29 December 2007

Do Good-Looking People Have Souls?

Alright already. Enough of the Annual Holiday Introspectacular. Let's talk about good looking people.

I wonder if they don't see the teeming mess of population. If they have a kind of infra-red vision for attractiveness, a glaze that relegates the rest of us to the blurry background. They operate on the slick surfaces of the world. The construction of inner life becomes a necessary effect of our secret automatic banishment from this world.

Or something. SO I ASK THEN: ARE THERE ANY HOT GENIUSES? I'm trolling and polling for hot geniuses. This is hard ... try image searching the names of philosophers and scientists. Yikes. Granted, most of them are old men, but I'm beginning to wonder whether genius has lain dormant in the good-looking because they had no use for it. Let me know if you got any. One of my professors said that Nathaniel Hawthorne was "dishy." Made Melville want to Moby Dick his Scarlet A-hole. Made Herm's Billy Budd for Nate's Young Goodman Brownstar.

There's definitely something Bogarty about Albert Camus: But that's mostly his boho posturing, no? Put him in a Cosby sweater and khakis and he's a French-looking highschool teacher. But this is no boys' club. Dig poet Anne Sexton as Mrs. Robinson: She is trying to seduce me.

Bring me your good-looking geniuses. I've got kind of a humanities bias going here, so I welcome other disciplines. But NO ACTORS or MUSICIANS. That's way too easy.

That said, for the first time in a long while, I have a celebrity crush. You might know her. Her name is Zooey Deschanel. Not just because she is cute (which she WAY is); lots of actresses are cute. But you might not know that she sings and has been playing out and recording with M(att) Ward. Here is their version of Sam Cooke's Bring it on Home to Me And here is Stormy Weather accompanied by a photo montage. Here is me blushing.

26 December 2007

Forever and Ever Okay

During the drive to grandma's house my dad told me that he had seen a show about the Kennedy assassination on the History Channel that refuted all the conspiracy theories with a neatly assembled menagerie of experts and some snazzy digital animation that showed straightarrow sense where Oliver Stone sees magic bullets. He's convinced. Casket closed. The commies will keep yammering because that's what commies do. Yammer.

I tried to tell him that I thought that that's all well and good but it's one story and you could easily tell the opposite story with experts whose credentials are equally well laminated. In fact it's been done. Many many times. Conclusion, in this case, is a choice ... the shadow of one doubt or another covers the whole field of possibilities. So you can get aboard with one of the two bigger, older, warring stories 1). The individual is a threat to the system (the crazed, godless, and ill-intentioned can emerge from any crowd at any time, flout the rules, and kill our symbols ... this is why we need government in the first place) 2). The system is a threat to the individual ("a" man is no match for "the" man).

But it's hard to communicate these things through a fog of familial emotions, to stand watch on poor-lefty-effete-ivory-tower-patrol and still have a constructive conversation with patriarchs and patriots.

But that's where my nephew comes in. My nephew is almost two.

At Christmas mass at Catholic church, where the the Lord's prayer comes out like muscle memory and sounds like a mono-chant from a bad dystopian novel and the priest's homilizing is staler than Eucharist but still delivered in that serene "priest voice" with pretense to something more than wisdom - beatitude? ... there after the droning was done and everyone's supposed to say "Amen," my nephew, with what I can only retro-project to be baby Vonnegutian pith and brio, says "Okay." Like a beat after everyone else, really loud and clear in the echo-y acoustics and in his naturally adorable voice.

So I think that's the answer - "Okay." That might be a model for keeping an open mind - being thoughtful, not dismissive or arrogant, but resisting a verdict. The priest recites the prayer and your answer ("okay") means to convey something like this:

"Alright, sounds good. That's one of the many things I'll consider. I'm completely fine with you believing that ... in fact part of me is envious of that certainty of yours. If that sounds condescending, like 'I wish I could be blissfully ignorant' well then I apologize. I don't mean it like that. Or maybe I do. Maybe this hypereducated secular humanism is just another doctrine and I'm an unholy warrior. Anyway I don't mean to offend. This isn't a glib critique. I know someone, maybe Ben Folds, had an album or song called "Whatever and Ever Amen" and, though I think that's very clever, that's not what I'm going for here. Not 'whatever' but 'okay.' It's respectful. And not in a sort of hippie way either, where everything everyone believes is beautiful and it's 'your trip' and the sound of intaking breath coincides with bobblehead-nodding vapid approval. Not like that. Something in between. I don't think I'll ever pick a side but I want to think about the sides and PARTS of the sides. Like I really like the sound of the organ up there with all of the pipes. I don't like how you insist on reminding us that Mary was a virgin - that's creepy to me that people put on sweaters and fold their hands and get reverant and then participate in a story that's overly concerned with a teenage girl's virginity. Basically, I want to listen to as many stories as I can."


21 December 2007

Let Us Now Raise Blameless Men

It's a peculiar migration, heading back-in-time for the winter. Your parents pick you up at the airport and drive you home, as if it were from the mall or the movies.

