Sunday, August 31, 2008

5 Things about The Impending Hurricane

  1. The anticipation of it is almost worse than the aftermath (provided you don't suffer catastrophic effects of course. I don't mean to sound calloused to those that have suffered intangible losses in the past) I'm just saying we are expecting trees down and power outages and not much more in Baton Rouge, and it is a lot of little trips to the store that are increasingly crowded and bare and about to close and you have to fight the urge to buy things like a case of Spagettios. No one likes Spagettios, especially after the power comes back on in a few days. Spagettios are stacked in your pantry as a monument to folly until you clean the cabinet out or there is a show that is half-price with canned goods. Like I told a friend who answered his phone in line at Whole Foods buying water and corn chips as I was planning my own trip to Wal-Mart after work, there is no better solution to any problem than throwing money at it.
  2. I started to wish that gorgeous giant Ansel Adams grade oak tree in the front yard had been cut down to a brutal stump by the electric company. The incomprehensible magnitude of a hurricane, existing as a giant bloody smear the size of the Gulf on Doppler weather radar before it arrives, screws with your sense of scale.
  3. A hurricane fucks with the Nietzschean resolve that usually gets me through the day. That which does not kill me only makes me stronger doesn't really hold water because this is one of the rare times that "That which" actually sorta can.
  4. Also, a hurricane makes one unnecessarily eschatological. Like there is a temptation to read The Road or Revelations in a lawn chair in the backyard until the wind blows the book out of my hands. I can't imagine what a grand bummer a hurricane must be to real doomsayers - black clouds are best framed by a sunny sky. Survivalists and guys that dress in armor and have lots of swords, however, are likely and rightly very Game Day about this shit.
  5. The overriding unpredictability of the situation makes everybody a pesky expert and competitor in the preparation Olympics. I think tanking up cars and buying cases of Spagettios is to some degree, the hurricane equivalent of making the men go boil some water while the baby is being born - it keeps them occupied and out of the way of people who really do have something important to do right now. I was joking the other day with my wife, making up things I would do to prepare: "I'm gonna hard boil all the eggs!" only to find that my mom did that very thing before coming up here, and I just ate one, so who knows what all that says. I do know I'm hearing helicopters a lot today, which was the sound of Katrina in Baton Rouge, a subject succinctly and poetically explored by my boy Dave, and that is when things start to feel really real to me.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

But what about pictures?

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Maya enjoying a pre-hurricane taco
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Friday, August 29, 2008

5 things about The People

image lifted from here
  1. The Post Office is a startlingly anachronistic thing. I get that not everyone has a computer, and it is still necessary, but it seems all a bit forced to me. Like it's a back up plan being pushed to the forefront. I'm sure I'd think differently were I not electronically connected to the entire goddamn world at all times, and I find the concept of mitigating contact through the barrier of paper appealing, on paper at least, but standing in line to get two stamps seems Beckettian at best. Were I a Better Prepared Person, I wouldn't be in this mess.
  2. Despite having just paid off a hefty tax bill, the two stamps needed to finalize the process was why I was even there, I think I might be a socialist, or more correctly, an anarcho-socialist as defined by Wikipedia - The People's Definitions. I used to think I might be libertarian, but I find libertarians to largely be wet blankets of privilege recasting their winning status as an idealism. Which is a picture of me, politically speaking. The feeling I get about anarcho-socialism is that we should all take care of each other, lift each other up but not make it our life's work. But again, maybe this feeling stems from my not being Better Prepared Person. BPP's generally eschew concerns for their fellow human because they got their shit covered, where I always keep half an eye on the ground to make sure I don't step in mine.
  3. And though I am nibbling on this half-baked love of The People, I wish the mass of them newly ensconced on campus would get off the wireless network so Rhapsody would work. I am so ready to be all post-object about music, embracing the technology of license and access when it works, but like any great technological advancement, or system in general, it gets bogged down when people start using it. It explains why BPP's are generally conservative folks who don;t latch on to new things readily.
  4. Because of this break in the chain, I have been trolling the loosely curated halls of internet radio and while WFMU is always a marked hit or a distinct miss depending on when one lands there, I have been perplexed by Edible Landscapes on London's Resonance FM, a field recording-y week-long gentle stab at a qualitative auditory assessment of what cultures in the North Western hemisphere of the globe might be listening to as part of their daily grind in the built environment. Basically it sounds like someone's phone accidentally dialed you while they sit in a cafeteria. It vacillates between soothing and maddening, but with sine wave smoothness. It's like John Cage's noisy notion of silence, except mediated, chained up. I'll say it is not an unpleasant substitute for listening to precisely what one wants. I'm sure the tape jockeys behind Edible Landscapes would be thrilled with that ringing endorsement.
  5. The difference between art and subject, though, was deftly illuminated by my experience going to the cafeteria upstairs from the post office. It's crowded with new students and is generally a loud echoey place anyway, but sitting there, mildly bemoaning the breaking of the little connector that allows me to listen to music on my phone through headphones, I was overwhelmed with the din of people in there, and found it oppressive and a little depressing, whereas moments earlier, I found the broadcast of a similar soundscape curious, or at least ponderable. Which is why I temper my declaration of socialism with a "might be" and look with trepidation (and a little envy) at Better Preparedness.

