AKA Abraham Bacoln

October 22, 2008, 9:06 pm
Filed under: tidbit

So I talk about this with people sometimes, and then I realize I am never doing this article justice. Then one of my friends with whom I have shared this article wanted to find it again and couldn’t, and the first thing I searched was my blog, and apparently I have never linked it. She wanted to find it because when discussing it she couldn’t do it justice either.

I highly encourage you to read Have You Ever Tried To Sell A Diamond – it has everything from how the Ayer plan put the concept of “diamond engagement ring” into the public consciousness through Hollywood (after noticing decreasing diamond sales at the turn of the century) to DeBeers’ stranglehold quota system, and everything in between.

If you can read about how the industry players have suckered us into thinking that diamonds are incredibly precious yet have almost zero resale value and still want to buy a diamond, then go right ahead. It’s your money, right?

Some things kind of related maybe
October 16, 2008, 11:35 am
Filed under: tidbit

Okay, so first up: my townhouse is up for sale. I’m graduating in December and moving as soon as possible after that, and none of my close friends expressed interest in renting my place, so I’m finally selling. Because of that, you know, the whole “strangers coming to see my townhouse” thing, I have to keep everything neat and tidy, or neater and tidier than usual. And I’m a neat and tidy guy, but this is already feeling a little over the edge. I’m reluctant to cook because I’m afraid as soon as I get something going I’ll get that call: “Hey, so-and-so wants to show your place in about 15 minutes – would you mind just scootin’ out for a cup of coffee or something? You weren’t doing anything were you?”

I know I’ll get over that eventually but for now, guh, what a pain. Still, the end result will be worth it.

Okay so all that up there was to say that for various reasons – most of which revolve around scrambling to make my place ready to sell plus other obligations – I have not eaten breakfast at home in four days. Four days. Man, four consecutive days of eating fast food breakfast has made me feel like a pile of slug. I know there are people that stop in every morning for a sausage biscuit or a bacon croissant but how? This morning I actually dreaded that drive-through, I could feel my body rejecting my decision. I just wanted my bowl of cereal or some yogurt and a cup of coffee, maybe a little bit of fruit, but I had to vacate because there were people coming to see my place at 8:30 and everything had to be pristine.

So the point is that I’m old. I can’t survive on fast food. It makes me feel gross and like I’m killing myself, which in some way I’m sure I am, though it’d be a lot faster death to just not eat anything I guess, so perhaps fast food is just prolonging the inevitable.

I’m going to the grocery store tonight. There will be something not gross waiting for me for breakfast tomorrow.

And now the unrelated bit: a couple of semesters ago I decided that I was tired of lined notebook paper. In my opinion it’s partly stupid and partly worthless. I can write in a straight line. A lot of my classes involve graphs and notes and curves and tangents and formulas and none of that works well on lined paper. I went out and bought a pack of white copy paper with the 3-hole punch already done. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Now I can draw notes wherever, make lines and figures, write big, write small, and it all looks great. I’ve been doing it for months now and every day it just gets better and better.

You wouldn’t believe the looks I get, though. I mean it. People look over at what I’m writing on this nice bright white 3HP as opposed to dingy gray flimsy notebook paper and they say, “BUT THERE AREN’T ANY LINES!” or, “I DON’T KNOW HOW YOU WRITE SO STRAIGHT!” and I want to shake them and say, “Fellow man! Unburden yourself from the shackles of grade school! Let yourself be free, let your notes flow like the water and the wind, and never again permit the blue line of the oppressor!” but usually I just say, “Yeah, well, you know.”

I do enjoy when someone asks to borrow a piece of paper. They inevitably turn it over to check the other side.

It’s the simple – very simple – things in life that bring me pleasure. Like unlined paper. It’s a special freedom.

October 13, 2008, 2:48 pm
Filed under: tidbit

I don’t know who this guy is, but he’s pretty much changed my life:

(click to embiggen)

File under: WOW
October 12, 2008, 4:02 pm
Filed under: politics

This is something I never expected and yet by which I am immediately and completely delighted:

Ralph Stanley endorsing Barack Obama for president

October 8, 2008, 11:18 pm
Filed under: tidbit

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time as well. I was listening to the album Guero by Beck a while back (read: months ago), and I found myself marveling at the lyrics. Yeah, I know, Jon, I just said the other day that lyrics are pretty low on my list of things I pay attention to while listening to music. This time I was listening, however.

Anyway the point is that when you just grab snippets of lyrics from Guero they’re remarkably Waitsian. I decided to make a little quiz and have you choose which was which, and then I never got around to it. However, having just completed The Chronological Waits Challenge I figured it was an appropriate time to do this.

I just looked up the lyrics online and snagged some from:
A.) Guero by Beck
B.) Swordfishtrombones by Tom Waits

Now see I’m assuming that to anyone who is not immediately familiar with both artists that these will be pretty much indistinguishable, and for anyone that is just low-level familiar with both it’ll be the same. And of course for anyone that knows one from the other it should be easy. Or, you know, this is what I think, but my perception is tainted as this is my idea and I culled the lyrics myself.

So here you go. Feel free to comment on which you think is which. I changed the spacing to cut up the flows and make you concentrate on the words themselves.

I’ll give the answers tomorrow if I remember.

1.) See me kickin the door with my boots, broke down out in a ditch of old rubbish. Snakes and bones in the back of your room handing out a confection of venom. Heaven’s drunk from the poison you use. Charm the wolves with the eyes of a gambler. Now I see it’s a comfort to you.

2.) I rolled down the national stroll and with a big fat paycheck strapped to my hip sack and a shore leave wristwatch underneath my sleeve.

3.) With her hands tied back her rags are burnin’, calling out from a landfilled life. Scrawling her name up on the ceiling, throw a coin in the fountain of dust.

4.) I’d drag all that I owned down the dirt road to find you. And my shoes, worn-out and used, they can’t take me much farther.

5.) There’s a rumblin’ groan down below: It’s a place I’ve found. There’s a world going on underground.

6.) Walking to the other side with the devil trying to take my mind and my soul’s just a silhouette on the ashes of a cigarette.

7.) And the window is busted and the landlord ain’t home and Butch joined the army. Yeah that’s where he’s been and the jackhammer’s diggin’ up the sidewalks again.

8.) Sometimes the jail can’t chain the cell and the rain’s too plain to tell all alone by a barren well. Scarecrow’s only scaring himself.

9.) Well I slept in the holler of a dry creek bed and I tore out the buckets from a red Corvette.

10.) I’m coming over. See me down at the station by the lane with my hands in my pocket, jingling a wish coin that I stole from a fountain that was drownin’ all the cares in the world.

11.) I hung my rain-soaked jacket on some old barbed wire, poured cold rusty water on a miserable fire.

12.) Some need diamonds, some need love. Some need cards, some need luck. Some need dollar bills lining their clothes. All I need is two white horses in a line.

13.) Fourteen miles away from a landfill grave, never pawned my watch and chain to the landlord living inside my head. Never paid my rent ’til the lights went dead.

No cheating. Tell me what you think or how you did.

Spanning a chronological distance longer than that of my life
October 7, 2008, 7:29 pm
Filed under: tidbit

If you’re not a Tom Waits fan, you can stop reading as this will probably bore you to death. In fact, you all can probably stop reading as I’m mainly writing this for myself but hey, if you keep going you can’t say I didn’t warn you. I will also warn you that I do not have an impressive vocabulary regarding music, I don’t study it, so if all of this seems like a shallow dive into a very deep pool, well, I told you not to read it.

If you are a Waits fan I highly suggest you try this for yourself.

In 2006 I was driving from Portland, OR to Cookeville, TN, a 2400-mile trip that took me four days. I decided at some point that listening to my entire Tom Waits discography in chronological order would be a grand idea. Turns out it was a profoundly stupid idea because I was seriously not in the right mental state to absorb that much Waits. I got all the way to Frank’s Wild Years (1987) before I had to stop and listen to something lighthearted to cure my funk lest I stop in some podunk town and buy a shotgun and trade my Camry for a rusty Ford and run off into the woods.

I’ve been wondering for a day or two now what prompted me to revisit this experiment just recently and I honestly haven’t the slightest idea. All I know is that I was listening to Filipino Box Spring Hog off of Mule Variations (1999) and it struck me that doing the Chronological Tom Waits right then was a great idea.

To give you an idea the scope of this thing, I apparently have 349 songs that span the distance from 1971 to 2006 – a total of 21.3 hours of music. That’s … that’s a long stretch of Waits.

To further complicate things, I don’t actually listen to music very often while sitting at my computer. I typically compute in silence, especially when I’m working on a paper or something like it. Not to mention that I always have to mute my music any time I’m watching a video, and I don’t always remember to turn it back on when the video is done, since I’m accustomed to computing in silence. Also I pause the music every time I leave the room, because I intend to hear every bit of all these songs. Once again, sometimes I don’t remember to turn it back on.

All that is just to explain why I am just now finishing up my journey. Right now Orphans (disc 2) is wrapping up, leaving the 20-something songs on disc 3. That means it took me from September 30th to October 7th to complete this (to me) Herculean task.

Oh, let me state that I am glad as hell for my iPod and the CD player in my car. Without an occasional break from Waits while on campus or driving around I think I might very well have gone mad, comatose, developed major depressive disorder, all three, or something worse. Seriously, I love the hell out of Waits’ music (obviously) but man, the overwhelmingly melancholiac nature of his songs just gets to me in a fundamental way.

And I wasn’t even upset or down when I started this – it wasn’t the result of a pity party or anything. Quite the opposite, I mean, Filipino Box Spring Hog is one of his stompiest shoutiest songs, makes me feel like going outside with a lead pipe and a blowtorch. I guess maybe it was a test to see if I could get through it.

Okay, so what did I learn?

I learned that I absolutely love everything from the beginning of his career (The Early Years / Closing Time (1971/1973)) straight through Heartattack and Vine (1980). When I first started listening to Waits, thanks to Trey, I started out with the hard stuff, the Island Years, when he was just damn weird. After cutting my teeth on this kind of controlled insanity I had absolutely no interest in his bar ballad phase. Even as recently as 2003 or so I still wasn’t very familiar with his earlier stuff. I remember a time at a party that I heard something off of Closing Time and I thought, “Jesus, whoever this is sure is doing a poor Waits impersonation.”

I know, I know. It’s hard to admit to that kind of ignorance.

But anyway, yes, I absolutely love those albums now. In fact, I’d probably turn to one of them before any of his later stuff, with a few exceptions.

I also learned that Kathleen Brennan (his wife and co-writer on many many songs) really did help him transform himself completely. After listening to 1971 to 1980, the intense and disconcerting rush of 1983’s Swordfishtrombones is, to put it mildly, quite shocking. No wonder everyone got all freaked out upon its release. Since this is the album with which I started I never really understood what the big deal was until now.

I learned that Swordfishtrombones, Rain Dogs (1985), and Frank’s Wild Years (1987) work so so so much better as a trilogy. I honestly somehow had never bothered to listen to them all in a row and in one night.

Aside from a few scattered songs there really isn’t that much that captivates me from 1988 to 1999 (encompassing Big Time through Mule Variations). I mean it’s all good, yeah, but none of the albums just really grab me and shake me like the others did.

I think that if someone said, “Pick two of his albums and that’s all you can have from now until forever” I’d probably reflexively reach for Alice and Blood Money (both 2002). They seem to me so opposed and yet intertwined. There’s something about the common themes of madness and love that totally hook me.

Real Gone (2004) and I never really got along.

And finally, I am now finally suffering my way through the three discs of Orphans (2006). Yeah, I said it. I don’t really like … well, no, there are a few songs that I absolutely love. However, somehow – and this is hard to say – the rest of the songs just feel like filler. I’m quite sure that all three could be compressed into one killer album. Problem is that this perfect album would have different songs for every person, I guess. It just seems over-reaching, perhaps. I know that’s the point, it’s a gigantic mash of various styles and stories. It’s a stew of everything. I guess I just like something more cohesive; all three together just seems like a serving of leftovers. I’ve hardly listened to disc 3 at all – it’s my least favorite by far. I can stand one spoken word piece or recitation or incantation per album, tops.

Finally, the songs I really really wished I could have skipped:
– Potter’s Field, Foreign Affairs (1977)
– Somewhere (From West Side Story), Blue Valentine (1978)
– Sins of my Father, Real Gone (2004)
– Road to Peace, Orphans disc 1 (2006)
– Little Man, Orphans disc 2
– King Kong, Orphans disc 3

The songs that made me mad I was dedicated to the concept of going straight through, because I always want to listen to them more than once:
– Grapefruit Moon, Closing Time (1973)
– I Can’t Wait to Get Off Work, Small Change (1976)
– Cinny’s Waltz, Foreign Affairs (1977)
– Jockey Full of Bourbon, Rain Dogs (1985)
– Yesterday is Here, Frank’s Wild Years (1987)
– Cold Cold Ground, Frank’s Wild Years
– The Earth Died Screaming, Bone Machine, (1992)
– Goin’ Out West, Bone Machine
– Walk Away, Dead Man Walking soundtrack (1995)
– Filipino Box Spring Hog, Mule Variations (1999)
– No One Knows I’m Gone, Alice (2002)
– Everything Goes to Hell, Blood Money (2002)
– Hoist That Rag, Real Gone (2004)
– Lucinda, Orphans disc 1 (2006)
– Tell it to Me, Orphans disc 2 (2006)

Children’s Story from Orphans disc 3 is almost word-for-word from a bit of dialogue from the 1979 film Woyzeck by Werner Herzog. It may very well be in the original (unfinished) play – I have never seen the play itself. Waits’ album Blood Money is his soundtrack to Robert Wilson’s 2002 adaptation of the play. If you like Blood Money I highly suggest you watch the 1979 movie.

That’s it. Orphans is almost done. I can see my driveway from here.

This is why I
October 2, 2008, 2:24 pm
Filed under: politics

Todd Alcott on Sarah Palin:

When I go to apply for a job, that is, when I go to a studio to pitch an idea for a movie, I am expected to, at the very least, have some basic understanding of what I’m talking about. If I pitch an idea for a movie about, say, a talking giraffe, the studio folk have a reasonable desire that I be able to explain to them why a movie about a talking giraffe is a good idea, and a reasonable expectation that I deliver that explanation in a coherent fashion.

If I can’t give a compelling argument for why the Talking Giraffe Movie will be a four-quadrant smash, I don’t get the job.

If I go to the studio people and say something like “Talking Giraffe, tall, big movie, long neck, animal, a mammal really, long purple tongue, long box office lines, ‘Mommy Mommy, let’s go see the Talking Giraffe Movie!’ Kids love Giraffes, the horns, on the head, little tufts of hair on top, I spoke to an elderly woman in a nursing home once and she told me her one regret in life was that she had never seen a movie with a talking giraffe, and the smell of the popcorn in the lobby, the excitement of movie-going! A giraffe, talking! Isn’t that what it’s all about?”

If I do that? I don’t get the job.

(read the rest)