Monday, March 31, 2003

    brainstorming for 42short redesign: session one
  • kung fu fighting on midi loop
  • tiled background of various don knotts pictures
  • link to 42short baby-doll Ts at cafe press
  • a haiku about unrequited love
  • an animated gif of fred berry breakdancing
  • pop-up ad for world's smallest security camera with photo of "secure" bikini-clad woman
  • button for the friends of bronson pinchot webring
  • cheat codes for mike tyson's punchout
  • quiz to determine if you've been touched by an angel
  • three words: pictures of cats


last seen: sigur ros 'untitled' [via leslie]
last heard: rufus wainwright 'in a graveyard'
last read: "Senior war planners are accusing Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld of micromanaging the conflict and ignoring the advice of the generals."

Sunday, March 30, 2003

one never knows where conversations will meander when it's a little after 2, you've just finished watching a three-hour movie with a friend, and neither of you is very tired. our conversation wandered and jumped, sparked first by a commercial, then landed squarely on the unlikely topic of elementary school gym class. i recalled standing out in the schoolyard with my classmates. our tiny hands clutched onto the edges of an orange and white parachute. one little girl stood in the middle of the slick patchwork nylon and we stood in a circle around her. when the teacher yelled "go!", we'd all run backward, still gripping the cloth tightly, and the little girl would shoot into the air. her outline seemed to get smaller and smaller, cast, as she was, on an expansive pale blue sheet of sky. she climbed higher and higher and the teacher would say, "now pull it tight!" all of us straining, our tiny fingers pressed into the seams, some of us even leaning our whole bodies back. the girl would land in a giggling heap in the middle of the chute, stretch out, then lie there, suspended for a moment. we'd slowly walk toward her, gently lowering her body to the ground, then it would be the next kid's turn.

last seen: personal velocity, auto focus, fellowship of the ring
last heard: belle and sebastian 'the model'
last read:"The majority of Americans, according to polls, want stronger environmental laws, support Roe vs. Wade and did not want to go into this war without the backing of the United Nations. That is where the country is at. It's liberal, it's for peace and it is only tacitly in support of its leader because that is what you are supposed to do when you are at war and you want your kids to come back from Iraq alive."

Friday, March 28, 2003

since monday is the most recent date that the contractor has given for the completion of my bathroom renovations, i'm still camping out at chez engel-bretz. michael came home a little after four yesterday and, after discussing our respective days, his involved actual work and mine involved getting a flat tire patched, we flipped on the tv and aimlessly changed channels. we stopped on a show called texas justice which was followed by judge mathis. they were equally terrible but did we switch the channel or turn the tv off or take a walk and skip rocks across a pond? of course, we didn't. we sat right there and lost an hour of our lives that we will never get back.

we were completely unprepared for the one-two punch of real-life courtroom drama and sat awe-struck, watching these shows for the first time. what made them so funny was that each judge delivered their moral imperatives with a side order of downhome. judge larry joe liberally applies a thick coat of country to his decisions; while judge mathis, who was, of course, raised on the streets, makes sure to both keep it real and reprazent when issuing his verdicts. it is comforting to know that the intricacies of our judicial system can, so easily, be deciphered, since many of us aren't accustomed to ten dollar words and like our justice real simple and preferably with a laugh track.

last heard: the smiths 'the boy with the thorn in his side'
last read: "The sharpest criticism often goes
hand in hand
with the deepest idealism and love of country.
"

Thursday, March 27, 2003

recently, someone called me a writer. as in, it's what i do. as in, it is my art. no one had ever done that before and i can't recall ever identifying myself as a writer. sure, i write, but calling one's self a writer is different. i never say pleased to meet you. i'm james. i'm a writer. [insert wink and shiny smile] people flatter me. mostly, it is my mom, but other people, too. they send me email or tell me that my content is dynamic, my voice is original, my writing peppered with wit. i blush, then quickly say something about them, even if i only comment on their shirt.

for one half of an hour this morning, i tried to be a writer. i was going to work on a new feature for michael's site, since i hadn't submitted one in a while. it was going to be reflective. it was going to be about my life thus far, standing, as i do, on the cusp of thirty. my birthday is in two months. i decided not to be a writer for the rest of the day, because all i came up with was:

i can't drive stick or roll my Rs. sometimes, i still get carded when buying beer. i was married once and it didn't work out too good.

last heard: bettie serveert 'captain of maybe'
last read: "A basically consensual rather than a coerced world seemed a real possibility."

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

so, i'm minding my own business like usual; sitting on the porch of the coffee shop, enjoying the sun and clear sky, reading, and, only occasionally, laying the open book upon my chest, closing my eyes, and tilting my head back toward the sun. it is during these tiny breaks that the skin on my face would warm and i would watch dark shadows and pieces of light move around on the backs of my eyelids. that's when i noticed the conversation between two young women at the next table. nothing in particular. one would complain about her fiancee and her lover; apparently, two different people. then, the other, after waiting patiently for the first to pause, would complain about her husband. i opened my eyes, then tried to concentrate on my book.

spring arrived this week in charlotte. being the eyes-cast-down-while-walking type that i am, the change of seasons was evident by the change in footwear and the two at the next table were no exception. their conversation turned to their sandals and the state of their feet. one said 'do you want another coat?', then, she reached down to palm the ball of the second woman's foot with one hand and dug a bottle of polish out of her bag with the other. i could hear the little metal bb rattle around, hitting the sides of the glass, as she shook the bottle. 'is my foot too heavy?', the woman asked as she rested her leg upon the painter's knee. delicately, the first applied a coat of polish to the second. time passed wordlessly during the proceedure and it all seemed, to my boy sensibilities, extremely sensual. i sat, peering just over the top of my book, unable to concentrate, and not reading very much until they finally left twenty minutes later.

last heard: heavenly 'nous ne sommes pas des anges'
last read: "I think this is pretty extraordinary," said former Federal Communications Commissioner Glen Robinson, who teaches law at the University of Virginia. "I can't say that this violates any of a broadcaster's obligations, but it sounds like borderline manufacturing of the news."


Tuesday, March 25, 2003

on the way back from DC yesterday, i stopped into chapel hill to see the much-anticipated-by-me aislers set show. it was quite early, maybe 2pm, when i pulled into town, so i had a lot of time to kill and a movie seemed like just the thing to do. there was a 3 o'clock screening of williard at the plaza. i was surprised to be the only person who showed up. it must have been because it was a weekday or a matinee and not because people were avoiding the movie itself. i would venture to say that it was the best film about a man who becomes emotionally attached to a rat to be released so far this year...but, it is only march and we still have all of those much-ballyhooed summer rat-man bonding films to look forward to.

as for the aislers set, the show was at go studios. the quails, a band that i'd seen open for sleater-kinney back in october, had crowd-warming duties at this show. they were followed by a band called hella. i don't know, man, someone must have owed those guys a favor. if you can picture a punk/indie rock noodlin' jam band crossed with just a hint of math rock and no lyrics, you'd be close. all it equalled for me was a headache. you know what's a fun thing to do when hella plays? go put that aislers set t-shirt you just bought out in your car and walk really slow. it was kind of funny because there were three bands, playing three distinct styles of music and the crowd would shift between sets. when it was the band you came to see, you moved to the front. the quails people were kind of milling about. the hella people were mostly very large testosterone-y guys without dates who would move to the front of the stage and hold a fist in the air. then, there were the rest of us.

i moved to the front row like a good little fanboy, secretly wishing that i were the marshmellow in an amy and alicia fluffernutter. it was the first time that i've ever had a chance to see them and i was pleased that they did a lot of last match stuff even though they were touring to support the new album. when it all ended, around midnight, i said goodbye to the band as they were packing up, then headed back to charlotte.

last seen: willard
last heard: future bible heroes 'she-devils of the deep'
last read: "...particular concern focused on the country's second city, Basra, where lack of water has raised the spectre of disease for its 1.7 millions residents, especially 100,000 children under the age of five."


