Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

30 November, 2003

Bitch

I am such a dumbshit. I got suckered into doing an indeterminate bit of housesitting. The Pollack is off to Sioux Falls and had Sussy to cover for him. Then last night Suss left a voice mail saying something about his dad so he wouldn't be able to dogsit. Then the phone rings this morning and, against my better judgement, I answer it. It's The Pollack and he sweet talks me...yadda yadda...and I am going over there tonight. He'll get a hold of me tomorrow morning to gimme the skinny on the rest of the week. (He's gone til Friday.) Fuck me - why do I bother to answer the phone? It only brings bad tidings.
|| Palmer, 12:07 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

29 November, 2003

Celluloid

I think I may have found a new career – advice columnist. Earlier, I was reading Hey Faggot! Or Savage Love or whatever Dan Savage’s column is called these days and found that I was able to answer every question. Well, the ones which actually asked for advice as opposed to etymological concerns regarding the term “santorum”. Other than this, my day has been occupied by movies.

Imber totum diem fluit
Urceatim simper pluit
Taedet intus nos manere:
Numquam potent sol splendere

A quick read of a single review of Cat in the Hat dispelled any ideas I may have had about seeing it. Bubba Ho-Tep is playing here!! FUCK yeah!! Pete and I shall wait until tomorrow for Old Man Standiford’s return to see it. This morning I watched Cookie’s Fortune and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The former was good but a minor entry in Bob Altman’s oeuvre. The latter, a personal favorite, creeped the living fuck out of me and sent me into a downward spiral of contemplation. As the credits started to roll, the gears in my brainbox immediately began to turn. For the next three hours or so, I desperately tried to comprehend it. Who was Judy? What was that monkey about? And what the fuck was Agent Jeffries doing in Philadelphia and Brazil at the same time?

I had rented the flick because my appetite for Lynchian revelry had been whetted by watching Mulholland Drive a couple days previously. I’ll admit that Lynch’s brand of surrealism is not for everyone. In fact, it’s not for most people. But I dig it. In fact, I think I need to go rent Lost Highway next. Oddly enough, I read that it’s being turned into an opera. That oughta be interesting, to say the least. How they’re gonna pull off the super identity change is beyond me. But I’m no composer of operas. Another thing that would pose difficulty is the sound. I think I’ve blathered on about this recently so I’ll not say anything more.

My only complaint about the FWWM DVD was the lack of interesting bonus stuff. I mean, the extra footage was omitted and the documentary which was included was only moderately interesting. Still, I was able to hear the little things in the soundtrack such as when the monkey says “Judy” very faintly at the end. Plus I could do the frame advance thing smoothly and see how the Lynch and the editor plied their trade. For example, Laura Palmer gets tipped off by the Tremond grandson that someone is going after her secret diary. She runs home and up to her bedroom where it lay hidden. Slowly she opens the door and sees Bob rummaging around the diary’s hiding place. I noticed that the jolting music and her scream start before the viewer actually sees Bob. When we finally get to see him, he slowly raises his head and his face comes into full view from behind a vase or some such thing. Going frame-by-frame, I noticed that there’s a jump cut in the scene. We see Bob’s face partially obscured by the vase. Slowly he lifts his head then - BAM! – the shot jumps and Bob has straightened up and is leering at Laura full of menace.

There are at least two scenes in which a character screams and then there’s a quick shot of a face painted gray which is also screaming. Advancing one frame at a time, you can see if the video cuts to the gray face or does a quick dissolve. OK, it’s interesting to me, at least.

Before anyone thinks of me as a complete fucking snob, let me also say that I recently watched another great movie recently - The Iron Giant. (For some reason, the Cartoon Network has been playing it only it all fucking day. Whatever happened to variety being the spice of life?) It’s an animated flick and intended for a younger audience although there are moments that are aimed at adults. It’s a great fucking movie and one that film scholars don’t fall over themselves trying to analyze. Simple plot, linear narrative – there’s nothing odd about it – but I think it’s awesome. Another favorite of mine is Big Trouble in Little China and it isn’t an art film. It was directed by John Carpenter, for Christ’s sake. Just because of the five DVDs I own, only one was made by an American, doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate mindless humor or simple narratives. But I’m sorry, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell are just not funny. And I still hate The Matrix - plain or Reloaded.

I suspect that this has to do with iconography. I mean, women with nice bodies in tight leather is cool but it’s not that cool. It can’t sustain a whole film. Either actors have a charisma that appeals to you or they don’t. The costumes, the sets, and the time & place a story is set in resonate in your brain or they don’t. Some people enjoy period pieces whereas others don’t. Those who do flock to Merchant Ivory productions while those who don’t go to Farrelly Brothers’ flicks. OK, that’s not fair but you see what I’m saying. At the very least, iconography gets a film in the door. For instance, I dig films set in medieval Europe. So any film that comes around set in that time and place is automatically moved to the head of the line in my book. I also dig wizards. So, when I watch the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf falls into that void in the Mines or Moria, tears well in my eyes. (Hey, I'm an old softy.) As a symbol for whatever it is that wizards are symbolic of, they are especially meaningful for me. I can't help it and I can't explain it. Not satisfactory, at least. Then there's actors. I fucking hate Keanu Reeves. Maybe he reminds me of a schoolyard bully from my childhood or something - I dunno. But his mere visage irritates the living fuck out of me. Coupled with his voice, I find his screen presence loathesome and it drives me to heights of anger and repulsion usually reserved for people who commit war atrocities. I only watched Little Buddha because it was directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and shot by Vittorio Storaro. And I hated it and fail to understand the casting call to this day. I cannot take anything he does seriously. If you like Mr. Reeves then more power to ya. All I ask is that you keep him away from me. Ditto for wizards. If you find them childish, uninteresting, or not able to speak to the concerns of your life, so be it. But don't expect me to be sympathetic to your cause.

And, of course, there's the perennial problem of women who love romance movies and their men who don't. Personally, I don't mind relationship movies but simple boy-meets-loses-and regains-girl flicks don't appeal to me. They just don't even come close to accurately capturing the nuances of relationships. They generally cut too wide a swath and miss all subtlety. I'd like to see a romance movie modeled on Bresson's A Man Escaped. Repetition with minor changes. Until that day, though, I'll have to be satisfied with the likes of The Sheltering Sky and Eyes Wide Shut.
|| Palmer, 7:44 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Black, White, and Blue

As sort of a follow-up to "This Ain't No Sideshow", I started writing about the misinterpretation of the phrase "A friend in need is a friend indeed" and the song "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" but stumbled upon something, perhaps, more interesting. Certainly something I can blather on about longer.

I am listening to this song called “Mud” by the North Mississippi All Stars. What really attracted me to this song, besides its tunefulness, were two things: 1) it has a very rebellious tone and 2) the band took a bit of their Southern heritage and used it for their own purposes.

The song is loud and raucous. It features heavily distorted guitars as well as a washboard. Let me illustrate #2 by way of lyrics. Here is a verse from “Mud”:

Memphis, Tennessee is where I was born
and Mississippi is where I was grown
into a man aged 25
jumping in the mud and glad to be alive

beat your feet in the Mississippi mud
I'm in the mud and the mud's in me

Now, let’s compare these to those of an old song from 1927, “Mississippi Mud”:

What a dance do they do!
Lordy, how I'm tellin' you,
They don't need no band,
They keep time by clappin' their hand.
Just as happy as a cow, chewin' on a cud,
When the people beat their feet on the Mississippi Mud.

The older song seems to propagate stereotypes such as those of Southerners being a bunch of inbred illiterates or perhaps that of the “happy slave”. It has rural imagery in it – the cow, cud, etc. The newer song discards much of that imagery but retains that of beating feet in the mud and becomes a statement of defiance, of pride in one’s roots. The distorted electric guitar makes the song current yet the lyrics, since they parody an older song, reach back through tradition and grasp and twist it until the tradition has been completely retooled for the singer’s own ends.

I suppose that this should seem important to me as I did some reading this week - more tales of Alan Lomax lugging what passed for "portable" recording equipment in the 1940s and 50s and recording the music and stories of black Mississippians in his book The Land Where the Blues Began. As I sat there at Toad Hill, the people around me probably couldn't tell that my brain was hard at work. My mind grappled with this idea: What about Northern folk song? Much of Lomax's popular reputation is founded on his documentation of Southern culture and music. Sixty years ago, he found African traditions still alive in the American South and captured music played on instruments never before recorded. He recorded Muddy Waters alone with an acoustic guitar in 1945 when he lived in a shack on a cotton plantation. Shortly afterwards, Waters moved to Chicago and electrified the Blues. But what about the folk music north of the Mason-Dixon line? I do know that he traveled around the North in the 1930s and 40s and even made stops here my beloved state of Wisconsin to record. Why are these recordings more of an afterthought than celebrated cultural documents? Are Scandanavian folk music tradition really that bad?

It took a little while but I finally got through the miasma that was my mind and figured out the answer. The folk music of the North gets a short-shrift because it wasn't the basis for rock'n'roll. Whether you maintain that Jackie Brenston ("Rocket 88") or Elvis Presley recorded the first rock'n'roll song, there's no doubt that it started in the South and was based on Southern folk music. (Presley's first single had a blues cover on the A-side and a bluegrass cover on the B-side - "That's Alright Mama" by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" by Bill Monroe, respectively.) However good the gammaldans and slåttemusikks of Ole and Lena Svengåard were, Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and that gang didn't listen to them and weren't influenced by them.

Lovingly, Lomax describes the music and dance of the people he encountered. Take this, for example:

"There are now four young men saluting the drum with their hips. Nap is kneeling on the ground, facing them. Brown Shirt horizontally screws the earth. Nap raises his hand palm up and out and shouts wordlessly, then recommences his tremulous phrases. The breaks boil out of the drum. Nap cries out senseless, wordless speech and puts his straw hat on the young drummer. Then things really heat up. Nap and his two young drummers dance entwined, face to face, their thighs interlocked, their hips rocking and bucking. Nap is behind one of the lads, symbolically screwing him from the rear, touching him. This lad, for his part, receives the slim youngster in a green shirt who is wearing Nap's hat. These are his drummers - their thighs are dovetailed and they are simulating sex, balling the jack as partners, holding on to each other so as not to fall. All this masculine exhibitionism challenges the women, who thus far have been onlookers, to join the dance."

And, being in a uniquely qualified position to do so, he also makes connections between the performances of black Americans and their brethren across the ocean in Africa:

"All-male erotic dancing has always been a part of African tradition. Our world survey of dance styles shows that pelvic, shoulder, and belly articulation are frequent in the dances of Polynesia, Indonesia, South India, and the Near East (belly dancing), and well-nigh universal in Africa. It is an old trait, more hallowed by time than the northern habit of holding the body stiff and upright in the dance.

