Sunday, July 29, 2007

CHALK THE WALK: COCONUTS


Saturday morning. The child and I make our way down to the Puyallup Farmer's Market to get some fresh air, move our restless legs, visit the library, and play on the "big toys." Once there, we discover a "UNIQUE, FREE art event" "open to artists of all ages!" The child went and obtained a cup filled with sticks of chalk, selected a "panel" of sidewalk, and started to color.

The child drew an oval. The child scribbled within it. The child stopped and deliberated. The child changed color of chalk. The child crawled and sprawled and squatted and stood and sat.

The child created and controlled.


"Coconuts" by The Child, 2007—sidewalk canvas, chalk, sidewalk chalk.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

MASK: TRACKSIDE THING


"Trackside Thing" by The Child, 2007—sidewalk canvas, teal plastic ring toss rings, purple plastic ring toss rings, collected black walnut leaves, hand-sheared grass

Friday night. The child must be in need of a visit to an art museum and/or gallery. She is creating her own pieces and naming them. The above sculpture surely refers to Trackside Pizza, but the connection is obtuse, except to the artist, and the artist is not sharing the meaning of the reference.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

THE RAW SHARK TEXTS

"Stories are all we're ever left with in our head or on paper: clever narratives put together from selected facts, legends, well edited tall tales with us in the starring roles."
—page 413, The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall

The Raw Shark Texts holds great promise. It is pregnant with possibilities in the same way that Jeff Noon's Vurt and William Gibson's Neuromancer and Idoru are. It presents and sustains those possibilities until the final of four sections, whereupon it collapses in on itself.

A man awakes upon the floor of a room, unsure of who and where he is. He finds written instructions from the First Eric Sanderson explaining what is happening and whom to contact. He follows the instructions. In meeting with his therapist, Dr. Randle, he discovers that he has been suffering from dissociative amnesia since the accidental death of his girlfriend Clio three years prior. This is the eleventh episode of amnesia in the past two years.

Letters soon begin to arrive from the First Eric Sanderson. They inform the second Eric Sanderson that he is being pursued by a conceptual shark, a Ludovician, that is devouring his memories, stealing more in each feeding. Eric soon encounters the shark in his apartment.

The middle two sections of the book then detail his pursuit of knowledgeable individuals to help him elude, hunt, and capture the shark. The final section implodes when Eric and his new partners, also bent on destroying the Ludovician, set sail on a conceptual ship. The scenes on the shark boat, the Orpheus, are stolen almost verbatim from the movie Jaws. They are so cliché and overwrought as to render the tension that has built through the first three sections of the book null and void.

I enjoyed that the book was built around the skeletal narrative of Orpheus and Eurydice. I was intrigued by the novelty of the Ludovician and the other conceptual fish, that swim and feed in the "flows of human interaction and the tides of cause and effect." I felt the terror that Eric felt.

But, the blatant ripoff of Jaws was too much. It essentially ruined what could have been a great book.

I also know that Steven Hall has expended a lot of energy and time in promoting the story in order that it also be made into a movie. I wish he had spent more time worrying about the novel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

PROCESS: SORTING "SEEDS"


Step one: Provide cockatiels, Fuji and Tai, bird pellets that consist of two shapes and four colors—green sphere, red sphere, orange sphere, and yellow "banana."

Step two: Watch cockatiels eat pellets throughout the day, in addition to seed mix in other seed cups.


Step three: Twenty-four hours after giving cockatiels pellets, pull seed cup.

Step four: Realize that cockatiels are engaging in performance art. They are eating all of the four types of pellets. However, they are eating all of the green spheres and then moving the remaining uneaten yellow "bananas" to one side of the dish. (They have been collaborating on their sorting project for two weeks.)

Step five: Repeat.

Monday, July 23, 2007

on THE TAPHANDLE

Stone India Pale Ale, an India Pale Ale by Stone Brewing Company

22 ounce bottle. Damn, this is a great beer!

The pour delivered a glass of golden-yellow ale tinged with orange. A thick, foamy white head developed and stayed around. The lacing was very good.

The aroma was rather complex. Primary aroma: fruity, citrusy. Secondary aromas: caramel, cherries, hint of cloves, hint of caraway seed.

The taste just about knocked me out. There is a very bitter "kick" when the ale first meets tongue. The hoppy bitterness continues and finishes with another "kick" at the end. Primary flavor: grapefruit/orange citrus, that is well balanced between the two. Secondary flavors: caramel, slight lemon, slight floral.

I will definitely be having a few more bottles of this in the near future.

Friday, July 20, 2007

THE MARKETING MACHINE

"Every month new products appear for which there is no prior need, but which take their place in the market without much resistance. That is exclusively the result of propaganda. New needs are created from the day a new product appears. After a few months of getting used to a product, its absence will be felt because an effective need will have been created. But the need was created exclusively by advertising. If the product were presented without advertising, nobody would buy it."
—pages 290–291, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes by Jacques Ellul

Ah, the marketing machine. I watch little television, other than late-night cartoons, the national nightly news, and Top Chef. In each of these viewing milieus I saw the same advertisements for Miller Chill. In my drinking days of early adulthood, I primarily drank Miller Genuine Draft and Corona with added chunks of lime. I thought I would try Miller Chill since the marketing machine had effectively created my desire to try this beer, and tapped into nostalgia for the days of my youth. Big mistake!

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Miller Chill, a Pale Lager by Miller Brewing Company

12 ounce bottle. The pour delivers a lager very light in color. It reminds me of a sparkling white wine in color and appearance, with a lot of carbonation. The white head consists of large unstable bubbles that begin to break up immediately. The head lasts a mere half-minute. The aroma is a "clean" deodorant-like scent, with slight floral notes and the faintest hint of lemon or lime.

The flavor is more fleeting and ephemeral than the aroma. Are there really flavors present? Some swallows deliver hints of pretzel, which accounts for bread and salt flavors. Some swallows deliver hint of lime. Some swallows taste like dirty or tainted water. The finish wavers between almost non-existent and a harsh, almost chemical, finish.

Overall, this beer is rather unpleasant, moreso than I could have ever imagined. Half of it was poured down the drain. Even the wife's homemade tacos couldn't redeem this beer.

I definitely will never drink this again.

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The Miller Chill bottle claims that it is "inspired by a Mexican Recipe with Lime & Salt," elsewhere on the bottle called "Chelada Style." According to Wikipedia, "The Chelada is a beverage that is created by adding the juice of one or two limes to a full glass of ice cubes and then pouring twelve ounces of a dark Mexican beer into the glass. The rim of the glass is typically salted." Therefore, a few things are missing that would make this "Chelada style." Those missing items would include (1) the glass; (2) the ice cubes; (3) the dark Mexican beer, since Miller Chill is neither dark nor Mexican; and (4) the salt rim, unless one counts the slight brine flavor or chemical finish.

[I may have to try authentic Chelada at home with a bottle of Negra Modelo.]

This beer is a perfect example of one of the behemoth macrobreweries flexing its advertising muscle. The sad part is that I bought it, literally and figuratively, even if only until I tasted it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

HIGH BACK WING CHAIR

My throne finally arrived.

The mother-in-law inherited a high back wing chair when she bought her new home a few years ago. I found the chair to be extremely comfortable, and stated such. The mother-in-law bequeathed the chair to me, since it didn't match any of her decor or other furniture. The only problem was that we had neither room for it at the time nor a way to move it.

With the move of our home library to a different part of the house, we now had room for the chair. A recent visit from the mother and the father in their pickup truck allowed for transport of the chair. The chair resided on the imaginary line separating the living room and dining room, since we needed to get rid of a hide-a-bed sofa.

The sofa departed this evening with a couple who are establishing their new home together. We inherited the sofa with the purchase of our house a few years back. I never liked it and would have gotten rid of it sooner, except that the wife did like it. With the sofa gone, the chair made a journey from its liminal zone to its new permanent location in the home library. It's floral pattern of pinks, blues, and greens on cream and tan doesn't matter. The comfort of the chair easily trumps aesthetics.

Now I can read and fall asleep in the comfort of my own high back wing chair intead of on the couch!

Monday, July 16, 2007

on THE TAPHANDLE "WEEKEND"

WEDNESDAY

Powerhouse Cream Ale, a Cream Ale by Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery

Powerhouse 50 Shilling, a Scottish Ale by Powerhouse Restaurant & Brewery

Both on tap.

The Cream Ale was magnificent. It smelled of biscuits and butter, with a wee bit of a floral scent. It poured a rich honey color. The head was solid, thick foam, which left thick lacing behind on the pint glass. The primary flavor reminded me of Cracker Jacks. Additional, more subdued, flavors included nuttiness, earthiness, flower petals. Highly recommended.

50 Shilling poured the color of root beer with an aura of golden-red where ale met pint glass, with a decent head and mild lacing. The aroma was of the light smokiness of barbecued wood chips, bolstered by caramel malts. The flavor promoted the smokiness, nuts, and caramel, with brief notes of cinnamon and cloves. A good mild Scottish.

Both were accompanied by the Powerhouse's Overload pizza. The Overload is spicy and tangy, and covered in pepperoni and sausage. This evening's Overload was probably the best I have ever had. The crust was crisp at the edges and still slightly moist in the middle. The edge of the crust had been brought to the point of almost burning, but being pulled from the oven just in time. Thirty seconds longer probably would have made it less than enjoyable.

This meal was a great way to distract me from the 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit that awaited me outside.

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FRIDAY

The Immortal IPA, an India Pale Ale by Elysian Brewing Company

We fired up the barbecue and had our friends the D—s for dinner. The wife prepared a marinade the night before for Jamaican jerk shish kebabs. The jerk chicken, pineapple, and orange and red peppers were visually appealing, in addition to tasting spectacular. A spinach and strawberry salad in a light oil dressing, lightly grilled pita flatbread (for the skewer contents), and rice added their flavors to the meal. While C. D— was enjoying Tap Room No. 21 Moe's Backroom Pale Ale and Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale from the beer cellar collection, I was enjoying one of the three India Pale Ales he brought by. A great meal and a great beer with great friends.

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SATURDAY

Wildcat IPA, an India Pale Ale by Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company

Another of the IPAs given to me by C. This one went very well with chicken taco salads. The Wildcat helped to cut some of the heat of the jalapeños on my salad. It also played nicely against the spices of the chicken.

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SUNDAY

Mongoose IPA, an India Pale Ale by Hales Ales

You can't go wrong with pepperoni and Canadian bacon pizza. You can't go wrong with Mongoose IPA. Put them together, and, you see where this is going. The final IPA from C.

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During the heat of the past "weekend" I was able to enjoy five good beers, something I haven't had the pleasure of doing in a long while. If this doesn't classify as my pick of the week, then I don't know what does.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

THE RAW SHARK TEXTS

I keep catching snippets and sound bites about The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. What I hear intrigues me. A man awakes without any idea of who he is or where he is. A note from the First Eric Sanderson to him refers him to a psychiatrist that he has apparently been seeing for quite some time for his dissociative amnesia disorder. This is his eleventh occurrence. In addition, he is being pursued by something that should not, could not, but does in fact, exist. And this something is trying to exterminate him. Or, is it that simple?

Therefore, I want this book. I need to read this book. Friday night was my opportunity. I had a bookstore gift card in hand. The wife and the child went to bed early. So, next thing I know, I am driving northward, Killing Joke's latest album, Hosannas from the Basements of Hell, blasting at "welding volume" (as per the instructions of Killing Joke frontman Jaz Coleman). The book is procured. I return home and begin to read.

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The other thing that intrigued me is that when I called around to locate a copy of the book, everyone kept questioning the title I gave them. It was then that it dawned upon me that the title may be a play upon "Rorschach tests." I knew then that I really did need and want this book.

Further reports are to follow.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ROAST SQUIRREL




Yesterday, I arrived home from work to a yard filled with prostrate squirrels. The temperature reached a high of 97.5 degrees Fahrenheit at our house and the squirrels were feeling the heat.

Normally, the squirrels are my adversaries. They attempt to steal seed from my bird feeders. They attempt to tip over the bird bath. They tear vegetable starts out of my garden. They get into my home.

