Sunday, December 20, 2009

Those are still the days

I gave up, wiped the hard drive and installed Windows XP. Now Office 97 will run like a champ. Microsoft plans to stop supporting Windows XP on April 8, 2014. See you in '14, Bill Gates!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Those were the days

I have a new computer. The operating system it runs is Windows 7 Home Premium. So far, so good, except that I'm an old Windows XP hand, and I've long used certain applications that don't seem to work so well in 7. For example: Office 97. Yes, my copy of the productivity suite is several versions out of date, these days, but I like it well enough and haven't had a good reason to upgrade. Until now.

Much has changed since '97, I suppose. On the other hand, much has not.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Sunday, December 06, 2009

Good word

"Happiness is a warmed-over event, happiness is half a million friends in a sandbox with no fighting, happiness is 'Woodstock,' and 'Woodstock' isn't peanuts, for the movie is going to make a mint because of the balm it hands out at a bad time. I must say that I found seeing it a bit like going to a Busby Berkeley film in the Depression and then whistling the tunes while sheltering from a hail of falling suicides."

-- Penelope Gilliat, The New Yorker, April 11, 1970

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Good word

"Whereas most cartoonists, lacking the economic resources of a Nero, a William Randolph Hearst, or a sir George Reresby Sitwell, are unable to amplify their fantasies into anything so ambitious as a Golden House, a San Simeon, or a Renishaw, I reflected that Disney (whose brother and chief business associate, Roy, has a sound understanding of banking principles) has since 1928 managed to arm his assault on the impersonal universe with ever more expensively contrived choreography, color, stereo, and wide-screen gimmickry -- these efforts reaching their climax, I now perceived, in Disneyland, where, in this most elaborate of the Master's animated productions, his live public has been fitted into the cartoon frame to play an aesthetic as well as an economic role."

-- Kevin Wallace, The New Yorker, Sept. 7, 1963

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pray TV

Frances Fitzgerald's 1990 New Yorker article on Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker is a fascinating look at an ugly time. Fitzgerald is pointed in describing the follies of the 1980s televangelists in general and in particular those of the Bakkers, whose theology was thin but whose television appeal was limitless. They convinced viewers to send in money for their ministries, then skimmed off healthy portions of the take for their crazily lavish lifestyle. There's also lots of interesting backstory about the mainstreaming of Pentacostalism, and the Bakkers' not altogether comfortable place in that tradition.

Fitzgerald's tour of the Bakkers' South Carolina theme park, Heritage USA, is hilarious and devastating ("In Billy Graham's reconstructed family house, there was no sign of Billy Graham"). Even better is a passage describing how the Bakkers were so very much a product of their time:
They personified the most characteristic excesses of the 1980s -- the greed, the love of glitz, and the shamelessness -- which in their case was so pure as to almost amount to a kind of innocence. To this list could be added narcissism, the characteristic disease of the age. The Bakkers, like many people on Wall Street and in Washington, celebrated freedom from the punishing old laws and preached faith in miracles.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Fair abuse

I'm a bit of a World's Fair buff, partly because for many years I lived near the old fairgrounds of one of the most famous expos, Chicago's Columbian Exposition, which in 1893 blew minds with electricity and dancing girls. But I also was enchanted by the 1982 World's Fair, which took place in my natal city of Knoxville, Tenn. The terra cotta warriors! The giant Rubik's Cube! The jet pack guy! I was 11 that summer.

So I was intrigued to find, in the Complete New Yorker DVDs, a review of the Knoxville fair by E.J. Kahn. Kahn was, in that fussy New Yorker way, unimpressed:
Dinah Shore, a native Tennessean, who served as mistress of ceremonies at the grand opening, drawled, "What you're goin' to see here is goin' to knock the socks off your feet." Well, not quite. This fair is not apt even to loosen your shoelaces.
As near as I can tell, though, Kahn's chief quibble with the Knoxville fair was that it wasn't Expo 67, but what was?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fab lore

As an early Christmas gift I received the Beatles' Anthology collections, the three double-CD sets that collect odds and sods from various phases of the Fab Four's recording career. The discs' mid-1990s release coincided with the Anthology video series. A lifelong Beatle nut, I'm a little late to this party, I realize, but oh well.

