Sunday, March 28, 2004

When Glass Meets Shoe

I’ve had a great track record with my glasses. Since I first owned a pair, going back 8 years now, I’ve never lost or broken any of them. Until today.

Of course I was surprised to find them under my shoe. Don’t ask how they got there. Is there any moment more heartbreaking then when you first register that- yes, uh-huh, no doubt about it- that soft squish and snap was indeed your glasses giving way to the pressure of your size 12 shoe.

And the shock wasn’t, “Oh, shit, I just destroyed my glasses!” Instead the shock was, “Oh, that really didn’t have to happen!” And yet.

But look. It was time for a new pair anyway. I gathered up the ruins, mended them as best I could, and wondered about how I’d frame my eyes anew.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Abigail's Serious Can of Whip-Ass

According to Joe Ellis, not many people tried to bite Thomas Jefferson’s head off. But Abigail Adams sure as hell tried, swallowing it whole before spitting it out. See, when Adams and Jefferson were running against each other for president, (this is, after Washington decided two terms was enough and any more ran the risk of appearing as monarchial) Jefferson had commissioned the scandalmonger James Callender to, in Ellis’s words, “write libelous attacks on Adams.” While they didn’t help Jefferson to win the presidency they did help to precipitate the fouling of his friendship with Abigail and John. (Interestingly enough, Callender was later to discover and first report on Jefferson’s sexual liaisons with Sally Hemmings.)

In any case, juicy snippets of Abigail’s smack upside Jefferson’s head are copiously quoted from in Ellis’s crisp and rewarding book, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation. Definitely recommended for those looking for something more substantial then the trivializing myths that make up the bulk (at least my own) of our understanding of these folks.

When David McCullough’s biography of Adams, John Adams, first came out, much was made of the fact that Adams had long been lost to us, his own presidency squished between those of Washington and Jefferson. In fact, poor Adams knew he was doomed to suffer the “dramatic distortions” of Washington’s chopping of the cherry tree and Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Ellis writes:

Adams realized that the act of transforming the American Revolution into history placed a premium on selecting events and heroes hat fit neatly into a dramatic formula, thereby distorting the more tangled and incoherent experience that participants actually making the history felt at the time.

I don’t know enough about current historical trends, but it would seem that there is a popular (both Ellis and McCullough’s books won Pulitzers) Adams rehabilitation afoot. Ellis does a remarkable job in persuading the reader of Adam’s historical vivaciousness. It accomplished what I want out of any good history- a desire to know more. I’ve only just begun McCullough’s bio, but I’ve enjoyed the first 100 pages quite a bit.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Notes From the Underground

I’ve spent more time in this basement then anybody else! And it’s not a bad basement by any means- not the dank root cellar variety smelling of something musty and vaguely ominous- no, not that at all. This particular basement is new, completely done up with a pool table, large screen television, fully stocked bar, a jukebox, our G5, a bathroom w/shower and adjoining bedroom with a queen size bed. Oh, and there’s an exercise room down here, too. I just got off the treadmill where I was dancing (you should see me shake it!) and walking at the same time. I am this basements overseer. Should a pillow stray from off the couch, I’ll pick it up and refold the afghans while I’m at it.

Down here I’m mourning the losses of Spalding Gray (he seemed too avuncular to ever even contemplate suicide) and Spain, reading Joseph J. Ellis’s eloquently succinct Founding Brothers, thinking about country music and spending way too much time on LimeWire hoping to score Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer B-Side, Don’t Break This Rhythm. There are occasional trips upstairs to eat oranges.

It’s cold down here because despite the many amenities there’s only one heating duct in the large room where I spend most of my waking hours. That is, when I’m not in the city searching through over priced properties for hints of home or browsing the local Barnes and Noble while narcissistically admiring my fancy for both graphic novels and the complete short fiction works of Nabokov.

What I want is a job. I want a copy of Iron and Wine’s forthcoming sophomore release Our Endless Numbered Days, for gays to have the right to marry, for George Bush to take a flying leap, to talk to my Dad again about old movies and pragmatism, to sing vapid lyrics with complete conviction, to eat turkey-loaf by candlelight with my wife, to go back in a time machine and see Marvin Gaye in concert, to read faster and more and retain multitudes and lastly, to remove my presence from this basement. We’ve had enough each other.

So it goes.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Belated Best Of’s: 2003

Best Films (in no particular order, with a few from 2002 that I missed at the theater)

-The 25th Hour: Spike Lee
-Mostly Martha: Sandra Nettelbeck
-The Son: Jean Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne
-The Russian Ark: Alexander Sokurov
-Divine Intervention: Elia Soleimon
-Lilya 4-Ever: Lukas Moodyson
-Bend It Like Beckam: Gurinder Chadha
-The Good Thief: Neil Jordan
-8 Women: Francois Ozon
-Femme Fatal: Brian De Palma
-Bloody Sunday: Paul Greengrass
-Raising Victor Vargas: Peter Sollett
-Master and Commander: Peter Weir
-Lost In Translation: Sofia Coppola
-The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: Peter Jackson

Best Old Films (i.e., films I saw for the first time in 2003 and were released before 2002)

-Ordet: Carl Theodore Dryer (1955)
-Sweet Smell of Success: Alexader Machendrick (1957)
-The Piano Teacher: Michael Haneke (2001)
-Les Bonnes Femmes: Claude Chabrol (1960)
-Les Cousins: Claude Chabrol (1959)
-Close Up: Abbas Kiarostami (1990)
-Where Is the Friends House: Abbas Kiarostami (1987)
-Bob Le Flambeur: Jean-Pierre Melville (1955)
-Cleo From 5 to 7: Agnes Varda (1962
-Vagabond: Agnes Varda (1985)
-The Gleaners and I: Agnes Varda (2001)
-Hearts and Minds: Stephen Whittaker (1974)
-L’Aventura: Michelangelo Antonioni (1960)
-The Golden Coach: Jean Renoir (1952)
-Funny Games: Michael Haneke (1997)
-The Puppetmaster: Hou Hsiao-Hsien (1993)
-Les Enfantes Du Paradis: Marcel Carne (1945)
-Claire’s Knee: Eric Rohmer (1970)
-Meet Me In St. Louis: Vincente Minelli (1944)
-The Singing Detective: Dennis Potter/John Amiel (1986)

Best Books (any year, because books take time and the really good ones are rare)

-Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley: Peter Guralnick
-Bossa Nova: The Story of the Brazilian Music That Seduced the World: Ruy Castro
-Atonement: A Novel: Ian McEwan
-Angle of Repose: Wallace Stegner
-American Tabloid: James Elroy
-Ghost Light: Frank Rich
-Theodore Rex: Edmund Morris

Best Music to come…

Thursday, March 04, 2004

The Basement Tapes Presents: Prom '89!

Back in May of 1989 (May 10th, as a matter of fact) we made a mix tape (Maxell UR90) to be played at our senior prom whenever the hire-a-band took a break. I remember that I left before we started the second side so I could hurry on home to watch an episode of the bloated mini-series War and Remembrance (a sequel to Winds of War). I am, however, pleased to see the inclusion of Big Audio Dynamite’s Just Play Music! on the second side. Of course, we only got through 7 or 8 of the songs on side I. I remember all of them going over quite well, especially Melt With You, which cleared the chairs. I remember Greg Dostal (with whom, I recall, I shared the bond of the Jan Michael Vincent/Earnest Borgnine vehicle, Airwolf ) being particularly peevish about Blue Monday ’88: “You can’t dance to this,” he yelled at me as we all jumped about in our ridiculous tuxes and dresses.

Here’s the mix:

Prom Weekend: DANCE!

Side I:

Melt With You: Modern English
Rock The Casbah: The Clash
Blue Monday ’88: New Order
Can’t Hardly Wait: The Replacements
Linus and Lucy: Vince Guaraldi
Burning Down The House: Talking Heads
Face The Face: Pete Townshend
Charlie Dance: James
Whisper To A Scream: Icicle Works
Mr. Moto: Agent Orange
Boys Don’t Cry: The Cure
Tainted Love: Soft Cell
Bike: Love And Rockets

Side II:

Let’s Dance: David Bowie
Sultans Of Swing: Dire Straits
Could You Be Loved: Bob Marley
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg: The Temptations
Ask: The Smiths
Love Will Tear Us Apart: Joy Division
Dreamworld: Midnight Oil
Shock The Monkey: Peter Gabriel
Black Light Trap: Shriekback
Just Play Music: Big Audio Dynamite

Liner Notes: Prom Weekend: DANCE!” was carefully contrived and concocted one rainy May night (5/10/89) in order to leave No Excuse For Not Dancing at Prom!