executive branch in a nation of one
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
It's very late, and the weather's finally turned. The Mets are 4-1, despite Xavier Nady starting in right field and Aaron Heilman setting up in the bullpen. There may be only be two credible teams in the NL East, one of which has a bunch of children in the outfield and a closer with a moderate-to-severe case of the yips. Game on. :) Friday is our first trip of the year to the obsolete dogbowl of choice, and I'll be rocking the big number 5. We'll have grilled bratwurst, and I'll be in the company of legendary drunks. Can't beat that.
I spent much of this evening in municipal court as a star witness for the prosecution. It was fairly freakish.
Tickets for Memphis, Memorial Day weekend. Hide the women and children.
Friday, January 20, 2006
Also, that ?uestlove equals Chewbacca almost literally made me shit my pants.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Sunday, September 04, 2005
My token mp3-blog thingy goes to fluxblog, not because they're the best (they're not; sixeyes might be), but because of their VMA running diary:
8:16 Kanye West is bragging about paying for his own music video, seemingly oblivious to the fact that virtually every artist in the music industry does that!
8:47 Jessica Alba and Dwayne Wade (eschewing a crucifix for a dog tag) are here to bring out Shaquille O'Neal for no apparent reason. It's very hard to keep Alba and Shaq in the same frame.
Et cetera, et alia. Spotty, but by turns convulsive. Also, if you can find a copy of the Avalanches' Breezeblock set from December '01, do so; it circulates pretty freely. The first bit is astounding: they start by taking demonic possession of a forgotten Beach Boys track, transmuting it into crypto-disco and then (at 3:28 on the commonly available version, listen close) the tune crystallizes, passing through vapor trails, and it's really impressive, either on headphones or a good car stereo.
Enjoy the long weekend.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Back from wedding, which was the most fun I've had in quite a while; inspiring, really, and not just the topography.
Recent reads: James Hynes' Kings of Infinite Space, pretty decent; J. Robert Lennon's Mailman, just barely short of astounding; David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, terrifying and his best in years. Also, piecemeal through the works of Walter Mosley, because there aren't too many like him.
Raftload of French books incoming, too. Small trip to St. Louis in a month or so. Working hard, too, but that can't be everything.
Saturday, July 30, 2005
I'm here. Since last post: I scotched the house purchase, moved twice, threatened to sue my old landlord, voted for the lesser of two something-or-other, met my second-favorite author, traded in my old job for a new one with more authority/responsibility/buying power, adopted a spider plant.
I don't promise I'll make a regular thing of this again, but then a) I might, and b) I never did.
Concordance: David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas and the Fiery Furnaces' "Blueberry Boat": gorgeous shattered narrative carefully reassembled aboard a doomed, leaky vessel. Also, no concordance, but nothing beats Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra's "Indictment", not only because shouting "Karl G. Rove! Indictment!" is therapeutic, but because it may yet come to pass, and because the insurgence of the horn section after the little kangaroo-court scene is indelible.
Cindy tastes of barbecue; Cindy tastes like cream.
Off to Yosemite later this summer for a wedding. Suburban man meets the great outdoors. Details to follow.
Life is long.
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Last weekend was a dizzy swirl: Bill came home for two days, overcoming a storm-delayed flight, and my parents moved into the new house, which nearly instantly changed colors. Cleaning out the remains of the old house and starting to make a home out of the new, however, took the rest of a long, savage weekend. By comparison work on Monday was a positive oasis of calm, despite the usual end-of-quarter turmoil.
Busy today in the chilly rain, too, and Marty showed up yesterday evening for small-scale bacchanalia, but tonight it's ideal for a night in. Baseball on television, an ad-hoc and strangely appealing bourguignon-sangria chicken concoction on the stove, basically the result of me remembering about half the recipe for coq au vin and making some semi-inspired improvisation moves after that. Plus a big, hearty book by one of my favorite authors, that I'd been waiting for but didn't realize was out. If you can't get deep into baseball, cooking, a good book, or whatever else floats your proverbial boat, then what's the point?
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
[New Yorker article link, inserted here because Dad needed it for his class and it was easier to create a link for him than to try to read him the URL over the phone, and left up because it's topical and fairly spiffy and so on]
Friday, September 12, 2003
Two strange days:
I had announced to my landlady that I'd be away for the weekend, so she arranged to have the water-damaged ceiling repaired. What that meant in practical terms was that, when I changed plans and returned after work Thursday evening, the main room of my apartment had been hit by World War 3. Shredded sheetrock and tools strewn about, most of my furniture herded into the little bedroom. I quickly gathered my things for the weekend and drove to my parents' house, which similar catastrophe had befallen, more or less.
