Sunday, December 21, 2008

it's extremely cold here in chicago. i'm staying at my mom's new condo which is at the top of a five story building. this morning i saw canadian geese fly overhead in a big hurry. the wind was blasting and they couldn't hold a V formation. i hope they made it to where they were going.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

suitably freaked out

i continued digging into my old possessions this evening, resulting in huge stacks of paper going out to the recycling bin, and several hundred pounds of books and other items stacked up, headed for goodwill tomorrow morning. i listened to cassette tapes of my old band, PG-13, and marveled at how good we sounded, then i listened to some other tapes of various bands i tried to jam with and I marveled at how self-absorbed i sounded. i don't know if this experience is universal, but there's an odd sense of discontinuity when you hear an old song, and the lyrics take on new, improved meanings. many 80s songs do this to me. it's as if i had settled on some simplified, wrong idea of what a song meant, but now that i'm older, i hear the irony in the lyrics, or the nuances in an instrumental part, and realize why the song was so popular. tina turner's "what's love got to do with it" did this to me big time, recently. in a way the same thing happened while listening to the old jam tapes. there was so much that i wasn't hearing back then. in comparison to what was possible, i hear myself trying to fit into the musical fads of the day, and failing. i guess i'm my own worst critic, hearing all that old stuff makes me want to be in a band again too.

when i moved into this house three years ago I was much more of a pack rat. a lot of the stuff i wanted to keep just seems worthless now.

then there was the paperwork, binders and folders from a decade ago that feel as if they were excavated from 100 years ago. the japan internships program, my stint at a multimedia startup, austin community college, UT, the "writing on the air" radio show, tutoring at st. ed's. 

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

fire sale

i put a bunch of stuff up for sale on craigslist. two people just came by and bought 1) my beer making kit and 2) my ceramic candle lantern. now that these things are gone i feel a strange sense of seller's remorse, a pity for the objects, as though they've been members of the family and wanted to stay, to remain useful to me. the truth is the ceramic lantern simply rattled when i walked around. i remember a time when i lived in a condo on a concrete slab, and i had a cute girlfriend, and we laid in bed watching the lights from the lamp flicker up the wall. now i rent a pier and beam house and have no girlfriend and the lamp sat on top of a 5' shelf glaring down on me. when i walked on the wood floors, the vibrations would travel up to the lamp and the little glass panes would rattle against the ceramic, reminding me i had no fire and that things are no longer so warm and solid. i wanted the shelf space. i was tired of the effeminate thing.

i made one batch of beer in 1996 and since then have been lugging around the 5 gallon glass carbuoy, plastic bucket, and an arsenal of rubber hoses. being an observant, sometimes pokey person i felt i had spent way too much time staring at the equipment and not enough time using it. a man in a camo baseball cap came by and eagerly gave me $5 for the rig. i told him that i needed the space. he said that he also deep fries turkeys in his garage, and that yes, the equipment does indeed take up a lot of space. i looked him dead in his blue eyes. amazingly clear, with enormous, mechanical retinas.

i forgot the old spincasting reel. my late father purchased this for $80 back in 1985. it had all of the advanced features: magnetic anti-tangle control, flipping switch, one-motion spindle ejection lever. my dad never learned how to use it and then i never learned, and over time i became the sort of person who winces at the idea of hooking a living creature by its mouth. a guy named jerry emailed back immediately, saying he'd come by tonight. i held the reel for him, ignoring subsequent replies. he called this evening and told me that tonight was his 35th wedding anniversary, was there another night he could come by. i got pissed, thinking he could have emailed me this information earlier. i said "today's the day, i turned down people in order to hold it for you." then he said "i'm sorry, i really want the reel, i'd be happy to come by first thing tomorrow morning and pick it up." then, quite suddenly i heard the history in his voice and felt ashamed of myself and offered to leave it in my mailbox. "if i leave it in my mailbox" i said, "could you leave the $5 dollar note in there." for some weird reason, because i was talking to a guy who sounded like he was 80, i used the term "five dollar note." he said "i'd be glad to, and I'd leave $10 because of your kindness." "have a wonderful evening" I said, contrite as could be. we hung up and I felt ashamed of myself. there was something precious, rare, and fleeting in the moment, an old old man enlivened by the idea of a sweet deal on some fishing tackle, and me getting uptight and bossy about it. the reel is sitting outside in the mailbox, waiting for jerry to come by and pick it up.

