Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stand By For Adventure!

TO-DO DO DO, TO-DA DA DA
So, sometime ago I posted this MASSIVE to-do list for the first half of 2008.

It's still in place. Some to's have been done. I've actually TURNED DOWN some work because I just can't handle another project. (Go me.) In general, I'm pretty all-business these days, except when I'm in FUN MODE, in which case I'm all bid-niz, yo.


NO, ASSHOLE, TURKEYS FLY!!!
The NATF retreat in St. Louis was equally frustrating, shocking, invigorating, and terrifying. I learned some things about the org that, frankly, if I'd known this was "the state of things" or "how shit gets done," I might have passed on a board position.

But, as my drinkin' buddy Don Rumsfeld once said, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you wish you had. So I'm sticking with these folks for at least the remainder of my first 2-year term. Beyond that? Who knows. I don't think I'm cut out for this level of board involvement, especially if they "ratify" the "give, get, or get out" fundraising credo -- which I think is asinine and definitely was stated NOWHERE in the welcome-to-the-club literature.



In other NATF news, IF I'm on staff at the annual workshop this year (and that's still an IF at this point, sad to say) I won't be performing sound effects (sniff) ... I'll be DIRECTING a segment most likely including but not limited to an adaptation of some Shakespeare, some cowboy poetry, and a Native American folk tale. Kind of a mash-up of all three. I think. Which is cool! Though I haven't directed anything in ... about 14 years. But considering my "job" that week will consist of hanging out with cowboys and getting them comfortable with this whole AW-DEE-OH THEE-ATE-R concept, I'm pretty thrilled.

So there's that.


STILL CRAZY AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
Some bullet points, sans bullets:
I'm still on a bit of a conspiracy theory kick these days. At work, I'm watching/listening (mostly listening) to "The Secret Rulers of the World," which is a little too nuthatch-y in spots (and poorly spiced together in general) to be taken seriously (all 29 parts of it), but it is a fascinating and entertaining overview of governmental/religious/regal/economic/racial dominance of civilization over the past 3,000 years or so, from the Egyptian pharaohs up to the Bush dynasty. The "dot connecting" and Illuminati stuff is, I think, pretty far-fetched, as much as it fires my imagination, in an attempt to posit conspiracies and World Domination plots. But the series is full of Interesting historical tidbits and questions.

There's another good series by the BBC called "The Power of Nightmares," which posits essentially that much of the "enemy threat" during the Cold War and the concept of al-Qaeda as a faceless, country-less terrorist org with global sleeper cells, even here in the US, were largely if not entirely ... fabricated, like the bogeyman, as part of a neocon agenda that's not really hidden.

I'm also watching/listening to as much Noam Chomsky as Mars is reading/listening to Michael Pollan. To each his/her own I guess.

I managed to hook Mars on LOST, despite the screaming (in the show, not from me). I watched about a dozen episodes somewhere between season 1 and 2 last year when I was still living with Mike, so I knew I had to start over at some point and watch it all the way to the present. Yay, Netflix.

Because it needs to be said: I really wish my ex would get her financial shit together. I'm tired of hearing about it.

Oh, and RIP William F. Buckley, Jr. He was a good 'un.

EDIT: This could use some intro: it's a debate between Chomsky and Buckley from 1969, on US intervention in world affairs. I don't agree with Buckley's view that the US should be able to intervene because we are "disinterested" and have [INSERT COUNTRY NAME]'s best interests at heart. This view I think is what the neocons ultimately fomented into today's yee-haw US foreign policy, where we are INCAPABLE of wrongdoing ... or even human error, since God is on our side. ANYWAY, what I do love about Buck is the way he gets his point across as intelligently as Chomsky does. B is a little overbearing, I think, and cuts Noam off a lot. But in general you can tell that at heart, these are two intellectuals who WANT people to understand what they are saying. I mean, can you imagine talk like this showing up on TV (or radio or even the innerwebs) today? There's far too much mutual respect here, and not nearly enough mindless screaming and poo-flinging.






