The Mrs. is designing and selling shirts again for the summer and fall festivals. This is her Obama shirt.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Arrived at Parkton property still groggy 45 minutes later and set to work clearing brush and spraying poison ivy. Took a team of four of us 8 hours to clear the required overgrown plants: brambles, kudzus, sticker bushes, poison oak, ghetto palms, raspberry, blackberry, and mulberry bushes. I displaced several bird's nests, and the former residents were none too pleased about it either. A mockingbird set up a ruckus when he returned to the bush which previously housed his now downed nest and found only a pile of old rubbish in a burn-pile. I also displaced many toads, snakes, frogs, and at least one opossum. And butterflies. The berries were really tasty, however, and I picked and ate them before cutting, slashing, and stomping them to hell.
Any time I think to myself I might be getting tired of City life and be ready to head on back to the peace and quiet of country living, I shall put in a good eight hours clearing brush and raking and bagging dried grass and getting bug-bit 'n such.
Now I'm off to band rehearsal with actual blisters on my fingers from the rake, the shears, and the hedgetrimmer.
I suppose a body might find this here book adequately enjoyable, if'n of course a body don't mind the propensity of its author to include a large number of stretchers. Of course the stretchers tend to make the book more worth the effort of reading letters, which can strain the best of us. I know I laughed oftener and more fully reading it this time than I did when I read it last time for school.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The first season of the new BSG was excellent, the second season was pretty good, and the third season continued the erosion of my opinion from superlative through unenthusiastic positive and into "whatever." Friends and I used to watch Days of Our Lives at the pizza place in college because the opportunities for clever and contemptuous derision were hard to resist (and because of Kirsta Allen). Some of the episodes of BSG III approach that degree of stupidity. Increasingly the show suffers from the time-honored traps of sci-fi TV: three familiar characters and a nobody end up on the planet's surface. Gee--I wonder who will get blown away by Cylons? More than a third of the episodes in season III are true turkeys, and the grand finale is as ridiculous as anything involving Billie and Sami and Victor Kiriakis. I'm tired of the love interest plot-lines, the identity tricks, and New Agey spirituality. And I'm sure I'll be complaining about season IV too.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I had the great privilege to see Carlin live in the '80s, in of all places York, Pennsylvania. Leon Redbone was the opening act. Carlin did the 7 words of course, and a great routine about martial language and metaphor in conventional political and sports talk.
Not only did I score that glass-front bookcase--a type most antique stores would charge $500 for--for a measly $85, but I also scored a gigantic ornate Nouveau double-wide bookcase for an appallingly cheap $95. I'd been planning to bid up to $200 on the single bookcase. And then I went nuts on stuff nobody else seemed interested in, like a three-piece Danish Modern bedroom set in marvelous condition, which I got for less than $90 total, and a small desk for $10, and two Danish Modern chairs for $5, and a marble-top corner table for $5. Gold jewelry and diamond rings and old coins went cheap, but I didn't even bid on that stuff.
I'm going again next month to get some rugs.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Bruno Schulz was murdered by the Nazis along with 150 other townspeople in Drogobych, and left behind only a few short stories and some unpublished work which was lost during the global cataclysm that took his life.
There is nothing like this collection of short stories. One could make comparisons to Kafka, Calvino, Borges, etc. But there truly is nothing like The Street of Crocodiles. The stories are the glorious and saintly ravings of a divine fool, as if Jacob Boehme decided to craft brief fictions. I read them at the beach in one morning atop the ground-down remnants of ancient sea creatures and surf-smoothed rock and ignored the people, birds, and waves.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
The Mrs. got a day off tomorrow so we're headed to Rehoboth Beach for three days. Got a room a block from the boardwalk for surprisingly cheap--guess there are lots of empties what with the economy in the tank and all.
Here's a big thanks to Dame Fortuna for giving us an opportunity to have a weekend away.
K'wali got hooked in with some filmmakers who did a 48-hour short film contest. Obviously he's the star of the show. Klezma said "I'll never get those six minutes of my life back," but I've seen much worse. "Going Campy" has its...moments? ...charms? ...?
Unfortunately we missed the big premiere at The Charles because we had dinner with my folks in PA.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
You never know where Coover's randy imaginings will take you. In Pricksongs and Descants there are circus freaks, shepherds on the lam* from techno modernity, pedestrians trapped under vehicles after horrid accidents, and characters familiar from Grimm's tales.
Often the stories are experimental, but never in a gimmicky way. Often they are thigh-slappingly funny and ribald to boot. Good stuff. "The Babysitter" and "Quenby and Ola, Swede and Carl" are oft-anthologized for good reason.
*I admit it: pun intended.
I have a plan for my two months off. I want to work on my French every day and get it in shape so I can take the Praxis exam and be certified to teach two subjects. I also want to refresh long-lost Latin skills, and continue building a vocabulary of Tagalog words and phrases. And perhaps pick up where I left off in Arabic.
I want to get in mad physical shape too. If I'm spending at least another year at The Booker I want young people to see me and think "Gulp! I am not fucking off in that guy's room." I want to get back to running 6 or 7 miles at a pop, where I was two years ago before hurting my foot.
I want to read two or three hundred pages every day. I want to meditate. I want to make day-trips to Philly, NYC, DC, and Pittsburgh to visit museums. I want to sharpen my guitar playing.
I want to clean out and re-organize all the kitchen cabinets, which have become ridiculously haphazard in just one year at our new place. There are cans of refried beans mixed in amongst the glasses and tea cups. The food processor has bits and pieces located in six or seven different places. The silverware drawer has been lost to an invasion of hair ties, rubber bands, expired batteries, and tiny packets of cheap ketchup, duck sauce, and insect repellent spritzers.
This is day 3 of time off. I have done exactly nothing but think about my goals. Of course I hurt my back last Saturday so I can't do much--and Cha's car blew up and she's using mine so I can't sally forth and buy things I need to tidy the house. I have watched a film in French without subtitles and done some reading. But it's time to get serious about leisure.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Though the "action" of the film is often constrained by the one-eyed and motionless POV of its grievously hurt narrator, Julian Schnabel's painterly guidance keeps the viewer engaged by highlighting the beauty we often ignore in our surroundings: a sunlit curtain moving in the breeze, the play of light through tears, a surreptitious glimpse of breast or thigh.
Of course the film's uplifting focus is the power of memory and imagination to overcome disability, but The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is still terribly sad. I'd like to mention my favorite moments but don't want to spoil anything.
A special nod to Max von Sydow, who is as great here as he has always been.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
THE BPA - THE BPA 'TOE JAM' FEAT. DAVID BYRNE & DIZZEE RASCAL from Fabio Resende on Vimeo.This cheeky video from David Byrne reminded me of an old John Cleese routine from the Secret Policeman's Other Ball. I couldn't find the original but here is a re-enactment (the announcer says at the beginning "They are naked and they dance":
Friday, June 13, 2008
Nicholson Baker writes the strangest little books. This one is about an odd fixation developed over John Updike and the influence of Updike and how Updike affects Baker's writing and ideas about what writers should be. It's often hilarious, because Baker has this obsession but really hasn't read much of Updike at all, including most of the novels, and yet certain mis-remembered images and passages from Updike's stories and essays have stuck with him. He also remembers his mother reading Updike and laughing her ass off.
Baker often creates characters with strange and startling obsessions. I think of the time-stopping pornographically-minded serial ejaculator in The Fermata, or the zany wannabe Bush assassin in Checkpoint. Great characters who go off on great Stanley Elkin rants. Here Baker himself goes off on great luxurious rants.
I liked U and I but would recommend it only for those like myself who are mired in the pseudo-intelligentsia, afraid or otherwise unwilling to read more complicamated fare at this time.
And re Updike, check out Gore Vidal's "Rabbit's Own Burrow" for an unapologetic and contemptuous dismissal of Updike's popular novels about Rabbit Angstrom.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Uh, I backed out of a good high school job because you offered me a firm contract. D'oh. Now I'm fucked.
So this morning to avoid getting sent just anywhere in the Baltimore School System I re-signed at Booker T. Looks like my time there ain't over yet.
West Side Forever, beeyotches!
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
I'd read and admired Crace before--Quarantine was the novel, and it ranks as my fave Jesus novel after Robert Graves' King Jesus. The stories in Continent are reminiscent of the work of other fabulists like John Hawkes, Calvino, Hrabal, or Borges. The stories are peculiar and deliciously mysterious. Crace's world is more than a little bit different from the one we inhabit, but is absolutely convincing. The book is only 140pages long but I spent several days savoring it.
Monday, June 09, 2008
8th grade graduation tomorrow in the auditorium is going to be a sweaty mess.
I packed books and pushed desks and chairs into piles in the corner. Then they closed the school for teachers due to heat and we went to Chipotle. Tomorrow we wrap everything up for the 8th graders and after that it's simply packing up and cleaning until Friday. Then, a couple months of glorious freedom.
One of the fashionistas made a poster for Lukie. It had a drawing of me in the corner. A huge speech balloon over my head said: "Yo, I'm Mr. G. BE QUIET!" Over a drawing of Lukie the speech balloon said: "Don't talk about my big sloppy booty."
Saturday, June 07, 2008
To everyone who came out to see our first gig with the new MLS line-up, a big Thank You!
Thanks to Cha for talking me into saying yes to this. I didn't think I had the chops for it, but like that old song says, she believed in me and made me give it a try.
Seamus United was out in full force and it was a sight to behold. Thanks gang.
A posse of drunken inner-city school teachers helped me deal with stage jitters by yelling my name and the words "you rock" even when I fucked up badly.
My family--you guys are the best! I love you.
And thanks to Silenus, K'wali and Klezma, Chuckles, Yo! Adrienne, Leni, Scott, and Perry, The Bus, Flea and J3553, Gypsy Girl for the shot of bourbon when I needed it most, and of course Yahtzee who's my main man. And King Raj--he brought the new bandmembers gifts. What a sweetheart. If there's anyone I'm forgetting I apologize. Thanks everyone for your support.
Thanks to the band who are all infinitely better at this sort of thing than I, and thanks in particular to Earthdragon for giving me the chance to live a teenage dream of playing live music and having people dance and shout and cheer. What fun.
And to Shaun the sound dude--You are The Man. That was a lot of work, and we appreciate your help and it would have been a much more daunting task without you.
There were some great moments last night. The return of cello was a huge hit, and everyone I spoke to said Kristen was awesome. She IS awesome. And Mark? I thought Mick O'Shea's shifted on its foundation when he layed down the heavy artillery. Nick nailed the songs he sang and the crowd ate it up, and his guitar soloing made me wonder why I have any solos at all. And Earthdragon? Lead vocals, backing vocals, rhythm guitar, and fiddle--the guy does it all and does it all well.
All the positives aside, I made many mistakes. I choked on some solos, and at one point stepped on my overdrive pedal and launched into a solo I really worked on a lot only to have no signal at all (after the second set began I forgot to turn up the level on my pedal. Idiot). I started singing at the wrong time in "Let's Go," but realized it quickly. I hadn't counted on the fact that standing in front of a crowd would cause me to forget all the songs I'd memorized, and that in the dark of a pub with only red and green stage lamps it's virtually impossible to see your music charts. Occasional sloppy fumbling resulted. Ooops!
But we played through. I know I learned a lot about how to watch as well as listen when you can't hear everyone else through the monitors. I know what to expect now and what I need to work on.
Friday, June 06, 2008
Trying to get any teaching done at Booker T. is hard enough--but when it's the last full week of school? Fuggetabouddit.
We had "Fun Day" for the 8th graders yesterday, with outdoor sports and activities and free dogs and burgers and sodas (and police protection). It was a blast, despite the swampy B'more weather, and it was great to see troublesome gang-bangers and dealers and thugs and bullies smiling and acting like what they are: children.
Today was 8th grade graduation rehearsal. Lukie and I got to watch the kids who were denied the chance to walk the stage because of behavior problems. Many of these are my favorite kids. I had more fun with them than I would have had at the rehearsal.
I have more gray hairs after this year, but I will miss these kids, and I hope they all make it.
I got this from poet Dan Bouchard many moons ago. I think he was moving from Philly to Newport, and he divested his massive library of a couple boxes by sending them my way. Occasionally I still find some of these volumes unread.
I'd not heard of Paul Watkins, but dude can write! This a fantastic little novel and I was swept away. Blurbs on the book cover riff on his similarities to Hemingway; I can see the stylistic resemblance in Watkins' sparse descriptive passages and in the combat scenes. But Watkins is a better prose writer than Hemingway, at least in this book.
Ben Sheridan grew up in Rhode Island, the son of Irish immigrants. A terrible accident kills his father, and he finds out that his father's past was more colorful than he previously knew. Ben's attempt to find answers take him home to the west coast of Ireland as the Troubles turn bloody during the early 1920s. He learns the information he sought but at a terrible cost.
I'll definitely seek out more from Mr. Watkins.
Like many "young adult" novels, Bang! strains credulity at times. But the kids in my classes loved it, many even reading ahead in excitement. When the killings and violence stopped there was enough poop humor and other disgusting middle-school stuff to keep them reading.
Good for teaching youth about the consequences of actions, and there's plenty of room to question and discuss what it means to be a man or a father or a mother.
Yesterday she called me and said we had unexpected house guests for two nights this weekend. I figured a cousin or sibling was in town on short notice, but no. We are hosting a three-member Japanese drum troupe Friday and Saturday. They're performing at Cha's huge fund-raiser event at Center Stage this Saturday and need a place to crash. Previous variants of this routine include the old "honey, the president of San Francisco's City Council is staying over this weekend. Can you entertain him for a couple days?" Or "the Green Party presidential candidate is staying tonight. He wants to know can he borrow your Philip K. Dick paperbacks?"
So Friday night I have a gig and I'll be tied up at Mick O'Shea's until 3am. Cha will be there too, and says she's bringing the Japanese with her. Saturday we'll both be working the Center Stage gig until after midnight. The drummers are performing there for a little while and then they'll need a place to go.
I guess we'll just give them our house key and leave them to their own devices. Hate to be bad hosts, but it's a crazy weekend coming up.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The callouses are in good shape! Been playing a lot of guitar lately, for obvious reasons. Hope the hard work pays off Friday. Gulp.
Today I was listening to Sabbatum, which is a recreation of several Black Sabbath tunes as medieval chant in Latin. It's amazingly awesome. While I was listening I thought about how much I used to love Black Sabbath when I was a teen. I listened to that stuff with my headphones on for hours, digging that cavernous sound. I learned a lot about guitar solos listening to Tommy Iommi. Then I thought about Sabbath post-Ozzy, and the album
And I thought: I haven't listened to that in ages. I downloaded it from iTunes for $7, which is probably what I paid for my vinyl copy 25 years ago. The album is awesome. There are only a couple clunkers. It's a bit more '80s than Sabbath's early stuff, of course, and often sounds like Black Sabbath via Rush or Uriah Heep or Scorpions. I'm digging the shit out of it--perhaps nostalgia?
Can't get enough Aimee Mann. Dave Eggers has a guest appearance and whistles.
Heard this on the radio a lot last year, then got a jones for it after they stopped playing the tunes. Another $7 iTunes download.
Awesome awesome awesome.
Hell, yeah. A funky introducton to Tribe Called Quest.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Sunday, June 01, 2008
I've only read a couple prison memoirs--Berkman's and Dostoevsky's--so I'm by no means an expert in the genre. Wideman's is interesting because it's a prison memoir written by someone who's not on the inside, in collaboration with his brother who is locked up for murder.
Lukie gave it to me as a birthday gift. She spent some time teaching prisoners who were working toward their GEDs. She even taught the guy who killed her sister's boyfriend. The prison in Brothers and Keepers is in Pittsburgh, which is her hometown, and where she worked. It's also where Berkman was incarcerated after shooting Frick.
Wideman is wrathful and indignant about the plight of his brother, who chose to play the street game and lost badly. There are seething passages about The Man and the fucked-up society which limits the choices of young urban youth, driving them to crime. But Wideman, who went to Penn and became a novelist and professor, knows his brother chose the path which took him behind bars. The book looks at how two young men with identical origins could have had such divergent fates.
Robby seems a decent chap, likeable and smart, and the murder in which he was involved is like a Tarrantino-scripted comedy of terrible errors. Nobody intended to hurt anybody, but somebody done got killed anyhow. My favorite parts of the book are those penned by Robby himself. Robby works towards an engineering degree and finishes it just before funding for the program is cut. He tries to be hopeful, but prisons unfortunately are designed to limit hope.