Saturday, July 11, 2015


My dad used to eat Fig Newtons, not because they were his favorite but because, if hidden in the freezer behind an old carton of crystalized ice milk, they were less likely than Oreos or Nutter Butters to be eaten by his eight kids. Of course they were eaten by his eight kids, but at a rate that allowed him a  percentage of each package before Total Fig Newton Obliteration.

As children transitioned out, he moved on to flashier Strawberry and Blueberry Newtons, then ice cream Bon Bons. These were eaten at a faster rate, but by a smaller population.  His percentage share was likely the same.

I've never been good at algebra but recognize algebraic principles here, as well as principles of endurance and patience, along with the shadows of self-effacement and defeat. 

That a parent would settle for his less than favorite cookie to manage with pragmatism these tribal factors, to share and to preserve a simple personal pleasure, impresses me more than military, church, or community service. He had those bases covered too but I think more of the algebra of cookies and duty when considering the mysteries of my dad.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


If I've learned one thing, it's that I'm happier if I go to the movies at least once a week. Yesterday I winged it and went to a Tamil film called Papanasam that was showing at the Cinemark out on Antioch.  It was a unique movie experience for me--everyone else in the theater seemed to be from southern Asia, though I can't say for sure. The film was part of some kind of import series that cost $12, while down the hall people saw The Avengers for $4.  A true import price.  It was well worth it. 

I think if you love movies out of the mainstream, you learn to be on the prowl for showings that are unique, fleeting, maybe only showing once, or at odd times, and it helps you cut through the crap and enjoy a mild sense of hunter-gatherer adventure.  Last month The Tivoli showed the Apu trilogy, one film a week for three weeks.  It was wonderful.  Double Indemnity is showing this month once or twice at Cinemark.  You could also catch Back From Hell at the Cannonball Roarer's Psychotronic Film Series.   I suppose the best part of living in a much larger city would be that there are venues dedicated exclusively to this.   In KC, or your average college town, it's catch as catch can.

Papanasam was real long, and even had an intermission!  I remember seeing Reds in Estes Park, on vacation.  (Why?  I have no idea, hadn't gone through puberty yet and the bumper cars were closed for maintenance?)  Reds had an intermission. That may have been the last time I saw a film with an intermission.  Papanasam's producers also flashed a health warning on the screen when a random character smoked a cigarette in a twenty second scene.  This was situated strategically near the 15 minute break.

I squirmed a bit in the first half-hour of Papanasam. At some point I knew intuitively I had come to a really long movie, expecting a short, punchy thriller.  It was slow to develop and there was a chattering, comically combative rapport in family and village life.  It was a light, intimate set up for heavy stuff, at a leisurely pace.  So the speed and pace of my life right now doubled up and lapped this film a few times before I began to slow down.  And that was good.  There is nothing like the dark, cool interior of a movie auditorium for a couple of hours with Hen House Twizzlers smuggled in.

Papanasam is the story of a father doing his very impeccable best to protect his family.  As the self-educated cable television mogul of a small town, he is also a movie junky.  Two movies per night on the rickety cable channel he collects cash payments for in an old-fashioned zip-up cash bag.  I loved this character, a smart, quirky, self-made family man who is vain about his moustache.  

Then, malicious trouble comes to their door.  It takes a long time to develop, but eventually there is death, and consequences, some awesome big budget camera work, and an honorable battle for the things that matter, followed by honorable closure.  Between Apu and Papanasam, my interest in Indian art films and pop films has really been piqued.  If I could go back to school and study anything, it would be film, with minors in guitar, meditation, cooking, hardscaping, graphic design, and bicycle repair.

Friday, July 3, 2015


I can only contrive to have something interesting to blog about this morning, as life has had a grinding quality better suited to milling buckwheat flour for the war effort than to making artful observations about much of anything.  

I am doing the right things: walking the dogs, reading good books, going to movies, listening to good music, and smoking ribs on the Weber.  Still, this ape man daydreams of Shangri-La and strumming a parlour guitar between naps.  I will settle for our 4-day weekend at Beaver Lake in Arkansas, coming up in three weeks.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


I've had one issue of Mojo magazine since Christmas, a cool stocking stuffer. I am still absorbing it and checking out artists reviewed in it, and it makes me reflect on how much new music there is and how one Mojo per year may be enough.  Just one random Mojo could be the stillpoint or locus of a diverse musical education--an artifact to rebirth musical culture, if it came to that, discovered in the rubble or on the beach by an ape boy with no wi-fi! 

How do we absorb it all, or even pretend that we are up to speed?  On any one page of this excellent magazine, I find enough new and reissued music to spend all of my discretionary income on for months.  One mention of any of these artists in a Rolling Stone in 1983 was a sweet rumor of the wider world, if you were a punky kid in suburban KC.  Even an image of The Fall or The Clash in a import t-shirt and merch ad, in the back of Rolling Stone, glimpsed while riding in the back seat to Ponderosa Steakhouse with my parents.

So yesterday I buckled and listened to almost all of the newest Pop Group album on Spotify while I was walking around the Troostwood neighborhood.  I've also checked out a band I find to be really original, Wildbird and Peacedrums, and haunting soundtrack music from Jozef Van Wissem.  I have not gone out to spend fifty bucks on these records, I'd sure like to, go see Judy at Mills, Sherman at 7th Heaven, Dave at Zebadees, Marion at Records with Merritt…the last record I bought was a copy of the new Testface for a friend.  I have been spending extra money on flagstone for our back slope, step by step by step.  For new records I find records I forgot I bought, like this one by Milton Nasciemento, a Eugene Record Convention find.

