Monday, October 31, 2005

The Needle And The Damage Done


I've got an article up at Stylus; this installment in the "Playing God" series finds me slicing and reassembling U2's album The Joshua Tree into some semblance of emotional coherence. Come on over and give me a hard time in the comments section.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

A Mighty Wind

Weird-haired Flower City plutocrat Tom Golisano was on the local NPR affiliate’s occasionally-excellent local call-in show yesterday, publically mulling a fourth run for governor—this time as a Republican. (who saw that coming, eh? a billionaire Republican—imagine!)

I expect Tommy the G to prosper in the GOP, having already earned his stripes as a short-sighted hysteric in the recent kerfuffle over a proposed wind farm on Canandaigua Lake where—surprise!—the Golisano family owns substantial tracts of property. Our public-spirited Tom even founded a front organization—sorry, a “concerned citizens’ group”—to carry his water on the issue. It should surprise no one that he dubbed his crew Save Upstate New York; saving, of course, is what misers do.

(It must be noted, in fairness to Mr. Golisano, that he has given a huge amount back to the Rochester community. Paychex has been a good corporate citizen, and its founder’s philanthropic credentials are impeccable. But I’ve always found it funny how the very wealthy find it easy to be public-spirited in the abstract—but when a social issue directly effects their lives, the notion of “public interest” tends to boil down to the words “I’ve got mine.”)

Anyway: When a caller brought up the wind power controversy, Ol’ Tom Golly was at pains to reassure that of course he’s pro-environment, and of course he favors development of alternative energy sources; but given the massive infrastructural footprint of wind farms, he said, the great unanswered question is, “What happens to these huge turbines if wind power becomes obsolete?”

One of those moments when you wish you had a rewind button for the radio, because you cannot believe what you just heard.

Monday, October 24, 2005

What’s On Your iPod?

My greatest achievement this year, I think, has been turning the double whammy of patently unfortunate circumstances that hit me last April—the summary shitcanning from my horrible corporate job, and getting pulled over by the health cops on a charge of a busted pump—into a net positive. I’ve taken the perhaps-foolhardy leap into freelancing, I’m working from home, and I’ve got time and wherewithal to go to the gym every day. That’s lemonade, friends, and it’s pretty damned tasty.

Now, the writing has its ups and downs—but being a housebound daddy-o is a stone groove. I dig the simple satisfaction of keeping on top of the laundry and the dishes; I like the discipline of setting my own schedule. But most of all, I love the feeling of being once again present in my own life.

I spent a year in the trenches at X___x, and I barely remember any of it; I was out before dawn and home after dark five days a week plus a half-day on Saturdays, in a windowless, climate-controlled, profoundly unsocial environment. The kids were in day care all day every day, even through the summer; any growing they were doing, I largely missed. Weeks—whole months—blurred one into the other while I ate myself up inside. Seasons rolled around and all I remember is the changing quality of the light on Irondequoit Bay as I drove every day over the bridge, weeping behind my sunglasses. I was turning into a wraith, getting to the point where my shadow was casting me.

Undoubtedly, that’s part of what led to the Incident—said Incident being a freaky one-off episode of accelerated heart-rate that hit without warning and led to a couple of visits to the cardiologist, a ban on caffeine, ninety days on a beta blocker, six weeks on a hardcore low-fat no-salt no-meat no-eggs no-dairy regime, and the indignities of having patches of my chest-hair shaved for cardiac monitoring. Most of these things were temporary experiments—some (i.e. the piebald chest) gleefully abandoned, some (the vegan diet) intriguing enough to warrant further investigation. Six months later, my personal habits are mostly back to what they were before the Incident, by and large, but: I’m still taking soy-milk in my morning coffee, and I’m still hitting the gym five days a week—six, when I can manage it.

That’s not something I ever expected to say about myself. Further: I’m enjoying it. I’ll be on the ellipticals and the cardio ticks over 146 and all the aches in the legs dissolve—damn, friends, all is then right with the world.

It’s also giving me a chance to listen to shedloads of music. Most of my first big freelance paycheck went towards a new PC, with obscene amounts of memory. I’ve always been one to discover new music online, and I’ve burned countless mix CDs to while away the long hours of drivetime. With a work commute factored out of the equation, I might have stopped listening to music.

But with that new PC came a promotional gift: a cheap ‘n’ dirty little MP3 player. 256mb—maybe 50 songs, tops. Still. That’s about five hours of music. And, what a coincidence, my life suddenly had about five hours a week that needed filling with music.

Playlist changes every week. And every week I’m surprised by what works and what doesn’t. Melody is useless at the gym, while techno and dance music take on a new logic when I’m pounding the treadmill. Electronics, disco, Afropop, remixes and mash-ups, postpunk robot-funk—stuff I couldn’t have imagined liking a year ago suddenly become indispensable. (Then again, I never thought I’d like soy milk, either.)

