the ancient past travel

A hotel? I'll show you a hotel

Business travel is not so bad sometimes

At this point, I know my way around a hotel. I have seen a lot of em, and I can tell you pret­ty quick­ly how to nav­i­gate them. I could be blind­fold­ed and tossed into the lob­by of a Court­yard, and I'd be in my room, iron­ing my shirts, and drink­ing a Coors Light from the mini-bar with­in 5 min­utes. Every once in a while the busi­ness trav­el stars align, and I get to stay in a place like the Ames Hotel in Boston. Not only are the rooms deeluxe (pic­tured above), but the build­ing itself is on the Nation­al Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places, and the door­man told me that it was Boston's "first sky­scraper." And Wikipedia agrees. Not pic­tured here is the nicest com­po­nent of my room: A huge arched win­dow that looked south over the Old City Hall, the Old South Meet­ing House, and what appear to be many oth­er old things. No Coors Light, but hey you can't win em all.

the ancient past tv

Hang dai!

Hang dai!

I'm one episode from the finale of Dead­wood, and I'm feel­ing pre­ma­ture­ly nos­tal­gic for the pan­tomime con­ver­sa­tions between the Can­tonese-speak­ing Wu and Eng­lish-speak­ing Al Swearen­gen. These "con­ver­sa­tions" gen­er­al­ly involve fran­tic sketch­ing with char­coal, oaths unprint­able in a fam­i­ly blog, and very lit­tle Eng­lish. They tend to con­clude with the dec­la­ra­tion "hang dai!" which means "broth­ers," and rec­i­p­ro­cal ges­tures of inter­twined index and mid­dle fin­gers, as shown above. Hang dai, Mr. Wu. I will miss you.

inside art the ancient past visual

Paul Rand's business card

Paul Rand business card
Can't imag­ine that it could get much bet­ter than this. Via amass­blog.

music the ancient past visual

Glorious, degenerate exile

In yet anoth­er shal­low record-indus­try ploy to sell the same album twice, the Rolling Stones recent­ly asked pro­duc­er Don Was to dig through their Exile On Main Street archives and pro­duce a remas­tered ver­sion with a few addi­tion­al tracks. Think­ing about Exile reminds me, of course, of Robert Frank's doc­u­men­tary with an unprint­able name, a chron­i­cle the Stones' dai­ly lives around the time of Exile. This film pre­sent­ed in very raw form (in the words of one review­er) "mas­sive, almost unthink­able amounts of ego-grat­i­fi­ca­tion, and rou­tine, tor­pid, every­day bore­dom," and it was essen­tial­ly unre­leasable, shown only in art hous­es and pirat­ed VHS. It's safe to say that no mas­sive­ly suc­cess­ful band has ever, or will ever, give the kind of access that the Stones gave to Frank. (The sex and the drugs, they are every­where amidst the rock 'n roll). The above video is some of the clean­er stuff culled from Frank's footage. Need­less to say, the whole thing is worth see­ing, even if you have to cov­er your eyes every once in a while. Addi­tion­al read­ing: A nice lit­tle NPR inter­view with Mick and Keef.

ideas the ancient past

Ranging to justice

Think­ing about the var­i­ous clus­ter­cuss­es in the world, and read­ing William James, I came across this opti­mistic notion: 

Secret ret­ri­bu­tions are always restor­ing the lev­el, when dis­turbed, of divine jus­tice. It is impos­si­ble to tilt the beam. All the tyrants and pro­pri­etors and monop­o­lists of the world in vain set their shoul­ders to heave the bar. Set­tles forever­more the pon­der­ous equa­tor to its lines, and man and mote, and star and sun, must range to it, or be pul­ver­ized by the recoil.

It's a quote from Emer­son, deliv­ered in a lec­ture on the divine in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry. You got­ta won­der if he'd recon­sid­er his posi­tion if he saw the world today.

lit the ancient past

Learning how not to think

If you haven't read David Fos­ter Wallace's 2005 com­mence­ment address at Keny­on, you should. It's hum­ble and real and warm, and tru­ly great. It's also very dif­fi­cult to read. After his sui­cide, it's impos­si­ble not to hear the echoes of Wallace's inter­nal con­ver­sa­tion, the dark­ness and doubt and obses­sive thoughts that he clear­ly strug­gled to get a han­dle on.

