Wednesday, July 30, 2014 be you and me

The Abigail Hernandez case is not the kind of thing I enjoy writing about, and generally I don't. But aside from certain mercies (the victim surviving) and petty pleasures (confidence that I would have avoided Nathaniel Kibby like the plague) there are things to learn here. First:
He was found guilty then of assaulting a female student by grabbing her while she tried to board a school bus. That same year, he faced charges for using false information to buy an “AK-47 type weapon,” according to a police report.
Kibby later protested the bail conditions in a court filing, saying his firearms were “of immense equitable value” and that he was not a threat because he lived by an “objectivist libertarian moral code.”
I wouldn't say that Kibby is representative of people who call themselves libertarians, but he is illustrative of the fact that the word "libertarian" need not mean much of anything. The most meaningful definition of freedom allows for it to be compatible with the same amount of freedom for all others. It obviously does not support depriving others - specifically women and young girls - of their most basic rights. And yet Kibby thinks he's for freedom. None so blind.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The wrong place?

Today I went to the dentist for my semiannual checkup/cleaning.  They weren't there.  Which is strange enough.  The door was locked, and from a note I learned that they'd apparently been trying to reach me in order to let me know that... what?  The whole story will come out tomorrow, I guess.

Near the dentist's office is a restaurant.  Well, it's not a restaurant now.  And that's the thing.  This location has been on-and-off for years, with different names and different owners.  I've had breakfast or lunch in it a few times.  One of these times was long enough ago for there to be ashtrays on the table.  The most recent guise for this place was Latin themed.  Makes sense, as its a Latin neighborhood, in the main, with a lot of recent immigrants from Central America.  But still it only lasted a few months.

The thing is, I've seen economically depressed neighborhoods.  I've lived in them.  I wouldn't really call this neighborhood depressed.  A lot of places do seem to do good business.  But whoever occupies this storefront always seems to draw the short straw.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


This is a poem by Miller Williams, a poet from Arkansas and the father of singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams.  It talks about going down together, and it's got jokes, which is good enough for me.

The Associate Professor Delivers an Exhortation to His Failing Students
Now when the frogs
that gave their lives for nothing
are washed from the brains and pans
we laid them in
I leave to you
who most excusably misunderstood
the margins of my talks
which because I am wise
and am a coward
were not appended to the syllabus

but I will fail to tell you
what I tell you
even before you fail to understand
so we might
in a manner of speaking
go down together.

I should have told you something of improtance
to give at least a meaning
to the letter:

how, after hope, it sometimes happens

a girl, anonymous as beer,
telling forgotten things in a cheap bar
how she could have taught here as well as I.

The day I talked about the conduction of currents
I meant to say
be careful about getting hung up in the brain's things
that send you screaming like madmen through the town
or make you
like the man in front of the Jungle
that preaches on Saturday afternoons
a clown.

The day I lectured on adrenalin
I meant to tell you
as you were coming down
slowly out of the hills of certainty

empty your mind of the hopes that held you there.
Make a catechism of all your fears

and say it over:

this is the most of you ... who knows ... the best
where God was born
and heaven and confession
and half of love

From the fear of falling
and being flushed away
to the gulp of the suckhole and that rusting gut
from which no Jonah comes

that there is no Jesus and no hell
that God
square root of something equal to all
will not feel the imbalance when you fall

that rotting you will lie unbelievably alone
to be sucked up by some insignificant oak
as a child draws milk through straws
to be his bone.

These are the gravity that holds us together
toward our common sun

every hope getting out of hand
slings us hopelessly outward one by one
till all that kept us common is undone.

The day you took the test
I would have told you this:
that you had no time to listen for questions
hunting out the answers in your files
is surely the kind of irony
poems are made of

that all the answers at best are less than half

and you would have remembered
who hung around with God or the devil for days
and nobody asked him


But if they do
If one Sunday morning they should ask you
the only thing that matters after all
tell them the only thing you know is true

tell them failing is an act of love
like sin
it is the commonality within

how failing together we shall finally pass
how to pomp and circumstance all of a class
nobel of eye, blind mares between our knees,
lances ready, we ride to Hercules.

The day I said this had I meant to hope
some impossible punk on a cold slope
stupidly alone
would build himself a fire
to make of me an idiot

and a liar

Friday, July 25, 2014

Plausible Friday Random Ten

Hope you don't mind the odd layout, here.  Accidentally walked into an editing nightmare here.  One of the more plausible kinds of nightmare, which might be why I chose that header, although I'm not sure anymore.

Probably a good thing that it's the weekend.

Fairport Convention - Genesis Hall
Broadcast - Tears in the Typing Pool
Paul Simon - I Don't Believe
Dirty Projectors - No Intention
The Velvet Underground - I Heard her Call My Name
Laurie Anderson - Walking and Falling
Brian Eno - In Dark Trees
The Band - In a Station
Elvis Costello & the Attractions - You'll Never Be a Man
Tito Puente - Lush Life

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Shades of grey

charcoal animation from Alesh macak on Vimeo.

Kind of weird, yes. It would be pretty hard to tease a plot out of it. Of course most dreams are like that too.

The description on Vimeo says it was all done on one piece of paper. Sure used the hell out of that scrap.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A midsummer oops

Sunglasses.  Unless you wear a really luxe pair I think you expect to lose or break them at some point.  So if I misplaced a pair of shades on the bus I'd probably just write it off.  Same thing with a hat, probably.  Hats are replaceable.

This morning, though, I left my backpack on a bus.  It wasn't until the bus was gone and I was grabbing coffee that I realized that.  The bag has an address book in it.  Also toothbrush and toothpaste, because a lot of days I do dental hygiene at work rathter than at home (not counting brushing my teeth at night.)  The real deciding factor was that my partials were in there.  They'd be an expensive pain in the ass to replace.  So I waited for the bus to come up the other way so I could grab my stuff again.

All of which is a bit embarrassing, but we're getting to the part of the year where I can blame the heat/humidity for breaking my concentration.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Random Ten in progress

Yes, I finally got down to Random Ten business.

Right now am working on another story.  It's at the point where it's all down, basically, but a sprawling mess.  So begins the work of hewing it down.  Which is fun, once you get into it.  Was sort of interrupted today, but expect to get back into it tomorrow.

1. Amy Winehouse - (There Is) No Greater Love
2. Arcade Fire - Supersymmetry
3. Brian Eno - Spirits Drifting
4. Fats Domino - The Fat Man
5. Dirty Projectors - The Bride
6. The Band - Tears of Rage
7. Fairport Convention - Fotheringay
8. The Velvet Underground - The Gift
9. R.E.M. - Can't Get There from Here
10. Diana Krall - You're My Thrill

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

La dame

Take a look at this for a moment.

This is a painting by Leonora Carrington, called La Dame Ovale ("the oval lady")

Carrington came from a somewhat upper crust English background, which she threw away when she ran away with Max Ernst. She's considered one of the surrealists. Over her long artistic career - started in the 1930s and continued until her dedath in the 2ooos - she went back and forth on that.

This painting could certainly be called surreal, being filled with inversions of the natural order. The chained dog has five human breasts. (An odd number, even!) Birds and bats nest underground. Many of the trees have bizarre shapes: fox heads, chess pieces.

What I noticed after looking at it for a few minutes was that nothing could quite be taken at face value. Most of the trees are, when you take the nature of painting into account, natural. So are most of the clouds. But you're forced to keep examining them because of their proximity to the other things. Meaning that art can show you not just new things, but train you in new ways to look.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The 4th

Which brings us to the impossible unity of the Ramones. They all had the same last name. They all wore the same outfit and haircut. All the songs started with “1 2 3 4.” The monolithic, unified roar. And, most importantly, all the songs seem to come from a musical universe that they were the sole inhabitants of. Although their eagle logo and leather-clad image invited dopey imitation in the way all of rock music’s orthodox rebellion does, the Ramones’ original iconography not only illustrated they were tough, but that they were one. For an earlier music generation, the Beatles’ idea of the band as a gang, jumping over hilltops together, was part of their initial appeal. The Ramones were a gang as a band. A few years before his passing, Dee Dee Ramone complained about when he was starting with the band being forced to get a “Ramone” haircut. Having that small part of their image dismantled that way broke down more of the image of the band for me than I anticipated.

