Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

A remake of one of my favorite movies, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, is currently in production. I'm confident it will fall far short of the original. If you've never seen the 1974 thriller about a hijack-for-extortion scheme on a NYC subway, do yourself a favor and rent it. Why won't the new one be any good? First of all, the original was set in decaying, menacing New York of the 1970's; in other words, when it looked like a real city. Second, you'll never see another cast of character actors like this--not a pretty face in the lot. It includes Walter Matthau, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Jerry Stiller, Doris Roberts (Raymond's mom!), and Robert Shaw as the icy "Mr. Blue." The huge ensemble is rounded out by characters who are identified only by politically-incorrect labels such as "the Hippie," "the Pimp," and "the Spanish Woman." And then there's the subway train, hurtling through the tunnel at high speed, and big 70's era police cars crashing into each other. Two thumbs up!

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three at Internet Movie Database [Link]


Overheard 1

Two women with babies in strollers, on a packed Chicago Avenue bus:

Mom #1 (nodding at mom #2's baby): So, how do you give him methadone?
Mom #2: Oh, it's easy. They give it to you in a little bottle, just like cough syrup.

Overheard 2

Young man, sitting in a cafe: "In high school, for some reason, we became really obsessed with Robert Goulet."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bone/CAT Scan #2

I had my second round of bone and CT scans earlier this week. The previous scans (in January) indicated a lung nodule and a problem spot in my left hip joint, both of which could be signs of metastasis (spread) of cancer. However, both can also be attributed to events not related to cancer, like scarring from a respiratory infection and osteoarthritis. I just received a call from the oncologist's nurse, who said that neither problem area had increased, and there weren't any new issues--good news, in other words. Now if I can get through my post-treatment mammogram in June, I can breath easy for a few months. Then, we do this all over again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Health Insurance

Yes, I have it...thank god. We filed an extension on doing our taxes, and I finally added up all of my medical bills from last year. The cost of my cancer treatment in 2007: $114,000.00. That's not counting my drugs, and miscellaneous costs like transportation and purchasing Elisa Jr.* If I had to pay out of pocket, it would have wiped out my life's savings.

*my wig

Monday, May 26, 2008

I think I heart rugby

More things to like about Austria: their national rugby team does a striptease in Vilnius after losing to Lithuania 0:48. NSFW

Striptease of Austrian Rugby Team - Watch more free videos

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Music: Falco

It's been a rough couple of years for Austria. Once, it was the land of Mozart, psychoanalysis, strudel and Arnold,* and then it was like you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a sexual deviant who imprisons young girls in a basement dungeon. [I love that Wikipedia has a category called "Kidnapped Austrian children"]

With the intention of restoring the image of Austria, I bring you possibly the country's first foray into hip-hop,"Der Kommissar," released in 1981. A song about cocaine addicts in Vienna, it was the number one hit in seven countries. It actually made it to 72 on the U.S. charts, which is incredible, considering the fact that the average American has an aneurysm if forced to listen to a foreign language. I'll spare you the video, which is terrible, even by the standards of early MTV. And yeah, Falco is the guy who did "Rock Me, Amadeus." Forget that, too. "Der Kommissar" is an infectious fusion of 70's Euro-techno and old school rap, and you can dance to it--spastically of course, dressed in a lot of black leather.

*I didn't forget Hitler, but it's unfair to give Austria all the credit for the Fuhrer.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Music: Robyn Hitchcock

Since we seem to share a fondness for trains and public transportation, it's surprising that I've never seen Robyn Hitchcock in concert. After a career spanning over three decades, he continues to make music, so perhaps I still have a chance. [--just found out that he'll be doing a short tour of the U.S. in November, performing I Often Dream of Trains]

Hitchcock is hard to classify: too folk to be punk, too eccentric to be pop, his songs touch on both mundane daily activities and his neurotic fears. In 1984, Robyn Hitchcock and his band The Egyptians released the album I Often Dream of Trains. Today's selection is from that album. Both songs touch on two very English subjects: trains and the old tram system which used to serve London. In a way, both are love songs.

Trams of Old London

Trams Of Old London

I Often Dream of Trains

I often dream of trains when I'm alone
I ride on them into another zone
I dream of them constantly
Heading for paradise
Or Basingstoke
Or Reading
I often dream of trains when I'm awake
They ride along beside a frozen lake
And there in the buffet car
I wait for eternity
Or Basingstoke
Or Reading
I often dream of trains till it gets light
The summer turns to winter overnight
The leaves fall so suddenly
The sun sets at four o'clock
Exactly what
I'm dreading
I often dream of trains when I'm with you
I wonder if you dream about them too
Maybe we'll meet one night
Out in the corridor
I'm waiting for
You baby...

The Museum of Robyn Hitchcock Link

Friday, May 16, 2008

Art School Daze 2

Fire River Walter King

I hardly ever saw Walt during the time we attended CCAD. That's probably because, in addition to a demanding course load, he had a job, a wife and a baby boy. He's now faculty at CCAD, and is a talented and prolific painter. He's also an engaging writer and speaker on all things Art. During our reunion reception, he described to me the history of different color systems, and did so in a way that made me want to know more. If only I had felt the same when I was glueing Munsell chips into my workbook, back in the day.

Conference III Roger Bisbing

During our CCAD years, most of Roger's work, at least what I saw, was in wood and on a largeish scale. Among those I remember was articulated body armor, and a tank with moveable parts and treads, all made out of wood. That's why I find this recent piece especially interesting, since it looks nothing like his old stuff. It depicts one of a series of meetings, or more accurately, meetings indicated by arrays of tiny, empty metal folding chairs. A critic in the Washington Post wrote that the pieces have "an eerie power that belies their cutesiness." The photo can't really convey the meticulous detail, right down to the polished gym floor. It's very cool, and yes, eerie.

Bad Dog Marley! illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

Rick was a tall, thin dude with a mass of wild, red curls. Now, he's a tall, thin dude with still-red, wavy hair. He also looks too young to be a grandfather four times over, but he is. Bad Dog Marley! is an adaption for children of John Grogan's best-selling Marley & Me. It's become a best-seller in its own right, and Rick has illustrated a sequel, A Very Marley Christmas, which will appear in bookstores this September.

Walter King, Portfolio Link

Washington Post article "Thinking Small Has Diminishing Returns" Link

Illustration by Richard Cowdrey Link

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Art School Daze

Last week, the 1981 graduating class of Columbus College of Art and Design met for a somewhat impromptu reunion. It was inspired by the passing of my former classmate Cindy Baun, who succumbed to cancer last year. When you've been on the planet for only 21 or 22 years, the axiom "life is short" is just a tired cliché. Last week, it seemed like graduation happened oh, maybe ten years ago, but the evidence didn't support this fantasy. Once-girlish faces are now lined, and shaggy, long-haired boys have gone either bald or gray. Life is short, and youth is the briefest part of the whole.

I was a transfer student when I started at CCAD, and had the option of living either in the dorms or in my own apartment. During the admission process, Mom and I went to visit the dorms, and both of us agreed that they were horrid. The girls' dorms were roach-infested, squalid little apartments, in the middle of a dangerous neighborhood. But in those rooms many warm and life-long friendships were forged. The pictures posted on the reunion blog document a lot of fun...and I missed much of it.

Since I can't do those years over, I lived it up to the hilt for three sleep-deprived days. Thanks, former classmates, for being so generous and affectionate to the (former) girl who thought she was too good to live in the dorms. Much love to you all.

I graduated with a number of incredibly talented people, and want to showcase some of their work. I have no rights to the images I've reproduced, so if you wish to have your work removed from this blog, please let me know. Links to artists' websites or reviews are at the end of this post.

Vase, by William Shearrow

If I wanted to illustrate the concept of "Joy," I'd probably use a picture of Bill Shearrow. Bill was a fine arts ceramics major, a breed of artist whom most of the rest of us hardly ever saw. But Bill was too interested in, and people and fun to ever hole himself up in the mudroom for good. Voted "Most likely to start dancing spontaneously." I just made that up. Bill, upon hearing music he likes, just starts dancing. It's a beautiful thing, perhaps as beautiful as this reverse-Raku vase.

Hot Dog, neon sculpture by Michael Flechtner

Mike, who was a few years older than the rest of us, was the RA in the boys' dorm. "Best RA ever" is a quote from a classmate who lived in those dorms in the fall of 1977. Perhaps that's because Mike led all the boys over to the girls' dorm to serenade them in the first week of classes. Apparently, it was a hell of an ice-breaker. Mike was memorable in many ways: he rode a scooter (an anomaly in mid-70's Columbus), owned the first Walkman I had ever seen, and created little "pocket sculptures" from lucite and LED lights, one of which I purchased as an Xmas present for my brother.

After grad school, Mike concentrated his artistic efforts on the once plebeian craft of bending glass neon tubes. His work is an homage to vintage neon signage, as well as the ethnic and cultural gumbo that makes up his now-home city, Los Angeles.

Father's Day Card by Salli Swindell

I remember Salli as being the prettiest girl in our class, which I admit does sound a little condescending. She has a lot more going on than fabulous cheekbones (and she does have fabulous cheekbones), judging from her greeting card designs. I've always favored Great Arrow cards when I had a choice, and Salli's design accumen has probably helped influence many of my purchases. All of Great Arrow's cards are silk-screened as well, which gives them a richness in color and texture not found in more mainstream cards. If you live in Chicago and want to see more of their designs, visit Paper Boy, on Belmont just east of Southport.

There's more art and classmates, which I'll post either tomorrow or on Saturday.

William Shearrow Pottery Link

Michael R. Flechtner Neon Art Link

Salli Swindell Cards at Great Arrow Link

Paperboy and Uncle Fun Link

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Music: Johnny Cash

Happy Mother's Day. I'm in Ohio tonight, soldiering on with Mom's dial-up internet provider. She complained that she can never listen to any of my music posts. Not surprising, considering she has a ten-year-old PC with a 46 kbps connection. "Mom, you need DSL." She looked at me strangely. "I do not understand what you just said." I explained that she needed a faster connection. To make matters worse, her freakin' firewall is set up to prevent attack by terrorists. I considered changing the settings, but decided I should leave well enough alone. Thanks for letting me hog your computer, Mom.

Tonight's selection is "I Was There When It Happened," performed by Johnny Cash some time in the mid 1950's on the Town Hall Party, a country music television show. It reminds me of Cash's album My Mother's Hymn Book, one of my favorites.

More on the Town Hall Party Link
My Mother's Hymn Book (at Amazon) Link

Monday, May 5, 2008

Amusing Searches

There's a story here:

"naked roommate experience -gay -"other issues" shower breasts"

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Music: Annie Philippe

Annie Philippe was a 17 year old DJ when she was discovered by orchestra leader Paul Mauriat. Although her biggest hit was "Ticket de quai," the 1966 song, "C'est la mode" is the real brainworm. You'll hear this in your head for days; it's far more insidious than even the theme for "Green Acres." You have been warned.

More about Annie Philippe at Garagehangover [Link]