Sunday, November 16, 2008

true acting...

on the phone with seth yesterday and we start talking about 'synecdoche, new york' cuz charlie kaufman wrote and directed it, and philip seymour hoffman is in it. and seth gave psh the best compliment i can think of for an actor. he said: 'that movie has him in it, and you know, id watch him do anything. id watch cereal.'

and i laughed, cuz i have thought for some time about what i would be willing to watch some of my favorite actors do. i have for years said id watch johnny depp clip his toenails. so we started thinking of things to have people do. this is the list so far, continue adding to it, if you will.

philip seymour hoffman--eat cereal (rice crispies?)
johnny depp--clip toenails (sitting cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom?)
ewan macgregor--shave face (shirtless, hand towel around the shoulders, of course...)
dustin hoffman--drive thru at wendy's (seth wants to hear him say "ill have a biggie fries")
brad pitt--wash the car (seth was thinking something domestic and yet manly. cleaning out the gutters, maybe. i think this one might be better...)
billy crudup--learn a song on the piano...? make a salad? wait for the bus? (i dunno about this one...)

this may sound like a voyeuristic thing about male celebrities, but really, this is what the essence of good acting actually is. if you are really good at doing something truly, it doesnt matter what it is, people will love to watch you do it.

just watched to movie 'perfume' based on the book which i read last year (cuz there is a nirvana song about it--scentless apprentice--and cuz multiple co-workers at bailey/coy recommended it) and i was kinda worried that it wasnt going to translate to the screen very well. all that gorgeous description of scent--all kinds of scents--which i thought was an amazing feat of writing, to capture that evanescent, oddly wordless realm of the olfactory sense, i was afraid it would be lost in the movie. i was silly to worry. it was beautifully rendered and made for magnificent viewing. to glean all the information about the scent of something by the way it is filmed, was truly amazing. the lighting, the coloring, the angle, all of these factored in to the ghost of a scent that came to your imagination. really brilliant.
anyway, the reason im mentioning this, is that the actor who plays the perfumer with the almost super-human sense of smell, spends the first half hour of the movie not speaking. in fact, prolly only spends 10 minutes of the 2 hour movie in conversation, and yet, when he smells something...i dont know how to describe it. watching him inhale and react to and process what he is receiving is really a stellar experience. you can follow the whole progression of understanding thru the intensity of inhalation, how he closes his eyes, how high he holds his chin, if his pupils dilate or contract, the depth of his eyes, the furrow of his brow, or the subtle upward curve of his lips. he spends most of the movie smelling things. actively, intentionally smelling things. taking them in and paying attention to them, and never did he smell something the same way twice.
and i have no idea who this actor is. okay, thats a lie. his name is ben whishaw so i know as much as can tell me. and i remember him in 'im not there,' that amazing dylan movie, but yeah. so hes british. and hes obviously a freaking good actor, cuz he smells like a champ. id love to watch him cook breakfast.

this is why i love acting so much. cuz its really about being completely in the moment. who is it that says the definition of acting is living truthfully in imaginary circumstances? (uta hagen? sanford meisner? john abramson?) i really believe this to be the point. and i kinda mean for life. taking this idea off the stage (or screen) and thinking about it as an exercise for life makes me really happy. not so much that you should pay attention to everything you do as if someone were watching you (tho for a while growing up that was how i felt about life and how i believed in god...kinda weird, kinda exhibitionist...) but more that you should pay attention to everything you do as an end in itself. that the point is to be really good at eating cereal, or clipping your tonails. anything. everything.
and not for anyone else, for you. just to be truly in it, to be paying attention to detail and doing whatever task you have really well. with intention. and attention. that is worthy. noble, even. be good at whatever you wanna be good at, but please, please be good at living your life.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

oh, geez. oh, bama.

this was my tuesday:
i worked until 6:30 my time, which was 9:30 east coast time, but i was nonetheless very sure that it was going to be a long evening of slow returns and possibly not knowing who the president was till morning. (the last 8 years have embittered me in some really intense ways--i just assume there will be problems with every democratic process we cherish) and i knew i wasnt going to be able to handle the stress of a long wait, so i gathered my honey and my best friend and told them i wanted nothing to do with the election all night. so we went to eat and drink at a place we knew didnt have a big screen tv (which was hard to find on capitol hill that night) and talked about other things. of course, it always came back to the election. no matter what. and i was nervous and edgy and a little too loud. but then, whenever my friend ethan and i get together, we are always a little too loud. hes from chicago too, and hes jewish, so our jewish/italian chicago-style combo of brassiness can get us in real trouble out here. and we love it. to hell with the people who give us looks. cuz they are those polite northwestern almost looks...
anyway, ethan and i were compensating in volume and illinois pride for the worry we felt about the whole election process, and luka was getting even quieter than normal and then compounding our anxiety by talking about what election day is like back home and how upsetting is (luka is from georgia). earlier, luka had gotten a call from a good friend, jimmi, who had been voluteering that day at one of the polling places in their hometown, and had watched a fellow volunteer turn away black voters cuz their names werent on the list. which, my fellow americans, is not correct procedure. you have them fill out a provisional ballot and take their info and a lot of other things to make sure they get to vote if they are registered. so jimmi called whoever you call about those sorts of obstructions of justice, and then it got ugly cuz this woman accused jimmi of doing something shady like stuffing the ballot box or something else as weird and totally untrue. sheesh. talk about all your fears being realized...
so there we were, at the honey hole, eating our sandwiches and drinking our drinks and trying to think of something else to talk about and failing miserably. and 8 o'clock rolls around, and all of a sudden a few people at the bar throw up their hands and scream "yes!" and ethan yells, "what? what happened?" and no one answers so he walks over to the bar and sees all of the west coast go blue. he starts yelling "obama!" and i shush him, not cuz of his volume, but because im afraid he will jinx it. at this point, most of the country was convinced. not me. even long after the acceptance speech happened, i still wasnt there yet, (because i was nowhere near a tv to witness it..)
so we finished eating and ethan was starting to get excited and full of revelry and we walked back to lukas house and checked for the electoral vote count, which still didnt convince me, and ethan decided to go drinking with his house to celebrate and left us. luka and i stared at each other for a long moment and i said (possibly almost whined) can we go to bleu? luka kinda snorted, and said "thats the last place i would think of, but sure." bleu is a bar that has a lot of amazingly cozy little alcoves, complete with curtains, where you can hide away and drink marvelously large hot toddys or other strange and magical drinks like a long island iced tea in a pint glass, or a raspberry kamikaze in a martini glass (the latter two of which luka and i ordered, respectively). but before we could even tuck ourselves away, we were bombarded by the noise outside, which, upon investigation, seemed to consist of cars cruising up and down broadway with people out the windows screaming and cheering and a mass of people congregated on the sidewalks yelling and holding up signs and taking over the street for quick little jigs while the light was red and groups of friends doing call and response things like "who's country?" "OUR country!" and everyone just in a beautifully spontaneously joyous mood. sort of drunk on relief and the release of 8 years of cringing.
and i started to let go. to believe this was really true. and luke and i crawled back into our booth to sit in candlelight, and talk in soft voices with the loudness outside drowning us out once in a while, and i started to cry. tears streaming, no sound. and i realized how badly i have wanted this. how amazing i think barak obama is and what hope i have for what he can do for our country (our country--notice my ability to claim ownership again--that says something) and how fearful i was that something, someone (or a lot of someones--i need to start owning my belief in conspiracy theories) was going to figure out a way to keep this from us. from the US. when we need it so intensely badly. we are all so thirsty for someone to lead us who is competent and sounds like they are a thinking person and believes you to be one as well. i had wanted it so bad that i was so afraid i wouldnt get it so i didnt allow myself to even think about wanting it at all cuz i knew my heart couldnt handle not getting it. yes, thats fucked up. but thats what i have done all year. spent a lot of time not owning how bad i wanted obama to be president. so now that it was becoming abundantly clear that it was going to be for sure, i finally let down that wall and cried tears of relief. not joy, more of sadness, somehow. of regret that i couldnt be more like seth, my brother, who has been obsessed with and talking about and watching every speech by obama since january. he donated his bands music to the campaign. you can hear velvetron backing some of the youtube commercials made last week about getting out to vote. he has been so closely following the campaign all year that he calls obama 'barry'. he has been gung-ho since the word 'go'. not me. ive been in hiding. every time someone has talked about him, ill say, "yeah, im from chicago. we voted him into the senate and have been excited about him for years. of course im gonna vote for the hometown boy." but i wont say anything else. after every debate i would call a family member and beg them to tell me they thought obama won. cuz i couldnt see it. i couldnt allow myself, i was too scared no one else would. maybe im a little too west coast, thinking 'middle america' is worse than they actually are. maybe i havent had enough chicago fever, assuming everyone else is as excited about our boy as we are. whatever the reasons, i wasnt ready to believe. but i slowly came round while not thinking about it at bleu. luka and i spoke about our families, made plans to road-trip to visit them. the conversation even got somber for a while, though the celebratory sounds were still emanating from the front door. the cubby hole, the curtain, the candle, all led to sharing confidences, exorcising fears.
we emerged from our cave after an hour or so, a bit refreshed, somewhat intoxicated, a lot more cheerful. we strolled past a few revelers, tho the street had quieted down quite a bit, headed to lukas house at pike and broadway. at the end of the block north of said intersection we saw cop cars blockading the street. we kept walking until we were wading thru the mob of people who had completely filled the entire intersection of pike and broadway, all of the street and sidewalks, with people who climbed up a lamppost on every corner to wave an american flag or a homemade banner or an obama poster. there was singing and chanting "yes we can!" or "obama!" people were buying cases of beer from the shell station and passing cans out to everyone, perfect strangers were screaming and hugging each other.
at this point, neighbours, the gay club on that block of broadway, started blasting music from speakers they lugged up to the roof and pointed at the street. 'dont stop believing' came soaring over the crowd and all kinds of people whooped and started pockets of dance party within the herd. luka and i turned to each other and just stared, sharing both utter joy and total disbelief at the fabulously surreal feeling of this situation that was undeniably happening to us. all of us. it was like fourth of july meets new years, meets the DNC. what?!? we soaked it up and savoured it, then rejoiced in tossing it twinkling back and forth to one anothers eyes. and then there were sparklers and fireworks all around.
i tried to look out over the crowd to take in the dancing and the yelling and the fireworks and to try to understand the number of people without diving into the fray, and then i looked at luka and said "can we go up on your roof?" its a 3 story building and we ran to climb up and perched on the edge of the roof overlooking the street. this is what we saw.

almost directly after we got up there, an african american drag queen stepped up to the edge of neighbours roof with a microphone and talked to everyone down below thru the speakers. it was hard to hear her across the expanse of air, but i recognized the song she was leading the crowd in when it got to "and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air" and then a firework shot up over our heads and exploded in a blue and white lily. after the national anthem and the cheering that followed, another firework, red this time, blew up what felt like 10 feet above our heads, and i hugged luka tight and had the completely foreign yet intensely freeing thought: "i am proud to be an american tonight." i thought about traveling overseas in the next 4 years and not having to hang my head in shame when someone asks me where im from. i thought about having the picture of our president on the front page of a newspaper not look like a stupid ape. i thought about press conferences and state of the union addresses and any other moments when the president speaks publicly, especially to foreign dignitaries of any kind, and how i wont have to cringe and try to shut my ears. how i might start following the news again. and i got giddy. almost dizzy. i mean, that might have had a bit to do with luka's eyes and lips and hands on my back, not to mention the height and our proximity to the edge, but mostly it had to do with the night. luka said, "this is one of those nights our grandchildren will ask us where we were..." "lets go back down." i said.
a friend of lukes found us and said that earlier there was a whole march around downtown and then everyone came back up to the hill and converged with other people spontaneously gathering in the streets and thats how more than a thousand people ended up right where we were. a minute later we saw a whole other cluster of people come streaming down broadway jumping and laughing and hugging all those who were already standing around. this new group had gregoire posters. our governor was just elected. dems unite! most of the people i saw around me were not regulars in the neighborhood. this wasnt all the residents of the hill coming out to hang in their hood, this was just everyone who randomly found themselves here, where people were celebrating, happy to be with others who couldnt contain their joy. it was so beautiful. and exhausting. my face hurt from constantly raised eyebrows. but then we found jess and becky and dan, who were giddy and wide eyed and looked like they were high, but im sure they hadnt smoked. jess had been at the strangers election night party, had been a part of getting the late additions to the paper off to the printer at almost midnight, was prolly a little too sober to be dealing with this craziness. becky looked at dan milling about on the edge of the crowd, looked at the guy halfway up the lamppost with a flag (who had been there for at least an hour, waving his little heart out) and said, "ive lived in this town a long time, and ive been in these streets with hundreds of people, witnessed cops standing by, heard chanting and seen banners waving, but i have NEVER seen anyone wave an american flag. something has changed. something big." and shes right. the town that hosted the WTO demonstrations eight years ago (nine?) was on a completely different plane this night.
at almost 2am, luka and i said goodnight to everyone (goodnight, neverland!) and walked 50 feet to their door, crawling into bed with the sounds of the drunken celebration of mass amounts of people muffled to a dull roar outside the bedroom window. a couple hours later, we were up before it was light out and opened lukas coffee shop in a smiley-zombie-like state. the papers said: "change has come to america" and i spent all morning drinking tea and looking at's breakdown of each state by county. saw that indiana and n. carolina went blue. heard relief and expectation and the hangover of excitement in every customers voice. jeremiah, lukas manager, asked people how their night had been. many talked about the cap hill crowd. others said they had seen it on tv. id forgotten about the helicopters flying above, they must have been filming for the news. someone told me 64% of the voting population turned out to the polls. i looked it up--thats more than came out to elect JFK. we did it. i watched his victory speech on youtube. thats how he put it too. 'we did it.' but im so glad he didnt stop there. that he said. 'now we can keep doing it.' cuz thats the thing. thats whats changed. we are all in this together now. we danced in the streets last night together, now lets roll up our sleeves and start changing the world together. starting with this god-damned wasted country. we have our work cut out for us, but with obama in the lead, we can do it. oh, yes we can.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


[typewritten on my old royal while discovering the fleet foxes]

the weather shifted. The apples are on the ground. The hammock is wet. The light shifted. Its white and blue, not yellow, except inside.
And the insides are all red and warm as blood. Books and crafts and soup and coffee and hot toddys. I lean on coffee and spoon with whiskey. nothing crisp about this time of year. Chills. The dying of the light here is a muted affair. With damp seeping in every corner. The greenness darkens and the greys become saturated. I choke on the gulp in my throat. Hot liquid brims over my vision.
But its a different elation streaked despair. There is a soft gathering-in here. Of bounty, friends, creative energy. A promise of lush productivity throughout the coming dark months. Kale in february. So distant from the childhood joy of hazy heat breaking into clear, sharp, rainbow-leaved glory of the shedding of summer's hard-won fruits. The last big push of life before death masks all, shrouding with a crystalline blanket for cold comfort. But darkness at 4:30 wasn't so bad if it was preceded by even snow-glare-false brightness.
It's the greige I fear. The endless, merciless clouding of senses. The forced introversion where the mountains peak out only a handful of times in 6 months. Projects can be saviors of sanity. They bring functionality to a dysfunction of climate. A fortress of weather barring your path to anything resembling healthy contentment. Aah...despair, you are seeping in so quickly. Bedfellow of anticipation these days. Dangerous...
if only there was the promise of respite. Experience is a harsh teacher. But this time I feel ready. I myself. Not relying on outside forces. I get it now. The drive to create equaling the will to survive. That necessity is never stronger than the first of the year, looking back at 3 straight months of greige and ahead at another 4? 5? yeah, the perpetual growth of everything around you can help stretch what little you have left--its heartening to see flowers on trees superbowl weekend. Spring encroaches on the ground early, but doesn't launch an aerial attack for so long. So long. The body forgets what to do with the odd yellow warmth from the sky that peaks out with such infrequence and brief duration. Oh, god. A shadow. I almost forgot what their limits looked like. A true squint, not just lazy-liddedness. It's amazing what you can get used to, even convince yourself you don't need...until it comes upon you again and you grasp it like gasping for air after an ill-advised and myopic submergence of soul and body and intellect into a muddy mountain-fed pool of icy northwest reserve.
Shiver. Put on an oversized sweater. Hold a cup of coffee up to your nose with both hands. Wrap your half-numb fingers around a free-flowing pen. Get the fuck out of this town. Or embrace every last drop. Curl your tongue around it like your kitten, tail to nose in your lap.
There is no other way. Love it, love it. There is no leaving.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

i love my family

so, i just recently got on gmail. (finally, i know.)
and both of my brothers and my sister in law are already on gmail.
so last week i get a note from allison that tells me to watch out for the "vanek attack" which is when three vaneks are online and two of them simultaneously gchat the other one with the phrase "vanek attack!" so (for those of you who dont use gchat) when you are the one attacked, two chat windows pop up and two alert noises hit you at once. and then you have to try to 'fend off' (or converse with) two siblings at once. it hasnt happened to me yet, but i assume a lot of copy/pasting goes on...
so yesterday, seth and i attacked nate, our older brother, and he responded in what i felt i could hear as badly dubbed kung fu movie ninja-speak. it was great, but we were all at work, so it didnt last long.
however, later, nate and seth had this gchat conversation (seth just emailed it to me. oh yeah, they call me rach/rachel. heh.):

1:34 PM Nate: if you an rach are thinking about ninja attacking me
again you better forget it. I've learned 5 new kung fu styles
since our last encounter
[5 minutes pass]
1:39 PM Seth: uh oh
is one of them the one where you jump kick us both at the same time?
like chuck norris?
1:43 PM Nate: more like jet li, where i jump, bring my legs up to hit
you both in the chest and then back flip over in time to roll onto the
floor gracefully like I'm doing the centipede
Seth: ah yes...
in a chat style, of course
Nate: well yeah
the word version of that.
1:48 PM Seth: i must warn rachel
1:53 PM Nate: yes.
send your quickest messenger with the scroll telling of my power
1:56 PM Seth: will do. gotta go

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

johnny depp's eyeliner

been listening to nirvana and hole and the soundtrack to 'about a son' all day. been talking to saunia about how much kurt and courtney queered gender roles and what it means for a man take on the trappings of beauty usually reserved for women...and yes, johnny depps hot self and his penchant for wearing eyeliner came up.
it started with the question (by saunia) of whether i felt the queer gender performance by kurt (and courtney) was more an expression of themselves, or their desire to say 'fuck you' to the dominant paradigm in every way and so they destroyed gender norms as well as sobriety and cock rock and all sorts of things. i thought this was a very insightful question and said that i could really only speak from my understanding of kurt (as i havent studied courtney as much) but i feel she might have been operating from more of a fuck-you-to-everyone sort of place. that i felt maybe kurts actions (more so than his art, but that too) started out as dealing with his own gender expression, but possibly due to being in the spotlight it became more of a 'fuck you'.
that you start out understanding your gender and understanding that its not what people want from you, so you repress it. then you realize its who you are and no one has a right to tell you to repress it, so you let it out. and when you do that, the feeling of defiance that comes from going against what others wants can get you high and so you go really far with it and say 'fuck you' to anyone who cant handle your (albeit in-your-face) expression. hence kurts defensive tone, but his insistence on doing things like wearing a pink ball dress to the 'headbangers ball' [for those of you too young to remember this, it was this weird show in the 80s and early 90s on MTV about music and musicians moderated by this weird (kinda effeminate) long-haired headbanger type who was totally into heavy metal (cuz wasnt everyone back then?)]
but male expression of feminine beauty is much more acceptable in the mainstream now than it was then. if it werent for kurt, antony couldnt exist in the mainstream. and [this is where i need saunias help with reconstructing the conversation] somehow, this led her to mention johnny depp and his fantastic eyeliner. how its subverting gender stuff, but definitely making him super-hot. i think the point was that his visual appeal is tied up with his androgyny. that his cheekbones lend themselves to something really femininely beautiful and his use of eyeliner can accentuate this. the thing about JD is that his form of hotness is also really tied up with a tim burton-esque aesthetic, so its kinda dark and either depressing or smoldering, or both. and that has a sense of danger in a not very effeminate sort of way. well, i guess it depends on the character. edward scissorhands was kinda effeminate, he was even a hair-stylist...
saunia was using the word ambiguous to describe the use of traditionally feminine beauty products to up the hotness of a male. that subverting the dominant gender-role was hot because it wasnt clear what the purpose was, whether it was necessarily to make the male person look feminine. i had a hard time with the word ambiguous. i felt like this action is sort of obvious in its queering of gender and still showing how fucking gorgeous someone is, no matter if they are male or female, no matter if they are performing masculinity or femininity or something in between. i think we were arguing semantics about 'ambiguity' and 'androgyny' and 'queering gender', but i also think there are distinctions that we couldnt really articulate to each others satisfaction.
and its funny we even went to johnny depp cuz we could have stayed with kurt in this argument. he wore eyeliner a lot. and changed his hair color and length all the time (even got extensions). and was always kinda defensive when people brought it up. and a lot of times was beautiful, but also (i think he worked at this) at times was scary. not so much in the tim burton way, just in the 'i dont fucking care what you think, im gonna have 3 day old stubble and eyeliner and keep my hair in my face.' and that could be super-hot. and it could be grotesque. and i think he wanted to have both of those affects. i think sometimes he specifically wore a dress with a beard to highlight peoples belief in the absurdity of men wearing dresses and i think at other times he wore a dress to look beautiful, with spaghetti straps on those thin, muscled shoulders. (im thinking of the footage from the concert in brazil very late in their career. sure, he stuffed, and you could tell, but hell...lots of drag queens make quite a bit of the difficulty of keeping up the facade...)
speaking of drag queens, saunia brought that up in her defense of the word 'ambiguous'. that when drag queens put on their eyeliner, they arent trying to queer anything, they are specifically working to perform the feminine gender. i am assuming she was saying this is as a shorthand to say that drag queens go all the way to be specifically not ambiguous by adding all the other trappings of feminine beauty so that there is no doubt as to what they are doing. and when johnny depp and kurt cobain put on eyeliner and dont do anything else to specify feminine beauty, they are being much more ambiguous with their choice of gender expression. and i guess in some ways i agree with this, but i think i still dont like the word. i think they are very specifically and unambiguously showing their gender performed as they want it to be seen. as not fully masculine, and not fully feminine, but with an androgyny that they (or at least i) dont want to be thought of as synonymous with vague. who knows what they think, really.
i also have a problem with the word androgyny, by the way. prolly cuz the dictionary has multiple definitions that i feel are very different. therefore its confusing to use the same word to describe 'having both masculine and feminine characteristics' and 'neither clearly masculine nor clearly feminine in appearance'. i dont think having both cancels out either and it kinda disturbs me when people make that leap. i have striven hard in my life to imagine what genderless would look like. and maybe to figure out how to portray it. but i dont know that that is healthy for anyone, cuz im starting to believe its impossible and unnecessary (no matter how much i might still want it). at this point i might be getting into another whole set of things that this blog wasnt supposed to hold, so i think ill quit.
quick post script: i am not, in any way, against ambiguity when talking about or performing gender. i think its awesome, and as much as possible, i try to take advantage of it in my own life. its partially why i love michael stipe so much. he stayed within the ambiguous, even vague sometimes, in his descriptions of himself and his gender identity and sexuality. i appreciate people who dont feel the need to be specific in their choices to all and sundry. and most of the time, i dont fucking care who you are fucking. okay, maybe i do, not cuz i want insight into your psyche, but cuz i might know them...(at least in this town, sheesh!)

kurt's a girl

[this is the first draft of my first time writing about something that i kinda, not so secretly, think about writing a thesis on....gimme yer thoughts, but be generous. its written more like an inflammatory stranger article than a thesis prospectus.]

(deep breath) Hi, my name is Ray Vanek, and I'm obsessed with Kurt Cobain. (there, I said it.) Maybe that's not so weird. What's weird is that this all just started a year and a half ago. Very notably not 17 years ago. Or even 14. Nope, this obsession started the spring I was 28 years old. Not 14. not 17. or even 27, for that matter. You might wonder how a disaffected and angsty sophomore in high school could get away with not becoming obsessed. I do. I can't remember why he didn't grab me and pin me to the floor back then. I think he was too angry. And I was too goody-goody. Listening to the Beatles and (gulp) Phish and (double gulp) Dave Matthews Band. His snide interviews and violent performances did not amuse me. I was much more into decorum and innocent fun.
I was in the closet and not really even aware of it. I was bound by the strictures of society's gender role for me and had somehow managed to turn a blind eye on the chafing. I think I resented his showing the burns.
Because this is the premise of my obsession: I think Kurt's a girl. Okay, lemme rephrase. I feel like there is quite a bit of evidence, from his life and his work, to theorize that his gender identity was quite feminine. (is that blasphemy?)
There is the story about 'Kurt smells like teen spirit'. This doesn't bring up images of pep rallies, like the music video, but scents of the girlie deodorant 'teen spirit' that came out the same time as Bleach. Kurt smelled like a girl.
And how about the commercial that played on Mtv when In Utero came out? (how about the name 'in utero' and all the fetuses in his music videos and the babies on the back of the album?) Do you remember this video? You can youtube it, but you have to sign in to make sure you are 18 or over in order to view it. Its the three of them in dresses, lying on a classroom floor with their legs in the air, giving birth to copies of the cd. Popping them out like seahorses do. Yep. Kurt giving birth.
Speaking of which, he loved the seahorse image. Which by the way, is the only animal that the male 'gives birth' to the young. Its really an incubation thing, but the image of a male seahorse popping little seahorses out its protruding belly is really striking. And Kurt drew it in his notebook and used it as a t-shirts design.
Okay, how about songs he wrote? Rape me. Heart-shaped box. Penny-royal tea. On a plain. Been a son. Dive. Listen to the lyrics of these songs. For reals. 'Dive in me.' 'She should have been a son.' 'I love myself more than you' (masculine) 'I know its wrong but what can I do' (feminine). 'I drink pennyroyal tea to still the life thats inside of me.' (you know that shit is a natural abortion inducer? And dont tell me those are courtneys lyrics. he still sang them.) 'umbilical noose?' lets be real here. He was always talking about birth. How is it no one is talking about this? I know it wasnt a big thing to talk about back then, but for pete's sake.
I mean, im not trying to move to the northwest and tell you I know more about your dear boy than you do, but maybe it takes an outside perspective? I mean, im not saying, im just saying...
He was so fucking excited to have a baby. So excited. He said it gave his life purpose. I mean, come on. Why do you think the media were so freaked out by him and courtney? Cuz it was a beautiful example of gender role reversal that I feel fit their identities really well. He is actually smiling in the photo shoot where they had him sitting on her lap. He liked it. I mean, im sure they had their share of dominant-culture-stereotypical-gendered situations and fights and whatever, but who was wearing the pants in that relationship? Kurts been quoted as wearing a dress around the house all the time cuz it was comfortable...
yes, fine. He also said that he wasnt gay. That he wished he were gay. That he stood in solidarity with gays. There has been endless supposition around this. Fine. Im not saying he was gay, im saying he was genderqueer. Which has very little to do with who he wants to sleep with. Tho, if he identified more as a woman, and was sleeping with women, then, actually, he was stealth-gay.
Dont tell me that no one who identified as a woman would write such heavy, intense, violent music. Dont make me laugh in your face. (and please dont make me mention courtney again.) He wrote about pain. Deep, personal pain. He got angry at his lot in life. He threw tantrums when people wouldnt listen to him how he wanted them to. Ladies, sound familiar?
okay, okay, have I pissed you off yet? Well good. Kurt was pissed off most of the time. Im pissed off most of the time. Oh, and please dont even pretend to give me a 'youre queer, you were looking for this kind of thing'. Cuz I wasnt. Its been since coming to this realization about someone like Kurt that I have been able to come to a lot of realizations about myself. Maybe it took someone who has felt his specific kind of pain (albeit in reverse) to hear it. Someone who didn't have every nanosecond of In Utero memorized before this sort of analysis was possible for them. And yes, im defensive, of course im defensive. This hits really close to home. And sounds kinda crazy. And im writing this in seattle, of all places. Jesus christ, who wouldnt be?
Certainly not Kurt. He was always defensive. If you listen to some of the things he says, you wonder why he sounds so annoyed/passive- aggressive/pissy. But if you think about a response being something that he would say as a girl, but is misinterpreted as being a boy, it makes more sense. There is a great example on the unplugged album. I think its after penny-royal tea. He plays it by himself, which he was obviously nervous about doing, and when he's done krist (I think) says 'that sounded good' and kurt responds by saying 'shut up' in what sounds like an aggressive, bullying kind of way. But imagine it was a shy female up there, one who cant figure out how to take a compliment and so goes kinda coy on you. You would know she doesnt mean 'shut up' but a grudging 'thank you'. Thats what kurt did there. See it? am i right or am i right? (Im not crazy, I swear...)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Heck / HER, i dont even know her!

listen to this

hollow earth radio is my life now (just got on the board) and the weekend at Heck fest was a revelation. super-freaking-awesome. listen. especially to the interviews, they were so great.

the line-up for today, Part One: Wednesday July 30th 2-7pm PST

2:00 Real Live Shipwreck Survival Story told in honor of "Shipwreck Day" in Anacortes during Heck Fest.
2:10 LAKE at the Department of Safety and interview with Ashley of LAKE, 60 second interview with Blow & Tender Forever
3:15 Rich Jenson Intensive
4:12 Little Wings
4:45 The Moore Brothers and Owl and the Pussycat
5:15 Random Interviews: World History, American Field Recordings, etc.
5:25 Dennis Driscoll on Guemes Island and Interview afterwards
6:25 Mt. Eerie

sooo good!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


artists for obama posters!

(the music is seths band, velvetron. woot!)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

to mars.

'goodnight, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.'

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

model? me? no!

my friend jenna has a photography studio in san diego called p2photography. before that she was a student at the art institute here for photography and liked to ask me if she could take my picture for assignments in class.

anyway, she just sent me this which features images of both of us. yep, thats her, holding the earth in her hand.

(and yep, im standing on the grassy knoll in gasworks with that actual sky behind me. (wearing libby's overalls...))

Sunday, June 29, 2008

a kiss for a lost boy.

a thimbleful for you, marsdale. i havent written at all since leaving seattle for the midwest a month ago. not even in my journal. too busy seeing people and dealing with home and being in not-my-bed and now trying to adjust to seattle life once again. but for marcel, i can spend time finding the words. for you, dear boy.

marcel fremont, a gentleman and a scholar, died on wednesday night in a motorcycle accident on his way to seattle. he was coming to stay with polly and maybe me if i could swing it, cuz i was really excited to get to spend time with him for the first time in years. i felt lucky he was visiting cuz somehow we didnt meet up in the midwest in june. he was supposed to get here on friday.

but, thursday morning early, my phone rings. i assume its someone in chicago forgetting the time difference (my body was very aware of it that day, still jet-lagged and worn out from traveling) so i dont answer. but the voicemail was polly sounding upset, just asking me to call back. and as i drift back to sleep, vowing to call her in just one more hour, i wonder what shes calling for. my mind refuses to believe there is anything wrong with chris or unity and jumps straight to 'something went wrong with marcel on the road.' but the oblivion of sleep blots everything out until pollys second call, which i rouse for and answer. oh, god. 'do you want me to come over?' 'would you? chris has to go to work.' so i walk over and we curl up on the couch and i cant hold the idea of him no longer in the world in my head. and we talk and polly cries and she shows me pictures and tells me stories and we laugh and we have his smile and his voice in our heads and at some point when unity is crawling in and out of our laps saying 'hi!' the wind blows the door open. elijah. harvey. marcel. a day early and incorporeal. i pause before closing it, making sure he has entered and knows hes welcome.

he was amazing, and invincible (we all thought) and wise and wonderful, and we all looked up to him, even those of us who were older than him. we found ourselves talking in mythic ways about him even when he was in our midst, or when we were wishing he was at the party instead of a few hours south. he was not quite of this time, but i dont think i mean he was anachronistic in any way, i think i mean he was not quite perfectly fixed in this dimension. he was always a little bit beyond. and we all felt it. and we all worked to be good enough for it. for his way of interacting with people was to assume the best parts of them to be the most prominent and so we worked to bring them to the fore. for him. and in the process, for ourselves and others. but mostly because we wanted him to think well of us. i have watched every one of the ice factory/oak park boys avow the tenets of fremontism. boys became better men for having known him, women found him to be the best man they knew. heard spector was going to have him as his best man at his wedding this fall. marcel was everyones best man. and he made us better people by example.
and i know this sounds like an idealizing eulogy, but its not. this is just fact. plain fact that we all have known for years.
and the thing about marcel not being fixed in time goes hand in hand with him not really being fastened in place. he was a wanderer, he traveled and drifted, a self-professed highwayman. he was in the process of traveling around the country by motorcycle to visit all of his friends before settling down to a phd in st. louis this fall. this was no surprise to anyone. and in some ways its most fitting that he would die on the road to a friends house, out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, by himself at night. and yet, its so unfair. or maybe its unfair to think that we had any claim to him to begin with. tho he was present with people while sharing the same space, there was something about it that felt like we had him on loan from his other universe of self. and he knew that he was always wanted here in time and place with us, but we also knew he was not that easily held on to. and so we let him go. we have let him go from our presence before, but never like this.
all throughout knowing him, whenever i would think of marcel, at random times with random images of him flitting thru my brain, i could never really stick him to the present. i can sometimes get past images, snapshots of him in the hallways of oprf, impressions of his form at a park near the high school, the framed picture on pollys entrance hall table, but a lot of times i get future ones. what he will look like in ten years, what he would be like as an old man, or as a father, how that beard would be shot thru with grey streaks. or even just how travel-worn and weary he would be arriving at pollys on friday after days on the northwestern roads, yet how content and joyful. that quiet, almost still joy deep in his eyes, a gratefulness at being alive. he poured that gratitude onto every one of us. and we are all immensely grateful to have received it.
we can talk about how tragic and unfair it is to have lost such a life-force so early, we can speak of the illusion of longevity as if it were a right, we can say good people should not be lost before they have been able to do their potential good in the world, or we could just be grateful. grateful to have known him as long as we did. as much or as little as each of us was touched by him, it was enough to change our lives forever.
so maybe he wasnt meant to stay long in this world which he never seemed to sit easily in. or maybe it was that he sat too easily within it and it made us feel not quite real enough, that he was more there than any of us. but he was meant to have been there for each and every one of us and we wont ever forget how he was. barefoot, sturdily grounded, leaping for the sky.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


i dont know how to process this.

this is so freaking amazing, guys.

everett true is my f*cking idol. i so wish i could be him.
if you dont know who he is, study up or dont talk to me. his nirvana biography changed my life. no joke.

the way he talks about music makes me wanna scream (in that really high on beauty and passion and life sort of way--listen to thom yorke or bjork or kurt cobain to hear examples)

and look at this

this is him talking about clyde. your heart breaks. (the other thing in my life that makes me want to scream--almost always in a good way ;)

cuz its true. your heart breaks breaks my heart. continually. listen. (then buy) you will see.

and everett sees it and hears it right. (sorry, clyde, if the cat metaphor is too much for you, it feels right on the nose to me...)

and the way i read it, he is being real. he can be totally an asshole, but there is always that realness behind it that is his sincere love of music and musicians and his respect for the art and his commitment to using everything he has to help it along. he breaks my heart too, i guess.

he (they) break(s) it open in ways that kc does with his voice. the way that makes an outpouring happen.

(hence this blog)

and hopefully more words and music from me really soon...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

dude. (or not...)

thanks to marque for the heads up on this article:


its so good. and paul is so awesome. he came into the store the other day and bought some stuff on the stranger account and i thought he was cute, and not at all un-manly. except when he got really apologetic and polite around picking up a book left on the hold shelf for a week. (not a problem, paul. you are the least of our worries. chris frizzelle is much worse...)

anyway, read this shit. its awesome to have one of the 'privileged' (straight white males) talk about gender like this.


Friday, March 28, 2008

literate appetite (first draft)

I have this weird relationship with books these days. I make money off them, but not in a cool way. Not in a writing or publishing sense, in a retail sense. I'm a bookseller at a local independent bookstore. So this means that I'm around books all the time.I'm up on all the new stuff that's coming out, I know all about what people are saying about all the important authors, or those who are about to be important, or even those who were important a couple years ago.
But, that said, I don't really read books that much. I should rephrase that. I don't finish books as often or as quickly as I used to. It's been a long time since I was caught up by a book so that I was nailed to my seat till it was done and wanted to flip back to the beginning the minute I finished in order to stay in that world as long as I could. (Wait, I just lied: Kelley Eskridge's Dangerous Space did that to me. Before that it had been years.)
Working at Bailey/Coy Books is like being around a smorgasbord all the time and taking little tastes from all the different dishes to figure out what I'm hungry for and then realizing that I have filled up on mouthfuls and have no desire to sit down to a meal. Ever been at a party with a big spread that offers so many choices you can't eat? When I get to that point, all I ever want is something familiar. I stick to home cooking. By that I mean books that I first consumed, most likely devoured, years ago and come back to often because I have now acquired a taste for them and they satisfy my specific appetite.
My versions of literary soul food are things written by J. D. Salinger, particularly Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey, and Jeanette Winterson, mostly The Passion and Gut Symmetries. Sometimes I need to throw back even farther to the nostalgia of young adult fantasy worlds of Ursula K. LeGuin's Wizard of Earthsea trilogy (oh, wait, there are four), Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series, and my absolute favorite: Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. If you haven't read this, you are missing an intensely satisfying taste treat delight—a full, many course meal of adventure, science fiction, fantasy, alternate world theory, religious philosophy, thought experiments, science experiments, and of course, love experiments.
When I'm not re-reading old faves, I stick to short stories. Bite-sized morsels like grapes that you can pop into your mouth and press all the juice out of in a moment, enjoying that burst of intense flavor that leaves you refreshed without feeling stuffed. Cuz its hard to fill up on grapes. And maybe that's my plan—to travel light. I joke with my co-worker, James, who has a penchant for thick, epic tomes of books, that my fear of commitment is so strong I can't even commit to reading a long book. Maybe I have too much to do in my life that is putting forth my own ideas and I don't want to clog my brain with other people's unless they are gonna help inform mine. [That said, I have been very grateful to a few books I read this past year that now constitute the marinade in which my ideas have been steeping: the title story in the aforementioned Dangerous Space, a novella by Elizabeth Hand, called Illyria, about young lovers carving out a secret space for themselves in their family home, and The Madness of Love by Katharine Davies, a re-imagining of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in modern-day England. In fact, that's my favorite of the bard's works, I just saw it at Seattle Rep and it figures into Illyria too so it should go on the list...along with Everett True's Nirvana: The Biography. (I know, I know. Get over it already...) ]
Maybe its just that I'm picky. Sometimes, when work is slow, I find myself fishing the pools of the new title tables, trying to find something that matches the taste I want in my mouth, the specific hunger I feel rumbling. I grab a title that looks intriguing--a cover that catches my eye, something I remember reading a review of, something my coworker liked--and just as I'm about to crack the cover I balk at actually diving inside. Most likely I already know the premise. It's my job, after all, to know about these things--to be able to talk intelligently about them and make recommendations when needed. So, once you know what its about, and what everyone says about it, what's the point in going all the way through it? If I can see the bottom and have a good guess of what the water will feel like, what's the point of getting wet? Unless it's the sensation I know I want cuz I've already dipped into this pool, I'm not interested in good approximations. I want something drastically new, or exactly the same, I guess. There are books on the shelves of my store that I will never think to read simply because one of my coworkers already put a recommendation tag on it. They have marked it as their territory, I should find some undiscovered country, something that hasn't been claimed by someone else.
But that's the hard part. Cuz there is a lot of bad stuff out there. I mean, my boss has the most discerning of tastes and never carries anything that is not impeccably fresh, succulent or luscious, (actually, that is very close to an intensely true statement. Come by sometime and you will understand) but my cravings are kinda particular. So much so, and so viscerally, that I don't know if I can put into words what I'm looking for. That haunting taste memory at the back of my throat, that specific spice I keep trying to smell out, that savory flavor that never fails to make me salivate, these indicators of the perfect book to sink my teeth into come from some weird amalgam of the books, movies and music I love, the stories my friends tell me, the dreams I've had and the characters that occupy my brain. And maybe this means I should just sit down and write the book floating around and through my senses like the scent of bacon on Sunday morning seeping into your dreams until your stomach wakes you up. But I dunno if I'm as good a cook as my tastes require.

holy f*ck, europe is so cool.

check this shit. why are we not this awesome? high culture ads like this, brilliant!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

reel-to-real: confessions

1) i’m such a slacker. i still haven’t opened the new boxes of reels.

i dunno how many of you have seen the huge bookcase full of reels at hollow earth, but i know i’ve tried to describe its dimensions before. that’s the volume i’ve been working with. now imagine the size of an apple box. you know, the ones they ship all those wonderful washington state apples in, that can safely stow a bushel nestled in those purple paperboard trays. now, think of eight of those boxes, stacked 4 high, standing in my bedroom between my desk and my drumkit. guess what they are full of? yep. we have now doubled the volume of reels owned by hollow earth radio. mike, our benefactor, found that he still had quite a few more reels lying around his garage after the first shipment he made, and called up a couple weeks ago, asking us to take them off his hands. “better to you than a landfill.” i think he has spent a good amount of time and energy in his life trying to accumulate a library of these things, mostly for the found sound aspect. he seems like a nice guy, brusque, but nice. he drove by my house during one of our sunday crafternoons and dropped the boxes off. only stayed long enough to unload and tell me that he might find more as he keeps cleaning out his garage, so to not be surprised if we get another phone call from him. i must have looked a bit shell shocked at the prospect of more, cuz he said it prolly wouldn’t be this much again…

thats a shit-ton of reels sitting there, staring at me. i keep giving the stack sidelong glances as i type, trying to decide the best way to go about tackling this new challenge. i had just finished categorizing all of the tapes at hollow earth. there, they are all in piles and/or on shelves separated by subject matter and importance. and there was space for them. mostly. here, i had to move my guitar stands to make room and i may have to pack up the drums cuz our basement is already full of our former housemates’ furniture and there isnt enough floorspace to organize these f*ckers. and i don’t wanna put them on my bed, which is my usual substrate for whatever project im working on, cuz they are kinda moldy smelling–they sat in a garage in the PNW for years on end, who wouldnt be?

second shipment
second shipment

2) i’m losing steam. this project is too freaking big for one person.

i’m happy to put in the time organizing the tapes and learning about reel-to-reel machines and recording processes and listening to some of the amazing found sound i’ve run across, i’m not saying i’m not. i’m saying that if each tape is up to 90 minutes long, and we are wanting to archive them fully, even if only one fourth of all the hundreds of reels we have are worth saving, thats still hours and hours of transfer time. and i love amber and garrett, but they live an hour away from me (by bus and foot) and even if i give an entire afternoon to them a week i still have only transfered maybe two reels if it all goes smoothly, which it never does. and i know they think i’m cool and all, but i doubt they want me to move in and haunt the studio day and night trying to clock the hours it’ll take to transfer all these crazy little jewels we have. these random moments of other people’s pasts, these aural windows into living rooms and concert halls and churches forty years ago.

this is not me complaining, or making excuses, i promise. this is me asking anyone who thinks this project sounds at all interesting to let me show them how it works so they can come by the studio and hang out while transferring tape. especially you djs who have 3 hour shifts. if you could set up a reel when you first got there, and could keep an eye out for when the tape runs out, you could get at least one reel done a shift and even that would be sooooo awesome.

so, for reals, yo. if you are a listener who wants to become a volunteer on this project, or you are a dj who wants a crash course in r2r to digital transfer, email and put ‘for reel’ in the subject heading. amber and garrett will make sure i get your info so we can set up a time to teach you in the ways of quarter-inch tape.
come have a listen. there is a ton of interesting stuff to hear. then transfer the random thing you find and be proud when you hear it later on garrett’s show.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

2 years out and counting...

alanna, in preparation for moving out to seattle, (WOOT!!!) asked me to write a piece about what i miss most about chicago.

this is it. ready?

i miss coming home to the ice factory.
what i mean by that is not, perhaps, what you'd think. i dont mean that because i live far away i miss when i could come home to visit chicago and know that the Ice Factory was always open for me to walk in and share a beer and a song and a laugh with the crew that lived in and revolved around that space. i mean, i do. i do miss that.
but thats not what im talking about. im talking about that period of time when, in the fall of '04, i lived at the ice factory and worked at logos bookstore (r.i.p.) in oak park.
when id hop the green line shortly after 8pm at the oak park stop and watch the entire west side slip by--austin, the park, the projects being torn town to make room for the townhomes and mixed income housing, the barbeque and checks cashed places with active parking lots at all hours, the brachs candy factory, the warehouses...and the ashland stop. the one with the swimming pool and the community center. with the walk-over bridge from one platform to the other that was the best view of the downtown skyline id ever found.
i would stand up against that railing, soaking in the image of the last of the light reflecting off the skyscrapers for the length of a song before i ran down the stairs, headphones bouncing off my ears, and hit the pavement rushing. not rushing in a im-in-a-hurry-gotta-run sort of way, and certainly not in a im-a-woman-walking-thru-
a-sketchy-neighborhood-at-night sort of way. i never learned that one. no, i was always rushing in a im-a-part-of-the-huge-city-rhythm-and-i-got-somewhere-to-be sort of way. and usually its cold, so there is that urgency, plus im prolly listening to radiohead and you know how insistently energetic they can feel...
so im walking thru what no one could rightly call a neighborhood, its just a bunch of warehouses and industrial business buildings. so much dirty concrete and brick you'd think it would drive a person to do something drastic like move to the emerald city to get away from the grey of it. and maybe thats what i did, but right now, i miss that walk. i can close my eyes at this moment and walk every step of that distance from the el at lake street to the ice factory front door just north of grand. its a lonely stretch of street. south of lake and north of grand are interesting and populated with buildings and businesses that people visit. but my walk was always desolate in the most gritty-city-abandoned-boarded-up-neglected-almost-grotesque-
beauty sort of way. the smashed glass and shredded plastic bags, the exhaust and noise of the trucks and buses, the dickies and vsop ads, the cuervo one in spanish, they all brought a bit of this-is-my-fucking-shitty-ass-'hood feel to my day. an emotion i enjoyed pressing on like a bruise cuz the ugliness felt beautiful (or vice versa) just like the bruise pain is pleasurable. or maybe its the other way around. cuz there were moments of true urban beauty that i cant forget. i miss the crazy tall clump of sunflowers that bloomed practically under the metra line overpass. i miss the warehouse window that was broken by a bird fooled into thinking its expanse of sky could be flown thru. i even miss the rat carcass near the hubbard st. bus stop. it was there decaying for months, and yes, i watched its progress with interest, if not awe.
i would start hurrying more at the intersection of ashland and grand cuz i was almost home and finally there was civilization. the western union and betty's blue star lounge, the apartment buildings and the glass blocks of derek and keiths place. i always unlocked the green door marked 526 and stepped up into the funny entryway having to remind myself that this is me coming home. home to a place where my room is painted dark blue and has no windows, where you open the fridge out of habit knowing theres nothing in it, where you dont look in the kitchen cabinets for clean glasses but head to the bar for a solo cup and the semi-flat coke and maybe a drop or two of whiskey from the bottom of the handle on the shelf. where you walk thru the venue space with the remnants of the last party/show strewn everywhere, up to the lab where maybe things could feel livable if someone wasnt fucking around with mics and cables and protools for once. and yet, thats where you find it. home. in the stares on the faces of the boys pointed at the tv, computer, and mixing board, respectively. a fucked up family of 20-somethings trying to run a home for artists of all kinds--a space to foster comfortable creativity--while feeling desperate to carve out that tiny spot for the creature comforts of a normal house. an 8" sink's worth. that uphill struggle for balance drove me to find an actual house for myself to live in, but meant i was always super protective of that space. the ice-factory-as-home space. home for everybody a lot of the time. and home for 4 bodies all of the time. cuz i have to admit, as draining as it was to be picking up cups and cans and bottles, and sweeping and mopping every other day, those hours of cleaning with seth and aaron, the music cranked thru the PA so high you couldnt even hear the breaking glass, those are some of my fondest memories of chitown living. i miss coming home to that shit. i keep looking for something like that here, but it doesnt exist. its not the same.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

these are my ashes

okay, so today is ash wednesday. that means its the first day of lent. which means there are 40 days before easter. and supposedly this is a time of penance and preparation for the biggest celebration on the christian calendar. (i actually think only catholics, and maybe episcopalians care about lent. must be the guilt fetish...)

earlier today i emailed saunia (my friend who is getting her masters in theology, no less) that i hoped she had a good lent. she says, "are you supposed to have a good lent?
my response is, why the hell not? last year i ate chocolate everyday of lent, partially because we dumpstered a 55lb boulder of it the night of ash wednesday and we had a shit-ton to go thru, but also, it was a conscious decision to do something good for myself during lent instead of give something up (which is the traditional move). in fact, my freshman year of college i went vegan for lent and afterwards kept vegetarian for the next 5 years, with 6 week stints of veganism every lent. and thats how that dietary discipline started in me...
when i was a kid i gave up candy, or watching tv, or something else that was a major bit of discipline for an 7, 8, 9, 14 year old. but at some point i started actively doing something instead of not doing something. like, going to a soup kitchen, or helping out around the house...but still some sort of discipline was involved. and inevitably, when you failed, there was plenty of guilt involved...
this was the old-school way. i mean, i was taught that the point of lent was to be penitent and sorrowful to prepare for christs death and rebirth. he spent 40 days fasting in the desert, the least we can do is not eat meat on fridays... i dunno. in some ways it makes sense.
but sometime after college i decided that since lent is a time to remember, to prepare for the big event that caused a bunch of jews to start a whole new religion based on the teachings of this one slightly crazy, rabble-rousing revolutionary that was so out there his main battle plan was simply to love people, then why not have the whole preparatory time leading up to easter be a slow process of celebrating instead of mourning?
hence the chocolate to combat the greige sinking in. [greige(n): the moniker for the weather in the pacific northwest winter that slowly creeps into your bones and makes you want to kill yourself] i mean, lets be real here, its seattle in february. its dreary and gross. this weather demands that you have a purpose or you are defeated.
so this year, im searching for purpose. i think that has to be my lenten activity. i cant handle fasting and self-flagellating when its already close to impossible to get out of bed.
good old coffee and whiskey...that was my mayan new years resolution (at the start of fall/winter) to fight the greige with coffee in the morning and whiskey in the evening. it has done me well so far, but now i need something that will stick to my ribs. now i need a plan of action.
lent is a good time for this. this hunting for purpose.
it hit me like a cast iron pan across the kisser last week that i cant for the life of me decide on a larger purpose for myself. that i refuse to choose something and go at it with all my strength, mostly cuz im so freaking scared, in equal measure, of both failure and success. but im running out of time. this is my last year in my 20s, there isnt time to screw around anymore. my lifes work cant wait much longer for me to finally pick it up, heft its weight, and start figuring out how to carry it forward. or maybe i just cant handle walking along with my hands in my pockets anymore.
i like the idea of doing this work during lent. i like the idea of this being a time to prepare for something so miraculous as to change peoples whole worlds... i dunno. i want it to mean something that ive survived this far. and that am finally (hopefully) headed somewhere.

ive got embryos of ideas of where that might be, but its now a time of gestation. a time of growing in a challenging-me-to-figure-out-what-i-believe-in-and-am-willing-
to-put-my-energy-towards-in-a-real-life-encompassing-way way. i will show you these ideas when they are less fetal. prolly by easter.

Friday, February 1, 2008

reel-to-real pt. 1

just outside the door to the control room at hollow earth radio, there is this 5' tall, bookshelf full of 5"x5" reel-to-reel boxes (1800ft of tape sized). this bookshelf has maybe six shelves and is about 3' across. looking at this shelf, its a bit daunting to calculate how many hours of listening are sitting there. especially when you realize those shelves are 10" deep. yep, its actually twice as much tape as you can see at once. my (happily chosen) job at the station is to organize, catalog, and digitally archive this tape. or whatever part of it seems of interest. home recordings, live concerts, radio programs, stuff thats not recorded in some other format. those reels that have four of herb alpert's, or nancy sinatra's or bob dylan's albums recorded on them are not that valuable to those of us who are intrigued by original local sound recordings. those boxes marked 'standard school broadcast, 1968' or 'christmas concert 1970,' or 'ron and leslie's wedding' or 'nature lectures on the olympic national forest,' or 'JFK speech--cuban missile crisis' or (im not kidding) 'lt. col. glenn, astronaut, between 4am and 5am on january 27th 1962,' those are the ones that make me want to strap on a good pair of headphones and attach myself, and the reels, to one of the 4 dinosaur reel-to-reel machines strewn about the studio and stay curled up with eyes closed for hours. time traveling. feeling the intervening years impose their crackle and hiss on these transmissions from a time before i was born. a time when everyone's handwriting on the labels was the palmer method--that old-school script with the flowy capital letters--always impeccable, like grandma's. when this kind of magnetic tape was made by companies like scotch, irish, and shamrock. when track listings might have been mimeographed or typewritten and the clear tape that affixed them to the box hadn't yet yellowed and flaked. im excited to bring you along for the ride. this process of discovery fills me with awe, and i hope soon to bring you some jaw-dropping aural experiences, but before that, i want you to taste the pleasure of rummaging thru these forgotten recordings, seeing for yourself what its like to get your hands dusty from these crazy bits of history, these dead ends of technology, these throw-backs to a time before digital media. come with me, this stuff is too good not to share.