2014-03-31

At first I thought radio was misogynistic. Then I heard this.

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When Lady Steed and I first moved to the Bay Area (moved back, in her case) and became [re]acquainted with her teenaged soundtrack, Live 105, we were both struck by the lack of female voices. At the time of our most irritated conversations on the topic, Metric was the only band getting regular play with maybe an occasional older number from Alanis. And that was pretty much it.

Lilith Fair, apparently, was a bust. Natalie and Tori and Sarah and Kim (to say nothing of Kimi) did not change the world. The voice of radio was maler than ever.

But something's been changing lately. I'm not sure where it started. Was it Lana Del Rey on a station that is married to Nirvana? Was it Lorde being the first female with #1 song on the alternate chart since a song I don't even remember because it came out when I was on my mission?

Anyway, to see if I'm not crazy, I'm looking at all the songs Live 105 played yesterday (as of this writing, not of this posting), March 28, and seeing who's singing.

This is a list of everyone who sang this day. Click to make it bigger.


Well! It's clear I was wrong wrong wrong. If this is an increase in ladypipes making it on the air, then holy crap was the past a miserable ladyless place.

But this might just be a matter of so freaking many Bastille and Red Hot Chili Peppers plays. Let's compare the total number of artists, regardless of how popular "Radioactive" and "Team" are right now. So let's strip out the redundancies and just compare number of bands.


Well, huh. We can't say this is simply a matter of them not playing CHVRCHES today. Live 105 simply does not play many women. I'm guessing it's just enough to keep the complaints off. (Which ain't much since even women think women talk too much---even when they talk less.)

But frankly, as a redblooded heterosexual male, when I get to program for myself (thank you Spotify), I listen to more women then men.

The thing is, I can think of no justifiable reason for this other than we are conditioned to expect male voices on the radio---especially perhaps on rock stations. It's certainly not a fact that fewer female-fronted bands make good music. Not music, not rock, not dubstep, not polka is a gendered trait.

Yet we're still stuck in our malecentric past at the ratios of 254:22, 80:5.

That is embarrassing and ridiculous. Get it together, music fans.

2014-03-18

I like baseball. I like young crushes. But I love you. And I respect death.

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021) Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist, finished March 14

I was scheduled to go under the knife today, but instead I postponed that in order to just go to work and, as it ends up, finish reading this novel as I walked here. (This is the first week I've ever taken the Nook out of the house and until I have some sort of wrist strap, I don't know that I will continue this process. Also, I think free epub or not, I may buy this book as a gift for my wife. Though many of our surface traits differ, this novel or marriage captures something ineffable about our own.)

Here's my AMV review (going up tomorrow). Here, though, I want to discuss the second-to-last chapter and whether or not it is a mistake or . . . not. Spoiler alert: I'm leaning mistake. I might approach the author later about the questions I raise here. If you don't want to know about the final pages of the novel though, click here.

La de dah.

La de dah de dah.

La lum.

Okay. All those people gone?

Onward!

The novel is, as the title suggests, love letters from one angel of death to another. You can get some more into why this earthy Mormon couple are angels of death, but, in a very literal sense, the husband---and narrator---is dead. So there's that. And he narrates the entire book. except for this penultimate chapter we're getting to. He seems to've been restored to a perfect knowledge of all things related to him and her and theirs---he knows details about her she does not know. Sometimes because she was too young to see herself so clearly, sometimes because things happened to fast, sometimes because emotions were too high, sometimes because they were simply too long ago. The details and loving eye with which he reads her life is moving.

Then, in the penultimate chapter, it is revealed to readers like me who should have seen it coming but did not, that he is dead. That's how he knows all this. It's not simply because of their years of marriage and emotional intimacy. It's because he no longer sees with the eyes of flesh.

And so the "reason" for the break in the final chapter is that he no longer can see her as clearly as he can see what's gone before. Okay. Ish. Maybe. But any argument you can make for that decision is undermined by the return to his speaking to her in second-person in the final chapter. There we learn that he sees her present less clearly as time goes by. But not so unclearly that he did not clearly see everything that happened in the chapter before. So why the heck the p-o-v switcheroo?

The previous chapter ends with some painfully beautiful explanations of how mothers and fathers sacrifice children into the world (I literally---and I know what literally means---was stunned at a couple points. I had to stop walking and take in what I had just---not merely read---experienced. And so the break in p-o-v allows the killer final line of the previous chapter hang in the air longer. Maybe. I mean, I can make that argument, but I'm not sure I believe it.

My best guess is that switching p-o-vs when revealing the narrator's death was to avoid waxing maudlin, but the whiplash ain't worth it. The switch back into his p-o-v is the bad kind of stunning and starts off embarrassingly epiloguey. Not to worry---Quist moves past the pat, just-so-ness of the opening paragraphs and finds the best possible ending sentence (even better than that ending the third-to-last chapter!), but I puzzle and I puzzle and I can come up with no decent reason to lapse into a traditional third-person narration for that third chapter. And even if there was a good reason, why not try on her point of view for a change? Isn't she an angel of death herself? Haven't we all but seen her wings?

Anyway. That's my big issue with the novel. I think it's still apt to get my vote for best novel in the general category in this year's Whitney's, but we'll see how that chapter sinks into my lasting impression. I don't think it can damage my otherwise powerfully positive feeling, but we shall see. We shall see.
a few pleasurable weeks



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020) The Iowa Baseball Confederacy: A Novel by W. P. Kinsella, finished March 12

Just as I read at least one scary book every October, I think I'll have to start reading at least one baseball book every spring. (Baseball's the only sport with enough good literature to support such a habit. Which is no coincidence. See A. Bartlett Giamatti's Take Time for Paradise if you doubt it's the sport's artistic value.) This particular book I picked up free (huzzah!)---and based on my recent viewing of Field of Dreams (based on another Kinsella book) and the explicit recommendation of NYU's president, I decided to read it even though I have waaaay too many other books going just now.

I'm glad I did. There were a few moments that the magical realism went to far (the appearance of Leonardo) or at first seemed to go to far (the animation of the Black Angel), but overall the magic works. Absurdity is an inherent part of all sport (and art and religion and every other worthy human pursuit), and embracing that absurdity is valuable. I have three baseball novellas in the writing or the planning, and now I think I need to think about writing a magical one as well.

Consider this novel for your own future Spring Trainings.
at most a month but surely less



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019) The Complete Peanuts: 1989 - 1990 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 11

Another terrific pair of years. But I'm a little freaked out that the marble story isn't there. I have clear memories of reading the marble story and cutting out the strips and collecting them when my family lived in Clovis and I was in junior high. But that era is over and the marbles have not appeared.

Memory, suffice it to say, is hella unreliable.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

In other news, Lemony Snicket's introduction is a work of genius. He really is one of my favorite thinkers on art. And he captures Peanuts as well or better than any other intro to date.
over a month



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018) Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poppypants by AUTHOR, finished Dav Pilkey

Yep. Another one.
a few days




Previously in 2014 . . . . :

2014-03-11

Top ten

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On Facebook Sarah asked, "What are the top ten books that sort of defined your childhood? Books you read over and over and were incredibly fascinated with and changed your world?"

To answer this question, I'm sticking to books I read and reread before high school. Anything after that was a different sort of experience and informed my tastes in a different sort of way. Still tough to stick to ten, but I made an honest effort. I feel particularly bad leaving Jack London off this list, but what can I do? The rules say ten!

The Hotel Cat by Esther Averill
This is the first novel I have a memory of rereading. I read it and reread it my second-grade year and when my teacher retired at the end of the year and gave away all her books, she gave this one to someone else. But it's always stuck with me.

The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, the Three Investigators, Sherlock Holmes
Cheating, I suppose, but I read all the Hardy Boys books at least twice and all the Nancy Drew books at least once and then in junior high I switched to the Three Investigators which prepared me to read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes which emboldened me to take on Literachoo. Thanks, Frank and Joe! (and Biff!)

The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian
No one else at my elementary school checked this book out and so I filled the checkout card myself. i don't know if I've ever been as obsessed with any book as I was with this book.

Riddle of Raven Hollow by Mary F. Shura
This was one of my go-to books when I couldn't sleep and wanted to read. I had all the beats of its plot tattooed on my soul. I'm sure this book has had a lasting affect on how I structure story.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
This novel helped me understand what literature meant. The layers of symbol, the ambiguities, the things left unsaid. Konigsburg played an important role in teaching me how to read.

Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner
Long after childhood ended, I would periodically reread this book, and I would sob at the ending, and I would know I was yet human and that a healthy emotional life was still possible.

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
Although not strictly magical realism, this novel had that sort of affect upon me. Anything can happen. Anything can go wrong. The world is more wondrous and fragile than I imagine.

The Silver Chair and A Horse and His Boy I had other Narnia books and reread some of them many times, but these two are unquestionably my favorites. And they inform greatly my ideas on what a "series" of books should consist of.

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander
In contrast to the last pair, I included this book as a negative example. I reread this book many times, but I never really liked it. Frankly, Alexander seems like a swell guy, but even as a kid I didn't think he was much of a writer. And having to articulate myself as I read and reread what made this book a failure sharpened my critical capacity.

Thornton W. Burgess's Animal books
If literature is meant to teach empathy, no books did this better than Burgess's. The breadth of experience presented boggles. That two books can present the same two characters---one a predator, one food---and make them both fully identifiable and heroic? That taught me a great deal about charity, about humanity, about writing.

Theric takes a selfie

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CLOOOOOOSE-UUUUUUUUUP



Now THAT's thexy!

2014-03-10

Table for Love (allegedly)

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This begins with the entry from my latest list of watched films, then includes the notes I took as I was watching.

I have to return the film to its owner tomorrow, so sorry for the low number of images and lack of clips.....

Mahlzeiten (1967): I hear of this film here, but it's not an easy thing to find. I'm not joking when I say I had to find an expert in German film and send him to Berlin to find a copy after months of occasional looking. And the film relies mightily on language (at times, the narration and dialogue are simultaneous) so it's an impossible film to judge if you don't have any German skills (nope, no subtitles). I'm pretty sure I heard a long list of colors once and I figured out the leads' names (Elisabeth and Rolf)---and I could tell the Mormon missionaries had American accents---but basically I could only view the film visually. And there was a lot to see. But difficult to contextualize.
listing colors?
b&w film

taking photos

ring

dueling narrators
over dialogue
humming narrator

cadavers
first date???

fetus skeletons

literal roll in hay

nesting dolls

baby?!

stapling up of image she made

med students also nonactors?

what happened to the baby?

barefeet

focus (and not)

race too!

60s zoom and cuts

laughing to fear/pain

docuformat?

porcelain baby?
doctor practice?

[illegible]

2nd baby?

roles of breasts

so-much-talking

sex

time with kids
(kite)

so many WoW violations
(social life)

photo [illegible]
opposite cherub

baby 3

vacation?
chess

fish in the tub?
fish on the floor

highly detailed closeups---
physicality

mundanity of marriage

baby 4

changes to maternity

sarcophagi
church

religious awakening?

Napoleon Dynamite with a haircut

as they age,
roller coaster

molecular models

stamp collecting?

affair?

long cuts

kids age---

all these doctors talking

so many volkswagons

flies!!!

hotel

preggers

still the photo
great shape
memory?

missionaries
such American accents!
wonder what happened to those two
coffee and tea? no thnx
pretags

beginning of third act?

DOMcKay?
Utah!

just their first discussions?

baby!

church!

low church

baptism river
both!
wig?

We Thank Thee Oh God for a Prophet in English (?)

[illegible]

prayer in English

he's less sure

no baptismal prayer
or immersion

straight from there to CO?
not dead yet....

pills??
wine!
was it just taking too long

door shut tight....

suicide is hard.....

stuffing the pipe

determined suicide

so confused to feel bad

why?

scope of life great
ending weird.

kids' faces

black tablecloth now

motivations rarely clear

back to statuary
(museum)
man

photo remains intact

back to barefeet

no more Mormons for her?

who is this guy?

remarried

happier?

pagan?

does he know her kids?

to America?

new photos
plural
together

sunlight

away we go
tugboats