There should be a genealogical-archaeological art project in which there are a series of snapshots of this particular lot of East Main Street over the years. It could be called "Life Goes On (in the Suburbs)"

Back from my first year of college (Train from NYC to New Haven) - Burger King
I was in San Francisco (man that went by fast) - Video Store
Now I live in Boston (Peter Pan Bus to Hartford) - Chinese Buffet
Thousands of miles away (older) - Walgreen's

We can think about how landscapes beget mindscapes, we can think about hills and mountains vs. the great wide open. My dad tells me that those are "basalt" mountains and that's pretty unique to this area due to some ice age event. He tells me he considered studying geology. I didn't know that, I don't think.

We can consider our parents' bodies to be our first houses. [Imagine you have that kind of speech problem where your R's become W's. Now say "I really miss my old room."]

We can consider our parents' houses.

DEN: Newsweek's Wonders of the World Coffee Table Books, "I Loved You Before You Were Born," "Aushwitz," Crossword Puzzle Dictionary, Illustrated Guide to Shrubs and Trees, Calvin and Hobbes 10th Anniversary (2 copies), H.W. Janson's History of Art, "Saturday Shrines - College Football's Most Hallowed Grounds," "Tuesdays with Morrie," "Kiterunner, "Who Moved My Cheese," The Memoirs of Harry S. Truman, Here Grisham, There Steele, and books I bought them for Christmas.

KITCHEN: Shiny new hardwood but the same yellowtile countertop when we moved in 1984.

OFFICE: Used to be my bedroom.

BATHROOM: Still the best shower water pressure I've ever felt.

There are "figures" everywhere, throughout. These bears in various kinds of dress, seasonal? period? on beds, chairs, stairs, stands ... and where there is no furniture to hold them, furniture has been built to hold them. Little shelves that jut from the wall. There are snowmen too, and Santas. Those ones that are behind glass, white children sleeping or praying, I think they're porcelain. And my least favorite of all - the "Time Out" doll that leans against the railing with her arms over what would be her face if she had one.

We are the new ghosts of ourselves in these houses, recarpeted, rewallpapered.

17 December 2007

I Shall Wear the Bottoms of My Trousers Rolled - Dates (with Death)

Today I'm 30.

Here are some people who are just slightly OLDER THAN ME:

John Mayer
Orlando Bloom
Fiona Apple
Edward Furlong
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Brittany Murphy
Dustin Diamond
James Van der Beek
Jason Reitman (director of Juno)
Joey Fatone
Jon Heder
Kal Penn
Liv Tyler
Maggie Gyllenhaal

Here are some people who are just slightly YOUNGER THAN ME:

Clay Aiken
Josh Hartnett
Ashton Kutcher
Katharine Heigl
Kobe Bryant
Katie Holmes
Chad Johnson
Kevin Federline
Brian Urlacher
Julian Casablancas
Audrey Tatou

Here are some other people born on December 17th:

Ernie Hudson (Winston Zedmore from Ghostbusters)
Bill Pullman
Giovanni Ribisi
Chris Matthews
Milla Jovovich
Chase Utley
Eugene Levy

Bands who made their American Television Debut on December 17, 1977:

Elvis Costello and The Attractions


Joan of Arc (played in a film by Milla Jovovich)
Anne Frank
Ryan White
Billy the Kid
Sid Vicious
The Big Bopper
James Dean
John Keats
Notorious B.I.G.
Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker
Steve Prefontaine
Nick Drake
Lee Harvey Oswald
Otis Redding
Percy Shelley
Sharon Tate
Joseph Merrick
John Wilkes Booth
Robert Johnson
Stephen Crane
Christopher Marlowe
Hank Williams

People Who Were Born in 1977 That Have Done Things With Their Lives That Make Me Burn With Envy:

Jonathan Safran Foer

Trade Agreements signed on December 17th:

Brothers who built and flew the first man-powered flying machine on December 17th:
Wilbur and Orville Wright

07 December 2007

Unearthed Arcana

[The title of this post is from a memory. There's a long lost childhood friend of mine who I recently became "facebook" friends with. And his brother was a D&D "Dungeonmaster." So he had these pricy hardcover game supplement books and I somehow, through the years, remember that one of them was called "Unearthed Arcana."]

That last post about shitting required me digging out an old leatherbound journal which I kept up for a couple years once upon a time. Because that whole scene with my boss really took place and I really wrote about it then and I wanted to consult it. But in its pages I also found some quotations that had moved me to transcription somewhere between like 1999 and maybe 2002 or so.

No doubt there are better ones that I've come across since. But I thought I'd share some of these and invite you to contribute some of your favorite quotations, if you have them handy. Predictably in those years (21-24) I seem to have been preoccupied with love, sex, the meaning of life, and my notion of poetry.

"But what did Zdena mean by accusing him of making love like an intellectual?" - Milan Kundera

"The blood was coming. The blood stank terribly."
"Her face was like a cup of milk dashed with coffee in the sweet warm emptiness."
"I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth."
- William Faulkner

"All those mint-julep swelling gentlemen confused the spiritual butt-rape of other races and sexes with gallantry" - Tim Sandlin

"It no longer avails to start with creatures and prove God. Yet it is impossible to rule God out. The only possible starting point: the strange fact of one's own invincible apathy - that if the proofs were proved and God presented himself, nothing would be changed." - Walker Percy

"Yesterday upon the stair
I saw a man who wasn't there
He wasn't there again today
How I wish he'll go away!" - Hughes Mearns

"You came down here to murder love and call the murder love" - Salman Rushdie

"But what I really want is just to swim around in a warm baby pool of these friends, jump in their dry leaf pile - to rub them all over myself, without words and clothes" - Dave Eggers

"Let spirit wet you like a hose."
"I put my small penis in her. Only the chair was moved. And I came like an ad in the mail." - William Gass

"The apparent ambivalence of Rennie's feelings about me. I'm afraid, like the simulataneous contradictory opinions that I often amused myself by maintaining was only a pseudo-ambivalence whose source was in the language, not in the concepts symbolized by the language ... it was both single and simple, like all feelings, but like all feelings it was also completely particular and individual, so the trouble started only when she attempted to label it with a common noun such as love or abhorrence ... it is merely a matter of x's being part horse and part grammar book, and completely neither ... Assigning names to things is like assigning roles to people: it is necessarily a distortion but it is a necessary distortion ... Rennie loved me, then, and hated me as well. Let us say she x'ed me and know better than to smile."
"There's little need for weakness, reader: you are freer, perhaps, than you'd be comfortable knowing." - John Barth

"There are no atheists in foxy holes." [a play on the maxim "there are no atheists in foxholes" ... sorry for explaining]
"Nouns verbed by, adverbially adjectival." - David Foster Wallace

"The sixth grade at Horace Greeley Elementary is a furnace of love, love, love ... the distinction between children and adults, while probably useful for some purposes, is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love." - Donald Barthelme

"How strange it is to be anything at all."
"I just want to dance in your tangles." - Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel)

"She kept crying on my shoulder about somebody; I finally persuaded her to settle for my shoulder." Michael Ondaatje and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient)

"We demand something more from artists than this facile affirmation that the existent also means, that things are also symbols." - Frederic Jameson

"I remember the first time we took off our clothes in front of each other. It was like unwinding bandages."
"So do boys and men announce their intentions. They cover you like a sarcophagus lid. And call it love." - Jeffrey Eugenides

"What draws the reader to the novel is the hope of warming his shivering life with a death he reads about." - Walter Benjamin

"The more a man cultivates the arts, the less often he gets an erection ... only the brute gets really good erections, and fucking is the lyricism of the people." - Charles Baudelaire

SCAT or LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) Soundsystem

Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop ...

Once I had this really smug boss, the kind with purposeful strides and bad suits and a superior air. The kind that doesn't have time for you. Whose pleasantries are tossed-off, absent-minded, and frankly unpleasant.

So this one time I go to the bathroom to pee and I see his brown shoes in the stall. So I'm voiding myself, flowing out, minding the blank eggshellscape of the wall in front of me. And then I hear his bowels get moving. A less than superior air. He's conducting a symphony of shit, a veritable cacophony of crap. I wince. I finish and go to the faucet to turn it on hard. Drown it out. Then he comes out and I turn to grab some paper towels and our eyes meet and he is shamed, leveled, made base and animal. He knows my ears and nose have been privy to the fouls of his body underneath the necktie and the "oh...can you get me the..." And for that moment, that gleaming moment, the power balance has tilted. I'm the boss. I'm #1 and he's #2.

Bop bozadee bozadee bop zitty bop

So I think you can have your "cut me, do I not bleed," but it's our butts and their primal music that makes our pluribus unum. Shifty-eyed, embarrassed creatures. The lowest common denominator soundsytem. The intimate (b)utterance. Corporeal punishment. The scatalogy of eschatology, the final judgement. So when I have to do my backdoor business in a public bathroom and someone else walks in, I'll wait and dam the terrible rush at its sphincter gate until I've got the place to myself. And I suggest you do the same. I don't want to know you like that.


[Sorry that was gross. Props to anyone who can identify the 2nd and 3rd "scat" samples ... In my head they go "bizzy bizzy bop diddy bop" and "Shooby do bop ba da" respectively but I actually looked up the lyrics.]

03 December 2007

I Want You ...

... to correct me if I'm wrong.

Bob Dylan's "I Want You" and Elvis Costello's "I Want You" are the two greatest songs in the history of music that share a title.

(what are some other *distinct* songs ((not covers)) that share titles, even if one or both of them are not good? ... I guess this goes for films as well, as last night I was reminded that there is a half-baked Will Ferrell soccer coach comedy called Kicking and Screaming, a title that to some of us belongs to Noah Baumbach's witty, pretentious debut about witty, pretentious people uncertain of what will come of themselves)