Friday, June 13, 2008

CD Pick of the Week: Tango Negro Trio
Cool and feisty Latin jazz and tangos from noted Argentinian singer/pianist/composer Juan Carlos Caceres. It’s sharp and sophisticated, extremely well played and with some delicious vocals as well with a husky, lived-in male voice.
Gay people buy dryers
When I moved into this house (good lord, 14 years ago!?!?) there was an ancient dryer in the garage. Ancient, but functioning. Two weeks ago Old Man Dryer started making a noise like there was a rabid guinea pig stuck in the works (there wasn't -- don't call PETA). So it was time to replace him/it.

Off Husband and I go to OSH. There was a sale. They were white and boring. We bought one. But as he and I compared capacity and tried to figure out what various knobs did, it hit me: this is what marriage really is.

Forget moonlight and roses and happily ever after. Marriage is spending Sunday afternoon shopping for appliances. I mean really, does anything make you feel more married than buying something as dull and as necessary as a dryer?

Lately the California papers have been full of news about same-sex marriages. (About bloody time!) And, of course, those brain-dead zealots who use religion as an excuse to try and force their beliefs on an exhausted from fighting about it world, have been yammering on non-stop about: one man, one woman -- that's marriage. To which I say: that's bullshit.

Marriage has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with purchasing large appliances. It's not about sex; about who puts what where. It's about paying your bills, taking out the trash, negotiating rights for the remote control, and dealing with the fact that dryers (and ovens, sofas, coffee tables, etc.) wear out and need to be replaced.

Gays and lesbians are not fighting for the right to legalize the joining of their naughty bits. They are fighting for the right to go to Home Depot and order a sink. They want to have the same options as heterosexuals when it comes to buying a home, dealing with paperwork for their kids, and having visiting rights in the emergency room. They do want to get married, they want to be married. They want to say "I'd much rather go see the new Indiana Jones movie, but we really need to buy a new fridge this afternoon."

So, brain-dead zealot, get your mind out of the bedroom. Gay people are going to have gay sex whether you like it or not -- whether we make it legal or not. All they want is to be able to stay home on a Friday and wait for the delivery guys.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Spitting in church
For art historians (you can't see me but I'm raising my hand) there are various places of pilgrimage that are just this side of church for us. The Prado. The Met. The Hermitage. The Uffizi. And, our version of St. Peter's, The Louvre.

The headline of this BBC story tells it all: Duran Duran make Louvre history.

Oh good. The one thing lacking from the glorious architecture and atmosphere of the Louvre has been 80s pop has-beens singing in the background. I'm sure contemplating the wonder of Caravaggio's Death of the Virgin is made infinitely more meaningful when one can hear Hungry Like a Wolf.

In addition to this musical sacrilege, they go on record as wishing harm to one of the world's most famous work of art: "Singer Simon Le Bon said he hoped the show had "put a smile on the Mona Lisa's face". Good lord, I hope not.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

When life disappoints
Two of my favorite bloggers have recently written great posts about being disappointed. Husband writes of his dissatisfaction with the Discovery channel's documentary about the space race, When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions.

Meanwhile, the ever-hilarious Finny details her long-anticipated visit to Sunset Magazine's open house.

For me, my most recent disappointment was PBS's Mystery, usually one of my favorite TV shows. But this past season they redid some of Agatha Christie's wonderful Miss Marple stories to star the delightful Geraldine McEwan. She was, as usual, great. The adaptations, however, were dreadful.

Mind you, they had a lot to live up to. The definitive Miss Marple stories have already been done, in my opinion, in the series starring Joan Hickson, pitch-perfect as the spinster sleuth. Those productions were stylish, fabulously acted and directed, and faithful to the novels. The latest round of stories, however, featured plot devices that would have made Christie blush.

One cannot help but wonder why they would take a character as beloved and well known as Miss Jane Marple and then screw big time with the books. Not only is this guaranteed to piss off diehard Christie fans (such as I) but it's hardly likely to draw new fans. If this was one's first introduction to Agatha Christie, you'd get the impression that she couldn't write a decent plot to save her life. They were awful. Plus they stupidly redid some of the ones that were done previously with Hickson. I have all the Joan Hickson Marples on DVD and can happily watch them repeatedly. The new ones I could barely sit through once.

There were characters that never appeared in the original novels. In fact one threw in two additional Christie characters, the charming Tommy and Tuppence. The problem was that T&T weren't in that particular novel and instead of the stylish and playful couple of the 20s and 30s, they were old, tired, 50-ish, and Tuppance was an alcoholic. What a way to ruin the unwritten future of some beloved characters!

Some of the changes were just baffling. Why change the name of one character from "Charles" to "James?" Is there an embargo against the name Charles? Why take a very-much-in-love newlywed couple (in the book and the Hickson verson) and change it to an engaged woman, her never-to-appear-on-screen fiance, and a guy who's just a pal but ends up getting the girl in the end? What exactly does that add to the story?

I think part of the charm of Christie is the coziness of the stories. Sure each one is about a murder....but it's a tidy murder. In a tidy society. But the latest versions decided that the one thing lacking from Christie is a sense of grittiness. (And Christie is SO the anti-gritty!) So they added suicidal main characters, closeted homosexuals, and even a horrid back story which gave Miss Marple a married lover in WWI.

OK, so Husband's dissatisfaction has the benediction of scientific superiority. And Finny at least got out in the world. Me? I'm just bitchy because my mystery wasn't cozy enough.

Sigh...even my rants are lame.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm a goner
Yesterday I returned to kitten duty after two weeks off due to ill health. And I have a new favorite kitten. Behold the adorable "Butch." (So named in honor of Husband's uncle.)

Truly an amazingly cute kitty. And SO tremendously sweet. It was all I could do to put him back into his nursery after I fed and played with him. The returning of said kitten was made even more difficult by the fact that he callously and with malice aforethought fell asleep in my arm.

I mean how do you resist that? I completely want to adopt this cutie. Speaking of which, the first litters of kittens that were put up for adoption were all adopted on the first day! Wonderful news! Having loved and fed these little ones it makes me so happy to know they're going to good homes. But oh, I do SO want to adopt little Butch.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Shut up and drink the Kool-aid
Today Saint Steve of Jobs gave his Sermon on the Mount at the Apple Developer's Conference. Gee, and I missed it. How will I endure the shame? (For the record, I refuse to link to any news item about this.)

As a proud ex-Apple employee (for the record, I quit -- I was not fired) I cannot tell you how frickin' happy I am to not have had to listen to his drivel again. Every keynote speech he gives is simulcast to the Apple "campus" where hoards of badge-wearing, Kool-aid drinking, brain-washed zealots cheer every lame joke, every new announcement. It's completely terrifying, really. From an anthropological viewpoint it's actually a fascinating example in the herd mentality. For me, it was a great excuse for people watching as I'd stare, bored out of my non-brainwashed-brain, at the rapt expression on the faces of the masses.

I was completely not an Apple person. I didn't think the iPhone was equivalent to the Second Coming. I did, however, think it was an awful place to work. Bad environment. Complete lack of creative freedom. And a ridiculous waste of talent. They'd hire wonderfully inventive, totally creative minds and then refuse to let them have any individual thought whatsoever. Only a few people there were allowed to have ideas. The rest of the drones were simply there to do the work that other people came up with. It didn't matter if your idea was better -- if you weren't on the hip kids bench, you were basically equivalent to doggy poopy.

But the keynotes were especially painful because they were sad. Tragically so. You see, people at Apple actually think this stuff matters. They lose sleep over it. Hell, they lose marriages over it. Completely removed from reality, they believe getting the next iGizmo out the door is the most important item on the universe's agenda. Forget global warming. AIDS. Starvation. War. All of that pales in comparison to making sure we don't make the world wait one more minute for the next product.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a dedicated Apple user. I'm typing this on my PowerBook G4. Husband has his own Apple laptop, and we have an Apple desktop at home. We also have several iPods between us. But people, it's just technology! It's not a religion! And I am so, so, so glad to be out of there. And free to not have to watch another self-servingly smug keynote e very again.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Pass the popcorn
Husband and I are both lovers of old movies. The TCM channel might just be our favorite channel, and we're never happier than when we're watching Bogart or Stewart, Garbo or Stanwick. This past evening we watched a minor bit of fluff called Love Crazy starring William Powell and the beautiful Myrna Loy.

At one point in the lunacy, Husband turned to me and said "I love the studio system." Yeah, me too. The classic days of contract players at MGM or RKO resulted in some of the most amazing films of all time. And allowed them to pair together male and female leads who actually had (gasp!) that illusive quality of chemistry. Of course most people know Powell and Loy from the Thin Man series of films the did together. But as Love Crazy illustrates, those weren't the only paring from these two.

Of course Myrna Loy (who I've always thought was stunning) was such an incredible talent she'd be able to act as if she had chemistry with a brick, but when matched with the wise-cracking, whip-crack comedic timing of William Powell, it was magic. Love Crazy makes very little sense, but it's great fun. And, as with all movies made during the era of the studio system, everyone from the elevator boy (Elisha Cook, Jr.) to the overbearing mother-in-law (the stern prow of Florence Bates) was shining. I think that's what I miss most about the studio system. Back then the bit players were as funny or as memorable as the stars. OK, maybe you need to be an old movie nut like I (or Husband) to know them by name, but any movie that has Thelma Ritter or Eric Blore in it is worth seeing. And I love watching those films and saying "hey, that cop is the hotel bellboy from that Cary Grant movie we saw last week."

Modern movies just don't have that quality of having been made in the small town of Hollywood. With global film studios, location shots, the demise of the studio system and the rise of the superstar, it's no doubt gone for good. Thankfully, though, there are DVDs and the Turner Channel to remind us of just how glorious the glory days were. And I'm proud to say that I will always rather watch a James Stewart film than anything with George Clooney.