What frightens me is that all moments are real, and equally eternal.
November 4, 2006
November 2, 2006
She lifts the candle. Gives it a sniff. And, holding it reverently between her fingers, sets it precisely one and a half palm widths from the table’s edge. Though unlit, she’s careful not to create a wind-wake with her movements. She slides her arm through the air, and lands her hand upon the book of matches.
She jacked those matches from Nightclub Sorentine.
The length of her fingernails lend a birdlike style to her movements. With four sticks and a thumb, she rubs the matchbook open. Her eyes at last adjust to the darkness; she sees every matchstick but one.
The missing she used to start her stove. Tomato soup can be delicious, but only if you believe in it.
Deftly, razor nails as wedging tools, she separates the third stick in the front row, dislodges it, and silkily turns the back of the matchbook towards herself.
A bloom of light brings the planes of her face into being. Irises contract. Eyebrows draw dancing sticks on her forehead. Her nose elongates as she guides fire to her candle.
Scented. By which Wal-Mart means: scentless to humans.
With a touch, the flame is passed. This is her favorite moment: the passing is not transfer, but infection. Give a toy, the receiver keeps it. Give advice, and you don’t abide by it yourself. Give yourself, and he owns you dead.
But give fire, and the room gets brighter. Watch the flame eat a wick or a match in crawling motion, fire pulling itself sideways by its own feed. Destruction at its backside, a reminder that the Universe doesn’t come cheap. A reminder that you, too, hazel eyes and cranky spirit and dead-end job and sex with the occasional orgasm, will pay for the privilege of lighting a candle one day. You too, she reminds herself, will be soot.
Which of you readers remember Wendy Hagden, of Unadilla, Georgia, USA? Do you recall the truck stop restaurant where she worked? Hands in knots, legs more swollen every day, and a smiley-smiley-smile that delighted everyone — including some customers, with furtive hands, a bit too much. What of her bat in the attic? Did she ever shoo it from her place? Of course, as you may already know, it wasn’t really her place, but rented from some slack bastard who believed his sole responsibility was to own the house and collect rent.
Do you remember Wendy?
Her child, Susan, despite all odds, became an actress. Studied in New York (and never told her mother how much sex and drugs she had in school). Did many commercials. Became near-famous with the amount of commercials she did. Ad agencies loved Susan’s gift for frigid allure. Which meant she could promote sleeping pills, undergarments, checking accounts, deodorant, and politicians with the same steely intellect that both gave credibility, and, as one producer put it, “makes you want to fuck her.”
Anyway. Soot. Both of them.
I say this not to bring up the specter of death in a gloomy voice. You’re the one who makes it gloomy. I can’t do anything about that, unless I decide to change the mind of the World — which I’m considering, but which can wait for a moment while I write. I bring up the subject because it distresses me what you choose to place in time capsules. Printed material. Fashion trends. War reports. DVDs. A lock of hair. As if Wendy were defined by her hair! [note: are they aware Strossian-Von Neumann DNA-extrapolation is pure crap?]
Don’t you know that you pay for all these things?
Why is it never you store the real moments? The instants you are capable of making true, like testing the microphone, choosing from the menu, catching a cold on vacation? These are moments truly worth fire’s wrath. They are the Ungh of life that, when the match is near consumed and Wendy puffs it dead to stop the heat at her fingers, leaves a legacy of the impossible.
Ask Saturn. Or Jupiter. Hell, even Mars (after the revolution). Ask SN 1604. What you accomplish, in the nothingness of your dullest days, are miracles.
And for that, you pay. Nothing’s free but Will, and, I can tell by your obsession with credit cards and furniture design, efficiency is of no concern to you. I shake my head at your idolatry of worthlessness [note: might they construe that as harsh?]. I, a billion times smarter than your Saganuk — or is it Newton in your time period? — have been dumbfounded by you. For that, at least, you can be proud.
Listen: in the fullstore — or rather, “the end” — whatever you choose to do, be you Wendy enduring the lecherous gaze of every strung-out trucker (lesbian or not) daily, or Tariq the wanna-be-rapper whom his mother just cold-cocked for eating fish with his hands, you will get the bill, and it’s the Law that you pay it.
I am a collector.
But don’t get your hopes up. I’m not your fictional “Grim Harvester.” There is no such thing. I cannot be negotiated with, because you establish your own death. Think “cholesterol” or “cigarettes.” Why do you now live to 150, while those before you had but decades of life? You educe your own final instant; I have nothing to do with it — nor can I influence your longevity.
I’m a simple collector, after the fact. Or rather, archivist. Yes. That’s the better word. A soot collector. I got into this business to witness miracles. But now, seeing which “miracles” you choose to emphasize and spend the zero-point reservoir upon, I must say that I’m tired, and want out. It’s a shame that I live under tyranny — the kind that allows me my opinion but not my will — and cannot change jobs.
Resufferant! Look at all that self pity I just wrote. I’ve been collecting for far too long.
Anyway. Allow me to “just say it.” With admiration of you and love of myself, in an act of Ghandish civil disobeyance (which the cabal will undoubtedly call “treason”) and knowing full well I risk Dispersment of my pattern all over Series 7, I hereby break the Greatest of Laws.
Let me tell you about Wendy, and what happened after she extinguished her match.
November 1, 2006
Well, that’s it for my political posts. At least for this month. It’s getting stale around here, and while everyone around me dives into some creative NaNaBloPoNoWriMoNoJoBo event, I’ll be damned if I let myself get cranky and snarky in the meantime.
I haven’t thought of what I’ll be doing this month en lieu of NaNoWriMo (which I’ve participated in before), but I’ve decided that it must be something just as challenging, and significantly out of my range. The deadline is tonight for my decision; I’m vacillating between a few ideas I’m thoroughly afraid of. If I can’t make a decision, I’ll be flipping the fateful coin on the matter, and getting down to it.
What I’m saying is, it’s going to get weird around here (hopefully), so you’ve been warned.
See ya on the flipside!
But later on in his article, Schader says:
I was wrong in my belief.
Dude, why write the article if you’re so wrong about it? Sheesh.
Many conservative bloggers seem to come to Kerry’s defense. For instance:
- Lorie Byrd at Wizbang asks, “Why should all Democrats be held accountable for something John Kerry said?” and promises “We will forget about Kerry.” While Kim Priestap says “blame the GOP for this one, Senator Kerry.”
- The Conservative Alternative says, “Sorry, John, but you are a hero!”
- Kevin McCullough at TownHall says “Fight back… we’re with ya!”
- Jonathan at Crush Liberalism opines, “Kerry’s slander was a ‘botched joke’ and not indicative of any latent disdain for the troops.”
- Bullwinkle Blog tells everyone that “occasionally he slips up.”
- Wake Up America writes, “his words are being misstated.”
- Urbangrounds writes, “nothing more than a poorly-delivered joke.”
- NewsBusters writes, “Kerry meant this as a jab at the president.”
- And even the FreeRepublic says, “Democrats to seize Congress, the Presidency, the high ground.”
I hope all these verbatim quotes from conservative outlets set to rest any controversy on what a context-free quote is, how it was applied to Mr. Kerry, and how snap movements — especially from the conservative blogosphere — will join up and resist such childish perfidy with both thought and grace. Thanks, guys, I couldn’t have said it better myself!
October 31, 2006
What a neat idea! (scroll down for pictures and video)
In particular, I like the thought that there may be gifts inside. Sometimes a power-up, sometimes an extra life, and maybe — just maybe — coins. It’s mischievous and generous, and my favorite: imaginative.
But there are hidden dangers when igniting the imagination. Lesson learned? If you’re thinking of putting a bomb in a bright yellow box with an ominous question mark painted upon it, rest assured that your scheme, however it is camouflaged, will be detected by some extremely clever passer-by, and you will be arrested.
The BBC reports that the Pentagon is launching a new propaganda — oops, I mean “media war” unit — that will attempt to offset — oops, I mean “correct” — unflattering (I mean “inaccurate”) breaking news reports.
My only question, which is blatantly missing in this article, is, “Where?” Who are the targets of this propa — media war? Which stations, which websites? More importantly, which country?
The BBC won’t say. They mention TV, radio, and weblogs, and grant the Pentagon a fully dictated — oops, I mean “reported” — paragraph to sort-of explain the issue:
The administration is particularly concerned that insurgents in areas such as Iraq have been able to use the web to disseminate their message and give the impression they are more powerful than the US, our correspondent says.
But my question still remains. “Where?”
Where will these bold countermeasures be conducted? On Iraqi TV? Iraqi Radio? Insurgent web sites?
Not mentioned. Which forces me to conclude that most of this media warring will be conducted in America, on American radio, on American TV, on American blogs, toward American station owners and American citizens.
Seriously, where else is that scary 24-hour news cycle that keeps Donald Rumsfeld “up at night” located? Where else can lobbyists and politicians (uh, “surrogates”) gear up and appear on a TV show so quickly? (Hint: Baghdad is 6,211 miles away from Washington. New York is 204.)
I will hazard a guess that Rumsfeld and the top brass don’t receive their daily supply of heebie jeebies from Al-Jazeera pundits. If not, who are they afraid of?
On Monday, US Vice President Dick Cheney also made reference to the use of media, suggesting insurgents had increased their attacks and were checking the internet to keep track of American public opinion. [emphasis added]
Ahhhh! That’s who. Never mind.
October 30, 2006
Anna’s initiation yarn treat arrived today. Yyyesss!
I must admit, I’m a touch miffed that she spent extra money on me; I was under the suspicion I’d get some leftovers from her skein cornucopia (also known as her house), and not two incredibly classy hues (blue and green) of wool bought from Knit Picks topped off with a knitting gauge.
All I can say is, “Holy crap, Anna, do you fight dirty! Thanks!” Clearly, she is experienced at spreading her disease. I mean, “craft.” Now, I must think of something special to knit with these beauties, something worth their quality. Which means I better get cracking (practicing?) on this scarf.
Winter Night (blue) peruvian highland wool, Pine (green) marino wool, and something called a “knit gauge,” which I speculate, if I were a better knitter, I could use to draw perfect circles on paper. Delicious! Thanks, Anna!
October 29, 2006
I ripped my scarf. Since there’s no deadline, I feel great about doing it. It was way too wide (30+ stitches), and revealed, in ragged fashion, a lesson I will share with everyone:
Do not do that reverse-loop cast on thingie.
It’s an easy cast on, which is why beginners like me are lured into it. You begin with a slip knot on your needle, and, by stacking up a row of folded loops, you give yourself strands to knit upon for your first row.
Problem is, the twistiness of the yarn makes the edge inconsistent and the loops drift in a spiral around the needle. It’s impossible to knit above it — especially with Homespun yarn — without creating scragglies. Unfortunately, you’ll realize this only three rows later — unless you’re lucky enough to read this post, which means you’ll realize it now.
The better, though weirder, cast-on is the “double cast on,” where, using needle-magic, you both knit a row and cast on in one pass. Clever! Elegant! Some brilliant knitter from days gone by devised this technique, and it hurts my brain to imagine what kind of mental process and finger gymnastics they had to go through to invent it. But whomever you are: thanks! Check out a video of the niftiness here.
Anyway, the double cast-on is not that much harder to perform than the reverse ‘e,’ unless you’re talking about children. It gives a solid edge without fuss, and if you’re a beginner, it is the cast on you should learn for any project you’d like to use when finished.
Oh, and stop teaching the reverse e! It’s ugly, hard to knit on, and not worth the simplicity it offers.
Hm. I just realized that anyone curious enough to read this post already knows everything I just said.
October 27, 2006
How do you even begin to write about something like this?
I mean, god damn. What’s more is that Erik Mongrain isn’t the end of it. In fact, as I net-splurged on fingertap guitar, I discovered that, while Mongrain has impressive chops, there are far more musicians out there that lend more musicality (as in “graspability”) to their compositions. In other words, when you close your eyes, they’re still impressive.
Michael Hedges, a strong influence of Mongrain, is one of those guys. He was a guitarist stolen from the world in a fatal car crash, and proves in this video (has two songs) that it’s not just technique, but technique applied musically that creates wonder.
Notice how Hedges squeezes the entire dynamic range out of his guitar. Even furious triplets are played delicately, quietly; technique serving the desire of the ear. It may seem like a waste when you listen to it. Why such a rapid-fire lick, just to underlay a mere passage? Something so impressive should jump out front and center and announce its ownership of the world! I SAID “!”! (That’s certainly what works on American Idol).
But this is where true mastery comes in. Hedges is so poised, so skilled, that a movement requiring years of practice from even the most talented to master — and therefore eternally out of reach for mere mortals — is but another trick in his bag, another way to get at music. As I always contend, “there is nothing more astonishing than ease.”
In my short exploration into unconventional guitar, I discovered one fingerstylist (besides Hedges) I could truly say impressed me with my eyes closed. His name is Andy McKee. He’s not as wacky-dextrous as the others (at least he doesn’t show it), but I really like his ear for music. My prediction is that within five years, he’ll be the hot new composer, writing scores for movies using a total of six strings. At least, it’s what I hope for both him and this style of guitar music.
Finally, I must mention a video that literally had me laughing in joy. Similar to Fencer’s juggling links (which still get me to this day), these two demonstrations (top of page) of a funky instrument called “the stick” had me clapping my hands (yes, it’s true) and yelling at my screen: “My god, that is so. fucking. coooooool!”
Greg Howard, the zealous advocate of the Chapman stick who plays in these two videos, is a keyboardist and sax player who found magic in the tapping technique developed by Emmett Chapman (designer of the stick). To be honest, Howard plays stick better than Emmett Chapman himself. Dave Matthews has used him on occasion, and the guy certainly deserves more attention. Check out his solo performances from his album Stick Figures (scroll down).
Sufficed to say, I want me one of those sticks. In a bad way. Looks like a bitch to play, and it’s not acoustic. But God. Damn. It’s the only instrument I know of that retains some of the compositional features of a keyboard while offering things a keyboard lacks (pitch bend, slide, tremolo, timbre experiments, and so on). Oh, the vibrato envy!
I hope the stick catches on. Unfortunately, its $2,600 price tag is prohibitive for such an experimental amplified instrument. I’d expect that kind of price from a keyboard or a violin, because they already have a support system of teachers and players around the globe. But for an instrument that you may just discover is not your bag of tea? No thanks.
It’s still wicked cool, though. Shame about the price.
Okay, I’m probably unfair singling anybody out, because there’s plenty of fingerstyling to be impressed with over at Candy Rat Records, like Erick Turnbull (mp3 sample, site), Antoine Dufour (mp3 sample, site), Don Ross (mp3 sample, site), and a grammy-nominated guy who boldly does it with Bass, Michael Manring (mp3 sample, site). Not to mention all the newgrass artists, chicks like Ani DiFranco (mp3, site) and on, and on, and on…
Here’s a selection of Chapman stick players on YouTube (why all the ambient music, man?)
Michael Hedges kicks ass with All Along the Watchtower
Don Kush, another impressive fingertapping artist, who plays the guitar harp.
In my opinion, a superior composition from Eric Mongrain called The Silent Fool.
Check out more performance videos of the stick from various artists.
Musicians influenced by Michael Hedges (with mp3s).