Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Boxing Day!

"Helmets must be worn while playing croquet during walnut season. Trust me."

I have been enjoying my time away from the all pervasive Internet but regret not putting up a Christmas message. So here it is. Merry Christmas.

I took the above shot on the way out of some Goosetown friends' house on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. It looked cool but unfortunately we did not have time for a game as we were on our way to a family dinner. I am still recovering from all the food and bottled cheer of the past four or five days.

I finished Bill Buford's Heat last night. (I had read most of it a couple of months but had to return it to libraryt before finishing last 30 pages or so) It is the best non-fiction book I read this past year (admittedly a relatively short list). Coincidentally, a radio interview was rebroadcast this morning (WBUR's On Point) while I was on the way to work. I look forward to reading his next book.

Just started Special Topics in Calamity Physics quoted on the right. It is a very compelling read and I can see why it was on a lot of people Best Of Year lists. Dave Eggers latest seems to be both horribly depressing and worth checking out at the same time.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Picture the Far Side Cartoon with Bob's Assorted Rodent truck crashing into one from Al's Small Flightless Birds.

As well as digging around the net for seasonal songs, Christmas movies have been a theme of late. I bought the remastered edition of Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as well as a copy of Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck which coincidentally is also featured on TCM this Christmas Eve as one of Robert Osbourne's overlooked holiday films. We also dug out another favorite, White Christmas. Still yet to watch is The Ref and It's A Wonderful Life. What else? The orginal version of The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and of course TNT will not let us miss A Christmas Story.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Take Off ,Eh?"

Found this over at Check The Cool Wax while browsing through music blogs looking for Christmas Songs. Also over at Big Rock Candy Mountain a link to The BellRays and the song "Tell The Lie" on their site may not be a holdiday song but it is catchy as hell. Motown sound with some serious backup.

Next Year's Christmas Card

A great place to sit back and sip a pint while listening to Neko Case wail out her version of Tom Waits' Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis.

We were at the Dublin for a birthday gathering last night. Stayed out a bit too late for a school night but was fun. In the words of Westerberg, I can't hardly wait for the New Year's Eve toast on Dublin time even though last year it was up to the rafters in people.

Monday, December 18, 2006

The circled building in the above photo opposite of the Eagle (a Mega Touch Photo Hunt looking shot in the mouth of the Thames River from the New London side) is where I worked almost immediately after graduating from college. It is located on the production side of the Pfizer campus in Groton, CT.

After graduating with a liberal arts degree in History and Political Science I had no immediate plans of going to grad school and I soon discovered that the only openings were with various temp agencies in the area. The job at Pfizer was called Fire Watch. Which basically meant watching other people work and making sure they didn't start any fires while welding or sneaking smokes in the port-a-john during the construction the aforementioned building, a new automated plant designed to replace one next to it and eventually eliminate about a hundred jobs.

It was supposed to be a 3 month position which lasted well over a year, averaging about 50-60 hours a week. I eventually quit or was asked not to return after balking over one too many "mandatory" voluntary OT weekends. One of the best jobs I had there was when I was assigned to drive the freight elevator and I was able to read during down times as surreptitiously as possible. I learned a lot about the world of construction or at least the politics of site management. I also learned not to bet a bundle on NFL games on Sunday to try and catch up for the college games you lost money on Saturday. Throwing good money after bad I think they call it.

We also witnessed several explosions emanating from neighboring buildings (apparently a fairly routine occurrence in Caffeine production there), some pigeons mysteriously dying after flying through what was termed a "harmless" vapor release, and the best was while eating lunch on a beautiful day on the river's edge when an abandoned "empty" pipe line that was being dismantled started spilling hundreds of gallons of unnaturally green liquid out into the river. There were pleasant things to look at too. Lots of sailboats and yachts but the best was watching the submarines on their way to and from the Naval base. Something about them made it compulsory to follow their silent trek no matter how many times we saw them. My dad had been a career submariner so that might have had something do with it but I noticed that many others stared at the undersea boats as much as I.

This past weekend we made a last minute decision to go and see Iris Dement at the Englert and I am very glad we did. I had forgotten how great her voice is and how much I enjoy her sense of humor and the subtle upbeat sadness of some her songs. I need to dig up and listen to In Spite of Ourselves soon if I can find it. I think it was during the final scene of the final episode of Northern Exposure when I first heard Our Town.

When Iris first came she was more than a little nervous and asked for someone to bring her a drink to calm the nerves. It was cute and throughout the show she was charmingly wry and self deprecating but not in the fake fishing for compliments manner. She even broke out some newer songs written for her and Greg's first wedding anniversary and one about his family farm where they spend time when not in Kansas City. Iris will be back in Iowa (Davenport) in Feb. and I am already planning on making a concerted effort to go.

Speaking of Greg, I forgot to mention that last week he was on WBUR's (Boston) On Point show broadcast locally on KUNI. I managed to get a question to Greg about the possibility of his ever playing with Iris. Here is the link to the whole show featuring many songs off his latest. My question came on about fifteen minutes into the show.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"Abject Bitterness Meets Intoxicating Beauty"

Bob Mould's first solo album, Workbook, is featured on this week's Shadow Classics on NPR. This record featured his only semi-mainstream single, See a Little Light , and the video was a Sunday night staple on MTV's 120 Minutes. The rest of the album is even better and well worth checking out again for the first time.


The view from the sofa (aka A Study in Clutter)

The Bad Sex in Fiction Awards are out from Literary Review, Iain Hollingshead was this year's winner, for a passage in his first novel Twentysomething:

"She's wearing a short, floaty skirt that's more suited to July than February. She leans forward to peck me on the cheek, which feels weird, as she's never kissed me on the cheek before. We'd kissed properly the first time we met. And that was over three years ago. But the peck on the cheek turns into a quick peck on the lips. She hugs me tight. I can feel her breasts against her chest. I cup my hands round her face and start to kiss her properly, She slides one of her slender legs in between mine. Oh Jack, she was moaning now, her curves pushed up against me, her crotch taut against my bulging trousers, her hands gripping fistfuls of my hair. She reaches for my belt. I groan too, in expectation. And then I'm inside her, and everything is pure white as we're lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles."

The rest of the shortlisted plus previous years winners can be found here. The nominees include Thomas Pynchon and Irvine Welsh. I have barely started the first and could not finish the other.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The El 'N' Gee was to New London like the Rat was to Boston. This is the same location but its not really the same place. The original closed down and reopened as a rave/all ages hangout which then changed its name back to the original. Most touring bands playing between New York and Boston had a slew of other more popular venues to play i.e. Toad's in New Haven, the Agora in Hartford, the Living Room in Providence and so on. So only a few 'name' bands actually chose to stop in New London. We did see some great shows though. The Breeders, Social Distortion, Rev. Horton Heat, the Bosstones (2 nights in a row), and a Quiet Riot reunion tour were just some of the highlights.

Anyway saw some flicks recently due to someone's current obsession with James Bond aka Daniel Craig. Layer Cake was pretty good and they have been playing it a LOT on cable. We also saw Sylvia with Craig as poet Ted Hughes, movie was better than I expected. Paltrow was good and also along with her role in Proof seems to be quite adept at playing 'crazy'.

Last night we watched a Starz production Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride, a documentary on Hunter S. Thompson. It was very uneven. Not surprisingly it focused on the films made about him Where the Buffalo Roam (great job by Peter Boyle and it's sad to see him go) and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. However it tended to repeat portions of its interviews as if the audience would not remember seeing the same clips earlier in the film. There are some great interviews with Depp, Murray and other actors that were drawn to HST as well as footage and clips of the man himself. Overall its worth watching but it also shows just how difficult making a good documentary really is.

Recent perusing includes Umberto Eco's collection of lectures On Literature, a new Cynthia Ozick collection of essays, The Din in the Head (her previous collections are well worth picking up: Quarrel & Quandry and Metaphor & Memory). I had the new LeCarre novel on reserve, another Africa one, The Mission Song when I also found the most recent WWII spy novel by Alan Furst, the true heir to Eric Ambler. So I will be busy with those for a bit but I am also begining to read all of the Ross Macdonald, Lew Archer series. Good, dark, L.A. noir.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gram Parsons photos by Andee Nathanson available through Rhino Records

More Christmas wish list stuff. I like the one with goggles.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The view from Iggy

The view from Hopper


Found: in *Title Page — Used and New Books*,
Rosemont, PA, a translation by Vladimir Nabokov
of poems by Pushkin, Tyntchev and Lermentov,
published London, 1947. A snip at twenty bucks.

Given for a 50th, to "my Boris more-than-Godunov"
from Anna, "Because of Pushkin, because of love";
then again, in 1986, to "my dear Joseph
who, tomorrow, will be heading off
to Moscow. From Alex. P.S. see above".

Vona Groarke
Volume 22, Number 1 – 2005

Now that I am back home with a new camera I can promise a never ending supply of cat pictures. Poem is from Poetry Daily archives from one of the poems soon to be retired. Liimted posting on horizon due to lack of access but I will do my best to keep up the appearance of a blog.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Tonight at the venue formerly known as Gabe's and The Day of Infamy

Fan video for Killer Parties by The Hold Steady.

On a more important note. I rememeber visting Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial when I was around 11. My grandparents were retired and living near Poipu Beach on Kaui. My sister and I spent the summer there with my mom who had attended high school on Oahu during one of the stints of being moved around a lot due to grandfather's government job. She eventually met my dad there while he was in the Navy. During our last week we spent time in Honolulu and the Memorial was a haunting place even to a pain in the ass youth such as myself. I can still picture the oil from the ship of the entombed sailors slowly leaking upwards to the surface. The article below is from The Boston Globe

Final roll call for survivors of Pearl Harbor
By Jaymes Song, Associated Press December 7, 2006

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii -- This will be their last visit to this watery grave to share stories, exchange smiles, find peace, and salute their fallen friends.This, they say, will be their final farewell.