I like the discs very much, especially the track "Real Love." That's the second of two new Beatles songs based on 1970s John Lennon demos and finished in the 1990s, for the Anthology project, by the others. I'd already heard the other new track, "Free As a Bird," but never "Real Love," somehow. I like it much more than "Free as a Bird" -- an expansive, downright spiritual take on L-O-V-E seems a great way to cap the Beatles' recorded output, since it was a theme they touched on a lot, from "She Loves You" through "All You Need Is Love" and beyond. As Ereck can patiently testify, this weekend I listened to "Real Love," or watched the video on YouTube, a dozen times if I listened once.

I'm fascinated by Anthology's outtakes and demos of familiar tunes. I love hearing songs like "Yesterday" and "Mean Mr. Mustard" in their embryonic state. But hearing the demos mostly makes me want to hear the real thing, so I've also played a lot of regular Beatles recordings this weekend. Whenever I do that -- and I'm finally getting to the point of this post -- I consult Alan Pollack's indispensable "Notes On..." series. Pollack has turned a musicologist's ear to the entirety of the Beatles' recorded output, and although I can't say I understand every technical detail of what he's done, his commentaries are endlessly interesting and funny, and because of them I continue to hear new details I've missed. (There are barely audible finger snaps in "Here, There, and Everywhere"???? Omfg.)

I'll share two examples from my listening and reading today. The first is from Pollack's analysis of "Honey Pie," the nostalgic pastiche on the "White Album." (I found my way to Pollack's writing on "Honey Pie" in the course of exploring his various takes on the Beatles' "sentimental" use of minor iv chords in major keys, if you must know.) I'm delighted with Pollack's turn of phrase in describing "Honey Pie"'s clarinets, which "get their big moment in the spotlight during the second bridge where they produce water sprays in parallel thirds." Cue this YouTube clip to 1:56, and you'll hear exactly what he means; durned if those aren't clarinet water sprays. (For good measure, the clarinets make a similar but abbreviated water spray a few seconds later, at 2:04.)

My second Pollack reading today comes from his take on "Within You Without You," George Harrison's Indian-music-derived tune from "Sgt. Pepper." I giggled (appropriately) when I read his speculation on the meaning of the eerie laughter that ends the track:
So what about the laughing at the end? I'm aware of at least two schools of thought on the matter:

* The xenophobic audience (remember there's an underlying element in the "Sgt. Pepper Concept" that at least indirectly connotes a Victorian/Edwardian-era outlook of supercilious Imperialism) is letting off a little tension of this perceived confrontation with pagan elements.

* The bedazzled composer, in an endearingly sincere nanosecond of acknowledgment of the apparent existential absurdity of the son-of-a-Liverpudlian bus driver espousing such other-wordly beliefs and sentiments, is letting off a bit of his own self-deprecating steam in reaction to the level of true courage expended by him in order to come out of the uneasily-anti-materialistic closet.

But, don't you think it's a combination of the two?
I heartily recommend Pollack's voluminous writings, which teach me a lot about the Beatles, and also a lot about music. They're both worthy subjects.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Way up high

Some years back I was enthralled by Henry S.F. Cooper's book A House in Space, published in 1976, about life for three successive crews aboard the early-1970s U.S. space station Skylab. Only later did I realize the book first appeared as two installments in Cooper's long, wonderful series of articles about space in The New Yorker, and only later still -- last week, actually -- did I look up the articles in the Complete New Yorker DVD set and revisit this marvelous work of science journalism, the finest piece of writing on space exploration I've read.

