“You’re brilliant, gorgeous, and ampersand after ampersand.”

Last night after I got home from work, I decided to go for a walk. This is something I do more and more of late, possibly because of the slow seasonal change, but I don’t complain. I’ve been lucky enough to excise most television from my life and whatever remnants I had of a social life as well. And sometimes nothing cleans out the cobwebs in your head like headphones full of music and a brisk walk to… Wherever. Nowhere. Everywhere.

As I was coming back last night, I passed by one of my neighbors in front of her house. She’s a young girl, her age being in the vicinity of high school-ish, and she was talking with her boyfriend. I wasn’t really paying attention to them at first and thankfully couldn’t hear them since I had the head phones on and the music blaring, but after a few moments in the slow passing of them I realized that they were having an argument. And not just an argument, the mother of all arguments. And not just the mother of all arguments. They were breaking up. Bitterly. And nastily.

When you’re young and stupid and awkward and think you’re alone in the world, there’s nothing so wonderful as the onset of love. That feeling of some part of yourself starting to resonate in another and the coming together of two souls (take this as either a romantic or sexual metaphor, I don’t care), and that first feeling that life may not be so horrible after all… Ah, there’s nothing like it.

But then you get older and jaded and mean and you know that you’re alone in the world and you take a certain satisfaction watching a relationship end. There’s a certain, sad optimism in it. You smile a little to yourself and you think that suddenly there’s a little extra happiness in this bizarre and amazing world. And hey, these two certainly aren’t using any of that happiness right now so maybe you’ll just snatch it up for yourself.

And I’d really like to thank the music of the Magnetic Fields and Stephen Merritt to be piping through my headphones as I watched the dissolution of that relationship last night. Perfect synergy.

This is the wiki for the 69 Love Songs.

The Magnetic Fields “I Thought You Were My Boyfriend” (mp3)

The Magnetic Fields “Heroes” (David Bowie cover)(mp3)

The Magnetic Fields “Too Drunk To Dream” (mp3)

The Magnetic Fields “The Book Of Love” (mp3)

Are You Fascinating?

I’m looking for new subjects for my weekly interview series so I can actually start publishing it weekly and not when I feel like it.

For a glimpse into what a typical interview looks like, check out the three previous installments:

1. Tess Lynch

2. Peanut St. Cosmo

3. Topher Chris

Whatever you do, don’t make me create another video of myself talking again. No one wants that.

If you’re into it, comment via this post or email me: dancethis@gmail.com

xoxo
LG aka MD

Our Nada Who Arts In Nada.

Ernest Hemingway with Fidel Castro in 1960 during “The Ernest Hemingway Fishing Competition,” which just sounds like crazy good fun.

I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking about Hemingway a lot lately. He’s one of the greatest American writers and probably one of the most often imitated writers, because his style is so simple, and yet the imitation does no justice, usually. It just comes out like half bad Hemingway and half bad Mickey Spillane.

by Benjamin Stone, from here and here.

Who knows, maybe it’s the death of Sylvia Plath’s son recently that made me think of Hemingway,  in that sometimes great talent runs in some families, but maybe so does great sadness. Or just bad brain chemistry. And that seemed to be the case with the Hemingway family tree, which quite possibly had suicide as it’s seasonal fruit.

Or maybe it’s just that the idea of the tough guy is over, except in the rare screen commodity like Clive Owen, and… well, I don’t know. The tough guy and the cowboy have kind of become jokes these days, haven’t they? But the writer, ah, the writer is as lonely as ever…

from here.

“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.”

-Hemingway.

Hemingway and Marlene Dietrich. Ernest, you old dog you.

What follows is Hemingway’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

Having no facility for speech-making and no command of oratory nor any domination of rhetoric, I wish to thank the administrators of the generosity of Alfred Nobel for this Prize.

No writer who knows the great writers who did not receive the Prize can accept it other than with humility. There is no need to list these writers. Everyone here may make his own list according to his knowledge and his conscience.

