Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Twin high-maintenance machines"

Again, I'm back to the Mountain Goats. When there is no one to talk to you can always write...

Anyway, I'm listening to "This Year" now. I've heard it before and knew I liked it, but the perfection of the phrasing is blowing me away this time. "Twin high-maintenance machines"? So simple, so perfect describing... actually everyone in every relationship ever. I was going to say teen love or some shit like that, but let's get a grip: we are all high-maintenance machines on some level when we get in a relationship. I kind of like to pretend that I am low-maintenance as far as dating goes but that is a complete lie. I am patient and calm and don't like drama, but just because the engine don't whine and blow smoke doesn't mean it don't need to be checked from time to time. (I know I misused 'don't' in that sentence and just couldn't care less right now)

I was asked once by someone I was dating if I thought they were high-maintenance, so of course I said yes, because they were and I figured that anyone asking that question had to know that simply asking it makes them so. As I've said before, I often don't understand people so I missed the mark by a mile, since anyone besides me would know that anyone asking that wants to be told that they aren't, even if -especially if- they are (which I've already said we all are). I always say just the wrong thing with people I love and usually at just the wrong time, so I'm in a constant state of trying to figure out how to not sound like an ass the next time a friend or family member or bf asks some seemingly innocent question. I usually fail, but at least I know that if I can't run them off with my normal idiotic responses then they must be tough enough to enjoy having around.

This is off course, not what I originally was planning on writing about when I started this. I really did just need to share how much I'm loving this song and that line in particular (again, wow!), but I've just gotten back to sea after going and visiting my friends and basically spending three months on the move with my foot firmly in my mouth.

Not really that I said anything terribly horrible. I just always managed to just not quite hit the right tone and felt seriously disconnected around people. Of course, I've kind of always felt this way around people; that's part of why I hang out with fish. But this time was remarkable in how on the move I was and how many different people from how many different places and times I was around and seeing. I guess it is more remarkable how connected I still felt with so many of these people who I haven't seen in so long.

Particularly in New York, I really felt a disconnect. The time flew by faster than I expected and it was harder to find time with people like I wanted. I spun around like a top on fire (not that kind of top, you perv) and found it hard to slow down. And I was so excited to see everyone that I just talked non-stop or couldn't find anything to say, and with some of my closest friends I didn't get to just sit and hang out or spend time like I wanted to outside of bars and parties.

I did get to see perhaps the one person who knows exactly what I am talking about as far as saying the exact wrong thing at the exact wrong time: Brock. We met at a time when both of us were kind of in a limbo and soon realized that we complemented each other well, partially because we both had a bluntness that often got us into trouble. He was the king of answering honestly questions that weren't asked because the person (usually a girl) asking wanted an honest answer. I would coach him on things not to say or things that needed to be said, and he would coach me on the same. We couldn't see our own blind spots but were pretty good at catching each other, either pointing out and laughing after the fact or, as time went on, warning the other ahead of time that the other was about to say something stupid.

I guess most of my problem is that when I ask a question, I usually don't have an answer that I want to hear ahead of time or I at least don't expect to get the answer I want. If I don't think I would want to hear the wrong answer, then I don't think a question should be asked. Granted, half of my problem comes from me volunteering random information that no one else in the world remembers. I can't remember names to save my life, but I have this uncanny talent for remembering sorid and amusing details from my and all my friends' dating/social/family histories, which I have a tendency to blurt out when something reminds me of it. I, of course, love it when people blurt stuff like this out. I'm always interested in who slept with who and what weird habit drove someone mad or what kind of weird quirk you'd never guess so-and-so has. Unless someone is saying it maliciously, I'm all ears. I figure we all have our excentricities that someone somewhere remembers and still laughs at (with me, it is usually my friends laughing at mine, usually somewhere in the vicinity of right in my face), so I don't find it exceptional or cruel to discuss other folks weirdnesses and histories. Other people do, and this I always forget. It is part of my charm.

Maybe this is why I like this line in this song, the acknowledgement of being a needy, difficult thing right in tandem with the one beside you doesn't happen near often enough or sincerely enough.

"I felt free and I felt lonely and I felt scared."

Ok, so maybe I shouldn't dwell on one thing, but I'm in the ocean and on a boat where I am pretty much working around the clock (seriously, writing this now means that if I sleep today at all before the sun comes up tomorrow it will be one or two hour) so I'll dwell if I feel like it. So I'm back to the Mountain Goats.

I'm listening to "Woke Up New" for the first time (ok, now I'm listening to it for the third time on repeat, but you know what I mean). This one I don't want to talk about because of the poetry of it, because he makes you understand how he feels. This one makes you feel like he understands how you've felt.

Perhaps no one who has ever dated me believes that I know how to sing this song. My heart is made of bricks, built for storms and anticipating them, not so moved except by earthquakes or sometimes hurricanes that really mean it, so I can't blame them for thinking that. But there is life inside the damn thing, and if ever there was a song that I know how to sing, this is it.

Sometimes hearing something put into words like this is too much. It isn't just sad. It isn't weepy. "I felt free and I felt lonely and I felt scared," says it. There isn't this wild sadness or woe is me about it, just this honest terror and emptiness and loss tinged with openness and newness. It is too soon for the openness and newness to not hurt, to not scream, but there is this blank hope in the song, in that moment, in those feelings. This song isn't about that hope though. This is all what-now? howling into the vacuum. You know the hope is there, is going to matter one day, but right at the moment this is sing, it is all "What do I do?"

Ok, I promise I'll listen to something less melencholic (it is fall, so this is probably a lie).

I'm an idiot

(I didn't realize that "I Was Meant for the Stage" was originally written by the Decemberists. and so I sounded like an ass. Thank you to the kind commentor who so politely pointed out my error. I still think the song sounds flat, but do love it. I'll have to think about who I'd like to cover it most...)

Seems to be all songs all the time right now. I'm sick of writing about politics and can't keep up with them anyway being cut off from everything like this, so songs and books and fish and the weather are all that I've got an opinion about these days.

Anyway, I was excited to see that The Decemberists had covered "I Was Meant For the Stage", thinking that since I liked the song and the band that I would like them combined and we all know how I like my covers. Wrong wrong wrong.

I am only just hearing this for the first time these last couple of times and I keep trying to tell myself that I am going to like it, that I just need to listen to it one more time. Nope, it just isn't good. Dull, flat, boring. They fall for the silly indie trap that if you just slow a song down and try to make it sound dramatic it will be something special. It takes more than that for it to be an interesting cover.

I've tried telling myself that I am being unfair because the only other version of this song that I have at my disposal now is the Kiki & Herb version, which is heavy company to compete against. It isn't just in contrast though; the Decemberist version straight up sucks.

Sparkle and Shine

Sparkle and Shine is the most beautiful love song ever. No one can write them like Steve Earle. Really, this man may be one of outlaw country's grumpiest rebel children, but when the man decides to write a love song, holy fucking shit! Simple and pretty, but oh boy what he says when he says it.

I'm a grumpy fuddy-duddy when it comes to love and romance; most sappy shit makes me kind of want to puke. Most of it is obnoxious and more manufactured and fakey-flakey undigestable than Peeps, and I feel like it is sort of fanciful showboating. All the saccarine sentiment is theatrical: acting out and pantomiming love or some facsimile thereof for the sake of having that thing we are all supposed to want. All the supposed-to-be's and crap like that which people check off in a little notebook to see if they are lovey-dovey enough is enough to make you want to shit on a wedding cake.

Point being, sappy though I may be, I'm selective about my sappiness. The curmudgeon in me wants to just hate all love songs and such, but there is that certain tone that can be hit just right that is the only kind of love to ever tolerate being around for even a moment; it is that kind of love where no matter how you fight it or how grumpy you may be there is this other person that turns things upside down. I don't think every love story should follow a happily ever after trajectory, I just want that sentiment of helpless disarm caused by this other person who for whatever reason, in whatever way sends you haywire. I like sloppy love and the ridiculous and of course the tragic when the love is so there that the tragedy is completely lost in the love part (think Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" or Robert Earl Keen, Jr.'s "Billy Grey") or the fleeting but indelible ( Steve Earle's "Galway Gal").

