Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Equivocator and His Massive Nights: My Four Favorite Nights of 2006

I’m waiting patiently for it to end. 2006. I haven’t liked this year.

Many of you know why, or at least most of the reason why. It hasn’t been easy dealing with the end of a marriage. Or the beginning of a new life. Or a new-ish life. One that feels different from what came before. But it’s not different. It’s really all the same.

For a year that included some of the worst days of my life, 2006 had four of the best nights of my life. Exact dates sometimes elude me. But I know these dates. Usually I don’t give out too many “specifics” about my life. I hide names and places. I give you pieces. For a year that has contained much difficult solitude (and some good easy solitude), each of these four events involved at least one other person. For a year marked by my ingrained sense of wanderlust, three of these four events took place far from Los Angeles.

About two years ago I found an old journal I kept when I was 19 during my sophomore year of college. I hadn’t read the journal in years. I was a journalism major then, switching to psychology eventually. It’s funny how my journal entries were written in the style of a newspaper reporter – the facts, the who/what/when/how and not much of the why. I reported the events of my life in brusque emotionless fashion. A typical Saturday might have gone like this:

“Worked double shift at theater. Went out to Davanni’s on 66th with John Pa, John Pe, Blaine, Brett, Sara, and Michelle K. Brett played We Are The World on the jukebox seven times.”

Reading this “report” of my life another 19-year lifetime later, I knew the rest of the story: Brett was annoyed by the behavior of some “jocks” at another table. To piss them off, he selected the then-new We Are The World as an act of revenge, playing it on repeat seven times because that’s how many songs you get for a dollar. Sara and Michelle K. were friends. We were lucky to have them with us at Davanni’s, the deep dish pizza place in Richfield. I had a crush on Michelle (Her house number was my PIN number. Her house number is my PIN number. A little creepy yes but I’ll never forget it. Yes, she could find me and steal my wallet and take my money if she remembers where she lived in 1985. But it’s not like I have that much in my account anyway.)

What’s important here is that it only seems like I leave the most important things out of my blog entries. Look carefully. It’s all there. Or most of it anyway.

My Four Favorite Nights of 2006 (in chronological order but with a decreasing level of detail), written in my traditional journalistic style (or not):

May 15, Milwaukee

In 1986, Sigmund Snopek III released an album called Wisconsinsane. It was a song cycle about life in his home state. It impressed me and many other Midwesterners at the time for its sweetly nostalgic and poignant piano-based songs that make one half- laugh and half-cry simultaneously. He then pretty much disappeared from music, at least as far as I knew. He never recorded another non-classical album with lyrics. I lost my beloved cassette copy of Wisconsinsane and my vinyl copy sits in an attic in Rochester, Minnesota because I haven’t had a turntable since ‘91.

In May, I was visiting Chicago, 100 miles to the south of Milwaukee, for an academic conference. I had told a sassy schoolteacher in Wisconsin that I liked the music of Mr. Snopek. On my second night in Chicago, I rented a car and drove to Milwaukee where I met this schoolteacher in front of a laundromat in a river-adjacent neighborhood. We ate at one of the few restaurants open in Milwaukee on a Monday night. We then had frozen custard, a local specialty. She said she had a surprise for me! We went to a nearby bar where, apparently, Sigmund Snopek III played every other Monday night. There he was, slightly disheveled but touchingly spirited, playing the theremin (!) for an audience of four. He wasn’t alone on stage. Along with him was a burly young man in a Green Bay Packers jersey. He may have been Sigmund’s son (IV?) During one of the younger man’s long and impressively symphonic guitar solos, Sigmund went up to the bar for one of his free drinks. It wouldn’t surprise me if they paid him entirely in drinks. During this break, the schoolteacher who’s also a roller derby queen went up to Sigmund and told him I really liked his music, that I longed to have a copy of his long out-of-print CD of Wisconsinsane. He shook my hand, asked me where I was from. Los Angeles, I said. “I had a wild night in L.A. once. Then we drove from Santa Monica to Milwaukee in 36 hours.” I didn’t ask him who “we” was. I thought “we” could be the Violent Femmes for whom Snopek was a touring keyboardist for a while. It seemed he was now very entrenched in Milwaukee, happy with his role as troubadour for Monday-nighters at the Linneman's Riverwest Inn. He then revealed that the schoolteacher/derby queen had contacted him earlier through a friend of a friend, telling him that I was coming to the show and to ask him to bring a copy of Wisconsinsane for me. He handed me a homemade copy, saying he was very glad to hear that his music meant so much to me, after 20 years. He then asked for 10 bucks. Which I gave him. He played a few songs off the album, including Call Me and Rose of Wisconsin. I wanted him to play Summer Guest, the second greatest love song of all time, a piano instrumental that moves me every time I hear it. I should have asked him to. But the night was perfect as it is (thanks Carrie – that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.)

(postscript: This is Sigmund. And the other guy)

July 21,

I was back in my old hometown for a visit and to research a possible relocation there (Note to my current employer: if you find this, I like my job. I’m not looking to go anywhere else. Really. Fight On.) It was a lovely Minnesota summer night – not too hot, not too cold, a perfect night for patio dining and movie-going. My friend Sara and her roommate Jen took me to dinner at a restaurant called The Craftsman where I had what I considered then to be the world’s greatest turkey burger (turns out there’s a better one in Chicago which I discovered a couple of weeks ago.) Come to think of it, 2006 is, in addition to being Ali’s Year of Irreversible Change, is the Year of the Turkey Burger. There will be a list soon – the Five Best Turkey Burgers of 2006. I like turkey burgers.

Anyway, the three of us enjoyed a great dinner on the patio. Eventually it drizzled slightly but the umbrellas protected us. We then drove to the corner of 36th and 43rd. Or is it 31st and 38th? Wherever the Riverview Theater is, that’s where we drove. We saw Thank You For Smoking in the world’s most lovingly restored old movie theater for 2 dollars, maybe 3. It was just a great night, overall.

August 11, Los Angeles

I had more “first dates” in 2006 than in any other year of my life except for 1997. This is both a good and bad thing. This night was a good thing. Helena and I planned to have dinner at the so-good-it’s-bad legendary L.A. Mexican restaurant El Coyote and then see Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita at the nearby (not so lovingly restored) old movie theater, the New Beverly Cinema. But the restaurant was crowded and the service was slow and it was too late to see such a beautifully ironic film. Instead, we went to the horrible Beverly Center Mall to see a movie that one could consider the exact polar opposite of Lolita, Clerks 2. I liked that movie. Driving down then-sleepy Beverly Boulevard after the very late movie, I felt an ease of life that I want to keep struggling to find again. And yes I enjoyed my date’s company too.

December 23, San Francisco

I sure traveled a lot this year. Suffice it to say that I never expected to be wandering the dark streets of San Francisco holding a boombox that didn’t belong to me, participating in a performance art piece called Unsilent Night. Nor did I expect to later be sitting in a nearby burger joint (actually called Burger Joint!) enjoying a root beer float with a great person (a writer, the owner of the boombox, Laura). But sometimes the best boats on the high seas are the unexpected ones. What the hell did I just write? I can do better than that. I have better metaphors at my disposal. But I’ll just leave it alone.

So four memorable nights out of 363 (so far) isn’t so bad, is it? There were other good nights, ones that would easily make the list if I wasn’t restricting myself to four for the benefit of my reader(s). Speaking of memorable nights (or, as The Hold Steady call them, Massive Nights), if you asked me a year ago to predict who would tell me the news of Saddam Hussein’s execution and where the telling of this news would take place, I would never have guessed Debbie Harry and Agoura Hills, respectively.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Previews of Coming Attractions

In the next few days and weeks, you readers will be subjected to:

1. A retelling of "The Sbarro Incident." A true story. It happened to me. Yesterday. A story so good and delicious that I must first tell the story to as many people as I can in person before writing about it. I won't even discuss it by phone (unless you live at least 380 miles away from me). So I need a few weeks to get the word out. In the meantime, you deserve some tasty details, hinting at what will be in store. I will say these three things:

Yes, I was acting like a bit of an a-hole. But come on!

There's no excuse for me even being there. Sbarro? What it this, Ali? 1985?

There were six of them. One of me. No, I'm wrong about that. There were seven of them. This is the best part of the whole experience - where it all came crashing down and I could walk away knowing that there were no winners or losers, just future storytellers. And the story they're telling? The Sbarro Incident.

2. A poem in which I discuss why 2007 will be a good year. Why? Well, the name of the poem (still in progress) is Years That End in Seven.

3. Year-end lists. Films, books, TV shows, songs, cereal fruits, shoes that I have owned, etc.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Can You Get To That?

I keep changing my mind on my top 2 love songs. I need the holiday weekend to work it out.

In a few hours my vacation starts. No work until January 2. No long lonesome walks through the desolate studentless university I call "home" for 1/3 my weekdays. No more free chocolate turtles and holiday sno-caps. No more well-considered gift cards.

My plans for the break? A long drive and a short flight. Lots of music from 1988 and 2006. A few movies (Inland Empire, Borat for the second time, The Good Shephard, etc.) Perhaps a massive chorus of boomboxes in a park somewhere.

A knock on my office door. I think they're giving me money.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Third Greatest Love Song

Joan Jett of Arc - Clem Snide (2001)

I first wrote the following on September 6, 2006. It's still true today:

Shakespeare painted the Mona Lisa. DaVinci built the pyramids. Kennedy freed the slaves. Eef Barzelay wrote Joan Jett of Arc:

She’d fix me a dinner of sunflower seeds
And ready-whipped topping inhalers
And take me down south with Hall and Oates in her mouth
My first love, my Joan Jett of Arc

My black heart was heavy
But her mom’s Cougar was fast
As little pink houses were whistles
And it was all you can eat at the Sizzler that night
My steak-burning Joan Jett of Arc

The shopping malls and roller rinks all dimmed their lights
Cicadas and crickets were silent
And the train tracks like stitches skidding bicycle tires
As I slipped in my Joan Jett of Arc

And the birds that were crushed
Once had air in their bones
As oil was refined in her honor

Now here's something I just wrote today:

This song ranks so high because the songwriter beautifully chooses the elements of his most important relationship ("my first love") and tells an evocative story that could easily be a movie. Though some lines could be called "clever," Eef sings with a sincerity that could butter ten thousand pieces of toast. Plus, the last 3 lines are about as perfect as poetry gets.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Waiting For The Sun

After my last post I know I shouldn't do anything too "cute" but come on - this has got to be the cutest baby in the world (congratulations J & M (& A)).

To counteract the cuteness, I intentionally replaced my blog photo with the Frankensteinesque monstrosity you see today.

The list continues tomorrow.

I was in Chicago this past weekend. It was nice. Good turkey burgers in that city. Are they know for their turkey burgers?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Seymour Chews Up A Kitschy Cardboard Coaster

1. Seymour gently nibbles on the coaster, getting a sense of its texture and taste.

2. He chews off one corner, pondering the costs/benefits of eating more.

3. No doubt about it - he wants to devour this thing!

4. Oops. Got some detritus stuck in the catfang.

5. THIS is the best angle - standing it up, from the side, making use of the sharper corner teeth. Mmm this is good.

Meanwhile, Lily watches it all from her perch, wondering what time Gilmore Girls comes on.

The 4th Greatest Love Song (3 tries)

4. Thunder Road - Bruce Springsteen (1975)

I've written about the opening two lines before. Today I'll talk about the rest of the song. First of all it has no chorus. I can think of very few chorusless pop/rock songs (Maggie May comes to mind.) It's one of the great songs about escape and it shares that with at least one of the songs on the list (the more dour Long Vermont Roads). But Bruce doesn't want to escape alone. He wants to bring Mary with him, to get away from "the town full of losers." Wait a second. This isn't a love song. He'd leave without her. What about a song where someone wants to leave (or stay) in a town with one of those losers? What about...

4. Fast Car - Tracy Chapman (1988)

Nah. She doesn't love him. She really doesn't. This isn't a love song either. What about...

4. Tower of Song - Leaonard Cohen (1988)

You didn't think I'd forget about Leonard, did you? The thing about this song is that it really isn't thought of as a love song. It's about a man exiled to a "tower of song":

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
In the tower of song

He boasts of his gift of the golden voice (a line that got ironic chuckles at a the two Cohen concerts I've attended but who among us has a more golden voice?) and tosses off a bitter verse that almost unveils the reason for his exile. But then the final verse, the only one unequivocably about love and the one where Leonard sheds a tear (listen to how he says "got" in the second line) and we know why he sent himself to the tower:

I see you standing on the other side
I dont know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
Well never have to lose it again

And after the 27 (or 2) angels again sing their background hymns and Cohen catches his throat, he's back in the tower laughing on the outside but not on the inside. It's no surprise he spent half the 90s in a Zen buddhist mountain retreat.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The 5th Greatest Love Song

Rather than give you the Top 5 in one lengthy entry, I will make you wait for it, giving you one song per day. Relish the wordy attention lavished on one single overrated (by me) forgotten (or ill-remembered) song.

5. 'Til You Can't Tuck It In - The Beautiful South (1999)

I like duets. Not the typical syrupy Streisand/Mathis or Blige/B.I.G duets. I like the quirky kooky duets, with wry vocal tradeoffs and mad beats. This song celebrates old love. OLD and LOVE. Do those two words even fit together? Hard to say. Anyway, this song celebrates two aging lovers. First, the sentiments are greeting card-sweet:

Your quick-step is slower
But your spirit's still out on the floor
And you can still hack it
'Cause you know what your feet are free for
And I'll love my dear
'Til you can't tuck it in anymore

Then it gets flat-out weird:

Your quick-step is slower
But your spirit's still out on the floor
When it comes to raw beauty
You've a whole whorehouse waiting in store

And despite the comparison of a woman's beauty to a whorehouse (and no - there is no "got" between "you've" and "a" which make it all the better), it's all as pretty and pure as a dewy morning under puffy clouds. Plus, the song itself is amazing - a rollicking mix-CD centerpiece that never fails to get some folks at the board game party to ask "Who is this?"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Answer

This blog's (sort of) namesake poem from 9 years, 7 months, and 20 days ago is available here - at one of the most under-visited sites there is!

And about those reports that the Timberwolves may try to trade for Allan Iverson..... all I want for Christmas is for this to happen! And maybe a subscription or two. That's all.

(yes I intentionally chose 2 incredibly expensive magazines there. Ask for the sun and maybe you'll get the moon)

Friday, December 08, 2006

Top 15 Love Songs (Part 2 of 3)

10. Nashville - Liz Phair (1993)

Yes, I put one song called Tennessee and another that mentioned Tennessee on the list already. Pure coincidence. In this song, Liz Phair (maybe just maybe my favorite songwriter ever, this despite her last album, Somebody's Miracle, which even I'm having a hard time defending) expresses the hesitancy of falling in love in one line ("I'm starting to actually feel it seep through the slick divide") both before and after confirming the very presence of love ("I can't imagine it in better terms than naked, half-awake, about to shave and go to work.") But before she gets too sentimental, the song descends into a mantra-ing of the final line - I won't decorate my love - repeated either 14 or 18 times, I can't remember.

