03 November 2001

waking life - dir. richard linklater - so i just got back from seeing this film. i want you to think of joyce's ulysses, of gershwin's "rhapsody in blue," of godard's breathless -- unquestionable artistic breakthroughs all. now. i want you to imagine ulysses as a broadway musical ("from the makers of footloose..."); of justin timberlake putting lyrics to "rhapsody in blue"; and, finally, of breathless being remade in english with richard gere (…wait a second).

what i'm getting at here is the concept of a piece of art tarnished by something absurd. so waking life, then. it's an eminently watchable film, so much so that it occasionally distracts you from what's being said. which is a good thing because most of what's being said is philosophical bullshit, faux-profundity. recall every longwinded, undesired speech you've received from all the authority figures and blowhards you've known in your life. and then give them a sense of philosophical entitlement (and $9 for a ticket while you're at it). i had the displeasure of seeing scary movie 2 this summer and the good thing about it was that it was such a flop that one needn't be troubled by the idea of a third film in the series. scary movie 2 threw jokes at you relentlessly and, yeah, with all of those attempts, it's bound to have a few yuks. so too waking life assaults you with DEEP THOUGHTS and occasionally, particularly near the end, it works.

but still, as far as i'm concerned it could've relayed its ideas of dreams vs. reality with the animation alone. the art is sometimes impeccably rendered, other times purposely crude, but never is it less than breathtaking. the rotoscope technology makes everything seem as if it's floating, which works well with the themes at hand. (a caveat: if you get seasick easily, you'll want to pass.)

the story, as much as there is one, involves a nameless protagonist who passes through life (or is it a dream?) aimlessly. everywhere he goes, he meets someone who feels they have carte blanche to relate to him every thought they've ever had about dreams and the way our consumerist society is sucking the, er, life out of them. as he nears the end of his journey, the notion of lucid dreams is explored, but one senses that he never does establish dominion over his dreams and those that occupy them because he never once tells these people to SHUT UP. but maybe that's just me.

the movie was written by director richard linklater and its intentions are noble and its heart is in the right place -- i can't disagree with the central concept that we should live our lives as if they contained the logic and endless possibilities of our dreams. but like many of those with noble intentions, their actions and words are couched in pseudo-intellectualism which makes being a brainwashed capitalist, those who the righteous are continuously railing against, seem like a fantastic idea. (indeed, when a scenario based around the line "a well-armed society is the ultimate defense against tyranny" is tackled sarcastically, the line itself seems to ring truer than much of what is in the film.)

and yet, i still very much enjoyed the film for its images and for some of the concepts brought up despite what i think about a great deal of the dialogue; what i can't deny is just that: that the film ended up making me think and few films i've seen this year have been able to accomplish that. in my sophomore year of college, i took philosophy and on the first day of the course, the professor set about proving to me that i couldn't say for certain if i was awake or if i was dreaming. from that point on, i decided that i'd rather live than to ponder my living (and ended up with a "c" in the course). this may very well make me an anti-intellectual, but i've been called worse. as far as waking life is concerned, i've decided that it's better to watch the ideas manifest themselves in the animation than to actually listen to them.

25 October 2001

shakira: is she meant to sound like alanis morrisette? and is this the first time mtv has put a completely spanish-language song into regular rotation? or was that marc anthony/jennifer lopez's "no te ames"? or was that only shown on vh1?

and do people really like pete yorn? i mean, really. i see he has a second video on mtv now; did that first one ever take off? are the video channels just really big fans of his? and, if so, are we meant to suffer for this?

last week, whitney houston's, what, 10 year-old version of "the star spangled banner" (?) was at #6 on the billboard hot 100. this week, it's PLUMMETED to 18, leading me to ask: is patriotism dying down?

15 October 2001

and now it seems to me that every plane i see is flying too low.

09 October 2001

the strokes! i bought is this it today. after listening to the album, i was struck by how measured the album is. sure, there've been comparisons made to the stooges, v.u., television, et. al., and they're not so off-base, BUT the strokes are like a streamlined version of these bands. every note -- whether sung or played -- is mapped out carefully in advanced. "take it or leave it," for example, seems to aspire to iggy: listen to this track and then listen to something like "search and destroy." hear the difference? "take it or leave it" and, similarly, "the modern age," seem to want to rage but they sound contained, like "search and destroy" itself before it was freed from the cage of bowie's production.

in e-mail, matos complained about the sameness of the tempos and the general sound, and he has a point. i mean, even appetite for destruction had the power ballad in "sweet child o'mine." there's no token "slow" one, and the most experimental the album gets is using a drum machine on "hard to explain." i'm not so bothered by any of this, really. there are 8 great rock n' roll songs on is this it: they're punchy, they're fun, and they're over before you can get bored, ditto the album. few studio albums i've heard in the last few years seem to capture a live feel so well (and i'll find out firsthand if this is the case when i see them at the hammerstein on halloween).

of course, i must register my dismay with the fact that they re-recorded the singles from the modern age ep for the album. (and at the same time, let me make my joy known: here i thought my ep would be a redundancy!) "the modern age" has been slowed down, and now it seems a bit plodding where it was once charging. and "last night" just isn't as good, frankly. the drums used to sound like they hopped; on the album, it's as if they've been fastened to the floor. ("barely legal" alone benefits from its new version.) "hunger," "being hungry," etc. are words i generally despise when used with reference to rock n' roll bands, but here it's perfectly apposite: while the ep sounds like a band desperate for a recording contract, the new versions give off the air of a band high on its own press.
i haven't updated since 9/25. damn!

25 September 2001

rising above the parapet to say this much: i've yet to see a show that began with who wants to be... that has been anything less than stellar. ...a princess followed in this grand tradition. i nearly wept with joy when i saw the ads: this is why i love this country and, especially, the fox network. this was exactly the kind of show we needed. you couldn't get any further from reality and still be a functioning human being. escapism at its very best. God bless america.

24 September 2001

atty. gen. john ashcroft says to beware of "suspicious looking cropdusters." now. yes. well. okay.

what exactly is a suspicious looking cropduster? how does it differ from its innocuous-looking brethren? (and aren't all cropdusters a bit funny looking? to those who live outside the plain states, at least?) is it the plane itself? or is it the context? for example: if i were to see a cropduster in new york city, regardless of the character of the man flying and despite his potentially noble intentions, i would find that suspicious. is this what he means then? i am utterly at sea on this one.

21 September 2001

lex bet 26th & 27th: the wall: in my experience, there are very few things that can make a new yorker stop dead in their tracks right in the middle of an ever-moving sidewalk. vendors, though more frequently, bootleggers, for one, with their shoddily-recorded versions of pop hits and blockbuster films, their sunglasses and watches, their $1 underwear. even then, there are still people trying to get buy, weaving their way through the traffic while still taking a moment to sneer at the bootlegger and his clientele.

what i saw today on lexington avenue between 26th & 27th street was quite a different thing entirely. it was almost as if they were lined up -- it was like the scene on 34th st. around christmas when people assemble to peer into the windows of macy's, to see what they've cooked up this year for the holidays, with the exception, and a notable one it is, that those people are frequently tourists. what we had here were true-blue new yorkers, dyed-in-the-wool manhattanites.

it's called "the wall of hope" ("la pared de la esperanza") and it was much like the scene i described the other day -- walls papered with human faces and descriptions ("5 foot 6," "last seen in tower 2," "please contact..."). certain flyers caught my eye and broke my heart more than others, like the flyer by a little boy bearing the title: "please help us find my daddy." there were drawings by children of the world trade center and there were cards and candles and shrines. we all walked by, taking a look at each face -- have we seen any of these people? in what capacity would we have seen them? and yet that didn't deter us. a wall, one that seemed like nothing so much as an extension of a wall in washington, d.c., the vietnam memorial. there the names are etched into stone, here the faces are carved into concrete -- both indeliby burned into our consciousness and hearts. victims of a war that shouldn't have been; victims of a day that shouldn't have been. i only hope that neither will ever be again.

20 September 2001

back to the music: capital idea! i want to point out michaelangelo matos's top 100 singles of the 80s, which is probably the best list i've ever seen for that particular decade. sure, the picks are all over the musical map, from country to reggae, punk to pop, but what's most impressive is, whether expected or obscure or surprising, is how great the majority of these choices are. i'm especially grateful for shedding light on songs you'd not see on any other list, songs that i'd not heard before, especially elbow bones and the racketeers' fabulous "a night in new york," a side project of august darnell aka dr. buzzard/kid creole himself. i've described it as "cherchez la femme" resituated on park avenue on a lavish autumn evening, and i'll stand by that. good show, matos.
"to wuzzle" means "to mix."

a "younker" is a "young man."

"al qaeda" means "the base."

19 September 2001

i am going to be sick. my eyes are boiling within the cauldrons of their sockets as tears race to put out the fire. the reason i feel like this can be summed up by the following google query:

united we stand: today, i went out for a walk during lunch. when i hit 5th avenue, yes, i couldn't help but look down -- looking down the straightaway where i used to look up to see the world trade center. now i can see the rubble, i can see what we are all seeing on television, the skeletal shell of what was once a trade tower, which one it's now impossible to tell.

my eyes returned to my surroundings, and there were flags on buildings, flags on car antennas, flags in storefronts. gentlemen who'd normally be selling umbrellas in a rain storm were now selling flags (their wet dream: a FLAG UMBRELLA, mmmmm.) sometimes, there are slogans that go with those flags: "God bless america," is quite popular, as is "united we stand."

i was going to burger king: when one leaves the office, they can go north or south, and which ever way they go, they'll eventually reach burger king. today, having had enough of the burger king on 23rd st. and their, what they have the unmitigated gall to call "service," i turned uptown. immersed in the red, white & blue, i couldn't help but notice the stark contrast between the two routes: from 24th to 26th st. on park ave. south, the buildings are plastered with flyers featuring pictures of the missing and tokens of grieving and mourning. it was a heartwrenching scene to think that, and i hate to be pessimistic, all of these people are likely dead. hope can be easily seen within each pixel, each letter, and between every line and it was just unbearable. i could only imagine the scene grew more desperate and more tragic the closer one got to ground zero...

...and meanwhile, back on 30th street, i'm looking at a window with a crude reproduction of the twin towers, over which the slogan "united we stand" is boldly emblazoned. i'm thinking, why do i find this so vulgar? if it was the image of a dead human with a similar proclamation of strength, i wouldn't be bothered (say, martin luther king, jr. with the phrase, "you can kill the man, but not his dream.") the "united we stand" poster seems to be asserting, "ha ha ha, you may destroy our building, but we can always rebuild it. you can't beat US (or, even, the U.S.)" meanwhile, it seems to forget that, like mlk jr., the people who were killed in the building can never be rebuilt, will never return. it's exactly the kind of jingoism seen in e-mail chain letters like, "wear red, white & blue today!" on the national day of mourning, akin to wearing your easter bonnet with all the frills upon it to good friday mass. it's seen in the attitudes of people whose lives were largely unaffected by the tragedy and their desire to rain terror on all of those a-rabs.

if this were a short story, i'd conclude it by saying i turned around right then and there and headed in the opposite direction, back towards ground zero where people know the ethics of grief. but i didn't, and even if it were fictional, it still wouldn't ring true. i shook my head...well, no, i didn't even shake my head. i just kept on towards my destination: if i'm not going to let the terrorists rob me of my sense of normalcy, i'm not going to let those with a surfeit of patriotism do it either. now give me a whopper meal plain to go.

15 September 2001

are you ready for some football?: we need football. the pros and colleges have mostly called off their schedules this week, so we find it where we can, where political and security concerns are a null issue: peewee football. my nephews -- numbers 44 and 80 in your program, but numbers 1 and 1a in your hearts -- play for the team in their town...no, no, after watching today's display, they are the team in their town. sure, they lost 13-7, but that's hardly the point.

the point is this: this is life. this is normalcy. this is kids playing football on a cool saturday afternoon. the game really has no implication, and it shows as i watched them play in the mud on the sideline. but listen to that: they were playing in the mud on the sideline. these are kids being kids and, thankfully, they're not incredibly affected by this week's atrocities. after the game, they weren't sullen for losing; they wished me a happy birthday and fooled around: i talked about the extra padding on their bellies, they mocked the "wet paper towels" that comprised the "muscles" (quotes, theirs) of my arms.

i bought a red, white & blue ribbon the cheerleaders had made and my fee is going to the red cross. you couldn't really escape it, even coming here. but you didn't see a people defeated. hell, i was assured to see that, even during these troubled times, grown men can still be whipped into a frenzy by little kids playing sports. leaving the game, i had the strong desire to throw the football around and i might just do that. the terrorists may have hit the wtc and the pentagon, but their real targets are still standing.