[Country Roads] Bent on Bento

in the September 2008 issue of Country Roads

Upon entering the workforce, I quickly discovered that lunch was often a mixed blessing—a daily break that quickly gives way to a dull ritual of eating the same things with the same people going back to the same office. Usually you have the requisite sandwich place, lackluster Americanized Mexican restaurant, maybe a Chinese buffet within the radius, a brown bagged sandwich or the remnants of last night’s meal congealing in a Styrofoam box as your options. To those of you left unsatisfied with those options, allow me to introduce you to a new word: bento.

Bento is a tradition of Japanese lunches that stretches back to the Kamakura Period in the twelfth century, when Hoshi-ii, a kind of ready to eat dried rice, was developed and stored in small bags for consumption on the road. Over the years, the content and style of bento evolved into the ekiben, or “train station bento” where some form of rice dish, pickled vegetables and dumplings are artfully arranged in a sectioned box which allows easy consumption and separation of sauces and flavors.

The yellow tail roll was simple, just rice and tuna wrapped in nori, but that simplicity trumps the showboating of ornate specialty rolls that are often the stars of a sushi meal. The real winner, though was the crunchy roll, rice stuffed with tempura battered shrimp dolloped with a rich tangy sweet, smoky sauce, almost like teriyaki sauce but thicker and more refined in tenor. It was the rare meal eaten in the Louisiana summertime that I actually felt refreshed after eating. Dessert was a couple scoops of red bean ice cream, another Japanese specialty difficult to sell. It does taste like red beans, but the savoriness that we associate with the Monday night staple of New Orleans is bypassed, bringing out the faint sweetness in the bean. It is a little heartier in texture and less creamy than what you associate with ice cream, but it, like the rest of the meal, it was an example of refinement of ingredients, thoughtful array of textures and flavors and rarified delights, available right around the corner.

The first bento was allegedly sold at the Utsunomiya train station in 1885, and as the trend continued, a family’s wealth could be determined by how elaborate one’s bento was. In the 1920s, the Japanese government sought to ban the practice of bento in schools because it illuminated the economic disparity between the classes, and around the time of World War II, the practice started to disappear.

The advent of the microwave brought the practice back into vogue and with it came the ornate arrangements that characterize the meals today. This trend is not limited to Japan—one only need glance at the BentoLunch LiveJournal group, ( where parents proudly display and slyly compete with their dazzling creations. The site offers a bento buying guide should you wish to roll up your sleeves and start shaping rice into molds cute enough for your children to eat and suitable for bragging rights.

Fortunately for me, Koi Japanese Cuisine opened at the north gates of LSU, next to Louie’s Café on State Street, just footsteps from my office, freeing me from the anxiety of competition. Koi has all the comforts one expects in a sushi restaurant, a microcosm of blonde wood and subdued lighting, small tables perfectly arranged along the walls and bar in the back, where one may observe the chefs crafting the precise rolls from their extensive menu. More importantly, they have a sashimi bento lunch for ten bucks.

The lunch comes in a box of lacquered polished wood with each item in its own section. First the miso soup in its small flat bowl sets the mood for the quiet, contemplative act of eating. Miso, a form of fermented rice or soybeans, is suspended in the thin stock, or dashi, in which bob a couple of tiny white cubes of tofu. Miso soup has one of the mildest discernable flavors—a slight saltiness, a wistful memory of mushroom broth at the perfect temperature for sipping. Personally, I like how the crushed miso swirls in the broth—it’s like watching the clouds drift in a spring sky.

The rest of the lunch continues this theme of subtle flavors and artful presentation. My crisp salad came with a shockingly yellow ginger dressing, icy with just a touch of citrus and sharp ginger tang to it. The California roll, rice stuffed with avocado, imitation crab and cream cheese had just the precise measure of sweetness and creaminess without turning it into deli seafood salad. The steamed gyoza dumplings, pork wrapped in thin dough, had the perfect textural balance—solid and hefty enough to allow the pork to saturate in the soy-vinegar dipping sauce yet light enough to leave room for the main course.

I have long given up on selling the rarified pleasures of sashimi, or raw fish, on the weak-willed—they are simply not going to eat it. I’m sure that they will somehow carve out a fulfilling existence without it, but for me, I crave it. Sashimi, when prepared right, is the cleanest culinary sensation one can have. The gorgeous cuts of tuna and salmon, lying seductively on a thin bed of rice, have a unique texture of bite and softness—it tastes uncannily pure. The secrets to great sashimi are freshness and cleanliness, allowing the quality of the ingredient to do all the talking while the chef merely arranges for the conversation to happen. Let’s just say the yellow tail and I had an enlightening little chat.

