At this point, I have an intimacy with the Marriott Courtyard that is likely registered in my DNA. I could be blindfolded and tossed into the lobby of a Courtyard, and I’d be in my room, ironing my shirts, and drinking a Coors Light from the mini-bar within 5 minutes. Every once in a while the business travel stars align, and we get to stay in a place like the Ames Hotel in Boston. Not only are the rooms deeluxe (pictured above), but the building itself is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the doorman told me that it was Boston’s “first skyscraper.” And Wikipedia agrees. Not pictured here is the nicest component of my room: A huge arched window that looked south over the Old City Hall, the Old South Meeting House, and no doubt lots of other old things. No Coors Light, of course, but pretty killer otherwise.
I’m one episode from the finale of Deadwood, and I’m feeling prematurely nostalgic for the pantomime conversations between the Cantonese-speaking Wu and English-speaking Al Swearengen. These “conversations” generally involve frantic sketching with charcoal, oaths unprintable in a family blog, and very little English. They tend to conclude with the declaration “hang dai!” (literally: 兄弟) which means “brothers,” and reciprocal gestures of intertwined index and middle fingers, as shown above. Hang dai, Mr. Wu. I will miss you.
Can’t imagine that it could get much better than this. Via amassblog.
In yet another shallow record-industry ploy to sell the same album twice, the Rolling Stones recently asked producer Don Was to dig through their Exile On Main Street archives and produce a remastered version with a few additional tracks. Thinking about Exile reminds me, of course, of Robert Frank’s documentary with an unprintable name, a chronicle the Stones’ daily lives around the time of Exile. This film presented in very raw form (in the words of one reviewer) “massive, almost unthinkable amounts of ego-gratification, and routine, torpid, everyday boredom,” and it was essentially unreleasable, shown only in art houses and pirated VHS. It’s safe to say that no massively successful band has ever, or will ever, give the kind of access that the Stones gave to Frank. (The sex and the drugs, they are everywhere amidst the rock ‘n roll). The above video is some of the cleaner stuff culled from Frank’s footage. Needless to say, the whole thing is worth seeing, even if you have to cover your eyes every once in a while. Additional reading: A nice little NPR interview with Mick and Keef.
Secret retributions are always restoring the level, when disturbed, of divine justice. It is impossible to tilt the beam. All the tyrants and proprietors and monopolists of the world in vain set their shoulders to heave the bar. Settles forevermore the ponderous equator to its lines, and man and mote, and star and sun, must range to it, or be pulverized by the recoil.
It’s a quote from Emerson, delivered in a lecture on the divine in the mid-19th century. You gotta wonder if he’d reconsider his position if he saw the world today.
If you haven’t read David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement address at Kenyon, you should. It’s humble and real and warm, and truly great. It’s also very difficult to read. After his suicide, it’s impossible not to hear the echoes of Wallace’s internal conversation, the darkness and doubt and obsessive thoughts that he clearly struggled to get a handle on.
As I’m sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: Learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.
Hard to believe that this was 30 years ago, but here’s some excellent local news footage of a notorious moment in baseball history: the White Sox ill-fated “Disco Demolition” promotion. In the end, Comiskey Park descended into a riot after a Chicago DJ exploded a crate full of disco records in the middle of the field between games of a double-header. The NYT has a nice chronicle of the unfolding disaster:
[Mike] Veeck, [son of the White Sox owner], ordered yellow-jacketed guards to go outside to stop fans from crashing the gates.
That allowed the spectators inside the ballpark to storm the field without much resistance. Jack Morris, a Tigers pitcher, recalled “whiskey bottles were flying over our dugout” after Detroit won the first game, 4 – 1.
Then Dahl blew up the records.
“And then all hell broke loose,” Morris said. “They charged the field and started tearing up the pitching rubber and the dirt. They took the bases. They started digging out home plate.“
Watch for Greg Gumbel in the footage above; he was a sportscaster for a Chicago-area station.
This photo is from an excellent 70s photo book called Handmade Houses. I bought it after I read this inspiring little piece on Inhabitat, and it has got me thinking about getting back to basics. In this economy, basics may be all there are.
In the winter and spring of 1997, I helped my friend Steve make a house by hand on the California coast. At first, it was like Robinson Crusoe. No possessions to speak of, other than my hammer, some books, the sun and ocean, fresh air and work. We worked all day, doing what felt like good, wholesome labor in the sun, banging, sawing, sizing things up.
Then El Nino arrived. After a few weeks, the whole thing had become more like Lord of the Flies. Days and days of rain, mudslides on Highway 1, crazy-making isolation. In between squalls, we framed the house, affixed the plywood sheathing, put on the deck and roof, and ran the wiring. At some point, I came down with a cold, which eventually became pneumonia.
In the spring, I retreated to the warmth of Doug and Ted’s house in Berkeley to recuperate, a few weeks later I’d taken a job at a museum, and that was the end of simplicity. For the time being, anyway.
I won’t bore you with my thoughts on Lisa Marie Presley’s MySpace thing about Michael (“I wanted to save him. I wanted to save him from the inevitable which is what has just happened”), or relate my story of finding out that the rumor was true (upon reading this tweet from Lil’ Jon: “RIP M J!!”), or discuss Justin’s excellent email about how MJ helped him stay in his “eight-year old zone.”
I will only spread some love about my favorite MJ recording, which is a very scratchy demo version of “Working Day And Night” from the Special Edition of “Off the Wall.”