Saturday, December 29, 2007

High- and low-tech video games

Had my second taste of the Nintendo Wii this weekend at my friend Geoff's house. The game I played, Smooth Moves, is a truly hilarious collection of "microgames" that last a few seconds each, literally. You're dropped into a random, often very droll situation and required to figure out what you have to do, and do it, within seconds. It might be one of the best video games for parties ever, since it makes you do funny things, like chop at the air with the controller, and the game is funny enough that anyone watching may be rendered helpless with laughter. (Microgame examples: "Shave," in which you have to shave a man's face in, like, two seconds; "Drop," in which you have to drop the controller -- but you might not figure that out in time; and, conversely, "Don't Drop It," which is depicted above and whose object should be pretty obvious.) Though I merely watched others play Super Mario Galaxy, I have to say, it's more or less like Super Mario Brothers on acid. Which in this case is a compliment.

In lower-tech video game news, I learned that dozens of games for Intellivision, the game console that came out the year I was born, can be purchased for PC or Mac use. Before I spend a whole $30 on a 60-game package, though, I wanted to download a few games to try out. The nostalgia rush was immediate. Though I'm warming up to systems like Xbox 360 (Portal, in The Orange Box, is wonderful, and though I probably wouldn't want to play it, BioShock is utterly fascinating), I still have a lot of love for (relatively) simple games like Arkanoid, and Intellivision offered an enormous number of fairly straightforward, nonetheless addictive games. A few minutes spent playing Shark! Shark! felt like a trip back in time to the mid-'80s, when I was a chubby little kid who loved little more than sitting in front of the television set in the living room and disappearing into all sorts of games -- which, at the time, seemed very sophisticated and satisfying. (One of my all-time favorites, Tron: Deadly Discs, isn't in the group I downloaded for free, but maybe I can get it in the package, should I decide to splurge on it.) Anyway, it seems apt that my discovery of Intellivision's enduring legacy and my first real Wii experience should occur so close together. It's almost as if the Intellivision gods are smiling on my tentative venture into the exciting world of games in which three dimensions exist and plots have second and third acts -- interactive movies, really.

Speaking of movies: The Warriors is freaking amazing, it's coming to the Grand Illusion fairly soon, and somebody needs to go with me to see it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Reggae Radiohead, and a Christmas tree, for Chanukah

Who knew that the best thing I'd listen to all month would be a Toots and the Maytals cover of Radiohead's "Let Down," from OK Computer? I got the album, Radiodread, from the library; it's a collection of reggae and dub covers of the songs on OK Computer, and while Citizen Cope's rendition of "Karma Police" is predictably lackluster, Toots' "Let Down" is so good that, as I told Michael, who recommended the track, you kind of forget about the original and just surrender to the new wonderfulness of the cover. Taking a song as beautiful and sad as "Let Down" and finding a whole new kind of beauty in it is pretty great; Toots' voice is so sunny, and the arrangement so naturally reggae-ish, that it makes you appreciate the original even more in retrospect. But not while you're listening; it's all Toots until the song's over. Just lovely.

In other news, I went to Dunshee House Thursday night and picked up a lovely Christmas tree:

For the first time ever, I picked the first tree I saw. It was just perfect; I even surprised the lot attendant, who said: "You're making my job too easy!" Also bought a wreath and affixed it to our front door, and added a big red ribbon today. As if that weren't enough holiday cheer, I made stockings today with cheap, disappointing gold glitter glue and strung some lights in the front window. Not sure why I'm so determined to do Christmas up right this year. Maybe it's because I'll be in town, and thus around to appreciate my own handiwork. Maybe it's because last year I was out of town for nine days around Christmas and only had a small tree at home. And maybe, just maybe, it's some kind of weird, ahead-of-its-time paternal instinct kicking in, like I'm practicing for one day decorating the house for kids. Heaven help us.

Just to keep things somewhat balanced, I went to a very nice Chanukah party last night in the neighborhood, hosted by some friends of my friend Elana. Just a great time: latkes, singing, and a game of Apples to Apples, which is awesome, by the way, in case you haven't played it. I'm still miffed that my play of "Jack the Ripper" for "misunderstood" didn't win, but I guess you had to be there to know what the hell I'm even talking about. Good times, though.

