Wednesday, June 30, 2010

y'all have to go for me

Keiji Haino, The 21st Century Hard-Y-Guide-Y Man - Even Now, Still I Think
The BSC (Bhob Rainey + others), 23% Bicycle and/or Ribbons of the Natural Order (tweet for it)

Media Announcements: My article about the stunning Grand Opera House of the South in Crowley and the Elvis impersonators that perform there is up for perusing in this month's Country Roads. Also, I lay out my 10 favorite albums of 2010 so far in this week's Record Crate blog for 225.

Public Service Announcement: Hey Baton Rouge, out-thinking, free-noise-ish, saxophone alchemist Bhob Rainey is performing at the LSU School of Music Thursday night at 7:30 for free. I can't make it so y'all have to go for me. It might sound like this, and then it might not.

Bhob Rainey, "Unique States Part 3"

Awesomeness Announcement: Keiji Haino is pretty awesome at what ever instrument you let drift into his orbit. On the above record, he cracks open the Philsopher's Stone with a hurdy-gurdy.


Sign outside a Mediterranean place near my house.

Kim Richey, Rise
Tift Merritt, See You on the Moon
Beachwood Sparks, Once We Were Trees
Belle & Sebastian, Dear Catastrophe Waitress

I'm into the new Louis C.K. vehicle Louie. I don't want to fall in a Treme trap of praising a show's architecture early on only to find not a whole lot inside but a sitcom is sometimes improved by the lack of an arc.

Musically, I am trapped in the bookstore in that review I mentioned last night. I'm more than a little proud of the terrible story I pecked out in that post, if I say so myself. It felt like I did something there. I don't know what that says about my acumen as a self-editor.

Speaking of, I wonder if there ever a point in the making of the sign posted above that the designer thought, I might be clouding the message.

Tift Merritt, "Mixtape"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

First we saw this ape

First we saw this ape standing in someone's yard.

Then, while taking in a Greek Salad at Zoe's, the big one that has a layer of potato salad under the salad, I was consumed with an overwhelming urge to hear Emmylou Harris' "Wrecking Ball." Like not there in the restaurant, because I had Maya with me and I try to not be one of those dads who is on his stupid phone all the time when he could be hanging out with his kid. I wrote an article about theses dads during a short stint at a parenting magazine and then slowly became one. Plus in the last week, she has been a total barrel of laughs to be around. I mean more so than usual.

Zoe's has these terrible paintings from some school project stacked up around the restaurant, probably in trade for some chicken salad sandwiches the restaurant provided that the kids did not even eat (crusts), thus becoming a zero-sum exercise for both parties. Maya asked if she could walk the perimeter and look at them and I thought, My chance!

I pulled up Rhapsody on my newly upgraded phone and it immediately crashed. Thrice it crashed. I reinstalled the app, noticing that slowness that everyone was complaining about on Twitter, then pulled it up and it took forever to find Emmylou Harris on search. Maybe it's Emmalou, I thought. Maybe this thing is junk. Maybe all the anti-Apple cranks are right, not for being anti-Apple but for being cranks and maybe my cheery techno-optomism crossed with my anti-consumerist no-complaint zen is just an olio of failure. She (Emmylou) finally showed up, followed by Maya, followed by our food. I added "Wrecking Ball" to my queue to listen to on the way home.

Rhapsody was acting like garbage, infinitely "Loading Track..." with that implied spinning wheel made out of radiating lines that secretly says I am not doing anything and you are watching me do it. Sometimes you can trick it by pausing and then pressing play and it starts up, or going back and forth between tracks, like the way the lady on that OCD show flips the lights on and off so that her kid won't get cancer.

(Sidenote: on one episode, a therapist tries to exposure cure a germophobe by going to a coffee shop and insisting they eat muffins in the bathroom, rubbing them along the bowl and setting them on the seat. The therapist accidentally dropped her muffin in the toilet water and to prove a point, fished it out and popped it in her mouth. The germophobe went from irrational nervousness to perfectly rational grossed-outedness as did everyone watching the show. I was hoping the woman would have involuntarily smacked the therapist as one might do a kid who suddenly decided to eat something that had just fallen in a public toilet.)

It finally worked and as we hit the roundabout by the Banana Republic, Emmylou's chimey little wonder kicked in and got to "I'll meet you at the wrecking ball."

It was the wrong song.

Maya asked if she was singing "I'll hit you with a wrecking ball" and I explained the double meaning of ball (orb; dance) used here and she shrugged. I feel the same way.

I wanted the Gillian Welch "Wrecking Ball"

a song I thought might be a cover of Emmylou's but in fact it was Emmylou who covered Gillian's "Orphan Girl," a fact I was reminded of by this brilliant and hilarious Pitchfork review of Gillian Welch's Soul Journey written as a play (the review, not the album) by William Bowers. Bowers is a contemporary writer (we've been in the same issue of the OA) of whose lyrical prowess I am sorely envious and man enough to admit it. Again. I'm gonna have to get his book All We Read is Freaks. Read this excerpt and weep.

Anyway, I was home already and didn't want to fool with my phone anymore and I wanted to tell this story to my wife, but really, who wants to hear a story like this? About iPhone apps not working? Picking the wrong song to listen to? McSweeney's doesn't even go there. Oh, but right before typing this up, I was reading something on the McSweeney's iPhone app about apes and it reminded me to show my wife the picture of the ape sitting in someone's yard. She laughed, "I wonder what it was originally leaning on." and I looked again because I hadn't noticed it was leaning on nothing until she said it.

whatever is going on

Lunch at the cafeteria, with a bit of orange drink peeking in from the top.

Allen Toussaint, Life, Love and Faith
Tindersticks, Falling Down a Mountain
Charlie Rich, Boss Man
Bee Gees, Cucumber Castle

Media Announcements: My interview with Joe Bonomo, author of 33 1/3's Highway to Hell and Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found, is up at outsideleft, I break down the artists on Red Stick Sounds, a new compilation of Baton Rouge artists, in the July issue of 225 and, while I tend to keep the real job off this blog, a nice little article about the game design class I taught and will be teaching again popped up on the LSU homepage.

I have the makings of the world's greatest/worst soft rock mixtape going this afternoon. Whatever is going on in this video with the Bee Gees playing in the background would fit right in.

Bee Gees, "I.O.I.O"

my faith in love is still devout

The night after the last night of the fair.

Media announcement: In the latest issue of Offbeat, I reviewed Rough Seven's Give Up Your Dreams and profiled the Help, the new music vehicle for Barbara Menendez of fondly remembered New Orleans new wave band the Cold.

Last night, Maya and I came across a parking lot carnival that had just been taken down which gave me a chance to play with the upgraded iPhone camera, though all it did was make me want a real camera and that would give me something else to eat up my time and then where would I be? I like the new Flickr interface very much. The whole set can be found here.

It made me think of this song, of course and like our protagonist, my faith in love is still devout.

The Smiths, "Rusholme Ruffians," Live in Madrid

Monday, June 28, 2010

bang bang

Upgraded to 4.0 on my 3G.

Viva L'American Death Ray Music, Behold! A Pale Horse
Windsor for the Derby, Against Love
Neu!, Neu '75

Neu!, "Leb' Wohl"

about to say "F..."

The lights in the pool change colors at night.

Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record
The Sea & Cake, One Bedroom
Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds, Philosophy & Underwear

Broken Social Scene would come to your photography show at the coffee shop; The Sea & Cake might pop in if it was at a proper gallery; Kid Congo Powers would wear a suit outside the bar across the street that would be better than the art at either. I interviewed Kid twice for outsideleft in 2006 (here and here) and played that Philosophy & Underwear CD so many times that my then 5-year-old would request and shout along with "Black Bag" in the car. This one is good too.

Kid Congo & the Pink Monkey Birds, "The History of French Cuisine"

Over lunch, I reread the part in John Fante's The Road to Los Angeles where Arturo Bandini kills crabs on the beach and was reminded that its one of the greatest scenes in all literature. I was about to say "F a bunch of Catcher in the Rye, somebody start making Arturo Bandini movies" when an image search informed me they made one of Ask the Dust with Colin Ferrell as my hero and Salma Hayek as his beloved waitress so instead I'll just ask that they stop making movies out of anything but comic books. All apologies to comic book fans who know my pain and if need be, they can just stop making movies altogether.

jar of moonshine

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, "There's More Pretty Girls Than One"

U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, Mountain Fiddler
The National. The National
The Byrds, Younger Than Yesterday

I once had a copy of Mountain Fiddler and if I still had it, I'd pour a jar of moonshine through the center hole for the departed Vest Virginia Senator (I'd also need a jar of moonshine), a man whose 50 years of service embodied the good, the bad, and the ugly of the American politic. Like I guess you could say about the wide scope of his Senate career, Mountain Fiddler was pretty a good record. Choire at the Awl has a great remembrance of the man phrased in questions, which is the only way to take on/in a guy that did so much.

He did try to tell us what a bad idea the Iraq war would be, remembering how long the Punic Wars dragged on in his youth. I keed. RIP, mountain fiddler.

I wonder if the Byrds ever posed the idea of having Robert Byrd play fiddle on one of their albums.

