Monday, February 28, 2011

Me Doing Things, Wanna Come?

Hey! Two things I'll be performing in this week, one day after another. Wanna come? It's like a Liz Fest. Well, I mean, for me it is Liz Fest every day. But you can have your own personal mini fest of me, if you are so inclined, which I can't imagine why you wouldn't be.

Wed, March 2nd, 7:30pm
With quirky music, spoken word performance and what have you.
I will be doing a performance based on Penn and Teller's game Desert Bus.
The Vittum Theater, 1012 N Noble Street, Chicago, $8.00

Thurs, March 3 at 9:00pm
2238 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL
Is there a fee to get in since this is a fundrasier? I don't know. What I do know is that I hope to dazzle you with a performance inspired by the new issue of my zine, Caboose #7: Britney Spears 101, which is really about me and cancer while being obsessed with Britney.

And FYI, more info about the Encyclopedia Show and the Chicago Zine Fest:

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Desert Bus

So I'm performing March 2nd at The Encyclopedia Show here in Chicago (The Vittum Theater at 1012 N Noble Street, 7:30pm $8 and $5 for students). Given that the theme of this month's show is Video Games, the topic I was given was Desert Bus. It's a lo-fi video game for Sega that Penn and Teller made, but it was never actually released. It did get leaked out on the web, so lots of game nerds know about it. It was supposed to be a mini-game that was part of a bigger collection called Smoke and Mirrors. In the 90's, Janet Reno was really against violent video games. So Penn and Teller made this video game and dedicated it to her. Penn said that he thought it was probably the only politically correct video game. Penn explained in a podcast that the idea of the game is that it "would appeal to people who didn't like unrealistic games or violence in their games, that it was just like real loving life."

So in the game of Desert Bus you drive a bus across the straight Nevada desert for eight hours in real-time. Then you drive it home. The bus slightly veers to the right, so you can't just leave leave something propped on the controller. You actually have to be steering it the whole time. So you drive a bus from Tucson to Vegas, and you can't go over 45 mph and the trip takes 8 full hours. Occasionally the air freshener hanging from your rearview mirror flaps a little. In the 8 hours there's really just desert going by. Maybe there's a bug splat on the window periodically. You could stop the bus and open the door but nobody gets on. When you get to Vegas, the game score counter of five zeroes goes to 1. You get 1 point for 8 hours of driving. Then a voice asks you if you want to pull a double shift and if so, you can drive back to Tucson for another point that you get when you arrive.

They even did a demo of it with some guy just sitting in a booth driving a bus, playing the video game. Also, P and T were going to have a contest for whoever could get the highest score (you can just keep doing the eight hour drive, back and forth), and the idea was that the winner gest a lavish prize of a ride on a fancy real bus to Vegas and they're treated to shows, money and Vegasness. But then the company that made the game went out of business and so the game never really got officially released. But people have made mockups of it on the internet and there's even a Desert Bus marathon that raises money for charity.

So snarky sarcastic comments I've been mulling over about this topic:

"It's about time someone made a video game that reflects the drama and violence of real life."

"It's about time someone made a video game that reflects a wholesome incentive for our youth instead of teaching them how to be desensitized to violence."

And finally, I don't want to give away too much about my performance inspired by Desert Bus, but perhaps I might entice you to come by telling you that my piece involves music. Also, you may want to come after you read what I have pasted in below, which is part of an e-mail regrading my tech and prop needs for the show with the show producers:

...During the instrumental I'll be eating junk food. Might I request a table and chair? And you supply the junk food. Just kidding. I will supply the junk food. I will allow you to have one (1) potato chip. Also, can I crash on your couch? Will that be cool? OK, thx bye! No, just kidding. I don't need to crash on your couch. But you can crash on mine if you need to.

Chairs (I request one),

Liz 666 Mason

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Running Commentary

I just finished watching the movie Zodiac, the movie about about a serial killer in the 60s and 70s in the bay area of California. What annoyed me was that at the end of it they put up notes about what happened to all the real people that were portrayed in the movie, and the font was so small I couldn't read it. WTF?!!

Also, I got about 3/4 the way into the movie and decided that movies are no fun without snacks, so of course I needed (air-popped) popcorn. But popcorn is no fun unless you have a lot of it. And then also popcorn needs all the salt and (fake 0 calorie) butter. And then also I needed a pint of Arctic Zero (150 cals per pint). It's amazing that food technology has come such a long way that I can actually eat that much food and that it's not actually that many cals, carbs or fat. Actually, I think everything I just ate was fat free. How is that possible? I sound like a commercial. I went to their website and apparently a lot of celebrities eat it. But why should you care what I eat when I watch movies? I don't know why I find this information very important.

