Getting Sacked

While driving home from a weekend stay in the great hate state of North Carolina, we spent a large portion of the journey past Richmond being treated to a view of the back-end of a “dualy”—a dual-wheeled pickup truck—decked out in chrome, including giant chrome-plated side mirrors, running boards…and a chrome-plated scrotum dangling from its chrome-plated trailer hitch.

Yeah, you read that correctly. This dualy had balls.

I’m not going to post a photo. If you must see what I’m referring to, you can visit this site. And, oh look…they’re made in the USA. Could I be any prouder?

I’m actually quite mortified that I live in a country where hanging ersatz balls off the back of a gas-guzzling vehicular atrocity is acceptable behavior. I’m even more mortified by the fact that there are enough people in this country who, upon reading my previous statement, would immediately attack me, call me all variety of unfavorable names, and then invite me to STFU and GTFO!!!111!!111! And you wonder why I keep my comments section locked.

But I digress.

The thing that I can’t help but wonder is that hanging a pair of balls from your truck is supposed to be an indication of what exactly? I know that people say things like “Boy, that took balls” or “he’s got a pair of steel ones” or “That was ballsy” to indicate that someone has done something brave. Something strong. Something manly.

Here’s the thing, though. Aren’t balls kind of…just dangly and there? I mean, I understand the biological function of the scrotum…but beyond that, why do we automatically assume that, when someone has done something gutsy or brave or brazen that they’ve “got balls”?

I’d argue the exact opposite. Balls aren’t brave. They hide when they get too cold. They’re a work hazard if you’re an action hero (Arnie taught me that). They’re shrivelly and dangly and kind of seem like the antithesis of brave to me. You want strong and brave? Look to the part of the anatomy the size of a fist that’s able to stretch to accommodate something the size of a watermelon.

Yeah, try that, Mr. Chrome Sack.

This brings me to my next point of contention: I’d also argue that this fad would be the outcry of the nation if it was women dangling labia from their bumper hitches.

[Loba Tangent: I know that labia aren’t biologically equivalent to balls, but I question whether there are enough people left in this country who would even be able to identify an ovary, especially if it was dangling from the back of a car. Then again…]

This does not mean that I would like to see women getting in on this simple, sanguine mindset. I’d like to think that we’re a little classier (says the one from the same gender as those wacky Kardashian girls…and that Snookie person). I’m just pointing out yet another hypocrisy of our patriarchal country.

Hey, I know! Let’s get a giant pair made, to install at the base of the Washington Monument!

Hilarity would undoubtedly ensue, no?

I Don’t Give a Damn ‘Bout My Bad Doppelgängin’

I warned you, denizens. There was a reason for my last Flashback Friday choice.

Truth be told, Joan Jett’s 1988 release Up Your Alley is my favorite album, holistically speaking. This probably stems from the fact that this was my first taste. However, I can find something enjoyable from all of her Blackhearts releases. I can even dip back into her Runaways years and find stuff to make those long commutes at least audibly enjoyable. All I have to do, though, is just see the cover art for Up Your Alley, and the Loba Happy-O-Meter is cranked to 11.

None more black, indeed.

This was quintessential Jett in many ways, especially in visual style: teased black rocker hair, black leather all around, kohled eyes, “come here if you dare” stare. However, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for the cover of her 1983 release, Album. Atrocious jaundiced background aside, this has always struck me as one of her most “fun” covers:

Nothing better than a Jett in flight, eh? I’ve always loved this pose…so much so that I’ve considered getting the silhouette on a T-shirt. Plus, she’s decked in her trademark black, including the leather pants, but she’s still holding onto her punkier Runaways style with her red Chucks, that bandanna thing she kept going for quite a while, and some badass black leather-studded accoutrements.

I love this version of Jett so much that this is the photo I chose as the inspiration for my own Joan Jett costume for a rock-themed party this weekend:

Close enough for government work, right? I was pretty pleased with the overall look (although I’m sure there was more makeup on my pasty face that night than on an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race). I thought about taking my Guitar Hero controller with me for effect (after covering the Aerosmith logo, of course), but decided that I didn’t want to run the risk of spilling anything on it. And there was much to be spilled. Open bars make awesome parties.

Most people immediately twigged to who I was supposed to be. One couple, however, did ask if I was Jack White.

Damn young people. Learn your rock history!

Of course, I did have a disturbing epiphany when I finally stumbled back home that night and caught a quick glimpse of myself in the foyer mirror. With my mullety hair and my thickly lined blue eyes? I looked a little less like an 80s rock star and more like a motorcycle-riding graduate of Eastland Prep…

Loba as Joan Jett Totally Looks Like Nancy McKeon as Jo Polniaczek

Take the good. Take the bad. Take ’em both and there you have just a part of Mi Vida Loba…

Who Are You?

I was fingerprinted this morning.

No, you’re not going to see me on the national news, being led away in handcuffs from the scene of some horrible pre-caffeinated rage crime. Believe it or not, I had to be printed for my job.

This statement is just going to fuel those pesky secret agent rumors. I know it.

Truth of the matter is, while what I do does require a bit of clearance from the agency to which I am detailed, I really don’t do anything that would demand this level of security clearance. However, the federal government, being the machine of brilliance and preparedness that it is (and not the least bit hyperbolic in its actions whatsoever), has decided that all people affiliated with any aspect of the federal government will inevitably have to go through this security process.

Which is how I ended up being fingerprinted while my two pieces of government-issued photo identification were scanned and I was photographed. And then everything was uploaded into a government database to be processed to confirm that I am who I say I am, and that I have not committed any sort of crime that would prevent me from receiving final clearance.

After the initial disappointment I felt when I realized that: A) I was actually going to be fingerprinted (there was some confusion about this fact from my sponsor); and B) the fingerprinting wasn’t going to be done by Sara Sidle, I settled into a state of conflicted resignation. The tech-geek side of me was fascinated by the tool they used to capture my fingerprints. Gone are the days of messy ink stains and paper ten-cards. It’s all digital, denizens. You know those machines we see those TV CSIs using? The ones that always make us roll our eyes and tsk in disbelief?

They’re real.

The security agent pulled out this device that was no bigger than a box of teabags and proceeded to print my fingers, just like you see them doing it on TV. Each finger, rolled across a plexiglass slide. Each print immediately captured in a digital image on his screen, saved to the appropriate designated box. Took fewer than 5 minutes.

While the tech-geek was mesmerized by all this, the conspiracy side of me was raging over the fact that the digital capturing of my fingerprints has somehow stolen that much more of my privacy. Kind of like how those isolated tribes felt that pieces of their souls were stolen away every time one of those pesky National Geographic excursions came through to photograph them.

If you hadn’t noticed this about me, I’m a bit of a private wolf. I like keeping as much personal information as I can…well, personal. I know it makes me seem paranoid (which I admittedly am), but I like the false belief that I have some shred of control over my identity. Up until this morning, one of the things over which I thought I would always have control was my fingerprints not being in any database.

Now, like those sad little tribes and their ever-shrinking souls, another little piece of my privacy has been hacked away. And they couldn’t even send Sara Sidle to do the hacking.

Reflections on a Golden Gate

As touristy and predictable as it is, whenever I go to San Francisco, I always end up taking an excessive number of photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. I simply can’t help myself. It’s stunning, no matter what time of day or what type of weather surrounds it. I’ve seen it damasked by fog, gilded by moon glow, and shimmering in the brilliant sunlight, and I’ve yet to tire of its beauty.

This past trip, I decided that I needed to mix it up a little bit…get a different perspective. I also wanted to visit yet another filming location from Vertigo, one of my favorite Hitchcock films. I ended up at Fort Point, right beneath the bridge and just as the sun was reaching a prime position in the sky for some gorgeous Golden Gate glow.

I would have liked to have gotten even further under the bridge or closer to the water’s edge for some of these shots. Unfortunately, the fort was closed and surrounded by a pesky security fence. Oh well. Perhaps next time.

Here, then, are my favorite shots, including one of a drippy-billed seagull who seemed quite amused by my impromptu photo shoot…

And, finally, here’s my favorite shot, which I took specifically as an homage to Vertigo. It came out so exactly as I had hoped it would that I couldn’t resist taking it into PhotoShop and turning it into my own “poster” for this movie:

Using The Carrot To Stick It To Us…

First, allow me to vent for a moment to the companies, corporations, organizations, etc. who hide behind the “green” concept to keep more money for themselves. I’m talking about the businesses that do things like no longer provide printed instructions with their merchandise under the guise that they are “protecting the trees.”

No, you’re not. You’re saving yourself the cost of providing us with what we now must provide ourselves. I don’t think you’re being environmentally friendly. I think you’re being capitalist dicks.

[Yes, Loba is in a less than chipper mood this afternoon.]

Tangentially, I have a gripe about the local government where I reside doing something quite similar. Beginning January 1, 2012, all stores (with the exception of pharmacies and fast food restaurants) now charge 5 cents for each bag that they provide their customers. The stores get to keep 1 cent while turning over the rest to the government. The government claims that they are doing this to help reduce litter in our landfills.

Allow Surly Loba to call shenanigans.

Mind you, I have no problem with the concept of BYOBag to stores. We’ve been taking our own bags to the supermarket for almost 3 years now. Back then? Stores actually rewarded us eco-friendly shoppers by giving us…a 5-cent-per-bag discount on our bill. Now? Nothing.

Unless you don’t remember to bring your own bags.

I get it. Governments all across the country are strapped for cash and are trying to figure out how to bridge the gap in frightening financial shortcomings without raising the ire of idiotic TEA baggers by raising taxes. So they’re coming up with inventive ways of side-stepping the scary “T” word by doing things like this. But not only can I see through your rather flimsy “we’re being green” smokescreen, I can also do enough math to put 2 and 2 together and see that what used to be a positive reinforcement toward eco-responsibility on the part of consumers has now been turned into a big fat negative.

Essentially, they’ve taken the carrot of rewarding our conscientiousness and stuck it right…well, you know.

I guess what irritates me the most is that I’m tired of all the pretending that these things are being done for anything other than purely financial reasons. It’s for the same reason that where I live insists that I have Sammy inspected every 2 years to confirm that his emissions aren’t polluting the air and killing all the wildlife in the state. Oh, and by the way, that’ll be $14 for the hassle.

Are we as a society really this dull-witted that we don’t balk at such blatant manipulation…but we’ll go bat-shit crazy if the mere suggestion of raising taxes is brought to the table? Call me crazy, but I would much rather you just raise my taxes than nickel and dime me (literally) in these frustratingly capricious ways.

Penning the End and Beginning the New

Happy New Year, denizens!

There. I was remiss before. Now, I’m…unremiss.

I wandered away from the lair for some end-of-season celebrating. Penn’s sylvan city of brotherly love played surprise host to the festivities. I haven’t been to Philadelphia since a high school field trip my Senior year, so it was interesting to see it from an adult perspective…and for more than a quick day trip.

Plus, they do seem to enjoy the New Year party mentality. There were fireworks twice: once at 6 p.m. Saturday evening and again at the midnight hour. There was also a dazzling number of people roaming the streets, adorned with all variety of flashing and flickering gaudiness, enjoying the various vice-fueled buzzes that would carry them into the new year. I was disappointed, however, that, yet again, no one tried to ring that big famous bell, giant crack be damned. Honestly, why no one’s tried to patch that thing up yet eludes me.

Let me in there…I’ll have her good as new in no time.

Actually, we didn’t engage in any Americana worship at all this trip (although we did walk past the Liberty Bell twice). This was more of a food extravaganza journey. The prime destination on New Year’s Eve was a tapas restaurant, Amada. They offered a special New Year’s Eve menu, which consisted of what seemed like a never-ending arrival of little plates containing all manner of decadence. It was an experience that shames any previous concept of the phrase “food coma.” The rest of the evening is honestly a bit of a glorious blur. All I know is that fireworks occurred again. Indeed.

Did you know that Philly holds a pretty much all-day parade on New Year’s Day? It’s called the Mummers Parade and it’s this insane blending of all sorts of traditions from all sorts of ethnic influences. Basically, it’s a day-long party parade that represents the blended ethnic motif of the city itself.

Not really being parade people, we avoided most of the Mummers festivities…although at some point we did get to witness drunken douchebaggery dressed in flamboyant Mardi Gras jester attire. Apparently, drinking starts early at the Mummers Parade and doesn’t stop until well after dark. Neither, unfortunately, does the douchebaggery. Needless to say, I was not expecting to encounter the aforementioned merry band of miscreants who, for several uncomfortable blocks, serenaded any woman within their visual range with the visceral chant for them to “reveal their endowments.” Oh, the shear poetry of it all.

However, inebriated revelry was nowhere to be found at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There was, however, an abundance of lovely art…and a lot of furniture. There was also an entire section devoted to armor and weaponry, which I found surprisingly fascinating. I think it was the horse armor. How do you not love horse armor?

Afterward, we roamed the city, allowing its culinary redolence to lead us through its grid of diverse neighborhoods. Unfortunately, it being New Year’s Day and all, a lot of places were closed, including the place we wanted to go for what many have rated one of Philly’s best cheese steaks. The more touristy places, Pat’s and Geno’s, were both open, with lines that curled in on themselves like ravenous Möbius strips. I’m sorry, denizens, I’m not going to believe that either place makes a sandwich that good.

The place on South Street that we finally found, Steve’s Steaks, provided a more than satisfactory fill-in for these far more kitschy destinations. The clientele all seemed to be locals, which I always prefer to the boisterous banality of tourist traps like the aforementioned stands. The cheese steaks were huge, slathered in onions and Cheese Whiz (as God and Benjamin Franklin meant them to be), and perfectly hot and juicy.

And now that I have probably stirred up some strange cheese steak rivalry and possibly offended half of Philadelphia, I shall bid you adieu. Oh, but not before mentioning that there’s a lovely place inside the Reading Terminal Market, Hershel’s East Side Deli, that serves absolutely amazing Reuben sandwiches. Plus, they sell Dr. Brown’s cream soda (“Run, Marty!”), which I have on good authority is a must for a real deli.

See? I told you it wasn’t about the Americana. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some working out to do. Oh, and yes, I did walk up the Rocky Steps at the museum. No, I didn’t do it intentionally. No, I didn’t lift my arms over my head when I reached the top. Yes, I did roll my eyes at the people who did. I also took this photo, which is a lovely view of the city. Enjoy…and once again, Happy 2012, denizens. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

The Holidays As They Were Intendant…

Yes, denizens, it’s time once again for me to drop a little holiday geekery on you. I’m returning to my Trek roots this year, with a traditional geeky greeting from the Mistress of All Things Naughty, The Intendant.

Because, really, nothing says holiday cheer quite like an unhinged Bajoran wrapped in a pleather onesie.

Whatever your pleasure might be…whether it’s pleather or tweed or somewhere in between, I wish you the merriest of days, filled with peace, love, and joy.

Ode to…Pöpcørn?

I love the Muppets. A lot. I’ve already talked about how Jim Henson is one of the greatest influences from my childhood. Seriously, the two things that continue to make me proud to be an alumna of the University of Maryland at College Park are: my three aunts graduated from there; and Jim Henson graduated from there.

I still haven’t made it to see the new Muppets movie. I’m actually quite irritated with myself over this fact. I haven’t wanted to go see a movie in a very long time, but frog dammit, I want to see this one. Time to finally finish off that Fandango card!

In the interim, however, I’ve been watching some of the YouTube videos put out by Muppet Studios. Two have quickly become my favorites. Two of my favorite recurring characters are Beaker and the Swedish Chef. Poor Beaker, always getting the fuzzy end of the lollipop stick, no matter what. All the horrible things that Bunsen Honeydew did to him, yet he continued to rise like some kind of orange-tufted, felty Messiah (ooh, have I offended the fundamentalists? Good). Even when he’s on his own, as in this video, he still somehow attracts an incomparable level of disaster that is equal parts traumatic and hilarious. Okay, that’s a lie. They’re just hilarious…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnT7pT6zCcA&w=640&h=360]

And then there’s the Swedish Chef. I can only imagine that he must be offensive on some level to true Swedes. Right? I mean, come on, such a blatant mockery of their native language must ruffle their feathers at least a little. Yet there’s something so delightfully underdoggish about the Swedish Chef. He’s utterly incompetent and frighteningly inept at his profession. But he means well in his attempts. And he botches his dishes in such hysterically horrifying ways…such as this attempt to make Pöpcørn Shrimp. I can’t stop watching this video. Also, please, please, please make sure that you have the closed captions activated while you watch this. Trust me. You will appreciate it that much more…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UmUX68KtE&w=640&h=360]

I like how my favorite characters are two of the Muppets that have regular Muppety heads but have “real” hands (the Swedish Chef always had human hands; in fact, they originally were Jim Henson’s hands and Henson’s voice…Beaker has human hands as well, but they’re covered with felt). Also, neither one speaks a true language. The Swedish Chef is somewhat understandable at times; Beaker though…I have no freakin’ clue there, denizens. Just makes him that much more entertaining. Although, really, maybe Beaker isn’t even a “he.” How the hell can you tell? Maybe it’s a girl. I don’t know. Do you?

While you marinate on that question, here’s one final video, of both Beaker and the Swedish Chef together, bringing their…unique dialects together for this musical interlude. Watch for a guest appearance from one of my other favorite Muppets along the way…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXKUb5A1auM&w=640&h=360]

Walken In A Winter Wonderland

Not a lot of time for my typical prolixity, but I wanted to celebrate the auspicious occasion of yet another Über Geek Holiday Door.

You may recall that last year’s door was decidedly dorky (in a delicious way). This year’s theme was “Winter Wonderland.” The decree was issued not long before I was introduced to the wonderful meme “Walken in a Winter Wonderland,” one of the most wonderful memes I’ve seen in a very long time.

Obviously, I knew what I needed to do…

It’s not quite what I originally envisioned, but I not only ran out of time but also inspiration. I wanted to create a giant poster to advertise this as a new Rankin/Bass cartoon. That’s kind of what it is now…in a somewhat in-the-rough way.

I did, however, see fit to give myself my own award (since I failed to meet the deadline for door judging):

Here are better views of the primary characters. Jack Frost was going to be the focus of the cartoon (since he is the one with the fever, after all) so I made his the largest picture:

I think it’s funny how Christopher Walken as Hermey the Dentist Elf from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer looks a little bit like Steve Buscemi:

And Christopher Walken as the Heat Miser from The Year Without Santa Claus looks kind of like U.S. Senator John Kerry:

Maybe that’s just my interpretation though.

Anyway, this is what’s going to be on my door for the rest of December. I hope someone out there enjoys it. Or at least gets it. And if you’d like to see some of the clips that inspired my Walken insanity, including his role as “The Continental,” one of my favorite of his SNL characters and the screen cap I used for Jack Frost’s face, here you go. Merry whatever, denizens.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6tJ_ayFZto&w=640&h=480]

Hunting the Unfamiliar

It takes years to shape a Bösendorfer piano. The wood, carefully selected among the forest of possibilities owned and maintained by the Bösendorfer company, is weather-aged for four years or more. Each shell is then hand-carved, hand-curved, workers molding the forms with the stroke and care of a devoted lover. They believe that they transfer some essence of themselves into these instruments through their touch, that their emotional bearing as they work can affect the timbre and character of the final product. This is not a pedestrian piano. This is the culmination of nearly 200 years of devotion to craft and care—the exquisite, dark richness of sound released from within incomparable to any other.

All of this and more will one day be written upon a placard and placed within the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame …perhaps even installed right next to one of these magnificent creatures whose music once held audiences under the enchantments of its melodic mistress.

Many things can (and have been) said about Tori Amos, but above all else, one truth is clear: She is uniquely focused—in her effort, in her skill, in her creativity. The world as filtered through her mind and released through lyrics that often defy comprehension is equally magical and malevolent. She is a pragmatist and a dreamer, her hands possessed by a musical sorcery when they come in contact with the keys of her mighty Bösendorfer beauties. There are few pianists who can rival Amos’s preternatural aptitude. Hyperbole be damned—to watch her play is to watch divinity set free.

Not everything that Amos has done throughout her career has resonated with me on a positive level. However, I will never deny my admiration of the desire that presses her onward in her exploration of sound and meaning, even when it falls short of my own personal boundaries of enjoyment. She stands unafraid of pulling forward whatever lives within her, examining it and presenting with an unparalleled candor. She is also unafraid of expanding beyond the rote safety of one specific genre, as so many musicians of her longevity are. Those musicians often stagnate within the confines of sound and style that no longer suit them, too afraid at this point in their careers to embrace the duality of salvation or failure that change could bring.

Fortunately, Amos has practically made a career of embracing change. And so it goes with her latest release, Night of Hunters. Her first offering on new label Deutsche Grammophon, this release marks Amos’s entry into yet another previously unexplored genre, the reinterpretation of classical music concepts through her distinctively contemporary lens. I was admittedly wary when I first heard about this release and have yet to purchase it. I’m not entirely certain what I find so off-putting about this concept. I’m still wrestling with that.

I can say, with all certainty, that last night has convinced me that Amos needs to continue with this particular collaborative exploration. She returned home to us last night, playing Constitution Hall in downtown D.C. This was my ninth time seeing her in concert—and it might qualify as one of my favorite performances. Amos is bliss by herself, but when joined by the skilled efforts of a string quartet, she transcended expectation in extraordinary ways.

It wasn’t her new music that reached me. In fact, the new songs that appeared at the beginning of last night’s playlist left me feeling a bit apprehensive regarding how enjoyable the rest of the concert would be. Also, the sound technicians overcompensated in their attempts to raise her voice above its accompanying instruments, which left the quality distorted and painfully sibilant. Once the technical glitches were sorted and she began to move more deeply into the bramble of her musical oeuvre, that was when the hunter captured me.

Amos has always had an uncanny ability to reinterpret her own music when playing to a live audience. It’s one of the reasons I love going to see her whenever she comes to town. Last night, with the added layering of violins and cello, she took familiar standards to levels of surprising complexity and reinvention. The standouts of the evening were a musical mash-up of her song “God” with Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells” and Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”; “Winter,” which has always been one of my favorite Amos songs and took pride of place as my favorite song from last night’s performance; and “Cruel,” in which her accompanying string quartet embraced Amos’s approach to the untethered exploration of their musical instruments.

For the moment, there are clips on YouTube of each of these songs. The version of “Winter” that I found wasn’t quite as expansive as the version last night; I do believe the artists are growing more comfortable with their freestyle expressionism with each playing. The version of “Cruel” that I found, however, is quite close to what we heard last night. I only wish you could see more of the quartet. I encourage you to enjoy them while they remain online, denizens:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0BZ_G7eVPQ&w=640&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDvShrKXDrY&w=640&h=360]

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ax0MUDd2PTE&w=640&h=360]

I would love to see what we witnessed at last night’s concert turned into to a revisiting of her earlier music in this fashion, for studio release. I doubt that will happen, but one never can tell when it comes to Amos.