I'm fascinated by those cranky astronauts, their impatience with the color of the clothes NASA designed for them, their delight at floating about in the roomy interior of the station, and especially their awe at the planet Earth as they gazed at it through the observation window.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Beep beep

Ereck and I differ on how best to enter the parking lot at Metcalfe's Sentry. Now that we've lived in the neighborhood a while, and visited the supermarket many times, I've concluded that it's almost always best to enter from the rear entrance at Segoe. Less congestion. But Ereck is loyal to the Midvale entrance. We may never agree. And that's okay.

Spotted in the prepared foods last night at Metcalfe's Sentry: Cranberry fluff.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scarce resource

A couple of weeks ago, the hot water ran out.

From our taps came only warm water, and not enough of it. The water heater was on the fritz. It wasn't an utter crisis, because we did have warm water enough to bathe and shave and so forth. But we had to manage our water, and I kept thinking of that "Seinfeld" episode in which everyone is unhappy because the landlord installed low-flow showerheads. Vigorous hot showers are one of civilization's triumphs. For a sad two weeks, we might as well have been washing in a creek.

But as of yesterday, thanks to a landlordly intervention, we have a new water heater, complete with oceans of scalding water. Now excuse me while I take a four-hour shower.

Friday, November 20, 2009

This thing on

At last night's Band to Band Combat, the music contest put on by my employer Isthmus newspaper, singer Matt Allen of the Madison band the Selfish Gene tested his microphone levels with an old standby: "Check. Check. Check. Check." He may have thrown in a "one two," but I can't be sure.

In my singing career I've tested many a microphone level, and I suspect I'm not the only crooner who's gotten a little tired of check check check. I've experimented with different approaches. There was a period of about a year and a half in the early 2000s when to test levels I would sing entire verses of "Crazy Arms."

But do you know what? Eventually I came back to check check. It's simple, to the point, effective, and the alternatives I've tried are mostly distracting. Testing microphone levels is one area of artistry where originality doesn't do anybody much good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sign of the times

At a downtown Madison office building just now, I watched as a woman held a cup of coffee with one hand, texted on a cell phone with the other, and used both elbows to push her way through a revolving door.

Her progress was slow.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The haunted desert

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The magic of cakes

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shocking music

The other night I listened to Haydn's "Symphony No. 94," the "Surprise" symphony, and I remembered music appreciation in elementary school. In about fifth grade we were taken to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for a daytime concert by the Nashville Symphony, and the program included the "Surprise" symphony, or maybe just the "Surprise" movement from the "Surprise" symphony. Before the performance a kindly speaker warned us that the music contained a surprise. We were primed for it, then, so that when the surprise arrived, we jumped exaggeratedly in our seats, and giggled. But I think that we really actually were pretty surprised.
License to ill

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The window to your future

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just say no, just beat it, tear down this wall

Friday, November 13, 2009

We get letters

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Words to live by

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Feathered friends

I was sad to learn one of my stepmother's parrots died. And surprised -- these animals have human-like lifespans, and this one was only in his 20s.

Living with tropical birds has its ups and downs. I know. My stepmother has kept two, three, four of them since I was a kid. They are very pretty, and their mimicry is striking. But they also can be plain noisy, and I'm a guy who likes his quiet. They also can be temperamental and suspicious. I always wanted at least one of the birds to like me and sit on my shoulder, but they mostly cowered from me and, if I got closer, bit.

The mimicry of parrots can be so funny, though -- funny because pointed mimicry is always funny and uncanny. We laugh at Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin partly because the jokes are good, but especially because the imitation is so keenly observed. So when a bird talks and sings and whistles like a person -- or like a garbled, Auto-Tune imitation of a person -- we can't help but laugh with delight. It's really remarkable, miraculous. I was always struck by the fact that when we had a guest in the house and that person spoke, the birds would get very quiet. They were listening and learning. The birds are always listening.

Indeed, tropical birds will surprise you with their listening. You can teach them phrases, of course, through sheer repetition. But the birds also pick up tics and habits, things you say all the time that you don't even know you're saying, household sounds so familiar you've ceased to consciously hear them.

