Burning Question

And just what are you doing here, reading a blog entry when you should be out splashing in the park or reading the paper on the beach? Go, go, we’ll be here later. Like on Monday, when they say it’s pouring weather.

My shoulder is peeling. Isn’t that cute?

Posted in General Musings |

Shirts and Giggles

Dogs indeedShaving your Beaver

There are a lot of funny shirts in world. And once in a while there are really funny shirts. Check out this ebaynham.com site for other howlers.

Since I have my High School Reunion thing coming up next weekend – Scotty, now would be a good time – I’ve had a trickle of memories of old Stuyvesant High times and days. I didn’t experience high school as a period of dread, as some do; more one of incompetence. You’re big enough to get out of the sandbox, but you still love the sand. From this remove I don’t remember much of it at all, actually.

One night back then we were talking about girls, which is basically all that ever happened in high school, though it sometimes sounded like other subjects depending on the context. My friend Adam opined that a Melissa we knew was gorgeous, based largely on some particularly lavish endowments from nature. I disagreed. I was already developing my obsession with trim dangerous pixie types (can someone explain to me how they can all be Scorpio? Surely that can’t be right?), and my heart lay elsewhere. But since we were self-consciously witty sorts, we went at the subject at some length.

Finally, to set the matter at rest, I testified. “Bloomie,” I told him gravely, “Gorgeousness transcends tits.”

That May the gang made me a T-shirt printed with that quote – blue, with white letters – and I wore it proudly for many years. It was the seed of many interesting and sometimes heated exchanges, often in the subway. I never understood why people took it personally, but I dug the attention. Wonder where that shirt got to?

Posted in General Musings |

(Re)view to a Steal

AdaptationThe FogMan in the Iron MaskGlitch

I’m selling a quad of my DVD’s on eBay (each still 3 smackers as I write this), and of course the canned Muze reviews supplied with the listing tools weren’t quite right. So I had to go and do my own little pocket comments.

Adaptation – Nick Cage is a couple of writers, one nervous and twitchy and one garrulous and fun, who are saddled with the job of writing a script that turns out to be about Nick Cage playing a couple of writers, one nervous and twitchy and one garrulous and fun. Hijinks ensue. Director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman (played by Cage as the nervous and twitchy one) are the folks who brought you Being John Malkovich, and in case you forget there’s actually a scene of them bringing you Being John Malkovich. In other news, the earth is created, evolution progresses to modern society, there are swamps and orchids and adventures, and Charlie Kaufman has a hell of a time meeting any girls.

Adaptation is good swirly fun. Brian Cox does a superb turn as the caustic populist Robert McKee, who is incredibly helpful as the sort of guy a writer like Charlie would never ask for help, and the acting is excellent throughout. Plus there’s an excellent animated insect on one of the main menus.

The Fog – I love this movie; it’s genuinely creepy, and Carpenter is a master of dark low-fi mood. The film has grown mannered over the years, and Jamie Lee Curtis as a ballsy hitcher-waif is impossibly cute. Janet Leigh is present in cameo, Adrienne Barbeau is present of course (she had just married Carpenter). The John Carpenter/Debra Hill commentary is excellent if you like that sort of thing, which I do; this is a way fun DVD, lightly used and ready to come live at your house.

The Man in the Iron Mask – A superb ensemble of stars – a pre-Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio playing himself and his brother; Jeremy Irons at his most sardonic; a gloomy bawdy Gerard Depardieu; John Malkovich in a stew; Gabriel Byrne as a house divided – fills up this straightforward adventure. It often works, in that all-for-one high brio drink-some-milk fashion. This is neither high art nor high cinema, but it’s a solid film that fits comfortably into expectations and does what it’s meant to do. The Three Musketeers here are Three (plus a bit) and Musketeers, full of honor and intrigue and derring-do, which is exactly how it should be.

Writer/director Randall Wallace contributes a commentary track that’s as earnest as the movie he has made; it’s charming to hear him get all star-struck about the cast, and he has the tone of a Regular Guy Who Made Good, which is refreshing and endearing. He covers a fair amount of information as well as oozing and enthusing about the actors. This DVD contains both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film.

Whatever the film’s overall strengths and weaknesses, the final rousing charge is just terrific, worth a few rewinds and an armchair cheer or two.

