Tuesday, July 31, 2007

100 Words on Feeling Compromised

I have been in the trenches of my usual summer flu, where my whole system feels compromised, that my chi has been replaced with a thick syrup not unlike that found in canned peaches. My life force that usually courses at electricity speed is now wading in muck. Compromises, like that syrup, are weak solutions, where everyone must lose to chart a half-hearted victory. My body is a dilapidated stadium in which the virus may play its games, but you have to wonder what victories the brainless virus sees in this. Propagation? Survival? Is that the cosmic goal, after all?

The Record Crate: Everything I Know is Wrong

I love having my opinion changed, it’s the one thing that truly keeps one’s mind sharp, reminding you that not every opinion need be chiseled in stone. For instance, I gave a tepid review of Quintron’s show a while back, implying the hype surrounding him rang hollow. While I stand by my assessment of that night, I must acquiesce to the power of Quintron in his native setting.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Romance (N.) from Ambrose Bierce #3 (1962)

This is one of the best photos ever taken. The pyramid of numbers, the children as a panoply of ghouls, so horrible yet so majestic. They are like Tibetan gods on levels of clouds. I think Meatyard is tapping into The Divine in this photo, its like what David Milch says about the odd language and pacing of his brilliant but much maligned John From Cincinnati - " if God were trying to reach out to us, and if he felt a certain urgency about it: That’s what it’s about.” I think Joel-Peter Witkin is on the right track, trying to discover the universe in his highly orchestrated perversities, but he is a mere set designer compared Meatyard's command of the forces of dark and light in the universe.

Plus, for a moment, consider a life and self-image bearing the name of Ralph Eugene Meatyard.


The internal eighth-grader in charge of my sense of humor cannot help but find this image endlessly amusing. They available at Olive Tree, my new favorite int'l food store that we recently discovered on our quest for a purveyor of Kinder Eggs. I love an int'l food store, even though I will never use any of the three thousand little bags of spices and canned pickled tings they sell there. But they do sell Kinder Eggs, little German chocolate eggs that have these genius/weird toys in side, usually requiring some assemblage that feels like a good back scratching, except on your brain.

And I bought this jar of honey that I thought just had nuts on the outside of the jar but is in fact solid nuts in honey. I believe it is what the martyrs snack upon as they get their ceaseless blowjobs in heaven. I mean, look at this:

And if that wasn't enough, they have a phalanx of hookahs along the top of the counter with 50 kinds of flavored tobacco and an oud for $300. Should any music magazine editors be reading this, seeking an article documenting a novice music fan learning the ancient majesty of the oud, I can give you a rough fee estimate.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

An Abecedary about Music


A. am waiting here at the coffee shop for a
B. bearded funk musician who looks shockingly like me +75 pounds so he can bring me his
C. CD. I met him out last night because I was assigned to do a story about him, his bass player and their
D. dads, who are also musicians and also play together. It will be a nice story but nothing too heavy or taxing. But like
E. everything that ever deals with dads, it made me think about my own
F. father and that is a sticky situation at best. Fathers. Not to say that ones relation with one’s mother is a walk in the psychic park, I'm saying the father-child thing is so heavy. See, its such a psychological broken record, such a stop
G. gap that I thought I would never get to “G.” Plus, it’s a subject that, if one carelessly gets on, like the wrong bus, it generally takes you to places you won’t go
H. happily, so
I. I will switch gears. I’ve been in a refactoring of my listening habits, trying to let
J. Jazz and classical and experimental music back into my life, and
K. kick the indie rock habit. That stuff eats itself and its not the snarling dog I want to hitch my wagon to. For so many years, I only
L. listened to difficult, complex
M. music,
N. needing its
O. overwhelming sense of
P. purpose, its
Q. quaking gravity of all that history and learning and expense and culture that goes into its production. But what really got me was the
R. rigor of listening to it. The things I was attracted to were not ones that you passively took in, you had to
S. stand fast against the roaring gale.
T. This, I now see, is an angry young man’s folly. I
U. used it as a blind, a hiding spot,
V. viewing it as a place
W. where no one else, none of those
X. xenophobic idiots surrounding me would dare tread. But I am not an angry
Y. young man any more, and am finding that my thoughts no longer have to guard me from the world but are instead a way to bring the world in and my
Z. zeal serves a greater purpose (even if only to myself)

Look out, honey, I'm using technology

OK, I'm not really a big re-poster, but this from The Smoking Gun, made me guffaw aloud, garnering stares from the normals around me, making me feel a little like what Iggy Pop must feel like all the time, and who doesn't want to feel like that?


also the line Look out, honey, I'm using technology from "Search and Destroy" has got to be the best corny message board sig line ever, but nobody uses it. Was there a moratorium passed on it, like there was on the opening strands of "Sweet Child O' Mine" at guitar stores?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Record Crate: Popular Music vs. Populist Music

There is a fine line between popular and populist entertainment, but I know which side of line I’m on. How popular entertainment gets decided is anyone’s guess, but I’m thinking it has little to do with hearts and minds and more with campaigns and profit charts. Populists are defined as, among other things, believers in the virtues of common people, and The Way High Men and Spring Break Shark Attack! both have a populist streak they play with, as they demonstrated at The Spanish Moon last Saturday.


I love iTunes' automatic sharing option (NSFW, though its text only)

In case you didn't already know, there is a setting in iTunes that will share all your files with anyone else on the network, which means everyone else on the coffee shop wi-fi.

And it pops up your registered name up in the folder section, enticing me to always take a look. It is like getting to flip through another's CD collection without the awkward small talk - irresistible. Sometimes, it is some hapless indie rocker with their painfully obvious mix of the wrong Beatles albums and right Replacements ones, but today, cinema verite fan Adam A_____ is offering up a number of film treats with rather exacting titles.

click the image above for the view or see the comments section for the full listing....

Monday, July 23, 2007

I am sitting in a room

This is one of the finest pieces of experimental music ever created. Lucier dictates a simple speech, describing what he is doing, into a tape recorder:

I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any semblance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of r-r-r-rhythm [these are places where he stutters in the original recording], is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity nnnnnot so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to s-s-smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.
and then plays it back into the room, recording it on another recorder. He then plays that second recording out into the room, recording that one, and so on and so forth until the spoken text dissolves into celestial rings of feedback. His voice is basically playing the room as an instrument, the recorder becoming part of the piece's greater continuum, the score itself manifesting itself as the sole content. This is profound piece of sound art, and a stunning example of the rich tapestry that can arise from conceptual art when the parameters are well considered and kept simple

I mention this because today, I am sitting in a room with my class as they slog through creating resumes, complaining about the length of the cover letter, and how do I do this, and when are we getting out of here today, and I feel I am repeating the same text into the air only to have it bounce around the room back onto me, with thin strands of my droning content being caught on stray branches at they breeze by.

Friday, July 20, 2007

100 words on the Baristas at the Starbucks on 119th and Lamar in Overland Park, KS

I hope your Christian snowboarding scheme took hold and you got to move back to Colorado. I hope you finally got married. I hope Bonnaroo was as awesome for you this year as the first. I hope that, one day, somebody listens to you babble about tornados being God’s wrath and when you illustrate your point with the imagery from that Van Halen album, somebody said “YES! I’ve been thinking the same exact thing” and you marry him. I hope you still dig that spider web tattoo. I hope your mom no longer works there too and got to retire.

inspired by this Onion story

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I just got an assignment from my favorite music magazine The Wire to talk about the avant-rock scene in post-Katrina New Orleans. To quote a past New Orleans resident, bow down before the one you serve.....

Seriously though, if you have some New Orleans avant rockers in your immediate vicinity, tell them to get in touch with me at cookalexv@gmail.com ASAP.

Please repost wherever you think it might be helpful

The Record Crate: Strange Things Afoot

Itinerant bluegrass musicians, avant-funk trios with hand-held noise generators, cajun style swamp indie death pop and Bones. all inside for your reading-about-listening pleasure.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I got a bike last night.

I've been wanting a bike, mostly because all boys want a bike when they see one, like they do when they see a guitar or a sailboat, but secondarily, because my daughter is learning to ride hers and it just starting to get fast enough that I have difficulty trailing behind her. A tertiary reason would be to engender some pittance of cardio-vascular health in my system. I'm not looking to be A Physical Specimen, I just don't want to die on the toilet, OK?

It was this very situation that brought me to this bike, since I happened upon Bill Kelley, cultural entrepreneur to the local stars, on his bike as I padded around the lakes. he asked where my bike was, and when I responded that I didn;t have one, he led us to his lovely house and gave me his old bike, which is pretty much exactly what I was looking to get in the first place.

Some things I noted on my ride to the coffee shop, the first time I've been on a bike in almost 10 years I think:
  1. That shit is hard! How do little kids ride bikes all day?
  2. I had to change the flat tire on it before riding, and it is a hell of a lot easier to do now with 200+ pounds of force and grown-up muscles. I remember it being a two-hour sweaty process in the garage when I was a kid.
  3. I am thankful I live in a flat place.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Puffy Hearted Awesome Mix CD #1

This was a mix CD requested Annie Osborne, hostess of the 15th mostness.

Click here to pull up an iMix (of most of the songs) from the iTunes for you iListening iPleasure

Bright Eyes "Four Winds" - I think Conor Oberst has hist his songwriting peak now that he just passed his sexual peak.

Jason Isbell "Shotgun Wedding" - Former Drive-By Trucker strikes out in his first solo CD. he coudl be the ur-Tom Petty if he chooses to

Patti Smith "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - I didn't want to like Patti Smith's new album of cover tunes, and largely, I don't, but she totally nails this one with her immacculate manner of cliche-twisting. I even like the spooky poet part at the end. If I didn't know this was Patti Smith, I would've said, "Why can't Patti Smith do shit like this anymore?"

Spoon "Little Black Cigarette Case" - I dunno bout Spoon. They are the emperor's vintage clothes store assistant managers now, but this is catchy song. I predict a full on 311-style mess of a reggae album form them soon, so get it it while its hot.

Townes van Zandt "Don't Take it Too Bad" - I fucking love Townes Van Zandt

Jerry Jeff Walker "London Homesick Blues" - I've always kinda liked JJW's songs but just recently started listening to his actual recordings. He's a little heavy on the orchestration, but they are great songs.

Twilight Singers "The Lure Would Prove Too Much" - When I think of someone who is a glorious sleaze, I say Mickey Rourke should play him in the movie. Greg Dulli should play Mickey Rourke in the movie.

T Model Ford "Cut You Loose" I did a piece on him for Gambit a year ago where he said "I'm gonna learn you motherfuckers something about the blues" and he does.

Bonnie Prince Billy "One For The Birds" - This song came on shuffle the other day and I listened to it three times. I love his lists of birds

The Black Keys "Your Touch" - Magic Potion is not my favorite Black keys album, but these guys totally nail it here. Please, bands of Earth, all ya'll rock out like the Black Keys every once in a while. Please!

The Chameleons "Nostalgia" - This is one of my all-time favorite songs.

Feist "1234" - The video for this simple little song is an uplifting lotus of joy.

Calexico "Not Even Stevie Nicks" - They totally ripped this song a new asshole at Jazz Fest and made me reconsider the brilliance of this group.

The National "Apartment Story" - They just released their second best record "Boxer", which means its the second best records by anybody since The Queen is Dead. And the first time I ever talked to Annie at length, it was about this band when we saw them at Red Star.

Brazzaville "Jesse James" - You have never heard of Brazzaville because no one has, but you will love their ez-cheeze LA breeze summer patio splendor

The Zincs "The Mogul's Wives" - See above except that The Zincs are bitter Chicagoans.


After years of being a coffee purist, and cruelly mocking a friend for saying something preposterous like "Do you know of any place between A-ville and B-sbrouough where I might stop off for a pot of tea," replying, "Oh I think there might be a quilt-store called Bless My Heart: Gifts Crafted By Grandma, right next to the smoldering maw of The Abyss. They might be able to get you a 'pot of tea' there" it seems only fair that I expose my well-publicized hypocrisy and out myself as a goddamn tea drinker.

I blame Terry for this. He is an unabashed epicurean snob and will score these expensive sooty Russian teas that taste the way a hundred years of Siberian suffering rendered sweetly on a stolen viola sounds. I don't drink the stuff at home, since the trappings of tea require more accouterments than I am willing to bring on board. Plus the people here tire quickly of my pretentious affectations.

I leave my new habit for the coffee shops I inhabit in la vie de bohème, since, er, tea is really cheap and one dinky pot can go a long way. The problem is: I have yet to find the Tea4Me. Perk's had a white tea with grapefruit that was heavenly (see? I want to beat up myself for saying that, but it was) in short supply and they pretend I'm making it up when I ask for it. Highland Coffees, purveyors of the finest espresso in the Greater Everywhere area, has a dozen or so jars of leafy nonsense that I am working through. I like the Fuji green tea's pert flavor, and, while the Lapsong Souchong I had this morning smelled like someone farted in a leather bag while it was brewing, tasted pretty good when the alchemy was done. But nothing readily available is quite ringing my bell like a double espresso with one cane sugar and a splash of milk does.

So pretentious tea people, turn me on with your soggy leaf advice. Don't make me Ask Meta Filter. We all know what kind of votex their advice opens up.

100 Words on Movie Nachos

I know you and you know me and you know that I will not heed the unspoken barriers that should be set up between us. And now they put four little tubs of cheese and two tubs of jalapenos in neat stacks on either side of a tight phalanx of chips. A snack orderly as those for astronauts! And you know I didn’t eat lunch right before a movie all about food. You are the girl they warn me against and I am standing in line at the hardware store, whistling, as they cut you a key for my car.

Flesh for Furby!!

My daughter has a rekindled interest in her long forgotten Furby, mostly because Furby talks in baby-talk and baby talk is just about the only kind of foolishness to which I cannot cotton.

So when we were going some place the other day and I told her Furby could not come with us because he roams the house in the night, seeking human flesh, and birthed a new car game Flesh for Furby

Here are some of the unspeakable things she came up with that a Furby does in the night:

  • Furby walks around at night like a zombie saying "furby flesh....furby flesh..."
  • Furby sneaks in at night and pulls open your eyelids and pecks out your eyes!
  • Furby bites off your fingers and fries them up to make people fingers!
  • Furby rips out your throat, cracks open your head and uses your throat as a straw to suck your brains out!
So in some, not only have I failed in curtailing the baby talk thing, but now have imbibed this cursed creature with a sinister nocturnal hunger for The Forbidden Prey! Consider yourself warned.

(Edit - It pleases me that the default bullet points have me recounting Furby's crimes with decorative flower accents)

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Last night I joined the quiche-eaters and cleavage bearers for the opening of Floodwall, an installation by Jana Napoli at the Lousiana State Museum. Her installation of 600+ discarded dresser drawers, pulled from the unfathomable scatter of debris found in New Orleans after the storm bears the trademarks of great conceptual art, stripping things down to the base ideas, unadorned, while allowing the material to issue its own fiction.

Visually, it is stunning - a wall of weathered mahogany and cherry, a constellation of metal fixtures. As a recovering assemblage artist myself, I'm still compelled to pick up any stray dresser drawer I see on the side of the road, promising myself it will become the basis of some Joseph Cornell-style poem-box and not just joing the mountain of things yet utilized, but these drawers were gathered as things unto themselves. They are literally and figuartively lost compartments, private places cruelly rendered public by the corrosive forces of nature and the haphazard machinations of man. They are set into a wall half-opened. The first side you meet bears the face plates. All that weathered woodwork is but a tear in the crying jag for the architecturally uniqueness of a city now lying in dumpters or rotting in landfills.

What I was left longing for was contents - where is the underwear, the hidden pistol, the love letters, the tanlgle of charger cables from long discarded cell-phones that occupies all of our dresser drawers? At first I considered it was an artistic failing of the piece until the truth struck me. All that content is gone, like the people that put it those drawers. There were a few with some notable inhabitants, like the ornate curved tiny drawer holding a Catholic Saint card and a lock of hair, but these were the exception. No matter; like all successful conceptual pieces, the empty spaces speak the loudest.

Just like the boarded-up windows and sea of blue tarps I see everytime I go down to New Orleans, valiant struggling to gain its former glory while I try to suppress the nagging uncertainty I have for its success, this exhibit is tender, wounded heavy reality.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Maya and I have been playing Peggle, this very addictive, unicorn-themed Pachinko computer game ever since the trip to DisneyWorld and today, July 13, 2007 and 7:25 PM Central Standard Time, we completed this motherfucker!

At the end of each round, when your ball hist the final peg, it zooms in, shows it in slow motion and then the rainbow appears proclaiming EXTREME FEVER! (it also has an instant replay feature, which we have been using copiously.

This, mere mortals, is what the final Master of Peggle round looks like when you finish it, offered here generously for you Peggle skillz-deficient suckas who ain't got the stuff.

Drive-By Truckers bio

This is the bio I was commissioned last year to write for Drive-By Truckers' A Blesing and a Curse. I see they have a new bio up on their website, so I dug it up to post it here, lest it drift off to the ether.

Drive-By Truckers
A Blessing and a Curse
Release date: April 25, 2006

You hear about “the greatest band in the world” being dropped on many a group, desperately given this medal in hopes they’ll use it to “save rock-n-roll,” whatever that means. But no band that has had to suffer under this artificial responsibility has succeeded so triumphantly as Drive-By Truckers. Equal parts back porch historians, runaway drunken firecrackers, and poets of the hard life and how to live it; they came on the scene and set the bar higher for what you can do with the music we love. The characters in their songs have left gals at the altar, wrecked their cars, woken up on the cold floor and even killed themselves a number of times over the years, breathing some new intelligent life, not just into rock music but, into rockers everywhere. Many a critic, including myself, have placed upon them the treacherous mantle of being The Best Rock Band In The Word, and they wear this title like the blessing and the curse it is…I love this band.

Their three front men/guitarists/songwriters: Patterson Hood, long time running partner Mike Cooley and guitar wizard Jason Isbell, make for a triumvirate that would crumble a lesser band. Hood explains, “We are all very close, in a family kind of way, albeit a sometimes dysfunctional one. We fight, sometimes very hard, but couldn't continue with such strong opinions and personalities without a huge degree of mutual respect for each other personally and artistically.” In a live setting, that respect takes shape as intricate, driving interlocking hard guitar rock, nimble as a ballet dancer with too much Jack Daniels in her, and with the emotional impact of Walker Percy slamming into you with an out of control stock car. But all hyperbole aside, they avoid the trap of caricature in their songs, instead building their poetry out of the sweetest and harshest thing available in this world – love and the pain that comes with it.

DBT’s 7th album, A Blessing and a Curse, takes in all the elements that make them great and condenses them into the tightest, hardest rocking set of songs they’ve yet to produce. Their influences in the past have been immortalized in song, but here we see them integrated into the songs. The opening track “Feb 14” sounds like the best, most poetic song the Replacements never released and Cooley’s devastatingly great rocker “Gravity’s Gone” does the same thing with a Creedence Clearwater Revival backwoods twang. Isbell chimes in with “Easy on Yourself” a subtler yet more biting warning fable in the vein of 2003’s “Outfit.” And just when you think that these former class clowns have moved on to the honor society, they kick in with the hilarious “Aftermath USA” - as good a train-wreck, surmise-the-damage classic as anything from Waylon or Merle.

Everything on this album is a notch sharper, a logical progression from 2004’s neutron bomb of a record The Dirty South, pushing beyond singing about the South to universal themes of love and pain and determination with more drive and more passion than they have ever displayed before. Isbell opens his throat and delivers some vocals so soaring, so potent on the chorus of “Daylight” that they give me chills every single time. “Wednesday” weaves a dense elliptical tale about a man losing a woman, and maybe dying, maybe not even existing. “Goodbye” has the warm glow of a candle, illuminating those moments when things work in this life and when they fall apart. It’s beautiful stuff - deeper, warmer, and more real than anything else you might find out there.

But the real push forward on this record can be found in its heaviest songs. The 10,000 pound subject matter of an infant cousin dying before you were born, and how that presence persists, makes “Little Bonnie” possibly the most poignant song they’ve ever put to tape. The final track, “A World of Hurt,” offers a sermon against suicide (a recurrent theme in their songs) but Hood explains it’s much bigger than that: “Suicide is only one part. The song is really about learning how to live, or at least striving to learn how to live. To love is to open your heart up to unbearable pain, but what good is life without it?” In “Space City,” Cooley offers a bittersweet tale about his grandfather following his grandmother's death and how one learns to make it through the intangible and the unflinching realities of life. Hood remarked, “Its ruminations on love and loss, to me reveal the true nature and theme of the album, to love IS to feel pain. A blessing and a curse.”

It is fitting that the final words on the album are "It's great to be alive". The songs on this record illustrate the triumphant struggle it is to survive and thrive in this world. It’s not only a great record, but an important statement delivered honestly and passionately without any sugar coating or details spared. It’s a refinement, a honing, and a focusing of what you’ve always loved about them, what makes this band the greatest band in the world.
- Alex V. Cook

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

100 Words on Editing

Editing something recently written is like waking up from a beautiful dream to find the alarm clock is ringing and you go to shut off the alarm clock but you manage to break it, and it is still ringing. You pick up the large chunks and they fall into smaller chunks and the ringing is even louder and you’re trying to hold on to the dream. You finally pull off the blanket and step onto one of the sharp chunks of your alarm clock, which is in pieces, like your dream, and you are utterly awake and the ringing stops.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Record Crate: A Modern Day Classic Band?

A common complaint about the state of music is there’s nothing with staying power. No classics. You might like The Flaming Lips, like them a lot, but will they have Led Zeppelin legs? It’s doubtful. I’m always curious about who will get their names chiseled on my lifetime’s monument to rock, but time is the only arbiter in this.

Take Cracker, for instance. C'mon take them....

100 Words on Townes van Zandt

Life is wet and sticky but the wind that blows through it is bone dry, knocking all loose things together, gale vs. dented metal trashcans, and when his mama gets beat with a belt because she cried you want to check out with her because the world is hard and dry and ruthless and that howling wind blows hollow through his warning fables about loose women and lost friends because he’s not going to heed them nor does he expect you to, it’s all arid wind blowing junkyard wind chimes and lonesome souls cowering under tarps, huddled together, alone.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I had a vision of a cartoon octopus humping a cartoon bowl of spaghetti

emblazoned on a band flyer. This consumed my short sweet drive to my class this morning. It would be done all lurid Coop style, heavy line drawing with like a yellow background. Maybe for some forgotten loud-ish band, one you thought as not being cool enough or funny enough to deserve as good a flyer as that. Coop did the Boss Hogg flyer to the left, but really no flyer can top the actual album cover(NSFW).

I used to plaster my walls in college with flyers. They weren't necessarily for shows I attended, but I like the look of them. In fact as I look around the room in which I am sitting, I'm surrounded by flyers and posters for shows I have seen since living here. My favorite is a large pink Bonnie Prince Billy poster with a black skeleton wearing headphones, followed closely by the immaculately printed poster for a soul show case featuring J "Taxi" Blackfoot, singer of "Two Different People." The way it is designed, it looks like "Two Different People" is a description of Mr. Blackfoot, since the same lettering is used to designate Floyd Taylor as "son of the late great Johnnie Taylor"

This is actually my favorite thing hanging on my wall.It's a white cardboard sign that says "DUFF SOME NO GOOD" in blue crayon. I saw it when I passing through a less than savory neighborhood, taking Maya and her friend to the zoo, and i circled the block and then jumped the curb so I could run out and pull it off a telephone pole. They were both pretty sure I shouldn't be pulling down signs like that, and they were probably right, being more concerned with the immediacy of ethics than me, but I had to have it.

At first it seemd a little too precious, a touch too look-at-me hipster for my liking, but I've grown to love looking at it floating above the top of my laptop screen. In my younger, signifigance starved years, I would have appelated great meaning tothe word "custom" scrawled upside down on the sign, undoubtedly there from when this thing was part of a perfectly good and useful box. Now, it really doesn't say much, but I like the way it says it, which is something that I am discovering about writing as I go along. An octopus humping a bowl of spaghetti has no meaning beyond the obvious, but it's a good image worth exploring nonetheless.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Under and Done with the Goddamn Volcano

Done! I took advantage of an afternoon off and finished it.

Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing book but I am glad to be done with it. Lowry has a very real-time approach to his hallucinatory sense of human suffering, so there are points when it trundles along at the speed of actual life when you want him to jut forth, cut to the chase, but he never does it. He makes you suffer the consequences of your voyeurism.

And it managed to surprise me in how it ended. Neither you nor the Counsul see it coming quite the way it comes. More dogs, more noseless peons, more dead and alive intermingling in darkened bars. So much of this book takes place in bars. In fact, it seems the only time we are not in a bar in this book is when we are heading to another bar. Makes you want some mezcal dribbled out from an elephantine gourd while a three-legged dog scampers around the room.

It also makes me (almost) want to see Peter Lorre's 1935 film The Hands of Orlac, since the poster of it is plastered everywhere in the town of Quauhnahuac as the characters and their triangles stumble and stagger around. Almost.

This story is not one that unfolds, it winds itself up into a tight ball and then unravels into nothing. Also, this book is barely about the characters, who in many ways are just thinly-veiled, slightly more heroic variants of those in his own biography. In that regard, its very much like the best work of Charles Bukowski and John Fante, where horrible people get a degree of elevation from the fact that they manage to persist through their own annihilation. Poetically, though, this book plays on the same fields as Ulysses (it bears many structural similarities to Ulysses) and One Hundred Years of Solitude and even Patrick Suskind's Perfume, where time and persona bends around an unseen abyss , a vacuous negative space created not only by human cruelty and indifference, but hollow romanticism and idealistic projection that are the flip sides to that same cruel, indifferent coin.

I'm glad to be done with it, but I suspect this is one of those with which I will never be really done.

Dork City Rockers

Perhaps I have no room to talk, since I just returned from my second trip to the library since last we spoke. This second trip was so Maya and I could check out a Harry Potter party they were setting up in the auditorium. The auditorium at the main branch is actually just a clearing, directly open to the rest of the labyrinth. I'm shocked at how many noisy things they set up in there, and not-so-secretly, I adore their abject shirking of convention.

They had these display cases of magic potions and pickled spell ingredients. The "Dragon Dung" was in reality hot dogs suspended in food coloring, which probably speaks volumes inversely about the true nature of hot dogs. Then there was this big trivial pursuit board, and teams were drawn out of the gooney-cute adults in attendance (I'm hoping they all did actually arrive with children and were not just 40-yo Harry Potter fans. I mean, like a book if you want, really, but, dude...) and a delightful gaggle of sullen teenagers in varying degrees of HP regalia. We are a Pokemon household, and Maya is too young, by her own estimation, for Harry Potter, so we were really out of our element. The kids had to answer an HP trivia question, and then roll this oversized die and move around this giant Trivial Pursuit style board taped to the floor. It was like a Milton-Bradley cheap movie tie-in game brought to life!

Problem was, there were 16 kids playing, so many a hapless kid was stranded 2 spots from home base for 16 turns. The grave will come quicker than a third turn to some of these hood rats. The sullen kids were desperate to be seen as "over it" simply dropping the die in teen glory insouciance or rolling their eyes as they mumbled back some totally easy Hogwarts trivia, oblivious to the fact that, er, you are voluntarily at a Harry Potter party at the library on a Saturday afternoon, G. You are allotted no frontin'.

We ditched soon enough. Maya was really only concerned about the cupcakes set at the far end, so instead we got some good old coloring sheets from the kids section, and then Maya got her first library card. I'd rather forgotten there were kids' library cards. My innocent childhood back in the 1840's found me walking across out little town in Illinois to the library when I was just a little older. Rather dumbfounding, since she will hardly go in the back yard by herself.

The freak scene in the auditorium did give me a glimpse at the future of my daughter in awkward clothes, bad hair color and being sullen about something she is voluntarily doing. I would have been total Hogwarts material in my tween years. It was hard enough finding anyone to play D&D who wasn't somehow a bigger loser than myself, I can't imagine how validating having the greatest cottage industry in publishing history aimed squarely at me would be.

