Thursday, October 8, 2015

"Sod the spelling"

Feef from Hippy Parents on Vimeo.

Simon Burrowes is his name, according to the caption under the video at Vimeo. I don't think I got every word, being basically American even though I had North Country grandparents. I like what I hear, though. Amazing what some people can make poetry out of.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The quotable curmudgeon

Sometimes a truth goes unspoken for so long that when someone points it out, regardless of how well or poorly, you just kind of have to say, "At last, someone fucking said it." So it is with Alex Beam's quesstioning of the propaganda so often heard on behalf of the new Golden Age of TV. I'm not sure if his reasons are quite the same as mine. To wit, mine begin with the fact that so much of TV connoisseurship is based on class anxiety and all out class snobbery. Watching "quality shows" on cable or better yet, streaming services and then gabbing about them with anyone who'll listen reassures everyone involved that they're at least middle class, even if they're not.

Worse, TV is being called on to educate and edify that portion of the populace who tune into the prestige stuff. The dirty little secret is that watching television is still an essentially passive activity. If you want to watch it intelligently, you also have to do other things that might be harder. Read a book for example. And this all involves developing a critical perspective too, which is usually lacking.

Keeping all this in mind, I find it especially amusing that Beam is writing for the Boston Globe, which publishes the TV writing of Matthew Gilbert. As a critic Gilbert seems convinced that if he just guides a few more viewers away from 2 Broke Girls and toward Transparent, he will save Western Civilization. A task made all the more Sisyphean by the fact that the premise is so illusory.

Moving further back in time I also like Mark Greif's "Against Exercise", This was published about eleven years ago and reprinted in the next year's The Best American Essays volume, which also has a nice Jonathan Lethem piece on a subway stop near where he grew up..

But I digress. Here's some of the meat.
It may be a comfort to remember when one of your parents' acquaintances dies that he did not eat well or failed to take up running. The nonexerciser is lumped in with other unfortunates whom we socially discount. Their lives are worth a percentage of our own, through their own neglect. Their value is compromised by the failure to assure the fullest form of possible physical existence. The nonexerciser joins all the unfit: the slow, the elderly, the poor, and the hopelss. "Don't you want to live?" we say. No answer of theirs could satisfy us.
While some are paranoid about government regulations, I suspect the true nanny state is within..

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Small change got rained on*

One thing I've noticed recently is that I'm more likely to get the wrong amount of change. Not intentional short changing, mind you. It could be too much or too little, but coins especially are likely to get screwed up.

This is weird, since modern cash registers are specialized computers that can easily do the math for you, but really old registers with springs and bells could do the same. But cashiers so often don't use these tools. Regardless of how much money you give them, they enter the exact price into the register and then when they see that's not what they're getting, try to do the subtraction in their heads. Well, I can do simple math pretty quickly in my head, but not everyone can.

I used to think they were just being dense, but now I see where it comes from. In a lot of stores and eateries, I notice that nobody uses cash for anything. A coffee, a pack of batteries or gum, everything gets put on credit. It's going to get worse once more people adopt wallet apps on their phones. And of course people who charge do pay the exact amount.

Charging everything throughout your day can certainly lead you into trouble/ Hope all these people know what they're doing.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Putting the brrrr in October

It's interesting how this year the change of seasons has lined up almost exactly with the transition from one month to the next. Summer seemed to be hanging on for just about all of September. Especially during the day, but at night it was still quite warm and humid. Come October first, though, and we have raw days and downright cold nights. Quite a bit of rain, too, although Joaquin seems to have headed elsewhere.

For me at least there's a measure of relief. It no longer feels suicidal to walk down the street wearing more than one layer. Others may feel differently.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Final Songs: God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)

Album: Sail Away by Randy Newman
Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel suppose to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord and the Lord said
"Man means nothing he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower or the humblest yucca tree
He chases round this desert 'cause he thinks that's where I'll be
That's why I love mankind"
I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in Heaven, prayers you offer me
That's why I love mankind
The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said "Lord the plague is on the world
Lord no man is free
The temples that we built to you have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won't take care of us
Won't you please please let us be?"
And the Lord said
And the Lord said
"I burn down your cities, how blind you must be
I take from you, your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That's why I love mankind, you really need me
That's why I love mankind"

There's a certain thread in Jewish literature of doubt, of guardedness in the face of the Divine, often expressed in sarcasm. Some would trace this all the way back to the Book of Job. Certainly Stanley Elkin's novel The Living End with its coddled prima donna God, is a more recent example. In these works, the Man Upstairs can appear kind of a dick.

So it is with Randy Newman's "God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)". His people cry out at the murder of Abel and His response is, essentially, LOL. In the second half of the song - the line between verse and chorus is blurred here - He indicates that his love for us is tied to the amount of abuse we foolishly take.

But there's a little more nuance to it than that. "God's Song" is a companion piece to "He Gives Us All His Love", also on Sail Away. That song is a more amiable view of a creator we can talk to and lean on, one who looks down benevolently on "babies crying" and "old folks dying." But of course this doesn't mean that babies aren't going to die, or that oldsters won't die. It just gives us some company. Both "He Gives Us All His Love" and "God's Song" are intimate numbers, a man at his piano. Newman sings them both with a collapsed soulfulness, sounding too tired to grieve so determined to find some humor in the situation.

So is God kindly? Sadistic? A little of both? Or maybe just more worn down than he lets on. In his final statement on the album Newman lets you know that the joke is on all of us, not just you. There is some comfort in that.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Out of sight

So, the lunar eclipse. Kind of exciting. I have to admit, I was sort of out of the lunar loop, so I didn't know it was happening until it started. The owner of the cafe I was playing cards in told everyone about it, so we went out to take a couple of looks between hands. The blur around what was left of the moon at first was a pretty good indicator that something was up. 30-40 minutes later there was just a dark orange smudge where the moon would usually be. Cool scene, and not one you see very often, which is why it drew a crowd I guess.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saturday sniffles

Well, not just Saturday. Allergy season is back, so there's the attendant sneezing, runny nose, and so on etcetera.I have some OTC medicine to hep deal with it, but I don't want to be too dependent  Taking a bill when necessary, then

Should be another Final Songs coming up soon.

EDIT: Holy shit, that was not coherent at all. Little bit of a drowsy effect from the medication I did take, I think. I made a small spelling edit but otherwise will leave this one the way it is, just because it's so hard to believe.