interlude (meditations): An Electric Summer

And so at last we come to the end of it, this electric summer that dripped slowly past…

electricusa

I’m sitting right here in my front yard now, as I have for many summers and in many different locations, and I’m watching the sun drift towards noon, the sky electric and vibrant and a blue that could only be summoned by a happy childhood, expansive, unique, the clouds are cotton candy and you could sleep for centuries under their happy, watchful, floating gaze…you’ve known them your whole life, you know, and they clip through the electricity of noon as they always have: silent, buzzing with joy but quiet from everything they know, you’ve known them your whole life, and they match this summer as they have matched every summer into oblivion, now just great cotton titans heralding our Tomorrowland, a summer in our hearts and minds that is as expansive as the clouds overhead, electric, joyful, the here & now just a brief pause before the coming of the days of endless blue skies…and, on those days of blue and green and gold, I will be as I am now, sitting in the yard, reading, typing, thinking (not necessarily in that order, take note), taking stock of where I started three months ago and where I end up now: peaceful, moderately happy, enjoying that freshly-cut grass smell that’s so beloved by writers, poets, and fans of baseball (of which I count myself amongst all three of these clubs, as I’m sure a lot of my readers do as well…), stopping my progress on whatever I’m doing to watch the airplanes that occasionally fly past, or listen to the sounds of skateboards on concrete, or music from the endless windows of the suburbia I live in, or the sound of the small wind making the small trees and the small grass make small movements, curling and solemn and stretching on and on like this suburbia, or the endless electric summer I spoke so poetically of a few hundred words ago…

And so at last we come to the end of it, this electric summer that dripped slowly past…

J.W.

“In the Summertime” (Mungo Jerry)

In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
When the weather’s fine
You got women, you got women on your mind
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find

If her daddy’s rich take her out for a meal
If her daddy’s poor just do what you feel
Speed along the lane
Do a ton or a ton an’ twenty-five
When the sun goes down
You can make it, make it good in a lay-by

We’re no threat, people
We’re not dirty, we’re not mean
We love everybody but we do as we please
When the weather’s fine
We go fishin’ or go swimmin’ in the sea
We’re always happy
Life’s for livin’ yeah, that’s our philosophy

Sing along with us
Dee dee dee-dee dee
Dah dah dah-dah dah
Yeah we’re hap-happy
Dah dah-dah
Dee-dah-do dee-dah-do dah-do-dah
Dah-do-dah-dah-dah
Dah-dah-dah do-dah-dah

Alright ah…

(– J.W.)

The Dry Stone Tree Wall that Love Built

Originally posted on TwistedSifter:

dry stone tree wall memorial eric landman (7)

 

Situated within the Island Lake Conservation Area of Ontario, Canada, is the Dods and McNair Memorial Forest Trail, where people have been planting trees in memory of loved ones for years.

After losing his wife Kerry to cancer in April 2011, Eric Landman set forth on creating an ambitious monument in her honour. By special request, Landman was granted permission by Dods and McNair and the Credit Valley Conservation Authority to build a dry stone wall tree monument in memory of his wife.

 

dry stone tree wall memorial eric landman (2)

 

Dry stone is a building method by which structures are constructed from stones without any mortar to bind them together. Dry stone structures are stable because of their unique construction method, which is characterized by the presence of a load-bearing façade of carefully selected interlocking stones.

 

The original design

dry stone tree wall memorial eric landman (1)

 

“It’s good therapy. It’s the type of job that is good for…

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Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)

If it was never new, and it never gets old, then it’s a folk song…

Llewyn Davis is going through what we in the field of pretentious writers & artists call a typical “existential crisis,” brought on by the dual-bastard existential storm-systems of a cruel winter (in the year of our Lord, nineteen-hundred & sixty one) and the dull grind of the same-old, same-old routine – gigs that don’t pay well, friends who promise your usual crash-couch to some hillbilly just up from the Army, yuppies who love folk music but not enough to get down into the nasty, smoke-filled trenches, the trenches of despair and misery and poverty and folk music, the same trenches that Llewyn Davis (the brilliant Oscar Isaac) fights in and tries like Hell at the same time to escape. This is Llewyn Davis’ world, one of music and the bright, hopeful scene found in Greenwich Village, 1961. It’s a special time (post-Woody Guthrie, pre-Bob Dylan) in the folk scene in New York City, one we pretentious writers & artists stare at fondly and look to for inspiration – me? I’ve worn out several copies of The Free-Wheelin Bob Dylan, as I’m sure you have too; but, would Llewyn Davis look upon the folk scene of New York City circa-’61 fondly? Hell no, and, as I’ve mentioned, he’s trying like Hell to escape – maybe the merchant marines, a ship pointed out towards the suburbs and the horrifying world of his parents. If you’re a writer (or, of course, an artist of any shape, size, or creed), you understand this existential crisis quite well. To give up on your dream would be the end of the world/a life tucked away in the suburbs, every artist’s Hell, neat and happy and full of the latest flashy consumer-goods for your dying soul, or so I’ve been warned about by my own beating, shivering writer’s heart.

This is the crisis of Llewyn Davis, as brought to you by the ever-genius Coen Brothers. I’m sure you know this feeling like I do.

