Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oh dear

(courtesy piratemonkeysinc)

(from the department of "things my gentleman-caller's colleagues send to him which he sends to me which I post on my blog which is read by his colleagues so there's not much point, but here it is anyway.")

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Alas, poor Gap

I don't normally enjoy shopping, but the soon-to-close Gap in Tower Place was all right today. It's nearly empty except for a few racks of clothes, and a huddle of naked mannequins in one corner. Apparently they're for sale, at $85 each - does that seem reasonable? If the Gap is in financial trouble everywhere (as I've heard), will we have to explain to our kids what this ubiquitous store was? A mannequin could be a useful historical artifact. Also, you could paint it.

Rosie & I saw a disconsolate-looking Nick Spencer walking out as we walked in. Sorry, Nick.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Snotty biographer alert

Today's book: "A Dreamer And A Visionary: H.P. Lovecraft in His Time" by S.T. Joshi. This is a hugely entertaining mix of biography, commentary and literary theory. Being a total girl, I am mainly interested in Lovecraft's brief marriage to Sonia Haft Greene, who left him after eight months of cohabitation for a job in Cincinnati. There's not much about Cincinnati in the book and there's not much about love either. Lovecraft evidently never even said the word to Sonia, although he'd say things like "I appreciate you, my dear." His big sign of affection was to hook his pinky around hers and say "Umph," which Joshi notes with a snide "Move over, Casanova!" I think that sounds rather sweet. I would hook pinkies with Lovecraft any day.

Today's other books: "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and "A Midsummer Night's Dream" for ongoing lecture series at library. The theme is Magic which should pair interestingly with all these Lovecraft books. Today's lecture on Gawain talked almost exclusively about magic as a test of Gawain's chivalric code. I thought there would be stuff about the Celtic Green Man and early Christian imagery but that didn't come up.

Dolly Parton turns 60 this week. Shakespeare's Sister and Salon's Broadsheet have nice appreciations for a great lady. Happy birthday, sweetpea.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Arr! I got nothing against ye, squiddy

Finally managed to see "The Squid and the Whale" yesterday at Mariemont. It's an acutely observed miniature of a family going through divorce, told mostly from the kids' point of view. You watch the two boys (Owen Kline and the increasingly hot Jesse Eisenberg) shift allegiances between their parents and deal with all the weirdness of adolescence. Jeff Daniels has gotten a lot of praise for his performance as the asshole English-professor dad ("'A Tale of Two Cities'? One of Dickens' minor works. Why do teachers always assign an author's worst books?"), and it's richly deserved. He's awful but you never stop feeling for him, even at his slimiest. The film manages to be stylized and emotionally honest at the same time. It was co-produced by Wes Anderson (the writer and director, Noah Baumbach, cowrote Anderson's "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou") and there are some similarities to "The Royal Tenenbaums" - the houses of the two parents are almost characters in their own right, for example. But this movie is laced with more bitterness, right from the opening scene when the family is playing tennis and Jeff Daniels tells his son to aim for his mother's weak backhand. Still, you never lose affection for any of them, even as the film makes you see how they can devastate each other.

Behind me in the theater, a lady was telling her companion that her cat had recently run away - they opened the front door and it just bolted out. Oddly, that happens in the closing scene of the movie. I could hear the lady gasp.

Monday, January 16, 2006

the quick comedians extemporally will stage us

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies.

Mrrrow! Have to read "Antony and Cleopatra" by Wednesday. Am looking forward to it but having trouble putting down my S.T. Joshi biography of Lovecraft. Life is extremely difficult here at the Blackwood residence.

In other news, meet my new favorite show. (okay, it's just on DVD.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

My new planter gives me nightmares

When life sends you a broken Miskatonic University mug in the mail, reassemble it with rubber skin, green food coloring and fake blood into a planter for your bromeliad. Words to live by.

Monday, January 09, 2006

He was a friend of mine

Saw "Brokeback Mountain" today. Normally I avoid the long weepy pictures that generate Oscar talk (no interest ever in seeing "Mystic River" or "Million Dollar Baby"), but I like Heath Ledger, Larry McMurtry and Ang Lee. None of them let me down. It was great and very sad. Ledger's character was particularly heartbreaking, trying desperately to keep his private feelings private while Jake Gyllenhaal follows him around with his huge needy eyes. I loved the understated performances of the women (Anne Hathaway & Michelle Williams), and the striking closing shot of a prairie framed in a trailer window. I did, however, once again sort of miss the moment when they fell in love. The early scenes of camaraderie & physical passion make sense, but when they get back together a few years later, I was surprised. I may be too picky in re. love scenes.

Tekeli-li to you, too

Today's book: "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" by Edgar Allan Poe. How could I never have heard of this before my brother gave me that Poe collection? It's hugely influential. I immediately recognized Richard Parker from "Life of Pi" (I also liked that the dog was named Tiger), and Lovecraft's polar monsters in "Mountains of Madness" shout "tekeli-li" in homage to Poe's savages. It's a bizarre story, though: A boy stows away on board ship, nearly smothering in the hold (very "Premature Burial") before coming up to find a bloody mutiny in progress. Violence and cannibalism ensue before he ends up on another ship bound for the South Pole. Rosie helpfully filled me in on some polar exploration history. This book was written in the 1830s, when nobody had a clue what was down there, so Poe is free to make stuff up - including savages with black teeth (very Peter Jackson) and antarctic polar bears. The narrative is frequently stalled by Arthur's swooning fits, but this is Poe so that's probably to be expected.

