Sunday, December 19, 2010

Are We Half Way There Yet?

A few issues here: Yes, a big part of my argument here is against seeking out informed opinion from internet nobodies, and here I am blogging about it. Harr, harr, it fits the modern definition of irony (but frankly, isn't). Also, it may or may not be worth any frustration on my part, but I'll make the noise anyway.

I encourage you to read the following article posted on a really wonderful movie blog I follow:

'First Genuine Female Comedy'

My first problem here is essentially a technical one. This is the future of journalism. While the internet is the most democratic thing to happen to modern man since the printing press, it also waters down the flow of information, there's Roger Ebert, then there's that guy who lived in your dorm and wouldn't shut up about Jim Jarmusch. Now, I've followed /Film for some time, and Sciretta is no hack, but  it's really the principle of the thing. 'Trusted Source' has no meaning left, even outside of the realms of arts and entertainment. All of this is a sort of preamble to my real point, I just wanted to make clear my frustration that I'm not annoyed by a film review, I'm annoyed by dribble masquerading as a film review, but in an arena or day and age where it's likely to be given credence despite being dribble. Am I only perpetuating the cycle? Well, that could be argued, but I think not.
     MY REAL PROBLEM comes from the Idea that the 'First genuine female comedy' was directed and produced by men. Yes, It was written by women, and largely stars women, but in 2010 am I insane to expect a comment like this to be attached to a project top-to-bottom created by women? How many films have made it into our national cannon with a creative team made up entirely of men? This just strikes me as patronizing. "You girls wrote a little film! and you're going to act in! Well,we'll just have Judd and Paul keep an eye on you..."  'A League Of Their Own' was about empowerment, starred Gina Davis and was directed by Penny Marshall. While written by two men, it was adapted from a story by Kim Wilson and Kelly Candaele. Maybe that film was the first "Genuine female comedy"? "Now And Then", while technically a drama I guess, was written, directed and produced by women. Hell, the second unit was directed by a woman and the head carpenter's name was Sara. Guess who just got a lot more respect for producer Demi Moore?
     My best guess is that the distinction lies in subject matter, that the jokes, personalities, and story line are very closely related to being a woman. Having not yet seen 'Bridesmaids" I can't speak to that. We'll try not to get too worked up over the fact that 'The first genuinely female comedy' is about a marriage (why not being named CEO of a Fortune 500?) and cross our fingers that there's a minimum of cattiness. I'm not even getting my hands dirty with that potentiality. But reading the 'reviews' you find that among other things, it's praised for being "Not too girly"....and I just don't even know where to begin with that.
     Again, a big part of my frustration here is my own awareness that I'm getting worked up on the words of strangers, That the person who made these comments doesn't know any better, and the whole thing is basically small potatoes. But as online writing is probably the future of journalism, I imagine we'll only see more of this to come. 
     Beyond the somewhat...scholastic issues, I also want to recognize that women don't need me to fight their battles:

...Yeah, that guy's what the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come showed me- don't let me stumble in his direction. I recognize that any time a young, white male opens his mouth about any gender/race/sexuality issue, it's a minefield. I'm trying to tread lightly here. Hopefully, none of this will be taken as patronizing.
     I want to ask the question, and it may be answered in the fact that this comment comes from an uninformed source, but: Why is this new movie special?
   And maybe here's the real problem on that technical level: /Film is a pretty well respected Blog, Time magazine named the site "Best Blog" in 2009 (Now that, maybe, is irony). But here they are, publishing Tweets from film goers. That kind of open-sourced 'news' is distressing. I want rigorous checks, I want peer-review. I want Encyclopedia, not Wikipedia.
     I'd also like some genuine progress.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Short Poem, And I Apologize For My Laziness

One day we'll take a ride in my paper boat
Float down the stream where the otters go
Just me and you together on a sunny day
Laughing, holding hands as we sail away

From the paper deck we can watch the skies
Counting all the clouds as the shapes fly by
In my paper boat we can go anywhere
We'll pack a lunch, a picnic we can share

Me and you sailing down the lazy stream
Maybe things aren't as bad as they can seem
Cause I got my paper boat and I got my girl
Think I'll play a while in the park of the world.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How To Break The Law

*This poem is about two years old, and shows clear signs of shameless Leonard Cohen wannabe-ism. It's notable for me, personally, because it's a poem with no water or plant-life imagery, which I tend to use overmuch. I have been writing prose exclusively for a few months now, and thought maybe sharing this would help ease me back into the habit.

How To Break The Law

So I hitched a short ride with a tall police officer
She wrote on my hands with a black magic marker
One it said guilty the other palm readin' stoned
A public execution when i'd like to be alone
So the crowd gathered 'round old friends and strangers too
But no where to be found was the lady in blue
She'd wandered off haunted by her own cruisers lights
The bright blue and red, the sirens had got deep in her mind
So the stoning was canceled and we all got a torch
I went to her alone with the touch of a church
We finally found the girl she was crouched and alone
Her badge it was dirty and her skin it felt cold
She'd fallen asleep on a playground swing set
So I lifted her up and my back it was bent
I carried the load off out of those woods
And laid the girl to rest on the attics floor boards
We sat in that tower of wood and old clothes
And she finally woke up, and the girl didn't know
Where her badge and her gun had both flown off to
And I said, little girl, the law it left you.
You're broken and wrong, but kid that's ok
Cause you're in my attic now and here you can stay
Up here it is warm and we got grandmas old things
We'll put on a play- i can write if you'll sing
You don't need that rule, you don't need no force
It's just you and me now so we'll lock the stair's door
So we sat up in that room with the windows flung wide
And now without the law's cructh she learned how to smile.

*As always, I welcome comments and critique.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Met By The Queerest Little Fellow

I spent the past few weeks, before heading to Sarasota, back home with my parents. I had my grandfather's car, and nothing but free time. My allergies were giving me hell, and as the only really serious coffee drinker in the family, I headed one morning to the local big box bookstore, as it is, sadly, the only coffee shop in Gastonia. I walked in and found a few graphic novels to read and ordered my embarrassingly sweet little drink. The cafe section of the store was lightly populated, so finding an empty table was no problem, but one customer caught my eye. He was wiry, more so than myself, with chunky, spiked black hair and a faded denim jacket, he sat reading Utne. I stopped dead in my tracks to regard him, caught off guard. He looked up at me with a blank expression, before his features twitched into something that could only be both smile and frown. How he managed that, even I don't know. "Well, Hi." I said after a beat, surprised to be speaking first. He echoed my greeting as though it was a question, and I joined him at his table.
"Do you still read this?" he asked, holding up his magazine. The immediate launch into small talk, as though the meeting were perfectly natural, made it clear he was exactly as I'd remembered. "No, not at all, actually" I said.
"figures" he replied, screwing up his face into a grimace. "What are you reading?" he asked, with an emphasis that might have conveyed contempt. I made a note of it as he grabbed my stack of books. "Jesus, comics?" he asked, laughing. "Well, cool, I guess. I mean, why not, huh?"
"I read other stuff..." I offered meekly. He made another face as he tossed them on the floor beside his chair, before leaning in on the table. "No, I mean I don't want to be a dick or anything about it, you know, a snob or anything."
"But you're offended." I offered, leaning back, reminding myself he should NOT make me nervous. "Disappointed." He countered, grinning. I squinted at him, and said, "Good thing I know you're going to get more charming." He appreciated this, his body opening up as he leaned back, laughing. For the moment, our postures matched as we regarded each other. "Starting right into all that, are you? Well, why not." he was silent a moment, his gaze out the window. "So. What was the last song you heard, before coming in here?"
"It was actually Josh Ritter's new album." I told him, grinning slightly. It's  hard to fully convey how much we were both enjoying this little game.
"Aw, You're kidding! I thought for sure it'd be some crazy new band you could turn me on to, get me ahead of the curve..."
"Now you're just being cute again. This is kind of a rare opportunity, and you want to take it to just amuse yourself? I mean, I guess I'm amused too, to be fair..."
He got that look I recognized, the one when he feels a slap is deserved, but not worth the effort. "Now who's being cute?" he mumbled. That's right, I thought. That look is usually followed by petulance. "So. Amy?" he asked finally. My heart kind of fluttered. "No.", I answered simply.
"Figures. Recent? While back? How is she?" he asked, with his typical, transparently feigned nonchalance. I cleared my throat and leaned forward, taking a deep breath. "It's been a few years, actually. It's been over a year since I heard from her at all. She...well, she kind of hates me." He was silent for a long moment, his gaze seemingly locked on something out the window. "Well," he said finally. "so much for loving her to see us like this." He cleared his throat a few times. Not surprisingly, if one of us didn't know what to say, the other didn't, either. Still, I couldn't help but think I had a responsibility to keep the conversation moving when he could not. I decided to get creative before he asked more questions. "I live in New York, now, with Tony." I volunteered, which is mostly true. He seemed to brighten at this. "You're not serious! Well, that's good news, at least." he ran a hand up into his hair and brushed furiously at it, his neck bent and one eye closed. When he looked up, his eyes looked like he was about to cry. "Just...just out with it, man. Tell me." he folded his hands on the table before him like in prayer.
"I travel with the renaissance fair; I'm actually a Tortuga Twin. I don't really live in New York, because I don't really 'live' anywhere; I travel all the time. It's really amazing. I didn't finish college; I didn't even go to Angola like I'd planned. Before working for the festival, I worked for a few years as an actor. Like, honest-to-god paying bills by acting. It was great. I wrecked the Volvo a few years ago, that was terrible, it caught on fire and I almost died. I volunteered for a month in New Orleans, after the hurricane. It was...almost miserable, but wonderful at the same time. It went a long way to making me the way I am now, it was like a crucible. When I was in college...well, things just got real heavy. My brain kind of got out of control, and I pretty much fell apart. it was scary. But I moved home, had a few jobs, a few apartments. Oh, I was an assistant manager for the Gap, that was funny." I stopped myself, and a silence fell. "Go on." he said tersely. Of course. I thought. He's found something he doesn't approve of. "You know," I said, "I'm pretty sure I've already said more than you wanted to know."
He scoffed, "You know damn well that's not true."
"Well, more than I should say. But at the same time, you're possibly thinking the same thing I am about all this."
"I doubt I'll even remember any of it." he said solemnly.
"Right. About the time I left the Gap job, Mimi died. She was sick for a long time, Alzheimer's, basically, and it was really, really rough. For everyone. I didn't realize it at the time, but I'm pretty sure that's what lead me to try and join the Navy. They wouldn't take me, though, because of the Asthma. But, in some ways I guess that's the beginning of the road that led to the job I have now, so the whole Navy thing worked out pretty well..." I trailed off as T-Bone Burnette's 'After All These Years' played on the loudspeaker. Jesus, I thought.
"You didn't mention a girl." it was practically an accusation.
"Well, no," I said, "The travel makes that kind of hard..."
"I don't think I'd want to know anyway." he said, again, kind of petulantly.
"Much as even I hate to admit it, that's not the important part. A little advice- try not to worry about relationships so much. Just worry about you."
He bristled at this, saying, "Damn it, advice? You're not really giving me advice, are you? Screw that."
"You wanted to know about that kind of thing, and I don't really want to talk about it. How many details should I give you?"
At this he stood abruptly, and folded his arms over his chest.
"You know, I think I'm good."
"That's it?" I asked, a bit shocked at his sudden departure.
"You blew up the car. You quit school. You're alone. Glad you've put all those years to good use."
"Woah, Kid-"
"Really, you're gonna call me names now? Seriously?"
"OK, look, I'm not alone, you ass- you sentimental ass, at that- and technically, I don't think you should give me hell about college. And the car was just a mistake. I fell asleep."
"Alright. Lesson learned, man. Roll the credits, play a cute song, I get it." He said, throwing up his hands.
"OK, A-you're being trite, and B- I'm not some damn example of what not to be, ass wipe. I have an amazing job, great friends..." I stopped, and laughed. "And don't have to defend myself. You're being a prick,not surprisingly, and from where I'm standing, the lesson is for me because I can't tell if I'm any better or worse on the whole 'snot nosed punk' thing. So, thanks. You taught me a lot."
We both just stood, staring at each other, my face reading faint amusement, his defiance. I'm not sure which of us crumbled first, falling into laughter.
"Well, we're just silly little bastards, aren't we?" he asked. "traveling, huh? performing...damn. So much for being a professor. New York...well, that just seems cliche, but what the hell, I guess."
I laughed again, louder than before. "What the hell, indeed. You have no idea the sheer amount of "What The Hell' there was."
"You're not telling me everything." It wasn't a question.
"Well, no."
 "Just enough heavy shit to throw me off the trail."
"Guess trying to fool you wasn't really very well thought out. All the same, I'm pretty sure I'm doing you a favor."
"And I guess I should trust you. So do we hug?" He asked, squinting at me.
"You're not actually suggesting that. You just want to make fun of me when I say we should." We both grinned.
"No Investment advice?" He asked expectantly.
"Don't be a dick. I didn't have that advantage."
"Well, technically, you could..."
"The answers no." I told him, laughing again.
"You wouldn't even know what to suggest, would you?" he smirked at me, with his hands in his pockets. I didn't respond, and he seemed pleased. "Even better! That stupid button-up shirt had me worried from the minute I saw you." He sighed, and looked at me for a long moment. I shrugged, and finished my coffee. Finally, he said "Well, look. If you want, you can take the car and drive it around for a while. Like, half an hour or's perfect sunroof weather." I felt my eyes start to water, and smiled. "What's in the CD player?" I asked, feeling almost shy.
"Jump, Little Children. 'Buzz'."
I shook my head, and whistled low.
"God that made you seem old." He said, sounding almost awe-struck.
"Shut up, and take better care of your CD's. You'll end up with none. Look, I should just go. So, thanks, but no. Just...promise me you'll really, really enjoy your ride home. Here," I said, reaching into my wallet. "Here's a few bucks for gas- take a long drive. Through the country, or something." He took the money silently, and I thought, he's thinking this is like some kind of sacrament. And, sure enough, he then pulled one of the shiny beaded bracelets from his wrist, handing it to me. "I'll just lose it anyway, right? This feels kind of...fruity, but what the hell. Just take it." I smiled at the gaudy little thing, remembering. I put it on, and we each gave an identical little half wave salute and separated. He walked out the door as I threw out my empty cup. A quick exit, no goodbye. I should have told him to knock that off. I maybe should have warned him about getting arrested, too, but he'd probably just begrudge the loss of a good story.

I stood in front of the store long enough to watch myself drive by in my old car, young, hapless, and charmingly oblivious.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

When We Sang Along With Windows Down

16-17: They Might Be Giants
18-19: The Postal Service
20-21: The Mountain Goats
22-23: Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
24-25: Josh Ritter
26-...: The Avett Brothers

When I was in high school, I sat on my bed and hammered out the chords to simple songs by They Might Be Giants and felt like in a few years I'd be living out Ginsberg's Howl. I was an outsider, and looking back can see that for most of us who felt that way, it was internal. It was a constant view looking outward, and knowing you wern't quite where you're supposed to be. TMBG sang on a variety of topics and non-topics, so to speak, and for all their quirky, up-beat melodies, there was something sinister hovering just below the surface. This, to me, sums up the Geek experience in High School. The whole thing was just a big waiting game, until either you found your tribe (in college, natch) or the rest of the world caught up.
Defining Lyric: "Now it's over I'm dead, and I haven't done anything that I want, or I'm still alive, and there's nothing I want to do."

College blew down from the hills picking up the mess of my ruined plans. I looked around and found myself-thankfully, in retrospect- surrounded by similarly lost individuals. We wandered in the woods and parking lots; we spent too much time thinking about the timing of streetlights going out. We drank and stayed out all night and the one thing we all hated more than the Greek Organizations was ourselves. We were a gang, a tribe, a coven, a cult. We smoked so many cigarettes, some times all at once. We dreamed of sunning on Mexican Pyramids and for us, the future was a gaping void. There were burns. There were tears. I dare you to look any of us in the eye and claim you've laughed louder than we did in those terrible, Holy days. We were sexy and awful. Either you get it, or you don't. And remarkably, This duo of synth-pop hobbyists provided our dreamy, kinetic soundtrack. Defining lyric: "And I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, pretending the echoes belong to some one-some one I used to know."

You never land easy when things fall apart, and you're always sore the next day. For me, the "Next Day" of early adult hood lasted a few years. I washed dishes, I packed boxes, I sold clothes. I thought I could save the world by driving a fork lift and I slept with my boots on. I walked to work, I payed bills, I loved, I hated, I let go, I was let go of. I got by. I toiled, I changed, I waited, I bloomed. And through it all was a band I probably owe a debt to. The Mountain Goats sing of some landscape where the romances and drug deals gone sour are hard to tell apart. Where even love is something to accept with grim finality; because you can't escape it but can get through it if you try. The ghosts of the Old Testament might still haunt your everyday, and their being chased by Mayans and Romans Hungry for blood. Defining Lyric (god, this one's toughest...) "...And we're drunk all the time, and our lives are a mess; and the deathless love we swore to protect with our bodies is stumbling across it's bleak ending."

I found a life I did not like. I left it after three days shooting a student film, and shortly thereafter, my grandmother died. I tried to join the Navy, but was turned away for medical reasons. I got an actual, honest-to-god acting job. I moved in with a freak show. I fell into a tempest. These are the Twenties you write about. The house was nearly condemned, and I lived in the attic, stifling in summer, freezing in winter. There were concerts in my living room, and the next morning I'd either drive to a middle school to do a workshop, ride the train downtown, to rehearse or perform for students on field trips. She and I met in a show we performed at a bar, and she left her husband and eventually I'd leave that attic. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone sings loving of days like these, the loss, the misdirection, the false starts and  true stops. The crummy first dates and even worse second dates, the mistakes, the loyalties, the broken promises and debts never paid. Defining Lyric: "A job that made you crazy, in  town you won't miss, and the drunks you called friends are a means to an end. And this is the end"

The kitchen was too small for dancing, but the tub had claw feet. I acted and made coffee. She took photographs, painted and temped. We thought to plant roots. they did not hold. She moved downstairs, and I slept on couches and in my car. We continued making love, the song had a chorus that wouldn't end. I rode my bike, I drank too much, and again: I was waiting. More. False. Starts. In the Autumn, a circus came to town and I joined it. That winter found me in the desert, found me changed. My lungs were filled and my stride got longer. I think I became 'me'. The road opened up and rolled out before me; when every door is open, the hallway has no walls. What began with my brow furrowed in contemplation of potential,would close with a war-whoop. Along the way there were tears, shouts, doctors and blood. Josh Ritter narrated this growth and transition like Mark Twain humming, the great story of American dreams growing, dying, mutating, adapting keeping step with my own twists and jumps. Fits and angels, boats and trains, guns and blades, heroes and snake oil salesmen; all of them in my life and coming out of my speakers. Defining lyric: "Every heart is a package tangled up in knots someone else tied"

Still rolling. I'm waving to the shore as I pass by; many by now have children while I have a Pirate ship. I've determined to no longer live my life like a terrier on fire. I've cleaned up the mess and poured my drink. I'm walking city streets and always some where else. This chapter is unwritten. The Avett Brothers, drunk and moody and grim and sentimental will walk me through this scene. Defining lyric: "I want to have friends in whom I can trust, that love me for the man I've become not the man that I was."

Now, I should point out, that none of these necessarily represent my favorite lyric or song by each artist, simply the line that best sums up what I feel, looking back. And that looking back is important, at the time I was living these (mis)adventures, I likely would have shouted a different line, possibly even quoted a different band...but probably not. I wanted to share these connections, because We all have a soundtrack to each Zeitgeist we've made it stumblingly through.

"The future is a stereo, that eats your favorite tapes, the soundtrack to your youth that can never be replaced"
-Josh Joplin

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pithy And Long Winded Are Not Mutually Exclusive

"Show me a hero, and I will write you a tragedy"
                                               -F. Scott Fitzgerald

One of my favorites, that.

Between quotations and lists, this is getting a bit formulaic, isn't it? I'll try and knock it off.
 I made a terrible mess looking for any of my writings that might have been floating around here at my parents house, some of it likely ten years old.
Why? these are relics, these scribblings, these typings. I'm not that person any more. I don't ask the same questions, I discovered cadence (I hope), I've written better, recently; surely!
But I haven't. The only meaningful piece of fiction I've eked out in recent years is my play. And that's in perpetual 'Newest Draft' mode. Here's a good time to mention what is probably my deepest, greatest fear: I am, and have been for some time, terrified, terrified, that my creativity is a finite volume that will one day be exhausted. Songs, poems, stories, jokes; I am always concerned that I am not getting the optimal mileage out of my ideas, and therefore wasting them. This started when I was young, I first remember being concerned with it in middle school. A good friend of mine and I had put together a silly little song detailing the absurd things we'd do as magicians. The melody he'd written was pretty charming, and I asked if we should save it for a song with better lyrics. He looked at me, kind of baffled, and said, "Well, we can always write new music...". I'm not entirely certain I took it to heart. I can't imagine any body of my work that doesn't include a lot of what I wrote in high school and college. And I'm not talking about The Viking Portable Library Of John Wray, I just mean any bundle of scratches I might pass on to a lover or descendant... or therapist. I comfort and flatter myself by insisting I bloomed early. But I've probably just run out of ideas. And it goes beyond an unwillingness to let go.
    As some one who is, technically, a professional comedian now (shudder) I do the same thing with jokes. I analyze, plan, test deliveries, fix, try again...even improvised bits I struggle to find ways of resurrecting. Now, thats an easy enough trap for any one in my line of work to fall into, but I promise you, it genuinely does result in sleepless nights. And of course, this ties in a bit with the whole point of this blog: to exercise my creative muscles and keep me thinking and typing. Hopefully, I can force out some eloquence and charm. If I do find the works I've been seeking, they'll be transcribed and posted here, narcissist that I am. I'm going to try and coalesce some of the fringe ideas I've got over the next few weeks, so, hell, maybe you'll see some NEW fiction posted.
     I really ought to enroll myself in some kind of creative writing workshop next time I'm in one place long enough. But, while that will certainly take care of the discipline issue I struggle with, it doesn't address the fear I have of losing steam. What's the cure for that? Is it a valid fear? And if so, what can I do to stave off the emptying of my reserve? If it's a shadow I'm jumping at....well, could you prove it?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Talking With Your Mouth Full Of Certainty

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity."

I'm going to talk about food now, with apologies to Jax and Rhonni. For people who talk about food because of their food knowledge, not in spite of it, seek out these admirable ladies. Also, they're my pals.

A series of bests:

Pizza: Mark Anthony's, Onset MA
Lamb: Sir Edmund Halley's, Charlotte NC
Breakfast: Hell's Kitchen, Minneapolis MN
Thai food: House of Thai, Marion MA (recently moved from Wareham)
Middle Eastern food: Zaytoon's, Brooklyn NY
Mexican: El Camino Real, Kansas City KS
BBQ: Red Bridge's, Shelby NC
Sushi: Mottsu, New York NY
Fish: Mama's Caribbean Grill, Charlotte NC
Soul food: Mert's, Charlotte NC
"Home Cookin'": Cracker Barrel (I'm sorry, but I swear to god)
Burger: Bob Mcdonald's, Bessemer City NC
Ice Cream: Tony's, Gastonia NC
Bloody Mary: Loring Kitchen and Bar, Minneapolis MN

Special mention must be made for Firebird's, who makes their own Caesar Salad dressing and it is heavenly. Also, Zada Jane's in Charlotte is a runner-up in both the breakfast and Bloody Mary categories.

I encourage using the comments section of this blog to post dissenting opinion, and have a lively discussion. If you feel particularly passionate about a specific resturant, I will gladly accept gift certificates.

Obviously, any list like this is incomplete, limited by exposure and experience, to say nothing of how subjective the topic is. And there are always caveats: Loring is a second for fish, and some of the appeal of Mottsu lies in it's laid back atmosphere. For a trendier, more upbeat sushi adventure, there's Ru-San's in Charlotte and Atlanta. Including chains, Like Firebird's and Cracker Barrel (and c'mon, I was half joking) is blasphemy to some, par the course for others. So all is to be taken with a grain of salt. And this is all pertinent no matter what you're listing.
    So I guess on some level, I'm also thinking of great films right now, because that's what's really on my mind-the act of ranking and listing. I love few things more than the heated defense of great art. But to rank such things with any conceit of universal agreement is just silly. I can tell you my ten favorite films, but it must be understood you might just revile them. There's a new kind of survey of sorts floating around facebook. It isn't new precisely, but the wording of these things is what captures my attention. Usually, the reader is asked to list around ten or twenty entries: authors, movies, books, or songs. But the point isn't to list favorites, just any 15 or so which had an impact or jump readily to mind. Isn't that charming?
    I had a conversation recently with two friends about a film that two of us rather adore and the third in our party very much disliked. The discussion turned to argument because while we were excited to defend the film, our friend could for about half an hour only manage to condemn it as "stupid". once he was able to expound on this, it was again a lively exchange of ideas and opinions. And that's all I ever want, really. Let's all get together and chat, articulately and with zeal.
    I leave you another quote:

"Now is the time to get absolutely drunk! On wine, on virtue, or whatever you may please."
-Charles Baudelaire

Again, I hope to see a lot of new recommendations and such. If you're familiar with one of my entries, and hate it, tell me why. If they excel at something else, let me know, I'll order it next time!

Also, for fun: Email me, ( suggesting my next blog topic. I'll try and have it up by Sunday.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Whoops, There Goes Another Year, Whoops There Goes Another Pint Of Beer

Birthday Playlist:

"greetings to the new brunette" - billy bragg
"bean bag chair"- yo la tengo
"shasta" Vienna Teng
"this is the road" you were spiralling
"long gone" bill morrissey
"Are you happy now" richard shindell
October" eric whitacre
"i won't be found" tallest man on earth
"up the wolves" the mountain goats
"sparkplug Minuet" mark Mothersbaugh
"queen of hearts" Romantica
"let it blow" richard thompson
"yip/jump music" clem snide

birthday present to myself: damn the grammar!

Do those of us born in fall think more deeply about the passage of time? if your birthdays in spring, is it all about new beginings?  for me its all swirling leaves and sweaters, maybe a denim jacket. boots and cider. browns. its all browns and greys and blacks for me though, isn't it?
    people are always asking what im doing for my birthday; i've been thrown some lovely parties by wonderful friends, but most years i spend the day with family. which is about how i like it. i'll  be spending this years birthday at the festival. in my tights. it makes sense. i have invested fully in this venture. it's as much Lucio's day as my own, much of my current happiness rests on his (yes, my own) narrow shoulders. also, its a pretty good opportunity to get good and drunk.
    I realized recently that i have stopped being terrified of my future. ENTIRELY. im not scared about direction, or goals, or growing up, or getting by. good god, im happy with my current path, you know? i'm reminded of my pirate ship analogy: i was for a few years trailing behind my friends with their damn grown up jobs, now i'm waving to them on the shore from the deck of my pirate ship. this is a birthday i face with my head held completely high. i just crested the wave of my twenties, but who cares? i got time. the trees are always dying on my birthday, the weather getting colder and the nights shorter. usually it gets me, y'know, here. but i got a whole big world i've recently discovered is much easier to get along with than i'd thought, and i have everything to look forward to. the day for me has always been dark beer and scarves, and now i'm replacing the furrowed brow and contemplation with deep laughter and crows feet. bring 'em, i say. i recently realized: i was wrong about my face. i don't have nearly enough laugh lines.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teenage Caveman

"Teenage Cave man, rock with skin and bone,
It's the cry of the wild, we cry alone, we cry alone..."
                                                         -Beat Happening

I don't show my pain. I might discuss it, once the worst of it has passed, but I don't seek comfort. I don't plead, I don't shed tears for any one to see. Occasionally, those close to me have seen a breakdown, if it gets to be too much. But mostly, the first wave of grief, guilt, or any kind of hurt is dealt with by myself. Some accept this, some do not. I have learned, through friends, counseling, and the advice of those older and wiser than I am, not to fight this tendency. I have learned that what really matters is how I deal with my hurt, alone. Sure, there's the great possibility that I mismanage my pain, and I've certainly passed through that. But lately, I have learned that if I face my feelings, and let the initial storm pass, I am in a much better position to deal with my emotions rationally, reasonably, and not let them consume me.
This is a coping mechanism that is utterly at odds with classic co-dependence. It makes me stronger, it makes me calmer, it makes me healthier. But a person who wishes more for you to need them than they do for you to be happy, is not likely to be understanding of this. The assumption made is that you are not hurting, have not hurt at all. Never mind the tears shed in private. It's astounding to me that a person could want to see a loved one suffer, that it could be viewed as a kind of testament. Objectively, of course, I understand the logic that leads to this, but I would never wish to see my sister or mother or niece cry for me, would never expect a beak down to prove their love or repentance. To me, the best resolutions to any conflict come calmly. Is this not the ultimate goal? Is this not synonymous with maturity? I've never understood how any amount of hurt could lead to a demand for proof. But I suspect it comes from being unaware of the consequences of one's actions. Often, I am capable enough of recognizing when what I have done has caused pain to another. Rarely do I require seeing this person exhibiting their hurt feelings for me to understand. And often enough, if it does require a broadcast, it's as simple as "You shouldn't have done that". I don't need the proof of tears or shouting. Is that the difference? are there those among us who are unaware of the pain they cause, unless they are MADE aware? Is that why a quiet suffering rings false to them? My privateness regarding my emotions has led me to be accused of being a sociopath, by the exact type of person I am here describing. To me, this rings a bit over-dramatic. I won't be so trite as to suggest that maybe the person throwing the insult is the real sociopath, but the irony is not lost on me.
     Another result of this kind of thinking is a complete lack of serenity. When a person demands fire and havoc in their loved ones, feeds off of it, it should come as no surprise when they themselves are capable of a whirlwind of anger. Every perceived slight, whether driven by their own actions or not, is met with an explosion of anger. Consequences are not considered. The persons sense of entitlement has been violated, and the flood gates open to every negative, hurtful emotion available. Nothing is off limits, and words are said which cannot be taken back. All of this, regardless of target, regardless of audience.
     And when the dust settles, all I am left with is a sense of betrayal. Which is surprising. But something I'd taken for granted was a deep well of respect and appreciation. The truth of the matter seems we had not been two people whose orbits matched and enjoyed each others company. We had something else, and it was based not on a connection to each other, but a responsibility to each other. To me, one definition of love is this: We see the world as a better place for having our loved ones it. It warms us and gives us faith. Regardless of where our relationships lead, we take solace in the knowledge that life can create such people, even after they or we have moved on. I want to hold on to this belief, I want to know that life is good for having given me my grandmothers, both passed; not cruel for having taken them. I want to know that I, and my former partners are better for the time we shared, no calloused from our separations.
     All that I poured in to this relationship was not for a mythic abstraction of 'us', but for the one I gave to. Dazzled and charmed and blessed by this presence in my life, I was comforted that even should it all end, a world that gives me such a partnership can not be all bad. I feel the same way about friends with whom I've lost touch, this is not an exclusively romantic view of love. Should I think on these partnerships more rigidly? Because now, I've been met with one who believes, deep down, that a contract has been broken, and all of its terms voided. there can be no lingering comfort, no looking back and smiling. And that, I think, is the central hurt. That is the tragedy. The waste. My stored up hope that in some way we bettered each others lives, permanently, immutably. This hope was for nothing. I reserve a chamber inside me for continued admiration, respect, and a kind of distant quiet friendship. I want to be glad this person walks the earth, I want them to be glad I do. As hurt, sad and angry as I may be, each day I recognize I get farther from the pain, and it is up to me what I am left with: do I heal, or do I scar? To heal, I think is owed. Is fair. Allowing myself to scar, doing so that not a further slap in the face to all that was good? Do we not owe it to the good times, to ourselves, and to what we once held dear to look back, remember and smile? Or is the virtue in the opposite- Do we gain more, respect ourselves more, by never yielding up the sense of loss?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Sea Story

The sea was rough, and the tiny rowboat was being thrown up on the crest of each wave, and there was almost an elegance to the arc it defined. The clouds were a dark iron, and the thunder rolled almost continuously. The sky was an anvil against which anything could be tempered. Nearly lost in the expanse, the boat was flung forward on each wave, and rocked considerably, but never tipped to expel it's cargo.
     Huddled beneath the sides of the tiny craft, soaking wet, cold, and frightened, two sisters clung to one another, hoarse from weeping, shivering and sobbing. Neither knew how long the storm had been ravaging, it was all they had ever known. The seas were empty, void of any limit, but against a solid, charcoal black rock, jutting up from the waves. The rock stood in the path of the boat, and like an arrow, the tiny craft shot strait for it. The screams of the two sisters were barely audible as the boat splintered against the stone, but neither was hurt. One of the two had been flung directly atop the rock, and the other was clutching what she could of the rocks side, half of her body beneath the waves.She looked up, desperate for the other girl to save her, screaming above the waves and thunder. she went unheard. Her sister, perched atop the black stone, was terrified, feeling exposed, and overwhelmed. She narrowed her eyes to one horizon: Was that the way they'd come? she slowly turned her head, to peer in the opposite direction...did she spy land? She was deaf to her sisters cries as she reasoned through it. If that's land, best to try her luck with the sea...if not, would she just be heading back the way she came? No helping it, the current would take her where it would, and better to die in the water than here, alone on the rock. Inch by inch, she pulled her self closer to the edge of the rock, and slowly turned her body, to slip off feet first. As suddenly as her body was in the water, a wave threw her back against the rock. Pain coursed through her bones, as another impact followed. she managed to grab hold, and slowly, laboriously pulled her self around the rock, until the current grabbed her and she was lead away from it forever.
     While all of this was taking place, half in the water herself, the other sister was shivering and panicked. She soon began, hand over hand, with slips, and bruises, and falls, pulling herself up the side of the rock. As one girl made her way atop the black rock, her sister willfully floated away from it.
     When the girl finally made it out of the water, and had collapsed where her sister had landed, the thunder stopped, and the seas began to calm.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Only Meaning Of The Seed Pods Is "Chance Rules"

*My previous post bore such a striking resemblance to this piece, I wanted to share it, as well. I wrote this in the Spring of 2008, and after all I've passed through since then, it now carries a special kind of bittersweet meaning.

I crushed seedpods under my feet on the pavement. You held one beloved family pet and said good bye to another beloved family pet. We both stood back and watched as he gave that sideways smile. Back in an empty space with large windows, we sat and contemplated where our things would go. In this season of insufficient time, less money, and your prophecy of yard sales, we find ourselves sheltering on opposite ends of a town we view with an uneasy approval.

Things are changing, we are all feeling it. I have never seen a moving van so full of potential before today. Particle board and mattresses, a broken amplifier, and a heavy TV we'll all hate for a long time, we'd packed and unpacked one life away from all it'd known.

Capriciously I stamped the seeds, deliberately, seeking out more as you talked to him and held your dog. We'll wane here, slowly shedding what we've begun- this song, this refrain fading out in the medley as we hit another verse, a different song. While we're transitioning slowly, mutating, combining our lives, across town, by the college none of us attended, there's a chapter closing and and a new beginning, clearly, a new volume. As his boxes are unpacked, we go to separate houses, waiting until our own big moving day, our own full trailer, our gypsy family camping for a season.

'Some seeds fell on the rocks, some were eaten by the crows, some fell on good soil'. I wondered which seeds I might be stepping on, like a game of hopscotch. I thought about all the fabled seeds: magic beans, these, or perhaps here the good seed, here the bad. As in all departures, things are left behind. I do this deliberately, as my own form of unsentimental remembering: 'That was the apartment where I left my painting of a tree on top of the fridge'. Also, I do it for a song about diners and long car rides; my own little homage to that lyrical turn. But often things remaining are things forgotten: the water dish, the cell phone charger.

These seeds were doomed when they landed on the top level of this parking deck, I thought. So much concrete between us and the soil, all I was doing was crushing the germs of tiny plants which would never take root, anyway. That which does not have potential can not be canceled. The dog seemed to know, as domesticated pets often do, that change surrounded us all. As if a sign, an offering to the change, you set a new water dish for her, as though the old one had been removed: downstairs, new, fresh water, like a treat. She drank it, and we laughed. Later you suspected she had forgotten about it, and when you sat out to remind her, it seemed like maybe you were right: she returned to it as though it was new.

These seeds reminded me that winter was actually over, we'd been counting our few reliable hints of the coming warmth. This spring will forever be remembered for its cruelty, the way it gave us cold, clouds and rain, only to remind us that spring can not be trusted. There was no telling how long they'd been here, these seeds, how long since they fell from the trees, blown by fitful winds to where I stood. How long ago had this begun, the story that would end with me? How long ago did these seeds land in a place they could never grow? A place where I'd happen along, a catalyst for the inevitable, giving permanent evidence to what was already true: these seeds will not bear fruit.

The Cannon Is Closed But The Manna Still Falls

She handed me an acorn, "For the writer's block", she said.
"Should I write about it?" I asked her.

The previous evening we'd met at the bar and played some pool. We then left to look at the stars, and afterwards an even further diminished party, three of us, climbed the ridge. I had trouble getting to sleep, and when I finally did, it was a dreamless instant four hours long. The acorns were falling, on tents, on cars, on buildings, and occasionally, people. The acorns were a hard green rain that morning,but once on the open expanse of the festival site, we were free from the noise and bombardment. That evening, upon returning to the camp ground, I was again met with the broken silence of a wood slinking into autumn. The pods of growth and potential were everywhere, announcing themselves with a knock. Change is like this, a swift falling down, a quick-or-you'll-miss-it event, and then your world clips along a different road, and you're not even sure you've turned. the grounds were littered with them, all seeds, all divergent paths, all possible trees, all possible food for a squirrel.

On this, our last weekend of our first year here at a garden-turned-festival, the change fell around us. Now, as I begin to embrace a move to the city, a new life planned for myself, The Ground is littered with potential. All weekend, I was careful not to trip on the possibilities, an eye cocked skyward so not to be hit on the head by what was to come.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Cop Out

Trying To Blog Well
Inspiration Far Too Rare
Pressing Gamely On

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Living The Dream Despite Your Best Efforts, Loki.

We walked down the hill, soaking wet, and I said, "You know, if this is a bad day at work..."
"I know what you mean." he replied.

The festival closed at three on Sunday, and the rain again just absolutely had its way with my tent and all inside it. I got grumpy, and I got drunk. I send my half-hearted apologies to my brother's date ("Oh, fine, when you get back you can tell me all about your daddy issues!"); but being herself a like minded Scorpio, I don't believe she was anything but faintly amused by my loudmouthed antics. Also I thank her for the Frank Turner recommendation.

Friday evening I had the great fortune to make a quick buck helping out a film maker I know in recording an album release party for Myron Waldon. Let me say: buy his records. I really, really enjoyed it. I hope the footage I captured meets his expectations. It was an amazing feeling, moving at a steady clip though SoHo, to get to Penn. Station (yep, still hell) and finally to Seacaucus junction to meet Bryan and take the train north. We had a beer at the Junction Bar, and hopped the train to be met by our good friend, and aerialist-in-chief, Jayna Lee.

Saturday was a great day at the fair, and Saturday night brought us a wonderful cheap-beer fueled dance party on site.  My FIRST order of business was to buy myself a beer. Second order of business was to buy a certain Vixen a beer. I was busying with myself with the task of getting drunk enough to dance when a good friend of mine, who is by the way among the last people I expected to show up, did just that with her dog tagging along. Now, for her, bringing Mikey to a dance party is par the course. I told her I'd be more than happy to Mikey-sit so she could have a good time, and she informed me that "Mikey the Purse" would totally get me laid. I was well pleased with this arrangement, and proceeded to wander around with Mikey's leash clipped to my belt. Here's the thing, though- I was much more eager to just enjoy the party, play with the dog, show him off. I was to some small degree the life of the party, Well, one of many "lives of the Party", of course, and really it was Mikey, not me; but the point is made. I'm more social than I am randy, and when the party was over, alone though I was, I counted it a win. Sunday, as I mentioned, rained pretty much for the whole day. We got two shows in, one of which was scheduled for after the fair closed anyway. The evening was spent playing word games with the delightful ladies at the hair braiding booth; and finally we retired to the pub. By that time I was cranky enough that six songs in the jukebox couldn't save me. I'm pretty sure I slept backstage, but some how woke up in my tent. Eight AM rolled around and I was soggy, hungover, and ready to get the hell OUT of those woods. So I packed a bag and started walking. about 2 miles out the rain came back, with a vengeance, and I stuck out my thumb. I got a ride to the station, changed my clothes, and grabbed coffee and and a sandwich at the deli across the street.

It's all part of the adventure.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Good News Is, You Can Get A Tarot Card Reading For Ten Dollars.

"I lived with them on Montague Street
In a basement down the stairs
There was music in the cafés at night
And revolution in the air..."

-Bob Dylan

"Tangled Up In Blue" was released in January 1976. One year later, on the self- same Montague Street in Brooklyn, Haagan Daz opened their first retail store. Today, the street boasts a Radio Shack, a Subway Sandwich franchise, a Sprint store, and a few other embarrassments. To be fair, the diner and the candy shop are open 24 hours. Now, don't get me wrong; I absolutely love Haagan Daz Ice
Cream, but last night on a four AM walk to the Promenade my little heart sank. This song has been important to me for a long time, and in many ways, just as much as On The Road, I fancied myself growing into the narrative. But it's 2010 and let's just say, well, The times they are a-changin'

A further walk down the promenade reveals a breathtaking view of downtown Manhattan south of the Brooklyn Bridge. The sky line is marred, though, by a giant Verizon logo on the side of the building. I recognize that I'm a little late on this rant, but it's biting especially hard when I've got Dylan on the brain.
It was four in the morning and I sat at the diner enjoying a slice of pie, thinking about the passage of time, and the Starbucks a block down. This, when I look back, will be where there was "Music in the cafés at night".
Let's be real. It's going on; this gentrification, this modernization. I get it.  There are enough college sophomores complaining about it that I don't need to join in. And on some levels, I'm pragmatic enough that I don't feel the need to. But there's something about wrecking the zeitgeist captured in a song that stings much harder than the generalized knowledge of what once was. I made a brief mention in an earlier post of songs as artifacts and this reinforces what I was trying to say. With my two visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art I thought a lot about the fact that the majority of pieces there, probably an overwhelming majority, once functioned as tools in everyday life. The pottery, the stemware, the weapons, the furniture. And now, they're preserved behind glass and their one function is to be looked at and studied. What Inca villager had this in mind when weaving baskets? If songs are artifacts, what's their destiny? Digital media threatens our exposure to the arts in the same way Kudzu vines threaten our botanical gardens, and I do think there's a downside to limitless access to music: inundation. The Truly Great Art will be hidden behind the truly accessible. What will rise to the top? Similarly, let's be real: every charming, café, bistro, or boutique is really nothing more than a capitalist venture, scarcely different from any big box or chain in it's own infancy. But we prescribe virtue to saving the small, the intimate, the local, and rightly so. Some personableness is sacrificed when changing from "neighborhood haunt" to "locations nationwide". How on earth do we make informed decisions when choosing what to celebrate and embrace?

The point, in this which clearly rambles, is this. Preservation is a priority we seem to be forgetting, and it's impossible to say how far it will go. Sure, I just employed a 'Slippery Slope' argument, and I recognize that it's a bit alarmist to do so.

But, Damn. I was pleased as punch to be walking down Montague Street, feeling like I Was There...

Right up until I saw that Radio Shack.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Hummingbird Tags Out

Anthony and I discussed the initial high I've been on now that I'm in the city. He didn't experience it, he says, because he was running from something when he got here. Lord knows I am too, but just because you're escaping doesn't mean you're not also achieving. It's a funny list of things that brought me here, and I remember a vow I once had that 2010 would be my last year in North Carolina. The Promise of te open road seemed to delay that change, and of course some heartology factored in as well. I feel like I got off of the bus a very changed person. I feel like I have a new habitat, a new direction, and honestly, I think I'm standing straighter. Mother's everywhere will take better posture as a good sign, so why shouldn't I?

A conversation with one of Anthony's roommates touched on being a different person between 13 and sixteen, and my oldest friend and I agreed, having shared those years, that neither of us really changed that much. Now, 16 to 20, and 20 to 25 saw great metamorphosis in each of us. And while I've for a while now hated, hated, all mention of the quarter-life crisis; I have to hang up my pride and admit I'm having one now. You wake up one morning and realize you've got scant two and a half months to be in your late twenties, and you're really not ready. Self-identity struggles are always buried pretty deep, and I swing in and out of that well pretty frequently, but I really believe I'm easing comfortably enough into a new iteration. maybe it's the city, maybe it's that awful mix of heartbreak and bewilderment, maybe I'm just in a bitter down swing. But try not to see this as a testament of darkness or Gothic tendencies when I say the hummingbird is now a Crow. I think one can grow in and out of Animal Totems, sure. I feel less like flitting about these days, and appreciate more than ever the description of one particular hero of mine after his own passage through something-
He was described as, if I remember correctly, "laughing less often but more loudly" (I poured over websites and both of the books I suspected it to be in, to come up lacking. It's very difficult to find).

That, my friends, is the good word on one Gandalf StormCrow.

Genus Corvus need not represent all things dark and deadly. It's just a feeling that I get. I don't know how to make this work, but I'm doing it. Home, Job? What to do, where to go, when off the road? I don't know. I will find the cheapest place to live in the city, I will do whatever works. Is this a new me? Who can say. Will all of this wear off? No reason to suspect it won't, these transformations and plans and changes have worn off before. I've never had a plan come together, I'm the king of dead ends, but damn it somethings got to work- why not the new, weightless, positive, me? I'm not looking to abandon the old life I led- I've been down that road. But there are things of which I will not speak and corridors I will not revisit. I want to be improved.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

An Excuse, But First We've Got Some Catching Up To Do

Surely, surely, he's got a good reason, I say a damn good reason, for this...week and a half lag in updating. Sure he does.

I'll get to that.

I'm at my most thoughtful, ever, and it's getting almost taxing. On some levels I feel like a script, with improving dialogue, dropped characters, and new settings. Some scenes have been dropped altogether, and the writer decided to highlight some of the religious overtones. I feel certain I am gaining better insight and control regarding who I am, but at times and nagged with doubt, that I might be losing that very thing.
I spent two days at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was amazing. To b honest, it was the American wing that came out of nowhere to blow me away, all tiffany glass and period rooms. The crafting was amazing. The deep storage room at the met is probably my favorite part, its just shelves and shelves and shelves behind glass of artifacts, with no context, in some cases multiple versions of the same piece, large busts, furniture, baseball cards... it's a wonderful, wonderful closet.
I also went to the East Village over my hiatus, and Boy! Did I ever love it. Dirty, Touristy, but not like Times Square, and full of Eastern Europeans and Flaming Queens. I think technically it was Washington Square/NYU area, to be fair. And I'm kind of falling for Astoria, too. If you want really tasty pizza and super friendly people, go to Rizzo's.
I'm extremely lucky right now, because at each end of the weekend I am excited to leave, and then return to, the city. Of course, the camping is less enjoyable with rain, but we make do.
We had an incredible weekend at the festival, a ton of fun, hats we an't complain about, and even the rain made the day fun!
I completely realize this post is lacking in any real refinement, but I wanted to get something up quick, to make up for the week off. And about that.... the train ride from Brooklyn to Tuxedo is a tricky one, because the train from Seacacaus doesn't run frequently. So, as my partner and I strolled in to the NJ transit terminal of Penn. Station AND THE POWER WENT OFF it was a delay that cost us. We got to Secaucus Junction with about two and a half hours to kill. How did we kill them? We drowned them in pitchers of sangria. Three pitchers of sangria, to be exact. So as soon as we boarded our Tuxedo bound train I fell right to sleep, and was pretty foggy when we got off to wait for our ride onto site. I plugged in the lap top to charge in the waiting area, and left it there. I didn't realize my mistake until Saturday afternoon or so, and wasn't able to start making any phone calls until Monday. NJ transit: nothing. MTA North: Nothing. Police Department for the town of Tuxedo: success! My net book was picked up by an officer making rounds at ten PM Friday. This past Monday, I was able to get a ride into town from some hippies, and a soft-spoken Moroccan gentleman (recently divorced, probably depressed) took me to the Police station. I retrieved my computer and then rode back to the city. My book bag broke and there was a leak over my seat, I lost and had to re-buy my ticket (an extra 16 bucks) and Penn. station at five thirty was of course a madhouse, but I made it, to Brooklyn, intact, and reunited with my little toy computer. Hopefully, Updates will return to a schedule that isn't stupid. Also, they'll hopefully have some meat on their bones and not just be random stops along my way.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Shuffling Towards The Fair

Bryan came in late last night after Anthony and I took in a truly, truly amazing show: Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, and a special guest, the amazing songwriter Greg Trooper. I enjoyed one of the better Bloody Mary's I've yet enjoyed (You're still number one, Zada Jane's!). We crashed pretty quickly after Bryan arrived, and set out early this morning. Right now we're hunkered down at Penn Station waiting for our train to Tuxedo. This afternoon we'll be setting up camp, getting our sound checked in, and hopefully socializing with the folks up here at NYRF.

I'll take a minute now to briefly mention my thoughts on 'Dinner for Schmucks'.
The film stars Paul Rudd and Steve Carrel, with an excellent supporting cast including Jemaine Clement, Zack Galifinakis, and David Walliams.
Most strikingly, there's a lot more to the plot of this film than any trailers will let on. 'Schmucks' deals more with the unravelling of the life of Tim (Rudd) in the wake of his meeting (Barry). The dinner itself occupies maybe 20 minutes of the film, and it seems to me they were just about to wrap filming when somebody remembered they had the word 'dinner' in the title. The film's greatest accomplishment is Carrell's performance, which brings Steve Martin to mind even more than his previous work. I really do believe this is one of the more astounding comedic performances I've seen, and it's a shame that it should be wasted in such a bland outing. Rudd again plays the straight man to perfection; while by nature a rarely stunning feat, it is one that should not go overlooked. Galifinakis is of course being Galifinakis, and I am seriously beginning to question his shelf life. The man is remarkably talented and clever, and gave a nicely understated performance, -barely even  a cameo- in 'Into The Wild'; but I'd like to see what else he can do beyond "stuffy haughty or nervous guy'. Clement, of Flight of the Conchords fame, is turning in a fun performance, but I have to echo my friend who mentioned that with that script, the laughs for his character wrote themselves.

On the whole, it's a disjointed, awkward affair, more comfortable with your discomfort than with tickling your funny bone. Carrell provides a lot of warmth and sweetness, and there's lots of zaniness throughout, but the romantic subplot is at times disconcerting. One a technical level, this makes it a remarkable film, as one is not quite sure how it manages to deliver this level of discomfort so effectively. But it sadly falls short the giddy, ridiculous comedic realm of 'The Hangover' or 'Superbad'

All in all, I was rather let down. While I wouldn't go so far as to say it was over-hyped, my hopes had been set rather high. It's worth seeing on it's technical successes, there are a few visual gags in addition to it's mysterious  emotional capabilities. But the primary draw is still Carrell's work here, channeling all of his  his loveable awkwardness, but differentiating nicely from previous work.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Road To Somewhere Is Paved With Something.

So, I want to update this at least 3 times a week, and while my four posts yesterday make it easy for me to excuse skipping today, there's just no discipline in that. While this is ostensibly a travel log, it'll surely dip in and out of other topics. so I will give myself a bit of a free pass today, just a bit,and briefly relay my time here thus far. When I'm a little less ragged there'll be more meat on these bones, I assure you.

I got in last night around two in the morning, and walked a few blocks down 42nd st. to take the train to the home of my oldest friend. He lives in Brooklyn, and initially for this trip I was, I shamelessly admit, a bit intimidated. My biggest fear though, and this is the silly part, wasn't about my safety. It was about looking 'Touristy'. Ridiculous, I know. The trip was easy, and we stayed up until after 5 talking and catching up. Sometime after dawn my allergies caught up with me, in a hellish way, and I paced and coughed and blew my nose. I downed about a half bottle of cough syrup to collapse back on the couch and sleep until 2.
I woke up, showered, and left. A cup of coffee at the donut place, and a few hours reading this months Foreign Policy Magazine; Which is really quite fantastic. It details their listing of failed states, and includes a few articles and essays on various troubles afflicting these barely-governed nations, and the thugs and dictators pulling the strings. is it recommended? Highly. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking down Court,Montague, and Henry streets here in Brooklyn. I had some cheap but unsatisfying pizza, and hopped a train to SoHo to meet Tony when he got off work for the Steve Earle concert...which was actually scheduled for the following night. Brilliant. So, instead, we picked up some beers, ordered in some Middle Eastern food (the  lentils soup was good, the baba ganoush was AMAZING) and caught a showing of 'Dinner for Schmucks'. Honestly, my expectations for the film were rather high, and I was let down. However, Steve Carrell's performance was utterly masterful, so cheers to him for that.

I tried to relay to tony the ebullience I'm feeling today. It's not unlike a high, really, a deep sense of rightness. I think I'll stay, I may never go back to Charlotte. I sent some photos i snapped on my phone to my parents and sister while I was at the promenade in Brooklyn Heights:

Tomorrow promises to actually hold a concert, as well as the arrival of my partner-in-crime Bryan. But for now, SLEEP.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

As Promised

The cutest tiny thing, plus what is possibly the largest cute thing

Thus far, attempts at cross breeding have failed, but i will pay top dollar for my amphibious Belpuga

Cherry Blossoms

You toil down the big blank highway past Richmond. If you're lucky, or smart, or had the time, you exchanged a few miles on US 29 north of Danville, and caught the slow swell of those hills in Virginia's most gorgeous country. But eventually you sidled up to Interstate 95 like a meeting with your ex ("No, that's my postal service CD"). The monotony is broken as you approach the river, and there's the Washington Monument peeking over the low skyline like the nephew who gleefully spoils the surprise party seconds early. And you think, 'well that's nice'. But for me, it's as you quickly take it all in; there's the Jefferson lit up like democracy's front porch and you're invited for tea.
I find it stirring, I really do. It makes me proud, that drive. It's easy, in these lean days, to get bitter. to get just mad. but we have to remember that we are participants in the greatest social experiment ever. Our country, let's face it, was formed by some pretty snobby intellectual-superior types. This excites me! Our ideals are peerless, here in the Republic.
But let me be real, and possibly get myself in trouble. Hang around for the ending, you'll get off my back.
'Patriotism' really is a bad word to me. I hate it. Still with me? Good. I am going somewhere with this. The ideals behind the word are beyond admirable. But I'd liken patriotism as it's understood today to any vulgar sex euphemism. let's go with 'screw' as it's not exactly mild, but not beyond the pale. "Screw" is a dirty word used to to describe a gorgeous act. Patriotism encompasses something wonderful but i think it's come to include a kind of uncomfortable nationalism, as well. A strong love of country, a jealous defense of it even, is a trait every citizen should posses. But temper it with the knowledge- and acceptance- that we all live in a global community, and have a responsibility to that community. My country is like all of my loved ones. severely maladjusted, but precious to me nonetheless. I absolutely love the foundation our government rests on, and deeply believe that government can make people's lives better, but its done so in fits and starts for, what, a century now?
I don't recall what street it's on, but not far from the National Mall is a church with a neon sign across the front: "A Monument to Jesus" it reads. A reminder that even this close to the seat of government, Americans are cynical regarding their leaders. I love it. It brings me down from the poetic heights inspired by the Memorials, but reminds me that the people on this endeavor beside me are kooks.
Amidst all of the idealism, we're grounded in doubt and pragmatism. I applaud this, I do, but who's up for reconnecting with those ideals? there's a Jeep commercial circulating right now that gets me every time: "this was once a country where people made things, beautiful things. and so it is again."
 To some, the following will be seen as critical, but it's an expression of deep, deep love: My country is so heavy with unrealized potential, and I want to see it unleashed.


I gave up on the Internet as a social tool about a year ago, yet here I am. This comes on the advice of several people (OK, just my Mother) and it does feel good to challenge myself thusly. to update daily... can I do it? I've always got something to say, and frankly my life's gotten so damn interesting lately, how can I not talk about it? This, coupled with the free time I have means a lot of musings. So here we are.
In November of 2008 I joined a cult, a coven, a gang and a family. I fell in with a group of hack wizards who hung up their wands for dirty jokes, and it was the best thing thats happened to me. Since that time, I've been to the desert, New England, Florida a few times, New York, South Dakota, Texas, and Georgia which technically counts as 'someplace'. Our little outfit tours Renaissance Festivals all over the country telling slightly skewed stories. Oh, here:

I lived for a while in trailers, tents, hotels and trucks. Juggling knives, elephants (not juggled), and fire breathing have become normal. I participated in a conversation once about "oh you know, just your average hurdy-gurdy".
Also, I'm one of those guys with an always volatile love life. so that gives me lots to brood about, too.

Adventures to expect herein:

Road Stories
Renaissance Festival Anecdotes
Drunken Adventures
Slapstick & Grief
Arts Criticism
Dating Mishaps
Drunken Adventures, Revised
Brooding & Thoughtfulness
Attempts To Produce Meaningful Fiction
Pug Worship

Set Sail!

Robinson Crusoe's Headphones

If you eavesdrop enough in coffee shops or bars, you'll realize that my generation suffers an irrational fear of being stranded on desert islands. To our credit, we spend a lot of time preparing, mentally, for this eventuality. We plan, we consider, we debate. Commonly, the biggest question is which music to take. And that question's gotten weird, as my peers have watched it go from “which CD's do you take?” to I guess, “what do you download before leaving?” or something. And of course previous generations worried over tapes and albums, but I do think this latest shift is the most significant. So I've been giving this some thought and have come to the conclusion that I could make due with only two recordings:

'Big Country' By Bela Fleck, and Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 ('The New World Symphony')
If I get to pick, I'll take the live version of 'Big Country', recorded at The Quick. And as long as the No. 9 is handled competently, by a professional orchestra, I'll be happy. I do like classical recordings where you can hear the occasional cough, though.

Both of these are pieces that will keep your hope from flagging and you'll possibly even remain in love with everything. They're broad, like landscape paintings put to music. They're inspiring; one is jubilant, the other is resolute and stirring. I'll tackle 'Big Country' first.

As the name implies, this song evokes the broad, glorious American landscape, and thanks to Bela Fleck's Jazz banjo styling, it strikes me as first and foremost a Southern journey. I'm not typically a fan of jam bands; I generally feel that it's true for both the Dead and Phish that their studio work outshines the live 'experience'. Heresy, I know, but I guess really for me it's about separating the event of the concert from the artifact of the song. That being said, this song, to me, is the ultimate expression of what a 'Jam' should be. It reminds me a little of the Bremmentown Musicians, and it seems to have a life of it's own outside of the artists performing it.
It feels very much like listening in on a conversation between a few very good friends who speak an incredibly beautiful language. The excitement builds, they reach agreements, they finish each others sentences, the saxophone is convincing the guitar to just go, the guitar gladly acquiesces, and the banjo comes in to lead them like Dean Moriarty. It's jaunty, it brings to mind all of our best folk traditions. If functions perfectly as an instrumental of course, and thats just as well, because the only man who could ever fittingly compose lyrics for this tall-tale hymn would be Mark Twain.

Antonin Dvorak, as a Russian, managed to capture what so many foreigners do and so few Americans ever can: the true scope and grip of our country. Outsiders don't take anything for granted. The New World Symphony is a sort of imaginary train ride through the whole nation, from coast to coast, New England, bayou, desert, Rockies, and plains. It evokes the Industrial Revolution, the Civil War, and the first World War. It's darker than 'Big Country', but with a glimmer of hopefulness that keeps it from receding into melancholy. To me, this piece has always been a kind of call to action, a stirring anthem to embrace that which makes us great. In its minor tonality, it also highlights the problems we've faced, and all in all, this work encapsulates my feelings on the Republic. Everything I love about our country is there: the people, the vision, the landscape, the brotherhood. But in it's downturns, it also mediates on our struggles with our social contract and our departure from the original vision of our founders. It's both a celebration and a dirge for what the industrial revolution has done to what should have been a nation of farmers; but for better or for worse, has become a nation of builders.

Of course there's much more to each of these pieces than my thoughts of American history and culture. They're both just incredibly wrought expressions, and just plain fun. But for a response more intellectual than emotional (Cohen's 'Suzanne', while an amazing song which I love, would only hasten the desert island suicide.) I'd choose to be left with these two, as they'd help me hold on to hope and sanity. They'd keep me thinking, keep me ambitious, and remind me that we're all on the shoulders of giants, no matter how far from them we may be.

Incidentally, I write all of this while traveling in a Greyhound bus from North Carolina to New York. I'm watching it all slide by silently out my window, and I'm very, very glad I didn't choose to fly.