overall, it feels good to be getting rid of things. the aesthetic of the coming decade, i feel, will be minimalist. instead of an enormous CD collection, there will be a tiny ipod, holding all of it. instead of bulky photo albums, a very thin laptop. another restaurant we visited in brooklyn is called ici: breakfast, lunch, dinner. the only art on the walls was a thin 2X4 shelf, with apples sitting on it. as i wrote in a blog entry years ago, the desired aesthetic is not the bulky machine, or the weighty statement, but art that complements the joy of having empty hands and a strong back. art that owns the wall, or doesn't exist at all. goods that are durable, compact, timeless, like stainless steel bowls, or well-worn hikers, or a perfect wool sweater.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The sun came up today and it burned my blues away,
The sun came up today and it burned my blues away,
Go ahead if you have to leave me
You ain't coming back this time, hope that's fine
Got my sunshine, I'll get by.

-- Mojave 3, Got My Sunshine

Things haven't been going all that badly. Visited NYC for a long weekend, getting more acquainted with my little cousin Allison who lives in brooklyn and works as an architect. She has a hamster named Fat Butt Jesus, who desperately tries to push his way out of the cage at night. He longs to be a rat.

Ate at Public, a minimalist Australian Pan-Asian place in soho where all of the menus are designed to look like library cards, Cafe Lafeyette, a completely authentic French cafe in brooklyn, down to the dingy mirrors, ripped upholstery, and dented tin ceiling, walked the brooklyn bridge, went to moma, went to kif, a moroccan bar and cafe with a cozy vibe, where a tall blonde woman with glasses played barstool dj with her laptop in front of her. 99 luftbalons. 

Pictures of Allison and Claire, and me.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Just got home from watching the elections at Matt's. The electoral map simply fascinates me, how from the southern tip of Texas straight up to North Datoka voters went red, yet New Mexico and Colorado went blue, like some benign weather pattern. I canvassed for Obama in New Mexico in early October. Reported to an Albuquerque field office for four days helping push through about a hundred last minute voter registrations, persuading a few people in door to door canvassing, doing some phone work, and helping put together a professional street sign to put out by the road, to replace the old one made out of wood planks and tape. It's not so important that I helped and he won, but that he recognized the work of grass roots people in his victory speech. There's hard work ahead, interesting turns in the road, finally.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Strange dreams lately. I could call them Charlie Kaufman dreams; as he said on Fresh Air recently he is amazed at how is dreams can have surprise endings. If the teller of the dream is also the listener, then why/how does the mind surprise itself?

I'm vacuuming cobwebs, and the spiders right along with them. The spiders and some beetles gang up and form a living chain at the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner, then escape. One of the spiders turns into a woman. The woman demands that I kiss her. I feel only slightly scared kissing a spider woman, and where I anticipate venomous fangs there is only her sharply darting tongue. I'm being loved by a being I carelessly, almost robotically was trying to snuff out...

