31 March 2012

Vernal Hiatus

Oh Boy! [Scroll Over for more]

Guess where I'm headed for Spring Break.

I'll give you two hints:

  • (1) Conformism, paranoia, reality, delusion, reality television & corporate control of our lives, authenticity, consciousness, fate, determinism, free will, utopia/dystopia, love, friendship, loyalty. 
  • (2) If you get in a fight with someone and you feel you're losing, you can just shoot them down.
If you said "Seaside, Florida, where they filmed 'The Truman Show,'" you'd be right! Florida, of course, lately notorious for its NRA/ALEC-pushed/funded 'stand your ground' laws.

The ATL is emptying out this week as all the metro area schools take their annual vernal hiatus. Seaside, Seagrove, Grayton, Destin, Miramar, Rosemary Beach, etc., the Panhandle beaches of Walton County, FL, are an exceptionally popular place to go in these parts. Though Wisdoc and I would prefer (and do) less 'destination' spots, Wesdom is a popular kid at school, and a lot of his friends are going to be in the vicinity next week. Ergo, we're taking four teenagers for a frolic on the Gulf.

As I understand it, we will have WiFi where we're staying. I may not post or Comment or re-Comment during the week, but if you have a blog and you start getting regular hits from an iPhone at a new location somewhere between Panama City Beach and Pensacola, don't get too excited; it'll probably just be yours truly.

Beach reading list: Suttree (C. McCarthy), The Stories of Breece d'J Pancake, The Sense of an Ending (F. Kermode), and, yes, The Hunger Games (vols. 1-3)(if I can pry them from the teenagers' & Wisdoc's hands).

Goals: one long, slow 16-mile run along the very flat Route 30A bike path in prep for a possible marathon someday; some short beach runs; some long twilight walks w/ Wisdoc, Jake, & Lily (Wisdaughter, who's not on break this week from Emory, will be Sasha sitting & plant watering); some good, old fashioned, long-hand fiction writing (if I can remember how to operate a pen); some grillin' and some chillin'; oh, and maybe a dip in the ocean.

Best, y'all![Sorry, gotta' run. Can't find the whole tune, but you can. It's good LOUD.]

30 March 2012

Gratuitous Spring Miscellany

Jasmine overwhelms my deck.
Azaleas afire in my yard
Someone else's yard: 2 colors of dogwood, 3 of azalea. Typical of ATL Spring

Now THAT's what we call Magnolia!
This guy is a local artisan. He makes one-of-a-kind cat trees
Gratuitous Sasha

Sasha's new perch

More gratuitous Sasha


Last weekend marked another milestone (pun intended) in my saga of minimalist running. I completed my fourth half-marathon (@13.1 miles) in the last two years: the Publix Georgia Half Marathon. It's the third time I've run this race, and this time was faster than either of the previous two. Gettin' older but gettin' faster, yo!

Here I am (dark green shirt, white hat, shades), head held high, approaching the finish line, and I'm nowhere near last!

You'll notice I'm wearing my Vibram Five Fingers again. And compression sleeves on my calves (about which more infra).

This weekend also marks another significant milestone. Beginning in December '09, several months after I began running again (after an absence of some quarter century), I started keeping a scrupulous mileage log. The week before the Publix, I crossed the 1,000 mile mark! Most of those miles were in one of my pairs of Vibrams, but over 200 were straight-up barefoot. In that time, I've run 29 races (5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons mostly, but some trail runs as well).

Two significant failures to report: I tdid not finish an 11-mile trail run in February '10 when my legs froze up—macho idiot! I wore shorts, and the temperature dropped as the race wore on, down to the low 20s. I could only run ~9 miles that day into the teeth of a north wind coming off Lake Allatoona. Had to walk out the rest. This summer, I trained for the Atlanta Marathon which took place in October. I got my LSD runs (Long, Slow, Distance, that is) up to about 15-16 miles in August (Heat! Hills! Humidity! that's our motto here in the ATL), but my Achilles tendons got so sore I had to stop training. I did not even run the race.

