Saturday, March 29, 2008

this is what Mason has been doing instead of writing...

behold the cuteness:

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

An update and a few thoughts....

I'm living at sea most of the time these days and then travelling the rest of the time, so my life is a big fucking jumble. Love it and hate it, that's what it is and with that, so is this blog. I've never exactly used this (or meant to use this) as an actual diary kind of record and don't now, so it has always been sort of scattered. I gripe less about politics here than I used to and talk more about personal bits and pieces. For better or worse.

And these days, I'm even fiddling a little bit with format, trying to include more pictures and occasionally (very rarely and possibly never again) even including my meager attempts at poetry like in the last post. I have no knack for poetry but sometime prose doesn't cut it and really, if you have a blog, there isn't further down the pole to slide in terms of written word. Not hating on blogs, just recognising that serial self-publishing freakazoids like myself gotta be forgiving to the various forms folks use to thrust their self-expression upon others. Of course this commentary doesn't for a second suggest that I'm softening on my opinion that anything thrown out there is knowingly being thrown to the wolves and in all fairness subject to whatever informed (or not) critique they can throw at you.

Anyway, I'm still trying to sort out how to try to make this less sporadic. I'm at sea, where I do most of my writing, then on land for a few days to spit it all out and then gone again.

So thank you to those who deign to read occasionally. I started this telling myself it was only as an archive but I should admit that the exhibitionist in me likes the public nature of it and the egalitarian in me likes the openess and invites participation. There aren't enough comments to yet consider this anything approaching a conversation but comments are always welcome (harsh being just as welcome as the kindly, though if you are a fucking idiotic gay republican I'll probably comment back and call you a fucking idiot).

As long as I'm rubbing one out about all about the blog itself and my thoughts on it, I should discuss thoughts about the name of the whole shebang. When it started, it was largely started as a reaction to needing an outlet to express politcal outrage. The whole "Awareness is painful, but ignorance is deadly" crap came out of a feeling that our politics so easily get fucked so hard because so many people just tune out anything that makes them uncomfortable and welcome anyone who promises to ease their discomfort. I still think that and use this as a place to react against it, but on the other hand, the title is pretentious and obnoxious. And not really indicative of what I'm doing here. I'm not one for changing horses midstream, but neither am I one to stick with something just for the sake of sticking with it. I'm in it because I want to be, but I'll tweak it where it needs it to keep it functional. So don't be suprised if the title changes in the near future (though you can be almost completely certain that I'm not going to go to the trouble to change the URL).


what if i did live
like i insist i can?
cut ties that bind.
would i be fine,
drifting free and easy
like i might,
tumbling all around?

no chains
no tethers
no gravity to hold me down.
would i still know
at such great heights
tossed about like a kite,
would I still know
which way is the ground?

angels soar:
they were born to.
but what would a devil do
sent floating over town?

you'd look up
i'd look down
shouldn't it be the other way around?

"...that mythopoeic faculty which is so essential for the imagination."

Since being first introduced to Mary Renault with The Persian Boy years ago (oddly enough by my then girlfriend), I've been a fan. I hadn't read any of her books in years when I stumbled upon The King Must Die in a used book store, so I decided to dive back in. If you don't know her, Ms. Renault's specialty is rendering classic historic tales into lively stories often ripe with rich homoerotic content. The King Must Die is sort of retelling of the legend of Theseus and didn't have any of the homo stuff of the Alexander novels, but was a fun read none the less.

Part of her charm and talent is in taking legendary tales and re-imagining them as more or less plausible historical events. There is of course going to be a certain level of artistic freedom required in any such undertaking, but her final products are usually fairly compelling. I'm of course not a classics scholar, but as you move through these stories you get a sense that she has worked hard to populate her landscape with plausible inhabitants not just transplanted contemporaries. This novel had all of that on display, but it was her treatment of the supernatural that struck me.

Greece mythology is filled with supernatural creatures and super-human acts and part of retelling these tales in a believable historical context is figuring out how to render these supernatural elements as believable without losing the magic of the tale. She takes the more unlikely creatures, like the Minotaur in this story, and works with them, turning them into fully human elements or showing them in the context of natural phenomena. But what she notably does leave intact are the religious supernatural bits. I haven't really decided how I feel about this.

On the one hand, I like that she strays from the obvious fantastical elements of the traditional legends. In a way she gives them new life and makes the characters more three dimensional and relatable. And I like that her attempts at realism didn't drive her scrub the religious elements from it. There is still this muted religious dialogue going on, and by dialogue, I mean a dialogue between the protagonist Theseus and the gods. She doesn't have them appear directly before him performing miracles and the story could possibly function with the gods existing in it only as figments of the characters' imagination, but they function as silent partners enough to argue that she intentionally left them in. At some point in reading the novel, a question formed in my head, "Why include some supernatural elements and exclude others?"

The simplest argument would of course be that it is a matter of style. This is her style of rendering historical fiction and apparently an effective one. Perhaps she eliminates the greater external supernatural bits which would intuitively set off bells in the readers head that this is a fictional rendering. It is, of course, a fictional rendering, but a successful one precisely because an argument could be made that it could have happened that way. If he had faced a truly half-bull/half-man monster, you wouldn't really get to make that argument. By leaving all the potentially supernatural elements as the works of unsee players who just happen to sound like and have effects like natural occurrences, you can still argue for its plausibility. The characters can believe the gods caused an earthquake and you can read it as something that could resemble a historical event. The story is narrated by one of those characters so he is naturally seeing the hand of the gods in events around him.

But its inclusion doesn't seem as incidental as all that. I came away with the feeling that she left these gods working in the background as purposely included players in the story. She leaves room for the modern cynic to explain them away, but she breaths into them a certain life of their own.

I know I'm swimming in circles here, but I'm trying to get at something. I'd argue that her stories are richer for the inclusion of this religious element as not just background but as an actual mover in the plot, so I have no complaint with that.

It is interesting to me that in a way, inclusion of a supernatural element renders landscapes more believable. Of course it must be well done; nothing is believable without style. Marquez or Kundera are so believable partly because elements of their stories are so fantastic and impossible. In a way it makes the realism of the story stand out in stark contrast, but they are extreme examples. I'm partly just getting at the importance of exercising the capacity for belief in the unbelievable.

I made a comment over the holidays about "Christians" in third person which shocked someone who I wouldn't think I could shock with any statements about myself considering how intimately he knows me. He asked me if I no longer considered myself a Christian, which seemed an inscrutable question. "Huh?" was kind of all I could think to say. On the one hand, considering the state of modern Christianity, do I consider myself one of 'them'? Hell no. I've said before that most people who call themselves Christian these days are idiots and assholes and aspire to be more of both far more than they make any aspiration to follow the teachings of Jesus. And then there are those who are more truly Christian in the sense of having some code which they follow based primarily on New Testament teachings. Those folks I can relate to. And in plenty of ways I'm still one of them. It was how I was raised, and when push comes to shove with the world, there is a mentality modeled on Christian teachings which is what I resort to.