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult to stay alert and atten­tive, instead of get­ting hyp­no­tized by the con­stant mono­logue inside your own head (may be hap­pen­ing right now). Twen­ty years after my own grad­u­a­tion, I have come grad­u­al­ly to under­stand that the lib­er­al arts cliché about teach­ing you how to think is actu­al­ly short­hand for a much deep­er, more seri­ous idea: Learn­ing how to think real­ly means learn­ing how to exer­cise some con­trol over how and what you think. It means being con­scious and aware enough to choose what you pay atten­tion to and to choose how you con­struct mean­ing from expe­ri­ence. Because if you can­not exer­cise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be total­ly hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excel­lent ser­vant but a ter­ri­ble master.

It's not tech­ni­cal­ly avail­able online, but you might be able to stum­ble across it in the depths of the Inter­net archives. Thanks, Dave.

music the ancient past

The 90s obviously didn't totally suck

Karp, someone's apartment/bedroom/closet in Atlanta in 1996. This video makes me regret not ral­ly­ing to see them at Gilman Street even more. Thanks for the mem­o­ries, Jacob. PS, you may feel moved to add your own vocal track.

baseball the ancient past

Disco Demolition Night

Hard to believe it was 30 years ago, but there's some excel­lent local news footage of a noto­ri­ous moment in base­ball his­to­ry: the White Sox ill-fat­ed "Dis­co Demo­li­tion" pro­mo­tion. In the end, Comiskey Park descend­ed into a riot after a Chica­go DJ explod­ed a crate full of dis­co records in the mid­dle of the field between games of a dou­ble-head­er. The NYT has a nice chron­i­cle of the unfold­ing disaster:

[Mike] Veeck, [son of the White Sox own­er], ordered yel­low-jack­et­ed guards to go out­side to stop fans from crash­ing the gates.That allowed the spec­ta­tors inside the ball­park to storm the field with­out much resis­tance. Jack Mor­ris, a Tigers pitch­er, recalled "whiskey bot­tles were fly­ing over our dugout" after Detroit won the first game, 4–1.Then Dahl blew up the records."And then all hell broke loose," Mor­ris said. "They charged the field and start­ed tear­ing up the pitch­ing rub­ber and the dirt. They took the bases. They start­ed dig­ging out home plate."

Watch for Greg Gum­bel in the footage above; he was a sports­cast­er for a Chica­go-area station.

outdoors the ancient past


Handmade Houses - bed and domeThis pho­to is from an excel­lent 70s pho­to book called Hand­made Hous­es. I bought it after I read this inspir­ing lit­tle piece on Inhab­i­tat, and it has got me think­ing about get­ting back to basics. In this econ­o­my, basics may be all there are. In the win­ter and spring of 1997, I helped my friend Steve make a house by hand on the Cal­i­for­nia coast. At first, it was like Robin­son Cru­soe. No pos­ses­sions to speak of, oth­er than my ham­mer, some books, the sun and ocean, fresh air and work. We worked all day, doing what felt like good, whole­some labor in the sun, bang­ing, saw­ing, siz­ing things up. Slide Ranch - blue trailer - 1996This is where I lived for a while.Then El Nino arrived. After a few weeks, the whole thing had become more like Lord of the Flies. Days and days of rain, mud­slides on High­way 1, crazy-mak­ing iso­la­tion. In between squalls, we framed the house, affixed the ply­wood sheath­ing, put on the deck and roof, and ran the wiring. At some point, I came down with a cold, which even­tu­al­ly became pneu­mo­nia. In the spring, I retreat­ed to the warmth of Doug and Ted's house in Berke­ley to recu­per­ate, a few weeks lat­er I'd tak­en a job at a muse­um, and that was the end of sim­plic­i­ty. For the time being, anyway.

music the ancient past

So you can't stop moonwalking

I won't bore you with my thoughts on Lisa Marie Presley's MySpace thing about Michael ("I want­ed to save him. I want­ed to save him from the inevitable which is what has just hap­pened"), or relate my sto­ry of find­ing out that the rumor was true (upon read­ing this tweet from Lil' Jon: "RIP M J!!"), or dis­cuss Justin's excel­lent email about how MJ helped him stay in his "eight-year old zone." I will only spread some love about my favorite MJ record­ing, which is a very scratchy demo ver­sion of "Work­ing Day And Night" from the Spe­cial Edi­tion of "Off the Wall."[audio:]Enjoy.