Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Mark of the Beast (Knapp's Lounge, Tacoma, Evening of August 26th)

Last night Danielle and I were in Knapp's Lounge here in Tacoma having a lovely evening when it came time to request the check. Robin, our wonderful bartender, stopped by the table with the bill and indicated she had something she needed to explain to us. It seems our tab came to $66.66, and she simply COULDN'T bring a bill to anybody with all those 6s in it, so she added ten cents to change it up. She then handed Danielle a dime so we knew everything was above board. Later I looked at our copy of the bill and sure enough there was a line which read 1 OPEN FOOD $0.10. You simply cannot make this stuff up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Old Poem of Mine Related to the Previous Wilde Post

Piss Christ in Australia

for Andres Serrano

I’m sorry for what your parents and your church have done

to you, I really am, but you are not my responsibility.

You are not my responsibility,

with your spray paint and hammers, your Exacto blades

and wrecking balls. And though I don’t suppose I want them

to cut off your fingers (at least no further than the first joint, anyway);

or break your legs in several, painful, brace-making places;

or burn the mark of shit-headed ignorance into your skin:

your spasmodic intolerance cannot go unchecked.

Wave your banners from dusk till dawn, I don’t care.

Hoist placards. Pray the rosary. I won’t stop you.

But I will worship in whatever manner I deem appropriate,

whether it’s Piss Christ or Black Supper or pictures of my own

come, swirling and turbulent, magnified, coalescing

into the image Veronica received on the march to Calvary.

A boy can dream.

It might be arranged that you were suspended above,

and golden-dipped, over and over, into a porcelain vat of your own urine,

an exercise which might help you more fully understand

the implications of a word like interpretation, or a phrase

like difference of opinion. As in: I would experience

your dunk tank spectacle as retribution, poetic justice, irony;

a potentially instructive episode (possibly giving too much credit,

I know, but I’m a charitable man and, as I said, dreaming).

You would see the whole thing differently, I’m sure:

a repugnance, an humiliation that would leave you sputtering, angry, damp.

Not to mention smelling like piss.

Which wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for you.

And could, perhaps, make you think twice (or once, and all on your own)

before you put your fucking hands on any of my photographs again.

Oscar Wilde, from "The Soul of Man"

(this specific quote brought to my attention by an 8/8/11 New Yorker review of a variety of Wilde biographies)

The public make use of the classics of a country as a means of checking the progress of Art. They degrade the classics into authorities. They use them as bludgeons for preventing the free expression of Beauty in new forms. They are always asking a writer why he does not write like somebody else, or a painter why he does not paint like somebody else, quite oblivious of the fact that if either of them did anything of the kind he would cease to be an artist. A fresh mode of Beauty is absolutely distasteful to them, and whenever it appears they get so angry and bewildered that they always use two stupid expressions - one is that the work of art is grossly unintelligible; the other, that the work of art is grossly immoral. What they mean by these words seems to me to be this. When they say a work is grossly unintelligible, they mean that the artist has said or made a beautiful thing that is new; when they describe a work as grossly immoral, they mean that the artist has said or made a beautiful thing that is true.

This from around 1890 or so, and just briefly a few things that popped into my head with regard to our very own country today.

  • Movie studios rushing to put out movies that mimic other studios' "successful" productions (or, alternately, adding 3, 4, 5, etc. to new versions of their own "successful" productions).
  • The American Right Wing (and it is almost exclusively the Right Wing) attempting to de-fund any and all monies for the Arts because they don't understand the artists and/or the art being funded (they will claim that the projects are pornographic, or un-American, but in truth they simply don't GET THEM, and they make no effort to try). Which leads nicely into...
  • The American Right Wing and their obsession with the "cultural elite", as in, for example, Ms. Michelle Bachmann saying something along the lines of "do you want the cultural elite dictating the direction of this country?" In fact, there are two things going on here - first, Ms. Bachmann is an EXTREME fundamentalist Christian who would absolutely dictate the direction of this country if she could (New Yorker profile 8/15,22/11 will make that completely clear), so it's not that she has a problem with a prescriptive path for America, it's that is must be HER path; second, by denigrating the "cultural elite", she attacks education and knowledge as if those things were bad things. And in her world view they ARE bad if they call into question the role Christ played and/or will play in American history (and the more you read about Ms. Bachmann you may discover that her Christ doesn't have as much in common with your Christ as you might imagine).
  • Last November, Eric Cantor and John Boehner lead a campaign to have a four minute video excerpt of David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly" removed from an exhibit at the Smithsonian. The offending image? A crucifix with ants crawling over it. I have seen the piece since then at MOMA in New York; you can likely find it on youtube if you care. Was this an attack on Christianity in general? Probably not; it certainly WAS a commentary from the late 1980s on the AIDS crisis in America and this country's failed response to said crisis. (For a long time I wore a button that said "The Body of Christ Has AIDS", and once on a New York subway train two "Christians" sitting across from me had a discussion about some very un-Christian things they wanted to do to me (ultimately unfulfilled) because of the button (I can't confirm that they were Cantor and Boehner)). Point being, the Christ of "A Fire in My Belly" was likely a representation of Compassion, albeit Compassion infested with insects - a sad and/or ironic commentary about our "Christian" country.
At any rate, what I do like about this Wilde quote, aside from the fact that it got me thinking (which is all I want anybody to do, really; to think and explore for themselves), is that it's still relevant, and no worse the wear for age. Save for the use of pronouns, natch.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

United States of Tara

United States of Tara starring Toni Collette recently wrapped up its 3rd season on Showtime, and it was not renewed. All three seasons are currently available on DVD. If you have not seen this show, it's definitely worth a look. Danielle and I are four episodes into the 3rd season and it just keeps getting better. Very well-written, interesting characters and fine performances, and then there's Ms. Collette.

I can't think of any actress working today who is better than Toni Collette. (And possibly not any actors, either, but I may leave off to ponder that another time.) For me, she's up there with Laura Dern (Exhibit 1 Inland Empire - not my favorite movie, but her performance is stupid good) and Michelle Williams (Exhibit 1 Blue Valentine); she's a Goddamn chameleon is what she is, barely recognizable as the same woman in films as varied as The Sixth Sense, Muriel's Wedding and 8 and One Half Women. And then, Tara - a role created for a chameleon, and she nails it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tacoma Crosswalks

And, pursuant to my previous post, and likely related, if you step into a crosswalk in Tacoma; if you even THINK about stepping into a crosswalk in Tacoma, drivers will come to a complete stop and give you the right away (to be fair, I've seen this regularly in Seattle, as well).

The other day Danielle and I were waiting at a fairly major intersection and the light changed for us to cross. We had four lanes to cover, and there was a car stopped at the opposite side of the intersection waiting to turn right. Now, this car had HOURS and HOURS to go ahead and make this turn and come nowhere near us; the car behind this car could have made the turn, too (in fact the second car honked at the first). But no - we were in the crosswalk, we had the legal right of way, and Goddamnit this woman was going to give it to us, honking be damned (about the woman honking - I did specify in the previous post that I was speaking IN GENERAL; there are always exceptions, of course, even in friendly Tacoma). I like to contrast this bit of information with the fact of the number of close shaves I've had in countless San Francisco crosswalks (when I had the right of way) - cars barely missing me from behind, in front and, on one memorable occasion, no miss at all but a direct hit in the right leg which sent me bouncing off that particular woman's hood and onto the asphalt in the middle of the Gough and Washington intersection.

Though now, picturing the Gough and Washington intersection, and its proximity to the House of Prime Rib over on Van Ness, I'm getting all misty-eyed for some cream spinach and a second slice of the English Cut. Which is WAY off topic but sure beats thinking about getting hit by a car.

Tacoma, Washington - the Paris of the Pacific Northwest

(at least so sayeth Bid Daddy...)

And so I just wanted to say this about Tacoma - the people up here are fucking nice. I don't know if this will carry over to Seattle; don't know if it even stretches as far west as Gig Harbor or north up to Fife. Simply don't know. What I DO know is the people in Tacoma, in general, couldn't be any fucking nicer. In their cars, passing them on the sidewalk, in parking lots, in supermarkets, at the bars, doesn't matter. FAR nicer than the people in San Francisco (again, in general). Now, if I had to choose betwixt the two cities as far as a place to live, I'd take San Francisco. San Francisco simply has more to offer than Tacoma, which is no knock on Tacoma. But that choice would not have anything to do with the friendly people here; it would be in spite of the friendly people here.

Johnny Cash On The Road

Don Was told this story on his Motor City Hayride show Saturday night past (though I think the show might have been a re-run; which is really beside the point of the story, but we do strive for accuracy here at infection by light) -

He (Don) once asked Johnny Cash what he (Johnny) thought about the rock and roll musicians who would trash hotel rooms, throw televisions out the windows, etc. Cash replied that, during the 50s, when he and his band were on the road, they would look for abandoned farmhouses. Once discovered, they would fill coffee cans with gunpowder, attach a fuse and light, then wait a safe distance away to watch that particular farmhouse explode.

Onward and upward, Mr. Cash.

Absence, the Heart, Etc.

Yes, this blog has grown fallow (is that possible?) these last two weeks or so. Lots going on in Tacoma, including trips to Seattle as Danielle interviews for a new job; my work on a PAYING gig for my old nonprofit; also we seem to be serious about this gym thing; also I've been actively keeping all my writing in circulation (journals, agents) - the play, both novels, a bunch of stories, a bunch of poems. So apparently this blog will be cyclical. Though confidentially? Between you and me? I think the cycle is about to come back around to a flurry of activity; a veritable FLURRY, I tell you~

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Badfinger (Knapp's Lounge, Tacoma, Evening of August 3rd)

So, yes - Danielle and I have dinner once week in the Lounge at Knapp's over there on Proctor Avenue. We could eat in the restaurant but prefer the Lounge. I believe you would, too. It's something out of the late 60s or early 70s, lovely low-slung booths, dim lighting, a bar that seats eight or nine, candles on the tables. And if you DO have dinner on a Tuesday through Friday night, well, Robin will take care of you. We like Robin very much.

So last night there was a guy up at the bar wearing what I believe to be a straw hat. He was my age or younger, and I don't remember EXACTLY how he was dressed, but I would not be surprised if suspenders were involved; if the phrase Barber Shop Quartet pops into your head it wasn't QUITE that, but definitely a stop on that evolutionary trajectory. Suffice to say it was not a look I was used to in San Francisco nor, from what I can tell, is it a look they are used to in Tacoma. So, at one point, he got up and walked over to the jukebox and he was whistling a tune that I immediately recognized as Badfinger's "No Matter What You Do (I Will Always Be With You, Girl)". What could this possibly matter to me, you ask? (Or you don't but, hey, you've come this far.)

Well, over the last several months, I've been on something of a Badfinger kick since I heard Steve Earle play "Baby Blue" on his satellite radio show. I did a little research and, apparently, they were poised to be a Big Fucking Deal (I think signed to Apple Records, for a time), but without going into too much detail, their lead vocalist/songwriter Pete Ham hung himself in, I believe, 1975 or so, age 26 or 27. Depression can be fucking devastating, as we all know. That pretty much ended the BFD end of things, but the survivors on and off trudged forward without him until maybe 1983, when the second founding member, John Evans, went and hung himself as well. So there's that. What I have been most interested in of late, though, was simply the POTENTIAL this band had to be a giant name of 70s pop, and how most people don't know who they are today. That and a couple of suicides strikes me as pretty damn sad.

But back to Knapp's - I am simply I mean simply LOVING my chilled Sapphire in the booth closest to the window when I hear this gentleman whistling the tune, and I have no choice, really, but to approach him. I introduce myself, shake his hand (and by God up close he looked like a young John Waters, down to the very thin mustache), and mention that I recognized the tune he was whistling. His face took on that (now popular world-wide) expression of "I Can't Believe You Recognized That Song; Nobody Recognizes Badfinger", and as I trundled off to the mens' room he told me he would play any Badfinger songs he could find (I believe it was the dreaded internet jukebox but it did work to my benefit on this occasion).

I return to the booth and, in a moment, "Without You" starts. Of course you would know this as a monster hit for Harry Nilsson, but it was a Badfinger original. Then, "No Matter What You Do" starts, and my man gets up and walks past our table to go on his way into the warm Tacoma night. I stop him briefly, thank him for playing the two Badfinger songs, and discover that his name is Terry. After he is gone, a third Badfinger song begins, "If You Want It Here It Is Come and Get It", written for them by Paul McCartney. THEN "Day After Day" (looking out of my lonely room/day after day) plays. THEN "Baby Blue" plays (possibly my favorite pop song ever). I mean seriously - the man played five Badfinger songs and left the bar on the second one meaning that, in essence, he played them all for me.

Turns out Terry is a regular; I asked Robin. Needless to say he will be comped a cocktail or beer the next time I see him but, beyond that, I couldn't help but think that some version of Miss O'Connor's grace had descended upon my personal story last night in Knapp's, and I will happily take that wherever and whenever I can get it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brand New Poem from infectionbylight...

the title is a line from a newspaper article; the first stanza is a quote from the same article; the Webster's portion is, of course, from Webster's; the synthesis is mine own, as is the complete end product.

Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League

for Religious and Civil Rights, Agreed

“It all comes down to one thing.

What is in the best interest of children –

not what is in the best interests of adults.

That’s narcissistic.”

Narcissism (from Webster’s) –

  1. Inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity.

  1. Psychoanalysis: erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.

Synthesis (from Deep Within the Valley of the Big Cotton Sun) –

  1. And how I know what’s best for children is how I know what’s best for you, and how I know that gay marriage is a sin against God - I am Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, and they often publish my words in the newspaper.

  1. Honey, Honey – I know it’s late, and I’m sorry to wake you, but do you know whose words they published in the newspaper today? Again? Do you? Talking about narcissism and stuff? ( …) No? Let me make a clue for you then. Only Bill Donohue’s words, that’s whose; only Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, only his words, that’s whose. Only his, Honey, His. ( …) (…) You still sleepy, Honey?

Yes, perhaps I have too much time on my hands

This is just a thought, but I thought I might, and would encourage the rest of you to do so too, jot down a couple of words, I would prefer to not see disappear from the English language. I have no ethical reason for wanting this, it is more a quality of life sort of thing. So here are some, I'll be adding more now and then, and I hope you will too.

swizzle (as in swizzle stick)

Monday, August 1, 2011

An Unwritten Baseball "Rule" - No Bunting to Break Up a Potential No-Hitter

So Collin Moore got me to thinking about other unwritten baseball rules, and it occurred to me that there was another example of one in Sunday's Tigers/Angels game in Detroit. Justin Verlander had a no-hitter going to start the 8th inning and Erick Aybar lead off with a bunt attempt, which would go against an unwritten rule - if a pitcher is throwing a potential no-hitter you should "earn" your way on base. Now this is one that, to me, is CLEARLY situational.

To one extreme, let's say you were a last place team (or any team, really), down 10-0 in the 9th. And, just for kicks, let's say there were two outs. If you were to bunt then, successful or not, I would not only expect pitchers around the league to declare open season on you, but your own batting practice pitchers and pitching machines as well.

To the other extreme, it's the bottom of the 9th, game 7 of the world series, and you are trailing 1-0, and the other guy is throwing a no-hitter. Rickey Henderson is at the plate. Am I supposed to believe that Rickey would not consider and/or attempt to bunt in this situation (I know, I know - Rickey would just walk or homer, but let's pretend, okay)? He reaches first, he steals second, a couple of outs and he scores and we're going to extras. I don't believe anybody the next day would be bitching about baseball's unwritten rules then.

But where do these extremes meet in the middle, that's the thing. And I'm not saying I know absolutely. But I will say this - the Angels are in a playoff race with the Rangers, they had six outs left and were down only 3-0: plenty of time to get something started off Verlander. So why wouldn't you have a speedy guy bunt and try and get on base? It makes sense to me (Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the same thing, in essence, after the game). And what did happen? Aybar reached at second due to a Verlander error and came around to score; the Angels added another run later in the inning and suddenly it was 3-2. Seems like a smart play to me.

If it were 5-0 or 6-0 then would it have been a "violation"? Again, I don't know, I just think there are always more variables in play than any hard and fast unwritten rule can satisfy. (With the exception, in my opinion, of throwing at or around a batter's head.)