Jerri was watching something this morning that had the National panting away in the soundtrack. I always thought they would be no-brainer soundtrack band, but like Drive-By Truckers, I'm too invested in them for it to stay in service to the screen.

The National, "Perfect Song"

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Hungarian Rock

Champ d'Action (Yutaka Oya) plays Philip Glass' In Contrary Motion in M KHA, Antwerp

Philip Glass, Glass: Organ Works
Various Artists, György Ligeti: String Quartets 1 & 2; Ramifications

I was trying to play drums along with Glass' In Contrary Motion - an apt description of my sense of rhythm. Afterwards, the dog re-entered the room with a pained look, "Are you finished yet?"

György Ligeti, "Ramifications"

Maybe I should try playing along with this one instead.

György Ligeti, "Hungarian Rock"

what a beautiful face I have found

Teacup, tiki eraser, and dog

Etgar Keret, The Nimrod Flipout
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

The song "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea" has been wedged in my head all weekend
What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me
Soft and sweet
Let me hold it close and keep it here with me.
so much so that I thought about making a post of the sweet, poetic snapshots of my weekend with these lines sandwiched between, like pairing "soft and sweet" with these Saturn peaches from the farmer's market

but that might be too coy even for blogging.

I finished The Nimrod Flipout while sitting in my mechanic's office

as he patched our tire. Keret's stories are the short, sharp kind that can be killed off in that brief an interval and in such a magnificent place. The last time I chuckled aloud so much at a book was when I discovered David Sedaris. Keret deals in a homey sort of magical realism as if magic was merely the hook for a joke. Really, you should go read some; it will only take a minute.

I had a lot of other things to say about pictures and places and the bracket of the weekend, but we are headed to the bookstore and just saw this at a yard sale down the street from us

and I'm really hoping someone starts a band around this gear. On Capital Heights near Acadian, best offer.

Friday, June 25, 2010

5 videos

Morton Subtonik's "Sidewinder" sounds an awful lot like the God particle.

Jet Screamer, "Eep Opp Ork Aha" from The Jetsons.

Brahms and Ravel performed on the much-despised vuvuzela.

Jeff Tweedy doing "Single Ladies."

Flagstaff on fire.

Perhaps tellingly, if you play them all at once the crowd applauding Jeff Tweedy's cuteness upstages everything else.

The intricacies of the house

The floating light switch!

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension, To the One
Gabor Szabo, Bacchanal
Fred Anderson, Staying in the Game

Right after I moved into my first apartment, the first one without a roommate, I found a John McLaughlin album sitting atop at trash can filled with the belongings of someone who'd just moved (or had just been moved) out of theirs. His is forever "transition music" to me because of it.

Promo thing.

Gabor Szabo does my favorite version of "Love is Blue." It unfolds as a slight guitar exercise over a robotic natter of castanets, the kind of monotonous racket you might mindlessly make when alone. A rather plodding bass soon enters the scene like a bored roommate and then the drums like that other roommate that's never there, that you forget about sometimes. The intricacies of the house begin to emerge, little rivalries meet the beautiful temporary synergy of weak friendships. Maybe somebody will cook something amazing. Maybe Raiders of the Lost Ark will magically be on cable. Maybe the drummer roommate will go, "Hol' up, I got some weed!" and maybe the girls from next door will stop by. Maybe not, but in that moment the beauty of your life and how you live it makes everything possible and even easy. And then it's over.

His version of "The Look of Love" is not too shabby either.

In that apartment, I had a Gabor Szabo record that had a mindbending version of the Doors' "Light My Fire" but it wasn't Bacchanal above, nor was it Jazz Raga, a great adventurous record making the reissue rounds. It was Light My Fire by Bob Thiele and the Happy Times Orchestra featuring Gabor Szabo (thanks Internet!). Someone reissue that record! I would like to say I got it out of the same trash can as the John McLaughlin record, but that would be pushing things a bit.

R.I.P. Fred Anderson. I may have had a record by you in that apartment, like some Anthony Braxton session, but I don't remember. I had a lot of records. But anyway, thanks for staying in the game for 81 years.

Trailer for Fred Anderson's Timeless DVD

triumphant stab

Uggi the lizard, Maya's favorite thing in this whole forsaken realm, at the LSU Greek Amphitheater

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist
Jason Moran, Ten

I heard a thing on NPR about Mr. Moran's record, citing a lot of cultural appropriation and fusing influences and mimicking the patter of hip-hop and well, I dunno about all that. It's an affable, compressed modern jazz record, pressure cooker kind of stuff, with just the right amount of sudden turns to keep this from being another garden stroll. His bassist, Tarus Mateen, is the real magician on this set. It is like he has a black hole tied up on a leash, ready to pull its roaring whirl in when the situation calls for it.

