Sunday, May 31, 2009

grill crazy saturday dinner

yeah, i admit i'm going a little overboard w/the grill but the weather has been perfect for it & ann seems to enjoy the various grilled dishes i've been preparing for her. it's too late to stop now...

this is a grilled little gems salad w/grilled ciabatta croutons, grilled avocado, grilled sweet vidalias & sweet 100 cherry tomatoes. there's a homemade variation of green goddess dressing on there too.

this is grilled marinated flap meat w/rosti potatoes. served w/a grilled trencher & rioja salsa. flap meat is becoming a popular cut, esp for grilling. as tara dugan in the sf chron writes:

"Also called flap steak, the unflatteringly named cut is similar to skirt and flank in that it comes from the less tender regions of the animal. Often cheaper than more popular cuts, this little underdog of the beef world has a wonderful meaty flavor and fine texture when prepared carefully."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

the last iron curtain

i think we're in the uncomfortable position of accepting the fact that north korea IS a moderate nuclear power. from that acceptance we can proceed accordingly. this will require a lot of honest diplomacy on our part & a new receptivity on theirs. this won't be easy, especially considering what the bush administration did to the practice of diplomacy around the world.

it would be easy to blame bush for bullying cranky & oddball regimes. the real problem w/bush's tactics was that these folks had recourse to a pretty dramatic response. it took them a little while but nuclear devices generally command some respect out there in the world. we can thank the bush administration's hard-line for creating this scenario. they applied it unthinkingly to everyone globally w/o nuance or an understanding of specific concerns. you were either for us or against us, or more to the point, you either did what we said or suffered the consequences. in the fallout from this attitude, iran will be next. our relationship w/israel guarantees that. this is not to say that we abandon israel but that our relationship creates a unique situation in that specific region & it has to been reckoned into any diplomatic equation there. we can't have generalized diplomacy applied brusquely anymore. each situation demands specific address.

bear in mind that when the soviet union failed & we got a look at their actual nuclear capability, it was nowhere near as fearsome as our intelligence community had claimed. for the most part, they would have had to literally carry the warheads to their targets. also bear in mind that the misinformed intelligence was from a community that had been initially formed SOLELY to gather information on the soviet union. in other words, while it's not smart to ignore a certain amount of fear-mongering on the part of the intelligence community, taking their information w/o a grain of salt is even less so.

modest nuclear capability. that's simply where they are & they aren't going back. it's up to obama/clinton to formulate a new diplomatic strategy w/those facts in mind & to carry it out w/delicacy & good will. if we refuse the simplicity of creating overdetermined boogey-men("axis of evil," "terrorists," etc)& give each situation its due, we'll do ok. will a hard-line have to be imposed sometime? of course it will but the hard line should always always give everyone involved realistic options. w/o options, a cornered cowering rat morphs into a fierce lethal ball of spastic energy. who in their right mind wants to face something like that?


after enjoying the moviegoer so much, i've decided to go back & read a few of my other favorites from my wayward youth. i think there's a good balance between what i'm expecting to be quick reads & books that require an effort of concentration & commitment. i may actually read on the road instead of the late book i've chosen by kerouac. we'll see.

the moviegoer---walker percy
the crying of lot 49---thomas pynchon
a fan's notes---fred exley
the horse's mouth---joyce cary
the recognitions---william gaddis
nightwood---djuna barnes
dance dance dance---haruki murakami
big sur---jack kerouac
under the volcano---malcolm lowry
our lady of the flowers---jean genet

leading up to the late summer releases of pynchon's inherent vice & william vollman's imperial.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

our westward gaze into the clouds

May 28, 1937 - "A necklace of surpassing beauty was placed about the lovely throat of San Francisco yesterday," writes Chronicle reporter Willis O'Brien a day after the Golden Gate Bridge opens to foot traffic. At the time, it is the longest suspension bridge in the world. It had cost $35 million to build the bridge, which would become world-famous not just for its beauty but also for being a suicide magnet." from the sf chronicle

not sure the imagery in the old chron piece works for me but the bridge itself does have its moments of beauty. i suppose i can see why so many want to check-out by jumping off it but i can't imagine hoisting myself over the side. hell, i haven't even made myself walk across the thing yet, tho that's not due to a bridge phobia like my mother had. it took her over 50years to finally ride across the two short bridges over to p'cola beach.


A memorable night. The only difficulty was that though the universe had been disposed of, I myself was left over. There I lay in my hotel room with my search over yet still obliged to draw one breath and then the next. But now I have undertaken a different kind of search, a horizontal search. As a consequence, what takes place in my room is less important. What is important is what I shall find when I leave my room and wander in the neighborhood. Before, I wandered as a diversion. Now I wander seriously and sit and read as a diversion. - Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

“Death in the form of death genes shall not prevail over me, for death genes are one thing but it is something else to name the death genes and know them and stand over against them and dare them. I am different from my death genes and therefore not subject to them. My father had the same death genes but he feared them and did not name them and thought he could roar out old Route 66 and stay ahead of them or grab me and be pals or play Brahms and keep them, the death genes, happy, so he fell prey to them.”
- Walker Percy, quoted by Phil Rockstroh

Check Heidegger. I would agree with him that we do a lot better treating anxiety (some forms, at least) as a kind of beckoning of the self to a self rather than as a symptom of illness. This is why in writing novels I often find that it works to turn things upside-down and to set forth a character‹say, a woman with severe free-floating anxiety‹as more interesting, more hopeful, possessing greater possibilities than, say, another perfectly adjusted symptom-free woman. To say this is to say a good deal more than that illness is more interesting than health.
-Interview - Walker Percy

a great southern writer. somewhere in salinger's catcher in the rye, holden caulfield talks about writers who while your reading their work make you feel like you want to have a drink w/them. i always felt that w/percy. i always wanted to sit down w/him & some george t. staggs neat & chat about jacques maritain or galatoire's or john crowe ransom & the agrarian movement or women. re-reading the moviegoer this week brought back those feelings. this page has lots to follow up with.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


this thing is so over the top, it even stopped me in my tracks for a few seconds. then i understood its greatness. i mean, you're talking to someone who keeps a container of schmaltz in his refrigerator. the idea is to weave bacon together to form a bacon-net.

over the bacon-net, you sprinkle bbq rub, then put 2lbs of italian sauage on top. on top of that, you spray your favorite bbq sauce. then you sprinkle bacon crumbles all over that.

you roll it up & cook it over hickory coals for several hours.

after it comes to the appropriate temperature on the thermometer, you slather it w/a bbq glaze.

sliced, it can be eaten on homemade buttermilk biscuits. or you can throw all social restraints to the wind(for god's sake, this is a STUFFED BACON ROLL after all!)& eat slices by themselves, one after another until you feel that sick sick sick feeling i seem to always get when i spend a week eating in new orleans.

bon appetit

"god's own importunate bonus."

