This is a very subjective review, but the new Neon Indian album "Psychic Chasms" seems to be tailored exactly for my brain-- it's a collection of short, psychedelic heavily filtered pop-like compositions that I can't stop listening to, it's like Ween doing even better drugs than Ween has access to, it's like the band channeled my thoughts and set them to music . . . so I don't know if this review is helpful, but The Week gave the album four stars and those people over here agree, so it's not like I'm crazy or something.
More Malcolm Gladwell tidbits from What the Dog Saw: in most cities, five percent of the cars produce 55% of the carbon monoxide pollution; most cars, especially newer models, run quite clean, but "kit" cars, older cars, and dirty engines can produce carbon monoxide emissions which are one to two HUNDRED times more than standard-- so the pollution problem isn't so much about everyone driving, it's about a small group of people driving a small group of annoyingly filthy cars.
According to a Malcolm Gladwell in his new anthology What the Dog Saw (and also according to the cities of Denver and St. Louis) it is easier to cure homelessness than to manage it; in other words, giving the most incorrigibly recalcitrant homeless people their own apartments-- for free-- and providing one counselor per ten homeless people to check up on them and aid them in gaining a foothold in society is far cheaper than paying the medical bills they generate because of frequent ambulance rides, detox, dialysis, pneumonia, and head injuries (they are constantly being brought in to the emergency room, where they are given treatment despite their inability to pay . . . thus how Reno's Million Dollar Murray earned his nickname) but this solution often meets with outrage from the general populus, despite its cost effectiveness, because it just doesn't seem fair that someone might work three jobs in order to make ends meet yet someone who contributes nothing to society gets a free ride . . . but the store owners in Denver were quite happy when the crew of chronic inebriates (whose drink of choice was mouthwash) were no longer a permanent fixture on Sixteenth Street.
I hate our new coffeemaker, though it looks much nicer than our old coffee maker-- which was a cheap piece of junk, and it had no built -in grinder, so we used a little grinder, which wasn't very loud; this new machine is fancier, and it has a built-in grinder, but the problem with this is that the built in grinder gets wet from condensation every time you make coffee, so you really need to clean it far more often than the old combination, and it sounds like an airplane taking off . . . so in essence, our upgrade was a downgrade.
Good thing there were witnesses: after eating most of my apple last Friday, I announced to Stacy and Rachel (that's right, go ahead and ask them; they will confirm it!) that i was going to throw the core over my head, without even looking first, and it would drop into the wastebasket, which was probable twelve feet behind me (but guarded by the mini-fridge and the table with all the food prep stuff) and Rachel said, "You'll splatter it over everything," but she was so wrong, because I dunked it.
If you want to watch something weird and artsy, with shades of Welcome to the Dollhouse (a world where children are more adult than the adults that "care" for them) then check out Me and You and Everyone We Know: Miranda July (who actually is a performance artist) and John Hawkes are both incredibly difficult not to watch-- they are visually compelling as well as bizarre, and there a few priceless scenes that are nothing like anything you've seen . . . I give it 6000 punctuation marks out of a total of 8000.
I know it's crass, but sometimes when I'm about to complain about something trivial, I think to myself: what do you have to complain about? at least you don't live in Haiti! and then I move on with my life, suddenly feeling fortunate . . . but I wonder, where do Haitians think of when they want to feel fortunate . . . stop complaining, at least you don't live in a box on the surface of the sun?
You know it's going to be a good history book when you read a sentence like this: "Among the able seamen the initial going rate was one ship's nail for one ordinary fuck, but hyper-inflation soon set in" (in a description of Lieutenant James Cook's expedition to Tahiti, from the book The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science).
In the Loop is a political satire with enough profanity rival David Mamet's Glengarry Glenross and enough droll comedy to rival the original version of The Office; it satirizes two governments (Britain and America) in the midst of the most monumental decision making process-- the the decision of whether or not to go to war; the plot is Byzantine and the language dense and allusion filled (Catherine stopped watching because she said it didn't seem like they were speaking English) but when the Prime Minister's angry Scottish spin master refers to opera as "subsidized foreign fucking vowels" and threatens to "hole punch" someone in the face, it really doesn't matter if you know what 's going on: I give it 11,000 troops out of 12,000.
I was rushing to finish "making water" because the bell had rung and I needed to get to class, and in my rush, I somehow flung my paperback copy of Much Ado About Nothing into the urinal, but it didn't get particularly soaked with urine, and so-- thinking of the title of the play-- I pulled it out, wiped it on my pants, and went to class, and my students were none the wiser.
While driving home from Monroe yesterday after a Craigslist purchase of a desk for Alex (which filled the back of my Jeep because there was also a hutch, which I balanced on top of the desk) I came one car away from being smashed: it was just before the Hilton towers on Route 18, where the road divides, and a white four door car raced by me on the right, rolled onto two wheels, spun out to the left, parallel to the oncoming traffic, smacked the side of a pick-up and then crashed into the divider . . . and by the time I stopped my car and took a breath, the lunatic driver extricated himself from the airbag, leaped from car, ran back across Route 18 and jumped off the edge of the bridge to whatever lay below, and, in the meantime, a police car pulled beside me on the right and a cop jumped out and pursued the insane driver/bridge leaper, and the guy who was clipped by him in the pick-up also pursued him, but when they reached the edge of the bridge they just stood there and looked down, so I'm assuming it must have been a steep, rocky, impenetrable drop that only someone who was wanted by the law would chance; I took the scene in for a moment and then slowly rolled past, feeling sorry for the people farther behind, who would be stuck on the exitless stretch of 18 for the long time it would take to sort out the mess.
I know this is insane, but Greasetruck has produced another song; I've been doing extensive research on this topic for the past five years (it's called "Hungover Dad" and you can click over to the left on the Soundclick widget to play it) and for the full story and lyrics, head over here.
Alex had the misfortune of having two accidents at school in one day: 1) he misjudged the consistency of his flatulence 2) he soaked himself with his own urine . . . and I was able to keep my cool about this-- because, honestly, what can he do?-- and so I tried the tact of reminding him that all the other kids in his class saw this, and I tried to make him see the embarrassment of having to change into his "emergency clothes," but apparently, these days, kindergarteners are pretty understanding when it comes to bathroom accidents, because Alex reported that, "no one laughed at me at all, it happens to everybody."
Something I am proud of: in twenty two years of driving, I have never run out of gas (I mention this because my wife told me a teacher at her school ran out of gas the other day . . . how does this happen in central New Jersey, where there is a gas station every twenty five feet or so?)
In Benjamin Phelan's essay "How We Evolve" (another from the collection The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2009) he explains how scientists have changed their view about human evolution: once it was thought that we were at the end of the line, that because of medicine, longevity, the end of polygamy, equal rights, and ample opportunity to mate, human evolution had all but stopped, but now that DNA analysis can trace alleles in populations ancient and modern, scientists have found that natural selection is still alive and dynamic in human populations . . . and one of the most studied mutations is that of lactose tolerance, which was non-existent in 5000 year old German skeletons, at 30% rate 3000 years ago, and nearly (but not quite, thus the need for Lactaid!) ubiquitous now . . . so the real question is, what will we evolve into and how will that creature regard us?
At some point during every successful rock band's existence, they underwent a radical change, a phase change, and it must have been wild and it must have led to the downfall of a number of rock stars; I am talking about the night where the band switched from setting up their own gear-- assembling the drums and cymbals, tuning guitars and the PA and effects boxes and mixing boards and cords and changing strings and generally sound checking the rig-- to allowing their newly hired roadies to set everything up . . . this must be when bands realize they've "made it," when they're sitting around backstage while other people do the worst part of the musical performance; why might this be the beginning of the end for many rock stars . . . more time to do heroin.
I feel sorry for businessmen because there's no way they can live up to the standards George Clooney sets for them: in the looks, coolness, and vocal delivery department there is no one else who better portrays the company man (and I'm glad he hasn't made it a habit to play high school teachers . . . I've only got to compete with Gabe Kaplan and Howard Hesseman) and he pulls it off again in Jason Reitman's Up in the Air, which has enough laughs to temper a grim topic; Clooney is an expert at curtailing redundancies in human resource departments . . . he travels around the country and fires people; the film is a cautionary tale and it features the reactions of real people interspersed among the actors, which is powerful in itself; the moral of the tale is both existential and inspirational (and partly delivered by Sam Elliott in a great cameo) and so I give it 8 million miles out of a possible 10 million.
Fans of this blog will be happy to know it is that time of year again . . . that special time when the thermometer remains stubbornly below the freezing mark, triggering some strange reaction inside my driver side door that freezes the locking mechanism, forcing me to get in through the passenger side door and then gracefully leap over the center console into the driver's seat each and every time I get in my car (and I have to do the reverse when I get out, which is a little scary if I get into an accident . . . there's only one way out).
One of my favorite things to think about is that brief (archaelogically speaking) period of time when modern humans shared the European landscape with Neanderthals . . . maybe 25,000 to 30,000 years ago . . . you could be walking along the plain with your fellow hunters and see off in the distance a similar group of creatures, doing similar things, but so alien, so distant, so different . . . but maybe not so alien to be repulsive, if you know what I mean (Captain Kirk knows what I'm talking about).
Two works that will make you feel bad about being a member of the human race: 1) Hunger, the story of IRA leader Bobby Sands' hunger strike to gain political concessions for Irish prisoners-- though the movie is a bit one sided and hagiographic in its portrayal of the Irish prisoners in The Maze . . . it forgets to mention that the IRA bombs were often blowing up innocent people, but that is another story for another film . . . and I'm sure that will be an even worse indictment of humanity 2) the first three essays of The Best American Science and Nature Writing of 2009 (you can guess the tone from their titles . . . Faustian Economics, The Ethics of Climate Change, and Is Google Making Us Stupid?).
While driving to the Snydersville Diner-- on our FAMILY vacation-- Catherine noticed a billboard that read "Spread Eagle Realty: a full service real estate firm" and I've done some research and this is not a hoax, Spread Eagle Realty is a venerable institution (established in 1989!) and they aim to provide their customers with the highest level of professional experience when "transacting real estate" . . . I assume they mainly sell brothels, bordellos, and massage parlors and you can imagine the occasional misunderstandings about the name, because if I came home and said, "I just met the woman at the house and I like her position, you know Spread Eagle really does the job," my wife would throw a frying pan at me.
If it were possible to patent a party concept, our neighbors should patent this one: on New Year's Eve they had six or seven families over, all with youngish kids, and they set their clocks ahead so that all over their house, at 8 PM they would read midnight, and they recorded last year's ball drop in Times Square and put it on their TV (there was a moment when someone paused the countdown so that all the kids could get organized, but no one suspected a thing) and we convinced all the kids that it was WAY past their bedtime (in my opinion, this is even better subterfuge than Santa Claus) and so not only was it the first time my kids rang in the New Year (with noisemakers, lots of popping balloons, kiddie champagne, and plastic wrap to pop . . . the noise made me want to curl up into the fetal position under the piano) but I also managed to tie one on from 5 PM to 9 PM and pretend that I made it to New Year's as well . . . which I haven't done since we were in Bangkok seven years ago.
War with the Newts by Karel Capek falls into a small but illustrious category: Super Excellent Books I've Read by Czech Authors (the other five books that reside there are Kafka's The Castle and his parallel work The Trial, Josef Svorecky's The Miracle Game, Jaroslav Hasek's The Good Soldier Svejk, and Milan Kundera's The Joke) and I would have never heard of this one if it wasn't for a random recommendation by a friend over at Gheorghe (thanks Zoltan!) and I'm not sure how I made it nearly forty years without reading this . . . it's about a race of intelligent salamanders that undergo a population explosion due to the meddling of humans and the social, political, and geographical consequences of enslaving these newts so they can perform undersea construction, and then eventually educating, arming, and trading with the newts in a natural progression of amphibious advancement until-- in the last four chapters-- the title finally becomes an inevitability; the book was published in 1936, and it satirizes the post World War I political milieu as well as just about everything else, and it is loads more fun the Brave New World, and satirical like Vonnegut, and humorous like Charles Portis and David Foster Wallace, and-- as Monty Python can attest-- no matter how many times you hear the word "newt," it's always funny.
We survived our first ski trip with the kids-- including packing (snow pants, gloves, hats, long underwear, fleeces and lots of socks); a 12 degree day with high winds (we went to an indoor water park-- it was even pretty cold in there, but they had a cool tube slide and Alex got hit with the 500 hundred gallon water drum and it pulled his bathing suit down); their first ski lessons; three nights paired with the kids in double beds, and driving home in a blizzard-- but in the end it will all be worth it, because our kids will be proficient skiers and what could be better than that . . . they will addicted to a sport that is not only dangerous, expensive, and contingent on the weather, but also may well disappear with the advance of global warming.
Happy New Year . . . and, in the spirit of the future, I'd like to come clean about the past: that apt end of the year quote I posted yesterday was not said by Yogi Berra; I made it up, and it actually doesn't make sense at all, not even in a Yogi Berra sort of way (unlike the unerring logic of this Berra maxim: "Nobody goes to that place anymore-- it's too crowded") and so I'd like to apologize, and you'll be happy to know that I've made a New Year's Resolution and it is this: in 2010, I pledge to try my best not to invent quotations and speciously attribute them Yogi Berra, thus denigrating his good name.