Saturday, March 22, 2003

seven things i did today

ate at tony cheng's in chinatown

went to the vuillard exhibit

saw a sky full of kites on the mall

walked through the (drained) reflecting pool

sat on the steps of the lincoln memorial

watched a group of little kids go "wow!" everytime a plane took off from reagan national airport

went to the grocery store with my dad and saw the lady in front of us request a manager, try to haggle the price of two oranges down from fifty cents to twenty-five cents, and, when she was unsuccessful, take a bag of half-eaten muffins from her pocketbook and throw them at the cashier...ahhh, citylife

last heard: bettie serveert 'smack'
last read: "One can trust, perhaps, the ability of a cruise missile to hit a bullseye from many miles away. One cannot be so precise in predicting which way the resulting fires will blow.

Friday, March 21, 2003

i made it to DC. there was fog for most of the ride and, when there wasn't fog, it was just overcast which fit my mood. driving with the windows down and singing along loudly to hank williams and the carter family seemed to help a lot. sitting here now, it is hard to be upset since i just spoke to christy, i have the sound of my mom's laughter in earshot, and my dad just took a break from war coverage to watch a bit of scream blacula scream.

last heard: the carter family 'kissing is a crime'

Thursday, March 20, 2003

thank you for the sympathetic emails about my bathroom in the fight club house. thank you for the offers of couches and guest rooms. thank you, mark, for taking me out for food and many miller high lifes and then letting me sleep over when i discovered, at midnight last night, that the keys to the vacant upstairs apartment wouldn't work since they changed the locks. thank you, landlord, for letting me get a hotel room tonight on your dime; i appreciate your momentary lapse into common sense. thank you, me, for taking that week's vacation which starts tomorrow.

...about 2am, i was lying on mark's couch watching CNN with the lights off. i discovered that after living for so long without cable, my senses were not ready for it. the reporter was talking in one little box and those same images of the rocket leaving some battleship played on a loop and there were ticker-tape headlines on the bottom of the screen and in the background was a computer generated map of iraq. my eyes couldn't focus on any one thing. i just ended up feeling overloaded and sick about it all.

i woke up around 9 and drove back to my own place. a plastic-wrapped tub and toilet still frame the sides of my unmade bed. now, the entire apartment reeks of damp earth, a smell which emanates from the gaping hole in the bathroom, but, still, it is difficult to think of any of this as a hardship in light of what other people are going through thousands of miles away.

last heard: the zombies 'you make me feel good'
last read: "The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination...What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomatic efforts when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy? Why can this President not seem to see that America's true power lies not in its will to intimidate, but in its ability to inspire?"

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

prologue
when one of the workmen came out of the vacant upstairs apartment on monday to tell me that the problems with our building would be resolved by jacking the whole thing up a few inches and redoing the bathrooms, i was relieved that they were finally going to do some repairs. and, when he said that they were working on the other apartments first and wouldn't get to mine for "probably a long while," even then i was relieved, knowing that i'd lived with the problems for over a year and that another few weeks wouldn't be too terrible.

climax
since i didn't have to work until noon today, i went to the laundromat down the block and, when i returned two hours later, there was a man standing in my bathroom. the toilet was gone and so was the tub. i could see past him, to where the tub used to be, and i could see that the floor was also gone and i could see the dirt under the house. i asked why i wasn't given advanced notice. i realized that i wouldn't get to shower or shave before work, then i noticed that my bathmat was rolled up and in the kitchen sink and that just a tiny bit of it was laid over the other side of the sink...on my clean dishes. i also noticed that the still-damp-from-yesterday shower curtain had been kind of folded...and placed on a pile of my magazines. i also noticed that a wet-on-the-bottom soapdish and shampoo bottle had been placed directly onto the wood bookcases in my bedroom. it was at this point that the bile in my stomach rose up to touch the way back of my throat, so quickly i grabbed a shirt and tie for work and walked out to my car. just before speeding off to the realty company, the workman said that the bathroom might be done today but perhaps not until tomorrow.

denouement
donielle apologized and said that she'd contact the landlord. apparently, he was working with a third party for the repairs instead of the realty company's crew, so she knew nothing about it. she let me vent in my quiet, simmering, just-like-my-dad-so-it-scares-everyone-and-most-of-all-me kind of way. she gave me keys to the vacant apartment upstairs (with fully functioning bathroom) and said that she would call me throughout the day with updates.

epilogue
so if you or my boss or the people at tonight's bookclub wonder why i'm a bit on edge and seem not-so-fresh, it is because of all of this.

last seen: focus
last read: "She waved for the bulldozer to stop and waved. She fell down and the bulldozer kept going. We yelled 'stop, stop,' and the bulldozer didn't stop at all. It had completely run over her and then it reversed and ran back over her."

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

librarians are not unfamiliar with fanaticism from the right. maybe it is because we are paid to sit at a desk that makes us such likely targets or perhaps they can smell that, as a profession, we are almost across the board liberals or maybe it is even because we stock books about homosexuality or fiction that describes 'adult themes' or magazine articles on, gasp, planned parenting options. we also give kids access to that most vile of all information sources, the internet. there are many times that you have to endure an often-loud and biblically-inspired tirade from some seemingly normal looking person. these folks were particularly vocal during the clinton years.

so, what made this morning's tirade unusual was that it was from a fanatic on the left. he started rather innocently by holding up a newspaper article and asking me if i'd heard of the carlyle group and their involvement with the war. i had and told him so. (if you haven't, they are evil: here is a list of the people on their board and a link to one of their subsidiaries.) after that, he runs behind the desk and commandeers my computer. he starts talking about skull and bones and bilderberg and supreme council 33 and how the hearst tower downtown looks like some mythic owl that the freemasons worship.

i'll let you figure out how much of this stuff you believe. in any case, i can tell you that it was uncomfortable to have him stand behind the desk and rant with people staring at us. not to mention that he put his arm around me while he was talking and i thought i was going to get the bad touch that you hear about on afterschool specials. i haven't found a really good way to defuse situations like that, so i just let him talk himself out until there were barely audible murmurs of "...the people of our country are stupid...nascar...freemasons...occult and shit...robes to cover their penises..." and then he just walked away.

last seen: the deep end, moonlight mile
last heard: the white stripes 'sister, do you know my name'
last read: "We take people's vintage slides that we purchase at estate and yard sales and turn them into pop rock exposes. A concept, that if applied correctly, will change the future of entertainment." [editor's note: this is quite possibly the world's coolest family.]

Saturday, March 15, 2003

the employee spotlight is this thing on the library's intranet. if you've worked here for at least one year, they ask for your picture, invite you to answer a series of questions, then they post your responses. i get the honor this week. while it may sound corny, they are actually quite fun to read. i've passed many hours on the reference desk laughing at staff glamour shots and learning about the families, interests, and favorite books of my co-workers. you know, a surprising (since we do work in a library) number of people say that the bible is their favorite book. i found that it dragged in places and that the whole great flood thing was a total rip-off of gilgamesh. well, at least they're reading, right?

last seen: secretary, the ring
last heard: birdie 'port sunlight'
last read: "There is little reason to assume most Americans won't re-focus on "American Idol," "Are You Hot?" and that other March Madness, leaving it to President Bush to figure out how to rule over a 6,000-year-old civilization 8,000 miles away."

Thursday, March 13, 2003

there was a going-away party this afternoon. it was for a lady who works in another department. i always try to steer clear of such gatherings, especially if i don't know the person well. my good excuse for missing this one was i had to catch up on all of the work that piled up while i was sick. office going-away parties are awkward everywhere. if you get there early, you get to hear the person who's leaving answer the same questions over and over as each new well-wisher grabs some cake and asks the same questions the last guy asked. you'll hear why they're leaving and how they'll really miss everyone. it all seems so forced like a birthday party where your mom makes you invite all of the neighborhood kids so as not to leave anyone out. i mean, won't the people you really like end up taking you out, probably to get you drunk, before you leave anyway? the office-party is just a formality.

this drama is even more gut-wrenching in a library setting. sure, there are a few socialized library people, but particularly virulent and twisted strains of social ineptitude are the norm for our kind. while this may come as a surprise to most of you, many librarians are bookish introverts (i'm in that group). those who aren't tend to swing too far to the other side. their extroversion usually manifesting itself in a lack of tact, grace, style, hygiene, or some combination thereof. for every fredo, there is his equal and opposite sonny.

not that i'd have it any other way, mind you. these are my peeps. besides, after the breakroom cleared out, i snuck up there and got a free piece of cake complete with a giant rose made out of icing.

last seen: the world of henry orient
last heard: stereolab 'the emergency kisses'
last read: "An art exhibit at an uptown Charlotte office building based on images from the bombing of Afghanistan...11 abstract paintings and two carpetlike floor pieces by Charlotte artist Marek Ranis, will be taken down Saturday because some tenants found it objectionable."

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

one time, when i was in fifth grade, we sold magazine subscriptions to raise money. i remember being corralled into the auditorium where our principal and the fundraiser guy were standing on stage in front of giant red curtains. to get everyone motivated, they explained that in exchange for walking door-to-door in the texas heat, we would be accumulating points for each subscription sold. these points would be redeemable at the end of the fundraiser for prizes. at this point, the curtains were drawn back revealing all manner of kid-fun. there were bikes on the stage and TVs and games and sports equipment. it looked like those old wheel of fortune showcases; where, at the end of each round, contestants got to spend the money they'd just won and they always ended up having to buy that crappy ceramic dalmatian with their remaining $150. we were practially giddy as we walked back to our classrooms, talking about what each of us was going to win.

when the appointed day came, we turned in all of the checks and cash and the list of our neighbors' addresses and how many subscriptions of newsweek or barely legal they wanted. we were told how many points each of us had earned, then lead down to a once-empty classroom that had been temporarily set up to house the fabulous prizes. i should have known when i didn't see any kids coming out of the room with a bike or a TV. we would have had to sell thousands of subscriptions to get enough points for anything good. i left with a soccer ball that was made out of cheap plastic.

i learned an important life lesson that day...you can play skeeball until your hands bleed, but you'll never get enough tickets for that motley crue mirror.

last seen: rio grande, fight club
last heard: prince 'alphabet st.'
last read: "Do not open the door for radiation, now matter how politely it knocks." [thanks for the link, jenn]

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

the oranges-and-cough-drops treatment mentioned in the last post did not work and i became full-fledged sick on friday night. aside from the occasional walk for fresh air and more DVDs, i spent the last four days in my tiny apartment. here is a list of things that i did (besides miss the yo la tengo show):

-watched the river's edge, y tu mama tambien, harold and maude, m, the magnificent seven, and solaris

-drank two bottles of robitussin flu

-went through email withdrawl

-played with my banjo (no, that's not a euphemism.)

-finished rushdie's fury, read the partly cloudy patriot in a day, and started the next book club selection, one hundred years of solitude...all while sitting on the front steps in the sun

-listened to cat stevens records

-did my taxes

last seen: see above
last heard: the aislers set 'emotional levy'
reading: gabriel garcia marquez's one hundred years of solitude

Friday, March 07, 2003

my throat, it is scratchy today. this must not be so. i am eating many oranges and inflicting my cough-drop-scented breath on all of the patrons who approach my desk today. the yo la tengo show in chapel hill is a mere three days away. michael, ed, and i are driving up and we already have tickets.

must...not...get...sick.

hopefully, i can talk my compatriots into eating at mama dip's and then hitting internationalist, so that i can load up on zines. i miss chapel hill and the halcyon days of library school. it is always nice to go back. i'll be there again on the 24th for the aislers set show and to find an indierock girl to be my senorita.

last heard: how many times have you said to yourself, 'that james...his writing is, i don't know, highly derivative and needlessly verbose. most times, it leaves me tepid, but, on the whole, it's passable. what i really want to know is how would he sound singing backup on an old clash song as his buddy, michael, sings lead and dances behind him?' the answer to that timeless question can now be found, in glorious technicolor, here.
last read: "Santa Cruz is among the first library systems in the nation to warn patrons about the ramifications of the federal law..." [link via librarian.net]

Thursday, March 06, 2003

the guy at the deli greeted me with "what can i do for you, brother?" then, after one sweep of the giant silver slicer, he held up a shave of smoked turkey that was so thin, light passed through it. he squinted at the slice in his upraised hand, then looked at me and said "how's that, chief?" i replied, good, good, since that's just how i like it.

i steered my car back toward home, groceries on the front seat. halfway down pecan, i could see the gates at the train tracks lowering and two cars ahead of me slowing down. we sat there for a second before the train came into view, lumbering slowly toward us. everything about the row of rail cars seemed dirty except for the wheels which, for whatever reason, looked like shiny chrome. i sat there, entranced, watching the train pass. even in my car, i could feel the ground rumbling and moving me slightly up and down in tiny waves. i opened the windows to hear the repetitive clanging of metal. i could feel the cool march air on my face. i watched the colorful graffiti and illegible tags on each of the rounded cars as they drifted by me like a moveable gallery. then, the red lights stopped flashing, the gates lifted, and i continued toward home.

last heard: the pines 'kisses and fog'
last read: "is it good to make stupid things look pretty?"

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

deadlines and crosstown meetings and a southern lit booktalk are my excuses for not putting together a post with a beginning, a middle, and an end. here's one thing that i just learned though: the fun doesn't really start at library staff meetings until an older female librarian brings up NAMBLA.

last seen: road to perdition
last heard: club 8 'baby, i'm not sure if this is love'
last read: "Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far...I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration."

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

mardi gras always kind of sneaks up on me now that i don't live in new orleans. a ten-second spot on the news or a blurb read in my local paper are about as close as i get these days and even those reports blindside me. here in north carolina, there is no build-up or anticipation, no king cake at work, no businesses or universities shutting down for the day.

things were much different when i was in school, living away from parents for the first time, in new orleans. even if you've been down there for the festivities, you probably arrived the weekend before the big day, but there are parades during the weeks that lead up to fat tuesday and those were my favorite. having lived through all of it, i can tell you that the early parades are much better. there are more families, more places to stand, and fewer drunken frat boys, visiting from out-of-town, urinating in your yard or sleeping in their cars on major thoroughfares.

last seen: this is spinal tap
last heard: papas fritas 'hey hey you say'
last read: "You know how it is; there are some people who don't want to go there. They'll be all like "whoa, let's not go there," and then maybe chuckle or do an impression. Not the Pope. The Pope goes there."

Monday, March 03, 2003

i found myself at tremont on saturday night. jen is a huge fan of this one band, but, until the other night, i was always busy when they passed through town. this all-ages show was the first one i'd been to in years. does anyone else find it unsettling to walk up to a bar just as a fifteen-year-old kid wearing really baggy pants struts by you carrying a pool cue?

the music wasn't my cup of tea, but i hadn't done the show thing in over a month, so standing in a crowd and nodding my head felt good anyway. JLC was the first decent band that i'd seen at tremont in a while. they haven't been booking many good shows. would you like a for instance? well, for instance, papa roach played a sold out show there last week. i understand that hicks need a place to let their mullet hair down just like everyone else. they need a place to cruise to and show off their tricked out el caminos. so, that's why papa roach is just the type of show that gets booked at the ol' tremont these days.

spring '02 was the last time i'd been there. it was for david cross on my birthday. every other show i've been to in the past twelve months has involved a drive to either chapel hill or atlanta.

last seen: fitzcarraldo, what ever happened to baby jane?
last heard: sleater-kinney 'good things'
last read: "Look, this guy sang back up for Air Supply and Laura Branigan."

Saturday, March 01, 2003

now that i'm not the church-going type, most of my introspective, reverential moments occur in libraries and museums. this was not so on friday, when, during a last minute phone call, michael said that he'd join me for the new edward hopper exhibit. what would have been a typically quiet walk through the mint surrounded by great pieces of art quickly degenerated into a contest of wit, the goal of which was to make the other person guffaw and draw the attention of guards. two of the day's more memorable comments were when michael, pointing to a bill blass coat, said, "you know what that coat is...it's the i-got-invited-to-captain-stubing's-table-on-the-love-boat coat." meanwhile, michael laughed loudest when i pointed at a chuck close print and said, "that guy looks like the love child of eric bogosian and sloth from the goonies."

last seen: jesus christ vampire hunter
last heard: the zombies the singles collection: a's and b's
last read: optic nerve #8