Glitch – Topless wackiness and in-your-face nonsense are paramount in this robbery caper gone sloppily wrong. Nico Mastorakis is sort of the Roger Corman of European beach-babe movies, which is either a good thing or a bad thing or just a thing, depending on how you look at it. This minor entry in the Mastorakis oeuvre features dumb thieves pitted against even dumber thieves, a femmy Ninja, a wandering hypnotist mystic, a pink miniature remote-control helicopter, and some of the lamest pretenses ever to coax giggly girls out of their tops. It’s outrageously bad, in a fun way.

This is the Omega Entertainment release, which features additional trailers for other Mastorakis outings and Part IV of the director’s jovial, rambly biomentary look at his body – ahem – of work.

… Wottaboggan! You too can bid on DVD’s that have been touched by these very hands. OK, yes, but I washed them before. And I do apologize to all and sundry for wanton use of the word “brio.”

Posted in General Musings |

School’s In for Summer

What with contretemps in the workplace and hilarity in general, combined with this hot’n'steamy summer apparatus clunking through town, there’s been no chance to unravel my head into blog-friendly bite-sized bits lately.

Which is a bummer, because I have lots to say.

The weekend featured a liberal dollop of music, of course (high points: Juliana Nash and Jennifer Marks); the requisite few DVD’s, for better, best, or worse; the first of the summer’s glorious boat trips aboard the Good Ship Ventura; and of course a regulation late-night romp with a few happy beers at Spuyten Duyvil (Jopen Koyt and Heartland Barleywine among them).

And there’s been PLENTY in the news, even for mostly non-political types. I’m trying to decide whether that lengthening shadow is the upcoming Memorial Day blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, or the government falling … surely one of those two. Or maybe it’s another thunderstorm that will brew and bluster and touch down for a few scarce moments, which has been the routine so far around here.

It’s one of the ironies of Blogopolis that the busier we are, and the more we have to write about, and the itchier we are to write it, the harder it is to pin down time to actually do the writing. (I’m getting very handy at the intending-to part, though.) We started Pepper of the Earth in waning fall and weathered it over the winter; so coping with summer’s splash is going to be a learning process. Maybe it’s time to think of this blog as an e-spin on the old morning pages, which I’ve neglected for years now. Unfortunately, that would involve waking up in the morning, and I’ve never been very good at that.

Oddest on the personal horizon, though, is my upcoming 25th High School Reunion. I’ve never been to a reunion, and I’m a bit panicked. I can’t remember if I liked these people all that much at the time, and now 25 years later? Corblimey. This is why they invented alcohol.

Posted in General Musings |

Minty Fresh Urinal Cakes (#55)

For times when your words are becalmed in the Doldrums, here’s a list of tart and pithy nothings, or slogans in search of a reason. Sitting in the office mining mounds of malarky amidst the mundane (#105)? Having a bot conversation with a hijacked laugh track (#79)? Did your lunch walk in the park turn into a fat farm field day (#66)? Feeling like a loose sleeve caught in the love machine (#40)?

In proper doses, a tonic for ennui and spackle for your soul hole (#10).

Via comments on Simple Bits, in turn via Language Log. It’s funnier than nuns in heat (#43), yep.

Speaking of urinal cakes, minty-fresh or otherwise: in my brief bout as a busboy in a Piccadilly steakhouse, I was flummoxed one day when the manager told us that we should always check the “channel blocks” at the start of a day shift to make sure they didn’t need to be replaced. Channel blocks? Much cross-cultural linguistic hilarity ensued.

Don’t let’s even get started with “bin liners.”

Posted in General Musings |

Clam Pit

Here at the Desk0-Chaino Day Job™ my boss’ secretary has just quit, and until they hire someone new I’m stuck doing her job and mine. It’s been my impression for many years that the American economy burgeons through the judicious application of the Not-My-Job principle. All of a sudden it is my job, whatever it is. It’s distressing.

The Technical SchematicsYou’d think a surf trio called The Clams would be a perfect fit with a bar called Tavaru, which takes its name from some sort of watery tropical beachy place just off Fiji, and you’d be partly right. The Clams are good-natured and twangy like they oughta, awash in Fender-y goodness and properly Fearing Not the Reverb. Tavaru isn’t really a music venue, so they’re tucked in a corner of the narrow room, and the drum volume is moderated by heavy draped curtains partially obscuring, let’s see, if I’m reading the technical schematics right that would be Phred. A tad loud for these close quarters, but the music is boppy and up-tempo, always poised to swerve into Telstar territory, and the amps are running at less than 11. It works, in that New-Yorkers-can-handle-anything way.

But Tavaru turns out to be one of those joints that can’t be bothered to serve drinks – after all, we’re just lowly customers, the definition of rabble, and we didn’t even pay a cover. When the gaggle of girls at the front has to lean over the bar and scream “Hey Bartender!” at top volume to get service, it’s clear this a lost cause. My vodka tonic comes, when it comes, made with that juniper-extract vodka that’s so popular these days, not. At seven, er, clams a pop for drinks complete with a you-bother-me sneer from the staff? No thanks, life’s too short.

Posted in About Last Night |

Banging Your Head Against the (Fire)wall

Furshlugginer firewalls. I’m back now, but after the welter of e-excitement there won’t be time to post until later. Meantime … well, I’d rather be at the beach. Not that that’s news or anything. But there it is.

Posted in General Musings |

Homo Eroticus Americanus

As the times a-change around us, a legal rocker-shocker came down last night: the Supreme Court will not halt state-sanctioned same-sex marriages in Massachusetts come Monday morning. In the twisty swamp that is America in what’s coming to be the Summer of 2004 – is it just us, or have other people noticed that vast tracts of our society appear to be dangerously mentally ill? – this is an amazing step toward tolerance and caring and sensibility. And good common sense: it’s not like there aren’t same sex couples living happily together all over the place already, or anything. We might as well notice, at long last.

As a gesture of support and solidarity, I’m thinking of marrying a lesbian. Just trying to help.

Now that the greeting card people are in on the business, surely it’s here to stay.

Posted in General Musings |

To Tool and Die For

Real gone fellers, them boys is.The Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co. (fortuitously abbreviated Sit & Die Co.) is an old-timey combo that plays, as their handout puts it, “Ballads, Boogies & Blues that meet or exceed Government Standards.” In matching white double-breasted jackets and black ribbon ties, they were properly pepped and perky last night in the back room of Otto’s Shrunken Head, where rockabilly is a bit of an odd match for the woody tiki heads and the rattan-and-shredded-leatherette furnishings. But the mood is good, there’s a photo-booth machine, and tell the truth: you wouldn’t trade this for some kind of Hawaiian luau music, would you?

Frontman Michael McMahon cracks wise as he sets up and knocks through a set of classics spiced with the occasion original composition.

Michael: This next song is inspired by what rules most of our lives.
The Bass Player: Danger?
Michael: No, television.

Sit & Die Co. is a pocket band, perfect for stuff-strutting and making an evening more fun than it might have been otherwise. Got cockles? Warm them here. Upcoming shows: May 17th at Union Pool in Williamsburg, May 27th back at Otto’s on East 14th Street (minus bass but plus drums). Cover? Nah.

I love Cafe 111 in Brooklyn Heights; not only is it booking a deep dip of the usual favorites, and not only does it have an adorable and cool staff, it’s also about two minutes from Pepper Central, so it’s a great place to go home from. Sometimes a guy needs one of those. The Bitter Poet is on stage, minus his backing band The Sound of Angst but plus my favorite hula-hooping burlesque dancer, Miss Saturn (in whose January company I ushered in the New Year by publicly demonstrating my inability to keep a hula hoop airborne at the Slipper Room).

Bitter gets on the wrong side of an unclued patron somewhere during, oh, the first number or so (“Sex … I used to like sex …”), and later, when Miss Saturn does a nimble strip down to sunglasses, bikini bottoms and pasties – while spinning her hoops, of course – there’s a bit of commotion from the back. “You sexist PIG!” is the gist of it. We gape.

Linus’s Favorite Light Bulb Joke

Q: How many radical lesbian feminists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: That’s not funny.

Posted in About Last Night |

Blame the Computer!

Following Derek Sivers’s recent mention, I just bought “Advanced PHP Programming” at Amazon. You know the “recommendations” they make after you check out, based upon the subject matter and whatever other arcane electron waving? This is what they came up with this time:

PHP and MySQL Web Development, Second Edition
by Luke Welling (Author), Laura Thomson (Author)

Eric Meyer on CSS
by Eric A. Meyer (Author)

PHP Cookbook
by Adam Trachtenberg (Author), David Sklar (Author)

High Performance MySQL
by Jeremy D. Zawodny (Author), Derek J. Balling (Author)

William S. Burroughs – Commissioner of Sewers
DVD ~ William S. Burroughs

MySQL, CSS, more PHP, sure, that’s obvious. But William S. Burroughs? On DVD? Sure, there is a tenuous computing connection, but still…

Unless the computer misread “Sewers” as “Servers”?

Posted in General Musings |