31 August 2007

To Do online magazine

The Ledger debuted an online version of To Do this week, and it went online yesterday. Not sure if I'll be the co-host every week or not. If so, I'll probably need a haircut (so buzz off -- no pun intended -- all you haters).

You can watch the video here. And turn up the volume to hear video guru Joe Paull's vocal debut at the start. Or, uh, don't.

30 August 2007

Myers vs. Homer

Tried to go see the sneak preview of Rob Zombie's "Halloween" tonight, after the Ledger was invited by Carmike. They neglected to warn us that a certain local radio station had invited 700 of its closest friends, and I and 500 others didn't get in.

I've covered some of this turf before, so I won't dwell on the incompetence. Rather, I'll tell you about salvaging the evening, which was supposed to be date night anyway.

So I swung back by the house to get Jenn and go see "The Simpsons Movie." We squeaked in at the end of the previews, and then I repeatedly peed my pants. I think my favorite moment was when "President" Swarzenegger tells the EPA head "I was elected to lead, not read." Everyone else apparently's already seen this movie, as we had the place to ourselves. Wishing I'd bought the $3 copy I saw on the markets in Cambo now... Stupid pact. Thinks it's so smart.

29 August 2007

Pieces of hate

Keith Richards -- who, to my younger readers, is the guitarist for the Rolling Stones, which is one of your parents' favorite bands -- has demanded that a Swedish newspaper apologize for slamming the band's recent performance over yonder. Here's the AP story.

Apparently a columnist implied that Richards was "superdrunk" onstage.

"There were 56,000 people in Ullevi stadium who bought a ticket to our concert -- and experienced a completely different show than the one you 'reviewed,'" the pirate-model wrote in a letter to the columnist, urr-lie in the morning. "How dare you cheapen the experience for them -- and for the hundreds of thousands of other people across Sweden who weren't at Ullevi and have only your 'review' to go on."

And then he belched, let out a hardy "Yarr!" and finished his fifth of whiskey, I'll wager. Co-worker Jeff the Tall suggested Richards' point of contention was that he was merely drunk, and not "superdrunk."

28 August 2007

Home improvement lessons

Things I've learned on my latest home improvement project (which is, to gut and completely renovate our guest bath):

*Just because a water supply line and a drain line for a clawfoot tub both claim to be finished in "oil rubbed bronze" doesn't mean they match. Even if they're from the same manufacturer.

*Tools labeled paint scrapers might not actually be "paint removers."

*The theory that a project will take three times as long and cost twice as much as you figure still underestimates time and money. Sometimes by half. Even when you're doing the work yourself.

*Kilz primer is possibly the densest material known to mankind, a fact which is evidenced by trying to pour the stuff out of one of the hernia-inducing five-gallon buckets.

*Never belch while wearing a dust mask. Ever.

*The toilet really looks OK in the guest room, against the wall.

Before and after photos will be forthcoming, but not until we get to the after. And it may be a while yet.

27 August 2007

Owen Wilson: SMiLE

So, Sorich's theory is that Owen Wilson's attempted suicide on Sunday was based on his June breakup with Kate Hudson. Maybe, but her previous relationship was responsible for one of the best one-liners I've ever heard.

John Stewart was interviewing Chris Robinson, the Black Crowes' lead singer and her former hubby. And Stewart essentially was saying, "So, you and Kate Hudson. What gives? Because you and I, we're not good-looking guys." Robinson laughs and says, "I don't know, dude. But I'm prepared to see how far I can coast on personality."

The answer is apparently six years.

Take care, Owen. And don't forget to find humor in the absurd, which is something you've always been good at.

26 August 2007

Sunday Spins

Spent all day yesterday scraping seven thick layers of paint off a door and door frame in the bathroom I'm remodeling. Today, it's the window and window frame. I'd like to find the person who spread a layer of oil-based paint overtop six layers of acrylic in this house and kick his/her derriere up between his/her shoulder blades. Speaking of shoulder blades, mine are killing me today...

So some music is in order.

