Monthly Archives: January 2007

Movement

Ian’s little sister Michelle here. I just returned from a night at the pool hall where I, if I may, *smoked* everyone in sight. Such releases are desperately good for my soul… particularly since at the gym today, five meatheads were mean to me, so my revenge is to spank their kind over a green velvet table.

Anyway, tonight’s blog is not about my prowess at billiards. Tonight is the first night, since the birth of la Lucy, that Ian and Tessa have been away from her. I hear tell they are skiing somewhere, at a somewhat “corny” resort, and living it up with a lake view and a fireplace. It sounds wonderful, and they most certainly deserve a blessed night off. And thus, kind readers, you are stuck with me.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to move people, and what exactly moves people- moves them to change, to take action, of any kind, be it in their own lives or for a specific cause or whatever. What compels us to do something that is even ever so slightly different than what we did the day before? When Ian wrote the blog about the “ten things you can do for the environment”, or whatever it was, why exactly did those of you who did buy low-emissions light bulbs? Is it because it’s the right thing to do, or is it more because you care about Ian, or are moved by his writing? Or a little of both? If someone who was even half as eloquent with the written word had made such a suggestion, would you have paid attention?

I’m thinking about this because yesterday I attended the California Arts Council statewide conference- which they’ve not had the funding to host in over four years- and I had the rare opportunity to hear Dana Gioia speak. Gioia is the Chairman of the NEA, and my god, one of the best speakers I’ve ever seen live. He’s a poet, and quite accustomed to the public eye, but his ease, his humor, his brilliance- he could have been, as they say, reading the phone book, and I would have been mesmerized. Instead, he was talking about arts, and arts advocacy, which is the very thing I spend each day doing myself, and I could barely breathe. Annette Benning also spoke, and she was lovely, and numerous other folks as well, but Gioia was something altogether different. So inspiring, and so refreshing, and so moving, and so incredibly sincere, hilarious, and *real* that it was hard to believe he was addressing 450 people.

I know I’m a good public speaker, but he was eons, light years, beyond what I am now, someone who commands respect even while he’s totally screwing around. NEVER self-deprecating, NEVER apologetic, because why in the hell should he be?

And it’s times like these that I realize how massive social shifts happen. It’s hard to imagine how Hitler could have been so successful in his horrid mission; it’s hard to comprehend what Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished in such a short lifetime. I know these are opposite spectrum folks, but from what I’ve learned, both were captivating speakers, and experiencing them was nothing short of infectious.

I think what I’m taking away from this is that change is possible, so clearly possible, even when people insist that it is not. Case in point: 30 years ago, if someone in the Bay Area said they were going to Napa Valley, it meant they were going to the insane asylum that still thrives in the city of Napa. Napa Valley was for “loonies”, as they were called. Now, to go to Napa Valley means visiting a world-class wine & food destination. So when people tell me that Napa Valley will never be an arts destination, I’m realizing I should just give them the metaphorical finger- or, at the least, realize that they just don’t know. But it is strange that it is not facts & figures, not reports or information, that move people- it’s people with an incredible gift of the gab that move people. So those with that gift should think long and hard about what they want to do in this world, because, in my experience, they are the only ones who can really create change.

And so, to a question, since that seems to be the order of the day on Ian’s blog: if you had this gift, what would you fight for? I mean, beyond politics- seriously. If you could talk large groups of people into seeing the light as you see it, what would be your issue? What, outside the leadership and direction of our country, would drive you to the soapbox? This can be anything- from advocating for the use of a particular product to massive change in our social strata. What, if you had this gift, would you fight for? Hot dogs and buns being sold in the same numbers? Universal yoga classes? Increased funding & support for all expectant mothers? What?

slide over here and give me a moment

1/30/07

How bizarre – I had my first neti pot experience last night before writing yesterday’s entry. I’d seen them in friends’ bathrooms before (and destroyed yours on accident, Lee and Suz!) but I didn’t know how they worked. I thought you were supposed to put boiling water in them and just breathe the steam or something. I had no idea you actually irrigated your own brain.

Once you get past the feeling of being six and having swimming pool water go up your nose, it was actually quite amazing. I did it like seven times because when you get to my age – one’s indeterminate late thirties – there are very few new sensations. I was committed to feeling this one to the fullest.

Which leads to today’s CODE WORD… what was the last time you had a Truly New Sensation©? On a huge scale, the birth of Lucy opened up an awareness I truly didn’t know humans possessed. On a tiny scale, there’s the neti pot. On a different part of the scale, there was my adventures with strep throat in December, which was a kind of sick I recall only vaguely from grade school.

No matter the quality, the incontrovertible fact of getting older means any Truly New Sensation must get more rare. When was your last?

bass in your face

1/29/07

Okay, time to swap out some parts for new ones. If I can replace the oil filter on the car and renovate our farm’s heating system, I see no reason why I can’t ask for the following:

1. I would like a new set of sinuses. These old ones get infected all the time, and because of a stupid accident with a trashcan in 1999, the septum on the right side is slightly deviated. This means I have to sleep on my left side all night, which is KILLING THE LEFT SIDE OF MY BACK after all these years. I want a brand new silicone sinus replacement with a WARRANTY.

2. I would like wireless electricity. Really, that says it all. How come we have wireless everything else, but not electricity? Yes, smartass, I know “the Sun” counts, but I mean powering your shit without cords. There should be an electricity transmitter built into the wall that transmits power to your TV and laptop THROUGH THE MAGICAL AIR.

3. I would like the hour from 9pm to 10pm to last longer than an hour. Because when you have a toddler who goes to bed at 7:30-8pm, that’s the hour when you feel like you can do all sorts of stuff. But then 10pm comes around, with its double-digits and feeling of “night” and it seems impossible to start anything without the spectre of the early morning. Can we agree to stretch it out, please?

4. I would like to create a Rock N Roll Noise Reduction Agreement. Seriously, I still rock. And I have gone to shows in the recent past. And yes, I have not told many people this yet, but I am the bassist in a new band. But here’s the thing: everyone at a rock show wears earplugs. The band wears earplugs. When we practice, we wear earplugs. The sound guy wears earplugs and the bartender at the Cradle wears earplugs. Can’t we all just agree to turn it down twenty decibels? That way, none of us, both artists and consumers, will have to wear those goddamn things. It just takes someone with the balls to go first. I volunteer; I am turning my bass amp down to NINE.

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answer me these questions three

1/26/07

Okay, late post, but if anyone sees this today or over the weekend… three questions if you please.

1. We are going to be in Chapel Hill from Feb. 26 to March 7, and I’m beyond psyched. Can’t wait to eat some Pepper’s, waste time/write at Davis Library and see us dismantle Dook. However, we’re hitting a snag on housing. There’s four of us, and in a perfect world, we’d like to rent a two bedroom place within very quick walking distance of uptown. We have a place we can get, but it’s not ideal and doesn’t seem like it offers much “outside time” for Lucybeans. Any suggestions? Besides craigslist?

2. One of my oldest, bestest friends is putting together a party in Manhattan that promises to be a fun celebration of southern culture for tourism purposes. He’s looking for a band that would be a good match: something somewhat hip, alternative bluegrass, fun… any ideas, or people to call?

3. Speaking of bands, a reader emailed with a specific, nagging question. I’ll let him say it in his own words:

I saw the Beastie Boys at the Raleigh Civic Center on Nov. 10th of ’92, and the opening acts are the source of my inquiry. I am almost positive they were Rollins Band & Da Lench Mob. The most credible Beastie Boys site out there, BeastieMania.com, has Rollins Band and Cypress Hill listed as openers in their gigography section. Do you know how I can pose the question and maybe get a response from someone who also saw the show (I am trying to target a Raleigh area group of readers)?

I have these occasional bits of my past band-seeing experiences that stick in my craw as well, and know the feeling of not being able to solve my minutiae. Anyone see the show in question?

As always, have a wonderful weekend!

have cane, am able

1/24/07

News stories like this absolutely make me shudder with rage. In it, we meet a father of seven in Washington state who managed to stop the seventh grade in the local middle school from watching “An Inconvenient Truth”. The man is named Frosty Hardiman, a moniker which, given the subject matter, is so staggeringly ironic that it beggars belief. To quote the article:

“No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation — the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet — for global warming,” Hardiman wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is “one of the signs” of Jesus Christ’s imminent return for Judgment Day.

As of now, there is a moratorium on the film, and the school board said “An Inconvenient Truth” can only be shown with the written permission of a principal, and a presentation of “alternate views” that were approved by the superintendent of schools. The science teacher who originally wanted to show the movie has been looking for alternative “authoritative articles,” but the only thing she could find from a reputable non-partisan source was an article from Newsweek written in 1975.

The time for this tomfoolery is at an end.

There are three issues, for me, that bear specific importance to the survival of my family: drastically reducing our carbon output, jumpstarting research on stem cells, and securing ALL loose nuclear materials in the world. If we make headway on those things in my lifetime, I will consider this era to be largely successful.

Yet all three have ticking clocks. It is only a matter of time before some very bad people get their hands on weapons-grade nuclear material. We only have a decade – at most – to stop a potential environmental holocaust. And I would like to unlock the stem cell secrets before any one of us, currently healthy reading this blog, starts to get Alzheimers, Parkinsons, or has a spinal injury.

That’s three clocks. One ticks down to an American city flattened into glass, one ticks down to you not remembering your own children, and one ticks down to billions dead because of a little change in the weather. I’m not being histrionic or even cavalier. It took me a lot of Celexa, therapy and a healthy dose of nihilism to come to grips with it. They all loom, but all come with a saving grace: THEY ALL CAN BE PREVENTED IF WE ACT IN TIME.

Let’s leave aside the nuclear material problem, because that’s my own little bête noire. The other two issues, however, are being roadblocked, again and again, by American religious fundamentalists. If we don’t stop them, they will actually end up killing us. I’m not being histrionic. Their efforts to suppress the news of global warming and their stalwart opposition to stem cells will, if nothing else does, eventually end your (or your kids’) life before its time.

I was listening to this story about two brothers who are trying to bridge their cultural divide: both are Christian, but one is a pro-war Republican who believed the Earth was created in seven actual days by God, and the other, well, votes for Democrats. They discuss how they’ve decided to get together more often and see where they have common ground.

The evangelical brother’s biggest problem with… I dunno, people that don’t agree with him, I suppose… is their perceived superiority. He doesn’t like the disdain, and he’s enraged by conversations where he’s perceived as an idiot.

For me, it’s summed up in a metaphor. Suppose there is a car that is supposed to drive us into the future. A lot of people with a lot of skill made the car, and it was almost done and ready to go, when another group of people come along and say “nice car, but it needs square wheels.”

“Square wheels?” the craftsmen say, “You’re… you’re joking, right?”

“No,” the group says, very loudly, “And I’ll thank you not to act so smug.”

“But round wheels work infinitely better than square wheels.”

“We don’t care. We firmly believe, to the depths of our hearts, that square wheels are the way to go.”

“We’re not putting square wheels on the car! That’s totally fucking stupid!”

“HOW DARE YOU CALL US STUPID! WE’RE GOING TO LIE IN FRONT OF THE CAR UNTIL YOU PUT OUR SQUARE WHEELS ON IT!!!”

“We’re sorry, we’re sorry,” say the craftsmen, “Maybe we can compromise… um, maybe octagons? Um…”

That argument? That’s where America is right now. The future is coming on incredibly fast, the clocks are ticking. We’re dying to go, excited about a future that could be so much better for ourselves and our families. We could be so far along on the journey, and yet we’re stuck retrofitting our vehicle with bling from the Dark Ages.

That time has expired. We have work to do. For the love of your God, please get your Hell out of the way.

pellinore

1/22/07

My opinion of George W. Bush has been a frequent topic on these pages, and I have to say, in defense of consistency, my feelings have not wavered one way or the other in the 6+ years we’ve been with him. As he gears up for the State of the Union speech tonight, I would like to know: what do you, personally, really think of him? It may sound reductivist and easy, but a snapshot of your collective feelings would be immensely interesting.

Anyone, including lurkers, are invited to answer – you can stay anonymous. Give your exact impression and don’t be afraid to be explicit one way or the other!

UPDATE: Awesome debate in the comments. Can anyone who watched the State of the Union address give their impressions to those of us who didn’t?

open mouth, remove doubt

1/21/07

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This is Set-The-Record-Straight Monday®, and I’d like to begin with the grotesquely botched case against the Dook lacrosse players. Now, if some of you don’t know, I have not always been a fan of that school in Durham. I admit a long, lengthy bias, probably due to deep-set psychological wounds from childhood, then crystallizing in my experiences with the school from 1985 onwards.

There is also a certain genre of lacrosse players from the northern climes of the United States who take a certain meathead solace in their racism, their sexism, and their skill at beating the shit out of each other with a stick. Mixing Dook and lacrosse together was like Pop Rocks and Coke, as far as I was concerned. If that mixture didn’t kill Mikey from the Life Cereal commercials, my feeling is that a drunk-driving lacrosse player from Bernardsville, NJ probably would.

When the story came out, I wrote a li’l blog in which I said “I’ve held off talking about the Duke Lacrosse Scandal for a while, because blogs are always the ‘zero draft’ of history, and you can look pretty foolish if you blather and end up being wrong.” Well, it turns out we have most likely been utterly wrong on this one.

Don’t get me wrong: I believe worse things than this happen in elite sports programs every day, and judging from my friends who currently live across the street from a Dook fraternity, a lot of these guys need a month of sensitivity training and a primer on civil rights. But this was a big fuck-up, and I can mea some culpa and say that I was truly predisposed to believe the worst. And there’s a word for that kind of behavior.

Speaking of fuck-ups, many of you have forwarded to me the retraction of the Consumer Reports study on the safety of infant car seats. So it looks like my impassioned, overwritten, hyper-emotional screed from last week was also a waste of your time. For this, I must mea more culpa.

Turns out the tests were done not at speeds of 30-40mph as reported, but more like 74mph. I’d still like an infant car seat that doesn’t throw your kid 30 feet even at 90 miles per hour, but pending a retest, I’d say we can all go about our business. Apparently Consumer Reports outsourced the test to some other company. Lesson to learn: do everything yourself, because other people are totally incompetent.

Here at xtcian.com we’ve prided ourselves in rants and self-righteous diatribes about a myriad of subjects before the facts were in. We’re proud of our spotty batting average, and hope you keep returning for more vaguely-misinformed sermons on subjects theoretical. See you soon for more histrionic geysers of unmitigated crap!*

* except for global warming, which really is happening

very, very, very, very, very, very

1/16/07

We all spent months of our lives fiddling with the typewriter margins – and later, the margins in AppleWorks and Microsoft Word – to make our term papers look longer. Some of the margins were so pathetically large that teachers would actually dock points for believing them to be fools.

And now, in Hollywood, everyone’s script is always too long. The first thing a manager/agent/writing partner will tell you is “this thing needs to lose ten pages.” And so there you are again, this time in Final Draft, messing with the margins in a desperate attempt to make the piece appear smaller.

What is the poetry here? We spend our youth extending that which is small, and our adulthood truncating that which is too large. What lesson am I to take away from this?