My wife is not a fan of sashimi, so we went back to sample the other items on the menu. They seated us with a complimentary apple seafood salad, the ingredients shredded and blended into a genius soft, slightly creamy slaw, setting the bar high for the rest of the meal. After a round of gyoza and some iced green tea, we shared a Sushi Roll Lunch B (California, snowcrab and crunchy roll), a Hamachi yellow tail roll and the Yaki Udon. The udon noodles were pan fried and smothered to the precipice of stickiness, and I wisely followed the waiter’s suggestion of getting a combination of chicken, pork and shrimp, which gave this dish a complex savoriness that changed slightly with each bite.


[Country Roads] Angelle's Whiskey River Landing: A different sort of Sunday ritual

In Sept. 2008 issue of Country Roads

Thanks to the antiquated blue laws in East Baton Rouge Parish, Sunday’s are often a dead spot in the week of an adult, so much so that I forget that other places are open on Sunday’s until some mouth-agape out-of-town visitor suggests we go somewhere. Fortunately, the rest of the state sees fit to interpret the day of rest by having a drink on one’s hand, and a short drive can bring you to a bright vibrant kind of Sunday afternoon.

I took the Henderson exit off I-10, at the end of the Atchafalaya Bay Bridge that stretches between Baton Rouge and Lafayette, and like every time I cross that expanse, I was struck by the difference a stretch of swamp makes. You quickly leave behind the art-deco bustle of downtown Baton Rouge and the steaming tangles of pipes that form the plants along the river and you are jetting across a still, alien horizon, with the stumps of cypress poking up through the water as if they are startled by the sound of the road. And then once you hit dry land on the other side, you are confronted by people who talk, dress, eat and live differently than in the place you left. I’ve grown up with Cajun culture in my back yard for most of my life, but to this day, I feel like an awkward but welcome visitor in it—and this is a good feeling to have. It is a reminder that the world is not about you.

I’d never explored Henderson more than a stop at the gas station for a fill up and some boudin, and could not quite wrap my head around exactly where this Whiskey River exists, outside of Willie Nelson’s discography. Technically, Angelle’s is on the south tip off Lake Bigeaux at a point dubbed Cypremort Cravasse on Google Maps, but for all intents and purposes, this is the mythical Whiskey River our friend Willy with the braids sings about—Angelle’s serves as a port of call for motor boats and party barges to depart for a drunken lazy afternoon in the swamp.
Under the auspices of this column, I like to find the places off the beaten path, but it’s rare that I end up at a place you can’t even see from the road—once you hang a right by the landmark lighthouse at Pat’s a wooden sign leads you up on a gravel road over the levee to Angelle’s insular world. Cars and campers are strewn in loose order in the grass surrounding the small club. An airboat was sitting in its trailer behind a white pickup near the wooden porch at the entrance. I don’t know if I’ve come up with a magic formula that would indicate how fun a place is from the outside, but I can safely say that the presence of an airboat in the parking lot is a good sign. As I marveled at it, a guy with an inspiring silver helmet of hair and a waxed moustache said “Ya’ll come on in.”

What I saw as I entered was a gargantuan screened back porch attached to the bar. Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys were playing on a stage on the water side, grinding away that familiar zydeco stomp groove under a wooden sign that had WHISKEY RIVER spelled out in holiday lights. For something as down home as this place was, it was rather fabulous. The dancefloor ebbed and flowed with each number as couples made their way around the room, igniting the air with their salacious moves. Compared to some of the more genteel settings, Whiskey River landing was positively libidinous in nature.

“People come out here to party, where there’s not going to be any trouble,” said Don Brasseaux, a furniture maker from Breaux Bridge and expert Cajun dancer. He also was a bartender at Whiskey River Landing back before it was a dancehall. “This was a swamp bar, and this covered deck was used for weigh-ins for fishing tournaments. Sometime in the early nineties, the bandstand was added and the porch was screened in, and the dancehall took off.” He confirmed that a lot of single people came out here to meet people in this relaxed fun atmosphere, that folks wander in to continue the party after an afternoon on the rented barges. “There’s a lot of freedom without it being a free for all.”

The moment that got me was when one of the rousing numbers from Jeffery Broussard slowly transformed into a gospel roll, just the accordion and washboard, punctuated by a stomp from the kick drum. It was an amalgamation of Sunday tradition, sacred and profane that had the room clapping, dancing and rejoicing on a cypress porch out in the swamp, people of all ages, races and states of inebriation coming together in this one place for a glorious moment. It seemed to me that this is what Sunday should really be about.


[225] No words, four musicians, plenty of taste

When most people think of a song, the first thing that comes to mind is the lyrics. Not so for Man Plus Building. “The day we feel like a song of ours would be better off with lyrics, so be it,” bluntly declares Jesse Kees, guitarist for the instrumental Baton Rouge quartet. “The most honest answer is that none of us are even remotely talented singers,” admits drummer Joshua Nee. “We are all better at playing our instruments, so we stick with that. We have one song that has about 30 seconds of soft chanting, and we are terrified of playing that song in front of people.”

On debut album Because My Name Is Lion, the band often careens between slow contemplative passages and fiery moments, weaving between moods seamlessly, usually within a single song. It’s difficult music to describe without invoking contestable terms like post-rock and progressive rock. “The other day I was sub-genre-lizing in my head and came up with the term ‘compositional rock’,” Kees offers.

