Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Silver Splits the Blue

For whatever reason, my sleeping patterns - which I've written about before on this blog and I'l spare you the link to the previous post - have been acting up lately. Peaceful evenings become restless nights and too-early mornings. Late afternoons become rough and difficult to plod through, like stucco or wet sand. Metaphors become labored and analogies fall flat. It's a fierce pancake is what it is.

But I'll trundle through. I have inspiration for creative endeavors. I have books to read. I have hills to scale. I have oceans to swim.

But damn I'm tired right now. It's 3:17. The work day has a long way to go. Someone finished the office Thin Mints. People keep operating on my mouth and my cats miss me. Yeah I'll be okay. I'll just go back to paragraph 2.

Monday, February 26, 2007


I set my alarm to the local public radio station. Usually, in the morning, I wake up to news from Iraq, context-less financial reports, or a feature from KPCC's seemingly endless supply of stories about hospitals, prisons, or schools. This morning I woke to the lead singer of the Flaming Lips explaining why, among other things, his 11 years of working at Long John Silver's made him who he was. I could have told a similar story. For me it was 2 1/2 years working at the Southdale Cinema - an experience that pretty much made me who I am by introducing me to several people who I've remained friends with to this day (20+ years later) and providing me with many great stories (The Al Franken Incident, The Goonies Summer, The Shovel Stories, Prince and His Bodyguard, etc.)

In honor of Forest Whitaker's Oscar win, here's his acceptance speech. And here's a song he inspired.

And there's nothing better than watching planes take off from the restaurant at Santa Monica airport just before, during, and after sunset... with someone really great.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Top 10 Songs With One Particularly Amazing Line... Part 1 of 10

(Warning: you're about to read 587 words about a 21-year old British singer, primarily known for her myspace page. Proceed at your own risk.)

Today, I begin a new list. This list will eventually have a catchy name but for now I'm calling it the

Top 10 Songs With One Particularly Amazing Line That Allows the Song To Rise Above Most Other Songs and Drives the Song Home, Hurtling and Trundling Like a Massive Swirly Wind in a Roaring Thunderstorm (in Reverse Chronological Order) List

Yes I know I misused "trundling."

Today, the newest song on the list:

1. LDN - Lily Allen (2006)

This song, besides being astoundingly catchy and perfectly sung, contains a line that blew me away the first time I noticed it. It was on my 5th or 6th listen that the line finally registered with me. Before that, I was drawn to the song's flawless hook and breezy chorus.

What is this piece of juicy lyrical brilliance?

Be patient. First let me tell you that Lily (also my cat's name) is singing about her travels through London (the "LDN" of the title):
Riding through the city on my bike all day
Cause the filth took away my license
It doesn't get me down and I feel OK
Cause the sights that I'm seeing are priceless

Everything seems to look as it should
But I wonder what goes on behind doors
A fella looking dapper, but he's sitting with a slapper
Then I see it's a pimp and his crack whore

You might laugh you might frown
Walkin' round London town
Normally, this would be enough for me: a perfect sort-of-rhyme (license/priceless); a perfect real rhyme (dapper/flapper); a funny but poetic realization (pimp/crack whore); and then she brings it home with that simple yet powerful couplet about London.

Then we hear a catchy chorus that sticks in your gullet like mashed sweet potatoes in November in the rain.

And then, after the chorus, there's this:
There was a little old lady, who was walking down the road
She was struggling with bags from Tesco
There were people from the city having lunch in the park
I believe that it's called al fresco

Did you see it? Did you see the line that inspired this list?
I believe that it's called al fresco.
Let's ignore the great rhyme (Tesco/fresco) and focus on what I've helpfully put in bold face, in its own white space. To quote the title of my list, this one line is particularly amazing because:
  1. She believes that it's called al fresco. Lily Allen is 21, probably even younger when she wrote this song. She's still learning about the world, still figuring it out. I believe that she really was only about 80% sure that it was called "al fresco" and thus said "believe." I believe that she did not put the "believe" in there to get two more syllables in to help the beat. No, she had a better reason, a higher purpose.
  2. Remember that London town makes you laugh, makes you frown. Well, after frowning at the realization that the dapper fellow was a pimp (a pimp in the occupational, not reputational, sense of the word), we now laugh at the joyful thought of people having lunch in the park.
  3. The way she says "that" makes it, for a brief moment, my favorite word of all time (eventually supplanted by "fresco").
  4. Finally, I like this line because it is so unexpected and unusual yet perfectly executed and exquisitely sung (the British accent helps.) Yes, sometimes I just like things.
Here's the video. The pre-song intro is priceless.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New, Old, New

This post may be in danger of getting all reflective and life-lesson-y. I'll have to control myself. How do I keep from doing that? Well, for one, I could eschew a lengthy narrative in favor of a list.

Things I've Done / People I've Seen or Spoke to Lately, in Random Order

1. Last night, I celebrated my friend Mike's 37th birthday. As I was telling Mike, 37 is a good age. Watch out for what follows. But just be patient. It gets better.

2. On Monday, I saw baby Amelia for the first time in a while. She's cute.

3. On Monday, I also saw Alex, who I will see again tonight. She's cute too. Makes me very happy. Tonight we'll put quarters in a jukebox in a high-ceilinged bar near an authentic traffic circle. If they have this song or this song, I'm playing them. On Monday, we ate at a restaurant that, back in the 1980s, was endorsed in commercials by this man.

4. I spoke to my old friend Matt on the phone yesterday. For the first time in 17 years! There were many rumors as to Matt's whereabouts since 1990. There were whispers in Garden Grove corridors, murmurs in Edina basements. Apparently he's doing fine... teaching English in South Korea. He's back in California for a short visit.

5. Do you know any smart 10 to 12 year olds? Jeopardy is having an online test for them.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Picture Day

Not to brag but over at a poem every 3 or 4 days for the rest of my life, there have been 4 new poems posted in the last 4 days! Yes, I'm catching up for a few missed postings. Plus, if you scroll down far enough, you'll see a (purely fictional) poem about this man:

The second half of the NBA season starts tonight (technically the last 42% of the season) and the Timberwolves are currently the #8 (and last) playoff team in the West. Let's hope it stays that way or gets better.

(Before I go too far, I should credit Daniel Clowes for the drawing at the top of this post.)

I really want to post a picture of my cat Lily. You see, earlier today, I took her to the vet. She had been limping and had appeared to injure her paw. The diagnosis? Ingrown nail with infection. So she has to wear a kitty-paw-cast for a few days. It's so cute. And sad. But there's someone in Silverlake who borrowed my camera and I might not get it back until the weekend when I go this someone's Oscar party. Anyway, Lily should be better soon. Wish her well.

Here's Gilbert Arenas improvising and dunking from a trampoline during an All-Star game timeout.

Ever wonder whatever happened to Valley Girl star Deborah Foreman? Or do you just want to know her yoga lesson schedule?

And finally... Lake Harriet in winter:

Friday, February 16, 2007

What Should I Do?

(First of all, don't forget about the internet's second best poetry blog.)

I've been suffering from a short-term case of blogger's block. I've been trying to come up with an interesting thing to write about, to get my reader(s) through a long Friday.

I could write about last night's sad and touching episode of The Office.

Or I could mention how, after months of knowing I lived two blocks away from a clean, well-equipped, picturesque pair of basketball courts, it finally occurred to me this morning that I should go buy a basketball and actually play on those courts.

Or I could write about how I just enjoyed a toasted cinnamon bagel (with melty butter), accompanied by a Diet Coke with Lime (on ice) and how the whole thing worked perfectly.

Or I could write about contemplative I've been lately.

Or I could encourage you to look at all of these pictures, one by one.

Or I could write about how I'm watching this 5-part Harry Nilsson documentary on Youtube.

Or how I don't miss the greater Santa Monica/West L.A. area as much as I thought I would when I moved 14 miles east.

Or I could urge you to ask Jason a question. He's looking for them.

Or I could come up with some sort of list. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll be back later.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Happy Valentine's Day everyone. There is no better way to celebrate today than reading FreeDarko's amazing multi-contributor piece on Love and Basketball. Plus, context-less pictures of puppies!

Switching from basketball to baseball, I've decided - in honor of the start of a new baseball season - to officially switch my allegiance back to the Kansas City Royals. At about the age of 5, I inexplicably became a Royals fan. I lived in New Jersey, a short drive from the river that separates civilized America from Manhattan and I was rooting for a team out in a great midwestern expanse I had never set foot in. It wasn't until a mid-July evening in 1984 that I ever spent any non-airport time in the Central time zone. Why was I a Royals fan? It could have been because of the nifty Royal blue of their uniforms. It could have been that my favorite baseball card was of a player named Al Fitzmorris and he had the same initials as me (as well as what I imagined would be my general demeanor when I got to be his age.. I was wrong about that). Like I said, I was only 5. Or maybe I became a Royals fan because I knew they had a lot of good young players and were poised to contend for some pennants in the mid-to-late part of the 1970s.

The Royals did indeed get good as I grew from a boy into an older boy. But they just didn't get good enough. For three straight seasons - 1976, 1977, 1978 - Kansas City lost in the American League Championship Series to the team I hated the most, the New York Yankees. I remember crying when the man who invented the Nutty Buddy gave up a bottom-of-the-ninth home run and the Yankees went to the World Series. In 1980, to make matters worse, I was living near Philadelphia and endured the Royals making it to the World Series and losing to the Phillies. That was painful.

By 1984, I was in Minnesota and it seemed easier to just be a Twins fan. A year later, the Royals won the World Series and I sort of enjoyed their victory but my heart wasn't in it. I associated Royals fan-ness with being a little kid and I wanted to proclaim my adulthood, my maturity, my ability to grow out of choosing a favorite team based on my love for the color blue and grow into choosing the team for logical reasons, like I live in Minnesota, Go Twins.

But I miss it... the innocence of a wide-eyed 11-year-old reading the newspaper each day for reports of the Royals wins (usually) and losses (less often)... wondering why they traded for John Mayberry at the tail end of his career and wondering if that George Brett guy would have staying power... hating the Yankees and their goddamn fake-classy pinstripes. (come to think of it, George Brett was a big reason for me losing interest in the Royals... sure he was a great player but he seemed like kind of a jerk to me; in '85, rooting for a team with him on it didn't seem to jell with listening to early Violent Femmes cassettes, at least not for me.)

I'm not throwing away my allegiance to the Twins. I'm not forgetting about what happened in 1987 or 1991. I'm not giving up on the possibility of liking the Dodgers, the team that plays less than 5 miles away from where I live. I just miss rooting for the Royals and I want to do it again and sure there may be "other" reasons for this switch (reasons having to do less with recapturing lost innocence and more with, well it's Valentine's Day you see and some people are from Kansas City, whether or not they're baseball fans and the team is supposed to be better this year, really they are - they signed Gil Meche! - and they play in that cool ballpark and I might be going to Kansas City for a conference in June and...)

...And I just realized that the worst basketball game is still better than the best baseball game. There'll be time enough for thinking about baseball in the late summer and fall. It's basketball time - the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, the college tournament in a few weeks, the NBA playoffs in April (the Timberwolves have a chance to make the playoffs; it looks like it's them and the Clippers fighting for the opportunity to lose badly to the Mavericks or Suns in the first round.) No matter what happens to my favorite team, there' s still a lot to love in the NBA - the Lakers are good, Agent Zero is inspiring (he went to high school in Van Nuys!), the Knicks are fascinating, the Raptors are better than everyone thinks (always knew Sam Mitchell could coach), and the Suns are the most exciting team in the history of professional sports, and Mark Madsen continues to be the most excruciatingly blessedly positive force in the universe, leading to my list of favorite Mad Dog positive blog affirmations:
-It was a great game to play in and a great game to watch.
-Dwayne a class act in every way and he knows the game of basketball backwards and forwards.
-Lately, our team has been playing very well.
-It's always great to see Sam.
I'll stop here. I'm happy.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Link-Heavy Post With No Mention of Music

Ian McKellan on acting (via the Ricky Gervais series Extras). Maybe I was just in a good mood when I watched this on Sunday but it's kind of brilliant.

If you've traveled on Beverly Blvd. in Los Angeles, just west of Vermont, please confirm that the JollyBee restaurant there is a beautiful and amazing cultural artifact.

Here's Will Shortz's NPR puzzle for the week:
By using only the letters in the phrase "Triple Mocha," and repeating them as often as you wish, you can spell the name of another cold treat. The answer consists of four words, with a total of twenty one letters. What is it?
He's finally outsmarted the Anagram Finder users by allowing us to repeat the letters "as often as we wish."

More statistics and graphs from the folks at freedarko (takes forever to load).

From McSweeney's, The Office, as written by Mamet.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I like cities. I ascribe them super powers. I appreciate them when they're inspring. I let them know when they're not pulling their weight (I'm talking to you, Chicago in the late 90s.) I refer to them in poems and stories and blog posts. I always love a mention of a city (or better yet a street) in a song. I like cities. This is why I want to thank Los Angeles for coming through this past weekend - perfect weather, minimal waits at unassuming restaurants, nice remodel of the Griffith Observatory, nice clean lines and stunning views from the second floor plaza of the Hammer Museum, clean clear east side streets perfect for a late night drive through darkness, consistently acceptable parking spaces, timely rain, timelier clear skies, and...... and someone I know made me a cd with Thunder Island on it so of course I'm happy.

On the poetry blog there's a poem about an underappreciated actor.

And Jason welcomes you to ask him what you should do.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Alarm Eyelash Fixate

Damn, gum surgery is brutal. They called it a "success" so I think I'm okay but let's just say that I got a little tired of spitting blood last night. And the swelling on one side of my face this morning makes me look a little uneven and quite scary.

I'll say this: having had to listen to Boston's Amanda on the periodontist's piped-in relaxation music during the most high-pressure part of the surgery makes me never want to hear the song again. Some choice quotes from the doctor during Amanda - (to me): Don't close your mouth! Keep your eyes closed in case I drop the needle; (to her assistants): Keep the pressure on, we don't want to him to have a hematoma. No, the solution needs to be gooey!)

(for those who want the details. this is what I had done to me)

But the hard part is over. Now I can enjoy the weekend with someone who is traveling all the way from the other side of the southland to see me. Okay so it's only 41.4 miles. That's nothing. I anticipate lots of good soft food. And a trip to the museum. And a voyage into the universe. And salt bagels of course (if they're soft).

My favorite links of the week:

The John Amaechi story. It's very odd that it's taken this long for an NBA player to announce he's gay but it did. I've always considered the NBA to be the most progressive of the major sports leagues but for this not to happen sooner is pretty surprising.

Sarah Silverman's new show is really good. This clip isn't from the aired episodes but it's pretty representative.

An impossible catchy Lily Allen song (thanks for the link Alex.)

Flak's 26-part dissection of the Super Bowl ads.

Could anything be better than a combination of freedarko and statistical graphs? Maybe something could be better... yeah something.

And I love the anagram finder. I've been having so much fun with it today. My name anagrams to "Family Ha" which resonates with me. And other combinations of multiple names lead to perfect word combinations like today's title.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Remnants of an Egyptian Vacation, 1984

I wrote this little half-true essay in 2000. I thought I would share it here.

The creepy thing about her veins was that they were green, not greenish-blue or pinkish-green but just plain green and creepy green at that, like the color had been transported from the slimiest tree in the slimiest forest in the greenest world. Creepy, that green. But her veins were not part of her soul and her soul was decidedly not creepy. She wasn’t so much an angel as merely a sport. But sports are a valuable part of our society and should not be taken with grains of salt. Rather, they should be appreciated with entire salt mines. Or salt flats. Or oceans.

She played table tennis like a little misfit, flailing her arms when she didn’t quite return the Australian’s serve, flinching whenever the Sheila* sent one her way at an advanced speed, with or without trajectory, fidgeting during the interruptions in play that were a part of life at the coastal Egyptian hotel. There were only so many balls in such a small rec room, with dark dusty corners that absorbed and ate up the light rather than reflecting it, forcing one to simply stab at indefinable space when searching for errant balls, hoping beyond reason that the stabs would cause the balls to pop back out, into the light. Sometimes, hoping beyond reason would pay off and the Egyptian hotel would seem like paradise of a greater, freer sort.

When the sandstorms came, everyone stayed indoors, making the rec room crowded and it was easy not to notice her green veins in the din. Eventually, the Australian, a Moroccan, myself, my brother, and the green-veined misfit convened to the Australian’s cabana for poker, grapes, and the new Spandau Ballet album, which the Aussie had on cassette and CD in case one format would be preferable to the other in this strange new country she was visiting. Because no one had packed proper poker chips for their great old world vacation and coins were not an option, given the dearth of them on people’s persons and the varying countries represented by that dearth, we anted and bet and raised with...

Grapes of course. Delicious red grapes, furnished for free by the guilt-ridden hotel (“we did not think a sandstorm was in the offing”). Grapes so succulent and seedless that one had a hard time actually betting them and not eating them. And by the time we got to the seventh or eighth hand, we were all too enamored of the grapes to make bets, let alone raise them, and all of us folded, ceremoniously, at once, lunging first for our own meager banks of grapes and then for each other’s. It was a jungle. This much is true.

*Sheila = australian slang for "girl" or "woman"

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

And Life Was Fresh and New

Today, they (they being the only Elliott Smith-playing dentist in all of Los Angeles) will be putting a crown on my tooth. Thursday, they (a different they) will be performing "minor" but "necessary" gum surgery on me (followed by a soft-food-only diet for a week).

My poor mouth is going through the same thing the Timberwolves went through when they made the big trade with Boston last year: a complete overhaul. Hopefully, the end result will be better with me. I hope I don't have to fire my coach/dentist. Though, it can't be too bad - I'll always have my soft full Swedish lips, the Wolves will always have KG.

Speaking of Minnesota, it's been cold there. Really cold. If you live there, let me point out that it was 87 here yesterday.

(I'm allowed one weather-related paragraph on my blog per 50 posts. It won't happen again any time soon.)

They better always have KG.

I'll say this about Will Shortz: he never disappoints.

Same with Men's Bread.


Monday, February 05, 2007

and the story was whatever was the song what it was

Today has been a full day at work. Multiple meetings, big documents, mass e-mails. Little time for thoughtful blogging or thoughtless musing. Not even time for lunch!

But that's okay. I spent (most of) the weekend with someone special. I got real close to the ocean. I learned that I'm not the only one who makes a good mix CD.

(for proof, how could I ignore this song all my adult life?. Or this one?)

(By the way - Billy - great job on the national anthem yesterday! You too Prince.)

Somewhere in the whole weekend there were chicken wings and unlocked doors and bad pizza and good omelets and quick dental work and an unsolved(!) Saturday NY Times crossword . But yeah there was all that specialness too.

Friday, February 02, 2007

One More Before the Weekend

To end my productive workweek of blogging, I'll tie up a few loose ends.

My Super Bowl prediction: Bears 34 Colts 7
(the Colts lone score will be a defensive touchdown)

My new favorite Hall & Oates song: Out of Touch

My reaction to the few Tivo-ed minutes of the new Comedy Central Sarah Silverman show I watched last night: Funny.

My reaction to an e-mail I received late last night: Wow.

The song that's playing on the internet "classic rock" station I just chose randomly off the iTunes list: Tiny Dancer by Elton John.

My favorite song by the USC band: Tusk

My desire to post the lyrics from my Tiny Dancer spoof, Tony Danza: Infinite
(yes I thought of the joke first)

I Trawl the Megahertz

Today I want to write about a song.

Many of you know that one of my favorite bands is Prefab Sprout (sort of famous in England in the 80s, barely recognized here). They don't really exist anymore as a band but 4 years ago their lead singer Paddy Macaloon released a solo album called I Trawl the Megahertz. In the 22-minute title track, a female narrator speaks Paddy's words. She tells his life story, a story that is a little sad, a little funny, and - to me - infinitely meaningful and amazing. The piece begins:
I am telling myself the story of my life,
stranger than song or fiction.
We start with the joyful mysteries,
before the appearance of ether,
trying to capture the elusive:
the farm where the crippled horses heal,
the woods where autumn is reversed,
and the longing for bliss in the arms
of some beloved from the past.
And with a beginning like that, I'm hooked. Paddy's story continues - his absent father, his traveling search for meaning, his astute perceptions of the world around him. But ultimately there's a frustration in the story of his life:
Ever the dull alchemist.
I have before me all the necesary elements:
it is their combination that eludes me.
Forgive me ... I am sleepwalking.
When he wrote this song, Paddy Macaloon was 49 and suffering from both an unfortunate haircut and a temporary disease that caused him to be almost completely blind:

Repeat after me: happiness is only a habit.
I am listening to the face in the mirror
but I don't think I believe what she's telling me.
Her words are modern, but her eyes have been weeping
in gardens and grottoes since the Middle Ages.
This is the aftermath of fever.

And the grasping and missing that his disease has caused is apparent in almost every line. I love the sweeping imagery of the song. The images are uniquely European but entirely universal. Not only has he handed the narrative duties to a woman, but he chose a young American woman, Yvonne Conners, to read the story of his older male English life. This from a man who wrote and sang every one of his band's songs, a man who loved to be photographed as the embodiment of Prefab Sprout. This album, despite it being credited solely to Paddy Macaloon, doesn't feature his face on the cover:

By day and night, fancy electronic dishes
are trained on the heavens.

They are listening for smudged echoes

of the moment of creation.

They are listening for the ghost of a chance.

They may help us make sense of who we are

and where we came from;

and, as a compassionate side effect,

teach us that nothing is ever lost.

The transmissions from those fancy electronic dishes make an appropriate substitute for Paddy's face. If he can't see and can only hear, then the lines and swirls that send the radio voices to his ears are the most important thing in the world. And the fact that the transmissions come from up there - "in the heavens" - is the reason that nothing is ever lost. In other words, the universe is always here even when we - or a loved one or our sight - is not.

I won't give away the song's ending. The lyrics are here (just scroll down to the first song with lyrics) and an interview with McAloon is here. If you want to hear the song, just ask me to play it for me the next time you see me (assuming you have 22 minutes to spare).

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Two Lists

Today on the poetry site - Axl Stole My Braids!

Now, lists:

5 Places I've Been Stuck, In Dreams
1. Elevators
2. Airplane, travelling internationally between space-age airports
3. Underwater
4. Cavern or cave, with boulders blocking my escape
5. University of Minnesota Social Science Tower

5 Special Talents I Have
1. Musically reciting every alphabetized north-south street name in Minneapolis, between Aldrich and Zenith Avenues, in rapid fire succession, pausing with a contented sigh at Penn Ave.
2. Boggle
3. The statistical technique of hierarchical linear modeling, specifically with regard to time-series analysis, while taking into account regression effects and instrument reliability
4. ____________
5. Avoiding tomatoes in salads


Sometimes happiness comes at just the right time. Then it stays. It doesn't go anywhere.

Forced to choose between blue and gray.... I choose both. I can be greedy sometimes.

And is there a more beautiful spot in all of California than the vast diagonal expanse of the 5 freeway, traveling at a post-midnight 70mph? Yes, there is one. But only one.

I never promised you poems, only pictures.

Forced to choose between flesh and skin, I'll have to go with flesh.

Almost 2:30. I have a meeting to go to. You have questions. Look around.

Look everywhere.

Enjoy a Trip Shakespeare video.

Don't forget to ask Jason what you should do.