9. Lovin' You - Minnie Riperton (1974)

The best vocal performance on the list. Here, love is expressed pretty completely within the opening four lines:

Lovin' you is easy ‘cause you're beautiful
Makin' love with you is all I wanna do
Lovin' you is more than just a dream come true
And everything that I do is out of lovin' you

This is followed by a half-human half-feline all-soprano "la-la-la-la-la..." and that's enough.

8. Two of Out Three Ain't Bad - Meat Loaf (1977)

A song that contradicts itself. Jim Steinman may have meant exactly what he said when he wrote:

I want you
I need you
But there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you
Now don't be sad
Two out of three ain't bad

However, Mr. Loaf (as he is referred to by the style-consistent New York Times) delivers those words in a way where one and only one thing is clear: he loves her. You don't give a vocal performance like that if you're not in love. He may be lying through the whole chorus - he may not even want or need her. But he loves her. This much is true. You see, she's done him wrong. She's been cold to him for so long he's crying icicles instead of tears! The only way he can save face is to tell her he doesn't love her. But when you sing a song as desperately beautifully as that, love (if it's there) will always come through.

7. You Were Right - Badly Drawn Boy (2002)

Here, the singer admits that he's spent his life substituting music for love, mixtapes for flowers:

And I
Was busy finding answers
While you just got on with real life
Always hoped you'd be my wife
But I never found the time
For the question to arrive
I just disguised it in a song
And songs
Are never quite the answer
Just a soundtrack to a life
That is over all too soon
Helps to turn the days to night
While I was wrong and you were right

The two - music and love - aren't mutually exclusive (hence the existence of this list). But they can be if you're not careful (hence the existence of this list). Also, what propels this song from say, #12, to #7, is the way whatever-his-name-is transitions vocally from "I just disguised it in a song" to "And songs..." Perfect.

6. The Magic Beads - Jane Siberry (1982)

A gentle folk song. A wispy but resolute Canadian singer. A long distance love, with one (or both) of them running out of patience but not giving up:

Oh babe I conjured you up by mistake
I know that I'm supposed to wait
But when will I see you again?

She's singing to someone, a writer, in California (that's where all the writers are, they're a funny breed.) This is the most sentimental song on the list (except maybe for number one) but I have my sweet side. I do.

Monday or Tuesday - The Top 5!


I have to take a break from the list to offer praise to:

1. FreeDarko's Style Guide in which basketball players are deftly divided into 20 brilliantly illustrated categories. The enthusiastic praise from the commenters is touching.

2. Tenacious D singing Kickapoo on Saturday Night Live. I wonder where this Kickapoo place is. I'd like to go there. After viewing this, go see the movie. They need the numbers.

3. Malcom Gladwell approaches racism (of the Richards/Gibson/Irvin variety) with the veracity of a mad statistician, complete with operationalized variables. Please forgive him for the Irwin misspell.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Top 15 Love Songs (Part 1 of 3)

Lately I've had conversations about the Love Song. What makes a good one? Simplicity? Hope? Sadness? Inevitably this would lead to a list. And I might as well do it today, listening to Meat Loaf's Bat Out Of Hell album on a lovely Los Angeles winter day (window open, jacket eschewed).

My Top 15 Love Songs (Part 1 of 3)

15. 52 Stations - Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians (1982)

When I was an undergraduate at the gritty urban University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in the 1980s, the student newspaper ran an article listing their writers' favorite love songs. One of them chose this song. I found this odd. I liked Hitchcock's music but I always thought of him as a chronicler of the weird and the whimsical, with an affinity for fish and corpses. Then I listened to this song again and I got it. The lyrics are nothing too special or lovely, save for the killer opening couplet:

There's fifty-two stations on the northern line
None of them is yours, one of them is mine

And that's enough to know that this is one of the sad songs, a paean to lost opportunity. It's a train song too. A sad train song is always a keeper. Hitchcock (a Brit, not an Egyptian) gives one of his best vocal performances and sends a shy college student on the other side of a big ocean straight to the import section of his local record store where back catalogues are combed.

14. Your Name - Tricky (2000)

Striking in its simplicity, lovingly dueted by Tricky and Ambersunshower (those are great names!*).

I love and you love me
One live as two, two live as one
Under the mango tree

Whether you like mangoes or not, or even if you're allergic to them, that's a pretty great sentiment.
*-Boogie Nights reference

13. Long Vermont Roads - Magnetic Fields (1995)

This may not be the saddest song ever written. But it's the saddest vocal performance I've ever heard. Stephin Merritt (over)mournfully sings of the elusiveness of love, chasing something he can only describe with kooky metaphors:

Your eyes are toothless young men
In Tennessee in the rain again
Your eyes are the Mesa Verde
Big and brown and far away

Then, sad Stephin gets to the end of the road, alone and tired of the drive:

After all this time and after all your crying
The roads don't love you and they still won't pretend to

Then it's over. That's love.

12. Tennessee - Silver Jews (2001)

Now this is a love that might be going some place! Sure David Berman sings "You're the only 10 I see," an awful pun but one that makes you realize he truly loves her. He just wants to take her away from the place he hates - Lousville - and bring her to place he loves - Nashville. Having never been in either city I'll take his word for it. This song also includes one of the best lines ever uttered in song: Referring to Nashville, he sings "We're going to the land of hot middle-aged women."

11. Lulu - Trip Shakespeare (1991)

As someone who immerses myself in the history and poignacy of music, I gravitate toward songs that make their own references to musical memories. In this song by the great forgotten Minneapolis band, Matt Wilson writes about his favorite not forgotten St. Paul band - Husker Du:

Lonely when I hear the band
That used to play when we were looking for music
Lonely when I hear the band
Do you remember? Do you recall?

But he's really writing about a girl that went away to school:

Now her jeans lay against the grass
And new days have killed the past

New days always kill the past! So please forgive Trip Shakespeare for the fact that their guitarist later wrote and sang Closing Time ("Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end") and listen to this song.

(tomorrow or maybe Friday – Numbers 10 through 6! And yes I will ackowledge the existence of the 60s and 70s. And women.)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Meetings About Lists

We'll pretend yesterday's bizarre post never happened. I won't delete it. I'll just move on. Keep in mind that I wrote it 7 years ago. I posted it yesterday out of boredom and a need to see something new on the page.

Today is a lovely day, weather-wise. Also, it's 10:36 and I've completed more real work in the 2 hours and 1 minute I've been at work than I did all of last week. It helps not having meetings, not having "busy work."

Of course I like meetings here. Unlike my previous job, where we had pointless meetings about needless meetings (thanks taxpayers), here we have meetings that actually mean something. And when they don't, they're at least entertaining. Really. For example, yesterday I learned that.... No, never mind.

(Be careful: If you follow the link in the previous paragraph you'll be transported to a time of innocence and marriage and screenplays about dream merchants.. you'll be transported to 2005!)

This morning I awoke to NPR's coverage of the Senate confirmation hearing of the new Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates. I stayed in bed, drfiting in and out of sleep, for 30 minutes. It's eerie listening to Senators giving carefully crafted platitudes and forming formless questions while blissfully cradling oneself under the most comfortable comforter in the world, with pockets of wakefulness invading one's bubble of sleep. It's not as eerie listening to Gates give sturdily confident answers to those formless questions, answers that unfortunately say nothing and will surely get him nominated. At least he's better than the previous guy. Who could be worse really?

If you're into year-end music lists (and who isn't?), go here for a very fine list of lists.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Listening to The Cure's Disintegration While Driving On Imperial Highway Between Brea and Anaheim on the Fourth of July, 1989

Early in the high wind night of the Fourth of July, 1989, I heard a plain song wafting over the squat hills of a suburban town. It was a gracious town of lived-in ardor and unhappy families and some happy ones too, maybe. I rode, in a plain blue car, hearing the plain song drifting now, riding up on its spent melody, repeating its ache for the fourth time, for the fifth, time, for the...

Miles later, I heard another song, this one coming from my own place, from the inside of my plain blue car, this plain song writhing, inching in on its own spent melody, repeating its own ache, for the seventh time, for the eighth time, and then I think I see something and then I don't see it anymore and then I do and then I don't and for the ninth and final time the ache is repeated and this time it gets to me, the song, that is.

I'm back now, by the squat hills of the small town. I am not driving in circles. Rather, it’s a straight line, back and forth, the same cities, the same scenes, back, forth, forth, back. And the fireworks start. I stop the car, at the highest squat hill and a third plain song comes on the car stereo, this song unblinkingly plain in its earnest desolation, a silence almost. The colors are majestic, the colors are high, the booming is majestic. I have the best view, I do, and I am alone. The third song rejects melody for something more real and revels in its own sunken dread and hopeless longing, for the first and only time, but a long time at that. The fireworks build to a sad crescendo and die in a flight of shamed light and spangled glory. I drive away from the prone town’s highest squat hill and find myself back on the straight line road, listening to a singer’s memories of bad love.

Still, back and forth, straight line, fireworks done in all directions and one of two homes to go back to, one more than most. I think of where it would be best to sleep tonight. I consider the factors: my hunger or lack of it, the weather tonight, the weather tomorrow, the book I'm reading, whom I can talk to and where, the lateness of the hour, the sense of space, and of course none of it is enough to remind me that the singer is anything but sickly sad at the plight of a steep plummet into something destructive. And if this is what’s happening to the singer, or if this is what has happened to the singer, then what does it matter where I sleep tonight? I think, I have two places to go, one more than most, two more than some, and this is a blessing.

I wish I had a circle to drive between the two places and not the same old straight line. That would give me more of a sense of purpose. As it was, I felt like I was imposing too much on the one long road and the three towns, two of them small, one of them medium. My sense of imposition circles inside my brain until the moment right before my revelation, that this song, the last song, was the one that truly got to me. The one that truly broke my spell of knowing why I was traveling the same road, stuck with the same nothing decision, staining the same part of my brain.

I was out now, out of the dense fragmentation that the night and the music and the fireworks and the road made for me. I was finally free and now I would sleep. Of course, I am closer to one of the two places than the other and that would be where I would sleep tonight if not for one thing. That I now want to sink myself into that song, back in that elevated little spot I stopped at to watch the fireworks. So I take myself there. I open all the windows. I turn off my headlights and find the song on the tape again and listen closely this time, to the words and whispers between the words, to the way the tail end of one long moan became the premise for the next high tumble. This was what I was looking for all the time. Little did I know it wouldn’t always be so easy, this easy, to locate the one song or word or person or thing that it would take. And the song, most definitely not a plain one, roars into its unspent and open melody for the first time and I almost cry, for the second time and I do cry, for the...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Somebody's Miracle

I should be blogging more. I know. I've let you down. It will get better.

But I've been busy. What have I been busy with? I wish I could name it. It's just that the days are shorter and the TV is better. The sleep is shorter and the workdays are busier. It could be worse. Remember the late-2005 blog posting wars between me, briefhistory, thingsoncobras, and babypyro? Two of those blogs are no longer and the third may soon be as obsolete as neorealist fiction.

Plans for the weekend: Fast Food Nation. USC-ucla. IKEA (for a bookshelf). Laundry. The Crossword. A cool breeze through a slightly ajar window. Poetry.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Links As Ifs

If you're interested in a long drawn-out multi-blog debate about which basketball statistican is smarter, go here or here or here. I could read this stuff all day and dream of it all night - that's how fascinating I find this debate. And yes Blink's Malcolm Gladwell is involved.

If you want to see a great underrated film that's in theaters now, go see this one.

If you want to read Thomas Dolby's blog, you should do so.

If you want to read a Deadspin post with a headline that may be the funniest thing I've heard while half-watching a football game, go here. I know it's referring to Glendale, Arizona but still...

If you want to go to a Google-related site that will further change the world, this is the one for you.

And this stuff is goooood.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Michael and Mel

When Mel Gibson offered up his racist drunken rant a few months ago I took a different approach in my reaction. As someone who found Gibson's politics ridiculous (and disturbing) and his ego-driven films disturbing (and ridiculous), it would have been easy for me to pile on with scornful laughter at the whole situation. But I asked myself a question: what if it had been someone I liked? What if it was a celebrity I admired (or whose work I admired) that lost control and spewed hate? Would I be more open to forgiveness? Should I be more open to forgiveness?

I knew eventually it would happen, someone I liked more than Mel Gibson would say something horribly racist. I knew this because I like just about every actor/musician/celebrity more than Mel Gibson. I didn't have to wait too long for Michael Richards to give his now infamous rant. (If you've been busy lately, if you've been doing more important things like having babies, go here for the video.)

Having spent an unhealthy amount of time in my recent singlehood watching Seinfeld reruns on my cat-scratched couch flanked by cats, the artistry of the man who plays Kramer is fresh in my mind. The guy has talent. He's funny. He's seemingly smart. Years before Seinfeld I admired his work on the short-lived early 80s late-night alternative-to-SNL series Fridays. Since Seinfeld ended, I've rooted for him to get over his Kramer typecasting and for him to find true love (apparently he asked someone I know out on a date when she was assisting him in a retail establishment; she said "no" and at the time I thought she should have said "yes" because he's Kramer and he's got residuals and she had - at the time - no other prospects.)

I've watched the video of the incident and the resulting apology on the Letterman Show with Seinfeld and Letterman acting as oddly ineffectual (but attentive) parental figures. And I go back to my original question: What if it had been someone I liked? Well it was someone I liked and the whole thing is bizarre and sad. Part of me wants to believe it was one (not very good) stand-up comic attempting to be outrageous and edgy and his failure, likely fueled by other substances, led to a greater loss of control and deep-rooted rage (a subconscious rage that many people have - it may be targeted at individuals or groups or the world as a whole but it's there in a lot of us) came spewing out. Make no mistake, the rage isn't separate from the man. But the pain in his eyes on Monday night when the magnitude of his mistake and the difficulty in recovering from it was also real. It's easy to laugh at the guy and how he said "Afro Americans" during his apology but that's really no big deal. It was a common term in the seventies when he was a young man and it's an easy mistake when you're offering an unscripted, unassisted apology in front of millions of people, with the guy who controls your past and future livelihood (Seinfeld) sitting on a far more comfortable couch.

It sounds like I'm willing to accept an apology, for one man's really bad night. Is he a racist? Of course. He denies he is in the subsequent interview but racism is nothing but rage. And that was rage he was throwing out. Does he live his daily life like a racist? Probably not. Will he change for the better? I think so. Is this too much attention paid to a guy who we wouldn't be talking about if he hadn't been cast in a long-ago sitcom? No I don't think so. He was cast in that sitcom and he is famous (and admired by some) and he did go off on an incredibly racist (and well publicized) rant.

And yes all the questions and answers in the previous paragraph work equally well (in my mind at least) for Mel Gibson and Michael Richards (substituting "overrated apocalyptic sci-fi film" for "long-ago sitcom" in the case of Mel). When John Kerry offered up his bungled joke a week before the recent election, my knee jerk reaction was to believe his explanation and defend his right to say something relatively benign in the face of more outrageous comments coming from the other side. I reacted this way because I didn't want the Democrats to lose their chance of control of congress. But if was an entirely neutral observer (and I always try to become one, eventually), I would have realized that Kerry said something really stupid, that he probably meant it exactly the way it came out of his mouth, no matter how it was scripted, and that he wishes he never said it (being a Vietnam vet, however, gives him a little leeway.)

(on a related note - now that the Democrats won, does this mean Arianna Huffington can go back to being a Republican now?)

I'm often accused of taking positions opposite from everyone else to be different, to be a devil's advocate. But - and yeah my ego is talking a little here - it's not like that. It's easy to blindly root for your own "team" and condemn your "enemies" when it's convenient. It's more difficult to figure out each situation for what it is, digging for the truth that's just as deep-seated as the rage we don't want to see.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I Am Seated in an Office....

Last night I went to Jest Fest, a celebration of the 10th anniversary of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest at the great Skylight Books in Los Feliz. I read the book when it first came out in 1996, took a few breaks along my way through the book's 1,078 pages, and finished it some time in 1998. I rememeber reading the last words on a lime green leather couch at Dunn Brothers coffeehouse on 34th and Hennepin in Minneapolis. I remember being disappointed, not in the ending but in the fact that it was all over and I'd never read another book like that again. Yes, the book blew me away.

But the book did something else. It turned me into a more serious writer. It turned me from an occasional poet into a daily essayist and weekly prosist, into a screenwriter and blogger. I never really credited Infinite Jest with this transformation but I think it did the trick. Sure, there were other factors - 1996 was the year I started grad school and the year after my father died. I was equipped with disposable income in the form of an inheritance and a wide-open schedule due to my eight-year plan for graduation. But I look at the tone, the ambition, the quality of my writing before, during, and after the reading-Jest period (1996-1998) and it's clear to me now.

I'm not saying the book/transformation didn't send me down some misguided avenues (the Black Leaves poem, the infatuation with a black-haired girl who reminded me of Madame Psychosis, the ridiculous short story I wrote called Her Machine, etc.) but we all have to start somewhere and I'm not sure if I've ended up anywhere but I've traveled a long way.

I learned last night there would be an Infinite Jest movie. I never thought this was possible and though its chances of "capturing" the book are slim, I'll still go see it. I'm still waiting for Wallace's next novel. His essays are nice and his short stories are nicer but the man's vision, brain, and ambition demand something big, something huge, something infinite and 1000+ pages long.

If you haven't read Infinite Jest, go ahead and read it. Have patience and yeah it's okay to skip the Eschaton part (not saying I did). If you have read it, read it again. Once I'm finished with this (probably tonight), I'm going back to this (and maybe eventually this but not right now).

The highlight of the Jest Fest was Michael Silverblatt's amazing (apparently unscripted) 20-minute speech about the importance of the book. I make fun of Silverblatt on occasion. Today, I praise him and implore everyone to dig up something of interest from his archive.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bruce Hammonds and Liam McGee

When I was young and spry I would get a cold and it would proceed in a particular fashion:
  • Day 1 - Oh no. I'm sick. Tomorrow will be hell.
  • Day 2 - Hell
  • Day 3 - 90% recovery
  • Day 4 - The other 10%
The exception to this rule was the legendary strep throat winter of '96. Two weeks of dizzy misery.

This week I managed to pass through the first three stages, feeling nearly on top of the world yesterday, only to find myself back in Day 2 today. I actually took a nap in my office - on the floor, with my briefcase and my jacket as a head elevator/pillow. I think they vacuum the office floor regularly. I hope they do. I don't why I'm telling you all this. Maybe for some sympathy.

I e-mailed this link to many of my reader(s) but just in case you didn't get it, go HERE for the now-legendary "One Bank" video. I may write about this in more length in the future. I may forget about it entirely by the weekend.

(I know I can post the actual video on my blog and make it easier for you but I can only seem to do that with YouTube video and the Google version is far more technically sound)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A Story About 1990

(as an experiment, I'm taking pieces that I wrote years ago (in this case, 1998) and editing them into modern-day blog entries. This could turn out to be a huge mistake. I don't know. Anyway, despite its overly florid language, I like this one)

Debbie and I listened to that John Wesley Harding tape over and over again back at the dawn of the 1990s (JWH the singer, not JWH the Dylan album). We grazed the surface of many a personal ego structure in those times. Debbie and Wes and I.

There was the time we drove through Compton, not for the fun of it, but because that’s where the good Mexican restaurant was. Or was it? It seemed then like the border was moved over a few blocks and what once was Compton was now Paramount and the food was too good to reconsider. We ate and went back to our homes and all would be good in our small world. Sexless lovers. Loveless drivers of luckless cars. And Wes sang on and on and on.

The sun would come out tomorrow. But the sun couldn’t spell. And the sun had a reason for not exposing its arrogance. So clouds were the form of the sky gone slumbered. Clouds were the form and me and Debbie and John rode on and on and on, traipsing the lobby of the Beverly Hills Hotel on a laughable lark. That was for the fun of it.

She had a child (not mine, not J.W.’s, hers only really) and she left a trail. The tidal swirl of a dozen mistakes washed over that trail and I never saw her again. I still have the pictures and though I’ve lost the tape, I knows where to find a new one if I need it. If only the cut of light was more flattering on my distracted face.

Once I thought I saw her on the Seal Beach Pier. I was walking with two people I would never see again. I thought I saw her distraction and I walked toward it until it folded itself into the water and revealed itself to be a trick of the sun.

Another time I thought I saw her in a Barnes and Noble in Cerritos. But that was just someone with her hair and her gait and her child and her sunny distraction.

Another time I thought he saw her on a Mar Vista bus bench, hand to forehead in lieu of sunglasses, childless, distracted twice over, pretending to read yesterday’s paper, wondering where the time went and thinking of law school. I saw all this from my car and no it wasn’t her, I knew that.

Yet another time she was the resurrection of the bounty of the first millennium. Meaning this: they chopped up the sins, they wove them into wood, they turned the wood to legal (more or less) tender, they traded most of the tender for sustenance, they built a wall with what was left over, they painted a face on the wall (a face which to this day is burned in my mind from the one time he spotted it, Boston bound, on a billboard), they made the face look like hers (it wasn’t hers), and so on and so on. Nothing more than that. She was the resurrection and she couldn’t even make it count.

So those where the times I thought I saw her and surely did not see her.

But I take comfort in knowing that whenever she found herself humming Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega, she would have to think of me. We heard the dance version of that song for the first time when we were together in my car (always my car) and from that time forward allowed its insidious yet beautiful creepiness to creep right in, all the way in.

I was so poor once I had to sell an old VCR to a pawn shop on Van Nuys Boulevard. It got that bad by accident, I tried to convince myself, by accident!

I was so rich once I waved the waitress over and said you can give that check to me, the other seven don’t need to pay. This was two hours after I said goodbye to Regis Philbin.

Harding is a writer by another name. Based on a Google search, Debbie might still be in Long Beach, working for the community college there as some sort of specialist. I’m here, figuring it all out.


I've never read The Bible. I'm not familiar with its teachings. Still, I know that The Brick Testament is one of the most amazing things ever. I know so much more now. Don't click on the link unless you don't want to get anything else done for the next 3 hours.

If you only want to be busy for a few minutes, there's always The River.

