Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" Already Seems a Bit Old

Just briefly, after a week: His musical numbers and thank-you-card schtick were (on "The Late Show") / are (on "Tonight") cute and dumbly audience-friendly. A la Carson. And I HATED Carson. I'm completely of the "Letterman Generation": Weird and cranky. To me, Fallon's schmoozing with Justin Timberlake is the same as Carson's schmoozing with Buddy Rich. That "insider" wink-wink/aren't-we-hip thing was cheesy in Carson's day and it's just as cheesy now that it's been resurrected (not just by Fallon, but by the Entertainment Media as a whole).

Letterman was a talk-show groundbreaker when he debuted in 1982 because he was clearly outside of the "industry club"-- he didn't suck up, his skits were freakish. When I, as an 18-year-old, first saw him on TV, I was astounded and relieved at the anarchy and non-bullshit.

And now, with Fallon, we seem to have come full circle back to the phony-nice-guy/pseudo-hip Carson model, where every guest, however inane, is bowed to simply because of the mere fact of their celebrity. Letterman used to slyly point out such guests' inanity. Fallon, on the other hand, tries to completely disguise it -- the TV equivalent of veneers or boob jobs.

No one wants "mean-and-nasty" as they're drifting off to sleep. But I think that most of us also have an internal "The Emperor Has No Clothes" investigative impulse when it comes to the rich and famous, who almost certainly had to develop utterly false personalities in order to appeal to the powers-that-be who hired them...and to appeal to a mass audience.

Letterman's legacy was/is the tweaking of the façade. Fallon, on the other hand, sinks us right back into the "aren't celebrities great" morass so prevalent on TV prior to Letterman's psychological/intellectual breakthrough in 1982.

love, god, learning

I know that purists have been complaining about this for centuries, but I was just thinking about it again today: Everything truly good and beautiful that exists -- love, god, learning, for instance... There have always been people who GET IT and then others who have always sought to CODIFY it. The codifiers' motives for doing so: (1) They sincerely want to enlighten others. OR (2) They don't get it but want to appear as if they do because they've heard so much about it. OR (3) They either get it or don't get it but, whichever, UNDERSTAND the concept and want to use the knowledge to control others.

"love" has nearly been subsumed by obsession with the ritual of either a church ceremony or a state sanction decreeing legitimacy.

"god" has nearly been subsumed by obsession with church rituals/attendance/social function decreeing legitimacy.

"learning" has nearly been subsumed by obsession with a university degree decreeing legitimacy.

"Nearly," I said. The true things will always exist in the ether, outside of the ridiculous societal constructs.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My People

There's a bit of a difference in your workplaces when a boss at one place advises you, in all sincerity, to "Own it!"; and a boss at the other likes discussing the serial comma and pet-peeve slowpoke tourists on escalators in NYC, London, et al., who don't also WALK while they're on the escalator.

Sometimes you don't realize how shitty of a situation you've been in until you get in a GOOD one with people who LIKE talking to you instead of rolling their eyes at you and/or frowning when you ask a question (any question). If you're in the bad situation, you might tend to pretend that it's not happening because the vibe is so constantly so fucking WEIRD for no apparent reason. You're not doing anything wrong, so WHY all the creepiness??

My last boss at my last 4-month temp job. My mother. Sandra. I find myself in situations where I try to please these people, and I just can't, regardless of what I do. It's psychologically debilitating because I obviously want/need SOMETHING that they have to offer or I wouldn't be hanging around... but aside from the occasional bone, there's nothing of long-term sustenance ever thrown my way.

Being around this constantly has been draining in every way. Reminds me a whole lot of medical studies done with rats and cocaine: After the rats have triggered the cocaine-lever numerous times and learned to go straight to it, the scientists then re-rig the experiment so that the same lever now triggers electric shocks/pain instead of pleasure. It takes the rats a very long time to stop going to the same once-pleasure-giving levers, even after numerous jolts.

