Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Waterfalls / AMOK / Busy Busy Busy

--A few of us went yesterday to see Olafur Eliasson's "Waterfalls," which is a very large, very expensive public art installation on the East River. I decided earlier in the year, upon seeing a horrible but earnest dance performance, that I was going to see if I could spend 2008 not hating on other artist's work. But: I just don't see what's impressive about them. Firstly, they are, if you ask me, quite ugly. Scaffolding? Really? Eliasson says on the project's website that he used scaffolding because it is a "common part of New York City's landscape." OK, so it's part of our landscape, but it's also ugly. When the wind blows the water back through the scaffolding, that's when the work really starts to look cheap. Also, these oil-spill-style barriers at the base of each waterfall? I'm not feeling you, Olafur.

--Circus Amok is in full swing. At least my side of things. The shows run September 6-28, in fifteen different city parks throughout the boroughs. Do you fear for the health of your mortgage? Do you love Glinda the Good Witch? Do you ache for the pumping dimensions of disco? Are you party to particle physics? It's all here, baby. More updates soon....

--I'm busy with a few of projects that I hope to share with you soon. Some writing, some reading, a new idea for my old novel. It occurred to me that I'd like to give it some kind of life, whatever life it might be able to have. Look for that happening in the fall. There's also some September happenings, with my friend and fellow queer writer, Charlie Vazquez. And then more publishing ventures in November--two somehow opposing, and yet complimentary anthologies.

Apologies for the slowness of the updates. It's that time of year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God Training Wheels

I saw a letter-collage that says "everyone knows you're a fraud"
and thought
that should be up in my office.
so you stole it
it was a picture

I think we all feel like that
like the time I held my nephew during his baptism
and the people asked me if I would help bring him into a world of god's love
I thought -- everyone is thinking FRAUD

well, yes, you will
only, in your way.
you don't need "god" training wheels because not knowing doesn't terrify you
that's how I feel
I deal with that kind of feeling on a daily basis.

that's some brilliance, cory

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ani Difranco at the United Palace Theater

Ani Difranco played the United Palace Theater on Wednesday night, and I was there. The poet Aaron Smith came with me, and blogged about it here. Nick and his girlfriend Jamie joined, as well as my friend Peter, (not this Peter,) who started off as a maple candy customer and then became a syrup stand hanger-on, and now we hang out sometimes--he's moving to Florida in a couple of weeks to teach Women's Studies at Florida Atlantic University. Marianne, who I also know from the Greenmarket, and who hadn't seen Ms. Difranco in many, many years, was able to even got to hear her favorite, 32 Flavors. It was a veritable cavalcade of people who don't know each other, but are united in Ani-dom.

The acoustics at the United Palace are really phenomenal. I think it also helped that we were sitting in the 11th row, which is somehow in front of the sound of the thousand or so Ani fans who insist on screaming along, singing every word as loud as they can, as a sign of their devotion. Ani's band really shines when you can hear them--last summer in Prospect Park, as amazing as the show was, the small details were lost in the expanse of the outdoors, the huge crowd. However, at the United Palace, every texture was beautifully balanced, and tiny things like egg shakers become a real part of the music.

The setlist was a bit odd, and in that way we were lucky. Some of the old warhorses she skipped--which I appreciate--and some of them, like Napoleon and Evolve, I'm glad she left in. I wonder if at this point her career a song like Shameless, which she has played surely more than 1000 times, if it lives somewhere outside of her, if it has grown into something else, something that lives in the air in front of the stage. Or something like that.

Ani's fans have been listening to her for more than 15 years now, some of them, me included. The newness of the experience has worn off a bit--this is not to downplay the brilliance of her stage shows, or the respect and love that I have for her music. But I'm glad that people don't feel the need, as much anymore, to stand in middle of the rows, dancing, to the annoyance of everyone around them.

But there comes a moment. The moment comes when certain pockets of fans decide that they no longer care if they are annoying the people around them, and they just go right ahead and stand in the rows and dance. What interests me about this moment is that it always happens during Shameless, or whatever number falls at the end of the show, before the encore. Perhaps more interestingly, they only do it during songs that they know. The moment becomes about their experience at the concert, and not necessarily about the concert itself.

I'm always interested in how people write narratives for themselves, and then play them out. Whenever you see a Broadway musical these days, the show gets a standing ovation, regardless of whether or not the show is any good. They've paid $100, sometimes $120, to see this show, and goddammit, they are going to have a good time--the standing O is the way of re-affirming their experience, of crystallizing it as a meaningful one, and a way of finishing the story for their friends back home: "Oh, Helen, we saw the best show, and it got a standing ovation."

Something similar goes on at the Ani shows. I began really thinking about this when I noticed that the fans who do this don't dance in the aisles during the upbeat, danceable, rocking-out songs, if the songs are new to them. Ani is always playing new songs that don't appear on any studio record, sometimes she plays songs that never end up on a studio record. And so the actual experience becomes alien, and the planned experience is played out in moments.

What it all boils down to is people trying to have an experience. People just want a taste of that intimacy that they feel when they're sitting in their tiny bedrooms, spinning the records over and over. I understand it.

Here's the setlist from 7/16, it it means anything to any of you:

Angry Anymore
Red Letter Year
Rain Check
Welcome To:
Sunday Morning
Garden of Simple
Imagine That
The Atom
Alla This
As Is
32 Flavors

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Recent Punchlines

1) Arrr, it's driving me nuts.
2) What are you going to do, fuck it to death?
3) It was a chili dog.
4) You think you're scared, I have to walk out of here alone.
5) I know, I just want to swim out there and strangle her.
6) In Williamsburg, they're everywhere.
7) John Couger Melloncamp.
8) No, a penis is a black thing about this big.
9) I don't know, she must have choked.
10) Fur traders.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Few Pics

Here's a few pics from the Tennessee trip. Two from Rock City, and one from the 4th of July party.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Lesson in Self-Talk

I recently learned a valuable lesson in how to talk to yourself. Rather, how not to talk to yourself. I turn 30 in September, which doesn't seem to alarm me as much as it alarms other people. (Why is it that at any mention of your age, people older than you--not everyone, but some of them--roll their eyes and attempt to make amends with the inevitable. "Thirty, already, wow, do you know how old that makes me?") Sorry, I got distracted. Age isn't the point of this post.

I was thinking about age because I like to think of myself as the kind of person who knowingly enters into whatever occasion, or phase of existence, or movie theater, or what have you. And I learned recently that, even now, even at thirty--which is old enough to know some things, and not old enough to know much--that I still don't do very well at talking to myself.

I'm good at freaking out. I'm the person you want to have around in a crisis--say, if you chop your fingers off, or the plane is maybe about to burst into flame, or the dog's ear medication dripped out onto your signed first edition of an early Didion novel. (True story, that last one.) Those "outer" crises I can handle. The smaller, internal things I have trouble with.

Take this, for example. I had two wisdom teeth extracted about three months ago. The dentist told me that it's not uncommon for tiny shards of tooth or bone, which are broken during the extraction process, to become embedded in the gums and, over time, work their way out naturally. "Sorry, I know it's painful," he said. It was indeed painful. A piece of bone about the size of a flea was enough to send the entire right side of my face into dull, painful tension, which worsened throughout the day. Don't get this, I kept telling everyone.

By the third day of pain, the night before the appointment to get this checked out, I had gone mad. I began considering that perhaps, since the tiny bit of bone was in such a strange place, nearly impossible to feel with your finger, and completely impossible to see in the mirror, I had convinced myself that the dentist would need to cut through the outside of my face to get to the jawbone inside. I really believed this was something I should worry about.

Then a friend called me this week and asked me to talk him down. He'd done something he regretted, and needed me to tell him it was okay. Or, perhaps more correctly, needed someone to tell him that what he'd done was indeed worth regretting. (It was.) Essentially he was dealing with a set of unknowns, and had inflated them to disastrous proportions. Here we are again, I kept thinking. Our inability to deal with the situation leads us to complicate and mountainize--is that a word?--something actually quite simple, particularly when the data is few, vague, or inexistent. We begin to doubt everything.

That's what I'm trying to get to here: how to talk to yourself in times of crisis. The thing is, I don't have any wisdom to impart. I don't know any techniques for curbing the insanity. I just had the opportunity to work myself up into a ridiculous lather only to learn that it was, well, ridiculous. I wrote a line once: "I don't know what I want, I only know what I don't want." I think it's true. I don't know how to fix it, I only know I don't want to do it again.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Back from Tennessee

Kip and I have returned from a few days in Tennessee, where we attended the annual 4th of July brunch hosted by my parents in the yard. This article about the event appeared in the newspaper there.

We went to Rock City, and it felt good to see people. What I mean is, it felt good to have an opportunity to just watch people, watch them behave and talk and move and eat. In crowded places like that, you can just sit and watch.

My nephews are fantastic little specimens.

I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back at the Beginning of the World

Back at the beginning of the world,
when the amoebas got together to caucus
about what grand thing they would become next,
ideas were traded, expanded upon.
A plan was set, and some small part of you was made.

Your atoms,
chunks of blue and red with swirling electrons
were constructed and propelled forward,
inhabiting the bodies of sea slugs
and monkeys, Cro-Magnon hunters,
Pope Joan, Galileo, and Passolini, finally landing
where I found you,
generous and insecure,
in a tee-shirt and all-stars,
having been left at the bar by another man,
who, for some unfathomable reason,
walked away without you.

There are physicists, and maybe philosophers,
who crunch numbers and talk trajectories,
who measure probabilities and possibilities like they were
weather patterns, or inevitable global events:
earthquakes, tsunamis, catastrophic lottery jackpots.

Matter only wants more matter,
and I can't have you either.