illin'

Mar. 1st, 2010 02:07 pm
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I finally caught this bug that my roommate and a few of my coworkers have had lately. It's a sneaky one, too. I spent the whole weekend in bed, pretty much, but only after spending all of last week wondering why I was so tired all the time. It's just this all-over aching, exhausted feeling, with a really nasty sore throat. I'm hoping it passes quickly, but that doesn't seem to be the pattern with other people. Bah.

Having so little energy is reminding me how much of it my schedule actually takes. When I'm daunted by the challenge of pouring some orange juice, putting a Ren & Stimpy DVD in the player and dragging a blanket to the couch, it kind of pisses me off that I have to balance so much school and work and friends and hobbies in the first place. Those are things I'm usually really grateful for.

My roommate said "Yeah, that cold sucked ass. But at one point, it was like, I was so fucked-up, it was almost like being on drugs? And it felt good. Ya know?"

So, I guess there's a light in the middle of the tunnel, too.

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By the way - Them Crooked Vultures is a freakin' great album. Reviews in the big rock magazines seem weirdly timid about it, somehow (Rolling Stone called it 'alternate universe Led Zeppelin fan-fiction', and Pitchfork's retards-in-residence seem irritated that there's so much of it.) It's a collaboration between John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl and Josh Homme, with songs in a wide range of flavors, but with a lot of 'crankability' throughout. I think they did a great job of acknowledging the last few decades' best moments in noisy, brainy guitar rock, without making the album itself a backward look. I highly recommend it.

crwnd

Jan. 23rd, 2010 04:07 pm
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Last week, right when I was thinking how very expensive my textbooks had turned out to be for this semester, and how careful I'd have to be with money for the next couple of weeks, I bit into my lunch and broke off a chunk of a tooth. So, I got to spend that whole afternoon at the dentist's, getting a crown put on. And, naturally, getting all my disposable cash for this week taken off. Ah, well.
Classes for spring seem cool, so far. I'm taking just as many credits as I did last semester, but I've gone from 4 nights of lectures a week to 2, so it feels like a lighter load. Classes are social research methods, cultural anthropology and advanced dumbass math. Wish me luck.

Also, my cat and my roomie's new adoptee seem to be getting along well, thank God. I'm not sure either is a good influence on the other, but their collective cuteness still excuses their collective destructiveness. Have some kitties:

holidays

Jan. 2nd, 2010 02:57 pm
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I had a great trip to Washington for Christmas. I spent most of a week with Audra, and after Christmas, both my dad and my brother met up with us in Seattle. I can barely remember the last time we three guys spent a holiday together, and it was the first time I got to introduce Audra to my brother. Great Christmas with a bunch of people I love. As usual, my sweetheart and I had a blast just wandering around town and gorging ourselves on food and scenery. I miss being there already.

Also: Gasworks Park is the most steampunk shit ever. I mean, check this out. If I was homeless in Seattle, I would totally live there. ...and breed chocobos, if at all possible.



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In place of any resolutions, let me confess something: I've had 10 years to get used to living in the 21st century, and it still hasn't taken. These years (2000? 2007? 2010?!) are still supposed to be the far future. When I think of the year 2010, I imagine sitting in a classroom in fourth grade or so, reading one of those Scholastic Weekly Reader things they used to pass out. 2010 is the sort of year they would 'estimate' for completely science-fiction possibilities, like an international space station, or cars that run on batteries, or phone conversations with video, or tiny computers that go in your pocket. It was a year scientists talked about. I don't know if I'll ever get used to writing it on checks.

Well, it's 2010, and I'm dating a really hot scientist! I guess Scholastic Reader didn't see that one coming, huh? :) Seriously, tho, I'm excited that the new year is here already. '09 was a big year for me, and I have a whole lot planned for '10. Time moving forward is an exciting thing for me, right now. Here's to a great new year all around.
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Audra: "This jar of cherries is inscrutable and confusing. Whereas the command line is awesome and learnable."
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Small worlds - I was playing The Path, last night, when the music credits caught my eye: Jarboe & Kris Force. I don't know Force's work, but for anyone who was into really dark experimental goth/industrial (or um... Hungarian conceptual burlesque, I suppose) in the early 90s: Jarboe is that spooky European synth geek who Yokoed the Swans. And I say that with nothing but fondness. Everybody needs a Yoko. At least in my head, she's best known for performing entire tours wearing nothing but 40 pounds of live snakes, and for writing the more interesting tracks on the Swans' Children of God and Soundtracks for the Blind. The Path is a particularly good fit - she's great at writing and performing those haunting, ethereal choral things, both The Path and Jarboe's best work are about women in a way that few things are, and I'd lay money she did the wolf noises, too - but I like the idea of her doing music for interactive stuff. Hell, Mother/Father was one of my all-time favorite background songs for Unreal.

I assume my little patch of the blogosphere shares enough borders with the world of geek feminism that I don't have to tell you what The Path is, but I will cautiously recommend it. If you've been holding out because you were skeptical about it being what it claims to be, then allow me to vouch for its authenticity. On the other hand, if you've been holding out because you think it might be an uncomfortable experience, you're probably right.

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Disclaimer: I like my roommate.

Right now I am listening through the closed door as two metalheads attempt to operate my kitchen, and I wish each and every one of you was here with me. One of them is revealing his arcane knowledge that hot water is the best way to clean a pan, and the other is frightened of the mechanism you have to use to light the stove. They're both pretty sure there should be seasonings involved, but I think they're intimidated by my spice rack. (Intimidated in a sort of stoic, black-metal way, I guess.)

In a few minutes, I'll either be enjoying an omelette, or explaining all of this to a fire marshall. Keep your fingers crossed.

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Whirlwind fun abounds, out here in the desert, but there were a couple of happenings from the weekend I wanted to share:
First, Nick and I went out for dinner at a freakin' delicious shabu-shabu/sukiyaki place on Sahara, called Swish. It was my introduction to that genre of food, and I was quite impressed. It was Nick's postponed-due-to-illness, sorry-I-missed-your-party birthday dinner, too. I do those.

Second, I got to hang out with my buddy Jon, one of my oldest friends, who was in town from LA for the weekend. He and his folks were in town to celebrate his youngest sister's 21st birthday. She was a toddler when he and I met, so that put a kind of exclamation mark on how long we've been buddies. I'm happy to report he's doing really well for himself - working lots and schooling like mad and planning a wedding to his sweetheart, and it warmed me the hell up to see how happy he and his family are, these days. I'm grateful to have friendships in my life with that kind of history, even if we don't get to visit as often as I'd like.

And lastly, after kicking around uncertainly in my CD collection for most of the last year, April March's Triggers finally found its niche as hangover nap music. I highly recommend the album to anyone who likes goofy french synth-retropop with lots of brains, or who might like that. Check it out.


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Vegas winter officially began today, with the two advents sharing a day: People started to wonder out loud just this morning whether we might see some snow, this year; and in the early afternoon, the sky clouded over into an apocalyptic, sunless wad of dark, and started gushing down rain. This is one of those cities that doesn't know what to do with rain. The ride home was a slalom course of hazards, from puddles in the road where we just didn't think to put any kind of drainage, to lane dividers that are faint enough in broad daylight, and just vanish completely under a sheen of rainwater. It's the day when Vegas people start thinking that they really meant to replace their windshield wipers the last time it rained.
Boy, it's pretty, though. I'm so used to seeing these mountains in full sun that their silhouettes in black are startling. They look good. They look spooky.
It's also the day Aimee got back from her combined Christmas/Thanksgiving vacation, to see her family out in California. I got home from work planning to stay home, but when she called on a borrowed cell phone from the Greyhound station to ask if, just maybe, I just happened to be in that part of town and felt like picking her up before she walked all the way down to the bus stop on Charleston in the rain, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry for her. I sloshed my way downtown to the station to pick her up, and got to hear the latest about her folks, with an occasional glimpse in the rear view mirror of the strip, with that towering cloud of neon-lit rain hanging over it.
I don't expect to live here too much longer, but it sure is putting on a good show, while this lasts.

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I posted some lyrics last week from that PJ Harvey & John Parish disc, A Woman a Man Walked By.  To anyone taking notes: the opening track, Black-Hearted Love, is *exactly* the kind of song I like. The recording has that kind of warm-but-noisy feel that makes me think of Thurston Moore's best stuff, and the writing is a bullseye - It's personal, it's inventive, it changes its momentum effortlessly, and it knows exactly which secrets to keep. It's stayed stuck in my head, this week, no matter how many times I listen to it.

I'm not sure who I can recommend the rest of the album to, though. Don't get me wrong, it's brilliant, this just isn't an album that much wants to be admired. I keep comparing it to Patti Smith's Horses; there's amazing poetry set to great music, but the vocal performances put up a wall that you won't get over unless you're trying. (The title track is screamed more than sung, and Pig Will Not features Harvey literally barking.) There's art in the inaccessibility itself, really, and it's damned good art. Just not the kind you'd mistake for entertainment.

Meanwhile, though, I still haven't taken it out of the stereo. If you catch me rocking out to some growly babbling with good noise-rock guitar behind it, just smile and nod, okay?

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I haven't bitched about this publicly, because I assumed it would be a short-lived phenomenon, but it's been a year, now, with no end in sight, so to hell with it. Right-wing gun nuts have created the ammo shortage they were so paranoid about last year. And it's screwing things up for all of us nonpartisan gun nuts.

For those of you who don't shoot, let me describe what it's like to buy ammunition, this year: First, you call all of the stores in your area and ask if they have anything in the caliber you want. Anything at all, and the typical answer is a no. Nothing. Mind you, this is my experience shopping for .22lr and 12 gauge birdshot, of all things, and I'm talking about every kind of shop, from mom-and-pop gun stores to big sporting goods chains. In those one-in-ten cases when they do have stock, you drive over, get in line, and insert yourself into the conversation with your fellow shoppers about who is buying what, and how you can arrange it so that everybody gets something they can use. Last weekend, I watched two police academy cadets and a civilian bargain over the last 60 rounds of .40 at the local Wal-Mart, and that's a pretty typical scene.

Believe me: it was nothing like this before the election. Ammunition used to be as much a retail product as inkpens or french fries, and it's hard to put a finger on what has really changed. News outlets have offered explanations ranging from the war, which is utter bullshit, to increased demand from law enforcement, which is... a more thoughtfully chosen line of bullshit, but still bullshit. The plain fact is, people are stockpiling. Many shooters saw the Obama election as the end of an era in gun legislation. The NRA made him out as someone just itching to reinstate every gun ban and surcharge the country has ever seen, and to add a few more on top, just for the fun of it. That's a characterization that I didn't see greeted with much scrutiny, either - sadly, gun culture seems to be a ready-made echo chamber for republican talking points. It just seemed to become a mantra. And sure enough, by the time our new president was sworn in, your friendly neighborhood ammo counter had been cleaned out of everything down to snap-caps.

Here's the punchline: The sudden uptick of demand created a temporary shortage, and the temporary shortage created another sudden uptick in demand. Thus, the prophecy was fulfilled. It's hard for me to believe, but the cycle has continued all year. Some people have wished out loud that manufacturers would step up production, but I think they're right to see this as a speculative bubble, and I lay the blame solely with consumers. Folks, can we have a brief reality check? Like, maybe limit your stockpiling to types of ammunition that could be restricted by an assault weapons ban, so I can get on the range with my damned .22's again? Or hell, how about paying attention to your elected officials' actual voting records, instead of believing everything you heard during the presidential campaign? You guys 'playing fort' every time a democrat gets elected make us all look like idiots.
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I just finished my first playthrough of Borderlands (or 'murderlands', as it's coming to be known around here) last weekend. I really dig the game. The mix of genres they attempted is a risky thing, but they got all the intangibles just about right. The humor is genuinely humorous, the rpg elements really invite obsession, and the combat delivers a near-perfect sense of whoop-ass. (Bonus points for making the king of the bandit miners a Tom Waits charicature.) It's the first game I've played since Diablo 2 that really scratched that itch for compulsive, low-concept loot grinding.
Many players have complained about the ending, and you can add my name to that petition, too. It's hugely unsatisfying. The difficulty curve is also pretty erratic, especially if you don't play online. But really, this isn't a game you play for closure, or for balance. It's just lots and lots of smashy, ADHD fun.

If anybody else is playing on xbox live (yeah, yeah,) friend up ChuckDeluxe.
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April,
how could
I not have
seen

April,
you
coming

April,
how could
I have worn
inappropriate
clothing?

April,
all that
careful stepping,
rounding of my soul
and now
your rain.

April, I feel you leaving.

I don't know what silence means.
It could mean anything.

April,
won't you
answer me?

These days
just seem
to crush me.

Hatching,
collapsing,
tumbling down.

April!
What if
I drown?

I don't know what silence means.
It could mean anything.
Won't you answer me?

I dreamed,
April,
that I'm walking,
that I'm watching
your rain.
It overcomes me.

--PJ Harvey, "April"
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Meant to mention: As part of getting ready to apply to real colleges, last weekend I got to go godmode the SATs. Interesting experience. I was the oldest person in the room by about a decade, and there was no missing the fact that I was taking a test designed to terrorize high school kids. But I got it done.
I was struck with the fact that I didn't really have much of an emotional stake in the results. Like most of my higher-education career so far, it seemed like something that would have been agonizing, if I'd done it as a teenager, but now it just felt like another few steps down the road. When it was all over, one of the kids who'd been sitting next to me asked me how I thought I'd done. He seemed pretty rattled by the experience. My answer was 'Hey - I'm old. I know how I do on standardized tests.' Which is true.
So, nice to have that errand out of the way. And to any college-seeking students working themselves into nervous wrecks: there's no teacher like time.
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Doodling with scratch paper at work yesterday, I ended up with a woolly mammoth head. (Or perhaps 'woolly mammoth emerging from pond'.) I kinda like it.
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I've got a roomie! Everybody, say hi to my buddy Aimee. We've known each other for a while, now (she and another mutual friend were actually planning to move in, back when I first got this apartment,) but it took until now for things to actually come together.
I'm happy to finally be splitting this apartment with someone. It's just big enough to feel empty with one person, and two seems just about right. Plus, sharing expenses is a welcome change. I'm excited.
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I don't know what that's about. But we went to the San Diego zoo! More photos in a bucket.
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This weekend, I went out with a couple of buddies and saw the new Michael Moore movie. It's actually the first of his I've seen (though I did catch a few episodes of TV Nation when I was a kid.) It was about what I expected - not fair enough to persuade anyone who didn't already agree with the premise, but a pretty enjoyable documentary. It's nice to see someone get passionate about social justice.

Bonus points for Bill Black's extended appearance. He was one of the main investigators of the 80s savings and loan scandal, and I've come to put a lot of faith in his observations on the present meltdown. Look up his appearance on Bill Moyers from a couple of months ago, if you're interested.

For the record: I do not believe capitalism is essentially at odds with democracy. But if you expect an economic system to be the moral compass of a society, you deserve what you get.
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Goodie of the week: Yesterday's Fresh Air featured an interview with religion scholar, TED prize winner and king-hell badass Karen Armstrong. Check it out - I always get a lot out of her interviews. (And apparently she has a new book out!)
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