Friday, June 01, 2007

Through a Glass, Calmly

It's Friday, I arrived at Wonderfest one week ago today, and it's damned well time I got off of my cloud and back to work. Donna has been mailing out VW #131 over the past few days and muttering whenever I'm in earshot that we'll be starting up on #132 next week, so I've broken my spell by doing my first real writing and reviewing of the week today. I started watching 20th Century Fox's MICHAEL SHAYNE MYSTERIES, VOL. 1 last night, a set that has its good points (the movies are short and entertaining) and its bad points (it requires a reviewer like me to agree to watch four movies in a row headling Lloyd Nolan, a good actor but hardly my idea of a steady diet). I never thought of this before, but Nolan's Shayne reminded me at times of Hubie, the wiseacre leader of Chuck Jones' comic mouse duo Hubie and Bertie, even down to the sneer in his voice.

It was my birthday on Wednesday. Donna gave me a Zen Vision: M (a 30 GB "IPod" sort of thing that can play up to fifteen hours of music or four hours of video) and a pair of Sony noiseless headphones. I don't have any plans to watch video on it, but the display is nice, and the headphones sound really fine. Donna's had a similar Zen product for a couple of years, but I've always resisted the temptation to join the IPod generation for reasons as vague as they are various. Yesterday I got it charged up, docked it with my computer, and filled half of its available giggage with mp3s. And wouldn't you know it? I love the thing. It appears to be the accessory I've long needed to make walking on the treadmill not only less of a drudgery but actual fun. I walked five laps in the late afternoon on a #5 incline (one more than I usually do at my best) and another two in the evening just because the presence of music in my head made moving around seem more pleasing than sitting or standing still. I think the internal focus on music also takes away (valuably) from some of my usual focus on myself, which can foster anxiety and lead to nail-biting and other unattractive habits, so I'm now seeing in this needlessly postponed device the possibility for positive change. As I say, it's nearly a week since Wonderfest and I still have fingernails -- not like Richie Havens has fingernails, but they are fingernails.

Producing a new issue is always anxiety-inducing, so they may not survive next week, but I'm curious to see how my ZV:M will see me through the process.

Favorite ZV:M listening so far...

Robyn Hitchcock's performance from last Saturday at a "Games for May" tribute to Syd Barrett. Backed by musicians calling themselves Robyn's "Heavy Friends," the acoustic and electric set gives us a satisfying replica of what we might have heard, had Syd not retreated from the limelight and instead returned for an anniversary performance of his music. No "Baby Lemonade" or "Opel" regrettably, but a "Dominoes" and "Wined and Dined" to weep for, and throbbing ticking whiplash performances of "Astronomy Domine" and "Interstellar Overdrive" that sound directly channelled from the night everyone made love in London. This morning, as my coffee was brewing, I picked up my acoustic bass and surprised myself by being able to play both of these numbers by ear.

I'm also still getting a lot of pleasure from revisiting Patti Smith's TWELVE, her new album of covers. I haven't been an active listener to Patti's music in many years, but her choice of covers I find both sympathetic and adventurous. "We Three," from her classic EASTER album, has also become a renewed favorite of late.

As I said at Wonderfest while accepting my Rondo Award for "Best Website," VW's return to a monthly schedule is bound to interfere with my blogging duties. I can already feel it claiming some of the energies I was putting to use here. I intend to continue as best I can, but it won't be as frequently as before, and its character may even change somewhat. Stay tuned and we'll see what it becomes together.

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