Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Summer Reading Program: Post #2

As the summer is clearly coming to an end, here's the 2nd batch of reviews for you.

The Invention of Morel
I found this on the Lost List & again struck gold. It's a cool Borgesesque thing about an mysterious island where a man has made this machine which will replay (in 3D & fully lifelike) moments from the island's past... particularly, moments involving a young beautiful woman. The The Baudriardian repetition is fascinating even when the story-telling (or possibly the translation) lags a little. Borges wrote the preface for this, but the story is all Bioy Casares. It's really short... you can read it in a single sitting... & you should.

Three Bags Full
I was unsure about this one, but it's fun & surprisingly clever. A flock of sheep in Ireland get smart after their shepherd reads to them every night. They then use that extra intelligence to solve his murder. W/ nods to Animal Farm, Hamlet & Sherlock Holmes, the sheep stumble through the mystery often unsure about the things that in hind-sight are quite obvious... they're sheep so there's a lot of shit they just don't get. And as it's told from their perspective, the reader is forced to see things as a smart, talking sheep might see them. I guess this is also a nod to that Tolstoy story about the horse.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
I'd actually never read this before. Clearly, it's no Huck Finn, but it's fun, clever, & should be read. It definitely makes me want to reread Huck so as to make the connections between them. And, of course, Mark twain is no slouch.

Sharpe's Rifles
I rarely read historical fiction like this, & it's certainly not going to change any perceptions of the universe, but it's a fun romp through Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. I've seen the BBC films w/ Sean Bean & always like them so I gave this a go. I got the 2nd book in the series too, but I think I'll wait until next summer for that one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Depot Town Fire

I was awakened around 2:00 in the morning to the sounds of the sirens. My 1st thought was "Oh shit... another high speed chase?" The sirens continued throughout the night, & then I heard the helicopters early this morning as I was getting up. When I turned onto River St. on my way to work, I saw the the firetrucks & ambulances. I figured there had been a train accident, but soon found out that others things were afoot. We've been trying to watch the overhaul of that building all year... & for the last few years... & the changes have been hard to notice. Supposedly, a lot had been done. I've heard that there was all sorts of zoning problems, parking problems, & obviously funding problems. That said, the building was constructed in 1861 as a barracks & staging location for Michigan troops leaving for the Civil War. When they rebuild something there, I hope they're able to not only get passed the problems that have mounted over the years, but retain some sense of history. If someone ends up building a stupid 1 story story mall w/ a party store & a pizza place, I'll be more than pissed. Of course, I'll also be less than pleased if it turns out that the fire was started on purpose.Here are the news reports so far... they're all basically the same, except for the photo in The Echo.
Ann Arbor Chronicle
Detroit Free Press
Eastern Echo*
Chicago Tribune
* I kind of like the fact that The Echo seems to be the only source w/ an actual picture of the fire. It's an amazing picture too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Deep in the Hell of Youth Soccer

This fall season has been 1 clusterfuck after another. We've been pushed around from 1 practice place to another a few times. I told the dude we were going to practice 1 place, he said fine & then immediately sent out an e-mail to parents saying somewhere else. They were obviously confused as Hell so I've had to sort that out multiple times. Certainly, it wasn't their fault, but I'm then caught in the middle of it all looking like a total douche nozzle. Of course, it doesn't help that the roster changes every fucking week. We started w/ practices 2 weeks ago, had a few changes for the 2nd week & then had 3 new kids this week. This seems to be a case of the parents registering their kids after the deadline, but @ this point, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it just being a clerical mistake on the part of the Township Rec Dept. I suppose this wouldn't be as big of a deal if wee didn't keep getting new kids who had never played before. Each practice takes us back to the beginning. I'm glad they want to play, & I'm happy to help, but the other kids stand there w/ looks on their faces as if to say, "WTF? We just did all this shit last week." (That's a literal translation of their facial expressions, not a word for word transcription of their actual comments.)

In the end today, after an hour of frustration & disorganization, the parents were really understanding so @ least there was that. They could have been really angry. To top it off, I started kicking the balls as far as I could to take out a little aggression after most had left when 1 of the parents, laughing, asked if it'd been a rough practice @ which point her kid came running up telling her what a great practice it had been. It's nice to know the kids didn't pick up on my frustration; maybe they weren't upset that we'd already done that stuff twice after all.

On the other hand, we got home & Stephanie had made awesome chili. After which, while I was writing this, Isaiah was screwing w/ the computer so I tried to distract him by asking where Mace Windu was. He preceded to walk across the room & grab the Clone Wars Action Figure. The dude is 14 months old & know ace Windu? Sweet! Maybe net year we'll start him on SWTCG. I bet a gaming league would be a lot easier than youth fucking soccer.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Mushroom Cup Incident

When I was little... like 4 or 5... my mom used a typical 70s style grey coffee cup w/ a mushroom design on the sides. I always dug that cup so a couple years ago, while I was helping her clean out her basement, I grabbed it. It had been in a china cabinet for ages & she wanted all the cups in there thrown out so it's not like I lifted it w/o her knowledge. The mushrooms are oddly psychedelic looking; sort of Allman Brothersesque. I don't know why that was the popular style back then, I can't imagine many small town, stay @ home moms w/ drug referencing cups today. I do like the idea of random people w/ bong imagery or crack pipes or needles on their coffee paraphernalia. Anyway, I didn't log on just to ramble on about drug imagery; I logged on to ramble on about my cup. After I grabbed it from the china cabinet, it fell into regular rotation & finally became my go-to cup of choice. That is, until last Wednesday when it came missing. I taught a couple classes w/ it on Tuesday,but On Wednesday morning it was no where to be found. I figured I'd left it in a classroom, but when I went back for it, it wasn't there. I checked all of the lost-&-founds on the 6th floor of Pray Harrold, posted an update on Facebook about it & was preparing to make a wanted posted & begin a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. However, after class, singer/songwriter/Twain Scholar Joe Csicsila suggested it might be in the English office. Alas, it was returned unharmed.I know this seems stupid (& like a story Peterman would tell on Seinfeld), but it got me thinking about how attached people get to coffee cups. As I was looking for it, I got all sorts of sympathy from people, some of whom I rarely talk to. They all had similar stories. Of course, my previous cup was a Kucinich 2004 campaign mug. before that, I had an Oscar Wilde cup that I'd had since 1996. The Kucinich cup broke when I dropped it in the hallway on the way to class. The Wilde cup in MIA. Id it ever turns up though, it'll have a hard time regaining its place as my #1 now that I have the Mushroom Cup back.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pirates... Again

Bring on the grog. It's Septembarrr 19th so it's Talk Like a Pirate Day. In the past we've always celebrated w/ old pirate films like The Master of Ballantrae (in 2005) & Treasure Island (in 2007). Last year, we switched it up & went w/ a different type of swashbuckler: The Three Musketeers. We've got a 3 Stooges episode, "Three Little Pirates," lined up for this evening, but 1st we're off to visit my father who just had his 2nd knee replacement in as many months. Since you'll need to review the previous Visions of Ypsi Pirate posts to celebrate fully, you can see them here. Other things we may do today include a few museum stops or a trip to the the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale. I'll keep you posted... arrr.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The quickest way to move from point A to point B as long as point B is the hospital.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Summer Reading Program Part the First

Last spring, you remember, I posted a list of the books I planned to read this summer. Some got read... others didn't, but Here's the 1st instalment of the book reviews... considdering that it is Banned-Book Week after all.

The Time Traveler's Wife:

Stephanie loved this a few years ago when it was all the rage, then it became all the rage again this summer as the big-budget, feature film came out. She talked me into reading it (it's influence on Lost didn't hurt), & I really dug it. There are certainly some holes in the plot & a few awkward spots, but the love story is interesting & the S/F stuff works pretty well. Give it a read if you're 1 of the few people who hasn't already given it a read.

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things:
Awesome! Jon McGregor was short listed for the Booker, but he should have won. It's a fantastic book about a young woman in England & the day she & her neighbors witness a tragic car accident. It borrows a little from Enduring Love, but his style is fresh & innovative. There's an odd vagueness throughout the book as wee realize the characters don't really know one another while each tries to explain what the others are doing.