Second dream was completely different. I was trying out for a job as a waiter. The manager of the small restaurant was a tall, handsome bum with a bald spot and a hawaiian shirt. I left the restaurant and then returned because I realized I needed to ask when was the next day to report for work. The manager said not to bother, implying that I couldn't keep working there. I turned to leave again, and then had to double back again because I estimated that I had worked seven hours and deserved compensation. Suddenly the diners and drinkers in the place became an attentive, informal jury, and I made my case that I deserved compensation. The people in the restaurant were all on friendly terms with the manager, so I had a hard time. A few women were not easily persuaded that I, being an educated, grown man, actually needed a service job. The time came to vote and about 8/10 gave thumbs down; by the code of the streets I didn't deserve to be paid anything because I hadn't made it as a waiter. I said that the law protected me, that I was entitled to some compensation by law. I barked this, raising my voice above theirs. They weren't moved. The manager said, not ineffectively, that I could find better things to do than to work for him. I woke up with an intense, gut-level appreciation of gender bias in the workplace. In this dream, a brash, pretty woman was exactly what that manager wanted; I was selling myself as a mild-mannered computer programmer who needed a break from the monotony. Nobody sympathized with my needs.

Lately I've been telling myself that enough is enough, and that whatever I want from life I will need to work hard to get, and I'll need to be tougher if I can't get it, and that's about all I can count on. Man up, I told myself. Then I go to sleep and my dreams rebel. I'm making out with a spider woman who seems to bridge a divide between my current experience and a far superior alternative one. I dream I am at the wrong end of a losing fight with working-class patrons of a restaurant, the "small business" that is the charged and divisive concept being batted around in the election.

I watched the first 3/4 of The Savages on DVD this evening, and just couldn't finish watching it. It is such a sad film, so tightly controlled; and the contrasts between young and old are turned up so high you begin to feel brutalized in the act of sympathizing.

I googled "spider woman" at work this morning and learned that in some native american cultures she is seen as a bridge between worlds, a liaison to the dream world.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

lay the cut rose branches
on the shelf

were you expecting
light work

irrespective of universal causes
there was only a rosebush

with its own drama
growing, blooming, then 
awaiting our cut

as a hand in a glove
can you bear that much

we proceed now to the garden
where carrots tug back
with grudging solicitude

and the feather blue sky
is someone else's crop

Sunday, October 05, 2008

netflix, roe v. wade, avoiding a palin

i have watched ALL of The Wire DVDs, seasons 1-5. 

there have actually been moments where i looked at my livingroom ceiling and thanked God for a roof over my head, decent leftovers, and The Wire, delivered on time by netflix. now that i'm searching for new things to plug into my queue, i think the honeymoon is over. this morning it occurred to me that Netflix must be done in moderation; when abused, it becomes an online self-isolation scheduling tool, it massages the back of my inner misanthrope. your queue is empty? what are you waiting for, start putting movies into it. stock up on beer while you're at it.

along with a movie queue i need several other queues to balance me out. a friendship queue, a house chores queue, a queue of creative tasks. how mundane, how like that kinks song, "A Well Respected Man":

'Cause he gets up in the morning,
And he goes to work at nine,
And he comes back home at five-thirty,
Gets the same train every time.
'Cause his world is built 'round punctuality,
It never fails.

And he's oh, so good,
And he's oh, so fine,
And he's oh, so healthy,
In his body and his mind.
He's a well respected man about town,
Doing the best things so conservatively.

So that's where all the queueing gets you. It even has a stuffy British ring to it, "queue."

It never fails.

Anyway, I also learned this morning that in her Katie Couric interview, Sarah Palin could not name a single supreme court judgment she did not like other than Roe v. Wade. Ach!

Wait a minute, what supreme court judgments do I not like, errr, errr, ok I have Wikipedia here...

Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857, upheld slavery, hate it.

Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896, upheld racial segregation, bogus

Marshall v. Marshall, 2006, upheld the right of anna nicole smith and the federal government to reverse decisions of state probate courts, saweeet

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

This weather is a godsend. I ran from Lamar Jr. High track to the corner of Far West Blvd. and Mesa in 25 minutes, and then without resting ran back to my house in under 54 minutes. Just this past Saturday, in the heat, I couldn't run more than half this route without walking.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Helllll Yes

From recent NYT Article:

Hydration. It was long thought that caffeinated beverages were diuretics, but studies reviewed last year found that people who consumed drinks with up to 550 milligrams of caffeine produced no more urine than when drinking fluids free of caffeine. Above 575 milligrams, the drug was a diuretic.

