calaveras de azúcar de plata

To quote a recent post on ‘i can haz cheeseburger’, Want Want Want Want Want. I just found this ring via a link form some mySpace page, and it’s just fabulous – click the image to see more photos and more info (and click on the ‘Click to enlarge’ link, you really need to see […]

To quote a recent post on ‘i can haz cheeseburger’, Want Want Want Want Want.

I just found this ring via a link form some mySpace page, and it’s just fabulous – click the image to see more photos and more info (and click on the ‘Click to enlarge’ link, you really need to see the side and back views to get how bitchin’ this thing is).


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It’s a brilliant rendering of a mexican calaveras de azúcar (sugar skull).

I’m a huge fan of mexican Dia De Los Muertos iconography (like Posada), and mexican folk art in general; I won several pieces by the Linares family, and my house is full of mexican skulls and skeletons. So this is a cross-over of two of my favorite aesthetics; teh silver skull ring with the calavera.

Have That as my daughter used to say when she saw something she wanted right now.

The jeweler, House of Wittelsbach, have a number of other great pieces. But it’s the sugar skull I gotta have.

songs in A & E

For those who care, Spiritualized (one of the greatest live bands I’ve ever seen) just released a new studio album after a five year hiatus. I havn’t decided yet how much I like it (because it’s a Spiritualized album and they’re all that way); it’s no Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space, but […]

For those who care, Spiritualized (one of the greatest live bands I’ve ever seen) just released a new studio album after a five year hiatus.


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I havn’t decided yet how much I like it (because it’s a Spiritualized album and they’re all that way); it’s no Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space, but with each play I like it more.

My favorite track so far is I gotta fire (click to play), though there are a number of other really strong tracks.

There’s a great back-story behind this album, which isn’t unusual with Spiritualized.

(From Wikipedia)

Songs in A&E comes five years after Spiritualized’s previous album – 2003’s Amazing Grace – and following Pierce’s near death experience in 2005 after he had contracted advanced periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia with rapid deterioration requiring intensive care and c-pap for type 1 respiratory failure.[3]. Indeed, the album takes its title from the long period Pierce spent in the Accident and Emergency ward (A&E) during this illness.

(click for more)

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indiana jones and the search for a better plot

A couple of years ago I watched the original Indiana Jones trilogy with my kids. Over the last month, we’ve been watching the re-released Young Indiana Jones series. We’re huge Indiana Jones fans. Now, let me say a couple things up front. Raiders of the Lost Ark is very close to my favorite movie of […]

A couple of years ago I watched the original Indiana Jones trilogy with my kids. Over the last month, we’ve been watching the re-released Young Indiana Jones series. We’re huge Indiana Jones fans.

Now, let me say a couple things up front.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is very close to my favorite movie of all time. However, as a rule, I loath Steven Spielberg. I do not consider him a good director. To be sure, he’s made a couple of decent movies; Duel (his creative high water mark), Jaws, and of course, Raiders. But given that he hires top-flight cinematographers and cast, every now and then he’s going to hit something good. Most of his work is dreck though, badly plotted, badly scored, badly paced, over-done in every way possible.

How did Raiders wind up so good? Simple; George Lucas.

Lucas developed the story, produced the film, and while there’s no question Spielberg directed it, it has an un-mistablabe Lucas feel to it. Most of what’s right about that film I credit to Lucas.

It’s easy to see what happens when Lucas steps back; look at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Key details of who Indy is are forgotten, a pointless ‘cute kid’ is introduced, Spielberg’s wife is (ill) cast as indy’s love interest, comedy and horror elements are over-played. The only thing about the movie that works is the ending, and it works out of context with an Indiana Jones movie.

For the third, Lucas stepped back in; Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is back to feeling like Indiana Jones. It’s better cast, with a love interest who works, and the plot is back to being centered on archeology. It’s not quite Raiders, but it’s terrific.

And then there’s Young Indy; not only a brilliant teevee series, but incredibly true to the the Indiana Jones character; masterfully done, and 100% Lucas.

When I heard a fourth movie was in production, finally, I hoped for Lucas, and feared Spielberg.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull should be good. They had years to find a great script; they had a great cast (Cate Blanchett, John Hurt), a great surrogate Young Indy (Shia LaBeouf), and the return of Karen Allen, an actress I’ve had a wicked crush on since Animal House.

Alas – This is Spielberg Indy, not Lucas Indy.

There’s good stuff about this film, certainly. And I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t good. While it’s failings are very different than the failings of Temple of Doom, they’re perhaps bigger, because with the years they had to come up with a script, though should have come up with a good one. This has compromise written all over it. The story’s oddly meandering and all but incoherent, and it relies on super-natural and sci-fi elements that don’t fit into the Indy mythos. While the action scenes are terrific (well shot, well acted, funny and thrilling, and completely inventive), they seem to have lost the ’30s serial pacing that made them work in the past. The problem, though, is that when the action stops, you can almost see tumbleweeds roll across the screen. Everything comes to a complete halt.

I’ve never been bored in an Indiana Jones movie before. Yet whenever the characters start talking, my eyes would glaze over. Harrison Ford seemed to be sleep walking through half the scenes, and the elements that worked (he’s older and not quite as good as he used to be; people think he’s just an old teacher, til the fedora comes out) are used as throw-away gags. This could have been payed like Robin and Marian, with the re-union of the aging hero and his older-but-still-beautiful life’s love. It’s wasted though, with Karen Allen not getting enough screen time.

Blanchett as the russian villain is wasted as well; she’s a cartoon, but an under-drawn one. Her absurd accent is wonderful, even if it’s un-even, but they waste the camp element after presenting it when she walks on.

What works is that they pay brilliant tribute to Indy myth; references to the first three movies, and better, to episodes of Young Indy. What doesn’t is that Spielberg can’t stop; introducing LaBeouf with a shot and costume from The Wild Ones blows one right out of the film, and the 50’s diner fight is so out of place that it made me want to slap everyone involved.

The ending is idiotic. We don’t need fucking space aliens in the Indiana Jones mythos. Visually, the end is great, but plot wise, it’s weak, stupid, and badly written.

It’s odd though; the movie annoyed me more later than it did at the time. While I was watching it, I was happy. Seeing Indy on screen again was thrilling, even if it’s a gray-haired-and-botoxed indy; and the action is fantastic. If this were a movie featuring some other character than Indiana Jones, I’ve have said “loved it”, because it’s the kind of sugar-frosted-crack film that one should watch with the un-jaundiced eye of a teenager. But when a movie has “Indiana Jones” in the title, I just expect a lot more in terms of movie making.

One Percenter Name

I usually don’t play the “my stripper name” or “my porn star name” thing. This one, I couldn’t resist. According to the Outlaw Biker Name Generator, my one percenter name is: Ol’ Ratso of the Donkey Punchers MC (Thanks, Syl)

I usually don’t play the “my stripper name” or “my porn star name” thing.

This one, I couldn’t resist.

According to the Outlaw Biker Name Generator, my one percenter name is:

Ol’ Ratso of the Donkey Punchers MC

(Thanks, Syl)

DWTS

Last year, sometime early in the hockey season, some sales droid gave my boss four club-level tickets to a sharks game. The closer you get to the ice, the better hockey is, so of course I said yes. While we were there, the arena jumbotrons showing promos for the upcoming dancing with the stars *live* […]

Last year, sometime early in the hockey season, some sales droid gave my boss four club-level tickets to a sharks game. The closer you get to the ice, the better hockey is, so of course I said yes.

While we were there, the arena jumbotrons showing promos for the upcoming dancing with the stars *live* tour. The three guys I was sitting with, of course, sneered at the idea. Who would want to go to that?, by boss asked, with genuine incredulity. And I have to say, i kind of agreed.

It’s not that I couldn’t imagine being interested in competitive dance; it’s sexy, athletic, in a sense it’s artistic. But, you know, there’s just something that sounded incredibly cheesy about it.

A few months ago, while looking for Torchwood on BBC America, I caught a few minutes of a re-run first season DWTS. I was pulled in, predictably, by drop-dead-sexy women like Edyta Śliwińska and Cheryl Burke. And I was drawn in when I realized Jerry Rice, the best wide receiver ever to play football, was one of the celebrities. But dammit if I didn’t keep watching because it was good.

I’m a big figure skating fan; and this had just enough of that same appeal (technical skills, artistry, athletics, and sex appeal) that I was drawn in. I managed to get past the cheese, and with each week got a little more involved.

I admit it; I cared who won. I cared because because of my monstrous crush on ms Burke, and I cared because her partner really deserved to win.

I kind of figured, though, that I was done with it after that one re-run season. The whole thing is just too damned cheesy, too silly, and I keep swearing not to ever get hooked up in another reality show.

Only, the current season was just starting.

I told myself it was just to see Cheryl Burke. I told myself it was just to root for my man Penn Jillette. Only poor Penn and his battlestar-feet went home the first night. But you know, Kristi Yamaguchi was one of the stars in question, so I kind of wondered how a figure skater would do.

