Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Today is Mardi Gras!

Occludine 9, 28.


- YESTERDAY - Work went well. I'm enjoying my current project indexing the Ecosystems: Oceans book. It's terrifying, however, providing all sorts of evidence of how dire things may become in the near future (mind you that the near future could include within the next several thousand years). I'm also newly terrified of windmills, but that might be a ridiculous thought. I'll write more on this if I have a chance...
More interesting to you, I went in with some other kids from the workshop on a liter of Rum and we passed it around during class without cups, mixers, or chasers. Myself, ever since my Bachelor's party (thanks, Sam!) I can only stomach a little marblized molasses, but the transaction was more popular than I expected. I'd been a little concerned that the instructor would think it disruptive, but he seemed as fond of the bottle as anyone else.
Afterwards, I went to Spain for a beer - better in my eyes - and after awhile I went home.
- WEATHER - The jet stream has been weird this year. It was responsible for the obscenely warm January, and now it's setting up the present drama. For the first time since I"ve been tracking such things, both Chicago and Flint are warmer than New York. This is because the jet stream is drawing a relatively sharp line from northwest to southeast, and fronts are struggling up against it. On the one side is exceptionally warm weather, sometimes accompanied by rain, and on the other temperatures below average, sometimes with snow or ice. There's no precipitation here today, but it is quite gusty and cold. California's taking a fraction of the rain that Washington and Oregon felt earlier on this winter. Meanwhile, the south is quietly and calmly baking. Good for the Big Easy on its Big Week.

- FEBRUARY - Is the month of North Carolina Sweet Potatoes.
- TODAY - Is Mardi Gras.

"I am restless. I am athirst for faraway things. My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance. O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute! I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am bound in this spot evermore."
- Rabindranath Tagore

No question of the day today, conventionally speaking.
Instead, by midnight tonight, do something.
Do something which you have wanted to do or needed to do for many months, but haven't for fear, apprehenstion, inertia, or exhaustion.
Do this.


Monday, February 27, 2006

In February, 2003.


Highs and lows, but mostly I remember this as being a good time. I was in Chicago. After several hundred job applications I found myself back at Advanced Personel, this time with the Department of Neurological Surgery. I was tired of temping, but I liked my coworkers and fellow temps (Emily who had mutual friends from the Michigan Renaissance Festival, Lola and Evelyn, who communed with me musically and kept me on my toes with their anecdotes, our shares experiences in Humboldt Park, and Brandon, who actually told me about Electronic Music before Sam had deeply permeated the stuff).

Also to the point, this was a nascient and promising period for the Nocturnal. While the downturns in the Nocturnal eventually turned me off to theater (not without regret, but nevertheless for going on three years now) it has some illuminatory moments for me, and as I look back on that month, I think a lot of them served to predict Gothic Funk.

A major part of this was my living situation. In terms of poverty (if not happiness) the previous several months had probably been the most dire circumstances of my life. I'd depleted my (very) modest savings, was paying on student loans... I'd spent the summer on an inflatable mattress in the Crawfords' basement, all autumn couch surfing across the South Side while applying to jobs everywhere from Bank One to Wendy's, and after a much-needed commission for directing a Play Production workshop for Wanderlust, I'd lived at home for two months... in Flushing Township... without friends or car... my parents were both gone during the day. It was a somewhat pointless exercise.

Then January, I landed in a sweet sublet (to be described another time) supplied by Talia for the quarter, and moved in with Matt Tievsky and a girl named Alicia. In those germinal months for the Nocturnal, before our first major production, we threw fundraiser parties. Early on, they were none too ambitious... we'd play poker and drink rum in the living room: Matt, Mark, Jess, Sean, the Jamesons, and whoever else we could drag into the deal. Later on, we'd drop $200 on alcohol, call the whole neighborhood over, and rake in a daunting $300 (meaning $100 profit). It was probably the biggest take in a single night for the Nocturnal ever. Mark bartended, Matt and I managed music. People came over by the dozens. Sometimes, they even danced. The scav hunt judges would congregate on the enclosed tenement porch. A yellow light flashed overhead. There was bad freestyle rap. Miraculously, nothing got broken.

We threw a Mardi Gras party that year as well. I remember; Sam came down for a visit, and I piled into a car with him and Libby and other Marquette kids (don't remember who...) and we drove down to 118th and Michigan. Toured Roseland. Toured Pullman. It was finger-joint creaking cold, and so we puffed up the air in the car as hot as it would go and played Moma. In March, I'd be going through my final preparations for conversion, and starting to work on All Is Fair In Sex And War. It wasn't a bad year, that year.

What were you doing in February, 2003?


Today is Lundi Gras!

Occludine 8, 28.


- THE WEEKEND - Your typical late-winter weekend. On Friday tried to go out, but Daniel, Peter, and Amy were engaged, and Matt had a date. On Saturday I attended my workshops and asked Frederic about being my BA advisor (it's a somewhat-y move that may or may not work in practice, but I've got to touch base with the department on that.) On Sunday I finished Djuna Barnes' Ryder; I'll spent the next two days preparing to present it to my class on Wednesday, so posting may be a little spare this week.
- WEATHER - Not much to talk about this week in the East and Midwest (which will remain chill and still for several days) or the South (which will remain sunny and warm). Southern California, however, is likely to be hit by a belt of Pacific rainstorms that could involve mudslides.

- I don't have holiday, birthday, or of the month information today, but worry not. I'll catch you up tomorrow.

This is a big week. I have several:
CNN.com - Biggest and glitziest parades in New Orleans.
The New York Times - Iraqi Violence Strains U.S. Political and Military Strategy and Imperils Pullout Plans.
The New York Times - Abortion Measure Could Mean Big U.S. Legal Battle.
The New York Times - Italians End Up Treating the Games Like Their Own.

Now make an anonymous confession of something you did that you do not regret... for which you are very happy...


Friday, February 24, 2006

South Dakota House bans Abortion


Things are happening very quickly now.
I have to admit, the change in rhetoric and momentum came about even more quickly than I had anticipated.

The New York Times: South Dakota House Approves Bill Banning Nearly All Abortions.
The New York Times: Justices to Review Federal Ban on Disputed Abortion Method.


The Third Policeman, by Flann O'Brien.


The Third Policeman

(No spoilers.)

[While I'm inostensibly discussing The Third Policeman, I'll resolve my rant on Pale Fire here as well.]

The class was surprisingly harsh with this book, mainly in the sense of pains take to recursively and minutely acknowledge every plot inconsistency. I think that inconsistencies are worth pointing out when they are a sign of an indiscretion or lapse on the part of the writer, or if they are part of a broader pattern that untdermines the work as a whole. As little as I know of Irish literature as a whole, it seems expert at admixing the colloquial and the allegorical; I feel that many criticisms were a result of scrutinizing the reality of the text with excessive literality.

I further think that the harsh verdicts result from this book following hard on Pale Fire... both invoked the same box-within-a-box or bike tire lemniscate, but when evaluating a text it's easy to fall back on craft to judge, because craft is discrete and concrete (at least relative to, say, performance, hyperbole, a sense of the moment, and so on). Nobody would argue that The Third Policean was better crafted than Pale Fire.

It was, at least for me, a more enjoyable read.

Even if someone is able to figure out the bomb that is dropped at the end of the text (and I figured it out very, very early on) there is no way to predict the bizarre and fantastical circumstances of the actual adventures. In case anyone's interested in reading, I won't give away details, or at least plot-spoiling details... I can safely say that this is a story that involves travel and explicitly discusses travel. The distance covered can be temporal (as demonstrated in the Eternity pancake), literal (as demonstrated in the two-dimensional police station pancake), or literary (as demonstrated in deSelby's pancake). Even if someone guesses the plot, which can happen either by reading between the lines or simply reading very closely in general, the story retains its suspense and interest because the journeys involved have such a range of possibility, to the point of defying the laws of Physics, that the reader has an insurmountable (but teasing) challenge in the struggle to reconcile what laws do apply within the story.

It may be argued for mysterious reasons (here's I'm getting misty and mysterious myself, all to avoid a spoiler) that there are no laws. In fact, this was brought up in class. I agree that it may be futile, or at least very frustrating and unproductive, to try to fix rules that may or may not apply, and even if they do may be irreleant. At the same time, if bicycles are considered, or omnium, or boxes, or geography... there is, at the very least motific recurrence that is far from arbitrary, and transparently either correlated or nested.

This story isn't a Pale Fire at all. Regardless of whether O'Brien intended it strictly as humor, or (as I suspect) it was multivalent, there is allegorical sympathy. All the cues suggest to me that Nabokov was just as offended by allegory as Tolkien, but it's difficult for me to imagine Irish literature without the device. In fact, I think most of the excuses people have for railing against allegory are discredited in "successful" examples of Irish literature, something I wish I would've thought of in a discussion in Jeff Allen's class last semester. Allegory, like simile or symbolism or anything else, tends to be derided on account of its most simplistic and generalized application. I also think (frankly) that this is a cultural prejudice... we're so encouraged to appreciate writing of subtlety and craft and, above all, character and psychology that we neither have the cultural or rhetorical apparatus to recognize nor appreciate a finely executed allegory.

Somebody commented the other day on hating Animal Farm. I didn't dislike the novel, myself, but I think it's an illustration of it's point... for good or for bad, Animal Farm is a very simplistic, straightforward, self-evident allegory. And The Lord of the Rings is not an allegory at all, nor is Pale Fire, but the The Third Policeman is, and in a very sophisticated digressive way. It's allegorical content expands the characters and the story, both psychologically and thematically, and it is a lack of recognition of this I believe that held back our discussion somewhat.

Holy shit, I'm talking about four novels now.

Returning to earth...

For non New School people who might be reading this (does anybody even read these?), I have a hard time believing that someone would not at least enjoy The Third Policeman. People might deviate on whether it is well-crafted or not. Myself, I would agree that there are flaws in the craft, inconsistencies, and unintentional accidents. But in addition to being great fun, the novel is unapologetically epic and charged with great soul, and personally, I'd rather read something epic and soulful than something well crafted.

Sorry, Vlad.


In Feburary, 1979.


I was six months old.

I don't remember much.

What were you up to in February, 1979?


Today is Vendredi Gras!


Do something wild and fun!


Occludine 5, 28.


- YESTERDAY - Explored Greenpoint. Got Jess a pretty blue rosary and ate lunch at the Polish Credit Union Cafeteria... I'd been referred there by a Neighborhood Guide I have; they offer really good food quite cheap. Back home, I read of Ryder, fixed Jess and me dinner, and made short work of the day.
- WEATHER - It's supposedly getting cold. Right now.

- FEBRUARY - Is the month of Success!
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Today, George Harrison. Tomorrow, Edward Gorey. Sunday, Victor Hugo.


Confess something. It can be grave and serious or light and frivolous. However, it ought to be imbued with sufficient mortification that you'll have to leave your comment anonymously. In fact, that's an appropriate guideline.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Occludine 4, 28.


- YESTERDAY - A success! Work went well; I plowed through nine long articles on the Oceans. Picked up some (more) books for class. Stopped for cash. Stopped at French Roast to meet with my workshop instructor. We spent awhile talking about Adrift on the Mainstream and what direction might be productive in revision. Then I headed back up to campus to stop at Murray's for a bagel before class. Except Murray's was closed for some reason. I ran into Erica and we talked for awhile. Class itself was interesting, although my sense is that people were being misreading The Third Policeman. They felt that it wasn't as finely crafted at Tristram Shandy or Pale Fire. I think that assement is correct but besides the point; there was plenty that the book did achieve, and I would've liked to have concentrated on that:
  • The interplay between deSelby, his commentators, and the narrator.

  • The exchange between Joe and the narrator.

  • The geography of the setting.

And so on. We got into a protracted discussion of modernism, postmodernism, structuralism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction, which is always either productive or postproductive, in my mind at least. It's the kind of discussion that class needed to have. Too many unheeded or unacknowledged biases flitting around.
- WEATHER - High-pressure over Greenland is pushing and shoving, and the jet stream is uncurled over the Eastern half of the U.S. Meanwhile, an Alberta clipper is descending on us from the Northeast. That means that western half of the U.S. will continue to enjoy mild weather, but east of the Mississippi we should expect a Big Cold Nasty. Quite possibly the Biggest Coldest Nastiest of the season.

- FEBRUARY - Is Grapefruit month.

Marsupials of Australia.

Which of your books would you choose to marry?
Which were good dates and quick flings?
Which books broke your heart?
Which books were just wasted evenings?


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Orbital #2. The Green Album: "Choice" "Desert Storm" and "Oolaa"


Oversimplified-and-sometimes-false truism: Among pop and dance music (I don't care what kind it is), given one artists, their most popular songs likely are their best.

On the Green Album, the best three songs are probably Chime, Belfast, and Satan. Except, of course, for Choice.


There's an emphatic versatility in Choice, or maybe it was Hartnoll brothers' attempt to solidify their claims to versatility. It doesn't implore dancing like Chime does. It assumes dancing. I don't know whether it should be called a groove-centered song or a riff-centered song, but it starts up right away. The words "wake up," and then the beat.

Amazingly, this track didn't appear on the British LP. I can't imagine why. Could it have something to do with the lyrics. Typically, they're unavailable online, but one voice in the distance yells (with an echo that seems to bounce off metal-plated walls) "wake up!" and, much nearer "peace or annihilation!"

It may be appropriate now to take a look at a related song, though one more concerned with its concept than its danceability; that is, that demands consideration in the midst of dancing.

Desert Storm

"Let everyone go to his private shelter...
May the blessing of the Bomb Almighty and the Fellowship of the Holy Fallout
Descend upon us this day and for evermore"

It's very strange to me to be writing today about a song that was highly topical and of the moment when it was written, to find that it was again of the moment two years ago, when I was still unfamiliar with Orbital with the exception of their sole track on the Pi Soundtrack, and now this twelve-minute song has picked up a sort of weird immortality or timelessness, because looking at the tortured intertwinedness (after so many thousands of miles) between ourselves and the Persian Gulf region... will this song ever not be of the moment again?

The drum has powerful drums and an insidious bassline, but with a couple relatively brief exceptions (during which they preen like a jazz improve -- it's a twelve minute song -- these more showcase the arabesque riffs and stereoplay, haunting chimes that occasionally well up from nowhere, and the helicopter blades. Yes, helicopter blades. Don't worry; they're not real helicopter blade sounds, and they're not concerned with sounding like real helicopters. It's more like static cutting through a particularly ambitious table fan, but the comparison is unmistakable.


It's the chimes rising that wins me over to this one in the end. And the rising voice at the beginning. Creepy.


Oolaa seems to be everybody's favorite song off this album. I enjoy Oolaa, but I don't really see what the big deal is. The blips and percussion are fun, but it's not really selling anything with the same strength that I find elsewhere. Chime is more fun, Satan more mean, Choice more driven, Desert Storm more profound, and Belfast more surreal.

Wait... energy. That's it. Oolaa has the energy.


Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter


Today is the feast of the chair of Saint Peter.

From the New Catholic Dictionary:

Portable chair preserved at the Vatican and believed to be a chair used by Saint Peter, the extant testimony referring to it dating from the 2nd century. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Rome has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on 18 January, in commemoration of the day when Saint Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of Saint Peter at Antioch, commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome, on 22 February. At each place a chair (cathedra) was venerated which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass. One of the chairs is referred to about 600 by an Abbot Johannes who had been commissioned by Pope Gregory the Great to collect in oil from the lamps which burned at the graves of the Roman martyrs. One of these phials, preserved in the cathedral treasury of Monza, Italy, had a label reading, "oleo de sede ubi prius sedit sanctus Petrus" (oils from the chair where Saint Peter first sat). The Mass for both feast days is the same; the Collect is as follows:

"Oh, God, who, together with the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst bestow on blessed Peter Thy Apostle the pontificate of binding and loosing, grant that by the aid of his intercession we may be released from the yoke of our sins."

I don't have a whole lot else to say about this one, and to tell the truth, while I usually go in for the subtle distinctions and recognitions, the opportunities to notice things that feast days afford, this one almost seems superfluous. Do we really need to celebrate the Chair of St. Peter twice? Is this just here so we'll be saved from sin during the depths of Carnival season? Are there even any Christians living in Antioch anymore?

Oh, whatever.

It's interesting, though, that today is the day on which Pope Benedict has announced his fifteen choices for new Cardinals. I don't recognize any of these men by name, and I don't fully understand all of the offices to which they've been appointed. I'm encouraged by their diverse range of backgrounds and cultural perspectives... but I'm even more eager to hear of their history on the issues central to the Church. (If you haven't noticed, the Supreme Court just reopened partial-birth abortion... history, it turns out, does make a difference... something to ponder today).

In light of the feast, however, I wonder to what extent the pope's choices are directed by the same priorities as St. Peter when he established the church in Antioch. It was the culmination of many small and large steps; an exclusively Jewish sect had just "turned its back" on its heritage and opened up to the rest of the world.

Has the pope made choices that will drive the world away?

Something to think about...


Occludine 3, 28.


- YESTERDAY - Work. Colloquium. Ride home. Dinner and reading. Sleep.
- WEATHER - Once again, the weather will be perfectly synchopated with your schedule; it will get cold this weekend and stay that way through Monday.

- FEBRUARY - is Library Lovers month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - George Washington.

"Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure - that burns a building down

I first stole, and then corrupted, this:
1. A song by Led Zeppelin or a member of Led Zeppelin.
2. A song featuring the accordion.
3. A song with the name of a human invention in the title.
4. A song with the name of a famous politician in the title.
5. A song about the apocalypse.
6. A song with geology in the title.
7. A song with an asterisk in the title.
8. A funky song.
9. A song with the word "crime" in the title.
10. A song you love so much you stop and listen whenever you hear it.
Bonus points to anyone who is ten for ten.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Orbital #1. The Green Album: "Chime," "Satan," and "Belfast"


Is Connor sufficiently equipped to review Orbital? No, not remotely, or even close, or even approximate... the last week has disabused me any notions as to that.

But is he able to talk about Orbital? I say, yes, if I can stick within the boundaries of familiar vocabulary and open inquiry, with the important conditional that certain others must accept my invitation to step in an share their more musically informed wisdom (I'm thinking of C. Cody, alan1, Skyballs, and Sam in particular, but I'd like others to augment me here).

In short, I'm going to try to talk meaninfully about the impulse under the song and what it communicates to the listerner; things I ought to be able to engage with even a limited context. I'm hoping you'll help flesh out the discussion with needed detail.

Everybody else, get a cup of coffee and focus your eyes. Who knows where we're going next...

* * * * *

Phil Hartnoll was born on January 9th, 1964, and his brother Paul, was born May 19th, 1968. That would make them 42 and 37 today, respectively. More importantly, it would make them 20 and 25 when they formed Orbital in 1989. At the time Electronic Music hadn't gone mainstream in a big way. While (as I've learned in the last week) is an oversimplified and occasionally untrue statement, as New Wave and Synthpop and other self-recognized groups used electronic technology extensively in their music. But as near as I can tell, it's still reasonable to make a distinction between the structure of the song.

To put it a little differently, House and Trance and Techno, as it's evolved in the last two decades seems to have a structure that takes optimal advantage of the possiblities of loops and mixing and the other technology available, as well as being evolved in the incubators of raves. Sometimes this is conspicuous: eight to eighty minutes songs, and a gradual build over a long period of time... things that might be expressed in other genres of music but which, for whatever reason, have not been.

New Wave and Synth Pop, for all of their pioneering aspects still seemed to apply electronic sound to a pop/rock structure (ultimately derived from the Blues, and more ultimately derived from hollar and call-and-respond spirituals). And this is why Orbital may have been instrumental to the popularization of electronic music. They made the structure of House music accessible. "Chime," "Belfast," and "Satan" are all catchy songs. They would be addictive dance anthems when experienced live, but in an album, they're distilled down to 8:05, 8:01, and 5:30. There are Smashing Pumpkins songs longer than that.

So much for history.

Moving on.

* * * * *

As for the first Orbital album, it was released in 1991 in the UK, and in 1992 in the US. Officially, the album was self-titled but soon became known as "the Green Album" to avoid confusion with the almost identical seeming second album, Orbital 2 (aka "the Brown Album"). The "album" is actually a compilation of singles, and the British version is different from the American both in content (I'm lacking "Steel Cube Idolatry," "High Rise," and the outro "I think it's Disgusting") and order. Moreover, on the British version, "Chime" and "Midnight" are live; they are not on the US version.

I say all of this to explain my lack of concern with order; I'm starting out with three best known tracks.


We're still in straightforward and ephemeral territory here, in terms of knowing what the song is and what it wants. Firstoff, it's a dance song:

ting ting tinting ting ting tintintinting
ting ting tinting ting ting tinting tintinting

and repeat. (Can you read that aloud four times fast without tripping up? If not, then you'll understand that dance music can take on subtlety even on the smallest levels).

The synthetic tingling sounds as if sampled from a hammered dulcimer, and is an insistant, pesky little thing. Approached generally, there's nothing by way of sound or commentary to suggest E or rave hystrionics, but you are ready to dance by the time the beat emerges.

The song as a whole has a minimalist feel, which is conspicuous even against the later work by Orbital (I've always been struck by their preference for introducing three or four elements of sound and twisting them to full potential instead of layering in more). By several minutes in, the song has picked up about five elements; three synth effects, a bass effect, and percussion. The evolution of the music is relatively straightforward and doesn't crescendo with the high tension that Orbital pulled in the Brown Album and Snivilisation.

Still, it manages to peak interest when it drops elements near the end, and after all the motion and bobbing up and down, the overall effect is still animated warmth. Low fuzzy sounds and high precise ones that are insistant through their repetitions. It's addictive, which is what it needed to be to be what it was. And there's a sentence like the song itself.


Some people might argue that every song on this album... they might say that every song on Orbital's first three albums is so... I appreciate Satan as a dance song, I respect in it the same austerity that works for Chime, and I like the imposition of a sense of claustrophobia simply through the repetition of sythensized staccato chromatic scales. The spinning and rap overlays; they don't overstay there welcome, which is also remarkable to me.

I still prefer Chime. It's airiness and spontaneity (remember, in an eight minute song) strikes me as more difficult and more novel than self-conscious hip-shaking paranoia. Not that either is "easy."


Of the Brown Album's "big three" this may be my favorite. It also, I believe, predicts the direction Orbital will move with their next to albums in a way that eludes both Satan and Chimes. It has the strange, theremin-suggesting whine, the spacey squeaks and blips, the sighing vocals and melodramatic piano that are more prominent in later songs like Halcyon.

In terms of personality, it's just as soft and tender, as fleshy and plump and midtempo as Chime, but not as persistant and demanding someone dance. It strikes me as a sad song, which is most subtly reinforced by the down cast of all the instrumentation, but particularly in the vocals: the girl could be singing at a funeral.

Gothic Funk... Special Secret Missions.


If anybody isn't dismayed by the prospect of work and has a thirst for exploits of a nature both Gothic and Funky, send me an email at connor hereisnowhy com and I'll contact you within the next week.


Mardi Gras and New Orleans this year.


The New York Times: In Mardi Gras, a City Learns to Party Again

from the article:

No more than 200,000 residents have returned to what had been a city of 465,000, and those who ventured to the parade route were joined by only a scattering of tourists...

Tourism officials say that Mardi Gras usually attracts as many as 1.2 million visitors a year. This year they expect 700,000 at most...

Frankly, I'm surprised the numbers aren't more drastic. Our media conglomerates have not kept close tabs on the ongoing effect of Hurricane Katrina, but among all other figures, the number of deaths has topped seven hundred. The city's population of 200,000, held above in contrast to its preflood 465,000, may be just as validly compared to the scant few thousands (I heard figures from major news sources ranging from 5,000 to 30,000) left at the height of evacuation. I think 200,000 residents and 700,000 tourists is a pretty impressive comeback within one year.

I've already established my weird inductive connection to this event. Besides the sympathy (empathy?) that arises naturally from being another American in the mix, and the equally dubious empathy (sympathy?) that I've felt watching from a safe distance as my hometown continues to devolve, I'm immediately just one or two degrees of separation. I made it past the "first round" in applications to two MFA programs. New School in NYC accepted me outright, and University of New Orleans wait-listed me. As a result of this, and only as a result of this, I was driving east, not south, at the end of the August. It's not often we get to see possibilities for our lives divide both clearly and with force, and this was not lost on me as I followed the events of last September.

Now, however, I have a further connection. Erica, one of my best friends at New School was also traveling to New York last September. She, however, was travelling from New Orelans, and her sister is an alumnae from the same MFA program at UNO at which I'd been waitlisted. This week she's traveling back to her city for the first time since the Hurricane to celebrate Mardi Gras. I'm looking forward to hear her impressions, stories, and see the pictures she brings back.

Chris, another New Schooler I know from New Orleans speculated that there wouldn't be any Mardi Gras this year. "The floats are all ruined," he said. While his statement isn't strictly true - many floats were damaged and many were not - even at the time I felt that this wasn't remotely to the point. Even if a "float" consisted of a diva waving from a cinder-block throne as some children push her down the street in a bright red wagon, it's essential this year for New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras.

If you like, you can boil this down to a "demonstration of the indominatable human spirit" argument. It can also easily reduce to a gothic funky sort of bittersweet: happiness is rendered more sharp with some sadness, or tragedy is made more poignant against joy. These are both true, but I think in this case, the situation is immediately more delicate and multivalent.

For starters, there's a powerful economic incentive. New Orleans is utterly strapped for cash right now. Even before the hurricane, it was one of America's poorest cities, and Mardi Gras was a ponderously important part of the local economy. The need for a Mardi Gras-style event now is greater than ever. This is a liability in the sense that New Orleans must turn attentions away from the strict demands of reconstruction, but also a boon in that Mardi Gras is an affair of the spirit and the senses?

Is it? Well, last year, before even thinking about hurricane, I talked about the specific relationship of Carnival and Lent, of Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. In a Catholic mindset, these are the two seasons is sharpest opposition, spiritually, one defined almost uniformly by extravagence, the other by austerity. And they are pressed, at the height of each of these aspects (beads around the neck and ashes on the forehead) separated by just one midnight. It is, in other words, a paradox in the spirit of celebration that nobody can over look.

Or do I overlook the secularization of Mardi Gras? What I said above would certainly affect the way the occasion plays out to practicing Catholics, and there are plenty in the Big Easy, but they don't exclusively (or possibly even in majority) comprise the 1.2 million tourists each year. This isn't a theological argument... Protestants, outsiders, whatever, have to notice the contrasts all about them. If Bourbon Street and the Garden District are bedecked in color, these are areas reached by passing numerous cemeteries in a city known for gray moss and cypress. And is February as dreary in the South as is it up here?

These contrasts, stacked up next to each other, are true whenever (and to a large extent, wherever) Mardi Gras is celebrated. But another contrast that nobody will escape this year is the one-two punch effect. The event will be seen not merely as a response to the hurricane, but as a second act to the hurricane. By its mere existence Mardi Gras implies that an event follows, that the hurricane is not the epilogue to the city. Perhpas not even the final act. Here, I even admit a little bit of jealousy... is there an event in which Flint or Detroit can so completely encapsulate a "stepping beyond" or better, a "stepping through."

It must be a unique experience to attend Mardi Gras in New Orleans this year. It must be painful and difficult, especially for those with a personal investment in the city. But it must also feel a priveledge, a true admixture of austerity and extravagence and mercy, to experience paradox so sincerely.

Take everything I say with a grain of salt.

I've never been there.

But I'm glad that New Orleans will be having Mardi Gras.


Occludine 2, 28.


- YESTERDAY - What a refreshing day! And how much needed! I slept in until about ten, and spent all day cleaning, reading, and getting stuff done, but at a relaxed pace. I spent some time browsing the Electronic Music Guide and at nine PM, I met up with Jess and some kids from my class at Spain. We talked awhile before heading home. We had hot chocolate.
- WEATHER - With the exception of some showers settling over the Upper South, this week will be one of the closest to "normal" we've seen yet this year. Maybe a little warmer than "normal." Maybe a little.

- FEBRUARY - Is Boosting Self-Esteem Month.

"It is not opium which makes me work but its absence, and in order for me to feel its absence it must from time to time be present."
- Antonin Artaud

What's your opium?


Monday, February 20, 2006

In May, 2002.


The Year I named "Year of the Horizon Divides," spanning roughly from September 2001 to June 2002 was probably the shittiest year of my life. Which in a way probably says a lot for how good I've had it. Because in a literal breakdown, a fourth of the time I was relatively miserable, a fourth of the time I was simply frustrated, and a fourth of the time I was having a blast. (The last fourth of the time, I was asleep.)

I won't go into the ins and outs of apartment life with Ben, the roaches, and the Insane Latin Jyvers in Humboldt Park... at least not this time. There were basically substantial oasises of badassness I'd reach from time to time; when Sam came to visit and we heard the Blues at Rosa's, or when I met up with Josh and we walked from the Red Line to Hyde Park. But suddenly, in early May, I reached the Mediterranean.

That is, Scavhunt arrived. This was the first year in which I was a judge. It was also the year during which the documentary was filmed. MK was head judge. There were several legends judging, specifically Mike Campion and Moacir... and there had also been huge turnover the previous year, meaning lots of new judges: Sonia, Steve Cicala, Kaury, Monsour, Dembowski, Melissa, and myself. Five out of six of us were to return for at least one year.

It was also an inaugural year of what later became judge tradition. I cannot delve too deeply into the details of these rites and passages lest I disrupt the appropriate expansion of the universe, or worse, expose myself to legions of assassins my fellow judges would not flinch to deploy. I can, however, most likely, safely say that at some point that year the correlation of judges within the discrete boundaries of the Hunt itself became more indiscriminately nested. There were several reasons for this.

  • Several of us, myself included, lived far away, and didn't have a convenient way to get home after the list release.

  • Several of us (Sam, MK, Monsour, and Dembowski) lived together, automatically increasing the index of cohabitation.

  • Several prime items (Niteline) were best tested in each other's company
  • The release of the list that year required most of us to squat at Jimmy's, which resulted in the disappearance of several pitchers of beer.

The choice was finalized in a car driven by Periphrastic to deliver lists to Snell, BJ, and the FIST (among other tawdry details). We decided to simply remain... to take up floor and couch space at the shared apartment on Woodlawn near 54th, spray our sticky shirts with deodorant in the morning (which didn't exceptionally) work. I don't remember how many of us crashed at MK's that first night, but by Saturday it was all of the judges except maybe two or three. This would eventually become a perennial adventure involving lots of beer and Megaman. That first night, however, if I remember correctly, I was alone in the living room in the dark. There was enough light bleeding in from the street lights to throw a white shadow on the walls and racks of VHS tapes and DVDs, and that sort of splintered but somehow regal looking sub-polished hardwood floor that I've only rarely seen outside of Hyde Park. A fantastic storm broke out and the light was bright enough to see branches ripped to the south, a moment in which they could float north, slightly, then ripped and plunged again.

I thought it would be hard to sleep with that noise... the window was open... that breeze... like buckets of water falling all at once. But of course, I fell asleep at once. And four hours later, they woke me up again, to go to the Captains' meeting.

What were you doing in May, 2002?




So about the layout this month...

The background may appear to be completely black, but if you have a high-resolution monitor or shrink the size of the text box so there's an empty space at the bottom, you'll see some white lights pretty clearly. This picture was actually taken at night from the fire escape just outside my apartment window. I was going for something a bit more austere this time.

The "the month is Occludine" box at the top is actually the saem view, although here the profusion of light makes it difficult to read details. (I'll leave it to you to ponder the significance and/or intentionality of this juxtaposition. Actually, though, I liked this picutre just because it shows the business of the average Thursday for me. On Thursdays, I don't have anywhere to go, but since I don't get home until ten or midnight the three days prior I inevitably have lots to get caught up on.

The three boxes to the right are actually shots from inside Old St. Pat's church in Chicago. I've been trying to stick with New York pictures for the most part since moving, but none of them seemed to happily fit this time around, so...

Urban Exploration Resource
Presumably it's going to be getting warmed soon, which will mean the highways and byways will be thawing out, and you know what that means...

This is the Official Site of the Artists Formerly Known as Orbital.
As soon as I make my way through the prodigious site Sky sent me on the highways and byways of electronic music, I'll be reviewing Orbital's first albums (which I just acquired). I thought this might be useful, to me and to you.

Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music v. 2.5
This is the prodigious site Sky sent me on the highways and byways of electronic music. It's great if you want to understand the stuff, or conveniently browse a couple thousand samples, or even browse the ridiculous colonial diaspora that is electronic music.

Usually at least one of the "cool in..." links will be to an actual human being, but I haven't added any links to human beings in awhile, and those who update often enough to warrent a showcase have already been linked to once or twice. I'm taking this new format for a test drive.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Occludine 1, 28.


- I am posting at a couple minutes past midnight, and while it is technically Monday (Olympics coverage having given way to the local news), something feels pleasantly transgressive about the action. Bwa ha!
- THE WEEKEND - It was deleriously ineffectual, though for some reason i'm not all that disappointed. On Friday, I did trek out to Greenpoint, a walk that took about an hour at which point I discovered I could have cut the time by two thirds if I'd only taken the G. Moreover, I was too tired and cranky to spend much time exploring amongst those equally tired and cranky Poles up there. I did stop at a restaurant and started reading for class: The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien. It was slow going, which only became slower when I left my book on the Subway. That night, Jess and I stayed in until are midnight, when Bruce and Matt picked us up and took us out to the Brooklyn Social Club, a bar in Carroll Gardens. I'd never been to Carroll Gardens before. It was quite nice, with the mentioned "gardens" being roomy lots that projecyted forward toward the street from the same style of brownstone one encounters throughout Brooklyn.
On Saturday, my Innovative Fiction workshop went well, and I stopped out for noodles afterward. Jess and I contemplated going out, but decided not to. We drank hot chocolate and champagne, and watched the Olympics. I fell asleep.
This morning I was industrious, cleaning in the kitchen and finishing off the bulk of my remaining wedding thank you notes (Jess has been more industrious at this than I have, but fortunately the things are almost finished!) and we celebrated with a pizza dinner. Matt invited us to meet up in Manhattan. Jess accepted. I declined. Now I'm at home alone, and I've got bittersweet feelings. I really didn't feel like walking twenty minutes to a twenty-minute subway ride to go to a couple bars (where I can never hear what anyone says anyway), drop a bunch of money on expensive booze, and take a twenty minute subway ride to a twenty-minute walk home. I really don't feel like it. But I miss seeing people and friends, and I miss being with Jessica, even though it's only been, like, the first two hours in over a day. *Sigh.*
- WEATHER - Extremes will mellow out. Blah blah bleary February.

- FEBRUARY - Is responsible pet owners month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Kurt Cobain and Frederick Douglass.

The New York Times - Company Town Relies on G.M. Long After Plants Have Close.
NOTE: The town in question is not Flint, but Anderson, Indiana.

If you were reincarnated as a member of the Village People, who would you be?


Friday, February 17, 2006

Nimbus 28, 28.


- TODAY - I was going to go out in search of Mario (a fellow Brooklynite), and lo! It is raining. Well, shit. I might go anyway, inasmuch as it's going to top out at thirty-three degrees tomorrow, and at least right now I can count on a little warmth. Or I could stay in Fort Greene Park to do my reading; take a walk up to Tillie's on DeKalb. What do you think?

- YESTERDAY - Was absolutely amazing. Seriously, the best day I've had this month. I was badly underslept, so I didn't get up until eleven. I spent the next several hours catching up on "morning activities," then headed off to Manhattan to look for several books I need in the upcoming week. The only one I successful found (out of six) was Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon, a scavhunt favorite.
- But the real highlight of the evening was the first MFA student reading at which I was the final installment. Yay! The roster was packed with people I know and love: Sarah from my seminar with Frederic Tuten, Justin and Melissa from workshop, and Amy from work. And of course, beer, wine, and pizza (two of which I probably indulged more than I should have).
As the very last reader I had ample room for indulgence, but as for reading itself... I loved it. It was like being in theater again, assuming a peronality, a part, and conveying it to the kids all out there. Playing with expectations. Allowing my body and voice to move according to instinct instead of a rigorously choreographed plan. I imagine this is what dancing to techno music is like, for those who are really comfortable with it.
- A lot of my friends came to the reading as well... kids from class; Jared, Jeff, Erica, Reinhardt, Scott, and others. Afterwards, most of us went to a bar on University Drive. But since the night had gotten off to an early start, even after walking to the subway at Union Square, taking the subway to DeKalb and heading home from there, we were still in by midnight.
- In celebration, Jess treated us to Crown Fried Chicken. It's no Harold's, but it's no KFC either. I appreciated and enjoyed.
- If you're a writer (I know several read this) find an excuse to read. It's the play that follows hard on all that difficult work.
- I wish I had enough time from an RPG right now. I miss Werewolf.

- WEATHER - Ah, we've discussed this. At some point today you might expect (if you've not already experienced) to lose about a degree per minute over the course of a half hour or so.

- FEBRUARY - Is Embroidery Month.

Saudi Arabia.

Which two musicians would you most like to see face off in a chocolate mud-wrestling? Who would win? Would it matter?


Thursday, February 16, 2006

In Spring, 1982.


Oddly enough, I excluded 1982 from my list of particular intense years. It was. In away this is like identifying the activity of certain mesolithic "civilizations" as being intense... it's the amount of relative activity that makes the statement. I remember more from the age of four than three or five by leaps and bounds, and six barely competes. I wasn't one of those obviously prodigal kids (like my wife) who can read at two and talk about the "struggle" of the proletariat at three. I was a little bit more slow early on. I wasn't stupid; but I was serious and intense and penetrating. I was one of those babies who stares at something for a long time, which would've been disquieting if I didn't smile so much.

So what should be the first epic of the year "four"? Necessity means this must be a short entry, so I'll have to do something simple.

I went to nursery school this year. There were three moms at Woodside Church nursery school that watched the kids at three schools. At the end of the year I'd earned the distinction as the sole kid with a mom all to himself. That's right; the other moms each divided their attentions between all the other dozen (?) plus kids there. I had one all to myself. This was because I had a knack, whenever someone's back was turned, of simply leaving.

Before all this had gone down, I enjoyed more freedom. It wasn't that I didn't like Woodside church. The room to the north was dull enough but the room to the south had shaving cream and buckets and pails and building blocks and a plastic play structure with a slide. If I could smuggle away from these parts, there was an antechamber all walled in with class, and this fascinated me. And then there were carpeted halls where you could stamp your foot as hard as you tried, but barely make a sound. They were long and wide, with stained-glass windows throwing zigzag patterns down and it was fun to run up and down them at a full careen. Bathrooms to explore. Stairways to explore.

Eventually I got bored with all this. I was able to open the doors to the antechamber, and then I was in the back parking lot behind the church. A small tree grew off to one side, and I practised climbing that until a mom inevitably came out and dragged me back inside. When that got dull, the parking lot was filled with all sorts of wonders; trees that were bigger than those in my yard... Oaks! And pebbles on the ground. And little chasms between the bars at the side of the parking lots and the church it self... chasms that fell two or three feet to windows that looked into the basement. I explored those as well.

And once, when I was particularly successful at not getting caught, I left the church entirely. I don't remember exactly where I went; presumably off into the neighborhood. A old man working in his yard apprehended me and brought me back. Everybody was shocked and appalled. My parents tell the story to this day.

I invite them to correct any mistakes I've made.


Nimbus 27, 28.


- My computer is too damn slow...
- YESTERDAY - Work was uneventful, but I was very relieved to finish my current project. I've been tracking down public-domain images from Library of Congress and other sources for science entries, but we could only use images we were 100% sure were PD, which is a lot harder than you might think. For 900 entries I probably only got some forty or fifty images. The project before had been uploading tax forms... now I'm back on earth science, linking articles on the Oceans, and I expect it will take me the next two to three weeks to finish that.
After work I set out on my annual music binge, although it wasn't so much of a binge this year as a trip. Still, I feel this is mitigated by the quality of my acquirings and my persistance and invention. Yes, I'm bragging. First, I stopped at 192 books on Tenth Avenue to look for some things I'll need for class, but no luck there. I headed back to Sixth, where the sidewalks were packed and snow was melting and running through the trash, between the trash bags, and into the sewer. When I got to the Village, I found the address of Disk-Go-Round on 4th Street, but it had been converted into a laundromat. I crossed over to Cornelius Street and easily found Underworld Music in a space about the size of my bedroom. It had ambience but a shitty selection, and when I finally found a Jimi Hendrix CD I wanted, the guy told me that while they accepted credit card, they didn't accept it for purchases under twenty dollars. That was that. I didn't have cash, and I wasn't about to buy another twelve dollars of music I didn't want just so I could buy it there. (Note - This is something about some small businesses that truly perplexes me... if you're turning away potential repeat customers over something as trivial as a credit card fee, you're in trouble already. This place had just shot there one stake with me). Walking further down Sixth and switching the Bleeker, I found another used CD store, Village Music World, where I did actually buy The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Are You Experienced, which is one of those album I figure everyone ought to own. Plus the place was playing Silverfuck by the Pumpkins, so I figured I owed them some business. I hit a fourth used music store down by Washington Square Park. Again, came up empty. I threw my hands in the air (figuratively) and walked up to the Virgin Records at Union Square where, of course, I found everything else I was looking for. Which wasn't, incidentally, so obscure. My final take was:

James Brown, Live at the Apollo
Jimi Hendrix, Are You Experienced
Orbital, The Brown Album
Orbital, The Green Album
Sly and the Family Stone, Greatest Hits

Now it was time for class.
A quick side note about two offensive things I saw yesterday.
1. A campus comedy group was performing in the 11th Street Cafe as I passed through to check my email. They were doing a bit with two boys wearing sloppy towels on their heads as turbans, talking in sloppy middle-eastern voices, trilling like crazy and talking abou blowing things up.
2. A girl in the second row had the most ridiculous laugh I've ever heard by leaps-and-bounds. She was CRAZY. It sounded halfway between an all out scream and a noisy orgasm. I kept expecting her to convulse and die.
That we should have been so lucky...
At class we discussed Pale Fire which I want to go into later. I feel like I have to put more teeth in the emulation exercises than I have been, though I think I managed to do so this week.
I went home, spent some time with Jessica, who'd had a kind of lousy day, and put together my reading for tonight.
Oh yeah. I'm reading tonight. At the 11th Street Cafe. Wish me luck.

- WEATHER - It's different everywhere right now, especially east of the Mississippi. The Midwest is being pelted with a mixture of and rain, while it's mild and sunny out East.

- FEBRUARY - Is Children's Dental Health month.


What's your favorite television show (ever)?


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

A Musical Copout, A Musical Question


While nobody has accused me of Freysting something, I was gently let know by email yesterday that perhaps my take on electronic music is not sufficient to take on Orbital. That's fine. I'll be back for Orbital later. Sooner then you may expect. Or later.

I have a question, though.

During the instrumental entrance of the Cranberries' song (because I still listen to the Cranberries...) Electric Blue from the album To the Future Departed (because I do enjoy that album, whatever you may say), after the voices fade, there's a change in the sound of the organ.

The note doesn't change... it may be partly a reducion of the pipes (?) from many to a few, but it also sounds like the air is moving across a different material... almost like the textural difference between variations of xylophones, if that makes any sense.

Anyway, can anyone tell me what is happing at that moment of the song, and how it is accomplished?


Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov. 1.


Pale Fire

I'm deliberately abbreviating my thoughts here because I want to see if my opinions are altered at class tonight. While I certainly would've enjoyed Tristram Shandy on it's own merits, reading is like religious or Calculus; it's most comprehensible when experienced with others.

So consider this the before shot.

Vladimir Nabokov was one of the best writers in the English language; he combines an encylopedic knowledge of all sorts of things with a knack for forceful and evocative language; his mastery of English and Russian, etc., etc., etc.

You've heard all this and it's all true.

He's also a one-trick pony. He had one plot (granted, it's a great plot) and he cycles it through various permutations in his couple dozen novels and plays. Personally, I find it a little tiring by about the third novel... the crisp acknowledgment of narrative control becomes an announcement, and soon it simply feels like he's solemnly intoning:

"Welcome to V.N., bitch."

But some of these variations are better than others. The Waltz Invention is utterly obnoxious, while Lolita trumps them all. In general, I'd argue that reading Lolita three times spread out over several years is more enjoyable and enlightening than reading three separate Nabokov novels.

All that said, Pale Fire and Invitation to a Beheading are near the top, and can both be fun on their own. Bend Sinister has a wonderful ending.

And in the case of Pale Fire specifically, the conventions employed, the poem and the commentary are more compelling than the actual relationships at play. John Shade's poem can be gutwrenchingly evocative at times (especially in Canto 2), but also seems to parody himself ("freakish clout"), while Kinbote's manifestoes are worthwhile for the conjecture and color of Zemblan intrigue.

It's not a bad book...

It was an enjoyable read...

Despite it's consumption by authorial prerogative (not entirely unrelated to executive prerogative), it keeps its images lovely and powerful...

I just wish that someone with such skill and long legs as Nabokov would've stretched himself further in his lifetime.

I wish he would've taken some risks he wasn't so comfortable with.


Nimbus 26, 28.


- YESTERDAY - Quintessential New York City-working-part-time-MFA-student day. After work I stopped at a Walgreens for some shopping and headed home. Jess and I watched Gilmore Girls (this episode, Luke was the one acting flakey) and then I spent the remainder of the night finishing Pale Fire. There, that wasn't so bad, was it?
- WEATHER - The plan is essentially unchanged from yesterday. Tonight it's the Midwest's turn to get hit by a blizzard while the snow out East melts away. And this weekened, we'll all be freezing.
- FEBRUARY - is Eye Care month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Susan B. Anthony and Gallileo Gallilei.

The Augusta Chronicle: Bobsledding explained.

Affiliate yourself with a cyborg identity.

width="240" height="180"
alt="Construct Optimized for Nocturnal Nullification and Online Repair"


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

All I'm gonna say about it.


I didn't think the Bush administration was in any way comparable to the Founding Fathers, but evidently Cheney's got something on Aaron Burr.


Electronic music, anyone?


I want to review Snivilisation by Orbital, and some other electronic music albums, but I don't know if I have it right. So I'm posting an "overview" in the hope that you'll let me know when I'm right, correct me when I'm wrong, and generally offer your point of view as comments.

Here's the form as I understand it. Please respond:

* * * * *

From the outside, "electronic music" is amazingly easy to understand, and just below the surface it becomes startlingly difficult. It's easy because, with no familiarity, one can recognize the stuff easily enough... if there's a synthetic beat, we call it electronic, and listen for the following squiggles. But in fact, a number of factors (I'm specultaing things such as the ability to use computers to make consistantly minute distinction in timing and texture is an important one) enable electronic music to easily fracture into innumerable subgenres. More significantly, this "fracturing" happened as the necessary technology became simultaneously available in different parts of the world. The impetus for this was the advent of the computer; synthesizers had been in use since the sixties, and there were forms of exclusively electronic music from the early seventies. However, the versatility and accessibility of computers from the late eighties on opened up possibilities for a greater variety of electronic music and more convenient production.

Two familiar examples come in the form of Chicago house and Detroit techno. From the beginning there may have been cross-pollination, but the two forms evolved at the same time in two different cities, in many ways propogated by groups with different political, economic, and artistic concerns. House, as music developed for a club setting had a more commercial orientation from the start (although later developments would open it up in new directinos), while Techno, initially mixed at alcohol-free all-age parties in Detroit was more austere, mathematically minded, and deemphasized vocals. While this is an oversimplificaion, it illustrates a different pattern of development than, say, Blues music, which took root in the Mississippi Delta, then moved north, first to Memphis and New York, and later collecting in Chicago. The accumulative quality of Blues music (you can hear the Delta in Chicago blues) is generally absent from electronica.

* * * * *

What do you all think of that?

In August, 1999.


The summer of 1999 remains one of the most intense times in my life. It ranks alongside spring 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004-2005 in this regard. It's almost frightening how incedentally shaped apertures are so consistantly cyclical. Anyway...

There's not enough space or time here for all of the adventures of August, 1999, but I'll tell one that occurred near the beginning.

By August, many elements of the summer were coming to a head. The first defining moment of the month was a summer trip to Chicago. Sarah had recently returned from her art camp and staying with her family.
I had just concluded performances of Where the Lilies Bloom at Flint Youth Theatre. Bree was cast in the lead of The Skriker which I was at that time directing for the Black Box Underground. Mitch was working, as was Sam, also playing a part in Skriker and essentially serving as Technical Director. The Skriker imposed an unusual bond in-and-of-itself. I don't know how to describe the actual production (though I'm sure I will attempt to in a later post), but I'll just say that it was plagued by a startlingly uncomfortable rift within the cast, a whole list of conventional dressing problems, and still had some brilliant and illuminatory moments. Finally, several of us were easing into or out of new romances, which imposed its own sting of tension.

And because of our nested relationships and our personalities, and the fact that we were easing down the other side of summer, instead of asking for a break from intensity we decided to take a break in another side of intensity. Which, at that time, meant a trip to Chicago.

I'd already made one trip to Chicago that summer, between performances of Lilies... Sam and Josh and I had driven down, leaving Flint at around eight, and getting back after midnight. This trip was to be more ambitious. We were to pile into Sarah's giant rusty Buick all prickly with sewing pins stuck in the cloth covering above and cards lning the dash. We were to go as emmisarries of the Black Box Underground, and go to see University Theater's production of Macbeth. I had secured Zannah's permission for us to sleep in the UT lounge, or rather her promise to look the other way.

It was myself, Sarah, Bree, Mitch, and Sam.

We roared out of Flint on a Saturday morning with the Beastie Boys thumping through that ancient car. By nine we'd passed Kalamazoo and were laughing over Amy Arena's caustic screeching. We probably got into Chicago around eleven, blasting over the Skyway and sinking into the concrete intestines of the Dan Ryan, of Stony Island Drive, of the South Side.

For some reason a priority was visiting Kersten and going up to the roof... I was able to accomplish this because I remembered the passwords and punched them in, and this was our moment of glory about the Hyde Park skyline. For the life of me, I cannot remember what else we did during our first several hours in the big city. Most likely we tooled around Hyde Park and the South Side, since I know we expanded our wanderings the next day, but besides maybe grabbing Thai at the Snail, the rest of that morning and afternoon escapes me.

I do know that around seven in the evening (and it was quite a steamy evening) we made out way to Hutch Court where UT had draped rigging and pine all over the fountain and flagstone. The crowd of a little over a hundred converged around the space. It was so hot that the dampness seemed to soak in the trees, saturate, and drip off the leaves. I mean it seemed that way. People sprawled out on the grass and watched the show. I don't want to go too much into the show itself. I think (and most of the people I've spoken with have agreed) that it wasn't one of UT or Curt's most polished or dynamic pieces. But there were moments that wer absolutely resonant to me. For example, the second time Macbeth confronts the Weird Sisters, he is assaulted by a battery of spirits; these were represented as conflagrations of color and costume that flew together and stood to make rippling and monstrous faces. Those moments were electric and exciting. The heat and humidity didn't help the experience, however, and it was clear some of the actors were on the verge of losing their voices.

After the show, we managed to tag along with some friends to a mini cast-party (it was really six Macbethians and my group drinking 40s in a tenement apartment for several hours), and a moment of embarassment when someone from my group was deriding the show as we left... walking under the open window. I don't think anyone noticed. If someone noticed, I don't think anyone cared.

We walked back to campus. In the clouded air (it wasn't going to rain that night) we heard the sprinklers tick-tick-tick. To the right they ticked around upon shadowed walls of Snell-Hitchcock with its stone posts and Germanic window. To the left, some weedy grass around botany pond, the arch through the zoology building, and it was a bit more unkempt nearer to the Reynolds Club.

I had told Zannah I was able to get into the building, though I don't think I made the details of this part clear. Getting into the building involved (involves?) someone small wedging himself into the space where the C shop is projected from the much taller Hutch commons. By stepping onto the base of the building, it is easy for him to grab onto the fire escape from beneath and hoist himself up and onto the roof (one can get to the roof of Ryerson using the same trick). From there, he just walks along the roof of the C-Shop past the Commons, shimmies up the fire escape to the UT lounge and squeezes through the windows. When coming down he blocks open the door so that it doesn't shut behind him. But I get the impression that security is much tighter these days.

At one point during the evening (which did become a morbidly fascinating slumber party -- we were all about running back and forth on the parapet and proclaiming in the 3rd Floor theater), Bree and Sam ran into a security guard, who demanded to know why we were in the Reynolds Club at eleven PM. "It's okay," Bree said. "We have permission." Because we did.

Sarah and Mitch climbed up on the roof; not the flat part, but the steep flagstones that rise above the parapet towards the actual tower. I was afraid they would fall the whole distance to the street, but they did not.

* * * * *

We devoted Sunday to seeing the city. We drove up to the Loop and walked around the Big Buildings and the Magnificent Mile. I still have pictures of us perched on construction sites and in public art works, posing to look like a rock band or just being obnoxious art kids from Flint. My moment of glory was in the middle of the blazing sunlight in River North, with dozens of possible witnesses. I saw a Guinness sign with some catchy slogan. Of course, the rungs weren't accessible from the street, but I was able to climb a telephone pole until I was about fifteen feet up, then jump over and grab onto the billboard pole. From there I climbed the last fifteen feet and posed, four stories up, with all of Chicago blazing behind me and a Guinness bigger than I was.

I have a picture of that, too.

After these antics, we continued onto the North Side, where I forget what we did. We went to a Mexican restaurant in Andersonville, then walked south to see the Neo-Futurists and TMLMTBGB. With so much theater packed in (and surreptitious Chicago-exploration), I think the trip could safely be called an "educational excursion."

It was already dark when we started heading back, and I had work at FYT the next morning. The trip back was surreal. We were hot and sticky, exhausted and limp, lying across each other in the front and back seats. Sam used to be a bit of a dictator when it came to driving, and once he started his term he refused to budge from behind the wheel. First Sarah and then Mitch sat up front. I sat in the back with Bree the whole time, and tried to sleep. But I was too restless. Or caffeinated. Or frightened. In many important ways, that summer was also the most terrifying time of my life. Skriker suggests this. Macbeth suggests this. Even Bjork suggested this... we were thirty or forty miles out of Chicago, with twilight reduced to a localized punch, the smallest of wed welt bruises... when I evidently woke up just to say "I love this song," and fell back asleep. The song was Hunter.

Sam forgot to watch the gas, and while we had gotten a full tank in Indiana that thing wasn't able to get us all the way back to Flint. We emptied out just past Lansing of all places, and spent forty-five minutes along the shoulder while Sam, swearing and apologetic, walked up to the next exit and got us enough gas to go on.

The sky was getting light when we finally curved up 69, passed Southwestern and took the ramp onto 475. I was a pain-in-the-ass... I asked to go home first, since I had to work that morning. Of course, so did Sam and Mitch, but they were gracious enough not to mention it. The sky had clouds but they were low gray clouds, meaning this would be another day of heat. Kearsley Park and Nebraska Avenue were both dim and gray with predawn, and I finally got out of the car and went up to my apartment.

I'd fallen asleep five minutes later, and was probably thinking of Amanda as I did.


Nimbus 25, 28.


- YESTERDAY - Mondays are such a blue of business and activity that it seems to transcend being a "good" or "bad" day. I'm always left with food for thought, and I'm always a little too tired to consume it. Work went well; I conducted Bio picture searches for over two hundred scientists. From there I took the train down to the Village and finished my readings for workshop at the Giant Bagel Shop, where one can get a toasted pumpernickel bagel with lox spread and a large coffee for $3.11. After that, class, which went well except near the end when I managed to wedge two thirds of my beaten-down shoe into my mouth. I spent awhile at Spain afterwards; I'm getting to know more first years, which is nice. A delay in the trains, however, kept me from getting home until after midnight.
- WEATHER - Punxsatawney was right. And I was a fool for ever doubting him. Old friend, forgive me. This is actually a very exciting week, overall, weatherwise, just in terms of the interplay between fronts. Now that the Nor'easterner has dissipated, there's room for a relatively weak warm front to move east across the Appalacians. This will cause warmth all around, including the midwest, the New England remains the focus of interest because the warmth will cause rapid melting of all the accumulated snow. And the excitement doesn't stop there. Once the warm front has cleared, the jet stream will be able to advance southward, but instead of looping down as a specific target, it will fan out over most of the continental U.S. This will mean colder temperatures for the soggy northwest, but more significantly, it will cause storms across the plains and Atlantic. Chicago should expect a fair bit of snow, followed by a temperature plunge into the teens. The northeast has it even worse; rain will add to the melted snow causing substantial flooding. There temperature plunge (less severe than the midwest) will freeze the accumulated water, with the end effect of both general flooding damage and the added effect of freezing and melting (which is hard on sanitation systems, etc.) Watch it! Winter's here!
- FEBRUARY - Is Hobbies Month.
- TODAY - Is Valentines Day.

"To get the full value of joy
You must have someone to divide it with."
- Mark Twain

Devise a pithy saying, parable, or comment about love and post it here.


Monday, February 13, 2006

Nimbus 24, 28.


Note: Connor Coyne is unable to post to his blog today. He is sick with a cold. He has deputized me, his good friend from New School, Antique Olive, to post in his stead (bestowing upon me all privileges thereupon, including, among other things, his username and password -- I'll never tell, so don't ask.) What follows is the post as dictated to me by Connor (who is in his bed at present and running quite a temperature. I'm taking notes to clarify any muddy contexts or blathering that comes about on account of the temperature he's running.)

- THE WEEKEND - I've been reading Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov1.
- On Friday I didn't make as much as progress in Pale Fire as I'd wished2 though I did read a remarkable critical essay on Walepole's Vathek3, which I'm liking more and more as time4 goes by. In the evening, Jess5 and I watched the Olympic opening ceremonies6 with the sun and moon7 balloons coasting above the crowds, and dancers waddling onstage wearing monstrous condoms on their heads8.
- On Saturday, I got up and took the train to Manhattan for Frederic Tuten's new "radical approaches to fiction" seminar9. Back home, I read more of Pale Fire10, and skimmed poor Gulchenrouz's11 dilemmas on the island. I watched a little bit of the Olympics as well. As evening drew on12, Jess and I bundled up and set out to celebrate Valentines day. Early, I know. We went to a cute little place in Little Italy with wonderful gnocchi13. Afterward, we took the Q on to Times Square, transferred to the 7, and rode out to Queens where we met my coworkers Isobel and Brett and Nouronihar (who once was in the same situation that I am), and Brett's girlfriend JoAnna (sp?). We went to Miriam's (another coworker) performance of a Midsummer Night's Dream. She played Hermia, and the production, while a little rough around the edges, was both energetic and fun14. The black-box space in which the play was performed was part of a two level restaurant and bar. Some sort of cover band setup immediately took over the space after the show, while the rest of us went down into the catacomblike15 basement, much like the caverns of Eblis to which I will never be tempted, but to which I could not go if I wished, for drinks and karaoke. Jess sang her classic "The Letter" by the BoxTops. When we finally ventured out onto the street and took the G home (it was my first time riding the G), the blizzard was already in full swing, with a monstrous wind roaring up over Long Island City from the river and horizontal sheets of snow sweeping over us. I felt for Jess' poor legs, exposed to the cold. We took a shortcut through Fort Greene Park, which was an absolutely hostile and alien landscape16, the snow so creamy and drifted that we could only mark out the paths by the placement of streetlamps, and such swirling clouds that even the lights on the streets below were lost like some lighthouse winking out across miles. When we got home, we warmed up with a shower and hot cocoa17.
- On Sunday, I was going to go to church, but did not, on account of the snow and the insane amount of work I had to do. I struggled through another hundred or so pages of Pale Fire18. Jess made chili19. I was up until 4 AM critiquing my classmates writing for workshop. I love my wife!

.... . .-.. .--. .. .- -- .- .--. .-. .. ... --- -. . .-. .. -. -- -.-- --- .-- -. .- .--. .- .-. - -- . -. - / .- -. - .. --.- ..- . --- .-.. .. ...- . .. ... . ...- .. .-..

- WEATHER - The Weather is wonderful, and probably a factor in getting Jess to make the chili20, so it's doubly-blessed in my book. Only Yoopers would be nonplussed by the amount of snow that fell on the Big Apple Saturday and Sunday, and after a dreary December and a balmy January, it's nice to finally see winter from a more crystalline perspective. It's supposed to warm up later this week (and when it does, oh, there will be flooding), but I can hope the forecast is wrong, right? Hey Midwest, you're next!
- FEBRUARY - Is the month of weddings.
- TODAY - Is Dresden Firebombing Day.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Peter Gabriel, Grant Wood, and Thega-Iouri Shereh-Elpme!

The Mercury News - Visalia man held on charges of bank robbery, hostage-taking.21

If you were trapped on a desert island with no prospect for escape, but all of the amenities of a modern-day apartment, what would you make for dinner?

1. Aka Charles Kinbote, aka John Shade.

2. Ala Timon of Athens, aka William Shakespeare. But this is not the present architect of our immediate quandary. Our struggle is as Germanic as it is Spanish.

3. A grotesque tale of the most grotesque grotesquery. I was disappointed, myself, and much preferred Lewis' The Monk. I shivered when I read the last pages of the piece, describing the good Monk's incantations upon the eagles and butterflies and droplets and starlets, and I maintain a good hope for his future restoration, by which I mean both that of the good Friar himself, as well as for efforts by which contemporary critics might correct the understandable errors of neo-classical censors (in prohibiting Matthew Lewis from distributing his story to its full effect).

4. Time, I've been given to know, has completely eased our author's transition from Flint and Chicago to New York. Mr. Coyne requests that you remain his friends in spirit, and continue to comment as you wish, but that you cease imploring his return to the Midwest. It'll be a cold day in Hell when he leaves this beauteous coast! Incidentally, don't plan on making a visit. Ever.

5. I can only think that "Jess" must be a sort of code Connor uses in connection with this blog when referring to his wife, "Matilda."

6. When watching this, I observed that "MSNBC knows nothing, got it? Here they've said that Turino is the largest city to ever host the Winter Olympics and is the fourth largest city in Italy. This is a triavial error of the most eggregious magnetude! Sarajevo is the largest city to ever host the Winter Olympics, and the fourth largest city in Italy is Turin!" (That extra 'o' makes a big difference)!

7. Manufactured in Amsterdam.

8. By "monstrous" he doubtlessly refers to a recent study (as published in News of the Weird) addressing the question of national endowment (not economic). In said survey, the Italians were second only to the French. Americans, meanwhile, straddled the median.

9. He was not alone in this undertaking; he shared it with Reinhardt, Marco, Erica, Sarah, Daniel, Alex, and Josephine, among some others. He told them not to come over for a visit. Ever.

10. I begin to doubt that Connor refers to Nabokov at all, but that the phrase is actually a code he uses to establish a connection to either the Monk who was tempted astray by intervening demons. I know that he read Lewis recently, and that the wandering Jew in that story seeks out death with the words: "I rush into fire; The flames recoil at my approach." Could this fire rushed into not damage the man on account of it's weakness? Might we not equate the weakness of the fire with pallor? And is it truly that far-tetched that the Wandering Jew himself is meant to collide, coincide (in fallen grace) with Ambrosio himself? Oh, if only he had had a friend, an ally, to keep his practice pure, to keep him from falling under the corrupting influence of the world. The Austerity of Religion is almost as formidible as the Austerity of Art.