Jenn made today's Sunday Spin picks, and the theme is soundtracks. My friend Elizabeth and I were talking about a mutual buddy one time, and how he'd been pushing a new soundtrack on me. "Yeah, he's the kind of guy who has a lot of soundtracks," she said. It was an indictment, as if to really say, "He can't decide which artists he likes, so he buys the sampler pack."

Occasionally the soundtrack transcends, though, as in the case of the formative Disc One listed below. So anyway, here's the lineup for today's shuffle:

* "Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction": I'm already anticipating the Maria McKee track.

* "The X-Files": The movie soundtrack, not the show. The show was better than the movie, but the music is better from the movie soundtrack. There's William Burroughs with REM performing "(STAR) Me Kitten," for instance.

* "Hedwig and the Angry Inch": Fantastic film. Classic. Go rent it, so long as you're not squeamish about gender roles and musicals. Hell, go rent it even if you are.

* "Until the End of the World": Wim Wenders head ain't right. This is a pretty good show, but really long. And the music -- U2's anthemic theme especially -- is better than the movie, I think.

* "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet": Claire Danes is purty.

23 August 2007

Wiped out

When it comes to consumption of toilet paper, just like in everything else, America apparently leads the way. Go us!

According to this AP story on the unveiling of a new electronic t.p. dispenser, "Americans typically use twice as much toilet paper as Europeans -- as much as an arm's length each pull." This new dispenser will issue just five squares when the user reaches for paper. Two-ply, at least, we hope. ... Now, when I was in 'bodia (thanks Will!), spray-nozzle bidets were all the rage. But most guesthouse bathrooms offered toilet paper dispensers too -- provided you bought your own roll of paper. But that's neither here nor derriere.

What's frustratingly not clear from the device's illustration, shown at right, is whether the roll delivers the paper overhand or underhand, which might have helped us answer that age-old question once and for all.

"Toilet Tisha, damn we miss ya
Toilet Tisha is the issue
Damn we miss ya
Toilet Tisha
Damn we miss ya"
-- OutKast, "Toilet Tisha"

21 August 2007

Dirty Potter, Book 4

No time to waste, since I've kept y'all waiting so long for this next lesson. Naughty, naughty J.K. Rowling's fourth Harry Potter book grew to an enormous 730+ pages, so let's get right to the dirty bits, shall we? Again, I'm using the American edition of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

Turn ye to:

* Page 48: (Dudley) was kneeling beside the coffee table, and he was gagging and sputtering on a foot-long, purple, slimy thing that was protruding from his mouth.

* Page 60: The source of the commotion was revealed as they entered the garden, and saw that Bill and Charlie both had their wands out...

* Page 374: "Hermione!" said Ron, cottoning on. "You're trying to rope us into that spew stuff again!"
Followed, on the next page, with: She seized his arm again, pulled him in front..., stretched out her forefinger, and tickled the huge green pear. It began to squirm...

* Page 458: As Harry had no idea how long a bath he would need to work out he secret of the golden egg, he decided to do it at night, when he would be able to take as much time as he wanted. (Again with the British euphamisms, Rowling? Golden egg, indeed.)

* Page 644 (continuing in the vein of self-exploration): Voldemort looked away from Harry and began examining his own body. His hands were like large, pale spiders; his long white fingers caressed his own chest, his arms, his face...
Whew. That's enough of that. But then, after his hands caress other things: He held up his hands and flexed the fingers, his expression rapt and exultant.

* Page 681: Dumbledore climbed into the trunk, lowered himself, and fell lightly onto the floor beside the sleeping Moody. He bent over him.

And I don't mean to tease, but that's all I'm giving away. Go buy the book yourselves, smutfiends.

20 August 2007

Dude, it said *Bear* Garden

It's not really funny, I know, that a man was killed and half-eaten after jumping into a bear cage at the Belgrade Zoo. Amid the zoo's beer festival.

OK, I'm sorry. It is funny. And sad. Yet: "Only an idiot would jump into the bear cage," the zoo director told reporters. Here's the story.

