In case you haven't been following the latest storyline in Doonesbury, either because you're a little out of the Doonesbury habit like me, or just because your local paper censored it, it starts here. But if you'd rather trust the judgment of people who think the subject matter isn't fit to read, Low Culture has rewritten it so it's ready for prime time.
The Jesus action figure site is getting its bandwidth slammed, so they're selling the doll used in the commercial on eBay. Hey, expedited shipping is only $120.00! I guess it's expensive to mail things from the sovereign country of Mormonia.
If you want to help out with their bandwidth woes, but don't want to spend 100 dollars on a G.I. Jesus, the video is also available here.
I got tipped off last night to these classic lit treatments of comic books, which I've only had time to browse, but I can already tell they're worth sharing:
J.D. Salinger's version of Captain America
John Steinbeck's version of The Fantastic Four
Nathaniel Hawthorne's version of The Justice League of America
Morning subway ride
Loud cellphone conversation
You slept with my dad?
So I got my cussing-intact copy of Nellie McKay's "Get Away From Me" today (which readers may recall I inadvertently bought in its "clean" version a couple weeks back). I am loving the CD (when I'm not feeling jealous about how much better her songs are than the ones I was writing when I was 19), but...I once again have packaging issues.
It's another example of one of the things that drove me crazy about the OutKast CD. When did record companies decide plonking stickers directly on a CD case was a good idea? I believe most CDs are sold in wrappers. Therefore I will still see the sticker, even if it is on the wrapper and not the CD case. And I will only see it for as long as the wrapper is still on the CD. Once the wrapper is off, that means that I have actually bought the CD and no longer need to be convinced to buy it via a promotional sticker.
But Nellie is so cute I almost don't care OMG did you know she has MP3s online?
So, as Lance pointed out, that video of Bush wiping his glasses on someone's sweater is not new. Still an indication of a vast, vast sense of entitlement, but not recent.
So here's something that is recent: Bush rubbing a bald man's head.
Okay, maybe two items doesn't a zeitgeist make. But I did read them consecutively, and not on purpose. Maybe it's serendipity. Or synchronicity (if there was, at that moment, something crawling from the slime at the bottom of a dark Scottish lake; if anyone lives in Scotland, please let me know if this is the case).
The thing that amuses me about this is that "Tyre" was read as the British version of "tire" and translated as "Pneu" (from the same root that gives us "pneumatic", presumably).
If you're a Strong Bad fan, but not one who always remembers to click around on the final screen at the end of the animations, you may have missed Strong Bad's two Infocom-style parodies, Thy Dungeonman and Thy Dungeonman II. They're both solvable, but not saveable. This is not such a big deal in Thy Dungeonman, since it only consists of three rooms, but it causes some problems toward the end of Thy Dungeonman II when only a series of somewhat non-intuitive commands can save you from certain death and a need to start from the top. Read on if you want hints and stuff.
Here you go -- the secret commands that will finish off Thy Dungeonman II: When facing the dongrel, type "use sucker" to kill it. When Percy reappears, type "take off cloth".
Other things you can try (gleaned from various message boards):
In Thy Dungeonman, typing "get dagger" will get you 25 points (although there is no dagger).
In Thy Dungeonman II, there is an alternate way to kill the dongrel. After getting the picture of Percy from the placard, you can "use picture" on the dongrel. This will distract it, giving you time to pick up your broken mop handle and kill it with that by typing "kill dongrel" or "dongle". Either way, the game doesn't care.
For comedy, in Thy Dungeonman II, do not neglect to: kick the chamber pot; type "get ye flask" in the cell, and then type it two more times; type "Dennis"; try to take Ripberger's placard; look at David Bowie; after taking something, try taking it again; talk to Percy while holding your nose; when you first meet Percy, type "listen to Ratt"; try to talk to the rat without looking at his nametag first; clean stain on the dungeon wall with the mop; "read sign" in the infirmary; if you don't mind dying, talk to the healer in the infirmary; look at or try to take the vegetables in the kitchen (and look at the chef, too).
The commands "dance", "sniff" and "die" work in both games.
If you enjoyed those games, you may wish to check out the Videlectrix website.
I was not the only one stymied by the hobo symbol for "there are crooks around"; in Lore's follow-up to last week's review of hobo signs, he also expresses mystification at the apparent communicative qualities of unreduced fractions. But one of the readers of Lore's blog thinks he has an answer:
"Two over 10 is 'keep your two eyes on his ten fingers' -- because he's a thief."
Better than anything I came up with. And yet I feel like my street smarts have not increased. Ah well.
If you think that you might like Eminem if he would just rap a little slower so you could understand what he's saying, it's the Understandable Slim Shady to the rescue.
(Via Incoming Signals.)
In a naked plea for merchandise, I'd like to ask all the regular visitors to this site to consider coming my way before buying things from Amazon. That's right, you don't have to buy the crap I recommend for me to get commissions off your purchases, as long as you click through one of my Amazon links first. You can buy anything you like, and it all goes to a good cause: more DVDs for me. Now, if you're one of those people who would rather support your local book or CD store, more power to you, my friend. Please be gentle when you are pushing me up against the wall after the revolution comes. But if you're buying from Amazon anyway, why not think of them as "Franmazon" instead (or perhaps "Amazeaney"), and get them to send some gift certificates my way? I mean, come on, who do you want to profit from your purchases? Megacorporations, or me? I think the answer is obvious. (It's "me".)
I'll probably put up a link in the sidebar for easy access, with rotating recommendations for music and movies and whatnot that you should own if you are a person of taste, but feel free to disregard my alt-snob tastes and go buy some Christina Aguilera if that floats your boat. But you know you can do better.
Finally got around to reading the New Yorker's profile of Aaron McGruder, which gets to the heart of what I love (the man writes as if he does not give a shit what people think about him) and hate (prevalence of one-liner strips vs. ongoing storylines) about The Boondocks. I look forward to the TV version of the strip, if only because it will necessarily be forced to deal with the problem of the lack of storylines. Anyway, here are some prime excerpts.
"I don't go to the cartoonist conventions," McGruder said. "I went once, to the Reuben Awards -- 'the Oscars of cartooning' -- and I didn't feel very welcome. I felt a palpable sense of resentment. Bil Keane was the m.c., and he opened doing more than one joke that was clearly aimed at me. It was raw -- just some fucked-up shit. O.K., and yet, if I get out of my chair right now and beat the shit out of you, then I'm the bad guy?"
As for his imitators in the comics, McGruder, ever confrontational and protective of his turf, does not find their emulation flattering. "I look at everything from a hip-hop perspective," he says. "My point of view on that is very obvious: get off my dick, leave my shit alone."
McGruder does make a stirring, unexpected call to unity, however.
"A lot of black people ain't up on Monty Python like they should be."
I was a little stressed about coming up with music for "Jabberwocky", it being so famous and all. So, fortunately, I came up with the chord progression when I was working on something else entirely. (That was the week I spent doing nothing but playing in alternate tunings. This song was another product of that week.) The final product ended up sounding way, way different than any of the approaches I'd been imagining, which was a fine thing as far as I was concerned.
This song, as with the previous "Alice" song, features the slippery bass of Mr. Jim Wagner.
According to the ever-breathless Ain't It Cool News, the screen adaptation of Alan Moore's Watchmen graphic novel is finally going to happen, with Darren Aronofsky directing. This is terrific news. Watchmen really calls for someone with as distinctive a visual sensibility as Aronofsky. So can we also get Jennifer Connelly as Silk Spectre?
(Via Ghost in the Machine.)
It's almost too delicious. Here's a video of George W. Bush wiping his glasses on someone's sweater while their back was turned. How did this moment get captured, you ask? Well, see, the president was a guest on David Letterman, and producer Maria Pope came out to talk to Dave. While she was distracted by this, the President of the United States cleaned his glasses on her sweater. Like, it was always clear to me that George W. had an incredible sense of entitlement, but dude.
I hope the Kerry campaign picks this video up. Wouldn't it make a great prime time ad? "George W. Bush thinks it's okay to wipe his glasses on other people's clothing. He also thinks it's okay to wipe his ass on the First Amendment. What is George W. Bush wiping on you?"
(Via Boing Boing.)
James pointed me to Songs to Wear Pants To, a site where readers write in with ideas for songs, and those ideas are brought to life, baby (in 71 seconds or less). Highlights include April 21's boy band song about the last cookie in the cookie jar, April 17's lipogrammatic rap song (which doesn't use the letter E in its lyrics), April 16's takedown of Bjork, and April 10's half-Gregorian chant/half-college theme song "We Photocopy Our Body Parts"...but it's all pretty damn funny, really.
(Update: Moments after I posted this, the guy behind the site took down his MP3 archives for bandwidth reasons. So the four songs on the front page will have to cover your short song entertainment needs for the moment, but be sure to check his site again next week.)
Not much to say about this except "Do not taunt happy fun antidepressant."
Last night, Rose and I finally got to see "Lost in La Mancha", the movie which details Terry Gilliam's doomed attempt to film "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote". Even knowing in advance how many things had gone wrong on the production, how many incredible pieces of bad luck had arisen, it didn't prepare me for how painful it would be to watch. I thought "The Poseidon Adventure" was a disaster movie. No. This is a disaster movie.
But seeing it did remind me...hey, didn't Gilliam get back on the moviemaking bicycle recently? So I dug out my trusty old Internet and discovered that, yes, his next film, "The Brothers Grimm", is in post-production and should be released this November, although some of the news reports about it make me nervous about that whole studio interference thing that has always plagued Gilliam.
"Terry wants to make the film his way, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that his vision of The Brothers Grimm differs from Miramax's", says my source. "Bob Weinstein was sent to Prague to oversee production. But after taking one look at the rushes, he replaced Gilliam's trusted cinematographer with his own man.
"Now Terry has been telling everybody: 'Harvey Weinstein needs to learn a lesson and I'm the one to teach it.' The majority of the crew agrees with Terry. It's a titanic battle of egos."
A spokesman for Miramax in the States denied any knowledge of discord. "I'm not aware of this at all."
Well, one can always hope. And Quixote may yet see the light of day. It's been years, but Gilliam isn't any less interested in buying the script back from the insurance company that currently owns it, and Johnny Depp has said he'd still be up for it (fourth item).
Details are trickling out about the new They Might Be Giants album coming this summer, which will be called "The Spine". Some of the details are good (16 songs!), some could be better (only just over a half hour?), but one is freaking awesome: the song "Experimental Film" (a song which, I can attest, kicks ass, and then kicks that same ass some more) will have a video, directed by the Brothers Chaps, better known as "those guys who do Homestar Runner".
This isn't the first bit of They Might Be Giants/Homestar Runner synergy. TMBG also wrote the song that appears in this Strong Bad e-mail (and, I suspect, the one that opens the e-mail after that -- oh, did that link not quite work? Try this one).
To hold me over until the album comes out, I bought the new TMBG EP, "Indestructible Object", and it's been making our whole apartment happy all week. Here's a quick song-by-song review:
"Am I Awake" has an interesting dark techno feel that's very appealing (you can listen to it here). "Memo to Human Resources" shows off how well John Flansburgh's melodic sense has evolved over the years; the chord change at the end of the verse is pure bliss. "Au Contraire" is a fairly traditionally-TMBG-sounding song -- almost a throwback to "Lincoln" -- and as such is probably the least interesting song in context, although taken on its own, it's very catchy indeed. "Ant" is a remake of a Flood-era b-side, with a late night talk show sounding horn section that takes the song to the next level; truly fab. "Caroline, No" is, of course, a Beach Boys cover, and naturally no one really expects a TMBG version of a Beach Boys song to be in any way definitive, but John Flansburgh delivers a nicely heartfelt vocal, and, really, it's just nice to have this recent concert staple recorded for posterity. It's certainly the best CD I've bought in the past week (which is higher praise than it sounds, as you probably realize if you know how many CDs I buy).
