Friday, January 30, 2004

today was the sort of day where, on the ground, near the curbs and on the north sides of all the trees, there were little piles of snow. the light couldn't reach those spots yesterday and it wasn't warm enough to make the slushy reminders go away. after reading that it was –22 without the windchill in sharyn's neighborhood, i was even more thankful for a 50 degree day and the carolina blue sky and how winter is a really brutal week in my state.

whenever i hear about an american city having a –22 degree day, i always wonder whether there are people in canada's northern provinces who read about it in their morning papers and then think about chicago or detroit or minneapolis the same way that i think about miami in the winter.

i went walking all around today, which is how i knew about those slushy piles by the trees. i had some lunch and dug through some used cd racks and even managed to give some poor schmo the wrong directions.

it always happens the same way. i'm walking down the street and someone decides that out of all the people outside today i look the most like someone who knows where they are going. the car pulls up next to me and asks for directions to a place that i've been to a million times, in this case, elizabeth avenue. i start out just fine. i'm speaking in my loud grown-up voice. i'm using hand motions. i'm telling the guy no problem when he thanks me and begins to pull away. i'm waiving goodbye. then i turn on my heel and after two steps i realize that i told him to turn left, one light too early.

last seen: kramer vs. kramer
last heard: funkadelic 'mommy, what's a funkadelic?'
last read: X is to Y, as this shit is to boring.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

every couple of weeks mark's voice turns into froggy's from the little rascals. we don't know why. not even the doctors with their fancy scanning equipment and creepy throat cameras and sophisticated doctor-y know-how can figure it out. all we know for sure is that mark doesn't have throat cancer and we're pretty happy about that.

when he called me from work last night, his voice was about shot. he said that the last time we went out a-drinkin', his voice was mysteriously normal and strong the next day. it is probably due to the therapeutic value of beer and secondhand smoke that we've been reading about in all the medical journals lately.

i finished watching my movie, put on some longjohns and a pair of boots, and calmly waited for mark to get off work. i honestly didn't feel like going out much, but i'm glad i did. for one thing mark's health was at stake and i owed it to him to go drinking. also, if i declined, i might have felt like a guy who was too tired to drive his buddy to the hospital; so, even though it was a school night, i partook of the high life.

mark is much better, i think. he was at work anyway. i didn't mind the late night. also, there were cute girls at the bar.

last seen: night of the hunter
last heard: stereolab 'percolator'
last read: I think film strips are cool.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

i watched a movie tonight that involved a lot of train-hopping. it looks like there's a technique to it. what you do is you find yourself a locomotive that's just left the train yard, so that way it isn't moving too fast. look for a boxcar that has a door open. once you find one, you start off running alongside it, see? when you have enough speed, you kind of turn your body to the side and leap so that your torso lands in the boxcar. i've seen it done in other movies, too. if you're lucky, there's already one or two hobos in there to grab your belt or the back of your trousers and hoist you up the rest of the way. if not, you can usually swing one of your legs into the car and get in pretty easy.

i've learned a lot of things from movies, really practical things like how to hop trains. oh, and also never, ever get captured by turks.

sadly, i don't think i'll ever get to hop a train.

last seen: boxcar bertha
last heard: nick drake 'harvest breed'
last read: Oh friends. I want you to hear the beauty of you speaking softly to yourself as you prepare food.

Monday, January 26, 2004

everyone needs a hobby. it is especially important when work is cancelled for the second day, you can't drive any place because the roads are iced over, and you are almost out of rented movies to watch.

today, in between naps, my hobby was sitting very still and concentrating on growing my ironic moustache some more. i imagined that i was pushing the hair out using only the powers of my mind. believe you me, it thickened up a bit. it's almost two weeks that i've had it and everytime i pass a mirror i make myself laugh. i can only imagine strangers are doing the same. sometimes it makes me look like i'm one of those n'er-do-wells from CHiPs, the kind that wear leather vests with no shirts, and other times, with the right hat, it just makes me look russian.

no one at work has mentioned it, but they notice. oh, yes. i can tell by the way small children begin to sob and how women of all ages have to lean against a wall or grab a handrail, if they're on the steps, and fan themselves. my god, they say in spanish. my god.

last seen: indiana jones and the temple of doom, scarecrow, style wars, a fistful of dollars
last heard: belle and sebastian 'poupee de cire, poupee de son'
last read: Rather than have Bush's first (and only I pray) term being remembered as a time of rampant corporate corruption, ballooning federal deficits, an erosion of our most basic civil rights, the most arrogant foreign policy since The Mexican War, and the continued rape and pillage of our national resources for the benefit of his rich friends. Instead, we could have Bush's term as president remembered as a time of rampant corporate corruption, ballooning federal deficits, an erosion of our most basic civil rights, the most arrogant foreign policy since The Mexican War, , the continued rape and pillage of our national resources for the benefit of his rich friends, and the time we landed a couple probes on Mars.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

a post in two parts

snow day! snow day!

they closed the library and everything. i was supposed to work this afternoon but instead i'll be going for a walk and then camping out on the couch to have nice, quiet, by-myself time for the rest of the day. from my bedroom window, i can see that my car has a dusting and there is just a bit of snow on the ground, not even enough to reach the top of the grass really. the weather mavens say we should expect ice later which is probably why they closed the library.

that's reason number 326 on the list of why i like living in the south- even the threat of ice gets us out of work. when i was a boy in upstate new york, several feet of snow would blanket the ground encrusted with a layer of ice that was thick enough to walk across and, still, they wouldn't cancel school.

last night, a couple of us went to situl, a new indian restaurant in town. (for charlotteans reading this, it sits behind the park road shopping center.) all of the food was good. it was the best chicken korma i’ve ever had and the samosas were just spicy enough. it is nice to get another restaurant into the rotation.

last seen: amadeus, the bobo
last heard: simon and garfunkel 'old friends'
last read: marjane satrapi persepolis, kurt vonnegut god bless you, dr. kevorkian
reading: philip gourevitch we wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families

Friday, January 23, 2004

the old me used to look ahead and see kids. the old me was anxious to settle down and get started. the old me picked out names. the old me envisioned long talks and teaching them things. the old me worried about these imaginary kids and the first time they got sick. the old me wasn't sure what else would happen with jobs and writing and the rest of it, but he was pretty sure there'd be kids, so he was excited.

then things changed and i got older and, just in the past few years, later is becoming now and it's starting to look different. i'm not so sure i see kids anymore and i'm not really sure how i feel about that.

part of me is disappointed. part of me thinks there's still time. part of me sits at work and hears a kid wailing for no good reason and is thankful that there are no kids. part of me wonders whether he will become one of those people he used to work with-- late-30s, early-40s liberal types who end up adopting a kid from a foreign country that nobody's heard of and can't pronounce and naming them after old jazz musicians or mid-twentieth-century baseball players. part of me wants one of those cool three-wheeled strollers with the mountain bike tires on them. part of me, the selfish part, thinks about how much sacrifice would be involved and wonders if maybe the way things are isn't so terrible, but then, another part of me reads something like this and decides yes, it would be worth it. part of me is glad that none of this has to be decided today by 5 o’clock and realizes that any hesitation would go away as soon as i met the right girl.

last seen: the last picture show, thunderbolt and lightfoot
last heard: ladytron 'paco!'
last read: I was a solitary fat white boy in a class where all the Mexican guys would come into the shop class and immediately take off their shirts and get to work making whatever.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

i haven't been up to chapel hill for a show in months, so, as of ten minutes ago, i am the proud owner of a ticket to see mates of state. it falls on my three-day weekend, how could i not go?

i made the mistake of not packing some kind of food item before i went to work today and, so, was forced out into the town at rush-hour to forage for dinner. the north county traffic was getting heavier as i steered my car indecisively around various strip-mall parking lots. at a stoplight, i turned on all things considered and listened to a set of stories with people reminiscing about cigarettes and the days when smoking was a lot more pervasive.

