Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Evening I Blogged a Pelican and It Was Brief--How The Pelican Got into My Blog I'll Never Know

If you look closely, you'll see an egg under Ms. Pelican. So take that as a symbol of something. For I could write about a terrific Belgian Beer Fest this past Saturday (and I damn hope I will, but the Duvel's in the details--haha, a Belgian beer joke!), or I could spend my evening doing freelance writing and editing (1000 or so words of mine, 600 words of others ), or trying to get publishers not to run freelance work in which they change the part in a subject's quotes to make it say what they want it to say, or annoying Amy on FB, or regretting we are out of honey so my tea toddy was merely tea and Maker's Mark (and what does it mean that the cold is back, or that he invited a friend in the door as he left, damn him), or fretting, ever-fretting, about the fantasy baseball draft just two nights away (my whole summer could be made or ruined in less than 48 hours and I wish I was being dramatic about it).

Any advice--in a keeper league, would you trade Miguel Cabrera, who you've had on your team since he first hit the majors, for Jon Lester and Jake Peavy? Really? Even with pitching so hard to predict? Even with Peavy a Padre? Still, a starting rotation that was topped by Johan Santana, Lester, and Peavy....

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Monday, March 30, 2009

How to Make a Baby Elephant Float

Sorry, I was busy on safari this weekend. More news to come, but here are some photos till then:


Friday, March 27, 2009

Serious Dog

For Dog Blog Friday: New Camera, same old beautiful pups. And it was actually cold this weekend, so Mookie wanted his sweater.


Friday Random Ten

Rico Bell & the Snakehandlers "Money to Burn" Down to the Promised Land: 5 Years of Bloodshot Records
Rob Wasserman with Matt Haimovitz and Joan Jeanrenaud "Gypsy Two" Trios
Sex Pistols "EMI" (Orchestra Version) Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle
Luna "Buffalo Boots" Rendezvous
Elliott Smith "Everything Reminds Me of Her" Figure 8
The Decemberists "Sons & Daughters" The Crane Wife
Ryuichi Sakamoto "Free Trading" Neo Geo
Tom Waits "King Kong" Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards
Ani DiFranco "In Here" Reckoning
Elvis Costello & The Imposters "The Delivery Man" The Delivery Man

Future Bible Heroes "Hopeless" Red Hot & Bothered

Best on its bookends this week, without a doubt.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Dangerous Little Demon

There's the day of your birth and then there are the days you are born, and there can be lots of those and I don't mean born again. I mean something wakes up inside you; there's a recognition; there's a flicker of "that's who I am." (One of the things I am, for instance, is someone who gets off on working two semi-colons into one sentence. I didn't say I was a good "am," after all.)

Listening of late to the re-issued (thanks Yep Roc) version of Nick Lowe's 1977 classic Jesus of Cool, I'm pretty sure the first time I heard "Marie Provost" had to be such a moment. [For info about the real Marie Prevost go here or gaze at her, at left, stockings saucily slung at different heights; and no, it wasn't the talkies that did her in, no Lina Lamont, she.] No doubt when that chorus couplet clicked in my head for the first time--"She was the winner/that became the doggie's dinner"--my sense of humor let out a satisfied little yelp not unlike a dachshund tossed a treat. Laughter can be such an uncomfortable thing, and that's what Lowe serves up here, the exact rhymes locking shut like truth. He even sweetens it, what with his and Dave Edmunds' backing "oooooooh-aah--aah-aahs" sounding mighty celestial in the background. But the heavenly is often that unnatural, and far away. Instead we're left with the handiwork of Marie's little dachshund, that hungry dachshund.

So it's a pop song with a killer hook. If you know what I mean. Life's sort of like that--Lowe's one "hit" is "Cruel to Be Kind," after all--and knowing you can make some art about it surely made me happy at 17 or whenever I heard it first, and not when it quite came out, as I wasn't Jesus of Cool myself, I was a suburban kid who didn't know shit but began to know it when he smelled it. Anyways, I had (still have) the U.S. version of the LP, which was called Pure Pop for Now People and different songs and a different order and I had a sense they were dumbing things down for us Yanks, but I figured the Brits probably knew better about us.

It's a lot of weight for 3 minutes of pop, bringing dark humor to a teen from across the seas. But it's just what "Marie Provost" did, and more than that. Maybe a sense of empathy, of age providing insight--after all Lowe sings "she never meant that much to me, but now I see, poor Marie." Of course, the most sympathetic figure in the song might be the dog, for what could he have been thinking? The Wikipedia page about the real Marie suggests "Maxie, had nipped at her legs in an attempt to wake her up" and if Wikipedia wants to live in that sweet world, who am I to judge. But it's a dog eat star world.

And then there's the easy to mis-hear lines at the very beginning, "Marie Provost did not look her best/ The day the cops bust into her lonely nest" that I like to sing loneliness (of course you sing along with Nick Lowe, that's a good half of what he's for). If only the cops busted into her loneliness sooner. But is that a job for the cops, anyway? The Lonely Police? Methinks such a force could hardly be benevolent.

[here's an audio only on YouTube of the song, if you don't know it]

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sign of the Times

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Florida, the Sunset State

Seems Orlando held a tea party and 4,000 people came. They think the stimulus package is the problem. They don't think too good. For instance, there's this passage from an Orlando Sentinel article about the event:

Several members of the crowd said they'd recently been laid off, including Ross Iannarelli, 66, of Port Orange, who said he'd just lost his job at an electrical-equipment company.

"They need to shove that bum out," he said, referring to President Obama. "I hate seeing them spend my grandchildren's money."

The reporter failed to ask how Iannarelli felt about Bush spending his grandchildren's money for eight years, not just 3 months. The reporter failed to ask any of the laid-off how much they were making over $250K. Iannarelli failed to ask the reporter why real journalism is disappearing faster than cash at AIG.

To the reporter's credit, though, she did get this quote:

"The goal was to get people united, to let people know that they aren't alone in their feelings on despair," Feroli [one of the event's organizers] said. "We want to speak out against the push toward socialization that we feel is taking place in our country."

Luckily these cheery people seemed far from social, so Feroli is probably safe.

(h/t Dragon Dancing with the Buddha)


Monday, March 23, 2009

Wake Me When Geithner Go-Go's

I have to admit I'm the perfect stooge for what's going on right now in the U.S. While I'd like to think I'm relatively intelligent and definitely more politically aware than most, financial stuff is my greatest hole of unknowing. It's true even on the personal level--I've had the good fortune to have enough money as an adult that I don't have to worry and I've just trusted that will continue. I've been slow to plan for my retirement; uneager and unmotivated to move money from a simple savings account into anything that might make my money more money. Considering figures and investment strategies just make my brain go dreamy, or something--I'm just not wired that way. Amy has always hassled me about how I can spend so much time considering baseball stats and the glories of PECOTA at Baseball Prospectus trying to pick a winning fantasy baseball team--why can't I spend just an iota of that attention on finance?--but I get what David Wright's 65.8 VORP means on the field as I can watch him play. Trying to even understand what a derivative is makes my brain hurt.

So the banking crisis seems like science fiction. Yet I know I should pay attention, try to know something, at the least do what I do in areas I know I can't really get it--figure out who I should be reading and trust that they're analyzing things well. So it's good to see Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone lay it out for me, and even seemingly explain me to me in this passage:

By creating an urgent crisis that can only be solved by those fluent in a language too complex for ordinary people to understand, the Wall Street crowd has turned the vast majority of Americans into non-participants in their own political future. There is a reason it used to be a crime in the Confederate states to teach a slave to read: Literacy is power. In the age of the CDS and CDO, most of us are financial illiterates. By making an already too-complex economy even more complex, Wall Street has used the crisis to effect a historic, revolutionary change in our political system — transforming a democracy into a two-tiered state, one with plugged-in financial bureaucrats above and clueless customers below.

Yes, the crisis is so bad it means Rolling Stone is actually a valuable source of journalism for the first time in decades. (Even if the cover of that issue is sexed up Gossip Girls.)

Where do we start? Everyone must agitate for Obama to dump Geithner, for us to insist we know he's too much a part of the original problem to be a solution. So write those emails, folks....


Friday, March 20, 2009

Happy Happy Grey Grey

For Dog Blog Friday: You can give an old dog new joy. Just go to the beach.


Friday Random Ten

Lovvers "Human Hair" Wichita Free Sampler Summer 2008
Yo La Tengo "What She Wants" Shaker ep
Waco Brothers "Fox" The Bottle Let Me Down: Songs for Bumpy Wagon Rides
The 6ths "He Didn't" Hyacinths and Thistles
Los Fakires "A Mi Manera" Mi Casa Su Casa
Neko Case "Marais La Nuit" Middle Cyclone
Randy Newman "Burn On" Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman
Howe Gelb "Propulsion" Hisser
Jets to Brazil "Milk and Apples" Four Cornered Night
Neil Young "One of These Days" Harvest Moon

Guided by Voices "A Salty Salute" Alien Lanes

Charming if slack Neil Young, fine solo Gelb, classic Newman, solid cut from a great kids' album, very obscure YLT, classic 6ths and 30 minutes of crickets. That's life, isn't it? (Oh, and #12 was "Stacy's Mom.")


Thursday, March 19, 2009

And My Favorite Song's Entitled "Boredom"

You know me, of late I'm feeling very humdrum. So, instead of coming up with something new, I'll point to the writing I did last month. Perhaps you missed my interview with Anthony Bourdain, say. Or my interview with Frances Moore Lappe.

And do you ever wonder if we all only get so many words, and you might write them all out before your time is up?


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

It Ain't Easy When You Fall

Here's why I don't have much rage over the AIG bonus issue. 'Cause I wouldn't have slapped Captain John Smith if I was on the Titanic, neither.

Focus, people. The whole economy is a sham, and we're worried about this? OK, it does make clear that business runs the country, and even Super Obama can't control that. Particularly when he lets the Geithner fox into the henhouse, but even that metaphor fails as our economic policy has long been not a case of the revolving door--there's no door at all--but simply printing up new business cards. This country's economy wasn't made for you and me, my friend (here I apologize to all my readers at Goldman Sachs et al.).

Simply put, fuck us and the Hank Paulson we rode in on.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Boiled Blood, Typ-O

Despite what a 1000 printed and mailed postcards prove, I do know it's "annually" and not "anually."

Despite knowing that, I still hate myself.

In the meantime I feel like I don't have much to say. Sorry.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Milkbone Graveyard

For Dog Blog Friday: If you've been to our house, you know that often one corner of the couch is "bumpy." Mookie shows you why in this picture.


Friday Random Ten

Praxis "Interface / Stimulation Loop" Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis)
Elliott Smith "I Didn't Understand" XO
Ryuichi Sakamoto "Beyond Reason" Playing the Orchestra
The Mendoza Line "The Lethal Temptress" Full of Light and Full of Fire
Tito Rodriguez "Mango del Monte" Mas Mambo Mania
The Mekons "Bonus Track [but iTunes calls the last 9 cuts of this 14 cut disc 'Bonus Track']" Pussy King of the Pirates
Buellton "Seattle Sky" Avenue of the Flags
Belle & Sebastian "Dress Up in You" The Life Pursuit
The Ventures "Walk Don't Run" Walk--Don't Run: The Best of the Ventures
Brian Eno "The True Wheel" Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)

Peter Himmelman "Everything and Nothing at All" Love Thinketh No Evil

First three songs are just over 6 minutes total and nary one a punk romp. Things get better but not best, even hitting on the only Mekons CD I've ever sold back. But then, it goes out in classic style, with one of the best instrumentals ever and an always tasty Eno cut. The bonus is meh. Oh well.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mr. Robinson, Are You Trying to Juice Me?

As spring training and the WBC are in full swing, it seems appropriate we commemorate the 104th anniversary of one of baseball's great off-field stories, for Friday is the day A-Rod's great-grandfather first took steroids. Only kidding. It's the day Wilbert "Uncle Robbie" Robinson tried to catch a baseball dropped from an airplane. Robinson tried this stunt 12 years prior, but that was when airplanes where still aeroplanes, and worse, not yet invented. He could never figure out the right balance of paper heavy enough to hold a baseball yet light enough to fly. Plus even Wee Willie Keeler was too big to be the pilot (although Keeler made a great jockey at the annual trout derby). Meanwhile in 1915 (and reality) the plane got to 525 feet and the pilot let loose--a grapefruit. Either he forgot the baseball (and, of course, had a spare grapefruit in his pocket--no, he wasn't just really happy to see you) or wiseacre Casey Stengel decided it would be funnier, plus a good promo for the Grapefruit League. Poor Robinson got hit, the fruit exploded, and between the wet and red, he was convinced he was bleeding all over (turns out his blood, like that of many early baseball pioneers, actually did have seeds). Everyone had a good laugh, and Robinson traded Stengel. When Robinson retired he ended up president of the minor league team the Atlanta Crackers, long-time rivals of the Birmingham Hicks, Tallahassee Ofays, and Carolina Ricketeers.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You and the Dinosaur You Rode In On

If you're still wondering whether Liberty University deserves either part of its name, wonder no more. Turns out they offer a class called Advanced Creation Studies. I assume you can take the course with other upper level work like Stupidity II, Ph.D. Seminar in Yeti Identification, and Independent Study in Being Dependent (pre-requisite: handing one's brain in a paper bag to the instructor). An article in today's Washington Post discusses brave creationist souls going to places like the Smithsonian, where they can't believe displays suggest the world is more than 6000 years old. At one point the article says:

"Why should we be afraid to test our worldview against reality?" asked Bill Jack, a Christian leadership instructor who leads groups across the country for a company called Biblically Correct Tours.

Test away. But it's called reality for a reason. (And thanks for not going by Billy, Jack.) But we can't expect too much from folks who want to read the Bible not as stories by which we might learn how to live, but as a text of history and science (and people make fun of Scientologists and Dianetics--gee, wonder where they got the idea to think all life's mysteries are solved in one book?). For in the article we get this illuminating passage:

Otherwise, the 20 students listened attentively as co-leader Marcus Ross, an enthusiastic paleontologist who teaches at Liberty, expertly explained about the world-class fossil collection and told ripping tales of the towering tyrannosaurus rex that was casting skeletal shadows over the group.

"I love it here," said Ross, who has a doctorate in geosciences from the University of Rhode Island. "There's something romantic about seeing the real thing."

Beyond teaching paleontology at Liberty must be like having been Bristol Palin's high school health/abstinence teacher, a scientist shouldn't get caught up in the "romance" of the "real thing." (And I don't just mean for you cynics to make jokes about romance and reality, or as Los Campesinos! put it: "And this sentimental movie marathon has taught us one thing/It's the opposite of true love is as follows--/Reality!) Then again, trying to convince the world of "early earth"-ness (how cute a name) is sort of romantic in the literature sense: fantastic stories about the marvelous adventures of a chivalrous, heroic knight, often of super-human ability, who goes on a quest. Except for that super-human part.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Rest of the 25 Albums, Or So, that Shaped My So-Called Life

#2, George Carlin, Class Clown
Class clown that I am, I'm going to do 27 albums--25 music, 2 comedy. I can't begin to say how influential this disc was, and not just for the dirty words. But yes, for the words. He made language so fun, so funny. He made context so clear. He made fun of going to Catholic school. I owe Carlin a ton, as do many un-normals in my generation, I'd guess.

#3, Jackson Browne, The Pretender
Yes, alas, I was a California "rocker" years before coming to CA. Or, as I like to see it, Browne was my first stop in the world of what I call pity pop (future stops, Ian Hunter, Billy Bragg's love songs), for I love music that's a wallow. Goddam I'm misunderstood. And I started out so young and strong, only to surrender. (Of course this moved me at 15, please....)

#4, Woody Allen, Standup Comic
Here's where I get to be witty and urbane, while actually being shitty and surbuban(e). And if you can have a sense of humor that rests between classic Allen and classic Carlin, that's me.

#5, Peter Gabriel, untitled (3)
On a road trip to the Jersey shore with my Jersey friends on the Jersey Turnpike I was told I had to turn this off as it was too weird. And that's when I learned something bout meself, as they say. Plus, after our house got hit by a car (true story) and there was the as-yet un-repaired hole from basement to living room, I was sure something would rise out of the basement as I listened to "Intruder" on headphones. Oh, and "Biko" started helping lefty me think outside the U.S. box.

#6, Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack
Have I ever fessed up to this? That I had a huge Rocky Horror phase? Don't dream it, be it. Half the fun was trying to come up with lines to shout out at screenings that people would laugh at. But given I wasn't getting anything at the time (high school), the idea that anything could be got seemed fascinating.

#7, The Clash, London Calling
Bought it in New York City, at a Sam Goodys on Sixth Avenue for $5.99. A double lp. And then I realized there was so much more to music, as there was so much to that album. The guys in that car for PG3 had no idea where my taste would lead me.

#8, Ian Hunter, Welcome to the Club
Great music and the beginning of some sense of history (perhaps Mott should be on the list, too). One of the albums of my high school graduation, and then I also had a fixation with pity pop classic "Irene Wilde" ("I'm going to be somebody someday" is the refrain the jilted lover clings to). And then it played in my freshman year dorm room, a woman in the room realized it moved me (my god, how did I look--what did I do?), but eventually she'd pop my cherry. So Ian Hunter's been very very good to me. Welcome to the club indeed.

#9, Roxy Music, Siren
I came to this record well after its release, but it provided me with much release through college. For it goes like this--you played side 1 on your way out the door for an evening, knowing that love was the drug and you needed to score. Then you came home, alone, sublimated with food from the snack bar, and listened to side 2, which ended reminding you love was just another high. Plus Paul Thompson's work on that last song is one of the best songs ever to air drum to.

#10, Lou Reed, Rock and Roll Diary 1967-1980
This sort of odd compilation of Lou and Velvets cuts was my real intro to that whole world, and so I owe it much gratitude. Plus it had liner notes by Ellen Willis so introduced me to her, too. (Can an album rock your world for its liner notes?)

#11, Bill Nelson, The Love that Whirls (Diary of a Thinking Heart)
Hyper-realized romance while in college made me very happy, and so, Mr. Nelson. That echo-ey, aching e-bow guitar. Plus he's sort of a bridge from Roxy Music to all the Japanese electro pop of that era, too--Yellow Magic Orchestra and its three guys' solos efforts.

#12, XTC, English Settlement
Can't begin to describe how much I was into XTC back in the day, although that's really faded (and that's kind of sad). My radio show through undergrad and grad school (81-88) was called "This Is Pop?" even. But this double album--of course I had the import, it was the age of being a geeky "get the import" guy--defined that era. Plus "All of a Sudden" is actually a pity pop gem, too.

#13, Elvis Costello Imperial Bedroom
Helped me bridge then current music with the songs my then-roommate jazzbo, Sinatra head liked. Even Chet Baker covered "Almost Blue." Catchy tunes, witty wordplay, and plenty of pity pop.

#14, Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
Aboundingly creative, this album. And while her videos are always pitched near hysteria ("Breathing" is the worst), the drama of these songs was very appealing. Plus she put out great B-sides on 12" singles in an era when I bought all the 12" singles. So this is here as an emblem of that, too.

#15, Billy Bragg, Talking to the Taxman about Poetry
I wrote poetry, then, and figured I'd never have nothing to talk to a taxman about. But it was darn fun being a writer. Plus "Levi Stubbs' Tears" is still one of my favorite songs and that's why this disc just edges out Workers' Playtime, but maybe they should be a twofer.

#16, The Mekons, Mekons Rock 'n' Roll
How can an album that opens with the lines "Destroy your safe and happy lives before it is too late," not wake one up? Especially when the violin rocks as hard as the guitars? And then there's secret weapon Sally Timms....

#17, The Pooh Sticks, Multiple Orgasm
I've gone on and on about my Multiple Orgasm on the blog, but perhaps I didn't say that this tape (for years I only had a dubbed copy) got played at every party I went to in 1991. And every time someone asked, "What’s that?"

#18, Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted
It might not be my fave Pavement, but it was quite an introduction to a band that still holds sway over my musical taste. Weird angles of lyrics and song all combine to make right. Plus this got played all year 1992.

#19, Uncle Tupelo, Anondyne
What incredible songs! Plus Tweedy finally got as good as Farrar, and that was very exciting--so much so the band had to fold.

#20, Yam, More Iowa, Less Worcester
This is the full length, cassette-only release by the band I was in 1993-94. Given it features the only songs I can play on an instrument, it's very important to me. Everyone should be in a band at least once in his or her life. You get free beer and can shout at people with a microphone to help you.

#21, Beck, Odelay!
This album seemed to be CA to me once I moved here, a wild and woolly mix. It should be paired with Los Lobos' Colossal Head, which came out the same year and also seemed to say "Welcome to CA." (Indeed, after moving here I finally could go back and get X, like I needed to live near LA to make sense of it.)

#22, Yo La Tengo, I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
The album of the year of our wedding (yes, say awwww), 1997. I remember meeting with our very nice cover band folks before the reception and they asked what we wanted them to play beyond our instruction to get people to dance. They queried, "What's your favorite song right now?" And I thought, but didn't say, "Autumn Sweater," which would have been a weird wedding song indeed.

#23, The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs
An incredible achievement. As with YLT, I'd been a big fan before this album that made the list, but with 69 I remember actually running to the computer and emailing friends six songs in, telling them they had to run out and buy this incredible record. Plus I actually presented an academic paper on the record, too.

#24, Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers
I like to recognize those who get by on clever, which for pop is enough. (So I guess I need to be pop.) But there's more to this than people want to give it credit for--really listen to "Valley Winter Song," say. Another good times album for its year.

#25, Neko Case, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Flat-out gorgeous. And I mean her singing, btw. Plus there's "Maybe Sparrow," a song that's ending almost always brought me to tears even before I somehow connected it to my mom passing away, so there's all that for the poor little bird to bear.

#26, Shout Out Louds, Our Ill Wills
My mom gets Neko, my dad this album. I actually bought it in NJ when back for his funeral. So it's far from sad in its music, but it's totally sad in my head. So really powerful. Plus there is a dark side to it, so that just gets deeper.

#27, Los Campesinos!, Hold On Now, Youngster
Given I just learned they canceled their upcoming Santa Barbara show, I sort of want to kick them off the list. But no CD in the past few years gets me going like this one--it's what Red Bull is supposed to be, but without the gross taste. Insta-adrenalin. And too darn smart, too.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

We've Only Just Blog-un

I feel stuck between stations. Now that I'm a mad-FBer, there's the blog, and there's FB, and there's endless internets calls for my attention, as if I don't actually have, oh, jobs to do or a life to live ("hi, Amy, hi, dogs--I'm computing!") or something. But Mike from Mike's Neighborhood tagged me with this music meme on FB and I really want to do it, but, of course, I made it complicated.

Here's the original instructions: "Think of 25 albums, CDs, LPs (if you're over 40) that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life. Dug into your soul. Music that brought you to life when you heard it. Royally affected you, kicked you in the ass, literally socked you in the gut, is what I mean. Then when you finish, tag a bunch of others, including me. Make sure you copy and paste this part so they know the drill. Get the idea now? Good. Tag, you're it!"

So I made my list, but realized a naked list wouldn't do justice to why these albums did what they did to me. This is far from a list of my favorite albums, as it's about records that define a time, that were wrapped up in my me-ness for at the minimum a few months. So I put them in chrono order, as they're sort of an autobiography, in one way, (25 Short Albums about GY?), and realized the first one (it is actually the first album I can remember owning) would take the most explanation. Luckily I already wrote that explanation, so I'm going to quote myself from a review for the cover album If I Were a Carpenter that I wrote back in 1995, as so many writers are moved by their own hands.

Album 1: Carpenters, Singles, 1969-1973

Never mind the Sex Pistols, here's the Carpenters. At least that's how the 1970s look, really look. C'mon, how many of us were hip enough to be gobbed on and gob back in 1976-77? They don't call it Generation Sex, after all.

But the Carpenters were all the 1970s were.

Stop and think about that, because much of what the 70s were about was not thinking. I'm unlucky enough to have my own personal rhyme for this--my parents got divorced, first on our block to do so. Playing music on my crappy white plastic stereo meant turning away from the house, the world. So sure as hell, rainy days and Mondays always got me down. Most of the rest of the week, too.

The Carpenters were hitmakers because they flatlined emotion. "Top of the World" exists in the same bright affectless vocal bubble as "Hurting Each Other," only the secondhand Phil Spector swells of strings hint at feeling. These songs make every up, down, fantasy, fuckup seem midtempo okey-dokey decent, just as Karen and Richard were smiling siblings, not lusty or squabbling lovers, just as Karen and Richard were average-looking and so unsexy that they seemed advertisements for a spay and neuter clinic. But the songs, so simple, so definitional. They got played at wedding because they were as staid and safe as church. They denied, Watergate, Vietnam, sure, but also that your seventh grade groin might ache for Ellen Sombers, that your dad didn't sing when he left the house for good. The songs had all the surprise of Hallmark, all the off-the-rack wisdom. It's no surprise, then, that Karen Carpenter faded away; she finally (dis-)embodied the nothing she was. But being nothing can be everything. At least a decade.

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Friday, March 06, 2009

A Ten on the Attentive Scale

For Dog Blog Friday: Why, yes, greyhounds do sit. (It has nothing to do with the off-camera treat.)


Friday Random Ten

Petra Haden "Don't Stop Believin'" Guilt by Association
Helium "Revolution of Hearts Parts 1 & 2" Magic City
Freedy Johnston "You Get Me Lost" Never Home
Vampire Weekend "M79" Vampire Weekend
Michel Camilo "From Within" Calle 54
Spoon "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case" Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
Brian Eno "Web" Nerve Net
Various Artists [that's what it says] "Preparense, A Tango" Un Siecle de Tango Vol. 2
Ani DiFranco "Adam & Eve" Dilate
The Magnetic Fields "In an Operetta" I

Green Day "When I Come Around" Dookie

A certain whiff of trendy from different eras resounds. But it kicks off with my favorite cut from 2008, has some hot Latin jazz and tango, odd Eno. It's ok.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Banker by Any Other Name

Friday would be the 550th birthday of Jacob Fugger, a German banker sometimes called Jacob the Rich. Or, as some referred him, "He's one rich Fugger." His dad was Hans Fugger, but obviously not *just* that as Jacob was his son. (keep reading that sentence--aloud if necessary--if you missed the joke)(if the joke missed you, sorry for jerking you around) What's less known is Jacob's mom was the true key to the family's fortunes. Hans was a weaver, and he was able to do more weaving than most because of his special gear driven loom. Since oil was scarce in Germany years before wars for oil, Madame Fugger opted to use her own saliva to grease the gears, and this worked wonderfully, particularly after dinners featuring her very heavy, overly-oiled pork cutlets. That is why she was often called a cog-sucking mother Fugger. Jacob, meanwhile, helped secure the election of Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor in 1519 by bribing the electors. For some reason Charles V was very nice to him after that, and a bunch of other little banking fuggers get TARP money to this day.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Look What the Middle Cyclone Dragged In

Welcome to all Neko Case all the time week! So it goes like this, right after work I head off to Borders to get the CD as I like the actual physical thing not just a download and there's usually cool art with Case releases (no, not just the pictures of her, silly), plus I'm one of those people who reads all the small print credits. I want it so bad I barely even think about stopping in for a beer at Hollister Brewing right next door. I mean, that's devotion. And so I walk into Borders and at the new releases stand there's even a poster for Middle Cyclone so I'm all psyched but somehow there aren't any copies of the disc there. So I go to where Case is alphabetically and while her back catalog is surprisingly well represented, no Middle Cyclone. I finally manage to flag down someone working there, which isn't easy as I'm guessing they aren't hiring as many people (since, of course, the one thing they can offer over web-purchasing is insta-real-person-customer service, so of course they cut that competitive advantage as they slowly go out of business--makes sense to me), and she tells me it didn't come in. I do not strangle this woman, or even leave in a huff, but more a daze. Get in my car. Start to leave the lovely box mall parking lot, but then remember--the CD is supposed to be on sale at Starbucks, and this mall has one (only one, I can hear you ask?). So I park again, wander into the Starbucks where I can tell they sense I'm a Peet's man and an intruder but sure enough the CD is there. So I buy it and no coffee and the young barrista chirps, "We have lots of good music, like the new U2 CD!" and I want to tell her I was reviewing U2 records before her parents even met but I'm happy with Neko now so just nod and back out of the store.

It's mighty good.

For your enjoyment, here she is with Kelly Hogan and Paul Rigby doing "People Got a Lotta Nerve" on the wonderful QTV from Canada:

And here Jian Ghomeshi of the great voice interviews her pretty well--much better than an ABC podcast YouTube clip you can watch that kicks off with the guy asking, "At what age did you realize that you had a force of nature in your chest?" Although in that one she does admit, "I have a hard time being simple," when asked about her writing, so we are alike in at least one way. As for this clip, don't miss the very end when she offers her George W. Bush impersonation.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

His Trivia Questions Are In-Seine!

Maybe it's because all my female star obsession of late has been focused on this woman (album out today folks!), but over at Property of a Lady we're playing film trivia and I've totally stumped everyone with this one about another female star obsession. I guess if I don't think about her, no one does. So here's your chance, fine INOTBB-readership, to prove you know my obsessions! (Amy, you can't play unless no one else answers.) Your job is to name the actor based on the roles listed:

a possibly promiscuous photographer, a devout angel-faced virgin, a bank-teller/call girl

People guess Lisa Bonet and Faye Dunaway and are wrong. I hint:

That she’s a photographer isn’t a big issue in the film, and in fact her husband is the one taking more pictures in the film.

Here’s a clue: the films were released in 2007, 1987, and 1994.

Someone admits to a WAG: Susan Sarandon. Someone is wrong. I offer more clues:

The most recent film she directed herself and her real-life parents play her character’s parents in the film.

Quiz-answering crickets. So I offer another total giveaway clue (or so I thought):

This run of roles does not mention that she’s played the same character in 3 different films, one animated.

People guess Reese Witherspoon and Cristina Ricci. People are wrong. And so I offer two more clues:

She’s not American.

She’s been co-nominated for a best adapted screenplay Oscar.

I get abused and two more wrong guesses are offered: Sara Polley? Minnie Driver? Still no one's right. And it seems I've broken the round robin chain for the day even while offering one more clue:

In the bank teller movie her character is in the title. It costars an actor whose first prominent role made it hard to know what he actually looked like.

Please tell me someone out there gets this way before clue 5 at least.....

The answer, if you need to look.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Fun from A.B. to A.C.

It was some Friday in Santa Barbara, with Anthony Bourdain--Live in Concert! (or so it seemed, what with people and their "I need 2 tickets" and "Will serve you truffles for tix" signs) at the sold-out Arlington as just the start of an evening (well, the evening started with sunset, of course, and then Amy and I did eat delish steak tacos from that leftover tri-tip that we washed down with blood orange margaritas as we have 8 blood oranges this year and want to use them)(plus we shared a Maracaibo Especial from Jolly Pumpkin after that--what an ale! Thanks, Smitty!). It seems it was such an evening it will mean more parenths than usual. So parenthetical discretion advised.

Meanwhile, back at Bourdain, who was exactly as full of himself as he should be, kicking off by admitting, "I have the best job in the world," and prowling the stage (no podium for a world traveler, c'mon), just riffing, probably doing standard bits (we got the how he got Kitchen Confidential published story, of course), and lots of shots at vegetarians and most of the Food Network (even the folks he admires, like Mario Batali, got a bit of the rough treatment--he called Batali a "spiritual leader" who knew how to partner with the right people).

The Q&A could have gone on for hours--or maybe it just seemed like that. Too many people got up there to talk not ask, as if I got my complimentary tickets to hear them yammer. You'd think countries made flunkies from their visitors' bureaus stalk Bourdain at his appearances, so many people tried to sell him on a location for an episode of No Reservations. ("Tony, Tony, you must do an epsiode on Lower Slobovoda, my people are from there and they will curse you if you don't.") Oh, and don't ever ask him if people in the kitchen should get a share of tips. Just saying. The good news is he gave a big thumb's up to his spot for a pre-show dinner, Julienne, so here's hoping that endorsement keeps their business going strong in this period when most businesses are getting sand kicked in their face. (And there's no way to finish that metaphor, I know--I mean, who the hell is the bully in this scenario? and who gets to be Charles Atlas to save the scrawny one's bacon one day? Well, at least I got bacon in there.)

Speaking of skinny guys who probably got beat up, there's Dent May, who was the middle act of a triple bill at SOhO, luckily just down the street from the Arlington. So off we ran to catch May and A.C. Newman as Santa Barbara now has cool shows--thank you promoter Club Mercy. May is a bit hard to describe, as he sounds like lots of people but as is the case with someone like that, while you can play "spot the reference" it all adds up to something that's sui generis. He plays ukulele, so I think of folks like Carmaig DeForest, but that's an even more obscure comparison. For there's also The Scene Is Now, and Jonathan Richman, and anything do-woppy '50s-ish, and on his MySpace page May even fesses up to R. Stevie Moore, who I hadn't thought of in years, but yeah, him too. And then there's a sort of Edwyn Collins thing going on with his voice (harder to pick up live), so there's Orange Juice. But he's from Mississippi, not Scotland. And he covers "When You Were Mine" in a way that would make Crooked Fingers proud.

Headliner A.C. Newman came with a full band, all who played several instruments or played and sang or whistled so there was plenty o' sound. The violinist even fulfilled a Newman contractual obligation, as he always seems to have a hot redhead in his band (although there's Neko Case and everyone else is a tragic falling off from a Platonic ideal). Newman performed what felt like every cut from his two solo albums perfectly capturing his herky-jerk rhythms and lovely layers (like the vocal piling up of "all of my days" at the end of the song "All of My Days and All of My Days Off"). And cuts like "Secretarial" and "On the Table" from his first solo disc The Slow Wonder wonderfully rocked live, but that's what happens when Jon Wurster from Superchunk is your touring drummer, I guess.

Newman takes pop song forms and rejiggers them just enough to make them new and strange, having backing vocals not sing harmony but unison, adding oomph to phrases, dropping out instruments so that melodica suddenly soars out of the noise like a clarinet might in a klezmer band, offering lyrics that work imagistically, impressionistically, never easily but that's part of their inviting charm (I mean, I can get what "Like a hitman, like a dancer" might mean--there's all sorts of grace and precision out there--but then there's that next well-sung line to grapple with.) And anyone who can have the phrase "Yo-ho" repeat in a song and not make me think he should wear an eyepatch and parrot has to be mighty talented.

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