Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Campaign Against a Stupid Campaign

So here's someone trying humor and missing.

I got sent this this morning, and went a little deeper into the page to make sure I wasn't missing the humor. And with research done and data in, the conclusion is: I'm not. This type of humor is so easy that it is just a waste of time; there are people doing this I'm-gonna-try-to-offend-everyone-because-I-think-it's-funny bit already (Borat, Sarah Silverman, et al.) who are good at it, and even they get boring rather quickly. This guy should do himself a favor and quit trying so hard.

Re: this little campaign against vegetarians, here's a little campaign I've started: It's called If Anyone Refers To This "Sponsor A Vegetarian" B.S., Beat The Shit Out Of Them. How's that for hippy, animal-loving, tree-hugging passivism? Yes, I'm a vegetarian. But if I ever do go back to eating meat, I'll go hunting with my dad. I got a nice compound bow sitting in my basement that I'd dust off and go get me some venison. I doubt this guy knows what venison is, so filled up on Tombstone pepperoni pizzas to branch out a little bit. The problem isn't that you're eating meat. I don't give a shit if you eat meat. The problem is that you buy this processed crap that comes from corporate farms where the animals, contrary to this genius' assessment of an animal's life, do not "spend most of [their lives] shitting in a field." Most of the things you're putting in your body never even see a fucking field. If you're going to eat the stuff why don't you be a "real man" and head off into the woods and get it your damn self? Well, because that would take too much time away from sitting at your computer reassuring yourself about your own masculinity by writing about how cool your boner is and how stupid women are. Nice job, buddy. Real funny stuff.

So, my campaign begins, because as our friend so astutely points out in his hilarious explanation of "Sponsor a Vegetarian": "most people still need a crowbar up side the head." Mine's in my trunk.

See how easy it is to rant?


P.S. To be fair, there are actually some funny things on this site, but like I said, it's just too easy to be interesting/funny for long.

Friday, December 7, 2007

My Friends Rock

So a friend of mine, Emily Cook, gave our little magazine a shout today on one of my favorite sites Bookslut.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

My Version of Graduate School Research/Preparation, Which I Have Perfected Over the Last Five Years

1. Go to Bookmarks folder labeled "MFA"; click to open.
2. Choose program from list of unrealistic schools compiled based on my complete lack of research re: schools I may actually be able to get into, thus consisting of only those schools nearly everyone has heard of, and therefore, good (on reputation if nothing else), and therefore, unrealistic.
3. Look through guidelines.
4. Look at faculty list; become frustrated and feel stupid because I only know one name on the list.
5. Convince myself that the school has obviously gone down hill and does not attract the quality writers it once did.
6. Look at list of past faculty; become reassured in #5, because I recognize more than one name on this list.
7. Begin online application, or Access already-begun online application.
8. Fill in information such as Name, Current Address, Phone Number, etc.
9. Come to portion of application that actually requires thinking.
10. Start outlining a personal statement in my head, while becoming frustrated with the fact I am in contact with only one professor from college and therefore can’t even get three letters of recommendation.
11. Criticize the era of inflated grades in which I graduated. Tell myself the teachers were not actually concerned about their students, but only making it look like their students were doing well, thus inflating their own credentials.
12. Skip ahead to Tuition page.
13. Go back to Personal Information page; make sure email and home address are correct.
14. Open folder on desktop labeled "Poetry." Make minor changes, such as adding an "and" where previously none existed, to many poems.
15. Reconsider future; open folder on desktop labeled "Nonfiction."
16. Return to graduate school web site; save online application.
17. Choose another program from MFA Bookmark folder, repeat steps 3 through 16.
18. Convince myself that reading more, right now, will benefit me in this process.
19. Leave pages open on computer, so I will (obviously) return to them in the morning after finishing a novel or reading a number of poems tonight.
20. Put computer to sleep (not off; need to see those pages first thing in the morning).
21. Take novel or book of poetry from bookshelf; bring to bed.
22. Open book sitting up in bed.
23. Awake at 3 a.m., shut book laying open beside me, go back to sleep.

Monday, November 26, 2007

InDigest Magazine

We are officially on the home stretch of our little literary venture—InDigest Magazine (at www.indigestmag.com coming Dec. 3)—and we are all feeling a little pressure. There’s a lot to be done, but all the hard work, we think (and hopefully you will, too), will be worth it in the end, as we have been extremely fortunate in the fact that some very talented people have agreed to be a part of this thing from the beginning. For the time being check us out on Facebook and at MySpace to get a feel for what we will be all about.

I really can’t express enough thanks to the people who, by allowing us to put their work in “print,” forced us to take this endeavor to a level already exceeding (even before the first issue!) the limits we had originally set for ourselves. A special thanks among this group must go out to Alex Lemon, a talented and accomplished poet who, from our very first request, has been helpful, responsive, and encouraging. And on top of all of that he gave us some fantastic poems to start us off real proper like. If you do not have his book of poems, Mosquito, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Issue 2 is taking a nice shape already, and with such fine content from the beginning we can’t wait to see what will come our way for future issues.

Please come by and see us often once we’re up and running. Knowing that someone out there is reading will give us a whole new thrill. For now, we’re focused on the thrill of actually getting InDigest up and running.

Read, read, write, and look at pretty things!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More on The Mountain Goats

Ok, I promise this will be the last I say of The Mountain Goats for a while. But this blog, Last Plane to Jakarta, is apparently that of the lead singer of said group, and it's f'n great. I don't like metal (music), but this guy does. I love when people can like something so far from what they themselves create. I think this shows intelligence: the ability to see beyond what my be familiar, and understand, or at least try. Anyway, he goes on about metal and politics. I follow him mostly on the politics. And I have no idea what he's talking about when he goes on about metal, but I still think he does it well, if that makes sense. At any rate, it's worth a read. So check it out. And go get a The Mountain Goats album.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's You...And You're Standing In The Doorway

"The most remarkable thing about you standing in the doorway
Is that it's you...and you're standing in the doorway.
And you smile as you ease the gun from my hand
And I'm frozen with joy right where I stand"


Ever felt that way? Fuck yeah. It's from Going to Georgia by the Mountain Goats. This, right now, is about as obsessed as I get with a band. Everything they do (that I have heard) blows me away.

If you don't get anything from this lyric, I suggest you go far far away from someone you love very much and stay gone for a good amount of time. Then come back and see them. Then you'll know what he's talking about.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hello?

Why do people have blogs if they're not going to do anything with them?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Poetry at Guernica

Here's some poetry brought to you by guernicamag.com. While you're there, check out the blog section.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Every Year

Every year around this time it begins. As children shop the aisles for their mechanical pencils, Five-Star notebooks, and, now, Apple laptops, as leaves start turning brown, orange, and yellow, and folks drive to remote locations of their states to see masses of trees do this in unison, as college freshmen meet new dorm roommates and drink themselves into oblivion in the few days between their high-school selves and their, obviously, more mature selves, another season-changing indication continuously crosses my path.

And I wish it would stop already.

This obnoxious marker of the end of summer will go unnoticed to those of you who do not also mark the beginning of fall as the beginning of football season. For this you should feel fortunate. For the rest of us, those of us in three fantasy football leagues--don't judge me--or just those who enjoy a Sunday afternoon game, one person has become synonymous with this time. When you turn on Sportcenter to get caught up on the day's football goings-on, there he is in his suit that looks like it could be from any year of the montage of clips from the 80s to the present they undoubtedly will play before actually showing him.

It's Chris Berman.

Am I the only one that is sick of his nicknames and the way he re-caps highlights, which, as far as I can tell haven't changed in a decade (I know it's not football, but "Back, back, back, back..." anyone?)? I mean, c'mon, doesn't the same ol' shtick get a little boring? The Josh Mc "go milk the" Cown, the Trent Green "with envy," the "Who shot J.R. on" Dallas Clark, the Robbie "Good as" Gould, the Drew "Cool as a summer's" Brees...I mean, is it just me, or are others kind of sick of this bit already?

I think it's time for the Swami to get some new material. It was cute for a long time. Now it's just lame. But, come to think of it, the same could probably be said for a lot of the sportscasters on Sportcenter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Some Writing Online

So, I entered this writing competition that was looking for short nonfiction pieces about people's experiences with the Great Lakes. Click here to read the story, and check out the site for ways to take action in protecting the Great Lakes.

(Oh, and look at that, after all my talk/complaining of The Hold Steady being called a Brooklyn band, they go and put "David of Brooklyn." I swear I put both Brooklyn and St. Paul.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another Last Finale. Goodbye For Now, New York

I tend to idealize things when they are over. I don’t think I’m alone in this. The failed relationship, filled with hardships and unhappy moments, or, at least, not ideal moments, becomes a montage of the good moments, flashes of pleasant times, however few and far between, become the picture, and the impact of the unsavory moments becomes less severe until I am left wondering what was so bad anyway.

This has already happened with New York. As I walk the streets of Park Slope today, gone already are the unsavory parts of the summer. I will not remember the unbearable heat so greatly compounded upon descent into the subways. I will not think of the blaring horns. I will not think of the trash on the streets. I will not think of the massive apathy of so many of New York’s people. Or rather, maybe when I think of these things, they will rumble around my head with soft edges, somehow less abrasive.

But I will think most often of those things I have come to cherish. First and foremost, the people I have met or been reacquainted with. Taya, what can I say. I will think of her incomparable warmth. It’s as though she holds this city in a huge embrace and when a wandering soul enters it, that embrace gets a little larger to fit them within it. Mishka and Tara—old friends in a new place so in love with it that it’s impossible to resist letting your own love climb to the surface. James for being so open to this city, like some character in a book discovering life in every moment. All the 826ers for being so friendly and allowing me to be a part of something so great. Jen, Hadara, and the boys from France. The folks at Guernica for letting me get involved with something really interesting. And not least of all, Chris and Kate. I will look back on the maturity of a friendship, its roots strongly planted in New York.

Everyone.

All the parts of New York will come to me in the next weeks, months, years, and I will hold them with love. I will long for them all.

There is a lesson here about living. How often in the present moment we dwell on the disappointments of life, those aspects that make the whole thing hard, when in our remembering it is many times the complete opposite: we remember only the good.

The great album title of the New York Dolls comes to mind here: One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This. One day is here for me already.

































Note: I took the last picture off of the blog because my mom said it freaked her out. She actually asked me if it was me! Instead of the picture, just picture a better-looking version of me with a huge smile on my face.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Night of Great Music?!

This is getting kind of ridiculous. I have seen so much unbelievable music since I've been in New York that I'm probably getting a little spoiled. This time it came courtesy of that great organization I have written about before, 826NYC, and their event Revenge of the Book Eaters.

The line up was an indie rock (or whatever you want to call this type of music) fan's dream come true: Brit Daniel, A.C. Newman, Feist, Jim James, Grizzly Bear, and hosted by Demetri Martin. I actually didn't know too much of the music before last night, but I have heard nothing but good things about all the musicians. And now I know why. (I do have the Feist album, The Reminder, and it is all the good things people say about it.) I have to say that Grizzly Bear was my favorite. Damn, those guys can sing. Plus, they were really cool guys. I got them on my side when prior to the show I fixed the problem of their dressing room being sans Jameson in a very timely fashion. They appreciated that. Later, one of the guys showed me how to open a bottle of beer with a plastic water bottle! Really a bunch of good guys. In fact everyone of these groups was really laid back and nice. Prior to the show there were no rock-star attitudes that you might expect. Each person accepted comments about their shows with a genuine appreciation, and, in the case of Feist, with a somewhat alarming and completely refreshing shyness. And after the show, when everyone went to a bar down the street they were all really fun to hang out with.

All of those things can be said about Demetri Martin and the other comics, too. Demetri was, per usual, hilarious, at one point referring to himself as the retarded offspring of the Beastie Boys and the Beatles. Some prick in the audience tried to heckle him by saying, “We want the bands to play.” That made for some nice impromptu comedy, as well as a small flare up by the comic. You could tell he was actually pissed by how much he swore at the guy. Good stuff.

And if all that weren’t enough who is the first person I see when I get to the back room of the bar? Mike Myers. It was just as you would expect a table that Mike Myers would be sitting at: all the other people were leaning towards him with huge grins on their faces, awaiting every word as he told, what was undoubtedly a great story.

This town is a trip.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Adios Kate

New York will go to sleep tonight wondering where you've run off to. I won't have the heart to tell it you're not coming back.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Hard Pill To Swallow

I found this on a blog called Last Plane To Jakarta, which I have just begun exploring and which seems to focus mainly on music and politics (don't hold me to that; I've only read a few entries).

This is yet another reason why any of those excuses we hear for going to war with Iraq seem, to me, to be nonsense. The one I'm thinking specifically of here is the justification of war by invoking the oppression of women in certain countries. Any and all rationalizations, while possibly true (see entry on Saddam Hussein indeed being a tyrant), are moot, because a) they were never the real reasons, or b) they don't make sense when you read stories like this. True, the oppression of women is wrong at any level. But come on, which should we go after first, men who force women to be veiled in public or men who gang rape women and mutilate their genital organs thereafter?

(Click here to read Professor Yakin Ertuk's full statement)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Always Moving Forward, Looking Back

As my time in New York comes to an end I am getting a little sentimental, as I do, and thinking of other travels I have been on, and how with most, even the ones that were hard at the time, I look back and remember with joy.

I am thinking this morning of the fact that any time I hear a song with even the slightest whimsy I think of lying among dandelions in Missoula, Montana with a girl who was always somewhat whimsical herself, carrying with her gypsy qualities, floating through this world to places I was not willing to follow, except for that short time when we lay, reading poetry on a hill in Missoula. Then I left again, drove farther west, and was not sure, even at the time, why I was leaving. I have heard that she kept moving, too, and is now a mother. I do not know her child (even if it’s a boy or a girl), and I do not know her anymore, but in moments like these, on mornings like this, I think of her.

And then there was the time in Ireland when I strolled atop the cliffs of the Aran Islands catching in a photograph a friend, legs near his chest, hugged by his arms, contemplating the Ocean below and stretching for an eternity before him. I had viewed and captured in another photograph this same friend in this same state of contemplation on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior within a year of our trip to Ireland. He has now seen more of and in this world than I ever will or would want to, and I’m sure on his subsequent travels he has pondered so much in this same manner.

And there was my time spent on another great lake—Lake Michigan, where the sound of water was omnipresent and constantly soothing. I have never been more at peace with everything around me than with that consistent roll of waves in my ear. On the first anniversary of September 11, 2001 I sat alone on a beach of Lake Michigan and watched it open up and pull the sun from its perch over the Chicago skyline into it in a warm, consoling embrace—the lake knowing the sun had seen too much.

And even on a miserable drive back from southern California, a drive that sunk me into the greatest depths of loneliness and awareness of being alone, I remember that the red hues of the dirt and rocks in Utah were beautiful. Even then I recognized something beyond myself, even if I could not see it in the present, I felt it somewhere. And the sense of comfort that filled me when I thought of once again being around my family and friends, to feel not alone, was a feeling so overwhelming that it almost warranted the depths I had sunk to. Almost.

As I look to the coming weeks I am once again filled with joy at seeing those faces absent for months now. But this time I will not be running from something toward their warm embrace. I will be leaving something I will miss. I am already looking back in fond remembrance. I am already missing New York.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lists

Three Things I Taught Myself To Do With No Guidance From Others (Two While Staring At Mirrors In Department Stores As A Child While My Mother Was Shopping)

1) Raise both eyebrows individually.

2) Wink with both eyes.

3) Juggle (although not very well, & one of my uncles may have shown me tips on this as a kid. I can't say for sure.)



Four Things Frowned Upon In Most Places, But Seemingly Completely OK In New York

1) Honking at girls as you drive by.

2) Saying things like, "Damn, girl, you looking good today" or "How you doing?" as girls walk by.

3) Throwing whatever happens to be in your hand on the ground if you no longer wish to be holding it.

4) Swearing at your children.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Partying With Bands...Kind Of. More Good Music in New York

Biking down Sixth Ave. on my way to Prospect Park as is my wont, I was reminded once again just how small New York and this world really are. There on the corner was a friend from Minneapolis—Chris Morrissey, current bass player for Ben Kwellerand former bass player for Mason Jennings. Although I don’t know Chris all that well he was nice enough to put my roommate, Chris Koza (Morrissey played bass for Koza at an amazing 7th St. Entry set last year) and me on the guest list for that night and the following night’s Kweller shows. (Much like Mason doing a three-night stand at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis, Kweller was doing a hometown three-night set, as he is the native son here in Brooklyn.)


Having seen Mason only once since he and Morrissey parted ways, I thought the show was missing something due to the subtraction. But what was missing at that First Ave show (I've been told that the 400 shows were better), was present at these Kweller shows (although I’ve never seen Ben Kweller live before this, so what do I know). The band sounded really tight together and the harmonies—possibly what was most lacking at the Mason show—were great. Plus Chris rocked on the triangle both nights! Most likely because of that fabulous triangle play (possibly because of his excellent bass playing…who’s to say), the boy from MN with a tattoo on his arm of his home state with two lines intersecting over the Twin Cities (although he admitted once that they may actually land somewhere near Mankato) got much love from the Brooklyn crowd when Ben introduced him both nights.

After both shows Chris hooked us up with backstage passes and on the last night of the three-night stand, we enjoyed some pizza and beers until the early hours of the morning with this very laid back bunch of guys. I’d have to say, this was the best chance meeting in New York thus far.






About a week later, our friend Dustin in town, we were lucky enough to catch another show from some Minnesota musicians. The Hold Steady was doing a free concert in Prospect Park. Dusty and I are pretty big fans of this group—my obsession as become a bit less severe since first hearing Separation Sunday, but I can still be counted among the super fans. After a little picnic in the park that included a wide range of food and drink—Budweiser and Cheese Puffs at one end and left-over delicacies from a Glamour magazine shoot and assorted cheeses at the other end*—we ventured in to scream whenever lead singer Craig Finn mentioned the Twin Cities.



After the show and after one failed attempt by Dustin and myself to just stroll into the VIP section, we proceeded to jump the fence and immediately go into reconnaissance for the colored bracelets around everyone else’s wrists, which indicated that they were indeed VIP, while we, until we strapped one of them to our arm, were intruders. We found two purple bracelets, one in the trash and one on the ground. We were safe for the time being, but we needed the orange bracelets to get back stage, and no one had parted with those.

As we sipped on another glass of wine, we pondered our predicament, coming up with what surely was a full-proof plan. We would go to the doorman guarding the backstage entrance and explain to him that we were from City Pages—the Village Voice of Minneapolis, just to give him some reference as to our importance—and that we were supposed to interview the band and there had been a mistake in which wristbands we had received at the door. Not really knowing what we were talking about, or more likely, just not wanting to deal with us, this lie worked on the guard. He got the band’s PR person to come and talk to us. Now it was game time.

She listened to our story, a bit confused as to how this might have happened, but not, at that moment, completely dismissing us for idiots posing as something that may or may not have gotten us back stage even if it were the truth. Her dismissal came a moment later when I inadvertently showed the underside of my wrist where the high jacked wristband was twisted upon itself, obvious to even a halfwit to be a fake. She was cool about it, though. Instead of telling us to leave, she allowed us to stay in the VIP section, saying, “No, that’s the only wrist band you need.”

But it didn’t matter, because by that time the band had started to trickle out of the backstage area to where we were. After letting them settle in for a few minutes, we went up to Tad, the guitarist, and told him we were from the Twin Cities and that I had seen the band a number of times. To which Tad responded, “Cool. Thanks for coming. You know of any parties around here?”

Now, The Hold Steady is a bar band, and all the members like to drink, but still I was taken aback by this blatant inquiry directed towards two people who were complete strangers. Why would The Hold Steady need to be asking us where a party was? I didn’t have time to get my thoughts clear and ordered. He asked a question and I had to react. Obviously what came out was something lame like, “Um, no not really, I haven’t been living here too long, but we should totally go grab a beer somewhere.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve made a complete fool of myself to the guitarist of The Hold Steady, nor is it the first time I have appeared to be damn near hitting on him. The last time I saw the band was in Iowa City at a small club where all the members were drinking in the basement bar while other bands performed. After getting a nice buzz in order to work up the courage to make my move (I’m such an idiot), I waited for Tad to order a round of Buds and Jagermeister and quickly proceeded to interject with an, “I’ll get that round for him” directed toward the bartender. To which Tad sort of nodded and might have mumbled, “Thanks” down the bar in my direction, quickly bringing the drinks back to his table and far away from me. Needless to say that this interaction made me look quite lame to the company I was with that night. Company that, unfortunately, I was trying rather hard to impress that night.



The results of this more recent exchange were rather similar. Tad made haste to get away from us, and Dustin reassured me that I had to say something when he asked about a party and that it wasn’t really as stupid a response as it had seemed. We decided that it had been a good effort and a good night, even if we did not produce the party that would have allowed us to have a crazy party-with-the-band story.

We were almost ready to finish our wine and let The Hold Steady be with the people who were actually supposed to be there, when out of nowhere Tad meandered back in our direction and said, “We’re going to O’Connor’s on 5th. You guys should come.”**

And oh, were we a giddy pair. We waited a few moments so as to not look like we were sprinting to the bar, then slowly walked out of the park as cool as we could.

On our walk we decided that it might be a good idea to stop and get a twelve pack of beer, you know, in case the band wanted to do an after-bar. We placed the PBR we bought from a corner store in my bag, which had earlier housed the picnic cuisine, and strolled on down 5th Ave. feeling quite proud of ourselves.

When we reached O’Connor’s most of the band members were already inside putting a few down. We strutted into the bar, again as coolly as we could, ordered a couple of beers and sat in a booth against the wall. What transpired next was somewhat ugly. Dustin and I became like two teenage girls in a mall in 1987 waiting in the wings of a Hot Topic for the appropriate time to go ask Corey Feldman for his autograph. Only we didn’t want a signature on a glossy picture (although I doubt I would have turned one down), we wanted to buy The Hold Steady a shot. And we wanted that shot to lead to a night of excessive drinking that would lead to stories that ended with something like, “Yeah, and then Craig tells the cop to fuck off and throws his bottle of Beam through his window and we all scatter…Man, we totally have to call those guys to hang again.”

As it was, we sat, plotting, trying to find that perfect moment where it was just one of them, so we wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle like I had in Iowa. We needed a moment when they would actually sit for a minute and hang with us.

By the time my roommate Chris got to the bar, we had moved up to two stools at the bar a couple of seats away from Tad and were pretty well drunk. Soon after, we made our move.

Dustin: “Hey man, can we buy you guys a shot?”

Tad: “Man, I just took one. I think I’m done with shots for the night.”

We had missed our chance. He had taken about eight shots since we got there and now he was done. Sure Craig Finn was sitting at the other end of the bar still, but we wouldn’t have the courage to saddle up next to the lead singer and make the same inquiry. So we proceeded to drink with a large bald-headed guy named Flea—a raucous Bostonian who made inappropriate comments to just about everyone who walked by.

And then, just drunk enough from a round that Flea had bought, and maybe feeling a bit emboldened by Flea’s apparent disregard for all things civil in society, we made another move. It’s a little fuzzy. I just remember that we were standing at the end of the bar and Craig Finn was responding affirmatively to the question of whether or not he wanted a shot. Then we had shot glasses filled with Southern Comfort and lime and he was introducing us to his girlfriend.

The rest of the exchange is not too clear. I’m pretty sure Finn was even drunker than we were. I think there was talk of music and of the Twins, but I can’t say for sure. I do know that we did not end up drinking the PBRs in my bag with The Hold Steady.

Still, we were invited to an after-show party by The Hold Steady. Kind of. And we drank with The Hold Steady. Kind of. And we came away with a crazy story. Kind of.





*There was also a bottle of wine, which would have been a nice touch with the cheeses, but we decided it would be easier to sneak that into the concert than a bunch of beers. So that’s what we did, and we proceeded to pass it back and forth as The Hold Steady rocked on about Lyndale Ave.

**The rest of the night was great, and I’m not complaining, but why couldn’t a result like this one—one that would have made me look a little cooler—have happened in Iowa? Just wondering.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Who's That Guy?

On one of those nights just a couple weeks after I got to New York when I was drinking sangria on a rooftop, my phone started going crazy with calls and text messages from friends back in the Twin Cities telling me they had seen my brother on the news at the Mall of America (MOA, kind of like MoMA) for the Harry Potter midnight movie and book release. Here he is in all his costumed glory, amidst other frenzied fans, 400 of which wanted to get their picture taken with him. He ended up winning the costume contest hands down. Way to go, Dom! That beard is looking great by the way!


& here's the article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press' blog, Big Harry Deal, which tracked the hype leading up to the Harry Potter releases:

June 25, 2007

The winner of the HP Movie Marathon costume contest

You might recall that last week, Big Harry Deal was debating whether to spend the entire day, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., at the Harry Potter Movie Marathon at Riverview Theater in Minneapolis. We asked what you thought about that idea, and Number One Muggle responded:

"The costume contest sounds fun and the mockumentary too, but besides that it's really just all four movies - I've probably seen them all so much by now it wouldn't be much fun. And I don't know how much there would be to report." (The Pioneer Press wrote a story last year about that locally made mockumentary, "Harry Putter and the Sorcerer's Phone," and we'll post it later today, but for now here's a link to information on the production: http://www.battyproductions.com/HarryPutter/.)

Well, BHD ended up taking NOM's advice, in part because of family obligations. But we did head on over to theater at about 7:45 p.m. to see the costume contest awards ceremony. Turns out that the theater had a good-sized crowd for the marathon, close to capacity at 450 to 475 tickets, according to manager Jess Stone.

"There were small kids and up to ages 45 or 50," Stone said. "Everyone seems to love these films. We had a lot of pre-sold tickets, lots of costumes, really enthusiastic people."

BHD took our kids with us -- Calvin, almost 5, and Camilla Valentine, almost 3 1/2 -- and when we got to the theater, Calvin said, "Where's Harry Potter?" Later, when we sat down in the theater as the awards ceremony was about to begin, BHD turned around and saw a kid who looked just like Harry Potter, dressed up for Hogwarts.

"Look, guys, there's Harry Potter!" BHD said.

The kids whipped their heads around, staring, their mouths agape.

"Hi," Harry said shyly.

"Why isn't he on stage?" Calvin asked.

"Maybe he will be," BHD said.

Unfortunately, the little guy didn't place.

The five characters called up on the stage of the theater were Luna Lovegood, a dementor, Minerva McGonagall, Harry Potter (not the one we met) and Hagrid. While four of the five received a handful of votes from fellow audience members earlier in the day -- 4 votes for fifth place, 5 votes for fourth place, 8 votes for third place and 40 votes for second place -- the winner received 185 votes. "A landslide," the emcee said.

It was Hagrid.

We think you'll see why it was such a landslide when you click on this photo BHD took of Hagrid during the awards ceremony:

http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site569/2007/0624/20070624_093541_062507_costume_winner1.jpg

Doesn't he look just like Robbie Coltrane, who plays Rubeus Hagrid in the movies? The beard, the stature, the clothes, the twinkle in his eye ... it's amazing.
The kids and BHD met up with Hagrid -- who's really Dominic, from St. Paul -- in the lobby beforehand, and he looked a bit overheated.

"I really wish this was during the winter," he said.

He rallied for the awards ceremony, though, introducing himself to the theater crowd by saying, "I'm Dumbledore. No, no, wait a minute. I'm Hagrid!"

When Hagrid was announced the winner, Hagrid's fellow Harry Potter fans cheered and clapped and roared in approval. As the grand-prize winner, Hagrid received a $50 gift certificate to DreamHaven Books.

Stay tuned to BHD for an interview with Hagrid. Anything you want to know?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What Do You Do With The Pieces of a Broken Heart*

Walking down 5th Ave. yesterday I saw it for the first time. It was hard; harder than I thought it was going to be. I’ve actually thought this might be the best thing for a while now. Still, when someone close to you leaves, even if you know it’ll be good for them—and that in the end is all we really want for those we love, right? —it still stings when you see the reality of the situation. It all becomes too real. They’ve moved on and you’ve now bared witness. And you are left to walk the streets of this uncaring world all alone.

So, as I walked down 5th Ave., as the workers from all those buildings came out to join the tourists in the early evening hours, me hovering somewhere in between the two, my stride was taken instantly away, I became a rock in a stream as the current of human existence flowed around me. I was Still Life on Fifth. All because of what I saw in that window, with all its heart-wrenching realness. Because of what I saw in the window of the NBA Store at 666 5th Ave.

There it was: the green number 5 jersey with shorts to match, a little white four-leaf clover resting between the shoulder blades of a mannequin facing away from the street. It didn’t even have his name on it yet, but I knew what would be there: Garnett.

Kevin Garnett had been a Celtic for six days. He would be wearing number 5. And now that number 5, along with what it meant, came and slapped me upside the head on 5th.

It’s hard to say for sure the worst thing Kevin McHale has done while he has been Vice President of Basketball Operations at 600 First Avenue North. It could have been including a draft pick in the Cassell/Jaric deal. Or maybe it’s his complete inability, despite being one of the greatest low-post players in NBA history, to develop skilled low-post players for the Timberwolves (Michael Olowo… copyright Dan Cole). Who knows, the list is just too long. But this has to be up there. Not necessarily the trading of KG, but the trade itself.

There have been numerous KG trade speculations over the last two years and one can’t say for sure which hold any truth. Still, when reliable sources tell us that the T-wolves could have gotten Allen Iverson, but didn’t because of their refusal to part with Randy Foye—a promising young guard, who has shown glimpses of leadership, but still, he’s no AI—or that Chicago has coveted KG for years & put combinations of players including Luol Deng on the table or even when Boston, just a couple of months ago, was willing to part with a high draft pick and the Pups end up with what they got…well, it all makes you wonder how someone with such a lack of business savvy could retain his high-profile job. McHale is apparently incapable of actually conducting business, preferring instead to just make friendly deals with his ol’ pal and ex-teammate Danny Ainge.

As hard as it is to stomach for T-wolves fans, it may have been time for KG to move on. I know that the Wolves don’t “owe” The Big Ticket anything. He has been compensated severely well & that is the only agreement to which they are obligated. Still, I want to see Da Kid win a championship. And in my opinion the Timberwolves organization continuously failed to surround the All-Star with the right players to accomplish that end. Because of such botched business acumen I find that I have become more of a KG fan than a Timberwolves fan. It’s just hard for me to support such a laissez-faire attitude apparently adopted in the front offices at Target Center. For this reason I want to see KG win a championship before I would want the Wolves to go all the way. Still, I wouldn’t have minded seeing a deal where both parties came off looking like winners, instead of one team looking like the laughing stock of the NBA, and justifiably so. But, it’s more obvious now than ever that Kevin McHale is not capable of making such a deal.

So, there I was, on 5th staring at number 5, wondering how things could have gone so awry. How could it all be over? How could we have come this far for this? And as all those people flowed past me, I came to terms with it all. KG is a Celtic. He has a chance to win there. He seems happy. And that in the end is all KG fans can ask for. Maybe next time I walk down that street I’ll go in and pick up one of those green jerseys. But yesterday I just moved on. It’s going to take some time.



Related Articles & Audio:

Bill Simmons shows what a joke Kevin McHale is.

Barreiro's Blog. I disagree with a lot of Dan Barreiro's opinions on KG, but I respect the hell out of him, and here we are actually pretty close in our thoughts on the matter.

MPR Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer talks with The Rake's Brit Robson.


*Click HERE, then on the "AUDIO" tab to listen to M. Ward's "Chinese Translation," which is the soundtrack to KG being traded.







Friday, August 3, 2007

I 35W Bridge Collapse-A Question

Given all that has been & will continue to be written about the I-35W bridge collapsing in Minneapolis—from a Hong Kong paper’s front page to a President Bush speech*—I was going to try to avoid writing about it. Alas, I could not. I know I’ve promised this before, but I will try to be brief here, as I don’t want to repeat everything that one can read elsewhere. My only addition to the conversation follows.

From Merriam-Webster online dictionary for the entry "miracle":
1 : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
2 : an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

From The New York Times Friday, August 3:
“Its one of those things,” said Anthony Wagner… “Five seconds, 10 seconds earlier, they would’ve been in the river. I think a miracle happened.”

The “they” he is speaking of are the passengers—61 in total, many of them children—on the school bus that narrowly missed falling into the river & instead came to rest upright on a felled portion of the bridge apparently against the guardrail (see picture here), thus leaving all passengers alive, & only some injured.

Let me preface the following by saying that I am extremely glad that this school bus landed where it did, & I have been struck many times over these last days since this tragedy happened by the fact that only four people have been reported dead thus far. Still, those are four people & sadly enough only more will be announced in days to come.

Now while Mr. Wagner may have been referring to the second definition of “miracle,” something gives me the feeling that he was invoking its more common usage—the first definition. & even if he wasn’t, the word will still conjure up ideas of a divine presence to the listener, or, in this case, the reader.

I, like many people from this area, have heard a number of stories of near-misses & fortunate detours & delays—a friend who had to turn around to change her laundry; a relative, at the time, frustratingly delayed. If you are from the Twin Cities you more than likely have a story like this. & these stories make us cherish those who could have been on that bridge, who were even supposed to be on that bridge when it fell, even more than the average person may look to loved ones when something as random & tragic as this event takes place.

In times like these when people speak of survivors who could have very easily not been so, they always seem to say the same thing—“a miracle” has taken place. I am unimaginably glad that no one close to me has been counted among the dead. But to say that this is a “miracle” implies that some people were plucked by the hand of the Almighty, while He let others plummet to the river below. To call the fact that the school bus was only seconds from a much worse fate a “miracle” says that those lives are more important than the ones who were not so lucky—let me emphasize that word, lucky. What did the four pronounced dead & the others to come do to not be saved, to deserve to be tossed into the Mississippi?

Nothing.

They happened to be in a place when their world, what they knew of it at that moment, literally fell apart. If the school bus had been taking up space on the bridge then possibly one or more of those now dead would still be alive. Would that be any less of a miracle than still having those children with us? Let's ask their loved ones & see if there's consensus.


*a response to that inappropriate speech.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rock the Bells Gives Me Something I Thought I'd Never See Again

I suppose it’s been over ten years now since my friend Jason & I walked through the gray stone basement hallways of Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul perusing merch & “information” tables with tee shirts with Che Guevara’s face looking solemnly into the distance—another revolution to be a part of out there somewhere—& “Free Mumia” flyers strewn among other activist material on our way to our first-row balcony seats hanging over a mass of young people ready to mash closer together. Weezer came over the speakers in the place & the mass below was huddled into smaller groups, many in circles either sitting cross-legged or standing kicking a hacky sack. This mass was serene in those moments.

Then Rage Against the Machine came out & there was no longer individual pockets to this group; they were one, an undulating conglomerate of youth & a desire to rebel against something—none of their visions were as clear as that of the members of Rage, & that is why they needed a leader for the cause—whatever it may be. More than anything from that show I remember how that crowd below never seemed to settle—not for one moment—but kept leaping. It looked like a wave rolling from one side of the auditorium to the other.

A few years later Jason & I, along with some other friends, again found ourselves on our way to see Rage. This time the venue was larger—the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. I can’t remember when we got the news that this mighty show had been cut in half by the cancellation of Wu-Tang Clan from the bill. The Wu had decided unsympathetically to present at the MTV Music Awards* instead. In recalling this event now it seems that this information did not reach us until we arrived at the show, leaving us no time to brace ourselves for this absence, but instead wallow in our disappointment all the way through Teenage Fanclub Riot**—to this day one of the worst sets of music I have ever seen.

But then Rage came out & made us all forget that Rza, Gza, Ghostface, & all the rest had decided MTV was more important to them than our little Midwestern town. They didn’t matter anymore, because Rage came & this time we were among the masses on the floor leaping into one another.

The thing about Rage Against the Machine is that nothing else matters when they are on stage. I have never seen a band perform, then or now, with the palpable energy that Rage gives off.

When Rage broke up not long after the second time I saw them, I thought that was it, the end of something great. The revolution was over & younger generations would never know what I was talking about when I tried to describe what I had seen. I’d be in my seventies, my grandchildren hovering around my feet, little Timmy pleading, “Come on, Gramps, tell us again about that band whose lead singer looked like he was getting electrocuted when the song starts going crazy,” & little Bonny, almost in tears, scared by the description, “Grandpa, how did he make is guitar sound like…that?”

And then when Audioslave came into existence, well let’s just say I was devastated.

That all changed with the announcement of a reunion show at Coachella this year. They were back together again, & oh my what a feeling. Even if it were only one show, they were back. I was jealous of those people I knew going to the festival, but my jealousy was overpowered by the genuine pleasure I took in the idea of these people getting to see what I thought would never again take place. Very few times in life do we feel a pure joy for an activity completely separate from us, one that will only bring delight to others. This was one of those times.

Last Sunday I didn’t have to feel this way anymore, because I was heading to the show. I was experiencing the delight. On Sunday, July 29th, Rock the Bells came bumping its way to Randall’s Island, New York. Along with it came Rage Against the Machine & a truly all-star cast of hip-hop legends, indie sensations, & underground mic masters.

The main stage of this show was a tip of the cap to the first house I lived in in college, a house of questionable behavior where Wu Tang Clan’s 36 Chambers could be heard on one of the floors most hours of the day & where strangers would come nervously into the living room with the question, “Is Matt or Lucas here?” rolling unsurely off their lips in search of things that brought such strangers to this house. The sound track of the house, along with the Wu, was Rage & Cypress Hill. & Rock the Bells had them all & then some—Public Enemy & Rakim rounding out the legends.

