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.