Thursday, December 20, 2007


I never thought in a million years I'd say something like this, but I'm uncomfortable with all this hate and vitriol directed at Roger Clemens lately. There's so many names to choose from, but even top sportswriters are getting in on this Clemens feeding frenzy. I think I figured out why the discomfort. I don't know if it's true or not, but I'm starting to suspect the media of using Roger Clemens as a white-guilt sacrifice to the gods of equality who'd call them racists when they bashed Bonds. He's being cast in the role of a reverse "great white hope"-- The One people had been waiting for to prove all these 'roid allegations weren't racially driven.

I'm not saying he isn't well cast. In this role it helps, as it does Bonds, to come across as an asshole. Nor am I saying it is such a bad thing to offer up such sacrifices. The gods are insatiable. And I'm most decidedly not saying I am now, or have ever, talked about such things through anything but my ass. I'm full of shit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"everything is not enough, nothing is too much to bear"

So sang the great Townes Van Zandt (and plenty of others in tribute) in his classic tune To Live is to Fly. When I first heard the line, it didn't grab me so much. It seemed like a moody, trite thing to say. But then I started to live with the song, and realized I wasn't getting as much out of that line as I think is in there. It all hinges on how you take those words "everything" and "nothing."

"Everything" seems on the surface to mean the totality of all things. So the sentiment "everything is not enough" means that even if you had all things, you still wouldn't feel like you had enough. You are insatiable.

"Nothing" seems on the surface to mean the negation of any particular thing. So the sentiment "nothing is too much to bear" means there is no single thing that is too much to bear, no straw that'll really ever break the camel's back.

So there's no single thing you can't bear, but even if you had every single thing, you still wouldn't feel like you had enough. Like I said, trite and moody.

But Townes gave me another idea. He made me think about how either word can take on a positive or negative meaning by using "is" and "is not" the way he did-- "everything is not...", "nothing is..." See, that's weird. "Nothing is"-- no it isn't! "Everything is not"-- yes it is!

Here's how it can still make sense:

"Everything" can be distributed among particulars instead of encapsulating a totality. So now the first line means "every single thing, individually, is not enough."

"Nothing" can be understood as the totality of absence instead of as distributed among individual things that aren't there. So now the second line means "total absence is too much to bear."

So now, no matter what thing you're talking about, it's never gonna be enough. But if you'd throw in the towel and choose nothing instead, well that is too much to bear.

Now that's a bind I can get behind.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

the mysteries of "loverboy" probed

A great wrong was righted on Saturday, when a friend hipped me to this video I had somehow never seen before:

I've been thinking about it a lot since then. What the fuck is going on in this video? I'm not one to enforce some rule that things have to make sense. I could be happy enough just thinking of it as the "leftover cantina band," which is how it was described to me (we're talkin' Star Wars here). But I'm a naturally curious, analytical person. So let's probe.

Like anyone trying to understand some weird-ass video to a tune they don't know very well, I first looked at the lyrics. They seem to have nothing whatsoever to do with the video, except for the fact that they are about someone wanting to be someone's lover, which is presumably the sort of thing that could happen on any given planet, in any given solar system, and so even moreso on what appears to be an Earth-like planet, with a breathable atmosphere, liquid water, and several humanoid and reptilian looking creatures coexisting in a bar-room environment.

As the video begins, Billy Ocean seems to be folded up into a floating, shiny, prismatic pyramid, kinda reminiscent of that mirror-plane thing Ursa, Non, & Zod, those bad guys from Superman, got exiled in. As the beat begins in earnest, there is some sort of space explosion high above some planet, and then we cut in to a view of a fast-moving horse on a beach (maybe it is that same planet that had the explosion?). Wait, the horse looks like a pony, and the rider looks like a little person with a wizard hat. Wait again-- it's a god-damned lizard man! Now he dismounts and enters what looks from the outside to be some kind of natural cave. But on the inside it's a rolicking, dark, smoky bar-room party. In the center of the dance floor is another prism thing, only this one looks like an octahedron or a dodecahedron. Is it where the music is coming from? I don't know, but here comes the Billy Ocean prism, and now it's floating above the dodeca-prism, it seems like they are interfacing in some way.

