Monday, August 30, 2004

Far from the action, notes from a university bookstore.

Had noticed You Call It Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Croon previously, on '30s singers. Had not noticed that it's by Lenny Kaye, of all people. Despite the subject matter, unmistakeably Rock Writing: First chapter opens, "I'm cruising along the interstate when I first hear his story. Predawn." At a random glance, reads like Tosches. Thick and researched-looking, though.

You -- you with The Artist's Way and the cellphone. Go.

Ran across Tweedy's book, Adult Head, from Zoo Press. (Who recently cancelled a fiction contest after accepting fees, b/c they couldn't find one single MS they liked.) I was expecting, oh, Amhersty, a little flashy. It's not that; no caps, a number of poems center-justified, tortured ("I have replaced my disorders/with a passion so deep and pervasive.") Those lines aren't entirely indicative -- a lot of it is very pared down, except for a prose poem called "The Bench-Warmer's Daughter." I'm surprised to see self-lacerating 'rock star' poems -- "I caught a glimpse of myself/in a closed-circuit television screen//I was wearing a hat/a fraud/a punctured white watch//I hadn't changed." It doesn't look like he wrote this primarily to be Taken Seriously. Good for him -- it's not going to destroy anything if Jeff Tweedy writes poems, nothing worth leaving standing, anyway.

You with Habits of Very Effective People and the cellphone. You go too. (Oh, she did! Fine.)

Tempted by Susan Howe's The Midnight; Monica Youn's Barter (the poems I glanced at looked tightly wound; backed by the usual "Notes"; apparently, she's an entertainment lawyer by trade, and I'm good with any halfway interesting poet who's not either an academic or a musician); Barthes' The Semiotic Challenge and The Responsibility of Forms, possibly just b/c I'm surprised to see them in stock; Johathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema: On The Necessity of Film Canons (interesting critic -- Chicago? -- given to bitterness; wrote the one helpful thing on Celine and Julie I've seen; I'll look for this cheaper). But there are too many unread items at home; settle for film issue of Conjunction.

[Before I forget them, business names seen in Orange County last night, on way home from second cousin's housewarming: "The Earl's Plumbing," with an icon of a Brit noble looking more like the Monopoly guy, and "Melange, Etc.," (couldn't tell what they sold). There were two good donut shop names too, but, see, I've forgotten already.

Embroidered patch on cousin's 13-year-old daughter's purse. "Mrs. Timberlake." Her mom's about 10 years older than me; funny thing is, for a while when I was in high school, she loaned me the first 6 Monkees LPs for a while -- I think there were hearts drawn by the songs Mickey sang. You will never catch me turning up my nose at "Clarksville," "Words," "Valleri," "Star Collector," "She Hangs Out" ("How old did you say your sister was?"), "Take A Giant Step." The daughter had a bunch of That's What I Call Musics; I was very tempted to ask her to burn me her picks.

First time I've seen family in weeks; my dad, born in 1930, told me about being shown Seargant York and Pride of the Yankees in junior high -- just in case WWII was still on in 1948, one guesses.]

Song of which I can express loathing without much fear of contradiction, though surprises are always possible: Bowling For Soup, "1985."

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Sahsa backchannels to remind me of earlier Athenians Pylon (esp. vocally) and Love Tractor re R.E.M.. To which I say yes, and never fear, Gyrate is where I can find it. But then, so is It's A Condition.

Had more --

incomprehensibility of Chronic Town to Reckoning v. the oddity of the words one [that is, me at 14] could make out; Stipe banning "I" and "you" for a couple key years (not denying the lyric self, I think, but doing an end run against the most uncritical ways of constructing one); don't forget that they can also be viewed as Southern-rock-at-a-couple-removes (reminded of this by listening to Reckoning in a car w/ Chris Lee [of the Sands!] about 3 years ago);

expression of solidarity w/ S. re rock getting 'pear-shaped' at some point, though we'd place the year differently, and I always worry that I am just-to-old-to-understand; note that my radio show seems to me to come alive when I bend the rules about how much has to come from the new release bins and kick the 'stuff I know and love' set, not just b/c it's what I know and love but b/c I know better what to select, but maybe not just that?; used to think that a problem w/ i-r was that Dylan wasn't an influence, but then he became one and I didn't like that either; current view being that the real problem is a lack of universal recognition that I Just Can't Stop It and Wha'apen are two of the most complete pop records ever made. [Yes, that clause read as though Darnielle took over my head for a sec.]

-- but, I promised myself that I wouldn't spend today online.

NPR's Day to Day is right this second talking about fluxblog. Bandwidth ho!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

hey, who got Laffy Taffy all over my ideological state apparatus?

kspc 8-10

mission of burma -- this is not a photograph
brinsley schwartz -- (what's so funny 'bout) peace, love, and understanding
twilight circus -- session (mad professor remix)
hott beat -- organs of desire [so not 'hott']

arcade fire -- neighborhood (tunnels)
i.s.s. -- small ones [mimicry comp]
black dice -- live loop
the science group -- dance of the argument [chris cutler proj.]

lazy cowgirls -- you're all right now [feat. artist = sympathy]
april march -- chick habit [ditto; gainsbourg]
tender buttons -- jump [kill me tomorrow membs.; slower than aztec camera, even]
prime-time sublime -- fashion flag for a part-time patriot [orch-not-pop]

carolyn mark -- bigger bed
atomic 7 -- various rats are whacked
kid 606 -- rudestyleindiejunglistmassive
trevor dunn's trio -- i'm sick

bongos -- the bulrushes
oranges band -- ok apartment
band of holy joy -- refugee [2002 -- who knew?; "life is too brutal to be sad"]
kit -- i love her like mad
english beat -- walk away

french kicks -- manic panic (remix) [the bite of "the message" works ok, but the attempt to sing like prince...does not]
xanimo -- broken future
glenn jones -- the doll hospital [cul de sac guy, still working through his fahey issues]
dreamend -- the old house: its occupants [godspeedy; immediately got godspeed request]

otis rush -- i can't quit you baby
the blenders -- decimal currency [amalgamated ska comp; so sad that this is an instrumental]
bomb pops -- girl daredevil [lit-rock]
decomposure -- speech [yep, gwb samples, though sub-semantic]

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Navbar Cento [indirect discourse]

A 17 year-old suddenly realizes he hates his best friend. A woman who runs a website about bees wanders into a bootleg DVD shop in Sichuan province. A theology student constructs Augustinian arguments against abortion, ala Elizabeth Anscombe. A competitive ballroom dancer critiques a video of her own performance. Someone observes that today is the anniversary of the release of Windows 95, the printing of the Gutenberg Bible, and the eruption of Vesuvius (though, wasn't the calendar different?) A 27 year-old says of her ex, "he was 11 years older...that should have been my first clue." A retired nursing teacher in Franklin, North Carolina posts everything he can find that reflects badly on John Kerry. Ylang Ylang's 'record of activity' is blank. A man skips church, rants against patterned capri pants. A Malaysian woman studying philosophy in Scotland quotes Ferlinghetti.

Velocity is necessary this eve., but a couple quick drops.

Care to know just which secular Western music is acceptable to the Iranian government?

Re Jordan: Kurt may have exaggerated -- didn't he say practically the same thing about The Pixies? -- but there are similarities: Both Nirvana and the first several R.E.M. discs bottle their respective lightnings via forms that aren't just v-c-v (or, on much of Murmur, something like v-v-c-v-c-b-v-c-c) but built up from four-bar phrases repeated, almost exactly, four times apiece (or multiples thereof), w/r/t both vocal melody and guitar part. I have an unconfirmable conviction that this sort of part-whole relation didn't hurt them any in catching a bigger ear than the scenes of which they were outgrowths. Meaning in part, let's not forget that R.E.M, whatever their other merits or demerits, were also the ones who "put it together" from stuff that was coursing around, mostly regionally, below major-label-and-press radar in the early '80s; most obviously, the whole Hoboken-centered crowd (dB's, Individuals, Feelies, Necessaries) that did, I think, have some club currency for New Yorkers during a slackening in avantitude between no-wave and pigfuck; see also some of those bands' pre-existing connections to Don 'n' Mitch. Do I neglect The Bongos? No, I do not -- there is no way Buck and Stipe did not hear "The Bulrushes." Not that anyone claimed otherwise; but how many times will I get to mention The Bongos before I die?

Also, glad to hear John Shaw's ups for some people I've never heard of, and, why not, Sheryl Crow. But, to bring it around, recall that "All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun" may be the only recent hit based on an pre-existing on-the-page poem, by one Wyn Cooper, a workshoppy sort with several collections to his credit. (I guess this was before Ashanta started their "New Series.") Cooper did not leave well enough alone -- last year, he and Madison Smart Bell, whose last novel concerned a fictional rock band, recorded Forty Words For Fear. Echt lit-rock -- some spoken readings w/ sounds, at least one okay song called, if I recall, "Blue Nun," and Bell singing like Tom Waits minus a personality. The musically responsible parties, you ask? Dixon and Easter.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Right, so, lit-rock, and/or rock-lit.

So there's clearly no principled reason there can't be useful cross-pollination. People who like (and write) books, people who like (and make) music: Same people, why the hell not? Despite my tetchiness about young poets and indie-rock, I find on introspection that most of the instances I can come up with concern poems and poets I'm well-disposed towards:

Jordan mentions Sleater-Kinney in Poem on a Train, and we know that he's spent more time looking at GBV's lyrics than most people who love or hate them -- though it's not evident to me how this might have made its way into his poems; a lovely poem in Ange Mlinko's Matinees (which is the reason I first found out about the book) concerns, or at least uses the name of, Secret Stars*; one of the more toked-up poems in The Little Door Slides Back (by a former drummer of Davis' The Pope-a-Lopes) bears as its title an anagram of "Gastr del Sol"; I believe Ghost and Damon & Naomi figure in the same book. Come to think of it, I've enjoyed Damon K.'s poetry enough to wish there were more of it about; at the same time, I've never been inclined to listen hard for the words on D&N records. George Albon once sent me a cassette including singer-songwriter demos from before he began to publish. Even J. Clover, not what we would term an erstwhile defender of indie-rock, has titled poems for Mecca Normal and (this one's uncollected) the MG's Nine Black Poppies. (Which, reader, is one of several earlier discs you would certainly find worth your time if you know only the 4AD discs; it's similar, except minus the wack piano.)

Surely not a bunch of rank hipsters. The only conclusion that I can draw from the above is that some sensitive, responsive writers, were listening to certain records at some point in their, ah, processes. I do feel, though I now find it more difficult to cite instances, that I've seen references and dedications and such that jar or irk me. (I'm really not trying not to name names here -- other than that 'discography' bit Jordan mentioned recently, which I linked to, the examples aren't coming to mind. I could swear there was something in the new Canary, but I can't find it.)

It might be relevant that everyone above is my age or older (Jordan, I think, is insignificantly younger), and may have come to this music, even if they happened to be in school at the time, when it was not quite so 'collegiate,' perhaps even a tiny bit harder to find one's way to. This isn't a value in itself, but it does make me feel like the interest is not overdetermined, or displayed as a nod or a wink at a niche market d.b.a as a subculture.

[There is a whole topic to open about the difference between who made and listened to '80s v. '90 U.S. indie. It would be to some extent a discussion about class.]

Surely, the difference between my response to this sort of thing and my response to how jazz shows up in an older generation's poetry must have something to do with my closeness to the source in the first case.

Why has the tone of my posts been so formal lately, by the way?

I wrote more on what's problematic-to-awful about the kind of lit-rock Carl's article mostly concerned, but I think I can say it more succinctly: What would the musical equivalent of the term 'poetaster' be? Cool points are being sought and tallied, in a way that has little to do with either strong results on the one hand, or passion, liveliness, and invention on the other. (As to the latter category: Pussy, King of the Pirates might not be the Mekons disc I'd grab in a fire, but 'lit-rock' it isn't.)

Shortening another, more personal, paragraph: For my part, I'm glad that I don't find myself in the position of wondering if someone has printed a poem because they know I'm 'in a band.' I don't know that I'd claim that my advanced capacity for shame is such a wonderful thing, but it's what I've got.

