Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Accidentally Like a Metaphor

Sometime last week the rear windown wiper fell off my car. Now when I drive, I can't help but notice how so many cars have these rear wipers. Unobtrusive thin black lines, flush with the base of their windows, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice. I never appreciated my rear window wiper, and I beg you not to make the same mistake. Watch it. Use it. Thank it. Treat it well. And if you're careful and kind, you can look back on the roads you've travelled clearly and confidently, even through the worst of storms.

Relatedly, if you see a rad Saab 9000 bearing down on you in reverse in the rain, you best get outta the way.

Hmm, I suppose I could get a new wiper, but then where's the poetry? Then what's the moral? Hmm, indeed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

An idea!

Here's an idea! People seem to be into two things now, organic food and tea. Tea, I've decided, is where it's at. So when you combine my natural genius with full days of idleness, you're going to get something. A symphony, a great American novel, or...


Yes, Manatea! The slogan? "Like manatea from heaven, so go the days of our lives."

Here's the pitch: Combine colossal thirst with the zany hijinks of everyone's favorite sea cow and what do you get? Manatea! Yes, Manatea. Manatea is picked from only the finest tea leaves in all of Ceylon and Babylonia, bagged in the Manatea patented oversized burlap tea sacks (in the shapes of real Manatees). With each bag containing anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds of fresh tea, this is THE tea for all of your home brewing needs.

Commercial idea: In rapid series of clips, show happy family with empty cups, pitchers, boxes of tea. Frustration, and who can blame them? Then, blond-haired father - I'm thinking a young Mark Hammill - holds up his index finger in the universal gesture of 'I've got it!', hops into his pickup truck, and quickly returns with a huge, unhealthy looking lump in the truck's bed. Family rushes out to greet him, and together they hoist the lifeless sack of tea onto their shoulders a la a pack of cannibals with a prized captured Western scientist. They head back to the pool where they throw the Manatea into the water. They look at each other and smile. The youngest ruefully rubs his aching arms. Fade out/fade in. Family lolling by dark brown pool casually dipping mugs into the water and hoisting up cups and pitchers of fresh tea! Smiles all around. Pan into the pool and then, a real manatee comes roaring up to the surface from the murky depths, leaps into the air like Free Willy, and splashes back into the water thoroughly dousing the family. Laughter and smiles. Hold on smiling Mother shaking head knowingly. A disembodied voice then says: "When a cup of tea is just not enough, you need Manatea! Manatea, like manatea from heaven, so go the days of our lives."


Now I just need to raise some capital. Stay tuned!

In the range of human emotions, one must make room for the experience of conflicting but simultaneous feelings of sadness and happiness. I understand that parents experience this when their children go off to camp, or college; or that some men and women have been known to experience it during such adventures as moving from a well loved position with happy colleagues into the unchartered territory of a new job.

As for me, I too experience this peculiar tonic of wistful melancholy. Yes, every time I fold my laundry in the laundromat. The times we've had before this wash cycle began, oh running shorts of mine! What will the weeks hold for you, my sweet Tanglewood tee?! And lo, my underthings -- so soft with the drier's warm glow!

It's enough to nearly reduce me to tears, this potent blend of past, present, and unknown, all smelling so downy.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest of my week

You, the reader, submit a caption...Any resident of the U.S. or Canada (except Quebec) age eighteen or over can enter...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


When I think explorers, I think Ponce de Leon. Then Vasco da Gama. Then, and only then, Christopher Columbus. Others, such as Henry the Navigator or Henry Hudson barely register. And when registered it is done dismissively. This is interesting. In much of my life, I'm a veritable Anglophile. However, when it comes to the age of exploration, I seem to be an Anglophobe.