Yeah, I was hooked. And really, it wasn’t just because I’d kill a man just to lick the sweat off of Cheryl Burke’s back. I was hooked because I actually like the show.

There I said it. I confess. I like it. And I’m bummed it’s almost over.

*sigh*.

If I ever watch american fucking idol, someone shoot me, ok?

when chocolate pigs fly

There are certain perfect foods in the world. We could come up with a few each; say, an apple, or a sea urchin, or an egg. The foods that are complete, satisfying, a compliment to other foods. For you it might be a cheese, or a pork chop; it might be toast or a wedge […]

There are certain perfect foods in the world.

We could come up with a few each; say, an apple, or a sea urchin, or an egg. The foods that are complete, satisfying, a compliment to other foods. For you it might be a cheese, or a pork chop; it might be toast or a wedge of just-sharp-enoug cheddar. It might be a piece of dark chocolate, rich and glossy with cocoa butter.

One such food, most of us could agree, would be bacon. Oh, to be sure, there are vegans and vegetarians out there who might object or disagree. They surely speak from envy, though, and earn our pity. Poor, poor folk, denied the pleasures one of life’s most noble beasts, the pig.

Now, one of the characteristics of perfect foods is that, while we might incorporate them into other things, they seem complete and perfect as they are. How does one improve upon, say, chocolate? How can chocolate be better than in it’s most pure and simple state?

Well, interestingly enough, one can add bacon:


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No, I am not kidding.

Someone bought me this the other day as a lark; last night, after my very last bottle of ’03 sinister hand, I had one of my rare must-have-sweet-treat moments, and thought, well, there’s that absurd chocolate pig, why not? (sinister hand makes me do silly things).

So I broke into the pig.

On first bite, it was simply rich, smooth, dark chocolate. After a moment, though, the palate encounters vague smoke, salt, and textures both vaguely chewy and slightly crunchy.

If you’d asked me, what’s in that, I’d have been hard put to say; something smokey? Something herbal? Whatever was in it, I’d have said, give me more, and now.

As one chews successive bites, the elements become more clear. There is, without question, bacon and salt as recognizable elements of the flavor; yet they in no way interfere. After two of three bites, I wondered why there isn’t always bacon in chocolate.

Now, I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest expert on chocolate; but I can’t think of a piece of chocolate that ever pleased me more.

I must have more. And quickly.

Itchy. Tasty.

I started to post something about the annoying state of my tattoo; I’ve reached that phase where I’m peeling and leaving behind black flakes of tattoo dandruff, where it’s itching madly and of course, it’s not yet sufficiently healed to scratch. But when I started typing, the phrase ‘Itchy. Tasty.’ came to mind. Anyone who’s […]

I started to post something about the annoying state of my tattoo; I’ve reached that phase where I’m peeling and leaving behind black flakes of tattoo dandruff, where it’s itching madly and of course, it’s not yet sufficiently healed to scratch.

But when I started typing, the phrase ‘Itchy. Tasty.’ came to mind.

Anyone who’s played Resident EVil should remember this.

This is the part of getting tattooed that always makes me think never again. Pain, I got no problem with. Itchy? That’ll drive me bugfuck.

in the tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki room

Here’s what I got yesterday. The shark, above the elbow, is older; so is the lighter gray work, below (the new ink will fade to that same color after healing.) More pictures after the cut. (click pictures for bigger view)

Here’s what I got yesterday.

The shark, above the elbow, is older; so is the lighter gray work, below (the new ink will fade to that same color after healing.)

More pictures after the cut.

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(click pictures for bigger view)

Read more “in the tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki-tiki room”

Straight Life

Arthur Edward Pepper: Narcisist, Musician, Convict. Composer, Dope Fiend, Artist, Criminal. Author; Womanizer. One of the greatest alto saxophonists the jazz world ever produced; and one of it’s most tragic flame-outs. What can I say about him; he tells the story himself with unflinching honesty and and an almost noir narrative voice. I’ve just finished […]

Arthur Edward Pepper: Narcisist, Musician, Convict. Composer, Dope Fiend, Artist, Criminal. Author; Womanizer. One of the greatest alto saxophonists the jazz world ever produced; and one of it’s most tragic flame-outs.

What can I say about him; he tells the story himself with unflinching honesty and and an almost noir narrative voice.

I’ve just finished reading Art’s Autobiography, Straight LIfe – The Story of Art Pepper; and I find myself nearly speechless.

