Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Exile on Center St. - Rolling Stones Tribute Thursday Jan 8th 7PM at the Iron Horse, 20 Center St. in Northampton

It was a Springsteen-fest in 2007 and Tom Waits in 2006. This year the Valley's best musicians take on the music of the Rolling Stones. Each band does a Stones song and one of their own. This should be a blast. The line-up includes: Steve Sanderson (Drunk Stuntmen) and Thane Thomsen (The Figments) and National Carpet and Rusty Belle and The Amity Front and Dave Houghton (Fancy Trash) and Sitting Next to Brian and The Grownup Noise and Jose Ayerve (of Spouse) and The Novels and Henning Ohlenbusch and The Lonesome Brothers and Chris Pureka and The Fawns and Matthew Hebert.

Poster created by Hannah Ward who also runs the Monday Craft Night at The Basement called, coincidentally, STICKY FINGERS.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Kids Screaming Under The Bridge. Captured!

This summer I did a post about a mystery scream. I've reprinted the post below. Today I just happened to be on my way to work and was able to capture the scream on video!

(Previous post:) For months now I have been unable to figure out why I hear what must be dozens of children screaming at the top of their lungs at about the same time every morning. I've gone to investigate a few times and witnessed one of those kid-chains; many kindergarten age kids all holding one leg each of a sort of huge cloth centipede, with three adults, one leading the way, one monitoring the center, and one minding the tail. The centipede keeps them as one unified mass and I guess this provides some sense of imagined control for the adults but it seems a little counter to the independence I recall feeling on field trips when I was a kid. We didn't need no stinkin' centipede and I don't remember any cases where teachers had to circle the outside of the crowd like sheepdogs. We stayed in a decent line on our own and if anything we held hands. Maybe they're locked or tied to the centipede. Anyway, I figured the scream out. When the kids walk under the bridge, they all scream to hear the cavernous echo of their collective wail. It still freaks me out and I have visions of the various tragedies that might cause all these kids to scream in unison. (below: a photo of the kids this past summer. Click.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"Davis Williams: True Adventurer #1" by Sam Neill Bebergal

Sam (left) is my seven year old nephew. He is writing a book. Its title is "Davis Williams: True Adventurer #1" and he has completed one chapter. My sister Amy Neill, his mother, has transcribed the story and it is presented here for the first time. The book will be illustrated by his father Peter Bebergal. In the meantime, I have taken liberties and added images to the story which do not do it justice but just consider them placeholders. If anyone wants to submit illustrations for any of the scenes, please feel free.

"Davis Williams: True Adventurer #1" by Sam Neill Bebergal

Preface Ah hem, sorry about that. Have you ever heard of the person named Davis Williams? To be exact, Williams is his last name. So, start the story now, go on, it’s not scary.

Once upon a time there was a boy. Years passed, and he grew into a grownup like anybody else. He knew about Indiana Jones, who was his favorite character. And his favorite actor was Harrison Ford. So, he was a grownup, and he decided to do something very secret, well, not exactly secret, but we’ll get to that later. He was 30 when he decided to do that secret. This man, Davis Williams, is going to live to be 125 years old. I know that’s pretty old, but that’s how long he’s going to live for, so let’s start the story.

There was a man named Davis Williams. Well, before this I told you the above words. He decided to do the secret. So the man’s secret was to be a hero and save people who were in trouble. Now I will tell you his strengths: boomerang, his muscles, a whip, and sometimes he senses packs of cherry bombs he can use. Now let’s get to the final final story—no more of this dumb talk.

Once upon a time there was a man walking in the jungle. He didn’t sense any trouble, no nothing, he was just having a fun time in the jungle, where he lives, a jungle by the beach. He was almost to his house when he saw a branch fall. A stick fell on his head and he said “Ow,” in an inside voice. He covered his head. He took his hands off his head and looked up and saw…..a giant Godzilla throwing sticks and trees and leaves and lizards. He saw the head and body of a lizard falling down, and then he saw a full lizard falling on his head, pulling his hair. He took the lizard off and threw him back. It landed on the gorilla’s head and he kept walking. The gorilla got up and ran towards him. He tapped his back.

Davis Williams turned around and said "what" in a tired voice. The Gorilla took off his head, and there was a human inside. He took of his suit and it turned out to be his long lost brother Freddie. He was only 46—a lot older. Davis Williams took his hand and wiped off the sweat on his forehead. "What a relief," he said. "I thought it was going to be some monster or the gorilla!" Davis said to Freddy, "come to my house this way." Freddy was twirling his head in circles and didn’t know where he was going. He ran towards him and said, "wait up." " You’re right next to me," said Davis. "I was behind you," said Freddie.

They finally got to a quiet little house and a butterfly went past. He opened the door to his house. There were two monkeys holding hands going in circles. The radio was on playing jazz. Davis turned off the radio and looked at the monkeys with a naughty look on his face. One monkey was wearing his baseball cap from the US from before he moved to the jungle. The other monkey was wearing a birthday hat from when he was a kid. He picked up the monkeys and took off the hats and threw them outside. The monkeys grabbed onto vines and climbed up. Davis didn’t know what the vines were attached to because there were no trees or branches above. He looked up and saw a world, like a globe. The monkeys kept climbing so Davis said, "c’mom Freddy, let’s go."

Freddie climbed faster. Davis caught up and at the same pace they went all the way up—well not exactly all the way--they had a few more minutes to go. They started to get hungry. Davis said to Freddy in his inside voice, like always, "good thing I brought my snack machine." He poured it into his mouth, a few chunks of food fell in. He swallowed them without chewing. Freddy did the same thing and gave it back to Davis. Davis put it in his pocket and they kept climbing.

They finally got up. He knocked on the world. It felt hollow. He looked to the left—nothing there—more trees. To the right he saw a small platform and those two monkeys doing flips. Then he saw a small door that seemed like the right size for three monkeys. He saw the two monkeys going in. He jumped as far as he could, saying "AHHHHH." Then he realized he was on his feet with his mouth open from the scream. He went into the door to the world—it was a dance room.

He saw a dinosaur coming down and falling. He looked down and he started to fall. He knocked on his head a few times, and then he woke up. In his mind he thought it was just a dream.

"Tomorrow I have a big day. I am going to move to California." He got out of bed and put his clothes on, the suit that he had of the secret I told you about above. So, he got on that suit and he went outside and started to walk down the street some more. He got in his car, a convertible, and he drove away. He drove and drove and took the map out of the car and looked at it even though the car was still driving. He was very good at safety. He squinted at the map and realized he made a wrong turn on route 69. He saw a house in the distance.

He got out of the car with the map and backpack and suitcase and everything and went to the house. The little slot on the door opened, a ball connected to a bendy pipe came out. He heard a speak he had never heard before in a very low voice. Super low, lower that you would think. He heard a short word: "meekkoba." He knocked on the ball connected to the pipe and he heard a high voice just like a mouse that was about to die. The voice stopped and the door opened. He saw a regular person from America he could tell, but it didn’t speak the same language. He put a little thermonator* in his mouth and he started to speak Davis’ language.

He said "Hello," and Davis said "Hello" back. He saw the mouse voice was Freddy and Freddy was drinking some coffee. The unknown person said to Davis, "come in, sit next to this man named Freddy." Davis said to the man, "I know who Freddy is, he is my brother." The man said to David: "Good luck! You see your brother." The man said to nobody in a loud voice: "Avotolose." And he disappeared. Right in front of them, Davis and Freddy saw a black cloak on the table. Davis walked over and picked it up. There was a man inside with a wrinkly gray face and red pointy eyes. Davis saw two black lines, and knew they were his arms.

The cloaked man started to choke Davis. While he was getting choked, Davis punched him in the nuts. The wrinkly man fell down and pulled on Davis’ legs; instead of falling down, he did a back flip and hit his nuts again. The wrinkly man took off his cloak and underneath there was another cloak so if it came off he wouldn’t have to be naked in front of everyone. He put the first cloak around Freddy to see Freddy’s strength. Davis took a shovel from Freddy’s shoulder belt and bumped Freddy’s head. Freddy slid out of the cloak but the wrinkly man thought he was still inside the cloak. While the wrinkly man still holding the empty cloak, Davis took him and threw him up and down, catching and throwing, catching and throwing, 4 times. The wrinkly man got up and took his head off, and there was nothing there but two floating eyes. He reached into his neck and took out a replacement head.

*Thermonator: A language machine: you put it in your mouth and you can speak a different language.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa's Hangover

Stoned for Christmas

This time of year I start thinking about the phrase " this time of year." I also think about Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery," and its tale of unquestioned annual public stonings. Mankind is as powerless to prevent Christmas and its gift connotations as we are to boycott... the seasons. Tradition is sometimes respected as if it was a force of nature. I predict, however, that in 100 years, Christmas will have changed and drifted away from the retail orgy it is. I sense that there is a societal skepticism and weariness developing. But maybe this is just my sense of its arc based on where I am in my life relative to Christmas. I suspect any number of 10 year olds might tell me to shut the hell up and not ruin a good thing. And actually, this notion that Christmas is too commercial is a boring argument and the commerce isn't a problem for me. It's not like if you took away the presents, there would be anything left that made any more sense. Sorry Christians at al. I'm just suspicious of anything that gets entire populations to engage in a series of identical gestures and phrases at the same time every year. Is it a massive cultural synchronization? Society tuning itself to itself? Insert thesis on significance of tradition in culture here. I still think it's kooky.

As I get older I've gotten much better at managing the weird and unexpected twists in life. I can deal with behaviors and situations that used to shake my foundations. Heartbreak, job loss, financial problems, diseases. It's manageable. Familiar turf. It's the most ordinary behaviors that start to look strange and trouble me. It all started the day the word "the" looked like it was misspelled. Before I knew it the five-day, 9-5 work week looked bizarre. Sitting in traffic? Psychotic. An audience clapping? Hilarious and ridiculous. I still do these things, but I've lost my innocence about them. It's some weird ass behavior, people, this stuff we all do. And holidays? Pumpkins, turkeys, and pine trees. Mass insanity. Why does it make me wince to watch people wish each other a happy holiday? I feel like I'm watching prisoners of the rulebook blindly following orders. "Wishing" someone else something that's really pretty vague and unclear as to its intent. Hey, I do it. But I don't know what I'm doing.

Hypothetically, how would one boycott the seasons? Which part of it would you attack? The rising and setting of the sun, the rotation of our planet, its orbit around the sun...all the same phenomenon actually, just depends on where you are experiencing it from. How could you know that you were attacking the source of the actual season and not just its illusory evidence based on your relationship and vantage point. Einstein's theory of relativity. I finally understand it. I mean I understood it, but I finally actually felt it and knew it yesterday. It is of me and I of it. It happened while I was looking at a view of the Connecticut River from an airplane. I saw that it was obviously the last trickle of what must have been a lake. The Connecticut River (nee Pioneer) Valley is the former lake's bed. Duh, I know. But I thought, okay, a roaring river is also a mere trickle, depending on where you are relative to it. And so nothing is simply huge or tiny in and of itself. Something cannot be without something else. (Tree falls in the woods type deal.)

And time? Well, same thing. Which explains why the time we experience is exactly as long or as short as it feels. A clock doesn't convey how long an hour is. It just makes it possible to make a dentist appointment. An hour observed on a clock, just staring at it, is simply an experience of watching the measurement that we've all agreed on. It is likely to feel like a long time as in the adage "the watched pot never boils." How we perceive time is exactly how long it is. And maybe the tendency to even think of an experience as taking place "in time," detracts from the purity.

And maybe Christmas isn't an old, tired, worn out holiday. Maybe I am. And now that I've just completed (wasted?) a blog post about nothing, I will leave you with a quote from the late David Foster Wallace and a mission statement for this week, or life, or whenever: "The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jena Dream

Pink Floyd "Julia Dream"

Sunlight bright upon my pillow
Lighter than an eiderdown
Will she let the weeping willow
Wind his branches round
Julia Dream, dreamboat queen, queen of all my dreams
Every night I turn the light out
Waiting for the velvet bride
Will the scaly armadillo
Find me where I'm hiding
Julia Dream, dreamboat queen, queen of all my dreamsWill the fisty master break me
Will the key unlock my mind
Will the following footsteps catch me
Am I really dyingJulia Dream, dreamboat queen, queen of all my dreams
Julia Dream, dreamboat queen, queen of all my dreams
Julia Dream, dreamboat queen, queen of all my dreams
Julia Dream, dreamboat queen, queen of all my nightmares
by Roger Waters, sung by David Gilmour. This was David's first vocal on a Floyd song after "replacing" Syd Barrett.

Jena owns and runs the lovely and hip store PINCH in Northampton.

The melody of this song is based on the British lullaby, All The Pretty Little Horses.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bell & Howl Video Installation at APE on Main Street in Northampton tonight until 9PM

Dana Gentes, owner/manager of Pleasant Street Video and his collaborator Andrew Greto aka Bell & Howl have created their second video installation at APE. It ran last night for Arts Night Out and concludes tonight. All manner of video and film equipment (of course Bell & Howell projectors are prominent) coalesce in this visual symphony which includes (at least while I was there) black and white films from the 30s and 40s, the Rankin/Bass cloying but addictive holiday special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from the 60s, Stephen Colbert's leftist book burning fireplace (Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 was in the flames...or was it the orginal 451?) and audio that may have been the theme to the 70s TV show Mannix. Come on downtown tonight and check it out. It looks striking and surreal in the snowy environment. If anyone who knows more than I do (Philip?) wants to elaborate on the installation please comment away!
Dana Gentes ("Bell" above)
Andrew Greto ("Howl" above and below)
Suddenly, trivia! Dana Gentes and his now-defunkt (de-funked?) band Check Please! recorded and performed a song called (approximately) Guide That Funky Sleigh Now Rudolph to the tune of Play That Funky Music White Boy in the mid -'90s.Below, Dynamite Records window.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sierra Grille Bar Mirror-10:30PM-Friday Night Snowstorm

Santa Claus Cookies and NohoSnowDome

My mom makes cookies like a madwoman at Xmas. Her Pecan Tassies look like tiny Table-Talk pies filled with bits of pecans. Ring-A-Lings are sugar cookies with a reservoir of raspberry jelly. But the Santa Claus cookies defy orthodox conventions and practices. They are a unique and special creation; the defining essence of the whole cookie tradition. She pierces the tip of the hat so they can be hung as ornaments as well as chomped on.

