Friday Random Tunes

  1. “Clumsy Card House” – Blue October
  2. “D.I.Y.” – Peter Gabriel
  3. “Honey Bee” – Grinderman
  4. “Used to Love Him” – Fiona Apple
  5. “Wearing the Inside Out” – Pink Floyd
  6. “Experiment” – Kevin Kline (De-Lovely Soundtrack)
  7. “Mixed Emotions” – Lords of Acid
  8. “Back Off Turkey” – Les Claypool
  9. “Preludes – Livre II, XII” – Debussy
  10. “Songs without Words . . . May Breeze” – Mendelssohn

Add your random playlist to the comments . . . it’s fun, it’s fabulous, and it gives you a sense of deep and abiding accomplishment.

Ok, maybe that’s stretching a bit.


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Thistledown, Part 2

Alexandra was seven years old and refused to answer to anything but “Alex.” She was terrified of thunderstorms, ever since she could remember, even, she thought, before she could remember. Which was why she had very quietly, very deliberately, gotten out of bed, tip-toed down the hallway to check that her Grammy was asleep—and she was, bathed in the blue glow of a tv set that sat on the floor and was longer than Alex was tall—, returned to her room, heart thudding, stomach twisting, got out of the soft, pale blue pjs that had come in the mail from the father she’d never met, put on her favorite pair of overalls, considered shoes but then dismissed the idea, snuck quietly down the stairs, lightly hopping over the seventh from the bottom because it always squeaked the loudest, move quickly to the back door, took a deep, deep breath, felt a bit of sweat start to dampen the back of her neck, bit her lip, opened the door and


ran to the center of the back yard, away from the tall trees, mostly elm, that bordered the yard and stood, instantly soaked, shivering and scared as above her the sky cracked white, and the lightning stood out from the blackness of the sky like the blue veins on the hands of the old women that would come over every Saturday to play cards with her Grammy, the following thunder so loud and deep that she could feel it inside of her, tricking her heart into a different rhythm. She wanted to scream, she wanted to cry, she wanted to run to the arms of a mother she barely remembered. Instead, she stood under a fierce rain, her long brown hair matted to her skin, her bare feet squelching mud, her stomach twisted and nauseaus from the bolts of


It’ll break the sky she though and no more blue and no more sun, just a broken black that will never ever be right again and I’ll be swallowed up by the emptiness. Her heart was fast, her body clenched. Seven year old eyes looked out at a violent universe and a seven year old’s promise held her still, kept her from running inside and clutching her stuffed animals, in particular the yellow teddy bear that was once her mother’s, a seven year old’s promise to the Grammpa who had died when she was five and had been the only person she’d ever let call her anything but “Alex” secretly enjoying the way his deep, somber voice shaped the sound “Xandra,” and whose last words to her had been “Xandra, don’t ever let fear stop you from anything.” His trembling hand clutched at her own, enfolding her fingers in dry skin and brittle bones, he eyes bright from pain and the need to make her understand.

“Fear, Xandra, it can make you do, make you stop, keep you from being . . . you. All you . . .”

His breath seemed to leave him, a spasm wracked his body. Alex was crying.

“Stand up to your fear Xandra, stand up to it.”

And so she did, from then on. She stood in the midst of the thunderstorm, scared, but facing the storm with a strength and determination that she knew, she understood in deeper-than-seven-year-old way, was her grandfather’s greatest give he had ever given.


“I’m not scared of you,” Alex screamed out, unable even to hear herself as the lightning split the sky and the thunder vomited noise. It was a lie, she knew, but like most lies she told, she knew that there was at least some truth to it.

A sudden lull in the storm, a sound of chuckling, dark, deep and far more frightening than the storm. Her stomach clenched and she could taste bile in the back of her throat. Then the rain and the lightning and the thunder and it was probably her imagination and she should be getting back in because she was soaked and getting chilled and besides, Grammpa hadn’t said you needed to stand up to your fear for a specified time period. Maybe she’d steal a cookie and some milk before going back to bed.

Alex went inside. A shadow moved from behind a tree, dark on dark and not quite there. Again a chuckle, this time only frightening the worms what struggled through the muddy back yard. Then, without movement, the shape, the shadow simply . . . dissipated, like your breath on a cold day in bright sunlight, barely visible and then not.

