Monday, November 29, 2010

Howard the Duck: The Soundtrack

I always thought the fake songs by the fake band in Howard the Duck (one of the great terrible movies) were pretty good. Turns out they were written by pop-meister Thomas Dolby, better known as Dolby, of "She Blinded Me With Science." No wonder I like them. I'm thinking specifically of "Hunger City" (which I always heard as "Hunka City" as a kid, but that would be Memphis, not Cleve-Land) and "Don't Turn Away," not the mega-dorky theme song. The below aren't videos, unfortch, but you can listen to the tracks.

"Don't Turn Away" has a moment that reminds me of "Wishing Well" by Terence Trent D'Arby, a very '80s sound that strikes me as somehow sour or maybe tangy. It's generally only unusual sensations that trigger my synaesthesia. What is that sound? Lots of flats?

I didn't remember TTD dancing so much like Michael Jackson.

In other news: I took a Vitamin B pill after lunch, which involved sweet potatoes, and it turned my urine NEON yellow. Apparently that's what happens when you ingest more vitamin B than your system can handle.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Short Story About Homing Pigeons

Note: I promised someone I would blog about this a while ago. It's paraphrased from The Emperor of Scent by Chandler Burr.

Nobody knows how homing pigeons work. They're still in use by some navies and still a mystery to us. It's been theorized that they just have an amazing sense of direction, but if you transport them in a dark container, spinning them all around and upside down in the process, then release them, they can still find their way home.

Luca Turin became acquainted with a scientist who wondered if they are somehow "connected" to their home base by a kind of invisible string or band. He had an idea that you could test this theory by, instead of just moving the pigeons, moving their home. In his proposed experiment, you'd raise the pigeons on a ship, take them away, and then relocate the ship. Would the pigeons fly back to the ship, or back to the original port?

Turin thought this was a fascinating experiment, and via his connections he managed to secure funding for it. But, to his great disappointment, the scientist declined.

Was he afraid the results wouldn't be interesting?

Open Letter to an Editor I Occasionally Have to Work With (Not at my Job)


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Inner Lives of Nerds

I received a best-seller as a gift, and not just a best-seller but a sort of neo-fantasy novel (Lev Grossman's The Magicians). Not normally my thing but the gifter thought I would like it, and so far (15-20 pages in) I kind of do, probably due to the young-people angle that so obsesses me lately. The following sentence is basically attributable (via free indirect discourse!) to Quentin, a 17-year-old nerd:
Unpretty women were so much easier to deal with in some ways -- you didn't have to face the pain of their probable unattainability.
Attractive menfolk made me very uncomfortable when I was young and nerdy. I had the impression they were instantly sizing me up, attractiveness-wise, then dismissing me. I enjoy the presence of attractive men now, and no longer expect them to even notice me. However, I've always found brief interactions with attractive women to be pleasant.

Another one:
He would have to explain to his parents what happened, and they would, in some way he could never grasp, and therefore could never properly rebut, make him feel like it was his fault.
Whether or not this book turns out to be readable/great, I credit it for getting the Teenage Insight right.

Monday, November 22, 2010

  • Watching the documentary about The Magnetic Fields on Friday, I realized I still harbor childish fantasies of being famous. The main way I want/expect this to manifest: looking famous in photographs (which says more about the photographers you traffic with than you).
  • My favorite Magnetic Fields song is "I Don't Want to Get Over You." Runner-up: "All My Little Words."
  • I periodically become obsessed with the New Pornographers album Challengers. This is one of my favorite driving CDs ever. Every song is imminently sing-along-able. The title track gives me the chills.
  • Rearrange Us by Mates of State is also excellent for driving.
  • I don't understand people who can enjoy music without singing along.
  • What ever happened to Bright Eyes? To clarify: I don't miss him/them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smell Questionnaire

Via Glass Petal Smoke

What are some of your strongest scent memories?
Camping smells: tarps and tent canvas, pond water and fish bait, campfires, pine trees, damp earth. A scratch-n-sniff book I had based on The Secret of NIMH, especially the sunflower. The smell of the inside of the Ferrari my dad used to own, not just the leather but the "Connolly Hide Care" conditioner he treated it with.

What are some of your favorite smells?

Wood smoke, pipe tobacco, coffee beans, vanilla beans, coconut, almonds, caramel, leather, rum, limes, grapefruit, tuberose, geranium, patchouli, El Paso when it rains.

Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
I love the smell of blown out candles, but I don't know if that's strange.

Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
The smell of grilled, marinated meat (think steak fajitas) though I'm a vegetarian. Baking bread too, though I can't eat that either. Fresh herbs, especially basil, mint, and cilantro. Grilled onions. Basmati rice.

What smells do you most dislike?
Usual suspects: vomit, shit, foot fungus, etc. Also menudo and organ meats. Chinese markets. Canned fish. Dog food.

What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
I used to hate the smell of Earl Grey Tea (bergamot). I still prefer English Breakfast but I like bergamot now.

What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
Clinique products remind me of my grandmother's bathroom. The burnt metallic smell that old appliances give off reminds me of her kitchen.

What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?
Crayons and Play-Doh. Fruit leather. Heavily chlorinated pools remind me of swimming lessons and make me anxious.

What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on vacation?
Eucalyptus = California. Sulfur = Yellowstone?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Have I mentioned I hate Sundays

I had a lovely time in the greater Hadley area this weekend, but arrived home to find John in the throes of a nasty bout of food poisoning. (Note to patrons of neighborhood Indian joints: Don't order the duck special.) He seemed to be through the worst of it, but then, after downing some Gatorade, he vomited again and passed out on the bathroom floor. So we spent the rest of the day in the ER. While we were waiting in the triage area, a man and a woman were rolled in on gurneys; they'd clearly been in an accident. The woman was moaning, and the man kept saying, "Where's my wife? I want to talk to my wife." Someone finally responded "She's right over there, just talk, she can hear you," and he called out, "I'm sorry." Then they rolled the woman off into surgery, presumably, while the man continued to say, "Where's my wife? I want to be near my wife." He couldn't turn his head because of a brace around his neck. They finally rolled him away too. It seemed so much like a scene in a movie, a hospital scene, a horrific glimpse into the lives of strangers. It seemed so scripted, although the EMS guy was not a good actor. In a movie, however, it wouldn't have been sad, just horrific. As it is, it's one of the saddest things I've ever seen. I told Rebecca the other day that if I was an actor, and I ever needed to cry on cue, I'd picture one of those baby monkeys in a lab, clinging to a "mother" made of a wire frame and terry-cloth towels. Now I think I'd picture this. John was lying on one of those shitty hospital beds, nauseated and dehydrated beyond belief, and he started comforting me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bullets over Broadway

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What We Talk About When We Talk About Bullets

  • I really wish people would stop using the "What We Talk About When We Talk About X" snowclone to title things. It's not clever! It's the (not-so-)new "Everything You Wanted to Know About X But Were Afraid to Ask."
  • Can I possibly keep this bullet thing going all week? Doubt it.
  • I made a pan of sweet potato enchiladas on Monday and I've been eating them all week. YUM. John is traveling but I'm trying to eat real meals anyway. The temptation to just eat breakfast again looms large.
  • Just tried another of the Lush scents, Lust. It smells just like their Flying Fox shower gel, i.e. jasmine + honey. I can see a lot of people hating this -- there really is something raunchy about it. I kind of love it.
  • So I got an electric toothbrush. Gum health and all that, you know. But I can't figure out how to use it! The first time I tried it, I put a little toothpaste on the head and then turned it on. Toothpaste goes flying. Now I'm sort of working the toothpaste around on my teeth first, then turning it on while it's in my mouth. It still makes a total fucking mess though. I have to keep pausing to spit, but if I don't turn it off each time, before taking it out of my mouth, watery toothpaste sprays everywhere. It'd be easier cleanup-wise to do this in the shower, but is that even safe? Also, after all this rigmarole, my teeth don't even seem clean. What the hell is going on?
  • On Lucky today: How to buy perfume.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Guns don't kill people, bullets do

  • Good mail day: I got my contributor copies of the new issue of Mantis, which looks really great. In addition to new poems and translations there's a section on poetry in the last decade, to which I contributed a brief essay, described variously by the editors, Bronwen Tate and Joshua Edwards, as a "personal story of isolation" and an "extol[ling] of the virtues of a Jurassic technology known as the 'blog.'" Everybody always says this but I actually am looking forward to reading the whole section (especially the pieces on the Gurlesque by Arielle Greenberg and on media by Tony Tost) and the rest of the stuff (a ton of work by Farrah Field, some translations by Francois Luong, a review of Kate Schapira's Town by Ana Bozicevic, etc.).
  • To qualify as a good mail day, you have to get at least two good things. The other thing was a very generous package of samples from Lush, which just launched a new perfume line. I'll review these at length at some point but I just dug into The Smell of Freedom, which does not smell patriotic, but rather spicy and woodsy and rather intriguing, and Imogen Rose, a sweet, musky, powdery rose.
  • I don't like the false dichotomy of irony/sincerity. 90% of people are ironic some of the time and sincere some of the time. I just opened to a random poem by Farrah Field in the aforementioned Mantis and sure enough there's some irony in it (first line: "A certain type of raw rubbing is associated with fun") and some sincerity (in the middle: "That motherly feeling came out of nowhere"; and toward the end: "experienced people know why it is that rust hole / formed on my car when I was driving home planning on / doing good, thinking about doing bad, thinking of the girls.") I think poems with a little irony in them feel more sincere to me, by which I mean, more real, more deeply thought and felt.
  • Second Lucky guest post is up, on cheap thrills.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bullet holes the size of matzah balls

  • I'm reading a sci-fi book! I never do this. My mom would be proud. The book is Chocky, by John Wyndham (author of The Day of the Triffids, which is about killer sunflowers); it's about a kid who appears at first to have an imaginary friend, but the friend knows things the kid couldn't possibly know; even the parents begin to believe he is "possessed" by a being from another planet. It's both creepy and funny in the British style. Of course, I'm interested in it because it's an adult book about children, my current obsession.
  • There are certain genres, science fiction being one of them, I have never had any interest in, despite the rest of my family liking them. I was always bored out of my pants as a kid, and still am, by almost anything in the following genres (there are always exceptions): sci fi, fantasy, war, martial arts, western, action. Am I missing any? Also comic book adaptations. All of these genres are male-dominated, largely by, for, and about men. Exceptions often caught my interest; for example I love Gone with the Wind which is one of the few war movies that depicts the women's experience of war. It was only within the past year or two that I realized I'm biased against these genres because they're biased against me, and I no longer feel bad about it.
  • First-order self-righteousness is acting smug about not having a TV or not being on Facebook or not eating fast food. Second-order self-righteousness is acting smug about not acting smug about TV or Facebook or fast food (i.e., sneering at people who don't have a TV). I find second-order self-righteousness more obnoxious.
  • When a reading is really good it doesn't feel like a reading, it feels like a performance. My favorite performances this year were by Mairead Byrne and Mark Leidner.
  • The year is pretty much over, right?
  • I am guest blogging for Lucky all this week. About perfume of course! The first post is five of my top picks for fall.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a kid people always told me I should be a writer but I didn't think of "writer" as a job (turns out it is, since that is in fact what I am). When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said teacher for a while. In junior high that changed to architect. I was fascinated by houses and house plans. This interest was tightly coupled with a fantasy about living in a bigger house, I admit -- not that our house was small, but I aspired toward opulence at that age. I distinctly remember the day my mom told me that being an architect involved a lot of math. We were in her car, waiting in line at the bank. That didn't sound romantic and artistic to me and it killed the fantasy. Later, in high school, I wanted to be a psychiatrist, though I was on the fence about medical school (gross anatomy? gross). My dad pushed me off it. He's a doctor and wouldn't wish that fate on anyone.

If I was truly passionate about either career path I guess I wouldn't have been dissuaded. But I wonder why I was so turned off by the idea of effort. I'm not even bad at math, or I wasn't, at least, when I had to do it all the time. Any real job is harder than the fantasy, right?

Did you always want to be what you are?