January 27th, 2008


An incomplete chronicle of how cool it was hearing s00j last night

(There will not be blood. Let the Oscar-nominated film provide that if that is what you wish to have. There will, though, be gushing. I’m a fan of Sooj. Have been for two years.)

From my office to the Tram to South Waterfront’s roads and sidewalks to Waterfront Park to quite possibly the most person-filled bus I’ve ever ridden; getting to S.J. “s00j” Tucker’s concert Friday night was an effort. There also was an emergency snack: KFC baked beans, because a KFC was the closest fast-food place to my bank’s ATM, in turn the closest ATM to In Other Words Bookstore on NE Killingsworth. Where Sooj, also known as Skinny White Chick, was. Whatever effort it took for Sooj to get there, she can tell you that. But hey, I can pretend she materialized there: that a fairy godmother and a coterie of fairies, wood-spirits and dust-obsessed mice appeared armed with wands and incantations, all used sparklingly to render S.J. Think the Disney version of Cinderella, if the animation ended with Sooj pointing to CDs on a table and saying “This is the chance you have to Buy Our Shit!” That’s Sooj: from ethereal to earthy.

Her singing voice seems larger than her body, like her voice draws power from the environment around her. (Hmm. Sooj as Jedi knight? I can almost see that.) Sooj can be quiet and unprepossessing, especially while sitting back to enjoy other people’s live music, but her demonstrative side asserts itself when she stands near a microphone, and then? Watch out.

As a happy surprise bonus, Sooj performed with one of her two compatriots in the band Tricky Pixie. Betsy Tinney, a.k.a. stealthcello, had driven Sooj down from Seattle (her base of operations this month) to Portland in the necessary musician’s accessory, a van for all their equipment, including Betsy’s cello. (Tricky Pixie fiddle player A.J. Adams was elsewhere on needed business.) “That’s some juicy cello right there,” Sooj said when the sound system got tweaked in the right way to make that instrument audible. Hanging back at the aforementioned CD table was a friend named Chris (vismaya_viewer), and she remained ready to sell people Sooj CDs. (I bought her three 2007 releases: Blessings, her second CD of songs and spoken-word pieces tied into the writing of Catherynne M. Valente (catvalente), and the live CD of Tricky Pixie’s first-ever concert.)

Some sort of miscommunication led to Sooj and Betsy believing they’d be the sole act at the event (the Luna music series, the last Friday of every month at In Other Words), but three other singer-songwriters turned out to be on the bill. So what they’d intended to be a two-hour set got distilled down to mostly proven crowd-winner-overs, like “Goddess” (“dedicated to everyone who’s had a crush on the cute girl at the coffee shop”), “The Wendy Trilogy” (a three-song cycle imagining: what if Wendy of Peter Pan had become a pirate?) and the Betsy-penned, Sooj-sung delight “Alligator in the House.” (Sooj pointed out the fragment of opera that made it into that song. She likes to make comments and tell stories while performing, extending the instrumental parts to do so.) They also played a newer Betsy song about a randy cat (inspired by one of Betsy’s; “I transcribed it,” she said); for part of the song they asked the audience to, instead of sing along, make cat-mating noises.

I showed up at In Other Words at about 6:45, soon after the event’s start, and hung back so as not to interrupt the first singer. Sooj was perched on a couch closer to the low stage. We finally both saw each other, and hugged, in between others’ songs. She told me she was missing friends of hers who’d been trapped by sickness at home and thus couldn’t attend, but there was my familiar and welcome face at least. And that helped. (The audience’s positive response to Sooj really helped, too, though a couple of people left in the middle of one song. Later Sooj said, deadpan, “I wasn’t lesbian enough for them.”)

I knew we had time after the event for food. I guessed correctly that Sooj, Betsy and Chris (and, of course, myself) could use food. I treated the three of them to pub grub at the McMenamin’s Chapel Pub – the former funeral home where I attended my Grandpa Bob’s memorial 4 ½ years ago – three blocks away. We loaded up the van (“Trunk Tetris!” I said, channeling Sooj’s friend shadesong), got it over to the pub, entered into its fireplace-fueled warmth, and proceeded to do what my family refers to as “laughing and scratching.” Good visiting happened. Sooj being Sooj, she pulled out her notebook and started writing a possible song, one inspired by another Luna Music singer. Not long before midnight, we wrapped up our revels and climbed back into the van, and I managed to guide them to near my neighborhood. I gave them directions for getting to I-5 northbound – not the most obvious trip from my neighborhood, but I’m assuming they made it – and walked home with a spring in my step and lots more s00j music in my backpack.