"Sparkle and Shine" isn't so complicated. It is such simple enthusiasm and such a magnificent celebration of another person. It just describes the way this person makes him feel and looking out of his eyes at this vision, at this illumination brightening up his life, you can't help but feel this little swell of joy and peace, the quiet simmering ecstacy that you can only feel in those moments when you can still viscerally remember and feel that dizzy way another person can make you feel. That wasn't meant to mean just post coital feelings. The song does enough to explain it. "My baby sparkle and shine..." Ok, a little goofy, but if ever there was something I wanted someone to think about me or a way I want someone to make me feel, this song describes it.

"I am under no illusion..."

(warning: I've been obsessed with the Mountain Goats lately; this is only going to get worse.)

I like sad songs. I generally don't like horror flick or scary movies. I can appreciate them in their place, but I love sad, sad, sad songs and stories (not that horror and sad stuff are really naturally comparable things, but it somehow made sense to me in the middle of the night in the middle of the ocean). Believe me, I love a happy ending, but I can really get into those rip your heart out kind of stories and songs. This is not the same as the stomp-on-your-soul stories like Faulkner's _Sanctuary_ (this is not one of those dont'-read-it warnings that is meant as a challenge to your honor anticipating that you would pick it up, this is a warning against something no one should ever go through, trust me), but the tragic beautiful. _Giovanni's Room_ by James Baldwin is perhaps my single favorite piece of fiction ever. Tragic books and tragic songs have one big difference: the scope of the story they can share. A book can end tragic or have little tragic bits all along and still give you enough to buoy you up, which is generally how I feel about most sad stories. They only get to be tragic because the other parts are so beautiful. If anyone ever described _Giovanni's Room_ as a story about an execution, I'd be torn between punching them and having them committed and probably settle on giving them a look piled with so much indignation that I wouldn't have any room left for the scorn they deserved. Point being, the tragic in them is contrasted. In so much space, you've got to tell of more than just the pain.

Songs are different. They are shorter; only so much can fit in there. A sad song has to reflect enough of what ever it was that was so beautiful that you can relate to the sadness. The lyrics have to make you care and the music has to hit you just right to take you there. But they have to do it while usually really only telling you the tragedy. The beauty is hinted at, alluded to, mentioned but you only know how bright it was by how dark the song is without it.

I don't know why I love sad songs so much, but I do. I guess my whole thing is that for something to really be sad, you've got to really care about it, someone has to care about it and if someone can really communicate that caring and that pain, then I've got to be able to celebrate it. Often times, it is the sad songs which communicate more love and caring and hope (even if it has already been crushed) than the flat out love songs. "Some one loves me and I'm so happy," well, whoopty friggin' do. Lucky you (this isn't fair at all since I've been writing about how much I love some love songs, but whatev). "Somebody left me but I still love them," whoa, they mean it.

This of course is in stark contrast with my general view of the world and romance, but not really. As a general rule, whenever someone gives me crap about being lost without someone else, my response is only slightly more sympathetic than, "Oh, get a grip. You are better off without them." If I'm close friends with them, I know that if they were expecting sympathy they would have called Mason or Lisa, so I can be even more blunt. This isn't because I am down on love, just I'm don't care to call other things love and have no sympathy for codependence or fear of being alone or whatever other wretched, but oh so human, response to break-ups and such people so commonly have and call love. My curmudgeonliness comes from a tender place, though, so when I listen to sad songs, I let them totally get to me. Of course, this is only if they are well written and well played/sung. If they are just stupid and cheesy (how did we get back to Kenny Chesney again?), they get the same sympathy that most real life break-ups get. Ok, I'll leave K-Che alone for a minute (not because I've suddenly stumbled upon some sympathetic kindness, I just only have a few of his upbeat songs on my computer and figure that if I am going to write about how lame someone's sad song is, then I should at least be listening to it at the time). Luckily, there is always Brad Paisley pick on.

All my music is still in Alabama, so I'm slowly piecing together a music collection from what friends have so i have some random shit on here, including a fairly eclectic country mix. I've got nothing in particular against Bran Paisley, just normally wouldn't include him in my collection, but since he is here, let's talk for a minute about "Who needs pictures?" It is decently written, even if a little to kitschy, but only decently written. With just the right voice, it could be a sad song. When George Jones is in the right mood, he has a voice that was meant to rip your heart out and he isn't afraid to do it. Patty Loveless can do it with her hands tied behind her back and blindfolded. Bran Paisley can't. With a sad enough song, his voice might not pull down the lyrics, but with decent lyrics that need someone to make them sympathetic, no way. I know he has won a hundred thousand awards in country music and I know that he seems to be a likeable new country guy who actually loves and appreciates old country and cares about respecting those that made country something special. And sometimes he picks some good music and is a good singer and a good guitar player and... flat as a pancake. The man can feel the music, you can see it when he sings, but damn if he doesn't sing like a kareoke star. His voice has no soul. It is the soul of a cardboard cut out, not a soul musician. And his musicians are technically great, I am sure they are the best of the current "Nashville sound" session musicians, but the end effect is boring as dirt. Blank music doing exactly what it is supposed to do, blank singer doing exactly what he is supposed to do, decent lyrics having to carry it all and you feel exactly the sympathy you would feel for any other whiney-ass bachelor who wanted to tell you about how a camera reminded him about the girl who dumped him. In some people that might rustle up some sympathy; I just change the station.

This wasn't originally about how sad songs can suck. Griping gets as boring as Brad Paisley's music. I was inspired to write because I listened to The Mountain Goats' "I Still Feel The Bruise".

Holy shit.

As sad songs go, this is a whole 'nother ball-game. Right from the start, the music gets you. There is enough placid kindness in the notes to not just sound miserable, but before you hear the first word you feel the pain. Then he starts singing.

The same thing that was in the music is in his voice, in spades. He doesn't have to push it; these aren't lyrics that could be pushed. And what fucking lyrics they are! The first verse is sad enough; there is plenty of plainly stated sadness for you to know how he feels. Then the chorus slips in and knocks the breath out of you and leaves you sitting there with chills wondering if there is any way you could turn the song off now, knowing that you are going to play it on repeat. "I'm under no illusion, as to what I meant to you. But you made an impression, sometimes I still feel the bruise, sometimes I still feel the bruise..."

I can't remember the guy's name who is The Mountain Goats. I should, but I can't and I'm in the middle of the ocean and don't have the benefit of Google so you will have to google it yourself (which you have to have if you are reading this at this moment). Anyway, my first introduction to him was listening to "Korean Bird Paintings" on some music blog (maybe Thus Spake the Grammophone or Fluxblog). Of course this was right at the moment that he was appearing on the radar of everyone I knew, so I wasn't any ahead of the curve but I wasn't behind it (keep in mind this was in music nerd Brooklyn land, so not being the last to know about a musician like this took some doing). KBP was upbeat and cheerful, this pleasant love song rolls in and sounds so wonderful and you listen to the lyrics and this joy and wonder isn't just happy inloveness, it is past the breaking point desperation/ idon'tgiveafuckness. I had to listen to it a few times over and over again. Here is this crisp little cut-out from this bigger picture, so detailed in its description telling so much about the story surrounding it while kind of telling you nothing about it except that this is where the story has gotten to, leaving you to wonder how it got there and where can it go from here.

Then I got home and as with all new music I ran it past Mason. Suddenly I'm listening to "Going to Georgia", which quickly became a home hootenany staple. Mr. Mountain Goat can write like a motherfucker. He can sing like one too, and plays like he sings, but his lyrics are poetry. Phrased slightly differently, sung/played slightly differently and these songs would be straight up obnoxious, but they aren't phrased differently or sung/played differently: they blow the top off your head. I'm sure there are times he doesn't hit it just right, but damn when he does.

He followed this with "The Best Ever Death Metal Band Out of Denton". That is one of those titles that you want to both hate and love so you wait for the song to see which it is going to be. And it starts as just silly enough to laugh and like, it is just a song about some kids putting together what was probably a wretched obnoxious band and adults reacting the stupid way they so often do to such things. But it takes a turn. There is this dark moment calling this parental/authority reaction for exactly what it is and it makes you love all sincere punk forever. I can't remember the line verbatim so rather than sharing a butchered remembrance, I'll leave it to you find it and listen to it.

