Thursday afternoon I headed onto the LBJ Freeway, heading to the airport, when I got caught in the torrential thunderstorm which paralyzed the DFW metroplex. The airport here is called the DFW airport because it is right in the middle in between D and FW. The rain came down in sheet after sheet, but the entire cloudburst only lasted a few moments. The local radio, which lives for weather and inter-spouse violent crime, had a field day. Then I was "out the other side", where the weather magically cleared up, having departed to ravage east Texas, but flights were delayed two hours.
I spent my long flight delay and flights reading "The Phantom Tollbooth", which I had not read since junior high or so. I had understood the book more as a story when I read it as a young teen, so that seeing its rampant Bunyanesque qualities (both John and Paul, but not Ringo or Dr. Scholls) on re-reading was quite interesting. My copy was enhanced by the fact that I got it used, and someone's little brother or sister obviously inked up many of the pages with an inexpert scribbling hand.
I read tonight an interview with the author of the Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster, who said something I admire: "I had no message and I have no idea what specific things kids will get from the book. I think it comes in all different ways -- special ways. There are things I don't think I put in there on purpose, but it's there". I sometimes think that the way to a meaning to something is to eschew planting one consciously.
I never had a phantom tollbooth appear to me, although I did visit a ghost light with some regularity. What does the casual reader need to know about ghost lights? Well, I'll tell you what. They glow. They hover in mid-air, and they glow. Like a good book, their provision of delight is all in seeing the image, and not in the explanation. A friend of mine wrote his master's thesis about the ghost light. The thesis was quite well done--he got his master's. But nobody really knows why the ghost light shines. I'm not saying it's unknowable. I think it's a scientific phenomenon. But as story, it tells better unsolved.
I also read Wired Magazine about google, which always interests me. I see google as the first feather-colored flying reptile. Some glorious hummingbirds are yet to come.
This internet is just getting going, and barring a retreat from modernity, so much fun and revelation is ahead.
I also read a fishing magazine about a fish called a saugeye, which is apparently a hybrid of a sauger and of a wall eye, but which I have never caught in my life. It's a long list, that list of fish I have never caught in my life, and perhaps that's a good thing.
I woke early this morning, and rented a car which was powered solely by natural gas. On my way from the LAX Airport area to the courthouse in downtown LA, I listened to Loyola Marymount's campus radio station, KXLU. I used to think that LA had lost its way radio-wise since KROQ stopped being ceaselessly interesting about a decade or two ago. Commercial radio stations do try indie commercial formats there, but then the fateful Ranchera Day arrives.
Ranchera Day is the inevitable fate of Los Angeles indie-pop commercial radio formats. One listens to the station on Friday, and it drills down depressed dirge ditties by dissatisfied disheveled demi-gods deriving despair despite decamping for diverting destinations with deeply desirable demi-muses in tow. On the following Monday, it's Ranchera Day.
The station goes from "alt pop but okay we'll play obscure Cure if you insist, you commercialist" tunes to Spanish language broadcasting the accordion polka-esque glory of northern Mexican music. Of course, this has something to do with the fact that that station then goes from, like a 1/10 of 1/10 percent share of the radio audience to 20 percent.
I like ranchera and conjunto and norteno music (though, truth be told, I prefer the vivid coloratura of mariachi), but my Spanish unfortunately goes only a short way beyond
"I would like, please" and the nouns representing various entrees and baked goods. So I so often miss whether the corazon is full of amor or in fact the corazon merely broken, among the songs I hear. De nada, I suppose.
KLXU, though, being a campus station, may avoid its personal Ranchera Day. They played a lot of songs by indie bands, many of which were fun obscure pop, most of which sounded more cheaply recorded than my own "cheap and unmusical as you could imagine" album, "Vibrating Electric Fields". Viva por lo fi! I noticed that I could identify some performers (Mountain Goats, Polyphonic Spree), but missed guessing at least one obvious one (that was the Mekons?), and did not know many of the non-euphoniously named acts at all.
Although I am too easily entranced by the easy and pithy line, I had a great deal of sympathy with David Berman's lyric, played today, that "Punk rock died when the first kid said/'Punk's not dead''". I thought how durable roots, 60s retro and melodic indie pop/rock have proven--surely a tribute to their vitality, but also a sort of jazzification--the creation of a permanent genre more than a fast-burning flame.Hope I die 'fore I get old, indeed.
Not good, not bad, just is. But most of the music I heard today I could have heard just as easily in 1977, or 1987. Of course, I realized, with a minor shrivel inside, that I am better at telling whether a song is by Gentle Giant as opposed to, say, Camel (to name two bands I found interesting but did not really listen to "in the days") than I am in telling apart any of the Subpop label bands of recent times.
I had a court hearing about a complex environmental insurance coverage matter (I note that I only mention hearings much when I win), and then did a business meeting.
On the way to catch the plane home, I picked up Greg Iles' "The Footprints of God", another book in the new-found movement to render all things Christian-connected into the action/adventure, spy novel, or science fiction genres. This one uses gnostic scriptural references to try to spice up the traditional Gospels, in between the parts with the master computer and the pistols with the silencers. I love it when I know roughly where such a semi-obscure reference is derived, although I hate that I know so little, really.
Although I've posted a bit about my negative feelings about the hype which such popularizations can involve, this one is nearly a perfect light airport page-turner, which I consumed 480 pages of during a 2 hour flight. It's not great literature, but it's holding my interest.
I listened to the late night BBC, which featured a debate about the Mel Gibson movie. I am troubled by both the rapturous support and the vitriolic attacks on the movie. I can only resolve my disquiet by seeing the movie and assessing if it is as good as its supporters feel or as bad as its opponents feel.
I think I'll wait for the video, though, and watch my video of Gandhi during the wait. As with most movies, I strongly imagine that I will prefer the book anyway. It's not the bias I fear, because I have not seen the film nor read the script, and thus cannot tell if it commits the sins of which it is accused. It's the sheer commercialization that troubles me--the sense that even the controversy is corporate-marketing-department creation.
I heard as I pulled into our home driveway that Martha Stewart had been convicted of the serious but lesser offenses with which she had been charged. I had been quite interested in this case during the time that the securities fraud charge was in play, because I felt that the US Attorney's office seriously over-reached by charging her with securities fraud merely because she issued a press release or two promoting her belief in her innocence. The evidence on the obstruction type charges was documentary and real,though, and I had wondered if the high quality of her legal team would get her off, despite the compelling case. But the prosecution appears to have won a convincing victory,which shows, I suppose, that a top notch defense does not alway turn the key to one's personal prison.
I wish Ms. Stewart no ill, and hope her sentence is as light as utterly possible. I would have preferred to see this all as a civil matter, not a criminal charge. She presents a cautionary tale, though. When one finds one's hand in the cookie jar just when the cookie monitor strolls by, it's best to have one's lawyer phone the SEC, return the funds, call one's criminal lawyer, and avoid doing the things that she did. As with so many things, the original "sin" was said by experts in the field to be probably not indictable, and they got her for the cover-up. When will people learn?
I am hopeful that her business still thrives, despite the fact that she did palpably wrong. I think that the proof suggesting that she is a tough person sometimes merely makes her like zillions of other CEOs, but more harshly judged due to her gender. I'm not saying it's good to be mean to one's employees or the like, but I'm saying that I can think right offhand of four major corporate CEOs who are male who even get praised for being so "tough" based on similar hard as nails behavior. It's still a sexist world, I suppose.
As a civil lawyer, criminal trials are a countryside both schoolbook familiar and quite alien to me. But I did note that when one's star witness survives a tough cross examination, as the prosecution witness did here, it's hard to defend a case, as was once again proved here. We'll see if they make more headway on appeal.
I can never sleep after a long flight. But perhaps a hot bath and finishing this "airport fiction" action book will do the trick.