Half-way Under the Volcano, sticky with lava

It takes me forever to read a book, and yet I am drawn to oversized, over-literary things. One of the few points I will agree with Chuck Klosterman on is that I can write something at about the same speed as I can read something, and writing seems like a more worth-while endeavor, though you'd think somone aspiring to be a writer would hold some allure about reading. Perhaps the writing thing is all ego and nothing but.

Anyway, my friend Terry, like most of my friends, reads and reads and reads and, in his way of grand pronouncement that I love, has repeatedly declared Under the Volcano the best book he's ever read, with Lowry a poet better than Joyce or Garcia-Marquez, channeling the soul power of Jesus' prayers at Gethsemane in his prose.

In some ways, I tend to agree. It definitely reads better than Joyce, but I think the scope is widley different. Lowry is talking about human beings whereas Joyce and Garcia-Marquez is talking about the universe, using people as examples of cosmic order.

Under the Volcano deals in triangles, almost constantly. Every character in the book is entrenched in a triangle with two other characters. They are constantly going up and down slopes and jagged streets, angling at every move. Dogs and beggars are the only ones that seem to be able to traverse this landscape with any directness. The volcano itself is a looming but largely absent triangle, with the fervor of pressure and frustration bubbling under the crust just like it is among the people's triangles.

I rather love this book, but I'm wondering if I'll ever finish it. Terry is gone until August, and I'd like to have it and the comparatively more forgiving looking The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald, his second favorite book, tucked away by the time he gets back, since I know he's dying to talk at drunken length about these books and until I happened along, could con no one else into reading them. As a critic, I usually value my own opinion on what I should be spelunking in the grand cavern of art (like Terry has been really trying to sell me on opera, but I ain't havin' it. Opera is the Hollywood movies of its time - the grandest of gestures put forth in the service of grand pedestrianism) but we've talked enough about these two books that I want to be in his book club of two, secret handshakes, Masonic rites and all.

I'm at page 222 of 375, and I can see how things are on the downward slide for our dear drunken Consul and the increasingly frustrated M . Laurelle, and how everyone is not only regretting their awkward co-habitation of this one Mexican town on this particular Day of the Dead, but in fact, their ever having met at all. The triangles which offer the support at the beginning become a complex of dead weights tied together by hairy knots. Fuck-ups of every stripe, wandering the emptiness around them. The portrayals of first person drunkenness on the part of the Counsul are worth the price of admission.

I don't know why they feel the need to give away the goddamn ending on the back cover on the book, or in every review. It is rather obvious what's going to happen, but still it would've been better as a surprise.

All of this is sponsored by the Baton Rouge Public Library notice that these two books and a copy of Philip Glass' modern opera Einstein at the Beach, sitting unlistened to in the same spot I laid it when I came back from the library a week over the due date ago, and the fact that I hear the rest of the members of my own personal triangle consulting said notice this very second! I wasn't sure if I wanted to finish the book or not, but my resolve is, much like this book will be in an hour, renewed!

Friday, July 6, 2007

OA Draft Complete!

Now for a week of obsessive write-throughs and then I can finally move on with the business of becoming famous. I am not at liberty to say in an intenert-searchable forum about whom I am writing, but I'm surprised that after three weeks of almost solid listening, I'm still finding new things in the work of this particular artist.

Which is the thing I like about music. All art forms hit you based on mood, but the fact that you have to be physically shaken by sound for it to register makes it a much more active art than others. And because we are, as a species, rather lousy at hearing, that the little bones and flap of cartlidge that pick up these sounds is a shockingly primitive mechanism compared to the gooey mystery of the eye or the hidden million points of touch needling under our skin, I think we pick up on different things with subsequent listens. Much in the same way our brain fills in the gaps in vision, I think it stores the resonant frequencies that make up the bulk of a song, allowing you to hear the new parts on repeats. It's also why hearing a song you love but haven't heard for a long time feels so good; you are retrenching those burned memories, sending fresh water down a dry conduit.

If you and I were sitting right here, right now, totally high, this would mean so much to us both.
You should watch this and repeat the above paragraph over and over (preferably in the bathroom where there is some echo) until I blow your freaking mind.

He is risen. Furthermore...

as seen on a number of poles around the lakes during our afternoon bike sweat. I considered blotting out the number, but what if you've seen "Him" and want to collect? I'm thinking if you retrieve a reward from seeing the sign on this post and then seeing "Him", the only decent thing would be to give me a cut.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

cay-ann you sprinkle a little more denial on that? Theeannks.

(written in mock-gay, self-congratulatory white dialect)

Notice what's peak-king up behind my delicious but overpriced SAlad from Whole Foods, The Beginning of the End of Poverty, a slogan tent for their founDATION and helps WOmen in South aMERica.

I love and hate Whole Foods. The Yuppie snob in me wants to try different chEESesss and some gr(ee)ains, but the white trash in me wants to get some McDonalds from down the STREE(i)t and eat it in they-err. I'm quite comfortable with hypocracy in my own practice, but when a boutique grocery store boasts the EEE-end of POvertY from their food court, It makes me cringe.

Whole Foods is no different than Apple or Saturn or any other company that has recognized the powerful Don't-demograph-ME demograPHIC of which I am a reluctant MEMBER, and courts it with a saltless mix of baby gree(i)ns, fat fear and a little Spanish Fly. Don't get me wro(u)ng, my salad was good, jack, but fuck, it BETTER Be if I am ending POVerty with it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Lafayette, LA is like a bubble to me.

It's an amorphous place, one that I invertably get lost in (and I, as a general trait, do not get lost easily) because it throbs and shifts around a vacuous middle I never seem to see.

Also like a bubble, it is defiantly fun. Lafayette is considered the drunken girl-cousin to Baton Rouge's dowdy honor student, and that sense of easy joy permeates the place. The whole town looks like it was constructed in the late 1970s, lots of brick and wrought iron streetlamps, the nightclubs look like they were not very long ago a Shakee's Pizza, with hyper-sugar children running circles around a cadre of drinking parents.

The bubble in the photo was one I made in the bubble section of the Children's Museum of Acadiana. They have two big bubble tables with different shaped wands - everyone goes to the circle, but the money wand is the triangle; you make the big bubbles by rolling the bubble off on one of the points - and one of those cages where kids can stand inside and then pull a chain which lifts a circle of bubble around them. The staff just hangs out doing amazing bubble tricks. I would too. Every time I go I leave thinking I gotta set up a big bubble table in the backyard. For the children! knowing full well I would stand out there like a freak in the grass watching things float and pop while the kids were inside watching TV like sensible people.

I might be reading too much into bubbles, but they never fail to captivate me. Much like outdated college towns like Lafayette, they shouldn't really work, they are too flimsy, the world is too harsh to allow a fragile thing like that to persist. Yet there is some unseen force, some unspoken law of architecture that keeps the thing together.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Record Crate: The Truth about The Figs

The Truth about The Figs

With considerable anticipation after being charmed by them at an art opening a while back, I caught Lafayette’s The Figs at Chelsea’s. The Figs are a sextet of women performing vintage music on mostly vintage instruments in vintage garb. If there are three things in this world I like, it is women, banjos and ukuleles, and The Figs present all three with the charm of a county fair, their harmonies clear as a church bell.

Sweet as it sounds, that bell rings hollow.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Faith of Graffiti

Scenes from the epic 2-mile bike ride around the smaller of the LSU lakes this morning. I like this new breed of printmaker/graphic design student that has taken the age old practice of graffiti and given it an upgrade. It's a matter of taking something that bothers to get my attention and does something with it. I'm not saying these particular examples speak to my soul, but there is a least a hint of poetry to them. The best graffitti I've ever seen was the word "curse" scrawled in a small informal hand on a boarded-up storefront in Cincinatti. It was a caption on the place, the city, the history everything, it was as if the word appeared out of a cosmic longing for definition.

Or it might be that I was really drunk and looking for spiritual connection at that moment. I was visiting my friend Joseph Winterhalter who had relocated back to Cincinnati after his meteoric personality left impact craters all over me and a number of people in this city in 1993. He is currently dominating the Cincinnati art scene and, if there is any hope for the future of painted expression, soon the world's art stage.

Should you be in the Cincinnati area and reading this, get thee hence to the Weston Gallery to see his recent show Leaving the 21st Century. He re-created a former workspace, mixing mid-century institutional detail and his own brand of memory collapsed and strained onto the canvas. I haven't seen any of this work in person, but the installation photos I've seen in this glowing review from Cincinnati.com point to an immersion in a field of process. The space was crafted to look like the places where lives are stamped, permits are issued, and his surfaces wrought with near molecular attention to detail emerge as organic results of that process.

Joe is one of those guys that can leave your brain quivering after a conversation, with his beartrap-quick (and tight) understanding of personal dynamics and philosophical investigation. He and I would have quote-offs as we downed ice coffees, preparing ourselves spiritually and kinetically for the ensuing night on the tiles. Those were great heady times, overflowing with pronouncements and existential crises , where I was challenged to focus and seek meaning out of things, and the challenge still dangles over my head like a sword, and the awareness of that sword is but one of the many things for which I am indebted to Joe.

Among the things Joe gave me was a copy of Norman Mailer's The Faith of Grafitti, a delicious oversized tome on graffiti in the 70s, demonstrating tagging as a projection into a world that doesn't want t hear from you in that amazing way that 70s art books have about them. This spoke to me in deafening tones about the need for self-expression and left seeds of self-determination that took a decade to flower through the thick soil of my own personal fears. Joe's persona and his art are catalysts for that kind of self-flowering, inspiring that kind of projection that exists, not necessarily for an audience, but for the sake of things needing to be said with direct precision.

And since Joe and I were, and are, very fond of the full circle, I'll stop right here.