Friday, July 23, 2010

Colossus of Maroussi

New Directions is re-issuing Henry Miller's The Colossus of Maroussi, one of his lesser known books, yet one of his finest. Richard Rayner of the Los Angeles Times writes a good piece on it. He plucks some terrific quotes from the book that illustrate well the enthusiasm and vigor that Miller brought to this work. Rayner also succinctly brings into focus the lineage that Miller established:

"The incantatory style, with its rolling sub-clauses, mixed Hemingway and D.H. Lawrence in a way that was fresh at the time; it seems familiar now because it predicts Kerouac, Ginsberg and Snyder. Like the Beats who would follow him, Miller looked out for the possibilities of human holiness. Like them, he embraced risk and never minded going over the top."

Well worth checking out.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Observations Live, Holland vs Spain, July 12, 2010

"The most massive shared human experience on the planet..." so we're informed in the moments before kick off.

"The silky Spanish"

"The Dutch are cuter than the Spanish" ND weighs in.

"He was taken out rather cynically ..."

Half Time 0-0, an uneventful 1st half. Time to check the ribs.

"It's all push and shove..."

2nd half.

Close calls! Ramos with long hair the header over the crossbar.

Holland's jerseys are like HAZMAT outfits, like jail inmates, like highway construction cones.

Extraordinary counterattack by Robben, shouts! To no avail ... nothing happening.

Oy! Regulation time runs out, the dread 0-0 game, damn.


Slow motion outrage.

Spain! Save! Holland counters, corner! No!

Gestapo ref, bald headed, belligerent.

"Van Persie surrounded by Spainards."

Why take out David Villa?

GOAL!!!!!!!!  "Looks like no Dutch Delights!" Spain classically scores way late in extra time, incredible.

"The Never Never lands for the Netherlands."

And it ends .... It's over. Spain finally wins ... and Holland loses for the 3rd time.

Lemonstar to the World

All over the planet people are gathering around television sets, gathering with friends and strangers, with plates of food and bottles of beer and billowy spliffs, they're gathering on beaches, in mountain valleys, in hot noisy city neighborhoods, in nowheresville, in somewheresville, in refugee tents, campgrounds, chateaus, dachas, grass shacks, and office park cafeterias and condominium villages.

In Lemonstar summer pours on unabated, uninterrupted by the responsibility of adulthood, unchallenged by the More Important, it is July, the backyard long grass is cool, damp from hosing down, bees tap nectar from clover blossoms, the finches ply the bird feeder in bunches, happy with their blunt beaks and sunflower seeds. Puffy cumulus float overhead and intermittently pass across the sun in its bright blue sky, the garden hums in photosynthesizing eagerness, butterflies jaunt about the sultry air.

Holland vs Spain, the great 4 year struggle culminates today in South Africa. Tonight, one nation will celebrate with shouts of triumph while the other will wrest lamentation from otherwise glory.

More even than the Tour de France, the World Cup unites disparate people, unifies a fractious and amorphous collection of humanity into one vortex and focal point - a football pitch, 22 men running around in funny outfits taking themselves too seriously, a stadium of 84,000 vuvuzela-blowing football fanatics, the cacophony of possibility and hope.

Ah Lorca, Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Cervantes ... art from the low country and the Spanish plateau.

Voortrekkers and Don Quixote

Die Groot Trek

Cold beer in the dusty veldt. Veld, prairie, outback, pampas. The hinterlands. The place where the world breathes hot breaths of wind and sun.

Spain or the Netherlands. The bulls run in Pamplona, Hemingway's rash bravura emanates yet. Wine squeeze the bota, hoist the porrĂ³n, sluice nectar of plenty for the planetary ball game. Holland canal meander on bikes, windmill stereotypes, herring galore.

But who will win the World Cup?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Observations Live, Holland vs Uruguay, 2nd Half

Darke, describing a Ducth player, declares he's "...a small little terrier of a mid fielder."

It's anybody's game early 2nd half. "Looking for the little flick-on ... but nothing comes of it."

The Ski Bum needs just one goal to be tied with Spain's David Villa in the Golden Boot competition. That's a hellluva prize, eh? "The Golden Boot" Let's see, if other occupations and pastimes gave out prizes, you could award the Golden Fork to a restaurant-goer, the Golden Skillet to a chef, the Golden Plunger to a plumber, the Golden Spliff to a reggae star. And so on.

Uruguay hasn't reached the quarter finals in 40 years, since 1970. "Forlan a flick-on!"

"I think they fancy they might pull off the shock here..." Darke, describing Uruguay's presumed mental state given the confidence with which they're playing.