Today I chatted with a prospective member of the writing workshop Elana and I are starting in January; it went very well. Tomorrow it's lunch with folks from my monthly Buddhist group, then a trip down to Burien to see another member of the group in a Christmas play. And then, if no one prevents me, I may somehow decorate my house for Christmas even more. Or maybe buy a menorah. That would probably be a good idea.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


A random rain poem, by Shel Silverstein:


I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.

I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can't do a handstand--
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said--
I'm just not the same since there's rain in my head.

A rain mix, courtesy of iTunes:

1. "Early Morning Rain" -- Eva Cassidy
2. "Fire and Rain" -- James Taylor
3. "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?" -- Travis
4. "Rainfall" -- Apples in Stereo
5. "Rainy Day Women #12 & #35" -- Bob Dylan
6. "And It Rained All Night" -- Thom Yorke
7. "Rain Dogs" -- Tom Waits
8. "Beauty of the Rain" -- Dar Williams
9. "Raining in Baltimore" -- Counting Crows
10. "Red Rain" -- The White Stripes
11. "Rainy Day" -- Guster
12. "As the Rain" -- Jeb Loy Nichols
13. "Rain" -- Patty Griffin
14. "So. Central Rain" -- R.E.M.
15. "Only Happy When It Rains" -- Garbage
16. "Rain City" -- Turin Brakes
17. "The Rain Falls and the Sky Shudders" -- Moby
18. "Rainslicker" -- Josh Ritter
19. "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" -- Randy Newman

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Here's a random snow poem by Robert Frost (thanks, Google):


The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree
Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

And here's the playlist iTunes gave me when I used "snow" as a search term:

1. "Angel in the Snow" -- Elliott Smith
2. "Snow Camping" -- Laura Veirs
3. "Snow Lion" -- Readymade FC featuring Feist
4. "20 Years of Snow" -- Regina Spektor
5. "Snow on the Sahara" -- Anggun
6. "Snow" -- Loreena McKennitt
7. "Snow is Gone" -- Josh Ritter
8. "Snowflake Music" -- Mark Mothersbaugh

Friday, November 30, 2007

Sonic youth

A colleague let me know about this awesome Tegan and Sara mashup, engineered by the venerable Party Ben. In other sonic news: I attended a lovely, intimate, candlelit show tonight at 20/20 Cycle, where performances by Sweet Potatoes, Shana Cleveland, and others were broadcast live, as far as I know, on Hollow Earth Radio, a local endeavor I'm told should become my New Favorite Radio Station in short order.

And on a more visual note, I went to the Found Footage Festival last night with Angela, and it was one of the best things I've done all year. Seriously. Rapping Jewish grannies, rapping pregnant women in aerobics outfits, crazy shopping-network salesmen (see below), a really, really angry RV salesman, and a Chicago children's program I'll never forget as long as I live -- and I haven't even mentioned "How to Seduce Women," a video that suggests seduction via hypnosis! Truly amazing. Wherever you are, if this show comes to your town, push Jewish grannies and pregnant women out of the way to see it, if that's what it takes.

I am a winner

Saturday, November 24, 2007

If you squint really hard...

The guy on the right whose name you can't make out is Nicholas Brendon, also known as Xander from Buffy. I'm particularly pleased with Saget and Spader. You know I'm about ready to head back home when I start doing this to pass the time. Or perhaps you know that I'm almost 3,000 words behind on my NaNoWriMo novel.

My mom has entered the 21st century

She can now watch DVDs on a 26-inch HDTV. Funny how the stores are totally empty the Saturday after Thanksgiving, but some of the Friday bargains are still hanging around, looking at you with pleading eyes. "Buy me!" they shout. "Buy me!"

Friday, November 23, 2007

My street: Capitol Hill's new crime center


The perfect Detroit day

Recently picked up a book (at Bailey/Coy, I think) that listed 50 cities and described a perfect day in each, according to travel writers who know those cities well. I think I experienced my perfect Detroit day today. Got up late, ate breakfast, and played Scrabble with our geeky new Onyx Edition board, then went with my mother to Greektown, where we had a fabulous lunch at New Hellas (the perfect lunch: saganaki, Greek salad, and Hellas' unbelievable spinach pie. Honestly, far too many Greek restaurants, including basically all of them in Seattle, seem to consider spinach pie an excellent way to get rid of a lot of excess phyllo dough. But you know what? Here's what a spinach pie should really be about: spinach and cheese. (And, yes, lots of oil and salt.) And New Hellas, and most every other place in Greektown, knows this. And acts accordingly. So the spinach pie has a delicate, slightly soggy (from all the oil!) layer of phyllo on top, and another even soggier one on the bottom. And between them, nothing but delicious spinach and cheese. Mmmm...

After this heavenly lunch, we went to the Detroit Institute of the Arts' Grand Opening Weekend, which was amazing and very inspiring, considering how far the museum has come. The main lobby was full of glittery paper circles hung from the ceiling, and people were fencing in front of an audience. (They weren't dueling over a lady; presumably they were paid to be there.) We checked our coats and went to the Julie Mehretu exhibit, which was cool and involved one of the biggest canvases I've seen in a long time. Then it was on to the modern and contemporary sections, which were fantastic -- especially the modern stuff, including a beautiful Georges Seurat piece with a painted frame and lots of Spanish works, including Picasso and Miró. After seeing a fair bit of art and inspecting the gift shop, we headed to Kresge Court to sip mint-tarragon tea and listen to a jazz trio perform. The whole place was lit with candles. Just lovely. Finally, we left the museum and drove home... for two more games of Scrabble! And here I am now. If there's a more perfect Detroit day out there, I'm not sure I want to know about it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Recent writings

Shameless self-promotion is what blogs are all about, right? If it's any consolation, now you can tease me about Talk Like a Pirate Day basically forever.

I survived Thanksgiving!

I didn't even overeat! Yes, I know that's kind of the point of Thanksgiving, but I've done it enough in past years. I actually managed to have pie without feeling like an overfilled car tire.

The parade this morning was nice; it wasn't even that cold out, though it did snow at the outset. Best float: a three-part ode to The Wizard of Oz. I'll put some pictures on the blog just as soon as I'm back in Seattle and have my camera-computer connector cord.

In the meantime, here's a nice way to kill, oh, the next three days of the weekend. Free Rice!

And in case you're feeling cynical, don't. (Of course, if you... are thinking... of going... into this house... don't do that either. Common sense.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Turkeys made of turkey

They're so passé.

Happy almost-Thanksgiving, everyone!

Some more Vancouver snapshots, and my new movie obsessions

Angela and I had to do a whole lot of window-shopping on Granville Island before I could buy a tiny container of maple syrup. Here she is at the beginning of our leisurely Saturday:

Here's Vancouver from the water taxi:

Here's a dog tied to a pole, in the Dogblog tradition:

Time now to move on to my new cinematic fixation: the J.J. Abrams-produced monster movie Cloverfield, which looks, to use a technical term I learned as a movie critic, totally bad-ass. Also, as Geoff and I discovered yesterday, if you watch the newest Cloverfield trailer while listening to this YouTube video of Christmas lights coordinated with music from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, they line up almost exactly, and hilarity ensues. (Open two windows simultaneously, with one in each; TSO will start sooner, so pause them both and make them start at the same time for maximum wonderfulness.) Memo to J.J. Abrams: Consider incorporating TSO into the next wave of Cloverfield marketing madness.

Going to the Thanksgiving parade downtown tomorrow; we get fancy grandstand seats because of the scholarship fund my mom set up in honor of my dad. I look forward to watching the giant balloon animals make their way down Woodward. (Come to think of it, I'm not certain whether Chilly Willy even still exists. Sigh.)

P.S. Watched Orange County on the plane. Not all that good, but Schuyler Fisk is definitely my new movie-star girlfriend.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Vancouver, B.C.

Spent the weekend there with Angela.

This fruit tart actually tasted even better than it looks. I got it at a lovely bakery on Granville Island, Vancouver's answer to Pike Place Market. The bakery is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year and, like certain other Vancouver things, makes Seattle seem a bit lacking.

Apologies for the quick post. I'll post more Vancouver pictures, and link to NWsource's big appearance on "Evening Magazine," just as soon as I'm able.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Pugoween: A video retrospective

In other news, today I stopped into the highly controversial Red Balloon Co. store on 15th for the second time. And this time, my friends, I was a customer. I bought a pound of Jelly Belly jellybeans for my friend Maria's birthday, and I have to say, the guys working the place were pretty damn nice, and an incident wherein a little girl picked out a purple balloon and a purple ribbon/string for it, as her parents and baby brother watched in love and admiration, was something out of Norman Rockwell.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NaNoWriMo begins!

Yes, National Novel Writing Month has begun, and I've dutifully written my first 1,800 words, though I can't access the site because, hey, it's the first day and everyone is trying to do the same thing. That's okay, though. My plan this year is to use last year's writing pattern -- around 1,700 words a day, and not too much above or below the magic number. My goal is to write nearly every day, so writing becomes a natural part of each day and it feels weird when I don't do it. I'm excited that at least two friends who completed novels last year are giving it a try again this time. And if you're reading this and hadn't considered the possibility... it's not too late! The weekend is nearly upon us, which means ample time for catching up.

Got some cool links from friends today, including Japander, an invaluable collection of Asian ads made by American celebrities to make a quick buck where (they presumably hope) no one who regularly pays attention to them will notice their work. And from pandering to pandas: Emily sent me this link to a story about bears whose affection knows almost no bounds. (The link seems to be acting up; see if it loads on your computer, and if not, let me know.) And then there's this amazing array of sidewalk-art optical illusions.

I'm pretty enamored of the Capitol Hill blog these days (see sidebar link), and a recent post hit particularly close to home -- kind of literally. Believe it or not, nearly a week after its arrival at the bus stop, the chair is still there. Except that now it has a tiny (empty) Jaegermeister bottle adorning its comfy cushion.

I'm taking guitar lessons, by the way. It's reminding me how much a person has to practice just to be decent at an instrument. I haven't played any instrument since high school (oboe), and even then, under the pressure of band class and various solo and ensemble festivals, I was a rather woeful non-practicer. Hopefully I can solidify my knowledge of the mystical G, D, and C chords this week, and can also practice my scales and the four-string figure that starts Iron & Wine's "Naked As We Came," which is my first melodic assignment. In case you're interested, here's my teacher.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Party on 15th!

Just got back from a random party in the apartments above the QFC on 15th. Amazing. Every apartment was open, decorated, and decked out with tasty snacks, including homemade cupcakes in one and goldfish crackers in another. And the costumes were incredible. I wore last year's book costume ("Gone with the Wind") and had a very nice time, though it was hard to maneuver through the narrow, packed hallway, and in the apartments themselves. I was really impressed that the people who live in the building all seem to know and like each other, and that when you move in you kind of agree, tacitly or explicitly, to be okay with massive all-building parties that draw all kinds of strangers. (I was invited by a man dressed as Kenny Loggins and his girlfriend, who was dressed as Persephone from Greek myth -- and was handing out pomegranate seeds to prove it.)

Oh, and despite what Kenneth Turan says, "Dan in Real Life" sucks. But Emily Blunt is still my movie girlfriend.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Yes, we have no banana (costume)

Sadly, I didn't get the chance to look like this gentleman last night at the annual Big Blue House Halloween party. My banana costume, which was supposed to come from Halloween Express at Kirkland's Totem Lake Mall, belonged to someone else by the time my loyal compatriot got there. Instead, I wore a rather sketchy-looking wig that was part of a transvestite vampire costume last year. Oh, and some small black wings that started to really irritate me halfway through the night. I took them off, leading quite a few people to wonder what I was supposed to be. One particularly inebriated young woman speculated that I might be My Little Pony, which was a very generous assessment. And another young woman, this one outfitted in a colorful monster suit she'd made herself (it was a friendly, "Monsters, Inc." sort of monster, rather than a scary one), told me I had the best costume she'd seen all night. Which was a bizarre instance of flattery. In any case, a good time was had by all, even though the residents of Blue House never did reveal what was in the green punch, which tasted suspiciously like licorice, and even though I accidentally caused a YouTube video to temporarily merge with the playlist, creating an unintentional iTunes/YouTube mashup. Best costume of the night? Maybe the young, beardless Lenin, probably the robot with a joystick for a phallus. Honorable mention: the giraffe. I guess, as they say, you had to be there.

Ran some errands this morning and early afternoon, albeit in a sleepy state -- went to bed far too late last night, despite my warnings to myself not to stay up so late. Ah, well. Looked at my future glasses today -- with magnetized snap-on sunglasses! -- and got a couple of things for the house. Also checked in on Angela's cat, Max, the cutest orange cat in the world. Will be seeing the new Steve Carell movie with Kate today, followed by dinner. It's such a nice, crisp fall day; even just doing errands on Broadway was lovely. And tomorrow morning, brunch at Coastal Kitchen with Kate and various others. And hopefully, tonight, tons of sleep.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A quick post from within a dress shirt

Yes, I'm all dressed up with somewhere to go tonight. Seattle P-I blogger Darnell Sue, aka Girl About Town, is throwing a party at Veil with Nathaniel Hollywood of Natharbi, aka Seattle's Premier Couple. So that should be fun. Angela will be my loyal companion; she's just as much a fan of Mr. Hollywood's work in Active Singles Life as I am, and together we should make a good team.

A couple movie notes: Saw Tony Kaye's "Lake of Fire," which Michael deemed one of the best movies he's seen this year. Can't say I disagree. Everything from the gorgeous black-and-white cinematography to the tremendously moving arc following a Minneapolis woman from the beginning to the end of her abortion procedure -- the movie's about abortion, and specifically the controversy that continues to rage in American society -- was extremely well done. And Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz will likely win a whole new legion of fans based on their appearances in the film. It's very refreshing to find two of the country's most renowned thinkers saying, essentially, that abortion is a complex issue, and that keeping that in mind is more important than which side of the debate you happen to favor. (Though as one critic noted about the movie, the anti-abortion activists did come across as nuttier, on the whole, than the pro-choice people. Nat Hentoff was the token exception to this rule; he explained that if you're going to be anti-abortion because killing is wrong, hey, why not oppose capital punishment and, you know, war while you're at it. Lovely.)

Also good: "The TV Set," Jake Kasdan's smooth, funny, extremely likable satire of network television's inner workings. David Duchovny has honestly never been more endearing -- not even on "The X-Files" -- and Justine Bateman is a wonderful surprise as his wife. (Not having seen her since "Family Ties," I found the lines on her face pretty moving; funny how the actors who populated the shows you loved in childhood mysteriously grow up during the two decades you've been apart.) It's just 88 minutes long -- the rare movie about which I can unequivocally say: I wish it had been longer.

My night About Town beckons. Will be at Big Blue House tomorrow night for their Halloween party, spending time with Kate on Saturday, and going to Pugoween at Bitter Lake Community Center on Sunday. If you're interested in joining me for any or all of these exciting events, please drop me a line.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shiny happy movies

Got a helpful cinematic one-two punch the last two nights. Saw "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" on DVD and loved it; especially loved Jean Arthur. Interesting to see a collection of familiar faces from "It's a Wonderful Life" in very different roles (most surprising: the sad, drunk shopkeeper from "Life" as the powerful Senate majority leader), and nice to find a compelling plot beneath the occasional bursts of Capra speechifying. (One wonders if the filibuster scene has a bit of directorial self-mockery in it; what better way for Capra to deliver nonstop lefty preaching than to position his hero on the Senate floor and let him talk for 24 hours straight?) Other favorite bits: Harry Carey's irrepressible, slightly mysterious smile as the president of the Senate (Hitler hairdo notwithstanding), and Arthur's heartbreakingly sweet way of finally expressing her affection for Jimmy Stewart. Looks like the only other film that teams Capra, Stewart, and Arthur is "You Can't Take It With You," so I'll probably be picking that up sooner or later.