Nee agrees. “‘Compositional rock’ has a funny ring to it. I think I’ll go with that.”

The complexity of Man Plus Building’s songs can be traced to the diverse musical backgrounds of the members: Kees and Nee have gigged in the local jazz scene for years, guitarist Rory Ventress studied classical guitar at Southeastern Louisiana University, and bassist Mitch Wells has played with several local bands. The group draws on their experience when crafting songs, but avoids the elitist trap into which many seasoned players fall. “Our music might be a little more involved musically than that of a three-chord rock band, but those are some of my favorites,” Nee says. “Whether you thrash on two chords for a few minutes or write really orchestrated parts depends on the song. It just comes down to being tasteful.”


[225] Review: Theresa Andersson Hummingbird, Go! (Basin Street Records)

A violinist and singer-songwriter from New Orleans via Sweden, Theresa Andersson expands her folky sound into a rich sonic tapestry on Hummingbird, Go! By warbling over looped percussion and dense beds of sound, she taps into world music and electronica without losing the thread of the song. The opening track “Na Na Na” is the best example of this. Her voice weaves in and out of the thickets of beats, strings, and guitars. Those familiar with Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love or Iron and Wine’s The Shepherd’s Dog will find Andersson’s latest in line with their trajectories.

It’s not studio trickery alone that makes this album so delectable. “Hi-Low” is a faux-Hawaiian doo-wop number where she longingly pines for love “anywhere, anytime, any day, I don’t care what we do as long as we are two.” “Locusts Are Gossiping” opens with Andersson multi-tracked as a swooning choir set against a lone woodblock, evolving into an Indian cadence. “Minor Changes” has an orchestra in sympathy, but her dramatic sweep rises above the production.

I’m tempted to say it has Broadway musical written all over it, but I don’t wish to burden it with that baggage. Instead I will say this is highly orchestrated music from a dynamic artist with a strong vision, an adventurous spirit, and a delicate touch.

Essential tracks: “Minor Changes,” “Na Na Na,” “Hi-Low”

Recommended if you like: Kate Bush, Iron and Wine, great singers in an artful setting


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

old rap unwrapped

A decade or two ago, back before hip hop was the lingua franca of popular culture, it was rap, and in the circles I ran, it was most often taken with a high degree of contextualization. Consider the multi-cultural pileup that was Bill Laswell's Material, pitting Rammellzee and Flavor Flav (sounding lean and dangerous - who knew that a much larger clock than the one around your neck was ticking for thee, Flav) against a quivvering jello salad of dub, downtown NYC and blissed crypto-electrinica. Unlike nearly all trip-hop that followed it, Material holds up. Same for Mos Def and Talib Kweli's Black Star - funny how dangerous it is to not be slick and seamless. While Material took the idea of DJ to the purpose of synergistic collectivism, Mos def and Talib Kweli focused on the street poet side of rap, eschewing the made-it-ness of 90's and beyond hip-hop to illuminate the struggle. One of the best rap albums ever.

DJ Shadow's Entroducing put the DJ up front, and while certainly not the first to do so, sought connections to high art, staging events in galleries, getting written up in Artforum, imbuing the noble savage art of the dj with the institutionally sanctioned moniker of turntablism. Massive Attack did much the same thing, except opting for the bedroom instead of the gallery wall. I always thought they laid the shmooveness on a little too thick, but this collaboration with the insane Jamaican reductivist Mad Professor is spot on perfect - the beat in the Mad Professor's hand becomes a ripple, so much so that this surprisingly tepid adult-contemporary outing by DJ Krush hardly registered. Something about it made me really, really want to hear The Geto Boys for some reason, but Rhapsody petered out on me, so I dialed up the DubTerrain station which has strangely been an excellently innocuous amalgam of all the previous amalgams.

[The Record Crate] Terrence Blanchard at The Listening Room

The third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans is this Friday, and in those three years we have seen every stripe of tribute to the lives lost, but few exhibited the gravity and grace of Terrence Blanchard’s 2007 album A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina). The Grammy-winning New Orleans trumpeter pits his anguish against a barrage of conga drums and swims in a flood of sumptuous strings, each note punctuated with anger, loss and most importantly, hope. Blanchard, along with the Thelonious Monk Institute Septet, will be inaugurating the Listening Room, the Art’s Council’s series of free jazz concerts being held at the Lyceum Dean on Third Street across from the Shaw Center. To reserve seats, call the Arts Council at 344-8558.

Also on Friday, as We Landed on the Moon! debuts some material from their new CD These Little Wars, long-running Baton Rouge act Bones plays their final Baton Rouge show. For over a decade now, Bones has taken their salacious songbook through the paces, casting them as blues, funk and garage rock, bringing out the raunchiest in each style. Mike Dillon’s Go Go Jungle brings the hyper-percussive funk to Chelsea’s and Grammy-winning Terri Hendrix (she co-wrote Dixie Chicks’ 2003 Best Country Instrumental “Lil Jack Slade”) performs with Nashville legend Lloyd Maines at the Red Dragon.

Oh, and Ratt is at the Texas Club on Tuesday. I went ’round and ’round with this news item and can’t find anything more to say about it.

Link to original with local events calendar

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

senses working overtime

  1. I just smelled the pungent yet alluring deep peanut aroma of a wall freshly painted off-white and then, upon rounding the corner was practically penetrated by the vinegar presence of barbecue in a chafing dish - the juices and sterno making for an unholy potpourri that passed through the closed conference room door into the carpeted hall. I predict it will smell like barbecue for longer than the other will like paint.
  2. After tracking down the source and shamelessly gaining entry, I tasted the brisket cooked down to the point of sogginess, plump smoked sausage and some smartly tart cole slaw. It was by no stretch great barbecue, but was nonetheless a brilliant response from the divine to hearing my unspoken plea for something else after I ate that hummus for lunch.
  3. All while this was going on, I listened to a parade of old school reggae: Bob Marley's achingly innocent early gospel ska (The Wailers' 1964 version of "This Train" is definitive in my mind), Horace Andy's perfectly doped-out, just-shy-of-being-dub Pure Ranking and Dennis Brown's sumptuous riddim for swinging lovers on Milk and Honey. With barbeque and this in my headphones, it was a personal Reggae Sunsplash, except in air conditioning, food priced comparably to quality and I could hear it.
  4. Coming down off this, I am to resume the pile of mouse-oriented work before me today and the feeling of the cool gel in this handmedown mousepad - the thermostat in my office is a rare one that responds to input and the AC is thereby cranked - is the wrist-support version of free mediocre barbecue and old reggae.
  5. Right as I was confronted by the smells and tastes and epiphanies, I saw a line of new freshmen looking a little downtrodden to be in my building - as they should be, since I think they are likely in the wrong place, or at least the wrong wing, and this building is a tacked-on ancient academic monstrosity (formerly the campus hotel, and oldest standing building on campus) with two completely different sets of loosely coupled second floors of rooms numbered by an obscure pattern, filled with people who don't know where whatever it is you are looking for is but will let you explain the whole thing before betraying their ignorance - and they look like babies, like not that far off from my daughter's age, which is seven.

    Poor meek things, wandering peanut and brisket smelling hallways of ignorance, just trying to register for a damn class or get a damn parking pass for hours until some learned outposter informs them they are in the wrong place. If they wandered up here, I'd set them straight and instill them with an irie old school reggae calm because I know this campus up and down and am helpful, but they won't come by here. I am on one of the other second floors and any reasonable person would give up before going this far.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Captain Badass

I can handle all sorts of grown-up challenges - public speaking, direct confrontation with strangers, dealing with other people's kids, making criticism, taking criticism - all with relative grace, but anything dealing with money curls me into a ball, so this second day of fighting payroll clerks has left me a little spent and weak-feeling.

But, while the dog was eating before I left for work, I grabbed the guitar and dicked around with some chords and landed on the melody of my second favorite Song:Ohia song "Hot Black Silk" where Jason Molina bellows in his Poindexter rage "There is nothing short of wisdom!!!' in the chorus and all is better. That's what I love about his stuff - he is not a menacing figure at all, but he is assertive nonetheless. Not through assertiveness, but through mere assertion.

I interviewed him a couple years back, and at first was taken aback by the list of things the publicist said he wouldn't address. Who are you, Axl Rose? Now, I see the wisdom in this, the nipping of foolishness at the bud. That is how you do it.

My favorite Song:Ohia song comes later on the same album Axxess & Ace, "Captain Badass"

quote Captain Badass,
I am setting your heart on fire.
So when you leave me
I will burn on in your soul
You won't have to think twice
If it's love, you will know
We get no second chance in this life
and I had this blaring as I strolled in to cajole a third link in the renumeration chain to finally pay me, feeling not assertive, but asserted - I am here and this is what you will do because I am here. And they did. I should keep this song on my phone just for when situations like this come up

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fun House Indeed: Hour 7 - "Dirt" is my undoing

I can't always make it through the regular version of "Dirt" - no, I no longer feel it when Ya. Touch. Me. Maybe if I had just the right amount of cough syrup in my system, I would be up for it, but now I must submit to dull rationality and let go. I skipped through the remain piles of "Dirt" to get to "Freak" the real meltdown tacked on to the end of this boxed set, a howling hissing demented end, and fuck, they do two takes of it. I can see why Warner Brothers left it off the record, but in equal measure, I'm not sure why they released Fun House the first place. The Stooges were amazingly unpopular and unprofitable in their day.

Summing up this fool's errand, I still think Fun House is some endgame shit, that those slingshotting past it are still tethered to the cliff. I think having this virus in rock's DNA was important, and maybe that's why Warner was behind it. I still really like this record, and I don't want to listen to it for quite some time. The question is: what can you reasonably listen to after all this?

Fun House Indeed: Hour 6 - Forty Minutes of the song "Fun House" is...

