Friday, July 12, 2024

Walk like a dog 

Walk like dog, if you wish.

We've all done it. We all have it. We all have a song that despite knowing the lyrics, we still hear them incorrectly, usually to humorous effect. The Bruce Springsteen song, Blinded by the Light, in its original version has the curious lyric, "cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night." The "deuce" refers to a nickname for original V8 engines or something. Even in that explanation, I wouldn't have understood it. Now listen to the Manfred Mann version, wherein an English vocalist evoking an American accent sings something that sounds more like "revved up like a douche" and you have added confusion. The fact that this version was played constantly on the radio of my youth only made my brothers and I even more confounded by it. The more you heard it, the more it confirmed your suspicion of it. More commonly, listeners to Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze, often wondered if the singer was excusing themselves to either "Kiss this guy" or "Kiss the sky"? A friend of my brother's was sure the chorus the 1981 Kim Carnes' hit "Bette Davis Eyes", came through our fuzzy dashboard speakers as "She's got thirty days inside", instead of "She's got Bette Davis eyes." To be honest, the misheard lyrics sound as improbable as the actual ones. There are dozens and dozens of other examples.

In 1954, writer Sylvia Wright gave this phenomenon the name, “mondegreen”. As a child she claimed to have misheard a line of poetry as:
"Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl Amurray,
And Lady Mondegreen."

The actual verse is, "They hae slain the Earl o' Moray / And laid him on the green." Thus "Mondegreen" was, if not created there and then, at least given a name.
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Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Seen in June 

Nick Cage is the dullest version of Freddy Krueger in Dream Scenario.

It turns out that when the NHL and NBA playoffs are done, you find you have more time to watch cycling races, and The UEFA European Championships rather than movies and televsion. It does seem lately that "going to the movies" is on the back burner. It used to be my first thought to escape the heat was to go to a cinema, but now I'd have to leave my comfortable home, and go out in the heat to escape the heat, which doesn't make so much sense.

The Little Mermaid
Having seen a live version performed by kids, I thought it was time to finally watch the original animated version. One of Disney’s big animated hits that kicked off a long run of box office successes, it’s strange to watch this 2D traditionally animated film now, especially one that isn’t in 4K. While feeling like a throwback to a time gone by it’s still a tidy 90-minute film based on the classic fairytale of a mermaid who falls in love with a human and has to choose between her love and her family. As this is a Disney film, characters can make difficult choices without compromise or repercussions while singing catchy tunes about it.

Dream Scenario
Nick Cage plays, Paul, the most uninteresting professor of evolutionary biologist to ever teach the topic. He’s not just unassuming but also unable to exert any particular control over his life. He isn’t unaware of his fecklessness. When a former colleague tells him she’s about to publish a paper based on research they worked on together, he’s unsuccessful in getting her to admit his contribution. Even one of his own daughters admits that he’s appearing in her dreams but is only a bystander when she is imperilled. This view of him as a disinterested nonparticipant frustrates him. Then it fascinates him when he discovers he’s appearing in the dreams of complete strangers. After briefly trying to capitalize on this unexplained phenomenon his life is turned upside down when those dreams begin to become menacing. The film is darkly funny and slightly disturbing. Is it a commentary on social media or our so-called “cancel culture”? Is it a warning about the gentrification of culture via the Internet? In his classroom Paul talks about how the natural camouflage of the zebra only works when the animals herd together and yet the same markings call attention to the animal that has strayed from the group. Can someone be so “normal” that they are abnormal? Can setting yourself apart from the crowd threaten your existence? Discuss amongst yourselves.

Sheng Wang, who is a basketball-loving, Asian American who went to the same middle school as Beyoncé, also he's very funny.

Sheng Wang: Sweet and Juicy
Sheng Wang is an unexpected gem of a comedian. An Asian American who grew up in Texas and attended the same school as Beyoncé his low key humour delivered in the most low key manner reverberates long after the show is over. Highly recommended.

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Monday, July 08, 2024

St. Sammy Peeps 

Samuel Pepys, Portrait by John Hayls, 1666

At this year’s TCAF (the Toronto Comic Arts Festival), I saw a talk given by Rosena Fung about her book “Age 16”, which is a work of fiction that borrows from her own life. It wasn’t an autobiography or memoir but clearly her personal experiences helped imbue her characters with a certain truth. In talking about her work she mentioned how she created a lot of “self documentation”.

