Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New York Minutiae

I see a million interesting things, here, every day.

There's a open-air market in Union Square on the weekends, with vegetables and fall-decorations etc. I look over and, under a tree in the park, there's this squirrel clutching a decorative, dried ear of Indian corn. Theif! Dried stolen corn is so, so sweet.

There are so many actors, in New York, that I feel like if I walked into Grand Central Station at 5 p.m., or any crowded street corner and shouted "Zip!" I'd be barraged by "Zaps!" and "Zups."

It's hilarious when people start laughing, on the street, and get loud and boisterous in their own languages.

I'm noting what people read on the subways, and (discreetly) making notes in my Moleskine, @ what that book might say about them, as a character.

I have a sense of New York being a city of a billion windows -- the impression I got from the top of the Empire States Building. For some reason, walking alone on Park Ave. (alone among 8 million people), thinking about "1984," and about how one room represented individuality, freedom and connection for the hero. And how maybe, in a city with such a wealth of windows, there might be the possiblity of such a connection for me.

Espresso like blood -- warm. Thick, and taken from a living thing.

How you're right in the middle of writing down a thought, and you reach your subway stop, and you can't finish it. You can't just ignore your stop, because you'll end up down at the Brooklyn Bridge, and you'll be late for work. You close your notebook with a half-finished sentence, and hurry out.

Pouring an iced coffee -- where the ice cube looks like a black mandarin orange, with cream marking the veins in the ice.

New York as an experiment in nerve -- being as bold and comfortable with new friends of 6-months, as if you'd known them all your life. Actually doing something, rather than over-thinking it. Writing something, and hitting "post."

Being confident that, if you're wearing sneakers, you'll get down Madison Ave. at lunchtime fast -- you can walk on the subway grates (not wearing heels), if you can stand its warm, "subway breath." Not that it stinks; you just know it's exhaled up from the subway.

Friday, September 19, 2008


The girls in the Salem Witch Trials, for some reason, confessed. And not only confessed, but thrashed around like Things Possessed. Maybe, because they revered their leaders and families, that's what they were told they were. Possessed. It's bad enough to believe your own fears, but to believe someone else's fears ...

Let's say one of them was led to a pyre, stood at the stake, and let it burn her.

But for some reason, it didn't consume her. She took stock and a studious look back. And when someone new came at her waving a torch ... in a moment of triumphant euphoria she suddenly knew, and laughed and said, "Bullshit! It was all bullshit. And not only am I fine, I was nothing ever other than fine. And, actually, I am much, much better than fine."

The actual words of a 1700s Salem girl.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Everything old is New Kids again

Somehow, they kept their love for New Kids on the Block alive for almost 20 years, though Nirvana and Grunge, through two wars, and a crop of new boy bands that failed to woo away their First Love. New Kids.
And I'm talking love, because on Monday at lunchtime, I passed these people camped out in lawn chairs on 5th Ave, outside a Best Buy where the Kids would make an appearance the NEXT EVENING, promoting a new album. I walked that way to work again the next day, to see if they were still there. Yes. And the line had grown, and the police had corralled them all into heavy, steel-riot fencing on the asphalt of 41st St.
"The B-Town boys are back in town," one woman declared, as if I could doubt it. No way. Six-foot posters of the Boys blotted out the windows of the Best Buy where they were due to show (in only six more hours).
A little gang of these women, at the head of the line, had camped out over night. And they were great. I'm this random person walking up to them, "Are you freaks?" And they were more than ready to make scoot over and make room for me on the street, obviously recognizing another freak.
No, that's not how I approached them, or how I feel. The more hoopla, the merrier, and they had it going on.
"We're here to say hello to the cutest five men on the face of the Earth!" the office manager said, one of the passel of managerial-types in tanks, shorts and in full block-party mode.
A little farther down the line -- I'm afraid of people who have mullets. I feel like they're so tough, that they even resisted the passing of decades. They brandish their fists at Time itself. (Actually, it may have been a bigger hoot to have talked to them. "Why are you out on the sidewalk?" One would have leaned forward on an elbow, cracked her knuckles -- with one hand -- and said, "The B-Town boys never left.")
The IRS agent at the head of the line that I did talk to, explained that her sisterhood lived their New Kids fandom day-to-day by listening to the music, and writing to each other on message boards. Where she'd met most of the people she'd been hanging out with the past two days.
They mercilessly nudged awake this woman who looked like she'd melted into her lawn chair. Her head lolled to the side, she opened a serpentine eye, her whole manner bespeaking, "bus trip." Long bus trip. She'd come to this thing all the way from Dallas. And in only six more hours, they'd see the new New Kids on the Block! Arising from the ashes of musical obscurity like the phoenix! And just as glorious!
"They're hot," said the IRS agent, who'd met all five members of the band at one time or another. "And they love their fans."

