Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ballads At The End Of Time

waiting to cross the street; sixth and lamar; five o'clock traffic, car locked behind car locked behind car; the one in front of me has a sign on the door: "mohair dolls/classes/supplies"; i'm astounded that a) there are mohair dolls and b) there's enough demand to make them that there are classes in how to make them and a company to do that and to sell the supplies needed to do so. there is a niche for everyone in this new economy; if you have a talent or a skill there is an opening for you to fill. i have no talents, no skills; nothing marketable that is. is there a demand for history? i'm reminded of a passage from The Solitudes by John Crowley:

Pierce shrugged, raised eyebrows, shook head. "You know," he said, "when I was a kid I sort of thought that when I became a historian, what I would do, what historians did, was practice history-the way a doctor practices medicine. Maybe because the uncle I grew up with was a doctor. Have an office, or a shop..."
"'Keep thy shop,'" Barr said, "'and thy shop will keep thee.'" He made in his throat the famous Barr chuckle, plummy, chocolaty. "Ben Franklin."
Pierce drank. In the dark of the bar, his old mentor was unreadable. Pierce was fairly sure that Barr's kindly but justly lukewarm descriptio (couldn't call it a recommendation) was chiefly what had kept Pierce from moving automatically into a slot at Noate, and thrown him on the open market. "How," he said, something-not the drink-warming his cheeks suddenly, "would you do it? Practice history. If there weren't Noate."
Barr considered this a long time. The drink before him seemed to glow faintly, like a votive lamp before Buddha. "I think," he said, "that I would take some job, some job I was suited for-my father was a tailor, I worked for him-and I would listen, and discover what questions people asked, that history might answer, or help to answer, even if at first they didn't seem to be historical questions; and I'd try to answer them...."
"Questions like...."
"Questions that come up. I remember there was an old woman who lived over my father's shop. She read cards, told fortunes. She was a Gypsy, my father said, and that's why people went to her. But why, I asked him, do people think that Gypsies can tell fortunes? History could answer that. Give an account, you see." He set down his finished drink; his grin had begun again to grow, his chuckle to rumble in his throat. "The only trouble would be that damn tendency to generalism. I suppose that the first question I tried to answer would lead me to others, and those to others, and so on; and there being no publish-or-perish sort of pressure, no impetus to stop asking and start answering, I might go on forever. End up with the History of the World. Or a history, anyway." He took, with plump fingers, the olive from his glass, and chewed on it thoughtfully. "Incomplete, probably, in the end. Unfinished. Oh, yes. But still I think I would consider myself to have been practicing history."

maybe there is a demand for history; maybe that is my talent: why DO people think gypsies can tell fortunes? maybe it's time i began to practice history; i've had enough practice.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


this is how the middle-brow works, you see: so many thoughts, so many ideas. i keep waiting for that special chip that lets selected thoughts save to the hard drive of my computer; my walks to the liquor store will then forever retain their poignancy.
i was walking to the store trying to wrap my mind around the idea of a blog. what will be my narrative, my theme? forever defined by the blogs we read and knowing that our, or at least my, mind doesn't work that way. a passage kept running through my brain and i couldn't figure out where i read it:

Imagine if talking pictures hadn’t been invented in 1927, but eighty years later, in 2007. Do you think Hollywood studios today would conclude that they needed to hire house composers and full orchestras to accompany the drama with symphonic scores? Something we take for granted about the form of modern talking pictures—dialogue accompanied by orchestral music—arose from a particular kind of cultural aspiration that no longer exists.
then, somehow due to that combination of walking and thinking (and then i'm reminded of kenneth in the episode of 30 rock where once he's told to talk and walk at the same time (in a nice jab at aaron sorkin) he is incapable of doing both), i remember an essay on the twentieth anniversary of allan bloom's The Closing Of The American Mind by Mark Steyn (from which the quote above is taken.)
and then i think, briefly, on The Closing Of The American Mind, that much maligned and much overrated book. the first part of this book is pure genius; an older man angrily making his good-byes to world that has passed him by. while there is much to disregard, there is also so much to cling to. i admit, my copy of this book is heavily underlined. it also gave us Ravelstein, the only book by saul bellow which i have not only read all the way through but read more than once.
i think about saul bellow for a bit; his friendship with martin amis; martin amis's friendship with christopher hitchens; christopher hitchens run in with saul bellow at a dinner at the bellows's house where he was invited by martin amis; martin amis as kingsley amis's son; kingsley amis; kingsley amis as friends with robert conquest; robert conquest as definitive historian of the great terror of soviet union in the '20's; robert conquest as womanizer and poet; robert conquest and kingsley amis as friends with anthony powell; anthony powell as the greatest english (as in england) writer of the 20th century.
then i open the door, walk into my room, and decide that what the world really needs is the video to the movie the legend of billy jean:

Friday, November 9, 2007

Champagne Supernova

i don't know if this is going to work; the whole blog thing. it's nice, as a lark, when visiting myspace but, as a stand-alone, i'm not really sure. i feel like it needs a purpose, a vision, an idea to govern it and, as we all know, i'm no good at the vision thing.
anyway...i'm sick and just, for the first and maybe last time, got to live out a decadent rock star moment by spraying a nearly full bottle of champagne all over my room. i hope my dvd player and television still work and my trades don't become too sticky. so, while wading through the lake of champagne that is my carpet, i have discovered my new favorite blog: Horror A Day. it's by "some guy" who loves horror movies and has decided to watch one a day and write about it. pretty fucking simple. here he is writing about The Descent which is one of the best horror movies in years:

The great thing about the movie is how scary it is before the damn monsters even show up. I legit yelped the first time I saw the film at a particular shock scare early on, and the scenes of the girls getting stuck in tiny passageways as they navigate the cave system are pretty terrifying as well. Plus, Marshall is a master of subtle reveals, giving the film enormous rewatchability (check out the scene right after the cave in, when Sarah is looking around with her flashlight - there's a monster's hand or something without a single musical sting or scream to accompany it). Like the best survival horror movies, there are nature elements as well as the monster/killer to worry about, and Marshall's script never lets one really overshadow the other.

Plus, it's gory as hell. Those cannibalistic humanoids that dwell under the ground (I wish they had a simple acronym to use to describe them) spray their innards everywhere when killed, and they have a knack for likewise killing the girls as gorily as possible. Again, Marshall succeeds in both areas - he's made a chilling psychological horror film, AND a splatter film, and whether you consider it one type of film or the other, it works just as well. I should note that some folks believe the monsters don't exist at all; that Sarah killed her friends herself. And while I don't buy into this theory, it certainly has some evidence to support it, and gives the film another level of interpretation.