giantsloth: (Default)
I have been watching the new Twin Peaks (more on that later), and thinking about television shows that were key to me during certain periods of my life. Not necessarily my favorites, although some are. Ones that seemed overwhelmingly important when I was watching them. I came up with the following five:
  • Star Trek
  • Doctor Who (Fourth Doctor only)
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus
  • Twin Peaks
  • My So-Called Life
The first three I watched in syndication, although I suppose by the end of the Tom Baker run of Doctor Who, we were getting them on PBS in the USA close to the time that they aired in the UK. No VCRs, and so you simply had to be in front of the TV. I was a big fan of Saturday Night Live, and of Steve Martin, and certainly watched it a lot, but Monty Python was always consistently funnier for me, and I got a concentrated dose of it one summer, home from college, watching it regularly (again, thanks to PBS syndication) with one of my closest friends in the basement of the chancellor's house of Winston-Salem State University.

By the time Twin Peaks aired, I had a VCR and I taped all the episodes, and those tapes made their way around my circle of friends. I was enthusiastic about Lynch's work although not a full-on superfan.

I've watched plenty of TV since then, although through the era of DVRs and into today's time-shifted streaming and binging, I don't know that I've seen something that felt as important in the moment as My So-Called Life did to me in 1994. For all its flaws, such a great show.
giantsloth: (Default)
I flipped over to the fairly active Facebook page of one of my relatives. Ex-military, ex-cop, conservative gun-toting Trumper who allegedly loves Jesus. I do this from time to time, in an effort to understand the what/why/how of these folks. But I don't think I can do it any longer. I've seen enough.

What strikes me about the memes that he reposts is how old they are. It's the same regurgitated stuff from months or years ago. It has nothing to do with what's specifically happening right now. And half the time the posts aren't even ideologically sound from a right-wing point of view. He'll repost General Petraeus praising the military, even though the right-wingers hate Petraeus now because of his views on gun control. Basically any post that praises veterans will get passed along no matter who said it, then one of his buddies will show up in the comments to say "hey, uh, remember, we hate the Democrats/liberals/Socialists/commies, and that's who you're quoting here."

Other recent posts include the gumball immigrants video (ancient, and so thoroughly disproven), a ton of stuff about term limits, a vile cops vs. BLM post, and one about how HRC is hypocritical to ask to see Trump's tax returns when, y'know, she deleted "those emails."

So, I'm done. I try not to read comments online, especially on news stories, and I often fail. But I really think I'm done looking at this stuff.
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I figured I should plant a flag here at Dreamwidth, so here's a post about what I did last Saturday, kids.

I piled into a car with a couple friends and we headed east. Our main destination for the day was the Cypress Grill, open since 1936 and rebuilt in 1946, now one of the last remaining herring shacks. Herring in this case being river herring, Alosa pseudoharengus. Some of y'all might call them alewives. But before we made it to Jamesville and the Cypress Grill, we took a detour to see an old truss bridge on an abandoned section of US-64. The phrase that popped into my head was "Kerouac drove here," an echo of "Washington slept here."

On to Jamesville, where it was the last day of the season at Cypress Grill. We all got herring plates and a side of roe to share, and then slices of homemade pie. Would I eat a fried-way-past-crispy river herring on the regular, were such a thing available without driving a couple hours out into the sticks? Probably not. It's about the overall experience, not just the food (which, to be clear, is good).

The day was still young so we pushed on to Plymouth to see their replica of the ironclad CSS Albemarle. Turns out they were having a living history event there, so a bunch of re-enactors had set up camps on the river. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were a ton of Confederate re-enactors, and only three guys in the Union encampment, all rigged out as sailors. I have no real problem with the pure re-enactors, but I did refrain from wandering over and arguing with the SCV dopes (obviously down here there is plenty of overlap between SCV dopes and re-enactors). There were also a bunch of women dressed up as Southern belles. Another not-surprise: The only person of color at the event was a photographer.

We made a few more stops, one at an abandoned Rosenwald School, and then went down to Kinston, where the downtown revitalization started with Mother Earth Brewing a few years back. We were there to hit one of Vivian Howard's restaurants, The Boiler Room oyster bar. The oysters, which were from nearby Cedar Island, were outstanding. The local beer, Tarboro Brewing Company's Town Common, was a nice balanced ale of relatively low ABV, which is exactly what I look for in beer these days. Would I want to live in Kinston? Heck no. But it's got a lot going on now, for a tiny city in Lenoir County.

And then we came home. The End.
giantsloth: (sloth)
Back when I was a full-time freelancer, I interviewed one of the founders of Netflix. It wasn't for a specific assignment; he was just passing through town and someone in press relations hooked us up. I got the spiel and was so convinced that I signed up for an account with my own money. It's possible that they comped me to begin with; I don't recall--but soon enough I was happily paying my own way, and have done so continuously for well over a decade now. But now the overall story, a cliche but a true one, is the Failed Promise of the Internet. Back when it was just DVDs in the mail, I could rent titles that would never end up in a local video rental place. I poured in a ton of ratings so that the mysterious Netflix engine would figure out my tastes, and would suggest movies I'd never heard of. So now, in a world where content streams in over the network, where the most obscure movies should be available instantly, what do I get? A dumber suggestion system, and a vastly reduced selection of movies. You can stream TWIN PEAKS, for example, but no movies directed by David Lynch are streamable from Netflix. Unless you've just got to have constant content coming down the network pipe, the overall technology of circa-2001 Netflix is superior to that of today. Which is a wordy preface to this opinion piece, worth reading, by Felix Salmon:

Netflix’s dumbed-down algorithms

And yeah, gas stations used to have smiling uniformed attendants, and jumbo jets used to have piano lounges. Progress.

Five stars

Dec. 6th, 2012 03:55 pm
giantsloth: (sloth)
That social networking site, Ye Booke of Faces, is now asking me to rate things. Restaurants and bars, mostly. Ratings are completely public, it seems--unable to be made friends-only with FB's byzantine privacy controls. So I will not be doing any rating, thank you very much. "Liking" things is good enough for me; I don't need to assign some number of stars. Besides, "do you like Char-Grill?" is an easy question for me to answer. Yes, I like Char-Grill. Whereas dithering over star ratings on FB seems like a waste of my time.

Thinking about five-star ratings does something to the critical/skeptical/negative part of my brain--which most of you know is the Greater Part of my brain. Do even my most favorite spots rate a full five stars, without reservation? I can't say that they do. There's always room for improvement. If only they had half-stars. Man, I would handing out a bunch of 4.5 star ratings.
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A couple things. First thing, a new story of mine is up on Electric Velocipede Issue 23: Through the Uprights. Read it or don't.

Second, completely unrelated thing. We were driving out for a Sunday hike recently and we passed a trailer that had two flagpoles in the front yard. On one flagpole, a rebel flag (aka Confederate flag). On the other flagpole, Old Glory. Now, I'm sure I've seen this pairing before. And I'm sure it makes perfect sense to the inhabitants of that trailer. But this was the first time it struck me: NO. You've got to pick one. You either get your CSA, Lost Cause, revisionist b.s. about "state's rights," and not-so-crypto-racism, or you get the USA. You know, the Union. The folks flying the Stars & Stripes, albeit with 33 to 35 stars at the time of the war. You can't claim both sets.
giantsloth: (stagg)
Evander Berry Wall, "King of the Dudes," on the daily drinking schedule and the relative capacities of U.S. drinkers versus English drinkers, late nineteenth century:

Fourteen drinks, bottle of wine, plus beer )
giantsloth: (devil)
WisCon blew by even more quickly this year. One minute we were riding in from Truax Field in the hotel shuttle van, the next we were hopping in the Rowe-Bond's Honda Fit for a leisurely drive through Indiana. My con reports are pretty much cliché at this point: it was great to see friends, I did not get enough conversation time with any of them, some folks I missed entirely and that bums me out, I prefer readings to panels, beer is delicious.

The Delicious Beer track started early, during our layover at O'Hare, when I discovered Goose Island Matilda, a Belgian strong pale ale. Further delicious beers included Monk's Café Flemish Sour Red Ale, New Glarus Raspberry Tart, and Ommegang BPA. Many of these were consumed at Cooper's Tavern, a gastropub on the capitol square in Madison. Recommended, especially if you can get The Snug, the little table-sized room where the bartender waits on you via a little puppet-show door in the wall. We also got supper one night at Icon, the tapas place on State Street. Now that I think about it, this was a really top-notch year for food and bevs. We had humongous breakfast crepes at the farmers' market on Saturday morning. We had brownies and bourbon balls from the Tiptree Bake Sale. We had the local meat and cheese platter at a late lunch with Eileen Gunn and Carol Emshwiller in The Bar. I never got to try the Writer's Block, a raspberry margarita from the drink menu that bartender Brian makes every year for the convention, but it looked good on paper.

Items acquired in the dealers' room: The Collected Stories of Carol Emshwiller, Volume 1, as well as a bunch of stuff from PM Press. For a bunch of anarchists, PM Press sure does a great job with consistent and beautiful graphic design.

Readings attended: only three, but that still meant I heard Alan DeNiro, Karen Joy Fowler, Hiromi Goto, Mary Doria Russell, Gwenda Bond, Christopher Rowe, Genevieve Valentine, Amal El-Mohtar, Meghan McCarron, David Moles, Ben Rosenbaum, Geoff Ryman, and Jen Volant. That's a lot of talent, right there. I was particularly moved by the short-short that Hiromi Goto read about memory and social media. There were a lot of other people whose readings I missed, dangit.

I read a new proto-story and that was fun but even more fun was reading the beginning of Carol Emshwiller's "Draculalucard" for the panel where Karen Fowler and Eileen Gunn and Pat Murphy and I celebrated Carol's work. Pat read a relatively new story from Carol, "Uncle E," and that really got to me, hearing Pat read it aloud (I had read it in print just before the con). Speaking of Carol: The Emshwillerians.

Panels attended: The Trials, Joys and Tribulations of Tiptree Jury Duty. There were plenty of other panels that looked interesting, but none of them trumped fiction or sleep.

Parties attended: a bunch, but the three pillars were the Rabid Transit karaoke dance party, the Strange Horizons tea party, and the Genderfloomp dance party. One of these days I will stop being such a persnickety weirdo about the songs I will dance to.

And that's about it, I guess. I'm ready for WisCon 2012, yep.
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Last weekend I attended the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (ICFA) in sunny Orlando, Florida, aka The Happiest Place on Earth. Ten years ago, I met [ profile] barbmg, [ profile] bondgwendabond, and [ profile] colonelrowe at ICFA. So it was a good anniversary and a great time. Academics, writers, critics, and fellow travelers from all over the world get together to read, talk, argue, drink, and relax. I ended up in a reading slot with Connie Willis (who was a guest of honor as was Terry Bisson) and Jeff Ford. Connie read the first chapter of a new novel, Jeff read a story about the doppelgangers of doppelgangers, and I read the beginning of "Holderhaven," my American country house story that's in the most recent issue of CRIMEWAVE. Doing that reading was great fun, as was attending a few other readings, especially ones by Paul Park and Terry Bisson and Kit Reed. I went to a couple panels too, including one mostly cool one about fantastic elements in Shakespeare--lots of discussion of witches, ghosts, fairies, and wizards, not so much of satyrs. Terry Bisson and Andy Duncan did a spot-on version of Terry's "They're Made Out Of Meat" one night. And Andy brought a raccoon that played "Yakety Sax" on the harmonica. And....

How does this make sense to anyone who wasn't there? What is the least bit academic about a raccoon playing "Yakety Sax"? Well, the theme of the conference was "The Fantastic Ridiculous," so there you go. Looks like I've got yet another event I really need to try and get to every year.
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And, dang, am I enthusiastic about the deconstructo-folk of Alasdair Roberts and all his various running buddies. So, take a few minutes, good people, and give these videos a look and a listen.

The Bonnie Banks o' Airdrie
Home Lights Tour
Bonnie Susie Cleland
giantsloth: (Default)
Beertender, really. And meadtender, I guess. The past couple Saturdays I have poured fine fermented booze products for the patrons and performers of the NC Renaissance Faire. It was pretty fun, given that we were never in the weeds. Which means that attendance is probably not quite at its historic peak, if you catch my drift. The Captain is dearly missed as the informal emcee of the pub, but everyone soldiers on. Drinks are drunk, songs are sung, comedy is committed. Gossip flows a bit more freely before the gates open and after they close. But the really swell folks in this milieu are still quite swell indeed: Silent Lion continue to play some of the most interesting music I've ever heard. Emrys Fleet, aka Jim Greene, is a really funny and personable fellow. New acts come along, like the Sisters of Steel, with pretty decent ideas and execution. It is a strange little pocket universe, with plenty of upsides and downsides, but I sure hope it keeps on existing. I'll be back there next Saturday pouring more beer. I recommend the Belgian Stout or the Wee Heavy, but really, they're all good, y'know?
giantsloth: (Default)
And I still do. Robert Culp died yesterday. Tonight I mixed myself a martini and watched an episode of I SPY, the show that he and Bill Cosby starred in for three seasons in the 1960s. I watched "Home to Judgment," which Culp also wrote, probably the darkest and grittiest episode of the series. And that was how I said goodbye to this guy I never knew.

I'm not here to convince you that I SPY was the greatest TV show of all time. I'm here to tell you that it was wildly important to me, a kid growing up watching Bob Gordon Theater on WSJS/WXII, where you might see a syndicated episode of I SPY or STAR TREK or MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE or THE INVADERS or THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE WILD WILD WEST on any given Sunday afternoon. There were Westerns, too, but I never much cared for them. In between the shows Bob Gordon would do really bad ventriloquism, and would teach you how to fold a dollar bill into a bowtie. Anyway, I SPY: TV's "swift and swinging spies," that was how it was hyped. Yeah, they were two stylish guys wisecracking their way through the Cold War, and how much weight do I, does anyone, want to put on that? Not too much. But then again, what came through in every episode, in every scene, was that Culp and Cosby really were friends. That they really cared about each other in real life and in fake life as a couple of globe-trotting spies. And yeah, it was groundbreaking for its time, that one of these guys happened to be white and one happened to be black, and how that was handled. Just now, watching "Home to Judgment," there's a scene at the top where Culp is lying up in a barn loft, gravely injured. The bad guys are closing in. But Cosby walks by, on the drive below the barn, and gestures to Culp that things are going to be OK. "Don't worry, I'm your friend, and we're going to get through this." That's what that gesture says to me.

"Don't worry, I'm your friend, and we're going to get through this," that's a pretty important statement.
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If I had more time, what I would do is, get a domain name, hook a blog up to it, and then extensively document every one of the motor tours from the 1939 WPA book NORTH CAROLINA: A Guide to the Old North State. There are 33 tours, ranging in length from 35 to 613 miles. But more time is something I perpetually lack, so I have not done those things.

What we did do, yesterday, is attempt to replicate Tour 8 from the guide. We drove up to Clarksville, Virginia, then came back down to Durham on US-15. Or rather, what would've been US-15 in 1939, which is close but not exactly the same. US-15 is the old Jefferson Davis Highway, and while it's still signed as such, the granite and bronze markers are mostly gone. There's one in Clarksville at the big intersection there. There's one over the state line in NC, but it's clearly new; at least the metal tablet is. The one marker that we found that looks realistically old was in Stovall, NC. Stovall is also where we attempted to find the family cemetery near the site of John Penn's house, but failed. Penn being one of the three Signers from NC. We were driving down a dirt road through land that was marked "No Trespassing" and also clearly a place where a lot of hunting happens, and the dirt road became a mud road so instead of getting stuck we turned around. This was the first site/sight mentioned in the guide that we failed to see.

Still, there is relatively current information on that cemetery (, unlike many of the other places mentioned in the guide. House of Col. William T. Gregory, who ran a general store where he gave away rather than sold things? No dice. Hester Grange, the meeting hall of a farmers club in Hester, and Indian Grave Hill, where amateur archaeologists carted off Native American relics, ditto and ditto. We stopped in Oxford, where the courthouse dates from 1838, and discovered a museum there in the old jail, with lots of wonderful artifacts (including some Native American relics). Once we got to Durham, we switched over to Geer Street, which used to be US-15, and cruised into town on that stretch, passing the Hell's Angels clubhouse and the dearly departed Hartman's Steakhouse on the way.

The allure of this project is that you WILL find some peculiar old landmark that has traveled in time relatively unscathed. We didn't find anything like that this time. What we did find was the usual mix of beauty and ugliness, poverty and riches.
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Last weekend was the fourth year in a row where we spent some time with friends (and several thousand other people) at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. So at this point, it's a tradition. [ profile] barbmg  and I did a quick sprint through some DC area tourist attractions first. Arlington National Cemetery, I hadn't been there since I was a kid, and had never been up the hill to Arlington House, which is undergoing renovation but you can still walk through several rooms, and under the arch where Mary Custis and Robert E. Lee were married. Took the metro into DC for a sprint through the National Museum of Natural History, then a more leisurely stroll through the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden.

In mostly unrelated news (although I did have a delicious mojito at one point during our sojourn to Crownsville), I was surprised to find that I've only had 57 of the 100 drinks on the Anvil bar bucket list: I plan to remedy that, and to make plenty of the 57 cocktails I've already had. Tonight, a Brandy Alexander (one of the 57 I've already had so far in this life). Creamy, dessert-y, no point in having more than one, no point in making them if you don't have fresh whole nutmeg to grate on top. For those folks playing at home, the proportions I used are from Paul Harrington's excellent COCKTAIL book: 3/4 oz. brandy, 3/4 oz. creme de cacao, 1/2 oz. cream.

One down, ninety-nine to go.

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I can't say that I have seen that many movies that John Hughes wrote or directed, or that I know anything about the guy. Certainly, from interviews such as this one, he seems relatively cool. But The Breakfast Club was wildly important to me when I saw it oh so long ago at Mission Valley, where I still go see movies these days. While I haven't watched it in years, other than flipping by the bowdlerized version on TV, I'm guessing that it still sets a high mark as far as adults-writing-teens goes.

The other movie that came to mind was that white upper-middle-class carpe diem fave, Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Again, I haven't seen that one in quite a while. But it is the exact kind of thing that makes me wonder this: if so many people love this movie, why is the world still the way it is?

There are some easy answers to that, and it is pretty much a rhetorical question. But.


Aug. 4th, 2009 08:08 pm
giantsloth: (Default)
Roasted red onion, roasted organic chicken breast, just olive oil and pepper and some lemon slices in the oven with those two. Half an avocado. A gimlet, with bitters (the Philip Marlowe variant) to cut the sweetness of Rose's Lime Juice. There are many worse things to have for dinner on a Tuesday night.

For those keeping score at home, the Bachelor Week(TM) cocktail on Sunday night was a martini (Bombay gin, Noilly Prat vermouth, manzanilla olive), and last night it was a 20th Century cocktail. Tomorrow night, who knows?
giantsloth: (devil)
Boy oh boy, am I sure missing WisCon.

I think it's clear that I'm crap at posting to LJ, but in the interest of keeping up appearances, here's some stuff we've done recently ... for [ profile] barbmg 's 29th birthday, we met [ profile] bondgwendabond  and [ profile] colonelrowe up in Ash City, I mean, Asheville. Drove up the hill to the Grove Park Inn, where there is a beautiful view from the veranda of the historic old hotel, although these days it's populated by golfing richnecks instead of alcoholic literary giants. Then, thanks to a tip from a local litblogger friend, down to the polar opposite of the Grove Park Inn: the Wedge microbrewery and tasting room, next to the railroad tracks next to the river, in this industrial building that's been repurposed for artists' studios. Draft beer, peanuts, nothing else. Very nice. Then back into downtown Asheville proper (no devils were spotted in the making of this trip) for dinner at Nova (which, speaking of the devil, used to be called Scratch) where we had really good tapas and really really REALLY good cocktails. SRSLY. Breakfast the next morning at vegetarian wonderland The Laughing Seed was also really good.

And then last weekend there was the inaugural Piedmont Rangers camping trip in Umstead Park. Rather surprisingly, none of the kids or adults got stabbed or burned or carried off by the deadly Umstead bears. Smores were made (gourmet smores!) and ticks were removed and of course no alcohol was drunk because that is against state park regulations.

Have I mentioned that I'm missing WisCon? (And GARF, and VARF, and...)

Cape Fear

Dec. 26th, 2008 06:25 pm
giantsloth: (Default)
I should probably mention my so-far-wonderful holidays ... Barb and I saw Hilton in Winston-Salem Monday night. I went back yesterday and after doing the present thing with my mother and sister, and after reading the first third of LOOKING FOR ALASKA, I went out to Elliott's Revue to talk to my ol' friend Phil. We talked about movies, theater, music, humans, philosophy, tonal consistency, poetic inconsistency, and a few other things, and it was exactly the kind of talking I enjoy.

But instead of spieling more about holidays, I'm going to mention photography. A few of my freelance articles have been published with photos I've taken. But I'm pretty sure I just got my first credit for a photo-as-photo-and-only-photo in a dead-tree publication. So if you pick up the second edition of NORTH CAROLINA AFIELD: A Guide to Nature Conservancy Projects in North Carolina, you'll see (among many other things) my photo of the Cape Fear River. It was a pro sale, even, but I chose to donate the fee back to the Nature Conservancy, who do all kinds of good things to protect and preserve nature.

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First, a current, nonfictional look at houses of the future. Note: I am not saying I agree w/ P.J. O'Rourke about this or about anything, nor am I particularly vouching for this essay as great writing. But it is worth reading.

Second, an early-21st-century fictional take on 1950s houses of the future, by me.

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As Hanna was blowing through town, I was standing in the middle of Hargett Street getting blown away by the Dexter Romweber Duo. I've seen Dexter play several times recently, but this was the first time in ages that I'd seen Sara drum. And what a joy it was to listen and to watch. They've just been signed to Bloodshot, and later this month will be in the Midwest playing some dates. Chicagoans! Madisonites! I heartily recommend the Romwebers as worthy of your valuable American dollars and your attendance.

The next day [ profile] barbmg  and I went back downtown to the International Festival, to get our fill of Iranian bean/noodle soup, Polish potato pancakes, pickled herring, mango lassi, Nepalese dumplings, and probably one or two other tasty treats.

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