Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Poetry? Poetry. Poetry?!?

Mark Kozelek is the man (lyricist, composer, guitarist, and vocalist) behind two of my all time favorite bands, the Red House Painters and Sun Kil Moon. Or rather, he is those bands, so saying they are both favorites is sort of redundant. He is often described as one of America's great living song writers (by people who listen to this sort of music) and last year republished this book, which while technically a collection of lyrics from his entire catalog, it is as much a book of poetry as my previous entry. While he is not Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen (or Jewel), and I would argue that his songs are much more that (songs, as in a harmony [pun intended] of music and lyrics) than some of the work of those men, his lyrics are poetic, beautiful, funny, often devastingly sad. Rather than go on and on, and I could, I'll just leave you with one of them. Maybe its not you thing, but it is mine.

This is "Duk Koo Kim" by Mark Kozelek (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite songs ever)

looking out on my roof last night
woken up from a dream
i saw a typhoon coming in close
bringing the clouds down to the sea
making the world look gray and alone
taking all light from my view
keeping everyone in
and keeping me here with you

around you now, i can't sleep no more baby
around you still, don't want to leave yet

woken up from a dream last night
somewhere lost in war
i couldn't feel my feet or hands
i didn't feel right anymore
i knew there I'd die alone
with no one to reach to
but an angel came down
and brought me back to you

i'd rather leave this world forever baby
than let life go the way it's going

watching an old fight film last night
Ray Mancini vs. Duk Koo Kim
the boy from Seoul was hanging in good
but the pounding took to him
and there in the square he lay alone
without face without crown
and the angel who looked upon
never came down

you never know what day could pick you baby
out of the air, out of nowhere

come to me once more my love
show me love I've never known
sing to me once more my love
words from your younger years
sing to me once more my love
songs that i love to hear

birds gather 'round my window
fly with everything i love about the day
flowers, blue and gold and orange
rise with everything i love about the day

walk with me down these strange streets
how have we come to be here
so kind are all these people
how have we come to know them

Primary Poetry Post

A child laughs and you put on your shoes
And think "what is the difference between
Tomorrow and a tylonol"
You decide it's the way the l sits

Reading modern poetry always puts you
In a weird head-space, a weird rhythm
Added to your thoughts as if each were its own poem
As if you were writing this book
Instead of sitting on the toilet
Reading it.

And you think: "Some of these poems are moving
Some are well written and funny and full of images
And some just seem like a glut of words strung together
Without thought, without reason, and certainly lacking in rhyme."
Maybe its just you.
They are diversions at best, tasty morsels forgotten as soon as they are digested
At worst, they are more than forgettable

That is what you think
About this book
If you are me.

Nowhere Nothin' Fuckup

Why do I run?

Everyday I put on my stinky running shoes and take a jog around the parks of my neighborhood. I run and run. And run and run. What from?

Do I like the person I am? I think so. But what if I'm running from that person? To that person? Through that person?

Am I a celebrity six, living through the prism of a drug fiend's trip-addled brain?

Am I a nobody, slumming through the streets, trying to make some kind--any kind of connection?

Time to slap on those sneakers and find out. Flow my tears.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Hello friends.

Almost a year into my blog postings I figured it was time to finish out the Maus saga. Part II was (like part I) incredible, and incredibly, movingly devastating.

I really don't know how to sum it all up except to say that this book shook me. I couldn't put it down. Each new page offered up a fresh taste of the misery of the death camps, tempered by Spiegelman's present day woes.

Thanks Art--you rocked me again.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The End Times: You Know, For Kids!

Guys, I have had this book on my read-it list for about 3 years (I remember picking it up and starting it, only to get distracted and never get past page... five, say) and finally picked it up over the weekend. When I started reading, I couldn't put it down and was done about 24 hours later. Man, I know I don't know nothin' about Terry Pratchett (though now I wanna), but this hits my sweet spot in almost the exact same way Neil Gaiman's writing has elsewhere. Incredibly funny and insightful, with a wildly specific and absorbing world that manages to be as expansive as any I've dipped into this year. I think this is the book Summerland wanted to be, but it's really quite effortless how Gaiman and Pratchett stuff it with dozens of disparate characters and hierarchies, with none of the sort of hurried frenzy Chabon fell into at times. Well, I'm just wildly glad to be coming to new things like this, even if it's late in the game. Next up: American Gods?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I'd tell you all you want and more, if the sounds I made could be what you hear. But I cannot make myself understood. Call it something I ate.

It seems like time is passing now with some kind of alarming frequency, red X's scrawled in an exponential fashion on my UglyDoll monster calendar. Los Angeles sunlight merging into the milky odor of a pale gelatinous Lake Erie fish carcass, only to be burned away by the sting of Chicago wind. And you close your eyes and open them and a day goes by and you ride the train and eat a sandwich and you close your eyes again and suddenly it's October and the summer is over and you look in the mirror and you don't necessarily recognize yourself and you close your eyes and open them and you're 24 years old and it seems like only yesterday that you were 7 and submerged in an oatmeal bath with your brother, water over your ears, safe, quiet, red dots of chicken pox speckled all over your tiny bodies like sprinkles on a birthday cake.

And it seems that time, like water, has an erosion quality they don't necessarily prep you for in kindergarten. Another few degrees of curvature in the spine. A slumping of the shoulders. A creeping murkiness that injects itself into your imagination, a murkiness with a voice that says: "time to grow up, time to grow up, time to grow up," repeating on loop until it starts to sound like pretty sound advice. And so you grow up, and you start to forget the things that are actually important and instead place new importance on things that don't seem to really be all that important, to you, except that society has deemed them as important, so you guess they must be important after all. The endless pursuit of green paper money. Maintaining certain numbers in a bank account. Remembering passwords and schedules. Paying your rent $$ on time. Keeping your intake of unsaturated fat to a healthy low. Filling the laundry detergent to the second line. Making sure to buy toilet paper before the last roll runs out. The mundacity (which I realize is not a word but strongly feel that it should be) of it all. It's hard not to get swept up, overcome, saturated, by real life.

And I think back to years ago, the 1980s, the 1990s, when things didn't seem to be this way. I replay memories. I flip through family photos, and I see two smiling curly haired boys in fluorescently striped green and purple shirts, raking crackling leaves into garbage bags adorned with scary plastic faces, drinking steaming mugs of hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows, bundled up in puffy coats and mittens, waking up to find snow coating the streets and almost trembling with anticipation while watching ABC news to see if Pittsburgh Public Schools was closed for the day due to weather conditions. The magic of a snow day. Opening a fresh packet of fruit snacks. Jumping into a swimming pool. The feeling of having your whole life ahead of you.

I guess my point is, what I'm trying to say in a very long-winded fashion, is that living with Infinite Jest for the past two months has reminded me that life is not, in fact, simply a steady incessant flow of time and age and a general watering-down of expectations that real adult existence appears to be at first glance. Or rather, that it doesn't have to be. That the feelings you felt as a child, brimming with something, hope, excitement, it's all still there, only in a more complicated format. That life is full of mysteries and incredible occurrences and colors and textures. Of accidents and coincidence and chance. Of family and sadness and exploration and surprises. And the really cool fact that I think I sometimes forget is that it all happens under the same glassy blue sky.

Whether it's the complex pock of a fuzzy green tennis ball connecting with strings, or what exactly happens between 2216 and 2226h when a man armed with a Zip-loc bag full of cornflake-meatloaf, a Browning X444 serrated blade, and five lines of organic Bing prowls the sodium lamp-lit alleys of Enfield, MA. Or what it would be like to live in a time when the years are no longer numbered, but instead named after the top-bidding advertisers - so you have the Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad, Year of the Whopper, Year of the Whisper-Quiet Maytag Dishmaster - and the greater majority of New England has been ceded to Canada and turned into America's primary toxic waste dump, with the giant ATHSCME fans' steady hum keeping the chemical clouds at bay. Eating speckled fungal basement mold while Wagnerian clouds gather in the sky above. Reflecting on your Quebecois life as a man with stumps for legs impales a sharpened wooden broom through the organs of your body and your soul flies home to be where it started. The fine line between addiction and recovery. The sadness of a father who chooses not to hear the words that you speak.

Infinite Jest is so teeming with life. Overflowing. Every page is filled with such heart and such astounding amounts of imagination. And it goes on and on and on, an impossible length to maintain something so beautiful. And yet David Foster Wallace does it. He creates a world that is so original and yet at the same time so achingly close to home that you can't help but open your eyes and look a little closer at things. To remember that life is happening everywhere, and that you only get one chance, maybe 80+ short years if you're lucky, to soak in as much as possible before it's all over. And I don't really know. It was something. It was definitely something. And my pores feel open again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Laughing Matter

I like grammar. I like speaking correctly, I like pointing out when people are wrong, and I even enjoy teaching the writing section to my SAT students. But I am nowhere near as fanatical as Lynn Truss and her target readership are. For instance, I don't always punctuate my emails correctly. I certainly don't always speak in complete sentences via text. And while some anecdotes and histories are interesting, I just don't care all that much at the end of the day about the five century journey of the semi-colon, or the fading glory of the hyphen. If you do, then you absolutely must read this book. If you don't, you might find it interesting still. If you were turned off by the first sentence, then its not for you at all.

My mom recommended this to me as a light read, and since the joke of the books title (a panda walks into a bar...) is one of the many in my corny joke arsenal, so the bok has been on my radar for a while. And while it was in fact a light, breezy read (great for the john!) the histories that make up most of the substance of the writing (of the period, the comma, the colon, etc. complete with origin and proper usage) get really repetitive and boring after a while. My favorite part of the book are the everyday examples that drove Truss nuts enough to force her (seemingly) to write this instructional tome. Stuff like apostrophes at the green grocers (or green grocer's, or green grocers') in the fruit: pear's, 2.99, etc. I love finding these in everyday life, so this appealed to me most of all (a running joke with my friend Dan is the sign in front of his old apartment that read "Please notice there is no parking in the driveway", and almost nightly i walk by a sign at a cuban restaurant warning "Restrooms only for customers", which I'm sure would cause Truss to wonder why the restaurant won't also offer it's customers food or a table).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Comfort food

Well, anyways, it's cold and I just finished teching and opening a show while simultaneously starting rehearsals on the NEXT show, and basically fell into a routine of burrowing under a heavy comforter with familiar, not-at-all-taxing books. And these were them, and these were good, and the Martin is really strikingly similar to the Allen, and they're both good, smart, high-quality fluff, and that's all I'm going to say on the matter. I'm going back to bed.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Hello friends,

Nothing like a good spooky read to start October. Time to dive back into the King Cannon...this time way back to the oldie but goodie, 'Salem's Lot.

Sadly, this one really didn't hold me. King sets up a town of crusty old New-Englanders ripe and ready for blood-sucking goodness. Everyone is there: the fat gossip, the lazy sheriff, the drunk, the grave-digger, the author, the ingenious child. And there's even a pyromaniac/psychotic hunchback who runs the town dump.

And yet...meh. I didn't care about any of these characters. King does a much better job of establishing a sense of community in later works like It and Needful Things. Here, I was just patiently biding my time until all these folks got nice and dead. Not the worst way to spend a weekend of reading, but still, kinda lame.

Plus, vampires are kind of predictable, at least in this story. Nothing really ever scared me...maybe some mild creepiness, but aside from a good bit of baby-punching (not done by a vampire) the freak-outs were minimal.

Reading this book reminded me of a visit to the Stratford Festival many years ago. I was with my aunt and uncle and we were in town specifically to see a musical production of Dracula. It was incredibly cheesy. My uncle kept laughing during the show, much to the dismay of the people around us. After one of his girlish squeals of laughter the patron in front of us turned back and told us to "just leave!"

I didn't want to leave during this book...but it was seriously cheesy. Crucifixes and holy water make me laugh, especially when I'm reading on Yom Kippur. Give me a psycho-killer or a monster or a devil any day. Vampires can go suck it.

Garlic is yummy tho.