Friday, September 29, 2006

Here's to the State

A while back I posted the lyrics to this. The one where I said "suddenly Pearl Jam is relevant again" after about 10 years of blah. Through the magic of YouTube, you can just watch it. You won't be sorry you did.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fiddling with the router

Reading: Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
Listening: "What am I to you?" by Norah Jones
Watching: Nothing
Working: Getting wi-fi router working, playing Diablo II compulsively.
Fetus is craving: Tater tots and Cherry Garcia.

As many of you know, I have a rather severe addiction to the game Diablo II. Just for the hell of it, I got out D2 earlier this weekend. Several hours of game-time later, I get frustrated about why my wireless router is booting me out of games. This had been a problem since I installed the Linksys router a few months ago, so I decided tonight once and for all to fix the damned thing.

Nearly four hours later, I emerged victorious, with all three computers in my house running the wireless router with security encryption. Getting the router settings right for a home network is like herding cats. Once you get one thing to work, something else shits the bed. Oh well. Now it works, and it's FAST.

Just for the heck of it, here's a pic of the lovely glowing mommy, who is (in the words of Dr. Seuss) biggering and biggering:

Friday, September 22, 2006

Things I remember about Evans Mills

All of this interaction with my cousins on MySpace lately has gotten me into a nostalgic frame of mind. I started digging through my old pictures from the year or so before I left the Mills for good, just to reconnect with my last memories from there. I'm going to be taking a trip to NY in about two weeks, and I will hopefully be able to see some of the places and faces from that area while I'm there.

This is a picture of the skyline taken from Route 11 somewhere between Philly and Evans Mills. There was a stretch of road there, not far from my high school, where the clouds would always be visible for miles. I never see anything like this in Chicago. We're on the wrong side of Lake Michigan for cloud patterns like this.



I snapped this picture on one visit or another to Evans Mills. I think it was when Walter came home from Kosovo. Of all the photos I have, this one best conveys the general feel of Evans Mills for me.



This was (I think) the last Christmas I spent at home. Most of the youngest cousins are now teenagers, and the older ones are scattered all over the place. It would have been over winter break from SLU.



For some reason, I always associate Evans Mills with pets, too. I haven't owned any since I left home, and it seems like a lifetime ago. Here's one of Zippy using me as a barcalounger.

New ultrasound pics!

Is it a girl? Is it a boy? Here it looks a little bit like Winston Churchill...

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Homage to Catalonia

From George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, a non-fiction book that describes how he went to Spain to journal the Spanish Civil War and ended up joining the Anarchist POUM to fight Franco and the Fascists. This is a fascinating book, and not just because it has one of the best scenes of a running street gun-battle I've ever read.

"The Communist's emphasis is always on centralism and efficiency, the Anarchist's on liberty and equality." - George Orwell, from Homage to Catalonia.

"Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history: a jingo with a bullet hole in him."

"A fat man eating quails while children beg in the street for bread is a disgusting sight, but you are far less likely to see it when you are within sound of the guns."

"I have no particular love for the idealized "worker" as he appears in the Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on."

Monday, September 18, 2006

Silverthought: Ignition was reviewed favorably by Punk Planet magazine, a print magazine with considerable circulation, this month. Check it out at Borders Bookstores or online.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

MySpace

http://www.myspace.com/vinniethevole

Well, I finally got around to creating a MySpace page, and in the process I managed to find profiles and pictures of people I haven't seen in 10 years or more. I found some cool people, including some of my relatives, but sadly, as is always the case with the internet, the people I want most to reconnect with are nowhere to be seen. My cousin Dan Fleming, my good friend from high school Frank Arquitt... these people seem to have no internet presence at all. How the hell does that happen in the 21st Century? Not so much as a MySpace page or a buried newspaper article or even a yellow pages listing. You'd think I could pull an email address or a mention of them in someone else's blog or forum or something. I suppose it's reassuring from a post-modern standpoint that it's still actually possible for people to just vanish like this and not be trackable. Still, I do not forget my friends, even after all these years, and I still miss them.

On the other hand, there is an incredible wealth of information in the form of webpages and MySpace profiles for people I could care if I ever spoke to again. In many cases, people that used to be bitter enemies of mine, or people I just was happy to see go. It was great to reconnect with some of the familiar faces on MySpace, but several times today I wish there was a button you could push and create a separate list of people that you considered assholes.

There's a million-dollar idea someone: create DouchebagSpace. God knows there'd be some profiles for it.

What kind of robot are you?



Maidenform

So I'm with my wife today shopping in Carson Prarie Scott. If you don't know, CPS is a classic Chicago retailer that's like a toned-down version of JC Penney for the ultra-conservative. My wife being 7 months pregnant needed to find some new undergarments that would fit her, so somehow I found myself in the women's underwear department, staring at the floor while she shopped. The funny thing was, Carson Prarie Scott is so unapologetically conservative that the women's underwear department there is the antithesis of a turn-on. Not a leapoard print or a teddy to be seen, and the half-dozen thongs on hangers needed an attached card explaining what they were and how to wear them. I'm talking seriously un-sexy. As we shopped, my wife and I made up our own corporate slogans for Maidenform, who make nothing but boring business-as-usual underwear. Here's the best of the bunch:

Maidenform: Move along. Nothing to see here.
Maidenform: Not like those other hussies.
Maidenform: Because you need to set a good example for the other Nuns.
Maidenform: We can make your sexuality vanish!
Maidenform: Because only whores shop at Victoria's Secret.
Maidenform: We understand how uncomfortable you are with your body.
Maidenform: Because animal prints make us feel anxious.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why I like widescreen

Reading: Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
Listening: Here's a fun little secret about me that most people don't know - When I'm alone in my car driving to and from work... I only listen to the hip-hop station. Why do I do this? At first I wondered myself. Now I think that it's because the only kind of music with anything new or interesting to say is hip-hop. It's the only station I can tune into and hear something I haven't heard before. So H to the Izzo my Neezy.
Watching: The Wire, compulsively.
Working: Slowly working on the new novel. I had a few interesting breakthroughs this week when I saw a mildly disturbing film called "Mail Order Wife" on IFC this week. It had the peculiar quality that made a lasting impression despite being a work of fiction. Winding down on ebay selling.
Fetus is Craving: Ice cream, and various types of sandwiches.

Initially, I used to think that there was no point at all to having "widescreen" televisions, computer monitors, or (especially) laptops. Why do I care if my computer monitor looks like a movie theater? Or even more importantly, why would I care if my widescreen DVDs make it all the way to the edge of the screen? Now, of course, being the owner of a rather large "widescreen" flatscreen for my computer and a "widescreen" format laptop, I find myself liking it more and more. So much so that regular 4:3 aspect-ration monitors actually sort of annoy me now. The widescreen (16:9) aspect-ratio seems very organic in comparison, and less stressful on the eyes. Granted, the "widescreen" aspect cell-phones and mini-laptops seem almost retardedly pointless, but I have to say that it's one of those rare value-added bullshit perks that I came to eventually appreciate.

Recently updated the About Me page and the Writings page.

The Wire


I've been watching the first three seasons of HBO's The Wire. A show which several people assured me was terrific and worth watching. For some unknown reason, I put off watching any of it until now, just as the fourth season starts. Let's just say it was entertaining enough that in the past week I've watched 27 hours of it. I joked with my wife this morning that if I watched them any faster, I'd need to snort them directly up my nose. Happily, the first two episodes of the fourth season are waiting patiently on my TiVo for when I finally get caught up.

My favorite character from this addictive little police drama is, of course, Omar. Omar, the "stick-up boy" who makes his living by robbing and/or killing drug dealers. This hilarious loose-cannon somehow brings this whole show together. There's something fittingly whimsical about a trench-coated, kevlar-vested gang-banger with a double-barreled shotgun striding into the middle of drug-turf in broad daylight. Played ably by Michael K. Williams who has an utterly bad-ass scar across his entire face that looks like someone chopped his head in half with an axe and stitched it back together.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why Muppets will always be hilarious

Anyone who has spent enough time around me when I'm drinking will have gotten an earful from me about how great the old-school Muppets were. The YouTube revolution has given this love of mine a second life, and now I'm able to share with you a little slice of my sense of humor. The first inadvertantly hilarious Muppets clip I have for you is of an actual episode of the Martha Stewart show where Oscar the Grouch is a guest star. The content itself is not particularly humorous, but the looks on the google-eyed Oscar's face as he emotes in reaction to Martha's dry delivery... priceless.



Then there's the Dave Chappelle Sesame Street parody that's arguably the funniest Dave Chappelle bit ever:



And of course there's the classic Sesame Street clip called "One Way" that has literally haunted me since I was a child. Not because it's frightening, but because I do not remember a single time I have EVER seen a "One Way" sign and not thought of this silly little song. Whenever I tell people about this, they can never remember this bit. Here it is:



Animal playing "Fever" with Rita Moreno. This is still funny thirty years later.



Buddy Rich vs. Animal on the drums. Can anyone picture this happening in modern prime-time programming? This was quality TV...



From the second version of the Muppets in the late 90's called Muppets Tonight, a classic scene where the Mousketeer roll-call is filled with "Stu" and "Mi (clicking sound) To-Bollo."



Kermit and Debbie Harry from Blondie singing "The Rainbow Connection"



And who can forget Alice Cooper and the monsters singing "Welcome to my Nightmare."

Page updates

Reading: "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" by Jack Womack
Listening: "Upside Down" - Jack Johnson
Watching: Nothing
Working: eBay crap
Fetus is Craving: ice cream, sleep

Site updated with new info in the About Me and Writings section.
www.silverthought.com just underwent a massive update of the front page and backend. Surf on over if you haven't checked it out in a while.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Political Violence 7



If you don't know who this fellow is, you may have been under a political rock for the last 15 years. This is a photograph of the enigmatic figure known as Subcommandante Marcos. He is the spokesperson for the Zapatistas in the Chiapas region of Mexico. The Zapatistas have been fighting for control of the area and independence for rural southern Mexicans. Their fight is largely a non-violent one, despite armed uprisings in the 1990's.

Marcos is, at the time of this writing, still alive and just published a novel. He is not an indigenous Mayan, a fact surmised by his lighter than average skin tone.

This photo seems significant to me because this is the portrait of a revolutionary that literally rides the edge of a moral razor. Thus far, he has managed to skillfully turn the world's attention to the importance of his cause. The Zapatistas use advanced technology like satelite phones and laptop computers with internet connections to circumvent the information blockade that Mexico would like to impose on them. They are, quite literally, a problem that won't go away.

On the one hand, this is good for the revolutionaries. They have the ear of the whole world, and the sympathy of many. On the other hand, they are in a very precarious political position in a Western world that demonizes "terrorists" of all types. In a culture where image is everything, the US is conveniently ignoring the Zapatista's blatant terrorist image. This has already become tricky for the US, whom Mexico would like support from in crushing Marcos and his group once and for all.

The Zapatistas now live in 32 autonomuos districts that they have carved out for themselves and held against the Mexican government. They govern their own areas, and provide support for those who they feel need it, most recently in a series of demonstrations against the forceable removal of flower vendors in Texcoco.

I cannot decide when I look at this photo whether or not Marcos has lost himself in the fight that he began so long ago, or if every morning when he awakes and puts on his mask he thinks: What the hell am I doing? Am I doing the right thing? Am I going to die because of this? How long will it be before the power imbalance that keeps me alive shifts and they fall on us?


On a related note, I found a pretty incredible video on YouTube of a large band of several hundred Zapatistas forceably seizing and holding a Mexican military base.

Favorite quotes from one of my favorite books

I just re-read one of my all-time favorite books, a rarity because I had actually only read this particular book one time before (as opposed to the 1200 page "Shogun" which I must have read at least six or seven times). In any case, I took the opportunity to make notes and annotate my copy of it. The book is, of course, Herman Hesse's "Demian". Here are some of my favorite passages:

"Perhaps I stood at the parting of the ways, perhaps I would now belong among the wicked forever."

"I realize today that nothing is more distasteful to a man than to take the path that leads to himself."

(in reference to the story of Christ on the cross between the two thieves)

"If you had to pick a friend from between the two thieves or decide which of the two you had rather trust, you most certainly wouldn't select that sniveling convert. No, the other fellow, he's a man of character. He doesn't give a hoot for "conversion", which to a man in his position can't be anything but a pretty speech. He follows his destiny to its appointed end and does not turn coward and forswear the devil, who has aided and abetted him until then. He has character, and people with character tend to get the short end of the stick in biblical stories."

"You must create for yourself a God that contains the devil, too, and in front of which you needn't close your eyes when the most natural things in the world take place."

"Only the ideas we actually live are of any value. You knew all along that your sanctioned world was only half the world and you tried to suppress the second half the same way the priests and teachers do. You won't succeed. No one succeeds in this once he has begun to think."

"That is the way the leaves fall around a tree in autumn, a tree unaware of the rain running down its sides, of the sun or the frost, and of life gradually retreating inwards. The tree does not die. It waits."

"One never reaches home, but where paths that have affinity for one another intersect, the whole world looks like home, for a time."

