Saturday, July 04, 2015

The Honeymoon's Over, but Only Literally

Happy Fourth of July, everybody! Maddie and I are celebrating by not-celebrating, continuing the four-day weekend that has followed our wedding and honeymoon business. We aren't out looking for fireworks, but we did put some food back in the fridge and see Inside Out yesterday, and of course we've already retrieved Omi from the PetSmart cat-kennel in East Harlem. They said she was well behaved; she promptly spent most of Thursday night yelling at us from the other side of the bedroom door, then threw up on the living room floor on Friday, so yeah, the cat's back, and we still love her. The New York City weather isn't into full-on summertime oppression yet, so it feels nice that we get to ease back out of the Pacific Northwest atmosphere.

Inside Out is really excellent, by the way, one of the golden-age Pixar movies they're still capable of imagining up, in between the sequels.

To summarize the honeymoon in a single image, you could describe it as one long leisurely walk. We had five and a half days in Vancouver, two and a half in Seattle. Maddie and I have a similar default vacation mode, which is getting to a different, agreeable locality and wandering around it on foot, stopping to browse or eat or drink whenever the mood strikes. Sometimes we opt to wander around a park or a light hiking trail or a museum instead. Usually it's in a gemütlich urban-yuppie neighborhood.

We rented a car once, to drive out to the Harrison Hot Springs resort a couple hours east of  Vancouver for an overnight -- this is somewhat into the scenery, but not fully into the Rockies. Late in the evening and in the morning, felt as calming as promised to hang out in the thermal pools a while. Took a sneaker hike for a couple hours at a nearby provincial park with a well-maintained but not very busy trail going around a lake. We'd skipped the overpriced spa treatments at the resort but got massages back in Vancouver the day after.

In Vancouver, my two favorite wanderings were in our first and last days. First, getting an Aquabus pass and going to the tourist market at Granville Island, then around False Creek, for nice views of Vancouver's identical-looking luxury highrises (they were all built by the same developer, and I'm sure there's a non-seedy story behind that particular property deal) and a worthwhile stop at the Craft beer market, which is in a handsome old saltworks building. Second, catching one of the shuttle buses to the extremely touristed Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver. On arrival you see enough crowds and cheesy faux-rustic touches to threaten disappointment, but walking over the bridge is fun anyway, and the boardwalk paths they've built halfway up into the treetops and along the side of the ravine are memorable and surprisingly quiet. Probably best to go off hours, instead of on a Saturday morning like we did.

We visited the Vancouver Art Gallery early in the week, after a free jazz concert in the neighborhood had turned out to be listed in error. Both of us really enjoyed the exhibition there of Geoffrey Farmer, a Canadian mixed-media artist, creating room-filling sprawls of junk collages or cubist magazine-cutout puppets, often with inscrutable sound designs worked in. I like these museum discoveries that happen to you unplanned.

In Seattle it was more walking, even moreso. On our last day we walked from Belltown up to the pleasant climes of Capitol Hill, then on and on to a Japanese garden in the University of Washington's arboretum park. This was nice, and probably represented "enough walking" to both of us too.

I didn't really take any pictures, but Maddie's got some and she'll probably put them up on Facebook or Instagram soon if she hasn't already.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