Since then, I've learned it wasn't Achilles tendinitis. Whew! It had to do with these mysterious things called Trigger Points in my calves. The notion of referred myofascial pain caught me off guard. I learned how to massage the proper trigger points mid-calf (with "The Stick" among other things), and the faux Achilles pain went away. No Achilles issues in Sunday's half-Mary. I wore the compression sleeves because the trigger point on one of my calves was really sore. It didn't hurt a bit after the race. I even ran a fast 5K the next weekend (finishing 2nd in my age group [by 30 seconds]). I can't recommend the Trigger Point massage book enough if you have any sort of vague muscle pain.

For the record, I plan to train for and run a full marathon—maybe this fall. At the Expo/packet pick-up before the Publix, I met a group of folks dedicated to running a marathon in each of the 50 states. Now, there's an idea! The seed, I'm afraid, has been planted.

29 March 2012

Legend (w/ Legends)

R.I.P. Earl Scruggs

[Doc f'in' shredding here.]

Here's a fair obit, especially the part about how revolutionary his mellifluous finger-pickin' style was vs. the old-time claw-hammer banjo. Heaven just got higher & lonesomer.

[Personal Note: I, too, grew up in Cleveland County, NC, near Shelby. Grew up with this music. My cousin was married to Earl's nephew.]

[Further Personal Note: I've been privileged to see all these GREATS live in concert.]

20 March 2012

Green Week

Atlanta seems to have avoided winter this year. We've had no snow, no days where we needed more than a mid-weight jacket, and only a few light frosts. Last winter, by contrast, we had a six-inch snow and a light ice storm. This week it's in the '80s—record temps for this time of year. This moderating effect is, most likely, due to La Niña which augurs a dry, perhaps droughtful, summer.

If you don't live here, you've probably never experienced Green Week. It has nothing to do, by the way, with skipping a week of work and staying stoned the whole time. It has everything to do with pollen. According to the AJC, not only have we had record temperatures:
Atlanta's [pollen] count early Monday of 8,164 particles of pollen per cubic meter of air was more than a third higher than the previous record of 6,013, set on April 12, 1999, according to the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, which tracks the misery level of the city's allergy sufferers.
The major pollens present Monday were oak, pine, mulberry, sycamore, sweet gum and birch.
Green Week arrived about two weeks early this year, as have the azaleas and pretty much everything else. They usually happen in tandem over Spring Break—the first week of April. It's a safe bet they're icing down the roots of the azaleas at Augusta National to hold back the blooms for Masters time.

You can tell which cars in ATL are garaged and which aren't. Here's the roof my car (a VW), for example. It's black. The first pic was taken after leaving it outside a couple days. The second after washing, an hour later in the same spot. That greenish/yellowish fine particulate matter is what gives the week its name. And if you look closely, you can see that it's already starting to come back after an hour. It's pernicious.

Here's another pic of the hood from another angle:

Other things to do in ATL besides breathing that shit in and complaining about the weather: catch an early morning fish (pic) at the Atlanta Fish Market (Yum!, btw):

or spend a pleasantly warm weekend at Wesdom's Ultimate Frisbee/Disc tourney!

19 March 2012

I think that I shall never see...

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) is reputed to have said that "Mediocre composers borrow, great composers steal." T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) either originated or borrowed or stole the line and reputedly changed it to say: "Mediocre writers borrow, great writers steal." Then that great pasticheur Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) claimed: "Good artists copy; great artists steal." Whoever: it's a great line. Probably a defining characteristic of Modernism.

Here is Ombra mai fu as originally set by Cavalli (1602-1676), borrowed by Bononcini (1670-1747), and ultimately stolen by Handel (1685-1759): a clearer example.




Tender and beautiful fronds
of my beloved plane tree,
let Fate smile upon you.
May thunder, lightning, and storms
never bother your dear peace,
nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.

A shade there never was,
of any plant,
dearer and more lovely,
or more sweet.

And here you thought musicians' sampling was a copyright issue.

15 March 2012

Persuasion Nation

WoW favorite, George Lakoff, has a new piece about the current state of the 2012 election campaign: "Why the GOP Campaign for the Presidency Is About Guaranteeing a Radical Conservative Future for America."

According to Lakoff, much of the Liberal community (media, blog, print, commentariat, punditocracy, pols, etc.) is on about how Santorum is a whack job, his policies irrational, anti-woman, etc. About how the State legislatures are engaged in a rear guard action against the inroads made in civil, feminist, and gay rights over the last couple decades. And about how gasbags like Rush Limbaugh are engaged in a 'war on women' and should be banned from the airways. All true enough.

The way this is conveyed, though, is by repeating their outrageous statements and 'gaffes', often in tones of outrage and incredulity, then refuting them in piecemeal fashion. This, Lakoff, argues merely 'catapults the propaganda' (to borrow George W. Bush's immortal phrase): it repeats and even boldfaces the Conservative point then goes small print point by point to refute it. It has the effect of reinforcing the underlying Conservative moral values without asserting any counterbalancing Liberal/Progressive morality.

Moral values, he asserts, are more powerful in the public discourse than political or policy points. They are loaded. They carry emotional heft. Intellectual arguments, logic, do not move people politically. Appeals to the emotions do.

For example, President Obama and his allies argued that Health Care Reform would benefit people with pre-existing conditions and children in college, etc. Again, all true. His opponents, meanwhile, were railing about the intrusion and even the takeover by big government of our freedoms, about the assault on our very souls by 'Obamacare's' contraceptive requirements, about 'death panels'. Bogus, I know. But they appeal to people's gut. "Hey, I don't want BIG gov'mint intruding in my life, taking away my freedoms. Why do they hate my religion? Is some faceless Washington bureaucrat gonna' kill my granny?" When it's Big Heartfelt Values vs. insurance policy regulations who's going to carry the day?

As long as liberals are arguing about the absurdity or inanity of Conservative values, they are fighting on alien territory, accepting the Conservative 'frame'. Lakoff identifies the Conservative frame as 'authoritarian' ground: the province of the "good father" who must discipline us for our transgressions but who, in the end, knows what's best for us.

Lakoff suggests that communication matters and that Liberals must not simply reject Conservative arguments, they must re-frame the debate and assert their own countervailing moral values, the values of empathy and responsibility—and, I would add, fairness. Arguing piecemeal against a coherent worldview (however inane or repellent) can never prevail.

The Santorum Strategy is not just about Santorum. It is about pounding the most radical conservative ideas into the public mind by constant repetition during the Republican presidential campaign, whether by Santorum himself, by Gingrich or Ron Paul, by an intimidated Romney, or by the Republican House majority. The Republican presidential campaign is about a lot more than the campaign for the presidency. It is about guaranteeing a radical conservative future for America.
I am old enough to remember how liberals (me included) made fun of Ronald Reagan as a not-too-bright mediocre actor who could not possibly be elected president. I remember liberals making fun of George W.Bush as so ignorant and ill-spoken that Americans couldn't possibly take him seriously. Both turned out to be clever politicians who changed America much for the worse. And among the things they and their fellow conservatives managed to do was change public discourse, and with it, change how a great many Americans thought.
The Republican presidential campaign has to be seen in this light.
So, sure, let's have at it with the goons and thugs on the Right who are attempting to rewind the feminist revolution back to the 1950's 'Father Knows Best' era and roll back civil and voting rights to the pre-Johnson era and stick all you gays back in the closet. At the same time, it's important to boldface the values we hold and share with our fellow Americans and our fellow human beings.

Every person should have the same opportunity as every other person to pursue happiness in our society; the playing field should be level in every instance. If people, through no fault of their own, fall behind, we as a society stand ready to give them a hand. If people cannot afford healthcare or food or housing, we as a society will make sure they will not starve or suffer needlessly. Everyone is entitled to be treated equally before and as a matter of the law. No one is entitled to preferential treatment. Corporations and the phenomenally wealthy, say, are not entitled to more rights than a pregnant woman or a gay person or minority member of society and should not be allowed to buy political power against the will of the people.

Another way of stating Lakoff's point: it isn't enough to be critical and argue negatively, Liberals must be seen to stand for something, not nothing. Progressives aren't nihilistic, but they come across as such if they don't have a positive point of view—and by that I don't mean a Pollyanna-ish, pie-in-the-sky, glass-half-full idealism. I mean a forthright, articulable set of values. Liberals must also establish an emotional connection with the people who make up this country. Sure, policy and politics need to be intellectually coherent and consistent (something that doesn't trouble many Conservatives, it seems). But they must also adhere—and be felt to adhere—to people's sense of fair play, honest dealing, and, yes, compassion. And be passionate about them. Often, it seems, Liberals are ashamed to be seen as such, adopting an attitude of irony. Irony, however, simply will not close the deal.

14 March 2012

The Lomax

When I lived in NYC during the '80s and '90s, I was privileged to listen to a couple truly wonderful radio stations: WFMU (which used to be affiliated with the now-defunct Upsala College) and Columbia's WKCR. Both played an incredible diversity of music, including, from time to time, bits from the field recordings of folklorist Alan Lomax.

If you're a music person, these recording are your history. You need to know about them. Beginning in the 1930s, Lomax took an old reel-to-reel tape recorder to the American Deep South, the Caribbean, the British Isles, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Russia, among other places to capture the local, folk musics of these places. In the South, you can hear in his recordings the origins of the Blues, Country, Gospel, R & B, and Rock 'n' Roll (ask Elvis, the Beatles, the Stones, any of them). He saw, perhaps, that indigenous cultures and musics were being homogenized by the rise of corporate media and wanted to preserve these artifacts for posterity. Many of the works from his collection can be streamed online at the Association for Cultural Equity. I encourage to go there, listen, read, and broaden your musical horizons. Remarkable, indispensable stuff. Priceless. Brilliant.

Here're some examples from YouTube:

08 March 2012

The Large Glass

For BDR (Thanks for reminding me of this!):

The Art:

The Music (See Here) [permanently borrowed from my collection years ago]:

The Book:

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Surely one of the most enigmatic works of art in any museum, The Large Glass dominates a gallery devoted to Marcel Duchamp's work from the exact location in which he placed it in 1954. Painstakingly executed on two planes of glass with unconventional materials such as lead foil, fuse wire, and dust, the appearance of the Glass is the result of an extraordinary combination of chance procedures, carefully plotted perspective studies, and laborious craftsmanship. As for its metaphysical aspect, Duchamp's voluminous preparatory notes, published in 1934, reveal that his "hilarious picture" is intended to diagram the erratic progress of an encounter between the "Bride," in the upper panel, and her nine "Bachelors" gathered timidly below amidst a wealth of mysterious mechanical apparatus. Exhibited only once (in 1926 at the Brooklyn Museum) before it was accidentally broken and laboriously repaired by the artist the Glass joined the Museum's collection in 1953 and has gradually become the subject of a vast scholarly literature and the object of pilgrimages for countless visitors drawn to its witty, intelligent, and vastly liberating redefinition of what a work of art can be. Anne d'Harnoncourt, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 316.
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Duchamp's Large Glass is as radical in appearance as in its intentions and implications. A work of art to be looked both through and at, neither a painting nor a sculpture, Duchamp called the Glass "a hilarious picture" but took it seriously enough to devote eight years to its making. He began work on his magnum opus as a twenty-seven-year-old newcomer to New York, having had it in mind since 1912. The Glass could not appear more different from the Readymades contemporary to it: complicated to manufacture, replete with narrative, and deeply entangled with art and science.
    The Glass is also closely involved with words; Duchamp prepared a voluminous body of notes that articulate the narrative described by the full title of the Glass. He published ninety-four of these notes in individual facsimiles in 1934 in The Green Box, and they permit a tentative reading of the imagery of the Glass. As described in his notes, Duchamp's "delay in glass" chronicles the state of perpetual desire involving the bride, depicted in the upper panel, and the circle of nine uniformed bachelors arrayed in the lower. Duchamp devised an elaborate iconography to demonstrate the erotic proceedings and characterize the unfortunate actors. Every visual element of the Glass is the result of meticulous studies, calculations, and experiments.
    In 1923 Duchamp declared the Glass "definitively unfinished." His decision was prophetic, as the final appearance of the work was yet to be achieved. That occurred by chance when the two panels were shattered while theGlass was in transit following an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in 1926–27. Duchamp laboriously glued it back together ten years later, securing the original glass between new panes and housing it in an aluminum frame. Occupying the spot in the Philadelphia Museum chosen for it by Duchamp a half-century ago, the Glass continues to generate endless speculation and inspiration for followers of its enigmatic, amusing, and irresistibly compelling tale. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 57.

Pet Intros, Always a tricky thing

Okay, Jake & Lily, I want you to meet someone:

' 'Sup, Dawgs. You can call me Sasha.'


'Please don't eat me!'

'I'm so cute, and I'm even hypoallergenic so Wisdaughter can hold me and pet me and she won't tear up and get all puffy and sneezy. Do you think we can be friends?'