P.S. Heads-up if you hear a s00j-and-stealthcello performance soon: one of the new songs Betsy has penned has a sing-along part. The audience sings like cats in heat. You will enjoy finding out why.

P.P.S. You watch out for S.J. and make sure she’s fine? Then you’re a Sooj protector!

At last the 2/1 edit: s00j herself writes about the show here.
Whale fluke

Rabbit, meet Hole. (That could REALLY be misread.)



From the Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, copyright 1983:

, adj. greatly alarmed; in excessive fear. [Obs.]

Example by me, Chris Walsh, age 34 1/6: "Forfered flew the following foxes: Lenny, Mac, Chuck, and Wozniak. Fearing the ferocious, fripperied frogmouth ("noun, one of various species of birds of the family Podargidae, found in the East Indies and related to the goatsuckers," also from the dictionary!), foxes forget frolicking and flip. PHEAR!!!!"

(This may be how my other Rabbit Hole Day entries go. This may not. To quote James T. Kirk, "There are always possibilities, Spock said..." To quote Indiana Jones, "I don't know, I'm making it up as I go along.")

Rabbit Hole Day: Post-Coistrel

COIS'TREL, noun [Old French coustillier, a soldier armed with a dagger, from coustel, a dagger.] a young lad or inferior groom, employed to take care of a knight's horses; hence, a mean, paltry fellow; knave; varlet. [Archaic.]

"Quick! Colicky kids cause coistrels kicks"

(Try again, Chris...)

"Quick! The coolant's not cool currently; can't captain that car. Call up a coistrel (with corresponding colt) so Carl can call upon Carl's concubine."

This they now do.
iAm iSaid

Random words! They're fun!

li-chen-a'ceous, adj. Of or like a lichen.
li-chen'i-form, adj. Formed like a lichen.

(Hmm...should be interesting. Let's try:)

Some guys like their women curvaceous,
With rounded, buxom form.
Some of them like them to be vivacious:
Happy, spirited, and warm.
Others like them studious,
Able to translate cuneiforms;
...But that guy likes them lichenaceous!
Dude? That idea you should reform. (Or else you're gonna be lone-ly, pining for she who's licheniform...)

© Christopher Walsh, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Christopher Walsh (chris_walsh) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Good Omens


“I had…a good day.” Yeah, I’d say so, too. Cloverfield? I liked it.

I lucked out with my audience, though at first it looked like I hadn’t. I sat down far back, a little left of center. During the Star Trek teaser, two guys sat down in front of me (blocking my view of the coolness that is one of my favorite spaceships being assembled), and immediately started saying gems like “Christmas 2008,” “Bad Robot” and “That’s supposed to be a robot?” (Yes, they were either reading right off the screen or questioning what they were seeing.) Plus I think one of the guys sneaked in alcohol; I heard him pour something into his soda cup. I rolled my eyes and moved across the aisle, far enough away that I heard no more from them. In fact, by the last half of the film the audience was surprisingly quiet, one of the quietest I’ve been in since Saving Private Ryan, oddly enough. Not a comment-on-everything-onscreen crowd; definitely not a have-a-conversation-in-the-screening-room crowd…

Geek out, I did, at the monster. It has that H.P. Lovecraft influence (where it’s tentacled and not quite symmetrical*) plus, to my eye, echoes of the Rancor from Return of the Jedi, a daddy longlegs, the two-headed dragon in Willow and even, briefly, Joe Camel. I like that it has a lower center-of-gravity than Godzilla; in fact, the designers very cannily avoid any visual echoes of Godzilla.

(Digression! My former editor Lukas Kendall once said that mid-Nineties disaster films were essentially “Godzilla films without Godzilla.” Godzilla, of course, is a very particularly and peculiarly Japanese construct; Kendall felt that Western audiences craved the huge destruction of a Godzilla film but, on some level, couldn’t completely accept “the cultural awesomeness that is Godzilla.” The Emmerich-Devlin Godzilla a couple of years later stumbled on that handicap; the film never came up with a good or at least clever reason for such a creature to travel halfway across the world to attack New York. It’s instead just grafting one cultural construct onto another culture, and thus that construct’s awesomeness isn’t so obvious ’cause it’s in the wrong context. (That film would not have been made had it not been called Godzilla.) Maybe the proposed mid-Nineties Godzilla, the one scripted by the guys who went on to write the Pirates of the Caribbean films, would’ve made more sense in a more clever way.)

I’m impressed with how Cloverfield was directed. It’s artfully artless, and succeeds at creating the illusion of HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT? when you’ve seen precisely what the filmmakers wanted you to see at that moment, even if it’s half-glimpsed. The news footage seen on electronics store monitors looks like news footage (harder to do convincingly in a movie than you’d think, and all sorts of movies get it wrong); the rest of the film looks like the home video it’s meant to be. And the special effects are close to seamless. (Special effects: one way to use math!)

It does decently with the emotional side of the story, too. I’m not a rich well-dressed Yuppie like the circle of friends the film features, but they do all seem like people I’d run into in real life or maybe even know. (That’s as opposed to the leaders, scientists and military personnel on whom these monster films usually focus.) You see their world and their friends, and then you see all of that get trampled, blasted and pulverized; it’s the end of the world as they know it, and they’re having to deal with that on the run. The guy getting the call from his mom while he’s sheltering in the subway station, when he has to tell her Very Bad News…yeah, that got me. It’s not as immediate as our reactions to 9/11 were – it can’t be – but it’s more than spectacle. But the spectacle is pretty spectacular, that’s undeniable.

Ending with a grab-bag of thoughts:

* The military people our characters run into come off well: to-the-point but concerned about getting these civilians to safety. (And yay Chris Mulkey! He’s the ranking commander in the makeshift hospital.)

* I somehow doubt that many people’s instinct would be to loot if their city was getting STOMPED BY A GIANT FRICKIN’ MONSTER… Yeah, I was annoyed that that happened.

* I love that the film resists having any original score until the end credits. (And yes, I was marching in place to Michael Giacchino’s “Roar! (Cloverfield Overture)” during those credits.) A bold, smart choice; the makers of ER’s live episode back in 1997 couldn’t resist having some underscore, even though that was ostensibly a documentary. Yep, I notice this stuff.

* The influence of Joss Whedon is in evermore places. One of Whedon’s former writers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer has written a hit film. And this is a good thing.

* And I was crushing on Marlena (Lizzy Caplan). I like her resourcefulness, and her flashes of annoyed humor…

* I was wrong about that, as I learned later when I saw effects stills and the toy version of the monster.
Whale fluke

Rocks fall, everyone dies

ta-chis'to-scope, noun [from Greek tachistos, superlative of tachys, swift; and -scope] an apparatus for testing attention, memory, etc. by throwing images of objects on a screen for a brief measured period, a fraction of a second.


"Tell me what you see on the screen."

"I see a great hand, reaching from the stars..."

"Not the one showing the Babylon 5 marathon. Focus. What do you see?"

"I see...oh, no, they're scared and sad..."

"Who're scared and sad?"

"These foxes." [shouts at the screen] "It's OK, adorable foxes! You're safe! Those birds can't hurt you! You're much bigger than..."

"Is this to be an empathy test? OF COURSE IT'S NOT, I'M ADMINISTERING IT AND I KNOW IT'S NOT. Okay, they are foxes, and they're doing, well, whatever it is they're doing, so now what do..."

"OH NO!!!!"


"The foxes overran that horse and that guy pulling it, and the horse, oh no, it reared up and there was this guy and this pretty woman riding it and they fell, oh no, they're getting hurt, the foxes are scared enough they're biting..."

"Everyone's on the ground now, then?"

"Yes! And, and, and, oh no the horse rolled over on that rock and OH MY GOD THERE WERE LICHENS ON THE ROCK AND THEY'RE CRUSHED NOW OH NO POOR LICHENS..."

"Hmm..." [writes on a clipboard] "Okay, 'Oh, no, poor, lichens,' phrase never uttered before finally getting uttered now. There. That was a success, wasn't it?"

"Uh..." [take several deep breaths, then looks again at the tachistoscope] "Oh, look, the pretty woman? She's picking up the lichens. She's...hey, she's gathering the crushed lichens, and she's petting them and she's rocking them in her arms, AWWWWWWW, that's nice of her! And she, hey, look! She put some of it in her cleavage, it can stay there for safe-keeping, that means she's, she's..."


"Huh? Oh, no. That doesn't fit the meaning of the word."


This has been a true story the most random thing I've written in a long time. Strangely refreshing, that was...

Happy Rabbit Hole Day!
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