Sunday, October 31, 2004

Trick or... Trick?

I don't know why I even put myself through such abuse:

Camille Paglia's voting for John Kerry

That's like the Wicked Witch of the West offering to help Dorothy and Toto find a way back to Kansas.

I read the interview twice today and still can't believe that the only reason she even agreed to it was that she loves the sound of her own thoughts given form. Contrarian statements like these usually come from Chris Hitchens after two bottles of scotch. She lauded the GOP protestors use of "Yippie prank" of waving flip-flops outside the Fleet Center after Kerry accepted the nomination, then called Al Franken's use of humor to expose the lies of the GOP "moribund."

My favorite quote from the interview was when she explained conservative pundit Sean Hannity's talents as a radio personality:

"(J)ust listen to his commercial for Ruth's Chris Steak House. It's a classic of American advertising -- his mellow, succulent description makes you want to RUN to the nearest Ruth's Chris! It's like pop opera."

That more than balances the lies and distortions he broadcasts on a daily basis, apparently.

Paglia's thoughts are spoken in that haughty, academic tone commonly found among tenured professors at liberal arts colleges. You know the ones: they advertise in the New Yorker and the New York Times Sunday Magazine, offering a mail-order degree in fine art if you can draw a turtle wearing a brown derby.

Any kids with wi-fi capability should have homeowners read that interview if they have no treats. They'll probably wish for their homes to get egged.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Things You Didn't Know That Won't Enrich Your Life After Discovery

Last night I was talking with some people about classic horror movies. We were talking about Halloween costumes and I volunteered that I'm dressing as the Invisible Man this year. "How are you gonna pull that off?" someone asked.

"All you need are a pair of gloves for your hands, some gauze bandages to hide your face, and a pair of sunglasses," I explained.

"But you would be visible, wouldn't you?"

"The illusion would be that I'm invisible under all the wrapping and clothing."

A woman in my group interjected, "I still don't understand how you would be invisible."

"Did you ever see the movie?" I asked.

"I'm not a Kevin Bacon fan," she said.

"Not that one," I said, "the 1933 version with Claude Rains and directed by James Whale."


"Whale and the make-up artists simply wrapped Rains in bandages and clothing until not an inch of skin was visible. that way if he had to conduct business, like rent a room in an inn, he could be seen."

This was the segue into discussing those movies. Naturally "Dracula" came up. I asked if anyone had ever seen the Spanish version of the movie. I received a gaggle of blank stares which I used to tell this story:

Carl Laemmle realized that he had an event on his hands when production started on "Dracula" so he wanted to capitalize on it in every manner possible. The problem was that Tod Browning, who directed the English-speaking version, never felt comfortable with "talkies." He was a hell of a silent film director- his collaborations with Lon Chaney stand the test of time. But Browning went off script, scrapping whole chunks of dialouge throughout much of the production. So to cater to Spanish speaking audiences who clamored for horror movies but didn't want to sit through stilted translations or subtitles Laemmle ordered production of a separate movie for Spanish speaking audiences.

Universal cast a completely different cast, director, and production crew but used the same script, stage settings and costume design. The result was an movie that in many ways is the superior of its fondly-remembered English cousin. The Spanish version runs about a half-hour longer than the English version, thanks to the extra dialogue, and Lupita Tovar is stunning as Eva (the counterpart to helen Chandler's Mina). Carlos Villarias' hammy performance in the title role will not make anyone forget Bela Lugosi, but the direction is tighter.

There are other subtle differences between the two versions. The Spanish version gives the viewer more plunging necklines on the heroines and a more subtle allusion to the sexuality conveyed by vampirism, whereas the English version sticks more to the script and oftentimes comes across as a play being filmed. Both versions are found on the "Dracula: The Legacy Collection" DVD set, so I had lots of time to study the differences.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This provides much more incentive than "Vote or Die"...

Votergasm has three election-night parties listed for next Tuesday in Chicago. For the uninitiated, Votergasm is a web site that encourages voter registration and getting voters to the polls with the promise of hot election-night sex. Visitors to the site who register must take one of three pledges ranging from withholding sex from non-voters for a week to having sex with a voter on election night and withholding sex from non-voters for the next four years. The party at Transamoeba doesn't neccessarily promise sex, but it reads like it's shaping up to be either a nice multi-disciplinary arts experience or a bad open-mike poetry night. The invitation asks you to bring a casserole, a poem and your voting receipt (which lets you in for $5); otherwise you're being gouged for $50- and probably outed as a non-voter. For the Wicker Park Hipsters DJ Tankboy has turned his "Sweet Alice" Tuesday night residency at Ten 56 into a Votergasm party. Bring your voting receipt and receive a free Pabst Blue Ribbon. God, I miss Sweet Alice.

For those of you whose still waters run deep, the details for the party that promises to "get everyone laid" is available through e-mail request only. Oh, the organizer asks for a picture and basic information along with the request, as they want equal numbers of- attractive, I assume- men and women. This reads to me as counterproductive as it injects a healthy amount of partisan politics into the non-partisan Votergasm process. The homely vote and need loving, too, you know.

Then there's F the Vote, which jokingly urges visitors to its site to "trade sex for votes against Bush" so as not to be found in violation of FEC law. There's only one party listed and does this girl know how to throw a party. It starts at the Harold Washington Library and involves canvassing for the Democrats after dinner at the Wrigleyville IHOP. "Bring a sexy smile and KERRY-EDWARDS signs + buttons + shit", she writes.

I'm guessing that she's unaware of the Votergasm orgy being organized. Or was summarily rejected.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The Good Doctor Speaks...

Rolling Stone came out with their endorsement of John Kerry this week, but for my reading pleasure the real treat was a Hunter S. Thompson article offering his take on the Bush Administration.

The article was classic gonzo Journalism; Thompson at his absolute best. It generally takes a brazenly criminal Republican government to bring out his ire that way. Going so far as to say that he would vote for richard Nixon if offered up as an opponent to Bush-Cheney, the good Doctor's summation of the election next week was "not whether President Bush is acting more and more like the head of a fascist government but whether the American people want it that way." Knowing what we do about the across-the-board failure of the first Bush term, I'm surprised that the pollsters are even calling the election a tossup. It certainly does make one wonder whether the American people want some form of fascism in their lives.

Personally I was steadily losing faith in my fellow Americans- and the Kerry campaign- until his undeniable bitch-slapping of the President in the first debate. The Steve Earle concert at the Vic last week brought back the fight and gave me hope that this Bush is rebuked in the polls next week. The stakes truly are too high this time around to sit on the sidelines, to "vote your conscience" and choose third party next week. Progressives I talk to love to complain about the lack of a third party. I sincerely believe that if George Bush gets another term we're going to have a hard time finding a second political party.

One of the wonders of the Kerry campaign is that, quietly, he's made it okay to use the word "liberal" again without wincing. With the Bush team making it very hard for anyone who isn't a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical to support them and Bill Clinton proving that democrats can be fiscally conservative and still reach out to the poor, the minority, and the progressive in this country, we're gonna have a say in how the next four years turn out.

My commanding officer on the Uss Anzio years ago used to use this quote from the New York Times to begin his award ceremonies: "Somewhere beyond the cortex is a single thought whose mere whisper can silence an army of arguments. It stands alone in final judgement as to whether we have demanded enough of ourselves and- by that example- have inspired the best in those around us." It's a fitting quote for this political climate: liberals going out and quietly registering voters while fundamentalist Christian conservatives scream their throats raw saying that dissenting opinion of George Bush is unpatriotic.

We have a week to demand the best of ourselves and to inspire those around us. I pray that it's enough.

Things I Found When I Wasn't Taking Myself Seriously

The Metal Sludge website posted a "20 Questions" interview with none other than the legendary King Diamond today. With his stage make-up, gothic-themed concept albums, five octave range, and rumors of Satan worship, King was one of two rock singers who genuinely creeped me out (the late punk singer GG Allin was the other). I remember holing up in my friend Danny Arrecis' basement after graduating high school with a Mercyful Fate's "Melissa" and King Diamond's "Abigail" albums on vinyl, reading the lyrics and wondering what the hell he was smoking.

King still hasn't lost his ability to be creepy. In the interview he discusses how he communicates with his cats and shows an interest in writing a children's book. Hey, if Bill O'Reilly can write one, King Diamond should be allowed the opportunity.

"Like a memory in motion/ you were only passing through":

That's a beautiful couplet. As a reformed poet I always loved the imagery in Johnette Napolitano's lyrics. Concrete Blonde was such an underrated band. I wore out two copies of "Bloodletting" in school and bought "Mexican Moon" used at least as many times. Anyhoo I've been listening to "Bloodletting" on the way to work lately. More accurately I've set the song "Caroline" on constant repeat. I hold that song up as an example of lyrics truly making a song. Not that the music is bad- it's not- but the lyrics are just so vivid. As a writer that's what I notice foremost in a song.

If'n anyone reading this is interested you can check out more about Concrete Blonde at the official site.

I lettered in basketball and took home economics in high school:

To this day I can whip up a nice three-course meal, pair it with a unassuming wine and complete a no-look pass on a fast break. I still found this article at both hilarious and hitting close to home. My stepfather used to make us race him in fifty yard dashes during cookouts. "The day you outrun me is the day you become a man," he'd crow at me while I was more interested in turning the ribs over. The day I outran him was also the day I left home and didn't look back. He took a swing at me for no particular reason so in retaliation I tried to drop the family car on him while he was under the engine changing the oil. It was this white-trash version of the "take the pebble from my hand" scenario from Kung Fu.

We just laugh about it today.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Make Lemonade with Bridgeport Bartering!!!

While talking with my old roommate Saturday evening I was informed that her upstairs neighbor was moving out of the building and that, if I was interested in saving $200 a month in rent, I should call up the building owner to grab the apartment as soon as possible. My one concern was coming up with the first month's rent and deposit on such short notice as all my bills and my November rent on the current apartment are usually due around the end of the month

I thought it over all day Sunday and called him this morning. By noon we arranged payment terms and had a handshake agreement. I move out of my current apartment this weekend; needless to say the extra $200 I save is going to a truck. The move should be easier this time around- like last year it's only a few trips down the alley. With the addition of a truck I should cut that move down even further.

Although I like my current place I'm really looking foward to moving, and not just because the new place has a working fireplace! This apartment was the result of a greedy building owner slicing in half a classic second floor apartment in one of these graystones one only finds in Chicago.

Example: There's a door in my living room. One would think that it leads to the outside. But it doesn't. It leads to what is now the closet in the front apartment. If these two apartments were the one single apartment the original architects intended that would be the dining room. The front hallway of the front apartment is now houses a kitchen that can only be found in Manhattan railcar-style apartments. That kitchen leads to a bathroom that exits to the stairwell originally intended for the apartment. Color me a pessimist, but I would want two ways to enter and exit my apartment. It certainly would have come in handy two months ago when one of my neighbors downstairs (long since gone from the building) threatened to "put a bullet in my ass" before he moved out.

But that's all history now. I'm just glad I'm returning to a building I really didn't want to leave in the first place. I plan on spending the extra savings wisely- catching up on credit card bills, saving for a spring vacation, paint for the new place. Should be fun.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

I came home from work last night, drew a bath, brewed some tea, and sat down to an evening of channel surfing between the final debate and Game 1 of the NLCS. Once it looked like both Senator Kerry and the Cardinals had things under control, I went online to check e-mail and lo-and-behold read about the sexual harrassment lawsuit against Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly.

It's wonderful reading in a beach-book way. Apparently the tough-talking master of the no-spin zone likes vibrators, forcing unreciprocated phone sexon female staffers, and bragging about his sexual peccadilloes. It also shows that O'Reilly, like all bullies, has no sense of humor and carries a grudge like an elephant (read the passage where he rants about Al Franken.) O'Reilly tried a preemptive strike by filing a countersuit against his accuser, now former "O'Reilly Factor" associate producer Andrea Mackris, alleging that her lawsuit was nothing more than a sixty million dollar extortion demand on both his radio and television programs. O'Reilly is also demanding "tapes" of the sessions. He should be careful for what he wishes. I remember a sitting President once demanding a blue dress with a semen stain be produced. That President wound up being impeached.

I'm looking forward to watching O'Reilly squirm.

The Three Faces of George W. Bush

Last night's debate was effectively a draw, with Bush finally bringing up numbers to defend his allegations that John Kerry is "the most liberal member of the Yooo-nited States Senate." All Kerry had to do last night was maintain his composure while needling the President on his four-year record. He was able to do that and still look "presidential."

'Course, considering who our President has been the past four years, the bar's been set pretty low.

Bush spent the three debates trying to deflect criticism of his record by basically ignoring it, attacking Kerry as a liberal, and using catch phrases like "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time" and- last night's theme- "a plan is not a litany of complaints."

More unsettling were the three different personas Bush exhibited during the debate series. There was the stammering, indecisive leader insisting that what America needed was "firm leadership" throughout the first debate. Then there was the folksy, testy Texan who spent most of the town hall debate screaming at the audience ("YOU'LL GET YOUR CANADIAN PRESCRIPTION DRUGS, JUST AS SOON AS WE KNOW THEY'RE SAFE!! NOW FUCK OFF!!") and pandering to their deepest fears. Last night we got the classic "smirking chimp" Bush, who apparently found humor in every question posed to him. At one point he was smirking so much I wondered if the the satellite feed was acting up.

Despite the improvement of Bush during the debates, Kerry swept the series. He took the focus away from the Swift Boat Veterans and flip flopping allegations and eventually settled upon the wisest course of action- firmly and consistently attacking the four-year record of a President whose definition of "compassionate conservatism" means to be conservative with compassion. Bush, normally a master debater, refused to defend his record. This both exposed and highlighted one of his greatest weaknesses: his inability to admit to admit to mistakes in judgment. Some people I talked to thought that Kerry should have gone for the jugular during the debates. But that would've been out of character for Kerry and played into the Bush camp's charges of flip-flopping. In the end, Kerry chose a debate style that in its subtlety was as tenacious as an attacking pit bull, made this race a dead heat with three weeks to spare, and emerged as a statesman.

The time to go for the jugular is now at hand.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Seems Like Yesterday

Friday marked my one-year anniversary moving into this apartment. I was going to celebrate by skipping out on the rent, then my landlady called to tell me that she mistakenly sent my September rent check to the city with her property tax assessment.

The city didn't seem to mind the extra $750 because they cashed the check, so as a favor to my landlady I'm getting half my September rent back for paying her property tax. But I'm losing the narrative here. I've lived alone in this apartment for a full year. A year that feels only like a few months.

I wasn't certain I could do this when I moved in last October. The first week was a bit frustrating. My phone was hooked up to the wrong apartment. I had to take cold showers for a week while waiting for an appointment to hook up my gas meter. On the day of that appointment the guy who came in to install my gas meter wasn't going to light the pilot to my hot water heater because an overflow pipe was too small. I discovered that my modem was connecting me to the web at 115.2 Kbps, which meant that I didn't really need DSL. Somehow I found myself subscribed to both SBC Yahoo ISP and AOL simultaneously, when I haven't used AOL in years. I had to buy all new utensils and kitchen appliances. I had no television for two weeks, so I had to listen to the Cubs choke in the NLCS on the radio.

Eventually things began to settle down and I found myself acclimating to the apartment. Over the succeeding months I started putting up pictures, posters, and candle sconces. I had some friends over around the Christmas holidays. I still don't clean as often as I should, but the place is always clean for company.

The best compliment I received was when my old roommate came by with some other belongings about two weeks after I moved in. Our last month as roommates was tense. We had agreed earlier last summer that it was time for me to find my own place or else she and I were going to tear each others' heads off.

We were roomates for four years. If you're roommates with someone of the opposite sex for a long time eventually you morph into a married couple with separate beds. Friends begin to assume that in inviting an invitation for one means the two of you. Each becomes annoyed at the other's quirks and bad habits. The act of making yourself scarce so the other can have private time for personal relations becomes harder than to plan for the peace in Iraq.

My problem was making the move. We were both comfortable in that apartment with it's large west-facing bay window in the living room and spacious kitchen. But she had first claim to it, since the lease and all the utilities were in her name.

I wasn't even supposed to be her roommate. What had originally planned as a two week couch-surfing experience became a four-year living arrangement. We compromised on a lot and learned so much from each other. I don't think I could've moved out it if wasn't for her.

On the day she brought the rest of my leftovers to my new place I gave her a tour of the work in progress. We said nothing then just hugged, the tension of the previous three months melting away in a show of appreciation for the time we had, the place in our lives we were at at that moment, and the possibilities of the future.

If I close my eyes it really does seem like yesterday.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Quick Notes On The First Debate

With apologies to The Onion:

Bush: "Kill the bastards!!"

Kerry: "I can kill the bastards better!"