Friday, October 15, 2004

Can we save America from fanatics? I shouldn't be allowed to read the news (because it makes me foam at the mouth), but I couldn't help but notice an article on today's CNN webpage (http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/10/15/halloween.sabbath.ap/index.html) about the apparent quandary being experienced across our nation's bible belt regarding the celebration of Halloween on a Sunday this year. The article quotes a number of enlightened folks, such as the following "authority":

"You just don't do it on Sunday," said Sandra Hulsey of Greenville, Georgia. "That's Christ's day. You go to church on Sunday, you don't go out and celebrate the devil. That'll confuse a child."

I'm not going to waste everyone's time pontificating on the virtues of Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year....either you love it or you don't, but as the Dead Kennedy's sang on 'Halloween,' "Why don't you take your social regulations and shove them up your ass!"

If you love Halloween, check out www.oldfashionhalloween.com .

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Misfortune, oppression and war can be counted on to catalyze the arts, so that the worst of times bring the best songs, paintings, poems. And often when the shit is hitting the fan, old heroes arise again - like the legend that King Arthur would return to defend England in a time of need. Both these ideas were sparring in my head last night while I watched Television and Patti Smith play their hearts out at Roseland Ballroom in good old NYC. I felt like I was fulfilling one of my favorite dreams - to travel back in time to the late 1970s and watch punk rock's birth at CBGBs and Max's Kansas City.

Television played for about an hour, drawing primarily on material from Marquee Moon and also throwing in "Call Mister Lee" from their 1992 release. Their songs, which seem to build upon themselves, increasing in complexity and finally releasing tension with a series of instrumental flourishes, entranced the audience. We listened transfixed as the band produced a memento of the skittery, experimental ambiance that must have surrounded their first concerts and then switched tracks to the smooth, rock noir delivery of "Mister Lee." Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd were a joy to watch, trading guitar solos, showing how great musicianship applied with minimalist grace and expert strategy produces peerless rock and roll.

Patti Smith was a limitless reservoir of energy - leaping, proclaiming, exhorting the crowd, reading, singing, pulling off and tossing away her shoes, spraying water from her mouth, playing some kind of near-East raga on clarinet, posing and strutting with an acoustic guitar like Elvis (although she explained that while it was tempting to play the Elvis role, she cast away her delusions of grandeur pretty quickly because she only knew 5 or 6 chords). Patti and her band performed in front of a screen that flashed with images of odd films, William Blake etchings, WTO and anti-war protest marches, antique farms and WPA work crews, and images from the life of Gandhi (October 2nd, the day of show, was the 135th anniversary of Gandhi's birth). Perhaps most arresting were the scenes of Iraqi historic sites, beautiful landscapes of cities, mosques, rivers, and oases that paraded across the screen while Patti sang about mothers in Baghdad covering their childrens' faces with their veils and singing them lullabies as the green and red glows of tracers and missiles intruded on the evening dark ('Radio Baghdad'). Patti read poetry from books clenched in her hand, her attitude earnest, intense, tales read aloud transforming into songs, and then as the band played louder and Patti whirled around the stage, a window on the ecstatic state, the transformation of consciousness into some kind of shamanic state. She joked about her self-inflicted hair cut, apologized for making a few mistakes after "running through that number in the bathroom before the show," and roused the crowd to a fever pitch with "People Have the Power." The band opened with a musical obliteration, a nitrous-injected rendition of "Rock n Roll Nigger" and went on to perform most of the material from the new record "Trampin."

All in all, it was a hell of a night. It was a good enough show to ward off the grim dreams of hurricanes, volcanoes, avian flu, human lives extinguished in fire fights in the back alleys of desert cities, that seem to be stalking us all, while still reminding us of our responsibility and power to do something about all of it, even if that is just the creation of something beautiful or provocative, a musical conversation beginning in NYC one night and hopefully continuing to ripple outward through the coming struggles.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The struggle of living requires each of us to try to create an oasis for ourselves, where even for a few scant minutes we can find some respite. Driving home, especially on a Friday night, I am keenly aware of what seem to me to be places of solace -- puddles of light trickling out from a garage or barn, a snatch of music, a wide porch lit with candles, the red glow of a cigarette, a gang of kids leaning around the open hood of a mint car, some house's interior glimpsed through a window, full of books and warm light. An oasis could even be just in some book or in a song.

Tonight I remembered to stop observing from the periphery, like a bird in a winter storm watching the door of a warm cottage open for a moment to admit a welcome guest, and find my own peace. Curled up with a copy of the magazine Parabola (www.parabola.org), tiki torches and smudge pots casting a flickering light on my back porch, citronella odors conjuring memories of childhood, a glass of excellent Ommegang beer at hand, I felt buoyant. The moon is almost full, and a couple of yowling cats chased eachother across the lawn of the old stone church on the other side of the street, presaging Halloween. Can't wait for the holiday.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I was thumbing through the 50th issue of Juxtapoz magazine and found a card that had been inserted to advertise a gallery show in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. One of the images on the card was a mutation of the infamous photo of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner by General Loan during the Tet Offensive in 1968. I suspect we will soon begin to see the infiltration of the Abu Ghraib prison photos into conceptual art and punk rock album covers. Compared to the 1968 photograph, the Abu Ghraib photos are even more dehumanizing since the prisoners are generally hooded, unable to even exhibit a grimace of pain. On a recent edition of Amy Goodman's radio show, Democracy Now, it was reported that a student in Boston was arrested for recreating the image of the hooded Abu Ghraib prisoner perched on a box with wires tied to his fingers, by costuming himself and creating a sort of "living tableau" on the sidewalk outside a military recruiting office. He was arrested on the grounds that the wires he attached to his hands appeared to the police that they might have been the apparatus of an explosive device. It's astounding to me that the authorities feign a lack of recognition of their own creations, while we watch these images transform into memes. Authoritarian regimes provide great fodder for incisive, angry, heart-rending music and art - at least until the arrests and persecution begin to shut down the artists and thereby close down our collective conscience. For more, see Jamie's post at www.semioclast.com on the arrest of an art professor and member of Critical Art Ensemble in Buffalo, NY.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

My Dad shared some stories of his childhood with me a few days ago, brief recollections of the simple pleasures of U.S. depression era fun and hijinks. Dad was born in 1920, and as a young boy would visit his cousins in Greenwood Lake, NJ during the summer. Dad's cousins were two brothers nicknamed Bud and Babe, and renowned for their mischievous plots. Their father (married to Dad's aunt Trina), Bill Connolly, owned a silk mill in Paterson, NJ, and the family was relatively affluent. Dad remembered they drove a snappy LeSalle sedan. One night while he was visiting, Bud and Babe asked him if he would like to get some sweet corn with them. When he responded yes, they let him in on their plan to steal the corn from a local farmer. They set out into the night, sneaking into the corn rows and stuffing ears of corn into a sack while the farmer's dogs bayed across the fields at them. After making their escape, the three built a bonfire in the woods to roast the ears of corn and feasted like a band of pirates fresh from the plunder.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The new MIT center for Computer Science and AI Studies , designed by Frank Gehry, strongly demonstrates key Situationist architectural objectives. Gehry's intent and/or the reported effect of the center on its current occupants, as reported by the NY Times article referenced above, is to foment creativity/interaction/free play and allow modification by its occupants. The following are quotes:

"Charles M. Vest, the institute's president, sees it as "a toy box at dawn," ready for the kids to play with." (The article also describes the building as similar to a medieval hill town.)

"The lack of an interior grid....is part of Mr. Gehry's and the institute's plan to spark creative combustion by encouraging the building's occupants to bump into one another."

And in response to one detractor...."This is the sort of thing Mr. Gehry said he was hoping would happen: that the occupants would adapt the building to their needs. He has even supplied movable plywood partitions."

The central concepts -- an architecture that encourages its inhabitants to interact, to bump into one another, that includes movable partitions so that its interior is dynamic and its ambiances ever-changing, that is evocative of a medieval town (medieval towns were built to accommodate humans that travel on foot, interacting and conversing, as opposed to modern developments built around automobile traffic) comport totally with Situationist proposals embodied in the writings of Constant and others. I hope that some follow-up reporting is undertaken to investigate the outcome of this experiment.

Friday, May 07, 2004

May 2004 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Salvador Dali, and I've been coincidentally immersed in books written and illustrated by Dali. A few months ago, my attention was ensnared by two Dali first editions at a preview for an art and antiques auction. They were copies of The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, a Dali autobiography, and Fantastic Memories by Maurice Sandoz, an edition illustrated by Dali. The dust jackets and illustrations were hypnotic and hallucinatory, and the summary of Sandoz's book promised that it was a collection of "true" tales of the supernatural, macabre experiences, overpowering deja vu, and so on. I didn't feel like ponying up the cash for the first editions (each book sold for well over $100) but I was set on obtaining some reading copies. I found that Dover publishes a neat little trade paperback facsimile edition of The Secret Life and I've almost completed it. This autobiography of Dali's first 40 or so years of life is a complete gem - a well-described slice of a truly idiosyncratic existence, narrated in a manner that is simultaneously tongue-in-cheek, self-aware, roguish, and megalomaniacal. Dali's recollections are vivid, confessional, and often hilarious - I had no idea I would enjoy the book so much. I only wish Dali had shared a little more about his early association with other surrealists, but I suspect that he tells us what we need to know most in describing their multi-day art college "benders." The book also suggests to me that Dali never forgot how to play, never lost touch with his mad, inner boy monarch, and that is a delight.

Monday, March 22, 2004

A few snowfalls chilled the streets of Poughkeepsie last Thursday night, curtains of flurries billowing and dissipating in the wind like the flapping sides of departing Winter's overcoat. Winter may have been fleeing the arrival of a tour bus that rumbled into the City that day, bearing some mysterious heralds of Spring. These visitors that came to entertain and edify are wired directly into that mossy, underground heart that signals the shoots to thrust up through the soil and frost and burst open, bearing pearls of dew. They are the purveyors of a funky, anarchistic music that starts deep in this planet's bedrock with a mystical voodoo rhythm, a repeated groove that builds upon itself again and again like a canon, until it erupts into a clangor like a hand sledge on a piece of old tin roof, with all the fury of an April thunderstorm. Last Thursday night, Parliament Funkadelic came to Poughkeepsie.

For three hours, Bernie Worell hunched over his keyboards like a wizened elf with a fur cap, wrenching cascades of glittering notes out of a pile of circuits and wires. Gary Shider worked his axe in nothing but a diaper, like a Centaur-child in a Dali painting ready to leap back into the womb, back to the source again to return with more of the raw creative swamp juice that makes folks dance in the moonlight. George Clinton conducted this assembly of 15 or 20 musicians, crowded onto The Chance's tiny stage, as players came and went....sometimes 5 or 6 vocalists, 3 or 4 guitars, saxes, keyboards, drums, mc, and more crafting butt-shaking funk standards anew....later fewer musicians entangled in the visionary and arduous, almost prog rock jam of Maggot Brain. Bandmembers who left the stage went hither and yon, Clinton himself once popping up into the theater's balcony a few feet away from us like a dreadlocked bunny out of a rabbit hole in Wonderland.

It was a pagan wedding celebration, it was a call and response ritual, the audience singing, dancing, clapping along as exhorted by P-Funk. Some strange energy was afoot, hinted at by costumed players, sinuous backup singers, a set of music that was a laundry list of different genres: funk, rap, metal, prog rock, roots rock and boogie woogie from the Parliaments' origins in the early 1960s...the history of a never-ending musical transformation that veered off the beaten path and ignited in the surreal, acid-soaked 70s when Funkadelic toured with Iggy Pop and the MC5, when their liner notes were penned by the Process Church, when the band played in the shadow of the descending mothership, ready to take hold of the earth and dispense Starry Wisdom to the funk-entranced masses...dynamiting convention and tearing down the double-talk of the leaders of men with music anchored a long ways below the belt.

After this aural odyssey had reached its energetic crescendo, we stumbled out of the Chance in the grip of a lingering afterglow, some of it still hovering around the edges of my perception even days later, as if I had been doused in magical dust by some kind of funked-out pixie in high-heeled black boots (probably named Kendra)...only to see George Clinton holding court on the pavement behind the club, accepting hugs from the ladies and congratulatory pats on the back. Giving him a squeeze on the shoulder felt like rubbing the statue of some venerable old Buddha and receiving ten years of good luck in return....long live the Funk!

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A strange memory got dredged up this weekend by the sight of a t-shirt hung out (to dry? to communicate some affinity with a band or subculture? to send a coded signal?) on the front porch of a home in a relatively high-end suburban development. The anomalous event in my recollection took place in Cold Spring, NY, once a depressed Hudson River town, now an exclusive village brimming with antique stores and serving as a sort of country refuge for the wealthy of NYC. At the time, Cold Spring was still in a transitional phase, and there was a modest victorian house on Main Street that was inhabited by a sort of old townie royalty (the most rustic, earthy kind you can imagine). There was a hand-painted sign on the front porch that read "Keep Going!" and usually a healthy stack (several cases worth) of empties next to the front door. I used to pass the house almost every night during a stroll down to the River. On the evening after Frank Zappa died, a denim jacket was hung up on the front porch, dangling and spinning lazily from the porch ceiling on a clothes hanger. Painted on the back of the jacket was a beautiful, photorealistic image of Zappa. Both the grinning visage and the association with this particular house evoked Zappa's quirkiness, and it was a welcome tribute. The next night I passed the house again. The jacket was still hanging on the porch, but the painted panel was cut and torn away, leaving a sort of window in the fabric. Inside was a poster of a colorful parrot, taped to the hanger and occupying the negative space left by the shanghaied Frank Zappa. Was Zappa stolen? I don't know who would have had the cojones to climb up onto that particular porch and start cutting up that jacket, based on more information than I am sharing in this post. Or was the owner of the jacket trying to communicate some kind of transformation of Frank Zappa....departed from this earthly plane and now wearing colorful plumage in some angelic rock combo?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Jamie turned me on to The Decemberists, a band that has apparently created the avant-folk equivalent of an Edward Gorey illustration or some long-forgotten penny dreadful. Of the two cds I've listened to, the earlier cd Castaways and Cutouts has a sparser sound, acoustic guitar and accordion rising to the surface next to Colin Meloy's mild brogue. The vocals on that cd sound so earnest, it's hard to tell if this band is really serious about their tales of baleful child ghosts, hard-working mums pressed into maritime prostitution, and the foreign legion, and that's one of the elements that make for such entranced listening. The lyrics depend on a turn-of-the-20th century lexicon and some very surreal phrases to keep it all rhyming, cutting the "dolor and decay" with a generous dose of whimsy. This is no novelty ensemble, and the songs really stand up to repeat listening, until you will find yourself absent-mindedly singing about victorian squalor and some hapless, dead chimney sweep, lodged and forgotten in a flue in 1842. The more recent recording, Her Majesty the Decemberists, adds a few more layers of production, including a string section. It's hard to tell if that particular icing was really needed on the cake, since there is a very peculiar and powerful delivery on the leaner Castaways and Cutouts. Highly recommended as an antidote to the wax fruit being passed off as real aural sustenance everywhere you turn -- thanks, Jamie!

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Finally fixed an old Seth Thomas mantle clock that had been sitting dormant on top of my bookcase. Now the house is accented by its rhythmic ticking, a single chime every half hour, and then the counting of each hour in sustained, solemn notes. It's very pleasing in a classic horror movie sort of way. The visit to the clock repair shop, a place called Watchpital, was just as much fun. The shop is filled with grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, wall clocks, cuckoo clocks, a few old movie posters, workbenches, drill presses, bins of parts, and an aquarium. It's very much an archetypal setting for a James Blaylock story....and the trip there and back, on a relatively warm Saturday morning, seemed to convince me that the world was finally starting to come back to life from the icy whiteness that had swallowed it for a month or two.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

DOES BEACON NEED TO BE SAVED FROM THE ARTISTS?
Your attention, please. We have just received word that Beacon, New York's renaissance has been terminated by its City government. The signal came in the form of the recent proposed law to inspect and regulate artists’ workspaces in their private residences. We feared that a proliferation of overly restrictive and unnecessary regulations might be in the City’s future, but never imagined it would happen so quickly. Please read the City’s attached proposal, attend City Council meetings and express your opinion, and comment via letters to your representatives and through the City’s website.

When artists and cultural creatives interact with a depressed urban area, as they began to here in Beacon more than a decade ago, they can act as a visionary vanguard with the power to transform and revitalize. They value cultural diversity and don’t displace existing populations, unlike the forces of gentrification. With lots of hard work and a little luck, their studios, galleries, shops, coffeehouses, and restaurants begin to attract positive attention; their creative energy drives positive change for the entire community. Unfortunately, in Beacon’s case, once a prestigious museum has arrived and a few mentions have been gained in the New York Times real estate section, the artists begin to seem superfluous. Even worse, they may be regarded a source of environmental hazards and quality of life complaints. Sometimes visionaries appear unorthodox, unwieldy, and unpredictable. These characteristics can make a government official yearn for the type of halcyon existence that can otherwise only be experienced in some elite, planned development, where the regulations require all cars to be tidily put away in their attached garages at night and certain house colors are absolutely prohibited. Why weren’t all these regulations needed in the City of Beacon 10-20 years ago?

Let’s consider John Chamberlain’s stunning sculptures in Beacon's Dia Museum, for example "Privet." I wasn’t present when Chamberlain created those works, but he must have sorted through heaps of sheet metal, constructed with industrial metal working equipment and welding tools (there would have been fumes, right?), and applied any number of potentially hazardous paints and coatings to obtain the vivid colors. Well, it’s a beautiful piece, but imagine if you had to live next to the studio where it was assembled…it must have looked like a junkyard! There was probably even an unregistered car hidden in the mix somewhere (also locally prohibited). This kind of knee-jerk vision of an artist’s studio, perhaps realistic in only the rarest of instances, doesn’t fit well with new neighborhoods like the Polo Fields or the planned development on the Craig House property in the tightly constrained, uneasy imagination of a City official. And so, they propose to give us this choice: keep creative activities contained in a space smaller than 300 square feet (say a 15 by 20-foot room) and submit to an intrusive inspection, or be a proper resident and use your home for nothing more than a center for watching television and maintaining a pretty, well-manicured lawn.

It’s time to get active and block this proposed ordinance. Demand to see the City’s basis for concern – the environmental studies, the industrial hygiene data, the list of activities of greatest potential concern, prioritized, with their corresponding standard industrial classification (SIC) codes. Demand to see the inspection guidelines and checklists, the proposed requirements for the inspector’s credentials, etc. Without that level of backup, this proposal is baseless and capricious – really nothing more than another revenue generator (don’t believe for a minute that there won’t be inspection and permitting fees!).

As currently proposed, the law is inappropriately broad and vague. What constitutes manufacturing? What is the standard for a "quiet manner" (how many decibels and measured where)? Is there a distinction between commercial artists and others? Where is the line between a regulated artist’s studio and an area for hobbies? Is someone prohibited from having a woodshop in their entire basement (it could very well be bigger than 300 square feet)? These questions must be asked now, or I suppose you could just sit back and wait to open your wallet to buy an NFPA-rated flammable locker for your oil paints.

This proposed law is a direct attack on the freedoms of the individual to self-expression through the practice of art and craft in their home. These types of laws express a preference for wealthy developers, their investors and their projects, and disdain for existing residents. Enforcing these types of restrictions in the name of "quality of life" is merely an attempt to create a sterile, artificial environment that is attractive to sterile, artificial entities, preferably well-to-do ones that believe in "a place for everything and everything in its place." This is part of an ongoing campaign to sanitize a diverse, creative, interesting urban space and make it acceptable for colonization by people who would have grimaced uncontrollably at the mention of the City of Beacon’s name not more than 2 or 3 years ago.

Residents of Beacon are urged to attend City Council meetings and to speak out on this issue, because silence equals assent. Mobilize to prevent the enactment of capricious, unnecessary, and restrictive laws by a City government eager to capitalize on Beacon’s recent popularity and remake the City in their own image. Does Beacon need to be saved from the artists? This is an opportunity for direct democracy – visit www.cityofbeacon.org and transmit comments on the proposed law via e-mail. Write letters voicing your opinion to the Mayor and City Council.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Desolate days...cold winds, flat tires, broken wrenches, dead birds, unsettled nerves, and unpleasant news. I'm looking forward to getting through the next week in one piece. Looking forward to writing more on William Gibson to dispel the gloom.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

It's finally warm enough to think here in New York, but my brain is reeling from the Bush administration's recent announcements to spend liberally on a manned mission to Mars and toss another $1.5 billion into a sprawling program to promote traditional marriage. I am a giant fan of space exploration, but is there a single dollar lying around that our government can't spend? I thought we had already given all our money to Halliburton and Bechtel. At least save a few bucks by combining the two initiatives. If cute little robots can't do enough to realize all the potential sexiness and excitement provided by manned space exploration, let's get some male and female astronauts together, marry them in space during a televised media event, encourage them to procreate during the lengthy voyage to Mars, and jumpstart the colonization of the red planet. It will give us a secret hideout to escape to someday, and then we can turn over this nearly wrecked planet to the Islamic militants. One day, only multimedia transmissions from Hollywood, Mars will bear witness to the depraved, viral nature of American culture, and fun-hating religous fanatics can turn this world into the hell-on-earth of their secret dreams....

Monday, January 12, 2004

Picking up the thread from my last post, I'm going to try to unravel the roles of several objects integral to William Gibson's recent novel, Pattern Recognition, beginning with the Curta calculator. I believe that the objects and commodities described in the book must be considered as almost minor characters since important elements of the plot are linked to marketing, trademarks, the fetishization of the commodity, and the exploration/exploitation of trends in consumption.

The novel's main character, Cayce Pollard, encounters a Curta by chance while walking in London, where a group of men are preparing to sell a box lot of the devices to a collector. On page 28, Gibson simultaneously identifies the object's function, its "use value" (to perform numerical calculations) while appealing strongly to our sense of touch, manipulating our desire to possess things based solely on their look and feel. The calculator is described as "heavy, dense, knurled for gripping" and "At the top something that looks like the crank on a pepper mill, as executed by a small arms manufacturer."

Gibson goes on to tell the reader that the Curta is a mechanical calculator that was invented by Curt Herzstark, while he was a prisoner of the Nazis at Buchenwald. Herzstark and his invention survived the horrors of the Nazi camp and were liberated by Allied Forces in 1945. You can find out more about the Curta calculator at www.curta.de. The men who are prepared to sell the calculators in the novel are knowledgeable collectors/dealers, who recognize the item's "exchange value" in the current economy associated with the sale and purchase of collectibles. It is likely that part of the Curta's exchange value is due to the fact that the item is wreathed in symbolic victory, that to some it represents the triumph of an individual's intellect, persistence and fortitude, poised against a tyrannical oppressor.

Later in the novel, a rare, early-model Curta reappears as an item that can be purchased and exchanged for a secret held by Hobbs, an ex-intelligence officer that obsessively collects the items. He is described as an antisocial and unpleasant person, living in a small, dingy trailer, in a space circumscribed by soiled clothes, clouds of obscuring smoke, and cigarette ashes. Paraphrasing the Situationists, a specialist in things becomes a thing himself. Cayce purchases a particular Curta from an exclusive, stuffed shirt of an antique dealer for an inflated sum and trades it to Hobbs for a secret that may lead her to the end of her quest, to find the origin of a mysterious group of video clips posted to the internet.

The character of the Curta traces the history of the commodity from its origin as an item with a specific use value (e.g., a hammer that can be used to build a shelter) to an item with a symbolic or emotional hook that has only an exchange value measured in some currency. It perhaps also embodies some degree of a high tech/high touch response, in that the future shock associated with constantly accelerating technological advances might lead an individual to crave a manually-wound wristwatch or a mechanical adding device. The actual purchase of the Curta, described on pages 247-252, strongly invokes issues of class struggle via the characterization of the antique dealer, leading us to more systematically consider the Curta's representation of the history of the commodity. It may be that Cayce's final trade of the purchased Curta for something much more ephemeral, a piece of information, ends the item's trajectory through these different spheres with a nod to the concept of a barter or maybe even a gift economy, an idea far-removed from systems that exist to market items based on simulations and systems of control, on craftily-engineered emotional associations (extreme clothing), via exchange value and commodity spectacles, and perhaps their antidote.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Ice is forming around Pollepel Island and its crumbling brick castle in the Hudson River, and it has been one seriously cold weekend in New York. I learned this weekend that my house's climate control system can perform only about 62 degrees warmer than the outside temperature, which was -4 degrees F early Saturday morning. Anyway, chilly thoughts aside, I recently finished reading the novel Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. At its center, the novel tells the story of character Cayce Pollard's search for the origin and meaning of a set of enigmatic video clips ("the footage") that are being posted to the internet by an unknown maker. I enjoyed the novel so much, I was inspired to write a little about it, but to write with a focus on the "things" in the book, the objects and commodities that seem to also function as minor characters. The next few posts will discuss the Curta mechanical calculator, Cayce Pollard's black nylon flight jacket, and the footage itself.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Our leaders have lowered the terror threat level to "yellow" as reported on CNN. Considering that this goofy terror alert system probably causes at least as much agita for some as the now historic Cold War "mutually assured destruction" jitters, I move that the U.S. begin a practice of hosting a giant bacchanal every time the terror threat is lowered. We could have parades and display banners with triumphant messages such as "We're still here!" Local bars should have drink specials that are increasingly generous for lower threat levels.
Test post on January 9, 2004.