the first time i smoked a cigarette i was thirteen. there was a little shack, a kind of snack bar, in front of the PX (post exchange, for you civilians) that sold burgers and hot dogs and cold drinks. they had a couple of tables. we used to skate down to the PX to play the sit-down galaga they had just inside the sliding glass doors. sometimes we would look at magazines or buy gummy bears but usually we just sat at those couple of tables in front of the PX.

one day, me and derrick and stuart and jason and, i think, tony were sitting there when a GI walked out of the PX in a hurry. as he passed our table, a pack of cigarettes fell from the armful of items he had just purchased. all of our eyes shot to the still-cellophaned pack and, rather than scurrying for it, we waited for the GI to drive out of the parking lot.

you have to remember, we were in middle school and he had just graduated from high school, so he was only a few years older than we were. the way we figured it, he probably wasn’t above kicking our asses for stealing from him. as soon as he turned the corner, we scrambled for the pack.

someone, i forget who, managed to go in and ask for a book of matches which were free and we skated to a playground about a mile away. there we sat, some of us on skateboards, some on the jungle gym, and jason in a nearby tree, with lit cigarettes hanging out of our mouths, not having fully mastered the whole inhaling thing. well, except for jason who had smoked before and even went around with a bottle of yellow cepacol mouthwash in his back pocket. in retrospect, i bet he just used to drink that.

when i got home i reeked of smoke and made up some lie about hanging out all day at the bowling alley. i don't remember getting in trouble but i'm sure the parents didn't buy the story. i could only have smelled smokier if strangers had put their cigarettes out on me.

last heard: the pixies 'la la love you'
last read: susan sontag in america
reading: marjane satrapi persepolis

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

reading is usually smooshed in at the end of my lunch break or while standing on line in a restaurant or passing minutes in some waiting room. sometimes i read right before i go to sleep, but i usually don't get very far. after all, i'm lying there in my still-kind-of-new bed which is all soft and nice, then, three pages later, i'm asleep. yesterday was different. with bookclub less than 48 hours away and more than half the novel left to read, i decided to forsake movies and computers and people and said to myself, i am going to read now. for me, the decision to read is rarely that formal. it was like i had a little checklist. i made some tea, pulled a blanket onto my lap, set my phone and my post-its just so, then started reading. i was so proud, i only fell asleep once. as the sun set, i read and read, watching orange light and shadows climb the wall slowly above my head. i should finish the last 100 pages of in america tonight even with the state of the union intermission.

last heard: stereolab 'refractions in the plastic pulse'
last read: If a man thought hard enough about the natural architecture that awed and inspired him, he would find, Emerson maintained, that it impressed him precisely because it disclosed to him an answering architecture in himself.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

it's after 3 and i'm still sitting around in the clothes that i slept in; finishing off a pot of coffee and reading, slowly working my way through a pile of old sunday NY times. whenever i weed the out-of-control piles at work, i harvest the arts and leisure, sunday styles, and the occasional travel section. if i lived in the metro NYC area, i'd probably scoff at the idea of reading old news, but, since i don't live in a big american city, poring over last october's arts news really isn't such a terrible thing.

all of today's laziness balances yesterday's productivity. in addition to sending out the month's bills and sorting through and filing stacks of loose paper, i cleaned out the closet under the stairs. there were random objects just stuffed in there and boxes that i hadn't gone through in over a year. i pulled everything out into the center of the living room, made piles of items to donate, and consolidated the half-full boxes of books and records.

speaking of vinyl, here is a list of records that i scored for one dollar a piece last week. everything is in great condition.

beatles- abbey road
rolling stones- big hits (high tide and green grass)
kraftwerk- ralf and florian
bowie- changesonebowie
rolling stones- get yer ya-yas out
stevie wonder- songs in the key of life
john lennon- mind games
led zeppelin- led zeppelin II
madonna- s/t

...and don’t even laugh at that last one, because you know you like 'lucky star' and 'borderline' as much as i do.

last seen: underworld, the good, the bad, and the ugly
last heard: the maddox brothers and rose 'no one is sweeter than you'
last read: Clark has fired a broadside at greed. When the New York Times last week wrote that Wes Clark has been "positioning himself slightly to Dean's left," this is what they meant, and it sure sounded good to me.

Friday, January 16, 2004

i promise this isn't a commercial for netflix
even though it sounds like one

in an effort to trim the budget and stretch my entertainment dollar, i took a bold leap into the year 2001 and joined netflix last night. as i mentioned here previously, i have been cable-less for almost three years. i'm not trying to say that i'm better than you. in fact, i would bet that i spend more time in front of a television set than you do. the only difference is you have to watch, or tivo-through, commercials. also, i am less likely to have nightmares.

the netflix decision came after a year after rolling the idea round in my head. i'm not one for snap decisions. (well, besides that one time when i got married, but that is a story for another day.) the straw what broke the camel's back was this: on average, i rent three movies a week from the local establishment. that's roughly $12 per week/$50 per month. the netflix thing, as you might know, is $20 a month, unlimited rentals, no overdues. there seems to be no catch, despite my best efforts to find one while combing the fine print.

so, we'll see how long this new system of mine lasts. i can only foresee two things that will kill it. first is impatience. like most americans, when i have a need, i want it satiated yesterday. if i wake one morning suddenly struck by the inexplicable urge to see clint eastwood’s zany adventures with an orangutan sidekick, it's nice to know that i can probably have it in my hand within the hour and not have to wait on the postal service. the second reason this brilliant plan might die is because of my conscience. will i be able to live with myself knowing that i'm sending my money to some faceless internet empire instead of giving it to the small NC-based indie-chain that is within walking distance of my apartment? time will tell.

all i know is that pather panchali and baretta: season one are in my queue.

last heard: beastie boys 'something's got to give'
last read: seriously, why are we still going into space? to find out if broccoli can grow upside-down in zero gravity? [link via beth]
one more thing...: are any chapel hill folks planning to attend the ted leo show at go studios? it is on march 14th.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

reference librarian
information specialist
readers' advisor
internet maitre d'

when the people above me announce that there will be a training session and that all of us librarian-types have to attend on a particular day, i always quiet myself and listen for the many nuances of the mixed reaction from different corners of the room. one of my colleagues, she can always be counted upon for a good, deep, chest-heaving, sigh. me, i just sit there, hoping that the training is at another branch, waaaay on the other side of the county, because it's those kinds of meetings that always carry the possibility of going home early. this is particularly wonderful, if the trainer is supposed to speak until 5 and winds up finished around 3:27.

yesterday's training session was in our own branch, so there would be no going home early. still, it was the first time i can remember that everyone was so happy to be sitting in a training seminar. the sighing lady didn't even sigh that much. what company, what products, you ask, could bring such joy into the hearts of so many librarians? well, it is called envisionware and i'm thinking i might buy a gigantic cake for everyone when it goes live next week.

since some of you aren't librarians, i won't bore you with all of the details, but, basically, it allows patrons to sign themselves up for the internet with their library cards or make appointments for computers later in the day. it handles print management, and, here's the best part, it reboots the computer at the end of that person's allotted time then they are done at our branch for that day. the system won't accept their card for another appointment. heh, heh, heh. (would you like to get in on the office pool? how long until someone comes in with three of their relatives' library cards and makes three appointments in a row for themselves?)

no more paper sign-ups. no more running around with a clip-board trying to find mr. S who is next on the waiting list. no more telling someone they have two minutes left and then seeing them at the computer ten minutes later. no more running off without paying for print jobs. no more people camped out for several hours playing yahoo checkers or checking their e-harmony accounts.

last heard: henry's dress 'target practice' [editor’s note: dear amy linton, there's still time to have my babies since carrie’s playing hard-to-get. love, james]
last read: It was at this moment that our new secretary, Miss Lola Kelly, walked in. Now, in the debate over whether everything is made up of particles or waves, Miss Kelly is definitely waves.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

in charlotte, the place where we keep all of our big buildings is called uptown. even after living here for several years, i still make the mistake of saying downtown when i talk to people, but they know where i mean. yesterday evening, i went downtown to this building called spirit square. it has offices and community rooms and a small theater that looks like a church on the inside with stained glass windows and everything. it is where i saw david sedaris a few years back and, also, where i attended a play with my aunt that one time.

last night, i went there with tiff for the monday night film series. it is a sweet deal. the movie costs five dollars and the popcorn, which comes in those old-timey red and white boxes, only costs one. plus, there is a balcony. movies always look and sound better when viewed from a balcony. there was chicken and dumplins at dish after the film followed by a little grocery shopping, two games of chess, and tea, then i slept the sleep of angels.

last seen: bowling for columbine
last heard: belle and sebastian 'like dylan in the movies'
last read: 134 TweeNet visitors or members of the indiepop mailing list voted for their favourite Indiepop in 2003.
bonus: vote by issues

Sunday, January 11, 2004

[warning: what follows is a very long and rant-y movie post from the makers of 42short]

this weekend, my aunt and i went to two movies together. i picked the first one, big fish, and she picked the second, calendar girls. i knew what i was getting into with her pick, but, i am such a nice nephew, i went anyway. the crowd was exactly what i had expected-- me, my aunt, several hundred older women, and a sprinkling of husbands who weren't quick enough to think up a good excuse to avoid this. it was a whole room full of have you read the da vinci code? and how are your hot flashes? the movie ran a little long, but there were some funny parts and the target audience seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

in trailer news, can someone explain to me the current obsession with remakes? the coen brothers are doing the ladykillers. meanwhile, some studio decided that another dawn of the dead would be just the thing we needed. i will probably see both of these, so i ought not complain too loudly.

one steaming pile that i refuse to see, however, is miracle and i was forced to endure that trailer yet again. wow, rabid patriotism plus ice hockey, all in one movie. you don't say? what a dream come true. i think i would rather see kurt russell in overboard 2 or a prequel to tango and cash.

last seen: big fish, powerpuff girls, calendar girls, the last detail
last heard: poundsign 'vitamin dee'
last read: The store's closing. [editor's note: this is sad, sad news as manifest is our town's best record shop.]

Saturday, January 10, 2004

our library had its annual winter gathering at the mint last night. for the second year in a row, i helped out at the registration table. over 350 people RSVP'd, so there were three of us working registration. it's a better job than, say, standing in the middle of the lobby directing people to the overflowing coat room, but it is a job not without its own set of hazards.

you see, as last year's staff organization treasurer, most of the hundreds of employees know who i am; they had to send their dues to me through interoffice mail. ...along with their TPS reports, just kidding.

hi, james kelly!--i'm sending in my dues soon, james kelly.--hey, james kelly, lookin' good! mmm, hmmm. that's right, white boy, work it, work it! those are all things i've heard while walking through various branches for meetings. you can see the common denominator here. a lot of folks know my name and, when people know your name, they think you know their's. ATTENTION, LIBRARY PEOPLE: this is not true. i don't even know everyone's name in my own branch.

there were some embarrassing moments as i had to ask for last names. i saw more than a few crestfallen faces and started to feel really bad about it. that is until i noticed my two registration tablemates doing the same thing.

last heard: velvet underground 'pale blue eyes'
last read: there's never been a hip-hop artist...who deserved top-shelf scholarly love from the camp of the Blackademe Niggeratti more than Rakim.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

i wasn't ripped apart by dogs. i haven't been rescuing kittens from burlap sacks thrown into icy-cold rivers. i wasn't even busy reading to blind people. mostly, it's this work business that's been keeping me occupied.

due to a convoluted system of scheduling that is complicated by our weekend rotations, every third week we have to work many, many days in a row with only one day off. at the end of our library work-a-thon, we get a three-day weekend. mine begins tomorrow. so, when you look outside your window and the sky is all shiny that will be from me smiling because i'm the happiest boy in the world.

i plan to spend the next three days doing very little besides reading and watching movies. my goal is to finish the sontag book for book club (only 300 pages to go!) and then start on something fun like never mind the pollacks or persepolis.

while i'm on the subject of books and book club. i think blindness and middlesex are going to be upcoming picks. have any of you read middlesex? what did you think? we pick our titles in threes, so i've been combing everyone's year-end favorites lists to find something to fill the last slot. feel free to leave recommendations in the comments, especially if it's readable and interesting non-fiction as we've not read any of that.

last seen: targets
last heard: the zombies 'how we were before'
last read: A revolution's need for a base just like an individual's need for a buttocks.

Monday, January 05, 2004

a friend of mine just received her peace corps assignment. she's moving to kiribati in a couple of months. you're much smarter than i am, so you probably know where that is; i, however, needed a map. i discovered that it is near samoa. she will probably get used to saying that last bit in the next few months.

kiribati, she will say, it is near samoa.

when i left north carolina and lived for a brief time in kansas, i thought that was far away. it's probably a good thing that i'm not in the peace corps. her news did get me to thinking, though, about how i need to visit some places before i die. i've not traveled much outside of america and there are lots of places that i would like to see. here are some: india, spain, brazil. for now, i'm just happy to again be living in a town that's big enough to have restaurants featuring the food of those places.

last seen: my life to live, sisters
last heard: burning spear 'jordan river'
last read: lemony snicket interviews jack black

Saturday, January 03, 2004

i was either eight or nine when my dad made me my first bullwhip. actually, it was the only bullwhip he ever gave me; i shouldn't make it sound like crafting or gifting bullwhips was a family tradition. also, i should mention that it wasn’t made of leather, because, dammit, that would be dangerous. the reason my dad gave me a whip was because i wanted to be indiana jones for halloween. he found several lengths of green parachute cord lying around which he braided, then attached to end of a short stick. yes, when you're in the army, you have things like surplus green parachute cord lying around your house.

halloween came and went. who can say if that year's candy score was better than previous years? i certainly can't remember if the pillow case was heavier. i suspect it was though, because my costume rawked. i even had a hat like indy's.

i kept that bullwhip for a long time and carried it with me whenever us neighborhood kids would play war. it didn’t matter if i was the good guys or the bad guys, someone or something was getting whipped.

last heard: ted leo and the pharmacists 'the ballad of the sin eater'
last read: Boorstin thought that the image had taken over not because of anything to do with the nature of capitalism (a word that, amazingly, does not appear in his book) but because Americans couldn’t face ordinary life, in which the excellent and the extraordinary are rare, and most things are difficult, imperfect, disappointing, or boring.
bonus: Winner agrees not to take any legal action. [link via sharyn]

Friday, January 02, 2004

sometime, earlier that day, they had driven four metal posts into the almost-frozen ground. these served as corners for the make-shift boxing ring which they constructed in the front yard. the hosts have a friend who, apparently, builds sets for the charlotte rep theater and knows his way around ropes and knots and suchlike; he'd been there earlier to thread three rows worth of heavy white rope around the four poles.

it was my first time there, at the house and in the town. by the time i arrived, all that was left to do was secure pieces of foam around the tops of each jutting metal pole. as other people did this with a thin roll of black electrical tape, i stood around and just watched.

the house sits on a corner, right at a traffic light, on one of the small town's busier thoroughfares. the yard itself sloped down and away from this road, before leveling out to where the ring sat. whenever the signal turned red, a line of cars would slowly pile up. framed in each car window was a tiny face staring down into the yard at us, watching the show; library folks and record store clerks and others of unknown occupations huddled around a boxing ring on new year's eve, shuffling from foot-to-foot in the cold, sipping things from brown bottles and blue plastic cups.

michael documented the event and i served as mark's cornerman, responsible for offering between-round technical expertise, pushing plugs of cotton up bloody nostrils, and waving to cars which would sometimes honk when they stopped at the traffic light.

last seen: raiders of the lost ark, 21 grams
last heard: clientele 'an hour before the light'
last read: seed of destruction