Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Who's there?

Ira Kaplan is guest hosting a late night show on WFMU, and I'm tapping away at the laptop while listening to his sonic choices (the current offering sound like some kind of mix between Serge Gainsbourg and the space-age bachelor pad offerings of Esquivel. One could do worse at 11 on a Tuesday night.

For the last few days I've been coiling up to react to I'm Not There, the Bob Dylan movie Todd Haynes made with 6 actors playing Dylan in various incarnations at varying eras. A fun house mirrorview of a man who won't keep still. Saw it on Saturday night, still steeped in the remnants of Thanksgiving.

I'm not saying it was perfect (just as I'm not saying Dylan is, was, or ever shall be perfect), but I am saying it's worth watching. In fact, I'll probably go back and see it again after I let it settle in for a few more days.

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child's balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying.

Different actors cover different facets of the Dylan diamond. No impersonation required, though Cate Blanchett does a pretty much note-perfect reading of his Bringing it All Back Home/Don't Look Back persona. Richard Gere comes closest to today's Singing Cowboy - Billy the Kid camping out in Riddle, Missouri, having faked his own execution.

His clothes are dirty, but his hands are clean

One of those films that may stick with you for a while, ride with you on the subway, go with you through your day.

It's funny to me how often people just don't get it, with all kinds of things, Dylan being one of the most obvious. I mean, yeah, he has TONS of fans, with nigh-religious devotion, and many music critics likewise treat his body of work like some kind of Holy Grail. But his detractors can be just as fervent - usually starting with some kind of resistance to his voice, then moving on to attack the cultishness of his followers.

Reminds me of a conversation I had with a Croatian co-worker of mine a few years back: this guy was and is super smart, but just did not get Dylan, especially the vocal stylings (and I gotta tell you, his Croatian accented Dylan immitation was pretty hilarious. "Mneeyeh, mnyeeaahh!") This was a dayjob co-worker, but he knew me (and, I think it's fair to say, admired me) as an actor and vocal artist, and when I put in a strong defense of Dylan's powerful vocal interpretation and blindingly original styling, he just couldn't wrap his mind around it.

"So, what are you telling me?" (you've got to try to hear a piercing Eastern European accent and attitude in this questioning. Think of an apoplectic James Bond villain.) "You are telling me that this whiny, wheezing insect has a good voice?!"

"I didn't say he has a good voice."

"Oh, you didn't?"

"No I didn't"

"You didn't say he has a good voice?"

"No, I didn't say he has a good voice. I said he has a great voice."

At this point the veins started bulging out of his neck and forehead, and a poor innocent fellow worker rolled her eyes and stood clear as he proceeded to explicate the ways he wanted to rip my artistic intestines out and knit himself a noose out of them.

It was pretty fun.

The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn,
But it's not that way, I wasn't born to lose you.

It's not a frivolous distinction. Dylan's voice is peerlessly powerful, while not having anything to do with the smoothness and shine of Great Vocalists like Sinatra or Cole or Caruso. And the opera notion makes me think of Maria Callas, whom many would call the Best Female Singer of the Century. Yet her voice is not really the kind of 'beautiful' that is usually associated with operatic sopranos. A Great Voice, not a good one.

As for the movie, the critics' responses have been predictibly fervent, pro and con, at least if the tiny bit of reading I've done is any indication. Once again, I'm staggered at how many people miss the point. I'm tempted to tear into one particular critic, but that's always a downward spiral and a half. Plus, I try (at least here) to sort of follow the Mother's Dictum "If you can't say anything nice about someone, don't say anything at all."

Yeah, I don't always succeed on that score.

The beauty parlor is filled with sailors
The circus is in town

To the people who wonder why a filmmaker would make a 'biopic' that doesn't try to pin down and explain its subject, I say that a biopic is not what Haynes was making. To those who ask why said subject doesn't clearly define his 'character' for your benefit, I suggest that to some artists there is little that is more boring than trying to explain oneself. Much more fun to tweak some expectations, stir things up, and create. Hey, it's almost 400 years later and people are still trying to figure out who Shakespeare was.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself.
I am large, I contain multitudes.

And, to the nameless clueless critic: that puke you've got on your chest? I think it's Aristotle's. You may want to clean that up.

It's alright, Ma, I'm only sighing.

And as with anything, you can't make people get it.

The film spurred at least one enthusiast to, um, back up some data for a friend:

Could write more on this subject, but I've subjected you to enough for now...

Monday, November 26, 2007


The NY football Giants, that is.

If you know me, you know that I don't have much affinity for football. In fact, it was a pretty swell epiphany for me the day I realized that one can be a heterosexual male in America and not care about football and everything will be just fine.

But I got to go to the Giants game against Minnesota yesterday, and though it was a truly horrible game (unless you are one of those giddy Viqueens fans), it was a really fun experience, made all the more so by the fact that I got to take the radiant and irresistible Crystal as my 'date.' I had invited her husband Brandon (great friend of mine and big time football fan) who said he couldn't dare accept, as it was a lifelong dream of Crystal's to go to a Giants game, and would I consider taking her instead?

Of course! Crystal was the first person I met when I was checking out my grad school, and she let me crash on her futon for the couple days I was there. Plus she's, you know, radiant and irresistible. :-)

So, here's the view from our seats:

Yes, I know end zone seating is considered subpar, but we were close! And it was a beautiful fall day.

Now if we could have done something about those three interceptions run back for touchdowns...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Planned Parenthood Party

This isn't the kind of thing I'd normally post here, but it should be a good event, from a very good friend and for a very good cause. If you're free and in New York next Friday, consider...

Body Politic '08: Jazz & Jewels

Spread the word! Please re-post!

Come experience 3 fabulous Jazz singers - Jacqueline Antaramian, Elizabeth Soychak, and Michele - while supporting the important political work of the Planned Parenthood NYC Action Fund. Jewelry by Jacqueline on sale all night! 21 and over.
Friday, November 30
The Duplex - 60 Christopher St, NY NY 10014
$20 cover (includes Action Fund membership), plus 2 drink minimum

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Bocce

You know bocce, right? The old Italian game where you toss a small round stone to one end of a court, then try to get larger stone balls as close to it as possible, while knocking your opponents' balls away? Well, it was an important part of T-day this year.

But we don't play that polite bocce, where you just toss the pallino from one end of a pleasant smooth sand area to the other. Ours is more of an extreme bocce...
Also known as all-terrain bocce, it involves using the whole beach - the smooth sand, the rocky parts, the shells and the driftwood, the lawn above, even - at one ill-advised point - the water. That's Kevin hurling a bocce ball in one or our 'long bocc' rounds.
And now I'm having some trouble with uploading images - more later...

Alright - more bocce madness.

Here we are prepping for bocce among the beach chair obstacles:

And this is us getting ready for Extreme Bocce Action (can't you tell?)

The characters in this boccerific image are, from left to right, Crispy, Kevin, Rudy and myself. That bottle in the sand is, um, probably caffeine-free diet coke.

Finally, we have a shot of Water Bocce. The pallino rolled down the slope of the shore and ended up right at the edge of the water. We hemmed and hawed and thought it might not be such a good idea to play that lie. But then we were like: they're rocks, right? They're not going anywhere...

So we played the round. Sure enough, the balls stayed in plain sight at water's edge. We had serious control issues trying to work the slanting sand, but this was All-Terrain Bocce, after all. And when all the stones were rolled, two were almost tied for closest to the jack:

That would be Pike, Kev, Chris and I closely inspecting the situation to determine the victor of the round. We paced it off, allowing for waves, then gathered the rocks and got ready for the next round. But as we did, Rudy said "Um, guys...? Do you have all the balls?"

Ummm... nope. While we were engrossed in the competition aspect of the game, Neptune claimed two of the Bocce balls for himself.

This was followed by about 15 minutes of us all wading up and down the shallows in a vain hope of finding those rocks in the ocean. Which was itself followed by another 10 or so minutes of the four of us just staring out at the surf, muted, scanning for glimpses of red-paint and wondering what we were going to tell Jen (who brought the bocce set in the first place). Gulp :-)

It didn't spoil the party. Fortunately, this was not an heirloom set from Jen's Italian Grandfather or anything. Her attitude was the best - "they couldn't have gone in a better way, or to a better place." And we adjusted the game for the remainder of the weekend.

But if anyone knows where I can find some good Bocce balls cheap, lemme know...

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Beach

This is the view of the beach on Edisto Island as seen from the downstairs porch at I'm guessing about midday. It was perhaps cooler than would have been truly ideal for swimming, sunning and such, but all in all it was kind of wonderful for November 8-11.

Here's a look up the beach (Northeasterly), including shots of more neighboring houses:

And here's one that cannot possibly do justice to the scene, but props to Rich for capturing it:

It's a dolphin! There were lots of them swimming up and down the beach every day. Ok, ok, it wasn't a constant thing or anything, but at least a couple people saw dolphins every day we were there. And one day, three or four of them swam very close to where we were hanging out. A few of us walked closer to the shore, and they swam back and forth a few times - which I took to be an invitation to go out and swim with them (yes, ok, I know - they probably weren't actually inviting anything, but i couldn't resist)

Not many people did much swimming at all that weekend, but I have been baptised in the ocean waters of Maine, and therefore have less fear of the cold. And although it's an exaggeration to say I swam 'with' the dolphins, I was in the water near them. But rather than swim up to me and take me for a ride on their backs, they, umm, kinda swam away. Still, it was pretty amazing!

And also amazing was that my friends resisted the temptation to bust my balls for scaring the dolphins away (again, they were probably just looking for food and not the least concerned with me or any of us), and instead totally cheered me on for going out there and taking the chance.

Which is one of the innumerable reasons why I love them.

The House

This is the house where T-day 007 happened, as seen from the beach. Felt pretty stylin', I must say.

Here's a shot of the kitchen, where so much of the magic happened:

Don't know how well you can see it, but notice the granite countertops and the tile; also worthy of appreciation are the combination of hanging fixtures and recessed lighting (anb what a ceiling! the detail work and superfine wood really blew us away)

Here's the downstairs patio:

From left to right, we have the darling Cleo, Rudy, Kevin and Pike. Would you say this is sun-dappled? I'd say it's sun-dappled.

We didn't take any shots from the street, I guess. Probably because we didn't spend any time there at all - we were pretty beachy, except for the trips to the shrimp shack and the Piggly Wiggly (which is not, as some Northerners think, a mere convenience store, but a full-out supermarket.

One last shot for now, from a bit farther away, with the peeps assembled in front:

One of the things I like about this shot is the candid nature (thanks to Rich for all of these, I think) Fairly certain that none of us are aware there's a guy down by the water snapping away.

And speaking of that - beach shots next time...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

To Do Lists

We've dealt with mail art here before - and, yes, Blogger and YouTube conspired to draw attention to this, but I think it's worth a view:

You are what you list...?
Oh, she has a blog too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

T-day 007

Ok, I don't think I've really discussed T-day in this blog, except for the odd reference. It's a gathering that happens every year a couple weeks before Thanksgiving (although the specific timing has changed occasionally, that's a pretty reliable date). There is always a ton of music and revelry, and some truly magnificent communal cooking.

Permit me to anticipate some of your comments and questions.

- Wow - that sounds a lot like 'The Big Chill'

No, it's not really very much like that perfectly adequate movie, although there have been known to be some singing and dancing to go along with the cooking and cleaning. Certain key differences include the fact that T-Day involves:

  • a lack of overall angst
  • a lack of sexual tension and improbable hookups (umm... ok... there have been a few of those, but really, this party has happened every years for many years, that's bound to happen a little bit - how many were there in that movie that covered one weekend?)
  • a decided lack of breaking down and crying in the shower. As far as I know
  • and most importantly - we aren't getting together once, after years of not seeing each other, because one of us has DIED.

- How long has this been going on? Where does it happen?

It started back at my college, one or two years before I got there, and has happened every single year since. Since its humble origins in Boston (imagine a bunch of not-exactly-sober college students figuring out how to stuff and cook a turkey and prepare what trimmings they could manage in their ill-equipped kitchens), we have become a diaspora, and the location changes pretty much every year, though there have been repeat venues (Boston, Williamstown, Burlington, VT, Philmont, NY). As the years have passed, several of us have developed pretty good game in the kitchen, and our outings have become more ambitious and adventurous.

- What kinds of things do you do?

There is always some variety, but you can count on lots of:
  • food
  • drink
  • music
  • games of some sort in general
  • pinochle in particular (really!)
It has always taken place in the Northeast - until this year.

T-Day 007 happened in Edisto Island, South Carolina. Jen goes there with her family a lot and turned us on to the idea. Molly found us a house online that pretty much blew us all away. Some of us have pretty nice houses, but this was essentially a new, fancy, huge place right on the beach. Astounding.

I'll have to write more later, but for now - here's a pic of me just south of the border of North and South Carolinas:

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stem Cell Rejection

Yesterday was what was generally considered a pretty insignificant election day. No national-level offices at stake, and few Governorships up for grabs.

New Jersey did have elections for some of its State and County offices, and a few referendum questions. To our shame, we rejected a proposal to fund important stem cell research. This was considered a slam dunk by most analysts, but a last-minute push by right wingers evidently was enough to block it.

It's such important work, and I think potentially a very good source of revenue as well. The Garden State tends to be on the ball with this kind of thing, but clearly some better strategy was necessary here. I'm sad and a little embarrassed.

And that's the first time anyone has ever been embarrassed of New Jersey.

Oh, wait...

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Cradle WILL Rock

And, in this case, i'm not talking about a Marc Blitzstein musical. Or a Tim Robbins movie about a Marc Blitzstein musical.

I am talking about - wait for it - VAN HALEN!!!

Monsters of 70s and 80s Rock, Kings of the Hair Bands, Undisputed Lords of Metal Pop (well, ok, there's plenty of dispute over who get to be Lords of Metal Pop, but it's really not an argument worth having) played Meadowlands this weekend, and thanks to the dayjob, i got to go. Took Shannon as my date, as I'd been to see her husband's show earlier in the day with Sherin and JP, and they needed the evening to themselves. Plus, duh, Shannon's just super fun to rock out with.

As i wrote to the T-Day crew: that's right folks, i was runnin' with the devil and oh baby baby i danced the night away while jamie was cryin' in panama. Now, i ain't talking 'bout love, but i was hot for teacher (oh, she was a pretty woman, after all). And i'll wait for the women and children first, but fair warning: when push comes to shove, somebody get me a doctor, 'cuz i might as well jump.

Now perhaps you noticed in that photo that the guy on the right seems a little younger than the others. How perceptive of you! That's because the orginal bass player, Michael Anthony, has been replaced on this particular tour by Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang. Who is 16.

Pause just a moment to reflect on that. Perhaps in light of what you did when you were 16. Me, i got my driver's license and thought that was pretty bitchen.

Wolfgang did a good job (though i am a little bothered by the rumor that VH is using Michael's pre-recorded backing vocals while excluding him from the tour), and the band put on a great show, of its ilk. It's not really my preferred music in general, but you gotta give credit where it's due.

Mad props to Shannon for coming up with the notion that David Lee Roth is the Liberace of his generation. Probably wouldn't have occurred to me, but it's inescapable: the broad smile, the brightly-colored matador jackets (one after the other, each with its pattern of spangly sequins), the - i'm not making it up, folks - explosions of sparkling confetti. A walking, jumping, roundhouse-kicking personification of flamboyant showmanship.