"Percy won the National Book Award in 1962 for this, his first published novel. Binx Bolling, a veteran of the Korean War, lives in the (fictitious) suburb of Gentilly, in Feliciana Parish, and works as a stockbroker in New Orleans. He daydreams, and carries on with his secretaries, one after another. And he goes to the movies, which are more real and carry more meaning for him than the rest of his life. If this is isn’t depression, it’s surely ennui. The plot of the novel, such as it is, follows this anti-hero’s “search” for meaning."

i've been re-reading percy's the moviegoer in conjunction w/augustine's confessions. as i remembered, they're a pretty good match. i noticed this back a decade or so, when i was still laboring w/the idea of graduate school & teaching. it's one of the things you learn to do, finding connections that aren't necessarily apparent. i knew that percy had used foundational stories for other novels(vide, faust & love in the ruins)kind of like flannery used heresies for hers.

way back when, the p'cola gang "discovered" writers like we did music. as i recall i found gaddis & lowry & joyce cary. mike introduced me to fred exley & walker percy. the first time i read the moviegoer(senior year of high school) it didn't strike me as much as it did five years later. it's gotten better w/every reading. i think it might be a perfect first novel. percy's own religious conversion hadn't hardened into proselytizing as it did in his later novels & his descriptions of city & landscapes were firing on all cylinders:

" evening is the best time in gentilly. there are not so many trees and the buildings are low and the world is all sky. the sky is a deep bright ocean full of light and life. a mare's tail of cirrus cloud stands in high from the gulf. high above the lake a broken vee of ibises points for the marshes; they go suddenly white as they fly into the tilting salient of sunlight. swifts find a windy middle reach of sky and come twittering down so fast i think at first the gnats have crossed my eyelids. in the last sector of the apple green a lockheed connie lowers from mobile, her running lights blinking in the dusk. station wagons and greyhounds and diesel rigs rumble toward the gulf coast, their fabulous tail-lights glowing like rubies in the darkening east."

every character in the novel, from the inconsequential to the crucial, is keenly drawn & felt. the book didn't feel like it had been written by a 45yo man. it felt part, percy has given us a southern comedic version of sartre's nausea coupled w/the augustine's great narrative of spiritual awakening. augustine's narrator spends over 200 pages agonizing over what to do & how to do it(the second, post conversion part of the narrative consists of a deeply complex take on the meaning of time). while percy's narrator doesn't go to the extremes of augustine, he does have moments of palpable agony:

"today is my thirtieth birthday and i sit on the ocean wave in the schoolyard and wait for kate and think of nothing. now in the thirty-first year of my dark pilgrimage on this earth and knowing less than i ever knew before, having learned only to recognize merde when i see it, having inherited no more from my father than a good nose for merde, for every species of shit that flies---my only talent---smelling merde from every quarter, living in fact in the very century of merde, the great shithouse of scientiful humanism where needs are satisfied, everyone becomes an anyone...and men are dead dead dead; and the malaise has settled like fallout...on this my thirtieth birthday, i know nothing and there is nothing to do but fall prey to desire."

when binx's moment happens just a page or two after that passage, it's near a school yard w/a symbol of the holy spirit within sight(augustine's moment is near a school yard & the sound of children's singing opens his eyes). he doesn't speak in tongues or fall to his knees or praise the lord. he, as augustine before him, simply realizes his way of living(lusting after the flesh)isn't working anymore. like a buddhist satori, god's grace doesn't transport anyone to heaven. it simply allows you to see more clearly. when percy wrote his novel about the end of the world, love in the ruins, the end was simply a re-arrangement of social/economic order. percy knows that a slight change in the weather can harbor deep significance.

critics mostly got the moviegoer wrong. it won prizes(hell, he beat out catch 22 & franny & zooey for the national book award in '62) but it really flew past most of the reviewers(the one i quote above isn't an exception). this is a subtle conversion story. that's thin ice for most folks in our modern world & it's easier to ignore it than consider its consequences. in the end, after "a dim dazzling trick of grace," binx has assumed the position of responsibility that his aunt had been in most of the novel & even expanded it to include his "brothers and sisters." whether he's a catholic is beside the point. his moment in the schoolyard has opened him to his place in the world.

this is the cover of the book i borrowed from mike. i'm not sure if i ever returned it. typical.


there i was w/dona at trader tom's in g'ville. the place had lost it's allure, there was no doubt about that. the bikers standing guard at the front door should have clued me in. i suspect i wouldn't have gotten in alone. having a young attractive woman w/me got me in but only grudgingly. w/moran & mike, we'd been shuffled right in. the place was lit up & alive w/activity. not anymore. i went inside w/a deep sense of dread.

what had been a hopping club now seemed abandoned & forbidding. the room where i remember spending so much time in, the main dance area w/a huge stage & numerous side stages, was empty. not just empty but closed. there were no lights flashing, no music. it was darkened & cave-like. red velvet drapes hung dirty & torn by the old main stage. we went through another small door & into a tiny area. there was the bar. there was the stage. each was small, tiny, in fact. & so was the room itself. i immediately felt claustrophobic. it felt like a mausoleum. what the hell had happened, i wondered.

there were maybe two or three single men there. they all turned & stared at dona. i understood. the girl on stage was simply weaving slowly around on stage, her body looked like she'd been strung out for months. i assumed she wasn't the headliner. it struck me that there probably wasn't a headliner here. a very fat woman came to the table & announced, " there's a two drink minimum for each table." she stood there like an cow & clearly had no intention of leaving until we'd met the minimum. "two beers," i choked out. her lip curled. she spun around & lumbered away. this was not going the way i'd envisioned.

i felt dona's gaze burning into the side of my head. i'd been avoiding eye contact w/her. i understood that this place was not advancing my argument FOR strip joints. dona was a third generation feminist(she hadn't read de beauvoir, for example)& had missed the man hating phase of that movement. she was willing to give anything that might enhance HER sexuality a chance. for instance, she loved pornography. the idea of mmf 3somes thrilled her. she loved looking at other women & evaluating them almost like men, as sexual objects. in her mind, that was ok. if a woman does it, it was ok, esp as it spoke directly to what turned her on. that was crucial to the whole process.

that's what led me to that deeply depressing & indefensible moment in trader tom's. i can say for a fact that if she'd been in new orleans w/me & seen terra dance, she would have been on fire. but she hadn't been there & we were in trader tom's in g'ville now. i was just trying to figure a quick way out when one of the dancer's sat down at our table. i was about to beg off what i assumed would be her supplication for table dancing tips, when she said outright, " don't worry, i'm not here to get money from you." she looked at dona & said, "why are you here, honey?" dona was reacting as if an untouchable had intruded into her personal space, which i guess really was what was happening. the real world is NOT what anyone thinks they're getting when they come to a strip-joint. she started sputtering out some kind of response when i said, "i'd been here years ago & thought she might like it. this isn't anywhere near what it used to be like." i remember her visage drawing near to me thru the smoke of the place, " it hasn't been like that in years. you shouldn't have brought her here. this is no place for a decent woman." i remember her narrowed eyes & hissing voice. her tattered lingerie was motley & foolish looking. i tried to make light of things. "yes, well...if i'd known things were in such disrepair...ha ha ha." "fuck," she spit out & turned to dona. "whatever was in your head you need to really rethink. this is hell on earth. there's nothing romantic here for anyone."

i tried to give her some money but she wouldn't have it. dona looked near tears. i'd been caught masturbating by my mother once. she pushed though the bathroom door i thought i'd locked & stood gaping at my very modest erection. since i was only 12yo at the time, it defiantly stayed erect. this felt much worse in terms of pure abjection. unfortunately, i've become familiar w/that feeling. you might even say i'm an expert. our bovine waitress brought the second round of beers w/o asking. she just set them down & said, "twenty bucks." i paid. i figured we'd paid our minimum & could scram as soon as the woman left the table. as she wandered off, i started saying goodbye to our table-mate. "good, get out. there's nothing for either one of you here," she said. then she just kept sitting there, staring blankly up at the now unoccupied stage. "at least i don't have to put up w/you two in the audience when i dance," she mumbled glumly. amen to that, i thought. dona was acting as if she'd been infected by something. "well, goodbye," i added as a grabbed dona's arm to get her up & out of there. "i'm so sorry," she suddenly offered to the woman. she continued to stare up at the stage.

as we were going out the door, i heard the bartender sceam, "hey stacey, get your scrawny ass up on that stage. you ain't paid to sit on that ass." when we opened the main door to the outside parking lot, the smell of pot nearly knocked us down. the bikers were still there but had more to say this time, to dona mostly. she was staggering along as if she were drunk, mouth twisted in a rictus of disgust & loathing. "why would you bring me to a place like this," she blurted out shrilly. "well, ha ha, you actually asked me to," was my smooth reply. "why would YOU ever go to a place like that? it's just degrading, it's sick, it's...," she feebly trailed off. "well, ha ha, that's a more complicated question, isn't it," i replied weakly. we road back to the apartment in silence. cold, stony, silence.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

we don't bleed when we don't fight

these guys keep getting better & better. it was even odds early on that the lead singer/writer was going to tip over into self-indulgence & self-parody but he's gone another way. the band itself is tight & inventive. their last album, boxer, was on a lot of folks' best of 2007 lists. based on this new song, the new album should be right there on 2009 lists.


ann's memorial day treats

al forno was one of the first restaurants outside of the chez panisse orbit that really captured my imagination. buster holmes in new orleans was a favorite but it was pretty much a soul food place & not really inventive, just damned good. like mama lo's in gainesville & mother's there in new orleans too.

i never ate at al forno. i bought the cookbook for the restaurant when it came out(1991)& i was still at the outrigger. i couldn't do most of the recipes because of p'cola's lack of produce(you couldn't even get leaf lettuce back then)& ingredients. like truffled eggs, the IDEA of a grilled pizza stuck w/me. johanne killeen & george germon's idea of grilling pizza dough over a hardwood grill was mind-blowing to me. i cannot tell you why i never tried it until now. i will say it worked perfectly & was a perfect memorial day dinner. the pizzas were topped w/grilled onions & portobello mushrooms w/fontina cheese & garlicy red sauce w/fresh mozzarella & basil.

for a real treat, the cats decided to spend the morning in bed w/ann. she had a good weekend.


I love the world; I want more than the world,
Or after-image of the inner eye."

- Theodore Roethke, "The Dying Man, Part 4, The Exalting"

from a google map.


i met terra through nat'ly. she was the oldest daughter of john r., a fellow who ran a concession out on p'beach. she had just turned 18yo. she hated living w/her family, esp john r & wanted out. i offered my place to her. she accepted w/o hesitation. i know what you're thinking & i'm happy to say we did NOT have sex then or ever. not because either one of us wasn't interested(we both were)but because i was w/nat'ly & also on general principals. i wanted to be able to look her father in the eye & say i'd done his daughter a simple favor. period. end of story. that's pretty much all the good that came out of the situation: i could look her father in the eye & say that one true thing.
i'd never met anyone who was w/o any inhibitions about being nude like terra. i've always imagined that if everyone was like her in this respect the world would probably be a much better place. it wasn't a young woman's vanity that did it. i'm not really sure what it was. she had a very lovely figure in general. her great flaw was her breasts, 18yo breasts that inexplicably sagged like an old woman's. they were like flaps on her chest.

terra could be & would be naked anywhere & anytime. there at the apt it was a real temptation to come home from a long day of outrigger work & find her lounging around naked. no quick giggly run to the bedroom to throw on a robe for terra. she'd sit there naked no matter who i brought home w/me. i will say that i never got tired seeing her naked. she didn't wear out her welcome being naked all the time.

around this time i decided to take a quick trip over to new orleans. terra was working cleaning out a pottery studio twice a week for $50. she felt this was a deadend job; it really wasn't even that. she wanted to go over to new orleans w/me & so i took her. driving over i talked about s. dancing at one of the bourbon st clubs & the money she made in one night. i talked about donna & the money she made dancing at trader's, about sue & the money she'd made at the green frog in destin. by the time we got to the new orleans city limits, she was all set to find a club to try dancing herself. she had mixed feelings about it but the money sounded way too good.

i explained to her my usual circuit of drinking there in the quarter: molly's, coop's, the irish bar on bourbon that had a great small bar in the back of the larger one, a couple of nameless places on burgundy, & back to molly's or coops. we were staying at the old burgundy inn. she went off to find a club that would let her dance just that one night & she'd come find me when she did. s. pulled this off several years before but she'd made friends w/the "bouncer," who ended up being an off-duty cop who had his hands in lots of semi-illegal activities. at the end of that night, he took half what she made & got a bj from her in the dressing room surrounded by all the other dancers urging her on. he had a monstrously huge cock, she said. she hadn't minded him taking half(she still made over $500)& her only regret was that she didn't fuck him. she made arrangements w/him to come back over to new orleans to work for him. that never happened. s. had a pretty short attention span. she probably just forgot.

it took terra a couple of places but she found one, right there on bourbon st. i congratulated her. she hesitated then asked, "would you be there for the first time? i'd just feel more comfortable w/you in the audience." i hadn't figured on this. first, it would cut into my drinking. second, i'd decided never to watch anyone i knew dance for the first time after both j. & e. had me watch & i'd been dumbfounded & embarrassed by how bad they were. e. was a lovely young woman w/a lovely figure but she couldn't dance to save her life. she wandered around the stage. same w/j but she actually thought she could dance & that made things worse. they made money but...i didn't want to go through that again. terra pleaded w/me. i caved.

the bar itself was several steps up from the place s. had debuted. lots of mirrors & disco dance mirror balls, neon & blinding, stinging smoke. there was a main stage, front & center & various other smaller stages scattered here & there around the main room. i took my usual seat near the rear & paid the outrageous $9 for a beer. terra came up to the table & said she'd be on after another 2 or 3 girls. she seemed a little nervous but excited too. she had borrowed an outfit from another girl & augmented it's look w/a hippy spangled shawl that she'd brought over w/her from p'cola. i reassured her & took a small sip from my beer. i was itching to guzzle it but didn't want to spend another $9. that's the price of two beers in the places i drank.

i was ruminating on this & not really in the mood to see terra naked for the umpteenth time. the other girls weren't bad looking & some could dance ok. i was thinking that things could be worse. suddenly, terra burst through the curtains & onto the stage. the great russian impresario diaghilev challenged cocteau once: "astonish me," he is said to have dared. quite frankly, i was astonished. terra was like a whirling dervish, covering the stage in seemingly well-choreographed angles, while undulating & twirling her long arms up to heaven & down along her body. she spun & shook & shimmied. her body seemed to shape-shift depending on the music. even her breasts looked good up there under the lights. money began to rain down onto the stage. her energy seemed inexhaustible & the pleasure she was clearly getting from simply dancing was palpable. at the end of every song, she beamed. the stage was covered w/money & her g-sting was stuffed w/more. she was quite a hit; she was, even more, a natural up there.

i slipped out after i'd congratulated her briefly. later that night, she woke me up in a feverish state. "look at all this money!!," she panted, " i made $1400 in five hours." "great," i mumbled. "i want to take you out for breakfast," she continued. "ok, in the morning," i managed to get out. "it IS morning. it's 5am," she insisted. she was definitely manic, flying high on adrenalin. i rolled over. she left me alone & went out by herself.

a star, of sorts, was born that weekend. terra started working at sammy's down in ft. walton beach, making an inconceivable amount of money, & continuing to live for a while w/me. she got even better at dancing & she was always clever when she performed. for example, she would wear men's clothes out on the stage or start her show naked & slowly put her clothes back on. she never worked the pole. ever. she & haller moved out to phoenix where she made even more money but it was then that it dawned on me that she wasn't saving a penny of it. she'd do absurdly extravagant things like buy a pure-bred malamute dog & then find out she wasn't allowed to have animals at her apartment. she'd give the dog away. she ended up back in new orleans, working the clubs there. i ran into her once by accident on decatur street when i was over for a concert or just relief. she told me then that she was thinking about other more legit forms of employment. dancing, she said, was taking its toll. she was 24yo.

three years later i was a long long way from p'cola & the outrigger. i was living in the mission in san francisco. i had followed c. out across the country. she was a bright & beautiful italian who worked as a librarian during the day & danced at the lusty lady in north beach 3 nights a week. the lusty lady didn't pay out like the other strip-joints i was familiar with but she didn't seem to mind. it was more an experiment for her. anyway, i was sitting in a coffee house in the mission by myself & in walked a couple. the woman looked exactly like terra. terra had a pretty unique full mouthed smile, resembling the monster in the movie alien, all teeth seemed exposed. it was a fascinating sight to see. this woman did the smile. i was a little stunned. for some reason, i didn't really want to engage w/her. i rose a little unsteadily to clear out but she saw me first. "dan? is that you? omg, it IS you," she nearly screeched. they had just that hour gotten into sf. this coffeehouse was the first place they'd stopped. "of all the cheap gin joints...".

they were actually headed down south to los angeles. i helped them find a temporary place to stay. terra was no longer dancing; she was a masseuse. she'd actually trained for it & had a certificate to prove it. a few days later, i met them at the albatross bar in berkeley. terra was hammered & the bar had just opened. at some point she was explaining to the boyfriend the exact nature of our relationship(i got the distinct impression that jealousy formed an underlying aspect to THEIR relationship). "i lived w/him for nearly a year," she slurred, " & he never fucked me, never tried to fuck me." the boyfriend seemed incredulous. i think he could have processed me a little easier if there had been a sexual angle. "no really," she slapped the table for emphasis, " it was some kind of weird code he had, wanted to look my father, that bastard, in the eye, couldn't if he'd fucked me. at least that's what he said." she burst out laughing & her alien teeth extended menacingly. "he missed it. he really missed out," she sceamed out laughing. the boyfriend agreed. "she's the hottest piece of ass i've ever had," he asserted, jaw jutting out, "you really missed it." he was smirking.

i just shrugged, an uncomfortable fake smile straining my face. i had nothing to say to that. nothing at all.

Monday, May 25, 2009

what falls away is always. and is near.

Theodore Roethke
b. May 25, 1908 -d. August 1, 1963

The Reckoning
All profits disappear: the gain
Of ease, the hoarded, secret sum;
And now grim digits of old pain
Return to litter up our home.

We hunt the cause of ruin, add,
Subtract, and put ourselves in pawn;
For all our scratching on the pad,
We cannot trace the error down.

What we are seeking is a fare
One way, a chance to be secure:
The lack that keeps us what we are,
The penny that usurps the poor.

Theodore Roethke

at present, there's no big "roethke industry" cranking out phd's & dissertations by the hundreds. in fact, he's kind of disappeared from any intelligent discourse about poetry & poetics in america. there was a time when he was a huge presence in that world. most of us remember him from his villanelle, "the waking,"('i wake to sleep & take my waking slow'). it was mandatory reading as far back as jonte pryor's class in 10th grade english. roethke was a nature poet & a natural one too. the former isn't a knock(tho it used to be)& the latter is clear in his rhythms & enjambments & word play. i imagine he'll come back into fashion at some point. his generation of poets was one of the first to be drawn into the college teaching profession, much to most of their detriment. but there's still a lot of work to be done on berryman & bishop & jarrell & lowell & roethke. there may even be a phd in it for someone.

jay bennett RIP

the multi-instrumentalist jay bennett died unexpectedly yesterday. he was 45yo. his work in wilco during its crucial phase of creative breakthrough(beginning w/being there through yankee hotel foxtrot)was inimitable & grounded the sound of the band even as tweedy directed it into the creative stratosphere. he was a big presence in the film, i am trying to break your heart, not only because of his musicianship but because tweedy actually fired him on camera.

here he is w/tweedy during a happier moment in the film.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

i'm not there

ROBERT ZIMMERMAN b. may 24th, 1941

"The passion for the absurd can grow only in a man who has exhausted everything, yet is still capable of undergoing awesome transfigurations. For one who has lost everything there is nothing left in life except the passion of the absurd. What else in life could still move such a person? What seductions?"
em ciroran

the new album is ok. nothing startling like the previous three albums that resurrected his career. those albums were pure dylan, the great lyrics & stories, his unique vocal phrasings, & excellent musicianship & production. on the best songs of the new album, that's all there too. there's still a sense of distractedness to the new album, a lack of commitment to whatever the original project was. it could be the collaborative thing w/hunter, maybe the lack of memorable melody comes from that. i don't get the makeover of "midnight special" at all. the song mike found so offensive("life is hard) doesn't offend me or most other reviewers i've read. dylan has given us some real stinkers in the past("winterlude", anyone?). i think this one stands out because of how different it is from the other songs on the album.

i like the idea of the band sounding like a border town bar band. i also reminds me of walking down frenchmen in the marigny in new orleans & hearing this kind of music coming out of the spotted cat or dba or snug harbor. it's bar band music & it takes it's subject matter from classic bar songs: lost love, betrayal, jails, drinking. it's not for nothing that bruce davidson's pic was chosen here for the cover. the pic was also on the paperback version of larry browns' big bad love which also deals w/lost love, betrayal, jails, & drinking.

what's most striking is that it's a solid album. over half of the songs work for me & that's a pretty good percentage nowadays. none of the other early pop masters(young, morrison, simon, etc)are producing anything as strong as dylan's late output. there is a history of a few artists hitting a late great period. the material produced is usually death haunted, deeply intro/retrospective, mournful. certainly his last 3 albums had that going on but not this one. tho "it's all good" is deeply & corrosively cynical, most of the songs seem more focused on the sound rather than the sense of things.

dylan plays nearly 300 live shows a year & has been doing that for years now. he knows all about the night life, the sights & sounds of the wee morning hours. maybe the night life is his last seduction, the one that's still seducing him. this album seems like a glimpse of that.

strong songs: beyond here lies nothin', my wife's home town, forgetful heart, i feel a change comin' on, it's all good.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Dreams are often most profound when they seem the most crazy.


"I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact." claude levi strauss


"The world began without man, and it will complete itself without him." claude levi strauss

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

chinese box

"Officials in the sprawling city of Chongqing, where Love Land was being built, recently became incensed over the risqué nature of the park and ordered its destruction, according to a report published Sunday in the Chongqing Evening News, a state-run newspaper. Angry Internet postings about the park had been proliferating, and China Daily, the official English-language newspaper, published an article about the park last Friday." nyt

i'm not sure we have one of these in the usa. ok, well, there's vegas. but that's really really subtle, don't you think? i'm puzzled why anyone over there thought this was going to work. i mean, i know there has to be a LOT of sex going on because there are so many people living there but an amusement park?

no government has ever fallen solely because of sexual repression. i guess folks are just too embarrassed about it all. i do remember a lovely young co-ed standing up in my "freud & his impact" class at new college & passionately declaiming, "why can't we all just have sex w/whomever & whenever we please" to which my gorgeous professor, faye hansen, drolly replied, "because no bridges would ever get built." i took note of the co-ed's position & eventually explored several others w/her. i thought faye might be wrong.

i do have to say that this is the first sign i've seen of the insidious contamination of china by good ol' capitalism. i read some wag during the height of the cold war saying that the russians invading america would fail because they'd all be opening macdonald's franchises within minutes of landing.

i'm sorry this didn't catch on over there. i've always had a deep belief in the fundamental power of sex to change things. who knows? when it all comes tumbling down over there we might look back on this & see the incipient moment of the revolution. a real & true sexual revolution! power to the people!


"Feed, you slave; thou mayst think thyself happy to be fed from my trencher." ~ Christopher Marlowe

an idea that's perfect as far as i'm concerned: a big meaty haunch of roast, dripping w/its juices, set upon thick cut slices of grilled whole wheat bread. each guest is served several slices of beef & a thick cut piece of the juice soaked bread. perfect dining.

back when christopher marlowe was walking the earth, the "help only" got the trencher. the big wigs got the meat.

mr fergus henderson, author & chef, has championed this dish as something new millenium diners would covet(the pic is his roast marrow bones & parsley salad w/trenchers). i agree.

mike & i saw him speak over in sf. clever chap, that fergus. his terrific & cherished cookbooks are:

"Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking"
"Beyond Nose To Tail".

our endless numbered days

one of the side effects of living, of running through this peculiar obstacle course of accumulated days is the human affliction of retrospection. heidigger argued that the human creature's ability to look into the future & think about non-existence was what separated us from other creatures. as a buddhist, i can say that's what motivates & structures the ethics of my beliefs. the idea of death, it's unexpected but inevitable appearance in ALL our lives, should make me try to live a better life. i mean, who wants to suddenly die eating chips on the couch watching re-runs of hawaii 5-O? our days seemed so endless...who knew they were numbered?

as a buddhist, though, i also know that what we've done in our past will very much impact our future, either the immediate one or the one we've fashioned by our living. you don't have to believe in reincarnation to understand that every contact, every relationship, every moment of our living present ricochets out into the future in an incalculable way. whether we have another life in the future isn't as clear as the fact that this life right now has effects on others that WILL manifest in the future. our being in the world will impact lives well after our being has gone from the world. anyone w/any clear thinking about their families will know exactly what i'm talking about here.

there are artists who focus on this idea of how our past behavior impacts the quality of our present. no living film maker has summoned the exquisite torture of regret like wong kar wai. watching in the mood for love, i felt like i was being physically crippled by a longing beyond regret, beyond human capacity. sam beam of iron & wine has a sense of this too. so many of his songs sound like lullabies to mistakes, accidents, stupid behavior in the past. the suffering in his songs is palpable. in most cases, there's no malicious intent but he is a southerner(a floridian, as a matter of fact!!!)& malicious intent IS sometimes there between the lines. i have to say that committing an act of evil w/malicious intent against a friend & never really acknowledging it would be a hard thing to live with. as years went by, i imagine you'd have to include others(say, loved ones)in the act which then becomes larger, nearly unmanageable(since others are now included, you have NO idea where their feelings will take things). like the young girl in ian mac ewan's atonement, this can lead to shattering, disastrous consequences.

or not.

imagine your malicious actions really never having any real consequences. imagine it not spreading though the social grapevine. imagine the friend never calling you on it, never exposing it to other friends. imagine being forgiven for no other reason than friendship. it happens.

it might not work in hollywood but it does happen.

this iron & wine song is lovely. it's always made me think of my first love, alicia. i was pretty stupid when i was 13yo. i'm not sure i've gotten any smarter since but i'm offering it here for someone else now. they know who they are & their loved one will never be the wiser.


"if you fake the funk, your nose will grow"

lack of leadership always leads to a lack of sensible direction. w/no one to point out the way, there will be several ways & unclear ideas about how to proceed. there will be confusion & indecision. w/no one to take responsibility, the end results usually won't be clear, & therefore will lack a true sense of accomplishment. most worrisome is the end may be the end: unforeseen disaster, embarrassments, termination. when people are casting about & flailing away, it's best to duck & get out of the way. no one is safe.

i wrote earlier about the republican's confused political strategies. none of that has changed. pundits are still shaking their heads in wonderment & disbelief. i will say right here & now that unlike many of the pundits, i won't particularly be sad to see this train wreck. i think we do need intelligent opposition here in america but the republicans haven't been that for nearly two decades. i am hoping the republican recovery from their political trauma will produce new leaders w/new ideas & will jettison the problematic elements that cling to the old divisive social issues. these problematic elements are the ones gunning for a "purge" of the moderates in the party. they're the ones who are ensuring another embarrassing defeat for their party come 2010.

unbelievably, their flailing away might actually have a reverse purge effect. in their efforts to get any traction against obama & the democrats, they've moved on nancy pelosi & are piling on. that's fine; that's politics in washington. the problem is that it isn't a political issue they're jumping on. they seem to think it is & that's what's so squeamishly fascinating here. the issue is torture: who did it, who knew about it, who authorized it. the democratic administration had appeared to be working double time to prevent an investigation into the former administration's involvement. that's not going to work now, not w/the leaderless republicans basically admitting that torture DID happen but pelosi knew & she's guilty too. investigations are now picking up speed, uncovering the astonishing fact that they tortured NOT to make america safe(an initial defense)but to make the case for the invasion of iraq.

it seems to me that the republicans MIGHT win a small skirmish(diverting attention from the dems)while bringing on a catastrophic unwinnable war. as unimaginable as it is right now to picture cheney(along w/a number of other die-hard bush loyalists) standing trial for war crimes, every day the republicans harrangue against pelosi brings that picture more into focus. there may well be a purge of the republican party but not the one they have in mind. the once impervious "bushies," who lorded over the party, ruled the country foolishly, & declared they'd be in control for generations could be the ones going to jail or just publicly disgraced. this will have happened thanks almost solely to the republicans themselves. in their fervor to inflict any kind of damage on the enemy, they've jumped on the bomb themselves & seem hell-bent on riding it all the way to the end. when that end comes though, i don't think anyone will be thanking them.

Monday, May 18, 2009


curve bend
away like space

blind moves time w/determination towards things w/o determination. along a drifting, slow curve rapture all ruptures evolve. we allow moments withheld in the usual manner, bend towards the gaps of intervention. a slide away w/discreet gestures. you might like a moment's grace, a simple reward for endurance. all the measurements accord a space or two in the design, a respite or an expiation.


grilled tri-tip steak w/salsa rioja, eggs & arugula on a fresh corn tortilla w/side order of corona.

"i always find the broken ones..."

bob mould introduced himself to the world via the epochal 80s band, husker du. along w/rem & the 'mats, husker du got me listening to contemporary music again(i was collecting new orleans music at the time). they could thrash w/the best of the punk bands but somehow included a touch of melodiousness that softened the edges w/o turning it into mush. mould's lyrics always seemed to indicate a thinking mind & that continued w/his solo albums & his work w/his band after husker du, sugar.

this is from his newest solo album, life & times. i have to say it sure rings pretty damned true. who hasn't had these thoughts?



i've always had a fascination w/islands. i suppose it's because they're surrounded by water & water was my element for many years. i remember very clearly as a 6yo insisting to deeply skeptical friends that pensacola was an island. i argued that there were enough bayous & small rivers criss-crossing the p'cola geography to surround the town & separate it from the "mainland." i consulted maps. no one else(not even bill thorton)got caught up in the romance of my p'cola island idea. it just fizzled away, replaced by thorton's tunnels or the neighborhood pine cone wars.

still, islands remained in my life. there was key west & anna maria island(in sarasota). there's island in florida south of tallahassee. i spent a large chunk of my life on santa rosa island, in my teens & then, back again post-college, at the outrigger. now, it's alameda island, sitting out here in san francisco bay, west of oakland.

other than the water, i think what i find attractive is the island mentality. there's a small town atmosphere on islands. everything is in walking distance. it's mostly quiet & there's very little crime. i once picked up a local paper & read through it's "crime report" section: oddly enough, there seems to be a lot of people out here bitten by various animals. no armed robberies but a whole lot of dog biting going on. who knew?

anyway, this weekend's unseasonably hot weather that wilted the cats & me brought out more people to our end of the island than i've ever seen. at 4pm in the afternoon folks were still heading out in groups to sun bathe on the beach. i thought there must be some kind of event or that someone was giving away money down there. when i went to check it out, all i saw were regular folks just having a weekend day in the sun on the beach. several thousand stretching all the way down the beach strip that runs along shoreline dr out here for several miles. all perfectly normal & mundane, those beach umbrellas & crowds gladdened the heart. i nearly forgot about the heat.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


i gotta tell you: there's nothing like fat middle-aged guys sitting up in the stands at ball games criticizing the quality of the player's efforts, esp when the fat middle-aged guys have various, contrary & flat-out weird opinions about "how the game is supposed to be played," the game they've either not played since little league or maybe high school. i find this kind of behavior more annoying than the loons who act like THEY hit the damn home-run that won the game.

issuing their god-like judgments from the olympus of their stadium seats that their fat asses are sitting in, these "fans" feel completely justified because, well, they know "how the game is supposed to be played" & since their emotional or intellectual investments have been focused onto one team or another, they feel entitled, as if they OWNED the player, the team, the sport itself, to their criticisms. this odd sense of ownership can make sane people act pretty damned crazy.

now i have been pretty clear here about what i think about juicers. this has little to do w/"how the game is supposed to be played" & more to do w/cheating & actually breaking the law. but let me be clearer here now: i'm all for the more stringent rules about juicing. let's see the olympic model be adopted: first violation, three years & the second violation, you're literally OUT of the game. the multi-millionaire superstars will be more apt to pay attention when their contracts for the multi-millions can be voided. manny might hate losing that $7million but losing ALL the money the dodgers ponied up would have quite a bit more bite.

what to do about the past & how that impacts the record books? well, that's a little more complicated. in terms of the hall of fame, anyone who's tested positive(yes, every one of those 104 guys on the infamous "list")is out. period. i'm pretty sure i'm all for having the positive test guys' records expunged too. this is a little more dicey but i have no problem w/the hard line here too.

as for mike's argument about "the one dimensional player?" it's as silly as most of his odd opinions about the game. ever hear of mark belanger, the very weak(just above the mendoza line)hitting shortstop of the baltimore orioles back in the day? great w/the glove, couldn't hit the side of a barn. there's lots more like him(george mcbride, ed brinkman,et al). they've always been part of the game. remember gorman thomas? could hit nothing but an occasional home run & certainly couldn't play the field. guys like gorman have been around forever too. it's not clear to me when the "golden era" of baseball existed that saw every player on every team a "complete" dimaggio-like player. i'm pretty sure it exists only in mike's mind.

the fan noises i made that night at att weren't for manny. it's true: manny doesn't seem to want to play in the field. that's manny being manny. it's obvious & always has been. however, i have seen him make exceptional plays in the outfield. he can certainly motivate around the bases w/the best of them. & he can hit. clutch hit too. & since the numbers are quite to the contrary, it's silly to suggest he's a liability to his team. as far as i'm concerned that's all moot at this point(see above). my fan noises that night had more to do w/being a fan, w/refraining from presumptuous judgments. i don't see that it is making a positive contribution to the discourse, as we used to say, like calling someone a "bum." professional sports are hard & the guys(a very very small percentage)who make it & play them for our entertainment are exceptionally skilled beyond the middle-aged fat guy's imagination. savaging these exceptional athletes for lacking one skill or another that i think they should have is ludicrous.

i could go on & speculate that this demand for the "complete ballplayer" led to the "juiced" era. certainly the insatiable demands of the fans for more & bigger numbers did. player egos had something to do w/it too(tho less than the players wanting to cash in). of course, in some fan's minds, the "juiced era" WAS the golden era of baseball(until the stench of the drugs became overwhelming).

manny will be back. i'm not particularly glad about it but he'll be back. such is the nature of the game at the present time. i heard buster olney, an ok baseball guy, say that when it came time for him to vote for the "juiced" era's guys for the hall of fame, he's just going to assume that everyone did it & vote for the stats. this is fundamentally wrong on so many levels but that's where things are now. i guess mocking a player for not hustling & playing up to a fantasized
ideal of "how the game's played" isn't such a bad thing considering olney's position.

that's just mike being mike.

"that cuban girl who brought me low..."

i had a run on great music back in the mid 90s. team dresch, palace, beck, chris whitley. i'm still listening to most of them, even their new stuff. at the time i was wooing a beautiful recent college grad who was working at barnes & nobles in charlottesville. she was deeply impressed by my cool music taste. i think i knew i was in when she made a "music tape" for me that included liz phair doing several sex tunes(eg. "fuck & run"). anyway, one of the groups that i really liked back then was soul coughing. they had a great groove, funny hip cynical lyrics, & the singer had a rough tho interesting voice. the singer was the band's front man & creative force, mike doughty, & their brief flirtation w/success back then nearly did him in. it did do the band in.

he's on his own now & doing well, judging by his solo releases. the first video is from an early solo album, haughty melodic, & the last one is from his newest album, released last year, golden delicious. he seems to like girls. i like girls too. he seems to take them leaving him badly. i get that. the beautiful italian barnes & noble girl dumped me after i dropped out of grad school at uva & followed her across the country to sf. once she knew she had me, it just wasn't exciting anymore. i should have been able to see that coming for miles. if i'd listened more closely to her "music tape" & liz phair's "go west." i guess i don't really pay enough attention to the music. it's all in there if you just take the time to listen but a good groove can confuse things. it's always hard to "access the essence of the mess" when you're in the middle of it. it always seems to require being brought low. w/the music, doughty gets through it. i get that too.

Friday, May 15, 2009

edna lewis' buttermilk biscuits

i made a batch of these last saturday morning. quick & easy to whip up, the recipe features her homemade baking powder(cream of tartar mixed w/baking soda)which eliminates the chemical taste of storebought baking powder. things always look & feel so much better when you have a batch of these straight out of the oven.

Hands on time: 10 minutes Total time: 22 minutes Serves: 15

5 cups sifted White Lily flour (measured after sifting)
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons homemade baking powder (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup packed lard, chilled
1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk, plus a few tablespoons more if needed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat over to 500 degrees. Put the flour, homemade baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk well to thoroughly blend. Add the lard and, working quickly, coat in flour and rub between your fingertips until about half the lard is coarsely blended and the other half remains in large pieces about 1/2 inch in size.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir quickly, just until the dough is blended and begins to mass. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky and there should not be large amounts of unincorporated flour in the bowl. If dough is too dry, add a few tablespoons more buttermilk.
Turn the dough immediately onto a generously floured surface, and with floured hands knead briskly 8 to 10 times until a cohesive dough is formed.
Gently flatten the dough with your hands so it is of an even thickness. Then, using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a uniform thickness of 1/2 inch. (If the dough begins to stick to your rolling pin, dust the pin — not the dough — with flour. Flouring the dough at this point will result in dusty-looking biscuits.) With a dinner fork dipped in flour, pierce the dough completely through at 1/2-inch intervals.
Lightly flour a 2 1/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out rounds. (Do not twist the cutter when stamping out biscuits.) Cut the biscuits from the dough as close together as you can for a maximum yield. Arrange cut biscuits on a heavy, ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet so that they almost touch. Do not re-roll the scraps. Just bake as is and enjoy as a treat.
Bake in upper third of the oven for 8 to 12 minutes until crusty golden brown. (Check about 6 minutes into baking and rotate the pan if needed to ensure even cooking.) Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Serve hot.
Homemade baking powder recipe: Sift together three times 1/4 cup cream of tartar and 2 tablespoons baking soda. Transfer to a clean, dry, tight-sealing jar. Store at room temperature, away from direct sunlight, for up to four weeks. Use in any recipe calling for commercial baking powder.
Per biscuit: 234 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 5 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 14 milligrams cholesterol, 553 milligrams sodium.

"this is a pretty fucking good milkshake"

i know we're very priviledged to have thomas keller so close, attending to our dining needs. the french laundry experience(dinner)is as close to a grand old european dining experience as you'll ever have. what takes it to another place is that it's been re-imagined by an american sensibility & supplied by california produce.

beyond the french laundry, keller has also given us bouchon, his take on a french brasserie. i've never had a bad moment at bouchon. ann ranks it up there w/the best of the best meals she's ever had. it's definitely way up there for me too. we just had another excellent lunch there on our ill-fated day trip up to napa(another flat tire). the meal took a little of the sting out of a mostly wasted stressful day.

ann had a goat cheese salad & their justly famous french fries. i, on the other hand, pigged out. meat, meat, & more meat. my appetizer was rabbit rillettes w/a fava bean salad(rillettes: slow cooked meat from whatever animal held together w/rendered fat, breaded & fried). my entree, "joue et epaule de porc," was braised pork cheeks w/pork shoulder rillettes, du puy lentils, young leeks, shallots, frisee & pork jus. both were fabulous, rich but not too rich that i felt comatose.

as we were waiting to order, the young restaurant manager came up to me. "excuse me but i noticed the t-shirt you were wearing," he said. i'd chosen my jerry's drive-in shirt w/the giant pink pig & "fried chicken gizzards" emblazoned across the back. "ah, you know jerry's drive-in?," i asked as if we were talking about michel bras' restaurant in laguiole. "i've eaten there many many times," he replied, "i'm from p'cola." he'd worked for chan("quite a piece of work, that guy") back there & came out to napa to seek his fame & fortune w/mr. keller. he was even a fried gizzard fan. amazing. he'd been to the outrigger as a kid but we didn't seem to have any folks in common("o yeah, you're the short little fucker w/glasses"). still, what a moment to have in napa.

all this is to say that i've always been completely satisfied when i've been hosted by the establishments of thomas keller. i haven't been to his new place, ad hoc, & probably won't go. this is supposed to be his "economical" place: simple food, cheaper prices. michael wrote about his meal there a while back. he had lunch. this breakfast menu is new. they just started offering breakfast. judging from the price(&24)for oatmeal or bacon & eggs, it's hard for me to imagine they'll be offering it in this form for long. on the other hand, it is keller & that's my complaint: there's a good chance people will pay this(even for breakfast)because they can't afford or can't get into the french laundry but still want a tourist-y moment w/keller. keller hasn't been known for gouging his clientele but this is getting pretty damned close. i don't want to sound like vincent vega("a $5 milkshake????) here but a $24 waffle is just silly. i guess they could claim that you're paying for being in napa(these prices are exactly TWICE what you'd pay for excellent food at bette's oceanfront diner in berkeley). maybe so but not me. i'll settle for bouchon or martini house or cindy's backstreet diner or ralph's or downtown bakery when i'm up that way. & i'll have my corned beef hash at bette's.

welcome to
Breakfast at ad hoc
Bouchon Breakfast Pastries

blood orange vanilla jam, blueberry marmalade honey butter

Pineapple Yogurt Parfait
With Spring Fruit Salad

Classic American

two eggs any style, scallion potato cakes
fatted calf breakfast sausage & slab bacon


Sourdough Waffles

maple syrup, apple compote, whipped cream
fatted calf breakfast sausage & slab bacon


Anson Mills Stone Cut Oatmeal

brown sugar, marshall’s farm honey
spiced apricots and raisins


Corned Beef Hash

Snake river farms corned beef brisket,
yukon gold potatoes, poached hen eggs


directly across the street from the french laundry, the produce gardens for keller's yountville restaurants. quite a view.


