Monday, May 30, 2005

"This permanent, precise labor of documentation and denunciation, this molelike activity, this is what interests me."

--French left-wing publisher Francois Maspero, quoted in Kristin Ross, May '68 and its Afterlives


Confession: I spend much more time listening to NPR and complaining to myself about half-truths and don't-rock-the-boat sharing-the-assumptions "analyses" disguised as "balance" than I do placing myself in the path of our Pacifica outlet, far less smooth and far less comforting. (As I write, the latter is several hours into a series of fulminating talks from a conference on media bias.) But, if I didn't, I wouldn't have heard, slipped into the especially entertaining and tepid Day to Day, this short Memorial Day piece by the great Joe Frank, sounding, as he has for years, as though he only made it on-air by a long chain of unlikely failures of gatekeeping. Not paying attention to the intro, I thought at first it was part of a re-enactment of Norman Corwin's famous "On a Note of Triumph" victory broadcast, which I had heard was being rebroadcast sometime today. But, as you'll hear, Frank takes a turn. (I am certain that the opening is intended to be a Corwin parody -- this must have been strange for older listeners.) Is it good or bad that this is perhaps defused a bit by being clearly billed as a "poem" in the introduction? Either way, I wouldn't want to be their ombusdman this week.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Might use that Anderson/Vangelisiti/Watson-Hurley event last night -- which turned out to be in a photographers' studio around the corner from The Echo and Sea Level Records in Echo Park -- for something else I write, but gotta make a couple of notes here: There was some kind of all-ages venue none of the organizers knew about directly upstairs, interfering pretty badly with the proceedings. Division Day and an opening band whose name I didn't get died down by the time Paul read his "Gof in Singapore," but during Anderson's discussion of citizeship, cynicism, and Chinatown, one of the bands was playing, I swear, an '90s-ironic cover of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away," from Top Gun. I guess there might have been a Red Krayola set if Mayo weren't presently in Scotland; as it was, we got an instrumental version of most of their current book. Casual, yes, but I like the songs well enough to hear them once this way, and what, I'm not going to watch George Hurley rock the kit?

Good taco truck across the street: NYC's got its corner slice, Chicago, I guess I'll find out, has its dogs, we've got our buche and cabeza -- on wheels.


No way can I respond to everything that's revving under the Utopian Turtletop, nor am I interested in mounting a full defense of Greil Marcus. First b/c he hardly needs it from these quarters, and second because I have my share of difficulties with his work myself -- the main one (which isn't something John focuses on) being the "historical break" model he tends to apply both pre-rock/rock and rock/punk. This is something I bought for a while, and learned -- and frankly, played -- my way out of. And, yes, I've read him against various forms of 'effete'ness and 'sophistication' more than once -- there was a New West column that I've never been able to find again (I don't think it's been reprinted) that made some annoying arguments against some Tin Pan-centric critic who was in turn making some even more annoying argument against the supposed across-the-board rawness and amateurishness of rock. I have no patience with either side of that debate -- and I'd add that Xgau has gone much farther out of his way to find a sense of what's of value in pre-rock practices (and not in rockonormative terms, either).

But, all that set, I gotta stick with my original point: GM is just too wide-ranging, intellectually curious, and slippery a writer to be of much use as a whipping boy for the sort of anti-rockists who are at pains to i.d. themselves as such. Couple of points:

(1) Not an anti-intellectual. (Sometimes wishes he could be more of one.) At his best, for me, when connecting pop music to some very fancy-pants stuff.

(2) Penchant for romanticizing "untutored" musicians, doesn't seem to have stopped him from digging art-schooled (preferably at Leeds) or highly self-conscious ones (EC -- and Dylan).

(3) Please look in Ranters/Fascist Bathroom for the piece on The Go-Go's. (Small wonderful shock of insight the first time I read the phrase "that enduring piece of conceptual art called Top 40 radio.") Or New Order. Or a karaoke cover of Billy Joel's "The Longest Time." Even his piece on Sonic Youth's Confusion Is Sex makes a popist argument -- the music, for him, a sort of cartoon-negative bubblegum that gets somewhere despite its huge pretensions.

(4) At the last two EMPs, I've heard him enthuse* about Roxy's "More Than This," and defend Blueshammer (the mock band from Ghost World as being not as bad as the director intended. Not rockist choices/positions.

*[Format of this archived post is a bit confusing -- first two paragraphs are Jane Dark, GM starts just after.]

Two last things:

John, in an earlier post, writes of "Greil Marcus’s opposite assumption that music is an esoteric mystery religion of which only a select few mysteriously annointed musicians are worthy." I think this is not quite right: He's also interested in the moment/s where a fairly pedestrian musician or singer taps into something larger and stranger -- pop moments, I dare say -- hence his fascination with artists who have a knack for doing so with some regularity. (Now, this isn't quite my way of looking at things either, and, as I've said, GM's way with hyperbole is not something I'd care to imitate in my own writing, lest I end up here. But the distinction should be made.)

And -- this isn't really to the point, but I have to say that the reason I don't discuss "Pills & Soap" in AF is simply that on rereading the title piece of In the Fascist Bathroom, I was cowed by the thought of trying to add anything.


I have no insights on Romanticism, and such divided sympathies regarding the formulation "writing about music" that I'd best stay silent.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Dim sum for Ben S.'s birthday, quick look around Chinatown galleries, came home to find that what I though was (another) computer problem was actually a problem w/ my phone line. (I'm at a cafe near Amoeba.) Thinking about how the newest ways to dog Britney are more classist than ever, and how I hadn't come across the term chav until I fell into some forum posts re Lady Sovereign, and my intitial resistance to The Woods*, and how odd it is that Jessica**, who I think does not know Kasey, also chose to mark the season, and of a mixtape circa '87 I dug out at my parents' recently (Dipper's "Lou Gehrig's Disease"; Henry Cow, "War"; The Big Black/YLT Chemical Imbalance single), and how I've managed to have one of nearly every variety of technological/pragmatic difficulty there is since the start of this year, and how I probably shouldn't fill the bag when I don't feel like pulling the drawstring.

*But not esp. on account of the vocals, which the Aquarius mail-order list that just showed up complains about, just a few items after telling us that something described as an Ethel Merman-fronted black-metal band is "essential."

**You and me both.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Announcing this for local viewers, as I haven't seen it promoted much:

POINT BLANK PROJECTS is pleased to announce its premiere event titled, "Los Angeles in (or as) Cinema & Literature; or, How We Got 'Here' from 'There," featuring talks by filmmaker Thom Andersen ("Los Angeles Plays Itself,") and writer and editor Paul Vangelisti (editor of "L.A.Exile," and Chair, MFA Writing, Otis College of Art and Design.) To close the night, two well-known Los Angeles musicians, Tom Watson (Slovenly/Red Krayola) and George Hurley (Minutemen/Red Krayola) will perform from 10 to 12am.

The event will take place at 8 pm, Saturday, May 28th, at the RecCenter, located at 1161 Logan Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026. Tickets for event are $10 and can be purchased the day of the event starting at 7 pm.

I'm so there. Sunday is tougher, speaking of here and there: Taylor Brady and Stan Apps at the Smell, Hollenbecq and Sam Lipstye at The Hammer, way 'cross town at nearly the same time.


My link to Snowglobe was bad -- I've fixed it below, but here it is again. Also fixed one of my "Greil"s. More on John Shaw's comments re GM/rockism later, probably.


Hello, Sister! (1931). Originally shot and co-scripted by Erich von Stroheim, based on a play by Dawn Powell; according to the UCLA archive's note, "Von Stroheim had hoped to bring a Viennese complexity to his American characters and to highlight their neuroses and desperation." Fox wasn't so into that, and hired one Edwin Burke for retakes. (And imdb credits yet others: Alan Crosland, Alfred L. Werker, and Raoul Walsh!) Pretty evidently a film of several minds: On the one hand, you've got attempted rape, a dismayingly extended cross-gender brawl, Luna Park rollercoaster p.o.v. shots, raunchy patter a quintuple-divorcee ("There are desperate times for everyone -- a girl's got no right to hoard. Give out!), ZaSu pits falling into an open sewer, pregnancy out of wedlock, and a comic drunk collecting dynamite through the whole movie who ends up blowing up the heroine's apartment building. On the other, it's all resolved into a tidy misunderstanding-driven love story. Some material involving waiting at a marriage license bureau that I wonder if V. Minnelli recalled for The Clock.

The star was one "Boots Mallory," from the 1931 Zigfield Follies, unusually ripe and lovely -- but with hardly any capacity for delivering lines. Her career only lasted until '38, and there's not a great deal about her online -- here's a group shot (scroll to 4th photo down) of 1932 starlets. She's two to the left of Ginger Rogers (who's two to the left of Gloria Stuart); the caption notes that she married James Cagney's brother. (By the way, the film this page is about, a 1933 Cagney vehicle called Picture Snatcher, sounds fantastic. And check that photo of him carving a turkey.) Oh, here's one other image, Player's Cigarettes trading card. (The site this is from is well worth exploring -- a repositority of viewable film memorabilia housed at the University of Exeter.)


Steve Evans' review of Lisa Robertson's chapbook Rousseau's Boat (which I have to order) comes just as I was considering getting a little deeper into Rousseau, possibly making a summer reading project of Reveries of a Solitary Walker, Cavellian philosopher Eli Friedlander's recent book on same, An Afterlife of Words, and maybe Cassirer's The Question of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. I taught The Social Contract in the expected manner in pol. phil. this term (I think I quoted him on the 'generality' of law here at some point, and found this idea emphasized in Rawls as well, filtered through Kant but basically unchanged.) but I also had them read Discourse on Inequality, and came out of it in confusion about how both books could belong to one writer -- which I guess is the 'question' of Cassirer's book.

And all of this without having consciously connected the Reveries w/ Robertson's "Seven Walks," which I had just been thinking of in the context of the derive. I want to go on with this, but I need to figure out which pile The Weather got into.


Before we get back to the rockism, what about the rock? If anyone championed last year's Black Is Beautiful, by Torrence's Rolling Blackouts I missed it -- thought there had been a Weekly feature, but it's not turning up. (Since the name is making you wonder, the guys look to be white and Latino in various proportions; the liner info is handwritten in a fwy overpass tag style.) Kept it around because I thought it was a great name for a So. Cal. band, finally listened, had my expectations exceeded by several lengths. In many ways, they sound like a band I wouldn't have been surprised to have encountered at, say, Al's Bar anytime from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s, or maybe on Sympathy back when garage bands had four members -- but cleaner and sharper, with a blaaghy lead singer (think Pat Todd) up against vocal-group pads, nice rough/smooth effect. And guitars. Half the tunes put me in mind of "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night," and a slower number toward the end has an almost '50s-styled vocal break. I'm making them sound retro, but that's not really how the disc comes off. Good sign, qua rock: after 2 listens, I'm still not caring much about trying to figure out the words. Hope I see them live before I leave town, 'cos I don't want to guess at their chances of getting out.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I have eaten/the pluots [...] you were probably/saving for/brunch

[with a spork!]

So, here's the story. The plumicot, a straight 50/50 cross, seems to precede the pluot both in name and nature. Cross a pluot with one or more generations of plums, and you're in pluot territory; cross with apricots, and then you've got an "aprium" -- terrible name, like a minor Tolkien character.

"Pluot" and "Aprium," however, are both trademarks held by Zaiger Genetics of Modesto. (Don't be scared, it's the centuries-old kind of interbreeding, not frankenfood.) Scroll down for all their varietals, including "Dapple Dandy" and the spectacular-sounding "Flavor Grenade." "Plumicot"/"plumcot"/"plum-cot" (I've seen all 3 names but prefer the first) are, apparently, somewhat earlier portmanteaus.

My maternal grandfather's first job in America was grafting grape-shoots, so I'm predisposed (genetically?) toward an interest in juicy hybrids.


Out-Elmslie-ing Elmslie? As if one could!

Oh, and Jordan? I'm sad you don't like Shrimp Boat. I do.


Interesting to read John Yau's piece on Ashbery and O'Hara's art criticism in the context of Douglas' recent suggestion that it's time for rock-crit to "stage raids on other kinds of culture criticism: great writing about movies, about literature, about food," if only as a reminder that "about visual art" belongs on that list.

Reflecting solely on my own case: Even though reading Greil Marcus in New West/California (and Lipstick Traces a few years later was huge for me, I was encountering Ashbery at nearly the same time. Both as poet and as critic, and I think that's important: I had As We Know before I had any context for it, and it stuck me as wholly mysterious -- because of its evenness of tone and look ("Litany" aside, I guess), I thought I was dealing something that I could 'understand' the way I might the literature I learned in high school, if only I were sophisticated enough. Then, noticing that (a) the art critic in Newsweek (it must have been) was the same guy, and that the writing (b) shared that evenness but (c) was not at all obscure (just on the level of one sentence leading to the next -- I knew next to nothing about visual art) was perhaps a bigger revelation than the poetry alone would have been. Oh -- the poet isn't writing this way because it's the only way he can; perhaps he's trying to do something else. And I'm thinking now that this encounter has something do to with my own attempts to avoid the 'fustian' (in Yau's word), and my not caring much to affect enthusiasm when I started writing reviews myself -- especially not with the stylistic tools by which this was and still is conventionally done, but also not by the means through which Marcus could get me to practically drop the magazine and run looking for a copy of, for instance, Beat Rhythm News -- a toolbox I hope it goes without saying that I'm grateful he owns.

(Also, I didn't really need prose as an expressive outlet for whatever measures of chaos and excess were in me -- early 0pb shows involved more kicking and screaming than you might imagine. To be sketchy about it: Fairly uncritical acceptance of primary/secondary text distinction, later destabilized by the usual suspects [Derrida, langpo prose], and more recently by stronger division of my ego-identification between crit and my own music.)

Of course, I can now see (and Yau makes this vivid) that there are mystery and ineffability both in the substance and style of Ashbery's criticism -- but what I still value about it is that he doesn't jump straight to it, but allows it to emerge as we look, and think, with him. [Every critic worth reading eventually fails to remain silent "whereof cannot speak," but some make a stab at saying the sayable first.]


Tangent 1:

Yau writes that JA/FO'H's criticism is "object-driven," not "theory-driven," and that JA "wants viewers (and this includes art crticis) to locate their understanding of art in their actual experience, rather than in a pre-digested idea about what they are looking at it." (Obviously, the latter remark would apply to FO'H as well.) All true, but I think Yau makes heavy weather of this -- isn't it just to say that their responses recognizes the category of the aesthetic in a fairly traditional form? You can make this category of response ('judgment,' if you like) as mysterious or un- as you care to, but on all the 18th-19th c. formulations, it's characterized by its particularity. And this is what some sorts of "theory" want to deny, by bringing the work "under a concept" arrived at cognitively (which in turn needn't mean "wholly non-empirically").

But (bringing it back), isn't the best music criticism going theory-responsive, if not exactly -driven? Yes, and I think this has to be seen as salutary -- there's just been too much interesting and useful work on that end to be ignored. And this in turn has to do with the various purposes popwrite/rockwrite now serves, especially when it attempts to do social or political work as well as telling us about an object. JA and FO'H's apparent political disaffection -- even if we want to see it from here as a mere semblance, or as camoflauge -- is not a position most would now care to take, and probably not one that is even available.


Tangent 2:

I have to admit that I'm a little nonplussed when Robert Christgau and Greil Marcus are lumped in as rockists (which, nb, doesn't happen in Douglas piece). Setting aside large and obvious differences: Neither writer has ever, to my knowledge, disdained pop categorically (though, yes, xgau was deaf to ABBA), neither is especially creeped out by technological change (though Griel exhibits signs of discomfort, ultimately neither is all that interested in the "how" of music), neither is an albums=serious/singles=trivial type, and both are capable of appreciating --and conveying -- surprise, joy, and sexiness. (And which one of the two, exactly, is supposed to be racist or sexist, if that's your version.) Xgau's got his baseball card bag, and Greil his mythic one, both of which are decidedly not mine -- but in practice, don't they each shoot the curve on the supposedly relevant categories? For me, the rockists to watch out for -- complicated figures who are compelling enough to be pernicious, stylistically and conceptually -- are Bangs and Meltzer at one juncture, Carducci and Albini at a later one.

But most of the critics flogging the old positions are, frankly, not so formidable -- the "over-40s" [please note, you'll be one too soon enough, if you aren't already, and so will I] that fill out the Pazz & Jop rolls, working reviewer/journalists hanging on with more or less security and success. Often as not, their bias, lack of curiosity, and nostalgia are transparent enough that it's hard to imagine them influencing anybody -- though I'm sure I'm prone to underestimate the collective effect of what's not really on my radar. Yeah, the barnacles slows down the ship (is that metaphor accurate?), but I'm not certain the problem is structural. In, oh, 10-15 years, half the folks on ILX will have regular gigs at dailies, weeklies, what have you -- curious to see what normativity looks like a generation from now.


All needs refinement. Had a movie to write about, and other things, but the above ate up my morning.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Q: Why doesn't Gwen Stefani read Lovecraft?


