Friday, November 30, 2007

gimme a brake...

This morning's commute started out pretty much as always...idiots on the road, tailgating SUV elitist bastards, flicking off anyone who had either a W sticker or drove a Hummer, thick black coffee, singing along to The Jayhawks at the top of my lungs. I enjoyed the scenic views of the crappier sections of Toledo while dodging the utterly endless barrage of semis. I found my exit, signaled, pulled into the exit lane, applied brakes. least, I tried to apply brakes. The pedal had other ideas and sank to the floorboards. Suddenly, my life flacked before my eyes. I was assailed by a montage of scenes...a number of military bases...a selection of crappy cars...smelly bars...countless years spent making pizzas...bad horrible fashion can I have loved yet stupidly cave-like high school...all the horribly awkward social situations that took place in my cave-like high school...hangovers...students with the "deer in the headlights" look...

I knew that I'd eventually get to the good stuff (starting with the Spousal Unit, my friends, and Myle's Pizza), but I didn't really have time...because the brakes finally started working. I got to campus safely, but boy, let me tell you, I most certainly increased my following distance. I also thought long and hard about how my life needs better writers...or at least a good cleaning.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

on carnivores, magic, and trees

One of my favorite lines from comics is when John Wilder (a character from Warren Ellis's Planetary) talks about living for the rare moments when the world is different than advertised...more unusual, weirder, more mysterious, more magical.

The problem is that these moments don't come around very often. Usually, we get caught up in our routines. Lately, I am dealing with the end of a semester, and my thoughts turn to how the issues my students have never really seem to change; the paper topics are different, but that's about it. My job never really changes; since all I teach is freshman comp, there's little about my semesters that presents new challenges. I drive the same way to work each day, drink the same coffee, go to the same house in the same town I've lived in for the last nine years.

I hate negative change. It makes me think that the world, this existence, is a place of decline and repetition...and there's no magic in that.

So it makes me particularly happy when I get to see something unusual, something unexpected, something that reminds me that the world is still a place with great mysteries in store.

A while back, I read a news article about some carnivorous trees in India. Really. I've heard of carnivorous plants before, like the tres-cool Venus Flytrap, but these are on a whole other level. These have been seen trying to eat cows...yes, cows. Rumor has it that they have also grabbed humans.

Of course, I can't find a photo anywhere. But even though I can't see it, the very idea that these meat-eating trees exist excites me. There are new things out there to explore, to experience. Life throws a lot of stuff at us, and it's reassuring to find out that life can be stranger than any science fiction. It's cool that this kind of thing is out there, and it makes me want to broaden my experiences, find some more unusual stuff myself, personally experience more of the mysteries of life.

Doesn't the very idea of a man-eating tree just scream magic? Mystery? Wonder?

disturbing food trend

Americans think they have a special relationship to theme restaurants. After all, we are the culture which gives the world (or at least its tourists) such jems as Johnny Rockets (I wanna relive the fifties! Do I get race riots with that?) and Rainforest Cafe (I've always wondered if they regularly slash & burn their food). And people love these things. How many travelers will eat at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company place while on vacation instead of hitting some hip local joint? How many people dream of having Hard Rock Cafe shirts from every country?

Well, folks, America has officially been one-upped. In Taiwan, some crafty businessmen run a chain called (no lie) Modern Toilet. It is a theme restaurant that's centered guessed it...toilets. Toilet food bowls, toilet seats, toilet paper for napkins.

Personally, I'm relieved to find out that there are weirder people than us out there. However, the zenith of this concept would be if either Denny's or Taco Bell did a toilet theme. It would, seeing the quality of their respective food, be a natural fit. At any rate, it would at least speed up the process of eating their crap.

Every pun here was intended, by the way.

on cucumberophones...

I am weird. This should come as no surprise to those who know me, who take classes with me, who read this, or who have had any contact with me whatsoever. I am not, however, weird just for the sake of being weird. All of these moves, as Clouseau said, are carefully planned...I'm trying to evoke a specific reaction with my weirdness and am usually trying to make some kind of political statement (except for those things I just don't realize are weird).

But as a naturally/strategically weird person, I have a particular disdain for those who are just trying to be weird just to be weird. Why waste the opportunity to actually say something worthwhile, get people to reconsider some stereotypes, misconceptions, or innate assumptions?

It is with this in mind that I direct you towards the website of the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra. It is a group of musicians who (according to the website) "performs music solely on instruments made of vegetables. Using carrot flutes, pumpkin basses, leek violins, leek-zucchini-vibrators, cucumberophones and celery bongos."

This would be neat if it weren't for the fact that the music (at least according to the audio clips) is gawdawful. Why are they doing this? Are they just self-important blowhards? Overly arty people who should be force-fed playoff football and chicken wings?

One would think that they can't make a living doing this, but they have concerts scheduled in Hong people actually go see them (and presumably pay to do so).

Maybe I should start hating their audience more than I hate them.

the battling midgets

Just ran across this article about a hockey brawl. Not news, right? Well, it was a game of eight year olds!

Strangely enough, though, I don't really read this as an "Everything that's wrong with sports in our era" article. The main screwed up thing about contemporary sports is its valorization of the "Look at me! Look at me!" attitude (see Susan Faludi for more of this). No, this is more "what's wrong with society. However, at least it wasn't the parents yelling and brawling this time, so it might be progress.

If there were ever a need for a YouTube video, it would be for this.

robots in space

Over at Wired, they have a photo gallery of behind the scenes images from Futurama. The show is back this week, starting with a direct to dvd feature which will be edited down for Comedy Central episodes. Frankly, this is long overdue. You bring back Family Guy before this brilliant show?

Futurama is everything good television should be: equally stupid and smart, escapist and political, approachable and unusual. Moreover, it's great US tv sci-fi (something I've ranted about before). My favorite aspect? The complete and utter, active dislike...for authority and industry. Whenever tv shows go against corruption in society, that evil tends to be limited to government. Futurama would take on government (see the hilarious robotic Richard Nixon) but would equally skewer big business. Isn't Mom's Friendly Robot Company really just Wal-Mart in disguise?

If I wasn't so durn blame broke, I would be lining up for this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am increasingly arty

I came to the shocking realization that I am becoming an increasingly arty least in my movie viewing habits.

The last three films I've seen (King of Kong, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) have all been at the art cinema in town. I can't remember the last popular film I've seen.

Part of this isn't much of a surprise to me. After all, it's not like I go to see thousands of films (too busy and broke), so I'm naturally a little selective. However, I can't decide if I'm just stupidly anti-blockbuster (sorry, couldn't get excited over Saw 47) or turning into a film snob. I would like to just chalk it up to most mainstream movies sucking, but I'm not totally sure if I'm just doing that for my ego's sake.

My television viewing, however, still has dips of non-arty...although to be sure, I need to watch some more wrestling or something.

bumper wisdom

It's so hard to make a coherent, notable, or even entertaining statement in the space allotted in the average bumpersticker. Can anyone create something that is engaging and worthy of thought?

What does one say in the limited space of a car bumper? I've always hated the jingoistic (such as "Subvert the Dominant Paradigm" or "Take Back the Night") for their sheer unoriginality. Most bumper statements of nationalism simply scare me, and I mentally impose "love it or leave it" over any American flag sticker I see. Furthermore, I've never cared what charity you support or where your child is an honor student. Rednecky stickers can be briefly fun, but if you've seen one "Come Near Me And I'll Kill You," you've seen them all.

The ribbon manufacturers have been trying to get over the inherent limitations of space by going to symbolism (something I've written about here before), but they have more than run their course. Today, I passed a car with a dark blue ribbon, and I didn't even bother to tailgate to read it.

I'm not even going to get into the various things on which Calvin urinates.

Anyway, yesterday, I saw the only truly great bumpersticker I've seen in ages: "Jesus was my co-pilot...but we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him to survive." It's both funny and offensive in more ways I can count!

Any personal faves on y'all's end?

Friday, November 02, 2007

PTA trailer

For those cinema buffs among my readers, here's the trailer to the new Paul Thomas Anderson film. It's been too long.