Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Duds Promoting Duds

No mention was made of The Daily Show's coverage, or that of Olbermann or Maddow, but whatever. It's good enough someone's busting Beck's chops on this.

Fools Gold: Inside the Glenn Beck Goldline Scheme

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Art for Esteem's Sake

People often (read: never) ask me, "Hey XN, how do you feel about Eric Clapton?"

I don't like him, and that's because in many cases I have difficulty separating the artist from the art. I won't listen to Skrewdriver because they're white supremacists. I don't like Bing Crosby because he kicked his gay son out of his house. I'm opposed to Michael Jackson not just because he cashed in on his status to earn little boys to have sex with, but because he was a pop artist--I hate it when people do things not for any artistic integrity but solely for the purpose of becoming popular. And no, just because something's popular does not mean it's worth anything--look at The Hills and Jersey Shore.

As for Eric Clapton... well, I think my reworking of one of his classics will explain where I'm coming from.

(Sung to the tune of "Layla")

My vision's very short-sighted
Just want to fuck you once or twice
And when your life's destroyed and your future is bleak
You know I'll never be around

I want some sex with you
You're wed to someone else
Divorce him so that we can get off

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Does Nihilism Mean to You?

Location: Downtown West, Minneapolis, MN, USA
I took a lunch break today, leaving my building to cross 1st Ave N. Because of the Twins game and in preparation of the Aquatennial Parade, Downtown West is thick with pedestrian traffic, as well as the one-driver-per-vehicle, anti-carpool phenomenon that characterizes our fine city. To direct traffic, police had been stationed at certain intersections to supplement or override the traffic lights. When traffic reaches a certain density, traffic lights mean less and less and motorists drive through any intersection they please.

A bit further than that and even an in-the-flesh cop means nothing to motorists. The officers at any intersection were waving their hands, blowing their whistles, and drivers were still plowing through red lights, still turning and crossing whenever they wanted to, one after the other as though the cop were gesturing exactly the opposite of what he was doing.

When I reached my wife's building there was a large dais in the commons. On the left (as you faced it) was a chorus of elderly men and women dressed in what looked like Naval Officers' uniforms but were in fact fake costumes with "Minneapolis Aquatennial" stitched on the left sleeve. What the hell does Aquatennial mean, anyway? "Aqua" is Greek for water and "-ennial" is Latin for year. They mashed up two unrelated etymologies, inserted a T for no reason, and created "water year."

But there was a dais, there was a senior chorus, and there were rows of folding chairs. In the front row on the right side were several women in their late-teens or early 20s. They wore sparkly dresses with a white shoulder sash proclaiming "Miss [town of origin]" and tiaras. The audience was some people who'd wandered by and sat down to watch but primarily comprised of teams of adults who served as support and handlers for each of the young women.

Two young women took turns yapping ephemeral, nasal comments into a microphone about what this "celebration" meant, and therefore I have no idea what was going on. Rasmussen College was involved somehow, indicated by a small banner on the side of the stage.

Five hundred penguins starved to death for unknown reasons and washed ashore in Brazil. One thousand head of cattle died in Kansas, succumbing to a heat wave. Three years ago, Al Gore and the IPCC won a Nobel Peace Prize for studying climate change and outlining how to rectify or prepare for it, and to this day people are still deeply in denial. BP's oil spill covers 2,700 square miles and China's oil spill is just getting started at 165 square miles, and the world refuses to cut back on petroleum products, refuses to cut back on gasoline usage.

And our fair city feels the most appropriate action is to mangle our language and host yet another "pretty girl" contest.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Some Things are Better as Unfulfilled Desires

Location: Calhoun Isles, Minneapolis, MN, USA

This is Roma di Luna--or fewer than half of them, actually. Rebecca has been looking forward to seeing them perform for a long time (that is, for a long time, Rebecca's been looking forward to &c.), and she was super excited to see they were on the roster for the Bryant Square Ice Cream Social, Weds. afternoon. That's right in our neighborhood, a short walk away! What a fortuitous opportunity to see such a long-anticipated event! She went and got a (very cute) haircut and we met at the park, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the music.

Unfortunately, this is what they looked like. They did not engage with the audience at all: the guys on drums and guitar looked at their own instruments and they looked at the ground around them but never at the tiered half-circle of people listening to them. The lead singer, named Channy, actually closed her eyes during almost the entire performance. Her eyes were closed while she sang, and her eyes were closed when she announced the songs. It's like she wasn't actually performing for people so much as reciting, for the thousandth time, a Latin Mass for herself and other people were tolerated to observe. (She did open her eyes to talk to the dude playing guitar. Once.)

Channy sounds like the singers from the Sundays and the Cranberries. When you listen to Ani DiFranco, Billie Holiday, or Ella Fitzgerald, you think, Wow, I've never heard that before. Not so, here: you lose several minutes to recalling all the other singers she reminds you of. Their website describes her singing as "the hauntingly-powerful voice of Channy Moon Casselle." As an editor, not only do I have to question the word choice of juxtaposing haunting with powerful, but I also must insist that hyphen be removed. It would've been less contentious to say, "If you remember liking Harriet Wheeler and Dolores O'Riordan, you'll find familiar things to like about Channy."

Oh yes, I know this review won't be very popular. Roma di Luna is such a romantic-sounding name, and they're all local-hero-ish in the music scene, but I've seen them two times in as many years and they haven't made a favorable impression with me. Some people like a band because they're really good and give a great performance, and other people like a band because of the hype and pretension constructed around them. From what I've seen of this band, their fans seem to fall in the latter encampment. They can pack a room, no argument, but I'm left standing in the back wondering what the big deal is.

We walked in on their set as one song was finishing up. We'd just gotten a couple ice cream cones, which were melting quickly, and we sat down on the grass to enjoy the performance. After a minute of conference with the band, the singer shut her eyes tight and announced they had intended to play "Stand By Me" but... she didn't actually know the words. (Rebecca did and started to sing them; they didn't pick up on her cue.) Instead, they played a "traditional" song called "Queen of Hearts," and rather than the perky Juice Newton single, it was a laborious and depressing dirge played with fiddle. On a bright summer day, with people sitting in a park having ice cream and playing with small children, they thought a slow, mournful, minor-key lament would be an appropriate selection to perform in their playlist.

I looked over at Rebecca. Her shoulders had slumped and her expression was heartbreaking. "Let's get out of here," she murmured, "I've had enough."

Roma di Luna, ladies and gentlemen!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Remarkable Mr. Amiri

I really, really want to know what the fuck is up with Shahram Amiri, the Iranian scientist. He's heading back to Tehran today and has released an interview in which he claims US and Saudi "terror and kidnap teams" nabbed him while on hajj to Saudi Arabia and the CIA has been torturing, drugging, and bribing him to reveal Iranian secrets.

He never held a government job. He's 33 years old and was a researcher at Malek Ashtar university of defense technology. The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran denies any ties with him.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Grandfather Has Gone

This weekend we went to my sister's house for a barbecue to celebrate Rebecca's birthday. A small but tasteful affair, I think. As we drove home Collin called Rebecca's phone to inform us that I'd left my carry-on bag (a.k.a. "purse") at their house. We didn't turn around and get it: they handed it off to mom, who brought it to her house and would further tote it to work on Monday, at which point I'd meet her and pick it up.

In it are two Moleskine notebooks (one date book, one journal), my Kindle, my iPod Nano w/headphones, some stationery, pens, letters I'd recently received, a notebook of computer security info, and my phone. I did without all this for nearly two days. If anyone tried to reach me they would be inconvenienced, but honestly, very, very few people ever try to reach me.

Today I biked to work, fixed up some timecard hassles, did a little proofing work, then met Rebecca for lunch. Together we walked over to mom's building (from one Target HQ to the other, in downtown) and she handed me my bag. I never know what to call it: flight bag, carry-on bag, book bag, satchel... it has no definite name, though I aptly refer to it as my "portable office."

I checked my phone for messages, found a series of incoming texts, then it vibrated in my hand with an incoming call. It was my brother so I excused myself from mom and Rebecca and took the call.

He informed me that this morning, around 7:00 a.m., Grandpa Wilkie passed away. This is my father's father, formerly of Payette, Idaho. Apparently my Aunt Louise tried to call me this morning around 9:30 a.m., just over an hour after her discovery (one hour time zone difference between our towns). I spoke with Andrew about future plans for a bit, hung up and broke the news to mom and Rebecca. My emotions hadn't kicked in yet so I'm afraid I looked a bit stoic and unfeeling when I simply said, "Grandpa has died."

The first thought that appeared in my mind was that he had finally been released. His body was nearly a century old. His sight and hearing were fading, he was unable to sit up or walk around anymore, but his mind was still active. I could only imagine that he had been released from suffering. That was the only way I could see it. Mom said he was with Grandma now, and I agreed. She added they were with Jesus; I ran it through my non-denominational filter, heard "they are loved and at peace," and I agreed.

Mom hugged me, immediately moved by the news, and excused herself so Rebecca and I could be alone. I called Aunt Louise (who had just briefly spoken with Andrew) and she elaborated on how it went down this morning: she was staying up with Grandpa, dozed off around 6:30 a.m., woke abruptly at 7:00 a.m. and discovered Grandpa had passed. Is it easier for an old and exhausted soul to release when no one's looking? I've heard it's not uncommon for the dying to linger and hold on until everyone's left the room.

Rebecca took me to lunch, asked me my view of the afterlife, asked me what stood out in my memory about Grandpa, and that's when I broke down and cried. Other people use religion as a crutch to get them through the good times, but when bad times fall they crumble and question their faith. I have no orthodox religion but a very strong spirituality. There's still room to cry for missing someone, though.

I went back to work, hit up the PMs for any outlying assignments, then biked home. I'm grabbing two hours of quiet time before getting back to my densely scheduled life. It's quite likely that I'll fly out to Idaho this weekend, as well, for the funeral, despite my aunt and father both insisting no one will think less of me if I can't make it. So maybe not. That side of my family is generally pragmatic and stoic: "Keep him in your thoughts and say a prayer for him, and that's enough," they said.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Minneapolis: Pettiness Yet Abounds

Location: East Harriet, Minneapolis, MN, USA
You see three plants here. Three potted plants, three pots with plants therein.

There used to be four. Rebecca was growing some herbs, delighting in arranging them on the front walk not three steps beyond our front door, watering them, making sure they got sun. She had two basil plants.

We walked out this morning to discover someone had helped themselves to the second basil plant. Not merely clipped off a couple leaves or even trimmed the entire plant: one of our neighbors saw fit to steal the plant, the pot it sat in, and the plate beneath the pot. Someone in our neighborhood believed they deserved it and we did not, believed they had right to take someone else's property.

Unfortunately, this isn't exactly the kind of thing police prefer to be bothered by. No witnesses, no break-in, no foot/finger prints, and the sum loss is one plant and one flower pot. Still, it broke Rebecca's heart to think that she couldn't have something as simple as a potted plant without locking it down or constructing some kind of cage to protect it from the neighbors. The guy who stole my cell phone? That makes sense, that's expensive electronics. The tenant who kept stealing my book shipments? He was just betting that there might be something worthy in a large box. And, ha ha, not only did he get stuck with stupid, useless books but two copies of each.

But whose life is so wretched and pathetic that they need to steal a potted plant? What undereducated, loveless bastard child of a crack-whore and deadbeat dad thinks some kind of balance has been restored by shitting on someone else's happiness?

We didn't let that sour our day. We were driving out to CONvergence, my former social highlight of the year. This was Rebecca's first sci-fi convention and she was looking forward to the phenomenon. We drove out to her sister's house in Linden Hills and had her brother-in-law drive us down to the convention. There just is no parking available at all at the Sheraton or Sofitel parking lots, where the convention takes place. None. It's that popular: every space is full for four days.

He drove us down there, we spent the day seeing the sights and mingling with friends, then caught a taxi back to Linden Hills. We noticed a viscous substance streaked across the driver-side windows, and when we got home we discovered that someone had splattered a raw egg over the side of our car.

Again, not real police-worthy material. Rebecca promptly researched online how to scrub egg protein off a vehicle, and it seems that we caught it not very long after it happened, so the egg was still fresh and a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water effectively lifted it off without any damage to the exterior.

One of our neighbors yelled at us: she thought we were breaking into the car, as we were hunched at the side with a couple of flashlights (she didn't see our wash rags). We explained that we'd been vandalized but we appreciated her vigilance. It occurred to me later that we've been living a house away from her for nearly three years and she had no damned clue who we were.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dr. Emilio Lizardo/Lord John Whorfin

Blacks [Black Lectroids] are on this planet! Here, in-a New Jersey, coming to destroy us! We must act! Escape - or die!
We must work faster to finish the great vehicle itself so we can enter the eighth dimension and free our trapped comarades! We can return home and seize power once again!
What is the greatest joy? "The joy of duty!"
Louder-ah! "The joy of duty!"
History is made at night. Character is what you are in the dark. We must work while the clock, she is ticking! We hide... they seek!
Where are we going? "Planet Ten!"
When? "Real soon!"