Friday, December 04, 2009

Don't Know What You Got, Till It's Gone- (#Best09)

I don't have to post every day. I don't have to post any day. Every day, I think I should-there must be something funny, or soulful, or soulfully funny, or funnily soulful, that I can mock or comment upon or agree with or disagree with or argue with or throw my hands up in frustration at. Most days, I do. Some days, I don't. And the Earth just keeps on turning, heedless.

The inescapably marvelous and inexplicably single Katie wrote today about the Best of 2009 Challenge , which is the End of Yeary (and End of Decade-y) thing that the media usually does, assessing and evaluating. What were the Top Ten stories of 2009? Top Ten books, movies, TV shows, plays, actors, writers, golfers, tennis players? Political bloggers will give you the Top Ten Outrageous Things The President Did in 2009, and Basketball bloggers will give you the Top Ten Dunks of 2009. Pause, reflect, look back-because after all, we're about to go buy new calendars.

That's too harsh, really-there's nothing wrong with this trend. I just don't have the patience to try to come up with my ten favorite books from 2009. (That's really the only list I could populate, unless it was Top Ten Things I Said That DMarks Disagreed With or Top Ten Inappropriately Salacious Comments I Left On Katie's Blog.)

This article suggests that social networks, ironically, spread loneliness-that a lonely person, who is bitter or snarky or nasty on a social network to his or her peers will propagate this loneliness to others. Or, as my lovely and deeply patient wife puts it, "misery loves miserable company". This is the reason why I don't spend more time on Facebook, and this is the reason why I don't get more personal on here. I'm sick of scuba diving inside my own head, as Kurt Vonnegut once wrote, and I can't imagine anyone else finding it pleasant.

So this is a roundabout way of getting to the point-Katie's point today is about her lesson-what learning experience or lesson did you learn in 2009 that changed you?

I'll let Tom Keifer of Cinderella explain:

Life is too damn short, and it gets shorter every day. I will miss my father's presence, as much as I couldn't seem to make any time for him while he was here, every single day I am alive.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

More Flash Fiction: Sneakers

Yet another rejected piece (flash fiction, 200 words or less) from : "Sneakers"

"When he left, she put on her old sneakers. They are white, with some faded blue panels on the side in a checkerboard pattern. They are cut, sliced in places, and worn- friction from curbs and floors and cars and grass revealed in a thousand scuff marks. She wrote on them, once, a long time ago. You can't see what she wrote, but she remembers. They were faded, beaten, forgotten-shoved into the corner of the closet. She had other shoes-flats and sandals and flipflops and loafers and heels that she wears by herself, relishing the way her calves bunch and tighten in the mirror when she has them on. She wasn't trying to look down market and bohemian. She wasn't giving up. She wasn't backing down, or allowing him to dictate how she looked or how she felt.
She put on her old sneakers and wore them because they had been through a lot together, and it was time to rescue things that were forgotten. They looked like she felt, used and ignored and tossed aside in favor of newer, shinier things. She put on her old sneakers, and she walked out the door."

Hotel Illness

This was recommended by @ordinaryart, the magnificent Kel, who can be found writing here . As I have said, and will continue to say, if you're not reading her, you're missing out on someone special.

This is the Black Crowes performing "Hotel Illness". I am home from work trying to recover from another leg infection, a illness my body appears willing to succumb to about once a year. The last time this happened, exactly none of you will remember, the Celtics were in the NBA Finals playing the Lakers, making it June 2008. The reason why I remember things like that, I do not understand. Assuming the antibiotic takes hold, I should be back to normal very shortly. If I never post again, I'm probably dead. In that case, I would expect the number of posts to drop off dramatically.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

How Quick The Sun Can Drop Away

First off, if you haven't been here yet, then you're missing out. The post called "Hymnal" is gorgeous beyond my poor ability to describe.

Secondly, I think this is a really cool site. Dramatically NSFW, but cool. If you disagree, I can probably see your point, though.

Thirdly, these are ten questions I wish my company was smart enough to ask. 

Fourthly, seriously , Tiger? Wealthy beyond my capacity to imagine, married to a gorgeous woman, two beautiful children, and arguably the best practitioner of your craft who ever lived, and that's still not enough?

Fifthly, sometimes the simplest messages are the best. Thanks, @ericjfisher!

Sixthly, Tom Heinrich died yesterday. For a blog that is so slavishly baseball centric during the summer months, I have uttered barely a syllable since. Heinrich was a outfielder/first baseman on Joe DiMaggio's Yankee teams from 1937-1950. A feared clutch hitter, Heinrich was one of those "other guys" that never get the big money or the lion's share of the fame, but you don't win without them. He helped bury my Red Sox with 2 RBI in the deciding game of the 1949 season, sending them home with a 5-3 loss. (Boston entered the Yankee Stadium for the final two games of the 1949 season, needing one win to reach the World Series. Naturally, they lost them both.)

Seventhly, I have not given nearly enough love to my pals and brothers from another mother, Eric and Rob at WBRShow. Go here  for more information.

Eighthly, this is the always interesting Charlie Pierce's take on l'affaire Tiger. 

Ninthly, this guy grew up in the same town I did, and now he's the CEO of a major company. Sigh. 

Tenthly, for the funniest, pop culture oriented, NSFW tweets , follow her

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


I meant to add this story as a comment to someone's post about Pearl Jam's latest album, but now I've forgotten what blog that was on. I may have told this story before, too, so if I have, I'm sorry.

Back when I was in college, I commuted every day on the subway. The subway line I took also connected to othercolleges-Northeastern University, Massachusetts College of Art, Harvard Medical School, along with Boston LatinHigh School, so at typical commuting times (pre-9AM, say), the train would get fairly crowded. C'est la guerre, right?

So, when I was either hopelessly lost or otherwise bored while in class, I would write little cartoons and such in the margins. Sometimes band logos, sometimes song lyrics. Whatever. Anyhow.

One morning, I'm studying for a test, waiting for a train. A particularly stunning girl comes nearby, waiting for the same train. (On this train platform, the trains share the same track, and where you stand on the platform determines what train you intend to board. Confusing, at times, for non locals, but we cynical college students, half asleep, pretty much do it without much thought. ) Now, this happens 50 times a day-I used to fall in love quite readily, and being around 18-22 year olds a lot of the time, your odds of seeing someone attractive are astronomically high. So not exactly a news flash.

The page I'm studying has the last verse to Pearl Jam's "Black" written on it. Which, as I'm sure you all remember, is: "I know someday you'll have a beautiful life/I know you'll be a star/In somebody else's sky/But why/
Why/Why can't it be/Can't it be mine"

So I tear the strip of paper off of my notebook, and roll it into a cylinder. The train comes, and I maneuver myself to be behind the fetching girl. She is carrying a backpack. I slip the cylinder of paper, without being detected, into the aforementioned backpack. She leaves the train at some point, and I never see her again. 

Now, questions that has tormented me for almost 20 years now: Why did I do this? And, more interestingly, how did she react to finding it? 

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fear and Loathing

I exchanged emails with my son's teacher over the weekend. This is a very 21st century thing to be doing-I certainly would have freaked out if my parents had done something similar when I was my son's age. My son seems unimpressed-but, in a way, he is unimpressed about just about everything. I think he is getting used to the idea that I am one weird cat. It wasn't about his scholastic performance, it was actually about the Vonnegut excerpt I posted below, but it wound up being about that, at least in passing. That is an entirely logical thing to happen-after all, my son's status as his student is the reason why I know him at all. 

But I digress. 

The problem I am having, and have had, and continue to have, with my son is motivating him to apply himself in school. This is not an uncommon problem-and it was certainly one that my parents had with me. It may pass, with time. It may not. I don't know anything about a lot of things, and parenting is one of them. Parenting is without question the single hardest and most complicated thing I have ever done. I'm never done parenting, and I am constantly afraid I am doing it wrong, and I am given reminders, every once in a while, that I am. 

Now, part of this problem is the breed-preteens don't care about a lot of things that we'd rather they care about, and care a lot about things we'd rather they didn't. I get that. Part of the problem is that he's right-no matter how hard his teachers try to render it otherwise, school is boring. It is infinitely more interesting to be doing any one of a hundred other things, especially in 2009's multiverse of entertainment options, than being in school. 'Twas ever thus-even in my own childhood in the late Pleistocene, I would have much rather been at home than in school, ten times out of ten, and twice on Sunday. Except we didn't go to school on Sunday. Except for Sunday School.


The only way I can get my son to work at anything is through threats of dire consequences if he does not. This is a lousy motivator. (Mind you, I'm Scottish, so I'm stubborn enough to follow through on the threats, and, on a few occasions, I have.) "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully," wrote Samuel Johnson. 

Fear motivates, but it is not viable over the long term. I run much of my life based on it. I work because I fear starving, I parent out of fear of failing. It works for a while, but like being exposed to chronic stress, after a while the system breaks down, and the gears grind to a halt.  

I love reading, and I love being exposed to new ideas, and learning things I didn't know yesterday. I don't know how to get someone else to motivate themselves. I guess that means I'll never become President. 

These are the top ten suggestions Google has for phrases that begin with "Fear of"

1. Fear of long words
2. Fear of flying
3. Fear of clowns
4. Fear of heights
5. Fear of death
6. Fear of being alone
7. Fear of the dark
8. Fear of public speaking
9. Fear of commitment
10. Fear of flying lyrics

I think we can all agree that flying lyrics are something to be afraid of. 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The End of Silence

"This silence is not just in the gaps and spaces that punctuate sentences but is rather the lack within words that renders them articulate. For those with ears to hear, all saying is unsaying and every word is also a not. There can no more be word without silence than silence without Word. The origin, then, is always duplicitous: In the beginning is the Word...In the beginning is Silence. The quiet echo of this silence is profoundly unsetlling-in it I hear the Not that I am. Though we may long to escape it, silence can never be silenced. When we forget or refuse to listen to silence, we no longer know who we are because we do not know what we are not."

"Not everything that can be said should be said. Reticence is a particularly important virtue, especially in a time when everything as well as everybody is exposed...All too often people become complicit in the colonization of their own inwardness by soliciting the very publicity that inevitably undoes them. When this occurs, thoughtful reflection gives way to thoughtless spectacle: I am seen, therefore I am."

-Professor Mark C. Taylor, "Field Notes from Elsewhere" (Columbia University Press, 2009)

Blogging about silence is not quite like dancing about architecture-it's a little more like dancing about a statue.

I've always liked the drama of the phrase, "In the beginning there was the Word." It's the first words of the first chapter of the Book of John, the fourth book of the New Testament. If you've read any of the Bible (or books about the Bible), you know that it tends to repeat itself-retelling the same story or set of stories, sometimes more than once, in various places, sometimes using different names. The reason why is pretty obvious-without the printed word for the next 1400 years or so, the tradition was either oral or handwritten to keep telling the stories to the kiddos and pass the religion along. You had to keep them simple, easy to remember.

The echo, here, from "In the beginning there was the Word", of course, is the "In the beginning" from, well, the beginning-the book of Genesis. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth." The notion of the Word being the beginning is a powerful one. In David Plotz' book "The Good Book", where he does a pretty close, sometimes very funny, reading of the Old Testament, he points out that the Word is what kept the Jewish people together, on the same page, so to speak, through all their thousands of years of wandering. The Word is everything-before everything, there is the text. Hence the phrase "People of the Book"-a Muslim phrase describing Jews and Christians-without the words, without the text, there is nothing, in a sense, to believe in. The words hold it all together.

I like Prof. Taylor's notion that every word implies its opposite. You chose that word, and not this other one, and not, by definition, silence. Words have enormous power. Silence, the absence of speech, the blank page, gives rise to words, and worlds are created. In the beginning, is silence, and then there are words, and then there is, well, everything.

I've been quite self reflective since finishing NaNoWriMo. (pause to admire the glow from my winner's badge-winner, winner, chicken dinner.) I have this world, these people made only of words. (As I edit and reshape and retool and refine, checking things as simple as making sure someone has the same shirt at the end of the day as they had at the beginning, I'm increasingly sympathetic towards copy editors-it's exhausting, reading the same stuff over and over again. It starts to look right, even when it's glaringly wrong.) I'm sad that it's over, but I'm glad that it's done-that this story that I've been thinking about, in one form or another, since high school, is out of my head and into a finished form. I'm elated about eventually putting it onto the printed page for the world to consume, and I'm also terrified. Not just of the embarassment of missing an error, but what if it isn't the same as it is in my head? Or what if it is, and people hate it or, worse, are bored by it? You can't control that-that's the nature of art. You put it out there, and people make of it what they will.

I have ended the silence.