Secret Pop

Aug 31, 2005

In the hopes I can spell out my name

I was running early Friday morning. Listening to my usual line-up of hip hop classics with the occasional Wham! song mixed in. My running mixes always get me thinking. Usually reminiscing. Often wishing I was carrying something to write with. But I would hate to save sweaty swatches of paper for future transcription. Because I'd never be able to throw them away.

So it was occurring to me as I was listening to the Notorious B.I.G. laying down gangsta truths that language evolves now as a means of evading censorship. And maybe because of science to some degree. Whereas it used to evolve through poetry and metaphor. And maybe because of more advanced respiratory health. Words get made up now to make it possible to say things you aren't actually allowed to say. And there is a bit of beauty to that. The stealth of language. Secret messages. Hushed whispers. Under the radar. It's nearly as intriguing to wonder if what you're saying is even being heard. A message in a bottle takes on a fantasy life. Whether it is ever retrieved. Whether it is smashed to bits, committing its glass parts back to the sand.

And then I saw what looked like a guy walking a rat.

But it was just an aptly shaped piece of paper floating along the sidewalk in front of him. Many many tricks of the eye when running. Even when it's not hot out. You see things in passing. In a car, you don't see them at all. But on foot, you see just enough to get a misguided impression of them. And, if you're at all committed to getting where you're going, you're still unable to stop and figure it out.

On Memorial Day Weekend a few years ago, I took a couple of my cameras with me and walked the route I usually run. I wanted to photograph the many things I thought of photographing when I was running. Every now and then, you have to make a concerted effort to solve these little problems you create for yourself. It mixes things up a little. And I like to think that is the way to not die right away.

I used to think of all sorts of things to write while running. And before I started this most recent employment adventure, I would come back and make the time to sit down and type them down, sweaty fingers and all. Not so anymore. I'm lucky if I remember to make a note to myself before dashing into the shower and rushing off to work. The writing gets away from me. And it's a shame. Because it's one of the staples of my toleration. Its absence is an ulcer waiting to happen.

The week before last, we celebrated my sister and my dad's birthdays, as well as Justin's, Tasha's, and Audrey's. I don't know when Audrey was actually born, but August 19 is the anniversary of her coming to me. And I commemorate that gladly. Especially when I'm getting my daily dose of sleepy dog love. We were having a lovely lunch out by the pool. I was not feeling so super great. I sang in church in the morning and was tired. I took Audrey for a walk around the pool, and I heard my mom say, "Mary looks like a postcard." In my party dress with my little dog and my black heart. I'm sure I looked like a postcard of some kind.

Stan Lee was in our offices a few days back. I didn't say hello. I peered up over the cube tops, but I didn't make a spectacle of myself. I wouldn't really have known what to say anyway. I'm weird that way.

I bought heirloom tomatoes. They were pretty enough to eat.

Everyone loves wasabi peanuts. It's a good thing I have so many of them.

I made so many things for you. For the you that is no more. The you that never was. The idea of you. How do you give a gift to an idea. You don't. You save it. You put it away. You hope you don't have to look at it that often. Otherwise it reminds you that you fall in love with ideas. And you're too smart to be so stupid. I made so many things about you. And when I started making them about me instead, I found that the themes were all things I despised. I'm no good for me.

I like running. Until I don't anymore.

Aug 30, 2005

God Bless the Randomizer

Wanna be just like me? Here is how you can fake the serendipity of my music collection by copying my iPod's shuffle pattern. I would make you a CD, but you would lose it. And it would make me feel sad and unappreciated when I asked you about it later.

That You Might (Home Video)
Music Is the Victim (Scissor Sisters)
Seachange (Wendy Morrison)
Supersonic (S#arp)
Alabama Song (ex-Girl)
Better Luck (Scissor Sisters)
Subterranean Homesick Alien (Radiohead)
All the World Is Green (Tom Waits)
Precipitate (Interpol)
Loro (Pinback)
Somebody to Love (Queen/George Michael)
Return to Oz (Scissor Sisters)
I'm Gonna Be the Lonely Boy Tonight (Cherry Twister)
Indian Summer (Pedro the Lion)
Praskovia (Calexico)
Willing to Wait (Sebadoh)
Perverted Undertone (Prefuse 73)
Secret Oktober (Duran Duran)
Like a Ghost (Tarnation)
UMF (Duran Duran)
Fly (Nick Drake)
Alec Eiffel (The Pixies)
He Took Her to a Movie (Ladytron)
Another Morning (American Music Club)
Cosmopolitan (Joe Jackson)
Land Lovers (The Auteurs)
Money for Nothing (Dire Straits)
Hair of the Dog (Nazareth)
The Middle (Jimmy Eat World)
Beyond Belief (Elvis Costello)
Radio, Radio (Elvis Costello)
Wonder Wonder (Edith Frost)
In My Time of Dying (Be Good Tanyas)
Kill You (Eminem)
Me You and Everybody (Gomez)
The Same Race (Star Trek Insurrection)
Hyper Music (Muse)
Conjugate the Verbs (Enon)
Another Love Song (The Frames)
Sonic Turtle (Melt-Banana)
Suffer Never (The Finn Brothers)
The Littlest Birds (Jolie Holland)
Consider Me Gone (Sting)
La Negra Celina (Charanga Cakewalk)
Not Even Close (Tim Finn)
dick is a killer (rx)
Life Is Full of Possibilities (Dntel)
Ever Falls the Twilight (The Gothic Archies)
Pressed in a Book (The Shins)
The Birds (narration) (Nilsson)
In Between Days (The Cure)
Natural Disasters (Enon)
The Chauffeur (Duran Duran)
Laser Love (After the Fire)
Quartet, K.285 Allegro in D-dur (Mozart Flute Quartets)
Die on a Rope (The Distillers)
See a Little Light (Bob Mould)
Banjo Favorites (Nickel Creek)
I Wanna Know What Love Is (Foreigner)
Born (Over the Rhine)
Surfin' USA (Melt-Banana)
A Hole in the World (Thursday)
Cry Me a River (Diana Krall)
Noodletown (Mitchell Froom)
The Way Old Friends Do (ABBA)
The Bird that You can't See (The Apples in Stereo)
Gypsy Moons (Mystery Science Theater 3000)
Busby Berkeley Dreams (The Magnetic Fields)
Slow Bicycle (Mum)
Red Dress (Jonatha Brooke)
Fortress (Pinback)
New Born (Muse)
Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday (Stevie Wonder)
Sour Times (Portishead)
Tin Pan Miracles (Aspera Ad Astra)
The Book and the Canal (Calexico)
Bow Down (Westside Connection)
Oh, You Are the Roots that Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth in Place (Bright Eyes)
One Hundred Percent Free (Digby)
You're the Storm (Cardigans)
Superstitious (Stevie Wonder)
Mr. Brightside (The Killers)
Can't Take My Eyes Off You (Andy Williams)
Heads High (Kill Dem Wid It) (Mr. Vegas)
Nightporter (Japan)
I Missed the Point (Neko Case)
You Was It (Spoon)
"How Many Ships?" (Star Trek: First Contact)
From a Balance Beam (Bright Eyes)
Before You Go (The Frames)
Invisible Ink (Aimee Mann)
Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes)
86 (Green Day)
Lost Cause (Beck)
I Beg Your Pardon (I Never Promised You a Rose Garden) (Kon Kan)
Suit of Fire (Parker Lily)
Twin Cinema (The New Pornographers)
Sora (Gutevolk)
Paint by Numbers (Danger Mouse & Murs)
Club Foot (Kasabian)
Fistful of Love (Devendra Banhart)
Rebellion (Lies) (The Arcade Fire)
Stormy Weather (Nina Nastasia)
Melancholy Serenade/Yesterdays (Jackie Gleason)
In a Funny Way (Mercury Rev)
Goodnight Goodnight (Hot Hot Heat)
Smile Around the Face (Four Tet)
Viola (Girlyman)
I Feel Love (Cobra Verde)
Reflections After Jane (The Clientele)
Barnowl (Caribou)
Lobsteriscos Rocketiza (Applied Communications)
Complaine de la Butte (Rufus Wainwright)
What'll I Do (Frank Sinatra)
Persephone (Cocteau Twins)
This Time (Bryan Adams)
Crush with Eyeliner (R.E.M.)
Last Chance on the Stairway (Duran Duran)
Breathe Me (Sia)
Lawrence of Arabia (Jackie Gleason)
Princess Poo-Poo-Ly Has Plenty Papaya (Alfred Apaka)

Aug 28, 2005

HBO Phones It In

HBO's original series are so reliably popular that the network doesn't really have to do much to support them. Not all of them catch like wildfire, but none of them seem to crash and burn. (Wait. What ever happened to K Street?) I've been watching my stories as much as I can recently. Mostly just Six Feet Under. And now that's over, so I can feel free to take a trip or use the phone again. Anyway, I've been seeing the promos for Rome, and I keep hearing this line in the voiceover: "The sexiest ancient world yet seen on TV." And this amuses me. As I think it is commonly accepted that very little of the ancient world can be considered sexy unless you can get past abhorrent dental hygiene, sporadic bathing, and constantly dirty feet. I mean, maybe you think Genghis Khan would be a sexy character to make a show about, because he was a leader and vicious and largely successful, but the Mongols NEVER bathed. They wore their clothes until they literally rotted off their bodies. (Note: If HBO makes an original series about the Mongols, I'm suing.) And think of the ladies of the past. When did hair removal even become popular?

I've always fantasized about time travel, and I'm certain that I'd get a kick out of seeing the world of my forefathers, but comfort is tricky for me, and I can't imagine I'd have a lick of fun if I didn't have my travel case along.

I just think television marketing can be lazy at times. And I hope that the "sexy" aspect of ancient Rome isn't the only thing that intrigues people about what went on back then. I hope the History Channel doesn't start having to try and make the past seem sexier just to meet its numbers. I don't know that there's much you can do to gussy up abject poverty and rampant disease. Although a lot of folks were very thin.

For the record, wilderness survival is also not sexy.

I went to see that amazing Tim Hawkinson exhibit at LACMA yesterday. I feel guilty even mentioning it, as it closes today, and if you haven't already seen it, you probably won't get to. And oh the things you missed in your apathy and inaction. It was amazing. Curious and breathtaking and strangely pragmatic and then thoroughly inspired. I didn't get everything. Even though I couldn't help but overhear a guy -- unasked -- explaining to a kid and his mother, "It's about colonialization in the time of the tall ships." He credentialed himself in this manner: "I know a lot about Tim Hawkinson. I'm a high school teacher." I try not to be guilty of this myself. I try not to accidentally eavesdrop and find that someone wants to know something I can tell them. I try to wait to be invited into the conversation. But some people can't help themselves. And I judge them. And then I judge myself for being so judgmental. Because I label things so easily as despair or greed or an unjustified try.

I had had me a customer service jack before I got to see the show. When I went to pick up a ticket for me and my friend, I found that my LACMA membership needed renewing, so I asked the man at the Members counter if I could just go ahead and renew right now. And typically, people wanting to give them money makes the staff at the museum perk right up. I've been contributing at the Patron level since I moved here in 2001. And I always assumed they appreciated that. But this guy tried to send me over to a membership table they had set up in the brutal hot sun a short distance away. I asked if I could just take care of it with him, and he said, "Not with these lines." And I turned and looked behind me to find not a single person standing there. No one. Those stretchy cordons defined a nice empty corridor. "There's no one in line at all." He said, already testy, "Ma'am, it really would be easier if you went over there." I smiled and replied, "Not for me." He just looked at me, frustrated and stone-faced. I turned and gestured toward the absence of a line. "There's NO ONE here." He didn't look at me as he got a membership form from the rack and began to mark it up. "$75 dollars please." "I usually contribute at the Patron level." "Okay." Then he took my credit card and charged me and gave me my two passes and sent me on my way without making eye contact with me again. He didn't give me my temporary membership card, and he didn't thank me. And I really find that hard to believe. Another museum employee came and asked him a question as he was "helping" me, and he acted all flustered and passive aggressive. He shrugged and muttered something about not having time. And, of course, once I stepped away from the counter, no one stepped up to it. And I'm sure he found that infuriating.

But that didn't really ruin anything for me. The exhibit was more than enough distraction to push that guy into my memory's recesses. And afterwards, we visited the permanent collection (I always do). They're rearranging the museum a great deal, and I'm not fond of change. A lot of my lovely LACMA lawn has been paved over. They're building on it. I'm sure it will be something great. But there's far less picnic spot. And that's a shame. Even within the galleries, many things aren't where they used to be. It happens when visiting exhibits require things to be shuffled around. I was afraid I wouldn't get to see my Rothko. But it was there. Just not in the same spot. And not shown in the same light. And what a difference that makes. We also visited the André Kertész photographs and the Jacob van Ruisdael landscapes. The Kertész exhibit made me want to go out and take pictures. In a city with some history. And possibly from somewhere up high. I loved his self-portraiture. I take comfort in seeing that I'm not the only person in the world who thinks there is value in photographing one's own shadow or one's own reflection. Mostly, I just missed taking pictures in black and white and seeing them appear magically in a darkroom bath. I have to get my Canon A-1 fixed. Still. The spool busted outside a roadside store somewhere in Arizona. Shortly before I tasted ostrich jerky for the first time. It was disgusting. But probably mostly because it was so old. Last year, I bought someone else's Canon A-1 and took it with me to Coachella and snapped hundreds of photos with it. But the light meter on that needs fixing, too. A trip to Samy's is in order.

"I put him at that time in front of an ultimatum," is how Anne Douglas describes the way she confronted Kirk Douglas about one of his infidelities. Everyone in the world should be French. I love the poetry of translation.

I don't love that this embarrassingly personal piece about the Douglas family is on HBO's roster. It makes me feel bad for them. And it also made me look at a photograph of Dalton Trumbo sitting in a bathtub writing. How dare it.

Aug 27, 2005

The Wee Hours

I just came home and walked my dog. And when we were outside, I saw my neighbors across the street arrive home, and an adult dude was carrying a fully grown but totally unconscious other adult dude the way you would carry a sleeping child -- a child who fell asleep during the ride home. Only this child's legs were so long that his feet were nearly dragging on the sidewalk.

And I came back in just in time to see the scene in that Steven Seagal movie where this guy I used to date gets thrown down a flight of stairs. How like a movie life so often is.

Aug 25, 2005

If I had one wish

It would be that Jessica Alba would not be playing Jeannie in the I Dream of Jeannie movie.

Aug 22, 2005

The Pitter-Patter of Tiny-Minded Feet

O how my blood is made to boil by conservative footsoldiers like that Skeletor-esque Kellyanne Conway, whose performance on Bill Maher's season premiere was irritating enough to make me want to increase my monthly contribution to the DNC and the DCCC tenfold. I was glad that Bill pressed her when she continually made unsubstantiated assertions, even going so far as to ask her what ass she had just pulled one of her claims from. But I couldn't help but feel that she should have been taken more to task. Whenever she was backed into a corner, she would end up saying something like, "Oh, come on, Bill." And that would be the end of her rebuttal. A tactic which was used with nearly as much effectiveness by Phyllis Schlafly, when Bill brought up the subject of her gay son. It's just that when people argue in this fashion -- never conceding a point, never acknowledging a misstep -- it's easy for the sound bites that get pulled from the discussions to be used as ammunition for their agenda, and most people are just lazy enough to accept someone else's synopsis rather than do the research firsthand. For instance, if you do not receive the HBO, and you are a liberal like me, you might read what I've written here and agree with me. And if you are a conservative, you might read this and dismiss it outright. But what always gets me so het up when I'm watching one of these shows -- particularly if I don't have the luxury of like-minded company to share in my irate flabbergastery -- is that the dialogue is useless. No one says anything real. Nothing that's said is of any great import. It's more important to try and get in a zinger than it is to make a point. It's exactly what happens in most arguments in the real world amongst real people who know nothing of the art of the dialectic.

There was a time when I enjoyed this. The sparring. The amicable disagreement. I was a debater for Pete's sake. For fun. But ever since the 2000 elections, I have gotten much more impatient, much more susceptible to flinching when that lingering road rash gets poked at. I wish we could talk about things with more than just the intention of winning. I wish we could try and get to the bottom of issues. Solve problems. Come up with ideas. Without being so concerned about who would get credit for the solutions. Without paying so much attention to the (D) or the (R) that follows the name on the chyron.

