Friday, December 30, 2005

What do you mean it's almost 1000 pages?

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
-Mark Strand

The library did it to me again. I am still working on the Kafka biography and the reserve system dumped two more books on my lap. The Beatles by Bob Spitz is a door stop. Don't know if I will do more than skim through it looking for the juicy bits. Some of the criticism I have read is that it is full of errors many that may have been the result of a rush to press in order to get it ready before Christmas but that the writing is strong and exhaustive as one would assume in a tome that size. Still should be fun and at the very least will send me back to their records.

The other one that came in was History of Love by Nicole Krauss(Half of the New York based literary wunderkind couple as Jonathan Safran Foer (interesting web site) is her husband but she doesn't talk about him.) Themes of their books are similar dealing with Jewish grandparents, Holocaust, post 9/11, both have used young protagonists to narrate novels, and both are obviously talented and at times extremely funny. I heard a blurb from NPR's Fresh Air reviewer Maureen Corrigan on her Best Of lists and thought I would check it out the Krauss book despite the faint whiff of hype that sometimes leads to overvaluation and subsequent disappointment.

To add to the pile of books to be read I cashed in a Prairie Lights gift certificate for a collection of Kafka stories (updated translation recommended by Bloom) and a historical novel from the remainder table, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant which is about a young girl raised in 15th century Florence that I have wanted to read since I first heard about it.

I just noticed that Scruffy has her favorite books of the year up. She has a few that are on my ever expanding To Be Read list. As for my favorites, off the top of my head for fiction; Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy and Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which I finally got around to reading. Nothing else comes immediately to mind but I am sure will as soon as I hit the publish button. I didn't really keep an accurate reading journal which I have done in previous years. That task is also on my list of resolutions which is another task in itself, committing the resolutions themselves to paper or at least to a text file. Tony Hoagland's book of poems Donkey Gospel arrived from Interlibrary... I guess I did it to myself.

UPDATE: "I am a sick man...", I could not resist stopping at the Book End (public library book store for you outlanders) and of course bought ($2) True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey in pristine trade paper. It had an irresistible blurb on the back from San Francisco Chronicle, "...blending Dickens and Cormac McCarthy with a distinctly Australian strain of melancholy." I also saw two copies of Dog of the South by Charles Portis a hilarious quixotic tale by a writer that reminds me of J.P. Donleavy and John Kennedy Toole.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Shuffle Off To Buffalo


Jack and Tom

The Stadium formerly known as Rich

Postgame (I think it's safe to assume)

Tom, my friend and former coworker at the nuclear power plant is a picture freak. We went to a lot of Red Sox games and some Patriots games together. We went with Jack to Baltimore twice to see Sox at Camden Yards and flew up to Buffalo to see Pats take on the Bills. Doug Flutie now the backup to Tom Brady was Bills quarterback and we even managed to score a box of Flutie Flakes. I miss traveling with the guys for games. What I don't miss is posing for Tommy's embarrasing photo ops. Usually he stages them with very attractive women exept that he cuts you completely out of the shot and tends to focus in on the attributes. He sends me lots of pictures via email. Usually doing a core dump of his digital camera. The subjects are at times completely random: his son, his truck, a tree, waitress at a bar, hot chick at a bar, another hot chick at bar, etc.... I received a new batch today from their latest trip to Buffalo and a couple of shots from the 'hood. I thought I would share them because either I am feeling a tad nostalgic or the pictures are unusally good this time or like all things a little bit of both.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Managed to catch at least a little of A Christmas Story last night as we visited the Dublin for a nightcap after dinner. Afterwards at home we watched The Ref, which is a modern under appreciated holiday classic. It is definitely in my top 10 list of favorite Christmas movies. The list would include White Christmas, Christmas in Connecticut, and Holiday Inn, the orginal showcase for Irving Berlin's holiday songs. I think this movie would be a considered one of the more popular movies of Christmas if it wasn't for an unfortunate blackface scene. The Bing Crosby character decides to chuck Broadway fame for the quiet bucolic pleasures of a Connecticut farm. Much dancing and singing follows. White Christmas is a different take of a holiday romance using the songs of Holiday Inn but exchanging Fred Astaire for Danny Kaye and adding a good supporting cast including Rosemary Clooney. The film is directed by Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame.

I enjoy The Ref as it reminds of me of the holiday season back home in Connecticut like the above painting of boat on the Thames (long A sound). The film is set in the fictional town of 'Old Baybrook' (Old Saybrook) which is not too far up the coast from my hometown of Ledyard. The film evokes memories of Ledyard and the surrounding area as well as all of New England. (Despite actually being filmed in Ontario.)

There seems to be a tradition of holiday films set in Connecticut as most of the films mentioned above are. Well, White Christmas is actually set in Vermont, but when Ethan Allen orginally annexed (stole) the territory from New York/New Hampshire he wanted to call it New Connecticut after his former home. Friends suggested that it might be a tad soon to start naming territories after existing colonies so the leader of the Green Mountain Boys took a suggestion offered and choose the name Vermont instead. Shortly after Allen died Vermont became the fourteenth state. Time to open presents.

Seasons Greetings.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sin City (See Previous Post)

There are some pretty hip dudes in the film too but it seems like I ran out of space. Not really. I lied. Sorry.

COMING SOON: Christmas in Germany: (or attempting to reconstruct a 33 year old memory with the 'help' of my mother. Wish me luck.)

Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

I told K. I was going to send her a link to this song but I will just post it here. A friend made me a mix cd a few months ago with a couple of songs by the band The Holdy Steady one of them, The Swish, is available on their site along with the one below. I want this album.

"Your Little Hoodrat Friend" (Right Click and Save)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

"It was Christmas Eve in the drunk tank..."

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. From the Pogues, it's a duet between Shane McGowan and Kirsty MacColl. The single is being re-released this month to benefit a fund called Justice For Kirsty Campaign as she was killed five years ago in a boating accident while on vacation in Mexcio. Apparently her family has not been satisified with the investigation. There are more details on the Pogues site: In the Wake of the Medusa. The song takes its name from the underappeciated Irish writer J.P. Donleavy whose novel, A Fairytale of New York begins with Irish-American Cornelius Christian's return to NewYork City with the body of his wife who died on the voyage over. Hilarity ensues. The Gingerman is probably his most well known and Schultz is another one one of his farces that I enjoyed. All of this introduction is in order to showcase a music site that I found a few months ago and then lost and found again, Chromewaves.

Chromewaves Dot Net is one of the best musical blogs around I have managed to find and finally bookmark for keeps. The mp3 of the week is the Stars version of the above mentioned Fairy Tale of New York. The blog is often filled with mp3s of current releases or live shows. The year in review attaches a full mp3 to each selection.

UPDATE: Pogues have reunited with lead singer Shane McGowan and are touring US (east coast). There is a Boston show in March for those of you close to Beantown.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

SNL Narnia Skit

Someone sent me the link and I had to share. Apologies to those who have seen it. Picture link.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Consider the Lobster

I spent some time at the library this weekend and managed to score a few decent things off of the discard shelf; Pascal's Pensees in paperback with an introduction by T.S. Eliot, the last book in John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, The Lonely Silver Rain (one of my favorite anti-hero mystery/detective characters delivered in compelling prose) and the first two of at least five books in Douglas Adams Hitchhiker trilogy, which I have been meaning to reread.

Also checked out David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster, a collection of essays previously published. (The title an homage to M.F.K. Fisher's Consider the Oyster, a classic included in her recently reprinted collection The Art of Eating, worth a spot on the shelf of everyone's library.)
Wallace's book includes the wonderful review/article on English usage from Atlantic Monthly which was responsible for at least two people I know purchasing the book discussed, Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner. (I might even own two copies of this, one stashed in an attic and one in the living room). The title piece discusses his attending the Maine Lobster Festival and attempting to answer the question "Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?" My answer, Yes, (although steaming them is better) and it is probably better to kill them quickly with a knife though the spinal cord right before tossing them in the pot as demonstrated by Jacques Pepin on his PBS cooking which I also managed to catch this weekend. Didn't come up with any lobsters though. David Foster Wallace's path to his answer is worth reading no matter how you come down on the question.

Best of lists are all over the place. Let the arguments begin. I enjoyed seeing what Ebert picked as his Top 10 for year in movies, especially as having seen none of them (yet). Music lists abound too. Pitchfork has its top 50 singles today with the album list coming tomorrow. PopMatters has its top 50 albums today. I like that they break it down into Top 10 lists for some genres (Metal, Jazz , Country). NPR's list is more convenient if you have the bandwidth to listen to the samples selected. The best of 2005 show is here.

These year in review lists largely show how far out of touch I am (or how much farther I would be if KUNI and NPR were not available). I think they demonstrate how much good music is out there and how hard it is to keep up with it. I also listened to All Songs Considered Holiday Music show with songs by Marah, Rev. Horton Heat, Ricky Skaggs and more. The last five holiday shows are archived as well. Fun stuff.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Art of The Mix

" The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules. "
- Rob Gordon in High Fidelity (Nick Hornby)

One of the curious things about these blogs is monitoring the traffic and noticing that people you don't know have actually visited your site. I found a link to a site called Art of the Mix while browsing through traffic logs from a blogger in Colorado with decent musical taste and some intriguing songs posted. The Art of the Mix site has a searchable archive (by song or artist) of mix tapes that have been uploaded by readers. You can submit your own classic mixes for posterity. Mix of the Week is one of the features. I like to give mix tapes as gifts when I can get off my lazy arse and actually make them. Maybe this will inspire me.

Enjoy the weekend I am off to do some shopping for the holidays and to stop by the library and pick up the book Mix Tape by Thurston Moore pictured above. (Click on the cassette for more details.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lawrence Redux

Following the link from A&L Daily:

The New Yorker has a review this week of a new biography of D.H Lawrence. Opinions of Lawrence seem to follow a similar line of the comments following the Hoagland poem. "People talking about Lawrence sound like his own quarrelsome couples: they hate him, they say, or they love him, or both."

Other quotations from the article.

Henry Miller: “Lawrence hits so directly at our weaknesses that we rush to the attack upon his weaknesses.”

Martin Amis: "When I reflect that D. H. Lawrence, perhaps the most foul-tempered writer of all time (beater of women and animals, racist, anti-Semite, etc., etc.), was also, perhaps, the most extravagantly slapdash exponent of language, I feel the lure of some immense generalisation about probity and prose.

The article concludes his weakness as a person led to his strengths as a writer.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Death of Modern Art?

The image was associated with discussion/review of many books about and current direction of modern art in Sunday's NY Times Book Review.

This led me to the artist Lou Beach's website with his portfolio of various images and he also had a link to actor Jeff Bridges' site which is kind of funky,with sections of upcoming movies, interviews, his photography, causes, friends, family (his mother's poems to be precise) and other stuff (including breast feeding video which I think had something to do with a hunger project). This led me to conclusion that I should get back to work. The Dude abides.

I Don't Like Mondays

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Spectacle of Maggots

by Tony Hoagland

On two occasions in the past twelve months
I have failed, when someone at a party
spoke of him with a dismissive scorn,
to stand up for D. H. Lawrence,

a man who burned like an acetylene torch
from one end to the other of his life.
These individuals, whose relationship to literature
s approximately that of a tree shredder

to stands of old-growth forest,
these people leaned back in their chairs,
bellies full of dry white wine and the ovum of some foreign fish,
and casually dropped his name

the way pygmies with their little poison spears
strut around the carcass of a fallen elephant.
“O Elephant,” they say,
“you are not so big and brave today!”

It’s a bad day when people speak of their superiors
with a contempt they haven’t earned,
and it’s a sorry thing when certain other people

don’t defend the great dead ones
who have opened up the world before them.
And though, in the catalogue of my betrayals,
this is a fairly minor entry,

I resolve, if the occasion should recur,
to uncheck my tongue and say,
“I love the spectacle of maggots condescending to a corpse,
”or, “You should be so lucky in your brainy, bloodless life

as to deserve to lift
just one of D. H. Lawrence’s urine samples
to your arid psychobiographic
theory-tainted lips.”

Or maybe I’ll just take the shortcut
between the spirit and the flesh,
and punch someone in the face,
because human beings haven’t come that far

in their effort to subdue the body,
and we still walk around like zombies
in our dying, burning world,
able to do little more

than fight, and fuck, and crow,
something Lawrence wrote about
in such a manner
as to make us seem magnificent.

Copyright © Tony Hoagland

A couple of weeks ago Tony Hoagland was the subject of Robert Pinsky's Poet's Choice column. I was amused by the poem selected, What Narcissism Means to Me, the title poem of Hoagland's latest collection.There is a wonderfully thorough review of the collection here.

I scouted around and found more poems and essays. Like the reviewer above noted, Hoagland's titles such as Smallpox Vaccination Sutra, Hate Hotel draw you in for a closer look which is rewarded. The poems Bad Intelligence and Operations, which are critical and poke fun at the military, both resonated with me because as a military intelligence linguist I had taken part in the lamely named Operation Just Cause. (Immediately redubbed Operation Just Because We Want the Panama Canal Back.) What ever happened to the semantically null but cool names like Operation Overlord? This attraction of titles is true not only for his poems but also for one his essays on poetry from the Poetry Daily website, Negative Capability: How to Talk Mean and Influence People.

Anyway,I chose the poem above as an example of his work for a couple of reasons. It is delightfully wicked and I have recently felt the same regrets of the narrator (In my case it was Don Delillo being run down and I really couldn't speak up because I was eavesdropping). Another reason is that I too have spoken with 'unearned contempt' of writers without really reading them closely or at all.(Seriously though, I will not go near Lady Chatterly's Lover again unless its the Cinemax late night movie version.) Enough rambling, mistakes will be corrected as noted. Have a good weekend. I leave you with another of his poems since I probably won't post anything for a couple of days.

by Tony Hoagland

Sometimes I wish I were still out
on the back porch, drinking jet fuel
with the boys, getting louder and louder
as the empty cans drop out of our paws
like booster rockets falling back to Earth

and we soar up into the summer stars.
Summer. The big sky river rushes overhead,
bearing asteroids and mist, blind fish
and old space suits with skeletons inside.
On Earth, men celebrate their hairiness,

and it is good, a way of letting life
out of the box, uncapping the bottle
to let the effervescence gush
through the narrow, usually constricted neck.

And now the crickets plug in their appliances
in unison, and then the fireflies flash
dots and dashes in the grass, like punctuation
for the labyrinthine, untrue tales of sex
someone is telling in the dark, though

no one really hears. We gaze into the night
as if remembering the bright unbroken planet
we once came from,
to which we will never
be permitted to return.
We are amazed how hurt we are.
We would give anything for what we have.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor / Strawberry Fields Forever

I should have mentioned something about Pearl Harbor yesterday. War memorials from over sixty years ago tend to get overlooked somewhat in the fog of an ongoing war.

I spent the summer of 1978 (along with sister and mother) with my grandparents in Kauai, HI. (Yes, I do know that I was fortunate in my selection of grandparents.) Towards the end of the summer before returning home we spent a week or so in Oahu and visited the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor. Even at eleven years old I felt this trip was haunting. Unlike other battlesite memorials and graves I have since visited over the years Pearl Harbor was different, the U.S.S Arizona was a sunken tomb with over a thousand sailors frozen in the same place as when they went down with the ship. I did not receive the same eerie feeling at other places even though the loss of life may have been greater or the field of battle bloodier.

Today marks the anniversary of John Lennon's death. It was not until 1996 that I visited Strawberry Fields and the Imagine memorial. It was one of those things that since I lived close to NYC and visited occasionally I never really did any touristy type things for fear of being viewed as a tourist or worse, a rube from the burbs. That changed when a friend from high school got married and I was in the wedding party. Since he had been stationed in England during his stint in the Air Force he had invited some close friends from there to the wedding.

After the wedding, I volunteered to take these friends of his down to NYC for a couple days of sightseeing and then drop them off at JFK. (They had planned on doing a one way rental car dropoff with ludicrous fees involved). Somehow they had managed inexpensive reservations at a decent hotel in Manhattan through some byzantine euro-hosteling deal. One of girls had never been to NYC so they wanted to do things I had mostly never done despite numerous visits over the years. We climbed the Empire State Building, rode the Staten Island Ferry (I skipped this one as I was a bit hungover for boat ride to an island of housing tracts, malls and big hair although it is the best way to view the city on the cheap) , took loads of pictures of NYC Police cars (NYPD Blue was big in Britain at the time), and eventually made the trip to the west side of Central Park to see Strawberry Fields which was paramount to their whole NYC visit. I was surprised by how moved I was, largely due to the visible emotions of other visitors. After some awkward silences and throat clearing/snuffling over coffee/tea, the mood lightened a considerable bit when a whole swarm of police cars flew past the window of Dunkin' Donuts followed eventually by a phalanx of transvestites, lesbians and transexuals. The annual gay/lesbian pride parade had begun (or was it was the gay protest to the St. Patricks Day parade? I forget.) I told the London visitors this happened every weekend.

Pop matters has an article on what John Lennon may have done if he had lived. This saturday night's Backtracks on KUNI will be devoted to Lennon tunes.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Kafka: The Decisive Years by Reiner Stach

The whole art of Kafka consists in forcing the reader to reread. -Albert Camus

I first read about this book in Washington Post Book World review by Michael Dirda so I put it on reserve. It seems that the nature of books that I reserve at libraries throughout the years has been to have several thick tomes show up all at once and not be able to finish any of them before their due dates or to have the requested material completely disappear from the library shelves never to be seen again. The former is what occurred last night as I stopped off to drop off some movies and the Van Ronk book. As eager as I was to return to Shadow of the Wind, I could not stop reading this biography. This is one that will eventually have to be purchased for the home library.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Winter Wonderland

I have fired my weekend editor. Serious problem with lack of content over the weekend. Hate to get caught in the publish or perish paradigm but there it is and someone had to pay.

Upgraded my phone to one with a camera and was starting to play with it a bit this weekend. Also picked up new book from library: a recommendation from Red State Librarian (former Army compadre from Korea and Planet Ord currently residing in Ohio).

The book is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Rambling historical mystery that begins in Barcelona in 1945 at a place called the Cemetery of Forgotten books. I was hooked from the prologue. Blurbs compare it to a variety of authors from Perez Reverte to Eco to Garcia-Marquez. I think it is similar to historical thrillers such as Name of the Rose or Instance of the Fingerpost and can not wait to get back to it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Slate has a new feature called Today's Pictures. This photo by Jeff Widener from 1989 still gives me goosebumps and the film footage of the event chokes me up. Dec 1 pictures are here. Heading off for an interview so I hope I don't freak out.