Wednesday, May 30, 2007


The title of this blog, And the Ass Saw the Angel, comes from the story of Balaam in the Book of Numbers. Here are some of Balaams words after viewing the Hebrews he has been summoned to curse.

I see Him, but not now;
I behold Him, but not near;
A Star shall come out of
A Scepter shall rise out of
And batter the brow of Moab,
And destroy all the sons of

Numbers 24:17

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I'm Your Man

The next Cohen song has been chosen by Anna. Go to her blog to read the lyrics.

Here is a combination interview with Cohen and performance of the song. As usual, via YouTube. This is a love song, but it has teeth. It's a variation on the "I'll be anything you want me to be," and its a particularly good one. Especially when you hit this verse

Ah, the moons too bright
The chains too tight
The beast wont go to sleep
I've been running through these promises to you
That I made and I could not keep
Ah but a man never got a woman back
Not by begging on his knees
Or Id crawl to you baby
And I'd fall at your feet
And I'd howl at your beauty
Like a dog in heat
And I'd claw at your heart
And I'd tear at your sheet
I'd say please, please
I'm your man

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Another Daniel Abraham Interview

Daniel Abraham- Self-promotion. Not really my strong suit.

I'd say it's worth buying because it's a good set of characters in an interesting, morally complex world. I've done everything I know to make the ride fun and memorable, and besides it gives you all the back-story for Winter Cities, and that book's even better.

Daniel Abraham is a talented young writer and a friend. For those reasons, plus the fact he's got new work coming out and its a tough career to get rolling, I'm doing my bit to promote his stuff.

Not long ago I linked to an interview of Daniel. Today I found another good one. Looks like Daniel is a good interview. Having had many dinner conversations with him, I'm not surprised. This interview also links to a review of the book by the interviewer (8 out of 10).

A few highlights from the interview.

Daniel Abraham-

A Shadow in Summer is a high fantasy set in an Asiatic milieu where captive spirits are used to drive trade and replace military protection. When one of these spirits conspires with a rival nation, a handful of men and women have to come together to champion right, save their city, and prevent genocidal slaughter. Pick two.


Jay Tomio- You thank Connie Willis for giving you the first advice on the book. What was that advice, and whom would you identify as those who influence your own work?

Daniel Abraham- Her words were "Start with someone getting hit in the head."

Let me know if you want to borrow a copy.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bede's Ecclesiastical History

Back in April I posted, Light in the Darkness, a post about an Old English metaphor for life that I had read somewhere. Even with Google, however, I could not find the source. Today an anonymous commenter left what appears to be the source. I admit the translation I just read from that source is not as much like a poem as I remember it, and I'm not sure its the source that I read, but now that I know where to look it is much referenced from Bede's Ecclesiastical History Book 2 Chapt. 13.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Borrowed Words: Dylan Thomas

And taken by light in her arms at long and dear last
I may without fail
Suffer the first vision that set fire to the stars.

From Dylan Thomas's, Love in the Asylum

I'm loving words.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cohen/Buckley branch

In previous posts I talked about 2 main branches of the interpretation of the Cohen song, Hallelujah. Those branches stemming from the John Cale and Jeff Buckley versions of the song. This post is about the Cohen/Buckley branch.

After hearing some much about Buckley's version, and acknowledging how good it is, and forming this opinion that there were these 2 branches of interpretation, I'm now having trouble finding (on YouTube) recognized professionals doing versions that fall in the Buckley branch. Sheryl Crowe does one. Jim likes it, but I don't. Perhaps what Buckley did is just harder. This shortened version by Imogen Heap isn't bad, and I think its clearly a descendant of Buckley's version.

Among lesser known musicians, and outright amateurs, generally younger folks, this version is king. Most can get either the guitar or the singing OK, but putting both together is tough. Some of them do a good job, and some aren't so good, but they do their best to stay true to Buckley. I enjoy both of these.

