Monday, August 29, 2005
don't stop me now
here's an excerpt from the latest story. i turn in tomorrow night; the first night of class.
Sunday, August 28, 2005
an alternative ID debate. by alternative, i mean as opposed to the one going on in the media and in general half-hearted remarks overheard at parties. this country is so stupid, etc. etc. christians are morons, wink, wink, but we're not. i like the idea of going back to first principles. and i find that most people tend to misrepresent this debate in some form or fashion.
here's the proposition:
The existence of life on Earth cannot be adequately accounted for without positing the intervention of a conscious designer, such as God or an alien life form.
there are three posts from each of the debaters. i'd say this provides a fairly good overview of the real debate...the one you're not likely to hear on the evening news.
here are the six posts:
Saturday, August 27, 2005
kyle gave me (a very small amount of) grief over my environmentalism-as-religion aside so i thought i'd link to the michael crichton speech that inspired my crack. yes, that's the jurassic park/ER michael crichton. despite this, it's a pretty good speech and an interesting perspective on the struggles between technology and environmentalism-as-religion.
Sunday, August 21, 2005
a different take on the sheehan circus and media moms in general.
i admit to willfully ignoring this story as much as is humanly possible. i understand this woman is grieving. so are a lot of people. i don't think this grants her "absolute moral authority" or allows her to speak for all moms who have lost children to war. i'm also in disbelief about the political discourse surrounding her statements. are people really serious about this nonsense? i got an email from my neighborhood group inviting me to a "vigil" at a nearby coffeeshop. a vigil for what? for withdrawing from iraq? for stopping people from volunteering for the military? for preventing the israeli-jewish cabal from taking over the world? for david duke? for the insurgents? you can't ask these questions, of course. people are dying. shut up and light your candle. however, politics aside, the media moms angle is something i hadn't considered. is this a consistent narrative that gets hashed out over and over again? a professor of mine often said we are a nation of narrators. we are fictional creatures. we crave narrative and it spills out of our news. the story isn't politics, although it is used by both sides to illustrate their points (much like the Bible). the story is mother's grief. the story is a lone woman making a difference. the story is what we make it and we are constantly creating it...perhaps just in cheaper and more sensationalistic ways (like the fiction we read and the fiction we watch).
Friday, August 19, 2005
a christian takes on the left behind book series. page by slack-inducing page. interesting stuff, esp. the strange hoplessness/hopefulness (the world's dying...hallelujah!) of apocolyptic thinking. in some ways this mirrors the other reigning religion's (environmentalism) extreme fringe thinking (we're running out of oil...hallelujah!).
the lines this guy excerpts are also hysterical. i like the names of the dual protagonists. buck williams and rayford steele. rayford steele. if somebody doesn't make a band name out of that soon i might just have to learn to play the guitar.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
hoping to have a story ready soon. i've been coming home every day for the past three weeks or so and writing for at least two hours a night, sometimes a little more. i've been committed to the idea of this habit since last year when i started school, but i've only recently (and i've had all summer, too) tried to do it. you have to cultivate it as a habit. i told lonanne that i usually get bored with a story about halfway through and i can barely seem to finish it. i limp to the finish line. it just becomes work, i told her. "isn't that like everything else?" she said. it's true. everything is work. but, there are times in the middle of these two hours, when i do hit my stride, when i feel alive like nothing i've done before. where the words are dropping from the ceiling and i'm nodding upwards. that's the moment i'm working for. that's when things crack open and i think "maybe, just maybe."
i'm reading back over an email shirley sent me that was the kernel of this story i'm working on. of course she won't be able to tell. if i do it right, nobody will. but i want to nail this thing i felt when i read her email. she's telling me about going to see a family friend for the last time. he was dying of cancer and this was his 61st birthday. she was there in his living room with his wife, his hospice caretaker, and a cowboy preacher/horseshoer who'd recently gotten out of jail. they are serving cake. the hospital bed is in the middle of the room. he's been dying for ten years, she tells me. that's it, really. not the story, but that got me going. that and a story she told me about a burning snake that came wiggling out of a burn pile. a guy with cancer and a burning snake. the whole world opens up for me with these two things. the loss of a friend, the slow and then sudden realizations of death, the crazy-ass backwards world and the shudders deep in our bones.
aristotle called the higher purpose of fiction catharsis, the release of pity and fear. fear of the unknown, unresponsive universe acting on a moral agent. and pity because we all know we're the moral agent. that's us in that room with the cake and ice cream and the ex-con cowboy preacher wondering how anybody could call this living. that's us inside the snake, shooting out of a burn pile like satan's spawn, dark and smoldering.
tell it, you say. don't waste a moment.
don't worry. i am.
rob and j.t. have new pics up from their devo after-party show. we can all say we knew them when. or at least i'll say that.
if i may submit a request for a cover: roll um easy by little feat. you can find it on their dixie chicken album.
roll um easy boys.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
songs i'm stuck on
souvenirs, john prine: straight up, one of the saddest songs i've ever heard.
kissy, kissy, the kills: i can still see them on stage mashing their guitars into each other. "shut up when you're talking to me."
where did you sleep last night?, leadbelly: otherworldy.
somebody to love, queen (queen!)
vibrate, rufus wainwright: electroclash is karaoke too
paper doll, louis xiv: i know i ain't correct, but politics are so much better when there's sex.
queen bitch, david bowie: bowie's a chameleon. he channels the velvet underground's sweet jane on this one.
sweedeedee, cat power: when she's on, she is motherfucking on.
lifting the building, david holmes: infuriatingly simple melody over a complex jazz/techno beat.
fresh feeling, eels: puts me in a good way no matter what
sin city, emmylou harris: is that graham parsons in the background?
the trapeze swinger, iron & wine: not on his albums. i love the imagery in this song and the way he breaks off the rhymes and completes them in the next line.
lucille, kenny rogers: seriously, go get some old kenny rogers. i mean like ruby, don't take your love to town and this one are on par with just about anything nashville has ever produced.
be kind to me, vetiver: that damn believer disc. some guy plays a nose flute on this song and it sounds like the party of a lifetime is going on in the background. as close to john/yoko bedroom enthusiasm you're likely to hear in awhile.
the ballad of carol lynn, whiskey town: is it too easy to like whiskey town? just about every one of their songs on the pneumonia album is spot perfect.
little ghost, white stripes: william sings this one in the car. "i fell in love with a little ghost and that was all."
hell is chrome, wilco: they sold out at stubb's for the acl fest after-party. dammit.
hound dog, big mama thornton: get the album version if you have the chance. iTunes only has the acoustic-sounding one. but there's one that's a lot more raucous. you can see how much elvis had to soft-peddle this song compared to what she did.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
via mitch: grizzly man, the true story of a guy who went out to live among the grizzlies, eventually getting eaten by one. apparently he's already inspired several copycats. big shocker there. the reviewer calls him a corky st. clair for the nature set [possibly kyle will be the only one to appreciate this reference].
so what's next? documentaries about people who swim the great barrier reef doused in shark chum? a warm A&E special about a whitebread family of four that moves into Compton and starts a Ku Klux Klan chapter?
the tip of the hat to melville sums it up: you might sit astride a mast and feel your oneness with nature...but fall into the sea and you're going to get eaten.
i just wanted to say we bought a new bed. well, a new mattress. we're still haggling over the bedframe. but the mattress is nice. i've never owned a really nice mattress before.
here's the bedframe
Monday, August 15, 2005
fortunate son updates
i've linked to this blog before, but this is lonanne's boss' (lori) brother's blog. he's currently stationed in afghanistan as part of the army's civil affairs division. his latest post has a place to send any goods if you're at all interested.
[side note: lonanne said she didn't realize you could send stuff like tylenol through the mail. i didn't either, honestly.]
his is an interesting story. he was basically a highly paid internet professional here in austin who decided to quit his job, leave his lovely wife (not really leave her, but leave her temporarily) and join the army. he joined as a grunt, went through basic training like all the others and shipped off to afghanistan. i think i'm most challenged by the notion that the military does, in fact, need more people like this if the notions of "democracy building" are to be taken seriously. his thoughts along these lines are fairly provocative even if seemingly simple at first (not unlike a sort of grassroots peace corps inside the military).
the latest in my ongoing effort to keep both dave w. and i awake at night.
graphic details in the ongoing BTK case. [needless warning. graphic means graphic.]
Sunday, August 14, 2005
back to school daze
we went to meet the teacher on friday up at gullett (sidenote: the website is beset by all sides...i've managed to successfully hand everything over to a very nice couple who are probably scrambling at this very moment to dismantle it and rewrite the entire thing in perl...nobody appears to understand it or grasp the built-in admin features...there's talk of moving it to a "private" or home server b/c apparently $9.95/mo. is more than the pta can afford...additionally, the "official" gullett web site gets promoted over this one...and finally, the district discourages the use of private domains for public school sites...they'd rather you post everything on their crap, limited-space servers and use text files as your database...but, hey, not my problem anymore...really, i'm not bitter). william starts kindergarten and thomas starts third grade. they both got the teachers we wanted for them (william-mrs. fuller, thomas-mrs. pena) and several of william's friends from pre-K at faith will be in his class. they're also in a new after-school program run by the dougherty arts center. we ran around and paid the twenty different checks required to appease the various school demi-gods (pta, spanish, t-shirts, dvd). seriously, at this point, i would pay one flat fee of $500 if i never received another $15 suggested-donation or $10 fill-in-the-fundraiser request. we must get five or six of these A WEEK in thomas' take-home folder. now that number's doubled.
both boys seem excited about starting up school (next Tues. no less). i often wonder how long this will last. i don't remember being excited by school. i remember sitting in my dad's ford pickup listening to marty robbins' el paso on the eight track. this was my very first day of school. i cried and cried and asked him to play the song again and again. he finally coaxed me inside. it was perhaps a portentous moment. i ended up biting nearly every girl in my class, getting more spankings than i could count, and, ultimately, held back a year to repeat the whole awful experience (which, if you're into putting the positive spin on God's strange mysteries, allowed me to have LonAnne in the same year/class at Southwestern...her being born in 1971 and me in 1970). after that, me and school were done for. i don't think i stopped crying about school until i was in ninth grade.
when thomas saw he had mrs. pena, he raised his arms up in the air and shouted "woooohooooo." people turned and stared. we went back to visit his second grade teacher, mrs. hardin. she told me the new principal is really good. "she's got a lot of energy." later, we saw the principal standing in the hallway. she already had dark crescents under her eyes. thomas shook her hand and told her he was in mrs. pena's class. "new roof!" she nearly screamed. "they got a new roof this summer!" clearly, things were winding down for the poor woman. she'd probably spoken to over three hundred parents and kids in the time it takes you or me to have our second cup of coffee. we snuck a look inside her office, which, i kid you not, looked like toy joy on acid. i'm not sure about the wisdom of having the principal's office be the coolest room in the building, but there you have it. wall-to-wall toys. william will probably make several trips to that room. i can see him whizzing the toy planes around while the principal yells at him about the roof.
several people have asked with very little interest, so i will only briefly mention that, yes, i am also starting up school on the last week of august. or the next to the last week. i'm taking two classes: workshop with tim o'brien (to those who know or care, yes, that tim o'brien) and prob. in lang./literature with dagoberto gilb. not looking forward to the carnage of o'brien's workshop (surprisingly, he's an incredibly harsh grammarian), but i'm going with the "whatever doesn't kill me" mindset. honestly, i try not think about it or i might start crying and break out my marty robbins' double disc.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
the scrape of a shovel
a sad post on the recently released 9/11 dispatch tapes
Firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman described a "constant" stream of bodies falling from the towers.
"I felt like I was intruding on a sacrament," she said. "They were choosing to die, and I was watching them and shouldn't have been, so me and another guy turned away and looked at the wall and we could still hear them hit."
"I can already hear my friends and family on the left saying 'We've done worse to non-Americans countless times. What's so special about American suffering?' The warriors will answer, 'It's OUR suffering, asshole!' If you don't feel that, then your survival instinct is attenuated beyond help by soft, hypothetical living. But I'd add that having it happen to us should make us more attuned to all suffering."
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
lesser-known movie prequels.
Monday, August 08, 2005
this isn't your news
well, we gave up on old sparks. after putting up fliers and posting on austinlostpets.com with no word, we figured someone had taken her in for good this time. she was a skinny cat. i prefer the term "lean." i'm sure someone thought she was malnourished or mistreated. nothing could be further from the truth. i want that stated for posterity. she probably licked clean at least two birds a day. such was her metabolism. and she purred every time william picked her up and chucked her across the yard. so, say goodbye to sparks. raise high the orange beverage in her honor.
and say hello to lucy lon walker. that's right. lonanne went to salado with the boys and returned with another cat. this one is a calico kitten. her nickname is lulu. lulu! i'm hoping she lasts a little longer than sparks. those fliers were a bitch to staple.
