<= 2003.12

2004.03 =>

[FEBRUARY 2004.]

kein wolf, kein tiger

1. Fair warning: /usr/bin/perl is still pretty wonky over here following the hardware failure, and I don't think the comment box is working at the moment. You will also want to know that according to my dictionary, the German verb for "be wonky" is eiern, from Eier, eggs.

2. Office Depot has given us the word "janitation."

3. I must admit that Schubert picked some clunkers to set to music. I don't know where he found some of these. See for example the amazingly bad "Der Vatermörder." Why the little birds? Why?

4. I know any of you who ever ate at the Hamburg Inn No. 2, Iowa City, want to know more about Zadar! Cow From Hell!, part of which was filmed at the Hamburg Inn and which gave its name to the Zadar Omelette. Turns out it was filmed in the eighties by the Duck's Breath comedy troupe; this group also gave us the marvelous "Ask Dr. Science," which you may have heard on NPR.

—Send Dr. Science your questions! Remember: he's not a real doctor!
—I have a master's degree.
—In science!

Despite failing to find a distributor, Zadar! was nominated for best feature film of the decade at the 1991 Iowa Film Awards. (Apparently these exist.) Its scanty hollywood.com listing names some of the principal characters, including Mr. Nifty and Dan Tension. It is not clear who played Zadar.


scheinen, schimmern, glänzen, glimmern

One consequence of using the big box o' lieder to teach yourself German is that you learn a lot of words for "shine." They're big on heavenly bodies, those German romantics. They have like twenty different verbs to describe the generation or reflection of light. Once I get through the big box I will do the Ring cycle, so as to speak thoughtfully and fluently about dwarfs.

It turns out Schubert did set Schiller's "An die Freude." Nothing wrong with it. But you can't help feeling a bit sorry for the song, given its competition.

Here, this is a cute one:


Ihr Freunde und du, gold'ner Wein,
Versüßet mir das Leben;
Ohn' euch, Beglücker, wäre fein
Ich stets in Angst und Beben.
Ohne Freunde, ohne Wein,
Möcht' ich nicht im Leben sein.

Ohn' allen Freund, was ist der Held?
Was sind des Reichs Magnaten?
Was ist ein Herr der ganzen Welt?
Sind alle schlecht beraten!
Ohne Freunde, ohne Wein,
Mag ich selbst nicht Kaiser sein.

Und muß einst an der Zukunft Port
Dem Leib die Seel' entschweben,
So winkt' mir aus der Sel'gen Hort
Ein Freund und Saft der Reben.
Sonst mag ohne Freund und Wein
Ich auch nicht im Himmel sein.

Drinking song

My friends and you, golden wine,
you make my life sweeter;
without you, bestowers of happiness, I would
always be trembling with fear.
Without friends, without wine,
I would not wish to live.

Without friends, what is the hero?
What are the magnates of the realm?
What is a lord of the whole world?
They all get bad advice!
Without friends, without wine,
I would not even want to be an emperor.

And if someday in future's harbour
my soul will have to fly from my body,
then wave to me from Paradise,
one of my friends and the juice of grapes!
Otherwise, without friends and wine,
I would not wish to be in Heaven.


buddy but unblowed

Sorry, retroactively, for the last couple days of server outage. I couldn't get email, either, not even my spam from Buckminster Fuller. It was bad enough when Alexis de Tocqueville was sending me spam, but Fuller? A noble dream lies in ruins.

Oh and I was sent Singapore's green polar bears.


passio domini nostri jesu christi

Hey, fellow lapsed Catholics, happy Lent! Go see your Mel Gibson movie! Decide that Mel has it right, and the Second Vatican Council is all wrong! Vernacular liturgy: why bother? Declaration on Religious Liberty: who needs it? Profession of solidarity with Jews and Muslims: come on, who invited them to the party?

After you get out of the theater nice and riled, write your congresspeople and demand that they support Bush's no-gay-marriage amendment. Then go home and check your walls for mildew (Leviticus 14:33).



I have again reached the place where I only listen to Wagner and only talk to the pets. "Cammie, I'm afraid Valhalla is burning down this afternoon; if you don't like it, you'd better make arrangements to go elsewhere!"


no .nu is an island

Call: Niue is dead! Long live .nu!
Response: Niue is NOT dead nor will it ever be


phat phainopepla

It seems that our well-beloved pirate penguin has a new avatar in Gay Penguin for America. I approve; it's basically along the lines of those bumper stickers you see in Portland that say "Someone Else for President." Kerry sort of looks like if a fly got near him, his reptilian tongue would zip out and snap it up; but in the end he could be a babyburning goatmolestor and I would still vote for him. Behold the Pragmatic Left. Why is Nader even bothering this time?


g, l, o, r, i, a

I have a band, sort of. The band is me, and Erik on bass, and a reel-to-reel player (this model) on drums. When I first returned to Portland and found the drummer waiting in a box, we experienced a series of setbacks that almost destroyed the band, like when the Flaming Lips' drummer got bit by the spider: the tape would not play nor stop nor rewind, and when I called the local vintage audio outfit they said replacement parts for this model have been unavailable for several years. Grim. But then Erik came over and we fiddled with its innards, and before long brought it to the point where, if you manually push around some components with broken motors, you can get it to start and hear what are apparently the home recordings of a lounge singer who formerly owned the device. It will be a bit tricky to handle onstage, but it's all part of the act, kids; make it look easy. We will give the drummer some drums to play as soon as the blank tapes arrive from eBay. And then we will save rock and roll.


rare bear

Now and then the comment box brings us something superlative, e.g.

Grumpy Bear? There's ole' Rear Bear, Tall Bear, Freddy Bear, Kelly Bear, Really Bear, Smelly the Bear, Smokey the Bear, Pokey the Bear; I want you to go back over there tonight and tell 'em I'm feelin' right.

Wtcsitememorial.org now has all 5200 rejected submissions for the Ground Zero memorial posted online, including one by Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart. He proposes, er, heart-shaped containers. And an obelisk. And a map of the world, and a weird sail with three thousand life-size epoxy figures that "striving upward, as if in flight, become a fabric banner. Unfurled by the winds of history and caressed by the breezes of our great harbor, each carries within it an enduring heart."


the new adventures of grumpy bear

Who would have thought that February weather here would be so agreeable? The sun comes and goes, but it is demonstrably present; and after a winter in the Sierras the low fifties feel positively tropical. And the houses and shops are still pretty, and my apartment is still nice, and my bay windows and cable modem and antique bathroom fixtures were waiting faithfully, and the cat remembers her way around, and lots of my neighbors have moved out in the meantime so I can play Frank Black's "Nadine" just as loud as I want and who's to stop me?

As a point of reference, I request all readers pull out The Clash’s London Calling and turn on “Brand New Cadillac,” the mad finish of which is not unlike the closing of “Nadine." Listen to the energy in Joe Strummer’s voice when he screams, “Jesus Christ! Where’d yuh ged thah Cadillaaaah!” and you can get a sense of what Frank sounds like as he screams, “Ner go Nadine! Nadine! Neen! Neen! Ning!” No car or woman can drive a man to this point. Only the love of rock, my friends. And that’s why this shit rules.


magnetic pole

MY AUNT: I'm having a shitty day today.
MY GRANDFATHER: Every day's a shitty day!

Be that as it may, I am to north. Through rain & wind & sleet & hail.



When too much Penderecki hurts our earses, precious, we puts on the new Frank Black; because if anything will save us, it's the steel guitar and the lucky cat.

Well there's a perfect explanation
for the shit that I've been in
and as soon as I find out I'll let you know
And if it's any consolation
well your horse is going to win
cause mine and all the others are just too slow


last stop on the young poet line

Of course I should not be so curmudgeonly. For the first time ever I have five figures (barely) in the bank, and I'm a little mystified about what to do with it all. The plan was to take the money and spin it, Rumplestiltskin-style, into time; and then to spin the time into another book; and I'll give it a shot, but Song of Roland took $20,000 in grant money to finish, and it certainly doesn't seem very prepossessing these days.

I haven't written at all since coming to Nevada; barely anything since summer. It's been the longest hiatus in years. My understanding is that these extended fallow periods lead either to a complete reimagining of the art, made manifest in something wonderful; or else to a decision that I'm getting too old and am tired of starving and scrounging, and ought to pack up the typewriter for good and start over with something completely unrelated, like feeding orphans or teaching Faulkner to nineteen-year-olds. I suppose the next months will bear out which.


v-2 v-tag

Hello QuirkyAlone people; how's that working out for you? You and your vibrators.

Gefrorne Tropfen fallen
Von meinen Wangen ab:
Ob es mir denn entgangen,
Daß ich geweinet hab'?

Ei Tränen, meine Tränen,
Und seid ihr gar so lau,
Daß ihr erstarrt zu Eise
Wie kühler Morgentau?

Und dringt doch aus der Quelle
Der Brust so glühend heiß,
Als wolltet ihr zerschmelzen
Des ganzen Winters Eis!


problems with bigger problems

Well, coming to Nevada and working my ass off was an excellent way to deep-freeze my heart for a while. Going back to Oregon, the days are getting longer and it will have to thaw. It's going to be unpleasant.

This morning I had to drive to Carson City for fun and games with the Nevada Supreme Court, and on the highway it occurred to me that this essential pattern has repeated enough times that it's probably something I do entirely to myself. The various women involved might have been necessary to catalyze the reaction, but it's such an insular drama that once it gets underway they're pretty much out of the picture. To crib from Eliot, the filament of platinum induces the formation of sulphurous acid, but has no connection to the resulting compound. Or as I might put it, sourly: it's but the infrastructure of desire. Once construction is finished, you take away the scaffolding. Though demolition might be a better analogy.


the continuing mirage

Seattle WA, September 2002


untutored by pitch

I am having bad dreams about Portland; the meetings that will have to take place when I return, what the hell I'm going to do next. But I am taking that little white pill, and my upper lip is stiff as a board—


voice of a gun

Duhovi i skeleti u mome ormaru (Ghosts and skeletons in my closet) was drawn by Adrijana, age 12, from Porzega in the former Yugoslavia.


dem andenken eines engels

So what should show up in the mail yesterday but a venerable, travel-worn copy of the Berg violin concerto as interpreted by Anne-Sophie Mutter, in a stylish all-sable case. This is among the best valentines I have ever received, perhaps second only to the fortune cookies of 2001.

Lost in Translation struck me as a highly intelligent, very sad mood piece; I'm not sure I loved it, but it certainly made me feel lonely, which in that strange way I appreciate. Will Users Pay to Get Friends? We just might. I can't take these cities; I want to go back to the farm, plant an apple orchard, and grow old.


parade of arse

Lord, I can't wait till I'm unemployed again.


user engineering

Quality Assurance Disclaimer #344A: Our software processes dates under the assumption that the year portion has a length of four digits. This means that only mining claims located or leases effective between January 1, 1000 A.D. (Julian calendar) and December 31, 9999 A.D. (Gregorian calendar), inclusive, are guaranteed to work with the system, and we disclaim any liability for unpredictable performace resulting from dates prior to the Norman Conquest or subsequent to the Third Ascent of the Postapocalyptic Robot Kings.


let us wallow let us play

Cinderella, not Sleeping Beauty. Stupid fairy movies. Also, it was pointed out to me the other day that the cover of the newish Anna Karenina depicts a pair of knees rather than a butt, which is what I had assumed.

So in a week, give or take, I'm supposed to go back north and resume my existence wandering the streets of Portland. Or I would wander them if it weren't raining all the damn time; as is, I'll just sit at home and ponder the derailment of my life. I remember when I belonged to communities. Those were fun.


the fairy godmother's last theorem

When I was a kid we had one of those battery-operated Casio teaching pianos, and among the songs it taught you to play was "Bibbity Bobbity Boo," from Disney's Sleeping Beauty. This song caused me no end of consternation as a kid, as its first lines asserted:

Salagadoola, Mishakaboola, Bibbity Bobbity Boo,
Put them together and what have you got? Bibbity Bobbity Boo.

What did it mean? Were Salagadoola and Mishakaboola so insignificant that they did not rate in the final account, or did Bibbity Bobbity Boo have some kind of nearly-infinite value that rendered the other elements insignificant? Or was Salagadoola perhaps equal to negative Menchikaboola, so that the quantities canceled out?

Oh, my naïve reasoning. Some enterprising geek has taken a computer-science approach and seen far deeper into the problem.

Salagadoola is a schema, Mishakaboola is a package, and Bibbitybobbityboo is a function or procedure. Put them together and what have you got? Bibbitybobbityboo.

This is the strongest of the cases thus far, since Bibbitybobbityboo, as the only function in this configuration, would be the only component capable of being the thingamabob that does the job. A variant on this theme would be for Bibbitybobbityboo to be a synonym for a Salagadoola.Mishakaboola package/function combination, but that’s not as strong a case. Additional cases can be made for Bibbitybobbityboo being a Java class, or a method associated with an abstract data type, or a trigger on a Mishakaboola table. With so many options, it’s not surprising that the Bibbitybobbityboo Theorem remained unsolved until now.

It's no wonder I could never get my magical incantations to work as a child. I'm having enough trouble trying to redact the mining laws of twelve western states into a computer-readable package.



I don't know which one of you pre-verts sent me the third nipple piercings, but damn it, I looked at those at work! (I know, given the URL, stupid me.)

Twentieth-Century Eastern European Classical Music Roundup Part Two: Krzysztof Penderecki

Orchestral Works Vol. 1 (EMI); National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra cond. Krzysztof Penderecki, 1973-1976. This two-disc set goes up to the First Symphony and hits all the big titles from Penderecki's early, avant-garde era, before he decided to tone things down. I don't always know what to say about this music, which of course is part of the point. Obviously the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima is meant to be shattering, while the pieces where metal objects are dropped on harpsichord strings are more in a spirit of fun, but the trombones that sound like air-raid sirens? How am I supposed to feel about those trombones? There's a lot of interest here, but it requires concentration and is almost exclusively intellectual, to the point where you don't want to listen to more than about 40 minutes at once. I will make an exception for the Emanation for Two String Orchestras, the Capriccio for Violin and Orchestra, which is more rhythmically interesting, and especially the choral Dream of Jacob; you bring human voices in, everything alters. I bet that's exactly what a smackdown with an angel sounds like.

Orchestral Works Vol. 1 (Naxos); National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Krakow) cond. Antoni Wit, 2000. The Third Symphony is probably my favorite of the lot; it strikes a nice balance between Krzysztof's avant-garde and neo-romantic tendencies. The percussion is really interesting, and the fourth movement, which consists of a single repeated chord on the strings, would be bombastic and silly if it weren't for the slowly rising, atonal shriek provided by the rest of the orchestra in the background. Having said that, I think the Amazon reviewers are correct in saying that this version of the Threnody is all wrong. There's brutal, viewpoint-shattering noise; and then there's noise that just sort of irritates you; and this is the latter. I don't really know what went wrong, given that generally Wit has his act together, but it never quite congeals. I guess it's a good reminder of how difficult it is to make these sonic effects work.

Orchestral Works Vol. 2 (Naxos); National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Krakow) cond. Antoni Wit, 2000. The Fifth Symphony is a pretty good sum-up of Penderecki to date; it soars, grieves, occasionally hits you with carefully rationed noise bursts, cuts a tin can like a tomato. The First Symphony also appears on the EMI release; it's a bit more approachable than the other avant-garde works, but not much. I do like the way it starts out with vibraphone.

Orchestral Works Vol. 3 (Naxos); National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra (Krakow) cond. Antoni Wit, 2000. The Second Symphony (inexplicably subtitled the "Christmas Symphony") is pretty damn bleak; the most conventional of Penderecki's orchestral works, it's also the most ponderous. Fortunately, the Fourth Symphony is much more interesting. The highlight is some gorgeous lyrical writing for solo bassoon, which is good, because a lot of the time no one asks the bassoon for anything but comical duck noises. The bassoon can't give it away on Seventh Avenue, one might say. Except here.

Violin Concerto No. 2 "Metamorphosen" (Naxos); Anne-Sophie Mutter, London Symphony Orchestra cond. Krzysztof Penderecki, 1998. The Threnody is pretty much locked in as Krzysztof's most influential piece, but I think this one is the best. I can't actually determine how hot Anne-Sophie Mutter is (she wears a weird sweater in the liner notes) but can that lady play. I really need to find her doing Berg and Sibelius and some of the other biggies. The piece nicely skirts both the overdeveloped tragic tone that weighs down some of the symphonies, and the sense of cerebral fucking around that can grate with the avant-garde works. It's pretty much an affirmation that despite the fragmentation of the scene between the pencil-necked Adornophiles on one hand and Sarah Brightman on the other, orchestral music is alive and well somewhere. Toast Mr. Penderecki with a slivovitz; he's earned it.

And that is that. I have heard no Lutoslawki at all, but after all of this Amazon sure thinks I need his Fourth Symphony. That, a wok, and the complete sixth season of Friends.


call me ataxy, take me home

This we all know, that the idiot id goes through cycles, but for the moment it doesn't seem to want much, except beer, and I am thankful for the rest.

This week the sign on the strip club down the street from my law office is advertising "INTERNATIONAL PLAYMATE MERLOT." How do you become an international playmate? Do you need to get licensed? And do you have to officially come from the Merlot region of France, or will Napa do?


punxsutawney prez

I hate to tell you this, folks, but if the president sees his shadow today we get five more years of him.

Twentieth-Century Eastern European Classical Music Roundup Part One: György Ligeti

Edition 1: String Quartets and Duets (Sony); Arditti String Quartet, 1997. These seem to come out of a fascination with the sonic properties of the violin family: how they can instantly go from violent to spectral. Ligeti wrote the first quartet in Hungary for his "bottom drawer," as it was completely unperformable under Communism; it must have been maddening, given how much the piece is about sound. Writing "first violin whacks his instrument with the bow" (in Hungarian) on a sheet of paper just isn't the same.

Edition 2: A Capella Choral Works (Sony); London Sinfonietta Voices, 1997. Creepy. There's a distinct quality to the human voice that turns unearthly when you put it through techniques like Ligeti's "micropolyphony," where you have sixteen separate lines going at once so that the individual melodic lines become indistinguishable. "Lux Aeterna" (the choral music from 2001) is on here.

Edition 4: Vocal Works (Madrigals, Mysteries, Aventures, Songs) (Sony); The King's Singers, Philharmonia Orchestra, 1997. According to Mr. Ligeti the "Nonsense Madrigals" are his attempt at tonal but non-diatonic pieces, and I give him an A plus extra credit. The harmonies sound like jazz on mescalin and suit the source texts (including the "Lobster Quadrille!") perfectly. "Mysteries of the Macabre" is a reduction from his opera, and is upsetting. I don't know about the Aventures. It might be interesting to see them performed, but they're sparse and weird and call for the vocalists to make sounds like dying jungle creatures, hence make bad background music. Much better are the closing songs, and admittedly he had to make them cute and Hungarian-folksy for the Communist culture police, but damn it, after sticking your head in the avant-garde all week sometimes you just want a kitschy ditty about a wedding.

Edition 5: Mechanical Music (Sony); Pierre Charial, Jürgen Hocker, 1997. If I give you the title of "Poéme Symphonique for 100 Metronomes," that might be all you need to hear. I listened to it once; it was sort of interesting; I don't know if I'll listen to it again. Some of the Amazon reviewers make points about chaos theory, and I actually do think Ligeti is smart enough to have insights about chaos theory beyond the banal, but that still doesn't mean I want to cook dinner to the piece. As a museum installation or something it might be neat. In any case, this record is all about the pieces for barrel organ. You know the barrel organ; it's one of those weird mechanized calliope-type instruments that plays lame arrangements of "The Blue Danube" or whatever at state fairs. But Ligeti got someone to hook it to a computer and make it do unholy things. If you like to fuck around with machines, or if you have any affection for the combined cheesy and creepy, you will like these pieces. Someone needs to make a claymation film with them. Probably someone already has.

Edition 7: Chamber Music (Sony); Saschko Gawriloff, Marie-Luise Neunecker, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Tabea Zimmermann, 1997. One of the lessons Ligeti obviously took from his early model Bartók is that if you're going to get way out there harmonically with polytonality and whatnot, a good counterweight is to put some kickass rhythms in there—a strategy evident in the surprising and sublime Concerto for Violin, Horn, and Piano, which might be my favorite single Ligeti work. The wind-instrument pieces are solid, though a little overfond of the squeaky-high register that sours a lot of twelve-tone music for me. But Tabea Zimmermann, a name I could say all day, plays the sonata for solo viola. As an instrument, the viola is just right; if Goldilocks had seen a violin, viola and cello lined up next to the porridge, you know which one she would have gone for. Hell of a piece, hell of a player, and again, I could say her name all day. Tabea Zimmerman. Marry me, Tabea Zimmermann.

Études (Books 1 and 2) (Naxos); Idil Biret, 2003. They're awfully harsh on Amazon about poor Idil's playing. Not having heard the allegedly superior versions, I must say I think this one's pretty good. I don't mind a bit of harshness in the piano sound, given that it's basically being used as a percussion instrument. Ligeti has mentioned Thelonius Monk as an influence, and pieces like these seem to show the jazz idiom finally reflecting back into the old-white-European-guy classical tradition in interesting ways. Harmonically, they're all over the place; rhythmically, they swing. I don't mean literally. But they swing.


in meiner minor mode

All right, stallions and scallions. I am still in Reno, working a lot and drinking a lot. That's about it. The original plan was to go back to Portland in a week, but I have just discovered Oregon's cheerfully socialist income tax statutes, so maybe in two weeks. Just in time for Lupercalia. The answer to the obvious question is: it has subsided to a dull ache, and I have filed it with the other dull aches. I can't go on, I'll go on.

Somehow I have fallen into the software design business. I am creating an application designed to track unpatented mining claims, and honestly this is funny because I am a terrible programmer, though I am able to follow the basic coding convention of brewing an entire pot of coffee and sitting in front of the screen for fourteen hours at a time until my eyes turn red. Aside from that, I climbed a mountain in Mexico and nearly fell off a nasty sheer face, and I silenced my computer. If you are the owner of a newish-model desktop PC, you have likely noticed that it sounds like a vacuum cleaner. So I ordered a new fan and heatsink, and when that failed to satisfactorily reduce the noise I took the box apart and discovered that some intelligent person had designed the main air intake as a hundred-odd perforations in the back plate, which because of their proximity to the fan were causing the vacuum noise. "Siren effect" is the term, and I suppose my aerodynamic-engineer dad could explain it. So I unscrewed the fan, pulled it an inch back from the plate, and duct-taped it to the bottom of the power supply. Voilà—silent machine! Now I can hear my music. Tomorrow I will do the twentieth-century Eastern European classical roundup.


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