Worked with the Weaver's new laptop tonight- I had installed some extra memory in it so I thought I might as well take it for a little spin on the 'net. It was my first real experience on a PC running Vista; the dinosaurs I use at work are all on the XP OS. The computer itself was pretty nifty- a shiny new Toshiba with a nice keyboard and a good screen.
I don't know what Microsoft is thinking. I did manage to reduce the number of "taskbars"* to two or three- (the top one kept jumping in and out-) it had started up with seven! The Peter Max inspired buttons and graphics didn't help either. It might just be the way IE expresses itself in Vista; I thought about installing Firefox but it wasn't my machine. The text and fonts were all wrong of course; I searched for some better ones in the prefs but had no luck. I had thoughts of writing this post on it but was constantly being interrupted with "Do You Really Want To" messages when I used basic blogger functions. I moved over to my MacBook, a smaller machine (and actually not as small as my older iBook- which I liked better) and shut down the Toshiba. I am not really a Mac Zealot, there's a lot they could do with their OS and hardware which would suit my needs better (and it isn't Leopard), but you must realize that you are dealing with a guy who gave away his iPod... some people are never satisfied!
*I find it telling that Microsoft has "taskbars" which sounds as if they were some sort of torture apparati, whereas Apple has an "Apple Menu" which suggests a place you might go for a round of fruity drinks served with tasty appetizers...
My bookshelf has a place reserved for Myths, Sagas, and Tales. I find myself wondering about the interest I have in these- some are great literature, some are not so great, but all are old, and more than just being old stories, they are old ideas, ideas that someone thought important enough to form into a narrative and have survived to be discovered by new generations. When the boys were growing up, we read to them daily, and occasionally one of these books made its way off the shelf and a story or two from them landed into their formative brains. Hmmm. They both managed to survive, although the youngest was into the macabre at a frighteningly early age (he wanted to go to an Anne Rice book signing when he was eleven!) These books, along with more modern variations (Tolkien, Douglas Adams, Poe and Lovecraft) gave them at least a chance to have some cultural background besides pop culture (not that that's always a bad thing!)
The children are gone now, off on their own adventures (see Tuesday's post) but these stories remain within them. I still read them; the Icelandic sagas are a recent addition (not exactly light fare), and I'm still get enjoyment from them. The world is a strange place, full of stories, I won't say that the old ones are always the best, but they do possess a selflessness that can be hard to find in modern literature.
Morning Poems of Love
Dark, with a cosmic dimension.
Those poems, poems of love, poems which I used to devour with breakfast-
Had all but disappeared.
School, work, life, and even love itself had quieted her cyber-song.
But not today.
How can she illuminate my life with her little word-lanterns
From so far away?
With knowledge of the heart I thought secret.
Laid bare, sometimes bleeding.
Looking; an unwavering gaze,
Into the blinding light and the profound darkness.
Your words are not wasted.
The heart's mysteries are universal.
A SPECIAL REPORT TO FLIPPISM IS THE KEY
My eldest has sent me this detailed itinerary of his Antarctic expedition:
I. Where am I going, exactly?
We'll fly from Christchurch, NZ, to McMurdo Station to collect
supplies. From there we'll fly through Siple Dome field camp on our
way to our field site. We'll have a direct return to McMurdo when
we're done. The Transantarctic Mountains, as the name suggests, nearly
span the entire continent. They act as the geographic boundary between
East Antarctica (bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans) and West
Antarctica (Pacific Ocean). The ice sheet in East Antarctica is much
thicker than in West Antarctica and thus the surface of the ice sheet
is higher (and colder). This ice flows through the Transantarctic
Mountains in massive outlet glaciers toward the lower West Antarctic
Ice Sheet, the Ross Ice Shelf, and eventually the Ross Sea where
enormous icebergs calve, float away, and melt. We'll be going to one
of these outlet glaciers flowing through the mountains, the Scott
Glacier (named after Robert Falcon Scott, the British Antarctic
explorer, although he never saw it). We won't be on the glacier as
much as adjacent to it, looking for glacial debris deposited on the
hills, ridges, and mountains along the margin of the glacier. We'll be
as low as 600 feet above sea level at the foot of the glacier, and
perhaps as high as 6,000 feet in mountains upstream.
I. Details on our research: who cares about the Scott Glacier?
The focus of our field work is the geologic history of the Scott
Glacier. The reason this is important is because of its location
between the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets. The West Antarctic Ice
Sheet happens to sit primarily on the seafloor rather than on solid
land, the only existing "marine" ice sheet on Earth (there may have
been another during the ice age in the Arctic Ocean north of Russia;
the Laurentide Ice Sheet also got its toes wet in Hudson Bay and beyond
towards Baffin Island). This close connection to the ocean makes the
ice sheet much more sensitive to changes in climate and sea level. It
is well established that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was much larger
during the last ice age 20,000 years ago. From about 15,000 to 5,000
years ago the Earth's climate warmed considerably and sea level rose
due to melting ice sheets in North America and Europe. Understanding
how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet responded to these changing conditions
is required before scientists can predict what the ice sheets will do
in the future. This is, of course, of particular concern given the
dramatic climate change that has been happening in the past 150 years
around the world, including Antarctica. We'll be collecting a large
number of rock samples from the glacial deposits we find. These
samples will be brought back to the University of Washington where
they'll be used to determine the age of the deposits, and thus the past
size of the Scott Glacier.
Hopefully, he will update again, although once he is in the field his communications will be very limited.
I'm Not There
The new Todd Haynes film I'm Not There is a biopic in the loosest sense of the word; indeed, with six actors portraying various aspects of Bob Dylan's persona at various stages of life, little conventional narrative exists. This might not be the best movie for someone with no knowledge of events in Dylan's career, but for the curious fan there is a wealth of material.
For all of Bob's reluctance to talk about himself there are innumerable stories about the man. Many of these are portrayed here, some of the these are lies told by others, some are lies told by Bob himself, lies which have now generated their own mythology, others are true, sort of. Early Bob is portrayed by an eleven year old black boy (Marcus Carl Franklin) who calls himself "Woody Guthrie", Christian Bale is the folkie-activist and, later on, evangelical minister Bob. Heath Ledger is the "show-biz" Bob, complete with Malibu house and failed marriage. Richard Gere portrays Bob as a frontier rancher with overtones of Billy the Kid and John Wesley Harding. Ben Whishaw is a recurring figure of a young Bob on trial for abandoning protest music, giving enigmatic answers to unanswerable questions.
And then there is Cate Blanchett, unbelievably good as the mid-sixties Bob on an amphetamine-fueled tour, shot in Fellini-esque black and white, delivering the real heart of movie in a series of confrontations with nervy reporters and hostile fans.
The problem with any movie about Dylan the man is that the more telling story of his life is told through his songs; ultimately it will be these songs, which already have lives of their own, which will define the man. I have some friends in a band who like to cover Bob's stuff. They were performing recently for a decidedly "modern country" audience in a small town west of the Twin Cities. They started to play what to them was just another song on one of Bob's recent albums (Make You Feel My Love) when the entire crowd started singing along- it had been covered by Garth Brooks and everybody there knew all the lyrics- although few knew that Bob had written it. Like it or not, Bob will be with us for a very long time: on the radio, in the background of movies, in cover tunes, even in our rituals. This movie, while adding to the mythology of Bob, clarifies nothing because, as its title suggests, he's not there.
Thanksgiving Phone Call
It was the call we'd been expecting, from our eldest. He was calling from a train, going back to Seattle, where his next adventure was about to begin. Seattle to LA, LA to Sydney, Sydney to Christchurch, and then on to McMurdo base, and from there to his ultimate destination- somewhere in the dry valleys of central Antarctica, 85° South longitude. Two months in the field, pursuing his passion, Geology. What was once an esoteric part of the discipline is now, with global warming, in the headlines every day. The work isn't glamorous, although the scenery can be dramatic. It consists of weeks spent in sub freezing temperatures, living in tents, surveying, collecting specimens, labeling and packaging them, and shipping them back. Months later, at the University, the results are analyzed. A small piece of the puzzle, a puzzle which is the most urgent problem we have ever had to face in the history of mankind.
Thanks for calling us, Seth, and thanks for caring about all of us. Good luck and Godspeed.
Thanksgiving, in the United States, is perhaps the least religious holiday based on a religious ritual. It is a "New World" ritual, and, like most new religious ideas from this part of the world, it faces an uphill battle when competing with the the "old world" rituals.
Perhaps it is just as well, there is no emphasis on death or memory like many of the other holidays. It remains a chance to get together and celebrate making it through another year with food, home and family.
I'll use this occasion to say "thanks" to all of you out there in blog-land, to those I read, to those who read me, to the commenters, even to the lurkers.
Sincerely, I Thank You.
