To the top of gravity

15 04 2014

Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to teach his students to write honestly.

I said, Well, yes, but. . . .

To which he replied, Sure, and. . . .

It’s marvelous to tell writers to write the naked truth, to get the courage to strip oneself naked by remembering that everyone else is naked, too.

Human condition: a talisman for bravery.

Except that, well, maybe not so much “Except that” as “In addition to” the call to honesty one must remind the student-writers to be brave, that honesty often requires bravery, because honesty is a hard good to handle.

To be honest requires bravery because you might get your teeth kicked in.

It is also the case that to be honest can be, as I put it, “giddifying”: you are loosed from yourself as helium bubbles pop through your skin and you can’t quite believe that the words you wrote and are about to send out are your words meant for everyone. You have broken the sound barrier and speed of light and are now stretching beyond time.

You think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I’m being honest, at least how I can feel after having written: discombobulated and disoriented and blinking and wondering just where the gravity went.

Not always, not most times. But sometimes, still.

Such a glorious sensation: I’d chase it forever if it weren’t so unreliable.

Or I, braver.





Here kitty kitty

10 04 2014

Jasper, who normally leaves me to eat my meals in peace, will grab my plate and try to stick his nose into my food whenever I eat one of my spicy homemade bean or mushroom burritos.

I know it’s the spice which draws him: when I spritzed my plants with a capsaicin spray to deter him from munching on the leaves, he responded by munching avidly.

Trickster, on the other hand, prefers dairy products: yogurt (both Greek and regular), and Parmesan—or, in a pinch, Asiago or Pecorino Romano—cheese. She’s also a water baby who likes to drink from the droplets dripping down her face.

Weirdos.





I’m free to do what I want any old time

3 04 2014

I don’t care about Mozilla.

I don’t care that they hired Brendan Eich as CEO, and I don’t care that he resigned.

For the record, my browser is Firefox. If a better open-source alternative comes along, I”ll flick that switch—the browser has freeze issues and, of course, brand loyalty is for suckers—but there was nothing about the Brendan Eich scandale that made me want to switch. Mainly because I thought there was no scandale.

Oh, a CEO is an asshole? Surprise! I bet the CEOs of all of the companies which products I purchase are assholes. Nature of the beast.

But let’s get serious: Is this about who can best lead a company which has to compete for workers from a workforce which is generally pro-gay rights? About just desserts for a man who sought to strip rights from his neighbors and fellow citizens? About illiberal leftists suppressing speech? About gay mafiosi threatening to scour the corporate world clean of any queer-rights deviationists?

Yes? No?

There are no free speech or any other rights in the workplace. You can be fired for voting for the wrong guy, criticizing someone the boss likes, for gaining weight, because the shareholders want to enrich themselves by laying off you or tens or hundreds or thousands of workers, and just for you being you.

And I’m supposed to rend my garments because some asshole found out he didn’t have any more protections than the people who work for him?

There may be a scandal in all of this, but it ain’t what happened to Brandon Eich.





Take it easy

2 04 2014

Man, I have been all kinds of out of sorts recently.

Don’t know what it is. I’m not particularly sad, and there’s nothing going on to make me more stressed than usual.

I can teach, am not having any particular problems leading discussions; in fact, my best times are in the classroom.

But outside, outside my mood and mind just keep skittering off and sideways.

I’m not terrible. Just. . . can’t get easy.





Declare the pennies on your eyes

26 03 2014

Finished my taxes early.

Yeah, early: the last couple of years I’ve completed them on or just before April 15, so finishing them 3 weeks out counts as early for me.

When I first started doing taxes—paper forms, natch—-I almost always completed them in early February. Of course, it helped that I knew I’d be getting a return, so why not file early; given how rarely I’ve ever had to pay in, however, I don’t know why I started lagging.

Actually, last year might have been the first year I had to pay federal (I had that terrible independent contractor job, so got socked when I reported that income), but since moving to New York I’ve paid state taxes a couple of years.

Anyway, my income was lower in 2013 (boo!), which means I get decent returns from both the feds and the state (yay!).

Oh, and what prompted me to take care of all of this now? Welllll, I’m bumping up against a deadline on student loan paperwork which requires tax info. . . .

Yeah, there had to be a reason.





Let it go and so to fade away

24 03 2014

I’ve been circling around and around this post by TNC; still not thinking in straight lines.

Scattered bits: the bad faith of American triumphalism, of progressivism (as Whig history); the shock of my students when I speak plainly about white supremacy; how it is harder for me to speak plainly of male supremacy (/patriarchy?); how white supremacy doesn’t just hurt black people; how male supremacy doesn’t just hurt female people.

And then the posts on waning Christendom in the US, on the erosion of religious structures, what it all means. More circling.

But this: to look to God is to look away, that religious belief seems to me a form of alienation, a scrim between oneself and the world.

Of course, to the believer, it is I who am alienated.

How any of this relates to kenosis, I don’t know.

And through a side door: we carry our troubles with us. If I have a morality, it is that we should carry our troubles with us. We have to learn how to carry them, so they trouble us less, and when memory is enough.

This is one way to find out who we are.

The troubles are ours; they can’t be given up to God without giving up ourselves.

But then, that might be the point. To some.

I’ll try to think better, to gather these flyaway threads.





The lady don’t mind

24 03 2014

Trickster doesn’t care that I have work to do.

She doesn’t care that I’m eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

008

She doesn’t care that I just want to sit where I want, how I want, or how comfortable I am.

Trickster wants in my lap.

004

Now.





Listen to the music: The beat goes on

19 03 2014

I bought a lot of albums, and then a lot of cds, from the Electric Fetus on Fourth Avenue, in Minneapolis.

It was right across the bridge over 34W separating Phillips from Whittier, although it didn’t really seem like Whittier until you crossed Nicollet. I lived in and around Stevens Square for a few years, and the feel in that neighborhood was different from—gritter than—Whittier.

Anyway, 4th Ave near Franklin Avenue was kind of shitty, what with cars screaming by on the interstate below. Above Franklin there was a huge brown wall to try to block out the noise, but it wasn’t clear that the wall was much of an improvement.

The Fetus was on the other side of Franklin, on the southwest corner. It was, initially, right on that corner, crammed into this tiny space next to an Ace Hardware. When the hardware store moved (into a space in a mini-mall on Nicollet & 18th), the Fetus stretched itself into that new space. It was a bit discombobulating, at first, but they made good use of all that room, expanding both the head-shop portion at the front of the store and the music in the rest. The classical section was the most spare, but the jazz and blues kicked ass, and the international selections were a revelation.

In addition to African and Brazilian music, I got into Nordic and Scandinavian tunes when I lived there (it didn’t hurt that NorthSide Records mainlined that stuff into the city): Hedningarna. Hoven Droven. Väsen. Garmana—have you listened to “Gamen”? Jesus. Go listen to it!—and my beloved, and still missing, Finnish Ambient Techno Chant.

I bought both new and used cds, and a lot of them. The Fetus had a policy that if you bought 3 or more cds, you’d get 10 percent off; three or four times a year everything in the store would be 20 percent off. It wasn’t my only record store, but they did get a lot of my money.

The folks who worked there were the Minneapolis version of the stereotypical sullen music snob, which is to say, not that sullen, and not that snobbish. And every once in a while they’d throw a free promo cd into your bag, sometimes because it was there, and sometimes because there was something you bought that made them think you’d like this new music, too.

They tossed in an Esthero ep, which worked: I bought the full-length cd. A Beth Orton ep led me to multiple cds, and if you asked what they were playing on the store’s sound system, they’d toss you the jewel case and let you inspect if for yourself.

They didn’t do the hard sell; the music was enough.

I found that same attitude in the guy who ran the used cd shop on lower St Denis in Montréal. I bought a lot at a shop on Mont Royal, but had almost no interaction with that shop’s staff; at this store—and I cannot remember it’s, or his, name—the owner loved to talk early punk and new wave. I was the right age (if a bit young) to have caught that music when it first hit, but, boxed in by AOR stations out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t exposed to most of it until I left Sheboygan Falls.

(I’ve told you the story about my first extended exposure to Patti Smith, right? Where the fuck was she when I was in high school?!)

He’s almost certainly closed up shop by now; he was thinking even back in 2003 that he wouldn’t last long, so I’d guess the collapse of the cd market has since wiped him out.

I can get any cd (or cd’s worth of music) I want  online, now, so as a music consumer I don’t really need the music store any longer.

But as a music lover, I miss the curators.

~~~

188. esthero, breath from another
189. Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
190. Eurythmics, Be Yourself Tonight
191. Eurythmics, Revenge
192. Eurythmics, Savage
193. Everything But The Girl, Walking Wounded
194. The Falcon and the Snowman
195. Marianne Faithfull, Kissin’ Time
196. feelies, Time for a Witness
197. Feist, The Reminder
198. Christine Fellows, the last one standing
199. Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the Dark
200. Aretha Franklin, The First Twelve Sides
201. frente! marvin the album
202. Peter Gabriel, So
203. Peter Gabriel, Us
204. Peter Gabriel, Shaking the Tree
205. electronica gainsbourg
206. Gang of Four, A Brief History of the Twentieth Century
207. garbage, G
208. Garmana, Vengeance
209. Garmana, Hildegard von Bingen
210. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
211. Gear Daddies, Billy’s Live Bait
212. Gentle Waves, The Green Fields of Foreverland
213. Lisa Gerrard, Duality
214. Stan Getz and Joao, Gilberto, Getz Gilberto
215. Giant Sand, Chore of Enchantment
216. Giant Sand, cover magazine
217. Giant Sand, Swerve
218. Giant Sand, Is All Over the Map
219. Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, out of season
220. Astrud Gilberto, eponymous
221. Bebel Gilberto, tanto tempo
222. Estair Godinez Band, Live from the Dakota





Listen to the music: 99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer

18 03 2014

Clearly, this woman is more energetic than I am. Or more obsessive.

When I decided to listen to all of my cds in alphabetical order, I never considered reviewing each and every one.

Okay, maybe I did, but only for a second. It wasn’t meant as a writing assignment for myself, but as a listening assignment. Why did I have these cds, this music? What was I missing? What held me? What no longer did?

Jayzeus christy, why did I buy this?

After I thought the thought, I had another: Hey I should blog about this. Sometimes I run a little dry in the blog department, so blogging about these chunks of listening space would keep the posts flowing. (Bad image, but you know what I mean.) And writing about it publicly would help to keep me listening, even if I got bored with the whole thing. It turned a lark into a project, a way to track my commitment to the music itself.

It’s worked pretty well. Sometimes I listen because I want to listen; sometimes I listen because I haven’t listened in a while; sometimes I listen because there’s something in this set of cds that I want to talk about.

The mixed motives keep me moving.

Anyway, while I very briefly considered mini-reviews of each cd, I turned against the thought almost immediately: blegh. It wouldn’t be the worst thing to offer my response to each cd—as Megan Seling notes, this woman is setting herself up for a book deal (and sure, I did I get a nice bump in readership when a Listen to the Music post was Freshly Pressed: imagine if I were really committed!)—but I wanted to follow where the music took me, not mark every step along the way. If somewhere amidst 10 or 20 cds I came across an overlook or a canyon or a hidden river, I wanted to stretch out in these spots, to linger, to find out if there was still anything there, anything more.

I may be listening my way along the trail, but I’m after something more.





This is your captain speaking

17 03 2014

So here’s my take on Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia: Read folks who, unlike me, actually know something about Crimea, Ukraine, and Russia.

What should the US do about C/U/R? Criminy. I’ll go with what has evolved into my default position on all matters in which the US is urged (often, but not always, by mouth-foamers) to do something: Ask four questions.

  1. What, practically*, can be done?
  2. If there is anything, practically, to be done, what among those options will make the situation better?
  3. What is “better”?
  4. What happens if the chosen action fails?

(*As in, what actually could be accomplished and what are the odds of success.)

There are other considerations, of course, including prior commitments and reputation management and allied relations, but it seems that amidst those other considerations, these four questions have gotta be answered.

I don’t know what those answers are in this situation, tho’ I do know I’m skeptical of aggressive action. As for those who think Putin is pwning our president, well, I’m skeptical that aggression is a sign of strength.

And  if Putin does end up getting his way and keeping Crimea? I guess he wins, whatever that means. A bad outcome, but probably not the worst.

Now, on to something about which I can know with 100 percent absolute super confidence: What happened to that Malaysian jet?

The Rapture, of course!

Duh.








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