Monday, March 31, 2014

Not ready for some football

Now that I think of it, it's strange that DC's football team is still called "The Redskins." One of these things is not like the others.  Not because it's offensive.  It is, of course, but in and of itself this is pretty easy to believe.

No, the messed up thing is that the name doesn't make much sense in the context of professional football.  Sports team names are supposed to be badass, and most football especially should carry a respectable amount of menace.  Mos tof the other teams seem to get this.  If a bear is after you, your minutes are numbered.  Buccaneers are pirates, and everyone still knows pirates are bad news.  Steelers?  Well, it's hard to find a steelworker, but you'd imagine hauling around pig iron does something for them.

But Redskins?  It's a dated slur against Native Americans.  And we're not living in an old Western.  No one's intimidated by Native Americans, at least not inherently.  White people are still afraid of blacks, sometimes with tragic results.  But SOMEHOW I'm not expecting a pro sports team to use that fear to inspire its name anytime soon.

Anyway, it's something I can't help notice because I hear poeple talk about football and when they get to this team, they can only call it "Washington."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Screening the Saturday Random Ten*

* That I actually started compiling on Friday, but this wasn't able to be a Friday Random Ten for technical and other reasons.

The RISD Museum has set a couple of rooms together for a couple of months for an Andy Warhol exhibit.  It sounded interesting, so I figured I'd take a little time on the weekend to see it.

In one room they were projecting a reel of Warhol Screen Tests.  They're four minutes apiece and I couldn't have sat through the whole thing if I wanted to, but I'm glad to have seen what I did, which was most of two and all of one in the middle.  One showed Ivy Nicholson, one of the Superstars and a very pretty brunette back then, smiling mildly at the camera.  One of her eyes is deep in shadow, though.  It was kind of freaking me out, like, does she even have two eyes?  (Apparently yes.)

None of his paintings or prints are in this exhibit, although the screenprint on canvas "Race Riot" is in their permanent collection.  The other two rooms were taken up by his photographs.  The Polaroids didn't interest me much.  The Minolta SLR pictures are another story. Most of them are taken with high speed black and white film, and they also appear to have been taken at high speeds.  Like he might have been surprised to see the exposure later.

1. Neil Young - Thrasher
2. Beck - Say Goodbye
3. Chic - Real People
4. Lower Dens - Lamb
5. Pink Martini - Je ne t'aime plus
6. Amy Winehouse - Take the Box
7. Arcade Fire - We Exist
8. Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross - Everybody's Boppin'
9. The Bird and the Bee - Polite Dance Song
10. Taj Mahal - Cakewalk Into Town

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Who knows?

"Write what you know," may be the one piece of writing advice that the most people - regardless of whether they're writers or not - know about.  Whether it's good advice or not is complicated.

It is good on the level of understanding that, for a number of things, someone will know better than you, so you don't want to insult their experience.  You might not be prepared to delve deep into army life if you're a lifelong civilian writing out of pro-war or anti-war feelings.  Don't write about how young people are dumb brutes only interested in sexing and drugging and Candy Crush if you never talk to anyone under 50.  The makers of Forrest Gump surely pissed off members of Students for a Democratic Society when they portrayed the SDS as being all about posturing and girlfriend abuse, although this group wasn't numerous enough to put a dent in its box office.

On the other hand, if you have an urge to write about a subject, that should be followed.  Why?  Because it's largely work you do with your mind.  And your mind, your imagination will go where it goes.  Trying to cut it off is making poor use, non-use, of your best tool.

Tom Cobb used to tell us, "Know what you write about."  Which is good advice.  Educating yourself as to the subject you want to explore is good practice, and potentially can be fun.  Of course what kind and how much research you do depends on what you want to do.

With that in mind, here's some research I've been doing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Please enjoy this short-ass video

One nice thing about living in a semi-coastal area is that you never know when seagulls will show up. Not that they're the friendliest of birds, but they do have a unique sense of melody.

Person who took this video made a good use of their zoom lens.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Random Slow Day Ten

Not much went on at work today.  Oh well.  I was able to look busy anyway.  Things look to pick up Monday.

I also have one or two caustically funny coworkers, which I appreciate.

1. Reading Rainbow - Always on My Mind
2. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Remember
3. Nellie McKay - G.E.S.
4. Scissor Sisters - It Can't Come Quickly Enough
5. The Cramps - Primitive
6. Amy Winehouse - Brother
7. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Pocahontas
8. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings - Tell Me
9. Arcade Fire - Normal Person
10. New Order - Blue Monday

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sizzling slab of no

Not too long ago I was in a grocery and saw a line of gourmet chocolate bars. One of them was made with bacon. Apparently this is something that's been going on for a while now.

Gotta say, I don't really approve. My disapproval isn't moral. I'm not Jewish, Muslim, or vegetarian. Nor is it health related. At the end of the day I don't care how much anyone weighs. No, I have an aesthetic problem. Bacon isn't dessert. It's crispy meat with salt cooked in. Soaking up a little maple syrup from your French toast should be as close to sweet as it gets.

Monday, March 17, 2014

All's well that... knobs well? (Header a work in progress)

Apparently the doorkob I had on my bathroom door was pretty old.  Old enough so that one part of it started to fall off whenever I tried to close the door, which was more than a little annoying.  Today I finally bought a new one and replaced it.  The new doorknob came in a package whihc spelled the word "impact" as "impat," but their product seems to work.  (Very simple to install, so I can't take much handyman credit here.)  I'd feel bad about letting the old one go, but it's just decrepit.  It's not an interesting antique, or at least that's how it seems.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Readin 'n' writin' Saturday Random Ten

This week I filled in a previously barren part of my cultural education by reading some James Baldwin, specifically Another Country.  Which is a great novel, as well as an emotional, verbose, and excessive one.  And there's something else I've noticed.

It's no secret, and hasn't been for a while, that a lot of guys are turned on by the idea of women together sexually.  As for the gender flip, for a long time it was assumed that women didn't have this kind of interest.  In the Internet era, however, that assumption has been challenged.  Fan fiction, in which more of the authors are female than male, thrives on gay romance and sex, as illustrated here:

Now Baldwin was gay himself, so the sex in the novel was probably a lot of him writing what he knew.  Still, there are three major characters in the novel who somehow jump between gay and straight lovin'. The other two are the French gay lover of one of the three and a fairly clueless husband.  So while it's a weighty book about race in America, in a lot of ways it feels like he wrote the template for yaoi oriented fanfic.

Also I sent off a story today.  It's been a challenge getting it to where I wanted it to be, but I learned some things on the way.  The 'zine I sent it off to is fairly prestigious, so I'm staying realistic.  If they don't want it then I'll just try somewhere else.

1. Lou Rawls - Breaking My Back (Instead of Using My Mind)
2. Brian Eno - Driving Me Backwards
3. Jimi Hendrix Experience - Fire
4. The Clash - Complete Control
5. Imperial Teen - Overtaken
6. The Cramps - Green Fuz
7. Ladytron - AMTV
8. Morphine - Thursday
9. Arcade Fire - You Already Know
10. Dinah Washington - A Foggy Day

Friday, March 14, 2014

Coming attraction

Hello, gentle reader.  Just want to assure you that neither I nor this blog have gone anywhere.  Sort of I've been quiet the past fdw days and some of that may be explained tomorrow, which will also be the locus of the Random Ten.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A lot of balls in the air

) Decided to post this after a few minutes of looking for a video that could facilitate quiet meditation. I think this one qualifies. I tried a few video clips of grandfather clocks, but in each of those cases the owner insisted on gabbing away. Or it was just an ad.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Talking tech talk

Information of the kind that purportedly wants to be free is nothing but a shadow of our own minds, and want nothing on its own. It will not suffer if it doesn't get what it wants.

But if you want to make the transition from the old religion, where you hope God will give you an afterlife, to the new religion, where you hope to become immortal by getting uploaded into a computer, then you have to believe information is real and alive. So for you, it will be important to redesign human institutions like art, the economy, and law to reinforce the perception that information is alive. You demand that the rest of us live in your conception of a state religion. You need us to deify information to reinforce your faith.

One of the books I'm currently reading is You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier. Lanier is sharply critical of current trends in thinking about computers and information. Because he's an innovator in virtual reality, it's hard to dismiss him as a Luddite crank. Oh, I'm sure some do, but on the web you'll also find people insisting that Obama was born in Kenya to Elijah Muhammed and Chairman Mao. While I'm still in early chapters he seems to be making the point that you can do wonderful things on a computer, and also do wonderful things offf of it, but in each case you as a person have to make the choice to do it. While a lot of techno-libertarianism seems to amount to a hope that machines will make better choices for us than we make for ourselves.

Someone I've been reading about recently is Donald Deskey, an industrial designer from Minnesota. Industrial design is an interesting topic in that it shares some concerns with art, but takes place outside of the art world and is presented to people who may not consciously be looking for an aesthetic. And Deskey, along with other designers like Paul Frankl, Raymond Loewy, and Norman Bel Geddes, helped to make things look the way they did through much of the 20th century. Exammples of his work can be seen here and here, and yes that second page include the "target" box for Tide detergent. He and the others created the environments you remember from old movies and TV shows, and maybe your childhood as well.

Now we're not necessarily talking about deep thinkers here. Deskey, Loewy et al essentially took a look at what the Bauhaus was doing and stripped the Marxism from it so that golf cart riding executives would pony up for it. But it's a humanistic kind of aesthetic all the same. They were invested in the idea of the future as something that ordinary people would live in. We should expect no less now.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Quite the Friday Random Ten

I wonder how many people at work think of me as "the quiet one" as in "He always seemed so quiet," spoken to a TV jounalist between sobs.  Well, the ones I care about know me a little better than that.  I thnk.

1. Neil Young - Ride My Llama
2. Reading Rainbow - White Noise
3. Imperial Teen - The Hibernates
4. The Clash - Jail Guitar Doors
5. Amy Winehouse - (There Is) No Greater Love
6. Lambert, Hendricks & Ross - Bijou
7. The Bird & the Bee - Diamond Dave
8. New Pornographers - Crash Years
9. New Order - Age of Consent
10. Pink Martini - Ich Dich Liebe

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Hello and welcome.  Thank you for stopping by.

This is a post that just kind of is.  I don't have much I want to write about.  Or if I do it would require me to stay up much later than would be good.  Specially on a weeknight.

Just saying, I'm pretty sure this blog doesn't have that many readers.  Which is A-OK by me, because I know the ones I have are awesome.  It's that old thing of quality vs. quantity.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Breathing, a universal subject

I'm a part-time asthmatic.  I've had a couple of major attacks in my life and a few minor ones.  Nothing too recent, though.

In the grips of asthma it's difficult to sleep, nigh impossible without an inhaler.  One of the reasons for this is that you can hear your own wheezing, and for obvious reasons this sounds like a respiratory red flag.  It makes you aware of just how much you're not breathing well.

But in good health, or passable health, you also hear your own breath.  Especially when laying down to sleep.  It is, if all goes well, more calming in these circumstances.  Worth noting if only because it's something you tend to ignore the rest of the day.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Jazz and cocktails

This is one of the songs from Beck's Song Reader project, his book of sheet music. Which in itself was a pretty cool project. Anyone who can take a nineteenth century form and make it seem new is okay in my book. And this is just about the most infectious version of those songs that I've come across.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Glitch-delayed Saturday Random Ten

The more immediate glitch is that while I had my iPod hooked up to the laptop on Thursday night, when I tried to listen to it on Friday it had no juice at all.  This might be explained by the latest iTunes update.  Maybe while it was waiting for me to decide whether I'd download it, the gadget wasn't receiving any charge.

The odder, more interesting story.  Also on Thursday night, or rather very early Friday morning, I awoke to the sound of a circular saw cutting into a hornet's nest next to a megaphone.  Well, really it was the fire alarm.  This was somewhere in the 4:30 zone.  It turned out a leak in someone's bathroom had started to flood the apartment below it.  I wasn't the leaker or the leakee, luckily.  Anyway, water got on the smoke detector, which I guess made it think the sprinklers were going off so it sounded the alarm.  For some reason no one else but me thought to call the fire department - who made nice time when I did, by the way.  Still, I prefer the fire alarm to having the mice skitter around my apartment in the middle of the night.  It's a public nuisance, as distinguished from a private hell.

1. R.E.M. - Good Advices
2. New Order - Ultraviolence
3. Joni Mitchell - Black Crow
4. Arcade Fire - Normal Person
5. The Clash - I'm So Bored With the USA
6. Roxy Music - Manifesto
7. Mose Allison - You Can Count On Me
8. Amy Winehouse - Moody's Mood for Love
9. They Might Be Giants - Protagonist
10. Dinah Washington - New Blowtop Blues