(Disingenuous) Quote of the Week
"I was just looking for a warm meal somewhere."
--George W. Bush
Uh huh. And he just happened to find it halfway around the world, under heavy security, on a national holiday, in front of appropriately appreciative troops, and--last but undisputedly not least--with cameras rolling.
Lord, Have Mercy!
Whoa...here's Junior Wells' smoldering take on "Stormy Monday" that I haven't heard in ages. Surprisingly, there's no harmonica here, just Junior focusing totally on his vocals with typically brilliant guitar from Buddy Guy. I had to go all the way to Russia for this audio stream, and negotiating through that cryptic alphabet was definitely worth the effort.
(The site also has excellent streams from Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Jimi Hendrix. I was a very serious blues fan back in college, and it's great to hear all this stuff again. Quite timeless.)
My archives are now fully updated, and include everything I've written in this blog and my previous blog, dating back to May 2003. So peruse at your leisure, and feel free to leave scurrilous comments wherever appropriate. NaNoWriMo is finally winding down, and I hope to start generating more creative fiction and fewer snarky observations next week. Stay tuned.
One of the greatest cartoonists and his most beloved character are now back in the Sunday comics. Berkeley Breathed has created a new Sunday-only comic named "Opus", starring none other than the world's favorite short, flightless waterfowl. Sunday's debut was quite promising; Opus seems to be the same humble, romance-challenged dreamer we've come to know and love. It appears here in Chicago in the Tribune, although it will not be available online. So plunk down your $1.75 and revel.
Now, About that Terra Cotta...
From today's Chicago Tribune:
Two Hit by Debris During Downtown Festival
Falling pieces of clay tiles from a downtown skyscraper struck two pedestrians, including a 5-year-old boy, Saturday evening during the Festival of Lights display, police said. Chicago Streets and Sanitation workers closed the roads surrounding Mather Tower, 75 E. Wacker Drive, about 7:40 p.m. after parts of the terra-cotta facade hit the boy and a 35-year-old man, said police spokesman Carlos Herrera. Both were taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, where they were listed in good condition, said Herrera, who did not know if the two were related.
In 1998, dangerously loose terra cotta on the 44-story building's facade forced contractors to wrap the building in mesh. Two years later, workers removed the crown of the building after it was deemed unsound. The cupola was put back in place last November, by helicopter, as part of extensive renovations.
Yes, sir, Chicago really knows how to take care of its tourists. I'm looking forward to seeing footage of a hastily-arranged press conference starring Da Mare, looking simultaneously outraged and somber, announcing yet another official investigation.
I was quite pleased to see someone access my blog via Google. As it turns out, using the search term "Elliott Smith" and "Buckley" puts me third in the rankings (see results), and ahead of the Amazonian behemoth! Although using "Jeff Buckley" instead knocks me down to seventh, four notches below Bezos' Folly.
I almost feel like my Web existence has been validated.
Hmmm. I now see that I've slipped to sixth, two notches below Amazon. Their highly-paid Google-placement consultants are obviously reaping rewards.
My Kinda Town, Sorta
In the midst of a high-end travel piece in the New York Times, I couldn't help but be amused by the following passage.
"Chicago perhaps has the handsomest downtown in the United States. None other attends to its public and commercial spaces with such civic pride. Everywhere you turn, a landmark building's facade is being steam-cleaned, its terra-cotta bricks recemented. Plaques along the street give detailed histories of immediate surroundings. It can also be a wonderful smelling city in spring and autumn when a breeze carries the scent of chocolate from a candy factory along the Chicago River. For a few giddy weeks pedestrians walk around under the influence of a sugar high."
Indeed: a) to cite just one example, Mayor Daley was kind enough to obliterate the civically convenient Meigs Field with a midnight demolition crew (just before Election Day, no less); b) those recemented terra-cotta bricks exclude those which have already fallen, pummelling unsuspecting pedestrians, thanks to the landlord's chronic neglect; c) those plaques charmingly invoke classic buildings which once stood there, before being deemed expendable and an impediment to the onslaught of faceless condo towers; and d) the smell of rotting alewives and mystery river effluents are also quite memorable, whether you want to remember them or not.
Clearly the writer didn't venture out of the Gold Coast or the Loop.
This week's musical selection is inspired by both hearing Uncle Tupelo's surging cover of the Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You" while driving to work this morning, as well as thoughts of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. But I'm not sure if the song actually has anything to do with JFK (check out the lyrics here), or if it's just another quirkily enjoyable pop song with obscurist lyrics. At any rate, any song which name-drops Sebadoh is alright with me.
Jeff Buckley et al
It's fascinating how circular life can be. When I last wrote about Jeff Buckley, I was working on a short story ("Discord") which was partly inspired by him. I finished that story in September, and spent October working on two more stories which are still in rough draft form. Then in November, I resumed my novel-in-progress ("Eden") as part of NaNoWriMo. On Tuesday afternoon I took a break from work and went to a nearby Starbucks to do some work on the novel. And when I walked in the door, I was thrilled to hear the last minute or so of Buckley's "Hallelujah." I'm still quite obsessed with that magnificent song.
This interesting coincidence is roughly analogous to my "Algren Nickel" experience.
A comic genius has left us. Art Carney was the perfect foil for the equally brilliant Jackie Gleason, with the two having unparalleled chemistry as performers. They also managed the rare feat of each being equally adept at being the comic and the straight man. "The Honeymooners" represents the very best of what television is capable of. Art Carney will be greatly missed.
"I love Ed Norton and what he did for my career," Mr. Carney once said. "But the truth is that we couldn't have been more different. Norton was the total extrovert, there was no way you could put down his infectious good humor. Me? I'm a loner and a worrier."
Today I happened to think of my childhood friend John. John was a free spirit, reckless, fearless, wild, the exact opposite of what I've always been. His youthful vandalism, which occasionally bordered on the criminal, always kept us laughing: shoving a tree-sized branch down a neighbor's chimney, flinging bluegill over his backyard fence at cars passing on the highway, blowing up footbridges with improvised gasoline grenades. He was the kind of guy who could mis-grab a hot line drive in a game of Chicago softball (no gloves), have it shatter his thumb, and coolly reply "Damn, I broke my thumb," as if he was commenting on the weather. He played on the rugby team at Wisconsin, which fit him perfectly: ceaseless, manic, bone-threatening action, with no concern whatsoever for the lack of both padding and scholarships.
The last time I saw him was shortly after we graduated from college. He had just taken a job with a civil engineering firm, dredging harbors. His job would take him place to place: Chesapeake Bay to San Juan to Puget Sound, working three weeks at a stretch with one week off, which he spent at his adopted hometown of Steamboat Springs, skiing, undoubtedly flinging himself down the side of the mountain at breakneck speed, thirsting for adrenaline with no thought of his personal safety. During his interview he said that what the company needed was "a gypsy, someone who lived out of a backpack," and that he was the man for the job. Standing at the bar in a dive in our hometown, he had just finished regaling us with stories of firefighting in Yellowstone with the National Park Service.
The reason I thought of John this morning was that the conductor on my train vaguely resembled John, albeit a balding, paunchy, 50-year-old version of him, and I was sobered at the thought. I know we all have to grow up, mature, settle down, buy a three-bedroom house with two-car garage, but please, not John. I want to think he's still out there, a vagabond, a ski bum, living on the edge for the pure thrill of it. In my mind he will always be exactly the way he was the last time I saw him, garrulously talking about the Yellowstone forest fires.
Chances are, you'll see little or no fiction here for the rest of November. My literary efforts are totally focused on NaNoWriMo. If you need a fiction fix, check out the archives on my old blog for the time being. I'll get those archives moved here eventually, but it's not a high priority at the moment. Onward and upward, as they say.
Or as Satchel Paige once said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."
"Saving" Jessica Lynch
Anybody who still believes the Bush-approved version of what happened to Pvt. Lynch in Baghdad should read this excellent article. The fact that the Lynch story was swallowed whole by the mainstream American media just goes to show how gullible and irrelevant the likes of Brokaw, Jennings et al really are. This fiasco might have remained lodged in the back of my subconscious were it not for the upcoming made-for-TV schlock that NBC is spewing out this Sunday. The network should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for perpetuating this propoganda, all for the sake of ratings.
Followup, Friday 11/7/03: I see that now even Lynch is refuting the story. Please note that it's Diane Sawyer at ABC reporting on this. I'm guessing NBC's "Dateline" will remain mum on the subject.
The conductor rapped on the metal railing with her paper punch, clearly annoyed at the passenger not having his ticket ready. The passenger was even more annoyed at the interruption to his writing; he was right in the middle of a particularly good passage when the interruption destroyed his train of thought. With obvious annoyance he withdrew his wallet, pulled out his monthly pass--the conductor saw him every single day, and knew he was a regular--and flashed it disdainfully before her eyes.
"Damn it," he felt like yelling, "don't bother me! Don't you know it's NaNoWriMo?"
(This passage is fiction--at least so far--but I can easily envision it happening. Here's today's update.)
Greetings, David Steinberg!
Best wishes to Beth and Fred on their handsome new arrival! David made his world debut on Monday, October 27, in Northampton, MA.