Tropical birds are like fun house mirrors in that regard. One of the birds picked up my dad's habit of regularly clearing his throat. Another mimicked the low, vaguely wary way Dad answers the phone. All the birds repeated our names over and over, because people in families say each others' names all the time. I think all the birds could whistle the "Andy Griffith Show" theme song because, well, ours was a Griffith-loving family. We watched that show all the time.

What most unnerves me is to visit home now and hear one of my stepmother's birds making a sound from the house we moved out of 20 years ago. We had a phone that rang with a distinctive electronic warble. A bird still mimics it. We had a sliding glass door that probably needed oiling and made an odd little chirp when opened. A bird still mimics it.

I remember that house. So do the birds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh by golly

Got my first sustained exposure to Christmas music this year thanks to the radio at Pizza di Roma. The selection: Burl Ives, "Holly Jolly Christmas."

I recognized the song immediately from the 12-string-guitar riffing. A fine tune and a good solid start to the Season of Being Overwhelmed. Ives' Red Scare-era entanglement with HUAC was -- well, it was what it was. Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Two tribes

The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago today. I was a college freshman. I didn't contemplate foreign affairs much in those days. What I mostly knew about was Cold War paranoia as filtered through 1980s pop culture -- the TV movie The Day After and songs like Sting's "The Russians" and Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Two Tribes," whose video memorably featured Western and Eastern bloc leaders slugging it out in a ring.

So I knew what happened Nov. 9, 1989 was important, but from my teenage perspective it just seemed another in a series of disruptive events that year, including the protests and massacres in Beijing and, well, me finishing high school and starting college. Would you believe the wall's demise even made me think of that October's earthquake-disrupted World Series? Weird stuff happening this fall, I remember thinking. The earliest incidents of the post-Cold War era played out as I made my way through college, and perhaps it was my expanded perspective, college-induced, that made me better grasp the importance of subsequent events like the reunification of Germany, the Croatian and Bosnian wars, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the importance of the 1989 event was brought home to me a bit in French class the next morning. My teacher was from Romania, and I suspect she experienced the Cold War in ways even more intense than MTV. She tried to get us students talking about the Berlin happenings in French. "C'est très excitant, non?" she asked. But our French was limited, and we didn't have much to add.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

He's a ranter

Bill Maher on "Loveline" with Adam Carolla and Drew Pinsky, March 26, 2001, is fabulous. Questions from callers about drugs, sexual harassment and bullying (Columbine was a recent memory then) are occasions for Maher to go off on one tirade after another. Here as always I enjoy Maher's tirades, and they're more entertaining than the mopey callers.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Brief encounter

Today I ran on the bike path. By the path a man pushed a mower. He stopped when I passed so I wouldn't be hit by debris. It was a friendly gesture, but he didn't look me in the eye. He was wearing a Q106 T-shirt. That's the country music station. He didn't look like a country fan, but who does?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Good word

"I must bring to my work, and it must give to me, the legitimate sense of well-being that I enjoy when the weather is good and I have had plenty of sleep."

-- John Cheever

Friday, October 02, 2009

Good word

"Adults are people who, by and large, read as a means of getting off to sleep."

-- Daniel Pinkwater

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The great obfuscator

I'm fascinated by Watergate. Over the last few years I've read probably 20 or so books about the scandal -- from histories to memoirs of participants (Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Dean) to Art Buchwald's column collection "I Am Not a Crook".

And would you believe I still don't understand Watergate? I'm reading RN, Richard Nixon's 1978 memoir, and my mind still clouds over when I read sentences like this:
Haldeman asked Colson about Dean's disclosure that it had been Colson's call to Magruder urging action on Hunt's and Liddy's intelligence-gathering plans that may have precipated the Watergate break-in.
I know who all those people are, and I understand what was at stake, but I still have difficulty keeping track of who did what when and what it all means. Is that because Watergate was, in its essence, complex and murky, or is that because the president and his men did a good job of making it complex and murky?

