02. 11. 02
Saturdays I get to leave the house and shop for myself. Without Gnat, I can go to my favorite tobacco store, the Phlegmery, and buy a choice cigar for the week to come. I can go to a coffee shop and read a magazine without distraction. I can buy quality bourbon at the Peoples Intoxicant Depot without feeling as though Im dragging my daughter through a well-lit carpeted crack den. And I can visit the wondrous magazine store, where the racks overflow with all genres of periodicals:
News magazines, including the crank-sheets and dispatches from the quirky fringe. Then Maxim land: Moist strumpets, humid doxies, the ninny-of-the-moment gazing at the camera with the expression of a ruminant chewing a clot of clover. Below this, the bodybuilding section, full of men grimacing as their hearts explode, or musclebound titans clutching fat-free women who have had soccer balls implanted in their chests - the guys all look frozen and vaguely panicked, as if they have been posed in this position and will require substantial assistance to move their limbs again when the shoot is concluded. Below this, magazines devoted to puppies and dogs, for those under the illusion that the canine kingdom generates 150 pages of late-breaking news 12 times a year. Down the aisle to Woman World, where you have the brick-thick bridal bibles, the hectoring journals of the flat-tummy demographic, the exhausted mom domestic companions (When will you have sex again? We ask six psychics), and the little-miss-harlot magazines like Cosmo which promise that they can teach you how to make men want you. PUT OUT - THEN DONT! might as well be the sum total of the advice, if they were serious, but no: its all tricks and technique and emotional legerdemain. FIVE WORDS THAT WILL TOTALLY FUSE THE TWO OF YOU is my favorite Cosmo headline - Ive been wondering about that for a while:
1. I will order pizza afterwards
2. When youre done thats fine
3. I have a beer distributorship
None of the lads mags are devoted to making women like you. From this women should learn much.
Then a wall of manly man mags: gun mags, car mags, gun and car mags, biker mags. Around the corner, art and design mags, all well-thumbed and unpurchased. Next: house and garden mags of amazing specificity: Log Cabin Bathroom Fixtures Quarterly. (Splinters: the Fundamental Issue.) Southwestern Styled Broom Closet (Our annual rate-the-hinges shootout!) Below, athletic mags tailored to every possible sport: Walking. Runners Monthly. Mall-Trotters Companion. Amblers Quarterly. I breeze past these, at least until theres The Breezer (a journal of brisk disengagement.) Next, PC mags, with all the Kate-Moss-thin New Economy mags atop, and the gaming mags below where the mouth-breathing-American community can sit on the floor and read them. Then a one-two punch: Music mags and sci-fi mags. The idea that there are TWO magazines devoted to Star Trek would have thrilled me as a child. Nowadays, of course, if I bought one at my age, the person behind me in line would look at me as though Id dropped Lactating Latinas on the counter.
There is a substantial porn section, too, behind swinging doors. There are also trading cards, sports collectibles, and cigars. And a billion comic books, all of which feature troubled teens with huge muscles, firm breasts and super powers. You want to slap some sense into them, but theyd just melt you with their atom-o vision.
There was also Entertainment Weekly, of course, which features this site in the current issue - welcome to all whove wandered here from the Gallery of Regrettable Foods: thanks!
I bought an Xbox magazine, because I have an Xbox, and because it appears to be staffed by many writers from the late lamented PC Accelerator. Why, it has tude! I declined a bag and went next door to the used CD shop, where I aimlessly poked through the bins of death-metal, thrash-metal, punk-o-funk, industrial goth, postindustrial glam thrash, and doo-wop.
This guy has an Xbox magazine, hes cool. So I heard out of the corner of my ear. I looked - the clerk, a twitchy young kid with skin the hue of the brilliant-white inkjet paper I use for rough drafts of photos, was talking to a tall old guy. They were standing by the Xbox game section.
I love my Xbox, I said, thinking I should have called it a box, or maybe Xbuh. Surely theres some gamers lingo I dont know. Lame! I am so lame!
It rocks, totally, said the kid. The old man nodded.
Stay away from the Manfred controllers, though, the kid said to me. They suck.
Third party controllers? I said. The one that came with the box was just fine. Why would I want another?
Well, for like cooperative multiplay.
I dont have any friends over to play, I said, a sad 43-year old man with a Xbox mag in hand and a TRON 20th anniversary edition DVD in the other, suddenly transported back to 3rd grade.
The older man drifted away.
I got to talking with the paperboy, and we agreed on several things:
1. The Xbox rox
2. We both suck at driving games, and while the reflective lighting effects of Project Gotham are incredible, we both had control issues that made it a bore - and yes, agreed, the environment-wide deformation models promised in the forthcoming Wreckless was so cool, but some people said game play was shallow.
3. Then again, who cares, really, about shallow game play? I have a wife, a life, a job and a toddler, I said. If a game is over after three hours, Im happy.
4. Halo ROX. I said Id only played the single-player version, and the clerk did a full-body whoa: Dude, he said. Cooperative multiplayer in Halo is awesome.
I have not been called Dude for years, for some reason I enjoyed this. I bought the TRON DVD. And, just to complete the Pathetic Geek flavor of the Saturday mission, I picked up the Star Trek sound effects CD to use in the home movies.
Then I went to a coffee house and read the Atlantic, just to remind myself that when the 40th anniversary of TRON came out, I would be a member of the hair-in-the-ear demographic.
As I say to rolled eyes and briefly indulgent patrons thrice a year, there is no greater thrill in my life these days than stepping on the stage of Orchestra Hall with an orchestra to my left, 3K people arrayed in the dim beyond, and no script in my hand. It means things are going well. I will never forget my first experience on that stage; you could hear my kneecaps knocking like castanets, and they wore a hole in the pant leg. My voice trembled. And then, of course, I wet myself. But it got better, and now its a lark! A bagatelle! The key is to remember one important fact: absolutely no one in the room is there to hear me speak. This relieves me of a great deal of responsibility, and means that everyone likes me more the less I say. If I just stuck my head out from backstage, waved, and shouted On with the show! before every ensemble, Id be carried aloft by thankful patrons. My own rule: every sentence must be either two sentences from something amusing, or from the end of the speech. And dont get cocky.
It went well. They laughed in the right spots, although one line got exactly one (1) laugh; when introducing the scherzo from Shostakovichs 10th, I noted that it was a criticism of the horrors of Stalins tyranny, and that the secret of being able to criticize Stalin in your 10th symphony was to not criticize Stalin in your first. (The conductor of the orchestra barked a laugh from back stage.) The last number was Sorcerer's Apprentice by Dukas, and the Symphony Orchestra - thats the big kids ensemble - blew the roof off the shed, as usual.
During a stretch when I had nothing to do, I went out to the vast lobby, climbed up to the third floor where a pre-show reception had been held, and found - huzzah - a basket of CDs, including the Symphony #1 by Russell Holsapple I described last year. That concert was the most emotional and astonishing concert I have attended, let alone MCd; heres this lanky kid in his 20s whos written a symphony, a real honest-to Mahler four-movement symphony, and about 40 seconds into the thing you can feel the entire audience sit up: say there. This is good. And it kept getting better, too. Then came the end of the fourth movement, when he unfurls this melody thats a sledgehammer to the heart. Its exactly what a symphony is supposed to be: a creation of an individual intellect, given life by a collective of volunteers, speaking for the common human experience. Thats a lot to pile on the work, but this melody bears the weight: the first time you hear it, you wonder why no one has ever written it before, because it makes such sense; you know just where its going, and bless it thats just where it goes.First you get The Melody with minimal orchestration, and then the entire orchestra swoops in and carries it up to the stratosphere. One of the most heartfelt and beautiful moments I've ever been lucky enough to hear happen.
On the way home from the concert I played the CD on the Galileos cheap stereo, and that afternoon came right back to me. Got home, put the disk in the real stereo, pumped it up as high as it would go, and I listened to the last movement four times in a row, just to wait for the moment when That Melody rolled out. When my wife got home I played it for her, and she heard The Melody for the first time - her eyes grew wide, and like everyone else whod heard the premiere, it made an instant connection. Theres so much desire and conviction and impossible joy in The Melody that anyone who was ever 24 stops dead and thinks: thats exactly how it was; that's exactly how it should be.
And now it can be yours! At http://www.mnyouthsymphonies.org theres an email link; I dont know what they charge for the CD, but it cant be much. Tell them I sent you, and ask for the CD with Holsapple's First Symphony. I know Im building this up like the Second Coming of Ludwig Von, and it's not; part of my love of this piece has to do with the men Holsapple claims as his primary influences - Herrman, Barry, all the 20th century composers who get a sneer from the smart set because they scored movies. It is the work of a young man - the third movement needs to be sent back to the shop for tightening. The second movement is clearly an homage to Barry, and you can hear a young composer synthesizing his influences into an individual voice. But like I say: once The Melody rolls out at the end of the fourth, youll wish youd been there. Every single one of us stood on stage at the concerts conclusion and blubbered helplessly, because no one had ever seen or heard something like this before: a young kid hearing his symphony performed before an audience that came straight to its feet when the piece concluded.
Dude: it rox.
02. 12. 02
Oy: It has never been this windy since we moved into Jasperwood. I know this because the window in my studio is making a sound like a kazoo stuck in an elephants trunk, and Ive never heard that before. Outside the trees are bending low, and the clouds are running like herds of beasts from a catastrophe we cannot yet discern. When I see a plane overhead come in for a landing, the lights on the tips of the wing trace large parentheses in the dark; dont envy anyone landing tonight.
This will have to be short, since Im working on a column and uploading to the new server. I will have lots of space and 50GB a month, but dont get greedy. No hoovering the site up in its entirely every day! I beg you. Flotsam Cove will return next week as well. The site may vanish Thursday or Friday - you never know - but dont worry. Expect a different product Monday - thats all Ill say.
I will probably take Thu and Fri off as well, for a different reason. Wife and child are leaving town. I feel sad (clicking heels) and will miss them terribly (arranging a stack of DVDs next to the big TV) and wonder how I will cope (black and tans, Macallen 12 year old) with the absence. Conflicted am I; family leaving leads to solitude, solitude leads to beer, beer leads to 3 AM Halo sessions on the widescreen.
The last time Wife & Gnat left for the weekend, Id just MCd a concert at Orchestra Hall the previous Sunday, and had a cold, which turned into the deathly pneumonia. Well, i just did a concert, and I have a cold. But no pneumonia seems in the offing; no chuddering chills, no nights drenched with fevers. I think I might actually enjoy this weekend. I will be able to play my music on the speakers after eight oclock. I will be able to walk up and down the stairs at night without avoiding the step that makes the tell-tale creak. Me and the dog greeting the dawn from the other direction, for a change.
Re: yesterdays notes on Project Gotham Racing, a driving sim. I noted I was bad at it, and heres why: I hate racing games. I just want to cruise. As Ive said before, Id just like a highway simulator that let me drive down a clean road on a lovely day behind the dashboard of a 57 Belair, listening to the radio, occasionally swinging into a town, stopping at a cafe, reading the local paper. I live in a city where you can drive 80 MPH on the freeway, and youre not constantly trapped in a jerky conga line. Back when I had a sports car, no child and a late-night radio show, I used to get off at midnight, put a brain-melting techno CD in the slot and drive home at autobahn speeds. So driving fast has no special appeal. Been there, got the ticket.
I want a relaxing driving game. I want to start in New York and end up on the Santa Monica pier, and I want to stop at motels, watch local TV, step outside and hear the crickets before I go to bed. Flight sims give you this sense of real-time ordinary life; why not driving games?
The Project Gotham graphics are incredible - sorry, stunning - and instead of the indistinct blur of phony buildings, you have the actual city of New York, depopulated for your racing convenience. Id love to just drive around and look at things, but no, I have to race. And I cannot race. I miss every turn, smash into the wall, skid out, and make a fool of myself. Which leads to me to ask: why am I in this race? I obviously have no aptitude behind the wheel whatsoever - who was foolish enough to sponsor me? Why arent the other drivers as bad as I am? At least it saved me fifty bucks - having rented it, I know I need not buy it.
Re: the Symphony CD discussed yesterday - I actually had to wonder today if I oversold the thing, made it sound as though Zeus himself had handed down a melody from Olympus. I realize that the Symphony might not be to everyones tastes - even though it is tonal and jam-packed with melody, its restlessness might confound those who expected something simple and straightforward . . . so I listened to it again today, and no, I dont regret the recommendation at all. And Im not wrong about The Melody. I remember standing backstage with the conductor of the Symphony Orchestra, Manny (who I first met - get this - when he called my late-night radio show to answer questions of musical esoterica; little did I know he was the principle chair horn player for the Minnesota Orchestra, as well as being one hell of a cool guy) and he said wait until the fourth movement, theres just this amaaazing passage. Its worth ten bucks - and the money goes to fund the orchestra. Theyve gotten many requests, I understand, and will get them out ASAP. For those who dont know what Im talking about, read yesterdays Bleat.
Back to work, and the tedious process of uploading the site. How did it EVER get this huge? What was I thinking?
02. 13. 02
|I dont know if this is proof of genius - probably not. I cant be, mustnt be, one of those pushy dads. But Gnat, who is 18 1/2 mos. old, knows the letter K. I can accept that she would know A, or E, or O, or any of your instinctive vowels, but K? She also knows T, and M, and a few others. She knows zero words that start with K, or contain much in the way of K, so its just amazing to me that she gets K. And its the surefire comedy letter, too, so this means she will be a comic genius.
We have alphabet lessons daily, so I guess its sinking in. She also watches that Richard Scarry Busy town Alphabet Day tape, which must help. The Busytown tapes fail to establish a conceptually coherent paradigm, however, and that bothers me. In the last tape I got her, Lowly Worm speaks. In three previous tapes he had said not a word - he just batted his lashes and smiled with the endearing smile of one who wishes not to be stepped upon. Now he has a voice. Its just like Bananas Gorilla, who varies from menacing to urbane to imbecilic. Creepiest of all is this big Busytown word book I got for Gnat - on one page all the Busytown citizens go to the Zoo, which is filled with . . . animals. So you have cats in leiderhosen looking at tigers, hippos in tutus looking at rhinos. The political implications of Busytown are something I dont wish to consider, and I fear the day my daughter asks why the dog is a policeman, but the hyena is a captive in a zoo. Because they joined the Taliban, Ill say. Which is probably the case anyway.
Stupid, stupid me. When I linked to the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and bade you all to buy the symphony, it didnt occur to me that several things might happen:
1. You would, and
2. This might tax the resources of the outfit, and
3. There might actually be legal matters involved, since the CD contains two works by other composers who, while firmly and irrevocably dead, nevertheless extract royalties from generations yet unborn.
The good news: this has turned into something even better than I thought. The response has been remarkable - requests from THREE continents, last time I checked. Theyre going to get around the legal matters by just burning a CD of the Symphony itself - in fact, the fellow who wrote the symphony will be burning your copy individually, which makes it even cooler, and your host here will be designing the jewel box cover. What began as a careless exhortation has blossomed into something I am proud to be a part of, and I hope this redresses some sort of karmic imbalance I no doubt incurred in my youth. So be patient - well get them out as soon as possible, and if youre curious about what Im talking about, consult this weeks Bleats - then send ME an email with your name and address, and Ill make sure to put you on the list. The price will be about ten bucks.
Listening to the soundtrack for the New York documentary, which I got from Amazon today. I watched half of the last episode last night, and for the first time added grains of salt to what I was hearing; since it described the post-war dissolution of New Yorks historic compactness, there was all the usual tropes on the Mistakes of the Auto Era, the relentless paving and razing, etc. Im no fan of Robert Moses - yes, he helped rebuild the citys infrastructure, and yes, such a ruthless character was needed to get some of the bridges and tunnels built, but his conception of urbanism was so abstract that he was not only willing to pave the village in order to save it, he could not even see the injustices in his smallest acts. Yes, he built 300 small parks, but 298 were in white neighborhoods, and the other two were the size of tableclothes.
We can thank him for Soho, I think - from what Ive learned from other sources, his plan to ram a road through lower Manhattan was hung up in the courts for years, and consequently no economic activity of note took place in the limbod district. When the project died, Soho greeted the future intact, unsundered by the plow of progress. Still, I hiss when I see him standing in front a model of the Projects, and I hiss again when Corbu appears, his slim profile and round black glasses making him look like Philip Johnson after a month on the rack; hes regarding his ideal, his Radiant City, his antihuman machine for filing souls in cold brick cubbyholes. Boo. Ssssss.
That said, I dont buy the idea that the suburbs, the Levittowns, were a disaster for humanity. As Ive said time and again on this site, no one puts a gun to the citizenrys collective skulls and forces them out of the city. You there! Out of the bus and the tenement - get in this car and go to your freestanding house with a yard!
Aw, do I hafta?
No back talk! Go!
People left because they wanted to. Who wants to live on a sixth floor apartment with no elevator or cross-breeze? The problems New York had afterwards were not entirely of its own making, but the government took the wrong approach at nearly every turn. Which is the part of the program I expect to see tonight.
Still, it breaks your heart to see New York in '46, when the troops came home - vast decks teeming with men in uniform, straining to see the skyline, waving their hats as they see the words WELCOME HOME writ large on the side of warehouses and skyscrapers. Despite all the glories that came later, the show suggests that this was the apogee of New York, and its hard to disagree. God bless the leathery presence of Pete Hamill, who talks about riding the subway with a carload of men back from the factories - dirty hands, stained shirts, toolboxes at their feet, weary pride on their faces: I work in the greatest city on earth, Goddammit, and now Im going to have a pail of Rheingold.
The CD just played a Scott Joplin rag - does everyone invest Joplin piano pieces with wistfulness, or is it inherent in all his stuff? You could play this stuff with brio and it would sound boastful and headstrong, but since "The Sting," Joplin rags are always played with respect and care the composer might not have intended. Its like listening to (Cant Get No) Satisfaction as a waltz. But what do I know.
Now Im listening to the New York, New York soundtrack, which I also got, since it came up on Amazon when I searched for - well, you know. Not Scorceses finest movie, although I havent seen it in years; I just remember that it was LONG, and that it contained 76% more Liza than I want in a year, let alone an evening, but: Ive never understood why Sinatras version of the title tune was more popular than Lizas. Franks just standing there looking bemusedly at that kicky Apple; its the sound of a man who made it there thirty years ago. Liza sings it as if she has not made it there, and hence has not made it anywhere, but might make it there if she sings this song well. Its a far more impressive performance. Sinatra, to me, is oversold. Yes, yes, he had a way with a phrase. Yes, he could sell any lyric; so? The strength of those autumnal songs for which he got such praise in the 60s - Summer Wind, et al - is entirely dependent on the arrangements, I think. He sings them well, but without the arrangements hed sound like he was sleepwalking, and he ought to thank the arranger for steering him from the self-satisfied schmaltz he would have otherwise waded into with equal disinterest.
Bed. Zzzz. Very tired. Later. Please don't beat me up about Sinatra. I beg you.
02. 14. 02
|At the nadir of my life as a gustatory imbecile, I ate microwave pizza. The process was quite complex - you had to put the frigid discus in a foil-lined box called a crisping tray, which I will use someday as the name of an effete British author: Crispin Tray. Then you bombarded it with beams-0-heet, as they would have been called if the technology was ubiquitous in the 50s, and you got a soggy slab with exploded cheese and flavorless toppings that made the roof of your mouth hang in shredded strings for three days afterwards. Never again! I vowed at some point in my 20s, and moved on to the world of oven-baked home pizza. Back then you had two options: Totinos, whose crust was not made entirely of newspapers, and Tombstone, whose name seemed to be fair warning. Ill have a Cenotaph with shrooms - no, lets get a Cryptza with Canadian-style bacon. Hey, how about these Potters Field Cheese-only pizzas? Theyre probably cheaper, although the price is unmarked. Now you have an endless series of options - pizzas whose crust magically rise from the dead in the oven, pizzas whose ropy perimeter contains a tomato-based marrow, or an innertube of cheese. You have the gourmet frozen pizzas from Wolfgang Puck, all of which contravene international pizza norms (Cilantro and Braised Otter with shallots, or Thai-style Duck Brains). You have the hometown favorites with flat true honest names, like Jacks. Whenever I buy Jacks Pizza I wonder if Jack knows whats going on. Maybe he goes to an entirely different store and buys James Pizza.
