Friday, September 29, 2006


What a weekend. ESPN is in town for the Ohio State game and I think the game related traffic congestion has already started on N. Dodge, aided by the interminable road improvment projects. Tonight we are going to see Calexico at The Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City which should be awash in drunks by the end of the show. I am expecting a good concert although I do think the audience is diminished a bit when everyone is seated like they were at a performance of "Idomeneo". I rememeber seeing a Bob Mould show at Berklee School of Music in Boston with similar seating arrangements and it felt a bit odd. Needed a least a mosh pit near stage to mill around holding onto a pint.

Since Calexico does have a horn section maybe the Beer Band will join in for one of the encores to root on the Hawkeyes in their game against the formidable Ohio State tomorrow night. I think out of town would be the safest place to be before, during , and after the game but we may venture down to friend's RV for a little tailgating. Have a good weekend and enjoy the video for "Cruel" off the most recent Calexico album Garden Ruin. Or do yourself a big favor and pick up a copy of their 2003 release Feast of Wire. Not Even Stevie Nicks could resist. More mp3s here. And here. Complete live shows here from

Thursday, September 28, 2006

New Book

"Cormac McCarthy sets his new novel, The Road, in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. If this sounds oppressive and dispiriting, it is. McCarthy may have just set to paper the definitive vision of the world after nuclear war, and in this recent age of relentless saber-rattling by the global powers, it's not much of a leap to feel his vision could be not far off the mark nor, sadly, right around the corner. Stealing across this horrific (and that's the only word for it) landscape are an unnamed man and his emaciated son, a boy probably around the age of ten. It is the love the father feels for his son, a love as deep and acute as his grief, that could surprise readers of McCarthy's previous work. McCarthy's Gnostic impressions of mankind have left very little place for love. In fact that greatest love affair in any of his novels, I would argue, occurs between the Billy Parham and the wolf in The Crossing. But here the love of a desperate father for his sickly son transcends all else. McCarthy has always written about the battle between light and darkness; the darkness usually comprises 99.9% of the world, while any illumination is the weak shaft thrown by a penlight running low on batteries."

Dennis Lehane on Cormac McCarthy's latest from

I left off the rest to avoid any potential 'spoilers'. I am picking this up today from library and will probably spend the weekend reading it as I know it will be difficult to put down. It is tempting to go and get it now and skip out on work and spend the rest of the day under a tree somewhere savoring McCarthy's prose. Work always gets in the way.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

E.E. Cummings

Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, Chicago, IL. Photo by J. Crocker on 07-Sep-2004.

you give us Things
bulge:grunting lungs pumped full of sharp thick mind

you make us shrill
presents always
shut in the sumptuous screech of

(out of the
black unbunged
Something gushes vaguely a squeak of planes

between squeals of
Nothing grabbed with circular shrieking tightness
solid screams whisper.)
Lumberman of The Distinct

your brain's
axe only chops hugest inherent
Trees of Ego,from
whose living and biggest

bodies lopped
of every

you hew form truly

E.E. Cummings

Another writer I left off Scruffy's list that came to mind later. I remember the first time I saw the sculpture was in 2000 and we stumbled across it by accident. I had never even heard about it before and this was only my second visit to Chicago. Quite the pleasant surprise. The sculpture is also nearly as old as I am.

After Picasso's death in 1973 Mayor Daley and the city council announced a resolution... Pablo Picasso became a permanent part of Chicago, forever tied to the city he admired but never saw, in a country he never visited, on August 15, 1967. It was on that day that the Picasso sculpture in the Civic Center Plaza was unveiled; it has become a part of Chicago, and so has its creator Picasso...

Anyway, just keeping up with my string of postings about artists that people either love or hate.

Friday, September 22, 2006

We Miss Ondine

This one goes out to Ondine (nee Ragna) who pointed the site out to us first. It should not be missed. I don't know if it is my math illiteracy that loves it so or what. It's just that feckin' clever. Beyond clever. Brilliant. Click on the 3 x 5. Have a great weekend. Agenda: Figge, Joe Price, Kohls...
Andy Warhol.
Campbell's Soup Cans. 1962
Missed the second part of documentary thanks to a newly installed cable system and season premieres of The Office and C.S.I. In the first part they covered the first exhibition of Warhol's soup cans which were eventually bought by the gallery owner in L.A for $1,000. He paid Andy $100 a month until paid off with a promise that he would never break up the collection of 32. Later sold to the MOMA for over $60 million. Not a bad investment.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sketches of Frank Gehry

Every great architect is -- necessarily -- a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age -Frank Llyod Wright

We watched the Sydney Pollack documentary about architect Frank Gehry the other night and I was pleasantly surprised by how interesting it was. Opinions on his work are not ambivalent, critics either love it or hate it. Pollack is a friend and a fan of Gehry and it is a compelling non-chalant format. Pictured above, for non locals who may not recognize it, are different phases of Gehry's Advanced Technologies Labratory on the U of Iowa campus because this was one of his creations that did not make the film. I guess if you had to choose from his many buildings like the Guggenheim Bilbao, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, or science building in Iowa City the choice would be easier. We missed this when it came to the Bijou recently but am grateful for Netflix's catalogue as a backup.

Caught the first part of the PBS documentary on Warhol last night, part II is tonight on PBS. So far it has been very well done. More later.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Poet for J.K.

His genius is sired of misery or magic;
he dwells between disaster & the dream.
He might have been sedate; but only tragic
ecstasy is musical to him.
In every chaos he will wish a cure;
in life, a higher mystery of sorrow;
in death, the last existence that is pure.
Curoisity betrays him to tomorrow.
Necromantic passion, final terror
is his bequest: The wound was all he had
to multiply. Balancing the rope of error,
he shall fall to doom. He shall be mad,
sadly, deceived, he shall live, and he shall die
a master of all mummery.

-Allen Ginsberg

Sept 4th issue of The New Yorker had this and another Ginsberg poem to Jack K. from a forthcoming book of Allen's earlier works. There is also a collected edition (1947-1997) due out in Oct. I just started training a group of scorers for a new project so not too sure when I will be able to post. Enjoy this for now.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The New Yorker has a David Sedaris piece on the 'advantages' of speaking French. This American Life also just recently re-ran an interview with him by Ira Glass for their Americans in Paris episode.

I just ordered tickets to see Sedaris in Cedar Rapids next month and am looking forward to it especially since I have missed all of the other chances to see him here in town.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Recent Readings

FROM A&L Daily: Martin Amis on the rise of Islamic fanaticism, and Christopher Hitchens on what next from WSJ.

From McSweeney's, a reprint of John Hodgman's remarks shortly after the events of five years ago.
The Second Coming
by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Friday, September 08, 2006

On Books or Be Careful What You Ask For

The former Defense Language Institute in San Francisco where I started reading in earnest.

“It’s not what you’re like, it’s who you like”

I need to do this High Fidelity style because I know that as soon as I hit the publish button I will remember sixteen other things that I liked better. It is like the scene in the book when Rob is making a Top 10 all time favorite song list for his interview with the rock critic and he keeps calling her back to change his mind and freaking out after he hangs up. The theme is for JuChe Child.

“Ain't Talkin” - A book that changed my life

The toughest question right off the bat. As Chou En-lai said when asked about the historical effect of the French Revolution, "Too soon to tell." I’ll come back to this one later.

“Highway 61 Revisited”- A book I've read more than once

The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley

In my teens I read perhaps too much science fiction and fantasy at the expense of missing some of the classics. I read Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber (five novels in two volumes) so many times because I wanted to be a Prince of Amber. Alas, t’was not to be. I was a bit more into science fiction than fantasy and I read more of Robert Heinlein than anyone else. I enjoyed his Future History stories about Lazarus Long but it was the novels I returned to the most. I loved the power in the succinctness of Double Star and the revolutionary setting of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I slowly weaned my self off of most SF and past pulps in favor of noir. This led me, eventually, to James Crumley and the tales of C.W. Shugrue and Milo Milodragovitch. El Duderino summed up Last Good Kiss nicely but forgot to mention it has one of the best opening lines ever.

“Shelter from the Storm” - A book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island

Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

In order to stave off insanity while attempting to survive as a one book Prospero I would like to bring along Shakespeare’s Complete Works. So instead of striking up a conversation with a volleyball I could build a replica of the Globe out of driftwood and palm fronds and eventually memorize all the roles from the plays and stage productions for myself and the local fauna. I guess that really might not keep from me from madness. On second thought a one volume collection seemed clichéd so I eventually jettisoned it in favor of another obligatory desert island book, Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time for the purists). I have started Swann’s Way at least half a dozen times never advancing too many pages past the madeleine scene. Ideally, if that word can be used for a desert island scenario, it would be in the Pléiade edition with a French dictionary and grammar text thrown in.

“It Takes a Lot to Laugh…” - A book that made me laugh -

Slouching Towards Kalamazoo by Peter DeVries

First impulse was to throw in Wodehouse, any of the Jeeves and Wooster tales. I also thought about Bill Bryson as he can be laugh out loud funny. Love Me by Garrison Keillor is my favorite of his and is delightfully non-Wobegone. But in the end I thought DeVries had more to offer, is often overlooked, and most of his farces are set in suburban Connecticut, so he’s got that going for him. The New Yorker did a piece on him sometime in the last couple of years that is a good introduction. Slouching is a coming of age tale about a precocious underachiever with a bent for the literary growing up in a small town. Hilarity ensues.

“…It Takes a Train to Cry” - A book that made me cry -

Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

As a sentimental Irish drunk it doesn’t take much to choke me up, the last ten minutes of Rudy or the La Marseillaise scene from Casablanca will do it, but as for actual sobbing if not a train, a couple of dogs and a ‘bridge’ could do the trick. The first book that crushed me was Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.This is the book that would wake me up in the middle of the night fearful of my previously unthought-of mortality. The protagonist was named Billy too. The most recent book that choked me up was The Teammates by David Halberstam, about the twilight days of Ted Williams and his three closest friends. Terabithia caught me by surprise and I hated her for a while but eventually understood it. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry was another moving experience for me but I was prepared for it thanks to Paterson.

“When I Paint My Masterpiece” - A book I wish I had written -

The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

I wanted this to be a travel book a travel writer would be my dream job. Bruce Chatwin is a close runner up but a little too flaky and too unreliable a narrator to know where he actually went. Redmond O’ Hanlon takes too many chances. The tough choice was narrowing down which Theroux to choose; I took his first an account of traveling across Europe and Asia by train but easily could have chosen another. I guess what I am really saying is not that I want to have written this book as much am I am saying I wanted to be Paul Theroux.

“Too Much of Nothing “- A book I wish had never been written -

Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard

Another tough category as I don’t hold too many grudges againste books that I have been defeated by and I can’t recall any hideous books from school although Two Years Before the Mast caused some tension between my father and I when he made it required reading one summer for reasons I forget. I avoided that book for years as a result and found out years later he was right. I enjoyed Hubbard as a writer of science fiction and Battlefield Earth is one the best pure SF romps ever (haven’t seen the film but I can imagine what Travolta did to it). While I am not apt to dis on others choice of religion, the absence of Dianetics in the very least would have saved us from the antics of Tom Cruise. Maybe. Anyway, it was a toss up between this or Atlas Shrugged but I thought that was at least a good story even if politically abhorrent. Teenagers need things like Ayn Rand, Bukowski, and The Bell Jar so they can be under the impression, at least temporarily, that they have discovered something profound. I hope this doesn’t put me on some Scientologist enemies list and I guess now I will never be invited into the secret Cruise compound in Telluride.

“I Don't Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met)” - A book I've been meaning to read -

Middlemarch by George Eliot

I could write a few pages here on stuff I want to read or just keep it simple. I have wanted to read A.S. Byatt’s Possession for years but feel I have to read the Eliot first to have the proper background…. Runner Up: Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis. This always makes a lot of lists for funniest or best campus novel and I keep meaning to pick it up but…

“Tangled Up in Blue “- I'm currently reading –

Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon

Fewer than seventy pages to go and I can’t recommend this book enough and look forward to rereading it closely again to pick up the details I glossed over the first time around. Wish there was a reader’s guide like the one for Ulysses that I inherited from a former Trustifarian roommate. I wonder where that went. Next up, Fathers & Sons by Ivan Turgenev, and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 25 Stories by Haruki Murakami.

“Tell Me” - My favorite reading -

Thom Jones

Throw in Tim O’Brien and P.J. O’Rourke to round out the top three. This is a very tough call again and I am leaving off a Nobel Laureate and some notable others to avoid name dropping. Too late, you say? Bah.

“Things Have Changed”- A book that changed my life

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

It didn’t really make it easier answering this one last but it bought me some time. The Boy Scout Manual changed my life but the plot sucks. Recently I would say it is Murakami who has allowed me to get excited again about contemporary fiction but I could not pin it down to one novel or point out the changes it has wrought. Something to do with karma and self-improvement. But it was Lolita that blew me away with language (picnic, lightning). I am not 100% convinced this is my final answer but it will suffice for now. Thanks to Scruffy for giving me something to chew on that was not work related. Have a good weekend!

"It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Another snapshot from Tom back in CT. Below are just some quick hits while I ponder on Scruffy's query from yesterday.

This article is why I consider Bill Simmons one of the best pop culuture writers today who just happens to make his living as a sportswriter. Props for the David Foster Wallace reference. Simmons recent road trip to Wisconsin with his buddies provided some good material.

Are you ready for some...? Since the odds on the Red Sox making the playoffs get longer each night I think I am ready to declare that football season is here. This must be what Kansas City fans feel like in June.

I will be watching the Steelers start their title defense tonight. To prepare I recommend a few seasonal forecasts are Simmons' predictions. For a different take check out the Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ). Here is his outlook for the 2006 NFL season in haiku form. (Be warned he does tend to insert photos of cheerleaders and shirtless hunks if you are surfing from work and his shorthand takes getting used to i.e. Jersey A and Jersey B (New York Giants/New York Jets or Flying Elvii=Patriots).

Bill Bryson has a new book coming out next month about growing up in Des Moines in the 1950's. The Guardian has a series of excerpts from The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid this week. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

Now back to some U.S. History essays and that pesky list.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Qui transtulit sustinet

While this is a shot of the Connecticut shore, it is not from my trip there last week. For the second straight year my visit back to the ancestral home (since 1976) was plagued by very wet weather. This snapshot was forwarded to me by former coworker who had a better day of it than I on his trip to the beach. I didn't even bother trying to go to any of the beaches (or more importantly a lobster shack as planned) due to the mess outside and I was having enough trouble trying to cram as much as possible into a short period of time.

I left Albany after attending a conference for work bookended by a trip to Cooperstown and a night on the town with a coworker with an astounding breadth of knowledge about and thirst for single-malt Scotch. Many of Albany's bars are open very late (4 am) but I am not really sure who would want to stay out until the wee smalls in Albany? It would be like staying out until 2 am in Des Moines but with the added thrill of possibly being mugged. That said we did not get back to the hotel until around 3:00 am for various reasons having to do not only with the Scotch but because we wanted to see as much as possible in one evening, the added time spent chasing down cabs to leapfrog certain neighborhoods, and the fried chicken stop from previous post. I managed to make it out unscathed.

It was strange to realize how much the distances in New England have shrunk after spending considerable time here in the Midwest. I used to think the Berkshires were far away from where I lived in CT but it was only a two and half hour drive as I went past nearly forgotten yet familiar terrain. I enjoyed each river crossing that brought me closer to my destination (Hudson, Housatonic, Connecticut). I stopped off at a friends house for a rendevous with the UConn crowd. The remaining time before driving back to Albany was spent in the company of friends and family near my mother's house and it was good to catch up with all, however briefly or at times somewhat fuzzy.

After dropping off rental car, I was trapped, in turn, in two airports for many hours due to the continued inclement weather which was annoying but did allow me to almost finish Mason & Dixon. I am savoring the last few chapters. I have some other things lined up but will save for a separate post.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Last Friday Night in Albany

(Circa 8 pm) One good thing...

...leads to another. (Circa 1 am)