The book is rife with such examples and meditations which contrast black and white styles. (To be fair, however, another great element of the book is to shatter the myth that the Blues is strictly a black music, that the Blues is simply derived from work songs sung by slaves which, in turn, are derived from the music of West Africa. He documents the influence of white ballads, for example, on black folk song. Because the book focuses on the Blues and black folk music, you really have to turn to other writings by Lomax to learn how white folk song was shaped by black music and discover just how much cultural cross-pollination there was in the South.) Lomax repeatedly notes the syncopation and improvisation in the songs of the people he recorded which often stand in contrast to white music with melodic emphasis and a more structure. On a more well-known level, jazz, with its African origins, is noted for its improvisatory nature while Western art music (i.e. - classical) is known for its rigid formalism. With perhaps the exception of Indonesian Gamelan music, this is the most widely recognized difference between Western and Eastern musics. (Is it any wonder that, when Bob Fripp revived King Crimson in 1980 and looked eastward for inspiration, he drew on Gamelan music?)

Digression:
Can you think of any caucasian "ritual" analagous to the dancing described above? I can think of only two things: a rave and a Beltane ritual. Here's an excerpt describing the latter:

"An excitement is in the air as the men approach. The drumming and chanting increase in their rhythm as the line of men carrying the pole rock back and forth, slowly piercing the Yoni gate. The May Queen crowns the pole with the hoop of flowers, which hang, ribbons loose, a few feet below the top. The women line up and caress the pole as the men push through into the circle of flowers. All participants are dancing in rhythm, ever-increasing in intensity."

Anyway, this brought to mind that set of stereotypes wherein white music is "cerebral" in that it appeals to the mind and not the foot whereas black music is somehow directly tapped into raw emotion. These notions are exemplified in the writings of various rock music critics such as Dave Marsh, Lester Bangs, and Simon Frith with their philippics against a genre of music I love, namely, progressive rock.

Now, regardless of what you may think of Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, and that ilk, you have to admit that the rock critic establishment has been less than kind to these bands. This was made apparent to me as a teenager discovering the genre. Everything I read about them was derogatory. When critics weren't vitrolic, they just marginalized the music. Read this bit by Simon Frith from a 1978 article about Jethro Tull: "But it's a British country record, celebrating shire horses and Anderson's dog and cats on a track called 'And the Mouse Police Never Sleeps'. Not twee, because not romantic and not hippie is Anderson's hope. It's about town and country, the former's dependence on and exploitation of the latter. I didn't hear it and probably never will." Dave Marsh: "Progressive rock sounds desicated to me because it's so thoroughly divorced from the taproot of rock and roll: rhythm and blues."

Ten years ago, Allan Moore responded to this attitude: "It [the critical stance of Marsh and his peers] entails the assumption that blacks in the southern USA lived in a state of mindless primitivism, in which they expressed themselves through music 'naturally,' without the intervening of any musical 'theory'; hence the black sense of rhythm being 'natural' and 'unmediated'."

So, as I sat there stewing in disgust for Herr Frith, the following thought popped into my head: Why do I love Southern folk music as I do? What right do I have to make it my own? Progressive rock, at least, was mostly made by fairly well-educated, white, middle-class men like me so my enjoyment of it sort of makes sense intuitively. I sat there for a while pondering this but could come to no satisfactory conclusion.

Aside from learning tons about music, reading The Land Where the Blues Began also gave me some insight into Southern culture. Another thing it did was to make me all the more irritated by the racist comments made by people I know. Racism seems to be my pet peeve at the moment. I'm not sure if these people have are saying derogatory comments more recently or if they've always said the same crap with the same frequency but I'm just more sensitive to such comments.

Speaking to my dad last night didn't help. While he was in a fairly cheery mood, he showed his deep disgust for my idea of moving to Chicago. He didn't say anything blatant - he didn't have to. A "You couldn't pay me enough to go back there" was more than enough. One of the reasons we moved away from there in the first place was so that my dad could, in his words, "get away from the niggers." I have an uncle who had some of the same motivation when he moved to northern Illinois. And the same goes for the father of a couple of my childhood friends when they moved to the burbs. Growing up, it seemed like there was this competition between the 3 men - who could get out of the city first. While my friends' dad won this particular race, my father took pride in having moved the furthest away. White flight isn't imaginary nor some goofy sociological concept - I lived it.

Along these same lines, yet tangential, I found out that Jennifer, a black woman who is a friend of a friend that I have the hots for, recently broke up with her boyfriend. Immediately after hearing this, my window of opportunity was immediately shut when I informed that, because of certain "issues", she has committed herself to date only black men. This was mildly ironic as I had read this article the day before. It was also a bummer because Jennifer is hilarious, smart, and beautiful. We get along just swell. The second time I met her, she bestowed a nickname upon me: "Benihana". Curiously enough, this wasn't really new as it had been given to me in the 7th grade but only a couple friends from Chicago still call me that. (I don't know if I've mentioned this before or not, but Miss Rosie accidentally gave me a new nickname last month - "Stiffy". Don't ask. But the name has gained currency among various people in Edgerton, Janesville, and Madison.)

I have 2 friends in mixed-race or whatever you call it marriages. One is white man-black woman while the other is black man-white man. Do Ted and Letha make each other happy? Yes. (Does Letha keep Ted's ass in line? Yes.) Do Tyrone and Andy make each other happy? Yes. Why is this such a problem here in the 21st century? Tyrone and Andy have the added problem of being gay but the priniciple is the same. Their wedding ceremony was rather eerie for me. There were no family member from either side that weren't of our generation. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. were conspicuous by their absence. It laced the ceremony with a tinge of sadness. Still, there was the odd cousin and plenty of friends to make the occasion joyous.

I can barely imagine what it must be like to fall in love with someone with a different amount of melanin in their skin than yours and to have a family that is not accepting. Most of my family would recoil in horror. At least they would be decent enough to feign politeness. Except my father. If I were to marry a black woman, there's not a cat in hell's chance I would ever let her meet my dad. Fuck, I've only ever let him meet one of the white women I've dated. And we saw each other for only 3 months, tops. Mulatto kids? My dad hates children so much, I'd have serious reservations about him meeting his grandkids if they were totally fucking alabaster. He can foist all the opprobrium on me he wants to but not my family.

Alright, I've heard about this thing called "dinner" and I wanna look into it...
|| Palmer, 6:40 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
The Eyes Have It

Thanksgiving was pretty amusing. The Pollack and I convened over at Miss Rosie's house for the occasion. I did the obligatory eat too much thing and drank too much bourbon. But The Pollack brought over the Woodford Reserve and I just couldn't resist its bourbony goodness. (I'm still waiting to taste Basil Hayden. Oh, I also I found a good bottle of spaetzle riesling. Mmmm...) It was good to hear that he was going on a business trip to South Dakota and I would NOT be dogsitting for him.

I had me a weird experience today down at Toad Hill. I was being a good boy and minding my P&Qs - just doing a spot of writing. (I was working on an entry for this joint that I started a few days ago but just can't seem to get right.) All of the sudden, I start seeing this hoolie, this circular translucent bit with rainbow edges. You know, when you close your eyes and see bits - one of those decided to stick around after I opened my eyes again. Then out at the periphery of the vision of my right eye shit got really weird. Things on that side started undulating and pulsating. It was as if a small portion of my sight had decided to reenact all those times I took psilocybin. Needless to say, it was rather freaky. My eyes started watering slightly and I exacerbated this by rubbing them. Oddly enough, the mess cleared up when I went outside. I think that my brain is beginning to fail. Too bad it's warranty has expired.

I saw a commercial for Paycheck, the new John Woo flick with Uma that's based on a Philip K. Dick short story. Looks awful. What a waste of talent. Hopefully Richard Linklater will tackle A Scanner Darkly. Hollywood and PKD to date:

Impostor - pretty bad. I have a cousin who knows Gary Sinise and rightly chastized him over this.
Minority Report - good excepting the ending which has gotta go.
Screamers - very good.
Total Recall - typical Arny bullshit with some fun moments.
Blade Runner (director's cut) - fucking classic.
|| Palmer, 5:53 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
About a Boy

At the behest of a friend, I took "the most scientifically grounded and customized personality assessment on the Internet." Ah, the power of the Internet. My results:

Who You Are
You're smart, insightful, and have an insatiable curiosity about life. (Well, they got this bit right.) In fact, you're always studying problems and finding ways to fix them. You have a talent for rising above the details of life and seeing the big picture. You have a vision for how to live the "good life" so you refuse to settle long-term for a boring job or doing something just because it's expected of you. You have good friends, but you're also a pretty independent guy. You're not someone who "wears his heart on his sleeve" so those close to you don't always know how you feel. (Fuck that. Almost every girlfriend I've ever had could read me like a book.) Still, they're drawn to you by your fun and easygoing style.

What's Dating All About to You?
You believe dating and life in general is about learning and growing as a person. You're a great listener, so women tend to enjoy going out with you. However, it's hard for you to have a real intellectual connection with an attractive woman. Hopefully, you've found a way to "go with the flow" in dating as you already do in other parts of your life.

You face 2 major challenges in finding the love of your life. First, because you're shy, you feel like you have to be someone else or "wear a mask" to go out and meet new people. (Sheesh! Haven't these people ever read any Erving Goffman?) You're left feeling like a distant observer, and women find it hard to truly understand you. (Hell, I don't even understand me.) Second, although having a vision of what you want can be helpful, the risk is that your high standards can get in the way of loving a real-life imperfect woman.

Quirks Women Notice
You have a pretty even-tempered personality and may not have any especially annoying or quirky habits. (Oh, that's just rich...) Of course, seeming to be "perfect" could be seen as a flaw by some, in which case you may just want to pretend to have a bad habit!

Who I'm Looking For:
She'll Be an Enigma
You're looking for a woman who's smart, insightful, and has an insatiable curiosity about life. The two of you could share a very interesting and exciting intellectual connection. Getting closer emotionally takes time, since she's an independent and sometimes shy person by nature. But she's worth the effort to get to know! Your best strategy is to see her "in action" when you go out with friends but still find quiet time with her to talk. You'll discover she's a good conversationalist, especially if you get her talking about books, current events, or any of her many interests and hobbies.

My Ideal:
You don't expect your partner to be in a good mood all the time. You understand that sometimes your partner will be down, get pessimistic or worry too much. These days are balanced by the many good days the two of you will share. In fact, you share a number of positive qualities, including:

1) No strong similarities were detected, which suggests that you may be more attracted to certain "opposite qualities." Please read the next sections to see if you may be seeking someone with different or opposite qualities to balance your own habits and style.

Of the women who have taken this test:
Exactly my type - 9%
Mostly my type: - 16%
Somewhat my type - 16%

Mostly NOT my type - 54%
Definitely NOT my type - 5%.

