Thursday, April 29, 2004

don't you hate it when you have good news but, for whatever reason, you aren't allowed to tell anyone? when that happens to me, i'm pretty miserable. i feel like i'll pop. usually, i end up pulling one or two people to the side of the room and whispering my news to them. after a few days, the news either makes its way around the grapevine or, with any luck, the moratorium will have lifted, allowing me to safely blab to everyone else. that day is today, i can tell you about my new job.

last week, i found out that i'm going to be the head of reference at one of our regional libraries. i couldn't say anything before because they had to notify the folks who didn't get the job and, since some library-people read this weblog, i had to be safe. i also wanted to wait until i received a confirmation letter with my new salary. until i received that, it felt like they could always call back and say-- we were just kidding. you don't get the job.

so, i'm really excited. the library is brand new, well, one-year-old. i'll have an actual office and the chance to boss professional staff around. on top of all that good news, i read over on pinky's weblog about the upcoming merge anniversary concerts. i might be free the night of the camera obscura/versus show and that eases the pain of not being able to see the decemberists in june.

last seen: the magdalene sisters
last heard: siouxsie and the banshees 'happy house'
last read: There's the rub of minimalism, which always endorses some or another faceless power. Minimalism ends where it begins, at the edge of a cliff. Any reaction against it can only be a turning-back.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

your mom probably told you this already, but--rick james, teena marie, and morris day and the time are touring together. my friend, derrick, plans to attend the DC show next month; sadly, i can't make it.

a bunch of us saw morris day and the time a few years back during an outdoor festival. jerome even came out during the middle of the show and draped a long cape over morris' shoulders, while he was mimicking james brown's patented "down on one knee pretending to cry" move. the current tour promises to be great. i would love to hear teena marie sing 'portuguese love' or hear 'fire and desire', her duet with rick james, performed live.

when i was a younger man, junior high school, i think, derrick made a mixed tape. it's been a while, so i'm not sure if i helped him craft this particular compilation. i do, however, remember getting a copy of it for myself when it was complete. it was all slow jamz. it was supposed to be the sort of tape you grabbed right before you started making with the love. the fact that i even owned a tape like that, at that time in my life, is very funny in retrospect; it would be years before i ever had my first serious girlfriend. still, if nothing else, i was prepared. the tape included freddie jackson and keith sweat and anita baker and i'm pretty sure earth, wind, and fire was on there, too, but the crowning jewel in my opinion was 'fire and desire' by teena marie and rick james.

at over seven minutes, it is an epic song. the story begins with two former lovers who run into each other on the street. they sing about their lives before meeting and how their relationship changed each of them. it is the kind of song where some lyrics are just spoken casually over the music and others allow each singer to showcase their respective vocal ranges, both of which are remarkable. it goes on that way, the two of them trading verses.

remember when...i used to...looooooooooooooooove them...and leave them. that's what i used to do.

ahh, it's a great song. you should track down a copy or, next time you're at the rink, request it during couple's skate.

last heard: digable planets 'for corners'
last read: I had never really thought of American destiny as a succession of crackpot schemes foisted on the populace for partisan expediency. But then, maybe I'm just an optimist.
bonus: For Sale: One Slightly Used Size 12 Wedding Gown. Only worn twice: Once at the wedding and once for these pictures. [link courtesy of jenn]

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

thank yous

-thank you to mark for the many phone calls and for offering a place where visiting relatives could sleep and for tracking me down when everything started to go horribly awry last week

-thank you to michael and christine for letting me do laundry and for going to lunch and playing video games with me and for downloading really old prince videos for me to watch to get my mind off of things on sunday afternoon

-thank you to amber who drove from another state to leave a kind note and warm meal in a little bag on my doorstep last night

-thank you to ellen who posted this link yesterday which i must have visited 5 different times to make myself laugh when i really needed to

-thank you to everyone who posted comments or sent emails or called me

last seen: the passion of joan of arc
last heard: the melodians 'rivers of babylon'
last read: People who vote do much better in the policy sweepstakes than people who don't. Older Americans vote in large numbers: That is why politicians who cut a childcare tax credit for the working poor fall all over themselves to provide a prescription drug benefit for the elderly.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

i guess i've been lucky. until last week, whenever someone i cared deeply about passed away, they were always hundreds of miles from wherever i happened to be. i think that's lucky, because i may not have been strong enough to see death close up. when my grandmother died in DC, i was here in charlotte, and, when my grandfather died in new jersey, i was here in charlotte, and, when my friend mike, who was living in new orleans, found out that he was HIV-positive and then decided to shoot himself, i was here in charlotte. in every case, i heard the news from a friend or a relative. i never had to see it. i was never nearby.

but, like i said, that changed last week. i hope you never have to do the things i did these past few days. never have to spend so many hours in a hospital. never have to drink so much really bad coffee that gives you heartburn. never get assigned your own personal waiting room with your own personal bathroom, separate from the other families, because you are there so much. never have a relative whose case is so hopeless that the nurses don't ask you to leave because they know it won't be too much longer. never have to watch your mother sit in a chair for three days straight, holding your aunt's hand, crying, refusing to leave or sleep. never have to see someone you love on a ventilator. never have to negotiate the time when someone you love will be removed from it. never have to help write the obit.

on friday, my aunt died. she was my mother's only sibling. she was funny and beautiful and pragmatic and wise and, sometimes, impractical, but only when she knew it would make someone else happy. she was like a second mother. she bought me a drum kit when i was little and once made me an R2-D2 nightlight in her ceramics class. when i was younger, i lived with her for two whole years. when i got divorced, she was the only relative who had done that before (twice, in fact), so she was the one person i didn't feel stupid crying in front of. i even believed her when she said that things would turn out OK, then they did.

last seen: stoked, man on fire, kill bill v.1, monster road
last heard: shark quest man on stilts [courtesy of pinky]
last read: The artists positioned 24 enormous pieces of chalk in a public plaza adjacent the parliament building and the president's mansion. Measuring nearly six feet, the cumbersome chalk required passersby to either cooperate in scrawling a message on the ground or break off smaller pieces.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

today is one of my favorite kind of days. i am off from work. the windows are open. i can hear yardwork far off and birds just nearby. soon, i will start my meandering drive up to chapel hill for tonight's stereolab show. my car windows will be open and, on the backroads, i'll watch the wind rustle the wispy black hairs on my forearm. i will probably sigh. the CDs have been preselected to ensure a proper mix of sing-alongs and new pieces. when i arrive to the town of my fair alma mater, there will be record and zine shopping.

for now though, my hotel reservation is just complete and, with the few remaining hours before i begin my drive, i plan to stretch out on the couch and watch a film.

i do believe that's a script for a perfect day.

last seen: quasi 'mammon'
last read: I've been playing Risk: The Game of Global Domination since I was eight years old and never, never have I seen someone win the game by massing their forces in the Middle East at the beginning of the game.

Monday, April 19, 2004

everyone's different. maybe there are some folks who want to spend every waking moment in the company of other people. i am most definitely not that way. my sanity is contingent upon tiny islands of solitude scattered throughout my week. during the busier times, i actually have to schedule by-myself time. i have to say-- you will sleep in on thursday or don't plan to do anything with anyone after work tomorrow. it is the only way i can function for the remainder of my week.

this probably sounds incredibly selfish to those of you with kids and spouses, but, deep down, i'll bet that you envy my by-myself time. don't worry, there are some days that i envy you because you have kids and spouses...so, in the end, everyone loses! hooray!

lately though, the unharmonic convergence of weekend work hours, out-of-town visitors, an unusual number of social activities, and overall carelessness has caused me to go without my precious by-myself time. i have also been going without my normal ration of sleep which isn't helping matters any. this might explain why i've been cranky or ill-tempered or inconsiderate. for ten minutes on saturday, i think i may have been all three.

last seen: kill bill vol. 2
last heard: stereolab 'anemie' [note: only two days until the show.]
last read: Frontline battle troops, most of whom have been in the military for about a year, earn less than $16,000 a year--which puts them at about the level of theater ushers and Wal-Mart clerks. Even second lieutenants, at a starting salary of $26,000 a year, earn less than pest control workers and shoe repairers. So when the Bush Administration, in its frenzied rush to transfer more wealth to the already wealthy, hurts the working poor, you can count the troops among them.
bonus: Featuring well-known icons of modern design as well as vernacular masterpieces, the exhibition celebrates the material life of children.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

today, i was eavesdropping on a conversation between two patrons. they were standing near the reference desk.

the man said, i really liked your speech this morning.

the woman smiled.

she said, that's so nice of you to say, but it wasn't me, it was the holy spirit!

she didn't giggle as she said this.

i would have giggled if i had said this.

that is all.

last seen: intolerable cruelty, the virgin suicides
last heard: blonde redhead 'in particular'
last read: imagine if the U.S. media showed uncensored, hellish images of war -- even for one week. What impact would that have?