The Shadow of the Wind:
Easily one of the best books I've read in years. Zafon borrows a little from Eco, but also from Borges & Marquez. A fascinating book. Absolutely read this... NOW!

The Moon Pool:
After 3 good books, we get to a clunker. I felt compelled to finish it, but I wouldn't suggest any of you do that. It's ridiculous. It's the only junk I got off the Lost list... but its level of junkocity is beyond compare.It would have made a great 1950s B S/F movie... so much so that it was hard to read w/o thinking of what would have been said on MSY3K.

The Killing Joke:
We'll finish this round of brief reviews w/ an Alan Moore. This Batman from 1988 is one of the best graphics I've ever read. The Joker sets out to prove that anyone can be pushed over the edge & become nuts like him. In order to do this, he puts Commissioner Gordon on a broke-down amusement park ride, doses him, & forces him to watch graphic films of his daughter getting raped & beaten. It's fucked up... but the fucked up Batmans are the best ones.

That's it for the 1st installment of the Visions of Ypsi Summer Reading Wrap Up. There's more to come, & in the mean time, visit this post on Solstice's blog where she wrote a short review of a book & then actually had the author comment. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Alan Moore, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Summer of Arnold Post # 6: The Other Stuff / The Wrap Up

Stay Hungry: This came out in 1976 & works as a nice precursor to Smokey & the Bandit. It's about some Good ol' Boys in Alabama who attempt to take over a gym in order to build a sky-rise. We get Sally Field preparing for her role (& her roll) w/ Renyolds... but in this 1 we actually get Sally-skin. If nothing else, it was worth it for that. She works @ the gym where Arnold is preparing for the Mr. Universe contest & Jeff Bridges is the investor who is supposed to buy them out but falls in love w/ Fields instead. It's actually a decent film, But Arnold doesn't do much other than flex & oil up. It's not fantastic though... obviously. It's really only for the Sally Fields or Schwarzenegger completist. 2 1/2 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Batman & Robin: It's hard to come up w/ an original comment about this film. What else can be said after 12 years of complaints. It sucks, but if we focus on Arnold, we see he actually puts in a decent performance as Mr. Freeze. From beginning to end, nothing really works, but Aiden liked it & as a family, we only have 1 more of the 4 80s/90s Batmans to watch... The 1 w/ Danny DeVito! 1 1/2 Jiggly PecsAround the World in 80 Days: This is the 3rd version of this I've seen. The Pierce Brosnan version from 1989 is actually really good. Of course the David Niven version from 1956 won an Best Picture Oscar. This Jackie Chan version is winning no Oscars, but it's fun for the whole family. The changes to the story work well, but take away from the whole comment on British Imperialism that is so important in the book & earlier films. Arnold's cameo is only about 5 minutes long; he plays a Prince in Istanbul who tries to marry Phileas Fogg's love interest. Wackiness ensues, Jackie Chan flies through the air, & we're on to the next seen. 2 1/2 Jiggly Pecs

So ends our Schwarzeneger-a-thon. was it fun? Yes. Did I learn anything? Not really. Would I do it again? Only in chronological order. Will I be purchasing the Terminator films soon? Hell Yeah! we already watched the 1st 2 again & I loved them even more the 2nd time. I'm still a littl ebaffled by the fact that no one ever sat me down & made me watch them before.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Hour w/ the Dregs

After a long afternoon of meetings & syllabizing, I headed out to take care of the new car paper-work. We've had the car for a week & a 1/2, but I couldn't do anything until I got a copy of the release of lien which I didn't get until last Thurs. Of course, Fri. was a furlough day so nothing could get done @ the Sec. of State. Mon. being Labor Day pushed it back again so I finally go things moving today. I went to State Farm for the insurance where they promptly bent me over & inserted the policy directly up my ass w/o passing go (they did collect their dollars though). The totally of the Escape was certainly a negative in terms of the insurance payment. From there I went to the Sec. of State. I know I complained about this a couple years ago, but for you newbies... & for you high-ons who forgot, I'm doing it again. The stench of B.O. must be embedded in the carpet in that place. The funk of 40 thousand years. (If you dig that "Thriller" reference, you'll really dig this Lego version of the "Thriller" video.) I know that place is the great equalizer, everyone has to go there, & many of those people are stinky, but is a little Carpet Fresh too much to ask? It's nasty! I just don't understand why it has to stink so badly. It's not like someone deuced behind the counter, it's just B.O., but maybe I'd prefer the deuce. Of course, w/ the 4 day weekend, the place was packed so once I got my number ("64"), I checked the number they were on ("9") & realized I was in for a long, stinky afternoon.

To kill time, I hit Fun 4 All, the comic book shop a few stores down & checked out Gotham by Gaslight... a graphic that pits batman in 19th century Gotham fighting Jack the Ripper. Strange but kind of cool. I went back & they were up to 45 so I went to Dunham's & scored a dry-erase soccer field clip board. Pretty sweet! I used it this evening... AWESOME! I wish I'd gotten 1 years ago. Afterwards I went back to the Sec. of State & still waited another 15 minutes. While waiting, I did get to see something cool. A woman who shaved (or waxed) off her eye brows & tattooed electric blue dots in their place. The blue even matched her hair. Not as awesome as the dry-erase board, but close. Anyway, my number is finally called, only to find out the release of lien was wrong & I still needed something else. It was apparently from the wrong bank. I don't know how that happened, but I guess I'm in for another stinky day tomorrow.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Summer of Arnold Post #5: The Action

Commando: I loved it when I was a kid, & it sort of holds up still. I say sort of because, while it is certainly junk, the pacing is good which keeps it moving along, plus we get Rae Dawn Chong. With The Terminator, the Arnold franchise learned they needed ridiculous one liners to help the films stick in our collective hearts & this went to the wall w/ them. Along w/ the one liners, we get Arnold jumping out of an airliner, carrying a tree over his shoulder, & killing people w/ circular saw blades. 3 1/2 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Raw Deal: The viewers get the real raw deal. It's like a bad Rockford Files rip-off, w/ a smaller budget. Not even Darren McGavin could save this clunker. This blows - 'nuf said. 1 out of 5 jiggly pecs

True Lies: Unlike Stallone, when Arnold teams up w/ James Cameron the results are fantastic... & this is 1 of those team-ups. Like the old Brave & the Bold comics (& sort of like the new cartoon) the viewer always/already knows the pairing will work. Jamie Lee Curtis is great. Even Tom Arnold is good. I'd never seen this before, but I'll definitely give it another go when it's on TV & I happen upon it. 4 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Eraser: Like Raw Deal, this involves mafia. Unlike Raw Deal, this 1 basically works. Arnold plays an agent who fakes the death of high-profile witnesses, but then gets involved in 1 of the cases a little to deeply, @ which point he teams up w/ dock workers/union guys/mafia thugs to fight terrorist/gun runners. As in Commando, he falls from an airplane, but to even better effect. 3 1/2 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Collateral Damage: Like Predator, he goes to Latin America to fight bad guys. He's a fire-fighter fighting terrorists after 9-11 which says a lot about the movie, but it's better than it sounds. It's another film which shows the US Military as just as shady & murderous as the "bad guys." There isn't the flag waving that I expected, & we see another instance of Arnold's schizophrenic politics. 3 out of 5 jiggly pecs.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

3... 3... 3 Posts in 1

We'll finish today w/ a fun little feminine urination device but before we get there, let's take a look @ our new car & remember the lovely trip to the Detroit Zoo we took on Tuesday.
The Zoo
We cruised out to Royal Oak on Tuesday morning for a fun-filled day of animals, over-priced food, & bonding-time w/ my brother-in-law. Stephanie had been wanting to take Isaiah out there since he's mad for animals... turns out he loved it. Other than the horse that was a little closer than Isaiah wanted, everything was great. I love the Detroit Zoo... it's big, there are a ton of cool things to see, & took care of the elephants properly, & they don't have neon junk everywhere like Toledo. Piss on the Toledo Zoo! We parked on the top of the garage so I got to spit on to Woodward while we waited for Dan to meet us up there; so I had that going for me. We saw most of the animals starting w/ the penguins & ending w/ the llamas. We walked through the kangaroo exhibit where I learned that I don't like kangaroos very much, mainly because of their gestation process. It creeps me out. Stephanie loved the prairie dogs, Aiden dug the tiger, Solstice dug the penguins & reptiles. I, of course, was into the llamas & hippos, but the prairie dogs were cool. I wish they had a cross-section of their tunnels though. They can dig like they're on Hogans Heroes. They didn't blow up any bridges or bang any local chicks though... just each other.

The Car
You may recall I totalled my car last month. Well, I finally replaced it... w/ a 2002 Taurus wagon. It's got 200,000 miles and a sweet tape deck, oh, & a backwards way-back seat. The heat/AC only works when the fan is on full blast & there's a huge crack in the windshield, but for 100 bones it can't be beat. This picture is oddly flattering.

Go Girl
And for the third part of today's awesome post. Women no longer have to take life sitting down, or so says the tag line for this funnel device women can use to aid in out-door peeing. I've seen other devices like this over the years (I remember Holly had a Playgirl w/ Kip Winger on the cover & in the back there was an ad for something like this), but apparently this new design is the best ever. I can't imagine the difference between the best & the worst could really be that great, but I suppose if it means the difference between hitting the target & dripping down a leg then it makes sense. They're marketing it for both out-doorsy stuff & also for use in public restrooms. I get the camping/hunting use, but are women's restrooms really so bad that they necessitate this? Every women's room I've ever seen has fresh flowers & some sort of fancy vending machine. They always get mirrors too. Men only get mirrors about 60% of the time. I guess they can check their Go Girl placement in the mirrors before they pee standing up. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Summer of Arnold Post #4: The Sci/Fi

The Terminator: We got our Dish Network hooked up the other day, I went to work, & when I got home, Stephanie told me she'd recorded this again. Even she loved it. I'm still shocked I hadn't seen these before. It's got everything I want in a Sci/Fi film except a theme song by GnR. 4 1/2 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Predator: I hadn't seen this since I was in high school. I loved it when I was a kid, & it basically holds up. there are clearly some holes in the plot, but the effects are cool & the location filming is great. Things I didn't remember include how long the other characters live. I remembered them dying off quickly, but he's only really on his own for a little while. I'd also forgotten about the woman they bring back. I'd like to know her story & how they explain what happened. Finally, the shady Special Ops people are interesting. Not necessarily the characters, but the shadiness. We have a case of an Arnold movie where they paint the US military as lying, coercive bastards. That's how I've always viewed them, but it doesn't seem to jive w/ Arnold's views... unless you watch all of him films, in which case we start to see an interesting pattern. 4 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Running Man: The costumes are ridiculous, the plot is ridiculous, the gov't set-up of a good cop is believable... but supposedly in contrast to Arnold's beliefs, & Maria Conchita Alonso couldn't act her way out of Red Sonja or and Arnold comedy... bt the movie works none-the-less. We both liked it. Plus, it's the 2nd appearance of Jesse the Body. 3 1/2 jiggly pecs... + 1/2 for Richard "Cpl. Peter Newkirk" Dawson = 4 jiggly pecs

Total Recall: It's a stinker. I loved it 20 years ago, but it doesn't hold up. The blurred line between fantasy & reality is still cool, but the movie blows. The sets are cheap, the acting is weak, & the effects & not as neat as they should be. 2 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Terminator 2: Judgement Day: It's got everything The terminator has plus better effects & the GnR song. 5 out of 5 jiggly pecs

The 6th Day: The marketing dudes got together & decided the only way to top fighting Satan was fighting himself... which says a lot about Satan & Arnold. It kind of sucks though & was clearly written by a committee. 2 out of 5 jiggly pecs

Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines: Arnold is looking old & haggard, but the film is better than a lot of people seem to think. I would even go so far as to suggest that this may be Claire Danes' best film (@ least out of the ones I've seen). We haven't seen the new Terminator film, but of the 3 we've seen it's the worst... still pretty good though. (Side-bar: we watched the 1st season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles recently & I'm dying to see the 2nd. I wish they'd bring it back for a 3rd.) 3 3/4 jiggly pecs