Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Brief Rant about Southern Literature

H.L. Mencken characterized the entire Southern United States as "the sahara of the bozart", particularly upending the region for its lack of creativity or artistic accomplishment. That harsh critique created a firestorm of controversy in the region, arguably inspiring a period of fecundity that made Southern literature very much in vogue. William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor, Katherine Ann Porter, and Margaret Mitchell began a long tradition that mined the same themes over and over again. Shunning the rapidly industrializing urban cities, these authors focused on the agrarian past and the rural concerns of small towns.

The South of my birth and my residence was absolutely nothing like the hackneyed stereotype that so many people want to pass off as authentic. I grew weary of front porches, incestuous families, farms, overwrought dialect, and all the trappings. While those of a certain generation--the generation of my parents and grandparents, particularly--love this genre, it has long since become a stock cliche. A new generation, my own, finds nothing particularly spectacular or compelling about the old ways. As a matter of fact, I deliberately avoid most southern literature for the reasons I've spelled out in some detail earlier in this piece.

The south I know isn't all that much different from most other regions in the country. The middle class suburb in which I grew up could be easily located in just about any state in the union. Mass communication, starting with the television, has been a great leveling force. Accents are less pronounced, clothing styles are more uniform, and regional peculiarities are increasingly few in number. Some lament that this region is losing more and more of its authentic flavor, but this is a phenomenon that's hardly the domain of the south. With mass production we eat the same foods, watch the same programs, frequent the same shops, and obsess about the same things.

If Southern Literature wants to stay current, it needs to adapt to these times. Yet, in the twenty-first century, region is becoming less and less important to the dialogue. Each part of the country will always retain some of its own unique flair, but the capitalism of this modern era, individuality is being replaced by consumerist conformity, for better and for worse. If progress is a million identical Target shopping centers, one wonders what that impact will be upon popular culture, art, and all creative pursuits.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

On The Way

to the American Street.

Saturday Video

Garbage was comprised of three music producers and a young Scottish singer named Shirley Manson. Landing squarely in the middle of the 90's alternative music heyday, they managed to put a pop sheen on the harsher, more abrasive elements popular during the decade. Members like Butch Vig had been instrumental in shaping the sound of classic grunge-era albums like Nirvana's Nevermind and The Smashing Pumpkin's Siamese Dream.

It also didn't hurt that Manson was a redheaded beauty, capable of delivering lyrics with a sexually charged seductiveness.

"Queer" was the first single off of their self-titled album Garbage. Its modest success paved the way for the breakthrough singles "Only Happy When It Rain", and the biggest hit of them all, "Stupid Girl."

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Calculated Risk for McCain

In being willing to sacrifice his strongest argument, experience, McCain has taken a gamble selecting his Vice-Presidential choice. Attempting to reach out to disaffected Hillary Clinton Democrats by putting a woman alongside him on the ticket, such a strategy might have worked if McCain had picked an ideological moderate. Instead, he picked a solid conservative. It's a curious selection because few Clinton supporters will be swayed by the presence of a woman who is conspicuously pro-life. The entire McCain/Palin ticket will be officially against abortion rights and rooted solidly in the tradition of fiscal conservatism.

As politics is the eternal chess game, it is interesting to see the Republican party of McCain change its focus from the traditional solid Southern conservatism to the more libertarian West. A large reason why GOP voters in this state have never fully embraced McCain is that he's not a favorite son and not brought favors to the region in the way George W. Bush did. Voters here in Alabama will likely still provide McCain with a comfortable margin of victory, though it's telling that the party no longer caters to this region of the country. Enough neglect by the Republican party and South might be a vulnerable region for Democratic gains, but not this election. An energized Democratic party will shrink the Republican margin of victory but that will be about all.

Picking a female candidate for office doesn't quite have the same appeal for Republicans as it would for Democrats. While it is certain that this year's Republican Convention will give perfunctory acknowledgment of their party's first time to put a woman within striking distance of the Presidency, large sections of the GOP base are still uncomfortable at the thought of a woman in position to secure the highest office of the land. Evangelical conservatives, many of which would not approve of a woman as their minister, will certainly not wish to see a woman as their President. Palin's self-proclaimed title as feminist, even a conservative feminist, will further isolate large sections of the base. As I've said before, this is a gutsy choice, a bold choice, but also a choice that attempts to nudge the Republican party in a direction which may offend many party stalwarts.

