June 2005


So last night The Boyf and I are couched and TVing, and as we’re scrolling around the listings we see Bram Stoker’s Burial of the Rats.  I cry out that we must watch this, whatever it is.  I’ve seen (the regrettable) Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula and I’ve seen Lair of the White Wyrm (also regrettable), but I’d never even heard of Burial of the Rats.  So we pull up the description and it’s, uh… well, the Rotten Tomatoes listing for it
doesn’t even do it justice.  If I remember the TiVo listing
properly, it read something like:  “The young Bram Stoker is first
kidnapped, then sheltered, by a cult of women with power over
rats.”  That’s all it said, and all I needed to hear.

The movie is enjoyably dreadful.  Apparently Bram Stoker is an
American.  Also, his captors are Americans, as are the
authorities, despite the film appearing to be set in Olde Generic Town,
the world-famous capitol of EasternEuropeanstan.  Also, black
bikinis make great armor, and the rat-women gain their power over rats by a combination of flute-playing and badly done topless dancing.  Gods, but the dancing was awful.

At first we were enthusiastically MST3King it, and then as it became
more and more awful we wound down to simple giggles and groans. 
At one point it cut rather abruptly to a soft-core scene, and we
whisked ourselves back to watching Air America on Sundance lest I be
unable to keep down my dinner. 

All through it we kept commenting on the cough actor who played Bram Stoker (pronounced like gram or tram, or like bomb, depending on which cough actress
was addressing Our Semi-Hero) and how familiar he looked.  Today I
ended up IMDBing him and, given most of his work appears to be in
movies with titles like Virtual Seduction and Showgirl Murders, a genre
IMDB generously terms Drama, I had absolutely no idea where I’d have
seen him previously.  Then it hit me.  He’s the spitting
image of Brian O’Halloran from Clerks
– kind of.  Specifically, he looks like Brian O’Halloran minus the
facial hair but plus one bad weave.  Close enough for government
work, anyway, so that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  It’s
always possible that I saw him featured in one of the soft-core flicks
Morgan would always pretend to be surprised to find on in his room
despite being the one who’d turned them on. 

*shudder*

At any rate, we watched it on Showtime Beyond.  If you get that
channel, and you have 85 minutes to watch drain away, I wouldn’t veto
it.  Watching a bunch of z-grade buffoons try to swordfight beats
eating glass to see how much you can down before the internal bleeding
gets to you.

At one point, The Boyf said, “Does this at all resemble anything that Bram Stoker wrote?” 

LORD no,” I told him.  “Lord no.” (more…)

My goodness, but this is some tasty Kool-Aid.

Finally got around to seeing it last night with The Boyf.  We each
had what I feel might have been the best possible preparation for
it:  we’d assumed it would stink, then we’d read it didn’t, then
friends told us that it did, in fact, stink on ice.  After the trailer for Mr. and Mrs. Smith, we were sufficiently dumbed-down for the movie to follow.

We liked it.

It’s not a great movie.  I did, in fact, refer to it as “a
handectomy-o-rama,” and when Gen. Grievous showed up I did, also in
fact, think Well, that’s just four hands we’re gonna see chopped off.  On the other hand (ha HA!)
Ewan McGregor is charming.  Unlike Ep2, he doesn’t seem to resent
being there.  I bought Vader’s (admittedly abrupt) fall from
grace.  I bought the big, big, big pivot-points of the galactic storyline.  I loved the visual sense of the movie.  I really, really
liked the sun setting on Coruscant as Anakin makes his decision. 
I had agreed with Mr. Saturday when he said he needed to see some
scenes of clones turning on their Jedi commanders, and tah-dah, I got
that, too.  I liked a lot of the individual lines:  “This is
how liberty dies – to thunderous applause,” being a fave, and “If
you’re not with me, you’re my enemy.”  Gosh, wonder where we’ve
heard that one before?

*cough*addresstoCongressafter9/11*cough*

I thought it was much better than episodes 1 and 2.  I thought it
was at least as good as episode 6.  I liked it better the further
back I stood from it, but nothing in it made me wish feverishly for
Force Choke.

I found it very difficult to watch Yoda lose a fight.

The big complaint from friends who’d already seen it is how wooden
Hayden & Natalie Portman seemed, how unlikeable, how unsympathetic,
how dreadful they were.  On the other hand, who doesn’t want to smack Luke when he squeezes “But Uncle!  I wanna go to Taji Station!”
through a pout the size of the moon?  I will gladly confess that I
wanted nothing so much as to lean over to my boyfriend and make rasping
ventilator noises when Padme commented uninterestedly that she wanted
Anakin to hold her, like he had on Naboo (I resisted the urge
to make the raspy sounds), but at the same time it seems that anyone
who gets hung up on the dialogue delivery in a Star Wars movie may, in
fact, have forgotten the first ones.

There are plenty of things wrong with it.  I think anyone who
dislikes it has a bevy of legitimate complaints from which to choose
their reasons, and I respect that.  That said, I actually really
enjoyed it.  To be honest, I might go see it again.  In fact,
I find myself wanting to see it again.

It might be that I’m just a contrarian, and it might be that I’m just
trying to fill in some blanks on my own (I didn’t find a lot of the
supposed storyline gaps friends were pointing out to be gaps at all –
it seemed like there was a lot that could safely be assumed), and it
might be that I’m so desperate to like one of the new trilogy
that I took my last chance, hell or high water.  I don’t think so,
though.  It had what I needed in it, and that’s enough. (more…)

What on Earth will the 101st Flying Keyboardists of the New American Right have to say about this one?  Released after business hours today, according to MSNBC.com, is a Pentagon report detailing/admitting repeated incidents of abuse of prisoners’ copies of the Koran:

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon on Friday released new details about
mishandling of the Quran at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror
suspects, confirming that a soldier deliberately kicked the Muslim holy
book and that an interrogator stepped on a Quran and was later fired
for “a pattern of unacceptable behavior.”

In other confirmed incidents, water balloons
thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get
wet; a guard’s urine came through an air vent and splashed on a
detainee and his Quran
; and in a confirmed but ambiguous case, a
two-word obscenity was written in English on the inside cover of a
Quran.

The findings, released after normal
business hours Friday evening, are among the results of an
investigation last month by Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the commander of the
detention center in Cuba, that was triggered by a Newsweek magazine
report — later retracted — that a U.S. soldier had flushed one
Guantanamo Bay detainee’s Quran down a toilet.

The story stirred worldwide controversy and the Bush administration blamed it for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan.

So, uh – is Newsweek still to blame
here?  Just checking.  Last I heard, even if it’s true,
telling the world about our abuses or prisoners is irresponsible and gets people killed.  Besides, who doesn’t piss on a prisoner in the middle of prayer every now and then?  Gods know that’s what I’ve got on the docket this weekend.

This is what my tax dollars bought: 
soldiers pissing on people in Cuba, literally.  Somehow, I thought
America was about something else.

(more…)

My great-grandfather played the violin.  He had one that was, at
the time and for our family, very expensive.  I don’t remember the
brand and don’t know enough about violins to know whether it would have
been a good or a bad violin by today’s standards.  Trumpets I can
do, french horns, even clarinets, but violins are right out. 

So anyway, my great-grandfather also had immaculate nails. 
Apparently this was something of which he was very proud, to the point
that it was a story handed down in my family, one of those things
people would say when looking at a picture of him:  “You know, he
had the prettiest fingernails, for a man.”  We are weird people,
in the mountains.  We notice weird things.  I particularly
like this about him now because I also tend to keep my nails slightly
longer than most men.  Oddly, it’s cashiers that frequently
comment on this.  I used to grow them long and file them sharp,
but my Mac’s keyboard has a different texture from the various crappy
PC keyboards I’ve used and I have to keep them shorter than normal in
order to type with it, so those days are at least temporarily
over.  For now, they are only slightly longer than most men keep
their fingernails rather than being kept claw-length.

My cousin Chris got the violin, eventually.  Chris can actually play the
violin – my mother’s children all went for wind instruments and her
sister’s children all excelled at stringed – and thus it was decided
that he would most appreciate it.  He keeps it in his house,
stored, taking it out every now and then to make sure it’s still in
good shape.  There are pictures in my parents’ house of my
great-grandfather posed for family portraits and in each of them he has
the violin in his hands.  He played constantly.  I literally
have seen no pictures of him without it earlier than around his 100th
birthday.  I have tremendously romantic and probably wildly
inaccurate images in my head of him wandering the woods behind where I
grew up, the land where his house had been, playing his violin in the
middle of the forest.  It’s yet another one of those odd touches
of enlightenment in my family history, an unexpectedly civilized tassle
on an otherwise rough-hewn garment of a town. 

When my grandmother gave my cousin the violin, many years ago, she
opened the case for us to look at it and there were nail marks – little
quarter-moon impressions – worn into regular patterns on the neck of
the violin.  He played it so often and so long that he wore
impressions into the wood with his fingernails.  They were very
regular, and I remember at the time thinking that there was probably a
crackable code in those impressions, the sheet music to his favorite
song inscribed as heiroglyphs of rhythm and placement.

Today I was cleaning around my cube a little and I noticed something
about my work keyboard:  I’ve worn fingernail grooves into the
keys.  They are shiny, smooth and very regular little
quarter-moons worn into the A, S, D, E, C, F, R and N keys.  I
checked the Y key on the idly amused chance that I might be emailing
people at work with a Yes as often as I do a No and found the Y key
completely unblemished.  I guess I tell co-workers No more than I
tell them Yes, and I’m probably healthier for that.

Of course, this immediately raised a question in my mind:  who
will ever look at this keyboard and see my fingernail grooves and
wonder what I typed so often that I left these marks?  I’m never
going to give my nephews, or their children, my work keyboard. 

Maybe I need to take up the violin. (more…)

Yesterday was a long, busy day at work.  During it, I made two announcements:

1) Anyone who hires The Governator to be in a movie should be arrested.

2) A statue of Mark Felt needs to be put up in the middle of DC.  It should be a very large statue.

What occurred to me later is that the statue needs to be visible from
the Oval Office.  It should be a very, very large statue, and
underneath it should be an inscription that reads HERO in big, big
letters.

Sure, G. Gordon Liddy says Felt behaved “unethically,” but for fuck’s
sake, Liddy was one of the burglars.  Let’s not look to him for
definitions of ethical behavior.  If perhaps he or those who agree
with him wish to point out that Liddy’s deeds were so very, very long
ago and he’s had plenty of time to learn then, uh, here’s a Big Middle
Finger for them and a reminder that so were Felt’s. 

And yes, Felt went to prison later, briefly, for having conducted
illegal break-ins.  So Felt is not exactly a sparkling example of
a government employee who kept everything in check and went strictly by
the books.  So, there’s that.

At the bottom line, though, Felt single-handedly reminded the
government, the media – and the rest of us – that one person can make a
big, big difference.  One person who feels strongly can expose a
whole mess of wrong-doing.  What more do you want from one
guy?  Every president, of both parties, should be reminded every
single day they walk in their office that they’d better watch their
damn step because somewhere, always, someone is watching them. 
They should be very, very careful, indeed, and when a politician gets
his balls busted for breaking into the offices of the opposition to
plant listening devices, or forming a PAC that breaks the law on a daily basis, or getting us into a war over WMDs that didn’t exist* and knowing that reason is a lie when they tell it and knowing they had no plan to deal with the aftermath, or illegally selling arms to Iran in order to fund an illegal war in yet another country,
they should have a big, honking, marble motherfuckin’ reminder that
it’s their own goddamn fault they fucked up and they should have taken
two seconds and look around at their office and their staff and the
awards they’ve gotten from the Mom & Pop Consortium back home and
then ask themselves, “Is one bad idea really worth all of thisEverything? 
The whole enchillada?  Because if it isn’t, maybe I should just
say no on this one bad idea.  Maybe I could do something like obey
the law, or do my own political legwork, or something, anything,
instead of lose everything on this one bad idea.”

I don’t know.  Call me crazy, but it seems like that might be a good idea to enshrine.


* The site in question, IraqWatch, is a pre-war site of “articles” and
transcripts meant to build a case for the existence of Iraqi
WMDs.  However, it seems to have been entirely silent since, uh,
March 2003.  I wonder why? (more…)

What an all-around awesome weekend.  There was much, much grilling
done and to tremendous satisfaction.  I busted out a bag of
potatoes and made potato salad for the first time in a long time. 
After, there was gaming
and gaming was hella fun.  There’s nothing like the prime
satisfaction of having eaten a hamburger hot off the grill followed by
rolling a few d20’s.

Also got a tip from Katastrophes & Mr. Pink Eyes about a gaming store in Cary to check out.

Spent Sunday lazing around the house, never even making it further than the front yard.  Took some plant pictures and played some videogames.

Monday I spent the afternoon wandering around Southpoint Mall to
people-watch.  I hate Southpoint for an obscure reason, a grudge I
should probably drop but I’m from the mountains and we are stubborn
folk who hold our grudges close to our hearts.  However, I’m not
opposed to going there to price things, see what sales are on and
generally partake of the whole commercial enterprise right up to – but
not including – the point at which money changes hands.*  Let me
simply say that there were some tired-ass parents with some tired-ass
kids there by 3pm on Monday afternoon.  They did not appear to
find themselves refreshed by their surroundings.  Monday was also the night we tried out Kemp’s Seafood House on US 70.  Great seafood, and they know it.  Pricey compared to what can be gotten at, say, Dockside (formerly Dry Dock) down Chatham-wards.  Kemp’s failed to replace it as our favorite fried fish joint.

Tuesday was a big, busy day.  I completed submitting some work
I’ve done in the past to a variety of places.  Mr. Saturday and I
cut a deal last week, one in which I would submit some of my writing to
some publishers if he, in turn, would submit a song he composed &
recorded to the author of the book on which it was based.  A
couple of visits to the post office and some time in front of the
printer were all I really needed to get going with that whole
enterprise, and by yesterday evening I’d sent off five submissions
and/or query letters and have two more in the pipes.  It seems so
silly, in retrospect, but the truth is I was practically shaking like a
leaf at the post office.  I am not a great writer, or even
necessarily a good one, but I know I am better than some of the crap I
see on the shelves or listed in various publishers’ catalogues. 
That doesn’t mean I expect to be flooded with praise and offers of
money – quite the opposite – but it does mean it’s awfully silly to fret over
the simple act of submitting something.  The worst they can do is
write HA HA HA FUCKIN’ HA on a sheet of letterhead and send it back in the SASE
I included, after all, and even with that I’d be ahead of 99% of people
who sit there in the bookstore and think I could do better than at least a portion of this junk.  So hey.  A worthwhile endeavor, I told myself as I shipped things off.

On the upside, I found at least a couple of publishers I think are
really cool.  Even assuming I get nothing but withering rejection
from them, Emperor’s New Clothes Press
seem pretty damn cool.  Anybody who publishes a sci-fi novel about
time-traveling lesbian renegades
at least has a sense of humor.

All this thinking about writing and submissions and various things has me thinking about NaNo
again, too.  It’s a bit early, I concede, but I’d like it an awful
lot if The Scourge of Nibelheim would finally get Joe’s Dyson Sphere
world off the launch pad and at least set a few ground rules for that
setting because I kind of want to do my NaNo in that world this
year.  I suppose it would be more mature or some shit to try my
hand at serious adult drama of no speculative quality whatsoever, but
fuck that.  Dull, dull, dull.  The world has enough House of Sand and Fogs
to put me to sleep a million times over already, and I will simply
never be able to produce the sort of realistic but hypersurreal drama
of, say, Faulkner.  The liquor bills would slay me, anyway.  Life, Liberty And… is as close to that as I really ever want to get.


* I sometimes break this rule, but generally only for the outside
part.  Like, I’ve bought software from the Apple Store. 
Apple doesn’t know the mall management are assholes, after all. 
Or they don’t care.  Whatever.  Even a mountain boy like me
knows grudges get tiring eventually. (more…)

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