DEEDLE-DI
Got two Irish gigs with Mars and some session mates coming up around St. Patty's Day. One is tentative at this point (Sunday 3/16 at tutto bene), but the other is as firm as cold haggis:

ODDS-N-ENDS
Let's see:
I hosted a poetry slam on campus for the Hop-Hop Congress Culture Awareness Week (yeah, college kids can do anything as long a "culture" is attached to it). Good times. I showed up thinking I was "officiating," i.e., picking judges, speakin' rules to the playas, keeping score. Turns out they had no MC (ahem, SLAM MASTER), so I offered. It went well, although their white-ass DJ was trying to spin trip-hop that came across like elevator music. And I hate the "play music while the poet approaches the stage" paradigm made famous by Def Poetry Jam. Plus, I kinda lapsed into some "yo"s, "what up"s, and "yeeeeah, boy"s, which was a little embarrassing, but hey, when in Rome ... better hit a bathhouse while you're there, right?

Filed taxes; received refund of same. A piddly refund, I might add, compared to last year's largesse; but my income was a bit less last year and my freelance expenses were WAY less, so I didn't have nearly as much to deduct (like my laptop, for starters). Still, every freaking dime is earmarked, which I actually feel pretty good about.

Howled at the moon during the eclipse.

Read some really good books of poetry lately, including:
Dismal Rock by Davis McCombs
Book of My Nights by Li-Young Lee
The Cold That Burns by Siobahn Campbell
What Narcissism Means to Me by Tony Hoagland

REALLY tired of election coverage. Actually I've been tired of it since about December/January. I'm still making up my mind, but that's only because I'm still learning about these people as leaders. Chomsky talked about US elections once, saying Americans make opinions about candidates as if we were deciding who we'd like to sit down and have a beer with. You know what? In the grand scheme of things, I want a good leader, not a drinkin' buddy. (Sorry, Don. I wouldn't vote for you anyway.)

Dug a couple of things out of my closet and went to an 80s party, where Mars and Liz knew the lyrics to the cheese better than I did. Truly, though, if you remember the 80s, you probably weren't there ... those of us who were are trying desperately to forget it. (I mean come on: public high school in the Reagan era? yeesh.)

Have been workshopping poems with Joe again ... and it feels so good! If it's just the two of us, is it really a workshop? Eh, whatever. I'm writing a bunch; the Moleskine journal is working out I think, and my work is taking on new shapes and moving in different directions because of it. (I honestly think my content is being affected by the shape, color, and texture of the paper ... and the lack of lines, or RULES, as they say in the trade.) At this point I think I have maybe 6-9 poems that I'd like to include in the chapbook project. That may change. Or not! Right now I'm just focusing on getting it out and down on paper; we'll sort it out, me and the Freemasons, later this summer.


EXISTENCE/EXISTANCE
I really don't have time these days for existential crises. I'm not too worried about things in general: job is good; arts stuff is poppin'; love life seems stable (and honestly, not having time to dwell on it is kind of a boon due to my tendency to overthink).

I suppose if I HAD to get all introspective about life, I'd say that Mars' job woes weigh on me. It makes her cranky, which makes her hell to deal with sometimes, even as Zen as I like to try to be. There's no certainty, still, that she's going to be in Bloomington for more than a few months. It just depends on what job she finds and where. Only SHE doesn't think she's worthy of that tremendous opportunity, which gets us into this cycle of my telling her she's great ... so she can find a job elsewhere and move away.

Wouldn't it be smarter to just roll with the negativity and AGREE that she's only worth the shitty job she has, so that she'll stay here?

No, of course not. Not even I am that selfish.

So there's that.

I'm nearly 100% certainly staying in B-ton for the foreseeable future. There's simply nothing driving me away, and no place pulling me toward it for more than a visit. Plus, I got all this stuff going that I'm really happy about. I think I want to be selfish, and feel okay about it, and keep all this stuff for myself. I'll share, though.

With that admission in mind, I also do and don't think about buying a house again. I hate renting but love not having to deal with major house stuff; yet while dealing with major house stuff kept me more active, mortgage companies in general suck and lately, suck hard. Yeah, I guess it's a buyer's market these days, but I'm not so sure I want my finances tangled up in a mortgage just now, thanks. I still owe a (to me) considerable amount to a credit card company. But I now owe monthly rent and monthly utilities, and beyond that I'm a free man financially. That feels really good, and it's been over a decade since I've been in this position. Plus, until she gets some things worked out/paid off, my ex is going to continue to threaten me with bad credit/bankruptcy by association. Nothing I can do about that but wait, unfortunately. And it could be 3-4 years before anything positive comes out of that. So ... I wait.

Which is fine! I'm exceedingly patient and there is PLENTY to keep me busy until I'm ready to get more domestic again. Playing house with Mars has been fun, and I think I want to continue that (we need to decide soon whether to renew the lease here). So rather than see all these Major Decisions as a pall over my otherwise clearly progressing life, I'm choosing to view the time I do have to consider them as a gift. "Why thank you! How thoughtful. That's just what I needed."

Lastly, it's still wintry here, and my old Capricorn soul loves it. The gray and gloom make some people S.A.D., and I'm sure it does me some too. But I'll take it! I love it. Love the high contrast and the biting snap in the air, the way melting icicles are like God pissing his name in the snow, the sweet anticipation of spring, which always feels so good when it finally arrives after months of monochrome. The x-mas hoohah is long gone and it's a few weeks from the Season of Mud, so I'm enjoying it.

Okay, that's enough.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

NOT-SO-INSTANT REVIEW: The Netflix Queue

STAR TREK: A BUNCH OF SEQUELS
So Mars and I embarked on a journey ... to watch all the Star Trek movies ... in order. Honestly, you're either into ST or you're not, so a review is kind of pointless -- although the fact that we are now arguing over who's idea this was should give you some indication of the overall quality of this venture. (Ahem, it was HER idea, I tell ya! I'm just an old Trekkie.)



I will say, though, that the old adage is true: all the odd-numbered installments (I, The Non-motion Picture; III, The Search for PlotSpock) for the most part suck; all the even-numbered flicks (II, Khan Strikes Back; IV, Save the Whales) are actually quite good.

We've gotten halfway through ... this madness. Then one night I recommended a couple of episodes of Carnivale a friend ripped for me some years ago, though I never finished the series, as it was on cable and I didn't have it at the time.

CARNIVALE:
So we took a little detour into Dust Bowl Depression-era America. Wow, what a show! Basic Summary: a carnival/freak show is traveling the circuit from Oklahoma to California in 1934. Concurrent to this story are the trials and tribulations (literally) of a pastor grappling with his faith in the middle of very hard times. The show implies, obviously, that there is a connection between the carnival and the pastor, but that doesn't become clear until much, much later. Everyone in the show has a detailed back story, too, which you really only glimpse in the 1st season.



If you liked Twin Peaks, Carnivale has a similar grittiness (the creepy dwarf from TP, Michael J. Anderson, is a lead actor here) and "good vs. evil" overarching story, but Carnivale is more accessible, not nearly as self-consciously weird as Lynch's small-town America. Huge ensemble cast, good acting (for the most part, although a few scenes were surprisingly awkward, I thought), impeccable production quality. I've read up on the show and apparently one reason why it only got two seasons on HBO was the high price tag: the network wanted to DECREASE the cost to $2 million per episode but the producer/creator wouldn't budge, so, even though HBO tends to let a good show play out no matter the cost, the show's sluggish ratings got it yanked.



Seriously, though, the attention to detail is really impressive, from costumes to slang to the constant wisps of dust and smoke drifting across the sets. I read that in the first season the costumers clothed about 5,000 people, there were so many extras. (I noted in one shot, where two leads were talking in close-up, there were probably 20-30 "roustabouts" passing behind them working on setting up the carnival, all in period dress. And that was a pretty incidental shot.)

I love this era of American history, especially the clothes and music, so for that alone it's worth a watch. But the story is really engaging too, and grows increasingly dark and ominous as it progresses into the last, second season.

That's right; two seasons and that's it, so the end is disappointing in that respect. The creator imagined the series as a 6-year project, with 2 seasons covering a "book" of the story. So we do see some resolution of SOME plot points, but nothing is conclusive, MUCH is left undone, and several characters who were just getting some attention remain largely unknown. Which is kind of fitting, but frustrating nonetheless.

EASTERN PROMISES:
I just watched this last night. Aragorn, son of Arathorn, continues to impress me, and Naomi Watts still has my heart in her kooky li'l hands. She's like a toned-down Nicole Kidman. Me likey. Also, Vincent Cassell and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Really good cast here.



I had forgotten until I saw the credits that this is a Cronenberg movie, which means it's got some pretty damn gruesome scenes, while it's not what I would call "violent." It's dark and dreary, but no shootings, low body count. Suffice it to say, though, that the killings are grisly and discomfiting, as they should be. The fight in the sauna was particularly gory and hard to watch.

That out of the way, this is a great story. A London midwife (Watts) delivers a baby just after a teenage mother dies on the table in the operating room. Midwife also finds the mother's journal, in Russian, which she has translated. This pulls her suddenly into the sphere of a Russian crime family, some members of whom she already knows. Viggo plays a driver for this Eastern Euro mafia. He's also something of a ... cleaner. A fixer of problems. Can't really say more. Murder, deceit, retribution, arterial spray. Classic Cronenberg. Plus Viggo Mortensen is up for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Nikolai.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

DIE, VERSIONS!!!

So ... I use Adobe InDesign all the time: at work, freelance, personal chapbooky-type projects. It's great.

BUT I'm suddenly plagued by the fact that:
1) I use InDesign 2 (for PC) at home (a ... free copy ...)
2) I just switched to InDesign CS3 (part of a design suite that includes Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat, etc., as well as ID) at work.
3) The graphic design class I'm teaching in April through Continuing Studies is still going to be run using CS2 -- they're not switching to CS3 until the fall.
4) I'm teaching a class on ID CS3 at Ivy Tech ... also in April/May.

Did I mention InDesign is great? Did I also mention you cannot back-save to a previous version? The obvious solution, of course, is to simply bite the bullet and get myself a copy of the whole CS3 suite ... for about $1,200. (InDesign by itself runs about $700, and this is with a friend's uber-IT-for-educators discount. I am looking into eBay options, though....)

BUT then anything I work on at home (in CS3), I still won't be able to use for the graphic design class (in CS2) this spring. As it is, I can create something at home (in ID2), but if I alter it at work or at the class (CS3 or CS2, respectively), I can't work on it at home anymore ... in ID2. AND anything I work on or create at work (in CS3) for the IU class (CS2) won't be usable for that class until fall (when they switch to CS3). AND I also won't be able to work on those files at home (in ID2) unless I upgrade, now to CS3 (skipping CS2 altogether). The Ivy Tech class is actually in CS3 ... but honestly most of it is going to involve making documents from scratch rather than me bringing in pre-designed pieces, so I'm not too concerned there.

I'll bet Masonically symbolic US currency that the Illuminati are behind this!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

He's Doing It Again (a free write)

A day of conspiracy theories and consequential rethinking of societal machinations.

37 U.S. presidents are direct descendants of the Illuminati bloodline. I know exactly what I think this means to me. Christ, it doesn’t sound good, does it?

And the Codex Alimentarius sounds like a fine way to end the Mayan calendar, if you ask me. Blood for blood. A 90% population reduction might just do it, too. I sometimes wish I had my chickens back, but then, we’re all being bred for something bigger than ourselves. Doesn’t matter if it comes from the end of a gun or under the knife or slowly, at the end of days, or slower still, in a nursing home. Something is going to devour me, even if it’s just the Earth. There’s a lot of formaldehyde to eat through first. I’d like to see that.

Apparently JFK objected to selling drugs to pay for the Cold War, and to providing our alien overlords with specimens at the ends of their sex probes. So we offed him. Is that all you got? I mean we MADE IT to the moon in that de-cade. And everything after. And this country loves sacrifice more than even meat. More than washers and dryers. It’s in our religion, and don’t even try to tell me this country wasn’t founded on religion. We invented Jesus. For there are no kings, have never been any kings, where there is a clergy standing behind them. Pope’s the best thing happened to the Crusades. Put a human face on it. Otherwise it’s just an esoteric agenda.

And this is a global problem, by the way. Where do you think that first 90% is going to come from anyway?

Here the difference is low wages still gets you satellite TV and three squares of corn syrup a day. I’m still dissatisfied, I’m still disgruntled, feeling dissed with my higher yet not advanced degree, still wondering when I’m going to get mine, though more likely at a movie theatre than on a frontline somewhere.

It’s almost impossible to imagine this story any further without bringing myself into it, which of course makes it all seem so far-fetched. I’m more hobbit than elf at this point, more content to live in the world than be a part of it.

Sum total seems to be 2nd amendment horseshit involving gun-clingers: “I don’t hate the guy that did this. He’s a loon anyway. I don’t hate the guns that did this. They didn’t walk in by themselves and start shooting.” Something about you need to keep your guns no matter what. Like life insurance. You have it and hope you’ll never need it, but the one time you need it and don’t have it, boy will you be sorry.

I’m already sorry.