I got called out for being a "wonky" writer by one of the students in my class last night - this is the same person that came up to me once at Cafe Des Amis saying this was not a place for that "wonky, music critic bullshit" - and fair enough, maybe it is and maybe it isn't. You get to make that call when you are the one with the pen. I don't know exactly what that accusation entails, but at the mythic bar of wonkiness, I expect there is a space at the rail for me. And good company.

It was a good class. This was where we ran first drafts through the mill and pieces got picked apart and reassembled, and I think the right wonky balance search and destroy was achieved and like all the other classes, has helped me look at my own writing and how to get the Truth from point A to point B.

After last week's triumphant stab at the world of reality show recap blogging (Jamie Lynn, or a spambot representing her, responded on my post about Work of Art) I was raring to go, but the book design episode didn't really inspire a lot of commentary. It was a plea for commercial work and the right guys delivered, though the Time Machine cover with the little ladder was better and more modern novel than the Dracula one that won. I also want to say that I may have met Peregrine before; her work was everywhere when we lived in Kansas City, though it doesn't seem like its evolved so much, or if it has, it's in less subversive directions. My girl JL's piece was cute, almost there. I think a cover for Alice in Wonderland playing on the eat me, big/small Jefferson Airplane-ity like Nicole's also almost-there piece would be fun. Maybe have the title big, cramming the room on the front with the little piece of cake on a plate, then the title small sitting next to the empty plate when you open in it. Or maybe I should stay out of book design.

But poor, crazy, old Judith. She is neither that crazy nor that old, but I figured that the Dorian Gray programmers of Bravo would keep her on just to stoke the indignant stoves of the Yoot, but her book cover was a lesson in whatever wonkiness is. If you have the opportunity, do something with it. The important part of "being and artist" is the active, pointed "being" not the static "artist" because the "being" shapes the "artist" and if those are in sync, you just might end up with "art."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

chi-chi airport

The view at The 5, formerly known as LSU's Pentagon Cafeteria

Neu!, Vinyl Box (out 7/27)

Few foods are taste better when served in a cafeteria, steam-tray setting. Smothered okra and tomatoes are the exception. This place used to be the bleak Pentagon Cafeteria when I was in school here, updated to chi-chi airport splendor and rechristened The 5. The title is for the Pentagon Barracks, ancient old dorms arranged around a pentagonal courtyard. It is boggling to me that I lived there one summer semester in 1989 without air conditioning.

Y'all should be so jealous that I have the new Neu! boxed set already. They get motorik rockabilly at key junctures, like if Two-Lane Blacktop was re-staged with Tron motorcycles. Here is some live '72 Neu! that will sort of paint the picture of how jealous you are of me.

how to bow

Photos Maya took of the Nakatani/Hunsinger/Cambre performance, including her getting a quick lesson on singing bowls.

Tatsuya Nakatani, Rob Cambre & Bill Hunsinger @ LSU School of Music Recital Hall
Gran Turino
Bob Dylan & the Band, The Basement Tapes
Tatsuya Nakatani, Primal Communication

Decades from now, when Maya is wistfully trying to remember that first improv concert she attended, I will be able to point my withered hand to this blog post. Gran Turino was a pretty weird movie for Jerri and I to stay up until 1:30 watching but then that's Clint Eastwood's particular acuity: making a great, stupid, flimsy, late night movie where he kicks people's ass a lot. As for the Basement Tapes, who knows what brought that on.

The concert was sublime. We arrived late just as Nakatani was sawing away a set of gongs making a shuddery, engine-like roar, as if vast turbines were revving up. That dissolved into calmer explorations of the gong and his scattered kit. Maya and I went up to talk to him during the intermission and I mentioned that she is an aspiring drummer, so he invited her up on stage to check his stuff out, even showing her how to bow a ringing out of his assortment of singing bowls.

The trio involved Rob coaxing little quasar pulses out of his guitar pedals, Bill hilariously and thoroughly molesting his upright bass (at one early point, he stuffed a plastic tube in one of the soundholes and blew a giant fart sound out of the thing, pictured above) and Nakatani recreating a sped-up Three Stooges skit on his kit: things falling, being tossed and slammed, exploring a giant hole in a busted cymbal with a stick while scraping it across a snare. All three players, besides being masters of their curious musicalities, approach their art with wonder, which is a rare thing to come across. It was what you call a beautiful noise. Maya stuck it out until 9 but the info overload + the three hours of swimming before the show took their toll and we left a little early, so I don't know what else happened. Thanks to the surprisingly big crowd, we might get to do these kinds of things again sometime.

Ed. to add: Maya told me on the way out that she liked the trio better than the solo piece because "so much more music was happening," which is what we all want, I think.

Hunsinger and Nakatani are doing dueling sets at a house party on Rittner St. tonight here in Baton Rouge and tomorrow the percussionist is performing in a duo with the affable neo-Beat guitar destructor Donald Miller (Borbetomagus), sharing the bill with with legendary free jazz saxophonist Joe McPhee and the Thing (minus Mats Gustafsson) at the Big Top in New Orleans. Any one of these gigs will clear the leaves from your gutters.

I stupidly forgot my video camera, but this performance from 2009 will give you a hint.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

that pillow

Devo, Something for Everybody
The Dylan Group, Ur-Klang Search
Careful, Oh Light (out July 29)

God, Devo, enough already.

I really like the scene I encountered on the 4th floor lobby of the library at lunch. Who brought that pillow all the way up there?

The Dylan Group, "The Road I Know"

a secret paper-doll fantasy figure who would be my everything and bear my children

I'm trying to use up all the science museum pictures before they spoil.

Various Artists, Greenberg soundtrack

OK, so LCD Soundsystem my be a post-modern Steve Miller Band (both on the Greenberg soundtrack), I can live with that. They both sound great with the windows down, coyly deadpan, not afraid of their disco tendencies, etc. Dig this investigation of the "pompatus of love" which supposedly Miller made up for "The Joker." (Wiki)
Although Miller claims he invented the words "epismetology" (metathesis of epistemology) and "pompatus," all of his song-writing demonstrates strong rhythm and blues influences, and a 1954 song called "The Letter" by the Medallions had the lines[1]:
Oh my darling, let me whisper
sweet words of pizmotality
and discuss the puppetutes of love.

The song was composed by Vernon Green as a description of his dream woman.[1] "Pizmotality described words of such secrecy that they could only be spoken to the one you loved," Green explained. He coined the term puppetutes "to mean a secret paper-doll fantasy figure who would be my everything and bear my children."[1]

They should've made the movie about Vernon Green instead of whatever Greenberg is about. Just set up the camera and let him explain things.

The Medallions, "The Letter"

This kid doing Galaxie 500's "Strange" (also on the soundtrack) kinda kills me.

rolling riot

Crepe myrtles on my windshield

Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Cha's, Let's Go!
Etgar Keret, The Nimrod Flipout

Media Announcement: I reviewed the naked yet ornate art-song collections of Corey Dargel and Matt Marks up on the outsideleft. I was looking yesterday and thought I should excise "up on" from my written vocabulary, a forced colloquialism, but today, I think it describes web writing so well: fancy souvenir plates and jars of seashells up on display shelves, mostly useless but maybe why we have shelves.

The crepe myrtles at the back of the driveway have finally bloomed and are finally inundating the windshield. The tree shades the driveway and somehow keeps the oppressive Louisiana summer at bay for a week longer than most (though the one up front barely blooms at all ever) thus delaying its own heat-triggered orgasm. The petals used to clog every cranny of the old Corrolla, so much so that there would still be a liberal dusting when I got to work. Add to that the stickers Maya stuck on her little back window and that car was a rolling riot of color. When it would actually roll.

Speaking of when things start rolling, Nathan is the son of Sid Williams, proprietor of El-Sid-O's, the venerable Lafayette zydeco club about which I laid down 1K words for the book yesterday. I'm pretty sure I've seen him before but it's hard to keep the Zydeco Cha-Cha's and Zydeco Flames and Zydeco Twisters and Playboys and Nu-Breeds straight after a while. Nathan is one of bluesier players still operating, holding closer to what made Clifton Chenier so universally engaging.

Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-Cha's

Clifton Chenier in Les Blank's 1973 stunning film portrait Hot Pepper

Monday, June 21, 2010

conversation now

South coast climate art experimental sky over the pool this weekend.

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Part One and A Child's Guide to Good and Evil

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, "1906"

Two mentions in about as many minutes... weird. How often does the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band get this kind of coverage?

The other band on that Mississippi Records tape to know about is the Lollipop Shoppe. Let's see them come up in conversation now.

The Lollipop Shoppe, "You Must Be a Witch"

the worst coffee shop around

My leg, the carpet, and a coffee table.

Various Artists, Mississippi Records Vol. 22: Who Has Seen the Wind?

Vol. 22 is labeled "Pop Music" but that's like saying the sunset gives you enough light to ready by. The Mississippi Records guys should just be put in charge of things. This delicate wrecking ball of a song is on this tape. Thanks once again, ROOT BLOG!

West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, "I Won't Hurt You"

If you are looking for something else that is bigger than its description, check out Judith Kitchen's three essays at the front of the Spring 2010 Prairie Schooner, all about the "recombinant DNA of history" and old photos like this one of SS Officers cutting up on a bridge outside Auschwitz. She goes where you think essays about old photos are gonna go, but you still might want to walk behind in her footprints.

I'm rather fond of the coffee shop in the campus library. It is the worst coffee shop around - airport prices with bus station coffee and student worker diligence, corporate but the wrong corporation, terrible music at too high a volume for a library, and students in varying states of melodrama (publicly sleeping, studying with nine stacks of books they will not crack open, etc.) They have crappy couches, big windows and, like library bindings, possessing no character whatsoever. A monument to the failures of the service economy. It is situated right next to where they keep the lit journals and sitting there, filtering them for something to do something with after walking up and down all four flights of stairs to and from the lit section makes me feel like I'm doing something with my lunch hour.

same exact

The same exact tile.

The Roots, How I Got Over
Japan. Tin Drum
Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Signs of Life

Good morning! I read maybe the grossest rock-star related story I've ever read this morning. It involves a member of one of the bands above, and personally was only made worse by the fact that we have the same exact tile in our bathroom as that in the article photo. It is only a little less weird how well the new Roots album goes with some 30-year-old arch-New Romanticism.

Japan, "Sons of the Pioneers"

Japan, "Ghosts" on the Old Grey Whistle Test

Sunday, June 20, 2010

exercises in genius

Peach Icee at the pool, tomato and cucumber sandwich from yesterday, Father's Day cake shaped like a frosty mug.

Jonathan Safran Foer's "Here We Aren't, So Quickly" in The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" Fiction Issue
Scott Johnson, Americans
Interview with Etgar Keret in Tin House, Issue 44 ("Summer Reading")
Etgar Keret, "Fatso" from The Nimrod Flipout

All of the above are exercises in genius, happened upon through the fine art of just hanging around. Except for the Father's day ice cream cake; its genius was presented to me by the ones I love.

I think JSF might be the smartest writer going; each thing he touches is full up with peculiar grace, without concession to whatever people around him are doing. It almost feels mentally damaged, like the kid in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but actively damaged by a world to harsh to know what to do with something this delicate. The Scott Johnson LP is duly praised in the New York Times; its first track, a cage match between fractured text and fractured music, artfully and brutally wrought. Also in that same piece, reviewer Steve Smith lays down some stuff about Kyle Bobby Dunn (who emailed me yesterday in weird coincidence) that I am picking up. Tin House is one of those lit mags I pick up at the bookstore and leaf through hoping something will stick and this time its Israeli short story writer Etgar Keret, of whom I've never heard before today. His stuff is miniature hilarity gold, 3-page absurdities that bore holes through you. I've read exactly one short story and a page of an interview and I'm hooked.

Happy Father's Day, all!

Friday, June 18, 2010


The fountains under repair at the Shaw Center; Old State Capitol in the background

Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, An Invitation
Kyle Bobby Dunn, A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn

My second writing class, up in the building next to those being-repaired fountains, went great last night. They were supposed to pitch stories to me and 1) they all had pitches ready and 2) they were good stories! I can only chalk this level of quality up to that of their instructor. I jest, but f''real, it was inspiring to be around people thinking about things and shaping those things they think about. Next week is the first drafts.

I'm newly smitten with the Old State Capitol, by the way. I always liked it, but lately it has its thing going on. It makes the boxy, cement, modernist office-containers around it underscore the way we misunderstand progress. Beauty greases the wheel on which the good progress rolls.

Minimalist composer Kyle Bobby Dunn kindly sent me the young person's guide to himself and I think this would sound lovely, softly booming through the building's gilded caverns.

Kyle Bobby Dunn, Set of Four (Its meaning is Deeper Than Its Title Implies)

C'mon, lil' devil

The plasma ball and mirror at the science museum, or possibly lasers that are actually spiders gettin' you.

The Cult, Electric
AC/DC, Highway to Hell

Been finishing off Joe Bonomo's Highway to Hell this week in the mortar cracks and it made me listen to Electric with a single mention toward the end. I couldn't accept this album at the time - I was too enthralled with the tether between goth dour and Lizard King shtick that was Love to take my new favorite band being just a rock band. But this album holds its own. C'mon, lil' devil...

The Cult, "'Lil' Devil"

I always have loved old knucklehead AC/DC and likely always will. My theory on why Back in Black is one of the best perennially selling albums in history is not because of its inherent greatness (though it is pretty great) but because the dudes of this world find themselves wandering into mall record stores to escape the din of shopping and start flipping through the A's and there lies that smoldering black artifact of simpler times waiting for them and instead of sorting through the abecedary of the past that is the Rock/Pop section, they just buy it, listen to it on the way home from the mall and then let it slip under the seat where nostalgia always winds up.

If the band had been called DC/AC, no mortal man would ever get that far in the time allotted. Aerosmith has probably done pretty well over there just on their proximity in the stack.

That said, Highway to Hell > Back in Black

AC/DC, "Girls Got Rhythm"

The all time best treatise on AC/DC and big concert rock 'n' roll and everything lies below.

Drive-By Truckers, "Let There be Rock" (live in Richmond, 2007)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

slide off the nails

Harry Nilsson, Pussy Cats
Pernice Brothers, Goodbye, Killer
Mojave 3, Excuses for Travelers

I figured using this science museum picture was just for laughs when all of a sudden, a story about the immortal jellyfish, one that reverts back to polyp stage after maturing and grows up again and again and never dies, appeared on the feed. Synchronicity, like James Joyce was trying to tell me when I has having a twitterlaugh about Bloomsday yesterday. But yeah, when the damn things start filling up the remaining unpolluted parts of the oceans and the doomsday cults all discard their variations on the cross for multi-legged astericks on which to nail each tentacle of the immortal squishy plague, only to have it slide off the nails with a sickening, wet sound, well, who will be laughing then?

That Pernice Brothers record up there streaming on the Spinner is just loveliness upon the lovely. You should stop getting all worked up about apocalypse jellyfish cults (if you can) and listen to it. Not for nothing, as I type this, old Joe's going "I never wanna die, I never wanna die, I never wanna die..."

the apostrophe disqualifies

Another science museum picture.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Mojo

Listening to the new Tom Petty record Mojo is like getting around to the rest of one of those old Steve Miller Band records, except its made by someone a little cooler than Steve Miller. It would make a great soundtrack to that last Thomas Pynchon hippie detective novel I never finished reading.

I did wind up reading about Oulipo (from here) a French mini-movement who sought out mechanisms to generate writing and was moved to try my hand at a "snowball", a poem where each word goes on its own line, one letter longer than the previous line. It works unless the apostrophe disqualifies me.
This cheery affirmation poem is in honor of the New Yorker 20 under 40 fiction issue sitting on my desk, and of my writing class tonight who gets to pitch stories at me, who should, like the story I linked to above does, have a better story sitting there in their back pocket should the first one not really take..

Team Jamie Lynn

Tom Wesselmann, Still Life # 30 (1964)

Work of Art: The Next Great Artist (Season 1, Episode 2)

I feel valuable essences being drained away just by commenting on Work of Art, thereby exposing my vulnerable Bravo-watching side, but am a little compelled to defend Jamie Lynn's tableau of the lamp, vacuum cleaner and painting. The arrangement of objects was consciously boring, purposely so even, but the real meat of the piece, that maybe didn't get mentioned to the judges, was how the objects bled into each other having spent so long in a room together: the lamp cast a shadow on the painting while absorbing part of its image painted on the bell, the vacuum cleaned up part of the painted rug with traces of the image splayed on the side. Simple idea, kinda corny, but still, a smart piece.

If you need sanctioned references to tie into Jamie Lynn's piece, look to Tom Wesselman's painting assemblage work, some of Richard Hamilton's living room installations and collages and Flann O'Brien's surrealist novel The Third Policeman, where in one small village people have been riding the same bicycles for so long that they start to trade molecules with the bikes and take on each others personalities and traits. I think its the Third Policeman, if not, it's in Tristan Shandy, or even then not, it's a good idea. Hers the only piece taking to heart the "objects have a memory, a life" business (They do, mind you, but so what? Everyone has a story; it doesn't mean that it's a good story) being laid down by the famous guest artist who does corny rolling-TV-image-with-stuff-dangled-over-it art. Except maybe for the woman that made the TV full of objects buried in cement. That was a good one too.

I do appreciate the critiques on these shows because its one of the few places an expert opinion gets credence in pop culture. It makes you want to form expert opinions. Look how people talk about food now. Michael Pollan might be the voice of reason behind the New Foodie Jihad, but Top Chef is the muscle. C'mon celebrity judges, rip them a new one. But, though I fear I am being successfully manipulated by the show's producers to state as much, I'm on Team Jamie Lynn, y'all.

The celebrated piece by the delicate, damaged rager Miles was aesthetically pleasing in an IKEA/design magazine way but that's about it, and not any more or less than Jamie Lynn's. Hers is not the best piece of art I've ever seen or anything, but out of what was presented, it was sharp, concise, had a synergy with her materials that is crucial in assemblage art, unless you are trying to turn a pile of junk into a different pile of junk. And the conceptual haircut guy who worries about What Would Tom Friedman Say? should really worry about what Nam June Paik would've said about his TV-watching-other-TV's piece were he still with us. Paik was kind of a loose cannon and might have gone after him with a chunk of a busted violin or something.

