Thursday, October 27, 2011

the last book I ever read (So Long, See You Tomorrow) (again and again)

from So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell:

Whether they are part of home or home is part of them is not a question children are prepared to answer. Having taken away the dog, take away the kitchen--the smell of something good in the oven for dinner. Also the smell of washday, of wool drying on the wooden rack. Of ashes. Of soup simmering on the stove. Take away the patient old horse waiting by the pasture fence. Take away the chores that kept him busy from the time he got home from school until they sat down to supper. Take away the early-morning mist, the sound of crows quarreling in the treetops.

His work clothes are still hanging on a nail beside the door of his room, but nobody puts them on or takes them off. Nobody sleeps in his bed. Or reads the broken-backed copy of Tom Swift and His Flying Machine. Take that away too, while you are at it.

Take away the pitcher and bowl, both of them dry and dusty. Take away the cow barn where the cats, sitting all in a row, wait with their mouths wide open for somebody to squirt milk down their throats. Take away the horse barn too--the small of hay and dust and horse piss and old sweat-stained leather, and the rain beating down on the plowed field beyond the open door. Take all this away and what have you done to him? In the face of a deprivation so great, what is the use of asking him to go on being the boy he was. He might as well start life over again as some other boy instead.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

the last book I ever read (So Long, See You Tomorrow) (again)

from So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell:

He knew what had been done to him but no what he had done to deserve it.

It would have been a help if at some time some Baptist preacher, resting his forearms on the pulpit and hunching his shoulders, had said People neither get what they deserve nor deserve what they get. The gentle and the trusting are trampled on. The rich man usually forces his way through the eye of the needle, and there is little or no point in putting your faith in Divine Providence. . . . On the other hand, how could any preacher, Baptist or otherwise, say this?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the last book I ever read (So Long, See You Tomorrow)

from So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell:

He was perfectly aware of his wife's good qualities. She worked like a slave, from morning till night, holding up her end of things. She was a good mother. There was no question about any of this. Sometimes he thought it was just that they were so used to each other. He knew how she felt about almost everything, and, most of the time, what she was going to say before she said it. If they had been brother and sister it wouldn't have been very different--except that she was jealous. If he so much as looked at another woman she acted as if he'd done something unforgivable. Once or twice she worked herself up to such a pitch that she went upstairs and started packing. He knew that such persuasion as he could muster was halfhearted and wouldn't convince her to change her mind. If she was bent on leaving him there was nothing he could do about it. She didn't leave him, she only threatened to. None of those women meant anything to him, he said. And with her face averted she said, "The trouble is, I don't mean anything to you either."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

the last book I ever read (The Psychopath Test) (again)

from The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson:

Bob didn't seem to be listening. It was as if the crash had made him introspective. He said, almost to himself, "I should never had done all my research in prisons. I should have spent my time inside the Stock Exchange as well."

I looked at Bob. "Really?" I said.

He nodded.

"But surely stock-market psychopaths can't be as bad as serial-killer psychopaths," I said.

"Serial killers ruin families." Bob shrugged. "Corporate and political and religious psychopaths ruin economies. They ruin societies."

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the last book I ever read (The Psychopath Test)

from The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson:

"I'm not familiar with Professor Hofstadter," I said to Deborah. "I know there are references to him scattered all over Being or Nothingness. But I couldn't work out if he's a real person or a fictional character. Is he well known?"

"He wrote Gödel, Escher, Bach!" she replied, surprised by my lack of knowledge. "It was momentous."

I didn't reply.

"If you're a geek," sighed Deborah, "and you're just discovering the Internet, and especially if you're a boy, Gödel, Escher, Bach would be like your Bible. It was about how you can use Gödel's mathematic theories and Bach's canons to makes sense of the experience of consciousness. Lots of young guys really like it. It's very playful. I haven't read it in its entirety but it's on my bookshelf."

Hofstadter, she said, had published it in the late 1970s. It was lauded. It won a Pulitzer. It was filled with brilliant puzzles and wordplay and meditations on the meaning of consciousness and artificial intelligence. It was the kind of book--like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or A Brief History of Time--that everybody wanted on their shelves but few were clever enough to really understand.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

the last book I ever read (The Mirage Man) (again)

from The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War by David Willman:

Two of the books Ivins kept in his bedroom described men whose lives had faint echoes of his own lost promise. Arrowsmith, the 1925 novel by Sinclair Lewis, depicts the rise from a small town in the Midwest of a scientifically gifted man who achieves acclaim as a bubonic plague researcher but is buffeted by the temptations of recognition and power. Ivins, who aspired to Mensa, might also have related to the protagonists of A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines. Janna Levin's 2006 novel chronicles the anguished lives of Kurt Gödel, the storied mathematical logician (whose work is examined in Gödel, Escher, Bach, the book that would provide a key to the mystery of the anthrax letters), and Alan Turing, who helped break the German military code during World War II and whose "universal Turing machine" was the archetype for the modern computer. The deaths of both were self-inflicted--Gödel, by intentional starvation due to his paranoia over being poisoned; Turing, by eating a cyanide-laced apple.

Friday, October 14, 2011

e. e. cummings at 117

e.e.cummings would've been 117 today.

and the man's poetry has extended a long bony finger into my own life, from those elementary school readings of "in Just--" all the way to my borrowing a few lines from "i sing of Olaf glad and big" as the epigraph for the Tusk book.

and somewhere in the middle (though much closer to the Tusk book end than the elementary school one) we read a cummings poem at a wedding in Carl Schurz Park:

if everything happens that can't be done
(and anything's righter
than books
could plan)
the stupidest teacher will almost guess
(with a run
around we go yes)
there's nothing as something as one

one hasn't a why or because or although
(and buds know better
than books
don't grow)
one's anything old being everything new
(with a what
around we go who)
one's everyanything so

so world is a leaf is a tree is a bough
(and birds sing sweeter
than books
tell how)
so here is away and so your is a my
(with a down
around again fly)
forever was never till now

now i love you and you love me
(and books are shutter
than books
can be)
and deep in the high that does nothing but fall
(with a shout
around we go all)
there's somebody calling who's we

we're everything brighter than even the sun
(we're everything greater
than books
might mean)
we're everyanything more than believe
(with a spin
alive we're alive)
we're wonderful one times one

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the last book I ever read (The Mirage Man)

from The Mirage Man: Bruce Ivins, the Anthrax Attacks, and America's Rush to War by David Willman:

In September of 2001 Bruce Ivins was at that stage of career where there were far fewer years ahead than behind. The twin were now seniors in high school and, in just a few years, he could retire from the Army and start anew, if he wished. He was fifty-six years old.

Why, then, would Ivins risk everything by launching the anthrax letter attacks?

Developing the next-generation anthrax vaccine was, for Ivins, a deeply personal matter, bound up with his excessive need for attention and longing for scientific distinction. By the year 2000, he was seething over the project's endangered status. And by mid-2001, the controversy surrounding the military's entire anthrax vaccine program had pushed the next-generation product "beyond the back burner," in the words of Major General Stephen Reeves. As the Army official directly responsible for these biodefense matters, Reeves believed that, absent a crisis, "the White House would have killed this program."

Ivins knew well the marvelously persuasive power of fear: In 1980, fear of what the Soviets were up to in the aftermath of the anthrax deaths at Sverdlovsk got him hired at USAMRIID. In 1990 and 1991, fear that Saddam Hussein might use anthrax in the first Gulf War brought Ivins to center stage as a scientist and gave a boost to his early work on the next-generation anthrax vaccine. For Ivins, a co-inventor and patent holder, bringing this product all the way into use held the promise of untold professional glory (and years of steady patent royalties).

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day, Hockey and Bonnie "Prince" Billy (Take Two)

earlier this afternoon, I wrote a fairly lengthy blog entry working around and through Columbus Day, hockey, Bonnie "Prince" Billy (who has a new album out), the Algonquin and Occupy Wall Street. but the Bonnie "Prince" Billy memories are frustrating ones so I've decided not to revisit that particular past here on the Interweb. except for these two paragraphs from an unarchived piece published back in the Spring of 2009:

Throughout his multi-monikered recording career, Oldham’s fractiously fragile vocals laid over determinedly sparse instrumentation have bred a sound simultaneously plaintive and languid, at times dour, almost always reverberant, like the smoke lingering above a landmark Birmingham, Alabama rib joint across the street from where Oldham once lived.

“You see a fog of smoke,” he says, “which is kind of beautiful and atmospheric. Where in San Francisco you get fog from the ocean, in Birmingham, on 15th and 15th, you get Dreamland smoke.”

more contemporary, more cooperative memories are currently being made on my Facebook 49ers page and on Twitter.
join us.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

music from occupy wall street without puppets (or drums)

yesterday (Day 21) my lovely and talented and high-minded friend Tanya Braganti and I went down to Occupy Wall Street to talk to some people about talking to and photographing some people a little later on (give me a shout if you're down there and feeling chatty).

thanks Danny.

Friday, October 7, 2011

music from occupy wall street with puppets

today (Day 21) my lovely and talented and high-minded friend Tanya Braganti and I went down to Occupy Wall Street to talk to some people about talking to and photographing some people a little later on (give me a shout if you're down there and feeling chatty).

thanks Danny.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

"Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

- Steve Jobs

Monday, October 3, 2011

early October update

well, it's colder than it should be, but I'm inside a lot.
transcribing, and then transcribing some more.

way, way too much of listening to my own voice (99% of which will be edited out (you're welcome)), but also in this past week (thankfully) the compelling voices of writers Tony Earley (Jim the Boy), Stewart O’Nan (The Circus Fire) and Anita Stansfield (Shadows of Brierley: A Far Horizon), friend and trauma surgeon James Walter, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians bassist Brad Houser and the lovely Susan Olsen who played Cindy on the Brady Bunch.

but the Facebook page for the 49ers has surged past 100 Likes (thank you, thank you! (times 50)) and today, despite the chill, interviewee (thanks Ingrid!) and ICA (Philadelphia) senior curator Ingrid Schaffner, Loyola (Maryland) Greyhounds soccer coach Mark Mettrick, stand-up comic (MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour) Mario Joyner, Judging Amy actor (with a famous father and famous younger brother) Marcus Giamatti and pro wrestler Darryl Peterson (Maxx Payne and Man Mountain Rock) all turn 50.

and sixty years ago this afternoon (at just about 3:58 Eastern), when Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham was just over twelve hours into his second birthday, the Staten Island Scot, Bobby Thomson, hit a home run off of Ralph Branca that is now known as the Shot Heard 'Round the World.