This Week in Bowling

Ever since graduating from high school, I've been much less exposed to local news coverage than I was in my first round of formative years, what with getting up early for school and the local news being on in the early evening until giving way to reruns of The Simpsons. But my friend Nick recently shared an article with me that reminded me of everything that can be heartwarming about local news. That's pretty serious. My primary musical alter ego, "Hank 300" (perhaps not coincidentally, creating not long after starting college (that is, not long after graduating from high school)), was so named because of this one time that he bowled a 300 game. But the Brawling Bowler of Brockton puts that to shame. All the chatter about bowling that ensued from the 900 series up in Brockton led to Nick pointing out perhaps an even better thing that exists about bowling. For those of you with Netflix, you can find it there. It's called A League of Ordinary Gentleman, and it's a documentary made in 2004 as it looks like a promotional gambit to capture the excitement of the rebirth of the Professional Bowling Association (PBA), in the wake of it's losing relevancy in 1997 and the devastating lampooning of bowling culture that happened in the (now a cult classic) movie Kingpin. It's deadly self-serious and comically misguided in trying to craft a human interest story about the dorky and/or assholish middle-aged white men behind the supposed resurgence of the PBA. I have a memory of going to see Kingpin with my mother and older brothers. I don't know if I have constructed this aspect after the fact, but I seem to recall thinking it was hilarious when the other three of them weren't so keen on it. I've watched it many times since. I was just looking for a video clip of it online, but it suprisingly wasn't available, but Kingpin contains my very favorite groin hit in any movie. Woody Harrelson's character, Roy Munson, gets hit in the groin by one of the bad guys. When Roy keels over from it, he hits the bad guy's henchman in the groin, and then the henchman, as he keels over, hits the bad guy in the groin. It's amazing. One time, in Austin, Texas, I went to go see a vapid neighbor act in a very shitty locally-produced play at a local independent playhouse. Afterwards, we were milling around with a bunch of other neighbors, who were milling around in the playhouse's bar, praising the vapid actress-neighbor for doing such a great job in such an incredible production. Kingpin was playing on the TVs in the bar (with the sound off), which was not helping my ability to be a good neighbor and participate in the social charade. Then, even worse, the groin hit scene came on, and I accidentally laughed out loud at it. That's how funny it is (and what a shitty socializer I am, I guess). So anyway, this documentary got made to try and help these guys get their mojo back, and even though it's never as laugh-out-loud funny as Kingpin, it's surprisingly engaging to watch and just wonder about the fact that it exists as you're watching it. One thumb and two fingers up!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Quick, Before It's Not January Anymore!

I think this was a pretty solid month of blogging. I think Jack could have contributed more, especially with the snow days and all, but, as a pace-of-posting for a still relatively recently un-dead blog, really not too shabby. I remember talking to a member of our let's call it "inner circle" of brotherly acquaintances, in a conversation during which I was being my usual self-deprecating self, but she was, like, "you know, you guys are actually pretty funny," and I was like, "well, maybe..." And then I proceeded to post mostly intermittent posts about obscure sub-genres of music that mostly involves strumming electric guitars really fast and drumming as fast as you can and screaming. Riproariously funnny. Fuck yeah! I've got this weird innate competitiveness about me, which probably comes from being in a family that generally downplayed all non-word-game competitiveness. It leads, most often, to caring about things that really aren't--at least intellectually--worth caring about. So I am a rather predisposed, not only to analogy making, but also to ranking things. Which is me slowly beating around the bush in order to say: I think Nate is the funniest of the four of us. And he hasn't, like, posted at all since I breathed life back into this stumbling e-golem of a blog. WTF, Nate?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Black Metal Du Jour

I've never really cared about liking music that other people like, or would even want to like (that's not entirely true; I definitely had a last-gasping phase of trying to fit in with the other kids in senior high school, and owned, if never truly managing to like listening to, albums by Dave Matthews Band and Rusted Root (and let's never, ever, talk about Billy Joel)), and in fact often get accused of liking some music precisely (precisely) because it is hard to listen to and objectionable to most people.

That last sentiment (the one of the accusers above) is stupid. Meanwhile, I was reflecting to myself that once I (finally) got the blogging about them out of my system, both Liturgy and Deafheaven have kind of fallen off of my week-to-week playlist. They've been replaced, as it turns out, by more metal. More bands that I'm going to post videos of here, even though I can barely pretend that any of the scant readership that this blog has regained wants to hear it at all. Let's hear it for...


and Winterfylleth!

It helps to have a sense of humor about blast beat drumming. It really kinds of cracks me up, in a very I-am-entertained kind of way. Also, and I realize this doesn't help my (self-stoked) perception as a person who likes music that other people don't like, but it's pretty awesome to notice that the "views" counts for these bands is smaller than the previous posts' acts by at least an order of magnitude.

If you're wondering where the loss of audience comes from, I propose that it's the shift from the "post-black-metal" of Liturgy and Deafheaven to the "progressive black metal" of Cormorant and Winterfylleth. Remember that aging fat dude in sweatpants snatching up all the Jethro Tull coming in to the used record store every week? It's like that.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fuck You Bees, Have a Bad Day

Speaking of number numbness, and obliquely recognizing the stuff that I [redacted] these days, and even admitting that in my old age I occasionally listen to (non-Car Talk) NPR (please don't tell anyone), you should listen to this.

Maybe you already have. Also speaking of how it's really kind of consternating to be anything of a "leftist," or God forbid a "Marxist," these days [redacted] what with aesthetic value being just as contingent as use value [redacted]

[redacted] neoliberal [redacted]

Well, let's keep things oblique and say that I'd be curious to hear what you think about the above-linked story.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saturday Gamelan in Queens

My friend Stu and I were planning to meet up this week, and we ended up going to a gamelan workshop on Saturday afternoon. See, at Queens College, about 40 minutes east of me by public transit, there is a gamelan—an Indonesian percussion ensemble consisting of about 15 metallophones and gongs—and a community ensemble uses the instruments. (Most of the ensemble members are Brooklyn thirtysomethings.) One of my B&H ex-coworkers is in this ensemble, and she'd posted something about the workshop on Facebook.

So this is how I'm using social media this week: I signed up for a gamelan workshop because of Facebook, and now I'm blogging about it!

To play in a gamelan, you sit cross-legged on a cushion in front of a metallophone with a little wooden hammer in your hand. The music isn't notated, and it moves in cycles: you learn a particular note pattern, which interlocks into the musical texture, and you play it over and over again.

The hard part is that you have to damp every key after you strike it with the hammer, or else it rings for a long time. To damp the key, you just pinch the end of it with your non-hammer hand. So, imagine that on each beat you strike a metallophone key with your little wooden hammer, and then on the following beat you damp that same key with your other hand, while at the same time you're striking another key with the hammer. Basically, your non-hammer hand follows your hammer hand around the metallophone, always one beat behind. The gamelan's director said that, after a few hours, this becomes so natural you don't have to think about it. In the 90 minutes we had, I experienced a couple of fleeting minutes of this, but usually I was pretty hapless about it.

Aside from that kinesthetic caveat, it's a fun, absorbing thing to do, and I recommend it if you ever have a chance. Gamelans are remarkable, and there's not much else in the world that sounds like them.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

No One Said This Would Be on the Test

I have mixed feelings about the comment-screening tool Blogger uses in its comments now. Maybe some people feel that the statements "Please prove you're not a robot" and "I'm not a robot" are cute. I think it's just a little too uncanny. I mean, yeah, right now they're accepting your answer as long as you can visually identify some house numbers, but it only gets harder from here, people.

Also, my internal monologue goes something like "please prove you're not a robot" in enough of my social interactions that the query hits a little too close to home.

Other acceptable responses include:
--"I am emotionally invested in arbitrary sporting event outcomes"
--"I enjoy organic food inputs"
--"I experience fear"

Further First-Week-Back-at-Work Reading

I will continue in the spirit of back-to-work-ishness that Henry just cited, and recommend a short article by the leftist sociologist Peter Frase. A few paragraphs in, he starts a very sharp dissection of wage labor and the work ethic, which seems to be a frequent topic of his, based on his website.

I don't typically go in for Marxist critiques, but I think it's thought-provoking. Food for thought! Haven't really gotten my arms around it yet. Anyway, yayyy, wage labor.

Partially, I think my brain may be reacting to 30 months of exposure to the same Econ 101 textbook at work by rejecting the market economy as an intellectual concept.

In another facet of back-to-work-ishness, I am curious to read this book that Nate recommended to me today, which is about non-Rubik's cubes. Bonus tip: one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons.