Michael Ubaldi, June 28, 2003.
Though I was considering an immersion into my "freedom and culture" essay, between Thursday, yesterday and today this has definitely turned out to be an educational audio-visual weekend. It's relaxing, it's low-budget and it's something I'd never really done before I set out on my own.
Thursday night I rented and watched The City of Lost Children, a suitably foreign film with incredible artistic vision and a passably semilinear plot. For those of you who know the movie, my favorites were the incessant tritone emission of the Cyclops' eyepieces and - no surprise, here - the beautifully aged Octopus sisters. No official site exists, though you can get a glimpse of both the film and nostalgia-laced early HTML on a fan page. As with many other foreign films, the film at first blush began to exhibit diffusion towards the end, as if Jean-Pierre Jeunet and the creation staff grew bored with stringing together events to form a narration. As in, Hey, we've been exploring a fantastic Neverland for seventy minutes. Why don't we complete the story arc of every single supporting character and antagonist with violent, ironic death. Let's do it in less than fifteen minutes. After all: we're French!
The French. Worthless in practical matters, they nevertheless win my vote for obscure, watch-every-five-to-ten-years art cinema and film noir. My salute, the ten-minute still-frame La Jetté:
...Mais un homme du futur...
It just so happens that when I rented the movie from Hollywood Video, the clerks quietly informed me that Blockbuster is actually the better store for miniseries and television collections. Good advice, it turns out: last night I found the store to run rings around poor old Hollywood. No Star Trek: The Next Generation series packages for rent, but I was immediately shown to Tom Hanks' post-Apollo 13 HBO extravaganza, From the Earth to the Moon. After a second trip to Blockbuster to have the theft-protection devices removed from the DVD case (I knew the transaction went to quickly!), I was ready to watch, root beer and potato chips in hand.
I've gone nearly halfway through. Apollo 9 and 10 succeeded at the finale of Part Five of Twelve; Neil and Buzz and the third guy whose name the nominally familiar can't remember are up next. After being inundated with the pathos, heartwarming and enormous budget of Band of Brothers, this series required a slight adjustment. Each episode, as it were, is composed of numerous subchapters, too - unlike Brothers - so the looseness threw me a bit. Multiple directorship varies much more dynamically in To the Moon, to the point where I nearly gave myself a headache rolling my eyes at Part 4. I'm not sure who it was, but he obviously missed the 1990s where EVERY LAST PIECE OF STOCK FOOTAGE DETAILING THE MISGUIDED ANGER OF 1960S RADICALS WAS JUXTAPOSED WITH THE DEATHS OF RFK AND MLK, ALL TO ACID-ROCK OVERDUB. The irony, at one time, was supposed to evoke old memories, long-suppressed by synthpop and Ronald Reagan's stellar windup for USSR-TKO. Clinton's in office! He almost admitted to doing drugs and protesting - and he commands the baby-killers, now, man! Kids are wearing retro! Boy, were we right all along. The 1990s, like any other incendiary, burned themselves out before being suddenly and finally destroyed by reality as it descended in the form of hijacked jetliners murdering thousands.
But I digress. The point in the episode was to focus squarely on one line, a telegram from an American to NASA. "You saved 1968," she said. Now, that is poignant: I don't know if I needed the art-video inlays of five different screens of protest and Vietnamese sorrow intermingled and substituted at alarming frame rates to really get it, unfortunately.
All in all, very interesting. I'll press forward later on this evening. Interestingly enough, the actor who played Gus Grissom - rather well, as a matter of fact - played Drake in Aliens. Poor guy had less than twenty minutes of screen time in the 1986 sci-fi flick and he's forever typecasted. I kept expecting him to grunt and flirt with Vasquez. Best of all: When Grissom's NASA presence was related in story posthumously to a Senate inquiry, we all found one more reason, fictionally derived or not, to hold utter contempt for Walter Mondale.
Before I sat down to translate my intriguing little life (operative word in that one is yours to choose) into a weblog entry, I swung by the library for some music. I had 1980s synthpop in my head, probably as an antidote to all the bad 1960s revolution garbage (see above). Couldn't find any. So I went wild, relatively speaking, and picked up music that I wouldn't normally listen to: Brian Eno; Genesis; traditional Chinese music; an old favorite absent in my CD collection, Ralph Vaughan Williams; Robert Schumann.
The kicker was a CD I picked up in the ethnic section, The North Coast Pipe Band Pipes Up! You guessed it: wall-to-wall bagpipes. Naturally, it went right into the disc player for the ride back; immediately, "Scotland the Brave" was blaring out of my PT as only bagpipe companies can. I was considering entering myself into the Guiness Book of World Records as "First Man in Northeast Ohio to Ever Blast Bagpipe Music out of His Operational Motor Vehicle Whilst Absent any Ironic Intent."
I've got to tell you: cranking bagpipe music is a funny thing. Nobody in the immediate vicinity knows how to react. Guys my age in duly attractive cars are supposed to play rock music and other suave endeavors - not bagpipes. That's the first problem; the second is what we can safely call "bagpipe prejudice." People walking down the street crane their necks, twisting this way and that, trying to figure out where the hell the parade is coming from. Then they follow the sound to the street, see me, wonder why a guy my age isn't taking advantage of his duly attractive car by playing rock music et al, and stare. Oh, the stares.
It's all right. I know I'm hip. All the same - should the coolness of bagpipes be considered a Consitutional right? Let's sue all the way to the Supreme Court.
Maybe...not. We can rely on social mores and respect for tradition to keep it current and respected.
I just finished the first Vaughan Williams and have the Chinese music in. Soon after, I'm off to choose my own adventure: guitar, computer, book, Apollo 11. Gung Bay Fat Chow!
Michael Ubaldi, June 25, 2003.
I had a great day - the city of Tiffin, Ohio would drive James Lileks mad with its smattering of wall signs and would drive anyone mad with the saturation of faux-Romanesque 1880s architecture in the main square.
Something unexpected happened. I should have reacted with grace and magnanimity. I failed miserably. I have quite a bit of growing up to do. (Don't ask.)
More to come on the road trip.
Michael Ubaldi, June 10, 2003.
My slated work for the day is finished and everyone who could authoritatively review it for markup has left. I figured that before I delved into any tasks unrelated to work but beneficial to the office, I'd do a bit of cleaning. Rummaging through my murse, I found a notebook filled with work notes and musings largely from two years ago. This one struck me as a bit prophetic; though I'd forgotten about the entry the idea comes back to me time and again:
I seem to confuse others' rejection of personal philosophies as a rejection of me altogether, as if by their action of not following [my credo, they intend] to belittle or exclude me. This seems to be heightened by my experience with [name withheld], who, for a brief period, embodied a rejection of both my philosophies and my affection. My prideful anger and jealousy towards people who are apparently comfortable in living unlike me must be dealt with and not allowed to control my behavior.
The feeling still persists, however; being an abstract thinker and innate ethicist, I tend to equate personal beliefs and moral code with the very stuff of one's soul, and understand a wide enough divergence between belief systems to be indicative of incommensurable behavior, and therefore incompatible living in proximity.
But that divergence needs to be quite wide for that bottomless chasm to appear; particularly over the past two years, I've warmed to the idea of difference and relished the many moods of Myers-Briggs populating my world.
And even then, in that maudlin little legal pad, I wasn't so far gone into psychology that I'd lost my sense of humor:
If I were both gay and a robot, I'd be See-Threepio, and that's not all too bad.
Michael Ubaldi, June 9, 2003.
You'll notice two additions to my blogroll - both exhibit the works of people from my Syracuse University days.
The first is a political website, composed of people I half-knew and at times half-got-along-with. The captain-on-deck is, at least as I remember him, a smart-mouthed fellow from Boston who framed a sarcastic rejection letter from Kurt Vonnegut and wrote one of the most enjoyably gritty stories about rejection from writing for Maxim. In one of his more stroppy moments, he verbally rabbit-punched a caricature I'd drawn of him for a comic strip. "But hey," said a friend of his, desperately trying to salvage the deck as it listed terribly to awkward, "look at the way Mike drew your hair. It looks just like you!"
"Yep," he spat. "He nailed that."
Several words into reading the site, you'll discover not only that this group of writers and pundits are distinctly liberal but that they're bright, nascent graduates in New York City trying to make something of living in one of the most media-competitive environments on the planet. For all his barbs, the editor-in-chief offers a long look into his purpose. Not too often do we get a glimpse at something as tightly guarded as that.
I appreciate enterprise, so they receive some of my apparent 1,000-a-week audience*.
I endorse for my readers the second because of the author's, er, irrepressibility and heart-of-gold charm. He was my freshman roommate; miraculously, an art major like myself, though what I'd consider a real artist. Drawing came quite naturally to him, and he took to the intellectual rogue's lifestyle like redheads wear freckles. In terms of personality, we were complete opposites - especially with the sort of emotional countenance I felt it necessary to possess at the time. He was outgoing, lavish, enjoyably sly and carefree; I was brooding, a bit of a loner, far more overserious than I am now, abstruse in my language and mannerisms, endlessly moody. I once accidentally - and stupidly - smashed his finger in a door.
His response, jackknifing, as he held his finger in agony? "You owe me a new finger!" he chuckled between winces.
We got along well in our split double, as long as neither my Depeche Mode nor his ska/Tom Waits/Trainspotting soundtrack overpowered the other. Come to think of it, he actually had DM's Violator; I'm sure my continual rotation ruined the album for him for years afterward.
Like I said, he's a real artist. How does he speak? With images.
Enjoy. I have. And I may be adding some more in-kind links for newly backlinked blogs in the next couple of days.
* Yes, I'm serious. This takes into account my own visits for maintenance and reviewing the front page to proofread (and preen, I'll admit it), not to mention the legions of Googlebots establishing the pipeline shuttling people to my site with the search string "pictures senator ted kennedy red nose." No lie there, either.
Michael Ubaldi, June 5, 2003.
How did my slumber-ensconced body repay me for ensuring an out-of-character nine hours of sleep last night?
Not one, but two dreams wherein I was chased around someone's front yard by a Yeti. To be fair, it was a playful chase, and the front yard was enjoyably old-neighborhood, such as Parma or Middleburg Heights.
But a Yeti all the same.
Michael Ubaldi, May 15, 2003.
Back in February I wrote an off-the-cuff essay on democratization; vowing to follow up with something more substantial, I set off on a researched paper that is now breaking 8,000 words - about forty pages when double-spaced. I'm almost done with it. I intend to send out a few advisements to some web notables, and, anticipating even incidental visitors to apply more scrutiny to a gigantic essay, I've been fairly meticulous is ensuring that the argument I've made is solvent.
Looking over the essay, it's obvious that I approach subjects far more from principle than fact. Though I certainly fortify statements with concrete bases, I'm much more comfortable relying on my ability to argue a unifying proposition with which a reader can identify and then apply to either his own knowledge or my real-world example. Too many "facts" - numbers, citations, what have you - tend to bog down an essay, especially when those bits aren't strung together.
The second observation I've made about my writing is that it is far more - if you can make the analogy - C.S. Lewis than Learned, Heavily Read and Sharply Critical Historian. They tend to be, as you'd understand having read this blog - full of speech-like flourishes. Hey, it's what makes me me. I'd guess that the more "intellectual" the reader, the less interest they'd have in it on grounds that I'd have made "too many assertions." For others - and I've given early rough drafts to trusted sources - my explanations do connect to provide a sort of "Oh, yeah, I get it" elucidation. Intuition has always been far more natural to me than linear analysis and tome-devouring. It's how I work.
But some degree of devouring must be done. In the making of the essay, I've realized that my knowledge of tangibles is understandibly lacking in certain areas. I've also come to appreciate the utter lack of reprinted information regarding post-war reconstruction of either Japan or Germany. A careless Google string results in every opinion column writer and his brother trying to compare, from a similarly informal perspective, the reconstitution of both Axis nations to the plans for Iraq; creative strings don't seem to yield better leads to comprehensive reports - timelines, anecdotes, first-hand observations.
So I decided to - gasp! - hit the library. Lunch was big today, so dinner can wait. I'll swing by the old place and grab a clutch of at least five books on MacArthur's occupation I found from a simple catalog perusal.
I'll keep you all abreast.
UPDATE: I ended up borrowing seven books. After nine pages of the most interesting one, I can confidently say that anyone complaining about lawlessness, infrastructure damage, confusion, hunger, economic duress and/or national instability in Iraq should be slapped, and strapped into a fettered chair and read several accounts of the Japanese occupation. In less words, what we're running into today is nothing - nothing - compared to Japan in the first few years. Reading this, I can only assume that most journalists don't know the first thing about what actually happened when they go on about "failure" after a bloody month. Anyway.
UPDATE II: Thanks for asking for the essay, guys. No, it's not done and yes, feel free to make suggestions. I may or may not be amenable to ideological changes, most likely not. But it's an open door. And feel free to read it slowly or mull over it. I just hope it doesn't, like, stink or anything. Nah. For a first essay of that length (in college, I was the king of terse arguments), I don't think it does. Oh, and e-mail any correspondence.
UPDATE III: Just so you know, I don't receive e-mails for the "fc" address at home. I may be able to finagle it in the new apartment; we'll see.
Michael Ubaldi, April 29, 2003.
I'll be busy tomorrow so posting will be light, if done at all. In lieu of political commentary, I'll continue with photographic vignettes that, if comments I've received are any indication as to what my readers enjoy, should be - well, enjoyable.
Let's talk hair. Let's talk hair music. Let's talk cool uncoolness.
This picture was taken five years ago at a Pregnant Rat show in the basement of Shaw Hall, Syracuse University. I am on the left, shrieking unintelligibly into the microphone thrust within my personal space. Pregnant Rat deserves its own entry - it's a long story.
Suffice to say, this began (without me) as a death metal band in Drop-D. The guys were lazy and failed to foment songs in practice; invited by a hardcore band to fill in an opening slot, they obliged. And failed to foment songs before the show. Ever-adaptive, they shrugged their shoulders, asked me to recite an artsy manifesto about death metal before their set, and set about improvising the most awful, clanging, cacophony ever to reverberate in that cramped, mirrored, basement dance room.
Everybody loved it.
Those of you with trained Ubaldi-story eyes may have noticed the front head of the drum kit's kick drum. Yes, the set was named "Bib Fortuna" and, as the legend goes, whenever this guy named Al - who once owned the set - would play, the kit invariably would go BLICK-em-BLICK-em-BLICK-em-BLICK-em. Played for Pregnant Rat, it sounded worse.
Best. Joke. Band. Ever.
Interlude for reputation realignment. I'm really quite a mild-mannered fellow, true to form. This is my family, minus sister (she took the picture, I believe). I don't know where Norman Rockwell's signature wandered off to, but it belongs in the right hand corner: yes, we had the hats lying around and they came on rather naturally.
And I eventually cut my hair (piercing my ears to make up for it, but I've been through with that for two years now). I'm whistling in the picture but as to the song - I can't recall. I'll never forget Kochman's recollection of passing me on his way to class: "I was walking and saw this guy and I thought, 'Hey, it's Eminem.' Then I looked closer and said, 'Oh, wait, it's Mike Ubaldi.'"
This was taken by my professional photographer buddy, Paul, in what's easily my favorite, serendipitous triumph of natural light. I do well, all regal and such.
Michael Ubaldi, April 28, 2003.
Far from an old wives' tale is the axiom "You are What You Pull out of the Magazine Rack in the Doctor's Waiting Room." As soon as I was able to cognitively assemble four-color printed photographs my tiny little fingers would grab ahold of the latest National Geographic before imagination would grab ahold of me. To hell with Highlights; neither the subtle educollusion nor the vapid morality plays drew me in. I knew Goofus would pull himself together after marriage and that Gallant, the eternally good-hearted sonovabitch, would graduate from West Point with honors and Eisenhower his way into the White House. Okay, Goofus put his shoes on before his socks and pants and then was rude to his cousin. It happens. He'll learn to hold the door for people when he starts dating. Let him sort it out.
Every other magazine bored me stiff. I don't care for sports, nor celebrities, nor women's fashion trifles. I do have one distinct memory of gawking at pictures of three bikini-clad women squirming about on rock formations jutting out of some typically constructed tropical paradise. I must have been about four or five and with my mother at the dermatologist's. I knew there was something indicative about the arrangement - Mommy, why is her top as see-through as your panty hose? - but alas, eight years too young for acute globular inveiglement, couldn't quite put it all together. I also couldn't quite stop gawking until it was my mother's turn to see the doctor.
Every other wait, it was National Geographic.
I've learned that sleeping is just about the only task I can accomplish perfectly when in a stressful environment. Reading a magazine in the timeframe of less than twenty minutes in the transient door-open-door-close-who-are-they-calling-now waiting room just isn't possible; nervous, I pay too much attention to the offices' rhythm. Sure, I find a story from the contents page and soak up some of the 16-point font splashes: Dazzling in beds of turquoise, sapphire and aquamarine from a sea older than every empire put together, Costa Rica's Isla del Coco is the crown jewel of the Americas. A few seconds later, my mind wanders to focus elsewhere. In this case, National Geographic's staple, more plentiful on its pages than brittle, antagonistic knee-slappers for balding, thirtysomething chauvinists in a double-issue of Maxim:
Pictures. Pretty pictures.
Nobody likes to read about how enjoyable the Cuban life is under the tragically misunderstood Fidel Castro. But then, who on the National Geographic readership bell curve picks it up for specific sociological contents? Back to me: I was a kid, I was trying desperately to concentrate on a magazine. So I got stuck on photographs, and photographs of what every normal child who hasn't got the faintest interest in soft-socialist gobbledygook enjoys.
Dinosaurs. Sea creatures. Mummies - lots of them. Ancient habitations brought into the modern age. Stars and planets, grand unifying theories for the universe. Inserts and pullouts, graphics and illustrated charts. All in National Geographic, waiting for me whenever I found myself waiting for the doctor.
I still go straight for it. I do manage to keep my eyes moving left to right and down columns in order to digest letters, set in patterns meant to convey serial expressions of printed thought a little better, too. Last month, at my opthamologist's, I picked up my favorite waiting room magazine - in fact, the eye doctor's office is the best, as he's got a nice stack of random National Geographics from the past seven years (spooky to read the geopolitical musings, especially one right before September 11th). I was reading about the Big Bang when, perhaps not coincidentally, I confronted the fact that I've never owned a subscription.
Now, here's where I would be expected to narrate a compelling internal dialogue about my financial and literary decisions over the years. But the epiphanic moment didn't happen that way. It was more like "Why the hell don't I own this magazine now that I hold a steady job?"
So I bought a subscription. My first issues (two! March and April together) came in the mail today. And with a wink, God nudged National Geographic's editor to make a testament to what brought me to the publication in the first place:
Awwwesome! I promise to read the article, too.
Michael Ubaldi, April 10, 2003.
Bright and early tomorrow morning I'll catch the worm, pack up my PT, Dolly, and head southeast towards the nation's capital. My sister and her husband live in Maryland and I'll be spending the weekend with them. A sojourn into D.C., peek into the Smithsonian and a furniture hunt through IKEA are on the agenda. My brother-in-law is an avid Playstation fan and, care of my Christmas generosity, is in possession of the legendary Crash Bandicoot Team Racing. I bought him a multitap, too, and I'm sure that my sister can be cajoled into some cartoon-character-grand-prix tomfoolery, so we're sure to squeak at least an hour out of their entertainment center. A doggie, Jake, and a kitty, Steve; endless possibilities. Hell, we may even catch up on life - I'm more of the marathon conversationalist, but the last five times I've seen either one of them it's either been for a wedding or a funeral. I'll brave the Beltway and traverse the Pennsylvanian wild.
I'll enjoy it.
I return home Monday, at which point the small company for which I work will be spending two days in Columbus for the Ohio Airports Conference. We'll be flying in and out - morning and evening - in our Cessna 206 both days, so I reckon to be washed out both nights.
All of that in consideration, I leave the uBlog to sway in the breeze for a bit. I'm just about done with my two-month-long Herculean effort, "Freedom and Culture," but it is nevertheless incomplete; I'd like to leave you all with a part of my life I've kept out of the site but for functionality.
I graduated in May of 2000 from Syracuse University with a Bachelor's of Fine Art in Painting. In a tiny office run by family, I happily wear many hats - but my occupation today is arguably graphic design. Quite literally, I learned design and Photoshop on the job; I purchased my own copy and saved the boss half-a-large stumbling ahead and meeting whatever visual capacities arose. One of these days I'll post my growing portfolio of handiwork for business.
