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Friday, September 22, 2006

Wallace Stevens said
I do not know which to prefer, the beauty of inflection or the beauty of innuendo, the blackbird whistling or just after.
I've discussed this question before, but in less poetic terms.

"Would you rather see naked boobs or cleavage?" was one question I had in an unofficial survey. Most people said they prefer naked boobs, but I'm about as unsure as Stevens seems to be.

I mentioned the idea to Lan several years ago in the context of always looking back on relationships.

"It's like I always seem to remember the good times, and I miss her and appreciate her more than I did when we were together. I guess people just appreciate things more when they're gone."

"That's not the way it goes," he said. "I appreciated every single minute of the freaky sex I was having with RY in the fullest and most absolute way."

"But you probably wish you were having some of that freaky sex now," I said.

"Nope. I appreciated it enough at the time not to care about it anymore."

I think he was just trying to get my goat.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

My Dinner with Mahmoud

Say what you will about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--whose name I can now pronounce and spell. Say he's a doubter of the Holocaust; say he's part of an axis of evil; say he's a threat to Israel and the West. You'd be right about all those things, but to give credit where credit is due, you'd have to admit that he's a hell of a politician.

At the Council of Foreign Relations yesterday, he sat with some the world's top diplomats to talk about Iran's nuclear program, Hezbollah, and the Holocaust, and to enjoy some appetizers.

I saw him interviewed on Anderson Cooper 360 last night, and was startled by his tone, his cleverness, and his confidence. At one point in the interview, Cooper asked him about his stating that the Holocaust is a hoax.

"Can't you see how that would offend some people?" Cooper asked.

"I'm saying that it needs to be investigated by an independent organization," Ahmadinejad said through a translator. "And anyway, if it did happen, where did it happen?"


"That's right. It didn't happen in Palestine. So why are Jews trying to occupy Palestine if the source of their pain is in Europe?"

It has little to do with anything, and he never addressed the question--and that's the point.

"Will you abandon your nuclear program?" Cooper later asked.

"Are these your questions," the Iranian president asked, "or were they given to you by someone else?"

Cooper seemed pretty frustrated.

“He is a master of counterpunch, deception, circumlocution,’’ former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft said of Ahmadinejad after the question-and-answer session.

In an interview, David Sanger, a journalist who wrote a story on Ahmadinijad's U.S. visit, said that this was a typical tactic throughout his stay.
[We were] surprised at his jauntiness, his cockiness, his sense of self-assurance. At various moments in his conversation, he would take a question, turn it around with a question of his own, answer his own question, and then settle back with what seemed to be a smirk, a very self-satisfied . . . response. At the same time, you had to sort of admire his sheer political performance. He's very good at this. He's a very good debater.
Sanger's story concludes
And as [Ahmadinejad] left, it was with a jab to his hosts. "At the beginning of the session, you said you were an independent group," he said. "But almost everything that I was asked came from a government position." Then he smiled, thanked everyone and left the room with a light step.
To see Ahmadinijad's August interview with Mike Wallace, click here.

Ahmadinijad's blog can be found here. Note: No fun to browse unless you speak Farsi.

Houdini, Honey, hinsecurity

"I am what would be called a Mothers-boy," [Houdini] admitted. "[I]f I do anything, I say to myself I wonder if Ma would want me to do this?" That applied as much onstage as off. He had often brought Cecilia to watch him perform, of course, no time more revealingly than when he made his first manacled bridge jump, in Rochester in 1907. [A]fter the performance he wrote proudly in his diary, "Ma saw me jump!" Houdini needed no king of Sweden to see him work. The royal box in his mental theater was occupied by Cecilia, watching him outshine Bill, Nat, Leo, Hardeen [his brothers], and especially Mayer Samuel [his father]. The extraordinary exclamation identifies probably his sharpest secret spur to applause-getting: "Ma saw me jump!"
Kenneth Silverman, Houdini!!!, 182

There's a lot to be said for insecurity. Several months ago Joey Honey revealed a feeling he had that I was all too familiar with: "I'm kind of worried that I'll never do anything truly, truly great."

This is the summary of a conversation he and I have had a number of times. Both of us know we're smarter than most people, but we're also smart enough to know that we're actually not geniuses, no matter what our girlfriends--what do they know?--tell us when they're feeling particularly subservient.

"The best things I've ever done were out of a sense of competition," Honey continued. "It kind of makes me feel like if I can't do my best stuff on my own, then I don't really have it in me."

I asked him what he thought about the album Pet Sounds.

"It's one of the best," he said rightly.

I told him the story of Brian Wilson's envy of the Beatles's Rubber Soul and about his first impressions of the album:
I really wasn't quite ready for the unity. It felt like it all belonged together. Rubber Soul was a collection of songs ... that somehow went together like no album ever made before, and I was very impressed. I said, 'That's it. I really am challenged to do a great album.'
I told him how the Beatles heard Pet Sounds, the result of Wilson's envy, and were so blown away that they cranked it up a notch and turned out Sgt. Pepper. That album and Pet Sounds were noted as the first and second-best albums of all time, respectively by Rolling Stone. The story seemed to make him feel better, as it did me, the first time I heard it.

I love competition--and as much work as I've done to overcome my insecurities, I relish them when I find that they push me to prove how much better I can do.

Would Houdini be the legend he is without his insecurities? I doubt it. As amazing as his feats were, I believe his enduring popularity comes from his constant and shameless self-promotion, which probably sources from his massive Oedipus complex.

But what's at the opposite end of the spectrum? Having enough confidence in your ability and your aptitude leads ultimately to self-satisfaction, which is fine in itself, but is less likely to result in a great work, if any work at all.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Gnarls Barkley came out on stage tonight in Austin, Texas, wearing karate gis and movie-star sunglasses--Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo wearing red, the supporting members wearing white. It's rumored that they all wear different costumes every night. (They also insist on dressing up as cartoon and movie characters for every photo shoot--the Allmusic site shows them as characters from Napoleon Dynamite and A Clockwork Orange, among others.) Cee-Lo, if you've never seen him, is a mountain of a man. He's not too tall, but he's got arms like fire hydrants, a belly like Santa, and big white teeth that, despite all his other characteristics, are the first thing I noticed about him. He's a hell of a performer. Danger was subdued, sticking behind the keyboard and never taking off his shades.

There's an old-fashioned entertainment quality in watching Gnarls Barkley play. Maybe it's the full band, the playful backup singers, or the fact that Cee-Lo puts a face on the duo that shows how much they truly love music. "Crazy" is a club hit across the world, but seeing them play live brought an energy to their music that set everyone at the show dancing.

"We're not just musicians," Cee-Lo said at one point. "We're music lovers, too." The band proved it by playing three different cover songs. One, of course, was the Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone," which was a highlight of the show. ("This song goes to 11," Cee-Lo said in a Spinal Tap reference.) They also played "There's an End" by the Greenhornes, and "Who Scared You," a semi-obscure Doors song from the album Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine.

The show attracted a couple of celebrities, too. Jake Gyllenhaal and Lance Armstrong were seen watching the show from the stairs at Stubb's. (What would those two guys talk about, anyway? "Gee, I sure do love riding my bike." "That's nice. I was in Donnie Darko." "I was hooking up with Sheryl Crow for a while." "She has small boobs." "I know.")

A lot of great bands are playing in Austin this weekend, but there may be very few with the wit, energy, and craftsmanship of Gnarls Barkley. They play at the Austin City Limits Music Festival this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are sold out, but they're reasonably priced on Craigslist.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Happy Public Law 107-89 Day!

Or, if you prefer, Happy Patriot Day!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I got 16 MySpace friend requests today. "Wow," you might think, "what an arrogant prick for telling me that!"

The truth is that out of 16 requests over the last 18 hours, only two of them weren't from either a camgirl or some really shitty band.

My current response to all of them has been: "Go to hell, you friend-adding robot."

Only one out of the 15 requestors responded. Her band's name is Good Morning Coma, and she said that she wasn't a robot. I haven't heard her music yet, but I don't regret declining the friend request simply based on a random add. She seems nice enough.

BONUS INFORMATION: Doing a Google search for "Good Morning Coma" turns up with a CNN transcript with Amanda Thomas, who gave birth while she was in a coma. My guess of where the hit came from:

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Two Theories About Music That I Developed Independently, but Then Later Found Out Were Common Knowledge

1. America doesn't produce as many great bands as it does great musicians. Theory: This is because America has this rogue independent spirit that doesn't translate well for long-lasting bands.

2. The kinds of drugs musicians do have a direct affect on the kind of music they play. For example, cocaine is a popular drug on the East Coast, so a lot of fast-paced, energetic hip-hop from there. The South is well-known for its use of lean, or oil, or syrup, and as a result, the hip-hop down here is easily recognized by its slow drawl.

It's too bad I was born 20 years too late for my theories to mean anything.

Monday, September 04, 2006

I fought fate and I won

Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died today from a stingray wound. I have no real connection to Steve Irwin, although I have been to his hometown in Australia, but his untimely death makes me see now that I fought fate--and I won.

Several weeks ago I went down to Port Aransas and was playing in the ocean with my family. Only five minutes into it, I felt something attacking my foot. I admit now that I overreacted in the first two minutes of the incident, but had I known the amount of pain I was going to be in, I would say that I reacted in perfect proportion. Screaming like a girl and high-stepping through the water, I finally made it to the shore where I could examine my foot. I could feel the poison travel up my leg, and only about 15 minutes after I was stung, my stomach started to hurt, I felt woozy, and I was sweating heavily. My family rushed me to the EMS, where I was relieved to find out that the remedy for stingray wounds is simply to put the affected area in very hot water and let the water break down the stinging protein that has been injected.

"I mean, I thought I was going to die," I told the EMS lady truthfully.

"Oh no, that happens only very rarely," she said, not knowing that the Crocodile Hunter would be a victim of the stingray in less than four weeks.

"If the stingray gets his barb stuck in you it can happen then," added the other EMS lady, "but I've never seen that happen and I've been watching stingray wounds come in for 27 years."

I was glad to hear that. Over the next two weeks I limped around thinking I was being healed, but finally one night while I was cleaning the wound, I noticed something. Curious, I sliced open the wound, stuck my tweezers into the hole, and made contact with something hard. I pulled it out. It was the barb from the stingray, about 1/2 inch long, and stuck in my foot for the last two weeks.

Since then, the wound has begun to heal more, and I feel fine. I only hope my feelings of bravery in the face of a life-threatening injury as well as the death of an Australian superstar will educate people to do one thing: never go in the ocean because it is a pool of death, teeming with animals who would love nothing more than to kill you.