After the incident, officials hastily scheduled a thorough cleanup effort on the grounds, including construction of a new ape habitat and careful monitoring of the crocodile swamp. But they decided to scrap the long-planned cleansing of the gene pool.

19 August 2007

Bourne again and Sunday Spins

We went to see "The Bourne Ultimatum" yesterday. It gave me a headache. I loved it.

I'll kick back up the Dirty Harry Potter analysis in a day or two, so await that with bated breath, perverts. (Here's the last installment if you need to brush up.)

Sunday Spins come from Jenn this week. I might put her in charge of this permanently, since she's done a grand job. Here's the album list:

*T Bone Burnett, "The True False Identity": This album, by Bob Dylan's former guitarist ("Blood on the Tracks" era) and a producer extraordinaire, is hard to even call "music." It's a fearsome collection of anger, delivered with a tin, staccato voice overtop rumbling percussion tracks and bluesy guitar riffs. It's fantastic.

*Radiohead, "Amnesiac": I know I'm in the minority, but this record and "Kid A" are my least favorite R'head albums (outside of "Pablo Honey," which shouldn't count). But "Amnesiac's" closer, "Life in a Glasshouse," is one of their finest songs ever.

*Brazzaville, "Welcome to Brazzaville": If world music were muzzled and forced to play in a pop-rock dog park, you'd get this record. It's actually a best-of from the band's first three albums but the first thing I ever heard by them.

*Shirantha Beddage, "Roots and Branches": Great old-school jazz from a new transplant to Columbus. Charlie Parker/Miles Davis fans ought to check out this baritone sax man.

*Sam Phillips, "A Boot and a Shoe": She was supposed to be the alterna-chick of the early 1990s but never really found a big audience. She almost quit the biz, but thankfully didn't. In 2004, she released this, her masterpiece. It's alt-rock parlor music. Shame no one's listening. Go buy it. (She was also married to T Bone, above, for a long, long time.)

17 August 2007

Kids, schmids

OK, this Web site apparently is geared toward kids. So, of course, I dig it. It allowed me, for instance, to make this cool custom Hollywood sign:

Next up, a Wild-West-style wanted poster. Yee haw!

Have fun, and don't get caught doing it at work. Me, I can say it's "pop culture research."

16 August 2007

Very unpleasin' sneezin' and wheezin'

Seen Springsteen just once live, when he turned Philips Arena into a raucous, rock 'n' roll church service, circa 1999 or so. I drove 6 hours for the show, and Bruce played 3 straight without taking a break. I figure we're even.

I was a fan since the early 1990s -- after I finally got past my "Born in the USA" biases and explored his earliest work, but still long before the likes of The Hold Steady and Arcade Fire made him cool for the multitudes. My favorite record is still "Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.," mostly for the song "Lost in the Flood" (see below).

So anyway, there's news on E Street. He's reunited with the old band for a rock record, due out Oct. 2. (Track list and such here.) It's called "Magic," and I'm hoping a little of that old magic will be back. There's good reason to hope, since last year's Seeger sessions sounded truly reinvigorating.

"Well there's blazin' noise, boys, he's gunnin' that bitch
loaded to blastin' point
He rides head first into a hurricane
and disappears into a point
And there's nothin' left but some blood where the body fell
That is, nothin' left that you could sell
Just junk all across the horizon,
a real highwayman's farewell"
-- Bruce Springsteen, "Lost in the Flood"

14 August 2007

Reach down, between my legs...

... ease the seat back, to grab the Geritol bottle.

The buzz today is, of course, the re-confirmation of the Van Halen reformation with David Lee Roth. I'll save any more snarks about their ages (Eddie's 52. DLR is 51) and just offer this Harpers Index-style perspective.

*Number of years between "Van Halen," and "1984" (the last with Roth): 7

*Number of albums released in that span: 6

*Number of years since "1984": 23

Now, if you still feel like you must go -- and before you decide, I have to stress that young Wolfgang Van Halen is now the band's bassist -- the good news is that the tour starts in relatively nearby Charlotte, NC, on Sept. 27. There's no Atlanta date scheduled, suckas.

13 August 2007

Things I've missed, things I'll miss

I left town before "The Simpsons Movie," "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Rush Hour 3" were released. Looking forward to catching up at the theater. At least with the first two of those...

The new Okkervil River disc is also out, and luckily it's on eMusic, so I can download it without breaking the pact. In fact, that's what I did at 5 a.m. this morning, after I finally woke up. I know some fans have come out and said they don't dig the record. But I like it so far. I must confess, though, that I'm horribly prejudiced by the fact that the final track swings into a cover of "Sloop John B" -- the old West Indies folk song popularized by the Kingston Trio, and the Beach Boys' cover is probably my favorite song by that band. I am a little concerned that, on some songs (most notably "If It Kicks") that Will Sheff sounds like he's trying to sing pretty. That's what marked the start of the decline of the Old 97's, too. But it's not too late for a course correction. Get back to bleating, Will. I'll take ragged imperfection over silky smooth, any day. The band will be on Conan on Aug. 28, by the way, and they're playing at Athens' venerable 40 Watt on Oct. 3.

Trying to figure out the forum for some of my more serious thoughts about the vacay to Cambodia. ... Meanwhile, I'll miss the Third World's pidgin English quirks, like reading "Lunch & Drinner" on menus and "thanks you" on hotel room door notices. One of my favorite things was looking at the two wall mounted fans in our guesthouse and seeing that one proudly carried the "Sanzyo" brand name. The other was a "Tochiba."

Look in the paper tomorrow for a column that's loosely about the beach we spent some time at, on the Gulf of Thailand.

12 August 2007

Oh. My. God.

Am home. Now. Finally. Maybe you read or heard about some 20,000 folks on international flights getting waylaid at LAX for hours while the U.S. Customs computers were down? Yeah, count Jenn and I among them. Our 15-hour flight from Bangkok got in about on schedule, and we had a three-plus hour layover to catch the Delta flight to the A-town. But we sat in the plane on the tarmac for 3-1/2 hours. Ran to the Delta counter after we were finally sprung, but we missed the flight by 10 minutes.

So instead of a whole day to rest and get ready for my return to work, I get just this night. Which wouldn't be so bad except that my body thinks it's something like 6 a.m. right now.

Tomorrow's going to be awful.

Still, good to be home. Whilst I recover, check out E's blog to see what the rest of our buddies are up to since we parted ways. Hooray for chickenboats to Laos!

"Home, where my thought's escaping
Home, where my music's playing
Home, where my love lies waiting
Silently for me"
-- Simon & Garfunkel, "Homeward Bound"

09 August 2007

Dah, snakes and wodka

We ventured into "town" for a dinner at The Snake House, which had gotten a favorable bit of text in the Lonely Planet guide of ours. It involved an overpriced tuk-tuk and a crazy driver who first took us to the base of a giant hill and pointed to the top of the steps. Three went up to scout it out and came back down. "Well, I got to the top, but it's the wrong restaurant," says Phil. "My mistake!" says the tuk-tuk driver. Yeah, right. Wonder what his commission would've been.

So we (all six of us) pile back into the tiny carriage, and he proceeds to steer us down the darkest, narrowest unlit roads I've ever seen, beside blocks and blocks of post-Apocalyptic abandoned buildings from which I just know lobsterheaded mutants are about to swarm.

But they don't, and we get to The Snake House. In the middle of dirt-poor hovels, it's this very strange oasis. Aquariums completely encircle a tiled, lushly decorated large dining room, and they're filled with every imaginable giant, deadly snake. They're even set below the glass of some of the tables. The menu is about half Cambodian and half Russian (I had the Chicken Kiev). There's an adjacent strip club -- The Snake Pit -- and a lovely three-story guest house on the premises. Two Hummers were in the driveway. Oh, and the beautiful serving staff outnumbered the patrons by about 3 to 1. We were the only non-Russian diners, and possibly the only non-Mafia members. All in all, if Slava, Boris and Lefty had approached our table, clad in fur caps, to escort us out -- or possibly talk us into a little "information exchange," we wouldn't have been surprised.

Good times.

06 August 2007

Third World foods

We're on the southwest coast, now, in what would be considered the resort area of Cambodia. Our room is running us a cool $10 a night. Two of our traveling buddies are getting by for $5, but they're doing without hot water and air co. So we're living large, I guess. The bar across the street is right on the water, and I discovered Pastis, a hard-to-find (stateside) anise liquor that's sort of a faux absinthe. Mmmmm, licorice.

The food's been wonderful. Nice combination of native dishes like the sweet fish amok, Thai cuisine, and American standards. Had a pretty good burger the other night, when I wanted a taste of home. (The cows appear leaner here. Go figure.)

Most unusual meals:

* Barbecued tarantula. Seriously. I'd read about them before coming over here, and a bunch of us bought them in one of the markets to try. Actually pretty tasty, except for the bulgy abdomen sac at the back end. That was kind of like chicken liver.

* Silkworms. Also seriously. We toured a traditional silk manufacturing shop, and the guide encouraged me to try one of the silk worms, which are boiled along with the cocoons in the processing of the silk. "Like coconut!" he said gleefully. ... Uh, not like coconut. Like slimy, hot worm. Avoid eating these. The locals also eat dog, but not as often as you might think. And it's yet to appear on any menu.

04 August 2007

Third World beverages

Angkor Beer is pretty good stuff. The equivalent of a Bud back home, I think. But the sneaky bastards have a cheap beer called Anchor Beer just to prey in the poor tourists who can't enunciate their Khmer properly, I guess. Anchor is the Shlitz of Cambodia. Tiger Beer gets you up into premium territory. You can also get Japanese Asahi here, but they've not really heard of Sapporo or Kirin, curiously.

We discovered fruit punch flavored Fanta yesterday. It's the Inca Kola of Cambodia. Bubblegum sweet. Mmmmmmm.

On the more adult side, the bar at the hotel where we stayed at last night in Phnom Penh featured a drink called the Raging Temple, which featured vodka, fruit punch, Red Bull and -- seriously -- Viagra. For adults with strong hearts only, it boasted. We decided to change hotels today.
I really will post some serious, meaningful thoughts on the trip at some point. But probably not until Internet is free.

01 August 2007

Death by tuk-tuk

Tuk-tuk. Sounds harmless enough. Vaguely Tattoine. But it's a sort of two-wheeled carriage pulled by a motorbike (which, by the way, are the overwhelming majority of vehicles on the road in Siem Reap. Like 6-1 to cars, at least). We've been riding them everywhere and they're great fun.

Finally got caught by the rain -- it is the rainy season here -- on the way back from a temple excursion. Our driver, Sui, has a bike that keeps stalling, and he keeps pulling about half off the narrow, two-laner to adjust the fuel supply line or something. Other tuk-tuks pass us closely, but he's trying to avoid putting us over the splattering clay. I'm sitting on the thing, facing backward, and I see a huge bus coming toward us. "This is going to be unpleasant," I say. E turns around to look, grimaces, then turns forward so he can't see. Meg, next to him, sees my expression and chooses not to look back.
It's bearing down on us, not skewing much to the center of the road, and just then Sui gets the tuk-tuk started. He pulls out onto the road without checking back. The bus is right on us. It honks its horn, startling Sui, who overcorrects and swerves off the road, then waggles back onto the pavement, sending our carriage sliding on the muddy, wet road. I think we came four inches from the bus.

One of Meg's favorite words is "tumped." Like, the glass tumped over. So I thought it was pretty fitting that she (and the rest of us) nearly died in a Third World tuk-tuk tumping.


After three days of tromping over 9th and 10th century temples, we're off to a day at the lake, by the way, followed by a mover from Siem Reap south to Phnom Penh. Internet costs money here, and i-cafe satellite connections are spotty. So I'll be back on when I can... E's still blogging daily, though. Richboy.