It is preposterous to call the Ramones performance art, but is there a more intentional, self-contained creative performance? The Ramones weren’t a band “about something.” While there were other high-concept bands that rival their singularity of statement—like Kraftwerk, the Residents, or Devo—those bands revolved around technology and enigma. The Ramones were self-reflexive: a rock band that was about the idea of a rock band. They took comic book violence and the deadest tropes of Beach Boys lyrics and placed them alongside tales of New York hustling as if it all was one piece. Authenticity wasn’t an issue. Authenticity was a joke.

From John Flansburgh's post-Tommy in memoriam on The Ramones. They Might Be Giants, Flansburgh's own band, occupies a different niche than the boyz from Queens, but he seems to get them.

After only a couple of years, Tommy decided that having been in the Ramones was great, but that he didn't want to keep doing it. Understandable, given the personalities involved. Still, he'll be remembered with them.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Harsh realm

Oh before I go - which in this case is short for "go the whole weekend without blogging" - I did see another movie on Friday night.  This was Winter's Bone, directed by Debra Granik.  I don't hesitate to recommend it.

There's been a disconnect in American movies in terms of class for some time.  America has been wavering between recession and weak recovery for about six years.  Our social safety net has been getting shredded for over thirty.  That's led to a lot of people in desperate straits, and a lot more at least in the doldrums.

Movies and TV, in general, have wanted no part of this.  This goes for both large studio films and the more high profile indie projects.  Celebrated pictures like Ruby Sparks, Young Adult and Her may have their virtues, but they won't visit you where you live.  They limn a kind of depressed affluenza that may reflect the makers' lives, but doesn't really resonate outside that circle.

Winter's Bone's grubbiness is a relief in that context.  And it is grubby.  Characters look unwashed, and brace themselves against the Missouri winter by seemingly wearing all their clothes at once.  Jennifer Lawrence, who plays heroine Ree Dolly, might never have become a movie star if her subsequent Academy Award nomination hadn't given her an excuse to be seen in public with her nair done and a nice dress. 

Beyond that there's the subject of living in a tiny house and being threatened with losing that house over a bail bond that would, to some, be trivial.  It's a grim situation, but one many can identify with.  It also has the virtue of raising stakes.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Shady Friday Random Ten

Someone I work with told me today that my sunglasses reminded them of "Three Blind Mice", possibly the cartoon version.  This is based on a misconception, of course.  Blind mice don't wear dark glasses.  They just wander around the room, doing their best not to trip over anything, and unless you know them you have no idea what their problem is.

1. Neil Young - Welfare Mothers
2. Broadcast - Arc of a Journey
3. Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley - The Masquerade is Over
4. Paul Simon - Outrageous
5. Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch
6. St. Vincent - Regret
7. Neko Case - The Needle Has Landed
8. The Velvet Underground - The Gift
9. The Beastie Boys - The Brouhaha
10. Pink Martini - Je Ne t'Aime Plus

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Acting out for attention

Tonight I went with a friend of mine and his kids and a couple of other friends to see a RiffTrax live-by-satellite show.  That is, a movie was snarked in a theatre in hteir native Minneapolis, but the whole ting, incluiding a short, was beamed via satellite to a bunch of movie theaatres.

Mike, Kevin and Bill - the second Crow - are pros, and I perceive them as nice guys.  There's a reason why MST3K is MST3K and its successors aren't, despite a higher initial profile.  But they put together a pretty good show.

Sharknado.  I'm sure I could put a video clip of Sharknado up here but... I won't.  I get the feeling that the movie was explicitly made for this purpose, that they knew parody would be as much of an afterlife as the movie would get.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Big Bird redux

When I was a kid I was convinced that emus were called "ostriches." Because come on! "Australia" sounds like OSS-trail-ya, so how could they not have the birds whose name sounds the same. I guess ratite branding was a big thing to my younger self.

It's not clear how closely related ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries etc are, and whether they had a common ancestor on the superncontinent of Gondwana. As you can see here, ostrichese and emus don't look that much alike. Emu necks are much fluffier. They do dance/play together well, considering both birds are somewhat volatile to begin with

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Post-Independence Saturday Random Ten

We were hit with the dregs of Hurricane Arthur.  We were quite lucky, on the whole.  It still wasn't fun to get caught out in it.  I know this, and was feeling a little off for a time after I got drenched.  The nighttime was better, though.

The weather was expected to cancel or delay most of the Fourth of July celebrations, except for the fireworks up in Boston, which were pushed up to Thursday night.  The rain put a damper on things, yes.  There were still a few fireworks here last night, though, as well as more tonight.

Watched another movie last night.  This time it was Bad Day at Black Rock, a modern day Western in which Spencer Tracy plays a one-armed war veteran who goes to a small town to give a medal to the Japanese father of a fallen fellow soldier, and winds up having to defend himself against the galoots who basically lynched the old man.  It may be the patron saint of self-critical American popcorn movies.

1. Diana Krall - Este Seu Olhar
2. Mose Allison - Don't Forget to Smile
3. Lower Dens - In the End is the Beginning
4. The Beastie Boys - Rhyme the Rhyme Well
5. Fats Domino - Whole Lotta Loving
6. Paul Simon - Sure Don't Feel Like Love
7. The Dirty Projectors - Stillness Is the Move
8. Neko Case - That Teenage Feeling
9. Pink Martini - Sway
10. Elvis Costello & the Attractions - Watch Your Step*

* Wasn't intending to begin and end things with artists who are now married.  Just one of those fun coincidences.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

4 real, man

So, I took this movie out from the library.  The fact that it turned out to be its 50th anniversary this week - and a widely touted one at that - is pretty much pure coincidence.

What to say about it?  First of all, the character of John McCartney is just so very rock n' roll, if  not punk rock.  He's one of the better candidates for "fifth Beatle", even if he is fictional.

A lot of A Hard Day's Night is a kitchen sink comedy about Paul and the others eldersitting his grandfather.  About whom see above.

Some of the song numbers, like the one below, explode with the logic of old time Hollywood musicals.  That is a song that feels right will be on everyone's lips, even if it's implausible in any real world terms.  The train the Fab Four are traveling on is so claustrophobic that the cars become cramped if a couple of extra people pop in, and yet here they all are playing, Ringo's trap set and everything. 

Except that it's different because what's around it is different.  Because the Beatles appear to be a bunch of Northern ruffians who just happen to be famous, their bursting into song feels much different from when a tuxedoed Fred Astaire does it.  It's a bright, low-key kind of surrealism.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The yips

Problems and solutions.  Or if not solutions, if there's no way to resolve the issue in the here and now, then at least constructive responses.

One problem I've had recently is that one of my friends has apparently decided that he hates one of my other friends.  This is a fairly recent development.  And it's only a problem for me, really, because I have to hear about it.  The hater doesn't have any  true complaints against the hatee.  It's mainly a matter of insecurity, I think.  So I'm just going to stand my ground on this one.  There was a time when I couldn't stand the thought of anyone being angry at me, but I think I've gone beyond that.

Another problem, of late, is that I've been stymied on a story and it's consumed inordinate amounts of writing time.  Well, staring at the screen time.  It's proven such a dead end that I've found myself forgetting how to do things I know how to do.

For context I've sent off a couple of pieces this year that I feel I can take some pride in.  Will they be published?  Don't know.  But I think I've made the stories concise and driven enough to avoid the form letter response or the rejection that tells me I haven't gone anywhere with the story or that there's too much padding.

Problem here was that I had too many disparate parts that I couldn't make work together.  And that's largely because I took the already crumbling bones of another project I had been working on and tried to adapt it to an anthology request for submissions.  The anthology requirements just added another level of vomplexity to what was already kind of convoluted.

So what to do?  Pivot into the next thing.  Provided that thing isn't having an embarrassing tattoo etched across my face.