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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Russian Math (To Be Used in Future Metaphors)

In Russia, there are no multiplication tables. Seriously. Russian schoolchildren need not memorize anything further than 2x (that's two times a number for those of you who were busy huffing glue with Zachary instead of attending high-school algebra). It's mind-blowing... Math is not a universal language.

Let's pretend you want to multiply 11 times 51, and you're a Russian. (Pay attention, as this will prove moderately relevant in future blog entries. (If you still don't care about this, there's info on the upcoming TBA album here.))

First you'd take the 11, divide it by two, and forget any digits after the decimal point. 11/2 = 5.5, so 5 is the number you're looking for. You take the 5 and place it directly under the eleven, like this:

11 x 51

Then you'd take the 5, divide it by 2, and forget about any digits after the decimal point, placing your results under the five. 5/2 = 2.5, so we're looking for a 2. You repeat this process until you have a 1 at the bottom of your column, like this:

11 x 51

(In Russian multiplication, the left-hand column must always end with a 1.)

Next, you double the second number of the initial equation--which is 51 in this case--and place the result under it:

11 x 51
5 -- 102

Continue doubling the numbers in the right column until its height matches that of the column on the left:

11 x 51
5 -- 102
2 -- 204
1 -- 408

Now tally the numbers on the right, ignoring those that correspond with even numbers on the left:

11 x 51
5 -- 102
2 -- 204 <-- This row is to be ignored, as is shares space with an even number
1 -- 408

There you have it, 11 x 51 = 561... Russian math. (Try it with any group of numbers, it's not a trick.)

Congratulations, you're one step closer to becoming a Russian Mathematician!

-Ben Lee

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Suicide Attempt, Album Details

So discouraging it is to lose 1,200 words of one’s typing in a computer crash… It’s enough to force a man to stick his head in the oven, turn the knob to 400 degrees (Fahrenheit) and blow out the pilot light… Then, after discovering himself to be impervious to the presumed-to-be-lethal effects of inhaling excessive amounts of natural gas, sit down at his rebooted computer and begin typing again, a little dizzy, but otherwise okay…

The entry for today initially detailed my favorite exchange between Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider’s characters in the film Last Tango in Paris, with added highlights via hyperlinks of my own insertion—a la my reinterpretation of a Larkin poem—without changing any of the text! (“It’s like a pop-up book for the new generation,” I explained to my children, then demonstrated by clicking from Brando’s I’m gonna have the pig fuck you line to a web-based picture illustrating Porky Pig. They ooohed and aaahed and clapped and giggled.)

Instead, in light of my crashing computer and subsequently thwarted suicide attempt (an omen?), I offer you this news of the Blood Arm’s new album, Master of Ceremonies (not the real title): The band takes to the studio this Friday to begin recording demos for the sixteen songs in-contention for slots on the record. Crowd-favorite “Suspicious Character” (I like all the girls/ All the girls like me) is among the slate being demo-ed. Ariel Rechtshaid (of We Are Scientists and Foreign Born album credits) and David Kleiler (“Say Yes” video Director and member of seminal American Indie-rock act the Volcano Suns) will share production duties, and Zachary will show-off his chops on the saxophone.

For your viewing enjoyment, I will attempt to photodocument some of the studio ongoings in the near future, and we are all actively encouraging Dyan to set pen-to-paper and contribute the daily studio nitty-gritty to BLOOD AMBITION 2006. (Dyan requires a lot of encouragement to write anything for this diary, and any assistance—e.g. the kind words of reading parties—will be greatly appreciated.)

In the meantime, my house is beginning to reek of gas—it seems I have forgotten to reignite the oven pilot. I must set about fixing this before a spark of some sort ends this blog prematurely…

-Ben Lee

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Our Space

Welcome to everyone who has found their way here from the “Featured Artist” section on Myspace… This is perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to any of us since Zachary qualified for the finals of the 2001 American Idol competition, and that was before he was even in the band. (He was quickly disqualified when it was discovered there was a warrant out for his arrest. Something about the illegal possession of an endangered species. All charges have since been dropped.)

This page is where I, and sometimes Dyan, type on and on about the happenings of the band, my hair, and my uncanny resemblance to Viggo Mortenson. As the band is currently in the studio recording Master of Ceremonies (not the real album title), and details should start to present themselves shortly, it is extremely important that you check back here often. Extremely Important!

-Ben Lee

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Monday, January 23, 2006


Blockbuster entry coming later today!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Impish Frenchwomen

Yesterday evening I trimmed my hair as part of an ongoing effort to make myself look less soft-rock and more cutting-edge. I didn’t modify it too drastically—just snipped the fringe a bit straight across—but ever since I stepped out in public today, people have been treating me differently. When I stopped to buy a muffin from the coffee shop on my morning walk to the library, the young man behind the counter winked and said, “it’s on me.” When I accidentally dropped my book-bag while skipping up the library steps, a gentleman ran into oncoming traffic from across the street (at great risk to his personal well-being) to pick it up for me. Inside the library, while browsing the Jonathan Swift section, a man took great pains to explain to me his great interest in Swift, then, when I moved to see what was offered in the way of Aphra Behn, he said, “you like Aphra Behn? I love Aphra Behn!” (Funny thing about that, he pronounced the surname Bean.) Upon standing up to leave, I was invited to book clubs, book readings, and book signings, and on the walk home I was propositioned for accompaniment on my way, diversions through the park, and my hand in marriage (though in this state, same-sex marriages are still illegal, and my ring-finger is clearly occupied). It wasn’t until I stopped at my front doorstep to check the mail that the reason for all the extra-attention became clear; a man driving-by slowed his car, rolled down his window, and shouted.

“Amélie! Amélie! I LOVE YOU!”

I ran inside and took a long look in the mirror. It’s true—with my new haircut, I look exactly like everyone’s most beloved impish Frenchwoman. I am adorable. I must take care of this soon before it becomes too much of a distraction.

For the time being, however, I think I’ll just enjoy my reflection a little while longer…

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Phil and I

The Mower, by Phillip Larkin
(With hyperlinks by Ben Lee Handler)

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I'm Sorry

I've joined this club recently, and part of its charter is that all the members apologize for rotten things we did in the past before we belonged. (The first step is admitting you have a problem, the second step is... It's that kind of club.) Believe it or not, there are a lot of horrible deeds hanging around my neck. It's time to cut them loose and live free once more... Start over again and all that. I love you all and I never meant to hurt you, even when I did.

I am so, so sorry:

Zachary. For that time I said I'd pick you up from band practice when your car was in the shop, but wound up forcing you to call a taxi because “I had a rough night out with Zebastian.” I truly enjoy helping you out whenever I can, and I definitely could have helped you out then. That day has haunted me for ages now, and I hope you can still count on me to lend you a hand in the future. Forgive me.

Mom. Remember when I said I couldn’t visit you that weekend because Wife was ill? And you called her phone and she sounded fine and said I was out at the bar with Zebastian? Yeah. That was bad. Our time together means a lot to me—definitely more than some time spent drinking in a bar. I had my priorities all screwed up then, but I hope we can put it behind us. A thousand apologies.

The Blood Arm. For the morning you found me and Zebastian in the gutter in front of the Queen’s Hotel in Leeds at 8:30am, when lobby-call was at eight, and we were forced to miss dinner in Edinburgh in order to make soundcheck on time. I was out of my mind. The opportunity you give me as Master of Ceremonies for the band is the greatest job I’ve ever had. (Ha ha, it’s hard to even call it “work,” I have so much fun doing it!) I really cherish our times together on the road, and will do everything within my ability not to let you down again. Please forgive me.

Wife. For that time I said we'd go out to dinner on our anniversary, just me and you. I had been away on tour for a while and it was our first chance for some alone time in months. It was wrong of me to bring Zebastian along, even if Sushi Ike is his favorite restaurant. It was worse of me to vomit all over the table. (That joke Zebastian made about see-food was pretty great though, you have to admit. “Somebody had oysters for dinner!” Ha ha, what a character.) I’ve loved every moment of our past twenty years together, and it was dreadful of me to sully that important milestone. I love you so much. I am so sorry.

