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Washtenaw Flaneurade
30 October 2005
My Hands Smell Great
Now Playing: Sleater-Kinney--"Dance Party '97"
It might be an effect of encroaching age, but every morning after I go out dancing I wonder just a little how I ever survived the night.

This weekend's been a combination of the weird and the ecstatic, which is actually a pretty good mix, now that I think about it. Friday and Saturday, I popped into work on a request from my boss to catch up on some of the baking we needed to do for the next week, mainly cookies. We were out of one or another vital ingredient each time, so I got nowhere near as much work done as I wanted. Working alone is a blast, especially if I've got my CDs on the stereo and am able to jack up the fucker without any hassle. I got through two Saturday Looks Good To Me albums before I realized that we had no eggs. The next day, I got through one by the Super Furry Animals before I realized I (a) hadn't got enough eggs to finish all the doughs, and (b) didn't have the feta cheese for the quiche florentine. It was still fun, and I hope I get further opportunities to bake alone.

I finally saw The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) yesterday evening while resting up. I've decided to stop going into WRAP on Saturday afternoons, as I want my weekends back. I've become convinced that my occasional surliness at work might be due to not having a couple of days completely free. I'll start going in on Monday and Tuesday evenings to maintain the library. Of course, the first weekend this happens, I would end up going into work, but I could use the money, and it was fun. Bride was fantastic. I love Halloween, but I never seem to have much time or energy for dressing up, and I rented Bride and Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) without much awareness of their being "theme" rentals. Bride? First-class, top-drawer all the way. Above all else, the movie highlights Elsa Lanchester's unconventional beauty, both as Mary Shelley and the title character, and offers a glorious performance by that squint in human form, Ernest Thesiger as the corrupt and prune-like Dr. Pretorius. "Oh, he's harmless... until crossed!!!"

Saturday night, I decided at long last to visit The Bang!, the dance party that hits the Blind Pig on a semi-monthly basis, mostly 60s-80s stuff with a heavy emphasis on garage and hard rock. I hadn't known anyone who went regularly before, and it's one thing to go check out a band on one's own, but a dance party? That's another matter. As it turned out, I don't think I should have worried, but a lesson learned late is better than a lesson unlearned until a later... yeah. I had planned on dressing up as Charles Nelson Reilly, but then decided maybe George Bernard Shaw, as all I would need for that would be a cap, a false beard, and a pair of glasses I could probably grab from Kiwanis. Upon finding nothing at Kiwanis that morning (I probably wasn't looking very hard), I just decided to dress in my general early-20th-century finery, jacket, tie, and slacks.

All of the last mentioned items had either come off or were largely drenched in sweat by the evening's end. I think I broke my ass twice, but it was worth it. There were some great costumes--A gaggle of Jesuses and or Apostles, corpses, devils, cats, the Lego guy, Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5 (inevitable, I suppose, at the Blind Pig), all manner of critters packed the joint. I'm proud to say that some of my people had some of the most creative costumes--Dustin came as "the ghost of grunge," Brandon came as a member of Johnny Headband, and Chuck finally put me at enough ease to remark on his unavoidable resemblance to Billy Joe Anderson of Green Day. I think Katie and Aaron were a cat and a ninja, respectively. I re-met Becca (something to do with a zebra-patterned cowboy hat), of a couple of previous Madison shows, Alex (Travolta in Saturday Night Fever), likewise, and Sarah Gardiner (a "space explorer"--you could tell because she wore a silvery hat that said "Space Explorer"), who had hosted, with her sister Mary (who knew Jessica from Planned Parenthood, which is how I found out about it, etc.), the last New Year's Eve party to which I'd gone. And then there was Betsy from Black Elk, who I'd met but then whose name I'd forgotten, despite seeing her several other places, and her friend Daliah. The music was surprisingly varied--among the usual dance party suspects we also had stuff from the Jam and Le Tigre (the last was an almost total shock). We all migrated between the Blind Pig and the Eight-Ball several times over the course of the evening, which lasted an hour longer than most because of the Daylight Savings switchover, which I commemorated by prissily moaning, "oh man, another hour???". I felt a little awkward dancing by myself at first (Billy Idol said it was okay, so that really ought to be good enough for me), and then realized I didn't care all that much, ending up on the fucking stage by the end of the evening. This dancing malady is one of those oft-dormant things that I've got inside, something I think has to be fed every now and again to prevent my degeneration into lunacy. So that worked out. In the process, I cut my hand on a broken glass while indulging in one of those weak, feckless philanthropic urges of mine by bussing a few bottles (you've gotta feel bad for the staff at that place after a night like that), drank, chatted with an archbishop about Russian musical nymphets TaTu, and generally dove into debauchery (I wish there'd been more, but I think that's always the case). We all congregated outside after the end, running into Chris Bathgate and fellow Descent of the Holy Ghost Church member Jansen, from the last Arbourvitae show, and I ended up walking Becca home on my way to a well-deserved rest (which didn't last too long, as per usual). Before I left, I realized that one of the photographers (I think) was dressed as Number Two from "The Prisoner." I showered some rather embarrassing compliments on his costume and he gave me a spare Number Two pin he inexplicably had (perhaps he already anticipated being outwitted by Number Six that evening and had resigned himself to being "replaced"--"that wasn't the reason I resigned"). I'm probably going to start wearing it around, because I love it so much.

"By hook or by crook, we will!!"

Hey, I think this is the first time ever that what I've "had playing" has any actual relevance to my post topic. I feel a new man, by Heaven!

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 1:38 PM EDT
Updated: 30 October 2005 1:42 PM EDT
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26 October 2005
Eli, Eli, Hide Your Heart, Girl
Now Playing: The Flaming Lips--"Be My Head"
I'd actually like to apologize for today's post heading, but once I'd thought of it, there's no fucking way I wasn't going to use it, especially as it relates to what I think are some very troublesome aspects of the movie I last saw.

The Passion of the Christ (2004) reminds me of a story idea I had some years back. A twisted malcontent, based loosely on someone I knew in college (not me), wrote, claiming divine inspiration a la Joseph Smith (or, for that matter, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John), "The Book of Zebedee," purporting to be an account of the early years of Christ as described by one of the less famous Apostles. These halcyon days mainly consisted of Jesus defending Earth from an invasion of laser-wielding "Ravagons" from the "Ninth Galaxy." The thought came to me while watching the movie that in some ways, Mel Gibson had done the exact same thing.

I found it at the library, which was fortunate as I'd been leery of paying for it, just in case my money found its eventual way into the hands of some freaky right-wing lunatics. As far as anti-Semitism is concerned, I couldn't see it so much as the Jews themselves were concerned. The portrayal of the mob? Well, it was a mob, and that's usually how a mob behaves, especially for religious reasons. The portrayal of the Jews in relation to the Romans, though, was bizarre and rather imperialistic in places. Pilate seemed like a reluctant colonial ruler, sensitive and ever fearful of native uprisings, "Sanders of the River" without the firm decision and curious resemblance to Leslie Banks. There were a few Romans shown as anti-Semitic themselves, but the whole situation seemed incredibly lopsided to me. I also didn't get why Mary and Mary Magdalene started reciting the Passover prayer when frightened for Jesus, unless Gibson was trying to link the Exodus with Jesus' deliverance of humanity. I heard a lot of people got het up at that scene, and, frankly, I can see why.

The accusations of sadomasochism stick a little more firmly, as the scourging and crucifixion scenes dare themselves to coat the camera lens with red food coloring (although never actually doing so). Jesus' torment by the Romans is lovingly portrayed in a way that's hard not to find creepy. I think Gibson claimed that this was done to make the viewers feel what Jesus was going through and also feel complicit in his death, in which, I understand, he approximates traditional Catholic teachings on the Crucifixion (allegedly even going so far as to wield the hammer himself during one of the thwacks). If that was the case, he could have done better on the special effects. At one point, the cat-o'-nine-tails (or whatever they called them back then) rips out part of Jesus' midsection in an incredibly tinny and unrealistic scene which had CGI stink all over it. Such use of special effects make me think less about my supposed personal complicity in the Crucifixion and more about what the F/X guys were talking about when putting this together. "Oh, man, this is gonna look so cool!!!"

Don't get me wrong. Some of it was pretty compelling--hearing the characters speak in the original languages was an undeniable kick. It'd be cool if the success of the movie made filmmakers think about making more movies in supposedly "dead" languages--there were snatches of Latin in The Thirteenth Warrior (1999), too, and I wonder what other historical stories could be done in such a manner. I also thought James Caviezel did a good job as Jesus. Playing Christ figure Witt in The Thin Red Line (1998) must have been good practice, and I was one of those who found his gross miscasting as The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) more hilarious than offensive. The scenes in flashback of the Sermon on the Mount... every time that gets put on film, it sends the willies up my spine, as I believe that to be one of the supreme moments in human consciousness, be it historical or legendary. I'd expected great things from Caleb Deschanel's cinematography, which I heard was supposed to be patterned after Caravaggio's use of light. It was generally successful and gorgeous, although I couldn't help thinking that The Passion would make a great double bill with Derek Jarman's Caravaggio (1986) (which I liked), especially given Gibson's apparent feelings towards gays, filmmakers or not.

The overall treatment of the story, though, was a litle offputting. Some enormously moving moments alternate with a weird Hollywood sensibility that was mostly absent from more artistically orthodox treatments such as Franco Zefferelli's glorious 1977 TV Jesus of Nazareth miniseries with the great Robert "Asylum" Powell. Judas sees a cheesy CGI demon and there's lots of divine payback towards the end of the movie. I wonder if, while watching this, anyone was ever tempted to yell "Yeah! Get 'em, Jesus!!" during these little episodes). Satan and what I imagined to be his demonic spawn were actually pretty cool, but a little incongruous under the present circumstances. If the Horned One is trying to seduce the Messiah, I figure he'd probably assume a more seductive form than a pasty, androgynous imp with bad teeth. Unless, of course, Gibson was suggesting that Jesus was into pasty androgynous imps (inasmuch as he was "into" anything), which would be very, very funny. Lastly, John Debney's score was rather generic, sounding almost like James Horner's score for Glory (1989), but the drugstore version rather than the actual brand name. Of course, this seems to be the way most film scores are going these days, the ones that aren't still being written by my man John Barry.

In the end, I was glad I got to see it, but I probably wouldn't see it again, and was glad I didn't shell any hard-earned out either. This is true of most movies that come out these days, but much, much more so of The Passion.

Fortunately, it's inspired me to read the Beatitudes tonight, something that always manages to cheer me up. Well-done on that score, Gibson, but it'll take me a long time to forgive you for Braveheart.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 7:29 AM EDT
Updated: 26 October 2005 4:58 PM EDT
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23 October 2005
Oh, For A Muse Of Fire
Now Playing: Lush--"Single Girl"
What a day.

When I was a kid, the highlight of a Saturday morning, as I suppose it was for many of us, was watching cartoons on TV. Taking a cue from C.S. Lewis and attempting to preserve the best things of childhood, I find myself increasingly enamored of the weirdness on offer these days from UPN and Detroit Public TV. I'd never before sat through an entire single episode of "The Joy of Painting," with iconically frizzy-haired canvas guru Bob "Happy Little Trees" Ross, and I considered myself amply rewarded for doing so. He painted a winter scene from scratch, all snowy mountains and, yes, happy little trees, and it was simply fascinating to watch it all come together (oddly reminiscent of Clouzot's The Mystery of Picasso). In the meantime, Bob went on in an insinuatingly threatening manner about his "ecology kick" ("The animals disappear and guess who goes next?") and welcomed and fed a delegation of fox squirrels presented by his friend Terry.

I tried watching "Night Stalker" again, and it wasn't too bad, I suppose. Michael "Noonan!" O'Keefe guested as a troubled FBI agent helping Perry and Kolchak hunt down a Unabomber-style terrorist, and there was some pretty impressive editing and special effects. I'm very slowly beginning to find Stuart Townsend less annoying, and Gabrielle Union continues to hold me in a state of helpless thralldom with her acting ability and sheer inhuman gorgeousness (even if too much of both has to be devoted to wondering glances at Townsend that say, "Kolchak, you're such an unsettling yet compelling loner/maverick" or "Kolchak, I can't believe you just did/said that"--we got enough of that on "The X-Files," I think). It's decent, all part of soothing myself for what lay ahead.

Saturday afternoon, I went to "Connect with SI," an orientation session given by the University of Michigan School of Information for potential students. I'd been dreading it, quite frankly, and I couldn't help feeling a great deal of trepidation as I went in there. I finally got my M.A. in history from Akron in December of 2004, and so felt a little less strange about the thought of pursuing other academic options, but the effect of spending three years in Ann Arbor as not quite a townie and not quite a student have had a pretty big impact on me, probably retarding my social skills and making me just a little paranoid. Wondering if I was going to get looks from people that meant "What are you doing here? Go away!" (as if they could somehow tell that I was a 30-year-old cook making $9.30/hr. with no benefits by sight alone) isn't the best way to handle the world. Fortunately, I was a little disarmed by the actual session. Everyone was very welcoming and encouraging, and it was very informative to hear from students and faculty about the different kinds of things people were doing with MSI degrees (it pays to read the paper sometimes--one of the professors mentioned the same story I'd seen that day, about a new internet service that handled DVD swaps). It was also good to hear that I was at the exact median age for the student population at SI--I was a little concerned about that. Even if I don't end up going to this particular school, it was good to see how things stood.

The previous night, I'd gone to check out the Kelly Caldwell farewell show at the Natural Canvas Gallery on North Main, only to find that it was cancelled, a discovery that propelled me towards the Tim Monger show at Crazy Wisdom instead. I ran into Sara, the boys of Starling Electric, and Mr. Josh, and chatted a bit, all the while listening to Tim Monger's gloriously heartfelt and keening whimsical confessions (including a slightly nauseating revelation about ear care)--"Luna Pier" was particularly good. As I sat there, I formed a resolution for Saturday, which presented an embarrassment of musical riches. First, the No Fun Records showcase was playing at the Blind Pig, featuring the Hard Lessons and the Avatars; the 2004 show was possibly the most fun I'd ever had at that particular venue, and so I was immediately drawn towards going there. A couple of weeks ago, though, Brandon had told me that Saturday Looks Good To Me was playing the Bad Idea house down the street from Natural Canvas, and that it was likely to be one of the last times one would probably see SLGTM playing a house party. I subsequently discovered from posters at Village Corner that it would be the last show ever at the Bad Idea, at least in the conceivable future. So I was in something of a dither over what to do, and then it hit me that night at Crazy Wisdom--I'd go to both of them. It was maybe a ten minute walk from the Pig to the Bad Idea, so the idea wasn't complete lunacy.

The next day, I decided it was. Then, halfway through the No Fun show, which was my first choice, I decided it wasn't again and took off for the Bad Idea. I think what tipped the scales in the latter's favor was that it would be the last show there, and I'd never seen inside of the Bad Idea or into the backyard (the front of the house looks like the proverbial crazy old cat lady went completely fucking apeshit with the deep blue paint and the found objects, no doubt cackling insanely throughout). The No Fun show was a good time, to be sure; I had a few beers and got halfway through Anthony Trollope's Dr. Wortle's School (1880--this guy's great!), and heard some stuff from the Dead Bodies and the Boomerangs, both of them pretty good.

I presented myself about ten minutes later at the Bad Idea, to receive a handshake from Fred Thomas, the SLGTM headfellow, a very nice guy, by all accounts (and I love his fucking band; I can't help it). Brandon, Katie, and Chuck were all there, as was Chuck's friend Maggie from the Madison House party of a couple of months past, and I got to meet Aaron, a DJ and frequent musical connoisseur about town who works at Schoolkids Records, one of the two really good places in Ann Arbor for new music. I'd gotten there halfway through Narwhals Collide's set, which was hilarious fun to watch. Brandon Kierdorf, who'd played the Madison House a couple of times, and bandmates were decked out in the kind of outrageous garb that reminded me more than anything of GWAR.

Saturday Looks Good To Me's set... I was so glad I decided to go to the Bad Idea. The performance space is slightly larger than my kitchen and "living room," which is saying absolutely nothing, and we managed to cram into it in numbers of maybe thirty or forty at a time, possibly more. Almost at once, people started shoving each other about the room in front of the performers (Brandon and I discussed afterward whether it was slam-dancing or moshing; I really didn't know), myself included. Shirts came off and mine nearly did, too (I was down to my T-shirt before I decided I'd had enough for the evening). I mentioned later, my voice hoarse from drinking, screaming, and laughing, that I don't think I've thrashed that hard since Lollapalooza '94, but I think I probably did a pretty decent job at the Dirtbombs and Casionauts shows, too. Songs I recognized: "Alcohol," "Dialtone," "The Girl's Distracted," and a wonderful surprise at the end with a boisterous cover of "Roadrunner," by the Modern Lovers. "Radio ON!!!!" There was something for everybody, it seemed: music, dancing, drinking, smoking, male and female toplessness... After the show, Chuck, Maggie, and Katie melted away, and Brandon and I wound up at this "sweaters and cider" party on South Fifth given by some of his urban planning chums. The cider was out, but we each had a mug of Leinenkugel, which proved a perfect chaser. After about ten minutes or so, he went off to some party in Ypsi and I decided to give myself a very well-earned rest, trudging home a pretty happy camper and virtuously resisting the temptations of NYPD (New York Pizza Depot, for non-residents), which was still open on the other side of William. What a night.*

Thinking of the journey home and reading the paper this morning at the Fleetwood (in between Kathy trying to use me as a reluctant witness to Maggie's tyrannies, whatever those were--I love those two), I notice that the mysterious rash of street robberies over the past couple of months has hit the front page. Just what this town needs--a crime wave. Some girl actually got stabbed on Ann Street; I'll have to follow this one pretty closely.

*The only sour note came from a couple of those jackass high school kids (I imagine--I actually know a couple of high school kids in town and more upstanding, creative, and wonderful characters you can't imagine--I'm not generalizing at all, but I'm just going from snatches of conversation I've heard) who propped a couple of crutches against the door to stop people from getting out--this with about thirty or forty people inside a fucking sardine tin; there's nothing I like better than a good fire hazard, you diseased little twats. In a related issue, I read a pamphlet given out at the house last night that explained the reasons for the Bad Idea's discontinuance as a music venue:

"On the other hand.

Some drunk once told me that, 'if you don't want things to get broken you shouldn't have shows.' Okay, sweet, that's what I want to hear idiot. Cuz that makes perfect sense right, it's our job to clean up after you and you get to act irresponsible and come see some bands, I mean you did pay $4.00, right

--josh-redd Sanchez, "Happy Endings: A Tribute To Two Years of Shows at Bad Idea." (2005)

Much of the rest of the pamphlet expounds on that idea, and I perfectly understand the irritation faced by somebody trying to provide a cheap, fun place to hear music, only to see it ruined by violent, destructive pricks (the same kind, one would imagine, who slashed the arms on the Madison House's porch couch at the last show). Well, Mr. Sanchez, you have a hearty vote of thanks from this quarter. I had a fantastic time at your house and I apologize for whichever of my fellow party-goers behaved like shitheads. Thanks for the music!!

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 1:05 PM EDT
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19 October 2005
Dirty Cookie
Now Playing: Fela Anikulapo-Kuti--"Just Like That"
I was once called the above by one of my all-time favorite co-workers, in response to my characterizing the appearance of an autumn spice cookie as "pert." I'll always treasure that moment.

Charles Laughton probably knew the secret shame of a dirty cookie's life, at least on the silver screen. I decided to stay in most of Sunday and watch a few movies, the most memorable being Jamaica Inn (1938). Set amid the sea-girt terrors of early nineteenth century Cornwall, it was apparently Hitchcock's last major flick before coming to America, and features the hot young Maureen O'Hara as a woman trying to unravel the mystery surrounding her sweaty, hirsute uncle (an unusually rough-edged Leslie Banks, so dapper in The Most Dangerous Game, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Sanders of the River) and a local gang of smugglers. It's unexpectedly gripping and evocative, with a nightmarish beginning that seems rather violent for a movie made in the late thirties, and good performances, especially from O'Hara. It's Laughton's movie, though--as the corpulent squire, he manages to embody unctuous creepiness and possible lunacy with such skill that he actually seemed scary, and he certainly didn't do me that way in an officially "scary" role as Dr. Moreau in Island of Lost Souls (1933). The guy was a genius. Strangely, Jamaica Inn somehow made it into Harry Medved's Fifty Worst Films of All Time (not so shocking in retrospect; so did Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible Part II), which I worshipped in high school. No matter how spurious some of the choices now seem, I'll always remember that one still of Laughton with an unspeakably smug, self-satisfied smirk on his face captioned "Sir Humphrey Pengallon (Charles Laughton) looks on in abject terror."

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 4:16 PM EDT
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17 October 2005
Dagger Drawn
Now Playing: Alice Coltrane--"Blue Nile"
Saturday evening I had a beer (Sea Dog IPA from Maine--I've decided that I should really use glasses for the stronger stuff as it tastes better), ate dinner, and watched the thrilling finale of the Michigan-Penn State game. I do enjoy watching college football; I've never been able to keep up with all the stats and minutiae that consume the actual sports fan, but the games are generally fun to watch, especially if one lives in a college town, and particularly if the whole thing is decided in the very last second of the last quarter, as it was in the Big House that day. I actually took my head in my hands, so ensnared was I in the collective hysteria beamed through TV sets across the Midwest (and, one would imagine, beyond).

It was all a kind of preparation for the Matt Jones EP release show that evening at the Arbourvitae loft, site of Arbourfest a month and a half ago. The plan was to go afterward to the Electric Six at the Blind Pig, but I had a suspicion that I wouldn't be up for both. The show sounded great--Alex Robins was briefly returning from San Francisco to play, and Chris Bathgate would open as well, along with this guy Jansen Swy who I'd never heard before. I wafted down North University, strangely and unexpectedly at peace--it was a brilliant evening, with a gorgeous twilight and a faint chill in the air. Brandon and Katie turned up in the Diag Party Shoppe as I bought a bottle of water, and I followed them up the stairs to Arbourvitae. The place looked completely different from Arbourfest, considerably smaller, even shrunken, but it was a more intimate crowd in any case--at first, I was put in mind of an Al-Anon meeting (not that I've ever had to go to any of those), as we were all in a semi-circle and a little charming awkwardness hung above. Annie, Misty, Josh, Andrea, and Tim from a couple of the Madison House shows appeared, obviously among others. Itr was great to see Alex again, and weird yet wonderful to hear his music live barely ten hours after I'd heard it on CD. The real discovery here was Jansen, who played a quirky mix of piano tunes, some of them very funny indeed. Chris and Matt were their usual stalwart selves, Chris on piano and Matt complemented by violin, drums, and bass. I'm very, very pleased that they're making music; Matt's "Bearded Faces" is a decided favorite of mine. The whole night stank of a welcoming hominess that I suspect had a lot to do with the loft's physical difference from Arbourfest. Afterwards, I walked home through the growing cold and watched a little TV before turning in. "Independent Lens'" on PBS had a show on Parliament Funkadelic, and I lasted through that for a while before going to bed. All in all, a very fine weekend.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 7:36 AM EDT
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15 October 2005
Sabbath Peregrination
Now Playing: Dukes of Stratosphear--"Bike Ride To The Moon"
This morning, I fulfilled a mildly longstanding ambition and walked the Huron River trails all the way from Dixboro Road to Argo Park, which took me about eight miles. I was, to put it bluntly, chafing by the time I got to Argo, and so decided to forgo finishing through Bandemer Park, on the other side of the river. I lucked out enormously on the weather--it ranged from the 50s to the 60s and the breezes were intense. The plan had been to begin around 6:30 or so, but I had a little too much wine last night, and had to weather a hangover. The sun's been coming later and later, of course, and had barely cleared the trees by the time I got to the trail's easternmost point (which alone took me about three miles). Along the way I saw a couple of dead raccoons, a woodpecker, and enough geese to rob a bank (think about it--it would probably take a fair number). I expect we'll probably have about two weeks to a month of autumn, and I intend to wring as much as I can out of it. The leaves have either just started turning or have been turning for a while without me noticing. The Huron varies considerably in size and shape as it passes through Ann Arbor, ranging from a near stream as it passes Mitchell Field and meets the railway, in the midst of my journey, and turning practically into lakes at the two ends, Argo Park in the west and Gallup Park in the east (where it smushes against a few tiny islands, all part of the park complex).

Last night, as I said, I had a "little" to drink (a Portuguese red wine--I've forgotten the name), and fixed pork chops in rosemary. I've fallen in love with rosemary. It smells great, even if it's a little much to actually eat along with your food (I simply scrape it off). I've also decided not to cook with oil anymore--marinades taste much better and there's hardly any smoke. Along with the pork chops, I had a rudimentary salad--spinach and chopped tomatoes, done up with some olive oil, oregano and pepper, since I'd forgotten to get salad dressing before. To top everything off, I had some Stilton cheese, which I've decided isn't as good as Gorgonzola (although Ashley's in Ann Arbor makes great "Stilton fries"). I ate while watching some of the first "Black Adder" series.

"Well, I suppose we'd better get 'Bernard the Bear-Baiter.' And Percy? Tell him to bring a bear this time. The improvising last year was pathetic."

This morning, I actually woke up earlier than I do on weekday mornings for work. I had no dreams to mention, not like the night before. Then, I was staying in a house that was threatened by rising coastal waters (it looked like my Aunt Sue's house in Metairie, so I wondered if it was a Katrina psychic aftershock--living in Michigan, I was obviously unaffected, but as I mentioned before, there are a lot of good memories, and a lot of my dad's family still lived down there). It turned out that I had to pee, which was hardly surprising. What I took from that night, though, was the shocking beauty of the scenery. In the dream, it was about three in the morning, but the moon shone so fiercely upon the rippling water that it seemed like daylight, bringing into view a pair of rocky, mountainous offshore islands on the horizon that put me in mind of Hong Kong or Rio de Janeiro. I've been in a similar city before in my dreams, and I wonder if I'm seeing pieces of a whole, some kind of patchwork Mediterranean or subtropical Latinate port that lives only in my mind. The beginning quote in Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces is from A.J. Liebling's Earl Long biography The Earl of Louisiana, positing the existence of an invisible sea that runs across the Atlantic from the Med to the Spanish Main, linking New Orleans with some kind of "Hellenistic" universe. That's where you'd find that place, I'm sure of it. I hope I end up there again. After I woke, I had a glass of ice water and found on early morning UPN that Stuart Pankin* is now a spokesperson for something called "WalkFit."

Dale has a good post on a problem that's vexed me a number of times in the past, and it's good to know that I'm not alone.

* Likable character actor, former newscaster for the 1980s HBO comedy series "Not Necessarily the News," and a particular favorite of my high school friend Jason Michel. I remember both of us watching one of those wretched early 1970s "Learning Corporation of America" flicks in our American literature class and yelling in unison "Stuart Pankin!" when someone looking very like him showed up in the "Salem Witch Trials" movie. I have no idea where Jason is now and I had no idea where Stuart was until this happened, although I could have sworn I'd seen him doing this stuff while Eric (the former bartender at Piatto in Akron) was flipping the TV channels around one day. It gives one hope.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 2:09 PM EDT
Updated: 15 October 2005 4:36 PM EDT
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12 October 2005
Why Spend Your Sadness Now?
Now Playing: David Bowie--"All The Madmen"
Watching The Omega Man (1971) at long last actually made me feel dirty for some reason. The plot's fairly simple: Charlton Heston is the last human being left, fighting off mutants in a Los Angeles devastated by bacteriological warfare. I've long wanted to taste this flick, as it apparently features Chuck at his most hilariously overwrought. The first five minutes can be seen as a precis of the whole movie, but also serve as a wonderful allegory for libertarian ideology. Chuck drives around the deserted city in a series of cars, man surveying his domain--no goddamn government or taxes or other people to bother you--there's someone at a window! Chuck screeches his car to a halt and immediately opens fire with a submachine gun. It wasn't as much fun as I thought it would be, although Anthony Zerbe is one of the few people living or dead who's been able to out-overact Chuck.

It was a weekend for movies, two of which further acquainted me with the genius of Mr. Dirk Bogarde. Damn the Defiant! (1962), a fairly routine action flick set during the 1797 mass mutiny in the British navy, features Dirk as a nasty second-in-command to Alec Guinness' deceptively ineffectual captain. It was okay, I suppose--British viewers might be surprised to see a young Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin on "Coronation Street") as one of the callow sailors. The Servant (1963), one of those movies I'd always meant to watch but for which I never found time, was awesome. Tony (James Fox) hires Barrett (Dirk) to be his manservant. Tony's fiancee (Wendy Craig) doesn't like Barrett all that much, but Barrett manages to preserve his position. It's actually a little boring until Barrett's saucy "sister" (they're siblings, just like the White Stripes!) Vera (Sarah Miles) arrives, enlivening things exponentially. Vera, all chipmunk cheeks and somehow sexy tweed skirts, and Barrett proceed to enthrall the weak-willed, incompetent Tony in a morass of decadence. Fun, fun, fun, is all I can say--Dirk's sneer almost rivals "Johnny's" in Samuel Fuller's Shock Corridor, released that same year. How's that for a double bill?

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 4:17 PM EDT
Updated: 12 October 2005 5:16 PM EDT
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8 October 2005
Greasy Tills
Now Playing: Jim Roll--"Old Love"
Some of you might be wondering what it is that I do all day.

I generally rise with the alarm, although I've been known to lie half-awake for nearly an hour before it goes off, generally between 6:30 and 7:00. I blearily ascend from my mattress and take a shower, dressing and occasionally eating breakfast (a couple of eggs and some milk). If the weather's inclement or I'm feeling lazy, I'll take the #2, #4, or #14 buses that come near my house (the #14's closest, but it has a nasty history of sailing right on past my stop without so much as a "fuck you"). I usually walk, though, as it's only about a mile and a half to my job and I like to keep in relative shape.

I work in a restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, that mainly serves lunch to a fairly regular crowd of downtown retail and office workers from Monday through Friday. I mainly cook but occasionally have to bus tables and do dishes on Fridays when our regular busser/dishwasher is off. I start by preparing the soups for the day. Frequently rotating varieties: chicken and wild rice, portabella mushroom, tomato and dill, potato bacon, and my favorite, clam chowder. Our seasonal soup for fall and winter is french onion soup, and I'm told mine is very good (it's the same with the coleslaw, which is odd, since I believe coleslaw and french onion soup to be stupefyingly disgusting). I then prep the dressings and condiments--ranch, pesto, etc. After around eleven or so, I eat my own lunch (usually a turkey and swiss on sourdough with pesto and artichoke hearts), and then make the quiches that we deliver to a local coffeehouse chain (I don't particularly care for the latter, but that's by the way)--lorraine, florentine, tomato basil, and occasionally broccoli and cheddar. Quiche is probably my favorite thing to cook at the restaurant since it's so fascinating to watch it come together, and it looks delicious when it comes out of the oven. Recently, I've begun to make the cookies as well, and that's usually my final job before we begin the pre-close cleanup. All the while, we listen to 107.1 FM, the local ClearChannel pod station, which has a playlist of about 60 songs (they are worthwhile listening to on Sundays, though, for their excellent specialty shows). The other day, I believe we heard Nickel Creek, Dave Matthews, and Jason Mraz three times in a single shift. The line cook has also started bringing in the exact same salsa music that used to play at Don Carlos, so sometimes it feels like I never left (this is not a good thing).

The job gets irritating sometimes, but I love the work. I've been trying to educate myself at home, too--I fixed steak last night for what must be the first time ever (last weekend it was pork chops). Based on what happened afterwards, I think I'll stick to white meat, but it was delicious while it lasted. I've also been experimenting with different kinds of savory scones and cornbread, and they seem to have come out rather well.

Afterwards, I usually stop by the library, check my email, and walk home by a variety of routes to clean up, eat dinner, watch and/or read the news, watch "Coronation Street" on the CBC, and then depending on whatever's on (usually "Lost" or "Veronica Mars"--the latter's the only one I genuinely care about), read or watch TV, and then go to sleep.

The weather varies from time to time, as does the music.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 10:08 AM EDT
Updated: 8 October 2005 2:10 PM EDT
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1 October 2005
Darken The City Night Is A Wire
Now Playing: Bob Dylan--"Final Theme" from the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) soundtrack
Before anything else transpires, note--shades of Ian Bannen in Hope and Glory (1987):

"My nan regularly gets tipsy at christmas and proceeds to inform the entire family about all the american soldiers she 'had' during the war. As she puts it 'Well I could have died the next day.'"
--"Darren, UK"

I own the "enhanced" version of Duran Duran's 1982 classic Rio, which contains the original videos for "Rio," "Hungry Like the Wolf," and "Save a Prayer." It's a real kick seeing these, to be honest. I want to go to Sri Lanka for several reasons, but one of them's definitely so I can wear a silly hat and sunglasses, ripping them off, upending my bar table at random, chasing painted nymphs (?) through the jungle, and standing atop ancient temples while surveying the neverending greenness.

Last night, I went to see the Casionauts at the Michigan Union Ballroom. It was a free show along with Otto Vector, so I made sure to show up right as the Casionauts began playing, as I'm not all that fond of Otto Vector. Nothing personal, it's just the music. I ran into Brandon outside the front doors, and it's a good thing, too, as apparently non-students have to be accompanied by U-M... people ("students, faculty or staff" sounds really cumbersome, but I guess there's little point in belaboring the issue as I've just written it; I'll let the sentence stand unedited as a little peek into my present boredom). The Casionauts, of course, were awesome, and it was good to see Ryan, but the weirdness of the surroundings was a little off-putting. The last time I'd been there was to hear our State Senator, Liz Brater (who was cool enough to give us a guided tour of the State Capitol in Lansing on Planned Parenthood Lobbying Day), and our U.S. Senator, Debbie Stabenow, talk politics... Canadian trash, CAFE standards, something like that. Hearing my favorite synth-paladins rock out in the same space was pretty weird, but eventually pleasantly so, with disused salad bar trolleys and bucolic scenes painted on the walls like those of some disgraced caudillo's villa. We ran into Andrew Brown, Vince, Murph, and I met Brandon's friend Katie. Brandon, Murph, Katie and I went to Ashley's afterward for a couple of pints (I have got to remember which country I live in), which was fun but weird as I haven't been to Ashley's in nearly a year or sommat.

Attempting to maintain the WRAP library, as I do most every Saturday afternoon, is a bit of a chore, frankly, but it's interesting looking at a few of the titles. Some of it's erotica, naturally, but there's a lot of fascinating stuff there. I even flipped through Jan Morris' Conundrum (1974) a little. Morris is probably one of my favorite authors, certainly one of this century's greatest travel writers (if not the greatest). She was born James Morris, and underwent gender reassignment surgery in the 60s and 70s. Her most famous work was probably the "British Imperial" trilogy, looking at the rise and fall of the British empire (from 1837, the year of Victoria's accession, to 1965, the year Winston Churchill died) in a series of impressionistic essays, all tightly focused on places and people and the connections between the two--Heaven's Command, Pax Britannica, and Farewell the Trumpets. I can't recommend them highly enough. Some of the other titles in the library are pretty predictable--stuff by Randy Shilts, Martin Duberman, Larry Kramer, etc.--but it's interesting to find these novels and non-fiction works grouped under "gay and lesbian literature" when they've got such a wide appeal. It made me think once again about trying to separate different genres and how irritating and infuriating it can be.

It is way too nice to be indoors right now. Fifteen more minutes and I'm out of here.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 4:48 PM EDT
Updated: 1 October 2005 4:57 PM EDT
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30 September 2005
All the Dried Roses
Now Playing: Duran Duran--"Last Chance on the Stairway"
Quite a week for news: John Roberts sworn in as Chief Justice, a giant squid tussles with a camera crew (sort of, anyway), Ted Nugent offers his services to the National Wildlife Federation, Judith Miller prepares to testify, Don Adams dies (I'll miss him by that much)... it's all too much to contemplate, really.

Tuesday night I volunteered at the Planned Parenthood beertasting at the Arbor Brewing Company, one of the two good brewpubs in town (I'm sorry, but I don't like Grizzly Peak). We--or I--honestly didn't do much, just handed out menus and glasses to new arrivals until myself and several volunteers decided "to hell with it" and began filling our own glasses. I had a good time talking with Meredith, Angela, Jess, her friends Mary and Steve (whose New Year's Eve party I'd attended ten months ago), and Ricardo, who may or may not become my new housemate. It was all good fun, and in a good cause.

My friend Phill's moved back to town--San Francisco didn't work out. During the Don Carlos days, he was pretty much my best friend around here, and I missed him terribly. I ran into him and his boyfriend Lee a couple of weeks ago outside the Parthenon (a Greek restaurant on the corner of Main and Liberty--it would have been nice to "run into" anyone outside the real thing) and had a nice chat. I'll have to get together with him (as well as Elizabeth, come to think of it) and go over to the idiotically-named "Blue Wolverine" sports bar, which will occupy the same haunted location as Don Carlos, Cleveland's Gill and Grill, the Bistro on Main, Bill Sablack's (whose command to anyone to "GO AWAY!" is still on the back door), etc., etc. Some other day I'll have to wax nostalgic about the horrors of "The Don's," but I'm really not in the mood right now. It's a gorgeous day outside and the Casionauts are playing the Michigan Union ballroom tonight. That sucks in only one way--I promised myself I'd watch They Live (1988) before I saw them next, but life's too short. Right now, anyway. I also can't wait till I can rent the Scorsese Dylan documentary, No Direction Home (2005)--what I saw of it Monday night was amazing.

Posted by Charles J. Microphone at 6:47 PM EDT
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