Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Here's the album count by year - bear in mind that this is by release date of the music, not either the release of the CD or the year I actually acquired it.
- dawn of time to 1959: 16
- 1960-1963: 25
- 1964-1969: 36
- 1970-1976: 25
- 1977-1979: 25
- 1980-1983: 26
- 1984-1986: 12
- 1987: 9
- 1988: 9
- 1989: 30
- 1990: 29
- 1991: 35
- 1992: 25
- 1993: 45
- 1994: 50
- 1995: 35
- 1996: 16
- 1997: 6
- 1998-2003: 14 (all years combined)
The first CD I bought was Spike by Elvis Costello; we bought a Sony Walkman CD because we were starting to find classical records we couldn't get on vinyl and in the particular case of EC, whom I was collecting religiously at the time, Spike had cuts on the CD not available on vinyl.
Of course, I continued as a college DJ for something close to 15 years, finally giving it up at the end of 1996 because of the demands of the start-up.
But, economic and time considerations aside -- everybody gets them -- it's an arc of my attention to hipsterism and the world of paying attention to my own aesthetic, at least as far as pop culture goes.
I haven't done a similar thing for movies, but I suspect the bell curve would be similar.
If you counted in albums, there'd be considerable backfill for titles, of course, going back to mid-century, but my vinyl-purchasing period lasted from 1975 to 1990 (with the addition of about one a year these days, backfill I find at stores, usually replacing something I had on tape, which is another story altogether, speaking of downloading and ripping.)
So, in any event, this is all an elaborate explanation for why this year's Top Ten list is just in fact ten top one lists. I don't get out that much anymore.
- Best movie of the year: Master and Commander. Narrowly beat out Pirates of the Carribean. Do we detect a theme?
- Best non-fiction book of the year: Salt, by Mark Kurlansky (published in 2002). A sort of cultural and economic history of salt, very episodic but with all sorts of neat bits.
- Best TV show: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Bravo. OK, OK, it's really hip and trendy. And honestly, we don't get that much TV in. But the show is positive, it's funny, and even if I'm still wearing a plaid shirt with holes in it, inspiring in its way. After all, the foundation of modern psychology is the tenet that one can change, and if you can't change yourself in the most superficial way, how could other, more serious matters be accommodated?
- Best LP: Dub Side of the Moon, by the Easy Dub All-Stars. A track for track cover of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, an album I never owned nor particularly enjoyed before it was made into an all-star reggae cover album. OK, so the only competion was another concept album, Tusk, a cover of the Fleetwood Mac album by Camper van Beethoven recorded in the 1980s and finally released this year. Frankly, when my non-classical purchases top out at 4 for the year, the competition is going to be stiff. Speaking of which...
- Best Rock/Pop Concert of the Year: Camper van Beethoven at the Catalyst, Santa Cruz. Man, I missed their act when they were together, despite my best efforts. But this was more than a reunion concert: they've never been better musicians, and they played pretty much their entire back catalog plus a few neat items. I especially liked the tribute to Mr. Rogers (the band wore red cardigans, then threw them to the audience), and the Joe Strummer tribute ("White Riot" embedded in the middle of their jam-monster version of "Tusk"), and of course Victor's T-Shirt, so relevant just before we hit the ground in Iraq: a picture of two gentlemen engaging in the unspeakable vice of the Greeks, the pitcher turning out to be a caricature of our President and the catcher the real Sadaamite, with the admonishment written, "Bush: Pull Out!" Or the fact that I was the only maniac in the over-35 crowd who actually pogoed the whole time. It was fun, invigorating, and gave some wind to the onset of middle age.
- Best Classical Concert of the Year: Kronos Quartet, Cal State-Monterey Bay. This was really revelatory. We'd seen the KQ back in the 80s in Cambridge, and this was a different group. Still progressive with an impressively wide repertoire of interesting new music, but adding in a multi-media element, bizarre invented instruments, and a head-tripping visual show. This seemed both new and reminiscent of something, and I finally put my finger on it: this was the real Exploding Plastic Inevitable, what Warhol would've pulled off had the 1960s had the same advanced aesthetics and the Velvet Underground had the same musicianship as the Kronos Quartet. Really one of the best theatrical and/or "advanced" musical experiences of my life.
- Best Visual Artwork: DB Smith, Sloop at Anchor, 1883. I found it in a local shop for $15. It's a pencil drawing on paper that was probably originally in a sketchbook.
- Best Fiction Book: my unpublished novel. It's really quite good. Looking for a publisher right now.
- Best Critical/Cultural web site: The Bellona Times, a blog by my old bud Ray. I'm frequently confused but always challenged and frequently amused and occasionaly my poor dull bulb is lit up a bit.
- Best Technical web site: The Chesapeake Light Craft Builder's Forum. Great advice and my boat's almost done.
While CNN, MSNBC, etc. are all doing the same thing, my favorite is Fox News, which has a talking head talking about Jackson on one side of s split screen, an endless loop of ten seconds of Michael Jackson standing around by a police car in an airport hangar, and to the left of the screen is emblazoned: TERROR ALERT: H I G H.
Good thing the liberal news media is all over this one. In this episode of Rome II, the circuses continue even as the bread gets sucked out.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
But let's just remember, one more time: had you boneheads not voted for Nader last time, we wouldn't've had the historic rollbacks on product safety, environmental protection, and basic health; we wouldn't've had record deficits and probably wouldn't've had the recession to the depth and extent we had; we wouldn't've had the war in Iraq and it's now looking like it's possible we might not have even had 9/11, because we would've had President Gore.
Remember when you guys, and your boy Ralph, said the two parties and candidates were indistinguishable? Tweedledum and Tweedledumber? That electing Gore or Bush would make "no difference" and that only by energizing a third party could the course of the country be changed?
I'm not going to blame this wretched mess we're in on Republicans, either committed or ideological, because they're at least being true to their school. I won't put it on the great middle 33%, either, because they're subject to the same manipulations they always have been and likely will continue to be subject to as long as the political system remains a system of spoils.
No, I will still blame 2000 as much on the unmitigated boneheads who gave their votes, time, and support to Nader, because YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER.
Let's repeat the lesson we learned, boys and girls, in 2000: elections have consequences; it matters that your candidate can't get elected; it's better to be "mostly right" and in office than "entirely right" and out of office -- and have utterly no chance of doing anything other than electing and re-electing somebody who's mostly completely wrong by harping on minor quibbles with the Democrat.
So I hope you people will trade in the birkenstocks and dashikis for some of Ralph's sensible black shoes and $39 JC Penny suits and go door to door for whoever the Democratic Party nominee is, and STOP bitching about how they're not up to your personal ideological test, unless you want to cough your lungs up in the middle of the chemical zone that used to be a national park while panhandling its CEO so you can send a care package to your little brother serving guard duty in Tikrit.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
a romantic comedy screenplay by
INT. TRENDY CAFE
MEG RYAN is lovelorn and sad. She is complaining to her best friend MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM about the lovelorn and sad state of her life.
Oh, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM, do you think that I will ever find my true love? I am so lovelorn and sad. Surely, you, as my best friend, have some wisdom to offer
So, it's definitely one of those touchdown moments to have captured Saddam Hussein.
MEG RYAN laughs
Hahahahahaha. How delightfully witty you are, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM
Suddenly, KEVIN KLINE wanders into the cafe. He accidentally spills a drink on MEG RYAN.
I'm so sorry.
You clumsy jerk, KEVIN KLINE! Why don't you look where you're going?
KEVIN KLINE apologises again and leaves
(staring after him)
What a creep.
This actually wasn't too hard when I went through the steps of analysis.
Boy you said it, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM. (sighs) I certainly hope I never see him again.
INT. DEPARTMENT STORE
ONE WEEK LATER
MEG RYAN and MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM are shopping for new crockery. A message comes over the loudspeakers.
What did that just say?
Mussina, and you'd have to normally like the Yanks' chances here.
Really? This large department store's management decisions are questionable at best.
She looks up to see KEVIN KLINE standing there. He is the manager of the department store.