On the other hand, I think there is something to say simply for the capacity for faith and belief in the supernatural. I read plenty of writers, particularly fellow bloggers, where I perceive an almost total rejection of anything not firmly rooted in the cause and effect world. And I don't mind someone else approaching the world that way, but I like my fantastical bits. I don't try to put them at odds with concrete reality, but neither do I care to try to 'prove' that they are based in concrete reality. They are the magical bits, I don't want them explained to death. The creationists are a bunch of fucking idiots who are just torturing both worlds by trying to have this cake and shit on it too. You want to believe that the earth is young and people lived with dinosaurs? Fine, I don't care if you do believe that, but keep it the hell out of science. They don't fit together and won't.

But when my friend asked me if I was no longer a Christian, I think his question was about faith more than identity politics. In effect his implied question was, "You've lost your faith?" The answer to that would be no. My crisis of faith came years ago and nearly splintered my head (you think I exaggerate, but in this instance, not in the least), but I walked away from it with my faith and mind intact, if perhaps a little less dogmatic. I felt like I stepped up to a precipice and looked over into the shrieking vastness, all existential turmoil and angst hurling me over the edge... and then I quit trying to make it all fit. The expanses quit howling and I could again smile at the music of the spheres and get out of some of my self-righteous importance and desire to have all the answers and be RIGHT, and so learned to just relax. It is an amazing world we live in, a spectacular universe we inhabit. I felt somehow put in my place, which was both the center of it all, most important of all things ever and at the same time the least important, most insignificant speck. I backed off the demands and more properly positioned myself and decided that the only prayers that I'm really qualified to make amount to "Wow," and "Thank you," (though to tell you the truth in my more centered moments, even the simple "Thank you," feels a little indulgent and self important).

This isn't to say that I don't still argue with the cosmos and beg and plea with God. I do. I'm writing this in the middle of the ocean. If nothing else will at the same time bolster and shatter your faith, the ocean will. But the point of all this, the faith that came out on the other side has its deepest roots in Christianity and that remains central to the way I approach the supernatural, but on the other hand, after feeling like my spiritual ego was so broken and freed by all that, referring to myself as Christian feels a little constricting. The identity of someone as 'Christian' has more to do with how they align themselves historically than anything to do with faith. My older sister made this very clear to me when she told me before the last election that she was voting for bush because he was the 'christian' candidate. Kerry was a Christian candidate too just like every other damn candidate we've ever had, but bush's invocation of belonging to the same social demographic as my sister was more important as an indication of faith that his actions.

Perhaps that frustration has made me particularly reluctant to refer to myself as a Christian these days. There has been a loud claim staked on the American Christian identity, and to put it plainly, I don't want to be counted in that number. The jackasses and idiots have claimed that title for their cultural touchstone. But as far as my faith, it remains. I'm still uncertain about plenty, but also in the context of having to deal with all these fucking pharisaical idiots parading their cultural identity around as faith, I've perhaps become a little bit more grumpy and easy to rouse. It gets confusing with people like my sister, who in terms of actual faith and having this core set of beliefs which governs how I interact with other people, we aren't very different. We are amazingly similar. Though it pisses me off when she identifies her faith with warmongers like the president, I know that the creed she follows personally leads her to first treat others with respect and kindness.

I've gotten off track. Simply trying to write down my original question born of reading The King Must Die, "Why include some supernatural elements and not others?" brought out the explanation without even trying and let the nagging questions presented to me earlier about my beliefs come bubbling up. We live in an absurd world. This isn't a complaint. I guess in the end for me the inclusion of the supernatural in a view of the world, be it a novel or personal faith, ends up being a choice of style. Do the supernatural elements render the whole more spectacular or do they detract?

Mary Renault uses the invisible supernatural elements in her stories to connect the characters to the events of the natural world around them and the emergent properties of the civilization they live in, or perhaps more accurately she uses these elements to show how her characters make these connections. In the end this is what all supernatural elements are, a way of connecting things which may not otherwise be connected or for understanding connections which aren't otherwise clear.

While home over the holidays, I dug through damn near everything I've ever owned (you could call me something of a pack rat; I like to think of myself as an archivist) in a vain attempt to find my dive card, but I did manage to find some books I'd been looking for. Among those, perhaps the smallest and easiest to lose is The Decay of Lying by Oscar Wilde. It is ostensibly a play, though I can't imagine it ever put to stage, but is more or less a soliloquy split into a dialogue about art and life and the cult of Truth. It deserves its own consideration and will perhaps get it in a future essay, but there is a line which I quite liked about religion: "As for the Church, I cannot conceive anything better for the culture of a country than the presence in it of a body of men whose duty it is to believe in the supernatural, to perform daily miracles, and to keep alive that mythopoeic faculty which is so essential for the imagination." What a wonderful description! If only that were what the church concerned itself with these days...

Who needs sad songs when you have sad movies?

Today is the third day in a row we've had nothing to do because we are waiting for the moon to come back before fishing again (you don't catch many swordfish during a new moon), and my roommate has been tearing through his formidable movie collection. He is watching a movie when I get up in the morning, and pretty much watches one after another til on into the night. Some days I like his selection and watch along, other days... not so much. This afternoon, he put in Saw II. I hate hack 'em up flicks. I can do scary and don't mind some gore if the story comes first and the gore is secondary, but... whatev'. Saw II was about as far from anything I would chose to watch as you can possibly get.

I've said before that the movie libraries on these boats are completely without rhyme or reason, but perhaps nothing better illustrates this than his choice of movie to follow-up Saw II, which would be Steel Magnolias.

At then end when all the sad shit is happening, I'm up in my bunk trying to not sniffle loudly enough for my roommate to hear me. This is a fishing boat. You can't be all weepy in an ultra-macho male work environment, right? Well, actually I suppose you can if you are watching Steel Magnolias because after he turned off the movie and there was no longer the noise from the movie to hide it, I could hear him sniffling in his bunk.

This is one of those great movies for playing if-we-were-who-would-we-be? I've always supposed that if we were characters from Steel Magnolias that I would want to be Truvy, mostly just because I like Dolly Parton, but I've always been sure that I would instead be Clairee. One, she is a likeable character, but more than that, amongst my friends from college who I usually play this with, there was always a dichotomy between my friend John and I, so that whenever there was a diametrically opposed pair of friends amongst the characters we each had to be one of them. And in this cast, John would be Ouiser so I would be Clairee. This was mostly fun to say because John would then huff and argue and make everyone agree that he was in fact Ouiser.

Watching it this time, I've changed my mind. I want to be Ouiser. She is the best ever. I can't wait to be cranky and old and grumpy like that. Actually, I guess I already am. I was realizing while I was home at Christmas, I'm already the grumpy guy in the family. Amongst my friends, I might be Claire, but at home I am totally and completely Ouiser. I'm the one that storms in and bluntly asks questions that no one else does and the one who voices complaints that no one else will say and the one who gripes about being dragged along to things that everyone else is being cheerful about. And I like it that way. Someone has to be grumpy and why not me?