My children: Penelope, Alexander, Jehova, and Jonas. When I promised to take you to the baseball game for Jonas’ birthday, I really wanted to take you to the baseball game. Honestly, I love spending time with you, and I cherish our every moment together. Whatever you thought that afternoon, I don’t prefer drinking beer and wrestling with Zebastian in my underwear to being with you, no matter what your friends say at school. I had lost track of time, lost sight of the important things. You are the lights of my life, my shining stars of Bethlehem. I will make it up to you. I promise.

My sister. Honestly, I have no recollection of how we wound up at your house while you were away on vacation, or how the baby oil got all over your bed sheets—ha ha, what a mess! Zebastian shouted “bathroom supply fight!” and that’s about the last thing that stuck before I blacked out. You know I’ll pay you back and clean up everything, but the trust that was lost between us will be more difficult to repair. We are bound by blood, you and I, and I violated that bond. If it takes a lifetime, I will earn your trust again. I love you with all my heart. Please accept my humble apology.

If there is anyone I’ve forgotten—and there’s a lot I can’t remember from the previous chapter of my life, ha ha—please make a note of it below. God speed!

-Ben Lee

Monday, January 09, 2006

2006: A Prophecy

After discovering some Ancient Golden Tablets in the hills of stateside New York during the last week of 2005, The Blood Arm sent me on a research expedition to the Hawaiian Island of Oahu. Apparently, the tablets prophesized that I—on a solitary expedition to the island during the week of January 1-6—would at some point bear witness to the band’s major milestones for the 349-day period following my tablet-foreseen journey. (The ancient texts instructed that the blood arms destroy them shortly after the discovery, so the validity of these claims cannot be confirmed. It is a matter of faith, they tell me.) The band bought me a plane ticket and hotel reservations and sent me on my way.

Though I was thrilled at the opportunity to visit the tropical island, I had some doubts as to the legitimacy of the tablets purportedly discovered by the band. For one, Joseph Smith did the whole Golden Tablet thing years ago, and I feared the Blood Arm might simply have been trying to mirror his success. Also, as with most everything else they do, the band was incredibly drunk upon discovering the golden prophecies, and it is not unimaginable that they had read them incorrectly. Loyal to the cause, however, I set out on my Vision Quest clear of mind and spirit, and sought out my holy audience with feckless abandon.

I climbed mountains.

Nothing happened.

I swam oceans.

Nothing happened.

Then, as I struggled to sleep in the face of my impending failure on the last day of the journey, I heard a voice, and its godliness was unmistakable.

Ben Lee, hear my words and transcribe them in bullet points for all to read… Bear witness the Blood Arm’s Major Milestones of 2006:

•The songs of
Bomb Romantics, the band’s sold-out, limited-edition, impossibly-priced-on-ebay debut album, will soon be much easier to obtain, in mixes fresh even to those who possess the originals.

•The band will record a new album, better than the original, including the crowd-favorite song ‘Suspicious Character’ (I like all the girls/ All the girls like me). The record will be entitled
Master of Ceremonies.

Master of Ceremonies will be a commercial and critical smash-hit in the UK, leading to repeated tours of the island nation, culminating in four sold-out dates at the Brixton Academy and the first-ever Mercury Prize awarded to a non-British band. (Though critically heralded in the States, the album will go largely unnoticed.)

•Unbeknownst to him, Zachary will father identical twin boys, one slightly better looking than the other. The uglier of the two will spend the majority of his adolescent life seeking out his father. Upon learning of his whereabouts in 2046, the son will strangle Zachary in his sleep. Continents away, the pretty twin will weep, but know not why.

•Sandwiches will replace burritos as your delicacy of choice.

And with that, the voice faded, and my work was done. May these words serve as gospel to you in this New Year.

-Ben Lee

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


I'm in Honolulu till January 6 on a research project.

Predictions for the year 2006 coming shortly following my return...