fave albums of (or 2011 releases discovered in) 2012
loosely ordered, except for Mr. M, which is #1 & which I will assign 30 of my 100 points for in Pazz & Jop because Kurt Wagner should get all the money.
see also: 91 mp3s for holiday space-chooglin’ (my 2012 year-end mix, 620 MB, .zip)
Lambchop, Mr. M (Merge)
Aaron Freeman, Marvelous Clouds (Partisan)
Tall Firs, Out of It & Into It (All Tomorrow’s Parties)
Grass Widow, Internal Logic (HLR)
Man Forever, Pansophical Cataract (Thrill Jockey)
Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas (Columbia)
Jack White, Blunderbuss (Third Man)
Dustin Wong, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads (Thrill Jockey)
Dirty Projectors, Swing Lo Magellan (Domino)
Glenn Jones, The Wanting (Thrill Jockey)
Swans, The Seer (Young God)
Flower/Corsano/Hejnowski, The Count Visits (Hot Cars Warp/Flowerhouse)
Cate Le Bon, Cyrk (The Control Group)
Bee Mask, When We Were Eating Unripe Pears (Editions Mego)
Glacial, On Jones Beach (Three Lobed)
Little Black Egg, Buzzard’s Bed (Egon)
Talibam! & Sam Kulik, Discover AtlantASS (Belly Kids)
The Beach Boys, That’s Why God Made the Radio (Capitol)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Arc 2012 (no label)
Sun Araw & M. Geddes Gengras Meet The Congos – Icon Give Thank (RVNG)
Akron, Voyage of Exploration (Vampisoul)
The Mad Scene, Blip (Siltbreeze)
Woods, Bend Beyond (Woodsist)
Yair Yona, World Behind Curtains (Strange Attractors)
Tyvek, On Triple Beams (Into the Red)
Lee Ranaldo, Between the Times and the Tides (Matador)
Josephine Foster, Blood Rushing (Fire)
Tom Lawrence, Water Beetles of Pollardstown Fen (Greuenrekorder)
Six Organs of Admittance, Ascent (Drag City)
Chris Watson, El Tren Fantasma (Touch)
Chris Corsano, Cuts (Hot Cars Warp)
People of the North, Steep Formations (Brah)
Sonny Smith, 100 Records, volume 3 (Polyvinyl)
The Men, Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones)
Francisco Lopez & Zan Hoffman, Concert For 300 Magnetic Tapes cassette (The Tapeworm)
not ordered at all
Karen Dalton, 1966 (Delmore)
Taj Mahal Travelers, Live at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, 1st July 1971 (Klimst)
The Trypes, Music For Neighbors (Acute)
Francis Bebey, African Electronic Music, 1975-1982 (Born Bad)
v/a, Soft Sounds For Gentle People, vol. 3 (no label)
v/a, Personal Space: Electronic Soul, 1974-1984 (Chocolate)
Grateful Dead, Dark Star (Rhino)
Lee Hazlewood, The LHI Years (Light In the Attic)
The Flatlanders, The Odessa Tapes (New West)
Conrad Schnitzler, Live ‘72 (Further)
Toy Love, Live at the Gluepot 1980 (Goner)
Sonic Youth, Smart Bar 1985 (Goofin’)
v/a, Break the Tabs & Check the Dolby B (Dan Bodah 2012 WFMU Marathon Premium) (no label)
unattached songs, singles, etc.:
Bourgeois Blues 7-inch – Zea & Xavier Charles (Makkum)
“Star Spangled Banner” 7-inch – Bill Orcutt (Pallilalia)
“Genene” – Aaron Freeman (via Soundcloud)
Life-Size Cut-Out 7-inch – Harpoon Forever (Bleeding Gold)
“Bohemian Rhapsody” – Robert Wilkinson (via YouTube)
“Put the Suck On You” – Dew Claw
“NYC Tonight” 12-inch – Dump (Zelone)
“Never Learn Not To Love” – The New Surfsiders (Norton)
“Jon Counts To 100,000” – Jon (via YouTube)
“Mitt Romney, A Hero In My Mind” – William Tapley (via YouTube)
older stuff, recently found:
Neil Young, The Complete Bernstein Tapes (no label)
Neil Young, Sad Movies (no label)
Tyvek, Nothing Fits (In The Red)
Tyvek, Fast Metabolism CD-R (no label)
The Willies, Peanut Gallery, 24 April 1983 (no label)
Eve, Take It & Smile (LHI)
v/a, Everybody Rude Now (no label)
Bingo Trappers, Solar Holiday (no label)
v/a, Soft Sounds For Gentle People, vol. 1 (no label)
Dave Weckerman, “Shore Leave” b/w “Out of Baby’s Reach” (Yellow Fear)
The Mattoid, Glory Holy EP (Infinity Cat)
Alastair Galbraith, Orb (Next Best Way)
Akron/Family, 285 Kent, January 21st
Yung Wu, Maxwell’s, February 18th
Rhys Chatham & Oneida, Merkin Concert Hall, March 17th
Lambchop/Yo La Tengo, LPR, April 19th
Chris Corsano, the Stone, May 3rd
Oneida, 285 Kent, May 12th
The Beach Boys, Beacon Theater, May 9th
Hopscotch Festival, September 6th-8th
Arborea house show, Portland, ME, October 27th
Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Madison Square Garden, November 27th
Yo La Tengo with The Feelies, Maxwell’s, December 10th
Yo La Tengo with Andrew Bird, Jon Glaser & Jon Benjamin, Maxwell’s, December 14th
Radio Unnameable documentary
Fake It So Real documentary
Delocated, season 3
Experience Music Project Pop Music Conference, NYU, 3/22-3/25
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem
Still On the Road: The Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2006 by Clinton Heylin
The One by R.J. Smith
Psychedelia by Patrick Lundborg
the 33 games started by R.A. Dickey
Happy New Year! I hope you’re doing awesome!
At least for a second, at some point in 2008, each of these 83 tracks was my favorite thing in the entire known universe. Some still are.
Click here & download (no rigmarole this year!): http://www.megaupload.com/?d=M62XEW3K
Make a playlist! Shuffle it!
Welcome to the other side.
1.) No Frow Show tonight. Got some stuff to do in the morning. If you’re up from 3-6, check out Jen.
1a.) Also, I really liked this Frow set: http://www.wfmu.org/listen.m3u?show=29173&archive=46275&starttime=1:01:39 ">Arcade Ambience, etc., 11/3.
2.) I’m going to continue to post here–because, despite http://www.wired.com/entertainment/theweb/magazine/16-11/st_essay">what Wired says, blogs really are an effective text distribution/organizational system–but a lot my 2.0 energy seems to be going towards Twitter these days. See you over there, maybe? I’m twitter.com/bourgwick.
“Quinn the Eskimo” (take 1) – Bob Dylan and the Band (download)
A few weekends back, at the WFMU Record Fair, I picked up a copy of Bob Dylan’s Great White Wonder. The first ever rock bootleg, it was originally released by the Trademark of Quality underground label in 1969. Famously, it came in almost totally blank packaging: white jacket, white labels, sometimes a rubber stamp with the title.
The copy I bought comes with a handwritten title on the front, obviously scrawled by a dealer at some point along the way. Likewise, the labels on the vinyl itself only contain simple simple black dots, indicating the A-side (I think) of each disc. Others, it looks like, had more formal packaging.
Surely, though, with a batch of brand new, unknown songs, many people must have annotated their copies, guessed at the titles, etc..
Got one? What does it say on it? Join the Great White Wonder Project pool or upload to flickr with the tags “bob dylan great white wonder” and I’ll deal with it.
“Got To Be Some Changes Made” – The Staple Singers (download) (buy)
The Obamagasms continued today. For me, they came, quivering and screaming, through the new site, change.gov. While complete transparency and openness in government is impossible, and maybe not even desirable, this is a pleasant start. One can peruse the General Services Administration directory issued to all new White House personnel, apply for a job, or submit ideas. While WhiteHouse.gov is certainly chock full of information, change.gov is efficient and friendly. Perhaps it’ll all prove illusory, this change thing, but Obama’s clearly got better web designers. And that’s a goddamn good way to begin. I’d like to see what kind of mail comes in. Perhaps I’ll apply for that job.
There are some bits worth poking at. For example, the semi-self-serving-and-presumptuous-but-also-neat-and-2.0y American Moment feature. There are also forms at the top of the page for one to enter one’s email address and zip code, with no explanation of why they might be needed. Nonetheless, I entered them with only the briefest of second thoughts, willfully giving my contact info to a government-domained website. Apparently, I’ve just signed up to help remake Washington. Or something.
Change is “change” is “‘change,’” but it’s also a talking point, albeit the peaceful variety. It’ll certainly be fascinating to see how President Obama’s rhetoric continues to maintain or mutate the brand and how that relates reality. (Practically speaking, does he continue to use change.gov or take over WhiteHouse.gov?) Most telling, for the moment, is the blunt NEED CONTENT page behind the “Obama National Service Plan” link. Then, there’s a lot that’s empty on this site. Content will be coming soon, and probably quickly. Hope they’re ready, and–more–I hope they’re serious.
I’ll be sitting in for Stan’s show on Monday night/Tuesday morning.
Check it, peeps:
The Frow Show, 2 am – 6 am, September 29th/30th, WFMU, 91.1, wfmu.org
Hope to see you (or merely sense your presence in the ether) around that time.
Some of my stuff has made it into books lately:
o A previously unpublished short story, “The Night Before I Got Home,” will be featured in the Real Magicalism comics/fiction anthology, edited by James Burns.
o A 2003 interview with Hunter S. Thompson, originally in Relix, was reprinted in Conversations with Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Beef Torrey and Kevin Simonson, published by the University Press of Mississippi.
o A 2001 interview with Bob Weir, a 2003 interview with Mike Doughty, and a 2004 interview with Lou Reed (the latter two in different forms than originally printed) are featured in Song: The World’s Best Songwriters on Creating the Music that Moves Us, published by Writers Digest Books.
o New biographical essays on Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and David Bowie are featured in the Greenwood Icons edition, Icons of Rock, published by Greenwood Press.
o New biographical essays on Prince and Stevie Wonder are featured in the Greenwood Icons edition, Icons of R&B and Soul, published by Greenwood Press.
o Educational book, Presidents: The Race for the White House, illustrated by Scott Peck, published by innovativeKids, edited by Russell Kahn (not necessarily recommended for anybody above, oh, the third grade — though it does come with a nifty jigsaw puzzle)
I taped an appearance with host Brett Pasternak for tonight’s episode of Woodstock Jams, speaking about “How Jerry Got Hip (Again).”
10 pm-midnight EST
on Radio Woodstock, 100.1 WDST
also streaming live at WDST.com.
After that, the show will be archived for a week on their site. (Click ‘Woodstock Jams.’)