Somewhere along the way, I got it in my noggin that all this mattered. And then the fun started to seep away. Like blood draining from a turnip. So suddenly that you forget to ask how it got there in the first place.

Aug 19, 2005

Things that have been important to me.

In no particular order.

Notebook paper. Duran Duran. Violet Crumble. Shoestring potatoes. Egg custard. Paper clips. Names of characters in stories I have not yet written. Picture-taking. Bust support. Accomplished drinking. Perfect rice. Organized hosiery. Freesia. Chamomile soap that doesn't get made anymore. Big Top Pee-wee. Soundtrack albums. Long distance plans. Allergy remedies. Ive League education. Speech and debate. Air hockey. Swimming. Haircut. Hourglass figure. Strappy shoes. Frequent flyer miles. Diet Dr. Pepper. Hydration. Pedicure. Competitive sports (just kidding). Making the perfect bolognese sauce. Turtleneck. Blue mascara. Approval. Callbacks. Pantry space. High thread count sheets. That guy. Mendelssohn. Low-waisted jeans. Knee boots. That other guy. Black and white. Winning. Tongue-twisters. Superlatives. Correctness. Cuteness. Eraser collection. Fractal patterns. Books I've lost. Marilyn Monroe. Lined clothing. Silk. Mark Rothko. Japan. Dignity. Handel's Messiah. Soprano. Deep Space Nine. Salt and vinegar. Ballroom dancing. Perception of neurosis. ABBA. Spelling bee. Pedal pushers. Green. Juicy Fruit. Danny Kaye. Good side. Pork chops with cream sauce and mushrooms. Anodized cookware. Stovetop popcorn. Running. Stress urinary incontinence. Etymology. French. Christmas. Violin. Balance Bars. Arranciata. Campari soda. Whiskey. Mid-century modern. Simpatico. Phrasing. Sleep. Preparation. The Girl Can't Help It. Sebastian Shpritz Forte. Chicken fried rice. Olives. Stringed instruments. Memorization. Completiong. Jigsaw puzzles. Phyllo dough. Elephants. Late night dog walking. Ephemera. Binaries. Hard drive space. Bragging rights. Apple. Starvation. Sense memory. Certain sitcoms I'm embarrassed to list.

She's a real go-getter in a cardigan sweater.

I am not lamenting the end of summer. Not at all. I caught a whiff of fall in the air a few days ago, and it was fine with me. I don't care for slow cooking. Even though everything is always more tender that way.

I feel a bit stuck. Like the gears in my brain have halted. Leaving Tim Robbins temporarily suspended above the snow-covered streets of New York. When I invite my co-worker Michael out to smoke now, I say, "Cigareet?" But it doesn't happen often, because he usually manages to invite me first. In which case I just end up saying, "Yes."

I walked around in Beverly Hills today, shopping on my lunch break. I felt lousy. Tired. Filled with self-loathing. Awful. It was a lovely day. But that didn't really matter much.

When I was on the plane to New York, the in-flight magazine featured a cover story about Steve Martin and a book on tape he released about Beverly Hills and where one should go and what one might see there. It's strange, because everything the author of the article talked about doing is everything I do or see or walk past on my various lunch breaks from my office. And only a few short months ago, none of it would have meant anything to me. I have been to Beverly Hills. But now I actually know my way around. I guess I'm grateful for that. Working from home doesn't afford me as much opportunity to learn my away around different parts of town. But the trade-off leaves me sapped of strength and sort of perpetually despondent. It's unfortunate. And typical.

I am still filling my nights with improv workshops and performances and seeing shows and sticking around for drinks with friends. And not making hot dog dioramas and not putting my art supplies away. I feel as if I have burned away the part of my brain that enables me to feel pleasure and joy. I can't feel the effects of alcohol or caffeine, and nothing tastes good to me. And I'm pretty sure I never stole any Aztec gold or anything. It's just not fair.

Dreams are wishes.

An episode of Six Feet Under made me cry a lot recently. The way that episode of Ally McBeal when Billy dies did. It's weird to be able to muster that level of emotion for some fictional apparition. It makes me feel guilty and stupid. Surely there are better things on which to squander my emotions. Surely I can find better reasons to cry.

Hey, L.A., where've you gone?

Aug 18, 2005

Many Happy Returns

Today is the tandem birthday of my dad (Sam) and my sister (Sarah). I called them both to convey my happy wishes. When I called my dad, who turns seventy-six today, I said, "Happy birthday, old timer." And he said, "Seventy-six trombones." And I thought that was adorable.

It is also the birthday of my friends Geoffrey, Josh, and Becky. Which I think is ridiculous.

Aug 9, 2005

Catching up with missed luck.

Yesterday was the eighth of August. On past eighths of August, I have generally made mention of what a lucky day that is for the Chinese. I won't belabor the point.

I have been working altogether too much. My eyes are sore all day. Caffeine seems to have none of its usual potency. Every moment is a catalogue of ache. Even my beloved boozes are less appealing to me. I know they will make me sleepy and that I will lack the vigor to benefit from any of their more rewarding repercussions. It is a suckfest.

I was in New York for a few days last week. I stayed at the Dream Hotel. I would describe it, but I'm lazy and the spark is gone. I will post photos at some point. If I can find a free moment. The most noteworthy image I recall was riding up on the elevator and watching the doors open on floor after floor to display some artsy, impressionistic photo mural in cool blue hues and then arriving on the eighth floor to be greeted by a giant photo of a nude man running after himself. There were oranges on the pillows. But I had a room without a bath tub. So in order to try and get my mom's idea of my money's worth, I ate the oranges. Peeled 'em with my own hands and everything. It sounds crazy even to me.

It was so dreadfully hot and humid. Coming home to a hot and humid Los Angeles, I realize that I will probably never feel the need to complain about the heat here again. Even when it is its most uncomfortable. Even in my un-air-conditioned home. As hot and as humid as it ever gets, it's never like it was in New York these last two times I visited. Nights that never cool down. Air that smells of innards cooking in the bodies living about them. That filmy feeling on your skin and hair and teeth. All day long. I'm glad to be home. And if I ever end up living in New York, I will invest a great deal of money in air conditioning.

This is the third time I've been at a swanky hotel in Manhattan (and San Diego) when I was sent on a hotel blow dryer hunt. In each case I had to call down to the front desk to have them help me figure out where the blow dryer was stowed. At the W, it was in a little cloth sack in the closet. At the Marriott in San Diego, it was in a little cloth sack in the armoire. At the Dream Hotel, it was in a little cloth sack hanging from the back of the bathroom door. I even checked in the closet, hoping I'd discovered the new trend in blow dryer placement. But no. I had to call the front desk. They were nice enough. But I felt stupid just the same.

My teeth ache. I think I have been gritting them all day at work. And after an exhausting week of meetings and travel and work work work, I had to drive down to San Diego to perform, collect my dog, drive back up to Los Angeles to perform again, and then start the work week all over again with no greater an average of sleeping hours to my credit than before. I'll be dead by Christmas. I've been saying it for weeks. I have a lot of awesome belongings. I hope you get some of them, if that is your wish.

I don't know what else. My head hurts so much right now. Do we really need to be roasting Pamela Anderson? And if so, do we also need to be exploiting the ailing Kirk Douglas? He will always be Spartacus to me. And that sailor with a whale of a tale to tell. I don't want to see him working out his issues with his son on camera. This seems the height of vulgarity. Where's Steve Allen to object to things when you need him to?

I hate moths. And I keep having to prove it to them by murdering them and smearing their gross, powdery carcasses all over my walls. Why doesn't anyone ever take me at my word?

I'm a bit of a stickler.

You can lose me in two words. There's a commercial for Procrit that features an older fellow, soberly addressing the camera after we've seen him working as an auctioneer. He says, "I've always talked fast. And loved antiques." And loved antiques? Come on. How am I supposed to feel bad about you and your cancer when you say something so disingenuous?

When did baldness become so fashionable?

There are more shaved heads in my office than there are haircuts. And not all of them are heads that would otherwise be unadorned. Is everyone in the world looking for maps on their scalps? Dudes should consider the possibility that any maps they find might be presented in relief.

Aug 2, 2005

Continue spreading the news

I'm off to New York again for a few days. So if you live there and want to see me or if you have friends there you want me to wave at or if you just have a dozen or so balloons of heroin you want me to transport, you'd better get in touch with me soon. I like to know how to pack my bags.