Monday, June 23, 2008

Gone fishin'

I'll be back next week!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Music: Smog

At about my sixth chemo, I discovered that Bill Callahan, the artist also known by the name Smog,was coming to Chicago. I purchased a ticket without a second thought. The night of the concert, realizing that I was in no shape to make it through a show, I stayed home. As I lay down in my bed at eight or nine in the evening, I felt pretty blue, like I missed senior prom, Oberammergau and Halley's comet all at once.

Tonight's selection is from Smog's 2003 album Supper. You can ignore the visuals, because the story is all in Callahan's lyrics.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

How to turn a pear into an apple

Just had my first mammogram since my surgery, and I'm relieved to say that the radiologist saw nothing out of the ordinary.

My oncologist recommended taking aspirin or ibuprofen about half an hour before the screening. Mammography is a low-dose x-ray of the breast while compressed to the thickness of luncheon meat. I have some internal scar tissue, and the muscles leading from my armpit to my ribs are pretty tight. On top of big squeeze, it felt like my entire right side was being slowly pulled apart like taffy.

What's with all the food analogies, you ask? I blame my current anti-cancer drug, tamoxifen. I gained about fifteen pounds during chemo, and put on another five during radiation. I don't eat more than I did a year ago, and my activity level is about the same, so what gives? My oncologist said "Some people blame tamoxifen, but it's probably just menopause." I have noticed that doctors are reluctant to admit the extent of drug side effects. This kind of dismissal always drives me straight to MedLine, which is why I'm such a pain-in-the-ass patient.

There's some relatively recent literature linking tamoxifen to excess visceral fat. Visceral, as in gut. I'm trying to get used to my new belly. Ever since I hit puberty, off-the-rack pants ballooned around my waist, even while they were too snug in the hips and thighs. I guess I should thank tamoxifen for transforming me into a more conventionally-shaped fat woman.

"Relationships between tamoxifen use, liver fat and body fat distribution in women with breast cancer." Intl. J. of Obesity. Feb. 2001. [Link]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sunday Music: The Fugs

In 1965, East Village poets Tuli Kupferberg and Ed Sanders formed The Fugs, the name being inspired by what it sounds like. Kupferberg, who was born in 1923, was a beatnik freak well before Dylan hit town, and had the distinction of being mentioned in his friend Allen Ginsberg's epic poem, Howl.

As much satirical theater as a musical group, The Fugs often performed at antiwar protests. Their songs were full of drug references and frequently critical of the U.S. government, just the thing to earn the scrutiny of the FBI. Their most memorable performance, which Norman Mailer included in his novel "Armies of the Night," was Sander's "exorcism" of the Pentagon during a 1967 antiwar rally.

The clip above is from a Swedish television program. It's long, but I kind of enjoyed listening to Ed Sanders ramble on about "homosexual aardvarks," and other nonsense while a no doubt earnest Swede recorded every word. If you don't want to listen to the intros, jump forward to 2:20 for "Crystal Liaison." Tuli Kupferberg's dance interpretation is at least half of the fun, the other being lyrics like this:

In the great bowling alley of your mind
I am your pin boy!
I am your pin boy!

The Fugs official website [Link]

Exorcism of the Pentagon, October 21, 1967 (scroll down) [Link]

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Online Videos by

Someone asked me where we could get copies of the great old sci-fi horror movies I mentioned in an earlier post. The Amazing Colossal Man and Teenagers from Outer Space are out of print, although TOS is available online for free under a Creative Commons license. My friend also mentioned his vivid memories of The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), which included a battle between the tiny chief protagonist, wielding a needle, and a spider 10 times his size. You can watch the entire scene above. I think the special effects great considering the budget involved. In any event, most of it's done with jump cuts and off-camera action. It actually had me at the edge of my seat! The movie is available in the boxed set, "Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection," put out by Universal. The Amazing Colossal Man and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman were reissued a few years back on VHS, but I wasn't able to locate anything more recent. Mystery Science Theater 3000 did their thing with ACM, and I remember it as being an especially hilarious episode. All are listed at

Mystery Science Theater 3000 "The Amazing Colossal Man" quotes [Link]

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday Music: Puccini

Until I met my husband, I had only seen one opera. For the last eight or nine years, I've attended full seasons of both the Lyric and the Chicago Opera Theatre. Although I've enjoyed most of the things I saw, it's clearly too late to turn me into an opera snob. First of all, I hated "Die Meistersinger," I mean, really, really hated it. It was like sitting through the world's longest travel slideshow with your most boring relatives, who also sing. I never want to see anything by Wagner ever again. John Adam's "Nixon in China," which is lauded as one of the great contemporary operas, was also disappointing. The only good thing in it was the aria "I am the wife of Mao Tse-Tung," which was so great that it sounded like it was by a different composer.

The final piece of evidence: I cried when I first saw "Madame Butterfly." You see, Puccini is too middlebrow, too corny, my dears. Allowing his operas to move one to tears is so declasse. Puccini created beautiful, sensual melodies, and his librettos are shameless tear-jerkers. However, even cynics like me need to let down their defenses and have a good cry, now and then.

Today's selection is Angela Gheorghiu performing the aria "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta," from "La rondine" (The Swallow). In the opera, it's sung by Magda, a kept woman, improvising during a party. She tells of a choice made by Doretta, a character created by a poet friend, a choice much different from her own.

Chi il bel sogno di Doretta
potè indovinar?
Il suo mistero coma mai finì?
Ahimè! un giorno uno studente
in bocca la baciò
e fu quel bacio
fu la passione.

Folle amore!
Folle ebbrezza!

Chi la sottile carezza
d'un bacio così ardente
mai ridir potrà?

Ah, mio sogno!
Ah, mia vita!

Che importa la ricchezza
se alfine è refiorita la felicità?
O sogno d’or poter amar così!

Who could guess the beautiful dream Doretta had?
Why her mystery came to an end
One day a student kissed her on the mouth
and that kiss was a revelation:
It was passion.

Mad love!
Mad joy!

Who will ever be able again
to describe the light caress
of a kiss so burning?

Oh, my dream!
Oh, my life!

Who cares for wealth
If at last happiness comes?
Oh golden dream
To be able to love thus!

La Rondine at the San Francisco Opera [Link]
Performance of I am the Wife of Mao Tse-Tung Houston Grand Opera [Link]

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman

A number of people have asked me how I came up with my blog name. "The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" was one of the earliest movies I can remember. I'll never forget when she ripped the roof off a bar where her husband was cavorting with some hussy. I thought I remembered a scene where she grabs a giant hypodermic needle (intended for her) and spears a scientist with it. My friend Joe corrected me--that was from "The Amazing Colossal Man." In ACM, the gigantism is caused by exposure to plutonium. The doomed hero adds about 52 feet to his height, and then wreaks havoc (in Las Vegas!) whilst completely bald and wearing a diaper the size of a football field. It's as if Mahatma Gandhi was supersized and became very, very angry.

I saw these movies, as well as many other sci-fi horror films, in an ever-changing series of rec rooms belong to my parents' friends. My folks went to monthly card parties, and it was not uncommon for children to tag along and retreat, with the host's kids, to the basement to watch TV. I was prone to nightmares, so these Saturday night horror-fests were just the thing to keep me up for weeks. One that really scared the hell out of me was "Teenagers From Outer Space." The movie combined two favorite themes of 50s B films: juvenile deliquency and alien invasion. What's worse than an alien invasion? An invasion of alien juvenile deliquents. The scene that did me in was early in the movie, when a snotty young punk of an alien (named "Thor" according to the entry in Wikipedia) zaps the little dog Sparky with a death ray. It reduces Sparky to a skeleton, which collapses to the ground with a horrifying rattle. I was probably about seven, and skeletons already figured large in my nightmares. It was bad enough that there were people skeletons, but the realization that there were dog skeletons...that was too much. I think my chronic insomnia started about then.

Teenagers From Outer Space at [Link]

UPDATE! Watch Teenagers From Outer Space here. [Link]

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sunday Music: Link Wray

When rockabilly legend Link Wray died in 2005, quite a bit of ink was spilled concerning his enormous legacy, not the least of which was to bring the so-called "power chord" into the lead melody. I won't try to reproduce this, mostly because I'm not a guitarist and will be way in over my head if I try. Although he played for over 50 years, his work in the late 50s to early 60s is what's best remembered. Wray, who perfected his guitar technique in part because respiratory problems made singing difficult, was still strong and clear the few recordings where he did do vocals. Below are two of his lesser-known songs, including Hillbilly Wolf, with Wray singing.

Link Wray tribute from Something I Learned Today [Link]

Link Wray obituary from New York Night Train [Link]