11. I am overcome by the gnostic turpitude of this "piece" of "literature," and see no semblance whatsoever between Gulchenrouz's dilemma and those belonging to reality.

12. As embittered Deconstructivist painters strive to render lines and circles, and alas!, they are mere mountains and trees. But I could never paint, so...

13. "You gnocchi?" "No! I didn't even know that was your car." Vandals should be excommunicated, every last one. The Italians are compartively lax upon this front as compared to the Spanish, who rattle offenders with their Great Inquisition.

14. It is possible for a thing to be one thing and not another. In my own fallow brain I tend to array things along these coordinates. This show, fun and energetic. Hydrogen fusion, energetic but not fun. Neon fusion, fun but not energetic. Pale Fire, neither.

15. Suggestive, perhaps, of the Sepulchre of St. Claire in which Anbrosio and Metilda raped the unfortunate Antonia, and where the evil prioress imprisoned poor Agnes for so long. But the Queens catacombs were much more cheerful.

16. Note how cunningly he evokes in the snowy sweep of Fort Greene park what we might fairly call the mountains to which he traveled with his "Infernal Conductor."

17. They fell asleep to the Olympics. Or rather, he fell asleep. Matilda, doubtless, went on plotting his downfall.

18. Pallid Fire, Pale Fakery, Perverse Funbling, The Cloutish Freak.

19. Meaning, doubtless, that she behaved towards him with a "chilly" coldness.

20. See Note #19.

21. I don't know what induced Connor to recommend this particularly insignificant story. Read instead about the real travesty of the art of seduction.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Nimbus 21, 28.


- LAST COUPLE DAYS - The day before yesterday was particularly strange... I'd stayed up until 4 AM (for about the third night in a row) finishing Tristram Shandy. I succeeded, but was sufficiently zombified the next day to the extent that caffeine was of limited use. By 3 PM, I was on the verge of making embarrassing mistakes, so I excused myself from work early. I think they were pretty irritated by this move, and I do feel bad (I said so), but I really don't know what else I could do. I did schedule myself to go in early next week, and that should be sufficient to make up lost time. I went to New School, since even leaving early there wasn't much time to go home, sleep, and make it to the colloquium on time. On the way, however, I stopped at the Barnes and Noble and bought my books for seminar. $125. Damn. And this was after I scoured the Strand for used copies. No luck. Then, I went to New School and slept in a chair in the study lounge for about two hours. This whole time there was a boy in the chair just next ot me, muttering the lyrics of some song or other the whole time. So that was irritating. When I went to the colloquium, the room was filled out to the hall, the speaker being somewhat famous. So I didn't try too hard to get in; I hung-out in the hall and talked to Reinhardt, who'd been recruited to sell book. Afterwards, Shelley's class went well. We finished discussing Tristram Shandy, and it really came into focus how expansive and ambitious the book is. And asshole as it is, can I just say, what a damn shame the cures for tuberculosis have so affected the quality of magum opuses in the last century. I was still exhausted this whole time, and when I left class, I left my $125 of book behind.
The next morning, I was inclined to sleep in. Instead, I spent an hour-and-a-half taking the train into Manhattan, retrieving the books from the classroom, and coming back home. In theory, the rest of the day should have been given to critiquing for workshop and reading the next book for seminar, Nobokov's Pale Fire. However, I'd reached the critical halfway point of The Monk, the un-put-downable park, so I spent the rest of the day taking frequent naps and finishing the book. Jess and I had Macaroni and Cheese for dinner, and watched the O.C. Ho hum. Season three stomps on. I still call the writing somewhat weak.
- THE MONK - Is extraordinarily grotesque; easily the most graphic and violent of a gothic novels I've read so far. It is also probably my least favorite so far, though I must also admit that is has had, far and away, the most challenging and compelling villians. The last page was so horrific and excessive I'm still trying to decide of the overload was deliberate or accidental. I'll write more on this later.
- TODAY - I was going to go out and explore Brooklyn some, but I think I'll have to put that off still a little longer. Tristram Shandy set me far back in everything else, and I'm still trying to make it up...
- WEATHER - It's actually seasonal in New York right now, though I wish it was compensating for lost time, and there's no snow. But I'll take what I can get. Actually, the East Coast is supposed to be hit by a Nor'easter... cool winds from the Pacific and cold winds from Canada will converge over the southern Appalachians and drive against the moist, warmer fronts of the Atlantic. Some places could get a foot of snow. We'll be waiting for that... You'll be expecting more cold, but not much snow. Who are you? Chicago, Detroit, Flint, Minneapolis; the Midwest.
- FEBRUARY - Is Soup Month.
- HAPPY BIRTHDAY - Gemma! And Bertolt Brecht. "For the villainy of the world is great, and a man has to run his legs off to keep them from being stolen out from underneath him."


Not so serious: What's the most unusual name that someone in your family has had (to your way of thinking)? (To anyone who wonder's we're not poking fun; we're just curious).
More serious: What's your take on the Danish editorial cartoons and response in the Middle East?


Thursday, February 09, 2006

'Your frankness charms me,'


replied Lorenzo; 'You shall find, that in your favourable opinion of me you were not deceived. Yet I hope, that the reasons now in my power to allege, will persuade you to withdraw a request, which I cannot obey without infinite reluctance.'


Nimbus 20, 28.


- Weather! Weather!
- WEATHER - It is cold and clear out today.
- FEBRUARY - Is snack food month.

The MegaMan Network.

What's your favorite video game?


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne. 3. Impressions of Five through Nine.


Laurence Sterne

This is a beautiful book. So read it!

I want to amend, slightly, my fourth impression; it has evolved. I should have figured it out in the last post, but I've got such an aversion at this point to any sentence that begins "This book is about language," that I earnestly strove to remove the expression for a book that had engendered in me the most penitent respect.

All that aside, "this is a book about language." Or better, this is a book about communicating. Not communicating. Striving to communicate. It isn't postmodern in that nothing is communicate. The precise meaning is almost always lost, but the significance is almost always conveyed. This keps Tristran Shandy clear of the sort of pessimism and solipsism that (I find) infects this subject almost all of the time.

That can be considered the "seventh impression."

The eighth impression:

Reconciling the fourth and sixth impressions (last time) is part of the reason the book is so wonderful and bright. It's funny. It's fun. It's filled with sex and raunchery, anecdotes and accidents. And misunderstanding. Here's I think, for me, the resolution of what has been a going concern for me: what do William Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley, William Beckford, Tennessee Williams, Anton Chekhov, Caryl Churchill, Antonin Artaud, and now Laurence Sterne all have in common, but not Don DeLillo? A lack of cynicism. Skepticism and cynicism are not the same thing. SKEPTICISM IS A NECESSARY LENS TO JUDGE AND CONTRAST OUR EXPERIENCES. Is cynicism a valid lens through which to view your experiences? Certainly. But it's all shit to me. Why this? Because, our daily routines are calculated and accidented to expose us to the most cynical aspects of our lives already. To wallow in this is a triple indulgence, opposes progress in the issues that skepticism/cynicism lays bare, ergo: CYNICISM IS ATAVISM. A least favorite thing to me.

Think about it. In Tristram Shandy, great romances collapse, lives are presumably ended in solitude and some degree of loneliness, wounds do not heal, wars are fought except when they are wanted, and we barely get to meet our pug-nosed ill-named narrator (born under an unlucky star clock). And yet it is irreducibly hopeful.

Toby, Toby, Toby, Toby, Toby...


Nimbus 19, 28.


- OH, HYPNOS! - I did finish Tristram Shandy last night, and am not far behind this week. But I am that deep-down bones tired... the kind that I cannot forget for even a moment, and coffee hasn't been helping so far. If I wasn't a freelancer, I'd call myself sick and go home. As it is, I'll look forward to the subway ride, when I can close my eyes for five minutes on the ride to campus.
- WEATHER - I've also been exercising, learning Spanish, and persuing a few other personal projects that I don't want to get drawn behind. Ordinarily, this isn't a problem except on Sunday and Tuesday nights (preceeding my two classes) when things tend to stack up.
- WEATHER - Snivilization by Orbital is a truly great album.
- WEATHER - In between work and Jessica's marvelous steak-and-potato-and-salad dinner, I went to the Susan Weeks presentation for the New School colloquium on Childrens' Literature. I always try to make these things unless some premeditated conflict intervenes. I really respected the breadth of her work, and while her writing seem to contain most of the trophs I associate with children's lit (given my very superficial perspective), her writing still had a freshness and energy that I admired. I most enjoyed, however, her animation, speed, and borderline audacity (the moderator kept moving towards corrections or qualifications, then pulling back). Sarah told us, for example, how she approached her publisher once with an illustrator in tow, or how she's dealt with reluctant schools and difficult questions over the years. My chief complaint was the other students at the seminar, who seemed more inclined to offer Ms. Weeks advice than to take advantage of her knowledge, which is, of course, the reason for holding these things. Right?
- WEATHER - is Hearts month.
- WEATHER - Jules Verne.

Not today; yesterday.

Mr.J: NYC: Blizzard of 1996

What was the worst trouble you ever got into on a snow day?

P.S. - It's getting better. I think I've caffeined myself into the moment. (!!!)

P.P.S. - Blogger's been weird. It's taken forever to get this posted.