Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"Where there is no imagination there is no Horror."

Photo of David Ortiz pumpkin from Ian Browne's blog, taken by him at McCoy Stadium.

I spent the evening watching "Poltergeist" with Dr. Zaius, well actually it was my host's brother in a really good costume. It was a relaxing night with friends and I was enjoying the scene of an increasingly tipsy ape passing out candy to the neighborhood kids. The question came up during the movie about what recent supposedly "scary" movies had been legitimately frightening. I was a lot a loss to think of any that had done little more than make me jump. It seems like the 70's and 80's must be the golden age of horror/scary movies with likes of Freddie, Jason, Michael Myers, Cher, etc

I remember "Poltergeist" as being one of the horror films that did get to me. We probably watched it for first time over at the one friend's house who had a TV in his room since he was twelve. He was the friend in the neighborhood that got cable first including HBO. You know that kid. There was probably three or four us on a late night in a darkened room drinking soda from a 2-liter glass bottle of Coke, fighting over a box of Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies, and watching movies until near dawn eventually collapsing into a sleep deprived sugar coma. Those were the days.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Arnold "Red" Auerbach, 1917-2006

I have never been a very big fan of the NBA but three things were clear growing up in New England: the Celtics were the greatest basketball franchise ever, Larry Bird was the basketball Jesus , and the man responsible for bringing all of this to Boston, Red Auerbach, was a living basketball demigod. This was the time of the great battles against Magic, Kareem, and the despised but loaded with talent Lakers. I remember my grandfather (a fan of most L.A. sports teams) and I engaging in a good natured rivalry over their epic Finals match ups. I realize now that he and Red were nearly the same age.

I was saddened but not overly surprised to hear of Red's passing on Saturday. Not too long ago a friend loaned me John Feinstein's book, "Let Me Tell You a Story: A Lifetime in the Game" (co-authored by Auerbach.) Something I probably would not have sought out but was glad that it found me. It is not a conventional biography but a book about impressions made after spending time, mostly lunches at a Chinese restaurant in D.C, with Red and a varied cast of sports and public figures. The book at times was a tad bit too hagiographic but despite that it was clear that Auerbach was one of the good guys in life.

On ESPN.com, Bill Simmons has a poignant article about his experience as a lifelong fan and the time he got to meet the legend.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Happy 120th Birthday


If you asked what it is all about
I would say a field a green field
in the turning rows a killdeer
and after that barbed wire
the hedge with its cardinals
a blacktop then another field

Corn one of the main things
after water and before milk
for whiskey is in it and grits
gold for chickens pearls before swine
there is a factory in every plant
if we could be properly humble

it is the greatness of the nation
along with cartoon animation
automobiles and rock 'n roll
jazz and basketball evolved here
but not one other U.S. God
just the corn's imperial row

on row then Sylvester Stallone
and airbrushed Elvis thank you
very much ladies and gentlemen
Presley Dylan and the Supremes
no I would say a field a vast field
at the center top-hogs and cattle

then art the cites New York
Chicago Houston Seattle man
told me last week experts can
teach starlings to talk hell
televangelists may yet witness
in terza rima each stalk of corn

contributes it has been so
hybridized with its immense
ears it no longer resembles
maize it is what we have left
to barter for oil and microchips
tons of it siloed and elevated

to float us through droughts
and wars and speculations we ask
which will most cogently represent us
_Leaves of Grass_ or _The Simpsons_
there is the idea that every
living thing is a subset of human

control and the other notion
that though we may go on
a few hundred or thousand
years the poison has spilled
no more land will be made
the search for another arable

planet may prove moot as the
search for earthly sentience
meanwhile this taco here
crunches in the great scheme of
things we persist one people one
of the potential fates of corn

Rodney Jones
The Washington and Lee University Review
Volume 55, Number 2
Fall 2005
from Poetry Daily Archives (retired)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My youngest nephew, Andrés. It seems he is very allergic to peanut butter and now has to get tested for other allergies.

I need to get out of the hotel as I am starting to feel like Capt. Willard waiting for a mission in Saigon. Work has been delayed. I trained my supervisors on Wednesday and then sent them home until Monday as we are waiting for work to be loaded. Situation normal...

I think I have finally gotten used to the time change as I am not waking up at 5am. HBO has provided me with two classics so far Sisterhood of Traveling Pants and In Good Company. neither one was that bad really. Maybe I do have cabin fever. At least there have been a slew of classic horror films on cable. I am almost out of reading material and need to go find a good used book store before I go nuts.

Friday, October 27, 2006

It's the same cactus in both shots.
Yesterday I went for a short hike at a park just north of Tucson. The Santa Catalina Mountains can be seen from my hotel room and they are impressive. Cell phone camera doesn't do it justice. These shots were taken in Catalina State Park which is located inside the Coronado National Forest. There are trails going all the way up to over 8000 ft which I may get to eventually. I took a simple loop trail of about two miles and it actually was more of a stroll than a hike but it was incredibly beautiful.
Perspective is not very good, the mountains are back quite a bit and very large.

There were some trails that went out of the park marked with signs that stated words to the effect that beyond this sign it is wilderness enter at own risk. This combined with the informational poster at the trail head noting that there are 34 species of rattlesnakes in Arizona convinced me to stay on the marked and well traversed trails. Plus I kept scaring up dove like ground birds which would explode from their cover and give me a near heart attack. I got used to it after dozen scares or so.

I also learned when looking into information about other parks and hiking trails that you should not run from a moutain lion as you may trigger its predatorial instincts to chase and attack prey. Good tip, thanks. I want to go back and check out some prehistoric Hohokam ruins that are in the park and hit the other trails. Have I mentioned that I need to get a real camera?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"...Pretty girl keep growin' up, playin' make-up, wearin' guitar..."

My sister has sent some new pics of the family. Here is my niece, Daniela. Please don't be alarmed, she does have feet.
I dug up an old paperback of short stories for the plane trip down here, The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories edited by Tobias Wolfe from 1994. Bland title aside, it is a collection that holds up well today. It includes some of my favorite authors (Raymond Carver, Tim O'Brien) and some I was not familiar with (Scott Bradfield, Carol Bly). There are also some stories I had never read from familiar authors that blew me away (Dorothy Allison's River of Names for one). As well as some stories that were a pleasure to reread (Emergency by Denis Johnson which is that knife in the eye scene from Jesus' Son). It was refreshing also to read so many stories in a row which had absolutely nothing to do with post 9/11.

Monday, October 23, 2006

We now interrupt our irregularly scheduled program to bring you this message...

He just likes helicopters I suppose.

I just made it back to Phoenix after thirty two hours and just over a thousand miles to San Diego/Newport Beach and back with my army buddy, Juche Child. Later I will reconstruct a map of our journey with details. We have both seen enough of the freeway between San Diego and L.A. to last several life times.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dateline Phoenix

I can't take credit for the photo. It is from Wikipedia. My excuse is being lazy, tired, and adjusting to the time zone differential. I don't know how much access to internet I will have until I get to Tucson. I was running around doing errands this morning before the airport shuttle was scheduled to pick me up. I even voted early since I won't be back home until after the election. Pretty much went with the Democratic ticket, except when there were some people running unopposed, and then I just wrote in names of friends. I abstained from voting for retaining judges as well. Didn't know who to vote out so just left them all blank. I wonder if any judges are not retained? I would doubt it. It must be time for bed as I am starting to ramble.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Candle Hat

In most self-portraits it is the face that dominates:
Cezanne is a pair of eyes swimming in brushstrokes,
Van Gogh stares out of a halo of swirling darkness,
Rembrant looks relieved as if he were taking a breather
from painting The Blinding of Sampson.

But in this one Goya stands well back from the mirror
and is seen posed in the clutter of his studio
addressing a canvas tilted back on a tall easel.

He appears to be smiling out at us as if he knew
we would be amused by the extraordinary hat on his head
which is fitted around the brim with candle holders,
a device that allowed him to work into the night.

You can only wonder what it would be like
to be wearing such a chandelier on your head
as if you were a walking dining room or concert hall.

But once you see this hat there is no need to read
any biography of Goya or to memorize his dates.

To understand Goya you only have to imagine him
lighting the candles one by one, then placing
the hat on his head, ready for a night of work.

Imagine him surprising his wife with his new invention,
then laughing like a birthday cake when she saw the glow.

Imagine him flickering through the rooms of his house
with all the shadows flying across the walls.

Imagine a lost traveler knocking on his door
one dark night in the hill country of Spain.
"Come in, " he would say, "I was just painting myself,"
as he stood in the doorway holding up the wand of a brush,
illuminated in the blaze of his famous candle hat.

Billy Collins
Missed the Chabon reading last night. Too much to do and was beat. Enjoy the poem. Just picked up a live audio cd of a reading of his from the library and it was good to hear some old favorites. Which led me to this poem and the Goya even though I could not find the one he refers to above.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Goin Back to Cali

Caroline on her patio.

On this trip for work I hope to be able to get out to Newport Beach and visit with my grandmother pictured above. Two years ago I was in Arizona for work and I was able to drive out and spend a weekend and catch up with her as it had been a long time since I last visited her and my grandfather. In early 1996 he invited me out to see his beloved USC in the Rose Bowl against Northwestern. Lots of fun and as it turned out it would be the last opportunity I would have to spend time with him.

So I am looking forward to swapping stories about Opa with Caroline. Sadly, I think real estate prices are driving her out of Newport, as her condo is being turned into million dollar McMansions. Her immediate family is all close by and I hope she will find something half as nice as her current place in the same vicinity. I will have to dig up some photos of my late grandfather. He was a hoot. The most conservative Democrat I ever saw, except for Joe Lieberman.
Michael Chabon reading tonight, David Sedaris tomorrow and at some point I need to pack. Trying to finish up Heat before I leave. Taking Murakami's most recent short story collection on the plane as well as the latest John le Carré, The Mission Song which should get me through layovers etc...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Another random snapshot from my friend Tom back in Connecticut.

Work has me bogged down as I prepare for a project scheduled to start in a couple of weeks. I take off for Tucson on Friday. I was on cruise control until obstacles were thrown in my path by our customer which I can not discuss for many reasons including the desire of continued employment, confidentiality, and non-disclosure agreements. Anyway, I will not have a lot of time to post this week. I should be able to catch a breather when I arrive in Arizona and take a day or so off to visit some family and friends before project begins.

In the meantime I have been hooked on reading Bill Buford's Heat and I think the subtitle encapsulates it well: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany. The former fiction editor of The New Yorker and author of a book about soccer hooligans (Among the Thugs) dives in as an apprentice to Mario Batali. This is a very funny book and hard to describe as it is part history, part biography (of Batali), part auto-biography etc... Take my word it is worth it. It even inspired me to attempt a recipe (pork chops) from one of Batali's cookbooks with a mixed degree of success. Anthony Bourdain sums up Buford's book better then I could here at Amazon. Read an excerpt here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Nearest Simile Is Respiration

To poetry

I was boozed I was doped I was maybe
a floozy before you knew me, loose
leafed like autumn and most of the books
of the Old Testament that fell out
of my father's Bible. I had a body.

I had a habit of hauling my telescope
into the outskirts, ransacking all
the toothsome blackness for what: a reason
not to do me in. Proof I was more
than the seasonal ragbag detritus
choking the rooftop gutters, more
than a piece of the cosmic dust
in some ruined philosophy.

I could not be consoled by the universal
Sisyphus in us all, the dung beetle
nuzzling its putrid globe.

I could not hitch my wagon. The stars
and stars abrade my notions of my Self;
tricuspid Eros chewed me raw; Jesus
Christ rubbed mud in my eyes, and I saw
not. I did not see.

But with you! my sweetheart hairshirt,
my syntactic gondolier, ruffian for hire, befoolable
irresolute Chanticleer: with you, I back-float
the massy and heretofore unnavigable childhood
algal blooms, where no fish swam. No fish
have swum that Mississippi.

With you, I forgive my father's notes
to NASA, the self-inflicted swastika tattoo,
my sister's coked-up juggernaut cannonball
into the afterlife.

I forgive the afterlife,
resurrect John Lennon and the jukebox
at the Quik 'N' Hot, infect myself
with a rare strain of tarantism. With you, I dance
the summum bonum. With you, I am greater
than or equal to the lack, and luck is weather
that permits my red begonias.

Ashley Capps
Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields
The University of Akron Press

This poem was ganked from Poetry Daily, where it was a featued poem a couple of weeks ago. Ms. Capps attended that school for scribblers here in town, The Foxhead , er ,The Writers' Workshop. According to her publisher's website she still lives in the area so maybe a Prairie Lights reading will be around the corner.

I was going planning on sharing what I have been reading since finishing Cormac McCarthy's The Road but once again exigencies at work prevented me. So enjoy the poem.

(The verb gank and its usage was ganked from Mike Doughty's website.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Baxter State Park, Take 2

My friend from high school, Mike , and his girlfriend make their way up the Abol Trail. I think this is shortly before we make our way past Thoreau Spring. A spot on the trail where H.D.T had stopped although I doubt there was much of trail then and definitely no German tourists. We lucked out for weather on this trip. If there had been rain or snow they likely would not have allowed us to summit. Nor would we have wanted to.

The summit of Mt. Katahdin in October of 1996. The peak in the background is part of Katahdin. We ran into a few people who were finishing their thru hike of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. Ecstatic does not begin to describe their emotions when they reached the end and began popping champagne. It made me seriously consider thru hiking the trail. For about a week. This was before the Bill Bryson book came out. It's still on my to do list though.

Mugging for a photo op at the shore of our camp site in 1997. We had some pesky racoons at night but otherwise a perfectly isolated spot. It was here where we witnessed the Northern Lights, me for the first time.

Too cool for school. The summit of North Traveler. A pretty mellow hike compared to some of scrambling we did on the Abol Trail. One of the best hikes was in August of this year when my friend Dave and I did the North and South Brother loop. All the camp sites had been reserved so the park was full but we hiked for about six hours and only saw two other people on the trail.

South Branch Pond (Upper and Lower) as viewed from the North Traveler trail. We canoed to a trail head close to where the ponds are connected by a stream. Our camp site would be just off the right edge of the photo on the far shore. I really need to go back here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Baxter State Park

Fall is the best season and New England is the best place to experience it. I know the Midwest is pretty good but it doesn't really compare when you consider the vistas of woods and mountains in the Northeast. I used to go up to Baxter State Park in Maine on Columbus Day weekend for a camping trip with friends. It was the usually the last weekend it was open for overnight camping for the season. We picked different places in the huge park each time. The first fall trip I went with high school buddy Mike and some of his coworkers and we hiked up the Abol Trail to Mt. Katahdin, which is one end of the Appalachian Trail.
Thoreau visited the place and wrote about it in his collection The Maine Woods. I first read his book on a previous visit to the park during a late summer trip. The next year for the fall trip only three of us returned and we stayed in the northern part of the park at a camp site that could only be reached by canoe. It was after dark when we arrived, surprising a young moose on the road, and then we ended up paddling out very carefully across the pond to our site. The fall colors were explosive shades of orange and red and at night we had our first experience with the greens and purples of the Aurora Borealis. Fall is the time I miss New England the most and especially this past weekend when a visit to Maine would have been perfect. And today would have likely been the day for the obligatory pilgrimmage to the L.L. Bean store in Freeport on the drive home. I will try and dig up some pictures from these trips.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Nobel Odds

The Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced sometime next week. The odds on favorite is Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk (My Name is Red), followed closely by Syrian poet Adonis, and Polish writer/reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski. Americans Joyce Carol Oates (6-1) and Philip Roth (10-1) round out the top five.
The longshots are Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, and Umberto Eco (50-1). Longer shots include Julian Barnes, Margaret Atwood, and Paul Auster at 100-1. Other notables include Thomas Pynchon (20-1), Haruki Murakami (12-1), and John Updike (40-1).
Bob Dylan is even listed as 50-1 shot but that seems a little high. Should be closer to around a 1000-1 shot I would think. But you never know what dark horse could take it. Dario Fo?

This blog is endorsing Dave Loebsack for Congress. Mostly to defeat Leach but also because he is my friend Sarah's dad. Hopefully my support will not have a negative impact on the campaign and I think it will be safe to say that what is said here will be little noted nor long remembered. Now back to our regular programming

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Thing 1 (Iggy)

Thing 2 (Hopper)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Thunder Out of Akron

I missed seeing this issue when it came out this summer but recently found it on the discard shelf of library. Love the cover by Christoph Niemann. There is a framed print available from New Yorker Store site for anyone short of gift ideas for the upcoming holidays. A bargain at $350. Gift wrapping is not necessary. The current issue of the magazine has a review of new book about Hart Crane. One of my favorite poems of his which I have probably already posted here previously:

At Melville's Tomb

Often beneath the wave, wide from this ledge
The dice of drowned men's bones he saw bequeath
An embassy. Their numbers as he watched,
Beat on the dusty shore and were obscured.

And wrecks passed without sound of bells,
The calyx of death's bounty giving back
A scattered chapter, livid hieroglyph,
The portent wound in corridors of shells.

Then in the circuit calm of one vast coil,
Its lashings charmed and malice reconciled,
Frosted eyes there were that lifted altars;
And silent answers crept across the stars.

Compass, quadrant and sextant contrive
No farther tides . . . High in the azure steeps
Monody shall not wake the mariner.
This fabulous shadow only the sea keeps.

Hart Crane

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Streets of New York

Outside the Selwyn Theater on New York's 42nd Street, 1955.

Listening to a story about photography on the radio is not that exciting. On the way to work this morning NPR aired a piece about an exhibit at the National Gallery featuring a description of the above shot by William Klein. Although it aroused my curiosity and the woman's impressions and descriptions were evocative, I still needed to 'see' the photo they were talking about. I think I am due for a trip to D.C. and the museums sometime soon. This exhibit is through January 15th.