Archive for the ‘Arts & letters’ Category

R.I.P., VeloNews

January 12, 2022

The first edition of VeloNews in which a cartoon
by You Know Who appeared.

VeloNews was found dead on Jan. 1. It was just 50 years old.

Was it murder? Suicide? Natural causes? (i.e., a slow-moving form of frontotemporal dementia?)

Nah. Darwinism. Nature red in tooth and claw, baby. Or, if you prefer your poetry in the original Sicilian, “It’s strictly business.”

• Editor’s note: A tip of the VeloNews cycling cap to Steve O. for the sharp eye on the velo-news.

December’s desperados

December 2, 2021

A fine December morning.

December. The relentless march through the holidays toward year’s end upshifts into doubletime. Hup hroop hreep horp.

I don’t know but I been told

Winter ain’t gonna get real cold

Climate change done stole our snow

Endless summer for New Mexico

Sorry, Sarge, but that’s how it feels when the thermometer reads 63 degrees, a dozen or so degrees above normal, on Dec. 1.

Herself went for a late-afternoon run in her summer kit. Me, I rode in long sleeves and knickers, but I got out earlier than she did and was generating a slight wind chill despite my usual torrid pace.

The Soma Double Cross, back to its dirty roots.

The mean streets did not appeal (something to do with drink-addled, lead-sneakered gunsels), so I chose the Soma Double Cross with its fat tires and we skulked around various dusty foothill trails and side streets for about 90 minutes.

The DC in its present incarnation — cantilever brakes, eight-speed drivetrain with bar-cons, etc. — is kind of an old-school cyclocross bike, if you overlook its triple crankset, long-cage XT rear derailleur, and 43mm Soma Cazadero tires. Plus its stem is too long and too low. And I wouldn’t use a wide-profile brake like the IRD Cafam II on the rear end if I were jumping on and off the bike the way I did when I was a sprightly young fellow. I carved my right leg like a Christmas turkey once and further instruction was not required.

The too-long stem makes me think about adding a set of top-mounted brake levers, but it would be simpler to just replace the stem, if I could find a replacement, which I can’t. The Great Parts Drought of 2021 continues, especially where weirdo bikes and oddball dimensions are concerned.

Later it was movie night, with pizza and salad. Jane Campion’s “The Power of the Dog” is a beautiful, disturbing film, and we’re probably going to have to watch it again this weekend to see if what we think we saw was actually what we saw. This ain’t exactly John Wayne, pilgrim. Afterward I had to break out the old family Bible and use it as a decoder ring.

Dia de los Viejos Gringos

October 31, 2021

Nothing says Halloween like a plug-in plastic punkin.

Here we are again, All Hallows’ Eve, boogity boogity boogity.

I don’t have any idea what to expect, trick-or-treatwise. Last year we kept our lights out and restricted candy distribution to the neighbor kids and their keepers. The supplicants included two cats, one cow, a fairy, a princess, and Wonder Woman. The booty was sealed in individual Ziploc bags. We didn’t quite toss it at them from the roof.

“G’wan, gedoudaheeh, y’little Petri dishes! I’m warnin’ ya, I got a bucket a hot bleach up heeah!”

In other news, Ken Layne is back from the road just in time to crank out a Halloween episode for Desert Oracle Radio. Author Tod Goldberg joined him to tell a spooky story, and I liked it so much I dashed right over to Page 1 Books and bought one of his books, “The Low Desert,” a collection of short stories. The first was worth the price of admission. There is a scary clown. I shall say no more.

Me, I don’t have a scary story for you today, or even an original costume idea. I’m dressing as Old White Guy, just like always, because in these dark days I can’t think of anything more frightening. Boo, etc.

Dune buggy

October 23, 2021

Your Humble Narrator cultivates desert power.

I’m not casting a very long shadow around here lately.

Frankly, there’s not been much to report. That little tease La Niña is in town again and I’ve been chasing her around on the ol’ bikey bikes.

While all you Left Coast/PNW types deploy your parasols and Gore-Tex your loins against the Million-Pound Aquahammer, we here in the desert Southwest are enjoying a balmy period which makes us forget that before long we will be drinking our own sweat and tears, like Paul Atreides and his mom in “Dune.”

Yep, we watched Part I on HBO Max, and it was a’ight, pretty damn fine actually, not bad atall atall. Made the 1984 David Lynch flick look even worse than it actually was, which was pretty fucking bad.

Denis Villeneuve’s take on the Frank Herbert novel might’ve worked better as an HBO series; then he could’ve used a scalpel instead of a cleaver to move things along over the course of a season or two. But only a geek like myself, a science-fiction dweeb who’s read the book 1,207,275 times, is liable to grouse about the subtleties steamrollered to make the narrative march.

Too, if a series proved successful, there would be the temptation to milk the rest of the “Dune” tales. (We may have to deal with this in any case.) Me, I lost interest after trudging through “Dune Messiah” and “Children of Dune,” which is a very short trek indeed through the vast Duniverse.

Anyway, Rebecca Ferguson is the best of the bunch as Lady Jessica, and Timothée Chalamet is a whole lot better than I expected as Paul. He brings a whiff of Nic Cage and maybe a soupçon of Christian Bale to the role. Meanwhile, Javier Bardem as Stilgar is definitely channeling Anthony Quinn’s Auda abu Tayi from “Lawrence of Arabia.”

And the Hans Zimmer score is a character all its own, though digging it through our obsolete surround-sound system was like listening to the London Philharmonic performing Metallica over a walkie-talkie.

Still, it beat squeezing into the old stillsuit, flagging down a passing sandworm, and crossing the Duke City desert to the Harkonnen IMAX. We got beverages around here ain’t even been drunk once yet.

R.I.P., Paddy Moloney

October 13, 2021

Paddy Moloney, frontman and piper for the Chieftains, has gone west. He was 83.

Reports Mother Times, quoting Himself in The Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Our music is centuries old, but it is very much a living thing. We don’t use any flashing lights or smoke bombs or acrobats falling off the stage. We try to communicate a party feeling, and that’s something that everybody understands.”

I’m grieved to learn that Paddy has left the party to which he brought so much feeling. In his honor let us banish misfortune.

Book ’em

October 10, 2021

Due in December from Copper Canyon Press.

Good news for the readers in the audience.

First, the fall issue of Alta Journal includes a special section featuring seven of the last poems by Jim Harrison. A complete collection of his poetry is slated for release in December by Copper Canyon Press.

Second, Denver’s Tattered Cover bookstore will be opening a new location in downtown Bibleburg. The story doesn’t mention that it will be about a block from where the fabled Chinook Bookshop once sat. It was B-burg’s Tattered Cover Back in the Day®.

Zeezo’s they remember, but not Chinook. So much for institutional memory.

Lost and found

September 29, 2021

Blue skies have returned, but it’s still autumnal out there.

If any of yis should find the “deep thought” dispensed here as shallow as a hoofprint on concrete and infrequent as a desert blizzard, well, take heart, Grasshopper. There are alternatives.

For starters, Jon Stewart is returning to television with a new talk show, “The Problem With Jon Stewart.”

And James Fallows, who has been hard to find lately at The Atlantic, is posting regularly to “Breaking the News” over at Substack.

Fallows is the main reason I subscribed to The Atlantic, a decision I am now reconsidering, since he seems to have been downsized from staffer to contributing writer. But I might keep the sub’, since science writer Katherine J. Wu is doing good work there, too.

The other fella you may recall from his 16-year run as host of “The Daily Show.” I’ve missed both Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s previous incarnation at “The Colbert Report.”

Speaking of TV, here’s another recommendation: “Reservation Dogs,” on FX/Hulu. Shot in the Muscogee Nation and run entirely by people of Indigenous descent, it’s a real gem; sweet without getting sappy, sad without descending into cliché, and funny without telegraphing every comic punch.

I think Willie Jack (Paulina Alexis) may be my favorite character, but Dallas Goldtooth crushes it as a bumbling spirit (William Knife-Man) who occasionally visits Bear (D’Pharaoh Woon-a-tai) to provide some rambling, less-than-useful advice.

Something might be gaining on you

September 11, 2021

It’s been a long, long road.

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and the dying.Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front”

I didn’t have much to say on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and a decade further on down the road I feel even less inclined to hold forth on the topic. A bunch of people got dead, maimed, or insane; another bunch got rich, famous, and powerful; and the rest of us went shopping.

Did we learn anything from the attacks and what Charlie Pierce calls “our blind, feral response?” Doubtful. We check the rear view every 10 years or so, but that’s just reflexive, like glancing at a TV as you pass.

Anything good on? Nahhhhhhh. Same ol’, same ol’. Hey, who wants to go to the mall?

Black Woodstock

July 5, 2021

You’re never too old to learn. Especially when you start from a base of ignorance.

I didn’t learn about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre until 2019, when it came to HBO in “Watchmen.”

And I didn’t hear about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival until 2021, when Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson carved a mountain of forgotten concert imagery into a Black Mount Rushmore, creating the documentary “Summer of Soul” for Hulu.

The Tulsa massacre was buried with its victims for reasons that should be all too obvious. And the Harlem Cultural Festival was strangled by the largely white Woodstock — until Thompson brought the late Hal Tulchin’s long-buried footage back to life.

In an interview with The New York Times, Thompson said:

For nearly 50 years, this just sat in a basement and no one cared. … History saw it fit that every last person that was on that [Woodstock] stage now winds up defining a generation. Why isn’t this held in the same light? Why was it that easy to dispose of us? Instead, the cultural zeitgeist that actually ended up being our guide as Black people was “Soul Train.”

We watched “Summer of Soul” last night, and man, what a blast from the past it was. So many cuts from the pivotal days of this whiteboy’s personal soundtrack.

David Ruffin, fresh from an acrimonious split with The Temptations. A young Gladys Knight and the Pips, very much on their way up. Sly & the Family Stone. B.B. King. Hugh Masakela. Stevie Wonder. The 5th Dimension. The Edwin Hawkins SIngers. And artists whose work I didn’t come to appreciate until later, like Max Roach, The Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson, and Nina Simone.

All of them on stage in Harlem’s Mount Morris Park, playing for a largely Black audience of 50,000 people at a pop, guesstimated at 300,000 over six shows. Admission: Free.

And to think all that sound and glory wound up in a basement tomb, waiting for someone to roll away the stone.

Pull it, sir

June 16, 2021

Luck of the draw.

Well, I didn’t win the Pulitzer for cartooning again this year.

But neither did anyone else.

Back to the ol’ drawing board, everyone!