Mom, in advance of my folks' pending move to a smaller house, had declared war on pretty much any object she could have us carry up or down stairs, and had thus marked damn near everything for sale. The accumulated history of a household, priced to move. In the kitchen, a bustling group of Mom's friends marked and tallied and made small talk. I arrive like the refugee I am. Ravenous, I gobble a slice and a half of tepid pizza, grab a beer, and cast about for an unoccupied chair.
I trade messages with my realtor, concluding with disgust that my offer isn't getting anywhere and will have to be pulled. Janis, arrived from Connecticut to help out, is asleep on the porch beneath a mound of clothes like a hibernating animal. The house is about ten degrees cooler than any reasonable habitat should be. Finally, everyone leaves; we attempt to persuade yipping Katie to poop outside like a normal dog, but fail. I take over Bill's room; a friend of Mom is coming by in the morning to pick up Bill's bed for her daughter, so this is the last hurrah for houseguests. I volunteer to sleep on the floor if it's going to blow the sale; everyone giggles, but no one thinks this is terribly far-fetched.
Fitful night's sleep in a bed sold out from under me, then, and Friday morning I'm late for breakfast with Marty, the frigid news that Johnny Cash has died, and I'm the last man in America to file his taxes, although this time Caesar gets to render unto me. Dad and I having wisely determined that not being around for the sale is of paramount importance, we get organized by mid-morning for our drive to Stonington. On the way we buy a firearm. There is, I can assure you, absolutely no way to carry a shotgun around inconspicuously in broad daylight. It can't be done.
It's only two weeks past Labor Day, but despite splendid weather Stonington has already gone into winter mode. They've torn down most of the remaining husk of the burnt mill and poured footings for the renovation. The rest of the place is near-deserted.
I had promised Dad I'd head out on the boat with him at least once before the end of the season. Tropical Storm Henri has lost most of its strength over the ocean, but its ripple was spreading north and it was supposed to pour all weekend, so our only real shot was today. The wind is stiffer than we'd like, the flag snapping crazily, but we decide we'll at least trawl out to the point under power. We pass what's left of the mill. As we near the point, we begin catching swells, so we wheel around, and as we near our mooring the balky motor gives up. We drift in a dizzy flat spin, hundreds of yards downcurrent, stave off nearby boats, get the motor going again, and then the propeller spins free of the shaft. We're totally stranded; we drift along further, catch hold of the nearest boat and anchor ourselves to it in desperation. We scowl, curse, keep the two boats from destroying each other, call sheepishly for a tow, regain dry land and write this one off as a well-intentioned failure.
Afterwards we return to the house and head for the roof. The sunset is muted, but the sky is as close to paradise as I've ever seen, white and purple and ten shades of majestic blue. The clouds are cast in massive whorls by the remains of Henri, cut by evening contrails. Knots of dark birds swirl over the water, like debris in a frozen whirlwind, swooping for fish. The wind thickens. Later, some time after dark, the sky will settle, and then the rains will come.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
I had my first moment of missing Bill this weekend, while scanning the movie listings: "Gee, that looks fun, I'll just call Bill up and ..." nope, there it is, it's sunk in again. He's going through the standard turmoil and excitement of early college, meanwhile, and it's wonderful to watch, although tracking him down is exactly as hard as it should be.
One more very positive sign that I'm becoming an old bastard: I've put in an offer on a nearby condo, in a converted school building. It's pretty slick, even if the loft bedroom was built by hobbits looking for a bit of an aerial view. Considering we picked up on the listing just yesterday, there's some kind of land-speed record at stake here, although the seller has apparently gone to bed now instead of responding to my countercounteroffer, so I get to wait instead. Fifty-one percent of me is really, really excited, but the vocal minority is scared shitless. Either way, buying beats the hell out of renting, though, so it's clearly the way to go. As my financial advisor, Marty is advising me to show up at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night to witness legendary haplessness, so that's an obvious answer, too.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Sometimes a 404 error isn't so bad. And to think I was searching for blue-eyed polar bears when I found it.