It would be impossible for me to ask the Ambassador of my countery to read a speech in which a writer said all of the things which are in his heart. Things may not be immediately discernible in what a man writers, and in ths sometimes he is fortunate; but eventually they are quite clear and by these and the degree of alchemy that he possesses he will endure or be forgotten.

Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.

For a true writer each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with good luck, he will succeed.

How simple the writing of literature would be if it were only necessary to write in another way what has been well written. It is because we have had such great writers in the past that a writer is driven far out past where he can go, out to where no one can help him.

I have spoken too long for a writer. A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.

Again I thank you.

Sadly, Hemingway was unable to accept his prize (which consists of $36,000, a gold medal, and an illuminated diploma) from the Swedes in person because of a repeated series of injuries in the month and years before (possibly because of his increasingly self destructive nature), so John C. Cabot accepted it for him and read Hemingway’s prepared speech.

One of my favorite Hemingway bits of all time is from A Moveable Feast, when F. Scott Fitzgerald confesses to Hemingway that Zelda said he (Fitzgerald) had a small penis. Hemingway tries to tell his friend that it’s just Zelda being her usual self and trying to mess with him (or psychologically destroy him, since they had a very complex relationship), but verbal reassurance alone wasn’t lifting up Fitzgerald’s spirits. An excerpt from the autobiographical book:

“Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.”

“Come out to the office,” I said.

“Where is the office?”

“Le water,” I said.

We came back into the room and sat down at the table.

“You’re perfectly fine,” I said. “You are okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.”

Now that’s just being a good friend right there. A version of the same moment is done in Jason’s lovely graphic novel, The Left Bank Gang, in which all the great expats from the tens and twenties are gathered in Paris, but instead of novelists and poets, they’re struggling artists working on their comics, and they look like highly anthromorphized animals. The usual characters – Hemingway, Joyce, Fitz, Zelda, Ford Maddox Ford, etc. – are all there, in perfect caricature form in so many ways, and it’s a heist story, hilarious and brilliant. And at one point, Hemingway checks out Fitzgerald’s stuff in the bathroom and tells him not to worry because Zelda’s crazy and just messing with his head. Oh, Zelda.

I’ve been lucky enough to read several of Jason’s books, and just like The Left Bank Gang, I’d highly recommend just about all of them.

Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it’s probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

-from “A Clean, Well Lighted Place,” of which James Joyce once remarked: “He [Hemingway] has reduced the veil between literature and life, which is what every writer strives to do. Have you read ‘A Clean Well-Lighted Place’?…It is masterly. Indeed, it is one of the best short stories ever written…”

7 Questions with… Topher Chris.

7 questions returns! And in tonight’s very special segment we talk with internet enthusiast and prolific web developer, Christopher Price, AKA TopherChris. And though he’d refer to himself as an “internet jackass,” we’d seriously disagree. Hell, even Julia Allison would have to disagree with that.

Well… You never know with her. But we’d rather talk with Topher instead:

1) How tall are you and how tall do you feel?

This is a good question for me, because a serious gulf exists between the two values.  According to my official identification, I’m 5-9. Clearly, a lazy government employee screwed it up.  I can’t explain how, but I just _know_ I’m really 5-10 1/2.  I can feel it.

from here.

2) You awake to find an alien using your computer staring endlessly at a picture of a pirate eating a cupcake wrapped in bacon with the words “fuck yeah sharks” written on it. He asks what a meme is. How do you explain it to him?

Indeed, this is always a possibility to be prepared for.  I have to say, when I got your interview request, I thought that’s exactly what was happening.

It really all depends what kind of alien it is.  For instance, if they’re the kind of alien that bred our entire human civilization, then I really have bigger things to worry about than an answer to his meaningless query.  He’s just making small talk before he and his minions capture me, since those particular breeder aliens only make house calls to “fix” certain problems with the system.  If you catch my drift.

But the response to use in the more typical humanoid alien situation would be something like: “A meme?  First, let’s talk about what Wikipedia is,” and then look it up with him.  I figure, since I might accidentally say something that offends this guy, better to let my laptop do the explaining and end up disintegrated than me.  I don’t know his background or his values.

But if we’re talking the most nonviolent creature in the universe, which presents no reason at all to fear it…  Well, I’d probably try to trap it.  I mean, this is a huge deal obviously, and I could teach it about internet culture or I could trap him and become rich and famous.  Seriously.

But finally, a straight answer, since I assume aliens will receive this signal in 10,000 Earth years, and I don’t want them to be offended:

A meme is a nugget of thought, which is much less than an actual idea. When you break up the human thought process in the smallest chunks you can find, memes are what you’re left with.  Memes are like atoms. Or, more accurately, single-celled organisms, because memes are very clever at reproducing.  They evolve faster than fruit flies.  They can be about anything our tiny brains can wrap itself around, but the most popular use of memes in internet culture is for humor.

3) What kind of single use website would you use to propose to someone?

I have two distinct, unrelated answers to this.

- One that says “If you’re seriously considering an agreement to marry me through a proposal on a website, then please run in the other direction.”

- One of nothing but my face and some text about how you’ll have to see it for the rest of your life.  I’m also thinking an age slider that ages my face as you move it to the right.  I think it’s fair that she know what she’s in for.

4) Of all your projects, which is your most favorite? And don’t tell me they are like your children and you can’t decide. And on the same tip which is the red headed stepchild you wish you’d put in the orphanage?

My most favorite is the one that’s the most appealing to me on any given day.  (Technically that was a cop out, but I didn’t break your stated guideline, so I feel okay about it.)

To be honest though, I’m being honest.  I get bored with my own stuff easily, just like most of the rest of you, so I switch gears often. If I feel like using one part of my brain, I have a project for that. If I feel like using another, I can start one.  In the end, the one that people like the most is my default favorite, because I’m just an entertainer who happens to use the internet as my weapon.

I’ve definitely killed off some embarrassing projects, too.  The one that hurt the most to close down was a little site where people submitted photos of the last animal that bit them.  I was sure there was a book deal in there somewhere, but apparently people rarely have a camera ready right after they got bit by something.

5) Dance party break! What song do you pick?

No question: I’m On a Boat — The Lonely Island (Feat. T-Pain).  Or anything by Steve Perry.

6) Obama is thanking you for the Obama porn tumblr by creating a special Topher Chris Day. How do we celebrate?

Huzzah!  We write bad poetry and read it to each other.  We dress up in nonsensical costumes.  We pick up brushes, instruments, hammers, and make stuff.

Holy crap, did I just describe Burning Man?  Oh no.

Well, there’s all that, plus the annual Jerry Lewis telethon, the running of the bulls, and cake.  The official drink is the Irish carbomb.

You are required by law to decorate your home with old pizza boxes.

7) How long have you been doing this Internet thing and how did you start? (I’m an Internet historian, I gotta ask)

I’ve been on the internet since it was possible for me to be on it.  I used every free webhost I could find (Tripod? Holla!) to do wacky stuff.  This was before blogging was even a thing, so I’m not even sure what I did.  Crossing the threshold into the territory of paying for domains and hosting was a big deal.  I mean, how could I rationalize this?  That was easy, actually, since I was just a kid.

I got some notoriety early on for doing satirical campaign websites for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former President George W. Bush, and I started a satirical news site for the area’s favorite NFL team.  This was back when people wrote in newspapers and gave you radio interviews about your funny website.  I suppose the rewards of those early experiments shaped my ethos on the entire enterprise of doing whatever it is that I do.

Thank you for answering our silly questions!

My pleasure, Maria.  Hopefully I don’t come off too insane here.  It’s early and I was up until 4.  So, uh, please tell me if I’m an idiot. :)

Thanks so much.  I’m really honored and tickled by this.  I hope I didn’t let you down.

Smooches,
C

TopherChris, with his thinking cap on, hard at work on the task of making the internet a better place for the likes of you.

Counterforce After Dark: Your Housemate Woke You Up So You Cannot Go Back To Sleep and You Can Not Sleep The Day Away Tomorrow So You Are Sad Edition

Songs to listen to at 5am by the blue light of the MacBook:


80 Windows is the best song on Nada Surf’s sophomore debut, The Proximity Effect. It is insomnia, dark nights, expanses full of nothing. And lyrics so exquisitely sad you’ll want to scrawl them all over your mead composition notebook.

My co-bloggers like the more recent Death Cab for Cutie, which makes me want to bleed from my ears. I prefer the angrier Ben Gibbard, before he cashed in on the Dork Lottery by marrying Zooey Deschanel. Something About Airplanes is DCFC at their lo-fi, un-polished amateur, biting, cynical best. The selection: Champagne From A Paper Cup.

Most of Elliott Smith’s catalog is perfect for middle of the night self loathing, but Between The Bars is hit going to hit really close. I promise.

Being up all night produces rapid mood swings, from euphoria to profound sadness to frustration and back again. This song, a remix of a Modest Mouse/764-Hero song is for the happy stage. Lay on your bed and stare at the ceiling. If you have windows and live in a place where stars are viewable, look at them. Smoke em if you got em. Etc.

When it comes time to think of all the relationships you’ve no doubt messed up and get wistful and longing, the time has come for Depeche Mode. Go ahead and mouth the lyrics: vows are spoken to be broken, feelings are intense, words are trivial.

When the sun starts to come up, you’ve finally hit that elusive wall and the exhaustion settles into your bones, put on Zero 7’s Distractions to slowly carry you onto the other side. Congratulations. You’ve made it. See you in a few hours.

I am a traveler of both time and space.

When he wakes up in the morning, Sayid from Lost takes a shower, makes himself some breakfast, cereal probably, and then goes out and creates red hot paradoxes!

Last night’s episode of Lost, entitled “He’s Our You,” wasn’t a great episode, but it was certain a damn interesting one. And, at least for me, a welcome return to the single character flashback system, focusing wonderfully on Sayid, always the coolest character in any room, but also one of the most interesting, and played with graceful nuance by Naveen Andrews.

And it looks like Ben was right all along about Sayid’s killer nature, years before he ever knew it. Or knew he knew it. Of course, it’s easy being right when you’re laying face down in the mud on the Island.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks like Sayid’s bullet hit evil little Harry Potter young Ben right in the chest, practically right in the heart, right? A killing shot, to be sure, and yet I somehow suspect we’re in for some twisty simple non-super crazy fun paradox way out of it. Was little Ben wearing a bullet proof vest? I almost wouldn’t put it past him.

Though I’ve got my fingers crossed for some hot, raw paradox action. Maybe Desmond’s not the only person that the rules don’t apply to.

Even more fascinatingly to me at the moment was the book that Ben gave Sayid to read during his captivity: A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda, the fiction-as-anthropology dealing in Mesoamerican neo-shamanism. The book, one in a series by Castaneda, detail the author’s many years in an apprenticeship with a Yaqui shaman named don juan Matus. Matus, who was perhaps the original Tyler Durden or Jacob, identifies Castaneda as having the energetic configuration of a nagual, essentially saying that he has the soul of a leader-sorcercor, one who can percieve the higher planes of reality via the use of psychotropic plants and may quite possibly have the gift of transmogrification.

Even better: Ben tells Sayid that he’s read it twice. There’s so many shades of things we’ve seen in the technoshamanism that Lost dabbles going on there, that it makes sense. I’d read it twice too, you little shit.

Many critics have doubted the authenticity of Castaneda’s works, including Joyce Carol Oates, and Donald Barthelme even went so far as to parody his books, though substituting any uses of the word brujo with “brillo.” Castaneda is a classic plastic shaman, but he’s an entertaining one. Just don’t forget to wear your God helmet!

Being a mega-dorky fan of this and an even bigger fan of implied connections a la synchronicity, all of this double interests me because of my recent viewing of Altered States (thanks for that, by the way, Benjamin Light), the 1980 film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Ken “Apocalyptic Sexuality” Russell.

The film stars William Hurt as a scientist trying to study other states of consciousness while getting over his loss of (Christian) faith in the world, and ends up experimenting with a fictionalized form of the psychoactive amanita muscaria mushrooms in a sensory deprivation tank because they can supposedly bring about the same hallucination in every user: unlocking the keys to genetic memory. They do in his case, causing him to de-evolve into a type of primitive man beast, and then later into a form of man-shaped cosmic energy. The special effects for the hallucinations and the genetic changes are both amazing for their time period and predictably horrible.

Blair Brown plays Hurt’s wife in the film, and of course his savior, because predictably it’s discovered there really is no God, no Jesus, no higher plan (which makes sense), there’s only now and love, and, sigh, love conquers all. Young Blair Brown, incidentally, is gorgeous and is bascially eye candy in the film, her acting talents totally wasted accent in a typical wifely “Be careful” whisper as Hurt’s scientist character goes off in search of different levels of understanding. She is currently playing a cyborg on Fringe, which had a scene with a sensory deprivation tank in it’s pilot which worked as a nice little in joke to the film.

Meanwhile, back on the Island…

I like how so many of our main characters on Lost are still so grounded, despite all the weird shit going on around them. At this point, they’re so used to it, so when Sawyer says, “Oh, by the way, we’re in the 70s,” Jack just kinda bobs his head in an understanding way. In fact, he looks like he’s still on the hillbilly heroin in some of these scenes.

But as much as I like Jack, and wold like to see his character return to the fore in a decent way, I’m kinda digging Sawyer as the main man in the 70s. I can’t say that I’m really excited about a love triangle there, but was happy to see that the Juliet/Kate “confrontation” played out much more civil in the episode than the advertisments would’ve lead us to believe. Essnetially, Juliet: “I’m giving Sawyer what he needs, Man Hips.” Kate (feeling dejected): “Well, shit. Maybe Jack needs a pity fuck…” Juliet: “Or some pills… Oh, hey, there’s Sayid. I bet he’s about to go do something awesome.” Kate: “When is Sayid ever not doing something awesome?”

You got that right, Kate.

The Spiders From Mars!

I’ve got two words for you today. Just two simple words. They are:

Jazz Odyssey!

My friend is obsessed with the new Mastodon album. They’re not really my thing (nor are most of the metal genre or their fans, especially), but he bought it yesterday (it’s been leaked for weeks, but he’s refused to download it, instead wanting “to experience it in it’s purest form”), but in reading about it out of curiosity, it makes me wonder what happened to the idea of the concept album.

Back in the 70s it was practically the de rigeur, wasn’t it? These days, other than metal and prog acts, the last concept album that springs to mind is, what, American Idiot? Green Day? Not fucking good enough. Who’s going to go out and write today’s version of The Wall or Tommy or Sgt. Pepper’s?

I remember reading a few years back that Trent Reznor brought somebody in to help him write the story for The Fragile. Is it me or is that not impressively lame?

And one should not confuse a concept album with a theme(d) album. All albums, in my opinion, should be theme albums. They should all come from the same place, chapters from the same novel, short stories from the same messed up thought process. Every artist should be able to say, “This is my divorce album,” or, “This is my ‘I just beat cancer album,'” or, “This is my Here, My Dear.”

But still, nothing can match the beauty of a concept album, the combination of an indepth story set to sometimes poppy, but sometimes also slightly avante-garde-ish, tunes is a magical combination. That’s right, I said it: magical.

Stepping back a bit, this is Brann Dailor, the drummer from Mastodon describing the “story” on their new album, Crack The Skye:

“There is a paraplegic and the only way that he can go anywhere is if he astral travels. He goes out of his body, into outer space and a bit like Icarus, he goes too close to the sun, burning off the golden umbilical cord that is attached to his solar plexus. So he is in outer space and he is lost, he gets sucked into a wormhole, he ends up in the spirit realm and he talks to spirits telling them that he is not really dead. So they send him to the Russian cult, they use him in a divination and they find out his problem. They decide they are going to help him. They put his soul inside Rasputin‘s body. Rasputin goes to usurp the czar and he is murdered. The two souls fly out of Rasputin’s body through the crack in the sky(e) and Rasputin is the wise man that is trying to lead the child home to his body because his parents have discovered him by now and think that he is dead. Rasputin needs to get him back into his body before it’s too late. But they end up running into the Devil along the way and the Devil tries to steal their souls and bring them down…there are some obstacles along the way.”

Wow. That’s impressive. On top of all that metaphysical hootenanny and sci-fi mad craziness, there’s a more personal element, a deeper meaning, if you will, dealing with the drummer’s sister, Skye, who committed suicide at age 14, and that the timeless emotional story of the element has to do with the moment in which you hear that a loved one has left the world and you become filled with so many feelings rising up high enough that they could crack the sky.

Well, whatever. That’s heavy, man.

Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool is no MACHINA/The Machines Of God or Kid A, but it’s got it’s own charm.

I think I want to get a job writing ridiculous concept album concepts. Probably for a group like Mastodon, whose last album, Blood Mountain, didn’t just have a wonderful title, but also packed a similarly crazy story to go with it (again, sonically/musically they’re just not my thing)(though as someone who plays guitar, I can admire their technical expertise and their ability to seriously shred). And certainly Trent Reznor needs the help because those tales of woe and bleak futurescapes just aren’t going to write themselves. And of course there’s always a Slayer-ific group like Coheed and Cambria. Those guys are just dying for new concepts for their wacky albums. Claudio Sanchez, the frontman from Coheed, eventually turned all the wacky material from his albums into a comic book series, The Armory Wars, parts one and two, and here’s the solicitation from The Armory Wars II #5 (of 5):

Coheed and Cambria are dead, Mariah’s Rebellion is destroyed, and Supreme Tri-Mage Wilhelm Ryan rules the expanse of Heaven’s Fence unopposed. The final issue of “The Second Stage Turbine Blade” cuts to the quick – and all that remains is a bloody trail of death, destruction and self-immolation.

Self-immolation. That sounds about right.

Incidentally, this is my favorite new comic book. Word to your momma.

The beauty of me getting a job writing concept album concepts is that in the off season, I can just loan out my big beautiful brain to the Japanese. It’s kind of funny, if you think about it, in that we know Japanese cinema (usually horror movies) and we know about the anime, but I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anything about a Japanese sitcom or a Japanese one hour drama, you know? Regardless, I’m not one of those weird anime lovers, but I’ve seen a little, and I like it. I like the depths of imagination they mine for some of their work (and some of it sounds like it was concocted in the throes of a serious peyote binge). When it’s not about giant robots and tentacle rape, that is. Maybe they’ll let me throw out a few ideas for them, not that those crazy wonderful bastards need it, of course.

So, in conclusion:

1. Concept albums rock. They need to come back in a big way soon, but not just in hands of metal bands and shit acts like Insane Clown Posse.

2. I’m aware that a better concept album/idea was discussed in This Is Spinal Tap, but I didn’t want to call this post, “Saucy Jack,” though now I kind of wish I had.

3. ELO’s Eldorado is one of the greatest albums of all time and if you disagree, I will fight you. I will fight you to the death.

4. Blind Guardian, leaders of the pack on Tolkien music or Lord Of The Rings-core, fucking shred: