Monday, December 28, 2009

Library Haul

I raided the library for another (see December 17) bunch of books, just to keep a range on hand. The past week or so, I finished the Larry Fine bio, and the Faulkner one, as well as read a Tony Hillerman that I had. I have nearly finished the Pohl, nibbled at Pater, find Toffler a bit boring, and I read the Calamus section of Leaves of Grass straight thru. Here is what I got this evening:

  • Absalom, Absalom!, I read it years ago. It is experimental, like Faulkner’s best books, but shows more effort than Fury or Dying. It is a more difficult read. I will start in on it tonight, methinks.
  • The Mansion, another one that I have read before. His presentation is less disjunctive than his masterpieces, but he is still pressing the language. A sort of drippy adjective-rich writing exists that is mongered as quintessential, such that you will hear passages of it quoted reverently, like on public radio. It is mushy writing but if you have Dylan Thomas’ pipes it can sound nearly wonderful. Faulkner’s prose is crazier than that sort of writing. He certainly knows he’s pushing the canopy, but he’s also just throwing it into the moat and seeing if anyone will salute. When he bounds away on one of his endless sentences, it’s an aerial stunt that you are compelled to watch. In contradistinction to, say, Amy Clampitt, who, looks at the turf of her sentences as subdivisions, each plot grimly separated by commas, periods and—heaven help us!—semi-colons. It’s a bumpy ride with Faulkner, but worth the experience.
  • A bio of F Scott Fitzgerald by Jeffrey Meyers. Pretty sure I have read something by Meyer…
  • A bio of Josef Goebbels. Perhaps there’s an afterword by Dick Cheney…
  • Sphere, by Michael Crichton. I have read a number of his books and seen quite a few of his movies (but never saw ER). He gets the elements together nicely. This one caught my attention because the title does not appear on front cover or spine. In fact, I managed to see the cover illustration as being the Antikythera machine. It is instead a spiral of numbers that I am just guessing has something to do with the plot.
  • The Man Who Would Be King, about the man, a Quaker, who was the 1st American in Afghanistan.
  • Philosophical Writings of Peirce, I would like to read more by him.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Reading a bio of William Faulkner by Jay Parini, One Matchless Time. I did not know much about him, tho I have read 5 or 6 of his novels and a few stories. I have always responded positively to his work, even tho I’ve wondered about it.

What makes me hesitate is perhaps his self-assured flamboyancy. It is the same distrust I have for actors. According to Parini, Faulkner was an actor, making up tales about his past and such like. For instance, exaggerations about getting injured during WWI. He trained for the RAF in Canada but never made it to the action, yet he somehow ended up with a limp. Which reminds me of a story that Robert Creamer tells of Babe Ruth. Ruth cut his hand on the fence while trying to field a ball. The trainer came out and removed Babe from the game. Ruth limped from the field.

It is always interesting to see where a writer or any artist breaks from the tyro stage and starts asserting the mature style and vision. Faulkner’s breakthru was I think his 4th novel, The Sound and the Fury. That is likely the first book by him that I read. Its entwined narratives and viewpoints is really effective, his mythology is fully figured, and the whole thing drips with inspection. Some of the obliquity is high falutin’, which is part of my distrust of Faulkner. You can see him being a bad influence on certain writers as a high sign for excess, just as Kerouac or Whitman could be for some. Still, he let narrative buckle under its weight, and that fragmentation is exhilaration. Yul Brynner (with hair) played Jason Compson in the movie version. I like Brynner, and it is possible that he could fit the role, but the idea was too bumptious for me and I switched the channel. I am older now and may be able to handle it.

As I Lay Dying followed. I read the familiar paperback edition with both S&F and Dying together. They are satisfying, vivid novels that can be held next to Woolf’s great works and with Ulysses. The other Faulkner novels that I have read kinda blur in my mind. And didn’t he tramp off to Hollywood?

Racism and sexism are empty enough words; they implicate more about the human animal than they can express. Both are elements in Faulkner’s work, and are tricky to navigate. The trick, I mean, is where Faulkner stands. In the muck, finally. He is an actor, as I said. I admit that I like how he wields his style, with happy yet resilient vigour. In contradistinction, perhaps, to Thomas Wolfe. There is a command in Faulkner that Wolfe maybe lacked.

As I said, I responded immediately to Faulkner. Hemingway resides in the other hand. Hemingway’s bullfighting book is fascinating but his fiction does nothing for me. Old Man and the Sea is pure malarkey so far as I can tell. Funny, tho, you can see how he and Stein have some commonalities.

I know nothing of Parini but he seems to be decent enough as a bio writer. There’s a vivid sea change when he gets to where he can speak of Sound & Fury. Prior to that he is almost perfunctory in speaking of the amorphous muggins that is his subject. Faulkner finally grows up with that novel and Parini can say Ecce homo.

That growing up as a writer (Faulkner the regular person offers filigrees of juicily well-etched particulars) is a useful consideration  (shall we dance?). There is no straight road in creative endeavours. Thomas the Rhymer:

O see ye not yon narrow road,

So thick beset wi' thorns and briers?

That is the Path of Righteousness,

Though after it but few inquires.


And see ye not yon braid, braid road,

That lies across the lily leven?

That is the Path of Wickedness,

Though some call it the Road to Heaven.

Faulkner found a place, Yoknaphatawpha county, where the world can be included. The stories blur together some, and I am sure that Sound and Dying represent Faulkner’s MVP seasons, but he had created a creative life in developing that place. A creative person is a creative lesson.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It’s A Mall, Whirled

Today’s visit could be our final mall trip of the season. The impetus was some Eddie Bauer coupons that might expire today or soon.PLUS a possible storm coming, which may lay havoc, etc. The Weather Channel forecast certain doom for most of the Atlantic coast, and Santa Claus is reading the papers and thinking he will have to cancel Christmas. On with the mukluks, said we, a finger snap in the face of Boreas, and see what the mall offers.

Before I go further, I must ramble a bit about Christmas music. You hear so many of the familiar songs tarted up by musical factotums in a desperate effort to sound original. You know, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer with a Phil Spector wall of sound production. Or any number of your favourite recording artists attempting to sound sincere while singing about silver bells and winter wonderlands. And of course Elvis singing weela hava huh huh blue Christmas without you… Ick! Chrissie Hynde singing “2000 Miles” is an exception. Playing it now.

Anyway, we arrived at the mall with anticipation. I mean, we were caught in an obvious mallward flow but awaited the telling visual that things were all right, and that Obama’s sensitive bailout of the banks would piss relief on us all. Beth and I really take this seriously, how the turnings of the economic turbine are revealed at the mall. As the economic edifice came in sight we were satisfied that business was at least churning. Not, however, like the time a few years ago when we arrived, entered a hopeless flow around the mall where no parking was evident. It was an hour journey around the place with no parking space for reward. That was then, before Goldman Sachs decided a change was necessary. Today, there were some, few, spaces for our phaeton. Actually stared down an interloper who eyed the selfsame space that we, by the grace of all the gods, had seen first.

We went directly to Eddie Bauer, which is located by an entrance, because we actually had a reason to be there. O Fortuna! There was a 25% sale on EVERYTHING!!! Using a coupon and some Bauer rebate for being avid shoppers (economy savers, really, adding our trickle to the trickle down), we ended up paying 45% off. Lengthy line to the cashiers, stalwart clothes for all.

After Bauer we entered the maw of the beast. Climbing the topsail, I lost my leg!

In the centre of the mall there was this fenced off area and there was like a line of people, both grownups and children, and they were like waiting there to see this guy with this like white beard. The parents weren’t allowed to get close to him but the children were brought like right up to him and even sat on his lap. He’d talk to them and stuff, and scare some of them, and laugh and all. Someone was there to take pictures of the children, who were generally dressed up in Sunday best. He did not seem impressed by the selection of children but the parents looked pleased when their children were returned to them. I guess it is good that he gave all the children back. He seemed to have a lot of power, somehow. I swan to John.

We did not effort to enter many stores, actually. A goodly, but not greatly, mob was in evidence. A denizen of the kiosks said to Beth, I wish I could put this on your neck. The this in question was one of those neck relaxers (Reed Richards swears by them!), whatever the hell those things are. I think this entrepreneur’s approach could use some work.

We tucked ourselves into Nordstrom’s for a bit. It occurs to me that they removed the red carpet that was there at the entrance in earlier visits. Some boys ahead of us actually hopped onto a couch as they hustled thru the women’s shoes district near the entrance. Had I just entered a John Hughes movie? Not much stopped me in the store. I saw an astonishingly loud shirt, a canny mixture of paisley and peyote would be my guess. Visited again the coat that would never be. It’s okay, it’s okay.

We stopped at Au Bon Pain. Scones for each of us: chocolat pour moi et orange pour mon amour. We consumed our scones in a rest area of couches and comfy chairs near a Cadillac that was either for sale or a contest prize. A family sat down just after us. Not exactly sat. The mother deposited her husband and 4 children so that she could invest some solo expedition. The man sunk swiftly into the comfort of a couch while the children swarmed. Three boys close in age and a girl, who was youngest. The girl wore a pair of pink wings, had a pacifier in her mouth, and one in each hand. Dad wanted to chill but that did not fit in with the directive of the children. At one point the boys ran excitedly towards the Cadillac with the girl in their wake. For about 20 seconds they showed considerable interest in and excitement towards the car, unlike the American public, then they returned as if there was naught to remark about the car. The boys then rushed off somewhere. Dad decided that the girl, eager tho she was, should not tag along. This was a blow to her, and she cried, thunderstuck. She was still in sulk as we left.

We made tracks to Whole Foods, in search of a ham. Beth wants to do a ham for Christmas Eve. We have friends coming. We are talking an uncured ham, which Beth will brine and glaze and whatever the recipe says. This is something she saw in Cook’s magazine. Neither of us, over the years, have been that much into recipes, but we have decided to follow recipes lately, and Cook’s Magazine supplies not only good recipes but helpful gastronomic science.

IA recent visit to Whole Foods afforded me a Yeti ornament, which I have not stuck on the tree, preferring to stick it over there. I seem to be collecting evidence of Yeti, that is, images of the fell creature. At this selfsame Whole Foods I got a picture of a Yeti produce box (I fortuitously had had my camera in my pocket).


Note the encouraging thumbs up! It’s all right if Yeti says it’s so. I also found a beer, a stoutly stout, with Yeti appeal.


Close to 10% alcohol, a subtle wallop. Call it headache in a bottle, but I digress. Yeti has appeared in some of my writings, a book I mean to publish, so there’s the interest. The ornament is too white for me to get a decent picture of, at least so far, but trust me, I am on the prowl for more pix. Anyway, I guess there were no adventures at Whole Foods today. We ordered the ham and managed to return home unflaked upon. Four hours after the snow warning began here, still no snow. We shall see what Boreas delivers anon.

New Poems at Simple Theories

More poems at my poetry blog, Simple Theories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Reading

I went to the library yesterday to collect a bunch of books. I just wanted some variety. This is what I came home with:

  • 2 scifi, by Frederik  Pohl and Vernor Vinge. I’ve read books by both. I did not want to get any of that overextended stuff in 3, or 14, volumes. I like the commitment that goes into such series, but they tend to become extenuated. These 2 books seem to be discrete stories and built for speed.
  • Plato and Platonism by Walter Pater. I have only read a little by Pater, plus a pretty good bio. I can imagine him at Oxford in a hashish haze (I mean figuratively, I don’t mean that he toked), with ideas of art and purity and what all.
  • A bio of Larry Fine. Bios always interest me, and why not the middle Stooge?
  • Powershift by Alvin Toffler. I’ve never read this sort of thing. Futurist? It was published in 1990. Let us see if he wasn’t a pastist.
  • A bio of William Faulkner. I’ve read a lot of his novels and enjoy them, and still am not sure if I should like them.
  • A collection of Whitman’s poetry. I wanted to read work by the guy who wrote the Levi commercials. Actually, my Whitman books are packed away, and I had a hankering. The commercials are the sort of predictable cool malarkey that some fast-paced New Yorker whupped up. Let’s be impressed together! Speaking of which, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention but Dolce e Gabbana has a commercial featuring a human featurette, male division, strutting handsomely to the conclusion of the commercial, at which point we realize that it is Matthew McConaughey. Really? The image I get of him is the lovable knucklehead, which does not seem to be quite the image for marketing Italian smelly stuff. I could be wrong.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Bed Bath & Beyond, and Beyond

We went to Bed Bath and Beyond Saturday for specific minor home goods needs. Actually, I went to discover what could be comprised in the term beyond. It sounds post-modern, with implications of a vast new possibility. The 4th dimension of home, hmm…

We used to go to Linens ‘n Things but that store, locally at least, has gone to that great thing in the sky. You will notice that Bed Bath & Beyond employs an ampersand whilst Linen ‘n Things goes with elision to express its commercial nature koan style. This must mean something. It must! I am still working on what a bed bath is.

I did not think I had ever been in BB&B but on entering, I had to wonder. It was set up just like Linen ‘n Things, which was located in the next strip mall over. Both strip malls are within hailing distance of our great, legendary shopping mall yclept Burlington Mall. Yes, that is the commercial turbine within which we spin.

So BB&B looks just like Linen did. Once thru the door you enter a counter-clockwise flow that lets you peruse every single piece of available merchandise. Ikea does this on a much broader scale. A circumnavigational aisle offers inlets of interest as well as stuff right there in the aisle. Need a radio in the shower? No prob! Pots and pans? No sweat. Bedding? Of course. I recognized most everything that I saw, so I do not know what was beyond. I do know that hearing Golden Earring play “Twilight Zone” was a surprise and a wonder.

Beth found what she needed. I saw a men’s grooming tool. I guess tool is the wrong word. A grooming aid for men. It is for trimming hair under the arm and in the area of naughty bits. Nice! The package showed an illustration of a man. This was necessary because no words indicated on what sections of a men’s body this item might be applied. Instead, there were red circles around the armpits and groin. No naughty bit was suggested in the illustration, so one might wonder just how efficient this grooming aid might be. One just might.

I neglected to mench that the store was extremely busy, with quite a crowd trying to pass by the cashiers. I ended up waiting in line while Beth made a second run thru for an item that she needed. This gave me the opportunity to look at a Wonder of Wonders, Grater Division. It is a re-envisioning of the common kitchen grater. Instead of being a metal item with a rough surface, it was a ceramic item with a rough surface. It also comes with a small ceramic dish, which I have to admit is something my present graters lack, at least in the sense of being a set. Here, then, is some real beyond thinking.

This grater’s brand was called The Pitchmen. Pictured on the package were our late friend Billy Mays, and Anthony Sullivan. Sullivan is another familiar sayer of No Wait There’s More!!! Why their being pitchmen implies product quality is something one could ponder. Without wishing ill of the man or being a dick, I also wonder why Mays’ death touched people as it did. I mean, I never felt much relationship with him. I am puzzled why he chose to yell at me as he did, but other than that, I did not feel that we grokked.

The next day we entered Whole Foods to the distinctive sound of—can you guess?—“Radar Love” by Golden Earring. Two Golden Earring moments in two days. The stars have aligned! Fun Fact: Golden Earring has been around since 1961. Holy Crap!

Today I did the mall solo. Beth was meeting a friend at Barnes & Noble across the way. Erin had his own mall mission, so I decided I would just wander thru the mall without Beth’s insight and perspective. We arrived at the mall at 10:00, which, we discovered, is one hour before most stores open on Sunday. Well!

I think the mall itself opened at 9:30, but the only stores exploiting this opportunity were Dunkin Donuts and Au Bon Pain. DD had an extensive line, which I had no intention of joining (I like my coffee to taste like coffee). Erin and I walked thru the mall together for a while. All the kiosks and carts were covered, stores were dark or, if not, then doors were snugly closed. The Apple Store had a red rope across the door, and a red shirt to pleasantly (I assume) bar you from entering.

Despite these discouraging tidings there were quite a few people wandering the halls of commerce. The escalators were not moving, the ubiquitous televisions were dark and quiet, and the string quartet was just tuning up. Eventually Erin split off for his mission. I made maybe 4 circuits of the place, upstairs and down. Few insights to report but I did get nail clippers at CVS. No prob with CVS but what’s a common store like that doing at the mall? Tone, people, tone!

Before stores opened, I saw Santa Claus in mufti. He carried a valise. Once the mall got into gear, the Santa Trap filled quickly with parents and their primped up children. Santa also regularly appears on the tvs, with essential news about his website. I have noticed that Santa tends to speak with a drawl. I do not know how to account for that.

So, does Santa ever visit Superman at the Fortress of Solitude, or Superman come visit Santa at the Workshop? I suppose Santa is busy churning out toys and Superman’s busy being alone, so alone.

We finished this excursion by gathering at the food court. There is quickie Thai, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine available. By my experience, if these are indicative, the 3 regions produce exactly the same stuff, with a highlight on starchy sweet and sour. Right now (because purveyors come and go quite a bit), these are the Food Court Choices:

  • Some new place combining cupcakes and ice cream. Is the ice cream inside, or just on top? I dunno.
  • A place offering toasted subs and philly cheese steaks.
  • A place offering crepes, panini, and movies of bread making on their tv (cool)
  • A Chinese place with someone generally out front offering samples. Samples are typically offered at the crepe place, as well.
  • An Indian choice, and pretty darn good. We got rice pudding once that clearly had sour milk, but our complaints were passed aside, so our enthusiasm has considerably waned.
  • Pizzaria Regina, once of the North End (Boston’s Italian neighbourhood), now serving the world, and Fenway Park. I would rather pay 2 here than 7 there at Fenway.
  • Thai food, very eager to serve you.
  • Quiznos. just Quiznos.
  • Chick-Fil-A. See, the A is long, you eventually discover, as in Chick Filet, but it just does not work for me.
  • Japanese food

After our repast, we got a Christmas tree at the farm where we have gotten them every year we have been together.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More Mall Meanderings

Thanks to Eileen Tabios for the good words. It is nice to be praised for the weird stuff, tho obviously I do not consider my interest in malls weird. I do not try to explain my interest. It is a pre-existent condition. And persistent. I may even collect my many responses to commercial input in a separate blog. So today (Saturday), we could not resist another visit thru the commerce.

