Wiki Wednesday #13

27 06 2007

Thaddeus Stevens
Hey, it’s time for the Wiki Wednesday!

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

Lincoln catafalque

The Lincoln catafalque is a catafalque hastily constructed in 1865 to support the casket of Abraham Lincoln while the president’s body lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. The catafalque has since been used for all those who have lain in state in the Capitol Rotunda, as listed below. When not in use, the catafalque is kept below the Crypt in a small vaulted chamber called Washington’s Tomb, which was originally intended, but never used, as the burial place for the first American president.

Hey, this is pretty interesting. To me, anyway. But I’m that kind of geek. I was the kind of kid who memorized the presidents, in order; read books about the architecture of the Capitol; and pretended he was the first openly gay congressman from Oklahoma. In fifth or sixth grade, I even gave a speech on assassinated presidents at a 4-H event. Stop looking at me like that! It’s not that nerdy.

Ok, maybe it is.

Anyway, the Wikipedia article lists all the notables who’ve lain in state on the Lincoln catafalque. They range from Lincoln to Gen. Pershing to Congressman Claude Pepper to President Gerald Ford. Among the list is Thaddeus Stevens, who was a powerful congressman in the Civil War and Reconstruction eras. Strangely enough, my grandfather was named after Stevens. Happily, the name “Thaddeus” didn’t get passed down to me….

That’s Thaddeus Stevens’s photo up there, by the way. Wild and crazy guy, huh?


I hate being so middle-of-the-road.

26 06 2007

Online Dating

According to the explanation, I merited this rating because of the use of the following words: gay (5x), dick (2x), dangerous (1x). And, yeah, I guess they got me on “gay.” I am that, and I talk about that. But the references to “dick” were to Philip K. Dick. That’s sci-fi, not risqué!

Actually, I’m sort of disappointed I’m the blog’s not at least R-rated. I aspire to be more edgy!

(Link via Darren Barefoot.)

Vox Hunt: It’s a Thin Line. . .

25 06 2007

Vox Hunt: Show us something you love but everyone else hates.
Submitted by AKA Vasquez.



25 06 2007

I had a fairly peaceful weekend—outwardly, anyway. Saturday was a gorgeous day, with the temperatures reaching only into the mid 70s. By this time of year, Philly’s usually hitting the 90s nearly every day. (It looks like we’re about to start that this week. Ugh.) So on Saturday I took the train to Manayunk, one of Philly’s most distinctive neighborhoods, for the 18th Annual Manayunk Arts Festival.

The festival—which is really a craft show—takes place right on Main Street, for blocks and blocks and blocks. In terms of goods, it isn’t anywhere near the best show in the city. But there’s usually some interesting photography and cheap-ish pottery.

When I’ve been to the festival in the past, it was always so dang hot that I couldn’t really enjoy just walking the street. This time, I ambled up and down Main Street, sticking my head in every interesting tent (and a few stores). Strangely enough, though, I didn’t buy anything. I was tempted by some cool pottery, but I already own too much stuff like that. I have to be really, really, really impressed anymore to buy a mug or bowl….

Actually, more than shopping, I people-watched. There were so many couples on the street. And pooches. And couples with pooches. It made me miss being in a couple…and having a dog. At times, I felt conspicuously alone on Saturday. Sigh.

I always tell myself I’m not just going to sit home when I can’t find anyone to hang out with. And I don’t sit home all that much. On Saturday, for instance, when my usual weekend buds were occupied, I went to Manayunk…. As you know, I go to movies alone. I take classes alone. But it would be so much nicer to be a part of a couple, to share some of these things with a partner.

I’m beginning to wonder if that’ll ever happen again. I know that’s probably irrational—and I’m only “just” 40—but it’s ridiculously hard to meet a man who is (a) single, (b) not insane, (c) not self-destructive, (d) not cheating on his partner, and (e) nice. And would ‘cute’ be too much to hope for, too? Sigh, again.

I also started wishing, again, that I had a dog. I saw a beautiful Chocolate Lab on Saturday, and I wanted one of my own, dang it. It’s a completely impractical idea, though. I work too many long hours, and I live too far from work, to have a dog. The dog would be home alone too much, and I’d never get it (him/her?) trained. And, of course, Labs are particularly needy dogs. Obviously, too, getting a dog because you’re lonely is a profoundly bad idea….

But that’s what I was feeling on Saturday.


23 06 2007

Just so you know, I am the target audience for this film. I love foreign films. I love singer-songwriters. I love films about love. I love love-songs.

I loved Once.

Once is the story of a thirtysomething Dublin street musician, played by Glen Hansard of The Frames. One day, he’s approached by a younger Czech woman (Markéta Irglová). She is disarmingly direct about his music, and everything else, and we quickly learn about his broken heart. Less quickly, we learn that she, too, is a musician. Even less quickly than that, we learn that she has some relationship issues of her own. Nevertheless, a friendship—and a flirtation, of sorts—ensue. I won’t go into the details here; you’ll want to experience them for yourself. Suffice it to say, though, that it’s just too easy, and a bit misleading, to call this “a love story.” Once is as much about limits as it is a love story. Director John Carney reminds us that there are many different kinds of affairs.

Once is also about music. As A.O. Scott said in the New York Times, it surely “seems silly and grandiose to lavish praise on a movie whose dramatic crux is the recording of a demo tape.” But you’ll definitely find yourself rooting for the main characters to meld musically. They’re each struggling financially as well as spiritually, and that demo tape sort of seems like it might be an answer to any number of problems.

The music is central. I haven’t mentioned it yet, because I didn’t want to give you the wrong idea, but Once is a sort of musical. It’s a musical in the sense that the music advances the plot, anyway. But it’s not a musical in the South Pacific or Oklahoma! sense, where songs spring out of nowhere. Once is a low-key, everyday sort of musical. The music is entirely natural to the plot, and there’s never a song that feels like it was grafted on. Best of all, the music is smart and beautiful. (You can listen to some of it at the film’s website.)

I haven’t at all done Once justice here. But I liked everything about it. Hansard and Irglová, despite not being actors, are charming and polished. The plot is intimate, touching. The music stays with you.

Once is highly, highly recommended.

The Sweet Life

22 06 2007

Last night, for the first time in several weeks, I attended a beer-tasting at Tria Fermentation School. (And, dang, I was missing it.) The class was led by Tom Kehoe, a respected local brewer and the co-owner of Yards Brewing Company. His topic was sugar, the dirty-little-secret ingredient in many non-German beers.

Those uptight Germans (hey, I’m just joking — sorta), with their Purity Law, the Reinheitsgebot, didn’t allow sugar in beers until 1987, when a European court ruling forced the issue. German beers are still an almost entirely sugar-free product. I tend to be a fan of those freewheeling, sugar-friendly Belgians.

Anyway, tonight’s session was lots of fun. We actually started out by tasting Colt 45(!), which is made with high-fructose corn syrup and is, well, pretty much disgusting. I hadn’t tasted it in years. It’ll probably be years before I have another taste…. It’s like beer-scented water. That said, it was definitely amusing to see all the beer snobs in the room, myself included, swirling and tasting Colt 45! It works every time, you know.

I particularly enjoyed three of last night’s beer. Yards Brewing’s own General Washington Tavern Porter, based on a recipe written the former general/president himself, uses molasses. It’s a dark, aromatic brew, and I got some pleasant coffee notes out of it. Rochefort Brewery’s No. 8, which I’ve enjoyed before, is a sophisticated dark ale. I appreciated its caramel notes (not to mention its impressive head). My favorite beer of the evening might have been Gale’s Prize Old Ale. It smelled and tasted something like a barleywine. In fact, it reminded me strongly of a sweet, aged liqueur that I might want to sip over the course of an evening. It’s not something I’d want to polish off in a half hour, or with dinner, though.

I have another beer-tasting next week. I doubt there’ll be any Colt 45 at that one!


21 06 2007

Sadly, this is not a review of the spice. If it were, I’d be in favor of it. Especially on deviled eggs.

Actually, though, I caught Paprika, the Japanese anime movie, on Wednesday night. It was pretty dreadful. I can’t recommend it.

The film starts out fairly promisingly, sketching out a plot about a device, the DC Mini, that allows a psychologist to enter a patient’s dreams for treatment purposes. The therapist leading research into the DC Mini is, prematurely, using the DC Mini to treat some patients. She conducts this therapy through her alter ego, Paprika. Unfortunately, one of the DC Mini prototypes goes missing, and—with disastrous consequences—it starts being used against members of the DC Mini’s development team.

From there, all sorts of stuff happens. Unfortunately, only a little bit of it makes any real, er, sense. I can tell you that the film attempts to merge dream worlds and reality, whatever that is, in complicated ways. There’s also a sort of anti-business theme. Without a copy of the script, or a detailed synopsis (the press kit‘s “long” synopsis extends for 17 full paragraphs), though, you’ll be hard-pressed to say at any point just exactly what’s going on. When the film was over, I had a general idea about what had taken place, and there were various satisfying “resolutions” to the plot lines, but I was unable to say how Point A led to Point B and so forth. I mostly felt like I’d just sat through a whirlwind of color and baffling symbolism.

The film is colorful, to be sure. The animation is far better than nearly anything produced in Hollywood, and I certainly appreciated the attempt to make a film that would appeal to adult fans of animation. In the end, though, I have two real demands for any film: (a) I should be able to understand what happens and (b) the story ought to make some resonant, meaningful commentary, however modest, about life. Paprika failed me, in substantial ways, on both grounds.

I also have a particular gripe about the plot. Early in the story, the attentive viewer (and, golly, I was trying!) sees evidence that what seems to be a “bad” guy is gay. Ok, fine. I certainly don’t expect every gay character to be admirable. Later, though, when we have a better idea who the bad guys are, we learn that the really bad guy has sold his, um, assets to more than one unsavory man. If there’s some nonprejudicial message in that, it was lost on me. In Paprika‘s world, gay seems to be code for the morally questionable. Ugh.

Having written all this, let me point out that many film critics have loved Paprika. I think some of that may be due to a subplot that romanticizes/idealizes film-going. But I freely admit that I might be wrong about Paprika. I just don’t think I am.

In my local newspaper, film critic Carrie Rickey wrote that Paprika “might have been imagined by a tag team of novelist Philip K. Dick, cyberpunk scribe William Gibson, and technoscientist Donna Haraway.” That line helped propel me to the theater. While Dick and Gibson might have imagined worlds like Paprika‘s, though, they’d’ve done more with it.

On a four-star scale, I’d give Paprika one-and-a-half or two stars.