OK, I am done defending staged art by made-up people on a highly choreographed reality show for now.

Nam June Paik, "TV Buddha" (1974)

Tom Friedman, untitled, 1999, soap and pubic hair, from here

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

hot dog stuff

To Rococo Rot, Music is a Hungry Ghost
Various Artists, Music Out of Place
Yo La Tengo, President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hot Dogs

There is a lot of useful information about writing in the interview with John McPhee in the next-to-most-recent Paris Review but the little phrase of which I cannot let go describes a quality he finds in writing he does not like: "Hot dog stuff." It took a couple re-readings to really know whether hot dog stuff is a good thing or not. The answer is not, but what a great term for things that detract from greatness.

More moody small-informs-the-big, big-becomes-small, post-rock mumble-rumblings.
Another science museum picture.
It's a circus up in here.
A circus with great hot dogs.

Enjoy the buzzing wires and the rot inside

The Members, Working Girl
Bad Manners, Bad Manners
James Chance & the Contortions, White Cannibal
The Make-Up, Destination: Love: Live! at Cold Rice

Media Announcement: Adam Carroll, Justin Hilbun, Lil Ray Neal and avant-garde percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani all get the treatment in this week's Record Crate blog for 225.

"Working Girl" was the best song on MTV way back when

The Members, "Working Girl"

but have y'all heard their new-wave-reggae take on Kraftwerk's "The Model" before? Me either. For my money, "The Model" is not Kraftwerk's finest hour, but people sure like re-doing it, and the Members might be the best, as it were.

Bad Manners, for all the bluster of their ska image, or at least that of their front-clown Buster Bloodvessel, were sort of pop geniuses. For the record (sorry.) I like these kinds of videos very much.

Bad Manners, "Walkin' in the Sunshine"

James Chance is the opposite, a guy who unravels a pop song to display the buzzing wires and the rot inside. Enjoy! Here he saps all the irony out of James Brown's drug allegory.

James Chance & the Contortions, "King Heroin" + "Contort Yourself"

I want my band to sound like this all night long.

The Make-Up, "They Live By Night"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

nothing in this world

Jackie DeShannon, Jackie
Belle & Sebastian, The BBC Sessions
Prefab Sprout, Let's Change the World through Music

See? Jackie got a little syrupy but like Ray Davies said, nothing in this world is apparently going to stop me from thinkin' 'bout that girl. Except Belle & Sebastian. "Like Dylan in the Movies" from the collection of BBC radio sessions can pull me out of any possible trance. This version from some DVD also does the trick to only a slightly lesser degree.

Belle & Sebastian, 'Like Dylan in the Movies"

And who knew Prefab Sprout was still going all these years? 2009's Let's Change the World Through Music is equally cringey, unstylish, and epic a synthpop wonder as are all the great Prefab Sprout albums, which is kinda all of them. Was he always so God-dy though?

Prefab Sprout, "Ride"

I do know nothing in this world is going to stop me from thinking about the spinach lasagna at Zeeland Street Market with a side of mustard greens. It's like having a threesome except everything goes the way you want the whole time. And, is about greens.

That scene from Rushmore.

think about Jackie DeShannon

I don't really think about Jackie DeShannon ever or singers like her. It's not that I don't like the music, what's not to like about it? I figure plenty of people are already thinking about everything everybody likes, people who think better things than I do probably, so my time and meager efforts are spent thinking about other things. Thinking is like mining to me; why chip away in the same ole shaft with the crew when there's gold in them thar hills.

But, I heard a bit of her being interviewed in Fresh Air last night, and they played "Splendor in the Grass" and talked about how the Byrds are the backing band, and it's not that much of a story. If, say, a less beloved group like the Association or whoever had been pulled in to back her up, or had it been countless unnamed session musicians and done as good a job, would it be something to moon over on national radio? I mean, it's very Byrdy and that might peck holes in my argument but what I'm getting at is that friction between the song and the song-maker. Is that friction what causes the spark? What's the good part anymore when you know all the parts? Is the song better for knowing all this, or is it clouded by it, and are we then left to the basest human impulse - to stare at clouds?

Really I'm not even so sure the song is that great of a song - it's a pretty shallow one about the movie - but that rumbling shudder of the bass and the tambourine and how she angles a little hesitantly into the Byrds perfect lazy harmonies.... That tambourine! Now I can't stop listening to this song and can't stop thinking about Jackie De Shannon.