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Yesterday's news

We continue to unpack from our move, and as a result we are tossing a lot of crumpled-up newspaper into the recycling bin. Gazing last night at the full-to-overflowing bin, I flashed back to third grade and our teacher Mrs. Bridgeman's brief seminar on how to throw away paper. Never crumple up paper when you throw it away, she said, because it takes up more room in the wastepaper basket. She demonstrated with crumpled and uncrumpled paper. If only I'd listened.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Makeup test

I love so many things about our new house, but there have been frustrations. One was that the bookshelf that held all my LPs is too tall for the ceilings. Last week I bought a replacement, but I found it doesn't hold all the records. It was time to do something I should have done a long time ago, donate records I don't want to the thrift store.

I went through the collection -- I have 1,000 or so -- and chose ones to get rid of. They include many oddities I won't miss, things I'm not exactly sure how I came to have, 101 Strings Play Beautiful Hawaiian Melodies, that sort of thing.

But I'm also getting rid of duplicates, and some of them brought me back 30 years. That's when the rockers Kiss were at a commercial peak. I loved them very much. (My mom took me to a Kiss concert in 1979, when I was 8.) My brother loved them too, and in the name of domestic harmony, my parents let us each buy our own Kiss albums, so that if one of us wanted to hear, say, the Rock and Roll Over track "I Want You," the other "Calling Dr. Love," we wouldn't have to fight over the vinyl.

All these years later, I find myself with both sets. I probably don't need any Kiss records, much less duplicates. Still, I dithered over relinquishing these totems of my childhood. But in these troubled times, the mood is right for downsizing. So adieu, duplicate Alive II. Adieu, duplicate Love Gun.

Actually, for some reason I seem to have three Love Guns. Maybe one was the neighbor kid's.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good word

"While the polls were closing in the East and Midwest, I treated myself to a long hot soak in the huge bathtub."

-- Richard Nixon, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good word

"Protestant Zion would need to be perfect both for sniping at abortion doctors in North Carolina and for marrying lesbians in Vermont."

-- P.J. O'Rourke

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I saw a car accident this morning. I was waiting to turn left onto Midvale Boulevard from eastbound Mineral Point Road. The light turned yellow, and a little Plymouth in front of me started to turn left. A Ford Ranger heading west on Mineral Point ran the light and smacked the Plymouth's corner. The Plymouth spun about 90 degrees. Both cars stopped, and the guy in the truck ran over to the Plymouth. No one looked hurt.

It was sickening to watch. And to hear. The sound of cars smashing into each other makes me queasy. I am more and more nervous about the danger of cars these days, mostly I think because I have a much longer bike commute from my new house and am all the more aware of how vulnerable we all are out there.

I was on my way to an early morning screening at Sundance for my movie reviewing gig. I guess I had movies on the brain, then, because all I could think of were the flaming wrecks of cars in Godard's Week-end. They're devastating symbols of modernity. So was the crash I watched this morning.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Deep roots

This is the gravestone of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather John Brickey, who came from Virginia to settle in what is now Townsend, Tenn., just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He was born -- it staggers me to contemplate this -- 269 years ago. He is buried in Townsend's Myers Cemetery, near where tourists rent bright yellow and green inner tubes and float lazily down the Little River.

John's son Peter Brickey, my great-great-great-great-great uncle, bought the land that today includes my family's farm, where Ereck and I just spent two weeks' vacation. On the farm I gazed at giant boulders I climbed on when I was a kid; got water in the old spring house (unlike in olden days, this involves plugging in a pump); and dodged mud daubers in the attic of Uncle Peter's original cabin, a picture of which is on the Wikipedia entry for Wears Valley, Tenn.

Sometimes when I'm at the farm the hair stands up on my neck as I contemplate how rich my family heritage is there. Then I check to see what's on the Game Show Network.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Good word

"Ringo is our representative on the Beatles."

-- Robert Christgau

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Old thinking

"I always thought Specter would consider switching to become an independent to get re-elected, and it's too bad that Michael Steele pushed him into the Democrat Party."

-- Republican strategist Scott Reed

That prominent Republicans like Scott Reed continue to say "Democrat party" says a lot about why prominent Republicans like Arlen Specter flee to the Democrat party.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Good word

"Our system, left to its own devices, is not designed to let illegal acts be revealed and then ignored."

-- Eugene Robinson

Friday, April 17, 2009

Good word

"I came to love silence, because it's so rare, and it's now my favorite aural condition."

-- Mike Nichols

Monday, March 30, 2009

Good word

"I've always been put off by [Hank] Snow's up-north propriety, more Vernon Dalhart than Jimmie Rodgers."

-- Robert Christgau

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Good word

"He chose metal over Vegas because Vegas wouldn't have him."

-- Robert Christgau on David Lee Roth

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All rise

Watching ABC's "World News" yesterday I was pleased to spot an old-school news convention that I figured had been long abandoned: the courtroom sketch. Yes, there it was, a lovely pastel drawing of Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff surrounded by lawyers whose mouths hang open like Roger Daltry's in certain scenes from Tommy. There is an ethereal glow. I never knew courtroom walls were painted fuschia!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Drug war

I have no problem with people bashing Rush Limbaugh, or any prominent blowhard of whatever political persuasion. But I'm disturbed by one tactic in the current anti-Limbaugh snarkfest: Attacking him for his addiction to pain medication. "Drug-addled," sniffs Demo politico Paul Begala. "A self-described prescription-drug addict who sees America from a private jet," tut-tuts New York Times opiner Timothy Egan. The jabs refer to the episode that began in 2003, when Limbaugh admitted an addiction to painkillers and went to treatment.

First of all, Begala's claim doesn't make sense. Limbaugh apparently was successfully treated for his addiction, so barring evidence of a relapse, he's not drug-addled. Indeed, the fact that he lives in sober clarity ought to be disquieting enough. His ravings would be less disturbing, not more, if they were simply the product of a drug-addled mind.

More importantly, no one volunteers to be an addict, and it's not fair to attack Limbaugh for his addiction. In fact, it sets a disturbing precedent, because Limbaugh did what you're supposed to do. He admitted he had a problem and got help, and he did so before his addiction got someone killed. But now his addiction -- and recovery, because we very likely wouldn't know about his addiction unless he had sought treatment -- is just so much political ammunition.

The message to struggling addicts is chilling: If you admit your problem and seek help, you'll regret it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Good word

"I'm fond of quoting Peter Cook, who talked about the satirical Berlin cabarets of the '30s, which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War."

-- Tom Lehrer

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Magic kingdom

What if there were a giant, expensively mounted theme park devoted not to, for example, the Disney universe but rather the Doonesbury universe? Instead of friendly and jubilant, the oversized characters walking around would be wryly detached, and/or stoned.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Might win an Oscar

Last night Ereck and I watched the wondrous 1949 film The Third Man, and I was pleased by Anton Karas' indelible zither score. During the film I had a thought, and afterward I pulled out an old Beatles bootleg I bought in high school, something I hadn't listened to in years. Sure enough, there it was: "The Third Man Theme" as rendered by the Fab Four. It's a brief, very loose performance, presumably from the ragged Let It Be sessions.

But the fact that the Beatles had "The Third Man Theme" in their repertoire speaks to the fascinating range of their listening. They played music informed by so many genres besides their trademark rock 'n' roll: country, Broadway, Indian, musique concrète, circus, Baroque -- and, in this instance, iconic movie music. Great stuff.

The Beatles - The Third Man Theme

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Magic just off the I-5

Yesterday I visited Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif. I kept readers up to date on my doings in a series of text messages, which I'm reproducing here.

1/21/09 11:12 AM
Greetings from Disneyland. About to ride Autopia. This is where you can drive a car to the theme park so you can drive a smaller car inside the theme park.

1/21/09 11:31 AM
About to board the monorail. Did you know I love monorails? xxoxo

1/21/09 11:37 AM
The monorail conductor sounds a little like Jeff Spicoli. xoxo

1/21/09 12:01 PM
The problem is getting stuck next to a particularly unpleasant family in a particularly long line. xoxox

1/21/09 12:08 PM
Do I recall correctly that Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler operated the Enchanted Tiki Room? [Ed. note -- it was the Jungle Cruise.]

1/21/09 1:05 PM
Lines are getting longer; tensions are rising. The girl operating the Pinocchio ride just snapped at the woman in front of me. xo

1/21/09 1:12 PM
All safety announcements are in character and bilingual.

1/21/09 1:28 PM
Sleeping Beauty is saved by eros. xoxo

1/21/09 1:54 PM
Disneyland subtly or not so subtly reinforces the nuclear family. The Show White ride operator was weirded out by me riding alone in a car meant for 4 to 6. xo

1/21/09 2:08 PM
The irony is that Snow White is a story about people not in conventional families -- single women, a group of men who live together. xoxo

1/21/09 2:50 PM
Pirates of the Caribbean ride features wench auction.

1/21/09 3:02 PM
Every ride exits into gift shop. xoxo

1/21/09 3:39 PM
Either I'm on acid or I'm in the enchanted tiki room.

1/21/09 3:45 PM
Music in line at jungle cruise: "Moonglow."

1/21/09 4:29 PM
The American vernacular songbook is alive and well at Disneyland. I feel like I've heard five different versions of "Home on the Range."

1/21/09 4:31 PM
Now I'm just waiting for the live barbershop performance to start.

1/21/09 4:47 PM
It was the greatest thing ever, a barbershop flag ceremony. America!

1/21/09 5:40 PM

1/21/09 5:41 pm
Surrey with the Fringe on Top

Friday, January 16, 2009


A joke, right? No?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good word

"Montalban, who was born in Mexico in 1920, is one of those potentially major actors who never got the roles that might have made them movie stars. He appeared to have everything else -- a marvelous camera face, the physique of a trained dancer, talent, a fine voice (he could even sing), warmth, and great charm. Maybe the charm was a drawback -- it may have made him seem too likable, a lightweight (though it didn't stop Charles Boyer). In Montalban's first English-language picture, M-G-M's Fiesta, in 1947, which featured Esther Williams as a matador, he danced with Cyd Charisse. M-G-M next had him dancing with Charisse and Ann Miller in a Kathryn Grayson-Frank Sinatra film called The Kissing Bandit; it was said that the dancing was added after the executives saw the movie -- they wanted to give the customers something. He kept working -- in pictures such as On an Island with You, with Charisse and Esther Williams, and Neptune's Daughter, and Sombrero, starring Vittorio Gassman, and the low-budget My Man and I, in which he played a sexy handyman and displayed his pectorals, and Latin Lovers, in which he carted Lana Turner around in a tango. He had secondary parts in Sayonara and Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man, and in Cheyenne Autumn, and he brought conviction to every role that anyone could bring conviction to, but, after almost twenty years in Hollywood, there he was in 1966 in The Singing Nun, with Debbie Reynolds, and, with Lana again, in Madame X. He seems to have lived a (lucrative) horror story, especially when you think of the TV commercials and his ever-ready smile on 'Fantasy Island.' It may be that Khan in 'Space Seed' was the best big role he had ever got, and that the continuation of the role in The Wrath of Khan is the only validation he has ever had of his power to command the big screen."

-- Pauline Kael

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good word

"She hated war and liked soldiers -- it was one of her amiable inconsistencies."

E.M. Forster, Howards End

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Good word

"Some kind of equality has been achieved when it is impossible to distinguish heterosexual clichés from homosexual ones."

-- Dave Kehr