Tinker, Soldier, Taylor Mead

Ann Vriend at Kavehaz

Toward the end of May we were hanging out at d.b.a. (as one will) with Ann Vriend, watching the night get late.

Ann is a friend from this year’s SXSW music conference, where we met on a riverboat barge. To keep the symmetry right we’re going sailing on a different boat soon enough, but there in d.b.a. — as the night gets late, you mind — we’re talking about art and commerce and music, as one will, and looking at Lexi’s portfolio photos, and exploring the limits of Kulmbacher‘s tendentious and rewarding eisbok, EKU 28. There will be a tomorrow, but at the moment it seems remote.

Vriend has a flirty, supple voice, and she mixes the fragile vocal sweetness of one Jones (Rickie Lee) with the husky hominess of another (Norah). She closes with a delightful ramble called “The Only Living Girl in New York,” which may not precisely match the Simon and Garfunkel Boy counterpart but certainly gives it a run for spirit. – from my MusicDish SXSW columns

Poet, actor, Warhol co-conspirator and underground sharpie Taylor Mead is an on-again regular at the bar, and he’s down by the door. Taylor has a lot of moods, many of which involve some yelling. This wears pretty well when you’re 80 years old, which Taylor is. Becalmed perhaps by the growing satisfied buzz of William A. Kirkley’s festival-circuit film Excavating Taylor Mead, he’s relaxed and friendly tonight, and I swear he nearly twinkles. There’s an undeniable respectability conferred when someone makes a documentary about you. He has the air of someone who might start handing out knighthoods any second now.

I nod hello, which is as far as things usually get, and Taylor gives me a roving, theoretical look. On the TV above our heads some late channel is playing Carrie, and on screen Sissy Spacek is just getting to the bug-eyed creepy blood-spattered good part. He gestures at the movie.

“Do you remember,” he asks, “at the end?”

“Totally,” I tell him. He’s not sure how old I’d be, whether this is a real memory or one that came in via reruns on cable. “I saw it when it first came out,” I tell him. “Big De Palma fan. It was so scary that some girl sitting next to me in the theatre screamed and grabbed hold of me when, you know, that.”

“Out of the ground,” he agrees.

“Grabs her. Scared the shit out of me.”

Piper Laurie is being skewered by telekinetically driven knives. We sit for a while, watching Carrie on TV, and the night gets late.

Recent articles on Taylor Mead:

Posted in About Last Night |

Five Easy Pieces

Thinking of You

The em-pirical Emdot did a fun blogmemething a week or so ago, in which she answered five questions from a friend and then offered to turn the interview table on a few proud bloggy volunteers. I ponied up to take my five, only a day or so after her cutoff deadline, and I may be late late late but the questions she concocted were great fun to answer. Asks La Em:

1.) The ubiquitous superhero question. You are a superhero. What are your three powers? What is your costume? What is your theme song?

As it happens, I am a superhero. But sshhh, don’t tell. Secret identity. You know the gig.

  • Hermione Granger Time-Turning Adobe Cloning Awesomeness: This simple silver charm, when it comes in contact with my super-powered skin, creates a duplicate Linus and returns him to sunrise of that day to catch up on all those things no one ever has time to do (but really should, in this best of all possible worlds). Come nightfall we merge and join up memories and experiences. So AlterLinus can wait on those lines, take care of all that paperwork, organize the closets, go to the gym, play computer games for the rest of the afternoon and then nip out catch some great local music and a burlesque while Linus One is out busting crime rings, containing supervillains, and trying to keep up the front at the Day Job.
  • Jungian Archetypal Penetrating Gaze: Supervillains aren’t really bad — well, a few, and you know who you are. They’re just unhappy. The JAPG reveals that they are simply externalizing their rejection of a society which denies them satisfaction as individuals, and through a few rigorous sessions of analysis and therapy helps them to moderate their needs and urges. It’s also good against the sort of religious people whose idea of God is telling you what to do. Off-hours, the JAPG is a handy accessory over a good beer to remind those special girls that yes, I am the guy they’ve been looking for all those years.
  • Neo/Max Payne Bullet Time Arm-Wavy Goodness: You know that slo-mo dodging thing Neo and the agents can do in the Matrix movies, which was immediately snapped up by the Rockstar Games Max Payne computer game as “bullet time”? Every superhero worth his pinstripes needs a defensive ability, and that one is just cool.

