The Week in Music

Postaday for January 31st: Playlist of the WeekTell us how your week went by putting together a playlist of  five songs that represent it.

I get up in the morning and get on the internet, check the weather forecast and yesterday’s news. Use the bathroom, wake my wife up, have some coffee, send my wife out the door, and get on conference calls. Write a bunch of back-dated blog posts, gobble something for lunch, more con calls, greet the wife when she comes home. TV, dinner, TV, bed-time. Every day, all week long. Unless John Cage has been composing concertos for creaky office chair and Keurig machine, there is no playlist to describe such a week.

So let’s make a playlist for the way I’d like to the week to go:

  • Meximelt (live version) by Southern Culture on the Skids
  • Make Total Destroy by Periphery, covered by Zombie Frogs
  • Triad by Tool
  • Smash by Avishai Cohen
  • Lionheart by Emancipator.

Monday starts off with a surf-guitar offering. A rolling riff and tight drumwork get the week going with a lot of energy, setting up high productivity and not a little creativity to keep that mile-long to-do list under control.

Tuesday rolls right into a drum-and-piano instrumental cover of a heavy metal screamer. Virtuosity not only substitutes for rage and anger, but overcomes it, rendering even the most mind-numbing conference call worth the time and endurable .

Wednesday picks up where Tuesday left off, taking that virtuosity and rage and weaving it into a complex, multi-layered and nuanced negotiation of the otherwise disparate forces that threaten to thwart getting the job done. Guitar and drum cooperate, fight, cooperate.

Thursday seeks to simplify the complexities that had built up over the previous days, eschewing noise for a return to a rhythm-driven reminder that the job’s just a job. A bouncing piano floats on a tide of driving bass played on multiple bass-instruments, with a sharp drum set to stitch it all together.

Friday eases way back, takes the remaining energy and closes out the week with a quiet piano above drums that roll without rocking, drive without hurtling. Quiet interludes in vox and synthesized acoustic guitar foreshadow a peaceful weekend, while lingering strings  suggest the promise of the restful sleep to come, reward for a week’s work well done and necessary rejuvenations for the week ahead.

Saturday and Sunday are just a lot of Weird Al Yankovic.

I Didn’t Even Want the Five Things I Did Take

Postaday for January 30th: BurntRemember this prompt, when your home was on fire and you got to save five items? That means you left a lot of stuff behind. What are the things you wish you could have taken, but had to leave behind?

Oh for fuck’s sake.

You want to know the truth? None of that stuff I recovered was all that necessary. Most of my computer stuff is saved in the cloud. Those books I grabbed aren’t all that good anyway. My engraved watch is nice, but I hardly ever wear it anymore, and the marathon it commemorates wasn’t that fast. The bottle of rum is so easily replaceable as to make me laugh, and I totally made up the part about my wife’s potato salad. It’s my mom’s recipe, and she’ll make it any time I want.

And as for that wedding album— I just needed a punch line. We have all the pictures on the computer, and like I said, that stuff’s all backed up in the cloud.

Don’t get me wrong, it was real fun running back into that fire. Nevermind the fact that if I hadn’t woken up when I did, I’d have died in it. Or that my wife seemed to be perfectly okay— she, apparently, made it out with plenty of time to spare, while I was left to snore away in the heat and smoke on our living room couch.

I’m being sarcastic, by the way. It wasn’t fun at all.

Nor was it fun dealing with the insurance people. Act of God, my ass. We finally got a check, for my half of what everything was worth. My wife keeps saying its my fault, that I didn’t demonstrate enough regret at all the things I left behind, all the things I didn’t save.

Well, sue me for not having an emotional attachment to crap. It’s all replaceable. Okay, maybe I like the way my ‘500 Mile Award’ Nike shirt felt after years of wash and wearing. I can buy a new one, but it’ll be new-shirt stiff, you know what I mean. But how am I supposed to use THAT to get a better settlement out of the insurance company?

What, I’m supposed to feel bad about the TV and the bed and the refrigerator full of fat-free Greek yogurt? Sorry, but not sorry.

The day before I that damned fire, I’d gone for a nice long run. Never synched my GPS watch, though. Now I’ll never know what my average speed on that run was. So, there. That’s the one thing I regret. Not.

