Friday, August 31, 2007

Sin City

I've accomplished a few of the things on the List of Things I Want to Do Before I Die.

I realized earlier this summer that I didn't want to be the guy who, on his deathbed, deeply regrets that he never owned a truly bitchen motorbike. Managed to check that one off the list. I'm a passable guitar player. I've smoked dope on the sacrificial altar at Pisac, outside Cuzco in Peru. I've been paid to write something.

But so far I've never owned a pedal steel guitar.

Dear god, I love that instrument. The way a good player can make it just weep and swoop and wail and cry and boogie and rip your still-beating heart out and show it to you before you die. Jesus Christ, what a marvelously expressive instrument! Desperately difficult to play, quirky as hell (I've been given to understand that the wiring between the pedals and the string-bending mechanism can, in a bind, be replaced with a goddamned bicycle spoke, for all love!), yet its sound is so goddamned archetypically American. It's been wholly appropriated by the Nashville-corporate country hell I think of as "some cunt in a cowboy hat," but it was not always so.

Back in the early Seventies, the immortal Clarence White (of whom a whole adulatory blog-post needs desperately to be scribed) began to show how the "regular" electric guitar could emulate a pedal steel. He and Gene Parsons of the Byrds (not Gram, but Gene, the drummer) cobbled together a bizarre aftermarket mod for a Telecaster called the "B-bender," which allows the player to pull the B string sharp by pushing down on the part of the guitar held by the forward strap. Like all lovable and cranky human inventions, it's weird and beautiful, and in the hands of a master player, it gives some great pedal-steel effects. (You can hear it at work in the live parts of "Byrds (Untitled)," one of my favorite albums in all of time and space.)

The emotional effect of the pedal steel -- the whole "weeping" effect -- is accomplished by bending some strings upward or downward while others remain stationary. What this achieves is the sound of movement within a chord without a change in the chord's tonality. (To be pedantic, it also allows you to change, say, a IV chord to a I chord by simply stretching a string.) You can do this to a limited extent on a standard guitar by pulling some strings sharp while leaving others unbent -- what we guitar-floggers call a "double-stop bend."

And sweet Jesus on a stick do I love doing double-stop bends. It makes me one with my idols.

Here I've put on my Nudie Suit and taken on one of the great Kozmik-Kountry anthems of all time, the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City." As far as the original is concerned, it's probably the "Purple Haze" of pedal-steel culture, with Sneaky Pete Kleinow just shredding the conventions of the genre. My version, while rather less radical, shows how the standard guitar can at least vaguely emulate the pedal steel's immense tonal palette.

So, without further academic ado,

Sin City (pops)

As you listen, you might want to consider how utterly amazingly this anthem, written for the Nixon years, applies to our Present Circumstances...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Rick Danko Forever

While working, I've just been streaming an old gig from the ConcertVault. It's The Band at Carter Barron Amphitheater, August 16, 1976.

It has occurred to me that "It Makes No Difference" is the single saddest song ever written.
It makes no difference where I turn
I can't get over you and the flame still burns
It makes no difference, night or day
The shadow never seems to fade away

And the sun don't shine anymore
And the rains fall down on my door

Now there's no love
As true as the love
That dies untold
But the clouds never hung so low before...
The eye-misting misery is not helped by the knowledge that half the guys playing it are dead, one by his own hand.

Through the miracle of Audio Hijack, here it is... (pops)

Somewhere in the mid-Eighties, attended a Rick Danko solo gig at the Lone Star Café in New York. I arrived way early to get a good seat at the bar. As I was nursing a beer and waiting for the action to start, Danko strode in through the front door, carrying a guitar case. He nodded hello to the bartender, and disappeared into the back rooms.

Perhaps a half-hour later, two men in suits also came into the bar. One of them flashed a badge at the bartender. As they were only feet away from me, I heard the whole conversation.

"Detective Hungadunga, NYPD. We're looking for Mr. Danko."

"Ain't here."

"He's supposed to play tonight."

"Ain't here."

"When do you expect him?"

"Don't know."

"Tell him we'd like to talk to him."

"All right."

And they left. I have no idea why these flatfeet wanted to talk to Danko, but I bet it was damned interesting.

The gig was great. And he sang "It Makes No Difference" beautifully, just him and a guitar.

Not a dry eye in the house.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Those Are Her Jugs

Apparently, I have become, through no effort on my part, the Internet's Leading Purveyor of Kate Hudson Porn.

Not the hardcore stuff (although any links to naughty QT movies would never go unappreciated), but the Kate-in-her-panties-and-camisole-with-Gibson-Les-Paul kind. Long ago, I posted a still from "Almost Famous" to illustrate an amusing correction in the print edition of the WashPost. Now, if you perform a Google Image Search on Kate's lovely form, absolutely the number-one return is that pic.

Golly, I wonder if Kate ever Googles herself...?
Dear Mr. Jingo,

I just noticed you posted my pic on your cute little blog. Now that I'm at a loose end, I'm looking for a midseason replacement. Is that guy on the bagpipes really you? Your totally hot. Wanna do cyber...?
I wouldn't have known about this signal honor, but for the fact that my traffic pretty much quadrupled overnight on Monday. I mean, just blam! At first I thought Wolcott or PZ Myers or somebody really big had linked to something, but when I went into the individual stats it was just relentless image searches, all of them to that Kate pic. I was flummoxed -- I'd seen plenty of these searches before, but never in this volume.

Wonder Woman enlightened me. The Owen Wilson thing. The lummox mooned after Kate, driving him to the most desperate act a man can perform: The Failed Hollywood Suicide.

Well, Owen, you lantern-jawed chowderhead, you have driven her into my arms!

In for a penny...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

These Are Your Jugs

These are your jugs:

And these are your jugs on drugs:

Any questions?

Third Gear

She does something in third gear. She taunts me. She's the mistress, and I'm the slave.

Wind me out.

Yes, mistress.

Come on! Wind me out!

I'm trying!

Come on, you miserable worm! Try harder!

Her accent, of course, is pure Sarf London.

The acceleration is incredible. And it just won't stop. No matter how I try, I can't get to the top of third gear. Fourth always beckons, a warm, comfortable place where the taunting stops, the mistress is placated.

I don't even dare to try and see what kind of mistress fourth gear is. We'll stay on polite nodding terms. No offer of service forthcoming from me. No demands from her.

I do know that at 65 mph, I've got a whole lot of throttle left, maybe 4500 rpm, and the mistress purrs like a kitten.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

In Which I Invent Instant Messaging

I had a summer job in the late 70's at the US Embassy in Madrid. No, not the one where I was the Ambassador's watering system, this one was the next summer. I'd gotten some seniority among the DiploBrat Community, and they promoted me to the Consulate, where my job was to type the names of visa applicants into the AVLOS (Advanced Visa Lookout System) machine.

It sounds very grand, but it was damned tedious. The machine was a teletype, a direct line to the database at the State Dept. in Washington where they kept the Big List of Undesirables to whom not to issue visas. In those halcyon pre-9-11 days, the list consisted mostly of old Nazis, Carlos the Jackal, and some other proto-terrorists -- although I was fond of typing John Lennon's name into it. He'd already been given his green card years before, so he had no business being on the Lookout List, but there he was. They probably kept him in there for nostalgia reasons. Nostalgia for COINTELPRO. You know.

The consulate closed in the early afternoon, and after that there wasn't much to do. I began to dick around with this machine, and discovered that it didn't communicate only with Washington. With a little jiggery-pokery, it could be made to send messages to any consulate on the network.

With one of these old teletypes, as you typed, a tape would come spitting out of a punch-machine. You'd then feed that tape to a reader, which would convert the punched holes into the text of your message. Unbelievably cumbersome it was, and loud too: chunketa-chunketa-chunketa. You still hear that noise sometimes in newscasts -- it was the sound of modern communication!

I picked Tel Aviv for some reason. Maybe it was at the top of the list or something. Typed up a tape: "Hello. How are you? I'm the AVLOS Operator in Madrid. Who are you?" Fed it to the hopper. Giggled a bit.

Five minutes later: chunketa-chunketa-chunketa... "I'm Beth. I'm a student on my summer-job. I work the AVLOS machine in Tel Aviv..."

Well, hel-lo, Beth!

OK, so...what do you say back? Well, what the hell else am I gonna say?


"What are you wearing?"

Didn't hear back.

I Loves Me Some Good Crackpot

Yep. Still avoiding work.

If you're in the same boat as me, perhaps you'd enjoy as much as I have poking around at this site. You need to grok the birth/death dates in the page title to get what's going on.

I love the dude's earnestness, and the facial morphs he does in "Undeniable Proof that Paul McCartney was Replaced with a Look-Alike" are winningly goofy. "The King Is Naked" is some marvelous reading, too -- if you enjoy the Wall-eyed Paranoid School of literature as much as I do. (Scroll down about a quarter of the page for the Loony to begin.)

To this day, my absolute favorite fact that arises from the "Paul Is Dead" hysteria is that Fred LaBour, the man who was most responsible for its spread in America, later became Too Slim, the bassist from Riders in the Sky. Absolutely true.

Approaches to the Bard

Today, as I wandered the halls, dreaming my little dreamy dreams and avoiding work, I was quite amused by the idea of Hamlet soliloquies being delivered by Crocodile Dundee:
O, thet thees too too sulid flish would milt,
Thawr, ind resolve eetself eento a dyew!
Or thet the Iverlarsting hed not feex'd
Hees cenon 'gynst silf-slawtah! O God! God!
How weary, style, flet and unprofitable
Seem to me orll the uses of thees wuld!
This branched out. Peter Lorre as King Lear:
Blow, winds, [oily giggle] and crack your cheeks!
Yee caat-a-racts and hurricaaaaanoes, rage! Blow!
Mayor Quimby:
Two of the, er, fairest stahs in all the, er, heavens
Having some business, do, er, entreat her eyes
To, er, twinkle in their spheres till they, er, retuhn.
Al Swearengen:
He doth bestride the narrow world
Like a fuckin' Colossus, and we petty cocksuckers
Walk under his huge legs and peep about
To find ourselves fuckin' dishonourable graves.
(Actually, that last one reads pretty good, doesn't it... I can really hear Al saying it...)

Well, it beats working.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Why White People Clap on One and Three

The times being what they are, and my emotional state being what it is, I'm engaged in a process of catharsis. In that spirit, I've taken on the ineffably pleasant chore of recording a version of the Flying Burrito Brothers' "Sin City"; could there be a more perfect song for Life Under Bush? "This old earthquake's a-gonna leave me in the poorhouse/It seems like this whole town's insane..."

Now, I thought I knew country music pretty well. I've owned a banjo since 1984, and nearly everything I know about guitar playing ultimately has its roots in country. When I pick up a guitar and idly play it, what usually comes out is at least traceable to country, if not the thing itself.

So when I listened to my efforts with "Sin City," I was rather taken aback to find that I just wasn't feeling it. Something was, well, just wrong about it. It was too waltz-y, it didn't swing the way it should.

So I did what I should have done in the first place, which was to listen to the Burrito Brothers' version; I'd been operating from memory, and not from the magnificent template set down by Gram and the Boys. And what I heard was an absolute revelation.

The song's pedestrian beat is a waltz, no question about it, but you wouldn't know it from the rhythm section; they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge waltz-time. The rhythm guitar plays a ta-ta, ta-ta, ta-ta eighth-note figure, and the bass walks on the waltz beat, without accenting the one. I'd been playing the rhythm guitar in waltz time -- boom-chuck-a-chuck, boom-chuck-chuck -- and the bass as your standard country one-five, one-five on the first beat of each measure. That was why my recording was so weak.

It's a ubiquitous country beat, but I've been beating my brains out around the Internets to try to figure out what it's actually called. Here's a snip from Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces," which, while not a waltz, is a good illustration of what I'm talking about:

I Fall to Pieces (pops)

Now, there are thousands of country-songs that use that loping beat, especially from the Fifties and Sixties, and it's also the core beat of lots of New Orleans music as well, Fats Domino and that ilk. It's also the essence of ska as well -- that music came about as a result of Jamaicans doing their own take on country and R&B. You can sing "My Boy Lollipop" right over "I Fall to Pieces" and it fits perfectly.

But here's what blew the top of my tiny little head off. Not long ago I raved about Paul McCartney's walking bass in "All My Loving," saying I couldn't think of a pop song from before it that used the bass that way. Well, go ahead, give it a try: Launch that Patsy clip again, ignore the harmony and just hear the beat. "Close your eyes and I'll kiss you..."

You just never stop learning, man.

(I'll post up "Sin City" when it's done, but one other tragic flaw has revealed itself to me: I am not now, nor have I ever been, Sneaky Pete Kleinow.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Max Roach, RIP.

Once, at the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland, about 1974 this would have been, I watched Max Roach enthrall a sophisticated audience with nothing but a high-hat and a kick-drum. For, like, ten minutes, those were the only things he hit. Regular downbeats on the kick, and just mindbending stick-work on the hat.

It was utterly spellbinding.

I'm so glad I got to see him live. I'll always treasure that memory.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Close Your Eyes and I'll Kiss You

It's fascinating how many times the early Beatles started off their songs without an instrumental introduction, with a solo voice crashing into the song. Think about it: "Can't Buy Me Love," "It Won't Be Long," "Any Time At All," "No Reply," "You're Going To Lose That Girl," "Another Girl," "I'm a Loser"-- all these songs jump you right into the musical action, often leading with the vocal hook. It's as though they consciously considered it a part of the Beatle Formula, the thing that made the Beatles the Beatles. I think it's quite telling that when the group began to tire of being the Four Lovable Moptops, along about 1965, they began also to subvert the Formula; I can find only three songs from the second half of the Beatles' output that start that way: "Penny Lane," I Will," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"

(Huh. Whaddya know. All McCartneys.)

I'm sure the radio had a great deal to do with this musical practice. Deejays (back when we had such things and not corporate robots) like playing songs that start with a crash; it provides an effective punchline for their patter. The Fabs were never loathe to exploit the medium; they spoke often of "needle time," showing acute awareness of the need to get to the hook as early as possible in a song before boredom set in.

My favorite Beatle song that starts this way is "All My Loving." Listen along with me, won't you? I've put up the live version from the Sullivan show, for the simple reason that it's the only digital version I have:

"All My Loving" (pops).

When I was a teeny-tiny li'l Jingo, in that halcyon 1964 when this song -- and indeed the whole world -- was new, I didn't possess a particularly well-developed sense of human interaction. To me, this wasn't a boy-girl song at all; the lyric, it seemed to me, could only be a Mommy singing to her little boy who she's being forced to abandon. How could it be about anything else? (Excuse me, are my anxieties showing?) My first reaction, then, was that this song was ineffably, indescribably sad.

Later, when I'd grown up a bit and realized it was about lovers temporarily separating, I came to reconcile the gloriously cheerful setting with the lyric: It's not a sad song at all! But, listening to Paul 's lovely vertical melody, I still hear traces of melancholy, particularly in the downward-arching second line of the verse ("Tomorrow I'll miss you...": a beautiful match of lyric and melody).

Many factors combine to make this song so catchy. Paul's walking bass (surely an innovation: I can't think of an earlier pop song that uses one), Lennon's rhythm-guitar triplets (lifted, it would seem, from The Crystals' "Da-Doo-Ron-Ron," which was in the charts when they recorded "All My Loving"), Ringo's subtle swing (I've heard studio takes where it was more exaggerated; the effect in reining it in is enormous), and George's great Carl Perkins-inflected lead work; all these combine to create a frothy, joyous texture. I absolutely love how they reserve the Everly Brothers harmony singing (by George in the performance we're listening to; by a double-tracked Paul in the studio version) for the last verse; it gives the song new life just as it appears to be winding down.

Harmonically, the arrangement is utterly brilliant. Starting the song on the second degree of E major (F sharp minor) allows for all kinds of artful ducking and feinting as to where the tonic actually is; we don't finally get to know where "home" is -- that is, what key we're in -- until the last note of the verse.

I'm surprised to find two sources (one being the composer himself) that say it was written at the piano rather than the guitar. As John plays the rhythm, the harmony lays out with a perfect guitaristic logic. Here are the chords for the verse:

F#m B7
Close your eyes and I'll kiss you,

E C#m
Tomorrow I'll miss you;

A F#m D B7
Remember I'll always be true.

F#m B7
And then while I'm away,

E C#m
I'll write home every day,

A B7 E
And I'll send all my loving to you.

What utterly blows me away -- the Beatle Genius at Work -- is that feint in the direction of A/D in the third line. It's so goddamned unconventional a thing to do -- a IV of IV, who the hell does that? -- but it's exactly what you might try if you had noticed that that A chord was giving away the game of hide-the-tonic that McCartney plays with this verse. It's a musical head-fake, pure and simple. You think you know what key we're in? Think again, Chuck-o! Woop, where's your jock?

Notice also that the tonic E is played in the verse, on the words "tomorrow," and "write home," but it doesn't establish the tonic at all; it could be the seventh degree of F# minor, the dominant of A major, the subdominant of B major -- everything's gloriously ambiguous until that ending cadence, which resolves not only harmonically but lyrically as well. Fan-fucking-tastic.

They (literally) don't make songcraft like that anymore.

Oh screw it: You can watch the Sullivan performance if you want. I wanted you listening, not watching.

By the way, if you like this Beatle jibber-jabber, check out Alan Pollack, whose shoes I am not fit to lick.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

From the Repressed-Memory Files

It's possible you are not familiar with the huaso. That's quite all right; very few people outside of Chile are. The huaso is to the Chilean imagination the direct equivalent of the gaucho in Argentina, and, indeed, the American cowboy. He is a tough son-of-a-bitch, a great horseman, a terrific dancer, and a cherished national symbol.

There exists among the huasos of central Chile a strange and terrible legend, the kind of story that they tell around dying Andean campfires as the pumas rage in the darkness just outside the campfire light, and the chicha bottle has made many rounds. It is the story of the Insane Naked Hermit of Cerro el Colorado, who lives in abandoned silver-shafts, kills with his bare hands, and eats the flesh of the living. His fearsome powers are so great, it is said, that knives clank impotently off his naked chest. It is also said that only three men -- three very lucky men -- have ever seen him and lived to tell the tale.

It is a fascinating little piece of folklore, one that might have had its origins in a Mapuche Indian tale, or perhaps an old Spanish legend brought over with the Conquistador Pedro de Valdivia. But a folklorist attempting to trace the story to those origins would be barking up the wrong tree indeed.

I do in fact know the true origin of the tale, and I will tell it to you now.

In the year of Our Lord 1975, your correspondent, a stripling of fifteen summers, living in Santiago with his diplomat parents, fell in with a rather ambiguous crowd. Outwardly health-conscious and active, given to camping and skiing and taking advantage of all the marvelous natural bounty that Chile had to offer from roiling Pacific coast to lofty Andean aeries, yet they were likewise fond of some of Chile's other, less savory (or legal) delights. Packing for a jolly Vandervogel tramp into the mountains for botanical and geological exploration (so delightfully curious, these youngsters!), they might be prone to include in their fashionable Kelty backpacks a flagon or two of Johnny Walker purloined from Dad's cache from the Embassy Commissary, or even perhaps a rather bulging package of the delicious product of Chile's hemp farms, from which an eyeboggling amount of really fuckin' primo contraband could be extracted for the price of a pair of Levi's donated to the watchman, who was only too glad to look the other way for a half-hour. (A win-win: Capitalism at its best.) (By the way, I never did this. Burros from lo Barnechea were more than happy to do it for you for a portion of the takings. Mom.)

It was on one of these salubrious and educational three-day jaunts far into the mountains, and perhaps after Taking the Hempen Sacrament, that your correspondent decided to set off on a short jaunt alone, away from the larger group. The day was utterly glorious (they all were in those days), and I found myself on a promontory overlooking a wandering mountain stream of snow-melt fifty feet below, miles and miles and miles from any human thing. The breathtaking Andes stretched away endlessly to Argentina to the east, and to the west the smog of Santiago lay in a carpet at my feet. The sun shone delightfully, and I removed my shirt to let the rays caress my back, my 1975 Freak Flag tickling gently my shoulders. That felt so good that the trousers soon followed, and presently I was as naked as the day I was born, lying blissfully soaking up the gentle rays.

After uncounted time like this, I became hungry, and, remembering some Kraft Mac-and-Cheese in my backpack back at the camp, stirred and began to prepare to return. Then a devilish thought occurred: Fuck it! I'm miles from nowhere! Who needs the clothes! I dare ya!

And so it came to be that I began to descend this marvelously remote mountain trail wearing absolutely nothing but a pair of Keds. I don't know about you, but I've had dreams where I could take enormous bounds effortlessly, covering miles with each step, and that is what that mountain trail, ever descending toward Civilization yet endless miles from it, felt like. I began to leap from rock to rock, from switchback to switchback, a veritable mountain gazelle, stark raving naked. I may have had a song on my lips; the memory has faded. Probably something from Jethro Tull.

Then, it happened. There's a particular sound effect that they use in old cartoons, when a character has to stop extremely suddenly; it's the sound of overfilled tires skidding from a sudden violent application of the brakes. That sound effect, I am prepared to testify under oath, emitted from my Keds when I rounded a corner.

They were perhaps ten yards from me. Three huasos. Leading a train of pack-mules laboriously up the trail.

Oh, they saw me. You bet your ass they saw me. I couldn't have been more visible if I'd shot up a fuckin' flare.

It is a testimony to the athletic young thing I was in those days that I was able to reverse course, sprint ass back up the trail a good half-mile, before exhaustion set in. I dove into some litre bushes, well out of sight of the trail, and threw my clothes on like my life depended on it. Who knows -- perhaps it did.

I then picked my way back to camp, staying well off the trail until I saw the huasos and their mule-train a long way above me, moving uphill toward Argentina. I can't know what they were planning to tell their friends and sweethearts about what they'd just witnessed, but I bet any number of Escudos it was pretty goddamned exaggerated.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


In the spirit of the Clean Slate, I have done a little housework on the Blogroll. Vacuumed up a few links that have gone dark, feather-dusted some outdated links, and nailed a few new ones to the wall to cover up that ugly stain from an unfortunate Spaghetti Incident.

Cleek should have been in there long ago. He's been popping in here all the time, making with the comments and the wit, and we share us some interests. He's a Chump regular, too, so that should tell you something.

Richmond Democrat is a Democrat. From Richmond. Nuff Sed.

I like the cut of Christopher M. Walsh's jib. He describes himself as a "Chicago-area writer, actor, director and fight choreographer," thereby demonstrating a deftness with a compound-adjective hyphen. That counts.

And Byzantium's Shores is well worth checking out. Anybody who decorates his blog with a hot babe elbow-deep in a book is all right by me.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Clean Slate

I'm sorry to say, my mood hasn't improved much since my last post. The last item of business I conducted before leaving work was to talk to the IT guy who was working on my dead Mac laptop. The hard disk wouldn't spin up, and he tried extracting the data in raw form, but said, rather pitilessly, that the software he was using estimated the time it would take as "more than a week." My only hope now is an outside data-recovery service, which may be more trouble and expense than it's worth.

I'm going to take this in the spirit of someone whose house has just burnt down, and who has lost all his possessions -- it's a Clean Slate, a time for renewal. In my Stages of Grief, I have gone past Bargaining and am fast approaching Acceptance. I have a lot of work ahead of me reconfiguring this new Mac to get it as well-ordered and useful as the old one, and some of that's actually fun.

It's either that or suicide.

I took Kevin Wolf's advice yesterday and hopped on the Triumph for a head-clearing spin, which worked a treat. I felt great afterward. Motorcyclists, I now find, have a rather puerile custom of waving to each other as they pass in traffic. The technique is not the dullard's hand up in the air, flapping your fin like a circus seal; rather, you hold your left hand down below the handlebar, index finger coolly extended in the direction of your boon-brother-outlaw-of-the-road. With each bike I passed, I couldn't suppress the thought: Cooler than yours. Cooler than yours. Much cooler than yours.

I imagine I'll stop this disgusting Triumphalism (har!) sometime along about the moment I'm stranded in the rain somewhere 100 miles from home, in need of a Whitworth bolt last manufactured in 1968. That's as may be, Brother Outlaw, but mine starts reliably...

Caught the Bourne Ultimatum with Freddie last night. Wasn't expecting much, but was quite pleasantly surprised. Paul Greengrass's direction of action sequences (and all this flick is is action sequences -- when the wham-bang stops and people start talking it's eye-rollingly banal) packs a huge amount of information into bewilderingly fast-unfolding events. But you're never confused; you always have the facts you need to interpret the action you're seeing, no matter how fast it's zipping by. This is by no means a common trait among directors.

I also like Matt Damon's Jason Bourne, who fights to regain his humanity through the series. Unlike, say, Jack Bauer, who, despite all the scenery-chewing, you don't believe for a second has a coherent moral center under all that crustiness, Bourne's struggle is to find not only his identity but his motive in submitting to the torturous program that stripped him of it. He has to work to figure out how to do the right thing rather than killing like an automaton. That he even tries is a testament to his virtue. "Do you even know why you've been sent to kill me?" he asks a hit-man in the climactic scene -- a question that all too many people need to be asked nowadays.

You'll never convince me, though, that 145 71st Street backs onto the Hudson River.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

That Was the Day That Was

Yesterday started with a root canal, and rather went downhill from there.

Actually, the root canal was not nearly as bad as I'd anticipated. Back when I got my hip replaced, I made the monstrously stupid mistake of looking up the procedure on the Interweb -- and was utterly horrified at the medieval drawing-and-quartering and carpentry work the thing entailed. Determined not to make the same mistake again, this time I went to the endodontist's blissfully unaware of what to expect. I had imagined that slicing and dicing of the gums were on the menu, but a poster on the e-dontist's wall disabused me of that notion.

The thing involved an endless amount of drilling, but with the copious local anesthetic, the worst part of it was the whining noise inside my head. I went to my Happy Place (3471 Maple Ave., Bradenton, FL, in case you're curious), and emerged from the procedure in a minimum of pain -- the leftover Vicodin given me by the dentist certainly helped there, and with my psychological state.

I returned home to recuperate -- I'd budgeted the day to recover, but found that since the root canal had involved no spilled blood at all, no sutures, no swollen tissues, I was actually in rather fine fettle. After a couple of hours spent reading Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver (quite good, but haven't formed a firm impression yet), I decided that the new tachometer cable and ammeter I'd just gotten in the mail from Nova Scotia needed installing on the Triumph. So off I trundled to the Land of Grease and Gas Fumes in the garage.

The job done, and happily oily and sweaty, the bike once again starting on first kick, I cleaned up after myself. Whitworth wrenches back in their bag, screwdrivers and box-cutter back in the toolchest, I marched, satisfied, back to the house.

As I walked, I felt a tiny prick in my upper calf, right at the hem of my shorts. Ouch, I thought slightly mindlessly, I've been bit by something. It truly didn't hurt much, just a little bug-bite. I paid it no more mind, went inside, got a tube of Benzocaine from the bathroom, applied same to Affected Area. Sat at the kitchen counter as is my wont in the early evening, played a hand or two of Solitaire as a repeat of the Seinfeld show played on the kitchen TV.

I began to feel an itching where my t-shirt met my throat. It became quite irritating. I felt inside the shirt -- and felt lumps. I scurried to the bathroom to look in the mirror, and found that the area around my throat was covered in hives. It looked like ten thousand mosquitoes had had their way with my chest and throat. And the itching became almost unbearable.

I took a couple of Benadryls, despite their tendency to make me sleepy and grumpy. (I'd give a kingdom to find an over-the-counter drug that make me Happy and Doc.) They seemed to have their intended effect. The hives soon went down, and I considered the bullet dodged.

(The doctor I consulted this afternoon was quite grave in her assessment. Those hives around the throat may very well be, in extremis, exactly the allergic reaction that will close my esophagus the next time I'm stung. I am now, it appears, the kind of person who must travel at all times with an Epinephrine Pen, and avoid contact with wasps wherever possible. I, who have never been allergic to a goddamned thing -- including Poison Ivy -- am allergic to wasp-stings. Fu-huh-huh-huck me! I have a date with an allergist who might be able to discern more closely precisely what it is I'm allergic to, but I really hate the idea that my body has a weakness that could actually prove anaphylactically fatal.)

But the day was not over, my friends! No! There was more punishment in store!

Remember that Benadryl? Sleepy and Grumpy? I fell asleep in front of Jon Stewart, my feet propped on the table in front of me. A glass of grog sat next to my laptop, my foot poised (oh, you can see it coming!) just to the right of it.

A-yep. I awoke to a horrible electronic swooshing noise. The grog had sloshed, like the Waters of Babylon, into the keyboard of my MacBook G4.

It is now deader than Vaudeville.

My employers consider me an important enough person that even a day of mine spent without a computer costs them money (check this for something I very recently finished helping design -- a matter of some small professional pride, launched yesterday, after a year and a half of work) -- and so I was immediately furnished with a rather zippy new MacBook Pro, the Pentium Core Two model. But -- and that's a Big But -- the data on that destroyed hard drive is vulnerable. I don't know yet if I'm going to lose it. If I do, all of your email addresses, all my carefully collected bookmarks, all the phone numbers and names, the emails sent and received, will be gone. Not to mention my entire professional portfolio (although that can be reconstructed). I am in Existential Limbo -- all because of a fucking wasp-bite.

So let's sum up, shall we? Today...
  1. I had a root canal operation.
  2. I discovered I am allergic to wasp-bites, and that the next one might kill me.
  3. I may well have destroyed a $2500 MacBook G4 that contained my entire fucking life.
And how was your day?