Equally sweet in its own way (and almost Capraesque in certain ways) was "Lars and the Real Girl." Saw it with the film meetup that convenes once a month officially and several Mondays per month less officially. Nice group of people, and slightly bizarre to spend a couple hours in a restaurant noisily discussing and debating movies. Almost felt a little dizzy afterwards. One fellow, Gabe, pointed out that when he's around his other friends and the subject of movies comes up, they quickly try to change the subject, because once he gets started, apparently, it's hard to stop him. As someone who once secured a friendship by talking about "Y tu mamá también" for something like three hours in a coffeeshop, I know the feeling.

Group conversations like last night's are interesting to me, because you can get together with other cinephiles every month, or even more often, and never really get to know them in ways beyond their movie preferences. It's kind of the ultimate test of the theory that you do (and talk about) certain things with certain friends and other things with other friends, and in the end you get what you need, intellectually and emotionally, from your combined pool of friends. I'm quite familiar with the conventional wisdom that you shouldn't expect any one friend, or even partner, to give you everything you need. But I'm also wary of the safety zone people can establish with each other when all they talk about is pop culture. There's nothing wrong, per se, with making or even continuing a friendship on that basis, but sometimes it can be so gratifying to get beyond that (or frustrating not to know how). In general, I'm interested in the idea that certain friendships are only "meant" to acquire a certain amount of depth, versus the idea of trying to slowly but surely get closer and closer to all your friends. Sometimes that process of getting closer feels effortless; other friendships enter that comfort zone, and a deeper level of disclosure doesn't seem necessary or even desirable.

But I was supposed to be talking about a grown man's love affair with a life-size doll.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

"Crazy Love" and "White Chalk"

Saw "Crazy Love" last night. Amazed by Burt and Linda's astounding ability to remain in the headlines.

I guess once you've blinded your one true love with lye, done time for it, married her, cheated on her, and appeared on every talk show known to humankind, the only thing left for her to do is start a little fire and let nature take its course.

"White Chalk," the new PJ Harvey album, is as good as Michael said it was. "Grow Grow Grow" is particularly lovely and cinematic; I don't know how not to make a Grimm fairy tale out of the lyrics. It's as perfect for fall as Spoon's "Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga" was for summer. Also liking the new Radiohead, and utterly in love with the final track, "Videotape," one of the most beautiful things they've ever recorded. (Hence the name of this blog.) A coworker and I, in a spare moment, compiled our Top 5 Loveliest Radiohead Songs. His #1 was "How to Disappear Completely"; he also included "Nude," from "In Rainbows," which I admit is very nice. My list:

Exit Music (For a Film)
Let Down
Life in a Glasshouse
Like Spinning Plates

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This is not a test post

According to Kate, blogging etiquette demands that the first post on a new blog not be a test post. So here's an actual post, with a link and everything. (I'll even insert a photo if I figure out how.) What I really should be doing, though, is going back to bed and watching one of the movies I rented, because I have the early-fall cold that's going around: runny nose, sneezing, and general crappiness. My rental choices reflect a mind balanced between optimism (Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with Jimmy Stewart -- thanks, On 15th Video's directors section!), relative pessimism (The TV Set, starring David Duchovny's well-maintained, pre-Californication facial hair), and a sneaking suspicion that romantic love inspires more lunacy than anything else (Crazy Love). Of course, this last isn't really how I feel, but I'm really eager to see the movie. And, of course, eat more macaroni and cheese. And appreciate the new peace and quiet, and relative tidiness, that's come to my house.

Speaking of which, time to go. Test posts may be uncool, but test images surely aren't. So I'll unearth an old portrait of a dog facing the limitation of his situation. (If you want more where this came from -- thematically, if not geographically -- check out San Francisco's venerable Dogblog.)

Monday, January 1, 2007