Among these greats there were newer, but well-established hip hoppers, such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, & Supernatural. And among all of them were those on the Paid Dues Stage, which included Minneapolis hip-hop deities Brother Ali & Slug (performing with Felt).

The day started for us in rain, which quickly turned the grounds into a swamp of mud surrounded by Porta-potties, which led to a stench lifting from the ground. A setting repeated year after year at music festivals. When we arrived Supernatural was acting as the MC for the event, along with Rahzel, an impressive human beat box. Supernat was keeping the crowd attentive between acts with his insane freestyle capabilities. The next act to come on was Talib Kweli, a socially-conscious rapper, whose lyrics, unlike many who claim to have a positive message (see Common & even De La Soul’s recent endeavors), remain pretty steadfastly in a positive, intelligent vein. He stopped at one point to scold the crowd near the front for throwing a bottle—capped—filled with urine. “That’s fucking disgusting, y’all.”

Next up was Mos Def, a crowd favorite. The gap between Talib & Mos was making the crowd a bit nervous as to whether Mos was going to show at all. The people I was with had been stood up by Mos Def at shows before, & were anxious at the thought of this happening again.Eventually he came on stage. He appeared to be wetter than the other performers, as though he, like all of us, had gotten caught in the rain. I like to think that, running late to the show & his driver stuck in traffic on the Triborough Bridge, Mos Def exited the car & sprinted through the downpour to the stage, not wanting to disappoint the throng of people waiting there to hear his distinct voice deliver his creative rhymes. That’s how I like to imagine it.

Soon after Mos Def & Talib left the stage the rain stopped. The rest of the day would have been pretty miserable if it had continued. Nine hours is a long time to stand in a steady rain. So lucky for us it stopped in time for the heavy hitters, the greats, the road-pavers.

Cypress Hill came out with a huge gold Buddha sitting directly in the middle of the stage with a pot leaf adorning his giant gold belly. There is a strange juxtaposition that occurs when a rather large Buddha is staring down at you peacefully while two or three men meander around him spouting the lyric, “Here is something you can’t understand, how I could just kill a man.” I don’t know what it is.

Soon enough each member of Cypress Hill had massive joints held to their lips, with B Real’s dwarfing the others. I haven’t seen a joint that size since a party in Uptown Minneapolis where there was a traveling circus from Arizona & the band Wookie Foot played & after each taking a toke off of the monster passed it into the crowd of backyard partiers, having promised to not exhale until the thing was cashed. It took a long time for the crowd to cash that one, & B Real was toking its rival all by himself. Puff, puff, not a chance I’m gonna pass.

Each of the sets was only an hour long, so hit after hit rolled off the stage into the crowd.

Next up was Public Enemy. How old is Chuck D now? He has to be pushing fifty, right? Well, he came on stage with so much energy you would have thought it was 1987 & he was a feisty new MC on the scene. He was jumping around from one end of the stage to the other. And then there was Flavor Flav. I don’t know how it was back in the day, but when you see Public Enemy these days, it’s like Flav is a friend of Chuck D’s who’s fallen on hard times & Chuck D is the benevolent & wise one who, even though keeping this broken-down friend around is a huge chore, is simply too loyal to do anything else. The military-garbed members of Public Enemy had to follow Flav around as he ventured to the farthest edges of the stage & into the crowd as though he were a child that needed supervision.Chuck D, although seemingly loyal to Flavor Flav, nevertheless seemed to also try to, for the most part, avoid him & his antics on stage. At one point Chuck D actually told Flav to “make it quick,” the “it” being introducing the band. Flav did not make it quick. It’s hard to say what the low point was, Flav going on about his VH1 show being the #1 cable show of all time or when they cut the mics at the end of the set when he was trying to make some announcement, leaving Flav silent & alone, bowing to the crowd after all the other members had left the stage. Still, Chuck D was amazing & the brotherly loyalty bestowed upon his band mate was almost heartwarming, even if at times it was hard to watch the goofy sidekick with the oversized clock hanging from his neck.

As dusk came upon the muddy grass & beer-puddled asphalt a banner with a Shaolin Temple and names was lifted behind one DJ booth with a large rounded “W” on the front emblazoned with the message “RIP ODB.” Thousands of hands went into the air, thumbs meeting in the middle while the other eight fingers splayed out in opposite directions. The symbol of the Wu Tang Clan, all of those hands raised, began to move back & forth as the chant “Wu Tang, We Tang” went into the new-night sky.
Wu Tang has always fascinated me. There’s something about the numerous MCs, the obsession with kung fu, & the cultish nature of the hardcore fans that give Wu Tang Clan a mystical air about it. Once again, this set was packed with the hits, and the thousands in the crowd sang along to lyrics, “Wu Tang Clan ain’t nutin to fuck with,” “Cash rules everything around me,” “Yeah Baby, I like it rawwww,” while periodically & in unison throwing the hand-made “W” high into the air.

Now dark, it was time for the headliner, the reason, ultimately, I was there. A red star replaced the Shaolin banner & a drum kit the DJ booth, & while Jurassic 5 played over the speakers the crowd seethed in anticipation. When Rage came out it was like they had never skipped a beat. Zack de la Rocha still moved as though under a spell set upon him by the music that jerked him around the stage like he was on strings: a puppet to some great musical puppeteer. Tom Morello played viscously, trying to communicate things no one else had ever communicated through a guitar. At one point in the latter half of the set, Morello began spinning & even from quite a ways back one could see the sweat like blades of a helicopter coming off of him. It’s hard to take your attention off of these two members of the band when they are performing, & Brad Wilk (drummer) & Tim Commerford (bass) seem to be fine with this, as they hold the driving beats over which de la Rocha & Morello scatter themselves. The energy was still palpable, & the crowd, as hungry as ever for this music, responded by singing every word & crashing into one another. & when it was over the members met at the side of the stage & embraced one another, loving playing together again.

Just before Rage's set started a young guy, maybe eighteen, looked at me & asked, “Are you pumped, man?” Upon assuring him that I was indeed pumped, he told me that he & the other six or so young men around him had just driven nine hours from somewhere in Canada just to see Rage, missing the rest of the day’s bands. When I told him about the two previous times I had seen the group, his eyes got wide & his mouth fell open a bit. I told him, as he hung on my every word, how I never thought I’d see this day again. I told him about the show that Wu Tang bailed on, but how all was forgotten when Rage came out. He gaped at me &, almost in a whisper, mumbled, “Awesome.” And so these stories were passed on, not to my grandchildren, but to a boy from Canada who thought they were “Awesome.” But he did not have to imagine what I was describing to him, because moments later Rage took the stage.



Note: A HUGE Thank you to Kristie. You know why.


* There may have been a performance involved, but due to my disappointment at the no-show, I have cemented the memory into my brain as Wu Tang ditching us just to present (!) an award for Best Kiss in a Rap Video.

** I cannot say for sure if this is the actual name of the band, & I don’t care, they were horrible.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Lesson Learned?...Probably Not

Two articles follow: The first is the cover story for Time magazine last week. The second is a piece I lamely shopped around to City Pages & The Rake last October. I post this for three reasons: 1) As a lesson to myself. The Time article is obviously vastly superior, because it is more specific & better reported. Still, I think that many ideas are very similar. Lesson: if you (I) feel strongly enough to write something, don't half-ass it--follow it through to the end. 2) I post with a chip on my shoulder, I confess. I still feel that at the time my article was worth a chance at publication. & 3) Now I have a place to put it; then I didn't. And no one would put it anywhere for me. So.

(Note: I doubt I would write the same piece today, but I didn't want to change it, because that would negate the purpose of the compare & contrast nature of this post.)


Time article



Mine:
Can’t Leave: A Democrat’s reasons why the U.S. should not pull its military out of Iraq
October, 2006



There is much talk in the political landscape these days of pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible. This talk stems from arguments that the U.S. is losing young men and women needlessly, or as the Minneapolis Star Tribune put it, “spend[ing] more American blood… on a lost cause” (November 6, 2006). The crucial problem with this line of thinking is that it has little regard for all human life, and holds only U.S. lives to the standard that should be extended to everyone, U.S. citizen or not.

In the beginning of the war in Iraq those of us who were against it never bought into the idea that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat. Then, when our view was later justified by the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found, the Bush Administration quickly changed its rhetoric to the tune of the war as humanitarian action, as in Saddam was a terrible man doing terrible things to many people, and it was only right and just for us to stop him. While this sentiment is true, those of us opposed to the war weren’t buying this justification either. Or, truer still, weren’t buying that any of the people making the argument for war really cared about the people Saddam was oppressing and killing. If we cared (care) so much for human life and its defense, where are our troops on the ground in Darfur and North Korea?

While no one supports the deaths of thousands of troops thus far, nor those inevitably to come, the idea of removing all our troops from Iraq as quickly as possible places a greater emphasis on those human lives than on those of the Iraqi people we claimed, albeit secondarily, to wish to protect.

This is not a thought process distinct to the U.S. All countries look to first and foremost defend the lives of their citizenry. And rightly so. However, the problem in our present situation is that, by starting this war we have made Iraq a more dangerous place for its citizenry. We have created a country that, depending on who you ask, is either bordering on a civil war, or is in the midst of a full-blown civil war. Semantics aside, the fact is that the number of people dying in Iraq each day has risen due to our presence, with mutilated bodies showing up in the streets by the dozens having become the order of the day.

Now, if those sentiments of a true humanitarian mission (i.e. Saddam was killing and had to be stopped) held any water, our country and its leaders would be far more troubled by this fact than anyone seems to be. If there were a real concern for human life, not just U.S. life, the fact that at the very least tens of thousands of Iraqi people have been killed since our presence began would outrage anyone holding those views.

If even in the midst of the strongest military power in the world these countless deaths are taking place, imagine what the scenario would look like without the presence of the U.S. military. Certainly if those who argue Iraq is only now bordering on civil war are correct, a complete evacuation of U.S. military personnel from the country would be the final step in allowing the teeter-totter to fall to the side of full-scale civil war, leading to even more Iraqi deaths.

In plain terms, and in words sounding too close to those on the right for my usual comfort, our country needs to finish what it started. Or rather, needs to fix the mess we’ve created. The arguments for evacuation do not include a plan for this, and do not address anything outside of the number of U.S. lives that would be saved. An important, but certainly not the only number to be addressed.

Having not agreed with the use of military action in Iraq from the beginning, I do not think that this will be done through military means alone. However, because of the present violence that blankets most of Iraq now, it does not seem possible to make the necessary changes through non-military action alone, either.

What needs to occur, and this is true of all decisions made by our “leaders” in a world that continues to get smaller and smaller each day and with each new technological advance, is policy- and decision-making based on a respect for all of human life, rather than just those who can prove they are U.S. citizens. Yes, it is true that we need to defend ourselves against those who wish to do us harm, and this would be more efficiently accomplished if our troops were more available to our needs at home (i.e. protecting our ports, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, etc.) and for actual possible imminent dangers (i.e. Iran, North Korea, et al.). But, we have placed our military in a situation and that situation has become worse for all parties involved. It is not fair to those whose lives are depending on the protection we, by creating the situation, have promised them to leave that situation as it stands now.

There needs to be a true humanitarian showing first by our policies, then enacted by our military present in Iraq. Look at the aftermath of the Israeli-Hezbollah war. Hezbollah, a terrorist group to be sure, immediately began a “humanitarian” effort of rebuilding houses and neighborhoods that had been destroyed by actions taken in that month-long affair. Within days roads were cleared and rebuilding had begun, and Hezbollah came off looking like champions of the people to those who could once again drive their streets. How often do we hear of the Iraqi infrastructure still being in shambles, with neighborhoods lacking water, electricity, and other necessities they once held?

Someone, undoubtedly much wiser than I, once said we are the greatest country in the world by default. It is time now to once again be the greatest country in the world, not because others fail to take the position, but because our actions throughout the world cannot be surpassed, only imitated by others. This must begin with an empathy for all human life, not just those we call our own.

Let us use the rhetoric given to us to cover a mistake and turn it into truth. Saddam was an awful person. He should not have been in a position of power so unchecked it led to the death of many innocent people. This could be said of many in power throughout the world. But we went into Iraq, not many other places throughout the world. It would be wrong to leave it the way it is now. But our efforts need to change, and it needs to be understood by the Iraqi people living in constant fear that those efforts have changed. We need to act on the message we have been telling these people throughout: that we are there for them; we are trying to make their lives better.

Pulling our troops out now would send the opposite message. Pulling out our troops now would not be an action taken by the greatest country in the world. Making the world a better, safer place beginning in the place we made worse and more dangerous would be an action taken by the greatest country in the world.

Let us be that country, not because those before us have given us the title, but because we have earned it.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Black Snake Moan--A DVD Review

I can’t say for sure yet what exactly the problem was with Black Snake Moan. I’m no movie reviewer*. My friend Dustin is, so I text messaged him right after watching it: Mr. Movie Review Guy. Quick question—is Black Snake Moan the most ridiculous shit ever or was it just me? Thanks, Wtf In NYC. He hasn’t gotten back to me, so I’m left to venture into this alone with no guidance from someone who knows what he’s talking about. Forgive me, but I feel I must say something.

I think I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of things, but as usually happens when I get writing, I’m sure a plethora of things I hadn't even thought of will come screaming their way into my thoughts as I try to get them down. So, again, forgive me if I go over two. I’ll try my best to restrain myself.

First, when the most believable thing about your movie is Justin Timberlake, don’t you think you should ask the rest of the actors to take it up a notch on the believability scale? Now I’m not going to pretend that I’ve seen JT in any other movie—& I know he has at least one—& maybe he is a very talented actor to whom I am not giving enough credit. Or maybe I still hold out too much faith that Samuel L. Jackson is going to provide moviegoers with another reason to go see him one of these times. (Christina Ricci I gave up on long ago. & for the love, girl, eat a burger or something. That can’t be healthy.) Either way, JT is meant to be a role player in this movie—a prop to give Ricci’s character something to fix while she gets fixed—& he comes across as the only thing for whom I feel any empathy.

& this isn’t completely for lack of effort on Samuel L.’s part. He’s still good at times. He can be believable as a troubled old guy just as he was believable as a badass hit man. But here’s the other problem: in this movie he’s not allowed to be enough of either. Just when you’re starting to feel something for this kind-hearted troubled old fella, he goes & pulls the badass card. But then quickly cools back down & calls a preacher. His character should have been one or the other & not tried to walk the line in between. If you ask me, he should have been allowed to run free with his badass self. Remember the scenes in Pulp Fiction where he spouts off the Bible verses before getting all “This is how it’s gonna be, M*%*#$ F*#%$#!” This movie was a platform for him to do that for 90 minutes. It’s all about redemption. He could have spouted off Bible verse after Bible verse, Fire & Brimstone this & God’s wrath that, & only in very small doses revealed his soft, heart-broken side. As it is we go back & forth—he gets that wide-eyed crazy look & tells his brother they can test whether or not he’d really take a bullet for him; he pulls a gun on his preacher friend; he tests the limits of JT’s desire to be a “man,” allowing him to hold a gun to his head. But all of these are followed too quickly by his reverting back to his soft, troubled character.