Maybe I should start wearing funny hats, too.

Sad Song Mix continued: the final cut

I could probably spend the entire damn trip writing about the songs that should be included and why I won't include them, so I'll just cut to the chase (this of course is no guarantee that I won't change my mind several times before hitting land again and give you more boring play by play the whole time) and share the final line up with a few comments on the selections:

1) the longest drive - the Capricorns (for the duration of this commentary, I'm not capitalizing most titles of songs and mean nothing by it other than I'm feeling lazy. )
So maybe in the greater universe this isn't one of the saddest songs of all time, but I've been Capricorning myself to death and obsessed with them since the last trip. In listening to them over and over and over and over again on that trip, it struck me how truly sad this song is, which you would never notice if you just went by the frantic electro beat, but when you give it a good listen that frantic pace only seems to reinforce the desperation and loss this song is a record of.

2) the grand tour - George Jones.
As I said before, the man has a voice made for breaking your heart. This isn't his most desperate song but it packs a wallop. "A Good Year for the Rose" might have edged this one out if I had it in my library.

3) golden ring - Tammy Wynette and George Jones.
Again, I've already discussed why this song is so pointed. You are probably thinking to yourself that I'm not really going to break anyone's heart with my song selection so far, and that might be true, particularly since I imagine my main audience to be comprised of cold hearted bastards (which you must all be since no one ever leaves comments. Of course this assumes an audience...).

4) miss being mrs. - Loretta Lynn.
Too damn beautiful for words. So simple and to the point, just laying out flat how she is missing her husband. No embellishment, just direct and lovely phrasing.

5) letter to mom - Iris Dement.
Enough of just sad, let the soul crushing begin. If she wanted to sing it sad, Iris Dement could make you cry with "Jingle Bells"; there is just something in that voice. If she, Nanci Griffith, Emmylou Harris, and Gillian Welch brought their voices together, what hell they could cause. Throw in Lucinda Williams and the vocal combination could destroy us all if they decided it was time for us to cry. They each have a different kind of gorgeous warble that can either make you think of angels or just rip your fucking heart out. Iris is kind of the most punk of them all, with the most unruly voice which can sound so childishly innocent but always barely holding back this ethereal growl. She (particularly with any combination of the above women) could make the most amazing Southern gothic rock opera album. Let's imagine it with all of them...

I'm getting off track. I'll plan out my fictional world where I decide who sings what songs later. Back to sad songs and Iris crushing our souls. "Our Town" might be sadder in a way; it is certainly more defeated, but this song is so wrenching it is hard to believe it was even written much less sung and, having been sung, that it was sung by this voice. It starts so friendly but the subject matter... holy shit. (note: in the liner notes from this album, Ms. Dement points out that this is not autobiographical, but she did write it to help her process a story told her by a friend.)

You could argue that this song is too upbeat sounding or too defiant, listen to it again and cry some tears.

6) six o'clock in the morning - ?
I don't know who the artist is. I can't remember for the life of me and have lost all the other songs I had by him, but I remember all the ones that I had were somehow in this same vein of wow-life-is-miserable-but-you-have-to-trudge-on. It is just sort of plodding misery and the weight of life's futility piling on instead of any one tragedy. Instead it focuses on that horrible moment of any routine day -getting out of bed- and treats it as the Sisiphean task that it is.

7) one more dollar - Gillian Welch.
One more soul-crushed-by-daily-life, there-but-for-the-grace-of song. Something in this song is so sad to me. I listen to it and cringe (and then listen to it again).

8) cold missouri waters - Richard Shindell with Dar Williams and Lucy Kaplanski.
This is cheating. This is from the album Cry Cry Cry which was made by these three sadists for the express purpose of collecting tear jerking tunes. But I don't care. The atmosphere in the song, the way the story is shared, the death bed confessional of it all. So damn amazing. Just a good plain sad song.

9) lonlier than this - Steve Earle.
Steve Earle can write a fucking song. And though he does great rebel songs and love songs, his sad songs are pretty hard to beat. I love this song. From the first time I heard it, I was mesmerized by the direct wallowing of it all. "It doesn't get any lonlier than this," is a pretty bold statement but he catches that emotion that makes that statement seem truly pained and sincere rather than hokey. I love singing this song, but Mason blatantly refuses to play it ever on account of it being too sad (this is from someone whose favorite song to sing in "Long Black Veil").

10) travelling soldier - Dixie Chicks.
I wanted to include "Am I the Only One", which is one of my all-time faves, but somehow in all these other songs its existential howl seemed too far away. "When You Were Mine" was a close second, but for just sheer complete and utter sad-songness this one can't really be beat. Natalie Maines has the voice to deliver it, and the story is so sweet then so lonely and hurt. It starts so pretty and you kind of have a moment when you know it is going to turn bad, but really, the image of the lonely girl in her band uniform crying under the bleachers while no one else cares is so insanely heart breaking.

11) ruby, don't take your love to town - Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.
The groovy back beat and finger picking makes the song sound amazing in a way that it is easy to forget some old country songs used to sound. But Kenny's quiet pleading in the song contrasts that so perfectly. It can't be just a man wishing his woman would do right by him; it has to be a song about a crippled vet watching his woman slip away from him because of his war injury as he lies there slowly dying. Don't hold back now. Of course, the song most likely to make anyone anywhere cry is Rogers' "The Coward of the County" and I haven't forgotten this, but I figured one rape song is enough for any list and anyway in the end of that song, you get revenge and get to feel an explosive surge of everything-is-right-in-the-world that kind of nullifies the pure sad-songness of it all. (Note to Kenny on the off chance that he ever reads this: drop the 'touching' mellow adult contemporary stuff for a while and make a kick-ass rough-around-the-edges album. And do a duet with Dolly on it. In a perfect world, the duet would be a cover of the Mountain Goats' "No Children" a la Kiki and Herb).

12) if we make it through december - Merle Haggard.
Just one of the most heart breaking songs ever. Not woe-is-me-my-baby-left-me or any crap like that, but a poor man being crushed by not being able to provide for his family at Christmas time.

13) martha - Tom Waits.
I've already written extensively about this song, so I won't beat a dead horse. Just so beautiful and sweetly sad. Tear-jerkers don't have to all be soul crushing.

14) getting over you - Janice Ian.
The way this woman writes and the way she sings... damn! "At Seventeen" could have been here, but teenage misery only deserves so much sympathy, even when it is captured so perfectly. And this is just so sad. From the first moment you hear the voice in the song, there is this tension of "I'm fine, no problem" and just-about-to-lose-it. There is that moment when she sings "You want answers that I can't give; you want words I don't know!" where her voice explodes at "know" and does something that gives me chills. The phrase is powerful enough and then she has to do that thing with her voice and it blows my mind every time.

15) red dirt girl - Emmylou Harris.
Again, one of these warbly angel voices that can kill. Of all my beautiful tremulous ladies, Ms. Harris's voice is completely other-worldly. Almost too hypnotic to break your heart at times, because you can get so lost in it, but this song kills me. Maybe it hits me all the harder since it is set in my landscape. Red-clay Alabama is my homeland, and there is something about that dirt that gets to you. That may seem like a dumb thing to say, but... I don't feel like discussing the affect of the soil on the mood of the landscape from my childhood. Let's just say when she sings about a red-dirt girl, it has immediate impact for me and there is built in tragedy in that landscape and the story in the songs fits perfectly. I wonder if I'd feel the same about the song if I were from somewhere else.

16) billy grey - Robert Earl Keen, Jr.
Just a plain beautiful tragic love song. This man doesn't get near enough credit as either a song writer or singer. Something in this song always gets me.

17) ruby's arms - Nanci Griffiths.
So Iris can growl and Emmylou can make you feel like you are in a legend, but for just breaking your heart straight out, nobody's got nothing on Nanci. Something in her voice cuts like a knife. This song is kind of pleasant and billowy, but the sadness is so overwhelming. It is one of those songs where I start wanting to pick it apart as I listen and scream at the protagonist not to leave, to question motives and all that crap, but her voice pushes that away and I'm just left with no doubt that he has to leave, that he truly loves her, that he can never turn back and I accept it all kind of soothingly, but then Nanci sings "Jesus Christ, this cold hard rain; won't someone put him on his train?" And my heart breaks right down the middle.

18) sweet loraine - Patty Griffin.
This is the first song by Patty Griffin that caught my attention. When I was in college in Charleston, the local music store had listening stations and I used to go between classes sometimes and just bury myself in songs. This album was up for a while and I listened to this song over and over and over again. It blew my mind everytime. It still does. The little phrases in the song are the ones that kill you. "Her mother threw stones at her on the day she moved. Now isn't that a funny thing to do, from someone who never really wanted you?" and "Her daddy calls her a slut and a whore on night before her wedding day; the very next morning, at the church, her daddy gave Lorraine away." would be gut wrenching by themselves, but again we've got a singer here who makes you feel it.

19) anymore - Travis Tritt.
This almost feels cheesy next to "Sweet Lorraine" but Mr. Tritt can deliver sad and be believable in a way that too many of "Today's Hottest Country" artists can't. I would just consider this a nice sad song, but I've got the indelible memory of the video attached to it. He had this series of relentlessly heartbreaking videos to go along with his songs and this was the clincher (if I'm remembering correctly). In this one, he is a wheel-chair bound vet whose best friend is an old black man who walks with a cane, who is working on his boat when his very pregnant wife brings him a snack, slips on the boat, hitting her head as she falls into the water. He crawls out of his wheelchair and sprawls helplessly on the dock reaching for her in the water as his old friend wades into the water to pull her to safety. She dies, but the baby lives for him to raise alone. The song is being sung as he his preparing to explain to his now adolescent daughter how her mother died. The video ends with them pulling up in their boat to the place where the mother is buried and his daughter turning to him and saying "Why do we always come here on my birthday, Daddy?" It sounds too schlocky to stand, but somehow they pulled it off without making seem like a farce and basically just pile as much tear-jerk as can fit in one video. The song by itself is sad and beautiful, but the memory of that video won its place in my mix.

(update: note that in the comments, some kind person corrects my memory, pointing out that the video I described remembering above was "Tell Me I Was Dreaming". This was actually a video trilogy, with "Anymore" showing him in the VA hospital, becoming friends with the black guy, trying to push his wife away and finally breaking down and returning her call and finding her still in love with him. She takes him home and every -including you- cries and smiles. The end of the trilogy with him taking the little girl to her mother's grave is chronicled in "If I Lost You". To make sure I got it straight this time, I just re-watched all three videos and had my heart smashed to bits again. Do not watch these unless you really want to cry.)

20) sometimes i still feel the bruise - The Mountain Goats.
Again, I've already covered this song ad nauseum so I won't recap here. Go read the other post.

21) You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive - Patty Loveless.
It isn't a warble that makes Patty Loveless's voice so deadly, but there is such unbelievable power in her voice. And few people can sing sad like she can. There are a couple of other songs from the same album which are heart breakers, but this song still stands out. The story is beautiful and tragic, but the whole sound of it kills you. If it didn't have words and she were just singing the sounds you would still get your heart destroyed by this song. You don't need the words. More than any other song on this list, it just sounds tragic. Brad Paisly also recorded this song, and I can't imagine what he was thinking. Actually, I can. It is a beautiful song and who wouldn't want to sing it? But damn, the list of people who could do it justice after this version is a very, very short list and Paisly is a great entertainer but only a good singer. Raul Malo or Toby Keith or Dwight Yoakam might be able to make a passable swipe at it, but still...

22) he was a friend of mine - Willie Nelson.
It is no secret that I love Willie Nelson. Obsessively. But all that aside, this song is a killer. So quietly sad. And this isn't a song that is easy to sing (try sing along for a minute. I'll wait), but Willie's voice captures something so perfectly here. The song has this tremendous potential, but without the right voice it would be nothing special. The lyrics are kind of repetitious and bland, which are strengths the way it is sung here, but in different hands you would just have a plodding, pleading yelp. Oddly enough, I have three versions of the song on my computer. Cat Power does ok with it. Nothing special. And I've got Mercury Rev doing it. They do a suprisingly good job with it, but the song just doesn't break your heart without Willie wielding it.

Anyway, that's gone on long enough. If anyone has good sad song suggestions, I'm always looking for some tear-inducing heartbreakers.

Sad Song Mix is totally back on!

So I still don't have "There Were Roses" (hint hint Mason, email it to me), but I found that I do have "Billy Grey" and "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive". Besides, "There Were Roses" skates the fine line into activism songs. Don't worry, I'd still include it happily (or sadly, I guess), but I'm trying to talk myself out of including "Black Boys on Mopeds" which is totally an angry at the world issue song, but so damn spot on in sad-songness with the emotion in O'Connor's voice; and also Johnny Cash's "Ballad of Ira Hayes" which is also super issue-y and sung with more growling defiance than sadness and is sing-songy, but it is so damn sad and wretched that you can't really help having your heart broken. But if I include it, I feel like it is a small step to suddenly including "Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee" which is totally moving but all issue and completely not what I am going for with this time-wasting exercise.

I know that having mentioned Sinead O'connor that the obvious song for a sad mix is "Nothing Compares 2 U", but it was so popular and is so connected in my memory with images of the video that it takes a moment of active dissociation before I can just lose myself in the song, so it is out.

As long as we are talking issue-y but moving sad songs, "Tomorrow, Wendy" was a contender but is also out. The sound of the song is too pleasant and the voice too defiant. Of course this combination juxtaposed with the subject matter and lyrics is what makes it such a moving song, but still, out. I am tempted to let "Joey" in, though. Its melody might be a little too upbeat too, but damn that voice. Knife straight in the heart. If they hadn't backed her with pleasant upbeat tempos we'd have all killed ourselves or been scarred for life listening to Concrete Blonde. But the song is kind of a make up song, not the completely heart stomped tragedy we are going for here. If we were going to let "Joey" on board, then I feel like I'd have to also include "Jesse". "Jesse come home, there's a hole in the bed where we slept now it's growing cold," is about as pleading a line as you could ask for, but still it is a reconciliation song that only might be hopeless and besides, if I wanted my heart ripped out and stomped on by Joan Baez (which is exactly the kind of thing I am sucker for), I would include "Prison Trilogy", which I don't have and which brings us back full circle to issue songs.

Sad Song Mix: ain't gonna happen

Like I've said before, I love sad songs. Really, really, really love sad songs. And a favorite time waster on the the boat is compiling playlists. Some of these actually materialize as mix cd's for friends, but sometimes I just pick a loose theme and run with it. Tonight I decided to, you guessed it, make a sad song mix. I've told myself that I am going to make the ultimate cry your eyes out mix cd, but this aim is going miserably. First there is the issue with suddenly remembering songs which have to be on it that I know I don't have. You can't make the saddest cd ever without Kathy Matthea singing "There Were Roses" or Patty Loveless's "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive", both of which I should have, but don't have with me.

And then there is the issue of whether or not picking songs that make you cry because they are so touching is allowed. I don't mean horrid shit like "Butterfly Kisses" or "Holes in the Floor of Heaven" (which, being honest here, both of which I found touching-ish when I first heard them -I totally have a soft spot for cheesy sappy stuff like that- but they were beat to fucking hell on the radio and only sort of tolerable from the start), but stuff like Red Sovine's spoken word tear-jerk trucking tales like "Giddyup Go". Yes, just as patently cheesy and intentionally schlocky but the sincerity is sweetly subtle and doesn't feel quite so fakey-fake to me (maybe just because I grew up listening to it) and really, if you can listen to "Giddyup Go" or "Teddybear's Last Ride" without tearing up, you should be institutionalized. Same goes for "Christmas Carol", which oddly enough I would totally include on this mix if I had it, even though I wouldn't allow the other aforementioned touching tear-jerkers. It is kind of in its own league of make you cry retardedly songs, and strangely the first Christmas song I heard on the radio this year, after several years of not hearing it (and it is one of those songs that is only effective if you hear it randomly on the radio).

Anyway, I kind of decided that I was trying to find actual sad songs, not just weepy things (though again, "Christmas Carol" still counts. If you know what song I'm talking about, you know why). Things were going ok until I decided that I would peruse some George and Tammy. Now, when you want to break a heart with voices, those two have criminal talent. This only makes it more difficult. Sometimes they both get a little too goofy with their phrasing. Now George Jones totally clowns intentionally, and you can tell he knows he being cute with his words even when he's singing tragedy, but Tammy Wynette does not. She may know it is a gimmick, but damn if she doesn't sing those songs even more sincerely and deadpan, and faced with this delivery and these horrific messages in cute packages I can't decide whether to bawl or crack up.

I told myself that "He Stopped Loving Her Today" may in fact be one of the truly saddest songs ever written, but it is so omnipresent that it feels like cheating and doesn't have some of the oomph for me that other songs might, so I settled on "The Grand Tour" for Mr. Jones. Mrs. Wynette on the other hand, she is killing me. Seriously.

It is her cheeseball songs which kill you. "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" might be the most ridiculed song on earth because of how silly the concept of the song is, but on the other hand, it kind of rips your damn heart out exactly because of this goofiness letting the heartbreak story sneak up on you.
But you can only hear so many of these songs before you kind of just have to bust out laughing. "Kids Say the Darndest Things" and "She Didn't Color Daddy" and "I Don't Want to Play House" are each heartrending in their own right, but with her whole resume of songs in this vein, at a certain point you lose it.

But being country's power couple of heartbreak, their best stuff is together. "Two Story House" and "Golden Ring" both made the cut. Maybe they aren't exactly what I had in mind when I first started this mix, because either of them if you listen in passing sound cheerful. I remember having listened to them for years and then one day had them both on an album and really listened to them for the first time. I had to listen to them on repeat to just wallow in the horror of this quiet tragedy that slips up on you. "Golden Ring" might really be the true winner, though both are so wretched and effective because they are being sung by both sides at the same time, with no one party singled out as the offending party, instead the breakdown is presented as almost inevitable and unnecessary at the same time. Maybe this is what makes these songs so effective: we know the narrators have personal knowledge of this kind of tragedy, but they sing it from a neutral if sympathetic distance which make the wrong turns and misunderstanding seem so misguided and avoidable.

The whole project is unworkable though. I just remembered that I don't have Robert Earl Keen, Jr.'s "Billy Grey" which is pretty much unmatched as outlaw tragedy love song. Ok, that isn't true, Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" is right there neck and neck, though for some reason though I find it harder to imagine it inspiring tears.

There are...

...things in this world that I don't understand.

There is a man that looks slightly like Bono, yellow sunglasses and all, in a denim shirt and badly fitting jeans who sounds like someone's Jewish grandmother interviewing monster truck drivers on the television in my room. Even back home in Alabama this wouldn't make sense. But I'm not in Alabama; I'm in the middle of the North Pacific sharing a bunk-room on a fishing boat with a middle-aged Filipino man who apparently likes monster trucks. Or more accurately, is willing to watch anything on DVD or video because we are way the hell out at sea and our choices for entertainment are severely limited.

Now I have nothing against monster trucks. Really, I love that Kelis video where she drives around in the giant pink monster truck and I might even admit if pressed that I remember as a kid in the eighties seeing clips of Big Foot driving over a bunch of cars and having heated philosophical discussions with my brother and cousins about why one would build a monster truck, where you could get one, who would buy it, what response a car owner might have when they find their car crushed, and whether it was legal to drive one on the highway and if it wasn't, how could they stop you? All important questions, but exactly what kids in the eighties should have been discussing so leave me alone, besides these cousins lived in the big city (Huntsville) and therefore were expert sources for knowledge about the outside world that we otherwise wouldn't have known about. I remember clearly as a very young child being told by them that Dolly Parton had the largest breasts in the world and that she had to wear a solid steel bra to keep them from dragging the ground. I don't think I actually really believed them most of the time, but it is amazing the lengths kids will go to discussing why something is or isn't true when there is no actual authority to appeal to. I hope this isn't completely lost now that the internet is easily available to debunk the controversial misunderstanding that children would never dream of going to an adult for an authoritative opinion on.

Anyway, point being I have to admit to a slight fascination with monster trucks. I even went to a monster truck rally in high school and it was the dumbest, campiest thing I have ever been to. Which is exactly why it was fun. With a group of friends who can laugh with you at the 'transformer' battle and the supreme anticlimaticism of some junk cars getting crushed by a big truck, it is fun. Mostly fun to make fun of after the fact. The 'races' last about two seconds. If they make it even one lap without a truck flipping over on its side, you cheer. Honestly, zamboni racing would be more riveting.