This week, my MP3 player is loaded with

Clouds Across the Moon (extended mix)—The Rah Band
Dancing With Myself (extended remix)—Billy Idol
Demolition Man—The Police
Digging This HoleAn Emotional Fish
Drive Away (end titles)—A Series of Unfortunate Events OST
Exodus—Bob Marley
FlamethrowerJ. Geils Band
The Fly—U2
Get Better (extended remix)—New Fast Automatic Daffodils
Going Back To My Roots (Twitch Edit)—Richie Havens
Great Waves—The Dirty Three with Chan Marshall
“Heroes—David Bowie
Higher Than the World—The Armoury Show
Husky Team—The Outlaws (a Joe Meek project)
I Am the Black Gold of the Sun (4Hero remix)—Nu Yorican Soul
I Heard It Through the GrapevineCreedence Clearwater Revival
I Never Gave Up (Rappoport’s Testament)Chumbawamba
In Trance As Mission—Simple Minds
Inside And Out (Ewan Pearson & Al Usher Extended Dub)—Feist
The JackalRonny Jordan
Last Train to LhasaBanco de Gaia
The Lazarus Heart—Sting
Looking Over My Shouldertil tuesday
Micronomic (remix)—Lali Puna
My Hi-MaticIsolée
No Condition Is PermanentMarijata
Nothing Ventured, Nothing GainedKung Fu Hustle OST
One Big HolidayMy Morning Jacket
Paint It, Black—The Rolling Stones
ParadisoKonono No. 1
Past Machine—Lali Puna
Seven MinutesYoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop OST)
Seven SoulsMaterial (with William S. Burroughs)
Sled DogThe Choir
So GoodBratz Rock Angels
Voodoo People (Pendulum remix)—The Prodigy
We’re In Yr CornerCornershop
Winning the War—til tuesday
Working for the Yankee Dollar (single mix)—The Skids
ZenJohn Cale
Confidential to my brother Dan, if he’s reading this: yes, I’ve only gotten worse.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Curse You, Baron Zemo!

Holy shit! They found Captain America!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

Indian Summer has finally broken, and the nights at last are coming raw into the forties. It’s whiskey weather; the frost can’t be far behind. And that means that soon we’ll be pulling up the annuals in the garden.

Our little back lot, where the mason brick walls of the townhouse form a corner, faces due South. It catches full sunlight all afternoon, and the bricks hold the heat. Upshot: we get an unlikely abundance out of the garden’s red clay, while putting little into it but water.

Honestly. This is the first year we made a serious attempt at growing anything other than the sunflowers that spring from the spilled birdseed. We turned the lumpen earth as best we could, pruned back the thorns, demarcated the edges with slabs of tumbled bluestone. I personally pulled a few handsful of weeds: but that’s the extent of it.

And yet there were yellow squash and zucchini throughout September, from untidy vines oversplaying the edging-stones and onto the lawn. There are irrepressible pink roses still, in mid-October; tangles of basil and dill and mint, cage-escaping Brandywines, clusters of cherry tomatoes—far smaller than actual cherries, not much larger than high-bush blueberries—gleaming scarlet in the great choking green mass of stems.

I think there may have been cucumbers out there, too, at the start of the season, but there’s no sign of them now; the rapacious tomatoes strangled them all and buried the bodies in a shallow grave. Our back garden is a jungle, and its law is the jungle’s.

Next year, we’ll have fewer tomato cages—resulting, I hope, in a better yield, as this year the vines exploded every which way, but the love-apples themselves mostly stayed green, which I attribute to overextension—and certainly fewer cherry tomatoes. They are lovely, improbable carmine jewels in the green, sweet and sunshiny eaten by the handful right off the vine; but in the end they were simply too many.

The crawling things—the squash, cucumbers again, maybe pole beans—will need the right sort of trellis or frame. That’s going to be key, I think—encouraging the garden vertically; the brickwork’s heat-retaining power doesn’t diminish as you move upwards, as even the roof overhang gives no appreciable shade. The patch is L-shaped, the long arm about fifteen feet wide by three feet deep, and that stretch also accommodates our gas and electric meters, dryer vent, and HVAC fan. If we can discourage the overgrowth—everything just ka-bloomed outwards, everything running into everything else—that made weeding, trimming, and picking such a pain this year, we can transform our raucous weed-acre—our Green Hell—into something tidy and productive, something that will feed us.

Big plans, yeah? Especially coming from the guy who couldn’t keep a bonsai alive. Five years ago—even two—I’d never have imagined myself thinking like this. But Man was made to tend gardens: Isn’t that how the story goes?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Message from the Sin City Health Department

Sin City - That Yellow Bastard

You've got a bum ticker, Hartigan.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Rescuing Jesus

"This is a song that Charles Manson stole from the Beatles. We're stealin' it back."

The American Christian right has hijacked Jesus Christ. It has made him into a brand, a logo, a bumper sticker. It celebrates his suffering on the cross, but largely neglects what he had to say. It prefers an Old Testament God, a "Jealous God, visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children." It elevates success to proof of God's favor, and washes its hands of responsibility for the poor. It combines a self-righteous vision of Americans as the chosen people with shrill intimations of imminent apocalypse, to justify indifference to the rest of the world and to the planet itself.
Allessandro Cameron lays the smack down. Between this and Bill McKibben's coruscating Harper's article The Christian Paradox, it sounds like all the stuff I've been ranting about since last year's elections is starting to go mainstream.

(Of course, the UUs have known this forever; but who listens to the UUs?)

But we mustn't lose sight, in our righteous fury, of the inconvenient fact that these True Believers who are, de facto our enemies, are in fact our errant brothers and sisters. It's not so much that Jesus needs saving from the American Christian Right—Jesus is a big boy, and He can take care of Himself—but that the American Christian Right needs to be saved from Right-Wing American Christianity.

Friday, October 14, 2005

What I Learned Today

Years ago, I read in one of those inspirational books—it might've been All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten—that you ought to learn at least one new thing each day. That struck me as good advice, and I've always tried to live by that.

Today I learned that I can run the 5k in less than forty minutes, but that it makes me want to hurl afterwards.