Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Boogie Nights

Since moving into my apartment, I haven't really ventured out to hear live music, so going to the DiscOasis show Friday night was kind of a big deal. It was a lot of fun, though - they do the sweetest covers of "Boogie Nights" - my all-time favorite disco song - and "More More More" that I've ever heard.
Fun crowd, too. Fun people tend to like disco, or at least tolerate it for a night b/c it's not blues or a cheezy jam band.
I don't really remember making my way up my stairs and into bed at 4am (not to mention taking out my contacts and getting undressed), but I guess I must have... good times.
Other than that, I had a fun, lazy, uneventful holiday weekend. Writing about it would bore anyone who wasn't involved, so I won't. Even the novel I'm reading right now, while riveting to me, is a piece of crime fiction that no one else would be interested in.
My bosses, assistant, and several co-workers are out of town this week, so I'm kind of twiddling my thumbs, trying to stay busy (hence this entry). More later.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I had a long snicker the other day when I came across the least-original, most ridiculous blog entry I've read in a good long time. It was written by someone I vaguely know; the topic was how lame and boring our town is (and, specifically, how no one gets off their ass to make good music here).
I briefly considered linking to it, but couldn't bring myself to. Blogs are meant for friends, after all, and I really had no business drawing unwanted attention to a private blog entry simply because I think it's a steaming pile of shit posted by someone who will never be happy here because he will never be happy ANYWHERE because it's really himself he doesn't like - not his town. Ahem. Psychoanalysis session over. Sorry.
I'm certainly not my town's biggest fan - it has its good days and bad, like most. But in the spirit of proving losers wrong, I thought I'd post a list of my favorite things about my town.

1)The bookstores. The small, independent bookstore is a dying breed, and our town manages to support several. Shaver's Books is an incredible little store. It is a true reader's best friend - the man can order anything. The Booklegger is also amazing - you never know what you're going to find in there. I'm told that gamers go to small comic shops, as well, and manage to keep them in business.
2)The Japanese food. For some unknown reason, we have a massive selection of Japanese restaurants. Mikawa was built for the ppl who work at the Toyota plant - it's totally authentic. Miyako has $1 sushi on Monday nights. Miwon has the biggest sushi selection, it's fantastic, and it often comes served on a wooden boat. We also have a few of the dog-and-pony "cook it in front of you" chains that people seem to like. And then there's Edo. Need I say more?
3)Bandito Burrito. They put crack in their food - no one can get enough.
4)Cheap gyms. I LOVE my gym. It's state-of-the-art (or was 2 yrs ago, at least), offers tons of classes, and is normally not too crowded, give or take an hour or so after work. I pay $40 a month, which, while fairly high for gym fees for this area, is nothing compared to the national average.
5)Cheap cost of living. Where else could you find an apartment in one of the wealthiest and certainly oldest neighborhoods in town? And on my salary, no less (which ain't a lot, people)?
6)The Flying Monkey Arts Center. Thank God for Catherine, who runs it, because it gives our town a streak of the odd (and sometimes outright bizarre) that it desperately needs. Case in point: the Yard Dogs Road Show that's on its way here in June. We are very, very, very, very lucky to have a venue to host fun events like this.
7)The untapped antique market. For the same price as a lot of the cheap crap furniture we buy now, you can to go Hartlex or Firehouse antiques and find an amazing quality, funky piece. Or sometimes just beautiful, old stuff. Hell, Mary's Antiques (which is really mostly beads) has the strangest, most fun framed art I've ever seen. The prices are worth the ornate frames alone...
8)We actually get independent films. We don't ALWAYS have indie films here, but thanks to the Regal Madison Square 12 cinema, I've seen "Mulholland Drive," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Amelie," "Capote," and "Me and You and Everyone We Know" on the big screen. They're showing "L'Enfant" this week...
9)The untapped thrift store market. I don't know anyone who hasn't gotten some odd piece of furniture or clothing at a thrift store around here. The coolest coat I ever owned (dark yellow faux velvet w/a belt) came from the downtown rescue mission thrift store. I almost cried the day I realized I'd worn it threadbare.
10)Sunburst Records. Jay is an institution. We bonded over a mutual love of Kate Bush when I was 15 yrs old.
11)The Indian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine. We don't have a lot of these restaurants, but the ones we DO have are fantastic. Vinnie's, Thai Garden, and Viet Huong are not to be missed.
12)The free summer movies in the park. There are worse ways I could spend a Friday night than sitting in Big Spring Park, surrounded by friends, eating take-out Vietnamese food, drinking a beer, and watching "Singin' in the Rain."
13)The Sunday Brunch choices (you'll notice that a lot of these have to do with food). Jazz Factory, the Palette Cafe, and Cafe Baba have excellent Sunday brunches, each a little different from the other.
14)Our salons and spas. We have a huge choice of spas and independent masseuses/masseurs. The independent ones are very reasonably priced, and our salons are fantastic. We're lucky to have businesses like Terrame and Salon Ka Terra.
15)Community Ballet. People don't realize that we have acclaimed, classically-trained ballet masters teaching right here in town. Their recitals, along with the annual Nutcracker performance, are top-notch, not to mention the Russian ballet company they host every year for a performance.
16)Garden Cove. I am hooked on at least 5 products that can only be found at this store. It's a totally different way of looking at grocery shopping. Their tea room in the back alone is worth a visit.
And a few others:
-our Municipal Ice Plex is fantastic
-we have endless smoothie choices
-local cafes
-we have at least 20 book clubs
-we live within 2 hrs of Birmingham and Nashville - you can usually go to a show and be home by 12:30am (plenty of time to get a few hrs rest before work the next day)
-UAH Hockey games are genuinely fun
-when it's not swelteringly hot, Stars games are genuinely fun
-Amy McCarley, the Rocket Scientists, Daikaiju, the Pine Hill Haints, DiscOasis, and Toy Shop all rock the trailer

Velleity is defined as "wishing or hoping without ever taking action." It blows my mind that people around here can spend significant amounts of time being bored. I can't find enough hours in the day to do even half the things I want to do. For God's sake, read a book. Take a walk. Knit some booties. Volunteer at the AIDS clinic. Or move the hell away. None of this was written in a mean spirit; it was written in a "weary of the bitching and moaning" spirit. I count among my present set of friends some of the most intelligent, witty, creative, amazing people I've ever known, and I can't remember the last time one of them called me and said, "Dude - I'm bored. What should we do?" Barring airplane rides, long waits in waiting rooms, and shopping with my mom, I don't think I've really been bored since high school.

Friday, May 19, 2006


You know those movies you'd heard about for years, but either never got around to renting them, or never could b/c your lame-ass local video store wouldn't carry them b/c they already had 3 shelves of Scary Movie 7, and didn't have room for critically-acclaimed films? And then you joined Netflix and finally SAW the movie in question, and it simultaneously SUCKED, BLEW, and BIT THE BIG ONE?
Well that happened to me the other day. I got Whit Stillman's Metropolitan in the mail, and was really excited - it's just been released on DVD for the first time ever (in a Criterion edition, no less).
I hated it. It was pretentious, shallow, and, I thought, mean-spirited. I LOVED his Last Days of Disco, and the two films were actually similar in a lot of ways. But everything that worked in LDoD was terrible in Metropolitan. The endless exposition on class structure from snotty, uber-wealthy 18 yr olds was more than I could handle.
I enjoyed The Watcher in the Woods (a re-viewing of the late-70's Disney movie that scared the living shit out of me as a child) MUCH more than Metropolitan. Ben and I watched it last Friday night, and added our own commentary, a la "Mystery Science Theatre 3000." In this DVD release, however, you actually get to SEE the Watcher, and lame doesn't begin to describe how terrible it was (not to mention the "other dimension/planet" you see at the end). The Watcher consisted of black torn garbage bags draped over coat hangers, and the "other world" looks like an 80's gay disco, from the era when disco wasn't even in vogue anymore (think flat and unenthusiastic). And when you finally see Karen, she's wearing this spectacularly awful blonde wig. I know because I wore that same wig to a rave in '96 where we danced in foam and everyone wore blue nail polish. From a completely camp perspective, however, The Watcher in the Woods is a joy, from beginning to end.
I'm going to spend the weekend attempting to hide from DaVinci Code hysteria. The film is released today, and I've already spent the last 2 years dodging earnest-looking middle-Americans who hadn't previously read a book in 6 years coming up to me (after finding out I'm a reader), intoning, "OHMIGOD, you HAVE to read the DaVinci Code - it's the BEST BOOK!!! It will change your whole perspective!!! And it's so controVERcial!" I remember the same sort of mob mentality over that book The Bridges of Madison County. And The Lovely Bones. I actually gave DVC a chance, and was appalled at how bad it was. And this isn't exactly coming from a literary snob - I may have been an English major, but I've been known to read a John Grisham and Patricia Cornwell, and I've liked a lot of them. DVC was a whole lot of nothing - wooden dialogue, flat characters, cheezy cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, and an insulting withholding of information until the very end.
I've heard that the film blows, so maybe it will die quickly, and we can all move on with our lives... I'm weary of seeing Tom Hanks with his child molester haircut everywhere.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Surrounded by Churchbells

My new apartment is amazing. I am slowly getting used to the frequent noises of trains and churchbells. There are no less than 3 churches on my street, which I love, and 5 more on the blocks that surround my street. It makes parking on Sunday mornings a bit difficult sometimes, but only for a cpl of hours. Besides the church bells, trains, and the occasional (loud) siren, it's completely quiet. So far, I've experienced few, if any, drawbacks to living in an old mansion converted into apartments. My street is beautiful, and, because I live next door (on one side) to offices, that's a whole slew of neighbors who simply aren't there to be annoying (or annoyed by me, which is almost worse). Nothing has freaked me out or made me uneasy yet,which is good. I feel totally safe there. The street is like a ghost town at night. I've only met one man who lives in the place, and he's barely around. Another guy works out of town for something like 80% of the time, so he's never there, either.
My mom did a little research on the house while at work, and she found out that it's been apartments since at least the 1940's, which is as far back as she got. It's so strange to think of people in the 50's living in my apartment. I wonder who lived there during WWII... She even found specific names of ppl who have lived in my particular apartment. Looks like they were all working, single women.
In other news, my brother graduates from high school later today. That doesn't seem right. I'm 11 yrs older than him, so in my mind, he'll always be a skinny 10-yr-old with messy brown hair playing his Gameboy. Seeing him in a cap and gown will be bizarre, to say the least. I really hope I don't cry.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My Sister's Continent

I've had one book on the brain for the past 2 months, so I thought I'd post about it. It's called My Sister's Continent - it's by Gina Frangello (and this is her first novel that I know of, which blows my mind). It takes Freud's work Dora, and turns it on its head. It's about a set of identical twins in their early 20's living in Chicago. One twin is returning home defeated - a back injury has essentially killed her promising ballet career. She has a particular affinity for pain. The other twin is having horrible stomach problems before her impending marriage to her frat-guy college boyfriend. Everyone assumes these problems are psychological.
This is one of the first modern (and by this I mean written in the past few years... maybe I mean POSTmodern??) books I've read dealing with female sexuality that isn't on some level insulting or patronizing - these are dark, complicated, unapologetic characters. The language is spectacular. There is also a mystery of sorts to solve, because you discover through a letter at the beginning of the book that one of the twins has disappeared, and the other is looking for her. Each character is desperately trying to deal with his/her own odd psychosis, and therapy sessons are prominently featured. Some of the scenes were distinctly unpleasant. But the book won't get out of my head, which I suppose means I need to read it again.
Every review I've read compares it to The Thin Place, by Kathryn Davis (the book I was looking up when I discovered this one instead). That will probably be the next book I buy when I'm no longer broke. I've got to hand it to Amazon.com's "if you bought this book, you'll probably like..." recommendations. I have to wonder how many other fantastic books are out there, published by independent presses, that I have no clue about because I just haven't stumbled across them. You used to be able to trust Barnes and Noble's "Discover New Writers" program, but now it's mostly lame-sounding gimmicky fiction. Of course, every book I've read since My Sister's Continent seems lame and gimmicky... that's what's dangerous about reading good books.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Tiny Sip of Absinthe

I have not a clue what I'm going to end up posting here; I'll be as surprised as anyone else, I guess. I started this because I don't want any Tom, Dick, and Harry on MySpace reading my blog, and "any Tom, Dick, and Harry" applies to a lot of ppl in my friend list. Maybe a lot of ppl will end up reading this. Maybe none. Whatever - I'll figure it out. I'm so weird about the internet, anyway - posting pictures of myself and loved ones or talking about deep, dark, private secrets seems so wrong (and screams, "Hey world - look at me and my drama!!"). It seems as though there really is no such thing as a secret anymore. Ten years ago, you'd get a spiral perm, slick it into a really high ponytail, and go on Jerry Springer to air your dirty laundry (has it really been 10 YEARS?). Now you go on Survivor, the Real World, America's Next Top Model, or, if you're a washed-up celebrity, the Surreal Life to show the world how lame you are.
At the moment, I'm trying to figure out what to really dig into to write about. I'm talking fiction here - not public internet postings. My long-term project is on sabbatical, apparently, and I'm ready to put it aside for a couple of months and start with something entirely new. I thought about some sort of juicy expose of the town where I live, but what would really be the point? How is it in any way interesting that people have affairs, take lots of drugs, and spend vulgar amounts of money on crown molding? People do that everywhere.
It will come to me. Something usually does.
Arbitrary and irrelevant item of the day: my poor, awesome, long-suffering cell phone is on its last leg. It holds a charge of about 2 days (used to be 5), and is banged up beyond recognition. The other night, I dropped it, and it fell into 4 separate pieces. Right after I picked up all the pieces, my dad called, and after finding the right piece that was ringing, I talked for 5 minutes, afraid the whole time that I was going to get some sort of low-voltage electrical shock.
We'll see how long Hillary can hold out (I named my phone Hillary when I got her)...