Sunday, April 30, 2017

Absolutely hysterical

I'm currently reading - and will likely finish tomorrow - Megan Abbott's The Fever. I previously read another one of her books, Dare Me, about high school cheerleaders in way over their heads. The Fever is a different story, but they both share certain qualities. Abbott is a hyperreal author. Her stories seem eerie and quotidian at the same time. Her narrators and reader identification figures have a lot to do with this.

The fever takes as its topic conversion disorder, which is essentially hysteria, rebranded for a new and antiseptic age. It's inspired by an apparent Tourette's epidemic in Saratoga County, New York, a case that could bloom nonfiction books, plays, action figures. As in that case, teenage girls spasm and pass out, with no known medical cause. As in the real case, there's a brief attempt to rationalize it by blaming the HPV vaccine. The daughter of the protagonist family isn't infected, which raises the possibility she'll be shunned as a kind of Typhoid Mary.

In Abbott's telling there is hysteria going on, and while it explain's the girls' illness, they're not the only ones affected by it. In fact while they have the symptoms, the illness spreads well beyond, into the adult world,

Friday, April 28, 2017

Covering a lot of ground: Wed, marshy ground

It's kind of funny to think about this, but things are changing quick now. A couple of days ago we still had weather, which was cool and rainy during the day, and during the nighttime the temperature sometimes dropped low enough so that the heater in my building would kick on. That last part definitely doesn't seem to be happening now.

Saturday Addendum
Ah, the dangers of blogging when you've already nodded off once late at night. I just fixed one of the typos, but I'm going to leave the one in the header. See if you can catch it.

But yes, the weather has changed quite a bit over the last few days. I just got in a few minutes ago with so much sweat falling into my eyes it looked like I was weeping. It's nice and comfy now, with a window open and the ceiling fan going full blast.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Busting out

The beginning of life is a neat thing to witness, and having a bird's nest within view like this is a lucky break. Of course it's also slow. There's at least one edit here. So the fact that the offscreen but audible child has been following along is nice to observe. Maybe not all of the nascent generation has had their attention spans hollowed out.

Monday, April 24, 2017

On tour


The question of whether it's right to play Israel is a personal decision for the artist. Roger Waters and Thurston Moore, among others, have made a decision not to do so as a means of protest, and you have to respect that decision.

Radiohead have the right to make a different choice. There's a case for cultural engagement across national lines. And of course the audiences they'd be playing for wouldn't necessarily be made up of supporters of Netanyahu and his policies.

It might be in their best interest to address the matter before going through with the trip, though. Explain their thinking. Like it or not a kind of political engagement is part of their identity now. They've got a huge left-leaning fanbase. This matter isn't just going to go away.

Saturday, April 22, 2017


For whatever reason I was thinking of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest today. Why did it have such an impact? The movie feels very real. Cinéma vérité style realism isn't the only way to go, of course, but it the context of Hollywood at the time it was new and fresh. The camera finds the action, the source of conflict in the scene, of course. But its view is unsettled, as if it were another person in the room not quite sure where to look.

Casting enhanced this feeling. Jack Nicholson was the only actor anywhere near being a star. Louise Fletcher had done a lot of TV guest roles, but very few films up to that point. A few supporting roles were filled by non-actors.

Seen above, Christopher Lloyd was experienced onstage, not much known outside of it. It's different now, and strange seeing him as a borderline abusive mental patient. Also, it's weird to see him with such short hair, especially in the seventies.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A tale of one storefront

Something curious is happening on Thayer St in Providence.

Around the end of last year, Au Bon Pain went out of business. Not the whole company, just the Thayer St. location. I wasn't sure why, although I had my theories. Someone who worked at another location in Providence said the landlord had raised the rent and they just didn't think it was worth paying. This is a thing that happens.

The storefront stayed empty for a few weeks, gathering graffiti. Then the windows were covered in black paint and promotional material for By Chloe. By Chloe is a vegan restaurant chain headquartered in New York. Me? Not a vegan. I don't eat that much meat, but I don't have any great ambition of cutting it out completely, and dairy is life to me. But it seemed like this could be a good way to make sure commerce continues to flow in that spot. Also I suspected that if ABP had left because of the rent the landlord had these other tenants lined up ahead of time.

But much time has passed since then. By Chloe hasn't opened for business. In fact, I haven't seen construction people or outfitters at work on the place either. It's just sort of been taking up space. So have the new renters had second thoughts about moving in? Or did they only secure the spot so they could perform Satanic rituals in the wee hours of morning?

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Of the vanities

Arden las penas. from Angie Guerrero on Vimeo.

An interesting, slightly macabre, and also a bit touching stop motion film from Colombia. The title translates to "the pains burn."

Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017

This was, indeed, Easter. In both the Western churches and the Orthodox ones, I read.

It's also a few weeks into spring. When the weather gets warmer people get rambunctious, bursting out of their shells more. That's not really my thing, but okay.

Today while waiting for the bus I saw a convoy of motorcyclists. One guy reared up like he was on a horse. Actually I'm not sure I'd call it a bike. It seemed to have four wheels.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Gran Canaria - Fotografias estenopeicas Guillaume Roumeguere - Batteria Alejandro Ramos from Guillaume AIR on Vimeo.

Some eerie and interesting pinhole images taken in Spain's Canary Islands, accompanied with groovy drum-heavy jazz.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

There are a surprising number of coulrophobes in the world

I've recently started to read Stephen King's IT, after it/It came up in conversation. It's a long novel, which a lot of King's books are. But it has a particular approach to being a long novel. It's made up of chapters and sub-chapters which in many cases could stand on their own, and which initially appear to be disparate.

I'm still in the first quarter, and I have to say I'm impressed with how sparingly the monster, Pennywise the Clown has been used. There've just been a couple of appearances. What the reader sees is the effect that Pennywise, or at least the supernatural evil he represents, has on the adults who came in contact with him when they were kids.

I haven't seen the miniseries, but Tim Curry does seem like ace casting.

Monday, April 10, 2017


This article is from about a year ago, but I've been seeing more ads on TV/online for hard soda. Not sure I get it. I mean, you could just pour some whiskey into a glass of root beer yourself. It's not a forbidding process.

People are in such a hurry for oblivion now. It's the national mood.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


So a while ago a British astrologer proposed a new zodiac with thirteen signs. Okay, adding one sounds fun, and Ophiuchus has some interesting imagery associated with it. Unfortunately the sidereal measurements have caused things to become a bit lopsided. Like, I don't know if my mother would get behind suddenly becoming a Libra. Which by this zodiac she would because Scorpio is only a week long. On the other hand, Taurus refuses to end, so my sign would become that much more common. I already have O positive blood.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A fab act

This is something I saw for the first time a couple of days ago. The Beatles performing a panto skit based on the "Pyramus and Thisbe" play-within-a-play from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. In a way they're all what you'd expect them to be. Paul is knowingly cute. John hams up the drag part. George has sung onstage but forgets that he needs to project. Ringo comes alive in an animal part.

It's the background that makes it so interesting. They had debuted about a month before on The Ed Sullivan Show, sending them from thriving regional pop act to global rock stars. Not too surprisingly TV producers came to them for help in celebrating Shakespeare's 400th birthday. And yet at this point they're not too big. The audience heckles them, and what's interesting is they expect to be heckled, take it in stride.

That's a rare sight, especially when you consider in a little over two years they'd retire from the road and embark on a new hermit stage of fame.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tough town

This time, I went into the alcove in the living room where I used to hand-print a newspaper of little neighborhood notes I called "The Flash." It made me the Neighborhood Gossip. But this time I tried much more. As the story had more than one strand, it was complicated and took me over a week. Now, when I finished "The Flash," I took it around to Worship's candy store and asked him to put it on the newsstand. My headline said, "Mother Tried Suicide." Later, I learned that the headline should have been in the present tense: "Mother Tries Suicide." Without looking, Worship said, "Put it out there yourself." He sold candy and booked horse bets. Worship was a small man who wore a gray truck driver's cap down over his forehead and had thick glasses perched on a sharp nose. He was behind the candy counter listening to the race results that came over all afternoon. After each result, he checked a betting sheet to see if any of his players had won anything. His wife, who had short hair and wore the uniform of the candy store owner, a drab dark red buttoned cardigan sweater, noticed my hand-printed "Flash" and said, "Let me see what you got." When I gave it to her, her face was alarmed. "Did this happen today?" she asked. I said no, that it happened last week. "Then it's over," she said. Her face showed no expression as she crumpled up the paper. Usually when she did this with paper, it was bet slips, which she grabbed as police were either just outside or crashing in, and she popped the slips into her mouth, chewed htem up while holding a pack of Wrigley's to the cops. This time, the paper had something totally unimportant on it. A suicide that was a scratch.
With the recent death of Jimmy Breslin, I've started reading his memoir I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me. It's framed by his doctor's diagnosis of an aneurysm that almost killed him a number of years earlier.

Really, though, what's best about it is his description of New York in the time he was growing up and starting out as a journalist. A New York that doesn't seem to be there anymore but maybe, hopefully, lies under the surface, waiting for a chance to awake. (Yes, I know I make it sound like Cthulhu.)

For context, the mother in that headline was his own mother. It's an ineffectual attempt, which may or may not mitigate things.

Sunday, April 2, 2017


Ostrich Babies from Open Lens Productions on Vimeo.

Little ones, you take your first awkward steps into the world. Know that in a few years you'll be poised and graceful... Okay, not really, but you'll get by.