Wow, that looks just like the chick from Dark Crystal talking to that alien.

Now the Billy Ocean pyramid unfolds, and here's Billy Ocean. Except he's not here. I mean, he's in his own world, in the same scene he was in before. I don't think he literally comes out of the prism, I think maybe his music does, though. But not for long-- now Billy Ocean is in space again, and for a second I could swear he was playing drums. Did Billy Ocean play drums? Anyhow, next thing I know, he folds up again, only now instead of a pyramid, he folds into a prismatic cube. Why?

Back in the cantina, the lizard-man plays a few hot synth licks, and gets some dirty looks from some people, including a TV-headed robot, someone who looks like Jaba the Hut, and someone who looks like Uncle Travelling Matt.

Holy shit! Lizard dude shot the dude Dark Crystal chick was talking to, and now he's kidnapping her! Wait, she is going willingly. I think she likes him. She must be the one who Billy Ocean is talking about when he says "I wanna be your lover," only Billy Ocean is talking from the point of view of the lizard-man.

As the lovebirds flee the cantina, the prism box is floating around and three Jawas are on their knees like they are praising it, like they are testifying, like maybe Billy Ocean is their God. Now the lizard and the girl ride off into the sun on the same pony, on the same beach.

What in the fuck?

Well, let's think. Prisms. Prisms show many facets. Maybe the video is about how the universe has many facets, and it is showing how in one corner of the universe there is this dramatic scene unfolding, but when looked at from another angle, that is exactly what happens when Billy Ocean sings in that dark room. Born in Trinidad, raised in England, his influence is truly universal.

Maybe Billy Ocean is that lizard-dude, but in disguise, you say? Then how come the prism comes in there, too? I don't think he is the same as the lizard guy.

Maybe it is planet Earth, only way in the future, and Billy Ocean travelled through time in that prism, and is continuing to rock the party even after he should have been long dead. This, I think, doesn't matter. Different planet, our planet in the future, whatever-- that trick can never work again after Planet of the Apes.

Here's what I think-- I think Billy Ocean is some sort of God. Like a hero-god, though. He is there to see that this lizard-guy gets his lover. He is like an angel. He busts in on the planet just in time to help out. How does he help? I don't know, he sets up a sweet groove, maybe, and that makes it easier for the lizard. Maybe the Dark Crystal chick loves the groove. In any event, he somehow watches over the process, and then his godliness is supported by those Jawas all testifying outside.

How about this-- in the future, or in space, maybe instead of angels getting their wings when they do good deeds (you know, like in It's a Wonderful Life), they get to advance to a shape with one more side. Maybe they start as a tetrahedron, then they become a cube when they do some good. So maybe that other prism in the cantina was even more advanced, since it seemed to have maybe 8 or 12 sides. Clearly, the final goal for these angels would be to have infinitely many sides, which if you know a little calculus makes them all but spheres. It's all kind of like the social structure in that book Flatland, only 3-D.

How about this-- George Lucas and Jim Henson had some leftover sets, props, and costumes from Star Wars and Dark Crystal, and the director got a deal on them.

How about this-- it's autobiographical, metaphorically. Billy Ocean came from Trinidad, via England, to make people in the U.S. fall in love. He is an outsider who makes insiders hook up. Maybe it is a cry for help. Maybe it is a statement of purpose.

How about this-- it's autobiographical, literally. These things happened, in just this sequence, to the real Billy Ocean. He's seen things that would blow our minds. He's been places we can't imagine. Nobody believes him when he talks about it, so he made a video. It's ok, Billy, I believe you. I mean, come on, is this the smile of a guy who's crazy?

Monday, December 17, 2007

full disclosure

Lest anyone get the wrong idea about me, I feel like I better make the following Embarrassing Confessions:

-I don't get what's so great about the Clash
-I think Paris Hilton is hot
-I'm starting to like the New England Patriots
-I've watched and enjoyed Project Runway
-I never saw The Warriors until last week
-Born in the USA is still my favorite Springsteen album
-I never really got Doonesbury
-I don't get what's so bad about 5150-- it's at least tied for my favorite Van Halen album
-Words can't describe the anger, sadness, and deep feeling of the world letting me down I felt when I first saw my fondest childhood memories sullied in this fucking commercial
-I still think The Wall is way better than Dark Side of the Moon
-I don't get what's so great about Sweetheart of the Rodeo
-I love Hardees Thickburgers and eat one once a week
-Sometimes when I see a commercial for a new product at Taco Bell, I get excited and get in my van and drive to Taco Bell and order the new product (even though it always ends up tasting like every other new product at Taco Bell)
-I don't get what's so great about Easy Rider
-I don't get what's so great about Bitches Brew
-For that matter, I can't seem to get into any jazz from about 1968 and later
-I don't get what's so great about Frank Sinatra

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

simon and garfunkel are their names.

My balls, that is.

Friday, December 14, 2007

a wager

Say it ain't so, George. Cody McKay? Larry Bigbie?? Fernando Vina?!?

Ah, but at least there's a corn in the turd-- now I can say with a fair degree of confidence that I have bigger balls than Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada. Wanna bet? I could probably fit seven of Barry Bonds' balls into just one of my balls-- even if I first put one of Jose Canseco's balls inside one of Roger Clemens' balls, then put Roger Clemens' ball-stuffed ball into one of Barry Bonds' balls.* But I'm not here to point fingers, and I'm not here to stuff hypothetical shrunken balls into other hypothetical shrunken balls. No, what I'm here for is to compare ball size, and the smart money's on mine. So go ahead, lay down your bets. Yes, put down some smart money. On my balls. Put money on my balls.

* Much like the Turducken.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

wait, maybe sad was always funny

sad is the new funny

If you need further proof, watch some holiday commercials.

Monday, December 03, 2007


I was gonna write an entry that was more or less this, only not as good. Instead I will write about "the," that lil' dynamo of a word that can make words like drive, shot, and fumble take on the horrible, horrible meanings they have to Clevelanders, not to mention Akron-born Missourians who grasp at Cleveland sports teams in an always and necessarily doomed attempt to balance a perceived lack of hometown rootedness ("just 'cause you don't got roots don't mean you can't root, as my grandpa said," as I hope my grandson says).

The the I'm talking about, I am finding, is hard to define without showing up itself in the definition. I heard that's cheating. So I can't say "When something is the something, it's not just any something, but it's the something," even if you know just what I mean. Maybe it means the something in question is the most paradigmatic, the most representative, the most all-encompassing single example of an entire concept. Maybe it means the entire history of that idea was leading up to this particular realization, which isn't just the most perfect so far, but is that perfection itself. I bet if I knew more about philosophy, I could find names for these feelings. But forget it now, we can be lazier than that and just say "the" means what we all think it means when we say "the" the way I'm talking about using it.

It can apparently be re-applied to some things, so it doesn't necessarily bring with it any kind of singularity-- hell, Michael Jordan has two of "the shot" himself. But there are degrees of crowdedness in the hallowed lists of the's: Dwight Clark and Willie Mays are the only two duking it out in the big leagues for the catch, but think of the millions of people who, since 1990, have been purported, at least occasionally, to be the bomb, or for that matter, the man, now, dog. It can confuse your Itunes when some of those files are tagged Beatles and some The Beatles. I don't know which one of these internets hooks up my blog to your computer, but I know it's on the internet. I'm runnin' out of steam here, but there must be something to say about this:

Friday, November 30, 2007

sometime in the next twenty-five days...

This guy is gonna kill some heroes for lots of people. Before that happens I want to make some fearless predictions:

-Lots of pitchers, I bet, will be on there. Especially ones who were hurt (see Paul Byrd or, for that matter, Rick Ankiel). And I don't just mean the ones with that obvious 'roids look to them. In the category of my own worst fears, I have a dread that Chris Carpenter is gonna be on there.

-Lots of people you never heard of will be on there. And that's good. I've heard the argument put forth that it's even worse for someone like Bonds to do steroids, since he was good without them. To me, that's bullshit. The guy who uses roids and squeaks by should be dealt with the same as the guy who uses roids and hits 73 home runs.

-Either some doctors are gonna have to come out and truly stand behind the idea that HGH really does help in recovery from injuries (right now the only legal uses are for unusually short children, AIDS, and adult growth hormone deficiency), or that mythical excuse is gonna get blown wide open.

These are just predictions. I know that HGH isn't the same as steroids, and I know it was not yet banned by the MLB (though illegal in the USA) when some people took it. I also know it is a thorny issue when you come to performance enhancing drugs, and there are always new ones that aren't yet banned cropping up on the medical horizon. I don't even really know where I stand on the morality of it. But I do know where I stand in one respect: there needs to be a fair way to regulate, and with the humongous amount of money and resources available to MLB, the most obvious solution is simply to have mandatory random drug tests for every player, period. And just for the PEDs, mind you, I don't care about all the coke, weed, meth, crack, or even acid they might be taking, I don't think the MLB should concern itself about the baseball versions of Ricky Williams types. To me, random mandatory testing is the only way to avoid the witch-hunt scenario some people are against. It doesn't discriminate on talent, it gets the greats and the squeakers-by alike, and if we could get the MLB not to warn players when their turn was coming, it might even work.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the corn in the turd

People, life is bound to hand you a lot of turds. But sometimes those turds at least have little kernels of corn in them. You always have to look for the corn in the turd. I didn't make it up. It's something we've been discussing a lot around my household lately, with a good friend having moved last Sunday. He and his dog are gone and I will miss them-- there's the turd. But there's some corn in that turd, too, like the fact that I get his old room.

I'd like this saying about the corn in the turd to spread beyond my own sphere. It's a much more honest way to look at what is sad in life than what those other adages have to offer. Think about it-- I've never really seen a silver lining behind a single cloud; when I walk down a dark street, it's generally the case that there is no sunny side to keep on; at least 30 or 40 percent of dogs never do have their day; never once has even the most carefree hippie's deep-down disposition been "all good"; the negative has a way of being resistant to elimination, while accentuation of the positive often results in the grotesque; the sun is actually less likely to come out tomorrow on a rainy day than on a sunny day, and often there is no next time.

Compare the corn you might find in a turd to any of these old rose-colored glasses adages. Even if the turd does have its corn, it's only a handful of kernels, and they've already been eaten once, and are now covered in shit. This is not the kind of corn you go out of your way to find unless you are already unavoidably in the turd. This is not the kind of corn that can lift you up and reverse what has happened to you and put you at peace with your world. This corn makes no promises and offers as little in comfort as it does in nutrition. But this corn is honest about the turd it lives in, and so I find this corn far more appealing and befitting a world as ready to hand out turds as ours is. So remember, next time life hands you shit, you gotta look for that corn in the turd.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the flow of meaning

Yesterday I hit upon a new high horse to ride in my ongoing battle against my favorite straw man, the academic music critic. I had been feeling uneasy about dissecting Morton Feldman's 2nd string quartet-- whether I had any right to "decode" it a particular way, why anyone should care how I hear it, whether it mattered what the performers or Feldman himself thought-- the usual fears of a grad student (honestly, go ask some, we are pathetic). I thought to myself, this music spews out an inexhaustible flow of meaning. Things keep happening, and new ways to make sense of them keep arising, each sense-making strategy working for some amount of time before being frustrated and receding, possibly to rise again later on. How can I put a stopper in this flow of meaning and talk about how the music means at any point?

That's when it hit me that I, like my straw man critic, was approaching the problem the wrong way. I don't have to stop up the flow of meaning in order to describe it. Instead, I can talk about how meaning arises, how it moves, what shapes it takes, what currents flow through it, where it penetrates, how deep it is. I can describe meaning in the act of meaning.

But isn't that solipsistic? How something means to two different people is just as different as what something means, isn't it?

Hell no. How something means to someone is a much more accountable notion than what something means to someone. When you're talking what, you get into all those "What this song means to me is..." sorts of situations, you get some obstinate refusal to exit subjective experience, you get all these "I hear it like this" kind of things, and they can get heated. Eventually some consensus is reached, a solid dam is built up in the flow of meaning, and often a small village or huge city is erected around the ensuing lake of meaning. Of course, those damn lakes, those damn damn lakes, they can get a bit stagnant, their beds aren't the kind that've been shaped by water for eons, they don't move in any unpredictable ways after they stabilize, and of course, you can't drive your boat through the damned damn.

My straw man is asked what something means, and as an answer he gives a damn. I don't give a damn. I don't want to stop up that flow of meaning. I want to catch it in the act of meaning. I want to describe it as meaning arises. I want to talk about the means of it's meaning. And that's a more objective pursuit. If you want to talk about the means of something's meaning, you need to talk about that something in a lot of detail, you have to describe with nuance how the actions and aspects of that something give rise to a flow of meaning, then to look at that flow of meaning, and to see if there are patterns, ways it tends to go, currents and counter-currents. But shit, no need to stop it up and make a stagnant puddle. Gotta leave it open. Like instead of a damn, maybe a giant, thinly latticed net that lets everything through, but whose ropes are sensitive to the vital stats of each subsection of the flowing river of meaning. So you get an idea how it moves, instead of stopping it up just so you can say more certainly what it is.

That's all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Internets

I was thinking about these internets. They are getting huge. I mean huge. Doesn't it blow your mind? I don't want to sound like an old man or something, but holy shit everybody.

Yesterday, that person who comes by six days a week to put a bunch of trash in a little slot in my door brought us the yellow pages too. Yellow pages? Wow, remember that? That was a different time. Now, again, I know I'm starting to sound like an old man here, but let me explain. What has been blowing my mind about the internet has a lot to do with those yellow pages.

I'm sure I'm the millionth person to have this revelation, but the hugeness of the internets has changed how we find information. The search is what I'm talkin' about. Yellow pages? You know how long they'd have to be to cover every subject on the internet, even to list just the top few sites for any subject? You said it. Long as shit.

There are a few ready-built reactions to this. One can be amazed and stand in awe of this information superhighway, or one can decry the internet as some sort of lowest-common-denominator cesspool, which, after all, is probably built and maintained for the most part by people procrastinating doing something else. One can see it as a way forward for liberty and freedom, or one can see it as the beginnings of a Big Brother sort of thing. I figure whichever way you look at it, you gotta admit it is a giant world of culture, of cultural information and cultural traces, maybe cultural trash at times, maybe more the leftovers and refuse of culture, but culture nonetheless. And I for one am someone who takes culture seriously, wherever I find it. So when I think about how huge these internets are, and I realize that it's all culture on there, it tends to blow my mind.

It's vast and confusing and complicated out there in that "series of tubes." Too intricate for something like a yellow pages to be of much use. That's why searching has gotten better and better. But even just searching isn't quite enough in this huge, huge world. Searching can tend to be either too directed (do you really trust those top few ad-type hits on a given search?) or too neutral (i.e. unpredictable) with regards to quality or taste for lots of people. Enter all these "social bookmarking" kind of business, enter thousands of people writing blogs, etc. Now you can search the searchers, so to speak. Find ones you agree with, or disagree with, or sometimes agree with, but ones you can get to know and trust. Like a good music reviewer who you don't always agree with but who writes with enough personal opinion that you can get an idea how you would feel about the record from how they feel about it.

Hey, man, sure this is all trite. But I don't care, because these internets are huge, my friends, they are gigantic, and they blow my mind. I mean, they blow my mind without my having to notice anything about them other than what is plainly there, without looking too close or thinking too hard.