Like a slacker, I totally spaced on mentioning that I was going to be a guest on Gary Lambert and David Gans’ Tales from the Golden Road show on Sirius radio on Sunday afternoon, along with my pal Barry Smolin and journalist Denise Sullivan.
So, uh, sorry.
If you happen to read this before 9 am EST on Monday, and want to hear more musings related to my Relix story, “How Jerry Got Hip (Again),” and some random call-ins that didn’t have much to do with it, that’s when the show will re-run.
Sorry for the late notice, but if anybody’s around, I’ll be reading some fiction here on Sunday eve:
Rhymes with Birds at the Petri Space
A night of poems and prose by acclaimed local writers (plus free food and cheap boos)
June 8 at 7:30pm
114 Forrest St. buzzer 15
Take the L to Morgan. Take the Bogart exit, turn right out of subway onto Bogart. Walk on Bogart to Flushing.
Forrest st. is the diagonal street across Flushing and Flushing Farms. (directions) (More info.)
Thurston Moore interviews Steve Reich (download)
recorded at Austin Convention Center, South by Southwest, 13 March 2008
Amid the extraneous meat market noize of the Austin Convention Center, there was at least occasional discussion of actual music. On Thursday, that included Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore interviewing minimalist composer Steve Reich.
If that sounds remotely up your alley, the whole conversation is worth hearing.
Of note to our headier ranks were Reich’s comments on his pre-minimalism free improv group in San Francisco (listen), and his relationship with future Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, a fellow student at Mills College under the tutelage of Luciano Berio (listen).
Friends! Landlubbers! Brooklynites!
I sincerely hope you are all weathering the season with minimum
weather-induced mope and maximum nog.
Here are 111 songs — old faves, new friends, Dylan covers, shuffle-zen,
etc.. — I have thought ginchy since the last time I did one of these (and
in a more compatible file format, too):
Sorry about all the ads & clutter on MegaUpload, here’s how to navigate it:
1. Click above link.
2. Ignore flashing lights, find code next to MegaUpload logo, enter code into special box, click “download.”
3. Wait 45 seconds (sing rousing chorus of “Contact” while watching onscreen
counter, waving arms), click “Free download.”
4. Save! Go!
…when on harddrive, click on file happyholidaysxojj.zip
Helper monkeybots are on call in the comments section to answer any technical
Other’n that, see y’all next year.
The 2007 La Superette DIY arts/holiday fair commences this weekend. I will be selling a small collection titled In the Autumn of the Island and other stories, each with a Polaroid. You should go.
!!!!!La Superette celebrates 10 years of making, shopping, and wrapping!!!!!!
Please join us for this year’s festive events all held at chashama’s
Times Square location:
112 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
Shopping days are scheduled for:
Saturday, December 1st 12-7
Sunday, December 2nd 12-7
Saturday, December 8th 12-7
Sunday, December 9th 12-7
This year’s installations artist is: Patrick Meagher
Theme song by: DJ neckbreaka
With works by:
Newyorkclocks, Aaron Krach, Amanda Boulton, Anna Harsanyi, alexis
scherl, Amy Sanford/Merry Monk Design, Aughra Moon, Ben Fino-Radin,
Becky Hutcheson, caroline byrne, carrie dashow, Twice Sewn, Collin
Cunningham, Corinne Enni, Colleen Rochette, Craig Comstock, Charm
DIR + ACB, David Carter, Miggipyn, Donna Jo Brady, AcHT(eN), Eliz,
erica weiner, free103point9 Dispatch Series, Hannah Gibson, Heather
Phelps-Lipton, Ginger D’anus, Gremalkin, Kitty Jones, ( ), Josh
Goldstein, Jesse Jarnow, Jill Killjoy, deChow, ^^^, Jennifer
Nedbalsky, Jesse Pearlman Karlsberg, Climate Change Preparedness
Center, Kimm Alfonso, Karen’s Monsters, kim couchot, Kim Scafuro,
egnekn, better than jam, Sheepishlion, no-time, Kristin Zottoli, Pink
Elephant, Levi Haske, Lori Bode, Lais Williams, Marie Evelyn /
Analogous, Marisha Simons, Molly Dilworth, Muffy Brandt, Mary Gagne,
Mira Artz, Miss Chief, Michael Krasoiwtz, Monika Webb, Radio Shock,
Mark Williams, Nathaniel Kassel, Nina Young, ipodtherapy.org, Patricia
Buraschi, Pillows for the People, rebecca alvarez, hawkwind, 35mm
Designs, Sue Havens, sallykismet, Flower Face Killah, Loud Objects,
Teresa von Fuchs
Performances dates are:
Dec. 13 – Benton Bainbridge + Matty Ostrowski, Loud Objects
Dec. 14 – MV Carbon + Tony Conrad, Nautical Almanac
Dec. 15 – Luke Dubois, James Rouvelle + John Roach
Dec. 16 – Dan Iglesia, Gerald Marks
La Superette 2007 is brought to you by Ignivomous Inc, (www.ignivomous.org)
La Superette 2007 crew
Director: Tali Hinkis
Producer: Kyle Lapidus
Webmaster: Ron Rosenman
Graphics: Netta Rabin and Karen Lawler
Special Projects: Douglas Irving Repetto
PR: Evelyne Buhler
Superator: Amy Benson
Stage Manager: Ryan Welsh
Video Curator: Susan Agliata
Chashama Liason: Jenny Rogers
Gone in search of the Boognish.
Back in action here Thursday. Probably.
“Terrapin” – Syd Barrett (download) (buy)
recorded 24 February 1970, Top Gear, BBC Radio 1
(file expires November 7th)
About 10 years ago in Copenhagen, I saw a dude walking down the street in a leather jacket with the words “Rock & Roll” written on the back in bedazzled studs. And I think he really meant it. That’s pretty much how Tom Stoppard means it in Rock ‘n’ Roll, currently in previews in New York, a play — when it boils down to it — about Czechoslovakian politics and, ahem, Syd Barrett. But, in the context of Czechoslovakia, where rock remained a revolutionary force for several decades longer than the United States (if it ever was here to begin with), the simplicity is totally excusable.
Midway through the first act, intellectual/rock dork Jan (Rufus Sewell) stomps around his room in Prague. His hair has grown out and he wears a long coat. When he turns to face his four shelves of vinyl, for a moment, he resembles nothing less than one of the proto-Commie dreamers of Stoppard’s Coast of Utopia. Rock ‘n’ Roll is in, many ways, an epilogue to that trilogy, catching the last few decades of socialism before the Velvet Revolution and the fall of the Wall, a bridge back to the modern world from the ideas Herzen, Belinsky, Turgenev and others opened up in Utopia.
As a standalone work, Rock ‘n’ Roll is a bit simplistic. Like Ethan Hawke’s clownish Michael Bakunin in the Lincoln Center Utopia, the characters do a lot of shouting about Ideas. In places, the music is predictable — cuing “Welcome to the Machine” after a typically Stoppardian debate about mind-as-spirit vs. mind-as-machine, for example. But Pink Floyd, it turns out, is still a foreign substance to legit thee-ay-terr, and the effect — mixed, Jah bless ‘em, at a genuine loud volume — is at least a superficial mimicry of how Czech rockers the Plastic People of the Universe must have fit into political discourse: rudely. Indeed, the songs were always abruptly cut off before resolution, the lights thrown up and the next scene begun instantly. (And, sometimes, the music is totally unpredictable, like a totally WTF?! excerpt of the Rockin’ the Rhein rendition of the Dead’s “Chinatown Shuffle.”)
Stoppard’s got his post-existential/surrealist formula down pat: the life/emotional arcs of characters embroiled in sweeping historical/intellectual concepts, with a few plotlines about incidental contemporary happenings to keep things cosmically circumstantial. In Rock ‘n’ Roll, the latter role is filled by Syd Barrett, who haunts the play, sometimes literally. Formulaic or no, though, it always leaves me excited, the way I felt the first time I saw Arcadia as a freshman in college, like everything was somehow connected.
“Well, that’s the last Stoppard I’m ever going to,” huffed a British chap outside afterwards. Maybe Brian Cox switched accents midway through some scenes, as my friend suggested. Maybe it was just too loud. (Thx, G’ma.)
I love me some Super Taste. Their spicy beef noodle soup makes Republic’s taste like a styrofoam cup of ramen flavored with the pepper packets from an airline meal. The hand-pulled noodles are soft, full, and delicious. Man. And it stings.
I had always assumed that it was the noodles that I loved, and that part of the Super Taste experience is the notion of getting through the spice to the noodles: eating with the fear of slurping a noodle that would lash around like a serpent’s tail and flick spice directly into the eyeball (a sensation surprisingly not unlike what the tongue experiences). Recently, after I’d espoused this idea to Boomy, it was suggested that I simply order the soup without the spice — in fact, an option directly below Spicy on the menu. Nothing to feel guilty about, she said. If you like the noodles, just get the noodles.
So I did. And it just wasn’t as good. On one hand, I feel like this is a revelation my unrefined tongue has been working towards for years. On the other hand, maybe it’s just ’cause Super Taste is so ridiculously ridiculous. Either way, my good blue shirt has some subtle spice staining action this eve.
“Seahorse” – Devendra Banhart (download)
Reviewing is a guessing game, no matter how informed one is: a guess about what the contents will do with time. Will the melodies lodge and reemerge later as lyric fragments? Will the textures — of the music, of the medium — bond with the changes in the season and permanently lash to an ultimately arbitrary time and place? Listening is ephemeral, of course, but what’s really there? Is there something there? What’s left when the newness of context falls away? In that sense, it’s terribly unfair to review an album after even after a few months of listening.
To use an indie-safe example: when I wrote about the Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow upon its release, I listened a bunch, took it for absolutely decent standard-grade rawk, tucked it away, and forgot about it. That is, until months later, when I heard it played under the din of bar chatter between bands at Webster Hall, at which point I realized I knew nearly every melodic turn. Go figure. Once I got past the relative blandness of the more guitar pop, it was mondo groovy.
I reviewed two albums today by two other indieish standard bearers: Devendra Banhart and Iron and Wine. One grabbed me. The other didn’t. One seemed like a real step forward for an artist I didn’t quite get previously. The other seemed like a goofy step straight into the middle of the road for a musician I’d grokked instantly on his previous discs. Is that how they’re going to hold up, though? I really don’t know, but one can look for familiar signs: a certain way the guitars are recorded, a certain vagueness in the lyrics that suggests their abstraction will be useful, a preponderance of a certain mood. That’s all they are, really: guesses about how people might want to spend their time in the future.
I sometimes think about Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape artist who designed Central Park, who intended for his work come into full bloom only with a century of time. Not that most musicians are as good or functional or meaningful at their work as Olmsted was with his, or that their work will make any sense whatsoever a century from now, but — by their very nature of captured time reproduced — albums are somehow like that. All they’ve got is the promise of future meaning.
The only reference I have ever seen to the village of Jarnow, Austria comes via an account in the New York Times‘ “condensed cablegrams” section published on 7 February 1892 wherein it was reported that an unnamed doctor was killed by two unnamed comrades of an argumentative (and unnamed) Captain.
Since then, events in Jarnow, Austria ceased to be documented by the New York Times — if it could ever be said that they were documented at all. Indeed, for the remainder of its years, the village of Jarnow managed to elude nearly every piece of written documentation since digitized, as well as the memories of at least three generations taking its name for their own.
Whatever Victorian classification philosophy initially divided Sunday newspapers into their compartmentalized hunks of knowledge is long obsolescent in the culture at large. But I’m not sure it’s outlived its usefulness. The Sunday New York Times was never interchangeable with the world it described, though it sometimes seemed like it was. Now, especially, it seems like an obviously incomplete sampling of events presented with a strongly limited perspective.
Lately, though, I’ve come to value its finite qualities way more than its reportage. One could probably find the same stories scattered about the cyberether, but the fact that the Times has chosen to focus on them is what’s important. Data smog is an old problem (to borrow David Shenk’s phrase) and one result of being so overwhelmed is to enter blogospheric niches — be them centered around, say, obscure mp3s or liberal politics — and simply never emerge. Or, worse, only see the world through that community’s eyes.
The Times, especially on Sundays, isn’t just all the news that’s fit to print. It’s not all the news, for starters. But it does fit, neatly and valuably, into a few pounds of tree meat: a microcosm, or at least an organized place to enter the dialogue.
Dearest Wunderkammernists -
As you may’ve noticed, the site’s been a bit a spotty lately. I’ve been getting everything migrated to a new server, a process far more oi-inducing than I could’ve predicted. Anyway, I’m gonna take a break until everything is all squared. Could be tomorrow, could be next week, I dunno. When we come back: field recordings of distant marching bands, more animation, new micro-fiction, and all kindsa mp3s.
Well, there was a new Frow Show to post & some other odds & ends, but Ropeadope is off ’til Monday, and I’m gonna do the same. We’re just gonna get back to detonating marshmallows for freedom now.
I am not quite sure what to call the below episodes of Robot Chicken and Powerpuff Girls, in which fairly fuckin’ hilarious Star Wars and Beatles references, respectively, are framed in the shows’ usual styles. They are not mash-ups, except conceptually. They are too scattershot to be parodies, and too oblique to be tributes, though that perhaps comes closest. Anyway, it’s probably making too much of them, but both make comedy from the secret vocabulary of intimate fandom.
It’s not like other shows haven’t done the thematic-inside-joke-as-leitmotif before, but these two happen to do it with worlds that have been with me (and probably a lot of people) since early childhood. So, it’s absurd, but it somehow runs deeper than that — as when the Robot Chicken dudes tell the story of Ponda Baba, one of the many creatures from the Mos Eisley cantina that resonated with my adolescent self as grotesquely creepy, or when the whole Powerpuff episode builds towards a joke based almost exactly on More Videos
I’d heard about Tideland, but my first notice of its release was when I looked down at the Daily News (I think) while eating a taco at two in the morning and seeing (I think) a half-star review of a new movie. Wondering what could possibly be so awful, I was informed of the existence of a new Terry Gilliam movie. I missed it during its New York run, and sat on the DVD for a month or so after it arrived. My suspicions were met head on when Gilliam himself arrived, in unflattering black and white, to introduce the film himself.
“Many of you are not going to like this film,” Gilliam says. “Fortunately, many of you are going to love it, and a great many of you are not going to know what to think, but hopefully you’ll be thinking.” The math is a little dubious. It is not optimistic, and — after Gilliam tells what, exactly, we should be thinking — it certainly contributes like a self-fulfilling prophesy to the ruin of the movie, which plays out like the most hideous recesses of the adrenochrome nightmare Gilliam hinted at in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (with Jeff Bridges as the anti-Dude doing his best impersonation of Bernie of Weekend at Bernie’s fame). Tideland‘s fundamental language is no different than the fantasy-infused grotesques of Brazil or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but — as Gilliam’s totally unnecessary and film-mauling introduction seems to emphasize — it plays the grotesques for almost pure shock as opposed to building blocks towards larger truths.
It’s nice to see Gilliam getting arty and strange again after a decade run at the mainstream. It’s a logical step for him, artistically. All the darkness, of course, lurked near the surface of his Flying Circus animations for Monty Python — which is exactly what gave them their power. I hope he keeps chasing this particular muse. Maybe he’ll get it next time. (Don Quixote, sadly, seems the perfect manifestation for it.) I am not going to repeat Gilliam’s instructions for viewing Tideland, because they give concrete shape to what could be an oblique and implacable experience. (Though you can watch the intro on YouTube.) (No, you can Google it yourself.)
“Don’t forget to laugh,” Gilliam reminds us, sounding like a total sourpuss. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he gravely intones at the end of his message. The image switches to color (?!) for a frame or three. Only then does Gilliam smile. The joke is definitely on somebody.
“Summer Salt” demo – Funny Cry Happy (download)
Wrote this song in October but had occasion(s) to record it this evening. I think there are some partying Puerto Ricans in the background on one of the tracks. It’s a very rough mix right now, though C.P. Farnsworth will soon tweak it up proper. It’s short & could probably use a bridge. Also uploaded to the Funny Cry Happy MySpace page…
A reasonable/utopian proposal to rebalance the cultural ecosystem.
If it can be proved that:
1.) In a neighborhood…
a.) …there has been a recent boom in high-value residential real estate…
b.) …the average rent for a commercial property has increased.
2.) An institution in that neighborhood…
a.) …is of cultural value…
b.) …has been open for five years or longer…
c.) …was able to operate at the original rent…
d.) …cannot viably function under the new rent.
The neighborhood’s new residents should be made to pay a Gentrification Tax to cover the difference between the institution’s original rent and the current market value of the property, as well as any attendant costs for the legal enforcement of the law.
(via Edward Champion’s Return of the Reluctant…)
Turn to page 123 in your work-in-progress. (If you haven’t gotten to page 123 yet, then turn to page 23. If you haven’t gotten there yet, then get busy and write page 23.) Count down four sentences and then instead of just the fifth sentence, give us the whole paragraph.
“I will gather the rain and the moon and I’m gone,” I heard myself sing, my voice practically one with the background music. I broke for the surface of the pool, took a quick gulp, and plunged down again. “I will gather the rain and the moon and you’re gone.” Another breath. “I will gather the moon and the stars and we’re gone.” The song was buoyant, harder to stay underwater while it was playing. I was filled with joy, which I had not expected.
Some people swear by Moleskine notebooks. Me, I’m all about the 6 1/8″ x 3 3/4″ 72-page Oxford Memo Book, stock number 6096 1/2. They look old school, age well after months in my back pocket, and never fall apart.
Unfortunately, the dude at the stationary store told me that they are being discontinued in that size. I, for one, am having a cow.
Emails with the Esselte Corporation, trying to order even just a single case, have proved fruitless. Googling and eBay searching have been similarly frustrating. As I embark on occasional missions to various lower Manhattan stationary stores, I figured I’d post a cyberplea, as well, and make an offer…
If anybody comes across any 6096 1/2s (or the ledger-lined 6094), I will gladly cover the costs of purchase and shipping, and will send a care package including a mix CD and other goodies. Drop me a line, y0!
(And speaking of cams at shows…)
“You fucked my girlfriend with a cellphone!” said GWAR’s Number One fan, upon encountering the band in Hell, shortly before they chopped into him and he squirted the sixth or seventh round of fake blood on the audience. Before that, though, the band clarified: “We didn’t fuck your girlfriend” (pause) “…we raped her. And it wasn’t a cellphone. It was a phone booth.” (Cheers.) Then blood. Like every between-song skit — which also included Adolf Hitler, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George W. Bush, and Jewcifer — it was scripted with the obvious punchline: cover the audience in some kind of fluid. There was also a fake cock and a lot of fake cum.
“There used to be a lot more blood,” said my friend, who’d seen GWAR “10 or 20 times.” “It used to start gushing as soon as they hit the stage. It was a lot better.” He’d never seen GWAR — who celebrated their 20th birthday last year — in any place larger than Irving Plaza, the small ballroom where we saw them tonight. It makes sense. After all, any bigger and the blood cannon (placed at crotch level and operated by a dude in a leather thong) wouldn’t be able to reach the back of the room.
Besides the wall of tee-shirts and branded underwear at the merch table, there was also a veritable metal record store. Besides discs from GWAR and their two openers, there were also long cardboard cases filled with their brethren like Cannibal Corpse, Cattle Decapitation, Born Into Pain, and Destroy Destroy Destroy. It was a one-stop subcultural shop.
GWAR have been doing this for twenty years. With their anonymity-granting costumes — which resembled, well, bad guys from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles — they could tagteam members for generations (if they haven’t already). GWAR could still be playing in decades, when metal feels quaint, like bluegrass does to us. One can never underestimate the power of being covered in fake blood, though. If being covered in sweat is the sign of an authentic ecstasy, then GWAR do all the work, virtually guaranteeing that anybody who wants to can have a literally physical, visceral experience. And that is a pretty good concept for a band.
My first reaction to Tom Cox’s “Don’t film it, feel it” editorial in the London Times was annoyance. And, after thinking about, it still is.
I get Cox’s point: if people are spending the whole shows taking pictures on their phones, they’re not listening. Admittedly, it’s frustrating. A few months ago, I saw my friend’s band, the Rolling Stallones, play at CBGB. During the opening act, a gaggle of girls up front spent literally 20 minutes taking pictures of each other in front of the stage. I don’t think it was even for the purposes of documenting themselves at the soon-to-closed venue. It was just obscenely narcissistic.
But were the girls taking pictures of each other really going to be “listening” to the show, anyway? Going to see live music is about far more than just the music coming out of the speakers, otherwise you wouldn’t fork your money over and you could just stay at home and listen to the stolen mp3s. It’s a social act, with all the attendant relationships.
Though I’m a big proponent of cell cameras, I almost never take pictures at gigs. But that’s just me. Even though there are tons of differences, I associate their use at shows with the act of smuggling a cheap cassette deck in to make a bootleg. The content is different, even the action is different — cell cams being condoned, bootlegs being, well bootlegs — but I think it’s the same impulse. The resultant tangle of Flickr pages, MySpace and Facebook pictures is obviously ephemeral. But so is live music. That’s sort of the point, right?
It all seems like a way of engaging with the music. And by “the music,” of course, I mean everything besides the music itself: one’s friends, the rest of the crowd, the band, the club. In an age where one’s relationship with music is more complex than just listening to albums and going to shows, it’s sometimes good to be able to locate herself in the noise.
Of course I was annoyed by the girls at the show. It wasn’t because they were taking pictures, though. It was because they just wouldn’t shut up. But that’s a much older problem.