Thursday, August 04, 2005
i don't want to consider the alternatives
the mom of my good friend, scott gillespie, passed away this last saturday morning. i drove up to houston for the funeral. margaret gillespie. she died of ovarian cancer, like my mom. i hadn't spoken to scott in years and he only recently contacted me (late last year) because of this blog. when i was going through hell's back alley with my mom down in houston, scott met me out and shared a beer. he called me to see how i was doing almost every day. he and his mom came to my mom's funeral. he took off work, the kind of job where they dock your pay, to drive over to beaumont, just to say a few words and show that he was there. not many people will do that sort of thing for you. i don't blame them. i don't usually do that sort of thing. death separates us all. we tend to think nothing can be done. but when someone stands beside you and shakes your hand, looks you squarely in the face, tells you they're sorry as fuck without wasting words and lets you know you're still among the living...well, that person should be counted as friend no matter what.
the day before his mom's funeral, scott met me at dixie's diner over off I-45, close to where we both grew up.
"how you doing?" i said.
"shit, you know," he said. "it's like you're talking to these people and you start making jokes, and they look at you funny. 'we're confused. aren't you supposed to be depressed?' and then you feel all guilty for trying to laugh."
he told me how he cared for his mom in his trailer home for the past few months. how he had to get round the clock hospice care so he could go to work. how he stopped eating. it got so bad, he had to go to the doctor.
"what'd the doctor say?" i said.
he told me about the funeral home workers coming out to get his mom after she passed.
"they sent this tiny, frail old guy and a lady," he said, already starting to crack a smile. "i had to help them get her on the stretcher and into the body bag. i thought the old guy was gonna faint." he started giggling. "you seen my mom. i told him they better have some bigger guys at the funeral home." he made a goofy face and started laughing some more. i started laughing too.
when the time came, the next day, scott stood up and gave a moving, natural eulogy. "she was mom. she taught me how to pitch. she taught the piano. she had a beautiful singing voice. and she smelled nice when i laid my head in her lap during sunday church, drifting off into sleep." then the baptist preacher had us all get up and sing "to God be the glory" and "i'll fly away." he told us that's what margarat wanted us to sing and i actually remember her singing those songs at easthaven. i remembered johnny sheer and brother cain and all the other people who seem like comic book characters to me now.
after the service, we stood out behind the hearse that would carry the casket to the cemetary. scott took off his jacket. he told me how it was a close call. several of his ex-girlfriends intended to show up to the funeral and he was worried about a fight. "that's all i need," he said, laughing again, the goofy grin spreading across his face. i remember that face from so long ago, in tents and baseball fields, on camping trips and in the back pews of easthaven. it is a face that embodies all the absurdity of the world, that kicks it on its head and makes it something you can't help laughing about. "i could just see 'em going at it. the redhead would be the worst. she'd throw the first punch." he was nearly doubling over now, laughing. i was laughing too. foolishly. carelessly. and with all my heart.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
a tragic, strange story about one deep cave diver who attempts the recovery of another (dead) deep cave diver's body and films his own death in the process.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
interesting post and thread on profanity. i've often tried to sort out similiar arguments in my head (in preparation for a certain conversation i'm bound to have with thomas) and i think i fall somewhere between the debased (such words signify acts of the lower aspects of man...shit, fuck, etc. and tend to signal the triumph of the animal over the spirit.."we're all just animals following our baser instincts") argument and the notion that overuse of a word tends to strip its power (we require taboos and better these than worse), but i find the argument about such words often being associated with anger/unpleasantness strangely appealing. just as losing your temper should be reserved for occasions that warrant it, these words should be a little more sparse. unfortunately, this is simply the tribute i'm paying to virtue since i tend to cuss like a sailor. but it is contextual. i don't cuss outside certain groups (this blog notwithstanding, but, hey, you don't have to read it and it is doubtful you'd stumble across it) and i tend to avoid it at work. still, i do appreciate and respect the individual who can make rare, good use of a cuss word. and much like certain video games, i might do it, but no way are my kids going to talk like that...at least around their mother.