Sunday, October 31, 2004

my weekend in eleven poorly-constructed parts

-put together a prize package to be awarded to the second-place winner of the costume contest at mark's party. package included: a videotape with two episodes of the wonder years, a mixed CD crafted with my own loving hands, a copy of pumpkin on DVD, an old graphic novel, a pen that said GRANDMA on the side, a couple of refrigerator magnets, and a book about rottweilers that had the first five pages ripped out which i bought at the thrift store.

-saw isabel allende deliver a great talk on friday night. she discussed literature and sex and the current election and everyday coincidences and, finally, the two september 11ths.

-sped home from allende and changed into my cowboy costume for mark's party. i wore a red-and-white checkered shirt, a giant cowboy hat, and a bolo-tie made with intricate colorful beadwork. i had purchased the tie earlier in the day from a mexican cowboy store on central avenue. sadly, i did not have boots or chaps; this was probably why i didn't win a prize.

-went to mark's party and drank adult beverages of the mixed and the shot varieties. heard lots of dirty jokes. sat in the front yard and watched people attack a jack-o-lantern with a long sword. thought impure thoughts about two twenty-something girls who showed up to the party dressed as fairies. [NOTE: in my impure thoughts, i made the fairies keep their wings on. i'm ashamed, but not very ashamed.]

-fell asleep without the room spinning and, equally as surprising, awoke without a headache.

-picked up michael chabon from the airport. he asked me if i knew a place where he could get some BBQ. for a moment i blanked out, since i'm not a huge BBQ fan, but then i remembered that my favorite local haunt had a BBQ plate on the menu, so i took him there. we talked about a lot of things but some of the things we talked about were: the kinks, brian wilson, george bush, the oakland/berkeley area, virginia woolf, the wave of commercials for drugs which purport to cure male impotence, and how a lot of the women uptown seemed to be dressed as ladies-of-the-evening for halloween.

-tried to enjoy the weather. the leaves had already begun to change color in bright yellows and reds, but, this weekend, the mercury rose to 80 degrees again.

-received a package from pinky with hours of new music.

-missed the violent femmes in concert on saturday night.

-watched two movies.

-did some writing and waited for kids to come trick-or-treating.

last seen: who's afraid of virginia woolf, ray
last heard: holly golightly 'one kiss' [thanks, pinky!]
last read: since adolescence, the girls i found most attractive were always strong and independent girls/women, a la marta. the problem though was the very thing drawing me to them unfortunately made them not only not need me, but in many cases, better off without me.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

there are two computer labs in my branch where students can access all of the various internets. in addition to these labs, there are PCs scattered throughout the building which allow more limited access, mostly to things like our subscription databases and a few handpicked external websites.

one of the sites that students can visit on these reference machines is our county government webpage. it includes handy information on elected officials and bulky-item trash pick-up.

the students, ever-resourceful angels that they are, have recently discovered another function of the county webpage and that is--photo album.

you see, the county jail is part of the county government and, on the county jail's webpage, there is this nifty feature that let's you search for people's mugshots.

now when some of the students visit the library between classes or after school, they take a moment to find pictures of friends and family. it is so disheartening to watch a kid get excited when they find someone they know, like the person is famous now or something.

try getting that kid excited about coraline or redwall.

last seen: marty
last heard: cocteau twins 'cico bluff'
last read: I found an abandoned grocery list in a Schnuck's parking lot in St. Louis in 1996 or 1997. I decided to keep them every time I came across one. [link via this article]

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

i drove, this morning, to a refurbished train depot. the inside was gutted and redone, but the husk of the building was still a train station with old windows and wooden beams and brick. some company now rents the space out for parties and large group meetings. i was there for the latter.

the meeting included people from all kinds of organizations. at my table, there was someone from the arts council, someone from the police department, a local television news director, a lawyer, and me. fourteen other tables filled this large space and each was equally as diverse. some groups had poets or opera singers or members of church congregations.

at the risk of sounding all manager-y, the whole purpose of the meeting was to think about our city in 2015, consider outcomes, and figure out ways that government agencies and for-profit and not-for-profit groups can work together toward a shared vision for the city. (whew.) i know that sounds like a bunch of business double-talk, but the people we worked with seemed genuine about what they were trying to accomplish.

we talked about important things like social capital and demographic trends and civic engagement and cultural opportunities and equitable public education and the working poor and economic parity and smart growth and infill development and light rail and, um, stuff.

these meetings will go on for another year. this was only one of the first, but i left very excited. i know- i'm such a dork.

last seen: the first year
last heard: bob marley 'one cup of coffee'
last read: Balding, bearded, softly - if hilariously - spoken, he was more like a favourite uncle than a rock fan.

