What I learned this week, January 29, 2021

The 50 Best Cult Movies

I was shocked how many of these I have seen – and not shocked by the fact that I liked pretty much every one that I had seen. Out of 50 there are only three that I have never watched.

On the other hand, I can think of a lot of cult movies not on this list. These are all mostly fairly mainstream. I have been well beyond this lineup – It has nothing by Gaspar Noé (I would definitely put Enter the Void on the list), no Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain), no Synecdoche, New York (have to have something by Charlie Kaufman)… I could go on.

But I won’t.

Movie Poster for First Spaceship on Venus (Silent Star) – I remember the excitement of seeing this poster, even though I was probably six years old at the time.

Lessons from The Brothers Karamazov: Doubt, Freedom, and the Organic Nature of Religious Truth

I have begun to see The Grand Inquisitor everywhere I look.

(click to enlarge) Book With Wings Anselm Kiefer Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth

Ten Ideas That Have Shaped My Life

A good list… a start at least.

Birdhouses in the Tree of Life, Audobon Park, New Orleans (click to enlarge)

What Exactly Is a Short Squeeze?

Like everyone else I have been watching the GameStop shenanigans with more than a little enjoyment… and some confusion. This article helps with the confusion.

I love some of the memes… especially this one:

There is no dark matter. Instead, information has mass, physicist says

(click to enlarge) Mural, Deep Ellum Dallas, Texas

Lorrie Moore: It’s Better to Write Than Be a Writer

My Pomodoro timer, Moleskine, and Ivory Pilot Prera fountain pen.

A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle

I’ve stolen something. There is a bar that I visited this year, one that had an old fashioned photo booth back in the back, next to the filthy bathrooms. On the wall by the booth was a torn up cork board. A lot of people thumbtacked their strips of four photos into the cork, leaving them for posterity. I picked up a handful that looked interesting and stole them.

I’ve scanned the strips and I think I’ll take them, one at time, four photos at a time, and write a few words about the people in the photographs. Or, more accurately, what I imagine about the two people.

I wrote a story about the first strip here – now I’m fiddling with the second.


A Guy, His Girlfriend, and His Uncle

Kipling Butter was in town to meet his long-lost uncle, Sandhurst Myers, and wanted to bring his girlfriend, Sealey Wood for support..
His parents had never even mentioned his uncle. Sandhurst had left The Church at the same time Kipling was born.

Kipling was brought up in The Church and had never doubted its tenets… until he met Sealey.

They met when Kipling’s van broke down in an unfamiliar part of town and Sealey gave him a ride. The Church didn’t approve of cellphones – at least not carried by their members out of control of The Church elders and without Sealey’s help, Kipling was in a jam. He had never met any women socially from outside of The Church and was smitten immediately. He even tried to convince Sealey to join The Church, but she recognized it as the crazy cult that it was and refused. She was a woman of many resources, however, and did her research.

Sealey found Kipling’s uncle Sandhurst, who in the decades since leaving the church had established an organization to help members of The Church to escape the cult’s clutches. He was elated to be able to contact his nephew outside of the control of Kipling’s parents and The Church.

The meeting was in a bar in the heart of the city. Kipling was nervous, he had never been in a bar in his life. Since The Church strictly forbade alcohol or contact with anyone associated with alcohol, Sealey and Sandhurst knew it would be a safe meeting place.

All the stress involved melted away when the three finally sat down and talked. Kipling realized his uncle was a kindred spirit and wondered why he had not done this before. Plans were made to utilize Sandhurst’s organization to spirit Kipling out of The Church‘s clutches and help his set up a new life in another city with Sealey.

The three were happy and giddy and celebrated with four sessions inside the bar’s photo booth. They each took one as a remembrance and left one tacked to the wall as a way to mark the place where all three lives changed forever.

What I learned this week, November 11, 2011

Looking around the shelves at a used book store I came across a copy of 500 Essential Cult Books. I’m casting around for something to read right at this moment.

I didn’t buy the book, but I did sit down with it, some index cards, and a Parker 21 that I carry, and sat down at a table to go through most of the 500.

My first impression is that I was shocked at how many of the books I had already read… somewhere around half. The books were divided into categories and some I had read almost all of the selection.

At any rate, I filled a couple cards with books that I had not read and that looked interesting. Some I already have in my library or Kindle, most I do not. Here’s the list, in no particular order:

  • Generation X – Douglas Coupland
  • Nausea – Jean Paul Sartre
  • Been Down so Long it Looks Like Up to Me – Richard Farina
  • Cathedral – Raymond Chandler
  • A Feast of Snakes – Harry Crews
  • Perfume – Patrick Suskind
  • The Sheltering Sky – Paul Bowles
  • VOX – Nicholson Baker
  • The Wasp Factory – Ian Banks
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
  • Almost Transparent Blue – Ryu Murakami
  • Bad Behavior – Mary Gaitskill
  • Cocaine Nights – J. G. Ballard
  • The Ginger Man – J. P. Donleavy
  • Atomised – Hichael Houellebecq
  • Young Adam – Alexander Trocchi
  • Wonderland Avenue – Danny Sugarman
  • A Hero of Our Time – Mikhail Lemontov
  • How Late it Was, How Late – James Kelman
  • Of Love and Hunger – Julian Maclaren-Ross
  • D. B. C. Pierre – Vernon God Little
  • Nelson Algren – A Walk on the Wild Side

I’ve been reading a lot about the “Bubble in Higher Education.” One of the interesting articles in that vein is called, Where Have All the Chemists Gone?   It links to a New York Times article – Why Science Majors Change Their Minds (It’s Just So Darn Hard)

You can read both of these articles and decide what you think about it on your own, but it does bring back an experience of my own, one I’ve talked about ad nauseum – but still…. I think I’ll write it down here. This is something that happened almost forty years ago… so maybe the trends identified in the articles aren’t so new after all.