Monday, November 13, 2006

High Land, No Rain

When living in Los Angeles, it's sometimes a good idea to go over the hill, to 818/626 land. I've spent much of the past 4 years darting between the east and west sides of town, ignoring the potential of the north. But the north has its charms, its hills and valleys, its chips and chairs, its boulevards and back-and-forths.

Between the ages of 18 and 21, I kept a diary in a graph paper notebook. It wasn't an emotionally expressive diary filled with secrets nor a reflective journal filled with insights. It was a journalistic accounting of what I did each day, whom I did what with, and what the top 10 songs of each week were. When I reread my diary now I'm amazed at how much I left out. But interestingly enough, I remember everything I left out. The songs I was listening to in a particular week or a restaurant I went to with a particular group of friends triggers a clear emotional memory. In this way, my spiral notebook graph paper newspaperish account of my early college years proves just as insightful as a flowery diary with a swirly bow.

This is a long way of telling you that I don't confess too much in my blog. But just know it's all there. I do.

Friday, November 10, 2006

You Call That An Autosave?

I wrote an amazing post today.

It took me an hour.

The computer crashed.

It's gone.

I don't feel like trying to recreate it.

Maybe next time.

Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


As an experiment I want to write about one of the most boring things in a world, just to see if I can sustain your attention.

I've lived in many places. Something like 23 homes in 3 countries. Within the U.S. I've lived in 5 states (counting the "Massachusetts Experiment"). I've lived through it all - a man walking on the moon, Michael Jackson's moonwalk, the invention of call waiting, the birth of e-mail, the death (and eventual resurrection of) punk, and that one time my car got stranded in South Pasadena back in '93. I've lived!

The world has changed around me but one thing has remained a constant: cereal. I've always liked it. It's always been around me. In all forms: big boxes/little boxes, hot/cold, healthy/sugary, oaty/flaky. Sometimes cereal is just a routine - a slightly healthy appetite satisfier. Sometimes it's the most beautiful thing in the world.

The trite thing would be to make a list of the best cereals I've ever tasted. It would include the long lost original Apple Cinammon O's (on the market for a depressingly short time in '92) and that English stuff I praised in my 10/27/06 post. A list isn't in the cards today.

In fact I'm a little bored by this topic. Goodbye.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


My 4 favorite events:

1. NBA Draft (every June)
2. Christmas (every Christmas)
3. Presidental elections (every 4 years)
4. Mid-term elections (every 4 years)

Tonight - #4! I look forward to watching the slowly oozing results with friends and pizza and wine and chocolate-covered almonds. Let's hope for a Democratic takeover.

Another of my favorite events - the first televised Timberwolves game of the year. Tonight they play the Lakers. I'm looking forward to competitive game marked my fair play and honor. It'll be nice to see the new KG and the rookies.

One of my favorite poems is today's poem-a-day.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Unbelievable Truth

I saw Borat last night. Funny but not as funny as this - my favorite commercial ever. The look on his face, the body language, the song - all of it combines to create something truly special. Is it a coincidence that I just switched my car insurance to Geico?

Today is an impossibly beautiful day in Los Angeles. 72 degrees. No smog. Blue skies, except for a few puffy clouds. The breeze could accurately be described as sweet. I took a drive toward the ocean this morning. There was hardly any traffic. All windows were open.

Too much positivity in one blog post? Probably but there's got to be some positivity to partially counteract the way-too-early death of one of my favorite actresses, Adrienne Shelly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

November Thursday

My favorite month of the year is November. My favorite day of the week is Thursday (oddly Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday.) So today is a good day.

Have I been quiet lately? A little.

But there's lots of stuff to read over here.

The John Kerry controversy. How anyone could be offended by something so benign and mild is way beyond me. I'm a little upset he apologized. I still think his big mistake in 2004 was John Edwards. He should have taken more of a risk. Everyone should take more risks in politics. More fun that way.

Based on the first 2 days of the NBA season, I have a few observations:
  • The Lakers will be NBA champions (sorry Jason)
  • They will beat the Wizards in the finals (I have my reasons)
  • The Timberwolves will make the playoffs
  • The Heat and Spurs will not
I think the Borat movie will either be the funniest movie of all time or the biggest failed opportunity since CB4.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Damn, I have to write my NBA preview, don't I? You're all expecting it, aren't you? I'll just skip to the good part: the Timberwolves will win again, like I always say they will, like they never do.

Happy Halloween! Here are my 3 best Halloween costumes ever.

3. 1984. I was a Blues Brother. Elwood. My friend Patrick was Jake. We sang Soul Man (with Sam and Dave's original playing as a backing track on a boombox) in a windowless conference room at a community college in Paramus, New Jersey. The longest of stories. Ask and I will tell you.

2. 1986. I was David Byrne. Big white shirt buttoned to the top, baggy black pants, no hat, black shoes that fit. I was a time bomb.

1. 1974. I was Neil Armstrong. One small step for a man, etc.

Just when I was going to cancel Showtime and HBO, I have to discover that Dexter is a good show. And The Wire is still The Wire.

And then there's this.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

New poetry page

I've created a new page for my poetry experiment.

Go here for a poem a day, for the rest of my life.

I like putting my poetry on Blueprint Blue but I think they sometimes interrupt the flow of the blog. So I'll put them somewhere else.

I have a backlog of 2,000 or so poems written since 1996. That doesn't even count the admittedly lower quality stuff before then. Seeing as that they likely won't be published anytime soon, I thought a poetry page was necessary.

And yes I really will update it every day. For the rest of my life. With the backlog and with my current rate of poem writing being 2 a week, I will run out of material in mid-2017 unless I boost my production.

Yes, I just used all of these words in a discussion of my art: backlog, material, production. I'm like a rhyme factory, a verse man-u-fact-ur-er.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It Takes a Nation of Millions

As I speak various democratic candidates are campaigning into microphones on the steps of the library. I wish them all well and will likely vote for them. But the real excitement will come when Barack Obama, campaining for the alternative fuel proposition and the poor guy who's running against that Austrian governor guy, takes the stage. They didn't crowd on the expansive quad and suffer through six positive hip-hop anthems to see the insurance commission candidate. They're here for the next president of the United States or the president after that. I could walk over 300 feet and see Senator Obama speak. Or I can sit at my desk. I'll be able to hear him clearly through my open window, just as I can hear this song every Thursday in the fall.

Don't forget to change your clocks - one hour back - on Saturday night.

What - no one is throwing a Halloween party this year? Just because everyone from last year's party is all broken up except for the people having the baby doesn't mean there should be no party this year. What - you're not broken up anymore? Things are better. Good. That means you should throw a party.

Alec Baldwin is funny.

Dorset Cereals' Super Black Currant & Cherry Muesli is fantastic! Who said the English don't make good food? Straight outta Dorchester!

Tomorrow my alma mater - the Golden Gophers of the University of Minnesota - will play the #1 team in the country, the Buckeyes of Ohio State. The Gophers are bad this year. 0 and 4 in the 11-teamed Big Ten. Still, I will write here - check the posting time - that the Gophers will win. Really, what do I have to lose? I'm I'm right, people will be amazed that I had the foresight to envision the biggest college football upset of the decade. If wrong, no one will remember.

Suddenly those strange ROTC people are marching along the parkway. I can't hear the politicians. Are they trying to drown out the democrats? Is this like that one time at the stop light in Fridley, Minnesota when the guy in the car next to me at the light cranked up Bon Jovi's Wanted Dead or Alive and I countered by cranking Public Enemy's Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos at an even louder volume in my then-brand new 1988 Hyundai Excel?

The ROTC folks are gone. It was temporary. Marchers march and sometimes they just march away.

They just introduced the guy who won't beat Arnold because the democrats used up all the good Arnold scandals back in '93. I feel bad for the guy. His name is Phil. he has the charisma of Bob Balaban combined with the liveliness of Devean George. But Barack must be next so maybe I'll take a stroll.

(post-speech update)

Turns out the guy with no charisma wasn't Phil Angelides. No, that was Mayor Villaraigosa. Phil's a little more exciting - he has the charisma of Chris Parnell combined with the liveliness of Fred Hoiberg. Barack was pretty great. Amazingly, he goes off on more tangents than John Kerry but he manages to bring it all together. He sure sounded like someone ready to run for president. He might want to change up that whole "bending the arc" metaphor though. I haven't been that close to a future candidate since McGovern in '72. Yeah I remember that like it was yesterday - the leaves were falling o'er the Hackensack park. Muhammed Ali was in the crowd...McGovern knew he was a goner but there he was ranting about Nixon and the war... stop hey what's that sound... everybody look what's going down.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


It's a rare Thursday that I feel both sleepy and alive.

20 hours of sleep over the past 2 nights. Amazing.

Today on the treadmill I was a superhero. You see I didn't even know that I was running 6.2mph with the incline set to 4.5. I thought I'd reset the incline to zero. Am I even capable of running that fast/that steep for that long? I suppose I am. It's not that fast/that steep. I'm old you see. Older than cordless phones, older than the Brady Bunch (the show not the actors), nearly 2.5 times as old as the Timberwolves franchise who I'm convinced will win 60 games this season. I have my reasons which I will surely share with you during my second annual NBA preview some time in the next 5 days.

Work-related thought: Now that I'm putting a pie chart in my next report, do I have to turn in my PhD? My dissertation committee would cringe at my endoresement of such a simplistic descriptive statistic as the pie chart. Whatever happened to hierarchical linear modeling?

Today I am humbled. I just read a story of a man in Massachusetts who scored 830 in Scrabble, a new world record (in officially sanctioned clubs or tournaments). The article goes on to list the quirks and sheer luck (not to mention unorthodox not-playing-to-win play) that resulted in the high score but I'm still impressed. 830. 830. 830. My high score? Subtract 293 from the new record.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Situs Inversus

I haven't spoken to you in a while.

Sure there were poems from long ago. And a strange fascination with protective athletic equipment. But I've been keeping my thoughts and dreams and observations fairly close to the vest and I don't even wear a vest.

What's new?

That new My Chemical Romance song is pretty amazing. I can't believe I just wrote that. Here they are in their new video (click on "media"). Yes, your eyes are deceiving you. That's not me singing. Yes that's what I would have looked like in '87 if I had straight blonde - as opposed to kinky brown - hair... and wore eyeliner and a bulletproof vest.

Speaking of skit/sketch comedy, last night's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was the most painful thing I've ever seen. Horrible. I had hopes for that show once. For a few minutes. Way back in late September. I should have known better. Aaron Sorkin.

I feel more confident in the script (referred to here as "unnamed Gainor/Ali vehicle") I'm collaborating on. I get it now. I see where we're going.

Griffith Park at sunset is beautiful.

Timberwolves rookie (and potential superstar) Randy Foye has his heart on the right side of his body. (?!) Scroll down on the linked page for proof.

Barack Obama for President? Sure. Yes.

Don't forget to listen to novelist Marisha Pessl on Michael Silverblatt's Bookworm show on Thursday. She's written the best book I've read in quite a while. And sure - the show always devolves into formless 6-minute questions from Silverblatt followed by vaguely aware answers from authors struggling to keep up but what else are you doing at 2:30 PDT on a Thursday?

Monday, October 23, 2006

3 Poems

I have blogger's block. So today I will be a poet.

Culture Craves A Wanderer

Culture craves a wanderer
With two hands up and out
A forward-thinking astronaut
With wings

Culture craves and we yearn for and squeeze dry
Comes back
Clairvoyant and well-connected
A silence hits the room
A curtain laced with gloom
The end of the confederacy
Has caught up with our darkness

The bomb burns a hole
Terrible and deep, sweet like slow decay
Time lapsed and put up
Worthy of our love, misplaced by our honor
It’s beautiful (it’s not)
It’s beautiful (you are)
The carnival said to the town
“Is there no one better than us?”

Before the Parade

There won’t be a rustling of leaves
Or a pulled string of pained expressions
Or light bulbs left on inside the monument
But there may be dusk
Followed by a night
When weepy people find a way
To mark time with indecision
To make fine art with pencils
To make all the little sorrows

There won’t be a decade left for dead
Or an energetic healing of the lifeless
Or an antsy angel fidgeting away
But there may be a pageant
Followed by a slight
In which absolution of morality
Is a game to play with knives
Is a carol sung by owls
Is the big whole sorrows turned to

There will be a moment
Before we leave the room
When the hint of recognition
That we will leave the room
That there will be a moment
Makes us stay


I shake my hair of all that gets me troubled
But I am too close cropped for it to matter
I wring my hands of all that makes me weary
But I am too flaky dry to falsify my ways
It’s all in the movement of the system
That generates and rubbles to a pile
That forces on the weight of seven years good luck
Not touched, not taken, unwashed

So there you have the sorcery and spells
The kindred brushing up and bruising skin
The boats at harbors never seen and squandered
The heights of sin and loveless maritime

I want to tell you secrets but the truth hurts
There’s nothing there but surface and it isn’t smooth
I want to give you memories of the fancy months
But faith is shorn of all that’s written out

...those optic nerves...

And why I made it home that night I don’t know
I should have slept the desert through the sun
But even if my eyes had seen its glory
The road to home would still be made of glass
The skin on bone of flesh and stone
The stirrups faint with scent of maritime

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Woke Up In Ybor City

Eventually blogs settle down and take a personality of their own, their multi-topic rambling relegated to a cached memory. I know bloggers who have settled on golf as a primary topic, others who have chosen cobra decorating and the trumpeting of obscure films as their daily/weekly subject matter. I look back on my early posts and smile and frown - the laughably optimistic first film script idea, the adventures of Roy the Superintendent, the walks up and down the stairs of tall buildings, the flower fields, the furniture, the separation, the basketball, and the lists. And the utter consistency of my preditable pattern - two rambling and not re-readable posts followed by one keeper, to be anthologized in some future book. 33.3% isn't so bad. I guess I'm writing this to say I don't know if Blueprint Blue has ever had or will ever have a personality. I hope it does get one. I think I have a personality though. It's a good one.

A few updates: I saw The Hold Steady live again on Monday night. It was an amazing and joyous show, one that climaxed with pogo-ing young people on the tiny Troubadour stage. For a band that sings almost exclusively of drugs and misfits and drinking and trouble and violence, their fans sure are a well-scrubbed clean-living bunch. And yes that includes me. Here's their new video.

I am immersed in solving puzzles to find secret treasures. Yes, I am talking about Secrets of the Alchemist Dar! You're surprised - isn't that a little outsider/nerdy for you, AF? Sure, I am not a fan of fantasy and science fiction. I do not like video games. I have never seen an episode of Firefly and doubt its quality. I think animation is cute and all but why not use real people? But give me a crudely written book with ridiculously detailed drawings that hold clues which, if figured out, will yield locations at which secret treasures worth between $12,000 and $300,000 can be found and I'll be up until the late hours figuring out if a 4x8 grid is more likely than a 5x5 and why the theme this time seems to be circles and not squares. And why, if a doth is supposed to be half-dog and half-moth, does Pook look almost exactly like a dog with after-the-fact moth wings attached to his flanks?

As most of you know, John Hollinger's list ranking the NBA's players from best to worst is partially available on The Timberwolves have the 6th best and 6th worst players in the league! I'll let you guess who those two might be. The full text requires a financial investment so I direct you instead to freedarko's list of the most "freedarko" players in the NBA. To understand what that descriptor truly means, I suggest reading this freedarko-related McSweeneys piece and this fascinating discussion (be sure to read the comments) on NBARS (NBA racial semiotics).

Finally, I want to commend my former employer for replacing their leader (Roy from the first parag.) with a militaristic but seemingly brilliant new leader with no school district experience whatsoever. Somehow I think it will work. Good luck Dave.

Monday, October 16, 2006


The world is upside-down.

It used to be that the months of the year would proceed in an orderly fashion. If I had to rank the months, from most enjoyable to least, they would consistently follow (or closely adhere to) this pattern:

1. November
2. April
3. September
4. August
5. March
6. June
7. October
8. December
9. February
10. January
11. July
12. May

In recent years, I honestly think I have to change the rankings to:

1. October
2. May
3. June
4. December
5. July
6. August
7. January
8. November
9. April
10. September
11. February
12. March

I don't know why it all changed. I'm not saying this October is without its flaws. It's been a good month, a contemplative one. It still has 17 days to crush itself. I'm talking more about recent Octobers and Mays, not just this one. And how about that May? What a comeback!

Is there any song that ruins a good music day more than Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes? The morning was rolling along, with some very fine songs being played by the British deejays on my sixth favorite iTunes radio station. A great song from last year was followed by a good one from 1983 and a better one from 1988. This led to a few choice 70s cuts hurled into the future by a song from last week. Then In Your Eyes. I turned off my computer speakers, shook my head derisively, and went back to work. I'll never forget John Cusack playing that song on the boombox during the pivotal scene in Say Anything. A fine romantic comedy nearly ruined by a poor choice in redemption songs. Who plays Peter Gabriel on a boombox?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Johnny and John

On September 11, 2003 John Ritter died of a heart attack at the age of 54.

On September 12, 2003, Johnny Cash died due to complications from heart valve replacement surgery at the age of 73.

On September 13, 2003, I wrote this:

Johnny and John in Heaven

Johnny Cash sidles up to a bar called Heaven. He orders himself a Mai-Tai.

John Ritter, nursing a whiskey sour, says "I expected you to drink something a little more, you know, a little more masculine, less fruity.”

Cash clears his throat as if to say "You don't know me, son, you know nothing about me.” But he doesn't actually say this. What he says is: "Ritter, do you remember when we first met? Back in '78. I was in a bad place then. You were king of the world. You had the looks, the hit show, Joyce DeWitt. I had a drug problem and my label wanted to drop me unless I did duets with those bastards Nelson and Jennings. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, it was at the Regal Beagle, on Pico. I was drinking what you're drinking now, a whiskey sour. You were all high and mighty, with your ascot, surrounded by starlets. So right before closing time I was at the pinball machine. And you said 'hey what's up, Man In Black?' Well, you broke my concentration, Jack. I was about to get a free ball! But it's water under the bridge now. I forgive you"

Ritter takes a deep breath and says "Johnny, the Regal Beagle wasn't real. It was just TV. And my name is John."

Cash cackles. "Aw, I'm just fucking with you, Jack. Welcome to Heaven. Guess you're surprised you got here so young. But it's not a bad place. We got a jukebox. And good food, courtesy of June. And an open mike every Tuesday night. Zevon hosts it and the only rule is No Poetry. Kind of harsh, I know, but it's alright. Phil Hartman tells me the other day Barry White did a slow jam, accompanied in dance by Greg Hines. It was almost poetry but not quite"

Ritter takes a swig from his drink. “Heaven, huh? I died before you. How did you get here first?”

Cash grins. “Well, let’s just say Heaven’s closer to Nashville than it is to Burbank.”

Ritter finishes his drink. “Are there any rules here?"

Cash clears his throat. "Yeah, we've got rules. Eight simple rules. One, I already told you. No Poetry on open mike night. Two, no bar tabs. Pay for your drinks when you get 'em. Now, we don't have currency in heaven. So for payment you do whatever the bartender tells you to. If he says cluck like a chicken, you cluck like a chicken. It depends on who's tending. Sonny Bono's an asshole, but Eazy E doesn’t ask for much.”

Ritter interrupts. “"Is that why Jesus made me do a pratfall for my drink?"

"Yes, Jack, that's why. Simple rule number three. No smoking, that which felled Warren and Ella and Lucy Ball. Four, no prima donnas. Hope and Kate Hepburn came in here thinking they owned the place. No one owns the place! At least not until Lenny Cohen gets here. Rule number five, we got a multimedia lending library. Books, records, DVDs. I think we've got season one of ‘Company.’ DVDs you keep for two nights, everything else is two weeks. Don't be late. Paul Robeson's the head librarian and he gets pissed if you're late. Number six, be civil. There are no wars in Heaven. If you come to a disagreement, work it out, in a non-violent manner. King's a stickler on this.”

"Martin Luther King?"

"Nah, Farouk. Simple rule number seven. No religion. Need I say more? And finally, number eight. There’s a test you have to take. It's just one question. The first week here you get a free pass. But then they ask you a question. If you answer it right, you stay in Heaven. You get it wrong, well, there's another bar down the street. And unless you want to spend the rest of your days drinking with Uday and Waylon and Hitler and Stalin and Lennon, you better get the question right. Now, thanks to June, I know the answer, so I'm okay. I would've gotten it right anyway. But I won't tell you.”


“Because of the night at the Beagle, with the pinball. Yeah, I know by the time the nineties came along, I had my comeback and you were struggling, so maybe you got your comeuppance. But hey, it's not my fault you didn't have a guardian angel like Rick Rubin.”

"But, Johnny, the Regal Beagle never happened"

"Again, just fucking with you, Jack. Still, I can't tell you the answer to the question. But I can tell you the question, so you can study. Are you ready? You might want to write this down."

Jesus hands Ritter a pen and a napkin. "It's John and yes, I'm ready"

“Do you promise to study?”

“I promise.”

"The question is: Furley or Roper?"

The Procrastinator

I have these ideas spinning through my head. Ideas for clever blog posts - stories, lists, manifestos. Each of these ideas will find a place on this page one day. You can't see them spinning through my head but they're there.

Today, I have to concentrate on the important stuff - preparing for a big event tomorrow, establishing the precise pregnancy length for a female marmet (marmette?), learning the source of that awful rain-dripping sound outside my window, attending a cerebral urban book reading, and working on my quads.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Analogy Quiz

(answers later today, in the comments section. or maybe tomorrow if I'm lazy)

1. The Departed is to film as ______ is to music.
a. Tom Waits
b. Chingy
c. Radiohead
d. Adam Ant

2. Echo Park is to Los Angeles as ______ is to the Democratic Party.
a. John Kerry
b. Dick Cheney
c. hindsight
d. The Passion of the Christ

3. Mike James is to the Minnesota Timberwolves as ______ is (are) to one's thirties.
a. Edie Falco
b. The Internet
c. Will Shortz
d. ties

4. The first verse of Leonard Cohen's Tower of Song is to the final verse* of Tower of Song as ______ is (are) to ______.
a. shame; sorrow
b. tardiness; apples
c. Michael Keaton in Batman; Christian Bale in American Psycho
d. pirates; pirate costumes

*the final verse being the one that starts out "I see you on the other side..." not the reprise of the first verse.