The influence of gaslight or electric light on the growth of paraheliotropic trees

bonebrushing the edges of the res interna (upper transcend)

Month: March, 2010

The Actor Relents

I have been an actor, wearing many faces. Perhaps there was always something plastic about my face — or perhaps the plastic was deeper, closer —

Regardless — I could always play the ape — suit the part to the scene —

And so I’ve gone from role to role, from good review to bad, always bowing, comfortable in masks, tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight —

Still, even an actor relents — it may take years, or decades, or a life, but looking back, I remove my mask, and find another behind it, and another behind that one, and finally, a face, unlined, unwrinkled, but strangely blank — and I wonder —

The wind is cold against my naked face. I reach instinctively for a mask —


Biomusicology, Ted Leo

Ted Leo, 2001

Had we never come across the vastness of pavement
The barrenness of waves and the grayness of the sea
Never lost or ne’er been misguided
We’d have ne’er reached seas so shining

Or come from out of a hansom in Camden
To a bar in the basement
While all the while it rained
Or come around to the friendliest of faces
Handsomest in ugly places

Or come from out of the tunnels we dig in
To see that tunneling’s not living
And working doesn’t work
Or come to find that loving is labor
Labor’s life and life’s forever

Or come to see that keeping’s not giving
You get what you’ve given
You get what you deserve
And in the midst of all of the action
Maybe only there found satisfaction

Chasing sea-foam dreams
Around another dirty old town
Parallel run streams
Toward the gray ocean from the green ground
‘Oed und leer, das meer1
But look beneath the glassy surface
All the songs you hear
Down there they have a purpose

All in all we cannot stop singing
we cannot start sinking
We swim until it ends
They may kill and we may be parted
But we will ne’er be broken hearted

1. See, The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot, ln. 42. See, also, Songs in T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland, available at

Life Assignment, March 27, 2010: Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

1. Biomusicology, the Tyranny of Distance, 2001

2. The Sons of Cain, Living with the Living, 2007

  • “The Sons of Cain” is one of the better examples of his skill here: Its driving cowpunk finds flashes of Chuck Berry in Leo’s licks, handclaps, and a sharp piano run tucked neatly in the mix, plus some ecstatic, throat-shredding whooping at the climax.”

3. Who Do You Love, Living with the Living, 2007

  • “Joe Strummer would appreciate the riffs on “Who Do You Love?”, which climaxes in a stirring outro straight out of “Safe European Home” and indulges Leo’s own mannerisms to great effect.” Id.
  • “And so goes the most of our freedom of speech: We live for the city, we work for the beach
    And when the weekend seems to be just out of reach / Just make the most of what you’re paid, dear
    Your love’s a ghost, and that’s why we’re delayed here”

4. The Mighty Sparrow, The Brutalist Bricks, 2010

    The Life of A Man

    It is not so hard to understand how little we’ve advanced when we consider that the great upheavals of the 20th century all took place within the single lifespan of a man. And that only twenty men, laid end to end, separate us from Jesus. Fifty men to ancient Egypt. A thousand men, to ancient prehistory.

    Movie Review: Greenberg

    Greenberg sits to pen a letter to American Airlines, and suddenly I remember reading something about this book somewhere that told its story like that. Hmm. Curious. You know, I went to this movie thinking I was Greenberg — I don’t think I am — Greenberg’s a huge asshole, I’m usually not one, I tend to ignore people a little, I guess, self-defeating, lingering on the past, uncomfortable about getting mixed up into other people’s shit — do I hate people, though? Not really — I actually think I’m somewhat sympathetic of other people’s shit — GS’s shit, and MB’s shit, and ZR’s shit, absolutely, and the girls in my life’s shit — and I hate the shitty things I do —

    Trying to do nothing. But so anxious about all that.

    The heartbreakingly hilarious attempt to get back together with the woman who he left fifteen years earlier.

    (The fear I have that fifteen years will go by and all my friends will grow up and have lives and I won’t.)

    The uber-cliche “let’s talk to kids” at the party. Other great scenes: hilariously awkward oral sex scene. He’s terrible with women, but moreso, terrible to women. A self-involved asshole prick. Walking disappointment. Not to fragile for the world just — too big an asshole.

    Still — hurt people hurt people. He is crazy and sad. But he takes care of the dog.

    “My dog is sick.”