Northampton at 11AM. Preparing for the slippery sidewalk at Pleasant and Main.

3PM. The storm is big but hardly a blizzard.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bi-Polar Eye Dances

I walk to work. It's about three blocks. It's a convenience I never take for granted when I recall my former commutes; the Boston to Salem drive or the Hollywood to Santa Monica crawl. This morning on the way into town I encountered an atypical sequence of people and wondered how I had managed to leave home just in time for all this. The first; a man and a woman walking toward me. I quietly noticed that he was missing an eye. The socket just had skin healed over it. I pondered that for a bit. Car accident? Knife fight? I closed one eye as I turned the corner by Roz's place, imagining a 2D world; learning how to judge distance without the usual double lens. Depth perception; granted but fragile.

As I passed Dynamite I saw the second, a woman walking toward me who at first looked like she was winking at me, but it turned out one eye was just firmly closed. It was just closed, like one door of a two-car garage. The open one was very blue and I caught it and attempted a smile. I hoped she didn't think it was a nervous "what's wrong with your eye smile" which I guess it had been, and I also hoped that she hadn't seen me doing my 2D-3D experiment and think it had something to do with her. She smiled back in any case.

Then, walking towards me with a dog, appeared a woman who has sadly though necessarily become an ex-friend. She owes me a decent sum of money that I had lent her during a financial mess she was in (I should have seen the red flag) when we were still friends. When our differences, which had nothing to do with money, became irreconcilable, I suggested we clear up the debt. After three small installments, she stopped, and seems now to prefer avoiding me rather than working it out. This seems a poor plan in a small town where we have common friends. After a valiant effort of friendly attempts to resolve the matter, met with no response at all, I'm taking her to small claims court. I've never done this before. It sucks. She's also bi-polar, self-described, which I have respected and often been in awe of throughout, and I wonder what factor this plays. Maybe it's a reality that I cannot even fathom where she sees me as a threat rather than the amicable creditor I am trying to be. I've heard she is out of work again, and I'm not trying to shake her down, but I can ill afford to be stiffed and I just want to know she's good for it. I am not reassured and I hope she will eventually be an adult about this. Waiting me out is not going to work because yes, it has become personal. There is the trusting, generous, compassionate part of me, and there's the part of me that catches on a little too slowly when the first part is being taken advantage of. I have forgiven many a debt, but don't take kindly to having the decision made for me by the debtor.

So we both saw each other coming and unlike other times when I've seen her duck out of bars or avoid me in public, we were on a collision course. She averted her gaze completely and tensed up. I tensed up too but I didn't avert my gaze. I felt like I should say something like, "Hey, can we talk?" or even "Seeya in court!" But I didn't. I'm not much for confrontation, as much as I might prepare myself, even when it's something that could alleviate stress and logistics and be solved in short order face to face. It begins with eye contact, a crucial barrier to re-humanizing each other, which I tried to establish, and which she did not allow; head bowed, her pace quickened. In hindsight, the eye-challenged people now behind me seemed harbingers of this odd encounter. And so we passed each other, and my mouth felt dry and my day was ruined for a little while.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Filter

Sometimes my inner filter that distinguishes between big problems and small problems malfunctions and everything comes at me at the same strength regardless of its significance. It stokes my inner paranoia about everything from health to livelihood. I don't know what precedes this shut-down to determine if I might be able to control it. Why is it that one day I feel like an accomplished professional, worthy of respect and capable of handling any relevant responsibility? The next I feel the opposite, with equal conviction; that I'm ineffective, that my talent is a charade. The mistakes (or actions that are viewed by a superior as mistakes) stack up as evidence against me. Then when I look at root causes of some of the mistakes, I see that others bear some of the responsibility for the outcome. Even the accuser. Then I think that in viewing it this way, I'm just trying to shirk accountability; point fingers, and that feels weak and immature. So I think, how could the problem be avoided in the future? Sometimes it's an easy answer. And sometimes it's the result of a philosophical divide or a mixed message, and so the solution becomes resilience or perspective. But that requires the filter. And it's not working today.
Cartoons can be clicked if your eyes are straining.