Maybe I just want an hour & a half of those bug-eyed Samuel Jackson speeches. Or maybe, this back & forth doesn’t work, because the movie does not allow it to work. I never believed these characters. Even in the realm of fantasy, an audience can suspend what they know to be “true” or “realistic” if the story & characters allow them to (in fact, that’s pretty much the definition of a movie). I am not going to think it very realistic that someone would actually chain this girl to his radiator. But, if done right, I’ll go with it. I just won’t go with it when she has sex with a twelve-year-old boy, while chained, & is found soon after by the preacher, all of whom--her, the pre-teen, & the preacher--along with SLJ, have a nice dinner of steak, corn, & biscuits that night, after which she seems to understand that a calm life where she can add cayenne pepper to the potatoes & be complimented on it by a preacher sitting next to a prepubescent boy whom she just had sex with sitting next to a heart-broken middle-aged man who has had her chained up for two days is really the way she should live her life. In other words, you know, more simpler times. And all while she’s still got the chain around her waist! Seriously, it’s like two days of this & we’re expected to believe that she comes to some sort of revelation. I don’t know about you, but no matter what decisions I might have made in life—good or bad—finding the peace & serenity to look at those decisions & decide how I might want to change my life might take a bit longer than two days if I were chained to a radiator in the backwoods of some farmer’s house after he told me I could scream all I wanted, ‘cause ain’t no one gonna hear me. But maybe that’s just me.

This movie could have been good. That’s what always frustrates me the most: when you know something could have been good & then someone goes and screws it up**. Everything was in place: A heartbreak late in life, a sex-addicted girl, a military man with severe anxiety. These are people we would be ready to feel for. But then the heartbroken guy turns out to be a Blues singer (I can’t imagine anymore cliché a job; why couldn’t he have just been a farmer?***) who falls in love again by the end of the movie (how far out are we at that point, a week? Must have been very tough to get over his wife of all those years). The sex addict girl is saved when the anxiety-ridden young man puts a smaller version of the chain she has apparently come to associate with redemption around her waist at their wedding (this thing is like one of those belly chains you see on girls in sleazy clubs. I thought we wanted Riccis’s character to be less of a slut by the end of this movie). & the anxiety-riddled guy who gets kicked out of the service because he can’t actually shoot anything but targets…well, I guess I still kind of feel for him when he gets nervous. Who would have thought a JT performance would have been wasted on this movie?****

________

Briefly:
Samuel L.—maybe you should leave any script with the words “star,” “wars,” or “snakes” off the “must-do” movie list for a while. For some reason I’m still holding out for those better days…even when I notice on your "official site" the following: “Afrosamurai (2007) (announced) ...No. 2.” Maybe you should add “Afrosamurai” to the list above.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Fan.



*I don’t even know if movie titles are supposed to be italicized.

**See any of The Streets albums after Original Pirate Material. I know yr British & all, but could ya cool it on the dance beats?

***We wouldn’t have felt bad enough for a farmer, & the mighty guitar couldn't have saved him.

****I’ll switch to actual footnotes next time.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

826NYC

For the last two weeks I’ve been volunteering at 826NYC co-leading a Fictional Radio Narrative Workshop. 826 is an after-school drop-in tutoring center that also offers workshops & in-school volunteer services during the school year. There are seven 826 locations across the county. All the services are free to kids & schools. In the Twin Cities some creative & motivated people (& I) are working to start something similar. While they are steadfastly working on the finer details of becoming a non-profit, connecting with schools, & creating a volunteer community in the TC, one of my main goals in coming to NY was to do some volunteer work at 826—to see it from the inside. Unfortunately summers are a little slow over there, but I am very happy to have had a chance to co-lead this workshop & I am hoping to volunteer at their event, Revenge of the Book Eaters, hosted by Demetri Martin, with music by Feist, Grizzly Bear, & others.

A synopsis: 826 did this workshop last year with kids ages 12 -15. This year we tried it with a younger population—9 to 12-year-olds. The results were fantastic. Stories ranged from a ten-year-old street magician in St. Lucia to a ferret escaping captivity at the hands (claws) of a hawk to a ten-year-old member of the society of secret agents on mission in Antarctica. 826 aims to give one-on-one volunteer-to-student attention in their workshops & that’s what we had for this one. Each of the students recorded their short narratives & ended the final day (yesterday) by picking music to go under each narrative to set its tone (think This American Life). Also on our last day Joan, the Director of Education, offered to make a chapbook (pictured below) for the group. 826 publishes amazing works of youth writing done through their workshops—including a voluminous creation of nine novels by young writers—but can also whip up very professional-looking chapbooks on-site. This was a nice little surprise, I thought—an added bonus. Thanks Joan! Check online in weeks to come to listen to the stories. And a thanks to 826 for letting me partake*!



Look Mom, there's my name!



*I was hoping to blow the staff away & be hired on spot. Sadly, I’m not sure this little fantasy is going to become reality. Every time I send out a resume I feel like it is somewhat disjointed—writing, editing, teaching, leading workshops, research, et cetera. 826 seems the only place in the world where everything I list as my “experience” falls into place & makes sense together. Now I just need them to recognize that.



In other news: Big ups & a huge thank you to Jonas & Molly for the too kind words about the blog. I'll try to keep it interesting; you try to keep reading.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An Article

As I fumble around trying to figure out how to link to pdfs on here, my latest article--to be published in the August/September issue of Twins Magazine (pick one up if yr at a game)--was sent to me as a jpeg, which I can put right in here. So.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Sound Familiar?

The following is taken from George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language," 1946.

(If you're interested in words in general & not just how they relate to politics, I recommend the whole essay, which can be found
Here. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it's very good)


In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer.

________________


A few clicks & scrolls on www.whitehouse.gov showed the following:

The President's proposed standard deduction for health insurance will reform the tax code to make private health insurance more affordable and to level the playing field so those who buy health insurance on their own get the same tax advantage as those who get health insurance through their jobs. For those who remain unable to afford coverage, the President's Affordable Choices Initiative will help eligible States assist their low-income and hard-to-insure citizens in purchasing private health insurance.

President Bush's top priority is the safety and security of the American people. Though America and its allies are safer since 9/11, we are not yet safe. We have important challenges ahead as we wage a long-term battle not just against terrorists, but against the ideology that supports their agenda.

"The men and women of the Coast Guard know how to navigate the storm. We're counting on you to help America weather the challenges that lie ahead. As you begin your Coast Guard careers, you can approach the future with confidence, because our nation has faced dangerous enemies before, and emerged victorious every time. Terrorists can try to kill the innocent, but they cannot kill the desire for liberty that burns in the hearts of millions across the earth. The power of freedom defeated the ideologies of fascism and communism in the last century, and freedom will defeat the hateful ideologies of the terrorists in this century."

President George W. Bush
May 23, 2007

The Federal government will continue to provide assistance and guidance, but the people of the Gulf Coast and their elected leaders must drive the effort to rebuild their lives and their communities.

"The law allows our intelligence and law enforcement officials to continue to share information. It allows them to continue to use tools against terrorists that they used against -- that they use against drug dealers and other criminals. It will improve our nation's security while we safeguard the civil liberties of our people. The legislation strengthens the Justice Department so it can better detect and disrupt terrorist threats. And the bill gives law enforcement new tools to combat threats to our citizens from international terrorists to local drug dealers."

-- President George W. Bush
March 9, 2006

And just for fun:

"The world is seeing the promise and potential of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. I emphasize that word, peaceful use, because one of my predecessors, Dwight David Eisenhower..."
--President George W. Bush




About Me

David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (www.indigestmag.com), an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine (www.guernicamag.com). His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post, mnartists.org, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.

This is how my nephew loves me

This is how my nephew loves me

Search This Blog

Followers