Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Remarks on Colour

Now I'm going to paint my nails. I'm using a color by Nars called "Jungle Red," which I had to buy (even though it's much more of a saturated red than I typically wear) as soon as I saw the name, for much the same reason I had to buy Collins's Picnic, Lightning as soon as I saw the title. Taking a leaf from Kasey's book (really just some photons from the screen his blog produces on my computer)--to the first person to identify both things that motivated these purchases I'll award . . . I dunno . . . hmmm . . . how about an instance of one of the two things (winner's choice)?

The thing about painting my nails is that I can't do it for shit. I can't, at any rate, make them look anywhere near like professionally manicured ones. I find this really frustrating. I don't pretend to be skilled in every area of life. But I've always figured that I could pretty much do a reasonable job at most ordinary trades and crafts, if I really invested myself in learning and practicing them. For example, I've replaced various plumbing fixtures, done minor repairs under the hood of my car, made jewelry (e.g., the beads), designed stuff, painted stuff. You'd've thought I'd've gotten fingernails down by now. Those of you who don't, for whatever personal reasons, paint your nails probably can't conceive how frustrating it is to make them look really good. And then, of course, they chip right away . . . . Those who do, for whatever personal reasons, paint them--uh, why do yours always look so much better than mine?

A splendid job for a poetry blogger (for me, anyway) would be coming up with color-names for make-up. Are you listening, Revlon?

Always so much i want to blog about, so little time. i was just rereading (which reminds me of the Kerouac point i keep saying i'm going to make, but never do; maybe tomorrow) my list of movie sequences (catherine, please, please don't regret that you opened this spigot and now it doesn't seem to close . . . . it will, i promise, as soon as the pressure drops some in the pipes) and i had one of those experiences of suddenly seeing an obvious and powerful connection between seemingly disjoint pieces that, to my embarrassment, have been sitting in front of me, waving and making faces for years. I mentioned parenthetically below that the dance club sequence in Danny Boyle's Trainspotting is an homage to Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, specifically to the Korovo Milk Bar ("Milk plus-- vellocet, drencrom . . . to sharpen you up . . .) sequences. Not only does Boyle lay out and paint the club's back room to match the Korovo (same words on wall), but he also opens the scene with the same slow 10mm-lens knee-high reverse dolly shot. It's a brilliant (um, i mean, extremely pleasurable) scene for many, many reasons--as those who've seen it can attest (those who haven't, please just do). But my favorite part has always been the music, especially, as I say, the thermonuclear eighties dance songs "Temptation" and "Atomic," the one seque-ing seamlessly--as if dj'd--into the other to marvelous effect. "Temptation" has an obvious (if not heavyhanded) topical appropriateness to the scene: in voice-over Renton remarks that his heroin addiction had long kept him from feeling much sexual desire, but now, having kicked the habit (at least for while), he is strongly feeling it again. When I would teach the film, I would point out how careful Boyle was to pick a song whose lyrics respond so directly to Renton's thoughts. OK. So, reviewing my list just now, I started wondering who in god's name performed it. Eventually, it popped into my head (from i wish i fucking knew where, 'cause there are a lot of other things there i really need): it was an OHW band called "Heaven Seventeen." Some corner of my eye was still near my parenthetical note on Boyle's debt to Kubrick. Click. Bang. Omigod. For christ's fucking sake, "Heaven Seventeen" was a band mentioned briefly in one scene in . . . A Clockwork Orange! When Alex picks up the teeny-boppers at the music store, one asks him, pointing to an illuminated list where the names are clearly displayed (not far from a prominent copy of the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey), "Who you gettin', bratty? Goggly Gogol? Johnny Zhivago? The Heaven Seventeen?"

OK, so i love Danny Boyle even more.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

ugly thugs' mugs montage
omigod! I forgot about all the Sergio Leone westerns! My favorite Leone montage is definitely the early scene in Once Upon a Time in the West (it's either the first scene or, I think, the second), where the three thugs lie in wait for the train bringing Charles Bronson into their ambush. Leone intercuts beautifully among the three (he loves intercutting among threes--viz. the stylized, ritualistic shootout at the end of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). The viewer has no idea what the fuck's going on. One glabrous thug, sitting placidly, almost sleepily, under the station awning, feels a drop of water fall on his scalp, then another; so, smiling broadly, he puts on his hat and the drip starts resounding more loudly, at about one-second intervals, on his hat-brim. Why in god's name is he smiling and not just moving out of the way of the irritating drip? Because he's just so tough? The noise pokes the audience's ear egregiously (exactly like the annoyingly persistent faucet-drip in the otherwise dead-silent kitchen where Sarah Miles seduces Edward Fox in Losey's The Servant). Another thug, sitting at the other end of the station platform, harrassed by a brazen fly relentlessly alighting on his face and then buzzing around his ear, fails repeatedly to catch it in his fist. A third thug, notable for his twisted, wrinkled, scarred, grizzled mug--the kind Leone's camera goes out of its way to capture lovingly for his audience (as Shakespeare's quill does the marsh gas of puns, according to Johnson)--does nothing but sit and stare into the distance irascibly, a rusty windmill screeching plaintively behind him. This montage is as much of sound as of image. Indeed, though absolutely nothing happens of any significance on the screen for an everlasting three-or-so minutes, the characters barely moving or changing expression, the audience has been screwed to a pitch of utter distraction by the interminable cyclic amplification of one excruciating sound after another--drip, buzz, screech--along with its corresonding enigmatically expressive countenance.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Don't forget the biggest crack house in America! (wouldn't that be a marvelous alternative for those who hate The Mall of America?)
Oops. Forgot the crack house sequence from Jungle Fever, shot over Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City."
Basic Theory of Bibliography 101
Um, I hope if you read my list of movie sequences below, you'll realize that those not clearly associated with a specific movie are (i hope) part of the most closely mentioned movie title above.
Do we have time for a movie montage?
catherine meng asks for favorite movie montages. i have a few. i wrote her the following email, but i figured i'd post it here too, 'cause--for the reason i mention at the end--i really want to hear others' suggestions too. please forgive the lack of capitalization. i just started the list that way and was too lazy to fix it up. i'll put the film titles in italics later

some favorite montages of mine below. i'm using the notion of montage in the strict sense of "communicating to the audience, through the editing-together of disjunctive cinematic images, a meaning which the images themselves don't directly represent." a common special use of montage, which maybe you have in mind instead (& if so, sorry about all the irrelevant examples!), is the representation of change (usually involving a sequence of lap dissolves) over a period of time much greater than the duration of the montage itself (a character's increasing success over years conveyed in large part by dissolving shots of a succession of newpaper headlines; one or more characters really buckling down and training hard for the big event; characters taking a long journey to a new important setting, etc.). it's worth noting, though, that the paradigm montage, eisenstein's odessa steps sequence, actually stretches what must have been (i think) about three minutes of massacring to more like fifteen minutes of film

i have a bunch more 'cause i'm working on a screenplay that's partly about favorite sequences and i've been thinking about mine a lot in the past couple of weeks

I feel like I've been experiencing incidents of Jungian synchronicity lately. I don't know if it's a calling card from hypomania (which my therapist thinks my demeanor sometimes manifests but which I argue is just the brain popping and crackling along and finally generating the importunate blaze I'd give my soul or at least both baby toes to warm myself by more than once in a blue moon) or if it's just that the longed-for ping pong balls happened to settle in the drum where the spokesmodel's redlacquered nails could pluck them most easily.

OK, well maybe it's the hypomania.

Anyway, the latest occurrence that makes me feel as though the universe and I are sauntering in the same direction is that my last post, below, about Chris Lott's thoughts, was intended as a response to his smart, heartfelt post from last week, not the posts and comments from the past couple of days engendering fascinating and self-revelatory conversation between Chris & Eileen. I hadn't read them yet. I was worried that I would appear to be arriving on the scene way late (don't get me started on arriving way late, a propensity for which my daughter wants to disinherit me), and, hey, it looks for all the world as if I were just putting my two cents in more or less on time.
Mika: Pleasure equals Value. Are they commutative? Discuss.
Hiatus due to weekend of son's birthday festivities. Much interpersonal confusion and complication. My daughter is mad at me.

I started writing this a couple of days ago. I might as well post it now. But my (Leigh's) battery is dying, so I'll have to hook up the links tomorrow.

Since I got back I've been thinking off and on about Chris Lott's discussion of literary values, about readers who strongly affiliate along literary-value lines, about not knowing what to do with your delight in (and even admiration for) writing judged poor or uncool by respected peers or with your disdain towards those who enthuse over patently awful writers; but I haven't found time to blog my thoughts. Now that I have a moment, I can't get through to Chris's site for some reason, to review his points. I hope he didn't kill it out of despair [yay! it turns out he didn't!]. His is definitely one of my favorites out there--no, make that one of the best.

I've always adored the name of Stanley Cavell's old chair at Harvard: The Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value. Wouldn't it be completely fab to be a professor of "the General Theory of Value"?
You're a professor? What do you teach? I'm a professor of Value, the Theory of Value. Values--like William Bennett? Evildoers and stuff? No, just Value, generally; the General Theory, you know, not the Special one.

Well, here's my general theory. I should probably state up front that my critical views were very significantly influenced by an ad campaign during the seventies and early eighties for Newport cigarettes: "Alive with pleasure! [insert photo of one or more toothy heterosexual couples having hilarious sexually charged vaguely female-masochistic "fun" at the beach, camping, or with a hose (sometimes all three)] If smoking isn't a pleasure, why bother?"

And so with reading, I say. And so with writing. I painfully drill into my students (I didn't say, "And so with taking a course from me") that the main question to ask when approaching a work of literature (or, well, anything . . . life) is not "What does it mean?" or "How good is it?" but rather "What sorts of pleasures can be found here?"

I counter the inevitable wag's "None" with "What sorts of pleasures do you think the poet hoped a reader would find here? What sorts of pleasures can you imagine the poet taking in writing the poem? What sorts of pleasures does the poem imply are worthy ones? What sort of pleasures do you think readers who do like this poem experience? Can you unearth pleasures in the poem that the poet might not have been consciously aware of putting there?"

This way of looking at criticism may not be exactly what Susan Sontag had in mind when calling for "an erotics of reading," but it think it nevertheless fits the bill ["fits"? "fills"?]. I do think it pretty much amounts to Barthes' plaisir du texte.

The point of reading everything through pleasure-spectacles rather than through literary-quality- or meaning-spectacles is that people seem to have an easier time accepting others' differences regarding tastes (chaqu'un a son de gustibus and so forth) than others' differences regarding facts-- into which gravity inevitably pulls disputes about quality and meaning. The important thing is that appreciators try sincerely to identify the pleasures each work offers for consumption. If I really understand the pleasures you see in, say, New Brutalist poetry, but still can't get excited about it, then we must agree to disagree. You probably'll never understand the ecstasies into which I'm transported by Sephora [OK, fine. An out-of-fashion poet, then. Swinburne.]. And anyone with the sensibility to title a book "Picnic, Lightning" is my perfect soulmate and a genius. Those words detonate my favorite sentence in all of English literature. From my vantage, it's therefore the best sentence in all of English literature (the second-best, "Exit, pursued by a bear," being a stage direction, might be disputed). But if you don't see it that way, I don't think I'll ever convince you.

