Back when I was a boy scout (in the age before the oughts), the scoutmaster - my father - used to volunteer the troop's services at the local large-item/recycling dropoff point (conveniently located in the parking lot shared by the first aid squad, Dept. of Public Works, and the forklift-jousting field erected by the men of the Dept. of Public Works). There, the townspeople would drive up in their Range Rovers and Ford Planeteater (tm) SUV's with junk that they wished to recycle. Occasionally, as cited by Pops in his weekly guided meditation (used by those who cannot grasp Kierkegaard's tantric-like inspirirational qualities), people would ask us questions, which I would, of course, use as an opportunity to misdirect.
("Sure, you've got about three feet of space [until the twenty foot drop between the road and the surface where dumpsters were located]; keeeep backing up....")
("Absolutely, benzene and lighter fluid should be deposited in the dumpster marked 'mixed paper.'")
In between saving people from my attempts at making art through public disservice, my father, the scoutmaster, scanned the large-item drop off items for, as he put it, "the good stuff."
"We could use this refrigerator. It just needs a little work," he would say with glee.
"It has no door," I would answer.
"We can build a door for it. Or use it as an air conditioner."
"Don't we have a fridge already?"
"Well, what about this television?"
"Dad, I think televisions usually come with cathode ray tubes." [For those of you joining us from the modern age, this was back when there were two types of television: color and black & white. Black & white was the passenger pidgeon of the day.]
About once a month, we'd come home with .... something. A couch. A six-foot wide cabinet turntable, complete with thirty year old Tito Puente records. My brother. One would think that, at this point, my mother would have gone postal on my father. She didn't want this sort of, well, junk in the house (particularly the destructive force of Tito Puente). Instead, I was the one that took the potato masher to the gut.
"How can you let him take that couch home? There's a bloodstain on it!"
"You try arguing with a judge who is set on an eighty year old piece of fabric, mold and foam cushioning," I responded. I didn't tell her that my father promised that I could go to the nearby Barnes & Noble if I helped him lift the couch into his battered white van.
I'm happy to see that the Carnival of New Jersey bloggers is being reported on in the New York Times. Suzette, Prop, Barista, and others have some cool stuff worth noticing (of course, noticing Barista only serves to expand the Bloomfield empire.... something I find frightening). Incidentally, Prop was already famous:
The Glorious Leader is a man of the people. (C) Fiends of Prop 2008, Inc. (no matter what Pops says....)
Why wasn't I in the article? I was at the bar, of course.
Sorry. I got distracted by IMDB. I just went from Clancy Brown to Billy Drago. Man, that site rocks.
Anyway, Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers does have the unofficial history of Action Park, where I think nearly every New Jersey resident has "almost, I swear to God, died...." My fifteen minutes of near death came on one of the cliff diving-themed rides where some seventeen-year-old dip**** jumped immediately after me, landing on my friggin' head. So go check it out.
Yeah, yeah. The brain is off. I have a Picture Envy that I've been working on for days now that is just eating my brain. Sorry. Complete lie. Work is eating my brain. Here's a Lileks-approved meme. Memes are like the blog version of the clip show. Here's my "remember when the writers guild wasn't on strike" moment:
Total Size of Music Files on PC: 18.04 GB. (238 hours, 28 minutes, 8 seconds)
And it's all Burt Bacharach. (Okay, I do have two albums by Bacharach on here. I've no shame in that. The shame, as you'll see, comes later.)
Last CD Purchased: I bought a bunch. I claimed, when I was given XM Radio for my birthday, that I wouldn't buy many CD's, but this is clearly not the case. All XM Radio has done is refined my music purchases.
Hans Zimmer, Gladiator - I really have a thing for Lisa Gerrard's voice, and this album, along with the soundtrack for Black Hawk Down (probably my favorite soundtrack) really showcases her voice.
Craig Gordon, Layer Cake - Another soundtrack, this one to a poorly-hyped, excellent little British crime drama. More Lisa Gerrard, plus The Cult's She Sells Sanctuary, Starsailor's Four on the Floor, and XTC's Making Plans for Nigel.
David Bowie, Hunky Dory - It has Is There Life on Mars? on it, which is just a kick-a** seventies pre-glam piece.
Peter Gabriel, The Long Walk Home: Music from The Rabbit-Proof Fence - which became a lot of the instrumentation to his underrated album Up.
Mary Gaulthier, Mercy Now - A great roots rock sound, akin to Lucinda Williams' Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
Clem Snide, End of Love - I get such a kick out of the voice of this band's lead singer. Somewhere in between country and Jonathan Richman (although not so twee). Joan Jett of Arc remains one of my favorite funny songs.