Saturday, April 17, 2004

my parents arrive this afternoon, so i spent the lion's share of yesterday sweeping the floors, scrubbing the shower and toilet, doing laundry, and dusting. yes, dusting. they should really come to visit more often, because i think the last time i cleaned the place that well was right before their last visit. READ: over a month ago. now the thin layer of dust and pollen (courtesy of open windows) is wiped away from all of the wooden surfaces in my apartment.

christine and michael came by yesterday afternoon, just as i was finishing up my mr. clean bit. christine was quite surprised that i had even used lemon-scented Pledge as part of the dusting regimen. i was surprised (well, not really) that, in addition to bookcases and window ledges, i was compulsive enough to have dusted the overhanging elements of my bed. i never thought i'd be the type of man who dusted his bed, especially since most men's notions of clean begin and end at sheets that aren't sticky.

last seen: carnage
last heard: the owls 'air'
last read: The chick lit juggernaut of consumerist husband-hunting femme stereotypes is no less a pastiche (and in many ways no less a parody) of culture's directives to women than, say, Tom Clancy or Dean Koontz novels are . . . of the cultural directives aimed at men.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

what she meant to say

can you help me find a list of nursing homes in county X?

the actual conversation
[phone rings]

me: [picks up phone] XXXXX XXXXXX regional library, may i help you?

some lady: when i was there taking one of those computer classes, there was an exercise where we had to find somebody on the computer. do you have a way to find out where somebody's at? what i am needing is a list of all the nursing homes in county X.

me: yes, ma'am. we have a database which will allow you to find a list of businesses by county. we can show you how to use it, if you come in, or i can tell you how to get there from your home computer.

some lady: i'm trying to find my daddy. he is in one of those homes. i used to be his power of attorney, but now his granddaughter is. i'm not his power of attorney anymore not because i don't care, but because i just had five operations. when i call his granddaugher, who i'm old enough to be her mother, she cusses me out everytime. see, i donated money to this world war two memorial that's opening on may 29th and they sent a certificate and a plaque and a pin for him. i gave her the pin, so he could wear it on his hat but she gave it to someone else. my son is in law school and he has a computer but he doesn't have time to help me. i don't have a computer.

me: ma'am, we'd be glad to show you how to use our computers to find that information.

some lady: well, maybe i can use my son's computer. what i need to do is talk to my daddy in person without an audience. they tape record the conversations at the nursing home. you've been very helpful, thank you.

me: you're welcome. goodbye.

last seen: pale rider, all the president's men
last heard: testosterone
last read: Sell 100 cookies, brownies, or pieces of pie--you're a Pioneer! If you top 200 items sold, you're a Ranger. [via christine]
bonus: First, can we stop the Orwellian language and start using the proper names for things?

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

i was talking to this friend of mine at work, you remember him, the one who tells the good stories. some of his tales begin with a heavy, defeated-sounding, sigh like even he can't believe what he is about to tell you. these are usually really good ones. today that was the kind i got.

he started off by telling me about this kid he grew up with who was conceited. the kid wasn't particularly smart or attractive, not really remarkable in any way, just thought he was a little bit better than everyone else. when everybody went off to university, this kid ambled around town, picked up a community college class every now and then, and just kind of wandered. eventually, he moved out of rural mississippi and went to live with some relatives in portland. he got a job in a factory. packing computer monitors into boxes, i think.

well, a few years pass and the kid enrolls in cooking school. this was a weird choice because (a) this was just some garden variety kid from rural mississippi and (b) it was years before the age of the celebrity chef, before you could get your own TV show or catch phrase or groupies. it turns out that the kid is now head chef for a restaurant somewhere in the virgin islands.

the whole time he's telling me this story, my friend, who fancies himself a pretty good cook by the way, is shaking his head, like he can't believe it, like it could have been him. if only he wouldn't have majored in philosophy and then gone to library school and got married and had a kid, then right now, he would be in the virgin islands. we have talks like this a lot and they always make me laugh. they are very mid-life crisis-y, but he's too young to be having a mid-life crisis.

later, i wondered aloud, where does one go on vacation if they live full-time in the virgin islands? i figured detroit or queens or south side of chicago. any of those places, especially when the vagrants are in bloom. my friend thought i had it all wrong. he thought you would probably vacation in one of those states in the middle that you usually just fly over. i bet he's right.

last heard: connie francis and danny thomas 'i can't believe that you're in love with me'
last read: a willowy Inuit is hard to find
bonus: We're not messing around. Punishment for not giving blood is going to be quite severe.

Monday, April 12, 2004

a sneaky front seemed to stall right over our town today forcing us to endure hours and hours of rain. it wasn't the stormy, falling in sheets kind of rain. it was quieter, a dull grey sky and droplets that fell evenly-spaced like they were on a timer. also, it was cold. this killed the tiny reserve of motivation which i was trying to keep hidden away for after work.

i watched about five unproductive evening hours pass from the comfort of my couch. i don't mean unproductive like i only had the energy to watch a movie or read. i mean i was too lazy to do even those things. first, i tried to watch a movie, but i couldn't concentrate on it, falling asleep twice in the first half hour.

next i tried, unsuccessfully, to read. in this case, it might be the book and not just the weather. does anyone else have trouble with this john updike cat? he is on my list of "authors i'm supposed to like because i know they're good for me." i've been at rabbit, run for about a week and it feels like i'm walking through mud. if it doesn't pick up by the end of the week, i might have to abandon it.

last heard: velvet underground 'i'll be your mirror'
last read: you just know they use Macs and read their children Goodnight Moon in French every night
bonus: "Don't Worry Baby"...is a lesser song from Brian Wilson's best pop year, which makes it twenty times better than most songs you'll ever hear.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

is there a better day than easter to go to a big budget film about death and resurrection? i thought not.

true, it's been out for a few weeks already, most of the public is numb from all of the build up and hype, and the director risks continued attacks for his artistic vision, a gory tale that's been told before. i just have to say though, mark and i were both impressed by dawn of the dead.

friday evening, a few of us library people went to see the butchies play at this little club near my apartment. it was the first time any of us had been there, but when we walked in and they were playing 'summer breeze' by seals and crofts, i felt at home. (aw, come on. that toy sounding piano? that bassline? you know you like it, too.) the upstairs part of the club is particularly nice. there are wood floors and overstuffed chairs. paintings from local artists hang on the walls. the butchies didn't play for very long but they played well, so i didn't mind coughing up the ten bucks.

the rest of the weekend was spent riding my bike in the typically beautiful carolina springtime, reading, and sharing meals with friends and family, including some relatives that were visiting from germany who i met for the first time.

last seen: the boys of 2nd street park, dawn of the dead
last heard: lois maffeo & brendan canty 'you love your wounds'
last read: Across this country, people are laying down their hoes, ceasing to look at dirty pictures on their computer screens, leaving small children to fester in dirty diapers. They wait, raptly, searchingly, for her arrival. [via ed]

Friday, April 09, 2004

folks have been really helpful in the past with suggestions and criticisms about books, so i thought i'd put up another list of titles that i'm considering for my book club. if you've read any of these, i would really appreciate hearing from you in the comments. if you haven't, then maybe you'll find something here you might like to read next.

the curious incident of the dog
in the night-time
- mark haddon
signal and noise- john griesemer
american gods- neil gaiman
family matters- rohinton mistry
john henry days- colson whitehead
the namesake- jhumpa lahiri
the devil in the white city- erik larson

while we're sharing, why not leave a comment about the last good book you read? mine was middlesex, if you're wondering. summer reading, ahoy!

how pathetic is it that 'permission to wear jeans to work' is enough to get me excited? what has happened to me? i am quite the obedient, easily-pacified, worker bee.

it's friday and that means dress down day at the library. i tend to stretch the bounds of dress down day. i mean, i'm not showing up in cut-off jams and a threadbare Ocean Pacific tanktop; still, there are policies for dress down day. we keep them in a well-indexed, enormous three-ring binder with other employee rules, like those pertaining to reasonable suspicion drug testing and spirit awards.

my clothing choices occasionally falling outside of these guidelines have more to do with the fact that none of my bosses work the same fridays that i do and less with the fact that i'm so damn punk rawk.

my current infraction involves wearing an untucked button-down shirt rather than the preferred (and board-sanctioned) library t-shirt. i only have two such t-shirts. the first is too big and the other is teal. enough said.

last seen: belle and sebastian fans only
last heard: B&S 'consuelo leaving'
last read: If theirs is to be the only voice to pronounce on a new show or the fate of an institution, they are obliged to wear a mantle of responsibility that is antithetical to good journalism. A critic is licensed to get it wrong from time to time. Restrict that license and the reviews grow safe and solemn.
bonus: The offspring include two sets of twins, and the parents have stuck to the letter "J" when it comes picking names. There is Joshua, 16; Jana and John-David, 14; Jill, 12; Jessa, 11; Jinger, 10; Joseph, 9; Josiah, 7; Joy-Anna, 6; Jeremiah and Jedidiah, 5; Jason, 3; James, 2 and Justin, 1. [please note: the father of this brood is a former arkansas state senator who goes by the name of...wait for it...jim bob.]

Thursday, April 08, 2004

an open letter to one of the high school girls
whose senior exit project i judged yesterday


dear one of the high school girls whose senior exit project i judged yesterday,

it is one thing to label a section of your project PICTURES!, all festive-like, in giant, balloony, polka-dotted script with squiggles and arrows shooting off of every letter. it is even OK to superimpose that word over a hand-drawn, cartoon-like, explosion so as to attract the attention of passing judges. however, it is another thing entirely when your project is on the holocaust and all of that typographic joy rests above a collection of grainy black-and-white photographs of living skeletons taken inside german concentration camps.

your pal,
james

last seen: school of rock
last heard: monade socialisme ou barbarie
last read: It's not like out here, where hymn-singing Mennonite children carefully wipe the morning dew off each can of Diet Coke with a fresh towel.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

it is impossible for me to go to bed early. i can't do it. i should be asleep by now. tomorrow i have to wake up almost two hours earlier than normal, so that i can make it to a local high school by 7:15am. we librarians have been recruited, for a second year, to judge senior exit projects. we walk around in tight groups usually paired with a teacher or some random pillar of the community or, if we aren't lucky, with one of those horrible parents who live vicariously through their children and are really active in their lives.

it isn't as terrible as it sounds. there's free coffee and they give us lunch and i get to carry a clipboard and look official. the only bad part is having to be awake and alert at a time of morning when i'm usually sitting at the edge of my bed, just out of the shower, staring vacantly at the wall, one sock on, the other hanging loosely in my hand, listening to steam leave the kettle in the kitchen.

since sleep is not coming, let me tell you about a little film that you really ought to see. it's called my life without me. i finished watching it about 30 minutes ago. the movie seemed like it was written just for me. debbie harry plays a mom. two of the characters have a conversation about blossom dearie while 'try your wings' plays on their car stereo. the main character, sarah polley, sings an acapella version of 'god only knows' and then the langley school's version of the same song plays over a scene not long after. there are two adorable little girls in it who made me wish i was a dad. to top it off, there's crying and laughing and death.

you. go. rent. now.

last seen: JFK, my life without me
last heard: jimmy smith 'ain't no use'
last read: Impossible to put down, devoured at breakneck pace, one can't help but get sucked into the behind-the-scenes intrigue, backstabbing, temper tantrums, deal making, deal breaking, ego building, ego destroying, and of course, above all else, the Falstaffian legend that is Harvey Weinstein.

Monday, April 05, 2004

i don't know what it is about a guilty pleasure that makes it that much sweeter than the regular kind. you're supposed to feel bad that you enjoy it, but a lot of times i just don't. the most interesting part of the guilty pleasure is that the guilt is so relative. i mean, one person's guilty pleasure is, to someone else, simply pleasure. i think i have that right.

lately, one of my biggest guilty pleasures is a duet called 'golden ring' by george jones and tammy wynette. in fact, there are a handful of countrypolitan hits running on a loop on my computer at the moment. the term, countrypolitan is, itself, open to debate. all music guide's definition comes close. they list patsy cline as one of its forebearers and then talk about how it evolved into something quite different.

that tiny evolutionary country music moment in the sixties, which the music guide glosses over with just a couple of words, is a big, big deal for me. everything after that moment became the land of the guilty pleasure.

you see, i don't feel guilty at all for loving patsy cline; however, if i were in a crowded room and somebody asked who knows all the words to tammy wynette's 'D-I-V-O-R-C-E'?, i would look around to see if i knew anyone and only then raise my hand very, very slowly.

countrypolitan is my guilty pleasure and, yes, i think coal miner's daughter is a really good movie.

if you're still unfamiliar with what i'm talking about, i'll try to explain. you know how there is a particular genus of country music that it is supposedly OK to like? folks like hank williams and patsy cline and johnny cash-- people whose names are written in the hipster bible. well, countrypolitan is nothing like that. countrypolitan is rhinestones. countrypolitan is slick over-production. countrypolitan is the kind of music that terry bradshaw probably had playing in his car as he was driving to do his screen test for cannonball run.

it is a mostly harmless guilty pleasure though. you probably won't have to start worrying about me until i use my rent money to buy the tribute rifle commemorating the music of george jones.

last seen: hellboy, ciao, manhattan
last heard: stereolab 'orgiastic'
last read: This week's absence of Western leaders at Rwanda's commemorations is one more confirmation of its indifference to Rwanda's -- and Africa's -- tragedies.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

friday morning began with a visit to the second of charlotte's two raleigh dealers; i'd been to the first on thursday. the sales person at the second shop was very nice. after my test drive, we talked about the deal that a shop owner across town was offering me on a 2002 model. we consulted a few catalogs and it turned out to be no deal at all. i left to check out the trek and specialized dealers down the street, but was pretty confident that i'd be returning to buy the bike i'd just ridden.

the other shops didn't have anything that i liked and i decided to go home, eat a sandwich, and ponder whether i was willing to dump several hundred dollars on a bicycle. while i was at the apartment, i investigated other raleigh dealers outside the city and found one in lincolnton, a town just forty miles northeast of here.

highway 27 is a pleasant two-lane stripe of black tar that winds its way through rural countryside and a few small towns. it follows a set of train tracks for a good piece of that forty miles. i spotted freight cars loaded high with large chunks of black coal and, occasionally, i'd see one of those cylindrical cars, the kind that carry mysterious caustic liquids. the trip to lincolnton was a fruitful one. i found the bike i wanted, the same one i'd test driven that very morning, for almost one hundred dollars less than the shop in charlotte was charging.

i have managed to go on a few very short rides since i brought it home, but most of the weekend has been spent catching up with friends and family. oh, and waking up at an ungodly hour yesterday to walk five miles in the name of juvenile diabetes research. ps- five miles is farther than you might think.

last seen: sylvia
last heard: the kinks 'sunny afternoon'
last read: erich maria remarque all quiet on the western front
reading: john updike rabbit, run

Thursday, April 01, 2004

well, i'm afraid yesterday's comments have come to pass. i found out today that i did not get the job that i interviewed for last monday. in the end, they selected someone already working at that branch and in that department which i suppose makes sense. at the risk of sounding all runner-up-y, i was just happy to be interviewed, especially since i didn't meet all of the minimum requirements listed in the job description.

as for other opportunities, i should hear about a second position (yesterday's interview) in a couple of weeks and i still have a third application floating in the ether. if those also fall to earth in a flaming mess, then i've decided to become a librarian-for-hire, just me, my trusty steed, and the ten most-frequently-sited reference sources roaming the dark and open plains.

michael has been great these last few days. he called everyday to see if i'd heard anything and was very supportive as i waited with gritted teeth. during a recent conversation, he even said that he and christine were hoping i got one of the three jobs, so that i wouldn't move out of town. it was nice to feel wanted.

last seen: the singing detective
last heard: black sabbath 'planet caravan'
last read: This is the same co-worker who thinks North Korea is a man-made island.
bonus: via megnut, kinja went live today. it looks like fun. i foresee hours of time-wasting potential.