Archive for December, 2009

The New Year

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 31, 2009 by sethdellinger

You probably feel one of two ways about the Death Cab For Cutie song “The New Year”:  you’ve either never heard it, or you think it’s over-played.  Regardless, this time every year I naturally think about the song, which I consider to be one of the most poetic, succinct rock songs out there.  Whether we are talking about lyrics or poetry or something else entirely, Ben Gibbard’s words for “The New Year” are a shining example of sparsity well used, and the band’s music states the perfect counterpoint to the theme.  Here are the words and then some badass YouTube videos (some live versions and the official video):

The New Year

words by Ben Gibbard

So this is the new year,
and I don’t feel any different–
the clanking of crystal,
explosions off in the distance.

So this is the new year
and I have no resolutions.
They’re self assigned penance
for problems with easy solutions.

So everybody put your best suit or dress on,
let’s make believe that we are wealthy for just this once.
Lighting firecrackers off on the front lawn
as thirty dialogues bleed into one.

I wish the world was flat like the old days
and I could travel just by folding a map.
No more airplanes, or speedtrains, or freeways:
there’d be no distance that could hold us back.

Here’s the official music video:

Here’s a clip of a great performance of the song, but the YouTube video quality sucks:

Here’s the best one I could find:

In Defense of Heartbreak

Posted in Prose with tags , on December 29, 2009 by sethdellinger

In the absence of strong emotions (feelings and events) I must attempt to create some; after all, I’m an artist, silly, and what is an artist to do with comfy stasis?  Like the static on a forgotten television which is ceaselessly changing yet ever the same, fuzzy jumping dots never wrote no poetry, mister, and a solid waterfall is beautiful but sees no beauty.  Oh, I can work up a good head of anger, sure, at things like traffic lights and long lines, but anything righteous is long gone, replaced by news radio and cozy lunches with friends on their office lunch breaks, and plastic chess with people I know I’ll beat, and diet fucking soda.  Oh sure, it’s nice to be out of the struggle for a bit, the pain and the hunger, the loneliness and the crude jokes, but a little heartbreak would be nice, a few tears over something besides an Almodovar film, hell, buddy, something more real than reaching for another Q-Tip by my bedside and another round of Bloomin’ Onions at the Outback Steak House.  I bought a CD today (because I still buy CDs) that had an old song of ours on it, in an ill-conceived attempt to feel that pain again, but it’s too long gone now, too long gone (too far away for me to hold); hell it’s been over a decade since I was hurt like that.  I ended up jerking off about you and going back to reading Maxim.  Sure, man, sure, I’m elated all the damn time in my current life, elated and pleasantly pleased and happy as birdshit without the purple shit in it (that purple shit is shit too) and I could go on being elated and lifted-up and as clear as a damn Scientologist till the day they bury my grinning corpse, but I’d trade all the joy in the world for one more drop of genuine exquisite sorrow, cause the light gets blinding without any darkness (and a coin won’t buy you dick ‘less it’s got two sides), so come on, bitches, break my heart, I need it as bad as you’re gonna need the guilt.

Driving at Night

Posted in My Poetry with tags , , , on December 28, 2009 by sethdellinger

Here’s the road through fields,
across gullies, up mountains
new lovers drive to expose
their kisses to moonlight, starlight.
Public where no one can see them,
they wrap themselves in excess,
immodesty, failure of love
for the common day,
for streets laid out in a grid,
identical houses, lives
like socks in a drawer, in fists,
in hidden knots of fabric,
linen stacked in closets,
dishes cleared away.
Tables gleam like water
over depths, shadows
through windows, breath
an act of stealth
from room to room.  My sister
sleeps, my parents mumble
in their sleep, my lovers
are all laughing at me, or
kissing me, or smoking
long expensive cigarettes,
our dog is dying and we
loved her, but she was never
anything more than a dog, and she
is dust with my grandfathers
and my old notebooks
and laughs that echo through
your rent-free basement
efficiency, or the city at midnight.
Now, from the overlook,
the valley stretches it’s rocky skin
further than silence.  The breeze
between us.  We might
be alone for good, following
riverbeds narrow and dry
so we can believe the water once flowed.
Night opens.  A large bird
dips to the windshield, veers.
Night closes us in.

Seth’s Favorites of 2009: Documentaries

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 26, 2009 by sethdellinger

Other favorites of 2009:


I just had to do documentaries separately from films this year; there was simply no way I was going to be able to choose a top ten films including docs.  Unfortunately, although I’ve seen some really great documentaries this year, there are also a decent amount I haven’t been able to see yet and am not sure when I’ll get to see them.  The ones I haven’t seen yet include:  Outrage, Burma VJ, Garbage Dreams, The Most Dangerous Man in America, It Might Get Loud, Under Our Skin, and Which Way Home.   I’d have waited to make my list if it looked like I’d get to see any of these really soon, but it’s not looking that way.  So, without further ado, my favorite documentaries of the year:

10.  Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders

This emotional and tense doc follows four doctors in war-torn Liberia; what could have been a bleeding-heart paint-by-numbers routine is a fully alive, vibrant, scary film.

9.  Tyson

As I said immediately after I saw this, I’m still not sure if it’s actually any good as a piece of film or art.  It just generally confused my sensibilities.  But one thing is for sure, and that is that it has stuck with me, and any mention of Mike Tyson is now, in my mind, fully colored by this odd, affected, bizarre portrait of the man.  One also wonders—as one often does in the most interesting of documentaries—how much of the material is about the subject, and how much is about the filmmaker.

8.  The Beaches of Agnes

7.  Anvil: The Story of Anvil

What I like so much about “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” is not the music.  That aspect is downright horrible.  No, what I like about it is the two distinct ways the film can be read: either as a joyous affirmation that our dreams are always within reach, or a sad proclamation that we should all, eventually, give up and settle (lest we risk being ridiculous).  In the end, the film seems to say that the best path is a bit of both.

6.  Mugabe and the White African

“Mugabe and the White African” is an incredibly exciting and, dare I say it—important film, and I certainly would have ranked it much higher—maybe even #1—if it weren’t for the fact that I felt aspects of it were a tad staged.

5. Capitalism: A Love Story

I know, I know, this movie has it’s share of haters.  But I thought the ideas were big, but presented with alot of heart (and difficult concepts were made easy to understand), but most importantly, while past Moore films have left me feeling enraged and despondent, “Capitalism” made me angry–and extremely sad.  The only problem is that the issue in this movie is so big, the individual feels helpless against it, which is a shame, since it’s the closest Moore’s come yet to moving me to actual action.

4.  Valentino: The Last Emperor

There are two distinct ways to see this movie: either as an awed look at one of the last geniuses of the fashion industry, or as a final revelation that the fashion industry is full of slathering buffoons who don’t have those closest to them fooled in the least.  I, obviously, fall into the latter camp.  Scenes in which everyone is being very serious, or frantic, or sad, about a dress, played very comically to me, as this uber-serious Valentino tries to not laugh out loud at his heist of fame.  One can’t help but think of Bernie Madoff—like the great swindler, Valentino seems to just be waiting to be found out.  In our celebrity-drenched culture, we need more looks behind the curtain like this one.

3.  Every Little Step

If you’re familiar with the plot of the musical A Chorus Line, then you’ll understand how genius of a concept it is to make a documentary of the audition process for the Broadway revival of the musical.  It works in layers:  as a keen post-modern life-imitates-art gimmick, as a deconstruction of the artistic process, as a statement on the disposability of individuals as artists, and as a celebration of those same individuals.  Worth repeated viewings.

2.  Food, Inc.

You’ve probably heard of this by now and don’t need me to jawbone you anymore about it.  Watch it.  I haven’t become a vegetarian yet, but believe this:  it has changed the way I eat.

Watch the  “Food, Inc.” trailer

1.  The Cove

The Cove is everything I want in a documentary:  it has something to say (the issue is Dolphins, but it’s somehow made a fresh issue again), it has interesting people in it, it has moments of excitement, and it ultimately acknowledges it is a documentary.  Whether you give a shit about dolphins or not, methinks you’ll care for at least two hours if you watch The Cove. I have no idea why I cannot get these italics to go away.

Now, I am going to go out on a major limb here and predict which five documentaries will be nominated for the Oscar this year.  (Please note, if you are a magazine reading person, then you know that none of the major entertainment mags have made their predictions yet.)  If I am right on ALL FIVE, somebody has to give me something.  I’m also going to guess the winner, but this is only my guess if I am right about all 5 nominees.  If (as will almost certainly be the case) I am not right about all 5 noms, I will most likely change my guess going into the Oscar ceremony.  OK, my guesses:

–The Cove
–Food, Inc.
–The Beaches of Agnes
–Burma VJ
–Which Way Home

…with the winner being…The Cove

The End of “The Dead”

Posted in Rant/ Rave, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 24, 2009 by sethdellinger

If you’ve never read any James Joyce, you are missing out!  But you are really, really missing out if you’ve never read his short story collection, Dubliners, namely the last story in the collection, “The Dead”–a story thought by myself and many, many others to be the best short story ever written.

I just read it again recently, in preparation for the DVD release of the late, great director John Huston’s film version of the story.  I am still blown away by how amazing it is.  Here’s all you need to know: the bulk of the story–say, 7/8 of it–is a largely plotless account of a Christmas party in Dublin.  We are introduced to characters, watch them sing, dance, and interact.  Then, the party ends, and we follow a husband and wife (Gabriel and Gretta) home in a carriage.  We can tell their relationship is strained.  Then, all of a sudden, in their home, Gretta tells Gabriel a very serious and dramatic story about a boy she used to know who died when they were young.  There is a lot of rumination on death and life.  This seems to come out of the blue after the lengthy party we’d just read–but on repeat readings one realizes the whole story is laced with revelations about death, life, and of course, love.

The reason I’m telling you this is, I have just watched the movie, and was blown away by it.  It is amazing, but especially the end, because the end of the Joyce short story is breathtakingly amazing, and I really didn’t think Huston would be able to do it justice.  I still have goosebumps after watching the film, then pulling the book down off my shelf and reading the end again.  So, here they are, the end of the book and of the movie.  I’m picking up the text right after Gretta has told Gabriel her story about the young man (named Michael Furey) dying when they were young, and then Gretta immediately falls asleep, and Gabriel is left with his thoughts:

Perhaps she had not told him all the story. His eyes moved to the chair over which she had thrown some of her clothes. A petticoat string dangled to the floor. One boot stood upright, its limp upper fallen down: the fellow of it lay upon its side. He wondered at his riot of emotions of an hour before. From what had it proceeded? From his aunt’s supper, from his own foolish speech, from the wine and dancing, the merry-making when saying good- night in the hall, the pleasure of the walk along the river in the snow. Poor Aunt Julia! She, too, would soon be a shade with the shade of Patrick Morkan and his horse. He had caught that haggard look upon her face for a moment when she was singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Soon, perhaps, he would be sitting in that same drawing-room, dressed in black, his silk hat on his knees. The blinds would be drawn down and Aunt Kate would be sitting beside him, crying and blowing her nose and telling him how Julia had died. He would cast about in his mind for some words that might console her, and would find only lame and useless ones. Yes, yes: that would happen very soon.

The air of the room chilled his shoulders. He stretched himself cautiously along under the sheets and lay down beside his wife. One by one they were all becoming shades. Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age. He thought of how she who lay beside him had locked in her heart for so many years that image of her lover’s eyes when he had told her that he did not wish to live.

Generous tears filled Gabriel’s eyes. He had never felt like that himself towards any woman but he knew that such a feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the form of a young man standing under a dripping tree. Other forms were near. His soul had approached that region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead. He was conscious of, but could not apprehend, their wayward and flickering existence. His own identity was fading out into a grey impalpable world: the solid world itself which these dead had one time reared and lived in was dissolving and dwindling.

A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

It’s Seth again.  Isn’t that some amazing writing?!?!  Ok, check out how Huston ends his movie.  Embedding was disabled, so you’ve gotta click on this link:

Christmas Eve in Rehab

Posted in Memoir, Prose with tags , , , on December 22, 2009 by sethdellinger

A few years ago, on my old MySpace blog, as Christmas was approaching, I was searching for something to write about it.  I ended up blogging this small account of the Christmas Eve I spent in rehab.  Looking back on it now, as a piece of writing, it certainly has it’s flaws, but I’ve decided to present it again without changing anything at all.  Rather than continue trying to come up with some new Christmas-themed blog every year, I’ve decided to begin a tradition of posting this every year (kinda like it’s a Peanuts special), warts and all.  Thanks for reading.

I have had the somewhat unique experience of spending a Christmas in rehab.  This Christmas was my fourth since then, and hopefully I’ll never let a Christmas go by that I don’t remember that day and–more intensely–the night before.

Christmas Eve in rehab.

It was a more relaxed day for us.  We didn’t have to be at quite as many group sessions.  We had more smoke breaks, more leisure time.  Most of us had been together for a few weeks by then, so there was a good ‘family’ feeling.  It was actually a very nice day, although it did make you realize there was an outside world.  One can’t help but picture their family, at home, watching The Grinch, burning apple-scented candles.  In the corners of your mind, you dare to hope they are wondering what you are doing, too.  And that they still love you.  (They do.)

Late in the afternoon, just as the light was dying and the gloaming light took over the world, snow began to fall.  It was going to be a white Christmas, and here we were, sealed away, smoking in our enclosed courtyard, catching errant snowflakes whose majesty had been ruined by accidentally falling into a rehab courtyard.

We were told to gather in the ‘Big Room'(this is the main gathering room) at 8pm.  We did so.  Once we are all present (about 30 of us) Bob comes in.  Bob was a counselor and lecturer, and probably one major reason why I am alive today.  Most everyone loved Bob.  Some people didn’t love Bob, cause Bob didn’t let you bullshit him, or anyone else.  Bullshit kills sobriety.  Bob taught me that.

Bob gathered us together and ushered us down the halls, without telling us where we were going.  We ended up going into the pool room.  Yes, my rehab had an indoor pool (it doesn’t anymore.  Nowadays it’s just another fucking room.) in a room with a glass ceiling, much like a greenhouse.  All the lights were out, and there was soft, relaxing music playing in the background (what I suppose is called ‘Meditation Music’); I never could tell where they had that music coming from.

The room was so serene.  You could hear the snow landing and immediately melting on the glass roof, and even with the lights out, the pool reflected ambient light, just a little tiny bit, but enough to see where you were stepping.  The music made it the most inviting, relaxing room I’ve ever been in.  I want to spend every Christmas eve in that room.

As we filed in, one of the interns handed us each an orange glow stick…you know, those things that you shake, then crack, and they glow with an eerie iridescent light of various colors.  Well, all of our glow sticks were orange and hadn’t been cracked yet.  They weren’t glowing.

Bob instructed us to gather around the edge of the pool, and attempt to space ourselves evenly all the way around.  It took us a few minutes, as there were thirty of us, but eventually we were there, in the dark, entirely surrounding the pool.

Bob talked for a few minutes about Christmas, and recovery in general—stuff I can’t specifically remember anymore.  But then he started talking about Faith.  Not necessarily Christian Faith…just.  plain. faith. Faith—in anything—Bob said, was the only way to start properly on the road to recovery.  And if you didn’t have any at all—if you were starting from a position of no Faith at all—all that you really needed was just a little spark, a tiny, almost invisible spark of Faith, and then you could blow on it, and fan it, and protect it and nurture it until it was a roaring, unstoppable flame.

But most important, Bob said, was to surround yourself with others who had sparks or flames, and together, your flames could grow high, strong, everlasting: a testament to a Power higher than ourselves who could keep us collectively sober and alive.

“Crack your glow sticks,” Bob said.

We did.  Suddenly surrounding the pool there were thirty orange lights, glowing in the darkness.  It was a neat sight, but the room remained largely dark.

“These are your sparks of Faith,” Bob said.  “But still, each spark is alone.  You see how you still cannot see each other’s faces, from across the pool?  A spark of Faith has difficulty growing on it’s own.  Now, throw them in the pool.”

We looked around, hesitantly.  After a few seconds, someone threw their glow stick in the pool.  Just the single glow stick seemed to light the whole pool up with an orange, fire-like glow.  A bright orb of light followed it to the bottom of the deep end.

Immediately afterwards, twenty-nine other glow sticks flew through the air, an amazing sight that looked somewhat like anti-aircraft fire, or a brief plague of Lightning Bugs.

The room became aglow.  The pool lit up like a miniature sun.  Everyone’s faces, the tears already starting, were clear as day.  The room was orange now, and still you heard the snowflakes melting on the roof, the quiet music coming from nowhere, the merest hint of the sound of happy lapping water.

“Faith burns brighter in numbers.  Stick together, help each other, and fan each other’s flames,” Bob said, himself on the verge of tears.  “Now let’s clasp hands.”

We formed a tight circle around the pool, staring at the amazing glowing water, and on that Christmas Eve, us thirty recited the Serenity Prayer together, to whatever we happened to think of as God, to whatever being there could be that would allow such a perfect moment to occur in this world of folly and disaster.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

We retrieved our ‘sparks’ from the pool, and each kept one.  Mine still sits on my entertainment center, beside a Beanie Baby and my stereo.

Posted in Snippet, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2009 by sethdellinger

Silversun Pickups on Conan tonight!  They’ll be playing “Substitution”.

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