It really is of interest to Beth and me, the sense of the economy as figured in how the mall seems. We did, as it happens, pass by the mall yesterday, Black Friday. The parking lot looked full, and police details busily directed traffic. We skipped past to get food for a hungry betta.

Black Friday, the concept, is a nice bit of hopeful manipulation. The sense of infused desperation to get those discounts is overplayed, but effective. I recollect that Apple, for one, was actually pretty chary with its economy-invigourating price points last year. I know, it is fine for some of the population, to rise betimes and race to the store. I am not insensitive to saving money—hardly that!—but that there is little that I am needing to need by way of indiscretionary spending seasons my disinterest in rushing to consume. Don’t worry, I’ll consume. Soy Americano.

So Beth and I entered the mall and were immediately swept into the vortex of Eddie Bauer 25% Off All Merchandise. We both got a Mt Everest t-shirt. I like Eddie Bauer stuff. A fully-equipped manikin seems like a stark statement of the conditions to be met in places like Everest: just this against a sub-zero hurricane. They have a large tv screen showing a Bauer sponsored expedition to the big hill. Ed Viesturs is among those in the expedition. The video is worth a visit to the store. The music piped thru the store was something fatuous by Frank Sinatra, a Christmasy song with strained lyrics and melody with and Frank playing with the timing. Frank’s I don’t give a shit infuses my own. Purchasing an item gave us the opportunity also to get at smashing discount a mitten with an attached ice scraper. We did not make that purchase but it’s a cool idea.

From there we went to Nordstrom’s next, I think. To get there, we passed a string quartet playing selections from The Nutcracker, just to give some tone to the place. Giving further tone, the hawkers at the kiosks and carts tried a new (to me) tack: asking passersby: Can I ask you a question? No is the proper reply. It is intrusive, and as an introduction it could just as easily have been a question about my stance on abortion or life insurance.

In the window of Anthopologie (which is the phoniest store name, lame division, that I have noticed at the mall) had an answer for all those books that nobody apparently buys: an ostrich-sized bird made from books! The store sold clothes, women’s I think. We did not enter.

A red carpet was thrown down at the lower entrance to Nordstrom’s. This was a perp walk. Lined along the carpet were salespeople ready to share their perfume sample and belief therein with you. I think they spray strips of paper which then are dangled under willing noses. We declined.

I was disturbed that the carpet led nowhere, just stopped. I would have continued it, or delivered some attraction at its end. Otherwise it is just there to wipe your feet. Were our feet less dirty last week? We just breezed thru Nordstrom’s this time. Beth saw a nifty watch on the face of which was an anime figure. The figure, we were told, was the designer, one Beth had heard of. The $200 ties (and cheaper) were pretty good. Nice designs. Still, I did not see how the price of said woven Spidey-web was indicated in the quality of the ties as compared with mere $70 ones. Our exit coincided with “Santa Baby”, Eartha Kitt, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, who knows.

The Apple Store, okay. It was even more spare now than it has been. They removed the counter at the front. Instead, near the middle, a table where purchases can be finalized sits. I would guess there were 15 red shirts (Apple store pros) in the store, possibly more, and maybe 10 customer groups. Possibly people are wore out from the discount that Steve Jobs allowed us to have on Black Friday. We actually got one of those tiny iPod Shuffles, auxiliary for Erin’s currently on the DL Zune. I should like to assert that Apple’s minimalism is leaving me behind. Not so much the tiny Shuffle but buttonlessness is no virtue. That wheel, I find with my Nano, is hard to control if hands are cold or you are wearing gloves. If you pocket the device you run the risk of the volume finding ways to go up up up or down down down. I do not, alas, feel that I am a better person because there are no buttons on the iPod. Steve, forgive me. I am just not minimal.

Pressing on to somewhere, I saw a man with a rake. At the mall. Maybe he purchased it at Sears, but if so why did he not leave by a side door. Flaunting that thing flouts the effort at upscaleness that the mall tries to express. How does the thing work, anyway, and how do you plug it in?

We made a pointed effort to find Abercrombie and Fitch because on our last visit we realized that we did not hear the thump of A&C’s background music. We checked the store listing and saw Abercrombie, listed as a children’s apparel store. Finding the store we saw that it was the murkiness we have come to expect from A&C, only directed younger. Did Fitch get religion or something? Where will all the sullen models go?

We entered J Crew this time, just to be efficient. I recall noting how lovely the place used to look, with lots of prime colours. They went batzoid with the snow theme. Crumpled shiny white paper glaringly suggested snow, I got that part. Up front there was a feature of women’s white tees. These tees were decorated with silver beads and what I take to be silver nano tubes, or they could just be metallic jimmies. The motif was reindeer, and that was all right, but does one wash said article of clothing? J Crew concedes the problem: additional beads and jimmies are supplied with the purchase. The white on white of the displays gave zero focus. I did not bother to investigate whether any men’s clothing got mixed in with the men’s apparel. I have shifted to Bauer Town.

We visited several women’s clothing stores. Beth did, I took the chair at the doorway. Ann Taylor had no chair, but it had a comfortable flow and roominess so I could get out of the way easily, and listen to the music.

Beth sought a dress, que possible. Chicos, which featured as decor ghastly gold trees made from tin foil, laughed at the idea. Beth was informed that nobody wears dresses, they’re old-fashioned. That point can be argued but the larger issue of course is how much you want to antagonize customers. We see that stores are choosing to go quite far in that direction. Good luck with that. I thought a good response to Can I help you? would be: Do you have carrion? Just a thought.

J Jill is similar to Chicos, but more positive as a shopping experience. It was set up more comfortably, and the music was better. John Lennon’s rather sanctimonious Christmas song was topped by George Harrison’s “Ring Out the Old Ring in the New”. I am not so happy with Harrison’s excursions with Phil Spector (the American Roman Polanski?), and neither was Harrison, but Harrison was good for some genuineness. The song made me happy. J Jill had dresses but nothing to go home with.

Stepped into a store featuring silver jewelry. Beth wanted to see a couple of pieces. The salesperson was crisply helpful and informative, at least what I witnessed. NO store that I saw at the mall was so busy that salespeople need to evaluate your clothing to see if you are worth helping. We were not going to buy, but you never know. A run on Days Poem could occur as people realize they want to read about Walden, hobos, bears, Fu Manchu, and Tarzan, and then I could get Beth the gifts that I want her to have. So don’t be a dick, salesperson.

A final purchase occurred at FYE (For Your Entertainment). This store is a relic, it sells cds and dvds. The experience of poking thru the bins for music or movies is kinda out the window, isn’t it. I went in knowing what I wanted, and capable of finding it. Star Trek. We watched it this Sunday morn, after family breakfast. It was satisfying. We have established Star Trek as our Thanksgiving movie.

That is largely my report. We went to Costco today, for some necessities. Ah, the delight! I will just mench that our car was parked next to a car with a license that matched ours 5 out of 6 digits, 3rd digit being X instead of Y. Which just shows to go you.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving, Happy

It is a good holiday, I warrant. Granted, it is built upon historical misprision, but it has its offering that we can honour, has it not?

I recall the scope of American history, as taught to me. You know, Columbus discovered this country, and that was really neat, then the Pilgrims came over, and that was really neat. Nothing much mentioned about the time between those really neats. After the amicable Pilgrim/Indian detente, we suddenly learn that Indians are our enemy, surrounding that hero Custer and annihilating his troops. Et cetera. Any reasonable scan of these ‘facts’ would leave you wondering but the real story is how mythic proportions are so important to the national concept that these stories stay bound in the psyche. It is like Whitman working overtime.

The antidote, it comes to me, is such like In the American Grain, which casts a doubting, acerbic eye on the given facts. Williams had his enthusiasms but was a relief from the doctrinal side of Whitman.

Anyway, not for me to school thee, Reader, on this, I am just recognizing the rotten parts. I want to speak of the good parts, too.

Our plans were to have Thanksgiving just ourselves. Not to be insular, but that we have not had our own celebration in years. We were looking forward to the chance. Friends, however, in a similar predicament invited us to dinner. They are pared down to just three, their eldest son being away in college, and their families spread across the country. We decided to split the meal.

Beth is the genius for cooking grand meals. She was in charge of the turkey, dressing, gravy, and her should be famous squash soup. I have done Thanksgiving meals but it is not my cooking strength. Beth started in on the bird around 9:00, same time as the Macy’s parade began.

The parade is one of those holdovers from my childhood. I remain interested in it, as part of the Day. I think the first thing that I saw was some theatrical clutter from the Broadway production of omg Annie. How do people put up with these exploits of grim production? The fakeness is plangent, which is one thing, but it is celebrated, which is quite another. I mean, phoniness as a defense I understand, but how do you turn it into a glory? Welcome to Macy’s.

So okay, there was that set piece, which appalled Beth. I simply savoured yet another Pure Product of America, Incorporated.

The hosts of this spectacle were 2 from the CBS morning show. I do not watch that or any morning show. The woman was Latina, which allowed her to reference that she was Latina. The guy was a dull plum. The deal is that Thanksgiving is a celebration of our diversity, yet it is also a dedicated study of but one strand of heritage. Turkey yes, but with plantains or matzo balls or lasagna or…

So these two were directing traffic, which consisted of a steady flow of actors in to hype their latest projects, more Broadway inanities,  occasional glimpses of marching bands, longer views of floats, and some scripted banter with the crisp projection of wet toast. At first I was switching to the NBC version of this, but found no escape, so I stayed with CBS.

Early on, we were thrown to the Hard Rock Cafe, for a song by Reba McIntyre. She looked a bit refurbished but she is likeable, with that weird C&W genuineness that Dolly Parton has. I do not think that she or her band were lip syncing it, unlike all the Broadway crap.

There was an antic moment with her band. The bass player, who looked very bass playerly, was going all groove guy. In his funk transport, he swung his bass around, nearly hitting the pedal steel player, who kept replying to these infreactions with mystified stares.

The production streamed by for three hours, and I was there for it all, tho not with full attention. The best float was the last: Santa’s. It spanned two vehicles, and consisted of a village scene above which flew a sleigh and reindeer. Nifty engineering and it looked fine. Bravo. Sitting next to Santa was a little girl that I guessed was the producer’s daughter. Unlike all the other children in this and all the other floats, she was not laughing or excited, just sat there primly. You could imagine her complaining that she was cold or that she wanted hot chocolate. I am of course extrapolating.

Well that was it for Thanksgiving tv. No football. We carted over our contribution to the dinner around 3:00. PLUS a California Chardonnay, a South African Cabernet. Never did open the German wine…

Years ago, while working for a wine business, the possibility of importing South African wines opened. Sanctions had been lifted. I at first thought this was terrible, an exploitation. It turns out that all three of the wineries that we imported were signatories to an agreement to reject apartheid, provide all workers with proper working and living conditions, and generally be benign businesses. There was no such thing in California at the time, and we know that Ernest and Julio were far from gracious towards the migrant workers upon whom their business depended. The wines of RSA are wonderful with a heritage there of some 3 centuries. Don’t miss them if you can. I guess I digress.

So the meal was as it should be. Our hosts with their traditional corn pudding, which I had never had before, and us with Beth’s squash soup, with a sparkle of orange zest and spices. Plus all else, and desserts.

Post-prandial music was an array of country sorts of music, the highlight of which was a recording by Allison Krause and Robert Plant. I never was a fan of Plant with Led Zep, tho I get why he shrieked, what with having to compete against pyrotechnic Page, and the heaviest handed drummer this side of Buddy Miles. His oeuvre is quite varied, and his singing is too. With Krause he sensibly sings in support, and does so generously. Surprisingly pleasing music to me, surprising because it was outside my usual earful.

And Beth wanted, still, to do a dinner at home, and we had already ordered a small turkey, so we boot up again today… I can now report, in update, that this second turkey done well as well. And I made an apple/blackberry tart via Martha Stewart, complete with leaf shapes (of crust) on top.

Happy Post Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Mall

Beth and I took a faulty cellphone to the Verizon store at the mall on Tuesday, and ended up amongst the emporiana for quite a while. Woo hoo.

Must say that we are into the shopping experience, even if we buy nothing. That’s why Costco is such a treat. I mean, the satisfaction of buying 20 rolls of paper towels is obvious. You can look at the calendar and think how many days and weeks, months even, and you will not have to buy paper towels. But walking around thru all that input is compelling too.

The mall is interesting for its complex of strategies. There are failures, of course, but even among the successful the methods vary. People lunging at you with their products does not seem workable, but many use that model so it must have some success. One plucky person said as we nixed his advances, just remember it is the greatest product ever. I think it was something you put around your neck to relax.

We arrived at the mall around 11:00, which is to say the place was still rubbing sleep from its eyes. We went directly to the Verizon store.

The game here, you sign in, then wait your turn to be served. You are more than welcome to survey the kajillion phones and accessories available to you. Tempting, but I have not yet committed to the phancy phone, not that I champion Ned Ludd, here. It is a slippery slope of buy more. Commerce, thy name is envy. We did not have to wait long before someone escorted us to the service desk.

After that business, we wandered around. Let’s see. Brookstone pulled us in with their usual trick. One of the sales help was playing with a radio-controlled helicopter at the doorway. Neato. How come I never got one of those? I was drawn to an ecology experiment, a small frogitorium. This was a niche consisting of a clear plastic box filled with water, gravel, 2 tiny frogs, and a bit of bamboo. The bamboo helps maintain proper oxygen level in the enclosed system. Take that, sea monkeys!

Looks a little Spartan in there but at least the frogs are paired (said the anthropomorphist). Well, we have a betta at home, a professionally chippy breed. He seems to keep interested.

I think we hit Nordstrom’s next. They are new in this area but Beth knew them when she lived in Seattle. She remembers the stores being decent value ones, but they are more upscale now. Beth got into a conversation with the person at the jewelry counter, memories of Nordstrom’s. The woman revealed that several people were from Seattle and also from Alaska, where Beth lived for a number of years. Surprising how many people from Alaska that Beth meets.

We wandered out of Nordstrom’s and stopped at Au Bon Pain. I remember going to one long ago, a regular sit down restaurant. Now it is a get it yourself place, mostly bread and coffee, plus soups and sandwiches. Decent enough stuff in a cramped and awkward setting. If we could just eschew customer comfort, I know this business will take off, says the expert at corporate.

Television screens are set up all over the mall, with a constant stream of ‘content’. The content consists of tedious bits from CBS shows, like the morning program or that wearisome late night one with the Scottish guy, looping with daunting regularity. Plus random headlines, trivia quizzes, and other distractions. Jiggle a piece of string in front of me and you got my attention.

On a previous loop there was some rock band in a live mall show. I mean 30 seconds worth of the dynamic excitement, which included excited teens connecting with rock star theatre. At the mall. Come on baby light my fire.

Beth entered the Betsey Johnson store, I hung by the doorway. The message here would be hip and young, tho I do not know if such a message is itself hip and young. There was a telly in there, as well, but with its own content. I stared at it longer than I might because it seemed that Suzanne Somers was in the video. Could that be? Is she fresh enough still? I could be wrong, it could have been a pure nobody. This content consisted of said Somers doppelganger (but I really wonder it if were the star herself) putting Latest Styles on a tall thin model. It was antic in a sort of legally required way, with brightly coloured accessories being put on and removed at better than normal speed. When each transformation was done the Somers character would hold up a speech balloon with some trance-inducing comment. I dunno. I did not consult with Beth but I think the salesperson was moderately helpful.

We returned to Nordstrom’s because I was curious about men’s apparel there. I usually wear men’s clothes but there are times that I wear men’s apparel. Beth swore the store served men as well but I had yet to see the like there. One thing I will say about Nordstrom’s, it is set up with a vision. There are no tall displays or inner walls to limit the vastness of the place for the shopper. The horizon is full of merchandise. All of which could be yours.

Maybe 3/4 of the place is for the lady of the house but the gent is well served as well. I felt fairly impervious to the studious charms of the goods until I tried a winter coat on. It was a charcoal cashmere and silk (or whatever) thing that felt really, really good. It was something I could use, tho I am not in desperate straits coatwise. It was priced higher than I ought to pay, tho I felt it was worth the price. Two salespeople, passing by, said it looked good on me, which indicates some training on their part. It is not that I need to be swayed with that, it is just that too many stores are filled with whaddya want.

A salesperson in men’s wear asked if I needed help, but I just wanted to prowl, which I proceeded to do. Beth engaged him in a long conversation. He was informative, opened sales possibilities but did not press. He too was from Seattle. The only other thing besides the coat that struck me was the parti-coloured socks. They bordered on psychedelic. I did not know the well-dressed man was doing that. When I ran track, it was our thing not to wear white socks, in fact the louder the socks the better. When I started running on my own years later, I perspicaciously wore ONLY white socks. Now my rules are fluid.

I realize that money is just money, and some people do not blink at $200 ties. I do not see what you get at that price over something cheaper by 20 or 40 percent. Silkier silk, I suppose.

We left Nordstrom’s with the idea of finding a simulacrum for that coat there, at more modest price. We passed by J Crew, which looked like it had had a snowstorm inside, decorator gone wild. I used to like J Crew, but the people there are snotty enough to make you reconsider shopping there.

We entered Burberry Street hopefully. It was set up confusingly so that you do not know where to go at first. That is bad planning. I found something that was in the ballpark, stylewise. They only have one example of each style, so that the salesperson can sales you. She got one that might fit. It sort of did, but was cut oddly, or maybe I am. No, I’m pretty regular. The price was more than 1000 bucks. I had no inkling from the quality that I perceived that such a price was possible. C ya.

The center of the mall features Santa’s photography workshop. It consists of a maze of Xmas decoration leading to the man himself. Santa was in, but over-excited children were not. I could see him thru the glitter, looking bored and mildly forlorn.

This mall, I should mench (and have mentioned), was the scene of that blockbuster hit Paul Blart Mall Cop, which I have not seen. It was filmed just after Xmas, last year or maybe the year before. I am sure we visited other venues, we always do. Beth always asks about business (as part of a grander economic view), and always gets interesting answers.

No bookstores at the mall. Surprising?

Somewhere along the way, we could hear the song Santa Baby. Oo, I think we were at Whole Foods. It was thankfully not the Eartha Kitt version, nor by anyone trying to sound like her. It was upbeat, which muted some of the song’s parlous shock. Hey, it was co-written by the niece of the Jacob K Javits Convention Center. What a heinous song!

From the mall we went to Marshalls because it so happens that I got a coat there by the same manufacturer as that one at Nordstroms. The guy at Nordstroms, by the bye, said that the maker of $200 ties there also sells goods to Costco. I really like the coat I got at Marshalls, made by Sanyo, and priced for Marshalls. There were a few serviceable coats, but nothing warranted a splurge. Beth found a coat she liked but let it pass, let it pass. I saw WWE action figures, featuring all of my favourite stars: The Edge, John Cena, Randy Orton, even Rick Rude and Arn ‘The Enforcer’ Anderson. I used to watch this crap years ago but except for ads do not see that stuff anymore. My friend, long ago, said of The Gong Show: it gives a comprehensive view of ourselves. Likewise wrestling, and it isn’t comfortable.

I never had interest in GI Joe as a gullible proto-consumer. Too static, I imagine. Seems like soon enough you are throwing rocks at such things, or shooting a BB gun. Let’s put a firecracker in his hand!!! I guess it is suplexes out the window for our WWE friends.

For the young lady, there was a Hannah Montana text phone. Push a button and you get messages from Hannah, Miley, and two of Hannah’s (not Miley’s) friends. These messages are described as uplifting, and include such as YOU ROCK! and C U L8TR. There’s a clip on the phone so that it can be attached to bag or pack. Which means your child can zone out in spelling class with lame messages just like her older siblings in chemistry.

Yesterday, another shopping trip, we went to Whole Foods for final bits of Thanksgiving. We are going to friends this year (today), but we are bringing the bird. We have not had Thanksgiving at home since 2004. We got a second bird just so that we could do it ourselves this weekend. Both of us strongly missed my father. The four of us had a nice compact. I used to bake 8 loaves of bread a week, just enough for the 4 of us. The first loaf, no matter when it went into the oven, would be gone by dinner time. For various reasons, I stopped making bread. Made some yesterday. Forgot some details but they came out fine.

A foggy Thanksgiving today. May it be a happy one, for you, for me, for all.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Erin and I watched this last night. Meant to watch Jason & the Argonauts, but it was no longer in Comcast’s freebies. I remember seeing Jason when I was young, eyes wide no doubt. The special effects hold up well. But anyway…

Spiderman (I do not really want to use that requisite hyphen, thank you) is about as good as superhero movies get. It is nice that Sam Raimi knew what to do with the money he was given for it. The movie looks fresh from the start.

Tobey Maguire is an unlikely choice for Spidey, in the sense that some blander hunk might have been chosen. He has dorky charm. No complaints about the rest of the cast. Kirsten Dunst puts depth in the pretty girl role, and Willem Dafoe is Willem Dafoe. Gosh he is wiry. I think he was in a movie in which he was a boxer in a German concentration camp, fighting (literally) to survive. Lean then, lean now.

As with all these superhero flicks, there is a long portion supplying us with how the superpowers developed and how the arch villain came to be so arch. Added to that is several other plots mostly surrounding Pete and MJ. Thanks to Marvel, comix turned to the inspiration of soap operas to keep their legions of fans interested. Yeck. It is just clutter when you do not really mean it.

So anyway, when something hi-tech goes wrong for Peter, it is a good thing, when something hi-tech goes wrong for Dafoe, he’s blowing people up. Well, that Dafoe is tightly wired, we all know that.

Spidey in action is giddy stuff, reflecting the tone of the comic. Yes, as Peter Parker he is morose, but swinging thru NYC, he’s a happy camper. The effects sometimes look cartoonish, but the sweeping camera views make up for that. And unlike with Star Trek, I was not suffering vertigo.

I liked the 2nd Spidey, as well, tho I can barely recall it except that it had Doc Ock, and there was the scene in which Spidey stops a train, which was cinematically exciting but I’m thinking that it pushes the reasonable limits of Spidey’s strength. Never saw part trois.

Funny to think of comix as such a mine for movies. I mean, yes, of course they invite the transfer, but they are hit or miss. Mr Fantastic’s powers, for instance, are just ridiculous, unbelievable. Spidey stopping a train leaves one wondering if he has limits. Tho he was mightily wasted from the effort, you still think, come the climax, he will have to do more. I think with myths like Jason, there is a more meaningful imperative. At any rate, Spidey comes as close as I have seen for a superhero movie to have soul.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Little Help here, Ron

Ron Silliman's collection of check it out is a valuable resource, but the vague and enigmatic titles for his links throw stones in the passway. A clearer indication of the rewards at the end of the click would be welcome. Just a suggestion from Dear Reader. I appreciate his effort natheless.

A Couple of Things Around

  1. Jack Kimball’s Pantaloons. This has been a worthy read for years. Jack’s criticism and his reportage have always been strong. For a while now, his focus has been on the political mush surrounding and overwhelming us. The result of that focus is not simply commentary but a political implementation of language. This is keen stuff. In some sense, language is politics. Jack has been deploying language like bolts of disordered reason. It is a sort of healthy overunsimplification that twists the way the lowdown villains twist, then twists again.
  2. Ben Friedlander regularly serves American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson to us. Ben is a scholar, has that rigour, but is also a poet. This blog represents notes of his interest. I particularly liked the intimations (he’s adverting a full study) of Dickinson’s war poetry, and a brief on Theodore Parker, who was much more Emersonian (if you will accept that shorthand), than I knew. Not just an abolitionist, that is: he was friends of the Brownings!

Leonid Shower ‘09

We planned to visitate the Leonid Meteor Shower this week but had the day wrong. Beth had to work that night and Erin conscientiously thunk about his early class next day, so we canned it. But I woke at 2:00 got up and wandered locally for 90 minutes. I saw little in terms of meteor thigns, tho conditions were decent.

The next night, things were green, and we were hopeful that bits of star stuff would continue to zip excitedly thru our atmosphere. Finding a darksome locale for viewing in our populous region required some thinks, but we chose some conservation land amongst the 4000 citizens of Carlisle, MA, hoping the coppers don’t prove a bringdown, man.

So there we were, on a blanket on the ground. Temperature was around freezing, sky was clear. Time: 23 hundred hours.

I am inexplicably cheered by the sight of Orion, mon ami. It is one of the few celestial bodies that I can identify. I read that the meteors would emanate from the region of Mars, another body that I can identify. Not for us! The few meteorites that we saw (witnessed would be an appropriate verb, so fleeting is their appearance) were off to the left.

But it did not matter that we saw so few. It was lovely being out there together, with the expressed intention of looking at the sky. Even aircraft, mostly from this planet, are of interest. We could hear owls hooting, the occasional rustle in the woods of maybe deer, and then…

And then a nearby auditory gallimaufry—or do I mean salmagundi?—of coyotes on the hunt. They were down that way, towards the river (the mighty Concord of legend was about a 1/4 mile away). We took their excitement as cue to leave. Yes, we got spooked, but aggressive coyote packs have been documented recently. A couple of years ago Beth and I watched a lone coyote in broad daylight stalk carelessly within our apartment complex near the center of town, here kitty kitty kitty. What I am saying, it was a concern, tho really, we were done by then, and ready for easeful sleep.

It was fun and more to share this with my family, that is what I am finally saying.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Howling

I thought I saw this movie before but it turns out I saw the sequel, The Howling II, which has little to do with this thing. It is a werewolf movie, directed by Joe Dante and starring a fairly good cast. Not a great movie, but worth watching. Okay, worth watching if werewolves are worth watching. There is something to the genre, more compelling, perhaps, than the extended malarkey associated so much with the Vampire genre.

I suspect that this movie might have seemed pretty decent when it came out in the early 80s but now its aura of datedness obscures its virtues. Movies get dated quickly. The only type of movie that I want to see is guilty pleasures, which is to say, they interest me despite themselves. Poetry, you know, offers no guilty pleasures. You take poetry on the level it was intended. Few movies satisfy me on that level.

Anyway, the cast is pretty good. Dee Wallace Stone all play a tv reporter who allows herself to meet with a serial killer. Something happens in that meeting. She nearly gets killed and he does. And she is much shook up by this, so goes to a getaway with her husband. This  getaway is a sort of Esalen. It is run by Patrick MacNee.

Among the denizens at the institute are John Carradine and Slim Pickens. Another character in the movie is played by Dick Miller. Do any movies lacking at least one of those three exist?

The plot fizzles a bit. I mean, guess what, everyone’s a werewolf. First hubby gets bit, then Dee’s reporter friend, and so on. The chills are given surprisingly little scope.

What is given scope is the special effects. Rick Baker is credited as a consultant, la-de-dah. In the glee of using new technology, Dante offers prolonged execution of werewolf transformation processes. I would sooner see the stop action sort of transformation that Lon Chaney underwent than these static animatronic rituals. Watching this stuff is as interesting as listening to Bill Gates explain future conveniences to us.

I wonder who established that these physical transformations make noise? The crunchy plastic noise that these extending snouts produce is not what you call intuitive to me. The werewolves, when all that is done, look little better than the Halloween masks you wore when you were eight. Again, I’ll take Lon Chaney and his hiatus from Gillette.

The plot goes as you might expect. Dee and a co-worker escape from Esalen. Dee is bitten during the escape. They arrange for Dee to tell the world about the menace. On a newscast she explains things, then turns into a werewolf, at which point the co-worker shoots her. See, there were effective elements in the movie but everything, finally, just hangs there. Sigh.

The sequel, as I recall, was more outré. It followed directly from Dee’s funeral. Someone who was not in the original decides she needs to know more, and heads off to the Balkans, where things are more orgiastic, and accents are thicker. It was a little more laughable than this movie, by my estimation. There are three or four other Howlings that I have not seen. Don’t miss them if you can.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


Just saw this thing, a Sam Raimi production. It has some of the virtues of the Spidey flicks, but not quite put together.

The movie starts with a bang. A gang in a warehouse awaits the arrival of a rival gang. There are just 5 in the rival gang, and they are frisked before they meet the gang leader. A member of the rival gang has a prosthetic leg. At a key moment, one of his comrades grabs the prosthesis, which proves to be a machine gun, and slaughters everyone but the boss of the first gang. The boss is then confronted by the rival leader, who looks like a meanie, albeit an urbane one. He is played by Larry Drake, who I know was on one of those endless dramatic shows in the 90s that I never watched. He trims his cigar with a cigar trimmer, then does likewise to the gang leader’s fingers. Ouch!

And then we turn to Liam Neeson, who is a scientist. You can tell: he wears a cardigan. He and his assistant are working on synthetic skin. Neeson’s girlfriend is Frances McDornand. She’s wasted in this flick, gasping and screaming mostly. Does it well, at least. Neeson’s role is thankless, spent much of the time wrapped in bandages. Oops, jumping ahead.

Okay, plot machinations in which McDornand discovers hincty business by the local billionaire. This sends the new gang boss to Neeson’s laboratory. He and his motley crue kill the assistant and mangle Neeson, in the course of which Neeson gets dunked in the synthetic skin, blah blah blah. The laboratory blows up and it appears Neeson is a goner. Gee, short movie.

Raimi does a transition in which McDornand stands staring at the burning laboratory, then the scene changes around her and she is at the cemetery mourning Neeson. Hokey, but thanks for trying.

A much-damaged Neeson is found, tho not identified, and brought to a hospital, where an apparent relative of Doktor Frankenstein merrily experiments on him. She takes 5 minutes to map out for us how John Doe’s nerves have been derailed and as compensation he has added strength but also adrenal surges that affect his moods. He also does not feel pain. Neeson suffers the diagnosis but bursts from his bounds before the doktor could share her prognosis, but we can guess, eh?

Neeson, resembling DeNiro in Frankenstein, albeit with facial bandages, shuffles off to a spare vacant warehouse to continue work on synthetic skin. He manages to build quite a set up, and perfects the skin so that he can go out in public. Not only that, he can create perfect likenesses of other people. And so he exacts revenge. Oh but wait, the skin holds together for only 90 minutes. His public appearances and guest shots can only last that long before Dorian Gray’s picture returns.

Neeson begins by grabbing one of the gang members, who he tortures in a sewer for info on the gang. Neeson, Darkman, finishes the guy by sticking the guy’s head up a manhole in brisk traffic. Fun Fact: the actor playing this gang member is Raimi’s brother. Hmmm…

Part deux of Darkman’s revenge consists of making himself look like another gang member. As this gang member, he absconds with money that was supposed to be delivered for the boss. The boss in his displeasure exacts a compelling toll.

Darkman feels good enough about his synth skin to return to McDornand, still with the 90 minute time limit. She had a minor dalliance with the billionaire after Neeson was presumed dead, btw.

Darkman goes coocoo for Cocoapuffs at times due to the adrenaline surge. He plays around with the boss and his gang, who play back, with McDornand getting threatened and such. The movie basically goes stupid.

Practicing for Spider-man, Raimi has Darkman dangling from cables quite a bit. Turns out that the billionaire is behind the gang boss. All bad guys die but Darkman turns from McDornand because he is ridden with comic book guilt and the usual mush.

Raimi has some verve here but this is a laboured effort. It is his first big Hollywood film and I am sure he had to buck the experts in the money room. Neeson did not seem comfortable at all, and McDornand, as I said, was wasted. So, in sum, it is just another comic book angst party except, because the comic book came out after the movie, it did not have the built in excitement that DC/Marvel extravaganzas bring (if they bring nothing else). Apparently the movie was popular, but I find it comme çi comme ça.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Paul Zukofsky Redux

Ron Silliman’s eternal blog offers links to PDFs of Louis Zukofsky’s A. I wondered wtf, how did someone manage that, copyright-wise? They didn’t.

Someone scanned the book then uploaded it to several storage sites. I downloaded it out of curiosity but now do not feel so good about doing so.

The scan was, it seems, done in spite. It is not a matter of Galahad freeing Louis’ work for the masses, it is someone tweaking Paul Zukosky for being a dick. No question, Paul presents himself as a dick regarding his protection of his father’s copyright. I link to his cranky explanation of his rights below. That explanation set someone off enough to let loose this subversion.

I do not know copyright law, tho the fact that I know such exists does make me an expert on it, doesn’t it? Having to pay to use small quotes in a paper seems excessive. I would like to see numbers such as how much it costs to quote Louis, how often is he quoted in non-Fair Usage manner, etc. What is the money involved?

Paul is a dick because he is in financial straits. Well, that’s what I hear, not to take anything at face value. Louis as literature is not the battle here, it is Louis as money cow. Okay, I respect his ownership.

I think Paul should (if it is not already done) prepare a digital version that could be sold, because there is use in that. The scan is from the published book, and could be better. It done clear enough, at least in my glance, but I cannot say if there are missed patches or blurs.

Copyright is a battleground now, because digital versions have confused things. I will cut Paul in his need some slack. This is the straw that he grasped.

It is funny to think of Louis being of last century, and in fact he was born more than a century ago. At some time he will be given wholly to the culture, like all the other dead and gone. The tangle here will be forgotten, Paul won’t need money, Person X won’t need to tweak. That’s literature in the wide world. We in our small worlds must do the best that we can.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Alienator

I have a taste for this sort of dumb ass movie, which is inarguably a guilty pleasure. It was directed by Fred Olen Ray. I have seen several epics by Ray. I assume that he considers Roger Corman a genius for producing cheap movies that do not escape their cheapness yet somehow keep the eye transfixed. That seems to be the ballpark FOR is playing in.

The big star here is Jan Michael Vincent. I had to check Wikipedia on Vincent because tho I feel like I’ve seen him bunches of time, I could not recall any specifics. I never saw Airwolf, which I understand is his high water mark.

So the movie begins on a prison ship or satellite, you know, Out In Space. JMV is the sadistic warden. He ruthlessly beats up one prisoner and executes a 2nd one. As the 2nd one cooks, the first one grabs a guard’s ray gun and attempts an escape. This instigates an extended contemplation of how ineffective ray guns are. JMV and the guards chase this guy, yclept Colt, I think. Like most ray gun type weapons, phasers, for instance, the beam cannot be aimed in most circumstances, not even when people are running as slowly as everyone in this movie runs. A few guards go down but Colt escapes in a rocket scooter. JMV launches pursuit by The Alienator.

At this point, well into the movie, the credits roll. JMV is not the only big star in the flick. There is also John Phillip Law, who  I couldn’t quite put a face to but knew I would recognize him when it was his turn to show his face and reveal level of his career at the time.

We are now on Earth. A camper is bouncing along a dirt road. Inside are 4 people. That’s pretty much it. Two are female, 2 are male. SUDDENLY they see a meteorite. They decide to check it out. Well, they do not get to, because Colt in a fit of overacting escapes from the meteorite-like scooter and, crikey, gets hit by the camper. I may not have been paying an awful lot of attention at his point. The 4 bicker, finally John Phillip Law appears, as a forest ranger or sheriff or such like. They have Colt in custody because he looks shady. After all, he’s in a late 80s scifi movie.

AND THEN they realize that The Alienator is after Colt. He’s wearing a dog collar thingie that lets him know that. Colt allows that The Alienator is pretty scary stuff. Before the Alienator arrives, we must endure the comic relief of two country fellers, you know, hillbillies. Why golly, they aint too smart!

And then The Alienator arrives, via brilliant rocketship. The Alienator proves to be a large woman with explodo 80s hair. She has a ray rifle attached to her right arm. She is referred to as he and it before everyone kinda settles on she.

She meets up with the doctor who was called to tend Colt. TA fries him. She gets into a shoot out with the country fellers and the others. The comic relief get fried somehow, tho the ray rifle aims no better than ray guns. Somewhere along the way an ex-Army officer joins our earthling heroes and they all act like they mean to do something or other while TA stands around.

At one point TA steps into a bear trap. It mildly injures her. While tending her leg she sees a deer. Her ray rifle alerts her that the deer is not an enemy. I am not sure what the ray rifle had against the doctor.

Of the two males in the camper, one was a bully and the other a brainiac. Colt for some reason that was not deemed important enough for viewers to know took over the body of the bully, you know how that goes. Oh wait, TA is first vanquished by the brainiac. Something to do with an electron net or whatever. Brainiac explained it all in a 3 sentence exclamation while TA was undergoing he effects of this electron net.

NOW Colt shows his hand, and it looks bad. But it turns out that TA was not down for the count, and wielding an ax she chops Colt’s head off. Colt’s head grimaces then spurts a mouthful of white stuff. That’s pretty much the end except some half-assed plot concerning some refugee from Star Trek, who is somehow a compatriot of Colt’s, but he dies too, and JMV somehow (somehow is the chorus of this movie) ends up a good guy. So, what do you think?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Paul Zukofsky Is Trying

Ron Silliman bristles—I think that is the right word—over Ben Friedlander’s declaration that Marianne Moore is Modernism Central here, but I am taken by Paul Zukofsky’s scruffy possession of the da’s good work, which you can find here. Modernism is a sort of causal elk that I not need run after. Not to ignore historicity, but I think Ron’s too Lou Dobbs-ish about the borders. But Zukofsky…

The writers of interest all have someone guarding the gates. Mostly these gatekeepers are trying to protect the reputation. That does not seem to be Paul’s task, his interest attaches more to the golden calf. And it is all curious to me, not knowing how much money Louis’s work can add up to. Anyone know? I would not guess a lot.

From a marketing standpoint, I would think there was more mon to be made by letting the quotes flow liberally and sit back on the book sales. I will not argue Paul’s rights, but he comes across as sad and crass. Oh well, it is none of my business.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I watched this movie starring Robert DeNiro yestreen, a spy sort of thriller. Ronin, we learn in the opening captions, are disgraced samurai who become mercenaries to redeem themselves. In this movie, they are, or seem to be, freelance espionage types.

The movie begins with an inscrutable scene in which DeNiro observes a bar in France. He secretes his gun outside then enters. It turns out that this is a meeting of the ronin, being hired by the Irish woman in the bar. The gang, 6 strong including DeNiro and the Irish woman, repair to a flat, and I don’t know why DeNiro hid his gun, which he retrieved before heading out.

I must stress that I did not give this movie 100% attention. I did dishes and came and went. Tho we have the dv-r thing, I am old-fashioned enough that i do not pause or repeat. What with plot intricacies and actors mumbling in several languages, I missed a lot. but so what.

So far as I could glean, the job was to get this box from some people. I do not think it was ever revealed what exactly was in the box. An Irish group, and a Russian one, were interested.

The gang consisted of DeNiro, Jan Reno (an actor that I am fond of), I think the actor who played Boromir, a guy named Larry, and a crisply dressed fellow named Gregor. DeNiro appears to be experienced, but does not reveal many facts about himself.

The gang are to buy (I think) the box. It looks dicey, DeNiro smells a rat, and sure enough, it becomes a shoot out.  All survive but no box is gained. Boromir pukes afterwards, I guess from the excitement, which causes DeNiro and Reno to exchange glances. It occurred to me later that Boromir was no longer present in the film. Was he killed or kicked out? Je ne sais pas.

There’s more sneaky spy stuff, in which they surveil a guy with a box, who is well-guarded. For all their sneakiness, they end up just blasting away at the box people. This engenders a ridiculous car chase over hill and dale. Cars teeter on cliffsides and slam about in marketplaces where, naturally, a vegetable cart is upturned. this will not be the only dumb chase in the film.

The result of this car chase is that a lot of the enemy have bought it, and the box is there to be taken. The police are arriving so escape must be made. Gregor hands the box to DeNiro, who discovers that it is wet with paint. He tosses it, and it explodes. Gregor disappears and the rest escape.

Okay, so we know that Gregor double crossed the gang. And he has the box. Well, there are machinations. Gregor wants to sell to a Russian, but is pursued by the Irish woman’s Irish boss, as well as the gang.  All very muddled.

DeNiro gets shot in the gut and Reno takes him to a friend and the tow of them assist in removing the bullet. DeNiro explains each step in the operation. I understand that battlefield removal of bullets is a bad idea, that it is best to dress the wound and deal with it later, but what kind of drama is that?

The Russian who Gregor is trying to sell to has an ice skating champ for a girl friend (played by Katarina Witt, I believe). In a greater muddle, the two Irish have Gregor and want him to sell the box to the Russian, or something close to that. But Gregor seems to have . an ace in the hole. Katarina Witt is skating and Gregor has a sniper trained on her. this was supposed to force the Russians hand but he shoots Gregor, Witt is shot, and the Irish guy gets the box.

Oh wait, I neglected to mention the excitement of another car chase, with DeNiro and Reno chasing Gregor and the two Irish against traffic. There were a few moments that looked exactly like French Connection, hommage or theft, and a lot of pointless screech and swerve. And blah blah blah.

Well finally, the Irish guy gets shot, tho DeNiro and Reno do as well. Before that, DeNiro tells the Irish woman to get away, and also that he isn’t a disgraced CIA agent, he’s the real thing. Well!

Both DeNiro and Reno survive. DeNiro hopes that the Irish woman would return, but she does not. She gone. Reno and DeNiro go on with their lives. The End.

There was a force in this movie that wanted it to become Mission Impossible, I mean the tv show, with the gang of specialists gathered to do dire deeds and fun stuff like that. Another part wanted to be gritty. Kinda flopped in both respects.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Just finishing up a reread of The Epic of Gilgamesh. I have the familiar Penguin Classics version by N. K. Sandars. It is a powerful and touching text.

I think I may first have encountered Gilgamesh while in elementary school. The story is lively enough where that is possible. Whatever, it had a direct appeal. Not to minimize the epic, but Gilgamesh seems like a superhero, only without the malarkey that comix are prone to. He is a barking wonderboy who you can imagine having boastful stele erected like Sargon did, you know Ozymandias (who I learn from Guy Davenport was Ramses II). Yet Gilgamesh had these plaintive qualities, qualities that are intensified when Enkidu dies. Gilgamesh is afraid of death. Timor mortis conturbat him.

Gilgamesh goes to his sort of father, the god Utnapishtim, known as Utnapishtim the Faraway. Which sounds like something Jung could work with. And the immortal life just don’t work out for Gilgamesh. Certes, you find similar stories in other cultures. I am not sure why Gilgamesh rings so clearly for me. The spread of Greek culture I suppose caused a dilution in the myths. Not that Greek myths are diluted or weak, but there are so many extant versions of the stories. I do not want to pretend to more scholarship than I have done so I will leave it at that. The point is that Gilgamesh’s fret seems current and immovable. Immovable.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weirdness a la Lanny Quarles

Click this link for a particularly weird picture, thanks to Lanny Quarles. It is from his blog Jellybean Weirdo with Electric Snake Fang, which title aptly explains the goings-on that you will find there.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Lewis & Clark, Freely Available

I am excited to discover that the journals of my two favourite misspellers, Lewis & Clark, is available online. I really enjoy Bernard DeVoto’s excerpts therefrom, and this here presentation is extent.

Antic View

Jeff Harrison and I have racked up, now, 145 installments to Antic View. I will speak for Jeff as well as myself in saying that you should join us as we go.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

I saw this movie years ago and it earned a solid Wow! from me. It really delivers what the title says. Great concept!

Less great movie. It works, but if John Carpenter or Steven Spielberg (and their budgets) made this movie, they could have had winners.

I just lamented lack of budget but that is not the main flaw of the movie. The movie is cheesy, and that is largely okay. It survives its cheesiness tho the cheesiness undermines what could have been a very disturbing and scary movie.

The plot is that aliens that look and act like clowns have invaded earth. Their mission is to gather humans, for food. Brilliant! Clowns are loci of discomfort, aren't they? These guys sure are. Their happy looking faces feature lots of teeth, which is unsettling, and their clownish whimsy serves murderous intent.

The cast is uninteresting. There's that guy who was in that other movie (I think), and the young woman who screams and takes showers in other movies (no, not that one, the less famous one) does so in this one. Royal Dano comes thru as the poor man's Slim Pickens. John Vernon, the dean in Animal House, is the best thing here. He delivers several great lines. A few more performances like his could have turned this thing into something with fewer qualifications.

The Klowns play out all the appropriate memes of Clowndom. A bunch of them climb from a small car, they use popcorn and cotton candy nefariously, and they look like a lot of fun. That fun is belied. A small Klown seemingly bullied by a biker blithely knocks the guy's head off, literally. Another entertains a group of people with shadow puppets, until it creates a tyrannosaurus rex that consumes all the people.

In another scene, a young girl is playfully beckoned by a Klown. We fear the worst, but luckily the child is not injured. But plenty of other people are carted away. Part of the creepiness is that the Klowns are not just harvesting humans, they are enjoying themselves in the process.

In the most disturbing scene, the good cop discovers one of the aliens at the police station. It is seated at a desk. It turns around ominously. John Vernon, bad cop, sits on the Klown's lap. He speaks for the alien: Don't worry. We are just going to kill you.. The Klown then bloodily removes its hand from Vernon's back ventriloquist style. That, friends, is a monster.

Good cop shoots ineffective bullets into the Klown, but one hits the Klown's nose and that finishes the Klown. From here on, the plot races along pragmatically, or maybe I mean laconically. Some genuine and telling scares here, and a few laughs, but zero wit. Could have been better.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Richard Lopez, Really Bad Movies

I have been stupidly slow in linking to Richard's Really Bad Movies. Here he quotes Jim McCrary re Berrigan. We get caught up in the artist's condition. Focusing on such shagginess as Berrigan's pill consumption distracts from the actual accomplishment of the artist. Anyway, Richard (unwarranted 1st name basis) promulgates the glistering pleasures of horror movies and good family, that condition.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Bit More Eigner

I was astounded to see that the collected poems of Larry Eigner, edited by Robert Grenier, counts out at more than 1800 pages. Zounds! I had no idea there was that much material.

It pleases me that such an attempt at completion has been offered to Eigner. The publication of these 4 volumes is an event to match, say, the collected Berrigan, long awaited.

I have credited Robert Creeley with helping me to understand the poetic line. I do not withdraw that credit, but realize that I owe credit to Larry Eigner, as well. To be thorough, I can add WCW, and Emily Dickinson's canny, puzzling shortchanging of metre. But back to Eigner.

Eigner practiced an intense capture of the word. I remember Grenier speaking of Eigner set up at a window, I think the living room window, at the Swampscott home, with that view to work from/with/to. The composition of his life, his life bounded, so to speak, by a wheelchair, made each word that he located prima facie. That is not to limit him to his condition, I think this exercise of verbal precision (honour of each word) is the genius that Eigner gives us.

After Eigner visited Franconia, I wrote something to or for him. The usual youthful dedication, I imagine. Grenier suggested that I send it to Eigner, that Eigner would be tickled to see a response. Shyness and maybe a sense that what I wrote was not worthy, prevented me from doing that. It occurs to me just now that I might have sent a missive to Eigner via whatever publisher, but I do not know when that might have been, but if I did this, I got no response.

Every writer writes from 'a condition'. That condition informs the writer, but less so us, the readers. Eigner's cerebral palsy, Keats' tuberculosis, wehatev. These conditions are just specific roods of occupied earth. One witnesses Eigner's condition in his writing, but his writing is not his condition.

Eigner pushed his words across the page, unloosening the left margin. I know that my writing started doing likewise at that time. My line...

Almost from the beginning, I wrote on keyboard (typewriter in the olden days). I used to write furiously fast. I would hit the return bar whenever I thought of it. The deal was, if I wasn't paying attention to the return bar, or the bell at the end of the line, I would inter bunches of letters at the last point there on the typewriter roll (I have lost almost all of the vocabulary of the typewriter), when the typewriter would adevance no further. In rewrite, I would lineage the mass of words that I had written. Ben Jonson, you may know, wrote his poems first in prose, then translated them to metre and rhjyme.

Well, I suppose it worked okay for Jonson, but I had to develop a metronom, to work with. Creeley, Eigner, and others, helped form my sense of the words in conjunction, with tensile strength. Eigner was a great writer, and I think the 1800 pages will show just how importasnt Eigner was, and continues to be.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Larry Eigner

Ron Silliman, perspicacious linkmeister, supplied access to Robert Grenier’s preface to the Collected Poems of Larry Eigner ici. It does not look as if this child will be buying that soon, mucho dinero, but it is a true publishing (poetry world division) event.

Grenier managed to get Eigner up to Franconia College sometime during my 2nd year at the school. I say managed because Franconia was a nationally recognized poverty zone at the time, and the 4 or 5 hour drive from Boston seemed to distance the school from most known aspects of civilization. Ashbery came the same year, by bus, and I got the impression that it was akin to a lunar landing.

This reading was about a year after Grenier had first gone to Swampscott to meet Larry. A handful of us, the poets of Franconia, sat round a table in the cafeteria and listened to Eigner. This visit, Grenier made clear to us, was a big deal for Larry. Larry’s father brought him up then discreetly slipped away, so that Larry could be the visiting poet. Larry was in his mid 40s at the time.

Calibrating one’s ear to how Larry spoke took a few moments, then it was the most intimate of poetry readings. Even then, there was a clear sensitivity on Grenier’s part to Eigner’s situation. I do not want to romanticize, but it seems like Grenier’s guardianship of Eigner was of a wonderful generosity. Friends’ of my parents adopted an infant who, it proved, had muscular dystrophy. He lived with the constant fear that he would outlive his parents. I do not know the nature of Grenier’s relationship with Eigner, but it sure seems that Grenier performed an act of generosity and compassion. I am glad that Larry Eigner is honoured with what I hope and believe is a wonderful presentation of Larry’s remarkable work.


Reading Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being by Ted Hughes. It is another examples of me reaping the rewards of Beth’s curiosity, since she combs thru the shelves at bookstores whereas I tend to investigate much more narrowly. It is proving to be an enjoyable read.

I should say that I have not read much of anything by Hughes, only know some of his rep, including a bare modicum of his life with Sylvia Plath. Whatever that relationship was like, it has been transmogrified into legend at this point. Which is to say clouds, mist, haze, and what all. I am glad only a little of that tinges my reading of this book.

I like that this book is scholarly but not academic, if I can define academic to mean frozen within the confines of a dictated discourse. There is a certain type of academic writing that is coded for those between the ivy walls. I think Hughes escapes that limitation.

Hughes’ reading focuses on the mythic element of Shakespeare, and he admits to the influence of Robert Graves and The White Goddess. I appreciate WG, tho cognizant of Graves’ loopiness. Graves is not afraid of making desperate extrapolations, ones that I would not take at face value, but I appreciate the energy inspiring them. Somewhere I read his interpretation of the song “Foggy Foggy Dew”. With wild surmise he decides that the title comes from the Gaelic for Dark Lady or something near, and from that he produces the conjecture--the dark suggesting the nun’s veils--that the song is about a nun’s sexual dalliance. Weeeell, I dunno, as Chico would say.

Hughes keeps a stricter path, with a stringent focus on the theme he has in mind. I shall read “Venus and Adonis”, which I never felt compelled to do, and reread “Rape of Lucrece” because Hughes subtly place these poems within the larger context of Shakespeare’s oeuvre.

I am only at Chapter 3, and progress perforce will be slow, but it feels good to take a fresh look. It is a fat book, rich with implication.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I have, of late, been titling my posts and writing (somewhat) more formally and focused, but today let me just ramble. We did a yard sale Saturday morning, part 2 of one we did a fortnight ago. Both sales were at our friends, since they are getting rid of stuff too, and they have a yard. The first one went well enough, but the 2nd one scared up little interest. Odd. And it was, as we say hereabouts, pissa cold: upper 30s as the day began, and some kind of serious wind. The sky was cloudless and the world was electric with the first strong feel of autumn, but we froze. Selah.

Beth worked that night, and Erin was immersed in a computer problem, so I watched Fantastic Four. I already ‘saw’ the movie, the quotes indicating that portions of the movie were missed due to intrusion of the sleep function. It is not a bad movie, it fulfills what it is, but it is not top of the class for superhero flicks. Let me count the ways…

The cast is okay. Everyone looks and acts like they should, tho Reed Richards comes across as more of a doofus than I remember from the comics. I was not a fan of the comic. Seems to me, among Marvels of the time, I liked Spiderman and Thor more.

Comics, and the resulting movies, spend way too much time explaining the super powers. And Marvel went that one further by applying halfassed psych re the pain of superherodom. Comics did/do not tend to have the tensile strength to support such inflection, so it all comes across as an awkward potpourri.

Plotwise, gotta have plot, our heroes plus their nemesis are in a space station that gets hit by a cosmic storm, and each mutates. Each mutation is different.

The Thing never made much sense. Is he a pile of rocks? How can he move, et cetera? As a challenge for make up artists he’s just a lot of worry.

Sue and Johnny Storm are both lively. Sue is played by Jessica Alba. This may be the only movie I have seen her in but, because she is such a brand name, I feel like I have been watching her movies for years. Read her as a toned down and saner Angelica Jolie. I got seven posters of her on my dorm wall, man.

I forget who plays Johnny Storm, but he has got it down. He’s brash and funny and Johnny Storm to a T. It seems like he should be better known, that I should know of more work by him, but I do not. I am willing to believe he is totally wasted (as I assume every actor in the movie is) in the GI Joe movie.

The movie rattles along well enough. It has all the needed elements, but lacks pizzazz. The Thing as outcast. Yawn. The love of Reed and Sue. Yawn. The terrifying revenge of Doctor Doom. Yawn. By the 3rd yawn, er well, I guess I dozed off. But it turns out our heroes did not need me: they defeated Doc Doom. Altho there is evidence that he will return. I do not really care. I just know that the physics and physiology of all of these heroes and villains needs more backbone, and I really do not buy Reed’s stretchiness. ‘Nuff said!

Today, perfecter than yesterday (less wind), we picked apples. I think we have been doing this for seven years now. I always thought it was one of those tiresome events that people feel they should enjoy but, in sooth, I love it. I love apple trees, I love apples, and autumn is the perfect time to be out and about. I took 250 pictures in the orchard, and ate 3 apples. Beth makes apple sauce, warms it, and puts it on cornbread. I make an apple pie thing. It is either Swedish or Norwegian apple pie (I do not use recipes much anymore) and consists of sliced apples covered with a mixture of flour, lots of sugar, lots of butter, walnuts and cinnamon. It is good stuff. Apples are good.

We got some cheese, Taleggio, and opened a bottle of Nackenheimer Kronenberg Kabinett, a German wine, and Erin had Whole Food’s Pomegranate Italian soda, whatever they call it (delicious). Beth’s birthday was yesterday, so this was part of that. A few pictures on Facebook, but you have to be my friend.