Things Pass Away

2 Autumn Leaves, by Kristie Shureen PhotographyFrom whiskey river:

September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.

(Alexander Theroux)

For summer there, bear in mind, is a loitering gossip, that only begins to talk of leaving when September rises to go.

(George Washington Cable)

and:

If we were not beings who pass quickly away like all other things, none of this would matter.

(Susan Murphy, Upside-Down Zen)

and (the single word don’t ringing loudly):

Why we don’t die

In late September many voices
Tell you you will die.
That leaf says it. That coolness.
All of them are right.

Our many souls — what
Can they do about it?
Nothing. They’re already
Part of the invisible.

Our souls have been
Longing to go home
Anyway. “It’s late,” they say.
“Lock the door, let’s go.”

The body doesn’t agree. It says,
“We buried a little iron
Ball under that tree.

Let’s go get it.”

(Robert Bly, Eating The Honey of Words: New and Selected Poems)

…and — not from whiskey river, just because I was curious about Bly’s “iron ball” and found this video, likewise on the theme of time, and of things which can happen too quickly to see or even imagine:

…and finally, because obvious though the selection is, this post just wouldn’t be complete without it:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Send to Kindle
Share

Learning to See

Continuing last Friday’s meditation on the topic of sight, and the things which we might see differently “if only”…

First, from whiskey river‘s commonplace book*:

Picasso is riding on a train and someone sits down next to him.

Recognizing who he is, the person asks, “Why don’t you paint people the way they really are?”

Picasso asks, “What do you mean by the way they really are?”

The man eagerly pulls out his wallet and shows Picasso a picture of his wife and says, “This is my wife.”

Picasso responds, “She looks rather small and flat, don’t you think?”

(by Bonnie Myotai Treace, Sensei; story also recounted elsewhere)

Not from whiskey river:

Jack London, by Arnold Genthe (taken 1906-1916)

When Jack London had his portrait made by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe: “You must have a wonderful camera… It must be the best camera in the world… You must show me your camera.”

Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London.

When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.”

(quoted at PhotoQuotes.com)

From The Luminous Landscape:

…a good photograph isn’t measured in line pairs per millimeter, MTF functions, S/N calculations, or any of the other measurements that photography enthusiasts recite like religious mantras. The most important tools that are used to take good photographs are the human eye, the human brain, and the human heart.

And finally, a little music. I’m not going to provide a bunch of links to online information about Ry Cooder — there’s a ton of it out there. I will say that if you don’t know his work, at all, I think you’re in for a treat. The number which follows (not one of his hits, but a performance I’ve always been fond of) is a straight-up instrumental version — a re-visioning — of an Ike & Tina Turner number called “I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine.” Here’s what Rolling Stone said of the number in its review of Cooder’s 1979 Bop Till You Drop:

Cooder’s instrumental version of “I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine” takes the sweet growl of the Ike and Tina Turner original and sets it against some easy, sexy self-assurance. Ike and Tina made this number into a toe-to-toe at midnight, but Cooder’s version is full of relaxed and low-slung afterglow.

“Relaxed and low-slung afterglow”: love that.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

__________________________
* whiskey river’s “commonplace book” is what the site’s author calls its archives. Unlike most blog archives, though, whiskey river’s are not strictly speaking chronologically organized: “They are arranged here in random order, the way they were found.”

Send to Kindle
Share

Puzzlin’ Evidence… Done Hardened in Your Heart

Talking Heads was one of those bands which I probably never would have picked up on — not on my own, anyhow. Predictably, in retrospect, it took a nudge from my brother.

Or rather, a couple of different nudges. One of the later ones came in 1986, with the release of the musical film True Stories. Mike pointed me to a couple of reviews and then, somehow, he managed to corral a bunch of us to accompany him to Philadelphia to see it one night.

Nominally, it’s a Talking Heads film: the group released a not-quite-soundtrack album containing its versions of the songs. But in the film — written and directed by, and “starring,” the Heads’ lead singer, David Byrne — with few exceptions, the songs are performed by other people in the cast. For instance, a voodoo priest (played by gospel/R&B star Pops Staples) sings a song called “Papa Legba” to bring love and good fortune to Louis (The Dancing Bear) Fyne (played by John Goodman).

The general idea for the film came to him, Byrne has said, from tabloid stories — how they might represent people from a single town.

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Nouveau Retro: Big Daddy

Brief post today… Worked way later on writing-type stuff than I’d meant to. (So I guess that counts as an excuse, huh?) In any case, this one has decidedly nothing at all to do with writing.

Sometime back in 1991-92, I got a very curious gift from my brother. It was a cassette tape (I later upgraded to CD) of music by a group called “Big Daddy”; the title was Cutting Their Own Groove.

On the front, an antique-looking record player seemed to be playing, was it? yes! an old 45-rpm vinyl record. A rainbow of sparks was shooting from the needle at the end of the tone arm. I flipped the cassette over, curious to see what the playlist might be. As my brother knew, my preferred musical genre at the time was oldies, so maybe…

What was this?!? All the tracks were recent hits! Whitney Houston’s “The Greatest Love of All.” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” “Graceland,” by Paul Simon…

This was a stupid cover band! What was Mike thinking, sending me this crap?!?

Long story short: a cover band, all right. But a cover band with a difference. A difference which Mike knew would appeal to me.

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share

Seeing, Not Seeing

From whiskey river (originally published [PDF] in Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall/Winter 2004/2005):

It Wasn’t Death She Saw

But life:
skin dancing with flesh
like silk curtains that swirl in the wind
above her mother’s window

up up   now puff!   and in again

Or breath — is the wind breathing?
She’d been playing in the grass when it happened:
the snake flung
from the mower’s blade, rainbows
of ribbons in the air

rainbows rainbows everywhere, catch a ribbon for your hair

She wrapped the pretty pieces in willow leaves and grass.
When she told her mother what she’d seen —
the way life
leapt out of the snake
just like a ballerina —
her mother beat her,
scrubbed her tongue with salt

but Mama, it was beautiful, like fireflies at night

She learned to hold her body

very still.

(by Kirstin Hotelling Zona: editor, Poetry Radio podcasts)

Not from whiskey river:

The Stare’s Nest by My Window

The bees build in the crevices
Of loosening masonry, and there
The mother birds bring grubs and flies.
My wall is loosening; honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We are closed in, and the key is turned
On our uncertainty; somewhere
A man is killed, or a house burned,
Yet no clear fact to be discerned:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

A barricade of stone or of wood;
Some fourteen days of civil war;
Last night they trundled down the road
That dead young soldier in his blood:
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love; O honey-bees,
Come build in the empty house of the stare.

(W.B. Yeats)

Finally, there’s “(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night,” by Tom Waits, performed by Madeleine Peyroux (lyrics below):

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Edit to add: And, what the heck, just for comparison here’s Shawn Colvin’s (live) very different but just as enchanting take on the same song — which I just found out about. (Thanks, Jules!)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

(Looking for) The Heart of Saturday Night

Well you gassed her up
Behind the wheel
With your arm around your sweet one
In your Oldsmobile
Barrelin’ down the boulevard
You’re looking for the heart of Saturday night

And you got paid on Friday
And your pockets are jingling
And you see the lights
You get all tinglin’ cause you’re cruising with a six
You’re looking for the heart of Saturday night

Then you comb your hair
Shave your face
Trying to wipe out every trace
All the other days
In the week you know that this’ll be the Saturday
You’re reachin’ your peak

Stopping on the red
You’re going on the green
Tonight’ll be like nothing
You’ve ever seen
You’re barreling down the boulevard
Looking for the heart of Saturday night

Tell me is the crack of the poolballs, neon buzzin
Telephone’s ringing; it’s your second cousin
Is it the barmaid that’s smiling from the corner of her eye
Magic of the melancholy tear in your eye

Makes it kind of quiver down in the core
You’re dreaming of them Saturdays that came before
Now you’re stumbling
You’re stumbling onto the heart of Saturday night
Now you’re stumbling
You’re stumbling onto the heart of Saturday night

Send to Kindle
Share

The World Has Not Ended, But the Day Is Still Young

Another brief, YouTube-salvaged entry today to work on a review for the Book Book site

Libba Bray (link to her site over there on the right, under the “Je Ne Sais Quoi…” category) is a funny YA author, and an all too infrequent blogger. In her most recent post, she mentions being a physics freak and takes the opportunity to draw our attention to news of the Large Hadron Collider:

Tomorrow [Editor’s Note: i.e., TODAY, Wednesday, 2008-09-10], on the border of France and Switzerland, way underground, The Hadron Super Collider will be turned on, and physicists will search for answers about the universe. What’s out there? What is dark energy? When the Big Bang happened, where did all that matter go, and would it have been such an imposition for it to have sent us a few postcards over the years? Is there a Higgs-Boson (aka “God Particle”) or is that just the name of some disaffected aristocratic particle who drinks too much and lives in a crumbling estate on the edge of the universe? (You know, next to the restaurant. Sigh. Douglas Adams. R.I.P. Did you know Douglas Adams and I share a birthday? You do now. Plenty of time to shop for it, too. Well, for me. Mr. Adams did not leave a forwarding address that I know of. But I digress.)

We were talking super colliders. And what the universe is made of. And why gravity is so weak in our world. And why we’re here. And whether there might be other dimensions and if they have malls and if those malls are more evolved or do they still have a Hot Topic right next to the Jamba Juice.

…There are naysayers who worry that the Hadron Super Collider will create a black hole that will swallow the earth and annihilate every single thing including the cockroaches and Paris Hilton. You know, there are always drawbacks, people. This is science.

To reassure us, though, she also directs our attention to this video, courtesy of the scientific community:

Send to Kindle
Share

Flying, Not Flying

From whiskey river:

To the Light of September

When you are already here
you appear to be only
a name that tells of you
whether you are present or not

and for now it seems as though
you are still summer
still the high familiar
endless summer
yet with a glint
of bronze in the chill mornings
and the late yellow petals
of the mullein fluttering
on the stalks that lean
over their broken
shadows across the cracked ground

but they all know
that you have come
the seed heads of the sage
the whispering birds
with nowhere to hide you
to keep you for later

you
who fly with them

you who are neither
before nor after
you who arrive
with blue plums
that have fallen through the night

perfect in the dew

(by W. S. Merwin)

…and, from elsewhere:

Evolution in Indiana

I thought that species took ten thousand years
to gradually evolve new strategies
to deal with shifts in climate or environment,
but after two snow-free years in a row
the local robins all at once decided
to winter here instead of flying south.
I watched them pace my lawn in late November,
debating like small Hamlets with their instincts:
“It’s way past time to migrate; why haven’t I?”
Since, every fall, a few old feeble ones
decide they’d rather risk starvation here
than drop off dead of fatigue in Alabama,
at first I thought it was their kind I glimpsed
rummaging discarded Christmas trees
for grubs and squabbling with the greedy squirrels
stealing birdseed from my neighbor’s feeder.
But then, one drizzly January walk,
I spotted dozens, looking sleek and healthy,
plucking worms who’d washed up on my sidewalk.
Why here, where I was forced to grub for money
all winter long, when they could fly away,
I wondered as they hopped out of my path.
Does flying hurt so much they’d rather shiver
and see the sun once every other week
than perch in palms swayed by an ocean breeze?
If I had wings, I’d use them… and on and on
I muttered as I trudged around the block
in pointless circles, just for exercise,
hands thrust into my pockets, arms tight to sides,
like some huge flightless bird, while overhead
the most successful members of my species
winged effortlessly southward in high Boeings
invisible from our side of the clouds —
we well-fed and hard-working flock of Dodos.

(by Richard Cecil)

…and finally, the following. Downloading the original, alas, isn’t an option. Following right behind, though, at a very close second choice, is this unplugged version by one of the four original performers:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Send to Kindle
Share

Fatboy, Skinny Man

Real post coming up later today.

In the meantime… Below is a screen capture (not an actual YouTube video — don’t (duh) bother clicking the Play button) of the amazing video of Christopher Walken dancing to Fatboy Slim’s “Weapon of Choice.”

For the actual video, well, the YouTube version (as sometimes happens) has had its “embedding disabled by request,” i.e., it can’t actually be pasted into a blog post. So just go here to see it.

I’d forgotten how much I liked this when it came out. The reminder today came from Kate Lord Brown’s What Kate Did Next blog.

'Weapon of Choice' video screen capture

P.S. Obviously, the planned four-day absence I mentioned last week didn’t materialize. I’ll keep the little stack of posts about figures of speech in a back pocket, to use as needed.

Send to Kindle
Share

Lightnin’ Pickin’

In the Writers to Be Read category over there on the right, you’ll see a link to something called Froogville. Its proprietor, one (presumably pseudonymous) Froog, runs a second blog as well: Round-the-World Barstool Blues whose mission, he says there, can be summed up as “Musings on life & love from the bars of the world.”

In a recent post, titled “Great Drinking Songs (9),” Froog includes a video of a group of Cornish fishermen singing the song “[Bound for] South Australia.” Which is entertaining, sort of — in the way any given film of any arbitrary group of non-professional semi-professional [thanks, Froog] singers, singing any given drinking song on a beach in a vaguely disorganized way, is entertaining.

Much much better, though, is the YouTube video below (a simple link to which Froog provided in his post), of an Australian guitarist named Tommy Emmanuel — playing the same song in a manner which frankly left me slack-jawed with amazement. I have NEVER seen or (I think) heard anyone play a guitar this fast.

See what I mean? I close my eyes and hear not a guitar but a banjo, or maybe a mandolin. But guitar…?

Send to Kindle
Share

The “Sing, Sing, Sing” Triptych

A couple of months ago here, I posted a long short story I wrote some years back, called “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Whatever else that post might have accomplished, it’s managed to get a certain amount of attention from Googlers. Among other variations, hits have come to the post from searching on these phrases:

  • sing sing sing
  • sing sing sing arrangement
  • carnegie goodman sing sing sing

and my favorite:

  • words of sing sing sing by benny goodman

(Hint: The Goodman version of “Sing, Sing, Sing” — despite its title — has no words. Straight instrumental.)

In the interest of serving those who might really be searching for information about or analyses of the piece (surely one of the most famous recordings in jazz history), I thought I’d elaborate some about it, using excerpts from my story.

[Read more…]

Send to Kindle
Share