Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Until I Wake Up - Dishwalla (mp3)
The modern phrase is "absence seizures." They are very brief seizures that often resemble "spacing out." They usually last a matter of seconds, but in more extreme cases can hit closer to a minute. Often these seizures have no outward sign, but sometimes they include a few ticks, like the shaking of a shoulder or stuttered blinking. Often this illness limits itself to childhood and early teen years.
So of course myself and a couple of other parents made some quick initial comment like, "Hellooo! Wakey wakey!" And then Sylvia's parents shoved the cold and calm dagger into our consciences with that little reply: "Actually she was having an absence seizure, but she's OK now."
My wife had just bought me a new pair of North Face sandals a couple of weeks ago, and I hadn't yet had the opportunity to savor their taste, so that was my moment to learn they taste kinda tart and sandy.
Sylvia's parents were totally cool about it, which helped. And naturally I tried making up for my ignorant insensitivity by engaging them in a too-long interrogation about it. How long has she suffered with it? (4 years) Will it last? (They hope and expect it to pass by the early teen years) What's the average duration? (About 15 seconds, sometimes as much as 30, and rarely as long as a minute) Is it genetic? (In this case, not from the parents directly) If it doesn't go away...? (Lots of potential problems but nothing they're not prepared to deal with. No driver's license was the quickest response)
We all have moments that remind us of our blessings and help put our own problems in perspective.
"Petit mal" means "little illness." This is anything but a small problem. Milk and peanut and grass allergies, or mild vision issues, or other issues with which my family wrestles, suddenly seemed palatable.
When I woke up at 4 a.m., still a little freaked out by it, I wondered if some people have petit mal phases where they just kind of zone out for a fraction of their lives rather than a fraction of a minute. Maybe an inexplicable day or week of behavior that goes counter to everything normal about them.
Henry Hyde had an affair when he was 41. Maybe his "youthful indiscretion" was his own little absence seizure.
No, I don't really believe that. But isn't it pretty to think so.
In recent days, every time I've found myself gazing into the distance, distracted from the world around me by a thought or a feeling, I wonder what it must be like to have no choice in the matter. To have something outside of yourself push your pause button while the world continues moving, and you merely disappear from time for a short span.
I'm not a control freak about much in this chaotic life, but that thought frightens me half to death.
Monday, August 30, 2010
Of course, that is the grand sweep I am talking about, not the counter-argument of a tired, drugged-out Elvis embracing Richard Nixon or a whacked-out Ted Nugent who would like to hunt all of us with his bow and arrow. Certainly there are rockers who tend toward the dark side of the Force. But they lose their authenticity when that happens.
The voices of rock music, blues, folk music, rap and hip-hip are the voices that represent the grand America that exists out there beyond the white, wealthy, church-controlled status quo Americans who have always gotten mad about anything that challenges their exclusive control of our country. In the 60's they'd have been threatened, in the 70's they'd have been outraged.
But at some point past the '70s, as their corporations got more and more control of popular music, they thought it was finally safe to embrace it.
If you have right-wing friends who think that they can tap into the vibes of rock 'n roll or rap, Dylan or Dido, they are simply lying to themselves. It makes me sad. And it scares me.
See, whether or not you think music is in decline (I don't, I just think it has changed), the players have not changed a bit. The people who are singing the songs today are the same outcasts, gays, fornicators, drug users, bi-racial, tri-racial people that have always done the singing. In short, everyday Americans like you and me.
Oh, yeah, and, pissed off as I am at the conservatives in America right now, I won't even concede country music to them. Nothing except the corporate-bullshit country music that either a) tries to create a past that never existed or b) tries to tap into some bland, patriotic values. The real country music of then or now has nothing to do with either of those themes. It has always been about lost love, the road, the plight of people trying to get by and doing what they have to do.
But then I remember the music, and I remember that conservatives don't rock. They don't rap, they don't protest in song, and they don't move us with a sexy rhythm or tell the truth about what it takes to try to live a life. And then I think, maybe, just maybe, it will be okay.
Friday, August 27, 2010
I don't know much about those kinds of things, so I really don't know how she did it. Dumb luck or careful searching, examination, and testing of the top-rated bras in America? I really can't answer that.
What I do know is that her bra was the talk for days, as in "Pookie had on the most beautiful bra" and "Let's go to Victoria's Secret and see if we can find Pookie's bra." What I do know is that when we were down in Atlanta a couple of weekends ago, my daughter visited to Victoria's Secret down there, couldn't find it, asked about it, and was outraged with the saleswoman would not go into the back to see if they had any. It must be quite a bra.