So thank you ESPN2 for finding the only thing less exciting than a monster truck race (which would be interviews with the drivers and fans and random employees at monster truck rallies) and making a show about it. And of course this would find its way into the roulette wheel of offshore video collections. Last night we had a Pierce Brosnon film festival with whichever of the James Bond movies he did with Denise Richards and then The Thomas Crown Affair. Tonight it was Mark Walburg as a hitman in The Big Hit and then Inside Monster Truck Jam. Throw in a a few kung fu flicks; a Filipino, young adult suicide drama with the hottest man I've ever seen in a film and the worst portrayal of the gay side-kick girl's-best-friend (not the same person); innumerable Steven Segal and Jean Claude Van Damn flicks (in my mind they are in constant competition with each other and sadly I've seen enough to have an opinion: Van Damn kick's Segal's ass all over the place); too many kareoke videos in assorted languages; Rush Hour II; and The Blues Brothers and you have either the most schizophrenic cable movie channel imaginable... or your typical offshore video experience. That is just this trip and just the one's that I remember off the top of my head from the last few days.

And you wonder why I play so much spider solitaire.

"You complete me.": a few thoughts on Lego Love (the treatment of individuals as building material rather than autonomous beings)

I wouldn't never choose to watch a sports movie. I just don't. Same as I normally would never choose to sit down and watch sports on tv. This isn't to say that I don't sometimes enjoy both. I remember loving The Natural and Rudy (though I couldn't now tell you anything about either except which sport each involved) and the Boise State/Oklahoma game at last year's Fiesta Bowl was one of the most exciting things I've ever seen. But still, most of the time I just don't get into them, so I stuck in my headphones and started playing spider solitaire when my bunkmate put in Jerry McGuire. If anything sounds more boring to me than a sports movie, it is a movie about a sports agent.

I remember when it came out and everyone was talking about it and how great it was and all these irritating lines from the movie were being quoted. It annoyed the hell out of me and while I never doubted that it was actually probably a good movie, I never really wanted to see it. Oddly enough, the one cheesy line which was quoted over and over again which didn't get on my nerves was, "You had me from 'hello'." Ok, I know that is one of the the sappiest lines in all movie history and easily the most obnoxious from a movie full of obnoxious sound bites. How do I like that one and still grump at all the rest? Well, I'm just like that. Kenny Chesney irritates the holy hell out of me, but I still like the song titled after and based on that line. (Honestly, I do like that song, and reflecting on that I kind of feel bad about some of the rougher opinions I've expressed about K-Che.)

Why am I writing about this now, since I've just declared that I chose headphones and spider solitaire to spare me from this movie? Because spider solitaire only lasts so long and I ended up watching bits of the movie, most importantly the last chunk. The movie is engaging enough and I probably would have just stored that in the back of my head and not really thought about it again except there is the moment which is supposed to be touching when Jerry McGuire comes running back to find his wife and win her back. He comes in to the house to find her in what appears to be a divorce support group and... I started to type 'declares his love for her' but that isn't what he does. He tells her how incomplete the victory was without her to share it with, how much he missed what he shared with her, and all this built up to his big line: "You complete me."

Which made me throw up just a little bit in my mouth. "You complete me," may be the most repellent line I have ever heard. Why? Because he didn't come back and declare his love for her at all, he came back and told her he wasn't letting her get rid of him and declared how much he had missed the role she performed in his life. He didn't say a damn thing about loving her or missing her; he listed out what was missing when someone, who seemingly just happened to be her, wasn't there to perform that role. He didn't miss her, he missed his Wife.

It really fucking got under my skin. I was actually kind of letting myself get into the emotion of the movie and was looking forward to their reconciliation and hearing her say, "You had me from hello." I still like that line, perhaps all the more for how it stands in such stark contrast to this "You complete me," bullshit. One speaks to a spark between two people, being instantly taken by this new person and completely swept away by them; the other speaks to ownership and the sublimation of one individual by another.

The scene was all the creepier given Tom Cruise's recent interactions with the media. He's seemed more and more calculated as time goes on, with his marriage coming across as calculated to look perfect. It may in fact be truly perfect and they may be happy as clams, but it sure as hell looked like he was getting married and having a child for the sake of achieving these appropriate milestones and filling out a fairytale life. Which is exactly what Jerry was doing in the movie and the reason that his wife initially intends on them separating: he is using her to fill a family shaped void in his life but doesn't truly love her. When he comes back, it isn't because he has had an epiphany and found that he did truly love her, he just doesn't want this formulaic facsimile to break up and leave his perfect world with unfulfilled roles. Maybe I'm just being cynical, but there wasn't really anything in his speech to her to suggest otherwise. He said it more emphatically, but emphasis does not change the meaning here and to my mind at least made it even more offensive.

(Bunkmate is now watching some whitewater rafting movie with Alan Alda, Peter Gallagher, and the dad from Alf.)

I'm certainly showing personal prejudice here (isn't that what a blog is for?); I don't like the idea of people looking to other people as solutions to problems or to fill the empty spaces. I'm not a fixer-upper and don't care to date one either. I want a partnership not a supporting role in someone else's life (or someone else taking a supporting role in mine). There is nothing more depressing that realizing that someone isn't actually in love with you so much as in love with the function you fulfill in their life. I've always had a sharp aversion to titles like 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend', not so much because being one or having someone who I consider as such bothers me, but much of the time I feel like the title is meant to stake a claim of ownership rather than to confer affection. I'll happily claim a boyfriend as an indication of how I feel about him, but in situations where it could be taken as my staking a claim of ownership, I cringe, not at the thought of claiming him, but at the idea of introducing this person not as their own person but as their role in my life. This is coming across poorly (granted, these days I feel that coming across poorly just might be my superhero power), and there is a fine line in it all and more than a few times I have certainly raised the ire of a significant other for not wanting to 'claim' them the way they expected me to claim them.

But this moment in Jerry McGuire perfectly illustrated the worst of this kind of instinct to eclipse the individual with the role: when he returns, he addresses the room of women with a demand for his Wife and as he lists off what he missed and who he missed, it was his Wife and the role she fulfilled for him which he cites, not the woman who is his wife.

I can understand missing the role a loved one plays in your life; that is only human and practically, we do play roles in each other's lives. But missing the fulfillment of that roll and missing how that particular individual makes you feel when they are there to fulfill that role are two very different things. He didn't want to share it with (name I can't remember), he wanted to share it with his Wife. A Wife was an integral part of a perfect life and he didn't want to lose that formulaic perfection he was so close to completing. She was just one more shiny plastic piece that he had to have to to complete his perfect Lego marriage as the crowning component for his perfect, shiny Lego life. He didn't love her, he loved how she fit in the appropriate space.

A few thoughts on the election...

I'm writing this on Tuesday, March 4, 2008. They are having primaries for the presidential race somewhere. I don't know what states and don't really care. I've been enjoying the horse-raceness of it all, but I'm also kind of glad to be out at sea and not have to think about it.

Then again, here I am writing about it, so I guess thinking about it is exactly what I'm doing, but at least I don't have to listen to anyone else going on about it. I imagine this primary won't actually make any more real difference. I'll come off the boat and find out that Hillary and Obama are still at it and McCain is still being annoyed by Huckabee.

As long as I've started, a few thoughts about the election. Let's start with the republicans. It has come down to McCain as the only real contender, but it started out that way. Mitt Romney never had a chance in hell. I'm still flabbergasted that he got any votes at all, but the republican party is the party for morons who do whatever the talking heads tell them to. I'm divided about why I think rush limbaugh and ann coulter and the asshats at fox rallied behind him. One possibility is that he paid them to. They are in it for the money and he certainly had money and liked to spend it. The other is that they know he'd have no chance against Hillary or Obama and if a democrat takes the office then their money train keeps on rolling. A second Clinton presidency is a wet dream for them and make it the lady Clinton and they've can just recycle old material over and over again until they find something new to scream bloody murder about. A black man with a funny name? Also a conservative talk radio dipshit's dream president. Their bread and butter is voicing the indignation of jackasses and either scenario is perfect for them. Either wins and they get to roll around in money the next 8 years while they whip either misogynists or bigots into frenzies.

I've listened to rush and hannity railing against McCain, and honestly their dislike of him is probably his strongest selling point and the only reason he might still have some cross-over appeal. I voted for him in the 2000 primary (in SC, anyone can vote in both primaries) and liked him reasonably well until he became bush's do-boy for the last eight years and started screaming like a banshee for more and more war. There are things to like about him and he at least seems to take his cues from the real world and the affect of all this animosity from the loony fringe of the right wing is that they are going to have less influence in his Whitehouse than they had in the last.

But McCain won the South Carolina primary this year with fewer votes than he had when he lost it last time, and this without any other serious contender. The only other person who ever should have had a chance was Fred Thompson and that is only because he looks the part and we all love our actor politicians. But he puttered flat pretty quickly. Strangely enough the last man standing when I went to sea this last time was Mike Huckabee, whose only reason for being famous nationally is losing weight while in office.

I'll come back to him another time, but right now I only want to consider real contenders, and even discussing the republicans is something of a concession. There is a slim chance that McCain might get it, but let's get real. bush kicked his ass back when he was still likeable and the only reason bush was able to take the office the first time was that lieberman made an already boring Al Gore completely unpalatable while all the raging loonies bum rushed behind georgie porgie. And he still couldn't win the popular vote and had to rely on dirty tricks and pulled strings to make up the difference.

I know, I know: we can't assume anything and the repubs might stay in control, but anyway the only real race right now is between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It has been the only race all along.

So what do I think about them? Thanks for asking, I'd love to tell you.

Either of them would make a great president in comparison to any of the presidents we've had in the last twenty years. The country would run ok with either at the helm, but I don't know that just running ok is enough right now. I think we really have more pressing issues than we want to admit and they are all the more pressing after the last eight years of complete fuckery from that office.

I used to listen to Randi Rhodes talk radio show while I worked back in New York. She's all fire and fight when it comes to politics, but I remember her once telling a caller to never, NEVER discuss politics while drinking. I liked that and have tried to make it a rule to live by for myself. I get fired up about politics and once the ball gets rolling I don't pull punches no matter who I am talking to. Sober, I know how to keep it from accelerating out of control downhill but drinking...I'm like everyone else so I try to back avoid politics. Certainly with republicans this is a hard and fast rule. Anyway, the point is that I kind of let myself loosen up a little with this rule. Discussing Clinton vs. Obama should not be the same volatile equivalent to discussing the Iraq War. Most of the time I'm drinking I'm surrounded by similarly minded folks and good chunk of my drinking is done in gay bars. Maybe there will be a time again when gay people can in good conscience consider voting for a republican president, but that time ain't now. You've got to be a self-hating fucktard to be gay and support these guys right now (of course, like everybody else, we've got our fucktards in spades), so I let my guard down and started letting myself get drawn into primary discussions.

I've said I like both contenders, but I do lean more heavily for Barack Obama. I really like him for a variety of reasons, but largely the scales tip in his favor because I do have some apprehensions with Hillary Clinton. She is brilliant and would easily be the wonkiest and perhaps most intelligent president that has ever sat in the Whitehouse. When it comes to straight policy on lots of issues, I really like her. But being a politician isn't just being smart and getting the details right and when she gets to realpolitiking, it all gets twisted. I can't and won't forgive her vote on the Iraq war. It was wrong and either I'm wrong and she's dumb (and ever other fucker who voted for it) as a damn brick, or it was craven and calculated. Either way is unacceptable, but I'll grant that she was being tugged from all sides and having to make difficult decisions and was getting advice that told her this was the thing to do.

Which brings me to my real beef with her: her advisors. She is flush with old washington lobbiest cronies. They've got her ear. She may have brilliant ideas, but she got pipers to pay in every direction. She way too corporate for my taste. I think she'll do right by lot's of public policy issues, but in general the things that we need most to really allow us to go in a good direction deal with reigning in corporate influence in DC. She'd be just as good as Bill was in office, and it would be a breath of fresh air to again have someone who was coherent and eloquent dealing with foreign leaders, but Bill also signed that damn communications bill that let clear channel expand and pushed NAFTA through. She might be different, but all clues point to her not.
Barack Obama might not do any better, but there is every suggestion that he might. And I like that he is relatively unentrenched. His lack of experience translates to a lack of cronies, and lacking experience he is going to have to surround himself with experts. I think he is savy enough to figure out who to listen to and to really take in good information and process it well. And he comes into it without the Clinton baggage. And he isn't part of a dynasty. I want new names in the Whitehouse after 25 years of two families running things.

I don't think any of those would be considered controversial ideas. Most people I talk to don't think they are. Not everyone agrees or we just have different ways of judging them or whatever, but I seem to have an uncanny talent for finding that one person who is crazy and will flip the fuck out over any criticism of Clinton. I've on at least three occasions in different cities managed to sit with someone who asked my opinion of Obama vs. Clinton only to have them end up spitting venom at me and informing me that they are working in some significant capacity for the Clinton campaign in that city. It will all start off nice, and they will ask me what I think about Obama, and I'll say I like him. They say something nice about him and then they would ask about Clinton and I say I like her and will vote for her if it comes down to it but prefer Obama (or, at the time when these conversations were taking place, Edwards). Then they would tell me why they liked Hillary which usually just ended up being cult of personality reasons and try and get me to agree with them, which I didn't so I wouldn't. Then it would turn into the sort of Jedi mind trick section of the conversation where some comment would be made along the lines of, "When Hillary is elected..." I have never been able to leave well enough alone, so I'd of course say, "If she gets the nomination..." which was received like I just shat on their mother's grave. "WHEN she is president, because she will get the nomination..." and then it turns against Obama, "He would be a horrible president and shouldn't even be running..."

That whole sequence keeps playing itself out with me, and that was before the primaries really even got rolling, so I've gone back to just not discussing the race with strangers (which I'm sure I'll forget as soon as I'm back on land and around people talking about the election).

Monsters, real and imagined (no, this is not about politics)

Steven Segal is playing guitar with Marty Stewart. He is an EPA agent trying to stop evil casino tycoon Kris Kristofferson from polluting the river and killing a bunch of hicks, all the while charming and falling in love with the sassy redhead from CSI. She is not sassy in this movie. Apparently all of Nashville has decided to cameo in this movie as well, so in addition to Marty and Kris, we've got Randy Travis (who is a bad guy and gets shot by Segal in a truckstop diner) and Travis Tritt, who just performs at the casino. The one thing Marty Stuart and Steven Segal and Travis Tritt have in common is having improbably horrible haircuts and they've all sported these same damn horrible haircuts for more than twenty years in public life now. Maybe they could at least trade bad hair cuts with each other (if I had access to the internet right now, I would so spend the rest of the night photoshopping their hairdo's on each other and any of my friends I could find old photos of).

Everyday I tell myself I am not going to comment on the things my roommate chooses to watch on his tv and then day after day I am confronted with something out of the darkest depths of videotaped hell. How many thousand movies has Steven Segal made? Seriously. He and Jean Claude Van Damn could completely fill the rotation of a cable network and never show the same film twice in two years. I thought taking a job out at sea would bring me adventure and excitement and leave me with a greater appreciation for the wonders of our planet. Instead it has left me with informed opinions about the filmography of Segal and Van Damn. One day (probably later tonight) I'm going to break down and do a side by side comparison of these two ass-kicking fools, but first I have more important things to comment on: aliens and squids.

There is no better place to watch space flicks than lying in your bunk on a boat in the middle of the ocean. You are kind of lurching around and the feeling of being isolated inside a ship is real for you so it makes the flick all the more believable. I'm about to admit something which a person of my age shouldn't be able to admit: prior to tonight, I'd never watched the original Alien. Now I've seen bits and pieces on cable, and I remember when it first came out I read the spoof of it in Mad Magazine, but I never saw it. But this just made it more awesome to watch it this time in this isolated ship-bound seclusion.

Of course when you aren't in a movie theater, there always seems to be some kind of interruption right at a crucial moment. This is usually unwelcome and totally ruins it for you, but sometimes it is perfect. So tonight, at the end during the self-destruct sequence when Ripley is running for the shuttle and rounds the corner to face the critter, my roommate opens the door and asks me if I have seen one of the big squids yet. He had just caught a really big one, so I paused the movie and jumped out of bed and ran out on deck to see this beast. The bastard was a fucking Humboldt (I think) squid that was damn near three feet long! There is this monstrous thing sitting there, flashing angry colors and staring at me. I was down close taking pictures and it moved unexpectedly and I had a sudden flashing image of the Alien attacking me.

I've heard these are pretty mean little monsters. All squid have little mean hooked beaks, as I have on occasion been reminded when trying to get photos of the beautiful little flying squid that sometimes land on deck. Three inches long, but they will twist themselves into a knot to bite your fingers. Now there was no way in hell that I was going to get anywhere near the beak in this giant thing, but in addition to having the big version of the terrifying mouth all cephalopods have, I'd heard that these guys also have claws on their suckers. Of course the scientist in me conspired with the idiot in me to reach out and touch a sucker and see if it is true.

It is true, and they can move surprisingly quickly and are pretty strong. Thankfully he didn't get a good grip on me. Those are some serious fucking claws.

While inspecting this one, my friend got another on his hook and I got to help him pull it in. I could see other squids swimming about it, glowing white in the light like they do most of the time at night, while the one on the hook flashed all manner of angry colors. As it broke the surface it blasted this rich brown ink everywhere and tried blasting us with water from its siphons. My pal gaffed it and we brought it on board. I got some more pictures and another of the crew came out and chopped the two long tentacles off to microwave as a snack (they were delicious). I'm generally more of a take-em-alive kind of guy, but I work on a fishing boat and I'd never get to inspect these things up close if someone wasn't catching them for food so I again made peace with my pangs of guilt and went back to geeking out about how cool they are (and snacking on their tentacles).

A few more pictures and I traded one slimy monster for another and went back to my movie. Which of course was awesome and the perfect way to round out my night. This would actually be the perfect night at sea, exactly the kind of thing I came out here for. I say 'would' because the creepy fake monster/creepy real monster synergy was book-ended by a Lifetime original movie starring Melissa Gilbert and the aforementioned Steven Segal movie, which would make it instead a typical night at sea.

(It is worth noting that during the Segal movie that had apparently been taped off TV, they kept showing commercials for Aliens III and one of the hillbilly characters in the movie was the same actor who had played Brett in Alien.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cary Ann Hearst

I've been negligent lately. I've been at sea, but I've written copiously and just haven't posted it yet.

With this lifestyle, working like a dog at sea for weeks at a time, you have to treat yourself when you hit land and try to periodically convince yourself that it is all worth it. Most recently, I've staved off my imbicilic urge to buy new shoes (I live in fucking Hawaii and wear flip flops every day; why to I need new day-glo Pumas or one more pair of high tops or cowboy boots?) and have instead indulged in consuming music via Itunes. I have a hundred complaints with Itunes, but none serious enough to counter the seductive ease with which one can indulge their musical whims, so here I am with all these tunes.

Oddly enough, I've repurchased multiple Indigo Girls albums, which I'm not in the least ashamed of, even though every album I purchased I had already bought at some point as a cd or cassette. And I bought the new Jason Mraz song which I unappologetically love. And plenty of other things (expect to hear me talk ad nauseum about Leslie Hall soon).

Point being, I spent a pretty signifigant chunk of change on music recently. The most recent purchase is Cary Ann Hearst's album, Dust and Bones. I already had a couple of songs off this, so in all honesty, this purchase is not my first experience with her song "Dresden Snow", but regardless, that one song, if it was the only thing I had gotten out of spending the hundred or so dollars that I've recently spent on music, would be worth every penny. It is impossible for me to relate here how beautiful it is. Her voice, the lyrics, every damn thing about it hurts my feelings by being so beautiful. So I finally bought the whole album.

It was a bizarre experience having been given this song by a friend only to realize later that this Cary Ann was the same Cary Ann who used to play guitar and sing sitting on the stoop beneath my old apartment on King Street in Charleston back when she was still trying to get a gig singing at the Horse and Cart (may it rest in peace). So I'd be inclined to dismiss my enthusiasm as just so much nostalgia, but screw that, the girl can fucking sing. Go buy her album and if you get a chance to see her live, jump on it and write me about it. I'll be jealous and you'll be lucky.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

uh.... Walnuts!

just go to Wonkette and watch the video:

Walnuts!: Raining Fury On John McCain

The whole thing is a work of art, but the perfect moment that tips it over that edge into full on Cobra-La is when the lead singer splashes her face with little McCains that are falling from the sky (about 2 minutes in). Enjoy!