Saturday, August 30, 2008

For the Snark was a Boojum, you see

Sometimes, I am in a very bad mood. Sometimes I snark at people without a decent reason. Snarkiness is a state I understand, though I strive to avoid it. There is a fine line, however, between feeling snarky and being a raging disgruntled harridan whose only goal is to make the lives of others miserable.

It has been my misfortune to share a building with one such harridan in the past, and it is my continuing misfortune to share a different building with another. Each has had an excuse, and a reasonable one. This one has some sort of chronic condition that is reportedly extremely painful. The other was an accountant. Either of those conditions would make me snarky, certainly, but they would not make me a bitter, vicious old woman with no joy in my life. Really, they wouldn't.

My father raised me to believe that the highest virtue to which one can aspire is to care about how one's actions affect others. I like to think that I do a pretty good job at that. Therefore, when a harridan accosts me for speaking too loudly in my own living room and accuses me of being inconsiderate, I tend to lose my temper.

I hate losing my temper. I like my temper, and I like knowing where it is at any given time. When I lose it, I tend to fume for at least 24 hours, if not days. I go over in my head all the ways in which I could revenge myself upon the hapless soul who has incurred my wrath. After many such ruminations, I generally revenge myself by smiling and baking cookies for the person. Not a very good revenge, I admit, but it usually makes the person go away.

Today, I discovered a new solution to my snarkiness. You may have noticed the new link in my sidebar: Cake Wrecks. Cake Wrecks is such a lighthearted outlet for snarking that it totally defuses my (self-)righteous anger. Thanks, internet!

Thanks also to Trousers for a 3-hour conversation and to Reese, inventor of the miraculous peanut butter cup.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The latest installments in the SciFi Extravaganza that is my vacation:

Dark City (also known as the story off of which The Matrix was ripped) and Mesa of Lost Women, starring (believe it or not) Uncle Fester.

I must admit, the details of these valuable cinematic classics are a bit fuzzy in my head. Perhaps the infamous weed machine has something to do with this, but I think perhaps the fragile premises of the films and, in the latter case, the fact that it was filmed by two different directors at two different times have more to do with it.

Over the course of the evening, which also included an unbelievably slow side trip through MST3K's Gunslinger (yawn), I managed to grow quite fond of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Lace Cookies (not pictured here, but approximated). They left more of an impression than the films, on memory, tongue, and waistline. Not that I expected the films to leave an impression on tongue or waistline.

A few of the more memorable bits from the films, however, so as not to appear remiss in my newly-assigned mission of spreading awful science fiction far and wide:

-Dr. Aranya's exotic, Mexican, bulletproof spider-woman (named Tarantella) dancing "seductively" to incessant guitar music (about which more later)

-The unbearably repetitive cadence of Kiefer Sutherland's "German" (I guess) accent. I swear he was speaking in some sort of ancient Greek meter. However, the accent was clearly German because he was a psychiatrist.

-Richard O'Brien playing, as one expects, a balding and strangely formal superhuman alien

Now, about the soundtrack to Mesa of Lost Women. I have been known to state, on multiple occasions, that The Village has the worst everything of any movie I have ever seen. The worst script, acting, direction, costumes, plot, etc. I must admit, sadly, that this statement is now a lie. Mesa's soundtrack is worse. Far, far worse. Hoyt S. Curtin, my hat is off to you.

As Mesa is set, largely, in Mexico, someone decided to have a "Mexican" soundtrack. This translates as "some jackass very rapidly strumming one chord on a guitar over and over again." Wow. I can practically taste the corn tortillas! Combine the music with Pepe the almost-mute Mexican servant and Tarantella the exotic dancer, and you have an amazingly offensive film, even before you add in Wu the Chinese servant who speaks only in fortune cookies. But that's not the worst part of the soundtrack.

It's on loop. I swear. It's not reprises of the same music; it's just the same track played again and again and again for 70 minutes. Without the slightest regard for scene length, of course, so the music continues unabated through blackouts and strings of scenes with no emotional connection to one another. Way to utilize the composer, guys.

Here's my brilliant theory as to why this travesty was allowed, nay encouraged. Ron Ormond, director #2, understood that he needed to film many more scenes and somehow integrate them with Herbert Tevos' (director #1's) scenes. "I know!" he thought, "I'll just have Hoyt here strum his guitar over the breaks between my footage and Herb's, and nobody will ever notice that they have nothing in common! It's so crazy it just might work!"

Well, Ron, it didn't. Your movie still stank to high heaven, and the soundtrack was the icing on the diseased-vagina frog cake.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Microwaves can kill you

I spent pretty much all of Friday (until dinner) in a shitty mood. Thanks to the people who had to put up with it, Violesbian and Van Helsing. I'm not sure if they already had code names that I've now superseded, but oh well. I like these.

Why was I in such a mood? Several reasons. Primary reason: got very little sleep on Thursday night. Secondary: have not been to the gym in over a week. [Tertiary reason redacted] Quaternary: Four people canceled within an hour of my potluck beginning and a few more just didn't show.

I should not have been in such a mood. Why should I not? My potluck was still highly enjoyable and delicious, with only eight people here. I spent Friday with people I enjoy a great deal (see above). I Got Things Done, which usually makes me cheerful. And yet, the mood continued unabated from about 8 AM until about 7 PM.

Dinner, with drinks following, dispersed some of my clouds. Violesbian and I were joined by the Blues at Fritto Misto after we finished microwave shopping at Sears and the Blues finished everything-else shopping at BB&B. Let me say here and now, in this publicesque forum, that if you have the opportunity to buy a microwave oven at a place that is not Sears, TAKE THAT OPPORTUNITY. A few details of our difficulties:

-The Sears website would not load "specs" pages for any microwaves on the ancient typewriters-cum-computers Violesbian and I were using. We had to join Van Helsing in her office to find a computer that would load the specs.

-Since we were getting a microwave for a very specific small space in the department copy room, we needed accurate measurements. Check out the specs on this gem, the one we ended up picking. See any problems? How about "Depth: 8-7/8 in." and "Turntable diameter: 12 in."? Picture it, if you can. Not to mention this one, whose interior dimensions (1,700.55 cu. in.) exceed its exterior dimensions (1,584 cu. in.) by a good 116 cubic inches. M. C. Escher designed appliances too; didn't you know?

-With the knowledge that the internet dimensions were, at best, unreliable, we turned to that miracle of modern technology, the telephone. Violesbian went first. After successfully navigating the turbulent waters of the automated menus, she reached a real person, who proceeded to read her the dimensions off of the website. Pointing out that these were physically impossible, Violesbian was "transferred" to the "appliances department," which was another automated menu. Which itself transferred her back to the first automated menu. Then it was my turn to call. I called the closest Sears location, and navigated the automated menu to reach "small appliances," the home of microwaves. After the phone rang many times, a recording apologized to me. It was sorry, it said, that nobody had answered my call. I hung up.

-Having used up the available technology, we decided to go to Sears and look at the labels on the actual microwaves. This meant that we wouldn't be able to purchase a microwave that day, as the Byzantine purchasing department would have shut its doors for the weekend by the time we arrived. Giving up on the sale that ended today, we departed anyway, impossible dimensions in hand, to determine Actual Size. Lo and behold, the specs on the tags at Sears did not match the impossible internet specs! Unfortunately, they didn't match the specs of the microwaves either. Violesbian borrowed a tape measure from the tools department, and we measured every microwave ourselves. The upshot: we CAN get the bright red one we wanted! Van Helsing will be thrilled.

-On our way out, we mentioned to the friendly customer service man that we had had problems with the posted dimensions. "Oh, yes," he said, "they're all wrong."

After that ordeal, pretty much anything would have been an improvement. Dinner and drinks with the Blues (known individually as Jane and ANC!) was pretty much the perfect improvement. I introduced them to my favorite bar (I will link to this as often as possible), and they enjoyed it. Huzzah!

Today I will feel better. That is the goal. Perhaps eating all that chocolate last night was a bad way of working toward that goal; I instead feel slightly ill.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Science Fiction Double Feature

Last night, Gris and the She God of Shark Reef and I consumed two more classics of the genre, Attack of the Monsters and the similarly named Attack of the Crab Monsters.

Un. Be. Liev. A. Ble.

Attack of the Monsters is the fifth in the dodecalogy of Gamera films, and it's surreality cannot be overstated. A plot synopsis simply won't convey the power of Gamera, everyone's favorite tusked rocket turtle, also known as "the friend of children" for some reason. Suffice it to say that the two cannibal women of the tenth planet are defeated, despite their knife-faced, laser-reflecting henchmonster and their poisonous donuts that lead to involuntary head shaving. In the end, Akio expresses the universal desire for world peace, understanding among all people, and an end to car accidents.

Attack of the Crab Monsters is, of course, completely unrelated to its similarly-named companion film. It deals with intangible telepathic radioactive zombie giant land crabs, as one might predict. And The Professor, as one might not predict. I learned from this movie that atomic bombs, the French, and the Germans are not to be trusted. Post-WWII much? I also learned that women are to be referred to as "honey," and cannot contribute to intellectual discussions, even when they hold PhDs in marine biology. In fact, the only contribution the lone human female makes is to notice that the female intangible telepathic radioactive zombie giant land crab is pregnant.

I recommend, as a complement to Gamera films, a large quantity of hallucinogenic drugs. They should really bring out the nutty undertones. For the Crabs, I hear there's a special soap.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


I love experiencing new people on public transit.

Tonight, as I rode the Metro Bus #4 at about 11:30 PM, I listened (along with everyone else who didn't have headphones on) to a conversation between a totally forgettable man and a rail-thin, badly-bleached, middle-aged, hyphenated-adjective woman in a private security uniform with one of the most piercing voices it has ever been my misfortune to undergo.

Most memorable line: "The first time I heard Metallica, I just froze. I couldn't believe people could sing like that."

I enjoy the fact that this middle-aged female security guard with a barrette perched incongruously on the side of her head is a Metallica fan. And that she feels the need to share with everyone around her, especially the hapless stranger she had engaged in conversation, how much Metallica moves her.

Also, the bus driver was talking to herself a lot. That's a lot scarier than when a passenger seems to be crazy, which happens most days.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I have no idea how many times I've listened to R.E.M.'s song "Exhuming McCarthy", but I know it's a lotta buncha times (Thanks are due to George Carlin for inventing the term "lotta buncha."). Really really a lot.

Today I learned the name of the song for the first time. Apparently I never knew what it was called, despite having owned the album for...a decade? A long time. I know that I was ignorant of the name because I never could figure out the lyrics of the refrain. The lyrics are, in fact, "exhuming McCarthy," the same as the title. I vacillated between wondering who the hell "Jimmy McCarthy" was, and wondering if Michael Stipe was just Stipe-ifying the name Jenny McCarthy. Why he would be singing about Jenny McCarthy was a tributary problem from this river of confusion. Especially confusing because she was 15 when the album was released.

I wonder how many other songs I know could provide similar instances of my idiocy? And I call myself a musicologist...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Out of Memory

Today my uncle died. He was 74 years old, so it's not that shocking. The perhaps more shocking aspect is that I really don't care. Honestly. He was my father's brother, and we never see my father's family, except weddings, funerals, and bar mitzvahs. I could probably count on my fingers the times I've met Uncle Warren. At least the ones I remember, the ones after babyhood.

My father, on the other hand, cares. His usual way of showing this is to speak openly and honestly about why Warren's death matters to him, without ever giving an impression of emotional impact. Being in touch with feelings is a good thing, but not too closely. That could get dangerous. Bah.

I absolutely do not want to go to the funeral. Not at all. I care very little about anyone who will be there, except for my parents and possibly my sister (possibly she will be there, not possibly I care). But will I go? Maybe Dad will be upset if I obviously don't care, but not too upset if I argue logistics? I have yet to decide how to handle this.

I also feel slightly guilty for not caring. I cry about strangers I read about in the newspaper (rarely, but it happens), but have not the slightest urge to cry for my newly dead uncle.

Oh well. RIP Warren Baltimore, 1934-2008. I'm sure you were worth getting to know better than I did. I'm sorry you and Dad never understood each other enough to make any lasting relationship work. I wish y'all had either gotten over your estrangement or given me some sort of explanation behind it. Sorry I never made it out to Nantucket to visit you. Not sorry I never made it out to Ohio to visit you when you were there. Hope the democratic party there can make it without you. I certainly can, and for that I am also sorry.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Well, that was six days without home internet. Thankfully, they are over now. Do you know what combines quite poorly? Lack of internet, lack of bus pass, and lack of roommates. Total internal reflection, as the physicists say. Not as bad, perhaps, as total destructive interference, the term that I decided in high school physics class would be The Best Band Name Ever.

