Had we but world enough, and time…

I knew guys in college who, I think it’s fair to say, worshipped at the altar of Lou Reed.

The truth is, I don’t own a Lou Reed album. Not Songs for Drella, not Transformer, not New York, not Metal Machine Music or Berlin. None of them. And while I own all the Velvet Underground albums, I don’t pretend to be all that intimately familiar with them.

Still, I know so many people I am personally devoted to—that I love and admire, whose music is burned into my soul—were among those mythical thousands who started bands after hearing The Velvet Underground & Nico.

And there are songs from the Velvet Underground that I love, that will be with me until I die. Some are the obvious ones, perhaps—”Sweet Jane”, “Rock and Roll”, “Beginning to See the Light”. but I owe him for providing the platform for Sterling Morrison’s wildly abandoned and intensely beautiful guitar break in What Goes On, a recorded moment that brings me to the verge of tears every time I hear it. And if only I could erase Nico’s singing, the cacophanous swirl of “All Tomorrow’s Parties” makes me want to drown in it.

So I owe him that.

Roger Ebert is dead, alas

I was sad, if not entirely surprised, to hear that Roger Ebert had died.

I don’t have—and I don’t think I will ever have—the relationship with movies that he had; while I find movies entertaining, I also own a T-shirt that sums up my feelings startlingly well: “The book was better.”

Roger Ebert bridged the gap for me. I enjoyed reading his reviews and essays enourmously. He made me want to be a better, more informed, member of the audience.

I have seen only a few of the movies discussed in his last Great Movies book, but enjoyed reading about such exotica as El Topo or Winter Light; movies that I will probably never see—frankly, have no intention of seeing—and yet were painted for me in a beautiful form that I could find appreciation for.

Seeing something through the eyes of someone so steeped in something, so passionate about its meaning and devoted to the expressive possibilities, is a powerful thing. To lose someone with that capacity to lay bare the depth and breadth of a subject, while still loving the magic and beauty of it,leaves us diminished.

If you haven’t read his memoir, Life Itself, you should.

I just watched Seeking a Friend for the End of the World last night, and I looked up his review of the movie. The last paragraph seems painfully apt:
The best parts of this sweet film involve the middle stretches, when time, however limited, reaches ahead, and the characters do what they can to prevail in the face of calamity. How can I complain that they don’t entirely succeed? Isn’t the dilemma of the plot the essential dilemma of life?

Stanley Fish’s Life Report

I understand Stanley Fish is a controversial character. I don’t rightly know why–I gather something about academic politics and maybe being on the wrong side of people who like to call other people fascists or something–and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t concern me.

What I do know is that I find “this essay he wrote about the things, in retrospect, he wishes he had placed more importance upon during his life”:http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/31/my-life-report/ to be compelling stuff.

It’s hardly coincidence…

that as my grandfather was dying, I was probably talking about him–my dad had mentioned that he stopped eating at the beginning of the week, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know it would be soon.

Still, for class yesterday, I had had a notion to talk about something else, and gotten it all planned out in my head, and when I sat down that all pretty much went out the window, and I really ended up talking about my relationship with my grandfather.

Well, not directly, because that would have been boring as shit for everyone in the room–but as I talked about the way that we each have the opportunity to form the narrative of our own lives, I was thinking about all the choices I’ve made, and I’ve seen how a lot of the ones I’ve made recently–the more conscious, considered ones–have been made out of a desire to be warmer and more open and more fluid, none of which are what are attributes immediately called to mind when I think of my grandfather.

Which is not to suggest that I don’t love him, but I was always intimidated by his presence when I was younger, and by the time I was old enough that I could have gotten past that, well, it was too late.

I do envy my sister’s kids a little, though–they are all having a great opportunity to have close, long-standing relationships with their grandparents, and I think they will value that immensely as they grow older.

I might have read a copy of Starlog a quarter of a century ago…

but certainly not in recent memory.

The news that it’s ceasing print publication and trying to make it as a web-only publication really doesn’t impact me at all. But “Mark Evanier”:http://newsfromme.com/ linked to “a post from Lee Goldberg”:http://leegoldberg.typepad.com/a_writers_life/2009/04/starlog-goes-under.html about the magazine that includes an amusing anecdote about covering the premeire of “The Living Daylights” while writing for the magazine:

bq.. All the journalists were invited by the studio to the premiere, which Prince Charles and Lady Diana were attending as well. We had to wear tuxedos and were driven to the event in limos. There were huge crowds being held back behind barracades in front of the Odeon Theatre as we pulled up. I got out of the limo just as a short young lady was emerging from the limo in front of me, so we walked in together. People were going nuts, taking pictures of us and waving. I leaned over and whispered to her: “Makes you wish you were famous, doesn’t it?”

She laughed, patted my arm, and we parted in the lobby. Almost immediately I was swarmed by my fellow reporters. One of them asked “Do you know who you were walking with?”

I had no idea. I figured she was another reporter. He told me it was Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. I still had no idea who she was. So either she thought my remark was clever or that I was a complete dolt for not knowing who she was. But I like to think that somewhere out there is a photo from that event with a caption like “Chrissie Hynde with unidentified lover.”

p. Can’t beat that.

Are You Somebody?

Nuala O'Faolain's Are You Somebody

When she died earlier this year, “Fresh Air”:http://npr.org/freshair/ rebroadcast an interview they had done several years earlier with Nuala O’Faolain. I caught part of it on the way home from, if I remember correctly, a yoga class.

I think the thing that struck me most about the interview was about how she spoke about the problem of finding a meaning and a center to your life if you reject the things that traditionally define women’s lives–marriage and children. Effectively, she said, you have to go it alone, figuring out the meaning for yourself, because the answer is going to be different for everyone.

So, before we went to the beach, I picked up a copy. It made it to the top of the stack several days ago, and I just finished it last week.

It’s not really beach reading.

It is beautiful and evocative and bleak and blasted. I fear that she never did really figure out how to define herself. Her entire life, as she tells it, seems to be a fight between the recapitulation of her mother’s unhappy life and the knowledge that that path wouldn’t make her happy. But she never seems to find a path that does, or that would at least start down the road to happiness.

I guess the most interesting thing to me was that she eschews the status of victim–she knows she’s confused about what her own priorities are and what would make her happy, and although she sees the roots of it in her early family life and the cultural milieu in which she grew up, she doesn’t assume that it is beyond her control to change…even though, end the end, it seems it may have been.

Considering Warren Ellis’ “The Guts Of Dr Horrible”

I don’t know why I’m surprised when Warren Ellis drags out his critical skills. I suppose it’s because his default mode is so often dismissive.

Still, while we do get the admission that “Musical comedy makes [his] balls itch”, he’s more than willing “to take on”:http://www.warrenellis.com/?p=6206 “Dr. Horrible”:http://drhorrible.com/ on its own terms and makes an interesting point about how hubris often derails inexperienced creators: Everyone wants to write some epic-length piece with tons of Deeper Meaning, and forgets that–to take a recent successful example–the first _Harry Potter_ book was short and self-contained.

So “release early, release often”:http://www.catb.org/~esr/writings/cathedral-bazaar/cathedral-bazaar/ar01s04.html can also be a mantra for creators of content, not just software.

Everyone’s a building, burning…

“The Guardian”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/ has a gallery of “portraits of people immediately before and immediately after death”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/gallery/2008/mar/31/lifebeforedeath.

The sense of repose in the after pictures is wonderful. The varied expressions of life in the before pictures are beautiful. It’s 11 pairs of photos; it might be a lot to go through in one sitting, but you need to look.

It makes me a little sad that in their statements accompanying so many of the people–all of whom, I believe, were suffering from terminal illnesses–felt cheated.

There have been times in my life–and will be again, I’ve no doubt–where I’ve been unhappy, or disengaged, but there’s no way I could ever feel cheated.

Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

North Carolina really does feel like home

I honestly don’t know that there’s every been a time when I sat in a room with, at a guess, 80 people and knew most of them. Maybe 16 years ago when I was VP at Mallet, if absolutely everyone I knew came to a party I could have managed it. But only maybe.

I spent most of the weekend at a yoga workshop, with 80 or so people in the room, and you could count the number of people whose names I didn’t know without taking your shoes off. And I could rattle off the names of ten or twenty other people I know who are part of the kula but weren’t there.

And when we broke for lunch on Saturday, someone else in the kula was actually working at the place several of us ended up eating. And after the last session this morning, a group of us went for lunch and we actually ran into one of my students.

Maybe for some people, this sort of thing wouldn’t be cause for comment. For me, it’s kind of startling.

Growing up while my dad was in in the Air Force was a wonderful experience in so many way that I can’t list them all, but I fear it inculcated in me an expectation of transience–I got used to not having any roots, of not knowing a lot of people, of not being a member of a community. In some ways, it habituated me to not value and work at preserving and strengthening the connections I have to people–I think this is why I am rarely the person who initiates communications with old friends.

It’s almost certainly why I keep in closer communication with Chet than anyone else from the old days–it’s not just that he happens to be on IM all the time and so forth, it’s the fact that dammit, he calls even though I never do.

For which I am eternally grateful.

But I’ve come to be unhappy with this behavior of mine. It is unworthy of all the wonderful people I know. So I’ve decided to try and change. And hopefully this kula I have here at home, by demonstrating in a thousand different ways why these connections are important and worthwhile, will help me find the wherewithal to shake loose this unfortunate habit.

My amazing brother-in-law (and less fun things)…

In an attempt to break the rather somber mood surrounding the announcement than my paternal grandfather–suffering from last-stage Alzheimers–has just been put into hospice care, my brother-in-law revealed that in order to get into the Chukker to see Dick Dale before he was actually 21 he went dressed in drag…because apparently they didn’t card drag queens.

I have to admit that I have nothing to say to that, other than to note that “the ceiling mural”:http://www.druidcityonline.com/Questions%20Chukker/chukker%20inside%20pics/pages/G%20chukker.htm looks nothing like I remember. But I didn’t go to the Chukker that often because it was across town and, well, you know, drinking and driving is pretty dumb.

Dearly departed

The most devoted Tucker

At a few minutes past 11am today, we put Tucker to rest. He had just turned 19 on May 1st. He was unimaginably old, but up until the last week or so, he seemed comfortable and happy. He was still climbing on top of the television to get in his basket, and climbing up the stairs to visit me in my office when he got lonely.

Tucker had been with Anne since before I was, and he was always undoubtedly _her_ cat. Over a period of years, though, he came to regard me as an adequate substitute if she wasn’t around.

Especially as his health had gradually declined the last couple of years, I spent more and more time taking care of him during the day–feeding him when he was hungry, trying to make up for the attention he no longer got from “Ford”:/2006/02/all-things-must-pass.html, etc.

To say it’s wrenching to not have him around doesn’t do it justice. I know that, in time, the acuteness of the loss will fade. But right now it’s fresh and raw.

How popular is _your_ name?

So after “the Water Callers’ performance”:/2006/12/the-water-callers.html the other night, I said hi to one of the performers, Bart, and after greeting me by name, he expressed some surprise at having, in fact, remembered it. I, in turn, made what in retrospect sounds like a bit of a graceless comment about how it was a good guess, regardless, since it was the most popular name for male children around the time I was born.

So we ended up chatting about the subject of name popularity and such, and he mentioned having played with some resources when some friends were trying to pick names for their immanent child, and the “weird names people are picking these days”:/2004/11/no-rest-for-the-wicked.html, and how Matthew still gets around even though there was no Beatle by that name, etc.

So, in one of those coincidences that often happens “a Linux hacker”:http://spyderous.livejournal.com/86490.html noted a reference to a site that the Social Security administration has “that lets you look at name popularity”:http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/.

It turns out, 1970 was just the tip of the iceberg–in the last 60 years, there’s only been 16 where Michael _wasn’t_ #1. And while my name has kept its place pretty solidly, as you look at different decades, others shift wildly. I mean, the idea of Joshua being more popular than John strikes me as improbably, but it the 80s, that came to be the case, and the idea that Jacob is more popular than Michael in the 00s seems even weirder. And Christopher, which has been the consistent #2 in the 70s and 80s–another interesting fact I wasn’t aware of–is out of the top 10.

Anyway, I guess this illustrates nothing so much as there’s no accounting for taste, however you look at it.

All things must pass

He was a little big to be a shoulder-cat

So, around 8:45 this morning, we had Ford put to sleep.

It’s been about three years since he was first diagnosed as diabetic, and just over two since he finished radiation treatment for the tumor that caused his acromegaly. The treatment wasn’t an unalloyed success–though we never had them do another CAT scan to verify it’s continued presence, his need for insulin never left, and there were other issues–but without it, his prognosis was closer to 9 months than the 25 we had.

Five months ago, he had some sort of swelling on his face that caused him trouble eating (though that cleared up), and he quit drinking water from a bowl–Anne’s been giving him water from a syringe and we’ve been giving him subcutaneous fluids; every few days at first, and then every day for the last three months.

Two days ago, he started breathing noisily and seemed to be working a little harder than normal–when we took him to the vet, they suspected pleural effusion (fluid in the chest cavity) or pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs). An x-ray showed no fluid anywhere; in fact, we couldn’t come up with any direct cause of his condition. Since he wasn’t in crisis, we brought him back

Yesterday he started having trouble eating, and he was bleeding some in his mouth. We fed him some lighter food, which he ate, and decided to take him back in this morning.

Once we were there, we faced up to the fact that even though he wasn’t really in an acute crisis, things were just going to continue getting worse and worse, however slowly. There’s probably an argument to be made that we were five months late in admitting this, but we just weren’t prepared to lose him then.

Honestly, we still weren’t prepared to lose him. I have never seen a cat more devoted to his people than Ford. He was always at the door when we walked in. He always appreciated being near you. He always wanted to watch us, and to be involved.
It would be hard to get over even if he had never gotten sick, but in the last three years the house has come to move in rhythms dictated by his condition–we got up at 6 to give him his insulin in the morning, we always made sure we were at home by 6 in the evening to give him his other shot. I would take a break from work at 11am to feed him, and then again at 3pm or so. We had the ritual of leaving out food for him at night. Everything reminds me that he’s not here any more.

So if for the next few days I’m not on IM, or I don’t seem especially chatty, it’s probably because I’m sitting, thinking about what I’d be doing with Ford if he were still here.

Oh, and another thing…

Chet and Erin’s wedding had, without a doubt, the best food of any wedding I’ve ever been to. I mean, even though I think my wife took to feeding me cake to stop me from talking to other women, I didn’t really mind.

Nostalgia, AKA misplaced friends

bq. This is a post I started writing several months ago, but never quite finished. “A recent post of Patrick’s”:http://missourilovescompany.blogspot.com/2005/09/google-stalking-patrick-mcghee.html, plus the occasion of seeing people I literally hadn’t seen in a decade at Chet’s wedding made me think to give it a quick brush-off and shove it out the door.

Someone stole the name of an old friend of mine.

At least that’s how it feels. Occasionally, over the last decade, someone would occasionally post a message to one of the numerous Debian GNU/Linux mailing lists I read under the name ??Damon Buckwalter??.

The first year we lived in Germany–6th grade–my closest friend in the world was named…you guessed it, ??Damon Buckwalter??. And it’s a fairly unusual name, so, at various times I would send this person a message of the, “Hey, are you…?” variety. Never got a response.