So then I decided to go to the website of the movie and they have all these shorts you can watch that weren't on the Netflixian DVD that arrived at my house, since apparently the Netflix dvd was before the director's cut DVD came out with all the extras. Also, I thought maybe on the Zodiac the movie website they might have a reprint of the WAY TOO SMALL font that I couldn't read at the end of the movie. But the internet moves really slow on the couch where I sit with my Macbook (the router is in the bedroom but Joe is asleep in the bedroom so I don't want to work in there). So during the moments where the streaming is er, unsuccessfully streaming, I thought I would blogify in those moments, as if it was a running commentary. This is not unlike the commentary I was e-mailing my friend who brought me a bunch of karaoke discs back from Cambodia. Joe and I were watching them (Cambodian karaoke discs come with awesome videos) at those moments I was providing the running commentary via e-mail to my friend, which I will reproduce the correspondence here.

On Feb 8, 2011, at 7:18 PM, Liz Mason wrote:
We are watching the karaoke discs you gave us. One has a monkey!

On Feb 8, 2011, at 7:22 PM, Liz Mason wrote:
One guy has facial hair and looks like Gary Oldman in the Batman movies. Also, why is he a hip hop guy wearing bifocals? Joe suggests that is because he has bad eye sight but that it isn't totally debilitating. Is that a new hip hop thing? Bifocals?

On Feb 8, 2011, at 7:27 PM, Liz Mason wrote:
One guy was playing some kind of instrument that looks like a harmonica but sounds like an accordion. I do not understand that type of technology. Can you explain?

Joe suggested that the music sounds like 70's era Lawrence Welk but that the guy on a scooter contrasts with the sound of the music. My thoughts on the matter relate to the narrator's eyebrows. I think he dyed them.

Response from my friend:
To: "Liz Mason" <>
Date: Tuesday, February 8, 2011, 9:47 PM

O my god please tell me these emails only stopped because you stopped watching the disks. this is my best karaoke experience ever.

Actually, the reason we stopped is because we had to leave to go somewhere. I look forward to watching the rest of them and providing a written commentary as we watch them.

Oh, screw it, the movement on the web on the Zodiac site is so damn slow that I'm going to give up on it. So much for a running commentary not that one.

I started listening to the Pod F. Tomcast, the podcast of comic Paul F. Tompkins, which is very amusing. He interviewed the woman who was in one of the Drunk History shorts on, and apparently, that particular short won an award at Sundance. That blew my mind, that that won some kind of award at Sundance, Not that the short isn't awesome (it IS totally awesome), but a Sundance award is not something I would imagine would be awarded to a short like this. anyway, the podcast is super funny, and he conducts it like he's in space or something and there's robots and nice piano music with occasional electronic sounding tweak noises. I like it! Like he's orbiting in space, speaking to the masses, in a Big Brother-y kind of way. He is a super funny comediane. I remember one of my favorite sketches on Mr. Show he was in, and it was the one about the shoe salesman who passes all the ridiculous lie detecter questions, and Paul F. Tompkins was one of the people who already work at the store. Also, sometimes I hear him on WFMU's The Best Show and I always enjoy him then.

I just got a major edition to my tattoo on Sunday night, a sleeve of vines that travel up from the knuckle of my pointy finger and travel up to my elbow. I have to go lotionify it, which you're supposed to do a lot in the beginning. I love the wait looks, a vine with shades of green mostly, and it matches the vine I have on the other arm between my elbow and shoulder. Anyway, it feels kind of warm and itchy, both of those because it is trying to heal. That makes it sound pretty nasty! Well, in a way I suppose it is. But I love the way it looks and I look forward to when it's a bit warmer to wear clothes that I can actually show it off.

Lucky me! I'm actually getting sleepy. I took that sleepig pill over 2 hours ago, and I drank less coffee than usual today. That move must have really riled me up.

Well, practice makes perfect, so I'll go to sleep.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Because I work in a bookstore people often ask what I'm reading. So I told them I would write a blogpost about it to direct them to, with a snapshot of what I have read recently or am reading now. I always tell people that I don't always finish books or I just skim them to get an idea so I can write a synopsis about it or talk about it to customers. In any case, here are a few things I've been dipping into or fully immersing myself in, many of which are strewn all over the house, so depending on where I am at that moment, it sort of dictates what I read.