I do know that this pizza bears little resemblance to real oven-baked pizza. It has the basic chassis of bread, a smear of red paint, a fistful of mozzarella, nodules of sausage. Yea, it is good. But it doesnt count as pizza. I allow myself one pizza a week, a Friday reward that has signaled the end of the workaday interval since I was living alone in DC, waiting for my wife to join me, and spent miserable Fridays eating Dominos pizza, watching Americas Most Wanted while the local police helicopters thudded overhead looking for Americas Most Desultorily Pursued. All I ask is a heavy pour when to comes to sauce. Give me not the smothering quilt of fromage - anyone can pave a crust with cheese. Dont trouble me with your elaborate crusts, their borders speckled with fire-roasted parmesan sprinkles - make it honest and sturdy, a stage for the players yet to come, and Im happy. Pepperoni? Why, yes - let the slices be as numerous as the circles on a pond when the rain falls in earnest. Bless it with a shake of red pepper and some desiccated green bits, and Im happy.
Just dont ask me to tip.
Clarification: I always tip the driver. Lavishly. Its the right thing to do. But the other night when picking up two pizzas from my favorite local pizza parlor, the guy behind the counter announced the total and said you can tip the cashier, too. Whereupon I plunged the pen into his eye. Well, no. But I wanted to ask: why? Why should I tip you, who are merely pushing buttons? The guy who gets in his car, races as though the hounds of the bottom circle of hell were on his tail, eager to chill my pizza with their frosted breath, the man who tromps up the hill to Jasperwood and endures a dog snout rammed in his secrets - this guy Ill tip. You get no tip. It would ruin the entire moral infrastructure of tipping if I gave you what I give the delivery man. You want to play Samson with the pillars of my Friday temple? I - dont - think - so.
Friday night I will not go to the pizza parlor. See, thats my end of the week ritual, my reward; all my writing is done, pizza awaits, and in that delicious interregnum I sit in the dim booth and read the paper unmolested, which never happens any time else in the week. I might wander over to the cigar store while waiting, chat with the Pakistani guy who runs the place - hes a hoot, and his perfect English is accented both by his upbringing in Pakistan and his tenure in New York. People here complain about traffig! Hah! Whadda they know about traffig, eh? Forget aboudit. He loves America, possibly because he is well-versed in the alternative. Then its back to the pizza parlor. I get the goods, head home, everyone eats, everyones happy.
But. This Friday I get delivery; Friday I get the Forbidden Pizza, the one my wife doesnt like because of its stern, uncompromising sauce. Friday my wife and daughter will be in Arizona, and I will be free - free! - to have pizza in its purest form! And as I taste it for the first time since August, I will realize that the only reason I have this boon is because they are gone, and the pizza will taste like ashes.
Mostly because I just put my cigar in backwards and tried to light the wrong end, but not entirely.
I hate when they go. Note to self: let air out of tires; disconnect garage door openers; weld doors shut, commission paintings of a city torn by riots and plague to cover all the outside windows so they never dare venture away again. We can survive just fine if we all stay home, where its safe. The water comes in the pipes, the air comes through the cracks in the windows, and as for food -
I know a great place that delivers.
02. 15. 02
|On vacation - by which I mean lashed to the machinery for the entire weekend once more, but for hobbies this time. Im finishing up the new site for the new server, working on the Holsapple CD cover, printing off stuff for project Hard Copy, and hoovering up old video from the pre-digital era for a family history CD. Familys gone, so I can blast Brian Setzer music as loud as I damn well please. The only sad thing tonight is the downcast eyes of poor Jasper, who relies on the appearance of my wife at 6 PM to signal the beginning of the evenings rituals - food, walk, play, Frosty Paws. Shes not coming home tonight, and hence he sits on the steps bereft, his bowl of juiced kibble untouched. He will probably chomp it down loudly, with hacks and spits, around 3 AM, and Ill wake to hear every detail.
Will the new site be up Monday? Ive no idea. I am a cork on heaving sea of bits, and Ive no idea if Ill end up on a shore or find the site becalmed in some procedural limbo. I hope youll stick with it all, and Ill make it worth your while. The new site will be up sometime next week, and will contain much spiffyness.
Apologies for no mail responses - the CD requests have exceeded anyones projections, and between that job and my unreasonable desire to extract some measure of relaxation in this pseudo-bachelorhood weekend, mail is the last thing I want to address. Theres a new Backfence, so click & grin if you like that sort of thing.
Back on Monday? I hope. Cant guarantee, but I hope.