Of course, I could empathize. For over twenty years, I’ve maintained a blog. For 17 years I’ve taken entries from that blog and published an annual compendium. Since I’ve owned a smartphone I have taken random photos that I have kept that not only record an image, but the exact time, date and usually a geographic location (my iCloud album goes back 22 years). For the last 9 years I’ve kept sketch books, which started as a daily way to keep up my sketching and use up empty sketchbooks. I now have 14 of them. Since 2010, I’ve kept my work notebooks (this is surely something that I could give up). I have letters and other sketchbooks that go back to the 1990s. After maintaining a blog for over twenty years and a comic book journal for almost ten, my remarkably dull and inoffensive journaling is more like a public "notes to self" than a really honest and insightful diary. I've also started logging my workouts, keeping track of what I eat, allowing Google Maps know my location and I've started using Apple's Journal app (and may occasionally use the Kennedy app which does pretty much the same thing). While none of these are revealing any deeply held secrets or worrying psychosis, they certainly are a record of self-documentation, perhaps of the dullest kind.

I’ve since learned from David Owen’s New Yorker piece, How To Live Forever, that this self-recording is known as solipsism. “Solipsism (from solus 'alone', and ipse 'self') is the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist. As a position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one's own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind.”
- Wikipedia

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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Cap it and Forget it 

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Hat display, Saks & Co." Panama hats, and how they're made.

Something attributed to Fran Lebowitz has stuck in my head. Lebowitz is an American author and, I don't know, "cultural critic" or something (she hasn't published anything in some time but often is asked to speak publicly on numerous topics). The quote I heard is that men over sixty shouldn't wear baseball caps. Lebowitz is for some reason seen as having insight on fashion. I don't know why. In my estimation, she has worn the same outfit for decades, which is essentially heavy tortoiseshell eyeglasses, a man's blazer (too large for her small aging frame), straight-leg, high-waisted denim jeans, a crisp white dress shirt, and cowboy boots. This is to say, I wouldn't necessarily consider fashion advice from Lebowitz as useful or relevant. Though, I'm not sure I would take fashion advice from anyone anymore. I'm in my mid-fifties and to be honest, dressing to me is personal and simultaneously, trivial. I do think I understand her point, however. Baseball is a young person's game, and men in their sixties are not usually leaving the house for the park for a game of pickup, so they really should dress for their age and not the age they want to be.

In my neighbourhood, I do see many, many men, my age or older, who are definitely not dressing suitably for their age and forget about dressing for the job they want. Often it's that particular look of the white rapper with oversized ball caps, oversized basketball jerseys worn over oversized tees, paired with oversized basketball shorts, or oversized jeans crumpled atop loose-fitting, untied basketball shoes. Not only is this a look fit for the 13 to 25-year-old crowd, but it was a look that was only fit for 13 to 25-year-olds about 30 years ago. I have no idea what these guys are thinking, and often I worry about my classist assumptions that most of these men are absolute idiots who simply don't know any better. Or worse, they are so ignorant as not to be aware of their ignorance. What it appears to me is this is an individual who has not matured past the age of 15 and is stuck thinking a life dressing this way is somehow showing their individualistic, "stick it to the man" independent streak that says, "I don't have to dress like I have a job, because I don't have a job!". Good for you. Let everyone know, that you're out here living in the streets, free from income. It's none of my business. I saw the most egregious of this sort when I witnessed a fellow who appeared to be in his 50s (or older), again wearing the sideways-pulled cap, oversized tee and shorts while riding a teeny-tiny BMX bicycle. Not only was this gentleman not on his way to the ballpark but he was also not on his way to a skate park to try out some new bike tricks. I would say getting on or off the bike was his big trick.
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Friday, June 14, 2024

Reading Lists 

This farmer isn't outstanding in his field, he's sitting and reading.

Why do we love lists? Apple recently listed the "best 100 Albums" and while I didn't expect many of my personal favourites to appear, it was shocking that the only two albums from the Beatles were. Revolver (sure, why not?) and Abbey Road. Excuse me whilst I take a swig of water to spit-take at my computer screen. There, done. Abbey Road isn't even one of the Beatles' top albums, never mind being on an all time top album list. Where is the White Album, or Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band? I'm not even that big of a Beatles fan but come on! The outrage!

