Monday, April 30, 2007


Why, it's Margarita Monday!

[I'm sorry, but our traditional monday margaritas (only $3! All night!) are all I can think about, so that's all you get. I think I'm going to have twelve.]

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Understanding Comics

Last week I finally got around to reading Understanding Comics (1993) by Scott McCloud. This is one of those books that has been in the back of my mind as something I would like to read for years, and yet I never did. Now that I have, I'm really interested to check out McCloud's other books.

In Understanding Comics, McCloud uses the comic form as a vehicle for explaining a sometimes rather technical and philosophical view of what makes a comic a comic, how reading comics is different from watching a movie or reading a book, and how comics work in general. There is a wikipedia entry on this book that quotes McCloud's arguments extensively and gives the flavor of the thesis of the book (although the author of the page seems to run out of steam about halfway through, and accurately acknowledges that the arguments read much better in McCloud's comic form).

For me, one of the most interesting parts of this book was McCloud's Big Triangle -- a graphical exploration of the continuum between cartoon and realism and abstraction. It is an intriguing way of categorizing and comparing different comic artists without passing judgment on their artistic or narrative styles.

Finally, reading this book really made me want to check out some of McCloud's fictional comic art. I happened to come across a link on BoingBoing to the first two parts of his online comic The Right Number, which is presented in a compelling Flash style that really takes advantage of the online comic format without taking away from the still nature of graphic novels (this isn't an animation, after all). I hope part three is released soon...

Friday, April 27, 2007


Now my camera can only take pictures that look like this (which is admittedly cool, but I'd like a little more veracity in the majority of my shots), or pictures that just look like black. I'm going to say it is pretty much toast.

Anyone know of any great digital cameras that aren't too expensive? I need one where I can just set the settings and they will work for most things, since I can never remember how to change them or when I would want to. It would also be nice to have one with some kind of shaky hand blur control and that can deal with low light, no-flash situations. I've got no ideas on this sort of thing...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Demo mode off!

Take a few minutes to soak in the beauty and knowledge from this and other exciting line drawings from electronics manuals that I recently weeded out of our extensive collection. I believe they will help us all learn a little something about safety, the demo mode, and graphical communication.

This post's inspiration comes from the lovely Krotpong's collection of safety decals on heavy equipment. How I love seeing those poor little stick men getting poked, rotated, and squished.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SB Wednesday: Goofy Edition

I love tall, I love red hair, I love funny, so it goes without saying that Conan O'Brien is a secret boyfriend extraordinare. Of course, being that he is a comedian, it is rather hard to find any pictures of him online where he actually looks as sexy as he often looks on TV. Instead he mostly looks a little goofy. Cute, but goofy. Not sexy. Maybe its just that the sexiness evaporates in a still and only the funny is left behind?

Although pictures with guitars usually enhance the SBness of all my SBs, this one doesn't really capture that same flavor. I couldn't find a picture of Conan with a tattoo, but we can only imagine that it would end up being more humorous than sexifying.

That's alright, Conan, maybe your secret SB power is a subtle kind of SB fever that grows after multiple exposures. That and the red hair.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Adapt This

My latest random book read was The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean (1998). This is the book that was loosely adapted by Charlie Kaufman into the 2002 Spike Jonze film Adaptation. I really liked Adaptation, and I was curious to read the book that had inspired such an unusual, well... adaptation.

Orlean's book serves as a excellent mirror of the movie, although the two only intersect in a small sub-section. While the movie focuses on Orlean's relationship with John Laroche, the titular orchid thief, and a fictionalized Kaufman's struggle to adapt their story to film, the book uses Laroche as a jumping off point to explore the world of orchid collecting, passion, Florida, and Orlean herself.

Orlean does an excellent job of turning what started as an article for the New Yorker into a book-length piece of journalism without stretching the story too thin or straying too far from the focus of the book. Plus I learned a lot about that strange state that is Florida, and the odd world of the orchid.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Something odd about me

This kind of palm tree makes me really sad. Every time I see one. This is why I cannot live in California. If one were in my front yard, I would cry every day.

[photo by Stefanie Schneider - found here in a Google Image search for 'palm trees.' Usually I don't like to steal an artists photo when I'm trolling for images to illustrate my posts, but I really like this one. Hopefully she won't mind.]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Road to Oz

The Road to Oz (1909) is the fifth book in L Frank Baum's Oz series, and this is where things start to get a little weird. Dorothy is playing in the front yard of Uncle Henry and Aunt Em's house in Kansas when a shaggy man comes up and asks for directions. The Shaggy Man is apparently some kind of nice hobo guy. Dorothy decides to walk with him part of the way to his destination, because its easier than explaining it, and on the way all the roads start to become unfamiliar and then they find themselves at an intersection of seven roads that they had never seen before. Hmmm. Perhaps we are on our way to Oz?

The two (plus Toto) come across a little boy named Button Bright who answers "Don't know" to pretty much anything you ask him, as well as Polychrome, the daughter of the rainbow who accidentally fell off and now has to dance all the time to stay warm and is constantly searching for dewdrops and mist cakes to eat.

The group goes through many adventures on their way to Oz, including a land of foxes where the king turns Button Bright's head into a fox head, and a land of donkey's where the king turns the Shaggy Man's head into a donkey head.

Luckily the Shaggy Man has a gizmo called the Love Magnet which makes all creatures love him instantly. This Love Magnet (however disturbingly named) gets the gang out of several scrapes.

The creepiest adventure by far, though (and which I'm going to quote in length, so get ready for it), is their meet-up with The Scoodlers.

They moved forward a little faster to see what the dog was barking at, and found perched upon a point of rock by the roadside a curious creature. It had the form of a man, middle-sized and rather slender and graceful; but as it sat silent and motionless upon the peak they could see that its face was black as ink, and it wore a black cloth costume made like a union suit and fitting tight to its skin. Its hands were black, too, and its toes curled down, like a bird's. The creature was black all over except its hair, which was fine, and yellow, banged in front across the black forehead and cut close at the sides. The eyes, which were fixed steadily upon the barking dog, were small and sparkling and looked like the eyes of a weasel.

"What in the world do you s'pose that is?" asked Dorothy in a hushed voice, as the little group of travelers stood watching the strange creature.

"Don't know," said Button-Bright.

The thing gave a jump and turned half around, sitting in the same place but with the other side of its body facing them. Instead of being black, it was now pure white, with a face like that of a clown in a circus and hair of a brilliant purple. The creature could bend either way, and its white toes now curled the same way the black ones on the other side had done.

"It has a face both front and back," whispered Dorothy, wonderingly; "only there's no back at all, but two fronts."
"Wonder if this works with strings," said Dorothy; but Polychrome cried "Look!" for another creature just like the first had suddenly appeared sitting on another rock, its black side toward them. The two twisted their heads around and showed a black face on the white side of one and a white face on the black side of the other.

"How curious," said Polychrome; "and how loose their heads seem to be! Are they friendly to us, do you think?"

[dozens more of the creatures appear and surround the group]

"Ask 'em who they are, and what they want," whispered Dorothy; so the shaggy man called out in a loud voice:

"Who are you?"

"Scoodlers!" they yelled in chorus, their voices sharp and shrill.

"What do you want?" called the shaggy man.

"You!" they yelled, pointing their thin fingers at the group; and they all flopped around, so they were white, and then all flopped back again, so they were black.

"But what do you want us for?" asked the shaggy man, uneasily.

"Soup!" they all shouted, as if with one voice.
Happening just then to feel the Love Magnet in his pocket, [The Shaggy Man] said to the creatures, with more confidence:

"Don't you love me?"

"Yes!" they shouted, all together.

"Then you mustn't harm me, or my friends," said the shaggy man, firmly.

"We love you in soup!" they yelled, and in a flash turned their white sides to the front.

"How dreadful!" said Dorothy. "This is a time, Shaggy Man, when you get loved too much."

[they start walking away, the The Shaggy Man throws a rock at the Scoodlers]

At this the Scoodlers raised a howl. Two of them picked their heads from their shoulders and hurled them at the shaggy man with such force that he fell over in a heap, greatly astonished. The two now ran forward with swift leaps, caught up their heads, and put them on again, after which they sprang back to their positions on the rocks.

I love those creepy Scoodlers. Their queen is even better, but I think I've probably quoted enough. The gang eventually makes its way to Oz (of course) for Ozma's big birthday celebration where they are reunited with all their friends from the other books, as well as characters from some of Baum's non-Oz children's books. A good time is had by all.

And now, since you've read this much, don't you want to go and read the whole thing? Of course you do.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

SBW: The Eye-patch Mystery

I've got no problem with Kurt Russell -- in fact, I find him to be a very fun and likable actor -- but he is usually not really an SB (although I learned the other week after watching Grindhouse with my parents that he is one of my mother's SBs...). Similarly, I have no particular love or hate for the eye-patch. I certainly never found them to be a SB-enhancing accessory.

But that is before we watched Escape From New York (1981) where Kurt Russell and the eye-patch were combined into one unstoppable SB super machine!

I think I'll have to do some scientific analysis of this phenomenon.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Earthquake Zone!

We all know I mostly buy my science fiction books based on their covers. Usually that actually works out well and I actually end up really liking the story inside. Sometimes, however, the cover is probably the only worthwhile part of the book. But when the cover is as great as the one on The Second Atlantis by Robert Moore Williams (1965), it is impossible to be disappointed. [And since you know you want to, why not check out the back cover, and a super awesome drawing from page one!]

This book tells the story of the much anticipated disaster that will occur when a series of powerful earthquakes break California off from the rest of the country and sink it into the sea (well, actually its only the Los Angeles Basin, but that would still be pretty significant). The book shifts back and forth between a rather preachy overview of the disaster and a chronological look at how select individuals (a young family, a prophet, a gangster, and a rich playboy) are coping with the crisis. Mostly it just isn't written very well, although towards the end the plot does become a little more compelling.

Here is an example:

Mary Uller was a good woman. She had been a good woman all her life. If being a good woman -- as she meant the words -- had never seemed short of a perfect life, she carefully hid this thought from the world and from herself. She smiled at the world. She smiled on the way to church, in church, and on the way home from church. If she ever had a bad thought, a sexual thought, she buried it under a smile, confident that no one would find it hidden there. At work, where she was a secretary, if she made a mistake, she smiled as she corrected the error.

When the quake began, the smile faltered, slipped, and fell away. A scream was under it. Under the scream was panic. Feeling from the very proper apartment building where she lived, she had lost her smile.

A piece of stone from the edge of the roof struck her on the head. It splashed brains all over the sidewalk.

Okay, I will concede that that last sentence is pretty awesome.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Driskill Hotel

I'd like to stay at a hotel that is on the American Plan for once, but it better have Artesian Water throughout the hotel or I'm leaving.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Smartest Kid on Earth

The lovely Julia recently lent me Jimmy Corrigan : the smartest kid on earth by Chris Ware (2003). I'd always wanted to get into Chris Ware's work, but since I didn't own any and since his art is a little too detailed to really absorb while standing in a bookstore, I never really had. Now I want my own copy of this book so I can look at it again and again.

This is a rough and quiet story of multi-generational awkwardness, regret and abandonment. The drawings seem simple at first glance, but the detail and the movement through the panes is engrossing and complex. This is one of the only graphic novels I've read that really seems like a novel. It made me melancholy for days after reading it, and I think I'll keep flipping through it and re-reading certain sections until I have to give it back.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Aw shit, we got Ikeaed

I have been known to make slightly snarky comments about Ikea in the past. It has been placed in the same category of my brain as those ubiquitous condos, south congress, modern-design houses, yuppie coffee shops, and the like. And there is some justification to that placement. But somewhere in the back of my head, I always kind of wanted to see what the big deal was. Plus no one can deny that the furniture and all is nicely priced. So I caved, and I made the trek to Ikea. And God help me, I liked it.

What really sealed the deal was that my parents were visiting, they drove down here in a van, and my dad is uncomplaining about assembling things. If your dad would drive you to Ikea, load all your purchases in his van, and then spend an hour and a half putting them together, I think you'd decide to go there too.

So, I got a Poang chair and ottoman (how the hell do you pronounce that anyway?). It is majorly comfy, although I think it could be the only Ikea chair that is made to fit a lengthy gal. Most of those chairs are weird things that only smaller people could fit in, and even then they wouldn't be all that comfy.

And I got two "Billy" bookcase thingies (at least I can pronounce that) in which to store the extensive movie collection of Dr. M.

In addition, I scored two antique Danish chairs from my aunt at Easter, and I bought this awesome green, be-skulled loteria plate from the HEB for $6! It was a very materialistic weekend, but I hadn't bought much of anything all year so I think its okay. Now I need to go on an acquisition fast for a few months and calm this buying urge down.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

SB Wednesday: Modine Mania

Oh, Matthew Modine. You are such a nice actor (although often in rather crappy movies, and honestly I haven't seen you in anything since Abel Ferrara's The Blackout in 1997, which was really horrifically spectacularly bad in the way that only Ferrara can be.

