Tuesday, September 30, 2003

i haven’t decided which it is, but there can only be three choices. either (A) unusually funny things happen to me with greater frequency than they do to regular people, (B) i am simply more observant, keeping my ears open for the whispered comment and my eyes peeled for the split-second recovery after a stranger trips on the sidewalk, or (C) i just find normal everyday things a lot more comical than most people do.

take last friday. mark and i were at heroes. he was standing at a rack on one side of the room reading and i was doing the same at another. the counter guy was the only other person in the shop and he was messing with the radio dials. we have a decent classic rock station here in charlotte called the ride and this is what he chose. as he leaned back and stared out the front window, the first strains of some 70s power ballad echoed through the shop. he let out a sigh, savoring every chord.

sadly, i am not cool enough to know which arena rock band it was but they sounded familiar. it opened with a good minute and a half of just guitar and finally the drums exploded through the speakers. the counter guy stood there with his jaw hanging open, then he closed and opened it again, the way you do when you’re about to say something, but you want to get the saliva moved around in your cottonmouth first. i stayed reading my book, but, out of the corner of my eye, i could see him shift his weight around, stand up, and begin to speak. then, like manna from heaven, it came-- man, that is one of my favorite intros to a rock song ever. it is like...an invitation to rock.

last heard: billy bragg 'a lover sings'
last read: I was excited, what with the new threads, the cows being milked and Robert.

Monday, September 29, 2003

my preoccupation with lists and list-making is just one tiny sliver of the whole librarian phenotype. this obsession does not end with creating my own lists, rather, it extends to revelling in the lists of others as well. or, i’ll see a random order of objects and put them back together in my head, in a way that makes more sense to me. be honest, with some things, isn’t that the only order that matters? if not, maybe that just makes me rainman.

one of the more innocuous manifestations of this obsession involves those kooky, year-end, best-of lists. i never tire of opening a magazine and seeing the editors rank things. even if i’m unfamiliar with the topic, i still enjoy the lists and every magazine makes them in december.

a recent thread about movies over on jean’s site started me thinking about all of this. jean and michael and i offered up a few favorites for the year and i really enjoyed it. we are still three months away from the onslaught of published lists with their arbitrary, subjective ranking and order, so it was nice to have my appetite whet. i realized that, for me, part of the appeal of reading weblogs is finding lists of what other people like to watch, listen to, or read. the thread sprouted a few emails and even begat more lists, like the one i’ll share below.

top ten oldish movies that i watched
for the first time in 2003 (in no particular order)

black narcissus
the manchurian candidate
tender mercies
the parallax view
glengarry glen ross
the apartment
the third man

last heard: cocteau twins 'iceblink luck'
last read: And why isn't she driving a Ford Focus? Are they no longer shelling out the bucks to be prominently featured in the show? Or maybe because it's two years in the future, the Ford Focus no longer exists...

Sunday, September 28, 2003

how long does it take to cut meat?

a frowny, impatient-looking woman standing beside me huffed the question to no one in particular. it wasn’t a question, really. i mean, it didn’t look like her first time visiting a deli counter in this country. this is why i abstained from guessing how long i thought her meat would take to cut. she had her very own deli-person working on her order and i had mine. she even got there after i did. i had been standing there for much longer, but you didn’t see me huffing about how long the meat takes to cut. she was visibly angered and, from the huff, it sounded like her meat had been cut much faster on previous visits or at other delis.

i do not understand people who do immature things like this, muttering comments, not directed at any one person, just loud enough for other people to hear and, perhaps more importantly, loud enough for someone who is touching your food to hear. how smart is that? where could these people possibly need to be on a sunday at 2 in the afternoon?

i can’t help but start running through all kinds of questions in my head like--if you need to be somewhere and it’s that important, why did you decide to come grocery shopping first? and, are cold cuts part of the emergency that you’re about to run off to? if they are, then maybe i can understand the short-temperedness. otherwise, can it, missy, because none of us want to hear it.

last seen: levity
last heard: sons of the pioneers 'stars and stripes on iwo jima' [editor’s note: the classic country station on netscape radio beats all. hope you’re not missing out.]
last read: Man, being a mammal, breast-feeds his young. [via arts and letters daily]

Saturday, September 27, 2003

when i was in the fourth grade in fort benning, georgia and wanted to try paratrooper-type stuff, it was my dad who took me out to this big field, hooked me up to a harness, and helped another soldier push me down a zipline. when i was in fifth grade and had to have prince’s 1999; it was my mom who made sure i got a copy...on vinyl.

these are just two of the countless examples that come to mind when i think about how cool my parents are. they also serve to explain why, on more than one occasion, friends of mine have asked to be adopted by them. thankfully, this isn’t something that rubbed off as we all got older. they remain two of the most generous grown-ups i know. on top of all that, they are unbelievably funny. they are constantly making each other, and everyone else in earshot, laugh. would you like a couple of for instances?

well, they drove down from DC for a visit yesterday and arrived around four pm. when they got to the house, mark and i were watching a movie, so they settled into a couple of chairs and watched it with us. depending on the film, we are a group that drops little comments and does the whole mystery science theater thing whenever the opportunity arises. at one particularly quiet moment in the film, one character leans in to whisper a secret to another. it is at this point that my father, a 52-year-old white man, quotes lyrics from dmx’s party up (up in here) causing the entire room to burst into laughter.

later that evening, my parents took michael and i out for dinner. driving home, i recount a story from earlier in the week, in which i saw a drunken woman at the penguin do a face plant behind a row of bar stools. i close the story with it is always so sad to see a woman drinking by herself to which my mother adds yeah, because she has to buy her own drinks.

last seen: bulletproof monk, lost in translation, a mighty wind
last heard: roxy music’s 'more than this' as sung by bill murray
last read: sara varon’s sweaterweather and james kochalka’s quit your job

Thursday, September 25, 2003

i realize that, thirty years into this boyhood of mine, i should have already honed a list of clever, well-worn stock phrases to unleash on unsuspecting girls. however, regular readers know that this is a skill which never fully developed for me. talking to girls is a rare event. even rarer, though, are the occasions when girls talk to me. to clarify, they probably do talk to me; i’m just not bright enough to pick up on it. unless, like today, they are so direct about it.

there i was, minding my own business, when a woman, around my age, approached the desk to pick up a book that she had on hold and to sign up for an internet computer. (at the tiny branch, we only have one desk for reference and circulation.) i get her name and go back into the office to retrieve the book. on my way out, i spot her blatantly giving me the once-over. checking out my shoes, my pants, my shirt, and, finally, her eyes are back on mine. (honestly, ladies, we feel like such pieces of meat when you do that.) i try to ignore her lupine grin, stamp a due date, and then hold the book out to her. raising her eyebrows, she mutters:

you know, you are...well put together.

i know what you’re thinking and you’re right. there is only one thing you can say in reply. so that’s what i did. thank you, you’re on computer number five.

last seen: secretary
last heard: public enemy 'louder than a bomb'
last read: ...effectively communicate it through innuendo, implication and the careful sowing of confusion.
bonus: the one that gets us on metafilter

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

a couple of public service announcements about
stuff, mostly, only i care about

-belle and sebastian will be playing their first (i think) north carolina date ever on october 27th at the carolina theatre in durham. tickets go on sale on the 26th of september. [other dates? go here.]

-if you live in the chapel hill area, neal pollack will be on campus: mon, oct 6 - gerrard hall - 7:00 - neal pollack invasion show. reading, signing, and inspirational lecture. [editor’s note: sadly, i can’t make it; but, if you go, let me know how fun it was. other dates? go here.]

...and, also, a gentle reminder.

-the deadline is fast approaching for the everyman; so, hurry up and send your photos to troy. you could win money or, if you’re really, really lucky, you could win the buddy james best title award named in honor of my 2002 submission (scroll to the bottom...i know, i'm shameless).

last seen: lifeboat
last heard: the roots 'dynamite!'
last read: Thus, in order to solicit an honest, undiluted opinion about Radiohead, you'd have to find the proverbial People Living Under Rocks. As People Living Under Rocks are unavailable, let's use fifth graders. Specifically, Mitsi Kato's fifth-grade class at Roosevelt Elementary in San Leandro. [link via kottke]

you might have noticed; i tend to link to the same magnificent bastards over and over again. each has a different voice, but all have one thing in common. each of us has worked in the public library’s telephone reference department. yesterday, someone else i know was offered one of these coveted positions.

tel ref was my first foray into reference work and the job that i enjoyed more than any other. for eight hours a day, we served as the first line of library defense. you know how the phone book lists a number for reference assistance at the main library? that was us. we answered about 95% of the public’s questions and, only after we were completely stumped, did you get passed along to a real librarian.

our little room had a gigantic carousel in it, filled with the most frequently used reference books. in between calls from our regulars, we could talk or read or play. i made my bones there for a year and a half before i went away to begin my formal training. tel ref was the toughest job i ever loved.

last heard: act three of the what is this thing? episode by sarah vowell
last read: I wanted to walk into work today and say, "How about Mr. Clay's speech on the senate floor last week concerning the Wilmot Proviso? A strong 'huzzah' for the gentleman from Kentucky!”

Monday, September 22, 2003

STAND BACK! i just taught myself how to play dixie on the harmonica.

for me, discovering connections is always the most exciting thing about art. does it happen this way for you, too? i stumble onto something wonderful, then work backwards...like the first time i heard elvis’ work on sun. i soon ended up owning a pile of bill monroe and carter family discs. it’s the same for books; i read larry brown and i find harry crews. it’s organic, the way tiny bits of the map are revealed.

film is no different. that's why i found myself watching ali: fear eats the soul tonight. it started a couple of months back when i rented far from heaven. i learned that it was todd haynes’ homage to douglas sirk's all that heaven allows. so, i watched the sirk original. later, i read that haynes wasn’t the first director to retell sirk's story; fassbinder had done it in the 70s with ali. there may even be other directors who've reworked the tale, i just don’t know about them yet.

i thought i’d mention another little coincidence. the second disc in the ali set includes all kinds of supplemental material. there is a ten-minute short by shahbaz noshir called angst isst steele auf (2002) which i watched. the closing shot is a hand dropping sunflowers out of a train window and, what should be playing over this shot? 'parasite' by nick drake. kind of weird in light of yesterday's post.

last seen: ali: fear eats the soul
last heard: the children’s hour 'little boy'
last read: the military community is growing ever more vocal in its opposition to the White House

Sunday, September 21, 2003

nick drake’s entry in all music is straightforward and cautionary and reads like the warning on a bottle of nyquil.

somber, reflective, wistful, sad, gentle, poignant, autumnal, intimate, literate, nocturnal, soothing, melancholy, brooding, bleak

amber and i just spent the afternoon watching the good girl. strains of black eyed dog and cello song echo all throughout the film and that prompted me to dig some nick drake out this evening. hazey jane I is lilting out of my speakers as i type this. why do i always end up feeling achy after i listen to him?

it happens every time.

last seen: confessions of a dangerous mind, american splendor, the good girl
last heard: see above
last read: Don't ask a patron why they want the information. Even if it's interesting. Even if it's crazy. Especially if it's crazy. Because it's irrelevant. It shouldn't matter...

Saturday, September 20, 2003

jp said that you’re not supposed to eat crawfish in months that end in R. why i recalled this random fact in the middle of making chocolate chip pancakes this morning, i do not know. i remember the first time derrick and kendra took me to buy crawfish. we went to this little rundown store, i think it was off elysian fields. a few feet of space separated the front door from the counter. the menu was handwritten on yellowing sheets of butcher paper, tacked above the heads of the counter staff. next to the register stood a gigantic deli case filled with 40s on ice.

there were all kinds of instructions that accompanied eating these delicious, ugly things. the ritual became even more complicated when i attended my first crawfish boil at someone’s house. sam and joe had people over for a housewarming. their new apartment was on the second floor of a house uptown. they borrowed these long foldout tables, the kind with the faux wood grain on top, from a church down the block. each one was lined with yesterday’s newspaper and set up in the street, just at the end of the driveway. three men watched over a large, bubbling metal pot. steam billowed out of the top. they would make their way over to the table every half-hour and build another mountain of crawfish and tiny potatoes and three-inch hunks of corn on the cob. guests stood around the table laughing and drinking and picking through the mountain, making their own piles of empty crawfish shells and naked corn cobs.

the other thing i remember about that day was sam and joe’s dog. it had a cast on its left hind leg. since there were guests in the street and upstairs in the apartment, i remember hearing clunk clunk clunk all day long, as the dog ran up and down the wooden staircase.

last heard: belle and sebastian live in stockholm
last read: "You will die, sir, either on the gallows or from the pox," said Montagu. To which Wilkes replied, "That depends, sir, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress." [link via arts and letters daily]

[editor's note: yeah, so, about this haloscan commenting/possible instant nasty criticism thing -- consider it a beta test. if you kids can't play nice, i'm taking it right away.]

Friday, September 19, 2003

for those wondering, my folks are still alive. npr reported whitecaps on the potomac during yesterday’s storm and six feet of water in parts of alexandria. at first, i thought i heard them wrong; so, i called my mom. it seems a nearby tree was felled and the cable is out, but no six feet of water. as for charlotte, the sky was gray and moody for most of the afternoon; we had a drizzle and the kind of periodic, gusty wind you get at the beach. that was about it. now, the real question for charlotteans: how will you be able to consume all of that milk you bought? my advice: strawberry quik.

wednesday night was bookclub. i’ve been working at another branch of the public library for the past four weeks, so it warmed my cockles to see the regulars. they were all abuzz about my new job, having apparently quizzed staff as to my whereabouts. they were worried that i might be moving permanently, their/my bookclub would be disbanding or, worse, slipping into the hands of a less-capable librarian. i must say, all the doting made me blush. a few new folks showed up and the discussion of the mineral palace was spirited. the following titles were tossed around for possible future selections. i haven’t read a one. if you have, let me know what you thought: in america, all the names, blindness, bel canto, last report on the miracles at little no horse, the master butchers singing club, the human stain, rescuing patty hearst, the barbary plague, and, a little known book entitled don quixote.

last seen: run ronnie run
last heard: stereolab 'doubt'
last read: For decades, and as late as the 1980s, the FBI’s Library Awareness Program sought information on the reading habits of people from "hostile foreign countries," as well as U.S. citizens who held unpopular political views.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Ukraine. I crane. We all crane for Ukraine.

the old ford needed an oil change and new brake pads, so i sat in a waiting room this morning, drinking free coffee with powdered creamer and enduring fox news for a couple of hours. if you ever want to know how the other 80% of america feels because you’re too dense to notice everyone’s these colors don’t run cigarette lighters and baby doll tees, then tune into the media dry heave that is fox news. ...but i digress.

sadly, the broadcast wasn’t the most tasteless thing i experienced today. no, that came a little while later.

when i walked into the men’s room, the door to one of the stalls was closed and i heard the, um, appropriate sounds and the occasional grunt coming from that direction. no big deal, that is where those things are supposed to happen.

what weirded me out was that the guy was talking to some woman on his cell phone. it was turned up really loud, too. so, as i stood at the urinal, i heard all about how she planned to sell one of her textbooks back and how her classes were going. meanwhile, the guy keeps on multi-tasking like some kind of flatulent consigliere. why?

last heard: the highwaymen 'big river'
last read: Honestly, I can't see much that Hitler would have wanted changed in Saving Private Ryan, except the color of the uniforms. -- from Tom Carson’s And the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Rabid Nationalism Goes to...

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

we were only a few weeks into our fall semester when we had to drive those few hours north from new orleans to alexandria, moving further inland and away from andrew. if i remember correctly, we waited to see what would happen to florida. it didn’t take us long to decide to abandon our already-below-sea-level-on-a-clear-day city.

i spent the next week at derrick’s house with an assortment of relatives camped out in every room. the first and only casualty among our group was a dog that, in all of the chaos and car loading, one of the cousins forgot to bring in from the backyard before their family made the two-hour drive from another part of the state.

water, which had inched over several main roads, eventually began to recede until only thin sheets covered the asphalt, then nothing. on our drive back, entire acres of trees leaned over slightly, not all were uprooted, most just looked lazy. a few of the smaller trees along the road had sheets of tin from far-away roofs wrapped around their trunks or tangled into their uppermost branches.

last seen: hell house
last heard: natalie merchant 'motherland'
last read: has anyone reading this seen Requiem For a Dream? Well, the program guide description is "Brooklynites want to better their lives."

Monday, September 15, 2003

italian class was fine. in case you’re wondering, sono nato in germania a francoforte and io sono bruno, basso, e contento.

tomorrow, i don’t work until noon, so i have given myself permission to stay up late. how am i taking advantage of that time, you might ask? well, i rented a documentary called hell house, so i could always watch that. i’m also feeling a little peckish and, with the cabinets practically bursting after yesterday’s trip to the store, i suppose i could go rustle something up. but, do you really want to know what i’ve been doing for the past twenty minutes? sitting in front of my computer with a harmonica in my mouth, blowing the same two notes in and out, while flipping through a children’s book entitled better roller skating for boys and girls (copyright 1980) which i purchased in the library book sale today for 50 cents. you wish your life were as exciting as mine.

last seen: the core
last heard: simon and garfunkel '7 o'clock news/silent night'
last read: Don't you wonder why practically every house built in America after World War Two is a design abortion? [thanks for the link, jenn]

Sunday, September 14, 2003

two shows. three days. four bands. 540 miles.

sunday afternoon has been all about recovery. the most strenuous thing i did today was grocery shopping and that was after waking up around noon. when i caught myself standing in front of the apple bin for ten minutes, maw agape, debating the virtues of fuji versus braeburn apples in my head, i realized that i haven’t been getting enough sleep these past few days.

chapel hill was perfect. my friend, shauna, just moved back to start the program after spending the last two years up north. she was working yesterday, so i stopped by the bookstore to say hello. it sounds like she is still getting acclimated to grad school life, but most of the bumps are smoothing out.

i met jean a little before 5 and we sat on the benches in front of weaver street market just catching up on things. when you read someone’s weblog everyday you feel like you have a sense of who they are, but when you meet face-to-face and overcome that initial awkward shyness, you start to think of all of these great questions. you spend a lot of time fleshing out the back story to all of the wonderful things you’ve read. that’s what we did until it was time to mosey over to the potluck dinner.

the vegetarian/vegan spread was very tasty and i was introduced to a bunch of people currently in library school, including tracy whose daily musings you would probably enjoy as much as i do. after dinner, jean and i headed out for the clientele show.

for whatever reason, the clientele had been booked into tiny go studios, so by the time the music started, the room was packed. having arrived early, we scouted out a place along the railing upstairs ensuring an unobstructed view. robin arrived a little while later and joined us at the railing. she is also a library school student and a recent oakland transplant.

the show was great and two highlights included: alasdair maclean asking the guy at the soundboard for more reverb, again, please and the following exchange between me and the bartender.

me: i need a newcastle, an amstel light, and a high life.
bartender: are you in the holy roman empire?
me: huh?
bartender: are you with the opening band?
me: oh...no.
bartender: $8.50.

i suppose a cooler cat would have (a) known the name of the opening band and (b) said yes, to get the drinks for free. i am not that cooler cat.

last seen: bowling for columbine, russian ark
last heard: charlie rich 'behind closed doors' [from the cd that i made for our trip to asheville the other day. also featuring such classics as: ode to billy joe, rated x, harper valley PTA, jolene, and D-I-V-O-R-C-E. mmm-mmm, smell that countrypolitan goodness.]
last read: Few expect Bush National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to give up her allegiance to traditional male stomp-and-rule values.

Friday, September 12, 2003

i go out on a party/
and look for a little fun/
but i find a darkened corner/
'cause i still miss someone.

some folks talk about being saved. they come to a place where they feel so completely empty or kicked around that they are close to giving up on their life till now and starting over. sometimes there is a break, a place they can point to and say, that is where i decided i couldn't do this anymore. maybe they cry for a long time after or they sit by themselves. maybe they spend long hours talking to people they trust who help them pick apart and sift through the dusty pieces of themselves, trying to decide just which parts they’ll continue to carry and which parts they’ll leave in the pile.

i’ll spare you the details, but, let’s just say, i had to do that not so long ago. when things settled down a bit and i could look over those years at a distance, i felt saved too, not in a salvation-y, religious way, more like saved from the life i’d started to build for myself and thought that i’d wanted. every person who climbs out of such a place starts off slowly. they make a list of people and things they know are solid enough to hold onto, since so much of the rest of their life seems tenuous and shifty. my list had a handful of close friends on it, my family, a few books, and johnny cash.

you’re right, i don’t normally post at 4:14am which is why i’ve decided to keep this brief. michael and i just arrived back in town. he dropped me off and continued to indian trail, dreaming, i’m sure, of sleeping in his own bed, rather than on my couch.

the sky in asheville was clear and pale blue, the air cool enough to walk around in without sweating. when evening came and we were standing in front of the club before the doors opened, the chill was enough to require a light jacket. the one i’d left in the car, because michael said i probably wouldn’t need it, would have been great.

most of our day was spent walking and eating and stealing gas from a BP (but i’ll let him write about that). we enjoy these road trips, not only for the music, but because they always turn into one giant game of who-can-make-the-other-guy-laugh-so-hard-that-drink-flies-out-of-his-nose. one of our first trips was for a skavoovie show in blacksburg, a very long time ago. more recently, we sojourned to portsmouth to see elvis costello.

speaking of declan, i knew that tonight’s yo la tengo show would be amazing because they opened with (what’s so funny ‘bout) peace, love, and understanding. how cool is that? the aislers set, on warm-up duty, played well, too. i met alicia, their bassist, about halfway through the yo la tengo set, as she was standing nearby. she was very nice. this is probably the first show that i’ve been to where i was as excited to see the opening band as i was the headliner.

ok, so, i’m going to bed now.

last seen: winged migration
last heard: go sailor ‘fine day for sailing’

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

work is over. now i’m off for four days. i celebrated by making mashed potatoes tonight, old-school style with a wire masher, a fistful of salt, and too much butter. tomorrow, michael and i are headed to the yo la tengo/aislers set show in asheville. this will be my first time to see yo la tengo. the last two times they passed nearby i was too sick to make it to the show. i saw the aislers set a few months back and, as expected, they were great.

here's something you might not know. asheville is my favorite city in north carolina. relocating there would be swell but there just haven't been any vacancies for librarians in the two years that i've been checking. until that changes, i will continue to make a couple of trips per year and spend the rest of my time whining. we are heading up in the afternoon. this gives us several hours to wander the streets and enjoy the forecasted 73 degree day.

our show will likely end after midnight but we are driving back to charlotte afterwards. friday, i’ll catch up on sleep and watch a few movies, then, if all goes as planned, it is back on the road on saturday. the clientele are playing in chapel hill. while i'm there i hope to see jean and some of my other weblog pals. that's the unusual part of this weblog thing; i seem to know more people who go there now, than i did when i was actually shuffling around manning hall a few years ago.

speaking of jean, here are the questions i made for her:
1.Your apartment has, sadly, caught fire. You’ve already braved the roaring inferno twice; once to rescue pets and once to save your laptop. There is time for you to grab just one more object before the building crumbles in a shower of spark and ash. What do you rush in to grab?
2.What is the first part-time job you ever had?
3.What is the last children’s book that you read? Would you have liked it differently or for the same reasons, when you were a child?
4.Besides family, is there anything you miss about living up North?
5.What would be funnier: watching cartoons with the sound off and closed-captions on, so that you could do the voices? OR watching a real-live midget trying to push an unwieldy rock up a big hill?

last heard: traffic '40,000 headmen'
last read: Today the connections between the two September lls remain.

doing my part to spread the interview meme. thanks for playing, elizabeth and jenn. here are your questions.

1. If you could have one of the following powers, which would you choose: the ability to play all musical instruments as soon as you pick them up OR the ability to speak all foreign languages at will.
2. What was the first song you ever remember slow dancing to?
3. When was the last time you laughed for so long that your stomach or face hurt? What was so funny?
4. Would you rather be able to speed read or read lips?
5. If you could move to any other state in the union, where would you move to and why?

1. Name 3 things you like about the city you just moved to.
2. You have been chosen to pick the participants in a tag-team wrestling match that pits two famous authors (from any age, past or present) against two famous playwrights (from any age, past or present). Which four people do you pick, what are their signature moves, and which pair wins the match?
3. When are you most content?
4. Quick! Inventory your purse.
5. At which of these holiday times are you happiest: (A) in the middle of fireworks on the Fourth of July, (B) answering the door to little kids in costume on Halloween, (C) thirty minutes after the last bite of Thanksgiving dinner, or (D) the moment you wake up on Christmas morning?

last heard: johnny cash 'while i've got it on my mind'
last read: An Israeli commission of inquiry concluded that police used excessive force in putting down a riot by Israeli Arabs three years ago in which 13 people were killed. The commission suggested that the police stop using snipers armed with rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse Arab crowds.

Monday, September 08, 2003

in today's episode, sharyn rescues me from writer's block by sending along five questions. [the rules appear below if you want to play.]

How it Works
1. Send me an email, saying you want to be interviewed.
2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
3. You'll update your website with my five questions and your five answers.
4. You'll include this explanation.
5. You'll ask other people five questions when they want to be interviewed.

1. If you were going to put together a film fest, based on any theme(s), what movies would you include?
i’m going to cheat on this question because i just had to do this for work. i spent a few weeks watching old comedies from the 1940s and had to whittle it down to four as part of a fall series at the library. my picks were: his girl friday (cary grant and rosalind russell), sullivan’s travels (joel mccrea and veronica lake), woman of the year (katharine hepburn and spencer tracy), and the man who came to dinner (bette davis and monty woolley). you should rent these tonight.

2. If you could date one of the following (from any era), who would it be?
a) Kathleen Hanna
b) Audrey Hepburn
c) Trinity
d) Mary Timony
e) Winona Ryder
f) Neko Case
g) Marisa Tomei
h) Tank Girl
i) Monica Bellucci
j) Lois
k) Lady Miss Kier (of Deee-Lite fame)

with all of these choices, i thought it best to devise a stratagem. first, i omitted all of the fictional characters. so, right off the top, trinity, tank girl, marisa tomei, and monica bellucci were gone. next i got rid of audrey hepburn and winona ryder, because, really, what boy wouldn't appreciate those two. that left me with the musicians. now i could have gotten big indie cred points for picking mary timony, neko case, lois, or kathleen hanna, but this is where i throw the audience a curve and go with lady miss kier; likely, the selection most might have guessed i'd discard first.

now, i suppose, you want to know why i picked her. i could lie and say that it is because i want her to sing 'love is everything' to me, as we sit on the couch on sunday mornings, handing sections of the paper back and forth, while we play footsie and eat pancakes. (mmm...pancakes.) i could even lie and say that we'd make the prettiest babies. the real reason though, the most honest one, is because i'd rather be two degrees of separation from boosty collins than two degrees of separation from jd samson's mustache.

3. What was the last book you read and would you recommend it to others?
the last book that i read was the mineral palace by heidi julavits which is our book club selection for september. i finished it on saturday evening. the reviews were great and it had all kinds of stuff that i like in a novel. dust storms, check. characters that experience physical and social isolation, check and check. strong sense of place, check. somehow it didn’t affect me as much as i thought it would. i wouldn’t recommend it, but i can think of all kinds of other books you might like.

4. Which pastime do you prefer: miniature golf, bowling or go-cart racing?
bowling, hands down, and there are so many reasons why: it is a year-round sport which you can play anywhere in the country; drinking alcoholic beverages while engaged in said sport is accepted and, often, encouraged; embroidered shirts and ugly shoes; it is the only sport where the professionals look like substitute shop teachers.

5. If you could have a favorite band (from any era) perform a personal concert for you and your friends, who would it be?
this question is hard, because none of my close friends like the music that i do. so, to please the most folks at this party of mine, i’d play it safe and reunite 10,000 maniacs circa in my tribe/blind man’s zoo.

last heard: stereolab ‘tone burst’
last read: she makes me do the right thing a lot more often then I would do it by myself

Sunday, September 07, 2003

not only did i finish all of my laundry, including my towels and sheets, there was a note, folded and tucked, between my screen door and the frame when i got home. i squinted, trying to make out the handwriting before i got too close and it wasn’t blurry anymore and wouldn’t be a game. i put my laundry bag down and pulled the note out of the door. it was written on paper ripped from a spiral notebook, so the edges looked frayed like a woven rug. my upstairs neighbor (the note said) left a mixed cd and homemade chocolate chip cookies in the space between my screen door and the real door.

i’m always happy right after laundry time, those few hours when every article of clothing that i own is clean and before the first dirty item makes its way to the empty laundry bag. think about a time when you were really happy, now imagine finding a mixed cd and homemade cookies waiting for you when you got home. i was that happy. yes, i’m a simple man.

this afternoon, i went to buy some records. a friend of a friend was getting rid of a large chunk of his vinyl collection. i don’t know this guy very well. he is one of those people that you see at parties because you have a few friends in common. you stand around talking about music and shows that you’ve been to since the last party and then you don’t see him for several months. he sent me an email last week saying that he was only selling his records to a good home and mine qualified. i haven’t had a record player for very long, so i knew that i’d find some things.

let me tell you, it’s weird to dig through someone else’s collection when they are standing in the same room with you. everytime i skipped over a record that i didn’t want, i felt like he was a dad putting his kids up for adoption and i was mussing their hair, looking at their teeth, pulling down each of their eyelids, and then going nah. a few other folks dropped in for the big sale while i was digging. charlotte is such a small town that i’d seen a few of them out before but never met them until today. as is my way, i don’t remember one of their names. luckily, i can fall back on the head nod, if i see them again.

and, since i know you’re wondering, yes, i left fifty dollars poorer than when i arrived.

last seen: for me and my gal, here comes mister jordan
last heard: the gentle waves ‘there is no greater gold’
last read: heidi julavits’ the mineral palace
reading: w.e.b. du bois’ the souls of black folk

Saturday, September 06, 2003

i enjoy the occasional game of catch, especially before dinner just as the sun is going down. i also don’t mind sitting in the stands at minor league games, talking about whatever, drinking my beer, and bellowing aww or yea with the crowd. finally, i also think that the bad news bears is a really, really great movie. aside from the aforementioned things, however, the game of baseball, itself, i can take or leave. it is probably of little surprise, then, that i made it through my first thirty years without ever having visited a batting cage. a small part of me always thought it would be fun, but, until last night, i had never been.

a few of us library folks met at north davidson for the gallery crawl. after dinner and drinks, we walked lethargically through several blocks worth of galleries. i made a few comments about some mixed-media pieces that i liked and mark, almost over-enthusiastically, said, hey look at that bowl. that was the extent of our art criticism for the evening. we aren’t philistines, i just think the big meal was wearing us down. as we headed back to the car, we were trying to decide what to do next. neither of us felt like drinking anymore and it seemed way too early to call it a night. i’m not sure which of us brought up the batting cages, but that person was a genius. after making a few calls, mark found a place that was open until midnight.

the equipment guy took our driver’s licenses and handed each of us a bat and a helmet. sorry, cage rules, dude. i noticed that a man returned his sweat-covered helmet and the equipment guy handed it straight to the next person in line. no, wiping it out with a dirty rag. no, spraying that stuff that they spray into rented bowling shoes. nothing. but then, what do i know from batting cage etiquette? do they even make helmet spray? i grabbed my gear and headed over. i always thought it would be expensive at the batting cage but it was only $1.50 for 20 pitches.

ladies and gentlemen, i was terrible. i foul-tipped several and only really got under a few. the little girl in the cage next to ours was like an old pro. she had good form and had found her rhythm. her grandmother stood outside the cage. everytime the little girl connected, grandma would say something like that’s my baby, or there you go, baby, or did you see my baby? i was jealous. i started to think that if i would have brought my own elderly black woman, i might have hit better. that’s what i’m going to do next time.

last seen: red dawn
last heard: the magnetic fields ‘the book of love’
last read: They looked at me with what seemed to be a mix of excitement in anticipation of a repeat move and horror at the fact that I might flick this man’s bottom. We continued to giggle.

Friday, September 05, 2003

1. did you always want to be a librarian or did you just fall into it? that was one question, from a set of two, which comprised the entire text of an email that jenn sent last night. she usually sends me longer messages peppered with witty anecdotes about her new grad school life in missouri; however, since she only sent the questions this time, i’m going to make all of you suffer through my reply. [editor’s note: warning, this is a long post.]

my first work-study job as an undergraduate was as a clerk in the library. i mostly worked nights, shelving and checking out books or retrieving reserves. the people that i worked for were nice, but, at this point, i still wanted to be a journalist. ah, how quickly those dreams withered and died. i took a sharp turn after only one month’s worth of my beginning reporting class, where a typical assignment involved 30 students writing about a traffic accident in exactly the same dry way.

i started writing a column for my college newspaper, an experience that afforded me all the pleasures of writing under deadline combined with the fun of ulcers, all without making a career out of it. more importantly, i changed majors, embarking on an english degree, a course of study that always leads to the sister cities of personal enlightenment and guaranteed unemployability. several months later, financial aid became a problem and it looked like i might have to transfer from my small, private, catholic university.

just before i was about to join the rodeo, our library posted a vacancy for a circulation supervisor. i started working full-time and going to class part-time, all-year round, and the university picked up the whole tab. i got to know the librarians really well, but, at this point, i still wanted to become an english professor/respected american novelist. ah, again with the dreams withering and dying. i looked around me and, in the early-90s, the sewers were choked with the corpses of adjunct faculty and lifelong associate professors who perished using their last breaths to whisper tenure, like it was rosebud.

besides, i liked library work. i was surrounded by people who were smart and funny and, as a profession, were almost across-the-board liberals. it felt like home. i finished undergrad and decided to go public as we say in the business. yes, in the public library, i would always be poor, but i could become an advocate for the community, work in the people’s university, foster democracy and the free exchange of ideas, and (most of the time) not have my idealism shat upon by co-workers and higher-ups. i worked in a few public libraries and, after three years, hit the para-professional glass ceiling.

that is when i had to decide. do i want to take the blue pill and wake up in my bed and believe whatever i want to believe and check out books for the rest of my life? or, do i want to take the red pill and see how deep the rabbit hole goes and possibly work with really cute girls, some of whom would even be straight?

last seen: friends forever, the man who came to dinner
last heard: digable planets 'black ego'
last read: The histories describe the informant's family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

it was dainty the way the young girl leaned over the water fountain, graceful even, but what made me laugh was when her older brother, a chubby boy in his middle teens, pushed her head forward into the advancing stream of water. it, first, shot up her nose and then cascaded across the entire right side of her face, just barely wetting her hairline. obviously used to such antics, she uttered a tired-sounding awwww, then laughed. the look she gave him seemed to acknowledge his handiwork as a good one. her grin and the way her eyes narrowed let him know that revenge would be enacted when he least expected it and, at a much later time, given their present location of the library. foolishly, she went in for another drink. again, her brother pushed her face into the water. i had to laugh at them. it reminded me of the games my sister and i spent much of our youth playing.

did i turn the volume on her walkman up to 10, during a long car ride between california and texas, just as she was dozing off to sleep? guilty as charged. what about the allegations that, while babysitting her when we were both quite young, i got the bright idea that she should let me roll her into a sheet, then i could whip it, so that she'd fly across the room like a top? also, guilty; though i didn't expect that whole falling-down-and-whacking-her-head-on-the-coffee-table bit. ah, good times.

as i'm sitting here now, it's hard to recall the life-threatening and, thereby, hilarious things she did to me, though i know they occurred. no, what i keep thinking of is this really funny thing she used to do. i would be sitting in the living room, quietly, not suspecting anything, probably watching tv or reading the bible. she would walk in from the kitchen, all innocent-like, and just before sitting down, she'd spit an entire mouthful of water at me, then run quickly to another room or out the front door.

last heard: belle and sebastian's cover of 'don't fear the reaper'
last read: it would become the next big thing on the internet and there would be a massive manhunt for the creators of such simplistic perfection.
bonus: like jen sbragia? got 200 bucks? she's in an art show and you can buy her stuff.

Monday, September 01, 2003

after digesting three whole films and a documentary since late yesterday afternoon, i decided that i needed to spend time doing two things-- reading and getting off of my couch. the only way that was going to happen was for me to leave the house. i'll admit it, during the past thirty-odd days that i've had a cable modem, my computer has owned me. if we were in prison together, i would likely be washing my computer's underwear in the sink and putting his hair in cornrows out on the yard.

at first, i thought that the novelty would wear off, but, too often, this is what happens: i sit down for just five mintues to check email, then, suddenly, i discover that two hours have mysteriously vanished, my eyes hurt, and i'm downloading roy orbison songs. i envy those of you who manage to maintain real websites, churn out consistently witty content, and balance that with the demands of jobs and families. if i ever make the leap to a real website, i'll probably have to neglect my as-yet-unborn children, but i digress.

i grabbed my book and ventured off after dinner to find a quiet place. i ran into martin at the coffeeshop. he told me about his weekend which included a trip to atlanta for DragonCon. martin's assessment?

many, many goth girls= SOOOO GOOD!
old women dressed as klingons= NOOOO GOOD!

we caught up for a bit and then set to reading our respective books. now i'm at home, getting ready to download some roy orbison songs before bed.

last seen: the trials of henry kissinger, punch-drunk love, permanent vacation, george washington
last heard: bjork 'venus as a boy'
last read: An indictment of Henry Kissinger for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes would include (but not be confined to) the following.