In fact, Kasey, one can find pluots and plumicots -- though no "plumpricots" -- at the Hollywood Farmer's Market. I think the difference is supposed to be one of proportion, but all I know for sure is that I've seen the two sold side by side, and there is a distinction. Both hybrids, in the setting just mentioned, show up in one of my poems in the Green Integer book.

(I am putting real plumicots in an imaginary cake. "The Real Plums," as it happens, has been a new-band-name contender for a while, though it's been pointed out that it recalls, fadingly, Eve's Plum. Perhaps I worry too much about not just using a name that hasn't been used [here's a really frustrating case], but of which the elements haven't either. I mean, there's Mountain, and there's The Goats....Package tour w/ John?)


The real problem with that name, though, is: What could be less rock 'n' roll than nicking a title from Mary McCarthy? Oh, one thing -- nicking one from L. P. Hartley via Joseph Losey.


"Pluot" or "Plumicot," on the other hand, might work. With 'the' or w/o? Could I live for the next 20 years with "The Plumicots" on my cd covers, $25 baseball tees, LED marquees above Staples Center? Perhaps. Anyway, I call dibs.


My Hat arrived yesterday, a little dinged and creased by its flight west -- maybe I'll have it blocked. I wouldn't normally do this but -- Errata's lip: A line on p. 12 should read "that bonghit in the breakroom had teeth," not...ah...hat. This in now way diminishes my pleasure at being included in what early returns suggest is the rare single issue of a mag that both crystallizes a moment and is a consistently good read.


Not wowed by Junior Boys last night; no presence. Mistake (one I've made) to select 3 of first 4 songs from non-album material. J. Greenspan is burlier than you'd think from the recs (and even the pics I've seen), can sing in tune live, and is a rather good bassist -- but he looked, I'm surprised to say, as though he'd be more comfortable rocking out. A few Spacelanders dancing, clearly unused to the effort. Annoyed at self for not realizing The Russian Futurists would go on earlier -- it might have been the another singing-to-our-tracks-with-a-little-added-something trip, but I've found his records appealing, and you never can tell. Instead, walked in to Brad Laner and another guy doing G4 = $2000 effect pedal noise. Split before Caribou/Manitoba, despite recommendations -- just exhausted from my own digital everyday.


Wandered into the non-Ballard Crash Mon. evening. The common complaint seems to be that the characters are pawns, which I wouldn't mind if the film were actually a polemic; as it stands, it's like the last 3rd of Los Angeles Plays Itself minus a position, plus a larded-on Mark Isham score. Watchable for some of the performances, particularly Ludacris and, what do you know, Brendan Fraser and Sandra Bullock. Undecided on meat-faced Matt Dillon (Mark Wahlberg would be perfect in 10 years) and stoic Don Cheadle. Whole thing fell out of my mind immediately.


Also seen: Two Minutes (1932, Mervyn Leroy), filmed play w/ Edward G. Robinson just after Little Caesar, not as modulated as his later performances, but you can see why he was a star; The Painted Woman (1932, John L. Blystone, 1932) and Mandalay (1934, Michael Curtiz), both revolving around a "hostess" in a decadent port town (think The Shanghai Gesture) trying to escape from 'the life' and the men who want to drag her back thereto. The first was fairly weak, despite Spencer Tracy and skin; the second significantly better, and very well-appointed, production-wise. Kay Francis' whore name, early on, is "Spot White," which I couldn't figure out at all; when her lover determines to leave her at Walter Oland's "nightclub" in trade from guns he can sell for a profit up a river, it was sufficiently dismaying that Bree -- who rarely speaks during a movie -- leaned over and whispered, "Please don't ever do that to me." Later, on a cruise ship, Midwestern wife shuts up her over-friendly husband: "Don't brag about Topeka."


[Is there an upside-down html tag? Oh well.] A: 'Cos she ain't no Hollenbecq girl.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Spent chunk of a.m. bellying up to the Genius Bar at the Glendale Galleria Apple Store; had a nasty crash yesterday afternoon. I seem to be up and running again w/ no apparent data loss; the cause was likely latent damage from the impact of dropping the machine back in Jan. At least this got me to buy the external backup drive I should have had all along.


Then up about 40 min. to Palmdale, where I'd promised to meet Bree and her sister for breakfast at The Pines, out on Pearblossom Hwy. I think the place may have changed hands -- there used to be signs warning you not to ask for ketchup, as it was an insult to the cook, now it's provided -- but a blueberry pancake is still 9" across (that's a "junior," a "senior" is LP-size) and nearly an inch-thick, but surprisingly light and not too sweet, even topped w/ their homemade compote.

[If you can't guess already, I intend to eat at one or two of my favorite places in the area per week (and/or try a few that I haven't managed) before I move.]


Seen: Restored cut of Baby Face (Alfred E. Green, 1933), hacked up after the Code and seen only in that form (by me, for instance) until a discovery of an unedited print last year. The differences, as I recall, were pretty well covered by an NPR piece on the restoration, so I won't go into detail. But if you're familiar with the obviously tacked-on tag, where the board members read a letter from the fallen woman and her ex-banker-now-steelworker-husband, that's gone now. That bit was gilding the moral lily anyway -- it would be clear to anyone but a censor that Stanwyck intends to 'mend her ways' as of the scene in the ambulence, which ended the original. (Sorry, I know this helps no one who hasn't seen it.) The film's storytelling is more sophisticated that I'd noticed before, if only in minor ways -- Stanwyck is shown living in a series of increasingly ritzy digs w/o further comment on the fact, similarly for the steadfastness of the relationship between her and her black maid, who ends up with servants of her own by about the third sugar daddy. Always loved the very literal depiction of her 'rise' via pans up-and-across the exterior of an (obviously scale model) office building.

About 5 films behind -- had hoped to catch up, but lost a big chunk of the day, per above.