I saw him play live once. He played a sort of coffee house tour and played at Fix in Williamsburg. It was insanely crowded and way too hot, but he sang like a manic angel. Don't go hear him hoping to hear some song of his you want to hear live. He informed us that he hates playing old stuff so he only plays things live that aren't on any album yet. At first this made me cringe and fear for what I was in for; my fears were quickly assuaged. Given the chance, go see him live, especially if you are somewhere out of the way enough that he will be in a small uncrowded venue. I'd kill to see him in the coffee shop/bar at the Princess theater in Columbus, MS.

"Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise", like all the best Mountain Goats songs, takes you to exactly where the narrator in the song is. In my mind, this song is exactly the message. I imagine it not as the song version of some conversation, but as written to be a song, to be heard or not by someone who may be or not be in the audience. Sort of hopeful that they are, but assuming that they wouldn't be and that even if they are, not singing in hopes that it would bring them back, just singing it because it had to be let out.

This is the kind of song writing that makes me want to hole away and just pour everything into writing songs. Not because I think I could write like that, although he is the kind of writer who makes you wish you could, but because he is the kind of prolific writer pouring so much in to it that it makes the action of it, the effort itself into a work of art. The lifestyle when well done makes it seem like something worth doing; the few people who do it so well forgives all those who do it poorly by showing the world why they are trying and asks the rest of us why we aren't.

Kenny Chesney is annoying

I like country music. I really like country music and always have. And I can even like some of the awful new country crap that they play on the radio now. This isn't to say that the powers that be in country radio programming don't have their heads up their ass and that they've outdone themselves in shoving horrid tripe down our throats while ignoring most of the good stuff going on all around us. They have, in spades.

But, I like the occasional bad country kitsch. I like silly hooks and punny songs and clever, silly word games. I like fun songs and sometimes even over-sincere, over-melodramatic songs. I totally own that. But can we at least ask that it be done well and can it not be the only thing they put on the damn radio? Travis Tritt and Toby Keith do both extremes well. Melodrama or fun puns, they both excel and can sing and write a fucking song, and do them well enough that we can forgive the way they dress and, if in a generous mood, perhaps even their haircuts.

Kenny Chesney I can't forgive.

Had he been a one hit wonder, then you could not hate him and wouldn't have to be baffled at his inexplicable celebrity, but really, who buys his albums and why? Ok, we know it is marketing and music execs who want the blandest most broadly sellable moron with the greatest minimum of talent to tell adolescents they should listen to and purchase, and someone sold on something bland at twelve often continues into adulthood on such whitebread diets that these stale toast 'talents' can continue on into something one might call a career (I call it a plague). But come on people, he looks like a twelve year-old tomboy in unimaginative JC Penny's cowboy drag and sings like a youth pastor. If he had pigtails and more testosterone, freckles, and attitude, he'd be Pippy Longstockings. He started off interesting enough and had a few likable songs, but instead of progressing into something of a mature artist, his songs have become more innane and vapid as he has gone and his image has taken a similar trajectory. When your fashion has progressed from dressed up for a 4-H dance to metrosexual lesbian cowboy, how far have you gone really?

Ok, so maybe I am being mean here. Kenny Chesney has had a few ok songs and deserves a level of fame, but not as much as exposure as he has been given. I had to listen to mostly crappy new country junk played off scratched cd's for twelve hours straight while working, so I got a little grumpy.

what was I thinking...

(originally written back in the summer)

...when I picked up Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking? I know I liked the title, had vague remonitions of having read reviews that made me want to read it, had seen it praised in every publication I had seen mention it. But I also knew it is about grief and her experiences following her husband's death. This is certainly a worthy subject for a book and something to be read sometime, but why would I choose now to read it? Why was it in paperback and on sale at Borders? These days I do most of my reading on a small boat as far from anything as you can get in the middle of the Pacific, completely cut off from friends and family for weeks at a time, so books about loss and separation aren't exactly at the top of the list of things that one would prescribe for keeping my head on straight. I'm surrounded by people who don't speak English (or speak it poorly) and live inside my head like I haven't done since high school.

But perhaps there is something soothing in Ms. Didion's book. That she is an excellent writer doesn't need to be said, and that this is an excellent book has already been said (and said better) by so many others that I won't bother. The horrible truth upon reading about her loss is that it in a way reminds me that those people I feel ripped away from right now will be there when I get back. Of course that is only comforting so far as it also reminds that this won't always be true.

I'm only about 80 pages in right now, but the portrait of her and her husband and their life and their friends is compelling and challenging. In someways, the depth at which they comingle, inhabit the same space, so deeply intertwine with one another is something that I have always been both drawn to and repulsed by. The repulsion, by the way, comes from a place of being resistant to not being fully self-reliant and an aversion to attachments to things or people which I can't let go of, not from finding it repulsive. This is an aside, but the inevitable irony is that I attach to people and places and things deeply and intensely and faster than anything you have ever seen. If I'm going to go there at all, I'm already there before you blink. A head full of wanderlust and a heart full of homebody; God was laughing when he made me.

I should be reading the new Harry Potter, but wasn't able to get it before I got on the boat. And maybe in the middle of the ocean, away from a reality where people exist and live, instead in a place where we just work and look at the horizon, is exactly the place to read such an intimate book. As I actually read through the book, the fact of the loss and the time spent struggling with the grief get lost in the beauty of the life they lived together and the people who surrounded them. The last few years have been a whirlwind for me, trying to get my bearing and start moving in directions which can sustain me, and reading someone's reflections looking back on a life lived as well as anyone could set out to live one is comforting. The book isn't so spectacular because Ms. Didion shares how she handled the death, but rather because through speaking to all the details surrounding her experience with grief, her voice comes through saying, "I have lost this much."

I hate sonicstage

(this was originally written back in the summer. my opinion of sonicstage has not improved since then)

I'm listening to The Ballet as I relax in the afternoon lull between setting out the gear and hauling in the catch. I'm listening to them now because I can't listen to them while I work, which at just this moment has me pissed off. Let me explain.

After my first trip, the one where I had no medicine, no extra food, and a bobo walkman that ate batteries like I would have eaten potato chips if I had been within five hundred miles of any, I went on a shopping spree to try to make life at sea livable so what had seemed like the best idea ever ("Why don't I quit my job and leave my life and friends and go be a biologist on fishing boats?") didn't prove itself to be the worst idea ever as I had been forced to contemplate the possibility of while puking repeatedly over the side of the boat. On the second boat, I wasn't reduced to hiding corndogs in the back of the freezer to keep from wasting away, so some of this spending spree went unneeded, like the innumerable packs of ramen and cans of soup, but the electronics portion of purchasing has brought nothing but joy. I got a laptop (which I am using at the moment) which has a thousand and one functions which prove handy when cut way off like I am most of the time now, and an Ipod.

I wasn't going to get an Ipod. I was going to get some other kind of mp3 player. I'd spent enough time in Brooklyn surrounded by those damn white earphones and self-absorbed hipstards comparing playlists to have a reflexive revulsion to this little electronic plague. Surely I could get something else that was just as good. Uh, not quite. The Zune seemed cool and almost made the cut, but the online reviews I read had the big complaint of the battery time not being near what was advertised. I needed the little beast to be able to keep up with at least 12 hour work shifts and often longer, so this, along with size ended up being the breaking point. I got the Ipod, and against all my instincts I loved it. I only ever used it on a boat in the middle of the ocean and even then it spent most of its time wrapped up in a zip-lock bag inside my useful (and hideous) fanny pack, underneath my foul-weather gear. I could love it and not think about the fashion ramifications; I'd put it inside a pink carrying case and kept it in a peach fanny pack, for heaven's sake!

Anyway, I loved it. Itunes is great and easy to use software, the ipod held 30gigs, cost way less than I expected and only once did its battery run out on me and that was a hell of a marathon stretch and I can't blame it. I went out and got Pimsleur language cds for French and Spanish (hello Montreal and Puerto Rico this fall) and was all set to go when tragedy hit. Packing for my last trip before this one, I couldn't find my little Ipod! It was nowhere. I'm still secretly hoping I just haven't asked the right person yet and it will rematerialize soon, but I did one trip with no music and my language disks taunting my and I wasn't going back out without a solution again. I was just going to get another Ipod and even flirted briefly with the idea of buying a fucking Iphone, but I, perhaps thankfully, lost my atm card. I was stuck with just a bit of cash for the next few days before going to sea again.