Friday, August 29, 2008


Since, when you flip the calendar to September, there are pictures of school buses or apples (even if it's a calendar of South Park, horses, or the sketches of Escher), I'm going to end "summer" at Aug. 30, and post my list of summer-books-read.

June 1, True and False, David Mamet. There is a God and He is, somehow, sympathetic for my yen for Zen. First, a freak interest in improv -- spontaneity, the "one-ness" of making up a story/being the story for a few minutes, etc. Then, I stroll into St. Mark's bookstore (excellent!) and a yellow spine straight-away catches my eye. True and False. I pick it up. I read the back and ... a seamless weave into the theme of spontaneity, total-ness, etc! The exactly right book for me right then/now. And I don't care what you think of David Mamet.

June 3, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Davis Sederis. I just love David Sederis.

July 13, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer. Her characters sometimes do unbelievable things like, the girl falls down with a bag of groceries right when it would be most-humiliating/kind of contrived for her to fall down. Still, you still "believe" it. The Story itself is powerful. Props to her Story.

July 20, Exit Ghost, Philip Roth. I haven't read anything else by Roth, to the dismay of several New Yorkers who saw me reading it on the subway/at work, but I'm banking that his earlier works are better? I got the book from the library and it was full of pencil ticks, probably where the previous reader had to get off the subway. Well, I think my own disjointed reading actually helped me appreciate the ... repetitiveness. Everytime I opened it back up, I got caught up. But who am I to judge?

July 23, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, Dai Sijie. Pretty and diaphanous as a silken scarf.

August 2, The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton. College reading was always daunting because I read slowly. So, my impression of Edith Wharton was always -- the writer of things I couldn't read fast enough, and the author of one GREAT short story. (Roman Fever, my dear.) So, this collection of short stories? GREAT re-introduction to the excellent Ms. Wharton.

August 5, Fearless Fourteen, Janet Evanovich. I love this series.

August 11, Junky, William S. Burroughs. Um, the veins. If you're going to read a book/watch a movie about heroin, you can't be vein-shy. Which I am, but the language was so 50s hip, and the idea of an ... incorrigable lifestyle so interesting, I couldn't put it down.

August 27, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrelll, Susanna Clarke. Great! Great! Great! Her notions on Fairy, her "world building" (re-building?), and the humor. Oh my goodness. Laugh, laugh, laugh.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

improv team names

The Upright Citizen's Brigade is having a Del Close Marathon Aug. 8 to 10 with non-stop improv on about 10,000 stages (teams scheduled for 4:15 A.m., the next team at 4:45, etc.)

So, I have this 4-page, 8 1/2 x 11" flyer of solid team names, and I need to list my 20 favorites:

The Ninjas, Blue Shampoo, Whorenado, Mailer Daemon, Gift of the Wild, Afternoon Delight, Suspicious of Whistlers, Big in Japan, I Eat Pandas, Last Day of School, Shark Attack!, Quiet Monkey Fight, The Sickest F***ing Stories I Ever Heard, Strippers' Picnic, Imaginary Friends, Bedtime Stories for Kidnapped Children, Matador Now!, Super Yum Yum 2, Mr. Licorice, and Brian's Epic Tan.

Friday, July 25, 2008


I bought a skateboard! So, this is my last post, as I'll scoot under the wheels of the crosstown bus on my NEW SKATEBOARD at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning.

I don't want to ride the subways anymore. They are dark, crowded and underground. And, while I own rollerblades and have the conpunction to go really, really fast, I'm bad at stopping. Now, I would love a bicycle, but this apartment is small, and I'd have to sherpa it up 5 flights of stairs. Plus, it would be strictly street-use, while a skateboard ...

Two instances cemented me on this rash ploy. The first -- I was walking home one night and leaped from my skin when some guy, right in my right ear, screamed, "MUCH-a CA-JONES!" (Not "ka-Jones," but cajones), paired with a shrill double whistle. Then, the squeal of brakes and the skid of tires, a car's frantic hoooonk, to my left.

The guy to my right was a Hispanic waiter reclining at an outdoor table, loudly approving the courage of a skate-daredevil across the way, who had just squeaked by a car vs. 9-ply deck catastrophe. WOW. New York's wheeled pedestrians must feel the joyous freedom akin to a bird's, swooping past a Civic's grill.

When you're walking, and the bright hand shines on the "walk" sign, you wait 1. For cars to go by. 2. For all the wheeled pedestrians that chase behind like dry leaves -- bikes, bladers, boards.

The second thrilling "wheeled pedestrian" experience (to sell me on a skateboard) was this one moment now forever-imprinted upon my psyche. The cars and buses at 3rd Ave. and 95th St. were converging on the intersection like the Red Sea, falling. Suddenly, your eye alights on one lone figure, carving through the center, barely making it out alive. A girl.

Or a statue. Of a goddess. On a skateboard. Probably woman's studies, but I do not conclude it based on cartoonish stereotypes, but on everything noble about the major. She's in the middle of the street, she's late for class, she's giving you a heart attack, but she does not care. And she has perfect confidence in her ability to execute this ... swoop.

I, on the other hand, just walk and walk and walk in New York City. When I used to drive, I tended to go just a leetle bit faster than everyone else on the highway (I-385!). I don't know why, except maybe I felt restrained, wanted to "break free." That's the way I walk, now.

New Yorkers, though, whether there are 2 or 20 in their party, fill up the entire sidewalk and walk slowly. The man is on the outside, sauntering, gesturing broadly with his lit cigar. His wife leisurely glances this way and that way at their five children, toddling along in a little string, the distance between each just slightly too narrow for an adult to politely BURST THROUGH at a brisk pace.

If New York is the melting pot, I am the spoon sticking straight up in the middle. So ... I would love to just go really, really fast. Hopefully, not out in front of a taxi. We'll see, tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Union Square Park

It's hard to know how long it's going to take to get anywhere in New York City, so you just start out an hour ahead of time and take a book. Any commute is going to be a complex mix of errand-running, trains (which will appear at your feet within 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the time of day/night), and the last few blocks walking (or walking around in circles, if you aren't quite sure where you're going).

So, I ended up in the Union Square park yesterday for an hour before work, reading Exit Ghost by Philip Roth beside a guy wearing a super-hero-y hood with holes for the eyes and mouth, wearing a Sharpie-marked cardboard sign declaring the day's top news stories. A student-type crouched down in front of him and, I could barely overhear, offered him the last cupcake in a plastic box he was holding. "No, no," said the Super-type. "I don't touch that kind of stuff."

The main part of the park lay across the street, and I watched a lanky man doing distintive kung-fu movements; with purpose, but also with such a casual playfulness, I thougth it might be Capoieta. (I was peeking over the top of my book.) But no, it was kung-fu, with the similtaneously moving hands/feet, blocks/strikes, and "upright" balance that prevents over-committing, provides the freedom to change direction/movements quickly, etc. Just stuff you know is called "Monkey combs his hair," and "Crane nips a dragonfly."

It was a few hours after lunch, but the park teemed with people. A large, flat configuration of light concrete, puddled with iron-ringed patches of grass and trees. It was a little cooler, yesterday, and the sun seemed bright but gentler. The concrete gave the impression of light reflecting upward, like a low, bright band into the pedestrian level, like the light-casting of a swimming pool or beach sand. All these bobbing heads, enjoying Union Square, close together and unconcerned, eating sandwiches and talking on iPhones.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Harold is Brilliant

I've been champing at the bit/pawing the earth for a while, now, to see the Upright Citizen's Brigade's Harold show -- funny enough, they switched things up to mock short-form improv the first night I tried to catch it (April Fool's day) -- since I'll be doing it/learning to do it (whatever Zen-appropriate verb I should use) in August.

Last night -- eureka! I already had the gist; had read Truth in Comedy (and I'm probably going to plagerize it in some way, though the akwardness will be all mine), but to see it ... wow. The laughter didn't seem like just an emotional response to the energy of someone having a good time pretending to be gay or drunk (they were all already gay or drunk -- Ha!) It was ... delight.

It seemed like an "efficiency" going on (now, I'm getting all Zen) was the pleasing part. They seemed to chase the path of simplicity and connection (of plot, dialogue, etc.) Fantastic. Plus energy -- they seemed delighted too, and to have a good time pretending not only to be gay or drunk, but also opera-singing contractors. Specifics, and not extraneous specifics, but specifics becoming "plot," becoming character ...

I wonder if I've always tried to create in a vacuum -- I think, for the time being, poetry is going straight to the slam, short stories straight to the mailbox, the urge to sing straight to the karaoke bar and ... random thoughts/journaling to the blog no one reads. An attempt at connecting with an audience? To try to complete the circle of creating, finding a little more meaing in it ...

A little more connecting, and hopefully a little better-quality creating; though I'm realizing my "(karaoke) stage presence" looks like I have long-studied the movements of the wind chime -- a gentle twisting, turning, to Erasure's "Respect." Hey, I'm still "trying hard to discover! A little something to make me sweeter."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Nothing to speak of/(so I wrote something really fast)

I don't really have anything to write about today. I don't know if I feel comfortable meandering around on a blog, so I'll try it.

I did hear that cigarettes are $9 a pack in New York, so I feel justified in buying books. The unbridled courage smokers have in plunking down ten for their habit gives me the courage to plunk down ten for, in particular, the Penguin Books Great Ideas series. In one bookstore I pass on Madison Ave., on my way to work, there's a whole wall of the things -- thin books, covers embossed with maybe a quote from the work, a stylish retro red-and-white design ... I am helpless! Everything from Seneca's On the Shortness of Life to Nietzsche's Why I am so Wise.

Exorcising the Shy:
It's courageous because I am just on the brink, again, of being impoverished. Spinning on a dizzy edge (air) ... And I'm also embarking, soon, on a creative activity that's going to require me to have composure, of sorts, in front of people. So, I'm singing karaoke. A lot of karaoke, trying to enlist co-workers to go with me -- getting up in front of people again to at least try to knock off that edge. If I had my guitar here, I would busk in the subways. I might also try a poetry slam, and am scouting a likely venue in the Village tonight. So, just books and Bleeker St., and probably the Battery this morning, to read by the water while it's still cool. Nothing of which to speak.

How it turned out:
Tonight's out-in-front-of-people thing was poetry slam at the (very, very fun) Bowery Poetry Club. I had never even seen a poetry slam before, I'm ashamed to say, (after all those shifts at Coffee Underground)! So ... I kind of got a quick overview, and since it was a nerd-themed slam tonight, decided to try. I wrote that stinking thing in @ 15 mintues and ... well, got up and performed it. Some good response! Some things I know I need to definitely work on. But ... extremely worthwhile. Here's my nerd love to Loch Ness (and the general field of cryptozoology).

Black slate clasps
the surface of black slate breaks
up through Loch Ness--
my monster

They say peat bleeds green,
obscures your world-- empty --
40 feet below the air--

I know they shut the case, say
you're fake, but I'll see your face
slytherine, serpentine

in the labyrinthine loch,
prehistoric rift, a gift evolution missed --

Faithful, I wait (even at work)
watching the Loch's webcam, bookmarked
on my MacBook --

choose me to be the one to see
you emerge
to hit "save," and "freeze."

Friday, June 20, 2008

lunatic lover poet

I'm not sure why Midsummer Night's Dream gripped me so tightly this time around ... I really, really enjoyed the Flux Theater Ensamble, especially the lovers. Which is high praise because, as a rube, I bank on the mechanicals to get me through the poetry recitals and the "splayed fingers are mysterious" fairy gyrations.

Appearently, the actors submerged themselves in the meanings of every phrase (which, though admirable, may have done something funky to the mechanicals' comedy? -- and what's with the balloon-boobed Thisbe all the time?)

Then, director August Schulenberg added a note in the program echoing a beloved professor of mine (who might have screwed me up for life) -- something about Midsummer, the mystery of love, its supernatural aspects ...
I believe that the "yes,-it's-love!" certainty is a sister to the mysterious God-love that tells us, "Yes, I'm real. Yes, it's true."
Then, we surrender to what we can't entirely quantify: faith.

"In the 1557 Geneva Bible (the version most likely to hae been in Shakespeare's home), that passage (dealing with the impossiblility of describing an encounter with the divine) ends with 'For the spirit searcheth all things, yea, the bottom of God's secrets.'

"The Bottom of God's secrets! If this is a deliberate echo on Bottom's part (and Shakespeare's), then we can asume this epiphany is about a deeper transformation then man to ass; it is also about the change that happens from a brush with the transcendent -- a change that could only be described if eyes could hear, if hands could taste, if the heart could report in its own language."

Shakespeare 101, I guess, but I thrilled to how he put the inexplicable, "brush with the transcendent."

And, because I love his passion: "All the characters in this wood have been torn in some way, and in this play of weavers (magical and otherwise), some are mended, and most are forgiven. And I am torn, too, for all the moments in the play I could not find a way, or time, to report. The play has streaked our eyes with Love, and we are chasing it through the woods, but it will not stay for us."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Five Luck

When I was in third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Lowe, gave a lesson on the days of the week. Being a third-grader, I needed to choose a favorite, so Thursday it was. Thor! The mighty. And, being a third-grader, I thought I'd choose an accompanying number, so 5 it was -- so brave with its mock-the-future squint, and full chest facing the gale.

I stumbled across a tiny Chinese restaurant yesterday, a few streets away from my Upper East Side apartment, with the best name ever: FIVE LUCK.

And this being Thursday, I'm going to eat lunch there, and fully expect an amazing revelation from my fortune cookie.

THE FORTUNE: Ok, I went and they had no cookies. He apologetically handed me an elderly piece of candy, Milk Flavor, which had fused with its plastic wrapper.

I went back yesterday, June 23, and received not one but TWO cookies, a double fortune! The first: "The Destroyer shall ruin a city." Um... The second, "Then suddenly one will see vengence. Are you ignoring the signs?" They also bore the History Channel logo, and a promo for a series on Nostradamus shown during some October or another.

I showed my co-worker and, smiling, she said, "Don't forget to add, 'in bed.'" Which actually might be an interesting writing exercise -- a plot -- a dangrous liason! A ruined city. Viva the mystic whimsy which enslaves me.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My sofa slips the firth

I had this sofa for forever. There’s a picture of me as a baby on it, when it was olive-striped and besotted with rusty cabbage roses, the sofa-equivalent of cat’s eye glasses and pointy collars.
It went on to become brown and nubby, and, much later, graduated to the “junky furniture” twenty-somethings carry from apartment to apartment. Pretzels, pennies and Kleenex burrowed under the split cushions. Friends crashed on top, roommates “turned on their bed” as if hinged, there, watching hours of TV straight: the Amazing Race, Lost, entire seasons of Dawson’s Creek. It was a heck of a sofa.
And on May 18, it met the final qualification for “legend” (though, setting it ablaze and launching it onto the open sea would have also worked) -- mystery. A “mysterious end,” even. Consider Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa. Bilbo Baggins.
A former coffee house co-worker-friend thought her boyfriend might like to use the sofa at a musical venue if her friend’s boyfriend would pick it up in his truck. So, I gave it a last glance, May 18, the day I moved out, turning away so its few remaining button eyes couldn’t see my tears.
I left it, alone in the empty apartment except for the rug I’d managed to sell to my landlord, and called my friend. I left her a message. I had hidden a last key for her and, if she wanted it, they could go in and get that heck-of-a sofa.
But it’s fate, to me, is ... a mystery. She didn’t call back, and I’ll never go back. And, you know, it’s all right. It elevates that sofa to mystic.
Maybe the fairies came and got it, its cracked frame a snap to carry for magic wings. Maybe it went up in a whirlwind. Maybe it just popped back, with a flash, to the realm it came from in the first place. I’ll never know, but that’s OK. It’s legend, and that’s enough for me.

“Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost.”

-Chapter 9, "The Gray Havens"
The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien

Monday, June 02, 2008


It’s Palestine and this traveler is winding through the arid landscape. It’s twilight, and his day’s walk is almost over. He drinks the cooler air, and lets the feathered barley wands brush his palm. Something luminous shines at the base of the stems up ahead, so he stops. He stoops to see.
A pearl?!?
He sells everything he owns to buy the field, pearl included.

Therefore, I believe Jesus wants us to think, to be fairly up-front about where we are in our thought processes -- bouncing ideas off each other -- and, ultimately, patient with each other. Revolutionary!
We’re an immense Siamese twin joined at the heart by the creeds, what’s plainly written, and the “love God, love others” that sums up all the other commandments. But as far as most everything else goes, I think God actually wants us to be ... different. (And I love it.)

Therefore, God wants us to think, which is what I think the parables were all about. Necessarily, you had to put some effort into it to make it your own -- if you wanted it.

So, “different” v. everyone voting the same. Because, otherwise, how would we have power and clout?
I’m visiting my parents in Virginia, and the Lynchburg's News & Advance’s most-read story, on-line, for at least a week and a half was Liberty University’s adverse reaction to an evangelical manifesto that, as I understand it, downplayed the importance of “Christian politics.”
Political activism was Jerry Falwell’s thing, and I can see his point. America’s bit, broadly speaking, is in Washington’s teeth so, obviously, Christians should have a hand on the reigns.

Well, yes. Every Christian needs to vote, but as far as the direction we should all be pulling ... I’m not sure there’s anything we ALL should be doing, except seeking God, living the simplicities of the creed, etc. And thinking. If you find yourself among a big group of people all doing the same thing, well, maybe you’re a bird of a feather (flocking together) and that’s so very nice. But it’s statistically very unlikely.

For whatever Matt Taibbi stumbled into at the Cornerstone Church’s Encounter Weekend in Tx, undercover as a Rolling Stone contributing editor, I extend my pity:
“By the end of the weekend I realized how quaint was the mere suggestion that christians of this type should learn to ‘be rational’ or ‘set aside your religion,’ about such things as the Iraq War or other policy matters. Once you’ve made a journey like this -- once you’ve gone this far -- you are beyond suggestible. It’s not merely the informational indoctrination, the constant belittling of homosexuals and atheists and Muslims and pacifists, etc. that’s the issue. It’s that once you’ve left behind the mental process that a person would need to form an independent opinion about such things. You make this journey precisely to experience the ecstasy of beating to the same big gristly heart with a room of like-minded folks. Once you reach that place with them, you’re thinking with muscles, not neurons.”

-- May 1, 2008, Rolling Stone

Sunday, March 16, 2008


"Starlight" by Muse.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More music

This is astonishing. I usually buy a CD and listen to it for the next year, or years. That one album.

Since I've worked in a kitchen w/out a good radio, though, and put all my CDs in one of those travel books, I'm musically insatiable. The Juno soundtrack, infected me with Belle and Sebastian, leading to Dear Catastrophe Waitress and Sinister. I am also smitten with notion of "anti-folk." (Was any of the folky, girl-power 90s anti-folk?)

From a friend's Raising Sand (Allison Krauss and Robert Plant), I am on the brink of pursuing a 4th-grade music education by checking out some Led Zeppelin. I am full of musical ponderings! Did Robert Plant make rock ... "epic?" You mean, there was a time when epic wasn't a given? (Maybe! I hear he influenced some fave 80s rockers I lovingly consider kind of ...
mock epic.) And, on a side note, did Freddie Mercury launch the trend of melodious, almost-operatic gay-men-in-pop? Hm. These are the questions that drive me. These are the things that I must know.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I spend more shifts as "kitchen person" now at the restaurant, so upon the occasion of slicing my first ham (and not losing any fingers to the whirring blade), I would now like to recount the famous Taoist tale of the butcher (from my Idiot's Guide to Taoism, Toropov/Hansen).

"Cook Ting was slicing up an oxen for Lord Wenhui. At every push of his hand, every angle of his shoulder, every step with his foot, every bend of his knee-- zip! zoop! --he slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were dancing to Mulberry Grove or keeping time, as in Qingshou music.

"Ah, this is marvelous," said Lord Wenhui. "Imagine skill reaching such heights!"
Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, "What I care about is a Tao that advances my skill. When first I began cutting up oxen, I could see nothing that was not ox. After three years, I never saw a whole ox. And now-- now I go at it by spirit and do not look with my eyes. Controlling knowledge has stopped, and my spirit wills the performance. I depend on the natural makeup, cut through the creases, guide through the fissures. I depend on things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less bone.

"A good cook changes his knife once a year because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month because he hacks. I have had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I've cut up thousands of oxen with it. Yet the blade is as good as if it had just come from the grindstone."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Movies and Music

I hear domestic disputes are extremely dangerous for police officers, which sounds like it should be a surprise. I don’t think anything, however, pokes us to the core besides what’s “domestic.”
I think Tolkien foisted that nebulous hugeness on me via epic, and hoisted me by the scruff of my neck, like a dwarf would grab a hobbit, to hurl me to the apex of three thick books. And, it was just a story about friendship.
Well, I admire Juno because no one had to resort to the epic to make it amazing, and they kept the humor so true, it never lost its footing to stumble down into the depths of formula. It was only as ridiculous as a teenager. It was only exactly, precisely ridiculous as ... Juno.
I love that it was done so well on so many levels, and that someone realized a story like this was worth it. It’s a type of situation, I suspect, that’s touched just about all of us.

There Will Be Blood
The title is great! It’s its own little marketing campaign. People all over America are saying it over and over, alone in their cars, to their friends, in the voice of Daniel Day Lewis’s character. THERE WILL BE BLOOD. There WILL BE blood. There will be BLOOD.
The movie, for me, was such a powerful jolt of character. Even the music ... it had nothing to do with the plot. It was an absolute extension of DDL’s character. It was awesome. I felt danger, I felt a disregard of danger, I felt immediacy. It was strong and kind of bitter, (like oil? like blood?) all power and desire.
As far as Story goes, I’m an intensity junkie -- not so much as “please overwhelm me with visual stimuli” (though I did enjoy Moulin Rouge, and loved, loved, loved the circa 90s Romeo + Juliet), but just stuff that’s effective, in whatever way, and can reach through the clouds of ennui and grab me by the lapels and give me a good shaking.
Well, this did. And I’m no theater expert, but I loved watching DDL. And, though his charisma dwarfed every other actor in the film, even going mano a mano with Cute Child, it was no one man show. The pastor was FREAKAZOID. Put down that old lady’s arthritic hands! I pleaded silently with the screen. Please, please, please.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Powerful and disturbing. Mighty, mighty props. I’m still trying to process a reaction.
It was all “show,” and hardly no “tell,” so visually powerful. A relentless sense of feebility (the perfect word from a friend of mine). It should have made the “butterfly” more beautiful, but I’m so modern -- I’m so unattached to the ideas of suffering and dying. It’s a shock. A disturbing startle. I’m afraid we’re all this, and waste our time, don’t value each other, accept nothing less than Strength and, if you’re not Strong, get the heck out of my schema.

Paste Sampler 39
I am inordinately preoccupied by this selection.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I fancy Flight

The Flight of the Conchords brings me comfort and joy, just to know I am not alone with my appreciation for freakish humor.

(You are a picture of the devil's daughter. I am a pitcher of holy water.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

My dearest Lucas,

I write to you with trembling hands, but see only small lavender boxes, descending with my tears.
I have waited for you, it seems, beyond my endurance. I have gazed out the small window of my solitary cottage, touching the frozen window panes with small-work-pricked fingers beyond my paltry will's ability to bear it.

Lucas, the dark figure in the yard, the one of which I wrote to you, the one of which you replied in your last post from the port in Siam ("Don't let him in for God's sake, Lysinda! Don't let him in!"), yes, that dark figure, came calling again last night, with a gentle rapping upon my door ...

Lucas! I have pledged myself to you, and to write this accursed novel that cries out day and night and day and night to live, live, live ... but I instead have succumbed to the licentious Tetris!

I know it makes you tremble! You, who knew from a small child, you would live a life on the sea until you saved up enough to establish a small vacuum-repair shop, and you who always awoke at night in fear of the dreadful Sirens and Scylla as if we lived in the days of the ancients and not in some ... vauge, kind of Gothic/Edwardian imaginary time period ...

You dreamed them, in fear, for me, dear Lucas. For I did not resist the siren's call of Tetris!
You have at least the church, my Lucas, in which to pour the dregs of your broken life, but I have not that option, now.
Unholy, unholy undead Tetris!

What am I to do? What am I to do?
But wander the moors, to wander the cliff-edges facing out-to-sea as if to recall our fond dream of your happy home-coming to our own cottage, together, but I will be unable to look up from the Gameboy, clutched in my stiffening hands!
Oh, cold, cold Tetris, my new, un-loving master. Oh Tetris, who called me with your hazel squares, falling, the music of your chortling, electric beeping.

Do not search for me, Lucas, for the girl you knew is gone. Her hair is grown long and snaggled, her gown twisted, her skin bleached white by darkness as she wanders, playing Tetris through the night ...

I write this final post, lovingly, as I speak it outloud dramatically in a fake English accent.
There is nothing else to say, my love, except good-bye, and to beg you to warn the young girls in the village who aspire to write to never, never to make this mistake.

Your loving fiancee,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Howard Jones

I know to each his own but ... I love Howard Jones.

If each decade's rock, in general, is heavy on one particular aspect or another, I'd applaud the 50s for audacity. I love the 60s for pure music-crafting (I think they added heart, and a message, to rock). The 70s ... well, they, in part, were swinging (drifting?) away from the 60s so, they did excess well? Then I will argue that the 80s added heart, and a message, to excess.

(Live Aid. Erasure's politics. Everything Depeche Mode is saying without really saying it.)

And PIANOS. Viva the much-maligned synth! And enter what slays me: complexity (have you ever really LISTENED to Just Like a Dream? Over and over? And over?) Then, these layers, ranges (the guy from A-Ha), and melody.

Melody, melody, melody.

Dismiss it as "hooks," unbeliever. Then dismiss Tolkien as plot-heavy. What a beach read! Great plane-ride paperbacks!

OK. High, high praise. But Howard Jones' melodies (which I've just admitted my weakness for) are surprising and brilliant. I guess they really are gems set in ... aluminum alloy pop trinket lockets. Which I, being a girl, and not too much of a music snob, root through greedily.

Howard Jones, maybe I've elevated these songs to sacrity, but I would love to see you spend the next 20 years weaving each of them into 15-minute piano "symphonies." Things Can Only Get Better "amplified," expounded, expanded?? That is your assignment, so stop reading my blog and get started. :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I just finished "The Bestiary," by Nicholas Christopher; another one heavy on motif. This time it was pseudo-history and fantastic beasts.

Um ... I like these books. It reminded me of "Salt," with its faces-and boot-shapes-in-the-clouds motif. (They're "painterly?") But motif ... I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do every time I spot a "motif."
A griffin! A manticore! The name Sylvia, again!

I loved the main character -- these great twists and quirks that made him very real, for me. I felt like I was sitting in a coffee shop across from the author, telling me a ripping good yarn, when he pauses, leans back, cocks his head at a jaunty angle and blurts, "phoenix."
A chuckle. A lean-forward on conspiratorial elbows.
"You heard me. Phoenix."

OK. But more about the guy! More about your excellent premise! The lost medival manuscript of fantastic beasts!
Instead ... how about 100 pages of forgettable history-snippets (I'm sorry). And, since he's only writing around 200 pages total on this epic, life-long quest to find the bestiary, he must dash through a childhood, schooling, Vietnam, a first romance, world-travels and a final romance with a fugitive animal-rights activist.

But what of the bestiary??

This one historical snippet was priceless, though: I never really understood how Lord Byron had both time to write and to window-dive into canals, maintain scandalous romances, participate in the political unheavals of non-native nations. First, he didn't have TV. Secondly, he apparently wrote from midnight to five a.m. EVERY NIGHT. He also didn't have online Tetris.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I may as well blog (as play hours of online Tetris)

And, I'm going to let people know of this blog.

"Once when Lord Mitsushige was a little boy and was supposed to recite from a copybook for the priest Kaion, he called the other children and acolytes and said, 'Please come here and listen. It's difficult to read if there are hardly any people listening.' The priest was impressed and said to the acolytes, 'That's the spirit in which to do everything.'"

(Including quick, clean decapitations.)

-- From Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai