Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Thousand Words Around Ann Arbor: On Easter Sunday I grabbed my camera and headed into downtown Ann Arbor and the campus area to take some shots. Of what? Well, anything that caught my eye. It was a nice way to spend a couple of hours. The city was darn near empty; only the little restaurants of Asian lineage were open. (I was deeply saddened to see that Steve's Lunch, my favorite Korean diner, has apparently passed away. No Be Bim Bop for me.)

I took dozens of pics -- actually filled up the SD card in my camera for the first time ever. I may share more later, but one thing I came to realize as I was looking them over is that Ann Arbor has some of the creepiest statues I have ever seen. Really creepy. At first glance they seem OK, but when you really look at them, well….

This fountain is normal enough. Seems a bit clunky and awkward maybe, but not too bad. Then you look at the frightened little kid with the bowl haircut melding with the fishman and you think, uh, must be drugs.

The sea nymph riding the carp seems a little childish, but nothing too strange. But look at the face of the nymph and tell me that doesn't scream of autism.

Most disturbing of all is this oddly proportioned "rampant unicorn". Almost Dali-esque. But look at the rider. She seems to be growing out of, or melting into, the unicorn. And she doesn’t seem to be liking it. In fact she appears to be almost numb, as if being semi-morphed with a rampant Dali-esque beast is her accepted fate for all eternity. Nice subject matter for a garden statue. That is, if you are in HELL and it is the garden of SATAN.

These are the sculptural equivalent of fairly tales like Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel; seemingly innocent stuff until you look deeper. I'd lay odds that there are a minimum of three Ann Arbor based artists that have created works entitled "It Puts The Lotion In The Basket" somewhere in their collection.

Did I mention the Hash Bash is this weekend? Yep, this is where I live.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Spin Me Right Round: You may not believe this, but I just got back from four nights in Vegas. No really, I did. You see I was so far behind in my life that the only logical course of action was to pack up and head to Vegas. This time Kate and HRH Miss Anna flew out to meet me (it was HRH's Spring Break) and it was nice to be able to impart some of my hard earned Vegas wisdom, since it was their first trip.

With Miss Anna in tow, I did very little gambling. A brief blackjack session at Dr. Han's Fortress of Evil the Imperial Palace, and a shorter one at the TI, was all I could really manage. No poker. No sports betting. There was much good food, however. Wolfgang Puck's Postrio and Chinois, Emeril's Delmonico, Tom Moloney’s Aquaknox; but I saw no reason to alter my stance that Todd English's Olives is still the best of the strip. (How’s that for celebrity chef pretensiousness?)

We managed a brief, but nerve-wracking (for the ladies), visit to the Top of The World restaurant at the Stratosphere, caught a showing of We Will Rock You, an energetic, supercilious musical based on the songs of Queen, over at Paris, and I got an Ashiatsu massage (the one where they walk on your back) at Canyon Ranch, and a highly civilized, straight-razor shave at Truefitt and Hill.

I ducked away one night to bar hop with a couple of other folks I knew in town. We managed to hit at least four nightclubs, including the terrific Mix at the top of THEhotel at Mandalay Bay -- sweet, expensive place; incredible view of The Strip; not very crowded (on Sunday night anyway) -- after which I had a bracing and beautiful 3AM walk all the way up The Strip back to the Venetian where we were staying.

Don’t know if I'll be able to write this one up fully. I may do a show review for Blogcritics, possibly a hotel review for Hotel Chatter, or maybe nothing. I still haven’t gotten my last New Orleans trip documented as I promised, to say nothing of writing fiction.

Still far, far behind. Guess I better go on another trip.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Using My Rare Breath to Ramble: Still no let up; it'll be a while before I get back to normal. The only encouraging thing is that Sunday is the first day of Spring. I will have made numerous trips this winter in attempts to find some warmth and each time I ended up with tepid temps and sporadic sunshine. Never again. The lesson: Go Further South -- Caribbean, Mexico, or even Hawaii if I can swing it. No more of this namby-pamby stuff.

Anyway, I did manage to write up some quick comments on the Ritz-Carlton for Hotel Chatter (I appear there under the handle of dzot), where I stayed all too briefly while I was "down The Quartah." Do take a look. Don't worry, you'll still get a full write-up on Nawlins, this is just a preview. I also should mention a review I wrote previously about the hotel where I stayed in South Beach last; can’t remember if I linked it up before.

Right at this moment, Heat is playing on one of the 978 channels I get on digital cable. It contains a famous scene where Al Pacino (the cop) and Robert DeNiro (the crook) and have a cup of coffee in a diner -- two sworn adversaries respectfully sizing each other up. It’s a famous scene because it's the only time DeNiro and Pacino shared a scene in their entire careers (although now that they are both backsliding into self-parody it could easily happen again). The scene itself is not that good. The dialog is uninspired, but the two actors do their typically excellent job of lending it weight. There has always been some debate as to whether they were actually together during the shooting of this sequence since there is never a shot where both faces are in the screen. Every shot is an angle on one of them from behind the other so you see the back of the head of one and the face of the other. My guess is they were together but I can't really say definitively. In any event, the movie is stylish but the subject matter is pretty standard cop story where we have a neglected cop spouse, we have a crook with a sliver of a lonely heart, and we dwell on the parallel personality traits between cop and crook. It's about as good as that kind of movie can get. Worth watching, but it wouldn’t it have been nicer if DeNiro and Pacino worked together in something more dramatically significant?

BTW, I've never thought as highly of Pacino as others. Any time he has been in proximity of DeNiro he gets his clock cleaned. In The Godfather II Pacino acted like a zombie except for bursts of anger. DeNiro remarkably took a character that spoke very little English and whose older self was pre-defined by another actor (Brando) and made himself into a perfect early version of that character. DeNiro in GII, Raging Bull, Goodfellas -- the guy was absolutely incomparable.

Good grief. Why am I going on for paragraphs about irrelevant crap? I need to get to sleep. I'll check back in a few days.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Falling Falling Falling: Falling further behind, that is. Of course, that’s because I have spent the last few days in New Orleans. A full accounting will be forthcoming. It started out unexpectedly Ritzy and ended with me stranded in Atlanta. But for the moment I cannot even get it together enough to make a list of everything that URGENTLY MUST BE DONE now that I am back. I hope to use the weekend to return to my usual backlogged state. Posts are likely to be rare (er) for a while.

One note before I beg off; I actually left Bourbon Street early on Sunday night so I could catch the season premiere of Deadwood, which has become the most amazing show on TV -- better than The Sopranos or Six Feet Under. That’s a flash judgment based on the season premiere; I will make full and definitive evaluation at the end of the season. If you haven’t seen Deadwood, go rent the first season (or watch it on InDemand) then beg, borrow or steal your friend’s recordings to catch up on this season from the premiere.

(Notice, I still haven’t gotten my fancy-schmancy DVR integrated into my lifestyle yet, or I could have stayed on Bourbon Street as late as I wanted and caught up when I got back.)

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Toob Uber Alles: Let me just say Comcast digital cable is exceedingly sweet, as are two-tuner DVRs, both of which I have had since Friday. Since then I have:
  • Watched two delightfully cheesy movies. One: the bizarre cult horror film Suspiria. Not scary -- often amateurish and silly -- but oddly mesmerizing. I was surprised to discover that I could be mesmerized by cheese. Behold the power... Two: The Silencers, a goofy '60s James Bond knock off starring Dean Martin as Matt Helm. How I miss the days women were all voluptuous and dumb, and men were unrepentant about their coarse sexuality. Nowadays that only exists in porn.

  • Seen three great movies from years back. One: Hope and Glory, a fond and funny remembrance of growing up during the Nazi blitz of London (how's that for an ironic pretense). It was hell for the grown-ups, but a blast for the kids. Two: Grosse Pointe Blank which is run many times a year on cable but always hacked worse than Jamie Lee Curtis in a slasher flick. This was the first time I ever saw it untouched and uninterrupted. Fabulous. Worth the monthly fee all by itself. Three: another cult favorite, Clerks. Rarely shown on TV because it is virtually impossible to edit out the naughty bits. Brilliantly raises juvenile toilet humor to high art. You can tell it's art because it's in black & white.

  • Seen two movies that weren't terrible, but I'm glad I didn't pay to see them in the theatre. One: a curious, dark and surrealistic effort from the Coen bros. called, Barton Fink. Not entirely sure what to make of it, but it was very stylish. It featured a brilliant lead performance by John Turturro, who has to be one of the most malleable actors around today. Two: Gangs of New York, which was poor Scorsese, thereby making it about average for everyone else. Too long and overwrought, and uncharacteristically miscast.

  • Recorded shows like Carnivale, Iron Chef America, Nero Wolfe reruns and Curb Your Enthusiasm reruns in the background, while watching other shows in the foreground. Whoa.

And coolest of all, if at any point in my viewing, even during a live broadcast, I needed to use the facilities, I just pressed pause. But even if I didn't press pause, I could just rewind if I missed something. It was like have a time machine localized around the TV set. Damn, I wish I could do that for other parts of my life. Imagine being able to hit rewind at the blackjack table. And how fun would it be to have a pause button on Bourbon St.?