Sunday, August 28, 2005

Coincidence that I'm posting this just after Jordan revealed his BAP-'05-in-progress, but I finally got around to Lease's "Free Again"s in Xantippe (and I just had to pack it, so this will not be very well-justified). Like, a lot, the phrasal rhythm, and the alternation between sharp, terse lists and slightly baggier/undistorted syntax. "She wants torn strips of city," and the writing is at its best when Lease obliges. Less thrilled by (1) the nature-good (noting, however, that "there is no nature")/culture-bad thematics of much of the piece [that "sense that people don't entirely regret life," and I know I don't have that verbatim, is not much in evidence], though given the scenery of toxic smoke and "brownfields" (2) the intrusive statements about the "I" [this is the part I can't quote directly] and empire that sometimes seem to function as theoretical bona fides, in a poetry that draws much of its strength from particularized observations. Interesting w/r/t J. Moxley's recent Poker essay [also packed, but coming back out of the box in Chi., not to mention, among other things, the Rousseau material I'm not done chewing over] -- from which I take away the point that there's a tension, for many poets, to be resolved between intellectual convictions re the decentered-subject-and-all-that, and what those convictions mean for "how one out of write," as against the way that sensibility generates what one actually writes (and thus implies a unifying, if not unified, subject).* And the point that this tension was only buried but not actually absent for all but the most aleatory/non-intentional of the langs-and-fellow-travelers; it doesn't stop being "lyric poetry" simply because you lopped "I saw/heard/thought of/thought/experienced/felt" off the sentences. [And I do like that Lease doesn't do this, or at least not as a matter of habit.]

*And this has some bearing also on Jane's recent post -- but not only w/r/t music and/or poetry. Why is it that one is much more likely to find an artist's statement that begins (as one I just saw recently did), "My art comes from the soul" in a non-institutional venue (here, the sort of coffeehouse where we sophisticates tend to think the "local art" laughably bad) than in the wall-text or pamphlet accompanying a show in one of our always-self-and-"self"-critiquing/yet-stil-standing-and-still-depending-on-the-star-power-of-names museums. [I'm thinking of the Basquiat show now at MOCA, though the cultural politics of JMB's reception and use, in death as in life, are obviously not a simple case.]


Warmed that Ange found something to like in John Ash -- The Branching Stairs is a book I go back to, though I lost track when he did some big prose travelly book about, I think, the remnants of the Byzantine Empire. Just this a.m., read the Andrew Duncan section in the Vanishing Points anthology (on the way back from U-Haul dropoff, see below), responding especially to "Andrew-the-German Master of Two Servants" -- also "far from British poetry," though traveling a different road away from same than Ash. But then, I have a stomach for "post-war malaise."


Long day yest. moving the bulk of my stuff to a storage space in Ontario w/ much help from Daniel. The moving of brown boxes across county lines not so bad, but bookended by various frustrations w/ the U-Haul; we started about an hr. late, having gotten back from The Press (see below) around 3 a.m., and then the particular truck they had reserved for us wouldn't start, so we were at the franchise for an hr-plus before they found a smaller replacement (which turned out to be ok) with no a/c (which was not). [Hey -- I know what, Franklin, how about this year you spend August in Los Angeles and December in Chicago?] On the other end, this particular location had no night dropoff, so our plan was to park nearby, and for me to take in the next a.m. just before opening at 7. But have you tried to park anywhere along or off of Hollywood Boulevard within about 2 miles of Vermont? Drove around following Daniel looking for a space for prob. 90 minutes before we just went back to my place and, surprisingly, found a wealth of space near the fire station -- must means that Florentine Gardens wasn't open tonight. So I got up at 6 this a.m. to make the drop -- Daniel had done the driving yest. b/c he performs similar tasks professionally, but I made it fine today, pre-traffic. Then stopped off for coffee nearby and was fully expecting to walk 40 mins. or so back home, but happened on a taxi, in which I heard, for the first time in probably a decade, a few minutes of Casey Kasem: Gwen's "Cool," some brief talk about U2 that I didn't quite catch (but no "that's the letter...and the numeral"),
Del Amitri's "Roll To Me" under the description "one of the hottest songs ten years ago," and "Since U Been Gone," "down a notch to 14."

Also heard "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall" while getting coffee -- you know, the chorus is undeniable, and the revision of folk form is an attraction, but taken line-for-line, not sure Zimmy '62/3 had it all over Conor '0[x].


Press show went well, I think -- glad to see many of the old core of Empire scenesters there. Refrigerator in the best form, musically, I've seen in some time; Allen, unusually, more off-script/demonstrative than Dennis, heading a "Lonesome..." "Surprise!!" singalong. Acoustic SPGT, lovely, shambolic renditions of "Fortune Came Today," "Terrible News," and "Habeus Corporal" -- plus a decidation to Madame Wong's, who banned them after one show in '84, and a for-the-ocassion number called "Hey Bruno," for which I was prevailed upon to reprise my role the first time I ever played w/ them, eating a trayful of Crunchberries and (homemade) egg nog while they performed the rock opera "The Charles Mansion" for Jim Bogen's aesthetics class at Pitzer, c. '91. As for us, I added some new lines about the Madonna of the Trail and The Magic Lamp to "Up With Upland," and used Daniel as a ringer for a couple of old opb songs -- first time I've played "Block Colors" and "Sorely Tempted" in at least 3 years, very strange how readily the gradual changes made in the songs post-recording came back. Electric SPGT + me-and-Kyle finale, detuned as one might expect, but rather spirited: "Francis Mitterand," "International Church of Pancakes," "Marriage at 30,000 Feel," a new one called "It'll Be Better, Earwig" [seemingly written in ignorance of The Bats' "Earwig," but sounding quite like The Clean covering "Roadrunner"], and "Trash Car," w/ lyrics by Dave Carpenter's 6-year-old. We (minus Spgt) will play a similar but shorter set at The Smell, let's see how it goes w/ people who haven't heard me 40-50 times.

Also presented with evidence that I have "influenced lives," in the person of a student in the very first college class I ever taught, after my Master's, a one-night-a-week intro to phil. at Crafton Hills J.C. out in Yucaipa, who is now a high-school astronomy teacher and musician in Redlands. Full of fulsome praise for my communicative abilities at a teacher at a time at which, in my memory, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. Also presented me with the mixes of an upcoming album by a collection of local musicians covering various area material inc. "In A Sourceless Light," for which they added a rhythm section and two female singers (people I don't know at all) to my orig. 4-track. (How would you classify that? Not exactly a cover, a remix, or a mash-up...) Comes off much better than I'd have predicted in advance, apparently the drummer is from some band on Temporary Residence. Anyway, all very gratifying.


Capitalism nibbled daintily at my syntax.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Yes, I'm packing, making hard decisions about which books I won't see for 9 mos. or more, importing more than a 'podsworth (hmm, new unit of measure ala "hogshead"?) onto the laptop, and such. Unless facts on the order of my owning, it turns out, eighteen distinct Mekons CDs (many doubles of vinyl I'm too sentimental to discard) afford insights into my character, it's not very interesting. Should have mentioned that the shows this weekend will be a good way to acquire some cheap (or, by the shank of the evening, free) fjb/opb overstock. Extra Walt!, anybody?


Read: James Wagner, The False Sun Recordings. A month or two back, I had a small, unfortunate (and, I hope, rectified) blog-based misunderstanding with James, which, I admit, was one impetus for me finally reading this. (Or perhaps just the tipping point -- I had read more than one review and noted it down as a likely purchase well before.) Struck, early on, by the nod to The Sonnets in the two poems titled "Garntres" (anag. "stranger") in the first section, rearrangements of one another at the level of the line; and by the sentence, a few pages in, "I may not be much, but I am all I think about," a kind of contrapositive of the cogito, b/c much of the book seems to be an attempt to circumvent the truth of the second conjunct via various technical means -- at least that's one way to read, for instance, the homophonic translations of Vallejo, Reverdy, Celan, which seem very different in their purpose than, say, Michael Magee's of the Pledge of Allegiance. (And I definitely felt this "make the self disappear" vibe well before seeing that the blog has been making increasingly frequent reference to Buddhist texts and practices.) Yet -- after that first section, I was most taken by the fourth (each poem titled w/ an anag of "Lisa," which one would take to be the name of an s.o. even if he didn't mention "L." at Esther), where subject and affect are produced by slightly more conventional means -- that is, a higher proportion of the observations and descriptions of states are attached to one or another pronoun. Outside of the accidental wildness of the homophonic section ("easter mantaloupe cuz arid dice lost looms"), the tone and measure are so, um, measured that certain heterogenous lines ("X reading books by fake Ashberrrrrrrrry") stick out like seismographic spikes -- the book's rhythm was for me formed by this sort of alternation between guarded and less-guarded moments. Not so taken, by and large, with the final section, named after (and, presumably, opaquely related to) various records, but that's a personal bias, a response not a reaction.

Also enjoyed James' blog's brief period of posting poems by others, particularly one by John Beer (a Chicagoan, I gather). Had also noted a poem by Beer in miposias, esp. the turn on the advertising trope "These Are Not Your Father's x" (here, knives).


Kunin's book, by contrast, seemed to me as distanced a piece of writing as I've read in some time, in a manner more akin to the Marcus/Evenson mode of fiction-making than any current poetic formation that I've attended to recently. (Also reminded, perversely, of certain Barry Malzberg stories, in which a first-person narrator suddenly starts writing in the third, and then throws in an explicit reference to the shift.) Curious about the 3 line x 5 syllable stanza's origin in the Polke piece shown in the frontispiece (3 rows of 5 photos), which also supplies the titular image; hard to assess relation between content/container, tho Miles Champion's reference to Duchamp's "stoppages" are more useful than your usual blurb in this regard. Duly noted -- poems that seem to end with a half-phrase that gets picked up several pages later -- p. 32 "(take note"....p. 45 "of those swallows)."



(And -- anyone who's got a sense of my interests could probably construct several elements of my response to this. I don't think that it's insane that you might want to displace Britney, or the image of Britney, or something, as the ideal of a cultural worker in the 12-year-old imagination; but I certainly agree that the fact that she happens not to be a songwriter is hardly the ground on which this is to be done. Hell, neither was Merman. One might also consider the erasure of songwriting in Ray: Even more egregiously than in De-Lovely, "Georgia On My Mind" and "Hit The Road Jack" appear as direct emanations from Charles' personal experience -- the interpretive character of his art fails to figure, and neither do Hoagy Carmichael or Percy Mayfield. I"m now frustrated that I didn't get the chance to read a cover story on Linda Perry in some crafty/techy music magazine [EQ?, Mix? -- you know, that other kind of music writing that's usually ignored by we "critics"] when I was briefly in a room with it the other day.)


Echo & The Bunnymen, Siberia: Appealing mixtures of guitar tones are less so when one can no longer organize them around anything but the most insipid chord progressions and straight-time drumming. Bono fronts Luna. Too bad.

Hard-Fi, CCTV: "You can't get the sound from a story in a magazine/aimed at your average team," as Billy Joel said, but you can get close -- as I'd gathered, this is big, hooky rock with an infusion of techno arrangment-touches. Date-stamped, in a way, with sounds that Brits are fonder of than Yanks -- it's not "post-punk" enough to get the Franz/Bloc/Maximo love from U.S. critics, but not this-minute enough to get the Streets love from yet other U.S. critics. (Audiences? I can't predict.) I hear a pleasing touch of Strummer here and there; haven't attended closely to most of the lyrics, but it ends with a perfectly respectable entry into the living-for-the-weekend genre (called, er, "Living For The Weekend"), and the oddly mixed "Stars of CCTV," good for those times when the only way you know you're a subject is that you're under surveillance. Not at all bad.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Courtesy of Alex Abramovich and The Wayback Machine, here are archives of my pieces on catchiness, computer improve, and turntable notation (though that's been reprinted) from the otherwise offline Feed, from '00 and '01. (There's also a link to an interview w/ Eames Demetrios, Charles and Ray Eames' grandson; unfortunately, it leads to the introduction to the piece, while the interview itself doesn't appear to have been archived.) I think you could probably get to much of the mag's other content via various internal links.


Word Problem: The outdoor speakers at a mini-mall Starbucks are broadcasting early, acoustic Dylan. At the other end of the same commercial development, a seven-piece fusion band is performing on the patio of a non-chain cafe. Triangulate the point in the parking lot at which the harmonica solo from the former can be optimally heard as a harmolodic intervention into the latter.


3rd disc I've ever imported that CDDB didn't recognize: Catriona Strang and Francoise Houle's The Clamorous Alphabet (Periplum, 1999)//Key aspect of the brilliance of X: His voice is prettier than hers. There must be many others who have done this; but who? Soul duets?//Has there ever been a straight-up disco cover of "Lady Madonna"? B/c the possibility of same is implicit in the original, esp. Paul and Ringo's playing in the b-section.//Gem of Soul Jazz' Studio One Lovers Rock: Freddy McGregor & Jennifer Lara, "Too Long Will Be Too Late" (Otis Blackwell song?)//Just discovered, a year after Oliver, Blossom Dearie's funky "London In the Rain." No surprise, I don't hear it as quite the "aberration" from her usual range as does O-Dub -- just more demonstrative.//To self: track down Ernst Reijseger and Franco D' Andrea I Love You So Much It Hurts (Winter & Winter)//Space left between the 6 stacks of CDs that fit in a standard 1.5 cubic-ft. packing box: good for stray 10-inches.//OK, I just looked it up after years of wondering: What Aretha sings in "Respect" is "Take care, TCB," and I assume that last stands for "Take Care [of] Business." I swear that I always thought she was singing, Take out T-C-P as if the line were some sort of rebus cryptic crossword "secondary indication" that I was just not getting: that would leave "R-E-S-E," which anag.s as "seer," sure, but what did that have to do with the song?


salsa stain darkens
page 34 of
Folding Ruler Star

Friday, August 19, 2005

R.I.P. Esther Wong -- Madame Wong to you -- who passed last Sunday, at 88. The obituary on local radio quoted The Urinals' John Talley-Jones to the effect that she banned the band from the club for bleeing on stage, and also noted that she once stopped a Ramones set to force them to clean up their dressing-room graffiti. All this was somewhat before my time: Along with those for the Starwood, the new-wave era Whiskey-A-Go-Go, and others, Madame Wong's was one of the clubs whose ads in the Sunday L.A. Times I'd pore over longingly, years before I was going to shows.


Brief 3rd-Factory-centric notes (since, like Jane, I'm pleased whenever Steve opens the gate on the chocolaterie a crack): Clicked over to Stephanie Young's photostream and paged through all 777 shots before fully waking up this a.m. Reactions: (1) Where was I in April, when she read at The Smell and took, like, 100 (well, thirty-odd) photos of Ara? (2) Mild envy of those who enjoy, to all appearances, a rich social life that also connects to their art.//Re: connection of Ron Padgett's "Nothing in that Drawer" sonnet w/ "slowness" of poetry blogs -- Yes, it feels that way on days when no one is posting, but isn't this also an effect of how fast the medium can and sometimes does move? Feuds and logrolls that would have taken months to gather momentum "in the journals" spark (and sputter) in weeks, days, hours; the effect for me is mainly that posting about some topic that's already been "cold" for a week or too feels like playing catch up.//Since Paul Anka came up, here's my short review (like an upcoming piece on the Wire/Bjork one-song 'tributes,' a parergon of the Slate covers piece. (Fact I couldn't jam in: Don Costa [Nikki's dad], one of the late-period Sinatra arrangers whose work is pretty clearly a touchstone for Rock Swings also arranged "Diana," Anka's first hit.)//Re: the response to K&nt J0hns0n's comments on heteronymity in Poker 6's "Field Notes" -- It's astute of Steve to note the greater prevalence of this in music than poetry. Those interested in the topic ought to look at Carl Wilson's EMP talk (downloadable as .pdf from linked page), which moves in the other direction, connecting the "band" = one-guy (and it usually is a guy) trend (w/ special-reference to my lo-fi homies) back to some moves in poetry -- Pessoa, natch, but also the "I Hate Speech" moment and so on. Carl also notes, correctly, that the strategy has become so common that it no longer seems to have any terribly specific signification. I think I've mentioned the piece here before -- one thing I didn't register at the time, that may just be relevant to Steve's notes as well, is that Lisa R.'s "Office of Soft Architecture" works are an interesting case, more akin to one of the ways the strategy shows up in music than to most of the poetic uses I'm aware of: The adoption of a pseudo-institutional identity. (Think of the way certain indie record-labels have used "corporate"-sounding/looking names, logos, advertising imagery to both mock and mask their shoestringiness.) In Robertson, this device underlines the point that the aspects of public life to which she attends are just those which are treated as marginal or residual by more officially constituted "offices." And, even though we know very well who the author-function finally spits out, Robertson's institutional-editorial "we" tends to enact a sort of coerced assent to moments of lyric extravagance, even when the experiences at hand are anything but universal (esp. in the piece on suburban childhood). Cf. the plural second-person in Spahr's Lungs, and, at the level of the publisher rather than the writer, Douglas Messerli's various pseudo-institutional moves ("The America Awards," "The Gertrude Stein Awards," "The PIP Anthology of...") -- transparent to those in the loop, but, I gather, not unhelpful w/ regard to grant-awarders, book-distributors, text-adopters who like to see some sign of respectability from an "indepedent" "authority."//


Lastly, I second the nomination of Kasey for some sort of above-and-beyond-the-call-of-summer-break Golden Ticket; I've meant for a while to point to both this post, which begins as a contribution into the "disposability" conversation and ends with some sharp (and, as he notes, possibly "cynical") pokes at the ends of pop criticism, relevant to issues I've decided to give a rest for all of your sakes; and the whole "What Does Poetry Mean?" sequence, with several installments through mid-July, which constitutes the sort of thing I'd hoped for from the Gerald Bruns book that fell apart in my mind like fairy gold.

By the way: Maybe I should have copped to this sooner, but is his "lime tree" the one from Apollinaire's "Annie"? (Which I spend an hr. or two on Wed. trying to turn into a country song, modifying Revell's translation, which appears to me preferable, at least as a poem in its own right, than the one just linked.)


And in response to Kasey's guest host: I think John Koethe (maybe the only U.S. poet of note teaching in a philosophy dept?) pronounces it "Katy," or very nearly so -- at least, that's what I heard someone who went to school w/ him say. And -- that Italian-American talk you're finding in M. Gizzi? It also shows up, at rare and surprising moments, in Ray Di Palma's work. (And more notoriously, of course, in Gilbert Sorrentino's.) I note it when I see it b/c I've done it myself (though at one more generation of assimilation's remove, and bearing in mind that the Italians who made it all the way to West Coast, while tight at the level of extended family and even social community, aren't quite the same as those who stayed East, especially as the latter are represented pop-culturally.)


Here's my Phoenix half-pager on The Scene Is Now, who just have finished a brief European tour w/ YLT. (1) Interview in March, article in August; nice turnaround, fjb. (2) Last line, on inspection -- chee-zee. (3) Still waiting for Chris Nelson to vet my posting some further comments here, on the origins of the term "No Wave." (4) You can't make it out as reproduced, but gtrist Greg Peterson (also of St. Christopher, and a bunch of solo material) is reading Ted Berrigan's Clear the Range in the upper left of their promo photo.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Like Sasha, and, I'm certain, many others, I'm sorry to hear of John Loder's passing. We never met; but Jenny and Kristin always spoke of him with tremendous respect and affection while Simple Machines was being m&d'd by Southern. And, during that association, he mastered A Bedroom Community, at Abbey Road no less, even recutting the vinyl after I whined about some band-jumping on the test pressing. (Which was almost certainly caused by my inexperience in preparing the master tapes.) One fewer good guy.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Works neither read, purchased, nor received:

John Sturrock, Structuralism
Guiseppe Ungaretti, trans. Andrew Frisardi, Selected Poems
Matthews, McWhirter (eds.), Aesthetic Subjects
Griffith, Todd (eds.), Musical Networks: Parallel Distributed Perception and Performance
John Gray, Post-Liberalism
Clement Greenberg, Homemade Esthetics
Gregory Currie, Arts and Minds
Brady and Levinson, Aesthetic Concepts: Essays After Sibley
W.S. Gilbert, Bab Ballads
Rosemarie Waldrop, Blindsight
Michael Steinberg, The Fiction of a Thinkable World: Body, Meaning, and the Culture of Capitalism
Scott Soames, Philosophical Analysis in the 20th Century, vol. 1
Alan Berger, Terms and Truth: Reference Direct and Anaphoric
Nicholas Dent, Rousseau
Fred Moseley, Marx's Theory of Money: Modern Appraisals
Dorothea Tanning, Birthday
Grahame Smith, Dickens and the Dream of Cinema
Lucinda Hawksley, Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel
Harold Acton, Nancy Mitford: A Memoir
Rae Beth Gordon, Why The French Love Jerry Lewis
Angela Ndalianis, Neo-Baroque Aesthetics and Contemporary Entertainment
Barney Hoskins, Waiting for the Sun: Strange Days, Weird Scenes, and the Sound of Los Angeles
Monique Eleb, La société des cafés à Los Angeles
Seeling, Stabel (eds.), The Ecstasy of Things: From Functional Object to Fetish in 20th Century Photography
Jeannine Verdes-Leroux, Deconstructing Pierre Bourdieu: Against Sociological Terrorism from the Left

(compiled from 3 recent notebooks covering approx. the last 6 mos.)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Jane informs me that a previous year's poster for "Paris Plage" -- the city-sponsored "beach," complete w/ sand and volleyball courts that occupies the square in front of city hall at the height of summer -- already made the mild Situationist joke I ended with above. I'm only mildly surprised: Kristin Ross to one side, there's something to be said for a culture that makes even this much explicit contact w/ its logics of failed revolt. I don't expect the advertising for Los Angeles civic events to evoke the spirit of the Watts Riots anytime soon. (Meanwhile, an NPR story mentions Chirac's repeal of the mandatory 35-hrs-max work week -- now, the French can work more if they "want to.")


Curious upcoming tour pairings: The Roots/Deerhoof; Shellac/Scout Niblett. Curious sponsorship pairing, for next leg of Go4 tour: URB and VH1 Classic.


By accident, the week or so during which I've spent the least time online in the last 2 years was also one in which the poetry segment of the 'sphere became particularly nasty. Other than issuing a promissory note* for some future pedantry about the uses and abuses of "speech act" terminology, I'm keeping out of it. Often, I regret that my finite energies make it the case that I must relegate myself to the margins of the poetry community; at times like these, I do not. (Readers who don't know already know what I'm on about, you're likely not missing out on much.)

*Eh, might as well do it now. I worry that a distinction between illocutionary and perlocutionary acts/effects is being conflated in JM's posts on assertion, exaggeration, etc. The classical (Austinian) view is this: The illocutionary force an utterance -- asserting, asking, ordering, promising, christinening, etc. -- is characteristically connected to some verbal form or other (the first three correspond to the main grammatical moods, the others to more "specialized" formulas), at least to a great enough to degree that they can be fruitfully studied as a part of linguistic meaning, alongside the even more classical components of reference, propositional comment etc. (Austin's contribution was to propose that an interesting theory of force could be given, contra Frege.) Perlocutionary effect -- what further end an assertion, promise, and so on is for -- is not nearly so highly conventionalized. The gist being that: An assertion isn't "always" also (name your favorite rhetorical end). One may question whether this distinction holds, for Derridean reasons or others*, but I think it's dangerous to run over it w/o comment.

But "of course," I am merely correcting an exaggeration, and thus being "irritating."

Maybe we'll take up implicature another time.



i) What I should really be rebutting is the claim that I was on my game at Million Poems, but thank you. If I am meant to draw the conclusion that it might be healthy to stop taking theoretical claims as referenda on my practice in particular -- point taken and appreciated.

ii) "...what's about race, class, and normative privilege"? Most obviously, the relatively large amount of positive press given to, more or less, indie-rock, proportional to its cultural and/or aesthetic weight and/or ambition. And something similar can be said about "rock" more broadly. (I gather from the Newsweek I read on the plain that the new Stones album is a scrappy return to form.)

Put that way, as a point mostly internal to rock-crit and those who follow it, it all sounds pretty thimble-sized. But if some of what's at issue didn't devolve on social divisions, I doubt I'd be as interested, or as pained. In the mid-'80s/early-'90s, you could almost fool yourself that the "battle lines" were drawn between whatever the "Corporate Rock Still Sucks" bumper sticker was supposed to refer to and a smaller-scale, arguably more aesthetically vital countertradition of "independent producers." You could even think you were really doing something by showing up for the Sister tour. (But even then -- I was usually the power-popper among pigfucks; and 3 Feet High and Straight Outta Compton and Nation of Millions were on my turntable [and one is sung over on my 1st solo 7"] if not my radio show; and eventually realized that, to take an example, Cupid and Psyche '85 meant as much or more to me than, oh, New Day Rising.)

Anyway, the point is that this illusion can no longer be maintained. An indie-rocker, particularly a white, male, educated-at-a-selective-institution one, who thinks (a) that he's doing something oppositional in relation to the-vapid-products-of-the-culture-industry and (b) that he can plausibly be a quietist about the value -- or the existence! -- of some other musics is fooling himself. Badly.

iii) In insisting on some of this, and in taking on board some version of a cultural-studiesish view of such matters (whether arrived at or applied academically or not), I thought I was simply agreeing w/ the huge parts of Sasha's account which I do, in fact, agree with. Parroting them, even. [I suspect that our biggest difference is terminological: When he says "indie-rock," he's comfortable using it mainly to refer to stuff that we both dislike, and then say something exceptional about the exceptions. I dislike the term, but if I'm gonna use it, I'm less likely to use it in quite that way.]

Beyond salutary contact w/ Sahsa, Jane, Matos, Jeff C., and others, two things have troubled what was the mostly peaceful but unrefreshing formalist sleep I had sunk into by the turn of my millenium: The whole hoo-hah over the OutKast voting (not that I agree with all of the charges issued to me or others in that discussion, but it made me think); and the occasion on which, outside a New Pornographers show, a guy I'd met exactly once before and knew a little bit of my writing informed me that the LA Weekly's music section needed to cover "more white guys with guitars." So, yeah, I've become sensitized since all this (not to mention less inclined than I might have otherwise been to pitch someone a piece about Twin Cinema.)

I suppose I've gotten sidetracked, but I wanted some of this out there. As I have been advised, I will now move on.


Meanwhile, back at Bemsha, in the comment box to this post, two poets smooth over some earlier difference by bonding over Will Oldham. (Though they end by disagreeing about which version of "Gulf Streams" is better.)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Will respond, if not rebut, sometime soon when I'm not in the CDG departure area.

Met Guy Bennett for lunch yest., was then taken for quick tour of Pierre La Chaise -- snapped a sweet pic of Bree at the grave of Sarah Bernhardt, saw the stones on Stein's. Then met Kurt Osment -- a comp lit (or is it straight English) doctoral candidate at Irvine, working on Cage and Feldman's commentaries on their own work, who's currently teaching composition (in English) at Nanterre ("the students want to be radical...") -- for coffee. Then North African food at L'Homme Bleu, rec. by Guy (who served the first merguez I ever ate, come to think of it), in a part of the 20th arr. heavy on international restaurants -- inc. a "New Orleans" establishment at which the BBQ assiette was called "La Frontierland."

Heard the disco (plus extended gtr solo on fade) version of "What A Difference A Day Makes" by Esther Phillips at coffee in the hotel -- new to me, and quite wonderful. Is this the inspiration for En Vogue's? Do I not know enough about disco? (Did pick up a cheap uncorr. page proof copy of Turn the Beat Around in London -- but it's not in my carry-on.)

You can't really get a sense of it w/o pictures, but re "Paris Plage" at the Hotel de Ville: On top of the paving stones, the beach!


Thursday, August 11, 2005

If you missed it, here's the Ess-Oh-Vee profile from The Guardian.

Tagline for ubiquitous ad on Paris Metro: "I speak English...Wall Street English!"

The comfort of the known (or the known in an less-than-familiar conflict) almost made me go see Animal Collective at "un junque chinoise" on the Seine last night, but...no.

All up in the love for Rachel Sweet -- and wish I could remember whether "Who Does Lisa Like" was written by Will Birch and John Wicks of The Records (who wrote a bunch of Fool Around) or her fellow Akronian Liam Sternberg (w/ whom RS also co-wrote this) -- also, like "Lisa" in that more-chant-than-tune pre-"Mickey"/Bring It On/"Hollaback Girl" mode that we wouldn't want to be the only kind of music in the world yet enjoy quite a lot when we encounter. See also Ian Hunter, "I Know Lisa Likes Rock 'n' Roll," Jayne Aire & The Belvederes, "No More Cherry Icing." [On another note -- believe it or not, I sometimes read books/hear music/see movies that I don't even mention on my blog. Clearly, I need to start putting more of my cultural capital in an interest-bearing account.)

"Lead. Lead or get out the way." "Nothing but a clean hit will do." My. Didn't I actually introduce these people by mentioning an essay about Robert Pollard's lyrics on a listserv? Sasha: Please, when ever you do get around to making like Oswald-not-Fromme, do recall that the main thing Rob (and now I) am curious about was not Why Indee Sux (we got that, and damn its makin' it hard to write a one sheet for the 0pb disc out in Nov.), but what the strategic (tactical?) objective of reiterating that point in articles about various more-or-less related musics has been.

Oh, and it's not about musicianship -- "can't sing"/"can't play" is at issue between nearly every pair of successive or adjoining popular musics you can name, hardly special to the formations at hand -- and I, personally, could give a rat's ass about "intensity" as conventionally understood. (I, myself, have stuck my head in bass-drums during long passages of feedback. fun to have done, and to be done with; I don't need a steady diet of such, on either end of the mic cord.) S'about race, class, and normative privlege: These are the places where the assessments of SFJ and others make most sense to me, and why I sound so pained when I try to work my mind around whether I have to Burn All My Records.

(This is all coming from someone who listens to much less indie-rock than his constant whining about how it would be ok to do so would lead you to expect. Tho the Art Brut CD I got in London is fun: "Modern Art...makes me want to rock out!"

Flight to L.A. tomorrow; more Paris notes later.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Must stop...writing about...indie-rock.... Must not...reply to...Jordan's post. Unhh....pull...too great...getting weaker...weaker....

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Not fair to comment on something that won't be generally available for a while, but on reading a version of Sasha's upcoming EMP-proceedings chapter on the indie-rock, I think I can say two things: (1) I agree with so much of what S. says, esp. about particular bands, that it's unclear, even to me, if my resistance to the general stance is anything more than sentiment. (And I felt this when I heard an earlier version.) (2) When it comes to criticizing indie's insularity, how it conceived or conceives itself in relation to the larger pop/mainstream context, and so on, I'm much more at ease with metaphorical figures on the order of "coming to the party" and "joining the conversation" than with "taking over the world" (for reasons explained earlier) and "playing on the wrong team." (Similarly for, as I think I said to Jordan in another context, the "seat at the table" trope, which I don't think S. uses -- I always want to ask, what's being served?) But this, perhaps, is merely framing.

Could say more about '80s v. '90s (another place where I'm mostly with S.), and so on, but I'll follow his example and can it for now.


John Shaw asked some straightforward ?s about AF, and I tried to answer him/them straightforwardly.


Back to France from London as of Tuesday. Yesterday, we attempted w/ no success to gather mushrooms in the woods, in a location given by a local restauranteur, then returned to our natural habitats at a brocante a few towns away (antique/junk fair, that is -- heavy on the old linens and Edison Gold Sound cylinders), I bought exactly one record: Libertango, a 1974 Astor Piazzolla LP on French Polydor. (Plus a mildly beat-up 1907 ed. of Ruskin's book on Gothic -- the few English-language books at these things are usually dead cheap.) Later in the evening, we went to the annual recital of operatic repertoire held at the town's 14th century church (no longer used for services). Not my idea -- if it wasn't in a Looney Toons short, I probably don't know it* -- but pleasant enough, one dramatically impressive mezzo-soprano in particular. But, listed on the program as instrumental interlude by the pianist and cellist, between hunks of Verdi, Puccini, Gounoud, Offenbach, and so on was -- Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango"! But they didn't actually play it -- just went to the next vocal piece w/o comment. (The program ran quite long as it was -- 8:45 to midnight, with the crowd demanding more than the pro forma encore.)

Other odd moment: The only English-language selection (and the closest thing to musical comedy or light opera or whatever one calls such proto-pop) on the program was a rendition of "Old [sic] Man River" that brought home how foolish I must sound getting all the vowel values wrong in my attempts to pronounce French:

"You and me, we sweet and stran...Get a little drink, and you land in gel..."

*Well, they did do some aria that I've previously noticed sounds very much like "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You." What is that, anyway?


Have tried to write a little London recap, but it's just me sending you postcards. Afraid I'm more comfortable writing about/during the dull periods. But let's see, how quick can I do this?

Passed one of the attacked tube stations on the way in, too disoriented to be sure which one. When Bree was given advice about where to find sheet music by a v. friendly bookstore owner, his directions included a glancing mention of which way you can't go anymore. First full day there was the day the suspects from the second, failed bomb attempt were brought in; the "Got The Bastards" headline was the next morning, though most papers were more circumspect -- you could read off their politics from whether the front page photo was of the shirtless perps, or of investigators in white shroudlike outfits. I could not feel a lot of distress on the street, but I don't have any previous impression of the city to compare it to -- certainly saw any number of packed buses, crowds pouring out of tube stations, mixed race groups of kids, and not only kids, outside pups, walking down Charing Cross, and so on. Panel discussions on Islamic extremism most every time I switched on the TV in the hotel room -- except for an episode of Stargate, and an episode of a multi-part doc. on jazz in Britain from which happened to cover the beginnings of free improv, w/ talking heads from Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, etc.

Will cover Haines separately at some point, same for an improv show feat. Phil Minton/John russell/Roger Turner (+ guitar & delay cat Dave Draper and a trio called Kindness May Lash that sounded like a vitual tribute to Oxley/Bailey/Guy, all at a not-quite-completed venue in Hampstead called The Red Hedgehog) that I dragged Bree to a couple nights later. Stilton w/ celery and biscuits at Rules. Brian Friel's The Home Place w/ Tom Courtenay; text a little heavy-handed, but right-minded on eugenics, and Bree was tickled to see some real-deal theater. Neal's Yard Rough Trade playing Colossal Youth when I walked in, and stocking my book. British Museum: Orerries, steles, a bust of Ptolemy. You know, barbarism. Nelson's Column; book in socialist shop recommending the tearing down of Nelson's Column. Brick Lane Sunday market -- seriously the most right-now spot I've been in a decade, clothing designers (Bree and I bought a blouse and a tie from this guy, bootleggers, amazing macrobiotic food, contemp. art bookshop, dude selling Roy Ayers and Bryan Auger recs (and funk 45s) w/ no fixed price. Cortland Galleries at Somerset House -- sat w/ Manet's Bar as long as my eyes held out, went back for another look two days later. (A little late in the game for me to be filling out the Zola-Manet-Benjamin connections, given the title of this blog, no?) Brixton: excellent looking UK hip-hop shop not open the day I went, but I did manage to commune with an ackee and salt-fish pattie, and you know you want to buy your meat at halal stands blasting some kind of dancehall/Dre hybrid. Too rainy to look for Brockton Park. Quite odd to realize that I have now, in fact, walked down to Electric Avenue -- while Bree was visiting Buckingham Palace, returning w/ a description of dolls gifted to Elizabeth and Margaret "from all the children of France." Quick peek into the Charles Dickens museum, housed in one of his mid-career residences -- monogrammed knife-rests and such. Did have a bindi, at Douglas' rec, but stupidly scheduled a visit John Soane's Museum for the day it was closed.

Good red bookstore in London; bought books on Sinatra's left connections (day before encountering a BBC story on a documentary about his Mafia connections) and "The Red Virgin," noted and bypassed Topple The Mighty (Kuhn/Gill), a book advocating the destruction of various London monuments -- the morning after I'd seen the British Museum and Nelson's Column for the first time.

Bree scored one v. creepy clown marionette on Portabello Road; and a book that at first appeared to be a biography of Yvette Guilbert (the diseuse that was one of Lautrec's main subjects), but which turned out to be a book on theatrical technique inscribed to her by its author and re-bound in her "personal" binding, w/ her name on the spine. Not even expensive, b/c the bookstore had misfiled it. I resisted as many books and records as I bought, and bought too many, inc. Coati Mundi's 1983 solo album and The Blue Orchids' The Greatest Hit (cheap, in an Oxfam), and copy no. "J" of Elmslie/Brainard's Shiny Ride (not at all cheap, in a strange shop run by a strange American -- "I lived in LA five years for my sins" -- who at least gave me a decent break off his asking price for paying cash.)

I also have to say that I'm good with a nation where Darwin is on the fucking money.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?