The above sight, however, was rather pathetic. A yard filled with lethargic and panting squirrels moved me to action. A garbage can lid, turned upside-down, became an impromptu watering trough. The squirrels were left to drink and bathe as the wife, the child, and I left for air-conditioned dining pleasure at The Powerhouse, rather than sit in the 90 degrees Fahrenheit of our home.

Monday, July 09, 2007

THE LETTER BETTER WRITTEN

"I wrote him a letter. I told him that he should grow up, that he should take better care of himself, that his health was fragile (he had sclerosis of the bile duct, a sky-high liver count, extensive ulcerative colitis, he had just recovered from an attack of hyperthyroidism, and every once in a while his teeth hurt!), that he should get his life on track because he was still young, that he should forget the woman who'd "broken his heart," that he should buy a washing machine. I spent a whole afternoon writing it and then I ripped it up and started to cry."
—page 440, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño

There are moments when I am reading a book whereupon it intersects with my own life, so much so that I have to pinch myself to make sure that I am not a character. Who needs self-help books when a piece of literature can accomplish the same goal in a few sentences? The above passage speaks to me. It says: grow up, you are an adult, remember? It says: take better care of yourself, you are mortal, remember? It says: move, be dynamic rather than stagnant, pursue your dreams, you are creative, remember? It says: don't look back, learn from your mistakes, because you do have much to live for, remember?

I do remember. Sometimes, however, it is difficult to move from remembering to building anew. That is when a good prod from a friend or a family member or even a stranger is helpful.

I have received a few of those prods this past week. They are appreciated. (You know who you are, with your phone call, your email, your conversation, and I thank you.)

Write the letter. Read the letter. Rewrite the letter, if necessary. Don't rip it up. Deliver the letter.

Friday, July 06, 2007

INDEPENDENCE DREAMS COUNTERPOINT



Or, Visual Representations of Hypocrisy in Action

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

INDEPENDENCE DREAMS

"When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
—from The Declaration of Independence

We dream of freedom. We remember those who have sacrificed their lives for a country, a cause, a belief. Hopefully, today is more than a day to find bargains at the mall or fill our bellies with barbecue and beer.

We claim that we are trying to export the freedoms that we enjoy. Why then does the "American dream" seem like nightmare to so many? Perhaps, it has to do with abuse of power. You can name examples, for they are plenty. President Bush' clemency, and perhaps pardon, of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Phantom weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Our continued presence in Iraq. Sabre-rattling toward Iran and North Korea. Clandestine operations in Latin America. Turning a blind eye toward Darfur, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon.

Do you truly believe in the dream of freedom? Are you willing to share it with those in Africa and Asia and Latin America? Or are you desensitized to suffering by CNN, MSNBC, Fox News? Are you simply protecting your right to your MP3 collection and inexpensive gasoline? Are you more worried about losing your MTV and EPSN due to a cable outage than the fact that millions will go hungry, thirsty, without shelter or security today? Are you fat and sated by your Subway and McDonald's and Olive Garden and Chef Boyardee?

Is it dream? Is it nightmare?

The flag flies over the smoke of fireworks as we pollute the creation that God has so graciously given us.

Wake up! Wake up!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

on THE TAPHANDLE

Moe's Backroom Pale Ale, an American Pale Ale by Tap Room No. 21 Brewing Company

12 ounce bottle. An interesting ale. The pour was beautiful. The color was an orange-tinged gold with a thick, frothy white head. Unfortunately, the head quickly dissipated and the ale left no lacing whatsoever.

I initially thought the aroma was what I would classify as "the classic beer smell." I gave it a few more whiffs here and there and believe it to be more complex than that. The two main aromas are orange-citrus and yeasty-pretzel, with a hint of licorice. There may also be a slight metallic scent hidden in the background, but, if so, it is extremely minor.

The flavor starts out with a strong hop "bite" that mellows to a finish that simply disappears. The main flavors I taste are hoppy, bitter, citrus, pretzel, malty, hint of licorice. The palate is average.

All in all this is pretty good. It was good with dinner, but even better when mowing the lawn in direct sun. This ale helped keep that lawnmower moving.