Sunday, December 24, 2006

And Now, A Musical Interlude....

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from my pal Andy, inviting me to a concert that had, in fact, already begun when he called me. "It's Paul and Storm! You should come!" he said. Now, Paul and Storm are one half of a now-defunct acapella band who I deeply love, and my feelings about them were a little mixed--they're not DaVinci's Notebook, after all, and while they've got a lot of good comedy material going, as a two-man band they're a little more limited musically than DVN. But still, I felt an urge to be supportive, and I went to the show, enjoyed it a lot, and bought their new album, Opening Band. On that album (among several other gems and one extensive running joke) is a song called "The Ballad of Eddie Praeger." It's a song about the death of a urinal cake; imagine Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," only with a urinal cake instead of a boat. (And if you'd like to hear it, go here and scroll down.) I found this song utterly hilarious--mainly because I am convinced that "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" is one of the primary selections in Hell's Jukebox. I hate that song. It just goes on, and on, and fucking on. So this brought to mind the question of what other songs are on the jukebox in Hell. "Sherri Baby," by the Four Seasons, I'm pretty sure. Possibly "Dust in the Wind." There must be more.

At any rate, since it's Christmas Eve, I got to thinking about the Christmas selection on Hell's Jukebox. Everyone has Christmas songs that they utterly hate, and those of us who've worked years in mall retail have more than most people just because we heard them on infinite loop during stressful moments of our lives. My special nemesis is "The Little Drummer Boy." There is NO version of this song that is anything other than plain awful to me. It strives to be a religious carol, and fails utterly. (My favorite carol is We Three Kings, so it's not that I prefer the secular ones. It's just that I hate the Drummer Boy.) So that's on Hell's Christmas PA System. I can think of a few others, but rather than descend even further into holiday cynicism, let me tell you instead that Grinchy ol' me made a Holiday Mix CD of GOOD stuff, with the help of iTunes and the spirit of the season:
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - Barenaked Ladies
Christmas Wrapping - The Waitresses
Jingle Bells (banjo instrumental) - Earl Scruggs
I Saw Three Ships - Sting
Father Christmas - The Kinks
Backdoor Santa - BB King and John Popper
Carol of the Bells - Mannheim Steamroller
Winter Wonderland - The Eurythmics
We Three Kings - The Roches, who mess up the fourth verse but I forgive them
Baby Please Come Home - Joey Ramone
The Dreidel Song - DaVinci's Notebook
Wizards in Winter - Trans-Siberian Orchestra
So, are any of my faves on YOUR personal Christmas Hell list? What's in your mix instead?

Friday, December 22, 2006

To Fret, or Not To Fret.

I can't decide if I'm stressed or not. On the up side, I finished all my holiday shopping in plenty of time, I didn't run out of money before the end of the year (a distinct possibility, what with the new roof and all) and got my grading done and grades posted by the end of the day last Saturday. And all my art app students passed, except for the dude who stopped coming to class back in October but inexplicably didn't bother dropping the course. Which incidentally boggles my mind--IUPUI, unlike my own college, allows you to drop a course without penalty practically up to the last day of class. Why in the name of god wouldn't you do that rather than take an F on your record?? Amazing. Anyway, so they all passed and most did quite well, and some of them liked the class enough that they sat around after the exam to talk about art and eat the homemade fudge one student brought as an end-of-semester treat.

On the downside, I'm working a contract that has to be completed by December 31, so not much free time; the house is a horrible mess post-semester, with piles of paper and dishes everywhere that I can't seem to make myself deal firmly with; and I seem to have had a bout of the norovirus that is working its way around Indy, which peaked over the weekend but has left me feeling tired and unhealthy in its wake. Also it's raining a lot, which means fear of flooding in my neighborhood. So far this winter hasn't been bad in that respect, it helps that it's been warm, and that there hasn't been a ton of snow to suddenly melt off in a warm snap and swell the river. But after the last two winters, it's pretty much always at the back of my mind.

So am I stressed? Hmmm..... I wonder.....

Oh well.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Life Lessons

Last year's lesson from art history TAing was, "Don't smoke pot before the midterm." A lesson we can all learn from! This year's ancillary lesson: "Don't drop acid before you write your final paper." Remember this, folks. The grade you save might be your own.

While I may occasionally bemoan the writing skills of the average student at the art school where I'm an adjunct, may I just take this opportunity to say how much I love teaching at this school? It's the end of the semester, student projects are due, and I walked into the main hall this morning to find three of my past students nailing together what appeared to be an enourmous teepee, made of gauze and a metal armature of some kind, with lights inside it, standing in a pool of water. The entire back hall was full of the most amazing damn woodwork/furniture projects I've ever seen, shelves and benches and tables that leave The Jetsons behind in their space-age, retro coolness, all waiting to be photographed for the students' portfolios. I passed a girl was sitting chatting on her cell phone, who had next to her an angel sculpted entirely of matchsticks (the long ones) and straw. I went to get a drink during the exam I was proctoring, and found one of the two drinking fountains had been enveloped in soft, velvety fabric--it was like Christo came and did a surgical strike on the plumbing at Herron. Went out to the parking lot, and there's three people in a cherry picker hanging round sculptures on the large sycamore tree outsdie the door; they looked like blobs of colored melty wax, or possibly a giant homage to Wham-o's late, lamented Superelastic Bubble Plastic. What can I say? Pure joy.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Oy Gevalt.

So I'm thinking about purchasing a menorah of my very own. Indianapolis not being a mecca of judaica (so to speak) I did a quick internet search. Now I am flooded with possiblities. I am particularly drawn to this Ceramic Turtle Menorah, mainly because the idea of a ceramic turtle in itself is so random; sticking 9 candles in his back just makes it all the more surreal. And I don't even see where the candles are supposed to go on this one.... Really, I was looking for something a little more traditional, simple, and.... ok, well, cheap. Not super-cheap, but cheaper than Mr. Flaming Turtle up there. I'll probably go with the basic brass model--simple, but every bit as effective for setting my house accidentally afire. I'll make the quick rounds of possibilities here in Indy before I pony up for shipping. But if anyone has any recommendations for "best menorah ever," I'll take 'em!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Couldn't Stand the Weather...

On the whole, it was a good trip to Chicago; it was the getting there and the returning that left a lot to be desired. And considering I'd been expecting to have to drive part of the way in snow conditions, it oculd have been a lot worse.

I'd originally planned to go up to Chicago for an alumni event--a reception and a talk by the new president of my college, which sounded worth a drive. Then I realized I could add a trip to the King Tut exhibit before it left the Field Museum, so I combo-ed up and bought a ticket online (for which I got charged a $3 service fee, and another $3 delivery charge--for having it held at Will Call. Yes--to "deliver" it across the desk at the admissions gate is $3. Chiselling %$@*#^...) Finally, I realized a friend of mine from the MA program here is now working at the Chi Historical Society, and so I made a lunch date with her. Perfect plan.
When I wake up, it's raining and dark, and so I get a slow start out of Indy. Finally hit the road in just enough time so I can make the lunch date if nothing goes wrong... Which is no doubt why I blew out a tire an hour into the trip. In the pouring rain. In the "Bermuda Triangle" area of I-65 several miles south of Lafayette, where cell phones don't work. I got out to change the tire in the cold pouring rain (in my nice clothes, because remember I'm going to a reception later on. My college does fancy receptions, there are canapes and stuff.) Got the car jack out, which required me to unload several cardboard boxes of leftover floor tiles which I've not yet returned to Lowe's, and with much struggling managed to remove 3 of the 4 lugnuts from the offending tire. The fourth one wouldn't budge. I strained, I pulled, I pushed, and finally put my entire body weight on the jack, only to notice that the hex nut was actually warping rather than coming loose. Reattached the other nuts, got back in the car, and rolled forward inches at a time while staring at my cell phone until I got an intermittant signal. After shouting through a wall of static at several various people, I managed to get hold of Triple A. And a mere 3 hours after my breakdown, I was on the road again with a new tire from McCord, a fantastic and friendly tire dealer in Lafayette who got me in and out in a half hour, and a new cell phone car charger from Pep Boys (who had a 2 hour wait before they'd even have looked at my tire, but since I'd burned out the phone on the road I was grateful for their vast acreage of auto electronics.)

So lunch was out, but I made it to Tut and enjoyed it very much. Then went up to the Arts Center, parked, and killed the hour before the reception walking up Michigan to the Girardelli store for hot chocolate. Had dinner at a fantastic deli called Eppy's, and if you ever have the opportunity to eat there and you pass it up to eat at the Subway next door instead, well.... you deserve what you get, is all I'm sayin'. The proprietor read his sandwich boy the riot act for asking if I wanted mayonnaise on my corned beef sandwich. "This is a Jew deli, Robert! You don't OFFER to ruin their meat for them by putting mayo on it! She asks you, then you can put it on, but you just ask her 'What kind of mustard would you like on that?' " Robert countered that maybe they should just stop serving ham while they're at it, which got the response "Hey, I said we were a Jew deli; I didn't say we were kosher." The soup was 27¢ a bowl, because it was 27 degrees out when they opened that morning. If it's below zero, they give you money back with the soup. What more could a person want in a deli? I almost didn't have room for the canapes. The alum program was nice, and when I left it was only just starting to freezing-rain out. Roads weren't slick, everything was fine.... Until I hit northern Indiana, at which point the heavens opened and i drove home in pouring rain the whole way, with low visibility and high wind.

At least the tire blew on the way up and not on the way back.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Andy Warhol Makes Me Sick.

Actually that's not true--of the artists I lectured about yesterday, I rather enjoy Warhol's take on our consumerist society. But this doesn't change the fact that I was overcome by nausea during the course of my lecture on contemporary art, and barely managed to finish the class before I became violently ill. But I don't blame Warhol for this. Or even Christo and Jean-Claude. Remember, 20th c. art isn't about end product, it's about process....

I seem to have gotten some kind of weirdo comment-spam in the prior entry, which causes the comments window to immediately forward to a new web address when you open it. Or, at least, that's what happens when I open it. Beats me. Hopefully it won't happen again.
And in other news.... hmm. I have no other news. The dining room completion has been delayed because the woodwork we cut doesn't quite fit perfectly; after two more weeks of frantic activity, the semester will be all over but the cryin' (or the gradin', as the case may be;) and I have another bunch of contract work at the museum I work for, which should make the holiday season a bit brighter in a financial sense. A plus, considering the New Roof is about to eat the entirety of my bank account....

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Post-Modern Modernism?

I'd just like you all to know that I'm writing a lecture on contemporary art tonight, and if I had to choose between this and a root canal, well.... let's just say I'd have to think about it.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Yes, the dining room project approaches completion. Tile is laid; I came, I saw, I grouted. I sealed. This last weekend I spent painting the woodwork (which my father generously bought, cut, and primed for me.) New furniture has been purchased and assembled. I am on the cusp of having a real, usable room downstairs for the first time in over a year.... So, go me!

A "before" picture of the old room is here, and here's one of the walls, and here's one of the new tile (pre-grout.) I'll post a final completion photo once the woodwork's on.

Robert Altman died this week, which makes me sad. I love his films. So do yourself a favor this holiday weekend; go out and rent "Short Cuts" or "The Player" if you haven't seen them before. Those two movies are masterpieces--two of many from Altman. They pack a whallop, though, they're not light film. But totally worth your time. Have a good holiday, everyone--

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

No Sugar Tonight....

In the wake of last week's Halloween binge, I've put myself on a no-sugar diet for the forseeable future. This mainly applies to processed sugars like corn syrup; I'm still allowed to put a little honey or maple syrup on my cereal in the morning, and naturally occuring sugar in fruit is fine. I'm back on my fruit kick, eating lots of dried fruit, juice, and those expensive yet tasty health food smoothies from the refrigerated section. I have a theory that a lot of the reason I feel like crap a good deal of the time is nutritional (yeah, I know, and didja know the earth is round too? it's a big duh, but at the same time it's easy for me to blow off these things on a day-to-day level even as I say "I should eat better!") So I'm drinking a lot of "Superfood" and "Green Machine" and "B Monster" for lunch these days--I should probably buy stock in Odwalla.

In other news, hooray for the national elections, and a bit of a boo for our local ones; somehow, the Republicans lost seats in the Indiana House but swept the state Senate. They now hold a Senate majority so large that they can conduct business even if not a single Democrat shows up to work in the morning. That just seems bad to me on principle... hopefully the Democratic majority in our House will force some bipartisanship on divisive issues. They're already discussing rescinding daylight savings time--woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


I have to give a lecture in 12 hours on the baroque period, and all i can think of is how much I feel like barfing due to the overpresence of Halloween candy in my system. This year it was mini-Heath bars and peanut butter cups. Jane has already asked about favorite Halloween candy.. So I put it to you--in the comments, tell me the one kind of Halloween candy you were always disappointed to see in your tricker-treat pumpkin. What was the worst thing you ever got? It could be a one-time thing or a yearly "ew" that the old couple on the block always handed out--name it!

Mine were twofold. The consistant one was Smarties; I hate those things, they're like a crappy, chalk-like imitation of Sweetarts (which I love.) I also occasionally found one of these in my bag, and they filled me with horror.... I find artificial maple-flavored stuff pretty disgusting, and that combined with the unappetizing name ensured that I never actually ate one of these. I mean, come on--BUN? What the hell kind of name is that for candy?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Say, That's a Nice Double Helix You Got There....

Here's my full Personal DNA Report, if you'd like to know what that thing actually means... This was a pretty interesting test, though I admit I have a few issues with it (such as how they define "masculine" and "feminine" traits.) I liked the different mechanics for expressing how strongly you felt about a question; the x-y grids etc. were a nice tactile way of conveying data.

Speaking of conveying data, I had to give a lecture last week that covered 1000 years of art history (late antique, medieval, byzantine, islamic, jewish, christian, and secular) in 75 minutes. It was horrible. Would have been much easier if that weren't actually my area of expertise; as it was, I had to try to figure out what NOT to say in order to rein it in under 75 minutes. And while I'm not entirely sure, I think I may have spent a lot more time than usual gesturing wildly at the slide screen and going "Um! Yeah! Sooooo..... Where was I?" Tomorrow it's the Renaissance in 75. Frankly that's a lot more managable, you toss around a few of the big names, talk about the revival of Classicism and boom, you're done. Nothing like the challenge of explaining the stylistic difference between Romanesque and Gothic churches in 20 words or less. Meh. I'll be glad when we get to modern art, I'll have a lot less to say....

Thursday, October 19, 2006

I Always Knew I Was Special...
LogoThere is:
person with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

When this first turned up on LJ a week or two ago, it was so popular the server crashed before I got a chance to try it. Now it's up again.... though it did tell Carl that NO ONE in the US has his name, so I'm pretty skeptical of the accuracy.

And in other news, Smallville has already lost me. They fell back on trick arrows and a stupid computer animated compound bow that folds up into a pocket pouch.... It's like Silver Age Green Arrow married Batman, and they had a kid. Plus, Lois is blonde, Lana's a creep, and Clark is displaying some seriously wooden acting skills this week. I have confidence he can do better--but if we were supposed to get that he hates Oliver Queen just for being rich, it might have worked better to have him act that out instead of just having Oliver say, "You hate me because I'm rich, don't you?" Er... what? Maybe his eyes were smouldering, and I missed it. Likewise, when he realizes Lois is all into Ollie, he just looks kind of "Meh." and Ollie also looks "Meh." And then Lois says something about them marking their territory (ie, her) and my response was "Huh? Did I miss the part where they expressed some emotion?" So anyway... drat! Curse you, Smallville, raising my hopes like that! Though the ending was pretty good, and they did sort of recapture some of the longbow hunter feel in the ends-justify-means speech. I dunno if I'll keep watching or not--but they did bring GA into 3D, and I'll always be grateful for that!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Longbow Hunters #1

Longbow Hunters #1
Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
Unexpected Joy

OK, so this is a totally nerdy post. You don't like it, you can go read Doonsbury or something and come back later. But I've been having a hard couple weeks, in a life-stress sense, and today I got a little glimmer of sunshine, completely out of the blue. Or the green.

My pal Brian called me up to let me know that I should watch "Smallville" tonight. I never watch "Smallville"--in fact, I never watch any network TV, or really anything that could be described as a series these days. I can't handle the commitment. If I had TiVo, I might feel differently--but right now, I'm happy with my TV interaction being pure brain-candy that I flip on whenever I'm in the mood to vegitate. But Brian shook me out of my TV torpor with the information that "Smallville" tonight would feature the one comic book character I love more than any other--yes, more even than Nightcrawler. (Only just.) I've never been a Superman fan, although I enjoyed the first few seasons of "Lois and Clark" with my mom when I was living at home; so I never really even considered watching Smallville--gee, Superman again? Only now he's an angsty teenager? Gee, that sounds great. The one thing that could really spark my interest would be the introduction of a new character--specifically Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow. He debuted tonight.

So now that I'm watching, may I say first that I really like the dude playing Clark? He's cute, he's sincere without being irritating. I do like him. And I like the Chloe chick--though it took me most of the episode to figure out that I shouldn't be trying to match her up with any character I know from the DC mythos.... But WOW this show has some plausibility issues. I have a big hangup with shows that test my suspension of disbelief; other people say "oh, come on, lighten up, it's fantasy!" but I really feel like writers of shows like this should challenge themselves to write plots which actually make sense, and work around obstacles rather than just letting the main characters do stuff like....say..... walk unnoticed into an intensive care ward and take pictures of the patient's X-rays? WTF? I had several moments like this. Isn't Smallville somewhere in Kansas? Do the producers not know that Kansas does not sport forests full of ferns and cyclopean redwoods? It's like the mountains of Chicago... Etc., etc. ANYWAY, the point of my post was that Oliver Queen has finally hit the screen in something other than the occasional animated guest shot on Superfriends. As a hard core fan, I have to give it pretty good marks. The guy they picked to play him is H-O-T, there's no arguing that. And completely ripped, they've already had his shirt off for an entire scene (Lois is supposed to be falling for him, which is a little goofy but oh well.) He's a little smarmier than Ollie should be, I think, but they're doing the millionaire playboy angle which had more or less been dropped by the time I fell in love with the character. I have to say that his final scene in this ep--in which he has not yet been revealed as the Emerald Archer--was nothing short of fantastic. Apparently, next week we get to see him in full Green Arrow mode, and it looks like they're taking a bit of the Longbow Hunters look with him in that ep, as seen here in the glorious pencilwork of Mike Grell. I'm relieved to note that they're going the straight-up longbow version of him rather than Silver Age trick arrows and goofy costume. It was cool. It was very cool. And now, dammit, I have to remember how my VCR works so I can make sure I don't miss next week's installment.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Whiter than Sour Cream...

Got this from my pal, the Coyote. I'd post more, but I'm grading over 100 exams this weekend. If I don't survive, tell my wife I love her....

Friday, September 29, 2006


Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
See the Elephant...

NOW don't you wish you were me? Coz I got to meet the baby elephant at the zoo last weekend! She is more than cute as hell, as you can plainly see. I took some little movies of her too.

While we're on the topic, check out my new favorite YouTube video, Peanut's Great Escape! Peanut is my new personal hero; her trip down the stairs is a metaphor for life. Or something. And the title of this post comes from a James McMurtry song I'm rather fond of, from his latest album. I can't figure out if the whole song is a metaphor about going to war; but even if it's not (or especially if it's not) I like it just the same.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Days of Wine and Monkey Crap

Never has an 11 hour drive each way been less onerous than on this past weekend, when I dragged my lazy self to Ithaca, NY for a wedding of one of my college buddies. It was splendid.

I enjoy living in Indiana (a fact many of my out-of-state friends find hard to comprehend.) I don't long for the mountains or ocean beaches per se. But I did go to college near the Catskills, and I haven't been back in that direction very often in the intervening years; so the Finger Lakes region had a pleasant, familiar autumn groove going on that awakened all sorts of college nostalgia in me. Got to spend the weekend with nearly all my buddies, including (but not limited to) Upyernoz and Mrs. Noz, Dr. Pretentious and her husband, Cthulhia, and of course the Groom Himself. The drive turned out to be 11 hours long; when I got to Erie PA, I thought, "hmm, according to mapquest it's only 2 more hours! yet when I examine the road atlas it looks more like FOUR hours...sonofabitch...." The experience was enhanced by the fact that it started to rain, was pitch dark, and the route from the big highway up to Ithaca was missing its center line and shoulder lines due to repaving. So I ticked along at about 35 mph for a good long way, no doubt infuriating the driver behind me... But he didn't hit me, and I made it there in plenty of time to refuse to play Ticket to Ride with jeremy. We hit the Ithaca farmer's market both mornings, and I must say it's a fabulous market. Plenty of excellent food, including blueberry wine, lemon turnovers, and apple cider doughnuts (which I liked so much I might actually try making them at home.) Saturday afternoon there was a catered BBQ at Taughannock State Park, where we ate, drank, played frisbee and hiked up a shale-y path to see an amazing waterfall. Saturday night we managed to steal the groom away from his groomly duties to spend quality time and play board games, about 10 of us crammed into Dr. P's room. Sunday we drove out to a winery for some tasting, and I bought a bottle for my parents. So it was a winey weekend... The wedding itself was lovely, a combination of traditional Jewish matrimony and new age commitment ceremony. I can't express how happy I am for Josh and his new wife; they seem to fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. After coffee with the remaining 4 of the gang in the morning, I hit the road for a beautiful drive home. (Well, beautiful until I got to western Ohio... but we won't talk about that.) It was a glorious weekend.

Then I got home to a maelstrom of student questions, papers to grade, and my new volunteer assignment at the zoo, which involves baboons. LOTS of baboons. (And wild dogs, and lions. But mostly baboons.) I now spend 4 hours every other thursday morning becoming intimately familiar with several different kinds of poop, and the vast number of locations a troop of monkeys can put said poop in their enclosures. Don't you wish you were me?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Cold Showers

They say cold showers are good for you, on a number of different levels. I beg to differ; when my water heater died over the weekend, having cold showers did not in fact improve my health in any discernable way. I'd go so far as to say they had the opposite effect. I'd planned to call in a plumber on Monday, but my father in his infinite wisdom pointed out that after the plumber showed up, moved my refrigerator to get at the water heater, and charged me for the visit, he'd just tell me to get a new one anyway. So I skipped the middle man and headed out to Lowe's instead to order up a 30 gallon gas heater from Whirlpool. They promised delivery the next day (good, as they charged me through the nose for it--I have an uneasy suspicion that they offer free delivery if you're willing to wait a few days, but they didn't specifically mention it. They probably saw that look of cold-shower desperation in my eye.) Unfortunately, I was scheduled to spend the next day shooting the sequel to my much aclaimed turn on the parody soap opera "MD Hearts." (The ANC Movies news page has a nice still of me looking all evil for the new one.) Fortunately my mom kindly offered to babysit the arrival of the new appliance, and hot showers are once again mine! So is a badly scraped kitchen floor--the fridge didn't move without a fight, apparently--but it's a small price to pay.

I'm about to embark on a lengthy weekend road trip to Ithaca, NY. Here's hoping that all my breakdown karma got used up on the water heater, and that my elderly Saturn will survive the drive.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I Already Miss Steve Irwin

I think this easily qualifies as the most depressing celebrity death since Jim Henson.

Nearly everyone who knows me knows that I have had an abiding crush on Steve Irwin for about a decade--since he first started showing up on Animal Planet with his enthusiastic love for every living thing no matter how crawly or bitey. That passion for wildlife is something I completely identify with. When I was 10, I wanted to be a Greenpeace warrior. I wanted to chain myself to redwoods, drive my boat between the whale and the harpoons, do whatever it took to champion the cause of the voiceless masses. (And somehow, I ended up with a liberal arts degree instead. Ah well. These things happen.) But Steve realized that the key to environmetalism is education; all the Zephyr boats and tree spikings in the world won't make ordinary people give a crap about saving spotted owl habitats, or saltwater crocodiles, or whales, or whathaveyou. The only thing that will do that is education, and Steve Irwin was first and foremost a fantastically talented educator. I know others will take up the torch behind him... but it'll never be quite the same.

He was also cute as hell. Think I'll go buy some Foster's and watch the Croc Hunter movie again. Sniff.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Warping Young Minds Since 1993....

I've been teaching, in some capacity or other, since shortly after I graduated from college. Substitute high school teaching (resulting in the Great Math Test Debacle of 1994, and the Underpants Incident of 2003.) TAing for World History 101 (in which a booming Jesuit father informed the class that "An OCEAN is a BODY of WATER...surrounded by CONTINENTS!" If you didn't know what an ocean was, kids, maybe college wasn't such a great idea for you) and Art History 101-102, the highlight of which was test review with silly prizes from Archie McPhee for anyone who answered a question correctly. But today marks the first time I have had a class of my own--my syllabus, my grading standards, my ability to mold young minds. Though, this being IUPUI, a considerable # of the minds in the room are actually older than I am. I can live with that. They're mostly elementary education majors, which means I might well be warping two generations of learners for the price of one. It went ok today, I just went over the syllabus and then talked about "What is art?" for a few minutes before letting them go. Next Monday's topic is "Good Art, Bad Art, Not Art," and I have some choice pictures from the Museum of Bad Art for the powerpoint...

In a full circle sort of a thing, I got my diploma for my Master's Degree in the mail today. It's shiny, in the bright red folder favored by Indiana U, and will look lovely on my shelf. Next to the other 3 degrees. Which I'm also not really using. Woo hoo!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

It's a gun! It's a guitar! It's.....patriotism!!

There's Nothing Like The Fair.

Well, first of all, thanks to everyone who expressed their sympathies (in comments, email, and in person) about the zoo truck wreck. I'm happy to announce that I ran into one of the keepers I work with at the grocery the other day and got an update; contrary to initial reports, we had a near 100% survival rate on the fish. This despite the fact that they were being carried in foam picnic coolers, inside plastic baggies full of water. I'm amazed. We did lose 4 penguins--3 of the gentoos, which are my favorites, and 1 rockhopper. We also lost a couple anemones, but considering how many fish were on that truck I am utterly stunned by the minimal loss. In addition, I was relieved to learn that the dwarf caimans, the anaconda, and the giant amazon catfish were on the OTHER truck which didn't wreck. A good thing, as I'm sure if the 15' long anaconda had gotten free on the highway, a state trooper would have just shot it without thinking twice.

Did I mention I got to help hold her during the pre-ship vet exam? That officially qualifies as one of the coolest things I've ever done at the zoo; I was there helping bag up all those fish that Monday, and I got to be one of the 10 or so people who held onto the anaconda while the vet checked her for bumps and lumps before we put her in the crate. Have you ever held onto a snake with a nearly 12" diameter body? It was freakin' incredible.

Anyway, Gencon went quite well, and I'll post a blow by blow of True Dungeon on my other blog sometime soon. Suffice it to say it was glorious victory yet again. Pics are on my Flickr account. Then it was State Fair time again, and I hit it twice--once with Rat Girl and Duder, once with my coworkers. The winner of the "WTF is THAT?" contest in pro art for this year is seen above. The winner of the horrifying cake award is pictured HERE, and the winner of "most hilarious non-pro watercolor" is HERE. I think the sheer quantity of kitchy stuff in the Home and Family Arts building may have been one of the highlights of the fair for our overseas guests.... I didn't get a photo of the eyeless purple teddy bear. Maybe I can get a copy from them.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


OK. I am almost human again.

First of all, yes, this was about my animals. I knew all of them. At last, an animal accident story from me that isn't funny. No, I don't want to talk about it.

Second, Gencon's over, I'm still alive, it had its good points and bad points, and now I have weapons with which to take out the frustrations of the day on the people I love.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Brace For Impact

This week is GenCon, and my workplace is already becoming snappish and unpleasant. As always, I'm restraining myself from saying "The reason you've got 8 million things to do in four days is because you didn't do any of this shit back in June and July, when you had some time on your hands..." and am quietly going about the things I need to get done before the show. This includes:
1) Cleaning my house so my houseguest Charles doesn't see what a foul pit I normally live in.
2) Cleaning my shower, because I looked at it the other day and I was all like "holy crap, how long has it looked like that??" the light in there is busted, and I tend to shower in the dim twilight of the morning, so I hadn't really been fully aware of the scum-tacularness of the wall under the soap dish til yesterday.
3) mowing the lawn
4) Weeding my former advisor's garden for fun and profit
5) Making up a syllabus for the class I'm teaching this fall, which is approaching with uncomfortable rapidity
6) Going hiking
7) Packing miniatures
8) Eating a balanced diet
9) Painting the dining room
10) Blogging (not really.)
Obviously, not all this stuff has to do with Gencon itself, but it's all part of the not-having-a-moment-to-breathe experience that's going to suck away the next 7 days of my life.

Last year my car and I both had a breakdown right after the con. (The car cost me about $1500; the personal breakdown passed when I realized I wasn't going to have to buy a new car.) I'm hoping both of us can hold it together this year--but I suppose we'll see...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Originally uploaded by hamaker88.
Happy Shark Week!

In honor of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, I offer you yet another thieving--this time from Fafblog's Friday Pie-Blog from a month or so back. I know I want to be a pieologist at the National Pie Institute of Pies, when I grow up.

And my wall is now plastered, but I'm not. Maybe I should remedy this.....

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Annual Birthday Post

Go me, it's my birthday! Go me, it's my birthday!

OK, I'd planned a cunning sorta post about getting older and not wiser, and all that stuff.... but now I'm tired, and I got a sunburn at the baseball game, so the tops of my feet are all itchy and owie. So the sage musing upon the symbolic meaning of birthdays will have to wait. I'm actually not depressed this birthday, which is saying a lot! Usually birthday and new years are my two big mood potholes; but I had a great weekend. Got my fingers crossed for a good week. And now, I bid you goodnight.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Star Trek TOS - Knights of the Round Table

Cheerfully ripped from Upyernoz.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Battle of the Dining Room: Round 1

At the risk of boring my gentle readers with home DIY posts, I'm actually sort of excited about my dining room at the moment. Over a year ago, you might recall I had a major plumbing backup which demanded that my septic line be dug up and re-laid; it also meant that I finally ripped out the crappy nasty wall to wall carpet in the downstairs. But, things being as they are, I didn't have the time or the ability to do anything else about the situation until this Spring, when I decided to repaint the walls and look at new floor options.

Nothing like deciding to start a project to make the whole thing infinitely more complicated. I found out first that my concrete floor is not flat. Second, that the tiny crack in the wall, which I thought I could just scrape and spackle, was actually the harbinger of massive plaster damage. I scraped, and scraped some more, and then suddenly i was looking at a glimmer of daylight through the hole in my wall. Caulk fixed the crack where the water had been seeping in, but the interior damage was daunting, and I've spent the last 2 months trying to figure out how to fix it myself. The answer, of course, is that the way to fix it is look up "Plasterers" on Angie's List, and have a professional do it. That's finally happening later this week. The floor, on the other hand, is doable; my father and I spent a couple hours this morning learning the joys of self-leveling cement compound, and tomorrow I'll be sanding off all the lumps left by our inadequate mixing skillz. I'm actually pretty excited at the prospect of having a functional dining room in the next month-due to the nasty carpet, it's never been a room I wanted to spend much time in even when I first moved in. So you may be subjected to occasional Dining Room Diary entries in the coming weeks, just because it's so damn cool to finally get something done! You have been warned....

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Binding Games??

Binding Games??
Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
You'd Think Paradise Island Would Have a Bigger Tourism Industry....

OK, I can't help it. I'll stop, I promise. But isn't it sweet of Wonder Woman to be all concerned about safety in a bondage situation?

Oh crap. Now I'm going to get google hits on "WW bondage"....

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Oh, How They Chortled...

Oh, How They Chortled...
Originally uploaded by blackbear88.

OK, this is purely a link post, and I already posted it on my pathetic excuse for a livejournal.... but this site, revealed to me by Upyernoz has given me literally hours of fun. Superman Is a Dick apparently went viral a year or so ago and I missed it; but I used to buy these 50's and 60's era DC comics by the handful out of the sale bin at Comic Carnival. To see them collected here in all their absurdity is nothing short of wonderful. The Seduction of the Innocent gallery features unaltered panels and covers from a time when "boner" just meant "embarassing tactical error."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Prosecution for Illegal Posses...uh oh.

Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
On the Run from the Borden Police

I decided that one of the things holding me back from being a true Bike Commuter Type was that I didn't really have a good way to carry stuff--like a change of clothes, or my notebooks for class, or the groceries. I have a backpack, of course, but I have a tendency to sweat like Niagara Falls at the slightest provocation (sorry if that was more than you wanted to know about me) and so whenever I get anywhere and take the backpack off, I have to wring it out before unzipping it and removing its slightly dampened contents. Not ideal. I looked at snazzy panniers and saddlebags at the bike store, but the whopping price tags on those babies is a little more than my mostly-jobless state can handle right now. I tried tying my backpack onto the bike rack with a bungee cord, but bungees can slip, and I almost did a header into the canal when part of my backpack escaped and threw itself into the spokes of my back tire at the end of last semester. My final resort: Operation Stolen Milk Crate.

I hasten to point out that I didn't steal this milk crate. I got it from a friend of mine who works for a dairy, and her dairy presumably stole it from its rightful owners behind a supermarket at some point. But now I have it, and it's tied to the back of my bike with brown twine (because if you're going to look like an utter dork, you might as well do it up right) and I've been assured by one of my cool friends who bikes that the milk-crate-over-the-tire look is hip. At least I think that's what she said. Anyway, so now I'm living in fear that some official of the Borden Patrol will spot me peddling sweatily along the canal path toward the health food store, and call in their team of expert dairy snipers for the takedown and recovery. I'll never know what hit me.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Giant Brat of Madison

The Giant Brat of Madison
Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
NIce Buns!

As promised, here is Kelly's picture of the giant walking hot dog and its handler. Sadly, it appears to be without condiments of any kind. Note that it's smiling bravely, belying its inner sense of mustardless sorrow and desolation.

I got turned down for another job, so I'm also trying to smile in the face of mustardless sorrow. Oh, wait, I do have mustard--this must be a different kind of sorrow. The kind with no money and lots of bills..... Ah well. I'm revamping my painting website, maybe people will start throwing money at me in exchange for tiny nazis and little space elves....

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I Saved Christmas!

Well, no, actually I didn't. But I did save my fishtank from being dismantled, which was about to be my last ditch recourse to solve my water chemistry problem. I was all set to net out my one remaining tetra (we'll call him "Mr. T") and the catfish, put them in a holding tank, and take the whole thing to bits, when lo and behold--the lord spoke to me. He spoke, and he said, "Try checking your CO2 levels. Dumbass."

I won't bore you all with the details, as Jane's the only other aquarist I know and we already comiserated on this topic. (We're each other's fish confidants--strictly monoichthyous, of course.) But the upshot is, ripped out half my plants, and *gasp* added some new fish to try to raise the CO2. Mr. T was stunned to have company, after all these months; but the two new serpae tetras are now totally his groupies, they're following him deferentially around the tank and apologising for living, and occasionally he'll smack up one of them to remind them who's in charge. I added 4 miscellaneous danios as well... but when I got back from dinner, one of them was missing. He turned up in the filter box; I gave him FPR (fishiopulmonary recessutation) and he came back for a bit, but I think he's really checked out for good now. Sigh. Stupid danios. I've never had any fish go up the filter but them, and it's happened twice now. Anyway, we'll see if I've really saved Christmas or not. I ordered the parts to put together a CO2 generator from a science supply company, which turned out on examination to also be a supplier of creationist science materials for homeschoolers. I'm really hoping they don't share their mailing list--I'm happy to buy some 30¢ rubber stoppers from them, they shipped fast and get aces for customer service so far. But I'd just as soon not get emails advertising books with titles like "Fossils: Fact or Fiction?" or quality dinosaur books such as this one, which came highly recommended on their website....

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
Why My Life Is (Occasionally) Cool Beyond Belief...

Because I get to feed this gorgeous beast every Thursday morning, give or take a few. She's a giant pacific octopus named Olivia, and after an initial period of shyness she's gotten very friendly with me. Octopi are extremely intelligent and curious; I never get tired of watching her and her neighbor, the huge-ass cuttlefish. I've uploaded pics of them all on flickr if you want to see them, along with one of the very selfsame penguin who caused the entire Penguin Incident back in 2003. Check 'em out, yo!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Coming in to Land

Well, back again and none the worse for wear. Adventures continued as we left the hotel; Jeremy and I on a road trip are a unique experience, as Becky will tell you. It's kind of like Kermit and Fozzie in the Studebaker.... But with a lot more yelling and rude gestures. Apparently my inability to successfully pull over at Terminal 2 at O'Hare on the first go-round nearly caused him to miss his plane. Which I think would have been fuckin' hiLARious, but I suppose I might have felt differently in his position. Still--ha haaa!

Then I spent another 2 hours driving through construction around Chicago. Dammit.

High spots of the con included the aforementioned giant hot dog; a women in gaming panel; a panel on autism/Asperger's and its relationship to fandom; a panel on successful flirting and pickups at cons, which was pretty damn funny; and a number of readings by authors I'm vaguely aware of. (My usual sense of literary lameness was carried over to yet another con--I don't think I've read a fantasy book in over a year, and the only sci-fi was the new William Gibson. I swear, I'm really cutting edge, just in a non-fiction sort of a way. really. Totally cutting.) The autism panel was particuarly good, although I sat there with my hand up for a good 30 minutes without getting called on and finally gave up. Back when I worked in game retail, I noticed (it was impossible not to notice) that a significant percentage of people in our hobby show a lot of the key markers for autism and Asperger's. It was interesting to hear the issue discussed in regards to sci-fi fandom, as it doesn't really get talked about within the game industry... Also made a connection with one of the guys who was on the game panel, he apparently wants to talk further about women in the miniatures hobby for some research he's doing. I'd link to his website, but apparently I already lost his business card. I suppose that was predictable.... Maybe he'll email me.

And speaking of painting, I finally finished the commission that's been hanging overhead for 3 months and mailed it Friday before leaving. Yaaaay! Now I can start all the other projects that were lying in wait for that one to be done. I'd do it tonight, but it's way damn hot in the house, and the laptop has raised my body temperature to a dangerous level. So it'll have to wait.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Because Nothing Is Ever Typical

One of my problems with this con, as I've said before, is the sort of strange inner-circle/outer-fringe atmosphere that pervades the place. It really is lovely and friendly and warm and kind, but some people take the con very personally and seriously, and are extremely gushy and sentimental on the topic. There was an essay in the newsletter this morning that waxed sappily poetic on why Wiscon is so very special. Now, I look tremendously forward to going to Wiscon each year (despite a lot of foot-dragging around registration time.) But for me, the finer moments come between the panels and readings and such...
So we're walking down Dayton toward State Street, and see our friend Stephen across the road, and the following shouted conversation ensued:
JEREMY: Look! A giant hot dog!
And sure enough, a guy dressed as a giant hot dog was walking down State Street a block away. Kelly, our instant roommate, (she couldn't find other housing. Just Add Desperation!) was the only one of us possessed of a cell phone camera, and as soon as the pictures are posted, I'll link to them. She ran half a block, in sweltering heat and humidity, sacrificing her own personal dignity to get a picture of a man dressed up as a brat. We salute her. This, then is the true meaning of Wiscon--solidarity, fraternity, and public humiliation.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm Evil.

I'm at a sci-fi convention in Madison, Wisconsin right now. That, in itself, isn't evil. But my roommate, Upyernoz, has been so kind as to leave his computer on and available in the room so I can check my email and blog on the hotel's WiFi connection. I have just utterly abused his kindness by taking advantage of the fact that he didn't log out of his own blogger account before leaving the room today, and posting something to his weblog. He really should know better. We've been playing practical jokes on each other for years. I just wish I could have come up with something better to post--but as he has a much larger readership than I do, and some of them actually take him seriously (lord, if they only knew him as I do...) I felt it might be bad to actually post something almost plausible and yet false. Don't think I couldn't have, Noz! I held myself in check! But oh.... what an opportunity.....

I have to go steal some food from the various parties now. And then go to a panel about librarians.Catch you on the flip side.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"Search" Engine, My Ass

If Google were a real search engine, it could tell me where to find my goddamn car keys.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Way of All Flesh

When I was 16 or 17, I started hanging out at the local game store, as so many young nerds do. Eventually I got a job there as the scullery wench; the co-worker I got on with the best was a heavyset, red-bearded guy in his 30's who looked just like I always imagined the dwarves in The Hobbit to look (only taller, of course.) He got me started painting miniatures; he ran the very first role-playing game I ever tried; he introduced me to the works of H.P. Lovecraft by telling me the story of the Cats of Ulthar from memory one night when we both worked til close. Any time someone would come into the store and say, "Hey Kurt, how are you?" he would respond, thoughtfully, "Well, I'm just perfect." He encouraged my passing interests in history and medievalism, and thus was partially responsible for my ending up a medieval studies major in college. This tickled him no end when I told him about it, and he told me that it was my duty as a writer and historian to write a paper about the Black Plague and title it "The Way of All Flesh." It's too elegant a phrase to waste.

On Tuesday I got a call from Kurt's brother letting me know that Kurt had gone the way of all flesh the night before. He'd been ill with cancer for some time, though he remained confident of his ability to conquer it right up until the end.

He became a teacher late in life, and I expect to see many of his young charges at his funeral on Saturday. But as one of his earliest students, in a joyous variety of topics during those evenings at the game store, I'd like to be among the first to say Yes, were perfect.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Joys in da Hood

I graduated again yesterday. It was my nicest commencement since Vassar; I say this because the Loyola one was nothing short of hideous on nearly all fronts. I was unhappy with the degree, the ceremony took hours, it was impersonal, the chairs were uncomfortable and there was no chance to flee the area at any point during the process. IUPUI, on the other hand, strives for the slick efficiency of a well-oiled machine. The hooding ceremony was at 10, and every graduate candidate (a couple hundred of us I think) was hooded by 11; lunch was done by noon and it was off to the School of Liberal Arts commencement. This featured an actual commencement speaker--the mayor--whose speech topic seemed to be, "Why you shouldn't regret majoring in the Liberal Arts, although you probably will anyway." (Frances Fergusson gave a similar speech at the Vassar Alumni event back in November, and hers was a bit more inspirational and reassuing to me... but it's hard to compare with Fran, really. I don't hold that against the mayor.) The liberal arts commencement took only an hour or so, even with all the undergrads walking across the stage to get their rolled-up piece of paper that isn't a diploma but a letter congratulating you on eventually getting a diploma. The next event was the all-school commencement in the Hoosier Dome, but by this point I was done. Not even the lure of possibly seeing my own visiage on the Jumbo-tron (TM) was enough to get me to stick around longer. I was strongly tempted to keep my Masters' hood--after all, no one was checking them back in, and the rental was $34--but honesty and lack of closet space won out.

Wonder what I'll go back to school for next...?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Movieing Violations

Well, it's over. I managed to see 7 films in 7 days, and used up my entire 10-ticket bundle. What else did I see, you may ask? Sisters in Law, a documentary from Cameroon about female judges and lawyers dealing with family law and rape cases in a misogynistic society. It was funny and fascinating and sad, all at once. I highly recommend it. Iron Island is only the second Iranian film I've ever seen... And it was only slightly less confusing and strange than the first one. One of the reviews on IMDB says that Iron Island "lets you make up your own mind." I'm sorry, but I'd at least like for the director to give the story a clear point or a followable plot--I'm happy then to make up my mind what I thought of it, but give me something to work with, here! Iron Island has one of the coolest setups of any movie I saw this week; a sort of floating city of poor people are living aboard an abandoned oil tanker, run by a big-fish-small-pond kind of guy who's essentially exploiting the people, they work for him in exchange for rent etc. But there's a love plot that ends incomprehensibly, the people are eventually forced off the boat but it's not clear what will happen to them, and a little kid runs off into the ocean and disappears. (I know the last one is symbolic, but I'm not sure of what since the water represents freedom for fish, and his name is Baby Fish--but the water is also what was imprisoning the people on the boat. So I dont' get it. Maybe I'm just not subtle enough to watch Iranian films.) Last but not least was Kinky Boots, which is based on a true story of a shoe manufacturer in Britain who saves his dying business by starting to specialize in womens' style shoes for transvestites and drag queens. It featured The Operative from "Serenity" as the main drag queen, and it was nothing short of hilarious. Two thumbs up, 5 stars, and so on.

Now school's out, grading is done, I've been to Kalamazoo and back, and things are returning to "normal." I have to dismantle my whole fishtank soon, the thought is daunting to say the least. Maybe I can avoid it a bit longer if I keep blogging regularly...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Film Flam

The festival proceeds apace, marred somewhat by the fact that someone kipped the IFS cash box out of the projection booth at the art museum, sometime between Thursday night and Sunday morning. We lost about $150 and three new membership forms. Boo. Other than that, and some minor projection problems, it's all going swimmingly, and we had a number of new people show up at the IFS monthly screening tonight. Though if I see one more Stella Artois commercial before a film I may be forced to boycott their beer for life. (Apparentlly, one can grow tired even of funny European beer commercials.) Got a couple more reviews for you, whether you want them or not.

Lady Vengeance
Have you ever watched a movie, and said to yourself, "Wow, that was a great film, and I don't ever want to see it ever again"? I felt that way about Peter Greenaway's Pillow Book; it was tremendous and beautiful and fascinating, and it also made me want to barf and gave me creepy dreams for days afterwards. Chan-wook Park's Lady Vengeance was a lot like that (though not quite so much so.) It had moments of totally hilarious visual comedy, followed immediately by moments of "Dear god, that's so....wrong." It's not that it's totally gory--though there's a fair amount of blood and ick--but more just that the plot is plain disturbing. Much more so than the capsule on the link page would indicate. I don't think I want to see his other films, and while I really did like Lady Vengeance, I wouldn't recommend it if you're not in the mood for a bit of a mind fuck.

District 13
Brought to us by Luc Besson of La Femme Nikita fame, this is an action movie set in grimy future Paris, 2010. Upyernoz recommended this one to me as it got good reviews at the Philly Film Fest last month. While I'd not call it groundbreaking in terms of plot--it's kind of Escape From New York-ish--the martial arts and action sequences were beyond cool. The best I can describe it is sort of Matrix-style, but more beliveable; lots of jumps, kicks, and rolls and running up nearly sheer surfaces, all with no breaks in the movement. Each action flows into the next, it's like dance. And I'm told there was NO wire work in these sequences. If you see it, you'll find that as hard to believe as I do. I loved it.

I'm dividing my time between grading, movies, and yard work right now. Some time I need to work in painting, too, as I'm getting way behind.... Maybe next week.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Free Time? What's That?

I'm back! That is, I left, and then I came back. London was great, of course, after my initial reluctance to leave my comfortable nest (always an effort for me) I had a fantastic trip. Successful on all fronts, business and pleasure both. Our hosts in High Wycombe were kind and generous (especially with the beer,) our trade show was spectacular and went off without a hitch, and my day spent at liberty in London was perfect--got to see friends I've not seen in a decade, as well as the V&A Museum and the natural history museum, both on my list. Moments of excitement on the trip included my brief detention by Homeland Security at the Detroit airport, and a genuine brawl at the ticket barrier at Marlebone rail station. 2 drunk girls jumped the barrier and were first detained, then wrestled to the ground by the station guards when they resisted. Famed British politeness--as these two girls were screaming obscenities and kicking and clawing at the railmen, one of them is pulling out his can of mace and saying quite calmly, "Now, luv, if you don't stop that I'll spray something in your face, OK?"

Now I'm back, and I've got 200 exams to grade, and it's Film Festival Week. I'd promised you a movie review, but I'll have to save "Hot Wax" for later in favor of a few capsule reviews from the last couple days....

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha
The opera Carmen, set in a small South African township and sung in Xhosa click language--how could you go wrong? Well, for me, the basic problem is that it's still opera, which I am genetically predisposed to dislike. I come from a long line of opera haters, and I'd never seen Bizet's Carmen, so I came a little unsure of what to expect. I actually liked it very much--my main problem with opera is A) I want it to have subtitles, which this did, and B) I get impatient when they sing the same thing over and over again--"I loooove you!" "Dooooo you?" "Yessss, I dooooo! I love youuuu!" "Do you truly love meeee?" Yes, damn it, she said so! Let's move on, shall we? But U-Carmen has very little of this, and when it does the music is catchy. The resetting of it in South Africa is excellent, it had a very gritty feel and reminded me of the small town where I stayed in Kenya. The woman who sings the title role, Pauline Malefane, is incredibly talented--seductive, beautiful, expressive and funny. The neat thing about the film is that it was shot entirely in this small township of Khayelitsha, where they've never had a cinema or really any exposure to either movies or opera. The movie was a hit there (they showed it in their sports facility for several weeks, 3 shows a day.) As the director said in the Q/A afterwards, a film like this, starring people from the poorer towns of South Africa, can go a long way to showing the children of these towns what they too can achieve--whether it's singing, or acting, or going to school to be a doctor or lawyer or whatever. Very cool.

Deepa Mehta's latest in her series of "elemental" films, this was the one I most looked forward to before the festival started. I liked Fire very much, not just because of the theme of love between women but also because it was so beautifully filmed--Mehta captures the soul of India (or India as I imagine it) with color, texture, and light in a way I find utterly breathtaking. Water is like that as well; it's so visually rich that the plot, for me, has to work to overcome the impact of the visuals. It's an intense movie, and disturbing and painful in spots. But it also seemed to me upon reflection that Water wasn't as well put-together as Fire--the plot wasn't as tightly woven, and the characters aren't as deeply developed. It sprawls a bit. But it was still very, very good, a 2 hankie film, and utterly beautiful. The "water" theme is worked in well, a bit more subtly than the fire in Fire. Perhaps because water is more subtle and less dramatic by nature--though the drenching thunderstorms and the monumentality of the river make water a more constant presence throughout this one. More films later, I'm off to volunteer at the festival this afternoon!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

You Know You're in Trouble When....

...2 minutes into a phone conversation with your closest friend, they say, "Are you drunk?"

No! It was 10 am on a Monday! Of course I'm not drunk. Apparently, though, the combination of a tax-related crisis, upcoming travel stress, and general malaise/apathy that I'm experiencing right now comes across as drunken rambling to those who know me best. Ah well--this too shall pass.

I've got a few movie reviews for you, but no time to write them at the moment. Just bask in the knowledge that my next post will expose you to the horror that is "Hot Wax: Zombies on Wheels." And with that thought, I bid you good day.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Horror! The HORROR!!!

I've officially changed my position on gay marriage. This Gibletsian vision of the apocalypse has convinced me that when gay marriage happens, the robot appliance hordes cannot be far behind! Speak out now, America! And in the meantime, be careful; I caught my blender reading a skin magazine this week.

Mr. Noz's endless movie review postings have contributed to my enthusiasm for the upcoming Film Festival here in town. Noz and I used to go to independant and foreign films together all the time; we each went through several frequent buyer cards at the Music Box while we both lived in Chicago. We saw some great stuff there, and also the occasional dog. The worst thing we ever saw, actually, was the animated short session at the Gay & Lesbian film fest in 1998--one short was so horrible I can't even bring it up without wincing. It's like the opposite of gay pride... that movie was serious gay shame. Getting a free pair of saltshakers shaped like Absolut bottles from the sponsor didn't make up for the sheer tastelessness of the film. (though it WAS a nice perk! I used those things for years.) Anyway, there are several things I feel a strong urge to see, so I'm trying to decide if it's worth it to get a 10-ticket bundle and then try to pawn off some tickets on friends, or if I can manage to do enough volunteering to get 2-3 passes free and then buy a single ticket or two if I need it. It's taking up a lot of the brain space I should be using to grade the Art 102 exams that are hulking in a pile on top of my steamer trunk... Hmm....Caravaggio, or Carmen? Tough call.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Could Life Be More Exciting?

Yes, I found my passport. No, I'm not going to tell you where it was. Suffice it to say it's a good thing I'm off work today, as there's a hellish mess to clean up downstairs. (of course, what am I doing? blogging.) Included under the headline "hellish mess" is the horror created by Mean Cat having inflicted a small but potent injury to Big Cat yesterday afternoon. He's fine--but she hit a blood vessel near his eye and he painted the town red, as it were, running around the house and shaking his head violently. I wanted to make him a little pirate eye patch and teach him to say "arrr!" but settled for getting the bleeding stopped and wiping up the splatters he left on me, the floor, the rug, my clothes, etc. and so on. It was a stressful day. Then the storms hit, and while my house and yard are unscathed, my boss' place a half mile north of me got pummelled. Telephone poles snapped like toothpicks, trees uprooted.... And no power at Casa de Croc. So off I go to clean.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
Guess When I Took This?

Actually, this is from a snowstorm back in December; the one last week was not nearly so cool-looking, with flotillas of slush moving down the canal in ribbony patterns. I'm hoping by posting it that it will serve as a farewell to winter weather. We're now well into spring weather, which involves lightning and hail and occasional tornado warnings. I met friends for a beer last night, and they drove through hail on the way up from Little Flower; I left my house in a driving sideways rain. By the time we reached the appointed place, the sun was out (though setting) and the only sign of danger was the continual flashing of lightning in the clouds to the east. Which we got to look at for quite a while, as we had to go to three different brew pubs to find one that had table space. Thus the dangers of going out in Broad Ripple during the first warm days of spring, even with the occasional torrential downpour.

This all pales in comparison to my crisis du jour, which is that I can't find my passport. I'm supposed to go to London on business in exactly 3 weeks. I've not needed my passport since October of 2000, before I moved into this house. I have no memory of seeing it between then and now, and it's not where I would ordinarily put such an important document. While I'm the Supreme Overlord of Disorganization and Clutter, I'm finding it hard to believe I'd have just thrown it someplace stupid when I got back from Brazil. So if any of you knows where it is, feel free to email me.

Indiana goes to Daylight Savings for the first time this weekend. DST is stupid and pointless, and our Governor is a dick for pushing it through. I can only hope that when he's out of office, we'll repeal it--as should the rest of the civilized world...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My hero....
Originally uploaded by blackbear88.
Bow Before His Might!

hhw tipped me off last week to a special on the History Channel called "How William Shatner Changed the World." I can't believe I almost missed this; there was a frantic scramble in the living room while I tried to remember how my VCR works (curse you, DVD technology! And curse me, for not being able to afford TiVo. Just wait, TiVo...someday, you will be mine.)

What you have to understand is that, while I have an appreciation for the later incarnations of Star Trek in varying degrees, my childhood was intertwined with the original series in such as way as to be completely symbiotic. That handsome fellow you see on the right was one of my earliest toys; I got him when I was 4, along with the rest of the Mego crew and the boxy vinyl Enterprise with the spinny transporter. I loved Star Trek. I fully expected the future to be like Star Trek. The more I thought about this last week (as I watched ol' Bill cuttin' up on screen--the man's hilarious, no question) the more it came to me that Star Trek shaped not just my love of science fiction, but my ideas on politics, religion, society, and technology. Shocking, really, to realize that it's not just me, or even just me and the even bigger trek-heads I saw when I was into the con scene--Star Trek burned itself into the imagination of the people who masterminded the technology boom and the arrival of the information age. I always just thought it was a nerdy coincidence that flip phones look like communicators... (And yet, as you know, that's why I bought one.) I feel somehow... vindicated, I guess, that the importance of Star Trek TOS in my own early development is mirrored to some extent in the mainstream world. Maybe I'm more mainstream than I thought.

I'm certainly more mainstream than the woman I hired to work at the store a few years back, who wanted to wear her Starfleet uniform to work and whose answering machine message included theme music, and the phrase "This is Captain Smith of the U.S.S. Freedom! Ensign Smith and I are on an away mission right now...." I never asked how her husband had gotten demoted to Ensign. I had visions of him at home swabbing the holodeck while she faced the dangers of the retail galaxy on Planet Mall....

hhw also included a link to Wil Wheaton's blog entry about Grand Slam, which included some kind words regarding fans of the U.S.S. Freedom type; it was really quite nice. I've never read his blog before, though I knew he had one. I wasn't so much a fan of ST:TNG while he was on it. This wasn't really because of the "Wesley saves the universe!" stereotype that fans laugh about--though there was one episode where Wesley created an intelligent life form as part of a science fair project or somethin', and that did make me wince all of its own merit. I think, in retrospect, it was more that there was someone very close to my own age on Star Trek.(He's two years younger than me, almost to the day.) The problem was not that there was a kid on the show, but that that kid wasn't ME. I'm not talking about being an actor--god knows that's never been in the cards (as you'll see when MD Hearts becomes downloadable! very soon!) But the character was a proxy for all us kids who wanted to be part of the Enterprise crew... and he wasn't like me at all. So, perhaps unfairly, my visceral reaction to Wesley was always, "Hmpf. Jerk." And, as an extension, I didn't feel a fannish need to seek out Wil Wheaton's weblog. I doubt I'll read it regularly even now--but knowing that he, too, fantasizes about hearing the words "I love you" from Morena Baccarin makes me think that while Wesley and I were galaxies apart, Mr. Wheaton and I at least have something good in common! :]

Sweet cracker sandwich, it's snowing like friggin Christmas outside. What the hell is going on with March?

Monday, March 20, 2006

rio negro
Originally uploaded by me.

Figured out how to use my slide scanner! however, thanks to the miracle of my slow-ass connection, I don't expect to have the bulk of my photos up until sometime in 2018. I'll keep you all posted on progress so you don't have to keep checking my flickr account. Unless you want to, of course.

I went to Brazil in October of 2000, and spent a week on a sort of houseboat thing on the Rio Negro, which is one of the two main feeder rivers for the Amazon. It and the Solimoes river come together at a city called Manaus; the black water of the Rio Negro meets the more ordinary colored water of the Solimoes in a sort of swirl of black and white (which we were led to believe would be more photogenic than it actually was.) Eventually I'll come across the slide of that and put it up. I'm discovering that my father apparently disassembled my carefully planned slide show, which I gave to much audience acclaim for friends in late 2000, and put in every freakin' slide either of us took, in no particular order on the carousel. So this Rio Negro slide was the first one I pulled. One property of the black tannic water there is that when it's still, it's highly reflective. As you can see, it's rather a stunning effect--much better than the meeting of the waters. I'm taking all the more pleasure in remembering Brazil this evening, as there is a winter storm warning for all of Central Indiana right now.... We're supposed to get 6-10" of snow by tomorrow afternoon. Spring can show up any freakin' time, here....

Sunday, March 12, 2006

No Diving....Dumbass.
Originally uploaded by me.
No Diving...Dumbass.

This has been on my Flikr account since the Dells trip; Erin took it. I love it.

So I'm thinking about scanning in all my slides from my trips to Africa and Brazil. I'm a fan of slides over prints, when it comes to real film--the color can't be beat, and something about the formality of sitting down and watching a slide show is very appealing to me, it gives each picture a weight and meaning that flipping through a pile of 4 x 6" prints just doesn't have. Which, of course, is why almost no one has seen my Africa and Brazil photos. So what do you think? If I posted them, would you want to look at them?

I've been kinda ill this week, so no real entertaining post awaits. Possibly related to being ill, I've had a couple of very vivid dreams in the last week. I don't have those often, so it kinda creeps me out a bit when I do. One was a return to high school dream--I have those a lot, but as I said, they're not often so painfully real-seeming. I woke up from that one with a bang, and it was like "Where the HELL am I?" The second involved a person who was at one time a close friend; our friendship died, for a number of reasons, over a decade ago, and I've not seen her since. This bothers me; while I don't imagine we'd ever really be good friends again, I continue to occasionally wonder how her life is and what she's doing. I don't let go well. And about once a year or so I'll have a vivid dream in which we meet and catch up. If I were superstitious I'd wonder if the dreams were presaging something dire about her ("Oh no! Timmy's in the well again?") but I figure it's more just loose wiring in the ol' noggin.

The third dream involved a coffee place that gave away a free turtle with every espresso drink; I got one so I could release the turtle, but when I took him down to the canal on his leash he dove in before I could make sure there were no turtle predators around, and he dragged me into the canal after him and I ended up getting pulled up and down the canal by this turtle because I couldn't get his leash off. I hate when that happens.

***I've added three more friends to the Other Divers Tales list--finally, Carl and Karen K. are on there. And finally, Erin has a blog for me to add! So check 'em out, yo.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Please, God, Don't Let It Be Genetic...

This week I pulled a lynchpin of my life, in the form of my old computer desk. I bought the desk 7 years ago, in a different house, for a computer I haven't used since I bought my laptop in 2003. It's been sitting fallow in my "office" since then, piled with random paper and computer equipment I couldn't use if I wanted to because of all the clutter. When the DAV called last week to ask if I had anything for them, I said "Yes!" and resolved to donate the desk.

You have to understand how hard it is for me to get rid of anything. My friends laugh and tease me about it, but it causes me actual physical pain to think of something useful (like, say, a desk, or an old yet functional computer) ending up in a landfill. My stomach gets all twisted, and I start sweating, and my lip trembles, and in the end it's just much easier to keep the damn stuff. Until, of course, the house gets full. So I resolved that the desk would go, hopefully to a good home, and I got Rat Girl to help me move it outside; I still stressed and sweated a bit, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Once the desk was gone, I could get into the room and move around more easily, and before long I'd cleared out bags of trash (which isn't useful, so I have no problem pitching it) and arranged the entire room and its closet to make it attractive and livable. In the process of pulling everything out of the closet, I found a small lockbox I'd rescued from my Great-Aunt's house after she died--one of those small metal boxes with an insurance company logo on it, into which you're supposed to put valuable documents in case the house burns down. Naturally, the key had never surfaced during the post-mortem excavation of her home, and I'd taken the box thinking I'd pick the lock someday and see what was in it. I could hear some paper rattling around; but I'd tossed the box in the closet and forgotten about it for several years. Then, this week, here it was--and this week was not a good one for a number of reasons. So I thought, time to open it. Time to see if the box contained Aunt Aileen's lost shares of AT&T or a secret will or war bonds from 1941. That would have been a fairy tale ending to a crummy week. So I got a couple of small pointy metal objects and proceeded to pry the box open at the edge, far enough so that the paper could slide out..... and THIS is what I found.

Of all the possible things she could put into the lockbox, the one thing that's going to survive the fire is a 1954 letter from the Cincinnnati Gas Company informing my aunt that she will be able to install gas heat in her home. I suppose if the gas had blown the house up, this would have been valuable evidence for the prosecution. It's really kind of hilarious, this is just like my Aunt Aileen to have kept something like that for 50 years. Hilarious, and yet eerily familiar to me.... I have limits to my packrattiness, though. I think. I hope.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Holy #$@%, Octavia Butler Died.

Got several funny posts on the burner, but they'll have to wait, as this news drove all the funny out of my head. Damn. Butler was not my absolute favorite sci-fi author; I'd read 2-3 of her books, and found them beautiful, fascinating, and slightly unsettling enough that I didn't seek and devour everything she ever wrote. (I'm sensitive. Sue me. And anyway, that argument breaks down when I admit that one of my favorite authors is Jonathan Carroll, because he's creepy as all hell.) But I still feel a sense of loss, even not having read each of her books cover to cover. The sci-fi world is smaller, today. So I'm sad.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

It's All Aboot the Rocks

I've always said I hated the Olympics. I rage bitterly at the excessive, obsessive coverage of sports that interest me slightly less than extended dental surgery (figure skating and downhill skiing being two of these) at the expense of sports that are genuinely interesting (archery and fencing in the summer, biathalon in the winter,) I recoil from the incessant "medal count" graphics in the paper and on the news--who cares which countries have the most?--and I hardly ever watch them. I'd forgotten this was an Olympic year until I found myself in a BW3's with Ratgirl last week, and she asked them to put the opening ceremonies on one of the giant TV's. "The what? Oh yeah....boooring!" sez I.

While I don't fully recant my opinion of the Olympics as an overrated media phenomenon, and while I still don't give a flying crap who won the snowboard halfpipe, I've found something to love about the 2006 Winter O: Women's Curling. I know curling is kind of oddly fashionable this year, and that makes me a little uneasy. I hate being trendy. But I can't help it, it's awesome. O-some, I say! It's like billiards on ice. It's fascinating. I love it. I just watched the US team trounce Italy; it probably won't be enough to get them to the semi-finals, but it was fun to watch. I have to grade 204 exams this weekend, and having something to watch on TV is making it bearable.

One things I've decided I do like about the winter Olympics is that every sport, and every interview has a sound effect: "Snf." Athletes aren't immune to drippy noses; and it makes me laugh when they turn on the mike on the skier or curler and you hear them going "Yeah *snf* I'm planning to take the *snf* turn real tight *snf* and this should be my best *snf* run yet..." Things to still hate, though, include the figure skating (everything about it. everything) and some of the ad campaigns. What is up with the weird animated thing with the dragon--how does that make me want to fly United? And the random Ronald McDonald sitting on a bench commercials? WTF does that have to do with EITHER their food OR sponsoring the Olympics? Go figure. Just don't go figure skate.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

We Interrupt This Broadcast...

OK, before I say anything else, I have to link to this photo. A good reason why I'll never own a Roomba; I can't begin to list all the things he'd try to eat in my cluttered home, but he'd probably just choke and die.

No penguin or cat stories to report, it's been a rather quiet week. I watched a pretty good movie called "Ping Pong," a Japanese film about two friends playing competative table tennis; one's got a burning desire to be the best in the world but not quite enough talent, and the other one has the talent but no competative urge. It's about friendship, and dreams and heroes, and I quite liked it.

Jane's got a meme this week, and while I ordinarily avoid these things (and while she thoughtfully refused to tag anyone else with it) I'm actually tempted to do it just to fill out this otherwise unventful post. Sure, why not!
4 Jobs I've had: zoo gardener. retail manager. exhibit installer. sales director of a small but popular wargame company.
4 movies I can watch over and over: Big Trouble in Little China. Star Wars: A New Hope. Better Off Dead. Antonia and Jane.
4 Places I've lived: Indianapolis. Chicago. Lexington, KY. Poughkeepsie, NY.
4 TV Shows I love: The Muppet Show. Buffy. WKRP in Cincinnati. Forensic Files.
4 Places I've vacationed: Kenya. Brazil. Ireland. The Wisconsin Dells.
4 of my Favorite Dishes: Spaghetti and meatballs. Grilled salmon. Fish n Chips. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.
4 websites I check daily: Sluggy. Rubber Hose. Big Top. The Croc Forum.
4 Places I'd rather be right now: Er.... Is it really lame that I can't think of any? There's lots of places I'd like to go in the long term--but none of them right now, coz dinner's almost ready....

Interesting how hung up the phrase "right now" got me, I really did sit here for a couple minutes thinking hard about it; I suspect this is a reflection of my general unwillingness to be spontaneous in certain areas of my life. I'd like to think I'm the sort of person who can drop everything when the opportunity to do something new or fun arises--but really, I'm kidding myself there. I like things to be planned out well in advance, and while I can be spontaneous, it almost never comes easily or comfortably. Hmm. Know thyself, I suppose...

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Snapping Out of It

I haven't been posting much because I've been a little down lately; I'm working 5 part time jobs, I'm not making much money at any of them, and I'm tired and cranky all the time. Part of it, I think, was that I didn't really have a single day free for the better part of January and haven't had time to unwind at all until this weekend, when my work at the museum was unexpectedly cancelled. While I'm sorry I'm not making $60 this weekend by annoying little kids, it was a huge mental sigh of relief when I realized I didn't have anything to do yesterday. This gave me a little time to reflect upon all the stuff that I'm happy about, which offset the honestly very few things I'm unhappy about right now.
1. I haven't had a cold yet this winter. This is amazing; especially considering how many little germ-factory kids I've had contact with at the museum in the last 2 months.
2. I got to be in a movie last weekend. Yes, my role as "Martinique, the Fencing Assassin" has been recorded on digital video, to debut online in a few months as the second installment of the popular soap opera "MD HEARTS" from ANC Movies. I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille! Seriously, it was a great time. That's the back of my head in the teaser photo.
3. It snowed yesterday. Perfect snow, about an inch, didn't stick to the roads or my car but coated every tree branch and power line, and it's just beautiful.
4. I have a job interview next week. Part time, no benefits, but it IS at a museum. More details if they become relevant.
5. I've cooked some really good food lately. I made a resolution to do more cooking in 2006, and specifically to try a new recipe every week. This week's installment was Chinese dumplings, to celebrate the Year of the Dog (which is my year, in the Chinese Zodiacal sense. Come to think of it, that's another reason to be happy--this is my year! Things have to be better--dogs unite!)
6. My pets are insane. No, wait... this was the happy list. Well, I'll tell this story anyway--see, the Orange Cat has this habit of playing with things that aren't technically cat toys, in the traditional sense. So I'm used to waking up in the night and hearing him assaulting some random thing, and unless it's really annoying I just yell "Shut up, dammit!" and then roll over. This happened the other night, I yelled "shut up dammit" and rolled over, and thought nothing more about it. Then the next morning, I wake up for real to discover that his "prey" was a bag of peat moss that I'd been using to try to lower the Ph in my fish tank (which is another depressing story, somehow my Ph spiked to 8.2. it's amazing my fish haven't just dissolved.) So he's found this bag, stalked it, killed it, and then dragged it around the house like a cheetah carrying a Thomson's Gazelle, leaving a trail of blood (that is, peat moss, which is something akin to potting soil) all around my bedroom and living room. When I found the bag, it had been utterly bled dry. I was stunned. Stunned and amused. That's what he's best at, after all, causing stunned amusement. So I'm happy I can wake up to find something that makes me laugh even as I'm dragging out the vacuum cleaner again.
There's more, I'm sure, but this is a good start. It was good to have a day to stop, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I will not always have 5 part time jobs with crummy pay. Hope springs a turtle!