14 September 2001

oh, i've finished reading jonathan franzen's the corrections and would love to say something intelligent about it, but what i said below about music applies equally to books. i actually completed reading the last 60 pages or so while i kept up with the news on tuesday, though i've since reread those pages since they obviously didn't have my full attention at the time, and they most assuredly deserved them. it's an excellent book, but for now all i'll say is that it's like white noise and the crying of lot 49 sung to the tune of "i'll be home for christmas." that's right.
the pointlessness of it all: tim makes some valid points about how difficult it is to write about pop music/culture following the events of this past week. as usual, he's right. i mean, i can tell you that i bought the new chemical brothers single, "it began in afrika," and that i was ABSOLUTELY freaked out by the ominous voice that intones the title phrase at song's beginning (and don't get me started on the lion noises!).

i bought jay-z's new album on wednesday. others have talked about the superior quality of the music, so i will instead say that these are the most opulent sleevenotes i've ever seen. i mean, he really includes a blueprint. it's as rich as the backing music and as bling as jay himself. part of me, though, thinks he'll regret that back cover photo and its, um, implications. (i wonder what kind of week this will be for record sales. i'm sure def jam was betting on a big opening for jay-z.)

right now, i'm listening to "xanadu" by olivia newton-john. it's warm and enveloping and paints a picture of a world far more enticing than the one we currently find ourselves in, even if jeff lynne does live there. it's not frightening like the chemical brothers, or intense like jay-z, or melancholic enough to bring me to tears like mercury rev. it's, as they say, just right.
last night, i was stirred...no, that's far too calm and casual. i was FUCKING FRIGHTENED OUT OF MY MIND when i was awoken by a bolt of thunder that seemed to rend the air into shreds. of course, when we wake up, we're not at our steadiest and most rational and i figured we were under attack or something. this whole week i've gotten up in the middle of the night and put on the news, afraid that some vital piece of information relating to our security may have been revealed while i was slumbering.
in hoboken, again: as far as work is concerned, this week has turned out to be a wash; as far as the rest goes, i don't need to tell you that absolutely nothing will ever wash away what we've been through as a country. as soon as i got in i was told by my boss that we could leave once we got done whatever was urgent; i was hard-pressed to think of anything that could be considered "urgent" in the world of consumer marketing, though i knew what needed to be done, and that's just about all we did this week.

i left at 11 or so, only two others were in my path train car: one was a woman dressed all in black and the other was a man holding, and i'm not exaggerating, at least 20 flags, and wearing a red & blue jacket and a u.s.a. hat. i figured that the woman was wearing the standard manhattan uniform -- basic black, worn by several other females i saw later -- and that the guy didn't lose anyone he loved in the wtc. personally, i was dressed all in black with a black umbrella -- yeah, i got that e-mail but i find little to celebrate today, besides the way that the country has pulled together: it's a day of mourning, not the 4th of july.

i had two hours until my train came and so i headed towards the park in hoboken once again. it was raining and cloudy and just nasty in general and it all seemed painfully appropriate. the smoke has, essentially, cleared; the remaining cloud, despite being more sinister in its appearance and its genesis, blended in well with the others.

extending from the railing that keeps us all from falling into the hudson and catching, quite literally, our death are small, square wooden boards whose purpose i can't divine except for the purpose all carvable objects eventually serve, i.e. the victims of hearts and love 4-ever and declarations that so-and-so was here. on a few of the boards, someone scrawled what can only be deemed emo lyrics. "i want you to know how hard it is to get over you..." unbearably earnest sentiments that, when spoken with your own voice, seem to work whereas, when sung by someone unbearably earnest, they never do. "i keep remembering how you fucking broke my heart..." probably written by a drunk kid in the dead of night months and months ago about some girl but now, for me, standing in the rain and soaking in the broken landscape, he's had his context pulled right out from underneath him. today, if i had my own wooden board, the miserablist lyric my inner 16 year-old would add would be: "i wear black on the outside because black is how i feel on the inside."

13 September 2001

on the train: okay, today was a bit more like it. sure, only a small handful of people got on the train, including a carribean man who was beside himself when he realized that the hijackers only had knives and yet no one tried to stop them on all flights but one. i've thought similarly until i heard that they told passengers that they had a bomb -- how do you know for sure? how would even an air marshal know, really?

today was about quiet on the train, it was about having your own seat -- while most business above 14th st. were going back to work, it sure didn't seem that way to the trained eye of the commuter. normally, by the fifth stop or so, there'd be someone trying to squeeze in beside you ("can i get in there?"), forcing you to change the positioning of your legs. and that's just the ones who got seats; a place to sit, by bergen county, comes at a premium. but, no, today silence reigned.

the path train to 33rd st., on the other hand, was comfortably full and fully uncomfortable -- a fact which made me want to kiss the swollen knee of the portly gentleman who squeezed in next to me. prior to departure, i made a quick scan of the contents of the train: there were the three early twentysomethings, just out of school, who get out at 23rd st.; there's the gay guy who's on my train who walks really fast; oh, look, there's the elderly woman who's always reading the bible and who seems to be on her second go-round by now. i've never spoken to any of these people, don't even know their names (though i've assigned them ones according to their personality traits), and yet if i didn't see them, my day would be even more off; in their own anonymous way, they lend balance to the proceedings, particularly in these trying times.

i don't even want to think about those who took the world trade center train, a train i took myself for a month until construction began on the n/r subway line and necessitated me finding a new route, after which i never looked back. i took comfort -- after tuesday, the meaning of words and their relationships with each other were changed forever -- i took comfort in believing that their businesses were destroyed and they had no reason to come in to the city, even as many companies begin having meetings at temporary headquarters throughout the city. didn't want to think that there used to be two trains that went to the world trade center, leaving every four minutes and filled to capacity and beyond, and that, while this train was full, it wasn't quite full enough.

when i arrived home, to the train station lot, i looked around. i'm trying not to think about the fact that that blue ford was here tuesday morning, was here after my four hour exodus out of new york, was here yesterday morning when i ventured alone into new york and that afternoon when i got back, is here now and it hasn't moved from the same spot. i'm really trying.

