Monday, December 31, 2012

Some 'splainin' to do

Ball, Lucille (b. Aug. 6, 1911 d. Apr. 26, 1989), beloveed comic actress who was one of the first female television stars, the first woman to be pregnant on screen, and, in 1953, the first woman to give birth in front of a live, cheering studio audience.  The six-hour special made TV history on several levels with its unedited, single-camera shot of a sweating, profanity-spewing Ball laboring through contractions while surrounded by a crew of attentive doctors and nurses.  The episode smashed all previous ratings records as more than 70 million Americans gathered around TV sets in living rooms or stood outside electronics stores to watch doctors successfully perform a caesarian section on Ball.  In commemoration of the classic TV moment, portions of Ball's placenta are on permanent view at the Paley Center For Media in Los Angeles.

A friend gave me a copy of The Onion Book of Known Knowledge for Christmas.  Learning so very much here.  And yes, I thought it might be an apt way to wrap up my blogging for 2012.

Friday, December 28, 2012

It's quiet, too quiet, Friday Random Ten

It's been a relatively slow week at work, due to a lot of people not being there.  Some people you certainly miss.  One lady is fun to talk to, and she also keeps things running smoothly in ways that the people who stand in for her during vacations don't really do.  The other nice thing is that I know between me and her the respect is mutual, which is cool.

1. Irma Thomas - Time Is on My Side
2. Brian Eno & David Byrne - I Feel My Stuff
3. The xx - VCR
4. Roxy Music - Casanova
5. TV on the Radio - I Was a Lover
6. Patti Smith Group - Break It Up
7. Diana Krall - I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face
8. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Third Stone From the Sun
9. Grizzly Bear - Ready, Able
10. The New Pornographers - Mutiny, I Promise You

Thursday, December 27, 2012


One conversation starter is to walk up to someone and out of the blue say, "Still thinking about it."

They say, "Still thinking about what?"

You shake your head, laugh ruefully, and say that you envy their clear-headedness. 

Could probably be adapted for a longer discussion as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Of good cheer

Merry Christmas to all

I like to spread my Christmas out a little. Largely because after the Big Day it becomes possible to start doing stuff again. The paralysis caused by either overcrowding (days before December 25th) or near-universal closings (the day itslef) lifts. Also I'm a creative procrastinator.

Spent much of today at a friend's house. I brought some gifts over, including for the baby. She's pre-literate, but one of the things I bought her was a copy of Eric Carle's The Very Grouchy Ladybug. Her mother can read it to her, and once I saw it in the store there was no way I wasn't buying it

I also saw a bit of this game. One of the boys got it and gave me a little demonstration. The concept is very screwed up, which is a compliment. The graphics look refreshingly handmade.

Anyway, best Christmas wishes to all those who may be reading.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

War is funny, but hell

My current reading project is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  I'm pretty sure I remember seeing a copy at home, although I never read it then.  A friend of mine has been raving about it not too long ago, and I guess it moved into my to-read pile then.

It's a bleakly funny book.  Bleak mainly in that it's largely the most evil or venal characters who seem to prosper.  Good men are either weak and easily dominated (Major Major, the chaplain) or fatally naive (Nately, Clevinger).  Yossarian is stronger, but he seems locked into an inescapable pattern.  Like the one that gives the novel its name.

From a contemporary viewpoint, it is striking that there aren't really any female characters.  Woman appear, but they're described almost entirely in terms of tits and ass.  Fondly remembered tits and ass, but still.  If this is forgiveable, it's because that does seem to characterize the experiences of the World War II generation.  It's a side-effect of being abducted from the everyday and thrust into an all-male environment.

Friday, December 21, 2012

After the end, Friday Random Ten

I seem to have missed the whole Mayan Apocalypse thing. Was it spectacular?  I have to say, the cleanup crews have done a fine job.  Considering.

1. Grizzly Bear - Southern Point
2. XTC - In Loving Memory of a Name
3. Neko Case - Don't Forget Me
4. The Beautiful South - Woman In the Wall
5. Talking Heads - No Compassion
6. Brian Eno & David Byrne - I Feel My Stuff
7. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Two Deuces
8. Patti Smith Group - Kimberly
9. Stevie Wonder - Looking For Another Pure Love
10. Eric King - Trick Bag

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Vive la 'vieve

This feature does indeed highlight a great song. And one that is generally overlooked, a deep cut in the truest sense. The author, who is of course named "Genevieve" herself, calls Preservation Act 1 a "falled concept album", which is in a way a redundancy. While there have been a few successes in the form (it's done all right by Pink Floyd a couple of times), it usually requires a lot of tolerance. Ray Davies, being a very smart man, made sure to leave himself some escape hatches so that he wasn't imprisoned by the concept, and this is one happy result.

Reading the article reminded me of a girl I used to work with. Her name was Jen, short for "Jennifer," but she'd heard from her mother that the mother had wanted to name her "Genevieve." In this case, the name was supposed to have the original French pronunciation of ZHAHN-vee-EV. Mom said that she decided against it because people would always be misproununcing it. Jen's response was, "Mom, you know me. You know how much I'd enjoy correcting them."

Ah well, as some other British Invasion stalwarts wrote, you can't always get what you want.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Friends in (yes) high places

This was a somewhat accidental cool find, even though I do look at the site on a semiregular basis. This woman seems to have befriended some crows and scrub jays (which are also corvids) in her neighborhood. It's a cool process, and something I'd like to try. I do see them sometimes, once recently in a CVS parking lot. It seems to me this could be a nice form of companionship for people who don't have room for pets or whose leases won't allow them.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


This week I've been reading Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others. Chiang is an unusual writer in contemporary science fiction. He's so far been exclusively a short fiction writer, and not a very prolific one. Also whatever out-there ideas he writes about, his prose remains measured and balanced, having the feel of fifties fiction from the slicks.

From my perspective it was coincidental to find out that his novella "Story of Your Life" had been optioned by Hollywood. The story is about a linguist whose contact with an alien race who experience time non-linearly affects her own perception of time. Being unusually structured and largely made up of conversations, it's an odd fit for a sci-fi movie. And if this one gets made there's a good chance it will be awful. CGI will make it easier than ever to visualize the Heptapods, but that's arguably the least important part.

"Hell is the Absence of God" could make a good movie. I don't know if there's a market for Christian fundamentalist fantasy noir, but it seems like there should be.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day two cold watch Friday Random Ten

Have to make this short.  If anything I'm a little more under the weather than I was last night.  Hopefully that means the whatchamacallit has what-have-youed and I'll be on the mend tomorrow.  Anyway, got to make this short.

1. Grizzly Bear - About Face
2. Nat King Cole - Our Love Is Here to Stay
3. XTC - Human Alchemy
4. Fol Chen - Winter, That's All
5. Ladytron - Tomorrow
6. Lou Rawls - You've Made Me So Very Happy
7. Kat Edmonson ft Lyle Lovett - Long Way Home
8. Talk Talk - I Believe In You
9. Simon & Garfunkel - We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'
10. Ben Folds Five - Away When You Were Here

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A good night of feeling bad

Man oh man.  Obviously I've caught myself some kind of cold.  Sneezing and congestion for most of the night/much of the day.  About to fall off into a much-needed OTC cold med oblivion.

Not a bad night writing-wise, though.  I may have gotten a handle on a story with potential, one that I could never quite swing before.  Also recharged my iPod, to add a tiny bit to my bragging rights.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Time out for fun

If science hasn't proven that Gahan Wilson makes life better, science is doing something wrong. Please enjoy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Out of the (recent) past

Civil War guy Ken Burns has co-directed with his daughter a documentary on the Central Park Five. The case popularized the word "wilding" in American English, although perhaps mercifully it has not remained popular. Burns talked about the CP5 in a recent interview


Q. What I found most affecting was, from the point of view of a parent, inevitably thinking, what if my son had been one of these kids? Maybe the most powerful moment, for me, was when Raymond [Santana]’s father says —

A. “I sent him into the park that evening.” This has been very moving for me to work with my daughter. Also very moving to get to know these five —

Q. Who are such impressive men.

A. Incredibly impressive. With a noticeable lack of overwhelming bitterness. With a kind of weariness, but also wisdom. We’ve been out on the road with them appearing before audiences, and it suddenly felt as though we were merging families.

It almost goes without saying, and yet still needs to be said, that no one was talking in 1989 about how impressive these men were. The assault on the Central Park jogger was one of a series of highly publicized racial incidents - most of them occurring in New York City - during the late 1980s and early 90s. The publicization of these incidents seems to have been aimed expressly at raising moral panic against black and Hispanic urbanites and creating an us-v-them mentality

An admittedly quick web search failed to turn up any stories contemporary to their arrest and trial. Whether this is by accident or design I don't know. It would be morbidly interesting to see again how it was covered in, say, The New York Post. My memories align with this.

The Central Park Five are the five men who were wrongfully convicted for the 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park. A few weeks ago I wrote about the Central Park Five for the Guardian. It’s a heartbreaking case — the jogger barely survived the attack, and suffered enormous physical trauma. The city was enraged and hungry for a conviction. Donald Trump put out a “bring back the death penalty” ad in response to the crime. Five black and Latino boys were interrogated for hours and deprived of sleep until they confessed; once actually arrested and charged with the crime, they recanted. Racial tensions boiled, with racist caricatures of of-color youth going “wilding,” prowling the streets in a “wolf pack” for innocent white victims proliferating in the white-dominated media. While the woman was generally treated as an innocent victim, even she didn’t totally escape victim-blaming — writing about this case even 20 years later inevitably leads to many people asking, “Why was she jogging in Central Park late at night? What did she think was going to happen?”