Woden’s Wit

From Sæmund’s Edda, translated translated by Olive Bray and edited by D. L. Ashliman:

16. A coward believes he will ever live if he keep him safe from strife: but old age leaves him not long in peace though spears may spare his life. 20. A greedy man, if he be not mindful, eats to his own life’s hurt: oft the belly of the fool will bring him to scorn when he seeks the circle of the wise. 82. Drink ale by the fire, but slide on the ice; buy a steed when ’tis lanky, a sword when ’tis rusty; feed thy horse neath a roof, and thy hound in the yard. 143. Dost know how to write, dost know how to read, dost know how to paint, dost know how to prove, dost know how to ask, dost know how to offer, dost know how to send, dost know how to spend? 144. Better ask for too little than offer too much, like the gift should be the boon; better not to send than to overspend.

I think my favorite is #20 – reminds me of the Bush Administration and most Corporate Entities.

Fishing & Other Tangents

I haven’t been fishing in decades. I can still remember those days at camp when we could get up early to bundle into L’s truck, me, my dad, my brother, L and his sons S and C. Early wasn’t a problem because the day was an adventure and so eagerness and adrenaline got you up and moving, excited.

I miss that feeling of eager anticipation for what the day brings. A lot of what I am trying to figure out is so that I can reshape my life so that every morning, or at least a majority of them, bring that feeling back.


Today there is a silent protest against the coming regulations and fees levied against internet radio . . . literally silent as many internet radio stations go off the air. Please, if you haven’t contacted your congressional representatives, call them today. If you go to, they will have all the information about contacting your representatives. Please, take 10 minutes of your day and help save the music!


Despite my previous post, I am back to using Safari as my main browser. I do still prefer Opera in many respects, but I have just started using Yojimbo as a note-taking, information archiving, and web research tool and the little java bookmarklets that let me archive a web page (or just a link if I wanted) directly from a browser only seem to work with Safari and Firefox. For some reason, except for using Portable Firefox on my usb drive while I’m at work, I just don’t find Firefox to be all that compelling these days. So for now, I’m back with Safari.


I just finished reading Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. The science is awful, the gender politics are next to stone age, and structurally there are certain problems with the overall story, But . . . it’s a beautiful novel. There are moments of poetry that sparkle like brilliant stars on a cold winter night. The underlying theme of loss and nostalgia are palpable. Bradbury doesn’t so much pull on your heartstrings as take your emotions in a Martian hand and squeezes until you recognize your own loss and nostalgia, and how destructive those emotions, especially nostalgia, can be. I remember watching the movie version so many years ago, and I don’t remember much, but I do remember the scene where the Martian is brought into town, and because of its extreme emphathic/telepathic abilities, it begins to morph into person after person after person, reflecting each of the townspeople’s desire for a lost loved one. Nobody and everybody, the Martian can’t help but reflect all that pain and loss until it dies. I think I’ve always felt a little bit like that Martian, always trying to fit my shape into other people’s desire. Never finding, fully, my own shape.

Of course, that realization, like most realizations, is only partly true and certainly not the full story. But the important thing is that it is true enough.

What Music Means to Me, Part 1

Music as Defense Shield

Living in NYC, I use music to shut out the screams of the subways, the babble of the endless people, the growling of busses and trucks, the honking of cabs, the hellish sound of air-brakes. Music as barrier, as sonic bubble. When in Hawaii, I rarely feel the need to use my iPod, being able, instead, to hear the surf and the wind and the birds and individuals. Here, it is something to hide behind. Which is not quite how I would like my primary relationship with music to be.

Music as Poetry

Bands like Red House Painters, or Death Cab for Cutie, Jim White, or Sparklehorse–to name but a few–have a strong poetic feel to them, the lyrics are often unexpected, slightly askew, not what you would expect, off kilter. Yet they express something that resonates, to me at least, something both deeply and desperately true. Those moments that you see yourself with a frightening clarity that makes you want to turn away from yourself, that make you want to live with comforting falsity rather than stark and cruel reality:

“Summer Skin” by Deathcab for Cutie Squeaky swings and tall grass The longest shadows ever cast The water’s warm and children swim And we frolicked about in our summer skin I don’t recall a single care Just greenery and humid air Then Labor Day came and went And we shed what was left of our summer skin On the night you left I came over And we peeled the freckles from our shoulders Our brand new coats so flushed and pink And I knew your heart I couldn’t win Cause the seasons change was a conduit And we left our love in our summer skin (lyrics from

These types of bands, these types of words function as a way for me to recognize things in myself and in the world that I normally don’t bother paying attention to, or don’t want to pay attention to. The songs are sometimes not easy to listen to, but I listen over and over and find that with each listen, I find something new to reflect upon. A new piece of my soul reflected. This is music that is just so damn true that I can’t help but listen to it.

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Thistledown, Part 1

The rain beat time on the car like a spastic jazz drummer. CJ pressed his head against the cool glass of the window and watched as streaks of land went by, dark upon black and made distant by the falling water. The car smelled of old hamburger grease and fake pine scent. For the first hour, he had talked with Frank, the driver, making small talk and trying to pretend he was interested in hearing about Frank’s life on the road as a salesman, “the last of the breed” he liked to say, apparently, because he had repeated that phrase almost a dozen times in that first hour. “The last of the breed, my boy, a traveling salesman, just like that Willie Loman character in that play with Dustin Hoffman, minus the hallucinations and suicide of course.”

Of course.

Frank was ruddy, fat and smiled almost constantly. It didn’t seem like an act to CJ, and in other circumstances, he would have been more than happy to hear the man’s stories, but after spending the past several days hitching, CJ was bone-tired and had lost interest in hearing more stories from other peoples lives. He couldn’t even get his own story straight. He wanted silence, a place to sit slowly and not move for days. Finally, after about an hour, Frank turned to CJ, his pale blue eyes seemed, in that moment, to be some of the kindest eyes CJ could remember seeing.

“Of course, you might want to rest, I’ll stop wagging this old tongue. You mind some music played low?” CJ smiled, and said, picking up Frank’s verbal tic, of course not, thanks, been a long couple of days.

And so, for the past hour, nothing but the rain, occasional thunder, the rumble of the old Ford Fairmont, and the low sound of the radio playing a mix of country and bluegrass tunes. Letting go of focus, of anger, of fear, CJ felt like he was floating on a memory of his childhood, driving in the car with this father. His father before the stroke. His father strong and straight, smelling of wood-shop and Lucky Strikes. Together counting the spaces between lightning and thunder one-mississippi, two mississippi. . .


“Jesus,” CJ croaked.

“Holy Tole,” Frank exclaimed, as the lightning burst down to the ground not more than a quarter mile from the road. The air, even in the car, was suffused with an electric, ion smell, a smell both clean and violent, the thunder crack-boom happening damn near simultaneous to the lightning strike.

“Close,” said CJ, wondering if it would get closer, and if the whole being safe in a car thing was true or just myth. He seemed to remember seeing a tv show where a woman’s face was burned by a lightning strike on her car because she had a drop of water on her lip and the electricity had jumped from the metal chassis to her lip in search of conductivity. Was the irony of the universe that sharp and pointed, to kill him now after what he’d just run away from, what he had done to get out? Quite probably.

“You said it, brother, damn close.”

Frank was grinning, he eyes narrowed in concentration on the road, but his lips grinning like a kid.

“Pretty cool, I’ve never been this close to a . . .”


The light was blinding. There was a taste of metal in CJ’s mouth, like rust. Or blood. The world seemed to disappear for a moment. Dimly, he was aware that Frank was slowing the car, the grin wiped from his face as the world cracked open for that brief, shining moment. Somewhere, dimly, there seemed to be a skittering sound, like insects laughing, then the world returned, vision readjusted to the the night and the rain. The car had stopped, but Frank was still gripping the steering wheel tightly, his hands white with tension, his breath fast and erratic. Oh fuck, was he having a heart attack? CJ couldn’t remember a damn thing from the CPR class he’d taken over a decade ago, done it to impress a girl more than anything and could only remember the taste of rubber lips on the CPR doll and the sight of Cindy’s red thong emerging from her tight jeans as she leaned over to practice mouth-to-mouth and now there was this stranger having a . . .

“I’m all right, boy-o. No need to look like a naughty puppy, I’m not dying or nothing, just . . . that was . . .”

Frank trailed off. He and CJ made eye contact, both acknowledging that something had just happened.

“Er, pretty intense,” Frank finished with a shrug, knowing how un-intense his statement sounded, and knowing words weren’t quite up to the level of experience in this instance.

“Yeah. Umm, it was. Pretty intense.”

For several minutes, the two men sat in silence, under a raining night recently broken. Then Frank started the car began to drive, slowly, down what seemed, now, to be a lonely, lonely road. Neither spoke. Wheels on asphalt, rain on metal, thunder moving further and further away. CJ leaned against the glass of the window and wondered what had just happened, and where, exactly, he was going.

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Hugin & Munin

Hugin and Munin Fly each day Over the spacious earth. I fear for Hugin That he come not back, Yet more anxious am I for Munin. (R.B. Anderson, Norse Mythology)

Thought (Hugin) and Memory (Munin) seem to have lost their way in our post-modern, material, short-attention-span culture. We operate on reflex, gut instincts (we are the Colbert nation!), and spare little attention to slowing down, to folding ourselves inward, to using our minds to think about things. I don’t just mean the conservative fuck-heads who are running our government, or even those selfish, short-sighted men and women who control the purse-strings to electability who run things from behind the scenes. I mean, how many times have you or I signed a petition simply because it came from or the ACLU? I don’t necessarily think it is a wrong thing to do, mind you, but I’m just trying to make the point that we don’t often look deeper in to the issues, do our own research or our own thinking about issues, regardless of what political side we are on.

Ok, let’s not be disingenuous here, I think liberals and progressives do think things through a whole bunch more than the far-right, but my point is that all of us could do with a little more thinking about ourselves and our world.

I also find it interesting that Odin was more concerned about Memory than Thought and I’ve been thinking about that all day. I haven’t necessarily come up with a brilliant thought or blisteringly bright analysis, but if you think about it (can’t really have one without the other can you?), Memory makes you, well, you. If you can’t remember your past, yes, you are doomed to repeat it, but more importantly, you have no genuine sense of self. Our memories are the shape of us.

Ok, so perhaps Snow and the Bush administration have not lost their memory so much as they simply lie to the American public, but the fact that they can get away with such obvious lies, being called on them only by a small number of fringe media or comedy writers, seems to indicate that the mainstream media and the American public at large are making no effort to remember what happened in the past.

Another example is that America is now arming and supporting various Sunni insurgency groups in the hopes that they will fight against al-Qa’eda which was a Sunni group supported, armed and trained to fight against certain of our “other” enemies.”

Many writers and reporters have traced al-Qa’eda and other terror groups’ origins back to the Afghan war of 1979 1992, that last gasp of the Cold War when US-backed Mujahideen forces fought against the invading Soviet army. It is well documented that America played a major role in creating and sustaining the Mujahideen, which included Osama bin Laden’s Office of Services set up to recruit volunteers from overseas. Between 1985 and 1992, US officials estimate that 12,500 foreign fighters were trained in bomb-making, sabotage and guerrilla warfare tactics in Afghan camps that the CIA helped to set up. Yet America’s role in backing the Mujahideen a second time in the early and mid-1990s is seldom mentioned — largely because very few people know about it, and those who do find it prudent to pretend that it never happened. Following the Russian withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 and the collapse of their puppet regime in 1992, the Afghan Mujahideen became less important to the United States; many Arabs, in the words of the journalist James Buchan, were left stranded in Afghanistan ‘with a taste for fighting but no cause’. It was not long before some were provided with a new cause. From 1992 to 1995, the Pentagon assisted with the movement of thousands of Mujahideen and other Islamic elements from Central Asia into Europe, to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs.

Why are we allowing this? Why do we seem to willfully forget our own history? Memories are more than just pretty baubles, they are the very fabric of who we are, the warp and woof of our lives, but so much of our attention these days, these perilous and frightening days, seems to be on one pretty shiny thing after another. Can we say “iPhone” boys and girls? Or “HDTV” or “Paris Hilton” . . . the list of distractions goes on and on. I’m as guilty of letting memory fly away as anyone else, with my computer fetish and my love of cool tech toys. Concerted thought and concerted memory take time, take energy, and when you are always ready to be distracted by the next tech podcast or the next url, then the time and energy to focus become diffused, stretched out to nothingness. Oh sure, we think “gee, that’s bad” or “gosh, that’s not write” or “golly, those are bad bad men running our government,” but then we forget about it, look at the next catalog, or website or television channel.

Before I get too abusive–and this is self-abuse here folks, because I’m sure that you are better at this than I am–let’s just return to the image of two ravens, black feathers. sharp beaks, tough talons, as they fly the world, taking it all in. Combined, thought and memory make understanding and really, one can live without either. I just hope I can remember to put out some bird-seed and keep a place for Hugin and Munin in my life. Heck, they were good enough for a god to keep around, so I could do worse than give them the honor that they are due.

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Politics in a Liminal State

I feel very uncomfortable in crowds, particularly political crowds. Somewhere in the back of my brain a warning starts flashing, something to do with sameness, mob mentality, the overwhelming loss of individuality. Heck, I don’t even like seeing Rocky Horror Picture Show live because having a group of people all performing the same actions, saying the same lines, dressed in varying shades of the same outfits would freak me out a bit.

Recently, after watching “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood” in the new series of Doctor Who, J asked if I was the Doctor or John Smith. I don’t know how to answer that question, but I keep feeling like I have been trying hard to be John Smith for most of my life, despite this niggling idea in the back of my brain that I am somehow cut out for some more, something out of the ordinary. But then again, don’t we all share that feeling, don’t we all, unless we’ve given up completely, think that we are special, unique, rock stars in our own right if only the world paid proper attention?

People I would like to be, simply because they embody so much of what I respect and/or what excites me intellectually and artistically:

David Bowie Wayne Coyne

Ok, so that list is both shorter than I thought and also completely tied in with issues of artistic abilities as well as physical attributes – I mean, lets be honest, if you are going to want to be someone else, the odds are that you will pick someone that you think is an attractive human being in addition to any other qualities they might have. Both of them have physical traits that I wish I possessed–David Bowie’s angularity and lean-ness and Wayne Coyne’s hair and style–but more importantly, I would like to be them because of their creative power, a power that is both deep but also wide ranging, each of them being able to work in a variety of mediums, and work them all equally well. Also, both men exhibit a centered strength that I am deeply impressed with as well as a sense of continued experimentation and a “just-do-it” attitude that I find both admirable and daunting.

The greatest limitations we encounter are generally the ones we impose upon ourselves. (I am talking metaphysically here, and want to acknowledge the real violence and control that social institutions can impose upon peoples minds and bodies.) Pathways carved into neurons, habits of mind and body, the inner voices that say “don’t” or “you can’t.” We carve out a way of living so young, so very young, and then are caught within the forms we have carved. Occasionally wondering what it would be like to walk another path, see another view.

There is no try, there is only do. Or something like that.

MoveOn sent me an email yesterday, perhaps you received it as well, regarding a political rally sponsored by the ACLU and others:

On June 26, 2007, join us in Washington, D.C. as we call on Congress to restore habeas corpus, fix the Military Commissions Act, and restore our constitutional rights. Rally with us outside the Capitol, then help deliver our urgent message in person to your Members of Congress. This is your chance to make your voice heard!

I am considering taking the day off and going. This is the schedule (my bus would leave at 5 am from Brooklyn):

7:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Executive Branch Demonstration for those already in DC (exact location tbd) 9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Lobby Training (close to Upper Senate Park) NOTE: Lobbying will be done in groups. All attendees are encouraged to participate! 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. RALLY at Upper Senate Park. 1:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Storm the Hill: Lobby Meetings with Senators and Representatives 6:00 p.m. Buses depart Union station for cities around the nation.

This is normally something of which I would be intellectually in favor of, something that I would never think of going to because I don’t like political rallies and that’s just not who I am. Scratched out patterns on a piece of balsa wood, channels of though, habits of mind. We may think we want something different, something new, but then, when faced with a different view, we get vertigo and a touch of fear. So I stay between, sheltered by the limen, a step inside a step outside. Nothing on the line either way. Comfortable and safe, yet all the while knowing that I am cheating myself, that the liminal, while an excellent place to spend time as a writer and creator as it affords me the ability to look in multiple directions as well as letting me be both a little of and a little apart in order to better understand and represent the world through my music or my writing, is not the only space I can or should inhabit.

So, the question is, am I going to Washington DC next Tuesday?

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