December 2007 minutiae
- I dream about locker rooms a lot more than one would expect
given that I haven't been in one since 1987. The locker rooms
are usually co-ed, which could potentially be titillating except
for the fact that they're also usually empty. They are always a
little musty and run-down, and usually I have a strong sense that
I'm not supposed to be there — that I have taken advantage
of a faulty lock or something.
- Abolish Standard Time! Ever since the clocks went back an
hour, evening traffic has been many times worse. The
sign that usually says 10 minutes to OAK and 22 minutes to SFO
now regularly clocks in at 45 and 60+, respectively, and those
tend to be underestimates (at least on the OAK side).
- I have been in California for over two years now, but I am
still keeping my vow where the weather is concerned. As I walked
out of Tacubaya I overheard some people complaining about how
horribly cold it was, and at Sketch the proprietor asked, "Why
aren't you wearing a jacket?!" It was 58 degrees! When it hit
58 degrees in Massachusetts I reanimated the corpse of Mark
Linn-Baker and did the Dance of Joy. I will never complain about
the weather in California.
- I don't know about you, but when I am going to go to sleep,
first I turn off all the lights except for the one by the bed,
then I get into bed, and then I turn off the light be the bed.
So why is it that every hotel I've stayed in recently doesn't
have a light that can be turned off by someone in bed? Who
installs the lighting in a room such that the occupant must
turn off the lights and then stumble across the room in the
dark in order to get into bed?
- They say nobody walks in L.A., but I discovered that I
would rather walk several miles a day than have to deal with
a valet guy. Having to interact with a human in order to
have access to my transportation makes me very anxious. So
staying in a hotel with no self-parking turned out to be a
great workout plan. I walked several miles a day!
- It helped that L.A. is flat. I am embarrassed to say
that I usually drive to Berkeley instead of taking BART even
when I'm only going to places within a reasonable distance
of the stations — the hills kill me.
- When I go to one of those community restaurant review
sites like Yelp I find that every L.A. listing is tagged with
writeups warning people about how rude the servers are. This
has tended to make me nervous, because the vibe I give out
could not possibly be less hip and so I kind of expect L.A.
types to throw garbage at me. But I have never found any of
these places to be as rude as advertised. Maybe the difference
is that I am not expecting to be fawned over.
- I have written a fair amount recently about how quickly
the artworks of past eras lose their immediacy and become
objects to be admired and studied rather than loved. So it
is weird to hear a snatch of "Greensleeves" and think "dang,
that's a hell of a good melody" and then realize that the
person who wrote it lived half a millennium ago.
- Speaking of old songs, I recently learned the lyrics to
"When Johnny Comes Marching Home," and they seemed shockingly
inappropriate. Later I learned that the lyrics to the first
song with that melody were about a maimed soldier. Perhaps
whoever changed them to be about adulation for a triumphant
war hero might have wanted to take the song out of fricking
- In 1981, when I had just started 4th grade, there was a
kid at my school bus stop who told me about the video for the
song "Physical" by Olivia Newton-John and said that the fat
guys were really funny. He said I should watch it sometime,
but I didn't actually know what a music video was at the time
so I didn't know how to go about finding it. By the time I
started watching MTV a couple of years later, it was out of
the rotation, and I forgot all about that rave review until
this month when
Jennifer posted about a DVD of 80s videos. I then watched
"Physical" video on Youtube. I wonder what that dude
would have thought had he known that I would take his
recommendation seriously enough to follow through on it 26+
- Listening to "Physical" was basically a nostalgia dagger
straight into my forebrain. I had more or less forgotten
what it was like to be seven, but this song (which played on
the radio more or less nonstop in 1981) brought it all back.
I was so much further away from death then!
- Also, I only really knew Olivia Newton-John from the
"Physical" era, with the Princess Di mullet and the sweatband.
After pulling up this video I clicked onto
a video of
"Magic" in which she has long hair. She is super cute!
