Friday, February 27, 2009

Sad News On the Computer Front

Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 753n
November 29, 2002 - February 27, 2009

Yes, my faithful desktop slipped quietly into permanent sleep mode today. He had a good run, but age and obsolescence finally caught up with him as it must to us all. His last words were "boot disk failure..." and several hours of effort to revive him came to naught.

He was preceded in death by Macintosh 512Ke and Toshiba Satellite laptop.

In lieu of flowers or donations, his family requests that you defrag your hard drive this evening.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Random Fun With Sarah J.

Remember my friend Sarah? My 23-yr. old occasional fake date (the Sex Workers' Art Show in Feb, 2008, Poe's 200th Birthday Bash last month) and text-message buddy? Well, she raves on, so I thought I'd share with the group.

This is Sarah, by the way (dietcokelove on MySpace), in her New Year's Eve finery:

Sarah needs to write a book or something; she leads an... uh... interesting... life and has mastered the Art of the Brief But Intriguing Text Message. Earlier this month she mentioned she was moving to a new apartment and since I owe her some midnight door decor*, I asked (well, texted), when and where because "inquiring stalkers need to know." Her response?

There are nuts behind my ears and a bee on my knee. The camel on my toe has to wait until next week.

No address, you'll note. Sarah ain't stupid.

We commiserated a bit about Valentine's Day--I couldn't con anyone into taking me out and feeding me Valentine Bacon and no one had propositioned... uh... professed... undying (24-hr.) love for her, so we figured, well, things are going to be dull again this year; we may as well exchange DVD recommendations. The next morning:

Today has been the best valentine's day I've had in in 6 years. At 7 am i was playing extreme black jack. It involves nudity and cigarette burns.

See what I mean? There's a NaNoWriMo idea right there!

Anyway, back on the 20th I sent out a general alert re: the 4th anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson's death and Sarah responded in the best tradition of Gonzo:

I'm a day late on (Hunter S.) thompson's (death)day, but I think I've got it covered. For your amusement i will forward you texts I've sent tonight for you to live vicarious(ly through me).

Fwd: I believe It's going to be an evening of speed, red wine, and kafka tonight.

(she was preparing to paint her new apartment)

Fwd: Man, my hallway was so pretty, but It's dis a p p e a r i n g.

Fwd: Paint fumes. Drugs. No ventalation. kafka talking about raping ghosts.

Ghost rape? WTF?


I feel like I huffed a Bunch of paint and drank wine till 9am. oh wait-I did. How come they never talk about hunter s. Thompson having a hang over?

I'm gonna write a book called hunter s. Thompson's hang over. It's gonna be a scratch and sniff.

In between I responded that HST probably negated hangovers with a precisely calculated combo of sleeping pills, Wild Turkey, and methamphetamine.

Oh no! Speed is not the answer. Sleeping pills maybe Alcohol, yes, but no more speed.

Yep, brief and intriguing!

*As I left for work the day after Halloween 2007 I noticed my formerly white front door was covered--covered!--in bloody handprints. This was a real mystery as very few people know of my Halloween obsession (almost none locally) and even fewer care enough to acknowledge it in any way, shape, or form. I kept waiting for someone to claim credit so he or she could receive his or her... proper... reward (insert sinister laugh), but no one did until about two months later when Sarah made a passing and totally unnecessary comment about how clean my door looked these days.

She was so busted!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Buy theTicket, Take the Ride

Hunter S. Thompson
July 18, 1937--February 20, 2005

"Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

"History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of 'history' it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

"My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

"There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

"And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

"So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."
--Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971)

Ages ago, as time is reckoned on Da Intarwebs (translation: like, man, you know, last week or sumthin'), one of the many discussion boards I read posed this question:

"Who changed the shape of your head?
So who's the last person to alter your worldview, put new ideas into your head that shape(d) your operating system for the rest of your life? Who was the first person to do it?"

For me, the quick 'n' dirty answer to that last part is "Hunter S. Thompson."

I guess I was around 13 when I read Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs as a follow-up to Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test*; both books cover the same time period and intersect in a number of places. The interesting thing to me was, whereas Wolfe reported events as some sort of peripherally-involved off-screen narrator (see New Journalism), Thompson was an integral part of the action. Huh? Whaa...? Subjective non-fiction? Oh, mama; give me more of that!

Three years later he did, with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, then later, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. At that point I wanted to be Hunter S. Thompson: smoke dope, snort ether, drink Wild Turkey, whiz around the country in an oversized, dangerously high-powered automobile and collect... experiences... which I would then dutifully document in a sweat-drenched, fever-pitched frenzy of Smith-Corona pounding while Lou Reed blasted from the stereo and manic friends on a three-week lithium vacation hooted and hollered in the background.

Didn't work out that way--big "Duh!" there--but the fantasy entertained and sustained me for years, fueled at regular intervals by new collections of writings such as Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (and others).

Unfortunately, Hunter got older and the ravages of his singular lifestyle finally caught up with him. His writing and his body began to deteriorate and at 5:42 p.m. on February 20, 2005, he killed himself with a gunshot to the head.

Typical Thompson-- not with a whimper, but a bang.

I miss him.

There's a nice reading list here, a MetaFilter tribute from the time of his death here, and my favorite (i. e., readable) biography here.

*Not a good age to read such a book, especially if you're growing up in a small, sleepy, Southern factory town in the 'Sixties where nothing ever seemed to happen. The same holds true for On the Road; both rendered me restless, irritable and discontented at a time (and place) when (and where) there was really nothing I could do about it.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Car Talk

By all reckoning I am not a Car Guy. Never was, probably never will be. Yeah, I can change a tire, I can change the oil, I know where the dipstick is and where to pour the wiper fluid (not into the engine casing), but I don't know how to operate a stick shift, the clutch scares me half to death, and BIG! NOISY! HIGH-POWERED! HIGH-PERFORMANCE! engines intimidate the hell out of me. I am not The Compleat Man.

That doesn't stop me from admiring cool cars; after all, I grew up in the 'Sixties and was surrounded by the fallout from hot rod/Kustom Kulture-- the art of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and Robert Williams, Rat Fink dolls, the Monkeemobile, the Munster Koach, the (original) Batmobile, and, most especially, the Aston-Martin DB5 from Goldfinger.

Let's ignore my hearse obsession for the time being*.

Anyway, the other day I was cruising Boing Boing ("A Directory of Wonderful Things") and happened upon this item: Phantom Corsair from 1938.

O. M. G!

Check it out:

That, my friends, is one sweet, sweet ride!

*Ah, but some day I will own one!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cardboard Dreams

Some of you may be old enough to remember these classic comic book ads;* you may even have experienced the thrill of thinking "OMG!" (well, a five-year old's equivalent of OMG), "I could have a ROCKET SHIP or a POLARIS SUBMARINE in my ROOOOOOM!"

You'd better believe I wanted one; unfortunately, my frugal parents were not about to spend that kind of money (hey, it was the 'Sixties! $6.98 was a lot of dough back then) on a pile of flimsy-ass mail-order cardboard likely to fall apart after a single use (here's the reality, by the way, courtesy of Boing Boing: the Polaris Submarine and the Jet Rocket Spaceship--judge for yourself). I was forced to come up with creative alternatives.

Hold that thought.

The other day I was skimming My Monster Memories--Reviving Horrors From the Past, one of my favorite blogs, when I came across this entry:

"I remember reading some of this book" (The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron) "while tucked in one of my own cardboard box spaceships, which made it even more fun. Of course, my parents worried how I could spend hours on end in a cardboard box, but little did they know my mind was soaring off on amazing a(d)ventures. With my canteen full of Goofy Grape soft drink, a peanut butter sandwich, and a good book, I would be e(n)sconced for hours in my make-believe space capsule."

Sweet Screamin' Jeebus! This was exactly my "creative alternative." See, my Dad worked for this store that sold (among many other things) washers, driers, refrigerators, stereo consoles,** and television sets. which meant there was an abundance of HUGE cardboard boxes, big enough for an army of kids, free for the taking. With some fast-talking and a little conniving I was soon the proud owner of...

A cardboard box.***

Except it wasn't a cardboard box. It was my spaceship, my submarine, my tank, my B-17 bomber, my fort, my treehouse, my reading room, my meditation/sensory deprivation chamber, my... well, whatever I wanted it to be.

It. Was. GREAT!

With a little help from Mom, her trusty kitchen knife, and a roll of masking tape I soon had a couple of portholes, an airlock, and an escape hatch. The seat part from a discarded wicker chair served as my command seat, a simple 60-watt work light provided illumination, and with a design scheme lifted from one of my favorite television shows, Space Angel (see more here), I spent hours (well, okay; maybe not hours) with my Crayolas drawing dials, gauges, buttons, and controls, all in very precise locations, each with very specific functions and woe be to the playmate who misused them, which is probably why I spent much of my childhood alone.

Bonus benefit: on those rare occasions when Mom took a nap on a Saturday afternoon and I could sneak a peak at whatever monster film was on Shock Theater I was able to keep from getting too scared by the simple expedient of closing the "shutter" on my makeshift porthole. No hiding behind the sofa or cowering under a blanket for me!

Oh, I would have lived in that box if my parents had allowed it. Good thing The Martian Child hadn't been written/filmed yet or my parents would have whipped me off to the nearest psychiatrist posthaste.

I'm sure they considered that option anyway.

Final summation? All Hail The Cardboard Box!

Edit: Oooo! Oooo! I almost forgot! Again from Boing Boing, HOWTO Build A Cardboard Spaceship.

*For a heavy dose of nostalgia, check out this flickr site: The Comic Book Economy.

**In those ancient days before components, a stereo system was expected to blend in with the rest of the living room furniture. They were big and bulky and made of high-grade wood 'n' steel.

***Thick, heavy-duty cardboard, mind you. Practically indestructible by kid standards.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy (Anti-) Valentine's Day!

Not that I'm cynical or anything; however, sums up my feelings precisely:

"Valentine's Day is like herpes: just when you think its gone for good, it rears its ugly head once more. No wonder some people prefer to call it VD."

And they have a lovely selection of Anti-Valentines to help the rest of us express ourselves.

Example 1, which in my case is horrifically accurate:

Example 2, with a double meaning (some might call it truth in advertising):

And Example 3, which I need to have emblazoned across the front of a sweatshirt:

The good news? Half-price candy everywhere after midnight tonight!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oh, My, How I Love Warren Ellis!

(Saturday afternoon and I'm alone and unsupervised--a sure-fire recipe for trouble!)

You know, Warren Ellis! Crotchety-assed, cigarette-smokin', Red Bull-swilling', whiskey-drinkin', comic book writin' Warren Ellis! The guy who gave us Transmetropolitan and The Authority and Crooked Little Vein and FreakAngels, and, oh, all sorts of things.

And flash fiction. Let us not forget his flash fiction:

“I’ll kill the first piece of cockshit comes near me,” giggled Stabbity Jones, the last legendary knifeman of the old West. He showed them his crooked penis, with the razorblades screwed into the head. “I’ll fuck ‘em to death and make ‘em like it. Your daddies came cowshit up your mommies, and I’m Stabbity fucking Jones.” He bounced in his testicle-hide boots, making the spikes in his nipples jangle. “Stabbity Jones will fight any man here and fuck ‘em good as they bleed before my nekkidness.”

Stabbity Jones was the last knifeman in the West. Everyone else had guns.

(Stabbity Jones went from here to becoming a one-panel gag in an episode of the Marvel comic THUNDERBOLTS, poor bastard. © Warren Ellis 2006)
Stabbity Jones

“So what we do is take one of those morphine pumps that they implant in the thigh for pain management, and have it deliver a chemical cocktail. Viagra, a mild hypnotic, a little amphetamine. And hook it to a voice-activation chip, reset to respond to certain words from me. ‘Mine,’ for instance. TENS electrodes to numb your arms and legs, connected to a clapper switch. Or we could just get one of those penile erection-implant devices that I could operate remotely.”

“Couldn’t we just, you know…have sex?”

“Do you want the scrotal taser again? Shut up.”

(© Warren Ellis 2006)
Love In the Time of Elective Medical Procedure

I'm giggling like a madman over here.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dear Boris...

November 23, 1887 - February 2, 1969

My friend Sam and several bloggers beat me to it (here, for example), but I had to chime in anyway--today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Boris Karloff.

Forty. Years. That's hard to believe.

The very first monster movie I ever saw was Son of Frankenstein (I was maybe 5 and, like many children, empathized with the monster), the very first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland (#31, 1964) I ever bought featured Karloff on the cover as The Mummy, so he's been a part of my life for a very, very long time In fact, though I've had many Short Duration Personal Saviors, Boris has been for the long term.

By all accounts he was the complete opposite of the menacing, frightening characters he portrayed-- kind, generous, thoughtful, intelligent, professional, and above all, a consummate gentleman.

And children loved him.

Typical story (from here):
During the production of Frankenstein (1931) there was some concern that seven-year-old Marilyn Harris, who played Maria, the little girl thrown into the lake by the creature, would be overly frightened by the sight of Karloff in costume and make-up when it came time to shoot the scene. When the cast was assembled to travel to the location, Marilyn ran from her car directly up to Karloff, who was in full make-up and costume, took his hand and asked "May I drive with you?" Delighted, and in typical Karloff fashion, he responded, "Would you, darling?" She then rode to the location with "The Monster."

One of my favorite Karloff stories (though possibly apocryphal*) involves the play Arsenic and Old Lace. When approached for the role of Jonathan Brewster, Karloff initially turned it down, citing numerous prior commitments, his lack of theatrical experience, and his doubts at being able to succeed in a starring role on Broadway. Then the producers showed him a key piece of dialogue:

DR. EINSTEIN: You shouldn't have killed him, Chonny. He's a nice fellow--he gives us a lift--and what happens...? (gestures strangulation)

JONATHAN: He said I looked like Boris Karloff! That's your work, Doctor. You did that to me!

Boris took the part.

Tonight I say the same thing I said forty years ago--"Good night, Boris, wherever (and whatever) you are. Thanks for the frights!"

*Oops! Maybe not! See Boris Karloff: A Critical Account of His Screen, Stage, Radio, Television, and Recording Work by Scott Allen Nollen, Chapter 21.

Also Boris Karloff: A Gentleman's Life by Scott Allen Nollen and Dear Boris: The Life of William Henry Pratt a.k.a. Boris Karloff by Cynthia Lindsay