Yay for me.
|| Palmer, 5:21 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

28 November, 2003

As Per Annie Blackburn

The good Dale is in the lodge and he cannot leave.
|| Palmer, 2:15 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

26 November, 2003

Tiresias Was Right

Courtesy of Reuters via Yahoo:

LONDON (Reuters) - Wanted: women to test new orgasm machine.

No, really. An American surgeon who has patented a device that triggers an orgasm has begun a clinical trial approved by the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) in the United States and is looking for female volunteers.

"I thought people would be beating my door down to become part of the trial," pain specialist Dr Stuart Meloy told New Scientist magazine on Wednesday.

But so far only one woman has completed the first stage of the trial, with apparently breathtaking results, and a second has agreed to take part.

Meloy, of Piedmont Anesthesia and Pain Consultants in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is hoping to find eight more volunteers willing to have electrodes inserted in their spine and be connected to a pacemaker-size machine implanted under the skin to heighten their sexual pleasure.

The married woman who tested the machine, dubbed an orgasmatron, had not had an orgasm for four years. But during the nine days she used it, she had several.

"She even told me she had the first multiple orgasm of her life using the device," said Meloy.

He stumbled on the unexpected side-effect while using a spinal cord stimulator a few years ago to treat a patient suffering with severe back pain. The woman had already had back surgery for degenerative disk disease and fusion surgery.

When Meloy placed the electrodes into a specific spot on her spine to find nerve bundles carrying pain signals to the brain, she moaned with delight.

"You're going to have to teach my husband how to do that," he quoted her as saying.

The tiny impulses of electricity applied to the electrodes seemed to have turned on the patient's orgasm button.

Although the device has been compared to the orgasmatron featured in the 1973 Woody Allen film "Sleeper," Meloy envisions patients using it temporarily to retrain their sexual response.

The women in the trial described it as "really excellent foreplay."

Although some medical experts are skeptical about the procedure and say a vibrator can produce the same results, Meloy believes it could help to improve sexual response in women who cannot have orgasms and might even help men as well.

A full implant of the device would cost about 13,000 pounds ($22,000).

"I don't see it any differently from procedures such as breast implants," Meloy told the magazine.
|| Palmer, 1:52 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Good News!

The "Honorable" Herr Scalia has recused himself from the Supreme Court's hearing of a case seeking to ban the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools.

Click here for more.
|| Palmer, 12:54 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Credo

While I lay in the arms of Morpheus in the antelucan hour this morning, I had a semi-lucid dream about me being stuck in divorce court. The details are basically lost to my conscious mind now but I do recall it involved my wife getting everything including sole custody of our daughter. All at once the gates of Sleep were thrown wide open, and my waking ears took in the sound of Pete's alarm. Once the annoyance had passed, I thought it rather odd that I, a life-long bachelor, should have such a dream. Needless to say, I got up in a less than cheery mood. One thing that did not help was reading/watching the news, that bread & circus of bite-sized bits of inanity. My foul mood was exacerbated by my listening to the strains of some lefty music. I must have had some unconscious desire to get really pissed off at the world because I put in some Onkel Fish. First song - "Big Wedge":

America, America the big wedge
And they're buying your tomorrow up today
With promises the promises of big wedge
And they'll break them like your hearts another day
When you find out that you've left it just too late
And you find that you're the only one to blame
That you sold out your tomorrow yesterday for Big Wedge

As the album wore on, it seemed like the songs matched the news.

Blahdy blahdy - how to cook a turkey - blahdy blahdy - Is Michael Jackson a paedophile? - blah blah

The bleating of a bimbo, a back-stabbing beauty queen
Titillating tabloids trigger off a wet dream into action
A fatal attraction, private lives are up for auction
A cupboard full of skeletons are coming out to play

I like to watch disasters in replay and rerun in slow-mo
I like to watch on the spot interviews, kicking in front doors
I like to watch

blah blah - soldiers dead in Iraq - blah blah - civilian casualties

I fell from blue skies, fought through desert storms
I froze in firefights, I killed someone,
That had a father who loved him just like mine
Who believed the sacrifice was justified
In the name of freedom and in the name of God
While shifting sands hid all our sins and all the blood
In the wake of glory, I flew back home
I watch videos at night in my uniform
Of those towns and cities being blown apart
By those bombs that fool the people by being smart
As they flew down chimneys, flew along corridors
And explode on film and everyone goes 'awe!'

As I read, I felt less angry and more sad. Is this "war on terror" ever going to end? Will I end up an old duff on my deathbed watching Mr. and Ms. CNN giving me the tape-delayed speech of whatever power-hungry schmuck is the latest Ashcroft-inspired incarnation of Emmanuel Goldstein?

I trust in conspiracies, in the power of the military
In this wilderness of mirrors here, not even my speech is free
Every day I hear a little scream inside
Everyday I find it's gettin' louder
I just want to reach out and touch someone
'Cause I find I need a friend in this dark hour

So, having had enough of sitting alone and feeling depressed, I decided to cheer myself up. And what better way than to listen to the strains of everyone's favorite dope-smoking redneck, Les Claypool? So I threw in some Primus. Since I've been listening to Peter Gabriel's "The Family and the Fishing Net" in my car, I cranked up their version and turned off the TV. I sang along (if you could call what I do "singing") while I wasn't laughing. I'm sorry but Les Claypool singing Peter Gabriel is fucking hilarious in only the best possible way. And it really lightened my mood.

Having taken care of that, I decided to take care of another problem - the dearth of coffee in my veins. A quick trip to Toad Hill remedied this situation as well as the lack of apple pie in my possession for The Caffeinatrix blessed me with some that she'd baked last night. (If my nose and eyes are to be trusted, it will be quite tasty. I'd best remove it from the DMZ that is our kitchen so it doesn't get eaten by someone else.) I chatted with her a bit. She's conscripted me into a war (OK, I volunteered but how often do I get to use the word "conscripted"?) of words with her father. From her descriptions, the guy sounds like a militant Objectivist who is a member of a mysterious group known as the "N.I.F." I shall scour the Net later for more on them...Anyway, The Caffeinatrix's father often sends her and Henry emails which, it sounds, are aggressively pedagogical. Her pleas to put a quietus to them have fallen on deaf ears so she asked me for help a couple days ago and I agreed.

I suspect that the problem is that Mr. L's emails are on the pedantic side while Henry and The Caffeinatrix retort in a manner quite a bit less so. This is not to say that they aren't smart but rather that they need help in articulating responses. And that's where I come in. You've got to fight fire with fire. I'm happy to add some Cartesan intellectual aplomb with Rabelaisian trim and a sprinkling of vulgarity to the proceedings. A dash of science, a smidgeon of Collectivism - these are the ingredients I require...

After departing with my pie firmly clutched in my had, I headed out to the credit union, the liquor store, and elsewhere. A teller at the credit union said that she liked my shirt, which I found amusing. (It's black with the Periodic Table of the Elements in various bright colors.) As I was running around, I stopped in at Cafe Zoma to grab some more go-juice. Jolene was kind enough to fill my cup. As she was doing so, she yawned. This is par for the course as she always seems lethargic when I see her there. You'd think it impossible to be tired when working in a place with enough caffeine to wake the dead, but, alas, you'd be wrong. She must have an extraordinarily active night-life.

I dispatched with a couple more things on my to-do list and returned home. After finishing this, I'm either gonna watch Eyes Wide Shut or polish off an entry here that I started a couple days ago but did not complete because I'd become delusional.

Last night I made some jambalaya which didn't suffer too much from an accident with a bottle of thyme. I found that my homemade hot sauce was able to compensate. Whatever the case, there wasn't any left when I went to bed last night. When I wasn't cooking, I was watching flicks: Dogma, May, and Devil's Playground. Before I comment on my rental choices, I need to rant.

I went to a local rental parlor hoping that there might be an available copy of the newly-released extended version of The Two Towers. Much to my chagrin, there were none. By "there were none" I don't mean that they were all checked out but rather that the store did not own any copies. The clerk even assured me that they would never ever carry the precious extended versions of any of the Lord of the Rings movies. WHAT IN THE NAME OF JEHOVAH IS THIS MADNESS?!?!?!?!? How the fuck can you forsake even a single copy? I nearly walked out. I fucking swear to Christ. But I was overtaken by sloth and rented other titles instead.[/rant]

Anyway, Dogma had some funny elements to it but didn't gel for me. The second half of the flick was just slow when, in fact, it was when the story was hastening to its conclusion. The dialog just fell flat and the editing seemed richitic. I'll stick with Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back instead. Devil's Playground was interesting. It chronicled the lives of a group of Amish teenagers as they go outside of their community and try to decide whether to join the Amish church or not. While the content was interesting, the film's style was bland. Can't wait for Errol Morris' next documentary. May was pretty good. It's about a very disturbed young woman with a knack for sewing and a predeliction for human anatomy. Unfortunately, the filmmakers drained any suspense or surprise from the ending. I knew what was gonna happen and the gory bits were so unexciting as to almost render them superfluous. I also caught most of Mulholland Drive on cable. This flick scares the living shit out of me. Like Lost Highway and Fire Walk With Me, Mulholland Drive isn't really scary in as much as it's just plain fucking creepy. Lynch is a master of sound and dynamics in filmmaking. He can take a scene set out in the street during daylight hours and make it sinister and forboding. He'll soften ambient sounds and make the dialog loud, for instance. He's brilliant.

OK - NIF - New Intellectual Forum. This has gotta be it. Members. This has gotta be The Caffeinatrix's pop. Same surname. Suburban Chicago.

The game is afoot!
|| Palmer, 11:40 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

25 November, 2003

New Johnny Cash!!
The Johnny Cash box set, Unearthed, has been released! Here's a review. Now run out to your locally-owned music retailer and grab a copy for me. For anyone here in Madison, might I recommend MadCity Music.
|| Palmer, 7:13 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Tech Industry News

For all you tech geeks: Dell has begun re-routing some corporate tech support calls back to call centers here in the US. I also found this site giving an in-depth look at the debacle of I.P. (intellectual property) lawsuits over that Unix core involving that unholy trio of IBM, Red Hat, and Caldera.
|| Palmer, 7:02 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

24 November, 2003

More Local Hijinks

Pesky college kids.
|| Palmer, 8:23 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
An Amazing Journey Ends

Trey Gunn has left King Crimson. Will Tony Levin return or will another Fripp disciple take his place? Only the Shadow knows...
|| Palmer, 8:21 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
This Ain't No Sideshow

Have you ever noticed how America tends to sanitize cultural artifacts? If you look at the genesis of certain icons, the origins of some cultural signposts, one finds some interesting discrepancies.

Take Sherlock Holmes. I think it's fair to say that most Americans think of Basil Rathbone's Holmes. Hyper-vigilant and ever-rational. A force for good and almost without a flaw. Yet, Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes adventure paints a colder, more flawed picture of the detective: "....while Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker-street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition...." More misanthrope than hero.

And then there's Disney. Their animated adaptations of classic fairy tales are renowned worldwide. But who has bothered to read the originals? In the original "Little Red Riding Hood" by Charles Perrault (the actual title was "Little Red Riding Cap"), our heroine is eaten by the wolf. In the original "Goldilocks", there was no Goldilocks but rather an old crone who enters the bears' house. She meets her end by being impaled on a church steeple. "Sleeping Beauty", "Cinderella", etc. were all similarly castrated for modern audiences.

No holiday in the US would be complete without a Biblical epic starring Charlton Heston. But many people's conceptions of the Bible do not include the naughty bits. Moses, for instance, was a real bastard. He ordered the killing of men, women, and boys while urging his army to keep the virgin girls for themselves. (Numbers) In Ezekiel, God orders his children to eat human feces as a punishment. Onan was killed for refusing to impregnate his sister-in-law.

As Paul Verhoeven likes to remind us, American culture is half prude and half whore. One foot in the Church, the other in the Coliseum. We are, in many ways, a nation of hypocrites. We condemn and consume the sex and violence of our media simultaneously. Most value freedom of speech - for speech with which they agree. Heterodoxy is welcomed by protests. Look at The Last Temptation of Christ. A serious film, a serious mediation on our humanity was condemned upon release. Those who didn't agree with the films method, most of whom hadn't even seen it, did their best to make sure no one could. I have told many people that Stanley Kubrick is my favorite film director. They usually ask what he directed so I rattle off the name of his films. When I mention A Clockwork Orange, most recoil in abhorrence. Yet, violent films with Arnold Schwarzenegger often rate amongst their favorites. When I ask them why they didn't like ACO, they usually respond that it was too disturbing. Far too serious and far too much of a filmmaker to ask that an audience engage in some reflection, some thought after stepping out of a theater. Most Americans don't like art because art is in one way or another about reality, about us. We also don't know how to appreciate art because appreciation takes effort, takes time.

How many Americans watched Eyes Wide Shut expecting a love story with scenes of two of Hollywood's most visible stars in the nude? Most, it seems. And they got something wholly different. Ambiguity, mystery and an ending that didn't provide complete closure.

There are exceptions, admittedly. And one can most definitely argue that culture is malleable, that Disney created cultural artifacts that were products of contingency. It certainly is true that people shape culture as they see fit and there is no reason that a 17th century fairy tale must be told in the exact same manner in the 20th century. The concerns of succeeding generations change. I understand this. But what I find disturbing is that it seems we appropriate things and then eviscerate them. This is not to say that every change is for the worse or inappropriate but rather I lament the fact that we tend to make everything soft, warm and fuzzy. Extremes are off limits. Everything must be made safe. I don't know that we can afford safety much longer.
|| Palmer, 11:18 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

23 November, 2003

Put the Star Wars Kid in Episode 3!!

Click Here
|| Palmer, 10:09 PM || link || (1) comments | links to this post
Drink, Drank, Drunk

I must apologize for the incompleteness of the archives and the errant characters that have plagued older entries. I had to change the encoding scheme so that entries copied from Word appeared correctly. Along the way, I had to republish older ones and the encoding mismatch became evident. So I'm slowing editing things so that apostrophes and letters with diacritical marks appear correctly. It's a right royal pain in the ass.

Yesterday was to have been a nice, mellow day watching the new extended version of The Two Towers with Dogger and Marv. When I got home around 1 this morning, I had seen nary a frame of it. Instead, the three of us had an 8 or 9 hour bout with John Barleycorn. A couple relaxing cocktails loosened tongues and we sat around shooting the shit for hours until heading out to the Paradise. The premise was innocent enough. A couple drinks and then a flick and dinner. But those modified Greyhounds just went down so smoothly - a bit like Kool Aid. Next thing I know, the bottle of Absolut Curant was cashed. There was, however, still plenty of cranberry-grapefruit juice left. What were we to do? At about this time, we seriously contemplated putting the DVD in and watching the flick but we somehow never made it that far.

Now, I find tomato juice to be disgusting but V-8 is tasty. So, Marv and I hit popped open the Absolut Peppar and began making these concoctions which resembled Bloody Marys. A couple pickled Brussel sprouts, pearl onions, and some jalapeno slices made the drink a meal. It was so good, in fact, that we polished off the second bottle. The remaining booze in the house consisted of a 12-pack of Rolling Rock and so we delved into that.

With depleted vodka bottles littering the kitchen, Dogger's wife, Mel, called. While they were talking, I yelled, "Mel, bring some vodka back with you!" Being in Milwaukee, there was little chance of that happening but it seemed easier at the time for her to furnish us with booze than to take a five minute drive to Vic Pierce's. Their conversation ended abruptly and, after hanging up, Dogger admitted to not really knowing what they had talked about and postulated that she'd hung up on him.

Not having eaten much all day, the three of us were well on our merry way to getting sloppy drunk. Dogger had put a pork roast in a crock pot around noon so by 9:30, it was ready to go. We each scarfed down a pulled pork samich before piling into the car and going to the Paradise. From there, Dogger and I went to the Caribou with the final stop being a nightcap at The Runway. Never having been to The Runway, I was keen on checking it out. Much to my dismay, the place was terminally dull. Way too bright for one. I was disappointed as I'd heard such good things from VanLoon about the place. At the Bou, all was normal. Aaron was working but he seemed to be in a rather chipper mood. It was there that Dogger related to me a woeful tale about the last time he was there - with Marv. It ended in a highly unsober way with Marv throwing a crumpled $20 bill at Ruthie's head for a tip. Considering that Ruthie is perhaps my favorite bartender in town, it must have been one alcohol-soaked night. Much like the Bou, the Dise was as one would expect. Kevin was tending bar and immediately introduced Marv to a woman from his hometown of Taylor, WI. Thusly he spent the entire time we were there talking with her and leaving Dogger and I to our own devices.

I had a great time overall yesterday but the highlight had to have been the 5 or 6 hours spent at Dogger's place chit-chatting. It was a pure case of in vino veritas. Some very revealing and highly interesting things were said by all. But that will have to wait for another time because I need to go get a paper and then take a nap.
|| Palmer, 10:59 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

22 November, 2003

Divvying Up the Booty

It’s been a pretty uneventful Saturday. Stevie and I drank coffee for a while shooting the shit as Yojimbo played on the TV. We bitched about Pete, talked about how people judge other people, pondered as to whether growing up in a two-parent household makes one a “better” person, and discussed racism. I found it rather odd that, after 13 years, Pete would consider me to be very racist. Stevie related Pete’s comment, “He’s from Chicago – of course he hates black people.” I found this disturbing as I think that having grown up in Chicago was a factor in me not being a racist. Racism is a complex thing and labeling someone a “racist” is probably an attempt at making a large gray area black & white. Well, I’m not inclined to go into the matter at the moment but reserve the right to do so later.

After doing some chores, I headed over to Café Zoma. With ultra-mega-maxi mocha in hand, I settled at a table and did some reading. Unfortunately, the atmosphere wasn’t particularly conducive to me getting totally absorbed so I boogied. Before leaving, I got a cuppa joe for the road. Approaching the counter, I set my book down and dragged out my wallet. The blonde woman, whose name escapes me at the moment, took a couple long ganders at the book. I felt a bit self-conscious for some reason. Would someone really think me weird for reading a book with Mississippi Fred McDowell on the cover? Yes, I do like the blues, thank you. Anyone who spends even a little time with me knows that I have a severe addiction to music. Ah well, no big shakes. She can think of me what she will. And it’s hard to take offense at someone a purdy woman.

Feeling a bit frisky and being male, I took a gander at her ass as she was readying my drink. She’s a small, rather frail looking woman and has a small bottom. In a small slice of irony, during my reading, I noticed that the black men tended to describe pretty women as having big thighs and butts and often referred to women’s hips. Here’s a representative quote: “They had been drinking chock and were acting rowdy, trying to get some of those big-legged, pretty gals to go down on the creek with them.” I was reminded of the song “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-A-Lot with the lines:

I like big butts and I cannot lie
u other brotherz can't deny
when a girl walks in with a itty, bitty, waist
and a round thing in ur face u get sprung


While I won’t say that this offers proof of anything, it sure is interesting to see an ass size motif in popular culture over the course of 60 years remain seemingly unchanged.

I suppose that my mind preoccupied itself with this butt issue not only because women’s asses are beautiful but also because I’ve been reading too many discussions about female body image. Authors of several sex blogs have been battling back and forth in attempts to define beauty or to quell the notion that women who resemble toothpicks are the epitome of beauty. I’ve been reading too much Naomi Wolf and her slippery arguments about society defining beauty in only the most detrimental ways for women. In addition, there was a lengthy thread concerning the shaving habits of (mostly) American women at a forum I frequent.

Perhaps as a result of cogitating upon this whole notion of beauty, I’ve come up with an idea for my next erotic short story. It involves a guy who is set up on a blind date with a woman who is, unbeknownst to him, blind. Having sex without the gift of sight must be quite an experience. It’ll be humorous to read what I eventually write. If I approach it from the woman’s POV or in third person, the challenge will be to make it interesting without writing in a “visual manner”. The other senses will have to take over. While I enjoy writing erotica, I find it difficult to create stories that are just simply two people getting together and doing the nasty. It’s too white bread. So I try to throw something off-beat into the mix. A bit of kink or changing POV – anything to be different.

Well, I’m off to pick up Marv and head over to Dogger’s to watch the super-special edition of The Two Towers with all the whoopee bonus footage and eat dinner.
|| Palmer, 2:59 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

21 November, 2003

The Unthinkable?

As Lola says, the nightmare...
|| Palmer, 9:34 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
My First Ever CD Release Party!

Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 14:42:10 -0600 (GMT-06:00)
From: "christine costanzo" {chcostanzo@earthlink.net}
To: ********@yahoo.com
Subject: Christine Costanzo--CD release party

Hi ****,

I just wanted to invite you to my Cd release party this Sunday at Cafe Montmarte (7pm). John Hasbrouck will open up. I'll put you on the guest list.

And thanks again for the reviews--they were my first official ones so I really appreciated them.

Christine

|| Palmer, 9:29 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Objections to Objectivism

After my job interview this afternoon, I stopped at Toad Hill for a nightcap, of sorts. I had some reading material and an craving for caffeine. Upon walking in the door, I found that The Caffeinatrix was holding down the fort. While I don’t recall how, exactly, our conversation turned, at one point, to her father and the fact that he is an Objectivist. Having a pedantic disposition, he never misses a chance to animadvert her ideals and demonstrate the error of her ways.

I felt a lot of sympathy for her as my own father is the same way sans the idolization of Ayn Rand. Luckily for me, my dad decided that his eyes were no longer able to read a few years back so he relies on television as a window into the state of the world. And we all know how shitty television is. In addition, he’s gone crazy so, when I cannot take advantage of his ignorance, I can safely bow out of many arguments by pleading inanity.

The Caffeinatrix objected to Objectivism on the grounds of “sterility”, for want of a better term. She thought such a philosophy was essentially a cop-out. To her, Objectivism effectively removes emotion from the human equation thereby making things easier, as one would not have to become entangled in that complex web of feelings and actions that seemingly defy reason.

Since I personally don’t know any Objectivists and have only read Rand’s Anthem, I feel unqualified to judge her theory. Still, I think she’s probably right that the purging of emotions from any method to be used in determining how one should live is, well, pretty ridiculous. Objectivism gives primacy to reason and rationality, the exercise of these being the sine non qua of the “good life”. This view gives short-shrift to human nature and gives way to a mode of ethics in which finding happiness is the highest moral imperative and can only be achieved by egoism. Personally, I don’t have a problem with being rational or using reason but I do have a problem with maintaining that human nature does not encompass a vista of more than reason. My problem is that rational inquiry into human nature disproves this. For instance, altruistic behavior is not is not a priori irrational and can thusly lead to “genuine” happiness. Rand defines “altruism” in a very suspect manner. Namely, she defines it so as construe that any action taken to benefit oneself is evil. This is patently ridiculous. In other words, Objectivism prescribes the nature of happiness or, at least, gives it very constrictive parameters.

If happiness is only obtained by using knowledge gained by reason, then there’s no room in Objectivism for people who are not fully-formed adults thinking completely rationally. And knowledge itself is suspect. It is forever incomplete and constantly being refined or more of it is uncovered.

Any sense of objectivity in Objectivism dependent upon holding a view of humanity that is very suspect. If happiness is dependent upon the truthfulness of our knowledge, how does Objectivism differ from a philosophy not wholly based upon rationalism?
|| Palmer, 7:15 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Powwow To Celebrate the Crandon Mine Victory

The Forest County Potawatomi Community and the Sokaogon Chippewa Community Mole Lake Band invite you to A Powwow to Celebrate the Crandon Mine Victory.

Powwow to Celebrate the Crandon Mine Victory
Saturday, December 6, 2003
1:00 PM
at the Brown County Arena 1901 S. Oneida Avenue Green Bay
Grand entries 1:00 PM & 7:00 PM Celebration Feast at 5:00 PM

MC - Artley Skenandore Head Male - FCPC Male - Gordon Waube Head Female - Sokaogon Youth - Tashena Van Zile The event will feature 11 invited drums (one from each Wisconsin tribe). Other drums are welcome. Honorariums.

In order to help plan this memorable feast, kindly RSVP to 1-800-241-7053.


|| Palmer, 5:17 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
The Naomi Wolf Myth

Last month, feminist author Naomi Wolf wrote an essay entitled "The Porn Myth" in which she argues that the prevalence of pornography via the Internet has magically transformed men into automatons disinterested in and incapable of enjoying the company of real women. Sex bloggers everywhere went ballistic and returned Wolf’s anecdotal evidence in kind.

After having read Wolf’s essay, I felt the need to laugh. I found her assertions to be hilarious. I’ve never read any of her books and wondered if all of her work is equally facile. Perhaps my expectations were unfair. Seeing as how she is a notable figure on the feminist scene and, perhaps, on the intellectual landscape of the U.S., I thought that she would be able to do something other than spew aphorisms. It’s not that I consider her idea to be beyond the bounds of reason, but rather because I would expect someone with her credentials to present her conclusion as a possibility rather than a truth given the evidence she provides. Had she written, “I’ve noticed on college campuses that some young women are feeling like they cannot compete against pornography for men’s attention. This is disturbing and I wonder if it is indicative of a larger trend...” my inquisitive mind would have jumped into overdrive. What would account for these feelings? How can we find out if it is more widespread? But she didn’t. “The evidence is in: Greater supply of the stimulant equals diminished capacity." Where’s the evidence? What she did was to use an unrepresentative sample of college women and extrapolate from it the workings of all men. If pornography does have such an effect, is it only upon young men? What about, say, a 40 year-old guy? How about non-college educated men? White vs. black vs. Latino? Wolf notes: “In my gym, the 40-year-old women have adult pubic hair; the twentysomethings have all been trimmed and styled.” Is she inferring that 40 year-old men do not view porn? Or that they do but the effect on them is different? Why would this be? This is intellectual treachery and Wolf ought be roundly castigated by everyone regardless on which side of the he or she sits. By ignoring so much she deals a blow to an otherwise much-needed endeavor, feminism. Well, equality feminism.

Women are due equal pay for equal pay, rape is horrendous and must be stomped out, women have the right to pursue a career and not be bound to the home if they so choose, etc. There can be no doubt that feminism generally has achieved some great things and changed our society for the better. But to say something like, “’Beauty’ is a currency system like the gold standard. Like any economy, it is determined by politics, and in the modern age in the West it is the last, best belief system that keeps male dominance intact.” is retarded. It kowtows to the notion that human beings are tabla rasas and denies the ever-increasing evidence of a human nature which is forever engaged in a pas de deux with nurture. Reading Wolf’s tract and some choice quotes, I get the impression that she views all the wrongs in the world as an instant drink – like Tang. Just take men and add pornography.

Such a view has led to some unfortunate consequences which only acts as barriers towards gender equality. For instance, sex has become disassociated from rape. Steven Pinker: “But the fact that rape has something to do with violence does not mean it has nothing to do with sex, any more than the fact that armed robbery has something to do with violence means it has nothing to do with greed.” Related to this are sexual harassment laws and the politically correct notion that looking at a woman is potential harassment. This dehumanizes interaction between men and women and transmogrifies them into a series of sterile Lockean contracts.

The porn myth is really that pornography can do much more than make a guy horny. Wolf’s words are degrading to men because they indicate a belief that men are inherently stupid, unable as we are to distinguish between a picture of a woman and the women we encounter everyday in real life. At best, Wolf implies that men are slaves to, often times, destructive urges and have no self-control. Thusly we are primal and lack the civilizing palliatives of intellect and restraint. That shit didn’t work for describing black people and it doesn’t work for describing men.

Since Wolf provides nothing more than anecdotal evidence to bolster her argument, let’s try a mental exercise. Can we think of any other factor which could be the cause of Wolf’s observations? I find it disturbing that she never actually defines by women not being able to “compete” with porn. She doesn’t even have the courtesy to give us an anecdote. What does this mean? Are young women unable to get dates? Do men deny them physical contact? Do men come out and tell them, “No thanks, you don’t look like Jenna Jameson.”? What competition are these women losing exactly?

So let’s put on our thinking caps and try to imagine other causes for her (debatable) effect. E.g. - could it be the case that abstinence among women in college is up? Think about it, men are constantly in musth at that age and at the most sexually competitive point in their lives. So, if young women are less inclined to have sex, could young men be turning to porn and masturbation as an alternative to never hitting a home run or getting a bad case of blue balls? Again, I present this as merely a hypothesis with no data to bolster it but it stands on the same ground as Wolf’s claims. Similarly, are messages of abstinence and fear of AIDS promoting “safe sex” (ie – masturbation) among men?

Are the women who are doing the complaining speaking of relationships they deem as “serious” or of an inability to get a one-night-stand? Are young college women making demands in their serious relationships that were not made by similar women of Wolf’s generation? Could society-at-large (outside of pornography) being promulgating messages that would discourage sex outside of marriage? Let us here again take into account AIDS and the promotion of “traditional” family values.

Personally, I do not feel that Wolf’s claims are evidence of a larger trend. Even if they were, to paint a simplistic cause and effect relationship as she has done is ludicrous. Like basically everything else in life, a drastic change in a large population would be the result of the interaction of a number of factors working in concert.

Ms. Wolf’s essay is an act of stupidity by someone of obvious intelligence. That she makes conclusions based solely on ill-explained anecdotes is intellectual nonfeasance. It is an atrocity in the fight for gender equality. Such tripe does little to encourage others to take seriously any other ideas she may have which could very well have great merit. Instead of debunking a “porn myth” she merely creates her own.
|| Palmer, 10:54 AM || link || (1) comments | links to this post

20 November, 2003

I Am a Godless Heathen

As I watch footage of the damage wreaked upon Istanbul by the various bombs that exploded there today and of the burning shells of HUMVs in Iraq, I can honestly say I just wish it would end. The whole mess. I want the Iraqis to have their country back, our soldiers out of there, and peaceful bartering for oil to begin. Why do so many people hate Americans? What caused all of this to happen? While I concede that the problem is complex and the causes many, I still can’t help but feel that religion has a primary role in this mess.

The more I think about it, the more I am inclined to agree with Gore Vidal:

”The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal--God is the Omnipotent Father--hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good.”

I am not a militant atheist and have no desire to go around chiding religious folk. Rather, I’m inclined to let people believe in their deity of choice. However silly and degrading to human dignity I find it that a person would actually believe that there’s an old, bearded man in the sky directing the universe, the mere belief is rather benign. It’s when, as Richard Dawkins has pointed out many a time, when religion is a tag foisted by one group upon another that things get messy. It encourages and justifies repugnant actions.

One of my favorite authors, the late Douglas Adams, waxed philosophical on an absurdity in our society:
”…[religion] has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you're not allowed to say anything bad about; you're just not. Why not?--because you're not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday,' you say, "I respect that."”

So what’s an atheist to do? I still have to live with my neighbors and my life would be hell if I went around lambasting their beliefs. On the other hand, giving religion free-reign to label and kill as it pleases is no good either. I suppose I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done – defend myself as the need arises. Unlike some Xtians, we atheists don’t go around to people’s home uninvited prodding them on eschatological issues. So you won’t find me at your door asking if you’ve come to terms with immanent explosion of the Sun in 4 billion years or not. However, if an Xtian comes to my door unannounced and starts asking me whether I’ve accepted Jesus, they can expect holy hell.

The last time this happened, I was coming home from the store. As I was parking, I saw the proselytizers approaching the front door. I took my sweet time in getting out of the car and grabbing my things so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. In my stead, Pete got to speak with them. Upon answering the door, Pete was asked whether or not he’d taken some time that day to think about what’s going to happen to him when the world ends. It having been a weekday evening, he replied that he had not as his mind was busy with more mundane things such as work, bills, and generally dealing with the everyday trials and tribulations of day-to-day living. I would have told them that I won’t be alive in 4 billion years so, no, I haven’t really given thought to the end of our world. And then I would have taken it from there...
|| Palmer, 12:15 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Saruman 86'd

I'm dismayed. I have just read that all footage of Christopher Lee as Saruman in Return of the King has been exorcised. What a bummer. Lee is awesome and his presence in any film in striking. What a shame. He had some great lines in the first two films such as "You will taste man flesh!" Here's the dope from the Beeb:

Lee, 81, who plays the wizard Saruman in the trilogy, said he had expected to appear in seven minutes' worth of climactic scenes.

"Of course I am very shocked, that's all I can say," he told ITV1's This Morning on Wednesday.

Lee fans have now started an online petition to restore the scenes.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm only telling you this because it has been revealed on the internet, someone has talked and it certainly wasn't me," he told the UK TV show.

"If you want to know why you would have to ask the company New Line or director Peter Jackson and his associates because I still don't really know why.

"I can't say any more because I signed a confidentiality agreement and I honoured my word."

Asked if he would attend the première, he said: "No, what's the point? What's the point of going? None at all."

Lee, who also appears as Count Dooku in the Star Wars films, said appearing in the first two Lord of the Rings movie had been "a dream come true".
|| Palmer, 12:11 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Tempests in Teacups and Breaking Butterflies on Wheels

"But the lover of intelligence must be patient with those who cannot readily share his passion. Some pangs the mind will inflict upon the heart. It is a mistake to think that men are united by elemental affections. Our affections divide us. We strike roots in immediate time and space, and fall in love with our locality, the customs and the language in which we were brought up. Intelligence unites us with mankind, by leading us in sympathy to other times, other places, other customs; but first the prejudiced roots of affection must be pulled up."
John Erskine, The Moral Obligation to Be Intelligent

I spent some time a few nights ago engaging in my daily routine of checking email and surfing over to various web sites to keep updated on the activities of my favorite rock bands. I had read last week that Phil Collins was to make a revelation on Monday so I first I went to Genesis' web page to get the straight dope. (He was announcing a farewell tour, of sorts.) After giving the forum there a once over, I headed to Jethro Tull's home on the web. At the top of the page was a link to something Ian Anderson had written about some previous comments of his regarding the American flag. Funny. I hadn't heard anything about any such comments. Hastily, I clicked on the link and read. I was shocked.

Shocked that he felt the need to issue a public apology. So I went out onto the Net and found the full article which has caused the commotion. The part which seems to have stirred the ire of many of my fellow Americans was:

"I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It's easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism."

After having read the article, I felt clueless as to why there was all the hub-ub, Bub. I'm an American and I also happen to live in the Midwest. It seems that I would be a prime candidate for taking offense at the comments. But I took no offense whatsoever. What I did offense at, however, was the knee-jerk reactions of some of my fellow country(wo)men.

The apology echoed sentiments expressed in the interview itself, namely, that he has great respect for Americans and at the end of the statement, Anderson asked fans to share their ideas about what can be done to improve the image of Americans in the eyes of non-Americans. To do so, one could email him directly or go to the message board at Tull's site. Reading the messages, I got the impression that most of the poster were engaged in a concerted effort to avoid any attempt at amelioration. I was hard-pressed to find anything that wasn't rebuttal by epithet.

I would urge my readers to read the article in its entirety and it can be found below. Anyone with even a modicum of intelligence will read the article and understand that his remarks were not anti-American, American bashing, or whatever jingoistic piece of bullshit you want to call it. He clearly states that he has the "highest regard" for the American people in contrast to much of the world. His line of reasoning begins with two problems: 1) A great portion of the world's population hates Americans and 2) that there is a war going on in Iraq which he sees as being unjust. For Anderson, these two problems are intertwined. In addressing the first issue, nowhere does Anderson indicate he has any animosity towards Americans generally. The bit about the flags here people, relates to the perceptions of others, specifically Europeans. He addresses the issue of displaying the flag and contrasts when/where Europeans do so with American displays. Europeans have a slightly different history when compared to us Americans and thusly the exhibition of the flag takes on different meanings for them. Ergo, when every SUV and house in America has a flag waving from it, some people associate this behavior with less than savory elements of humanity's past.

Nowhere does Anderson make any blanket statement about Americans being a bunch of maroons or any such thing. What he does say is that, in order to help their own cause, Americans might think about how the display of the Old Glory is perceived by foreigners. For the long run, what's the best way to get people to not want to fly planes into your buildings? Is it by killing them or putting them into perpetual fear of being killed? Or perhaps by building bridges and understanding one another to reach, at the least, détente?

In the aftermath of 9/11, the company I worked at gave out pins with the American flag on them. It became increasingly rare to find a lapel that was not adorned with such a pin. Outside of the workplace, the flag popped up everywhere, as Anderson noted. Were these people being patriotic? To be sure. Was there also an attendant attitude, on the part of some of these people, that this gave the U.S. carte blanche to, as Ann "Thrax" Coulter said, "...invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity"? Most definitely. For many, even most, I dare say, of my co-workers, shrouding oneself in the flag was like their fulfillment of any perceived sense of civic duty. Trying to understand why terrorists would want to fly planes into the WTC was unnecessary. Looking into the long, tense history of the relationship between Islam and Christianity was unthinkable. For these people, donning the Stars & Stripes was enough. But Anderson is right, it's not enough.

As I read the posts at the Tull message forum, I was saddened. A certain Ryan White finds it necessary to yell "God Bless America" at the end of his posts as well as to label anyone who disagrees with him a "liberal". He goes on in one post to generalize about all of these so-called "liberals" by saying that they love to commit "ad hominum" (sic) attacks only to finish his comments by labeling another poster a "moron". Aside from Mr. White's blatant lack of intelligence, two things disturbed me greatly. The first was the prevalent attitude that, once Osama bin Laden is brought to justice or killed, the terrorist problem is effectively solved. This is curing a symptom but not the cause. Terrorists are not born, they're made. Al-Queda is not the lone repository of people willing to kill Americans. This is what Anderson was alluding to in his comments. No one person is the cause of anti-American sentiment in the world thusly it's gonna take a long time and the efforts of millions, including we Americans, to change the situation. For better or for worse, the United States is the most powerful country on this planet. By saying, "These are powerful forces that folks are playing with. To have that power is something you can't take lightly. You have to realize there are people out there whose lives you may affect by what you do.", Anderson is imploring the American government to take on the role of a steward and not that of a bully. His opinion on the matter hasn't changed since 1978 when he said: "That's one thing money buys: the right to acquire responsibility for things or people or animals or whatever."

To answer his question about what can be done, I would say that the most important thing is for Americans to be intelligent.

1) Approach those who are different than you as a chance to learn something, to experience something new.
2) If you go abroad, don't rush to the nearest McDonalds, for Christ's sake. Be open-minded and engage the local culture.
3) Think critically for a change and don't believe everything you hear. Just because CNN or Faux News says something doesn't mean it's so. Did you really lose your job to a foreigner or are you taking Rush Limbaugh's word for it?
4) Understand that what we Americans do collectively has an impact around the world. Pollution does not discriminate upon whom it has effects.
5) Realize that a government and its people are distinct in many ways.
6) Stop calling people with whom you disagree names as a first resort.
7) Stop thinking that 9/11 was the worst fate to befall a nation ever. It wasn't. So quit bitching about any perceived lack of sympathy from the rest of the world. We Americans have no problem drowning ourselves in schadenfreude when it comes to our own. Witness Martha Stewart, Michael Jackson, et al It was a tragedy whose causes go beyond OBL and we have to comprehend this to make sure it never happens again.
|| Palmer, 9:04 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
The Genesis of the Controversy

The following is an interview with Ian Anderson, leader of the band Jethro Tull printed in the Asbury Park Press. Some of the more ascerbic sentiments expressed herein brought the opprobrium of many flag-waving Americans down upon him. Anderson has since written a clarification and apology which can be found at Tull's web page.

The Interactive Ian Anderson
By Mark Voger, Staff Writer

"Americans are in a dreadful pickle at the moment, being they're the villains of the planet as far as roughly half the population of the world is concerned. Half the world pretty much hates Americans."

Ian Anderson -- the Scottish-born, English-bred singer-songwriter who usually leads Jethro Tull, but is now in the midst of a thought-provoking solo tour -- insists he isn't America bashing. He's just telling it like it is.

Anderson will admit, though, to being less than a fan of President Bush -- or British Prime Minister Tony Blair, for that matter.

"Bush and Blair haven't got the faintest clue what a real war is," Anderson says. "As a couple of guys who have at their disposal considerable forces in the way of weapons of mass destruction, it seems somewhat cynical to be engaging in an act of invasion on foreign soil without the sanction of the international community and with guns blazing. Frankly, I hope both of them have an early demise."

Why is the flute-twirling rocker behind the '70s FM classics "Aqualung," "Locomotive Breath" and "Bungle in the Jungle" suddenly waxing political? Actually, it isn't so sudden. Anderson has always been that most rare of rockers -- an articulate one -- as evidenced by his lyrics, interviews and song introductions. His "Rubbing Elbows With Ian Anderson" tour, coming to Red Bank on Friday, is the musician's chance to finally let it rip verbally.

In each city, Anderson will invite a local radio or TV personality and several audience members to join him onstage for an evening of conversation and music. There'll be Q&As, acoustic performances of Tull songs and, most interestingly, a local musician performing an original song backed by Anderson's band.

The format sounds either novel or nutty. Anderson says it can be a little of both. "It is very much an improvised situation," he says. "It works around a format, but we don't know what the content is going to be. We try and find a local singer-songwriter who can get up on stage and is looking for a good backing group for the evening. We try to fulfill that need."

How did Anderson come to create the format?
Says the musician: "As a direct result of 35 years of doing radio station visits and the occasional TV thing, you do build up a catalog of experiences. I thought it would be interesting to take that visit as a guest in somebody else's domain, turn it around and bring the radio guys into my world. And to give the audience -- rather than the radio listener or TV viewer -- the opportunity to participate to some little extent in the show."

Anderson meets with the local radio or TV personalities on show days to go over the format. "It's important that they're relaxed," he says. "The first two or three minutes of the show are rough, because they're a little anxious walking out in front of a live audience. Even though many of them have done this before, it's usually limited to, 'Hey, Cleveland, let's hear it for Jethro Tull!' You know, the rabble-rousing DJ moment that you get before a lot of rock concerts. "But beyond that, to actually have to think and provide intelligent commentary and take questions from the audience is something they may not be used to."

A Missed Rehearsal
The musical guests present a different set of challenges. "So far, it's all worked out apart from one person," Anderson recalls. "He was supposed to be there for 5 o'clock rehearsal to run through his song, which we'd carefully written out and learned. At the last minute, we were informed, 'You know, I can't get off work 'til 7 p.m.' "At 7 p.m., the doors open and the audience walks in the theater! It's a little bit late. So that poor, unfortunate guest couldn't make it. Luckily, we had a stagehand, a girl who just happened to be a singer-songwriter. With about five minutes of quick rehearsal, she was shoehorned into the show. She was great.

"It's really rewarding to see these folks' faces light up when they finish their song. I mean, it's a mixture of relief, abject terror and sort of orgasmic release. "It's been always a great little part of every show, giving our musical guest the opportunity to feel good for four minutes. And then," Anderson adds with a laugh, "back to their wretched, miserable, struggling-musician lives."

Anderson's co-host in Red Bank will be Terrie Carr, program director at WDHA in Cedar Knolls. "It sounds like it's going to have almost like a 'Storytellers' vibe," Carr says (referring to the VH1 program of that title). "Ian's such an intelligent, witty guy. I'm looking forward to the spontaneity of it."

The musical talent will be Jeff Gaynor, Dumont, who gigs in the Bergen County area. "Over the moon doesn't begin to describe it," Gaynor says of his response to this opportunity. "Ian Anderson is one of my greatest musical heroes. Just to meet him would have been incredible, but to actually perform with him is beyond description."

The question of which topics emerge during the "Rubbing Elbows" chat segments is what sets Anderson off on a diatribe about the ongoing American-led war in Iraq. "I like to sound the audience out a little bit," Anderson says. "I usually bring your president into the conversation at some point, and perhaps Tony Blair. I like to hear the audience divided, as they always are, over the pros and cons of Bush policy and the Iraq so-called war."

Anderson scoffs. "I mean, you know, to call it a war is to attempt to dignify a spurious invasion as something that sounds rather grand. As a career-molding war for you-know-who. I mean, to call it a war is just a disgrace. "But that's not an area that I go into in any depth (during the shows). For a lot of people, that's dangerous talk, because they are keen supporters of flag-waving nationalism and, dare I say, retribution and revenge, which is what they see this as being. I find that utterly deplorable.

"I hate to see the American flag hanging out of every bloody station wagon, out of every SUV, every little Midwestern house in some residential area. It's easy to confuse patriotism with nationalism."

Overseas View
This, Anderson warns, is one reason America has become unpopular overseas. "Unfortunately, the way the world sees it," Anderson says, "we don't look kindly on the flag-waving stuff anymore. In Europe, the only time you see flag-waving is at soccer games when people beat the (excrement)out of each other. A lot of flag-waving goes on there. "But most of the time, we keep the flag-waving out of normal society these days, because we know that it just engenders old animosities -- we old Europeans who are a little sadder and wiser as a result of having the (excrement) beaten out of us a number of times, and our cities and national monuments destroyed. We're probably a little more sanguine about this than the very sensitive American psyche, which has not experienced or had to endure these offenses on its home turf."

Some Americans may disagree in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, though 56-year-old Anderson is referring to the bombing of England and other European countries during World War II.

'Good Ambassadors'
"I sympathize with the American people," he says, "who I have the highest regard for as being warm, invitational and mostly pretty good ambassadors around the world. The fact that they, we, count them as being the bad guys -- flag-waving ain't gonna do it.

"We have to work over the next two or three generations, not the next two or three months or two or three years. We're talking about a multi-generational, skillfully worked job of re-education, of stepping out into the world gently and showing a kinder and a more human face. We have to correct the misunderstandings. We have to correct the prejudices. And we won't correct them by sending in the tanks and the guns and the bombs and the missiles. We are all going to have to learn that sad lesson -- that what was done in Iraq is the wrong thing. We had Saddam Hussein pretty much under control. The lesser of evils at the time was to play the game; send the weapons inspectors back in; do the stuff via the United Nations. To do what was done by Blair and Bush is, I think, a great sin for which I suspect both of them will pay in terms of career and reputation in the way that it is written up in history.

But some folks, just like Sigfried and Roy, will do anything for the show-biz buzz. And the show-biz buzz of being out there doing the big, spectacular Las Vegas show with a bunch of poor animals -- you know, so Bush and Blair will do the same thing for the different buzz that comes with the power of political leadership.

"These are powerful forces that folks are playing with. To have that power is something you can't take lightly. You have to realize there are people out there whose lives you may affect by what you do."
|| Palmer, 8:55 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

19 November, 2003

Porn Shui

Porn Shui: noun, refers to the art of positioning oneself in one's office or cubicle so that one can surf porn undetected. Usage: "I have great porn shui- I face the hallway and the desk behind me is vacant."
|| Palmer, 12:10 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

17 November, 2003

Mortal Coils

If I have to endure another commercial for that fucking Green Acres retread, I'm gonna puke. Yeah, the blondes have nice bodies that fit their skimpy wardrobes well but the show itself looks absolutely fucking retarded. One can only wonder who's going to come off looking worse: the spoilt rich girls or the hick family that takes them into their home. I heard about the whole Paris Hilton homemade porno video thing so I went out and found some of it on the Net. Whoopie fucking do. The bits I saw were all shot using only the light on the camera and in low-light mode so it looks like the footage of Jessica Lynch's rescue.

I called the headhunter in Chicago and setup an interview for Wednesday morning. So the plan is to head down there early, do the interview and then slum around until the evening when I can go see Bubba Ho-Tep. I've been waiting literally years to see it and now the chance is within my grasp. I have to say that the odds of this guy finding something for me is good. He asked if I had any experience with Lotus Notes so I assume that some client down there is dying for someone to support it. Well, I did support it but no expert am I. More locally, I applied for a few positions here in Madtown yesterday and I received notice from one IT manager that he'd received my resume and an Affirmative Action form from the state which I hastily filled out and returned. I also snail mailed a copy of my resume to another place. So it's back to the waiting game.

I traded a few emails with Miss Rosie today. In one, I related to her how Toad Hill had been burglarized and in her reply she remarked that my neighborhood is turning into "little Mexico". What the fuck?!? What has she got against Mexicans? Her racist bullshit is something I would not miss if I moved. In another email, Gene told me that his father had been admitted to the hospital and the doctor gave him a few days to live.

Tears welled in my eyes as I read those words and I just stared at the floor for a while trying to comprehend something but I wasn't really sure what. It isn't my father that faces a new home in the firmament blue but it really hit me nonetheless. Hours later, I still feel like something inside me has gone missing. Man, it's gonna be a loooong winter.
|| Palmer, 6:38 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Rush to Judgment

This quote is attributed to Rush Limbaugh: "There's nothing good about drug use. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. And the laws are good because we know what happens to people in societies and neighborhoods which become consumed by them. And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."

This being the case, Rush should vouluntarily submit to being sent up. If he had a single shred of integrity, he'd walk into his local courthouse with hands extended pleading to be put in jail for the good of society. I haven't listened to his show but there can be little doubt that money and whiteness can squash any estoppel.
|| Palmer, 6:35 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

16 November, 2003

I Am Not P.J. Crook

I'm really getting into the work of P.J. Crook. Her work is definitely surreal. (I love how "Expresso" tips a hat to Magritte.) Don't get me wrong, it also concedes to naturalism, but only just. There is perspective but it's rigid and angular. And I love how faces are more impressionistic than realistic. Times like these really make me wish I had even one artistic bone in my body.
|| Palmer, 9:29 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Libby's-Libby's-Libby's On the Video-Video-Video

It's good to see that the kids that have replaced me and my friends at the UW have upheld our tradition of drunken debauchery. It may be a bit of Internet Legend, but the Elizabeth Heller, aka Libby Hoeler, story is classic. Libby's story can be found here. I am pleased that porn being produced in Dormland. Ogg still sucks.
|| Palmer, 8:46 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post
Wherefore Art?

I found the Extreme VR section of Pillow Fight Bloodbath to be highly amusing. It's one of those Quicktime VR hoolies where you get a view of a room and can turn 360° and zoom in and out. The site was concocted by conceptual artist Mary DeSade who purports that the work "...delves into the psychology of the modern woman dealing with the pressures of beauty and conformity in the new Millennium." The work of art at hand involves a bedroom inhabited by three scantily clad women who have a pillow fight which devolves into a bloodbath. The action is divided into multiple scenes each of which allows for a modicum of interaction by the viewer. Namely, you get to control the actions of the women whether it be undressing or stabbing.

Being fairly well-educated, yet a non-woman, I approached the piece thinking that I could glean something of artistic merit from the Extreme VR section. But I could not. Perhaps I need to view multiple VRs in order to get the point. For now, though, it's just high tech camp - a softcore Tarantino bit of pr0n. At least there were no men involved to take the brunt of any attacks for imposing any sort of standards or pressuring women to conform. Still, I saw nary a trace of pressure on the women. I can only presume we're to have taken a whole slew of things as read.

I spent most of yesterday over at Dogger's playing D&D. Severus, my cleric, kicked ass and took names. They're gonna write songs about him, I tells ya.

I went over to my local coffeehouse this morning before getting my Sunday paper. I pulled into the parking lot to find a cop car in the nearest stall. I parked myself and went in the door. Toby was standing by the far wall engrossed in a phone conversation. As I walked in, I noticed her afflicted countenance and it did not change into the customary smile as I approached her. I then noticed that the display case was completely empty. Vicki had a similar look on her face as Toby did and she patiently explained that, in the wee hours of this morning, they were robbed.

Some jackasses pried out the deadbolt on the front door. Their booty? A clutch of CDs, a tray of pastries, and some quarters. Unfucking real. I felt so bad. Toad Hill doesn't exactly bring in millions. Although Toby must have felt just awful, it hit me a bit too. I mean, it's not just a coffee shop, it's like my Cheers, ya know? It felt like my life was invaded too. Fucking shit bags. I need to form a posse. Let's hang these fuckers on the Capital Square.

I saw Master and Commander a couple days ago. Good flick. Pete thought it was da bomb. Then again, he's read the books and was in the Marines. The action scenes were cool. It was rather neat to hear the loud thud of the cannonballs on the wood instead of the normal explosions. My only complaints were that the surround sounds was not utilized very well and that there should have been more scenes chronicling the relationship between Aubrey and Maturin. Their dialogue aluded to elements of their close friendship in a manner that assumed the audience was familiar with them. Still, the film was great and the battle scenes were not cluttered with overly-dramatic music.

I watched XX/XY this afternoon. It was a big to-do earlier this year at the Wisconsin Film Festival but I missed it then. Honestly, I don't see what the big deal was. Sure, there was a good buildup of tension between Coles and two of the women but I wasn't convinced that there really was such a great attraction between Coles and Sam. I mean, upon what was their love based? Christ, the film was only 90 minutes so you'd think they coulda spent a little more time developing their relationship. Plus Coles was annoying and not in an interesting character kinda way. Well, tomorrow I'll watch Spider, David Cronenberg's last flick. Oh, I also snagged a DVD of a King Crimson show. I'm surprised Bob Fripp allowed himself to be taped. "THRAK" was so fucking cool. How can you go wrong with 6 guys hammering out 24 carat dissonance and chaos?
|| Palmer, 8:19 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

15 November, 2003

My Head Sounds Like This

While I've had much to say the past few days, none of it is really worthwhile. SOS, honestly. How to summarize the past week?

Well, Ich hab nach dem Bibliotek gegangen. I snagged a 2-DVD set entitled American Roots Music only to find that the first DVD was nearly unplayable. Quite a shame too because the second was kosher and fucking awesome! They dug out some cool performances of Howlin' Wolf, among others. The gospel bit was really great to watch as my knowledge of gospel is quite lacking. My biggest - no, my two biggest problems with the program were that 1) Kris Kristofferson narrated and 2) it was too short. Nothing personal against Kristofferson. I mean, he was great in Lone Star, has written some great music, et al, but his narration was just so monotone that it almost came across as being wholly dispassionate. And each episode, of which there were four, was only ~50 minutes apiece. Come fucking on, people!! If we're gonna give Ken-fucking-Burns 40 days and 40 nights to tell us about jazz, we can give the makers of this film at least as long for an overview of all American folk music. Shit, people like Muddy Waters, Woody Guthrie, and the Carter Family deserve episodes unto themselves. Still, there were some really neat performances and the history was fascinating.

I must also give kudos to Black Starz who showed another Robert Mugge documentary this week concerning the life of Robert Johnson. While it was good, it was not great. The movie centered around a tribute to Johnson at the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame so the footage tended to be taped at the museum or in the Cleveland area. While the ceremonies, lectures, and performances there were certainly deserving of inclusion, I found myself waiting for someone or something to happen in Mississippi. Or just anywhere outside of Ohio. The limited locations gave a rather claustrophobic feel to the proceedings, as if Johnson's influence extended only to one state and primarily white scholars. There was almost no sense of his presence felt in music until the late 90s when the museum did its spiel. Little to no archival footage from the 60s or 70s or 80s.

The performances were, overall, really good. The first was from Alvin Youngblood Hart and he was followed by Guy Davis. Then Rory Block showed up. Yeah, I'm probably being highly unfair as I've only heard her album, I'm Every Woman, which, excepting a song or two, was god-awful. But my perception of her is perhaps forever tainted by her decision to throw a disco song on that album so, when she does acoustic blues, my Poseur Detector™ sounds a warning klaxon. Despite all of my complaints, it was still great to watch a documentary about music that bore no resemblance to a Behind the Music soap opera. Now all that's left is for me to head down to the junction of Highways 61 and 49 to sell my soul to the Devil.

Books. I took out some books as well. One was an aborted attempt to find the context for John Watson's "beggar-man, a thief" quote but I was fooled by the title. So it's off to the Internet to find it. I also snagged George Steiner's treatise on Antigones from which Pinker quoted. When I borrowed it, I wasn't sure if I was actually going to read it in its entirety or just give it a once over. After having, skimmed over it, I'm just gonna take it back cuz it looks to be a long, boring academic treatise. You know that when you open a book to a random page and find yourself mired in Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard, it's time to move on. Now, if he'd dragged Kant into the fray more, then we'd have had sumpin. Oh, I also found a history of Sacred Harp singing. That's a keeper, despite it's rather academic tone. Nowhere near as Buckley-like as Steiner. Besides, where the hell else can you turn for such information? Methinks it's the only text ever written on the subject. But it will have to come after The Land Where the Blues Began. I finally found Lomax's book! I'm a third or so of the way through it and it's really fantastic! Sometimes it's difficult to believe the racism and the institutions that kept it in place were going full steam ahead fifty years ago. Christ, from reading this book, you'd think the Civil War never happened. Fucking crackers. Lomax recounts getting in trouble with the police for going to visit a sharecropper and came under suspicion for having shaken the hand of a black man. Then he gets a verbal assault for having addressed a black man as "Mister" So-And-So.

"Sociatin with niggers," said one cop. "Whyn't you take all this nigger crap back where you came from?" asked another. Nigger this and nigger that. Fucking inbred cracker fucks. At least I didn't witness any of that when I was down South. Mom mightn't seen her son 'gen.

Shit. I'm starting to write like Southerners talk. That shit ain't right. Why don't I use more Latin? OK. I also snagged some CDs from the friendly folks at the library. I was looking forward to the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble disc the most as I had decided to listen to Plus From Us in the car that morning. While it sounded good, I found that I had fallen in love with Spirit of the Century by the Blind Boys of Alabama. "Run On a Long Time" is on there and so I figured that I'd start with it. Ya know, this one of the few instances in which I was more familiar with a group's live repertoire than their studio output. Holy Mary Mother of Jesus!! The Grammy™ this album won was completely deserved. Honestly, it's unfucking real. Even the non-traditional songs were brilliant. For the most part, you couldn't tell them apart. Still, the highlight for me is the old spiritual, "Soldier". David Lindley plays a catchy oud riff while Danny Thompson's bass chugs along underneath. It's kinda weird to hear white boys play as well as they do. Simply amazing. I'm beginning to regret not having seen them earlier this week for what would have been my third time. Who knows how I would have reacted to being in another stodgy, white audience. The last one was so fucking white bread that it quickly became unfunny. Where the hell was anyone who actually wanted to dance? Fucking yuppie scum.

"Ah yes, jolly good negro music."

Christ, I hope that when I'm in my 40s, someone kills me if I have a front row seat at a gospel concert and just sit there on my ass the whole time. Fuck, go to the symphony if you want that. Gospel works on non-cerebral levels too, ya know. Personally, I don't believe the whole thing that The Rite of Spring caused a riot when it premiered. No fucking way. There's just no way that a bunch of aristocrats could have the energy to do such a thing. Certainly good music never stirred them to move many muscles. I bet all they did was frown. OK, maybe they gave the old thumbs-down or some such thing but there's no fucking way a bunch of lords and ladies in their prim and proper attire is gonna risk expressing themselves too physically. I wanna see the pictures. It was only 90 years ago - someone's gotta have snaps of the event.

I think that rant was the product of a line of thought I had one night this week. For some reason, I was pissed off at the world so I decided to let my mind go off on classical music. Hey, I enjoy classical music but even I find the notion that it represents the pinnacle of human musical creativity to be as absurd as Al Sharpton. I completely concede that, say, Beethoven's 9th is a fucking work of genius. You won't get an argument outta me about this. BUT to say that such a work is as good as it gets, that it and its brethren can never be topped is utter tosh. You've gotta wonder about a race that has serious arguments about whether abstract music is better than programme music.

Not being a member of an orchestra much less possessing the ability to play an instrument other than the skin flute, I often wonder whether classical musicians find it disturbing to play before an audience that remains totally silent and still. I mean, for an audience member, an orchestral performance is about 3 hours of sitting motionless and not uttering a peep. Why dress to the nines if all you're gonna do is sit there while everyone else stares into a tuxedoed void? I'm not saying that many people are gonna wanna get up and shake their thang to Schoenberg but, hey, it's their prerogative. If you pay $100 for a seat you should be allowed to dance as you please.

Musically, it must be odd to view musicians who do nothing but perform other people's music as being the best a culture has to offer. It's not to diminish the ability of classical musicians as they are bleeding talent, to be sure, but, fuck, they'll really impress me when they compose something. How much respect does one deserve for being able to play something when you're given a score?

"Here, just play these bits."

They get fucking cheat-sheets! Imagine a professor handing out such things during class. Kind of defeats the point, doesn't it? It's fine to replicate the work of others but how am I supposed to believe that it's high art if the performer doesn't actually impose some of themselves onto the art?

Sometimes I feel bad for the percussionists in an orchestra because they don't get to play much and, when they do, it's usually one note on a triangle in the last few bars in the last movement of a piece. They stand there surrounded by tympanis, tubular bells, drums, xylophones, marimbas - just an array of percussion instruments - and they only get to hit them once an hour. Shit, I bet percussionists were thrilled when shit like The Rite of Spring and Carmina Burana came out. "Fuck, we finally get to beat the shit out of this stuff!" Before then, how often do you think drums heads were replaced? Probably not very. How about triangles? I'm sure the ones from Verdi's time still work just tits. Might have to scrape off a bit of rust but they haven't suffered from use, I'll bet.

Alright, I'm through ranting. Wait, no I'm not. Well, maybe. What does all of this have to say about the consumers of classical music? All those well-to-do folk with their tuxes and furs - why do they scoff at music not written by long-dead European men? My mother has a few cousins who generally fit into this category. Western art music is it. Well, they do give some pop music a chance. But just some. After all Leonard Bernstein did give his seal of approval to The Beatles. Another thing I don't understand is that they tend to consider the modern era of classical music to be trite and uninteresting. For them, once the Romantic era ended, so did the production of truly "good" music. Copeland may have written some catchy ditties but he's not to be taken seriously. Choda was that way. (Admittedly, I generally agree with such people that minimalist work by people such as Philip Glass and John Adams is pretty boring but even they have some great music - witness Fearful Symmetries by the latter.) I want one of these people to explain to me what exactly makes the Grand Canyon Suite so pedestrian. Such people tend to be so atavistic as to be annoying. This partly explains, perhaps, why I am so loathe to attend family gatherings. None of this is to say, however, that they generally don't hold fairly progressive views. That is, none of them would make a good plantation owner in the antebellum South. They all seem to hold it true that men are created equal yet they hold a very imperialist cultural attitude. Christ, it took me seemingly forever to rid myself of it.

For better or for worse, my effort to move to Chicago comes along fairly well. I sent my resume with a Chicago address to a headhunting firm down there and they called me the same day. Now, that is very queer. It only took them a few hours to respond instead of days. The question becomes whether I wanna go through all the trouble of moving down there to be a fucking contractor out in Gurnee or some such place. Put me downtown, for fuck's sake. I don't wanna work in the burbs if I can help it. Jump on the el and I'm there. I dread having to get caught up in the rush hour mess. (I pick Gurnee because Manpower has like 80 hell desk positions open in that joint. I have no idea what company is located there.) I can handle being stuffed like a sardine in a subway car for a stretch - I've done it many a time. But having to waste gas and deal with assholes behind the wheels of SUVs going 100MPH is not a thought I relish. Still, once I get a place, I think that things would settle down dramatically and getting back into a fun routine wouldn't take long.

I've been perusing roommate listings on the Net. A lesbian had posted an ad to share an apt over on Hamlin back in the Irving Park neighborhood. There would be a certain surreality to living in my old neighborhood again. I'd be a hop, skip, and a jump away from Irving Park School. My cousin Steve lives around there as do a trio of my mom's cousins who are classical music snobs. At least my brother's place would just be a short bus ride up the street.
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