Friday, January 06, 2006


My gentleman-caller, who amazes me every day, sent me a link from Craftster (what was he doing there?) to "Dawn of the Knitted Dead." I am dazzled. So are many people at Craftster, who apparently are having their second Zombie Swap.

Zombies, man. They creep me out

Can Land of the Dead accurately be described as a horror movie? I found it utterly lacking in scares. This from someone who can't even watch "Shaun of the Dead" without having nightmares. I am extremely susceptible to zombie fright and this movie offered absolutely none. That said, it was a lot of fun. The conceit of intelligent, sympathetic zombies actually works, as stupid as it sounds. I loved Big Daddy's increasingly outraged howls (or "ululations," as the closed-captioning would have it) as the living use his fellow zombies for target practice. The setting also seems idiotic on paper - how do the people in Fiddler's Green make money? Do they not find their name at all sinister? Why doesn't the Irish guy just lead a revolt instead of talking about it? But I loved the medieval street scenes with puppet shows, sickly beggars and general filth. Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo are both having a great time, which helps you swallow the heavy social commentary. Still, it really wasn't scary, although it was plenty violent. Maybe a social drama with gore? Can that be a Netflix category?

Ah yes, the gore. In George A. Romero's lively mind, human bodies pop apart as easily as jigsaw puzzles; a zombie has only to tug on a head or an arm and it comes right off, spewing dark blood in every direction. There are some lovely decapitations, a painful-looking lengthwise bisection of an arm, and the removal of a tongue. It all happens so swiftly and cartoonishly, though, it's not even all that unsettling. (Perhaps in a theater it would be different.)

The most peculiar sequence to me came as the zombies are overrunning the wealthy Fiddler's Green, and the elite are shrieking and running in terror. Zombie after zombie is filmed snatching a woman and tumbling over on top of her, and one (notoriously) rips out a belly-button ring with his teeth as his victim screams. (Closed captioning: "[women screaming].") Romero's no misogynist - the female protagonists in this movie kick ass right along with the men, and his own daughter has a cameo as a zombie-blasting soldier. So what gives with the rape imagery? The best I can come up with is that he means the zombie invasion as a metaphor for any revolt of the disenfranchised, whether peasants, African-Americans or modern Hispanic immigrants; and part of the myth of oppression is often "if we let them loose, they'll run wild through our streets and make free with our women." Romero's already shown us the vicious misogyny underlying Fiddler's Green with the gladiator sequence that introduces Asia Argento. His identifying the zombies with minorities is still a little unsettling, but in Romero's world, there are definitely worse things than being a zombie.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Don't say that...that Z word

Watching "Land of the Dead" tonight and v. excited! Braaains!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

This is for the fingers. This is for the nails.

Case in point with the horror thing is the upcoming Hostel. I could not adore "Cabin Fever" more, from the sadistic violence and misanthropy to the "Evil Dead" references to every special moment with Dennis. And I really want to support Eli Roth. But I don't think I can sit through a whole movie about people being chained to chairs and tortured. Is this contradictory?

Meanwhile, have been rocking out to Brian Eno and had that song in my head all evening while reading early "Hostel" reviews. Am so conflicted.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


"Pluf" is apparently Spanish for "plop," as in "to plop over in shock." When I lived in Spain, I had my head shaved, and my Spanish host mother told me (in Spanish): "Your mother is going to go 'pluf.'"

Well, I have just gone pluf: My gentleman-caller has alerted me to an upcoming local performance of "Chess," the classic musical tale of Cold War romance and international intrigue, by Benny Anderson, Tim Rice and Bjorn Ulvaeus. It's extremely weird and smashingly wonderful. The songs are catchy thanks to the ABBA boys, with lyrics by Rice at his most bitingly cynical. Wikipedia has a nicely thorough entry here. If anyone wants to borrow the original cast album, I'd be happy to loan it to you! Anyone?

Mad cat

My friend Robin is shown giving her long-haired, ill-tempered cat a bath. She insists the cat smelled and the bath was sorely needed. Everyone was diminished by the experience.

Monday, January 02, 2006


You know why women tend to dislike horror movies? Because we have periods. There's nothing novel about blood and pain to us. Of course, you could also argue that female horror fans are more devoted because the imagery really resonates. I'm sort of middle-of-the-road myself. Mostly I love comedy, and if a great comedy happens to involve shemps in the woods (Evil Dead) or skin-eating terror (Cabin Fever), so be it. Then you have Lovecraft's work, which isn't comedy but is still hugely enjoyable in a campy way - especially "Herbert West - Reanimator," which I read last night and scared myself to death with. I love that it's funny *and* genuinely unsettling.

Today's books: The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H.P. Lovecraft, and Absolute Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. The former is a splendid Penguin edition with comprehensive, erudite footnotes. The latter was a fabulous Christmas gift from my gentleman-caller.

Retiring to fainting-couch now. Ow. Stupid womanhood.