This last time, I had the good sense to drag Google into it and settle down to do some serious investigation, and I can say for sure it’s not him. I located the “website of the guy on the Debian lists”:http://cryptomeme.com/damon/, and I can tell you that the person in that picture is not my friend. In fact, you don’t have to take my word for it–you can see “a couple of pictures of my friend”:http://alycewilson.tripod.com/python/homecoming88.htm yourself. It’s not him.

I saw Damon once after he moved back to the states in ’82–his High School Math team was competing in Pensacola, and I was in Ft. Walton, and somehow he was able to contact me, and I drove over and hung out for a couple of hours. In a weird way the decade and a half gulf there seems to have passed in no time at all.

There’s someone in Columbus, OH, named Damon Buckwalter, but I can’t find any pictures, and without some actual photographic evidence, it’s hard to work up any enthusiasm for cold-calling (or cold-emailing, as it were).

After Damon left, I fell in with Neil Butt, who *may* be in Cleveland, “at John Carroll University”:http://www.jcu.edu/pubaff/new_faculty/butt.htm. Biographically it’s all feasible–I believe his dad was assigned to the Pentagon when they left in, err, 1984, which would mean GMU was an easy choice for somewhere to go to college.

Is it the same person I last saw more than two decades ago, though? Shit, I just don’t know.

Another friend–and the last person I’ve stalked, I guess you could say–from that time-frame was Adam Klipple. I am 95% certain that this was Adam Shea Klipple, listed on “this extensive genealogy page”:http://reifeltree.tripod.com/D1.htm#c260. The birth date is the right time frame, and I have vague memories of his being a couple of months younger than I, his middle name being Shea.

I don’t remember ever hearing about his sister-to-have-been, which is the only way I can interpret the ‘U’ next to the name below his. If it’s the right person, that’s a grim sort of thing to find out twenty-odd years later, since it would have happened just shortly before we became friends.

The more frustrating thing is that I can’t decide if he’s the same person as the “jazz musician of the same name”:http://adamklipple.com/. I think it is. Ignoring the fact that I wouldn’t _want_ to see pictures of me from when I was 11, I’m not sure I would be able to draw a line from that child to what I look like today. I remember Adam as looking like Stewart Copeland.

Of course that could just be the power of association–I would swear that he gave me ??Synchronicity?? as a gift, but I’m hard pressed to reconcile that release date–June 1983–with the fact that I remember him leaving midway through 7th grade. But if I had to make a judgment on which one of those memories is more likely correct, I would go with ??Synchronicity??.

I don’t have the album any more–it went the way of all vinyl–but I do still have three novels he gave me.

But, as Patrick, notes, you have to wonder when it’s time to close the book–where he wonders about acrimony, though (and, BTW, sorry I haven’t called :), I just chalk it up to a character deficiency; I moved a lot, and even when my family wasn’t moving, the people around me were. This implied friendships were inherently transient, and I never developed the skills to make them work over long distances. Too few letters, then too little email, and damned few phone calls.

And there are odd dynamics in my life–where you might like travel to be something that can be done on the spur of the moment, or at least with relatively little planning, it just hasn’t worked out that way, so I’m bad about visiting people.

But I guess the big question is, “What are you going to do going forward?” And I think the answer I’ve arrived at–partly driven by the realization that Chet’s wedding is probably the last pending event among the people I know well from college before we start in on funerals (actually, even that’s not true, with Fred gone)–is that I’m going to be a little more active about keeping up with people.

So I’m going to go feed the cats, and answer this email from Dave McGhee that’s been sitting in my inbox for two days, ’cause it’s been too long.

What can you say about Chet and Erin’s wedding?

Some might have decided against having their family photos done as human pyramids, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some might have shied from having jugglers hide the happy couple from the sight of onlookers behind a wall of flaming chainsaws during their kiss, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some might have refrained from having Mark Twain deliver a homily (or perhaps a jeremiad) preceeding the wedding regarding the dangers inherent in heterosexual behavior (viz. sex and death), but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some would have built 17 foot high walls patrolled by Minutemen and laser beams to keep the paparazzi out, but just this once, they kept a respectful distance, and only took photographs that were flattering to the guests and the happy couple, for Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some would not have the fortitude to personally haul 1.3 metric tons of pristine ice from Everest to be used in constructing the ice sculptures and skating ring (opened, after the reception, to the astonished children of sub-tropical Houston, many of whom had never seen ice before) for the wedding pavilion, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Some would have left Elvis to his anonymous retirement in a small stucco bungalow in Enseneda instead of spending years befriending him, gaining his trust, helping him work through the pain of commercial success and the price that it can extract from those desiring to create art, helping him slim down and update his look while still holding on to the innocent and youthful quality that made him the idol of millions, but Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

Sadly, the unexpected success of “March of the Penguins”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0428803/ led the penguins to demand more money after the contracts had been drawn up, but Erin understood the way that even the best can be changed by fame and fortune, and merely noted *Black tie invited* on the invitations, for, even without the penguins, Chet and Erin were going to have no ordinary wedding.

And you know what? They didn’t.


Apologies to, oh, say, “FafBlog”:http://fafblog.blogspot.com/ and Harlan Ellison.

Mourn your TV

So, my friend George just told me that his family has been selected to be a Nielsen family.

Those who know him can only suspect that TV is about to get a lot…stranger and more obscure. I mean, this is a guy who rents “old John Waters movies”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0072979/ for fun. I had never even heard of “Two Lane Blacktop”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0067893/ before I met George.

One can only wonder if the Nielsen people have any idea what they’re getting into.

Anne Bancroft died

I wouldn’t generally note this except, well, first, she was in ??The Graduate??, and second, she was Mel Brooks’ wife for the last 40 years.

Interestingly, in doing the inevitable searching around IMDB that one might expect, I learned that Richard Pryor helped write the screenplay for ??Blazing Saddles??. This is not surprising, in retrospect, but I certainly had no idea until now.

Two posts in…

“and r0ml’s blog is already pretty damned interesting”:http://r0ml.net/blog.

I mean, from “universal software literacy”:http://r0ml.net/blog/2005/05/03/who-is-a-programmer to “the fact that heavily-processed packaged ‘food’ is much more expensive and not as good for you as, you know, fruit”:http://r0ml.net/blog/2005/04/23/dieting in one smooth motion.

NPR had an interview with Donald Knuth

Even more amusingly, Chet called me to make sure I knew–though I had, in fact, already heard part of it. Specifically, the bit about using graph theory to remodel the kitchen.

Anyway, the story is “here”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4532247

In honor of Chet’s Birthday

(which honesty forces me to note always sneaks up on me because it has somehow gotten lodged in my brain that it’s the 21st, which is, as you can probably calculate, 8 days from now) “I link you to pictures on Flickr tagged with ‘Chet'”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/chet/.


Well, I would be late…

…insofar as she was born on Saturday (9:46pm, weighed 8lbs 5oz, 19.5 inches long, ever notice how easy it would be to mistake this for a fish someone caught?), but I didn’t hear until now–and second-hand at that, I’m hurt, I tell you, hurt!–that Chris and Aimee have actually decided on a name for their new arrival, Kayley Nicole.

In fact, looking at “the last announcement”:/2004/11/no-rest-for-the-wicked.html, two days versus three days doesn’t make me seem especially tardy, at least not according to the miserable benchmark I’ve established.

Right now, I’m just happy there’ll be at least one niece among my immediate relations–boys are a dime a dozen. OK, maybe a buck a dozen. Whatever. As far as I’m concerned, the more rug-rats I get to be uncle to, the merrier, as long as I get to go home afterward.

Gonzo but not forgotten

Err, I’ve already forgotten where I saw this link (that’s sad), but there’s “a short piece on HST by George McGovern”:http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0303-23.htm.