The point to remember is that these youths weren't just unjustly convicted, although that is an abomination unto itself. They were also unjustly condemned, and held up as the worst of humanity. And all because there was a culprit-shaped hole that the law couldn't fill with the right guy

The other thing that needs to be remembered is that this isn't ancient history. It's not even distant history. If you were to compile a list of people who made gravy on this, who profited in politics or the media, you'd almost certainly find some who still have high positions. The eddies are still rippling out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Concentrated Friday Random Ten

One handy thing about writing on a machine with Internet access is that you can research anything you need to for your story or piece.  One less-than-helpful aspect is that you can surf anywhere, so sometimes you do and you lose focus.  This is probably more of a thing now than it was even ten years ago, because so many places have wi-fi.  In any case, you often have to be vigilant against yourself.

1. Annie Lennox - The Gift
2. Patti Smith Group - Land
3. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Knee Drops
4. Diana Krall - You're My Thrill
5. The Clash - Hateful
6. Simon & Garfunkel - A Most Peculiar Man
7. XTC - Wonderland
8. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Everything That Happens
9. Neko Case - Polar Nettles
10. Ladytron - I'm Not Scared

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Z for

And now I've just started reading Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates. And yes, certainly, Ms Oates is a national treasure. To give you something like the full picture, though: Zombie is mainly a disjointed internal monologue by the main character, who's explicitly based on Jeffrey Dahmer. So... a little offputting, maybe.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Let it grow

The First Tree from Henry McGuire on Vimeo.

This is kind of an unusual format for animated shorts to take. Each successive image seems to have been painted impasto style just before the frame was shot. There's not a lot of story here, but the very tactile way of showing the images gives it a unique feel.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The fine print

Yesterday I was grocery shopping.  We're getting into the cold months, but I have indoor heat.  So I figure I might pick up a carton of ice cream.  Friendly's - a brand of ice cream associated with a restaurant - was on sale.  I was pondering which flavor to get, and then I took a closer look.  In the space on the box where they describe the flavors, all said they were "frozen dairy product."  They can't even commit to the term "ice cream."

Don't know about anyone else, but I found this off-putting.  It's like those urban legends about how KFC can't use the word "chicken" anymore.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Random Ten: And it's deep, too

Tomorrow is the 72nd anniversary of Richard Pryor's birth.  This came up in a list of daily trivia that a coworker of mine was looking up and chatting about.  Then from the Wikipedia article he was looking at titles, saying "these are so dirty" and "filthy mouth."  With genuine horror, understand.  There are things to say about what Pryor was trying to get at, and why he felt justified to use the words he did.  I didn't say them.  The coworker and I come from different worlds, and I couldn't get over that divide.

1. Ladytron - Runaway
2. Nat King Cole - Straighten Up and Fly Right
3. The xx - Basic Space
4. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - I'm Not Rough
5. Soul Coughing - Mr. Bitterness
6. Annie Lennox -Precious
7. Fol Chen - If Tuesday Comes
8. Roy Brown - Let the Four Winds Blow
9. Fleetwood Mac - That's All For Everyone
10. Ben Folds Five - The Sound of the Life of the Mind

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finishing one, starting another

Okay, howsabout another update on what I've been reading?  Good.  If there are any objections I can't hear them with this waterlogged ear.

There's The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister's Pox by Stephen Jay Gould, about the compatibility of science and the humanities.  The late Mr. Gould was ingenious and charmig, but I don't have too much to say about the book right now.  I might come back to it in a future post.

A novel - or is it a novel?  It was in the fiction section - that I recently finished is The Emigrants by the late W.G. Sebald.  Sebald, who died in an auto accident in 2001, was a German who lived for decades in the UK.  It's not really a surprise that The Emigrants, as its title suggests, is built around four men who've been forced to leave their homeland.  There's a lot of documentary material here, including copious amounts of photographs.  At the same time, Sebald clearly embellishes things, adding connecting images like a boy with a butterfly net who all the men see at some point.

To be honest, I didn't entirely get it.  There are arresting passages, yes.  The tragic arc of these men's lives is poignant.  But the layout of the book doesn't really do it any favors.  There are many more narrators than just the four main characters, including the author figure himself.  What the book doesn't have is quotation marks.  There aren't many text breaks either.  So within each section things tend to run together in a frustrating way.  But I'm keeping my mind open to the possibility that the book needs more than one reading to really stick.  Since it's not really that long, I may go back to it in the near future.

The next novel for me, of which I just read the first five chapters tonight, is John Dickson Carr's The Three Coffins.  Carr was an American author, but he was fond of Britain as a setting.  Coffins is set in London and is part of Carr's Dr. Gideon Fell series.  Fell was based, as many sources reveal, on G.K. Chesterton.  He might be characterized as the overweight Golden Age detective who isn't penned up in his brownstone.  (I'm as enamored as ever by the one who is, of course.)

The plot has to do with a proto-James Randi type who's threatened by a man claiming a vampiric nature.  It's the kind of story that Chesterton embraced, and in its ghostly overtones it would have appealed to Doyle too.  I'm coming to the conclusion that the Golden Age detective story was a kind of fantasy fiction, albeit one whose characteristics entailed a voluntary adherence to physical realism.  That's one of the things that interests me about it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


This falls under the heading of "service advisory", I guess. I'm still at this blog. I'm just too beat to do an actual, substantive post now. I intend to be back on it tomorrow or the day after, though, as well as replying to some of the comments left on recent entreis. (Would have done that last night but there was a technical hiccup.) Keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, November 26, 2012


I remeber the original Red Dawn, it was a dumb movie but it had a point. When someone is occupying your home, the rules of Queensberry civilization go out the window. There's some truth to that, which we managed to forget by the time of the Iraq war.

Also, while its geopolitical paranoia was dated even by then, it was at least rooted in something. The Soviet Union still existed, and many Americans were frightened by it. So even if the Russkie invasion of the Pacific Northwest was never going to happen, it could at least sound plausible.

Not so with North Korea. The country has a fairly paltry economy, not much in the way of natural resources, and almost no diplomatic presence. (There's a reason why it's called the Hermit Kingdom.) NK was shoehorned into being the vilain of the new Red Dawn after the studio nixed China in that role, But no one was actually going to buy the North Koreans as epic villains, were they?

Well apparently... Love the guy who forgets about the 140 character limit and gets cut off by Twitter. I think that's called a "small mercy."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tram Saturday Random Ten

It's a little amusing to see those baby carriages that are pointed like a canoe with one big wheel at the front.  Given their purpose and the terrain on which you use them, I'm not sure how much speed parents think this streamlining will get them. Have to admit they look kind of cool, though.

1. Diana Krall - Too Marvelous For Words
2. Simon & Garfunkel - We've Got a Groovy Thing Goin'
3. Talking Heads - Pulled Up
4. Benny Spellman - Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)
5. The Clash - Four Horsemen
6. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Tight Like This
7. Fol Chen - The Idiot
8. Ladytron - Deep Blue
9. Ben Folds Five - Draw a Crowd
10. Sarah Vaughan - I Cried For You

Friday, November 23, 2012

A tale of two cities

The neighborhood I live in shuts down after a certain time at night.  It's got a Starbucks and a couple of other coffee shops, a bar/pub, several shops and restaurants.  From what I can tell, only the Japanese steakhouse is able to stay open after eleven.  The Starbucks used to stay open until eleven, but a couple of years ago it was permanently rolled back to ten.  The bar can't stay oepn light, and doesn't seem to have been open at all on Thanksgiving.

That's why taking a late night walk in the direction of Thayer Street is such a culture shock.  The sidewalks are still full, and whatever establishment sells food has a bunch of people going in and coming out.  Tonight I passed by a bar that had a rather overbearing DJ exhortign the crowd to dance, which was audible way across the street.  And it sort of fascinates me that there are only a few blocks between these worlds.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


I got a flu shot today, which I hadn't done in years.  Since some people get sick from it, the idea seemed like a wash.  But it's apparently a requirement if you do any kind of work in a hospital. So now I have a little pinprick, a not entirely unpleasant ache below the shoulder.  Hope I don't have to use having the flu as a cover story anytime soon.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Don't be a Ding-Dong

Vital news from the snack cake front:

Mediation hearings will begin Tuesday, but the original hearing to consider the wind-down plan was adjourned until Wednesday morning, just in case reconciliation talks don't work out. Production "remains shut down," according to the Irving, Texas, company.

But the scales are out of balance, with the union at a deep disadvantage, said Gene Grabowski, a Washington crisis communications expert at consulting firm Levick.

If discussions fail, Hostess probably will sell itself at a loss and wash its hands of the situation, Levick said. Buyers — potentially major food companies such as ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc. or Nestle — then probably would absorb the brands into their operations without hiring former Hostess workers.

"It's hard to see what they could accomplish at this point," Grabowski said. "It looks like Hostess management is holding more cards right now than labor. This is really the last hope for employees to save their jobs."

Well management very often holds more cards than labor. It's funny how many times it works out like that. It's almost like they know the dealer or something. Still, the head Ho-Hos at Hostess should consider what the future holds if they let the company slip away. In the short term they'll still profit. But if Hostess becomes a branch of Kraft or ConAgra, it's no longer its own thing. Up till now, Twinkies and their ilk have gotten prime store placement and spandex publicity because they were the priority for their parent company. As a subsidiary they'd be one product among many, and at some point the new owners could deemphasize them in order to boost rival products they also own. Nobody's too big to become a ghost brand. All of which is to say that if the sugar pimps want the good times to keep rolling, they should listen to what their workers have to say.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Strollin' Friday Random Ten

I went out for a walk just a little while ago, when most people were asleep. Or were they? It was late and dark, making for some neat chiaroscuro with the street lights.  I appreciate being able to walk through residential neighborhoods without causing undue alarm.  Realistically the way I look (white, not too imposing) helps.

Of course one thing about walking in the city is that if you keep going through a residential area, you'll eventually hit something else, whether it's a store or a church or what have you.  I stayed with a friend in the suburbs recently, and that's always been one of my discontents with the suburban landscape.  You get into these areas that are just house after house, lawn after lawn, for miles it seems.  It makes orienteering really hard.

1. Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence
2. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Poor Boy
3. Irma Thomas - Wish Someone Would Care
4. Fleetwood Mac - Not That Funny
5. Talking Heads - Happy Day
6. Lower Dens - Lion In Winter Pt 2
7. Diana Krall - Quiet Nights
8. Nat King Cole - Non Dementicar
9. Fol Chen - If Tuesday Comes
10. The Beautiful South - Straight In At 37

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A moving experience

Just indulging my love of marionettes again. This is from a British theatre troupe. What I find interesting is that you have a very Brechtian setup here: the puppeteer is out in the open wearing a scientist's white coat, the lighting is provided by an unshaeded desk lamp. And yet still you get that feeling of life from the little dancing figure.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Not Another Service Advisory Movie

To let y'all know, I won't be able to blogg in the evenings for another couple of days, probably.  My laptop is out getting vajazzled.  Okay, not really, because that's a made-up word to entice gullible women into paying extra for bikini waxes.  It's not getting a bikini wax, but it is getting a new keyboard and general tuneup.  The old keyboard had several keys go unresponsive on me, including the space bar.  Whichisokayreallyifyoulikeputtingeverythinginonereallylongword. (Only imagine that with no c's, d's or e's.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Drawing board Friday Random Ten

I had an idea for a story a little while ago.  I've been working on it.  There is a good opening scene.  But I've come to the conclusion that I've been taking the wrong approach here.  So I'll give it a rest and maybe try something else in a couple of days.  At least I was able to read the signs.

1. Nat King Cole - Almost Like Being In Love
2. Neko Case - I'm an Animal
3. Lower Dens - Lamb
4. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Fire
5. Shirley & Lee - Feel So Good
6. The Bird and the Bee - My Love
7. Simon & Garfunkel - The Sound of Silence
8. Talking Heads - Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town
9. The Beautiful South - From Under the Covers
10. Diana Krall - Walk On By

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Snow big deal

Well how about that? Late this afternoon and this evening, genuine New England snow. Quite a bit of it too, accompanied by high winds. Touch wood, maybe this will be a break for our nation's maple syrup industry.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rock around the block

I've voted in Rhode Island for a few elections running now.  It's always been a pretty quick process.  Walk in, wait in a short line, fill out the ballot, and leave within about five minutes.

It was a different deal this year.  I went in and immediately somone told me I had to use another door.  When I came in again I saw that there was a line snaking all around the store.  Seems they weren't really ready for the turnout.  Or some elderly voters were more confused than usual.  I was at the polling place for easily an hour.

On the bright side, the people right in front and back of me were nice.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The life of Reilly

I just finished reading a book I'd meant to get to for awhile, but had never gotten around to.  That's A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole.  Wow.  It's a shame that Toole killed himself when he had only written two novels, and before either had been published.  He truly had a gift, and it would be hard for me to point to a better example of a satirical novel.

Two things about Ignatius J. Reilly.  One, I know people like that.  Maybe not down to the last detail, but some of the major characteristics.  The old-time religiosity, the submerged sexual perversion, the codependent relationship with a doting/abusive mother.  As absurd and exaggerated as he may be, Reilly seems real to me.

In addition, a kind of transformation happened in regards to my view of the character.  He's overly proud of his (not really exceptional) scholarship, and he's generally unpleasant to everyone, sometimes destructive.  At first he's a supreme irritant.  But gradually I found him earning my respect.  Part of it has to do with comparison between him and some of the other characters, by which he actually does come off a lot smarter.  And it could also be the author's affection for his own creation rubbing off on the reader.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mellow-sipping Friday Random Ten

Tonight with dinner I had a glass - not a full glass - of this chocolate wine I had on hand.  A friend and his wife gave it to me for Christmas, which gives you an idea of how long it was hanging around.  I was planning to polish it off as part of a special occasion, probably not by myself.  But, I finally figured I'd clear out some space.  Now watch "clear out some space" become a euphemism.  Anyway, it's called "Desiree", and it's good stuff.  Kind of like sherry but it goes down smoother.

1. Soul Coughing - Sugar Free Jazz
2. The Beautiful South - Oh Blackpool
3. Sun Ra - China Gates
4. Joni Mitchell - Banquet
5. Ernie K-Doe - A Certain Girl
6. The Bird and the Bee - You're a Cad
7. Lower Dens - Candy
8. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Life is Long
9. Pink Martini - Ohio Ohayoo
10. Sarah Vaughan - Pennies from Heaven

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Origin story

This interview with noted author and accordionist Daniel Handler is well worth reading all the way through, but I thought I'd highlight this part.

Wired: Speaking of politics, the name Lemony Snicket actually came out of politics, in a way. Can you tell us about that?

Handler: [laughs] I don’t know if that counts as coming out of politics, but I was researching my first novel for adults, which is called The Basic Eight, which is about a girl in high school who kills a boy in high school, and part of it is about the media uproar that follows, and I was interested in cultural commentary, and I began to contact groups that like to appear on TV and state their opinion on things they don’t know about. A lot of those groups are conservative, and I was on the phone with a conservative organization and I wanted their materials sent to me, but I had a sudden thought that I shouldn’t be on their mailing list permanently, and so the woman on the phone asked me my name and I just said the first thing that came into my head, which was “Lemony Snicket,” which was not a name that I’d ever heard before or ever thought of before.

And I thought to myself — during the pause that followed on the phone — I thought, “That was a really terrible name to say. Out of all the fake names you could have given, that’s the least believable one.” And then she just said, “Is that spelled how it sounds?” And I said, “Yes,” and I said, “Read that back to me,” because I had no idea how it sounded like it was spelled. And that was the first time that the name Lemony Snicket existed, and I began to use it for various pseudonymous, prankish things.

I was in my early 20s, and a friend of mine made me some Lemony Snicket business cards for my birthday, and I used to give them out at bars, and I used to write long, rambling letters to the editors of newspapers and sign them “Lemony Snicket.” And so then years later when I started writing for children, it occurred to me that it would be fun to write them and publish them under the name of the narrator rather than the name of the author. And then I had this name lying around gathering dust. So I guess it had its roots in politics, slightly. I don’t know if making fun of right-wingers when you’re in your early 20s really can count as a political movement. [laughs]

The instinct to not get tons of junk mail from angry conservatives is a good one, perhaps part of a larger survival instinct. I never had any idea that it could give rise to something like Lemony Snicket, though.

EDITED so that the paragraphs don't all smoosh together.

A Halloween Carroll

If most people were asked to name a poem apt for this holiday it would probably be something by Poe. "The Raven", most likely. So would I, but these kids do make something moody out of "Jabberwocky."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wet life

Sandy was a bad time to be in the Mid-Atlantic region, obviously. In New England? Not so horrible. High wind in spots, scattered rain, but the heaviest rains came the day after the big storm, when the winds had died down. As with Iris last year, I taped up windows on the off chance of something trying to knock them in. My other precaution was not putting up a "whew" blog post while it could still be a jinx. Through all this, I pretty much finished up my pest control project. And now, time to chill.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Enjoy the show

It's been a while since I put any poetry up here, so what better time?  This is from a 2011 collection by Tracy K. Smith called Life on Mars.  Yeah, Bowie will be happy that he has black female fans beyond his wife and daughter.  Beyond that, though, she's just really good.  Like most contemporary poets, she's not beholden to rhyme and meter.  She stands out in her willingness to use them, though, and in her recognition of poetry as a sound medium you can play with.  And she is playful.

Anyway, without further ado.

The Universe: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The first track still almost swings.  High hat and snare, even
A few bars of sax the stratosphere will singe out soon enough.

Synthesized strings.  Then something like cellophane
Breaking in as if snagged to a shoe.  Crinkle and drag.  White noise,

Black noise.  What must be voices bob up, then drop, like metal shavings
In molasses.  So much for us.  So much for the flags we bored

Into planets dry as chalk, for the tin cans we filled with fire
And rode like cowboys into all we tried to tame.  Listen:

The dark we've only ever imagined now audible, thrumming,
Marbled with static like gristly meat.  A chorus of engines churns.

