Monday, December 28, 2009

Their Crazy Music Drives You Insane--This Way

Particularly given it's a lesson most never stumble upon, I'm damn glad I learned early weird is relative (no, not relatives--that's a very different post, and one not suitable for the generous-spirit of the holiday season)(I mean, I've been generous with the spirits, haven't you?). One of my greatest teachers in that, visually, musically, conceptually, was Roxy Music, and this clip captures that magic in all its early '70s glam-eliciousness, from the tip of Eno's shoulder feathers to the, uh, tip of Andy Mackay's codpiece (after all, sax players need to emphasize their horns). And then the music, one glorious rush of rhythm and words, a break for nifty soloing of all sorts--what is that sythesizer Eno plays?--this kind of thing defined rock and roll to me. So guess why today I don't listen to the radio.

As with so much, I didn't get this when it happened--playing a cut like this in East Hanover NJ in 1972 would have had me earmarked for scheduling with bullies from every nearby burb--but something I "saved" for college, as my freshman year was as much about discovering Roxy, the Velvets, Mott and reading my way from '60s classic to classic (Hunter S. to Tom Wolfe to Michael Herr--yeah Dispatches came out in the '70s, but it's Vietnam for me more than Apocalypse Now or godforbid Platoon) as Shakespeare or Intro Psych or even that Idea of History in American Lit seminar I took with mostly upperclassmen and then stayed up 68 of 72 hours to write the final paper (on Gatsby, natch, and perhaps the only thing I'm left with is a love for fine shirts, though no one's ever cried over mine), only to end that sleepless stretch mildly hallucinating at a Fred Frith concert, but that might just have been me Frith-ing at the mouth.

After all, there are editions of you, me, us, more than you can shake a tambourine at, all acting up, acting out, trying things on. Roxy Music granted permission to those willing to listen and look, eager to bend tune, blur gender, or merely willing to let others do and therefore otherness necessarily fades away. Acceptance is a sort of dance.


Friday, December 25, 2009

That's Not A Nifty Noel Nigel Cap

For Dog Blog Friday: Every day is Christmas behind a greyhound, if you just look fast enough. Merry, happy to you all!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mild Gift

So I cheated yesterday, but I'm a writer, and that's what we do (back in my teaching days, I used to tell my students "sometimes you have to try to dance so fast so your readers might fail to notice there's no music playing"). The entry was supposed to be something to do with memory, that being the Monday feature and all, but instead I just used the song as a jumping off point for, well, I'm not sure what, but jump I did. Perhaps I was doing what was supposed to be a regular feature of this blog years ago but I never got past five of them tops, but here's one if you don't remember, and why should you.

So here's the memory or at least as much of it as I can coax through the decades of doing my best not to remember, hoping I could pass myself off as a self-invention who just showed up in college, well, I certainly can't say fully formed, but at least not anything to do with a child. Let alone one lying on the floor of the living room, usually verboten (life was lived in the family room, on the bottom floor, and the living room, the middle of the split-level, was for entertaining), and staring up at the Christmas tree, which all through my childhood was a fake one, for fear of fires, for needle-less neatness. The rest of the room's lights off so the tree's lights seem magical, even through the transition one year from the now what we think of classic bulb size to the smaller pinpoints, the ones easier to make star-up if you squinted at them right, caught them through the phony boughs at the proper angle. Of course there was the manger in front of me, too, so if you got a light in the right spot, insta-star of Bethlehem over the baby Jesu, poor thing in his crib with a corner chipped, the set so old, yet all his attendants still marveled, the gift-bearing kings, the shepherds, one even with a sheep on his shoulders, the donkey I wanted to call an ass just to get to say something dirty with impunity, and the cow, the one with little horns made of spring that were irresistible and had to be spronged.

It seemed I might lie there for hours, but at this point the memory is like a dream from which you awake right before denouement, so you're ever left shy of what you might have ever wanted, or maybe just the plunge into another dream. What did that young boy think? Perhaps it was simple as wishes, desire for the rod controlled hockey game or some new magic trick, that would be forgotten by the next Christmas. Perhaps it was as complex as pondering the Holy Family as my own became un-whole, knowing I could do nothing. Perhaps I myself was a gift under the tree waiting for a time, at last, to be present.


Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Synthmas

Sadly another one of those vids that aren't artist created to go with the song, but this Monday it's got to be this song as Christmas bears down with enough weight to make this the shortest day of the year. I must confess my love for this confection, despite many (starting with my sweet wife) who mock and probably wisely do, a song featherbrained enough to ramble on about a turkey that doesn't dance but sings, and then those proto-samples of some older gent biting off the word "Christmas" so curtly you'd think Santa just told the guy he had to give back all his Xmas presents retroactively for life.

But this is 1984 and this is Captain Sensible, whose had a damned time of it and ended up doing synth pop created by Tony Mansfield who should be better known as the man behind New Musik but it's not like anybody knew them either. (Check out here for why the music was dreamy fine and why Tony Mansfield as Group Leader sort of had to become Tony Mansfield, Ace Producer--boy, he's one dynamo live!) "One Christmas Catalog" is all of an era for me, though, and getting to drag it out annually makes me want to sing "one Christmas too many," the catalogs ain't nothing. For this music is as fake and lovely as an aluminum tree, one with that spinning color light wheel in front of it, the tree ever awash in change and hope and so much fake it becomes the only thing real. Who needs tinsel when the damn tree is a-glimmer?

And isn't that true of this song, too? That drum machine disco bop, those airy chick vocals making the Captain's croak more sensible, the gloss just getting glossier at 30 seconds in when that other chittery lovely airiness gets all happily staccato. This song has never been touched by a natural instrument. And is all the better for it. Let's all have our little seasonal fantasies, after all--whether it be the son of god laid humble for us and our sins so we'll get someplace to go besides dead, whether it be each day's sun a few minutes more and therefore a sense we can turn any motherfucker around just by dragging it into the light, whether it be for 4 minutes a tune can make you feel a bit timeless and forgetful with its vaporous beauty that's silly enough it's ok it signifies nothing. As if you couldn't hope to aspire to be even that much.

UPDATE (1/6/2010): As commenter Ben pointed out, the original video I posted suddenly became a private video (ooh, to own Spencer's!), so I've put a new one up. Still something someone made, and now my comment about Spencer's is really confusing, but that's the way with memory. Someone always goes and tries to own it on you.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Blue Mooks for Christmas

For Dog Blog Friday: Yes, the focus is soft, but that's just trying to cushion the sadness of a greyhound lying on his deconstructed bed as the outside part is getting washed.


Friday Random Ten

ABBA "Dancing Queen" The Best of (The Millennial Collection)
The B-52's "52 Girls" Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation
David Byrne & Selena "God's Child" Blue in the Face
Rockpile "Pet You and Hold You" Seconds of Pleasure
Glenn Gould "Toccata in D major, BWV 912 -- Vivace" Bach Toccatas, Vol. 1, BWV 910-916
Lucinda Williams "Blue" Live @ the Fillmore
Guided by Voices "Bomb in the Bee-Hive" Mag Earwhig!
Beirut "Prenzlauerberg" Gulag Orkestar
Tears for Fears "Change" The Hurting
Steve Earle "Hillbilly Highway" Ain't Never Satisfied: The Steve Earle Collection

Kasey Chambers "Paper Aeroplane" Wayward Angel

Started off like iTunes wanted to dance party, but then things faded to Bach and "Blue."


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Business of America Is Giving Americans the Business

Time for one of those point and nods, although this time the nod is pretty much immediately followed by weeping, gnashing of teeth, and the ripping up of my voter registration card. I mean, really, is there a point in voting? I "love" the line in here that a constituent is someone who can afford a lobbyist. I don't have enough money to matter.

Think I despair too much? For those of you who don't want to read the entire Matt Taibbi article, here's the very late in the game kicker (that should make you start from word one):

There's no other way to say it: Barack Obama, a once-in-a-generation political talent whose graceful conquest of America's racial dragons en route to the White House inspired the entire world, has for some reason allowed his presidency to be hijacked by sniveling, low-rent shitheads. Instead of reining in Wall Street, Obama has allowed himself to be seduced by it, leaving even his erstwhile campaign adviser, ex-Fed chief Paul Volcker, concerned about a "moral hazard" creeping over his administration.

"The obvious danger is that with the passage of time, risk-taking will be encouraged and efforts at prudential restraint will be resisted," Volcker told Congress in September, expressing concerns about all the regulatory loopholes in Frank's bill. "Ultimately, the possibility of further crises — even greater crises — will increase."

What's most troubling is that we don't know if Obama has changed, or if the influence of Wall Street is simply a fundamental and ineradicable element of our electoral system. What we do know is that Barack Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn't be surprised. Maybe it's our fault, for thinking he was different.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

An Inconvenient Turd

Forget about bitching about Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize days after ratcheting up Afghanistan--turns out Change We Can Believe In means "I'll think a long time before doing what you lefties don't want me to do, but you'll still vote for me, haha." Instead I think we first need to get Al Gore to give his Nobel back. Why? Three words--Joe Fucking Lieberman.

He was an obscure moralizing asswipe before Gore decided he had to prove he was so over Big Bad Bill he needed to pick someone all moral and shit, but, alas, Lieberman turned out just to be a shit. And since then he has thought he's somebody, and there's only been hell to pay. Of course instead of kicking his toches out of the Democratic caucus, Obama insisted on kissing it instead. And you know how that ends up. How one of the few shots of something good--the expansion of Medicare--to come out of the ever dwindling health care reform gets shot down thanks solely to Lieberman.

The good news is I get to feel better and better about that Nader vote in 2000. Don't give me that ridiculous Eric Alterman argument either--Gore cost himself that election, and it all starts with how he campaigned, and that is embodied in the junior jack-off from the Nutmeg State. All he could think of was to run from Clinton, despite how popular he was is and ever will be. And how did putting Lieberman on the ticket help? Was he going to lose CT without him? Did he help him win over a few folks whose undies were in a knot about Monica Lewinsky's thong, in some Bible, not fellow human, thumping place, like, oh, I don't know--his home state of Tennessee, which he didn't carry? Which would have won him the election and saved us GWB?

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Got to Get It All to Get It All to Grow

I was 14 and it wasn't just lasers it was lasers and rock n roll, a combo better than stars and stripes, Rowan & Martin, an old-fashioned one ticket doubleheader, whichever two of Charlie's Angels most zinged your wings (and if you say Tanya Roberts and Shelley Hack, you're just being perverse). I liked ELO enough I even saw what's dubbed "The Big Night" tour at Madison Square Garden, complete with spaceship and live lasers (much cooler than those on tv, particularly 1970s sets, that now seem quaint enough that the smart apes of 2001 would no doubt pass right by them on the way to the monolith and HD). But still there's something charming about this, the thrill for them, "We've got mighty focused light beams--behold!" My childhood was a much much simpler time.

For then there's The Midnight Special, which, along with Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, brought live rock n roll into suburban homes and made us all a bit more antsy than we might have been if we had never got beyond childhood bopping on a hobby horse while listening to Herb Alpert's Whipped Cream and Other Delights (if, as a pre-teen, I understood the symbolism of riding and the flat-out sexuality of that LP's cover, I didn't know it at the time, promise). For you kids out there, imagine the M in MTV stood for music. That's what these shows were, but not just videos, concert footage, live playing, lips that moved as sound came out in time always. Plus the shows were on late, so seemed even more forbidden, at the edges of permission or into stolen moments territory. If, by some misfortune, you ended up sneaking a way to watch only to catch a mediocrity like Gary Wright, you just figured "Dreamweaver" had to be deeper than you thought. Late night rock TV--it had to mean something, or else why would they hide it?

Take "Do Ya," just one of the many songs that might have entranced you from ELO's A New World Record, so straightforward a pun it's practically an out-tendre, and I refuse to get into another of the album's cuts, the maudlin tugs of "Telephone Line" that somehow is playing at some high school party in some basement one of the first times I'm in crush and it still means the world to me, despite at a party you can just go talk to a girl and not use a phone, well, unless you're a humble bumbler like, oh, some people. "Do Ya" is the opposite of that, anyway, announcing itself with brio-istic chords that underline the title's do. And then all the strings, but I've on-ed and on-ed about them in pop before, all the grandness they confer, all the swelling we want to feel, all the drama. All the so much in goddam tune.

But then the chorus. The "do ya do ya want my _____s" relatively sweet, group sung, even (see, everyone thinks you need to be with me!) and then at the end of each line, the id flips its lid, the more guttural "I need it" and more insistent "c'mon now" and warning "ahhmmm look out!" How fitting for a tune titled "Do Ya" which is both the start of a question and all of a promise shading to threat. What else does rock ask? What else does a 14-year-old hope to know, and soon?


Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Good Old Yawn

For Dog Blog Fri, er, Saturday: You humans bore me. Peel me a Milkbone or something.


Friday Random Ten (Saturday Edition)

The Mar-Keys "Grab This Thing (Part 1)" The Complete Stax/Volt Singles
The Mekons "We're Just Outside London" Pussy King of the Pirates
The Handsome Family "Beautiful William" Last Days of Wonder
Chavez "Unreal Is Here" What's Up Matador?
Wilco "I Thought I Held You" A.M.
Talking Heads "Animals" The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
Allison Krauss & Union Station "The Lucky One" New Favorite
Tom Russell (with Nanci Griffith) "Outbound Plane" Long Way Around
Tom Waits "Big Black Mariah" Rain Dogs
John Doe & the Sadies "It Just Dawned on Me" Country Club

Pere Ubu "Worlds in Collision" Worlds in Collision

This one took a bit to warm up, but that's fitting given I did it a day late. Some lovely Americana here. And that Chavez song made me buy the whole album, only to find out I really only like the one song. Damn samplers.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

This Could Stop Christmas, Among Other Things, From Coming

Post edited to take out the player that kicked in every time you visited INOTBB. All apologies. If you want to hear the song, go here yourself:

Yes, this grosses out even me. But it sort of nails my holiday cheer at this point. Why can't I get it up for Christmas this year? Do I need Elve-itra? I don't even want to go Christmas shopping--time for Buy-agra, I guess.

Neko Case probably won't hurt.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Play with Matches and You Might Get Learned

Moments just prior fascinate me, mostly because we can never know they are what they are till what happens happens. They are always ex post facto, receding in the rear view mirrors of our lives, open to interpretation, to the outline finding details as needs be. That's just one of the fascinations of An Education, which captures a slice of England 1961 before The Sixties--now a construct, not just a decade!--happened. More importantly for our 16-year-old heroine Jenny, the Second Wave of Feminism had just started to stir off the cultural shore, so she's left to bob in mighty calm and boring seas for the meantime, a calmed pool of stratified bourgeois striving, with hopes of going to Oxford to read English as her way out (to what, exactly, becomes the question). It's certainly not to the world about which she dreams listening to Juliette Greco records, as the film lovingly, languorously captures her in one scene, rapturously listening on her bed--where better for such a wealth of feeling she can only feel she should feel.

Till David shows up. He's thirtyish, dandyish, cleverish--so full of "ish"es any young woman should probably know enough to run the other way. But he's got charm, so much so he can even convince Jenny's parents to let him take her to a concert (with a harp!) and a post-show supper. It's here that Jenny might as well admit she has a feeling she's not in Kansas anymore (or whatever the English Kansas is), for the film practically shifts from black and white to color--they go to a posh nightclub where a chanteuse holds sway and the whole room seems slinky jazz. Carey Mulligan is wonderful in scenes like these, so suddenly awake, so stirred, she practically pops off the screen. Director Lone Scherfig completely presents this world to us, and there's no question why it's so seductive to Jenny--we damn well want to live in it too (heck, that's one reason we go to movies after all).

I don't want to give away the movie, just tell you to see it, to feel the ache of a smart girl in a time when smart girls didn't have enough to aspire to and therefore men, caddish, men. (Perhaps this is an old story.) True, it ends too quickly and neatly, but it pulls off not just a music montage but one set in Paris with aplomb (indeed, it's so perfect you realize it can't be real), but it features secondary characters you want to know more, like Cara Seymour as Jenny's mom, who knows too well her daughter's pains (watch her react when Paris plans almost include her), like Rosamund Pike as the ditsy Helen who is smarter than she seems (one reviewer's comparison to Judy Holliday is spot on). And then there's Peter Sarsgaard's David--perhaps even that he's a Yank impersonating a Brit for the film should be a hint. But never has a rogue seemed so enchanting. He plays David as a man who has even fooled himself, at least at times, and when those crinkly lines form around his eyes when he smiles, he's hard to resist.

As a postscript, here's a sidenote of 20/20 hindsight: where has Floyd Cramer been all my life? The film uses his delightful confection "On the Rebound" for its title sequence, and talk about charmingly seductive....

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Monday, December 07, 2009

A Monday in Trouble (Is a Temporary Thing)

Some wisdom runs true whether you're 19 or much much older, and that gets us to this week's installment, Debora Iyall and the boys doing "Never Say Never," something you can't help but learn as ever keeps your never further at bay. The song, of course, rides on its infamous chorus couplet, which isn't just a sly come-on but also rhymes "better" and "together," suffering slant rhymes, hinting that the two won't always ever lock-step click no matter how much the bassline pulses its sexy slide. The name of the group is Romeo Void, after all.

Still a wonderful song for an undergrad to latch onto, a skittery dance that makes one re-think sexy as attitude and force and not just looks, and then Benjamin Bossi blasts and blats his sax and you knew what that meant, even young. The song so metallic and gimlet-eyed you want to identify, to be part of the cool San Fran hipsters smashing that glass that says guitar as the guitar you hear sheds its sharp shards. But in your heart of hearts, it's "Flashflood" you prefer, all ballsy ballady angst, cause you're soft and you know it. It's ok, Iyall does, too.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Through a Glass, Multiply

For Dog Blog Friday: Our work cloning Nigel is almost complete.


Friday Random Ten

Elvis Costello "You Tripped at Every Step" Brutal Youth
Richard Buckner "Hand @ the Hem" Since
T Bone Burnett "I Can Explain Everything" The Criminal Under My Own Hat
Luna "Romantica" Romantica
Tom Verlaine "The Day on You" Songs and Other Things
Son Volt "Windfall" Trace
The Mekons "Cowboy Boots" I Have Been to Heaven and Back
The Gants "Wonder" Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era
Steve Earle & the Del McCoury Band "the Mountain" The Mountain
Beck "Scarecrow" Guero

David Lindley & Hani Naser "Mercury Blues" Live in Tokyo

Good list, if only I could hear it. Seems the iPod will pick a giant Shuffle Songs, and will advance from cut to cut, but won't play any music. Uh-oh. And I thought the day would all be easy after having to pick up Mookie's dump in the building lobby as we waited for the elevator to get to my office.


Thursday, December 03, 2009

Mama Cassoulet!

You did want to be there for a feast to end all feasts, the latest Beer Dinner at Hollister (two previous paeans to pigging out are here and here) that we crazily enjoyed last night. I won't go on and on given you can read the menu and make your own drooling conclusions. But some things do need to be said.

1) Celery root soup is way way better than anything with the words celery and root in its name deserves to be. Soothing, rich, the perfect warm up on a chilly winter evening (those of you with real weather, no laughing, please--it was like in the low 50s last night here). And the tiny diced sauteed apples sub for bacon much more effectively than you'd think.

2) Shave me some fennel and I'll be your friend for life. (Fennel with 5 o'clock shadow isn't nearly as tasty.)

3) Pomegranate seeds and persimmon together is not over-kill.

4) If you put three kinds of squash in enough cheese and no doubt some butter and cream, no one will ever tell you squash is boring.

5) Anything is better roasted. I might eat gravel if it spent enough time in olive oil and a 375° oven. Plus it's fun to say rutabaga.

6) Three different kinds of kale braised is not over-kill, especially when one is delightfully purplish and doesn't lose its color when cooked.

7) No doubt on Olympus they had French chefs and ate cassoulet. It is the perfect meal, based on beans so it keeps you humble, yet then there's the rich sauce, the duck, the pork, the sausage. And it has to come in a big pot, all together--none of this deconstructed shit. I mean, if a put a bunch of steel girders and rivets on your plate, I couldn't call it the Eiffel Tower now, could I. Don't screw around with French brilliance. Unless you want to make gunciale sausage. That's just smart.

8) Evidently you can cook Hachiya persimmons and not make mush.

9) Asking for a small glass of hip-hop double IPA to end a meal like this one means you've got one of the deadly sins nailed for life.


Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Motel Is Let Em Spelled Backwards

Not much to say about this but, gee, they're cool. If looking a bit old. (Aren't we all?)


Arnie Rhymes with Blarney

Perhaps you didn't see this last week, being preoccupied turning yourself into a turduckhuman (now with more human!) or watching too much football (I saw over a down--way too much) or plotting your 4 a.m. shopping strategy (shopping carts make even more effective battering rams on people pre-sunrise, I've heard), but the AP reported and even people in Kansas City (motto: "is NOT an oxymoron!") cared:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says photographs of his Porsche illegally parked in a Beverly Hills red zone are proof that even he makes mistakes.

The Republican governor said Tuesday his Saturday violation shows "no one is perfect--not even me."

Frankly I'm shattered. If I thought there was anyone perfect in this world, I thought it was the governor of a state whose unemployment rate is 12.5 percent, its highest level in nearly 70 years; the governor of a state whose once glorious universities will raise tuition 32% next year; the governor of a state where tax revenue won't bounce back until the 2014-15 budget year, while near term, the state faces a nearly $21-billion deficit.

I mean, that's perfect. If not as perfect as Kindergarten Cop.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ach, Marx the Spot

Sure it's a cheat not only to blog for the "day" at ten to midnight but also to post something you wrote years ago. All I can do is ask for forgiveness. In the meantime, here's something I should have posted for the weekend anyway, or perhaps never posted ever, as it's a poem from the vaults. This goes out to folks in Zeno's, btw...


The month’s end and my friends
are down to singles,
their wallets fat and poor,
hungry bulging stomachs.

What can one do when
hands are empty and so much
needs filling?

There’s a song about this
American Reds in their cells sang
before they knew Stalin
was offing heads by the gross.

If someone told them
they would keep singing.

The words are gone,
Stalingrad is gone,
and the beer is almost gone,
but scraping our change
together buys us another
pitcher, if we stiff the waitress,
which we do.

Like the rest of us, she can
drown her sorrows by the glass
after work. What’s one tip
in a night lugging fuel
to fire the forgetfulness of drunks?

We worked hard, too, to buy
ourselves this bitter, this blind.
Unkind as dawn, we are, or
the fearful clarity of light
they throw on us at last call.


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