Enter the walkman (I know that should be capitalized, but I dont' feel like capitalizing it these days). I discovered a great store in Honolulu that sells all kinds of Japanese imports, including sony products. I normally love sony. Their computers are awesome, I had (currently missing just like the Ipod) a Cybershot digital camera which was spectactular. Now, in my time of need, here was a walkman mp3 player on sale! Just $99! I had seen a friend's walkman last year when she got it for her birthday and remember thinking it was a beautiful little piece of machinery. They are, as far as looks go. Hers was silver, but they naturally only had them in pink when I decided to grab one. It is shiny and pretty and pink; why am I griping?
Because I've used it.

The controls are ok and as a just a music playback device, I can dig it. The size is right, the audio playback is good. BUT.....

sony sonicstage is the biggest piece of crap fucking software I can remember being stuck with using. First it was a pain in the ass getting it to work with Windows vista, which I'll concede is because vista is new and sucks. But now that I have it working, I completely hate it. It took a couple of days and some finagling before it would recongnize the device it was designed to work with. It slows the whole computer down and balks if anything else is running. It doesn't seem to like letting me listen to music while managing the files in it. The interface is clunky and when you change anything it refreshes the library and plunks you back at the top of the list of your library's contents, not where you were before you deleted or moved a file. Making a playlist is obnoxious, as is managing files on the walkman.

I really, really hate it. And the walkman being an mp3 player, I thought surely I could get around having to use it and just drop mp3 files on it like moving them to a new hard drive and play them that way. you can drop them there, but it won't recognize them until sonicstage has junked them up into a new file type. And I don't have that much music on this computer, but somehow it just won't fit on this little device. According to Itunes I have 6.3GB of music here. This won't all fit on an 8GB device? Apparently, no. So I've been having to go through and figure out what is necessary and what I can cut. And I can't, no matter how I try, get it to play The Ballet. I'll blame this one on Itunes, since I downloaded the album and am sure that is why it won't work, but that does nothing to assuage my feelings of hate towards sonicstage and because of it towards the walkman. If it was compatible with other programs, like Itunes or even Windows Media, I might not hate it. As it is, I can't fit all of my music on it (which is less that the advertised limit), I can't listen to some of my favorite work music (Mattachine!, strangely enough, is the perfect album to listen to while trying to stay awake in the middle of the night counting fish while waves splash in your face), it won't recognize any of my old playlists and the program I am expected to recompile them on makes it a pain in the ass and the program is stupidly slow and slows down my whole computer as it sulks along.

Anyway, sony sonicstage can go straight to hell. If they hope that the re-envisioned walkman mp3 plays don't get dragged down with it, they need to unyoke them from that program or make the program so much better and less painful to use. Detached from sonicstage, at a reasonable cost (this one was just 99 bucks, though granted that was on sale at an importer and after using it I would consider that at the high end of what I would say it is worth), able to function with other programs, and available with more memory; I would then say they had an excellent product that could likely make a serious dent in the market. As it is, I'm not in the least surprised that I've only seen one in use prior to this.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Not Waving, But Drowning

go see:

Not Waving, But Drowning

Wednesday, 10/03/07
playing live at The Livingroom, on Ludlow between Stanton and Rivington in the Lower East Side

since Mason won't contribute the the written content of the blog anymore (and he was always the better writer anyway) I feel perhaps I should alert the world to what has him too distracted to write. He hasn't stopped writing, he's just focusing on music. His band, Not Waving, But Drowning, will be playing this week at the Livingroom in the LES. I want to go, but since I am only in town for a short time and asked nicely for he and his partners in musical evil to have a show while I am in town, Mason scheduled the show for the day after I leave for a wedding in Puerto Rico.

Despite his obvious bent toward evil, you should go and bask in the beautiful tunes he and Pinkie, etc. pull out of the air. I'm listening to them practice as I write this; this is not a show to miss.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Awareness is panic

If you know me in person, you know that I am not known for my fear of social situations. I find awkward situations exhilerating and strangers have never scared or intimidated me. I can normally handle crowds or being alone with easy and poise and roll with the punches without missing a beat.

Sometimes I can't.

Perhaps being too telling (but isn't that the point of having a blog?), in college I was wracked with pretty severe panic attacks. I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive (I refuse to tack the clinical "disorder" on the end) and told I was suffering from fairly severe anxiety and depression. I briefly tried the medicinal route with adderol and quickly decided it wasn't for me as it seemed to do nothing but obliterate my memory (I have had trouble remembering names ever since) and keep me awake and sort of numb. I saved the left-over pills for when I had to drive long distances as this was the only time that its affects seemed remotely helpful.

Therapy and supportive friends and changing attitude and world view ended up let me get a successful grip on it all and not drop out of school as I had almost done, and these days I sail on a pretty even keel. I have the occasional waves of anxiety, but I've learned to let them rush over me without hijacking my mind and the compulsions I can play with now instead of them being a terror or slowing me down.

But not last night.

I don't know what set it off, but I was having one of those nights where I felt like I couldn't find anywhere that I was supposed to be. I went to the Phoenix to meet some friends, but I was getting there late and they were on their way out as I got there. This is not a thing which bothers me: I know plenty of people in that bar and even if I didn't I don't mind meeting new people or just having a beer by myself and taking it all in. Normally this it true at least. The bar was packed and cute and had a fun vibe, but all of a sudden I felt like I was a thousand miles away and would never get back any closer to anything. At least when I'm on a boat a million mile away I can tell myself that when I get back to land my friends and familiar places will be there and it is just the solitude and distance getting me down, but when you feel this way with your friends around and in one of the most familiar comfortable places you know, there is nothing left to reassure you. Where do you go? Who can pull you back? There is no shore to shoot for or at least you end up filled with terror that upon heading for a different one that you would just find the crowded solitude there.

Of course panic attacks aren't so lucid. You are somewhere, the crowd is suddenly separated from you and any attempts to interact leave you feeling further separated and at the same time unable to escape as it smothers you and you feel like it has alway been smothering you and always will.

Which isn't true.

I haven't always been smothered. And I won't always be. I love and embrace the world and all the insanity within it.

Catcher In the Rye and Sartre's Nausea give perhaps the most vivid descriptions of panic attacks that I have read. Catcher's protagonist is unaware of what is happening to him other than the world around him being overwhelming while Nausea's is painfully lucid as he stares straight at the unravelling he is experiences. Both are finding themselves forced to deal with overwhelming awaress of being both intimately and inextricably interconnected to everything around them while at the same time feeling entirely disconnected as everything becomes pixelated and atomized. Finding the poles and opposites that let us navigate through the world and believe in direction suddenly smeared into one another and rendered useless for orientation leaves one feeling vertiginous but without even that reassuring knowledge that at least if you go over a ledge you will fall down. This is the attraction of heights and plunges, both literal and figurative: when you can't find any other direction, you can usually still find 'down' and if you hit bottom you know that the other way is up.

Sarte's titular nausea was that step beyond, where even falling loses its direction and it is all swirl and blur and tramatic lucidity at the same time. Such was my blur last night. All the directions disappeared and I had to follow exit signs out into the street and try to pull my mind back together so I could maintain some semblence of togetherness.

Partially because I lacked the coordination to follow through with it but mostly because of a fear that I might spread my void, I didn't let myself call Canada but called Mason, who has seen me at my worst and would know not to really worry if I call freaked out of my mind. So he was my sounding board as I learned to speak again, finding voice and reminding myself how to divide sounds out of the omnipresent roar and believe again that words can carry meaning. And I slowly regained my grip and was fine. And the night continued and friends showed up and I was festive again.

This all sounds more dramatic than it is and if you have never had panic attacks will likely make no sense at all, but this is what I have for therapy now and a desire to remember and record as I go. The upside of panic attacks is that they free you from some bonds and leave you feeling released and unassailable for a while.

And it is a beautiful day so I'll extract myself from this beastial computer and go enjoy the sun for a while.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

when the shoe is on the other foot...

