Friday, November 30, 2007


I was driving over to Cleveland Heights this evening for a poetry reading. As I drove, it struck me that I kept hearing and seeing great phrases. I have a theory that I was primed for them, because poetry was on my mind. Sort of like, when you are going to a comedy show, everything is funny or coming to or from a gallery featuring found art and everywhere you look you see beauty and accidental cleverness. You know?

Anyway, on the train home from work I was reading Saul Williams' She. There are pages of great lines, but two separate stanzas jumped out at me:

"and it hurts even more to write it/than it does to live it"


"and these tu lips/might soon eclipse/your brightest hopes"

Cool, huh?

On the stereo was a happy mix I had made back in Texas, with lyrics like

"Ooh baby/let's have a baby/before Bush do/something crazy" (by marxist hip-hop act the Coup)


"you can't watch pornography/without being affected/my broken heart/was mysteriously neglected/i tripped on my troubles/riding the sunshine/i tried to call her/but the undertaker answered/at the haunted house" (by Danny and the Nighmares)


"well do you have a girlfriend/does she look as good as you/would she like to meet my brother/he gets outta jail in a month or two" (by Cracker)


"I'm crawling slowly in the dark/feeling for/a punchline" (by Daniel Johnston)


"your pops don't like me/but your mom sure does/cause she sees the looks that I give you/and sees nuttin but love/enough to know this ain't no phase/or some part-time craze/it's a love affair/that's even during the week days " (by G. Love)


"heard it before and had my share/it didn't lead nowhere/i would go along with someone like you/ it doesn't matter what you do/who you are hanging with/we could stick around/and see this night through" (by Peter, Bjorn, and John)

Anyway, eventually I roll up to the parking garage across the way from Mac's Backs. Run in, get quarters, run out, deposit quarters, run back in. The poetry itself was rather forgettable, but I got a chance to meet (for the second time) Bree. Earlier in the day I had received a package in the mail from her, filled with awesome stuff, including her press binding of Charles Potts' two-volume memoir, Valga Krusa. She was really nice and even gave me a free copy of a new piece she had just pressed, which included the work of several different authors (one of which was by Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth fame). I also got a chance to say hi to the owner, Suzanne, who recognized me -- that's always a nice thing, starting to be recognized by folks when you are new in town.

After departing Mac's I booked over to Collinwood. The Besnard Lakes were opening for the aforementioned PB&J. I stopped in to Music Saves first, picked up a copy of the recenlty released Audio Eagle compilation, which will hopefully aid in my quest to become more familiar with the music of NEO. Then it was off to the Beachland Ballroom, where I observed a great set by Montreal's Besnard Lakes. They were AWESOME, the ballroom is super cool, sort of a cross between what you see in Hollywood prom scenes and what I imagine really old-school talk shows had. Best of all, the bar is cool and cheap -- I only had a small amount of cash, less than ten bucks, but I was still able to grab a Genesee tall boy for $2.50 and a bottle of Straub (of which I had never heard, but it is pretty good) for the same price. After the BL played, PB&J came on. They were good, but I've heard their music so much in the past year it wasn't really exciting. I left at the beginning of the encore, but did stay long enough to hear them play their hit "Young Folks" (with Olga from the BL filling in for the golden-throated Victoria Bergstrom from The Concretes/Taken By Trees) and, better yet, totally freak out on "Objects of my Affection." As I went out, the guitarist/singer of the Besnard Lakes was manning the merch table. I congratulated him on his performance and, on the spur of the moment, asked him if there were any acts out and about these days he was really into. He thought for a moment, then suggested David Vanderveld and Sunset Rubdown. I'm new to both, but will give them a listen.

I headed out, stopped in to Music Saves again to pick up the BL album for Ducky's Christmas present and got some tips on December shows from the owner (he especially endorsed the White Magic/Mystery of Two show on 12/4, by the way), and then got back in my car for the short drive home.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Full of Thanks ... and just plain full.

As Thanksgiving comes around this year, it has been an interesting time. For the last 5 years, I spent this day dining with and enjoying the company of many of my colleagues. It was a good day, and I miss the conviviality in general and the people specifically. This year, I decided to hang by myself. The idea of driving over to spend the holiday with family and the idea of dining with one of my new colleagues here were both a little to stressful. Besides, I just want to rest and travelling was out of the question, since Smelly has a check-up tomorrow.

