Saturday, June 25, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Taiwan Ireland Potato

Gina was recently in Taiwan for business and brought back this photo full of advice so good that I couldn't resist sharing it with you.

(As always, click on a photo for a larger image.)

Definitely do not joke my potato!

She returned with many other interesting photos of signs, but this one particularly tickled me.

Inquiring minds want to know: What's so dangerous about toast and cracker?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

When a good show goes bad

A while back, I recommended the Jeeves & Wooster television series. At the time I wrote that blog entry, I was well into the first season of the show and utterly charmed.

I'm now one episode from the end of the four-season run, and I find I must qualify my earlier recommendation: Watch the first two seasons of this show, then consider stopping. Some good bits do await you in the third and fourth seasons, but the quality level decreases so much that I can't recommend investing time or money in them.

The third season's weak moments almost entirely center on the duo's time in New York, an ill-advised move (if only a virtual one) out of England. The shows after they return to England are better, though not up to those of the first two seasons.

In the fourth season, you can almost see the Fonz on his surfboard jumping the shark as Jeeves and Wooster dive off a cruise liner, only to reappear with long, straggly beards and a spear. The next episode puts them both in drag, though at different times. And so it goes, the humor running downhill from clever to cheap, the episodes gaining in similarity as they lose in wit and entertainment.

Watch these latter seasons only if a few good bits of dialog are adequate recompense for an hour of your time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Art of Venjean

As we were checking out the Balticon Art Show late last month, we came across a panel of paintings that were striking for the strangeness of their artist's vision, the classically inspired techniques, and how polished even the smallest pieces looked. I quite liked their surreal nature, though it was very clearly not to the taste of most of the art show visitors, and so I came back a second time, admired them some more, and bought one of the pieces.

In the hallway outside, at one of the vendor tables, I spotted the artist sitting with a few other folks who proved to be members of his family. They were selling copies of a book of his art. I bought one.

The artist is Daniel Venjean. You can check out his work here.

A bit later, his son, Nicolas, contacted me. Apparently, they had also checked me out online. He extended an invitation, which I accepted. As it turns out, Venjean is working on a second, larger, updated edition of his book. It should appear this year, though possibly quite late in the year.

I will be writing an introduction for this new edition.

I've never attempted an art book intro before, and I certainly have no formal training in the area, nor any claims to any relevant expertise. Still, I appreciate their invitation, and I look forward to creating a bit of prose to go along with Daniel Venjean's surreal paintings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The most interesting man in the world visits our house

You walk into your favorite Mexican restaurant and notice in the small foyer a life-size cardboard cut-out of The Most Interesting Man In the World holding his trademark bottle of Dos Equis beer. Which of the following do you think:

(A) Whatever.

(B) That guy's taller than I thought.

(C) Does that cut-out really help sell beer?

(D) That thing needs to go home with us!
If you're my son, Scott, with the gene of weirdness pulsing in your every cell, with a father who owns a cone man, the answer is clearly D.

Never one to want to dash a boy's dreams, after a few weeks, several conversations with a waiter who knows us well, and a little folding money, I was able to make that dream come true.

Doesn't he look great with Cone Man?

Of course, he didn't stay in the yard very long. He's now in the house, usually in Scott's room--a freaky sight if you open the door and don't expect him--but sometimes on the balcony; he's not a guy who likes to be pinned down.

I've come to understand that not all households operate like ours, but that's the way it goes around here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern

Go ahead. Ask. I know the question: "What are you doing going to a movie with only a 24% rating on Rotten Tomatoes?"

I'm a nut for superhero flicks. So sue me.

I even had a pleasant enough time watching this one. I can't call it a good movie, but it wasn't a horrible one, either. As with so many films, I knew where it was going to go at every turn, but it pulled the audience along in workman-like fashion. Also like so many movies I've seen this year, Green Lantern does not have a story that bears up well under much mental scrutiny. You have to let it wash over you and then move on.

What probably helped me enjoy the film despite all those flaws is the fact that I've loved the Green Lantern character since I was a little kid. It struck the young me that if all you needed to have a superpower was a special ring and a strong will, then I was halfway there. I just needed that damn ring.

Nothing about this movie will challenge you. Nothing will surprise you. Even so, if you like superhero films, odds are that you'll find this one a pleasant enough diversion.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Goodbye, Big Man, goodbye

Clarence Clemons, the Big Man, a wonderful saxophonist who was best known for playing with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, died yesterday. When I heard the news first from Sarah, who had heard it via music community connections, I couldn't find any mentions online and hoped it wasn't true. When I read that it was indeed true, that he had died of complications from a stroke, sadness gripped me hard.

I didn't know this man. I never met him. I never even saw him play a solo show, though several times I had the chance and was too busy to take it. I have no real right to this sadness. I'm just another fan who will mourn his passing--but mourn it I will.

I first saw him play during the Born in the U.S.A. tour in 1984, on the band's last show before Christmas. As was his habit on that tour, at some point Springsteen would start running toward Clemons from the side opposite the Big Man, tuck into a knee slide, and stop when the Big Man caught him. On that tour, Clemons would always then kiss him, a sideways slap at homophobes. The chemistry and brotherhood between the two of them was amazing, as it always was.

When Clemons broke into one of his famous saxophone solos, I was enchanted. When he hit the one in the middle of "Born to Run," I had one of those peak moments you get in a live concert when you know it can't get any better than that.

In the following years, I had the privilege of seeing Springsteen, Clemons, and the band several more times. A little over two years ago, in April, 2008, I got to attend their show in Greensboro. Clemons was clearly in some difficulty, and he moved very little, spending most of the show perched on a stool. When it came time to play, however, it was as if the power of the music filled him and came rolling out through his instrument.

It was always like that, come to think of it: When the Big Man played, he became an even bigger man, as the power of music burst out of him and elevated and transformed all around him. I'll always be grateful to him for sharing those moments with so many of us.

Goodbye, Clarence Clemons. I never knew you, but I will miss you.


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