(note: started this as a draft a while back. Am going back through trying to clean out some old junk which got started and never finished so I can harass Mason and make him finish a couple of things which he has started and never finished. Written 1/31/06; published 9/25/07.)

Just came across this on craigslist missed connections:
Stop Looking At Me!!! I'm NOT Gay!!! - m4m - 30
Reply to:

Date: 2006-01-27, 2:19AM EST

Listen, I have nothing against gay guys, but you have a way of making a guy feel uncomfortable. I know I'm hot, but I like pussy. If you have a cock, you have no shot. Stop the cruising. Stop the ogling...unless you're looking for a beat down... What are you people trying to take over the fucking world??? Not every amazing looking guy is gay. Now you made me angry. Geez!

I'll skip over the most glaringly obvious problem with this post (that being that it is a rant not a missed connection and everone hates idiots who post things in the wrong catogories), and jump straight to the sexist assumptions and a few hints for straight men who are uncomfortable with the attention.

1) just because someone is looking at you on the train doesn't mean that they want to jump your bones.

2) just because a guy is gay and looking at you doesn't mean he wants to have sex with you. Dude, you are in New York City, and I don't care how pretty you are, you aren't the only pretty person and you can't go ten minutes without running into another gay man. This isn't a city of slim pickings. If you aren't giving off some serious signals, no gay man on the subway thinks you are going to have sex with him or gives one good goddamn either way.

3) having established that your sacred man-cherry is not in danger from the leering homo masses, maybe you should chill out about people looking at you. Maybe it is because you are attactive; take it as a completment. Men fucking stare at women like they are slabs of meat all the time and act like a woman is hysterical if they say anything about it, but look at a straight man's ass and he will freak out like you were trying to eat his soul. Yeah, staring can be taken too far either way, but stop being a whiney idiot and suck it up over the casual glances. Grow a thicker skin nancy boy.

4) threats to kick the ass of a gay man that stares at you may be fun to type but try it in real life. No, don't. Insecure bullies pick out the weakest folks to pick on and target them when there aren't other folks around to defend them so I will make no "bring it on" commentary based on the fact that more than a few of us would punch you back and that much as I can get sick of gym-bunny gay boys, they certainly shift the likelihood of the queer being smeared in a fag-bash scenario.

Actually my favorite gay bash story is of my friend R walking down King Street in Charleston, SC when some punk makes a comment along the lines of "Hey queer boy, are you gay? I'm going to kick your ass!" At which point a very large, muscle-bound man turns around and to says to the asshole, "I'm gay, and I'm going to kick YOUR ass." At which point the jerk turns and runs and R thanks the fellow and continues on his way.

The original point of this wasn't to comment on who could kick who's ass but rather on the way that straight mean often objectify women and are blind to how it feels to be on the recieving end of such things. I'm not the type to treat women as delicate flowers who men have to be fawning and protective of, but I am also keenly aware of how differently men in general treat women versus how they treat other men.

sugar, a brief personal history and an inquiry into the cult of exclusivity

(started 5/9/06; finished 9/25/07)

Somewhere along the way, I began calling damn near everyone "Sugar."

It wasn't an intentional thing, but it has seemed to have become an indelible part of how I interact with people. To the point that some folks call me, "Sug." So what? Really not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, but lately a couple of people have asked if I say it to everyone or just them, wondering if it was a special term or if it was generic. Well, as I just said, I use the term quite a bit these days (along with, "babe" "sweetheart" "cutie" etc.), but though I definitely don't mean it in the same intimate way to a drinking buddy at a bar as I do with someone I am dating, it doesn't mean I don't mean it.

I've never been a territorial person. Actually, that is perhaps not true. I've never minded sharing space, possessions, food, affection, time, you name it... so long as there is enough to be shared without me being edged out, treated as a non entity. When I feel someone is taking an advantage of my openness, I become the most territorial person I know. Normal brain function shuts off and all I can think about is expelling this intrusion, this invader. For some reason, everytime this happens lately I seem to be out with Christian and he ends up being witness to my Mr. Hyde ice-storms. But back to sugar...

Can you say the same thing to everyone and mean it differently and still samely (is that a word?) to all of them? Because if I call someone 'sugar', I mean it nice. It is meant to be the syrupy sweet it sounds or I wouldn't be pouring it out at all. But can you pour out your affection for all the world and still be able to get across just how much that one beautiful person makes your heart swell with the same terms of endearment? Can you let your heart swell for all the world contains and still know/believe and communicate that the way one person makes you feel is still special in all of this?

For me these things have to be true; I have to be able to embrace the whole shebang and still make that one small most special corner of existence know its worth and know that I know it too.

I call you 'sugar' because I mean it.

that fine line between acceptance and resignation

(again, this is a dredged up draft from sometime last year, which I think I didn't publish because I thought that the characters it was written about would read it and take it personally and if posted with the knowldge that it would likely be read by who it was about, then it would necessarily end up being a message to them. I didn't write it as a passive aggressive message to anyone; I wrote it to sort out bits of my mind. Now that time has passed and I can't remember who I was thinking about when I wrote it, here it is. Originally writen 7/7/06.)

We'll see if I can manage to curb my tendency to write too long-windedly, and just stir a little bit into the murky crud which has been swirling through my mind. The last little bit has been a bit crazy.

I've never been an expert on sane living and never will be. Which suits me fine as I don't think many of us find ourselves surrounded by a sane world, and playing at pretending it is just an invitation to the devil, as two friends of mine have recently found out while succumbing to his second favorite game, the-way-it-is-supposed-to-be. This is the trouble with the devil: he doesn't really make you do it, so fighting and hating him won't get you anywhere. He's never been the one who commits the crime, only reminds you that you could.

You can lose your temper. You can run from your actions consequences. You can leave the consequences for others. You can push loved ones away and snuggle up to ridiculous fictions and believe it is all true. But the devil didn't make you do it, he just doesn't pretend letting it all go is impossible.

Southerners tend to grow up fairly intimately aware of temptations and the general crudeness of the world. We also tend to play fast and loose with our interpretations of reality and how we care to look at the world. Read any Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor. Don't for a second think I am disparaging an imaginative outlook and interpretation of your surroundings. You can construct any fanciful kingdom you care to live in, just be sure to be careful not to build the foundation on shifting sand or put any of the struts and beams where inconvient bits of harder, more solid reality might come crashing through.

This is, as my convoluted ramblings often are, going to be taken wrongly by the folks it is obliquely about. It isn't so much meant to be just about either of them and their delightful jaunts away from sanity and responsibility, but settling myself down while watching things spiral out of control around me. Here is where I find myself in that slippery place, wanting to reach out and grab and steer and save the ones around me that I love. Grab and scream and tell them they are making mistakes and how they can fix it all and hold their hands while they do.

Which of course I can't do. I can't fix it all and have enough trouble holding it all together myself. And I've slowly accepted that. Watching friends over the years self-destruct here and there, slipping over brinks I couldn't pull them back from and trying to put myself between them and whatever pain was headed their way... and by and large it doesn't work, until they ask for it. It isn't some external devil which I could ever slay. Until "you could..." and "you'll just fuck up eventually, so why not now?" and "they/you deserve it" lose their siren pull, there is no mast stout enough to bind them to.

So again I'll wander along, try to keep up and tell them I love them and pray the next time they are looking over some more desperate precipice that they won't take that next leap.

The Hidden Cameras: Debbie Does the Bowery

(started 11/12/06; finished 9/25/07)

I often make little plans for entities which I have no control over. Like who I would cast in movies of books I like or crap like that, but music seems to draw my manipulative interest even more. Like songs that I want to hear covered by someone new (who doesn't want to hear George Jones cover "Ninety-nine Red Balloons"?) or duets or trios that I think would be great (Why haven't Tori Amos, Bjork, and P.J. Harvey teamed up for the super album that I dream of when I slip into rare nostalgia for quirky, angsty songbird combination?).

There are a few bands that are probably too different to work in any kind of real combination, but who always put on an amazing show and make me want to dance and seem to throw out the same hectic energy in their differently little ways. In the world in my mind where I run things, in some massive old warehouse with multiple stages set up surrounding a central dance area, these bands would play in close succession, each set up on a different stage so the action could shift from one band to another seemlessly. Instead of any one band playing an hour-long set, each would play multiple shorter sets, intermixed with one another for hours of dancing fun for our delirious crowd. The line up would include Islands, Gogol Bordello, the Hidden Cameras, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the Scissor Sisters. Actually scratch the warehouse, let's move the fantasy outdoors, though I feel like we Americans don't really do outdoor festivals all that well.

(I'm wandering back through posts that I started and never finished and posting the fragments for the hell of it if they aren't too wretched, so this one was written last year sometime and I have no idea why I originally titled the way I did, except I am fairly certain I wrote it after seeing the hidden cameras at Bowery Ballroom. Oh wait, yes I do! Now I can sort of finish this...)

So when I saw the show at the BB that got me started writing this, the girl who plays the xylophone in the band completely rocked my world that night. She bears a striking resemblance to Debi Mazar and looked so happy and danced and smiled in such a fun way that it made the whole show that much better and my friend and I couldn't stop talking about how much we loved her. And it takes some serious distraction to tear my eyes off Joel Gibb, who as long as I'm explaining my fantasy world, wants to be my boyfriend and writes songs for me, but even with this most beautiful of men singing every song straight to me and only me, Debbie (I don't know her real name so I still call her Debbie and I know I could just google and figure out who she really is but so could you so leave me alone) was still the star of the show. The whole band has that way on stage that makes you want to be in a band, makes you dream of being on stage, making wish you could make a room full of people feel like they are making you feel when you watch them but Debbie had this something extra that made you feel that if you were watching her make toast you would want to make toast too. In my mind she goes everywhere and does everything with that same little bop that rocked my world so hard that night at that show.

That is the kind of energy I want to project. I still smile thinking about basking in it at that show.

Retards make a list and some thoughts on disparate groups coopting the eagle as a symbol

(started 6/1/05; posted 9/25/07)

Pandagon pointed me to this list on HUMAN EVENTS ONLINE of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Amanadagon does a fine job busting their chops for being transparently dumb and I have already called them 'retards' in the title of this post, so I don't think their idiocy really warrents a whole lot more attention. They included John Stuart Mill and Rachel Carson. mr. bush, this is your constituency, your nation of retards.

But I was looking through the list of folks who contributed and noticed this:

"Phyllis Schlafly
Eagle Forum"

Now, I am vaguely familiar with phyllis schlafly, enough to know that I generally end up annoyed and wanting to bite someone when I read something she has said or someone starts quoting her, but I don't really pay much attention to her. Not worth the time. But the name of her organization struck me: "Eagle Forum."

Yes, the bald eagle is a national symbol, but that aside, I find it interesting the groups which commonly use the eagle (not necessarily the bald eagle) as their symbol. Two groups stand out in my mind: nazi/fascists/white supremicists and masculine fetish oriented gay men. A few quick qualifications about this:

1) I am not trying to equate these two groups.

2) I am using the unwieldy term 'masculine fetish oriented gay men' intentionally, because if you see a gay club called the Eagle, anywhere in the world, if you are at all familiar with gay culture, you will instantly have an idea of the main clientel. Not necessarily bears, not necessarily leather daddies, not necessarily boot-and-levi types but the word 'eagle' in a gay context instantly brings to mind some amalgum of masculinity fetishizing identity.

That said, perhaps there is some mutual appeal in the symbol of the eagle, or at least a certain stylized version, to both disparate groups. Nazism and facism are in ways also a sort of fetishizing on a grand scale. There is a hyper-masculine, power/order worship that characterizes these groups which maybe accounts for the similarity. Maybe it is just favored by people who like playing dress-up with butch uniforms.

Maybe not.

I know that modern white supremacy groups most likely get their affection for this symbol straight from nazi germany: the big art deco eagles on flags and banners; hitler's mountain hide-away, 'the Eagle's Nest.' Is their some historical significance for the nazi's adoption of the eagle? Is it as simple as just picking the big strong predator bird or is there something else?

Maybe the same for the 'mo fetish boys. Big, strong, menacing bird for those big, strong, menacing men? Maybe simply its military connotations. Maybe some historical context which I don't have at my finger tips.

What makes an eagle more appealing than another top predator? The ability to fly? It just looks good when art-decoized? That it targets much smaller prey and acts independently?

Oh well. This isn't terribly coherent so I'll end it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

right now...

I am missing New York in a serious way. Just got back on land off the boat, but we offloaded in Hilo (on the Big Island), so I'm staying in a hotel til I fly back to Honolulu in the morning. The peaceful moment with a room to myself (you have no idea what kind of a luxury that is in my life now) is great, but I was just surfing around on the internet and saw a friend from the city in a magazine spread (he's not normally a model, so it was unexpected). The familiar face and all the time alone in my head conspired to send a fucking tidal wave of homesickness crashing over me.

I'm not the homesick type.

Right now though, I'd kill to be sitting at Nowhere at happy hour eating a chicken and cheese fajita from the Chinese/Mexican place next door or sitting in my underwear on tuesday night at Rbar watching cartoons while Carter makes flavored vodka or to be at one of the boys' apartments watching America's Next Top Model with the crew. Damn. I miss my friends, I miss my haunts, I miss my garden... easy tiger. Let's not get carried away.

This last trip I had my first get-me-the-hell-off-this-boat moment since taking the job. Don't worry, I still love it. I've got some awesome pictures of tapertail ribbon fish and cool critters puked up by lancetfish (which I'll share later). The job I love and I still like Hawaii, but I just had that moment when you know you need a break.

So I'm going to take one. One more trip this go round and I am taking a fucking break. Sort of, if traveling through San Francisco, New York (yay!), Seattle, Portland, Puerto Rico, Montreal, and D.C. in two months with two weddings in the mix is what you consider 'taking a break'.

This is something of the conundrum that my wanderlust has always faced: I really like settling to a place and getting in a routine. I'm a hell of a creature of habit. I like seeing the same folks again and again and doing the same things again and again. Really. But I just couldn't stay happy settled down in one spot, at least not so far. I've never actually really been able to envision myself in any kind of life work that lets me sit in one place. I really can't quite visualize it. That may sound kind of silly, but I mean it. I can imagine myself somewhere for a while, but only with an eye on the horizon. It has sort of always been that way.

Every career or lifestyle I've ever pictured myself in has been one of constant motion, do this here and move on there. As a kid I was always sort of inside my head and pretty awkward at interpersonal interactions. Really fucking awkward, and I seemed to have a knack for making friends with people who always moved away. I'd become best friends with a kid, and then realize that his parents were in the airforce and the next year he'd be gone off to Iceland or Germany or wherever. This isn't some lament about my childhood, because I totally had a great childhood and don't bum about any of that. Like I said, I was an oblivious kid who just kind of did his thing and changes like that didn't strike me as odd or tramatic, I'd just be friends with whoever else showed up. Even though I was staying in the same place, everyone around me seemed to be moving to and fro, and I always knew I wasn't staying there.

The point being, I'm suddenly wondering whether or not this combination of stable environment that I loved but always dreamed of leaving combined with the constant flux of friends and associates is a big part of why I feel the way I do. Maybe this is why keeping on moving feels so comfortable to me while plans for permanence send my circuitry haywire. I'll lay down roots and lay them down deep and fast at it, but I can pick up and move just as easy. It suits me and the way I seem inclined to live, but then I have moments like this where I am just missing my friends. I'm happier with my job and the trajectory it is pointing me on right now than I have ever been, and the what-are-you-doing-with-your-life? moments had been killing me before, but damn I'm miss my life in New York.

I guess it should tell me something that living in the city for not quite 5 years is the longest I've lived in one place since I was 17. Actually, come to think about it, that will probably be the longest I live in one place before I am at least 40 (which suddenly doesn't feel all that far off).

Anyway... enough of you silly homesickness. I'll sleep it off and wake up tomorrow and hit the ground running and smile about it all.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

spider solitaire

Why is spider solitaire so addictive? I've played it more times in the last three weeks than you could possibly imagine. It is a long way to Christmas Island and back.

It is one of those games that sucks you in and drains your time, so I still instinctively feel guilty before I even start playing. If you win, you want to play again. If you lose, you want to play again just until you win. Which will make you want to play again. Suddenly hours have been wasted and you scratch your head and reflect that you don't remember the sun going down.

