•December 1, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Ich bin noch nicht Tot.


•November 9, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I’m only on page 86 of longtime The New Yorker music critic Alex Ross‘s magisterial Wagnerism, and I’ve already learned a seminar’s worth of insight into the philosophico-aesthetic milieu of Germany and France, particularly, in the second half of the 19th century. …and modern German intellectual history is a subject I’ve studied extensively, and is near and dear to my conception of “modernity” as such. Ross’s reviews in The New Yorker are always a treat, even when I don’t understand technical details — my musical education made it as far as high school wind ensemble and the occasional stint with the college marching band, though my heart by then wasn’t in it.

Even though I still have 600+ pages to go, I can already recommend this work for the specialist as well as the layman. Ross has that ability.

Too much!

•December 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Despite my avid and longstanding interest in fantasy/sci-fi, I’ve not yet read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I know, I know, major omission. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to read it, just that I haven’t had the time. Other commitments arose. Now, that Pullman’s extremely well-regarding books are receiving their small-screen due on HBO, there’s a quandary — read the books before approaching the series? Or take the series on its merits as its own story before measuring against the books?

Such measuring is inevitable in any case like this. Game of Thrones is the obvious comparison in many ways. I read the books before even knowing of the show; for me, the show was a matter of seeing how my own visualizations, vocalizations, theories of plot, mannerisms, etc. translated into a “television” (the switch from non scare quotes to legitimate scare quotes happened about season four or so) series with a seemingly unlimited budget and full license to display the darkest corners of George R.R. Martin’s delightfully licentious mind. For those unfamiliar with the story, pivotal moments like the early Battle of Blackwater Bay or the Red Wedding came as complete shocks, upending previously held theories of plot. For us veterans, it wasn’t a question of what would happen, but rather of how it would look and sound.

It makes for an entirely different experience. I’ve not read “Watchmen,” but am invested by this point enough in the HBO series glad I haven’t yet, though I knew of the series and some of its details before. With His Dark Materials, I still have the choice. Have neither seen nor read yet, but imagine I’ll watch first. The point is that the same story can be experienced in many different ways, depending on the manner in which it was first encountered. I’m as earnest a “Lord of the Rings” fan as Stephen Colbert; a great part of the trepidation beforehand and the satisfaction afterward regarding the film trilogy (“The Hobbit” films are another matter entirely), stemmed from the correspondence of the visual experience with the mental world I created reading the books. I can never know what the reverse was like. You can’t read “A Song of Ice and Fire” then see Game of Thrones, just as you can’t see Game of Thrones then read “A Song of Ice and Fire.”

Amendment XXVIII

•September 29, 2019 • Leave a Comment

“Congress shall make no law, nor shall the President sign into law nor declare any measure in these United States that shall permit differentiation in wage commensurate to work accomplished on the basis of gender, gender expression, religion, ethnology, nation of origin, language, or immigration status.”

The specific language here is mine, but the sentiment is based upon the die what this foundering, yet existent Republic cast. If we can’t pass such a basic thing, then I do fear for our future. Is it perfect? Hell no; but if we couldn’t do this, at least, what are we?

Musing, I

•September 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

When I’m planning my next several days or answering the question, “So what’s on your agenda today?” or some variant thereof, “reading” is always in the set of possible responses. Reading — whether it’s the Guardian online, an article about Emery’s use of the 4-3-3, Adorno, Ashbery, the London Review of Books… you get the idea — is as necessary to me as water. Without having something to read, I’d become like one of those desiccated earthworm corpses one finds glued to the pavement following a vigorous rain.

Once, when I was on a particularly grim psych ward (though “grim” and “psych ward” pair well together for any number of reasons), I had had the forethought somehow to bring a pair of books, thinking that at least I’d be able to keep my brain distracted as the interminable days shuffled by. What I hadn’t considered was that hardcover books, which these were, would not be allowed, and thus were considered contraband. I was annoyed and disappointed, to put it mildly, but figured at worst, I’d at least be able to read the Bible or People etc. This was not the case. Or, at least, sort of not the case; the previous occupant of my side of my room had left behind a Gideon New Testament and Psalms. I thought, “okay, not ideal, but it’ll make the time pass.” The problem was that this particular edition was in Polish, of which I know not the slightest bit. So desperate was I for something to read that I laboriously read and reread and reread the bits that I knew well enough in English to be able to work through in Polish — the nativity in Luke 2, the Sermon on the Mount, and Psalm 23.

Yet often when thinking about that question, I phrase it to myself or reply to another that “I have to get some reading done.” Now, there are occasions when reading is something that “has to be done,” for a class or a job, for instance. But when I catch myself thinking of reading something I’m not obligated to read as an item on a checklist, I realize something’s gone seriously wrong. Reading is a privilege that not that long ago in human history — and still in many parts of the world — was not available to most, whether because they could not read, access to reading material was severely curtailed, or because literacy itself was viewed as a threat to those in power (and rightfully so — a little learning may be a dangerous thing, but that can be read in ways other than Pope intended). Reading is a gift, words weapons that can topple empires, tools one can use to ascend to any height, treasures to soothe the soul, comfort the grieving and weary, praise, critique, inspire, formalize, and so on. Reading is a treasure.

Reading is a pleasure, not a task. When I look at the hundreds of books and periodicals around me, I see the only tangible property of mine that I truly value. Reading is not something that has to be done; rather, it’s something I get to do.

It Only Happens Once.

•August 16, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Random question — what was the difference — if there was one — before your timeline “first kiss” and your *first kiss.*? You know what I mean. Temporally, mine was when I was 12, but the one that was everything came… it’d have to be the summer of 2001; I’d have had to be 16, because I was driving this person home not late in the night or anything, and I pulled up to their house, with every intention of just saying “good night,” “see you tomorrow,” or similar pablum.

Instead, this person got out, stood for a second, sat back in the passenger seat (this is the U.S., loves — driver’s side is on the left 😽), closed the door, looked at me and told me “I think I’m in love with you.” I fucked it up royally in the time to come, but for a few seconds, time stopped and the universe existed only at that moment, then, somewhere in northern Illinois between an awkward boy and a precocious person whom he’d loved since he met this person. That moment was something you never forget.

“Stranger Things and Queerness” — A Hot Take

•July 13, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Let’s begin with a massive SPOILER ALERT — do not read further unless you’ve watched at least episode seven of season three of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” More below —

Continue reading ‘“Stranger Things and Queerness” — A Hot Take’

La Isla Bonita (2)

•June 26, 2019 • 1 Comment

I literally used to hide in my closet with headphones clasped tight to my as yet unpierced ears, hoping the dice of the airwaves — when they yet mattered — would roll onto Gina G’s “Ooh, Ahh, Just a Little Bit.” I was eleven — cut me some slack.

That experience was my introduction to a broader world; couched in my bedroom closet, clutching my Walkman, tuning in to what was then a terrifying yet new world, terrifying in its newness and what demands it’d make of a precocious tow-headed fat kid from a dying once-industrial city. Even now, I can’t let go of the place, its empty plants and still warehouses, pretending at its best still to be the non-Chicago hub of mighty manufacturing. That is gone, of course — hi-speed rail connecting Rockford to the shipping lanes of the city, Milwaukee, Madison, Des Moines would make too much economic sense for Springfield.

And so it goes. Rockford dwindles — perhaps rightfully so — and Chicago gains. That’s the 21st c. in nuce — the cities get larger, far beyond their breaking point, and the towns (I write this, despite the fact that Rockford’s MSA is ~330k) just bleed and bleed. I’m not innocent. Part of the reason I chose Dartmouth over Harvard was because I wasn’t ready for “the big city.” Boston is not a “big city” by any metric, yet it seemed so, long before I lived in Berlin. Frankfurt a.M. and eventually Boston itself. For whatever reason — having been educated in the hinterlands, I didn’t know how to comport myself around daughters and sons and cousins of former and future presidents. A field I’d yet to learn how to navigate, unsure if I even could.

La Isla Bonita

•June 12, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I couldn’t have been older than thirteen. Maybe even twelve; old enough to figure out that the thing between my legs had capabilities other than pissing.

I was intensely aware of my body — still am, sorry; I was the fat kid, never quite good enough at playground football (American style). I was deeply in love (still am, in ways) with the girl from the other side of the tracks — the more I learned about her, the more I wanted to know. Teenage romances never work out, and ours didn’t. My fault on that. But the moment I return to in my memory is sitting in the back seat of the Chevrolet Caprice her older sister drove, coming to pick her and me and her best friend (who in turn became one of my best friends) up from Magic Waters — as you may surmise, a waterpark on the outskirts of our city, a Chicago satellite. For some reason, Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” was on the radio — remember when radio had that possibility to alter a universe?

You’d had to have been there.

North Carolina

•May 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I didn’t go there for experience. Definitely not for the weather.

There was a boy and a girl. I was 18 and I wanted them both. I was there to build houses. I cared about building houses; they’d be occupied eventually by people who needed houses. So, under the cruel sun and the humid breath of North Carolina at any time of the year, I hammered, spit nails, longed for the shower at the end of the day. We’d retreat to K.,’s house in the research triangle — spacious, equipped with a fire pit out back, where we’d talk shit with each other.

I mostly kept silent — I didn’t know what to say. I just took it in, the silence, the lightning bugs triggering their brilliance on and off, the moon laughing. I didn’t realize what majesty I’d stumbled into. We watched “Donnie Darko,” and I thought I’d seen the face of gods, but he wasn’t interested. More hammering, more nails (no puns).

Eventually we drove back to New Hampshire, most of us never to see each other again. Yet the moment his eyes met mine with 80s perfect, as only they could be, and everything after… that I can’t rewrite, renarrate. It happened that way, and we both forgot.

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