A head scratcher, ain't it?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Today I did certain things. To wit: I., I ran 4 miles in the blistering heat. B., I cycled downtown in order to get penny rolls from the bank and to visit the library where I took out the following CDs - Joni Mitchell "Court and Spark" (featuring a song with Cheech and Chong. Yes, Cheech and Chong.), Crosby, Stills & Nash "Crosby, Stills & Nash" (no serial comma? I always use a serial comma.), Lloyd Cole and the Commotions "1984-1989" (cover art by Richard Misrach), John Cale "Paris 1919" (he has a song titled "Graham Greene"), Al Hirt "Music to Watch Girls By" (I got it for the title, but a quick wiki search of Hirt makes me think I'll like him very much - his nicknames were "Jumbo" and "Sugar Lips", he was from New Orleans, he played Ave Maria for the Pope, he had eight children most of whom appeared to be born out of wedlock, as it were...wiki's a bit foggy on the details.). Look for selections from these albums to appear on ArtDecade soon.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, telling you what I did. I applied for a job. I spoke to my cousin on the phone. I ate Mac and Cheese for dinner and listened to the Grateful Dead cover "It's a Man's World."

But what's arguably most important is that I spent a good deal of the day rolling pennies. Dear readers, brace yourselves - today I rolled $43 worth of pennies. As a friend of mine said in an email "Jeeze, that's a lot of pennies." Too true! My fingers were dark with soot and penny dust by the end. But I'm happy I've saved these pennies over the years. People used to make fun of me, but tomorrow, who will be going to the bank with 86 penny rolls and walking out of the door with $43 in cold American, and then going to the bar where it will be drunk away? The answer is me. Who wins now, assholes? Yeah, you're not so high and mighty now, are you?!

Ha ha ha!

I also went through a mysterious jar of change and this is what I discovered:

12.96 worth of Great British "Imperial" Pounds
7.41 of "worthless" Canadian Dollars
4.64 of "Metrosexual" Euros
64 French "Freedom" Francs
79 "devalued" Icelandic Krona
9.55 Swiss Francs, "which won't get you squat in Switzerland, the world's most expensive conglomerate of Cantons"
some coin from Panama with Balboa on the front
a Phillipino 25 cent piece
and 10 Mexican cents

This could be a song, I think, a la The Twelve Days of Christmas, ending with "and ten Mexican cents" instead of a partridge in a pear tree.

Regardless, what a day! I'm bushed!

Hmmm, what's on TV tonight?! Something exciting I hope, maybe a show in which fat people are weighed? Who knows! The future is my oyster, and the television remote is what I shall use to shuck it.

Good night all!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

what's going to happen to you, Anthony?

I saw 500 Days of Summer last night and noticed something which I'll now share. There's a trend in movies, especially in indie movies that tackle adulthood as a theme (500 Days, Bottle Rocket, Me and You and Everyone We Know), to instill young characters with an uncommon wisdom, a foresight, a rationality, entirely lacking from those in the midst of whatever crisis the movie happens to be about. These grade schoolers are articulate, sophisticated, sometimes sexually precocious, and seemingly immune from passion whilst only too aware of its beguiling effect.

An interesting piece in New York Magazine which I must quote from memory because I tossed New York Magazine as soon as I flipped through it because New York Magazine is a total rag mentioned, in the context of the films of John Hughes, the role that adults played in his movies. They spoke a different language from the teenagers, their world of responsibility and marriage had nothing to do with with the world of youth, they were hopelessly unsympathetic and tragically unhip. The article went on to say that now adults are more than likely to take their cue from teenagers, following them onto facebook and listening to their music, and the dividing line between adult and youth is not so clear cut. Indeed, you could find a 14 year old and a 40 year old wearing the same sneakers, similarly styled jeans, the same tee shirt, and on their ipods the same music.

The high priest of this eternally hip youth is David Byrne.

But to return to the movies, I'm not saying that they believe that these little kids are as self possessed as this, these kids are presented, after all, with a wink and a nod and serve to emphasize the adult characters' immaturity or confusion, but they do say something about how we think about adulthood. We are all familiar with our lack of rites of passages, our pampering educational systems, the fetishizing of children and families, all of which is part of the cumulative experience of the much talked about 'extended adolescence.' It is, I think, an interesting side note that in an era when kids begin earlier than ever to resemble adults, and meanwhile adults don't seem to break definitively from being kids, our movies have begun to use as a stock character the wise child.

500 Days of Summer has its shortcomings, its tweeness, the voice over, but it holds on to the dim idea of the responsibility of love - and here anything would do - as somehow transformative, but it doesn't quite know how to make sense of it. Indeed the characters in the movie get it wrong, which is the point. And by way of setting off youth from adulthood, we're given children with the sort of mature qualities we would traditionally have as adults, and adulthood becomes the foggy arena that used to be the territory for high schoolers in, say, the comedies of John Hughes.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Carl Barks, the guy that used to draw the Scrooge McDuck comics, is one of the finest narrative cartoonists ever. They reprint 'em still. Carl Barks is one of my heroes. He lives in Florida, he's like 90 years old and retired. He does oils of the ducks. They're beautiful, done in such wonderful style, such tremendous light to it. The stories are so great, great ideas. Land of the Incas and all those incredible Beagle Boys plots....No man is truly happy unless he can do what he likes to once in a while. I like to dive into my money bin, burrow around in it like a gopher, jump up and down in it like a porpoise, and throw it in the air and let in fall on my head."
-- Jerry Garcia in the Nov '77 - Feb '78 issue of Relix

*In the orginal interview, which seems to take place backstage in 1977, the name appears as 'Carl Bangs'. I don't know if Garcia misspoke, or if the interviewer misnoted, and Barks never did live in Florida. But this is vintage Garcia enthusiasm, wide-ranging, thoughtful, and twinkling.

Friday, August 14, 2009

NYMag approval matrix of my week

Click to enlarge

It occurs to me that it has been a fairly uneventful week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ah Ha! moment #61

For years I've wondered what people meant by the term 'gallows humor'. And then, the other day, I saw some old photographs of public hangings.

Fucking hilarious!

This has been Ah Ha! moment number 61.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I am not a particularly political animal, but this has me outraged.

Indeed, I've composed a poem that hopefully shall inspire the rebels the way Pearce's poetry inspired the Irish uprisers.


Armed with nine irons and girded in plus fours
We shall banish tyranny from the golf course!

We shall drive the enemy back, oh yes, we'll chip away
And we'll two putt if we need to because we're here to stay!

In the fairway, on the tees, the greens, and the bunker
We'll ambush, and attack, recede, and then hunker.

I say, from the golf course we'll banish tyranny!
And back in the clubhouse we'll toast the bourgoisie!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Some Rough Thoughts on Why ESPN Sucks and What That Means

ESPN is on. You know what that means. One highlight after another: The top ten plays, the ten worst plays, breaking news, breaking records, and, if appropriate, footage of breaking bones. If it’s a baseball game you have the score, the speed of each pitch, the batter’s statistics in relevant scenarios, the pitcher’s statistics against the batter, all the while a continuous ticker tape runs across the bottom of the screen with real time updates of every other game going on that evening. A not uncommon ESPN baseball game might include something like the following revelatory information: The score is Indians 8, Tigers 6 in the bottom of the 7th. The Tigers are 6 and 6 when trailing by 2 with more than two outs in the 7th. The Indians, on the other hand, are 6 and 6 when ahead by more than one run after the 6th inning.

This sort of commentary is patronizing to viewers, and though it might be up to date, whatever that means, and presumably accurate, it is impoverished. ESPN has adopted a strategy that seems, above all, to fear the banality of sports, and the frivolity of games. In their desperate attempt to make everything exciting and significant and charged with meaning, they too have bought into the myth of the fast forward button. This myth – so popular today in the widespread intrusion of pornography and in our 24 hour news cycles – delights in removing things from context. It strings together clips of exciting moments, but stripped of both their history and their future. Sportscenter, like so much else today, exists in a constant state of now, impatient of the boredom of the past and uninterested in the canvas of the future. “Without memories, without hope,” Albert Camus wrote, “they lived for the moment only. Indeed, the here and now had come to mean everything to them.” That’s the message of ESPN – they mine history but only to illuminate the moment, and then the information vanishes forever, uncared for, undigested.

To criticize this is to invite charges of ignorance and prudery. There is a place for the highlight reel. Think back to Mel Allen and This Week in Baseball. I’m not trying to deny the excitement of sports, nor the reality of truly great plays, nor the relevance of statistics. And it is unfair to focus solely on ESPN and Sportscenter when all televised sports are guilty. But that’s just it – this insulting attitude is so widespread and it, ironically, is diminishing our overall experience of the games. One might profitably ask how this coverage will continue to influence how we watch sports, what we look for and value about games, and how we play games ourselves.

Interestingly, in the face of this bastardizing of what sports are (highlights, low lights, but always lights), there is a corresponding emphasis on the human interest story about the transformative power of sport. These follow a tried and true narrative arc, athlete against all odds – socio economic, injury, racial – or, better yet, a non-athlete, preferably disabled, who teaches the able bodied about what’s really important. On one hand this is to say that even ESPN doesn’t seem to believe their party line that sports exist as a highlight reel. But more interestingly, it betrays a surprising lack of understanding of what sports are for. This insistence that it’s not the highlights that matter, but rather some human lesson athletes and athletics teach us (usually about inclusion or generosity), also speaks to an almost degraded sense of sport, that it must have a lesson if it is to be valuable in a non highlight, non statistical way.

Sports, in and of themselves, teach us nothing. They do however provide examples of excellence and an aesthetic experience. Christopher Lasch, in a very interesting and strange chapter in his The Culture of Narcissism writes that “It is by watching those who have mastered a sport, however, that we derive standards against which we measure ourselves. By entering imaginatively into their world, we experience in heightened form the pain of defeat and the triumph of persistence in the face of adversity.” That quality of imagination, so important to Lasch, is precisely what is missing from televised sports today.

Are there hopes for the future? Generally, I’m afraid not. I do have some hope that a love of games survives, that a sense of play and imagination are still prized by people, and that the displayed excellence of athletes will continue to lift us outside of ourselves and to help dramatize the human condition. As for enjoying this on my TV? I can only watch games muted now, and put some hope in technology, that in our age of choice, one day viewers will be able to choose the format they want the game to be in. And I can watch baseball on a 1984 style full screen, with no scoreboard except between innings, and simple batting stats. Then if I can only get Scooter and Bill White back in the booth, and banish the ESPN crew to a blissful silence, all might be well.

Walker Percy at Notre Dame, 1989

Monday, August 10, 2009

Diary entry, re-keyed

Dear Diary,

While fundamentally agreeing with the thesis of the song, 'Mo Money, Mo Problems', that is, money not only can't buy you love (to quote from a popular variance of this trope) but that it is by no means a panacea and indeed an infusion of wealth can present a range of unforeseen troubles, one can't help but point out that the lyrics of the song do little to further articulate this premise, and also one should remind oneself that though it might be tempting to reverse this thesis in one's quest for general well being, having no money by no means equals having no problems.

V. hot today. Summer finally here?

Must do things more diligently.


Saturday, August 08, 2009


Remember them?! I always wanted a pair, but for some reason never got a pair. In hindsight, I'm grateful! It just goes to show that sometimes, you really want something - a pair of Skidz pants, for example - and yet you don't get it, and you're really disappointed, but then, 20 years later, you look back, and you think, what kind of asshole wore skidz pants?! and then you think, you were nearly that kind of asshole, but you weren't, and ultimately through no merit or fault of your own.