Art’s own words describe the circumstances under which this photo, the cover for his autobiography, was taken:

STLFcover.jpgin 1956, Diane and I lived on one of the steepest hills in Los Angeles, on Fargo STreet. I woke up one morning to a phone call from Bill Claxton, the photographer, saying he had to take my picture today for the cover of The Return of Art Pepper. I had run out of heroin and was very sick, and was unable to score befor Bill got there. We climbed to the corner, and he snapped this picture of me in agony.”

For those who haven’t heard of Art, or some version of his story, here’s a short version, mostly culled from Art’s book. Born in 1925 in southern california to a merchant seaman father and a fifteen-year-old mother. He was a weak, sickly child, raised by a a powerful, tough grandmother after his parents divorce. He grew up neurotic and fearful, seeking outlets in music, sex, and later, alcohol and a incredible capacity for drugs.

By the 1940s, only eighteen, he was touring with one of the country’s top jazz outfits, the Stan Kenton Orchestra; by the early fifties, he was becoming one of West Coast Jazz brightest lights; an alto player, often compared to Charlie ‘bird’ Parker and Lester Young early in his career.

As his career began to peak, however, he discovered heroin; one night in Chicago in 1950, a singer in Art Kenton’s group offered Art both her body, and a snort of heroin, a substance art would love with more passion and commitment than any other person or thing before or after.

It’s hard to understand, from today’s point of view, what heroin was, then and there. Today we know it as a tragic destroyer of lives and careers, as well as a substance with a dark, romantic allure. We see both the broken down and lost, and the wasted glamor of rock music. Then, though, it wasn’t even seen as that big a step from pot; in 1910 it was beleived to be a non-addictive alternative to morphine; until 1924, it was still routinely used medically. When era greats like Charlie Parker began to use it, it was generally seen as cool, and even to enhance one’s playing (after all, some of Parker’s greatest records were made when he was too strung out to stand up.) Heroin use in the jazz community was ignored by the press; it was just part of the scene, the way cocaine was seen in the late seventies. If you weren’t using, you weren’t really in.

Today, we hear some musician is a junkie, we just sort of think of him or her as a nit-wit. In those days, you looked in a cat’s eyes and saw his pupils like pin-holes and you’d think, he’s cool. So in those days, starting up wasn’t big; a lot of the major figures of the day used at one point or another; many (MIles Davis, Coletrane) kicking, while some (Pepper, Chet Baker) never were truly free of it, and saw brilliant careers ended, shortened, or derailed because of it.

In 1952, Art did his first stint behind bars; somewhere he’d find himself over and over for the next twenty years. He was in and out of jail for much of the fifties, meanwhile producing incredible jazz albums like the incomparable Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section and Art Pepper +11.

In 1961, Art ran out of road and wound up in one of the worst prisons in the country, San Quentin; in 1966 he was released, hardened and embittered, and more addicted than ever. In the late sixties, Art discovered acid, and added it as well as speed and incredible amounts of alcohol to the heroin he was already shooting many times daily. He all but gave up jazz, playing rock or whatever he could get paid for when he had his horn, though as often as not he would hock it to buy drugs.

In 1968, attempting one of many come-backs, he joined Buddy Rich’s Big Band; after half a tour, though, years of punishment and neglect began to catch up with him. He was hospitalized for a ruptured spleen, and was found to have severe cirrhosis; he was advised to quit drinking and drug use or face certain death. But quitting wasn’t going to happen. The last day of Art’s life, in 1982, he was both injecting and snorting coke.

In ’69, in a state of physical and mental collapse and quite literally near death, Art was more-or-less coerced into joining Synanon, a late-sixties organization that began as a sort of AA-for-dopers, and then went on to become a bizarre commune/cult, and finally collapsed under it’s own weight under attack from the IRS and the federal government.

While in Synanon, Art quit smack (at least temporarily), met Laurie Miller, the woman who’d be his last wife and collaborator, and found some sort of peace in the unlikely form of Synanon’s “game” (a type of encounter group/attack therapy hybrid).

After Synanon, Art both discovered cocaine, and got onto a methadone program; never clean, he was at least able to function, with Laurie’s help, and entered the most musically productive period of his life. Between 1971 and 1982, Art recorded some thirty albums, toured internationally, and, unexpectedly, found artistic recognition and some degree of satisfaction, finally, with his own playing. He also began, with Laurie’s help, to record stories of his life; a chronicle of drugs, music, crime and punishment. He told these stories in the voice of an author, brutally honest, unflinchingly confessional. He talked about his childhood, life, his crimes, his music, his fears and hates. He talked about his obsessive sexuality in pornographic terms. He talked about love.

