Thursday, August 31, 2006

Power Corrupts? Absolutely!

I am the proud owner of a wireless mouse. It's gorgeous and my wrist is ever so grateful! It's a fairly high-end dealie I won on eBay, called the Microsoft Wireless Laptop Laser Mouse 6000.

Say it with me now in your best Dr. Evil:

Laser Mouse 6000

I am flush with pointy-clicky power.

That is all.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Home

Finally, let me just say how thrilling it is to be more or less completely unpacked. Seeing my books out of boxes and on shelves not only reminds me of how much I love them but also kinda makes me not want to get rid of them, which I had been considering for a while. After all, it’s not the paper and ink and boards that are important; it’s the knowledge within.

Aw, who’m I kidding? I’m a book person. I need books. I am glad, though, that I pared down my collection over the past year. Everything I have I either a) really want or b) really need (or both). But I’m not a library; just a guy who likes books. If only I had one more shelf, I could get everything out and visible.

Jury is still out on the typewriters (and my massive “collection” [read: accumulation] of cassettes, albums, and VHS tapes). But it’s easier to re-acquire, say, a copy of S is for Space than an Oliver Standard Visible Writer No. 5 side-strike manual typewriter, junky though it may be. Antiques vs. mass-market paperbacks, don't you know. But I suspect I’ll be jettisoning more crap in the coming months.

What’s in a Name?

Also, I can’t decide between roller derby announcer names for myself:

Color commentary with “Dangling” Chad Wackerman!

or

Play-by-play coverage with Dick Smack!

I think I need a plaid suit.

Nice Guy Not Door Mat

I’m sure you’re all tired of this shit, gentle readers. I sure am.

Imagine sitting down to Sunday brunch with friends and a new friend, and hearing something along the lines of “Don’t worry; I don’t really believe any of the nasty things I’ve heard about you.” This from someone I barely know. And she’s being serious.

I know, I know. This kind of shit is bound to happen when you break up with someone and your circle of friends has difficulty dealing with it; I’ve received a mercifully small share of harsh sentiments actually, and I don’t think my ex has received any worse (and probably no better) treatment; and no, it’s not going to last forever. It’s just unfortunate.

I surmised that vilifying me is convenient since you can’t make the “nice guy” the “bad guy,” too, right? Why, that would be nutty! Or at least stupid. I have been reminded that I’m not a bad guy and that I didn’t do anything “wrong” per se, and that really I’m just “collateral damage” in the wake of my ex’s horrific realization that she just was not all that into me/us/life together, for various reasons real and imagined....

What has saddened me the most, though -- well, a lot; not really the most; get back to me about most -- about all this marriage/divorce stuff is how a few select nutjobs have decided that the fruition and dissolution of my long-term union is now their own personal Armageddon in the red state/blue state culture wars. As if we all now have to choose sides and you’re either with us or you’re against us. (That’s an actual quote btw.) Nobody is stopping anyone here from living their lives any way they choose; I’m not trying to pass nor do I support legislation that would do so; and frankly, my ex and I could have (and did) live as “alternatively” as we wanted, for a long time. But people change, they make choices, and shit falls apart. Or it doesn’t, if that’s the choice that’s made. Then you deal with it, one way or another, and then you move on.

I guess we’re all still in the “deal with it” stage, yes?

So anyway, once I got some specifics, it didn’t surprise me in the least that I’m getting smeared in certain circles (semi-public discussion fora, apparently), considering the source of the discord. This particular shit-stirrer is quite a sower of it; a veritable seamstress of BS in the human interaction department. Still, I play poker with her on a semi-regular basis, so next Thursday should be fun. I was able to shrug off this horse shit at Sunday brunch -- polite, new company and all; plus I am sadly becoming accustomed to this scenario. But once I’ve had a cocktail or two and the chips are piling up and we’re all nicey-nice and jocular and everyone is smiling and having a good fucking time ... I think I may be entitled to a little smack talk myself, eh? Oooh, didn’t see that coming!!!

\emo rant

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My So-called Life Skills

Did I say life skills? I meant knife skills!

I has been brought to my attention that my vegetable-chopping technique is lousy, and I should take a class in kitchen knifery at the local cooking school before I hurt myself. Humph. I can fillet bluegill smaller than my palm. I’ve dressed deer hanging from a garage rafter, and then tanned the hide in my living room. I’m the best chicken killer/plucker I know....

Okay, so perhaps I do lack a little finesse and speed. But how can I dispatch a bell pepper so quickly, so ruthlessly when it’s looking at me all sorrowful, with its down-turned eyes all tear-stained and its li’l green stem all a-quiver? How, HOW, I ask you?

Regardless, the frittata came out nearly flawlessly and I still have all -- hold on. 1, 2, 3, 4.... Yes, I still have all my digits. Like any poetry reading, a meal I walk away from un-knifed is a success.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Instant Review: Snakes on a Plane

I have only this to say.

Time Lag

Or "How Shall We ... Fuck Off, My Lord?"

I'm shocked -- actually, no, not really. I kind of figured this sort of thing would happen, but I am surprised that it's taken this long to come to fruition. I'm not sure what makes people snap. Maybe it's the heat?

It's been a little over a year since my ex and I separated, nearly a year since she divorced me. Only now are some of our friends (okay, they're mostly her friends, but we legally co-owned everything due to a piece of paper) getting around to telling me to fuck off: "I no longer wish to be reminded of your existance [sic]."

I think these people overestimate their impact in my life, and mine in theirs, frankly, or at least misfactor the intended drama such statements are to evoke, especially after so long a period of silence and inaction. Do you really expect me to stuff myself down some memory hole for your convenience? If you can't forget me, I prescribe Time. Or Labotomy. Or Bong. But regardless of the path or method you choose, there's nothing I can do about it.

Maybe they just want to "clarify" our "relationship" now. It's like people who feel the need to TELL YOU they'll be snubbing you in the future. If someone is going to snub you, doesn't that mean they stop talking to you, not remind you that "Hey! The next time I see you? On the one or two (maybe) occasions a year I see you? I'm going to snub you"?

Horse shit aside, in a truly yin-yang online moment, one friend says fuck off as another friend who long ago said fuck off says let's try being human again. Oh really? Baby, I never stopped. Welcome back. I greet you at threshold of the rest of my life.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Yet Another Life-Altering Choice

I'm getting pretty good at these.

So the environment at my current workplace (like some other aspects of my life) has deteriorated quite a bit since I started here 2 years ago. I have salved my conscience with the amount of money I make (which is great for my field, in this area), the work that I do (which I’m good at, and which I think helps the little guy and smashes the Big Publishing House paradigm at the same time), and the idea that I'm in this little editorial cocoon -- that the buffoonery in the rest of the business (which can be rather epic at times) essentially doesn't touch me, or at least I won't let it. I also work with intelligent people, probably the smartest in the building, and we all get along pretty well.

This all has started to change, sometimes tangibly, sometimes just internally. But I can feel another sea change coming on.

The money is still good -- great, actually -- but the upper management horseshit and general tenor of the business has reached “OMG YOU DID WHAT?!” proportions. Plus, those nice, intelligent people I work with? They’re behaving like ass-hats, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be around in November when a particular bit of shit hits the fan.

So when my previous employer e-mailed me recently, asking if I knew of anyone who might be interested in a job there (doing book composition, which I love a bit more than editing [and I think I'm even better at that]), it gave me pause. I'd been there 8 years, and really did feel like when I left, I was done with it, ready to move on -- ready to make more money, at least. I was at a point where I needed to move away from old modes of thought and practice -- to join the "real world," such as it is.

I want to contemplate that some more and do some research in journals from that period. I think my movements then perhaps set in motion what ultimately ended in my current liberation.

Anyway, I'm no longer "happy in my work" here at Vanity Press, Inc. I feel like a hack most of the time. I no longer feel like I'm "helping the little guy"; I'm glutting the world with crap it doesn’t need. I'm making widgets in the form of books. And it's making me, I think, cynical and stupid in the process. I am the editorial equivalent of “You want fries with that?” when I used to sculpt books like they were 5-tier wedding cakes.

But O, the sweet, sweet greenbacks....

So I tell former employer, hmm, I’ll ask around but you know, I might be interested myself except the pay is too severe a cut right now (which is true). I’m so coy! But truly, that's the only answer I could give. The original pay cut would have been way too severe.

This morning she comes back with an offer that would still mean a pay cut, but considering I’d be living essentially around the corner from work and could walk/bike there nearly every day PLUS it would mean much sweeter/cheaper health bennies PLUS working with people who care about books -- not just pushing “product” or selling “services” PLUS being back in the university cocoon (and I’m much more likely to take advantage of free classes now) … I think it’s entirely doable. Maybe even preferable, which is where my decision-making acumen comes into play, gentle readers. Yes, yes, I know. List and weigh carefully the pros and cons blah blah blah. I’ll get right on that.

In truth this all has as much to do with the state of my head/well-being and the state of the world in general as it does my personal workplace trifles. I made the jump to a better-paying job largely to support mortgage(s), a part-time-employed wife, and the possibility (actually planned eventuality) of offspring, not to mention a 40-minute one-way daily commute from the backwoods to “civilization.” None of that is an issue now, so why not do something more beneficial to me, and for the world? Spread scholarship, despite my misgivings about academic publishing, instead of SPAM in book form. And even though my commute is real short now, for years (at previous employer too) it wasn’t, and it bugged the hell out of me to have to drive to someplace just so I could work on a computer. That aspect would go away, too. FUCK GAS PRICES! FUCK COMMUTING!

I wanted to move deeper into Bloomington, right? How much deeper can I get than living within walking/biking distance of nearly everything I need to survive -- hell, thrive?

So that’s me on a Monday. I just got all my stuff moved into the new place on Saturday, and my violinist lady friend was kind enough to help me clean the old place on Sunday. I have a walk-through tomorrow morning and I was planning to take the day off for that and to push some stuff around that the new home. Now I may make a stop at Ye Olde Workplace as well to talk some specifics. I’m still not unpacked (some things have been boxed up for about a year now), and here I find myself at another crossroads.

Good morning!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

INSTANT REVIEW: Tom Waits in Louisville

I long ago had simply resigned myself to the fact that I'd never see Tom Waits live. He rarely tours and when he does it's usually Europe or the West Coast. Last time he was anywhere near the Midwest was in Chicago in '87 -- when I was still into Metallica, etc. What?! You mean there was a time when you weren't all cool and hip and stuff?!?! I know. I can't believe it either, but it's true!

Anyway, Tom decided for some reason to do a spate of Midwet shows and I was thrilled to get to see him. I think I may have missed his prime then, but he is still most excellent now. The Louisville Palace is a stunning venue, recently remodeled, and the lighting and vaudeville atmosphere lent a side-show quality to the songs, mostly from Tom's last 5 or so albums. I thought his band was a tad weak. They wanted to groove when the songs needed to be rawked, and his guitarist was way, way too mellow. Tom needed somone more like his session/past tour axeman Marc Ribot, somebody to shadow the angular, stuccato vocals. No standard blues riffs please!

Casey Waits, Tom's son, played drums (and beatboxed with Tom on "Eyeball Kid"), and I read somewhere that his other son, Sullivan, sat in on percussion (really two sticks banged on a bunch of junk) for "Hoist That Rag." The bassist was okay, the keyboardist/marimba player/percussionist was pretty good, but the band never really seemed locked in to me; not a very cohesive unit.

I also thought the PA/house sound was lacking. Granted, I was in the balcony, and Tom's vocal range generally hovers in the low to mid range anyway, but I lost some clarity here and there, especially when he was joking around between songs, which he did a lot. He also forgot the lyrics to a couple of songs, which, on the surface was a fun "original" thing, but later I felt it a tad lame. It's not like "Tango Till Their Sore" is a B-side or anything, and I thought that maybe he was pandering to the crowd. bleah.

Regardless, he was in fine form. He hollered, cooed, squealed, and I swear I heard a new inflection: something like a clear falsetto. He also had some great props: a big magnifying glass for "Eyeball Kid," a megaphone for "Shake" (I think), and a bunch of dust on his li'l mini-dance floor that puffed around during "Don't Go Into That Barn."

Personal favorites include Shore Leave (which absolutely ruled), Day After Tomorrow, Don't Go Into That Barn, and especially Tom Traubert's Blues (that "Waltzing Matilda" song). He nearly got me all weepy on that one.

I hope this tour convinces him to come back to the Midwest. He has not been in some of the cities since the mid-'70s. There is a new albums due out in November: 3 discs of outtakes, never released tunes, and various ephemera from the ANTI years (his current label).

Here's a setlist from The Eyeball Kid.

Make It Rain (Real Gone)
Hoist that Rag (Real Gone)
Shore Leave (Swordfishtrombones)
God's Away on Business (Blood Money)
All the World is Green (Blood Money)
November (The Black Rider)
Falling Down (Big Time)

*Tom Traubert's Blues (Small Change)
*Tango til they're Sore (Rain Dogs)
*House Where Nobody Lives (Mule Variations)
*Lucky Day (The Black Rider)

Who's Been Talkin (Howlin'Wolf cover) > Til the Money Runs Out (Heartattack and Vine)
Eyeball Kid (Mule Variations)
Murder In The Red Barn (Bone Machine)
Lie to Me, Baby (cover)
Shake it (Real Gone)
Circus (Real Gone)
Trampled Rose (Real Gone)
Get Behind The Mule (Mule Variations)
Goin Out West (Bone Machine)
It Rains on Me (Free the West Memphis 3 - Tom Waits/Chuck E. Weiss 1999)

Encore:
Day After Tomorrow (Real Gone)
Don't Go Into That Barn (Real Gone)

*Waits and Taylor alone onstage w/piano and upright bass

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Another thing I think about...

Ditching all these fucking typewriters. I love 'em, they're ultra-cool (I think), I use them quite often (at least the ones that work), and come the 'pockylips I'll be the envy of neo-IT departments everywhere. But there are 20 of them now, despite a purge last fall. (I acquired 2 when I moved into the Arlington Roadhouse -- they were waiting for me....)



I only think about this when I have to move all of them, so I guess it's not a huge hardship. When I eventually land someplace more permanently, I still want to have a typewriter garden/graveyard ala Burroughs. Is it worth lugging these fuckers around until then, though?

(The typewriters themselves, of course, have their own opinion on this, namely that I should let them out of their cases more often so they can fornicate with each other, mix martinis, and rub bug powder on each others' lips, and that should any of them "depart" prematurely I may wake up some morning on the wrong end of a blunt-force carriage return. Ding!)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hoosier Daddy

One of the things I find myself grappling with lately is my concept of parenthood, and specifically fatherhood. I felt like I had been in a position (materially, spiritually, mentally) to procreate -- not just “narcissistically” have a kid, the way one might acquire a new sweater, because one wants one or thinks it will be complementary. I truly wanted to make a family, with my ex, in a manner we ourselves shaped, regardless of friends (most of whom are anti-breeding) and family of origin, thereby both closing the cycle of the less healthy aspects of our own childhoods and providing for the future by raising brilliant-barefoot-hippie-beatnik stock to counter all the little lunkheads being birthed out there.

So when people ask, “Do you still want to have kids?” I generally answer yes, I think so, but I really wanted to have kids with her. Whether or not she truly wanted kids (or anything else I gave her, for that matter) is a mystery to me now, more so the more I consider the whole deal. It took me a good while and us a long time to get to the point where I and we (ostensibly) wanted kids -- wanted to raise kids, actually, not just "have" them. I do still want that, not to prove anything, but because I believe myself capable of the task. I feel like it’s something I ought to do, similar to how I feel about writing or being a good person in general. But I want to raise kids with someone, definitely, and I think it’s going to be another good while before I’m capable (or desirous, frankly) of that level of trust again. I don’t feel quite as materially, spiritually, or mentally prepared just now either. I’m betting that I will eventually, though, and hopefully it won’t take ten years to get there this time.