The additional, perhaps major, mystification for me, and I'm assuming for the other males reading this is, where did everyone see Pookie's bra? It's not like my daughter and her friends hang out in locker rooms at the Y or shower together or anything else. And not only my daughter knew about it. My wife and my other daughter were equally praiseful. Other friends who came over, too.
And that's where I get even more confused. No man has ever asked me where I got my underwear. I have never asked any man, either. I don't think I even knew to want to.
The perfect bra, I assume, is the union of freedom and form, of femininity and function. Why wouldn't women want to share their wisdom, their discoveries on the subject.
But men lack that kind of freedom. We cannot say to each other, "Hey, Bruce, I really like the way those grippers fit you. Where did you get them?"
Bruce: "I got them at Target. They were on sale. If you're thinking about going out to get some, let me know and I'll ride along. I can point out to you which ones fit me the best. They also have a great selection of both white and patterned."
And then a few weeks later, Bruce: "Wow, I see you took my advice. Those are so right for you."
"Yeah, I'm really proud of them. And they're so comfortable."
"I like the way they've designed that seam, too, don't you? It's much easier to pee."
"Much. Even one-handed."
"Man, I really like your Sponge Bob boxers. They look like they give you a lot of room to move."
"They sure do. Do you want to try them on?"
"No, thanks, Carl. I'm going to go get some of my own."
"You won't be sorry. Ask Scott. He has some, too. I saw them when we were dressing after tennis. He also complimented how airy they are, even while they're stylish."
"Then I'll be able to wear them when I go out to get the newspaper on Sunday mornings."
While I wish women success in their quest for the perfect bra, I might be a little bit jealous. Clearly, men, we live in very different worlds, ours being very restrictive for fear of being ridiculed, while our females are free to frolic and flaunt their frilly things with their friends and no one will give it a second thought. Where did we go wrong?
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
SOUNDTRACK: 187 songs with the Ipod set on "shuffle," starting with the Stones' "All Down The Line" and ending with LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends." But, the Ipod always surprises you, and some unexpected pleasures along the way included a solo bootleg version of Springsteen's "Racing In The Streets" (I'd forgotten what a great song that is), the always-uplifting "Mtn Cat" by the Sheds, and a Gillian Welch cover of John Hartford's "In Tall Buildings" that brought tears to my eyes and made me wonder what the hell I am doing.
--flipped off a trucker who swung into fast lane in front of me and proceeded to ride alongside the truck he was supposed to pass for 10 minutes
--held down horn for over a minute (I counted) when a car cut in front of me at the I-75/I-24 split.
--multiple close "cut ins" in front of cars going too slow in fast lane that I had to go around.
--regular and indiscriminate use of the word "cock."
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
For a brief while I felt a little guilty about my late nights of self-enforced solitude in the confines of my own home.
"Nothing good happens after midnight," one friend is fond of saying. She mostly means her child(ren). She also kinda sorta means adults, too. But she doesn't say it out loud because she doesn't want to sound as judgmental about it as she actually is.
Another friend puts it differently: "When I'm up alone after 11 p.m., I find myself doing a lot of things that aren't ultimately all that healthy."
For the record, as I type these very words, it's 12:27 a.m. I am not at present touching myself, nor have I at any point in the current 24-hour cycle. I am not looking at inappropriate pictures or reading inappropriate things. I am not communicating with anyone the former Elin Woods would find cause to beat in my windshield with a golf club, nor am I engaged in any form of high-stakes illegal betting. I'm neither manufacturing nor participating in any sort or kind of illegal substances.
It's 12:31 a.m., and I'm doing nothing all that terribly wrong.
That's not always the case, mind you. No sense in getting into which particular options might, on occasion, land on my late-night radar screen, you cheeky monkeys you. I just ain't no cherub, is what I'm sayin'.
At times, I have been incredibly conflicted about all this. About my almost chemical dependence on nocturnal independence. About the fact that, no matter how late my wife stays up to be by my side and experience late-night life with me, I must stay up another one or two hours later.
It has helped to learn I'm not alone. There's millions of us out there. I recently had the opportunity to hear my boss express, almost word for word, the very explanation I myself have for this need. He, too, it would seem, suffers from this affliction, this addiction, this need to have solitude prior to slumber.
And, in truth, I write this not merely because I'm awake at 1 a.m., but because circumstances around people I know have just yesterday served to remind me that we all carry burdens and mysteries that even our best friends can rarely fathom unless it's written to them in big 50-font print. That whole "quiet desperation" thing is just flat-out universal, my friends, and if you don't know you're quietly desperate, just hang out a little longer, and it'll come to you.
For me, I need the right to put myself to sleep. To sing my own lullaby. To watch or listen to or play whatever I need to get my mind calmed down. And I just can't seem to do any of that very well with other people around. (Unless I'm really good 'n' drunk. Which is hardly a kind of practice I want to make too terribly regular. Certainly not more regular than it already is, thankee very much.)
I love -- no, I need -- the Midnight Hour. Sometimes it comes at midnight, but not always. The Midnight Hour isn't a moment on the clock. It's a tipping point in the caverns of your being that tells you to call it a night, that in fact begs and ultimately demands you to do so.
Just you and I.
Written under the precise level of intoxication required to think a post using the words "I" and "me" almost 500 times would somehow express something larger than merely an unhealthy obsession with the author's own sense of self-awesomeness.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Time to Check My Eyelids for Holes - Stereophonics (mp3)
I'm in our church choir. Sunday mornings, our choir processes.
There's not a thing about processing I find very appealing. I don't like the word. I don't like the idea of walking down the middle of the church with a choir book in my hand trying to sing and pay attention to where I'm walking and have all these people looking at me and keeping time with the director way up at the front of the church.
For someone such as I, an untrained and amateurish soul with a voice made for a large choir (as in, it sounds better when buried underneath dozens of other voices), there's just too damn much going on during a processional. The worst part of all is knowing that my voice can be identified quite clearly as I walk past people. There goes Billy, missing the beat again. He's as off-beat as Steve Martin listening to the blues.
This past Sunday, we processed as usual, and I'm making my way up into the back row of seats where all the men now collect when I hear this ominous thud, almost as if one of the pipes from the pipe organ had collapsed on someone. I look over to my right (I sit on the far right side if you're facing the front of the church, which is to say I'm looking at the left side of the front. Or something), and there's five or six blue robes huddled like they're getting ready to call Circle Right Option A Z Post Delta on Three or something*.
* -- sorry. It's football season.
As it happens, one of the many many many elderly folks in our choir fell on their way up the steps. And when I say "many many many," what I mean is that the median age of our choir is 95. What I mean is that, of the 24 regular members, and of the 35 or so total members, I am at 38 the second-youngest human. The third-youngest is almost 50. There's only five or six others below 60. The rest are, like, so old that they probably still use the word "colored" in ways that have nothing to do with crayons.
The spill in question was nasty. Fella tripped on his robe and ended up scraping a huge chunk off his right forearm as well as bruising up several areas of his face and getting several small cuts. His robe got all bloodied. Five different choir members had to leave the choir to tend to him, which represented a full quarter of the day's take.
It kinda makes me an asshole, but I knew this was going to happen. If Vegas had allowed it, I would have staked my entire life's earnings on one of our older members taking a nasty dive during the processional. It would be like placing a bet on the chance it might possibly rain in the next year. Were I a better person, I would have said something. I would have asked aloud, "Why are we processing with so many old old old people? Isn't this unsafe?" But there's always a back story...
You see, our previous choir director, who left being completely despised by 4/5 of the elderly folks in our church and in our choir, ended that great tradition when he came. They thought he ended it because he was a big ol' self-centered know-it-all closeted frosted-tips-lovin' choir director who had to assert his authority over them. In truth, he ended the tradition because he knew someone was going to get themselves hurt.
The old people, all of 'em, almost to a person, are the very people who went apeshit in demanding that we process. Now here's an even better part. Two of the most curmudgeonly old choir members who demanded the Return of the Processional (the new novel by JRR Tolkein!) ended up quitting the choir two weeks later because -- wait for it! -- that's right, they couldn't process safely.
Do you realize what I'm telling you, people?? Old people can be so damned stubborn that they'd rather be right from the sidelines than to be wrong and stay in the game. In fact, I'm pretty sure they'd take the same bet as I would, that one of 'em was doomed to get hurt. But by God, if that's the cost of maintaining a tradition, then that's the G-D cost, and that's the way it is, and that's that, so bugger off and let me die already in some traditional freakin' way!
Point is, saying something was pointless. So I was left to just ride out the processional storm out and wait for someone to fall and hurt themselves and hope it wasn't serious like a broken hip or worse.
And that's what happened, thank God. A fall. Bruises and superficial wounds. No broken hips. And a vote, coming Wednesday night, that the practice of processing into the choir loft on Sunday mornings be postponed until further notice. A vote I know will pass because I had the votes locked up before we even left the choir loft on Sunday morning.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
It takes less of leap than a flu jumping from animal to human, though, for that hipster expression to set its sights on another human in a direct conversation. And then, you've got troubles, because a) it's pretty hard to take back and b) I fear that it identifies a condition in another person that is not fixable.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
The text located on the blog linked here -- and numerous others -- was sent to me via email by Johnnie Carter, MD, a man I don't think I know. Originally I was going to respond directly to Dr. Johnnie Carter, but I decided instead to make it an open letter to many stupid people all at once.
Bottom line: my America is vastly different from Obama's, and I have a higher obligation to my Country and my GOD to do what is Right!
For eight (8) years, the Liberals in our Society, led by numerous entertainers who would have no platform and no real credibility but for their celebrity status, have attacked President Bush, his family, and his spiritual beliefs!
They have made every effort to remove the name of GOD or Jesus Christ from our Society !
They have challenged capital punishment, the right to bear firearms, and the most basic principles of our criminal code !
They have attacked one of the most fundamental of all Freedoms, the right of free speech!
Dear Stupid People, a.k.a., Drs. Johnnie Carter, Charles Stanley, and David Barton, and the other stupid people who read more than five words you wrote without turning green from infectious puke,
I respect that you have (in theory) earned some kind of doctoral degree, but I don't respect your right to annoy me via my business email with a bunch of ugliness cloaked under the illusion that you have any notion about God or what He wants. Your hypocrisy and the smugness with which you seem to espouse beliefs that even claim to originate from the same Bible I've studied has vastly more in common with the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Jesus decried than it does with His disciples or followers.
(FACT: You can't say Sadducees without saying "SAD.")
You introduce your spew by listing those things you don't share with President Obama. NEWS FLASH: You don't "share" anything with anyone because your particular brand of absurd Christianity imparts absolutely zero value on sharing. (Note: Sharing stupid opinions doesn't count.)
You are a fearmonger. You are a hatemonger. You are far too full of yourself to have much room for a higher power. God's priorities, I'm quite certain, are not in the order of (1) Death Penalty, (2) Firearms, and (3) Free Speech (from what corner of your sphincter, exactly, did you pull this one by the way?)
It's a shame you didn't work on Basil Marceaux's campaign. It's not too late to throw him on the ticket with Palin in '12.
Written with God's full support and encouragement. As far as you know.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Provocative title aside, I have nothing personal against Guy Fieri. He seems like a nice enough guy, might even be fun to hang out with, with his lots of energy and enthusiasm for whatever his current endeavor seems to be. And I know some of you are big fans.
But I keep having this dream where I'm sitting at a table with him, about to eat, when he suddenly reaches across the table, grabs my sandwich, waits for the camera to zoom in on him, takes a huge bite of it, looks at me and the camera simultaneously, chews with gusto and exclaims, "Now that is a sandwich!"
SIDEBAR: I mean, do you really want to be making your famous tamales with your crew of handicapped orphans for a church picnic and have Bobby Flay show up for a throwdown where he's going to make goat cheese and wild boar tamales in hand-ground masa wrapped in organic corn husks and steamed in virgin apple cider?
So, problem one. These people deem it their duty to "legitimize" foods that were already legitimate. By virtue of their singling you out and visiting you, all of a sudden, your humble little restaurant matters. All of a sudden, your onion rings are bigger, crispier, and crunch than they have ever been, all because they've been blown up TV-sized and are entering Guy Fieri's ample mouth. See, it's a brand. They aren't just the best onion rings in town, they now have the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives Seal of Approval.
Which leads to the second problem. The Guy (pun intended) will brand anything without discernment. He may travel out to the Iowa State Fair to bite into your pork tenderloin sandwich, but he'll also throw that same over-the-top energy into the latest offerings at T.G.I. Friday's. And, at that split second when the Guy Fieri brand treats a Friday's cheese stick machine-made in a corporate food factory in Montclair, New Jersy as the same food orgasm he experiences at a po-boy shack, he's done. At least, in my book. Zero credibility.
You cannot have it both ways, Mr. Fieri. Either you are like Jan and Michael Stern, who created the concept of Roadfood and who somehow craft a jointly-reverent prose to promulgate its ephemeral qualities to readers, or you are a moneygrabber who knows that your time as a "celebrity" will be brief and so you must expose yourself anywhere andeverywhere that suits your financial purpose--even as host of a game show.
We are a franchised nation. We take comfort in seeing the same stores and restaurants repeated every few miles. But, there was also a joy in being able to discover a local place that did things differently, perhaps better than, those ol' reliable chains. There was a joy in venturing out. Now, talentless middlemen are, in a sense, franchising even the Mom 'n Pops. Now all of those places become Guy's places and people will go to them because they have been pre-selected and certified on televisions in the safety of their living rooms.
People like to make fun of Rachel Ray, but, really, Guy Fieri is no different. In fact, he's simply stolen her original idea of going into a city, finding the cheap, out-of-the-way places and eating well for less than $25/day. He's just put his own name and brand on it.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Lives Like Mine - Mike Hale (mp3)
She sat me down and started running her fingers through my hair. She said my hair was unusually thick. (My blind hair dates always say this.) But then it got weird.
"Your eyes are really close together on your face," she said. Admittedly, I flinched at that one. I've always known this -- when I remove my glasses, I look a little bit too much like a mole -- and it's definitely one of those observations you'd rather not someone say aloud as if they were reading a newspaper headline.
"Don't worry honey," she said. "You look fine." She was trying to soften the blow. But the "fine" in this quote was not, like, "fiiiiiine." It was more like How was work? Fine. That kind. Dismissive. As if she didn't have time to deal with my self-esteem issues.
Then she said I had a hidden cowlick on the back right side of my hair. Would you believe no one has ever told me that? I only knew about the two cowlicks at the top of my forehead. How many cowlicks are up there, lurking, about which I am still unaware??
Then she said that the right side of my head was my good side. The side without the back cowlick. She said that side of my hair "naturally wants to be the way it should." Those were her words. The cowlick side was fighting itself, she said. Some kind of war on hair terror is being waged on the left side of my skull.
And all of this was said to me before she even whipped out the scissors.
She dry cut my hair. Never used one ounce of water. She never snipped straight across the hair. She would take out little strands here and there in an intentionally jagged manner. She kept explaining that all those traditional methods of hairstyling -- straight cuts, wet hair, thinning shears -- were lazy ways of mechanizing what is supposed to be about finding a natural look. What I didn't say in response was that I kind of thought the natural look was to not get a haircut at all. But whatevs.
Point is, she provided me a haircut unlike any other I've ever received. I can't confidently say it was the best haircut ever; only the most unique and invigorating.
Haircut As Transcendent Yoda-like Experience.
The only word more misunderstood than "artist" is the word "non-conformist."
The Road Not Taken." As if Robert Frost invented the very notion of non-conformity.
Nevermind that his poem has jack squat to do with non-conformity, because it doesn't. If you read the poem carefully, he says the paths are all but the same. One has been treaded upon slightly more. Damn poem is about choices, about the permanence and irreversibility of choices, not about non-conformity.
If he'd wanted to write a poem celebrating non-conformists, the narrator would have pissed on both paths and made off into the pathless woods to create a new path all his own. But that would be stupid. There's thorns and poison oak and snakes and all sorts of unknown crap awaiting you on the unmarked path. Which is why non-conformity is usually overrated.
Same thing seems true about Artists. We glorify them. We make Artists ("artistes" if you will) out to be blessed by the gods with vision, or talent, or whatever. But an amazing number of the greatest artistes -- writers, painters, musicians -- are insufferable human beings, fighting a variety of demons in their head, often drowning themselves in one vice or another, and frequently engaging in what can mildly be described as misogynistic or misanthropic behavior.
I spend my life walking paths that are slightly worse for wear, and I spend my days wondering what my life might have been like had I taken those other paths, the ones that were for all intents and purposes identical. Artists walk the unmarked paths with the poison ivy, the thorns, the snakes, the mystery.
I look forward to my next encounter with this hair artist. Damn she's weird.
Monday, August 16, 2010
While it's true that summer keeps getting shorter and that, on our school calendar, this one only lasted about 2 1/2 months, it has also felt, to me, like a very long summer. I think I timed this one about right, extending the time off by splitting my three weeks of vacation in between Fridays off (I can't say enough about the mental benefits of the 4-day work week) and one large block of time down in Florida. That is what made the summer feel longer, and better.
So, yes, I'd call it a successful summer, in spite of overwatering my tomatoes early and condemning them to a quick death due to leaf rot, in spite of the incessant heat wave that has enveloped this city, in spite of the closing of the New York Diner, and in spite of the crunchy char-dog I took a bite of at the Strut before I hurled it to the ground, a pleasure I put off for too long and paid the price for.
Without further ado, here are the highlights and lowlights of the summer:
1. The break-in at our house in mid-June. It is an event which still reverberates in the collective consciousness of our family. I can see it in the attention to the double and triple-locking of doors. It comes rushing back any time there is a noise during the night or even a knock at the door, or when I go outside at night to see if the extra lights we installed are still working. For me, I am still not comfortable sleeping upstairs; I want to be somewhere where I can hear whatever I need to hear. But, no, no gun.
2. Guidestar. com. This annual kick-in-the-nuts was a little different this year because I avoided going to the page myself, but its salient highlights were shared with me by eager others. Some would rather not know. Some accept it as the way things are. I suppose I'd rather know. This year it hurt, because it reported on a year in which there was no money for raises. Oh, really.
3. A broken air conditioner in my car. It broke on the way to Florida. I took it like a man, sucking on large cups of ice cubes all the way down. Then we snuck out of Florida during a thunderstorm and used an overcast evening and driving through the night to make the trip tolerable. Tolerable. But now, on a daily basis, there are moments when I'm sitting in traffic in a car that, even with the windows down, has heated up to 120 degrees. I suppose I should get it fixed, if I had the money. See #2.
1. World Cup Soccer. This was the unexpected pleasure of the early weeks of summer, and things seemed a bit emptier once it was gone. Getting up early to watch games, seeing my daughter interested in the first sporting events in her life while learning players and lingo and even discussing strategy with a coach, being part of the collective American experiences at the Tremont Tavern, packing into a sports bar in Charleston for America's final game, crying, nay, weeping over Germany's elimination, cheering on the filthy Dutch at the end--I was very happy to be a part of it. And I can't wait for the next one.
2. My daughter's 21st birthday. Both seeing her joy at reaching this milestone and getting to put on a celebration for her made for one of the summer's better nights. As someone who likes to think that he can express love through cooking, this night was an attempt to do just that, and having friends there to share in that experience and to assist me made it memorable. And, of course, cooking paella outdoors on a grill is a primal experience not to be missed.
3. Charleston and New Orleans. The two are seen as somehow bookends of Southern culture, almost competitors. And while both may still have echoes of the Old South, in many ways they couldn't be more different. Charleston is charming and coherent; New Orleans is casual and slack and contains so many conflicting layers of history that almost every block is a different New Orleans. I had not been to Charleston before. I will be back. But, New Orleans has my heart. And taking my younger daughter and a group of her friends down there and showing it to them helped me to see it once again with fresh eyes.
4. The Play. I spent the better part of two weeks in Florida writing a play, or part of one. It's not one that you're likely to read, because it would probably get me fired, people being touchy the way they are. I sent a first draft to a friend who critiqued it pretty hard, and that knocked me off my game for awhile, but I plunged into Act II and revived myself with the challenge of trying to manage a conversation with six characters and trying to get them to sound different from one another, an endeavor both intellectually stimulating and physically exhausting.
I enjoy all of the seasons, but I will have a hard time letting this summer go, will undoubtedly do my best to extend it in whatever ways possible. I hope yours was memorable, too. Onward.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The Road - Matt Costa (mp3)
Last year, I offered a less-than-glowing opinion of runners. Mostly I was having fun with it, tongue planted in cheeky places, poking the proverbial beehive with a stick.
controversy between cyclists and pedestrians on one of our noteworthy stretches of public real estate better known as "Riverwalk." The drama concluded with a decision to continue allowing both wheelers and walkers... for now.
Cyclists -- don't call 'em bikers, dude; they're CYCLISTS -- have been a growing population in Chattanooga over the past few decades. As the smog of the '70s and '80s lifted and we became a greener, granola-friendlier locale, more people have come here wearing North Face and Birkenstocks and spending their free time kayaking, rock climbing, and cycling. Frou frou crap straight outta Stuff White People Like.
Several readers of this blog are cyclists, as are several other friends and acquaintances of mine. All of them seem like decent enough people, the kind of people who fight for freedom, justice, and the American Way. People who walk grannies across the street, who stop strangers from taking candy from cuddly widdle kiddies, who will spend thousands of dollars on their dying pet to make sure it receives Hospice care.
But at some point in the past five or six years, cyclists in Chattanooga passed a tipping point. They started multiplying like bunnies or something. What used to be one lone biker trudging down the road has mutated into a cyclist's Hell's Angels, with five, six, sometimes 10 health-obsessives, all wearing sponsorship gear and funny looking alien technology helmets straight out of that crappy Independence Day movie. I almost expect them to have matching tats like dudes in the military or in frats.
While the rest of us have some place to be -- which is why we're in cars -- we're now obliged to wait patiently behind them as they bolt down the road at 25mph. Cyclists on the open road are the new tractors, the new old women who can't see over their dashboards. Except instead of old and pissed off, they're young and well-conditioned and pissed off. They're trying to beat their fastest time, and all these losers in their gas-guzzling vehicles think whatever they're doing is more important than that?!?
But here's the thing. Most of what those people in cars are doing is more important than besting a previous time cycling down a stretch of road. Yeah, I get that everything is relative -- hell, I practically repeat that phrase like I have Tourette's -- but in almost any comparative scheme in life, one day of exercise just ain't that mission critical compared to getting to work on time or picking up your kid from school.
News flash, biker people. The older and slower you are, the higher you climb on the Right of Way Priority List. Retired grannies in wheelchairs trump everything. Wheelchairs trump walkers. Walkers trump runners. Then people on Big Wheels, then rollerbladers, then skateboarders, then cyclists, and so on and so forth until you get to truckers in big rigs. You are not equal to walkers. Walkers win. Truckers lose. You're somewhere in the middle.
If walkers or runners start making a habit of taking up a stretch of paved asphalt built for the primary purpose of allowing me to be a more efficient worker bee, and if they copped a 'tude about it when motorists dare to think they should move... they'd better buckle up for an increased assault of negativity as well.
As Dirty Steve said to Billy the Kid in "Young Guns," so I say to my cyclist pals: "Apologies Billy. We was just hackin' on ya." Nevermind that Billy goes on to explain that he recently killed a man for hackin' on him.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Heck, even the zombies in Dawn of the Dead gravitated towards the mall.
It is my sense that retailers are still being tentative, are still trying to reel us in with too many strings attached. The place where my daughter works, which I can't name, let's call it Pineapple Nation, had a huge sale a few weeks ago, 40% off. But that was only if you used your Pineapple Nation credit card. Wait, so in order to get a good buy, I've got to get sucked back into the same kind of crappy credit trap that helped get us in trouble in the first place? No, thanks.
When I was a teenager, there was a record store that would, once or twice a month, have sales that didn't start until midnight but that allowed us to get three records for what we would normally spend on two. Do you think that place wasn't packed? Do you think it wasn't an event for teenagers who came from all over the city? Do you think it didn't boost sales? It broke every rule of marketing and profit margins, but it worked. And no one cared that they had to increase the price by a dollar every couple of years.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Valessa - Glossary (mp3)
Did you know that these companies can track, with mind-blowing accuracy, what songs get played where and how many times across most media formats? At present, humming earworms like "Blame It On the Rain" at your desk is still beyond their reach, but give them a few years.
I'll get back to this. First, I have an important statement: Devo can eat my gnarly, grody to the max shorts.
The first time was de rigueur at this point. I'd posted two of their songs. Lawyers didn't approve. They sent cease and desist orders to Box.net and Blogger. As our side note says, I quickly and respectfully removed them, as I always do upon receiving notice. I then re-published my complimentary review of Devo sans music.
This is where it gets fun.
Four days later, the post was again removed for copyright violation. Assuming this time was somehow an error, I reposted it with no changes, and three days later, it was removed again.
I want you to think about that for a minute. Lawyers demanded the removal of a post, without any copyright violations, that proclaimed good and complimentary things about the band they represent.
So here's my new post, and the lawyers won't get this one removed, because it won't have any music on it that they care about: Devo's new album isn't that good. It's certainly not good enough to survive a boatload of lawyers and their fees rowing along the waters of pop culture.
This is why, this is why, this is why they suck.
I spent last Thursday at a really cool living room concert with members of the band Glossary with a dude named Duquette Johnston opening up for them. These cool and dedicated folks played with the kind of relaxed swagger and passion that reminded me what being a great modern musician takes. It takes being able to play in a living room, with only 40 or so people sitting around, most of them mostly paying attention, yet pulling it off like you were at Radio City Music Hall.
You don't need a stunning voice like Dennis DeYoung. You don't need to chop a guitar like Clapton. You just need to hit the notes and do it with a presence that lets everyone hearing you know you mean it, that it's coming from somewhere deep and valuable inside you.
Duquette was kind enough to chat with me in the kitchen between shows about his experiences with the kraken known as The Music Industry. It's devoured and destroyed more musicians than it will ever save. Some of the better ones figure out how to work around it. Superdrag, Patty Griffin, Nate Ruess (fun., The Format) and others have been determined and amazing enough to come through the jet engine alive.
But how many others -- hundreds? thousands? -- had their talents murdered by the same kind of idiots that now work for Devo (and, to be fair, Rush, who has done the same thing to me)?
As if anyone who truly loves music needed one more reason to hate the industry.
"The Music-Copyright Enforcers," a detailed piece in New York Times Magazine, is as even-handed and fair a piece on the music industry as you'll find. Reading this piece, you can't help but appreciate the significance of BMI's role in the Business of Music. Music is that rare product of creativity that, like kudzu, can grow and spread almost uncontrollably, and unlike architects or oil-based painters, the creators of these strings of notes and lyrics have virtually no way of keeping a leash on their creation and earning what is, debatably, due them. [NOTE: The awesome co-creator of Creative Commons, is quoted late in the article.]
Read some interesting responses to this on TheNashvilleScene's site. Especially the one about record stores:
Lately ASCAP has been hitting up independent record stores asking for fees. There is an exemption for record stores since we sell the music we play in-store but the greedy bastards have been sending those letters, hoping to dupe some unsuspecting stores.Life would be too easy if everything were as black-and-white as Sarah Palin sees it, if there were bad guys and good guys and no one in-between. But for all the nuance and good intentions, BMI makes me seethe more than smile. They work against The Better Angels of Our Nature, as Glossary might say.
Oh yeah, and I guess you better start getting ready to pay a few bucks for the "privilege" of singing some Billy Joel song at a karaoke bar. Yes, BMI, that deserves a big fat WTF.
If the Music Business is right about one thing, it's that too many people steal too many songs without doing anything to help money get into the hands of the artists. Please consider joining eMusic, buying a few dozen songs each month, and helping some passionate and creative artists make a few bucks the right way.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I admit it. I do not like things stuck into me. Especially needles. Safe to say, when the Bloodmobile comes around looking for donations, I am not the first in line. Nor, am I the last in line. I am not in the line at all.
So, when a simple visit to the doctor's last week for something with my cheeks or jaw yielded this comment, "Let's get some blood and see what that tells us," I got something I hadn't bargained for--needles stuck in both arms.
My fear of needles comes from a single incident in the fall of 1977 when I contracted mononucleosis during my junior year of college. If you've not had mono, then you may not know that they check the progress of your mono by looking at your blood. If you've not been to college, you may not know that there exist places called "health services," or something of that ilk. If you didn't go to a university that has its own hospital, then you may not know that health services is staffed by some combinations of interns, cast-off nurses who couldn't get a better gig, and people who are pretending to be doctors a la Decaprio in Catch Me If You Can or who just want to try it out a little to see if medicine is for them.
During one of those "blood checks," the nurse or nursing student could not find the vein in my arm. I was sitting in quiet terror, watching her face at the time, not being all that inclined to watch the actual needle puncture my arm, so I saw the confusion and frustration on her face, and I saw that change to a kind of "what the hell" resignation and I immediately connected that look with sheer pain because at the other end, she had just decided to go for it. I guess she figured, 'If I just stick it in his arm, I'm bound to hit some blood eventually.'
And she did. What else she hit, I guess I'll never know, but my brain was screaming, 'Bone marrow! She's after bone marrow!" If she decided at that moment that, hey, it might be fun to become a dentist and drill people's teeth and occasionally hit a nerve that hasn't been deadened, I wouldn't be surprised.
You might think, therefore, that last week's experience involving needles stuck in two arms would be even worse. Fortunately, that was not the case. Here's why:
1. I've learned since my shy college days to talk a lot to the people who will be poking, prodding, and jabbing me. It helps to remind them that I'm not a cadaver sitting there to be experimented on.
2. This is the important thing: she was a real nurse.
Now, my wife, who has her veins invaded fairly regularly, swears that males nurses are the best. I'm sure they are in some ways, maybe even in drawing blood. But "Talkative Bob," even with that thought in the back of his mind, was not going to even think it while this petite woman was tying a rubber tourniquet around his right arm, wasn't even going ponder it while she tapped on his expanding veins, had pushed it out of his mind by the time she said "You'll feel a small prick." Insert appropriate joke here. And I did and it wasn't too bad, but since I wasn't looking at the actual mating of needle and vein, I was instead watching the disappointment on her face. 'Oh, no,' I thought. 'Don't go for it.'
She shook her head. "You know what," she said, "This isn't going well. I'm just going to try the other arm."
"I think that's a good idea," I said, though I don't know whether I did or not. I just knew that the needle would be out. However, briefly. And that meant that my life juices would stay inside me for a little while longer.
As Herman's Hermits once sang so famously, "Second verse, same as the first." So, tourniquet, tapping, warning, prick, not looking, conversational, but no disappointment from her. No, apparently, she was happily filling vial after vial like it was maple syrup, only redder and faster and mine.
And that was it. A bandaid on the failed arm. A piece of gauze and that cool purple tape that sticks to itself on the giving arm and I was done.
So, to sum up. Insights--none. Lessons learned--none. Increased comfort about next bloodletting encounter--little. Decreased memories of the fall of 1977--nope. Gratitude--yes. God Bless You, little nurse. Don't forget that I told you how good you were so that next time you will again proceed with absolute confidence, while I quietly await my doom.
Monday, August 2, 2010
After some contemplation and discussion, Billy and Bob are taking a week of "mental leave" from Bottom of the Glass. We promise it will only be a week. We will return next Monday, August 8, with what promises to be eye-popping revelatory insights into all of the worlds problems and maladies.
We appreciate your eyes and time, and we hope you'll miss us terribly in our absence. Not, like, stalker miss us, but, you know.
Billy and Bob
or Bob and Billy