They Might Be Giants, Dial-A-Song: 20 Years of They Might Be Giants - Okay, this is pure nostalgia. This is me at fourteen riding my mountain bike to the local fields to hit baseballs or at seventeen driving out to The Inkwell, the dilapidated all-night coffee house to have bad coffee and fries with friends.
Five Songs That I Listen To A Lot or That Mean A Lot To Me
Bruce Springsteen, Dry Lightning - I don't live on the Plains in a white farmhouse with a bad screen door but that song feels like a vision into the home I've created in my mind.
Thomas Newman, The Shawshank Redemption, So Was Red/End Theme - This is really two separate tracks on the album, but they flow into each other perfectly. The songs are the ones used in the scenes in Shawshank that begin when Red (Morgan Freeman) is parolled and end with him reuniting with Andy (Tim Robbins) in Mexico. Lilting strings and piano arpeggios (yes, politician, I said arpeggios) that evoke Britten before the crashing wave of a crescendo that I used to listen to before every exam in law school. It helped keep me inspired. Nowadays, it's just wistful warmth.
Whiskeytown, Factory Girl - Recently, someoneasked if I was having a bad day because I was thinking of old relationships, and my best answer to that question is "not really." I manage to drag myself into ruminations like that on many an occasion. This song, without any effort, makes me think of someone I chased after for about a year to no avail. We all do dumb things. It's just that I like to torture myself with it afterwards. Here. You can play along:
So, the factory girl she listens For the sound of her daddy’s engine Till the work bell sounds and she leaves town
Oh, the summer’s here are hot All she seems to do is work and sleep And wish that she was still with you
Now you don’t know where she is Lying in her mother’s bed Or who she’s sleeping with.
Oh, the kids will laugh at her Cause she seems so sweet and pure Oh, I took this shift because of her.
Oh, I’ve never said a word I once smiled and looked at her Till the shift-boss said ’get back to work.’
Chorus: Now you don’t know where she is Or who’s bed she’s sleepin’ in Or what man she’s sleeping with
Gillian Welch, I Dream a Highway - This is a fourteen minute long song by the utterly fantastic folk/rock/country singer who did many of the vocals for Oh Brother Where Art Thou?. I usually find myself listening to it on a Friday after a long week of work, sitting in my bedroom with a cool beer. It's a good song to just let wash over you as you decompress.
Sun Kil Moon, Carry Me Ohio - this is the only one I'll link to, because this is the one you need to purchase. Now. Amazing, underrated, underplayed stuff, the album - Ghosts of the Great Highway - is perfect driving music, especially on stormy summer nights. This song and the first, Glenn Tipton, are probably the most powerful on the album. Both deal with nostalgia, although Glenn Tipton has a sinister revelation at the end. Carry Me Ohio's lyrics aren't published, but are pretty easy to make out, and deal with a man driving while thinking about the wife/lover that he left. (Yeah, I know. There's a theme going on here, but it's unintentional. It just seems that heartbreak-oriented songs are better written than songs about, say, puppies. That doesn't mean I'm an incredible sulk or anything. Particularly not if you give me a puppy. Preferably a schnauzer or bulldog.) Plus, for some reason, the guitar riffs in this song remind me of late-seventies/early-eighties "sincere" rock. You know, like Kansas and Blue Oyster Cult.
This should be the theme song to my relationship with nearly every woman in my life:
Colin Hay, Just Won't Get Over You, from Man at Work (2003), and Garden State: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2004).
I drink good coffee every morning
Comes from a place that's far away
And when I'm done I feel like talking
Without you here there is less to say
I don't want you thinking I'm unhappy
What is closer to the truth
That if I lived till I was 102
I just don't think I'll ever get over you
I'm no longer moved to drink strong whisky
'Cause I shook the hand of time and I knew
That if I lived till I could no longer climb my stairs
I just don't think I'll ever get over you
Your face it dances and it haunts me
Your laughter's still ringing in my ears
I still find pieces of your presence here
Even after all these years
But I don't want you thinking I don't get asked to dinner
'Cause I'm here to say that I sometimes do
Even though I may soon feel the touch of love
I just don't think I'll ever get over you
If I lived till I was 102
I just don't think I'll ever get over you
It may be a joke, but this is still in bad taste. One of the things I've enjoyed about the photoblogging community is that it's cordial and affiable, unlike the screaming maws that occupy the world of political blogging. I hate the notion that the quality of discourse is devolving.
Apropos of nothing, here's an eye-in-the-sky view of my new home:
Can you see me waving?
I took a three-block walk down to the river last night. It was wonderful. Another block takes me to one of my three favorite local bars. A block less takes me to a great little music store, Jack's, where Springsteen usually unveils his new albums.
On two occasions, once in 1993 and then again in 1997, I had the honor (and the luck) to meet with Pope John Paul II. I was in high school at the time of our first encounter. I was on a class trip to Vatican City and Rome (my high school was run by the Christian Brothers of De La Salle Hall, an order founded by St. Jean Baptiste de la Salle, in France), and wanted to go to confession. It was during Lent, and I was still a practicing Catholic. I walked to St. Peter's Basilica in the cool of Rome's early morning air. I felt like a small child again, amidst the massive columns of the Church, and made my way toward one of the many confessionals on the left-hand side of the altar. It was with great surprise, as I waited in the long line, that I watched as the Pope left the confessional. That was his point, and, more importantly, his practice: even the living symbol of the Roman Catholic Church acknowledged his humanity, and, in doing so, his capacity to do wrong.
In 1997, I was a singer with a classical group from Boston College. While we were but a college chorus, we had already recorded two albums, and had performed with a number of decently famous performers - John Williams, the Boston Pops, Keith Lockhart, Seiji Ozawa, James Galway, Derek Bell, etc. - and had been invited to sing Gregorian chant, the traditional long form Latin sung masses that predated the modern Vernacular masses, at the Vatican. We performed a number of shows in Italy - two in Venice, one in Rome, at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius de Loyola, a Saint I find incredibly inspirational despite my currently wandering state - before appearing at the Holy See.
Transfixed is an accurate description of how song moved me that day. The Basilica of St. Peter is enormous, and to hear one's voice transformed by the many channels of air created by the dome and many naves is to hear sound made sublime. Further, to be able to sing music that crosses a millenia before rolling from my throat is to be given a gift. I only had it temporarily, as I could not continue singing after college, but it was a wonderful, wonderful gift.
After mass, we were allowed to retreat to a private reception hall with Pope John Paul II, where we performed Vivaldi's Gloria and a short piece by Camille Saint-Saens that had become our theme song of sorts, Tollite Hostias. It's a short, exceptionally joyous piece that Saint-Saens used to end his Christmas Oratorio. It is as vibrant as the ripest berry. After singing that for the Pope, I could not hide the pleasure of just simply being. I was just happy to be there. And thus, when the Pope came to greet me as he had the other singers, I couldn't resist using my pidgen ancestral Polish to greet him. "Dzien dobry, Papa."
He chuckled, as I had used the Polish equivalent of the all-too-informal "Howdy, Padre!" in a formal greeting. A school newspaper later displayed the photo of the Pope jokingly smacking my cheek. He leaned in and whispered, "thank you, boy." His voice was gruff - a product of his accent - but definitely amused.
I guess maybe my lapse was welcome; he was spoken to as a person not a figurehead. The thing I admired most about Pope John Paul II was that he was far more a person than a figurehead. An open and aggressive fighter against what the Soviets had done to his people. An avid and graceful skiier, until his health denied him this pleasure. I read somewhere, once, that he admired the poetry of Ranier Maria Rilke, which is earthy, human stuff.
This was the man that invited college kids and Bob Dylan to the heart of the Church.
This was the man that picked a fight with President Clinton.
This was one of the men that won the fight with Soviet Socialism.
A great and long legacy, Pope John Paul II followed the meaning of Tollite Hostias: he brought costly offerings and praise for the Lord. He offered himself.
Pops was kind enough to offer up a prayer of good intentions for Flounder, the prodigal fish of the family, and therefore I think it's only fair that I return the favor by doing perhaps the only internet quiz meme I've done in years. I don't do the internet quizzes because I think they're banal. I don't do them because I know I'm banal.
So here we go. Five questions. Let's get this right, or God's gonna kill a kitten.
1.You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be?
Pops is right. No one in their right mind would pick anything Russian or Moby Dick; there' s only so much brain space up there. I suppose I could cheat and pick The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Observations, as it's short and, well, Prufrock is relatively easy to memorize, or I could pick the Federal Rules of Evidence, which I was forced to memorize in Law School. No, no, not me. I wouldn't want to do that. Who wants to hear, Fahrenheit 451-land, that you have the hearsay exceptions on your mind? And who could recount that and be considered probative?