Other people will insist that your master work, Cutthroat Island (1995) was also spectacularly bad, but I really liked it. Was it just the combination of your SB-self and Geena Davis who I like because she is tall (6 feet - still shorter than me) in a role-reversal adventure pirate flick? Perhaps. I still think those naysayers are missing the greatness of this film.

But you have tons of movies out that I haven't even seen. And in this one (Hotel New Hampshire), you even have a mustache! And it makes you even more cute. Pulling off a mustache is a true sign of SB power.

And finally, it appears you played Jesus in a movie with Juliette Binoche where she plays Mary? Huh. Still looking good there, messiah SB.

[Oooh, and now that I look at that Mary movie, I see that it too was directed by Abel Ferrara. I think I'll watch it sometime, after making sure that I'm ready for something either super great or stinkingly bad...]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


I'm totally behind on posting about my books and still a little overwhelmed from recently departed visitors combined with new furniture acquisitions. So feel free to amuse yourself with Easter 2007 photo documentation including Nebraska shaped cookies, birthday cakes wearing bunny masks and Josh's melting face.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


I've finally gotten around to reading Savage Inequalities: Children in American Schools by Jonathan Kozol (1992). My sister loaned this book to me over two years ago, and somehow it got buried in another pile of books (imagine that). Since my parents are coming for a visit, I thought that now would be the perfect time to read the book so they could return it to her when they get back home.

This book is a well-written and powerful commentary on the way public education is set up to perpetuate the class system and pay lip-service to the American dream while actually doing little beyond maintaining the status quo. Really pretty depressing, and even though this book was written almost fifteen years ago, basically nothing has really changed in the ways most communities fund public education and the importance the government gives to educating all children, not just their own. If anything, I would guess it has probably gotten worse.


Reading this book got me riled up about education, but also made me feel really helpless. Because public schools are so tied up in this institutionalized racism and the black and white world of haves vs. have-nots, I can't see any real way to change it. At least not any way that would work.

Do you have any ideas?

If nothing else, read this book so you can get riled up too (although I feel like this is one of those books that everyone on earth has read except me, so you probably already have).

[And, as mentioned above, we will have visitors for the next few days, so posting will probably be kept to a minimum. Dig.]

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Secret Boyfriend Wednesday: Favorite Actor Edition

Ah, Harvey Keitel. Not just an SB, but also a Favorite Actor. What can't this guy do?

Well, he can't really pull off this hair in Taxi Driver (okay, he can, and luckily he is so much of an SB that his SBness shines through). And he is great in Taxi Driver, isn't he?

Another nice thing about Keitel is that the guy has no problems getting naked on screen. Chalk up another point in the super SB column.

And thanks to YouTube, we can all watch Keitel in a scene from Fingers (1978) -- just one of the many movies he is in that I totally love. It isn't the doublesuck scene (which, if you've seen it, you know what I mean, and if you haven't, you really should), but it's still pretty great. In it, he plays a slightly disturbed piano virtuoso who spends much of his time collecting debts for his small-time mobster dad. Soooo good.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Don't you think that WWE World Champion, John Cena, looks an awful lot like...

A-list actor, Matt Damon?

[And I'd also like to note that it is really hard to find a picture of Matt Damon where he isn't either 19 or smiling a goofy smile that makes him look not as much like John Cena. It is also hard to find a picture of John Cena where he is smiling and/or fully clothed.]

[They are also both from the Boston area, but I don't think they are actually related.]

[Lastly -- did you know John Cena has recorded a hip hop CD? In addition, one of his nicknames is The Doctor of Thugonomics; one of his "signature taunts" (according to Wikipedia) is waving his hand in front of his face, horizontally, to symbolize that "You can't see me!"; his father is a wrestling announcer who goes by the nickname "Johnny Fabulous;" and since he starred in the movie The Marine, he has taken to wearing camouflage and saluting the audience, although from what I can tell he never was actually in the service. Wrestling!]

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Blog! List! Horror! Movies! Blog!

I know you will want to check out Dr. Mystery's newest project, Decapitated Zombie Vampire Bloodbath, the blog that traces our journey through all the horror movies in the book Fangoria's 101 Best Horror Movies You've Never Seen: A Celebration of the World's Most Unheralded Fright Flicks. A good time shall be had by all!