Did he say “pinstripes”? My legs are a little on the stubby side for Spandex, so instead I’m going for the dashing shirtsleeve old-fashioned English look. High-waisted trousers, gray pinstripe (black pinstripe for night work) with light pleating and sturdy pockets; a vest-and-cummerbund ensemble, satin for those night jobs and parties, and whimsical paisleys for day work. The vest is where I store the utility belt stuff and the various super-gadgets we all need to get through our super-days. Square-toed comfortable leather boots — if there’s one thing out of Texas that makes sense it’s boots with suits, string ties a close second. Comlink cufflinks, and a sturdy bowler to ward off evil super villain mind-control attacks. In cold weather or for special occasions, I might make a quick dogleg along these lines. NO not the kilt, the guy on the right. Although I might look pretty good in a kilt.

Song? I was trying to work in some early REM, say Carnival of Sorts (Box Cars) or Perfect Circle or Catapult — “Not everyone can carry the weight of the world … but Linus The Bold isn’t just anyone,” that sort of thing — but really, this was decided the moment I heard the question. It’s the theme from Mighty Mouse. “Here I come to save the day!” Yep.

2.) A friend from faraway is coming to visit. Name three things you must show this person so that they fully understand the greatness of where you live and why.

These are the best questions ever. New York City is all things to all people, so what I want to show my visiting friend is my personal brightly-lit shape of it. I’m assuming, like when they give you R-S-T-L-N-E on Wheel of Fortune, that visits to the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty (that always comes out “statute” on the first go, always) don’t count here, and instead we’re moving right into texture and grace notes. The links here will bring you to my photo sets on Flickr, for those who like visual aids.

  • Coney Island: We’re going to ride the Cyclone; you think you’ve been on cool roller coasters before, but there’s nothing like this one, especially from either the front or the back. We’ll do a re-ride for a buck off. We’re going to eat Nathan’s hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries and marvel at how good they taste when they’re right off Surf Avenue. We’ll walk the boardwalk and gaze up at the Parachute Drop; we’ll ride the Wonder Wheel twice, once in late afternoon looking out at New York harbor, and once by dark hung in the galaxy of city lights. We’ll go on the spook house ride, which is very dopey but I love spook house rides. We’ll go to the Freak Show and afterward I’ll introduce you to a couple of the freaks if people I know are working that day. Maybe the itinerant Area 51 guy will be in town with his “alien bones” exhibit, which costs only fifty cents to get ripped off for fifty cents. We’ll take inevitable pictures of the run-down facade of the vacant Coney Island Museum building. We’ll go look for Totonno’s Pizza, where I’ve never been because (a) I’m not down there very often, and (b) I always forget to look up where it is before I go. And when we’re done with all of that, we’ll sleep like stones.
  • The Ventura and New York Harbor: There is nothing as central to my summers as the Good Ship Ventura, a charter boat out of North Cove downtown. These sailing trips through our remarkable harbor, and occasionally up the East River or the Hudson, are oasis and sweat lodge and watery soul rehab balled into one. Whole vacations in a single afternoon, sometimes stretching into messy drinky night revels. As is only proper. Maybe Captain Pat will take us into the Erie Basin, so we can look at the sunken lightship there.
  • A Night at the Burlesque: And what would a visit to my New York be without a weekend night-into-morning burlesque show at the Slipper Room, ideally a giddy sloppy one with the whole cast of characters: Miss Saturn and Scotty the Blue Bunny of course, and also Julie Atlas Muz, Harvest Moon, Creamy Stevens, Little Brooklyn, Miss Delirium Tremens, and all the rest? If the timing is good, you may even meet the shrill dregs of the evil Dr. Donut.

3.) You get one month off from work fully paid, but the catch is that you are required to travel the entire time. Where do you go?

Only a month? Whistle stop out to the West Coast first, and we make our initial stop in Seattle for some of that yes-it’s-a-tourist-thing-but-man-is-it-fun seafood on the pier, the kind where they dump that whole pot of crabs potatoes fish chunks and shellfish onto your table and give you a fork and a mallet. A quick zip through the Pike Place Market (mandatory consult at the donut stand just in from the pig, and then half an hour or so at the fish-throwers), a Frappucino at the original Starbucks, and a beer at one of the Elysian Brewing brewpubs. Portland for a day, but our destination really is a return trip to the Tall Trees Grove in the Redwood National Park, and after the hike down and the sweaty climb out a stop for coffee and the best. pie. in. America. at the Palm Diner in Orick, just across from the turnoff road to the trees. I’m not kidding about that pie.

Maybe a night in Arcata — that movie theatre is adorable and I didn’t have time to see a feature there last time — but the next heading now is San Luis Obispo, for all the obvious reasons. Just a day there is just enough to get my feet wet, but rules are rules, and come morning it’s time to trickle down the Coast bound for LAX, sooner or later, and from there it’s off further West.

I’m having a hankering for Hawaii, but this doesn’t feel like the time, so it’s straight to New Zealand. I’ve never been there or Oz, but we’ll spend a few days to mark out an index for future visits — this is all on the company expense account, right? That was what we agreed? Sri Lanka is next, to visit my brother Ethan and his new wife, Aussie Jane. We’re probably halfway through the month, by now.

If trekking counts as “travel” then I’ll head for Nepal. My night in Kathmandu, at the Century Lodge on Jhochhen Tole of course (a.k.a. Freak Street, even if the Thamel is cooler these days), will be spent remembering the last time I was there back in 1991. I did the Langtang/Helambu trek back then, so this time I’ll go for Annapurna. That pretty much burns up my month right there, and what a glorious one it was. On the way back we snatch a day in Darjeeling, where we eat momos and drink salted buttered tea.

4.) What are three things that would surprise people to learn about you?

  • In high school I was an acoustic folkie flower child. Tie-dye and pendants, hair down to my waist, Judy Collins and Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell and Arlo Guthrie and everything. I’ve had long hair a couple of times, but the butt-length pony tail was dramatic and made for extremely long showers.
  • In 1980 I hitchhiked something like 12,000 miles: the big summer trip went New York to L.A. via the hippy-dippy-at-the-time Upper Peninsula of Michigan (where I spent a week in Eskinaba), L.A. up the coast (insert joint-inhaling sound here) to Vancouver, across Oregon to an abrupt encounter with the Idaho Highway Patrol, down to Battle Mountain, Nevada (which has the town initials, B.M., carved into the nearby hills — an unfortunate choice — and which is where I first encountered the dread southern smegma-like White Gravy) and then back to NYC. There were sidetrips up to Boston and down to New Orleans, out to Amherst, and others.
  • The first album I ever bought on my own was Linda Ronstadt‘s Prisoner in Disguise, and I’ve been a Linda fan ever since. I know. We’re not going to discuss it here.

5.) Time Travel time. Do you pedal backwards to a bygone day or shoot forward into the future?

The future is what we make of it — I’m going there later anyway, so why rush? Yes, it would be cool to see the spaceships and all (or the post-apocalypse, if we don’t smarten up quick), but it won’t be any of mine if we go that far ahead. No, put me back bygone instead, where I can watch something beautiful or tragic. I’ll marvel at how we made it past those messy early steps, and at how much better the food is in the present when you get right down to it.

Keeping the Meme: If you want your own interview with your very own personalized questions, let me know by comment or email and I’ll compose your session, which you are welcome to answer at far less length than I’ve done. (I get OC that way, sometimes.) Offer stands until midnight Saturday June 25, unless I change my mind, in which case it will stand until I change my mind.

Posted in General Musings |

Hot Hot Heat

Sweet

The National Weather Service issues a heat advisory today in New York. This, for those of you not familiar with how we do things in New York, means that it is hot.

(telephone rings)

National Weather Service: Hi, is this New York?
New York: What.
NWS: This is the National Weather Service. Did we wake you up?
New York: No, we were getting up anyway.
NWS: Well, rise and shine! Merry greet the day! Early bird gets the worm!
New York: What is it.
NWS: Listen, we have news. You need to jot this down. Do you have a pen?
New York: Hold on. All right. Gotta pen.
NWS: Here goes. Ready? OK. As your National Weather Service, we’d like to advise you that it’s hot. Hello? Hello?

Posted in General Musings |

Double Exposure

Red 017 in the Zone

First off, in case you were wondering, today’s entry is pretty much a transparent excuse to run a picture of everyone’s favorite bikini videogamer, Kristin Sloan, competitor #017 in the LVHRD Foundation underwear-only arcade game tournament I wrote about yesterday. There’s something gently impossible about the image, as if a blinking “This Never Happens” sign were about to appear and remonstrate the gullible. Years of experience suggest, after all, that this is simply not the sort of girl who plays video games. Let alone in that outfit. And yet, like a burning bush, there she is.

Surely it is a sign of the apocalypse.

Happy to report a couple of Pepper sightings today:

  • The Happy Corp., partner sponsor and perhaps owner of the LVHRD poobah executive level, quotes us a bit on the skivvies splendor of Monday night: I love it that they refer to me as a Member, which is perfectly true and I’m happy to be one, but it’s a bit hilarious in context. Their photos of the event should be rocking.
  • The web site for public radio’s Marketplace show snatched up a bit of a bluegrass picture I shot in Freddy’s Back Room in April, featuring one side of banjo-man-around-town Andrew Cartoun at a show with Carrie Rodriguez and the Michael Daves Bluegrass Mob. I sometimes listen to Marketplace and may even have heard their story on Merlefest and its economic impact on some communities; happy to supply the visuals, one way or another. Even if it is for radio. This is especially cool because my Flickr-friend Emdot just had a picture of hers placed with the same program a few weeks ago, so now we get to point and giggle together. And that simply does not suck.

I look at that last paragraph and I see link-link-link-link-linkety-link-link. Oh well. You know what to do.

Posted in General Musings |

Check Your Pants at the Door

The LVHRD Underwear Video Game Contest

Barcade is one of the brash new beer bars popping up in the City. If 24 quality tap beers and a hand-drawn cask ale are not enough to lure the thirsty Williamsburg hipsters, the big boomy room also has a wall-to-wall glee run of old arcade video games, from Berzerker and Frogger and Ms. Pac-man all the way to Tempest, which is the only one I ever really mastered. (I’m a pinball guy, and I was good at it; video games, lacking both a TILT control to learn and finesse and the moving real-world parts to make the TILT skill relevant, never moved me.)

Last night the mysterious LVHRD Foundation brought the business to rainy Barcade with GMHRD, an Arcade Game tourney fashioned on ancient Greek sporting principles. That’s an Arcade Game tourney played in underwear (LVHRD underwear is sold at the door in case you forgot yours, which can happen in Williamsburg). When I get there the serious friendly girl at the door invites me to take off my pants. “No, I’m not competing,” I explain. Turns out lack of trousers is mandatory, and since I’ve got a couple of fine pins down there I shrug and decant for the evening. Or is that “depant” …?

The LVHRD subtext is all about Geeking for Glory; the last event I caught was the Science v. Beauty quiz show, where research types from better local universities were matched against startling one-named girls from some trendy agency in a battle of skills and wits (guess which team aced the liquors in the blindfolded smell test: “that,” declared one of the models, “is Bombay Sapphire gin” — she missed the brand, but clearly had the price range down to an, er, science).

Tonight the nerd in us all is nourished. The competition heats play out in the centers of attention, and knots of boxered and pantied friends drift off to side-competitions at Galaga and whatnot. One guy takes out nearly all the Level Two gun towers in Star Wars, and as he plunges into the trench for his attack run his friends whistle, frolic, and cheer. You know how you always wished you could get public acclaim for some stupid thing you’re good at that no one else wants to hear about? It’s that kind of night.

We smile, chat, drink, take pictures, admire the trim minions who worship at the Church of Buns of Steel. Butts like that are made, not born. We count our blessings. But finding a place to put your wallet is a hassle.