Monday, August 25, 2003
End of month and long weekend approaching, so sloppy workweek ahead. Bill's out in St. Louis, preparing to matriculate at his suddenly highly ranked university, and having the ball we all expected. My sinister plot to visit Bill and coerce my friends to show up is probably pushed back to springtime, but I may yet tag along for parents' weekend.
I spent three days babysitting Mom while Dad was out helping Bill get organized; I was replaced by Katie, a immensely cute Yorkshire terrier about the size of a loaf of bread. My parents are, by any available measure, the worst pet owners in North America, so I have my reservations about the durability of this thing, but we'll see. Dad is also attempting to teach me how to fly fish, this being along with the obligatory academic post a sign of impending semi-retirement, but it requires reservoirs of patience that I really don't have, and in practice-casting in the backyard I managed to snark myself across the face with the line a couple of times. I am not optimistic.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Back from a nice weekend up in the mountains. I've been vaguely depressed for a bit now, though, as I realize exactly how much I'm going to miss Bill when he takes off for college. He's leaving Wednesday, so we're doing the last-minute farewell thing tomorrow, but it's already sinking in, and not having him around will be miserable. He'll have a splendid time, of course, and the smart money figures he'll give up on architecture before his first year is out. The mid-American nostalgia circus will happen, too, sooner or whenever. Save me some fish.
Also, finally got hold of Jen, who's beginning to give off the impression of no longer wanting to have anything much to do with me; new boyfriend, maybe, but the chimeric staying-friends thing is becoming just that. Possibly I don't have any business expecting more, the whole break-up thing having been my idea, but it's disappointing all the same.
Monday, August 11, 2003
Demoralizing fact of the day: Kazaa has more available downloads of Nickel Creek's cover of "Spit on a Stranger" than of the Pavement original.
Not sure why this should be demoralizing, necessarily, but it is, somehow. I took half of Thursday off to pick up Bill at the airport from his foreshortened European jaunt (long and sordid story, not really worth going into), and since the plane was late I ended up spending the better part of two hours camped out at the international end of Terminal B. In the waiting area, next to the inevitable magazine shop, stood a probably-equally-inevitable Starbucks, which emitted a strange and improbable assortment of music ("Lively Up Yourself", half of Some Girls, the approved quota of folksingers and "world music") along with its burnt-coffee smell. Then, suddenly, an unusual voice, earnest, sort of artless, singing a familiar song, arrangement spare, faint tinge of mandolin sound. The Starbucks PA was probably five or ten db louder than standard background-music volume, even from forty feet away, and the song's lyrics (especially the taunts of "You're a bitter stranger") are just weird and off-putting enough to discourage scrutiny among innocent bystanders, so what we got was a bizarre moment of communal embarrassment. Not anyone's first choice as an antidote to jet lag, really.
It took further research to figure out who'd done the cover, of course, since I'm still undergoing a country-detox program. Numerous reviews of Nickel Creek's new album cite the song as an example of the band's new pop-oriented songwriting, and apparently they've released it as a single, which strikes me as dishonest. Of course, Mr. Malkmus is collecting on the publishing, so I wonder what he'd think.
Monday, August 04, 2003
I dunno quite what to make of Robert Christgau, the unyielding curmudgeon-guy who's been doing record reviews for the Village Voice since the Nixon administration. I don't read the Voice, since out here in the hills it costs cash money, and like any music reviewer his tastes diverge wildly from mine. But he has a website that I just stumbled over, and he's very, very good at what he does: his five-word dismissal of the first Black Sabbath album is a model of caustic brevity, and his posthumous appraisal of the Doors is hysterical even upon rereading. But he's best when given some room to maneuver: his blissful passage-of-time with my favorite band, or his 1984 analysis of What It All Means. It was a weird time for music and culture, and even if he underestimates the CD a couple paragraphs earlier, he gets the whole MTV thing down in a hurry: "But because visual information is so specific that people quickly get bored with it, the channel craves novelty by nature." Which these days means cryptovoyeurism and an aversion to actual music videos so deep that its biggest competitor and its clone channel, specifically created to play videos, are both bulking up on "programming."
Also, Metz 0-1 Ajaccio, bleah. It's great to see Metz back in the first division, but looking at their opening-match eleven, it's a bunch of scrawny kids up against a band of hardened Corsican maquisards, so long year ahead. Ah, well. Bill, who sent me an e-mail six hours ago from a laundromat in Florence, will, if he takes my advice, be catching the home opener in Lyon or Bordeaux (again the indeterminacy) on Saturday, always worth doing.
Sunday, August 03, 2003
I appear to be some sort of bird-magnet.
I have no idea how this happens. I'm not much of a wildlife guy, I can identify blue jays and male robins at a distance, but that's about it. But some time ago a group of birds built a nest *under* the air conditioner outside my bedroom window. I'm not entirely sure how, since there really isn't a whole lot of space, but sure enough there's a little mound of straw wedged in there, and from sunup to sundown this little family of birds chirps and twitters pleasantly. It's sort of nice.
Yesterday, however, I hear rattling in the far window of my living room. When I go over to inspect, there's a bird in there, caught between the inner glass window and the outer screen. It's a brown bird, mottled feathers, its head twitching frantically, little talons gripping the screen. Two other birds, its traveling companions maybe, perch on the windowsill outside, keeping the trapped bird's morale up and trying to devise an escape plan. They don't have much luck; the other birds take off.
Marty and Heather call; they're at the tail end of a wedding. Heather is fully and demonstrably in the bag when she gets on the phone.
"I've got a bird stuck in my window," I tell her.
"Ha ha," she says. "You're a loser."
Sometimes it's obvious why we're no longer together.
Marty ponders my plight for a moment. There was a 19th-century baseball player known as "Death to Flying Things"; this man was plausibly Marty in a former life. As far as he's concerned the entire existence of birdkind has evolved specifically for the singular purpose of shitting on his car. His sympathy, accordingly, is minimal, and his answer typically Darwinian.
"Leave him in there until he gets out or he dies," he says.
"Ewww," I emote. "Then I'll have a dead bird trapped on my windowsill in the middle of August. No, thanks."
I look over at the bird, who's come to rest in the sill but is still considering his options. The space through which he entered the window is maybe an inch wide, tops; it was bad luck to end up in here, but there's no way it can flap its wings to generate lift and still fit through the opening. I live on the second floor, but even if I had a ladder I couldn't open the screen from without. The window is stuck and then painted shut, though a bit of prying with the claw end of a hammer remedies that. I really don't want the bird *in* my apartment, but it's becoming obvious that I'll have to run that risk. The bird chirps once, weakly.
My first thought is that I'll be able to capture the bird in a box or bag and transport it to a more accessible open window, where I'll be able to let it loose. So I grab a trash bag, unfurl it, and open the window to about bird-height, with the mouth of the bag stretched across the opening. The bird thinks I'm a moron, and casts its vote by wedging itself into the far corner of the sill, as far from me as it can possibly get. I wait a bit, but the bird's not buying it and doesn't budge.
The ultimate answer is the easiest, of course. I set up obstacles on the windowsill to block most of the opening, to minimize the chance that the bird will fly in, and slide the inner window up enough to accommodate my two hands. The bird is clearly scared shitless of me by this time, and I'm not doing much better; I'm wearing gloves, just in case. Yes, gloves. I fumble with the screen mechanism, which hasn't been used at least since I moved in, but it creaks and gives way, and the screen slides up fitfully. The very instant the bird has enough clearance to get out, it tweets triumphantly and sails off.
On the windowsill I notice a couple spots of blood; the bird must have injured itself trying to scrabble its way out. As I leave my apartment a short time later I see a flock of these brown birds, dozens of them, wheeling in a great arc above the house and the street in front of it. So that's my humanitarian act for the day, or ornitharian or whatever you'd call it.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
As we speak, Bill's on his way to doing a last-hurrah trip with a friend of his: three nights in Rome, three nights in Paris, a few days' indeterminate trajectory in between. I took him out to lunch yesterday, to help out with some eleventh-hour suggestions, and made two realizations that should have been blatantly obvious. One: going through my mental catalogue of places to find a good chocolate crepe or while away an afternoon gave me some heavy nostalgia pangs. Two: My brother is an independent full-fledged functional quasi-adult, and to boot he's one of the most fantastic human beings I could ever hope to meet, let alone be related to.
Needless to say, I hope he has a wonderful time on his trip, and I'm sure he will.
Monday, July 28, 2003
More fun with Mogwai, from the webpage: "I've just noticed something funny on eBay. The people who are trying to sell our new LP are having trouble keeping themselves out of the picture as it's like a mirror. Caught." It's true, and shorn of its reflective carapace it's a good album, too.
Saturday, July 26, 2003
If, for some reason, you feel compelled to visit the ctblackhouse.com website, don't; it's been taken over by evil cybersquatters who attempt to force-feed you spyware. A fairly decent history (though written before the thing was resolved, so chronologically incomplete) can still be had elsewhere, however.
Three first impressions of the Roots:
I: I'm not a huge hip-hop fan. In high school, I was briefly into Public Enemy, back when "Fight the Power" was the most potent thing a boombox could ever conceivably emit, but it's a form of music I admire spottily and generally from afar. Songs about what brand of champagne you buy with drug money do not impress me. But I dug on the Roots, partly because the formula seemed appealing (all-instrumental hip-hop? skippy) and a couple of tunes heard out of context sounded neat. On several of my record-store wanderings I considered buying a copy of the first album, but always found something more urgent.
I did, at some point, eventually buy "Do You Want More?!" for my brother, who gets into Built to Spill but who also genuflects at the filthy temple of Jay-Z; I considered it missionary work. He liked it, unevenly, carted it around, thundered Nas or DMX out of his jeep instead. I borrowed the disc, liked it plenty, got heavily into two tracks ("Mellow My Man" and "Essaywhuman"), which I'd loop in my obsessive way.
II: I finally own a Roots album. "The Roots Come Alive", the live one, because it has my two favorite tracks plus another ("You Got Me") I'd heard and liked on some-or-other compilation. So an ad-hoc greatest-hits widget, plus maybe a shot at seeing what the Roots are like live.
Which is sometimes a dangerous proposition. Certain bands are live bands, at their essence, even beyond the interminable-pot-haze genre. Sublime were an anemic loser-ska group on their albums; on stage (and on the live disc they put out) they acquired speed, ferocity, uncanny control. Most, on the other hand, are not. The Roots are not like this, in either sense: they metamorphose entirely. Their studio albums reflect the properties of a small jazz ensemble: wit, snap, warmth, surprise. On the live album, their music is submitted to the experience and scrutiny of a greater number of ears, and it is transformed: expansive, haunted, at once garrulous ("You sound drunk", cackles the vocalist interstitially at his colleagues) and inspired.
III: I used up my annual allotment of MTV two nights ago, channel-surfing between baseball games: a half-hour live concert show, this installment featuring the Roots. Only room enough for a handful of tracks, all from the most recent album. My brother assures me that the Roots' last couple of singles have been in semi-heavy rotation. The crowd shots of the concert (polyglot, but largely white; everyone mouthing the lyrics) confirm this.
I am, ultimately, impressed by the Roots as a rock band, which was probably the intent all along but I've been faffing about with categorizations. ?uestlove, the drummer, has one of the truly great rock hairdos, a tremendous afro that moves in time with the music, like the rest of him. In a live setting, or at least in this one, the band goes for the big rock moves (rousing blues finish, searing electric-guitar solo-with-tongue, &c.) with demonstrable panache. It's like the future of rock in a parallel universe, as though gangsta stayed cramped in beyond-fire-code clubs and these were the lineal descendants of Jimi and P-Funk. That universe looks cooler, where I sit.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Thirteen-hour workday. Been a long week generally; I've damn skippy earned my vacation. Black postcards, Dean Wareham my guardo camino, blissful.
Been an odd week for old friends, too. I met Jason in the city last Saturday; he's in town trying to reason out what his law degree's going to amount to this time next year, so we ate breakfastlunch and loafed in Tompkins Square Park and hobbled around lower Manhattan and bought books and tried to buy an ant farm and ate really fucking stupendous grilled meat from a pushcart. Hopefully that's what it is a law degree gets you these days.
Also, Jeff's got himself a blog now, which appears largely for the moment to be a chronicle of his valiant efforts to risk his ass commuting across London on rollerblades, which itself tells you quite a bit about the subject. It is, of course, much, much more than that as well. Jeff's post about my own blog is kind of dithyrambic, and mostly it's scaring the crap out of me; Jeff's a good buddy from les beaux jours, is now refining his mind control experiments, and hopefully I can either coerce him to come to St. Louis this autumn or I can find half a reason to scamper up into the mountains.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
The unintended consequences of business casual: actually wearing a suit to work causes fear and suspicion among the general populace. I dressed up to go to Dad's extra-fancy 50th birthday dinner after work, and my boss, in his typically wry British way, inquires: "So what time's the interview?"
By about 9:45a, however, I'd faced the question enough to warrant taping up a sign in my cube: "NO, I am not going on an interview today. Thanks for your interest, however." Naturally, this only had the net effect of reinforcing the paranoia.