Oh! Patrick Durgin, of Kenning fame, was, as "Rick," the driving force behind a rather twee band called the Bomb Pops, whose 92-94 singles (on Audrey's Diary, Bus Stop, Spin Art) were collected on a Grimsey CD in 1999. Interesting record -- quite elliptical for indie-pop, and not only lyrically. I confess I haven't gotten a chance to look at enough of his own poetry to say anything about it.

A couple last-for-now notes on the multi-blog lyric dogpile, all meant as thinking aloud, not polemic:

A reasonable reaction to a lot of this could be that there's nothing at all, ever, useful to say about words abstracted from music. That strikes me as extreme, but I have a lot of sympathy with the notion, at least as a caution. It's even implicit in the use of the term "lyrics" -- not just words, but sung/rapped/not merely said or read ones. But I don't think that's really been at issue in the present discussion: The original claim about suckitude seemed to presuppose that something, if even only a little, could be said, so I reproduced that presupposition in my response. Who, anyway, would disagree that pitch and rhythm of delivery, not to mention tone and timbre, not to mention accompaniment, are transformative? Christopher Ricks, maybe, but even there, probably ultimately as a methodological principle to constrain an already-large project. To which I don't object, because, guess what, there get to be other books too.

Side question, asked out of interest and honest ignorance: Are there rappers about whom the conventional wisdom is that their delivery, even if not actively bad, is much lamer than the content of their rhymes -- and maybe, even, their potential in other mouths? You know, the way many people feel about Randy Newman. Or does that possibility just not make sense in hip-hop?


I don't know that I completely agree with the following, from Stanley Cavell's The World Viewed, but it's worth considering:

"...in the case of films, it is generally true that you do not really like the highest instances unless you also like typical ones. You don't even know what the highest are instances of unless you know the typical as well." (6)

and, a bit later:

"The requirement for a certain indiscriminateness in the accepting of movies (I don't say you have to appreciate Singing Cowboy or Comedy Horror movies) has its analogues in the past of the established arts; anyone who is too selective about the classical composers whose music he likes doesn't really like music; whereas a distaste for certain movements or figures in literature may be productive." (13)

First thing to be said is obviously: Well, why not Singing Cowboys? But let it pass. I'm wondering if there's something like this to be said about popular music, and of particular genres (though maybe not tiny sub-genres) within it. For myself: Though in some moods I'm picky (or worse, after listening to big pile of promos), I don't claim that every piece of rock and/or indie-rock I enjoy shoots the curve. And I might submit that something similar is going to be true of someone who lives and breathes hip-hop -- or, not to put too fine a point on it, dancehall, or drum-and-bass. (Or, to name something else I know fairly well, show tunes: Do I think every OCR that I own and have derived some pleasure from stands up to Gypsy? No.) This is not to say that "it all sounds the same," which is just what it never does, to someone concerned with making a variety of discriminating judgments within a field, not all of which are most interesting for being judgments of quality. [Maybe this even speaks a bit to Steve Evans' notion of "the banalization of the poetic good" in his "Field Notes" in The Poker 4. What would we make, right now, of a critic who said, "Oh, all contemporary American poetry is godawful -- except for X."?]

Again, I'm not certain I subscribe to what I just said: I'm tossing it out there because I think the passage and the thought behind it is interesting. (Please take it as read that I'm not dealing with a lot of the specifics of why Cavell says this about, especially, classical Hollywood; I can't condense the argument of the first few sections of the book at this speed.)


I do want to say a little more re 'lit-rock,' partly in re Jordan's recent posts, one of which appeared while I was writing the above, but this is long already. For now, re Sasha's latest olive branch (or maybe just detaching-of-the-red-wire-from-the-blue-wire-for-the-moment): I ought to say I'd have been unlikely to jump on the grenade in the first place if the claim had just been "rock has sucked for the past 15 years." Though I can't wholly agree, I respect the standpoint from which it would seem to be the case, and understand why one would want to say so. The narrower or at least distinct claim about lyrics seemed, somehow, more ill-considered. One thing has to be said about hip-hop, though: Unlike, probably, even the best of recent rock, it's practitioners have succeeded in "changing the language" while somehow also managing to "get famous," contra Bernadette Mayer's suggestion to poets. But, as signal an achievement as that is, you would probably have to drug me and move my facial muscles around with your hands to get me to say "Z would be better if it were better-known," [loose translation: "feh"] this fact can't be the only finally relevant one for me.

"Jocks v. geeks? Never that." Word.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Sasha's referring in part to the email that follows, written before teaching today (Tagore and Tractatus 6.4, just to give you the coordinates of my non-blog headspace). Some further comment after the tildes.

What I sent, revised for a family audience:

Yeah, fine on the tone; mine was gassy too. Tho, how is what's giving you indigestion different than the 'hip-hop's just about bitches and money' kneejerk you very rightly complain about, from people who have no stake in paying attention? Otherwise, yrs was just the tipping point w/r/t some other things, including seeing too much exceptionalism-via-ignorance re my good and great friend John. The 4AD records are in danger of becoming OutKast for critics who 'hate indie-rock.'

Inclined to agree about Malkmus -- like Murdoch, does good stuff but is liked for shallow reasons; terrible influence. NB that almost no one I named could be said to be working in his shadow; maybe Berman, except the influence actually probably runs both ways. My guys and gals are low on absurdity, also on twee, also on 'outsider'-hood.

Maybe there's stuff that covers the 'rebel yell' market -- I wouldn't mock someone who cited Fugazi, but beyond that, I wouldn't know. Most of my list is in one way or another 'writerly,' and may be adult, but I'm an adult writer, and I thought that was what you were asking for, not that you were asking.

You know, right, that I dislike a lot of what's taken seriously by the successors to (and remaining dregs of) the community in which I was heavily invested in the '90s, from Oldham to the guy from the Decemberists? And that I know the difference between lyrics and poetry? If anything is irking me right now more than the notion that bands need midlist [or better] novelists to write songs, it's 'younger poets' who were probably in a band for 4 mos. in college and now need me to know their record collections.


This is not an ideal afternoon for me to get deep on this; but a few things:

I hadn't intended to get involved in 50 separate arguments about whether Z is any good. Sure, fine side bet, why not, but ultimately, if Jessica can't read past Berman, it's nothing to me. As noted, my list leaned heavily on indie-rock of the kind I know/knew well; funny how that would be, seeing as I wrote it. Someone whose postive kneejerking ran toward metal or garage rock or hardcore or some other current of the stream, main- or otherwise, that I don't swim in much would come up w/ a rather different list; that possibility only sharpens the point, which was just that it may not be quite the desert out there it's reputed to be.