"The tom, it turned out, was not only a solvent, but also a disciplined beast. At the conductor's first cry, he ceased his advance, got down from the step, and sat down at the stop, rubbing his whisker with the coin. But as soon as the conductor pulled the cord and the cars started, the tom proceeded to do what anyone else would who had been expelled from a streetcar but must nevertheless get to his destination. Allowing all three cars to go by, the tom jumped up onto the rear of the last one, sank his claws into a rubber tube projecting from the wall, and rode away, thus saving himself the fare."

this great bitterly comedic novel is definitely in my top 25 of all time. sometimes you wonder how it got published in soviet russia. fact is, it wasn't published during his lifetime but 26years after his death. even then it was a contraband piece of literature for many years. amazingly, it has all the features of a meta-fictional LATE 20th century work: fantastic events, stories within stories, animal characters. salman rushdie claims it to be his inspiration for The Satanic Verses.
it certainly makes you wonder just how much great art was lost during the soviet years.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"on the guest list for life"

this is will johnson doing a solo version of a centromatic song. johnson is the creative spark behind centromatic & south san gabriel. he's also done a few solo albums. along w/jason molina of songs:ohia & magnolia electric company, johnson is one of my favorite oddballs. they both fly pretty much under the radar but i'm not sure a larger audience would help. they seem content w/the niche they've opened for themselves & fill capably. they're somewhere between the grander visions & sounds of wilco & son volt but less eccentric & more open than pajo or bill callahan.

& as a bonus, this is johnson w/south san gabriel. this song is from their concept album, the carlton chronicles, about a cat.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

carnage & the republican culture

i've been reading victor davis hanson's carnage and culture, a book about landmark military battles(salumis, tenochtitlan, midway, tet, etc)& how each of those battles somehow reflected or embodied an aspect of western culture that's allowed it to be so dominant for so long.

in his chapter on the great battle of midway, he writes:

" although slow to anger, western constitutional govenments usually perfered wars of annihilation---wiping the melians off the map of the aegean, sowing the ground of carthage with salt, turning ireland into a near wasteland...and were far more deadly adversaries than military dynasts & autocrats...western militaries continued to believe that the most economic way of waging war was to find the enemy, collect sufficient forces to overwhelm him and then advance directly and openly to ANNIHILATE him on the battlefield..."(emphasis mine).

when i read this i thought about what the republican party is doing at present. every night ann & i sit slack-jawed in front of the television watching another episode of the republican melt-down. over & over, they defy political common-sense & flail away at clearly manufactured straw-men or blindly genuflect to ghosts of glory days past(reagan & teddy roosevelt, for god's sake!)& proffer ideas that have either been proven deeply wrong-headed or simply no longer applicable. what in the hell are they doing, we keep asking.

when i read that hanson passage i dawned on me that THAT'S what they're doing. having won the culture wars w/reagan & dubya & having very nearly annihilated their liberal opponents, they can't give that impulse up. it's rendered them incapable of compromise.

sf chron today did a story on john mccain's daugher, meghan, as the future face of the republican party. she's pro-sex, pro-life, pro-gay marriage. i'm doubtful. but what i DO know is this: the republicans will endure another humiliating loss in 2010. unless obama makes some unbelievable & unforeseeable & catastrophic mistake(btw, god help us if that happens), they will be forced to re-evaluate their intransigence. self-preservation will make them re-think their position which by then will itself be on the brink of annihilation by their own hand & that is definitely NOT how they roll. i think by then they will NOT be a party of "you're either with me or against me" on all issues. they will have to accept pro-choice, pro-gay candidates. mainly, they're going to have to accept that, for the most part, the american public will no longer be swayed by emotional social issues(abortion, gun control, gay marriage). this is not to say those issues won't be on the table then. what i am saying is that the public will no longer elect candidates who ONLY stand for their side on those issues & have no clue about economic & global issues. if you aren't working & can't feed your family or we're at the mercy of foreign oil powers, worrying about bob being married to fred seems kind of irrelevant, or more precisely, a luxury.

what's amazing to me is that the republican party adopted this "all or nothing" militarialist position while being helmed by draft dodging, self-serving craven ass-wipes like dubya & cheney(not to mention the worthless sack of human flesh, rush limbaugh). hell, reagan didn't ever see ACTIVE duty.

if we're to see the two party system continue, the moderates of the republican party will have to take a stand against the 25% right wing base of the party. they cannot win w/just them in their corner. the party will have to return to the real roots of american sucess & learn again that compromise & tolerance is more american than annihilation despite our history & inclinations.

something's lost & something's gained

i have to admit i fell for it. they outfoxed me this time. i didn't see this coming at all. i thought they were going the easy way, the "happy" ending way, the romance w/cutty that michael dreaded. they'd actually set us up for this the WHOLE season. like i said, i fell for it.

i'd been outraged during the penultimate episode of this season. detoxing in 12 hours? give me a break. detoxing & solving the case & winning the girl? wtf? who were they trying to sell this bs to?

having lived through one professionally supervised detox & several unsupervised ones, i was just writing this series off. bad season. they'd done it before. the silly one(that COULD have been great)w/david morse. they had a track record of not going all the way w/what they started. i supposed amber's death should have clued me in. these writing guys are on the tight-rope of writing weird interesting stuff for a hugely popular show. usually killing characters off just doesn't work in these kinds of shows. bottom-line, there's the contract thing. beyond that, there's the audience that flips every time someone they've gotten comfortable w/leaves, dies, is killed, etc.

i have no problem w/this ending. as it reflects back on the season & you see & think about house's drug problem impacting his relationships long before the outright hallucinations began, you can accept the problematic house/cutty relationship(told mostly from HIS pov), his advice to & badgering of taub, & the final straw for which he blames himself: kutner's suicide.

they did good, those writers.

we go this way

joseph beuys b. MAY 12 1921

During his long and productive career, Beuys helped introduce international audiences to conceptualism, concretism, Fluxus, live performance, site-specific installation and other ecological-experimental forms of art. He took up the torch of “art for the mind” from Marcel Duchamp and carried it forward, using symbolic narratives from his own survival of wartime ordeals, while radically challenging consumerist culture, materialism and instant gratification. He was an evolutionary revolutionary, teacher, funny man, shaman and poet. His message: Culture has the power to change the world (exhibit A: the 7,000 trees Beuys planted at Documenta in Kassel), and art is the only revolutionary power that can free humankind from repression.
- Valery Oisteanu

what did the possibilities for art look like to artists after picasso & duchamp had marked off their territories? after two world wars & the revelations of auschwitz et al., it must have seemed physically impossible to explore the old landscapes. beuys, broodthaers, & eventually, warhol came along to think about things & move them along, each in very different ways.

the first steps after catastrophe tend to be wobbly & either small & tenative or large & reckless. the important thing is to proceed. sometimes that's all that's left to do.