Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Free stuff

Well, I just found out that this is Bloggy Giveaway Carnival time, when generous bloggers give stuff away for free. Sounds like fun. I'm going to give away a genuine Guinness belt buckle (that would be the bottom buckle on this tower of buckles. All you have to do is leave a comment wherein you mention your favorite beer -- or if you don't like beer leave a comment explaining why you want a beer buckle even though you're not a beer drinker. After midnight on August 1st. one winner will be selected at random.
Good luck.

This is the sign out in front of a bar a few miles down the road from my house, and every time I pass it I wonder what the name of the place is supposed to be. Is it really "Ally" Cats? as in "All the cats in this club are comrades" or did the owner mean to call it "Alley Cats" and, being the product of South Carolina public schools, was unable to successfully spell "Alley"? But then shouldn't the sign-maker have said something like, "Um, that's not really how you spell "alley." Or is this some kooky hip-hop spelling like "Boyz" or "Sk8er"?

I'm going to call them and see what they say when they answer the phone. I'll just mumble something about a wrong number and hang up afterwards.

Oh, wouldn't you know it, they're not in the phone book.

Or maybe I'm just now looking in the right place. I looked under "Alley" and "Ally". Is there another way to misspell "alley"?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

To my friends and co-workers

Most of y'all know I like comic books. Even if we've never had a discussion about graphic novels or the genius of Alan Moore, you've see the toys and posters scattered around my workplace and the Green Lantern tattoo on my finger. And that's fine, I'm not ashamed. If you want to talk about sequential art or what a great collection you had as a kid before your mom made you throw them out, I'm right there.
But why in the name of Krypton do y'all assume that because I like reading comic books that automatically means whenever a new superhero movie comes that means I'll be standing in line with my cape and mask on waiting to buy a ticket. Haven't I explained to y'all over and over that I don't love movies? That if I get a couple hours free time I'd rather read a book or go for a walk? And if I do go to a movie it probably won't be some overblown dumbed-down Hollywooded-up desecration of something I hold dear?
Why? Why? Why?
Y'all don't even ask me if I'm going to see "Dark Knight" (or "Iron Man" or "Hulk" or "Hellboy" or whatever) you say, "Have you seen "Dark Knight" (or "Iron Man") yet?" or "How did you like "Hulk"?" Even though I explained to y'all last summer when the questions were all about how I liked "Fantastic Four 2" and "Spider-Man 3" that I haven't seen those movies, and have neither plans nor desire to see them.
When you push it and ask what's my favorite comic book movie, I say "American Splendor" because it is, by far. But you just look at me blankly. When I elaborate and say, "Oh, you mean superhero comic book movie? The last one of those I liked was "Superman 2" back in 1978 or whenever it was."
So to sum up, I do not like superhero comic book movies, I do not like them in a box or with a fox, I do not like them, Sam I Am.
So stop asking.

And now part two: (Warning: Those of you who still cannot fathom how someone could love reading comic books but not like viewing movies based on comic books should read no further. This next part will make your brain explode.)
There are at least two more blockbuster movies coming out this year "Watchmen" and "The Spirit." Both of these are based on comic books, and not just any comic books but two of the best ever. I love both of these books and not only will I NOT be going to see the movie, I may be picketing outside the theater, protesting that these movies should not have been made. Why wouldn't I go see movies based on books I love?
One reason: They're going to suck.
How do I know they're going to suck?
Two reasons: 1.) Past experience. Hollywood has already ruined several of Alan Moore's works -- "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" "From Hell" "V For Vendetta" and there is no reason to believe they'll do any better with his magnum opus "Watchmen." Frank Miller is associated with "The Spirit" and Miller is a tasteless, talentless idjit, and I hope he stays in Hollywood and out of comics, since Hollywood is already morally and creatively bankrupt and he can do less damage there.
2.) (And this gets right to the heart of that matter) Some books don't have to be made into movies, in fact shouldn't be. They're meant to be read and something essential is lost when they are viewed. One of the most respected and influential books of the 20th century is "The Catcher in the Rye" but it's never been filmed. Why? Because it's unfilmable and Jerome David Salinger is smart enough to realize that. We're meant to commune with Holden Caulfield one on one via the printed word, not in a sticky seat with a bunch of strangers talking on their cell phones, via the moving picture. If Hollywood made a movie of "Catcher" they'd have to turn Holden into a gangster or a detective, something they understand. And it would be a disaster -- like "Watchmen."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Carlin Column

This is my new column for Country Standard Time Magazine:


The great thing about having a column is that you can talk about whatever it is you want to talk about as long as you can tie it however tangentially to the subject at hand, which in this case is country music.
But right now I want to talk about George Carlin, who recently passed away at the age of 71. Carlin was a genius, a real hero of mine, one of the only people I think can mentioned in the same breath as Lenny Bruce and Mark Twain. He was fearless and he did what so few comics do – he talked about real issues, how messed up things are – and he did it in a way that made you laugh – albeit sometimes ruefully.
So all I have to do is listen to all his old albums, find a reference to country music and tie it all together.
Okay, I’m back, I’ve had my thoughts provoked and my ribs tickled by lines like:

Let a smile be your umbrella, and you'll end up with a face full of rain.


Why is the man (or woman) who invests all your money called a broker?


The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other going in opposite directions.

But nothing about country music. I even went back and watched most of Carlin’s HBO shows and got to relive him talking about the difference between baseball and football, and was amazed again at how seemingly effortlessly and amusingly he want right to the heart of why I love the national pastime:

“Football has hitting, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting and unnecessary roughness.
“Baseball has the sacrifice.
“In baseball, during the game, in the stands, there's kind of a picnic feeling; emotions may run high or low, but there's not too much unpleasantness.
“In football, during the game in the stands, you can be sure that at least twenty-seven times you're capable of taking the life of a fellow human being.

I even found some evidence that Carlin was more romantic than he gets credit for:

Sex without love has its place, and it's pretty cool, but when you have it hand in hand with deep commitment and respect and caring, it's nine thousand times better.

But again, nothing about country music. I reread his books like "Napalm and Silly Putty" and "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?" Nothing on country music. A Google search came up fruitless too. (Although I did learn that some extreme fundamentalist Christians picketed outside Carlin’s funeral, something that I know would have pleased him immensely.) Just when I was afraid I was going to have to give up and talk about something other than the brilliant comedian I wanted to talk about, I stumbled across the January 1982 issue of Playboy magazine. Why did I save that? No, not because of the fulsome charms of Miss January, but because there’s an interview with George Carlin. And in it he talks about country music, and as he did with most every other topic he touched on, had some profound things to say on the subject:

PLAYBOY: Did you ever get into country music?

CARLIN: Oh, I loved real country music. Again, not the kind they manufacture in Nashville. I loved bluegrass and the real country people, you know, like Bill Monroe and Hank Williams. . . I love those strains of stark reality: hopelessness, sorrow, broken love, death. Like authentic R&B, authentic country music speaks for a people, and the similarities and differences between the two forms have always fascinated me. . . The freedom that a black expresses by merely walking down the street is even more evident when he sings onstage. By contrast, the white Protestant Southern country man singing onstage barely moves his body. . . But the lyrics those two men will write are precisely the opposite. The black man sings in symbolic terms about jelly rolls and sugar pies, while the white man tells you exactly what's on his mind. "Ohhh, a truck ran over my baaa-by in the ro-o-o-ad." It's a marvelous paradox that tells us so much about those two cultures.

I’ve changed my mind about one thing. Sometimes the best part of writing a column is doing the research.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Blast From the Past

Although I'm sure you can't tell by the sporadic blogging here, but I used to be a very faithful journal keeper, wrote every day for about ten years. Lately I've been rereading some of the older ones. It's a lot of fun reading about when the kids were still cute and still liked us, and about things that happened that would otherwise be lost in the murky mists of time. And then there are the ones that I cringe when I read cuz I can't believe I was ever that dense. Take this entry for example. You would not believe how much I've learned about marriage, women and conversation since this happened. (Annotations from the modern me in red)


On the third day of our third year of marriage Kim and I got into a little tiff -- we never fight we just tiff -- it was a fairly typical one for us -- in fact an almost word-for-word clone of one a couple of weeks ago.
Here, recorded for posterity, only slightly one-sided, is what happened.
I returned from the library, my wife, who had been a bit beneath the weather, was watching TV, specifically "The Young and the Restless." I said, "How's that girl?"
She said, "What girl?"
I pointed at her and said, "That girl!"
She said, "I'm not Marlo Thomas." (There are lots of places in this exchange where I could have prevented this from becoming unpleasant. This is probably the first. I should have just laughed at the joke.)
I said, "I'm surprised you're familiar with that show. It must have gone off the air in 1971, you were only three." (This is probably the second. At the time I was still inordinately proud of my wife's youth, but sometimes trying to express that pride could come off as insulting.)
She said, "Did it last that long?"
I walked into our bedroom, retrieved a reference book, looked it up, went back into the living room and said:
"Well, I was close, it actually lasted until 1972." (And that is definitely the third. What an annoying know-it-all. I'm still a know-it-all, that hasn't changed. But I'm a much quieter know-it-all now.)
Or started to say that. Kim held up one hand that meant either "Shut up" "Go away" or "Go away and shut up."
This upset me because she has said that "As The World Turns" is the only soap opera she cares about, and we had this exact same fight -- I mean tiff -- during the "Young and the Restless" a while back. Then she said the reason she told me to be quiet was because the character was buying a wedding ring. Nobody was buying a ring today. (And here is where the cringing really gets intense. This guy here is really in need of a clue.)
I said, "I hope you come to me and say 'How come you don't talk to me anymore?' and I'll say, 'I tried.' " (Crrrrringe)
And things went downhill from there. All patched up now though.

I read this to Kim the other night, and she said, "Well, we've been together for fifteen years and so far I've never been tempted to ask how come you don't talk to me." You can probably figure out why.