Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Onward, Christian Puppets

Sometimes I regret having grown up in a reasonably progressive Unitarian/Jewish home. As I result I missed the Little Marcy experience. While we were learning all that social justice and peace nonsense, those evangelical kids were getting to enjoy the bizarre world of Little Marcy with her deceptively simple but by no means simplistic tunes. I'm sure had I known her as a tot I would have had a more interesting albeit deeply disturbed childhood.

Rarely more than a minute long, each one is a little gem. They are typically filled with images of running from devils and unquestioning servitude to her Lord. She may have been just a tiny tot, but she often had to face off Satan in a bitter battle to save her soul in many a song. And all in just 58 seconds! As the Iraq War has now gone longer than World War II, her chilling "I'm in the Lord's Army" has a chilling relevance as we see the daily toll of 18-year-olds sacrificed by compassionate conservatives.

The recordings of Little Marcy, seen through a contemporary lens are more than camp. They are deeply disturbing and impossible to pull away from. No wonder that 20-somethings, born a decade or more after her prime have a shrine to her at MySpace.

Like a good Bergman flick, Marcy defies explanation. But her legend lives on. That's not to say her songs can't be a tad campy. I mean, what else can you do with "I Love Little Pussy," especially as covered by Lovely Little Girls.

But nothing beats seeing this video of Little Marcy singing "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam" in the flesh (er, I mean in the wood). What is Marcy really trying to tell us? She holds that smile for just a little too long for us to believe what she appears to be telling us. I think the subtle syntax is a coded message. I'd understand her singing "Jesus Wants Me to be a Sunbeam," but alas he wants her for a Sunbeam. And to accomplish what? And what sort of Sunbeam? A kitchen appliance or one of those cute little red cars that Maxwell Smart drove back in the 1960s. And watch the video closely and notice how the moves her right arm. What is that all about? What is she not telling us as she beams away?

Ah, as always, like a tightly woven haiku, each Little Marcy tune weaves a mysterious path raising more questions than offering answers.

And why does Little Marcy never break that smile. Coded message, clearly. I think we will never know until Big Marcy dies and at last Little Marcy can finally break her vow of silence. Now that is one Oprah episode I don't plan to miss!

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Red Out

Some people waste away the Thanksgiving holiday dozing in and out of football games. I spent it rewatching good, depressing Nordic films. I think I have seen Cries and Whispers two or three times in my life. The first time was during the 1972 Thanksgiving holiday in Manhattan when I went with my grandmother who went through three radical transformations that year -- she bought a Volvo, she stopped wearing a girdle and she voted for McGovern. She also started wearing a lot of red, and I remember her blazing away in the middle of the audience, so clearly still a Kansas City dowager in the midst of subdued blacks, greys and beiges.

We also went to see
Pippin on that same trip which she enjoyed much more, but I tried to enlighten her on what the Bergman film was all about. I'd already experienced death a few times, but I was clearly explaining the film without understanding it. Thirty-four years later I understand it but can no longer explain it. A woman dies. Her sisters and maid surround her. There is a lot of crying and whispering in dimly lit rooms. There is a lot of the color red

If I were to make a movie, it would involve the perfect shade of grey and very little talking, maybe windchimes instead of Bergman's clocks.
Or maybe the sound of drawers opening. Watching Cries and Whispers again and seeing the sisters dull settling of the family estate makes me think of what my sister and I are doing with our parents house (very little red, my father's favorite color, my mother's least favorite -- there is an excess of blue and mahogany), she was struck by the sound of the drawers in the kitchen. They are sounds familiar to us for 50 years. I've been recording some of those sounds in my Treo 650 and, who knows, may create my own film about the search for the perfect shade of grey. And, to quote Jimmy Webb, where does brown begin?


Friday, November 24, 2006

Ten Years Ago...Arrival

This week marks my tenth year in San Francisco. I arrived sporting the first full beard of my life, and that was gone within a few weeks. I more or less have as much hair as I did back then, just less of it the same shade of light brown with "natural highlights" increasingly taking over. I came to San Francisco with modest enthusiasm. Despite a few times of really despising the place as being boring and over-priced and over-rated, I don't have any immediate desire to move elsewhere. Most of the places I want to go are even more over-priced albeit not over-rated (Paris, Tuscany, the Upper East Side, etc.) However, as a recent article in the ever trusty New York magazine recently pointed out, the upper 80s near Park Avenue no longer represent the richest zip code in Manhattan, overtaken by 10013,/Tribeca.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What Am I Thankful for This Year

Technically my Thanksgiving holiday began at 5 p.m. We were given tomorrow as a "gift" of a day off which I sort of find annoying since there are a lot of things I need to accomplish with work. The last thing I need is another holiday to add to my nearly four months of unused vacation. The positive is that I won't have interuptions too much e-mail, conference calls or other non-work workplace environment distractions. Having been on the road for a month with about 48 hours off I am happy to be able to get work done at my actual desk and may end up being thankful to have Thanksgiving as an opportunity to get work done without worrying about radio interviews, special events, planes to catch, and herding other people into place.

Since I consider the image above to be a current self portrait, I may fast and read the various books I've collected the past few weeks on slow food and the American eating disorder.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I Started Here Today

High atop a hill overlooking Morro Bay on the edge of Los Osos. It took nearly 15 minutes to scale the hill on a dirt road, and my citified car still has evidence of the drive. But I will be in San Francisco for a record 32 days!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Before I Leave - Again

I am home for about 18 hours and hosting a coworker from the Andes. While I have this break, these random realizations went through my mind:
* My single cat has become increasingly clingy since losing his brother. I don't like clinging mammals or insects for that matter. If he weren't 17 I'd be less sympathetic.
* I've sort of started dating again after a long break. I've not sensed clinging yet, and I am trying to be mindful of the signs and a more appropriate response than what I've done in the past. (Unplugging the phone will not be on my list this time).
* I've not eaten any form of meat in six months. I once went six years. Meat is for the weak.
* November 30 marks my tenth year in San Francisco, 17th year since I really lived in the Midwest or "heartland." (Where is the spleenland, I always wonder. Isn't Texas the crotch?)
* I keep coming back to
Maslow's hierarchy of needs in discussions I have had over the past week.
* I spent about 48 hours in various corners of Solano County this week. It is a surreal place in that it reminds me of being in rural Illinois and central Oregon and Mesoamerica all at the same time. Or part of Italy. Farming in northern Italy has come up in a number of conversations this week.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Waking up to Jesus

This has been the view out of my bedroom window for the past three days since I got home. Jesus -- the painter who lives diagonally across the street -- and his crew were hired to begin repairs and painting before the rains started. The rains started the day they put up the scaffolding. Perhaps they will be finished by April.

Friday, November 10, 2006

If not Republican Decorators...

...then perhaps sign up Rick Santorum's kids for extreme makeovers. Isn't his weeping daughter in the Welcome to the Dollhouse Sequel or is it Children of the Corn XIV? No, I'm sure she's a dear girl, and I promise not to gloat too much over the election results. Okay, maybe a little.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

HELP WANTED: Republican Decorator

Apolitical as this site usually is, it is impossible to ignore the generally good news from yesterday’s election. And, as if Bush could not make a more inept stab at humor, this excerpt from the International Herald Tribune is up there with “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore”:

  • The president joked that he had given House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, in line to become the first female speaker of the House, the name of a Republican interior decorator to help her pick out drapes for her new office. The comment was poke at the California Democrat's pre-election remark about having her pick of Capitol building suites.
If Nancy runs short of names, I’m sure she could always call Mark Foley or Ted Haggard. It's likely that they have a few names in their secret rolodexes. Or, Bush, for that matter, could check in with some of his fellow college cheerleaders.

Monday, November 06, 2006

48 Hours on the Buffalo Bayou

I'm in Houston for the third time this year and in my fourth city and less than two weeks. (Sorry, I didn't have second to write about Denver, Oklahoma City and DC this round.) For a Texas city, there are actually some things I like about Houston, old trees being one of them. Lots and lots of trees, actually, compared to most of what I know of Texas. There is not that much bio-diversity in Texas, but at least Houston has a little more than Dallas. So, I can take some comfort of knowing that I did my electoral duty way in advance of the big day tomorrow.

Speaking at a gathering of surprisingly non-Red State Houstonians tonight, I heard an odd strain of conversation about the difference between men and women. Women, not surprisingly, they claimed are nurturing and community builders. Men need ot have force upon force, thus justifying soccer and martial arts instead of wars. Isn't sex between two men another way? I opted not to share that option in the mahogany floored dining room of River Oaks.

One thing that I actually like about Houston and Dallas is that they are cities where an architect like Phillip Johnson can dump some of his worst architecture. One can forgive the Pennzoil Plaza, but The Crescent is another thing. It looks like the place where the Marie Antoinette Barbie would live. Or perhaps they will put the Hairdo Hall of Fame there. But Houston does have some interestingly daring architecture. Just because it's daring does not mean that it's good. It's sort of like taking the dare to eat fried worms or stick a wet digit in a socket. You'll get a charge but may regret it. All the same, I prefer visiting Houston over Dallas, though the weather sucks in both places. Though to say I'd rather live in Houston than Dallas is like saying trying to ponder whether I'd rather have sex with Mark Foley or Ted Haggard. Given that choice I'd rather take up knitting.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Step Into the Mirror

I am home for 32 hours before heading off on the road again. Still anxious for November 21 to arrive when I will have no visitors or trips. I will have a life again.

The other day I was rewatching Cocteau's Blood of a Poet, and I kept thinking where the loose lipped statue urges the shirtless artist to step into the other side of the mirror. When I am on the kind of lifeless routine that I am right now, I keep thinking that myself, of stepping out of reality as we know it and walking into the other side of the mirror.

Problem is the same urge hits me when I am home and isolated for an extended period of time.

[By the way, if you click on the photo below it will take you splashing into the mirror. Follow if you dare!]