Silence taunts: a dare.  Everything that disappears
Disappears as if returning somewhere.

Friday, October 26, 2012

What have we here? It's the Friday Random Ten!

There's nothing like going home to find the air in your small apartment thick with house flies. I'm left wondering which one of God's little creatures will declare war on me next. Toads? Well, at least this is an impetus to bitch the landlord out about not having screen windows.

In better news, I had a chance to put one of these lists together today. For your reading pleasure.

1. Patsy Cline - Strange
2. Soul Coughing - Janine
3. Sonic Youth - Unmade Bed
4. Lou Rawls - Bring It On Home
5. Kat Edmonson - Hopelessly Blue
6, Brian Eno & David Byrne - The River
7. Neko Case - Magpie to the Morning
8. Joni Mitchell - Electricity
9. Simon & Garfunkel - Leaves That Are Green
10. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - May This Be Love

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Small packages

Apparently these two had a syndicated TV show in the mid fifties. Five minutes long, used by stations to fill holes in their programming. If you could keep static under control for those five minutes, you were in for a treat.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Bad bossing

Just a brief thought on the question of whether employers can tell their employers whom to vote for. Which apparently they can in a lot of states. There are conditions and caveats, but since so many states have "employment at will" laws, bosses have wide discretion about when and why they can threaten termination, and for that matter carry it out.

So employers in much of the country can do this. It doesn't really seem like something they should want to do, though. That kind of coercion is bad business and bad management. You can't actually control how your employees vote, and you certainly don't have much say in whom if anyone they support in their heart of hearts. In essence if you order your employees to support (for example) Romney, you're telling liberals in your employ to lie to you. Which would seem to be a bad precedent to me. It's a short jump from "I promise to vote Republican" to "I promise not to rent out the keys to your office."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

You know the drill

Good machine day for me in a couple of ways.  For one, I had thought that the AC cord on my adapter was shot (again) and that the slow bleed of battery power was because of that.  So I was expecting to shell out for a new cord (again.)  But it turns out the power strip just wasn't plugged in quite right.  Once I unplugged and reset it, the battery recharged itself back up to 100% before too long.

Also, I bought a drill today.  First time I ever owned one.  It's the sort of thing I would expect to buy from a gruff, grandfatherly fellow in a lumberjack shirt.  The guy who helped me pick it out, though, couldn't have been over 25 and had onyx disks in both ears.  Buying powertools is a different experience when you shop near an art school.

So anyway, now I have a power drill.  After charging it up for an hour I put up a hat/coat rack with a knicknack shelf on top.  It's still up, knock on wood.  Maybe I'm getting a little handier.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Such a >:0

There's an interesting, maybe kinda icky article here on a man who is - or was and could be again soon - one of the more privileged users on Reddit. And then there's John Scalzi's intelligent response.

Only a couple of things to add:

1. A number of Redditors - some for obvious reasons - may disapprove of "doxing", enough to elevate it to a high crime in their own circle. But Chen never promised not to do it, and can't be seen as under any obligation not to.

2. One problem with the explosion of communications media is that no effective etiguette has arisen. Thus the rules that are applied are almost always self-serving by the user. A guy yaks at the top of his lungs at a cafe, and no one employee or patron wants to scold him because he'll just yell "Do you fuckin' mind? I'm on the phone." This sort of one-sided expectation of privacy, whereby kids posting Facebook pictures don't merit privacy but those who repost them as porn do, seems to be an extension of that. The rules of the road are defined by what's convenient for those who make the rules. Or at least want to.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Calcifying Campbell?

Man, I'm still basicall dragassing it in October, blogging-wise. Ah well.

This post from a Doctor Who blogger takes an irreverent look at George Lucas' intergalactic cash cow. In and of itself this is not uunusal, but Sandifer is more acute than most Star Wars critics. He gets at the root of what may be wrong with the franchise. Not in so many words, but I have to wonder if Lucas having time to clarify his ideas might have been a less than good thing for him. If Joseph Campbell was his guide in plotting out the series, he had a lot of time to spend extrapolating from Campbell's essays. What he didn't spend any time doing between what has been retro-named A New Hope and The Phantom Menace is direct. Not one frame in the over twenty years between the two. That may be why the human-scaled director of American Graffiti is present - if in a neutered form - in the earlier film and entirely evaporated from the later one.

As to the influence of Campbell himself via Lucas, I can't really disagree. I've enjoyed reading Carl Jung, Campbell's predecessor in the exploration of archetypes. To me his method of exploring the conscious and unconscious mind through mythological types can be very illuminating, if used the right way. Squeezing every book and comic and movie into the same mythological box is considerably less valid.

Monday, October 8, 2012


This song has been occurring to me lately

Recently in Europe, there has been a lot of tension over money. Countries like Greece and Italy thought it would be great to join a unified market and ditch their own in many cases devalued currencies in order to better compete in the world marketplace. But they did not become immune from economic downturns. Their old way of devt-spending to keep the citizenry afloat and start a turnaround - essentially Keynesian in principle, if sometimes referred to as socialist - is now held in disapproval by more technocratic countries like Germany. So is there any way out?

The band above is Big Audio Dynamite, which Mick Jones started after being kicked out of the Clash. It was the lead single from their eponymous debut, and it's not hard to see why. It comes off as a straightahead dance song, even sounding like the name of a dance move, and perhaps with a side of "yay us" to the side that will soon score a decisive victory in the Cold War.

That's not quite what Jones is singing about. Nagging questions remain. He doesn't think it's an altogether good thing that the Soviets are swinging our way, even if their way was no better in practice. If capitalism is the only game in town, is it then the only game that anyone even thinks about? What do you do about the problems that arise from it? The wackily costumed jury is still out on that one.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rhyme and punishment

Okay, so!  It looks like I could be in limbo for a while longer.  Luckily I'm still getting to work every day, which is good because I'm pretty good at my job so that's a comforting routine.  But yeah, it could be a few weeks before I'm back in my own place, which won't be the same place as before.

That being the case, I don't want this blog to lie totally fallow until I'm in a new situation. So I figure on doing some interim things. First up, a video from the Glove and Boots team, which the friends currently hosting me introduced me to. Childhood memories traumatized with love.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mystery of the missing blogger, posed

I'm still here.  Or I'm back.  One of the two.  I just haven't had much of an opportunity to update here, due to having some of the most aggravating experiences of my life happen this week.  More about those soon.

No FR10 this week, although it may make a return in the coming week.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall classic Friday Random Ten

At work we had our annual end-of-the-summer parking lot party.  The "end" part was pretty apparent.  It was pleasant in terms of weather.  The feel of autumn was on things.

Anyway, it was nice to see people.  We're spread out over a few locations, so there are a lot of people you might not see face to face on a regular basis.

1. Roxy Music - The Thrill of It All
2. Simon & Garfunkel - Blessed
3. The Bird and the Bee - What's In the Middle
4. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - West End Blues
5. Soul Coughing - Supra Genius
6. The Beautiful South - From Under the Covers
7. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Remember
8. The XX - VCR
9. Lower Dens - Brains
10. Pink Martini - Over the Valley

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The little people

I'd never heard of Colombian artist Yosman Botero. His work lookx pretty fascinating, though. A lot of it has to do with the clear plastic casings that his works are housed in. That is, they could very easily be a neutral frame. But they become part of the picture, changing it. In short, it looks like you've got little people messing about in there. How is that not cool?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The all-nighter

Okay, so that squirrel problem that I mentioned a while ago.  It turned out to be not so much a temporary thing.  For a couple of weeks now I've been hearing somethign move around in the walls.  What's bad is that this happens very late at night, wakes me up (despite my being a pretty heavy sleeper in general) and keeps me up for some time after.  OTC sleeping pills don't really help.  Waking up when an invasive creature is rooting around near you isn't insomnia, it's survival instinct.

Yesterday evening I met someone I know at Starbucks.  I was feeling kind of burnt and I told her about the situation.  She said it sounded like mice or rats and gave me some tips on telltale signs for when they've been in your room.  I looked around and didn't find any smoking guns.  But I still was edgy about the prospect of trying to sleep through the night.  So the plan I formulated was to take a little catnap or two in the evening, stay up for the rest of the night proper, and catch a little shuteye around 5 a.m.  If you think this plan has some obvious drawbacks you're right, but I was determined to try it out.

One thing I did in order to stay up was a lot of walking.  Which was kind of interesting.  This is Providence and not New York, but the city never entirely sleeps.  It gets slow at late hours, but if you wait around long enough you see something going on.  Being on Thayer St at one you'd hardly know it was after hours.  Young adults are out schmoozing everywhere, a lot of bars and restaurants are still open, and the stores that are closed are so brightly lit that you might not notice.  Around my neighborhood about three I saw trucks come in for deliveries.  So there's action everywhere, even when the crickets get too tired to chirp.

This morning I told the landlord about the rodent problem, having accepted that it just wouldn't end on its own, or at least not while I was still able to function.  He said he's pretty sure it's squirrels who found their way in through a hole in the roof.  Apparently this is something that's happened before.  It's also apparent that I'm the only one who said anything about it.  Why this should be I don't know.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Snakey Saturday Random Ten

Didn't do a post last night, but I watched Preston Sturges' The Lady Eve then.  Knowing that the production codes were in full swing makes it hard to believe this got released.  If you take a shot for every plausibly deniable sexual reference you'll end up in the emergency room.  Enjoyable, though.  Probably the first time I've ever thought, "Thank God for William Demarest."

1. The White Stripes - The Hardest Button to Button
2. Kat Edmonson - What Else Can I Do?
3. Sarah Vaughan - You Hit the Spot
4. Roxy Music - All I Want Is You
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Hey Joe
6. Fleetwood Mac - Storms
7. Pink Martini - Sunday Table
8. David Bowie - Ashes to Ashes
9. Lower Dens - Lion In Winter Pt. 2
10. Joni Mitchell - Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire*

*If heroin feels like Joni sounds in this song, I see the appeal.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The rent is too damn high!

The Tenant is a very strange film taken from a very strange book. The book kind of determines it, but not entirely. I read the novel (novalla really) for this book club I'm part of. After we talked about the book, then we saw the movie. There was some debate over whether Roman Polanski is the only European in the movie. He's not. Most of the cast is French. Their lines are dubbed into very American-sounding English. Except that Melvyn Douglas and Shelley Winters are in it, and they speak US-English despite their characters being French. So it looks like Polanski himself was jumping between languages depending on who else was in the scene.

Then there's the main character going nuts. That part's very vivid.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Who votes there?

Today was primary day. I went to the voting place a little after five. This was the first time I was asked to provide ID. The photo ID card I showed them was fairly ancient, but they accepted it without a hassle. So, that went well, I guess.

I suspect that it's arbitrary, and if the poll worker so desires they can make it a very big problem for you. Also, how did we get this law? I don't remember hearing about a big floor debate on it. One day you just go to the polls and there it is: a brand-spanking-new voter ID law

What you gotta love is how conservatives tout this as a sensible precaution that most Americans support. Yeah, such wide support, but they never put it up for a referendum. Must have slipped someone's mind.

Monday, September 10, 2012

It's not the same, Charlie Brown

Hmmm. No.

If I saw a piece of Peanuts fan art by Vicki Scott, I'm sure I'd think it was very nice. But when you start adding words and stories, it becomes a different thing. It becomes something you have to compare to the comic that ran for nearly half a century. And there's no comparison. Writing a Peanuts comic requires that you be Charles Schultz, and he was such the tortured artist that I don't think many would volunteer for that even if they could

I'd diagnose this as probably talented people who should be doing their own thing.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Critter-y Friday Random Ten

Hopefully the squirrel or whatever it is doesn't come back.

A little context:  A few nights ago I was drifting off to sleep, a little late.  All of a sudden I heard something shifting, not far away.  Some kind of animal.  It made contact with something, and the noises sounded so close that I wasn't sure it wasn't inside my apartment.  The upshot was I got even less sleep that night than I thought I would.

Same thing happened a couple of nights later, only this time I was already asleep.  And I'm a heavy sleeper, but this was too loud and close-sounding for me to sleep through.  Another rattled night.

Yesterday I came home and went to the back of the house.  As I'd started to suspect, there's a drainpipe back there.  Probably some (no longer) woodland creature ran up that, maybe getting into a crawlspace.  I also saw a table next to the house.  I moved it further away, on the theory it might be giving something a leg up in crawling around those hollow areas.

The noises stopped, whether it was from something I did or maybe somebody else complained to the landlord.  (Which was on my mind as well.)  Anyway, I wish whatever animal it was well, but somewhere else.

1. Lower Dens - Nova Anthem
2. Sonic Youth - Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream
3. Neko Case - I'm an Animal
4. Joni Mitchell - See You Sometime
5. Sun Ra - Space Jazz Reverie
6. Fleetwood Mac - That's All For Everyone
7. Roxy Music - Three and Nine
8. Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five - Basin Street Blues
9. The Bird and the Bee - Lifespan of a Fly
10. Stevie Wonder - You Are the Sunshine of My Life

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Psychic killers, qu'est-ce que c'est

A book I'm reading now that I can comfortably recommend is The Vanishers by Heidi Julavits.  Of course I'm only a third of the way in, give or take, so it could become a crushing disappointment by the time the ending rolls around.  But I'm not expecting that, so barring updates...

It's about a promising young psychic named Julia Severn.  "Promising" in that she started shorting out microwaves and streetlights at a young age, and could also read the lives of strangers.  She's one of the initiates at a New Hampshire Academy nicknamed the workshop.  While here she starts to work for an esteemed psychic named Madame Ackermann, who contracts her gifts out to wealthy clients.  Unfortunately for Julia she completes one of these assignments herself while Madame Ackermann is under.  It's unfortunate for her because Ackermann is on the same vanity and vengeance level as Snow White's stepmother.  Her psychic attacks cause real physical ailments, and Julia lives an invalid's life when she moves to New York City.

Much of the novel takes place among a rarefied crowd.  I refer not to telepaths, but to a class of intellectuals residing between the upper middle class and the actual 1%.  That I think is a big part of the point.  Pecking order is very important here, and those who violate it are subject to cruel punishment.

Light reading, perhaps, but with sharp flavors.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Snapshots of the soul [/drama]

This is another artist I discovered through Booooooom! Her name is Amy Kligman and she apparently lives in Kansas City.

On her website she talks about "the tension of what appears 'normal' but is in fact slightly adjacent." The picture above speaks to that, I think. At first you may not register anything weird about it. A woman dives into a pool headfirst, as people sometimes do. But she's diving in darkness, and it's not entirely clear whether this is indoors or outdoors. Moreover, what's with all the empty chairs?

Generally my own dreams don't have really outlandish images in them, as far as I can remember. They're situations that I don't question until it's time to wake up, and then the strangeness is revealed. I like art like this, that captures that subtle twist.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

What he said

Here's a short film I just kind of stumbled across in mid-surf. It's so unique I felt it deserved to be passed along. Be warned there is some bloodshed, going hand-in-hand with a lot of "WTF just happened?"

Owen Tooth - The Opening from terminalstation on Vimeo.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Random Ten of the Day

Left work today feeling that I had accomplished a fair amount, and also liking my coworkers overall. I also had to take a nap when I got home, but that's mainly the weird hours I've been keeping.

1. The Clash - Four Horsemen
2. Fleetwood Mac - Think About Me
3. Nick Drake - Fly
4. Stevie Wonder - Maybe Your Baby
5. Battles - Race: In
6. Grizzly Bear - Central and Remote
7. Neko Case - Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
8. Kat Edmonson - Hopelessly Blue
9. Sara Vaughan - Linger Awhile
10. Sun Ra - Jet Flight

Thursday, August 30, 2012

October (no) surprise

When I went grocery shopping last Sunday I - of course - saw Halloween decorations on the shelf. It's become a standard joke, but it's still weird to see these black cats and pumpkins when kids aren't quite back from summer vacation. But they know that as stupid as it may look, there's money to be made. Just think of all the people who buy Halloween candy early, eat it themselves, and are on their fourth bag by the time the trick-or-treaters arrive.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wash day writing

I have a friend who's always asking if I'm writing anything. This past weekend I couldn't really say yes. There was an idea, it seemed interesting but... Every time I tried to do anything with it I lost my way.

Now I think I may have something. It's a weird idea, still, but Hugh Greene's The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes anthology is helping. I needed a structure to work with, and one of the stories therein sort of provided me with it. This is a story I can actually look forward to working on.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Friday Random Ten un-Limited

Today I borrowed a library DVD of eight episodes from the original Outer Limits.  It was "The Architects of Fear", a story involving the creation of a false alien meant to unite the peoples of earth.  The story has a not-so-coincidental similarity to part of Alan Moore's Watchmen comic. 

Boy, do people sweat in this episode.  At the end of the day that may be what makes it work.  The story has its share of problems.  Not least of them is the fact that these "Thetans" the hero is supposed to be transformed into are actually supposed to be a real race, and I don't imagine they'd be pleased about being framed for an invasion of Earth just so that we can get our shit together.  But it's played matter-of-fact, and everyone seems so affected by it that it's hard not to get pulled along.

Now the music.

1. Neko Case - This Tornado Loves You
2. The Beatles - The Word
3. Roxy Music - If It Takes All Night
4. Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
5. Sarah Vaughan - I Cried For You
6. Sonic Youth - Dude Ranch Nurse
7. Louis Armstrong - St James Infirmary*
8. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
9. Pink Martini - Ohio Ohayoo
10. The Clash - The Card Cheat

* A ballad whose authorship has long been disputed, this has to be one of the most impressively assholish songs of all times.  He sees his girlfriend in the morgue, and after a couple of lines is all "but enough about her..."

Of time & Jerry Nelson

You can't tell me that wasn't beautiful.

Ah me. Tell Jim hi for us.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Guy talk

This sounds like a potentially fascinating project, documenting the lives of men in the Middle Ages.

One of the themes that emerged at the University of Huddersfield conference was that there considerably more resistance to clerical celibacy than previously thought, said Dr Cullum.

She added that research into medieval masculinity is a much more recent development than the study of women’s lives in the Middle Ages – a well-established field.

“But we have had relatively little study of men as gendered beings, so we need to think about whether elements that we have identified as, for example, women’s piety really were that or whether they were something that men participated in as well. We are trying to explore whether men did other things or did them differently,” said Dr Cullum.

I do know men who have a sort of distorted nostalgia about this period. This was a time when men were men, had their choice of beautiful women much younger than themselves, and spent their days hunting exotic game. Well yes, nobles had those options. Most men were sources of cheap-to-free labor, and that's about it.

Of course the truth about any time is complicated, so these scholars should be turning up some unexpected stuff.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Aargh 2.0

There's nothing like repeatedly entering a password you know to be right, only to have it fail with some kind of "that doesn's seem to be a valid..." boilerplate. I wonder how many websites are administered by HAL 9000's alcoholic brother.

Monday, August 20, 2012


The tumblr-specific but widely-known practice of using "fuck yeah" for the titles of fan pages (case in point) makes me suspect that everyone's favorite rhyme for "duck" is becoming the equivalent of "golly gee." In which case, there's a void. We need new obscenities. Perhaps "qlood" would be a good start.

Of course having published the word "qlood" I half suspect that the post will be forcibly taken down by sunrise.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Crosshatched Friday Random Ten

Tonight I finished China Miéville's The City & The City, and I have to say I'm impressed and surprised by it. Not so much by new and interesting stuff that happens - although there's some of that - as by the things that pop fiction formula pretty much demands will happen, but which here don't. Miéville is a master averter.

He's also sort of a red, so it's not hard to see a critique of globalism in here. Neither is it really a hammer over your head. It's one of the elements.

1. Fleetwood Mac - Save Me a Place
2. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Yuzuki (Evening Moon)
3. The Clash - Train In Vain (Stand by Me)
4. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - The Wind Cries Mary
5. Stevie Wonder - You've Got It Bad Girl
6. The Bird and the Bee - Witch
7. Kat Edmonson w/ Lyle Lovett - Long Way Home
8. Grizzly Bear - Marla
9. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
10. Sarah Vaughan - Polka Dots and Moonbeams

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Medicine for melancholy

Katherine Sharpe here has a deep and rich look at the history of depression as a concept. The idea that melancholy and sadness are in and of themselves a kind of illness, and that they should be treated as such, is fairly new. And as with many things, my own instinct is to follow the money. There is a big profit to be made from psychopharmaceuticals, but to really maximize it, you need a big base of customers. Sort of like how the plastic surgery industry can't simply satisfy itself with burn victims and people born without skin. Sharpe sees more at work, though.
That’s why depression is not a disease like diabetes. Diabetes isn’t a metaphor. It was discovered, not invented. Its cause and nature are known. Depression exists—all those disparate societies acknowledged and named it. But it is among the most conceptually malleable of illnesses. Its borders are fuzzy: at the extreme, depression is eminently disease-like, a true madness, but its mildest forms are fleeting and banal, comprising thoughts and feelings that we’ve all had a taste of. Most of all, perhaps because it affects consciousness, depression cries out for interpretation. Throughout history, each culture has given depression a meaning, or meanings. Each has told a story about it, and the story reflects much about that culture’s values, fears, and aspirations. Chemical imbalance is our chosen story, and it speaks volumes about the way we would like to approach the world.
Breaking thoughts and feelings down into matters of chemistry makes them more manageable, more controllable. What's lost in poetry is, the hope goes, gained in certainty. But that control is quite likely illusory.

Gettin' dirty with Harry

In my summer spree of checking out the library's DVD collection, I took out Dirty Harry and watched it last weekend.  Curiosity got the better of me.  I found it to be a pretty effective movie, overall.  A solid 90 minutes of railing against liberal judges would be a drag, but that aspect really just comes up at the 2/3 mark.  Also I think there's a lot of Don Siegel in Christopher Nolan.  Both this and his movies are rich with queasy bird's-eye shots, like the last view of a man about to be trhrown out of a helicopter.

Other things I got from it:

  1. The sixties aren't over:  Dirty Harry was released in 1971, still essentially the sixties.  It shows, and not just in the disc's Pop Art cover.  Scorpio, based on the never-caught Zodiac Killer, comes off as an evil flower child, yes.  But Harry himself is rather shaggy, not just in his hair but also his lanky movements.  He comes off as a hippie cowboy who took to actual gunslinging.  Unlike Clint Eastwood's friend Ronald Reagan, he seems to be telling the young of the time that they had won a victory in the cultural battle.  After that it's back to brutal business, though.
  2. The bosses are paper tigers.  Harry's methods raise hackles from the mayor, the DA, his superiors on the force.  It doesn't make a great deal of difference.  They need him, and they don't have any better ideas, so he's gonna do what he does.
  3. Who wins?  Scorpio may be a giggling psychopath who enjoys hurting people, but what is he really after.  The script depicts him as one step up from homeless, allowed to live under the bleachers of a football stadium by the caretaker's kindness.  If he were a good citizen, he'd very quickly be forgotten.  What's apparent to me is that while he's shaking down the city for 200 grand, his goal isn't money, sex, or even the pleasure of killing others.  He wants his miserable life to have a splashy end.  Not to spoil anything, but he is dealing with Dirty Harry Callahan.
  4. A spoonful of sex helped the violence go down.  There's a surprising amount of nudity in DH.  First Harry accidentally peeps on a BBW prostitute, then he delibartely spies on the opening stages of an orgy while on rooftop stakeout, then a dead girl is dug up naked, and finally Harry follows Scorpio to a nudie bar.  If the movie were made now, I'm guessing the violence would be much less visceral and the nudity would be gone.  For whatever reason, the studio would want a PG-13.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bubble boy

A perfect lab bred specimen. A man who, since adolescence, has spent his entire life in the atmosphere of Randian think tanks and Congressional humidors. He's got the absolute faith in the Free Market of a manchild who's always adored it from afar. Whenever I see Paul Ryan speaking I wonder if he's ever talked to real live people. If he hasn't, I truly wonder if it's a good idea for him to start now.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

We have met the enemy and they are dumb

I believe this will be my 1,000th post on this blog.  Let's see if we get a blare of horns or something.

Tonight I was working on a short story and came to a point where I wanted to describe how a police detective would be dressed.  Or at least how someone looking to look like a detective would dress.  For the second, pop culture images would be fine, and I have watched cop shows on TV.  But still, I went to Google image search for a refresher.  One of the images that came up was unusual because the subject had a tattoo on her neck.  She was also black, a detail that becomes relevant in a moment.

I was curious, so I followed the image to its source.  From what I can tell, the person in the picture wasn't a cop.  The site I had arrived at was a blog dedicated to obsessively cataloguing every murder and assault committed by black Americans, with cute comments along the lines of  "What do all these people have in common?"  I didn't stay long because that's not the kind of place I like to be, online or off.

It further demonstrated what I've thought for a while though.  Privacy on the Internet is a fine thing, and I wouldn't want it to go away.  At the same time, it encourages people to express opinions and feelings that people were learning to keep to themselves for the previous thirty years or so.  They were learning that because these opinions are stupid and hateful.  Now you get a lot of chances to see them.  One hopes visibility is higher than influences.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dripping Friday Random Ten

We had torrential downpours for about an hour today, and then the weather was perfectly clear.  Of course I would have to get out of work near the start of that hour and walk home.  Somebody was nice enough to loan me an umbrella, but with the wind and flooding, it didn't really do anything.  Meanwhile no one was actually nice enough to give me a ride.  Still figuring the whys and wherefores for that one.  Suffice it to say I was grumpy for longer that I was wet.

1. The Bird and the Bee - Meteor
2.  Ruby - Carondelet
3. Roxy Music - A Really Good Time
4. The Clash - London Calling
5. The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Love or Confusion
6. Grizzly Bear - Little Brother
7. Neko Case - Prison Girls
8. Sara Vaughan - Prelude to a Kiss
9. Fleetwood Mac - What Makes You Think You're the One
10. Johnny Mathis - It's Not For Me To Say

Thursday, August 9, 2012


It's generally said that nobody else is interested in hearing about your dreams. I mean the literal, REM-sleep kind. I don't have that kind of hostile indifference to hearing about them. I have a couple of friends who retell theirs very energetically, so it doesn't come off as a bore.

I'm not sure I can get away with that myself. It depends on the audience, really. But I tend to remember them as being fragmented and kind of static to begin with. Like sometime last weekend I dreamed about working retail in men's clothing, and there was some kind of anxiety but I'm not postive what it was. Beyond my not-so-great experiences with sales and retail jobs. Still, there's something interesting about an incomplete narrative like that. Interesting to me, anyway.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Can't think of a header

What's up with all the racial violence lately? Is this what happens when a dominant group starts to think it won't be soon? Have we imported sectarian violence through gunboat diplomacy? Is this just something getting more play because of the numbers involved? Whatever the case, the man did his part to give apathy a good name.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Heavy hitter

I'm in the middle of this book now. Halfway through it, in fact. Not with this cover, though. The edition I'm reading was printed in the 1980s, and has a photo cover of the two series heroes. The model they have as Nero Wolfe looks right, but they gave Archie Goodwin a mustache that I don't think quite fits.

Anyway, yes, I'm halfway through it, as it's a very short novel. And oh! what fun it is too. Rex Stout writes New York, it's rough spots and its police department as a contemporary Wonderland. Making Wolfe himself... I'm going to go with the Caterpillar. It's refreshing to see a series with such a willfully difficult hero.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Black-on-White Friday Random Ten

86'ed movie night tonight.  I had a DVD of Something of Value on-hand.  It's a problem picture from the fifties with Rock Hudson and Sindey Poitier about th eMau Mau uprising in Kenya.  Well-intentioned, but the problem with problem pictures is that they tend to make their case in only the safest way.  There is some amusement to be had in the fact that Hudson is mostly passive in the face of his girlfriend/wife Dana Wynter pursuing him, and shows more interest in early scenes of horseplay with Poitier, but not enough to last me two hours. 

1.  The Clash - Four Horsemen
2. Lou Rawls - Your Good Thing (Is About to End)
3. Todd Rundgren - Breathless
4. Neko Case - The Pharaohs
5. Morphine - In Spite of Me
6. Ladytron - Moon Palace
7. Fleetwood Mac - Sara
8. Grizzly Bear - On a Neck, On a Spit
9. Nat "King" Cole - Tenderly
10. Kat Edmondson - Whispering Grass

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Peaches do NOT come from a can, nor were they put there by a man

Peaches tend not to be ripe when you buy them. Or at least when I buy them. Thus if you put them in the fridge right away and never take them out, they never do ripen. So when you eat them, they're mainly hard pulp. This can be avoided by putting them by a window for a little while. A couple of hours before sunset, or all night if there's not enough daylight.

I include this only as an example of real basic stuff that I've only learned recently.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Dude, you are so glowing

Lower Dens are a band from Baltimore - lovely city, or at least what I've seen of it is - that are starting to get attention. I like the video below both for the haunting song and the reassuring proof that musicians still do massive amounts of mind-altering substances. I mean, the only people who deeply discuss the Singularity are stoners and horrible management consultant types, and they don't seem like the latter.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

That's ruff

My next-door neighbor has a dog, and a big one at that.  The dog barks a lot.  Not at night, but I hear him when I go out and come in during the day.  It sounds to me like the dog is bored and/or lonely, hence the big reaction at vague sounds in the hallway.  A dog is something I'd like to get one of these days, but I'd want them to keep themselves amused while I'm not there.  Although probably not to the extent where they turn into a cat.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Noirish Friday Random Ten

I watched The Hitch-Hiker tonight.  It's a 1953 movie directed by Ida Lupino, about two husbands on a weekend getaway (what now would cutely be called a man-date) on the Mexican border.  A serial killer hijacks them and their car to make his getaway.  The killer is played by William Talman, who I just knew as DA Hamilton Burger on Perry Mason.  He wears a belted leather jacket that in itself must have gotten him an unholy amount of tail, and makes him look like Frank Booth.  In fact the character is pretty much a dry run for every David Lynch villain ever.

1. The White Stripes - I Want to Be the Boy That Warms Your Mother's Heart
2. Todd Rundgren - Song of the Viking
3. Fleetwood Mac - That's Enough For Me
4. Ladytron - 90 Degrees
5. The Clash - Brand New Cadillac
6, The Beatles - Girl
7. Charlie Parker - Embraceable You
8. Roxy Music - Triptych
9. Neko Case - The Next Time You Say Forever
10. Stevie Wonder - Big Brother

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Just a little (or not so little) film from German animator Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981). Silhouette animation isn't something that's often done at all, but it's done beautifully here. And I have to say that the evil nobleman does do things with style up til his inevitable bad end.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Someplace else

Last week I read The Beginning Place, the first novel by Ursula Le Guin that I've read. It's not long. It's a fantasy book that takes place partly in an all-too realistic suburb of an unnamed city. I think it's been listed in some places as YA fantasy, although conservative school districts and cautious parents might have a problem with it.

The story in a nutshell is that Hugh Rodgers is a twentyish guy whose life is going nowhere and who lives with his subtly mentally ill mother.  He finds a gate on the edge of town that leads to another place, one where time doesn't pass the way it does here.  Less than happy to find him there is Irene Pannis, because the strange land and its people are her thing.  Her living arrangement in the real world isn't ideal either. 

This isn't a perfect book, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.  First, one flaw.  There's a sex scene in the book that may well be necessary in terms of motivating what comes after.  Unfortunately when you look at what's come before, it seems pretty left-field.  Maybe that's the downside of the book being short.

One thing that's interesting is that Hugh and Irena's lives are dissatisfying in contrasting ways, in a "Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice" kind of way.  Hugh's world is all stifling order, living with a mother who demands that he be home at night, but who is never happy to see him when he's there.  Irena fled the home of her overwhelmed mother and abusive stepfather young, and now has to tolerate living with a squabbling couple.  (Roommate breakups, gotta love 'em.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is Le Guin's unromantic depiction of the Evening Land.  In a lot of ways it's nothing special.  The static nature of time in this place also means there are no stars, no moon or sun, which sounds to me like it would get maddening after a while.  The nobles of the land seem to like the protagonists, but they have a backstabbing side.  From what I gather of Game of Thrones, they'd be minor cannon fodder on the show.

And that captures an odd truth.  Fantasy has sent homely youths to bright and magical places like Wonderland and Narnia and Oz.  The Evening Land isn't so colorful.  It's attraction lies in being elsewhere.  And yes, for bored and lonely people just out of their teens, that could be enough.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hygienist visit

So I went for a dental cleaning today.  Since I've been paying more attention to my gumline lately it was relatively pleasant, as compared to what's gone before.  Still felt the metal, albeit not this kind.

But while I felt it I wasn't hurt so bad that I wanted to jump out of the chair. Progress.

While waiting for the bus afterwards, I saw a poster for a singer. Miriam Perez, I think? Spanish language singer, she seemed to be. It was an attractive woman on the poster. Someone had drawn a mustache on her face. This is a time-honored form of vandalism, of course, but I was disappointed at the execution. It was just this ballpoint curl they couldn't even be bothered to keep on level with her upper lip. Maybe this level of craft isn't always attainable but jeez people, at least try.

The Castle Cinema has been empty for years now and still is. I keep hearing the problem is that there's no parking in the neighborhood. Well that hasn't changed, not recently. What has changed is the ethnic and linguistic makeup of the people living there. Now I think there should still be a way to make the theatre and the restaurant attached to it serve the neighborhood as it is. But no one's been willing to put up the money to do that. Or maybe it's easy for me to say.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Chill Friday Random Ten

Walking around after work tonight I actually needed a coat.  Well, light jacket, and "needed" is a matter of interpretaion, but I felt better wearing one.  That's rare enough this month.

1. The Clash - Hateful
2. Stevie Wonder - I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)
3. Nat "King" Cole - This Can't Be Love
4. The Beatles - Wait
5. Patsy Cline - A Poor Man's Roses (Or a Rich Man's Gold)
6. David Bowie - It's No Game (Part 1)
7. Morphine - I'm Free Now
8. Neko Case - People Got a Lot of Nerve
9. Kat Edmonson - Champagne
10. The Bird and the Bee - What's in the Middle

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The shadows know

I am not making this up!

Here are two articles on Tim Noble and Sue Webster, a pair of British artists who I'm guessing are also a couple. They were a new one on me when I read the piece in Weird Fiction Review. It's kind of an intense thing they've got going, isn't it? In a way the piles of stuff that casts a completely different shadow idea seems like something that should have been thought of long ago. A Victorian or WWI-era novelty. The details are very contemporary, though. The rubbish and dead animals they use in their work probably bother quite a few viewers, but the images aren't easy to shake.

Bet they have to use thick rubber gloves.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Yesterday I told a co-worker of mine that Donald J. Sobol the creator of Encyclopedia Brown, had died. Neither name appeared to mean anything to him, which just further illustrated to me the vast gulf between us. But now that I think of it I kind of want to quiz my friends on how much they remember of these books. Every book of Encyclopedia Brown mysteries had at least one story where neighborhood bully pulls some kind of scam and Brown easily proves his guilt. It sort of makes life easier when your nemesis is always the criminal and never gets better at it. So yes, the books were silly in their way. They hold up in their silliness well, though. As often mentioned, Brown would hesitate for a few seconds when a grown-up asked him a question, so they wouldn't feel bad when he gave them the answer. That's a bit of courtesy I still sometimes use.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Inspection time

At work we have people coming in tomorrow from a foundation. They help fund our work. Word went out that they'd be touring our locations. Management was concerned that our spaces look neat for them, so that they wouldn't get the wrong impression. So this afternoon before I left, I went on a whirlwind cleaning of my work station.

As it happens, I'm scheduled to take tomorrow off. I requested the vacation day last week, and didn't find out about the visitors until today, so it's not like I'm avoiding them. I'm definitely okay with it, though. This way I get the rush of cleaning, but during the visit I'll be out of everybody's hair and vice versa.

Friday, July 13, 2012

(Not) live from Alabama Friday Random Ten

Tonight I watched a movie from 1964 called Nothing But a Man. The plot isn't very involved. It's about a laconic laborer who falls in love with a teacher who's also the daughter of a minister. Important things to remember are that the central characters are all black, the story is set in the vicinity of Birmingham, Alabama, and as mentioned before, 1964. Despite being white myself I started to get tense whenever a white man entered the frame, because they usually mean trouble. The director was primarily a documentarian and the film often feels like a vérité photoessay. It's easy to forget the presence of a few somewhat fairly famous people, such as the lead actor being Kinchloe from Hogan's Heroes. I did notice that Gloria Foster, who plays the girlfriend of Duff's broken-down father, is stunningly gorgeous, but she never seemed out of place because of it.
  1. Ladytron - White Gold
  2. Sonic Youth - Dripping Dream
  3. The Beatles - In My Life
  4. Ruby - Tiny Meat
  5. Brian Eno - By This River
  6. Kat Edmondson - I'm Not In Love
  7. Neko Case - Vengeance Is Sleeping
  8. The Clash - The Guns of Brixton
  9. Charlie Parker - Out of Nowhere
  10. Fleetwood Mac - Never Forget

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Take your protein pills...

Here's a fun way to waste a few minutes or hours on the Internet. Pushing Ahead of the Dame is a blog examining in (a lot of) detail every song from David Bowie's career. The blog's author, Chris O'Leary, started with David Robert Jones' pre-"Space Oddity" work a couple of years ago. Now he's up to Tin Machine II. A while back I discovered a blog that similarly examined Paul Simon's work. That project could go for a while, as Simon is still writing and recording music. With Bowie's apparent retirement after Reality, it looks like the primary purpse of "Pushing" will be exhausted in about a year. I wonder if he'll keep it going, repurposed. It's a good read in any case. O'Leary knows an intimidating amount about music, and he ties that knowledge to very opinionated and witty prose. Also he has nice taste in Flickr pictures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Jesuit and his brain

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is a fascinating figure, one I first heard about in Catholic school. He was a man of enviable energy, as I'm learning in the book The Jesuit & the Skull, written by Amir Aczel. A Jesuit priest by vocation, he also had a strong scientific curiosity, leading him to the study of human origins. Plus a stint as a stretcher-bearer in the Great War, showing what's described as a "contempt for danger."

Teilhard de Chardin advanced a kind of post-Darwin mysticism that the entire cosmos was evolving toward the body of Christ. I'm not sure I agree with this, but it has a certain beauty. The world if ideas is poorer without some that acknowledge substance in the universe beyond the mechanical.

He might have a more difficult time of it now, being both a man of faith and a dedicated amateur scientist. Admitting to any kind of religious faith seems to cost scientists a lot of respect now. On the other side, religious poeple who angrily reject evolution, science, and seemingly the idea of evidence are an organized political force now. Of course the amount of trouble he got from the Vatican was bad enough. Plus ça change, perhaps.

There's also this blackly humoroous anecdote about Teilhard de Chardin's cohort, Canadian anatomist Davidson Black

Black procured cadavers for research, obtained from the Peking pilice department. These cadavers were mostly of people who had been executed for various crimes; the police regularly sent Black truckloads of the bodies of these executed convicts. Execution in China was by beheading, and thus the cadavers Black received lacked heads and had mutilated necks. After some time, he asked the police whether there was any possibility of getting better dead bodies for research—corpses that were intact. The next day, he received a shipment of convicts, all chained together, with a note from the police asking him to kill them in any way he chose. Hoffified, Black sent the prisoners back to the police, and thereafter obtained all his cadavers from the city morgue.
Um, yikes.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Here's a classic "did they really mean that headline for you.
Facts about key parties in Libya’s election
Guess Western-style decadence got there pretty fast after all.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Personal best (for some) Friday Random Ten

One of the buses I take in the morning is sometimes driven by a woman who takes pride in knowing where all her regulars are going.  This means she doesn't like it when I ring the bell when I get to my stop.  Not that she gets really mad, but a little exasperated maybe.  So I try to remind myself not to do that.  We all have our little things.

1. Louis Armstrong - West End Blues
2. Stevie Wonder - You and I
3. Sonic Youth - Pattern Recognition
4. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Mayanaka No Bossa Nova (Midnight Bossa Nova)
5. Talk Talk - Life's What You Make It
6. David Bowie - Up the Hill Backwards
7. Kat Edmondson - I Don't Know
8. The Clash - The Right Profile
9. Ruby - Flippin' the Bird
10. Todd Rundgren - The Night the Carousel Burnt Down

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Good scouts

On this fine, albeit humid, Independence Day, I stopped in to the movies. An American movie, as it happens. Actually Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is not only American but somewhat local, having been filmed at various seaside locations in RI.

The movie has an excellent cast. Edward Norton, the "I am Jack's..." guy from Fight Club especially brings it as a scout troupe leader struggling to hide his self doubt. For all that, long stretches of the film have to be carried entirely by the two young leads who play the runaway lovers. They prove up to the task, although I fear the dewy budding sexuality of the characters will bring a massive number of ephebephiles to the theatre. (Then again, their money's green, so the studio doesn't want to turn anyone away.)

Given the habit of audiences even at the Avon to leave quickly and silently as soon as the action is over, it means something that the audience here clapped audibly at the fadeout. And many of us stayed through the update of Benjamin Britten's "A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" for the closing credits.

Also good: Again as change, the ticket counter gave me a two dollar bill. They're rare, but as you can see here, they're a thing.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Let's give him a hand

Why I Love Last Days by Brian Evenson from Victoria Blake on Vimeo.

This is a pretty concise and apt synopsis of Last Days, by Brian Evenson, a book I'm in the midst of reading now. What can I say? It's got an interesting plot, and some pretty humorous passages. It's also got a premise involving a religious order that believes lopping off body parts is the way to get closer to God, and it does its best to live up to that premise. I can see why a larger publisher might not find this a good investment.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Everybody was Kung Fou fighting (sorry)

Pierrot le Fou is definitely a French film. It's definitely from the sixties. Not what teenagers and politicians think of as the sixties. The actual period, when women's hairstyles looked especially wiggy.

And it's unmistakably the work of Jean-Luc Godard, who was at his peak during that decade. So he embraces the silliness and loads it with a lot of his own baggage. It holds up encouragingly well.

The plot is simple, allowing for a lot of sidetrips. Ferdinand (Jean-Paul Belmondo) used to work in TV, but he was fired. His wife, a beautiful woman with whom he has no connection of any kind, forces him to stay on the gladhanding and parties circuit. After one particularly vapid party - guests speak entirely in advertising blurbs - he sees that his babysitter for the night has been Marianne (Anna Karina, Mrs Godard at the time), and old girlfriend of his. So he runs off with her, leading a carefree life of robberies and the occasional murder with her that turns out not to be so carefree

If you find it difficult to take this story seriously, rest assured that Godard finds it impossible. Nor does he make much of an effort to sell it on a visual level. The killings consist mostly of men falling over when you hit them, sometimes with a little red paint on their faces.

This attitude toward realism - toggling between lackadaisical and outright hostile - frees him to concentrate on things he does find interesting. For a few scenes the film becomes a musical, one served well by Karina's singing voice. There are also elliptical philosophical debates, and a playlet about Vietnam that Karina plays in yellowface. Like, lemon yellow.

While American directors like Brian Depalma, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino have grabbed onto elements of Godard's style, this kind of go anywhere abandon is still alien to watchers of Hollywood films, for the most part. The addled energy is infectious, and much of the film is exhilirating. The characters are doomed, as Godard has at least that much respect for genre. Somehow even that is worn lightly

Friday, June 29, 2012

Coming attractions Friday Random Ten

I watched a movie tonight. Yup, free library movie rentals, can't beat 'em. It sort of deserves it's own post, though, or at least I feel like giving it one. So that comes tomorrow, the final day of June. Which is, wow.
  1. Todd Rundgren - It Takes Two to Tango
  2. David Bowie - Teenage Wildlife
  3. Talk Talk - I Believe In You
  4. Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
  5. The New Pornographers - We End Up Together
  6. Pink Martini & Saori Yuki - Blue Light Yokohama
  7. Radiohead - Bones
  8. Nat "King" Cole - L-O-V-E
  9. The Might Be Giants - In Fact
  10. The Bird and the Bee - Love Letter to Japan

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Racial expressions

Reading this from Ta-Nehisi Coates struck a cord with me.
All of this is to say, I wonder at the strength and nature of our democratic norms. Was there ever a time where our representatives seriously placed loyalty to democracy over partisan interests? And granting that there was, what was that compromise, that sacrifice, premised on? What undergirded our democratic virtue? Was it the promise that, in a country explicitly understood as constructed for the white man, the majority could never sink as low as the cursed minority? If we grant that the past few decades have been a particularly trying time for our democracy, is it mere coincidence that this happens just as African-American power begins to morph into reality?

This may sound dramatic. Well sure it does, and it is. For a long time I figured that race - and specifically racism - was becoming a marginal force in American political life. Sure it still existed, but no one was standing on the steps of any given state house crowing about "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!"

My views on that have been somewhat revised. What you won't see are huge conflagrations like Wilmington and Tulsa. But you also don't see much in the way of pushback over racially tinged decisions like Bush v Gore (2000) and the recent spate of voter ID laws. I think a number of whites in this country believe deep down that they're losing a zero sum game, and that moves that hurt blacks will keep them (whites) from falling too low. Even when this is demonstrably false, the belief is still there.