Monthly Archives: March 2005

read? i only look at the pictures


Random Images from This Winter, Part XXXVII

First, a shot from Election Day, where we were doing Election Protection in Reading, Pennsylvania. I courted the local kids with about forty pieces of Starburst, and by the end, they were walking around the neighborhood screaming, “Kerry Edwards!” The election was a disaster, but I’m pleased to report that we delivered Pennsylvania, as promised:


Our very close friends Lindsay and Dana had a giant, beautiful baby Jack in December – I was lucky to be in the room while Dana went into labor (an event that should serve me well later) and we went to the hospital the day he was born:


Occasional commenter Josie, a girl I worked with at High’s Ice Cream in Norfolk, VA during the summer of 1985 (and everyone had a crush on her) sent me a peanut ornament for our li’l peanut, and we took it to Texas, where it was featured on the tree this Christmas:


A nice New York City moment on the subway: an Orthodox Jew, a Muslim studying the Koran, and an African American all in perfect harmony on the Q Train. I’m from the Sesame Street generation, so this kind of thing still warms my aorta:


Just as umbrella salesmen spring up from the pavement in Manhattan every time it rains, some locals made a lot of cash digging cars out of 5-foot snow drifts on 8th Avenue in Brooklyn:


One of Tessa’s best friends, the lovely and talented Nell Casey, is only seven weeks behind us in the baby dept. – they hated taking this picture, but I think they look damned cute:


incus, malleus, and stapes



I went to the Ulrich Schnauss show at Rothko last night with my brother Kent, and although the audience might have found his down-tempo thrashy techno a bit on the fruity side, I was awash in his songs. It was so loud that the music enveloped you whole; you needed earplugs to take away the highs and lows, and you were left with your ribcage rattling in time.

I think I’ve got the concept of “stochastic resonance” wrong, but apparently it’s the idea that very low “white noise” can trigger much louder noises and even physical phenomena. The low sound of the Earth moving, in other words, contributed to the Ice Ages. Also, some researchers believe that a white noise machine – like the ones at Sharper Image – actually stimulates brain cells and makes your kids smarter.

I think I experienced something like that tonight: as the music swelled to an unbelievable crescendo for about ten minutes, I found my brain to be acutely at ease and working at a fast, intense clip. You could no longer hear yourself breathe, you could hear nobody in the room, and you could barely pick out individual notes in the songs, but – to destroy the cliché – you could hear yourself think.

I got more quiet idea-making and planning done in those ten minutes that I have all week. It was as if the music, or noise, stimulated a beta state in my own head, and allowed me to think through the next few months (which, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know will not be all that easy).

There are other songs that will get you there: “Nothing Natural” by Lush or anything off “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine come to mind. I encourage all of you to go to a show, something ambient and electronic, and stand by the speakers with earplugs in. I really think you’ll get some shit done.

rose by another name


I would like talk to you about the color pink.

Pink is one of my favorite colors, and figures prominently in my life. I have been more than happy to wear a pink blazer to my fourth grade portrait, even though it meant getting beat up by the bike rack; I have no problem posing with pink trees or wearing a pink ensemble, when it comes down to it. I even made a movie based on my wonderful friends called The Pink House and painted our car pink in the process.

So why is it, then, when I found out we were having a daughter, that I wanted avoid all things pink? Part of our don’t-tell-us-the-gender plan for the baby was based, subconsciously, on my desire not to get a vat of pink onesies from well-wishers knowing we were having a baby of the female persuasion .(Turns out Matt and Carrie bought us a pink onesie anyway, but it’s awesome).

And baby stores DO NOT make it easy for you. Sure, Buy Buy Baby has the occasional green and purple barf bib, but there are basically two colors in babyland, blue and this:


Tessa hunts for something other than pink

I guess I was trying to make a statement. That we weren’t going to have any sort of forced gender compliance with our daughter, and it was going to start at the very beginning. I asked Kent to get us something other than pink, and he said, “sure – how about Goth Black?” Oh, how I wish there were.

Not wearing pink would be the first in a “how we’re doing things different” regime that would also let her enjoy sports, never care about Seventeen magazine, not fall for the first dumbshit boy who comes her way, and we’d never have to revive her inner Ophelia.

I also had similar feelings about the name: we had a few favorites, but I’m not going to force any of them on her. We were going to wait until she popped out to see what she had in mind. Now, as the day gets closer, I realize I’m mostly being an idiot.

For the first three months of the baby’s life, it’s just a beige-pink blob fighting for survival. Its habitat is the three inches closest to your own skin, and it not only has NO OPINION on its name, but it could freakin’ care less about the color of its booties.

Maybe I should relax, just let the endless pink wash over me. It is such a handsome color; I do love it so. Perhaps it won’t be so bad for our little girl to have a few pink things after all. Pink pink pink pink zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz



my sexiest migraine


Can someone PLEASE make my head stop hurting? I began to get these headaches in the afternoon right around my 31st birthday, and the last five years or so, it’s like fuckin’ clockwork. If I take three Excedrins in the morning when I wake up, generally I can go the whole day without pain, but unless some commenter can prove otherwise (Steve A.?), I’m assuming that 3 aspirin-acetaminophen-caffeine pills each A.M. is not exactly healthy livin’.

Before you all start, YES I stay pretty well-hydrated. The kidney stones (HIGH-lariously documented here, among other places) scared me straight into water-logged submission, so I drag water around wherever I go.

And YES, I have the occasional hazelnut soy latté, and I realize that some of these headaches could be caffeine-related, but they seem to come and go regardless of the latté intake. And before Jon Vaden starts telling me it’s because of my disturbingly stupid sleep patterns, that doesn’t seem to figure one way or the other.

I’ve started taking Petadolex, which is a herbal softgel containing the Butterbur extract, but that will take another month or so to kick in. In the meantime, the backs of my eyes are throbbing, and I find it hard to get anything done in the late afternoon. Suggestions, my friends?

alive, she cried



Tessa is nine months pregnant, and as of Saturday, if the baby were born, it would not be considered “premature.” Our due date is not until April 2, but only 4% of babies are born on their due date, and we are both mindful that it could happen at any moment.

The crib has been built, the changing table has the little “baby taco” mattress on it, we have 88 Huggies© diapers at the ready, along with the Dekor Plus diaper disposal system. Tonight, Tessa decorated the baby’s room with the gorgeous stuffed animals from friends, and I built a bookshelf and filled it with Dr. Seuss, Mother Goose books from 1940 and my favorite, C D B.

It’s utterly bizarre to be planning a welcome for someone who is already here. Just a few inches of Tessa separate the baby from the rest of the world; the little girl is never out of our thoughts, never not in the same room, and yet she’s not here.

To tell the truth, I’m a little freaked out by the baby’s room. It is all set up, and bizarrely formal, like a room left in place from someone long gone. I have been in other rooms, rooms where the occupant is no longer alive, and the place is haunted by their hollow lack of presence.

Our baby’s room is haunted too, but it’s haunted by someone who isn’t alive yet. It lays in wait, like a raw sloop fresh from the boatmaker, still clean, ropes taught, no cannon shot, about to be splashed into the foaming sea. I wander in there every once in a while, and try to enjoy the silence, as if I could store it up like sleep, but it doesn’t work that way.

And I’m not much for silence anyway. I love the sound of a lawn mower, a shower being taken, the dishwasher already on. I come from a family of screamers, and I’ve missed it. I trust our little munchkin can scream some life into her quiet little room.

CW sez he needs more Celexa


I’d like to end Media Criticism Week here on the blog with one last rant: I simply cannot stand for this pervasive idea of “conventional wisdom.” Loosely explained, the CW is basically “the general opinion of those in the know.” The phrase had been knocking around for a while, but Newsweek crystallized it about a decade ago with its CW Watch snarkily inserted into the front of the magazine each week.

First off, Newsweek’s use of the CW is so broad and belligerently stupid that I’m flabbergasted such a good magazine keeps it around. I guess it’s where they show they can have a good a time as well as anybody, but the full-scale binary denunciations of entire movements, people and countries strikes me so reductivist as to be criminal.

Plus, what the hell is “conventional wisdom,” anyway? It sounds like what parents used to say when they had no answers left: “because I said so.” The CW is nothing more than the petty ramblings of about six – count ’em, six – members of the news literati who have decided they’ve got the fingers on the pulse of the American vena cava.

Think they’re harmless and I’m ranting for no reason? Wait until the “CW” decides that your issue is boring or unworthy, and we’ll see how quickly you scream at Injustice at the service of a Quick Joke. “CW says that gays should just give up the marriage thing.” Ho, ho, ho – looks like the joke’s on YOU, gays!

Besides, the CW of America is more and more meaningless as Americans become more and more disinformed and fractured. The conventional wisdom of a Blue State is wildly different than that of a Red State, thank god. Please, if I ever start using lazy terms like “conventional wisdom” seriously, I give you all permission to take me out back and hit me in the head with a shovel.

why frequent, kenneth?



The conservative blogosphere must be giddy with delight tonight as Dan Rather signed off CBS Evening News for the last time. If there were ever a case of three 2’s beating a King, then this is it; the armchair assholes who claimed victory in kicking out the coot don’t deserve to be doing his laundry.

First off, let’s clear something up: even if the actual papers involved in “Memogate” (horff) were dreamed up at a Kinko’s, the thrust of CBS’s story remains abjectly true: the President and Commander-in-Chief of our own forces was a fucking coward and ducked his service through the pussy-footing of his jerk dad.

Personally, I don’t have any problem with this per se: if I’d been served draft papers in 1969, I would have burned them at a rally and then found property in British Columbia with my Uncle Chuck. What I would NOT do, however, is claim to have been in the National Guard, nor would I have one leg to stand on as the head of this nation’s military.

The way Bush has been given a pass on this issue is further proof that the media is fucking pathetic, second only to the American populace. Now he claims he’s a “war president,” which is a little like a kid flooding his own house with bathwater and claiming to be a sea captain.

But there was one person who tried to show some nads on this issue, and it was Rather. And yes, he should have been a little more careful with sources, but anybody who works in television news (or print, for that matter) knows that worse transgressions happen every day. At Fox News, lying and inventing sources (the whole “people say” trick) has been a daily rite of passage, and last month, we learned that a White House press operative was a shill for the Bush Administration. If there were a stronger word for “hypocrites,” I’d use it.

But alas, Rather takes the fall for the sniveling work of some out-for-blood bloggers (CNN had the audacity to call them “experts”), and gets canned for integrity, and of course, bad ratings. If he were #1, he could sacrifice Weimaraner puppies every night and nobody would mind.

The way these conservative pundits have taken such delight in gloating over Rather’s demise makes me want to puke. Dan Rather provided on-the-scene commentary for JFK’s assassination while Ann Coulter was still shitting her poopypants. He carried Marines to safety in Vietnam, while Rush Limbaugh has trouble getting up a flight of stairs. Yes, he might have been weird, bizarre even, but he was human, which is more than I can say for most everyone else.

i’m not wearing any pants


I would like to call a BOYCOTT TO ALL LOCAL NEWS BROADCASTS. They are absolute shite in every market in the country, and they’re taking up valuable real estate that could be given to “Law & Order” reruns and old episodes of “WKRP”. To wit:

– if you’re in a small town, the local news is a thorough embarrassment. Not only do they get the weather wrong – deadly wrong, if you were in the North Carolina ice storm two months ago – but the story selection is on par with a middle school poetry slam. Two years ago there was actually a story in Zebulon, NC about a farmer that had three yolks in one egg.

– small towns try to amp up their ratings – and, presumably, their own gonads – with screaming headlines intoned by Your Trusted Anchor like “WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT VENETIAN BLINDS… MAY KILL YOU. STORY AT 11.”

– that quote above actually happened. Ask Chip or Scott.

– if you’re in a big metropolis, the local news is a cavalcade of the worst, most brutal crimes against humanity that God has to offer. Since New York encompasses about 45 terrible neighborhoods (and LA has about 38), local stories from both cities include nightly baby beheadings, cocaine brawls that leave four dead, hit-and-run accidents that saws off the legs of a family’s breadwinner, six-year-olds that rape their cousins, and fires that burn seven families alive because of a snickering slumlord. I just can’t fucking stand it anymore.

– local news anchors not only punctuate this horror with random stories about a crazy cat that won’t get off the trampoline, but they waste about 1,823,905 minutes yearly with their between-sections banter. Seriously, how many times are you going to joke that the weatherman brought rain? Or that the sports guy sure is wacky? CAN IT, YA FUCKING DOOFUSES.

– local news brings local ads, and I don’t have to tell you that locally-produced commercials – especially but not limited to car dealerships – are so groan-inducingly bad that I have BROKEN MY EYEBALLS looking skyward in disgust. Why are all local ads so fucking awful? They don’t have to be. You can make a decent ad for your tan salon for the same price you made your shitty one. And keep your little shit daughter away from the Pontiac you’re trying to sell. And your little “pitch phrase” is TERRIBLE. And don’t try to ACT! Jesus, you’re KILLING US.

– if I’m going to get news that really matters, I’ll get it from the internet, thanks. The Yahoo! Most Emailed page tells me everything I need to know about the human condition, and it also has pictures of kittens, sex and gore. Fuck local news and their venetian blinds. May they strangle themselves in them.


10,000 brainiacs


It’s always been stunning to me that such musically rich places like, say, New York City and Chapel Hill have had such wretched excuses for radio stations. Sure, you can hunt for the little college broadcasts, but these, too, are often a dreadful bore (and yes, that means WXYC too, you pretentious shits – THAT’S what you get for not hiring me in 1991!).

XM Radio has made most of this redundant to any true music fan, but this trip to Chapel Hill revealed a new station: 100.7 FM, The River. It’s a terrible name, and I was only tuned to it because it also carries the Tar Heel games, but they have a new format that is self-described as “we’ll play anything.”

Obviously, they didn’t play Tibetan throat singing, Mahler’s 8th Symphony or even any country music for that matter, but their playlist was truly massive and seemingly random. They played Julian Lennon’s “Too Late for Goodbyes” and followed it up with a Green Day song, then “Two Hearts Beat as One” by U2, then the Sundays, then Dave Matthews, then some old Bowie.

If this idea gets good ratings and catches on, then American radio culture will truly have evolved into something interesting: the endless Balkanization of music genres will have led to “formatless” radio stations that can play almost anything on earth. In essence, radio will become the commercial apotheosis of the current technological metaphor for randomness: the iPod Shuffle.

I think the iPod Shuffle is a hit because nobody in the music business (except Steve Jobs) understood that we, as lovers of music, basically love to be free of being our own fucking DJ all the time. Sure, we want to curate our collection and only stick to the stuff we like, but we LOVE to be surprised and titillated by the essence of not knowing what comes next. If you all remember correctly, that was why the radio was so magical when we were between the ages of 8 and 16.

I will stick with a radio station – or any other entertainment, for that matter – if I’m even slightly excited to find out what happens. And if this “formatless format” sticks to about a 3:1 decent-to-crap ratio (which is true of “The River,” XM Channel 43 and VH1 Classic) you’re going to have a winner.

A radio station like that in a big metropolis will even give the iPod a run for its money, because radio can do something an MP3 player cannot: allow you to bask in the glow of your random culture, knowing that you are part of a larger brotherhood that is doing the same. That’s why we never turn off a song on the radio that we already have in our collection – it means more if we’re all listening to it.

back free of monkey


Tessa and I are spending our last few days of pre-baby freedom in debauchery and panache, just the way we like it. This weekend, we all met at the beach to celebrate Chip and Cathie’s wedding, which, to us, was a national holiday:


Storm-chaser Lars Lucier was on the scene as our roving archivist; after 2 hours of touch football (where I shredded my hamstring, thanks), the 70-degree weather turned to rain, and of course, drama:


Sunday, of course, brought the re-match of my beloved Tar Heels against the foul, sniveling, trenchmouthed denizens of Dook University. This was my 20th home Dook game in a row. That’s right, I have been here representing the forces of Good for TWENTY STRAIGHT YEARS. I can’t believe it even as I type it.

At my first Duke game in 1986, my parents were going through a horrific divorce, and basketball came to represent an escape from all that trauma, and eventually it turned into a religion of its own for me. I can’t possibly express how much our hoops team – and the philosophy of Dean Smith – mean to me without alienating half my readership (I know who you are, you bastards), but suffice to say I have crawled here every year through sleet, heat, depression, sickness and insanity.

The problem with vanquishing Evil is that Evil has been winning a lot lately. Nine of the last ten, actually. We decided my Carolina blue turtleneck – worn to the last 16 games – had lost its mojo, and needed replenishing. Lee Coggins ceremoniously resurrected it with ancient sage smoke:


The game was my as-yet-unborn girl’s first Dook experience:


And let’s just say that it ranks up there with all the classic games these two teams have ever played. We were down nine points with three minutes left, and I have to say, I sunk my head into my hands and readied myself for failure. But the Tar Heels rallied, and after a flurry of points, Marvin Williams – the same age I was when I watched my first game in person – completed a 3-point play that put us up by two.

Duke had the ball, and the whole place was electric with anxiety-fueled defense. As they came down the court with 20 seconds left, I put my hand on my lucky unfinished baby and Tessa held it there. They missed; we won. Pandemonium erupts:


And many things are brought back to life: my faith, my humour, and my lucky turtleneck – all shared with two very awesome ladies.