Ruby was the only member of my paternal Grandfather's generation that I ever met. Hypertension ran unchecked in his line (I've been spared) so there weren't many older folks by the time I came of an age to be able to remember them. Ruby was living in a converted cheese-factory/artist's studio near Mount Horeb, Wisconsin when I met her, in about 1959. Her late husband, Byron Jorns, had taught art at the University of Wisconsin, his studio remained in the cheese factory (mysteriously shut by a heavy padlock.) There were sheep on the hills around the place, and me being a hopelessly naive city kid, I was afraid of those benign creatures and I refused to go outside. I don't remember much about Ruby, she was different of course, living in what was then considered a somewhat boho lifestyle, but she was nice. She gave me a woolen shirt of her late husband's - I wore that until it was a rag. She died a few years after our meeting, I don't recall a funeral, and I had pretty much forgotten all about her until a few days ago when I found the above photograph in my Father's effects. There she was, my aunt Ruby (then only in her twenties) when she was a clerk at a "National Tea" store, a grocery.
One by one, the links to the past break. I talked with my older sister about this trip, she remembered, of course, but I doubt that any of my cousins knew her. This photo could last for another two hundred years or more, but it won't be very much longer before no one will be left to remember who that woman was, standing at the counter, in a long forgotten store.
My ISP has done me wrong... until they get it fixed, my posting may be erratic...
UPDATE: So I call them up, and they tell me that their "Bring your Cow to work" day kind of backfired on them, one of the Guernsey's tripped over the internet cable and millions of 1's and 0's went pouring all over the floor...
REDACTION: I just made that up, it was a better story than the run around I got, but it is working again, however...
Three Possibilities: Incident on Highway 41
Neal and I had been driving all night, trying to make it to L.A. by dawn, crossing the desert wedged in between a convoy of over-the-road truckers, trying to avoid any attention from the law; if they searched our trunk we'd be looking at 10 to 20 in the Federal prison, if they tested our blood we'd be hospitalized, and then sent to jail. Neal had a big bottle of black dex that he was popping like candy, his motor-mouth wouldn't quit, all those BIG IDEAS of his, I'd heard them all before, but when he really got rolling it was like a Bach Fugue- inspired variations on theme. "Get that tin foil out of the glove-box there.." he croaked. When Neal had something wrapped in foil, you knew it was special. "Unwrap it, Batty old boy, careful that you don't spill any..." I opened the little metallic package, it contained about forty shiny brown seeds, all round and convex, like some sort of organic M&Ms. "Divvy 'em up, but chew 'em good... they're from my Shaman in the Amazon- they'll keep you awake for the rest of the way, ha, ha, ha..." When Neal started in with that little nervous laugh of his, I knew that these were more than just some mild stimulant. I was feeling a little fagged so what the hell, I ate my half. They were bitter, it was all I could do to avoid gagging, I washed them down with a hit off the bottle of Tempranillo we'd been sharing as I handed Neal his. He kept driving, and talking, but after about twenty minutes I wondered if someone hadn't taken Neal for a ride with those oily seeds. He was suddenly quiet, the last thing we needed was him nodding off at 70 miles per hour. "Prof... Prof, you feeling anything? I... I... " He stopped talking as his hands began to shake.
And then the stars began to fall...
"You've been through a lot, you're all beat up. Can you tell me what happened out there?"
"Well Doc, I was driving on that road to avoid the traffic on the interstate, it's a little out of the way, but I like those lonesome highways..."
"You were found naked, in your car, stopped on the shoulder with the motor running..."
"OK, Doc this is all I remember..."
I was following a semi, he must have been overweight and taking the back road to avoid the inspection station. His rig would sway on the bad parts of the road, I kept my distance... Suddenly a group of bright lights came out of the sky, my car stopped running, but the truck ahead of me kept going until I was alone on the road. An intense blue light, like the ones in the sky, came closer until my car was surrounded. I don't know exactly what happened then, but I seem to remember floating out of my car, out of my clothes, until I sensed that I was in a large craft of some sort. It was like a hospital examination room, there were bright lights and some sort of pedestals lined up. I was on one of them, I wasn't strapped in, but I couldn't move. A strange being, roughly humanoid in appearance, but with an over-sized head and big opaque black eyes came close to me, he was clutching a strange probe-like wand in his "hand", he waved it over me, and then... then..."
"I'm sorry, I just can't go on..."
"I see. Can you tell me what happened after this encounter?"
"Well... afterwards... we smoked cigarettes..."
If there are any Elves left in Iceland, they probably don't hang out on the highway. Still, with the not-yet risen sun brightening the eastern sky, the Professor felt a tingle, as if there were some ineffable message being directed his way by spirits unknown. He took out his camera, set the shutter for four seconds and took a picture through the Flybus' front window...
... months later, The Professor took that image, ran it through some Photoshop filters, in a search for something, a trace. Something consisting of pure energy, leaving a record of its passing, in an appearance so fleeting that a person's ordinary senses would miss it completely...
Incident on Highway 41
An unexpected occurrence interrupts the Professor's reverie.
Tomorrow's News Today!
Newspapers, as in MSM, as in ink-stained wretches, as in The Sunday Paper, aren't doing so well right now. Many have branched out into the internet, and people do read things posted there. They have yet to figure out how to make it WORK, as in: making piles of money. Here's a solution:
Instead of making the internet experience awkward and disjointed, that is to say, jumping from page to page while trying to dodge Flash-based ads in order to read a simple story, why not allow the reader to create his own newspaper? A newspaper with the things in it that the reader wants to read, instead of a mish-mosh of type and images that only a hyperactive child could stand to look at.
Here's how it would work:
The reader fills in a basic form for the look and feel of the paper- columns, column widths, fonts, etc,. Then the reader selects the general content for each section, topics, writers, opinion pieces, even comics. Not so hard, and you'd only have to set it up once, making minor adjustments later.
Not too original? OK, but here comes the magic part:
Every night, while you sleep, the internet elves put it all together for you!
So that, when you log on, the whole paper is assembled already, in your computer, with today's news, in a comfortable format, with the features you want and all you would have to do is scroll... this would be so cool with a wide-screen monitor! (HDTV anyone?) Of course, you could have animations, and you would have a certain number of ads- probably a percentage of total area- but also formatted by you.
I might even pay for that.
And I know who I'd put on my "comics page".
Driver in the Dark
After the time change (the legislature does this so that it can feel that it is above the laws of physics) back from Daylight Savings, my drive home is usually in the dark. It doesn't bother me much, as long as the other vehicles are lit, it is actually easier to drive- the white lines and reflective signs define the road, and there are less distractions. Sometimes, when I know the highway is backed up, I'll take the back roads, they are slower, but more reliable- 30 minutes versus what can take an hour or more if there is a traffic jam (or crash) on the main road.
I was taking the back road the other evening, making my way home after a pointless day at work spent fighting machines (I always win, but it isn't easy.) I had stopped at a light, my thoughts were directed toward finding a piece of paper with an address on it which I thought I had left on the seat next to me and I couldn't find in all the clutter- I don't really drive a trash car, but it definitely needs some cleaning. There were large trucks all around me, the light was still red, and in my distracted state realized that I had no idea of where I was! Was it 65th? or 77th? or 85th? Or was I in Champlain already? Why weren't we moving? Why aren't there any houses or buildings? Looking around, I saw no landmarks over the truck bodies around me. Finally the light turned, traffic thinned out, and my location was reestablished.
A metaphor for my life? Driving in the dark, not knowing where I am, why I am here, and what my destination is- just routine, routine, routine, keep going and you'll get somewhere, wherever that may be.
The third Inspector Erlendur book, Voices, by Arnaldur Indriðason, is billed as a thriller, but is really a subtle, layered psychological novel. This is the third in a series (the other English titles: Jar City, Silence of the Grave) of Icelandic mysteries, Erlendur is called to investigate a murder in a posh Reykjavík hotel, he decides to stay there for the investigation, not wanting to go home to his "empty hole" of an apartment during the Christmas season. By restricting his main character to one location, Arnauldur forces us to go inward with Erlendur, as he confronts his own past, as he explores the motivations of the murder, and reveals the background of the victim.
Arnaldur Indriðason is getting better with each book in the series, this book lacks the broader Icelandic settings of the others, but probes the Inspector's internal landscape deeper. This is a great series, and I am looking forward to many more.
"I really don't remember thinking about very much in high school except my hair."
-Meryl Streep, in Rolling Stone
"What do you think of that?"
"It's all any girl thinks of in high school."
"Really? I didn't think about my hair much at all."
"That's the difference between boys and girls..."
"You'd have thought that I'd learned that before now..."
"There's still a lot you could learn about girls..."
"Obviously. I need to go back to school."
"To study girls' hair?"
"No, ninth grade grammar. I had linguistics instead. I was in an experimental program. The experiment failed."
"That explains a lot..."
The transition from the "soaring sixties" to the "sleazy seventies" was a bit bumpy at times, to say the least. It was early in 1970, I was sharing a girlfriend with a classmate (you really don't want to know)- they both worked at The Suburban World movie theater, which was actually a little gem of a cinema, Moorish decor and twinkling "stars" and floating "clouds" on the ceiling. The "Sub World" had fallen upon hard times, it was reduced to playing Scandinavian "art house" films (really just soft-core skin-flicks with subtitles.)
My shared-girlfriend would often cashier there and would let me in to see the movies, which really were most peculiar. I remember one film in particular where the leading man had parked his car outside a woman's apartment, revving his Volvo while she revved her vulva.
One night one of my girlfriend's co-workers was interested in meeting the "other boyfriend." This usherette came smiling up to me with her hand extended so I put mine out in return, but she deftly inserted hers into my pants pocket, giving me a most thorough examination. At the time, it seemed a little forward, although somehow it fit in with the milieu.
Thanks (I think) to Lab Munkay for stirring this memory...
Expanding The Franchise...
... the professor's been burning the midnight oil at Flippist Foods...
Girls' Day Out
Guthrie Theater, 9th floor lobby
We went to the Guthrie Theater Sunday to see an adaptation of Jane Eyre. I'm still wondering about that place; the lobby areas are striking but not inviting, it's as if one were in a bad French movie from the early seventies, which sort of makes sense when you consider that that's where and when the architect Jean Nouvel came of age. Some parts of his building are just plain creepy. As we settled in to our seats who should arrive, in the very same row, but Jan, Joi and Cindy Lou, women with whom I used to hang many years ago. I received a little razzing for being the only guy there (I wasn't really) and they called me by my old nickname: Alice. I was one of the girls again, sort of.
When we were younger, we were all trying find mates; trying, as Jane Eyre did, to reconcile our desires with our realities. None of us got an inheritance, but we all managed to find someone (if not the on the first try, then the second...) compatible with our ideas about marriage. Jane Eyre was a favorite book of these girls; the plot is a bit melodramatic but the message of "To one's own heart be true" remains as valid as ever.
Top Ten List: Björk
Presented strictly from the criteria of my own personal enjoyment. These are for the performances, not necessarily for the songs themselves. They are in a rough chronological order, earliest to latest, with no particular ranking:
Alfur Út Úr Hól- Recorded when she was 11 years old. Björk has disowned the album this is on, but there remains an eerie charm in hearing her child-voice sing "Fool on the Hill" in Icelandic, with her multi-tracked recorder parts dancing in the background. Joanna Newsom's voice is a twin to the young Björk's.
Motorcrash- with the Sugarcubes. This must be the craziest pop-music psychodrama ever, Björk sounds as if she's singing this while actually riding her bicycle, with sinister comments from Einar...
Bella Símamær- from Gling Gló, Björk is a gossiping telephone operator, hilarious delivery, in Icelandic...
...I'll pass over Debut, if only because there's so much else to choose from and there are at least six I could put on the list from Post...
Hyper-ballad- I've written about this song before, she just nails the concept on this, as perfect a combination of lyric, arrangement and presentation as I've ever heard in a pop song...
I Miss You- is Björk with a Latin beat and a Dadaist lyric. She's done this live on her last tour, until that is available I'll settle for the CD version...
Isobel/Bachelorette- two songs that are virtually inseparable, Björk becoming Nature personified. "I'm a fountain of blood in the shape of a girl."
Really. Sjón and Björk make quite the songwriting team...
The Boho Dance- on A Tribute to Joni Mitchell, a stunning, challenging arrangement (Guy Sigsworth and Damien Taylor) showcases Björks nuanced, passionate interpretation. She really displays a deep understanding of Joni's lyric (and her own experiences) about "The Boho Dance."
Pagan Poetry- Just about as far into someone else's id as I dare go...
Who Is It?- The mix of this on the video (with bells) is the better version of this testament to joy.
Of course, it really is quite impossible to condense her career into ten songs, (what no Hunter?, no Venus as a Boy?, no Stigdu Mig?), but that's the fun of it. I'd love to hear what your favorites are, and why...
Move It, Grandpa!
While exploring the historic mill district I came upon the above bit of future shock- Segway riders. I had been photographing the ruins when a terse "Behind you!" interrupted my muse. For some reason, these modern scooters have not only taken to previously pedestrian walkways, but have supplanted those Luddites who still perambulate on their own power. The horseless charioteer had silently zoomed up behind me, then warned me not to impede his progress. So this is "progress." A good walk ruined. Perhaps I should organize a walk-in, with signs stating "Ped Power" or "Sidewalks for the Walkers."
This invention, while it may have a place in industry and commerce, is the antithesis of recreational activity. I may be old-fashioned, but I think the purpose of getting out is to engage oneself in one's environs and to get some mild exercise, elevating respiration and blood flow, not to zoom about on battery power.
File under: Cranky Geezer Rants