  • More pictures in a Flickr photo set, memorializing the march of the undergarments. My phone service is being switched at home, so Net access will be tricky for the next week to ten days (actually the phone company is late at this point, but it will happen sooner or later).
Posted in About Last Night |

The Art of Summer

Right of Way

What a week it’s been. The big exciting news, and I love this, is that I don’t have any big exciting news apart from summer, which is percolating in my head like a family of prions high on a beefy Frappucino. I had no vacations to speak of between 1997 and 2003, give or take, apart from clinging-by-nails-to-the-wall weekend clenches, and this served to make Linus a dull boy. When the break came in summer 2003 — remind me to scan that awesome picture of the old-growth Redwood some day — it was a goodun, and the result is that when I get to feeling like summer these days, there isn’t much room for anything else.

This year the plan is to get to the beach, instead of just talking about getting to the beach.

Harvey comments in the post below this one that my photo of wind-taut sails goes a long way to summing up the good things: I agree. In my own turtled way I’m starting to define summer as a quest for paths of least resistance. Not Dark-Side-of-the-Force least resistance, but the least resistance that brings you to places you wanted to go anyway. As in, “By gum, I went out to pick up laundry, and here I am at the movies. Isn’t life strange?”

There were boat trips planned for this weekend, and I was going to be on them, but local pleasures won the hand instead. On Saturday I shot a photo set of the unlikely Smith-9th Street subway station on the F and G lines, an elevated tarpaper-clad trestle contraption high above the Gowanus Canal. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do. As it happens, a friend from Flickr is putting together some sort of picture project on trains, and she intimated that those of us who could not cough up some images by close of weekend must have fat butts. Ever eager to deny the obvious, I produced. I’m pleased with the results, especially the flaring blown-out image of the F train pulling away into a blank future. There’s some poetry there.

I probably had scurrilous adventures planned for later, but on the way home I stumbled across a sunny bunch of Gen-Y painters dabbing away at a streetside construction-site wall a few blocks from the house. Unbeknownst to me, the neighborhood was closing Day One of the Atlantic Avenue Art Walk ’05, and this was the public side of the long stretch of indoor exhibitions. More pictures ensued — pictures of pictures, and the painters who paint them — and when darkness started to rise I was pink and delirious with sun.

Pent-up sticky rain just started. Night is falling, and I am calling “Dance with me.” Hmmm, there might be a song in that.

Posted in About Last Night |

For Sail

Wind in her Sails

For once the weather in my head matches the weather outside: warm, transitional, pointed toward tomorrow, serenely and endlessly blue. It’s not the business end of summer yet, it’s the part where all roads run forward and the novelty of leaving the leathers at home has not worn off. Sweating is still cute.

The three-day weekend for you was a four-day weekend for me, since I generally don’t work Fridays anyway; by the time Tuesday morning rolled around and the workaday began again, I was halfway to going native. “Sorry buddy, Linus isn’t here. He left a note. Dunno. It just says Croatoan. And then there’s a picture of, uh, never mind. But it’s circumcized.”

The vacation stretch was lovely, and it fell easily into two parts. Friday and Saturday were the Central Park days, and Sunday and Monday were the Boat Trip days. On Saturday night, as a sort of semicolon to the weekend, I saw Revenge of the Sith at the big-o huge-o Lincoln Center IMAX (those are technical terms), where the monstrosity of Hayden Christensen‘s whiny Anakin Skywalker loomed vast on the seven-story-high screen. Frankly, acting and writing aside, I loved it. I was so swept up in the intricate joy of the thing — just like the old Star Wars days! — that I tried watching Episode II: Attack of the Clones again on DVD, to sort of harmonize with the convergence or summat.

Big mistake. Don’t try this at home. It was even worse than I remember, and that’s saying something. I’m marooned in Chapter 31 and I keep trying to use the Force to make them shut up, but it doesn’t seem to be working. I’ve got the remote, but that’s not the same somehow.

A propos of nothing, my nod for best lame attempt at domain-name squatting goes to the guys who are holding revengeofthesith.com. Check it out. I’m picturing them looking innocent. “Revenge of the Sith? Is that a movie? Never heard of it. But if you want to buy our domain I’m sure we could work something out.”

The weekend before last we had the first technical boat trip of the season, which is to say that we showed up at North Cove and boarded Ventura, oooh-ing and aaah-ing at the new refits and hearing the tales of how the carpenter made the rebuilt mast ¾” too wide for the holes it needed to fit into.

Captain Pat: You have to imagine this 2,000 pound mast bearing down onto the deck, trying to force its way into holes that are just a little too small.
Linus: Sounds kind of like high school.

It commenced to pour and then commenced to not stop pouring, so we hung out below and drank beer and told stories. This past weekend we actually left the dock, which was even more fun. Sunday’s weather was splendid and luxurious and some of the pictures are posted here on Flickr (more images to come). Monday, when my friend Ann Vriend and her friend Steve joined us, it was a bit chilly and overcast. But the boat led to the post-boat obligatory slushy margaritas (mine: passion-fruit), which led somehow to The Waterfront and soft-shell crabs. It was Memorial Day, scattered, warm, irrelevant, ephemeral. Everything it oughta.

When I mumbled “Croatoan” Tuesday morning, I wasn’t kidding.

Posted in General Musings |

Kiss the Book

The glorious and nefarious Jess has tagged me — I was going to say “fingered,” but my mind has been in the gutter these last weeks so I’ll guess maybe yours has been as well — to do that Book Meme blogger bit that’s been doing the rounds. And I am nothing if not obedient*, so here we go.

1. Total Number of Books I’ve Owned:

This, in the business, is what is called “a dummo question.” Which is not to be confused with “a Dumbo question,” like if your nose stretched out like that, would you really stick it right next to someone else’s butt to hold on to them?, or a DUMBO question, like is that the Brooklyn Bridge up there? (no). Since I had 10 long and tedious hours to spend sitting around waiting for UPS to bring The Rig yesterday, though, I was able to do some rudimentary calculations and can report today that I have owned 6.022 x 1023 books, give or take a couple depending on whether you count Tunc and Nunquam as one volume as The Revolt of Aphrodite, or as two separate books the way they were published the first time. Stuff like that. Do we consider the new revised Gunslinger as distinct from the original? You have to think about these things.

2. Last Book I Bought:

We’re going to leave out the How-to-Use-Photoshop selections and the birthday Buffy book for Jess, here, and go with the last legit full-price purchase that wasn’t a Barnes & Noble cut-out. That was Middlemarch, by George Eliot. I don’t buy new books all that often since I’ve got a huge backlog and I’m in a couple of Kula ring amblin’ book circles.

3. Last Book I Read:

Atonement, by Ian McEwan. This was my second time at this book; I wasn’t in the mood for it the first time and was put off by the beginning. It’s a spectacular novel. Now reading: A Passage to India, by E.M. Forster.

4. Five Books That Mean a Lot to Me:

Slouching Towards Bethlehem, by Joan Didion. I had a lively interest in New Journalism when I was younger and forming my tastes; Tom Wolfe’s eccentric books lit me up then the way This American Life hits people now. But Didion’s book of essays, read together in a huge gulp with her companionish book The White Album, meant so much to me on so many levels — and still does — that I can hardly imagine myself without it.

The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tokien. I read this in Junior High School, but did not finish it on the first try; my sails were luffed by my friend Jeremy, who was just ahead of me as we tore through Fellowship and beyond, when he casually asked me on the bus down to school one day if I’d gotten to the part where Gandalf came back yet. I hadn’t. Aaargh. I did finish it later and have read it many times — about a dozen — rarely to the end. This may be the first instance of my long-standing bad habit of not finishing books: I often read until I’m done with the story, and then carry on as far as momentum will go, which isn’t necessarily all the way to the last page. The silliest of these was a novel by, um, it might have been Richard Ford but I don’t think that’s right: I got within four pages of the end, and completely lost interest. Since I was reading a hardcover I didn’t want to lug it around and finish it on the train and then have nothing to read, so I put it down. And that was the end of that.

The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon. Books are often important to me because of the perceptual doors they open; that they resemble doors in form and motion is a glorious bit of magic. Crying was the book I was looking for when I was searching for something different, something that acknowledged that the voices of the past might not address the strange clang of the world today. Pynchon is a difficult writer, but not in this novel — here, as in V., he is the master of his strange fabric, and when he shows off it’s because he can. I’ve had less success with his other books. My first tattoo was of a muted postal horn, the symbol of W.A.S.T.E. It’s the mark of a message that will be delivered because of the content of the message, not because of any address or outward semblances. How better to describe the self in a confused age?

Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury. Bradbury is far better known for The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and (belatedly) Fahrenheit 451 and such, but this dark book struck me deep. I was a small, restless, wistful teenager, livelier in mind than body, and Something Wicked was my first hint that genre fiction, which is often great stuff badly written, could taste this deep, sprawl so wide, and tremble with such vivid life. Bradbury is at his best when he does autumn; he’s a writer of passage, loss, change, and of murmurs at the edge of hearing (Stephen King shines in the same places).

This book made me want to run away and join the circus. Now, later in life, it’s no coincidence that I hang out with a lot of people who pretty much did join the carny. In some ways, I wish I had as well. But come-come-commala, perhaps I did, in my own way. I credit Ray Bradbury with two other things: the nutty reality that I still don’t drive (he never did, famously, despite all his loving prose spent on rockets), and my later love of Jorge Luis Borges. Bradbury was pretty much our first magical realist, though he’s discarded as being a science fiction writer (and therefore not “serious,” but don’t get me started on that).

We The Living, by Ayn Rand. The funny thing is, I don’t care much about Ayn Rand. I have successfully ignored Objectivism lo these many years and have no idea what it’s all about. I never read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead, though I do mean to. I read WTL more or less at random in my early teens and I don’t remember that much about it. What I do remember, though, is falling in love with Rand’s semi-authobiographical heroine Kira Argounova. Never before or since has a woman in literature been so real to me, and never have I felt an emotion so large as the love that drives her and her foil, Andrei, through their political tale. I devoured this book. I dreamed of Kira and talked to Kira and absorbed her, page by page, word by word. In some ways I think I’ve been looking for her ever since.

5. Tag five people and have them do this on their blog:

Here we go. Any takers?

Emdot
Harvey
Chico Bangs
Abbypants
Zeebah

*Actually, I am many things that have nothing to do with obedient. But this sounded like fun and Jess rocks, so there we are.

Posted in General Musings |

The Former and the Dell

The Trusty

Assuming no slip between UPS and lip, the new computer arrives today (we need to name it, if anyone has inspirations). My plan was to pop the hard drive out of Old Guard, slave it to the new box, and have at it, with a few tinker installations for software that needs to see and be seen in the registry. Simple and easy, in and out. Right?

It’s been a while since I dealt with the phone company. I forgot about the phone company.

Currently I run an ISDN line, which is to residential telephone service what 8-track tapes are to high fidelity recordings. About a year ago I decided to get DSL service, and was quickly shot down by the very people at Verizon who sold me my ISDN years and years ago. I don’t recall the feature “TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE with ALL OTHER TECHNOLOGIES designed or to be designed by humans, EVER!” being part of the advertising package, but this aspect of the system, along with “NOT VERY FAST AT ALL, compared to other modern TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE TECHNOLOGIES!” has been central to my ISDN experience.

Last time I tried to get DSL the good people at Verizon told me that to qualify for my free installation I would have to put a new line into the house, which is the kind of huckstering (FREE installation!!! Only $250 in fees!!!) that oughta get a company shut down. Let’s remember that my ISDN is a premium service that I actually pay for, every single month. Pay to get in and pay to get out.

This is kind of like a record company threatening to send you a Mariah Carey CD, asking for a down payment to ensure that you don’t receive this or any future Mariah Carey CD’s, and then assessing a “tray removal service charge” to make sure that a random Mariah Carey CD will not stay stuck in your CD player, which hardly ever happens but, you know, sometimes you just want to be certain. And to really be sure, it’d just be best to buy a new CD player that has never been anywhere near a Mariah Carey CD, that’s the safest solution. And we just happen to have one right here which you can buy to replace your current one which, if you’ve been following carefully, hasn’t ever actually had a Mariah Carey CD in it. Probably.

At least, mine hasn’t. I don’t know about yours. But mine is broken anyway, so I suppose the point is all moo.

I ordered DSL from the Verizon site last week — there isn’t much else you can do on that web site, the minute you enter your area code it starts bouncing around crowing “You’re approved! You’re approved! Yay! You can get DSL at home! (small print: unless you can’t, in which case buzz off)” — and figured maybe no one would notice and they’d just turn it on regardless. No such luck. By email a few days later:

We’re sorry! DSL is not available.

Dear Sir or Madam:

Thank you for requesting DSL service from Verizon Online. We’re
sorry, but after completing a test of your phone line we found that
we were unable to provide DSL service at your location. However, the
availability of DSL service is increasing all the time and we may be
able to provide you service at some point in the future.

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) service runs on analog phone lines, also known as What You Already Have In Your House. ISDN, which stands for Incompatible Slower Dated Not-Very-Fast service, uses fiberoptic cable, also known as Stuff We Might Someday Use For All Wiring But Not Yet. So when they test my line for an analog signature, of course they get the digital response, since it’s pretending to be on fiberoptic cable. Which it isn’t. Fiberoptic cable is digital and made of plastic and transmits pulses of light; copper cable is analog and metal and runs with electrics. I say, if you’re going to insist that I’ve got a fiberoptic line running into my house when we both know I don’t, then send someone down here to lick it.

Told you it was copper.

Coffee in hand, I settled in for a long haul with the phone. I tried the number that came in the No DSL For You! email and slung around some light tech terms, which pissed the first guy off and got me transferred someplace useless. The jargon totally hit home with the woman who got me on my second call; she knew what I was talking about in the exact same kinda-sorta way that I knew what I was talking about. I said “line-of-sight to the PBX box” and she said “copper wire” and we were friends for life.

This one knew a techie in the DSL department and sent me through to her, and then the techie knew just the right guy in the ISDN department, and then things got really good. He said “POTS line” and we all went “Ooooo,” and then the three of us got down to business, the upshot of which, if I understood it correctly, is that they will cancel my ISDN service on June 3rd and then in all likelihood I will never have another working telephone as long as I live. When the new Dell arrives, which it has not yet done, I’ll set it up next to the old Dell. And hope that someday it will dance along the high-speed wires. I’m told it’s very pretty. It has a colored light on the front. I’ll be able to look at it, at least.

Plus it’s cold and rainy, did I mention that?

Posted in General Musings |

Candy is Dandy, But Being Lazy is Even Better

Chocolates for the Working Man

When last we saw our hero, he clung by bruised fingertips from a dangling participle over a roiling, steaming cauldron of ego and molten oddity. The soles of his beat-up Skechers smoked from the perilous heat of the Modern Age; in close-up his fingers slipped, flexed, and caught (“Damn,” he muttered, “I knew I should lose some weight”), and if I’m not mistaken theme music swelled up to a shrieking pitch and broke abruptly for commercial. SEE our blogger deftly skirt the perils of late-night tomfoolery! FEEL the rage of his urban angst! TUNE IN next week for more exotic adventures (imagine Don LaFontaine saying this) at Pepper … of the Earth! And … what about Naomi?

See that word “clung” up there? Wouldn’t it be fun if it were “clang” instead?

So the clinging and whatnot was back on Secretary’s Day Administrative Professionals Day, when I got a little box of chocolates from The Firm — beats the hell out of flowers, y’ask me — and was dutifully headed home to make an early night of it. Just past the turnstiles at the 2nd Avenue station I crossed paths with C. of A Picture of Me and shanghaied off for a listening party (13th Floor Elevators), back in the direction I had just come from.

The doubling-back thing apparently spun up some kind of temporal loop thing which must have interfered with the blog thing, because I was just sitting here minding my own business and all of a sudden it’s the May thing. (You can substitute 2005 for May without any real change in meaning, if you’re old enough. Matter of fact, 21st Century will do as well.) Roky Erickson has that effect on a body.

Things have been mighty busy at work; on-the-Day-Job blogging time has been problematic, and home time has been late and distracted and often caught up in my new obsession with Flickr, where you can now see scores of my photos of scantily-clad burlesque dancers, occasional musicians, and the interesting corners and twists of the city. The home computer is dying under my very fingertips, but the new beast is scheduled to arrive on Wednesday. Can we give a techie-yay for a Pentium 4 3.2 GHz XPS Gen 4 with a gig of fast RAM, 160 gigs of free-upgrade hard drive space and a GeForce 6800 video card with 256MB on board? I know I can. I’m officially poor now, so if any of you out there owe me money, this would be an excellent time to cough up.

Posted in General Musings |