Sunday, July 31, 2011

how Walker Percy might fit in all of this

a couple weeks ago I interviewed Carl Elliott. he was, of course, 49 at the time of our conversation, but he's 50 now.
and one of the books Carl's been involved in is The Last Physician: Walker Percy & the Moral Life of Medicine. it's not the book of his that Carl suggested I read (actually, I'm still missing that specific recommendation) because it's not a book he wrote but rather co-edited.
but I've got it and there's a chapter by Ross McElwee, the director of Sherman's March and Time Indefinite and Bright Leaves and . . . (I'm a fan so that's a good thing), and Carl wrote the introduction. part of which goes like this:

I had received a short note from Walker Percy, a reply to a letter I had sent him a number of months previously. My own letter was a little embarrassing, to be honest. I had written with some questions about the place of existentialist philosophy in his novels, but what I was really hoping for was some kind of approval for what I was planning to do. Which was, in effect, to give up medicine, leave the South, move to Scotland, and study philosophy. Not many other people seemed to think this was a very good idea. When I had told one of my psychiatry professors, he had recommended psychotherapy. Percy's note was more gratifying. He said that I should read Kierkegaard and Heidegger ('nearly impenetrable, but worth it'), and then in closing: 'We need more philosophers.' Close enough to approval for me. What use did I have for grinning dentists and this quiet South Carolina desperation?

by the way, after college in South Carolina and med school in South Carolina, Carl Elliott moved to Scotland and earned a PhD in philosophy.
he now works as a bioethicist in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Friday, July 29, 2011


after walking out of talks with the President one week ago, on Monday night Speaker Boehner insisted that he was the leader of the whole House and not just House Republicans. he offered a bill that proposed similar spending cuts to Senate Leader Reid's bill but one that would institute two separate debt ceiling increases, therefore demanding that we revisit these economy-jarring histrionics once again just before Christmas.

and then after no vote on Tuesday, no vote on Wednesday, no vote on Thursday because Speaker Boehner could not gain enough Republican ayes to pass his theoretically bipartisan compromise (no House Democrat is on record as supportive) that had no chance of making it through the Senate and no chance of gaining the President's signature, Speaker Boehner decided that his final hours (just over 100 right now) before the government defaults on its economic promises for the first time in our history would be better used bending to the most extreme and recalcitrant members of his own party (the one he supposedly leads) rather than working towards a true bipartisan compromise that might actually end this crisis.

if you cannot sell your bag of rotting vegetables, adding more rotting vegetables to the original package does not increase its attractiveness.
you have to harvest something new.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

the marker

call July 18th a marker:
Emmylou Harris and the Red Dirt Boys in Central Park (which meant a 3/4 day off for me), 11 months since my last smoke and the first day of the last month of interviews with 49 year olds.

and since that date I've had the pleasure of speaking with epidemiologist Jeffery Taubenberger, trauma surgeon and friend Stephan Moran, economist Byron Schlomach, Virginia State Senator A. Donald McEachin, Georgia State Representative Karla Lea Drenner, writer and patient advocate 'Thyroid' Mary Shomon, Vermont Secretary of Natural Resources Deb Markowitz, Invisible Cure author Helen Epstein, Some Girls author Cyrus Patell, Nevada State Senator Moises 'Mo' Denis, Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead and string theorist Michael R. Douglas.
of course, if all goes as planned I've got two more interviews today and . . .

also, four days before the marker (July 14th), I interviewed Deborah Voorhees (that was a busy week as well).
Deborah's almost certainly best known for playing Tina in Friday the 13th: A New Beginning, but she's also worked as a high school English teacher and her current project is a film of her own, Billy Shakespeare (and here's where you can help).
Deborah was born 50 years ago today, and she's celebrating in a way unlike any other 49er I've yet interviewed: she's also getting married.
so happy birthday and congratulations and best wishes and all good things to Deborah (and all of us).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday morning

I've been up for little more than a half hour and I'm ready for a nicotine lozenge.
except you're not supposed to have a nicotine lozenge while drinking (even though I know intelligent people who think nothing of breaking this rule - hi Maggie!) and I would like a few more sips of Mountain Dew (which I have cut down on drastically in an attempt to not be so damn fat; 290 calories in a 20 oz. Dew/0 calories (obviously) in a Coke Zero) but, of course, my Dew is close to frozen solid, almost to the top, because I keep my Dew in the freezer and I overfilled the bottle before putting it in there and I've only been up for little more than a half hour so not a lot of melting has occurred (even with an assist), even in July.

the nicotine urge is a bit ahead of schedule today (just two days short of eleven months since my last cigarette), probably because I feel so damn guilty that my beloved is desperately trying to keep to a schedule this morning (I certainly have many things to do today, but the actual schedule portion doesn't start until later) and yet she's the one walking (rushing) to Socrates Sculpture Park to drop off the now two weeks' worth of compost since when we (yes, we) went last week it was after noon and it seems that even though the green market stays open until 4 p.m. the compost folks go home at noon.

this, of course, is but one way that you can tell us apart: she is willing to spend 35-40 minutes walking back and forth, risking a miss of her train to New Jersey to go to the beach with her sister (though hopefully this isn't much of a possibility), in order to drop off two weeks' of our collected compost.
I would, of course, be willing to walk with her on this errand, but that would somehow defeat the purpose of her going and I did not appear to be willing to spend 35-40 minutes of the less than 2 1/2 hours before noon walking two weeks' worth of compost there by myself.
and yet I have time to compose a blog posting about that very same subject.
hello, nicotine lozenge.

how can you not like Miguel Angel Jimenez?
(and yes, that was a kind of Larry King thing to do)

also, a not terribly surprising busy week with a museum stop, a concert stop, two Restaurant Week stops and nine 49er interviews since Monday morning (with likely two more on the menu for today), including the aforementioned physics professor and puppeteer (these brought to you by the letter P) as well as a bioethicist, a future head of the Modern Language Association, a real estate agent and former Idaho congressional candidate, a writer and former Friday the 13th actress, a current New York Times scribe, the reigning queen of LDS romance fiction and a real estate agent and current Maryland state delegate.
but it was a rather surprising week for new words written about the Tusk book, including quite a few for the Austin Chronicle music blog (I think he liked it - at least enough that I'll be allowed back into Austin some day - but it's still early yet so I can't tell for sure; example: I think I got accused (not exactly the right word but, again, it's early) of borrowing a description of Lindsey (Buckingham) as "the Terrence Malick of rock" from Lindsey himself in an earlier Austin Chronicle piece when actually Lindsey tossed out the "Terence Malick" defense to me for an LA Weekly piece some two months before).
weird, wild (and rather circular) stuff.
see? I told you it was early.

"Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain"

according to Fox and Friends' "logic" we shouldn't care about the News of the World hacking scandal because it happened all the way over in London and not in the States, and because people are getting hacked everywhere, including our own government by China (ignoring the fact that they just drew a pretty tight News Corp/China analogy), so we should really spend our time better defending ourselves against hackers instead of paying attention to the fact that these hackers are/were journalists employed by the exact same media company telling you not to pay attention.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

another day, another $1.75

though that really hasn't been an applicable sentiment for nigh on three or four years.
ain't I the lucky guy?
(yes. yes, I am.)

so a week has passed since Cy Twombly passed (and Dick Williams and John Mackey have passed in the interim), and I don't have a whole lot of news here, but if you're going to keep a blog you should update it at least once a week (even if you can't remember that far back without looking at your own blog posts to see what happened or, as the case may be, who died).

but I do remember today (Monday, 7/11/11), when I was fortunate enough to do (what's the best verb here?) two interviews, with a physics professor and a puppeteer (today's interviews were brought to you by the letter P), and that was cool, and I sent out a few more interview requests (we're coming down to the wire here with something like 37 more days of interviews before that part of the 49er project will come to a dead stand still, so if you know of any fascinating 49 year olds (English speaking, born in 1961 at this point) please let me know), set up a few more interviews, got inspected (by phone) by a representative of a government agency (no grade, but a recommendation to a potential interviewee (a government employee, but not the President and not the Treasury Secretary, both of whom are 49 year old English speakers born in 1961 with, I'm guessing, an interesting story or two) that I'm worth talking to (thanks government!)) and then I rushed (rushed) towards the East Village in an attempt to return a library book (Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke) before closing but I got hosed (hosed, I tell you) by the NYC MTA, specifically the 6 train which not only made me wait but decided (probably with some human help) to skip Astor Place so I was not only too late to return the book (Nicholson Baker's Human Smoke) but late for dinner (at Apiary for the first night of Restaurant Week) as I was dropped off something like twelve blocks south of where I was eating, which made us kind of rush through the entree (slow, quite slow, in coming) and dessert portions since by then we were running late to catch Corey Smith's early show (thanks Cass!) at the Mercury Lounge.

rush, rush, rush.
I am a New Yorker.
and that was pretty much my day.

what I'm listening to: all make and manner of Steve Wynn music (a complete lack of surprise to many of you), but let's say the Dream Syndicate's Ghost Stories in a tip of the cap to specificity

your new home run derby king: the Yankees' Robinson Cano

the most interesting piece of prose I've read on the Internet in the past few days that has little if anything to do with me: Diane McWhorter's Redemption in Birmingham on back home in Alabama history, Chris McNair and whether or not there's such a thing as earned mercy
(full disclosure: I interviewed Diane McWhorter after her excellent (and recommended to all those with Alabama roots) Carry Me Home came out but before it won the Pulitzer. and it was a really good interview but I can't for the life of me remember where it was published, much less able to provide a link to it; so yeah, that makes it a little about me, but not nearly (really, not nearly) as self-serving as . . .)

the most interesting piece of prose I've read on the Internet in the past few days that has quite a bit to do with me, actually: Lisa from England (nope, it's Lisa from Ireland; my bad) is reviewing/sharing her thoughts on various entries from Continuum's 33 1/3 series, and those of you keeping score at home will likely remember that I penned the entry on Fleetwood Mac's Tusk album (that link will take you to my book, not the music, by the way).
and after the most recent, rather scathing review posted on Amazon (I've been told that these things matter, and yes, I well realize that, in some ways, I wrote not only a non-traditional book but, I guess, a difficult book, one that might even be viewed as "confrontational" (someone else's description, not mine), though I was not aiming for a fight (that is, my primary goal was neither a non-traditional nor confrontational approach)), I was greatly pleased to read that Lisa from Ireland cast aside the seemingly prevalent urge to simply list the ways that the book failed to address certain preconceived notions (lyrical analysis, interviews with studio engineers, et al) and was not only able but willing to approach the book on its own terms.
and for that I say, thank you, thank you, thank you (and thanks to Sharon also, for very kind, though less public, comments). something akin to faith has been (somewhat) restored.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cy Twombly has died

American artist Cy Twombly, who lived in between Rome and Naples for the past half-century, has passed away in Italy. He was 83.