Of course, it's hard if peers you respect are openly jeering at your intellectual pleasures. I don't readily admit (except to you in the Desert of the Real, Outer Blogolia, who would never inform those I deal with daily in the Matrix [doesn't the epigraph to "Prufrock" say pretty much that in Italian?]) that I still love Jethro Tull. When I was in high school, they were for me the apex of lyrical and musical invention and intelligence. On the other hand, I've never replaced my Jethro Tull LPs with CDs. I think of Ian Anderson as an adolescent taste and give myself no opportunity to indulge it.

I really adore the film The Ploughman's Lunch, but for twenty years I've sought in vain for someone who after having a couple of drinks can sit through the whole thing without snoring once. My Ex, with whom I tried to watch it a couple of times, bursts into howls of hilarity whenever I mention the film at all.

I forget if I've said this before, but for some years I regularly taught a course in contemporary (post 1960) British cinema. I really like the Brit way of serious aesthetic and narratorial envelope-pushing (e.g. Richardson, Roeg, Greenaway).

Nevertheless, if you asked me what my favorite film is, I would probably say either Desperate Living or Beyond the Valley of the Dolls or Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill. Well, maybe Dr. Strangelove or Spinal Tap. Or Dawn of the Dead. Maybe Liquid Sky. Performance and Rocky Horror would be up there. Fargo. Trainspotting. Alright, yes, I do absolutely worship some films not frothing with pomo irony. Cries & Whispers, for instance. I wanted to say Vertigo and Strangers on a Train but then I considered I owe so much of my appreciation for them (and for Psycho) to John Waters. I have to say I've rarely enjoyed a film as much as The Lonely Lady or Tough Guys Don't Dance, but it would probably be wrong to say I admire them.

What would I say are the best films? Do I have to care?

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Blake v. Schopenhauer

I thought I could blog from LA. Ha. . . . ! I'm only now just getting some brain cells back.

Notice that Alli is reading Schopenhauer and Kasey is reading Blake (and reading Alli, too, and bestowing on her a deserved honor [yay, Alli!]). Neurons randomly firing, I turn again to my trusty commonplace book to show that I am like so totally there and to offer the Schopenhauer passage that resonates most profoundly with my Weltanshauung (it too used to be on my plan) along with what I take to be Blake's proleptic, characteristically dismissive retort.

[Sexual love] is the ultimate goal of almost all human effort; it has an unfavorable influence on the most important affairs, interrupts every hour the most serious occupations, and sometimes perplexes for a while even the greatest minds. It does not hesitate to intrude with its trash, and to interfere with the negotiations of statesmen and the investigations of the learned. It knows how to slip its love-notes and ringlets even into ministerial portfolios and philosophical manuscripts. Every day it brews and hatches the worst and most perplexing quarrels and disputes, destroys the most valuable relationships, and breaks the strongest bonds. It demands the sacrifice sometimes of life or health, sometimes of wealth, position, and happiness. Indeed, it robs of all conscience those who were previously honorable and upright, and makes traitors of those who have hitherto been loyal and faithful. Accordingly, it appears on the whole as a malevolent demon, striving to pervert, to confuse, and to overthrow everything.

Schopenhauer, "The Metaphysics of Sexual Love"

Abstinence sows sand all over
The ruddy limbs & flaming hair
But Desire Gratified
Plants fruit of life & beauty there


Thursday, September 25, 2003

College Is Just Around the Corner
At one point, when I taught at a college, I used to have this quote from Kerouac's Visions of Cody posted on my "plan." If you don't know what a plan is, in UNIX it's sort of like a rudimentary personal page you would get to see if you "fingered" someone's user name (i.e., FINGER MCOOPER). Having always enjoyed being fingered, I thought I'd post things to reward students and encourage frequent fingering.
In America, the idea of going to college is just like the idea of prosperity is just around the corner, it was supposed to solve something or everything or something because all you had to do was learn what they taught and then everything else was going to be handled; instead of that, and just like prosperity that was never around the corner but a couple miles at least (and false prosperity--) going to college by acquainting me with all the mad elements of life, such as the sensibilities, books arts, histories of madness, and fashions, has not only made it impossible for me to learn simple tricks of how to earn a living but has deprived me of my one-time innocent belief in my own thoughts that used to make me handle my own destiny. So now I sit and stew in a sophistication which has taken hold of me just exactly like a disease and makes me lie around like a bum all day long and stay up all night goofing with myself.

Tell me about it.
Giving a profound sentiment some consideration
"Getting dressed and looking great is like going on vacation," says Norma Kamali. "It's an uplift."

Well, we're going on vacation tomorrow (LA), and I sure hope (commutatively) it's very much like getting dressed and looking great, because we're staying at the Standard, and I, for one, need all the help I can get. Unlike my desert island, the Standard at least has T1 lines in the rooms, so I assume I can blog (on Leigh's laptop, of course), as long as I have occasional windows of lucidity, or at least consciousness, if lucidity is too much to ask.
Did you notice I slimmed down quite a bit? You know what they say, "The web page always adds ten pounds to your figure." Well I showed that web page who was boss!

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Just when I learned how to pronounce "Gier" correctly, she goes and changes it to "Vengua"! Are you on the lam, Jean? Or were you just fed up with constantly being mistaken for the other Jean Giers? You know, come to think of it, "Curvalicious Vengua" has a nice seductive bounce to it. Maybe you should consider changing your first name too! :-) Just kidding. Jean G. Vengua sounds beautiful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

A Banner Day!

No banner ads at this moment! I keep refreshing just to check. How great is that?

And here I had this whole post in mind about the word panties and how fascinating it is (linguistically). I thought that a post mentioning panties a lot and linked to various panty sites (like this test: what sort of panties are you?) might change the tone of the banner ads (no more body bag sites). And get some fresh blood circulating in here through google.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Bakhtin: Words as A.B.C. Gum
Just so we don't lose sight of literature on this blog (and so as to save myself from thinking up something original to write), I thought I'd reach into my commonplace book for a couple of passages I completely adore. Those below come from Bakhtin's "Discouse in the Novel," reprinted in The Dialogic Imagination. I love his notion of language as this thing that lies "on the borderline between oneself and the other" and as something we don't take fresh from the dictionary but rather from others' usage, inevitably perfused with their expressive intentions (the image in my head is of some seriously A.B.C. gum). All uses of language, he argues, take place at least to some degree within quotation marks. I love his imbuing words themselves with intentionality--they "stubbornly resist" the author's attempt to seize them and transform them "into private property." It "is as if they put themselves in quotation marks against the will of the speaker."
As a living, socio-ideological concrete thing, as heteroglot opinion, language, for the individual consciousness, lies on the borderline between oneself and the other. The word in language is half someone else's. It becomes "one's own" only when the speaker populates it with his own intention, his own accent, when he appropriates the word, adapting it to his own semantic and expressive intention. Prior to this moment of appropriation the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language (it is not, after all, out of a dictionary that the speaker gets his words!), but rather it exists in other people's mouths, in other people's contexts, serving other people's intentions: it is from there that one must take the word, and make it one's own. And not all words for just anyone submit equally easily to this appropriation, to this seizure and transformation into private property: many words stubbornly resist, others remain alien, sound foreign in the mouth of the one who appropriated them and who now speaks them; they cannot be assimilated into his context and fall out of it; it is as if they put themselves in quotation marks against the will of the speaker.


Thus a prose writer can distance himself from the language of his own work, while at the same time distancing himself, in varying degrees, from the different layers and aspects of the work. He can make use of language without wholly giving himself up to it; he may treat it as semi-alien or completely alien to himself, while compelling language ultimately to serve all his own intentions. The author does not speak in a given language (from which he distances himself to a greater or lesser degree), but he speaks, as it were, through language, a language that has somehow more or less materialized, become objectivized, that he merely ventriloquates.

Bakhtin, "Discourse on the Novel"

The part of his argument that I find outdated and inutile is his insistence that this dialogism and heteroglossia (terms sometimes interchangeable for him, sometimes not quite) are defining characteristics of prose literature, not poetry. Certainly today, and very arguably back then, poetry is nothing if not heteroglossic!
For those who were asking for the URL of the official Barry Manilow web site, it's here.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Another sign that Leigh & I should get engaged.
World's Oldest Genitals Found in Scotland
The Holy Grail of Blogs

How could I have lived so long in abject ignorance? The greatest living American writer has had a blog for years & I knew nothing of it. I suddenly feel abysmally supererogatory.

From a post on his blog, I found a link to a site asking a question whose pertinence increases every day as we approach the home stretch of the election course: which presidential candidate looks the most like Skeletor?

Friday, September 19, 2003

Hurricane Ex-Lax is coming

Catherine has a completely brilliant idea--letting corporations bid to put their names on hurricanes. Like the years in D.F.W.'s Infinite Book, "The Year of the Depends Adult Diaper," etc. Also, Catherine's encounter with the aspiring mutilatant (mutilatee? mutilatand? mutilatrix? woman just wanting some mutilation?) is so perfectly bizarre. It's so totally uncanny when you all of a sudden find yourself trapped in a real-life situation.

Random neuron firing. One of the (few) lines of popular song I consider celestial poetry: "Little old lady got mutilated late last night." Interweavings of dentals and labials are just asking to be sung. Like "tra la la." And the contrast between the babbling brook fluidity of "lady got mutilated" and the long voweled, evenly emphasized, equally "t"-stopped "late last night" is fucking divine, I think.

Isn't Warren Zevon one of those recently surprisingly dead people?

Um, couldn't I maybe just go one day without sneaking death into a post? How about this Tuesday? Couldn't we have Tuesdays Without Memento Mori?

If there were a restaurant called Arcadia Ego, someone could say, "Last night I et in Arcadia Ego."

Badda Boom.

I'm dying out here, folks.
Dreary Life. Dreary Tampons.

Dreary hangover. Dreary rain. Dreary, originally meant gory, bloody. Weird how it jumped meaning somewhere and metonymically allied itself to the emotional aftermath of gory situations. Related to traurig.

Think about the metonymic jumping bean, toilet.

Laurable links to a cool page devoted to The Dial. It makes me wooze over to the shelf and pull down the one original copy I have, from March 1925. It has in it what I take to be the first publication of "The Hollow Men." No Conrad "Mistah Kurtz" epigraph. Only three stanzas, what in the final version are I, II, & IV. No "Between . . . and . . . falls the Shadow." No "not with a bang but a whimper." No "For thine is . . . ." None of the disjecta membra characteristic of Eliot during that period. Weird. I'm, like, are we missing some pages here?

Other interesting pieces: a book review by Marianne Moore, some scolding of Moore's unicorn-credulity by the "editor" (Thayer, I guess), "Strange Moonlight" by Aiken, a print by Charles Sheeler, a dialogue on government by Santayana, a great interview w/ a prickly Strawinsky (sic). The ads are fabulous. Amy Lowell's Keats bio is "Now Ready!" Dial Press is coming out with XLI Poems by E. E. Cummings (sic): "A leader among the younger American poets, whose Tulips and Chimneys showed its author to be possessed of a rare sense of the beautiful and a fine power of sensuous expression. In this new volume, particularly in the sonnets, these same characteristics are again greatly manifest." Also coming out with The Art of the Theatre by Sarah [1st I wrote "Sandra"] Bernhardt--"priceless hints to all interested in the stage."

Having a dreary hangover, I imagine pulling this issue new from the mailbox and just feel sad and envious of a lot of very dead people. Dreary.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

the picture works!

just had to get it off fucking geocities
I was just clicking along a pleasant little trail of Kerouac links . . . .

when I ended up at this spooky site. Check it out. I wanna say to whoever's responsible, go rent some Eddie Izzard dvds! Swinburne was definitely born in the wrong century (which, I suppose, he could at least take a perverse satisfaction in). Caveats: The first seven pages load automatically at a script-controlled sadistic rate of something like three minutes a page, so you might want to let them all load themselves to their hearts content while you go grab a latte. When you return, you can just backclick through them all, to see what you missed, before venturing on. Just don't go there for another hour or so, because I used up this person's allocated hourly bandwidth. I ventured on, fascinated, and eventually I emerged into the lovely photography of floria sigismondi. I have to say, I wasn't aware of her catching me wearing my iguanas on my head. But, well, you never know who's around snapping pix . . . . Anyone who can get David Bowie (who, you may remember, I sometimes dream about) to pose for her is ok in my book. And on my blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Changed the damn poem again

Just one vowel.

Michael, I'm really not paying you enough. Thank you, love.

But, remember, you agreed at least to pretend to be reading other blogs . . . .

Now somebody's really having fun with me . . . .

Latest fabulous banner ad clipped, word for word, from the top of the page:
body bags
whole sale body bags body bags for human remains

Is this just some poetryblog-wag rewriting I. A. Richards's "Harvard Yard in April, April in Harvard Yard" in the style of Soldier of Fortune?

Seriously, you guys, you have to go to this site, right now!

I so totally can't wait to see the shopping opportunities that last link brings . . . .

I hope nobody noticed (but I'm writing this, of course, because I'm panic-stricken somebody did) that I've edited that last poem about 600 times since posting it last night. I just wanted to 'fess up. I keep meaning to use Kerouac one of these days as a jumping-off point to write about blog-revisionism. I figured by posting this I might make myself get around to it.
Worried something embarrassing might be showing

Because Alli Warren lamented hers and Stephanie Young took pains to reassure Alli that at least at that moment they were looking perfectly presentable, I suddenly got self-conscious and had to check my banner ads. I don't know why I was so concerned. (Why do I have this glitch-in-the-matrix feeling somebody made basically this exact observation, with more or less the same words? Was it my idol Katie, who unknowingly led me into this mess in the first place? If so, I can't find the post. . . .) Here are the ads exhibiting themselves as I write this (reproduced here--to borrow a phrase--to preserve them in their natural habitat):

Survival Kit
Save on first aid kits and supplies
Disaster recovery products & plans

Emergency Survival Kits
Survival and preparedness gear for home, auto, office or school.

At least, someone's been reading my blog carefully. I must say, I wish that, when I was teaching, more students had been issued "survival and preparedness gear."
On the Turntable, Classical Gas

I remember watching Mason Williams play
on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,
perched alone in the spotlight high on a stool,

cradling his nylon-string, sustained, I imagined,
by the studio orchestra secreted from those
at home. The percussive tick of the rolling guitar

in A minor gathers piecemeal a symphony
behind it, arousing at last the brass to D
major excitement, sennets, key change,

key change, enthusiasm, discord, life. A grateful
breath. The rolling tick, minor, returns alone. Too soon
the kids are bouncing back and forth afresh—

those tempting mattresses at the Travel Lodge
in Wicheta. . . . It’s a conversation between minor
and major, figuratively speaking (and . . .

well, less figuratively), where minor, hip, today,
represented by strings rapidly plucked, strummed, bowed
with sincerity, teaches old major, the tactless

brass and bourgeois percussion, how to stay cool
when juiced and not sound like a marching band.
I’d set the turntable to repeat at 45

(my age, my god) the green label over and over
and over, the propulsive jouissance
of the piece behind the speakers, interleaved

with the delicate heterodiegetic click
and whir of the tone-arm mechanism’s
phlegmatically conducting yet again

its appointed round. This beatific robot
gesture dwelt so securely in the firmament
of our culture’s daily now,

then. Today, nearly eradicated like chicken
pox, Duz soap, or mangles, it lingers mainly
an icon to its heyday’s dynamo.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

A lamentable display

I want to cry, I’m so devasted. I have to borrow Leigh’s computer just to blog. Every time I boot my iBook, the screen convulses in chromatic paroxysms, beautiful but stupendously traumatizing, like a couple of old girlfriends I could mention. That’s my second nightmarish laptop disaster in, like, six months. Why comes this to pass?

I’m lying prone in a bright, cramped room in Addison, Texas, accompanied by my beloved torturesses Mariann and Sabrina, just a nose away from at long last seeing every film ever inspired by the journalism of Susan Orlean. A while back, you may remember, I saw Adaptation--the other one. Now, we’re watching Blue Crush, the grrlpower surfer flick, with Kate Bosworth and Mika Boorem (two consonants away from Mika Cooper!). Rather, I’m watching the film and they’re listening to it while deftly manipulating electrothermolysis needles, jabbing and zapping my miserable butt till the cows come home--which in Addison is not a figure of speech but a more-or-less definite hour of the day that everyone acknowledges and that takes forever to arrive, not unlike like cocktail hour among our people. The dvd is in my iBook on the floor, which I plugged into the cheap TV set but a nose away from my face, a placement pernicious to the eyes but unavoidable, owing to the needle-death apparatus’s butt-proximity requirements.

The Badinerie from Bach’s Suite #2 tweedles obdurately from my purse, nipping at everyone’s concentration remorselessly. It won’t desist until Sabrina holsters her electric acicular goad, awkardly bends double, unzips the purse, retrieves my cell phone, and thrusts it in my face. Appeased, the phone instantly clams up. Leigh, it reads. I’ll return her call when I and my butt get our contractual break in a few minutes. I lob the phone vaguely pursewards. Or so I believe at the time. Instead, it nails the iBook smack in the caps lock. The surfgirls freeze.

Sabrina submits me the laptop for ministry. Getting it rebooted, getting Blue Crush up and on the waves again, refinding the moment of the crash, takes longer than we expect, what with me checking my email, scanning some blogs, and bringing up the film’s credits from IMdb (crucial to have open in a window behind the film as it plays, in case of disputes).

As I’m fiddling with the computer, I gradually become aware of occasional gentle bleeps floating on the air, as if R2D2 were snoring somewherein a corner. Sabrina & Mariann laugh. Butt poke . . . zap . . . bleep. “That’s me,” says Mariann. Butt poke . . . zap . . . bleep. “That’s me,” giggles Sabrina. I’m galvanized. Literally. It was actually kind of magical, like a science demonstration when you were little. My lovely tormentors were sending special ops zaps of electricity covertly rapelling into hair follicles in my butt, knocking out the extrusion generators there, then traveling up through my body, racing down my arms, escaping out my fingers, leaping into my iBook, transforming from zaps into bleeps and easing out the speakers, no one the wiser. Somehow or other I managed to get the movie playing on the TV again. But for the laptop’s display, it was the beginning of the end. Since then, it hasn’t gone two minutes without freezing and then psychedically chromatizing in that one-row-at-a-time recessional way they have that’s so demoralizing.

When I think of all the trouble I’ve taken always to ground myself to an outlet with one of those manacles with the alligator clips so as not to get any static electricity accidentally into the computer while installing chips and cards and whatnot! And here I was happily serving as the conduit for a whole brigade of active (if that’s the opposite of static) electricity! Well, whether I brained the computer when I threw the cell phone at it or fried it by inadvertently administering ECT (or perhaps it required the one-two punch), I don’t have a laptop for a while, and I’m probably not going to be posting as frequently as I was, until I do.
It's nice to be back. Missed everyone tons. Never got time before I left to publicly acknowledge how much I love Jean for thinking sweetly in my direction and using the words "laughter, curvy trickster" as a link here, Michael for likening my blog to "Classical Gas" (I'm taking it as a positive remark; the piece was one of my favorites when it came out & I learned it [in a futzy way but enough to show that I could learn it better if only I would work at it] on the guitar), and Kasey for hunting down the poster for the film version of Mikarrhea and making it this site's icon.

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