Sunday, February 26, 2006

To Bugs

My first pet was a lop-eared rabbit we named after Bugs Bunny. Someone let themselves into our garage and killed him with a hammer. The original manuscript was handwritten in capital letters.

Liquid strands of warmth fly (flutter)
Through the frosted air
Innocence lurks in a box
Thwarting death's rusty snare
A knock, a whisper, someone calls
The lock bits tumble (clack)
An outstretch hand, a hammer raised
And a child's joy falls slack
Discovery, and sorrow fills
The hearts and minds of all
"Who did this?" is the question asked
As tired voices rise and fall

My family has an idea who did it, but we were never able to prove it. RIP, Bugs!

I Was a Teenage Poet IV

I wrote this on March 21, also assuming the same year as a previous poem. Every other paragraph, beginning with the second, was indented in the original handwritten manuscript. Capitalization is as it was.

For those who would rather think
than be amused
Don't let yourself become a tool
A life that others used

I always felt like I was giving
more than just my share
I always felt like I was living
another's life unfair
Two times the sorrow
times twice the pain
Had a debilitating effect
The me I thought that I had known
was suddenly wrecked

So I crawled back into my shell
My little self-locked closet
And nailed a board across the slot
through which she made deposits
You say I'm cold... OK
You say I'm hard... Fine
You say that I am closed to love
The decision made was made.

I opened up to her
more than I ever had
When once was numb
And numb no more
But angry, confused, sad

I Was a Teenage Poet III

I wrote this on March 22, in the same year as the previous poem (I'm guessing), at 8:38 p.m.

You asked me if I was alive,
Hands covering my face.
Too young to be this bitter,
With much I am displeased.
I feel I cannot know them.
I do not know myself.
Thou shalt not commit adulthood --
When childhood flies, what is left?
And so I wear my blinders
And so I shield my soul
And so harden feeling
And so I older grow.
With this I am not happy
And much would like to change
But all alone all nothing means
Silent suffer strange.
The end comes rushing onward
I continue dreading tomorrow
Some semblance of normality
Desperately seeking borrow.
And so I stand up straighten
And so I pensive seem
And so I look across the room
And so I always dream.

I Was a Teenage Poet II

I wrote this on March 4, 1991. Paragraph breaks do not appear in the original handwritten manuscript. Punctuation is as it was.

Lie on the floor shaking
As I start to write
These desperate words
With the coming of night.

My heart races hectic
As my knuckles clutch red
The silver-cased pen
That my mind has fed

With words to explain
How I feel about you,
But I stumble and falter --
What to say? What to do?

My body floods numbness
As I scribble on.
My mouth motions dumbness
As I think of things gone.

You are very special
Just one of a kind
And I am really happy
That you were once mine.

But I am thoughtless
To think I could own
A person that is more
Than flesh and bone.

We shared some good times,
Our hopes and our dreams
But the end comes
Or so it does seem.

My spirit wanes as
I think of you gone
Force myself to stop feeling
And say, "Life goes on..."

Our age serves as boundary
That we fought to tear down.
It serves as an obstacle
Against which we were thrown

The recent past stands
A blurry nightmare --
What did I do that
Said, "I don't care."

The high-school ex-girlfriend about whom I'm sure this was written was a freshman while I was a senior. It was the first time I'd ever dated someone younger than me.

Fishnet Girl

I wrote this February 1, 1991 -- at exactly 5:41:17 p.m., it seems. I have edited in the paragraph breaks, which do not appear in the original, handwritten "manuscript."

Scurrying hurriedly through crowded halls,
Trapped between these concrete walls,
I suffocate.

The faceless clot of human mass,
Flitting through this maze like rats,
I lose myself.

Emotion lacking, sincerity gone,
They lie and cheat to get their bone.
I witness.

I lose myself amongst the crowd,
sucked into them, fast and loud,
I flounder.

She stands out, an island of light,
Leading the way through moon-soaked night.
I follow.

Look at her legs.
Taste her lips.
Fingers through hair.
Hands cup hips.

I die.

I Was a Teenage Poet

I wrote this March 6, 1991:

Solitude falls as I realize I've never known you inside or outside.
Either you've changed who you are or you never were.
You have been closed to me as though never opened and
I smother by the weight of the silence that falls when you near.
I do not know you.
You are lost to me.

Churching to Go

According to a printout certificate I found tonight, I was ordained a minister of the Universal Life Church on July 30, 1997.

Feel free to call me Reverend!

Happy Birthday to Media Dieticians XXIII

Oh: I turned 33 years old today. That's probably part of the reason why I'm reminiscing about my past writing and projects.

Sonnet #1

There's a ton more stuff tucked into that notebook, including more Rapcrap lyrics and poems I wrote to my senior-year girlfriend Jodie T. after we broke up. Wow. I hope to document most of the material here, but for now, here's a sonnet I wrote on May 12, 1991.

If I were to compare my soul to yours,
I cannot guarantee what I might find;
Humanity seeps from your every pore
Despite a subtle remoteness of mind.
But I have not yet tried to delve too deep
For fear secrets you may not wish to share;
The private thoughts that everyone must keep
To present those who seem to really care.
For I am stoic after having learned
That there are those who are not what they seem.
The wishes shared and futures we for-yearned
Eventually became the stuff of dreams.
Time hastens toward the point at which we part;
Therefore I humbly offer you my heart.

Plenty more where that came from!

Old School Rap II

I also found more lyrics from my high-school hip-hop "act," Rapcrap. Here are the words for "Tougher Than Before."

We all know you think we're dumb.
Oh, yeah, we really look like scums.
When you see us on the top,
You'll regret it and want to rock with us.
With the best of the best,
The toughest of the toughest.
We'll just say get lost and shove it.

We'll have fast cars and have fast women.
We'll have huge mansions and just be chillin'?
It seems like chocalate with a cherry.
Ask us if it's good, and we'll have to say very.

We wear a little gold. We have a lot of cash.
We never drink and never smoke stash.
You can call us nerds [or] call us studs,
But we'll be the one 's who['re] alive when you're dead from Buds.

Other rappers think they can push us back,
But we'll pull more raps out of the hat.
They better not think they can cross our line,
'Cause [my] bro John will kick their behind.

We all stick together,
Never apart.
If you hurt one of us
Then we'll be like
Corn flake power,
Cracker Jack surprise.
We [break] lamp shades
'Cause we don't use a light.

Wrap it up.

Huh? I have no idea what "corn flake power" is.

Brian A., Steve S., and John C., if you come across this, email me. I think it's time for a reunion.

I Was a Teenage Media Geek

While tidying up the piles of stuff on my dining table, I came across an old notebook from my days as a Boy Scout in Troop 137. Inside the front cover is taped two pink notecards, one indicating that Mike Thomson was troop librarian starting June 15, 1982, and another outlining the duties of the librarian. The role entails the following:

  • Keeps records on literature owned by the troop.
  • Advises SPL or Scoutmaster of new or replacement items needed.
  • Has literature available for borrowing at troop meetings.
  • Keeps a system for checking literature in and out. Follows up on late returns. (Fine: 2 cents a day)

The river runs deep, folks.

Disc Us

I have 11 random CD-ROMs that were included with issues of MacAddict and MacWorld. They contain freeware, application and game demos, image libraries, and other files.

And they're up for grabs!

The first Media Dietician to email me indicating that they want them can claim them. For $3 via PayPal to cover postage, I'll mail them to you, free.

Let me know if you want them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Call me a Heathy Come Lately because I learned about it via Gawker, but the local message board Williamsboard -- and its denizens -- have captured my heart. And time!

I don't know these people. I have no idea what they look like. I have no idea what they do. But I do know that they live in roughly the same area I do, and it's been a hoot and a half to lurk -- and start posting. I've not felt so much a part of nothing since I got involved in that old Atlantic discussion forum about David Eggers.

Cover Story X

With the March 2006 issue, Wired magazine moves to a traditional trim size.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seeking Healing

Over the last two days, I read Kristie Helms's 2003 novel Dish It Up, Baby! She'd mailed it to me after an email exchange awhile ago, I'm guessing because I'd been active in Kevin Smokler's Virtual Book Tour project. I'd started it upon receiving it -- getting 30 pages in -- but for whatever reason didn't finish it until now. Sorry, Kristie!

The book is brilliant. Brilliant.

And it's worth reading for several reasons. If you've ever come to love New York City -- but didn't at first -- check it out. If you've ever loved Boston -- and moved there for love -- check it out. If you've ever needed to heal after an abusive or unhealthy relationship -- check it out. If you've ever grappled with how you manage friendships and relationships -- perhaps (but not necessarily) coming to grips with whether you're straight or gay -- read it. If you've ever worked in a job longer than intended because it was "safe," read it. If you've ever loved a city -- any city -- because of its details and random exchanges and experiences, read it. If you've ever needed to reconcile who you've discovered yourself to be with who you thought you were, read it. And if you've ever wanted to write a book about everything you've gone through -- but not really -- read it.

In fact, that's one of the most intriguing and fascinating aspects. Given the assumption that the book is somewhat autobiographical -- Helms did win a diary-blogging award, and she does live in Boston -- it's hard to think that the book could be written without experiencing some of the major happenings detailed: Being raised by an alcoholic father, escaping an abusive marriage, coming out. Even the novel's selected imprint, Firebrand Books, specializes in feminist, lesbian, and transgender titles. This isn't stuff that can easily be faked, people.

Another thing that impressed me was the narration's personal passion, pacing, and practice. Helms's short, staccato use of phrase, often dissecting sentences into series of shorter, interrupted phrases, imbued the book with an almost breathless desperation. Despite the book's overly repetitive return to the themes of how challenging, emotional, and angry the happenings were, the sense of self-discovery and -development never faltered.

It's a solid novel, and worth reading even if you don't tend to read Firebrand-like titles. (I'm curious if this book would have hit my radar had the author not posted it to me.) The book is useful on several fronts. If you need help learning who you are, read it. If you need help learning why you are how you are, read it. If you love New York or Boston, read it. If you are interested in learning how to re-emerge into the dating scene -- and a healthy relationship -- after being in a long-term, unhealthy relationship -- married or otherwise -- read it. If you need help balancing life and work, read it.

Long story short: Read it.

If you want a book considered for review, let me know. I can't promise an immediate review, much less a favorable review, but I'm looking for texts to consider. Hit me up.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Winter Storm Warming

Inspired by a January New York Times article about Japan's snow country and my recent read of Banana Yoshimoto's Hardboiled & Hard Luck, I picked up an old paperback copy of Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country. Winner of the Novel Prize for Literature in 1968, the short novel focuses on experiences on the west coast of Japan's main island, reportedly the "snowiest region in the world."

An older businessmas leaves the comforts of his home and family to journey to the snow country, where he partakes in natural hot spring baths and the pleasures of a young geisha named Komako. Over the course of several visits and trysts, the two fall into a love of sorts, and their bittersweet pairings and partings form the centerpiece of the work of fiction.

With several references to characters seeing themselves as players in an "old, romantic tale," the novel settles into a pace out of time, carrying overtones of isolation -- communicated not just through the story's geographical setting but in the emotional detachment of the people in the narrative. Even the protagonist distances himself from his chosen professional focus: Occidental ballet. And similar to Yoshimoto's new book, there are references to black stones, albeit without the supernatural elements.

In the end, the two main characters cannot bear to be apart -- yet they cannot remain together. Snow Country is a perfect winter read because of its sadness, simplicity, and stark lyricism. A wonderful counterpart to the Klondike-based fiction of Jack London. In those stories, the vehicle that transports characters into the wild is a dog sled. In Kawabata's Snow Country, it is the train.

Ye Olde New Orleans

I picked up a copy of George Cable's Old Creole Days, the Pelican Pouch paper back edition, when I was in New Orleans not too many months before Hurricane Katrina hit. While I didn't pick it up in the thick of the disaster, I wanted to read it before too long after so I could best connect Cable's 1879 portrayal of life in the Big Easy with my recent experiences there -- and the waves of Katrina.

Cable is a grand old man of Louisiana fiction, and his southern gothic tales of New Orleans are a must read for anyone interested in the history of the city. Blending darkly romantic descriptions of the people and layout of the city's historic sections, Cable's gothic idealism reminds me of H.P. Lovecraft at times (without the horror undertones).

The eight stories collected herein focus their intention on several themes: The passing of old New Orleans, the heroic Jean Lafitte, and the racial tensions surrounding intermarriage. Cable is considered a local colorist rather than a realist (a la William Dean Howells and Henry James in the north), and some period readers thought he belittled his Creole subjects rather than empowered them. An awesome collection of historic fiction.

For pointers to other books about New Orleans, check out my Mardi Gras Books lens. Between Cable and the work of George Tallant, you can't go too far wrong!

Ego, Superego, and the Arachnid

Not too long ago, I joined the Science Fiction Book Club to see what its editors recommend as the best in new science fiction and fantasy. One of the books included in my new-member package was Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, his most recent novel.

Similar in many ways to his previous American Gods, the book focuses on the encroach of a mythic past on an unsympathetic present. The novel centers its attention on the two sons of Anansi, a trickster god associated with the spider -- and according to the book, Br'er Rabbit.

After the death of their father, the two brothers need to navigate their new relationship and figure out how to overcome the meddling of the bird woman, an enemy of Anansi, and how to integrate their personalities so their family lineage can continue. It's a solid read, not at all heavy handed in its references, and readers can end up caring enough about the protagonist(s) that it's a need to read until the very end. Gaiman continues his post-modern approach to our mythic and literary predecessors in high style.

A Media Diet iMix featuring songs mentioned in the book is also available.

Stangland of Opportunity

Growing up in Wisconsin, I wasn't overly aware of the Midwest's Scandinavian history and community outside of Mount Horeb, the "troll capital of the world." It wasn't until I was older that I listened to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion and began to more fully appreciate Ole and Lena jokes.

If you're at all interested in such humor -- in its purist, unanalyzed concentrate -- Red Stangland's Ole & Lena Jokes is the place to start. The multi-volume series of pamphlets published by the Norse Press in South Dakota is the "choicest collection of classic jokes about your favorite Scandinavians."

In unadorned page layouts featuring a simple sans serif typeface and the folksy cartoon art of Stangland, this 47-page first volume is chock full of jokes. It's a bit overwhelming to read front to back, but the cover blurbs -- which indicate that the jokes are "hilarious, rare, ribald, crazy, delirious, and fantastic" -- aren't too far off. There are some doozies in here, and most of the jokes focus on Ole and Lena's intelligence, family planning, relationships, and language-based limitations.

High-concept humor it's not, but it's a slice of Americana worth exploring. Silly Scandinavians!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Gift Me a Hand

Could someone please buy this for me? What an amazing Ebay item.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Reading and Records

A new iMix for Neil Gaiman's novel Anansi Boys. Well worth plunking down the dime for.

Idea High

I love it when I submit a site to Boing Boing and Cory or Mark pick up on it. Today, they did just that, helping spread word about an awesome online archive of gum wrappers. I've been on a big food history kick in recent days, making a Squidoo lens about soda pop and delighting in trivia tidbits like the fact that Big Red gum was first offered in... 1975.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Not Down with CGC

I'm at home, watching DVR'd X-Files reruns, and I see that CGC's Music is a shared library in my iTunes. But unlike jblazinny oodles of time ago, CGC's music library isn't accessible.

Boo. And hiss.

Friday, February 03, 2006

iMixing It Up

Several new iMixes worth mentioning:

February Rain: Made by my friend Megan in honor of those who mourn the strength of winter.

Wintersong: These snowy songs should provide sufficient support for said sadness. My response to Megan's mix.

Sunshine: To the friend in Chicago who said Megan's mix was too sad, I say this: Check this out. Songs about the sun.

Make with the clicky to make with the listen -- and make your own mixes in response!

Qui Est Fernandel?

Sometimes you don't see something until you've seen it somewhere else -- or you start noticing it more once you've come across it.

Such is the case with me and French comic actor Fernandel. I've not once heard of the man, but today in the New York Times, I read about him in a review mentioning a new book from Taschen. Then, elsewhere in the paper, in an article by an entirely different writer, I was struck by a mention in a theater review.

The second reference would never have hit my radar had I not seen the first -- and the first hit so hard because of the amazing photographs by Philippe Halsman.

Who -- or what -- is your most recent Fernandel?