Hello, MEG RYAN. Perhaps you could offer me advice on how to run my store.
I don't think so, KEVIN KLINE. I took an instant dislike to you when we first met.
Weaver and/or Hammond have been no shows, obviously relegated to mop-up contingencies.
Yes, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM, good point. So you see, KEVIN KLINE, we can never fall in love.
KEVIN KLINE grins rogueishly.
Oh, KEVIN KLINE. I've changed my mind. I do love you.
INT. MASSAGE PARLOUR.
MEG RYAN and MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM are receiving massages and talking.
KEVIN KLINE and I stayed up all night last night just talking. It turns out that we're both enormous fans of Jon Bon Jovi. I feel like I'm in that beautiful Shakespearean love sonnet. You know the one, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM
Gabe White and Osuna have been used strictly situationally, as has Heredia.
No, not that one. The other one. Oh, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM, KEVIN KLINE makes my heart swoon so.
The masseurs start pounding their backs.
Oh. That feels good. (pauses) Gee, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM, I have never felt this way about a man before. Do you have any advice for me?
Getting is generally considered the visionary behind GPS, and Parkinson the architect who helped implement the system.
I hope you're right, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM I'll keep that in mind.
EXT. A PARK BENCH
MEG RYAN is crying. MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM is consoling her.
I can't believe we accidentally saw KEVIN KLINE out with another woman! I thought he loved me. You were closest to the two of them, what was he saying to her?
I mean, really actually mentally unbalanced, not just disconnected with reality.
MEG RYAN bursts into renewed tears. KEVIN KLINE comes running up to them.
I don't want to talk to you, KEVIN KLINE. I heard what you were saying to that horrible other woman.
But MEG RYAN, this is all a ghastly misunderstanding of some kind.
Leave me alone. I have a broken heart.
I guess I will take that job in that other country then.
KEVIN KLINE leaves
The level of paranoia demonstrated in this interview is intensely high.
Thank you, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM. That's just what I needed to hear now that I have a broken heart. No wonder you are my best friend.
EXT. A ROAD
MEG RYAN and MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM are driving as fast as they can in MEG RYAN's car.
Oh, why won't this car go any faster? We have to get to the next train station in time to intercept KEVIN KLINE before he leaves forever.
If only I'd got his letter that explained how our breaking up was all just a ghastly misunderstanding sooner. Read me the PS again, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM
It's really difficult to imagine the circumstances that brought people out.
I still don't understand what he meant by that.
They drive faater and faster and eventually make it to the train station in time. They rush onto the train and find KEVIN KLINE.
Oh, KEVIN KLINE please don't go away forever. I got your letter which eplained the ghastly misunderstanding. I now understand why you did what you did. And... I love you.
And I love you, MEG RYAN
They kiss. They are in love.
They described the roof as 'slimy,' and found evidence that some mold was growing and multiplying.
KEVIN KLINE and MEG RYAN
You said it, MATTWALL.BLOGSPOT.COM. You said it.
While they all come out fine in the end -- no stories ending in infant death make it to air -- the variety of gruesome grimaces of women in labor, grey and bloody babies, surgical incisions for C-sections, puffy relatives screaming, dazed dads trying to film the whole process, and other completely awful and disgusting moments is seemingly inexhaustible. That's why I watch it so much -- I'm preparing.
But get this -- while they'll show, obviously with the families' consent, all the gruesome blood and effluvia of birth, anytime just a hint of vagina comes into the frame, POOF! the frame is fuzzed out. For privacy? You can hardly get less private than sharing the labor and birth process with a cable audience. To avoid prurient appeal? Give me a break -- you couldn't get less appealing. To avoid grossing out the odd person who has turned into this show who has never seen a vagina? Right, and the baby with his intestines on the outside of his body wasn't gross.
Yes, the only explanation I can come up with is the obvious one. The bizarre American double-standard about showing certain parts of the human body having to do with reproduction -- taken to its most ludicrous extreme in a show entirely about reproduction.
