31 August 2005

Katrina & the Waves

I've visited New Orleans twice, and I loved it both times. This hurricane business is some serious shit. I hope the area can rebuild and recover -- I wanna visit the French Quarter many more times.

Gas prices are skyrocketing due to Katrina, which is having a direct impact on Your Humble Narrator, but I still can't help but chuckle when I see stuff like this (taken from an Indiana news story not worth reprinting in its entirety for me to make the point to which I will get, eventually):
Adam Kirby of Nineveh stopped for gas Wednesday at a Marathon station on Indianapolis’ south side where regular unleaded was $3.19 a gallon. He said he was fed up with the high prices.

“I need gas but it’s outrageous. I work in Indianapolis but you can’t stop driving if you want to make money,” Kirby said, adding that he fills up his car’s tank about two times a week.

As I'm sure you're all aware, Nineveh, Indiana is about 36 miles south of Indianapolis. To Mr. Kirby, I says: "Tough shit, buddy. If you don't like spending so much money on gas, either move closer to Indianapolis or find a job in Nineveh."

I work with several people who are in the same boat as Adam Kirby. Last I checked, we work in downtown Louisville, but they live 20, 30, 40, 75 miles away. Ever since the gas prices went nuts, all they do is whine, cry and bitch about how much it costs them to drive to and from work now that gas is so expensive. As an added bit of schadenfreude for me, more than a couple of the yahoos with whom I work drive SUVs, eight-cylinder pickup trucks and other environment-hostile vehicular monstrosities, because, you know, one needs all that torque, horsepower and cargo room when one is driving the whelps to soccer practice. Man, it's a bitch when the chickens come home to roost, isn't it?

24 August 2005

Haunted (When the Minutes Drag)

I'm slowly, surely making my way through the CD version of Chuck Palahniuk's latest "novel," Haunted. I say "novel" because it's really a bunch of short stories with a narrative built around them. As mentioned earlier, this book has gotten some fairly shitty reviews (including a downright hostile one from my favorite magazine writer). As so often happens, when an artistic work -- be it a movie, album, TV show or novel -- gets uniformly glowing reviews, I'm usually disappointed when I finally get around to watching/listening to/reading it. Conversely, when something is almost universally reviled, I think, "How bad can it be?"

On that note, I says Haunted is not as bad as the playa-hater critics would have you believe. A couple of the stories have clumsy endings, but by and large it's kept me entertained, so I don't regret the money spent nor the time invested in the work.

However, the writer's retreat plot device is growing more and more ridiculous and over the top as I make my way through the 11-disc set. I like to think that this was intentional on Palahniuk's part. Overall, though, I'm enjoying it. It has to be said that Haunted features "Guts," a story that, legend has it, caused upwards of 60 people to puke, faint or otherwise physically react when Palahniuk would read it at book signings. Months before I ever thought about buying Haunted I was able to track it down quite easily online, but alas, it didn't make me vomit when I read it; nevertheless, it's a great story, as are "The Nightmare Box," "Swan Song" and "Dog Years."

One bum note: In "Ritual," Palahniuk engages in a bit of onomatopoeia with the noise one makes when they're dragging their finger across their throat in the universal pantomime for "cutting your throat." He describes it as the sound you make when you're hawking up a lung oyster from the back of your throat. If I had to spell it, I would go for something like KKKKRRRRRIIIKKKK -- not pronounced "crick," mind you. Palahniuk used "Sha-rook." And the actor who performs the story says, several times, "SHAH-ruk!" Which lends a story that is supposed to be cynical and morbid an air of unintentional comedy: the noise represents [spoiler alert!] someone getting their throat slit, as well as some guy accidentally slicing off his pecker, but with the nitwit actor bellowing "SHAH-ruk!" in a cluelessly deadpan fashion, it completely spoils the effect. This is one case where the printed page is preferable to its aural equivalent.

18 August 2005

The House is Rockin'

Saw Cheap Trick at the glamorous Kentucky State Fair tonight. It was a free show, but of course, one had to pay to get into the fair itself and pay for parking. However, since I am a well-connected media mogul, I paid exactly nothing to see the show, so I couldn't lose.

If memory serves, this was the sixth time I've seen Cheap Trick live and they always put on a good show. I've liked Cheap Trick since I was around 10 or 11 years old, but naturally, I went through a phase right around the time I started high school where I fronted like I was too cool to like the music I enjoyed as a youngster, Cheap Trick included. Amusingly enough, I probably listen to Cheap Trick much more often these days than I do most of the hip stuff I liked in high school (R.E.M., I'm looking in your direction).

So anyhoo, the Tricksters played a good selection of songs, even if the 70-minute set seemed a little brief. The best Cheap Trick gig I ever saw was probably in 2000 at Headliners right here in Louisville, but before we moved here. (We actually got lost trying to find I-64 thanks to Mapquest, but that's a story for another time...).

Set list:
Hello There
Big Eyes
If You Want My Love
Southern Girls
Best Friend
I Want You to Want Me
I Know What I Want
Never Had a Lot to Lose
The Flame
In the Street (a.k.a. That '70s Song)*
Dream Police

*This is a cover of a Big Star song that serves as the theme to That '70s Show, heavily edited and in my opinion, somewhat ruined. While my judgment is somewhat clouded by the fact that 1) That '70s Show is a pretty wretched sitcom and 2) you cannot improve on Big Star, ever, I still don't care for this tune. It's not easy having standards as exacting as mine...

Carrot Top Can Kick Your Ass

This is both disgusting and hilarious at the same time. Who knew America's favorite prop comic/AT&T spokesman/walking punchline was so beefy? Overcompensate much?

I've interviewed Carrot Top -- twice -- and he was very nice and professional each time... but I still don't think he's very funny. Mr. Show did a couple of brief but painfully accurate parodies of Carrot Top ("Blueberry Head") that said everything you need to know about him but were afraid to ask.

What really makes the photo come alive is that 1) his pubes are visible and 2) Carrot Top obviously does a lot of manscaping down there. Buy some pants that fit, dude.

15 August 2005

Dateline: Birmingham

We went to a "couples shower" for Tony and Sarah in Birmingham, Alabammy this weekend. The six-hour drive was made tolerable with a well-chosen audiobook. (I have no idea why this novel has gotten such hateful reviews; I like what I heard on the trip -- of course, there are still five CDs to go, so maybe it all falls apart at the end).

Birmingham seems like a decent enough town. The shower was held in the residence of the parents of Sarah's sister's best friend (??) in one of those hoity-toity gated subdivisions. Nice people, but it has to be said: Money can't buy taste. Still, I'm glad I didn't wear my "PRML SCRM MTHR FCKR" shirt that day.

After the shower, a mess of us went to a bar called the Garage, which was pretty nice, except the screwdriver I ordered tasted like ass, so I switched to Woodchuck. Then we went to the house where we were staying. I should've made Tony stop at a liquor store on the way over, because all they had to drink was Jack Daniel's but nothing to mix. JD No. 7 is fine as an ingredient, but on its own? Once you've had Buffalo Trace or Maker's Mark, well, that Tennessee shit loses much of its appeal. I don't know how Lemmy can stand it.

12 August 2005

It Was Worth a Shot

The search for Bad Ronald continues. This time, I e-mailed John Vance, Jack Vance's son. I explained my predicament and I told him I would pay a nice price if Mr. Vance happened to have a few extra copies of his out-of-print books lying around the attic or whatever. I figured I'd gladly send the writer $40 and let him keep the profit, rather than some internet price-gouger.

Here's his response:
Dear Jay,

Sorry to say we don't stock my father's books for sale. I wish we had a few more copies of Bad Ronald, considering the prices that are out there :-/.

Wish I could help!
Best wishes
John Vance

Oh, well. At least he wrote back promptly.

08 August 2005

Alibris Sucks Ass

A response from Alibris, regarding my noble quest for Bad Ronald:

Thank you for contacting Alibris.

I am sorry, we are not able to make any changes to the price which is mentioned on our web site.

The practice in the out-of-print and rare book, music and movie trade is that, because these are secondary market goods, the owners decide what to charge for them. As in other similar markets, there is no "right" price for any one item, yet the diverse knowledge of a particular title by sellers is why prices tend to vary.

Prices differ because of all kinds of factors, including the condition of the item and/or dust jacket or cover, or the collectability of a particular item. Also the availability of a title is a factor in pricing used books, music and movies. Many of the sellers in our worldwide network independent sellers also operate stores where the prices may be determined by the seller's familiarity with the local and/or global market.

Please let me know if you require any further assistance.

Alibris Customer Service

The patient, talking-to-a-retarded-child tone of the message is a nice touch, but despite all the "worldwide network of independent sellers" and "secondary market goods" jargon, the basic message is, "We're gonna squeeze $84 out of some hapless collector eventually, even if you didn't fall for it" and also, "Instead of selling this book to you now, we'd rather wait X number of years until some fool coughs up our ridiculous $84 asking price."

FYI: This is the exact same book I looked at around Christmas of 2003. I guess Alibris subscribes to the "Cut Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face" school of capitalism. Or is it the "Two in the Bush? Fuck This Bird in Our Hand" theory of economics?

GSN Doesn't Suck As Much Ass As Previously Mentioned

Amazing Race is back on track. I checked a few message boards and found that GSN is trying to make a two-hour episode land on Saturday or some such horseshit. I think they should have, like, mentioned this fact in their promos or on the web site, but whatever.

07 August 2005

GSN Sucks Ass

GSN (Game Show Network) is rerunning each season of The Amazing Race at 9 p.m. seven nights a week. Since I didn't start watching TAR until Season 6, I was positively delighted -- delighted! -- that I would get to catch up on earlier episodes.

We stayed in last night and as 9 o'clock rolled around, I flipped over to GSN for what should have been Episode 3 of Season 3; instead, we got Episode 2, which had aired last night. What the fuck?

In addition to the 9 o'clock showings, GSN runs TAR at midnight, too, so I tuned in for that showing just in case and, once again, the wrong episode was shown. Damn you, GSN!

I realize that missing an episode of a reality show/game show hybrid is a pretty minor inconvenience in the grand scheme of things, but I'm still pretty pissed off. What probably happened was some weekend tape jockey at GSN grabbed the wrong episode off the shelf without bothering to see if it was the correct one. I mean, they run shit like Lingo and Extreme Dodgeball 10 times a day; why couldn't they have screwed up one of those, instead of TAR? Now I'm worried that tonight, they'll run Episode 4.

03 August 2005

Information Superhighway Robbery

Once upon a time, I saw a made-for-TV movie called Bad Ronald. It was a thriller in which a nerdy, unpopular teen named Ronald accidentally kills a girl in his neighborhood. His overprotective – and more-than-slightly deranged – mother comes up with a plan to hide him in their house until things blow over. They wall up a spare bathroom and Ronald lives in the cell-like room, with his mother sending in food and toiletries. Things go awry when his mother dies. Ronnie stays in the secret room, working on a novel (!?!) and slowly going insane. Meanwhile, a family with at least one teenaged daughter buys the house and moves in. Things move to their inevitable conclusion.

I missed the original airing of this flick but I saw a syndicated showing when I was about 10 and I haven’t seen it since, but I remember the story and its sad, pathetic “hero” very well. Several years later I discovered that Bad Ronald was based on a novel of the same name by SF author Jack Vance (written under his "literary" moniker, John Holbrook Vance). Naturally, the book is long out of print, but I try to keep my eyes open.

Now, used copies are readily available through various book sellers on the web. Problem is, they all want exorbitant prices for the books: $126 for a paperback? $202.95? Where is the logic in that? I want to read it, but not that badly. I mean, the book is out of print for a reason -- it probably didn't sell very well and it's hardly a famous title. I've e-mailed a few of these sellers to see if they'll come down -- WAY down -- on the price. Why sit around waiting for the highly unlikely day when somebody shells out $200 for a long-forgotten cult novel from 1973 when somebody is offering $25 right now?

Barring that, I suppose I could see if the local public library has a copy I can check out.