I forget where I read it, but someone pointed out that an entertaining thing to do with the "Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character" game is to answer all the questions as you personally would answer them, and hence discover what sitcom character (or dictator) is most similar to you. This turns out to be much more entertaining than taking an online quiz that's actually trying in advance to figure out which Seinfeld character you are, or whatever.
I, incidentally, am Mike Nesmith of "The Monkees". I can live with that.
California is coming down hard on Diebold. Would it be poor form to cackle wickedly?
After harshly chastising Diebold Election Systems for what it considered deceptive business practices, a California voting systems panel voted unanimously Thursday to recommend that the secretary of state decertify an electronic touch-screen voting machine manufactured by the company, making it likely that four California counties that recently purchased the machines will have to find other voting solutions for the November presidential election.
The panel also voted to send the findings of its recent Diebold investigation to the state's attorney general for possible criminal and civil charges against the firm for violating state election laws.
Nice. Hopefully other states will follow suit.
(Via My Bicycle.)
From Debby comes this tale of a friendly robot who delivers sodas. She wants one. To which I can only reply, "And who would not?"
If you cannot afford dance lessons, consider this as a low-cost, low-usefulness alternative.
Republicans apparently still don't think it's important for voting machines to provide a paper trail.
The debate over the health of America's electoral procedures is turning into a partisan fight, with Republicans dismissing the concerns as Democratic politicking unworthy of serious examination. When the Commission on Civil Rights convened an expert panel in Washington this month to discuss its report, the Republican Party delegation walked out before the proceedings began, one panel participant, Rebecca Mercuri, a Harvard University voting machinery expert, said.
How can we convince Republicans that voter confidence is a nonpartisan issue? I can see only one way.
By rigging the election.
Not that I'm recommending anyone do this. It's probably illegal to suggest anyone actually do it. I'm just pointing out that if the Republicans are, as they seem to be, convinced that riggable, unauditable voting machines can only work in their favor, the only way for them to be disabused of that notion is if they lose the election, and think they didn't deserve to lose.
Now, they might lose the election honestly, mightn't they? To be sure. But since they seem so unperturbed by the thought of these vulnerable voting machines -- a thought which generally causes concern in anyone who hears it -- can we assume that they know something we don't? Is it just maybe possible that there is a plan to tweak the election results in the GOP's favor? If that were the case, the simple expedient of, you know, actually winning the vote wouldn't be much help. You'd need a counterhacker.
I merely point this out to any Republicans out there because I cannot possibly be the only one who has thought of this. And no doubt one of the other people who has thought of it is (a) more technologically savvy than me, (b) less lazy than I am, and, most importantly, (c) willing to break federal law, unlike me.
But I'm not willing to pin my hopes on some theoretical crazy radical hacker stepping in. So I'd kinda rather just get the voting machine situation fixed.
The box set of the fifth season of Babylon 5 arrived today -- well, actually, it arrived a week ago and has been sitting at the post office since then, without the postman ever leaving a notice to that effect, but that's another story (another story which I have now told in full) -- and let me tell you, this whole Babylon 5 thing has truly been a test of my patience. But that's sort of always the way with B5.
When B5 was first on the air, a friend of mine essentially grabbed me by the lapels and told me I needed to watch it. I was skeptical. I tuned in to some mid-season episode (god knows which season) and was completely lost within two minutes. I didn't assume this meant the show was lame, just that I had come along in the middle of a storyline and would be better off starting from the beginning. So I waited.
After the 4th season of B5, the company that was syndicating it cancelled it, and TNT picked it up. As a prelude to the fifth season, they ran the previous four seasons all in a row, one every weeknight. I took my opportunity and tuned in.
This involved waiting of a different sort -- waiting until the show got better. The first few episodes of the show were a little undistinguished. I didn't like all the actors, some of the plots seemed like fairly run-of-the-mill SF plots...but I had been assured that the show was something special, so I stuck it out. And holy crap was it worth it.
The luxury of having a five-year storyline mapped out in advance gave the series creator the opportunity to feature things that are very rare in a TV series -- actual character development; plot twists that have solid foreshadowing, instead of coming out of nowhere (for the opposite of this, I refer you to "24").
After B5, a spin-off series, "Crusade", was born (starring Gary Cole, the "yyyyeah" guy from "Office Space"), and promptly scuttled by TNT. So we fans got to wait around again, hoping that the Sci-Fi Network or someone else would pick up that show. No luck. Then there was the waiting around for DVDs of B5 to be released.
And of course, nowadays, what with even freaking What's Happening being released on DVD, it seems like, well, every show ever made is going to get released on DVD eventually, why were you so worried about B5? Well, we had our reasons. First they released the show as individual episodes on VHS, and said it might eventually go to DVD if the video did well. But who wants to buy individual episodes of a show with a frickin' five-year arc? And later there was talk that the DVDs would be released in the UK, and, again, released in the US only if the UK ones did well. Contingencies and more contingencies.
So they finally committed to putting out the DVD sets here...but I didn't want to start watching them right away, because I wanted to be able to watch the whole show straight through, without having to sit on my hands and wait for the next season to come along after a big cliffhanger. So around February I saw that there were only two and a half months before season 5 would arrive, and 88 episodes before we were going to need season 5 -- so we could finally start. And, happily, Rose got equally hooked on the show. (And as it happened, my estimate was overcautious; we ended up falling off our one-episode-per-day average, so we're currently only in the early stages of season 4.)
But does that mean we are done with waiting? Oh heavens no. There's been talk of a new Babylon 5 project that was going to be announced in January...or maybe February...March for sure...actually, mid-May. I will be very pleased indeed if the B5 universe finally gets a chance to have its own Trek-like franchise.
(And if you're feeling like splurging, feel free to give me a massive commission by buying all five seasons of B5 at once.)
So if you've got no plans for Monday night and $17.50 burning a hole in your pocket, you might be interested in going to the Manhattan Theatre Club for "Satire Me Out!" (scroll down to second item). Swoosie Kurtz, Richard Thomas, and others will be reading a selection of short humor pieces, including excerpts from the Holy Tango of Poetry.
Speaking of the Holy Tango of Poetry, today I finally signed the contract for the...wait for it...Holy Tango book (due out this fall, barring deadline-related disasters)! It'll collect previously written and all-new material (poetry and plays), and may include songs. Sweet.
And speaking of songs, I'll be playing a short set at Barbes on May 6, opening for the fab Life in a Blender; I'll be starting promptly at 7:00 and playing for about 30 minutes (which is, like, 14 songs, given my average song length). A couple Holy Tango songs will surely be included among my set list.
Not sure how I feel about this NY Times article about the release (to Health Department officials) of the names of all the porn actors possibly infected with HIV by direct or indirect contact with the two actors who tested positive.
I mean -- obviously those people need to be tested. And one would expect (and hope) that they would have the sense to get tested on their own. But I can't help feeling that the Health Department doesn't exactly have the welfare of porn stars foremost in their mind.
Dr. Fielding said the most important task was finding people outside the adult-movie industry who might have contracted the H.I.V. virus from those inside it. "We want to make sure they're all covered, and counseled," he said.
Well...sure, that would be one of the tasks. And since this is more trackable than your average HIV outbreak, it would be irresponsible not to make an attempt to stem it. But I don't like how that comment implies a ghettoization of porn stars, as if they're all irresponsible people who have off-camera relationships with people who have no idea they're porn stars, in which STDs are never even discussed.
Thanks to Boing Boing and TMFTML, among others, Pericles is far and away the most popular page here. But the most controversial page is turning out to be this old post in which I criticized Kerry's anti-Dean campaigning way back during the nomination race.
Apparently lots of people search on "Kerry + asshole", because that page gets quite a few hits. And comments, too, sometimes. There was one fellow (who signed himself IRONMAN) -- whose comments I deleted because they were too frickin' long and trollish, and I didn't feel like giving him the bandwidth -- who dropped in, posted the full text of a long, rambling, Bush-can-do-no-wrong-you-pansies letter that he had written to a newspaper, and went on from there. I briefly rebutted a few points for anyone who might follow, lest they think I was sleeping on the job, and remarked that IRONMAN had seriously misconstrued the tenor of my blog entry if he had thought I was likely to agree with him. IRONMAN returned, of course, and I believe the beginning of his second post will capture the delicate flavor of his rigorously intellectual debate technique:
First of all, to 'Francis', who the hell are YOU? I never "misconstrued" anything you said because I never saw anything you wrote.
There's a solid way to start an argument: to confess that you don't even know whose blog it is you have posted to, and neither have you even read the entry you were hypothetically commenting on. Anyway -- whatever. The rest of his posts are such textbook troll material that they're not interesting enough to quote. However! I have something else that is.
The following is a post to a Kerry meetup message board, for Kerry supporters in Cincinnati. It was posted yesterday by zilla1126 (real name -- ostensibly -- Ahkmad Huissan):
George W. Bush had Michael Jackson arrested so that The Jews, big corporations, oil companies, Republicans, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, white men, SUV owners, the Christian Coalition, and gun owners could kill Muslims.
I detail all of this on my site:
Rose and I saw Kill Bill, Vol. 2 last night, which, of course, kicked a generous portion of ass. Before seeing the movie, I was joking, "So...I think Bill's going to get killed at the end. What do you think?" (Spoiler ahead.)
After the movie, we were joking about what Tarantino could do for the sequel. "Resurrect Bill"? Little did we know that Tarantino really is considering a sequel.
These molecule names would bring delight to children the world over if they were the sort of molecules that ever came up in 6th-grade science classes. And if you're a big geek and you have the correct software, you can view 3-D structural models of many of the molecules.
Who doesn't love hobos (apart from people who actually have to interact with them)? Today I am pleased to present you all with a cavalcade of hobo-related links.
First, Lore (formerly of the Brunching Shuttlecocks) takes on hobo signs over at The Book of Ratings. (Make sure to check in next week for part two.)
To see a whole mess of hobo signs, go here. My vote for the creepiest one: "Woman living alone." Most mystifying one: "There are crooks around", with a symbol resembling a fraction in which the numerator is 2 and the denominator is 10. Are the hobos trying to imply that dishonest men do not properly reduce their fractions? Most useless: "Afraid." Unless the hobo who writes that sign sits next to it until someone else comes along, how is he supposed to be properly comforted? And at that point, wouldn't it seem more appropriate to say, "Hey, I'm scared," than to point at a picture of two rectangles?
I also like the tautologicalness of this one:
If you've seen all you need to see of classic hobo signs, check out this piece I wrote for Modern Humorist a while back about their modern-day equivalents.
Here's one more modern hobo sign that didn't make it to the Modern Humorist piece:
Not actually a car alarm, just a blinky light
If you doubt me when I say there are modern hobos, presumably hiding in the luggage compartments of Amtrak Acelas with their laptops, check out this website. Hobos, you will note, use a rudimentary form of webpage design when advertising their conventions and whatnot. (Actually, that page is two years out of date, but this one doesn't have such an egregiously bad webpage.) I wonder if hobo conventions are like renaissance fairs, with busty ladies dressed in shabby clothes and spouting an endless stream of hobo patter.