Monday, October 25, 2004

you know how, at every show, there are those old guys?

they're not old old, but they're old enough to look funny for being at the show, eyeballing girls.

when mark and i were at our favorite hangout for the 4th of july, the old-guy-at-the-show contingent was well-represented.

tonight, over drinks, the subject turned from a random discussion about girls to those old guys at the shows.

mark: whatever happens, i just don't want to be those guys.

[both laugh]

me: i'd better not laugh too loud, because i'll probably end up being one of those guys.

mark: nah. at the very least, you'll end up with someone who treats you like shit, who i hate.

[short pause while we each sip our drinks]

me: ...because, why should i break the cycle now?

[both laugh, and i continue drinking my fourth gin-and-tonic on a school night, when tomorrow i have to attend a city planning meeting at 8am. goodnight, everyone.]

last heard: the kinks 'johnny thunder'
last read/seen: Listen to Real People who voted for George Bush in 2000, but will be voting for Kerry in 2004.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

juicy fruit and i set off for the matisse exhibit in raleigh during that sunday in-between time, late enough so's all of the church folk have cleared off the roads, but early enough that the common heathen rabble are still sleeping off their saturday nights.

ann left shortly before we did, heading north on the same stretch of highway, but bound for a different town.

thirty minutes outside of charlotte, we received a phone call. it was from ann. her tire blew out and she wondered if we could help.

soon we saw her, a few hundred feet ahead, flashers blinking. we slid into the breakdown lane, started to slow, then asked ourselves, why are we not catching up to her? it didn't take long for us to realize that she was still driving-- very very slowly-- on her rim, but, for a brief time, it was this weird feeling, like maybe our cars were standing still but the earth was moving underneath us.

yes, after another quarter-mile, ann finally stopped. and, yes, we changed her tire and sent her quickly on her way. i must say though, the jacks that come standard on honda civics are for shit.

having completed our good deed, juicy fruit and i continued on to raleigh where the rest of the day was a whirlwind of food and art and walking and countrypolitan hits.

last seen: yi yi
last heard: george jones 'he stopped loving her today'
last read: ...250,000 copies a year, with total worldwide sales over -- probably way over -- 10 million. The mass-market paperback I bought last summer is, incredibly, from the 42nd printing.

Friday, October 22, 2004

before my matinee began, the theatre showed commercials. not advertising slides, but live-action commercials.

i arrived in the middle of an ad for the west wing. the ad that followed was for a new reality show entitled the biggest loser. in case you haven't heard of it, it involves two teams of, um, endomorphic individuals in a contest to see who can lose the most weight and win a 250,000 dollar purse.

in my uninformed opinion, reality shows serve a dual purpose. narcissism for the participant. humor/a chance to witness public humiliation for the audience.

in this way, they are a lot like weblogs.

it will probably come as a surprise to no one that an emotionally-charged advertisement for a reality show is a most unholy union, like zuul and the keymaster or clams and tomato juice.

the ad included dramatic music-- soft and tender, while the endomorphic people gave tear-filled testimonials. loud, while they were pulling drag-racing cars by a long rope (???--it's the new pilates).

the sixty-second spot even tried to have its own little narrative structure with introduction and tension and denouement.

the tension was the worst part. after quick-cutting to scenes of people lifting weights and doing push-ups, the music stopped and the camera panned across a huge table full of cupcakes and brownies and candy, then across the faces of the participants who stood there slack-jawed.

i felt degraded for them, then i wept for america.