Page out of the notebook IV

In consideration for the folks who read this blog and might not be as obsessed with Cohen songs as I right now am, I'll take a break from that topic today.

I found a journal of a dream I had sometime in 2006. It was one of these were you keep waking up, realizing you were dreaming, falling back asleep and falling back into the dream.

I wasn't "me," no sign of my life, except the woman protagonist of the dream was someone I knew back in Illinois. I'm censoring the name. It wasn't a dream "about" that person, because she was completely out of context, as well.

I was in her house. She was a roller derby queen. The old house was slanted disturbingly, it was hard to keep your balance when walking around. The house was full of people. There were a bunch of other roller derby queens hanging out doing publicity photos of them naked and oiled. It was a loud, active environment. The Mom of the place fed us a huge white trash meal, I didn't record the particulars.

After hanging around the house seeminly for days, the Father of the place showed up in the dream. He was a wild-eyed, unstable, Tom Waits pentecostal preacher kind of personality. He led the whole group on a kind of pilgrimage, which was a hike along an interstate, to a big old derelict farmhouse he wanted us to help fix up.

The alarm went off.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cohen/Cale Hallelujah branch

In the previous post, 2nd Hallelujah, I described how I think of the different covers of the Cohen sond, "Hallelujah," fall roughly into 2 branches, one branch strongly influenced by John Cale's interpretation, and one branch strongly influenced by Jeff Buckley's interpretation. That post had links to live performances by both those artists. In this post I'm going to link to several covers I think fall in the Cale branch.

Perhaps the best known in this branch is Rufus Wainright's. Although my brother Luke has been mentioning Wainright to me for awhile, I hadn't listened until I started this Leanord Cohen kick. Wainright is a gifted performer. His take on this song seems to come directly from the Cale interpretation.

K.D. Lang can sing.

The majority of covers of this song on YouTube are amatuer. Not fair putting her right after Wainright and Lang, but I thought she did a good job.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Tally ho

I have a habit of saying, "Tally ho," when Jae and are leaving someplace. Often when I do that, Jae replies with, "There's a ho, there's a ho, there's a ho."

Sunday, May 20, 2007

2nd Hallelujah

I'm really interested in this song as its passed from performer to performer. I don't know music in the sense that I could compare what key this or that performer does it in, etc. I just have my naive perceptions.

This song has been covered about 1,000,000 times. As far as I've been able to tell so far, it was John Cale's cover on the tribute album, I'm Your Fan, that was the first influential non-Cohen interpretation. I haven't heard the track from that album, but there are several live performances on YouTube:

Powerful stuff. Among the many versions, I think I'm discerning two major branches of interpretation. One branch seems to descend from Cale's version. The other branch, from Jeff Buckley's.

The same song, but different. This is a song where you can really go for the glory, go for big, soar. That's Cale's branch. Buckley does something different. His interpretation is subtler, more ambiguous. It's supported by the lyrics, this interpretation. You can sense more that is "broken" in Buckley's. In its way, just as powerful as soaring.

In the next post, I'll further explore one of these two proposed branches.

Friday, May 18, 2007

First Hallelujah

Back to the Leonard Cohen investigation. My main sources are YouTube and Wikipedia.

Of all the performances of "Hallelujah" I can find on YouTube, I've only found one that's Cohen. After all the covers, it was shocking for a couple reasons. One stems from the fact that its a performance for German television, I guess in the 80's. The presentation is just kinda weird. The second thing was that after the first 2 verses, the lyrics were unfamiliar. I had not heard them in any of the covers. And the later verses that were in the covers where not in the Cohen performance. Here it is.

In this version its an almostly completely religious song. It's pretty powerful in this manifestation. Intrigued about how it evolved, I found an extensive Wikipedia article on this song. Here's one clue. Seems John Cale was the first person to do a major cover of this song, and here is what happened when he asked Cohen for the lyrics to the song.

In a 2001 interview with The Observer, John Cale said:

After I saw [Cohen] perform at the Beacon I asked if I could have the lyrics to "Hallelujah". When I got home one night there were fax paper rolls everywhere because Leonard had insisted on supplying all 15 verses."

Also, Cohen has both performed and recorded the song with different combinations of verses.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


One day last week I looked up from my desk at work, and leaning in the doorway was this knockout redhead who said, "This is the woman you're sleeping with tonight."

This picture is a snapshot taken in a poorly lit hallway at work, so it doesn't do the makeover full justice, but you get the idea. It was to get a picture of Jae, but my expression is telling. She looked enough different to make a difference. The sub-conscious is funny. I KNOW this is my wife, but welling up from just below consciousness is real unease. Facial recognition must be really important. She talks like Jae, walks like Jae, looks like Jae in every way except her head just isn't Jae's head. Weird.

She looked like a million bucks and it very much amused her, but I was relieved the next day when her hair was curly again. It was still red, yes, but once it curled she was much more recognizable.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is a fritter?

On the way into work today, I said something about frittering away money. Jae wondered out loud of that use of "fritter" was related to the noun, "fritter." Which led us to the conversation of what is a fritter, and where do you get them.

Jae said she thought a fritter was defiantly fried. I said I had the impression it was a pastry, and that it might sometimes be one of these wonderful manifestations of meat pastries. According to Wikipedia, the definition is broad enough that we were both right about all that.

A fritter is any kind of food coated in batter and deep fried.

Another definition is a type of hole less donut. That's what fritters are. As to where you get them, that depends on what part of the definition you are going with. I think an investigation of fritters available in the Albuquerque area is in order.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Shadow in Summer

Daniel Abraham's _A Shadow in Summer_ was published in 2006, and I'm willing to bet it was one of the more interesting Fantasy books published that year. It can't be ignored that this novel is genre fiction, and so the first thing that's interesting about it is what it is not. As one Amazon reviewer says, "If you're looking for escape to a fantasical world of ripe-roaring adventure, it ain't here." The book unfolds slowly, revealing an impressively believable and familiar world, a world where the economic impact of magic is paramount. A world peopled with , well, people, but these characters have more interesting lives than your neighbors.

The Characters. That's what is magical about this book for me. Abraham's characters are the most real and provocative folks I've met recently. For me, the two best and most real characters in the book are an aging business woman, and the Andant. There is some irony in the fact that the Andant is not real at all. He's a magical construct, and how deliciously constructed he is.

If you follow the link above to Amazon you can read part of the prologue. In the next couple days I plan to post some favorite excerpts.

I have couple loaner copies of the book. I'll be glad to mail you one, on request. I will ask that when you are done with it, you either ship it back to me or the next borrower.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Be good for something

My sister Anna has this quote from Henry David Thoreau on her blog. Really struck me when I read it this morning.

Be not simply good; be good for something.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Leonard Cohen

You are going to need Flash for this post, and probably next several. YouTube is just too good a resource.

At various times in my life I've been enamored of songs written by Leonard Cohen, thought I didn't always know it. First one was on one my parents Judy Collins records, "Suzanne."

Next was probably was "Everybody Knows," as performed by Concrete Blonde.

A couple years ago, my sister Anna played me Jeff Buckley's version of "Hallelujah."

This weekend I heard Madeleine Peyroux's version of "Dance Me to the End of Love."

I've decided to actively explore Cohen's music. I figure I'll find one of his songs I like, then I'll try to find as many versions of it as I can.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Brown ale

I'm getting into brown ales. Newcastle is the best known brown ale. I've been aware of it for a long time, but only recently started to drink and enjoy it. In my fridge now is Beer Town Brown. Not as tasty as Newcastle, but a nice variety. Milder bitterness than Newcastle. Very easy drinking, yet has body and flavor.

That sums up the attraction to browns. They are nice middle-of-the-road ales. They have body and flavor, but to moderate degree, and go down easy.

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