Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Just some random junk…

The benefits of the iPod

I was just musing to myself on how much the iPod has really changed the way we use music. I think years from now, cultural history texts are really going to make note of that.

I used to go back and forth from home and the office with about 10-20 CDs with me, and never had something that matched my mood. Now, I have hundreds, and I can usually match my mood.

I blame it on a severe case of being a Gemini. I’m not moody, but I am fickle. I just pulled out my iPod, and I am currently flipping back and forth between Sonic Youth and I Object! That’s a wide range, and not albums I would have thought I’d be in the mood for this morning.

As far as new music goes, at Nicole’s insistence we bought Nirvana’s Nevermind this weekend. I never owned a CD copy of that record, just a cassette I played to death a long time ago. Goddamn that was (is) a great album! I miss them… and I unfortunately haven’t added that one to my Ipod yet, although I do have In Utero, and With The Lights Out, so I can get a fix.

Do you remember when they played on the MTV awards and Krist Novoselic knocked himself out with his bass? If you’ve not seen it, you must check it out. For those with short attention spans, it’s right near the end.

The benefits of wealth

My supply of Christmas socks is dwindling. I love new socks. If I were a millionaire, that would be my one rich man extravagence; I would put on a brand new pair of socks every day, and throw out the old ones. That would be my only eccentricity. The other things, like the vineyard, petting zoo, and monkeys trained to ride bicycles wouldn’t be eccentricities, they’d be necessities. There’s a difference, and once you figure it out, you’re free to come over to my house and pet the goats. Bring socks.

The benefits of super powers

As I was getting on the elevator at work the other day, I was watching the guy fill the ATM. There was a giant pile of money there, and it occurred to me that if I had super powers like Plasticman, I could shoot my hand across the hall and grab the money and yank it back in just as the door closed.

Then it occurred to me that if I did that, I’d become a supervillain, not a superhero. I didn’t like that.

You see, my powers can only be used for good.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Let’s consider the Wunderkammer.

The Wunderkammer, or Cabinet of Curiosities, was big in the Renaissance. It was, in essence, a cabinet containing a collection of things that people would be interested in. They weren’t always cabinets - sometimes they were whole rooms.

For the most part, they were the personal collections of the nobility, the academics, or the very wealthy. The average person had neither the space, nor the connections, nor the disposable income to acquire enough of a collection.

So what was in a Cabinet of Curiosities? Anything, really - anything that attempted to capture the wonder of the natural world, or of historical or religious significance. It also included personal art collections – paintings, sculptures and the like.

The biggest ones were primarily a collection of preserved animals and skeletons, fossils and other preserved things. At this early era of scientific exploration, the supernatural and mythological boundaries of science were vague, and many cabinets contained items such as “unicorn horns” and evidence of other supernatural beasties.

The cabinets as they once were don’t really exist; they’ve become museums. The nature of the collections have changed as well; they’ve been broken up, divided and sent to their respective “places”. The animals are now at the museums of natural history, the art is at the art museums and so it goes.

In general, it’s better for the common good. These collections are laid out, clearly labeled, and placed for the whole world to see. Still, I can’t help but think that some of the wonder has gone away. Is it time for the personal wunderkammer to make a comeback?

Your Assignment

Consider this: you are setting out to create your own cabinet of curiosities. It can be a cabinet, or a room in your house. It’s a place to assemble all the items of wonder that you’d like to show off to a visitor. This includes your personal collections, things you take pride in and things you think people should know about.

What would be in there?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Something Old, Something New

Friday night was an awesome visit out to A-squared to connect with a few very special people, known in this forum as Zilla and Writer Mom. We had a few drinks, and caught up a bit. (More on this meeting is here).

Saturday was on of those days that made me feel like I was in college again. We met up with a bunch of fellow Broncos at a local sports bar (the one a few doors down from the previously mentioned transvestite boutique) to have some beer and chicken wings, and to watch the Broncos play in their first bowl game for the first since the mid-1600s.

We watched the Broncos get beat down and have their asses handed to them, then watched them rally to bring it back to three-point game, only to blow it in the final seconds by missing the field goal that would have taken it to overtime.

After the game, several of us went back to our house for one of those lost Saturdays that were the norm in college. At that point, 9 hours of beer, pizza, video games and bonfires ensued. The day was thoroughly wasted; I can't think of a better way to do it.

Sunday was date day. The DIA was packed; it was the last day of the Annie Leibowitz exhibit, and tickets quickly sold out.

It was a beautiful exhibit of her photos of American musicians, including blues masters, country musicians, rappers, rockers, gospel singers and a few others thrown in.

Leibowitz has a knack for knowing the perfect picture; so many of her photos were taken before or after the actual shoot, when the moment was perfect. It was beautiful.

There was a room of Detroit musicians as well. There were unbelievably powerful pictures of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, John Lee Hooker and a few more musicians with Detroit connections.

Then the show closed with the White Stripes. The photo didn't belong in the show at all. It was a goofy promotional photo from a Rolling Stone shoot I think. Whereas all her other images seemed to capture her subjects in private moments, when they were being themselves, this photo broke up the flow of the show. I can't help but think the folks at the DIA said, "Oh no, if you're doing this show, you simply must have a picture of the White Stripes!" It didn't fit, and it didn't belong.

After this thoroughly perfect weekend that made me feel all young and stuff, I had to wreck it by a.) smacking my hand of the dresser in the bedroom, messing up my wrist enough to wear an ace bandage for a few days, and b.) going to the dentist and finding out that an old filling has cracked and needs to be replaced with a crown.

I'm falling apart, and I don't feel as young today as I did this weekend.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Accademia Treatment

(This was supposed to post Saturday... rather than work to update. I'm shooting it up now to buy time...)

In Florence, there are two primary galleries. The Uffizi, which I mentioned here, and the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze. Both are known for lines that can stretch for hours, so we were encouraged to book our tickets in advance.

The guidebook gave me a number for a touchtone ticket reservation service in Italy. Due to the time difference, I got up at 7 in the A.M. and called the service first thing. After I made my way through the menus, I was transferred to an Italian customer service rep. The guide had assured me that the service was automated and in English. I hadn't spoken a single word to anyone yet that day, in any language, so the rep was greeted by my clearing my throat, and sleepily saying something that translates as "I would like... tickets... two tickets... museums... please thank you." She said something unintelligible, then there was hold music, and I was greeted by the voice of a cheerful British woman who took me through the process.

We were planning on a day of galleries, so the Accademia was booked for 8:30 AM, when it opened, and the Uffizi for noon.

We got to the Accademia at 8:15, and there was nobody there. We stood in front of the door until they opened it, and walked in.

We were treated to this:

Words can't describe how this statue is so massive and lifelike. The veins on the back of the hand, the muscles in the legs. Michelangelo was truly a master.

And we had it all to ourselves. Breakfast with David. We stood there for quite some time. Within a half hour, the place was packed, but for a few minutes, it belonged to just us.

We've taken to calling that the Accademia Treatment. On Sunday, we're going to the DIA for the Annie Leibowitz exhibit. I booked our tickets for right when the museum opens, hoping we'll get the Accademia Treatment again. Then, as we do on our museum date days, we'll go to a restaurant, get some food and a bottle of wine, and talk about art. Somewhere along the way, we'll solve the world's problems too. That's our system, and it seems to work.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Florence, As seen from Il Duomo

Far away
This ship is taking me far away
Far away from the memories
Of the people who care if I live or die.
-Muse "Starlight"

That's one of my favorite songs right now (You can here it here), and while we were in Italy, that verse was absolutely perfect. Couple that with the fact that it was a song that popped up all over the place while we were there, and it becomes the theme for the trip.

Music bridges a lot of barriers. One day in Florence, we were wandering the streets (as we are prone to do whether or not we're on vacation; it's the Gypsy in me, I guess). It was a cool morning, and the Florence marathon was going on. We had just cheered on the leading hand cyclists as they roared by on the cobblestones, and ducked into a cafe for an espresso and a panini.

I stumbed my way through the order, starting with my traditional opening phrase, "Mi dispiace, parlo pochissimo di italiano." This is a very rough, grammatically incorrect way of saying, "I'm sorry, I only speak a little Italian." It always got the point across, though, and bought me patience from shopkeepers, concierges, deli workers and the like.

After we sat at the table (which costs more than standing at the bar, but is worth it when you're walking all day), "Starlight" came on the radio. I was absentmindedly singing along, relishing that verse, when I looked up and made eye contact with the barista. She was singing along as well. We smiled at one another, we were both Muse fans and music fans.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It takes all kinds...

It's even better than when I saw Jackass 2 on opening night... tonight I'm seeing it at the Brew and View!

I am more than slightly stoked about that one.

I am a big Johnny Knoxville fan, so much so I caught the Dukes of Hazard last night, and I am embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed it thoroughly - at least the car chases and crashes, which was a decent portion of the film. (Although, in my defense, I was running a fever and massively doped up on cold medicine. That may have played a major role.) There was a definite Blues Brother homage going on. If you happen to catch it, make sure to miss about the first hour, though. It's better that way.

I still haven't shaken the disease that wages war on my frail frame, but that won't stop me from attending the Brew and View tonight. No sir. It may limit my consumption of the brew portion, though. We'll see.

There's some weirdness going on in my town. I'm not referring to the car horn that mysteriously went off on my street for about 10 minutes last night, although that was rather annoying. No, I'm talking about the guy who may be going to prison for life because he likes to have sex with mannequins.

Ferndale is a very liberal town; we have a thriving art community, a large gay population (and a recently passed human rights ordinance preventing discrimination against said population), we even have a boutique for transvestites, right by the local sports bar. So, a guy with a thing for mannequins wouldn't normally cause too much of a stir.

This guy is looking at life imprisonment because he's too cheap to buy his own mannequins. He has a history of stealing other people's from their stores:

Dotson was arrested Oct. 9 after police say he smashed a window at a cleaning-supply company to get at a female mannequin dressed in a black and white French maid's uniform. He had been out of prison for less than a week.

Dotson was arrested in Ferndale in July 2000 and later convicted for breaking and entering at a women's clothing shop to get at a mannequin in a pink dress with bobbed hair.

Ferndale police also arrested Dotson in 1993 after finding him in an alley behind a woman's store with three lingerie-clad mannequins. He also has similar convictions in Detroit and suburban Oak Park
. Story

It's too bad really. If the guy could have kept it on the down low, and purchased and partied with his own dummies, nobody would have known or cared. Instead he had to do this, and make a bad name for the many dummy-lovers who are probably out there, not hurting anyone, doing it quietly in the privacy of their own homes.

For the record, I am being proactive in case this incriminating photo shows up after I report on this story (and because ST hates it so much), this photo of ST and I with a mannequin is unrelated. She remains unmolested to the best of our knowledge...

Also, did you hear about the UFO that buzzed O'Hare? The FAA is dismissing that one, but I'm not so sure. Something was there, a bunch of people saw it. I don't know, what do you think? Could this explain lost luggage? Or the reasoning behind the fact that Delta Airlines charges you for drinks on their international flights!?!?! Take that, Delta, you cheap-asses!

Sorry, that's the cold medicine talking...

And because I'm feeling silly today, here are some silly signs from Italy...

Ummm... this guy is walking, not climbing...

Falling down the stairs area...

Run to the exit!


This one is... well you get it.

Heh heh, this one is just funny...

And, in case you're not sure what to do when you get in there...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Out with the cold, in with the flu...

How does that work? The way you start the New Year is the way you'll finish it?

I hope not.

Don't get me wrong, my New Year's celebration was very pleasant and very laid back. It took place at a cottage up north. There were loved ones around, a bit of bowling at a local dive down the street, followed by beer and champagne and hugs and kisses at midnight.

But it was also marred by illness. (Isn't "marred" a great word?)

Nicole was laid pretty low by a wicked cold, and I was just starting in that direction. It's really hitting me today.

So, here's to hoping that the rest of my year will be happy and healthy.

And I hope yours is, too…

And now, as I wax nostalgic for the joys of last year, a bit more Italy:

Trattoria ZaZa

As a rule, Nicole and I do not eat at the same place twice while on vacation. Trattoria ZaZa is the one exception we've made. Pasta with wild boar sauce, steak in truffle sauce, hearty peasant-style soups. It just had to be done twice.

And to eat outside in an ancient square, in November! Truly perfect.

Plus you couldn't beat our dining companions. Very friendly.

This guy was playing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow"…

Another wonderful experience in Florence was The Café' Perseo. It sat in the Piazza della Signoria.

This statue of Perseo (Perseus) beheading the Medusa sat across the way. Perseus is one of Nicole's all-time favorite classic heroes. Hence, "Clash of the Titans" is one of her all-time favorite moves.

Anyway, this square has so much history. It's where the original David stood (there's now a "fake David" there, the original is in the Academia). And this sculpture garden still stands there, with beautiful statues, like Perseus, and this one.

The musculature and the curves… it just amazes me.

This square is also where Savonarola was burned at the stake.

Savonarola was one of the worst villains in Italian history, in my opinion. He basically attempted to destroy the Renaissance, and was the primary force behind the Bonfire of the Vanities, which lead to the destruction of countless beautiful pieces of art.

Botticelli himself burned many of his own pieces. I don't know whether he was brainwashed by Savonarola's movement or simply wanted to ensure he had a future career painting "properly respectful" religious imagery, but it was emblematic of this dark period in Italian history.

And as we sat in the Café Perseo, drinking a bottle of wine, taking all of this in, we occasionally would look over to where a simple plaque in the cobblestones shows where he was publicly executed, and say "Take that, Savonarola."

It's interesting, to know that there always have been, and always will be, religious zealots who want to inflict their own personal crusade upon everyone else's lives, whether it be bans on art or finding other ways to subject people to their own personal moralities, no matter how distorted, displaced or downright sick they may be.

And yes, if I was a bit vague, I was referring to our present government there. I do believe that, allowed to run unchecked, Dubya and his Evangelical buddies would have no qualms about a modern day bonfire of the vanities. Although in addition to your personal secular works of art, you'd also see your rights to privacy and reproductive freedoms burnt in the piazza, as well as many other things you consider inalienable rights.

But I digress. I'm good at that.

On another digression, Nicole and I signed up for Iceman again this year. Registration only opened yesterday, and yesterday afternoon, when I went to sign up, there were already 1,000 people registered. As of 6:30 pm today, 1,990 are registered; it will be full in moments now.

The first year I did Iceman, it didn't fill up until May. So, suffice it to say it's popularity is increasing.