...neither less nor greater than the regular six. The lurch still lurches and everything falls apart and comes back together like watching a film of a building collapse, then in reverse, then again. I harbored a suspicion earlier today that the extended "Fun House" train cross over into Ornette Coleman density, but the truth is, it just keeps running that loop.

I kinda wish "Loose" would come back on, for old times sake.

Fun House Indeed: Hour 6 - Beautiful Baby, Be His Love Already

Jesus, is this what actually being in a band is like, hearing the same song over and over until all the blood is drained from it and you are left mouthing the words with the flesh puppet husk of what was once your joyous creation? After thirty-hundred more versions of "T.V. Eye" - a song I can no longer bear, thanks - they take eight more pointless cracks at "1970." Even Stevearino sounds tired of this shit. I suppose they had to drag themselves through the mud to get to "Fun House" and "Dirt" but, and I never thought I would say this to The Stooges through the music critic time-tunnel, enough is enough, y'all.

Fun House Indeed: Hour 5 - Stretching out

Fifteen different versions of "Down in the Street" blasted into the air of my office and I barely felt a thing. That never has been a favorite of mine off this record, and I guess repeated exposure didn't help its standing. Now "T.V. Eye" into its third take still sound exploratory and dangerous - that sssssshhhhhhhhhhh hohoooooooooooooo-thwock-howl-cough-cough-gasp he does in here, the stillness in the break before they kick back into it, its like passing under an overpass during a hailstorm, louder than loudness. The band is getting punchy, doing Wolfman Jack impressions, announcing themselves before the next take.

I always thought this was the tight number on the record, the possible single, but really its where the band is stretching out and jump-starting the mothership. I don't want to get all nostalgic for an era in which I did not live, but having The Stooges and MC5 roaming the ballrooms of Detroit hungry and juiced would have been something to see. Or maybe not. Maybe they sucked like everybody sucked/sucks. Somebody not long ago said Led Zeppelin sounded terrible live, all out of tune through shitty PA's manned by speed freaks. Still, I have to think having this kind of orgone generator at one end would pump out something, no matter how shoddy the hose.

Maybe that is the underlying lesson of warts-and-all boxed sets; they feed and feed on the fake nostalgia, becoming their own system outside of the listener and the music. It's like eating and eating because you caught a tapeworm while on holiday in Thailand, the act of feeding is not about you or Thailand, but about the food and the worm.

Fun House Indeed: Hour 4 - Why is that I can stick it deep inside?


"Loose" Takes 14-28 turned out to be the ideal soundtrack for dealing with two seperate payroll departments and driving across town in an un-air conditioned Corolla to pick up a check because the other payroll department "doesn't know what my pay rate is." It's $666/hour baby, with overtime


You can't swing a dead cat without hitting bureaucratic fluster today, in fact the low-dipping bass loop of "Loose" mirrors exactly the orbit of swinging a dead cat, and I told everyone my sad tale of paycheck woe and they didn't care, and I'm telling you and you don't care and they keep playing "Loose" over and over and I can't tell if they are in fact getting looser or tighter and take 28 nicely petered out as I pulled my car into parking spot #1, number ONE baby, and I'm back and back at it and its all good and if it isn't, I stick it deep inside, I stick it deep inside


Fun House Indeed: Hour 3 - lunch break

It's been on, rattling through the variation on "Loose" barely registering as I ate lunch. Maybe I am loose now too, like a paint mixture that's been shaken in a jar long enough that it bears little resemblance to the unlikely combination of colors that begat it. It is now just the resulting hue, nothing else.

The Stooges knew their way around a groove, though. Besides hardware store paint shakers, I can hear the shicka-shicka of Tracey Quackenbush's hula hoop when I was ten, the quick peel-out and then constant rumble of driving down a country gravel road on my uncle's farm, numerous dirt bike incidents, martini shakers, moving files from one directory to another, traffic undulating, kids running on a playground, Tilt-o-Whirl, the mechanical shimmy of life, etc etc shicka shicka

Fun House Indeed: Hour 2 - Let me in

Perhaps a day that involved less professional frustration would have been a better canvas on which to smear the raw elements of The Stooges' wildest studio moment- I can feel the smooth edges and shiny surfaces of things give way to the rotting epidermis and the crusty callouses. Steve Mackay, to his credit, keeps yakkity saxing through the whole thing un-phased. I have yet to throw a chair at one of my co-workers, and I cite MacKay's grace under pressure as the reason why.

I'm glad they changed the name of "See That Cat" to "T.V. Eye." Same song, but somehow I don't think that ratty little groove would sound as perfect today with such a dated title. She's got a TV eye on me, on the other hand, sounds like a summation of Now and will likely do so forever until there are no more TV's or eyes to watch them (or me)

Fun House Indeed: Hour 1 - I Feel Alright

Although after hearing Iggy Pop rasp it over and over through five takes of "1970" I fear what kind of human detritus will be exhibited in hour seven. So far, as Iggy sounds a little more ragged through the subsequent versions, saxophonist Steve MacKay sounds better smoother, his instrument sounding lubricated against Iggy's partched larynx. Ron Asheton's guitar sounds the same, as if he's plugged into a continuum instead of an amp. Take 3 of "1970" gloriously lasts as long as that year likely did in most minds - everything grinding out into a lugubrious trudge at the end. Goodbye swinging sixties, hello downward slide into realizing the sixties were a myth experienced by a few pampered counter-culturals who were well-connected enough to counter the culture, to escape the draft, to not be black and poor, to sing into the mirror about putting flowers in their hair.

Fun House Indeed

Due to my love of sonic endurance tests and easy suggestibility, and in the spirit of efficiency Einstein exhibited by having seven identical outfits just to have one decision made already, I am listening to the entire 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions by The Stooges in order today, tracking my hourly progress/regress. Barring meetings or extended office converation, I think I can get through it all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

An Abecedary of How I'm Feeling Right Now, and Why

Anxious - because these are anxious times
Belly-full - because I had the souvlaki sandwich from Albashsa's
Cross - because of the battles of the day
Devilish - because I always feel a little devilish
Eager - because I want to feel the rush after the tipping point
Fixated - because I can see things in play
Gregarious - because I had to alpha it up over some snivelers today
Hot - because I live in The Swamp State and August is the devil's armpit
Insouciant - because I was the alpha and not the sniveler
Jack-of-all-Trades - because I am
Kinetic - because the trades were all in different locations
Loquacious - because I am doing this very exercise just to have a an excuse to play with words
Meek - because it is what we all are, so that we can inherit the Earth
Ne'er-do-well - because of all the various connotations of that phrase, literal and figurative
Optimistic - because you have to be, right?
Pensive - because I am by nature
Quick - because I am zipping through this
Resplendent - because I thought of a good one for Q just like that
Staccato - because the melody of today has been in 1000 quick bursts
Territorial - because the lines of demarcation are coming into focus
Useless - because I always feel that a little
Vexed - because I always feel that a little too
Worn-down - because I am
Xenophobic - because there has been a rash of neighborhood crime and break-ins, and that always brings out the worst in me
Yielding - because otherwise, you are just fighting the wind all the time
Zen - because my weak understanding of Zen is that it is the meaningless fulfillment and find meaning in that

Preston Reed

I know nothing about Preston Reed except his name comes up occasionally as a similar to John Fahey and Leo Kottke and that he possesses many of the unfortunate cafe-soundtrack traits that seem to appeal to guitar virtuosos but he has this thing he does where the song sounds like a well oiled engine, chugging away creating a simple rhythm out of a million tiny motions and then suddenly a belt slips or a screw wiggles loose and the machine struggles to keep equilibrium and does, but not without nearly coming off its moorings. As a lousy guitarist myself, I can't wrap my brain around making one's fingers move that fast and make something meaningful out of the doing-so.

Here he is performing the unfortunately named yet nonetheless brilliant "Twang Thang" off the album to the left.

[The Record Crate] The emotional roller coaster of being alive

Susan Cowsill was just as powerful a performer as I'd hoped. She kept the clutch of hardcore folk fans at the Red Dragon in the palm of her hands, which in itself is not the most difficult task; they are true believers in acoustic music. What she does that is special is she whips the listener around with her on the emotional roller coaster of being alive, in all its tragic, embarrassing, joyous and contemplative glory. During the intro to a song about her exile from New Orleans, she started cutting up, mock-chastising the crowd, "Look, people, let's get serious. Lives and property were lost," and kept it up throughout the song until one moment when she tossed out, "C'mon, I'm trying not to cry up here," quickly adding, "I wish I was joking." Sure, maybe that move is a little passive aggressive, but it totally worked. You could feel stifled laughter and a quick gulp overtake the room, which is the only way you can take in tragedy.

Emo is a genre of music that embodies this, and while I think I missed the time bracket for it to be particularly salient to me, I've been a fan of the Get Up Kids since their inception. And while the band grew to brusque at the unfortunate term, it still fits, with the emotional firehose spraying from their urgent, punk-informed melodies. Singer Matt Pryor has done a lot of growing up since The Kids called it quits in 2005, and it shows on his solo CD Confidence Man. He still has the same yearning and knack for a good hook, but has traded the flare-up guitar for an acoustic setting. It could be seen as an extension of his other band the New Amsterdams, but solo, Pryor is more engaging and even a little funny -- on the brief, bittersweet "Loralai," he says, "I don't want you to know that I don't want you to go because you've got my only set of keys." Pryor will appear Monday at the Spanish Moon.

Another guy with a powerful stage persona is Lil' Dave Thompson. I know I mention him every time he comes through, but there is a reason: He's one of those performers who can illuminate what potential there still is in the blues, through his gospel stomp, electrifying guitar work, original songs and his wide range of styles. Jazz and blues standard DownBeat ran a feature I wrote about him in the July issue this summer, but you have a chance to witness him in the down-home setting of Teddy's in Zachary this Saturday, neither of which will disappoint.

Link to original with local events calendar

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

100 Words on My Old Paintings

Back before I figured out how to become a writer of modest acclaim, I was a painter of modest acclaim, and a friend whose walls over the years bore the fruits of those times called saying his walls had new tennats, so I headed down and retrieved them. A few of these were completely forgotten to me, and others, they look better than I thought. I wish the T on the green one was a little more muted, and the black one didn’t look like it should hawk the daily specials, but only experience schools one in demarcation and framing.

trashing art for limited returns and a laugh

Unlike everyone else who wanted to hate emo and emo kids, I really want to love them and their music, but I think I was just outside of the bracket in which emo would really speak to me. But I always liked The Get Up Kids - they were the Kansas City band when I lived there, the ones that made it, so much so that they didn't play there any more. Their unabashedly maudlin "I'm a Loner, Dottie, A Rebel..." still kinda gets to me. Lead singer Matt Pryor is coming to town and I slogged reluctantly through the solo record for my column (I don't know what an artist is supposed to do after a band, but solo albums are approached with trepidation by everyone, always) and just like GUK's, it is sweet and delicate and even a little funny.

Nico Muhly is the benefactor of another improbably popular genre - serial minimalism. He played with Philip Glass and is the defacto arranger of strings for things among the indie elite, and through that, this scintillating piece of post-Robert Ashley glittering wonder garnered a review in Pitchfork, albeit a less than charitable one. What, does he need a Brooklyn mailing address and pants that don't reach his ankles? But, I can see why they (used losely to denote a general aesthetic, I know they have different writers writing from different viewpoints) didn't like it - they seem to like it when you ride out on a tricycle and hit them with a giant inflatable banana and then guilelessly drone "Ha I just hit you with a giant inflatable banana..." - in other words, they like transparency. Mothertongue is secretive and quietly difficult while being imminently applealing - everything I want out of modern composition, and life in general.

Part of the first movement of Wonders sounds a lot like that harpsichord song by Joanna Newsom, which Maya and I heard last night at the sandwich place. She smiled started mock-singing with the elfin harpist minx and remarked "This sounds like one of those terrible Disney princess songs, like 'yaaaaaaaaa, ya YAAAAAAAA' - not the good ones, but the terrible ones." I predict my bloodline will be trashing art for limited returns and a laugh for generations to come.

Speaking of, I got a PDF back from an upcoming print article, and gazing upon it feels alot like this Charlie Byrd album: breezy, comfortable and being momentarily aglow. Maybe because it comes first, and is the moment when an article becomes real, but I almost get a bigger charge out of the pre-print PDF than I do from seeing my work in the actual magazine. Almost.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Antiono Carlos Jobim

Lately I have been going for harsh music in the morning and then soft yielding smoothness in the afternoon. I shuffled through everything I could think of - I want something "Girl from Impanema" smooth - for about an hour until it hit me that I should just listen to the actual thing. I went for Antonio Carlos Jobim's polite society version on Tide rather than the classic one with Astrud Gilberto - looking for the kind of music that might issue forth from Bob Newhart's hi-fi in his Chicago apartment, and whoosh, this is it.

left to dissolve in its indifferent power

What does the icepick lyrics and lava-floe flow of Nas have in common with the ponderous flatulent solo organ monstrosities of Oliver Messiaen? Little besides a need to corrupt your cognitive patterns. Nas gets your shoulders and hips working like all great hip-hop does and gets you nodding with him and smiling and then BAM he punches you square in the gut, with a look of that's what its like, motherfucker, and walks away.

Messiaen has the organist tear apart the structure of the familiar hymn and flings each giant chunk into the thick viscous air, allowing it to linger in the dust until it falls with a resounding thud, shaking everything in the room with its mass. This is also what it's like, motherfucker, even when the organist falls asleep on the keys creating a drone long enough to make me sure that the player wasn't stuck. Messiaen's wide cluster sweeps are like being trapped by a Klieg light, left to dissolve in its indifferent power.

I mulled over what would be an amalgam of the two, but couldn't come up with anything I'd want to listen to, so Peter Brötzman and crew from Last Exit will be put to the task of scorching the earth bare so that the flowers of new cognitive patterns can emerge and flourish.

Friday, August 15, 2008

grown-folks dinner party music

Shuffling at mid-volume in the changer: Jose Gonzalez - In Our Nature Remixes; Dengue Fever - Venus on Earth; Bebel Gilberto - Tanto Tempo; Me'shell Ndegeocello - Comfort Woman; Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog; Jens Lekman - When I Said I Wanted to be Your Dog

While I'm putting out some some bread for the hummus, fix yourself a cocktail, and just make yourself at home. Do you know my good friends Bjorn and Terez? She's an editor for the history journal, and he builds custom furniture. (slides over wicker basket for your keys)

100 Words on Quarters

I was just at the bank depositing a check and saw behind the teller a cardboard box emblazoned "$500 QUARTERS." I was overcome with an urge to steal it. $500 is not worth a robbery conviction, but a fistful of quarters still feels rich to me, even as an adult. You don't save quarters, or I don't. You make things happen with them. With two thousand shiny, stolen quarters on hand, I would run the world with them, all the time. Next pool game is on me! Cold drinks for everyone! You can get a gumball AND a ring!