12 September 2001

in hoboken: i am an idiot. it's been said before, it's being said now, and it will, rest assured, be said again. i went into work today. despite the fact that giuliani was asking those who could stay home to do so. i, worker bee, obviously couldn't afford to stay home; i had IMPORTANT work to do. plus, i'd left early yesterday (not knowing when the others left -- which turned out to be 10:30). plus, i didn't want to be the only one who didn't show up, despite the fact that i was coming from jersey.

i was one of ten or so people in the entire company who showed. the only other person in my department who showed came in from long island; his reasoning was the same as mine. we were anathema to each other: we reminded each other of our own stupidity and unwitting arrogance (we apparently saw ourselves as more valuable than our boss, the head of the department, etc.) as we left, we vowed that we had not seen each other, quiet as kept. he strolled off to penn station, ready to walk onto a 10:15 train as it was about to leave. i, on the other hand, victim, slave of new jersey transit, had to wait until 1:47. a cursory glance at my watch indicated it was 9:15. groan.

i had a nice walking tour of hoboken, walking around aimlessly for about an hour trying to find a cab. i was willing to pay whatever price to get back the hours i'd lose by being stuck in hoboken for so long. i was ready to sully myself, to do things i wouldn't normally do. when i failed, i made my way to the park off of sinatra drive (that's FRANK sinatra, the kid from hoboken) and took in the manhattan skyline as i'd done countless times before. it'd be my first time to drink in the whole thing, the altered landscape, in person.

i stopped in my tracks when i saw the smoke plume which was headed towards jersey now. the skyline seemed a whole lot less impressive without its twin jewels. i looked at the decimated buildings and thought of the decimated lives, and i was not alone. the park was full today with all sorts, the closest thing to a vigil our modern times will allow, the sense of peace broken every so often by beethoven's 9th emanating from someone's cell.

though i've seen the world trade center countless times i couldn't place it in the landscape. i could see it in my mind, could picture it, but i couldn't drop it down into its former neighborhood, which began to upset me. i realized that the only way i'll ever see those buildings again is in the endless video on television or in the theater of my mind. before too long, i stop and think about how i'm eulogizing a building when there are people out there who'll only ever see loved ones again in their memories. it seems the mourning is out of proportion, that the buildings are receiving just as much remembrance as those who've passed. i imagine that that'll all change as the death count amasses, and yet i pray that we'll all be tremendously underwhelmed, if such a thing is possible where lives are concerned, by the human loss, that figures like "1300 feet tall" and "110 stories" will dwarf the final toll.

11 September 2001

escape from new york: took the last path train from
33rd st. was to go to hoboken and journal square.
ended up going to journal square. our conductor passed
out. co-worker and i were left in journal square, a
long way from hoboken. we walked for an hour. we took
a cab until our money ran out. we took directions from
people who didn't know better. we neared our
destination and were told that train weren't even
LEAVING from hoboken. a guy, a saint (john, God bless
you), offered to take us home, said we needed to be
with our families. john's brother and cousin were in
the wtc and he hadn't heard from them. he just needed
to get out, to talk to people. he dropped us off at my
co-worker's, wished him the best. co-worker drove me
home. trip took 3.5 hours. but we're alive. and so is
mike, i'm glad to see.

started this morning when a co-worker said she'd seen
a plane hit the wtc. i thought it was just a little
cessna, an accident. and then it all happened, so
quickly too. we stepped out of our building, about 6
miles from the wtc, and all we saw was smoke, like an
angry storm cloud descended upon new york. i'm just
NOW seeing the destruction and i can't believe it. i
just can't believe it. people crawling out of windows
and jumping. heartrending. to all who know anyone in
any of the areas under attack, all of my thoughts and
prayers are with you.

10 September 2001

new article: yes, a new article by yours truly will appear on freaky trigger by tomorrow (? possibly? mebbe?) but as a valued vs&l reader, i'll afford you the opportunity to read the...ready?...first paragraph here before you can see it anywhere else! readership has its rewards!

for the record, it's a review of mercury rev's all is dream, which is released in this country tomorrow. (and while there, since it's my birthday saturday, and since a boy only turns 24 once, why not buy me something as well?) without further chicanery, that opening paragraph...

With their 1995 album See You on the Other Side, Mercury Rev created a world for the listener to inhabit. It was a world where adagios and allegros lived together in peace, where the boundaries of the staff were not strictly enforced, where tones were free to be polygamous; sounds of different colors, genres, and creeds coexisted harmoniously. World building is a difficult thing to do and takes a lot out of a band – don’t believe me, just ask the Lord – and maintaining it is nearly as difficult, so for their follow-up, 1998’s Deserter’s Songs, they staked out one particular corner, an America romanticized, as only a Canadian can do, by Robbie Robertson, only more inhabitable and, therefore, less realistic. Deserter’s Songs, whose childlike sense of awe and wonder concealed a masterful sense of composition, hearkened back to an era when there were still frontiers unexplored and riches undiscovered. As it begins, All is Dream, the new album, is what happens when one gets lost in the unlit backwoods of America, when astonishment gives way to fright, when the fairy tales are stripped away and the nightmare sets in. On All is Dream, Mercury Rev leave the confines of their upstate New York estate, with the listener in tow, only to find themselves lost in a world of their own making.

appetite whetted? can't wait for MORE? keep your eyes -- oh, like you need to be told! -- on ft.

08 September 2001

franzen, p. 11-12
"he turned to the doorway where she'd appeared. he began a sentence: "i am--" but when he was taken by surprise, every sentence became an adventure in the woods; as soon as he could no longer see the light of the clearing from which he'd entered, he would realize that the crumbs he'd dropped for bearings had been eaten by birds, silent deft darting things which he couldn't quite see in the darkness, as if the darkness weren't uniform, weren't an absence of light but a teeming and corpuscular thing, and indeed when as a studious teenager he'd encountered the word "crepuscular" in mckay's treasury of english verse, the corpuscles of biology had bled into his understanding of the word, so that for his entire adult life he'd seen in twilight a corpuscularity, as of the graininess of the high-speed film necessary for photography under conditions of low ambient light, as of a kind of sinister decay...[al] might, despite no longer knowing where he was or at what point he'd entered the woods of this sentence, still manage to blunder into the clearing where enid was waiting for him, unaware of any woods -- "packing my suitcase," he heard himself say. this sounded right. verb, possessive, noun. here was a suitcase in front of him, an important confirmation. he'd betrayed nothing...

...she berated him then, and for a while the crepuscular birds retreated, but outside the wind had blown the sun out, and it was getting very cold."
you know what really bothers me? these commercials for american express traveller's checks, in which people's vacations are ruined by the fact that they've misplaced their wallets, and usually they're strangers in strange lands and no one is willing to help them. at their worst, they're downright kafka-esque. it's downright creepy and unnerving. fuck realism, man. (then again, i'm also someone who, when he was a mere youth, would change the station when i feared arnold was about to get it from mr. drummond.)

07 September 2001

the bookstore seems like a good place to meet people, yeah? and by people, i, of course, mean GIRLZ. because, if yer like me, and lookin' for smart chix or, at least, wimmen lookin' to expand their horizons, that does seem to be the place, though in these days of the bookstore cafe, who can say for sure? i mean, really. beyond judging them on their face and bodies, you can also tell if she's "the one" or not by what she reads (and if it's magazines, she needs to be really hot.) tonight, i was looking for a gurl who's turned on by men who read jonathan franzen novels, whose the corrections i purchased this eve. i'd read a number of reviews brimming with praise for the book -- it's this year's "it" book, or so "it" seems -- but when i saw blurbs from don delillo and david foster wallace on it, i was sold (the oprah's book club seal for postmodern heads). i'll report back on this when i've finished it.

oh, speaking of franzen, here's a link to an essay he wrote in harper's several years ago called "perchance to dream: in the age of images, a reason to write novels." prior to the corrections, it's what made his name in the lit world. it bemoans the death of the socially engaged novel, which he believed was done in by television, that medium leading people to want pure entertainment from their novels

at the other end of the spectrum is b.r. myers' "a reader's manifesto." while franzen is in mourning, myers is dancing on the grave of the "literary" novel. he attacks many of the people mentioned (and lauded!) in franzen's essay for being pretentious and for obfuscating the language needlessly. he calls for readers to rise up and call a spade a spade and hopes to see a return to the days of james joyce and virginia woolf.

so...who's right?
about last night...: yeah, my palm modem batteries died at 10:30. pooh. you might've noticed that the entries were fewer, as was the word count. that's what happens when you have to resort to graffiti -- EVERY WORD COUNTS, because that graffiti shit is a bitch to do. but you didn't really miss anything -- for proof, check out dave's site, he was there all night. britney's performance was a bit of a let down but what red-blooded american male didn't feel...funny when he saw britney take hold of that snake...and, similarly, what gentleman wasn't disappointed when she held it for too long and didn't know what to do with it? (always embarrassing, for everyone involved).

06 September 2001

mtv writers earning their keep. poor sheryl crow: is it her lot in life to face deafening silence while presenting awards?
triumph w/j-lo: officially the show's highlight. keeping in mind that britney's yet to perform, which seems to be this show's raison d'etre.
nelly: band-aid chic.
britney shocked by such frank sexual talk from ben stiller. (and what's she still doing in her seat??)
dmx is at that stage where he'll give shouts to anyone. staind? why not!

and in his interaction with x, it's funny to be reminded that mark wahlberg used to rap.
no coincidence that beyonce gets the most, the only, revealing outfit. (hell, her mama probably designed it.)
people, people with taste no less, tell me that tenacious d. are funny. i continue -- against mounting evidence -- to take their word for it.
"incubus are like a new brand of band."
that truth commercial got a whole less funny when i knew it was a truth commercial. they're like the macy gray of anti-smoking groups.
admit it: you're still watching cos you want to see britney. good move not putting her on first.
christina: "why can't they pick on britney for once?"
"h to the izzo" has to be one of the more awkward chant-a-long anthems in recent times. i could use a bouncing ball right about now.
playing catch up: with the skit into to "pop," justin painfully reminds us that one did more than sing as part of the m. mouse club: they also acted in piss-poor skits.
in case you didn't get it, it's all about the fans.
"mommy, who was that dancing with 'nsync."

"hey, let's promise jay-z and then instead do an m2 spot!"
macy gray continues to do no right. in other hands, that trick might've worked. macy's problem is that she's macy.
mary j.: "we are a part of the rhythm nation..."
alicia keys seems far too pleased with herself. which is probably why that person made that earlier comment.
gwen just hopped out of one the old no doubt videos and i don't think jada was feelin' that kiss she gave her man. tim robbins, nonetheless, looks upon it, as he looks upon all things: with the unmistakable countenance of satori.
(for those reading this after the fact, those "whores" referenced below were none other than lil' kim, mya, pink, and christina aguilera.)
will smith says what we think: did chris rock turn the vmas down this year? what about martin lawrence? the wayans? chris tucker? cedric the entertainer?!?
hey, robbie williams finally gets some airplay for "rock dj"! he's also up for breakthrough video. which is the very definition of irony. considering the video that was his "breakthrough" only served to kill his career in this country. huh.
i thought giuliani got rid of the WHORES? where did these four come from???
i have really very little to say about this performance. oh, i can be waggish and say the song sounds like "it's a man's, man's, man's world," but it's been said.
ugh, alicia keys. someone, uh, in the other room said, and God help me for repeating it, cos it's in bad taste: "why couldn't she have died in that plane crash?" some people. they have really awful senses of humor. say whatever comes into their mind, alright.
chris kattan: MY NEMESIS. death...too good....for him.
the new york crowd isn't feeling the almonte joke. (well, obviously, a little too close to home, eh? p. diddy look especially displeased.) would've gone down like gangbusters in oceanside, ca though.
the fuck? the x-ecutioners? with linkin park? what's next? blackalicious with limp bizkit?

it occurs to me that there are people in the world who don't laugh when the shouty one in linkin park does the "shut up when i'm talkin' to you" part.
i must've said this somewhere before. the other day, mike called me up and said, "i just realized: you live in lincoln park!" so maybe i haven't said this before.

i live in lincoln park, not to be confused under any circumstances with "linkin park." the name of the town was changed in 1899. the name it was changed from was: beavertown. frankly, at this point in time, i think it'd be far less embarrassing to go back to beavertown.
dude, britney just kissed justin! on the lips! well, couldn't tell from the camera angle, but still, i wouldn't put it past them! they live together, you know. lucky fuck.

oh, and mandy moore saw 'nsync back in the old days, "a long time ago" don'tcha know. meant to say that earlier.
"girls, girls, girls" -- motley crue, played for mandy moore, jessica simpson and dream. is this someone's idea of a joke? (still "ohhhh, mandy....") lots of reminiscin' about the good "old" days. shut yer mouth when grown folks are talkin', kids.
i never knew that aaliyah had ties with janet jackson. aaliyah seemingly had ties with many celebs it seems, all this coming out after her death. and there's the virginia fam, "coming from the heart" as missy says, lacking janet's professional polish and all the better for it.

let it be said once and for all: what a fucking shame that she and eight other people died because a plane was overloaded. there'll always be other planes. yeah, the pilot had done coke and could've been on it when they were flying, who knows, but they hardly got far enough for that to matter. hopefully, folks will learn to slow down and enjoy life and not be in such a rush. "haste makes waste" never seemed so true.
the aaliyah tribute. i saw timbaland's name in the opening credits. is this where he comes in?
like they were the fucking brothers karamazov. is what i'm getting at.

question: did christopher walken have to be trained to dance? or was he like john travolta?
dude, guys who produce linkin park videos have enough pretention to call themselves "the brothers strause." which is nearly as bad as fred durst calling his production company "flawless films."
can't talk: destiny's child.
oh, and fucking will ferrell. can't i go out (or stay in, as it were) anywhere these days without seeing his sorry ass? and i thought that thing he did in the elevator at work today was weak, shit, that was the a material.
the fashion! the backstreet boys look and read like they're ready for a new phase, ripe to pick up a guitar or somethin' -- which is probably what the greatest hits album coming out is all about. kevin's in a dress -- like he's trying to give outkast's dre a run for his money. if it were any other well-dressed man, he'd be in the running, but not when you've got dre, officially the coolest man on the planet for a year running or so now. he keeps his crown, looking like he's holding it down for the OOMPA-LOOMPA NATION: the man can do no wrong. and big boi ain't no slouch either. i want a pair of those pants. (sidenote: wouldn't it suck to be in a band with a guy who shares your name and so you get stuck with the nomenclature "big boi." it's like if i was in a band with another fred and i had to be called "girli boi." it's all good though.
mtv and stuff: first off, why jaime foxx? what has he done lately? bait? was he in that? and what the hell was it anyway? don't get me wrong, he's doing alright, but still.
the definition of 'balls': standing on a crowded path train, with african americans standing in front of you and to the side of you, reading the sleevenotes to emmitt miller's minstrel man from georgia, as this cover reminds us all, with its shoe-polished face and mocking grin, of a more embarrassing chapter in amrican history. obviously this gentleman -- old enough to know better, well-off enough not to care -- couldn't wait to get it home.

04 September 2001

"september's comin' soon...": which is a line from r.e.m.'s "nightswimming." (my thinking that this song is beautiful is yet another symptom of my age.) which is doubly, dare i say, triply ominous for me. september, of course, signifies the end of the summer; the end of the summer means the beginning of autumn, where leaves aren't the only things that begin to fall; and september is the month of my birth (the fifteenth, to be exact) which only serves to remind me that i'm getting OLDER.

on another note, thanx to michael daddino for purchasing for me from my amazon wishlist james joyce's finnegans wake. also, thanx to mike for RUINING THE SURPRISE FOR ME. but, hey, you still have the opportunity to get me somethin' nice too while keeping it a secret, no less. i won't even mind if it arrives late. so go ahead and do it. otherwise, i'll kill myself. yeah!
pauline kael, r.i.p.: i never had the privilege to open up a newspaper or magazine and find a review by the late, great pauline kael. which isn't to say that i've never read her work, far from it actually. ms. kael had very strong opinions and whether or not you agreed with her, like all great critics, she made you think twice about your own position. rare is the critic who can take the beauty that this life presents us with and create beauty in turn; even rarer is a critic like pauline kael and the arts, the world, were a better place for having her. respect is due from all who've ever taken up the pen to exalt and insult.

03 September 2001

oh, and for those who don't know, the hot grill is a new jersey landmark. it is a restaurant, if you couldn't guess, and it is the best burger/dog/fries joint i've ever been to in my increasingly longer life. it is a model of efficiency: you tell the guys what you want, they bark it out in a language that isn't quite english and, voila, moments later, you've got your food without error. (never in my years of going there, no matter how many customers, no matter how many guys shouting out orders, have they ever made a mistake.) one of those handful of institutions that further fuels my burgeoning jersey pride.
gleamed from the hot grill this evening:

i don't know whether i want my parents to grow old or to die while they possess all of their facilities. the old folks were out in spades tonight, in all of their glory no less. on the way in, i waited for an elderly woman to exit, yelling to her companions, "i don't know if this is a step or not." (though she stared at it intensely, she couldn't tell that it wasn't, in fact, a step.)

on line, they were combative and argumentative with the staff: they knew it all. when you were a teen, your parents invariably informed you that, when you grew up, you'd realize that you didn't really know anything. so when does that theory reverse itself. my postulate: when you grow old, you realize that you know everything.

the gentleman in front of me had more hair in his ears than i have on my head...now, listen, about physical ailments, there's nothing one can do but feel sorry for the person. for the bullheadedness and the lack of attention to hygiene (and don't get me started on the middle-age women who fart in public places without SHAME), they deserve our ire because they are UNREPENTANT. i don't want to see either of my parents devolve into this. this is a selfish view, naturally, and it doesn't take into account what they want (though i get the feeling my father would rather be dead than to have any one of us take care of him). but still, it's a difficult thing to face, especially when some of the signs re already there. (yes, with my birthday in less than two weeks, age is my current obsession.)

31 August 2001

whenever i get off the local highway, i pass a video store. this video store isn't like most other video stores, although it used to be. it used to be called video thrills, and it might still be called video thrills. it was almost literally, but not quite, stuck between two blockbusters and so eventually it went out of business.

actually, it didn't so much go out of business as change its erection. um. direction. yes. so, if my obvious gaffe didn't give it away, they're are now an adult video store. and none of this would really bear mentioning except for the one thing that i notice whenever i get off the local highway and pass this videostore. in the window next to the door, there is a cardboard cutout of olive oyl -- no, not a porno olive oyl -- holding a heart. i have no idea why it's there or what it's meant to represent -- if any woman in the history of women is the antithesis of a porn star, it's olive oyl. though, perhaps, since i'm not really, um, "up" on these things, there may be people out there (besides popeye and bluto) who are turned on by olive oyl, the cartoon. perhaps it's meant to draw in the olive oyl fetishists. (hey, if olive oyl were "alive" today, would she have gotten breast implants? these are, without question, different times -- in this hypersexualized world, would today's man find olive oyl attractive?) frankly i'm clueless and i'm not about to soil my good name by walking in there and finding out why. the only thing that one can say with certainty is this: somewhere, popeye is pissed.

27 August 2001

oh, and i sooo want a "berzerker" t-shirt. if someone could tell me where to find one, i'd be forever in your debt.
jay and silent bob strike back: there are two kinds of people in the world: those who want to see jay and bob stike back and those who don't. to determine which group you fall into, i've put together the following quiz.

1) do you know who jay and silent bob are? if "no," please drop your pencils now. this film wasn't made with you in mind. curse of the jade scorpion, maybe? (was that film made with anyone in mind?)

2) does the idea of seeing randal and dante again bring a smile to your face?

3a) did you ever wonder what happened to holden after chasing amy? and is banky really...you know?

3b) do you know what chasing amy is?

4) would it be alright for the actors from mallrats to appear in the film as long as they didn't play their characters from that movie?

5) quick: who is mooby?

if you failed to answer "yes" to all of these questions, do NOT go see jay and bob. if you did, congrats this is your film.

jay and silent bob have long been the crunch berries, the marshmallows in the cereal that is kevin smith's oeuvre. and so it was with some trepidation that i viewed the concept of a film with just them. but for the most part, the movie succeeds due largely to both kevin smith's inner 16 year-old wastrel (90% of the dialogue seems to be jay's, though, as always, silent bob has the last word) and the irrepressible jason mewes, who i hope isn't acting at all.

jay and silent bob is a stop-gap film for smith: like clerks it's about nothing except the personality of his characters. the film serves as his personal soapbox, from which he speaks his mind about the internet and especially people who inhabit sites like ain't it cool news (which makes for some of the best amateurish gags in the film). he indulges himself as he ponders his next move. while the movie is enjoyable, it's clear that he needs a new batch of characters -- please no the return of jay and silent bob, not yet at least -- that jay and bob need to return to their sidebar position (but just don't leave the garden state, kev, it gives you context!).

i had one goal in mind when i went to see the film: to laugh, hard and often. which i did, in spades, so yeah, the beginning was rocky and, okay, the charlie's angels thing was overdone and, granted, will ferrell doesn't deserve to live let alone have a prominent role in the film. but i find it near impossible to dislike any film that closes with morris day and the time performing "jungle love" (note to adam sandler: please don't make me test this theory). as the film closed, and the characters from smith films past paraded by, i couldn't help but think that the world smith has created is something special. even auteurs get a vacation and i'll be quite glad to see what he comes up with when he gets back. for now, there is jay and silent bob strike back. and it is enough.
michael jackson, "you rock my world": maura's review of the new mj single on nylpm says quite a lot, even with its economy of words. there's something very, oh, three years ago about the track, from the title, to michael's you've-got-to-hear-it-to-believe-it "she is bangin'" in the intro, to the beat itself: maura says "the girl is mine '01" which, i take it, is a reference to the mj/macca single of the same name from thriller; i've been thinking that she meant brandy & monica's "the boy is mine" (does rodney jerkins, who i assume produced this, know only one synth string arrangement?) -- i think we're both right. mj has been away from the game for the while, so maybe this has been sitting on the shelves. the only thing that gives it away is chris tucker's presence in the intro: he wouldn't have been on this had it been that long ago.

that said, i still like it. it's incredibly small-scale for a jackson single, particularly a lead-off single. where are the guest stars? the epic production? the monuments to his own crapulence? it has the easy-going lilt and assurance of a fourth single which may be the key to its charm. for once, he isn't trying to impress us; he's just being. thirty years into the game, it's about time, i'd say. still, we don't listen to michael jackson for the sublime and the discreet: we want the pretension, the crotch-grabbing, the grand statement! in short, we want our world rocked, not gently swayed.
tim's post about aaliyah's death -- 7:30 today (timmy, permalinks!) -- or rather his inability to post something about aaliyah's death, called to mind for some reason marlene dietrich's elegy for orson welles's hank quinlan in a touch of evil. when all she can initially muster up is, "he was some kind of man," with audible frustration she lets slip,"what does it matter what you say about people?" what does it matter, really, what you say about someone when they're dead? what's the point? who are you saying it for? whose mind are you trying to change? questions that are sure to please my family, for whom i will undoubtedly be chosen to deliver elegies for upon their deaths.

26 August 2001

the new christopher walken: while talking on the phone with my sister today (no one died! nothing broke! and she calls! what up with that?), she mentioned that steve buscemi was in some film -- ghost world actually and that she liked steve buscemi and i said it was right for her to like steve buscemi because he's mostly a good thing. to her, i said, "he is the new christopher walken." she says: "he's in a fatboy slim video?" (actually, mike said that.)

"no, it's in the eyes mostly. but it's also in the haphazard film choices. he'll star in some very good low-profile -- even some high-profile films -- but then he does con air and big daddy. i guess the man has to eat." she says: "though you'd never know it to look at him." indeed.
celebrities and plane crashes. i won't speak in terms of it "making sense," since it's incredibly callous to imagine that such a concept could belong within a 5,000 word radius of a topic like death. and yet: glenn miller; buddy holly, ritchie valens, the big bopper; patsy cline; otis redding and the bar-kays; jim croce; ronnie van zant and stevie gaines; randy rhoads; rick nelson; stevie ray vaughn; john denver; aaliyah. stars fall -- from grace, from the sky, from this life: it's their fate. in the end, all things must fall before they can rise again. next time you see a falling star, wish for a rapid ascension for those on their way down.
aaliyah, r.i.p.: when one watches the news, they're welcoming anonymous tragedy into their lives: livery cab driver shot dead in brooklyn; raging fire claims the lives of three people; fifteen dead in bombing in the middle east. if anything has desensitized society to violence and death, it's the news. which is why, when i had channel 4 on last night, hearing tale of breaking news from the bahamas where a plane crash claimed the lives seven, "a camera crew," i looked up for a second before returning to whatever it was i was doing at the moment.

do we watch the news to hear this? or are we merely viewing it, looking out for our concerns, pricking our ears up when the names of the dead or indicted are revealed? when i woke up this morning, i went to cnn.com and saw the headline: "aaliyah dead," followed by the words "plane crash in the bahamas." it's amazing how much changes when one substitutes "aaliyah" for "a camera crew." now it's universal tragedy; for most of us, she isn't kin, but she's someone we've brought into our homes, via her albums or watching her on television or in the movies. one's initial instict is: well, it must be someone else. in this case, that's dismissed quite quickly: how many aaliyahs do you know? and if aaliyah is the name of your daughter, sister, mother...only in a perfect world would her life be memorialized so.

it still hasn't registered really. it's difficult quite often for a celebrity's death to resonate: she's never been more than an image, a voice for the majority of us -- how did we really know she lived in the first place? there is no void as there would be with a family member or friend, at least no physical void. it becomes doubly hard when it's someone like aaliyah who's only given us but a handful of years. but what years they were: along with collaborators timbaland and missy elliott, she's given us some of the finest pop singles of the last five years. she never possessed the strongest of voices but through the force of her personality -- she had that ineffable trait, "star quality" -- and pure determination to make her mark, she became a megastar, selling millions of records and even receiving the call from hollywood (besides romeo must die, she was also to star in the adaptation of anne rice's the queen of the damned and the upcoming matrix sequels).

at age 22, she seemed poised to become the next janet jackson -- a mononymic multimedia star, lighting up the big screen and blowing up the radio. but now it's all over -- i don't know how to stop writing, how to end this. it's impossible to be poetic about this right now and yet it seems wrong to to end it so tersely, as stark as death itself. damn it. rest in peace, aaliyah, you had so much left to say and there's so much left to say about you but death's got my tongue and out of respect for you, i'll not struggle to say anymore.

23 August 2001

i write, simply, because i love to read. over the
years, which have been relatively few, a number of
writers have spoken to me, for me, and with me, putting
into words things i thought incapable of being
expressed, things i lazily deemed "ineffable," and
they've made the world seem smaller and less cruel,
revealing thoughts and ideas i felt i alone possessed.
now, I just try my best to reciprocate.
Someday, at the end of the nightmare of knowing,
may I emerge singing praise and jubilation to assenting angels.
May I strike my heart's keys clearly, and may none fail
because of slack, uncertain, or fraying strings.
May the tears that stream down my face
make me more radiant: may my hidden weeping
bloom. How I will cherish you then, you grief-torn nights!
Had I only received you, inconsolable sisters,
on more abject knees, only buried myself with more abandon
in your loosened hair. How we waste our afflictions!
We study them, stare out beyond them into bleak continuance,
hoping to glimpse some end. Whereas they're really
our wintering foliage, our dark greens of meaning, one
of the seasons of the clandestine year--; not only
a season--: they're site, settlement, shelter, soil, abode.

--rainer maria rilke, "the tenth elegy"

22 August 2001

breaking news from hell this evening...: "i am now the owner of a bob dylan album," says the man in the wrinkle-free pants. this admission completes the scene, develops the picture: having perused 401 (k) info this afternoon, of the opinion that his parents have some good ideas, the speaker is now, for the record, officially old. (the album, for those interested, is blood on the tracks. i downloaded "tangled up in blue" the other day at work -- in what one might call "a simple twist of fate." or not. -- enjoyed it, sought other tracks from the album and decided to do the right thing and purchase it. it should be noted that "just like a woman" and "don't think twice, it's alright," other dylan tracks given a hearing, failed to pass.)

21 August 2001

richard powers, galatea 2.2: i've just finished reading this book and it was fantastic. powers, for those who are unfamiliar with him, is like don delillo with a phd in physics, philosophy, literature, and so forth. quick synopsis: men try to teach machine to read, to comprehend, to explicate. machine evolves into more than they bargained for. in lesser hands, it's short circuit 2; but with powers doing the writing, it's thrilling and heartbreaking -- not only is galatea a cognitive science primer, it's also a manual of human failings, a scrapbook of loves both lost and unrequited. thematically, galatea is about three things: about people stuck in yesterday and people who are the world's tomorrow; machines who strive for life and men who have given up on it; and the word, in all of its guises, and how it brings us together and tears us apart. in galatea, hope is found in the least likely of places and powers' faith in himself -- for he serves as his very own protagonist -- and in his fellows is restored by a machine; his reader, just as fortunate, will find this book capable of the very same. highly recommended.
it now strikes me just how much easier it is to write tragedy, to create with a words a scenario that will unsettle something in the mind and heart of the reader, than it is to respond to the tragedy of another. in the former, the words mean everything; in the latter, they mean nothing.

20 August 2001

i can't stay away: yes, yes, i'm back (and i promise to do something about this, uh, design). but my reasons for being back are nefarious and self-serving. first off, i want to link to my wishlist, since my birthday is around the corner. (actually, this is the chief reason, ask josh.) secondly, i want to some outlet while i put off writing anything of meaning and importance. like (finally) this, which i wrote not too long ago and which is probably the best thing i've written. some are calling it "very moving." and "some" isn't even related to me. so yeah. here i am. uh, keep your eye on this page.