So I tried to read the most recent Thomas Pynchon novel Against the Day. By all rights it should be something I like: funny, stuff about the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, witty dialogue, etc. But it was boring. I held out, I did. But after 50 pages I decided I had other things I wanted to read more. I am not shy about putting a book down if I can't get into it. Life is not that long and there are many things I want to read. I am OCD about many things but reading is not one of them. If something sucks I will not finish it. If If I taste food that sucks I'm not going to continue eating it. If I hear a song that I dislike I'm not going to go buy the album. And so on. Plus, it was a free copy so it's not like I paid for it. If I spent money on it would I try to fool myself and keep reading it? Or am I not trying very hard because it was free? But that's the thing -- I shouldn't have to try to enjoy something. The only thing I am willing to work on to try to enjoy is interpersonal relationships. And even my effort in that area needs some help.

Also free is a book that someone consigned at the store, and the item has no official name to it, except that the consignor just calls it MANIFESTO. So far I am about 10 pages in, and I didn't see a title anywhere. I just know it's called that because we sell it. It's a white paperback, and so far it's about the narrator's life, essentially being a free spirit bored by the school system until heading off to college. At the rate I'm going with the reading of it, it will probably go quickly. I mean, I'm a slow reader but I read 10 pages standing in a grocery line. It was that kinda dumpster dive-y CrimthInc feel to it but it's actually published by the International Artist Collectives. The weird thing about this book is that that one was also free because someone left a used copy of it in the doorway, like outside the door, before we were open. The had obviously bought it there (in the computer it had been sold only a day or two before, I saw on the sales record). The weird thing is that I go into work every day a few hours before the store opens to get paperwork type of stuff done, and there wasn't anything in the doorway. But then as I sat at the computer doing stuff there were people yanking at the door, which happens sometimes; people see me in there, and even without all the lights on, they think we're open (we don't typically open until noon or 11am on Saturdays). Then when the door doesn't open or they notice I'm not responding, they step back and puzzled, look at the hours. Then they see we don't open for a while. But they are confused. Why is there this lady sitting in there if they're not open? Then they start yanking on the door again. Sometimes I'll get up and move somewhere else in the store so they get the message. Anyway, so this was happening, someone yanking on the door and me doing my AM passive-agressive "I'm ignoring you" thing, and when I went to go turn over the open sign and unlock the door, I noticed someone had left this book. And I had always been very interested in reading it, because we sell a lot of them, sometimes I even talk to the consignor on the phone when they call to check up on its consignment status. Sometimes it even makes the Weekly Top 10, although if the truth be known, it often does not take much to be on the top 10. All you really need to sell is sometimes 2 or 3 copies of an item. On the other hand, the bookstore where I work sells thousands of things, so for us to sell more than one of something in the same week can actually be very rare. Sure, there are certain things that always sell well when they're new (certain popular zines or books by certain artists or writers), but then there are other things that no matter how old they are, they can sometimes make an appearance in those weekly bestsellers. This book is one of them. What's nice about it is a)it's free so I don't have to worry about getting it all mussed up and b)it is small and fits in my purse. I like to bring something to read in my bag at all times so that if I'm at the frocery or whatever, if I ever end up in some line somewhere, I try to have some reading material on me at all times.

Also, I've been reading short stories, a couple a night, from a wonderful anthology called Darwin's Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow, which was also free. I think we got it from the publisher as a sample copy at work. So it's science fiction-ish stories about evolution, sort of little parables about society, what could happen (or could have happened) if we keep on going the way we're going, or perhaps how society could have evolved if certain things had happened. Lots of different authors have work in it. I really liked the one about how in the future being a celebrity will actually become outlawed. Another one is a love story about pneumatic tubes. Another story is about how those inclined toward the liberal arts becoming homeless. And another, one by William Gibson, is about people that become separated from their bodies (not actually dead -- and in fact, the body goes off and does something else, like become an accountant), and some people can see them, some can't, but that that's really what ghosts are -- people who aren't actually dead, and not actually having an out-of-body experience in the way we think of that sort of thing, and also that the way these disassociated people get high are sucking on the waves created by old television sets with the old tubes. I got to thinking a great idea for a short story would be this: the only things left from our society after the apocalypse are celebrity memoirs. What would beings from other planet draw based on what they read in those books?

Do zines count? Sure. The kitchen table is where I do most of my reading of zines or comics, I guess because they're less expensive so I'm not as worried about getting food on them. I just got a new tattoo so I've been reading Herbal Healing for Piercings and Tattoos: Organic Aftercare for Everyone
by Anastasia Weedsmith. My most recent tattoo is a left arm sleeve that starts on my index finger and travels up to my elbow, a coiled vine. The outline is done and half the coloring is done. A month from now, after it heals a bit, I will go back to the artist and get the rest of the color. It's mostly shades of green.

Also, I read a lot of magazines at the kitchen table that are previous issues of glossier magazines I get free because they are the previous issue that we've sent the covers back to the distributor for credit when the new issues come in. Certain mags I always take home are Bizarre (not Harper's Bizarre, but as in Bizarre), Fortean Times, Bust, Ready Made, Bitch and a few others. Let me just say if you come in to the store and you buy a grab bag for $2.50, it's possible that some of these items might be in there, and it's a sweet deal.

I've been getting kind of down on myself for not reading enough. But I need to cut myself some slack. It's not like I have a lot of spare moments. I feel like in almost everything I do, I need more time, and I tend to overestimate the amount of things I can get done in a span of time. I shared this with a co-worker and he suggested something that he's started doing, which is pick an average amount of hours per week that you think you can reasonably do, and then instead of actually scheduling it, just make sure that you get that average a week. So let's say you want to spend at least 4 hours a week reading. Maybe in one week, you'll do all of it on Sunday. Maybe the next week you'll do half an hour on Sunday and then 2 hours on Tuesday, and 1 hour on Wednesday, and maybe 2 hours on Saturday -- but then the next week you only get 3 hours in somehow -- and so on, and you'll see that you're averaging about 4 a week, sometimes less, sometimes more, and not all at the same time every day or week. This sounds reasonable to me. Does anybody else have any good ideas on how to get more reading in?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Dying of a Broken Heart


So I just watched the movie "Karaoke Terror (a.k.a. The Complete Showa Era Song Book)" based on the novel by Ryu Murakami that I read recently. If it has karaoke in the title, no doubt I will be interested. What I want to know is, since when are women in their thirties middle-aged? Because there's this whole kids vs. middle aged-ladies thing in it, and the women make reference to being in their early thirties, which is only about 10 or maybe 12 years older than the guys in the movie. I'm at least 5 years older than the women in the movie, and I don't think of myself as being middle-aged. In Japanese culture, these divorced middle-aged women are called "obasans." One of the quotes in the movie is "It's not the cockroaches that will be left after the apocalypse; it'll be the obasans!"

I think of myself as youngish and with sort of some time in my life left, but with increasing frequency in the past year or so, I am more pensive and sad about death. What I think about is this: no matter how great your life is, you end up at the end of it sick and unhappy and in pain and then dying, most likely alone and scared and sick. I saw it with my mom. I saw it with my husband's mom. I saw it in various stages of progression in the cancer ward when I was sick.

And no matter what anyone says about it, the 2 things that are always the same in any death situation is that it's ghoulish and it's surreal. The body is bloated. The legs turn purple first. Death moves it's way up from the legs up to the head. And the body makes weird noises and weird smells as it shuts down. The surreal thing -- I've seen this a few times now -- within a few minutes of the pronoucement of death everybody standing around the person, everybody switches into "OK, let's make the plans, you're in charge of calling those people, you're in charge of those, what day shall we pick out the coffin or the urn or this or that" and suddenly, it's like you go into event planning mode. I'm not making any judgement. It's just the way it is.

When I look at people I love, I feel like I see them aging by the second and what it will be like when they're gone. What am I going to do when my loved ones die? It will have been like they've never been there.

I was listening to a podcast of All Songs Considered and they had Tom Jones on and they had him talk about songs he liked that had to do with Valentine's Day and he played "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones. It's a song about how this guy loved this woman until his last dying breath, and then he dies, and that's how he stops loving her. I was standing in the closet picking out a shirt and then I'm all tears and lump in my throat. I thought about what it will be like for either me or my husband, whichever one is left after the other one dies. I thought about how Johnny Cash died just 4 months after June Carter died, no doubt of a broken heart. And then I started thinking about that episode of "Doctor Who" with Madame de Pompadour who waited for the Doctor to come back and he never came back and then the next thing you know they're wheeling her coffin away (wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff) and someone says, "Some say she died of a broken heart."

So a chapter of your life closes and then it's like, boom, you put the photos in the album and close the book and that chapter of your life is over, like it never happened, like all the stuff that's in that photo album is just some past life that is no longer relevant.

So can you die of a broken heart? For real?

I googled "Die of a broken heart" to see what the web had to say about this, and I found a very interesting New York Times article called "Health and the Broken Heart" and what was really interesting was well, YES it is possible to die of a broken fucking heart. Some older women, who developed classic heart attack symptoms after suffering severe emotional stress had consistently elevated blood levels of the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which can cause a significant weakening of the heart muscle. Elevated stress hormones interfere with normal blood flow, causing the heart damage. Or it may be that the hormones bind to the heart muscle, causing changes to the heart cells. No wonder they call it heart break. And do you ever get over your early heartbreaks? Do they leave you with scars? Do they do you more harm than good? Does what doesn't kill REALLY make you stronger? Or weaker and more defeated?

Happy fucking Valentine's Day. From an obasan.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ye Mustaches and So On and So Forth

So a couple nights ago we went to a new "pub" (I use quotes because I feel stupid saying "pub" casually, like I'm Madonna using the word "gobsmacked" to sound British) in Chicago's stylish Wrigley-Lakeview-whatever-whatever neighborhood. The place is called Blokes and Birds, which is why we had to try it, and of course I thought I was extemely witty in the cab ride over discussing the name in reference to the Streets' lyric "We call them birds/not bitches" even though I kind of find the Streets sort of boring, but whatever.

Anyway, it was delicious and had lots of whiskey and beer and fun cocktails with names like "Cobbles and Stones," "Mind the Bollocks" and so on. And oh! They do craft cocktails that have adjectives like "infused," "puree," "tarragon syrup" and so forth, which I am immediately suckered into (the more adjectives a cocktail has that makes it sound like something from an apothecary[1], the higher the probability is that I will be excited to try it). They had a note on the menu that said they requested customers not freak out if it takes a while to get the cocktail because they take a while to make (which is fine with me -- I'm a cheap drunk). But it wasn't too crowded in there so I didn't have to wait too long, which was a nice surprise.

Part of the logo was a mustache, which, all things mustache-y are very in right now, which means that my dad must be super famous. No, my dad is not Salvador Dali. Nor is he John Waters. But his handlebar mustache IS legendary. I'm sure you've noticed the popularity of the mustache thing right now, what with the "growth" of -- ha, ha-- "grow-a-mustache" charity a-thons and Accoutements' hipster mustache product -- I suppose an indication of the zeitgeisty-ness of mustaches -- and then you can buy mustaches to joke-ily wear and then also, you can buy mustache stick-ons to put on your mirror, and even at work we have this mustache wax that comes in 3 old timey flavors designed by the inimitable art of BT Livermore.

Anyway, in keeping with the British theme -- so they were playing Monty Python's Holy Grail and playing music like The Sex Pistols and the Clash and so on -- kind of Epcot Centery in its choice of British music in that regard, if Epcot Center was a little bit un-Disney-fied, but you know, that's cool. This is fine with me -- I mean, you're talking to someone who would get a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy tattoo if there was a good graphic of it that I could get into, and not "Don't Panic." No text on my body. That's where I um, "draw the line," ha ha ha. (And I will not do any of the cheesy graphics from the book covers. I have also thought about getting some of the Guide's graphics as realized in the BBC mini-series, like at the parts where the Guide is talking and it has all this hilarious animation. A co-worker suggested I find an artist who does artwork I like and have them draw something from the book, which got my mind going. So if you do awesome art and want to draw something from the book then let me know. Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster? Babble Fish? Sperm whales? Petunias? Improbability Drive? Dolphins leaving the sea? [I actually heard someone in the audience at the theater at the opening night of the semi-recent movie version, when the dolphins leave the sea, at the end of the opening theme, go "Oh shit!" And the audience laughed, which was great, like a bunch of people in the audience bonding over geeky common interest, which warms my cockles, like on opening night of the first X-Files movie and just as Mulder and Scully were about to almost kiss, the audience started screaming. I live for these type of audience bonding moments. New age-y mob mentality, just my style. I've always wanted a group of friends that big.])

Anyway, back to ye mustache pub with all you can eat fish and chips and shepherd's pie etc. Sometimes they would sneak in non-British music. I would be Ok with this except that it was Talking Heads. I can't get into them. Their songs are long and boring. And ulch! David Byrne and his scary Robert Blake face driving down the road.

My husband Joe pointed out that the Talking Heads were sort of new wave-y, and he could kind of see how that music might get incorporated into the music they were playing at the bar with the other stuff they were playing. My reponse was: "The theme of the place is British. Not new wave."

He alerted me to the fact that David Byrne was Scottish born, so technically he was a British citizen.

I said David Byrne should be "expedited."

Joe pointed out that the word I wanted was "extradited."

My response was, "Fine! Expedite the extradapolation, whatever. David Byrne, all New Yorky with his bicycle and his McSweeney's book[2]."

Joe's response was, "Yes. OK" to let me win an argument he preferred we not have.

My response was, "No wait! Continue! We're having a conversation!" and so on.

Joe's response was (as counseled by me at a lighter moment that really, all I really want in almost any preposterous conversation such as this is someone to say this to me to push my "shut up" button): "You're hilarious!"

And curtain.

Ye End

[1] Or if we’re being British I suppose I might say “chemist.”
[2] Technically now this publisher is located in California.