"You know the chick does not find it easy to break its way out of the shell. Think back and ask yourself: was the way all that difficult? Was it only difficult? Wasn't it beautiful, too?"

"How strange that the stream of the world was not to bypass us anymore, that it now went straight through our hearts, and that now or very soon the moment would come when the world would need us, when it would seek to transform itself."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Forts

Last night Uncle Mark's popularity among his nephews skyrocketed when he came up with the idea of building a fort in little Eli O'Malley's basement playroom. Apparently, he had tried before to do this, but it had inevitibly fallen down under its own weight. Enter Uncle Mark, former Colonel in the Cushion/Blanket Fortress Corps of Engineers, and legendary builder of such formidible structures as "Go Away Mom" and a cushion version of the Milennium Falcon.



So, here you can see the outward appearance of Fort Affie-Eli (Affie being four and a half year old Eli's favorite stuffed animal and steadfast comrade). It is a low-lying trench-like structure consisting of a slightly "S"-shaped vestibule and a single interior room.

This configuration is ideal because it allows for further customization of secret windows, peepholes, booby-traps (Oh, yes, booby traps), and even perhaps later a second emergency exit.



To avoid cave-ins at inopportune moments (always a very real risk with cushion forts), Uncle Mark hit on the idea of reinforcing the fortress on the inside with a low table and chairs. Fortunately there were several on hand of the appropriate size, pictured above and below. Using this buttressing technique, Uncle Mark was able to ensure that the mountainous, cushion exterior stayed put, or at least did not fall into the fort itself. This lent very much to its trench/coal-mine feel, which was particularly appropriate later as I will discuss in a moment.





Little Eli O'Malley wanted to leave no doubt as to whom this fort belonged. Belonging is a very important quality to any particular fort, and Fort Affie-Eli was no exception. At his request, a very clear and concise signage was created laying down a few ground rules. First, and most importantly, that this was ELI's FORT. Secondly, that NO ONE COMES IN... and then almost as an afterthought but specified by Eli himself: ...ASK ELI FIRST. This is, of course the difficult paradox that surrounds the creation of any fort-like structure. There is a definite feeling of independence and posession that surrounds the structure, yet at the same time a vague and unsuppressable urge to share it with others. Hence, the seemingly inconsistent entrant qualifications.

Finally the fort was built and it was ready to be explored and played in. This happened to be the night time, and we were in the basement, so there was no shortage of darkness. The only problem with this is that the fort ended up being a little TOO dark. Eli, being not quite five years old, was nonetheless ill at ease with a dark passageway. By some fortunate coincidence, Eli happened to be in posession of a flashlight in the shape of a lantern. This shed plenty of light on the interior of the fort, and added to the visual impact of the trench/coal-mine leitmotif. Here you can see Eli exploring his fort and preparing to defend it against all intruders.



Or, alternately, to invite inside anyone willing to come.



Long live Fort Affie-Eli! And Long live the great and storied tradition of cushion fortress engineering!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Political Violence 6


This is a photo of Malcolm X standing at a window with an M-1 rifle in one hand. This photo was taken shortly before his death at the hands of assassins from the Nation of Islam. It was featured originally in "Life" magazine. A publication that, frankly, I wish still existed as something you could just buy on the newsstand.

There is definately some posturing involved here, in fact this image almost screams it. I can't help but wonder: was Malcolm wandering around his house with the rifle when the photographer happened to take the photo? Did the photog set the shot up?

Nevertheless, the threats against his life from various sources were real, and his paranoia not entirely unfounded considering his eventual fate. There is an incredible intensity to Malcolm's look here. You can almost see the black unmarked cars that he sees out the window, the passing bicycles and mailmen. Is someone watching him? Will the next person who knocks on the door have a pistol in their pocket? I cannot imagine what he must have been thinking when the assassin finally rushed his podium and shot him with the shotgun... Probably something like I told you so.

"Be peaceful, be courteous, obey the law, respect everyone; but if someone puts his hand on you, send him to the cemetery." - From Malcolm X Speaks
Reading: Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
Listening: Ray Lamontagne Till the Sun Turns Black, Jay-Z and Linkin Park Collisions, The Beatles The White Album and Abbey Road
Watching: Nothing.
Working: New novel, ebay sales, cleaning the house, putting up the storm windows, fixing my boss's iPod, doing the laundry, etc.
Fetus is Craving: Grilled cheese sandwiches with pickles.

My buddy DJ's MySpace page: Pumpernickel