Monday, December 6, 2010

I’ll have a Blue Blue Blue Blue… Motorcycle

This was the view last week in the parking garage I use for work.  Four blue scooters and motorcycles in a row, ordered in color from lightest to darkest.  Mine is the third one from the front.

(Actually, there was a fifth which is out of frame at the front.  An orange scooter kind of blows the image.)


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Stuff I Read: “Bear Nuts” by Alison Acton

Remember the Care Bears?  Cute cuddly (sickly sweet) bears with symbols on their tummies which indicated their temperament and role?  Cheer Bear, Friend Bear, Grumpy Bear, and so on?

(C’mon, admit it.  You remember them.  You just wish you didn’t!  You also remember Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony.)

Alison Acton’s comic Bear Nuts asks the question: “What other iconic bears were out there which we never saw on the cartoon?  The ones with less (market-to-)kid-friendly personalities?”

The “About” page for the comic glosses over this origin, saying just “As one of the largest exhibits at the Discount Zoo, (in both size and number of inhabitants) the bears attract a lot of attention… something none of them are happy about.  Between gawking adults, jeering children, and their own rather profound personality clashes, it’s a wonder the bears can get through each day without maiming each other… well, most days.”

With characters like Gay (with a lavender rhino, a barely known gay symbol), Evil (with an inverted pentagram), Prozac (with a pill), Tanked, Death, Nerd, and Vanity all sharing the same exhibit at the zoo, Acton has the makings of a fun, emotional, explosive story.  Currently posting a couple times a week, Bear Nuts is a perfect blend of cute and twisted.

Two collected volumes, plus prints, sketches, original art, and merchandise are available from the website and from Acton’s partner companies.  (I want a Gay Bear t-shirt!  One of those “sports” design shirts with a white chest and light yellow sleeves and collar, and a pic of Gay on the tummy as though I were “Gay Bear” Bear would be way cool.  Bet Evil would sell even better.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review
    — Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

I finally finished Anthony Bourdain’s latest collection of essays (I bought it this summer and read it in chunks, a perfectly suitable thing to do with a book of essays), Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, but I cannot recommend it… to anyone who has not read his other books.

I don’t know how/where I first encountered Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.  Saw it recommend by someone I respect on some website, probably.  But I bought it and thoroughly enjoyed the stories of his early career, his up and downs, and his personality conflicts.  In Kitchen Confidential, Borurdain painted a vivid picture of a career path which I was interested in but had no interest in getting into.

When his biography of Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical came out, I snapped it up and devoured it quickly.  A lot of people who know Bourdain’s work don’t even seem to know it exists, which is a shame.  It’s a great look into households and cooking practices from a century ago which should make people today absolutely twitch, wondering how we survived.  (On the flip side, a lot of people claim that the modern rise in allergies is a result of “too much” cleanliness and such in our food preparation, that we are bringing it on ourselves by not being exposed to things which would help build immunities.  “A little dirt never hurt anyone.”)

His third book (might be his second; Wikipedia lists it before Typhoid Mary), A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal, was fascinating, combining a travelogue with an examination of exotic meals and delicacies.  (“Delicacy”: a word that means weird-ass food that not even the locals eat/enjoy very much.)  His focus on stuff like Vietnamese phở and a Portuguese farm using the entire slaughtered pig were fascinating and really encouraged me to try stuff previously outside my comfort zone, such as tendon and the like in my phở .  (But I’ll still say no to cobra heart, thanks.)

(As an aside, I do the bulk of my pleasure reading in one of three places/times: with a meal, including dining out by myself; in bed just before going to sleep; and on a plane.  Do not — I repeat, do not — read Bourdain’s essays about food in Kitchen Confidential or especially in A Cook’s Tour while you are eating a meal.  I don’t care what you are eating, the stuff he is describing will either sound so fantastic that what you are eating will become depressingly plain, or else it will sound so gross that you’ll lose your appetite.)

Which finally brings us to Medium Raw, and why I can’t recommend it as a first taste of Bourdain.

The essays in this book are mostly focused on three things:
  • Specific chefs Bourdain knows, many of whom are big names in the world of high class cookery, especially in New York
  • Specific restaurants Bourdain enjoys (or fails to enjoy), many of which are big names in the world of high class cookery, especially in New York
  • Follow ups from or tangents off his pieces in earlier books
In other words, if you don’t know (aren’t able to recognize) the chefs and restaurants that Bourdain name drops — or at the least, if you aren’t apt to travel to New York or Europe and patronize high-end dining establishments — and if you haven’t read his earlier works (and probably haven’t read them recently, to boot), this isn’t a book for you.  Do not choose this as your entry to Bourdain; you might as well start reading Harry Potter midway through book #7 and hope to follow things.

Myself, I don’t know these names or these restaurants, and I’m not going to travel to where they are or frequent them if I should, and it’s been probably 8 years since I read Kitchen Confidential.  Having read others of his book, I knew what I was getting with Bourdain: as mentioned before, I’m getting a view into a career and a lifestyle which I am interested in but which I have no interest in getting into.  There are probably relatively few career/lifestyles where, as Bourdain describes it, people from all walks of life, given the right choices and breaks, could genuinely ascend to a high level of skill, fame, and renown; that concept makes this book, if not fascinating, at least intriguing, and forgives the relative impenetrability of this piece.

Do pick up one of Bourdain’s books.  Just not this one, not as your first taste of him.

(Perusing his Wikipedia entry, I see there are two other essay collections I've missed: The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones [2006] and No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach [2007].  Must get.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — Shoes?  Or “Eeewwwws”?

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This ad for Gravity Defyer shoes showed up in the latest National Geographic.

Everyone I showed it to asked a version of “Why is there a sperm on the shoe?”  (And in the company logo?)

Also worth asking is “Why are they pouring energy drink on the shoe?  Are they implying that it is waterproof, or that the shoe adds ‘energy’ to your feet?”  (Would that the ad text had anything that tied into that imagery.)

Not worth asking is “Who would drink an energy drink with a sperm logo on it?”  Also not worth asking: “How does Monster feel about you using their can but with your logo on it?” (The ingredients text around the top gives away the brand, if you compare images.)

(A different version of the ad — without the energy drink — showed in another magazine the same month.  AAA’s Journey, I think.  Still just as “ewww” inducing.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are All Downtown Bicyclists Assholes?

You’re a bicyclist in downtown Seattle, riding amidst automobile traffic, and the light you are coming up to changes.  Do you:
  1. Slow down with the rest of the traffic and maintain your position
  2. Lane split past the slowing/stopping cars to come to the “bicycle box” right by the crosswalk, giving you a jump forward when the light changes
  3. Pedal like crazy and lane split, then zoom out into the intersection after the light changes to red and make a big sweeping left turn just as traffic going in your new direction starts to roll

You’re a bicyclist in downtown Seattle, riding amidst automobile traffic behind a pickup truck, and traffic is stopped at a light.  When the light changes, the pickup truck starts to roll forward and make a right turn, but then stops partway through the turn due to a pedestrian in the crosswalk.  Do you:
  1. Stop and wait for the truck to be able to continue his turn
  2. Edge around his back bumper, maybe even a little into the next lane, so you can squeak past
  3. Edge around his back bumper, maybe even a little into the next lane, so you can squeak past, and then bang your fist on his rear fender and yell at him for blocking traffic

If you said “a”, you are a tame bicyclist.  (I’m sure you would call yourself “defensive” or something else that makes you sound better.)  You’re not in a hurry to get somewhere, and you figure you’re better off (safer) by staying right where you are.

If you said “b”, you are an aggressive bicyclist.  You are willing to push the envelope of what is technically allowed in order to get where you are going in a timely manner, and you know that you can get away with it.  But you still totally respect that there are other vehicles on the road with you, and that they are way bigger than you.

If you said “c”, you may have been one of the two bicyclists I saw within the space of a minute at the intersection of Pine and 5th last Friday.  You’re totally an asshole and an idiot.  Someday, you’re going to get hit or counter-attacked by a pissed off driver and you’ll likely have deserved it.

Updated on January 18, 2011
This behavior is apparently called APD (Aggressive Pursuit of Destination), per this listing in Schott’ Vocab Blog.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — Sales Resistance is Futile

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

Here is one of the ad blocks from the Apple Store, pushing for Black Friday sales.

Is it just me, or does that thing made of lots of smaller pieces of tech all mashed together look less like a present and more like a Borg cube?

“Resistance is futile.  You will be a-sale-imated.”

Does This Shirt Make Me Look Non-Fat?

About a month ago, at our Friday dance night, I had no less than three people ask me if I had lost or was losing weight.  In one case, it was “Looks like the diet is working.”  Another theorized that all the dancing I had done (must have done) at Sundance Stompede the previous weekend must have had an effect.

These comments kind of threw me, because while I have been gradually losing weight for almost three years now — close to 30 pounds to date, but only maybe 5 pounds of that in the past year — I haven’t tried to lose the weight, I just have.  No particular heavy diet involved.  But there are some things I can target here.

Relationship Weight Gain

Three years ago this month is when Rusty and I broke up.  At the time, I weighed about 220 (maybe even 225), weight which had crept up over the previous 7 years living in Seattle.  Some (but only some) of it was attributable directly to being in a relationship — you’ve probably seen it many times, where people connect up, settle down, and expand to fill the couch space available.  When the need to be svelte to attract a partner goes away and the diet either doesn’t change or even increases in bad ways due to more stay-at-home activities, weight goes up.  (I’ve seen guys add on as much as 50 pounds in a year or two this way.)

In no way am I blaming Rusty on this front; he gained some at the same time I did.  But after we separated, I was no longer buying and cooking for two (three when his daughter had lived with us), and I also stopped eating out as much.  By the end of the next summer, I was down to around 205 pounds.

While I was dating Cliff, it was a different situation.  We didn’t live together, my activity level had already gone up (see below), and with his thinner build, he was more aware of (more paranoid about?) the potential for getting a gut.  So during that relationship, my weight actually continued to go down a bit at a time.  18 months along (spring of this year), I was a bit above 195 lbs.

Activity Level Increase

I made two notable lifestyle changes over the past three years which may have had an effect.

First, I bought a scooter in April 2008 and turned it into my primary form of transportation.  (Over 13,000 miles in 2.5 years now, more than double what I’ve put on the car.)  This has added some upper body strength, perhaps, from manipulating the scooter on and off its stand.  It has definitely improved my core muscle strength and improved my posture, by not having a seat to slump against for support.  And being in the fresh air (and wind) more has perhaps helped my breathing and I think it has improved my resistance to colds and my recurring bronchitis problem, and that all could have some small effect on the weight.

Second, a couple years ago, we shifted Rain Country’s twice-monthly Wednesday dance nights to be all line dance.  Line dances — especially when you dance almost every one — provide really good exercize and increased heart rate and such.  A year ago, when the dance team went on hiatus from Wednesday practices, we expanded the line dance nights by an additional hour, giving me that much more activity.  (I lost some exercize from the dance team hiatus, but it is made up for by more line dancing.)  Further, I have been pursuing line dance competition — even travelled to Copenhagen to compete in the OutGames — which has probably helped even more by giving me increased focus on posture, core muscles, and so forth.

I’ve also significantly increased my sexual activity level as well, especially some practices which focus on muscle tone and muscle relaxation.  A couple hours of getting sweaty and getting your endorphins up is good exercize, and when you get that 2 or 3, sometimes more times a week… it’s got to be a boost for weight loss.  (Yeah, I’m bragging a bit.  But it’s true: I’m getting more sex these days than I ever did in my 20s or 30s.  To co-opt a phrase, “It gets better.”)

Diet and Portion Control

As I said earlier, I haven’t actively sought to lose weight, at least not in the “go on a diet” sense.  (Nor in the “do physical activity that doesn’t appeal to you” sense.  It’s much easier to up your activity level if it’s something you like to do, something that you don’t start doing because you “have” to.  Gym workouts failed for me in the past; if I have to make time for it and force myself to do it, I’m going to find ways to avoid it.  And I always did.)

I did make three small changes in my eating habits, though:
  1. I eat out less often for dinner and rarely for weekend brunch.  Many restaurant meals are larger than you would make for yourself, but you finish them because, by God, you’re paying for them, and thus you eat more than you would at home.  (And often not better for you in terms of fat, calories, carbs, etc.)  I do still eat out for lunch most days at work — mostly because I have a hard time getting myself to make and take a decent lunch, but also by eating a later lunch (12:45 or later), the food carries over toward dinner and thus also reduces late afternoon food intake desires.
  2. I put some Splenda in my coffee when it’s available.  I don’t go all the way to “no sugar” (there’s a mild bitter/chemical aftertaste to Splenda that I’ve gotten used to but still don’t like), but with the coffee service at our previous building (and when I go to a coffee shop), I do half sugar and half Splenda, effectively cutting the sugar intake in half.  That’s a small thing, but multiplied by 2 or 3 cups a day, 4 or 5 days a week, it does become a significant amount of calories dropped out of the diet.
  3. I exercize mild portion control.  Have you ever noticed that the first couple bites of ice cream are fantastic, the next few are pretty good, and then you stop really tasting the peach or salted caramel or whatever, but you finish the amount you dished up anyway?  Same thing with chips: the first couple handfuls are yummy, the rest you just eat because they are there without the same level of enjoyment.  So now instead of a bowl of ice cream, I have a teacup full; half the quantity, same amount of pleasure.  Instead of pulling from the bag of chips until I’m full, I have a moderate bowl, or I have a small bowl of salsa and I eat until it’s gone.  I keep a box of sugar cubes at my desk and I sweeten my coffee that way, rather than the guesstimate method of pouring sugar into the cup.  (Now if they just made Splenda cubes!)
Except for the sugar/Splenda switch, I haven’t swapped out ostensibly high calorie items for “lite” ones, however.  I use real half & half in my coffee.  I eat bacon and eggs.  I use real maple syrup.  I use butter.  I cook with butter and with bacon grease.  (Date a southern boy and you’ll learn this!)  While losing some weight is a good thing, there is a trade-off: how much suffering are you willing to endure?  How much joy (and flavor!) are you willing to suck out of your life?  And what comes along with switching out real food for chemically engineered replacements?

If you need to lose large amounts of weight in a short period of time, those trade-offs may be worth it.  But for me, I am happier with a slow loss of weight combined with a minimal loss of joy.

Current State and Goals

Right now, my weight is down in the low 190s, depending on time of day, recent meals, and so forth.  What is especially cool about that is that this is lower than I have been since before I moved to Seattle, ten years ago this weekend.  That thrills me: it’s rare to be in better shape than you were a decade ago.

I’m able to now fit into medium t-shirts again.  (Well, some of them.  Some are not just smaller, they are shorter, and I can’t wear them tucked in.)  I’m buying 34-inch waist jeans again; I have one pair still at 36, which I’ll wear until they wear out.  (Thinking back, pants were one of the reasons I did make the small changes that I did.  I noticed that my jeans, which I had always worn tight, were no longer conforming to my body.  Instead, they were feeling like loose bags belted to my waist; they covered rather than clung, and I didn’t like it.)

I’m able to wear my original pair of leather chaps again, although they are still damn tight such that I can only wear them without pants on underneath.  (They are tighter in the thighs than in the waist, actually.)  Give that I bought them 19 years ago, when I had a 28-inch waist and had barely started country dancing (which is what expanded my thigh measurements), being able to get into them at all is cool!

It’s good to have goals, even if they are small.  I would like to get back down to 32-inch 501s, and down to about 185 pounds, which would be about where I was in 1995.  I think I can manage that in the next year or two.

Why It Threw Me

When I “grew up gay” (that period of about the first 5 years after you come out), I lived in the Bay Area.  It was the early 1990s.  AIDS (and fear of same) was abundant.  AZT was the only AIDS drug around.  If someone in gay circles lost a noticeable amount of weight and they hadn’t been chatting about diets and major exercize changes — or gastric bypass surgery — then you knew what was up.

Of course, no one then would ever approach someone and ask if they had tested positive or even if they were just generically “sick”.  The best you could do was verbally observe the symptom and then let them respond about their health status if they wanted to.

I had little idea that that stage of my life still had such heavy coloring for me, but I realize that I was shocked by having several people observe that I looked thinner because of the inferred subtext that they were fishing to really ask if I was all right or if I was sick.  (I don’t think they were asking that, I just subsconsciously interpretted it that way.)

Why I Actually Got the Comments

As it turns out, the main culprit in why I got several comments that night has less to do with whether I’ve lost weight recently and more with what I was wearing.  A couple summers ago, after winning a line dance competition in Tampa, I bought a nice Western shirt as my personal “prize” — cream colored fabric with a massive amount of copper brown embroidery across the chest/shoulders/back.  It is an XL shirt, but that was the only size they had and I really love it.

That was 20 to 25 pounds ago.

Now that I’m down to the low end of Large again, that shirt practically hangs on me and makes me look skinnier than I am.  (I remember a girl in high school who did that, wearing big baggy shirts to make herself look thinner.)

I guess I should be happy that people do notice these things.  But I’ve absolutely got to get that shirt tailored to better fit me now.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

…And RealPlayer Loses a User

I got a notification about an update to RealPlayer today, so I accepted it and waited for the install to occur.

And 10 minutes later, I uninstalled the application and started this blog post.
  • In order to install, it insisted I quit my browser.  That’s so 2005, that I have to quit one app to install another.
  • After installing, it asked for my password.  No idea why it didn’t have my previous one saved, but this happens.  Maybe a wipe of saved browser passwords at some point wiped this, too.  (Most likely, when they mirrored my content over from the previous laptop, info like that wasn't preserved, and I just haven't used RealPlayer since then.)
  • This is a work system, so my password has to change every few months.  After trying a couple that I could remember, I gave up and used the “Forgot your password?” link.  The page that came up asked for my email address… twice.  Twice on the same page.  These double-ask fields are done during sign-up scenarios to ensure that people have entered the right email address (no typos) or have typed their password (in blind text) correctly.  That use case doesn’t apply here.
  • After getting the email to reset the password and clicking on the stupidly long URL, the resulting web page asked for the last four digits of my credit card.  I don’t recall having a credit card attached to that account — why would I have, since I’m not going to buy anything through them? — and why would you need me to click a link, enter an email address twice, check my email, click on another link, and then provide even more info?  Seems like overkill, when other applications can do the reset in fewer steps.
  • But okay, which credit card?  I’ve used several over the nearly five years this account has been around, and I have since closed most of those accounts.  I tried the one I think I recall from my checking account; that’s the one I have on file at various retailers and such.  But no, that’s not the one they were looking for, and there was no means for entering other info, etc.  (Actually, that was the one from a checking account I recently had to close due to a fraud claim, but I’ve been using it for a few years.  Although as I think of it, I got that one after the RealPlayer account was created, so it would have likely been wrong regardless.)
(Note the big sin they have committed here: credit card usage changes over time.  The card I prefer to use now may not be the same one I used last year, and that account may be closed and the info not accessible to me any more.  Values which change over time should never be used as a security measure because they are neither memorizable nor retrievable.)

So I need to sign in to complete the install, but I can’t remember my password, and they won’t reset my password without me entering digits from a credit card for an account I no longer have?  Plonk!

Control Panels > Add & Remove Programs > Uninstall

[Note: I used to work for RealNetworks.  Does that make me more forgiving of them or more critical?  I’m not sure.]


The streets in downtown Seattle (north of Yesler) are Jefferson, James, Cherry, Columbia, Marion, Madison, Spring, Seneca, University, Union, Pike, and Pine.  Note the duplication there:
When I moved to Seattle ten years ago, I was given a handy mnemonic for remembering the order:
Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest

This mnemonic even shows up in Wikipedia, and my mention of it got on the New York Times website’s Schott’s Vocab blog.

It doesn’t help for “Which ‘S’ street is next?”, but it’s great for figuring out roughly how many blocks you have to go.  But I was thinking this week that maybe this mnemonic would be offensive to non-Christians and maybe even to Christians who consider it to be taking the Lord’s name in vain.  So here are some alternate options:

We voted several years ago to make marijuana usage the police department’s lowest enforcement priority:
Just ’Cause Many Seattlites Use Pot

Why you should either go commando or wear a Utilikilt:
Jeans Can Make Some Underwear Pucker

Or maybe a recipe for consuming our most notable beverage:
Joe: Coffee, Milk, Stir, Uncover, Pour

(Geez, the things I come up with riding to work on my scooter on a soggy day.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Lemon Meringue Pie

Haven’t made one in a couple years.  Crust didn’t roll out very well, so no pretty fluting on the edges, but who cares so long as it tastes yummy!

And it does.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Stuff I Read: “Bleeding Cool”

For years, UK-based Rich Johnston’s “Lying in the Gutters&rdquos; column was the place to go to for advance news and rumors about the comic book industry.  He had an incredible hit rate for getting stuff right — which probably implies that lots of people were willing to feed stuff to him, that they trusted him.

About a year ago, “Lying in the Gutters” was transformed from a weekly column into the comics and comics-related film news (and rumor) site Bleeding Cool.

While other comics fan sites run lots of previews of soon-to-be-on-sale comics, interviews with creators, press release lightly rewritten as news stories, and fan musings on various subjects, Bleeding Cool remains the go-to place for all the latest stuff.  As an example, the current front page has bits on:
  • Sponge Bob comics
  • A new Transformer named "Spastic"
  • Ads for The Walking Dead
  • A Roy Lichtenstein painting auction
  • J. Michael Straczinski
  • A new Winnie the Pooh movie
  • Torchwood and Dr. Who
  • The Little Fockers movie
  • Casting for the new Spider-Man movie
  • Ghost Rider 2
  • …and a lot more
Lots of rumors.  Lots of barely-there, bleeding-edge news.  Lots of trailers and such that don’t show up on other comics sites.

Not just cool.  Bleeding Cool.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Rocky Horror G(l)eek

I’m such a Rocky Horror geek.  I both loved and disliked the recent Glee episode.  (More on that later.)

During the 80s and early 90s, I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show roughly 50 times.  (Only twice in the last decade, though, and probably only a half dozen times after mid-1990, when I moved to California.  I guess I decided drinking and getting laid was a better use of my post-midnight time.)  I’ve been in several theater casts and even in an actual stage production.  Here are some memories…

Seattle / In College (1987–1988)
  • My second time seeing it was at the Neptune Theatre in Seattle, on what turned out to be their 10th anniversary showing, during my junior year of college (1987, I guess).  Lots of people in costume, and the “opening act” was the Bugs Bunny cartoon “Rhapsody Rabbit”.  While we were waiting in line to get in, some Jesus Freaks were across the street with signs and a megaphone, telling us we were going to Hell for seeing the movie.  (Really.  For seeing a movie.)
  • Our crew made a few more trips from Tacoma to the Neptune over the next year or so.  One time, one of the kids we approached to come with us said “You don’t want to see that movie!  That’s where they rip up the chairs in the theater and throw them at each other!”  (Makes Sue Sylvester’s interpretation of throwing toast seem benign, huh?)  Another time, my father came with us (drove us up); a youth pastor, he knew of the movie but had never seen it and afterward, he said he was glad he had seen it (in that “I didn’t really enjoy it, but now at least I know what it is” sense).
  • The Neptune cast used to “sacrifice” (Rocky Horror) virgins before the show.  One time, we took a college friend up name Carol.  Carol Carroll, actually.  They had fun with that.  (“Ask her her name!  Ask her her last name!”  “No, what’s your last name?  No, your last name!”)
  • My first theater cast part was at the Neptune, where they put me in a wedding dress and I played Betty Monroe.  My Ralph was wearing a Nixon mask.
Eugene and Portland / In Grad School (1988–1990)
  • During grad school in Eugene, the local art theater started doing Rocky Horror, and after several of us showed up in costume, they asked us to create a theater cast.  We did that every Friday and Saturday for about a year.
  • At one point, they even played it as a Saturday afternoon matinee.  (Lasted about 3 weeks, I think.)  There’s something truly wrong about exiting a showing of Rocky Horror into bright sunlight.
  • Actors Cabaret of Eugene put on a live version of The Rocky Horror Show (note that the stage show name differs from the movie), and I was cast as one of the Tranyslvanian chorus.  (I had nothing prepared for my audition piece, so I sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.)  To this day, I struggle to sing the melody (rather than the harmony) for “The Time Warp”, and I still recall bits of the show choreography.  The show only ran for three performances, but it was lots of fun.
  • A few times, several of us drove to Portland for their showing (must have been after the Eugene theater stopped showing it), and once we drove to somewhere near Seattle and provided a cast for a theater there.  Ah, the long drives in my old Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme.  The Portland theater had a live band at the time which would play before the show; a cover of “Tainted Love” was their best/most memorable piece.
  • At some point, a few of us from the Eugene cast were interviewed for a master’s thesis someone was doing on Rocky Horror and similar mass participation movie viewings (of which there were very few at the time).  I think I’ve got a copy of the thesis somewhere (God knows where).
  • Over the years, I’ve played several roles in theater casts: Betty Monroe, Columbia, Dr. Frank N. Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta, Dr. Scott, Brad Majors, and Rocky.  I still have most of my costume bits (except the wheelchair), including the gold lame booties for Rocky and the laboriously hand-sequinned blue tap shoes for Columbia.  (Mmm, need pics!)
California and Seattle / The Last 20 Years (1990–2010)
  • After moving to California, I went to showings in Palo Alto a few times.  In about November 1990 (I think), they had a costume contest.  At the time, I had let my hair grow long, aiming for a ponytail but my hair has so much body that it was more of a puffball.  For Halloween that year, I had done a French Maid drag costume (you can see where this is going), and I re-used that as Magenta.  With my own hair teased out big, and with a beard.  I won the costume contest and got a copy of the Rocky Horror Picture Show Book.
  • One of the women in the square dance club was a big Barbie collector, and for Halloween that year, she dressed up as Janet from the Floor Show sequence, and brought a Barbie dressed to match.
  • Since moving to Seattle in 2000, I’ve only seen Rocky Horror twice: I took my then-boyfriend Aaron to see it at a theater in West Seattle, and later then-boyfriend Rusty to the Cuff Complex for their annual showing.  In both cases, the guys were a bit scared of me for how well I knew the film and how much I threw myself into the songs, dances, and antics.

Which brings us back to the Glee episode.

While I was pleased that they did a Rocky Horror episode (and I’m glad that they didn’t echo back to the piece of Fame involving the movie), I still found this to be one of the weaker episodes thus far.

The Good
  • I was tickled from the very start by the realization that Quinn in the show would play Magenta, the role played in the movie by… Patricia Quinn.  (In-joke or coincidence?)  Fox has stated that the lips in the intro are Santana’s (which means they are still Magenta’s lips, since Santana did some of the Magenta stuff, especially during "Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me"), but the voice sounds like Quinn to me; if they were mirroring the movie, then it should be one person’s lips and another’s voice, so it could be Quinn mashed-up with Santana (although technically, it should be Kurt’s voice over Santana’s lips).  (The comments thread in that article say that a producer tweet and that the soundtrack album indicates that it was indeed Santana’s voice as well as her lips.)
  • The actress playing Mercedes was superb as Dr. Frank N. Furter (as she always is, of course!).
  • The lyric changes in the songs to make them teen-appropriate (or really “TV appropriate”, I guess) caused me to snicker at times. (Although I give them props for changing “transsexual” to “sensational”; that one worked fairly well.)  Ultimately, the word switches didn’t really bother me, since they were addressed in the story as part of rewrites to make the show acceptable for a high school musical.
  • “Whatever Happened to Saturday Night?” has now been added to my country DJ set (East Coast Swing, 162 bpm).  I also have “Physical” from Season One in there, as a West Coast Swing.
  • I completely missed that the TV network guys were Barry Bostwick and Meatloaf.
The Bad
  • Since when are Mr. Schuester and the Glee Club responsible for the school musical?  That came out of left field and wasn’t fleshed out very much.
  • The episode didn’t serve to really move any of the subplots forward.  At best, it nodded to Sam and Quinn’s relationship and Sue’s TV career.
  • The episode didn’t have as strong a “structure of a musical” structure.  “Will uses the show to get close to Emma” as the emotional crux didn’t really carry the right weight.  “Touch-a Touch-a Touch Me“ as an Eleven O’Clock Number?
  • The whole thing about casting Carl as Eddie and Will as Rocky seemed totally left field (it’s a high school musical!) and gave a really major “Eeewww” factor to things.)
  • There has apparently been some outcry reaction to Kurt’s use of “tranny” in the episode.  I noticed it at the time but was more intrigued by the issue the character raised — it’s hard enough being out and gay without everyone thinking you want to be a drag queen or get a sex change as well — than I was at the potential perjorative.  But I’m not trans, either.
The Future
  • Seeing a leather-clad motorcycle riding dentist made me wonder about whether there’s a Little Shop of Horrors episode in the works for next year.  (Similarly, Kurt’s references to the Sing-a-Long Sound of Music — an event which stems directly from the Rocky Horror phenomenon, as does the “Rocky Horror Lion King” from furry circles — needs a payoff at some point.  These kids are 16 going on 17, after all.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stuff I Read: A Distant Soil, by Colleen Doran

A Distant Soil is a long-running sci-fi/fantasy comic book by Colleen Doran.

Started when she was a teenager back in the 1980s and restarted from the beginning a couple times since then, A Distant Soil features a pair of teenage kids — Jason and Liana — who have been drugged up and locked in an asylum/test lab/government facility for several years due to their psychic powers.  During one flare-up, Liana’s powers contact an alien race called the Ovanon, causing a race between various political factions of their upper class (the Hierarchy) to catch and control (or maybe kill) the kids.

One of those factions is connected to an underground rebellion which seeks to overthrow the power structure of the Hierarchy and depose the ruling Avatar.  Their representative gathers Liana — who turns out to be the child of an Ovanon exile — and a crew of other humans (and some non-humans, including another Ovanon exile and the time-displaced Arthurian knight Galahad!), intending to use them to bolster the rebellion.  What neither the rebellion nor the humans realize is that the rebellion’s representative is… but that would be telling.

What makes A Distant Soil so compelling beyond the story and the layered characterizations (and those would be enough!), though, is Doran’s art.  Steeped in both the best richness of classic Japanese manga (take note: I don’t mean the “speed lines and huge weepy eyes” stuff people tend to associate with the term “manga”) and flowy fashion-heavy illustration along the lines of Erté and Aubrey Beardsley, Doran’s art in this comic is fine lined, expressive, detailed, deep, and heck, the word for it is “beautiful”.

A number of comic books featuring grand themes, vast world building, and novelistic scope premiered in the 1980s and 1990s — A Distant Soil, Elfquest, Bone, Strangers in Paradise, and others.  While forced by the nature of the comics industry to release their stories in roughly 20-page increments — and those are sometimes released months apart due to what underfunded small press/self-publishing companies can manage — these stories have tended to read best in large chunks, in the trade paperback collected forms, where you can sit down to 150 to 300 pages at once and read it not unlike a text novel.  In that form, the themes and foreshadowing and repeated elements come through as they were intended.  As you can imagine, that intent gets muddy and lost when you read only 20 pages, only twice a year.

Today in the world of the web, Doran is presenting the comic again, usually a page every couple days.  This is almost as good a way of consuming the comic as in book form, where even if you are all caught up and reading the pages just one at a time as they are released, the recent pieces of the story are still fresh in your mind.  (But I still heartily recommend them in book form, too: more permanent and the best possible reading experience.)

I think Doran is just about caught up to the last printed issue (I’m still a few months behind in reading, a few pages at a shot, a couple times a week), and there are supposed to only be a few issues to go before the story is done.  Not that the rich universe she has built couldn’t provide her with a hundred new stories to tell.  I hope she tackles some of them!

What Were They Thinking?
    — One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This showed up on the front page of the Sunday edition of Wisconsin State Journal, just a couple days before election day.

Curious color selections, since it’s usually blue associated with Democrats (donkeys) and red with Republicans (elephants).  I can’t find the original image at iStockPhoto, but I expect that the newspaper added the animal images and didn’t think through the implications.

Updated on November 4, 2010
This article at Language Log has interesting details on red state/blue state, and links to this more in-depth one.

Basically, the television networks alternated which party had red or blue between 1976 and 1996, which lead to the Republicans being assigned blue five times out of six.  The current color-to-party linking (and the “red state/blue state” terms) only dates to 2000.

You’d swear it was older than that, wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

See No Gay, Hear No Gay, Kick Out No Gay

A couple years ago, I was listening to talk radio and heard the most bizarre statement from one caller:
Gays should be able to serve in the military.  “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is a bad policy because it hurts people and gets rid of people with skills the military needs.  But we shouldn’t repeal it, because the policy is working.
That’s a paraphrase of what she said, but the gist is intact.

This was conservative talk radio, I think, and/or it was at the very end of the show, so the caller’s viewpoint was not challenged.  But you have to wonder what this woman’s definition of “working” is, how she can mesh those contradictory ideas.

(Sure, the rocks in the bottom of my dishwasher break all the glasses and chip the plates, but I’m not going to remove them, because by God, the stuff comes out clean!)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Overheard at 5th & Pike

Last Wednesday morning, as I was getting to work, a guy got off the bus as I walked by and loudly proclaimed:
“I love having sex with older women!”
Mind you, the Sweet Adelines International competition was happening late last week at the Seattle Convention Center, just a couple blocks away.  There were more women than usual around that day, shopping an sightseeing, many in their 50s and 60s.

I doubt it got him any, but hey.  More power to you, guy.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — The Challenge is Figuring Out the Challenge

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This banner showed up at the Cuff Complex recently, advertising the German beer Bitburger now being stocked by the bar.  I’ve tried it, and it’s okay, but I'll stick with (darker) local favorites like Mac & Jack’s and Manny’s and Red Hook.

The banner advertises the “Bitburger Challenge”.  Which is… what?  Based on the banner, it would appear to be drinking Bitburger.  Maybe the challenge is drinking it on ice, or drinking three bottles of it?  Gee, makes it sound foul.  (Is it like Jägermeister, a liquor apparently so nasty tasting that they used to advertise it with guys making horrible faces from drinking it?)

A web search doesn’t reveal anything about the “challenge”, either.  The challenge of being a top three brand in Germany.  A Facebook page with two posts on it and no descriptive content.  A no-name web forum which has a link to a video of a guy being urged to drink a huge stein of beer.

A more refined search finally showed this page, which refers to people trying to drink an entire mini-keg (looks like it holds about a gallon).  Is that it?

Maybe the challenge is to figure out the challenge?

Friday, October 22, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — The Sound of Silence

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This billboard looms over Denny Way at the foot of Capitol Hill — presumably just about the most liberal part of the city — asking people to honk if they disagree with the (so-called) liberal media.  If you must learn more about their cause, go to

It’s amazingly quiet there at 6:00 pm, with a multi-block line of cars waiting to get on the freeway.  Quiet enough that you wonder if they wasted their dollars.

(Hmm, maybe the billboard’s presence has an unintended side-effect, convincing irate drivers to not user their horns, lest others think they are reacting to the billboard.)


Limerick: Isadora Duncan

Sweet Isadora Duncan
Talented, cute little punkin’
     A wheel caught her scarf
     Tore her head quite in half
They knew ’cause they heard the ker-plunkin’

This morning, I was riding the scooter to work and realized that the high temps coming up are all in the 50s — we’re past the last days this year we can even pretend it is warm, although neither is it outright cold, just verging into that ugly cool damp zone — so it’s time to dig out a scarf.  Another few weeks and I’ll be layering a sweater under the jacket every day, and putting the extra lining into my blue motorcycle jacket.  Sigh.

Info on Isadora Duncan.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Were They Thinking?
    — Get Your Sunglasses Before the Summer Rush

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

A whole series of these ads for Sunglass Hut have just invaded the Seattle bus/transit tunnel that runs under downtown (including under Macy’s).

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t see late October, when it starts getting dark in the late afternoon and just before the rainy season sits down for a five-month squat, as being the ideal time to push sunglasses in Seattle.

Updated on October 21, 2010

Stupid, Stupid Ads!
    — Me Are College Sutdent!

“Stupid, Stupid Ads!” dissects ads that try to do something underhanded or just plain stupid.

I honestly can’t tell what these ads for City University are trying to get across?  Remedial spelling classes seem a bit below what you expect from adult education programs at a “university”.

The flip side of that, however, is that they are pushing graphic design skills with the idea that using all uppercase text turns words into rectangular blocks, making them harder to differentiate based on shape (and thus uppercase text is harder to proofread).  But that doesn’t seem like an easy message to get across in ads, nor does it seem to actually be the point of these ads.

So maybe they are doing an ironic push for Marketing classes: attend City University and you’ll be able to make ads that do a better job of getting your message across than these do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stuff I Read: “The Daily Dish” (Andrew Sullivan’s blog)

For a while now, I’ve wanted to highlight some of the blogs and websites and webcomics that I read, both to examine for myself what I get out of them and maybe turn a few other people on to them.

This week is the 10th Anniversary of Andrew Sullivan’s blog, “The Daily Dish”.  You can read his biography here, but in summary, Sullivan is a well know gay conservative writer, notable in his writing for several books looking at homosexuality from a positive-but-conservative viewpoint, especially Same-Sex Marriage: Pro and Con.  On the blogging front, he started out quite pro-Bush and has drifted more moderate over the years as revelation after revelation about the directions of the the Republican party have come out.  (Or perhaps he didn’t drift, everything else did in the opposite direction.)  And don’t get him started about Sarah Palin.

Years ago, my father taught me that the best way to beat something was to understand it, and the best way to understand it was to pay attention to it.  As an example, he was on the board of Planned Parenthood and he was a member of the Christian Coalition (I imagine they were really pleased that he was a minister); as such, he got access to huge doses of everything the theocratic right was up to, practically by the shovelful.

I’ve put that policy into effect in my own life over the years, listening to Dr. Laura and Michael Savage and Michael Medved and Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin on the radio — often shaking my head at stuff I couldn’t quite believe I was hearing.  It’s been especially interesting to listen to conservative talk radio in Seattle over the years as they’ve moved through these people one at a time, eventually kicking each to the curb and moving on to the next voice.  And where convenient, I at least open my ears to other sources of information and opinion, just to see what’s up on the other side of the fence, to see what the “easy” channels of information are not telling me.

(Really, it sometimes surprises me how much people — especially ostensibly liberal queers and techies — like to live in their own little bubbles.  They say they want to be up on politics and current events, but no, really they don’t.  Just like people addicted to Fox News, they want to get their news only from narrow, supportive avenues, ones which will feed them more of what they want to hear and nothing to challenge their world views.  If you try to balance their viewpoints, they will often fight to death to keep from learning stuff which will imbalance them.)

I initially started reading Sullivan’s blog (back in about 2002, I think) for much the same reason — to see what these “gay conservatives” were up to.  Initially, as a good fag living in a very blue city (Seattle), I was repelled by much of the pro-Bush content and such, but I muscled through.  (And “muscled through” is right: The Daily Dish has many screenfuls of content on its front page, and sometimes will fill more than one front page in a day [although less so today than in years past], so it takes a dedicated block of time to consume it.  Sullivan [and his assitants/substitutes] isn’t quick reading.)

Over time, well, the abyss gazes back: even as Sullivan’s tune shifted some, so did mine toward him and his blog.  Being confronted by opinions on the other side of the fence — opinions which are generally well written and well rounded, as opposed to the shrill name calling from talk radio — expanded my views.  Not necessarily changed my views; expanded them.  (It’s interesting to go back and revisit my blog posts from 6 and 7 years ago.  Can I see some influence from Sullivan in there?  Maybe.)  I agree with some things I read, and disagree with others, but most of all, I can’t help but respect Sullivan.

And that’s probably really all he asks for.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Food Review: KFC’s Double Down

You remember the Double Down: the carb-free super-protein all-meat sandwich from KFC, bacon and cheese between two slabs of chicken, no bun.  (Okay, you’d need the grilled version rather than the breaded one to get close to carb-free.)  Lots of news coverage and controversy when it came out, including use of the phrase “suicide cuisine”.

But have you actually eaten one?  I have.  Visited a KFC in Centralia on a trip to Portland in July.  Sought it out specifically instead of other less-than-fine dining options.

The first bite was far more peppery than I expected, from the spices in the breading.

The next couple bites were very tasty, but I found the sandwich a bit unwieldy to eat while driving the car.  The slabs of chicken don’t compress like a bun does, so getting my mouth around it was a challenge.  (Insert NSFW comment here about me getting my mouth around big pieces of meat.)

By the time I was 2/3 done with the sandwich, though, I was over it.  Too much meat, or at least too much intensity of the meat.  I’ve found this before with other bigger-size fast food; when I got to the last couple bites of that Wendy’s Double, I was no longer thrilled with the sandwich and I more “finished” it than “ate” it.  (This probably means that I’m safe from overdoing it on fast food.)

End Result: the Double Down is a very tasty sandwich, but it is big and intense.  You would probably be better off splitting it between two people; both would enjoy it and both would enjoy it more.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Avoid: Ace Rent-a-Car

As lightly described in this post, I recently rented from Ace Rent A Car in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend.  It wasn’t what I would call a great experience.

When I looked for rental cars on Kayak, Ace came up as cheapest, by a factor of almost 1/2.  Their cheapest rental was a smart car at about $12 a day, with tax and fees, about $50 for the Friday–Monday rental.  I typically rent from Alamo, but since I needed the car just for in-city driving — you can’t get anywhere in Los Angeles without a vehicle, and cabs can be way too costly as I found on my last trip, two years ago — so I gave them a try.

Ace is located off-airport, at the nearby Sheraton.  These days, you have to catch a shuttle from most any airport to the car lots, so that was no big deal.

At the rental desk, they had terminals for up to three agents working.  One customer was being served, and one return was being processed.  A third agent came up and helped the one person in line in front of me.  When the return was done, that agent left for the back room.  (On break?  I don’t know.)  The first rental was having issues of some sort.  When the second rental was done, that agent also left.  Once they finally helped me, it had been 45 minutes from when I arrived at the rental desk (an hour from when I caught the shuttle) until they got me the car, with only one person in line in front of me.  Fortunately I had no particular place I needed to be until that evening, so the delay was mostly annoyance, but it would have been bigger had this been a trip where I had a meeting to get to or where I was flying into Los Angeles and driving to Palm Springs.

(In comparison, at Alamo I would have walked to a kiosk — which probably wouldn’t have had anyone in line at it, since most people don’t seem to know to use them — and since I’m a Quicksilver member, I would have spent about 3 minutes at the kiosk, walked out to the parking lot, grabbed my car, and been gone in total time of less than 10 minutes, max.)

I had to fill out more than one form, including manually transcribing my insurance number twice.  They required a $250 deposit to do the rental, so I had to put it on my debit card rather than the credit card I wanted to use.  (This was indicated in the details on their web site, so I was fine with it.)

(In comparison, just a couple initials — checkboxes on the kiosk UI — at Alamo, and I could have paid with the debit card in advance, with no deposit.  In positive comparison, though, I refuse to rent from Thrifty because of their forms: the last time I rented from them [about a decade ago, so it may have changed], their agents had to verbally read you the entire text rather than letting you read it, making the rental process about 5 times as long as it needs to be.)

Because it was a holiday weekend, I didn’t get the car I had reserved, but I ended up with a larger one at the same price.  (That’s fairly standard.  I once ended up with a huge Lincoln or some such huge beast at compact price point because they oversold all their lower classes of car.)  The car was not well cleaned inside, including what looked like shoe marks on the passenger seat.  I got the impression that, as a second or third tier company, Ace probably gets last year’s models from the first tier companies and then doesn’t put much into maintenance and cleaning.  Or else people who rent from them don’t take care of the rentals very well.  (Or I could have just got an undertended one due to the weekend’s pressure to turn things through quickly, an exception.)

The car worked fine for the weekend.

When I returned it on Monday, I fortunately didn’t have to wait 45 minutes to be served.  But during the check-in, the agent sat behind his terminal and clicked this, paused, clicked that, paused, click the other, paused.  After what felt like 15 minutes of whatever he was doing (was probably only 5), he told me that his computer had frozen, but my deposit would be refunded.

(The mainline rental companies check you in when you drive up.  They check the gas and mileage and look for any damage, give you a receipt, and you’re done.  I have no idea what all he was entering, why he was so slow, or how long he was trying to do something with the frozen computer, nor why he didn’t ask anyone for help.  Implication: this isn’t a quick process for them and the freezes happen often enough to not be remarkable.)

After returning home, I monitored my checking account to see when the deposit would free up.  Usually the rental and deposit will be issued separately, with the deposit being an account hold which will free in a maximum of 72 hours because it wasn’t actually charged.  Since I brought the car back fine, the rental charge would go through and the hold would be allowed to expire.  Not with Ace: on Wednesday morning, the entire $300 had been deducted from my account!  I called them up and they said this was standard practice and the deposit would be refunded.  On Friday, it still had not, and a call said 3 to 7 business days (and thus maybe not until the next Wednesday); at this point, I had my suspicions that I might have to fight them over things.  Fortunately, end of day Tuesday (6 business days out), the $300 was refunded to my account.

Notice what didn’t happen: because the two charges were lumped together, by refunding it, they didn’t actually charge me for the rental at all.  So I lost access to $250 for a week, but ended up technically ahead of the game.  (But with a bad taste for the company in the process.)

So, in summary:
  • Very slow check-out service
  • Dirty car
  • Slow and uncommunicative check-in service
  • Deposit not done as an account hold and only refunded over a week later
  • Ultimately, they couldn’t even process the rental fee correctly and lost their money
Conclusion: a company that doesn’t deserve the business.  I would have spent $100 on renting from Alamo rather than (expecting to spend) $50 at Ace, but I would have had a much better experience.  If I had been under any sort of deadline or distance pressure for the weekend, the $50 difference would have been totally worth it.  Lesson learned.

Updated on October 14, 2010
Turns out that the rental fee did eventually show up, charged to the original credit card I had made the reservation with.  The computer freeze had blocked me from getting a close-out receipt, so I couldn’t know that at the time.

Following my rental, they sent me an online customer service survey request, and I took the opportunity to rate them pretty poorly.  (I refrained from outright cussing the out.)  A couple days ago, I got a letter thanking me for taking the survey and expressing that they were sorry that I didn’t have a good rental experience.  They also included one of those ubiquitous grocery tote bags.  Wonder if I can turn it inside out so their logo doesn’t show?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Movie Review
    — Shanghai Surprise

I recently bought the DVD of the 1986 Madonna/Sean Penn film Shanghai Surprise for $4 from a bin at a local drug store.  (I also bought Shut Up & Sing, Kinsey, the 2007 musical version of Hairspray, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, and maybe a couple others.  They were cheap, how bad could they be, right?)

I had to ask.  Oh, this one was painful to watch.  It involves a missionary hiring a ne’er-do-well to help her find a million dollars worth of missing opium to be used as medicine, dealing with corrupt police, gangsters, and high class prostitutes along the way.

(It was made worse by the George Harrison soundtrack.  Not much good music in the film.  I had thougth this was the movie that Madonna’s “Live to Tell” song came from — that was really why I bought it — but that was the other 1986 Sean Penn film, At Close Range.  Damn, what was Madonna thinking here?  At least get a hit song on the soundtrack, woman!)

The settings — filmed in Hong Kong and Macau — aren’t bad, but the story is full of holes and oddities like why they needed to hire someone in the first place and how Madonna’s missionary character had all the money she was throwing around (and why she wasn’t just buying opium with it instead).

Beyond that, there are two major problems with the film itself:
  • It can’t decide if it wants to be serious and maybe even noir, or if it wants to be a wacky caper film.  There are a number of characters which work in one or the other, but not both.  Every time it seems to be going serious, a WTF? scene or campy character shows up (I never did figure out what Kronk’s role was, other than to kick the plot down the alley when it stalled), but all the scenes which seem aimed at wacky hijinks pull up short and end up as weird/goofy rather than actually funny.  (Most likely, the producers wanted something in the vein of Romancing the Stone, but the story didn’t have the chops for that.)
  • The dialogue delivery is atrocious.  Of course, you can’t do a lot when the words themselves are poorly put together, but the flat, badly inflected stuff coming out of Madonna’s mouth (no, not her music!) is just embarrassing.  But you can’t just blame Madonna, since Sean Penn’s lines come off just as bad.  You’ve got to blame the director, I guess.
What salvages this DVD, though, are the extras, which were put together some 15 or 20 years after the fact.  In addition to a “Madonna in 1986” piece with a couple media mavens discussing her career up to and after that point, there is one with the writer and one of the actors discussing the film and the problems it had (including the crew nearly rebelling due to [pri]Madonna), and another with several comedians talking about their favorite and least favorite parts of the film.  If you felt embarrassed for the actors or felt guilty about mentally savaging parts of the film, you’ll find these people agreeing with you just about point for point.

Any fan of campy, terrible movies will tell you that viewing the movie as a shared experience can help salvage (rather than “savage”) it — you have others to discuss, commiserate, and moan with — and sometimes can even elevate a piece of shlock into a form of art.  (Hello, Rocky Horror Picture Show!)  This one will never make “art”, but it maybe can be enjoyable pain when shared with others.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Flying Hither and Yon

Bit the bullet last night and today and booked my upcoming travel for the next few trips:
  • San Francisco for Sundance Stompede
    October 15-18
    Virgin America
    Late morning flight going, with a somewhat tight deadline to get to my workshop in time
    Mid-morning return on Monday and then direct to the office from the airport
  • Madison for the IAGLCWDC Hoedown
    October 28-31
    Redeye flight going, to get there in time for morning workshops and afternoon meetings
    Early evening flight back
  • Washington DC for Mid-Atlantic Leather (my 12th time there!)
    January 14-17
    American (via frequent flyer miles)
    Very early morning flight going, but it’s also business class; I can nap at the hotel when I get there
    Noon flight back
Total cost for the three tickets is $510, so not too bad.

I’ll probably have an additional trip to book in a month, to go to Palm Springs for New Year’s.  Next flying trip after that probably won’t be until Memorial Day, to wherever the next IAGLCWDC summer hoedown ends up being.

I find it interesting that my frequent flyer programs have shifted over the years.  My first frequent flyer trip was via TWA back in 1991.  I wanted to fly to Seattle for Norwescon, but flights were horrifically expensive at the time, but a travel agent friend found a deal to do three round trips to Los Angeles on TWA at like $75 each (I literally did “fly down, catch the return an hour later”, three times), which would get me a free flight from San Jose to Seattle. (Seems very weird in retrospect.  The flight to Seattle must have been priced at $350 or more; compare to the $150 or less you could often get a decade later.)

During the 1990s, American got almost all my business (with some in-California stuff going to Southwest, back when it was actually affordable; for this San Francisco trip, Southwest was almost double other options!)  In the late 1990s, Alaska took over as my preference for West Coast flights; in San Jose, they had a dedicated set of 2 or 3 gates less than 100 yards from their ticket counter — most convenient travel setup ever!  (Even after 9/11, you could still arrive at the airport less than an hour before your flight with no worries.)

For the past decade, since I moved to Seattle, I’ve been slowly eating through my American miles.  I don’t know that I’ve flown them but maybe once in the last five years.  Due to inactivity, my last miles (about 41,000) were going to expire in December, so I used 37,500 for the trip to DC, including the to-DC leg being business class (so I’ll get breakfast for the first leg and booze for the second; I couldn’t have had a flight with fewer miles in non-business, although a redeye option would have been available, so no complaint).

In the past few years, Alaska use has also slowed some.  Actually, I’ve still flown a decent amount on Alaska, but mostly using either miles or their special deal where a smaller amount of miles cuts the price in half, making it much more decent to fly coast-to-coast on them.  So my mileage block on Alaska is down in the 40K range these days, as well.

(Mmm, I remember having credit cards that gave me miles on American, and maybe one that gave them on Alaska as well.  Those really helped build up the balances.  Really built up the credit card balances, too, of course, which is why I don’t have those cards any more!)

I flew United a couple years ago and have about 1000 miles from them, which will apparently expire in the next few months.  May it be soon, so I can never hear from them again.  Every time I’ve flown with them in the last 15 years (about three times), I’ve had a bad taste in my mouth.

More recently, my miles have been accumulating on Delta and now on Virgin America, where I have nearly a free flight’s worth on each; these trips may push me over that edge.

I wonder where my miles will live in another 10 years?

Updated on September 21, 2010
Crap.  Couldn’t even remember my own schedule!  Madison redeye is one of those true “last flight out” things, leaving at 12:50 am, which is close to when I usually go to sleep anyway, so if I remember a pillow and ear plugs, I’ll be able to sleep some.

I opted for the DC redeye after all, with an 11:30 departure and a 3 am (Pacific time, ugh!) layover in Dallas, but it gets me in early enough to both shop the leather mart and catch up on sleep for the partying and cruising that night.  And that’s what I’m there for, after all!

Monday, September 13, 2010

April–September, 2003 blog posts

I’ve finished incorporating the April–September, 2003 posts from my old “Bouncing Off the Walls” blog into this one, 29 items total.  In the process, I’ve re-edited all the entries, added and corrected weblinks, and such.

Here are links to the 6 months covered, so you can read what I was up to back then:
April 2003 (6 items)
May 2003 (7 items)
June 2003 (5 items)
July 2003 (no items)
August 2003 (1 item)
September 2003 (8 items)
A few of the sex-related posts are on my other blog, here:
June 2003 (1 item)
July 2003 (1 item)
Between the two blogs, I’m now just under 300 posts total.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Cribbed from Schott’s Vocab blog at the New York Times website:
“Satispassion” is a word meaning “atonement by an adequate degree of suffering”.
I find this a great word, because it matches up with a concept for which I haven’t had a word before.

Think about the times when you (or someone else) does something bad or stupid.  You profusely apologize to the person you hurt or insulted or whatever, but their forgiveness is not enough for you (or maybe there was no actual injured party to forgive you).  You have to mentally beat yourself up and generally cause yourself to suffer until you feel that you have atoned for the bad deed.  Or perhaps the other person technically forgives you but reminds you frequently and pointedly of what you did, causing you to relive the issue until he/she feel you have suffered enough for their tastes.

“Satispassion” — we experience it quite a lot, I think.

To Heck with Science!: Ow, My Eye!

“To Heck with Science” spotlights pop culture references to science that are stupidly wrong.

From Secret Six #25, page 2.  Last panel, dialogue from supervillain Lady Vic:
I was aiming for the pupil and hit the cornea.
From Wikipedia:
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber.
And a schematic of the human eye.

You can’t hit the pupil without hitting the cornea.  This is why supervillains always lose: no appreciation for science!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trip Report: Portland for Alder Street Hoedown #2

Before the Trip

August 7–8 marked my second long road trip of the summer on the scooter, this time down to Portland.  I had intended to ride to Portland for Pride in mid-June, but that got stopped by needing scooter repairs (and given the heavy rain on the way down, no big loss).  I was then planning to ride in mid-July for the Alder Street Hoedown, but repairs were still underway, so I again had to drive.  Third time’s the charm, I guess.

Plotting my route, I knew I wanted to avoid the steep hill north of Olympia where I–5 climbs the Nisqually ridge.  After some online research, it appeared that Highway 507 would be my best bet, through Roy, Yelm, Rainier, and Tenino.  Looking further and comparing Google Maps time estimates, it appeared that staying off I–5 altogether until near Centralia was doable, adding only like 15 minutes to the trip.  Indeed, I could take Rainier Avenue through south Seattle and Renton until it turned into Highway 167, get off onto 161 and then 512 at Puyallup, and then off that at Parkland to head to Spanaway and pick up 507 there.

(I don’t think Google Maps does a good job of estimating times through the urban district of Parkland/Spanaway or the backroads of Highway 507, where you slow down every 6 miles for the next town.  The route took longer than I expected.)

This weekend was also Seafair in Seattle, with the Blue Angels roaring overhead and the hydroplane races on Lake Washington.  One of the major viewing locations is about a mile from my house, which means that traffic is horrific on this weekend, and thus I’m pleased to be able to leave town for Seafair.  I’ve only been in Seattle this weekend maybe 3 or 4 times in the past decade.

The Ride Down

This weekend, rain was threatening, with low overcast clouds.  (I’m told that the Blue Angels had to alter their routine to compensate for the clouds.)  I felt a little schadenfreude toward the crowds who were going to get rained up.  But of course, that tends to come back at you: I had to ride in the rain from home down to Southcenter Mall (about 10 miles), although then it mostly cleared up.

I rode down to Yelm, where I stopped for gas and decides to shed the rain pants.  I then continued out to pick up I–5 at Grand Mound, and then headed south to Centralia.  I stopped at the Centerville Western Wear store there and picked up a new western shirt — forest green with “WRANGLER” in gold thread on the pocket and the sleeve.  (I almost bought one in plum with silver threading on the pocket and back instead, but decided I look better in the green.)

After a pretty medicore French dip sandwich at Arby’s, I got back on the road.  From there, I had to deal with rain again until Kelso (most of an hour), where I stopped for gas again.

You Can’t Go Home Again

From 4th to 7th grades (over 30 years ago), my family lived in the Hazel Dell area of Vancouver, Washington.  (“Vancouver A.D.” I like to call it, vs. “Vancouver B.C.”.  Heh.)  Since I had the time, I detoured through north Vancouver, past Columbia High School and down to 95th Street, and tried to find the second place we lived.  The big tree I recall in the back yard wasn’t there anymore, but the juniper-laden planting on the corner was, so I think I found it.  I then rode down to 85th Street, to the first house we lived in, and I think I found it.  I think it’s even the same color as when we lived there.  I took pictures of both houses, plus Dwight David Eisenhower Elementary and Jason Lee Junior High, both of which I attended.  The latter looked basically identical, but the elementary school had been completely rebuilt, I think.

Time blurs all sorts of memories, but one of the biggest as you grow up is the sense of scale.  Things were vastly closer together than my memory has them.  The house on 85th Street was only a block from the Junior High (which I didn’t attend until we had moved 10 blocks away).  And it was only maybe a mile to whatever shopping area had existed back then and to the freeway.  Today I would walk that without thinking, but then it was vastly far away.  Makes me think that as I kid, I never tended to go more than 4 or 5 blocks from home, and often probably not even off my own block.  Weird feeling.

Alder Street Hoedown

This trip, I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott near the Oregon Convention Center.  This was convenient to the PPAA for the dancing (more so that the Econo Lodge was in July), and the room was good.  I again used Hotwire, getting the room for just $75.

While DJ Crystal has been on vacation for the summer, Rain Country Dance Association in Seattle has been working with Reuben and Pamlin in Portland to put on dance nights to fill the gap — same space, schedule, lesson plan, etc. — dubbed the Alder Street Hoedown.  We want to ensure that Portland has a growing community, and two months with no dancing wouldn’t help.  Rain Country is providing DJs, some teaching, and some monetary support to ensure the events at least break even.

Terry DJed for the Alder Street Hoedown, and taught the line dances — Picnic Polka and Cowboy Cha Cha (partner flow dance).  When I got there at 9:00, they had just started the second one (which really should have been done at 9:00, but they apparently started late), but I didn’t hear griping.

The Alder Street Hoedown nights look to be a success, at least in terms of maintaining the Portland dance community during Crystal’s vacation and not losing money.  In fact, Reuben says they have had as many people as usually seen in the spring, which would be an uptick in attendance over what would normally be expected in the summer (given good weather pulling people away, and summer vacations), so that’s very good.  As a side angle, there has long been some dissatisfaction with Crystal as a DJ from some Portland dancers — if nothing else than because she’s the only one the dancers experience — and by giving them a little variety, perhaps some leverage can be built up to shift Crystal toward music selections which people will like more.

There will be one more Alder Street Hoedown this summer, on August 21 (past by the time I’m writing this), with Keith as the DJ.  Hope it also goes well.

Getting Laid

I loosely planned to go to the Eagle Portland after the dance.  As part of Oregon Leather Pride Week, they were hosting a uniform party, so I had brought a sailor shirt with me.  This meant that I also didn’t have to pack my leathers for the trip, which I was content leaving out of the scooter trunk.

(I am not really into uniform fetish — I’ve never been in the military and I’m not attracted to the look, the attire, or the attitude for roleplay.  The only military backgrounds I know in my family are late 1950s National Guard from my father, early 1940s Army from my mother’s father [who abandoned the family], and an early 19th century Prussian cavalry officer on my father’s side of the family.  I’m anal-retentive enough to know that I would need for any real uniform I wore to be as complete and accurate as I could make it, and I’m not about to try to put together that cavalry outfit!  So this shirt is one of the few concessions to that fetish that I have, enough to be “in gear” at such an event without worrying much about accuracy and completeness.)

But cruising on Grindr at dinner time, I connected with someone who apparently connected the red on the leather harness in my pic to other activities.  (He’s not the first to do so.  I’m actually surprised by this, since so many guys seem to clueless at times, but I’m happy when it happens.)  I had to go to the dance, and he had other early evening plans, but we arranged to get together later at his place.

Suffice to say, I did get laid.  Real good like!  Small hands, great attitude, and a Volcano Vaporizer — I was totally floating for the evening.  Now if we can just arrange a repeat visit, or have him come to visit me.

The Trip Back

After brunch on Sunday at the Village Inn, I rode down to Columbia Scooters to check out what they carry — which turned out to be Kymco (same as my scooter).  I talked to the owner for a while, who was (like many people) surprised that I could ride mine to Portland and Vancouver like I do.  He asked whether I hear engine strain noises, since I’m definitely pushing it beyond expected usage patterns, but no, haven’t heard any whines or the like.  I bought a lock-down cable, since I don’t have one of those.  I also drooled over the Kymco Quannon 150 sport bikes (the second branch-out of Kymco into motorcycles, following the Venox from a few years ago).  He said they haven’t sold well, so he’s going to be dropping the price in August.  (Hmmm.  No, damn, can’t afford one now!)

When I go to Portland, I usually like to go out to the nude beach at Rooster Rock State Park, about 20 miles east of Portland.  Facing a long scooter trip home, though, I didn’t want to go all that way out, and I had been there two weeks before and found much of the trek to the beach area a horrible muddy bog.  Portland does have a second nude beach, at Sauvie Island about 20 miles west of Portland.  I researched where it is and initially hoped to go there on the way down on Saturday, but the weather stopped that.  On Sunday, the weather report was for sunny but cool weather, making it not worth going then, either.

However, in the process, I had investigated an alternate route to Sauvie Island, to avoid going to Portland and then doubling back 20 miles north.  There is a bridge across the Columbia at Longview, and then state Highway 30 goes down the Oregon side of the river, through Rainier, Columbia City, St. Helens, Scappoose, Linnton.  So rather than take I–5 back through Vancouver, I took the road less travelled up the river the Longview.  (Interesting: I would go through Rainier in both Oregon and Washington, and through Columbia City in both states [it’s the neighborhood just south of my house in Seattle].)

The weather might not have been quite warm enough for nude sunbathing, but it was wonderful for riding a state highway.  I strapped my riding coat to the seat behind me (with that new cable) and just wore the new Western shirt atop my t-shirt.  Delightful ride.  Once I got through Longview and to Kelso, before getting on I–5, I put the coat back on.

Got gas in Kelso.  At Centralia, hit the usual grind-to-a-halt that haunts I–5 north from there to Olympia every Sunday afternoon.  (Literally, almost every weekend!  And for no discernable reason like an accident or a narrowing of the highway.)  So I got off at the bypass to Bucoda, which connected me up again with 507 at Tenino.  And then retraced my route from Saturday (with a couple more stops for gas and snacks along the way), but was able to ride through Renton and south Seattle now that Seafair was done.