I think the lesson one draws from this is best summarized as half 'there but for the grace of God' and half 'don't judge a book by its cover.'

Either way, those were some crazy dayz...

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Harper's Index of my week

Average time I woke up this week, to the nearest minute: 8:30 AM
Number of minutes it took me, this morning, to come up with that figure: 26
Number of books finished: 2
Number of books started: 0
Number of books taken off my shelf, placed somewhere nearby, and then put back on my shelf: 2
Percentage of those books that were Hamlet: 50%
Number of unread New Yorkers on my nightstand: 2
Percentage of New Yorkers on my nightstand that are opened to articles about Siberia: 100%
Odds that articles on Siberia will ever be read: 1 in 240
Number of miles run: 7.5
Number of push ups pushed: 225
Number of sit ups sat: 775
Extent that my isolated workout regime resembles Robert DeNiro in Cape Fear, in percentage: 8%
Extent that my isolated workout regime resembles Robert DeNiro in Taxi Driver, in percentage: 6%
Extent that my isolated workout regime resembles a rejected background aerobics queer from a Jane Fonda video, in percentage: 72%
Number of beers consumed: 7
Ratio of beers in cans to beers in bottle of said consumed beers: 7 to 0
Number of salads eaten for lunch: 3
Number of nights of Mac and Cheese: 2
Number of incoming calls: 4
Percentage of incoming calls that were courtesy calls in Spanish: 25%
Number of outgoing calls: 2
Percentage of outgoing calls that were to voicemail: 50%
Number of CDs taken out of the library: 5
Percentage of CDs taken out that were jazz: 40%
Percentage of CDs taken out that were country: 20%
Percentage of CDs that were by The Carpenters: 20%
Number of jobs applied to: 9
Number of responses, in percentage: 0%
Number of times I shaved this week: 5
Number of weeks since my last haircut, estimated: 6
Number of visits to the dentist: 1
Number of stitches taken out of mouth during visit to the dentist: 4
Number of weeks until my follow up dentist appointment: 4
Number of weeks left on my lease: 3

An erotic passage from my forthcoming story, Sliding into Second, about a minor league baseball player's quest for love and happiness in the heartland

He looked at her intently. It was the moment he'd been waiting for, time to do the sex. She was way ahead of him, and in a single gesture was naked. She was larger than he had thought. Four, five, six hundred pounds of folded flesh. He reached out hesitantly to touch her. She grabbed his arm with one hand, and the other, clutching a knife, artfully sliced his uniform shirt from his body. She pressed the knife blade into his stomach, and slowly cut her name into his flesh. Hey, that tickles! he protested. She dropped the knife, told him to shut up, and abruptly boxed his ears with her large hammy hands. It was going to be that kind of night.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


It looks like it's going to rain! Take that, humidity! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, summer heat! Chew on that, thick, uncirculating air!

I think a good comic book would be about a super hero (Rain) who vanquishes a summer day with cool gusts of wind (who knows, some of them might even be gales? If the summer day is particularly oppressive, why not?), thunder and lightning, and sheets of rain. The comic would chronicle an entire summer, memorial day to labor day, day by day. Children would both love the rain for its cooling properties, but also fear its majesty.

The character Rain would be modeled after me.

I think it would be quite popular.

A side note on comics - when I was not so young, say in college, a large stack of Christian-themed Archie comics materialized in our house. Where did they come from? I don't know. Were they from the Shorts? Anyway, my Mom sent some to me when I was in Ireland. Why? As a joke? Probably. My Irish roommate and sometime reader of this blog took them because she loved Archie comics. I think she was about half way through the third and final one when she copped on to the message. She was genuinely confused. She didn't recall Archie being so Christian, but then she couldn't be sure.

Oh, wait. Here's a long and interesting history of Christian Archie comics.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my water's boiling and I'm going to have a cup of tea, continue reading The Culture of Narcissism, and wait for the rain to come and make everything nice.