Archives for March 2009

Birds Nest in Your Hair: Supplementary Material

More Unpleasantness For Lady Gadfly

It’s the end of the world as we know it …

A Teachable Moment at Notre Dame

My Lenten Toe

It was my turn to bathe the children. I was pulling the last clean towel out of bathroom cupboard when the entire shelf slid out with the towel and fell edge-down directly onto my bare big toe. I cursed. Loudly. Repeatedly. My wife came from the kitchen and looked at me. The next day, the tell-tale black bruise appeared under my toenail, low down at the root of the nail.

That scene occurred early in the winter, maybe even late in the fall, and now here we are in mid-Lent and the black bruise is still slowly creeping towards the end of my toe. The pace of its progress feels like how this winter has slouched towards Calvary and how slowly the sun has crept back from the winter nether realms to the south. It’s been a long winter, and this black bruise under my toenail has been a symbol of the blot on my life of sin and death–and the sometimes painfully slow but always surprising movements of God’s grace.

And now, through the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who walk in darkness and the shadow of death.

Birthday Haiku

Sophia is born
unto us in these last days,
not a child of scorn.

The Good Son

From The YouTube Music Video Archives: Challengers by The New Pornographers

Neko Case has a new solo album out called Middle Cyclone, which is awfully good. I can’t, however, find any new videos online besides some scratchy cell phone stuff from Bumpershoot this last summer. And are any of the new songs as good as this one, by The New Pornographers? Maybe, but I don’t think it could be better. This video from last year is a Pleasantville rip-off, but with Neko drinking a rasberry milkshake or something, and that’s pretty nice.

And if this isn’t strange enough, try watching Myriad Harbour. And if you’re not acquainted with Neko Case, let this be your introduction. Or this.

Hey Bus Driver: From the YouTube Video Radio Archives Special Edition

Does This Bus Stop At 82nd Street?

Hey bus driver keep the change, bless your children, give them names,
don’t trust men who walk with canes
drink this and you’ll grow wings on your feet
Broadway Mary, Joan Fontaine, advertiser on a downtown train
Christmas crier bustin’ cane, he’s in love again.

Where dock worker’s dreams mix with panther’s schemes to someday own the rodeo
Tainted women in Vistavision perform for out-of-state kids at the late show.

Wizard imps and sweat sock pimps, interstellar mongrel nymphs
Rex said that lady left him limp. Love’s like that (sure it is).
Queen of diamonds, ace of spades, newly discovered lovers of the everglades
They take out a full page ad in the trades to announce their arrival
And Mary Lou she found out how to cope, she rides to heaven on a gyroscope
The Daily News asks her for the dope
She says “Man, the dope’s that there’s still hope”.

Senorita, Spanish rose, wipes her eyes and blows her nose
Uptown in Harlem she throw a rose to some lucky, young matador.

Copyright © Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)

Birthday Haiku

A limerick is razed
to sprout haiku the next day,
singing Tiff’s praises.

Yes, we’re looking forward to the new album, but no, we never said his shit don’t stink

From the LA TImes:

How sweet is life when you live next to a celebrity in Malibu? Outside Bob Dylan’s house, the answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.

That’s what some of the singer-songwriter’s neighbors are claiming in an increasingly onerous dispute over a porta-potty at his sprawling ocean-view estate on Point Dume.

Residents contend that the nighttime sea breeze sends a noxious odor from a portable toilet on Dylan’s property wafting into their homes. The stench has made members of one family physically ill and forced them to abandon their bedrooms on warm nights, they claim.

For more than six months, Dylan has ignored their complaints and their pleas to remove the outhouse, the downwind neighbors say.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is of course obvious, but here are a few relevant lyrics and titles that come to mind. Letterman style.

10. “There’s an evening haze, settling over town …”

9. “He saw an animal leaving a muddy trail … …”

8. “hearts must have the courage for the changing of the guards …”

7. “Brownsville Girl, you’re my honey love…”

6. “flies buzzin’ around your …”

5. “It’s bad out there … Highwater everywhere …”

4. “There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief …”

3. “When you’re near It’s just as plain as it can be …”

2. “The other is in his pants …”


1. Floater (Too Much To Ask)”

Birthday Limerick

There once was a lady named Maggie
Who was walking a bit ziggy-zaggy
After celebratin’
With intoxicatin’
Libations the birthday of Maggie.

That Evening Sun

Quin: Your assignment is to go to Austin, attend a screening of That Evening Sun (directed by Scott Teems) and report back. Can you manage that?

How or what prompted the idea for your film and how did it evolve?

I’m an avid reader, and my heart rests well when my brain infuses it with Southern Fiction. Flannery O’Connor is tops on my list, but she’s given close chase by Thomas Wolfe (not the guy in the white suit), Walker Percy, and Breece D’J Pancake (who is from West Virginia, which is kind of its own planet, but I claim him for the South and will fight you if you say otherwise). Pancake’s “Time and Again” is the greatest short story ever written, by the way.

In the early part of this century I was beginning to discover a new batch of Southern writers, guys who, for several years now, had been taking up Flannery’s torch and hoisting it aloft, big and bright for all to see. Guys like Larry Brown, Barry Hannah, Allan Gurganus, and Tom Franklin, to name but a very few. William Gay was a part of this group, but I hadn’t yet had a chance to read him. I picked up his short story collection, “I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down,” and read the title story on a short plane ride from LA to San Jose. On the tarmac I called my friend and producer, Terence Berry, with whom I’d been looking for a project to develop, and said, “I’ve found it.” Three years and several hundred financier rejections later, we got the money.

Hey, Bus Driver!

Voting patterns in the last presidential election notwithstanding, there are many American white males for whom acceptance or the accordance of some measure of credibility by his African American counterparts is about as meaningful an experience as they are likely to have. For whatever reason – one’s childhood idolization of Michael Jordan, white guilt, whatever – many black men seem to carry, effortlessly, an authenticity many white men can only envy. So it was with some surprise that I found myself instilled with a sense of fulfillment I’d never before even dared to imagine.

I was driving south on Ranier Avenue, behind schedule as usual, and stopped just past Martin Luther King Way to let a number of people off. The last gentleman to disembark was about my age (mid 40s), maybe a little older. When he came to the front – at which point he is supposed to deposit his fare, or show a pass or a transfer – he held out both hands, palms up. In other words, empty.

“Say, driver, ain’t got change today. Let it go this time?”

“Yeah, fine”, I said, waving him on with a motion meant to signify ‘No Big Deal’ and ‘Just Get Off The Bus’ at the same time.

What’s worth adding at this point is the Official Metro Policy, which is to simply state the price of the fare to the passenger when said passenger doesn’t pay the fare. In other words, What I should have said (instead of “Yeah, fine”, with the ambiguous wave) was something along the lines of “the Fare is $1.75, sir”. Which I sometimes actually do. Anyway, the man stood there hesitating, despite the wave. Then he leaned back a little in order to make eye contact.

“Hey, driver … the thing is, I got to get back up to the city in a couple hours …” he added, looking at the transfers I keep by the farebox.

I liked the guy. I think it was the eye contact, and maybe also the fact that he actually asked if he could have a free ride. Not that there’s much I can do about it if they just walk off the bus without paying. Which is what the teenagers do. Or maybe I just wanted get moving again. I actually forget what I thought at this point, especially in light of what followed.

“Sure thing,” I said, tearing off a transfer, which gives him about two more hours to ride a bus without paying a fare. Obviously, these transfers are only supposed to be given out when a fare has been paid.

The man took the transfer and looked at it with a big smile. Then he turned towards me with the same big smile.

“You know you’re my favorite nigger – Don’t come no bigger!”

The look on my face must have been … something. Whatever it was.

“That’s what we used to say, back in the day. God bless you, man. Have a good day.”

I did.

From The YouTube Music Video Archives: Bluebeard’s Castle by Béla Bartók

Bluebeard was first composed in 1911, and then modified in 1917. The opera lasts a little over an hour and there are only two singing characters onstage: Bluebeard (Kékszakállú), and his new wife Judith (Judit); the two have just eloped and Judith is coming home to Bluebeard’s castle for the first time. The scene above comes just after the prologue and their entrance; I think most of the other scenes are available for viewing online (if you’re interested).

I saw a concert production by the Seattle Symphony last year, in which blown glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly were used to represent each of the seven doors Judith demands be opened. It was an elegant production, very well sung by Sally Burgess and Charles Robert Austin, although it was presented more as a child’s fairy tale version than what is called for in the creepy libretto by Béla Balázs. Seattle Opera staged its version, or rather a version that was developed by the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto (perhaps Mr. Burrell saw the original production back in 1993. Or maybe he was watching Transformers.) This version is much more theatrical, which is to say that it is theatrical, and fairly creepy – especially towards the end, when Bluebeard prostrates himself before his rather gruesome, polygamous achievement.

Even creepier was the second feature on the bill, Arnold Schoenberg’s Erwartung (“Expectation”), composed in 1909. Schoenberg himself said about the work, “In Erwartung the aim is to represent in slow motion everything that occurs during a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out to half an hour.” I thought this was achieved last night, and enjoyed it quite a bit more than Bluebeard, even though I’ve been familiar with Antal Dorati’s recording of the Bartok opera for years. I haven’t listened to much Schoenberg at all, much less Erwartung, and was surprised at how conventional it sounded. Music has moved moved into some awfully strange territory over the last century, and however weird the 12 tone scale may have seemed in fin de siècle Prague, I found it straightforward enough. The productiion was pretty amazing, with three non-singing roles played by acrobats who made much of that slow motion called for by the composer.

As an endnote, both Bartók and Walker Percy suffered from tuberculosis and lived within shouting distance at Saranac, “America’s Magic Mountain”, in 1945. This was at the very end of Bartók’s life, and he was certainly productive enough: while living in one of the cabins there, he composed the magnificent Third Piano Concerto, as well as the Viola Concerto. Percy’s first novel, The Moviegoer, was still 15 or 16 years away, and according to one of the biographies, there wasn’t much, if any, contact between the two.

They love poetry readings, worshipping with candles, and smoking pipes while talking about God.

Why didn’t I think of this?

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, also known as Wat Lan Kuad or ‘the Temple of a Million Bottles’, is in Sisaket province near the Cambodian border, 400 miles from the capital Bangkok. The Buddhist monks began collecting bottles in 1984 and they collected so many that they decided to use them as a building material.

It would have been the perfect transition from Fat Tuesday to Ash Wednesday.