Sunday, December 31, 2006

Speaking of supervillains ...

...(which I maintain is one word) good ole Wil Wheaton is also thinking about supervillains. I am not surprised by my results on this quiz. (Art Boy's supervillain is that terrible Pittsburgh coach with the chin and mustache who looks like a puppet.)

You are Poison Ivy

You would go to almost any length for the protection of the environment including manipulation and elimination.

Click here to take the Super Villain Personality Test

Happy New Year, gangstas

Your scribe has returned from Tennessee without incident ... it was a lovely visit home. My niece and nephew are exceedingly cute, particularly the niece, who apparently developed a passion for bats after my last visit. I told her parents I would get her some black eyeliner and teach her the ways of the goths. (Oh, we adults are awful. Why can't we leave kids alone?) Anyway, I received some nice gifts, particularly from Art Boy, who gave me the sublime "Absolute Sandman Vol. 1," a compendium of supervillains (very comprehensive! I'm learning all about Solomon Grundy), a collection of Ricky Gervais podcasts and a much-needed bottle of Hendricks. Go Christmas!

Now it is time for New Year's ... I am not aware of any plans that we have, and I cannot ask Art Boy about it because he savagely beats me when I interrupt Bengals games. My plan is to get home from work sometime before midnight and count down to 2007 in quiet, adult fashion. Be safe, gentle readers!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas, gangstas

I'm off to Tennessee. Everyone be safe and well, please.

If anyone has time, you can enjoy my favorite Salon holiday article on the virtues of Pottersville. Art Boy is always completely appalled by this idea.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Do they still make wooden Christmas trees?

When I brought this home, I was very grateful to Art Boy for not yelling "You were supposed to get a good tree! Can't you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?" We'll repot it outdoors into a bigger pot (Art Boy, reading at work: "We?") after the new year and hopefully it will bear lemons for us. In the meantime, the leaves have a pleasing lemon scent, and it's holding my collection of 5 nice ornaments and Mardi Gras beads very nicely.

Better than a yule log

Ahhh. The furnace repairpersons have just left after installing our brand-new wall unit. At last we have heat in the house ... something we never thought we'd need when we arrived in L.A. during a heat wave this summer. But it has been down in the 40s at night, and with the photoperiod at its shortest (happy winter solstice, by the way!), we have been a wee bit chilly. Now, though, the wall furnace is happily chugging away, and there's a vent right next to the house PC so your scribe can be comfortable while she blogs. Hooray!

While they were working, I did my annual round of shortbread, which I will just take to the office. No trays were dropped upside-down on the floor this year. I have also wrapped Art Boy's presents and put them under the tree ... suppose should finish assembling Mom's Christmas gift to us (furniture) so can photograph the whole shebang. The five-CD changer has Charlie Brown up now ... I think Art Boy ran off with my Solstice CD this morning.

Ah, speaking of this morning: The cat was startled by something and ran across my face, digging in with her back claw in her alarm. Two of her toenails caught on the edge of my mouth and dragged down slightly. My first words to Art Boy today were "Am I bleeding?" I did not bleed, but I have two lovely small scratches that resemble whiskers. And this is one of our good cats.

Anyway, furniture. Be back.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Sounds of Christmas

As vaguely promised, here is a list of my favorite holiday CDs. Keep in mind that I generally loathe holiday music. Shopping this time of year is just agony... yesterday H&M (where I had to buy clothes for my sister) was pounding out the "Winter Wonderland" at top volume and oh oh oh, my ears. (Presumably it usually plays Madonna at that volume.) So this is really a select group. I've been playing them the last couple weeks and Art Boy has been amazingly tolerant.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" soundtrack
Well, duh. You can perform the Charlie Brown dances in your living room, quote favorite lines to your tolerant art boy ("Don't you know a sarcasm when you hear it?"), and reminisce about making your friends watch the special in college. This music was also used to excellent effect in the Arrested Development episode "Good Grief."

"John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together"
Most of this album consists of weenie songs performed by John Denver. And then there's "Alfie the Christmas Tree," a bizarre narrative about a tree struggling with its feelings about being cut down and displayed in a living room, then suddenly concerned about nonChristians around the world (a thought which causes the tree to "pause"). Denver reads the whole thing in a voice cracking with emotion. But there are some great Muppet moments as well:

Gonzo: Now bring us a figgy pudding...
Miss Piggy: Piggy pudding?!
Gonzo: No, figgy pudding. It's made with figs.
MP: Oh. Sorry.
Gonzo: And bacon.
MP: What?

So you can either skip the weenie songs to the Muppet songs, or enjoy it all as one kitschy whole, which I have taken to doing in latter years. There are two CD versions floating around out there, one of them without "Little Saint Nick," which you need because of Animal doing the "Run run reindeer!" chorus.