Perhaps, I could memorize Fahrenheit 451 itself. Wouldn't that make me a living example of meta-narrative? People would eventually be forced to memorize neo-Foucaultian texts analyzing my subjectivity in recollection of Guy Montag's subjectivity in recalling the (Biblical) Book of Ecclesiastes (wasn't it A Tale of Two Cities in Trouffaut's film?).
Ahem. Okay, we're not going to do that, either. No one sane sticks mirrors in front of mirrors.
I would love to pick Camus' The Fall. I first read that book in Eighth Grade. It was that first book in my life where a little pop could be heard coming from my brain as I exclaimed "My lord! The word is power!"
I sometimes think of what future historians will say of us. A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers. After that vigorous definition, the subject will be, if I may say so, exhausted.
Albert Camus, The Fall, at 7 (1956).
And, of course, what does this troublesome narrator do for a living? What did I grasp at when, at 13, I was so moved by Camus' condemnation of immorality, told from the point of view of one of the more critical figures of human mythology (I won't reveal whom, but if you haven't read this -- shame on you!)?
Here is our gin at last. To your prosperity. Yes, the ape [the bartender, described as a buffoon, really, in the original French] opened his mouth to call me doctor. In these countries everyone is a doctor, or a professor. They like showing respect, out of kindness and out of modesty. Among them, at least, spitefulness is not a national institution. Besides, I am not a doctor. If you want to know, I was a lawyer before coming here. Now, I am a judge-penitent.
Ibid., at 8.
It rang in my head like a bell, and never was a chilling evil more well-spoken, more honey-like in his delivery. For all the talk of existentialists being amoral, Camus wrote, essentially, morality plays.
2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Probably every good female protagonist since Bathsheeba, but more particularly, I was quite taken with Chabon's Hannah Green, from Wonder Boys. Of course, it didn't hurt that, in the film, she was played by Katie Holmes.
Sorry. I'm going to need a minute.
3. The last book you bought is:
Pops recommends A.J. Leibling, who has been on my Amazon wish list for a while. My Amazon wish list, by the way, is now a sixteen-page-long monstrosity that, if given to the proper psychiatrist or FBI profiler would probably indicate that I may one day be given to muderous rampages in the Balkans after a career in architecture (i.e., I read too much about the Balkan and Middle Eastern conflicts and I love books on modern architecture and urban planning).
Um... anyway... not sure where I was going with that one. Oh yes, my most recent book purchases.
On Friday, I attended - and was nearly kicked out of (and I maintain, if you're going to allow me to buy a bottle of water, I should be allowed to drink it while I listen to the reading; I should have roughed up that usher...) - a reading by David Sedaris. He was pleasant and incredibly funny, albeit a touch "superior" to his fans. After the performance, I purchased for a friend an autographed copy of Sedaris' latest anthology, Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules, and Me Talk Pretty One Day for Myself.
And yes, I did confront Mr. Sedaris regarding the water bottle incident. I left him troubled and somewhat bemused.
That's two famous people that now know I can't act appropriately in public.
4. What are you currently reading?
I just finished The Best American Travel Writing of 2004 (which ends on a decidedly Anti-American tone, with three somewhat unfair pieces on Afghanistan), and am in the midst of The Best American Short Stories of 2004. So far, I've not found the stand-out story in this collection (unlike last year, when The Shell Collector was like a magnesium flare amidst so many "soft white" light bulbs, no, that's not fair, there were other great works in there - Louise Erdrich's Shamengwa and Kevin Brockmeier's Space, which I just googled and discovered that I've written about before just 10 months ago.
How sad is that. I completely forgot that I wrote that piece. Oh well. I've written over 500 blog entries. I can forget a few here and there.
On the topic of short stories - before I move along - you must read Junot Diaz' Drown. He's like the Scorsese/Schrader of short fiction. And, well, he's definitely got a lot about New Jersey life down.
5. Five books you would take to a deserted island:
First, let's reflect on Pop's response to this.
whole desert island thing I have long thought is one of the stupidest
things anybody could ask. If you were on a desert island you'd be far
better off thinking "Damn I gotta find some potable water!" not "Gee,
where did I put those books?"
The five things you'd take to a desert island traces its history back to a BBC radio program, er, programme where legend has it Otto Preminger, having failed to be briefed on the premise, called his interviewer an idiot and stormed out.
Ah, Winston Churchill would be proud. I'll have to raise a glass (of this, of course) to Mayor Goodman.
Nonetheless, here's my five:
I read a passage from one book every single day. I have it inscribed on the first page of every Moleskine I use, and will print it below. The passage is from Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings (my version is Tuttle 1998, but the Amazon link goes to a Shambhala Press edition), and is edited by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki. I am not a religious man, but this book is as close as I get to religious practice.
Since I'm allegedly stuck on a desert island, and since I learned more about wilderness survival, first aid, camping, and even just getting along with people, from my time in the Boy Scouts than from any other source (even more than the SOLO First Aid Program and NOLS Programs I took to become a Park Ranger), I would want the Official Boy Scout Handbook (the link goes to a scouting supply site, but not directly to the Handbook, so you'll have to search for the Official Boy Scout Handbook, 11th Edition). I might as well last more than two days on the island.
While J.M. Coetzee's Foe would be an amusing choice, I don't think I would want something quite that immediate with me. Instead, I'd want something with a touch more hope in it. I think Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent is a good choice. There's nothing more hopeful than redemption.
I couldn't bear to be without short fiction. I love short stories. They keep me going. So, I would need Where I'm Calling From, by Raymond Carver. No one ever wrote dialogue better.
Finally, I would need something to keep me laughing. Richard Russo's Straight Man would be my choice for that. Russo's main character, a suffering smart ass of a professor and father, is so humane in his mirth that one forgives his threat to murder a fowl. A duck, to be exact.
Okay, this is a long one. Still, we've got Picture Envy coming up. As I stated above, Pope John Paul II loved the outdoors and did a lot to support environmentalism. He tied it to theology, in truth. In the Book of Genesis, it was said that order was created of chaos when God moved over the face of the waters. It's a beautiful, lyrical notion. Here's some examples of the beauty of the world created from that chaos.
No Traces, B Side (Dec. 14, 2004). God moves over the face of the water, indeed. Here's another excellent long exposure from No Traces. The tone of light changes so beautifully when night shots are exposed for great periods. I will shortly be moving closer to the river, and I look forward to taking a few night shots as well. Orbit 1, Untitled (circa Summer 2004). More than the sea, fields - the cultivated bounty of nature - has always seemed tied to the divine. I suppose, to those that believe, it's the greatest symbol of divine love: that nature itself can be cultivated to support us. Houser Design Photos, Duck in Repose (Dec. 15, 2004). I think it's fitting to close with this non-landscape; if we talk about the land and the sea with respect to religion, it's worth also talking about the fauna with which many religious texts charged us with stewarding. I love the simplicity - the lack of visual clutter - that marks this well-detailed photo of a duck.
So, that's all there is for this week's Picture Envy. A lot, and little related to pictures, but it's been a week where the world has turned more than I could predict.
In New Jersey, during the early history of American law, as in many states, books of cases - what lawyers call reporters - were named after the scribe (the Reporter of Decisions) that edited, formatted, and recorded the decisions of the courts. Thus, the reporter for the United States Supreme Court was called Dallas, after Alexander J. Dallas, from 1790 to 1800, from 1801 to 1815, the reporter was named Cranch, after Reporter of Decisions William Cranch, from 1816 to 1827, it was called Wheat. after Reporter of Decisions Henry Wheaton, and so forth until 1874, when the reports were published under the following three titles: The United States Reports (abbreviated as [vol] U.S. [page]), the Supreme Court Reports (abbreviated as [vol.] S.Ct. [page]), and the Law Edition Reporter (abbreviated as [vol] L.Ed. [page]).
Similarly, New Jersey case law was, for a time, named after the Reporter of Decisions for the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey. Peter D. Vroom, Esq., D-NJ (a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1839 to 1841), was a prominent Trenton attorney that served in the 26th Congress of the United States (we're up to the 109th Congress, just for perspective). After he lost reelection, he returned to his legal practice in what was then the rather bucolic city of Trenton. He must have had quite a following. In 1853, he was nominated to take up the mantle as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, but he declined the nomination. Instead, he served as Minister to Prussia from 1853 to 1857. Again, after his service ended, he returned to Trenton. In 1862, Vroom began his decade of scholarly service as the recorder of decisions for the Supreme Court of the State of New Jersey. Until 1872, that was what Vroom did: wrote the law. I find that interesting, as if Vroom chose to be like the butler in Remains of the Day. He was happy to write the law, but he did not accept the nomination to make the law.
A uniform national reporter system was not developed until 1887 (after 100 years of case law), when the West Publishing Company, which is still one of the two dominant legal publishing companies, developed the Northeast Reporter. See Syracuse University, Introduction to Judicial Information, Judicial Case Law.