Sunday, May 9, 2010

Goin' to Oklahoma Soon (Apologies to F. Zappa)

  On May 23rd, I will turn fifty.  Two days later, Jill & I will drive to Chicago, pick up The Jordanian, and embark on a road trip extraordinaire! Yes, it's off to Oklahoma, land of bison and tornadoes, to visit good friends Bayard and Sarah.
  We've been planning & anticipating the trip since January.  It will also include a side trip to Booked Up, Larry McMurtry's bookshop in Archer City, Texas.  Pix to follow.
  Life is good, brothers & sisters.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bizarro Ben Stiller

Jill & I saw the movie "Greenberg" with Ben Stiller last night.  Avoid this movie at all costs.  Depressing and annoying.  The only redeeming quality is the acting of Greta Gerwig & Rhys Ifans.
Greenberg's got problems, but we didn't care about him at all, because he's just another a-hole in a world with plenty of them.  I don't need to see a 107 minute movie about one.
This gets ½ star out of 5.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Yes, I know no one forced me to be on facebook in the first place.  And I'm not trying to make a big deal out of getting off of there. 
a) It's cluttered. I don't care that so-and-so likes the Outer Timbuktu Anti-Bullying League.  And I know I can filter this stuff.  But why should I?
b) It's Borg-like.  Zuckerberg will assimilate you.
c) It's addictive. This is why I got rid of my teevee.  The face is just another form of channel-surfing, IMHO.

Do something constructive. Write a poem, a story, a blog, something INTERESTING.  Make some jewelry, plant a garden, sing a song.

Later, face.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Sprawl? No, small.

  I've been thinking a lot about suburban sprawl (again), especially after watching James Howard Kunstler's talk on  Mr. Kunstler's book "The Long Emergency" covered the topic well, along with related subjects such as peak oil.  It has been an essential issue to be resolved for many years, not just because gas has hit $3 a gallon again.
  On a related note, if anyone has read Bill McKibben's new book "Eaarth", let me know what you think of it (I haven't read it yet). Also, if you attended his talk at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee last night (Friday, April 16th), let me know how that went.
Happy Traveling.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rainy Days and Tuesdays in South America.

  OK, so replacing the thermostat for the furnace/AC has turned into a huge pain, so I'm taking a break to do this.  (Why does my house have to have so much old, unadaptable crap in it?)

After long consideration (and delays because of the Irish lit, poetry, music, etc. obsession), I'm beginning more adventures into South  American literature.
  First up is Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges, who is reminding me what a combination of pure imagination and scholarly knowledge can conjure up.  I'm glad I have an Oxford dictionary and a basic autodidactic knowledge of 19th & 20th century literature, philosophy, and history. After only 55 pages, I am spellbound.  There are echoes of Lord Dunsany here in the fantastical entities and ideas.
  Not having much background in this realm, I would welcome further suggestions (and comparisons, if any apply).

Next up will probably be The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares.  I started this one last summer, got distracted, and didn't pick it up again.  What I remember of it is that it was mysterious and unique.  This one comes highly recommended by old friend Jay Johnson and is another in a long line of NYRB classics added to my library over the last five years.

After finding the music of Dervish oddly conducive to the reading of Borges,  the next music to play as accompaniment will be Coconut Rock from Ocote Soul Sounds and Adrian Quesada.

After Morel it'll most likely be time to dive into the works of Eduardo Galeano, recommended by Pauls Toutonghi (after his author appearance at the old Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop in Bay View) and pal Joe Lisberg.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Evil April Third

  The second book in Walter Mosely's "Leonid McGill" series, Known To Evil (Riverhead, $25.95, hardcover), is definitely worth a look.  Leonid is a former mob fixer in New York City who's trying to keep straight while running his PI agency.  He's enlisted by the shadowy "most powerful man in New York" to find a mysterious missing young woman.  The twists and turns the plot takes are highly imaginative.  Recommended, but I'd wait for the paperback on this one.  The first book in the series, The Long Fall, was released in trade paperback in February. You should most assuredly read that title first.

  Benjamin Black is returning this month with the third book in his "Dr. Quirke" series, Elegy For April (Henry Holt, $25.00, hardcover).  This book is highly atmospheric, taking place during a damp, foggy mid-1950s February in Dublin.  However, the characters and plot in no way take a back seat to the setting.
  The doctor's daughter Phoebe tells him that her friend, Dr. April Latimer,
has been missing for over a week.  April is known as a wild girl, and her disappearance is blown off by many, saying that she's probably just run off with a man.  April's creepy, high-profile family especially want nothing to do with this, having disowned her years before.
  Included in April's circle of friends are Phoebe; Jimmy Minor, an annoying reporter for a Dublin paper, Patrick Ojukwu, an African studying to become a doctor, and Isabel Galloway, an actress at the Gate Theater.  Suspicion falls upon Patrick, naturally, this being mid-century Ireland.
  The black humor, dourness, and persistence of Dr. Quirke are unique and come through as his battle with drink becomes a huge problem whilst attempting to solve what happened to April, a junior doctor at Quirke's hospital.
  I've read this one twice already; it's that good.  Read the first two in the series. They are outstanding as well.

  PI Mike Kelly is returning for his third case in The Third Rail (Knopf, $24.95, hardcover), by Michael Harvey.  Taking place in 2010 Chicago, this one is a thrill ride on Chicago's El, where a deranged killer (or two?) is indiscriminately shooting riders and then moving on to other sites in Chicago for more carnage.  All the while he's taunting Kelly, who gets pulled into the case in more ways than one.  Yes, this time, it's personal!
  Images from his childhood come rushing back as the killer lets Kelly know that he's been watching him for years.  It's then revealed to him that the madman has kidnapped Kelly's girlfriend. What will he do next?
  The details of contemporary Chicago and Kelly's Irish-American background add a lot of flavor to this fine entry to the series.  Read 'em all.
  Here's a trailer for The Third Rail.

  See youse next time.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

 Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you.  If you're anything like me, the day isn't about getting loaded, but about celebrating the essence of the Irish people and their relationship with their most well-known patron saint.
 Even if you're not Roman Catholic or Irish, the story of St. Patrick is interesting on its own. I'm not going to set out the story here, because it's a long one. Just follow yer link above.
If you're in Milwaukee, there's plenty to do around town today, so get out and enjoy it.
 Suggested listening for today: Patrick Street, Damien Dempsey, The Fuchsia Band, and Maranna McCloskey.
 Suggested reading for today: Seamus Heaney's "Death of a Naturalist", "The Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories", edited by William Trevor.

Also, today would have been the 74th birthday of Dr. Sean P. Keane, a good friend to many of us in Milwaukee, and a great man.  Sean (left) is pictured here with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega.  (Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

We miss you Sean.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Best Fiction of 2010 - First Entry

The Infinities, by John Banville. Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), $25.95.
  John Banville's new novel is one of the best I've read in the last few years. Centered on Adam Godley, the dying patriarch of a troubled (but sometimes comically so) Irish family, either in the near future or an alternate universe, the story is narrated for the most part by Hermes, aka Mercury.  The other family members are memorable and include Ursula, a faithful yet alcoholic wife to Adam; Petra, the very disturbed daughter who cuts herself; and young Adam, an enormous and somewhat bumbling chap.

  Banville gives the story a classical framework: one day at the Godleys' home in the countryside.  Young Adam and his gorgeous actress wife Helen have arrived to be with the family to rally around old Adam, a world renowned metamathematician and physicist, who has had an impact on the world at least equivalent to Einstein's. The family believes Adam is completely comatose, but it isn't so.
  Hermes has his work cut out for him, since not only is he telling this story, but he's also trying to restrain the god Pan, in the form of Benny Grace, an "old friend" of Adam's, from causing mischief around the family. Hermes must also stand by and watch his cleverly disguised father Zeus have sex with Helen.

  The author uses some startling imagery, including a train that for some reason makes a daily, early morning stop directly in front of the house, and Petra's involved ritual for cutting herself.  He also alternates between some of the most florid prose you'll ever read and simple, but telling, sentences. The tableau at the conclusion is inspired.

 Burning Bright by Ron Rash. Ecco (HarperCollins), $22.99
  After his very successful novel Serena, Ron Rash has returned with a stellar collection of stories. Rash does for the southern Appalachian region what some of my favorites have done for Mississippi, and that is to put the people in the forefront, while also telling us about the beauty of the land they live on.
 The stories range in time and theme from "Lincolnites", a grim Civil War story about a woman protecting herself and her home, to the Depression-Era "Hard Times", telling a tale as ordinary as missing eggs and as troubling as mistrust between neighbors, to contemporary chronicles of what meth does to individuals, families, and communities.  The author must be particularly troubled about meth use in his area, as this is the backdrop to two of these stories.  There are collisions between old 'superstitious' ways and the postmodern world as intelligently told in "The Corpse Bird" and parables of ordinary people thrust into bad situations and making worse decisions, as in "Falling Star" and "Into The Gorge".
  Mr. Rash continues to hone what he does best: telling us about the best nature and worst flaws of these hard-working, mountainy people.  This collection is ultimately compelling, heartbreaking, and real.

And here's a little extra, not from 2010, but 1920. Suggested reading from Dr. Sean Keane, R.I.P.

Coming next: New Crime Fiction. Michael Harvey's The Third Rail, Benjamin Black's Elegy For April, and Walter Mosley's Known To Evil.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

What's Sauce For the Goose...

I don't profess to be an expert on the Armenian genocide issue. However, I've paid attention to the issue when it's been broached in the news over the years. So after a resolution passed yesterday by a US Congressional committee requiring the president to use the term "Armenian genocide" to refer to the mass killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during and immediately after WWI, I ask: when will the Congress pass a similar resolution recognizing the US genocide against Native Americans? An apology to native peoples was recently passed in the 2010 defense appropriations bill (!), but it's buried deep within the bill and doesn't require the president or any other elected official to actually make a verbal statement.
Of course, hell will freeze over before the genocide is officially recognized, because this would be the opening needed for natives to get their due via lawsuits.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Whisky Bar

I think there's a cult of people who will rip on The Doors in public, then go home and secretively listen to them! I heard it again tonight; every so often someone will do this at the tavern, but they're not vehement about it, they just toss of a remark. Am I so far off base?!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A big bite

Nothing says "I love you" like cleaning the dirt & hair out of the furnace filters.

Thinking about Zeus, Hermes, and Pan, because of this new book.

A review to follow after I finish this, so far, exquisite novel.

And, some of you have seen my internet whining about the virus that has wormed its way (yet again!) into my PC. Is this what I can expect when I go shopping for a Mac?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Final Album from The Man In Black

American VI: Ain't No Grave

You can stream the entire album here

A worthy contender

I always say I'm out of the loop when it comes to film, but I really should've known about this sooner. I believe the other four contenders for Best Animated Film are all Hollywood productions; this one's from Ireland. And here's the NPR story. Nice to see that there's some actual history in this one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A couple of upcoming events and a possible leprechaun sighting

We have a lot to look forward to in Milwaukee over the coming months. Here's a couple of items off the top of my curly head.
Hot on the heels of the release party for their new "Howl Street EP" at Club Garibaldi in Bay View, Juniper Tar will be back at the same location on March 5th. That show on February 18th was a blast and you should definitely check out these fellas.

Planning a little further ahead, we have The Karan Casey Band appearing at the Irish Cultural & Heritage Center in Milwaukee on May 22nd. Karan was one of the founding members of the Irish-American supergroup Solas and continues to make astounding music. She has also recently released a CD with another founding member of Solas, John Doyle, a long-time Milwaukee Irish Fest favorite, especially because of his appearances with master fiddler from Chicago, Liz Carroll.

Himself w/Karan at Milwaukee Irish Fest 2003.

Here's a sample of Karan's exquisite voice.

And what's this about a leprechaun? In Mobile, Alabama? You be the judge.

Welcome to where the rough god plays.

Hello and welcome to my blog. I didn't obsess too much over the title and grabbed the name of one of the better songs Van Morrison has created over the years. It also matches up pretty well with my twitter name . I hope Van doesn't sue me, as I've been an admirer of his work for several decades and it's not meant with thievery in my heart.
As soon as I can get some book and music reviews put together, I'll get 'em on here, along with my random thoughts on the subjects in my blog description and much more.
The Midwest's Awake.