Monday, May 30, 2005

like most people, i shuffle on from week-to-week doing the same sorts of things, visiting the same places and eating the same sorts of foods. this isn't a complaint, just honest reportage. i actually find comfort in the familiar and like the ease of routine.

once in a while though, i will have a weekend similar to the one that just passed. a weekend where everything seems unusual, like i'm making up for lost time. fate, rather than peppering my everyday life with interesting bits, saves them all up and springs them on me in the span of 72 hours.

some of the things i consumed over the past few days were: an eclair, creme brule (for the first time), chorizo (ditto), oysters, apricots, fried pickles, seared ahi, and a margarita so big i had to lift the glass with two hands like it was a sippy cup for grown-ups.

i also stayed out way past my bedtime, got a new tattoo, shared two meals with two sets of friends where the bill for each was well over $100, heard a live mariachi band, played tag with a little kid at a cookout, met a young lady for coffee, purchased two cds because i was nostalgic for bygone days, and saw a guy playing bagpipes in his front yard.

any of those single events on a random weekend would be cause for joy, but to have them occur on top of one another? well, that's something else entirely.

in the wake of all that, i'm pretty confident the next three months will be all about peanut butter sandwiches and quiet reflection.

last seen: joe versus the volcano, the west: episodes four and five, the king of marvin gardens, sexy beast, festival express
last heard: joy division 'a means to an end'
last read: "I started shoeing when I was 12," he said.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

the topic of music came up whilst trading emails with alicia. more specifically-- how one keeps up. i seem to visit the record shop at least twice a month, handing over some portion of my paycheck each time. this started me thinking about all the stratagem i employ. here, then, is my own personal public service announcement with tons of links so that you can waste time at work.

how i find out about music by james

1. weblogs

i pick up pretty good recommendations by trawling the weblogs of people whose musical preferences seem, at least in part, to mirror my own. if one of these kids is listening to it, then i might like it, too.

2. print

gail o'hara's irregularly-published chickfactor is my favorite, but the reviews in bust and venus are also quite helpful.

3. electronic

non-pitchfork resources include TweeNet and tiny mix tapes and other assorted sites.

i also enjoy insound and 3hive who let you test drive without the guilt of stealing.

finally, websites for individual labels are good, too.

4. influences

i'm pretty good about following up on influences, if someone name-drops a band in an interview or article. for example, after i discovered the aislers set-- that's when i started listening to the kinks and the zombies. after i discovered sun records-era elvis-- that's when i started listening to bill monroe and the carter family. it just all kind of leads to new stuff for me and i think people who really like music can't help but be fascinated by those connections.

how do you find music?

last seen: palindromes
last heard: sleater-kinney 'let's call it love' [editor's note: i bought my ticket for the june 29th show.]
last read: My first hope is that you will not be too discouraged by the way the world looks at this moment.

Monday, May 23, 2005

the last few frames of FISH!* flickered across the screen and the consultant, hired for the day to talk to us about how we could incorporate fun into the workplace, felt his way across the back wall in the darkness, his meaty paw pat-patting for a light switch.

sitting there, all those months ago, in my not-comfortable chair, squinting under fluorescent lights, my mind see-sawed between how lucky i was to work for an organization that saw the importance of humor and fun in the workplace and how unlucky i was to work for an organization who believed that fun could be sanctioned and required and assigned like a task.

last week, i felt the first reverberations of FISH!. we are migrating to a new computer system which, naturally, means lots of training for staff and, we anticipate, some grumblings from the public when we go live at week's end, since they will have to learn it, too.

this brings me to the foam hats. a box arrived addressed to me which contained a gross of brightly-colored foam hats. someone decided that all staff should wear them to bait patrons. they would ask why we were wearing ridiculous visors and then we could talk up our new catalog.

[...crickets...tumbleweed...sound of wind...]

i thought i went non-profit so i wouldn't have to do degrading things like this.

thankfully, there is a movement afoot to make this voluntary, but it didn't start out that way.

i'm sure it comes as a surprise to no one that managers would think this was a brilliant idea, while the rest of us, the ones who work on a public service desk, would see it as a universally bad one. these same managers usually whine loudest when conversation turns to librarians not being taken seriously as professionals.

what surprises me is that they don't see the irony in requiring people to participate in fun. it isn't fun, if someone doesn't want to do it.

*be sure to scroll down to the rental and purchase prices.

last seen: written on the wind, the toy, the clearing, the west: episodes two and three, the taking of pelham one two three
last heard: the delfonics 'hot dog (i love you so)'
last read: azar nafisi reading lolita in tehran
reading: sam lipsyte home land
bonus: the propylaia is sort of the jan brady of ancient architecture: awkward, misunderstood, yet strangely provocative and alluring.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

the film society screened tarnation this week. i attended the 9:10 last night and only seven other people showed up. i'm always worried that disappointing turnouts will spell the end of our two-screen art house and i'll walk by one day to see that they've started booking shite.

where was everyone? this homemade documentary about a boy and his mentally ill mother was a perfect date movie, if you ask me. it was 90 minutes, the ideal running time, it scored style points for its inventive editing, and, lastly, i had big problems with some of the ways in which the narrative was constructed. all of this equals plenty to talk about afterwards over coffee and pie.

still though, seven ticket-buyers?

this either explains why most people are lame or why i haven't had a date in a really long time. probably both.

last seen: tarnation
last heard: joy division 'no love lost'
last read: telling your kid to aim away on purpose because a Christian wouldn’t kill someone but a gentleman wouldn’t turn down a duel doesn’t make you honorable; it makes you a dick.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

after reading beth's recent post, i decided it was time to figure out my own cell phone situation. i, too, am one of the thousands of north carolinians who caught the business end of the AT&T wireless merger. this morning, i decided to go with a cheaper suncom plan, since i was paying for a bunch of stuff i never use anyway like text messaging.

i took a hard look at my most recent bill before visiting the suncom store and i love how i was blindly paying for things that i didn't even know the purpose of-- like mmode. i think mmode means that, if i roll a 9 or higher on the 12-sided die, i can cast spells.

the whole transfer experience was fine. the people there were very patient and nice, even though no less than three other customers came in while i was there to complain/yell at the staff about the merger. yeah, like these poor slobs made the deciding votes and saw their pockets lined.

the biggest disappointment? no complimentary harry connick, jr. ringtones.

last heard: stereolab 'anemie'
last read: taking the longer view, the filibuster has historically been the best friend of conservatives, with their relatively unpopular views and legislative agendas. They may find it inconvenient at the moment, but there will surely come a day when they will miss it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

there were a lot of people in my apartment on saturday and i didn't even freak out. if you weren't aware, i'm not the social kind.

there were people out front on chairs, enjoying the sunset and company. there were people out back, sitting indian-style and smoking cigarettes. there were people standing in my kitchen, mixing drinks and asking questions about the people in the pictures on my fridge.

there were many hot dogs and two red velvet cakes and, when, at the end of the night, i carried three garbage bags full of empties to the recycling bins, i felt an odd sense of accomplishment. so that's what birthdays are supposed to feel like.

as i mentioned to michael at one point in the evening, it sure beats the hell out of sitting in the middle of a restaurant, eating your pad thai alone and reading. (see james' birthday 2004)

last seen: war of the worlds, harold and kumar go to white castle, what's new pussycat?
last read: nas 'it ain't hard to tell'
last read: Lee speculates that East European Jews, themselves marginalized, flocked to Chinese restaurants as a way of forging a new, modern, identity—as a way of becoming American.
bonus: This book is a great example of how great science fiction is far more than hairy-assed wookies and laser guns. [editor's note: while you're there, scroll down to the ed goes to darlington post. you won't be sorry for long.]

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

dear everyone,

today, i watched laura, a noir classic starring a beautiful actress with a boy's name and handsome actor with a girl's.

one character delivered the following line which made me laugh, then rewind, then laugh, then transcribe.

young woman, either you have been raised in some incredibly rustic community where good manners are unknown, or you suffer from the common feminine delusion that the mere fact of being a woman exempts you from the rules of civilized conduct...or possibly both.

speaking of movies, i might do a film series at the library in july. my theme is famous movie questions. i have three titles chosen but i need your help picking a fourth. so far there's who's afraid of virginia woolf?, what ever happened to baby jane? and guess who's coming to dinner.

i already thought of the following and pitched them for various reasons: who's that knocking at my door, what's up, tigerlily, what about bob, and what's eating gilbert grape.

any thoughts on the final pick?

true, this series promises to be as unsuccessful and poorly-attended as the comedies of the 1940s series i pulled together a few years back, but the good news is i will get paid to sit and watch movies i like even if i'm the only one who shows up; so, at least, there's that.

by the way, if you're interested in the 1940s series, it included his girl friday, sullivan’s travels, woman of the year and the man who came to dinner.

finally, you are all invited to my house this saturday for a cookout in celebration of my birthday. email me, if you need directions. out-of-towners can sleep on the couch, on the floor, or, if you're nice, we can make spoons.

your pal,
james

last seen: laura
last heard: the bartlebees & anja 'ne me quitte pas'
last read: christopher buckley washington schlepped here
reading: azar nafisi reading lolita in tehran

Monday, May 09, 2005

my trip to asheville for the decemberists show was a peaceful one. after i made it out onto the interstate and set the cruise control, i called the house to wish my mom a happy mother's day. my sister picked up and told me that my mom was away, at mass. we chatted for a while and she gave me baby updates. next week, she'll be six months along.

after catching up, then saying our goodbyes, i settled in for the remainder of the two-hour trip. this involved readjusting the seat to proper angles and loading willie nelson's greatest hits. i find that familiar is often the best recipe for road music. it keeps me awake if i can sing loudly and employ some type of accent. besides, who wouldn't have fun drawling-- them that don't know him won't like him and them that do, sometimes won't know how to take him.

when i arrived in asheville, i drove out to the blue ridge parkway in search of a scenic overlook. i pulled into one just up the road from the folk art center. a wide valley stretched before me, full of trees and dotted with houses along the bottom. behind my car was a sheer rock face, carved into which were a series of vertical lines, some as long as twenty feet. i imagine they were drilled long ago and stuffed with dynamite to blast the space for the parkway and this lookout.

the concert was great and, naturally, picaresque-heavy, but they did manage to work in a few songs from older albums, too.

in no particular order, these were my 3 favorite parts of the night:

-their cover of 'wuthering heights' with petra serving lead vocal duty.

-when ryan "don't call me bryan" adams, spotted in the audience and in town to play a show on the following night, took the stage in the middle of 'the chimbley sweep', strapped on a guitar, and led the band on a ten-minute jam/detour, then back into the end of 'chimbley sweep.'

-when they closed the evening with 'the mariner's revenge song' and audience members got to scream like we were being eaten by a whale.

last seen: who put the M in manchester?, ken burns' the west- episode one
last heard: george harrison 'ballad of sir frankie crisp (let it roll)'
last read: we're having my newborn son's christening cake made of Twinkies.

Friday, May 06, 2005

working where i do, i come across some unusual naming conventions. i've illustrated this in the past by sharing the names of two freshmen: champagne and marvellous.

now that i think about it, that would make an awesome name for a gay, buddy cop show. i think america's ready for it. the two main characters would each sport selleck-esque mustaches and, whenever a chase would begin, they would rip their shirts off, unnecessarily. this would be shot in slow-motion, perhaps to the gentle strains of an orchestral version of it's raining men, and never explained. but i digress, back to the unusual name conventions.

i met a boy named fate yesterday. as so often happens when i think of something to write about in the middle of a workday, i scribble the idea down on a slip of paper and stuff it into my pocket.

for the rest of the day, i thought about how interesting it would be, if i were in a car accident or run over while crossing the street, for the medics to arrive and, while searching my pockets for identification, they would find a single piece of paper that just had the word FATE written on it in block letters.

how undergraduate-creative-writing-class is that? i think i'll go smoke some clove cigarettes and put on a che t-shirt and call my dad to tell him that i hate him and to please send the check early this month.

in completely unrelated news, i watched undertow yesterday. it is the third david gordon green film i've seen. it obviously had a much bigger budget than his previous outings. terrence malick was a producer, philip glass did the music, and recognizable actors had lead parts. while i liked it OK, i didn't think it was nearly as good as either of his first two films, george washington and all the real girls. the latter is one of my top 10 favorites, if endorsements from someone you trust count.

[sidebar: here's an interesting interview with the director from last fall.]

last seen: undertow, the big blue
last heard: stereolab 'fluorescences' [editor's note: i had to buy it--three CDs and a DVD for $20!]
last read: We can double date, going to Early Bird dinners and playing shuffleboard together.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

currently thinking:
-decemberists show. this sunday.
-almost mother's day. what should i buy?
-almost my birthday. what should you buy?
-i ate popcorn three times in the last week. once, it was dinner.
-i would like to bake wheat-free muffins for sarah vowell. she could eat them standing in my kitchen, clad only in one of my rumpled dress shirts and her own stockinged feet.
-there is this one greaser kid who frequents my favorite bar. he looks like he was supposed to be in kiefer sutherland's gang in stand by me except all of his scenes got cut. the last three times i've seen him, he fed quarters into the jukebox so that it would play stagger lee over and over again. it's a great song, but, come on, man--four times in two hours? mix it up. there's some sabbath on that thing, and dean martin also.
-i will be reading three non-fiction books in a row, without a net or guide wires of any kind. that's a personal record.
-after several years of deliberation, i think i'm finally ready to get my next tattoo.
-tomorrow, i have a 4-hour training workshop to attend. won't that be fun?
-can't wait for my june vacation. mom and dad bought tickets to the nats and tony bennett.
-girls sure are nice.
-saturday night = who put the M in manchester?

last seen: bad company
last heard: little esther 'aged and mellow'
last read: sarah vowell assassination vacation
reading: christopher buckley washington schlepped here
bonus: slowly, he lifted the bun of his fish sandwich like the lid of a jewelry box.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

try to imagine a man. he has lived in this country for a while and speaks english fairly well; however, he still retains a thick accent and has trouble with some words. while he might appreciate language instruction tapes to smooth things out, he relies only on FM radio.

that's the turkish guy who works at the restaurant near my library. i go there for lunch several times a week.

the thing i like most about this guy--even more than how he flirts with any woman who walks in no matter her martial status, age or physical type--is that he sings the chorus to whatever song just finished playing on the overhead speakers ten minutes ago. he does this loudly, in a fractured english, in a cadence that does not often match the original song, with emphasis consistently (and mistakenly) added on the last word of each line.

it doesn't matter if it's james taylor (in...MY-MIND-i'm...goin'-to-caroLINA!) or sheryl crow (all...I-wannado-IS...have-some-FUN!). this guy is like a jazz singer, adding his own flourishes to each standard. it makes for big laughs everyday.

last seen: the electric horseman, the gleaners and i, the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy, epidemic (and accompanying documentary entitled FREEDOGME)
last heard: gram parsons 'do you know how it feels to be lonesome?'
last read: Waterspouts stood in apparently motionless ranks like the pillars of a temple. On their swollen capitals rested the dark and lowering arch of the storm...