2009

Connected to the heartbone, as it turns out

So I broke my leg rather badly rather recently. An acquaintance sent a "get will" missive, accompanied by an explicit assumption that "there's a great story there".

Of course there's a great story! What, like you thought I might have just taken a running leap off a picnic table during a party and landed so spectacularly poorly that fragments of my tibia even now pose a threat to satellites in low-earth orbit?

No, there is a story, my friend. A fantastic story that would quicken every pulse and dry every eye that had an ear to hear it told. Unfortunately, pending the outcome of three lawsuits, two duels, and one-and-a-half movie deals, I fear I am not at liberty to divulge the full details.

But someday...
  • Current Music
    Decemberists - Here I Dreamt I Was An Architect
2009

Wine, somethin' else, and song

My ears are full of The National lately. I heard Terrible Love on the radio and was struck hard enough to stagger into the rest of their discography. For what it's worth, "Terrible Love" sounds nothing like anything else they've done (with rare exception); I'm pretty sure Fleet Foxes commandeered the studio for that track and then peeled out of the parking lot in a cloud of Depression-era dessicated loam and harmony.

Despite the bait and switch, I've been delighted by the discovery. Perhaps not delighted per se. Their oeuvre oscillates between a sort of bar-punk homage to the Clash, and a surreal, dusky lounge crooning that Angelo Badalamenti might compose if he laid off the quaaludes. It turns out that you can find a Camper Van Beethoven-esque alt country in the middle, but "delight" is nowhere to be seen. Satisfaction, on the other hand, is everywhere one turns. The instrumentation is always rich and layered, but only rarely approaches the shoegaze "wall of sound" sensory overload. Matt Berninger's baritone is aural tiramisu; smooth and sweet, but every bite carries dark and bitter undertones that are stimulating and intoxicating by turns. Having heard him meander about in search of the key during live performances, my cynical side suspects that the vocal drone is a strategic capitulation as much as it is a stylistic expression; but most of me just floats along and enjoys the ride.

The lyrics... I'm not quite ready to judge yet. It's not the free association word-gumbo of Beck's "Loser", but there's generally nothing approaching coherent narrative, either. At their best the message is clear regardless; there's a theme or a scheme that comes through even if you can't quite pin down the points where what you're hearing is actually said. There's at least one that comes across as clear as slow-grown ice, and carves me up like a holiday turkey-- but that probably says more about my state of mind than the objective clarity of the music itself.

Regardless. I recommend this strongly enough to overcome months of mostly wordless inertia. Seems like that ought to be worth a listen, at least.
  • Current Music
    Witness Tree - ChainSaw
2009

Oh NPR, why you gotta make me hurt you.

Yuppy grows a tomato. Is shocked to learn that "buying the stuff that dreadlock-guy at the co-op suggested" is not actually sufficient to transform her suburban astroturf into the allegorically fecund soil of proto-Narnia circa The Magician's Nephew. Closes article by saying: "The moral: Money-saving exercises often aren't money-saving at all."

Funny, I thought the moral was "Even if I combine my enormous sense of entitlement with the yawning chasm of my ignorance, I can't make my 'raise a single magazine-cover plant-baby' methods into a feasible model of sustenance agriculture. Perhaps it was arrogant of me to assume that my college degree and credit cards would automatically make me a better farmer than actual farmers are."
2009

This happens more regularly than I care to admit.

So, no time to cook. I'll just nuke some steam-in-bag broccoli. Of course, that won't be very filling. Might as well melt some cheddar on top. Except that's just thick and greasy. Would it really kill me to make a simple cheese sauce? Okay, got the butter melting for the roux, let's open the fridge and-- hey, I forgot about the half container of sliced portabellas. That'll go great with everything else, just toss those in the butter to saute a bit, dump them out, and start the roux again. Now flour, mustard powder, pepper, just a hint of ginger. Okay, milk... or heavy whipping cream. I'm sure my arteries are willing to make a few sacrifices for deliciousness. When did this transition from "ez cheez sauce" to Cheddar Alfredo? Never mind. Oh yeah, need to start the broccoli. That's going to be important, too.

One of these days I need to learn how to cook, so I can stop doing it accidentally.
2009

Insert clever Whedonverse reference later

I'm going to commit a bit of geek heresy now: Joss Whedon is not a hero of feminism. True, he challenges the dominant portrayal of women as weak and insipid caricatures who exist only to be dragged from one sexually-themed plot/characterization point to the next. But he does so with a portrayal of women as strong and aggressive caricatures who exist only to charge from one sexually-themed plot/characterization point to the next. A different fetish does not negate the act of fetishizing. Nor does the genuinely charming banter his women are provided with as they traipse from rape to heartache to seduction to willful-expression-of-aggressive-sexuality.

It's absolutely an improvement from the status quo, and I'll take what I can get. But it ain't saving the world one hot and tormented martial artist at a time.
2009

You could do better, and you probably ought.

When first I came to Minneapolis from my tiny little town, I would wander the streets and wonder. Ofttimes I'd board a random bus and just ride until it stopped, before walking my way home. I'd stare half-focused out the window, lost in contemplation of the movement and the marvels that passed by, the press of unprecedented crowds that somehow secured a solitude I'd never found even on the prairie. Like many young, introspective narcissists, I felt the need to express my observations in poetry.
The cold black trickery
of the quick flash flickering
as flesh flies and melds
into concrete and chrome.
The dry paper rustling
of a million minds bustling--
each one together,
and together, alone.
Yeah, whatever. I liked that little epigram. About the only thing of mine I ever memorized. In a nutshell, it's all of my writing: full of consonance and pretension, and multiple layers of none-too-subtle meaning. I've always loved to play games with sound and syntax, to tickle eardrum and cerebrum simultaneously (a trick that normally takes an eight-inch surgical probe and some deft wrist-wriggling).

But I really have done it always, or at least as "always" as I can recall. So what were my influences? No one around me talked this way when I was young. I did a great deal of reading, but my formative years were hardly filled with Shakespearean sonnets and the like. In high school I liked to attribute my style, such as it was, to narrative poets like Alfred Noyes:
And all around the organ there's a sea without a shore
Of human joys and wonders and regrets;
To remember and to recompense the music evermore
For what the cold machinery forgets...

Yes; as the music changes,
Like a prismatic glass,
It takes the light and ranges
Through all the moods that pass;
Dissects the common carnival
Of passions and regrets,
And gives the world a glimpse of all
The colours it forgets.
Lovely stuff, if a bit... fluff. Still. Hardly the worst inspiration I could claim. Just a dishonest one. I truly had no idea where I picked up my word-wrangling ways. None, that is, until a few months back when I happened to hear an old, familiar refrain:
"His beak blinks like a blinkin' beacon!"(~4:38 in)
...and it just clicked. Yep. That's me. Not TS Eliot. Not Saint-Exupéry. Not even Gilbert/Sullivan. Rankin/Bass, through and through. Ah, well. It's all in what I do with it, I suppose.

I'll get right on that.
2009

Quod Era Disappointum

As I know you all take my off-hand references to books as weighty and profound endorsements, I feel a sense of responsibility to disclaim my earlier enthusiasm for Fred Vargas. The characterization was indeed a series of marvels in miniature. But the author managed something I didn't know was possible: I felt that I really knew the characters, and found what I knew to be agreeable, but I just couldn't bring myself to give a thin half-damn for what was happening to them. The plot was muddled and meandering. The character development was... meh.

A mystery is anything someone wonders at. A secret is a knowable mystery, generally assumed to be known to someone. Seeking Whom He May Devour ended up falling into an unhappy middle ground, a place comprised of equal parts ignorance and indifference. I didn't really know what was going on until the very end. And I didn't care. So there was none of the insight I'd expect from literature, nor any of the catchy visceral interactive hooks I'd expect from standard mystery novels. Just some exquisite artistry, directionless and alone in that space between any places it could have been properly appreciated.

I read Wash This Blood Clean from My Hand, in the hopes that the previous book had been a fluke, or ruined for me by some moodiness of my own. Nope. The mystery here was a bit more involving, and the plot more interesting, but it came at the expense of the intimate portraits that I fell for in the early stages of my romance with Devour. And in the end, it still wasn't all that gripping.

A pity. And as with any infatuation that flames out as suddenly as it flared up, I can't help but feel that somehow my disenchantment reflects a failing in me. For a moment, what might have been effectively was, and it's better to shelve that memory than to tear the pages apart in despair that the "might have" could never truly have been. Time to move on and lose myself in the safety of the first math textbook to catch my eye; take comfort in the familiarity and stability of equations. Still... *sigh*
  • Current Music
    Drive by Tuckers - Easy on Yourself
2009

Piquant undertones

Over the years, this blog has served many purposes: political rants, angsty diary entries, random essays, trouser fixations, media reviewing, meme-sheeping, link-spamming, inexplicable sharing of minutia, and so on. But I've never talked about my cats or my lunch. Today I'm going to break one of those "nevers". I would've broken both at once, but the furry little bastards wouldn't sit still in the marinade.

There's a good reason I don't talk about my meals. Well, there are many, most of which are some variation on "Why would anyone care about the fact that someone else managed to eat with some unremarkable degree of success?". But my meals in particular generally don't lend themselves to comment. I don't cook for myself. At all. It's not an unusual meal that starts and ends with noshing on unadorned bread products or grazing on uncooked, unpeeled, and oft' unwashed produce. Tools and processes beyond "chewing" are suspiciously self-indulgent, to my mind.

That notwithstanding, I'm a better-than-fair cook when I choose to be. I just don't choose to be when it's just for myself. Except last weekend, when for no particular reason I whipped up a lunch so simple yet perfect that I had to photograph it.
lunch001
That's a pita with humus, sprinkled with paprika and cayenne, covered in slices of cucumber and daikon sprouts (the sweetness and crunch of bean sprouts, plus a delightful radishy sting). The salad is simply arugula and roasted beet slices (as well as the rest of the cucumber, which wasn't bad but just wasn't quite right in this context, and won't be repeated), tossed with olive oil, coarse spicy mustard, flaked parmesan, and toasted sesame seeds. The beverage is store-brand root beer-- hey, I never claimed to be highbrow. The background is my new futon, which I got to sleep on now that I'm getting divorced.

Okay, so it's not exclusively a lunch post. Still, it was a mighty tasty lunch.
  • Current Music
    Billie Holiday - Mean to Me