Monthly Archives: June 2010

alice moving under skies

6/30/10

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Relax. It is mid-summer. It is holiday. If you’re still working right now, and have the ability to drift, please drift.

Be slightly late, have five seconds more daydream.

Relax the muscles under your eyes, relax the muscles holding the back of your head upright. Why do you clench so much? Your jaw asks to be released, please do.

The sun rises so early, sets so late in the evening, the endless possibility is sometimes more pleasurable than the endless doing. Nothing is expected of you this second.

No guilt, no shame, no recriminations, you don’t owe anything, and nothing is owed to you, at least for the next five minutes, the next five days.

A stopped clock is correct twice a day; a motivational poster is correct twice a year. Allow a cliché to come forth, it’s okay, you don’t need to be constantly profound. Pinks and purples, blues and greens.

It’s well to remember the last poem in “Through the Looking Glass” when Lewis Carroll speaks of

A boat beneath a sunny sky

Lingering onward dreamily

In an evening of July-

but Edward Lear, a few hazy miles away at precisely the same moment, was writing this instead:

They dined on mince, and slices of quince,

Which they ate with a runcible spoon;


And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

They danced by the light of the moon,

The moon,

The moon,

They danced by the light of the moon.

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i’d like to teach the world to sing

6/29/10

One weekend while we were in high school, my friends and I spent all night carbonating our urine. I mention this not just because I’m proud of it (who wouldn’t be?) but because the process of carbonating anything just got fantastically easier. Back in the ’80s, if you had one of those home soda makers, you had to have a massive tank of gas, a bizarre contraption connecting it to your plastic bottle, and it took about twenty minutes to put fizz into a liter of liquid.

Not regular minutes, mind you, but 20 minutes of gently turning the bottle upside down every few seconds – and if you’re 14 and carbonating your urine just for fun, you can imagine the margin for error is pretty large. NOT ANY MORE, MY FRIENDS.

Enter the SodaStream™. This is one of those As Seen on TV products that we would never buy, but a friend had one and after watching her carbonate a liter of water in five seconds, we were pretty much hooked. You insert a small canister of CO2 into the back, hook on your bottle, press a button three times, and GOD DAMN I WANT ALL THAT MONEY BACK FROM ALL THOSE BOTTLES OF SELTZER I BOUGHT FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS.

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This thing truly goes on the Things That Would Have Blown My Teenage Mind shelf – along with the iPod, wireless internet, Wikipedia, a black President and 24-hour access to porn. You use regular tap water, reuse the same bottles, and the gas cartridges are endless and refillable. And the water is massively carbonated, not that weak salsa those machines of yesteryear used to give you.

It’s true, I have a Roy Williams-esque attachment to Coke, and by extension, all soda pop – I used to pedal my Huffy bicycle endless miles across Cedar Rapids, IA just to get a bottle from the one gas station that still had the pull-bottle type of dispensers for a dime. So this little gadget does have emotional resonance for me, even if it makes incredible farting noises when your drink’s ready.

Tessa will no doubt cringe that I have yet again told the world about carbonating my urine, but the way I see it, she should relax. As is often said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and with our new fizz-making machine, she should consider herself lucky I have such good recall.

immune to your consultations

6/28/10

Nature punishes any creature that lacks flexibility. You see it everywhere from the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event to pop music: if you don’t find something to love about the future, the future is taken away from you. I’d say we’re in the middle of a transition period right this second, the kind of massive change that will leave many of you surfing on the thrill side of the wave, and some of you drowning in the lonely doldrums of the past.

It’s easy to spot the biggest drags: above 50, they’re the ones who think it’s funny they can’t turn on a computer; above 40, they’re the ones who can’t go a full day without complaining about Facebook and Twitter. It’s more than just a deeply unfunny, clichéd reaction to technology, it’s the whole package. It’s the belief that there was some “better” time about twenty years ago when technology was in balance with nature – we had our VCRs, but kids still played outside.

That sort of era-ism is a crock of shit, and features the kind of historical arbitrariness that makes my friend Ehren hate the Amish. Really, at this point, you can be a silent Luddite with my blessing, but the minute you start complaining about Twitter feeds and Kids Today™, you’re worse than the Amish, because none of you even have horses.

Having a small child right now offers some pretty amazing perspective if you’re willing to take it. Lucy will never know a world without the constancy of the internet; she will not see it as something you “log on to” or even differentiate it from “the real world”. It will be a silent constant like nitrogen, and its presence (along with people and trees) will be “the real world”. She will not be thankful for it, the same way none of us are thankful about electricity.

With this comes a certain amount of resentment, which is why it’s so easy to hate teenagers. They frolic in the blind largesse of their forebears, taking for granted the things we struggled to create. We think it’s not fair that they didn’t know a world without iPods, it’s not fair that they’ll never have to clean a chalkboard. Hell, I have a bit of resentment over the kids currently in Hinton James dorm for having fucking AIR CONDITIONING.

And yet, those of us in Gen X who can look at the Millennials without wanting to slap them? We’ll be the ones still clutching a tiny bit of relevance. Kids don’t care what anyone thinks anyway, but if you start complaining about their culture, you might as well be dead. You can look upon the winner of the texting championship with disgust, but I might remind you I got 3rd place in the Rubik’s Cube solving contest at Military Circle Mall in 1981. Time will tell which skill set proved more useful.

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I somewhat hate the current culture of video games, but at least I understand that as MY failing. I’m still stuck in the arcade days of Defender, Gyruss and Galaga and felt like everything past Doom was just too fucking complicated and an inexcusable time-suck. Sure, I gots the Wii, but that’s a little like the white kids in 1990 saying they loved Three Feet High and Rising.

So I put it to you: what is your immediate reaction upon the introduction of a new technology: knee-jerk hatred or vague excitement? Do you actually feel like the tech revolution has gotten out of control, or is it the same as it ever was? And do you believe video games make kids obese, or is it their parents?

always seem so unhappy ‘less they got a war

6/24/10

If you pay attention to the goings-on of the world, you know that President Obama had to fire General Stanley McChrystal, the head of war operations in Afghanistan, after McChrystal said some irresponsibly stupid things in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. But before McChrystal lost his job, there was one person who was the fall guy for the whole mess, and he’s one of our own.

Duncan Boothby is an old friend and housemate of mine; he was at Carolina in the early ’90s with the rest of us, and continued to participate in our social and artistic endeavors in NYC long afterwards. He’s also been pilloried as the press consultant who brought down a general during a war. If you want a pile of shit masquerading as journalism, look no farther than this story, which is a clinic on duct-taping quotes in order to make somebody look like an assclown.

How about these for code phrases from journalists: “[Boothby] was slick, about 5-foot-8, well tailored, and you knew he could never run 20 miles.” “He was very glib, had a British accent… it was clear he wasn’t military.” Well-tailored? Glib? It’d be much more honest if they’d just skip the winking and nudging.

All these anonymous quotes from reporters in the field speaks to a larger culture – the curious frat of war correspondents. I feel like I’ve spent half my adult life with these folks, and while I have a long history with that world and respect their passion, they can be unfathomably annoying. I’ve known many of them as ticking testosterone time bombs, instant believers in the worst of human nature, cocksure blowhards addicted to the heroin of bad news. If you don’t believe the apocalypse is nigh, they don’t think you’re trying hard enough.

All of which aids their survival in the wild, but makes for awesome nights in New York that inevitably end face down on Gansevoort Street in a puddle of absinthe. I’ve never met Michael Hastings, the author of the Rolling Stone piece, but he seemed vaguely dickish during his NPR interview, and since I’m a over-generalizing prick with naught but a broad brush, I’ll lump him in with the rest.

Point being this: it’s a scrotum culture, and I don’t like the portrayal of Duncan as some effete twit mincing about Afghanistan messing up people’s careers. If anything, Duncan was too good at his job, securing the general a huge Rolling Stone piece, giving him just the kind of “media weapon” the general wanted. The rest was up to McChrystal, and he chose to use that platform to get himself fired.

You can’t have it both ways; slow-galumphing monoliths like the military and brick & mortar corporations can’t glom onto “New Media™!” and then be shocked when it bites them in the ass. You don’t give your car keys to a 10-year-old, and you don’t give a guy with Tourette’s a Twitter account. Likewise, you don’t denigrate both the President and the Vice President to a Rolling Stone reporter.

Of course, the Fox article patronizingly labels Duncan as a shifty “new media type” (in an article on the Web, it should be noted) and mentions “the only credit that could be found for him was as an actor in North Carolina.” Well, I’ll provide another credit for him right here: Duncan Boothby is a great guy. He is the kind of wonderful, weird, inscrutable, brilliant, un-self-aware person I’m honored to have in my cast of characters. I’ll speak for many of my friends here, and say that our time at UNC – and beyond – would be the lesser without his personality. Here’s to failing upwards!

scattered cirrus

6/23/10

Awesome comments the last two days… and not just because I’m some sorta voyeur. Guys need to be told what to do, sportswomen!

Packing up for California and finishing every last chore at the farm compels me to a CODE WORD question… what is your absolute favorite place in the world?

you want to do WHAT with my WHAT

6/21/10

It’s the summer solstice, so let’s go out on a pagan celebratory limb. Because of two disparate emails on this subject, I’ve been gently nudged to ask you anonymous animals the following question, a deeply inappropriate (yet extremely valuable for the possible misinformed) query:

Women reading this… in your experience, what do guys do during sex that can ruin it for you? Use your animal, not your name, as open honesty will really help somebody here!

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oh, i do think it the pleasantest thing

6/20/10

Father’s Day is a slightly more relevant holiday than it used to be – these days, you have to earn it. You don’t get a pass for just showing up, farting, and blaming it on the dog; if you’re a vaguely-absentee dad, a holiday like this only serves to highlight your shortcomings. From the moment Lucy popped into our lives, I’ve been pretty determined to bypass PassiveDad on my way to CraftDad (without venturing into CreepyDad).

Lucy and I had discussed two things in particular for the farm, and I managed to complete them both, and a little surprise for her as well.

A Very Long Rope Swing – When we were in Santa Cruz for Jon and Michelle’s wedding, we stayed in a rental house on the beach that was, by most of my family’s definition, kind of a dream. It made Tessa wish our own place had that expansive beauty, but Lucy was obsessed with the details: a fireman’s pole from the attic (which I’d mentioned last year on caveman’s List of Stuff Rich Kids Had When We Were Growing Up) and a rope swing that connected to branches high in the stratosphere.

Here’s the thing about high tire swings: when the rope is that long, the swing ride itself is a endless, swooping, almost planetary experience. It beats a playground swing with a stick. So I determined where I could put one at the farm, but the branches were about an inch too small for comfort.

So I buttressed the swing branch in three directions, giving the swing the combined strength of four different parts of the tree. To do this, I had to go higher on a ladder than any writer ought, learn how to tie a clove knot with one hand, and get pestered by actual woodpeckers.

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with cows onlooking in background

I fashioned the seat out of an old pressure-treated stair, used a rope clamp for adjustability, and voilà! A swing that rides longer than the Foucault Pendulum!

Do-It-Yourself Monkey Bars – Lucy was starting to read, starting to write legibly, doing painstaking artwork… and then she discovered the monkey bars. Kids often oscillate between intellect and the physical, and right now, she is all about conquering topography. It took her three months to get up the courage and upper body strength to take on the pre-school monkey bars, but by god who art shinin’ in heaven, she kicked its ass.

We have a play structure with “monkey bars” here at the farm, but the actual bars are about 20 feet in the air – shit, even I won’t do them without grappling hooks. So I decided to create an appendix to the jungle gym.

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That’s two 4×4 posts ten feet long, with 24″ pipe from Lowe’s screwed into them. I painted them yellow, gave one side six-foot legs, and hoisted them aloft. After a few well-placed carriage bolts, my daughter glowed iridescent happiness and has barely left them alone.

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The Fairy Fountain – So Lucy graduated from pre-school last week, and I wanted to get her something special. We have a running storyline about the fairies that take care of the farm when we’re away: a girl fairy named Pixley, and a “sparrow boy” named Foster (named after the original builders of the house back in the early 1800s). One of my daughter’s favorite things in the world is a scavenger hunt, something we’ve done since she was very little.

So I gave her a scavenger hunt at the farm for her graduation present, and the very last clue led to a place in a little patch of woods that she can call her own. There’s a little stone statue of Pixley, a tiny fountain with a spitting frog, and a Japanese Maple for constant shade.

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I can’t say all these things were necessary altruistic. I love being in New York, so it’s also my own selfishness at work. I want to imbue the farm with as much fun and magic as I can, so that it retains its glow for the ladies in my family even after vast stretches spent in California. And now with little Marlena in the extended brood, there’s even more reason to make it a homestead worthy of frequent pilgrimage.

But I love a project, and a project that makes Lucy happy is frosting on frosting. On this Father’s Day, I can thank my own dad for teaching me carpentry and making me understand that there’s very little I can’t build myself. And I can thank my little Lucy, because she makes every day easy to be a good Daddo.

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at her graduation last week

her mocking smile says it all

6/17/10

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Folks, say hello to Marlena Michelle Williams, Sean and Jordi’s new daughter, Barnaby’s new sister, my new niece and Lucy’s new cousin! She’s 8 lbs 11oz, and both she and her mom are doing great. YEAH!

fruitful multiplying

6/16/10

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Tessa and Jordi on Saturday

We’re on Babywatch 2010 here in the greater family, as Jordana is most likely hours away from giving li’l Barno a sibling. She’s already begun dilation and ready to rock and/or roll any minute now. Send your best thoughts their way, won’t you?