Poems for the Day

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day in New York, which is probably the best-intentioned bit of goofery the city has come up with yet. If I had less to do around the house I’d head out to the Museum of Modern Art, which lets you in today for the price of a poem.

In the spirit of, then, we offer you two Poems on the Blog.

All of the Above

These things start in dice cups
Roll out onto baize
And sooner or later
Pull the stars around
In rings and rings and rings.

The phone has been silent
Since you turned the corner,
Has been present since you went away.
The fond heart at the window
Watching night sky.

                              Linus Gelber – 4/21/2003

Just Add Water


     1 mountain (large)
     1 ocean (immense)
     2 lovers (uncertain)

Combine elements in prepared basin.
Mix until smooth.
Season to taste.

When the mountain refluxes
And only sand remains
Remove lovers.

Serving size: 2

                              Linus Gelber – 11/18/2002

Posted in General Musings |

LAX of Rain

It’s been far too long since I last saw Sam Shaber play, and when her monthly giglist/chitchat emails erupt into the mailspool – this one’s called “SamMAY ShMAYber!,” exuberance in original – I always marvel that I haven’t seen her since Way Back Then. WBT is a big time in my life right now, since Right Now is far too small to fit everyone who’s trying to squeeze into the room.

Sam’s been on a never-ending tour for the past few years, more or less, singing her wares from the end of the world to your town. This month the e-missive comes from Los Angeles:

The tour continues on – writing to you here from L.A. where I swear it rains every time I come to town and today is no exception. This is similar to the knack I have for visiting famous sites when they have scaffolding around them, like the Louvre, the White House, Buckingham Palace, even the Eiffel Tower. (That looks like scaffolding with scaffolding…)

It’s not common knowledge, but the chief domestic product of continental Europe is in fact scaffolding. When people say “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” what they mean is that they were going to build Rome in a day, but the scaffold guys had another project going over in Greece and that ran over, and then it was raining, and then there was a party at the emperor’s place and no one wanted to take on anything heavy for a couple of millennia after that. And one thing led to another, and for want of enough scaffolding, bingo, Western civilization. That’s how it happened, in case you were wondering.

More scaffoldingEven more scaffolding

About the rain thing. You know that “never rains in Southern California” bit? You bought that, right? Like Sam Shaber, though, every time I go to L.A. it rains. We were out visiting Clay a few years ago and all along the beachfront the lovely locals were sporting knee-length winter coats, huddled under ponchos and slickers. The manager at the Manhattan Beach Brewing Company was scrambling up and down an A-frame ladder fixing voluptuous leaks. Houses were shooting off coastal cliffs like skee balls aiming for the Skill Shot hole.

That’s been pretty much the formula every time I fly out there – a few days of glorious gentle sun, countered by deluge and nervous Angeloonies who look around furtively and mutter about how “this never happens usually.” Don’t believe them.

I’ve also been to Seattle a couple of times in the past few years – Seattle, City of Rain. Once in summer, and once in the heart of the rainy season. And whatever the season it has always been lovely, sunny, balmy. L.A. = mostly rainy; Seattle = mostly sunny. Here’s my thinking.

I’m thinking a bunch of disgruntled L.A. people moved north to Seattle and found paradise. Golden sun and nuzzling breezes. Seafood that leaps out of the bay right up onto your dockfront table. Hop plants thick with sap so ready it’s almost beer by itself. Forgiving soft beds of yielding green grass, sturdy trees to bear up the vast clear sky. Bay and inlet, sluicing stream and lilting brook.

I’m thinking they realized that if everyone found out about this place, all of California and most of the East Coast would immediately move out there and mess everything up. So they started writing warning letters to all their friends: “Whew, sure is cold and rainy here, can’t think what possessed me to move to a place where it rains all the time and never stops raining, nope, just rain rain rain, that’s all it ever does, hold on, need to move the car before it slides down the hill, they do that you know what with ALL THE RAIN OUT HERE. How’s life in New York?” That kind of thing.

