Tuesday, July 28, 2009


And we're in! We are home-
owners. And, pictured to the left, the home we now own.

We closed on Thursday, painted two rooms Thursday and Friday night (among other things), and the move day was Saturday.

The movers arrived at 8am on the dot, loaded the contents of our apartment into their truck and dropped it all off at the new place by 2pm. Nice turnaround. Some scuffs and dings here and there, but that's moving.

We've made a nice dent in the unpacking, the faucet for the washing machine has been replaced, the cracked window panes replaced, the garage lights fixed, the phone and cable and internet all connected. There's still plenty to do, not least of which is to flush-mount these ceiling fans so I quit braining myself against them, but I think we've set a good pace.

Some things I like: Unlocking the door of my house and walking in. The quiet. The space.

Some things I don't like: I now have to mow a lawn. The low sinks, fans, and clearance on the garage doors, all of which demand I stoop, bow and duck. Also, the guy across the street who flies the Confederate flag off his porch on the weekends. Not sure we're going to hang out.
Those aspects aside, the wife and I are both pretty happy with it. Yay, house.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Charlie Brown: Monster

A friend and former roommate of mine posted a link to this image from artist Tim O'Brien this past week on Ye Olde Facebook and I thought it was awesome and I wanted to post it up on the Inanities. This painting was done for a friend of the artist's who was having a show entitled "Monsters." This painting was O'Brien's entry. A counter-intuitive but perfectly appropriate selection, and beautifully executed. I love the wisp of hair and the ink-black eyes -- it's so faithful to the original but completely freakish.

if you're interested, this is a link to his blog, where O'Brien posts a lot of his magazine illustrations as well as a lot of cool inside dope on the ins and outs of being a fairly big-shot freelance illustrator. For instance, Time magazine called him up because they wanted a Sotomayor painting for the cover. He had 24 hours. He ended up doing three different paintings as options. Guy works fast.

In Big Move news, the apartment's getting empty of stuff and full of boxes. Closing's on Thursday, move day is 2 days later.

Anyway, I have a 75th and a 30th birthday party to attend this evening, and still a bit of packing to do, so I'll have to leave this blog entry with that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Public Enemies" Review Fail, Impending Home Ownership News

I tried not long ago to write a post about Michael Mann's "Public Enemies," but I couldn't stay awake long enough to write more than a few cogent sentences about that movie. It was well-done but slow. And if you thought Depp's Wonka was a tough nut to crack, Depp's Dillinger is even more impenetrable. He loves his girlfriend (Marion Coutillard) at first sight and, well, that's, kinda it. That's his character. So I guess I'm not going to write about that movie. Sorry Michael Mann. I know you were checking the blog everyday to find out what I thought of your movie, but I can't give you more than what I wrote.

Two interesting things I discovered about Michael Mann while gathering some info for my failed "Public Enemies" post:

1.) Public Enemies is only Michael Mann's 10th feature film. Feels like he's done more, doesn't it?
2.) Early in his career, Mann directed "The Keep," a very cool horror movie from 1983. I had no idea. Now Mann and I are buds forever.

* * * *

In other news, the wife and I are very close to purchasing our first home. The inspection happened on Friday and only very minor issues were discovered. Some electrical outlets don't work, stuff like that. We sent our request for fixes this morning and the seller's already agreed to repair those few things, so we're on our way.

If all goes well, we'll close on the 23rd of this month, and, with luck, move right out of our apartment and into the house. Which would be quite something as we only put an offer on it 6 days ago.

The house is a green, sturdy beast sitting on a corner lot way back in an established neighborhood. Twenty-two years old, it has a good-sized front porch, a high-ish deck out back, and a pleasing copse of shade trees clustered near the front steps. If (knock wood) all goes to plan, we'll be the proud owners of a house in Kennesaw, Georgia. It's a good house and we're pretty excited about it.

So if there's a drought of posts in the next few weeks, it won't be because I'm super lazy, which is usually why there's a drought of posts, but because we'll be getting up out of our apartment and into a house. The Inanities will limp on!

Thursday, July 02, 2009


You know it's been a while since I wrote a post that pretty much no one who frequents this thing would have any interest in. I think it's about time I put up one of those.

In other words, time for a book post. This time I'll be blathering about Dan Simmons' latest horror novel, "Drood", the follow-up to his popular horror novel "The Terror."

One thing "The Terror" and "Drood" have in common is that they both had the good fortune to be published by Little, Brown and Company, who have in their employ one of the best inside dust-jacket-flap copy writers I've encountered. For those of you who've read and enjoyed a scary book, I defy you to read this copy, and not instantly want to read page one of "Drood". I'd almost rather read a book by this guy/gal than the book her/her flap-writing goaded me into reading.