Similarly, I have no interest in proposing general principles o' goodness. Fool's errand. If there's one thing you can read off what's expressed in this blog pretty consistently, it's that I hold to a principles of aesthetic incommensurability, which is distinct, though likely not incompatible with, aesthetic relativism.

Sasha suggests we start unpacking 'writerly.' I didn't mean much by it in the email, actually; I didn't mean, for example, that it starts on the page, is done by those w/ formal training or pretenses to publication, or is relevant to some particular literary tradition in its aims and effects. I meant something more like: Self-aware about aiming to have something interesting -- again, broadly defined -- going on in the words and (preferably, of course) in how the words bear on the music. Probably accompanied by some impulse toward or capactiy toward self-editing. But I don't say this is a necessary condition of the good. I'm sure there are plenty of bands whose lyrics are functional-to-dandy, but who aren't awfully self-conscious about them in the way I associate w/ writers of every tendency. But that wasn't wasn't what came to mind when I said to myself: Think of some good lyricists.

Some perspective about this might be given by my response to Joshua's 'assignat' a few weeks back, which I got to him too late to post. The brief version is just that the 10 or 12 songs I happened to pick that weekend ran to old country, a couple of show tunes, and snatches of "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Message of Love." So, in some ways, it didn't reflect the views I'm defending here, which, make of what you will.

Briefly, to Jessica: Well, I enjoy Bettie Seervert, but frankly, I doubt I'd have thought of them if I hadn't complained about that Hal Hartley movie recently. But, more generally, particular merits aside: One of the interesting things about material conditions as they stand in the present is that there are technologies that allows you to listen to music made in the past. These conditions strike me as unlikely to change in the future.

I am surprised that both Sasha and Jess have some time for Richard Buckner. Live and learn.

Much not touched on, really do have to do some other work now. Unlikely that there will be more before Sunday.

Oh yeah: Kurt. Courtney.

not fully formatted, b/c I don't feel like it.

50 rock lyricists, w/ significant output in the period 1989-2004 who, in my estimation, more or less generally fail to 'suck...massive ass':

Holly Anderson (non-performing member of consonant; Clint writes less, but often movingly)
that Arab Strap guy
Beck (obviously, more overtly influenced by hip-hop than most of this list)
Dan Bejar (despite my sometime doubts, which are in the context of how good he can be)
David Berman (esp. The Natural Bridge)
Peter Blegvad
Richard Buckner (esp. Still and Devotion & Doubt)
Dennis & Allan Callaci (Refrigerator; a coterie band, but that does not falsify the claim)
Vic Chesnutt
Chuck Cleaver (Ass Ponys)

John Darnielle
Graeme Downes
whichever members of The Ex write the lyrics
Howe Gelb
Craig Finn (of Lifter Puller/Hold Steady; see Beck)
Robert Forster (see undersung '90s solo records)
Luke Haines
Kathleen Hanna
Polly Jean Harvey
Kristin Hersh

Simon Joyner (perhaps conceives himself as a folkie)
The Haywards (basically unknown Cincinatti band, I forget the main guy's name, but he can write)
Ron House (both in TJSA and the solo disc Obsessed)
Matt Kadane (esp. in the New Year; n.b. I am no kind of Bedhead fan)
Gerald Langley
Chris Lopez (Rock*A*Teens; no one noticed)
Alex McManus (aka The Bruces)
Mac McCaughan (underrated)
whosis from Rainer Maria (maybe they write together; affected by emo, but trending up)
Marcy Mays (Scrawl)

several Mekons (often working collaboratively; also Jon's solo work)
Stuart Murdoch
the fellows in Silkworm, and ex-member Joel Phelps solo
Mark Szabo (again, very marginal figure w/ no 'career,' but a personal favorite)
John Petkovic
Liz Phair
Prince (is there some reason I can't have him as 'rock'?)
Jean Smith (keeps getting better)
Mark E. Smith (enough interesting work in the '90s to include; no, I don't go around singing it to myself)
those in Sleater-Kinney

David Thomas (still v. productive; esp. Two Pale Boys recs)
Mary Timony (not my thing so much post-Helium, but I respect it)
Jenny Toomey
Carol Van Dijk (sp?)
Tom Waits
Kurt Wagner (Lambchop)
Rufus Wainwright (despite big fall-off on #3)
Azita Youssefi
Yo La Tengo (again, underrated; album before last esp. strong)
Thalia Zedek

Oh yes. Me. I don't suck, actually, thanks for asking.

To forestall: No idea if 50 is 'enough' to show anything. Good-as-pre-90's-figure-Z is not the standard applied, esp. where Z = Dylan or Howard Devoto. (I didn't use X b/c you might think I meant, y'know, X.) List has nothing to do w/ best; has nothing to do w/ attempting to represent various genres; has do to with a list of persons or groups of persons who accompany the music they record or perform with non-sucking words. These words may be related to this music in a number of ways; some of these may operate to the benefit of the words, some to their detriment. No requirement that I love the music, though in no case are the lyrics so much better than what's around them that I hesitated. Had to be rock on an inclusive but not all-inclusive def; hence, no Pet Shop Boys, no Arto L. Starting pre-'90s is ok. No claim that the lyrics would look good on the page; no claim that, if they do, they're not actually good lyrics; no claims at all about 'pop.' Some of this is 'songwriting'; much is not. Personal friends are there b/c I respect them, and think of them often. You, of course, respect me enough to know that the presence of usual suspects does not mean that I am an uncritical sheep; Stuart Murdoch, for example, is a good writer who is tarnished the fact that people who like his band also tend to like a lot of utter shit. Other usual suspects are either not so much by my lights or arguable enough that I wouldn't want to make the broader case on them. I don't feel like naming the former; the latter might include Eitzel, Malkmus, Morrissey, Callahan, Oberst, '90s Elvis C. However, particular judgements are largely beside the point; one might argue me out of 4 or 5, but I'm sure anyone could plug the holes with their own preferences.