My casual boycott of this uniquely American holiday, however, does not mean I'm not thankful. In my three months here in Cleveland, I've been overjoyed with the richness of the cultural institutions and communities. I'm finally in a place where my desires for urban atmosphere, culinary sophistication and variety, an active literary community, and excellent indie bookstores are satisfied fully. I'm also particularly grateful for the friendships I've made and for those it feels as if I'm on the cusp of making.

Last night, I went to my friend Mike's place for an impromptu Thanksgiving potluck. Mike, his roommate , his cousin, his neighbor, and a few of his other friends all had a fine, enjoyable, peaceful time. His roommate provided an excellent pork loin stuffed with Italian sausage and a beautiful fruit cheesecake. I contributed that Midwestern standard, green bean/crunch onion casserole. It was a lot of fun, and I went home later with a full belly and heart.

The evening left me a little regretful that I wasn't doing anything official for the day. So, after snagging a cup of coffee at Talkie's, I stopped by Dave's to rustle up what I needed for a quick and dirty Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to the leftover green bean fantasia from last night and the leftover lamb dirty rice from earlier in the week, I picked up some spicy mashed potatoes, a lean turkey breast to roast, and some mushrooms and carrots to roast along with the turkey. Add to that some sourdough bread and herb butter I had around, and I think I'm on the verge of a nice feast. Another thing for which I'm thankful.

After that, who knows. Assuming it isn't raining, maybe I'll take Ellie on a leisurely walk. There's also a show at Pat's in the Flats tonight featuring Coffinberry, which I've been looking forward to for quite some time. Or maybe I'll hop the train to Tower City and check out the recently released Hitman, or maybe American Gangster before it leaves the theater.

And somewhere in there I'll have to squeeze in the anxiety-laden phone call home to the p's and siblings. But for now, I'm enjoying my Leinie's Apple Spice beer, basking in the roasting aroma, listening to Wilco's second-to-last album, and finding myself pretty content as fall pushes into my first Midwestern winter in a half-decade.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cinematic Inspiration

Movies always move me. They make me cry (all the freaking time), sometimes they make me want to exercise (though that doesn't last long). Today, one even sorta influenced how I look at my career.

Thanks to the wonderful email service Cleveland Cinemas offers, I was reminded that Lions for Lambs (starring Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, and ugh Tom Cruise) would be leaving the theater soon. As it was Magic Tuesday, I had nothing to do, so I took the train over to Tower City for the 2:20 showing.

The movie isn't that great, a little overwrought and incomplete, but Redford's character's lines about how he views his career (he plays a professor) struck several chords. I left the theater with new ideas about how to reach students and what to say when I do, as well as totally sticky sneaker bottoms from the ridiculously gross floors there.

Now I'm trying to figure out how to translate those thoughts into action, as I write my lecture for tomorrow's class. I'm also half-watching Detroit Rock City and enjoying the smell of the dirty rice (with lamb instead of ground beef) simmering on the stove. In a few minutes, I'm gonna go butter some bread, heat some creamed corn, and make a quick spinach salad. Yum.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Cross-County Wanderings

I was all over the place yesterday, man. Maybe cross-county isn't exactly accurate, but my motoring did extend from Lakewood to Cleveland Heights. After my last post, I freshened up and did some very quick grocery shopping: cleaning supplies at the Dollar Store, some creamed corn at Dave's, and then over to the West Side Market for some trout. I plan to encrust the fish with some herb butter and pepitas this evening, so I picked up the butter and pumpkin seeds there, too.

I left the market, jumped in my motor vehicle, and made it over to the Borders in Cleveland Heights just in time to hear Michael Ruhlman give a brief talk about his experiences as a writer, a celebrity, and cooking. He is an interesting guy and an excellent writer. I keep waiting to be put off by his attitude (like Jay McInerney) or find him a douche trying to strangle me with his coolness (like Bourdain), but he never does. Instead, he's a calm midwesterner that loves what he's doing (writing pretty successful, almost first-person non-fiction on things he's passionately interested in) and also realizes he's doing well as he does it. I picked up a copy of his new book for myself and my friend Alex. Alex doesn't need it, but it was a chance to get Ruhlman to put something in the inscription. (Alex, if you are reading this, I'll put it in the mail on Monday.)

Then I stopped off at Mac's Backs, the store that has been widely reputed to be the indie bookstore headquarters of Cuyahoga County. The store is cool and the owner Suzanne is delightful and kind. Visible Voice strikes me as much better organized and has a superior selection of books, but there is an energy at Mac's that isn't duplicated by Visible Voice. Suzanne is also an enthusiastic supporter of the literary scene in Cleveland, and has organized and hosted events large and small that keep the community as robust as it is. I picked up a few slim volumes by area poets and a copy of The Bush Dyslexicon (for $5!), which I hope will help as I prepare to write a paper on Dubya's rhetorical legacy with a friend and colleague.

After that, it was a quick stop off at Dave's Cosmic Subs. Dave's is a Cleveland institution, sort of what Freebirds is to College Station, but with the focus on subs instead of burritos. I thought it was cool, the food was certainly good, the prices right, and the hippie theme pleasing. Sadly, the lady behind the counter was a jackass, apparently put off because I ordered a sandwich. I thought to reminder her, but then decided against it, that she was working in a restaurant and her job is to take orders for sandwiches. I'm pretty sure she already knows this, so I just thought mean thoughts about her as I walked back to my car. The thoughts didn't last long, as I quickly discovered I had lost my car. After about 15 minutes, I remembered where I parked it, got in, and drove back to the west side.

I stopped by the bubble to say what's up, hung for a bit, then went home to feed Ellie and confront my sub. About 10 minutes after completion, Mike calls and says to come out to some vegetarian Thai place in Lakewood with he and his cousin. I oblige, we end up meeting another friend of his at the Thai Hut up on Madison and Chesterland (or thereabouts). We had a lovely time and I enjoyed a nice cup of chicken coconut soup.

The guy running the place was super funny and nice. He kept joking about how the hostess girl was his girlfriend (she clearly was not) and then gave Mike's cousin, Stephanie, a can of the coconut milk they use because she'd asked so many questions about it. I'll definitely go back, just because the folks were so cool.

After the Thai experience, it was off to Christina's studio opening. It was fun, though not a lot of booze was available. The mini cupcakes nearly made up for it. By the time we left and I got back home I was bushed from all my observing of other people's creative efforts. Imagine how tired I'd have been if I'd actually done shit!

Anyway, laid back day today -- Browns at 1, Bears at 4, trout sometime shortly after that. There is an interesting documentary about Albert Ayler, the Cleveland free jazz phenom and junkie of the 60s, playing at the Cinematheque tonight that I might check out. Or Mike wants to go bowling an accidentally on purpose bump into some lady he's been talking to lately. Sounds a little dangerous to me. What will I choose? I guess you'll have to tune back in tomorrow (or some time next week) to see ........

Some incentive, huh?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Crushed Proletarian Fantasy

As I had nothing scheduled and Ellie seemed to be recuperating nicely, I spent the day bumming around. After doing the doggie circuit and giving Ellie her pills, I went across the street to the bookstore to browse while I waited for my new friend Dan to drive over from the east side. I was on a mission to find the copy of David Sedaris' book of Christmas essays that I had hidden the last time I was in (I didn't have any cash on me, but didn't want anyone else to buy it, either ... so I hid it. Makes sense, right?). Dan made good time and drove up at almost the exact moment I realized that I had hidden it so well even I couldn't find it. Oh well.

I hopped in and we headed to Old Brooklyn, an edge neighborhood populated mostly by Cleveland cops and firefighters forced to balance residency requirements with the desire for their children to get an education without getting them shot. It is a nice area, almost completely residential and obviously blue collar. Too bad cops don't seem to be able to afford to live in my neighborhood -- the police presence in Old Brooklyn is about 10 times what it seems to be in Ohio City, where there is actually shit to steal and retail/restaurant/bar revenue to be made.

But I digress.

We headed to Steve's, a local diner place. I wasn't very hungry so I didn't do much damage to the pan-fried chicken I ordered. It was good and the place had character, but not enough for me to probably go back to on purpose. Besides, with Sokolowski's just down the road from me, I can have even more character with even better food all the time.

But again, more digressing.

Afterwards I headed over to the Bubble, chatted with folks, and eventually headed over to the Great Lakes Brewing Company for a pint of their magical mystical Christmas Ale with Terry, one of the glass-blowers there. After that (and a coffee from Talkies to pick me back up off the ground to which the beer had knocked me) I trudged to Dave's Supermarket to get a 12-pack and then it was off to Lakewood to help my friend Mike work on his friend Christina's new dance studio. Her new business, BE Studios, is a pretty interesting venture, part pilates, part dance, part erotic exercise. Seriously. Christina is going to be teaching both the exercise classes and seminars on pole dancing, lap dancing, and strip-teasing.

While there, I helped out by weaving stereo wire through an obstacle course of pipes and beams and shit. I really got into it -- the buzz helped -- and started visualizing myself as a new style worker-hero. I was coming up with genius strategies for getting the wire from the basement up through the floor and feeling pretty good about myself over all.

Until I stepped in dog shit outside while getting a table out of Mike's van.

Stepping in dog shit never fails to bring a man low.

After that, I just felt like Dog Shit Guy and secretly yearned to leave.

Eventually all the work that could be done was done, and we left Christina to some last minute organizing and swiffering. Her grand opening is tonight. I hope it goes great, not only because she seems super cool and she has a neat idea, but because it is an independent attempt to thwart the corporate behemoth's that dominate every industry, including the exercise market.

See, the worker-hero didn't completely fade. Just a little smudged. With canine feces. Yuck.

After leaving Lakewood, we headed back to Tremont and caught the last bit of the Hobo Monk performance at Visible Voice. I snagged a free beer out of some mini keg - something by Dogfish Head brewery, but I can't remember what. It was tasty. I drank it, purchased a volume on the poetry and art of d.a. levy, and we took off, searching for food. We stopped by Edison's Pub first, but the kitchen was closed, so it was off to Lolita, as it was just after 10 PM and their happy hour menu started.

Lolita, the #2 restuarant in the Michael Symon empire, was pretty packed, due in no small part to Symon's recent victory in the new Iron Chef contest. That's right, the newest Iron Chef is a Clevelander. Cool, huh?

We were both bushed but also hungry as hell, so we ordered liberally. $5 burgers for each, and plates of mac n cheese and crispy chicken livers to share. The chicken livers sucked ass, but the mac n cheese was pretty good -- if a little goaty. The burgers were good, even if the were a touch dry and Lolita is too bougie to stock ketchup. Seriously, guys, it is the most fucking popular condiment in the country. Add some basil to it or something, if you need to funkify regular Heinz, but gimme some ketchup. The burger isn't so awesome that we need to worry about ruining it. For Christ's sake, it is a burger after all.

OK, ketchup rant over.

We finished up, paid up, and headed back to Ohio City. I helped Mike and his new roommate move some shit around, then it was home and off to bed (after feeding/walking/medicating Ellie).

Today I'm thinking about checking out Cleveland Heights a bit. Mike Ruhlman has a signing of his new book at the Borders there, after which I might head over to Mac's Backs (allegedly the very best indie bookstore in town) to peruse and to Dave's Cosmic Subs to gnosh. We shall see.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Flexible Scheduling

I'm in Philadelphia right now.

Actually, I'm not. I'm sitting in my palacial Ohio City apartment, waiting for a pizza to be delivered. But I'm supposed to be in Philadelphia. According to my calender, I am. According to my students and my boss, I am.

But I am not. For various reasons, the most important of which being the infected cyst Smelly Ellie developed over the last 48 hours or so. I didn't really notice it till the day before yesterday, then by yesterday it was obvious it needed to be treated. So I blew off my travel arrangements and took Ellie in to the vet.

I had been leaning toward not going for various reasons anyway, and had already told the people I was supposed to meet up with that I wouldn't be going, but was still not fully certain. Ellie's "condition" made it pretty easy to decide.

So after cancelling her boarding reservation and my own lodging reservation, I headed to Cleveland Heights to see a couple comedians perform at the Grog Shop. The comedians were Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black, two of the funniest members of my second favorite comedy troupe (The State) when I was in high school and ranked such things. (FYI - Kids in the Hall was my favorite.) The show itself was ok, Black was funnier than Showalter (as I somewhat expected), though both were pretty lethargic and lazily riffed on various things for about half of their respective performances before getting into the material they were touring specifically. Showalter did this pretty funny thing where he played songs from his laptop, and then pretended the songs were background music in movies where he was playing the protaganists. Black brought a heckler on stage and interviewed her. This chick ended up being so freaking weird. Let's put it this way: she takes karate lessons and carries a photo of the lead singer of A-ha in her wallet and is not trying to be funny or ironic. He also did some funny bits about his kids recent halloween costume, like when he told his 6-year-old son, who wanted to be a pirate, that he might as well dress as a fucking jerk-off because that's what his dad thought of him now.