Well I picked "Drood" off the circular bestseller table at B&N, read the inside flap, promptly laid that 780 pg mother down on the counter, plunked down my Chase card and took it home. It was a while before I finished it as I was at the time deeply in the throes of torturing myself with a modern classic, and knew if I started something fun I'd never pick up the classic again. But as soon as I got done with that, I got right into "Drood" and finished it middle of last month. I'm sad to say I was left baffled and disappointed by the book.

The story is set in the mid-late 1800's, when Charles Dickens has already published his most famous works and is at the peak of his fame and creative powers. His friend, novelist Wilkie Collins, is the narrator of this tale, and it starts with Wilkie relating to the reader the details, as told to him by Dickens, of the train crash (referred to throughout the novel as "the Staplehurst disaster") that very nearly killed Dickens. It is in the gruesome aftermath of this accident that Dickens first meets the mysterious Drood, a pale, scarred, eyelid-less ghoul in a top hat who seems to glide rather than walk. Dickens relates how Drood seemed to attend to those still dying from their injuries, but all who were visited by him, died minutes later. Once home in London and ostensibly safe, Dickens enlists friend Wilkie to track down Drood and get a better sense of the creature.

This first section of the novel is gripping. Here Simmons is able to conjure a pervasive feeling of dread while grossly magnifying the excesses of the Victorian era into a hellscape worthy of Bosch. We visit London slums so dangerous only an armed policeman can lead a person safely through. Once through, however, we discover an even more dangerous slum beyond where even armed policemen won't dare go. This is good stuff. Opium dens, wild children, Egyptian fiends all abound in a place called Undertown, and so long as Drood remains the focus of the book, Simmons can't miss.

Unfortunately, Simmons isn't so interested in Drood as that darn flap copy might lead you to believe. Once the hunt for Drood (at least the hunt as we understand it) ends with the narrator alone in the lightless sewers, no wiser than he was when he'd first descended, stumbling blind looking for the surface, the novel enters a more psychological phase. Here Simmons asks the reader to kindly forget about that mysterious and frightening Drood fellow, whose name doubles as the title of the doorstop you're holding, and let us take a few hundred pages to see what makes this laudanum-addicted narrator/novelist Wilkie Collins tick.

This new mystery isn't quite so compelling.

Though Wilkie Collins is interesting enough as a character, he is an addict, and if anyone reading's ever seen an episode of "Intervention," you know how strong the urge can be to reach through the screen and slap an addict. The character of Wilkie Collins often provokes a similar reaction. Self-interested, self-involved, rarely bothered by his conscience (which, while weak, does exist) and worn down to not much at all by his jealousy of Dicken's professional success, Wilkie's an unpleasant person. As the novel progresses there are Drood interludes which are effective and bring the book back on track, but none can be entirely believed, experienced as they are by a man perpetually high on opium. As time passes, Wilkie's bad traits seem to get worse, which may or may not be a sign of an infernal interference in Wilkie's mind, though Simmons does not answer this question with any certainty. And even more than putting the reader in the hands of an increasingly loathesome (and unreliable) narrator, it is this unresolved quality of the book that may be its primary flaw.

Throughout "Drood", Simmons devises a series of hair-raising mysteries. What exactly IS the thing in the servants' stairwell in Wilkie's estate? Who is this creepy doppelganger Wilkie dubs "the Other Wilkie" that haunts him and sometimes writes whole pages of his novels for him? And though the answers may reside somewhere in the novel's 750 pages, the meandering writing and almost compulsively repetitive prose stylings (certain phrases, like "the Staplehurst disaster" for example, occur again and again and again -- referring to it often, he never calls that key incident anything else), don't indicate a literary depth best plumbed by multiple readings. And worst of all, the key mysteries of this novel are, if this reader's accurately comprehended the text, essentially dashed aside in a shocking, unsatisfactory confession that serves as the story's climax without firmly tying up the biggest loose end of the whole story. The denouement only serves to leave other, lesser mysteries similarly unresolved.

A book critic wrote of "Drood" that an excellent thriller lived somewhere inside of it; 3 or 400 pages cut out and reworked could result in something more worthy. Though I know that by this he means that if Simmons had focused on Drood and Dickens and Wilkie's hunt for him through the "Great Oven" of London, "Drood" would have been much improved. But given the tone-deaf third act of this book, I'm not at all confident that even if Little, Brown had handed the two-shoebox manuscript back to Simmons with the direction to whittle mercilessly, he wouldn't have found a different way to underwhelm with the ending. First half = good times. Second half = not worth the time. Which is too bad, as the premise for this book is killer and should have produced a much sharper thriller.