Plus the song transported me into the dreamtime past of my
pre-California days, back before I was really conscious of time
as a measurable dimension.
- More 80s music: while I like many versions of "Self Control"
(the song, not the video, despite the forthcoming Youtube links)
to one degree or another, the best is
by Raf, which I had never even heard of until 23 years after
Laura Branigan cover on 45. I had no idea that "Self Control"
was so much more popular in Europe than in the US — apparently
for a couple of weeks the #1 song in West Germany was Laura
Branigan's version and the #2 song was Raf's! — or that
consequently there are so many Euro-dance covers of it.
Arnelas version is notable in that Soraya, a Spaniard, really
hits the R's in words like "girls" and "matters" and "you're"
— you know, the R's that serve as one of the primary
identifiers separating American from British English. I love the
way these words end up sounding! But is that a Spanish accent or
something idiosyncratic? (Meanwhile, the American Laura Branigan
doesn't pronounce the R's in her cover!)
- About that Laura Branigan video above — as with
"Physical," the first time I saw this was just now, on Youtube.
It actually came out during my MTV-watching days, but MTV banned
it. Little did I know that the legion of "Self Control" covers
included the movie Eyes Wide Shut!
- I try not to be a packrat — I regularly sell off
sizeable chunks of my book and CD collections — but I
sure wouldn't mind having the enormous stack of 45s I had as
a kid back. Not to listen to, even. Just as a totemic thing.
- I did a couple of surveys to see how people would answer the
question "What are the primary colors?" Of those who answered
that they were red, yellow, and blue, a strong majority listed
them in that order. The only exceptions listed them "red, blue,
yellow." Interestingly, everyone who answered "red, blue, and
green" listed them in that order, despite the fact that the
common acronym, RGB, puts blue last.
It is well documented that every language has words for black
and white (or at least for dark and light), and that every
language that has a word for even one more color has a word for
red. I wonder whether people always list red first because of
that phenomenon, or because of its position in the spectrum, or
for some other reason.
- I noticed that John Allison posted an announcement that he
was considering shutting down the Scary Go Round message board
due to lack of traffic. I can't help but think that some of this
might be due to the fact that nearly every time someone posts an
observation about the comic, Allison appears and has a little
freakout about it. "It feels personal, personal to me. I can't
help it," he posted once. And if Allison doesn't jump in, the
moderators (who are now basically the only ones posting) do.
I'm very interested in the way the web has changed the dynamics
between artist and audience. It used to be that in order to reach
an audience, you had to go through the intermediary of a publisher,
which sort of by default meant that you agreed that you were
offering up your work to the public and therefore had to have a
thick skin about the public's reaction. Nowadays I find that a lot
of people want to release their work but still consider it more or
less private. Even those who don't have the audacity to come right
out and declare "Positive comments are welcome" after posting
something often make it clear that they consider criticism of their
work an attack on their very souls — and that they have no
desire to cultivate healthy detachment.
- Elizabeth whimpers a lot in her sleep but to my knowledge I have
never made sounds in reality while reacting to dreams — until
this month, when I woke up from a dream laughing out loud. Why
was I laughing? Because in my dream I had been watching a man
kicking a football, and it did not go very far.
- I have become kind of addicted to pistachios. It's not just
because they taste good, but also because cracking open the shells
is a mindless activity that I find myself doing instead of playing
Tetris or Minesweeper or whatever.
- I was listening to "Marketplace" on NPR and there was a report
about how thanks to the advent of flat-screen TVs, hotels now find
themselves looking to get rid of thousands upon thousands of
armoires. Now, there is a standard American pronunciation of the
word "armoire", which you can listen to
It's basically "arm-warr". I suppose you could also go with the
French pronunciation, since it is derived from French. What you
should not do is file a radio piece in which you say the word
"armoire" a hundred times and pronounce it "om-wah" every time.
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