The most interesting refutation would probably involve showing that I had misunderstood the word 'rock.' Also 'lyrics.' Also 'suck,' though perhaps not 'ass.'

p.s.: Carl's article wouldn't load; I'll try tomorrow. I am very suspicious of lit-rock, at least as currently constituted. Rick Moody should not hold his breath from a call from anyone named above.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

kspc 8-10

mission of burma -- this is not a photograph
big dipper -- start the revolutions ('love barge' b-side, 1988)
the eternals -- nation's capital [everything's out of proportion]

black eyes -- scrapes and scratches
homosexuals -- naming of parts
the affair -- honey (split 7" on vice; poor singing)
ra scion -- dichotemy (seattle undie; title [sic])
dr. noh -- all alone

destroyer -- streethawk II (rare/unreleased disc of merge 15 ann. comp)
sprcess -- the sun provides vitamin d
on!air!radio! -- bread (v/a 'u.s. pop life vol. 17,' contact records; interesting singer, got a call)

peanut butter wolf (w/ planet asia, madlib) -- definition of ill
subtitle -- smoke is smoke
wildchild (feat. oh no) -- heartbeat
madvillian -- money folder
busdriver -- driver's manual

charming snakes -- hang your head
marked men -- cool devices
the m's -- break our bones
black cat bone -- the judas tree (homework v. 10)
tangiers -- your color (I think I'd go see them)

[not to interrupt, but if one gets an instant message -- there's an address for whoever's on-air -- reading 'i was just curious when you were going to get home' from someone calling themselves 'inxurdreamsx69x,' what does that mean?]

grey de lisle -- sharecroppin' man
sally timms -- i'm just a man (kevin coyne cover)
jon rauhouse's air show, feat. neko case -- river of no return (comp. lionel newman, from the premminger film)
pine valley cosmonauts -- bye bye blues (cover?; ltd ed 'barn dance favorites')
mavis staples -- hard times (v/a 'beautiful dreamer,' stephen foster tribute)

mccarthy -- way of the world
junior boys -- last exit
gina lamour -- i'm gonna file my claim (the other song from 'river of no return')
shrimp boat -- wonderful wonderful
bobby short -- don't let it get you down (harburg/lane)

rich west -- curly
misha mengleberg -- house party starting (h. nichols)

[sorry so little commentary. tired.]

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I doubt you come here for political commentary. However, I will lead you to some.

"No, I know, communism, very bad": Jane on Chavez, the constitution of money, and the contention that "in the United States, nothing particularly useful is on offer from either party."

To which I would add: Yep, money is some weird shit. Hey, What if it didn't exist?

"If I have to have a Christian runnning the country, I'd rather it be a Papist": John on the rhetoric that tells us we're doing something more than electing the emptier of two ciphers, then voting Dem anyway for the sake of judicial appointments.

To which I would add: Getting John Ashcroft's jackboot off our windpipes might be nice as well. (As you'll see in the comments below the story, this particular travesty was rescinded, partly thanks to the American Librarian Association. So, it's just a fr'instance.)

(To which The Fonz would add: Librarians are cool.)

"But at least he believes in evolution.": Naomi Klein on progressives' tendency to focus on Bush's doltishness at the expense of something more substantial. She also makes a sort-of-anti-ameliorative argument that the very dullness of Kerry's pursuit, if elected, of "brutal policies" indistinguishable from those of the current administration will hasten the arrival of real social change, or at least the evolution of a substantial Left.

To which I won't add anything, because my attempts to do so were unreadable.

Loose ends: The Ex disc is of course called Turn as in revolve, not Push as in resist. The cover is based on a Wallace Berman transistor-radio Verifax collage. This interests me because the back of OPB's Emotional Discipline appropriated and altered a similar image, as a result of which I had some interaction with Berman's son Tosh (incidentally, the U.S. publisher of Guy Debord's account of his relationship with his publisher). The full story is too complicated to go into here; I'm remembering details I'd forgotten as I write. The short version: He wasn't crazy about the unauthorized usage, but there were no 'intellectual property' threats of any sort -- he's of course aware that his dad's work itself depended on appropriation. We now seem to be on perfectly good terms, when I run into him at Book Soup (which he manages). Anyway, it's possible but unlikely that he was approached ahead of time about Turn -- I wonder if anyone will draw it to his attention.

The plumbing is fixed but the ants are back.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Have to work on things I have to work on. If I were a poet, this would have been a productive week. Went through a pile of very old material, salvaging good lines -- then I peeked at some flarf and wondered if I shouldn't have been keeping the hideous ones. [Too bad, for me, that the New Sentence is old currency.] But the writing that is expected from me at a certain time? Not going so well, right now. The good news is, my students asked excellent questions about Carnap yesterday.

"Well, I had written two pages of beautiful literature to explain the situation [at the end of The Grand Illusion]. Gabin was, you know, like a poet; explaining about what's good, what's bad in nature. It was fantastic. I was so proud of myself. And I was a little worried because the two actors, Dalio and Gabin, they didn't want to start the scene. They were finding reasons to do something else. Finally Gabin told me, 'Jean, we'd better tell you: your two pages of beautiful poetry are just trash and we cannot say it.' Which was true."

--Jean Renoir: An Interview, Green Integer, 1998

"But art is in any case not a relation to a thing, it is a relation between men, between artist and audience, and the art work is only like a machine which they must both grasp as part of the process....[The artist] attempts to forget the market completely and concentrate on his relation to the art work, which now becomes further hypostatized as an entity-in-itself."

-- Cornelius Cardew, from Stockhausen Saves Imperialism [Quoted on entry page to ubuweb reprint of 1974 publication; have not read much of the book itself yet.]

[Also, W.D. Hart on Wittgenstein, Hertz, and the misleading 'picture' of the pianola w.r.t. mental "states and processes," in "Clarity" from The Analytic Tradition, ed. David Bell & David Cooper, Blackwell, 1990. Unfortunately, not readily excerpted.]

Friday, August 13, 2004

In my head for no reason I can find: "Say buh-buh-buh-bye to the bunch..."

Joel: "Write down three things you like about yourself! Instead of ink, use your own blood!"

Pacifica radio host, after playing some trad. Korean music: "The Axis of Evil never sounded so good."