last seen: the blair witch project, matewan, i heart huckabees, the candidate
last heard: elliott smith 'little one'
last read: If you take a word like “relief,” the frame includes an affliction, an afflicted party, a reliever who takes the affliction away-- a hero. If anyone tries to stop him, they’re a villain. This comes into politics when you add “tax” to “relief” and you get “tax relief,” where you see taxation as an affliction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

after watching it three times at work and then another five times at home, i have decided that dizzee rascal's dream is my favorite music video since howard jones' no one is to blame.

last heard: dizzee rascal 'dream'
last read: Though Iran generally does not publicly wade into U.S. presidential politics, it has a history of preferring Republicans over Democrats, who tend to press human rights issues. [thanks for the link, jenn]
reading: isaac bashevis singer enemies, a love story

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

the phone call came this afternoon, so i've had the past six hours to think about it. at first, i was understandably upset. i have since dropped the hot coals from my hands and decided not to be upset anymore. after all, it isn't my fault that i'm not a generous donor.

the phone call i received today was to inform me that i would not get the opportunity to introduce michael chabon at next saturday's lecture. it turns out that a generous donor is going to be introducing him instead.

i was not the only one who felt the wrath of generosity today. a colleague of mine received similar news. the same generous donor was going to be introducing isabel allende, too. sorry, colleague of mine. you, also, lose.

at one of my more bitter moments today, i wondered--
is it generosity, if you make your good works subtly conditional?

alas, back to me, (generous donor guy can get his own weblog)...

i've decided that the news is both a blessing and a curse. the curse part is obvious, but the blessing part is that they let me keep all of the good parts of next saturday. the meeting the author part, the picking him up at the airport part, the carting him around town part, the helping out at the book signing part, and, if i'm lucky maybe even, the getting some drinks on the company dime part. meanwhile, they took away the one part i was dreading, the having to stand in front of over 500 people and talk for 5 mintues without peeing my pants part.

last heard: the best friends group 'the free man'
last read: created in darkness by troubled americans, the best of mcsweeney's humor section
bonus: Are the chavs a ruling class or an underclass?

Monday, October 18, 2004

i got in on some of that early voting action this afternoon. the board of elections set up camp at thirteen places around the county and, since ten of those places are branches of the public library, it was very easy for me to perform my civic duty.

i cut out of work around four o'clock. i wasn't sure how busy the tiny branch in my neighborhood would be. the parking lot was completely full when i arrived, but the little velvet rope that they set up along the outside of the building had no one standing beside it. i circled the around until a car pulled out, happy that, no matter how long the line was, at least it was inside the building.

[sidebar: i heard that my friend, dave, had to call ladder 49 for some old biddie. she caught the vapors while waiting to vote at his branch this morning.]

there were only eight people in front of me in line. i felt good, not only had i researched the bond issues and random judges beforehand, but the staff of this branch made me feel like some kind of librarian rock star.

i'd been on teams with a few of them and met a couple of others at various meetings. they would pass by and say hey james or give me the head nod while i was standing there in line. the great unwashed, voting public, masses standing on either side kept looking me up and down, wondering if they should know me or if i was a local celebrity.

guilty as charged.

last seen: the endless summer
last heard: the rosebuds 'kicks in the schoolyard'
last read: Morrissey's most famous confession of unrequited love, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" ("And if a double-decker bus/Crashes into us/To die by your side/Would be a heavenly way to die"), emulates almost sentiment for sentiment Cuco Sanchez's torch song "Cama de Piedra" ("The day that they kill me/May it be with five bullets/And be close to you").
bonus: martijn, a guy who posts frequently to this listserv i subscribe to, has kindly gathered over 210 indiepop songs in one place which you can feel free to legally download or simply click a button and listen to the entire list at random.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

the people around me sat quietly in the dark reading subtitles. they had already invested one-hundred, mostly-quiet, minutes on this film. that's when the beeping started.

it did not sound like the ring of a cell phone, but, at first, that's what everyone thought it was. the guy a few seats down from me started looking over his shoulder when it happened a second time. it would stop for a minute or two and then beep again. the guy a few seats down from me would exaggeratedly exhale in that passive-aggressive, i'm-not-going-to-say-anything,-but-i'll-huff-like-the-dickens, kind of way.

i just shook my head-- in part, because of the beeping and, in part, because of the huffing.

things were quiet for a short while, then the beeping started again and i wondered what it could be if it wasn't a phone. the beep sounded like one of those warning sounds that comes as a feature on new medical equipment. the kind of beep that they try to make sound innocuous, so you don't get scared, but then you just end up fearing all innocuous beeps.

i thought it might be one of those snazzy insulin pumps like my old girlfriend used to have. it would sometimes beep. since i never turned around to look at the woman, i could make up all kinds of elaborate ideas about what the beeping might be.

finally, i decided to believe that she was one of those emphysema people who walk around with a small tank of air on a shoulder harness and a clear plastic tube snaking up their nose. maybe the beeping was to tell her that she only had a little more air left and she was just playing the odds to see if she could make it to the end of the movie.

last seen: the motorcycle diaries
last heard: joy division 'transmission'
last read: michael chabon wonder boys
reading: dave eggers (ed.) created in darkness by troubled americans

Friday, October 15, 2004

about two nights ago, i read that the magnetic fields graciously added another date to their current tour. they plan to stop in durham which is not terribly far from my humble burg. in fact, last year, i saw a show at the very same venue.

i emailed pinky, who lives in that neck of the woods, in case she hadn't heard the news, and gave her the details about tickets. she sounded as excited as i was at the prospect of seeing merritt and company.

skip forward to this morning.

tickets went on sale at 10am. i bought mine online and scored two seats in the orchestra pit. these are the best seats i've ever had for an assigned seating show; a fact that is especially remarkable when one considers that i had to deal with crappy, online ticket buying, a practice which is a lot like watching crabs in a barrel climb over each other to get to the best spot.

since i was so proud of my great fortune, my next order of business was to email pinky, share the news, and remind her to buy her own tickets. wouldn't you know? there was an email from her waiting for me. it turns out that the three tickets she purchased are right beside the two that i purchased. not near. sequentially, in-a-row.

as she said, what are the odds?

last seen: sugarland express, team america: world police
last heard: joy division 'digital'
last read: The United States has refused to join 85 heads of state and government in signing a statement that endorsed a 10-year-old U.N. plan to ensure every woman's right to education, healthcare and choice about having children. The Bush administration said it withheld its signature because the statement included a reference to "sexual rights."

Thursday, October 14, 2004

waitresses who slather on terms of endearment while putting down my pie plate or refilling my coffee cup always get a good tip out of me. i've been known to go over twenty percent, if i'm sitting there awash in honeys and sweethearts while i enjoy my last few sips of decaf.

some folks are tempermental. they don't really like those words. i can empathize if it's your boss who's saying it and he pats you on the moneymaker as he says it. especially, if you're a guy.

maybe i appreciate the well-placed dear or baby, because so many people are rude these days or, at best, all-business.

the woman who helps me at the dry cleaner always calls me my darling. isn't that great? it's too bad you can't tip the dry cleaning lady.

last seen: my darling clementine, mccabe and mrs. miller
last heard: marvin gaye 'what's happening brother'
last read: Then there is the question of our happiness and its limits. Suppose a drug could hand us happiness on a silver platter. That might seem wonderful, but it might blur or even obliterate the line between personality and medication. The pangs of conscience, the despondencies of failure, the reveries of grief, even personality itself might all become pathologies to be treated.
[editor's note: after reading the aforementioned article, i have decided that, upon my death, i will leave instructions for a three-volume biography to be written about my life. the volumes will be entitled: the pangs of conscience, the despondencies of failure, and the reveries of grief. they can be purchased individually or as a handsome leather-bound set, perfect for gift-giving.]

Monday, October 11, 2004

if you've not seen yo la tengo live, they have this habit of covering wonderful songs, often times quite well. before last friday, i'd only had the pleasure of seeing them perform one previous time.

it was last year on september 11th. michael and i drove to asheville to hear them. they walked out onto the stage and, before they even said one word, they started playing (what's so funny 'bout) peace, love and understanding. i remember beaming.

since then, thanks to the wonders of file-sharing, i have heard them play god only knows and i still miss someone and raspberry beret and london calling.

at last friday's show, toward the end of the evening, we were treated to georgia singing lead vocals on george harrison's behind that locked door. when i got home, i dug out my own copy of all things must pass. i must have listened to behind that locked door twenty times in the last three days.

it is so nice to be reminded of a sweet song that you'd forgotten.

last seen: the life of brian, fahrenheit 9/11, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, the man who shot liberty valance
last heard: george harrison 'behind that locked door'
last read: in his later work, he began to talk about the undeconstructibility of justice, of democracy, of friendship, of hospitality.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

i made many phone calls. i dug around on the internet. i even resorted to ambling around downtown, scribbling notes onto the back of a street map. now, i finally have a handle on the parking situation around the convention center.

through an unlucky coincidence, i managed to get myself recruited onto a planning committee for an annual conference. librarians from across the southeast will descend upon our city next month and a lot of the small organizing details still need taking care of. one of them is parking. i won't make snide comments or point fingers, i'll just say that, as lowest-guy on the totem pole, there was much phone-calling, internet-digging, and ambling/scribbling for me this week. all of it done on my own time.

by the way, i love how in this picture they managed to get the westin hotel in the background. it is a clever trick to make out-of-towners think that charlotte is filled with many examples of modern architecture. i guess there is some, but, in my opinion, the westin is the only interesting large-scale project in the city.

enough complaining though, on to the good news.

yesterday, i finished interviews for the last vacancy in the branch. hooray! now, no one is allowed to quit. i hate having to call all the people who didn't get the job, but it will be much easier knowing that i won't have to do it again for a long, long time.

this afternoon, there's a novello meeting, a briefing for those of us with author-wrangling duties.

tomorrow, a group of us library-types are going to see yo la tengo who are on their swing state tour. what a nice change to see a band i like within walking distance of my house.

also, my folks will be in town for a visit this weekend. i'll see them for their birthdays which are only one day apart. now-- to find a cake.

last seen: the godfather
last heard: the essex green 'the late great cassiopia'
last read: scott morse the barefoot serpent

Monday, October 04, 2004

you know what always weirds me out? when the theme song from a movie is the name of the movie. there can't be too many films like that. if you can name more than ten, i'll bet you have most of america beat. also, PS- you watch too many movies.

this weekend, i happened to view two such films purely by chance.

the creepy thing is you're sitting there, reading the opening credits, getting the blankets and the couch cushions and your excess flesh settled just the way you like for your two-hour journey. you're slowly being lulled into complacency by the gentle opening strains of some orchestra, maybe you even let out the faintest sigh...then a big unshaven chorus starts to sing:

THA MAN FROM LAR-RUH-ME

it always feels so forced. for just a split second, you wonder whether they wrote this song and then said "we should make a movie about that" or if it was the other way around.

so, even though it would have been a whole lot funnier if the towering inferno really was called we may never love like this again, i still think we should be thankful that movie studios don't do the song-equals-the-movie-title thing very often.

last heard: language of flowers 'if it's not you'
last read: Murdock and Face knock on door of terrorist sleeper cell disguised as pest-control authorities.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

i spent some of this weekend at work and some of it in a hospital room with michael. pneumonia had him laid up. for the better part of a week, he called a fourth-floor hospital room with not much of a view home.

if he were composing this entry, i am sure michael would make it a point to mention, in his colorful patois, that his room came equipped with a full-sized shower/tub combo and a private shitter. since i am fairly certain that he will not commit his misadventures to his weblog, i feel obligated to tell you-- his room had a gigantic tub and a private shitter.

the doctors discharged him this afternoon. he is breathing much better and resting comfortably in his own home.

while it's true that michael's hospital stay was big news, something even more remarkable happened this weekend; his wife played scrabble for the first time ever.

ladies and gentlemen, the young lady is a natural talent. we sat huddled around michael's bed for several fevered rounds of the game and she won almost every match. each double-letter or triple-word score was like watching daniel-san catch the fly with chopsticks. her style is impetuous, her defenses impregnable.

i must defeat her.

last seen: la dolce vita, the man from laramie, days of wine and roses
last heard: the long winters 'nora'
last read: Secularism has its greatest appeal among upper-middle-class liberals and professionals, while poorer Americans tend to be more religious. Democrats simply cannot win elections based on the votes of the former. For one thing, there are not enough of them. For another, significant numbers of upper-middle-class professionals, however strong their identification with the left on cultural issues, are Republicans on economic ones -- and frequently vote that way.