Hey kids, hipsters, dudes, etcetera, I 've been dosing on the loopy speculations and discursive postulations of Lester Bangs-- the collection is called Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, and it consists of rock'n'roll reviews and opinions on the rest of the universe, and though I don't always recognize the bands he's talking about (The Fugs?) I certainly grok his groove, if only because he digs Iggy Pop and tears Jethro Tull a new one . . . he's all about seeing how many pop culture allusions , meta-cognitive delusions, and political anti-solutions he can juggle at once, he's the Philip K. Dick of pop music, the Jack Kerouac of Creem, and he's a kindred soul of mine, as he's not afraid of the incoherent run on sentence.
Bad Traffic, the new crime novel by Simon Lewis, is supposedly the only UK book ever to receive a cover blurb by Elmore Leonard-- who calls it a "honey: suspense that never loses its grip" and I certainly don't disagree, the book is exciting enough to incite a stomach-ache, and-- like every good crime novel-- you learn a new term from the underworld . . . snakehead.
After reading this, you'll either have the urge to call DYFUS or the Patent Office: the other night we made the mistake of allowing our three year old to eat Cheezits on the couch; of course by the time he was through he had gotten Cheezit Brand crumbs all over his pajamas and the cushions, but I had one of those epiphanies that only happens in a Joyce novel: I ran to the kitchen, grabbed the dustbuster, ordered Ian to lie flat and then vacuumed not the couch, but vacuumed him . . . and he loved it!
I just read a conspiracy theory that claims that George Bush Jr. was actually a Manchurian Candidate type patsy placed in office by the DEMOCRATS, so that when the Democrats inevitably took office after him, they would have an easy time taking the moral high-ground, and then, of course, the country would be receptive to their policies-- think about how easy it is to galvanize the support and spirit of the country and the rest of the world when you get to abolish TORTURE during your first week in office . . . (actually I didn't read that conspiracy theory, I made it up).
It was Sunday afternoon, and for the life of me I couldn't figure out why my three-year-old son kept asking, "What about the moving rocks? Can we see the moving rocks?" -- but my wife explained it: a few minutes earlier, I had asked him if he wanted to watch The Rolling Stones play some music . . . I was going to check out Scorsese's Shine a Light . . . but then I got occupied by another task, and I wish I had a brain scanner, so I could see what geologically psychedelic movie was playing in Ian's head while he waited for me to play this DVD of rocks that could rock.
The word on the street is accurate about I Am Legend-- it's scary and apocalyptic, but the ending is abrupt and kind of lame-- but (spoiler alert!) I have a much better ending for the film, and if you like, you can forget the old ending and imagine my new ending in place of it: instead of tossing the grenade, Will Smith allows the Dark Seekers to EAT him, and when they ingest his blood (which is naturally immune to the virus) it acts as a vaccine and cures immediately them, but it's very embarrassing when they turn from Dark Seekers back to regular citizens, because they look down and realize they've just feasted upon the flesh and blood of a prominent African American actor who once sang innocuous rap songs, so they all kind of shuffle away, mumbling things like "Let's not ever mention this again" and "Please don't tell my wife that I ate his nards" and once they wander out of the lab, then THEY are eaten by Dark Seekers, who are cured, and this goes on and on in a chain reaction until everyone is cured (and pretty much everyone is dead).
One of the marks of a good book is how stupid it makes you feel, and The Blind Side: Evolution of A Game (by Michael Lewis, who also write Moneyball) did just that; I usually don't deign to read books about sports, but Malcolm Gladwell listed this as one of his ten favorite books and now I know why: all these years I had considered myself a football fan, but how could I have been a fan when I didn't understand how coveted, rare, highly paid, and important the left tackle is to the modern passing offense-- do you choose a left tackle (or even an offensive line?) in Fantasy Football?-- and not only does the book trace the rise of the left tackle (it all started with L.T.) but it also tells the fantastic story of a poor black kid from the west side of Memphis, who through extraordinary circumstances, escapes the derelict projects of Hurt Village.
It was freezing in my house, and so I asked my four year old son if he was cold and suggested he put some socks on-- but I guess my job as a parent is close to complete, because he said to me, "Why are you asking me that? If I'm cold, I'll tell you I am cold . . . If I don't tell you anything, then I'm not cold."
A first over the weekend, we made a trip to the Museum of Natural History without our kid-carrying backpacks-- Alex and Ian had to pull their own weight, although coming home, when we got to Penn Station our train was boarding, so we did carry them while we raced through the insanely crowded station, but it was worth it because we made the train and got to sit on top of a double-decker car; here are the three highlights of the trip 1) the butterfly conservatory . . . a particularly fleshy giant moth landed on Alex's face, scaring him, and he swatted it away and it fell to the ground, apparently dead, so Alex started crying, because he didn't mean to kill it, and the museum lady consoled him, but then the moth recovered and flew back into the shrubbery; 2) Alex and Ian riding the subway, they refused to sit and instead clung to the pole like midget commuters 3) at the IMAX we sat in front of the most annoying kid in the world, who never shut up, kept slamming into my seat, bopped Alex on the head, gave random saliva-filled raspberries, and could not be controlled by his weak-assed father and mother and generally gave me a stomach-ache and pissed me off, but this was a highlight because it reminded me how my kids are usually NOT annoying and made me thankful for that.
Finished the new Malcolm Gladwell book the other day-- and apparently, if someone asks you what you're reading and you reply in an enthusiastic voice, "the new Malcolm Gladwell book!" -- then you are a big asshole; it's called Outliers: The Story of Success and, as usual, it's well-written and will also change the way you think about a lot of things: you will learn why being born in January is important to Canadian hockey players, the magic of 10,000 hours (although some people didn't want to hear about this magic-- they wanted actual magic, we got into an argument in the English office because Gladwell claims the Beatles became the Beatles not because of some perfect chemistry, but because they put in 270 five to eight hour shows at a strip club in Hamburg) the ethnic theory of plane crashes, why Asians excel at math (not why you think) and a cool fact about mathematical ability, you can figure out how well someone will do on a math test by how many questions they answer on a 120 question poll that accompanies the test-- tolerance for tedious, time-consuming work and skill in math exactly correlate-- and, the worst thing of all, but perfectly logical when you look at the numbers, why, if we care about educating the poor, we should not have summer vacation.
While I was making coffee Monday morning, I remembered the classic bit in Airplane! when Jim surprises his wife because he asks for a second cup of coffee, and she thinks (in voice over, of course) "Jim never asks for a second cup of coffee at home," and then later, after some turbulence, when Jim barfs into a bag, she thinks, "Jim never vomits at home"-- this was a great gag based on an old Folgers commercial, but now that the media is so fragmented (the loooooong tail), and you can't rely on the fact that everyone has seen the same commercial or watched the same television show or heard the same music or shared any particular media experience, does comedy have to be broader to avoid being obscure?
There are brief moments in Redbelt where the movie is so Mamet it might be a parody of Mamet-- does he have to direct his actors to speak in that repetitious and robotic tone, or do they just know to do it because they are in a Mamet movie?-- but aside from that the movie is elegant and excellent: a chivalrous jujitsu instructor has to move through the usual well-plotted Mametian house of mirrors . . . and all the Mamet regulars are present, plus a few fun cameos (Randy Couture and Tim Allen, to name two).
Since my students read two essays that were essentially about lying, I though it appropriate that I fabricate a quotation in their writing prompt; I told them they had to connect both essays to a line Samuel Jackson delivered in The Negotiator: "People don't lie because they need to, they lie because they want to" but, oddly, when I pointed out the quotation on the white board, one girl nodded her head like "yeah, I remember that" and even when I revealed to them that I made the line up, she insisted that it was in the movie-- and that she was going to bring in the scene (which is more flattering than what another student said when I revealed the truth: "I knew Samuel Jackson wouldn't say anything that stupid!)
Just as when Proust's narrator (barely a narrator) eats the madeleine cake in Rembrance of Things Past, and it starts him down memory lane, when I ate a kiwi this morning it made me laugh: I was remembering a friend's story from college: he had just begun his freshman year and he was a member of ROTC, the Sergeant told him to make sure his boots were black for the first meeting, and to use some Kiwi on them . . . and so he went to the store and purchased several kiwis and attempted to polish his boots with them, smashing them into the boots until he made a juicy, citrus mess, which made th boots no blacker; unfortunately his girlfriend had to break the news to him that Kiwi was a brand of shoe polish.
Alex, Ian and I were rocking out to Neil Young's "Down by the River" in the car, until the lyrics got too disturbing and Alex asked, "Why did he shoot his baby? Would someone shoot a baby? Is he a mean guy?" and then Ian chimed in with "that guy shot a baby, he killed a baby" and I had to explain to them that the term baby didn't have to refer to a very young human, it could also be used to describe a chick or a babe or piece or a slice or a hottie or a foxy mama-- but then I still had no good answer as to why he shot her, because the lyrics are pretty obtuse, but I did some research and his "baby" may have been heroin and so then shooting his baby is a metaphor for breaking his addiction . . . so it's like he shot the monkey on his back . . . but there's no way I'm explaining that to the kids . . . maybe I should stick with Laurie Berkner.
I'm starting to worry that I'll write about the same thing I've written about in a previous sentence; I've produced more content than I can keep track of-- the theme and possibly even the words, structure and syntax are bound to repeat . . . but can you plagiarize yourself?
Although there was much naysaying and the intelligence of my source was doubted, it turned out that my information was good-- when I plugged our house's old aerial antenna wire into our brand new HDTV, I was rewarded with more channels than usual (four NBC channels, etc.) and many in HD with better clarity and less compression than HD through cable.
I've been playing basketball on Sunday mornings at seven AM (it's the interim between outdoor and indoor soccer) and, while I waited to sub in, I chatted with an Italian looking guy in his forties about sports (very difficult for me now, as I only watch the Giants and can't remember the names of any other players, but I certainly wasn't going to mention what I'm currently reading-- Rapture for the Geeks, a breezy book about the possible coming of the technological singularity-- that's just not appropriate at a pick-up game) and he expressed his confidence that the Giants would beat the Eagles, and I concurred and then he said to me, "Plus, it's so hard to win anything with a black quarterback . . . you know, it's only been done once" so I looked down to see if I had the words Fellow Racist written on my t-shirt, and then, luckily, after a very long and awkward pause, I was able to remember that Doug Williams was the black QB with the Superbowl Ring, so I said his name and ended a very weird moment for me-- but who says that to someone they barely know? . . . and now that the Giants are out, I'm kind of rooting for the Eagles just so I can hear how this guy explains it-- maybe he'll tell me Donovan McNabb is an octoroon or something.
Joseph Campbell said, "Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy," which I found to be true when I actually bought some music on the computer (a download of the new Franco retrospective, Francophonic, which is awesome) and Rhapsody charged my credit card but the music didn't download, but now we find mercy when we call Heaven, which happens to be Bangalore, where merciful folks man the phones and forgive our technological sins (my temporary internet files were full of cookies and other data, thus blocking the download.)
Next Alumni Day, I'm going to remember to wear a William and Mary shirt; this year I was walking punch-line, as I forgot to wear college apparel and was wearing a fleece that has OLD NAVY emblazoned across the chest-- every wannabee wag said, "What? Did you go to 'Old Navy'?"
Sometimes, when I'm looking stuff up on the Internet (names of actors, how to bend warped lumber, DLP vs. plasma vs. LCD vs. 1080p vs. 1080i vs. 720 p, facts about Newark politicians, movie reviews) I get the feeling that I'm no smarter than the Internet, and that the Internet isn't very smart.
We entered a new realm last night, a realm where me, my wife, and my three year old son can consume an entire large pizza (Alex didn't want any)-- but far scarier is that my child has become my rival, as I was shutting the pizza box, Ian spied that there was one piece left and he "called" it-- he said, "Don't eat that last piece, I want it," which is my role in the family, to finish off all the extra food, but obviously those days are gone so if I'm looking skinny, you'll know why.
I highly recommend Hurry Down Sunshine, a memoir by Michael Greenberg: he recounts when his fifteen year old daughter Sally suddenly became completely insane (manic depressive and bipolar)-- it is gripping, scary, and disturbing, but also has a large cast of New York characters to lighten it up, plus he adds some historical parallels (I never knew James Joyce's daughter Lucia was insane) but I'm not sure if I can recommend the highly lauded posthumous novel 2666 by the Chilean Robert Bolano: I'm only a quarter of the way through the thousand pages, and it is Pynchonesque in size and form, and Borgesian in theme . . . Hurry Down Sunshine is a compelling portrait of insanity, 2666 is actually making me insane.
Yesterday was certainly the Monday to end all Mondays, but here's a fact to get you through: by the end of the month, the sun will be rising thirteen minutes earlier than it did yesterday (7:08 instead of 7:21) and it will be setting twenty nine minutes later-- 5:15 instead of 4:46 . . . so there are bright times in all of our futures.
During our trip to Vermont, Ian (three years old) slept in the same room as Catherine and I; one night he woke us with the exclamation My Monkey is Dead! . . . and after he said it he immediately fell back to sleep, but it took me longer, I just couldn't stop thinking about it.
A friend got an iTouch for Christmas, and now, like Marion Barry was on crack, she is on the internet-- you can't say two words to her before she's Google-ing something you said-- so my 2009 prediction is that this information super-highway will turn humanity down a bad road; it will be used for pornography, gambling, identity theft, mindless frivolity (such as a video of a dude playing Europe's "The Final Countdown" on a kaz00keylele-- you've got to check it out) and worse, far far worse.