They tell us it’s nice out in L.A., hoping we’ll steer clear of Seattle. We figure it just happens to be raining while we’re visiting. Every time. Next time you’re out in Los Angeles, watch when people talk about the weather. Watch their eyes. They get this odd look and shuffle some, and they squint. “Funny,” they say. “It really never rains out here. Just when you come to visit.”

On the other hand, the last time I was in Las Vegas it rained there too. So maybe it is just me.

Posted in General Musings |

The Empire Thumps Back

By and large I don’t post entertaining links out of context, mostly because other people are way better at it than I am. Still, once in a rainy while something comes along that’s so brilliantly funny that I have to join our link to the many, in this case via Boing Boing‘s watchful eye.

I’m sure everyone will be sick of this in a day or two, but for now it’s still fresh. Click along here for a 2.2 meg .wmv file download of Star Wars Kid v. Kill Bill, a video patch-up that … well, you know, just look at it. Safe for work, contains sound, rocks the world. Go Ghyslain!

(Update) Sir Ghyslain the Valorous: It occurs to me that there are people here who may not know the saga of the Star Wars Kid and so may not quite fathom that video link off the rack. In brief, it’s one of those modern-moment cautionary tales of instant celebrity gone wrong, and it goes like this.

A little over a year ago a teenager in Quebec named Ghyslain Raza was fooling around in the A/V room at school. Thinking that he was alone and thereby safe – O the lessons we learn through the years! – he laid hold of a golf ball retriever (a.k.a. a stick) and had a little get yer ya-yas out bout of fake Darth Maul stylee lightsaber duellation. (If you get this urge, you might want to build your own lightsaber at home. Or not.)

As a resourceful young man with a lively fantasy filmscape playing out, Ghyslain battled his nemeses with vigor and derring-do. And like the trusting Paris Hilton who came later, he left the video where other people could get hold of it, figuring no one would know or care or rat him out to the general public. He was, to put it mildly, wrong.

You can still find the original Star Wars Kid video here and there; it propagated fast and with cackling glee. It wasn’t long before the first remix of many added digital effects and lightsaber sounds, and the legend was out of the bag. Padawan Ghyslain was mightily embarrassed by his unlooked-for brush with worldwide admiration and scorn, which led to the inevitable lawsuit alleging humiliation and psychological damage: well, whatever. The great uncaring world also cares, a bit: thousands of dollars were raised to buy Raza an iPod and other tech toys (browse the Waxy.org site for info and links), and there’s a massive online petition – over 129,000 entries and still going strong – asking LucasFilm to cast the Star Wars Kid in the next Star Wars movie.

And that, as the JGE guy used to say on TV, is the storeeee.

Posted in General Musings |

Yond Same Black Cloud

Chilly? Check. Drizzling? Check. Monday? Check. Azure lagoon with balmy soft-fingered winds, glorious warm sands, the lulling whisper of small surf against the sheltered cove, dangerous drinks in garish glasses with paper umbrellas mounted by bouquets of infused fruit…?

Er, let me get back to you on that.

Posted in General Musings |

When Bad Operating Systems Happen to Good People

I'm blue too

Among the things you are not going to read in this space is today’s entry, complete with a snappy image of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in Mystique blue. This is because Windows ME takes everything with it when it crashes Explorer. That would be everything. Even when all you’re trying to do is save the damn file after the sudden first-strike launch of the Blue Screen of Death.

In case you were wondering, it is not in fact possible to continue normally. Ever. But it’s always nice to have false hopes.

Who let that Gates guy in here, anyway?

Posted in General Musings |

Alert the Media

Work: I am so not into it today. Please bring on the hula hoops and Twister. I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille. (Twister link lifted from Rachelle B. See? Even the bloggy bits of my brain are distracted.)

Dumbest. Opening. Spam. Line. Ever. Department:

Thank you for your email request to Spraybottles Inc.

(Electronic crumpling-up and tossing-in-the-garbage sounds are heard.)

Posted in General Musings |

Dancing Chicken, Sleepy Beef

Barbarella: Plastics, Benjamin. Plastics.Apparently it was bad evil and wrong to love the dancing chicken in the old glory days of Chinatown Fair. Who knew? Next they’ll tell me it was wrong to want Jane Fonda to ditch the rest of her plastics and furs in Barbarella. Hmph.

For those of you watching at home, this has been a rather obvious ploy to run a picture of Jane Fonda in Barbarella. In plastic. See? It worked.

In any case, the chickens get their revenge, as chickens will, at Burger King’s Subservient Chicken site. Go and type in some commands; it’s pretty hilarious. The sex commands have all been muted – you can try though – but it’ll dance for you, flap a bit, turn around, and “make a chicken sandwich” is good for a laugh. It’ll try real hard to lay an egg if you ask nicely. Be sure to say thank you when you’re done.

Sleepy LaBeef burled through his Human Jukebox country’s-greatest-hits show last night at Rodeo Bar. He’s looking robust – you don’t get a name like LaBeef lightly – and happily rugged after his cardiac bypass last year. The hits come rolling out at a medley pace that delights and exhausts, and his huge voice fills the room easily. It’s almost a little too effortless, and I find myself wondering if Johnny Cash, say, would have meant so much to so many if he hadn’t had to work his sometimes atonal way through his music in audibly hard labor. Hearing Sleepy do Cash standards is downright strange: the Man in Black, brought to you by the Big Fella in Black. All of the ease of it, and none of the depth.

When Sleepy steps out and the band and guests take over, the set flags hard. I assume this has more to do with medical realities than bad showmanship, and that’s all you can really say about that. The room is too packed to belly down for some ribs – phooey – so we set to on a meal of free Rodeo peanuts. Urbanized trailer-park faux-redneck hair abounds, and immaculate never-seen-the-sun cowboy hats are present.

Speaking of immaculate: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is even better than I thought it might be, and I thought it might be pret-ty good. It has a profound depth of tender vision and is just about flawless in execution, even for those of us who are mostly annoyed by Jim Carrey (a fine actor when he quits twitching – but when does he ever quit twitching?).

Now, I cry in movies, and I like it. Catharsis, cleansing, the taste of a fleeting feeling, whatever it is: give me Buzz Lightyear getting all honorable in Toy Story or summat, and I’m a damp sap in the dark, happily brimming over. But this movie had all of us in tears, in a sweet way. Toward the end, as Carrey and Kate Winslet run their doomed and desperate scramble through crumbling halls of memory, a woman toward the back keened softly and then sobbed out loud. I can’t remember when I last heard that. Potent stuff, and powerfully put.

Posted in About Last Night |

Ecce Spam

Spam: I do not like it in a box, I do not like it with an ox. I do not like it in the air, I do not like it anywhere. Not even when it comes from Knits G. Bacchanal at matter-of-life-and-death.com, Largess O. Sperm at maskofthedemon.com, Fizzle H. Entrench at prim-and-proper.com, or Loudliest O. Bespeak from jesus-h-christ.com.

I don’t like it even when it bons it mots.

Damn Spam

  • The more minimal the art, the more maximum the explanation.
  • What a man knows at fifty that he did not know at twenty is for the most part incommunicable.
  • The only good luck many great men ever had was being born with the ability and determination to overcome bad luck.
  • Every man loves what he is good at.
  • The cosmos is about the smallest hole that a man can hide his head in.
  • Lifestyles and sex roles are passed from parents to children as inexorably as blue eyes or small feet.
  • A critic is a legless man who teaches running.
  • Bed is the poor man’s opera.
  • I would much rather have men ask why I have no statue than why I have one.
  • Power is my mistress. I have worked too hard at her conquest to allow anyone to take her away from me.
  • He has conferred on the practice of vacillation the aura of statesmanship.

The last is a comment by Kenneth Baker, and all of the above are quotes from crap UCE’s that came in this past Sunday. Together with this Beats-Era swinging close that calls Corso to mind:

water panda.

All well and good. But stay out of my mailbox, you nasty scrofulates. We hatesssss it.

Posted in General Musings |

Smile and Say “Cheesecake”

The Cakeman ComethToday, I precede myself. Today the regular Pepper physique of lean muscle and trim sinew has gone all soft and bulgy, and forsooth: I am a lipid. I squish to conquer. Today, call me Rumblebelly (apologies to R.A. Salvatore). Today, when I sit around the house … you know the drill.

I was late to Chez Callalillie for the Cheesecake Challenge yesterday afternoon, a function of that hot shiny confusing thing in the sky – the “bun”? is that what they were calling it? something like that – and of the theoretical Union Street bus, which may look like a bus and sound like a bus, but doesn’t actually run along Union Street. Devil’s in the details. By the time I worked out and applied an alternate route and huffed my way into Park Slope, Chez C. was awash with svelte bloggers and their elastic belts: in attendance and comparing wee digital cameras were Tien, Doug, Dahlia, José, Chris, Joe, and Sam, as well as several blogless folk who somehow make it through their days as private citizens. Hmm. ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d, perhaps.

It started simply enough a few weeks back, when Tien took issue with a cheesecake roundup in the New York Times. One thing led to another, and finally, as the bun shone gently down outside, we the few and the proud attacked a full table of cheesecakes of many sizes, shapes, and colors.

I brought two small dollops from Sweet Melissa’s on Court Street, an icing-squiggled strawberry cheesecake that was good-not-great and a wee cappuccino-flavored beast that was outstanding (Sweet Melissa’s tied for fourth in the eventual voting). The only outright disappointment in the bunch was the dry plug from Junior’s; how the mighty have fallen! When I was a callow high school brat, Junior’s was the sine qua non of New York cheesecake. Today we don’t even really expect it to place, it’s only there as the doddering elder statesman who was relevant once, a long time ago.

Third place in our profoundly unscientific polling (“Wait, wait – which is this sticky yellow one?” “I don’t know. What part of the table was it on?”) went to the rich entry from Park Slope’s Delices de Paris, a/k/a Paris Bakery. There’s a claim that the chef there was the personal pastry chef to Jackie O. True? Who knows? The cake was on the thicker and smoother side, full of flavor and assertive without being too sweet. The number two nod went to an original entry from Michael, whose “Famous Homemade Ginger Lemon Cheesecake” was, well, gingery and lemony, firm and reserved with the grainy creaminess that tastes like Old Days.

The house favorite? Pictured at work on the top of the page is Fort Green’s Cake Man Raven, whose sticky cheesecake is wonderfully light and zesty, with a round fleeting taste that dances on the tongue. It’s the airiest of the lot, frozen in the delicate transition from cooking bowl to carry-out box, combining the best elements of the larval batter phase and butterfly on-the-plate maturity. Cake Man Raven’s roster of celebrity cake clients over the years includes Maya Angelou, Muhammad Ali, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Stevie Wonder, Nancy Wilson, Robert DeNiro, Spike Lee, and a couple of mayors. And now me.

After an hour and change of the slings and arrows of outrageous cheesecake, we’re done, each beached in our spot or corner and gurgling in bloated content. The table is a sticky mass of slices, mangled bits, clots of crumbly crust and streaks of fruit topping. The cake knives are swollen with cheesecake guts, handles sticky. I have a perverse urge to take everything left on my plate, mash it up into a single slice, and see if it combines the best of the rest into a sublime übercake. This would take too much effort, though, so instead of actually doing it I just tell people about it and move on.

Outside the evening is creeping in, and the warmth is for basking. I stagger to my feet, and thunder out into the waning rays of the sinking bun.

Posted in General Musings |

My Girl Bill

Uma GummaWhat’s a guy to do? Spring opens here on the same day as Quentin Tarantino’s legendary new sushi-dicer, Kill Bill: Vol. 2. I mean, we’ve got 61 entire degrees over here, each one stacked up on top of the others in a sudden ecstasy of not-winter. It’s galvanizing, it’s historic, it’s temperate, it’s … hey, you with the groundhog! Get that thing out of here, now.

On the other hand, it’s Kill Bill. You know? And ya gotta see Kill Bill. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law.

We’ll have 61° on other days, but Quentin only comes to town once in a rare tartare. So off I frolic, splashing and grunting (think bull walrus) in the frisky sun, up the block and around the corner to the Court Street twelveplex, which is to movie theatres what Master and Blaster were to Bartertown, except with more screaming children. I basked in two or three minutes’ worth of the new season, easy; I’m gambling – risky, in these parts – on more later. You can’t rush these things.

Spring, spring, spring. Trees along Clinton Street squeezed out flowers with such gusto they practically screamed, shooting blossoms out across the road in a barrage of petals (“Aaaargh, there goes one!” Pop. Zing! “Ooh, that’s better”). It’s going down into the 40′s tonight, so it’s a matter of making hay while the sun shines.

Volume 1 of Kill Bill was an obi of manufactured mystery. The film was a roaring head of steam with no cuppa tea underneath, swirling in immaculate execution to the strains of a music you wanted to hear but couldn’t quite separate from the ringing clang of Hattori Hanzo steel. Volume 2 is a whole different beast. In fact, it basically is the whole beast; it’s the entire film that the first part hinted at, and it turns Volume 1 into a preamble.

Quentin Tarantino is a director of fierce, almost slavish style; it’s a credit to his skill that his films feel fluid and impulsive rather than strict. At their best the Wachowski brothers are as easily controlled and eclectic, but as we all saw last year, they’re not always at their best.

This picture has only been out for a few hours, and already I know all about his return to the tart barrage of dialogue and how he’s an encyclopaedic reference of chopsocky flicks, and how Uma is the perfect foil, or Samuel L. Jackson is the perfect foil, about how David Carradine makes the part penned for Warren Beatty all his own. What I take from all the noise, apart from the obvious nod to someone’s talented publicist, is simple: we’re hungry for this. We want it, bad. Quentin Tarantino makes good movies that are also good to watch. He makes us see how humdrum the rest of the drool in the other 11 plexes is.

Except Hellboy, of course.

Best Line of the Afternoon

The movie starts 11 minutes late, for no apparent reason. The place is packed and uncomfortable. The trailers haven’t started, the commercials are over, there’s a dead screen that says Our Feature Presentation Will Begin In A Moment. For 11 entire minutes. About 7 minutes in, a guy in the audience screams, “Come on! Even Dave Goldstein is more interesting than this!”

It’s too early to talk about the picture in detail; most of the reviews actually do blow some of the secret pleasures in passing, not giving away the blind-side ending but scrunching open a couple of child-proof plot caps along the way. I won’t do that here. I’ll just note that the experience was seamless for me. While Kill Bill is running, it’s simply and absolutely the best movie for years, engrossing and enfolding in every way. Tarantino even has the canny guts to discuss the film critically in the middle of Act III, talking through the misshapen concept of the American hero and giving the huddled masses some of the unfamiliar ammunition they’ll need to develop a thoughtful and educated opinion on what they’ve just seen, if that’s where they want to go with it. In an age of media manipulation and critical celluloid towers, it’s a ballsy and generous move, and you can almost feel the audience cock it’s collective head.

The soundtrack is as good as one would hope from a Quentin Tarantino joint, and if Kill Bill can exhume Shivaree‘s buried career – the band’s wonderful “Goodnight Moon” is the first cut over the end credits – it will have done a world of good. Malcolm McLaren’s “About Her,” a glorious mashup reconsideration of “She’s Not There” by The Zombies, is fundamental and cathartic in its place, and I’m likely to buy the CD for that song alone.

Now let’s see Q let loose his opinions on the unsuspecting James Bond franchise. We deserve this kind of moviemaking.

The ending credits are long, incidentally, but there’s a little treat for the faithful who stick them out. No, don’t stick those out. You know what I meant.

Posted in About Last Night |