Monday, May 23, 2005

It's self-regarding announcement day here in the file. The major bullet points:

1) I've accepted a one-year visiting position at Northwestern University. Classes start Sept. 20, so Bree and I are aiming to move to Chicago/Evanston around the first of that month. Packing chains, smokebombs. Suggestions on rental-at-a-distance welcome -- still kinda waiting on input from the department.

2) Armed Forces is out. Read the publisher's description, and/or purchase it through Powell's, via links at right. (You might well check out the concurrently released volumes on Murmur, by my new neighbor J. Niimi and Grace by Daphne Brooks. I have.)

My poor record with respect to promotion notwithstanding, I'll try to set up 'events' for the book here and there in the coming months (some, if timing is with us, with J.), and let you know here. Also, in the next few days (read weeks) I'll be adding a small side blog for material related to the book -- corrections, omissions, and tangents I just didn't have space for. But, if I can master myself, no defenses.

On a smaller scale:

Been meaning to register for a while that 0pb's "Big Pink Heart" appears on Tiny Idols, a compilation of "obscure, unknown, and out-of-print" early-'90s bands on Snowglobe Records. The company includes a few bands we knew fairly well/shared bills with (Further, Bunnygrunt, Allen Clapp) or followed to some degree (Uncle Wiggly, Philistines Jr., Strapping Fieldhands), and a good number that I've never, ever heard of (Chotchke?). Nice to see Lonely Trailer getting a little love. About our track, I'll just say -- we didn't have the worst rhythm section of the era.

Finally, just fwd'd an email via Jenny T. to the effect that someone walked down the aisle to "Decoy," from Tempting. Gratifying -- it is a love song, you just have to wait until the last lines to get there.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Put my Pomona courses to bed last week, and filed a piece on cover albums that I'm worried about (haven't gotten edits yet). This next 3 1/2 mos. will be the longest period in which I haven't either been teaching at least one course I haven't done before, wading hip-deep in a book-length piece of writing, or both, in about 2 years -- decided a while ago not to look for a summer course at UCLA, and am trying not to take on too much other than my 'own work' (where that includes phil., po., and maybe some music if I can manage it -- and, I hope, a good deal of reading that's been piling up). Should be able to post regularly, if often briefly, despite some other changes that are afoot.


Yesterday, Bree and I drove down to an antiquey/boho section of Sherman Way, which we'd noticed about a year ago on the way to my great-aunt and uncles' golden wedding anniversary. Van Nuys, Reseda? Still not sure. I'm sparing you our bookstore haul, which I just wrote and deleted. Also poked our heads into an Aardvark's, 2 or 3 creepy antique shops, and an Out of The Closet, where I discovered, abject as a heap of soiled stuffed animals, 100 copies of Every Solution Has Its Problem (Columbia, 2004) by a band called Start Trouble. (Nice try on the chiasmus.) I know I should understand this by now, but I'm still not clear on how this many promos of a newish major label release end up in the thrift store for a buck a pop -- I'm guessing the push didn't go well? Wait: Street team? The band look to be very young skate-punks, titles include "Psychotic for You," "Move B***h," and "Let's Get F****d Up." That's how they're printed; there's a parental advisory label -- not even a sticker, but printed on the cover, near a silhouette of humping rhinoceri. I bought one, of course -- I always want to know the story on bands that this happens to.

Oh, here's the first clue, inside the package: "A&R: Matt Pinfield." And here's a distasteful piece of the puzzle.

Then, dinner at Valley Ranch BBQ farther north on Sherman -- I've never seen this place written about, and it's maybe not real enough for J. Gold or Chowhound types (after all, it's a sit-down, not a stand). Not to mention that, blocks from large Korean and Latino enclaves, it had the whitest clientele I've seen since this one chicken pot pie place in San Diego. Western decor, of course, w/ an owl whose eyes lit up at irregular intervals in one corner -- and, inexplicably, a single Picasso print in the "He" room. All this aside, credible meat -- not oversauced, extra points for serving BBQ'd lamb (and turkey, though we didn't try it), recalling the mutton (I) I once had in Lexington, KY. Plus strangely comforting meat-enhanced beans w/ a texture between frijoles refritos and Bolognese sauce. If you were a regular, you'd head for "The Tack Room" round the back after dinner....


Can you tell I'm taking a breather from higher-level cognitive operations?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Don't think I'll be updating again until after I finish 2 pieces and get my grades in -- probably about a week. (I miss regular updates from Steve, but empathize.) Until then:


Resistible desire to see Monster-In-Law; I'll just wait and rent it, as I understand Elaine Stritch has a brief but saving turn near the end. But I do want to take a look at JF's new bio, to see how she accounts for the Klute Va Bien years. Hanoi Jane, by the way, would be almost perfect band band name, except everyone would think I was paying homage to Hanoi Rocks.


Rockism Watch, L.A. -- sorry, Los Angeles -- edition:

1) Had occasion to look back at this well-reported Citybeat piece on the economics of sampling by Dennis Romero. And the 4-out-of-5 moldy-fig/idiotic letters-to-the-ed. E.g.: "How do you jam with your buds on a sampler?"

2) Here in town, you sometimes see a bumpersticker reading "Drum Machines Have No Soul" -- and, once in a while, a guy in front of Amoeba handing them out. There were also a few by the register at Rhino Westwood the last time I was in, and I sorta went off on the blameless clerk, with the little "Look, drum kits don't have soul either" spiel I say to myself whenever I see one. Bree said I was a little scary -- as I apparently also was last week when I explained to her that I draw the bourgie line at having a lawn. (I was trying to be funny, but I seem to be having trouble modulating my tone.) In any case, I'd thought of trying to write something on the sticker thing -- but I was beaten to it (by nearly a year) by Daniel Chamberlain, in an L.A. Weekly piece I'd missed. It's sad to learn that the man behind it is one John Wood, a jazz pianist, ex-studio owner in the area, and son of Randy Wood, the founder of important regional R&B label Dot Records. Sigh. After the article and you'll find -- moldy-fig/idiotic letters-to-the-ed.

E.g. What’s wrong with today’s popular music is not that it is not the Beatles or Frank Sinatra, but that it seems to be dominated by amateurs. Since the beginning of language and culture, music has been made by musicians. Today, being a musician is no longer a requirement for making musical products. Perhaps this explains why Wood, a fine jazz pianist and someone who is part of a family business that recorded some of the finest black artists of the 20th century, is now disgusted by the current trends in music and technology. Um, yes, black artists who were largely considered non-artists and non-musicians when they were working, by the likes of you.

3) Jay Babcock in this week's Weekly, doing a solid job tracing the minimal lag time between recording and iTunes-distro of "Blue Orchid" -- and then swingin' free and wild in the last graph, like them great old rockcrits useta, comparing the track to the Who's instant single of "The Last Time," recorded to protest Mick and Keith's drug arrests, back when it all meant something, dammit. And ending with this:

Rock & roll represents nothing if not the absolute destruction of chains: the sweet-heat moment of dance action; the moving, trembling, deafening vibration of molecules; the mind-body-spirit reaction to being in the presence of culturally-personally-spiritually-aesthetically resonant sounds and songs. The door to that space has been closed for too long in rock. Perhaps, with “Blue Orchid,” that door is opening again.

Couple points: (a) Well, maybe he means to imply that it hasn't been closed elsewhere in pop. Fine; but why, exactly, need rock-qua-rock Reclaim Its Mantle? (b) Hmm, yes, let's bring current technology to bear on dissemination, but make sure it's grabby robotic claw-mitts don't sully our analog production. Way to counter-revolt, Jack. (c) Just for the sake of perspective, let's remind ourselves that the song in question is about breaking up with Bridget Jones.


Tonight: The Lodger and Hangover Square. Advice: If it's 1903, and you're a babe in music hall, give Laird Cregar a wide berth. (Cregar, whom I love, is one of the saddest Hollywood stories: After much fine character work [I Wake Up Screaming, This Gun For Hire] and the two anti-hero turns shown tonight, the handsome but porcine actor, seeking more traditional leading roles, went on a crash diet so drastic that his heart failed. He died at 30.) Tomorrow: Buck Benny Rides Again, a rarely-screened Jack Benny ensemble feature, and Fields' Man On The Flying Trapeze. Sunday: The 1973 Bacharach-David career-killer Lost Horizon -- George Kennedy sings! (And even with all this, I'm torn between a birthday party and Model Shop, which I'd been looking forward to.)

Monday: Jamming with my buds. On a sampler. I wish.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Steve Folta draws a bead on Kevin Dunn:

The Fans play a moderately prominent role in Party Out Of Bounds by Rodger Lyle Brown. It seems they were from Atlanta, not Athens. The book is a little less clear on their style of music. On the one hand, they're described as "the best of the progressive bands in Atlanta since Bruce Hampton's Hampton Grease Band broke up" and "maximally avant-garde"; on the other, they're compared to Roxy Music and Sparks.

(fjb: I'm shamefully ignorant of the book Steve mentions, an account of the GA college-rock scene from the B-52s to R.E.M. I see it's just been reissued.)


It might have been prudent to skip today's LACMA senior matinee screening of Experiment Perilous (Jacques Tourneur, 1944), but (a) it's the first time in four months I've been even nominally free on a Tuesday afternoon, and (b) the title phrase crops up in JA's Where Shall I Wander? ("A Darning Egg," p. 57, for those playing at home). Of course, Ashbery could have gotten it from Hippocrates' aphorism, quoted in the movie -- but since portions of his last few books sound like they might have been written with Turner Classic Movies on in the background, who knows? In the new book, he even writes "It's bed and the movies for me," though I can't find that poem now -- these days, in any case, the "couple in the next room" are likely as not William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Oh, the movie? I'd have said Gaslight knockoff (period setting, European husband plotting to drive his lower-born wife mad), but they were released the same year. Also lands somewhere along the Laura-Vertigo vector, what with the "fascinating [bad] portrait" of the fascinating woman, a motif Thomas Elsaesser describes in more detail. It's no Out of the Past (the contrivances show, the 'wit' is stale, the happy ending plays robotically, with the principals waving to one another in a field of daisies), though, three years earlier, there's a similarly elaborate nest of narrative devices, from an early voiceover that soon disappears to a flashback so long you forget it's not the frame. Hedy Lammar better than in most of her U.S. films, George Brent and Paul Lukas both pretty boring. Lukas, I'm beginning to think, has little going for him besides his voice -- I also saw him recently in Dinner At The Ritz, a 1938 U.K. cheapie with David Niven my parents had on a 99-cent store DVD, playing much the same role with much the same stiffness. (He always turns out to have killed someone -- maybe his most interesting variation is in 1946's Deadline at Dawn, the only feature directed by theatrical legend Harold Clurman.)


No way of doing full justice to Los Angeles Plays Itself. Some raw jottings:

--Terrific on the utopian aspirations of our modernist architecture, which, in the movies, are usually employed as gangsters' lairs, and gleefully destroyed. I think a drug pad in House in the Night Holds Terror (I may not have that right) also shows up in Play It As It Lays (a movie Anderson doesn't mention by name, though the classism of Didion's "nobody walks in L.A." gets a beat down. [Which reminds me that I swear I saw that Terry Bozzio is appearing at the Baked Potato up in the Cahuenga Pass. Where's Dale?]
--Glad he covered Dragnet; he's of course correct about the strange fact that Joe Friday, one condescending fucker, was the Parker L.A.P.D.'s own bought-and-paid-for vision of the ideal cop. And even more correct in noting that Webb's directorial discipline, in its crazy way, approaches Bresson/Ozu levels. (Wouldn't have minded a nod to Perry Mason, though TV was mostly not on the agenda.)
--He disdains the device of showing Angeleno's residing cheek-by-jowl with power-plants more often than is the case (funny clip from the obscure City of Industry), but lets it pass in Model Shop, where one of the first shots is of an oil derrick stuck incongruously in a Westside residential area -- though here, it's also a pun on an early tracking shot in Lola.
--"Silly geography makes for silly movies." Losey's remake of M something of an omission in this department -- in Anderson's terms, would Losey be one of Anderson's "high tourists," interested in "what makes Los Angeles unlike the cities they know.
--I clearly need to see: Altman's The Long Goodbye, with its countercultural hangout "The Infinite Pad"; the 1973 zombie flick Messiah of Evil (which then shows up on a marquee in Annie Hall, which Anderson of course loathes, though he's sharper on Steve Martin's 'affectionate' L.A. Story; Xanadu, simply because the roller-disco scenes look off-the-hook, sadly game Gene Kelly and all.
--Didn't realize Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon was shot around a Spanish Revival near the Sunset Strip -- very like the house in Double Indemnity, when one sees them juxtaposed.
--I can dig his anti-conspiracy bent: "The public history is the real history." Ideology isn't as simple to strip away as "uncovering" a ring of corrupt cops, or a water deal. Likes what L.A. Confidential got right, hates its cynicism -- wonder what Curtis Hansen, sitting not five rows back, thought. [Which reminds me -- Crispin Glover was at a few of the noir screenings.]
--Huge laugh when the narration points out that we're the only city where the police cars put the slogan to protect and serve in quotation marks.
--He reserves his highest praise for what he calls a Los Angeles "neo-realism" wholly disconnected from industry fantasies (utopian and dystopian): The Exiles in the '50s, Arizona Indians aimless and jobless in downtown, and three '70s African-American features (Killer of Sheep, Bush Mama, Bless Their Little Hearts -- only the first familiar to me). Fine, as a remedy for absence -- but for good or ill, the Marxism here gets a little vulgar (I mean Anderson's evaluation, not the films themselves). Or, anyway, "the politics of representation" is in full effect.

Caveats aside, a monumental piece of work, and a brain-buster. God knows how it will ever get on video with the number of clearances involved. A little hacked I couldn't go Sunday, when Anderson was present for a members' meet-and-greet. (I finally joined -- I've probably made back the membership in ticket discounts already.)


Which leaves me only to show-not-tell you where I was Friday and Monday. Puppets, laptops, 'sall interfaces to me.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Well, seeing as none of you came forward with info on Heavy Manners, I guess I won't even ask about The Judgment of Paris, by Kevin Dunn and the Regiment of Women. That's ok, as there's a bare but informative page out there, and a bit more info at Trouser Press. The gist: Dunn was in The Fans, an Athens, GA power-pop band of modest note (though I've never heard of them), and remained linked to the scene around DB Records (Pylon, Love Tractor, Swimming Pool Q's). The 1981 LP at hand, which I overpaid for last year in New Orleans and haven't listened to in full until just now, is undeservedly obscure -- "Saturn" and "Private Sector" in particular come off as the missing link between Low and The Big Shot Chronicles. And the backing band is, indeed, a regiment of (three) women.

I'm beginning to think there would be some point to some mp3 blogging in the near future, what with the relatively deep crate-digging I've been doing lately (one-sided Steve Forbert seven-inch, anyone?), but perhaps if I lie down the urge will pass.


At one poem apiece by 29 poets (11 in attendance, the others read mostly by Douglas, Paul, Martha, and Marty Nakell, whose own work struck me more strongly than it has before), plus introductions, the reading for Green Integer's So. Cal. anthology was on the long side, but edifying -- Paul talking a bit about Robert Crosson (I've been amiss in not tracking down The Day Sam Goldwyn Stepped off the Train, and Douglas explaining (1) why he'd resisted editing a regional anthology for so long, and (2) Leland Hickman's key role in the community through the '80s were highlights. (N.B., it's not an L.A. anthology -- several San Diegans are represented, though Fanny Howe is conspicuously absent. I'm guessing there's some story here, as Sun & Moon did much of her fiction.) Couldn't help noticing that I'm the second-youngest person in the book (and the only one without a photo!), w/ only Standard Schaefer and Catherine Daly representing for the under 40s -- but against that, it's striking that several poets seem to have come to publishing (though I'd bet not to writing) late. Therese Blanchard, Brenda Maloutas, and Deborah Meadows (all between 45 and 60) have had their first books out in just the last couple of years (and in Deborah's case, her 2nd and 3rd); and even Martha Ronk, I was surprised to realize, was almost 50 at the time of her first collection (Desire In L.A., 1990), though there have been four more since. In Behrlian terms, this is not a "Future Stars" scene -- all to the good, if you ask me. Even more than w/r/t the tighter but somewhat similarly-intentioned Place As Purpose anthology, it's dangerous to say what, beyond accident, links the work -- there are so many people who simply found themselves (as in 'landed') here, recently or not, and the difficulty of maintaining contact is itself, to a degree, one of the main characteristics of what is nevertheless some sort of community.


Ok, that was so stilted that I don't have the energy to report on last night -- for now, let's just say that I've never gotten home so late from a puppet show. Tonight: B/c I made incorrect assumptions about the Cinematheque schedule, I'm stuck with the 9 p.m. screening of Los Angeles Plays Itself, after blowing two earlier attempts to see it. But you won't hear about any of that until after I've paid tribute to my dear sainted mother and grandmother.

Friday, May 06, 2005

General Magic & Pita, Fridge Trax (Mego, 1995)

"Equipment used:

ECO Walk in fridge
SIEMENS comfort freezer
PHILIPS ARB 400-PH fridge
GROENLAND deLuxe 145* fridge
SONY MZ-1 & some other products with initials and numbers."


snack-cakes / backaches

Monday, May 02, 2005

Participating in a reading tomorrow evening (Tuesday 5/3) for Douglas Messerli's new anthology Intersections: Innovative Poetry in Southern California in which I'm, the term I believe is, represented. Not exactly your Other Side of the Century doorstop, weighing at a mere 331 pp. minus back matter, but good company. (Here's a list of the authors, courtesy Catherine Daly.) All the poets in the anthology (those who still live hereabouts, anyway) have been invited to read one poem, but I have no idea who's actually showing up. Not just me, I assume (hope).

The Mountain Bar, 473 Gin Ling Way (in the Central Chinatown Plaza) between Hill and Broadway (closer to Hill). A little tricky to find, if you haven't been there. 7:30.

More self-regard in the coming weeks.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Oh, by the way --

Jordan on fire.


No place online yet to hear Ned Sublette intone "Congo Nation," but if you're wondering what he was up to circa 1980, go here and check out track 25. (And thanks to ubu-wonderland for digitizing all those Dial-A-Poem LPs -- the one linked to, Sugar, Alcohol, & Meat was exciting for me to revisit -- the Pomona Public Library, a little uncharacteristically*, had a copy that I checked out repeatedly in H.S.* The two-channel chunk of "Litany," a long, loose Patti Smith piece ("Parade," don't think it's in the books), Charles Bernstein's way of voicing "wall as...." Formative.

Maybe someday I'll also figure out how Sublette's two records w/ Lawrence Weiner fit in to all this.

*I'm being unfair. I was taken every three weeks for years before I could drive, after my regular allergy shots; it's where I encountered Harry Mathews' first 3 novels, in an omnibus ed. (book club?) I haven't seen since, and an odd collection of sheet music, The Best of New Wave Rock that included lead sheets for, e.g., "Swallow My Pride," "Anarchy in the U.K.," "X Offender" and, now this is strange, three Rezillos' songs, all with pretty accurate basslines.** Ontario Public was As We Know, Monk, and a Bob & Ray LP I can still repeat jokes from; Upland, closest by, was FO'H.

**And "Psycho Killer." My best friend Scott Smith's mother gave piano lessons (I was taking mine at "The Music Merchant" in Montclair Plaza, from a woman who often commented on the length of my eyelashes), and had both a baby grand and a small Wurlitzer in the living room. Scott would get down on the floor and play the bassline on the foot-pedals, while I did the scored guitar part at the piano, and sang, I guess, though I don't know what I did about the French. (This is all a few years before I picked up a guitar.) We also had an original, a fake metal song called "Kill The Blood-Haters," though, given the instrumentation, it sounded more like The Unkowns.


Speaking of Talking Heads, I think I've just heard what could well be the worst ZE release (008); "Jimmy Igo"/"The Word," a 1978 12" by Last Men. Rock division, not disco at all -- imagine 77 minus imagination re songform, plus blooz gtr on one song and many, many tom fills on both. And lyrics about necrophilia. Not Much Wave?

Right. Don't know what's up w/ the multiple postings, I don't remember tapping "publish" impatiently.


If anyone can fill me in on the Chicago ska band Heavy Manners, I'd be curious.

Right now, I'm listening to their 1982 EP Pleasure & Politics (Disturbing Records). W/ that title and date, plus the cover art (one side, the band waits in line under a "State of Illinois Department of Public Aid -- Lower North District" sign; the other, a very The Cutting Edge dance party), and for a dollar? I'm not made of stone. Thin sound, and the songwriting wouldn't exactly make Jerry Dammers nervous, but the rhythm section is growing on me, a synthy dub cut near the end is more convincing than you'd expect, and the singer, Kate Fagan, is at least not chirpy.

The only connection I can see to any Chicago scene I know about is Iain Burgess' engineering credit -- but Google reveals that, in their day, they opened for The Clash, The Ramones, Jimmy Cliff, Third World, and Peter Tosh, with whom they apparently recorded a few tracks. Of the 3 song samples supplied (which aren't the Tosh tracks, I don't think), "Flamin' First" is on the EP and conveys the general Selecter-via-Quarterflash flavor, but "Hometown Ska" isn't, and is kind of intriguing (and no-fi-t'all) Unfortunately, the link to Fagan's home page is dead -- I've run across one or two references to a solo release ("I Don't Want to Be To Cool"), but that's it.


Sometimes, you walk in looking for Lady Sovereign, and you walk out with Andy Partridge & Peter Blegvad's Orpheus.

Some other times, you download Stewart Copeland and Stan Ridgway's "Don't Box Me In." (Thanks to Grape Juice Plus.)


Enough w/ The Big '80s.

"Space and time," she said. "Those used to be the requirements. Space and time or you couldn't get into the nightclub. Our senses establish the conditions for the world we see. Kant said our senses were like the nightclub doorkeeper who only let people in who were sensibly dressed, and the criteria for being properly dressed or respectfully dressed, whatever, was that things had to be covered up in space and time."

"Who said this?"


Freddie removed his hand from her thigh. "Something's been lost in your translation of that one, Francine. Why does one want to get into the nightclub anyway? Or that nightclub rather than another one?

"We're the nightclub!" she said. "We're each our own nightclub. And the nightclub might want other patrons. Other patrons might be absolutely necessary for the nightclub to succeed!"

"I think it's a little late for us to be discussing Kant with such earnestness," Freddie said.

"You mean a little this night late or a little life late?"

He nodded, meaning both.

--Joy Williams, "The Other Week"


"Collective guilt is the only sure bet."

--John Ashbery, "Coma Berenices"

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