Jonathan Mayhew wonders: "If a given poet is only one of two thousand equally worthwhile poets, why should any particular reader choose to read him or her? How can one distinguish oneself from the thousands?" Asking these questions, especially the second, as though they were inevitable strikes me as precisely the 'failure of imagination' at issue.

Anxious to see Los Angeles Plays Itself, a 3-hr cine-essay on Los Angeles* in film by Thom Anderson; I hope to show my aesthetics class his earlier Eadweard Muybridge, Zoopraxographer this fall, and no, there are no typos in this sentence. Typically, the new one just showed at FilmForum but isn't here until Sept.

*I understand the film contains an argument against ever saying (writing?) "L.A." I doubt I'll adopt the longer form.

Vitaphone shorts at UCLA tonight!

Bye, Julia. (Update: Pasadena gal, which I'd forgotten. Also, sorry to hear of the passing of film composer David Raksin, at 92. He was introduced -- stood, but didn't speak -- at a LACMA screening of a film he scored, about 2 years ago. I'm racking my brain to remember which.)

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Bettie-on-the-headphones Variations: I keep trying to post something about poet Steve Healey's Drag City/Kranky fixation, the fact that Christopher O' Reilly, the classical pianist who did that Radiohead disc, is next tackling Elliot Smith*, and ex-[I guess]-New Brutalist Geoffrey Dyer's The Dirty Halo of Everything, which contains a poem called "xo," which I wouldn't have assumed to be 'after' Smith's album if not for "development song" some pages later: "The song is not narrative solely for its textual features. [...] Commercialism has characterized Rock as traditionally formal -- and Rock and Roll would laugh at this -- the utopic question that would seek to overthrow such narratives." I keep trying, that is, but I sound like a jerk on all fronts. I think Dyer means "formally traditional." See?

*Why no link? 'Cos you can't go directly to the page for O'R's UCLA recital (May 2005), and the only other page I found w/ refs to both led to the 'indieporn' site Suicide Girls.

Showtime: Strong, if scaring me ("You people are going to respect me...if it kills you") and making me laugh out loud ("Knock Knock," not so much the chorus as the line about his "controversial views") on first listen are anything to go by. [Same goes for The Ex's upcoming Push, based on Disc 2 alone]. "Imagine" -- Streetsish? I'm completely behind the use of Captain Sensible's "Happy Talk," but the resulting "Dream" is a missed opportunity -- warm-fuzzy-Dizzee-loves-the-people-of-the-world wasn't making it for me. I wonder if mechanicals are being paid to Rodgers & Hammerstein on top of whatever the sample clearance cost; I won't tell the estate if you don't. (Slightly connected: Picked up So Solid Crew's "21 Seconds" recently; odd, in that most of the MCs spend their 21 seconds apiece explaining how they only have the mic for 21 seconds.)

While we're on the IntelPro tip, my father says he's taped the Prudential commercial that allegedly contains my voice. He says the only lyric he can make out is "This is how life should be." I have some thoughts on that topic, but I don't think I've ever sung them. Must be, you know, some kind of Tom Waits/Doritos gag.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

mission of burma -- red (reformation or no)
people in stores -- factory (v. extended family; makes me want to hear the turbines)
metalux -- ceramic pork-bank
icy demons -- [no title]

max richter -- blue notebooks (yep, kafka read over piano)
juana molina -- insensible (I guess this is the piano set)
azita -- ooh ooh johnny (from the 1st one)
jacqueline humbert -- lullaby (not piano exactly; comp. alvin lucier)

le tigre -- tres bien (kathleen h. is our feat. artist o' week, good by me)
suture -- pretty is (pre/[during]?-bk band -- SO '91/love-rock/Kicking Giant)
wendy atkinson -- the wrights (mecca n. associate)
julie ruin -- a place called won't be there

jaga jazzist -- day (orig version)
j. live/slug/invisible -- don't get it backwards
q-unique -- the ugly place (well, it's a little hard to do this set w/ one of the turntables fucking up)
dizzee rascal -- graftin' (we'll talk about showtime later, 'kay)
lord kichener -- the bees melody
jon langford -- joshua gone barbados
pencilgrass -- waiting room (yep, reggae/funk fugazi cover...from connecticut!...clearly collegiate in provenance)

mae shi -- hieronymus bosch is a dead man
poster children -- flag (though I've never loved these guys, I've never had a bad thing to say about them, but I've gotta quote the station's review: "Reminded me of an '80s wanna-be band, stuck in the '90s." Ah, 19-year-olds.)
the ex -- confusion errorist (new dbl. cd; "why does a weapon need someone?")
sea whores -- sweaty men, attack! (someday I'll do a whole show of segs this good)
king of the slums -- up the empire/balls to the bulldog breed (just 'cos douglas brought them to mind recently; hah! got a call on it!)
pidgeon -- backwards hell (ab kosh)

weldon irvine -- deja vu (9 mins of post-miles mystical goodness; "I recall when we will cease to be")
david s. ware -- the way we were (next dj called in late b/c of traffic -- I hade problems getting here as well -- so we're going w/ long-but-good 'til he makes it)

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Sorry to hear about Rick James; equally so about Henri Cartier-Bresson. Strange: I only learned a week ago that he was, at that moment, still alive.

Otherwise, glad to be back. Just to return on a negative note: More than one person has told me that I should not let Julie Delpy's singing dissuade me from seeing Sunrise, Sunset. But who will talk me past this sentence from Ed Park's Voice review of Garden State?

"Early on, Sam claps her headphones onto Largeman's ears so that the Shins can fill the soundtrack—a scene so out-of-nowhere moving, you wish they could stay like that till the last possible measure."

It's not even so much that I don't understand The Shins (though I don't); it's that I distinctly remember feeling that Hal Hartley lost it at the exact moment in Amateur when Elisa Loewinsohn (what became of her?) put on her Walkman and Bettie Seervert's "Tomboy" blasted extradiagetically. Tyranny of the music supervisor.

Ok: Teaching tomorrow, some last minute fussing w/ the syllabus. Below, a summery summary, annotated for those w/ time on their hands; no energy for linkage, sorry. Why didn't I just post some of this as I went? Needed the constraint. Glad to be back.

thu 7/22

-- Rodney Graham/Cheval de Frise/Gorge Trio @ Spaceland
-- bought Graham's catalog at show; read essays over next 2 days

fri 7/23

-- spent large chunk of day listening to (parts of) promos (see below)
-- dinner w/ bree

sat 7/24

-- wrote Phx column (DNA/Arto); took me all freaking day
-- read New Yorker (esp. Kerry profile), Nation (esp. Danto's anti-identity-aesthetics Mondagliani rev.)

sun 7/25

-- groceries
-- Graham retrospective/gallery talk @ MOCA
-- babbled about Kantian sublime to Joseph, Rita
-- lunch in Little Tokyo w/ Bree, Shannon
-- Catherine Daly/Chris Piuma reading/Minor Thirds perf. @ Smell; poorly attended
-- routed but did not vanquish ants in kitchen w/ vaccuum cleaner, Lysol, fire

mon 7/26

-- bills, correspondence
-- Graham rev. for weekly
-- took about 90 cds (mostly promos*, a few things from the shelves that I looked at, realized I didn't give a damn about) to Amoeba, spent about 1/4 of the credit
-- wrote 'attention span' entry for Third Factory

* Listened to portions of all or nearly all over last 7-10 days, probably kept about 10%; came to decision that I have to listen mostly to music I actually enjoy for a while. (Worst in show: Maritime, ex-Promise Ring/D. Plan w/ sidepersons I've played w/ myself -- our rock bands 'matured' then broke up, now we're exploring 'classic pop' textures, structures. I fear making this record; it's possible I already have.)

tue 7/27

-- killed a.m., somehow
-- started Louis Menand's The Metaphysical Club for no better reason than having picked it up used a while back; though the Civil War background connects up a bit w/ stuff I'm writing about
-- "Bad Movie Night" at Dennis'; Gigli (oh, Jesus, I hadn't even known about the developmentally disabled character) and ...And Call Me In The Morning (2000 vanity production by character actor Sid Melton, w/ Frank Sinatra Jr., videotape given to Bree by one of her stepdad's comedian friends)

wed 7/28

-- picked up Bree's car from shop
-- correspondence
-- Robin Holcomb; Sen. Robert Byrd on Fresh Air
-- Menand on Wm. James
-- programmed 2 CDs for KSPC (Truman's Water, Open City)
-- radio 8-10
-- stayed overnight in Empire

thurs 7/29

-- laundry in a.m., futzed around w/ a poem based on Jane's "assignat," lunch (rapini) w/ parents
-- Chris Reiner Stylo
-- took my time getting home; stopped at so-so used bookstores in Covina (and a coffee/needlepoint show w/ shithot wifi) and Glendale (got out before a poetry reading organized by a v. Hollywood pork-pie-and-goatee dork began)
-- corned beef rueben at Billy's Deli, around corner from above
-- desultory Farber revision, started Menand on Pierce, a few poems from Sharma, The Opening Question

fri 7/30

-- correspondence
-- Tweet, Southern Hummingbird: Never tops "Oops," but I like the acoustic one that quotes "Rapper's Delight" (in a less obvious context than, e.g. Pookie Blow)
-- UCLA around 3, talked to Pam about my comments on her blame paper, and w/ Colin about the gay Scoutmaster case and the coerciveness of The Pledge of Allegiance; looked into poss. of getting NME microfiche by interlibrary loan; tracked down a couple books on Stephen Foster
-- came across web discussions of Robert Byrd's "white n----r" comments from 2001; he apparently meant Clinton.
-- Counselor at Law (early Wyler); Vincent Sherman, then an actor (playing a total Group Theater Bolshie) in attendance; he broke down a bit while reminiscing about John Barrymore, who didn't worry about how many lines or scenes he had when considering a part, but asked instead: "Who does the suffering?" The film itself was fantastic, very crisp, very Deco, w/ Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Mayo Methot, Thelma Todd; ending isn't really consistent w/ the moral gist of the thing, but how many are? I've said it before: I have absolutely no problem with filmed plays. Decided I'd better skip the second feature, True Confession, Lombard/MacMurray screwball which I wrote about here some mos. ago but could have sat through again.

sat 7/31

-- okay session on Farber 10-3
-- skipped both The Apple at Cinematheque and Year of The Pig at UCLA to have dinner w/ Bree at Olvera St.

sun 8/1

-- late start
-- corporate bookstore, to use some credit I'd had since Xmas; Zukofsky on Apollinaire, new J. Richman
-- locked keys in trunk; called AAA
-- well into Dewey section in Menand
-- typed up some 2 yr. old poems

mon 8/2

-- paid rent
-- J Richman pick for weekly
-- America Will Always Stand review for Voice; phone edit w/ xgau later than I thought he'd call
-- started Austin's book on Stephen Foster; quite good.

tue 8/3

-- 3.5 hrs of work on Farber
-- LACMA matinee, more Sherman: Nora Prentiss, 1947 noir w/ Ann Sheridan (a bit stiff in a Joan Bennett role); right on edge of noir/women's picture, mainly notable for James Wong Howe's photography (he gives himself a cameo in a Fisherman's Wharf location shot), a male lead performance by Jack ? that covers a lot of territory, and a song called "Why Don't You Take A Souvenir," the bridge of which runs:

Should I let you kiss me, you won't miss me if you stop
Take something material -- that ethereal stuff's a flop

Noted during the credits that I'd never heard of the songwriters, but now can't recall their names.
-- skipped screening of Lost Horizon remake (a legendary bomb, not on video), spent at least another 3 hrs on Farber; now 3000 wds in, going better now

wed 8/4

-- read up to penultimate ch. of Menand
-- correspondence
-- went to Claremont early to do refresher training on new KSPC equipment; Kiss of Death on the drive out.
-- lunch at Chinese place in Upland); spent $3 on Monopoly pinball in adjoining bowling alley. Dead left flipper, hard to get much going.
-- wrote up 'assignat' notes for Jane (which didn't include the above quote)
-- radio 6-8

thu 8/5

-- cleaned apt. 9-noon
-- finished Menand. Shallow response: I still do not find pragmatism (in the forms that I can understand) a congenial view; I find William James a very congenial character. LM's style goes down damn easy.
-- Farber off and on until 7 -- about 3/4 through, a little stuck on a little subsection on Godard
-- Read Kevin Killian's Onoro Reports on Poetics list.
-- Canter's w/ Annick G.
-- pulled from various shelves all the poetry books/chapbooks which I've acquired but have only (in a few cases none) of since moving into this apt (2 yrs); fair-size pile. Had brief enthusiasm for some kind of 'book a week' resolution; but then spent strangely long time on "Marie Menken," first poem in Drew Gardner's Sugar Pill. At this rate, I'll be able to buy new books w/o guilt in, oh, 2008.

