It's been a while since my last post, and I feel guilty. Well, I've got some excuses. So here's the skinny, the low-down, the inside track, the hotcakes, &c. (where'd that come from?) on what I've been up to ('cause I know you're all wonderin').
What I've been doin'
Last week, I went to 3 four-hour tax preperation classes after work. Crazy, I know. I'm going to volunteer to fill out tax returns for low-income families in DC with the DC EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) Campaign.
It's been something I've known about for several years now and have been meaning to do. Seems strange, perhaps, but this is what do-gooder public policy geeks do with their free time I suppose. I've finished the training now, and I should be getting my schedule to start meeting with folks and filling out tax returns sometime in the next week or so. Should be interesting.
What I've been readin'
The other huge time killer for me lately has been the book I'm currently reading. I've finally worked up the nerve to crack "Gravity's Rainbow" by Thomas Pynchon. Pynchon is a Goliath in the small crowd of PoMo
writers. I'm only 206/760ths through so far, but it's been a wild ride so far. It's set in 1944 London during the German Blitz. German V-2 bombs are falling in a Poisson distribution across the city, but (BUT!) Roger Mexico, the lone statistician at PISCES (the Psychological Intelligence Schemes for Expediting Surrender), has noticed that the geographic plot of Tyrone Slothrop's sexual conquests precede
the bomb targets by a few days (4.2 on average). Is there a connnection? There's Pavlovian doctors, mathematical equations, Spanish, German, and French passages dropped in, sentences and paragraphs that pick up and drop off in mid-stream (often with shifts in time, location, and character), WWII references, songs (often a foxtrot), a trip down a toilet bowl (which was lifted in "Trainspotting"), pop cultural references (circa 1940s), lurid sex scenes, word play, a non-linear plot, and an octopus named Grigori all written in a prose style that has a break-neck pace. While it is certainly intimidating, it hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But then again, I have had to consult the Gravity's Rainbow wiki
(this book has its own wiki
Jam On It, Jam On It
"wiki, wiki, wiki... shut up!"close
more than once (read: regularly) to find out what exactly
it was I was just reading about. I've heard numerous anecdotes of people who have started this book up, but never finished. It's actually the only resolution
I made this year -- to read (all of) Gravity's Rainbow.
What I've been listenin' to
Shortly after Christmas, I went on a music shopping spree. I bought 5 CDs
Don't Even Get Me Started
You read that correctly.
I still purchase CDs.
Those shiny disks in "jewel cases"?
With impossible to open plastic wrap... followed by a some sort of impossible to remove sticker?
It truely saddens me that these will eventually become extinct. Digital music has changed the music landscape. Perhaps it's just a sign that I'm getting old, or a mild Luddite sometimes, but I have to admit: I have never purchased music online (don't ask about my brief encounter with Mr. Kazaa, though, please). Actual brick-and-mortar music stores are closing up shop. Tower Records has closed! Teenagers in the next generation will never know the joy of hunting, searching, contemplating, head drooped over green wooden bins, flipping, the clapping of plastic security cases, tangentially bouncing from Tower of Power to Tom Waits to Ween to Dr. John to Medeski Martin and Wood to Pavement. Hours upon hours of my young adulthood were spent this way. I loved it. How can it be replaced by clicking through iTunes? How sad is that? What will they think if they ever watch (or better yet, read) "High Fidelity"?
There's passion here. There's value in the tactile. There's value in an album. There's value in liner notes and the accompanying art.
There are still a few music shops around, but I know they won't be around for much longer. CDs will become and an anachronism, a relic, a coaster, or a material to make mobiles with (at least they'll have some use -- better than 8-tracks, I guess). I'm already feeling nostalgic about them. I have them on display in my living room. They're colorful. They serve as a brilliant ice-breaker when we have new guests over.
Sorry about that...
I think I've had that pent up for too long.close
(technically, 6 -- one was a double CD):
- Trey Anastasio - "Bar 17"
Disappointing. But his show at the 9:30 club was killer. Speaking of which...
- The Killers - "Hot Fuss"
Ehhh, maybe "Warm Fuss"
- Tom Waits - "Heart of Saturday Night"
Another lack-luster one for me, really. I think I like the Shawn Colvin cover of the title track better than the original. I guess that's why most folks don't realize that Tom Waits wrote "Jersy Girl" (popularized by Mr. Springsteen) and "Downtown Train" (popularized by Mr. Stewart).
- Fountains of Wayne - "Out of State Plates"
What was I thinking? I'm not even that big a FoW fan! What was I doing buying a two CD collection of B-sides? I don't even own "Welcome Interstate Managers."
- Talking Heads - "Fear of Music"
Easily the best purchase. "I Zimbra" has a wickedly complex polyrhythm going on that grooves, "Cities" is faster than the live version by Phish that I'm familiar with, "Heaven" is a little slower than the "Widespread Panic" version I'm familiar with and who knew that "Memories Can't Wait" on Living Colour's "Vivid" was a Talking Heads song?
But most recently, I've re-fallen for The Beatles "Abbey Road." I'm convinced the second half of this album is some of the finest music recorded in the 20th Century. The seques, the melodic, harmonic, symphonic, tension & release, Nirvana from "You Never Give Me Your Money" through to (appropriately enough) "The End" is just stunning. And I have to note: this CANNOT be listened to in mp3 format or on an ipod, or anything that breaks up the continuity. It just isn't the same. If you wan some cool reading on the music theory behind it all, check out Allen Pollack's Notes.
What I've been watchin'
I watched the President's State of the Union Address last night (I know: boo-hiss/yahoo/yawn/whatever). But what can I say, I'm a little bit of a public policy geek (see the volunteer tax prep bit above).
And the "L Word"
has seriously jumped the shark
in my opinion. I'm cashing in my chips, going up to bed to read, and dropping it. We should probably consider dropping Showtime altoghether now, especially since they canceled "Huff." Ooow, but then there's "Weeds" coming next season...
Diversions on the Internets
Two really fun time killers:xkcd.org
I have no idea what it means, but there's a lot of fun cartoons here.GapMinder
This is a really cool (no, really) interactive socio-economic-demographic graphing tool put out by Google. Informative fun.
And finally: Diabetes
Everything's been hunky-dory. Had another decent week of blood sugars (though not as good as the last one I wrote about) and this week is shaping up to be pretty good, too. Can't complain really. Nahhh. Just Joshin. I could, but what would be the point... And besides, this other stuff is much more fun to talk/type/write about.