These lists are ephemeral, incomplete and wrong, which is sort of the point. Someone compiles them to start an argument, that hopefully leads to a conversation. Though, I think it's fair to say, "conversations" on the Internet ended sometime in 2006 several hours after the launch of Twitter. Also, art as competition is always a waste of time - I present the Eurovision Song Contest thingy or American Idol to the jury as examples. These lists are mostly arbitrary and subjective. Yet, what these lists do is give you some barometer between your own tastes and some establishment's assessment. They are also a great way to give you some recommendations for what you might want to listen to, view or read next.

While giving a once over to the Guardian's list of top 100 books, I couldn't help but count the ones I've read. Out of 100, I'd read 15. That's 15% (I did the math so you don't have to). I generally consider myself "well-read" but I'm not sure 15% would qualify me for that. On a list of graphic novel recommendations also from the Guardian (about 25 mentioned), I'd read over half, but if I'm being honest, it was a bit of a crap list that even the author acknowledged as they were trying to give readers a very wide and introductory selection to chose from. I think at work or in a professional setting, we'd call this "Subject Matter Expertise Fatigue" or SMEF because creating acronyms is most of the job - when you know a subject well enough that you basically have a well-informed opinion about everybody else's opinion. On this one subject, I could easily list 100 or more, high quality and influential, graphic novels just from North America or English language sources. It would be impossible to limit yourself to 100, if you listed Japanese, French or Belgian comics too. If I asked some friends to chime in, I'd have another 100. That wouldn't even include fringe, alternative, self-published or hard to find comics. The fact there wasn't a single Moebius… OK, OK, I'm not going to go there. That is a topic for another time.
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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Seen in May 

Sean Connery and Christian Slater in The Name of the Rose.

Wow. What happened? Playoff hockey? Not really. I did exercise a bit more, but not so much as to cut into "TV time". Giro d'italia? Yes but again, that was all early morning watching. There are some shows watched that are just extensions of something already seen, like Run the Burbs, or that are still being watched like Pokerface. I don't really know why I didn't watch as much. I guess that's healthy? Who knows? Here's what I did see.

The Name of the Rose
Amazon Prime

Based on Umberto Eco's murder mystery set in a 14th century Benedictine abbey. William of Baskerville (a Sherlock Holmes reference perhaps?) is a Franciscan monk played by Sean Connery, who has travelled to the isolated abbey with his novice (a very young Christian Slater), to help facilitate a theological debate. Yet, upon his arrival, William is warned of strange deaths occurring in the abbey, connected to their cherished library. The deaths are really the instigation for discussions around knowledge, the privilege of the church and clergy, lust, love and even the place of humour in theological ideas. It's all very "Umberto Eco" and a fascinating view into the cruel hardships of medieval life and is so well cast that you might find it hard to believe that everyone is an actor and not someone discovered at a medieval fair.

Antonio Banderas is Puss… in Boots.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

Puss (Antonio Banderas) has lived many lives but now upon realizing that he has used 8 of 9 of those lives he’s afraid the next close call may be the last one. This existential crisis leads our swashbuckling hero to hang up his boots, cape and sword. After a time of receding into “retirement” as an unfulfilled house cat, Puss’ past catches up to him (I’m just assuming “Puss” is his preferred moniker) and he sets out to find the wishing star where his goal is to attain another 9 lives. Along the way Puss finds friendship and love that reminds him the value of a life is more than wishing something for yourself. This is a funny and furry fantasy that provides all the action, laughs and feels you’d expect and reminds us all that a good story always wins the day.

One of the most famous images in photography is Muybridge's horse and rider.

Exposing Muybridge

A documentary about the 19th century eccentric adventurer and photographer Eadweard Muybridge who escaped death, a failed marriage and dodged a murder charge to become one of the most influential artists of our time (though not his own). His innovations in photography led to the moving image and thus entirely new forms of art and scientific exploration. His photographic studies of motion are still a valuable resource to animators and an inspiration to a variety of artists. As a bonus, one of the more entertaining interviewees is British actor Gary Oldman who is an avid photography collector. Oldman’s presence adds a necessary boost to what may otherwise have been a slightly odd and pedestrian documentary.

Maya Rudolph as Molly Novak.

Loot S02
Apple TV+

Maya Rudolph returns as Molly Novak, a billionaire who has found her philanthropic purpose after recently divorcing an egocentric tech billionaire. The similarity between Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Scott is obvious and at times the writers seem to run out of ideas and simply borrow facts from Bezos and Scott's lives. Luckily Rudolph and others such as Ron Funches and Nat Faxon are here to rescue the writers with fine comedic performances.

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