Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two word dialogues in the future

I watched the movie "Wall-E" this past weekend. For most of the movie two words are repeated "Eeeeeeva" and "Wall-eeeee" apparently with gestures, posture, and changes in "facial expression" by which I mean the shape and position of the "eyes" (with robots) volumes and volumes can be expressed and communicated.

It turns out that CK is right - language is one part of the process of communication. But it's not everything.

It's a delightful movie. There were moments where the cynic in me would start tapping on my shoulder and pointing at the screen but then the movie would shift and all was good again.

How strange to have a digitally animated robot remind me that love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb. To love is to pay attention, to support, to sustain, to listen, to understand, to protect. Love is devotion. Yeah, and all that jazz. But there is it.

And if ever you are attacked by robots, play them the soundtrack from "Hello Dolly." They seem to like that pretty well.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

hoppity hop hop games

JY and I walked by parents chalking out a hopscotch pattern on the sidewalk on the way to brunch. It didn't look right. Mind you, I haven't played hopscotch in so long and I don't remember the rules.

I commented on this feeling of not-rightness to JY and he replied that perhaps I was being too rigid and unyielding about how the game was played. Maybe he has a point, it's fine to set whatever rules you want for hopping games on the sidewalk. Hrumph. Nonetheless, whatever that game might be, it wasn't hopscotch. Must be the curmudgeon in my shining through on a fine Memorial Day weekend. "Get off my lawn!"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The smell of crushed grass

I rarely check listing for bands coming to town anymore.

When I do, my heart races , my stomach tightens up, I get jittery and I need to go to the show. I need to be there and feel the music. I in fact need to see a bunch of shows that are happening concurrently and before even knowing whether I can afford tickets, whether or not the show is sold out, whether I have prior commitments, I am already tearing my heart to bits and trying to figure out if I can can see any or all of them or even just a little snippet here and there. I make a freak of myself though I generally try to keep it to myself. Contain the histrionics in a calm work place friendly exterior.

But Wednesday, despite my resolve to ignore the Oh My Rockness email, I opened it. And now I know what I am missing this weekend and my heart hurts. The pangs of my live music addiction. Peaches. I am missing Peaches. Gah! And Goes Cube and the Pop Music Festival.

I did go see a show on Thursday with JY. Curtis Eller, an amazing banjo singing, showman. Wireless set up on the banjo makes for antics of the best sort. Also on the bill were Robin Aigner one woman old school folkie and Thinguma Jigsaw a duo from Norway who describe their music as "Splatter Folk" or "Snuff Pop." Picture Neil Young's vocals paired with some driving banjo, accompanied by flute, the saw or melodica. They claim that their influences are folk music and art/cult/horror films. At one point in their set they proposed a toast: "To Doom and Emptiness" which is now my new favorite toast ever.

It was enjoyable but it was not my show. Not my idea. So on Friday, I checked the Oh My Rockness listings and took the M train out to Bushwick.

Dan Deacon was playing a show with his ensemble in what looked to be an abandoned urban lot right next to the overhead subway. The trains ran by with regularity and the subways conductors honked their horns an waved to us when they passed by. As it got dark the light from the train created a periodic shift of mood shedding a fluorescent glow on us all.

It was a ToddP show, I've heard of ToddP but have not until now witnessed his work. They built a stage that day and brought tons and tons of speakers. Which they were wiring and setting up all over. They put up a big white sheet at the back of the stage and a guy with a really high ladder attached a projector to a really big pole to project images onto the sheet.

The space was fenced in with rocks everywhere and weeds and dirt. It was utterly random. The show was supposed to start at 6pm. I got out of the office late around 6:30 and while I thought I'd miss most of the show decided that I might as well head out and see what was up. They were not ready yet when I got there around 7:18 so I got to loiter around, read a little and people watch. So much beautiful youth. I had to wonder where all of these people come from and what do they do for a living. If anything. Many of them were clearly kids. It was an all ages show. Haven't been to one of those in I can't say how long. And of course in my workplace appropriate attire I stuck out like a sore thumb. But for me the alienation is a part of being out and about in NYC experience, like parley with a Diner plate.

A couple of kids from the neighborhood got up on stage and asking for donations to help their basketball team and a bunch of us came up to the stage and handed them crumpled dollar bills. It felt strangely and uncharacteristically community-like.

Eventually the first band started: Teeth Mountain. There were about seven or eight people on stage. Two drummer, two laptops, one with a keyboard, a guy playing random noodley things, a violinist with many pedals and noodley things, and a guy playing the saxophone. It was noise and cacophony with a strong tribal drumbeat. Who does not love toms? I ask you.

Up next was: Future Island. A bass player, a guy with keyboard and laptop, and one really intense hardworking singer. One might dismiss them as a catchy harmless electro-pop band were it on for the sweating, emoting, screaming, growling, massive expression of artistic commitment and humanity that was their front man.

And then Dan Deacon and his ensemble, the bazillion people in decorated white jumpsuits bearing and playing instruments. Dan Deacon had an arm in a sling but this did not stop him from holding court and running the biggest romper room / mickey mouse extravaganza this side of the Rio Grande. The music was manic and zany and catchy. Almost impossible to dance yet irresistable. And then there were the group activities. To get us in the right frame of mind he had us raise and arm to the sky, shout a greeting and give thanks to the neighborhood for allow us to have an outdoor show. He made us sing one note. Over and over conducted by him as his instrument. He had games and dances with rules for the whole group to participate in. He created these all inclusive dance game phenomena during the show. In one that was particularly cute, two people would stand facing each other with their arms stretched out and up towards each other. Two new people would walk under the bridge of their arms and stop at the other side, facing each other with their arms stretched out and up towards each other. As more and more people joined, it became this human tunnel of people dancing and waving their arms that grew and grew, snaking through the open space. It was quite lovely. And with all of these games people started to smile at themselves, at each other, at perfect strangers.

This broke up the whole mosh pit crowd surfing cycle from time to time. I stepped into the pit for a bit. Which was, as always, psychically cleansing. A stomping, sweaty, churning mass steeped in the smell of the unwashed and crushed grass and weeds underfoot. Good times and peril. People were dropped while trying to crowd surf. People were kicked in the head by crowd surfers. People tripped and fell on themselves or the rocks that were everywhere or backpacks and bottles strewn on the ground. Dan Deacon repeatedly cautioned everyone to be careful and even asked people to refrain from crowd surfing during the last song. Which surprisingly, they did.

Sometimes fueled by booze and weed and adrenaline and fast manic music, things get a little out of hand. Crowds can take on a life of their own and the experience of the sum vs. the parts something else entirely. On the train ride home, I noticed a blood stain on the sleeve of my trench coat. It was dark and in the crush of humanity, I cannot know who that was or how serious his or her injury was. I can only hope that they are okay, they don't need stitches, and that they have had a recent tetanus shot.

At the close of the night Dan Deacon has us again raise our arms into the sky and thank the neighborhood again. We invited them to visit our homes and eat as much of our roommates' food as they wanted. ToddP added a request to clean up after ourselves, to not take beer out past the fence, and to refrain from being assholes while out on the streets of Bushwick.

And then I caught the train home and fell dead asleep. I woke up today feeling more human than I have in a while.

Love and Lettuce

Love is grand but to nurture and sustain it takes effort, and patience, and persistence. So it is in "The $64 Tomato," a gardener's memoir by William Alexander. William, the director of technology, and his wife Anne,a medical doctor moved their family to the Big Brown House the Hudson Valley and built the garden of their dreams. A 2,000 square foot garden - flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit, fruit trees, the works.

And here begin the often humorous trials of William. To grow a garden is not merely a matter of pushing seeds into the ground and waiting for plants to shoot up and offer up their bounty. There is A LOT more to it. The weather, the water, getting pollinators, the weeds, the worms, the japanese beetles, the squirrels, the deer, groundhogs, fungus, the planting, the planning, the fertilizing, the watering, the contractors, and so on, including even the challenge of going from not enough to too much plenty. He recounts his progression from idealistic organic gentleman farmer to food growing realist defending his crop in many cases in the end almost by any means necessary. And the way the garden becomes
"an inseparable part of me, a third partner in our marriage ...we'd been arranging vacations around harvests, I'd been spending virtually all my leisure time between May and October tending it, and more than once it had own marital discord."

The book is about a labor of love. The story of a man's obsession and passion for cultivation. And perhaps a passion like this is unsustainable. It wears on the heart and the body.

The book closes in his tenth year of gardening. He has come from the doctor who has told him that he has neck injury, a herniated disk in his spine and advises against heavy lifting. Which is a tall order for someone whose hobby is the bulk of the heavy labor involved in the cultivation of 2,000 square feet.

Injury aside, he admits that he has felt increasing dissatisfaction with his garden. And he begins to question the pursuit altogether:

"In short, I am the Existentialist in the Garden. Camus in the chamomile. Sartre in the salad. How on earth did I get here, and how do I get out? Do I want to get out? If this garden is my war, then the golf course is surely Armageddon. What I've been doing is rewarding, nourishing, and reflective of a philosophical belief in self-sustenance and healthy,m fresh food - but how do I make it fun again? This is, after all, supposed to be a hobby, not a burden. I think about the burden of canning peaches: my lesson in how quickly novelty becomes ritual becomes chore.

The great, terrifying existentialist question: If you were doomed to live the same life over and over again for eternity, would you choose the life you are living now? The question is interesting enough, but I've always thought the point of asking it is really the unspoken, potentially devastating follow-up question. That is, if the answer is no, then why are you living the life you are living now? Stop making excuses, and do something about it."

The latter part of this quote is a part of my own struggle too, only without the groundhogs and the pounds and pounds of horse manure.

He does a calculation of the cost associated with each of his heirloom tomatoes coming to the amount which is the title of the book. And he cannot help but ask himself and his wife the
"... unspoken question troubling me, one that spanned months, years, ages. A question I both had to ask and was afraid to ask.

'Was it worth it?'

"Anne deliberately closed the journal, placed both hands on the cover, and looked up at me.

And smiled."

He does it for the food, for the empowerment, For the rituals of the growing and harvest season that he and his family has developed over the years,
to repeatedly witness "the cycle of birth and resurrection in the garden."

He does it because "Gardening is, by it's very nature, an expression of the triumph of optimism over experience. No matter how bad this year was, there's always next year," and because on most days, despite the trials and tribulations, he loves to garden:
" A common bumper sticker reads 'A bad day fishing beats a good day at work.' Yes, I've had some rocky times, but I suppose on most days, when the weeds are somewhat under control, the groundhogs tamed, and my neck isn't throbbing, I feel the same way about gardening."

"Things I remember: Witnessing childbirth. Finding myself standing absolutely alone before Da Vinci's Last Supper. And planting potatoes on a perfect spring morning."

Sometimes our love consumes us and wears us down to the point where we get lost, mired in the endless details and demands of its care and pursuit and upkeep. Sometimes it's the endless demands and details of life in addition. And you need to resurface and find the reminder that you do in fact love, why you love, what you love and how that feels.

The book closes with William pondering his garden. We do not know where he goes from here. We leave him taking a tomato in from his garden for lunch.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mixing to Infinity

I watched "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist" this weekend. It has lovely moments.
The scene where Nick and Nora are dancing together. So lovely.

First Favorite quote: "She falls apart and I put her back together again." This is in reference to Nick's Yugo.

Second Favorite quote: "Look, other bands wanna make it about sex or pain, but the Beatles, they had it all figured out. 'I want to hold your hand.' It's the first single. Brilliant, right? Because that's what people want, Nicky. They don't want a 24-hour hump sesh, or marry you for 100 years. They just wanna hold your hand." Hand holding. *sigh* Holding the right hand is dreamy.

If I were a teenager, I don't know if I would have a crush on Michael Cera. But somehow when I see him in a movie, I am completely won over. I have a curious admiration for his precociousness and his awkward struggle to be decent and to have integrity. His characters generally fare much better than I did at that age. He seems to have an awareness that whatever indignities he suffers in the moment, there is life after high school. And I get the sense that he is on the way to becoming a really stellar dude.

Here I have to pause and ponder whether is evidence that I am a cougar. *covers forehead with palm of hand*

I actually walked by the filming of one of the scenes in the movie. There were some folks and lights on the street crowded around this block by the Waverly Restaurant. TBW, the South, and I and the work crew walked by on our way from the Fat Cat to Mamoun's. At the time I had no idea but in watching the film I recognized it. The scene where Nora parks Nick's car.

When I moved here I was going to a lot of shows. Being a moron, I missed going to CBGB's before they closed. From that moment I set a goal to see a show at as many venues as I could in the city. I have not gotten very far on that one: Irving Plaza, the Mercury Lounge, the Knitting Factory, the Cake Shop, Arlene's Grocery, Terminal 5, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, Trash Bar, the Rockwood Music Hall, the Living Room, Union Hall, the Galapagos Art Space, Pianos, Sin-e, the Bitter End, the Highline Ballroom, ABC No Rio, Webster Hall - these are the ones that I can recall.

Tip of the iceberg and I am still missing some really great ones. As a formerly rabid show-goer, I had some serious venue envy watching the movie. They hit some places that I have not yet seen.

Fortunately, I think there is still time.

Taste and Pairings

The world is divided in its perception of the taste of cilantro. To some, it is green, pleasant, and delicious. To others, it is like eating a bar of soap. I fall into the latter category.

A sprig of cilantro nestled in a bouquet of parsley is enough for me to consider tossing out the whole bunch. I pick it out of everything. When I order bun and I forget to ask them to hold the cilantro, I get a second plate on which to put all the cilantro that I pick out.

However this weekend I had a revelation. I went to Hanco's for a Vietnamese sandwich. I ordered the grilled chicken sandwich, spicy, and for once in my life, the cilantro was working for me.

The bread was crusty, the pickled carrots were the right kind of sweet, the chicken was perfectly tender, the spicy was impressively spicy indeed, and as an accompaniment, the cilantro was as it has been so frequently described to me: green, pleasant, and delicious. I was shocked. To the extent where I took a deep sip of my drink and chewed on a sprig without the spicy. It was soapy as ever.

So now, if I get into a situation in which all the food in the world is slathered in cilantro and no one will give me a second plate, I know what to do. Reach for a giant bottle of chili sauce.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

When it's not Venn

Discovered via Rands, the following links are to things that are not proper Venn Diagrams. These diagrams are so so so wrong. This, however, does not change the fact that they are frickin' hilarious. In some cases even, slightly devastating.

And while you are perfectly capable of checking out the whole set for yourself on Flickr, I am still compelled to throw up urls for the ones that I like.

Venn Project #2

Venn Project #4

Venn Project #8

Venn Project #9

Wenn Project #11

Venn Project #17

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bases covered

One laptop dead. I think she's dead. I will take her to the doctor in case there is any more for resurrection.

The other, up until today, had a hamster wheel for a CPU and ran not quite as fast as an abacus. However, on the advice of the MO, I bought RAM and installed it myself. (yay me) Now it runs like hamsters on speed.

It seemed silly that I had two laptops. And now it seems like a stroke of genius.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

The whine, the wine

A sign of hard times: I have been bringing cheaper and cheaper wines over to CK's place.

Of late we have sampled:
Chateau Diana: "soda pop with alcohol in it"
Two Oceans: "the swill that tastes like the sea"
GatoNegro: "The black cat on the label is very cute"
Frontera - "Wince-worthy"

Today I brought a very large bottle of Folonari which is chilling in the freezer as yet unopened. The anticipation is killing me. I would have bought a box wine but I have yet to find a reputable vendor in the city who carries them. Oh Franzia, what is my life without you?

My liver is about to secede. Perhaps this is a false economy and CK and I would be better served attempting to ferment and distill our own booze in her bathtub.