In my isolation, which was by no means total, I had lots of time to get things done around the house. Of course, I had no motivation to do those things. I did get most of my chores done, but I took six days to do them instead of the about one and a half they should have taken. I did exactly no school work at all, but I did spend about ten to twelve hours cleaning the grad student offices at school. That felt productive and useful, but caused some pretty severe breathing problems on Friday night. I really hope the extensive cleaning took care of whatever got in my lungs that afternoon; I don't want everyone who uses our offices to get some sort of permanent pulmonary problem.

I hosted the first of my weekly potlucks. There were five of us there, which was a good number for giving people just eight hours notice or so. The next one will be held in conjunction with game night with the UCLA LGSN folks (queer grad students), which should be fun. It'll be the second non-bar-night event of the year, if I'm counting correctly. If you're in LA, come on over! Food at 8; games at 9:30.

I worked on a bunch of administrative stuff for the department guest speaker series. But not enough stuff; I still don't know where the money comes from. That mystery should get cleared up this week, I hope.

I watched television. In great quantities. This translates to two full seasons of Arrested Development and almost all of Twin Peaks. I officially have a crush on every male character under 40 in the latter series.

Best of all, I went last night to see the fabulous Eddie Izzard at the Kodak Theater, accompanied by the lovely She God of Shark Reef and Z2. "Lovely" modifies both of those names. While Eddie was "an off-duty transvestite," he still looked Glorious, and sounded the same. I expected much of his material to overlap with the last show I saw of his, the tiny Coronet Theatre preview-ish show, but other than mentions of iPhones and squirrels, there was no noticeable repetition.

In case you were interested, Eddie supports Barack Obama. He encouraged us all to not only vote for Barack (rhymes with "back" in his accent), but to move to Florida after voting and vote again. He took a more vehemently atheist position than I've heard in his past standups, which I found heartwarming. The whole thing was hilarious, despite the complete lack of both James Mason impressions and mentions of jam. I don't want to spoil any jokes for those who intend to see the show on its travels, so I won't share specifics.

Today, the internet is back. Supposedly, my bus pass is also back. According to the nice Metro official on the phone, the reason this latest pass didn't work is because their system was down all weekend, and my card was activated too late in the week to start working before the system went down. I'll believe this explanation when I see my card work tomorrow. Hopes are not high on that front. Either way, I need to go to school tomorrow, so I'll be taking the bus. De-isolation and intellectual re-engagement, here I come!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Brevity is my Soul

Just a quick update on my technological demons:

Day five of no internet at home.

Yesterday somebody cut the phone lines at the cafe I've been using.

I'm on now at another cafe, but leaving soon to get some cleaning done at home.

Can't use school internet, because my bus pass is broken and can't be fixed on weekends. Not that they know how to fix it. Tuesday they will probably give me a fourth bus pass and insist that the other ones were just defective cards. Then I will punch them all in the face.

Tomorrow my home internet should be working again and I can blag more detailedly. About, among other things, the FANTASTIC Eddie Izzard show last night.

By the way, if you owe me money for any reason, I could really use it! I checked my bank account balance this morning for the first time since the internet went away, and it scared me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Productivity, with gender

I started seriously working today on the lecture series I'm running this year. I'm very excited, as it will combine musicology and hostessing, two of my skills. Hosting, you might correct me to say, but you would be wrong. My abilities are distinctly those of the hostess, baking and cleaning ahead of time, tupperwaring leftovers and cleaning afterward, and making sure everyone is happy and having fun during. Go go gadget gender stereotypes!

Speaking of genderisms, Bitch PhD. linked to a silly little internet widget today that claims to calculate your gender based on your browsing history. I was intrigued, of course, and I clicked the button. My results?

Likelihood of you being FEMALE is 95%
Likelihood of you being MALE is 5%

I had no idea that women were so much more likely to look at gay male pornography! Astounding! Actually, the results seemed largely to be based on my recently frequenting the websites of 1) cable internet providers and 2) cheap airlines/cheap flight tickets. Plus 3), LiveJournal.

Anyway, after that sidebar, I return to productivity. Today I met with someone I have decided to call the Vampire Slayer to discuss the lecture series, compiled a list of 31 notables to possibly invite as lecturers, composed an apologetic letter to a speaker we accidentally forgot about last year, put possible lecture dates into iCal for the whole year, and roughly planned food for the entire series, all between 2:30 and 5:00 PM.

After 5:00 I input my fall schedule into iCal, decided on a way to use up the Mysterious X's strawberry cream cheese frosting, made some substantial progress on Project Wedding Present, figured out what to do about GoddamnFuckingAwfulTimeWarnerCable, and ate all that was left of the delicious salad from last night's dinner on homemade bagel chips. Before 2:30 I had a lovely lunch at Fritto Misto with Fatso and his mother. This was preceded (around noonish) by a lovely conversation with an equally lovely customer service representative at TimeWarnerShitForBrainsCable during which I explained that they needed to stop calling me to schedule an installation, as cable was still connected to the apartment and I couldn't have my new service installed without first disconnecting the old service. How did I know this useful fact? I'd had this conversation with two other customer service reps from TimeSchmuckWarnerCrapfest earlier this week. In fact, one was earlier this day. At 6:15 AM. While I am quite happy about my potentially much faster and slightly cheaper internet service, I am not happy enough to enjoy a 6:15 AM call to set it up. Especially since I had already hashed out the unable-to-install-new-service issues yesterday.

Tomorrow the TimeWarnerCableAssface a few blocks away opens at 8:30. I will be there with proof of not being my old roommate, account info for my new service, and a can of whoop-ass. Just in case.

This productive surge makes up for my several days of just hanging out and having fun with friends. My guilt is assuaged, and I can now have fun this weekend.

ADDENDUM: This post is about eighteen hours late because of my favorite people in the world, my cable internet providers. Read it as posted late last night.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Return from Witch Mountain

After a loooooong sojourn in the land(s) of my people, I am once more ensconced with my hedgehog in my delightfully purple bedroom in West Hollywood.

Trips home, wherever I may be envisioning home at the moment, are always exhausting. This one was almost seven weeks of exhausting, a longer trip than I had ever taken anywhere in the past. I hit NY, CT, MA, and RI, the tetrastate area that, until last August, basically contained my entire life. It hasn't changed much.

Over the course of these weeks, I stayed in four apartments, one house, one tent, and one hotel. I lived out of two suitcases, two backpacks, and one Ultimate Case of Doom (noted particularly for its face smashing abilities). I saw six relatives, seven ex-coworkers, three former students, and numberless friends. I drank three new Scotches and numberless old Scotches, almost none of which I bought with my own money.

I gained between 10 and 15 pounds. I exercised a total of three times. I slept an average of 5.75 hours a night (I made that number up, but I think it's true). I became uncomfortable wearing most of my clothing again. This is what it is to go home again. This, perhaps, is why you can't.

Now I am back in the eternal sunshine of the spotless complexions, and things are pretty much instantly better. I have slept more, eaten less junk-per-meal, and today I begin my return to exercise as my gym membership restarts with the first of the month. I have papers to write, but they are manageable and enjoyable. I have a lecture series to plan, which I am thrilled to be running, and which promises to be interesting, if nothing else. I have an apartment to myself for the next three weeks, so I can walk around naked and nobody will see or smirk at my sudden loss of physique.

Yes, Los Angeles is imperfect. People here tend to flake out on commitments, arrive hours late for engagements, and spend more time on their appearances than I can stomach. Plus the traffic is nuts. But you know what? It's home, and I'm glad to be in it. It's home that's not exhausting, because it requires no trip to stay here; once I'm here, I'm here for several months. I don't travel to the old country again until mid-December, and that's great. Don't get me wrong; I loved seeing y'all. Loved it. I will love seeing y'all again. But, but, but, and once again but--I love being my own person in my own space, away from the baggage of 24 years in the same small area.

Welcome home, me.

Oh, and the title comes from Alexander Key's children's book of the same name, sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain, one of my favorites from the public library as a child. You should totally read both of them.