Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Random Ten

Pere Ubu "Over My Head" Datapanik in the Year Zero: 1975-1977
Louis Armstrong "Cornet Chop Suey" The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings
Waco Brothers "The Lie" New Deal
The Mekons "Dark Dark Dark" Natural
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah "Is This Love?" Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Talking Heads "A Clean Break (Let's Work)" The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
XTC "Miniature Sun" Oranges & Lemons
The Fratellis "Henrietta" Costello Music
The Scene Is Now "Room of Wicker" The Oily Years (1983-1993)
Rilo Kiley "Close Call" Under the Blacklight

Cat Power "Breathless" Jukebox

Hard to beat that Louis Armstrong. That last few seconds of the Rilo Kiley comes close. (A close call?)



For Dog Blog Friday: You will look into my eyes. You will give me boxes and boxes of Milk Bones.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Consuming Costuming

There's a pressure in dress up for me as October 31 rolls on up like a giant pumpkin ready to squash me with its oppressive social demand to be something else. And if I'm going to be something else, I want to be something else entirely--why be a sexy pirate, say, when you can be a sexy Flying Spaghetti Monster, and thereby spend the night touching people with your noodly appendage. I've always been a fan of the conceptual costume, too, like the year the person that I was with then and I dressed up as Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the Supreme Court case that suggested Roe v. Wade might not be settled law. I wore a judge's robe, and held a chain that went around fake-pregnant her. I never said I was subtle.

Other years things were simpler--the time I went as a Baskin Robbins, decorating myself in pink and brown dots, attaching a now serving sign on my back complete with a pull chain, carrying an ice cream scoop. That was a sweet costume. And I admit that last year (this was really only just 12 months ago?) I had no costume until about 20 minutes before party time when I grabbed a plunger, put a cap on backwards, and talked stupid most of the night, even before drinking. Yes, I was Joe the Plumber.

For a costume is one thing, assuming another personality is even better. Why not pull a bewitching switch on yourself? That's how Cal and Carl Gionfriddo were born, with some help from the hair and ears section of an old Ronald Reagan mask. I cut the face part off, you see, and the hair, when worn, sort of transforms a person. The Gionfriddos, one a bit sleazier than the other (I can't even remember which was which, now), were song-stylists, and were fond of polyester and white shoes (alas two sizes two small for me, so they were always a bit cranky, too). They were the kind of guys who called a dame a doll, pointed when they talked, but with both index and pinky stretched, as if they were forking their targets, and even better, wore not just gold chains but one chain with a pierced quarter on it, the first tip they ever earned at the piano bar. They were cousins, for some reason (OK, for the obvious reason--Brooklyn Bums, were they, not damn Yankees), of Al Gionfriddo, who made a famous catch against Joe DiMaggio in the 1947 World Series. One time, playing one of the Gionfriddos I was so successfully obnoxious people at the party who didn't know me complained to the hosts about my demeanor. I want to say I was brilliantly disguised that night.

I guess my problem this year is deciding who I want to be. I'm willing to take suggestions, but time is short for any special transformations. I partially would like to go as a "Robust Public Option," since Halloween is time for fantasy and all. I'm not sure--just like our friends in DC, I guess--how that might look, though. Yeah, I could pack a codpiece and add fake muscles for the robust part. Bring a stethoscope with two listening ends, it is/I am so strong. Be sure I have lots of pictures of Joe Lieberman to take out and rip up, as he's sort of the Lex Luthor to my Robustness. And besides just ripping up his photo would be fun.

That said, I'm asking for your help, here. How can I keep everyone healthy, at least for an evening? They say laughter is the best medicine, so get in line to make me a punch line to remember.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fairy Tales Can Come True, They Can Happen to You, If You're Young and Hard

Time for one from the vaults as it's paid hobby writing deadline night for me and I like these popping up first thing in the AM. Not quite sure how old this one is, at least 15 years, but I think versions of it have kicked about for 20. And the narrative it tells is almost 30 years old.

Bare Feet, Glass Slippers

Back when I was poet I had lines I loved but had no home for. I would place them in a poem, but they'd glitter like green glass amid the gravel. There's one line I kept dropping into poems, but it never sat quite right: The poem had to be called “White Pages” and the line read, “In a hundred years, it will be an obituary.” Maybe the line is destined to wander, an orphan among words.

But such a list could lengthen with all the never-settled images that seemed to sparkle, all the local musics that seemed as indelible as Stevens’ “Sunday Morning,” at least as hookable as the Stones’ “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Homesick for the land of pictures, every writer’s desire is to put things away, in places they belong, even if, particularly if, no one knew.

The first time I fell, really fell, in love (this is one of those romanticizings of losing one’s virginity), the woman recognized, when we were yet just friends, how a song moved me, how bathos hid me in its bubble. The song, Ian Hunter's "Irene Wilde," about a dumped-lover dreaming, “I’m going to be somebody, someday” in an "I'll show you" petty pity party way engraved like an invitation to seventeen-year-old wannabe poet me, can still edge me to tears, when the lights are low, the evening late, the liquor drank, and life is just life. There is a power in the maudlin of mothers’ calling children home at dusk. And so I fell in love, marveling someone knew I was moved, stunned someone felt me feeling. It was little surprise, then, the night we ended up in bed spring had sprung, it was March, and things started at an odd dorm party where we, madly kissing, thought we could hide behind a Christmas tree.

Why hide? Because Jenny was involved with someone else. There’s always a sensing of things, so Joe knew and was at Jenny’s door, and what became a straggled out week of romantic stealth ended. “Joe, go away.” Inevitable tears--the kind you cry when you find yourself wanting to hurt someone, those sins of omission. The movie Jenny and I saw earlier that evening was Tess, and it’s the film’s men I couldn’t understand. Roman Polanski, the director, has trouble with forgiveness, of course, but even Angel is unreasonable, too, too the preacher’s son. Could Tess refuse a strawberry on a fine day?

The patch of blood on the ceiling spread from strawberry size on. The arrest, at Stonehenge, is all the primal heading off in Nastassia Kinski’s sullen women-child beauty, something even she hasn’t got over: her looks have permitted her career only this one role. At Jenny’s room, later, Joe’s outside, we’re inside, the lights off, but the movie cannot stop. I am cruel and in love.

Joe will not speak to me for years, although I am left by Jenny in a similar if less dramatic fashion six months later. The stories go on, veritable palimpsests: A mad rollercoaster dash, a spaghetti plate’s last strand, a trig function gone awry.

Yet--or perhaps I mean yes--stories are made to sweeten. Few know how grim Grimm fairy tales are, how Cinderella, say, ends with the stepsisters, who are actually beautiful (if brilliantly cruel), so desperate for the prince, so fat of feet, chopping their own toes, hoping to squeeze into the shoe, which through a faulty translation, has been changed from fur to glass. To gaze down at that bloody clotted fur is to glimpse the ever-opening hope of slipping into something, is to forget their story is western culture's analog to foot-binding. That gaze is hoping a fairy tale like love is home, passing judgments like one word sentences: This. Here. Now. So, eager for a new life, to find a fit, the sisters risk blood, willing love and not caring about becoming cripples.

It’s an overstatement to say: Smearing prints and blood, we mark each other with desire, with our hopes we are living. And of my lines left wandering, I find these: “I wasn’t blind enough when I was blind;” “It’s for this I love and never forgive you;” “We are all dying for a better life.”

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The March from Justice to Just Us

Want to win me over with your musical, mister? Then come up with a big love song called "All the Wasted Time" that's keyed to the lovely sung line "I never knew anything at all." That's just part of the astute choices that makes Parade, which is currently running at the Mark Taper Forum in LA, such a powerful theatrical experience. Of course, Parade isn't your typical musical. Simply its subject matter sets it apart, as it's based on the true story of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born, Ivy League educated Jew who marries a southern Jew, moves to Atlanta for what seems like a good job, and ends up in a nightmare. For Frank is accused of a horrendous crime, the murder of a 13 year old girl who works in the pencil factory he helps manage. It isn't a pretty tale, to say the least, and the play pulls few punches.

Which means it only hits harder. Evidently the original Broadway production back in 1999 was conceived as an epic--big cast, big orchestra--not so big a run, a mere 84 performances. For it can seem cold, as Frank is far from a cuddly hero, and even in the new production (with a good 20% changed material, or so said music and lyrics writer Jason Robert Brown in a post-show discussion) T.R. Knight (yes, from Gray's Anatomy) plays him close to the vest. While we feel for him, we don't really feel him--he's all intellectual in a place where that seems to mean nothing, especially when justice turns out to be a sham.

The secret to the new production, as re-thunk originally for the Domar Warehouse in London, is to go small. The Taper, with its classic thrust stage, is perfect for that, and the tripling of roles and the concise orchestra tucked away above the stage out of sight, makes it hard not to feel implicated, to feel the feeling sometimes the characters themselves seem unable to feel. It's not like you have to reach much to find all the amazing strands of themes: north v. south, racism, anti-semitism, sexism, populism gone vigilante crazy. (Tell me the historic Tom Watson, a virulent racist pamphleteer who makes an appearance in the play, not the golfer, isn't simply a century old forbear of Glenn Beck.) So it's better to focus, keep us with the characters (all the fine acting and siging helps, of course), and let the ideas do their work the way ideas do, in amongst the cracks of lives lived.

For it's a damn 'nother play about love, after all, about how Lucille goes from the plaintive and all-too-real "What Am I Waiting For?" to fighting for her man, despite everything she has to hear about him. Despite the wickedly powerful testimony of the shopgirls, singing their catchy creepy song about how Leo was bad, like a musical threesome version of the scary Shining vision twins. Despite Leo himself, who almost doesn't realize what he has until it's too late.

For forget about justice being blind--just think about love. How we can stare it in the face for years and not know. This even gets rhymed by the governor and his wife, both calling each other jack-asses in the tenderest way imaginable. You can do the right thing and still be damned, and still be in love, the play insists. The parade of history, even with its vicious lynchings, is a parade of love.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Make a Wrong Turn Right

I want to think it isn't that long ago, but Fakebook is already nearly 20 years old, so I guess this video, which I'm not sure I've ever seen before despite it being official and all (but we're talking Yo La Tengo, so even the official stuff disappears within seconds of being created), is fair game for this feature, now a whole 2 weeks old. And despite my snarkiness about YLT's commercial chops, I assume anyone wandering into this here blog knows who they are, as next to the Mekons (perhaps even before them) they've sustained me for longer than any musical group, while other faves, like XTC, say, easily fell by the wayside. Part of that is they seem to be able to do anything, from the super sweet and wistful (witness this video) to totally rocking pop ("Sugarcube") to stuff out there in numerous ways (a whole ep of Sun Ra "Nuclear War" covers, say). Maybe it's the NJ thing, too. They're even Mets fans. Plus the couple of times I've managed to meet them, they sure seemed nice.

As for this song, well, is there a better advertisement for the ease and ache of decay? How seductive it is to measure our lives in seasons, to think the calendar cares a whit. Yo La Tengo has consistently, of course, been drawn to fall, from "Autumn Sweater" to "Here to Fall" on the latest CD, which says I'm here to fall with you but also worries about worry, in such a YLT way. It's never easy, is it, even in summer when the pretty guitar parts let out string creaks as if to say you've got to earn that pretty, sucker.

That's the danger of thinking summer is casual as we dress down, heat up, take off. It's anything but. All that sun, all that day, so much that seemed hidden gets revealed. That's what the warning light might be--notice in the video the lovely visual rhyme of the stoplight and the sun. While that light will turn green, the sun is doing its amber hazy set, gorgeous as we've choked the sky with plenty for it to refract through, enough to hide it would blind us if it could. Those who've spent enough time in bars can generalize one of their lessons, for at closing time everyone is beautiful.

For, of course, the summer does come undone. Everything does--the simple pleasures of a simple pop song, the sentence perfectly said, that, yes that, kiss. You and I. If there's a tune we share we better damn well sing it while we can, even if we can barely sing, ants trilling our scraps. At the end we can hope it's sleep, we can.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Random Ten

Young @ Heart Chorus "Helpless" Mostly Live
Elvis Costello "Friend of the devil" Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2008
Laura Gibson "Shadows on Parade" Beasts of Seasons
Nick Lowe "Nutted by Reality" Jesus of Cool
Jilted John "Jilted John" Zero: A Martin Hannett Story
Penguin Cafe Orchestra "Pythagoras's Trousers" Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Young Fresh Fellows "Go Pilots Go" The Homerun ep
My Morning Jacket "Gideon" Paste Magazine Sampler 18
Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby "The Downside of Being a Fuck Up" Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby
The Bird and the Bee "Fucking Boyfriend" The Bird and the Bee

Pavement "Starlings of the Slipstream" Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creeders Edition

Sorry, but a limited palette this week, just the songs on the iPhone. Still, I'm not sure you can do a bad cover of "Helpless." And I owe an apology to Jim James, but maybe I'll get to that if I ever wind up writing a review of the great Monster of Folk show last night. Plus a funny toss off from WE & AR, wonderful Inara George, and then still one of my fave Pavements.



For Dog Blog Friday: Well Nigel knows where he's going, but he doesn't know where he's been.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Only a True Friend Would Save You from Winning

I tend to ignore local politics as it's simply large scale politics with even bigger egos to make up for the less that's at stake. Everything gets hyper-parochial, where each and every individual backyard makes one NIMBY-enough to vote for a candidate despite all of his or her other positions with which one might not agree.

Things only get worse when comments start running like they have of late on FB, and I should know better sure. But here's how an exchange went recently, and let's see what you good people think.... As you might have seen, Craig Smith, ever on top of things, posted about a meeting between mayoral candidates Steve Cushman and Dale Francisco. He also linked a PDF of a letter that Cushman sent Francisco after the meeting, requesting that the only honorable thing Francisco could do would be to drop out of the race, for the good of Santa Barbara, of course. For nothing could be better for the good of Santa Barbara, then, uh, Steve Cushman. I mean, just ask him. (If you haven't read the letter, go do so at once to learn what a patronizing tone is.) A big part of that is if Francisco loses, then he's one lonely voice amidst the 7 council members and mayor, just as he is now. Of course, Cushman can't imagine (perhaps accurately, but still) that any of the more conservative council candidates might win and help support a Francisco agenda. But, at the same time, Cushman can imagine that if he's mayor and Francisco is still a councilman, their 28% share of the city power will move mountains. (Remember, this is a guy with a business background making this claim, not some dumb writer like me.)

But, separate from all that, there are direct points that drive me nuts in the Cushman letter that I have to assume reveals more of him than he would want revealed. For instance, when he writes "I want to stop the massive giveaway of our neighbors' tax dollars" it's instructive to remember that Cushman lives on the Riviera. So his neighbors probably aren't your neighbors. I doubt he considers the westside or lower eastside his neighbors.

But then there's this--Cushman's insistence that the biggest threat to Santa Barbara is employee unions. I guess that's what it means to be pro-business these days--to assume you can run one without any pesky workers. Or at least any that might think they need to band together to get a fair wage and good working conditions. But demonizing the unions is a simple, nay simplistic, solution--the kind someone as vapid (and only about her own money) as a Wendy McCaw might make. Is someone who is willing to scapegoat like that the person we want to be our mayor? (And that's leaving aside thinking the town would have a better way of life if the people who lived in it had crappier jobs. Uh, thanks, mayor.)

So, back to the FB worries. I posted a link to this letter on a FB friend's page who has been trying to run a forum on the election. I linked to the letter and said, "Anyone who wants to blame all of the city's woes on employee unions is blind to the complexity of running a city and going for the easy scapegoat." And then someone else posted this, and unless it's Harry Shearer or someone from The Onion making wise, I'm really really worried: "We precisely need someone who is blind to the complexities and end this 'we can't do anything about this mess' mentality."

Didn't 8 years of The Decider teach us anything? Are our only two choices thinking complexly or doing? Action and thought are not opposed, my friends. What we need is informed action.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Once I Made Shit Up

Busy night, making dinner for two wonderful women, trying to get a fancy cocktail jello shot recipe right and not spill too much of the test drives all over the fridge, writing at the paid hobby. So here's one from the vaults, just to prove I don't write fiction. It's supposed to be the beginning of a story, but maybe it's a whole thing? (Whole piece of crap?) You decide.


I like to watch how fingers go. It’s what I’ve decided wrapping is for--the very act, the encircling of something, not by paper, but by hands moving paper. As a kid I was always fascinated by the "this is the church and this is the steeple" game, the way the hands’ cathedral could tornado up into something special, and nothing more than fingers. With wrapping, I have learned it’s why we can toss the paper away: the hands still hover, like a peace dove at its light work, like those people I can’t quite dismiss as crazy, the macrobiotic ones draped in crystals who insist they can rub down your aura. You know the ones--their hands just off your body and everywhere, just above touching.

That’s how this one--“Welcome to Macy’s! CAROL”--does it.

No. She doesn’t. She’s awkward with the foiled paper, edging it as if the perfume box were a gemoetry answer she wasn’t sure of. My eyes are enough to fluster CAROL, and the silence requires filling. “Oh, it doesn’t have to be neat, it’s for my sister anyway. She’ll think I wrapped it if it’s less than perfect.”

CAROL giggles, as if working me for a tip, and her hands go, slower even, trying to make lines right, angles sharp. Her hands move like a knife in chilled butter. My cue, however much intended to be tender, leaves her more vulnerable, as I also planned, as I know.

Closetsful of perfumes await a sister I don’t have, but love dearly. This sibling excuse has given me these many moments, times to wonder at hands and how they can go about any business at all in a body where brains, hormones, heart all battle like a WWF cage match. To still this body I’m in, this mine, I wrap my toes around the high, stiffly padded stool, feeling like a contestant on the Dating Game.

I get to watch CAROL watch her wrapping. She is forced to wear some imitation lab coat that leaves her looking more like a waitress at a cheesy joint where sanitary seems essential, and the chef, some guy named Sluggo, peers into vats of soups, wishing he could unroll the Camels in his t-shirt’s folded sleeve. Still, the coat’s white sets off her raven hair in sharp relief, like watching colorized movies with the color turned off, that black and white always threatening to dip into the Crayolas. Such drama Ted Turner doesn’t seem to understand, the need for shadows, the hope for the yet unseen. This CAROl’S hair cascades, like Lauren Bacall’s over a scotch and soda, like Veronica Lake’s and all the Lake-a-like Rosie the Riveters with their caressing tresses spilling over ball turrets, over B-17s. No wonder we won the war.

Still, even with such an Angel Falls of hair, CAROL’S fingers fret; the ribbon she cut isn’t long enough and she hesitates, as if tossing the nine-but-should-be-ten inch strand might lead old man Macy himself to rain corporate hell down upon her. They have trained this one well. I resist plucking one wayward strand--dangled seductively like a lascivious participle--black on her white lab coat. The counter is a no man’s land, rigged with every fear that matches my heart’s desires.

Even the perfume counter, even in a city like this one, well, I’ve come to learn all rules are ex post facto. Suddenly, you’ve crossed the line, and like Wile E. Coyote, have given up land for air, with one moment to wave goodbye. Why waste time with apologies?

That one time, a name I’ll always recall, her nametag beaming Lily--she had even drawn the “y” like a flower--at me, and I had asked her to sample the perfume for me, something with a name like Jasmine Nights or Heath Romp, or something vaguer, like Scent of Scent, something from a bottle both yonic and phallic, a bottle that needed a cigarette, a bottle that hungered. She obliged. She daubed the scent south of her ear lobe, the invisible place a face hides, a triangle shaded by cheek, chin, hair, a place where lyric poets go to die, where John Keats coughed nightingales. Obligations ended, as I moved close, closer to the spot, her neck birhmarked and lovely. Before I, let alone she, knew it, my lips brushed her neck as if I were an archaeologist unearthing an ionic column on some Attic lawn and were so lost in love with history that I felt I had to repay it its kindness for waiting for me for centuries. For me it only had to be days, minutes, breaths, since dawn, and this Lily left someone who could know this neck better than his own. The glory of necks--they always belong to another, one always on the way to love. It hardly had to do with perfume. I actually giggled, the soft down quivering in my breath; in the perfume, my lips tickled.

Lily didn’t move quickly, but moved, stunned by how our assigned roles had broken down, how words like customer, work, American Express, turned blurry. I knew enough not to buy anything, money couldn’t cover such a mistake, only solidify it into a purchase. I did my best to run without running.

“Thinking of a lover?” CAROL teases, watching me now.

“Necks to nothing,” I mumble, taking the package, thinking of my closets and my perfumes for no one, and how every day is like a gift of clothes, a shirt, say, which even as adults doesn’t really thrill us, but we smile that thank you smile, we have come to know that much. Of course, the shirt never quite fits, but we wear it anyway.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

C'est Cheese Slips Us the Salumi

Of course I could not say no, not to something billed C'est Lami and Beer, both for the culinary and punning deliciousness. So tonight we attended this fine C'est Cheese event, one of their regular monthly tastings (heck, those of you who know me, play spot the George on their website photo of tastings) that generally focus on, not surprisingly, cheese, but tonight offered us 8 wonderful, cured piggy parts and a healthy dose of German Alt from Hollister Brewing, a beer too good to be mere palate cleanser. I all but oinked in delight.

First, to get the lessons out of the way, all salami is salumi but not all salumi is salami. (Plus it's great to have more words to rhyme with swami and pastrami and fond of me.) That is, if the borrowings from Italians can be trusted, that salumi is any cured pork product while salami is specifically a cured product made from ground pork. That means prosciutto, which we didn't taste, is a salumi, but since it's not ground, it doesn't have grounds to be called a salami. The salami we're all most familiar with from childhood, the one with the first name, last name, ear-worm jingle, and nifty programmatic vehicle to promote it, that's ground, after all, so earns its salami-ness honorably. When in doubt, go French, and let's call the whole thing charcuterie.

Since Michael is the guy with the salumi (if that's not redundant) at C'est Cheese, he led the proceedings, and as usual at their events, told us all about the history and makings of cured pork without boaring us (haha, funny bad spelling!). We even got a lesson in nitrates and nitrites and how foods get to be nitrate free--instead of adding nitrates themselves, they add things like celery juice, which are high in natural nitrates. So, celery is on the label, and everyone feels healthy...while getting their nitrates.

As one might expect in a tasting of 87.5% American product, the names Fra'mani and Salumi kept popping up as producer, given Paul Bertolli and Armandino Batali, respectively, are two of the most respected salumi slingers in the charcuterevolution ("don't grind till you see the whites of their jowls!"). Their stuff is wonderful, so flavor-packed in different ways, Bertolli trying to revive the classics, Batali doing his own yummily wacky things like a mole that is flavored with chocolate, cinammon, ancho and chipotle peppers, and you can taste all of that and more (pork takes spice better than most meats, if you ask me).

That said, two magical meats stood out for me, and that sounds a lot dirtier than I meant it to. The first came from Norwalk, Iowa and the producer La Quercia, something I loved more than a bushel and a speck. As it was speck, the clever shift on prosciutto that means they don't just cure the pork leg, but lightly smoke it, too, giving it this ethereal lift at the end. Great stuff.

They also spoiled us with Pata Negra, which I shouldn't like as it's as good an emblem as any of foodie culture gone bourgeois--it's the rare Spanish dry cured pork shoulder from acorn-fed black-hoofed pigs that just started coming into the country, and sells for $60 a pound. But then you taste it, that extra layer of nearly gelatinous fat, that depth from the acorns, something truly woodsy and real and not America at all. Then the finish, it stays with you, rivals the tannic tail of the Napa-iest cab. Incredible stuff and worth the legend.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 19, 2009

Two Shots of Fantasy and One of Make Believe

And here we kick off a new feature that needs to be called something like Pops Yatch's Monday Misty Memory Musings or something, both to scare away the children tired of middle aged men's indulgences that their youth mattered, and as there's so much I feel the need to get down before I forget...wait, what was I going to say? Of course, much of it will have to do with music, as music and memory go together like 6-4 and 3, like gin and dry vermouth, like Ellen Sombers and some ache in your eighth grade groin you weren't old enough to recognize yet. Plus the magic of YouTube continually brings up new things you hoped existed and then suddenly find out do. That magic of the "this can't be really happening, and it's better than the dream."

So here's Any Trouble. Lost to the early 1980s for most, no doubt, if ever even found in the first place. A bunch of great albums, lead singer Clive Gregson going off to support Richard Thompson for awhile, more solo work. Lots of obscurity. And now this actual promo video. Of course it's half a joke, as Gregson, even as a young man--and I promise he's a young man here--had a face made for radio. So "Second Choice" for him might seem pretty good, all in all about the best someone of Gregson's mien might manage. Perhaps that's why the song is surprisingly sprightly for its subject.

It's not my favorite Any Trouble tune, preferring the nailing of the Friday night hope to meet and impress vibe "Playing Bogart," recorded both fast and rip-out-the-heart ballad style, or the songs that kick off album two Wheels in Motion, especially the catchy-clever "Trouble with Love" and "As Lovers Do," that does that wonderful add the verses up quickly reprise trick to bring itself to a powerful end.

But if you were them, here, couldn't you feel a bit hopeful, with Costello and Jackson and Parker making you think you had a shot, at last, and here's your goddam video, so let's sing our witty poppy song and hope and hope. Same old story, all love and glory, and art hankering after commerce, is a pantomime.

Even better, I never paid much attention to the little list of "moods" that a band or song are supposed to capture according to All Music Guide. My Any Trouble love got clarified mighty quick, I think, when I examined their supposed moods and thought, "Gee, I'd like to think these words were me." So here goes: Yearning Bittersweet Passionate Energetic Earnest Reflective Cynical/Sarcastic Boisterous Confident Quirky Bitter Wry Rollicking Quirky Literate Witty Amiable/Good-Natured.

So here's hoping I make a good, obscure post-punk pop band someday. I hope with better glasses.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 16, 2009

Two Terrifically Toothy Grins

For Dog Blog Friday: We've just got to come up with some way to make Mooks and Nigel have a good time on vacation.


Friday Random Ten

Kate Bush "An Architect's Dream" Aerial
Sebadoh "Love to Fight" Harmacy
The Mekons "You Wear It Well" I Have Been to Heaven and Back
Uncle Tupelo "Steal the Crumbs" Anodyne
New Order "In a Lonely Place" Substance
Astor Piazzolla "Chiquilin de Bachin" Un Siecle de Tango Vol. 2
Prince "U Got the Look" The Very Best of Prince
Remy Ongala and Orchestre Super Matimilia "Dodoma" Mambo
Betty Serveert "Tomboy" What's Up Matador?
The Golden Palominos "The Haunting" Drunk with Passion

Philip Glass and Foday Musa Suso "North Africa--1962" Music from the Screens

World-ranging today, but the Dutch gal takes the tomboy cake, if you ask me.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Live Streaming!

Friday is the 47th anniversary of Byron White being named to the U.S. Supreme Court, and you're in (read that fast!) luck, as I can't pass up writing about a man nicknamed Whizzer, so don't be pissed at me. He was a football player in college, and then drafted, but he didn't go number one. Somehow they still nicknamed him Whizzer, for he was fast and they figured if ever a whizzer there was, it was Byron. Plus there's the rule nicknames must be alliterative and graduating in 1938 he couldn't have been Bionic Byron. Amazingly Whizzer was once the number two man in the Justice Department, but Bobby Kennedy didn't give a shit. So then he ended up on the Supreme Court, a wee, wee bit less liberal than the Kennedys had hoped. In fact, somehow a guy who played football and slapped butts for years upheld Georgia's anti-sodomy law--weird, and not just because saying upheld and anti-sodomy in the same sentence sounds like a double negative. Sorry if the humor just sort of leaked out of this blurb.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Don't Know How to Write a Big Hit Blog

Perhaps because it's a Wednesday, my mind turned to these guys, as this cut (which I never knew had a promo video before--ah, YouTube) used to kick off my college radio show of the same name, Wed. evenings 11-1 on the late lamented 10-watter WJHU (later I'd do the show through grad school too, at KRUI in so many different time slots I can't recall them all). So these 2 plus minutes mean a boost of adrenalin, an "It's showtime, folks!" call for me to try to put something together out of what others had done. To say something useful about it, about them, but never too much--I liked nothing better than building 30-40 minutes sets without obnoxious me breaking in, despite my efforts to master mellifluous tones. No, the goal was to build a mood, set a scene, take listeners from musical spot A to musical spot Z in a way no alphabet might predict. The joy of making surprising something out of other things. The hopefulness that someone out there you can't see, would probably never meet, to whom you're nothing but a voice, might find it all add up too. What a charming idea.

Of course this is merely a way to make sense out of life aesthetically, to pretend there's control over that getting from A to Z; I know that now at what I hope isn't much more than M. But there I go assuming order. Assuming the fates don't make the signal break, that no weather comes to ice up the antenna. That there's enough in saying "here's what I love" and having others love that too, and assuming that really does make anyone closer. For in the end in those pre-digital days, all a DJ was was a person in a soundproof booth, circles at arm's length spinning their spin, with headphones on and even one's own voice coming from outside, as if even one's self were imaginary, or perhaps I mean created. That humans have this incredible need to think creation must imply intent seems beyond what a DJ can deal with, as he merely clings to hoping to get you to dance, even if at times with tears in your eyes.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2010: Zygote Wins Nobel Peace Prize

(Dateline, Oslo, 2010)

It's damn cold.

And, in other news, the Nobel Committee today announced the 2010 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, a zygote in an undisclosed location, so as to keep it peaceful. The zygote could not be reached for comment, and even if it could, would say little as it's a diploid cell, and they aren't generally chatty, despite the cliched jokes that begin "two diploid cells walk into a bar." Plus, in theory the zygote will already have to forfeit the prize, as once it's taken the magical highway of life down the fallopian tube (remember when that trip used to be an E-ticket?) to the uterus, it ends up a blastocyst on the fifth day, and nothing with blast and cyst in its name gets near the Peace Prize (except for Henry Kissinger, of course).

Ulf Ulfulfsson, spokesperson for the Nobel Committee, said, "We knew we had to pick this zygote as it was the only innocent thing left in the world. A flicker of hope. A something as yet un-besmirched but all the smirchers. Let's face it, most of us are just crap."

Meanwhile in the U.S., reactions was swift and decisive from the religious right. "We find this award a total joke," claims Thaddeus Uptightus of the Christian Bomb Their Countries & Convert Their Survivors Council. "Even that zygote is born with original sin, and it gets it right at conception, which is why you can't abort it or you're ruining our ability to spread the guilt around, and you're all guilty if you're doing that conception thing and liking it, ok? This is a baby, no zygote, and therefore not a choice that the Nobel Committee can make."


Monday, October 12, 2009

Face the Music

Face it, there's nothing quite like faces. They do that dance from magic to reveal and back. They fill happy and drain sad. Even when nominally blank, we then get to project what we want to think on them, like the world's first movie screens. Documentary or fantasy, there's nothing like a face.

Perhaps this was Warhol's lesson as he shot his "screen tests"--500 black and white films that took place in just under 3 minutes but then were screened at 16 frames per second, the old silent film speed (he was a classicist at heart), slowing things down, elongating time, making one person's pas de deux with the camera stretch out even more. You deal with the gaze for that long. It's sort of like Michael Powell's Peeping Tom without the death--just face the camera and deal.

These films, or at least a handful of them, are making the rounds right now, and a version of them called 13 Most Beautiful... played at UCSB Arts & Lectures Saturday night to a sadly sparse crowd drained by competing events like Ani DiFranco at the Lobero and the very nice yet very bland Jack Johnson (and his film) at the Arlington. Those not there don't know what they missed since the 13 films were also accompanied by Dean & Britta doing live soundtracks to the films.

Now, Dean Wareham, alas, isn't the household name he should be unless you live at ______ (my address, redacted). Ever since Galaxie 500, and then through the sublime Luna, he's made more good music than most, from dreamy pop to Velvets-inspired crunchy rock, he's one of the guitar lines that connects Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine and then does even more with it. Plus he writes funny-smart songs that rhyme "girlies" with "earlies." So yes, I'd just go to see Dean & Britta, his latest band (Britta Phillips is his wife and the second bassist in Luna and now, well, just check the band name).

So, it was sort of like a concert with the coolest background visuals you could imagine, for the 13 beautiful almost always were beautiful, almost always were touchstones of the '60s counter-culture (not just the obvious like Edie Sedgwick but Billy Name!), and they did, for 4 minutes (at 16 inhuman and therefore terribly clearly illuminating, frames per second) let us in on some part of who they were, or wanted to be, or imagined Warhol wanted them to be. Ann Buchanan stares the camera down, let's one tiny tear out. How much we like our beauty to suffer, just a bit, something towards the sublime. Even better as Dean, Britta and their band play away, they often face the screen, as if they're in concert with these people, this time, channeling, taking us back to the glory days of the Factory that now seems so artfully optimistic. Dennis Hopper, chuckling to himself, the keeper of the world's best joke. Jane Holzer, brushing her teeth the whole time, parodying wholesomeness and being mundanely sexy. (And therefore stressing there is such a thing.)

Not surprisingly the highlight of the night was probably the Lou Reed screen test, given Wareham's brighter shade of Velvets fixation. Reed himself is all ornery youth, wearing his hipster shades, sucking away at a Coca-Cola bottle, as if to say "I've got Rauschenberg in your Warhol!" (am I hoping too much from him?). Meanwhile the band totally cut through a recent Velvet Underground find, a very early rare recording called "Not a Young Man Anymore." It's got that VU insane drive, but also room for Wareham to do the fine guitar work he can, always faster than he seems to be moving--as if he were playing at 16 fps, but we hear him at 24. Propulsive and a tribute and totally of the moment all at once--how often does that get pulled off?

One small complaint with the evening. It's mighty short. Going in there's that challenge--can you take looking at faces as long as faces can look at the camera/you? And 13 of them? In a row? But each proves how much people fascinate, and how little we ever stare each other down in this way. If we did, we'd need the sweet and crunchy music of Dean & Britta to keep us stable, to tether us to the ground when someone's eyes offer so much.

And at least they did one encore sans films. And not just any, when they started out I thought, no, it can't be, but it is..."Tugboat." [a video of them playing it, not at our show, here; my last ever poem, with its lyrics as an epigraph, here] Yep, he reached past the D&B catalog, past the Luna catalog (sniff), to Galaxie 500. But at least one of my favorite songs, that starts in dreams and moves to action, that repeats its words, as if a prayer, or a sense that anything worth saying is worth saying twice at least, like a face you can stare into for longer than you ever thought possible to fall deeper than you knew depths, into eyes dreamier than anything that ever began something that promised, promised so, and then there's no fade out but a flash to glorious blinding white, which might be the light of nothingness or acceptance, as if we know the difference, as if we care.

Labels: , , ,

eXTReMe Tracker