But for the next week, I present a gallery of my undergraduate work. I was largely influenced by Michael Parkes and my uncle-by-marriage, John Jude Palencar. Both men are not only about thirty years my senior and what I'd consider true painters and draftsmen; they thrive on it and loved it well enough to innervate their abundant talent into careers.
Senior year, I realized that I was not a painter. I worked with painters; they slept, woke, ate, drank, read, spoke, dreamt painting. I was able to paint and I was able to draw, but neither was my calling.
I graduated and floundered for a bit, fell into some dark months and in the inevitable complete reappraisal of my life, decided that my visions into a fantastic unreality weren't worth the time I now found fleeting in the "real life" we come to understand as being dominated by an occupation. Only so many hobbies can be pursued in each clutch of seven days. I've become efficient as I can be; I haven't drawn or painted anything substantial in nearly two years. This past February I ended a one-year stint in a fantastic musical project, yet another artistry that I adore but recognized as still slightly perimetric to wholeness. A season, it was, from spring to winter.
I prefer the clarity of graduated life, most certainly, as do I now appreciate a turn, Dorothy-like, to my home: the pen.
To think I never caught on to the fact that nearly every one of my pictorial ideas began with a written description and not a sketch.
Without further ado, an abridged gallery of works from 2000.
A funny inception: Adrian, the model, was so engrossed in an anti-globalization/anti-biotech book that she kept shifting around. By the second five-hour session, I'd had it and went fricking gonzo. No, she doesn't look like that. And, with the title Mary Magdalene she was lightheartedly puzzled by the casting as a whore.
Ask my pal Gabe about Chroma. After you compliment him on his own artistry. That's an order.
If I didn't find drawing more exhausting than writing, I'd use a sketchpad like a weblog and ink line upon line as I do so in typed words here. A testament to the beauty of serendipity, I began with a half-thought and ended with a rich vignette.
I took four semesters of photography - loved every minute but the ones consumed by Susan Sontag reading assignments and technical lectures about proper flash use. I'm Neanderthal when it comes to photography, a stubborn disciple of what-you-see-is-what-you-get. This was from an extremely successful shoot with four acquaintances; my favorite. To the right is Old School Andy, a good fellow who'll keep seven-inch hardcore punk alive forever. Peggy's got a good heart but I heard from a reliable source that she's currently doing softcore. Not the music. No kidding - nor a link. As soon as she finds her way out, she'll find her way. Say a prayer.
From a model. I intially hung him on my bedroom wall to grin at me, evilly, until I blamed misfortunes on him and shoved him under the bed. Under a few other things. Face down.
Gorgeous girls from Syracuse University. I took twenty-one credits of music - diatonic and chromatic harmony, music history, diatonic and atonal sight singing - during my junior and senior years. The girls, both named Jen and friends of the inseparable sort, were in several of my classes. One sang; one played horn. The left Jen was a flirt but the "unattainable" sort. The right Jen nearly came across as flirtatious during an unnaturally lengthy phone conversation about sight singing assignments. Both were involved to some degree, I'm sure. It's just as well - imagination trumps harsh reality.
Cue harsh reality. Still accepting "ladyfriend" applications. They're hourglass-shaped, so fairly easy to fill out.
I dunno. Another instance of if-sketches-were-weblog-entries. Very Disney.
This one I enjoyed, the product of one five-hour session with a model. It's a satisfying example of the arc of growth in painting I sustained in college, moving from an interminably meticulous operation to a looser, more confident wrist.
That's me, looking characteristically dour when the chips are down. It's my senior show, as evidenced by the painting behind my shoulder. It was April, a Saturday, and a last gasp of winter had blown through - snow was falling as my father snapped the shot. The friends I had in painting were out of town and the other half were at a colleague's show the same night; I didn't make many friends in the art department and certainly didn't lift a finger advertising beyond a passel of signs. For a long time, nobody showed.
One fellow, to whom I'm forever grateful, arrived early and stayed the whole time. Paul Jacobs. Wonderful chap. Then, fashionably late, my housemates and buddies showed up and we partied down on chips and cheese.
I'm sporting my then-famous "Atlanto-Mediterranean Billy Idol" look. I wore earrings and a chain wallet at the time and yes, I was emaciated. I no longer blow away with a strong gust. And I smile a lot more.
Have a good week, everyone. Until Next.