Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The amount of things that are annoying me these days is an amount that seems to increase with age. You can add crappy horror movies to the list.

Scratch that: crappy horror movies that could have been good.

I give you, for example, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

The plot: a young girl is found dead, horribly emaciated, teeth missing. The local priest is taken into custody when allegations of an untreated epilepsy condition arise. The lawyer, a young, ambitious, determined agnostic, pits wits against the determined, Catholic DA and, ultimately, the Devil Himself. Ooooh.

I say "Ooooh" because, let's face it, the whole religion vs. science debate never did well in a courtroom. It's even worse in an hour-and-fifty-minutes' worth of "What really happened to Emily Rose?"

Possession scenes are lame and halfhearted. There are some creepy portions where Emily is wandering through her college campus and sees demon faces leering at her; every time she contorts her body, the part of my brain that registers what's natural in the world and recognizes what's unnatural was suitably fooled. But all of this combined, multiplied three ways from Sunday, can't make up for crappy lines like, "The forces of darkness are watching this trial." Puh-leeze. It didn't work in Book of Shadows when the witch figured out how to program a VCR. Since when is Satan up on Blackstone's Commentaries?

So in a fit of dissapointed pique, I picked up a copy of Angel Heart. Now there's a devil movie you can sink your teeth into. I'm taking it for granted that the underlying premise of the film is known: New York gumshoe picks up a Missing Persons case and gets enmeshed in an underground voodoo cult, with a surprising, satisfyingly creepy conclusion. And yes, this is that movie where Denise Huxtable from The Cosby Show takes her shirt off.

But then I picked up the book and read it in a four-hour binge Monday night (when I should have been reading my new subscription-copy of The Economist). If the film version is a mixture of Chinatown and The Exorcist, the book is a mixture of Who Censored Roger Rabbit and Ira Levin. The writing is fast-paced, snappy, engrossing. The story grabs a hold of you; there aren't too few names for it to get long-winded, and there aren't enough names to confuse you. And the ending is more or less consistent with the film (I should say it the other way around, since the book, Falling Angel, came out first), but with this cavalier private dick tone it takes, a lot of the horror and devil-noir is taken away, leaving a book more pulp fiction than horror. Which is okay, I guess.

So as far as Sunday/Monday reading, I've definitely done worse. But if there's one thing that's annoying me now that wasn't annoying me forty-eight hours ago, it's the pile of papers sitting on my desk that could have gotten graded by now if I hadn't enmeshed myself in devil worship and seedy detective yarns this long. Ugh. Somebody owes me a time refund.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

To the man who made me want to study English...I mean really study...

To the man who told us Emerson asked not "What shall I do" but "How shall I live..."

To a teacher, mentor, scholar who will be missed...

RIP Gustaaf Van Cromphout (1938-2005)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Hell is full of musical amateurs."

--George Bernard Shaw

"...and idiots with laptops and Napster."

URBANA-CHAMPAGNE--The little woman has a wireless connection. This is sweet.

That means fast jukebox downloads. That's even sweeter.

So if I was listening to Verdi and Puccini at home during a stressful work week, and if I've got fast access to the best classics on the face of the earth at the touch of a button right now, what's the logical choice for immediate downloads? Tosca? Otello? Maybe some Listz, just to let my hair down?

Not even close:

Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast. True story. A long time ago, my brother and I traded all of my John Mellencamp for all of his Iron Maiden. I know what you're thinking: "What a sucker." You're damn right. What the hell could he have been thinking? And how could I take advantage of a poor, misguided soul like that? Money spent: $9.99

Skid Row, Slave to the Grind. Don't laugh. Seriously. The album stinks, but four tracks on it make me feel like I'm sixteen years old, washing buses and wading through the camp's pond. Oh, and I'm twenty pounds lighter with long hair, too. Money spent: $3.96

Sinead O'Connor, some Celtic music. I love it. But love it. Money spent: &.99

Weird Al Yankovic, "Headline News." Just the part where we hear the kid from Singapore holler in pain is enough justification for the buck fee, if you ask me. Money spent: $.99

The Black Keys, Rubber Factory. Admittedly, I don't know this album. But I loved Thickfreakness, and I figure, what the hell, my brother's tastes haven't led me astray just yet. Money spent: $9.99

Natalie Merchant, "Gun Shy" (live). Admittedly, I'm not the biggest 10,000 Maniacs fan, but Kim has some stuff of hers, and I figure, what the hell, her tastes ahven't led me astray (much) just yet. Money spent: $.99

REO Speedwagon, the usual pop singles. Admittedly, I didn't go to see these guys live last year when Styx opened up for them, but I figure what the hell...what the hell. Money spent: $2.97

Two things tend to happen when I have access to fast wireless service: 1) I waste time, $30.88 and brain cells finding just the right picture of an Iron Maiden album cover; 2) I imagine myself contributing valuable music, art and current events commentary, only to do the online version of spewing, muttering, and scratching my head.

Pay no attention. Back at home I'll be back on a cellular connection, forcing me to slow down and think.

But then, when I do that, I wind up turning the computer off anyway.