I spent part of my Saturday afternoon reading on my couch and part of my Saturday afternoon playing video games with the neighbors. The latter felt healthier. Part of this had to do with the fact that they just acquired a Nintendo Wii. We strapped on the little controller boxes and played. It was social and, if not exactly exercise, then not exactly anything else, either. And I certainly wasn’t alone in my own head anymore.
The baseball game was primitive. There is only batting and pitching. No fielding, no baserunning. In the bottom of the third, the last inning in this stripped-down rendition of the rules, with the score tied at zero, my friend hit a long fly out to left field with a man on third and one out. There was no option to tag, so no run scored. The game stayed tied, and there were no extra innings.
But the experience was pretty remarkable, especially bowling — which, when done in a group of four, strangely mimicked the group act of actually bowling. Even the gestures, mostly involving lining up shots and putting spin on the ball, felt real. I thought often of my college bowling coach.
Naturally, when playing these games, we all assumed the natural postures of what we would do when playing meatspace sports. In baseball, we held the controller like a bat. In golf, like a club. But we don’t have to. One can trick the game into thinking he’s made a full swing with just the slightest twitch of the wrist. But it is a precise twitch, subtler than the intricate hand-eye coordination required for traditional video games.
Until Nintendo releases boxes that attach to the ankle, to mimic the motion of running (or Dance Dance Revolution), the Wii probably won’t slim down the post-cherubic youth of America. But it could do something else. The first generation of home video games refined the use of the thumb: those of the rotary era still dial phones with the pointer fingers while members of the Nintendo generation are more likely to use their thumbs. Who knows what the Wii will really do?
Have a yummy one.
See you Monday.
(Don’t even know if this is possible. If you or someone you know can possibly code this, do drop a comment below.)
Idea for art: an mp3 that changes itself with each copy. That is: a computer-generated piece of music that contains a mechanism/algorithm to alter its contents whenever somebody drags it somewhere. No two listeners would end up with the same song..
Over the weekend, I spent some time recording, and finally started a MySpace page for Funny Cry Happy. Included are the two demos I just made, “No Wonder” and “Textual Healing,” and a few songs from On A Clear Night, You Can Smell For Miles. I’ll post more as they’re ready.
I’m gonna be mostly off-grid this week. Regular posting will resume Monday the 11th. xoxo, jj.
The idea of playing with copyright — through mash-ups (musical, visual, or otherwise), pirating, mixes — occasionally seems the modern equivalent of psychedelics. Like LSD, which had been in circulation for two decades previous to the 1960s, the notion of reappropriation took some time to achieve critical cultural mass (and has been present, in some form, for all human history). There are people who exploit it on a strictly recreational level (such as downloading music), and those who have used it as a great springboard of creativity (such as turning that music into something new and redistributing it). Committing one of the latter acts, especially, one automatically enters into the dialogue, rearranging the symbols around himself. It is an instant ticket to the group mind. Mostly, playing with copyright makes one see the world differently, as something more malleable than it was moments earlier. Though maybe not as dangerous an idea as acid, it still makes for a dandy of a bogeyman.
I was not raised bi-platform. I’ve been an Apple user since the day my Aunt left her family’s IIe with us while they went on vacation. I was five or six. The next holiday season, one of our very own materialized in Dad’s studio. The hulking gray console now sits in the corner of my room on top of a closet. In the intervening decades, my family shared a IIc and two desktops. In high school, I got a desktop of my own, and am now on my fourth laptop. Just as I can only effectively communicate in English, I can only really function on Macs. I’m an ugly American and a brutish Apple rube.
With the death of my third iPod in three weeks by unprovoked harddrive failure, I think my faith in Apple’s hardware has been irrevocably scarred. There’s nowhere I can go, and — from now on — there will be a half-second of near-panic every time I turn anything on: Will it work? Am I about to get all stressed and shit or am I going to get that demonically sad icon again? Is my computer about to die on me? (Holy shit: did my back-up jump drive actually just die on me? What the fuck?)
Fuck you, technology. I’m going to bed.
(See http://www.wunderkammern27.com/2006/07/stand_in_the_place_where_you_l.html">part 1 for explanation.)
When I was a kid, I had a poster of Earth on my wall — a fold-out from National Geographic, I think. Clouds and storms and systems obscured parts of the planet. When it rains, I like picturing myself beneath some twisting gray-black cover that can be seen from space, no different from the atmospheric turbulence (give or take) on any other planet. We’re preparing for a heatwave now. I’m not sure what those look like from space, if anything.
21.) What was the total rainfall here last year?
22.) Where does the pollution in your air come from?
Cars and trucks, mostly, but also the endless factories (chemical and otherwise), incinerators, and other structures of industry all around the tri-state area.
23.) If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today?
12:38 am & 1:24 pm.
24.) What primary geological processes or events shaped the land here?
The water left behind by the melting of the glaciers, which pooled in lakes and carved rivers, valleys, and islands.
25.) Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago. Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last 5 years.
Mile-a-minute vine, giant hogweed (ooh, giant hogs!), pale swallow-wort are all recent arrivals. Japanese knotwood sounds pretty exotic, too.
(See http://www.wunderkammern27.com/2006/07/stand_in_the_place_where_you_l.html">part 1 for explanation.)
Just to play devil’s advocate here, what’s more important: knowing the information here instinctually or knowing how to find it on the world wide cyberinterwebnet? Clearly, all of this information is good to know. I feel more responsible as a a citizen for having some idea, now, where my garbage is going. Is it useful? Maybe in the broader sense that I’m now thinking about these questions. Strokes chin.
11.) From what direction do storms generally come?
12.) Where does your garbage go?
Since the Fishkill landfill on Staten Island closed in 2001, New York area garbage has been shipped to various out-of-state landfills. Last week, a plan was approved to ship it out by barge.
13.) How many people live in your watershed?
I’m a-gonna guess about 3.7 million, given that the Northern Long Island watershed is about half of Long Island, which has about 7.4 million residents.
14.) Who uses the paper/plastic you recycle from your neighborhood?
Anybody who purchases products from A&R Lobosco, Inc., Potential Industries, Inc. (awesome name for a company!), Paper Fibres Corp., Rapid Recycling, and Triboro Fibers.
15.) Point to where the sun sets on the equinox. How about sunrise on the summer solstice?
Hmmm, over there and over there (points towards clusters of buildings).
16.) Where is the nearest earthquake fault? When did it last move?
In the Atlantic, south of Far Rockaway beach.
17.) Right here, how deep do you have to drill before you reach water?
I’m not entirely sure, but I’m sure the Federal Pump Corp., who drill wells, would be able to tell me if I really needed to know.
18.) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?
I live in Brooklyn, but I like Jason Kottke’s answer too much: the bedrock beneath Manhattan was truly a sacred consideration in the construction of those most holy skyscrapers.
19.) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?
Early April-Mid May through October.
20.) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?
Common loon (migratory), red-throated loon (migratory), horned grebe (migratory), red-necked grebe (migratory), Cory’s Shearwater (migratory). (Lots more.)
Answering Kevin Kelly’s questions about The Big Here were way tougher than I imagined. I knew in advance that I didn’t know many of the answers, but even tracking some of them down via Google was a bit tough — quite different from an age where most people would probably know most of this stuff instinctually. I only got through the first 10 (of 30) and it took a good long while. If any of these seem horribly wrong to fellow Brooklynites, please correct.
1.) Point north.
Thatta way: over the basketball court, past the vacant lot, across Bogart Street, and towards Queens.
2.) What time is sunset today?
Probably 8:30ish? (Weather.com says 8:18.)
3.) Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.
Water collects in the Catskill/Delaware and Croton watersheds, in 18 reservoirs and three controlled lakes, before being channeled underground through the Croton Aqueduct, to the boroughs.
4.) When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?
The waste water in my neighborhood eventually makes it way to the Newtown Creek treatment facility in Greenpoint. The sludge is dewatered into biosolids and subsequently used as fertilizer or something else pleasantly beneficial. Yay poop!
5.) How many feet above sea level are you?
Looks to be about 20.
6.) What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here?
Ferns, from what I can tell. Are they a wildflower? Yeep.
7.) How far do you have to travel before you reach a different watershed? Can you draw the boundaries of yours?
Northern Long Island. The Southern Long Island watershed begins not-so-far to the south, a mile or two tops.
8.) Is the soil under your feet, more clay, sand, rock or silt?
More clay than sand, leftover from the Wisconsin Ice Sheet.
9.) Before your tribe lived here, what did the previous inhabitants eat and how did they sustain themselves?
The Canarsee Indians, Algonquians, were hunters, including ducks, turkeys, geese, deer, and clams. They grew corn, too.
10.) Name five native edible plants in your neighborhood and the season(s) they are available.
No idea, but I bet Wildman Steve Brill can tell me!
It’s not really a consolation, but I am glad that I never dislodged the teetering stack of favorite CDs from the top of the stereo. The sudden death of my iPod (as opposed to probable theft by a lesbian stripper) will at least give me a chance to reacquaint myself with the quaint fetish objects, such as the Automatic For the People disc I accidentally got blood on when I didn’t realize my finger was bleeding one late night in high school (still there on the surface, a brown-red smudge atop the timing of “Monty Got A Raw Deal”)…
- A rush of water through pipes.
- Bells, followed by train. Repeat.
- Wind, trees rustling.
- The occasional distant squeal of breaks.
- House guests in sleep loft; loft creaking slightly.
- Truck reversing, bleeping.
- Truck discharging air brakes.
- Desk chair.
- Humming electronics: Christmas lights, stereo, computer.
- Another reversing truck, still further away. .
- Car accelerating.
- Another car, with a squeaky frame, going by.
- A faint industrial stamping.
- Fingers on keyboard.
- Car being started, wheezing past.
- A chorus of idling motors (possibly imaginary).
- Something metallic, dragged for a moment on the asphalt.
- Something plastic, blown briefly down the sidewalk.
- Car horn, honked once, far away.
- Two other cars bellowing responses like foghorns.
Also, the cinnamon smell of the cake factory.
Okay, so the name wunderkammern-twenty-seven-dot-com doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, I admit it. Neither does Jesse-Jarnow-dot-com, but at least it’s (sorta) easier to remember. In an act of rare common sense, I finally bought the domain over the weekend and set it to forward over here. Y’know, in case that makes life easier for you or anything…
I love the democracy of YouTube. Search for “Wilco,” and the first results (for now, anyway), include unofficial music videos, what appears to be a Dutch school play (whose keywords include “robot,” “funny,” “hardcore,” and “zelfgemaakt”), and some kids partying in the basement of a dude named Wilco. Then comes footage of the band, but first shaky audience-shot bootlegs, before finally getting to the TV appearances and music videos, and Wilco covers by random people who thought it’d be a swell idea to cover Wilco and put it on YouTube.
Anyway, some of my favorite (non-Wilco) YouTube discoveries:
o Yo La Tengo attend Mr. Show’s rock academy in the “Sugarcube” video.
o Brian Wilson performs “Surf’s Up” solo on a Leonard Bernstein television special in 1966. (Bonus: 1992′s “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” in which the Boys cram bikini babes, old ladies, children, and John Stamos into three-and-a-half minutes of glorious, uh, hot fun.)
o Wes Anderson shills pleasantly for American Express.
o Jerry Garcia rubs elbows with Hugh Hefner during the Grateful Dead’s 1969 appearance on Playboy After Dark. (Hef was later dosed by the band.)
o Jeff Mangum sings “Engine.”
Tonight at dorkbot, I saw NYU’s Jeff Han present on the multi-touch systems he has helped invent. These are touchscreens that expand their input from one finger to, in theory, an infinite amount. In his presentation, Han argued that the one-cursor/one-mouse model that computers have run on for decades is limiting. If he hadn’t insisted that the screens depicted in his videos were real, I would’ve sworn the clips were mock-ups.
Hands roamed a celestial desktop filled with photographs, effortlessly resizing them and sorting them at will; they soared over a GoogleEarth-like mapscape zooming in and tilting with mild finger twitches; they sculpted a virtual face as if it were clay; they danced across a MaxMSP-type environment, attaching sound widgets to oscillators, keyboards, drum machines; they played strange futuristic games; they navigated pure abstractions. I guess it’s kinda that whole virtual reality thing, huh? Whether or not it will ever catch on, it’s straight-up next level.
Here is a short overview video demonstrating the multi-touch project.
Last week, Owen brought over a bootleg DVD of the Talking Heads performing in their original three-piece lineup at CBGBs in December 1975. Needless to say, I was bloody well psyched. What I wasn’t expecting, and what I kind of enjoyed about it, was how bad it was. That’s not meant as an insult.
If anything, it came as a relief. It’s good to know that the Heads didn’t spring from the ground fully formed. During this performance (filmed in black and white), in what appears to be a not-very-packed CBs, the band runs down their early repertoire. David Byrne looks incredibly nervous, far from the charismatic frontman he’d become. Tina Weymouth, though not staring at her feet, doesn’t look much more assured.
The only member of the band who looks (or sounds) remotely comfortable is Chris Frantz, who holds the half-formed songs together with remarkable panache. Even “Psycho Killer,” which pre-dated the Heads’ existence, isn’t quite done. The killer bassline is there, but Byrne doesn’t have the phrasing of the “fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa”s finished yet.
With hindsight, one can see where the music would go, how those weird guitar patterns Byrne plays are his attempt to emulate African rhythms. But for anybody wandering in off the street that night, it must’ve just sounded like noise, maybe even to other punks. Of course, there were probably Heads fans who thought everything after Jerry Harrison joined the band was too polished.
It’s taken for granted that the Heads were art students, but they really look it here, maybe unsure how they ended up playing on the Bowery. It’s all very inspiring, of course, to be able to get that much closer to the germination of the idea, to know that — after the camera stopped rolling — they unplugged their gear and transported it the few blocks back to their loft on nearby Chyristie Street. “The name of this band is Talking Heads,” Byrne says (of course) before they begin. Who?
(If anybody knows where to find this video on the cybernets — it doesn’t appear to be on YouTube yet — please comment or drop me a line.)
I finally organized an official archive.org page for Stopwatch Recordings. There, you can download the three previous discs I’ve put up: Postcards: Atlantic City (an EP of modified field recordings), On A Clear Night, You Can Smell For Miles (an album of songs), Running at the Sunshine (a theater piece), and — as of now — Postcards: Consumer Electronics Show.
Postcards: Consumer Electronics Show is comprised of unaltered, binaural field recordings made at the 2006 edition of the country’s largest trade show. Over 150,000 non-consumers — vendors, buyers, celebrities, quasi-celebrities, execs — filled 1.6 million miles of floor space of the Las Vegas Convention Center, fussing over the latest and greatest in all things beepy.
So large it required its own sub-map, but still only requiring three-and-a-half minutes to traverse, the Sony pavilion was a microcosm for all of CES. Ambient music blares from demonstration speakers, hawkers hawk absurdly overblown home entertainment systems and digital books, conventioneers schmooze, and Sony product provides a titillating soundtrack.
2. Authorized Mash-Up
The rear end of Sony’s space was filled with a circular 150 (?)-person capacity movie theater, screening an eight-minute corporate mash-up hype film. Between hyperspeed CGI-enhanced edits, celebrities ho themselves for new gizmos, hot movies get previewed, and an authoritative Hollywood voice booms a World of Tomorrow fantasia narrative. No mention of Sony’s innovative Digital Rights Management program, though.
3. The Full Tramp
The full tramp — well over a mile — from the two-level South Hall, across the massive Central Hall (where the Sony pavilion was), through the bass-booming North Hall (where bikinied booth babes demonstrated the hottest backseat subwoofers), into the Hilton next door (where modest stalls sported clever Asian miniaturizations), and through their casino (where Google’s Larry Page was about to give a keynote address at the theater normally occupied by Barry Manilow). Hear attendees chatter in a variety of tongues, whizzing golf carts, and even Robin Williams, who walks by at the 17:41 mark (you can hear one of has handlers say “you are a quick study today” and Williams responding indistinctly) as he exits the Hilton just before his appearance at the Google keynote.
4. Flamingo Soundwalk
Later, back at the Flamingo, the elevator counts down and opens on the casino floor, where a lush world of bleeping slot machines (all tuned to the key of C), drunken bachelorettes, clinking poker chips, and distant pop songs fans open like a lotus flower. After a walk around the floor, we return to the elevator, an endless Borgesian hallway, and the hotel room. Another Friday night in Vegas, just after midnight, circa January 2006.
The best of all possible worlds includes a free, perfectly indexed database containing the complete text of every book ever published. There is no way to argue that this would be anything but good.
On one hand, from a legal point of view, we are a long way from figuring out how to make that work. On the other hand, from a technical perspective, it’s http://books.google.com/">already been done, though — owing to, y’know, reality — one can only use a few pages at a time.
Why not allow users to get a few sample pages, and then modify the Google database to give them the option to buy further pages at five cents a pop? The standardized pricing seems to be working just fine over at the iTunes Store, and a nickel a sheet seems quite reasonable. Users would end up with basically the same hard copy as if they’d gone to the library, found books, and xeroxed them.
Sure, that would open up oodles of new issues (and royally screw-up any opt-out plan), but it seems like it could solve more problems than it’d cause. Who knows? If Google can figure out how to make the database to begin with, they should be able to lick this one, too.
Dylan rehearses new album in Poughkeepsie.
We take our good news where we can get it.
A helpful way to observe the State of the Union was to pretend that I was just watching the tail end of a shitty (and vaguely hilarious) prequel to the really dope trilogy where the good guys save the galaxy. I fully expect that the loose ends will be tied up shortly: hands and heads lopped off, faces melted, children born and exiled to desert planets, etc..
I can’t claim to be an expert on the work of the Korean artist http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nam_June_Paik">Nam June Paik, who died on Sunday. I only really saw one show by him, a career retrospective called “The Worlds of Nam June Paik” at the Guggenheim in March of 2000, when I was home for spring break. It blew my mind quite thoroughly, though. A laser-shot waterfall cascaded through the Guggenheim’s central space (the floor of which was covered with a garden of glowing televisions), while ambient sound and light created a continuous environment. (See!) While I could take or leave his Fluxist absurdities like “One For Violin Solo” (though I’m sure it was fun to stage), his technology-oriented sculptures floored me with their combination of beauty and koan-like logic (and humor).
One piece I saw was called “Moon is the Oldest TV,” and was created by a series of televisions holding images of the different phases of the moon. Elsewhere, in “Candle-TV,” Paik had hollowed out television casings and inserted gently burning candles (or maybe there were just pictures of a time he’d done it previously…) The gallery on his site has some nice pictures. Beautiful, inspiring stuff.
So, Google has gone into China, and seem to be complying with the government’s censorship orders. A lot of people are http://news.ft.com/cms/s/e3f999fe-8dfc-11da-8fda-0000779e2340.html">calling Google out on this, saying it directly goes against their “don’t be evil” motto. But it really depends on one’s definition of evil, not to mention the value one places on Google’s import. Either way, Google has crossed a line into some murky currents.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, Google co-founder Larry Page showed a world map that highlighted where search queries were coming from. “If you look at a picture of earth from space at night,” he said, “you’ll see that anywhere there’s electric light, there’s internet, and anywhere there’s internet, people are using Google.” That’s pretty staggering. Simply, Chinese citizens will have better access to this grid. There’s no way to argue that this is bad, nor is the mass self-consciousness created by what John Battelle calls Google’s database of intentions. (This is more or less what co-founder Sergey Brin argued this week.)
If Google is pure, then the fact that they are now operating in China is not what matters. What matters is the way they function within the boundaries laid out for them. Will there be a Chinese equivalent of the famed Google Zeitgeist? If so, and teched-out dissidents ram “Tibet” — one of the censored terms — up the charts with a bullet, what happens? Does it get blocked out from the list like the Sex Pistols were? What happens if the Chinese government requests search information, like the Department of Justice is currently? (If the DoJ gets away with it, wouldn’t that set a bad standard for China? Not that the United States government has ever taken a hypocritical stance before…)
Google is a business, but — in many ways — they operate like a mysterious institution, like the State or the Church or money or anything else that people collectively agree to believe in because it is necessary. If one accepts that the internet exists, Google naturally follows (and, if it doesn’t, you’re deluding yourself). They were going to go into China eventually. This is the beginning of the next phase, and substantially more important in a (literally) real world way than Google Video and the fact that people can download day-old NBA games and old Star Trek episodes.
Here we go.
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In high school, we hung out at Dunkin Donuts and played Uno and guzzled what we called “Crust” — the hideously mind-boggling flavor from Snapple known as Snapple Pie. It tasted like cinnamon-spiced apple cider going down but then, immediately, one’s mouth was filled with the aftertaste of pie crust. Donuts stopped carrying it, so we patronized the horribly nicknamed Iraq Shack on the corner until they, too, ran out of their supply. (There was a brief “re-release” in 2003, and I only found a bottle in the back of a Chinatown grocery in San Francisco in spring 2004.)
It’s truly amazing technology, and only wished Snapple responded to my repeated entreaties to let me interview Smita Patel, the creator of such wonders. Even though she is oft quoted as saying completely absurd things in hilariously fake publicist-talk, I have no doubt she is the one who knows the secret of The Crust.
And, anyway, what’s important right now is that The Crust is back! Sort of, anyway.