"Christmas Caravan," The Squirrel Nut Zippers
Every Christmas my family listens to this and my mom wonders whatever has become of the Squirrel Nut Zippers. It was nice of them to produce this before going into hiding. My favorite tracks are "Carolina Christmas" (for the line "We're chillin in our underwear") and their loopy, infectious instrumental version of "Sleigh Ride."

"Christmas Is..." Johnny Mathis
I guess I shouldn't make fun of the late Mr. Denver for having been a weenie before endorsing music by Johnny Mathis. But dammit, Johnny is just so happy! You can't resist him! You can just hear the sleigh bells in his voice! I would love to see him perform. I bet he bobs up and down merrily. On this CD, just when you're starting to think he's a little too happy, he settles down with "Ave Maria," and it's pretty enough to melt even the toughest cynic. (And dear readers, that would be me.) Johnny also has a nice peppy version of "Sleigh Ride" but it is not on this collection... maybe for next year.

"An Even Scarier Solstice" The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society

This CD really makes shopping easier, particularly because they've tackled many of the most annoying holiday songs and made them much more palatable. I was in J.Crew a few weeks ago and they were actually playing "All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth." Now, really, who wants to hear that? Everyone in the store looked annoyed. But I thought of "All I Want for Solstice is my Sanity," and was able to continue shopping with a serene smile on my face. I'm not just endorsing this album because one of the Arkham Carolers is me. You can't particularly hear me, thank heavens.

"Christmas with Johnny Cash"
I am still on the fence about this collection. I can't really stand listening to it all the way through, but if you're going to put a bunch of CDs in the changer and set it to "shuffle" (if any of you iPod people still do that), this is a fine one to include. It startles you in a nice way to hear "Jingle Bells" and realize it's Johnny Cash singing. Taken as a whole, though, his merriment is just a little forced. If anyone wasn't lighthearted, it was Johnny.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

This had better not be about your cat, Ralph

I made up the bed this morning, but Sebastian unmade it and got completely wound up in the bedsheet. We normally don't like him to do this because then he does awful things necessitating immediate laundry, but right now he's just sleeping.

Anastasia and Art Boy share an affection for plastic storage bins.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Torrente, el brazo *tonto* de la ley

Oh dear. I am up early, huddled under a blanket with my coffee in the sharp morning chill of Santa Monica (we tried to get our heat turned on yesterday, and learned we must wait a few more days), waiting for e-mail confirmation that Art Boy successfully dropped off our rocket cat at the vet. What an action-packed sentence! Anyway, while I am waiting, I have been browsing Defamer and idly opened a link to a Variety story about why Spaniards dislike Ali G. At first I scrolled past it, then I thought, "well, actually, Ali G/Borat seems very much like the Spaniards' cup of tea." Going out and humiliating the man on the street, while wearing a funny suit, is right up their alley; and SBC is good about asking questions that confirm Europeans' ideas of how dumb Americans are. So what's the problem? Why, it's that Spaniards already have "Torrente," the hilarious cop created by Santiago Segura who points up the Spaniards' own prejudices. (I like on the IMDb page how the full title translates to both "The dumb arm of the law" and "The stupid arm of the law." Imagine having to sit around and figure out which might be marginally funnier to English-speaking audiences.) I have never actually seen "Torrente" but certainly his concept doesn't translate to me, so it's fair enough, I suppose, for the "Ali G" concept to not translate to Spain. In fact, it's rather endearing. Oh, little Spaniards, you and your Torrente and your "Shadow of the Wind." I will visit you and eat your food and make fun of your American movie posters, but even after living amongst you I will never understand you.

(Yes, this is a wordy post. Must type to keep warm.)

Aiee! Santiago Segura was in "Hellboy."

Monday, December 11, 2006

'Jericho' update

A paraphrased conversation from last night (although this is still not a TV blog):

Art Boy: I've given up watching "Jericho."
Me: What? Why?
AB: It finally dawned on me that it sucks.
Me: Well, it took you long enough.
AB: What did it was they finally found a generator... and they used it to plug in Christmas lights.

Art Boy will be surprised to learn that, according to The Los Angeles Times, "Jericho" is actually a hit!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hell hath no fury like Jeane Kirkpatrick scorned

Well, Bill the Cat's ex-girlfriend has died. It was a stormy relationship, despite her sending him a box of chocolates shaped like Nicaragua with the note "For my Bill - Let's devour it together." He took advantage of her to sell secrets to the Soviets, ended up in the electric chair ("That do it?" "He's still going 'Thpthpth'") but survived, and also dumped her for Cornelia Guest, shooting up the neighborhood after she sent him dead flowers in retaliation. "Dear Bill: These roses were red, but now they're dead. I heard you're dating Cornelia - I wish you rocks in your head. Sincerely, Jeane."

She was trouble, Bill. T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Speaking of HPL ...

A friend of mine sent me to this fabulous Random HPL Story Generator. Create your own, and annoy Weird Tales by submitting it to them!

Today's pile o' books and music

Finished "Cloud Atlas" a few days ago. It ended up with more of an overt social message than I had expected; I thought it would be all metaphysical and science fiction, but it closes with an urgent call for people to just generally behave better. I can see why my pastor sister-in-law liked it. And the futuristic image at the center of the book is very chilling: a hologram figure projected from an ancient device delivers a vital message that nobody understands. Very highly recommended. If you're one of those people who likes "Lost," you might like this. (I was one of those people until this season. Blech! But this is not a TV blog.)

Finishing up my lovely new edition of "At the Mountains of Madness," which I bought in a Joseph-Beth spree before leaving Cincinnati. It's a lovely edition with a surprisingly lucid introduction by China Mieville (I really hated his "Perdido Street Station"). He makes the interesting point that the shoggoth is Lovecraft's ultimate monster because it represents the seething mass of degenerate humanity that he saw on the streets & subway platforms of New York, and that he instinctively recoiled from. Mieville addresses Lovecraft's racism pretty intelligently, too. (The shoggoth is certainly not lily-white!) Anyway, the book itself is nice to reread; Lovecraft outlines his Elder Things mythos very clearly. I had agreed with biographer & ubernerd S.T. Joshi that what Lovecraft was creating was an anti-mythos, but after rereading this I'm not so sure. I can't say it's a favorite of mine, partly because reading it makes me cold (it's like watching "Dr. Zhivago") and partly because the Arctic explorer heroes are just SO scholarly. I can't deal with them tramping through this ancient city, in constant peril of their lives, discussing how the quality of the carvings here seems to be more decadent than the ones over here, and furthermore these seem to date from the Pleistocene, and blah blah. Certainly it is a Tale of Cosmic Horror rather than an action story, but you just want to yell at them to quit measuring the arches and RUN!

A better action story, also involving cosmic monsters, is Robert A. Heinlein's young-adult book "Have Space Suit, Will Travel." I picked this up at the library this week mostly because it was paperback and I had a long walk ahead. The Santa Monica Public Library is just stunningly gorgeous. Its front entrance hall is full of glass and is partly open to the element on nice days (which this was). I thought it would be a good book to read over lunch and it was. He's so sexist, and Lovecraft is so racist, but what are you going to do.

LaLa sent me a couple of CDs this week: the Broadway soundtrack of "Chess" and R.E.M.'s "Out of Time." I will defend "Out of Time" against that other album with the Andy Kaufman song to the death. The second side beginning with "Belong" is some of their best work. And the album overall has some great Mike Mills vocals, which is good for Mike fans like me. Sure, the first half is blah, but nothing on it is as offensive as "Sweetness Follows." (And it has "Losing My Religion," which was good until we all got so we never, ever need to hear it again.) I had a tape of it for a long time and am very happy to have "Half a World Away" and "Me in Honey" back in my life. LaLa is great for these kinds of CDs that you kind of want but don't want to buy at full price (or on iTunes or whatever the hell the kids do).

As far as "Chess" goes, well, it's nice to have "Someone Else's Story." And it's interesting to listen to the Broadway adaptation. It's the version we saw in Cincinnati - it's the only version you can see in the United States, for byzantine legal reasons. Tim Rice was very unhappy with the changes that were made and it sounds like he just refused to cooperate in places. "One Night in Bangkok," for example, has a couple lines that needed to be changed to fit the new plot, but instead of new lines there's just a pause in the song. It's nowhere near as good as the original cast recording, but I really do like Judy Kuhn. She's no Elaine Paige, of course, but her version of "Heaven Help My Heart" is much sweeter and more intimate. And "How Many Women?" is an interesting little number. The main reason I got this was for "Someone Else's Story," though. It's my favorite song to sing in the shower, although once I came out and Art Boy was looking miserable. "Are you going to leave me?" he asked.

Phew! That feels good.

Friday, December 01, 2006

When I grow up, I'm going to Bovine University!

Back home in Tennessee, my super-cute niece and nephew dream of the day they'll "graduate" and get to leave the pasture.

Survival, barely

A very sporting Art Boy and I survived my parents' visit, although I have been stricken with the hideous plague of nose & throat death. ("Sinus infection" sounds so boring.) There has been a very dry and cool wind the past few days, and a lot of people are suffering - last night at the office was a chorus of sneezes and coughs. After knocking myself out with Actifed the Wonder Drug last night, am much better today. And I think Mom and Dad suffered no ill effects. They enjoyed Santa Monica, did not seem too alarmed by all the homeless on the Promenade, and seemed interested in seeing my office.

Have not got much else to get excited about this month, save Christmas. Probably just as well.