I think I'm going to start a new feature here at Heaneyland, where I keep an eye peeled for reviewers that refer to anything as being "aptly titled". Why does this turn of phrase drive me batshit? I'm not quite sure. Perhaps it's just that if anything is actually aptly titled, then it doesn't really need reinforcement or comment. Like, it would be surprising if "Horn Intro", the first track on the new Modest Mouse album, were anything but a horn introduction. But...it is.
AllMusic Guide: "That's not even mentioning the contributions of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who open Good News for People Who Love Bad News with the aptly named 'Horn Intro.' "
The Onion AV Club: "The album opens with the aptly titled 'Horn Intro,' and throughout the record, horns, strings, synthesizer, and ambient rattle give Modest Mouse's chunky, quasi-rootsy rock some much-needed variety."
So that never fails to bug me, because it's an easy turn of phrase, and I feel like it calls too much attention to itself. But those examples are still better than this one:
The Stranger: After several years, Modest Mouse finally has a new album, aptly titled Good News for People Who Love Bad News.
Look. It's an evocative title. One would hope that it is appropriate to the content of the album. But could you find a less lame way of saying that?
If yesterday's Pericles marathon didn't sate your urge for condensed Shakespeare, you may enjoy this animated L33T-speak version of Romeo and Juliet.
(Via John & Belle.)
Kevin Spacey sorry for mugging confusion.
I belong to a Shakespeare reading group; we get together about once a month and read one of Shakespeare's plays aloud. We're now almost done with our tour through the canon. All that remains is Hamlet, which we're going to do up right -- we'll be going out of town for our reading, and taking a whole weekend for our outing.
We've had some surprises on the way. Many plays with not very good reputations turned out to be extremely enjoyable to read (Titus Andronicus and the Henry VI trilogy come to mind), for instance. Of course, a lot of plays with bad reputations just turned out to be, well...bad. Obviously, we deliberately saved Hamlet for last, but there were some plays lurking towards the end of our Shakespeare tour that were mostly there because we were never all that enthused about reading them in the first place. Which is my way of introducing the play we read this afternoon, our penultimate pit stop -- Pericles.
Before today, I would have said that the lamest Shakespeare play was A Winter's Tale (in a close race with Love's Labors Lost). But now I am convinced the nadir is Pericles. Let me provide a condensed version of the play so you can judge for yourself.
PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE
ACT 1, PROLOGUE
NARRATOR: The king is having sex with his daughter, and to keep suitors from marrying her, he asks them to solve a riddle. If they don't solve it, he kills them. If they do solve it, he also kills them, since the answer is "the king is having sex with his daughter".
ACT 1, SCENE 1
PERICLES: Hello, king. I'd like to marry your daughter.
ANTIOCHUS: Well, first you have to answer this riddle. Answer incorrectly, and you die:
My first is in Paris, my second in France,
The rest is...whatever, I'm having sex with my daughter.
PERICLES: Uh...how about if I answer that tomorrow?
ANTIOCHUS: Oh, sure, think about it as long as you like.
PERICLES: (aside) I suspect he's having sex with his daughter. I probably shouldn't say anything about it. Maybe I'll just go back home to Tyre. (he exits)
ANTIOCHUS: Hmm, I think he might have figured it out. Thaliard!
THALIARD: (entering) Yes?
ANTIOCHUS: I need you to kill Pericles for me.
ACT 1, SCENE 2
HELICANUS: What's the matter, my lord?
PERICLES: Oh...the king of Antioch is sleeping with his daughter and now he wants to kill me because he's afraid I'll tell everyone about it or something. (He leans out the window.) OH, IF ONLY I HAD NEVER LEARNED HE WAS SLEEPING WITH HIS DAUGHTER.
HELICANUS: I can see how that would be a problem. Maybe you should leave town until he cools off, or dies, or whatever, since it's pretty easy to find you here.
PERICLES: Since I'm prince and all.
PERICLES: Probably a good idea. Okay, I'll go to Tarsus. Keep an eye on things while I'm gone.
ACT 1, SCENE 3
THALIARD: (hidden) Well, here I am, ready to kill Pericles.
HELICANUS: People of Tyre, Pericles has left town for a while. If you need anything ruling-related, please see me. I hope you'll all join me in wishing Pericles well on his perilous boat journey.
THALIARD: (aside) Boat journey? This is perfect. I'll just tell Antiochus that Pericles is dead, since I'm sure he'll die at sea. No one in history has ever survived a boat trip, after all. Well, at least I can get some food out of this trip. (He emerges from his hiding place.) Hello there! I bring greetings from Antioch!
HELICANUS: (aside) Oh, God, I guess we have to feed him now.
ACT 1, SCENE 4
CLEON: Oh, it's very hard being governor of Tarsus, what with this horrible famine we're having.
DIONYZA: I can imagine, my dear husband. I mean, people are eating their babies. Married couples are drawing straws to see which one will get to eat the other.
CLEON: I blame the Democrats.
PERICLES: Hello. I heard you were all dying of hunger, so I brought you a boatload of corn. Can I stay here for a while?
ACT 2, PROLOGUE
NARRATOR: Well, that all went reasonably well, except for the incest part. But now Helicane sends a messenger to Pericles to warn him that Thaliard is looking for him, and maybe he should go further away than Tarsus if he was hoping to avoid being killed. So Pericles sets sail again, and this time there's a big storm. A terrible storm! The ship is destroyed and everyone on it dies! Except for Pericles, for some reason! Then he washes ashore.
ACT 2, SCENE 1
(Enter Pericles, wet.)
(That previous stage direction is verbatim.)
(Three fishermen enter.)
FISHERMAN 1: (unintelligible)
FISHERMAN 2: (unintelligible)
FISHERMAN 3: (laughs)
PERICLES: (after five minutes of listening to the fishermen's cryptic babbling) Rustic people certainly are amusing. Hey! Where am I?
FISHERMAN 1: Pentapolis, ruled by King Simonides. He has a daughter --
PERICLES: Who he's having sex with?
FISHERMAN 1: Um, no.
PERICLES: Well...good! Good for him.
FISHERMAN 1: Anyway, he has a daughter, and her birthday is tomorrow, and princes and knights from all over are going to vie for her love.
PERICLES: That sounds fun. I might do that, too, if I weren't recently shipwrecked and stuff.
FISHERMAN 1: (unintelligible)
FISHERMAN 2: Hey, look! We caught a coat of armor in our net!
PERICLES: Oh my God! That's my father's armor! I thought I'd lost it in the shipwreck!
FISHERMAN 3: How do we know it's yours?
PERICLES: I recognize it by that mark on it!
FISHERMAN: Oh, well, all right then.
ACT 2, SCENE 2
SIMONIDES: Are the knights ready to let my daughter check them out?
SOMEBODY: They are!
SIMONIDES: Send them in. How do you like them, daughter?
THAISA: They certainly are...in a line. And there are six of them. Ew! Who's the wet guy in the rusty armor?
SIMONIDES: I have no idea.
(A bunch of idiots make some ostensibly cutting remarks.)
SIMONIDES: Hey! Just because his armor is rusty doesn't mean he can't kick all your asses. Okay -- let's go watch all these guys fight, what do you say?
ACT 2, SCENE 3
SIMONIDES: Thank you all for hitting each other for my daughter's benefit.
THAISA: But special thanks and congratulations to you, brave mystery knight. Here is your wreath of victory.
PERICLES: Oh, I was just lucky.
SIMONIDES: Well, good job being so lucky then. Anyway, let's all eat. (Aside.) Who the hell is that guy?
THAISA: (aside) I have such a huge crush on him.
SIMONIDES: (aside) Oh, whatever...those knights are not exactly on the A-list, skill-wise. How hard can it be to beat them?
THAISA: (aside) To reiterate: a huge, huge crush.
SIMONIDES: Thaisa, why don't you give that mystery knight a drink?
THAISA: But I barely know him!
SIMONIDES: So ask him to introduce himself! Geez.
(She does so. Pericles explains his BACKSTORY, leaving out the incest part, and also failing to mention that he is a prince. Thaisa relays the info to Simonides.)
SIMONIDES: Okay, everyone -- I know I said we were going to talk about which one of you gets to marry my daughter, but it's getting late, so let's deal with that tomorrow. Pleasant dreams.
ACT 2, SCENE 4
HELICANUS: Yeah, Pericles totally had to leave because of Antiochus having sex with his daughter. And now Antiochus and his daughter are both dead! Their chariot was struck by lightning and they burned to death instantly! That's what incest gets you.
SOMEONE HELICANUS KNOWS: Wow.
(Some people enter.)
ONE OF THEM: You know, Pericles has been gone for a while. What the hell is going on? If he's alive, where is he? If he's not, why the fuck are we waiting for him?
ANOTHER ONE: We kind of think you should just take his place officially if he's dead. You seem to have a handle on it.
HELICANUS: Well, look. Let's give it a year. If you can't find him after twelve months, then I guess I'll take over.
THE FIRST ONE AGAIN: Okay.
ACT 2, SCENE 5
SIMONIDES: Bad news, all you knights who were hoping to marry my daughter. She's decided to remain chaste for a year to serve the goddess Diana.
KNIGHT: But why?
SIMONIDES: I have no idea. (Exeunt knights.) Now, why don't I read this letter my daughter gave me? Maybe it will explain why she wants to remain chaste. Oh! Apparently she'll either wed Pericles or nobody. Excellent! He's the one who I had most hoped she would marry anyway. Here he comes. I must now pretend to be a big jerk for no good reason.
SIMONIDES: Hello. So what do you think of my daughter?
PERICLES: She's nice.
SIMONIDES: She wants to marry you, you know.
PERICLES: You're pulling my leg.
SIMONIDES: No, really, look. (He hands Pericles the letter.)
PERICLES: (aside) This must be a trick -- some sort of excuse for the king to have me killed. Why is it every king I meet wants to kill me? (To Simonides.) Look, I was never interested in your daughter. I was just fighting those knights for the hell of it.
SIMONIDES: I say you've cast a spell on my daughter to capture her love, and by god I'll see you burned at the stake for it.
PERICLES: I can honestly say I have no idea what the fuck you are talking about.
PERICLES: I'll just be going now.
SIMONIDES: No, no, let's see what you have to say with my daughter here, you would-be rapist, you. Thaisa!
PERICLES: Thaisa, tell this crazy man that I never wooed you.
THAISA: Well, I wish you had.
SIMONIDES: You see? You have bewitched her! (Aside.) And I'm very glad of it. But for some reason I don't want either of them to know it. (To Thaisa.) And you have the freaking nerve to fall in love with someone -- a stranger, yet -- without asking me about it first? (Aside.) Although, just because he's a stranger, who's to say that he isn't of noble birth? Perhaps I should have actually bothered to ask him more about his backstory. (To Pericles.) That's right, either you do as I say -- and the same goes for you, daughter, you obstreperous slattern -- or by God I swear that I will make you...(he pauses dramatically)...man and wife! Ha ha! I really had you going, didn't I? So, what do you say? Married? Yes?
THAISA and PERICLES: (exchanging a bewildered glance) Okay.
ACT 3, PROLOGUE
NARRATOR: So Pericles and Thaisa got married, and soon Thaisa was expecting a child. Then a messenger arrives from Tyre, and tells Pericles that if he doesn't get back to Tyre soon, they're going to assume he's dead and elect someone else prince. So Pericles prepares to set off for Tyre to reclaim his kingdom, and everyone in Pentapolis is thrilled to learn that Thaisa's unborn child is the heir to a throne, which implies that Pericles never actually told anyone in Pentapolis exactly who he was. Oh, well, I'm sure he had a good reason. Even though she's pregnant, Thaisa insists on coming along for the trip. Then there's another huge storm, and Thaisa starts having complications. I think that covers it.
ACT 3, SCENE 1
On a boat
PERICLES: Why is there always a storm every time I try to go anywhere? Lychorida, you're my wife's nurse -- how is she?
LYCHORIDA: (carrying a baby) Well...your new daughter's fine. Your wife is kind of dead, though.
LYCHORIDA: (giving him the baby) Be strong, for your daughter's sake.
(A sailor enters.)
SAILOR: Sir, we must throw your wife overboard. The storm won't stop until the ship is cleared of the dead.
PERICLES: That's ridiculous. Stop being so superstitious. I intend to give my wife a proper burial.
SAILOR: Begging your pardon, sir, but throwing dead people overboard has always worked before. I really must insist.
PERICLES: Well, if it's so important to you, fine. At least find a nice casket for her, though. And then set sail for Tarsus; I don't think this baby can make it all the way to Tyre. (The sailor exits.) Maybe I should go help out with the casket.
ACT 3, SCENE 2
(No, it's not that you haven't been paying attention, this scene is just set somewhere we haven't been before.)
LORD CERIMON: Philemon!
PHILEMON: Yes, my lord?
LORD CERIMON: These men were shipwrecked by the storm. Please get them some food while I help them out with my quasi-magical knowledge of medicine.
(Enter some people.)
GUY: This is such a bad storm, we were afraid our houses were going to collapse.
THE OTHER GUY: Can we stay here for a while?
LORD CERIMON: Sure.
(Enter two servants with a chest. A human-sized chest.)
SERVANT: Sir, look what the sea washed up!
LORD CERIMON: Oooh, maybe it's treasure. Hmm, it's sealed shut so securely. Pry it open for me. (They do so.) A corpse! And there's a note! "To whom it may concern: I, King Pericles, had to throw my dead wife overboard. Please bury her in return for the various treasures I have also included in the casket. Thanking you in advance etc., Pericles." And it's dated today! The poor guy. Actually...(he looks more closely at Thaisa's body)...you know, I wonder if they were a little hasty throwing this one overboard. Servants! Make me a fire! Fetch me my things and stuff! (Servants rush in and out.) I once heard a story about a guy who was dead for nine hours and brought back to life. I'm sure I can do the same. Give me a cloth! And play some music! Good, yes. No, no, a little more violin. Perfect. Oh, it's working! My vague ministrations have revived her!
ONE OF THOSE TWO GUYS FROM BEFORE: Surely you are a god.
THAISA: Where am I?
LORD CERIMON: I'll explain later. First, you need a dose of linen.
ACT 3, SCENE 3
PERICLES: Cleon, I need you to look after my daughter while I return to Tyre. I have named her Marina. Get it? Sea...Marina...? (No response.) Well, anyway, if you could take care of her...
CLEON: Considering that you saved my country from famine, I will naturally do anything you ask.
DIONYZA: And we're very sorry to hear about your wife.
PERICLES: Thank you. And until Marina is married, I shall refuse to cut my hair. Even if that turns out to not be so flattering. I must go, but Lychorida will remain. Please raise Marina as you would one of your own.
DIONYZA: I actually do have a daughter, so I can use her for comparison purposes.
PERICLES: Excellent. Farewell.
ACT 3, SCENE 4
LORD CERIMON: We found this note in your coffin.
THAISA: No doubt I shall never see my love again. I will devote myself to the goddess Diana.
LORD CERIMON: Diana's temple is actually very close to here. I'm sure they'll let you stay there until you die.
ACT 4, PROLOGUE
NARRATOR: Okay! Now it's many years later, Lychorida has just died, and Marina has grown into a beautiful young woman, who is the toast of Tarsus. Apparently Pericles never bothered to go back for her. Well, I'm sure he had his reasons. Anyway, because everyone loves Marina so much, Dionyza's daughter Philoten doesn't get as much attention as Dionyza thinks she deserves. So, natually, Dionyza hires someone to kill Marina.
ACT 4, SCENE 1
DIONYZA: Okay, so you know the plan. The plan is: kill Marina. Don't wuss out on me here. You promised to do it. And no one will ever know.
LEONINE: But she's so nice.
DIONYZA: Well, then heaven will be happy to have her. Look, here she comes, crying about her dead mistress, waah waah waah. Are you going to kill her or not?
DIONYZA: Marina! Why so sad? Oh, right. Well, look, why don't you take a nice refreshing walk by the sea with my servant Leonine?
MARINA: Oh...that's all right...I'll be fine.
DIONYZA: Look at yourself. You're a mess. Your father would be pretty ticked off if he came back -- which I really thought he would have done by now, but whatever -- and found you looking like this. He'd think we weren't taking care of you. Come on, it'll do you good.
MARINA: I'd really rather be alone.
DIONYZA: Oh for God's sake. I'M TELLING YOU IT WILL DO YOU GOOD. WILL YOU GO ALREADY? GO TAKE A WALK BY THE SEA WITH LEONINE.
MARINA: Okay... (Dionyza exits. Marina smiles awkwardly at Leonine.) I was born at sea, you know.
LEONINE: (apropos of nothing) Make your peace with God.
MARINA: You mean to kill me? Why?
LEONINE: It wasn't my idea. Talk to Dionyza.
MARINA: What have I ever done to her?
LEONINE: Oh! You women, it's always yap yap yap. (He grabs her. Enter three pirates, who grab Marina and run off with her.) Well, that was unexpected. And now I can just say she's dead and washed out to sea. Oh...but what if the pirates just rape her and bring her back? I better wait around to kill her, in case they do. (He sits down and takes out a book.)
ACT 4, SCENE 2
A brothel in Mytilene
PIRATE: We've got a virgin to sell you.
MADAM: Servant, go tell the crowd outside we've got a new virgin and have them start bidding for her.
MARINA: I honestly kind of would have preferred being killed to this.
SERVANT: There are lots of horrible diseased men who are very excited about having sex with this girl.
MADAM: Come along, young miss, and I'll tell you all the secrets of whoring.
MARINA: Diana preserve me!
MADAM: Not bloody likely.
ACT 4, SCENE 3
CLEON: You did what?
DIONYZA: Well, there's no need to whine about it. It's too late to do anything now.
CLEON: What are we supposed to say to Pericles?
DIONYZA: Just tell him she died. People die all the time.
CLEON: I cannot believe this.
DIONYZA: Honey, she was more popular than our daughter. What else was I supposed to do? Stop being such a baby.
ACT 4, SCENE 4
(Even though it's the middle of the act, the prologue guy comes out again.)
NARRATOR: Ah yes. So, next thing you know, Pericles finally gets through the rest of the items on his to-do list and goes to visit his daughter in Tarsus, accompanied by Helicanus. When Pericles arrives, Cleon shows him Marina's tomb, and Pericles gets pretty upset and leaves. He swears to continue not cutting his hair, and also to stop washing his face. And he starts dressing in burlap. As he once again sets out to sea, there is yet another storm. But he gets through it fine this time. Anyway, let's see how things are going at the brothel in Mytilene.
ACT 4, SCENE 5
Outside the brothel
A SKEEVY MAN: Can you believe it? A prostitute preaching divinity?
ANOTHER SKEEVY MAN: I know! It's made the sex act completely unappealing to me.
FIRST MAN: Let's go listen to some vestal virgins sing.
SECOND MAN: I am done with rutting forever.
(You would be surprised how practically verbatim this scene was.)
ACT 4, SCENE 6
A room in the brothel
PIMP: She's ruining our business. I wish we had never bought her.
MADAM: We must either get her ravished or be rid of her.
SERVANT: I could have sex with her for you...?
MADAM: Oh, look, it's Governor Lysimachus in disguise. Why does he bother disguising himself? Doesn't he know that we all know it's him?
LYSIMACHUS: I hear you have a new virgin? Lead me to her.
PIMP: Right away. (He finds Marina and pulls her aside.) Listen. This is the governor. He is a very important man. And rich! Very rich. Please, please, please have sex with him. Is that so much to ask? After we have been so kind as to take you into our lovely brothel?
MARINA: I will not do anything to shame you.
PIMP: I'm going to assume you're agreeing with me. (He exits, leaving her alone with Lysimachus.)
LYSIMACHUS: So! Been a prostitute long?
MARINA: I have been a maiden all my life. If you think maidens are prostitutes, that's your business. And how long have you been a governor who comes to whorehouses?
LYSIMACHUS: Hey, don't try to blackmail me. Where's the bed?
MARINA: Have I mentioned that I can form a compound sentence in which the subjects and the verbs all agree, and periodically employ similes to make my point, as birds use twigs to make their nests?
LYSIMACHUS: I had no idea you were so eloquent. Now I feel like a heel. If I had been planning to have sex with you...which I wasn't...really...you totally would have changed my mind just then. Have some gold. And cursed be the man who robs you of your virginity! Well, enjoy your stay in the brothel. I gotta go.
SERVANT: (appearing at the door) Save a bit for me!
LYSIMACHUS: Away, you devil! You don't deserve to tread the same ground as this woman! Okay, seriously...I really have to go. Don't go raping her, now. (He exits.)
SERVANT: You are really starting to bug me. Come here so I can deflower you already.
MADAM: (entering) What the hell is going on here?
SERVANT: She made Lord Lysimachus feel all guilty and stuff.
MADAM: That's the last straw. Take her and have your way with her. (She exits.)
SERVANT: Well, all righty, then.
MARINA: Wait, I have one question for you first.
MARINA: Do you like your job?
SERVANT: Not especially.
MARINA: Well, what if I gave you all this gold so you could go and do something else? Would you help me find a job as a teacher or something?
SERVANT: Gold, huh?
SERVANT: A lot of it?
MARINA: Oh yes.
SERVANT: I'll see what I can do.
ACT 5, PROLOGUE
NARRATOR: Is this play still going on? Well, anyway, so Marina escapes the brothel and gets a job teaching girls to sing and sew and whatnot. By an incredible coincidence, the storm I mentioned earlier has blown Pericles' ship here. I wonder if this might all just work out.
ACT 5, SCENE 1
On Pericles' ship, off Mytilene
TYRIAN SAILOR: Lysimachus, the Governor of Mytilene, wants to come aboard. Should I let him?
HELICANUS: Well, yeah.
LYSIMACHUS: Welcome. So, nice ship.
HELICANUS: Thanks, it belongs to Pericles, King of Tyre.
LYSIMACHUS: Can I meet him?
HELICANUS: Well, he's pretty depressed. It's a long story. But, you know -- dead wife, dead daughter. That mostly covers it.
LYSIMACHUS: I see.
HELICANUS: He refuses to speak to anyone.
LYSIMACHUS: I bet I know a girl who could cheer him up. Hang on a sec. (He exits and returns with Marina.) Sing for him. (She does.) Nothing?
MARINA: He didn't even look up.
LYSIMACHUS: Try talking to him.
MARINA: Hey, I've had a shitload of bad luck myself, but you don't see me moping. My dad was a king, and --
PERICLES: Wait a minute. A king?
MARINA: Yes, but I had more to say...
PERICLES: Oh, let me just save ten minutes here. Are you my daughter Marina?
MARINA: Yes! They tried to kill me back in Tarsus, but here I am!
PERICLES: Hooray! (General cheering.) Well, I've had a long day of weeping. I'm going to take a nap.
(The goddess Diana appears to Pericles in a vision.)
DIANA: (broadly, winking and nodding) You should go to my temple in Ephesus and tell this story to the priestesses there.
PERICLES: Okay! I was going to go back to Tarsus and kick some ass, but I need to go to Ephesus first.