In a non-descript pizzeria on Third Avenue tonight, I discovered the existence of Snapple Pie, mark II: Berry Mix and Mingle (“Cranberry Juice Drink from Concentrate with Other Natural Flavors”). Though the ingredients list mentions neither raspberry nor cinnamon, both are depicted on the package and, I suppose, in the drink. (This stuff has apparently been out since at least last fall, but whaddya want front from me? Besides, even BevNet, the leading site for all things sugary and liquidy seems to have missed it.)
Alas, this Berry Mix hardly delivers on the miraculous connotations (who can turn water to pie?) of the original Crust. Oh, the magical aftertaste is still there, alrighty, but it’s also present in the initial cran-ras gulp, which sorta defeats the punchline. Likewise, the aftertaste seems itself to have acquired an aftertaste. Reactions in the blogosphere (all two of them) have been mixed. Staticpain says it “definatly sucks so much dick,” while Ugly Floral Blouse writes that “the berry flavor is pretty dang good.”
Still, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “inferior Crust is always superior to no Crust.” I believe he was speaking metaphorically, but I’m not sure.
Recently, I remembered a Saturday Night Live ad parody from the ’80s for the New York Word Exchange. It starred the late (and sorely missed) Phil Hartman as spokesperson Don Bingham. He offered financial advice for those interested in the burgeoning word market. It was fantastical, and kinda reminded me of one of my favorite books when I was a kid, Crawford Killian’s Wonders, Inc, which is I think why it’s stuck with me.
Strange thing is, it fairly predicted the value of domain names when the cyberboom hit.
I wish I could quote the sketch itself, but I don’t have a copy and — besides an entry on an SNL fan site, which reveals that the bit aired on November 22, 1986 — there doesn’t seem to be any public, digital evidence of its existence: no clip, no transcript, no nothin’. That surprised me. Part of the reason I didn’t post about this sooner is because I figured the geeks woulda been all up on it a long time ago. At any rate, I’m happy to release the meme back into the blogospherical wild.
My good chum Spacefuzz plays in the blissfully weird Los Angeles band Kiss the Frog. They just finished their first album, called The Trojan Horse, which — they promise — is “a crystalline dub jazz concept album of cohesive disconnection” (among other things). So dig it, my hippie love children, ’cause it jamz a lot. I’m also proud to say I co-wrote lyrics to a few of the tunes, including the title track, which you can (and should) download here.
1. Waiting for the L-train, listening to “Madame George” by Van Morrison. “Get on the train,” Morrison croons, exactly as the subway’s headlight appears down the tunnel. “This is the train.” Sure is.
2. Pulling into Union Square, the delay pedal faux-ambience of “Birth Ritual,” Soundgarden’s contribution to Cameron Crowe’s Singles soundtrack, starts swirling. The doors open, and a bagpipe player on the platform contributes to the cacophony, building dissonantly until the exact moment the doors close and the band headbangs their way into the song.
3. On the F-train, somewhere near the Gowanus Canal, Brian Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire” comes on. “And after I felt this was going on too long,” says an interview subject in an essay about cell phone usage I’m reading, “I suddenly changed the topic.” “Rescuers row row,” Eno sings cheekily, “do your best to change the subject.”
Given enough inputs — the stimulus of urban life, a book to read, an iPod to listen to — coincidences are bound to occur. “Any sufficiently advanced technology,” Arthur C. Clarke declared, “is indistinguishable from magic,” and the shuffle mode’s particular magic seems to be its catalytic abilities: its way of seemingly organizing chaos into something neatly packaged. In a way, it is both artificial and disarming, but it is also a sleight-of-hand that rarely fails to dazzle.
I cannot recall the last time I saw a bagpipe player in the subway.
Here is Larry Page’s keynote from the Consumer Electronics Show in mp3 form — part one and part two — courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle’s podcasts. Page starts dropping science about interface standardization at around the 8:20 mark of part one. It’s a geniune and brilliant performance. (Robin Williams shows up around 27:50.)
HST: “…the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody — or at least some force — is tending that Light at the end of the tunnel.”
Marshall McLuhan: “Light is pure information,”
What does it mean, then, when Google says they want to “organize the world’s information”?
After spending two eight-hour days at CES looking at every kind of gadget imaginable, most of which seemed totally useless, and seeing Yahoo roll out their Go! project to make the world fasterfasterfaster, I’m fully convinced that Google is truly and actually committed to moving the world forward (give or take the DRM-burdened Google Video).
Are they tending the light? You think I believe in that hippie bullshit? Well, why shouldn’t I? You got something better to believe in these days?
Back in Eastern Standard Time after a completely mindbending few days at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. There is, of course, much to report — and, when I get back to a high-speed connection — lots of shtuff to upload: cell phone pix (holy “Bob,” did my lo-fi camera love the Vegas lights!), maybe some field recordings (mmm, twinkling casino drones), and random notes.
The highlight of my weekend was easily Google co-founder Larry Page’s keynote address on Friday afternoon, which was positively inspiring. In addressing the consumer electronics industry and encouraging them to standardize their interfaces, Page spun a utopian sci-fi vision of the future. Then he rolled out a bunch of new Google products, and showed off a prototype of Nicholas Negroponte’s $100 laptop. And then Robin Williams came out and freestyled.
Except for Google Video, which seems like it’s gonna need some philosophical ironing-out before it jibes with the rest of the G-mission, pretty much everything was spot-on and made nearly every other product showcased at CES seem, well, pointless. I walked out of the keynote with the same dizzy sensation I have after amazing live gigs. Supposedly, the official CES website will have a transcript at some point. I’ll most definitely link to it.
Vegas was all kinds of fun and dazzling and bizarre. In the morning, I could look out the window and see flamingos and penguins cavorting in the garden below (though, sadly, not together), not to mention the beautiful view of the mountains and desert.
William Gibson is one of my favorite writers.
Parker lies in the darkness, recalling the thousand fragments of the hologram rose. A hologram has this quality: Recovered and illuminated, each fragment will reveal the whole image of the rose. Falling toward delta, he sees himself the rose, each of his scattered fragments revealing a whole he’ll never know — stolen credit cards — a burned-out suburb — planetary conjunctions of a stranger — a tank burning on a highway — a flat packet of drugs — a switchblade honed on concrete, thin as pain.
– from “Fragments of a Hologram Rose” (1977), collected in Burning Chrome (1986)
I love how, in the course of a paragraph, Gibson simultaneously invents a completely fictional technology and then employs it poetically to convey real, subtly creeping emotion. Blew me away when I first read it in high school, and blows me away now.
I’m deeply bummed I’m gonna miss http://www.ticketweb.com/user/?region=nyc&query=detail&event=640701&interface=alweekend">his interview at CUNY this weekend, but I’m off to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, where I’ll be on the hunt for real holographic roses.
I can’t seem to find it on the web to link to it, but my friend Josh points me towards a bit of Radiohead news via tipster newssheet TripWire:
On a more surprising note, O’Brien revealed that uber-producer and longtime Radiohead collaborator Nigel Godrich will not be involved with the new record. Rather, they have decided to go with Mark “Spike” Stent, who has worked in the past with U2, Madonna and Bjork. Oh yeah, and the Spice Girls.
O’Brien added: “It’s not an end of an era, (but) part of what your realise as a band is that all those records you made with Nigel, apart from Hail To The Thief we were a little bit in the comfort zone. That’s why you make records like Kid A after OK Computer, that’s why you make OK Computer after The Bends, you’ve got to do stuff that you’re scared of doing. With Nigel, we’ve been working together for 10 years, and we all love one another too much.”
At any rate, I’m sure Pitchfork’ll be all up in that shit soon, especially ’cause it also mentions that they’ll be playing some shows and offering some new tunes for download come spring.
The Godrich news is certainly surprising, and could be really cool.
(Huh, the band’s recording blog seems to no longer exist.)
BoingBoing points to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s announcement of a settlement with Sony over their heinous digital rights management systems. I’m sure DRM isn’t dead, but it’s a step in the right direction. According to the BBC, the anti-privacy lawsuit filed by Texas is still pending.
I’m going on vacation. I’ll be back 12/23. See you then.
If you’re bored, might I recommend obsessively clicking the Comrades & Daily Repeck links o’er there on the right column (like I do when I should be working)?
The milk is on the second shelf on the door, and the chocolate syrup is just below that. Clean up when you’re done, or Mayur’ll be pissed.
The website for David Byrne’s always-hep Luaka Bop Records reports that Brazilian psychedelic legends Os Mutantes are considering a reunion:
We are working on an expanded Os Mutantes record. The band members have been discussing possibly getting back together for a few shows in 2006, hence we are also talking to people who might be excited as all hell to put on an Os Mutantes show. Are you one of those people? Would you mind if we use your basement/rec room for a show or two? When’s the last time you entertained 1,500 people down there? Yeah. You’re gonna have to move the coffee table.
Hot diggity! This is one of the few reunion shows I’d flip over. I’ll post an mp3 sometime.
High school in Northport, New York was made oddly bearable by the fact that I ended up hanging out with some truly gifted and committed geeks. In autumn 1993, a year before I transferred in, they staged a mammoth production of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Nature Trail To Hell (in 3-D)” as part of the school variety show, replete with http://www.ethanmeixsell.com/">note-perfect metal shredding, a choral arrangement, a dude ripping his shirt off, and my friend Evan hacking up Cub Scouts with a plastic machete. Pretty impressive for a bunch of 15 year-olds.
On Thanksgiving, three Al tunes came up on my shuffle; on Friday, Bill (the bassist in the video) heard “Mr. Frump in the Iron Lung” in a bar (“they just went back to normal bar music after that… it’s like I hallucinated it,” he texted me), and now Matt — the keyboardist dude at stage left — finally digitized (and subtitled) the video. As he blogs, “Geeks rejoice! A crowd of rowdy teenagers will cheer for you. Especially if you’ve got a guy on stage with a machete chasing around a bunch of cub scouts.”
Totally lo-fi, totally inspiring. Thanks, Matt.
Here it is, in all its glory: Nature Trail to Hell (in 3-D). (8.5 MB, wmv file).
Thanks to Craig’ers & Dave, the Frank & Earthy Blog is back. I’ve got a whole backload of entries from around the time the site shit the bed, so I’ll be putting those up in the next few days.
I’ve also stocked the new blog with all the entries from my initial It’s Got A Good Beat blog (circa 2003-2004), which are mostly (maybe uninteresting) exercises in listening carefully to and writing very specifically about Billboard hits, as well as the past 10 months worth of entries from wunderkammern27.com. They’re all properly dated, 1984-style, so as to give the illusion that they were always there. Just as Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, this has always been exactly what my blog has looked like.
I’m using new software, so it’ll prolly take a few days to work out the kinks. Anyway, glad to be back and shinier than ever.
Thanks to the good utopians at Archive.org, I’ve recently uploaded a bunch of Stopwatch Recordings. Now available for free download:
sw02: Postcards: Atlantic City EP (Funny Cry Happy)
Casinos are tuned to the key of C. Slot machine bleeps, video poker blurps, the pings that come before public announcements — all in C. The sum total is a surprisingly warm hum, designed to keep gamblers hypnotized. Like the lack of natural light, the absence of clocks, and the recycled air, it is one of the many surreal environmental features of our nation’s gambling halls.
Postcards: Atlantic City melds field recordings made in the seedy New Jersey resort town with slight modifications made at home — new drones, toy pianos run through delay pedals, chirping birds recorded in Chelsea — that interact, occasionally accidentally, with the source.
sw03: On A Clear Night, You Can Smell For Miles (Funny Cry Happy)
The second Funny Cry Happy full-length. Songs ‘n’ shit.
sw04: Running at the Sunshine (Matthew Van Brink/Jesse Jarnow)
Running at the Sunshine was conceived as an imagined community behind the doors (and up the stairs) of the incongruously named Sunshine Hotel, one of the last remaining men’s flophouses on Manhattan’s Bowery — a point on a late-night ramble from Chinatown to a greasy taco stand in the Village. These fantasies were later bolstered by an NPR documentary, and a wonderful book of photographs (“Flophouse” by David Isay, Stacy Abramson, and Harvey Wang), which uncovered links to a New York of a bygone era.
With the story and text in place, choreographer-director Judith Chaffee and composer (and my old friend) Matthew Van Brink worked closely together to realize the story in space and sound. Employing a deep percussion arsenal, Van Brink evokes a still clattering, post-industrial New York filled with squealing breaks, rusty dumpsters, and the undergridding rhythmic bustle of a city filled with permanent transients.
NOTE: Handmade meatspace versions of these recordings are also available. Drop me a line, if interested.
Studio 77 loves you!
July 1st marks my fourth anniversary as a Brooklyn resident, where I moved after college (and following a month on Mom’s couch). Since then, I have occupied the same corner of the same loft above the Morgan Avenue L-train stop, on Seigel Street. I have watched the walls grow around me and hem me in, the open 900 square foot room first divided by a half-assed frame/bedsheet construction, then scrapped to create three doorless/roofless cubicles. This year, a ceiling grew, stairs were built, and an attic was created. There was painting.
When we moved in, the remains of the A.M. Knitwear Corporation were intact below us, a ghost factory filled with unused envelopes in abandoned desks where plates of fried chicken sat uneaten, milk left to curdle in the office refrigerator. We salvaged what we could: a few clothing racks, some furniture, and what is now my absurdly huge wooden desk. Within the year, the remains of the factory were wiped free, and more rooms installed.
The building has changed. Graffiti-etched paint was scraped from the walls to reveal a rich brick. Clean marble was laid on the cement hallway floors. There are new doorways in the stairwells, and security cameras. Most of the rooms now have hardwood floors. Our crap was already in by the time that was added to the deal and you can still see the yellow paint from the factory floor in our living room.
There were people on the block before us. They were across the street when we got here. I suspect some of them were responsible for the founding of the health food store and the bar. I am not entirely sure. And so, outside our front door, a neighborhood began. The http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/19/nyregion/19pion.html?">New York Times said so last weekend. My ex-roommate, who recently vacated the premises for more civilized digs elsewhere in Brooklyn, weighed in with a pretty fair critique of the Timesstory.
As an unrepentant hippie, however, I take some umbrage with use of the term “hippie music” to describe what comes out of this neighborhood. At its worst, it’s usually sub-indie shitpiles or Radiohead-knockoffs. The latter can be particularly dangerous, what with their love of bass and all. But, as an unrepentant hippie, I will also defend to death their right to make it in their natural habitat. Which, I guess, doesmake them hippies (and relegates jamband kids to the suburban youth demographic it probably always was).
The picture at the head of the Times pieces is of the public area in front of Brooklyn’s Natural and The Archive — the main drag of what I’ve been trying to get people to call Bourgwick Village. Next to the entrance to Brooklyn’s Natural, there are several surfaces ripe for graffiti. Recently, some new stickers have cropped up: KEEP YOUR ART TO YOURSELF NEXT TIME. I laughed when I saw it, but every time I think about it, it gets more and more repellant. Self-righteousness is certainly the tone of most of the neighborhood graffiti — the standard issue liberal arts cultural critiques on the subway ads, to spray-painted slogans like “devious semantics.” If graffiti’s anonymous safety is a forum for a neighborhood’s true self, then we petty Bourgwickians are a pretty navel-gazing lot. But we also live here. Don’t like street art? Get outta Brooklyn, asshole.
“I guess I’ll say that I think that everybody should play music,” Laura Carter of Elf Power once told me. “The more the better. I guess I like the Sun Ra perspective on it that you’re giving and making things, by choosing to play music, versus a lot of other things you could choose to do.” Probably 1% — if that — of all the art ever created will ever mean anything substantial to anybody besides its creator. But I don’t think that’s sad or pathetic. It’s just how it goes. And that’s cool! Make that album! But it doesn’t mean I want, or even need, to hear it, either. Maybe I’m being a bad neighbor by not going out and seeing my local bands whenever they make the trek to gig on the Lower East Side or wherever. but — shit yeah — go play.
As for people practicing music “all night,” I can honestly say that it doesn’t happen. At least not in ear shot of my open windows (and I can hear the pinched hi-hats of at least three drummers practicing most afternoons). I think that’s mostly hyperbole. (As for people listeningto music at all hours, that’s another story.) But the musicians aren’t the only loud part. There’s also a city park out our back window. And, as anybody who has ever tried to record music in the building will tell you, it’s not the other bands that leak onto your virtual tape, it’s the fucking ice cream trucks.
That said, calling it the new Haight-Ashbury is a tad absurd, and I don’t really believe that the dude meant it. Though maybe he did. The Haight, after all, was overrun with herpes-carrying pilgrims come to find the San Francisco dream (“how I love ya, how I love ya, how I love ya, ‘frisssssscooooooo — oh, my hair’s getting good in the back…”) George Harrison called them “spotty.” Even the Grateful Dead bounced for Marin County pretty early on. It’s not quite the Summer of Love out here, thankfully.
Nobody’s trying to save the world (except my friend http://www.americancity.org/article.php?id_article=117">Jeff, and he moved out a while ago) though that might change when the pilgrims start to arrive — which, with the promised Williamsburg waterfront project, could be soon. Or it might not be. Or maybe they’re already here. How can one tell? Is there a secret handshake? Maybe the Timesarticle was a blip that won’t turn out to mean anything, but it’s a blip that at least warrants some attention from those being blipped.
There is also the matter of the new building going up one block over, between the Wonton factory and the Boar’s Head plant. It is next to another pair of loft buildings owned by my landlords, and it is being built to look exactly like them. Except that it will not serve any time as a factory, despite what its architecture might suggest. It kind of creeps me out, like one of the memory-impregnated replicants from Blade Runner. Do the residents of android buildings even dream, let alone of sheep (electric, organic or otherwise)?
I moved here because there was space and because I could afford it. Split three ways, places still seem affordable. Perhaps it is an existence of prolonged adolescence, though I suppose I prefer it to one of premature adulthood. Yes, welcome to Bourgwick my hippies. Go forth and try not to suck..
(And I mean that in the nicest possible way.)
Thanks to the lovely and effervescent Andy Blackman Hurwitz of Ropeadope Records, today marks the first new episode of the FROW SHOW since the shutdown of my friend Jeff’s pirate radio station in the spring of 2001.
For the next four Tuesdays, the Ropeadope Podcast Network will distribute installments of my favorite music (plus slick DJ chatter). This week’s show includes tracks by Captain Beefheart, Cornelius, the Olivia Tremor Control, some of my favorite unsigned NYC/Brooklyn acts (The Song Coproration, The Wowz, John Biz), outtakes and B-sides by Yo La Tengo, Bob Dylan, Wilco, Brian Eno, and Beck, the all-important Frow Show theme (of course), and much mo’.
Thanks again to Andy and everybody at the fake office!
You can listen here.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted, I know. I’ve been busy bending circuits (both intentionally and accidentally), serving jury duty (the case of Glen C. Campbell, not the singer, and Seven-Fingered Sampson), falling in and out of mood with the turbulent season, ushering roommates in and out, and traveling to Athens, Georgia (to see the frabjous Olivia Tremor Control) and a few places in New Jersey (Dayton, to International Flavors and Fragrances, and Montclair, to see a performance of Harry Partch’s Oedipus).
And working. Oh, yes. Much of that. A post with some recent links will follow shortly, hopefully with a more regular posting schedule to resume not long after that. Since I hate meta-posts, I’ll defer to Perfect Sound Forever‘s Jason Gross and his righteous Ye Wei blog for thoughts about balancing blogging with other forms of writing.
It’s been a wooly-ass three weeks, which included (but certainly wasn’t limited to): the meltdown of my computer’s harddrive, the collapse of a proposed trip to the Himalayan foothills to assist a friend in building a recording studio at a monastery, the departure of my roommate of the past three-and-a-half years, the death of Dr. Thompson, the spiffy (albeit messy) construction of ceilings and stairways and bookshelves and such in my loft, the occasional non-delivery of pieces of snail mail I would very much like to receive (new contact lenses, money), the consumption of small chocolate hamburgers from the pan-Asian convenience store on Third Avenue, the unplanned viewing of Wes Anderson’s first three films on consecutive evenings, the discovery of David Byrne’s totally fucking awesome blog/tour journal, an accidental usurpation of this site by the Biscuits Internet Project, a seemingly Kafkaesque pursuit of my missing computer with the folks at TekServe and the eventual resolution of its problems with a simple conclusion (loose wire), the subsequent non-loss of any data whatsoever, and much dancing in victory. So it went. I’m back now. More posts to follow.
This afternoon, after a minty-fresh visit to my dentist on Central Park West, I passed through Christo’s fabled Gates just south of Tavern on the Green. I walked to the Sheep Meadow and wended my way through the southern tip of what Rem Koolhaas called “synthetic Arcadian carpet grafted onto the Grid.” This arcadia is my arcadia, indeed. It was a glorious afternoon, sun glancing perfectly over every conceivable surface, illuminating them with postcard precision: hot dog stands, ducks on half-frozen ponds, cyclists, midtown secretaries out for cigarette strolls on their lunch hours, even horse shit. It was almost unbearably picturesque.
But I must admit to being fairly baffled – disappointed, I think – by the Gates themselves. Most certainly, there are many qualities about the work that I admire. Public environmental art can be astounding, especially in Manhattan, which absorbs weirdness with a natural ease. A large aspect of the Gates, I think, is the way it forces people into interaction with their space and the people around them. Christo has said that one can’t really understand the piece without walking through it. There’s a certain amount of truth to that, of course, but mostly it seems like a New Age excuse. The potential for a public art project spread across the entirety of Central Park, interacting/playing/dialoguing with Frederick Law Olmstead’s sweeping Arcadian landscapes is so unbelievably vast, so incredibly rich, that it is a true shame that Christo and Jeanne-Claude didn’t do more with it.
Simply, the Gates follow the park’s existing walkways, pulling them out of the environment like an ink pellet through varicose veins. And that’s nice and all. Pleasant. But why do they have to follow the park’s proscribed paths? Why can’t they take the viewers on little journeys, dips off the beaten trails, winding through the faux-wilderness to small, Zen conclusions? Why shouldn’t they play with scale, increasing the size of dimensions of the Gates to create Wonderland-like optical illusions? The Gates, uniform in their abrupt day-glo orange are astounding in their repetition. That is quite pretty. Yes, yes. But why that color orange? It doesn’t seem to relate to its surroundings at all — not the glass and concrete boxes surrounding the park, not the bare trees, not the snow-fortified mud. And, if the point is for people to go out and interact with them, why the middle of fucking February when the public (remember them?) will be lucky to get one or two nice days to check it out?
The Gates feel very much like a gentrified happening, a much deeper bureaucratic achievement than aesthetic one. I had a wonderful time walking through them, but only because I was astounded (as I always am) by Law’s vision of Central Park. I imagine the Gates would be a lot prettier right about now (approaching 3:30 in the morning), their shapes looming like a massed army of shadows in the park’s peculiar, still nightmare-infested darkness. Perhaps I’ll go back sometime.
A Very Long Engagement is grotesque, sweet, and darkly hilarious — and sustains these three traits, in nearly perfect balance, for its entirety. There is hardly a moment that isn’t all at once. It’s also (easily) the most Decemberists-y movie ever made: a distinctly French romance set in the trenches and hospitals of World War I.
People often speak of maturation, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more clear-cut example than this. In City of Lost Children, Jean-Pierre Jeunet and collaborator Marc Caro created an authoritatively immersive reality. With cloned half-wits, a circus strongman, a cult of cyclops (and that’s not to mention the talking brain) the film was a bit surreal. Amelie, on the other hand, applied the same weird logic to the task of a Rube Goldberg-like romance that genuinely was romantic (if simultaneously a wee too cute).
Turned out, the best way to resolve these two over-excited directions was by introducing a hard-line “realism” into the picture. A Very Long Engagement doesn’t flinch from brutality. There are decapitations, maimings, mutilations, and about a half-dozen other varieties of death. Whether or not it’s accurate to classify these devices as “realism” is another question, but they certainly achieve that effect – people in the theater where I saw the film often turned their heads from the screen during particularly graphic sequences.
In a way, the humor and romance help the violent stuff go down, or at least give us a way to rationalize watching it. Mostly, though, the characters are such unique and vulnerable specimens that it’s nearly impossible not to get drawn in, and soon stirred by the two dozen simple twists of fate strung along an elegantly knotted plot dotted with nooses. Highly recommended.
Mike points me towards this project:
1. Open up the music player on your computer.
2. Set it to play your entire music collection.
3. Hit the “shuffle” command.
4. Tell us the title of the next ten songs that show up (with their musicians), no matter how embarrassing. That’s right, no skipping that Carpenters tune that will totally destroy your hip credibility. It’s time for total musical honesty. Write it up in your blog or journal and link back to at least a couple of the other sites where you saw this.
5. If you get the same artist twice, you may skip the second (or third, or etc.) occurances. You don’t have to, but since randomness could mean you end up with a list of ten song with five artists, you can if you’d like.
Here’s what came up (pretty accurate, except for the lack of unfamiliar tunes dumped into my iTunes via various friends’ mp3 mixes):
1. “Little Fishes” – Brian Eno
2. “Alberta #2″ – Bob Dylan
3. “Pont of View Point” – Cornelius
4. “Night in Buenos Aires” – Les Baxter
5. “To Spacefuzz With Dub” – Funny Cry Happy
6. “Surfer Girl” – The Beach Boys
7. “Oney” – Johnny Cash
(8a. “Tal Coat” – Brian Eno)
8b. “Everyday People” – Medeski, Martin and Wood
9. “Up To You” – Yo La Tengo
10. “Sugar-Free Jazz” – Soul Coughing
A few days ago, my neighbor’s new loftmate introduced me to mancala — an ancient (?!) game involving strategy and the counting of rocks.
“I call it ‘Ug!’” my friend grunted happily, upon the realization that people of any age from any culture in any period of history could (and likely did) play and understand the utterly elegant principles of the game.
The rules are simple: pick up a pile of shiny pebbles and move them around the board, counting them off as you go. If your last piece lands in your mancala (your bank at the end of your side), you go again. If it lands in an empty bowl on your side, you collect whatever pebbles are in your opponent’s adjacent space.
And from those two rules flower all manners of possibilities, and various strategies by which to parse them. Over the past several days, several friends have dropped by, each with their own minute variations. Each has shifted the game in new ways. On the cyberweb, we’ve found other variations — Egyptian rules, Nigerian rules, Ethiopian rules.
Especially if one has been playing for an hour or so, allowing himself to get fully inside the logic, the introduction of a new rule is a mathematically awesome experience, his brain automatically spinning out equations, unfolding inwards into hypothetical spaces of endless pebbles.
There, I encounter eternally finite riddles, and the vague ghosts of fellow puzzlers past. I envision myself in the midst of some desert city, playing mancala in a cool alleyway between wind-beaten sandstone structures. I am winning.
It’s been a while since I’ve done this, but I’m gonna be playing at Kenny’s Castaways with my old friend Danny Gale’s band, GOBA, this Wednesday (the 12th).
I’m gonna be on around 9:30-10ish, supposedly. My set will likely include some (if not all) of the following: ukulele, yodeling, maritime themes, musical nails, and a couple of songs backed by Danny & GOBA.
I’d love to see ya.
157 Bleecker Street
(’cause I know how much you love goin’ to Bleecker Street)
More observations about Tim Smolen’s Smile:
- The various sources enter at different points in the stereo image, popping in and out of the mix, and giving the recording an almost literal depth.
- Going with Brian’s original ending to “Good Vibrations” is probably okay, after all — though I still can’t stand the 2004 version in that regard. But, ultimately, it does no harm to the canonical civilian classic, and even suits the album well — not because the lyrics fit with Smile’s “concept” better (or worse), except that it’s Brian’s version. Given what Smile is, I can see how that would be meaningful, beyond any petty anti-Mike Love sentiments that might be lingering in our favorite vegetable.
That and hearing the 20something Brian croon the lyrics as opposed to the 50something Brian really underscores the song’s context as a dopey-love sequel to Pet Sounds (and everything else in the Beach Boys’ catalogue, for that matter).
- There are still a few things I’d edit. Some of those new lyrics sections could really use a snip — especially the out-of-character maritime jig affixed to the delightfully pastoral Americana backing track of “On a Holiday” (one of the most alluring bits of the initial Smile bootleg I got a few years ago). So that leaves the question: who’s gonna keep fucking with Smile? Are people gonna start making aesthetic choices about it? How far can you refine it?
‘kay, promise I’m done for now.
Well, it happened.
Somebody – specifically Tim Smolen – re-edited the ’60s tapes of Brian Wilson’s Smile into the order suggested by the version completed last year by Wilson, Van Dyke Parks, and company. Smolen’s attention to detail is wonderful. The original recordings are used wherever possible, often to the last possible second before vocal parts from the Nonesuch edition make their entrances (such as on “Wonderful”).
Listening on headphones, everything has a slightly digitalized quality, the result of a ProTools mixdown, or perhaps even a layer of mp3, which is a little off-putting at first, but also provides a surprisingly level playing field for the sources. The pristine digital fidelity of the new Smile thus blends more easily with the high-generation fuzziness of the oft-bootlegged studio leaks.
I’m still a little miffed about the treatment of “Good Vibrations” on Smile 2004. I think the “original” lyrics that Wilson reverted to (presumably so he wouldn’t have to sing words penned by estranged cousin Mike Love?) are pretty lame. More, I think it makes for a horrific closer, and will be dead in my cold, cold grave before I recognize anything other than “Surf’s Up” as the proper ending to the suite. But, Smolen does some good work here.
For starters, he fuses the famous single recording with the earlier takes of the original lyrics and omits the clunker about “working on my brain.” The words are still kinda dumb, but – y’know what? – so is most of Pet Sounds and that’s still heartbreaking. At least on the original “Good Vibrations” recordings, Wilson sings the lyrics with such wide-eyed eyed California beauty that you can take ‘em seriously. Sort of.
Smolen also fuses on the retarded false ending that Smile 2004 has (instead of the more graceful theramin fade-out), though makes up for it with the left-field inclusion of the near-a capella “You’re Welcome” – from 1968′s Wild Honey, and previously unconnected to the Smile sessions – as an “Our Prayer”-like coda to the album. “Of course! How obvious!” I thought, when I heard “You’re Welcome” fading in, that same amazed glee I experienced when I heard “Gee” fade out of “Our Prayer” for the first time.
As strange as it is to say this, I think Smile is really finished.
- Wouldn’t It Have Been NIce?, my February 2004 Smile feature for Salon.com.
- Their Hearts Were Full of Spring, in the Winter 2005 edition of Signal To Noise, on newsstands now (not online).
Props to Tim Smolen for making the recording, and David Jay Brown for sending me the disc.
Watching the Flaming Lips’ New Year’s show at Madison Square Garden last night, opening for Wilco, wasn’t so much about being surprised but about seeing the culmination (one hopes) of Yoshimi, knowing exactly what was coming, and enjoying every second of it. It was beautiful to see the Lips’ stage show transplanted into such a large room. Part of the drama was wondering whether or not it would work.
I was in the upper 300s, straight back and across the room. As their set opened, the Lips looked very small and distant, the sound muddy and gross, the houselights still dim above our heads. But the balloons kept coming, growing like a lush psychedelic flower from the stage as fast the Lips’ Okie buddy roadies could fill ‘em, It was like the climax of Akira in slow motion.
By the end of “Race For the Prize,” the room was filled with color, and the Lips were in charge. Wayne Coyne does a very good job of making it look and sound like he’s giving the audience exactly what they want. And certainly the sing-alongs, the images of Dick Cheney and company flashing on the screen during a cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” the goading from Coyne, etc., can all be used as evidence that the Lips are pandering.
But then what do you make off all the truly gruesome images flashing on the screen in the Lips’ videos? The blood and the guts and the people getting shot, cut open, collapsing, dying? Is that what people want? Is it Coyne’s party trick to make people think that they do?
I think it’s high time for the Lips to take the money and run, to go finish Christmas on Mars before it turns into Coyne’s personal SMiLE.
Good golly gosh. I bought this website well over a year ago, put that damn message up, and then promptly got sucked into a half-dozen other projects (including co-curating an art exhibit about spam, co-editing an issue of Relix about Phish, finishing an album, writing the libretto for an opera, DJing a wedding, and writing). And didn’t update this. Yeah, right, right. I know. Anyway, this is a start.