John Harkes follows up. "bllahhhheeeeasshhhhhaaanbllahshhhhhhhhaaaaahsay."

Holland has a winger who looks like a young Billy Bragg. He hopes he ain't crying Levi Stubbs' Tears when the game ends.

GOAL!!!! The Netherlands, Wesley Sneijder! in the 70th minute. Sneijder now tied with David Villa for most goals during the tournament, five each so far.

"I have a feeling they're not going to lie down here." One more from Harkes' stock of sports cliches.

GOAL!!!!!! Again! In the 73rd minute! Diablo! Robben on a bald-headed header, brilliant strike!

Princess Maxima and Crown Prince William Alexander, Dutch royalty, the camera keeps cutting away from the pitch to show them cheering in the crowd. Thankfully, Bill Clinton is long gone, we're not subjected to his red-veined mug. Much rather see the Princess who, oddly enough, is wearing what appears to be a guernsey pelt, some odd cape-like garment, black & white like a milk advertisement cow.

The Dutch have really come into their own in this 2nd half. Wonderful control and possession.

Exit the Aspen Golden Boy, the Mighty Diego Forlan, golden locks and all, he's gone to the bench. If we were still back in the '80s, he'd pose nude in Playgirl.

"3-1 to Holland, sitting pretty, looking good."

GOAL!!!!!! Uruguay steals one LATE in the game, in extra time, incredible!

Referring to a last desparate throw-in, Darke shouts about "Uruguay's very last drink in the Last Chance Saloon!" while Harkes prattles that tired cliche about Uruguay's "never say die" attitude. What a godawful broadcast partner, oy. And come on, we all lament not hearing the energy and passion of Andres Cantor of Univision.

And then it ends ... "DUTCH DELIRIUM in Cape Town! They've held on!" Holland in the World Cup Final.

Observations Live, Holland vs Uruguay, 1st Half

To think that Uruguay has won the World Cup twice, both times way back in the early mid 20th century, while the Dutch, always good and sometime great, has never won, seems a bit of Magical Realism.

Diego Forlan looks like an Aspen ski bum.

"Orange Crush" they call the Dutch. Their hideous solid orange uniforms (including socks) do full justice and then some to that moniker. With the overhead camera view, even on a 36" flat screen TV in High Def the players look like so many orange crayons blipping around the pitch.

Are we sick of commentator John Harkes' nasally monotone yet? He's as exciting as an accountant.

Not so Ian Darke (Darke of the "volaitle cocktail" remark): "Van Bronckhorst with an absolute FIRECRACKER!" he shouts as Holland notches the first goal, it comes at the 17 minute mark. And what a goal! A cannon blast perfectly struck from ten yards or more outside the box by Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, zowie!

The Dutch are divers unfortunately -  "histrionics and amateur dramatics" intones Darke. Truly one of the more undignified aspects of the game.

"... rubbing horse placenta on the injured area..." What?? Missed that comment, it was Darke discussing some injured player's special treatment back in England.

By the way - it's 100 degrees in Lemonstar today, the banana I'm eating is hot, the air is thick, the house is without air conditioning, it's best that way, easier to conjure a sense of malarial backwater, tropical torpor, just lacking an avuncular Graham Greene character in white linen suit and Panama hat to give it the authentic touch.

Darke - "Diego FORLAN! He's done it again with his 4th goal in this World Cup!" The Ski Bum strikes! A wicked blast, also, like Van Bronckhorst's savage strike, from outside the box.

Harkes is clinically, numbingly uncolorful. How's that for irony? The ESPN color guy lacks all color, he's as colorful as over-milked tea, he should be named Wan Harkes, not John. We see an AMAZING goal, we get a blast of excitement with Darke's enthusiastic English boom, then we get Harkes following up with some monotone, banal analysis of the goalie's poor effort. Argh!

The first half ends, a 1-1 tie. Good viewing so far!

Monday, July 5, 2010

July 4th in the country

Ventured west of Lemonstar into the hills and towns beyond Mt. Wachusett for 4th of July with friends. One road we intended to take was closed for stage 3 of the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic, a time trial, so we improvised and navigated little country roads (Knower Rd, Old Westminster Rd) through New England woodland and old farm land.

Mojitos, grilled burgers and dogs, grilled pineapple with a quick-make peanut sauce courtesy of Mark Bittman of the Times, a sauce that never really 'sauced,' ('gooped' is a more apt descriptor), potato salad, cold beer after the mojitos, we dined on the open porch of C & A's arts & crafts-style house as the day cooled down and the sun slipped below the trees.

Afterwards? Ice cream seemed in order, so C fired up the Unimog, a truly bizarre vehicle of Shrek-like size and audacity, and away we roared. This particular Unimog hails from Germany where it once pulled aircraft around hangers and runways (when not, presumably, transporting maintenance men to beer halls). Grinding and roaring along the narrow unpaved wood roads just north of the little town center of Barre felt strange, like churning a tugboat across a cow pond. The beast roared, the cab shook, I imagined growling across a post-apocalyptic landscape like a gigantic green insect, the gargantuan wheels turning relentlessly,  devouring ditch, mud hole, and hillock.

At Carter & Stevens Ice Cream and Farm Stand, we chugged into the parking lot near closing time, C elegantly backed the Giant into a parking place, and we lowered ourself to terra fima. The sky doming the wide expanse of lush green farm fields was a collage of summer clouds infused with the deepening yellows, pinks, oranges, and reds of the setting sun. Chickens squawked and clucked in the chicken hutch getting ready to roost. We ate ice cream in waffle cones, watched with amusement two baby goats frolic in their pen, then re-ascended Mt. Unimog and ground our way back.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Brit Color

The British World Cup commentator for ABC offered the best quote of the tournament yet. Referring to the high strung Argentine forward Tevez, he said:

"He's a volatile cocktail, ready to spill over at the slightest shaking."


Friday, July 2, 2010

Ghana Gone, Dunga Dunga Done

In the end, the defensive game failed the traditionally offense-minded Brazilians. I remember Dunga, their rugged fullback from the '90s, the World Cup held in the US in 1994. No wonder he employs a defensive strategy, that's what he played, that's what he knows. Pity Felipe Melo who scored an own goal and then got himself red-carded so his colleagues ended up a man down. Or perhaps no pity. Soccer is a cruel master.

I didn't see any of the game itself but the Costa Rican food service guys in the corporate cafeteria watched it in the back kitchen. Two mistakes, they told me, that's all it took for Brazil to fall.

I did see much of the second half of the Uruguay/Ghana match, an ugly affair. The Ghanans seemed to have heart but little else - their effort was a clunky one, mistake-prone, inelegant, and ultimately futile. Uruguay showed little more flare, their chiseled featured striker Forlon the exception. He wouldn't appear out of place in an ad shoot for Big Sky country - or International Male, for that matter, give him some leather chaps and a soccer thong and you'd have an eye-popper. But over all both squads displayed nothing remotely resembling finesse and though I didn't see the penalty shots it didn't surprise me to hear that Ghana had failed to convert two kicks. They were a lumbering, raw, wild team and now they're done. And Uruguay, inexplicably, is on to the semi finals.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

David Foster Wallace, Book Reviews, and the Need to Believe in One's Work

The review by Wyatt Mason of David Lipsky's Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace in the July 5, 2010 (vol LVII, num. 12) issue of the New York Review of Books is interesting on many levels. What struck me, however, is Mason's discussion of some of the earlier reviews of Wallaces's books, reviews that disparaged Wallaces work as "not edited," "excessive," "self-indulgent," "gibberish," "nonsense," etc.

Though Mason generously accounts for how some of those reviewers might have come by their opinions (deadlines that required hurried reading, for example), what stands out, in light of how we're beginning to understand Wallace today, is how un-generous and shortsighted those reviews were. Could it have been otherwise? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps only in time do we come to fully appreciate, or re-evaluate, a writer's work. Perhaps something truly new, truly innovative, must inevitably endure ridicule and misunderstanding before the prevailing culture catches up with its genius. The Beats, Kerouac in particular, come to mind.

Of course, the object lesson here for aspiring writers, writers willing to chart new territory, to experiment with form, to break with tradition, is to believe in oneself and to disregard the tenor and substance of negative reviews. It's a daunting task to be sure, one that, in Kerouac's case, could not be achieved. It seems clear that, despite Wallace's suicide, his belief in his work never wavered. Though in interviews Wallace admitted to  doubts he had about his fiction, the work itself belies those admissions. The force of certainty pervades his novels, stories, and essays and while every writer is to be afforded his or her apprehension about their work, ultimately the work stands on its own.

In the case of the reviews that Mason cites, what comes through clearly are the peevish, harried, pedestrian minds of the reviewers. Genius comes to light slowly while banality is always plain to see.

Maradona and Guillermoprieto

Alma Guillermoprieto, writing for the New York Review of Books blog, has a fun piece on her experience as a young reporter given the task of writing about Diego Maradona. This was in the 1980s, the "hand of God" era, the days when the stocky Maradona was the most dynamic, enigmatic, and heralded soccer player in the world. Guillermoprieto knew little to nothing about soccer and that's part of the self-deprecating good humor of the piece. Read her blog entry here: Maradona and Me