Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ephmera 6/24/2008

Obama's and McCain's Short List for VP Leaked to Press.

Lord forgive me, but both of these made me chuckle:

And, finally, to a roaring indifference, AFI announced the "Top 10 Films in 10 Genres".

Of course the point of these is to sell movies and create quibbles on the internets, but I didn't notice this one sweeping the web. The AFI must feel a little ripped off.

Nonetheless, here are my few thoughts, such as they are:

In animation: Fantasia and Finding Nemo have no business being on the list. The Little Mermaid and The Incredibles should've been in those spots.

In westerns: Tombstone should have been on the list somewhere. McCabe & Mrs. Miller looks like the only one that could be moved. Fans of westerns don't really rave about that one. I've tried watching it a couple times when it came on a movie channel, but just couldn't get past 15 minutes of it. However, I know many folks, including myself, who spin up Tombstone on a regular basis. It's my personal fave of all time in westerns, followed by My Name is Nobody and the "Trinity" films.

While procuring the link to IMDB for Tombstone, I toured the trivia section and discovered this:
Kevin Jarre began as director, filming all of Charlton Heston's scenes. After he was fired, Kurt Russell rallied the cast and crew to continue shooting, for fear that the studio would shut the picture down instead of hiring a new director. Russell acted as director (unofficially) until the studio sent George P. Cosmatos to take over as the director. In an interview with True West magazine (Oct. 2006), star Kurt Russell admits that after original director Kevin Jarre was fired, he directed a majority of the picture. According to Russell, credited director George P. Cosmatos served merely to make things run smoothly.

Makes you wonder why Russell hasn't directed again.

In sci-fi: C'mon, Star Wars should be no. 1 before 2001 in the sci-fi category, for every conceivable reason: influence, success, storytelling, you name it.

I love the fact that Harold and Maude made the romantic comedies list. To this day, this is one of my favorite scenes of all time:

(very reasoned and slow)
Now, Harold, the Church has
nothing against the union of
the old and the young. Each
age has its own beauty. But a
marital union is concerned with
the conjugal rights. And the
procreation of children. I
would be remiss in my duties if
I did not tell you that the
idea of --
(he swallows)
- intercourse - the fact of
your young, firm --
(growing disturbed)
-- body commingling with the
withered flesh, sagging breasts,
and flabby buttocks - makes me --
(falls apart)
- want to vomit.

It would make the show more tedious than it already is, but they should give out micro-oscars for the best delivery of a line in a major motion picture. This guy would've had that year's.

And I'm proud to say I've seen all the flicks on the lists, except The Pride of the Yankees in "sports" (probably will never see it), and all of McCabe & Mrs. Miller as mentioned.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fluid Sexuality

Warning: More frank content than usual. Surf elsewhere for shiny happy puppy time.

There has been a theory about human sexuality floated for some time (I think Kinsey started it) that postulates we all have "fluid sexuality" in that we are all, to some extent, bisexual.

It has suffused some of the intelligentsia, as evidenced by this article in Salon.com, where the author thought she could just switch teams, as it where, because she was open-minded enough; and as evidenced by this Wiki article on Gore Vidal (see third paragraph in the section linked to) who was a big proponent of the sliding sexual scale trope.

Even the comedian Ron "Tater Salad" White has a funny take on the theory:
I told him, "We're all gay, man. It's just to what extent are you gay." He says, "That's bullshit man, I ain't gay at all!" I said, "Yes you are and I'll prove it." He says, "Fine, prove it." I said to him, "All right. Do you like porn?" He says, "Yeah, I love porn, you know that." I said, "Do you only watch two women doing it?" He said, "Naw, I'll watch a man and a woman make love." I said, "Oh, do you want the guy to have a tiny, half-flaccid penis?" He said, "Naw, man, I like big, hard, throbbing co-- I did not know that about myself."
- Source, 10th bullet down

I'm sure you've seen my take on this coming from miles away, and look! - it has arrived!:

What utter bullshit.

I'm a nosey sorta guy, so I've talked to a lot of folks about their views on sex - whether it was a sordid attempt (on my part) to get a buddy to give all the gory details of a recent date, or cocktail party banter, or outright asking someone what they think about things. (For instance, a friend of mine who's lesbian and I have discovered we're equal fans of tube-top season.) So while my "sample" is anecdotal and no where near as broad as the actual sexual researchers who did "objective" studies (scare quotes because this is one field, as made clear by Mary Roach's wonderful Bonk, that we appear to be too close to the topic to be legitimately objective, thus much of the information about sexual attitudes, outside of body mechanics*, depends on what a person reports), I basically used the same approach as they did.

*Speaking of Bonk, one factoid I took away that I'd not encountered before is that vaginal lubrication is actually blood plasma. See, the capillaries expand, and the plasma seeps through the walls to provide the lube. The jury is still out on female ejaculate, surprisingly.

As noted already, I've always felt the "fluid sexuality" theory belonged in the same waste receptacle that the sodden academic definition of "racist" does, where only oppressors can be considered racist, thus only Caucasians in America are racist and all other ethic groups are merely grumpy when they slam another's race. ALL of my conversations and observations (and articles I've read, including that Salon article above) bolster the idea that - well, to use Popeye's famous quote, "I yam what I yam." That is, our preferences are pretty much set and static in regards to which gender(s) we want to have sex with. (How we come to be that way matters not for the topic at hand. Be it nature or nurture, or some hairball of both, when we finally start rounding the bases, we know which field to be on.)

The few folks I've met (and read about) who think sexual preference is a slippery and malleable thing are primarily gay people who are hoping against hope to turn a straight person gay out of sheer romantic or lustful need. (Or, tragically, the misguided religious ilk whose goal is to straighten up a gay person, so to speak.) Or, they happen to be bisexual; so to them, sexuality is fluid. For example, Kinsey was bisexual. I think Vidal had sex with a few women before sticking to primarily dirt roads (ahem).

Am I objecting because I'm uncomfortable with the idea of sexuality possibly being a big, adult slip-n-slide? Not really. I don't really care who wants to fuck whom, as long as everyone is a consenting adult (and, of course, the moral caveat that they're not cheating or hurting someone else in the process). I simply, honestly believe that we know what we like, and we can't really change our stripes if only we are open-minded or if we give it the ole college try. There are no conversions on this particular road to Damascus.

Now, I do believe (as already mentioned) that there are folks who are bisexual, and that they really really are attracted to both genders. But that's not the same as, say, one day feeling like you're hetero, then the next you're up for any orifice, then a week later only those with parts like yours do the trick. Nope, if you're bisexual, it's a constant, as with hetro or homo, and it's just what you are.

Finally, why do I care enough to devote a thousand odd words to this topic?

Well, perhaps it would save impressionable folks like the lady in the Salon article some grief and embarrassment if she knew her humanities prof had lied to her. And folks like Vidal need a bitchslap whenever you can even remotely justify one. And and, the twits who accuse others of being phobic when they go "eww" over a gay kiss (or hetero one, if you're not) will maybe, finally just shut the fuck up.

TLD: The Gore Vidal reference (or attack) is due to this recent interview with the nasty old shite. This is how it starts off:

Q: At the age of 82, you will be publishing your new collection of essays this week, which seems likely to confirm your reputation as one of America’s last public intellectuals. Why do you think that critics have traditionally praised your essays more than your fiction, which includes “Burr,” “Myra Breckinridge” and 20 other novels?

GV: That’s because they don’t know how to read. I can’t name three first-rate literary critics in the United States. I’m told there are a few hidden away at universities, but they don’t print them in The New York Times.

Uh, no. It's because, well, you suck as a fiction writer.

I remember when Lincoln came out; I was working at a bookstore at the time. It was one of the few books people returned claiming it was unreadable. I had a go at it because I wanted to see if it was really that bad, and it sure was. Couldn't get past the first few pages.

So I went to Wiki and Amazon to research his other books in order to see if others thought he doth suck and came across his opines on sexuality.


Sya asked in the comments if there were any brain studies done about this, and I responded "not many." Then, today, this cropped up:

Brain Study Shows Differences Between Gays, Straights

So Savic and her colleague Per Lindstrom first used magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to compare the symmetry of the brains of 25 straight men and 25 straight women with those of 20 gay men and 20 gay women.

Gay men tended to have brains that were more like those of straight women than of straight men -- the right and left sides were about the same size, the researchers found. Gay women's brains tended to be more like those of straight men than of straight women -- the right side tended to be slightly larger than the left.

Next, the researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) scans to examine how a part of the brain involved in processing emotions -- the amygdala -- was connected to other brain regions. Again they found that gay men tended to be more like straight women, with a stronger link between the amygdala and regions involved in emotions. Gay women tended to be more like straight men, with stronger connections to motor functions.

Savic and Lindstrom stressed that their findings need to be confirmed by additional research and that it remains unclear how the differences might affect behavior.

Friday, June 13, 2008


One of the joys on the web is ffffound. People simply collect images they like there, so it's a cornucopia of pics and a nice way to kill some time.

This is not only funny as hell, but it's a decent photoshop effort as well.

I read recently that people tend to mess up with shadows, and particularly shadows around the eyes. If this weren't so pixilated, it'd be a classic.

Yeah, we've all been here once or twice.

Though, with me, I had stupidly decided that rather than buy a werewolf mask, I would paste it all on like they do in the movies. It looked great. Thank God I was as hammered as I was when I discovered I was supposed to prep my skin first, and had to take an industrial strength solvent to my face after trying to pull most of it off had proven less than effective.

Well, time to fly.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Our Babies

I stumbled upon this cartoon a few weeks ago.

(Click for full size.)

And I thought, gosh, it's exactly like that. How truly sad when you think about it.

The whole business of "sculpting souls" (as the late Dan Fogelberg coined it) comes with the agonizing task of sometimes guiding said sweet little souls down paths they'd rather not go but that you know are good for them (e.g. not having dessert after breakfast, which essentially was grain and sugar, almost more like a dessert than dessert itself, not that that fact bolsters your argument).

It stems from the fact that this new little unbridled souls really believe anything is possible and that they are the center of the universe, at first. (The computer geek in me thinks "what an interesting default setting...") The careful journey of adjusting this view to a more realistic and appropriate view of their centralness in the universe is just this side of heartbreaking at times. It is somewhat mitigated in that you can assure them they will always be the center of YOUR parental universe, thank God.

Another pitfall looms when they start talking, and particularly after the first few times they surprise you with an understanding that seems beyond their years: it's too easy to treat them like little adults.

My dad was apparently guilty of this, because my mom went to the trouble of embroidering and framing this "poem" in our hallway: Father Forgets. My memories are that he could be strict, but I don't recall anything that could've spurred the effort it took to stitch all of this out. ...Hmm, maybe it worked.

As a father, though, I can certainly relate to the late-night guilt fest when your failings as a parent come back to accuse and haunt you.

On a happier note, here's a cute piece (all of which I agree with) that offers "Everything I know about women" that he gleaned from his two-year-old niece; which I can say is a pretty potent way to finally grasp (some of) the mystery of women, having learned a lot about them from my experiences of raising my two lovely daughters.

I know some of my wife's behaviors make a lot more sense now that I've seen them in their primitive stages through the girls.

In closing, I have another cartoon that captures a particular aspect of childhood. What do you supposed this little guy is overhearing? (Click pic to see whole set.)

- Found via Attu

(Btw, this was one of those posts I mentioned having pounded on a while and it's only a coincidence that I've posted it right before Father's Day. I'm still not happy with it, but decided it was finally time to just let it go. They can't all be gems.)

Setting aside M. Blowhard's admonitions about the futility of attempting to be published author (I think this post is a leap-off point to surf his opines on that. MB, if you see this, correct me if there are better posts of yours about this topic), I think everyone who blogs still holds a little secret hope that someday they'll publish a novel. Or, like me, they enjoy reading "cookbooks" (as a writing buddy of mine calls them) on how to succeed at writing, or die trying, even if they have no intentions of cranking out the Great American (World?) Novel. I've got some cookbooks you might wanna try.

I happed across this one on the "just in" shelf this year, and enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I anticipated I would:
Rejection, Romance and Royalties: The Wacky World of a Working Writer by Laura Resnick

Ms. Resnick is a middle-tier author (that's not the correct term, but I don't feel like hunting down the actual one right now) who - get this - makes her living solely by writing, and has for a while. If I got a 10¢ royalty check for every time I've read some version of "only a tiny percentage of living writers make enough to live on," I'd be able to buy you and me a beer at happy hour today. Ms. Resnick maintains and proves that there are a bunch of folks who actually do it without hitting the bestseller list regularly.

The book itself is a fun read. Resnick has a fine sense of humor and a good style. Even if you aren't all that interested in getting published, you might just enjoy her insider's tale of success.

Oh, and here's her personal site.

I also perused You're Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop: Scalzi on Writing by John Scalzi. I didn't enjoy it as much as Resnick's, but it had some good chapters.

He culled a lot of this book from his blog, so give it a test run to see if you like his stuff.

And, Scalzi is kind of a cult hero as he has a poplar, award-winning sci-fi series. So, he, too, is the real deal. (I plan to read the series, so stay tuned for a review in about a year or two (my reading list ballooned from nothing to something this last month).)

So, dear readers, it looks as if the intrepid and the persistent still find their way into being published authors who are actually living the dream, as it were and such as it is.

But still....

Even if you were a big-deal, celebrated author in your own time, it has no bearing on how history will regard you. I point this out in the spirit of M. Blowhard in that one should really examine one's motives for wanting to put all the time and energy into concocting hundreds of pages of novelage.

At work we have a book-swap shelf where we avid readers leave stuff we're done with and cart away anything that entices. The title alone of Touch Not The Cat by Mary Stewart made me giggle hard enough that I snagged it merely to use as decoration on a shelf somewhere someday. Back at my desk, I was curious about such an egregious title and the person who would float it, and I discovered that Ms. Stewart was a big success in her own day, and is even credited with creating the genre of "romantic suspense". As you can see from the link to Amazon, some of her titles are still in print. But, have you ever heard of her before? Me neither.

While contemplating this post I serendipitously ran across a reference to Edna Ferber, another big deal author from the past you just don't hear about anymore. For your information and probable surprise, here's a short list of her biggest hits:

- So Big (Pulitzer Prize winner)
- Show Boat
- Cimarron
- Stage Door
- Giant (yes, that "Giant" - the one that became the movie with James Dean)

If someone with a title list that varied and popular has ended up in relative obscurity now, it sure sucks the wind from the sails of hope of making any sort of a lasting mark with one's stories no matter how well you do.

Oh well. Enough with the vagaries of fate. I discovered something interesting about Ms. Ferber I wanna share before I close: She never married or was known to even have had a sexual relationship. I find it of interest that someone of supposed virginity could write sweeping fictional tales that centered on the complexity of human nature. Seems you'd have to be acquainted with one of the central engines of drive and conflict in order to write about the human condition. (But then, one of her novels was entitled Gigolo though, so...)
Ephemera, 6/12/2008

This made everyone at work laugh really hard.

So did this:

This is so cool I just can't stand it. I want one.
Mourning the Lost Art of the Home-made CD Cover

Wuh-haaaay back in the days of cassettes, aka mix tapes, I stole an idea from a co-worker who would cut out pictures from magazines to use as covers for his homemade cassettes. "How cool" I thought. It was an art project unto itself. I think I still have the envelope of the ones I haven't used yet. Next time you go through a magazine, note how many pictures would look cool cut down to the size of a cassette cover.

Then came CDs. Their covers are large enough that your average magazine pic just won't do it. However, the advent of popular CDs coincided with digital tools to create covers from scratch.
Which I did a lot of:

(I was never much of a Skynryrd fan, and to make space on the CD rack, I compressed my wife's set down to a hits package of just the songs we both like. My pic selections often betray my feelings about an artist.)

I have vast swathes of graphics and photos saved just for that purpose. I have entire backup CDs filled with potential covers.

But now, I find I'm buying music online exclusively. The only time I play an actual CD anymore is in my car because it's old and doesn't have an mp3 player or connectiod for one. At home, I now have a DVD player that has a USB port, so I just plug in my thumb drive if I'm going to play anything new.

Here's right were I left off with CD cover-making. I happed upon the directory on my box where I stored in-process art for CD covers while writing this, and this was in the queue. I was going to use a pick from this selection to make a cover for Shatner's Has Been. Poignant, ironic, and appropriate, no?

What got me to pondering all of this in the first place was this wonderful pic:

It needs almost no fixing up. Feel free to use it if you're still cruising in hardcopy-land.

My one leftover thought is how much I miss liner notes. I wish Amazon would include a set of .jpgs of the CD cover and booklet (even though I won't use them for that purpose) because it's nearly impossible to get the album credits anywhere. After I bought Santogold, I really wanted to know who'd written the songs and produced the album. Luckily allmusic had the goods. But, darnit, this is one of the last things that needs solving as we go totally digital.

Oh, btw, Amazon almost always has free mp3s you can snag. As of this posting, they're celebrating Black History Month by giving away a bunch of tunes from obscure black artists, and the not-so-obscure like Sam Cooke. And a tune off the new Alanis Morissette offering (whom I think of every time I use the word "ironic" as I did above.) I've found about 1/3 of the freebies are worth the button-click.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Ain't Gellin'

One of my favorite songs of all time is from my childhood, entitled "I Can't Get Started," by Al Hirt. (Via my mom and grandma, I have a genetic love of all things that emanate from a coronet.) Consider "Can't Get Started" to be the theme of this schizophrenic post.

I have been grinding away on various posts for weeks now, and nothing's coming together. My phraser is broken. I have things I've been poking at for over a month now.

It's not exactly writer's block, but it certainly is creative block. I'll pound on a paragraph for half an hour (a long time for me), and re-read it and just sigh over the sheer suckitude I have birthed.

So, until the muse gets her ass back here, I'll just sprinkle some random shite on ya:

Some great albums I've been rocking out to:

- Mick Jagger, best of. Just due to the guy's history, this is a great rock album unto itself. Eclectic. Some of the gnarliest guitar work laid down. You'll whirl this one a bunch, I promise.
- Santogold. Another wild, eclectic disc. The duo behind this album (one of them being "Santogold" herself, has fused about every type of pop music thus far into the bones of the music. Little heavy on the 80s influences, but that's not really a complaint.
- Foxboro Hotubs. Greenday masquerading as a hot 60s rock band.
- Motherfuckers Be Trippin' by the Supersuckers. (Thanks for that one, Whisky.) Decent chops and hilarious lyrics. Lately I've edited some of the bluer songs that have come out so my daughter can hear them, but this set is unsalvageable. And that's a good thing.

(Update: It dawned on me later, this set is the perfect bride's collection: something old, something new, something borrowed (60s pop), something blue. In that order, even.)

Recent good movies:

- Iron Man - My favorite super-hero movie thus far. However, my second favorite is Daredevil. Seems I like my super-heroes to be flawed and mortal. Favorite laugh line: "Oh come on. You've caught me doing worse things." - to Iron Man's faithful secretary/personal assistant who catches him in the bashed-up suit that his robot helpers are trying to remove from his person.
- Indiana Jones and the Dimple of the Crystal Skull - Total time machine experience. It's just like being back in the 80s and watching the first one. I read somewhere the Spielberg even used some of the same lenses he did for the original. It only spliffs the ending, which you've seen in more than a few other movies. Still, you come for the popcorn, you stay for the whip (whatever the hell that means).

Good reads:

- Bonk by Mary Roach - I enjoyed her previous effort Stiff and couldn't get past the first chapter of Spook, but laughed my ass of throughout this one. Of course a book about sex research would have to tread lightly at times, and the euphemistic (or outright blunt) framings of various experiments and their footnotes (take THAT! David Foster Wallace) was just beyond at times. I, too, would like to see the clear penis-cam that Masters and Johnson devised to film, uh, "love canal" when things are glowing.
- U2 At the End of the World by Bill Flanagan - This is hands down, without a doubt, certain it will never be surpassed, the best rock biography I've ever had the intense pleasure to read. Flanagan was right there for most of the events and the majority of this is a first-hand account of the making of the classic Achtung Baby and the subsequent two tours and sequel album Zooropa. The best thing about it is Flanagan's breezy style. I intend to hunt down his fiction and see if he writes that nearly as well. Fun story: Bono and Adam (Clayton, the bassist) were hitchhiking in Tennessee during the Rattle and Hum thing, and this kid who didn't know who they were (at first) was blasting Def Leppard. Bono was amazed at how amazing it sounded on the hotrod's stereo. Then the kid realized who was in his car, and he put on a U2 tape, which didn't sound nearly as good. Since then, the band has made sure their stuff sounded as sonically full as possible. Can't be outdone by Def Leppard, donchaknow.

On the internets:

- Given the recent scary events in Russia, it's surreal that a lot of them still fantasize about this kind of stuff.

- The Boy Scouts are getting kicked out of a building they built because part of it sits on public land and their policy on adult gay troop leaders conflicts with local anti-discrimination laws. Y'know what? The militant gays have just got to leave the Boy Scouts alone. It's just a losing game. They are a private group, and they're mostly kids. My wife uses a phrase that's so true (paraphrased from School of Rock), "People do not have a sense of humor when it comes to their kids." It just goes into the same category as the fact that I don't get to be the sole chaperone on my daughter's Girl Scout outings because I'm a boy. I'm not supposed to wander into the ladies' locker room. Some airlines have a policy to not sit a child next to me just because I'm an adult male and the risk of me being a potential pedophile is too great (though they should add female school teachers to their no-seat-by-list, doncha think?). Just let this one go.

- Poor babies. I especially chuckled at all the marriages breaking up once they float below the million mark. Kinda makes you wonder if Roissy is just a bit more than just a "performance artist" like M.Blowhard maintains. (Btw, I love the double-meaning of "performance artist" for a guy who beds women for sport and then writes about it. You bet he has to perform.)

- David Foster Wallace comes up with the perfect description of the Bush administration - as is appropriate for a writer of his skills:
The truth—as I see it—is that the previous seven years and four months of the Bush Administration have been such an unmitigated horror show of rapacity, hubris, incompetence, mendacity, corruption, cynicism and contempt for the electorate that it's very difficult to imagine how a self-identified Republican could try to position himself as a populist.

(Via Kottke.)

- This quiz supposedly matches you up with the best news anchor. Well, check out selection #2 on liberal to conservative slider (but first make sure your answer for #1 selects Rush or Bill O). If you select "moderate", Rush and O'Reilly are still included! What a bunch of shite!

- The Gawker puts together a collection of the best "O face" of many newscasters. This is one of those times I caught between admiration for the sheer amount of effort it took to capture the freeze-frames of all these and fear for the human race that this much energy and (presumably) money (in wages) was spent that could've fed and clothed all the poor children in any major American city.