Saturday, July 30, 2005
Stuck in the '80s with You, or That Annoying Guitar Riff Killed the Asia Star
SoHo is a very intimate club, particularly for a group whose debut album in 1982 sold 9 million copies. I still have terrible flashbacks of a sorority party with a room full of very white folks trying to dance to Asia, the closest thing I've ever seen to the old quip about dancing about architecture, because these people moved as slowly and gracefully as buildings.
Later, one of Asia's roadies is out on the patio with a stack of backstage passes hanging from his belt, including one that is emblazoned "All Access." And all I can think in the heat of the moment is, "Does that mean he can get into the kitchen?"
Still, it's hard to make fun of a band that on its official site includes the lines:
Asia return to the road for more concert dates throughout the UK and Europe. In October, the band played their only American date of the year in Trenton, NJ. The show was recorded for a live CD and DVD, "America: Live In The USA", to be released next year.
I hope you didn't miss it. For to paraphrase the sign on that bridge in New Jersey's gorgeous capital--Asia Makes, The World Takes. And then spits out as tactfully as possible into its napkin.
Friday, July 29, 2005
As many of you probably know, museums are one of the big singles joints for those who want to show off their arty side and are too cheap to buy drinks at a bar. So, here are some of the top pick-up lines overheard at the Leopold:
"I don't mean to butt in, but..."
"So I take it you really like this painting..."
"The painter didn't do you justice..."
"No, really, that's OK, an over-air-conditioned room often does that to a man..."
"If I told you you had a beautiful canvas, would you hold it against me?"
"Just because you don't have any pockets to keep your hands in, that's no excuse."
"I assume you left your clothes at coat check, but then where's your claim ticket?"
My Wife Went to Book Club and All I Did Was Make this Lousy Mixed Tape
Help Me Language Here
Shout Out Louds "A Track and a Train"
Fountains of Wayne "I'll Do the Driving"
Stephen Malkmus "Freeze the Saints"
Bettie Serveert "Dreamaniacs"
Crooked Fingers "Call to Love"
The Raveonettes "Ode to LA"
Neko Case "Train from Kansas City"
Spoon "Sister Jack"
Futureheads "Man Ray"
The Skids "Hurry On Boys"
Sleater Kinney "What's Mine Is Yours"
X "Under the Big Black Sun"
The Decemberists "This Sporting Life"
Richard Thompson "Legal Matter"
Lucinda Williams "Righteously" (live)
Son Volt "Afterglow 61"
Kathleen Edwards "In State"
John Hiatt " Master of Disaster"
Preston School of Industry "Caught in the Rain"
Thelonious Monster "The Rolling Stones '77 Song"
Beck "Que Onda Guero"
Chemical Brothers "Shake Break Bounce"
Talking Heads "Electricity (Drugs)" (live)
Necks to Nothing
Thursday, July 28, 2005
U-See-Em? Yep, All of Em
In an effort to make Europeans seem either as free or as insane as Americans want to asume they are, "Vienna's Leopold Museum has invited the public to come in the nude on Friday to view an exhibition of erotic works by Austrian masters like Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, a spokeswoman said." (Story from Yahoo news, and it depends upon who attends the exhibit on Friday whether you get to yell Yahoo or not.)
Not that the Leopold hasn't tried this before, but it had no takers at the Come-As-Your-Favorite-Francis-Bacon Day back in 2002. Wonder why.
In a related story out of San Gimignano, Italy, the Torture Museum, in an effort to have museum-goers feel more at home with its exhibits, is inviting people to attend wearing their own Scold's Bridle or oral, rectal or vaginal pear (wear all three, get free admission!).
Harriot brought the potato to Europe from Colombia. Many Europeans were upset that he didn't bring something else from Colombia, especially the ones who ended up with starchy paste stuck up their nostrils. Don't believe for a second it was snuff. Alas, things did not turn out well for Harriot, who was assassinated in a carriage-by musketing by a Colombian Potato Lord in a deal that went bad in 1587 in South Central London. Rumors that he was shot by a potato gun are unfounded, despite shocking footage of starchy carnage.
There once was a man named Thomas Harriot
Who was saddened his name rhymed with Iscariot.
Worse, he had a daughter named Ben
Who didn't understand her name till when
Her father handed her the keys to the chariot.
Judge "Activates" Constitution--White House Fumes
Our system works. We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, or detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant, or deny him the right to counsel. ... Our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart. We can deal with the threats to our national security without denying the accused fundamental constitutional protections.
Coughenor, by the way, was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1981.
We need more Coughenors and fewer Robertses.
Also note that Ressam's 22-year sentence, which he "earned" by providing some, but not enough information about terrorist plans, also means that "with credit for time served since his capture and a possible credit of up to three years' 'good time,' Ressam could be out in 14 years."
So cancel all travel plans through LAX in 2019, just in case.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Fit to Be Tied
Which perhaps leaves room for "left-thinking Americans," ever interested in nuance, to see the value in situations that aren't clear-cut wins or losses.