I didn't get to get the books I wanted to read for this trip and there was more than a week that I just had to fill with no work to do, no way of communicating with anyone off the boat and only one other person who I could sort of talk to, and no supplies for most of the projects I want to work on so spider solitaire helped chew through those long hours. At a certain point, even it can be too much so regular solitaire got a rehashed too, along with hearts and freecell. I used to love minesweeper but this time I just couldn't get into it. I didn't complete a single game of it the whole trip. Still, spider solitaire is totally my girl. The others just can't compete for pure fun and frustration factor.

Of course, I spent the whole time wishing Snood was loaded on my computer. When I get my hands on it, oh boy.

It was funny though still thinking of these time wasting computer games as detrimental. I'd be playing and suddenly have this pang of guilt and feel like I should be doing something else. I'd start to shut down the game so I could get back to what I should really be doing and then realize that, oh yeah, I'm on a boat and have nothing new to read, no work that I can do right now, no one that I can talk to, I've already photoshopped all the pictures in my computer, rearranged my playlists, watched all my movies, I slept ten hours last night... actually playing computer games is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing.

there is something strangely exhilarating about looking out at moonlight reflecting off the waves in the middle of the ocean at midnight...

...while shitting in a five-gallon bucket on the back deck of a moving boat.

Closing Time

I of course left almost all of my music in Alabama. I didn't have my computer yet or an mp3 player and traveling with a full cd collection isn't practical. It is amazing how many cd's you can accumulate without realizing it over the years. But I'm slowly rebuilding some music to listen to, which is as important as ever since about half of my job consists of staying awake and alert. Also being at sea and going weeks at a time with almost no conversation leaves your mind in need of something appropriating conversation even if it is only listening to the singing voices. I kind get obsessed with songs or albums or artists and can listen to the same things over and over again, so it isn't so bad having such a limited collection right now.

I'm listening to Tom Waits' "Closing Time" right now. He can be boring and a little annoying sometimes, but when he hits it right, damn he nails it. "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" has long been one of my favorite songs. I don't understand why everyone in the world hasn't covered that song. "Ol' 55" is great, but why is it the only one of these songs you ever hear anyone else sing? "I Hope..." and "Old Shoes (and Picture Postcards)" are just begging to be covered. What I wouldn't give to hear Willie Nelson sing either. Or maybe Shelby Lynn. Or one of these songs or "Lonely" on the next (please let there be a next) Trio album. When I listen to "Grapefruit Moon" I imagine I've heard Kiki and Herb do the song, but I don't think I have (actually, maybe they did do the song once at Joe's Pub. Anybody remember?). In my head (memory or fabrication), it sounds brilliant by them.

My favorite game to play with my friends is 'If we were, who would we be?' and I guess I do the same thing with songs sort of, always thinking about how they would sound sung by other people. Liz used to have a book Would You Rather...? which was just full of nonsensical scenarios to choose between. One question which I remember from it was, "Would you rather be in charge of who lives or dies, or who gets to star in what movies?" Almost all my friends excitedly chose the picking who is in what movie option. Idiot-neighbor Matt I think wanted to decide who lived and died for some lame reason like "Then I could let myself live forever..." But anyway, I want to be the guy who picks who gets to sing which songs.

The song which really grabbed me listening to this album this go round was "Martha". I'd never really paid it too much attention, but damn if it wasn't amazing to listen to at one in the morning, half out of my mind from counting hooks and floats and fish with the boat pounding through the waves and spray splashing against my raingear. In this monotonous but intensely visceral work environment, to listen in on this beautiful, intimate, desperately confessional conversation was tremendous. So beautifully constructed, a story sparsely told with this throbbing piano in the background. You can hear the trembling loss in his voice, which ceases to be Tom's voice but is taken over completely by the narrator of the song. The loss but no regret, even if after all these years he's never let go of that time and still has to reach out and try to make that connection with it again. I love something in that approach to life, the protagonist who is heroic not in completing some quest, but in having been there completely in something where time didn't matter, neither the amount of time that the connection lasted not the amount of time since it had ceased to be directly present. That is the only kind of love story which I like. The actual affair can last for a moment or for a lifetime, but afterwards it is so crystal clear and intense that it becomes almost subconscious. Everything else is outside of it and circumstantial.

Anyway, enough of love song analysis. At first I thought that I actually wouldn't want to hear "Martha" covered at all, but I think maybe that Lucinda Williams might have just the right pleading tremble in her voice to pull it off.

best movie ever!

Ok, two pretty different candidates for the best film of all time are currently neck and neck for my vote. This is of course based only on what I've enjoyed lately and absolutely no higher esoteric reasons. I'm not someone who likes to watch movies over and over. I normally just don't. If I've seen it, I've seen it and squirm like a worm if someone tries to get me to watch it again, but for some reason I just watched Shortbus again for maybe the 8th time.

I managed to miss it in theaters when I was still in New York. I don't know why, just kind of had been hearing about it for so long and folks there that were in the know and had been all about it through its creation were suddenly over it and kind of panned it, so even though I still wanted to see it, it wasn't at the top of my list and no one else was dragging me off to watch it. Maybe I wouldn't have fallen in love with it there, but my first viewing came in Alabama. Over New Year's Brian had it downloaded on his computer and there was something kind of perfect watching it on a laptop in my cramped room with a friend who I hadn't seen in forever who had also recently left the city and my brother who had moved up there with me. Home was getting on my nerves enough that I couldn't roll my eyes at any of the silliness and could just eat up the familiarity of it all.

Then it was showing at a movie theater when I was in San Francisco, so I finally got to see it on the big screen. It is one of those movies that is fun to see with a crowd so you can watch how people react to different parts. It was still good the second time.

In Hawaii, movie and book recommendations are a way of life for us boat people, so I found myself recommending it to my coworkers and thinking about it, so I got it. Originally I got it just to make them watch it, but then a little too much extra time and no desire to watch again any of the Van Damn movies that the crew has, I watched it again. And again. So now I've found myself sucked into the "Fifth Element trap": oh I love that scene, let's watch it real quick. Yeah right. You set out just to watch the blue chick sing and Mila Jovavich kick alien ass and suddenly watch the rest of the movie and start it over again and rewatch it from the beginning. Or you just want to the Asian chick beat up the arguing Jamie^2 acolytes then wig out and smash the egg vibrator with a manakin leg, but as the movie starts, you tell yourself you are just going to listen to the first song and... too late, you are watching the whole damn thing again.

I think it is the music which does it to you. If you have a semi-musical element to the movie then you can lie to yourself and say you are just going to watch that one, self-contained chunk and then be done with it. But as you learn from getting sucked into old MTV, small chunk just make it easier to dive in somewhere other than the official beginning; getting out is another matter. Perhaps getting out is then even more difficult because you tell yourself that you are going to watch just this one more scene/video/whatev and then be done, but of course it is one more after that and after that....

So now I watch Shortbus over and over again and am not feeling guilty about it. The second candidate for best movie ever is the aforementioned The Fifth Element. I'm really not joking. I don't know anyone who didn't like it and have yet to spot it without either 1) someone else suggesting that we watch the whole movie or just that scene with the blue chick or 2) me suggesting we watch just that scene with the whole movie, and in either scenario, I've yet to encounter anyone who doesn't want to. In the middle of a party, you can turn that on in a bedroom and before you know it, the whole party is in there watching it and won't let you turn it off until the end and then someone will put it in and start the whole damn thing over.

God was happy with me on my last trip and it was included amongst the inexplicable movie selection of the boat, so of course I ended up watching it again. And then I watched the scene with the blue chick which turned into watching the rest of the movie. And then i recognized extra supermodels amongst the cast members besides Mila, so i watched it again trying to recognize the supermodels. The sick part is I still want to see it again. I'm probably going to go out and buy to have on the boats with me.

Again, I think with it the music part helps with the repeatability of it. Ridiculous action and aliens helps too. What else could I watch over and over again?

I am so going home and buying a box set of old Benny Hill episodes and the Muppet Show.

boat stop...

We are sitting here in the middle of the ocean and something is wrong with the engine. It seems to be starting up again, but it has restarted a couple of times so far over the last couple of hours only to stop again. We are one day north of Christmas Island and have yet to fish even once. If something does go wrong, where the hell do we go? Back to Christmas Island? Surely it will work out, but at the moment I don't know what is wrong, so images of everything that could go wrong are dancing through my head at the moment. A few minutes ago it was just the realization that if we do go back without setting, then I'm condemned to go back on this boat again when it does go out next. Which actually wouldn't be so bad, but still...

Now that they are revving the engine and the boat is shaking I'm having flashes of the motor exploding beneath me sending me flying into the ocean.

further thoughts on jerry faldwell

Reflecting back on what I wrote about jerry falwell upon discovering that he had died while I was out at sea, the voice in the back of my head tells me that I should be nicer, that I should feel bad about speaking so harshly of someone who is dead. He never killed anyone in my family. I've never met him and now certainly never will. Nothing we know publicly suggests that he ever raped or murdered anyone or spent his free time molesting children, so maybe it is a bit overboard for me to feel such a lack of concern for this person and to reflect upon his passing with some sense of relief and perhaps even a little nya-nya-good-riddance.

But really, I don't think it is. I certainly think I've shown him more respect in his death than he showed most people in his life. He turned manipulating people's faith into a money making racket and peddled influence to hurt other people. He was a horrid bigot and a backwards asshole. I don't take joy in his dying and don't hope that it was painful, and I meant it when I said that I hope he finds a peace he does not deserve on the other side of the veil, but I did feel a certain sense of relief when I read that he had died, a sense of relief which I didn't expect. I had no idea he was even sick. He really isn't someone who I pay that much attention to or really follow that much, but his dying really struck me as a moment when someone ghastly and horrid, who will, if remembered at all, be one day remembered as a blight on this last century. I kind of think he will fade and whatever money grubbing 'christian leaders' are left in charge of his legacy will dismantle it with infighting and work their own names into whatever survives that struggle.

I don't know what really makes me so mad about him. It is mostly subconscious. He is one of the people who really turned American evangelical Christianity into the pathetic shell of a faith it is today, moving its emphasis towards manipulating the emotions of masses of people and using its members as the screaming sheep to shout down any reasoned debate about any emotional topic in the public sphere and who helped make these gut-wrench issues front and center in any political debate. Not that there haven't always been plenty of people who moronically yelped, "please, think of the children!" but mr. falwell managed to get on tv and say it loud and say it for millions (whether they knew he was speaking for them or not). This is not to say that all evangelical Christianity in America is of that brand sold by mr. falwell, but he and pat robertson and james dobson have come to be the public face of it.

And perhaps his brilliant move, was that when he turned all politics into emotions, he gave us enemies and made the enemies us. You no longer had to judge how schools performed based on straight academics or how the kids did when they got out. No, the schools academics where instead turned into an enemy and focus was turned towards a shorter stupider report card for judging them. Did have sex education? At what age, and what was taught to these poor innocent children? Did the discuss abortion? Did they teach about condoms? Did they talk about gay people? Did they teach evolution? Did they have prayer at football games or in homeroom?

Did he alone bring all this on? Of course not, but he stood as a figurehead for a movement which did. And it was a nasty little tar baby that he plopped down squarely in the path of anyone trying to do anything productive in public life. He armed millions with ignorant half-truths or even bald faced lies about any touchy subject and taught them to assume the worst and vilify our public services as opposed to their faith.

He had the good luck to come along at a time that our country was in upheaval and trying to get back on course, and he kindly took advantage of everyone's disorientation. We still don't really acknowledge how much we are still sputtering about and trying reorganize after the civil rights movement. When schools were desegregated, it wasn't as simple as just moving kids into schools together and letting it all sort out. Plenty of disorder and violence accompanied this shift and a good chunk of the well-to-do white folks fled altogether into 'academies' and with them took their concern for the public schools. Their civic energies shifted away from the public and towards the private and the public facilities were left for the blacks and poor white people. I really believe this more than anything else killed many a downtown and public park. As soon as black people were allowed free use of the facilities, they were either destroyed, like the public swimming pools which vanished from every town and many a high school, or abandoned. White people quit going to many public parks, and would quietly forget about them, saying things like, "Well, no one goes there any more." Maintenance budgets would then be cut and as the grass grew higher and ignored trash built up, it would be remarked about what a shame it was what 'they' had done to what used to be such a pretty park.

This unspeakable fear of intermingling in public with this 'other' on these new terms, without the old system in place to guide things, was harnessed effectively and directed towards public services in general. The government was out to get you, and what it did do it did poorly, so why not give this or that private enterprise less over-sight or cut funding for this or that. But people of course still want their public services in the end and still expect them to function even as they divert funds and quit focusing on them. And once we decide to go back to these abandoned things, who are we going to blame for what we find when we realize that we've allowed our communities to fracture? Nope, not our own bigotry and fears, not folks who opportunistically played on them for their own benefits, it was naturally the atheists and satanists and homosexuals and Mexicans and feminists and abortionists and evolutionists. Which is easier to swallow hook, line, and sinker than stepping back and taking a good look in the mirror and realizing that we've all come through a tough time and are going to have to reinvest and get back into the game together to get to where we want to be.

This is what jerry faldwell sold in his bastardized, plastic version of Christianity. He was huckster extroidenaire of the cry baby culture. He made his money and his name whining to high hell about how 'they' were destroying America and gave people someone else to mean besides what they meant, the truth that they weren't allowed to say out loud: that black people were ruining it. Not that he wasn't against women being treated as equal humans and didn't mean it from the start that he hated gay people and thought we deserved to die alone and unloved, but these groups hadn't just changed all that much in society and weren't the large organized elephant in the room that no one wanted to mention. Racism had been brought right out into the light and declared unacceptable, and no matter how much of it still existed (exists), people were aware of it as a negative and of how their comments would be labeled and judged. jerry gave the a channel for this frustration and new others to blame for those who cared only for licking their own wounds and avoiding thoughtful reflection.

I don't think racism is still right square in the middle of the evangelical movement that faldwell helped spearhead and politicize, but hatred and fear and blame of that dark other is still dead center. 'Those people' are still ruining the blushing virgin that is America.

Anyway, a hateful bigot died and though that death can't do anything to undo the pain which he inflicted on our country and our communities, as one of 'those people' I must confess a sense of relief and not the least bit of remorse for feeling it. In the end, he not only acted hatefully towards any marginalized group which he could kick with impunity, but by tying his venom to religion he and those like him have turned millions away from religion and for those who he to whom he reached with his message, he forever tied it with malignant hatred and blame.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Jerry Falwell is dead. "There goes the neighborhood" say the residents of Hell.

I would like to be a kind and wonderful person, and say that I hope that jerry falwell is finding redemption in the afterlife, having just gotten back on land and found out that the evil fucking bastard died while I was away at sea.

I can only imagine that if he inexplicably finds his way to heaven, then the only commentary you could expect from God or any prior resident could say is, "There goes the neighborhood."

But, of course, if jerry is in hell where he so rightfully belongs, I can only imagine that the devil and all the demons said the same thing.

May your rotten, nasty soul find peace mr. falwell, and know that if it does, it would be proof of God's great mercy because you are the last person who deserves it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

new favorite thing ever...

While I've been exploring the lovely city of San Francisco, I've been staying with a friend who lives close to Trader Joe's. We were only recently blessed with this lovely chain in New York fairly recently, so I hadn't really shopped there much.

First bought on a whim, I've become obsessed with their tapioca pudding. So good!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

on the move...

I've not posted much the last few months and it may be pretty sporadic for the next little bit, but I'm trying to get back to writing more now that I have a little time on my hands. I'm about to head out to the west coast and try to survive a few months on a prayer and a song while trying to make the ever elusive 'next step' materialize.

In the name of getting back to writing regularly (and perhaps starting to share some photo's from time to time as well), I've shaken up the look of the page. Please bear with me as I try to play around with the look of it to hopefully get it the way I want it. You can only have a canned template for so long before it demands a little rigging.


I hate the andy griffith show.

Sure it is a great show. Funny enough, silly characters, whatever. But my entire life it has come on at least twice a day at my parents house on the only channel that consistantly comes in clearly, and something about it's cheerful homey joviality makes my hair stand on end.

Maybe I could stand the hokey sweetness of the show if... no, never mind. I can't take it. I can't watch it.