When we first meet him, he’s on the cigarette smoke-obscured stage of the Gaslight Cafe, all the power he can muster in the soul pouring into a folk song, probably one that’s been passed down through the hallowed halls of American misery; he’s played this song before (see the quote that begins this very same quasi-review) and even through his shining talent we can see that he’s just so goddamn tired. He’s basically a drifter, so he knows he’ll be spending the night on a couch somewhere in the city – probably at the home of his friends Jim & Jean (Justin Timberlake and the always beautiful/brilliant/talented Carrie Mulligan), but most likely at the apartment of the Gorfeins, the pretentious, folk-loving couple that treats him a trained fucking seal, an ultra-talented wind-up toy that they can ooh-and-ahh at whenever they feel like it, which, of course, drives Llewyn crazy (just wait for this scene…it’s one of the funniest in the film). His best friend (Max Casella), the one who runs the club, is kind of a loud-mouthed scumbag. His musical partner, Tim, has been dead for awhile now – committed suicide, threw himself off the George Washington Bridge (“George Washington Bridge? You throw yourself off the Brooklyn Bridge, traditionally. George Washington Bridge? Who does that?”). It’s winter. He has no money, no future & no prospects, no winter coat, his old girlfriend ran away with his child to Akron, and his mistress is pregnant. How could a man like Llewyn Davis not break down in the face of this existential terror? It would break any of us.

A few years ago I had a winter exactly like this. I had no money, (seemingly) no future, I couldn’t seem to ever get warm, and, worst of all, I was considering abandoning the thing I love most of all – writing – simply because I was tired of (figuratively) getting punched in the balls every time I opened my eyes to begin another miserable fucking day. I’ve never been more tired in all of my short, not-so-miserable life and, no matter how much I slept, I couldn’t seem to find rest. The bags under my eyes threatened to become permanent, my friends were off on their own terrible trips, and everything I wrote immediately turned to crap (in my own sleep-deprived mind, at least). Sometimes, I would sleep for fourteen hours, and, sometimes, I would be awake for two or three days in a row, all because I was depressed and couldn’t seem to snap the hell out of it. Everything was terrible & everyone sucked – I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. We all have our “winter of discontent” and that’s immediately what Inside Llewyn Davis made me think of: a dark time in my life, and how fighting for your art is worth it, down to the bone, no matter how much it sometimes feels like the thing you love the most is trying to break your spirit with a Louisville Slugger, no matter how tired you will most definitely get…where was I going with this again?? Oh yeah: I love this damn move, even if it reminded me of a time I sometimes would like to forget. In fact, the character of Llewyn reminds me so much of myself that I sat in my car for about ten minutes after the movie was over, wondering that great question of the artist’s life: am I REALLY that much of an asshole??

(Psssssst: the answer is “yes,” you ARE that much of an asshole. This is what you get for asking. As you can tell, I don’t write reviews!)

llewyndavis1

How much can one say about Joel & Ethan Coen? Consider this sequence: Llewyn needs to get to Chicago and so hitches the ride with a friend of his acquaintance Al Cody (Adam Driver). During this long & painfully awkward drive — the driver, played by Garrett Hedlund, doesn’t talk, and the drug-addicted jazzman, full of hot-air, holding court in the backseat, is played beautifully by John Goodman — Llewyn questions every last facet of his drifter’s existence: the estranged child in Akron, the simplicity of folk music, Ulysses the cat…all of it building up to a disappointing audition for a nightclub owner (F. Murray Abraham, who seems to be everywhere this year). Consider this sequence for how well-staged it is, how the quasi-existential tragedy that is Llewyn Davis matches the way the camera faces towards a foggy road, any possible obstacle that life may throw just waiting just off-camera in the darkness, waiting for its turn to leap out and cause chaos…

I have loved every last movie the Coen Brothers have released over the last thirty years, and Inside Llewyn Davis is just the latest in a long line of great films. The music, the atmosphere, the acting, the cinematography….all of it a testament to their brilliance. I don’t normally write reviews, I’m no good at them, but I felt the overwhelming need to write this review.. Stop reading this right now and see this movie.

Jackson Williams.

Marooned on an Island Monographs: A Historical Fiction Reading List

Originally posted on the many-headed monster:

Laura Sangha

A recent mini-series has emerged on the monster, in which Mark (social history and the history of drinking), Jonathan (reformation history) and Brodie (economic history) have all shared the classic history books that they would take with them if marooned on a Pacific beach. But given that it is impossible to imagine anyone actually settling down with a cocktail and Joan Thirsk’s Economic Policy and Projects, and following an excellent suggestion by a monster reader, my list is comprised of some historical fiction that you might actually pop in your suitcase this summer.

Prologue

But first, I have to get something off my chest. My name is Laura, I am an early modern historian, and I didn’t like Wolf Hall. In fact, I couldn’t even finish it. I tried, several times, and eventually made it about 200 pages in, but my resolve faltered when…

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12 Things White People Can Do Now Because of Ferguson:

Originally posted on Quartz:

As we all know by now, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenage boy, was gunned down by the police while walking to his grandmother’s house in the middle of the afternoon. For the past few days my Facebook newsfeed has been full of stories about the incidents unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri.

But then I realized something.

For the first couple of days, almost all of the status updates expressing anger and grief about yet another extrajudicial killing of an unarmed black boy, the news articles about the militarized police altercations with community members and the horrifying pictures of his dead body on the city concrete were posted by people of color. Outpourings of rage and demands for justice were voiced by black people, Latinos, Asian Americans, Arab American Muslims. But posts by white people were few at first and those that I saw were posted mostly by my white activist or…

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“Ohio” (Neil Young)

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s coming
We’re finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming
Four dead in Ohio

Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio
Four dead in Ohio

J.W.