Of course he can't avoid dragging out a cliche, since he's a sportswriter. But he points out it's a cliche, since he likes to think he's a smart sportswriter, and so says:
Our feelings are summed up in that gnarly old expression that has been attributed to most good Americans from Ben Franklin on down...'a tie is like kissing your sister.'
The "gnarly" phrase--would that he could have chopped it out--he says in what must be a rich Connecticut suburbanite's closest approximation to a prole's accent. He then repeats the phrase, the bad accent no better thanks to practice, and goes on to claim:
If there's one thing the red states and the blue states can agree on it's that.
Gee, and I thought the thing red- or blue-staters could agree on is that Karl Rove should resign (49% to 31% if you're counting and don't follow links). After all, if USA Today does a poll, it must be true. Let's also not automatically suppose that the 1 in 4 polled who don't know who Karl Rove is were all Bush voters in 2004.
As for kissing your sister being all bad, you'd have to ask Jamie Haven about that. Not to mention if we're talking Southern red states, we all know the "gnarly" old joke about what the definition of a virgin is in Mississippi.
Meanwhile up in Connecticut Mr. Deford can sleep safely "now that hockey has gotten religion," knowing that ties won't muddle right, truth or the American Way. Or any place his lips might end up.
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
No Holding Back
Songs of No Consequence (Bloodshot)
Let’s revisit the English Angry Young Men, Class of ’76: While Elvis Costello became our Dylan, Joe Jackson had some hits, and Nick Lowe turned crooner, it seems Graham Parker’s career just became a rumor. Fine by him – more to fuel his bitterness. His bristly voice still lets loose with witty invective (look out press, bad chardonnay, the radio, everybody getting old), but he also still rocks the pub with his mix of R&B, reggae and even some classic rock (one cut riffs like the Stones only to “ba-ba-ba-ba” like the Ramones).
I'll Come Running to Praise Your CD
Another Day on Earth (Opal)
Sure it’s Eno’s first vocal album in 15 years (following up 1990’s under-loved Wrong Way Up made with John Cale), but often the vocals are just one more instrument, toying us to believe he’s not screwing with what’s foreground/what’s background like he has tantalizing done for decades. That said, this is as gorgeous as sunsets, and as calming, even if the lyrics hint he’s worried about the world, even if he has a way with a beat on the more songlike “This” and “Under,”* which will remind you Talking Heads still owe him one, but then all pop does (I’m looking at you, Moby).
*No, you can't out-geek me. I know "Under" has appeared before on Eno Box II: Vocals. And it was one of the tracks from his scuttled 1991 disc My Squelchy Life.
Please Don't Rock Me Tonight
Out-of-State Plates (Virgin)
Probably just trying to prove how good they’ve become, these perfect popsters front-load their 28-track, 2-disc odds-n-sods with the new cut “Maureen” that could have been the best track on their last release and opus Welcome Interstate Managers. Funny is catchy putty in their hands, and the tune has more hooks than a bait shop, from stuttering to harmonies to cheesy synth lines that practically come wearing sun tan oil and coated in sand. Other cuts don’t quite hold up, but how could they? Although “I’ll Do the Driving,” which opens like it’s the theme to Up Dawson’s Creek – The Sequel, quickly curdles with terrifically nasty lyrics. You’ll sing along if you can keep from giggling.
Searching for a Truer Sound
Okemah and the Melody of Riot (Sony)
After two solo albums that found Jay Farrar a bit too mopey to make good music, he’s revived Son Volt (his post-Uncle Tupelo band) with new musicians and cut a rocking, raging disc that takes on politics with both wit and womp. Goes to show you need to get in touch with some people to write about democracy. The disc starts off too strong to sustain, approving of Woody Guthrie on track one, Dylan on track two, and dissing George “Jet pilot for the day washed his sins away” Bush on track three, but all-in-all, Farrar’s best since the essential Trace in 1994.
I [Heart] Hoboken
A Question of Temperature (Yep Roc)
Few recall Chris Stamey was part of the legendarily influential, critically loved, mostly forgotten dBs. Now he’s better known as a producer, anyway (from Le Tigre to Tift Merritt), so expanding his self to an experience by including buddies Yo La Tengo makes musical, if not mercantile, sense (they don’t move units, either). That temperature in the title is both cool (a shimmeringly effective cover of Television’s “Venus”) and hot (a vamp-tastic cover of “Compared to What”). And on the CD’s centerpiece, both cool and hot – “McCauley Street (Let’s Go Downtown)” frames a fantastic guitar freakout with an achingly beautiful tale of Candy, as sharply drawn as a New Yorker story.
Sweet on the Swedes
Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (Capitol)
Maybe there’s a two-decade delay in radio transmission to Sweden because listening to this fiercely engaging disc from this quintet suggests an aural Veg-a-Matic of New Order, the Feelies, The Fall, and a lead-singer named Adam who learned his English from listening to Robert Smith of the Cure. (Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you want to slug him, as he has none of Smith’s hip smugness.) A perfect while-away the three-quarter hour summer CD, right down to its sweetly dinky glockenspiel fillips.
Monday, July 25, 2005
Ten Little Democrats
On Friday we found that Joe Biden, recently purchased along with MBNA by Bank of America, sent the following mash note along to his love Karen Hughes, who might just have helped out Valerie Plame, but what's an outed spy among friends?
“Mr. Chairman, I regret that previous commitments prevent me from attending the confirmation hearing this morning.
"I am particularly interested in and supportive of the nomination of Karen Hughes to be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. What this job requires, among other things, is continuity. The last two undersecretaries have stayed six and 18 months, respectively.
I met with the nominee yesterday and understand that, barring unforeseen circumstances, she is willing to stay through the president’s term.
"I believe that she is highly qualified because of her professional background, and, importantly, enjoys the full confidence of the president and the secretary of state.
"She will bring new energy and creativity to our public diplomacy efforts. I commend the president for choosing her and persuading her to return to Washington, and I look forward to working with her for the next three years on this important foreign policy priority."
(courtesy Think Progress)
Ah, yes, she's creatively helped beat Democrats for years.
Today California's own Dianne Feinstein, according to an AP story:
Said the memos, which require Roberts to argue the position of the administration, aren't likely to be very important "unless it relates to confirming something that becomes a major question."
In preparation for confirmation hearings expected to begin at the end of August or beginning of September, Roberts met Monday with five senators, including Lieberman and Feinstein.
Feinstein emerged impressed with Roberts' ability to rule without "any extraneous points of bias."
"There is not a lot of controversy surrounding him. There just isn't," Feinstein said.
Who will be next to succumb to the death of his or her party's ideals?
Who will be left?
And is that Karl Rove in the Hillary Clinton mask? Bill probably wouldn't be able to tell himself, since even if they do still kiss, he'd probably assume that Karl-as-Hill was just giving him that "let's end welfare as we know it" tongue.
Santa Is a Red!
In breaking news, hundreds of fat men--plus Elvis Claus and at least one shapely woman--who say they just like to "give, give, give" are meeting in Denmark to unionize and perhaps bring Christmas to a halt, probably a few weeks before the first holiday decorations go up in malls across the U.S. According to an AP story:
Their demands include standardizing chimney widths in the 25-country European Union and holding Christmas twice a year to lessen the burden on Santas, whom they said must currently rush around the world to distribute presents in just one day.
Back in the U.S., rightwing bloggers have already chastized the lazy workers, and are calling on the ghost of Ronald Reagan to fire the lot of them. In the meantime, the article claims:
To qualify as Santa, candidates must sport a white beard, don a red suit in which they must not smoke tobacco — and refrain from drinking alcohol before addressing children.
The article fails to go on to say drinking alcohol in order to create children is ok, as long as Santa doesn't use the line, "Honey, don't you want to see what Father Christmas has for you beneath his tree?"
The convention is a jam-packed whirlwind of events for assorted St. Nick's. Go check the schedule to see, but highlights include the Bellevue Beach Christmas Paddling, since nothing beats seeing a sea of Santas in matching crimson Speedos, and the agenda discussion point about Santa as Astronaut, although I've known he was a space case since I was 10 and I didn't get that pony, the bastard.
Out of the Past
I am amazed to read that the package includes: a piece of paper with my name and phone number written in modeling glue (it must be from right about when I put that P-51 Mustang together); a love letter from me--liberally plagiarized from one Chachi wrote Joannie, I recall--handwritten in red pen; toilet paper from a dingleberry that got stuck on my shoe in the men's room at Friendly's Ice Cream on my17th birthday; a page from the seller's little black book containing my contact information and measurements (that was the summer my breasts really grew); a photo of us hugging when we first met in 1977; a photocopy of the restraining order that followed that event; an autographed photo from the cast of "The Love Boat" (we both knew that Fred "Gopher" Grandy was someday destined to be a Congressman as long as there was an Iowa); a December 2003 screen capture of the Snopses - Urban Legends Reference Page attesting to the truth of our relationship; and a notarized statement by the woman selling these items under the user ID AlexForest, certifying and attesting to the authenticity of the materials.
As for the lawsuit trying to stop the release of the topless photos from my modeling days, well, let's just say my lawyers are talking to that so-called fashion photographer's lawyers, and perhaps we shall all be spared.
Friday, July 22, 2005
And in other news, President Bush Urged to Tell Truth, VP Cheney Urged Not to Be So Scary, Democrats Urged to Find a Spine or Two, and from the world of sports, Dusty Baker Urged to Play Rookies and Tampa Bay Devil Rays Urged to Play .500 Some Season.
Death to Seaweed
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Even Though We've Got a Fight to Save the Rights of Women, Workers, Minorities and the Environment...
Rove. Leaked name. Crime. Pattern of smearing political opponents. Pattern of lying to get into Iraq War.
If the press forgets, send 'em here.
Business as Bush-ual
The wingnuts are happy, folks--that's sign enough we must oppose him. On NPR this morning a spokesnut for Operation Rescue called him a great choice. That same story mentioned that Roberts' wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, is a lawyer involved with the anti-abortion group Feminists for Life. (I guess the test-polling for the group name Test Tubes for Jesus didn't go over too big.)
When Roberts was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, the Washington Times--yes, the just a tad conservative Washington Times--hailed him and Miguel Estrada--yes, the Miguel Estrada about whom colleague and former Deputy Solicitor General Paul Bender stated is "so ideologically driven that he couldn't be trusted to state the law in a fair, neutral way"--in June 2001 as “offer[ing] business the best opportunity in years to free itself from government regulations.”
Because lord knows things like labor laws and environmental regulations are so much a thing of the 20th century.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
SCOTUS R Us
OK, we don't know too much yet, and that's the whole Republican point, making it harder for us to oppose someone who might be a poison pill for the left to suck on for 35 years. Let's hope that Charles Schumer isn't the only one willing to ask some tough questions and that Roberts doesn't just take the Scott McLellan route and claim he can't answer any questions about himself as he's the subject of an investigation.
Perhaps the most surprising thing up to this point was David Brooks' starry-eyed commentary on PBS. He actually said Roberts looked like Tom Hanks. Although Kenneth Tomlinson doesn't have to worry about the NewsHour leaning left, he does have to worry about David Brooks' glasses prescription.
Iraqis race to finish constitution (Yahoo News)
No one is discounting that Team America--led by its powerhouse Texan--could take over the race at any point.
Monday, July 18, 2005
The Sermon on What Not to Mount
So it surprises me when I read in the Washington Blade (link from Crooks & Liars) that Baptists must have a very different holy book than Catholics do:
An influential D.C. minister is under fire by local gay activists following an anti-gay sermon in which he claimed that, “lesbianism is about to take over our community.”
Rev. Willie Wilson delivered the remarks at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C., where he is pastor. Wilson is a former mayoral candidate and serves as executive director of the Millions More Movement march, an effort to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March.
What exactly did he say? Things like this:
We live in a time when our brothers have been so put down, can’t get a job, lot of the sisters making more money than brothers. And it’s creating problems in families. That’s one of the reasons our families’ breaking up. And that’s one of the reasons many of our women are becoming lesbians. You got to be careful when you say you don’t need no man. I can make it by myself. Well, if you don’t need a man, what’s left?
I'm so sad to learn Amy is going to leave me any day now for some woman.
Wilson, not to be confused with the triple-hitting-machine from the Kansas City Royals, but maybe having something to do with the Edgar Allen Poe William Wilson who "partook very much of positive hatred," went on to say:
Lesbianism is about to take over our community. I’m talking about young girls. My son in high school last year, trying to go to the prom, he said, ‘Dad, I ain’t got nobody to take to the prom because all the girls in my class are gay. There ain’t but two of them straight and both of them are ugly. I ain’t got nobody to take to the prom.’
He didn't explain to his son the girls just pretend they're gay as an excuse not to date the child of a loon. It is good to see, however, that the high school only has lipstick lesbians and left the poor ugly girls out of the club--it would be horrible if any stereotyping was going on.
And Wilson ends with this lovely analogy, bringing together shop class and sex in ways unheard of since the Bob Vila This Old Kama Sutra audiotape went out-of-print (have you tried the ball-peen hammer?):
Can’t make no connection with a screw and another screw. The Bible says God made them male and female. The Hebrew word "neged," which means complementary nature — there is something unique to man and unique to woman and it takes those two things to complement each other. You can’t make a connection with two screws. It takes a screw and a nut!
At least he got something right--it certainly takes a nut. Now if only he would just go screw.
It's Not How Many Column Inches, It's What You Do with It
The latest example is this "no, stop the presses" story, "Suddenly, It's Hip to Be Square." When you're stealing from Huey Lewis and the News from 15 years ago, you'd think that was a hint. But, no--people love Napoleon Dynamite! That's so dorky!! Somehow the writer (who shall remain nameless to leave her a tiny shred of her dignity) managed to mention orchestra geeks and not even work in Sarah Vowell, who's so hot right now she gets to fill in for Maureen Dowd--whose on leave finding a man, uh, finishing a book--at the New York Times in the same year she got to voice a superhero cartoon teen who can make herself invisible. Now that's what you call the Revenge of the Nerds, even without tossing in Vowell's latest book Assassination Vacation, where you get to learn more about Leon Czolgosz then there are consonants in his last name.
But I digress, which would be geeky if we didn't now have ADD drugs to clear that sort of thing up.
My favorite line in the piece is one of those "do you just type the quotes and not think about them when you do interviews?" moments. (Hey, cultural beat writer, here's a topic for you: Reporters who don't think about follow-ups--it's one crazy epidemic.) One self-professed nerd claims about his search for a nerdette: "It's like (the movie) 'American Pie' with the band geek girl. That is definitely part of the fantasy."
Look, the band geek girl was portrayed by the quite winsomely cute Alyson Hannigan. She's best known for playing Willow on Buffy, where again she was a nerd, but a very smart nerd, who just happens to be a witch, and a lesbian with an ex-werewolf boyfriend before she "turned." Speaking of turned, she was evil for part of season. Oh, and in American Pie as the "band geek" she played, cue Beavis & Butt-head for me, the flute. So you might just say holding her up as the epitome of female geek is a bit cynical. But as a marketer myself, I have to applaud this brilliant strategy of geek girl bait and switch.
I guess they call these kinds of articles soft news as they don't even achieve runaway bride status.
I have to go cry now.
Arnold Leaves Maria for a Mousey Thing, or...
Commercial Suicide Is Painless
But then there's this huge line at the cash registers, not that the audio floor was crowded. I am confused until I remember that it's release time for "Sherman Potter and the Half-Dressed Klinger," the 80th installment of the Colonel Potter books. The clerk doesn't laugh when I ask if I get a discount for not buying anything wizard related.
And I do feel too pleased with my obscure self walking out of the store knowing that the two CDs I purchased will barely sell as many copies as the Potter book has pages.
Friday, July 15, 2005
Holy, Wholly, Silly
The Holy Land Experience, a bible-based theme park that is more about Moses than Mickey Mouse, has won its four-year fight to avoid paying taxes.
Set up in 1991, the $16m park tries to take visitors 3,000 years [sic--it seems that the BBC can't do math] back in time, creating an authentic Holy Land full of sand, centurions and the Bible's biggest names.
Despite its emphasis on entertainment, the Holy Land Experience has argued that it should be classed along with churches and museums and be exempt from property taxes.
After a long legal battle, Judge Cynthia MacKinnon agreed.
In her ruling, the judge said that it had not been proved that the Holy Land Experience was using its profits for anything other than "evangelising and worshipping".
The Holy Land Experience was facing a demand for unpaid property taxes dating from 2001 that almost totalled $1m, a sum its lawyers argued would have forced the park to close down.
OK, we live in California, so just saving our property taxes isn't that big a deal, thanks to Prop 13 (sorry schools, and one more reason for us not to have children). And you have to wonder if this ruling is simply an attempt by Judge MacKinnon to get into the empty Supreme Court seat sweepstake.
In the meantime, there's still the possibility of an appeal (but can you appeal to a higher power in a case involving the Holy Land?):
Orange County Property Appraiser Bill Donegan is deciding whether to appeal the judge's decision, saying that the park is different to other churches.
"None of those that I know charge $30 admission," he observed. "It's a business."
It is a business, mister, the business of a little thrill ride they like to call salvation that runs on the capital of your mortal soul.
Sorry, I think I was speaking in tongues for a minute there, but the snark has returned unto me, and it sayeth, You'd think they could just run a big bingo hall at the park and cover their expenses, but I guess they're Christian and not Catholic.
Be sure to check out The Holy Land Experience website, if you get a chance (and if you can't make room for the Lord, that's your loss--more room for the rest of us in heaven, which is probably hewn out of plastic rock and located in Orlando, Florida). After all, as the site's endless opening slide show proclaims, "It's been 2000 years since the world has experienced anything like this," as long as you ignore every Biblical movie, every half-assed passion play with or without a reall ass in the production, and Jesus Christ Superstar and Life of Brian, both hilarious in their own ways. Still, you have to admire any place that puts on an All Singing! All Dancing! All Crucifying! Via Dolorosa Passion. Or has the chutzpah to let the kids scale the Wailing Wall. Or thinks seeing Qaboo the Camel up-close is a selling point. Or boasts about a model of Jersualem AD 66 as "in the time of Christ" (uh, the non-crucified, AARP card-carrying Christ, maybe). Or that has turned out the moneychangers in the Temple, and replaced them with a movie theater (at least it's not a multiplex). Or offers the fascinating presentation "A Day in the Life of a Monk" that's sponsored by USA Network and features an obssessive compulsive in a tonsure. (OK, I made that one up.)
Here's hoping that they have some truly aged and probably downright mystical wine from that 1st Century wine press. Although since the place is in Florida, it would probably be muscadet, which is rumored to be what the Roman guard gave to the dying Jesus on that sponge on the end of his spear. Just one more bit of oppressive Roman cruelty.
Doggie Motion by the Ocean
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Throwing Out the Baby with the Goldwater
Ah for the days when Republicans were conservatives and lost elections.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
I've Got To Be Meme
That said, if someone else suggests bloggers need to write about music, and I get to show off my arcane knowledge and maybe thereby justify my purchase of every Yo La Tengo EP CD to the point where I don't feel the need to buy Prisoners of Love: A Smattering of Scintillating Senescent Songs: 1985-2003, although knowing me, I will someday buy it for the 2 cuts I don't have, well, how can I not join in?
So, on Tuesday the brilliant and dangerous TBogg ran with an idea from Lawyers, Guns and Money and Blogcritics about underrated albums. Of course this is mostly an exercise in hipper-than-thou. Of course I couldn't resist. I did avoid one trap TBogg discusses, namely merely naming your favorite albums, as they necessarily need more people to like them, unless you buy things that are hits or spun off TV shows where over-emotive warbling is supposed to be music (I'm looking at you, Clay Aiken). That said, the following 11 albums (some of which don't seem available on CD, so how's that for obscure?) are not on my Top Ten All-Time list, which is another meme for another day when politics is just too depressing (that could be tomorrow, then). In alpha order, as actually ranking them is too geeky even for me:
Dave Alvin, King of California (1994, Hightone) Simply put, great songs, aimed at the limited register of Dave's voice, so sung well, cause he wrote 'em and knows 'em. Details, this is an album about details, both in his been-there lyrics and the pedal steel of Greg Leisz.
Lloyd Cole, Lloyd Cole (1990, Polydor) Sure, he's self-pitying at times, but aren't we all. What we all aren't are great melodicists, clever lyricists and friends to the now sadly passed-on Robert Quine.
East River Pipe, Shining Hours in a Can (originally 1984, Ajax, re-issue 2002, Merge) Pretty much a one-man-band, but this compilation of singles by one-time homeless musician Fred Cornog does for me what Elliot Smith always was supposed to do--tune craft, pathos, and hooks out the wazoo.
Ed's Redeeming Qualities, More Bad Times (1990, Flying Fish Records) As witty as They Might Be Giants, but weirder, but less polish, but more charm. You'll learn why lawn darts are not on the shelves at the K-Mart and why there aren't enough bad things to fill up a 3:14 song sung in waltz time.
Giant Sand, Ramp (1993, Restless) Howe Gelb and the gang that became Calexico rock and twang through an unforgettable set with Victoria Williams as help.
Grandaddy, Sumday (2003, V2) Critics tend to prefer the Sophtware Slump, but the songs are better here, the pretention less elevated, the desire to be liked more pronounced. I like my synthesizers eager to please, thank you. And I love the lines, "The supervisor guy turned off the factory lights so the robots have to work in the dark."
Anthony More, Flying Doesn't Help, (1979, UK Quango) More is part of the very arty Slapp Happy crowd, and I can see I've already lost you, although fellow Slapp Happian Peter Blegvad's Naked Shakespeare could be on this underrated list, too. This More album is the pop apotheosis of all the Eno and Cale rock-meets-art-and-both-win stuff of the 1970s--it's that good.
Pooh Sticks, Multiple Orgasm (1989, UK Fierce) Punk-pop sweeter than the Buzzcocks (heck, they cover 1910 Fruitgum Co.) yet nastier than anything named after a game from Winnie the Pooh should be. As they sang, indiepop ain't noise pollution.
Tom Russell, The Long Way Around (1997, Hightone) America is America at least partially because we call it corn, others call it pap--somebody like Russell walks the fine line of stories that know just how to a-maize. (Sorry.) Great country-rooted tunes and cameos by the likes of Iris Dement.
Ben Vaughn, Mood Swings (1992, Restless) Kind of a cheat as this is a greatest hits, but Vaughn never had hits, so I'm going to let it slip onto the list. Think of Vaughn as a more knowing Jonathan Richman with sly tunes and catchy words, or maybe it's the other way around. Heck, he pens a song about how his love makes him feel like "Jerry Lewis in France."
Yung Wu, Shore Leave (1987, Coyote) The Feelies, underrated themselves, except by critics, with a guest keyboardist (from underrated Speed the Plough, actually), playing Feelie-esque curlicue, propulsive guitar pop and covering "Big Day," "Powderfinger," and "Child of the Moon." Plus Brenda Sauter's bass line for "Strange Little Man" is perhaps the best such line in a non-funk song.
When the Left Hand Don't Know What the Devil's Right Hand Is Selling
It was a Chevy truck ad. I sat there thinking, "Gee, that background music is familiar," but couldn't place it for a few seconds, probably because it was by one of the last people I ever expected to sell his songs. For what to my wondering ears did appear but the voice of harcdore troubadour Steve Earle telling us buying this Chevy meant "the revolution starts...now."
Now, I know Steve has six ex-wives to support, and I'm the last person to call somebody a sell out since I work in publicity for a living. But still. I mean, he doesn't even have his drug habit to support anymore. Here's hoping Earle hasn't sold "Exit Zero," or worse, one of my favorite rousing tunes of all-time, "I Ain't Ever Satisfied," to GM for the next Hummer ad. You have to assume that GM has plenty to pay Earle with, given they're in bed with the feds for $811+ million for defense contracts.
Steve, don't choke the next time you're in concert and try singing these words of yours:
Jimmy joined the army ‘cause he had no place to go
There ain’t nobody hirin’
‘round here since all the jobs went
down to Mexico
Reckoned that he’d learn himself a trade maybe see the world
Move to the city someday and marry a black haired girl
Somebody somewhere had another plan
Now he’s got a rifle in his hand
Rollin’ into Baghdad wonderin’ how he got this far
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war
Bobby had an eagle and a flag tattooed on his arm
Red white and blue to the bone when he landed in Kandahar
Left behind a pretty young wife and a baby girl
A stack of overdue bills and went off to save the world
Been a year now and he’s still there
Chasin’ ghosts in the thin dry air
Meanwhile back at home the finance company took his car
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war
When will we ever learn
When will we ever see
We stand up and take our turn
And keep tellin’ ourselves we’re free
Ali was the second son of a second son
Grew up in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks when the tanks would come
Ain’t nothin’ else to do around here just a game children play
Somethin’ ‘bout livin’ in fear all your life makes you hard that way
He answered when he got the call
Wrapped himself in death and praised Allah
A fat man in a new Mercedes drove him to the door
Just another poor boy off to fight a rich man’s war
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
Some Day My Death Will Come
A 4-year-old Pennsylvania boy, Daudi Bamuwamye, died June 13 after riding Epcot Center's "Mission: Space," and a 77-year-old Minnesota woman, Gloria Land, died in February after riding the Magic Kingdom's "Pirates of the Caribbean."
A medical examiner's report said Land was in poor health from diabetes and several ministrokes and her death "was not unexpected."
So Disney's going to use that excuse--many of their guests aren't immortal. You have to admit Goofy isn't the head of their legal department.
Arlen, You Ignorant Slut
Did I mention I didn't do enough to get Specter un-elected when I suffered my time in Pennsylvania? (At least I left before the dawning of the age of Santorum.)
Meanwhile over at Campus Progress there's this exchange between a writer and Stephen Colbert from The Daily Show:
CP: It seems like some comedians don’t want to touch political comedy. Why?
SC: Well, you have to have a passionate opinion; otherwise you sound false. You end up telling the audience jokes they’ve already heard. The example I think of when I was just starting out was Ted Kennedy drinking jokes. Like, "Ted Kennedy—‘nuff said." That’s not a joke—that’s a flippant cynical dismissal of someone in politics. It inures the audience to feeling or thought so it’s not satire.
'Nuff said, indeed.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Look Out--He's Going to Blow!
I guess Yahoo is now publishing AP's Irony.Net:
The attacks have raised fresh fears of a similar strike in the United States and have given the president a new cause to tout his leadership in the war on terrorism, which has proven to be the strong suit of his presidency.
I guess that means the more terrorist attacks there are, the more Bush can say he is leading the fight on terrorism, by, uh, losing the fight. Or perhaps the AP is just clearly saying that fear is the strong suit of his presidency.
For it's certainly not logic, as the article also says:
"These kind of people who blow up subways and buses are not people you can negotiate with, or reason with, or appease," Bush said in a tough-talking speech at the FBI training academy. "In the face of such adversaries there is only one course of action: We will continue to take the fight to the enemy, and we will fight until this enemy is defeated."
If you're not negotiating with them, or reasoning with them, or appeasing them, then what are you doing with them? I guess you either lock them all up forever without due process or kill them. How you figure out who "them" is before they create acts of terror, that's not so easy, so you better error on the side of caution and pick up the "them" anyone--even a Michelle Malkin--can identify.
Seems like just the thing a liberty-loving, life-respecting country should do. I left out the God-fearing part, because although Bush might want that, not everyone does, and Bush believes in that odd Christianity without the New Testament, anyway. (Revelation gets into his Holy Book, however, for it's the part that raises fresh fears and has the lingering stench of terror).
High School Is No Sweat
Someday soon, students in a suburban Detroit school district may attend schools "sponsored by" or even named after corporate or private donors.
In what observers say is an unprecedented move, the Plymouth-Canton Community Schools board of education voted unanimously last month to offer naming rights for its schools. Though no offers are on the table, Tom Sklut, the district's chief development officer, says, "We felt like we needed to position ourselves to be able to consider an offer should one happen."
Early talks have centered on Nike sponsoring some Detroit schools. In addition to providing economic muscle to the struggling schools, Nike also has a plan to help control often unruly student populations--beginning this fall, ALL students will have mandatory four hour detention after the school day.
In a related story, Nike spokesperson Dee Seaver announced that as part of its project to improve its image as a bad world corporate citizen, the shoe and apparel giant would be shutting down several Vietnamese factories that it doesn't own but contracts with starting in the fall.
Friday, July 08, 2005
If Only He Had a Good Time Now and Then
Over Like a Lead Balloon
No groaning at my base humor, btw--I have not yet begun to pun.
Oh, and if you go out for a Friday Happy Hour--and by all means do, you deserve it--don't drink so much you Bonham-up, as it were.
When it was pointed out to the president that the Senate is not in recess, he chuckled, "They shouldn't be working when I'm out of the country, so I think this appointment counts. Tell them they can filibuster this." Then he turned away from reporters, hopped on his bicycle, and crashed into a police car parked 100 yards away.
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The Awful Foibles of Baubles
I don't know about where you live, but I've got 600 channels of distraction, a bunch of DVDs for when all of those channels aren't showing anything, a couple of dozen web sites I check regularly, a large library of books, and subscriptions to a bunch of largely frivolous magazines. I've got MP3s and satellite radio. There's a coffee bar five minutes drive to the north, a movie theatre five minutes drive to the south, a sports bar in between, and a good dozen mediocre chain restaurants where the entire staff will clap and sing "Happy Birthday" to me whether it's my birthday or not. And so we pass the days of our lives, feeling no pain. Yet, if I write "Gee, it sure seems to me that Donald Rumsfeld is less on the ball than Tony Womack, ba-dum-dum," I'm suddenly forcing you to confront the horrors of the modern world. I don't think so.