We shall see.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

For Barack Obama. Il Miglior Fabbro

People With No Sense of Irony

One certainly can't please everyone.

What I find indicative of this phenomenon is that a harmless one-liner, amusing to most, was decried as racist by an anonymous commenter earlier today.

These are the same kind of hate-mongering, pathetic individuals who routinely spew venom, bile, and anger on Kos. Their desire to be patently offensive, boorish, and destructive towards anyone who disagrees with them reflects poorly upon the entire blogsophere.

I made a big deal out of this because this phenomenon occurs all too frequently in activist circles. We're the only ones who can stop it.

Tell Me Why

Sailing heart-ships
thru broken harbors
Out on the waves in the night
Still the searcher
must ride the dark horse
Racing alone in his fright.
Tell me why, tell me why

Is it hard to make
arrangements with yourself,
When you're old enough to repay
but young enough to sell?

Tell me lies later,
come and see me
I'll be around for a while.
I am lonely but you can free me
All in the way that you smile
Tell me why, tell me why

Is it hard to make
arrangements with yourself,
When you're old enough to repay
but young enough to sell?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Aftermath

Hillary Clinton, quite surprisingly to me, gave the best speech of her life last night on the second night of the convention. The New York senator did much to rehabilitating her image and radiated a kind of warmth and personality that would have worked greatly to her advantage had we seen it during the primary season. To some extent, the fact that she did a good job isn't totally surprising. Her concession speech in June showed her potential to deliver a good message. Provided rest and time to hone her rhetorical skills, Clinton can be an effective orator. Put on the spot and without adequate prep time and she is a bland, dull speaker.

Tarnishing the moment somewhat was the news that immediately leaked out to the press; Hillary intends intends to run in 2012 if Obama is defeated in November. Cynics will leap upon this revelation as confirmation that her ultimate aims are driven purely by self-interest and any pretense towards party unity is merely window dressing. Cynicism aside, what few can deny is that Hillary she simply doesn't know how to run a disciplined campaign. I'm ever more relieved that Obama, not Clinton is the nominee because if the roles were reversed, gaffe after gaffe could be easily expected, the cumulative, drip drip drip effect could have handed the Presidency to John McCain. If Hillary Clinton intends to run again, she must learn from the mistake of 2008 and tighten up the reins. As we discovered this year, being the front runner does not guarantee the nomination, and though she would be the favorite in 2012 if Obama is defeated in November, an undisciplined Team Clinton could easily prove to be its own undoing again.

This time around, they have only themselves to blame. This is what makes me deeply unsympathetic to the die-hard supporters. Instead of acknowledging that hard truth that the Clinton campaign was the reason for its own destruction, they want to look for external factors or instances of foul play. Living in a state of denial isn't good for human beings and it sure isn't good for those who support a particular candidate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Quick Thought

Watching the convention at this early stage of the evening makes me realize, rather painfully, that white people have no business trying to dance.

For the Turnstiles

A few thoughts on the Democratic National Convention.

All the sailors
with their seasick mamas
Hear the sirens on the shore,
Singin' songs
for pimps with tailors
Who charge ten dollars
at the door.

You can really
learn a lot that way
It will change you
in the middle of the day.
Though your confidence
may be shattered,
It doesn't matter.

All the great explorers
Are now in granite laid,
Under white sheets
for the great unveiling
At the big parade.

You can really
learn a lot that way
It will change you
in the middle of the day.
Though your confidence
may be shattered,
It doesn't matter.

All the bushleague batters
Are left to die
on the diamond.
In the stands
the home crowd scatters
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles,
For the turnstiles.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I wrote an eight paragraph post earlier today. It was one of the worst bits of writing I've ever done. It's not that the subject matter was dull or pedestrian, it's just that the piece was crafted so poorly that it bordered on incoherence.

Patience is a virtue which I am not blessed with, you must understand, but I'm going to have to develop it. The lesson to be pulled from all of this is that I'm not anywhere near well yet and until I'm more level, I can't begin to move to recapture my former eloquence. Writing is a craft at which I have often excelled, so this revelation is deeply upsetting to me.

