Saturday, April 30, 2011

Not what they seem

So Portsmouth is full of owls. Owl nicknacks, owl themed appliances, even owl t-shirts. You just can't escape them.

And the owls are not what they seem...

Book Stores

Browsing books in the RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth's indie bookstore. Picked up two books I probably never would have if I hadn't had the time to lazily browse through the shelves.

Update: Forgot to mention what I bought:
- William Gibson's Idoru
- Italio Calvino's The Castle of Crossed Destinies

Lunch

Just had an hour long lunch, with beer, at the Portsmouth Brewing Company. Loving the relaxed pace without the children!

Quote of the Day

I have seen the interiors of cloud formations that make your cathedrals look like Wal-Marts.
- the Mincing Mockingbird

Best Coffee in Portsmouth

Breaking New Grounds. Their Costa Rican blend is sublime.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tapas Conclusion

Can't go wrong with the chef's selection. Esp. When it concludes with gourmet strawberry shortcake. While drinking sangria.

Tapas #3

Carrot walnut soup with a pork belly crouton. Most amazing course to date.

Life in Portsmouth

Kelly and I are enjoying a weekend away in wonderful Portsmouth, NH. What you'll read in the next few days are our adventures.

Started off with Prosecco in the hotel room. Now eating Tapas at Cava in an alley off of Hanover street.

Note to self: when on romantic evening, do not squeeze lime juice into your wife's eye. Early fail.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

First Lines of Out Stealing Horses

Early November. It's nine o'clock. The titmice are banging against the window. Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times they fall and lie struggling in the new snow until they can take off again. I don't know what they want that I have.
- Per Petterson, from Out Stealing Horses.

Strong is Sexy

Shani asks an excellent question: Why Don’t Lady Superheroes Have Muscles? (Complete with photo evidence from the upcoming Wonder Woman television series!) Her conclusion:
...live-action women superheroes aren’t buff because in order to be traditionally sexy and feminine, they just can’t be. A Wonder Woman with powerful muscles would be intimidating to fanboys, not attractive. Plus, as a working actress, Palicki can’t afford to be “too buff” when she wants to be cast other roles — a problem I doubt many actors have.
While I have no real doubt that this is true – too many “toothpick” models are considered attractive for me to believe otherwise – I don’t share this belief. Quite the contrary: I not only love my women with a little meat on their bones, but if that meat happens to be muscle, so much the better! It's what I naturally gravitate towards, and I used to be a fanboy (and still am, at heart). For instance, my wife started a lifting program at the New Year, and not only is her new body giving her a new confidence, she also looks and feels great! Her weight loss and new muscles made her even more irresistible than she once was. (I know I’m biased, so you’ll have to trust me on this one.) As my friend Sabrina puts it:
It is cool to see someone affirm, intelligently; that there is something more to be gained from pumping iron. Something spiritually significant. It is nothing short of beautiful to see a woman crank her esteem of herself up a few notches. And then there are those other wonderful benefits the article mentions as well. Indeed, nothing pleases a lover more than being in the company of a partner who is truly happy within themselves...it is very sexy.

Poem of the Day

You and me under sheets of light
The red glow of a star on fire
Burning our feet on an isolated beach
As we throw everything we own into the sea

When the tide is low we're digging through the loam

Do you know what the darkness said to me?
She said 'Son, you better get used to believing in things that you can't see'

You and me among sheets of white
The blue light glow of a star on ice
Freezing to death among isolated peaks
Cutting pieces of flesh because we all need to eat

Where will I go? Only I know now
Moving through the wet trees to find your glowing mouth
Two days from the wind's house on the eastern side. I hope that you'll believe me when I say I'm still alive, open and waiting for you

Do you know what the darkness said to me?
She said 'Son, you better get used to believing in things that you can't see'

- Glowing Mouth, by Milagres (Free download here.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Translating Corporate Speak

As a writer, nothing bothers me as much as unclear language. Specifically, people that consciously use words in ways that are designed to either obscure the truth behind what they are saying or to protect themselves from the PC police. To list just two examples off the top of my head:
- a Day Care center whose staff is not allowed to use the word “problem;” they need to use “issue” instead
- Calling the habit of motorists slowing down to view roadside accidents “Curiosity Delays” rather than the much more interesting “rubbernecking”
Not to mention the unique linguistic feats of lawyers, legislators, and corporate writers, all of whom seem to develop their own language designed to keep outsiders from understanding what they’re really trying to say. With regards to the latter, I got a huge kick out of this New Yorker article and the tool that it describes: “Unsuck It”. Money quote:
The minds behind Mule Design Studio have channeled their rage against corporate jargon into the creation of a delightfully hostile (and vulgar) translation device called “Unsuck It.” (Many thanks to Laura McClure over at Mother Jones for bringing this to our attention.) You type in a particularly odious word or phrase—“incentivize,” say—and “Unsuck It” spits out the plain-English equivalent, along with a sentence for context. (“Incentivize” means “encourage” or “persuade,” as in “In order to meet our phase 1 deliverable, we must incentivize the workforce with monetary rewards.”) One feels a certain cathartic glee as well-worn meeting-room clich├ęs are dismantled one by one: an “action item” is a “goal”; “on the same page” means “in agreement”; to “circle the wagons” is to “defend an idea or decision as a group.” I looked up one that had baffled me recently—“onboarding,” as in “I’ll start onboarding you onto payroll within the next week”—and learned that to “onboard” is to “prepare an employee for a new job or project.” Why settle for a dusty old adjective when you can have a shiny new verb?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Deep Thought

If I don't fill in the blanks, who will? Am I strong enough to let them remain unfilled?

The View from Space

An incredible slide show of the Earth from Space. Wow.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Deep Thought

Kitchens are never as big enough as you need them to be.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Classic Ambient House

Id be remiss if I didn't mention that anyone that likes The Orb or any of the old-school ambient house bands should listen to Belka & Strelka's 2006 effort Tales From The Projector Room. Dr. Paterson rounded up a bunch of Orb alumni - including Jimmy Cauty but not apparently Thomas Fehlmann - for perhaps his most danceable album since u.f. orb. The dub influences are minimal, the bass is mixed high: come join the party and let me know what you think!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sex and Writing

I remember very clearly when my dream of becoming a novelist died. It was in my mid-20s, and I had been struggling with a few book ideas for a while and, like every other young American literary wannabe, was even attempting a coming of age novel. Looking back on it now, there are some good parts, even if I was trying too hard to be Thomas Pynchon (minus, of course, the intimidating erudition and the metaphorical skills), but I just couldn’t bring the different parts of the book together. In writing a novel, you need to be able to depict anything, and I was struggling to write about deeper subjects that involved more than the comic and absurd situations that filled my collegiate life. Specifically, I remember trying to write about the strange sexual tensions that filled my undergraduate years at UVM; in writing my "through a mirror darkly" version of my college years, it needed to include living amongst these beautiful, athletic women in a drunken party atmosphere also trying to form my identity, build self-confidence, and also get an education. It was not easy, and taught me that writing about these emotions - including sex - is ridiculously hard; you have to not only have a skill for writing physical descriptions, but also the rapidfire emotions that go into any sexual experience, no matter how big or small. The whole thing was way beyond my meager skill.

I relate all of this because came back to me when I read Alexander Chee’s “Sex and Salter” article in The Paris Review. It’s about James Salter, a writer that I’ve never read, but Chee had some astute observations that are worth sharing:
On its own terms, sex is information. ... Reading Salter’s sentences, I saw what I knew of sex, that sex is a moment in which you are known and knowable. Whatever it is you desire appears from behind the veil of shame or fantasy or nostalgia, or sheer impossibility, and in its presence, you are revealed to yourself. ...
It seems to me that the writers we love most are those who manage to capture something we ourselves have thought and rejected, for being forbidden, dangerous, elusive, something that if we made room for it would undo something else we want to keep, so we force it away—literature as a catalogue of rejected thoughts. For the way they can hold onto what the rest of us would put away as dangerous, they become heroes, the ones who emerge with the one thing we hoped to keep secret, but know we need. When I say to you James Salter is one of my heroes, that is what I mean.
Yes, I say. The best writers I know, the ones I admire most, are not only the ones that can capture truth in a bottle – capturing a truth in a crystal-clear sentence or description – but those that are fearless in that they are not afraid to follow a thought to its fullest. For example, part of the reason I love Thomas Pynchon so much is that he’s not afraid to be absolutely disgusting if it makes the point he’s trying to make. And when it comes to sex, while Americans are inundated with it – sexual images and metaphors dominate our television and music – we’re taught so little honest information about it that we have no common sexual vocabulary short of either humor or porn. Writing about sex involves digging through a ton of crap, both societal and personal, to get the essential core of the matter. It requires honesty and bravery to do right, and I'll have to see if Chee's right about James Salter in that respect.

First Line of Under the Dome

"From two thousand feet, where Claudette Sanders was taking a flying lesson, the town of Chester's Mill gleamed in the morning light like something freshly made and just set down."
- Stephen King
I'm not sure what i'm doing reading another 1000 page novel, but here I am. Under the Dome is an old school SK novel. It doesn't have the more mature themes of his more recent writings, but also doesn't have the life or death energy and urgency of his earlier work. Perhaps it's that i'm older than I was when I read It - to me, his best novel - but UtD feels a bit rote. Entertaining as hell, but it feels bloated.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poem of the Day

How lovely wetness makes the flesh
our bodies will declare
when we step from this shining pool
into the shining air

How lovely passion makes the lips
our kiss will testify
When we step from this brilliant earth
into the brilliant sky
- Tennessee Williams

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Song of the Day

Daft Punk's "Derezzed (The Glitch Mob Remix)". Holy crap. As Sounds Good To Me Too puts it:
My best advice is to listen to it on your earphones (unless you have an 80s ghetto blaster) whilst marching through a crowded public space, preferably an airport or large train station terminus. Seriously, stomping speedily through Victoria Station listening to "Derezzed" or "The Grid" will make you feel like the terminator, and we should all feel like the terminator once in a while, that’s an important life lesson.

Mountaintop Mining

A horrifying article that details, in excruciating detail, the horrors of mountaintop mining. It presents the awful floods in Appalachia and the corrupt manner in which the laws of the land were changed to allow this abomination. Money quote (although you really need to click through to see the pictures):
It is hard to overstate how destructive and enormous this practice is, how radically you alter the landscape when you dynamite and blast a hill into rubble and then dump it into the neighboring streambed. ...
Since the Clean Water Act regulated the extent to which it was legal to pollute streams and rivers, the law had to be changed to make it legal to destroy them forever by burying them with entire mountains — in gravel form — but the government agencies in charge of that sort of thing were happy to make the change. ...
After they’ve flattened the land, they are required by law to “reclaim” the land, but at best, “reclamation” means a micro-layer of just enough top soil to support some sparse grass (see how the rock still peaks through the green above?). And this means that where there once was lush vegetation and crooked streambeds soaking up rainfall, you now have rocky basins that channel it down into the floodplain where people live.
Stop the madness.

Myth vs. Science

Count me as one of those people that doesn't like that Pluto is no longer a planet, or that the Triceratops is apparently no longer an official dinosaur. There's something unexplainably sad about something that you've believed in your whole live suddenly coming to and end, no matter what the explanation. Robert Krulwich at NPR depicts the problem much more succinctly:
The lesson here is that when science slips from the academy into popular culture, people love, honor and protect what they know, what they've learned. What they don't understand is all science knowledge is tentative. Something is "true" only as long as the facts support the premise. When the facts change, science has to change with it.
People don't want their eternalities to change. They hate that. But, in the end, science has to win.

Celtics '11!

It wasn't pretty, but the Celtics hung in there and rode Ray Allen to victory tonight. A crazy game that swung in both directions throughout the fourth quarter. Man o man, whata ride. Not sure how far that they'll be able to go in the playoffs without a legit big man, but it's all good for one night at least.

The Mystery of Science

As someone who enjoys reading about Space or Relativity or any of the other complex scientific theories (string theory!) for the sense of awe that it inspires, this sentiment from Roger Ebert spoke to me:
... I read articles about astronomy and physics. It doesn't matter to me how much I understand. Their buried message is always the same: Somewhere out there, or somewhere deep inside, there are mysteries of which we perceive only vague shadows, and there are possibly more mysteries within those shadows, continuing indefinitely.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Quote of the Day

"We are all born children. The trick is how to remain one."
- Picasso

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Quote of the Day

Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.
- Frank Zappa

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Now Playing

I couldn't stomach the ESPN Sox/Yanks announcers tonight - at least 10 minutes about Derek Jeter's "toe tap" drove me to the mute button. I'm streaming Coldcut's 70 Minutes of Madness mix posted by soundsgoodtometoo. I miss laid-back beats like these. If you hear of anything similar, be sure to let me know.

Hmmm... how quickly could I fit through that small window?

Kelly turned me onto District B13, a French movie starting David Belle. Belle is a founder of parkour, an incredible "a specialized physical discipline of training" (according to wikipedia). The first action sequence of the movie alone includes multiple amazing moments that, while unfortunately not repeated consistently throughout the flick, are mesmerizing. Highly recommended movie.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Quote of the Day

A young girl just out of her change is beautiful... but a full-grown woman is lovely too... and an old woman too. Women are always on their way to being something else... That's what I love. Men never change. I don't know what you see in us.

- Carla Speed McNeil, in Finder, only one of the best comix in existence. I received my Finder Library Vol. #1 this week and I just can't put it down.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First Lines of Jitterbug Perfume

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
- Tom Robbins