Early in Straight Life, after describing his first experience with heroin, Art says:

“I realized that from that moment on I’d be, if you want to use the word, a junkie. That’s the word they used. That’s the word they still use. That’s what I became at that moment. That’s what I practiced; Thats’ what I still am. And that’s what I will die as — a junkie.”

In 1982, after shooting coke all night, Art suffered a cerebral hemorrhage; his wife took him to the hospital, where he proceeded to snort coke on his gurney in the emergency room. I want to be high when I die, he said. Art asked Laurie not to let the doctors cut him open. Doctors doubted his nearly-destroyed liver could survive surgery anyway. He was pumped full of morphine to help the pain in his head and methadone to control his withdrawal symptoms. His last words, when they gave him his drugs, were “it’s about time”.

In the years before Art’s death, Laurie had taken the hours and hours of tapes he’d had recorded, and edited them into a cohesive, linear story; told in Art’s own words, it reads like some tragic, brilliant novel. I cannot tell where Art ends and Laurie begins; the finished work is a life, and a story. In another place and time, Art might have been a writer instead of a sax player, pouring his soul out into a battered typewriter instead of into a brass horn. The book was released not long before Art died.

I’ve long been a fan of Art’s music; his lyrical, expressive playing is unique and highly personal. Without knowing anything of who he was, I loved his work from the very first time I played meets the rhythm section. But after reading his book, I feel like I know the man, in an almost disturbingly personal sense.

While a generation and more separate Art and my eras, I know people just like him. Addicts, brilliant, tortured players, creative genius lost, destroyed or wasted under madness or self-destruction. I’ve lived with them, partied with them, loved them. I’ve bought and carried drugs for people like Art, knowing full well I handed them the bullets for a slow, inevitable suicide. I’ve seen lives lost and ruined, and I’ve narrowly missed that life myself.

This book is that story; the story from the inside of a brilliant, chaotic life, from inside the mind of the tortured genius. Like Art’s music, it’s a staggering work. I feel like I’ve been sitting with the man, hearing his stories with sharing a joint or a jug, or passing a mirror. I feel like I’ve met him.

Art was a difficult, complicated, incredibly sensitive man. He was the kind of person you love but may not like; the kind of person you’d help even when you know it’ll kill him. I can hear him telling the stories in Straight Life in his own voice. I’m still, twenty four ours after finishing it, feeling like I just watched someone I know buried.

My intent when I started writing this was to illustrate it with music from Art’s various periods of eak creativity; I find though that I can’t yet. That project will take more time. Later, it’ll be here, or in another entry that compliments this. For, this will have to be enough.

inelegant S curve

I’ve had trouble doing any writing all week – or, in fact, any work at all, at least any involving a computer. This is a bit problematic given that at least 75% of my work day involved eyes to screen and fingers to keys. The trouble would be more interesting it it was some existential […]

I’ve had trouble doing any writing all week – or, in fact, any work at all, at least any involving a computer. This is a bit problematic given that at least 75% of my work day involved eyes to screen and fingers to keys.

The trouble would be more interesting it it was some existential crisis, some most of clarity about real life vs the virtual reality behind an LCD screen. Unfortunately the issue is purely mechanical. Something I did last weekend jacked my neck; maybe it was moving a seven-foot by fourty-inch bookcase (ah, I love new book cases) in from my truck. Maybe it was something else. Maybe it was just several weeks of bad posture at work or the configuration of my twin monitors.

Whatever it was, I’ve spent the week feeling my neck cramp into an inelegant S curve; a shape the human neck is most certainly not made for.

This makes productivity at the computer hell; I can’t be effective when I’m uncomfortable (pain? Sure. Discomfort? I don’t have the patience for it). Fortunately, with repeated applications of ice, adjustment, and therapeutic chemicals, I’m finally starting to be able to turn my head again, and my shoulders are finally below my ears for the first time in a week. Ok, I admit it, only some of the chemicals were therapeutic; some were just entertaining.

I’d intended to write about the jazz I’ve been listening to, and the book I just finished (Art Pepper‘s incredible autobiography, Straight Life; that will have to wait though, until I have a chance to post some musical samples, and ’til I can fully process the book. I finished it last night, and was left quite speechless.

Meanwhile, tomorrow, I get tattooed, something I’ve been looking forward to for a month. Later, we can talk about art, and Art, and maybe the, we can get back to the sex.