Which is sick? The scientist or the rat?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Happiness is... Joan Crawford.

At the Memphis airport, 1964.


Chris Quintero's blog has his photos/video of the University of Texas jogger being arrested yesterday morning for jaywalking by Austin police.

This story is also making national news, from every political angle:

New York Daily News

Daily Caller.

I first learned about the arrest this morning, reading the UT paper. My first reaction was a flashback to my 1995 San Francisco ticket for jaywalking, one of the many reasons that I was no fan of that uptight town. (As in: "Looking both ways before I cross the street was one of the first things my mama taught me. If I don't see any cars coming, I shouldn't have to wait for 'official permission' from the crosswalk-light before being able to walk of my own free will.") Like this hapless jogger, I also didn't have any ID on me, but unlike the jogger, I did see the bike cop and just took the ticket nonshriekingly. (I was about to get my grad degree and move back to Austin in a couple of months anyway, so knew I wouldn't have to bother arguing about it.)

My SF jaywalking ticket helped sour me on the town because I saw it as a ridiculous affront to my personal freedom -- SF had just passed a no-smoking-in-bars ordinance months earlier which I found stupid, and the ticket was yet another example, to me, of utterly needless bureaucracy. At the time, I remember thinking, "Thank god I'm about to go back to Texas, where you can have a damn cigarette in a damn bar and cross the street when you deem it safe!"

Of course, within a couple of years of my return, Austin had also passed a no-bar-smoking ordinance. It apparently took another 2 decades, but Austin has finally caught up with San Francisco on the jaywalking front. Congrats. (Get me out of here!)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Buses can be fun! Buses...

...keep you in touch with 'The Streets' and your geography! Buses let you avoid Road Rage and enjoy reading while someone else drives..."

Unless you're on the bus for almost 2-1/2 hours a day! Mornings have been fine; a special company bus picks us up, and there are only about 10 of us on there, and there are NO stops until we get to the company. Afternoons, though: The company bus schedule is schewed for me, so I've been taking a regular city bus home... complete with all of the writhing masses of humanity. Such WMH are fine for about 15-20 minutes. Decidedly NOT FINE for over an hour, being wedged in among screeching idiots. Aside from the screechers, other pet peeves:

(1) Have your fucking bus pass (or dollar) READY when you get on the bus! Yes, if you've just run for the bus and get on huffing and puffing, I understand that you then have to search through your belongings to fish the pass out. But if you've already been standing there watching the bus approach? (I SEE you!) Get yer goddamn pass out ahead of time so you can swipe in a timely fashion!

(2) Get on in the front, get OFF IN THE BACK, ya fuckin' idiots! Do those of you unnecessarily getting off via the front door not understand that there are people necessarily getting ON at the front door? Do ya think you could avoid a logjam by exiting where you're supposed to?

(3) If the bus is crowded, then GET YER BACKPACK OFF THE SEAT NEXT TO THE WINDOW AND SCOOT YOUR ASS OVER! Jesus H. Christ. People need to sit down where your stupid backpack is.

(4) If there's not an aisle seat readily available to you, then, for fuck's sake: ASK someone with their stupid backpack in a seat if you can sit there. Just DON'T instead decide that it's a GREAT idea to stand right in front of the Exit door for miles -- where every single person leaving the bus has to squeeze past you!

(5) If the bus, because of backed-up traffic, has to stop 20 feet or so from the "official stop," then... do everybody a favor and WALK THE DAMN 20 FEET AND GET ON THE BUS! Why do you stand there like an idiot and wait for the light to change so the bus can pull up right to you, thus making everybody have to sit through yet ANOTHER light??

Why do I even have to mention these things??

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I never meant any harm to you

When Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" came out in '77, I, as a 12-year-old, mocked it and all of its accompanying album-rock-station hype: Hippie stuff I'm not interested in! Since then, though... you guessed it: What a great tragic, hopeful album about love and life! Here's my favorite sequence.

Accidental Sunset

Sunset disgruntlement, unable to find the right bus-stop. (All my stops where I once switched since closed, or so they said.) Wandered around downtown for over an hour, block to block, following instructions from outdated signs. Turned out that where I initially got off was where I should have been to begin with.

An accidental sunset: The buzz of the bars -- their names, the kids' names, all changed -- the same stonework and still, for a second, as sweet and hope-filled, like me with someone to meet.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Heaven (well, non-Purgatory) is...

...coming into work in jeans, going into a room by myself, and EDITING! Three different spellings of a professor's name -- caught 'em! Different capitalization/alignment of headlines -- caught 'em! Needing semicolons in a series instead of commas -- caught 'em! I could do this all day, and I will be through May! Whew!

Aside from sporadic freelance work, it's been nearly a year since I've been doing daily for a living what I'm very good at. Among relaxed, non-phony people in a relaxed, non-phony environment. And where what I'm doing matters, since the texts will be appearing in public and contain actual intellectual information that needs to be CORRECT. (As opposed to, say, typing up smarmy letters to donors or reconfiguring boilerplate reasons for granting already-millionaires hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to be "advisers" or fetching coffee for the grinning, sycophantic visitors of bosses who'd gotten where they were by sucking up to the powers that be throughout their careers. Ugh.)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"Back Seat of My Car" (Paul McCartney)

As a former repressed teen, I find this song -- and the accompanying swarthy picture of Paul -- so sexy.

Enough, already.

Michael Dunn writing from prison after murdering Jordan Davis for playing his music too loud in a convenience store parking lot: "This may sound a bit radical, but if more people would arm themselves and kill these fucking idiots when they’re threatening you, eventually they may take the hint and change their behavior.”

Wow. I KIND OF agree with him. I don't agree with the KILLING part, but I do completely agree with the part that asks for SOMETHING to be done about changing such idiots' public behavior. I've been around such behavior (usually, in my case, on public buses) enough to know that it's extremely disturbing and threatening. 99% of the time, I've just sat there and kept quiet... all the while wishing fervently that someone, anyone, would come along and shut the bullies up. I've been on an Austin bus where young black guys were on the back talking extremely loudly and graphically about what sex acts they'd forced a woman to do that weekend; and just today on my bus, two young black women were in the back talking extremely loudly about a white woman that they'd, the night before, "knocked out" outside a club because she hadn't answered a query about directions to another club correctly.

Did I feel "threatened" by listening to either the young black guys' or the young black womens' conversations? Yes, I did. They all were extremely loud, aggressive, and talking about knocking women around (in the womens' case, about "knocking out" a white woman because, basically, she'd looked at them funny).

When people are bellowing like this in public, what are the rest of us supposed to do? For the most part, we sit there and take it. But "sitting there and taking it" gets old after a while. Something inside of you very much does want to shut these idiots up and teach them how to act in public (i.e., don't publicly yell about fucking, don't publicly brag about beating people up, don't publicly blast your music). The majority of us keep politely quiet in the face of such creepy rudeness. But every now and then, some of us snap.

The Michael Dunn verdict was announced today with, mostly, the usual PC takes on it: "OMG, no First Degree charge!" (Despite the fact that Dunn has been found guilty of 3 counts of Attempted Murder.)

Was Michael Dunn right in shooting into a car playing loud music and killing Jordan Davis? No, of course not. But...there IS something to be said for somebody doing something to get some people to "take the hint" and change their public behavior.

If said people themselves can't "self-edit," then maybe it DOES take an aggressive, psychotic outlier to correct them, for the benefit of the rest of us cowards who are content to inwardly stew, merely wishing for something to be done.

Beware of Darkness (George Harrison)

Watch out now, take care
Beware of falling swingers
Dropping all around you
The pain that often mingles
In your fingertips, beware of darkness

Watch out now, take care
Beware of the thoughts that linger
Winding up inside your head
The hopelessness around you
In the dead of night

Beware of sadness
It can hit you, it can hurt you
Make you sore and what is more
That is not what you are here for

Watch out now, take care
Beware of soft shoe shufflers
Dancing down the sidewalks
As each unconscious sufferer
Wanders aimlessly, beware of Maya

Watch out now, take care
Beware of greedy leaders
They take you where you should not go
While weeping Atlas cedars
They just want to grow, grow and grow
Beware of darkness

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Joan Crawford shot by Ruth Harriet Louise, 1928. Crawford as "Valentine Winters" with Pauline Frederick in "This Modern Age," 1931.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Any Road - George Harrison

For I've been traveling on a boat and a plane
In a car on a bike with a bus on a train
Traveling there, traveling here
Everywhere in every gear

But, oh Lord, we pay the price
With the spin of the wheel with the roll of the dice
Ah yeah, you pay your fare
And if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there

And I've been traveling through the dirt and the grime
From the past to the future through the space and the time
Traveling deep beneath the waves
In watery grottoes and mountainous caves

But, oh Lord, we've got to fight
With the thoughts in the head with the dark and the light
No use to stop and stare
And if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there

You may not know where you came from
May not know who you are
May not have even wondered
How you got this far

I've been traveling on a wing and a prayer
By the skin of my teeth, by the breadth of a hair
Traveling where the four winds blow
With the sun on my face, in the ice and the snow

But, ooh wee, it's a game
Sometimes you're cool, sometimes you're lame
Ah yeah, it's somewhere
If you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there

But, oh Lord, we pay the price
With the spin of the wheel with the roll of the dice
Ah yeah, you pay your fare
If you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there

I keep traveling around the bend
There was no beginning, there is no end
It wasn't born and never dies
There are no edges, there is no sides

Oh yeah, you just don't win
It's so far out, the way out is in
Bow to God and call him Sir
But if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there

And if you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there
If you don't know where you're going
Any road will take you there

It's a very, very small world.

Regular readers here (all two of you!) might remember me mentioning someone I've kept seeing on my bus for the past couple of years -- "the Plath Girl," I've called her. Because of the resemblance, but also because she has an air about her: poetic and well-put-together (cloche hats and '30s shoes -- a la Judy Davis in "Passage to India"), but also a bit high strung (my opinion based only on seeing her sit primly on the bus reading, until meeting up with janitors that she runs into -- upon which she goes into hyper "Hi-how-are-ya!" gal-of-the-people mode). I've always found her attractive and interesting-looking...but also a bit annoyingly "precious."

Well, here's a little something I learned today... She's been over to my mother's house!!! (WHAT the fuck!)

For the past 5 months, my mother's been talking about a museum exhibit that she's contributed her father's World War I mementos to and has been meeting with museum staff about. Just days ago, I learned an exact date for the opening, which I duly marked on my calendar. Since I'm out and about town every day, Mom asked me to pick up papers that had an article quoting her about the exhibit. Which I did. And the photo accompanying the info was of "Plath Girl," who just happened to be the curator of the whole exhibit! And who I just found out has been meeting with my mother a couple of times over the past months, including coming over to her house to pick through items for the show!

Fuck! I initially thought the exhibit opening would be "interesting" for historical/familial purposes, and fun 'cause I'd get to hang out with the nephews. But now I've got to get a hairdresser's appointment squeezed in before then and actually GET DRESSED for the event! I'm about to officially meet "The Plath Girl" whom I've been looking at for years now! ;p And who, as it turns out, aside from being a museum curator, also has a PhD in literature--poetry! She wasn't just a coolly-dressed office-lady taking my bus to work!

(Mom reports that she's single and owns her own expensive car and house in my neighborhood. Woooo! :) The woman is probably straight. But what's interesting to me is the idea of being interested in someone who's actually an ACCOMPLISHED PERSON. Wow. Since 2000, I've been primarily fascinated by, first, an aging Norwegian transsexual living at home with her parents; and next, an aging Houstonian socialite kept all her life by a variety of men and unable to function when suddenly left to her own financial devices. It's been mentally stressful FOR ME trying to be understanding of these two! Being attracted to a SELF-SUFFICIENT person on my level (or in this case, above)... what a liberating, RELAXING concept! (I may be a failure as a secretary or as a helpmeet to former mental patients, but...I'm not a loser in all circles.)

February 11, 2007

On this day, 7 years ago, I flew off to New York City. To be picked up at the airport (can't remember which of the two now) by a roommate-to-be that I'd sought out on craigslist; she described herself as gay, a Barnard grad, with lots of books and "3 cats."

I'd sold my car weeks earlier. My brother was out of town when I left, so he'd lent me his car the day before, which I piled up with a last few things and my cat Gracie (whom I had to traumatically chase through the house to get her loaded into her carrier) and then drove to his nearby empty house, delivering my last belongings to his front porch, then awaiting the cab that I'd called to meet me there. It was a drizzly, upper-50s day. I had a huge hangover (unwilling to get off the computer the night before and get a good night's sleep); I attributed the low-key fear and melancholy to that.

Airport staff in Austin had to search the cat carrier. Gracie briefly escaped, caught by a gentle airport employee.

My craigslist roomie was at the airport to greet me, as promised, to my huge relief. Looking, also as she promised, like a "cross between Spanky McFarland and Linda Hunt." The room, in an apartment off of Riverside Drive, was large and worn, books lining one wall, with a gorgeous view of the Hudson, which, to my amazement, had huge ice chunks floating in it. The comforter that I slept under on my first night in New York City reeked of cat piss. (There were at least 7 other cats in the apartment -- poor Gracie.)

Saturday, February 08, 2014

"London Town"

Have been listening to Paul McCartney's 1978 album "London Town" over and over for the past 4-or-so hours. Such a great flow, I don't want to let go of.

The more I listen to Paul's '70s work, the more I get pissed off at John for dissing it. John was my early favorite, and his solo work was my early favorite. When I was 15-25. Now that I'm grown, I see how neurotic John was, how needy, and how self-centered his post-Beatles songs, sans an equal partner to work off of. I LIKE his songs, and I admire his honesty. But, honestly, everything he did post-Beatles was nothing but therapy.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

You know you're officially Middle-Aged when... start to get irritated at all the "Snow Days" that your town has been announcing lately! In the past 2 weeks, my workplace has been completely shut down twice and partially shut down (i.e., opening at noon) twice, including tomorrow. When you're young, you're excited by the unusualness, the "getting to officially play hooky." When you're middle-aged (and a temp worker), you only (after the first time) get irritated at the lost income and the disruption of your schedule! :)

All of this bad Austin weather of late reminds me: When I lived in NY for 3 years (ages 42-45 in 2007-2010), the weather was a lot worse for a lot longer... and I loved it! My coats were plenty warm enough and I walked around outside completely exhilarated by the 30-degree-and-below cold, even when it went on for 3 or more months. I still have the exact same coats, which I've been wearing during Austin's recent cold snap, but... now I'm shivering in them! And this year I'm cranky at the cold, not at all "exhilarated." I'm guessing that it really is an aging, physiological thing -- my body's just not happy with the extreme temperatures. (I used to roll my eyes at "Snowbirds," the rich old people who lived up north but went to Florida for the winter. "What wusses!" I thought. But now I'm starting to understand that perhaps oldsters have a real physical/physiological reason for wanting to winter elsewhere! GREAT: Losing physical pleasure but gaining understanding.)

Wednesday, February 05, 2014


A poem I wrote on January 26, 1986 -- over a quarter of a century ago! -- for a girl in my Wevill poetry class (I save these things):

Poem for a Water Sign

There is something left unsaid: for wounding eyes
a cut of silence bled for washing clean.
In frequent deep, voices unwed; lone
divers careless in this wet sky,
a stroke above the clouds that part their waves to meet God.

She swims to this sign: a glass-winged girl
heaven-sent, stirring sluggish soil
and flooding deaf horizons with the brook's gurgle,
a babble academy loosing its flow,
dismissing what may shatter stone.

There is no fear of drowning, no caution at the water's edge.
All is safe, she will say, in sinking to the sea below.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967 - 2014)

I first noticed Hoffman in 1997's "Boogie Nights." Any time any artist makes you sit up and think/cringe, "Dear god, I've been EXACTLY like that"... you remember. He went on to more mainstream movies and greater acclaim, but I will always remember his utterly emotionally naked "Scotty." Nothing he did after that ever moved me as much; but after "Boogie Nights," I always paid attention whenever I saw that he was in a cast.


Have a temp assignment for "3-4 weeks." Filing and pasting labels on files. No fucking bullshit. Lunch whenever I want to take it. No answering phones and greeting people. Jeans allowed. Suggested to me that I bring an iPod to work! Thank GOD! What a perfect brief decompression from the stress of forced idiot grinning at bullshit for the past 3 months! (Best of all, my freelance contract is extended through the end of March; so while I'm not making very much at my day job, I'm nonetheless having pleasant days and then coming home and earning some money in the evening.)

p.s. Note to Self: I gotta get outta Austin. I don't care about "karma" and "30 years" and "being grateful." This ain't my town. But IS there anywhere in America where you can walk a few blocks and sit in a café/bar all day and/or night and drink and write? In San Francisco in the mid-90s, I worked on my poetry thesis for hundreds of hours in a bar on Clement Street. In Austin in the mid-80s, I sat in the Cactus Café on campus for hundreds of hours drinking and smoking and working on poetry. In Austin in the early 2000s, I wrote almost a whole screenplay in a bar (Gaby & Mo's) 2 blocks from my house on Monday nights, going in to listen to their poetry nights and staying 'til closing time. There's no such vibe anywhere around me right now.

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Ultimate 1970 Beatles Album

Would've come out the year after they broke up had they not broken up. Called, in lieu of the too-pretentious "The Art of Dying" -- "Another Day." Culled from the solo albums/songs released in 1970 (plus some, like "Another Day" and "Back Seat of My Car" that were first introduced during the "Let It Be" sessions in '69 that got rejected and were released solo later). Spent hours this weekend coming up with this as a Playlist for my iPod, inspired by hearing George's 1970 "All Things Must Pass" album for the first time (while already being extremely familiar with John and Paul's 1970 solo albums -- George's philosophical voice seemed to tie together what John and Paul were going through).

This album, as it turned out, is either about a boy whose mother has just died, or about a boy who's just murdered his mother and run off with his teenaged girlfriend, or about a boy whose mother has just run off with a lover and left him alone. Extremely John-issue-based, as it turned out (though I initially just picked out my favorite 1970 songs before ordering them). My favorite segue being from John's "My Mummy's Dead" to Paul's "Teddy Boy" -- Paul's kind of jokey-evil being what John needed to keep him from being maudlin, and a curb that he never got post break-up. (Indulgent wives are nice, but not good for art.)

Song list:

Another Day -- Paul
It Don't Come Easy -- Ringo
The Art of Dying -- George
Working Class Hero -- John
My Mummy's Dead -- John
Teddy Boy -- Paul
Maybe I'm Amazed -- Paul
Behind That Locked Door -- George
Beaucoups of Blues [fadeout track] -- Ringo

Junk -- Paul
The Back Seat of My Car -- Paul
Isolation -- John
Beware of Darkness -- George
God -- John
Ballad of Sir Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) -- George
Early 1970 -- Ringo

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A SuperBowl Party of One

And I didn't even open the stuff. Though I had it there. 'Cause nothing says "The Hopeful Idea of a SuperBowl Party" like RoTel and Velveeta sitting out on your counter.