LYSIMACHUS: Before you go, I should mention that I'm in love with your daughter.
PERICLES: Oh my god, am I finally going to get to cut my hair?
ACT 5, SCENE 2
(Even though it is pretty darn obvious where all this is heading, the goddamn guy from the goddamn prologues shows up again.)
NARRATOR: Now the play is almost over, I swear. There's a big party in Mytilene, Marina is very excited to get engaged to Lysimachus despite his history of going to brothels, and they agree not to marry until Pericles gets back from Ephesus. That's all I had to say.
ACT 5, SCENE 3
The Temple of Diana at Ephesus
PERICLES: Hail, Diana!
(Perseus provides the goddess Diana with a lengthy recap of the foregoing.)
THAISA: Holy crap -- is that you, Pericles? (She faints.)
PERICLES: That nun fainted. Is she okay?
LORD CERIMON: That's no ordinary nun. That's your wife.
PERICLES: Hey. My wife is dead.
LORD CERIMON: No, really. You want to see the jewels from the coffin?
PERICLES: Hell yes.
THAISA: (waking) Pericles?
PERICLES: That is totally Thaisa's voice. Let's save five minutes and skip the jewels. I'm convinced. Honey, let's go and watch our daughter get married.
NARRATOR: Let's recap. Antiochus and daughter: bad people, dead. I know his daughter was kind of the victim in that situation, but still, she should really have known better. Pericles, a nice guy, had a lot of bad luck, but everything worked out for him. Cleon and Dionyza, also bad people. More Dionyza than Cleon, but he probably knew what she was like when he married her. And he did go along with that cover-up. Anyway, Pericles is going to fuck their shit up when this wedding is over, and a good thing too. Basically what I'm saying is that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people. So don't be bad. Thank you. This has been "Pericles, Prince of Tyre". Tunics are available in the lobby.
Just got back from the Brooklyn Museum-a-thon (and, yes, Ugarte -- as well as Rose's friend Charlene -- managed to find us among the throngs, happily). Brian Dewan's I-Can-See filmstrips -- the main feature as far as we were concerned -- were, of course, magnificently strange (and the crowd loved them). We had a great day, despite some brief snags. When we needed calories and caffeine, we found the cafeteria workers seriously overwhelmed, and the situation was not helped by the shrill harridan in line behind us who bellowed in our ear, "What are we waiting for? What's going on?" Well, what's going on is that we have been waiting in line -- longer than you -- to order some cheeseburgers, and we are not being jerks about it.
One of the events we made it to was a dance performance in which the first piece was one that Rose and I might have enjoyed under other circumstances. Unfortunately, we were very very distracted by the fact that it was an intensely poor choice for the audience.
The performance was early in the evening, and there were lots and lots of young children in the audience, which the museum fully expected. (Two later presentations in the same auditorium indicated that attendees had to be at least 18.) So Rose and I were both expecting that the performances would be on the accessible side of arty. We were not correct in that assumption.
The dance opened with three women in pretty cool linen + leotard outfits standing onstage as loud staticky noise hissed out from the speakers. No notes. No beat. Just KKSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHHH and HUMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. That lasted for about 30 seconds as one of the women started dancing in a style that vaguely reminded me of "Einstein on the Beach" (a show which I love, I feel compelled to point out) -- then silence. Well, silence on the soundtrack, as the dancing continued. But there was a distinct lack of silence in the auditorium, as, without anything coming over the speakers, you could hear every uncomfortable baby, every snickering 6-year-old -- you name it -- as clear as a bell. Or some kid would yelp because his brother tickled him, and that would set off a wave of nervous laughter. Rose heard a small child whisper very loudly, "I have to be quiet! Noooo!" And the semi-silence lasted for, oh, I think it was ten minutes. Dude.
This, needless to say, made it impossible to concentrate very well, or, indeed, to judge the dancing on its merits. I felt kind of igry for the dancers, mainly because it was painful to imagine what it must have been like for them to try dancing with such distractions. I perform periodically; there's nothing quite so awful as losing the audience's attention and still having to perform.
Just when we were about accustomed to the level of awkwardness we had been dealing with, the static came back -- KSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSHHHHH -- except this time, it was accompanied with a ear-piercing high-pitched whine that caused hands to cover ears all over the auditorium, and got all the kids who hadn't yet been evacuated to get vocally unhappy. Finally, thankfully, it ended (taking many audience members with it).
The second dance was much more accessible (and I'll let Rose tell the story about that dance). I loved the choreography of the third (a lot of partner work where the choreographer has found unusual ways for two bodies to relate to each other, which is perhaps my favorite modern dance trope), but, again, the accompaniment was torture. Lots more beat-free clanking static and noise (but at least no silence). I turned to Rose mid-dance and said something like, "Wow, this choreography could be really sexy if the music weren't trying to make me feel like all human interaction is doomed to end in disaster and misery."
We didn't have too much time to hit the exhibits, though we were very impressed with what we managed to see of the current contemporary art selection. We'll have to get back there soon to see the rest of it. There's more free stuff Sunday (and of course the art isn't going anywhere), so if you haven't gone, go!
Daniel points out a flaw in my Rapture heathen plan. Why would the Fundamentalists care what happens to their stuff after they're called up to Heaven? Everyone they know and presumably every charity they care about is going to be leaving this earthly vale right along with them.
Or are they?
Maybe this Rapture heathen racket will need to play on people's fears more. You know..."What if your son doesn't get called up to heaven with you? What if he just cheated on a test at school the day before the Rapture, and he doesn't make the cut? Who's going to look after him? Do you want him to be alone during the tribulations? Call 1-800-GODLESS now."
I also mentioned to Daniel another idea we'd come up with, the Karma bitch. If you needed something done that would bring you bad karma (you know, like stealing something, or killing someone, or stepping on an ant), the Karma bitch would do it for you. I thought there was an inherent flaw in this, because asking someone to kill someone for you is just as much bad karma as it is to actually do the killing, so what's the point? Daniel pointed out, though, that a workable Karma bitch relationship would actually be similar to the Shabbos goy situation.
I was not aware of this, but apparently Jews are not actually allowed to directly ask Shabbos goys to do anything. They might say, "Goodness, it certainly is hard to read in here now that the sun has gone down," which would cause an alert Shabbos goy to turn on a light, but it's a breach of protocol to simply request that the light switch be flipped. So to avoid bad karma, one's Karma bitch would need to be good at picking up hints: "Boy, that guy who owes me all that money certainly does have lovely kneecaps. I wish I had a pair of kneecaps like that. Ah, well. Whaddaya gonna do?"
I just spent a stomach-clutchingly funny evening watching "Wizard People, Dear Reader", which is, basically, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" with an unauthorized soundtrack. You turn off the sound on your TV and play the new soundtrack while the movie is running.
To put it as neutrally as possible, the new soundtrack consists of one guy describing what is happening onscreen. I know it seems implausible that this could possibly be funny for more than two minutes. Trust me when I say oh my god it is. It is much more compelling than the actual movie, which is too respectful by half. It has actually made me consider buying a copy of the Sorcerer's Stone DVD, which I previously had no interest in.
Anyway, download "Wizard People, Dear Reader" here, and burn copies of it for all your friends. Life is good, people.
Rose spotted this New York Times article about a guy writing a digital epistolary novel. Nothing wrong with that yet...but wait.
A corporate e-mail message goes astray. Two young strangers flirt in cyberspace. They agree to meet. An assault ensues. And a mystery built on digital clues is born.
It's not a plot that breaks new ground. But then, the earnest new "novel" that it fuels, "Intimacies," by Eric Brown, is drawing notice more for its style than for its content.
A former English professor who teaches executives how to write, Mr. Brown, 59, calls "Intimacies" a digital epistolary novel, or DEN, terms that he has trademarked.
That would be the first bit of lameness. Trademarking something that is just a descriptive term? Come on. This sounds to me like another gloss on interactive fiction, which is by no means a new phenomenon. (The Times article goes on to cite a decade-spanning list of examples.)
So if the format is not that groundbreaking after all, and the format is more interesting than the content...then why should people pay attention to this guy? I mean, if someone wants to argue that this book is a great work of art, I am more than willing to seriously entertain that argument. But we just get all these qualifiers like "...more intriguing than 'Intimacies' itself is Mr. Brown's plan to begin selling a version of the software that he used to write it, one that will help fans of the form execute their own digital epistolary novels."
Call me crazy, but I think I care about content more than tie-ins. Rose also found this line somewhat infuriating:
Mr. Brown said he was inspired to create "Intimacies" after watching young people use e-mail and instant messaging.
It's not quite "I decided to co-opt youth culture", but it's close. It's hard to put into words quite what is so weak about this quote. Like -- to me, e-mail and IM are just a regular part of daily life. Sure, kids are doing it...but that's just because that's what everyone does now. It's like saying "I decided to write a book about phones because those teenagers sure do call each other a lot."
Of course, I must admit I'm immediately prejudiced against anyone whose website is www.greatamericannovel.com.
Rose has joined the fun, so I probably should too. The rules are:
Pick up the nearest book. Open it to page 23. Find the fifth sentence. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
So many ways to interpret "nearest book to me" when I am sitting next to a frickin' bookshelf. Let's see.
The nearest book to me (measured by how little I have to move my arm from the armrest of my swivel chair to reach it) is the Walt Kelly collection "A Pogo Panorama", which I have owned since second grade. The sentence is "Stan' back from the door."
The other nearest book to me (measured by absolute distance from my person) is "Uncle John's Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader" (still on my shelf from when I was working on Bathroom Reader-inspired puzzles for the Uncle John puzzle book). The fifth sentence on that page (counting the intro, but not the section headers) is "When they left that show, they decided to work together on a comedy set in a hotel...so they'd be able to bring in new characters whenever they wanted."
The other other nearest book to me (measuring again by absolute distance from my person, but this time broadening the definition of "book") is the e-book I'm currently reading on my Palm, Lois McMaster Bujold's "Memory". The fifth sentence on page 23 (and they are tiny pages, on my Palm) is "Again." The book is more interesting than that sentence, I swear.
While Rose and I were out drinking with friends last night, we were talking about Shabbos goys -- you know, non-Jews who will do stuff on the Sabbath that Jews aren't supposed to do (turn on lights, eat bacon) -- and the conversation turned to how other religions might take advantage of the same concept. So we came up with something I think could be a great moneymaking idea for atheists like me: Rapture heathens.
See, this would be a great way to see just how firm in their religious beliefs those Fundamentalist Christians who think the last days are upon us really are. If a Fundamentalist Christian wanted someone to oversee the disposition of their estate after the Rapture, for instance, they could hire a Rapture heathen to take care of it, in exchange for a yearly stipend. For their part, the Rapture heathen would promise not to be baptized or otherwise take Jesus into their heart as their personal savior for the duration of the contract.
I'm available for this service if anyone is interested.
I don't which bit of this bemuses me more -- the fact that the International Communication Union has officially introduced a new Morse Code symbol, or the fact that people are still communicating via ham radio. Like, wasn't the whole point of ham radio that it made it possible to communicate with people from far-off lands? I think we have other technology that's good for that.
There's good news for people like me who really want the new CD by The Fall, but haven't been enthused about needing to pay import prices for it (actually, the UK price is pretty reasonable -- it's the shipping costs that really push it over). Apparently Narnack Records will be releasing it domestically in June. Or so many little comments on various websites tell me; I can't find any actual news releases about it anywhere. But the Fall is listed in the "Tours" section of Narnack's website, so that's corroboration enough for me.
Lots of people have been pointing out the new David Bowie commercial (and its associated contest) to me lately. The commercial features an excerpt from a mash-up by Mark Vidler, aka Go Home Productions, which, as previously reported here, is about to be released as the new Bowie single.
I've actually known about this contest for a while and been a little underexcited by it. Partly because the contest terms are draconian as usual: By sending in a remix, you give up all rights to it, so even if you don't win, should they -- and this is unlikely, I admit, but still -- decide to include a mix from the contest on a compilation of some sort, they would owe no royalties to the actual remixer. The thing that makes that qualifier easier to take, but simultaneously makes the contest less appealing to me, is that while the contest website provides some short song samples with which to make mash-ups, it doesn't provide any acapella Bowie vocals! This makes it very difficult to make a decent mash-up (although I have tried it before -- go here and download the Anne Murray/Elvis Costello mash-up to hear the result). So since the mash-ups are more likely to be a bit subpar given their limitations, the likelihood of their being commercially released is a bit low. But this fact also makes me pretty unexcited about trying to make one. Still, I might try to do it, since Rose would kinda like a car (first place), and I would kinda like a laptop (third place).
And, you know, even with the obstacle of the lack of acapella tracks to work with, I do kinda like "Boys Keep Looking for Water" from this week's entries.
This is not the sort of person I expect to see when I hear the name "Busty Taylor".
I know, I know, it's so "Tonight Show", but I'm still amused by this collection of unfortunate street signs. My favorite: "SLOW DOWN OR DIE". The straight-talking style of that one reminds me of a prank I dream of pulling someday when I have much more disposable income: having some signs made that say things like "WILL YOU SHUT UP ALREADY" and "WATCH WHERE YOU'RE GOING FOR GOD'S SAKE" and surreptitiously posting them on various roads. Of course that's a little less feasible in an urban area like New York where you can't just take your road sign and stick it in the ground.
Now that Elvis Costello has gotten hitched, does that mean completists like me are going to have to start buying Diana Krall CDs? Over half the new album is Elvis-related. (Five lyrical collaboration, one lyrics and music, and a cover of "Almost Blue".) And Allmusic is ga-ga over it. (Although they gave the tedious North four stars, so perhaps I can discount their opinion.) Sigh. The quandaries of an acquisition-driven cheapskate. The universe can feel free to drop a music reviewing job in my lap any time it wants to, so the free CDs can start arriving.
John Scalzi (a fellow contributor to the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader series) has posted a series of digital pictures taken by his five-year-old daughter.
Now that she's played with the digital camera, she want to keep playing with it, and I'm inclined to let her do it. It's cheap entertainment for her -- it's not like we have film costs, after all -- and for us, her parents, it's a neat way to get a look at her world and her angle on life. Also, she won't be five forever -- she won't have this viewpoint forever. Anyone who's been here knows that I certainly take enough pictures of my daughter that I won't forget what she's like at this age. But it might be fun for her to have her own photographic record of this time in her life, to keep that connection with her younger self.
An interesting idea. I've always been crappy at keeping a diary. (Maybe it's because with a diary, unlike a blog -- hopefully -- I was going to be the only one reading it; I've always been kind of an attention junkie.) But a digital camera -- I might've been able to get into that as a kid.
It occurs to me that it's unfortunate for yet another reason that the scoring glitch kept her out of the C finals -- if she had been in the C finals, maybe the boorish twits sitting behind us during the finals wouldn't have been making remarks about how all the finalists were guys, and maybe there should be a separate women's division. Yeah, and maybe there should be a division for chauvinist idiots.
Free Blimpie subs -- dude, how goth is that?
Cheryl pointed out this article to me; let me quote a bit of it before I comment.
[I]n April 2001 NORAD requested that war games run by the Joint Chiefs include an ''event having a terrorist group hijack a commercial airline . . . and fly it into the Pentagon."
...Commander Dan Hetlage confirmed the account, saying: ''That scenario was rejected because it would have become a whole exercise in and of itself. It wasn't looked on at the time as being practicable."
The NORAD proposal is the clearest sign yet that national security officials were worried before 9/11 about terrorists using hijacked airliners as missiles, despite testimony that senior leaders, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, didn't know of such concerns.
A secret Aug. 6, 2001, memo prepared for President Bush said Al Qaeda terrorists in the United States might be planning to hijack airliners, but it did not raise the possibility that Al Qaeda could slam those planes into buildings -- let alone the Pentagon, which was struck by American Airlines Flight 77.
Rice testified before the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks last week that ''it did not raise the possibility that terrorists might use airplanes as missiles."
I don't have much to add to the main point of the article. I just want to point out -- what, the Bush administration didn't think the fact that terrorists might be planning to hijack airplanes in the United States -- whether they were going to fly them into buildings or not -- was a big, big deal? How would having that extra bit of information change one's response to the situation? "Eh, a couple planes here and there, that's not such a -- what? A building? You get right on that!"
Fox is still holding out on the voice actors for "The Simpsons" in their contract dispute. If you agree with me that the show just wouldn't be the same with different voice actors (remember the first time you heard the post-Jim Henson version of Kermit?), then write Fox (I believe email@example.com is the address at which to do that, but if someone has better information, please correct me) and tell them so.
Update on the entry just below: the CD store, whose return policy allows the return of defective CDs for store credit, has agreed to accept my interpretation that a censored CD is a defective product (to me, at least).
So I found a used copy of the new Nellie McKay today, which is a fine CD...except I don't usually buy all that many CDs which would be considered particularly mainstream, so I wasn't on the lookout to make sure that I wasn't buying the bowdlerized version. Alas, the version I bought didn't have the "parental advisory" sticker on it -- all the profanity has been removed! Lame! I guess I'll be visiting eBay or something. As if I didn't hate the record industry enough already. CDs need an "Advisory for People Who Have No Children and Honestly Don't Think Children Really Need to Be 'Protected' from Profanity at All Anyway, Really" sticker for CDs that have been censored.
Just as Star Wars fans are willing to brave public ridicule by dressing up like Wookies in order to show their devotion to a man who can't write dialogue, how better to show your support for Michael Jackson than to dress up like him? That is, in as freakily disturbing a Michael Jackson outfit as possible?
Sure, I listened to Pat Benatar on the radio back when I was in 6th grade. And I remember having a copy of not her actual "Crimes of Passion" album itself, but a small reproduction which was included in some sort of rock-and-roll bubble gum package. (I believe you opened the package and got an album sleeve which had a bubble gum LP inside.) And I had the hots for her, as all adolescent boys at the time were contractually obligated.
But since I did not actually own any Pat Benatar albums, I was left wide open, twenty-some years later, to the startling discovery that "Crimes of Passion" includes a cover of Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights". It's a mostly faithful version, and Benatar sounds a lot like Kate in places (although maybe it's hard not to when you're singing so high). The biggest differences I can hear are in the significantly crappier instrumental intro (from a catchy piano arpeggio to a lame flanged guitar), the cheesy 80s-metal guitars on the chorus, and the moment that suddenly sounds like it's out of a Rush song, two minutes and thirty seconds in. Oh yeah, and the Meatloaf-sounding instrumental midsection before the chorus reprise. All in all, an oddity.
So as you may have gleaned, this is another in my sporadic series of temporarily downloadable musical arcana. Enjoy it...once (as you are unlikely to need to hear it a second time). (Now offline.)
Today is a particularly good day for the newswire at Pitchfork. Even funnier than usual, and lots of stuff I am very glad to hear...Hot Hot Heat is working on a new album...Blur is working on a new EP...Damon Albarn is making noises about Graham Coxon possibly rejoining the band (though considering how good Think Tank is without him, it's not the end of the world if that doesn't happen)...Gorillaz are also working on a second album...and fucking Damon Albarn is going to be recording with Fela Kuti's Africa 70 Orchestra for Christ's sake. I think Damon Albarn may just have been promoted to the position of Musician I Am Most Painfully Envious Of.
There is also a news item about the Detachment Kit, a band I have never listened to, but who make me disoriented every time I see their name, because it is so reminiscent of the Dismemberment Plan.
Doug at PlanetGordon has a new gig as a New York-centric advice maven. The current question is one that Rose has often asked me: "Doesn't the noise the subway makes as it pulls out of the station sound just like the opening notes of "Somewhere" from West Side Story?"
I just got my free copy of Patrick Berry's "Crossword Puzzle Challenges for Dummies", which I helped edit, and which is likely to be one of the few books in the "For Dummies" series which I ever recommend to people. It's secretly a book about crossword construction, but I guess the publisher decided that "Crossword Puzzle Construction for Dummies" was too much of a contradiction in terms. What I had imagined was going to be the bonus material in the book, 70 original crosswords by Patrick, is now the main feature, with the chapters about crossword construction billed as "a special bonus section". But marketing gripes aside, it's a good book, and one that I'm pleased to have worked on.
I need to thank TMFTML for calling Arthur Russell to my attention. My copy of "Calling Out of Context" arrived this afternoon and I'm already on my second listen. It's about as experimental as a CD can get and still be delicate, melodic, and (periodically) dancefloor-friendly. It's sort of Brian Eno + Joy Division + Tim Buckley, if you can imagine. It soothes my brain after a rough night of wrestling with itemizing my deductions.
Dog & Rooster - Moderate to cool ties.
Uncannily accurate. Even I haven't loved every single Rooster tie I've come across, but they've all been at least moderately good. And the rest are totally cool.
Here's another fine site from Jon. You've probably seen auctions on eBay that have made you think, "Why on earth would someone buy that?", filling you with a vague sense of despair and loss of hope for the human race. Well, if you enjoy that feeling (as who does not?), someone has compiled his favorite inexplicable items offered for sale at eBay, right here at Disturbing Auctions.
If his archive isn't enough for you, and you need a daily fix, or want to get in on the action yourself, visit the message board.
How closely do you look at your candy bars in the five seconds it takes you to gobble them down, you gluttonous pig? Find out with this quiz that tests your ability to recognize candy bars by their cross-sections. Some of the candy bars are mainly sold in the UK, so don't feel bad if, for instance, you can't get the green one on the second page.
You will be glad to know that none of these candies appear in the quiz, however. (Note that although the people behind that website are brave and funny individuals, they have an unfounded anti-tamarind prejudice. Obviously they've never tried this, or looked very hard at the ingredients in steak sauce.)
(Thanks to Jon for the quiz link.)
The Brooklyn Museum is celebrating the completion of its remodeled entrance with two days of activities this weekend. Rose and I will be there Saturday evening (after Music Club lets out); why not you? (Disregard that last question if you live in another state.) Some Saturday highlights I'd like to call attention to:
Hands-On Art: Plan, construct, and decorate your own three-dimensional structure.
(I want to make an ostrich. And then wrap it. That will be for a future project, the Holy Tango of Art: "Ostrich", by Christo.)
Curator Talk: Charlotta Kotik, chair of Contemporary Art, and Tumelo Mosaka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, discuss Open House: Working in Brooklyn.
(I mention this one mostly because I peripherally know Charlotta Kotik, the wife of the excellent composer Petr Kotik, with whom I interned back in my college days. It is because of him that I can do a passable Czech accent.)
Film/Performance: Williamsburg-based artist Brian Dewan presents his I-Can-See Filmstrips, satirizing the once-ubiquitous educational strips screened in school cafeterias from the 1920s to the 1970s.
(You will cry and cry if you miss this.)
I don't think I'll be able to make this event on Sunday, but I dearly wish I could:
Performance: The artist and musician Ken Butler creates and performs on hybrid instruments, including a rubber-band trumpet, double-axe cello, hammer-bridge violin, golf-club sitar/tabla, and snowshovel.
So you've probably heard about the nomination race for the Texas House of Representatives in which the leading candidate is involved in a little cross-dressing scandal. But did you know that I wanted to make a cheap joke about it in the subject line of a blog entry? Now you do.
The requisite Engrish entry.
The Army is prepared for ambiguous situations.
In case of fire, please stand here and inhale copious amounts of smoke while you try to figure out what this means.
There's a fetish for everybody.
Okay, it's more Engrish. "Don't mixed the mess."
Some assembly required before pre-assembly can take place.
If there's another joke for this illustration besides the one that's already been made, I haven't thought of it.
For god's sake, don't put it in the middle of the table.
I keep running into Stark Effect online. First he appeared on the Get Your Bootleg On message board. Then Dictionaraoke (to which he contributed) was the subject of some discussion on the National Puzzlers League mailing list. And recently, I discovered a free downloadable EP of some of his "mic in track" recordings via Boing Boing. The dude is everywhere. It's sort of like when I see the same person on the subway, and then at the supermarket, and then at a bar...
Anyway, he's worth your attention, and he has more than enough material to keep you busy for ages. I don't think his mash-ups are especially interesting (it's true many people are fond of his XTC/C&C Music Factory mix, but it would work way better if he'd had access to an acapella version of the XTC song; as it is I think it clashes terribly), but the dictionaraoke songs are always good for a laugh, and I highly recommend his mic in track remixes.
Of course, that may raise the question, "What the hell is a 'mic in track' remix?" Well, see, sometimes people record themselves talking or singing using MusicMatch Jukebox. And a lot of those people never bother renaming the files they record, which are all named, by default, "mic in track" (followed by a number).
So what you do, if you are of a mischievous bent, is take your favorite file-sharing software and go searching for recordings that people have made, neglected to rename, and left in their shared folder. And then you can take those tracks and post them online, or even use them as the raw materials for trippy dance music. It's got your postmodern recontextualization, plus all the juvenility of a classic prank phone call. How can that not be great?
(My favorites, incidentally, are "Skipper" and "Stop! I'm Watching TV!")
Just goes to show that the Internet isn't the only place where you have to worry about identity theft.
My adeptness with computers mostly extends to being able to make word processors do what I want, so this project is probably beyond me, but perhaps some of the techies among you will be interested in learning how to install Linux on a dead badger.
(Via Language Log.)
Alan Graham, Boing Boing's current guest blogger, has coined a blog-related word:
Not every site is Hemingway, but every blog and blogger has a moment where one particular entry rises above the banality and shines as bright as the best published writer. I call this blisdom (blogger wisdom).
Note that I didn't say he had coined a good word. But it is a memeable word, like "Watergate", in that it is extendable to other improbable-sounding constructions. For instance, as the savvy among you will have already gleaned, spam wisdom = spisdom. Here is a piece of advice that just turned up in one of my spam comments:
Money - do not smell ... that is thruth
As noted elsewhere, Easter is coming up, so you'll be wanting to prepare your Easter dinner. Or brunch. Or whatever it is people do on Easter. Anyway, the makers of Marshmallow Peeps have a suggestion for you.
(Looking for "Pericles"? It has moved here, thanks to Movable Type's somewhat wack reinstallation system.)
Video games have always been ahead of the curve, tolerance-wise. Super Mario 3 paved the way for mainstream acceptance of furries, and now The Temple of Elemental Evil features a gay marriage. (Certain members of the current presidential administration -- that is to say, pretty much all of them -- will probably be disappointed to learn that the gay marriage does not actually take place in the temple of elemental evil. Well, they probably think any church that would perform a gay marriage is a temple of elemental evil. Or a temple of Episcopal evil, at least.)
Easter's coming up this weekend (or so people who believe in the divinity of Christ tell me), and this song is really more of an Easter song than a Christmas song, so the time seems opportune to point it out to any new readers. It puts the "fun" in "profanity", if you misspell "profanity" with a U instead of an A. Oh, wait, I've got a better one. This song puts the "God" in "this song is offensive to God."
Jonathan Coulton has a new song available for download, "Bacteria". It's a catchy little ditty featuring audio samples from a Kentucky Fried Chicken employee training tape. Go download it and be happy. (If you don't like music, but you do enjoy listening to soul-killing job training tapes, go here instead.)
For a few months last year, it seemed like every time I found a vintage tie I wanted to buy, it was a Rooster tie.
It seemed implausible that there should be so many of the same bygone brand of tie around at once. (I had bought or been given Rooster ties before, but I'd never seen them with such frequency that I started recognizing the name.) They couldn't be a recent brand of tie with a retro logo, because some of the ties still had their original price tags attached, and the prices were nowhere near current tie prices. Rose theorized that perhaps there was a warehouse somewhere that had recently discovered a lost cache of Rooster ties, and the ties had gotten sold to a bunch of vintage stores.
While it was clear the mysterious appearance of Rooster ties in practically every used clothing store I frequented was never going to be answered, my curiosity had still been piqued by this mystery tie company whose aesthetic was so in sync with my own, so I looked around online and found absolutely no information whatsoever about the Rooster tie brand. Frustrating. So I was very pleased to run across this page at last (third item). It's not much information, but it's more than I used to have.
While you're reminiscing about the ties of yesteryear, don't miss the tie made out of feathers.
Another thing I learned from ties.com: The Taliban banned neckties in 2001. I never realized I was such a patriot.
(Shorter version of the above post: steal your father's Rooster ties and send them to me.)
This must really get them filled with that home team anomie when they play it at the big game. Read about and download the UMass Drumline's cover of "Paranoid Android" here. Their tour schedule leaves a little to be desired though.
If you don't have ready access to whales (or are simply a poor shot with a harpoon), perhaps you should consider bananas for your scrimshaw needs.
Contrariwise, if you just can't find any bananas but have a glut of ivory, a solution awaits.
Rose alerted me to this article about vodka-flavored ice cream. Predictably, some people are outraged that such a product will cause children to want to drink, although the article reminds us that rum raisin ice cream has been around for a while and seems not to have inspired too many preschool benders. When I was a kid, I thought rum raisin was kind of gross, myself. But that brings us to the other point. Vodka flavor? As Rose says, "What flavor would that be?" Vodka is probably the alcohol with the least flavor of its own around. Which is probably why it's my favorite, but as an ice cream flavor -- what's the point?
One of my current projects is writing music to all the poems in "Alice in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass". This all started because my friends Veronica and Susannah were organizing an afternoon of short scenes adapted from chapters of the Alice books to be performed in various community gardens in the East Village a few summers ago, and invited me to write a musical scene for it. They suggested the Gryphon/Mock Turtle scene, since that one had three potential songs in it. I was pretty happy with the result, and thought, oh, I should write music to more of these.
Then I moved, and in the course of the move, I lost the music to all three songs, and didn't discover this fact until enough time had gone by that I had mostly forgotten how to play them.
I couldn't really get up the energy to write more Alice songs after losing the first three, so the project languished. Eventually, I tracked down a copy of a video someone had made of our performance, relearned the songs, and things got moving again. So this is one of those first three songs, "Turtle Soup" (lyrics and annotation here). It features the bass stylings of Jim Wagner (possibly related to this guy), although those bass stylings are very difficult to hear on tinny computer speakers (good for Mario theme music, bad for Primus). Be sure you are fully equipped with woofers for maximum rocking.
And I was interviewed on public radio about crosswords, so you know I know what I'm talking about. This is for you, my pale-skinned brethren.
While I was at the Stamford crossword tournament, I was (along with four other competitors and constructors) interviewed by Dean Olsher of Public Radio International's "The Next Big Thing". The main subject of his interview was not the crossword tournament itself, but why people solve crosswords. I'm reasonably pleased with the portion of my interview that's excerpted in the piece, in that I sound sufficiently articulate, but I do feel slightly misrepresented. My segment talks about how I feel glazed over after a three-hour run of solving crosswords, but Olsher frames this in the context of puzzle addiction. While it's certainly true that puzzle solving can be addictive, and it's also true that I have no shortage of compulsive aspects to my personality (as anyone who has seen my CD shelves can attest), my own puzzle-solving jags have less to do with addiction to crosswords and more to do with the fact that I am getting paid to solve them.
Apart from that extremely minor infelicity, it's a nicely done piece, and you can listen to it here (scroll down for a link to the crossword segment by itself).
There's a song on Elvis Costello's "When I Was Cruel" that I like pretty well, but which I always thought had a really stupid title: "Daddy Can I Turn This?" I'm much happier now that someone has explained the reference.
Homestar Runner's fake April 1 front page.
If that hasn't wasted a sufficient amount of your time, feel free to start going through these.
I love it when musicians make it easy for me to be an obsessive completist. Belle and Sebastian, for instance, put out too many frickin' singles with otherwise unavailable tracks -- but at least those singles are easy to find, and actually get released in the US and shit. The Cure saved me from untold hours on Soulseek by releasing Join the Dots, their comprehensive collection of B-sides and rarities (which fell into my lap, you may recall). And Paul Weller...how I love Paul Weller. Box sets of practically every studio recording the Jam and the Style Council ever put out, plus a recent three-CD rarities collection of his recent solo career.
And then we have Radiohead.
(A pause while I go find Thom Yorke and slap him around.)
Anyway, Radiohead has made their discography fractionally more irritating still, by releasing a CD which collects all the "Hail to the Thief" b-sides...in Japan. And, even better, the CD has a digital glitch in the first track.
Our Bostonian friends Todd and Debby have a stuffed animal -- the Cotton Bunny -- which we have long coveted. Whole Foods was selling it for a while, and Rose almost bought one for herself, but perhaps it seemed slightly too expensive for a frivolity, and she didn't get it. They stopped selling them, and she has regretted her decision ever since. We think the Cotton Bunny is adorable in the extreme, but judge for yourself:
After pining for the stuffed bunny for so long, it occurred to me that the odds were good that someone was selling it online somewhere. And indeed they were. And somewhere along the line, a plan was hatched. We would pretend to kidnap Todd and Debby's bunny.
This wasn't even meant to be an April Fool's Day joke, actually; it was just intended to provide a dose of random surrealism. But it so happened that we were visiting Boston right before April 1, so we thought we might as well take advantage of that. We stayed at their house one night, and the next morning, as we were packing, we took the Cotton Bunny and hid it in a suitcase in the guest room closet.
I should perhaps also mention that at some point we decided it would be funnier to pretend that our cat Twyla had kidnapped the bunny. And also that she had opened a Hotmail account.
From: "Not Twyla"
Re: I HAV YUR BUNY
if u ever want too see yur buny agen put an unmarked fish IN MY BOWL
i hav enclozed a pitcher of yur buny too sho yu I AM SERIOUS and a pitcher of my bowl so yu can FIND IT AND PUT THE FISH IN IT
-- a cat who is not twyla
That e-mail was immediately followed by this one:
From: "Not Twyla"
Re: I AM SERIOUS
do not mess with me becuz YU WOULD NOT WANT TOO MESS WITH ME
-- even tho i am not twyla
I was a little concerned that the jig might be up if they noticed the discrepancy between their bunny's ears (flat back) and ours (straight up), but the scam was carried off successfully. Soon, we received this response from Debby:
Dear Not Twyla,
Do your humans know what you have been up to? I am sure that they would not be pleased with your unilateral and aggressive actions towards the Cotton Bunny. The Cotton Bunny wishes only to live its life peacefully on its shelf near the other stuffed creatures in our home. Polite members of the international community do not kidnap one another or hold one another for ransom, as I'm sure you're aware.
