Message Of The Day

Mon, 28 Feb 2005

05:51 [zork(~/sam/admin-spotting)] cat stupid-fucks-part-1.txt

Cluestick Please

So why in the hell do people feel the need to put our browsers through redirect hell to download a tarball? Listen up fuckers, I don't want to download your crap ass SERVER software on my WORKSTATION. I need it on the SERVER.


04:53 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat tinpotpourri.txt

Out with the old...

There's a scene in the film Chinese Box where Reuben Blades (yes, The Reuben Blades) is trying to cheer up Jeremy Irons who is a victim of unrequited love. Mr. Blades points out that all the best songs about relationships are written at the very start ("I love you. I adore you.") and at the very end ("I loathe you. I detest you."). Everything in the middle is too boring to be worthy of mention. For some reason that scene came to mind when I was searching through some very old (electronic) documents and came across something I had written many moons ago. While not a song it falls into the first of Reuben's categories. In the past I would have been embarassed by the content but today, for some reason, I decided that the prose was Murakami-esque (you'll note that in writing that term some semblance of conscience prevented corruption of his name by introducing a prophylactic hyphen). In that light that old writing doesn't seem so bad at all. The powerful lateral thinking used to vault the enormous talent gap was fueled by incautious experimentation with The Brother's gift (>1 year ago) of 12 year old whisky. The beauty of this is that first impressions have the greatest impact so should I encounter my meanderings in the future I may actually be vaguely proud rather than cringeing.

In a parallel demonstration, in a scene in Inspired Sleep one of the characters describes teaching a "creative writing" course. I realise that these animals are very popular on this side of the pond but, to my (albeit limited) knowledge they are rarely encountered in the Old World. I remember discussing the nature of these beasties with someone who had been forced to endure one to complete a degree programme. Their inherently negative spin on the usefulness of these courses was probably what encouraged them to agree vehemently with my cynical view that they were basically vehicles to allow folk to torture Freud and groups of strangers by forcing them to listen to descriptions of their dreams. Now that I have bumped into that aforementioned piece of prose I should recognise that I live in a glass house and should tell my former self to hide the larger of those stones.

Oh yeah, the plot in that book didn't recover. So basically the book is composed of three or four wonderful character studies and some rather clumsy attempts to bump those characters into each other. Apart from the one that struck a strong chord with me the rest seem artificial and have the characters mostly acting out of character. Or maybe that was the point...

I finished enjoying Fitzcarraldo again. I had to return it to the library before I had time to properly listen to the director's commentary version. I'll have to finish this at some point - pre-production took three years(!), they originally wanted Jack Nicholson to play the lead role(!), Mick Jagger shot some scenes in the role of sidekick(!). Wonderfully weird all around. Watching some of the later scenes I decided that my Under The Volcano reference wasn't the best match. I should have picked Murphy's War (can you imagine a film with Kinski and O'Toole in it?!).

Before I watched Fitzcarraldo I watched Prisoner of the Mountains. I can't remember why. I recommend it highly. Susanna Mekhraliyeva reminds me of some juvenile Hollywood star but (thankfully) I can't remember who.

Yesterday I took a wander up the road to Highwood and dropped into the guitar shop and came away with some new strings for both my acoustic guitar and my bass. I changed those in the former (maybe 2 years old by now) and was amazed at how good new strings can make a cheap Yamaha sound in the hands of a ham like me. I have been enjoying myself so much I haven't yet changed those in my bass.

Another change was the battery in my watch. The local shop was a little laid back when it came to the expected functionality. After replacement I asked the technician if it would still be as waterproof as the original. He looked at the description, "It says Water Resistant to 50 m not Waterproof so it'll be okay against splashes." Since I don't envisage my watch ever going to 50 m (at least not when attached to me) I didn't care that much about that particular attribute. When I pointed out that the previous battery had lasted for 5 years and hoped that this one would do the same I was disappointed to hear that "it depends on the watch" and "I can guarantee you at least 12 months". Hmmmm...

Tomorrow I have a telephone interview with an east coast company. I had hoped I would have heard yes/no from the west coast but the recruiter ignored my wish and sent resumes to both firms simultaneously. I'll admit to feeling vulnerable at the moment as the new departmental management person revealed her new plan and organisational chart this week. I went from three to seven direct reports (yay me!) and was given a new, fancy-sounding job title (yay me!) and there was no sign of promotion, and it was made clear that filling the empty positions was more important than listening to existing employees (boo!). These folk just make it so easy for me to leave with a clear conscience. Yet, I don't want to bale for the wrong reasons. Another two months of winter is not a good reason...

Oh yeah, good to see Cat and Girl finally make it to Laziness! Hurrah!

Sat, 26 Feb 2005

23:07 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat potpourri.txt

Bits and Pieces

(In my neighbourhood) So, that's what he's up to these days.

I booked an appointment for an eye test. When selecting the time I asked if they'd be giving me the mydriatic for the retina exam. The person taking the call assured me that this wasn't necessary now as they had a machine to do it and it's computerised! That sounds so quaint these days - Solid State, Space Age Technology, Computer Controlled. I assume that if it screws up I can ask Microsoft for $5.

PDJ seems to be a mere shadow od what it once almost used to be. I don't care how many disclaimers they added, if they didn't get something out for HST early in the week then they just don't care any more.

I'm still reading Inspired Sleep. My enthusiasm for the book reached a peak during the description of a character and a scene that were so familiar to me it was wonderful. Now the storyline is stallingi, but there's a good few pages to go yet so it might recover. The plot now looks like something from Will Self. This is somewhat better as Self doesn't write about real people that well, only caricatures.

I was ecstatic to find that the library had acquired a copy of Fitzcarraldo, one of my very favourite films. As I have mentioned before, I am a connisseur of obsession and Brian Sweeney Fitgerald is clearly a master of obsession, even when played by Klaus Kinski who looks like Yahoo Serious doing Under The Volcano. In these days of CGI it is important to remember that in making the film they truly physically dragged that darned boat up that hill. This is not an illusion.

Listening to Ian Dury during the commute. It has taken me a long time to appreciate his talent. We miss you man.

Tue, 22 Feb 2005

16:13 [zork(~/grebz0r)] cat blog_that.txt


<pre>11:04:12 tjfontaine | aye, I want to destroy livejournal and all 'blog here' websites 11:04:30 mikegrb | you should so blog that 11:04:47 Beirdo | heh 11:04:49 * tjfontaine starts</pre>

Concider it done.

Fri, 18 Feb 2005

04:05 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat HelterSkelter.txt


Life is being particularly odd at the moment. I suspect some cosmic plan has been hatched to shake me up, challenge my preconceptions and stop me from feeling safe. People upon whom I can normally rely are betraying me or otherwise letting me down. Others are stepping in from nowhere to help me out a little. In some ways I am enjoying it as it makes me question what I believe in and what I am doing. I need to make an active choice rather than letting things drift. Two of the positive turns of the wheel had; 1) The Brother and I in comfortable conversation (which is profoundly reassuring) and 2) a word from the recruiter telling me that I shouldn't give up hope about the west coast (although the east coast is apparently now being very persistent). Our new manager is proving not to be the panacea for the department's ills. Politically motivated folk grabbed her attention on day 1 and now have her ear so it looks as if Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose... Since there's more definite talk about me getting some more responsibility things are balanced so that I can stay or leave without too much overhead. It can really be free will in action. Maybe.

Zhiwen listened to my complaints about my poor listening comprehension and promptly brought me discs containing 25 episodes of the apparently famous soap, 《大宅门》, which has no subtitles and the actors generally speak in textbook Mandarin at a measured pace. Unfortunately I keep getting distracted by the plot. It is something like a Chinese versions of Upstairs Downstairs and the characters are the stereotypes from soap operas everywhere, Powerful Woman with Troubled Past, Cinderella-like Girl, Bratty Girl, Henpecked Husband, Quiet but Conscientious Wife... You name it, they're all there. My guess is that there'll soon be the special episode, Who killed 鸡. 儿.?

I've been listening to the sound track from The Thin Red Line and it is completely spookadelic. The outright winner is the Vanuatu God U Tekem Laef Blong Mi which is truly uplifting, something like a Polynesian Hymn to Joy. Some part of me wants to know the lyrics but another part tells me to just listen to the whole thing and enjoy the spirit. Another positive side-effect of this aural addiction is that I have been cured of listening to that famous Icelandic, Ragnar Bjarnason, singing Nirvana. I have also finished reading The Thin Red Line which basically comprises the script of the film but Mr. Jones writes well and made me take my time. The current book is one I spotted on the apartment building's free shelf and I picked it up only because I was intrigued by the cover. I am thus now reading Robert Cohen's Inspired Sleep the style of which amazes me by its resemblance to that of Mr. Palahniuk.

O.K. April Winchell doesn't like direct links to the songs. In that case go to this page and search for Ragnar. There's lots of other bad craziness to be had while you are there.

Wed, 09 Feb 2005

04:01 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat lent.txt

"...and unto dust you shall return."

I realise that bizarre timing appears to have made this Rooster year a "widow" year. The same bizarreness is also messing with my own perception of time as pancake day seems to be occurring way too early. Living in the mid-west no longer offers the opportunity to associate the start of the lenten season with the beginning of spring (I know there's another couple of months of yucky weather to go) but this year is just conspiring to keep things extra-gloomy (more shriveling than shriving going on). For as long as I can remember I have given up sweets (U.S. = "candy") and biscuits (U.S. = "cookies"). When I was young I had a sweet tooth and this really hurt. After that it didn't bother me so I had to add some other activities. At this point it is just the surrendering of control that hurts. I have been pondering why this should be and am wondering if it is due to the death of illusion. In the past I could tolerate temporary discomfort for expectations of better things. While I am certainly no nihilist and still enjoy striving for something better I am no longer expecting any sudden change. This is a good thing. It harkens back to my previous reminder that this is not a practice run. I can't just sit around and wait for something wonderful to happen (although I can certainly hope for it). The illusion of the guaranteed "and they all lived happily ever after" is just a recipe for complacency. Any passivity should be actively chosen rather than being a lazy default. That's why the wording of the admonition involves "...those who help themselves.".

Sun, 06 Feb 2005

04:29 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat PotPourri.txt

Bard to remember.

Yesterday I came across that famous Shakespeare fragment;

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise.

and now I am racking my brains trying to remember where I read a derivative of that. This was something along the lines of "Your touch tells me how close we are. My eyes tell me of the distance between us." This is too fuzzy to be searched for electronically and is probably from a book too old or obscure to be available in electronic form.

Nan turned 92 yesterday. When I called it was good to hear her in such an upbeat mood. This is probably at least partly due to spring arriving earlier in her locale. She is always happier on sunny days.

A postdoc, ML, from my ex-boss's lab has asked me to write a green card recommendation letter for her. Having collaborated with her on one manuscript I have no difficulty judging her scientific aptitude and output. M has generated an impressive amount of data and I am guessing that some of the impetus for this was being physically separated from her husband and child (when JS was in the same situation she was also a dedicated worker). The other factor contributing to hard work is my somewhat overbearing ex-boss. Anyway, the difficulty I had was in rating her background as I have no idea of the reputation of most remote institutions (and many less remote ones). Thankfully when I surveyed colleagues in my department they agreed that PUMC was a decent place. It took them a while to link the current name with their own memory of the place as the English names seem to change so much. When I previously had to write a recommendation letter for XW it took some exploration to realise that she was actually from Bei Da (one of the few places I have heard a lot about).

As far as my own career hopes and plans are concerned, there's been no word from the west coast. It might be a little early to write this off but this is not a good time to be moving around as uncertainties in the industry mean that a lot of people are competing for what is available. Having said that I received a call from a fairly big company in the NYC area which has decided it particularly wants to interview me. I'll look into it. At my current spot the times they are a changin' as the new managerial level person has arrived with assurances of competent democracy and a rosy future. Alas they weren't able to comment on the hints/promises that the big boss has been making to me for the last six months or so. We'll see. Any votes for the east coast being a decent place to hang out?

I have finished reading both Going Postal and Diary. The latter was good, although not quite up there with Lullaby. The situation and characters were less odd at the beginning, and although he did up the ante as time went on it was more gradual. The ending was better written than Fight Club. I am currently reading The Thin Red Line. It is striking to see James Jones' Dedication in the front (emphasis is his): "This book is cheerfully dedicated to those greatest and most heroic of all human endeavors, WAR and WARFARE: may they never cease to give us the pleasure, excitement and adrenal stimulation that we need, or provide us with the heroes, the presidents and leaders, the monuments and museums which we erect to them in the name of PEACE." Make of that what you will.

In my naiivete I am probably over-interpreting Mandarin film titles. I previously pointed out the possible play on words in The Emperor's Shadow and when trying to expand my vocabulary earlier today I wondered if the Zhang Yimou film title 《活著》could also be a play on the word 或者 as the plot is about "what if" either/or situations. I actually believe that this kind of comparison wouldn't be considered valid. My lazy eyes tend to fasten on to the western letters of the pinyin text and only add the tone marks mentally later, yet from conversations with one of my colleagues it is clear that the tone is too closely bound to the character to be disassociated in such a crude manner. This is probably why tone failure is the worst part of my poor pronunciation.

Wed, 02 Feb 2005

05:01 [zork(~/nutella/Waffle)] cat ItIsFebruary.txt

The ghost is out of the machine

I found the instruction leaflet for my watch and confirmed that the "double tick" behaviour is done deliberately to show the battery is running low. While I had suspected this was the case I was disappointed as I had thought that my timepiece was special.

A package arrived from The Brother with card, book and CD. I have since been enjoying reading Going Postal. Mr. Pratchett has clearly had a lot of fun with the von Lipwig character. Maybe if Kevin Costner had waited and used this as a script instead people wouldn't have laughed at him so much (I guess there's always Waterworld...). The CD was by Goldie Lookin' Chain. From the cover I initially thought that Chris had made a mistake and accidentally given me one of his sons' discs. I gave it a spin on the way to work and was laughing all the way (You Knows It). I don't think a Newport accent has seen so much air time since the (fake) one used by Siadwell from Naked Video.

Some crazy person returned Palahniuk's Diary to the library so I now have that waiting in the wings for after Pratchett. I opened the book at random and my glance landed on the word "zygomatic" which might make crackmonkey smile.

For fillums I finally watched 《英頬》. I kinda liked it but big action doesn't make a film as far as I am concerned. There's no denying the cinematography is excellent, especially the duels in the autumn leaves and at the lake, but Zhang doesn't have a monopoly on that kind of action. As far as the script is concerned, similar themes were portrayed in 《荊軻刺秦王》 and 《秦頌》 and the characters in those were far more interesting. Zhang Manyu was excellent however. I had seen her previously in two very diverse roles in Chinese Box and 《花样年华》 and expect great things from her in the future.

After 《英頬》 I watched The Thin Red Line for the first time. I don't know how I have missed seeing it before. A truly adult war movie is rare and this was just bizarrely addictive. The entire dialogue appeared to be a series of epigrams. The music is also very haunting. I was soon back at the library to pick up the soundtrack. Before watching 《英頬》 I had borrowed the director's cut of Spinal Tap which is a film I initially loathed but now grudgingly acknowledge has its moments. In the supplementary clips two unexpected funnies made me laugh;

(At a record signing session)
Fan: What's the name of the new album?
David: Its called "Smell The Glove". See it has the name on the poster.
Fan: Oh! I thought that was some kind of contest.

(At the zoo)
Nigel: I read somewhere that the larger apes are essentially bread eaters.
David: And yet, as a race, they haven't developed baking skills.

Tonight I followed one of the librarians' recommendations and watched Confidences trop intimes. She had warned me that this wasn't one that she had let her kids watch but that turned out to be because of the adult theme rather than sex and/or violence. It reminded me a little of Truly, Madly, Deeply

If you are bored, try Rock, Paper, Scissors, Tiger Hand, Pen Missile.

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