fri 8/6

-- email from Dad says Mom has seen "my" commercial twice more; I asked them to try to tape it. Still doubtful.
-- UCLA, put together course reader for Mon., other misc prep.
-- Jacqueline Humbert, Chanteuse
-- met Philip C. for The Partner at LACMA, Bertolucci's second film, a free adaptation of FD's The Double w/ heavy influence of Godard and Beck/Malina (the world as theater w/ revolution as the text). 1968, but pre- or post-May? Fairly adolescent, w/ some subtler self-questioning toward the end; to my surprise, I was reminded more of Fight Club than anything. Rarely screened; sparsely attended.
-- trio led by Alan Broadbent, Australian pianist who's also in Charlie Haden's Quartet West, playing as the free Friday jazz at LACMA. I've always disliked this guy's playing; lotsa impressionistic flash, little swing. I don't think the musicians can hear each other too well out there in the concrete and glass plaza.
-- read about 2/3 of Kenward Elmslie/Trevor Winkfield, Snippets; fell asleep to Disc One of The Conet Project

sat 8/7

-- dicked around pretty badly until approx. 2 p.m.
-- got within last 2 grafs (on Grand Illusion screening) of Farber piece.
-- Probably would have finished same if motherfucking sink hadn't backflowed, twice, bigtime, messing recently mopped floor (see Thurs.) Called bldg. mgr., who said it was probably upstairs neighbor's washing machine. ("I've been worried about that....") Asked neighbors to turn off the washing machine; took a while b/c they assumed I was coming up to complain about music (which has been much less obtrusive lately).
-- cleaned counter, floor; still need work.
-- finished Snippets, read more of Sugar Pill; despite similar look of poems, they seem to be composed differently -- "Sloth" and "Homeostasis" keep to a small compass of sources, longer pieces are much tougher to hold together in the mind for more than a few lines at a time.
-- 10 p.m. Jon Langford/Rico Bell at Hwd. Knit.. Jean Cook in the house!!

sun 8/8 (today)

-- Finished Farber piece; light polishing & proofing to do before sending, but surely close enough to done to return to the 'sphere. For how long?
-- Realized I'd put off seeing the Yvonne Ranier show at LACE until the last day (today). It's close, fortunately; went over around 4. Documentation, dance scores; doesn't take long to see. Best item: a profile called The Ranier Variations, which combines archival footage of Judson Th. performances w/ new interviews, and footage of Ranier teaching her movement style to a female impersonator 'doing' Martha Graham. Completely hilarious, but also genuinely helpful for a dance illiterate (me) trying to understand what was new in YR's work.
-- Haven't been inside in years, but I was parked near Vinyl Fetish, a Hwd record store that's been around in various locations since the punks-on-Melrose days. Now, strongest on goth, house, and rare Mozzer, with some interesting used bins toward the back. Score!!: Propellor Product, Boston 7" comp from 1981 -- Neats/Wild Stares/People In Stores/CCCPTV. Not something you see in L.A.; esp. nice b/c I know KSPC used to have it, but I haven't seen that copy in years. Was there another volume with V;? I'll be back.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Still in self-imposed exile, stuck on #4, not that other things haven't been accomplished in the interim, which is part of the problem. One note for those still bothering to check in:

Spoke to my mother briefly today; she claimed to have heard some song of mine at the start and end of a commercial, played during a rerun of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?. ("I know your voice.") I think this is very unlikely; of course, she didn't take note of the lyrics, or the product/service. But if any of you happen to be watching The Game Show Network and hear what seems to be me, do let me know, so I can either get a cease & desist going, or have a check cut.


mission of burma -- this is not a photograph
birdsongs of mezosoic -- carbon 14 (extended family)
jon langford -- french quarter hotels (found magazine 7")
les savy fav -- the sweat descends

dr. mix -- can't control myself (troggs cover, ex-metal urbain)
timonium -- across the footlights (didn't have a female singer before)
explosions in the sky -- [untitled] (request; a little godspeedy for me, but I'm here to serve)
alec k. readfern and the eyesores -- black tar & white slavery

the raymakers -- contact high ('feat artist' is the l.a./tokyo label eenie meenie)
viento de agua -- las tarimas
luciano perrone -- samba vocalizado (batucada fantastica v. 3; highly recommended reissue of 1972 brazilian lp)
so percussion -- melody competition (very long but excellent gamelanish composition written by one evan ziporyn)

diverse -- certified (nice, got a call)
sixtoo -- chainsaw buffet (woulda gone better in the percussion set)
gift of gab -- moonshine
rom -- jumpic (infliltrate 5.0 comp, mm, nice seg)
secret mommy -- the beach (very cut up astrud gilberto samples, more interesting than it reads)

diane marie kloba -- green suitcase (!!! begars description, at least for now -- like azita/jean smith w/ heavy 'da bears' accent; note to self, check out her site)
rjd2 -- through the walls
genya ravan -- roto root her (1979 release on bowie's vanity imprint mainman; somewhere between pat benatar and gilda radner's patti smith impersonation)
bergen white -- she is today (best, or at least most free designish, song on recently mojo-hyped orch-pop reissue; "the hippies are her prophets...she is today")
white magic -- one note

the slits -- shoplifting
new black -- angel w/ cockroach wings (man, this melody is so swiped, but from what?)
pixeltan -- that's the way I like it (strangely, neither a k.c./sunshine nor a backstreet boys cover; new dfa single)
buck hammer -- tea for two boogie (just what it says; i'm guessing late '50s, though the record's not saying)
decompose -- toy piano/electronic drumsticks (tracks are named for their 'instrumentation,' mostly sampled/repurposed; others include 'sound card noise' and 'scrabble'! Gorgeous, in fact.)

glenn branca -- lesson no. 1 (long excerpt to end)

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