I remember my first freshman chemistry class at the generic big Midwestern public university. It was held in a large old gothic auditorium (since burned down) where they played the basketball games back in the twenties and thirties. The professor walked out on the first day and said, “This is Chemistry 301, Introduction to Chemistry for Chemistry Majors. You should only take this class if you are going to get a major in Chemistry. There are three hundred and fifty students in this class. We graduate about forty chemists a semester. You need to do the math. If you don’t think you can make it through this class, drop as soon as you can to minimize the damage to your academic career.”

I was stunned when about a dozen kids walked out at that point. How low must their self-esteem be to give up at that point (or maybe they realized they were in the wrong classroom). The first exam took over half the class. The mid-term dropped half of those that were still left. At the end of the semester the class was well under a hundred. The really bad thing was that, three years later, Physical Chemistry took a third of those that had made it that far (I still believe that P-Chem is one of the absolute evils in the world – I know if any other chemists are reading this – I just gave you a nightmare).

A few years ago I was at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Arlington (I remember there were three Nobel Prize Winners at the dinner) and the the topic was improving chemistry education. I was talking to a professor afterward about how to increase the enrolment of chemists and he said, “Actually, in my experience, most of the student that can be chemists, are chemists… what we need is to increase the understanding of some of the basic tenets in the non-chemist population.” This was a guy that should know what he was talking about.

Oh, and the article talks about how grades are lower in STEM classes than in, say, business or liberal arts. No shit. My goal in chemistry was to graduate, that was it (I consider my bare C- in P-Chem I and II to be one of the greatest accomplishments in my life. I managed to pass two semesters in a subject where I had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on at all). In the decades since, I don’t think I have ever had anyone ask me my GPA. I have hired a few chemists in my day and if I ever had a job applicant with a 4.0 and a major in chemistry (In reality I never have seen or heard of such a thing) I would not hire them. To get a 4.0 in a chemistry curriculum you would either have to be too smart to be in the same world as I am, or some sort of mutant that could not relate to ordinary human beings in any meaningful way.

Another list of “Must Eat At” places in New Orleans.

New Orleans – A Foodie’s Paradise

  • Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop
  • Crawfish Etouffee at Chartres House Café
  • Jambalaya at Coop’s Place
  • Red Beans and Rice at Joey K.’s
  • Muffulettas at Central Grocery Co.
  • Beignets at Café Du Monde
  • Bananas Foster at Brennan’s
  • King Cakes at Sucre
  • Po’ Boys at Parkway Bakery & Tavern

I’ve been to six of the nine… though some were a long time ago. I wrote about Joey K’s the other day. Last year I set out to find the best Shrimp Po-Boy in New Orleans, and Parkway was the best, IMHO.

How to make pancakes from scratch

Wallet Pancakes

Why imitation syrup is better than the real thing

How to make the best diner pancakes in america

a new word for our time

Man, I would love to snag a 2011 Rangers World Championship Cap. I wonder what impoverished tropical hell hole I’d have to go to so I could buy one of some poor dude’s head.

Where does World Series Runners-Up Gear Go?

A few more Scopitones. Starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

I used to Love the Tijuana Brass, back in the day. This song and Scopitone is not why.

Great Hair… terrible rock and roll.

There have been some very good versions of Telstar over the years. This is not one of them. Plus odd and wildly inappropriate footage.

Petula Clark… one of the greats. There was “Downtown”, “I Know a Place”, “My Love”, “Colour My World”, “A Sign of the Times”,  and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway.”

Oh…. and this:

And, last but least… The absolute worst:

Hot Patootie Bless My Soul

Well, the other day I requested the Rocky Horror Picture show on my Netflix Queue so Lee could see it. It didn’t take long to get here.

Rocky and Lee

Rocky and Lee

Sunday evening Candy, Lee, and I settled down in Club Lee to watch the DVD on his 65 inch screen. It was the first time had seen the movie outside of a theater.

I have seen RHPS at least fifty… maybe as many as a hundred times. The first time was in 1976  – not long after it came out. I saw it at the student union at the University of Kansas. It was getting some buzz, but it wasn’t the midnight sensation it became only a few years lately. Somebody mentioned it was an up-and-coming avant-guarde item, so a few of us trooped on down. I was unimpressed and barely remember anything about the film. It was definitely the “British” version though, because I do remember the final song “Superheroes” – which was cut out of the American midnight releases because it was considered too much of a downer ending. At any rate, I guess I can feel a tiny bit of pride at being one of the first folks to actually see the silly thing.

Then, over the next few years, I saw the movie, like everybody else, in the movies at the midnight shows. Over and over again. Sprayed with squirt bottles, huddling under a newspaper, pelted with toast, yelling at the screen, screaming at the dancers in their costumes.

Then, later, in Dallas, I was able to see the stage version a couple of times. Back then I was expert at finding plays in small theaters and scoring front-row seats. The actor playing Frankenfurter sat in my lap at one show. His leather jacket reeked terribly – the show had been running for weeks and I’m sure it hadn’t been washed. These plays were influenced by the success of the movie and used plants in the audience to yell out the proper lines at the proper times.

My favorite has always been, “Oh no, not Meatloaf again!” at the horrific climax of the dinner scene.

Lee seems to have liked the movie – though it is pretty stupid out of its native habitat (though I had forgotten how actually good the music was).

My Favorite.

Let’s do the time warp again.