Expecting to Fly

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Saturday

So I am at The American Street.

Saturday Song

This song, "No Love Lost" was pulled from the first Joy Division EP, An Ideal for Living, which attracted the attention of Tony Wilson. Television personality, Factory Records label head, club owner, and general wunderkind Wilson produced the band's first full-length album. The band had met at the famed 1976 Sex Pistols concert at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, famously attended by a sparse forty-two people, though as the legendary performance grew in stature, thousands claimed to have been in attendance at the time.

The history of the formation of the group and the late 70's Manchester scene was later effectively eulogized in the 2002 film, 24 Hour Party People.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick Update

The internet was out most of today, which is why I haven't put a blog post up until now in the late afternoon.

My mood is better, though I'm still not up to full speed. After my psychiatrist appointment yesterday afternoon, it was decided to place me on lithium as a mood stabilizer. Lithium has been around since forever and no one is still quite sure why it works. The drawback is that one has to drink lots of water and have blood levels drawn frequently. Lithium has a narrow range of efficacy, meaning that the concentration in one's bloodstream is a relatively small window. Too much and it can be toxic. Too little and it does nothing at all.

That being said, I won't notice any substantial change until the levels get in balance, which won't be for at least another four to six days. I'm easing into more substantive, lengthy posts for the remainder of the week, though I am feeling much better than I was at this point last week, for sure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

David Brooks At It Again

The Education of McCain

Brooks is still taking swipes at the blogosphere. As evidenced here...

McCain started out with the same sort of kibitzing campaign style that he used to woo the press back in 2000. It didn’t work. This time there were too many cameras around and too many 25-year-old reporters and producers seizing on every odd comment to set off little blog scandals.

If I didn't know any better, I'd interpret this as a cry of panic. For every column like this one that I read which rips into bloggers for their supposedly unprofessional, anything-goes mentality towards reporting the truth, I see how threatened the mainstream media is by citizen journalists. There's such a wealth of information provided all of us, we can see our candidates in technicolor and not have to rely on the media to do our thinking for us.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Nearly Forgotten Anniversary

This blog is now officially two years old.

Dostovesky Novel Parody

I've been trying to read Crime and Punishment in an effort to broaden my literary horizons and though it is an occasionally rewarding read, more often than not it's a total challenge. In that spirit, here is my parody of the text itself.


"The problem, Alexis Novonstronksy, is that these days the masses convene at the local eatery, Portei, and discuss the nature of metaphysical reality. In the days before railway timetables, such a thing might be plausible. But let us dwell upon the plausibility of plause. A poor joke, friends."

The man smoked a cigar and gesticulated with the kind of self-importance common to the landed gentry.

Grabbing his ankles in a sort of pain, dripping with sweat, Novonstronsky encountered a local eccentric named Narikolivian who stood at the doorway, a doorway littered with plaster. Six families lived inside the building, a building that housed seven families until a matter of weeks before, when they had been taken by cholera and moved to prevent infecting the rest of the boarding house. Left behind was the smell of boiled cabbage.

"Could this be a dream? What could dreams provide? They'll know I've done it. I should confess now. But alas, I cannot. There is nothing left to say. Unless I tell them, but should I tell? Oh, such woe! I am damned. I know this now. Perhaps they know already! Oh, misery! I shall never tell! Never never never!"

He swore an oath but continued sweating, dabbing his forehead with a filthy cloth. Standing upright was a difficulty unsurpassed by any other action.

"What impudence is this!" This was spoken by Rodlai Ronovinich, who had returned from a scene observed in the town square, a square full of ash. A mule had been brutalized by the lashes of its master, observed by recently emancipated serfs, who jeered and jostled the poor creature as it recoiled and jerked from the abuse.

"This is madness! Madness, I tell you! But back to the subject at hand."

Ronvoinich wished to marry Tishka, the daughter of Perioskina, the second cousin, three times removed of Yourginska. This was a union undertaken out of pity and financial gain, clearly observed by all who passed by in the streets and particularly the interest of civil servants and lower-level government officials.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Building Strength

Thanks to all those who expressed their concern about my emotional health. I'm slowly gaining strength and getting back to full speed. Periodically I have these bouts of depression and the most terrifying facet to them is that I hardly ever know when they will arrive, nor how long they will last. Plath talked about the descent of the Bell Jar as a metaphor for the onset of depression, and it's an apt description. I would add that depression feels like walking around in a weighted suit, which makes walking, functioning, and doing an added challenge. In a depressive state, life is a marathon race run uphill and it takes four times the effort just to get the minimum done.


I saw Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind again over the weekend. One of my favorite movies, it explores the duality inherent in human contact, particularly as pertains to intimate relationships with close friends or lovers. As social creatures, we crave interaction with other people, and the movie explores the idea that even those trying times of turmoil are found in equal quantity and proportion to the good--the good of sharing space with another person. As the film itself concludes, the passage of time heals us; we remember the positive moments alone in the end, as our grieving turns to acceptance.

In our increasingly twenty-first century desire to make the world anew and micromanage every detail of our lives, I have no doubt, if such a thing existed, many of us would resort to a treatment that effectively wiped away the pain of a breakup or friendship that ended badly. However, doing so would be a grave disservice not just to us but to the rest of the world. We cannot appreciate the best experiences without the knowledge of the inevitable rough patches. That we have somehow led ourselves to believe that the latest invention, in whatever form it comprises, could circumvent the process of socialization in all of its awful, wonderful shades of gray stunts our growth and development as whole people, or at least people who seek a strong sense of grounding.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday Video

This song, "Gepetto" was the follow up single to "Feed The Tree". Launched at the apex of the early 90's alternative movement, Belly was founded as a splinter group from Throwing Musing, designed to revolve around Tanya Donelly's girlish vocals and occasionally horrific lyrical images. The group achieved moderate success in the U.S., but found an unexpected degree of popularity in the UK, as Star, the album from which this single is culled, reached number two in the British album charts.

As an aside, Star was the first album I ever purchased on compact disc.

The version heard on this music video is considerably lighter than the album version. That mix emphasizes electric guitar, a harder edge, and is played at a slightly faster tempo.

Friday, August 15, 2008

What's Going On

I'm having a major bout with depression. It's an effort to even dress myself or shower at this point. When I am feeling stronger, I'll be back to my old self.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A New Addition to the Blogroll

Quaker Voices on the Web: Speaking

I'll be contributing to this site on a regular basis.

I Will

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Music Review: Parallel Play

The Halifax, Nova Scotia, bred foursome known as Sloan have consistently released some of the finest power pop this side of Badfinger. Catchy melodies and a genius ear for harmony which showcased literate, intelligent lyrics were the group's forte. Notice I said "were", since those days apparently, regrettably, are in the past. I knew this day would come, though the surprising return to form with 2006's Never Hear the End of It gave me some hope that the group had some energy left. Parallel Play, however, confirms my deepest suspicions. It is easily the worst Sloan album ever recorded and I hope they'll disband now before they further tarnish their once sterling reputation.

Like so many bands who overstay their welcome, Sloan simply doesn't know when to quit. My advice for all artists, musicians, actors, actresses, athletes, coaches, or those whose talent and skill is decidedly time-limited is pretty simple: quit while you're ahead. Sloan seems to have scorned that advice and the results are predictably mediocre. Previous albums, starting with 2001's Pretty Together have telegraphed the idea that the group is old and out of ideas. Songs with titles like "Nothing Last Forever Anymore", which proclaims, wearily, "I can see the writing on the wall" are normally not good signs. To an extent, Sloan's decline isn't really that surprising, since now everyone's over forty, settled down, increasingly grey-headed, and (with the exception of one member) now has children.

Before writing this review, I took a look at what the mainstream critics had written, and aside from a dismissive, condescending Spin Magazine summation, which for once I wholeheartedly agreed with, I didn't see much in the way of notice. These days, with the music industry hand in glove with the music press, one expects a kind of fabricated enthusiasm and gloss, which, if taken at face value would render every new release an instant classic. No amount of tossed-off, inauthentic, formulaic enthusiasm can salvage bad product, and Parallel Play is easily that and more. Aside from the always pervasive sycophantic praise of hardcore fans, this album has landed with a resolute thud, even in its native Canada, and that's rather telling.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Death of Birmingham: An Anecdote

I was raised as the typical suburban middle class kid, growing up in a land of obsessively manicured lawns, two car garages, and what seemed to me at the time to be a pervasively smothering sense of dull conformity. Hoover was a fine place to grow up, but it didn't offer much in the way of entertainment. Those of us Over The Mountain kids in need of a viewing of the seamier side of life invariable hopped in our cars and headed down to the Southside of Birmingham. By "Over the Mountain", I mean the white-flight created cities that are literally directly laid out over Double Oak Mountain, fifteen to twenty miles south of the city which, for the time being at least, bears the name of the whole metropolitan area.

Southside is what passes for Bohemia around these parts and in the mid to late 90's, for those of a certain youthful, gleefully irresponsible inclination, it was the place to go to let one's hair down and actively pursue collective rebellion. If you know me at all in any detail you've probably guessed that I've never been much for mingling with the masses on anything more than an occasional basis, so I have a kind of ambivalent attitude towards the dramatic interplay that routinely transpired there on a weekly basis. Don't get me wrong--if I'm feeling nostalgic I can easily locate in my memory banks a wealth of recollections driven by a frequently alcohol-fused, adrenaline-fueled intensity. Those were the days before I worried actively about losing my hair, my teeth, or my mind.

Those were the days where the latest hit song on the radio became an immediate anthem, to be played at maximum volume with the windows down, a cigarette stuck between the knuckles of the right hand, taking care to ash out the window while not poking the person sitting next to you in the backseat with the lit end. Those were the days where the world was new and mere conversation alone could spark an amphetamine rush. This was when everyone you knew tacitly assumed that they would live forever, just as a matter of course, never spoken aloud, since mortality and the awareness of it is a revelation granted only in hindsight.

What has sparked this extended anecdote was reading in the paper that a Southside nightclub, Banana Joe's, was recently forced to close after a sixteen-year-old hoodlum shot and killed two people in the club's parking lot. Clearly, the area has gotten worse, much worse that I would have even imagined. My sister refers to the place as "crack alley" these days and I find it comforting she no longer slings coffee or sells useless goods for minimum wage at the latest hole-in-the-wall, flash in the pan novelty outlet to set up shop and attempt to make a profit.

It's been at least half a decade since I felt any desire to go downtown and elbow my way through the latest bumper crop of baby hipsters, punks, social defectives, and petty criminals. Adolescence and young adulthood craves such experiences, but as thirty begins to be less and less of an abstraction, an attitude of "been there, done that" enters the picture. These days, I'd rather hole up in a coffee shop or peruse a bookstore than explore the nihilistic juxtaposition of cigarette smoke, decay, and underarm scent.


Five Points South provided each generation of privileged kids the first opportunity to see what an abundance of panhandlers, poverty, discarded crack pipes, and broken glass in combination and in copious quantity looks like. Birmingham had seen much better days by the time I was old enough to traverse its well-worn streets. Birmingham proper has always reminded me of a rusty fence in an abandoned lot---each time you go by, you can observe the slow, but nonetheless inevitable corrosion. Certainly, I have memories there, and some of them involve stumbling out of a club at two o'clock in the morning, lurching from side to side with the signs of obvious public intoxication, reeking of smoke. On occasion these memories abruptly concluded with a bout of vomiting out of a car window, though not always.

In those days, my most pressing desire was, above any other, to find some degree of sexual contact with a random stranger, culminating in outright intercourse if I was exceptionally lucky. The ultimate destination of those dimly lit Friday and Saturday nights were completely left to chance, and frequently I was invited to a party a friend or acquaintance was throwing. Reeling from the booze-buzz, straddling the line between legally drunk and just coherent enough to drive, I'd feel that sense of anticipation of the unknown, following behind another car on my way to yet another house party.

South of town one can't help but notice how Birmingham is the terminus of the Appalachian Mountains. The streets run uphill, diagonally, crooked, even perpendicular to each other--but never ever flat or level. As if walking in some kind of minimal drunken state wasn't challenge enough, one had to park, apply the emergency brake, then adjust to an extreme incline that would be obstacle enough in plain daylight and total sobriety. One always knew in which house the party was being thrown due to the volume of the horrible band blasting forth, in true Birmingham fashion, an earnest combination of volume and cheerful incompetence. One felt like a bit of a spelunker, using the wall as guidance, pausing occasionally to take in the spectacle, tripping over feet and discarded beer bottles. Invariably, whomever I was attempting to proposition ricocheted towards where I was slumped against the wall from some unseen angle, having also traversed the length of the gauntlet, having delicately pressed through the crowded hallway as cautiously as a blind person with a cane.


As Birmingham gets more and more run down, I know these sorts of everyday occurrences will become less frequent. While Southside always retained a kind of barely-restrained edginess, with a police force just effective enough to keep rapes, robberies, and assaults at a bare minimum, now, apparently, the darkness and resulting violence have come to stay. If this keeps up long enough, Southside's traditional residents: eccentrics, artists, college students, underemployed and overqualified young professionals, and their ilk will have to uproot and move elsewhere. It won't happen overnight, but then again, Birmingham didn't grow corrupted and gang-ridden overnight, either. For the past twenty-five years now, wealth has continued to stream Over the Mountain and away from the traditional city center. Gentrification is little more than wishful thinking at this point and time, since the growth and development has expanded in every direction, but only a few hardy souls have felt inclined to move back to what is an increasingly crime-ridden downtown.

Looking back on it now, one can only marvel that this didn't happen long before it did. This is the continuation of a trend sweeping many aging cities across the country. They will evolve to changing times with progressive leadership and forward thinking programs, or they'll continue to wither away at the vine. Though I hope for the former, I fully expect the latter. But at least I have my memories.

The Spare Change

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Flavor of the Month

Forgive the quality of this video, if you will, readership. Focus on the words instead, which speak to me this instant.

Can you hear it?
it's like an invitation

Can you feel it?
it's a revelation

The flavor of the month
is busy melting in the mouth

Getting easier to swallow
and harder to spit out

Can you hear it?
Does the sound remind you?

Can you feel it?
It's gonna redefine you

The flavor of the month is
busy melting in your mouth

Getting easier to swallow
and harder to spit out

Can you hear it?
like an invitation

Can you feel it?
a reverberation

The flavor of the month is
busy melting in your mouth

Getting easier to swallow
and harder to spit out

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

This afternoon I finally got around to seeing The Dark Knight, which, for those who have been asleep for the past two months, is the new Batman movie. Before I proceed any further, let me say that I was never a child for whom comic books were any kind of solace. In saying this, I freely admit that I may be the wrong person to review such a film because my focus and interest, even as a child, lay in realism, particularly in dramatic realism. Perhaps I personally have too pronounced a sense of disbelief because I can never at any point in my life manage to suspend it for the sake of cartoons and superheroes. So it is that the cartoons I enjoyed in my formative years never tried to stake claim to a world that was all that far removed from reality.

Back to the film---color me deeply unimpressed with the final result. Those who like to see explosions and special effects purely for the sake of both will not be disappointed. Those who wish to suffer through a labyrinthine plot with so many twists and turns that it's impossible to keep them all straight will also be pleased. Those merely curious to gawk at the last film role of Heath Ledger will not be disappointed, because, indeed, he does do a good job. His performance as The Joker is certainly strong enough to grant him a sympathy Academy Award nomination, if not a posthumous Oscar. The Academy loves to reward real-life melodrama.

I will give the film some credit for not subjecting me to another gratitiously unnecessary display of human flesh for no other reason that to titillate the senses. Though Maggie Gyllenhaal and Christian Bale are both physically attractive people, I'm grateful for the fact that I was not privy to seeing either of them in a state of profound undress, which if included would have been totally superficial to the narrative itself. For not aiming specifically for the lowest-common denominator, I do certainly commend the filmmakers. Still, I am not without major criticism.

What gets my ire is the rather amateurish means by which the film tries its hands at social commentary. Anyone with a brain will get the parallels drawn between the imaginary world of Gotham and twenty-first century America, particularly in the United States' desperate attempt to eliminate terrorism from the Western world. The Joker's desire to "burn the world" for the sole sake of seeing things crash down around him is not motivated in the least by the pursuit of money; I, as the good thinking viewer that I am, do correctly see this as a metaphor to make rational sense of and to explain the mentality and modus opperandi of radical Muslim extremists. In addition, I am also cognizant enough to draw a parallel to the recent controversial FISA legislation, which is actualized in the film by its open questioning of the ethical implications of Batman's sonar-driven network of cellular phones. Despite its intrusiveness, according to the superhero, this draconian interface is the only successful means one could manage to track down the Joker by locating the evil doer's precise location. In conclusion, I do get that the film attempts to explore the limits of good and evil in the human mind, striving to find the the point at which even those with the best of intentions grow as inhumane in their methodology as those who they attempt to prosecute.

*An astute reader on my other blog pointed out that, according to her, The Joker's behavior and role should be interpreted as a treatise upon the often-elusive nature of pure evil and in humanity's attempts to come to grips with it in totality. I don't disagree with that, either.

The problem with all of these ambitious intentions is that I've seen them illustrated far more effectively and to much better dramatic emphasis in many movies besides this one. T.S. Eliot's poem "The Wasteland" was once famously described "as a heap of broken images" and pun aside, I think it's an apt description of The Dark Knight. Like so much cinema produced these days, the product, upon final delivery, appears largely soulless and hollow. In a sentence, The Dark Knight is an effective post-modern pastiche, and if that's your thing, you won't be disappointed.

I'm Over Here Today

At The American Street

Saturday Video

Syd Barrett is perhaps the best known acid casualty, whose brief time in the limelight is itself a well-worn cautionary tale about 60's drug culture and its hedonistic excess. Barrett was the original leader and primary songwriter of Pink Floyd, back when the group was oft-referred to by a prefacing article as The Pink Floyd. As it was, The Floyd's first long player, 1967's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn shows off the group's original incarnation as a psychedelic pop group, marrying Barrett's playfully childish lyricism with tightly-crafted songcraft.

This song, "Jugband Blues" was Barrett's last substantial contribution to the group and his only songwriting credit on the band's sophomore effort, A Saucerful of Secrets. It's evident in viewing of this seldom-seen promotional film how barely functional Barrett was by this point. Only a short time later, Syd would be dismissed from the group altogether and replaced by friend David Gilmour. Barett released two cult classic solo albums, which, despite studio trickery, reveal in horrifying detail his unstable mental state. After 1970's Barrett, the troubled musician drifted into a life of total reclusion from which he never surfaced. His death in 2006 only underscored the sadness of his mental decline and set off a fresh round of speculation as to what he could have produced had he not so precipitously burned out at such a young age.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Barstool Blues

When I was a heavy smoker, I could have never reached these high notes. They would have been totally out of my range, and as you can see, they're at the highest upper register of it.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Personally Speaking

As I've said before, I try to avoid talking openly about myself and my life on this blog. My personal thoughts are shuttled off to an undisclosed location in cyberspace, leaving CKC as my public face. But I will make an exception today if, for no other reason, because I am yet again seeking to serve a greater purpose. This is to say, readers of this blog for any length of time at all know I talk openly on here about the fact that I suffer from bipolar disorder. Coping with the disorder provides ample frustration and frequent inspiration to speak my mind, all the while trying to make sense of what often seems senseless.

Bipolar is a brain disorder, first and foremost, and there's much we still don't understand about that vital organ. We understand more and more every day but there is much of which we are practically clueless. Trying to keep my condition regulated is very much an exercise in patience, trial, frequent error, and modification. The treatment at times can resemble an attempt to hit a moving target. Exactingly precise methods used to treat my condition are in short supply. Not only that, the reasons why they work are poorly understood, if not totally misunderstood. Occasionally I feel like everything I've tried is roughly analogous to the old metaphor of throwing spaghetti against the wall in the hope that something will stick.

These days, I'm beginning to think that just as there is no self-actualized human being, there is no 100% healthy individual with a mental illness. That might be a slight exaggeration, as some people do find successful drug cocktails and maintain stability for years at a time, but they are the lucky ones. Mood swings and fluctuations are standard for all of us with the disorder. For example, I am usually more inclined to mania in the wintertime and conversely, inclined towards depression in the summertime.

So it should be no surprise to you that I've been struggling with depression for the past couple months, right on schedule. In younger days, there were medications available that worked on different neuro-receptors, different brain cells if you will, which in psychopharmacology are referred to "neural pathways". I've exhausted all the currently available classes of medication and now am attempting to use slightly different combinations of drugs I've tried before, tweaking the cocktail somewhat. The problem, which is often much more so than a minor annoyance, is that every medication has its own particular side effects and interactions with other drugs. An adjustment period of 1-3 weeks is pretty standard anytime one throws something new into the mix. That's where I am at the moment, adjusting.

I'm an old hand at this. As I pause to reflect, 2008 marks the thirteen year I've been struggling with the disorder. I'm better than I was, but I'm never at perfect health, which is a goal I have been trying to resolve within myself that may not be feasible, nor realistic.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Note

I'm having some trouble adjusting to new medication.

Posting will be sporadic until I get over the hump, so to speak.



Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Where The Boys Aren't

Surveying the latest Presidential poll numbers for my home state of Alabama, I have to say the net result is not surprising. McCain still has an overwhelming lead, but one detail, buried underneath the rest of the data, does jump out at me.

While the Republican [McCain] has a commanding 66% to 27% lead among men, the two candidates are essentially even among women.

This is quite a change from elections prior, when George W. Bush had a substantial lead among women voters. While it is true that a majority of women are Democrats, just by default, it's interesting to see how evenly split they are even in this conservative state. I'm not going to postulate much in depth about what this means, nor do I care to coin a cute saying to be co-opted by the media and lauded as the next great metaphor to describe the latest phenomenon in the race, but one has to admit this is an interesting fact to observe.

I believe there is still a significant faction of men here who have been watching too many John Ford movies starring John Wayne, the very same sort who see Democrats as weak-willed pansies. These are probably the very same who rant about how the role of women in society, be it in the police force, politics, or fill in the blank has contributed to the inefficiency and incompetence of just about anything they can think of. Fortunately, these are a dying breed, and even though change is notoriously slow to come to this region, it is in a heavy state of transition and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

As someone who struggles with mental illness, I found it a bit off-putting, to say the least, to learn about the tanning product featured below. It really shows to what lengths we've evolved when a company would use the name of a disorder as a means to sell product. Among many questions I have, the obvious one sticks out: who would want to use such a thing?

What's next? Schizophrenia, the haircare product? Or perhaps Borderline Personality Disorder, the new fragrance. Oy.

My God, there's more!

Congregational Limitations

My apologies for not blogging yesterday. My computer was down most of the day, and it took hours to restore it to health. Despite the fact that I lost absolutely everything on my hard drive, at least I'm up and running today.

Today I wanted to pause and brag on my Quaker meeting. We conducted a meeting for business that was remarkably free of the kind of unnecessary complications that arise when one creates needless formality and complication to a spiritual gathering. In short, gatherings should not be like work. We get enough of that in our day-to-day life. A total revulsion towards the sort of people who enjoy making rules, committees bearing unwieldy acronyms, and hoops to jump through is why I left congregational-based faith groups for good. This sort of behavior only distracts from fellowship.

And, allow me to pause to reflect upon this phenomenon when it pertains to meetings for business or when it comes time to revise statements of faith, principles, or modification of by-laws. The old slogan comes to mind---the most basic human need is not love or sex, but the ability to revise someone else's text. Certainly everyone knows the one person who is unsatisfied with just about anything, no matter how minor, and holds up the process. I'm fortunate that quabbling about semantics and phrasing is kept to a mimimum. Overly-dynamic behavior and power-plays have no place in the process.

The main idea of this whole post is likely quite plain. Church isn't really all about us in the end, after all. It's about the community, not the individual.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

I Do A Roadhog

At The American Street.

Saturday Song

Icelandic chanteuse Bjork is as well-known for her eccentricity as she is for her songcraft. After ditching her first band, The Sugarcubes, Bjork has shown an impressive command of vastly different styles in her solo career. This song "Play Dead", is pulled from her first, and most accesible album, appropriately titled Debut. Never designed to be released as an album track, the song was instead intended for a single-only release, the result of which was a Top Twenty hit in the UK and a Top Ten hit in most of Europe.

Its grandly theatrical, bombastic style prefaces similar works to follow, in particular the big band revival, "It's Oh So Quiet." The video for "Play Dead" features scenes from an obscure British film, The Young Americans, which flopped miserably upon theatrical release.