Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Induce Blathering Magic Missile

I don't like to use this space to hype flavor-of-the-week websites. This is mostly because I have unmeasurable amounts of influence. Here unmeasurable does not mean "too vast to be measured", but rather "too tiny to find even with an electron microscope, postive thinking, and an intercession by St. Jude". Also, I feel that the three people that regularly read this and care would write nasty comments. So, now that I'm breaking this soft rule, please take it as it is intended, a hearty "totally fuck you" to my gentle readers.

Surely waaay behind the look-what-I-found! curve, I recommend checking out Seventh Sanctum. Particularly if your geek factor registers at or above "ooh! ooh! Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie! ooh! ooh!".

A brief session there afforded me with these randomly generated magical spells that resulted in fits of snickering: Summon Corn Elemental, Overwhelming Eruption of Yogurt, Conjure Boyband, and surely necessary after Conjure Boyband, Bind Groupie.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A good time to visit

The day after Christmas I sent an email to someone suggesting a good time to visit Austin. I suggested this Spring for two reasons.

1. Visitors can watch 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats flying out from underneath the Congress Ave bridge. It's really quite stunning.

2. Visitors can watch the Texas Congress appear to walk around the floor of the chamber and chat with each other while in reality unspeakable acts of evil are occurring. It's really quite stunning. Like some sort of fetid, Lovecraftian horror named Y'gthlzbäbz has sundered a dimensional barrier and is creeping towards a group of low-income children who don't have health insurance.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Bigger Than Life and then some

I was reading Patton Oswalt's tremendously entertaining website recently and he mentioned the Nicholas Ray film Bigger Than Life. Forgive the somewhat pretentious literary allusion to a book I haven't even read, but it was like I'd consumed Proust's tea-soaked madeline. A memory came flooding back to me of sitting in a darkened classroom with my fellow film students, watching James Mason go crazy from taking cortisone. We saw Bigger Than Life because our instructor Walter (a total film theory badass, seriously) was fixated on domestic melodramas being in the midst of his thesis in which he was attempting to show that The Shining was melodrama, not horror, and that anything supernatural was just in the character's addled minds. Dubious, but interesting to consider because the staircase you know.

Anyway, Bigger Than Life is hilarious. It's not meant to be hilarious, but from a modern sensibility it's over-the-top with the yelling and the weeping and the lines like "your daughter is on the intellectual par with an African gorilla." Many film people, Scorsese and Godard among them, love it authentically, but my class was eating it up with forks and knives of vicious glee. The climx of the movie is incredible. James Mason's character is all hopped up on cortisone and has decided to sacrifice his son like Abraham in the Bible. His wife, trying the use-crazy-person-reasoning-to-reason-with-the-crazy-person method, offers that God stopped Abraham, to which Mason responds, "God was wrong!"

It's difficult to convey the intense explosion of love/mock/disbelief/exultation sounds that filled our classroom. We were floored. It was much better than the time we watched Dylan get drunk and belligerent during an episode of 90210, and that was fantastic. Sadly, Bigger Than Life is not available on DVD or video. I don't know if it shows up on Turner Classic Movies, but catch it if you can. Soooo good.

Oh, and also I met Patton Oswalt once at Bumbershoot in Seattle. I knew of him previously and he killed with a fantastic set. I ran into him afterwards and he was incredibly sweet, sincere, and appreciative. So, yay for all good things that happen to him. Must to buy his CD when I get my next paycheck.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Real World comes to Austin, finally (urgh)

So I heard the news last night that MTV's The Real World is coming to Austin finally. I say finally because at first glance it's such an obvious place to have it. It had been considered before, but since another MTV show, Austin Stories (who remembers this disappointing series?), was being shot here they crossed it off the list.

Well they're coming in February and I'm dreading it and wondering how it's going to work. There's only a few danceclubs in Austin (and two of them are gay clubs) so that doesn't provide much variety of locales at which the Real Worlders can get drunk and whorish, as is their wont. I dread it because well, it's The Real World.

Austin is a great place to live ... uh, but don't move here. Just come for vacation, spend some money at our wonderful local establishments, then go home. Or if you do move here, get with the program and don't complain about how you'd like it better if it was more like wherever you came from (I'm looking in your direction California) cause if you pull that crap you can just go hell, or back to whatever hellish place from whence you came. We like the stew of people that made Austin what it is: hippie cowboys, state employees, college students, Latino immigrants, musicians, techie people, enviros, etc. Sure the Chamber of frickin' Commerce is flogging that "Keep Austin Weird" thing now, but still.

Anyway, Austin's great but I can't imagine the RW producers would care about the RWers going to see a million bats flying out from underneath a bridge or quietly hanging out drinking beer and eating TexMex or swimming in a natural spring-fed pool. Wait, no they'll like the last one since the water stays 68°F year-round and the girls will probably get nipple-y.

The producers have been clear that they wanted to have the "cast" (I love how a group term for actors in a play or movie is applied to people on a reality show) here for SXSW. Great. I shudder to think of the desperate pleading from bands and labels to get the RWers, and more importanly the MTV cameras, to attend their showcases. It's going to be so, so ugly. And yet, I think I will be thoroughly amused if any shit goes down while I'm working registration. As my friend Carole once said, "I wanna be here when the yelling and screaming starts. I wanna be here when the famous people come."

You can read more details, including enthusiastic quotes from the mayor and seemingly nervous quotes from SXSW here and here.

One thing that I think will happen is backlash from the locals. Sure the target demographic and (fleeting) fame whores will be excited, but the rest of us? Not so much. I predict two instances of graffiti on the door of wherever they live, several letters of complaint over their lewd behavior to the Austin-American Statesman (the daily paper), multiple letters of complaint with pithy sarcasm to the Austin Chronicle (the free weekly), and countless scoffings at their mere presence.

So fellow Austinites, let the predictions fly about where they'll live, where they'll work, and what local band will get a record label interest because one of the girls is boinking the singer thus earning said band airtime.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

My misanthropic roommate

You wouldn't know it to look at her, or even listen to her for a bit, but my roommate/friend Carole is of the general opinion that people suck. She's quite warm and cheery, then she'll hear some bit of news that reveals a failing on the part of some person or another and it's, "Well, people suck so..."

Carole has a fantasy that asteroids will come raining down on Earth and wipe out pesky humanity. In honor of her dream, I christened a new organization: BOTA (Bring On The Asteroids). She loves it. Someday I'll become skilled enough to make her a little animation of asteroids coming down and everybody freaking except Carole who will have a beatific smile on her oh-so-Scandinavian face.

Today the topic came up of a friend of a friend of ours who, in an unexpected bit of national pride, signed up for the Reserves after 9/11. That person got called to seemingly permanent active duty recently and upon hearing Carole said,

"Why can't [they] be like all the other sudden patriots and put a fuckin' flag sticker on [their] car?"

Harsh, yet reasoned.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I really liked high school (do you hate me now?)

[names have been changed ... well just for the hell of it I guess]

My high school experience was atypical. That goes a long way towards explaining why I look back fondly on the time, even though I was not foxy, athletic, or popular in some unspecified non-foxy, non-athletic way. Most all my present friends disliked high school
and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I could have stayed for post-graduate work. I loved my school the way Max Fischer did in Rushmore. Still do.

I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school grades 9-12.

Pause for a moment and consider that statement.

I’m betting that at least one of three thoughts came into your head. One, prep school? Must have been a bunch of rich snobs. Two, all-boys school? Must have been some boy-on-boy action happening there. Three, Catholic school? Must have been some priest-on-boy action
happening there. Am I right? Did such thoughts flicker across your dirty, dirty, class-conscious mind? It’s okay. If you attend an all-boys Catholic school you get used to such preconceptions. Given our culture, it’s almost expected.

I don’t know if anything has changed in the years since I was in high school. If anything I expect it’s worse. Two stories stick out in my mind on this topic.

Once, in the locker room – this isn’t going where you think it is – a prospective student and his father came through on a tour of the athletic facilities. Don’t ask me why the presence and quality of locker and weight rooms would affect one’s decision to attend
a Catholic prep school known for its emphasis on academics and community service, but there you are. After the father had passed out of the locker room and into the weight room, but before his son did, a classmate shouted, “Don’t come here, they’re all gay!” The look on that kid’s face...

Another time, our football team was playing a public school team. At some point in the game, a member of the other team offered that the students at my school were, by virtue of attending said school, sexually oriented towards other males; indicating his distaste through tone of voice and word choice. What he actually said was something like, “Fuckin’ faggots!” By way of hyperbole, one of our players sarcastically verified the truth of that assessment and described the curriculum through which students learn methods to express their alleged sexuality. What he actually said was something like, “That’s right! We’re all fags! Suck and fuck, all day long. My first period class is Buttfucking 101.”

I tell these stories to illustrate that students at my alma mater are well aware of the fleeting thoughts that cross people’s minds. As to the truth of those assumptions, I can say that there were certainly rich snobs at my school, that I believe the proportion of
gay students at all-boy schools matches the general population, that the gay students probably weren’t getting much action because they were too scared and full of self-loathing, and that the priests at my school were probably not molesting students. Fr. Ryan would hug you too long on the last day of class, but that's all I know.

Anyway, I went to an all-boys Catholic prep school and I had a great time in high school. Except for the ever-present dread that someone might find out at any moment that I was gay.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A Christmas song

My friend Carole and I have a theme we return to every Christmas and we'd like to bring you with us on a couple points. Can we all agree that the British feed-the-starving-African-children song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is much better than the American feed-the-starving-African-children song "We Are the World"? Yes? Being so agreed, can we go on to say that "Do They Know It's Christmas?" is still a ridiculous song?

Let's take a look.

First there's the way the singers smoothly transition from extremely to not-at-all gay. Seriously:

Boy George (ridiculously gay) -> George Michael (gay, but slept with some women) -> Simon LeBon (just looks gay) -> Sting (straight, but maybe blew a guy just to check?) -> Bono (total cooter-hound)

It's like some sort of audio Kinsey scale. It's there people, you just needed us to point it out to you. Now let's move on to the lyrics.

"And the Christmas bells that ring there" [beatiful image, ringing bells] "are the clanging chimes of doom."

Doom? Really? I can't imagine chimes — you know cute little bells? — sounding any harsher than, say melancholy. But then "clanging chimes of melancholy" neither rhymes nor raises money. So perhaps Bob Geldof, et al. have a point there.

Aw, but now we get to what really gets Carole and I's collective goat. "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time." And what's wrong with that?! There's never snow in Africa except on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

"And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time / The greatest gift they'll get this year is life."

I think when you're starving you can take some small comfort in the fact that it's not snowing too.

Oh great. There's a civil war, I'm starving, and now it's snowing. Maybe a pile of smallpox-infected blankets will arrive next. Mommy (wet hacking cough, wet coughing cough), this is the best Christmas ever.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Hostes alienigeni me abduxerunt. Qui annus est?

It's still difficult for me to believe, but I got straight As this semester. Not sure what the heck my Chemistry professor did with the final grades that got me an A, but I ain't complaining.

This is quite different from Freshman year of my first degree. I seem to recall getting mostly Bs and then that big fat D in my five hour Latin class. Damn that student advisor. "Take Latin, not Spanish. It'll be easy," the non-Latin-taking ass said, "You had it in high school."

Yes, I took Latin in high school. That's what happens when you go to a Catholic high school run by a certain order of priests. Fifteen years later I still remember The Lord's Prayer in Latin and the Latin meanings of penis and vagina (that would be feather and sword sheath). The prayer from a priest, the fun bits from our obviously cool sophomore Latin teacher. Very entertaining, especially since the Latin pronunciation of vagina is something like wah-gee-nah. So, for a while it was wahgeenah this and wahgeenah that in the halls and lunchroom without the teacher's having a clue. Then one day, someone decided that the new slang term was vlaja. I have no idea how that happened.

Let's see, what else do I remember from high school Latin? The vocative case, -us -e -o -um -e -o, recipes with lark's vomit, naughty graffiti on the walls of Pompei, that Romans had a veritable Eskimo-snow amount of words* for conquer, my first exposure to Fellini via Satyricon, sexual excess in the ruling class, and temporarily memorizing phrases like the ones here.

Now how did this go from a celebration of a 4.00 semester to a clear example of how much sex was on the brains of both ancient Romans and high school Latin students? Isn't that always the way?

*For more on the Eskimo-snow thing, read this fascinating bit. Well, maybe only fascinating to me who still remembers with delight the time in Linguistics class when the teacher discussed prefixes, suffixes, and infixes (inserted into the middle of words). Infixes, cool huh? Erm, perhaps not.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Magnetic Fields in Austin - Part II

The Magnetic Field show on Friday was great. This entry is meant to appeal to fans of the band. It's excessively detailed, but that's what I do for my favorite bands. So, if you find such dorkiness untenable, move on to other more accessible entries.

The venue was at Hogg Memorial Auditorium, a concert hall on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. Constructed in 1933, it was named for a Governor of Texas, now mostly famous for naming his daughter Ima Hogg. The other supposed daughter, Ura, is entirely fictional. The University used to have classes there when the seats were still equipped with swinging desktops. It was also a venue for the now-defunct University film program that screened old movies from the US and the rest of the world at ludicrously cheap prices.

On the doors to the Hogg was a sign noting that the performance was being taped for a documentary about The Magnetic Fields and that entering gave them permission to use your image, etc, etc. Interestingly, to Austinites anyway, is that the director of the doc was Kerthy Fix, known in Austin years ago for being a VJ on our local music video channel and performance art pieces that often featured her doing things like having puppies licking tuna butter off her nipples or pulling a cinderblock with her Kegel muscles. Anyway, she's based out of New York now. Perhaps our New York friends can look up Kerthy Fix Productions NYC in the phonebook and check out this documentary.

Darren Hanlon opened the show and my friends and I were pleasantly surprised. We knew nothing about him aside from him being an Australian singer-songwriter on the same label as The Lucksmiths. He sang quite clever songs interspersed with little stories, like an involved one about the Wasa which he told to explain just one line in the next song. Just charming. I recommend checking out his music.

In something that's beginning to repeat often enough to be annoying, he was told that of all the US, Texas was the most like Australia. Seeing just Houston and Austin he didn't get it. See, West Texas is kind of like the Australia Outback only in that they're both sort of desolate. But then West Texas is a lot like the rest of the Southwest in that regard. So the comparison that Texas is like Australia really falls apart.

Anyway, he quickly became fond of Austin because 1)he found a couple arcades across from campus that had pinball machines and 2) the 37th St. Christmas lights, which really are wonderful. Pleased with his performance and being the sort of fellow I am, I wrote out directions to a restaurant in Austin that's known for its collection of vintage pinball machines. He was quite excited by the prospect, I hope he got to go.

After a short break, The Magnetic Fields took the stage. Interestingly, Sam had only his acoustic cello; the electric one did not make an appearance. Also, Claudia played an upright piano, which is ridiculous because the campus is lousy with baby grands. There's one in the building next door for cryin' out loud.

Here follows a setlist and some of the banter from the evening (and no, I didn't record the show, just took notes).

Claudia: I watched you come in and you're really good looking. Like rivaling Scandinavia.

Stephin: Besides the obvious woman in the first row, I don't know what you're talking about.

C: We're a bit discombobulated traveling through the South. Our last show was in Orlando, home of the younger brother. George Bush made a speech there and Stephin and I were making fun of the fact that he couldn't pronounce environment. [several inaccurate pronunciations] The audience was like [shocked inhalation], "You're mocking our God." We're used to New York.

1. I Was Born

Stephin sings "sinnnnnng" with a raspy growl. Explains that he likes to do a different impression each night, in the future he'd do Barbra Streisand. No explanation of who he was doing this night. Then he explains that Claudia and him were in a punk band long ago (was that The Zinnias? Who had a song called "Filled With Leeches"?). Sings "bounce on your rubber ball" and "silver beast in your teeth" weirdly with Claudia joining in. They explain that they were bad and trying to sing like Johnny Lydon.

2. I Don't Believe in the Sun

3. A Chicken With It's Head Cut Off

Quite slow bridge on this one.

S: What is this [next] song about? I've never understood.

C: That's a feeder line.

Claudia explains the next song is about a sad clown, which is hilarious because just before the show started a friend and I were discussing clown porn. By "discussing" I mean I mentioned seeing a bit of it on an HBO documentary and she recoiled in horror. She's scared of clowns. Anyway, she started giggling about the sad clown and we thought the same terrible thing.

C: This is from our newish album "i", or as they say in Spanish "ee".

They count out four and start the song.

4. I Looked All Over Town

Stephin goes off about how they should count 4, 3, 2, 1 right before the end of a song and how it's never been done before.

Claudia launches into an extended discussion of Kate Bush's Hounds of Love album, which she has brought on tour. Stephin attempts to sing like Kate Bush and it's all very silly.

At this point, I should note that Claudia continually brings up homosexuality throughout the show vis a vis whether or not every song was or was not about homosexuality. I would go so far as to say it became the theme of the evening.

C: Apropos of homosexality, this song is about the capital of homosexuality. Well, the other capital [Austin is quite gay and the capital of Texas].

5. Come back from San Francisco

C: This song is also from our album "i", which the French call "eh".

S: Someone count to four in Finnish.

C: Finnish anyone? How about Norwegian? One-oh, two-oh, three-o, four-o.

S: That's Italian.

6. I Don't Really Love You Anymore

Done country swing style with significant banjo.

C: This is from our album Get Lost. It's the one that has a picture of all the people not in the band except for Sam.

Sam smiles and discreetly flashes la mano cornudo, otherwise known as the metal Rock On sign or for Texans, Hook 'em Horns.

7. All the Umbrellas in London

Beautiful guitar harmonics from John.

8. If You Don't Cry

C: This if from our album of vampire songs, the black and yellow album


S: (deadpan sepulchral) Mostly black.

C: Vampires don't like to go out in the daytime.

S: (brightly) When they do, they wear yellow.

9. Born on a Train

10. I Wish I Had an Evil Twin

Extended discussion of doppelgangers.

11. I Don't Believe You

Claudia helpfully demonstrates the first line by doing air quotes.

Song ends and Claudia starts using the phrase "coffers of memory" to describe the next song. Stephin likes it but doesn't quite understand. They start repeating it, shift it to "copperheads of memory" and then, of course, starting hissing like snakes. Did I mention that this was their second to last tour date and they're getting very silly?

12. Summer Lies

Audience freakout.

13. All My Little Words

14. Hall of Mirrors

C: That song wasn't about homosexuality. [ha!] This one is though.

15. I Though You Were My Boyfriend

C: This [next] song is not about homosexuality.

(pause as Stephin reviews lyrics)

S: No, it's not. It's about blackface, sexism … and metaphor.

16. A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody

17. Swinging London

18. Smoke & Mirrors

Claudia exits stage. Stephin shushes audience

19. Book of Love

I've heard this song so many times on the CD and live, and still I teared up. Cold medication or heartfelt emotion?

Claudia returns to the stage with Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and a drink for Stephin. Explains that it's something to keep him occupied while she sings a 30 second song.

20. Reno Dakota

Thunderous applause.

C: We've had our snack break now back to the show.

21. If There's Such a Thing as Love

Stephin is visibly excited and stops the count-off to announce that he has an anecdote. He tells the story of how he wrote the verses, but not the chorus, of the next song in Austin at the Rainbow Cattle Co. [a gay cowboy bar]

S: The Rainbow Cattle Co. is a dermatology office outside of town. Specializing in cattle.

22. Papa Was a Rodeo

Crowd predictably goes nuts. And yes, they did the mirror ball gag.

C: Someone told me that Kelly Hogan is playing tonight too [opening for and backing up Neko Case]. Wouldn't it be a weird moment of synchronicity if she was playing it at the same time? [Hogan did a cover of "Papa" very soon after 69LS was released] Except her Mike is male and ours is female.

Stephin pulls back from his mic and starts examining it warily.

S: I think mine is male. Except it has this bump on the end.

C: They all that have.

Claudia does the opening bit of Epitaph for My Heart and some audience-members whoop it up. She stops, explaining that they don't remember it. Sam and John do their opening bits and Claudia admits that they know it, but not her and Stephin.

23. All I Wanna Know

Claudia explains the next song has become a gay marriage anthem, the song the couple dance to at the reception. So, it's been done many times already but feel free to use it for gay or straight wedding.

C: I guess we'll play it. And then you can hear it.

S: The loyal opposition would like to take the contradictory stance. If you're about to get married, stop. Are you doing the right thing?

C: There's still time to break up.

24. It's Only Time

Band exits stage. Standing ovation. It is a bit silly, eh Mark?

Band returns.

C: Anyone finish your finals today? [scattered applause] You've completed another semester.

S: Not necessarily.

25. Yeah! Oh, Yeah!

C: That song is about spousal abuse.

S: Millions killed, all feeding into that song. Animals too.

26. I Die

Incredibly beautiful guitar harmonics from John.

All in all, a great show.

New shirts were available in two styles. The first one is black with THE (in red) MAGNETIC FIELDS (in silver) horizontally across the front. The second is available in light brown and grey. The front has a large "i" like the CD cover, the back is like the front of the black shirt. Speaking of which, why aren't shirts available through House of Tomorrow?.

I wish I had pictures for you. If anyone has one or two that I could post, add a comment below. Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Magnetic Fields in Austin - Part I

I'm thrilled to be seeing the Magnetic Fields tonight. They are one of my favoritest bands and it will be nice to see them at home instead of flying across the country for the privelege (I've done it three times, obsessive me).

I interviewed Stephin Merritt last week for an article that ran in the paper. Here are some bits that didn't make it into the article, sometimes because I couldn't make out what he was saying on the tape.


Me: I know you're playing sit-down venues this time, and not clubs.

SM: Yeah. We've been doing it for years. We try not to play bars and nightclubs. We don't have a drummer or a rhythm section, we play very quietly. We really need the full attention of the audience so a theatre is (?).

Me: And you're finding that people are being quiet except at the end of songs.

SM: Pretty much. Except for people who bring their babies and such things.

Me: Does your audience have a lot of newborns?

SM: In Spain, yes.


Me: I see from your setlists that you're playing a greater selection of songs from all over your discography. Any particular reason?

SM: We've just come from Europe where we were promoting a catalogue re-issue. That's what we had rehearesed.

Me: So you rehearse a pool of songs that you pull from when making the setlists?

SM: No, we're travelling with a stable setlist. Where did you get the setlist?

Me: Fans post what songs were played from show to show.

SM: That will be a very boring setlist to read, because it will be the same songs every night.

Me: I don't know about boring.

SM: Well repetitious anyway.


Me: Peter Gabriel covered Book of Love for Shall We Dance? Soundtrack and sang it live with you. Some people think of the work as songbook-quality material. Do you have much interest in people interpreting your songs?

SM: Well yes. I'm not exactly the world's greatest singer and it would nice if the world's greatest singers would cover my songs.

Me: Do you think of yourself kind of like Bob Dylan in that the covers of the songs would be better than the originals?

SM: Well most of the people who cover my songs are more idiosyncratic than I am so, no. Like Woodie Guthrie where he had a raspy, not necessarily pleasant voice and everyone who covered him has a raspier, downright unpleasant voice. [ed. note: not sure what he meant here, Divine Comedy & Kelly Hogan don't have raspy voices, but I moved on]


Me: On "I", the liner notes say "no synths". Did you set that up as a challenge, or change in aestethics?

SM: We had just done a Future Bible Heroes "Eternal Youth" which is all electronic. So I just wanted to switch directions. It wasn't particularly a challenge. I have a whole lot of instruments.

Me: There's a neat effect where "I Thought You My Boyfriend" sounds synthy. Were you trying for that originally, or just work out that way in the recording process?

SM: By synthy sounds do you mean that some instrument sounds like a synthesizer or that it would ordinarily be played on a synthesizer?

Me: A little of both.

SM: Oh. Well there's an electric piano on it, in the background. I think it sounds more like early disco than synth-pop but everyone else seems to think it sounds like synth-pop so I'll let that stand. I think it sounds like New Order covering George McCray.


Me: Most and least essential records of the year?

SM: By other people?

Me: Yes.

SM: Like year end top five?

Me: Well not necessarily. Maybe ones that should be listened to and ones that absolutely shouldn't be listened to.

SM: Well, everything should be listened to once. Only the Loretta Lynn album with Jack White made such an impression on me that I would recommend it to everyone.

Me: What did you think of the Tom Waits album?

SM: I haven't heard it yet. Also haven't heard Smile.

Me: Oh really?

SM: I have them, I just haven't had a chance to listen to them.

Me: Are there records you found particularly distasteful?

SM: Hundreds? I couldn't name them. I generally don't learn the names of albums I hate.



Stephin paid to have the London all-69LS shows filmed, so he owns the footage. He sort of forgot that he had it when I brought it up. He may put it out on DVD on the 10th anniversary of 69LS, though he was just speaking off the top of his head.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Inappropriate comments

I have a friend, Ms. Morgan, that faults me because whenever she is around me and a small child is in the vicinity, Ms. Morgan blurts out something inappropriate. It's happened multiple times and is rather uncanny. I think it's hilarious, she gets embarrassed.

On Thanksgiving, the tables were turned. I was standing in our friend Dan's kitchen helping him prepare for roughly 20 friends coming for dinner including our friend Choo's parents. And by helping I mean talking to Dan while he set out appetizers. I was flipping through his collection of postcards from various friends, all of which say only, "Dear Dan, You are so gay. Love, [name]." Someone started it and now it's a lovely tradition of which Dan is quite fond. They were mailed from all over the US and even internationally, so one can only wonder what the postal authorities think. One postcard picture features a butt, tightly encased in jeans, sitting on a large pole. Just a tad suggestive. Hanging out of one of the pockets is a red handkerchief.

Sensitive readers and small children may wish to tune out at this time.

Handkerchiefs hanging out of back pockets is an elaborate code between gay men about what sexual acts they like. The color of the hankie indicated what act you are looking for, while the pocket you wear it in signifies that you want to do that act or have that act done to you. I'll stop pussyfooting around (excuse the expression) and just lay it out there. Coral on the left? Suck my toes. Coral on the right? Toesucker. Light blue on the left? Looking for head. Light blue on the right? Cocksucker. Grey on the left? Bondage top. Grey on the right? Tie me up (or down). Robin's egg blue on the left? Let's 69. Robin's egg blue on the right? Anything but 69. And so on and so on.

Now of course only gay men would come up with a code that requires one to distinguish between light blue, Air Force blue, robin's egg blue, aqua, teal, and medium blue lest you end of having sex underwater when all you really wanted was to blow a cop. The full list exists out there on the Internet. Nota bene: it is crazy specific verging into scary territory. Do you need to know that maroon is for cutter/bleeder? No? Well you know it now. Having warned you, here's one version. I've never actually seen anyone wearing hankies in the roughly 15 gay bars I've been to so maybe hankies are a relic of the past like the moustache-and-tight-pink-polo-shirt look.

Now that we've completed our gay sociology lesson for the day, let's get back to the postcard where as you recall there is a red hankie hanging out of the, I think, left pocket. Red = fisting. I'm really not going to explain that. Just google it. Oh look, I just did and the first link is Fisting Made Easy, so there you go. Anyway, I turn to Dan and say in a louder than necessary voice, "You know? I think I've finally gotten to the point where I'm not freaked out by the mention of fisting."

And that's when the screen door opened.

Remember how Choo's parent's were coming over? See Dan usually leaves his front door open when he's expecting guests, so the screen door with it's many, many holes for soundwaves to pass through was the only thing between us and the outside. Dan went into aggressive shushing mode and my face got very hot. Luckily it was Choo sans parents. Of course, when Ms. Morgan heard about it she thought it was hilarious.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Carson event wrap-up, and a shocking sight

Huge line to get in to see Carson featuring a large population of gayboys and their platonic girlfriends. Of course there were plenty of straight people too (as Carson noted, somebody has to make more gay people).

Carson was hammy and hilarious. He had clearly pumped his on-campus handlers for information about Austin. He peppered his comments with references that only made sense to denizens. For you locals: the Drag (queen?), Leslie (good thong and Santa jacket, bad shoes), the Dobie Mall (or Doobie Mall as he called it), Oilcan Harry's, Bevo, the hook 'em horns sign.

After doing essentially a great standup comedy act, he took questions from the audience. The event ended with a terrible misstep by the organizers had him commenting on the fashion of a few guys dressed specifically for the occasion. It was lame, but Carson did his best to salvage it. At the very end, he was gifted with a giant, gaudy, Texas-themed belt buckle. Where upon Carson took off his own belt and threw it into the crowd. After brief melee, someone had a nice souvenir.

Here are some of the best bits.

At the beginning of his remarks:
“Normally what I speak about is political structure in Southeast Asia.” And then he actually started reading a prepared speech about political structure in Southeast Asia. Great deadpan.

During the Q&A:
Girl: What can I do to get you to fix my father?
CK: You don’t mean in the veterinary sense do you?

Jonathan: Will you sign my chest?
CK: (cheerfully) OK.
Jonathan mounts the stage and gives Carson a marker.
CK: (mock exasperated) Well, take off your shirt.

In response to a request for a blooper from Queer Eye:
They were shooting a couple British episodes of Queer Eye and one day they were doing a scene on a British Airways plane. It was parked but the flight crew still had to be aboard for safety reasons. Carson was changing his pants when Thom apparently got frisky and tried to pull down Carson’s underwear. Instead, he tore them completely off. Picture Carson with a shirt on, then naked from the waist down. So Carson runs back to the galley, “I guess to get a napkin or something,” and right into the middle of the crew who were having lunch. Awkward.

Talking about the LBJ School of Public Affairs (a prestigious graduate school that's part of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library):
“I want to pronounce it el BJ. I went to Tijuana and got el BJ, now my urine burns.”

A particularly memorable part of the evening came before he even took the stage. As I sat in my chair, I noticed a guy across the aisle and up a couple rows. He had an incredible mullet. A waterfall of hair cascaded softly halfway down his back while the hair on the top and sides was cut into a bowl-shape. I was captivated. He turned slightly and I saw the weak moustache and chin caterpillar that signified a guy who can't grow a beard but tries anyway. A glance down revealed the showstopper. Cast over the back of his chair was a crushed. velvet. cape. Somehow the sight of it actually blocked any nerve impulses to my voluntary muscles for at least a minute.

When I recovered and turned to my friends to share, an idea popped into my head, "Oh, he's a plant that Carson is going to 'fix'. That must be it." See how I grasped at anything that made sense of the wild disconnect between the event we were at, the mullet, and the cape? Because who has a mullet, wears a cape in public, and stands in line for more than an hour to see Carson Kressley? Two out of the three sure, but...

So I told my friends who were as pop-eyed as I had been. They tentatively agreed with me that yes, he must be a plant. Then the event proceeded, and as it went on we had to admit it to ourselves; that was really what he wanted to look like.

Now I don't want to come off as some sort of fashionista, but really, doesn't everybody know about the mullet thing by now? Especially in Austin? Clearly from the length in the back, he's been working on it for at least three years. And then there's the cape. I mean if he was a goth kid I'd understand. A crushed velvet cape is completely plausible when you're wearing strategically ripped black clothes, eyeliner, and a pound of white powder while clutching confessional poetry that uses the words "blood" and "grave" on at least every other page. Under those circumstances, it would be wrong not wear a cape. But that's not this guy. Maybe it was just a role-playing thing that got out of hand; you know how that can happen. One day you're rolling 12-sided dice to get that +2 dexterity Sword of Palang, the next thing you know you're wearing a crushed velvet cape in public. It could happen to anyone.

I've never wanted a digital camera so bad in my life.

Anyway, I briefly said hello and shook Carson's hand afterwards. He's nice.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Got a yummy baby?

A friend sent me a link to this site and I'm appalled/delighted. Hilariously wrong. I would consider getting it for one of my pseudo-nephews, but I think such a personal decision should be left up to their parents.

The correct spelling of tsuzjing, and other topics

I interviewed Carson Kressley for an article in the paper. He's speaking tonight on campus and I'm looking forward to it.

Not included in my article was a brief exchange that went off the track of discussing his upcoming movie role (read the article for the details on that).

Me: Are you being yourself? Or is it like an acting role?

CK: It's an acting role. I play a bartender named Lance. Although, some people were like 'oh are you going to prepare for the role?' No. I haven't been a bartender but I've been to many many bars so I think I'll be okay.

Me: Now are you wearing a shirt at this bar?

CK: Um yes absolutely, not to worry.

Me: Cause you know, depending on what bar you're at…

CK: Yeah. I love bars where they don't wear shirts, that's fun, that's good times, that's entertainment.

Me: When you come to town we'll have to go out because there's bars where they don't wear shirts here.

CK: (interested) Oh really?

Me: Yeah.

CK: (shocked) In Austin?!

DT: Yeah!

CK: (not quite believing, but wanting to) Stop it!

Me: This is a very gay town, I don't know if you know that.

CK: Oh my gawd I'm way more excited than I thought.

Me: There's not one neighborhood like Dallas or Houston, everyone's spread out.

CK: The whole place is gay, oh my gawd it's like New York only warmer.

Me: Right. There's something like 5 bars downtown including a country-themed one.

CK: I'm going to go to each and every one. Just so I don't miss anyone.

Me: We've had eight straight days of rain here, some flooding issues, but is should be dry by the time you get here.

CK: OK. I'll wear my rubbers. Screw the rain.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Thrilling music

So I finally got a chance to watch Saturday Night Live I tivoed. Bad, bad, bad for comedy, hyper-cool for music. U2 were the music guest and after playing their two songs - it's great to see U2 writing good rock songs again, take notes REM - they came back at the end of the show to play, wait for it, "I Will Follow". Wonderful, wonderful, and more wonderful. The cast of SNL was freakin' out, a good bit of the audience were on their feet screaming and waving their arms, the band was fantastic, and the hairs on my arms were standing up.

A couple verses in, Bono jumps off the stage and wanders about, grabs a camera to sing into it, and straddles a woman in the audience who actually swoons. Edge jumps off the stage too and the director must have been spazzing. Camera men running everywhere trying to capture an actual spontaneous occurence on this live show. Near the end of the song, Bono goes over to the cast and embraces Amy Pohler who looks like she's going to ascend straight into Heaven. She and Maya Rudolph are wiping away tears of joy. Then, as the credits finish, you hear Bono call for another song right before NBC cuts away. Amazing television. Whoo-hoo!

Why oh why couldn't they have cut one more lame sketch and had U2 play another song?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Boredom and it's consequences - a high school story

[names have been changed to...well I guess just for the hell of it]

High school freshman biology lab can be highly entertaining when dissecting fish, or stultifying boring when counting maize kernels. Fish eyes contain a sphere of, well, eye juice under such pressure that they bounce really well. Get five or six of those babies going and it’s nirvana for a class of 14 year-old boys. When tired of ricocheting organic superballs, a scalpel reveals the fluid inside. And by reveals, I mean causes-to-spurt. Maize kernels don’t bounce when detached from the ear and thrown, or spurt when sliced open. They just sit there, varying in color.

It was a kernel-counting sort of Thursday in biology lab when Matt Levy and I started exploring the section of the lab behind our table: charts, tubing, beakers, animal skulls, a mini-refrigerator. The refrigerator showed promise. Despite our imagination, it did not contain petri dishes, fetal pigs, or even lunch; just a bouquet of roses. With a card attached. That was blank.

Since I don’t believe in Hell or its denizens, I’m not sure what possessed me to take the card and write “Love, Satan” in red, jagged letters. I was experimenting with impulsiveness at the time, and it made Matt laugh. When you’re a skinny, un-athletic geek who talks too much, making peers laugh is good. Even if you write “Love, Satan” on someone else’s flowers, which is bad. Also bad is putting the flowers back hurriedly because the teacher comes back into the lab, then forgetting about what you'd written.

Forgetting until Matt pulled me aside Monday morning, his eyes bugged out in fear. I had missed Friday at school because of an out-of-town debate trip. While everyone else had to sit through prayer service on Friday morning, the team and I were on our way to Shreveport, Louisiana. Far enough away that when the women who was being honored by the school was given the bouquet of roses, we did not hear her muffled scream at reading, “Love, Satan.”

After prayer service at my school, the classes are dismissed one at a time, Seniors first. When a class is skipped over without explanation, everyone knows there’s trouble. No classes were dismissed that day.

Can-be-nice-but-surely-hired-to-make-you-dampen-your-pants-at-a-single-eyebrow-lift Disciplinarian Vice Principal (yes, my school actually had that staff position — the DVP part, not the damp pants part) addressed the assembled student body. Matt couldn't coherently relate the story very well, so I don't know exactly what was said. Suffice to say that it was ugly and a large dose of Catholic guilt was dispensed.

Matt was convinced that we were going to be discovered and expelled. Knowing that a sure way to get caught was for Matt to crack, I sought to calm him down. I pointed out that we knew no teacher saw us do it and if a student told on us, we'd get called down to the office after homeroom. If not, we were safe. We were not called down.

I figure the statute of limitations has passed for Matt and I, so it's probably safe to tell the story. Though, now that I think about it, many teachers and administrators from my time are still there, so I can just imagine Mr. Vice Principal (since promoted) calling me into his office for a dressing down while I'm at the school for an alumni event. Uncomfortable.

Satan was to figure into another bit of trouble I didn't get into Senior year. Stay tuned for that story.

Friday, November 19, 2004

More ha ha in nutrition class

It was another day to giggle in nutrition class.

The professor was explaining that there is a small amount cyanide (actually cyanogenic glycosides) in certain fruit seeds: apple, peach, apricot, plum.

"But who's going to sit and eat a bowl of apple seeds? There's more of the compound in the peach pit, but you'd have to crack it open with a hammer and then eat the bitter, meaty part of the seed inside. Who's dumb enough to do that? Maybe we just let these people go. If you have a real desire for peach pits, save us all some work and dig a hole in the yard first."


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Oh yeah, The New Yorker graphic novelist panel

I posted my article about it below, but then forgot to report on how the night went.

Fairly well actually. Much like the Yo La Tengo panel (see 11/14/04 entry because I haven't learned how to make a link that skips down to it), the moderator was flustered and quite nervous to be on a stage with people watching. After a bit, he settled in. They talked about their biographies, current projects, the life of an artist, the process of making a graphic novel, the future of the medium, etc. All in all an interested chat. The best part was that the moderator had arranged to have images of the artist's work and their inspirations shown on three plasma screens. A great help when speaking about a visual medium.

I jotted down a few of the best lines.

While talking about the years-long process of creating a graphic novel, Seth observed,

"You're just worried you're going to die before you're done."

When asked to summarize the premise of his comic Jimbo, which he's been working on for over 20 years, Gary Panter said,

"Japanese and Texans are terraforming Mars using a Texas map and the Tokyo subway as a plan."

At another point, Gary was speaking about the personality of comics artists,

"These are people who hide in their room and make this little bomb that will blow everyone up."

The organizers pulled the plug right before the audience question period and hustled the artists over to the merch table to sign and draw beautiful little pictures in their books.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Botulism can be funny

The professor for my nutrition class cracks me up consistently. Today, after explaining what botulism is and why it's a problem, he told said,

"Well back in the '60s, some hippies, my people, decided that honey was magical. It's not, just flower juice and bee spit."

And so the equation is:
folksiness + (resigned exasperation x eye-rolling) = funny

He also let loose a whole string of observations about skinny people vs. fat people. When just standing there skinny people are moving to some song in their head, fat people are leaning against something. Skinny people sitting in class are bouncing their feet, fat people are slumped in their chair. Etc. while acting out the parts.

It was like a classic "black people are like this, white people are like this" act on Def Comedy Jam. The class ate it up.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

New Yorker speaks to Yo La Tengo

On Saturday night I went to the New Yorker College Tour event where author and New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki (The Wisdom of Crowds) interviewed Yo La Tengo, and not very well. Surowiecki was clearly excited and nervous which led to long, unstructured questions that got round a point rather than at it. I felt for him as I've experienced the same, but others in my seating area were quite exasperated. The band was very much Yo La Tengo, alternating between coy, wry answers and earnest, thoughful ones.

The funniest answer was in response to what they do as a band when they're not on stage. Ira responded that over the past year they've been learning a lot of cover songs for friend's weddings, "We've spent an inordinate amount of time trying to learn 'Brick House' without much success."

Then came audience questions which tended toward the geeky. A friend asked them about their many love songs, whether they were written for each other (drummer/singer Georgia Hubley and guitarist/singer Ira Kaplan have been a couple for something like 20 years) and what were their favorites by them or other bands. Ira was glad for the "out" and told the story of when bassist James McNew and Ira learned Gary Lewis and the Playboy's "Count Me In" secretly so they could play it for Georgia at a show on her birthday. Ira specifically cited the last line as the inspiration, "Count me madly in love with you." Awwww.

After a break, they came back to play a short set. They opened with a stripped-down, rawk version of Devo's "Beautiful World" something that had played at Rock Against Bush (or some other similar thing) in swing states, "For all the good that did us," Ira noted. As for covers, they also played a Neil Innes song as they had just seen him in Austin the previous night and "Count Me In". They played six or seven of their own songs, I remember a very quiet "Big Day Coming", "Autumn Sweater", "Little Eyes", and there my memory fails me.

While tuning extensively between songs, Ira observed that since this was not a regular show they didn't have any people to tune his guitar for him, "It's not that I can't do it, it's just beneath me."

Great evening for only $5.

Friday, November 12, 2004

A nice little piece about comic artists

I wrote an article published today about comic artists coming to Austin for the New Yorker College Tour. Normally I'd have a link to the published article, but due to the constraints of the publication (grumble, grumble, resigned sigh) my article had to be edited down to half of the intended length. So, I'll post the original version of the article with the two illustrations that should have accompanied it. I had fun writing it (I've never used five sources for an article before), I hope you enjoy reading it.

New Yorker brings graphic art to Austin

“Comics? That’s kid’s stuff.” When people’s only experience with comics has been short superhero stories written with a younger audience in mind, the sentiment is inevitable. For those who’ve dug a little deeper though, there is a world of great art and nuanced stories.

The superhero comic market has cooled over the past decade, but interest has grown in long form comics called graphic novels. The last few years have seen a surge of sales for beautiful, thoughtful work from Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth), Craig Thompson (Blankets), Daniel Clowes (Ghost World, David Boring) and others.

Juan Segarra at Funny Papers in the Dobie Mall has seen a 40 percent increase in sales. Looking to increase exposure, he moved them up to the front of the store, a strategy that worked.
“People are coming in who refer to them as graphic novels,” Segarra says. “People who otherwise wouldn’t be in a comic shop. They’re more accepted in the mainstream. People are thinking of them as actual literature.”

Graphic novels are now widely available in both independent and chain bookstores that don’t carry traditional monthly comics. And it’s not just retail outlets that carry these works. The UT Austin library system has a solid collection of distinguished work.

“Anytime there’s a new genre or format that enters the field of publication…we’re interested in looking to see if that’s something that the library should acquire,” explains Lindsey Schell, bibliographer for English Literature, “We’ve had a lot of requests from individuals for specific titles as well as just beefing up the collection in general.”

There’s no consensus on why graphic novels have gained in popularity. Increased media attention, high-quality work and better availability have all contributed, but there is no single controlling factor.

“I think culturally there’s been a build up of things that have let it into the eyes of people that have work in the media,” observes artist Seth (Palookaville, Clyde Fans: Book 1), “The Crumb documentary, Ghost World, American Splendor, there’s a cultural awareness rising out of comics that there’s something hot going on.”

A veteran of the field, Seth is a little wary about the sudden boom.

“[I]t’s a trendy thing at the moment. It’s something the public could really embrace, but I’m not sure whether I totally trust the attention at the moment.”

Fellow artist Adrian Tomine (Optic Nerve, Summer Blonde) worries about the downside of the trend.

“A broader acceptance of comics as a legitimate art form is heartening, but it hasn't changed the way I work,” he says. “There’s…a sudden rush in the publishing world to put out graphic novels and, unfortunately, I don't think there's enough quality material to meet the demand. I'm fearing a backlash as a result of a sub-par graphic novel glut.”

Prestige work

Comic artists have worked for years illustrating outside their own publications. Now, their working worlds are merging.

“The people I worked for weren’t really aware of my comics work,” says Seth, “They just knew me as an illustrator. In the last couple years, more and more I’m getting hired because of the comics work. People are aware of the work and so they’re hiring me for jobs that are more appropriate for what I do.”

Chief among those is The New Yorker magazine. It’s a natural match for a magazine that’s held cartoonist in high regard for at least half a century.

“We’re always looking for new artists,” explains Illustration editor Owen Phillips, “Comic book artist’s [are people] who can imagine their way around a space in a room. If they’re illustrating a movie, they’re not stuck on the photos the way some illustrator’s can be. I know that they can build on the reference and make it their own while adding atmosphere to it.”

Tonight in Austin, The New Yorker College Tour is highlighting the work of graphic novelists through “Ray Guns and Moping,” a panel featuring Seth, Tomine, and Gary Panter (Jimbo, Pee Wee’s Playhouse) moderated by Phillips.

Working for The New Yorker has many advantages for artists: paid work, an appreciative audience, a certain prestige.

“I think the New Yorker has a lot of cache to it,” Seth observes, “You can be working for years and if do the cover of the New Yorker, it makes a big difference on the way people perceive your work after that. It does have a stamp of approval to it.”

Phillips is glad to help.

“If we’re helping them pay their bills a little bit and their true love is their comic books, then they go hand and hand.”

New Yorker College Tour: “Ray Guns and Moping,” an evening with graphic novelists Gary Panter, Seth, and Adrian Tomine, hosted by New Yorker illustration editor Owen Phillips. La Zona Rosa, $10/$5 student discount

Adrian Tomine's cover for The New Yorker
(courtesy of The New Yorker)

Seth's cover for The New Yorker
(courtesy of The New Yorker)

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Dang, I'm running late

Shortly I will be going to see the Delgados about whom I wrote an article.

I like their music and their adorable Scottish accents (especially when contrasted with the frightening Scottish accent of Robert Carlyle in Trainspotting). They are the best band named after a bicyclist.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Go hither to yonder window and act as if you know NOTHING!

I just finished re-watching The Lady Eve, a fantastic film in the canon of the greatest comedic writer/director too few have heard of, Preston Sturges. I send love out to Walter, a grad student at UT who introduced me to the sublime pleasure of Sturges through The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (still my favorite).

Tonight's screening was introduced and, uh, concluded by New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane, a wit if there ever was one. After his hilarious, pointed scripted remarks on the film, Lane opened the floor for audience questions and comfortably held forth like he had always wanted to answer that very question. Sure, I'm a sucker for slighty stuttered, too-fast-be-be-completely-intelligible Brit-speak, but this guy was just compelling. I almost invited him to go see the Spongebob Squarepants movie with me before I recovered my senses. His overall point was that movies aren't made like that anymore. Sort of obvious, yet still true and sad. Later, my heart lept with joy when there was a question about what movies of the past 20 years would still be appreciated years into the future. His answer? Groundhog Day.

Getting back to what I meant to talk about, the time has come for a broader appreciation of Preston Sturges movies. You'll thank me when you treasure Eddie Bracken for something else besides Uncle Wally from Vacation. Mr. Bracken died a couple years ago and I was quite melancholy over it. I'd met him several years ago when he came to UT for a screening of another Sturges classic Hail the Conquering Hero. He told wonderful stories about making the film and the old days of Hollywood. I always thought that "sparkling eyes" was a ridiculous cliche, but he had 'em. Great hair too. It was his birthday and there was cake afterward. I managed a few words with him, but I was star-struck and can't remember what either of us said. Great comic actor, sweet man.

There I go again, talking about someone other than Sturges. Suffice to say, be at the crest of the Preston Sturges appreciation wave, call me and we'll watch one of the Sturges/Bracken films.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

What I was thinking at 8 AM today

Today I was at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure with some fellow nursing students. While we were getting ready to start walking, one of them got my attention and motioned behind her, "Is that...?" And there was Governor Rick Perry, spitting distance away, though of course I didn't. He looked older than I remembered.

For those outside the state, or even Texans who haven't tumbled to it, being Governor of Texas is a cakewalk. Contrary to widely-held beliefs, it confers little to no leadership experience. There aren't many duties per se to execute as part of the office. If you choose to ignore death penalty clemency requests (or mock the condemned while speaking to a journalist), than you pretty much just show up to public appearances and commence gladhanding. Of course, the Governor can also choose to veto massive amounts of legislation passed by his own Party without telling anyone what he was going to do, but that's the exception rather than the rule.

So, being Governor doesn't usually cause the amount of stress that ages a person like being President does.

Probable reasons Gov. Perry has aged considerably since taking office:

1. He badly flubbed school financing in Texas with a proposal to legalize gambling, an idea firmly rejected by the majority his own (Republican) Party.

2. He will be facing stiff opposition in the Republican primary from, in all likelihood, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

3. The swirl of rumors in February that he's gay, was having an affair with the Secretary of State, and that his wife had filed for divorce - none of which backed up anyone going on the record, merely innuendo from unnamed sources.

In that moment I almost felt sorry for him, almost.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Pondering a move to Canada?

These adorable Canadians are so helpful.

Election aftermath

So the front page of the Daily Mirror (a London newspaper) today is:

I sum up the results with this imaginary quote:

"I work two jobs and have no health insurance like a lot of people around here. A couple kids in town were born with birth defects from mercury poisoning last year. This guy from work who's in the Reserves died in Iraq last month, a war I feel increasingly uneasy about. Even though I agree with the the philosophy 'Get government off our backs,' I receive far more federal government spending per capita than anyone in, oh say Massachusetts. I have or probably will cheat on my wife at some point. My daughter contracted gonorrhea from oral sex because she wanted to stay a virgin. But damnit, I don't want to see no men kissing. Vote Bush."

We're clearly in a culture war.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Scathing critique of Bush from...Eminem?

So "Mosh", the new song and video from Eminem's next album, has been leaked and is all over the web. The music is dark and churning, the lyrics...well hear/watch it for yourself.

That site also has lots of other interesting video. The "Jesus Action Figure" for instance.


I would be a failure as a farmer. Just the getting-up-with-the-chickens aspect alone would kill me.I have to get up for school at about 8 AM. One would think I would be sensible and go to bed by midnight. One would be wrong.

I am a confirmed nightowl. Even as a child, my mother would find me reading under my blanket with a flashlight after she'd tucked me in. I was quite pleased with myself when I thought of stuffing a towel under the door to prevent light seepage and
therefore betrayal.

So, longstoryshort, I like to stay up late. I really don't even have a choice. Even when I'm tired, around 10 PM I perk back up again. So going to bed at a decent hour doesn't happen much. I tend to get about 6 to 7 hours a night during the week. What this means is that I drink coffee when I get to school, or I stare at the front of the room and fail to recognize the passage of time or comprehend that I will be tested over this material in the near future.

So I pump myself up with caffeine to make it till Friday, when I take a looong disco nap if I'm going out. The weekend sees me getting a decent amount of sleep, if not at night, then at least in naps. Then Sunday rolls around and I'm up at 1:45 AM reading or watching TV.

Once in high school, I stayed up till 4 AM to finish reading the third volume of the Lord of the Rings. Then woke up at 6:30 AM to go to school. For me the equation that morning read:

sleep deprivation + depressing section of the book = self-centered ennui

In first period Biology class, I actually wrote into my notes, "I am unto Frodo as he slogs through the swamps on his way to Mordor." It is now clear what I should have written was, "I am unto pretentiousness as I labor under the weight of self-aggrandizement." Wait, that's pretentious too. Dang. Well, I am tired.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

My article about author Augusten Burroughs

That's a lot of 'aw' sounds.

So here's the article what I wrote.

Not the most engaging headline, but I don't write them. And I apologize for the goofy last line. I can only claim to have been under deadline.

You can read more about Augusten Burroughs, a man who had a very disturbing life for the first 28 odd years and wrote two very funny, very freaky books about it, here.

Monday, October 25, 2004

A certain disconnect

Ever experienced a situation where you see someone you know, but the context is so unexpected that you can't really believe you're seeing that person?

This occurred to me recently while attending the Pixies show in Houston.

Their guitar tech looked just like a high school classmate, but he was never a musician and it's the frickin' Pixies so what are the odds? I let it go.

At the Austin show, I looked again and told my friends that I thought it was him, but the context was so odd. Friend Amy offered that she had once seen her doppelganger and it was profoundly freaky. So much so that the doppelganger practically fled the scene. So maybe Miles' doppelganger tunes Joey's guitars.

After the show, I had to know. So I went to the stage and yelled his name, sure enough he turned around. Weird.

Also weird is this picture from Houston of the gayest thing I've ever seen on the outside of a building.

Mistaken Identity

So I'm sitting in my car at 2:15 AM at the Whataburger drive-in window. Whataburger is the only place to get food in my neighborhood after 11 PM, and they have surprisingly good pancakes. It's literally a minute's walk from my house, but they won't let you walk through the drive-in so I have to spew greenhouse gases to get food. It doesn't keep me up at night like Gabriel, but I do feel a little guilty about my contribution to global warming.

So I'm sitting in my car at 2:15 AM at the Whataburger drive-in window. One of the cooks glances over at me and does a double-take. While I'm paying and getting napkins, he keeps looking over between flipping. I think, "Do I have something on my face?"

Then, driven by who knows what, he comes over, leans out the window and says, "Do you know who you look like?"

My mind races through this internal monologue in, I swear, in three seconds:
Do I know who I look like? Yes, Dennis Miller because people say that all the time and I have friends who nicknamed me thusly and I guess that's okay because he's decent looking and we do both have similar head shapes, dark hair that's wavy when it gets kinda long, blue eyes, and facial hair even though his present politics put him at the opposite end of the spectrum from me. But wait, my haircut and beard don't look like his anymore - Dennis Miller can't be what the cook is thinking.

Cook: "You look like Lou Ferrigno."

Me: "Thanks."

What?! I mean that's awfully nice of him because Lou's a studly guy, especially when he has a beard and isn't wearing a green Tina Turner wig, but I don't look like him.

Cook: "You know? The Hulk?"

Me: "Yeah." Mind still reeling.

Cook: "Anyone ever tell you that?"

Me: "No."

Because Mr. Ferrigno outweighs me by many pounds of muscle (of which I could only achieve maybe 25% if I really tried) and is rather more lantern-jawed than I.

Cook: "Well you do. Lou Ferrigno man."

Me: "Thanks. Have a good night."

On the 15 second ride back to my house, it strikes me, "Was he hitting on me?"

I'm really bad at telling when I'm getting hit on by guys because I always assume they're just being friendly only to realize later, in one case five years later, that they were indeed flirting. Was this one of those times? You tell me. How likely is it that a skinny black guy is hitting on a white, out-of-shape guy through the Whataburger drive-in window at 2:15 AM by using that old chesnut, "You look like Lou Ferrigno?"

Less likely than getting struck by lightning? Than winning the lottery? Than winning the lottery without buying a ticket? Than Ralph Reed befriending Tony Kushner?

Oh, for reference, here's what Lou Ferrigno and Dennis Miller look like:

Mr. Ferrigno, sans beard

With beard (1983), and no that's not my personal signed picture

Dennis Miller

Sunday, October 24, 2004


Last Friday's Conan was a brilliant episode, not so much in conception, but in happenstance. The planned bits were just okay, the funny came from the unexpected. The hilarious Will Arnet (GOB on Arrested Development, a fine show that people really need to start watching) had Conan enthralled and laughing in a way that only Caroline Rhea has in the past. I sensed non-sexual crush.

The final segment was great. Bat expert Rob Mies of Organization for Bat Conservation came out and it turns out Conan's not too fond of bats. Especially ones that go from hanging upside down from his gloved hand to quickly climbing up his arm. This one was transferred to Will and quickly repeated the freakout move. Next Mies brought out a little one wrapped in a towel and Conan was quite taken with it. The audience did not agree with him that it was cute.

Then the giant Malaysian flying fox came out. Conan and Will Arnet were out of their seats and the audience was shreiking. What's wrong with these people? It was adorable. Like this:

Cutest thing was the way that their ears were in constant motion.

The best was saved for last. In time for Halloween, vampire bats. Now they are actually quite small and non-threatening, but they do drink blood so creepy right?

So Mies brings out a little syringe of blood and proceeds to squeeze out drops while the bat laps at it with it's pointy tongue. Incredible. The audience freaked. Great television.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Ladled over broccoli, it's quite delicious

I spent today listening to selections from my brother-in-law's massive CD collection. It's eclectic, to say the least. All of Boston's albums? Check. The collected works of Phillip Glass? Indeed. The entire series of KGSR Broadcast volumes? Yes. Best of Banarama? Of course.

I had dived into the 80s rock and pop when I was struck by something. How can I so thoroughly delight in the aural melted cheeze that is Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up" while finding Spandau Ballet's "True" and the entire Thompson Twins ouvre distasteful? Not only do I hold strong opinions about one versus the other, but I have arguments that I can marshall in a debate should I be challenged.

Here is more weirdness:

-Foreigner sucks, except "Urgent" which actually emotionally affects me.
-Hall & Oates suck, except "Out of Touch" where the Oates singing "time" in the chorus makes me happy.
-The analog keyboard whine solo in Berlin's "The Metro" is one of the best non-natural sounds ever.
-I love Frida's "I Know There's Something Going On" more than most all of the songs she sang in ABBA.

What is wrong with me?

And why when I so loathed them growing up, do I put myself through the exquisite torture that is Journey? It's the same feeling when I tug on the beard hair under my bottom lip. It hurts, but I find myself doing it repeatedly every few months. It's sick, I know, but then "Wheels in the Sky" comes on the radio and I'm helpless to resist. I no longer control my body; lyrics coming unbidden out of my mouth and I grimace along with Steve Perry (though mine certainly is laced with an acute awareness of just how very awful are the lyrics).

This has lead to the inevitable karaoke performances. My favorites:
"Like A Virgin" Madonna (performed as if I was Mike Patton of Faith No More)
"Take Me Home Tonight" Eddie Money
"Rock Lobster" B-52s (I do a excellent psychotic Fred)
and my signature, "One Night in Bangkok" Murray Head.

And now I'm starting to feel the itch.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Blood donation

I keep putting off donating blood again. My excuses
are lame and Gabriel stares up at me every day, making
me feel guilty.

Gabriel is the child with Sickle Cell
Anemia on the “You can donate again!” card I received
in the mail. He is adorable. I am a cad.

I’m sorry Gabriel. I’ll go in this week if my Hep A & B vaccine doesn't make me ineligible.

Oh wait, I really have go in this week. My favored donation place has Halloween-themed t-shirts with bats on them. How sad. A free bat t-shirt motivates me as much as a cute, needy child.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Eeyore Love

When I was young, my favorite character from the
Winnie the Pooh cartoons was Eeyore. I don’t know why, couldn't speculate.
My mother was concerned. She didn’t think it was
healthy to favor a sad, pessimistic donkey. Attempts
to win me over to Pooh or Tigger failed.

Further worry resulted from my delight in the
seemingly invisible, perpetually lethargic Mr.
Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street. Dave Chapelle has a bit about him being a heroin junkie, he has a point. Over the course of
many months, I sucked all the paint off of my
Fisher-Price Snuffleupagus figure in an odd display of
affection. I guess. I can’t recall the exact

When I came to Austin for college, imagine my surprise
at finding the annual Eeyore’s Birthday Party celebration.
People, many in Halloween-esque costumes, gather in a
neighborhood park to hang out, eat turkey drumsticks,
and generally be weird in that Austin way. While I do
not care for the hippy drum circles and rhythm-less
spin dancing, I like the spirit of the thing.

As I write this, my Eeyore squeezy toy is perched on
the top of my monitor, looking soulful.

Friday, October 08, 2004

'Team America' cuts puppet sex, gets R

Now that makes me sad. It's been years since Meet the Feebles burst the Puritan floodgates on this subject matter. Now we are denied the full spectacle. It's 2004 people, it's about time for the open viewing of puppet sex at the multiplex.

Oh wait. My friend just hipped me (where did that come from? 1976?) to the apparently classic Let My Puppets Come. Umm. I don't think I want to see that. But Team America yes!

Fez-wearing monkeys

I like fez-wearing monkeys. Like this:

Not real monkeys, though. Fez-wearing monkey salt and
pepper shakers?
Yay! Poor, little, fez-wearing
capuchin monkey
begging for tips? Boo.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Funniest thing all week

Today in my Nutrition class, the professor was lecturing on obesity. He had just mentioned the social implications of obesity, when he posed one of his questions for the class.

Professor: What's the cruelest animal on Earth?


Some Guy: Wolverine?

I died, as did the girl next to me. We were sniggling for minutes. I mean, whatthefuck?! If he was clever enough to pull that off while perfectly impersonating an idiot's voice, my hat is off to him (if I wore a hat, which I don't). I doubt it though.

The professor faltered for a moment but saved him by offering that wolverines were really more irritable than anything before making his point that it was children.

Man I wish I had that on tape. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The ludicrous made manifest

Today I saw a girl wearing a necktie as a belt. From this we may conclude that:

A. She watched Carson do it on Queer Eye and thought, "Yes, that looks good. I shall start wearing neckties as belts."

B. Carson is stealing poorly thought-out fashion ideas from college girls.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

People who reek of stale cigarette smoke

It's one thing to encounter them immediately after a show at a club, it's quite another for them to sit at an adjacent computer at the library with a tuberculoid-y cough. Nasty.

Fall has come to Austin...

Fall has come to Austin signaled by the cooler weather, shorter days, and a flock of Segways heading North from the Capital on Congress Ave. With vague smiles they pull an occasional doughnut and murmur to each other, these white people with disposable incomes and no concern for practicality.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More Pumpkin Spice Latte news

Such a compelling topic to me that it begs for an update.

7-11 have chosen a strange way to hook their marketing wagon to the Presidential election by way of the "second quadrennial 7-Election™ Presidential Coffee Cup Poll."

When you buy a 20 oz. coffee, you can choose between the Bush cup, the Kerry cup, or the undecided-third party candidate-leave me alone plain cup. When you go to pay for it, the clerk scans the cup where your "vote" gets sent on to somewhere to get tallied. It's all explained here. Weird.

In my quest for more Pumpkin Spice Latte (who secret incredient clearly makes me crave more then fortnightly), I've gone to multiple 7-11s across town. Interestingly (not really), one store near the university campus had nothing but Kerry cups, while a store in a more conservative area of town had Bush cups covering up the Kerry ones.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

How does Trey Parker do it?

How has Trey Parker maintained the high quality of South Park so long? Whenever I think the show has plateaued, along comes a "Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery" or a "Scott Tenorman Must Die".

This season, the killer ep for me is "Good Times With Weapons". It's not just the perfect anime look and last minute crack at the public conniption fit over Janet Jackson's Superbowl show (Quoth my roommate, "Relax everyone, it's just a boob."), the theme song has captivated me for weeks. A spot-on parody of anime music, complete with bad English tossed in among Japanese lyrics, it lodges itself firmly in your skull.

By accident, I discovered the lyrics are written out phonetically in the closed captioning whereupon I transcribed and started learning them. I suspected the Japanese was not gibberish and confirmed it with a quick online search. Go here and read them for yourself at the bottom of the page unless you are, somehow, not a fan of juvenile dick jokes.

Urge to record a cover as a Christmas present rising.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Austin City Limits 2004

Just a few impressions from Austin City Limits 2004, notable for the scorching heat and the disproportionately huge crowds on Saturday (something like 75,000 people). The organizers should really limit sales better, but I suppose they wanted to cash in on the swell of people for the Pixies.

- Neko Case played her usual mix of originals and covers. Not a prolific song writer by her own admission, she remains an impressive song interpreter. Even in 100°+ heat (that's 38°+ for everyone who's not from the US), she can still raise goosebumps with the soaring notes of "Furnace Room Lullaby," especially the acapella ending that spellbinds every audience I've been in.

Two great quotes from Neko:
"Hey there's Beatle Bob! It's a festival officially now."
"There's literally a vulture circling over there. That's the sign my time is over. Huh, that's never happened to me before."
Neko Case site

- Witnessed the smallest navel I've ever seen. Roughly 3/8" long at it's widest point and so shallow as to be a mere indentation. My first thought was, "Navel reduction plastic surgery?!" No photo, sorry.

- I coined a new word.

Chatterchairs - music festival-goers who set up chairs blocking access to the stage and then talk nonstop through the band's set. See also total bastards.

- Cat Power was pretty decent. For those of you that don't know, Cat Power usually is just Chan Marshall singing accompanying herself rather starkly on guitar or piano. She has a been a reputation for repeatedly abandoning songs halfway through and ending her shows with a whispered apology for how "badly" she's just performed. While these behaviors have mightily peeved some, many others find this to be a proof of a fragile artistic soul. Frankly, it's kinda schticky. When she minimizes it, she can be be incredibly riveting. She's got a voice and affect that's curious and hypnotic.

At ACL, she opened her set with a cover of "Sinnerman," which I'm familiar with through Nina Simone's version. The trick to successful covers is to either copy the original well and capture the spark, or transcend the original so as to reshape the way the audience comes at it. I'm thinking of Lyle Lovett's cover of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man". He turns that well known song of a woman citing wifely duty to a cuckolded man begging for fidelity. Chan Marshall worked the trick on "Sinnerman" by transforming Nina Simone's strident declaration into a desperate plea. Later in the set she did her thing to "Satisfaction." Where the Stones version is strutting declaration, and Devo's a frantic explanation, Cat Power's is resigned defeat. She just has the one way with her covers, slow them down, strip out the instrumentation, and sadly sing the words, but it works.

Anyway, at ACL she played every almost everything through to the end and only ended her set five minutes early, a fairly good reading on the Cat Power pretentiometer. It was rather comical to hear her apologize for her set, then set about packing up her guitar while the audience clapped and called for more song. See Chan? They like you.

- Broken Social Scene are a supergroup of sorts with most members playing in other Toronto-area bands (Stars and Metric being two). Their shows at SXSW 2004 garnered good press and they seem to be gathering a following. All in all a fun rock show, though noting in particular stood out for me.
Full of energy and lots of guitars (at one point six arrayed across the stage), the singer did remind the audience that, "You have a choice coming up soon. Make the right one. Only you can save the world, America." Which must have been directed at the minority non-Texans in the audience as this is by far the safest state for Bush, even taking into account the supa-Democratic environs of the capital Austin. And yes, we love our little progressive oasis in the political desert of Texas that gets regularly attacked when Congress is in session.

- Despite somewhat lackluster energy, the Pixies were incredible. It's hard to view the show objectively when the band in question has been in my top 5 for the last 14 years and I never got to see them live back in the day. So Joey could have played while lying on his back while goat placenta was rubbed into his scalp and I still would have loved it.
A profoundly strange moment came during the show when I realized that the drunk and/or stoned fratboys in full "uniform" (frat party t-shirt, ragged basball cap with radically curved brim, khaki or blue shorts) behind me knew the words, even the Spanish ones. Now that's a bit odd for a band with no radio or MTV hit that broke up when these kids were we'll say 8 years old. Nevertheless, hooray for them and it was lovely to be in the middle of big crowd singing selected lyrics lustily.
I look forward to seeing the Pixies again in Houston and Dallas in a couple weeks.

OK, I'm bored of writing about ACL Fest and you gave up reading this a while ago so, the mustard blend at Texadelphia is like crack to me and I was quite put out when it was denied to me at their food booth. Saracens!

Thursday, September 16, 2004

David Byrne/Sam Phillips show

Thanks to my generous friend Amy, I was able to attend this show that was quite pricey.

Sam Phillips opened and blew me away. I was familiar with her work, but something about the material, or the band, or the setting got the goosebumps up. She's got a beautiful voice, a wry lyrical sensibility, and great hooks, but the stellar instrumentation put it over the top. Keyboard/organist, Stroh violinist, and an incredibly inventive drummer/percussionist, along with Phillips' on guitar, were just fantastic.

I don't remember the drummer's name, but damn. He has a fairly traditional kit, aside from a big-in-diameter-yet-small-in-depth bass drum, with a few interesting add-ons. A tiny hi-hat, a shaker attached to his ankle, some sort of modified snare, and a variety of strikers (bundled sticks, mallets, brushes) gave him an enlarged pallet of sounds with which to work. One song ended with him grinding a stick along the edge of a cymbal for a door hinge squawk effect. It was clear from the audience applause when he was introduced that his contributions were greatly appreciated.

David Byrne was wonderful too, creating a rich sound backed by drummer, bassist, percussionist, and the Tosca Strings. Electrons out to violist Ames Asbell who sang back-up too! Surprisingly, he didn't play much from his new record, but instead relied heavily on his previous record and Talking Heads songs. The audience (from the look of it, they were mostly college and post-college kids during TK's heyday) ate it up. I got a big, unironic grin seeing 45 yr old white guys arrhythmically dancing to "Road to Nowhere".

Two oldie stand-outs for me were "I Zimbra" and "Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place)". Huge favorites of mine with beautiful arrangements taking advantage of the strings (3 violins, 1 viola, 2 cellos) without ever being schmaltzy. At the end of the show we found out that local composer Stephen Barber did the arrangements. Kudos to him. Byrne's been playing a number of TK songs for years and it was great to hear arrangements that were fresh without completely deconstructing the songs. Barber's original work is definitely worth checking out.

Over the last few tours, Byrne has mostly eliminated material from his early solo albums while increasing the number of TK's songs. Not sure what to make of that.

Many encore songs finishing with "Un di Felice, Eterea" from Verdi's "La Traviata" sung pretty well from a guy that used to just have a strangled yelp way back in '77.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Oxygen Network is proving to be a reliable source of interesting BBC programming. Upon a recommendation, I Tivoed Nighty Night this past weekend and found myself paralyzed with laughter at 3 AM. So very dark, so very funny. Julia Davis (Jill Farrell) is a genius. She has created a thoroughly despicable character that nevertheless I love. Jill is manipulative, slutty, selfish, truly sociopathic, and hilarious. No boundaries. Everything she does is straight from the id.

I caught episode 5 of 6, but it looks like Oxygen is going to rerun the entire series over starting in a couple weeks. These will reside on my Tivo for a long time. BBC2 will air a Christmas special and a second series in 2005. I hope Oxygen picks these up too.

Show site:
Lasso the Moon

"I have a lust for life and a flexible spine." -Jill

Late to the 7-11 Pumpkin Spice Latte party

So I was all het up to proclaim the fakey goodness that is the 7-11 Pumpkin Spice Latte, but I see that it's been noted all over the web. Nevertheless, it is unnatural and delicious. I will probably drink at least one a week for awhile.

NB: If you get one, be sure to taste it before buying. My roommate was annoyed to discover that the Pumpkin Spice was missing and she had merely a regular latte, but only after she was home.

This brings up the point that the Pumpkin Spice fluid/pack/cartridge is loaded into the machine separately. Now I need to find out who is the supplier for 7-11 Pumpkin Spice. I would just send them an email, but of course they want all your info (address, phone number, demographics) and that ain't happening. Though of course it could result in coupons for free Pumpkin Spice lattes. Hmm...