With their number quickly dwindling, survivors of Pearl Harbor will gather today one last time to honor those killed by the Japanese 65 years ago, and to mark a date that lives in infamy.

"This will be one to remember," said Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. "It's going to be something that we'll cherish forever."

The survivors have met here every five years for four decades, but they're now in their 80s or 90s and are not counting on a 70th reunion. They have made every effort to report for one final roll call.

"We're like the dodo bird. We're almost extinct," said Middlesworth, now an 83-year-old retiree from Upland, Calif., but then -- on Dec. 7, 1941 -- an 18-year-old Marine on the USS San Francisco.

Almost 500 survivors were expected to make the trip to Hawaii, bringing with them family members and haunting memories.

Memories of a shocking, two-hour aerial raid that destroyed or heavily damaged 21 ships and 320 aircraft, that killed 2,390 people and wounded 1,178, that plunged the United States into World War II, and that set in motion the events leading to atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

" We're witnessing history," said Daniel Martinez, chief historian at the USS Arizona Memorial. "We are seeing the passing of a generation."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Home at Last...

I arrived yesterday afternoon despite American Airlines and O'Hare's best efforts at delaying my return. It seems that the Cedar Rapids flight is always delayed and routinely the first one cancelled. This was just a two and half hour delay changing departure gates twice. Initially I had enough time to make the connection from Phoenix. After nearly reaching the original gate (G15) I realized I left my mp3 played on the plane. I went all the way back to that gate (H14) and they said no one had turned it in. Returning back to the American Eagle section of terminal I checked the big board and flight was still on time and would be boarding in ten mintues.

Almost at the gate, I was paged and then recieved a call from American saying that the person sitting next to me had found my mp3 player and and would give it to me at Gate K12. So I turned around lugging my carryons and quickly walked there. I gave the woman a quick thanks briefly wonderding why she had not just given it to the check in counter where we had arrived and then shuffled back towards my plane now about 10 minutes after I was supposed to board but still 20 minutes away from takeoff. I arrived at gate out of breath and realizing just exactly how out of shape I am as they promptly switched the gate to one upstairs(G18). I trudged upstairs and then noticed they had delayed the flight an hour, something still not reflected on the large board. All my rushing was for naught or at least could have been done leisurely. I gave up and went to find something to eat. Two more delays, another gate change(G20), and an hour or so of flying time later I was in Cedar Rapids. A rapid shuttle ride home and I could unwind. Strangely enough none of these delays were seemingly weather related.

So, it is good to be home except for dealing with my car. I now have to go find a new battery or have someone explain to me why a 72 month battery has lasted 25 months, exactly 1 month after the free replacement offer expired.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Seems to be some issues with blogger and loading images, links, etc. There is a workaround but I am too lazy to figure it out.

I have been incessantly listening to a mix cd from Heather over at http://fuelfriends.blogspot.com

It is eclectic gathering celebrating her one year anniversary that does a couple things I appreciate in good mix tape. First,it starts off with a kickin' song by Blackalicious but more imporantly it also introduces me to several artists that I was with and sent me looking for more of their music. Also coincidentally since I just watched this movie it has Paul Newman's song about plastic Jesus' and Madonnas on the dashboard from Cool Hand Luke. Nice touch that.

The one song I keep rewinding and playing over again is an untitled song ("I Hear Your Songs") from a forthcoming release by Leona Naess. Here is what Heather says about it:
"This new one from Leona's upcoming album is definitely her most singable, radio-friendly, and excellent sounding song in a while. With great couplet lines like "Shake these hips and let them persuade you / Take my songs - they're always about you" . . . the lyrical writing style is classic but the sound is uptempo & fresh."

You can download individual songs or the whole cd as as zip file below. If it is no longer available drop me a comment and I will burn.


I will post some updates and hopefully pictures from the Calexico show at The Rialto tonight. It is the annual holiday benefit show they put on in Tucson. Proceeds are going to Humane Borders (http://www.humaneborders.org) and Music For America (http://www.musicforamerica.org).
Thanks go out to local friends R & M for getting me a ticket to this show. Back in Iowa on Monday barring any complications such as Mexican jail or bad weather.

I almost forgot that I wanted to mention something about the wonderful variations of Pho. I had lunch at this place that used Key limes. The owner of the place was very insistent that I not add any sriracha or hoisin sauce. She kept saying "Our soup is good!" and motioned that if I wanted sauce to use a little dish and dip meat into that to keep the broth pure. She was right it was really good and I love the idea of Key limes. Perfect size.

UPDATE: Looks like its back up and running. Great Calexico show will fill in details later. I need to pack, check out and head to Phoenix.

Friday, December 01, 2006