So even a Starbucks grande, with 330 milligrams of caffeine, will not send you to a bathroom any sooner than if you drank 16 ounces of pure water. Drinks containing usual doses of caffeine are hydrating and, like water, contribute to the body’s daily water needs.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Pop Art

Contemporary artists I find interesting...

Leo Villareal

Cool lights, fueling my escapist fantasies of doing similar commissioned work. 


British guerilla artist who doesn't make his real name or face known. He specializes in witty vandalism (arguably not vandalism) of drab public spaces in London, and produced a series of pastoral landscapes featuring modern accoutrements such as security cameras, helicopters, and burned-out automobile frames.

Vincent Valdez
As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, saw Valdez' stuff at the Alameda in San Antonio. Dramatic, romantic, photorealism. Like Bansky, he drops crude, modern details as garnish around photorealistic visions. For example a small Taco Cabana sign glows in the background of a portrait of young woman on a cell phone. That painting is nowhere to be found on the Internet. Will keep looking for it. 

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Famous and Hot

If/when these women appear on television I will drop whatever I am doing.

gillian anderson*

I thought Dana Scully was dowdy and uninteresting, so it surprised me when she appeared in a BBC production of Bleak House, looking a lot more impressive. How exactly does an actress from Chicago, widely associated with space aliens and Fox, suddenly become a preeminent British television star? (answers: intelligence, hotness)

* also did a voice in princess mononoke, subject of my last post, strange cooincidence

anne curry

I rarely watch Today or Dateline, but when I do, she seems so classy in comparison to the other anchors. I love when she wears cashmere. One morning, as Matt Lauer and Meredith Vierra discussed food, she interjected, describing how much she had recently enjoyed eating a fresh tomato. It was a captivating moment, because for a change somebody on Today was describing a life experience and how they actually felt about it, vs. the usual frantic chatter. 

(picture: anne curry, possibly in cashmere, with some random pregnant person)

naomi watts

Mullholland Drive is one of my favorite films, Watts is the star, and she pulls off some of the most difficult scenes Lynch could imagine.

julie simon

Local reporter on KEYE TV. When I was with KOOP radio I went to the house of musician Mo Jamal to tape a public statement he made about moving his family to Canada to avoid being deported to Iran as part of the Patriot Act. Surprisingly, every local news station showed up to cover the event; I wasn't about to get in their way. Julie Simon introduced herself and handed me her card, a professional gesture on her part but it made my afternoon feel like a huge success.

juana molina

she went from starring in sitcoms to producing interesting electronica albums to touring as an opening act for feist. her beauty is uniquely Argentinean. i've been enjoying her new album Son.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What would an electrical engineer's blog BE without a geeky reference to Anime? I was doing shivasana (the corpse pose, the customary yoga cool-down) this evening when I was reminded of the anime film The Princess Mononoke. Near film's end the creatures in the picture emerge from grassy hills, seemingly harmless and directionless, like ameboid Caspers, but they combined into into a huge, coordinated, giant-like thing that came to the rescue (I think). The yoga instructor (the best I've had so far) was encouraging us to think about our body, where sources of support come from. I thought that almost all forms of support in one's life, physical or emotional, come as a result of nearly unconscious cause and effect. We do little things or think little things that redeem us sometime down the road, and these things are seldom noticeable and almost never grandiose. The little guys are our stumbling thoughts and efforts in life, undertaken when we are off guard, and NOT trying to effect spiritual change in our lives. They become our substance. Our greatest moments of rejuvination and insight come from the haphazard lifts we get from them. For this to come to me nearly ten years after seeing the film, and because it's a film with heavy religious overtones (Buddhist no doubt), I found it meaningful. I just thought I'd share it.

Postscript. I googled it and the little guys are called Kodamas, or echoes. I'm no longer so sure if they save the day or just sit around and make peeping noises.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I got in my bike ride tonight. Stopped for an iced coffee at Epoch Coffee House on North Loop. The counter guy called me sweetheart. That was nice. I read a local music paper and saw that the uncle-figure to my old friend Amy, Steve Ullrich, released a new album produced by Brian Beattie. Austin seems to refuse becoming truly disconnected, no matter how hard one tries, or doesn't try. There is always a familiar face, a friend of a friend mentioned in the paper.

After my iced coffee, I hopped back on the bike. A cool breeze blew and rain fell out of a mostly starry sky. I cruised by a friend's house. He was either out or out of town. Rode up to Alamo Drafthouse Village. Nothing playing for an hour except Wall-e which just didn't seem like the right movie to see tonight. Glided back home. By that time the brewing storm had dissipated and the air was completely still. Change seemed to make its attempt, then reconsidered. The conditions on the ground are just too stubborn. My front lawn--except for the green patch around my watered Pear tree--is already scorched straw.

Friday, July 04, 2008

I was thinking about riding my bike downtown to see fireworks, but I'm really groggy and tired, and I don't want to get hit by a car so I won't. I've been watching serious adult dramas from the late 80s the past few days, Ironweed with Jack Nicholas last night, and Dangerous Liasons today. Ironweed took some effort to keep watching. A depressed alcoholic (Nicholson) who accidentally dropped and killed his baby son while drunk 25 years earlier, stumbles around in a fog with drunk friends (Streep, Tom Waits) watching people freeze to death, cough from TB, etc. Yes our collective American past was not a bowl of cherries. Dangerous Liasons used to be my favorite movie, but rewatching tired me out. The things about the story that used to seem so racy and true now seem sad. I'm 20 years older. Instead of wondering what sort of trouble I can get into I'm wondering why people inflict so much suffering upon themselves and upon others.

Tastes change, movies change. I no longer know what my favorite movies are. I liked The Iron Giant quite a bit, was very moved by it. Million Dollar Baby. There Will Be Blood was terrific. 

In terms of music, I'm into Stars of the Lid right now. Where they got the inspiration to create their sound is a sublime mystery. What sort of world do those guys see, and hear? It's where I'd like to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

say what you will, the dude knows how to dress.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Two hours and 2 million brain cells later...

In my latest thrilling installment, I got around to finishing my bare wood filing cabinet. Briwax creates fumes that are so strong that the place where I bought the first can (used to finish the bookcase behind the cabinet) stopped selling it for fear of their customers' safety. As I worked I listened to a locally produced NPR interview with a man who received a heart transplant. A bout with bronchitis led to a rare virus attacking his heart. The thought did occur to me that sacrificing my health in order to finish a $25o piece of furniture is akin to... I don't know, wiping down a floor with a cashmere sweater or something. Well, I have fewer brain cells now; I guess my analogies won't be as good.

Favorite quote of the week:
May I bring an air of understated sobriety to this discussion?
-- James Warren, Chicago Tribune columnist and guest on McLaughlin Group

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Read about the Cobra condos in the newspaper. They have small, medium, large units, each with the same floor plan: a large, open rectangle with a glass-paneled garage door at each end. The doors do not lead to driveways, but to a small concrete sidwalk, and then lawn. I am not sure there is any aesthetic at work here other than what seems cool. I admit, if a sense of ennui creeps in, it would be comforting to know you could hit a switch on the wall and eliminate the barrier between "inside" and "out." But couldn't one just walk outside? I've been thinking about these places a lot. Probably they've already been gobbled up.

Saw a few great exhibits at the Museo Alameda down in San Antonio last past weekend. Two artists, Rubio and Valdez, have asserted themselves as spokespersons for a minimalist, latin-americanized vision of cool. Particularly with Valdez one sees precision mixed with small fanciful touches. As if to say that if one is enough of a chingon, small sillyness is allowable.