Review: The Good Thief

The Good Thief
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti reads like a fairy tale. And I’m not sure if I have much more to say than that (although not having anything much to say has never stopped me before). It reminded me of Life of Pi, really, with it’s quasi-fantastical elements. Yes, that’s the right word for it: fantasy. But not the kind with dwarves and giants and castle… although there was indeed a dwarf and a giant and a castle in the novel.

I haven’t read Big Fish but I’ve seen the movie; The Good Thief has that sort of feel to it. Except whereas the main character in Big Fish spins a tale of magic out of his real-world experiences, with The Good Thief you only get the realworld parts. A few small towns in colonial New England, an isolated monastery turned orphanage, a mouse-trap factory built like a castle. An adventurer, a school-teacher turned drunk, and a boy with only one hand.

It’s a novel filled to bursting with symbolism, although I can’t say that I’m ready, yet, to tell anyone what all those symbols mean. The book doesn’t have much of a plot, reading more like a picaresque. Sort of.

I’m afraid I’m not doing a very good job of explaining any of this. You should just read the book. I came across it from a friend, a long-time friend who loves to read as much as I do. She told me she loved this book, and I can see why. It’s interesting that, for the most part, we rarely agree on how good a book is, or what it means. But on occasion we do agree. I’m going to get a copy of this one and have my wife read it. When my kids are old enough, I’ll have them read it too.

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Save the Best for Last

Postaday for January 29th: Burning Down the HouseYour home is on fire. Grab five items (assume all people and animals are safe). What did you grab?

Heat cocoons, heavy and thick, but a sweet spear of cold beckons, pulls, a line of oxygen, collapsing fast as I stumble out of the room, bounce off a doorway, through the hall. Out the front door and all is smoke and choke and black, I’m falling, dropping out of the haze and the heat onto the cold wet grass, thank god.

Something shifts under my head. I crane to look up at a tower of canvas and crude stitching. A gloved hand is thrust in my face. I grip at and I’m hauled to my feet. My knees buckle under the sudden head rush. When my vision clears, a muffled voice behind sooted plexiglass shouts something that ends with, “do you understand, Mr. Edwards?”

I open my mouth to reply, and cough a thick gray cloud, ripping my lungs to pieces, twisting my gut into knots. Finally I manage “What?”

The roar of the fire subsides a few notes as I’m pulled closer to the road. Bystanders bathed in shifting blues and reds, wide eyed andf cringing against the hear of the blaze. “I said you have to go back in there! Mr. Edwards! Your family and pets are safe, but you have to go back in there and bring back five things! Do you understand?”

I blink a few times, my eyes somehow finding moisture inside themselves. “I don’t have any pets!” I yell.

“Okay, good! Five things, Mr. Edwards!” He grabs my shoulders and spins me around.

“Why?” I manage to shout. Just turning to face the fire, it’s tripled in heat, and too bright to look into.

“It’s for the daily prompt! Now go!” He pushes me, and like a fool in rush while angels stand aside cowering, I go back into my burning house.

Sweat pops up on every inch of body, a refined mixture of water and sebaceous secretions, covering me in a protective coat of wax. I throw an arm up against the searing brightness, hide my mouth in the crook of elbow against the smoke. Through the front door and up the stairs, with each step rising the heat gets hotter. Down a dark hall that’s more smoke than fire, into my office. Yank my computer from below my desk, cords flying as they pop out of peripherals. All my photos, my word docs, my stupid video games. I hurl it at my office window, hoping someone outside might catch it.  The computer punches through the glass, and the sudden intake of air sets the entire room on fire— the blast launches me out the door and back into the hallway.

Five things? Think! I crawl on hands and knees towards the guest room. That’s where the book case is. Books. If they’re not so much ash right now.  I grab few rare paperbacks, old dime-store copies of Ross H. Spencer’s early works. Not because they’re valuable. Just because they’d be hard to replace. I haven’t read them in years. Shove them down the front of my pants.

My breath is labored and heat has sapped most of my strength. I crawl across the hall into my bedroom. Reach up on the dresser and pull the watch winder down, which bounces of my head. A hot wetness, I’m bleeding. One eye closes against the sting of it. I rip the watch out of the winder. A gift from my wife, to congratulate me for my first marathon. She had it engraved.  Shove it in my pocket.

Crawl out of the bedroom and to the stairs again. I try to stand up as I descend them, a feat in combination with the flames that results in my tumbling all the way down. I lie at the bottom for a moment. The books in my pants have afforded me a few odd bruises. I stand up and move around the corner. Into the living room, the small bar there. Open it, grab a rare bottle of premium rum we got on a trip to Puerto Rico. Tuck it under one arm, trip over a burning beam that falls from the ceiling. Am I even breathing anymore. Go through a doorway.

Into the kitchen. This is where the fire must have started. This is insane. This is an incredibly stupid reason to risk death. I open the refrigerator, and grab a half-eaten bowl if my wife’s potato salad. I’m lucky if she makes it once every few years. No way I’m letting this one go to waste. No damn way.

And the rest is momentum. I’m blind at this point, my skin and muscle and bones a collection of white-hot rocks scraping together. I’m running as wood and glass and stone and brick explode around me. I’m careening across the porch, my shoes in flames and dragging behind me as fall, one more time, onto the crisping lawn.

The fireman catches me, hauls me towards the street. He’s pulling my saved items from me, pounding me on the back in congratulations, shoving an oxygen mask in my face. I have never consumed anything more delicious. My eyes are shut but I can I still see the white hot flames dancing.

A nudge on my shoulder. I open my eyes. My wife’s face. Pristine, untouched by the fire. “What about our wedding album?” she screeches, her eyes wide.

I turn to the firearm. “This stupid prompt. Is it set in stone? Can it be six items?” I start to cough, my stomach a clench ball of knives.

The fireman just shrugs. “It’s your word-count, pal.”

I grab my wife, kiss her fiercely, and then run back towards the flames.


Postaday for January 28th: Play LexicographerCreate a new word and explain its meaning and etymology.

A palintext is a context created such that a particular word has the same meaning when spelled backwards. For example, consider the following sentence:

He worshiped a canine.

With this sentence, a dog is a god.

The water coursed through the moldy pipes, a lupine creature darting through a forest.

With this sentence, a flow is a wolf.

The word palintext is an example of a portmanteau, a word created by fusing two words together, to create a meaning that combines the words’ meanings. In this case, palintext is a portmanteau of palindrome and context. A portmanteau can be considered a neologism.

Sometimes the creation of a palintext requires the creation of a neologism. For example:

I created a creature that scans for small objects for the purpose of retrieving them, specifically small spherical objects that have been thrown some distance. I did this by way of repeated conjoinings of somewhat similar creatures, until I achieved a creature with four legs, a longish snout, and short hair in either blonde, brown, or black. The scanning is not unlike radar, and since the small objects retrieved are balls, that roll, I call this creature a rolled radar ball retriever, or rodarbal for short. My wife insists on calling it a Labrador retriever. But then, she’s insane, and requires medication.

In the above, rodarbal is a neologism and a portmanteau. A word created in this way merely for the sake of creating a pallintext is porpalmanogism.

In so far as most pallintexts are terrible, all portpalmanogisms are truly awful, and their creators should be, at the very least, insulted repeatedly, perhaps even burned at the stake.

Review: No Easy Way Out

No Easy Way Out
No Easy Way Out by Dayna Lorentz
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

No Easy Way Out is the sequel to No Safety in Numbers, and god help us, there’s a third book in the series. The first one was terrible. Somehow, this second one was worse. I can only imagine how awful the third one will be. No, scratch that—I don’t think I can imagine that at all. I have post-traumatic stress from reading this. I’ve been through the five stages of grief. I literally had bad dreams while reading this book.

And to think that, in addition to an author, this book had an editor, and a publisher, proof-readers, consulting doctors even. There really are people out there who thing young adults are idiots. I mean, the only people I can think of who would buy this nonsense are the unrealistic, unlikable, uninteresting characters in the book itself.

The book is a muddled mess. It has no semblance of self-cohesion, starting not even on the last page of the prequel, but a few pages before the prequel’s ending. And the ending of No Easy Way Out? It just ends. Like the publishers decided to arbitrarily chop a big fat stack of pages into thirds.

But wait, there’s more mess. Here’s a book for young adults, and so, it can’t say, for example the F-word. Instead, the word “fark” is used. There’s cold-blooded, violent murder, torture, even a scene involving premature ejaculation (no, it’s not a scene written to be humorous), but we can’t harm the teen-reader’s mind with the F-word, can we.

No, instead, we’ll just bludgeon them with stupidity. With situations that would never occur, people saying and doing things they would never do. I’m not talking about people being jerks, I’m talking about wishy-washiness, changes in attitude that follow, at best, the cadence of a new sentence. Whatever’s convenient for the author to create conflict, she puts in. A whole mall shut-down, and somehow there’s a team of security guards with riot gear and stun-batons? A you farking kidding me?

I really don’t know what else to say. This was one of the most difficult reviews for me to write. I might be brain damaged. Don’t read this book.

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This Is a Prompt I Don’t Want to Follow

Postaday for January 27th: Embrace the IckThink of something that truly repulses you. Hold that thought until your skin squirms. Now, write a glowing puff piece about its amazing merits.

Well, no, I’m not going to do this one. I’m not going to respond to this prompt. The first thing that came to mind was some kind of worm thing I saw on a brief video. Some sort of deep-sea worm, although it was being held in a person’s hand, so I don’t know how it was still even alive. It squirmed around a bit, you know, the way big fat pink worms with pointy orange heads do, sightless and shiny. And then it seemed to spit out this white fluid that spread and branched like fast-growing roots, instantly coating the hand of the person holding the worm,.

There’s no way I’m going to “hold that thought until my skin squirms.” That’s not happening today. Do you even know how the brain works? We see things, and they enter short-term memory. Later, they enter long-term memory by way of dreaming. That’s what dreams are: cognitive interpretations of our brains’ making novel connections between recent sensory input and already stored memory. That novelty is our organization and retrieval system. For all I know my brain will arbitrarily associate this spit-worm’s branching proboscis fluid with, I don’t know, a bike ride through Stanley park, and every time I think about Canada, I’ll get queasy. No thank you.

That’s all I need, having a dream in a few days where I’m sitting in front of my computer, pounding out my 32nd blog post in five days, fingers numb until they elongate, branch out to cover all of the keys, and then intertwine with them while I try to describe the four-person bike I road though North Vancouver on a warm day in 2005. The shade-dappled asphalt, the smell of the sea and garlic fries from the kiosk where we stopped for a snack, that fat worm wriggling around with one pink end wrapped around the guy’s ring finger and the other end slowly opening at the end of a brief reverse-peristalsis shudder and a phlegmy ejaculate groping, reaching for prey.

To think that the same evolution, over 2 billion years, led to my brain and its ability to see, absorb, memorize and use a thousand different disparate facts a day, led as well as this deep-see worm’s ability to see, sense, pursue and capture microscopic plankton to sustain itself for the sake of survival and reproduction. It’s incredible. It’s disgusting. I want no part of it. Count me out.

Nor will I write about spiders, the smell of freshly cut mangoes, the Republican party, or a crazy person’s toenail collection. Not going to happen.

The Sky Is In The Ground

Postaday for January 26th: Free AssociationWrite down the first words that comes to mind when we say . . .

  • home
  • soil.
  • rain.

Use those words in the title of your post.

There’s a smell in the air like cherry-flavored magnesium citrate, or maybe that’s the tequila on his breath. Last night was the last night he’d dedicate to doing the things he wouldn’t be doing anymore until he decides to do them again: liquor for his bowels in glass bottles with screw caps, pharmacy bought, chugged and chased with medicine for his head, a thirty dollar fifth for a sixth of his day. Thank god for math, thank god for four hours of darkness before dawn. The sun rises too damn early this time of year.

Clouds and trees argue in his peripheral vision and his sweat’s a thing for stinging his eyes back into focus. Blues in his ears, reds in nostrils, greens in his guts, yellows in his spine because old age is chasing him with fangless mandibles, incisors lost to the sweet decay of not finding laughter funny anymore.

Running three miles but call it half a ten K since he’s training for a 20 K which is half a marathon.

His woggling belly, his belly woggling, the way his belly woggles, the woggles in his belly. Aforementioned and never forgotten, a weight like the moon and his greasy innards an ocean that waxes his orbiting gut and wanes any hope of having ever been been young.

Mystery loves inconstancy and the clouds win, whip the trees, pelt the streets suddenly, sweetly. He cuts through a park to hide beneath the loser boughs, and as the sky penetrates the ground he shivers, longs for that easy chair, that tequila bottle, that ability to feel at home in his own body.

Review: The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel
The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tried to read The House of Silk last summer. It took me a week to get through 70 pages, but then I gave up. I just wasn’t in the mood. I’m more in a reading mood lately, and this time I polished off the whole novel in a single day. I am definitely in a reading mood now. Also, the book’s very readable.

My last several reviews have contained some form of the phrase “a friend loaned this to me,” and I’m almost done with that stack of book. Honestly, this is not the sort of pick I’d pick out for myself. Does a Sherlock Holmes novel not written by Conan Doyle amount to, essentially, fan fiction? Not that fan fiction is, in and of itself, bad. But certainly there’s something about Doyle’s style that only Doyle can do, yes? So why read Anthony Horowitz’s version?

Because it’s all about character, isn’t it. And I think that when most folks think of Sherlock Holmes, they go with not Doyle but the cartoonified Basil Rathbone version from the late 1930s. On top of that, they may layer the very modern Benedict Cumberbatch. Or Robert Downey Jr’s version. Maybe they’ll even throw in TV’s House, or memories of Encyclopedia Brown.

The point is, Doyle’s Sherlock is not the only Sherlock, and what Horowitz does is take the Holmes trope and write a mystery around it. And that’s pretty much it. He takes advantage of the Holmes legacy and mentions Moriarty and the Red-Headed League and the Baskervilles and the 7-Percent Solution and all that stuff, but really, at the end of the day, The House of Silk is just a mystery novel set in 1890‘s London.

Perhaps that’s underwhelming. Oh well. Like a sci-fi novel that has lots of fun techno-gadgets to play with, Horowitz has the Sherlock observation/deduction tricks to play with, which he does, so that the novel is fun to read, entertaining in that sense. But deep, evocative, thought-provoking? No, not really.

Stereotypical Victorian era London, with snooty aristocrats, ragamuffin street children, pea-soup fog, dens of ill repute, etc etc. All with a modern take on moral outrage to keep the modern reader sufficiently horrified by the novel’s end. If you like that sort of thing, you’ll enjoy The House of Silk. If not, give it back to the friend who loaned it to you and return to your Camus.

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Half a Towel is Still a Towel. I Think.

Postaday for January 25th: Enough Is Enough. When was the last time you were ready to throw in the proverbial towel? Did you end up letting go, or decided to fight on anyway?

I thought I was going to be running a half marathon next Sunday. I had run one, a month or so ago, with a friend, and feeling high from our accomplishment, we agreed to do another one. This one came up, and we agreed to do it.

But I never signed up, and neither did she. I should have suspected something when she didn’t call to do a few training runs. SHE should have suspected the same thing.

I figured I’d show up and limp through the course and be a good friend. Supportive and all that. So I sent an email asking if we should car pool, and she admitted she hadn’t signed up, and I could only think, THANK GOD.

This friend of mine, I have to explain, is a very busy person. She’s got a lot on her plate, and the last think she needs is trying to coax ME along this need-to-run path. So I don’t blame her in the least. And I know for a fact that if I HAD signed up, and if I was going on Sunday, she’s sign up right there and run it with me.

She’s a better runner than me, and wouldn’t need as much training as I do. I know this. And I could have, even though we hadn’t signed up yet, asked her to go ahead and run with me anyway. And she’d do it.

But, like I said,I was relieved. My training has been abysmal. I could survive the darn thing, but only just. I’d much rather skip this one.

To our credit, we’re going to go for a shorter run on Sunday, anyway. So I guess we’re only half throwing in the towel. Or throwing in half the towel. It’s a proverbial towel, so we can rip it proverbially in half, I guess.