Friday, May 29, 2009

The Olsen Twins Got Nothing on This

For Dog Blog Friday: San Francisco makes Nigel scamper for joy. Then again, Nigel makes Nigel scamper for joy.


Friday Random Ten

Neil Young "Cortez the Killer" Live Rust
The Meters "Keep on Marching" Plus from Us
The Mekons "Revenge" So Good It Hurts
Lucinda Williams "Essence" Essence
Talking Heads "Burning Down the House" Sand in the Vaseline
Waco Brothers "Poison" New Deal
John Wesley Harding "Cathy's New Clown" Here Comes the Groom
Calexico "Not Even Stevie Nicks..." Feast of Wire
Richmond Fontaine "Black Road" The Fitzgerald
Belly "Every Word" Star

Elaine Elias "One Note Special" Sings Jobim

I thought it wasn't going to get better than its opening cut (and maybe it doesn't), but that's about as good as random out of 22,000 songs is going to get, folks.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hots for the Smarts

Here's something I wrote 18 years ago in my State College (motto: Penn State? State Pen? You Decide) days and I'm charmed and surprised to find it still on the web. I liked it then and think it still stands up as writing. Plus putting this here means that 1) if it goes away I still have it, 2) I finally will push the David Byrne player off the page and you won't get bombarded with sound (even if good sound) when you come visit INOTBB. You're welcome.

UPDATE: OK, that didn't work. Sorry.

A novel idea: Bringing intelligent films to a college town

Jeff Lewine, president and chief executive officer of Cinema World, the chain that operates all eight commercial screens in town, isn't a bad man. Jeff Lewine is a businessman.

It's as unsimple as that. At last week's press conference/public meeting that announced a truce with Orion Pictures and this coming Friday's opening of both "Dances with Wolves" and "Silence of the Lambs" (the wolves and lambs are an almost too-fitting a metaphor for the business world), Lewine himself admitted, "First of all, I'm here not to have to eat Hamburger Helper . . . I'm responsible to my shareholders or they'll change me."

It's best to turn to film itself to explain Lewine's bind. Perched atop a desk, Lewine looked like Robert De Niro in two of his most famous roles. Physically -- and even he joked about his appearance, claiming that the grueling nature of film distribution had reduced him from 6-foot-2-inch, blond hunkdom -- he resembled De Niro as the fatted-up Jake La Motta in "Raging Bull," a puffed man with his hair and tie askew.

Yet his motions, his gestures, echoed De Niro as Rupert Pupkin, the standup comic/kidnappper who decides it's better to be "king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime" in "King of Comedy." Lewine's 'aw, shucks!' shrugging, his closing plea "for another chance," seemed to come directly from the Pupkin playbook, in which Hollywood schmoozing with a cardboard cut-out of Liza Minnelli is no more fake than the "real thing."

So it's with some skepticism that I listened to his promises for new theaters, better theaters, better films. That skepticism grew when he "explained" last December's announced-yet-never-performed renovations to the existing State College theaters by talking about the difficulties of finding sites for new theaters. Finally, he said something about all construction having to be done at once -- new building, remodeling, the works. His conclusion to the question: "We have fallen desperately short."

Wise ass me wanted to say,"No kidding," but I didn't. At least I asked questions: The reporting press seemed more than willing to lap up whatever Lewine had to say as gospel, as if a press conference were a talking press release, as if everyone told, heck, as if everyone knew the truth.

It's pretty clear Lewine didn't: He challenged the audience to name films that never came to town after they were advertised in trailers or on posters (we chirped in with "Mo' Better Blues," "Eight Men Out" and others); he insisted a $100 million take for a movie wasn't a magical figure (although only five to 10 films a year reach that rich plateau); and he claimed "Dances with the Wolves," as he twice called it, didn't open with strong box office (it had passed the $100 million mark before it swept the Oscars).

But the Pupkin in him makes it possible to excuse these failings, for he is true to his reality, and that reality is Cinema World has to make money. Currently his chain is the 13th largest film circuit in the country; by next August, Lewine said the company would be in the single digits.

To keep such a monster of projectors and popcorn rolling, the company has to program smart, which often means programming dumb. When people at the meeting lamented the lack of art or foreign films in his theaters, Lewine replied, "There's a minority of the universe of customers who will go to a specialty film." Later, he explained the problem as follows: If 10,000 people want to see a James Bond film, and 300 want to see the art film, he has to give the screen to the Bond film. It's simple math, for Lewine: Eight screens means no room for specialty films.

The issue gets complicated when you try to define what a specialty film is. When I read a list of 1990 films (and remember, we are four months, that's one-quarter, into 1991) that never made it downtown (and thanks is due to the Graduate Student Association and International Film Series for all their fine programming) -- films like "Reversal of Fortune," "Longtime Companion," "Men Don't Leave," "Mr. and Mrs. Bridge," "After Dark, My Sweet," "Alice," "Avalon" -- he admitted many of these titles weren't specialty films.

They might be special to State College, though, if we ever got to see them.

And maybe we will, or at least the films of 1991 of similar caliber. For Lewine aped films again, however unwittingly, when he promised, once the new Benner Pike theaters opened, to reserve one screen for one year for specialty films.

He even had somebody in the crowd write the promise down so he could sign it, just like Charles Foster Kane publishing his signed Declaration of Principles. It was a bold stroke of theater, but drama deserves its critics, as the disillusioned Jed Leland learns in "Citizen Kane." Only time and a year's worth of good movies will tell if Lewine will keep his promise, or if he will bank on the transitory nature of college towns to let him off the hook.

As for State College, we can prove him wrong. At one point he said there wasn't an audience for intelligent films, claiming, "When you get to college, you're not more intellectually curious." What worried me was he might be right, that only a handful of us who can't separate our real lives from our reel lives care, and everyone else is happy to have their brains kicked in by Steven Seagal, have their hearts melted to mush by Julia Roberts, the Bambi for the '90s (as critic Dave Kehr would say).

Is that true? Would seeing "The Handmaid's Tale" or "The Sheltering Sky" or "Tune in Tomorrow . . ." be too much for Happy Valley minds to handle?

Well, I could go on, but the Collegian doesn't pay, and I have business to do.

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The Fine Art of Surfacing

Anybody who is smart enough to make a play on the great Magnetic Fields lines "won't be happy with me/give me one more chance/you won't be happy anyway" is ok in my book, and that's what The Submarines do on "Peace and Hate" with "if you should go/I won't have you to blame/for my unhappiness, for darker days." That they set it to a lilting pop tune doesn't hurt, neither, plus they do the male-female vocal trade-off trick I'm almost always a sucker for too (see X, Los Campesinos!, the Mekons, Yo La Tengo, etc.). So, while you might know them for the boppy ditty backing the omnipresent iPhone ads*, they're probably more than that.

And we'll get to find out for sure when the Submarines play SOhO tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 pm. See you there?

*And does Apple do it on purpose, excerpting songs that would never quite make it in the advertising world in their entirety? This Submarines cut is "You, Me, and the Bourgeoisie," and at least a bit of a comment on consumerism. Still, that's better than the iPod ad that featured Chairlift's "Bruises," which focuses on bruised and grass-stained knees, no doubt from a lover deep in prayer. (Oh, and Regina Spektor really deserves some royalties from that one, no?)


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Yoo Son of a Bitch

As you have to have heard by now, President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court vacancy coming up because of David Souter's retirement. Needless to say, the right wing scream machine is already set on screech. And, of all people, John Yoo has something to say about it, as he's all about the law or something. Here's part of Yoo's lament:

Conservatives should defend the Supreme Court as a place where cases are decided by a faithful application of the Constitution, not personal politics, backgrounds, and feelings. Republican senators will have to conduct thorough questioning in the confirmation hearings to make sure that she will not be a results-oriented voter, voting her emotions and politics rather than the law.

Now you can see where Yoo would be against feelings, as they only leave you with something to torture and thereby make you vulnerable. But Yoo, of all people, saying politics has nothing to do with application of the law? (And you have to love the modifier "personal" before politics--as opposed to the impersonal kind the Republicans practice, I guess.) Let's revisit Bush v Gore and see how much the Supreme Court is politics free.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

When Fire Last in the Hill-sides Bloom'd

This is more for those out of the Santa Barbara region, but if you want to see why the Jesusita Fire put the fear of god into us here, go check out this progression fire map the county put up. Note, especially, the huge jump from May 7, 4 pm to May 8, 7 am. That's when all hell broke loose and it was easy to imagine much of the town would just burn down.

And if you want to know where Amy, the pups, and I fit on the map, we live above the W in the words Earl Warren Showgrounds. And, yes, the tops of the W are pokey....


I Double Dog Beach Ya

For Dog Blog Friday: Objects in photos are more gorgeous than they appear.


Friday Random Ten

Crooked Fingers (w/ Neko Case) "Your Control" Forfeit/Fortune
Graham Parker "Little Miss Understanding" Human Soul
Glenn Gould "The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1 - Prelude #1 in C, BWV 846" Glenn Gould Plays Bach
David Mansfield "Score Suite #1" Songcatcher
Bettie Serveert "Log 22" Log 22
Mogwai "Hunted by a Freak" Matador at 15
Yo La Tengo "Alyda" President Yo La Tengo/New Wave Hotdogs
Sam Phillips "Soul Eclipse" Fan Dance
The Bottle Rockets "Suffering Servant" Bloodshot Records Sampler 7
Vampire Weekend "M79" Vampire Weekend

Johnny Cash "Two Timin' Woman" Unearthed: Who's Gonna Cry

Don't think this has happened before, but this random ten opens with my favorite song right now, purchased during a wild spree at Amoeba in SF last weekend. Yeah, I'm a sucker for Case, but her voice mixes surprisingly well with Eric Bachmann's Neil-Diamond-brushed-with-Brillo tones. Oh, and don't forget Carol van Dyk in the list of gals with guitars, E-6. You did remember Georgia from YLT, as I can't forget one time at a live show Ira accepted "Alyda" as a request and you could see the face she made--guess doing those airy ah-ah-ahs isn't all fun and drumming games. Oh, and not to make this comment longer than the actual list, but I do sort of like Vampire Weekend, despite knowing I'm supposed to be part of the oh-so-dismissive backlash.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Beat Out a Compromise My Ass

Friday is the 153rd anniversary of the kind of moment that makes one proud to be an American--for it was on May 22, 1856 when a man hailed by one biographer as "perhaps the least racist man in America in his day" was nearly beaten to death on the floor of the US Senate. (No, Dick Cheney isn't that old, plus he never does the violence himself, unless you're a friend who looks passingly like a quail, of course.) Abolitionist MA Senator Charles Sumner had given a vituperative speech against slavery two days prior, pulling no punches (no pun intended), even mocking the stroke-induced speech deformity of pro-slavery SC Senator Andrew Butler along the way. Turns out Butler had a cousin (no, not one he was married to) named Preston Brooks, who was a congressman from SC (SC Motto--"bringing US govt quality since even before Strom Thurmond"). Brooks decided Sumner was even beneath the level to challenge to a duel, so instead opted to beat the crap out of him with a gutta-percha cane with a gold head. (I wish gutta-percha was something better than a Malaysian tree, for it's one cool word.) Brooks' buddy and fellow pro-slavery Congressman Laurence Keitt then brandished a gun, preventing anyone to come to Sumner's aid. All on the floor of the Senate. What's best is replacement canes were shipped from throughout South Carolina, with notes that said beat him again. To this day there is a town in Florida and a county in Georgia named in Brooks' "honor." Two notes: 1) I will never live in the south. 2) Obama is president now.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tongue Hanging Tired

Sorry but we've been on the run. Just got back from San Francisco, and boy are our car's tires tired. But it was a great time, despite the Mets getting shut out Sunday while leaving the bases full repeatedly. Then again, a lineup with Jeremy Reed at 1b and Alex Cora and then Fernando Tatis at ss, that's just not the Mets. We do have a Tim Lincecum bobblehead or two to put up on E-Bay for our troubles.

As for the good news--cocktails at Alembic and Acme, breakfasts at Brenda's and Ella's, notice we did not have lunches, dinners at Nopalito and Nopa (yes, they are related). Lots of CDs at Amoeba. Good times with Amy's brother Ken and a quick visit with Tom Hilton from IIRTZ, too. Crissy Field, the new Academy of the Sciences, the Ferry Building. It's one heck of a town.


Friday, May 15, 2009

Mad Dogs in the Fog

For Dog Blog Friday: You didn't get any picture last week, so you get both boys this. And the post title is a hint as to where we'll be this weekend.


Friday Random Ten

Wilco "Radio Cure" Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Curtis Mayfield "Pusherman" BaadAsssss Cinema
Brian Eno " The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch" Here Come the Warm Jets
Peter Himmelman "Over and Gone" Love Thinketh No Evil
Fred Astaire "You're Easy to Dance With" Steppin' Out: Astaire Sings
Teenage Fanclub "Ghettoblaster" God Knows It's True
Deadmau5 & Kaskade "I Remember" Random Album Title
Pascal Parisot "Je Reste au Lit" Paris
Beck "Cold Brains" Mutations
Graham Parker & the Rumour "Discovering Japan" [live] Squeezing Out Sparks & Live Sparks

The White Stripes "In the Cold, Cold Night" Elephant

Well this is an odd bunch with an odder secret theme. Thank god GP popped in there at the end. That's got to be one of my favorite live albums, btw, so if we want to have that discussion in the comments, I'm all for it.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks--And That Was Just Course Three

One of the famed wine-food challenges is pairing with artichokes. A second famed wine-food pairing challenge is matching up with asparagus. So what do you serve with pan-seared local black sea bass with toasted barley, artichokes, green garlic, asparagus, coriander and local kumquats?

Beer. With a side of contented smiles and blissful sighs rarely heard outside of an orgy.

I had the immense (in both sheer volume and taste-a-liciousness) pleasure to enjoy the first Beer Dinner at Hollister Brewing this evening since chef Dylan Fultineer paked up his knives and went from Hungry Cat to Hollister. The dish laid out above was merely course 2 of 4, and the evening opened with a "welcome beer" (I always welcome beer, myself), the High Water Helles brewer Eric Rose has been offering of late, a lovely light (not lite) beer that approaches the goodness of the best lager of all, Craftsman 1903. And that was just the appeti-beer-zer.

The first course was a crispy carnitas pizza with roasted garlic sauce, spring onions, Gioia fresh mozzarella, and chopped whole-leaf hops. Those hops were the direct bridge to the HIPA (I assume Hollister IPA, but it could be Heck of an IPA or Hooray! IPA, I'm not sure) served with. Of course, that lovely clipped bitterness of hops did the trick to cut the cheesy richness of the pizza, too, which made its clever play on Southern California site-specific sausage pizza with the carnitas (all done in house, evidently--and when will carnitas be a special, please?).

The second course, described in this entry's opening, was a riot of flavor tamed to one purpose. Each element was brilliant on its own--ah asapargus, oh artichoke--and then the barley, supposedly cooked risotto-style in the Fairview Farmhouse Ale it was served with, reminded us beer started as this very grain. Anyone who had had Fultineer's fine fare at Hungry Cat wasn't surprised at his skill with fish. But while at HC one might have had some wine to wash it down, here the Farmhouse made a perfect match--not as sour as some saisons, indeed a bit surprisingly malty sweet, but utterly delicious with the complex dish.

Pause here now to realize what we all had to do--there were still two courses yet to come.

As for the ambience, there is the unforgiving Hollister problem--it's in a strip mall, the room is big and tall, and it's dominated by all those TV screens. To defeat that a bit, they wisely set up tables in two long rows, leading everyone to become fast, beery friends as the evening proceeded. Besides, we all had our love of Hollister in common--how terrible could any of us be? Indeed, after many a toast, and many shared nods that we were the smartest people in Goleta for an evening even couting those Nobel winners out UCSB way, there's no doubt the meal didn't just please, it made friends.

Especially upon course three, an elegant embodiment of hoof and snout cooking: mustard braised veal cheeks and crispy sweetbreads with braised cabbage, baby turnips, and local cherries. Put your knife away for this tender wonder. Brewer Rose joked they were popping the fried sweetbreads in the build up to the meal as if they were chicken nuggets, although culinary gold nuggets might be a more apt term for them. The veal cheeks had that melt in your mouth (not in the calf's--sorry, just ruined the mood there, didn't I?) deliciousness. Each adornment served its purpose--the turnips a base, the cabbage a cut to the richness, the cherries a sweet accent and some deeper color. A magnificent dish, especially as accompanied by The J. Which isn't the old J, by the way. Now it's a lager, more like a rauchbier, although the German purity laws of 1516 probably didn't include smoked hemp seed (or maybe they were supposed to, but then everyone had the beer and forgot). The smokiness added one more note to the course, a lovely top flavor, almost like a few contrasting clouds scudding across an otherwise precisely blue sky.

Then it rained dessert of two sorts upon our table. First came one of Rose's prize projects, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout. The nose was so rich with vanilla it almost bought you a ticket to Tahiti. The flavor was deep and instantly pleasing. It would have been plenty as all of dessert. But Fultineer had something brilliant cooked up, and not just because it was slathered with bourbon butter (which I want on waffles really really bad). He made steamed gingerbread pudding, surprisingly light in texture not gingeriness, and topped that with the butter and placed a quenelle of vanilla ice cream aside (hiding a bit of nut crunch cleverly underneath, for more texture, flavor, flat out fun). Again, the pairs echoed and mirrored and deepened and and-ed--they just kept pleasing themselves and the person consuming them.

Yes, I am raving here. They will do this again. Everyone must be there. But leave two spots for Amy and me.

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Embedded Gadget Loves Byrne-y

Some fun live stuff from David Byrne's most recent tour, featuring songs he's done in some collaboration with Brian Eno.

If you go buy it, you help Amnesty International, too. And in his bunker, Dick Cheney dies a little (if the undead die).

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lear Jets His Way into Our Five-Lined Hearts

Today is Limerick Day, so get your rhymes a-chimin'.

There once was a man named Cheney
Who found nothing funny about the Knights Who Say Ni
Instead for a rush
He'd lower your head below your tush
And soak you as if you were a peony

A beauty contestant named Prejean
Believed only in "opposite marriage" to stay clean
But alas she got caught
As her boobs she had bought
And it seems that her brain reeked of saline

A sure-to-lose Senator named Specter
Held out hope as a party defector
"If a voter asks my view
If I'm red or I'm blue
I'll say yes and never correct her"

Up at midnight trying to write some lines
Is almost like introducing your forehead to fork tines
I had hoped to be clever
But offer malarkey and palaver
Stitched together like Abby Normal Frankensteins


Monday, May 11, 2009

The Boys Are Worried, the Girls Are Shocked

I think it's time to start drug testing journalists. For it seems at least Kurt Streeter of the LA Times is abusing self-rightulin. Yesterday, in his column entitled "Lack of Outrage at Manny Ramirez Shows Scrambled Priorities," he managed to write this:

You bet I'm out of touch, and that's the very reason it's important everyone in the media keep laying the wood to the rule-breakers and ne'er-do-wells. Someone has to draw the line. Someone has to keep hold of standards. Someone has to give voice to those who know there's more to life than winning. How you win, how you prepare, the ethics you bring to the ballpark and yes, to life . . . guess what? That matters.

It's when we lose track of this, when we as a society are willing to cut too much slack, when we in the press stop drawing a hard line, that deep trouble comes. You get the last eight years, probably longer: a fool's paradise, not just in sports and entertainment, but in politics and the economy.

Excuse me? Manny Ramirez is as bad as Dick Cheney? The slippery slope starts at Chavez Ravine and grinds its sad way to Foggy Bottom? Bonds applying the Clear is the same as Madoff making your retirement disappear?

Baseball is a game. That too many of us take it too seriously doesn't mean it's more than a game. It's entertainment. And while it might be horrible that Manny and Roger and Barry and A-Rod did things many of us don't approve of, that doesn't mean we didn't laugh at Richard Pryor making jokes about being coked up or relish the writing of a oft-times drunk like Faulkner. Indeed, one might make an argument that some sort of abuse is integral to entertainment. (I'm not that perverse to make the argument myself, but I admit to enjoying the kink of suggesting it.)

And, once again, I have to make the argument--who really knows what "performance enhancing" drugs do for baseball players? (That they get called that might be a hint, for like sexual performance enhancers, the effect might all be in one's head, so to speak.) After all, the moralists like to act as if only hitters (and Clemens, who everyone just knows is an asshole) juiced up, hence more offense. I mean, if pitchers were doing it too, wouldn't that make the playing field even, if on a different plane? And then there's the moralists' ability to ignore how the majority of players named are completely mediocre--scan the Mitchell Report, for instance, and admire the suckage that is Manny Alexander, Gary Bennett Jr., Nook Logan, Scott Schoeneweis, et drecka. Until scientists manage to do actual experiments, what someone assumes a drug does for a player is simply guesswork.

Unless, say, that someone spends lots of time with the players. Like, say, a beat reporter. That kind of journalist would no doubt be way ahead on this baseball doping story and bring all the cheaters down.

Just like the brilliant reporters would have saw through the lies of Iraq's WMDs and not actually parroted official bullshit so it was shiny, war-allowing shinola. Cause, after all, reporters like Streeter are the last defense against the collapse of all that's good, true, and full of itself.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Saturday Remote Random Ten

Dean & Britta "Ou Love Will Still Be There" Back Numbers
Grandaddy "The Gang Who Couldn't Say" Sumday
John Hartford "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow" O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Pianosaurus "Ready to Rock" Groovy Neighborhood
Emmylou Harris "Blackhawk" Wrecking Ball
Henry Threadgill "Better Wrapped/Better Unrapped (edit)" Manifestation--Axiom Collection II
The Robert Fripp String Quartet "Hope" The Bridge Between
This Mortal Coil "Not Me" It'll End in Tears
Wilco "The Late Greats" A Ghost Is Born
Sonic Youth "Female Mechanic Now on Duty" A Thousand Leaves

The Flamin' Groovies "Tallahassee Lassie" Groovies Greatest Grooves

Better late than burned to a crisp, as they say. One of the great things about digital is except for the vinyl never, uh, burned, if the house did get it, I'd still have 90% of my music. We are safe here, house is safe there. And, of course, the set closes with something flaming.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Jesusita H. Christ

Amazing LA Times photo (credit Mark Boster) showing a helicopter in a fire fight last night. You can see the whole gallery here.

So, we live right on the edge of the evacuation warning zone, but when things heated up last evening, and boy did they heat up, it was easy to imagine the winds whipping the conflagration through San Roque Canyon and to our house. So we packed up both cars, got the dogs in, and headed towards Goleta, safely away. Had dinner, waited. It was an odd time, safe with friends, in a place with lots of TVs, some on the fire coverage (we got to watch that one home up Tunnel Road burn for what seemed like hours), some on baseball, some on basketball. It's weird how the world just goes on while this giant destructive force makes its random path. The Independent says over 30 homes, but lots saved, too.

Now things are quiet, but we know enough that that's not enough. The winds will pick up again tihs afternoon. Here's hoping it's not too bad.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Once Upon a Blue Thing or Two

My friend Marty over at Senses Working had a student who dubbed a certain genre of tunes "sad bastard" music. If you don't instantly know what that means, it goes something like this--that lonely guy on stage, who sort of physically looks like John Goodman and Tom Waits' love child, will lead into one song by saying, "Here's one that's more uplifting" that features the chorus: "So I waited by the phone to hear it ring." The phone doesn't ring, and at most concerts that would be damn sad. But in this case it isn't, as no one dies. That's sad bastard in a sad nutshell.

Welcome to the musical world of Damien Jurado, who came to Santa Barbara to play to a large yet intimate crowd at Muddy Waters. Jurado is easily sad bastard's poster child, his songs full of loss and losers, death and dying. Closing the show he admitted his nine-year-old doesn't like his music as it's too depressing for him, except for his early, atypical "Trampoline" (but even there a kid breaks his neck, the joyous kicker being the other kids think he deserved it). So Juardo joked he would record a children's album entitled My Parents Aren't Married--He Isn't My Dad.

There is certainly a power to his ways, of course. His tenor warbles his song's emotions without overdoing it, and then there's knowing he's a tale-maker and not an auto-bio babbler. He appeals to whatever still lives in us that loves story-telling, and the music is just one more tug at our need for narrative as melody is a story too, of course. Still, it can get a bit samey, a bit too intense, and seem almost parodic--to reach for a comparison few will understand (sorry, I'm just wired that way), Jurado is sort of like imagining Neno from Ed's Redeeming Qualities decided to sing his sad sack songs for reals.

It is fascinating to note most of the audience were in their early 20s (Jurado has to be a decade more than that), and didn't fit the stereotype of the miserable and morose (barely any black eyeshadow could be seen). So what do they get from a tear-inducing troubadour? Perhaps he connects with their post-adolescent sense of put-upon-ness, elevating their meager misery to something more, something musical. If nothing else, it's good to see so many young 'uns hoping to get past the sliced and diced world of twits and twitters that's usually offered them. Jurado's acoustic folk isn't blues but blue, and that that can hold folks rapt has to be a good sign.

Here he is on the current tour doing "Letters and Drawings," the previously mentioned upbeat song, and bagging on Jimmy Buffet, which makes him even better.

His national opening act was Laura Gibson, who turned out to be the real find. It might be easy to call her a sad bastardess, simply because her tunes are quiet and her stage-patter even moreso--she'll never win an assertive contest. But the songs are cleverer than that, seemingly of no time, to the point that one of her band-members played saw. Yes, saw, the unplugged theremin that is still useful enough to cut you a window for escape or a coffin for burying. Many of Gibson's songs are death obsessed, but her voice is so light and declarative, so at ease with its observations, sounding like some mix of Feist, Madeleine Peyroux, and Devon Sproule, that you just go along for the ride, even if it's past the cemetery.

To hear some of her latest CD, check out this link.


And Again, Dammit

Santa Barbara is on fire, again, and the Sundowners are coming, again. So here's to those terrific firefighters--again. This one, called the Jesusita Fire, is actually the closest one of the last 4 has been to our house. If you know SB, it's on the ocean side of the mountains, about halfway down in the canyon up above the Botanic Gardens.

The view out our kitchen window from San Roque Gardens, just south of State Street, at about 4 pm:

Two shots from the parking lot at Loreto Plaza. You can spot tiny little helicopters if you look closely. It's amazing we ever get one of these out.

And here's a view from along Municipal Golf Course, which gives you a pretty good sense of the scale of things.

Here's hoping I get to keep reporting during the night and that: a) the power doesn't fail, b) we don't have to evacuate.


Monday, May 04, 2009

I Have Lit What's Left of My Life

People keep floating poetry around me--must be the residue of April's Poetry Month or something. So looking for sonnets sent me to Merrill and thinking about Merrill reminded me of this, still one of my favorite poems if for nothing else but being so gorgeous about the unsentimental--life's vaporous eddies and false claims indeed. But it's more than that, it seems true in so many ways, how we want to think our thinking makes us more than we want to think we are. Sink down with this, then.

Charles on Fire
by James Merrill

Another evening we sprawled about discussing
Appearances. And it was the consensus
That while uncommon physical good looks
Continued to launch one, as before, in life
(Among its vaporous eddies and false claims),
Still, as one of us said into his beard,
"Without your intellectual and spiritual
Values, man, you are sunk." No one but squared
The shoulders of their own unlovliness.
Long-suffering Charles, having cooked and served the meal,
Now brought out little tumblers finely etched
He filled with amber liquor and then passed.
"Say," said the same young man, "in Paris, France,
They do it this way"--bounding to his feet
And touching a lit match to our host's full glass.
A blue flame, gentle, beautiful, came, went
Above the surface. In a hush that fell
We heard the vessel crack. The contents drained
As who should step down from a crystal coach.
Steward of spirits, Charles's glistening hand
All at once gloved itself in eeriness.
The moment passed. He made two quick sweeps and
Was flesh again. "It couldn't matter less,"
He said, but with a shocked, unconscious glance
Into the mirror. Finding nothing changed,
He filled a fresh glass and sank down among us.


Friday, May 01, 2009

Oldies but Goodies

I wish the sound were better on this--some lovely flutter--but wow I wish I was there. The Velvets cover rocks, and then they find another gear for the Richman. Of course it's a band of folks my age, joined up with guitarists from a band a decade older, covering two artists who are closing in on 60 and 70.

Geez I'm a geezer....

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Worth His Wade in Grey

For Dog Blog Friday: This isn't a bath, so it's good water.


Friday Random Ten

Nick Lowe "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" Basher--The Best of Nick Lowe
The Mekons "Shanty" New York
K. McCarty "Hate Song" Dead Dog's Eyeball
Lou Reed "The Original Wrapper" Between Thought and Expression
Neko Case "The Next Time You Say Forever" Middle Cyclone
Gomez "The Comeback" Bring It On
Elliott Smith "Sweet Adeline" XO
XTC "Rook" Nonsuch
Jason Isbell "Shotgun Wedding" Sirens of the Ditch
Guided by Voices "Not Behind the Fighter Jet" Mag Earwhig!

S.F. Seals "Locked Out" Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows

Probably never better than the classic opening, although it's funny it brings up a very Mekons-ish K. McCarty after the Mekons, offers up the great lines "The next time you say forever/I will punch you in your face," and ends proper with a very tasty 3/4-career GBV. (And shoot, #12 was Big Star's "the Ballad of El Goodo.")


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