I've been on this kind of music fast, too, listening to Audible instead of compact disks in the car on my commute.  I'm about 1/5th through the unabridged Don Quixote, translated by Edith Grossman.  For years I have wondered what tattoo I would get, on shore leave in Hong Kong.  Squids have always been in the running, and images of office supplies. (Just check Pinterest.) Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are at the top of the list.  Maybe Sancho tossed in a blanket by revelers while Don Quixote rests assured in his oblivious daydreams. 

To enjoy literature aloud cuts into music time and makes music time really intense, and easier to be welcoming and open to the new, as well as something like this:

Sunday, June 7, 2015



Well, my blog has been short on original content of late, as I have been busy processing Facebook posts on "Why Republicans Hate Science." I have no intent with this post other than to check in.  I have 19 seconds before I have to run down to the patio and turn over the chicken on the Weber grill.

{running downstairs and through the kitchen, through the mudroom, to check on the done factor of some tandoori marinated chicken...}

Poked the chicken with my finger, not firm enough.  My finger is a thermometer for bbq, always improving, the longer I live in KC.


So the big news is that we adopted a dog, her name is Pixie Paloma Van Jones.  She is pretty much blind, from cataracts, and has bonded with Tracy very intently, something Pixie and I have in common, along with being stray dogs.  

Tracy was looking at kittens through the window at Dearborn Animal Clinic on Johnson Drive, across from Town Topic and our friend Astoria's amazing resale store, Lulu's, where you should go for a magic style consultation, then on to Lamar's Donuts.  Tracy went into Dearborn to look at the kittens and was introduced to Pixie, aka Penelope (a dog orphanage name that is hard to say).  We kept her for a weekend, thought about it, and decided we wanted to give her a home.

Here is a photo of Pixie and Pablo climbing a pile of construction spoilage with Tracy, on Rockhurst campus.  We like to get out there and get down and dirty with whatever we run into.  Pixie is game.  A few nights ago, she went after a goose at the lake on the campus of the Kaufmann Center, with blithe disregard for the different between solid ground and water.  Tracy grabbed her by the tip of her tail before she headed out to deeper waters.  This dog lives on smell, sound, vibration, taste, faith, and pure enthusiasm for what comes next. 

My problem today is what book to read after finishing The Kite Runner on Audible.  It is a hard act to follow. I'm flirting with Don Quixote, in the most recent translation by Edith Grossman.  It will take my two months of commuting to work to listen to this version of the book, which I read a few years back.  I felt, upon finishing it, that I will want to read it every few years for as long as I live.  

I've been working on songs, I'd like to make a double album.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


This used to be a humpy slope draining right into our basement. The kind of yard you'd pass out in at a college party and wake up covered in bug bites, most likely alone. 

Then it was a raw dirt site with a new wall by Jason Nace and Lime Green Masonry and lots of sticks and rocks.  

Then I laid in supplies from the Grass Pad and lucked out with a really wet Spring (and was diligent about watering when it was dry).  Flagstone from House of Rocks in small batches every pay day have got the path moving but we could still use a ton more for the patio and finishing the walking paths.

It's starting to look pretty sharp, and the patio is kind of made for a house concert, but watch out for the volunteer chard, beets, and turnips. #Troostwood

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Winslow Homer: The Wittling Boy

If I leave the house today, I kind of feel like seeing a slow art movie.  I hope there is one in town.  Maybe something about a postman in rural Ukraine who wittles.  A lot of the footage wood feature wittling, or preparations for wittling, or procurement of supplies needed for wittling: a stool, a knife, a chunk of wood, a pack of cigarettes or a plug of tobacco, and if there is not a chair on the porch, a chair.

Television is so good, at this point, that I watch a lot more serial television than I do films.  They are easier to ritualize with dinner or bedtime or whatever.  We are currently watching Bloodline on Netflix, a show that seems to have come out along with Daredevil and House of Cards Season 3, but is better than both of those shows, though less hyped.  The screws are tightening and in some ways it is excruciating to watch but as a show about secrets in families, it is spot on. 

My buddy Mark Facebooked me a link that asks who should play Dave Robicheaux and Cletus Purcell in a potential James Lee Burke series.  I think that it should be Kyle Chandler from Bloodline/Friday Night Lights, and Domenick Lombardozzi (The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, Daredevil).  

It's still so weird to me that Tommy Lee Jones was cast as Robicheaux in a film that left out Cletus Purcell.  Tommy Lee Jones was great, but that is like a World Series with only one team.  How could that idea have flown for even one second?  Hollywood is strange.  Would my pitch fly for a film about a Ukrainian wittler?  

It may not be the Seine, and it may be somewhat of a sewer, but living just up the hill from Brush Creek and the campus of the Kaufmann Center is a Troostwood neighbhorhood bonus.  This is the view from the bridge on Troost, where we saw a heron amongst the geese.  The creek must be running high from the incredible storm last night.
Another bonus: you can't smell Gate's BBQ when walking in Paris.

My next show with SquidsKC: