“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice
Check out my new weapon, weapon of choice
Until now, I never thought about the Dune references in “Weapon of Choice.”
“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
― Emily Jane Brontë , Wuthering Heights
Woke up this morning, feel ’round for my shoes
You know ’bout that babe, had them old walkin’ blues
Woke up this morning, I feel ’round for my shoes
You know ’bout that babe
Lord, I had them old walkin’ blues
Leavin’ this morning, I had to go ride the blinds
I’ve been mistreated, don’t mind dying
This morning, I had to go ride the blinds
I’ve been mistreated
Lord, I don’t mind
People tell me walkin’ blues ain’t bad
Worst old feeling I most ever had
People tell me the old walkin’ blues ain’t bad
Well, it’s the worst old feeling
Lord, I most ever had
—- R.L. Burnside – Walkin’ Blues
Sometimes, when I’m driving my car… and I’m driving more than I like, because of COVID changes it’s impossible for me to ride my bike to work… I listen to podcasts from my phone. That takes too much fiddling and setup though – and I’m late in the morning and lazy in the afternoon. So I listen to a local radio station – KXT91.7 (you can listen online no matter where you live) – it’s a great station: no commercials, the DJs pick their own music and don’t talk (I hate the cackling stupid jokes of regular radio) and they sometimes they play your favorite music. Sometimes, best of all, they play stuff you’ve never heard before.
On my way in to work yesterday I heard some music I had never heard before and thought it was great. At my desk I looked up their playlist and found what I had heard was a North Mississippi blues master R. L. Burnside. The song on the radio was It’s Bad You Know from the album Come On In.
In this album, released in 1998, Burnside’s classic acoustic blues is mixed with modern electronic beats into a sort of hybrid dance music. From the wikipedia notes:
The album was expected to alienate purist fans of blues, but sold strongly, and peaked at number 20 on the Core Radio Chart. In addition to significant airplay, an ensuing music clip was slotted in MTV’s 120 Minutes. By March 1999, it had become Epitaph’s best-selling record, despite the label being, at its core, an outlet for punk rock. Burnside said that fans loved the album, feeling that both it and Ass Pocket “brought more crowds to the blues. They love it.” He reckoned that this was due to “trying to make people dance to the blues again.”
I had never heard of this album or R. L. Burnside… which is not surprising – in 1998 I had a couple of young kids running around the house and was isolated from the real world. I did have at least one song of his – doing Dylan’s Everything is Broken from Tangled Up In Blues but had never really followed down that particular rabbit hole.
Thanks to Spotify I now have ready access to R. L. Burnside and his catalog. Great stuff.
From my comments – check this out – Livin’ the Blues
“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men
I wasn’t going to do a blog entry today – I couldn’t. It’s been historically cold here and our power went down at four this afternoon – no computer, no internet. It was our first outage during the event – up until now we’ve been lucky. Actually, the worst is that we did not have water (frozen pipes) until about three today – I hadn’t taken a shower in four days and smelt like it. I was stretched out on the couch when all of the spigots we had opened started to spew at the same time. It was a wonderful sound. Even better is that we don’t seem to have any burst pipes (knock on wood).
I am bothered by all the whining, blaming, and finger-pointing going on. This is the coldest stretch in over seventy years (it dropped to five below zero F here – an unheard of temperature) – and it covers the entire state (Texas is fairly large, BTW) – there is no way they could be properly prepared for anything like that. Deal with it. Afterward, see if there are any corrective actions that need to be done.
In this ridiculous, hyperbolic time – all I read about are accusations of racism (it is claimed the power outages have been less in the more affluent areas, which is not true) – blame set on conservatives (they are more interested in cheap power in Texas) – liberals (the wind turbines in West Texas are frozen). I even read that carbon emissions and climate change are to blame for the record cold.
So when the power went out we built warm niches (I dug out my camping sleeping bag from the garage), opened some taps (wish I would have thought of that a few days ago) and bundled in as the temperature inside slowly fell. It wasn’t too bad, really, and seven hours later (to the minute, so I know it was a planned, rotating power outage) the lights snapped back on.
I went around setting things right then realized I could upload a simple blog entry before midnight. So here you are, a flash fiction for the day – a good one.
Margaret McDermott Bridge
After all these years, the bicycle/pedestrian bridge over the Trinity River here in Dallas is being fixed and will open at the end of the year. I’m happy about this – but what an incompetent shitshow it has been. For 125 million dollars you should be able to put in a hell of a bike bridge.
As I’ve mentioned before, now that I’ve switched to Strava to track my bike rides, I am fascinated with the Strava Heatmap. If you don’t know – the Heatmap is where Strava collects information from everyone using its service and presents the runners, bikers, watersports, and/or skiers aggregate routes on a map. Here’s the heatmap (running and biking) of the area around my house. The bright yellow horizontal line is the bike trail behind my house. Across the street is the oval where people run the track next to Apollo middle school (this disappears if you click on Biking alone). To the Northwest, along Plano Street up to Arapaho, then diagonally along the creek to Collins, is a new bike trail the city just finished. There are only a few folks using it now – and there is only a thin purple line on the heat map. I intend to ride it with my Strava as much as I can and want to see how the line becomes brighter over time.
The Heatmap is international and I like looking for odd or surprising things.
For example, can you guess what This Odd Shape represents. I was able to, even though I’ve never been there.
I love discovering new words. Here is one, Acedia – that, unfortunately, is very useful right now.
One of my goals for the year is to up my decluttering game. I need all the help I can get.
Really Great Writing Prompts
I found this collection of writing prompts from Poets & Writers Magazine. They are more sophisticated than the usual ones. There are three weekly (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) but their archive goes way back. Cool.
If you like visual writing prompts, take a look at this collection of links to museum art collections. Be careful, though – this can be a rabbit hole waste of time.
Here’s a collection (from archive.org) of Pulp magazine, books, all sorts of stuff. Again, beware, it can be a rabbit hole. Also, rather spectacularly politically incorrect (which can be a good thing, IMHO).
I have found that watching these YouTube videos of dance mashups – uptempo songs with bits of dance from movies or filmed folks – makes the time on my exercise bike go by quickly (that and POV videos of people riding in beautiful places). I have a big TV right in front of my spin bike. It’s embarrassing when someone catches me watching these – but what the hell.
Here’s some examples:
Safety Dance? I actually liked this song back in the 80’s. Yeesh! Still, the remix has a good beat.
“She attracted attention in a way that didn’t belong in Nebraska. She wore a thin long-sleeved sweater and a pleated tartan skirt with a large safety-pin that, again, looked stylish and from another place.”
—-Bill Chance, Band Apart
I have been feeling in a deep hopeless rut lately, and I’m sure a lot of you have too. After writing another Sunday Snippet I decided to set an ambitious goal for myself. I’ll write a short piece of fiction every day and put it up here. Obviously, quality will vary – you get what you get. Length too – I’ll have to write something short on busy days. They will be raw first drafts and full of errors.
I’m not sure how long I can keep it up… I do write quickly, but coming up with an idea every day will be a difficult challenge. So far so good. Maybe a hundred in a row might be a good, achievable, and tough goal.
Here’s another one for today (#8). What do you think? Any comments, criticism, insults, ideas, prompts, abuse … anything is welcome. Feel free to comment or contact me.
Thanks for reading.
The first time I saw the three… I always want to refer to them as kids, though they were so much more… kids was in a horrible diner outside Madison, Nebraska.
I was working a job in that remote, tumbleweed choked shithole and hating every minute of it. There were only two places to eat – a greasy spoon hamburger joint on the town square or the diner out on the windswept plains along the highway. I would eat lunch at whichever turned my stomach the least and that day it was the diner.
I was sitting there, washing down a stale Reuben with a cold cup of bitter coffee and watching a young couple, a woman sitting with a man across the aisle. She was stunningly beautiful in a unique way. Tall and rail-thin, with long, black hair tied back behind her head with a green ribbon, large eyes and a tiny-turned up nose. She attracted attention in a way that didn’t belong in Nebraska. She wore a thin long-sleeved sweater and a pleated tartan skirt with a large safety-pin… that, again, looked stylish and from another place.
The young man with her was more normal looking – a prematurely receding hairline on a round head and ears that stuck out a bit too much above a heavy sweater in diagonal checks. Sitting next to the woman, he looked like he was in black-and-white, washed out by her beauty. They were both chatting to each other and looking down at their hands which were gesticulating between their plates with their fingers hanging down like little legs barely touching the table.
The inane din of the place kept me from hearing what they were saying to each other, but they kept moving their hands and fingers in a certain way and I realized they were working out a movement… maybe a dance, on the table. They came to some sort of agreement, suddenly pushed the table away and stood up. They walked over to an open space on the diner floor next to the jukebox.
There was a slim man already standing at the jukebox picking out a song. He wore a stylish double breasted jacket, thin black tie, and a fedora. A large local, wearing tattered overalls and already a little drunk in the afternoon, stumbled by the three, clapping the first man and the girl on the shoulders, then mumbling something to the man in the Fedora as the first notes of the song began to fight their way out of the jukebox.
The three stared at the big man as he stumbled away and the song began to swell. The man at the jukebox turned and placed his hat on the woman’s head and they both adjusted it until it was just right. Somehow, it looked perfect on her.
And then, as the music caught up to them, they began to dance. It was an old instrumental jazz number, one I don’t think I had heard before, but that still seemed familiar somehow. The drums skittered over a thrumming base line with an organ trembling above. Finally, a horn section punctuated the melody into the sound. It was cyclical and rhythmic and the dancers like it.
They would turn, hop, and clap together in a choreographed line dance. It was obvious that the two were working out the details at the table and the man in the tie somehow already knew it all. As they moved, swayed, and thrust their arms forward, snapping their fingers, the crowded diner continued to move around them, ignoring them, but giving them the space they needed.
The three were serious, like they were thinking hard about how they were, and kept the synchronization up pretty well. They didn’t look like professional dancers, of course, but had their own style and grace and beauty about them.
An electric guitar joined the music from the jukebox and the three began to turn and face each other’s back, then wheel until they were side to side, swaying and clapping.
I was mesmerized. The music was complimented by the chatter of the other diners and the clinking of plates and silverware, but the three seemed to exist in a reality all of their own. They were dancing in the diner but also living outside of it, away from it, beyond it. They did not belong there. They were style, beauty, and grace, and a… cool was the only way to say it.
They were the epitome of cool in the least cool place in the world.
And the diner wasn’t able to understand… to appreciate the miracle that was inside it. Like aliens from a distant planet… no, they weren’t the aliens, they were the real people. The diner was the alien planet and they were the only authentic humans that had ever graced its grimy linoleum floor. And the diner with its oblivious patrons kept on slinging its grease completely oblivious to the miracle moving about the space in front of the jukebox.
Where had they come from? I couldn’t imagine. The music kept playing and they kept dancing. It didn’t look like this was the first time they had danced to this – it was too complex and tricky and they were too good at it. I noticed the way the woman would snap her head a little bit as she shuffled or snapped her fingers or tapped her foot. It was intoxicating.
As they danced they never spoke and rarely even looked at each other. Each was in their own world, but they were all on their own together. The two men began to look tired and a little bored, then stepped aside and walked back to the table. The woman continued the dance on her own.
Only then did she really break out in a smile. As she moved on alone, able to improvise a bit – break the strict choreography of the line dance, did she look like she was having fun. Without the two men, she was free.
My heart sank as the music ended. The few minutes that I sat there, watching the three dance, listening to that mysterious jazz, had been the only ray of light that had pierced the cold gray of my life for months. I felt that the sun had broken through an eternal bank of clouds and now that the music had ended the heavens had closed up again.
“Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
For I would ride with you upon the wind,
Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,
And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”
Despite the warning sign at the Ervay Theater during the performance by Euphonic Autonomy (and I didn’t hear anything that would warrant such warning) there were two young kids dancing in the dark at the back of the theater. They were having a blast. The low-light capability of modern digital cameras is amazing.
“We immediately escalate everything to a ten… somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another! Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home!
—- Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
For years I was aware of a television show called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but I didn’t watch it. No real reason – there is so much on… maybe I was turned off by the odd theme music.
One evening I was too tired to pick up the remote and actually saw a show. I enjoyed it. Basically it is the story of five people, related to each other in confusing ways, managing a shithole bar in Philadelphia. The actors are good, the jokes are funny, but mostly I liked it because the characters are such worthless, narcissistic, amoral, debauched, drug-addled, idiotic, lazy pieces of shit that it made me think better of myself. I may have my faults – but I am not as bad as these people.
Over the last year I’d watch it off and on. Mostly I’d scan the TV listings and DVR the episodes I hadn’t seen. That way I could binge watch them at odd times when I wasn’t missing anything important. With the DVR, I could fast-forward through the commercials or boring bits and see the whole episode in a few minutes.
There were a dozen seasons (It’s currently tied with Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom – the only thing it shares with Ozzie and Harriet) so there was plenty to watch. I’m not sure how many episodes or seasons I’ve seen – more than a few. There isn’t much of a long-term arc, so there’s no reason to watch the shows in order.
It is fun to speculate about how dark each episode is capable of going. Usually the show doesn’t disappoint and ends up going darker than you thought possible.
And then came the thirteenth season and, especially the final, 10th episode (144th overall), Mac Finds His Pride.
And everything changes.
I was home, exhausted after work, and noticed the DVR was recording the show. I thought I would check it out and realized that there was something else on – some sort of a dance program. The stage was dark and covered in water and a muscular man and athletic woman were doing an amazing dance number to Sigur Rós music.
It was entrancing. As I watched, I suddenly realized, “Shit! That’s Mac dancing.” It was indeed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
I immediate rewound and watched the whole show. It started out like any episode – The gang was trying to get a float in the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade to bring in business and wanted someone to dance on the float. Mac was the best candidate, but didn’t want to do it – having trouble relating to his imprisoned father and his sexuality.
One of the running “gags” of the series is the character Mac (full name – Ronald MacDonald) and his struggle to come to terms with being gay. At the beginning of this episode Frank (Danny DeVito) had broken his nose and was constantly shoving nasty stuff up his nostrils to staunch the bleeding.
All well and good – then it happened. Mac and Frank went to Mac’s father’s prison and Mac put on a dance with a woman to try and explain how he felt.
It was transcendent.
I was gobsmacked. This piece of artistic beauty came so far out of left field and was so unexpected… yet it was so appropriate and inevitable. I some unexplainable way it summed up everything. It was the moment that thirteen seasons – 144 shows – of unmitigated nihilistic worthlessness is redeemed by one moment of excellence.
It was the most audacious, brilliant thing I’ve seen on television since Part 8 of the new Twin Peaks.
Check out this article about how much work went into this. The actor, Rob McElhenney, can’t dance – more accurately, he can only do one dance. He spent a year learning it. And you can’t help but love his incredible partner, professional ballerina Kylie Shea.
I have always loved Sigur Rós. They sponsored a series of films of their music – The Valteri Mystery Film Experiment. There are several videos of the song in the dance, Varúð. Here’s a particularly good one: