Friday, October 26, 2007


How many academic poets does it take to change a light bulb?


One to change it (after first obtaining grant money to buy the light bulb), three to praise his rather dull way of changing it (then talk behind his back about how bad he is at changing light bulbs), and two to write critical essays on how he should return to using the candle.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Today's workday was spent researching knee replacement companies. I came across this creepy medical site:

It just got to me.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


In light of the recent waste of time that was my guitar heroes list, I am wasting more by focusing on drummers. (Or, if you’re that asshole from Rush, “percussionists.”) Regarding the guitarists list, my father points out that I was remiss in not adding Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn. A bit on that. I was not remiss, I simply like everyone else on my list better and, as I don’t really listen to either of those individuals much these days, I didn’t feel that I ought to mention them. I will say that I used to listen to Stevie Ray a lot, especially his first two records. “Couldn’t Stand the Weather” and “Cold Shot” remain favorite tunes, but I tend to get tired of the long-ass blues jams these days. I prefer tighter songs from my guitar gods. Listening to someone solo and solo and solo is not my bag anymore. Sure, I’m a child of the ‘80s and I still like the metal and once upon a time I had Vinnie Vincent and Steve Vai records crowding up my Peaches crates (remember those?), but I am burnt out on the seemingly endless solos and extended jams. Long songs are fine, like the extended freak-outs of the Butthole Surfers or Zappa’s famous operatic/piecemeal compositions. Or Death and the Maiden by Schubert. But listening to a steady stream of pentatonic blues scale riffing in A Major is not really appealing. It’s like a rock guitar geek’s version of the hippie jam bands I despise. See you at Burning Man, dude. Go take a shower.

As for Clapton, the same goes, but I do wish to mention that just about everything he did with Cream is great great stuff, especially their versions of “Spoonful” and “Born Under a Bad Sign”, and, of course, “White Room”, “SWLABR” and “Politician” all of which bring the rock. Cream was heavy and cool in way Clapton has not been in some time. The constant tension between Clapton’s love of blues and Jack Bruce’s jazz influence allowed for something extraordinary to happen—not to mention the physical tension of Bruce and Ginger Baker coming to blows. They were young, arrogant and didn’t getting along very well. Thus they combusted before long. After that Clapton recorded with a number of bands and a rotating group of session players. I gather that he got on better with them, and as a result his music has kind of lacked that energy that Cream had. Oh well, he’s been held up for years as an icon, so he doesn’t need my recognition.

Some people would be shocked that I left of Django Reinhardt. I am shocked that I left him off. I only know a bit about his career and only have heard a smidgen of his music but he is an important guitarist, maybe the most important guitarist in a lot of ways. That’s an oversight.

Oh, and I was tempted to add Dorothy Wiggins of the incomparable band The Shaggs. I really should have. No one played guitar the way she did. Some might say this is a good thing. Not me. I will forever wave my Shaggs flag high.

Another oversight was forgetting Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. He deserves to be on every list.

Now, the drummers I admire:

Stewart Copeland (The Police)
Dale Crover (Melvins)
Keith Moon (The Who)
Danny Heifez (Mr. Bungle)
Bill Stevenson (Descendents, ALL)
Simone Pace (Blonde Redhead)
Max Roach
Dave Lombardo (Slayer, Fantomas)
John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
Yoshimi (Boredoms, UFO or Die)
Sara Lund (Unwound)
Tatsuya Yoshida (Ruins)
King Coffey and Teresa Nervosa (Butthole Surfers)
Bill Bruford (King Crimson, Yes)
Ginger Baker (Cream)
Mike “Puffy” Bordin (Faith No More)
Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience)

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Email me and tell me where I went wrong. Not just on this list, in life.

"Try and stop us!"

Source: Carla, via The Globe and Mail:

The U.S. government has angered Canada's airlines with a proposal to order them to hand over personal information about passengers who take flights that go south over U.S. airspace en route to sunny destinations.

Although the planes wouldn't take off from or land on American soil, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is proposing that Canadian carriers send passenger manifests up to 72 hours in advance of departures to popular winter escapes such as Mexico and the Caribbean.

Under the U.S. Secure Flight program, there would be the same requirement to transmit data on northbound return flights from foreign holiday destinations.

... "We're already vetting our passengers against the Canadian no-fly list,” ATAC policy vice-president Fred Gaspar said yesterday in an interview.

... “There are also privacy concerns,” Mr. Gaspar said. “This is a data-fishing expedition by a third-party government. What makes this problematic is that you're heading to another country and you're not trying to get into the U.S. What's the point of this co-operative approach if our list isn't deemed to be good enough for the United States? They're using a hammer to swat a fly.”

Read more:

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The War over War and Peace

Taken via the amazing Three Percent Blog ( which is really the best blog going, if you care about literature in translation. And who doesn't? Still, this is fascinating, even if you aren’t a Tolstoy fan:

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Nostalgia, brief

Once upon a time I had a pretty sweet, aimless life. I worked a bookshop, which paid my rent but barely allowed me much else. But I tripled my library and learned names that would impact me greatly. Names like Calvino, Borges, Faulkner, Eco, Winterson, Neruda. And I also learned the name Travis. Travis was a classmate of mine but I really only got to know the lad from the bookstore days. And the nights, which were even more interesting. One summer (and I can’t recall which, but I’m thinking it was 1996), Travis and I, along with the vanished Mike K., got drunk every single night. This was a good summer.

I had cares and concerns like all of us. I had just flopped at school, dropped out, been kicked out of an apartment by my former friends, been too long on the edge of a lot of bad mojo. My other friends in that flop house high-tailed it out of the city like a bunch of North Carolina crackers. I may have been mildly pissed at first but I came to understand that it was the best decision they could have made.

And I was broke. No steady work from June to December 31. Flat on my ass, as they say. I got the gig at the bookshop by means too ridiculous to retell, and I’ve told the tale too often. (Fucking hell, how’s that for some alliteration? Fried gold, baby! Even the T in “often” has a chime in it. This writing school thing is really working out. Maybe not, but fuck it, I’m proud of that little alliterative moment even if no one will pick up on it. Even if my current workshop threatens to kick so much of my ass I’ll go running toward a Comparative Literature program and sit back reading world lit like I would love to right now— being so immersed in José Donoso’s The Obscene Bird of Night which is so good I can hardly believe it— and being disinclined to reread Milton and Pope.)

So I was broke no longer, having got the book gig, which meant being two shades light of broke. Travis and Mike K. and I drank the summer away and it mattered little that I was dead busted and barely living anywhere, unable to truly count on my four walls being mine for very long. This was the summer I learned to drink whiskey (scotch back then, bourbon these days). This was when I started writing a lot, which was still just fake and even more amateurish than one might expect—even more amateurish than this blog. And this is when I would listen to Schubert’s Death and the Maiden or De La Soul’s Buhloone Mindstate constantly. But the reason I recall all this today is because I heard Combustible Edison’s “The Millionaire’s Holiday” again and it immediately brought it all back. Travis and Mike K. had gone to see them at the legendary Lounge Acts. This was before I was officially in their good graces, which sucks as, in retrospect, I would have loved to be at that show. (Mike K. and I had some history, mostly good, though we were rivals over a girl briefly. That’ll quash any potential friendship.) Mike K. took it upon himself to buy I, Swinger because Mike K. bought every CD he could, especially if it resembled jazz. We were drinking Bloody Marys with extra Tabasco because I had a bad cold and Travis believed the concoction would help me feel better. We had just finished watching Night of the Iguana, one of Travis’ favorite films, and Mike K. put Combustible Edison on. Immediately I was delighted by the opening track, a cover of Nino Rota’s “Cadillac” from La Dolce Vita. Pretty cool way to start a CD. But the real pull was track two, “The Millionaire’s Holiday”. A very short song, melodic, fun, a song that advocates retro cocktail culture and being a “swinger if you dare.” And I don’t mean as in swing music, a fad I anticipated when I stocked up on Benny Goodman records four years earlier; a fad I completely rejected when I saw that fucking Vince Vaughn movie. No, there was not a swing moment like you’d see in Swing Kids, a vile film that can only have come from a deeply twisted mind. This was lounge music, exotica, the gloriously odd ‘50s sounds that white Americans liked to play during cocktail parties, music with a slight calypso vibe or some other vaguely ethnic trait. Music that made suburbanites feel urbane. My Gen-X ears might have found it playful and ironic at first, but the song has ceased being appreciated for those reasons and taken on a more lasting quality.

So I heard the song today and I remembered Travis drunk and dancing the shopping cart, Mike K. rejecting his Bloody Mary in favor of Rolling Rock and my own head swimming with flu germs and vodka, unsure whether I should try and seduce Mike’s roommate or let the poor girl be for once.

Then I moved in with Nick and Nikit, which sounds like a Nickelodeon program. Nick was a would-be hipster, always on the lookout for a sharper image, so much so that he traded his reliable, sensible Volkswagen for a beat up 1970-something Porsche that never worked well. He used to put on eye-liner and hit a club with his trendy young coworkers, all of which he lusted after, all of which went home with other men. He listened to bands like Pulp and Suede and a slew of other one-name Brit Pop acts. And he let me play Combustible Edison for him, which he then gobbled up greedily. I couldn’t get that record to stop playing. Nikit, my other roommate, was similarly taken with the band. If I contributed anything to that apartment, aside from a never-ending nicotine cloud, it was I, Swinger. The record became a soundtrack to our life on Southport and Altgeld. We even put it on the answering machine.

I was happy then. I had a nice apartment and I liked my roommates. Dubbed “Piss Drunk Vinny” by the lads, I had a reputation to maintain, and I did my best. I had a job at Mail Boxes, Etc., now the UPS Store, and that helped with the money the bookshop was only sort of providing. I had money and books coming in, so I was happy. Life was still aimless, but who needs aim when you have Dante and Boccaccio and Beckett and scotch?


Things are better. I don’t get drunk nightly. Barely at all these last few months. I have more work than I know what to do with. I have a muy loca niña, a gato who makes me smile, bills I can usually pay and a developing interest in a life with aim. This is good. But I can’t help but feel nostalgic today when listening to this ridiculous song. I am growing old. My biggest fear is not being a failure, it is being overly nostalgic. Like a goddamn baby boomer. Everything I never wanted to be.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Rolling Stone recently came up with a list of guitar heroes or guitar gods or greatest whatever. I have not seen it, but the Red Eye lying on the office men’s room floor tells me that Price is number 1, Kurt Cobain 2, Neil Young 3, George Harrison 4, Clapton 5, and Billy Corrigan number 22. I could debate all of these choices with ease, but instead I’ll offer my list because, yes, I have one. I have lists like you would not believe.

Agata (Melt-Banana)
Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers)
Trey Spruance (Mr. Bungle and Secret Chiefs 3)
(King) Buzzo (Melvins and Fantomas)
Yamamoto (Boredoms)
John Haggerty (Naked Raygun)
Poison Ivy Rorschach (The Cramps)
Marc Ribot (especially for his work with Tom Waits but those Prosthetic Cubans recordings are great too)
Pete Townshend (The Who)
Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top)
Steve Cropper (for his work with Otis Redding)
Oleg Gitarkin (Messer Chups)
Frank Zappa
James Hetfield (for the first 3 Metallica records and the EP that proceeded their decent into mediocrity)
Dean Ween (Ween)
Joe Strummer (The Clash)
Amedeo Pace (Blonde Redhead)
Steve Egerton (Descendents and ALL)
Andy Summers (The Police)
Joe Jack Talcum aka Jasper Thread (Dead Milkmen)
Jimi Hendrix
Eddie Van Halen (especially for the mid-Roth era records)
Randy Rhodes

This is not in any real order, so don’t go bitching that Jimi is so low on the list. Anyway, that’s all I can think of now, so have at it.

Rockingly yours,


Another letter to the CTA

Dear Sir or Madam:

Yesterday, October 1, 2007, at approximately 11:30 AM, on the Red Line, just after passing the Thorndale stop, heading north, on train car number 2953, I spied a maggot squirming on the seat next to where I was sitting. This was obviously distressing not only because maggots are disgusting but also because they do just pop up spur-of-the-moment. No, I suspect the maggot had been living with more of his kind on the train for some time, having been born of rotting food or flesh or both. This means that train car number 2953 was not properly cleaned— who knows for how long?

Please do a better job cleaning the train cars. I know the fare is a mere $2.00 ($1.75 for those who succumbed to the CTA credit card) but still, I expect a bit more from your organization, the least of which includes a maggot free commute.