As an aside, you can really glom onto the demographic this show appeals to by looking at the other shows that surround it. There's "A Dating Story", with, you guessed it, real-life ride-alongs on dates and courtships leading up to engagement; and 'A Wedding Story', all about each couple's storybook wedding, leading up to the birth of a cute baby (although the latter are frequently without a father present, and inevitably focus on the mother, not the baby of the title, in the way the stories are presented as a POV.)
This leads me, as an expectant parent, to search the listings for what would presumably be useful programs like 'A Diaper Story', 'A Colic Story', 'A Stubborn Rash Story', 'A Screaming Tantrum Story', etc. but they are not to be found. The whole Dating-Wedding-Baby story ('First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes XXX in a baby carriage', etc.) isn't educational TV: it's a romance cycle, like romance novels. Part of the romance of the 'Baby Story' that involves the blood and suffering is included, but god forbid the genitals enter the framework, much like much thrusting and heaving is suggested in a Harlequin but no descriptions of the organs doing the thrusting and heaving and secreting and oozing.
But, I still watch the 'Baby Story' shows as long as I'm getting ready. I figure a gauzy version is better preparation than nothing.
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
Weekday Afternoon [May 2, 1996] - by M. Carter Wall
Game at Three Rivers
A hot dog, a beer, good seats
Zip! El Tornado
When the Pirates were building PNC Park (with taxpayer dollars) they had a promotion wherein you could buy a brick in front of the park and inscribe it with a few lines. A contribution was required, which was to go to the Clemente foundation. We submitted these two haikus (sans titles, to make it into the character limitation) with our check for the proper amount. The check was returned uncashed, the haikus rejected for reasons that were never explained to us.
Forbes Field 1999
Plexiglass home plate
Homer over sidewalk brick
Wall, across the street.
Old Exposition Park 1903
Pilgrims in Pittsburgh
Water and mud in left field.
We never did get around to writing a PNC Park Haiku.
Monday, December 15, 2003
The President was quite voluble today, to the point of ebullience, providing a lot of detail in his answers, and in this case he indicated he'd been awakened at 5:15 a.m. by Condoleeza Rice via the phone, who told him they were prepared to say they were sure they'd captured Hussein. The President then said he immediately started calling people, and during that time he received a call from his father congratulating him on the capture.
I don't have a transcript at hand since one isn't available yet, so I'll have to go back and check this later today.
No doubt this is just the President convoluting his timelines, as ever, but it seemed curious to imply that Bush I knew about the capture of Saddam before W. -- and placed a call to the current President Bush.
I'm not a Bush conspiracy theorist -- I believe incompetence in management, leadership, and organization best explains how 9/11 happened on his watch, not some elaborate foreknowledge -- but it's moments like this that make you wonder who's calling the shots.
Update - 16 Dec 2004Here's the transcript as the White House published it:
"I talked to my Dad. He called me Sunday morning. I got the call from Donald Rumsfeld Saturday afternoon and made the decision there until I was more certain about the facts that I would talk to very few people. I talked to Condi and asked her to call Andy. And I talked to Vice President Cheney. Because what I didn't want to have happen is that there would be this rush of enthusiasm and hope and then all of a sudden it turned out not to be the person that we would hope it would be. So I didn't talk to my family. I told Laura, of course, and pretty much went to bed early Saturday night. And Condi woke me at 5:15 in the morning, which was okay this time. (Laughter.) Just don't do it again. (Laughter.)
But she said that the Jerry Bremer had just called her and there was -- they were prepared to say this was Saddam Hussein, in which case we got dressed and hustled over to the Oval Office to start making calls.
One of the calls I did receive was from my dad. And it was a very brief conversation. He just said, congratulations, it's a great day for the country. And I said, it's a greater day for the Iraqi people. And that's what I believe. I believe that yesterday was a day -- or Saturday, when we captured Saddam, it was a day where America is more secure as a result of his capture. But, more importantly, Saturday was a great day for the people who have suffered under this tyrant. "
I wonder when Uncle Dick found out?
Sunday, December 14, 2003
I've got two points to make here.
1. It's not really a political issue. This one is about Our Team scoring one that we all agree we had to.
2. If the democratic nominees want to get Bush re-elected they (other than Dean) are going about it the right way -- to play into the cheap notion that this has domestic political importance. If that's the case, as I'm sure Karl Rove would like it to be, it can only play into the Bush camp's game plan to talk about everything except the dumb war plan, the dumb war, the dumb pretexts, etc.
OK, one more point:
3. In light of 2, does the media asking irrelevant questions about Hussein of the dem nominees actually change anything about the core issue of the war and its aftermath? Does capturing Hussein change anything at all other than, we hope to god, making the process of mopping up the anarchy a little easier? No and no.
My god, Joe, you can't possibly actually believe that....that Dean would want Hussein in power? He sounds like a bitter person and increasingly a kind of crazy one. We argue over the means but not the ends when it comes to the toppling of tyrants.
I started out the end of the 2000 campaign with a tremendous respect for Lieberman, but Joe has managed to single-handedly whittle it down to a tiny stub the size of a used bar of hotel soap.
A shonda on you, Joe Lieberman.
We were amused by this note, however, that appeared on a crawl on CNN: "Saddam Hussein being held at an undiclosed location." One has to wonder -- is this the same undisclosed location that Dick Cheney hangs out at? If so, Hussein may have disappeared for good once again...
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Or possibly a Toyota Villager?Expecting a child shortly, my mind has been inevitably distracted by the execrable state of education in general, and in California in particular. The bifurcated system of property taxation has lead to a two-class system -- pre-Prop 13 grandfathered property owners and others -- and in turn has ruined not just the funding mechanism for education, but brought on a strangely centralized control as a result of the state taking the dominant role in funding local schools. Nationally, of course, we see a mania for "testing" "standards" and "outcomes" as a seemingly comforting way of setting our goal posts, and students are all now student-athletes in a vast competition where they're measured not against themselves and their potential but against others and mythical medians and minima. The schools still suck and aren't getting any better if you talk, one on one, with their inmates.
At the root of the problem, I think, though is the idea that measurable outcomes arise objectively, when in fact quality lives and whole human beings are the essence of subjective assessment.
Mika, my elf partner and mother of the child, is taking a graduate-level course in language teaching and works in "evaluation" for a living, and constantly lives this language every day. We have interesting conversations on the subject of the future education of our own offspring. It's true that "objective" assessment itself in context can be properly used if only as a part of a larger, deeply contextual set of ways of marking progress. But I fear that school itself has been reduced to one form of testing after another, briefly punctuated by periods of preparing for the test. "Objectivity" means, of course, treating children like objects whose complete dimensions can somehow be measured and fully-described by the time they reach the workforce, so they can be plugged into their pre-fabricated slot without any pounding or lubrication required.
Apropos of that, I was entranced by this nice essay in the Bellona Times.
I had a conversation recently with a local friend who'd just finished packing his last kid off to the higher education phase of the indoctrination-for-work period of a person's life (K-PhD) via the public school system. He seemed to think poorly of the idea of home schooling, mindful of major mistakes that had been brought to his attention. At the same time, his tale of years of PTA meetings, serving on school boards, and spending much time chasing after teachers to find out what had been going on in the vast majority of his kids' days spoke eloquently that it would be quite difficult for an involved parent to do worse. If what it takes, as he put it, to make a quality education for your kid is to "make their teachers cry on the phone and run away from you on teacher-parent conference nights", then it may save a lot of time and effort to cut out the middleman.
Stripping the public schools of further money and motivation via vouchers seems to be not a solution, but more of a final death sentence for the hope of school as a means to an education. But that's not what I'm really focussed on right now. I'm deeply concentrating on the essential, central question of child-rearing, which is what can I do that would best make my own child a happy, complete, and functional person?
I'm still very concerned about the limitations of a parent to provide a complete education to a child at a home school (particularly in an era where mere economic survival argues for two earners per household, at a minimum, and may yet make this an impossible option for us.) When the home school option requires paying taxes for the school, somebody's voucher-funded private education, on top of our own expenses for the home schooling efforts, it makes the whole package seem trebly expensive, not even with the looming nature of post-secondary education. The difficulties of navigating the authoritarian guardians of the school system in a home-schooled environment loom as well, and augur that the total time savings (which would be translated into one-on-one education time) may yet be negligible.
But it finally occurs to me that this may also be the best use of my own hard-won, expensive education. My parents moved to a town they couldn't quite afford for better junior and senior high school education for my sister and myself, perhaps in part after seeing how my eldest sister struggled in a much worse school system. I spent quite a bit of blood and sweat (literally on both counts) on paying for my own expensive undergraduate education, and still it took nearly three years before I finally realized why I was there at all. The chances that it would become a colossal mistake were quite high until I was about 25. My somewhat more vocationally-oriented graduate schooling was undertaken after a decade in the workplace, and was a wonderfully focussing and polishing effort, only I'm about to abandon the field for which I trained for a slew of reasons ranging from economic conditions to the competency of my soul to continue in it.
My mistake, of course, was in coming to believe the now not subtle school of philosophy running our schools now, which is that schooling is a preparation for work, not something more general and related to the act and art of living a life. Part of living that life is ushering others through its early stages -- popularly known as child-rearing -- and that, as a full-time job, has great nobility of purpose and utility. Although, of course, it must be done with professional dedication, proper preparation, and appreciation for one's own limitations in doing so. This is where the "It Takes a Village" idea is so redolent, and where, as a person who believes in communitarianism as being central to the basic values of the American Republic (especially in the face of the selfish libertarianism of this period), the idea of a public school -- the idea -- is deeply-rooted inside me, and runs through the generations of teachers in my family. But the reality of it today scares the dewey hell out of me.
Teaching, like child-rearing in general, is a matter of providing concentrated time to another human being. I think about what it is I'd like to give to the world, what kind of equity of education that has been gradually built up by previous generations and passed down, and how to apply that bank of grey matter in a way which could best benefit my own child.
If I worked in the conventional sense, the best I could probably do is provide a greater degree of economic security -- for whatever that's worth in these property-conscious, consumerish era -- and perhaps more easily pay for other stewards of my own offspring (e.g. set up a college fund and spend the next 18 years worrying about it). Is this the best use of my own education to the matter of the fate of the human being we're bringing into existence, consciousness, and society?
It may be that on the matter of the latter third of childhood I will change my mind eventually. But I am convinced that one of the problems for many people, and perhaps for society as a whole, is the unnecessary complexity in transferring our labors -- mental, economic, or otherwise -- to succeeding generations. In short, keeping to the Keep It Simple Stupid principle, it seems more efficient to me to give 95% of the time and effort of at least one adult to one child than to have him cast adrift in the system that delegates responsibility a hundredfold and therefore lacks true accountability -- will 95 other people give him 1% of themselves?
In fact the educational system has resorted to testing, I believe, because there's no way of "evaluating" the end product, a human being at a certain age and with certain reasoning abilities, moral and ethical senses, interests, aesthetics, understanding, knowledge, and wisdom, by 95 people.
The system, as I articulated earlier, in an attempt to provide objective assessment, has become a machinistic golem that treats a person as an object to be measured, not a person to be nurtured. I don't want my kid to be a pile of test scores with no soul. To quote the great American poet Paul Westerberg, who always got right to the point, Fuck School. It's not about being a student, it's about becoming educated. I may send my child to school if it turns out it's the right thing at the right time for him, but it's not going to be the default option.
If it Takes a Village to Raise a Child -- and I dearly, ardently still believe that it does -- it's my appreciation at this point the school building has been put conveniently away from the village and the villagers. It may be a paradox, but keeping a child at home for school -- which is to say, not constrained within the walls of a school building, but free to roam the whole world without -- may be the only way to bring the village back into the affair. Instead of Home Schooling, perhaps we should call it Global Village schooling, or parent-based education, or something more marketable.
I recently and fairly accidentally came across this little verse from John Dryden (from The Hind and the Panther, 1687) in a book (paper thing with words printed on it in ink, for those of you who went to California schools):
By education most have been misled;
So they believe, because they so were bred.
The priest continues what the nurse began,
And thus the child imposes on the man.