*) and have a certain knowledge of the kinda stuff that goes on in the world of people who do like this stuff.

The story follows the adventures of a motley crew of heroes, and here i use adventures and heroes in the loosest way possible. There is an astoundingly dumb warrior named Fighter (after his character class, in fact all of the characters take their names from their class) who talks constantly of swords; Black Mage, a diabolically evil little man with a short fuse and tremendous power which is always mis-used; Red Mage, one big D&D in-joke; and Thief, a guy who is taking advantage of everybody else for his own financial gain. Among others.

It's pretty much impossible for me to do this sort of thing any justice, to show you how unbelievably cool it really is without, well, reconfiguring your upbringing, but hey, if anything deserves a shout out, this sure as hell does.

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 10, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #5 (December 10th)

Having never read him before, and having never owned one of those nifty Library of America hardcover books, I decided to double up and purchase the Tales by Lovecraft. Now before I lay me down to sleep each evening I take a good few seconds summoning the courage to return to the Wawah, fail, read a comic book or two, and then dive into a short-story or two by Lovie.

Man was weird. And his stories--weirder. Also, a bit of a racist. I read some of his chronology appended in the back of the text and Lovecraft wrote some full blown "White is Best" essays and now I can't help but find hints at this thesis in his stories. I'm trying my hardest to not let this fact overwhelm things, because his work is definitely interesting nonetheless. And without much thought you can see just how influential his 'weird' fiction was for contemporary writers. I throw out the quotes because that word has become a genre somehow, and Lovecraft certainly has something to do with its conception. The problem, of course, is that 'weird' fiction has little in common with itself besides being mildly to shockingly off-putting. Aside from that, and the tendency to be fantastic or science fiction-y, weird fiction is a tag like Emo, one that gets used as a descriptor way too often and without much thought and in the end doesn't describe any one story/song so much as an idea.

Emo = Cthulu? Who knew?
Yikes, bad rhymes make for one uncomfortable exit.


Friday, December 07, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #4 (December 7th)

Holy Fuck. Yes, that is their name. Oline and I first met their acquaintance via a large marquee. It is a terrible name for a band, as many have suggested, but it does catch your eye and stick in your craw like, er, spinach or something. And like Spinach, Holy Fuck is good for you.

I'll admit, when i first bought the dinged used album after seeing their incredible live performance, i was a bit underwhelmed. I even shelved it for several months before dabbling with it here and there. Now its crept back into my increasingly lyric-less rotation, helped no doubt by other current favorites like Battles, Pelican and !!!. (boy does that period look silly after that band name) Anyhow, I am now a Holy Fuck convert, having listened to their self-titled album many times, finding tracks that were 'boring' before interesting now. 'Cause there are a bunch of layers and a density that is quickly dismissed as an impenetrable wall of music at first listen. Granted, my co-workers don't always qualify this sort of thing as music, especially the 60+ year old Accounts payable Manager that sits immediately behind me. But fuck them! Gimme Noise rock!

This will be the first in a series of album articles as I countdown toward Christmas paying homage to the music that was important to me this year. Rather than do a year's end mega-list, I figure I will just do it this way. Of course it will likely spill over into the new year, but meh.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #3 (December 6th)

I read books. Most times i finish 'em. But often i don't. That's just the way it is. Sometimes I make it pretty far along and for some reason, some bright shiny thing distracts me say, or I forget to bring said book with me find myself with some down time and start something else only to find it more engrossing. So these 'once started' books find their way back to the bookcase after a short while, a short while where i tell myself every day that I will go back to them soon, that this momentary tryst with their rival is nothing at all, that's its their familiar and slightly tired pages I really want, etc. In any case, they find their way to the bookcase and sometimes take with them hidden jewels.

I'm a big fan of the unorthodox bookmark. Receipts, rave fliers, post-it notes, doodles, notes, souvenir concert tickets, old wallet-sized photos, birthday cards, I've used all of these and then some. So its always a surprise when I pick up a book i once started, flip through the pages and stumble upon an old familiar face that has nothing to do with the book in question. Sometimes the bookmark i find is very old friend, having led me through dozens of works or more only to be trapped greedily in the tepid clutches of an overdone 'masterpiece' like Love in the Time of Cholera (still haven't summoned the courage to return to that highfalutin mess) or just gets mired in something I really enjoy reading, just is too long or too clever for me to finish all in a row without dabbling into something else and getting distracted (like Borges' collected fictions or my Oxford World Classic King James Bible).

The other day Croftie picked up LitToC, read the first paragraph and grimmaced and nearly stuffed the novel back in its tidy grave in the bookcase before noticing a slight bump in the middle. She fluttered the pages and out fell a well worn flier from a canadian club, a place called the pub quartier latin in Montreal, a place i have no interest in going to but a place that saw fit to produce a flashy notecard sized add that subsequently accrued a wealth of memories for it saw me wade stoically through Moby Dick, helped me burn swiftly through Lolita and accompanied me on my Rendezvous with Rama. The flier is pockmarked and dog-eared, the glossy finished is gone in all but a few spots, a heavy creases line the lower right hand corner. Funny thing is... I remember making those deformations, or at least remember when they first occurred, sometimes far more than I remember the individual plot twists of the great works of literature that caused them. So weird what you remember. So strange what lingers and against all odds, returns and makes you smile.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Countdown to Christmas #2 (December 5th)

Yesterday, it snowed. and in the evening it snowed. and in the early morning hours, presumably, it snowed.

But not like it snows back home. 3-5 inches equals a storm around here, apparently. Back in Buffalo they wouldn't bat a lash. That's like a wednesday afternoon before the lake-effect kicks in over there.
*prepares for a long-winded, old-man speech, thinks better of it* I'll spare you the details.

Oddly enough, i still refer to Buffalo as 'home' despite the fact that i have not lived there in years. Maybe it is because i lived in western new york for 20 something years of my 20 something life. that's what we in the biz call 'a long ass time.'

Yet I'm glad i don't live there anymore. And not for the snow reasons. just, Chicago is pretty great and doing everything just fine. With zoo lights, edward albee and the Golden Compass on the horizon, will be a fine time in the city this weekend. winter storm or no.

Labels: ,