    The Great Escape — running away to Australia with two twenty year old girls — “did you start an affair with Florence?”

    Oh — and Florence, Florence — let me in, Florence. People to People to People. Lost. But Young.

    The very interesting twist where the Obligatory Scene was actually between Greenberg and Ivan.

    A strong movie. Redemption at the end? A little.

    What was Noah Baumbach’s Dad like? I know what my Dad is like — a great guy. Why doesn’t he offer me advice? Tzimtzum maybe. He can’t do it for me.

    I have to grow up, and be a man. And soon. Now. Do it now.

    Procrastinating, seeing Greenberg instead of doing homework. Uh.

    I’m almost done school. I feel this great inevitable sucking feeling, like time is now moving with such great inevitablity that I can only be pulled along by the torrent. It is frightening. My vacation from life is about to end. And hard.

    (Why do I fear living? Stop, I want to say, Stop, it’s moving too fast. Let me out. Let me out and let me stay with someone.),39406/,39337/

    Avatar, Technology, and Reconciliation

    Daniel Mendelsohn questions what he sees as an inconsistency in Cameron’s work: stories that are ostensibly about triumphing over technology, but in the end celebrate that technology. He quotes Linda Hamilton (who played Sarah Connor) as saying: “Cameron is almost certainly on the side of the machines.” And of course the Terminator films end with man defeating machine by becoming machines — first with Kyle Reese, who promises to push himself as far as the cyborg (John Henry), and then in the sequel, with the Terminator’s doppelganger himself, a robot servant, a golem, who has learned to feel.

    Mendelsohn ties this back into Wizard of Oz, and the revelatory moment at that film’s center where Dorothy realizes the smoke and mirrors are just that, that the technology is a lie — and Mendelsohn wonders about how a movie like Avatar, in which the technology is ever-present (even as it tries to erase its presence), can really celebrate pop-ecology.

    In some ways, Mendelsohn, is right. The New World, which simply filled actual beautiful untouched land, is a stronger film in showing people what we’ve done to the land. However, other than by becoming Super Green Neo-Cavedwellers, it does not offer us much hope. Avatar on the other hand does offer us a certain hope, contained in the Sigourney Weaver exhortation that the Na’vi are not primitives but actually far advanced — that their biological technology is so advanced that it is hidden from us, that this retreat of technology back into the world has brought the Na’vi into balance with existence.

    And this may explain Cameron’s hope — to move past the Modern Disruption in which we are both divorced from nature and divorced from our technologies — totally alienated, locked into our own little existential cages of being — little boxes — to one where accept technology as part of the world, accept ourselves as part of the world — cf. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where he talks about this divorce between classical and romantic worldviews — one group focusing on tools, the other on nature — and proposes, as the solution, the Contemplation of Unity, of Existence. I believe, though I do not know, that Heidegger has something to say about this as well, in that our contemplation of Being is inextricably bound up with our Experience of Using, of Tools.

    Mendelsohn also laments that whereas at the end of Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wakes up in black-and-white Kansas, telling us, it’s ok, there’s stuff to love here too, in Avatar, Jake leaves the human world behind. He assumes this is part of Cameron’s general disdain for the human. Again, that seems wrong, and seems to be part of this pat literary fiction prejudice for ending where you began, like S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders‘ beginning and ending with the same line. A to A. Frodo returns to the Shire, lessons learned.

    This prejudice for circular endings is a dangerous one — one we tell to children, that journeys always end in homecomings, that Daddy always comes home from work, that the sun will rise tomorrow. No one believes in circles. They’re not even real. Even the Hindus and Buddhists who believe deeply in circular time see it as a trap, as a literal hell, with paradise being an escape from circles and an end to existence. The Universe we know will one day die. So, too, will we.

    So no circles. A true story takes us not from A back to A, but from A to B. A true journey takes us somewhere else. You never step in the same river twice, a river’s always flowing. And in the real Wizard of Oz, Oz was not a dream, and in the sequels, Dorothy went back there, and lived there forever, always having new adventures. Frodo too; his return was failure, and he remained unhappy until the day Gandalf knocked again on his door and took him to the straight road to Valinor.

    We cannot go back. The only reason there are six billion humans on this planet is because of technology, and the only way there can continue to be six billion humans or nine billion or twelve billion humans on this planet is through technology. Hesitant, fumbling, like a baby, we have banged around with our simple tools, making advances and mistakes with every new season and generation.

    And we cannot stay where we are. The ground on which we stand is crumbling. Technology is the problem. Technology must be the answer. The question then is what technology? What will our technology look like? Big black smokestacks? Or a canopy of trees?

    We must do better.  We are starting to wake up. We are starting to look ourselves in the mirror — this is one of the effects of the Great Media Net, the Intertubes, that Michael Crichton warned would be the death of individual human thought. Maybe so; If so,  so be it. We cannot limit ourselves to being individuals anymore. We are here, connected. We are here, together. We must move forward, together. Our technologies will become more beautiful. They will disappear from view. We will live in the world, not apart from it.

    We should not be disgusted by technology. Technology is merely the recontextualized next iteration of fingers and hands — and we are, most of all, the handed. I sit here now, in a building built by hands, using an electrical device designed by hands and assembled by hands, using my hands to record thoughts in visual shapes.

    We plant our gardens by hand. We deliver babies into the world by hand. We touch our lovers with our hands.

    We are humans. We use our hands.

    Sexual Compatibility

    “True intimacy isn’t about the hydraulics of the flesh. It’s the smell of a certain shampoo in the hair, a passing touch in the kitchen, the taste of cold blueberry soup on a hot summer day, the gentle nostalgia of “Aja” by Steely Dan, and your heart melting at the sight of your wife of 28 years sound asleep after midnight — the murmur of HGTV having lulled her to slumber.”

    Arrayed against that … the wife who misses sex. How long is she supposed to wait?

    First day of spring, ended. Health care reform, passed. Blond-haired blue-eyed Jewish writer chick, seen.

    Live at the Vena Cava, Part 1

    Angry Dave had owned the Vena Cava for just about as long as any of the regulars could remember; it was a mid-sized cavernous warehouse-turned-bar about half a mile past the bright-light outer ring of the city’s turn of the century gentrification The bar had been there before the gentrification, and when you caught Angry Dave in a sentimental moment, he liked to say that it would be there after. No one knew where Angry Dave was from, or how he had come to own the bar, though there were typically two to three rumors about it in the atmosphere at any given time, the current favorite being that he had traded it from the previous owner after said owner had been caught fucking Dave’s wife. The owner got the wife, and to keep his balls. Dave got the bar.

    Of course, this was all speculative. Most regulars had no interest in biography. It was here, it was dimly lit, and Dave kept a gun behind the bar and turned a blind eye to needles in the corner or girls that looked too glassy-eyed and young to be in a place like this. And the booze was cheap, and Dave never took the bottle away, though he did have his bouncer, Charlie Black, throw the passed out patrons out into the street.

    I had stumbled on the Vena Cave my sixth night in the city, when I had gotten an invitation from a girl I’d be interested about half a decade earlier and had recently seen on the street to come out and have a drink with her. I put on my Sunday’s best, tucked my shirt in, and met her smoking a cigarette outside the Vena Cava. She was standing next to a tall guy with narrow eyes she introduced as John. It was clear from the way he stood over her that he owned her. By our tenth drink together, when his eyes were closed, and hers were — there’s that word again — glassy, and mine, mine were drifting but still alert, that I put my hand on her thigh and under skirt and she smiled a half smile for about fifteen seconds that felt like ten minutes and then, eyes focusing a minute on my upper arm and clearly aware of John humming quietly behind her pulled away from reaching fingers and stood up, straightened her skirt, and went to the bathroom. John, now eyes opened, looked at me, suspicious but still insensate. I was not sure what I thought was doing.

    In the incandescent light of early morning night, reading posts and memories from what feels like long ago, but was all recorded over the past 1000 days, give, take, I lose my sense of time — it is almost April, certainly, and then a post from February, not that long ago, time falls away, moments of decision come, I don’t know where I’m going or where I’ll be, I can dance and twist like Mercury, sure, like Quicksilver, but who am I, what will I do, where will I be — distorted cognitions she says, twisted thoughts she says, the depths of my madness, have to try, haven’t done anything — to give up and not be judged —

    We are always being judged. Measure is unceasing. Do I meet the measure — I care, I do care, I care deeply, I hate not being the best, all I am is smart —

    Maybe I can be kind. Maybe I can be hardworking. Maybe I can be inquisitive. Interested.