The whole thing only lasted about 1.5 hours, which - at $17 - was a bit of a rip off, but I was glad to be heading home early. I was a little guilty about leaving Ellie and was pretty wiped from my 1 day work week anyway. (Is it weird that easy weeks make me more exhausted than full weeks?)

Today I woke up and took Smelly to Gateway Animal Clinic around 1030. The infection turned out to be worse than I thought and her exam ended up being pretty painful. She was a trooper, though. And the ladies at the Animal Clinic, from the awesome Dr. Abby to the vet assistants to the secretarial staff, were all extraordinarily compassionate and kind. An overwhelming number of them also had really sexy haircuts. (Is it weird that I was thinking about sexy haircuts while my beloved dogder is having her worst hour in many months?)

After it was over and I paid for her new drugs -- baby gets to be on muscle relaxers for a week! lucky -- we emerged into the freezing rain. That ended up killing my budding plan to drive down to Pittsburgh to see the Polyphonic Spree. The Spree's current tour is awesome, but I've already seen it twice. Besides, my knees can only handle about 1 night a month of the spasmodic calisthenics I call dancing and an Electric 6 show is coming up (also at the Grog Shop) at the end of this month.

I brought Ellie home, played with her a bit, gave her the first dose of the meds and waited for her to pass out. She did relatively quickly, and I headed out on the town. I bullshitted with a friend for a bit, caught a quick buzz, then went to the cinema at Tower City to view 30 Days of Night before it left town. It was a just-ok vampire film, though it had a pretty clever concept (vampires invade the northern-most city in Alaska during the dead of winter, where there is no sunlight for an entire month, as much blood-sucking and vampire destroying ensues). Afterwards, I headed back, stopped for a bloody mary at the Old Angle, then came home to rescue Ellie from her loneliness and pharmaceutical haze. She ate, shat, took some more pills and is now passed out again on my bed. She makes the cutest little cocoon thing with my blanket when she does that...

I am, as I mentioned earlier, waiting for a pizza. How about you?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Even the longest weekend must end

Here I am, once again, at the ass end of another long weekend. Thanks to Veteran's Day, I haven't had to "work" in almost a week. Tomorrow should be decent, too; one exam to return, another lecture to finish.

Right now, I'm sitting at my "desk" (a stainless steel commercial kitchen table that has actually been converted pretty well), speed-grading essays on culture and politics while drinking Beck's tall boys that I got at a ridiculously reduced price and half-watching what I am frighteningly starting to realize is a Freddy Prinze Jr. movie marathon.

On a completely unrelated note, I must say that having bookshelves really lessens my furniture anxiety. It is bizarre to even have furniture anxiety, I think I just made it up, but it makes me much happier to have those bastards up on shelves and off the floor. Of course, that leaves more floorspace to keep clean ....

... good thing I'm the proud owner of a Swiffer!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

One Whupped Puppy

When I was younger, I remember my dad referring to someone who was tired or even over-tired as a "whupped puppy." I don't know if that was a common phrase or something unique to him, and now that I'm a technically an adult, I don't see the link between a beaten canine and fatigue, but still, the expression holds (for me, at least).

All this is to say, I'm tired. Or tarred, as the folks back in Texas would say. I tried not to be friends with those folks (i.e., the rednecky, hickish drawling types), though, so really I'm just going off a stereotype. But I digress.

Last night was Art Walk in Tremont. It was interesting, as usual, especially this month's exhibit at Doubting Thomas. By the time I was walking home, I was pretty buzzed from all the free glasses of wine and donation import beers. I came home, fed and watered Ellie, talked to Ducky for a bit, then hung out with Mike. Next thing I know, I'm passed out on the couch at 3 AM, and the end credits to River's Edge are rolling.

I stagger to bed, turn on the soothing sounds of George Noory, and pass out again, regaining consciousness around 1 PM.

After bumming around the pad for a little while, I got to work cleaning and then spray-painting some of the bookshelves I acquired the other night. This took a surprisingly long time, quite a lot of elbow grease, and many more cans of paint than I expected. By the time I finished, my thumbs were completely cramped and I felt pretty stoned from all the fumes. Those folks (the ones who write the warning labels) weren't joking about painting in a well-ventilated area. Maybe I should try that next time. Which will be tomorrow, when I paint the other half of the bookcases.

After all the hard work was over, I treated myself to a healthy and delicious homemade meal, courtesy of the culinary bounty available at the West Side Market.

OK, so when I say homemade, I should clarify: it was homemade by my standards. At the market I picked up some lovely spinach and cheese raviolis and pretty killer Italian sausages (total cost was less than $10). I brought them home, grilled up the sausages on my fancy new indoor grill, covered the raviolis in a hearty, aromatic organic puttanesca sauce, rich with the flavors of olive and anchovy. It was delish.

Now I'm waiting for laundry load #3 to dry, so I can fold the shit and get back in bed. Tomorrow is another day of cleaning and painting. Yippee!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Material Possession Update

For all you out there following the trials and tribulations of my Cleveland transition, please rest easy (or, at least, easier).

I am now officially on owner of a Swiffer.

And, thanks to the fleet vision of my friend Mike, a set of metal bookcases that, once cleaned and repainted, will actually hold books.

By the end of this weekend, I should have cleaner floors, encased books, and a few things checked off my extensive "Shit to Get" list.

At which point I will start whining about how difficult it is to find decent frames for reasonable prices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Creeping on Lakewood

So I finally made my way over to Lakewood, the funky near-west suburb, today. Barely.

My friend Mike had to install a light fixture at his friend's soon-to-open dance studio. I had the evening free and took the opportunity to ride along. I met his friend, checked out her cool new digs, then headed across the street for a beer while Mike did his business.

The bar across the street, Mars Bar, wasn't really anything special, just the typical corner bar, nearly empty, with a handful of inebriated regulars arguing over what would be worse for someone to eat, rotten clams or rotten mussels. Seriously. After literally about 10 minutes of this, I wanted to shout at them, "They are both fucking rotten -- who cares which is worse!" Instead, I gulped down my Leffe and left.

As I was waiting for the bartender to run my card, Drunk #2 apparently won the argument, by convincing Drunks #1 and #3 that drinking clam broth would only make you sick, but drinking mussel broth would kill you dead. Seriously.

I got my card back and headed across the street to Beer Engine, famous for its beer selection and burgers (named after the machine that was used in olden days to pump beer from basements to taps). It was cool, a typical fancy beer place. I had a Jever and a Tuscan burger -- neither of which were very good. About the time I was getting my food, Mike walked in. We both ate and drank, harassed the married barmaid, and then headed back to Cleveland. On the way we drove by a huge pile of discarded furniture, including a bunch of painted steel bookshelves. We ganked them and tossed them in the back of Mike's van. Hopefully, with a coat of paint and a good cleaning (in reverse order), they'll look good in the light of day.

Before heading to our respective homes in Ohio City, we stopped at Visible Voice in Tremont. They were having a few experimental musicians playing, two in from Minnesota. Earlier in the day I had checked out the groups' myspace pages and was modestly impressed, but once the evening began it was sorta lame. We browsed for a few minutes, chatted with the cool clerk about the independent bookstore universe in Cleveland, I purchased a copy of Ballad of the Whiskey Robber for a whopping 7 bucks, and split.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Additional things I need

Top of the list, right now:

A fucking swiffer. I realized the swiffer necessity this morning, while doing some house-cleaning.
I love my dog and I love the beautiful hard wood floors in my apartment, but the two things do not complement themselves very well.


Ellie sheds like you would not believe and I loathe sweeping almost as much as I loathe vacuuming.

I bought a little broom from the dollar store the other day, but it doesn't seem to do the trick. A swiffer, though, now that might do it.

I'll have to find a big box retailer somewhere around here and pay a visit. Soon. Before the cloud of dust and dog hair turns me into Pigpen from the Peanuts strip.

Weekend of Watching

As the title of this post indicates, I spent much of this weekend watching stuff. Some interesting stuff, some pretty banal. The important part was my passive participation in entertainment. By the end of the work week I had magically accomplished everything on my list and am already pretty well down the list for next week, so I have the weekend open for laziness. (Of course, I'd have been lazy either way, but this way it feels like I earned it.)

On Friday, I came home mid-evening, fixed myself some chili dogs (the last for a while, as I embark on a 2-week apples and beer diet manana) and watched American Psycho. After dinner, I took Ellie for her evening consititutional, and then went over to my friend Mike's house to have some beers. Over there, I watched the original Rocky (and managed not to weep) while he fiddled with a massive puzzle. I came home later and had a nice co-buzzed conversation with Ducky before floating off to sleep around 3.

Today, the watching was considerably more extensive, ambitious, and - some would say - sophisticated. I spent the early afternoon answering emails and searching ebay for Ikea Klippan slipcovers while watching the first half of Thank You for Smoking. Then it was off to the east side for a double feature at the Cedar Lee.

Isn't that a great name for a movie theater, The Cedar Lee? I love it. It is thus named for the intersection at which it is located (i.e, Cedar Road and Lee Road), so the name is less than inspired, but the coolness I think it imparts continues when you walk in the door. As the main commericial independent film theater in town (the Cinematheque is more artsy and academic, while the Language Foundry is more experimental and DIY), they have a good selection of movies at any given time. Plus, the concession stand sells beer -- really good beer, including a few different bottles from Great Lakes, as well as Pabsts for 2 bucks. Though I'm not sure if the PBR is an everyday thing, or was just being offered this weekend in conjunction with their showing of Blue Velvet as this month's selection in their Cult Film Series.

Today, I went to back-to-back showings of Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited and Goran Dukic's Wristcutters: A Love Story. Showing during the pre-film commercials each time was a preview for an interesting movie titled Juno (starring Ellen Page). I definitely plan on checking it out when it is released in mid-December. The ads for Margot at the Wedding (with Jennifer Jason Leigh and directed by my man Noah Baumbach) looked cool, too.

The Darjeeling Limited was good, especially the little vignette at the beginning with Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman. Owen Wilson seemed to have mailed his effort in and Wes Anderson's fascination with set pieces and short-legged suits once again gets in the way of what could have been a great movie. It was better than The Life Aquatic, though.

Wristcutters, on the other hand, was fantastic. The concept itself was out there. In the film's alternate universe, when an individual commits suicide, instead of going to heaven or hell, they actually go to a parallel world that really sucks, in a general smoggy malaise sort of way. The film is a roadtrip through this bleak world, featuring Zia (the protaganist, who offed himself because his girlfriend was cheating on him), Eugene (Zia's Russian friend, whose entire family has committed suicide and live together in this life as they had in the past), and Mikal (a recent suicide played by Hollywood's hottest actress, Shannyn Sossaman. On the trip, Zia is looking for his girlfriend, who killed herself shortly after he did, Eugene is going along to have a good time, and Mikal is looking for the PIC (People In Charge) to see if she can get a visa back to life because her overdose was accidental, not directly suicidal. Throw in bit parts by Tom Waits and Will Arnett, weird plot devices like a black hole underneath Eugene's beater car's passenger seat, and imparted wisdom such as the fact that people who ride in the back seat clearly have no cock (something apparently everyone already knew, except me), and you have a great movie. The ending was kind of weak, but not weak enough to matter that much. 5 stars, I say.

After the film, I headed back to Ohio City and swung by the Glass Bubble. I met up with Mike and we headed up to Detroit and 65th to check out Osama the Hero, a play on its final night at the Cleveland Public Theater. The play was really good, and the actors were surprisingly talented -- I keep underestimating the artistic community in Cleveland, stupidly -- but the topic and story brought a lot of anxiety to bear. After the play, Mike and I walked down the street to the Happy Dog for beers and dinner. On the way, we passed the studio of a friend of his who makes neon signs. We stopped in and chatted, and the dude gave me an impromptu lesson in making neon signs. Nickel summary: it is really cool and really difficult.

Finally, we made our way down to the Happy Dog. We had a pretty good waitress who kept telling us about her cleavage awards and a decent meal, which included a small order of sauerkraut balls. I'd never heard of them before, though now that I've tried them I don't think I've been denied all that much.

Tomorrow, the watch-o-rama will likely continue. The Browns play around 4 (the Bears are thankfully, mercifully off) and the Language Foundry's Sunday film series is at 8. Of course, whether I go to the latter will depend on whether this time change will cause me to gain or lose sleep. 6:45 comes like a bitch no matter what, but an hour one way or the other makes a HUGE difference.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Watching Dubya get captured by robots

Today was pretty cool. Actually, as it is quarter to 1 AM as I type this, I should say yesterday was pretty cool.

I was somewhat concerned it wouldn't be cool, what with having to go in to the office on my day off to attend some bullshit curriculum meeting. The meeting was indeed bullshit, but the bullshittiness of it was slightly ameliorated by the fact that I ate a delicious roast pork sandwich before we got started. The garlic gave me a bit of a stomach ache, but I'm sure it bothered my colleagues even more, so it was worth it.

After the meeting, I jacked around my office a bit, had a long chat with my friend Brian, then hopped the train home to feed/water/walk Ellie. We did the doggie circuit pretty quick and then I jumped in my car and drove eastward. Back to Collinwood actually. First stop was Music Saves, where I chatted with the owners about the cool Zaireeka event they had held, bought a copy of the Besnard Lakes' recent cd, The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse, and a ticket to a comedy show at the Grog Shop in a couple weeks (feat. Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, a couple of guys from The State, one of my favorite tv shows when I was in high school). After making my purchases, I headed down the block to the Beachland Ballroom to see Captured! By Robots.

Opening for C!BR was Motivational Speaker Dance Party, a new-ish local kitschy super-group, made up of area students, classically-trained musicians, and members of my favorite Cleveland rock group, Coffinberry. MSDP's act is a gag, a 5-step faux-motivational group presentation set to rock songs. But it was fucking hilarious and I was busting a gut by the time they left stage.

After their short set, and another 30 minutes or so of stage work (during which I flirted with a girl wearing a t-shirt that said "I'm a-Freud to fall in love," until her husband came back with their beers), C!BR took the stage. C!BR is an incredibly interesting group. Actually, it is just one guy, stage name J-Bot/real name Jason Vance, and a group of animatronic robots. Animatronic robots, you ask? Think the robotic musicians from the Chuck E Cheese band, stripped out of their costumes and redressed as politically relevant figures. Specifically, Dick Cheney on bass, Saddam Hussein on the traps, Condi on a bass and snare, and a three-robot horn section featuring Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and a bunch of different Republican candidates (the troupe was referred to as the Presidential Hopeful Horn Section). There were a couple hold-overs from the old Chuck E Cheese band, but instead of playing instruments they provided a recurring interview between Wolf Blitzer and Nancy Pelosi (but, you know, as bears).

Man, I really wish I had brought my camera.

Vance had the rest of the robots programmed to actually play their very real instruments, and what the performance amounted to was mostly metal, with a little hard rock and a splash of rap thrown in.

Let me be clear, this was a great show. The music was a lot of fun and the knowledge of Vance was evident and impressive. As he performed, he donned a crazy George W Bush mask and stayed in character the whole show. He played a dozen or so songs, including original gems such as "Hanging Chads," "I Am Bush" (which consisted of him screaming the title over and over; afterwards, he said it was a great song about America), "Dubya Dub" (a light reggae rap about our dear president and his druggie past), "I Got His Gun, Dad" (about getting Saddam's gun as a souveneir after the Iraq war), "Do You Hear What I Hear?" (a riff on national security and eavesdropping on cellphone conversations, set to the tune of the christmas carol by the same name), and a straight-forward cover of The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." This cover closed the show and was the best part, in my opinion. As the bridge ends, the Dick Cheney robot leads in the thunderous reprise on bass, and J-Bot giggles just like Dubya, shouting to the audience, "That's my Vice-President!" During the instrumental jam, he ran around the audience, saying random things like "No sir, we won't get fooled again, can't be, that would be un-American."

Between songs there were 5-10 minute conversational interludes, ranging from Saddam's diatribes against Dubya about how much he hated our president and making fun of him for not being cool (Quote: "Oh, you invaded my country. That's so awesome. I fucking hate you.") to Condi's occasional outburst about how much she loved him and wanted them to be together to J-Bot's commentary on Wolf and Nancy's interview. Priceless moment, when Wolf asks Nancy if the Dems are going to cut funds for the war, Dubya/J-Bot shouts, "She's not gonna cut funding for shit!" and goes into a tirade about pussy communists. Whenever anything failed on stage, from one of Condi's drumsticks breaking to the mic getting unplugged to J-bot falling off stage, he blamed terrorists and threatened to send random people to Gitmo or Abu Gahraib.

This may not sound funny to you, particularly whatever conservative asshole may be reading this (without my permission, by the way! Get off my fucking blog, you ridiculous fascists!), but trust me, it was really fucking funny. I haven't had so much fun at a show in a long-time.

Best part: since I'm working on research about the relationship between rock and roll and the presidency, I'm pretty sure I can write off my beers.