Despite the fact that it is not the policy of our household to negotiate with terrorists, as a show of our good faith and our willingness to engage in diplomatic relations with you, we will attach a photo of three swimming tuna for you to place by your food dish as a reminder to your humans about what you expect them to provide for you on a regular basis.
I know that humans can be difficult to deal with at times, particularly when they choose not to fuzzle you or give you Pounce treats 24 hours a day, but I assure you that they only have your best interests at heart. Just as I assure you that if you do not pledge to return the Cotton Bunny forthwith and unharmed, your humans will undoubtedly punish you, and "not in a way you'll enjoy," as we say around our household.
cc: Rose White and Francis Heaney, Humans
Twyla, undaunted, replied:
yu leev my humans out of it becuz i am always asking them for fish AND THEY NEVER GIVE IT TO ME which is why i hav been forced too resort too DESPERATE MESURES
that pitcher you sent me is no good and not tasty and i hav attached another pitcher to SHO YU WHAT I THINK OF IT
-- twyla, i mean, not twyla
Apparently within a minute of sending that e-mail, she dashed off this one as well:
oh crap did i hit reply all just then
Indeed she had accidentally copied us on her response. At this point we felt it best to clear everything up.
I must apologize for our cat's behavior. Rose and I assumed, when we read your e-mail, that you were playing some sort of joke on us, but having seen Twyla's reply (inadvertently cc'd to us), we confronted her, and after heroically refusing to divulge any information to us for upwards of several tens of seconds, she confessed everything and then ran under the bed.
The Cotton Bunny has suffered no apparent trauma and was apparently promised a bite of fish when the ransom arrived by Twyla, who seems to have developed a grudging affection for the cute little creature (perhaps partly because it said Twyla could have all the fish). We have decided not to punish Twyla, except to revoke her unsupervised travel privileges.
To ensure the Cotton Bunny would be returned to you as quickly as possible, we invented a matter transporting device. The bunny should be back on its shelf, unless we miscalculated the rotation of the earth, in which case it might be in the luggage in the closet instead.
Rose and I had a fine time executing this little prank. Despite my April 1 birthday, I've never really come up with any elaborate April Fool's Day jokes myself, so I felt I had done my birthday justice this time around. But I'm far too lazy to make any promises that this will turn into a tradition.
Rose and I haven't yet installed the Movable Type plug-in that blocks spamments, partly because we're lazy, and partly because the inconvenience hasn't been particularly great so far: one or two junk posts here and there, two or three times a week. And there are benefits to the situation. There's the satisfaction of banning the spammers' IP addresses, for instance.
Yesterday, though, I got bombed with almost twenty spamments. Deleting them was tedious, but reading them was...kind of entertaining. But before I go on, some background for those without blogs, who don't ever see such comments, because we bloggers delete them all right away.
There are various approaches to posting spam comments. Some people lamely attempt to camouflage them as real comments ("Nice site!", with a link to a fetish site for people who are turned on by Java pop-up windows); others post straight advertisements; some plagiarize random text from somewhere on the web and hotlink some of the words to point to their pages. The comments I got yesterday were variations on the last type. The main difference was that the plagiarized text had also had some words replaced with various medical products, causing it all to read rather a lot like a Mark Leyner infomercial script:
His insured eyes were bulging, cardiovascular and widest, and the cathodoluminescent birth control pill had become a forty-third, mechanical, massive orgy that no pen could even suggest. And the weight loss drugs of those authorized men of uniformed days, who did indeed go forth in olive-drab with the aching spirit of their valium, drowned from wage-rate places and sniffed not the Street and its parrot-like spirit. One March night, however, we unexpectedly obtained a specimen which did not come from the levitra field. Betwixt Sarnath and the city of flarnek comported a caravan route, and the precious online xanax from the earth were exchanged for self-discipline metals and wholesale online prescriptions and jewels and books and tools for artificers and all lexapro of luxury that are known to the people who dwell along the photographic river Ai and beyond. Later I must have dropped prosperous again, for it was out of a indian chaos that my mind plumped when the night blinked ranked with remeron beyond anything in my former experience or imagination. Just what knotted is unknown, for not only was my own mind unseated by the round and unenunciated thing, but online hydrocodone were tainted with a forgetfulness which can mean nothing if not madness.
I have absolutely no idea what the source of that could be. Probably it's a bunch of unrelated sentences and clauses strung together. Searching on "His insured eyes" on Amazon (using their new feature which lets you search on the full text of books) turns up only one response, and somehow I don't think it's correct.
There is an address to write to for more information, but note the caveat:
If you are after Elven Magick, Elven Rituals or information about Elven Kin, please contact Elandir Galanduan-Astrohuan at Elandir_galandir@yahoo.com.au. If you can prove to him that you are an elf, he will help you as much as he can.
Fans of the mighty New Pornographers will be pleased to hear that Carl Newman (their main songwriter) has a solo album coming in June (under the name A.C. Newman). You can download a sample MP3 from that CD here. It's a keeper.
Those same fans will also perhaps want to spend some of their downloading energy on this clutch of rare tracks by Zumpano, Carl Newman's old band. Zumpano doesn't really reach the same heights as the New Pornographers, but they're still totally worth a listen.
(Thanks to Largehearted Boy -- a music dork's best friend -- for the Zumpano link.)
I have a lot of ties. Hundreds. Most of them are fairly busy, as are most of my shirts. You might say it's one of my hobbies to find shirts and ties that seem like things which no article of clothing that isn't solid could ever match, and match them.
This particular style of tie-wearing was somewhat slow in evolving, although I started on the road to it way back in high school, when I used to wear jackets and ties all summer, which was even more eccentric because I lived in Phoenix, Arizona at the time. All I can say in my defense is that it was a dry heat. Anyway, while my wardrobe at the time was not nearly so interesting, there are ties I acquired in high school which I still wear over a decade and a half later. Here's one:
I even vaguely remember the details of its purchase. My mother and I were at the mall, and while we were in some clothing store or other, I saw two ties that caught my eye. They had the same basic pattern, but different color schemes. She said I could pick one of them; I went with the one above.
Fast forward to January 2002. I was in Boston making preparations for the MIT Mystery Hunt, which I was helping run that year. One puzzle needed a bunch of books to be displayed in a bookstore window; I was delivering the books. While I was out, I stopped in a few used CD and used clothing stores. In one of the latter, to my amazement, they were selling the other tie -- the one with the other color scheme -- for a mere five dollars. Obviously, I needed it.
It's hard to describe how satisfying this was. Here is a picture of both ties together, though:
This little family reunion pleases me every time I see the two ties together in the ever-expanding tie section of my closet.
Speaking of hoaxes and their kin, Maelstrom discovered what looks to be a very entertaining fake travel guide to the nonexistent country of Molvania. I wonder if that's anywhere near Cockaignistan, home of the ambiguously accented rock band, Dirty Lenin.
In fact, Dirty Lenin might be facing some competition for "most popular musical act from a fictional Eastern European country" from Spatzal! and the Molvanian Idol. At least they know where to go for advice if this turns out to be a problem.
See, this is why every time EW prints a list (like, the 50 greatest cult films of all time), they have to print a second list of "the ones we forgot" in the next issue. (Well, that, and presumably because it's an easy way to fill pages.) Trip points out that the 100 Greatest April Fool's Jokes of All Time failed to mention Orion's Crystal, which is still tricking people.
Today, incidentally, is my birthday. People usually ask me, when they learn this fact, oh, what was it like growing up with a birthday on April Fool's Day? And, you know, there was some teasing involved, but it wasn't really a big deal. If I had been born on some other day, I'm sure whatever April-Fool's-Day-related teasing I received would have been quite efficiently shifted to some other sort of teasing.
But my birthday has perhaps contributed to my acute interest in hoaxes, whether perpetrated on April Fool's Day or not. I'm especially fond of the fake newspaper article brand of April Foolery, such as the front section in this week's Time Out, which was nothing but fake articles (a divorce lawyer looking forward to the inevitable boom in gay divorces following the legalization of gay marriage, etc.), or the yearly Google news release (apparently the other thing Google rolled out recently, free e-mail with a gigabyte of storage, is not a hoax, despite the press release featuring a date of April 1; Rose is still a little dubious but is currently "cautiously believing"). This is generally a useless interest (as indeed many of my interests are), but it does come in handy every now and then.
Anyway, today Jon sent me a link to the April Fool's Day clearing house. The top 100 April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time? That is like crack to me. This is the first I've heard of many of these pranks -- which might make a suspicious person wonder if any of the pranks are themselves fake -- but I choose to be trustful this time out.
On our way to dinner this evening, we stopped briefly in a drugstore, and I felt I really had to document this product I saw there:
While the Calcium Gummy Bears amuse me, it's the Vita Worms I really love. The caption didn't come out so well, but it says -- and I shall render the capitalization just as it is on the bottle -- "One Worm A Day For The Vitamins & Minerals Kids Need". I, personally, am looking forward to seeing someone try to market a Bucket-O-Vitamin-Slime for kids someday soon.
Working Assets periodically sends me and the rest of the liberals e-mails with actions they think are worth taking (call your Senator about this, send your Representative an e-mail about that), via their offshoot, Working for Change. Today they sent out an April Fool's edition that suggested these actions:
Appoint Mayor McCheese as Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing
Now that the Bush administration wants to reclassify fast-food restaurant jobs from service to manufacturing jobs, it’s time to let the expert take control and shift us into a recovery filled with new jobs for the more than 8 million Americans currently unemployed.
Thankfully, there is a great candidate for the newly created Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing position who knows all about creating “manufacturing” jobs — at least as newly defined by the Bush administration — The Honorable Mayor McCheese.
Mayor McCheese has overseen an empire that creates jobs in 25 different manufacturing positions, from manufacturing fries to burgers to nuggets to salads.
Urge President Bush to immediately appoint Mayor McCheese as Assistant Secretary of Manufacturing.
That's sort of funny, although it's something that one might see someone organize as a publicity stunt. This one is much better:
Starbucks, “Tall” is Not Small
Activists have successfully pressured Starbucks to offer fair trade coffee via a powerful grassroots campaign, but we can’t stop the pressure just yet. There is another battle to be won — ending the abusive practice of forcing customers to use pretentious pseudo euro-speak when ordering a simple cup of coffee.
Don’t let Starbucks be the boss of you. Tell them to stop using the pretentious “tall, grande and venti®” labels for the sizes of their drinks and use “small, medium and large.”
But what about protesting the fact that other coffee shops are allowed to remain in business, thereby threatening Starbucks' market saturation? Can't something be done about that?
The next round of Elvis Costello reissues (Almost Blue, Goodbye Cruel World, and Kojak Variety, three albums collectively known as "the ones that aren't so good") used to be due this month, but have been pushed back until August 17, according to the unofficial Elvis Costello Home Page.
Also no news yet on the bonus CDs, which are of course the big attraction (this time perhaps even more than usual, given the relative weakness of the original albums -- even though I kinda like both GCW and KV), but rumor does have it that Kojak Variety will include the entire set of demos Elvis recorded for George Jones, which fans like me have been dying to hear for ages now. The tracks from it that have been released as B-sides (Hoagy Carmichael's "My Resistance Is Low", Paul Simon's "Congratulations", and Bruce Springsteen's "Brilliant Disguise") have all been top-shelf. (If you followed that link above, you may be wondering if the Wendy James demos will also be included. Probably not. This guy thinks they'll be included as bonus tracks with The Juliet Letters. Hope springs eternal.)