Part of me wishes I was doing that, because I figure that those of us who are fortunate enough to have a soap box for any purpose owe it to our readership, to our countrymen, to offer just a little less distraction once in awhile and call attention to the big picture — because it seems like there will always come a day like today when you can't look away, when New York calls, when London calls, bleeding, and we are forced to ask ourselves, "How did we get here? What are we going to do about it? What is the right thing to do?" and the answer comes: "I don't know. I was watching Dancing with the Stars."
Go read the whole entry to learn how rhetoric doesn't always follow the adjective empty.
Sadness and Sympathy
And the cycle of violence continues, and spreads, and infects. For the latest news, go read the Guardian. And for the enduring news, there's William Blake...
"A Poison Tree"
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I water'd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.
Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Tumbling to One's Timbre
But it’s the trap that Deford’s mellifluousness leads him into I want to consider here. It’s clear he wants to speak like the wise soul at the bar engaged in a conversation other than yours that you end up having to listen to anyway—he simply commands your attention with a richness that’s both confident and cajoling. Today he even started off his column with an anecdote about sitting in a bar. Where he ended, however, was in a dark alley taking some cheap shots at every sports columnist’s favorite target, Barry Bonds. Ever eager to be casually erudite, Deford let his voice linger over accusations in description’s clothing—Bonds’ “mysteriously lingering ailment” (he had an infection in the bones of his knee!), about Bonds “moving surreptitiously about” (as if he should have hourly updates on his rehabbing on some blog)—only to build to a distinction about Bonds being innocent until proven guilty in the court of law even if he’s been found guilty in the court of public opinion. Of course, Deford’s own declaration is part of that guilt-finding, but when you’re just a regular guy with a slightly above average vocabulary and the rich voice to exercise it, what the hey. After all, you’re defending “the bosom of baseball,” a phrase whose alliteration and vague “Battle Hymn of the Republic” echoes feel so good on your tongue that you hope it makes people tingle with patriotism more than look askance with puzzlement. That’s even before you get to the part where you pronounce, “Even if the fog of steroids didn’t hang around his big head,” in a way that congratulates the clever writer of these words—oh, that just happens to be you, too, doesn’t it?--that can put the fog by the San Francisco Bay, the steroids in Bonds, and that big head at work as both proof of his arrogance (a subject you should know something about) and his chemically altered ways (although Bonds’ hat size in his years in the majors has never changed, but why let the facts slow down your aspersions).
Early in the segment Deford laments a mixed cocktail that “ruins perfectly good gin.” To end the piece he himself offers up a cliché with a twist, starting, “Records are made to be broken,” but then pausing, showman that he is, and savoring, as if tasting a sip of some choice cabernet sauvignon, the phrase “but oh my,” letting it loll on his tongue and catch air and be fully flavored, before spitting out, “couldn’t we have record-breakers more to our own taste.”
Mr. Deford, you put the self in self-righteous. By now you’d think we all would have got over the idea that only the virtuous succeed in this world, that only the pure in mind are the strong in body, that a bit of a devil can’t make angelic art. Or perhaps we have all got over that claptrap of simple moral equivalencies, but that clear-headedness doesn’t sell, not with a voice that insists on its own insistence. Why have a voice like that if you can’t use it to pretend you’re blameless as a burning bush?
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
When Half a Loaf Is Really a Whole
The road to not writing is paved with “been meaning.” But before this entry becomes about the ways Fear and Laziness marry, make wild love and populate my brain with all their brilliantly incapacitating children (Sloth, Paral-a-Sis and her Bro-Mide, Fatigue, Fustiness, Imprecision, CopyKat, WorkShirker, Mundane, LeadHead, Slug), I will proceed with what I meant to write about, two terrific shows I had the good fortune to see a couple of weekends ago when two of my heroes came to town—Richard Thompson and John Doe.
At the Tedious Meeting First Thing in the Morning on Your First Day Back After an Exhausting Long Weekend That You Spent Painting...
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Rove, Rove Sinks His Boat?
Gee, the next thing you know, we'll find out the Bush White House wanted to go to war in Iraq even though they knew there were no WMDs.
And here's hoping that Helen Thomas is waiting to ask (if he lets her) Scott McClellan if he still feels as he did in 2003 when CNN reported:
"The president believes leaking classified information is a very serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest extent by the appropriate agency and the appropriate agency is the Department of Justice," White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters.
Remember that in many states felons, which is what Rove might end up, don't get to vote. So they shouldn't get to run people's campaigns either, let's hope.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Long for the Day
Do you think Sandra Day O'Connor considered, when she helped create President W. with her decision on Bush v. Gore, that she might thereby be undoing her vote to protect a woman's right to choose? And if she did consider that, what is her excuse?