What Is There To Be Gained

“I don’t understand why we must do things in this world, why we must have friends and aspirations, hopes and dreams. Wouldn’t it be better to retreat to a faraway corner of the world, where all its noise and complications would be heard no more? Then we could renounce culture and ambitions; we would lose everything and gain nothing; for what is there to be gained from this world?”
― Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

AT&T Plaza, Dallas, Texas

I haven’t been anywhere except for work for a long time. I’m sure you all know how frustrating that is.

Last weekend I went on a photowalk (with masks and proper social distancing) with some folks to AT&T Plaza in downtown Dallas. We used to do that all the time, it was an attempt to return to normal… as much as possible. I did enjoy myself.

Now I am going to try and kick it up a notch – go on a road trip. A big gulf coast triangle of driving – Dallas-Houston-New Orleans-Dallas. I’m not sure how much digital access I’ll have, so I’m going to pre-post some blog entries with photos I took on the photowalk to publish while I’m gone.

See y’all on the back side.

The Devil’s Backbone

“What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.”
Guillermo del Toro. The Devil’s Backbone

Will I ever see another movie in a real theater? I’m sure I will, but right now it’s unimaginable.

I decided to pay for the streaming service, The Criterion Channel. Tonight I watched a movie that I had seen in the theater a few years ago – Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo). I had made a point to go down to Mockingbird to catch it at the Angelika after seeing its crackerjack trailer before another movie a week earlier.

It’s worth a second look.

The first scene is a bomb falling from a warplane in a rainstorm. It turns out the bomb falls in the courtyard of a Spanish orphanage, but it doesn’t explode. It remains stuck in the ground, sticking up at a steep angle- death, danger, and doom made into steel. The orphanage claims the bomb has been defused, but the orphans claim that it is still ticking.

The orphanage is collecting the sons of the Republican fighters in the final catastrophic days of the Spanish Civil War. The bomb is by no means the most frightening thing in the orphanage – there is the war, boatloads of secrets, and a ghost boy with dire warnings.

Yes, it is a ghost story… but in a world gone to hell, a ghost can almost be a breath of… if not fresh – at least welcome air.

Guillermo del Toro has gone on to great Hollywood fame (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim, Hellboy, The Shape of Water) but he has said this is his favorite among his own films. A sibling film to Pan’s Labyrinth (also set during the Spanish Civil War).

There are ghosts, and pain, and hell comes to earth… but there is also poetry, friends, and music and sometimes that’s enough to go on.

Podcast on The Devil’s Backbone

I Get Out

“We all live in a house on fire, no fire department to call; no way out, just the upstairs window to look out of while the fire burns the house down with us trapped, locked in it.”
Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore

Skull Mural – Design District, Dragon Street, Dallas, Texas

I have been trapped inside (except for going to work all the time – which is even worse). I think I’m losing my mind.

I did get out today – actually went to a wedding in the design district. It felt odd. So odd I’m getting worried that I have lost all my abilities as a social animal – which were never strong to begin with.

In Praise of Spotify

“What you got back home, little sister, to play your fuzzy warbles on? I bet you got little save pitiful, portable picnic players. Come with uncle and hear all proper! Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You are invited..”
Alex, A Clockwork Orange

There was live music at the start.

There was an apocalyptic time, long long ago, when I lived for a while in a tent with a couple of other guys. All we had for music was a little plastic battery-powered record player and two albums – Santana Abraxas and Traffic Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. We would listen to them over and over – and buy a lot of batteries.

When I was in college I didn’t have a stereo. I was jealous of friends that did and would spend as much time as I could wrangle at their places listening to music. I was a pest. Listening to good quality music was an expensive luxury.

On my own, as a working stiff – there was a long series of music related technological advances that came and went (and some times came and went again) – 8-Track, Cassettes, LP Vinyl, Reel-to-Reel, Dolby, subwoofers, CD, 5 – channel… on and on. The Walkman was particularly amazing to me – personal, portable, decent quality affordable music – a revelation. This was truly the best of all possible worlds.

And now, in the midst of my old geezerhood, I have finally caught up and have a paid membership to Spotify. And it is amazing. Desktop, laptop, phone, tablet – the entire history of music spread out before me like a groaning buffet table of sound.

Sure, it’s more than a little unnerving to have a giant computer somewhere checking on what I’m listening to and devising playlists that it thinks I might like… unnerving but also useful.

And now I have hooked my Spotify account up with a bluetooth soundbar and a couple of Amazon Echo Dots…. I can lie in my bed and call out, “Alexa, please play album Santana Abraxas,” or “Alexa, please play album Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” I don’t know why I always say “please.”


I stumbled across this odd song and now it’s stuck in my head.

It’s called Prisencolinensinainciusol.

A big hit in Italy – the lyrics are gibberish, but designed to sound like English to non-English speaking listeners. It’s strange, but weirdly addictive. Believe it or not but Alexa will find it on Spotify.

Short Story (Flash Fiction) Of the Day, Helicopter by Nicholas L. Sweeney

Overhead, Danny heard a sound like a hundred horses galloping in unison. The craft had looked like a stray gout of orange flame rising into the sky. The white blades of its propeller carved a halo over its head. The ice cream slipped, forgotten, from Danny’s hand. The cone crunched beneath his sneaker.

—-Nicholas L. Sweeney, Helicopter

Helicopter, Downtown Dallas, Texas

I shot the helicopter reflected in a building in downtown after riding my bike to visit a new park, Pacific Plaza, in downtown. It was lifting what looked like roofing materials to the top of another skyscraper.

I looked around for a flash fiction about a helicopter, and found this one… it’s pretty good.

 

Read it here:

Helicopter by Nicholas L. Sweeney

from Flash Fiction Magazine

 

Get the Most Not the Lesser

“So generation after generation of men in love with pain and passivity serve out their time in the Zone, silent, redolent of faded sperm, terrified of dying, desperately addicted to the comforts others sell them, however useless, ugly or shallow, willing to have life defined for them by men whose only talent is for death.”
Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

Fabrication Yard, Dallas, Texas

Blue Angels

You must drink. I’m not paying for your art.

—-Kiepert, The Blue Angel

The Blue Angels flew over Dallas in honor of the COVID-19 first responders.

I was at work and pretty much everyone filed out into the parking lot to watch them fly over – wearing our surgical masks and staying six feet apart from each other.

They were over in a few seconds. I had brought my camera and snapped a few photos – though I have friends that were, say, downtown, and took much better pictures of the jets against the towering crystal skyscrapers. Still, I raised my camera and shot – something doesn’t really happen unless you have a photo of it.

 

The Blue Angels over my work parking lot.

The Blue Angels over my work parking lot turning with smoke.

The Blue Angels turning toward downtown Dallas.

Just To Nourish Human Loneliness

“Why do people have to be this lonely? What’s the point of it all? Millions of people in this world, all of them yearning, looking to others to satisfy them, yet isolating themselves. Why? Was the earth put here just to nourish human loneliness?”
Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart

Footprints and Bike Tracks in thin mud on concrete path, Trinity River Bottoms, Dallas, Texas

There were people here once.