Tuesday, November 15, 2005

1) I'm given to understand that today is the official release date of Nothing Painted Blue's Taste The Flavor (Shrimper). Frequent readers know more than enough by now about my ambivalence toward my own music, but I've kinda come around on this one, and I'm at least glad that Kyle and Peter and I got it together before we dispersed geographically. It was recorded in early 2001 (which some will find hard to believe, given a couple of lyrics), but doesn't now seem to me to have reached its sell-by -- especially in that songlessness doesn't dominate the indie landscape as it did a few years back. Too bad about the singer.

Midheaven mail-order is one reliable way to get it. (Scroll down.) Early adopters will find a direction to nothingpaintedblue.com in the liner notes (though the .com is a bit of a laugh, at this stage). There is nothing at that address. We are rectifying that.

2) How we roll: Move to Chi in Sept., get a picture in the Reader by mid-November. (Again, scroll down.) Thanks to J., Bob Mehr, and the photographer (whose name I can't read on the pdf, and who I hope pulls more glamorous assignments once in a while).

I feel that I should mention that I must have said something easily misunderstood, as I neither expect nor particularly wish to hear a response from the subject of my book. I did, on the other hand, say "bee in my bonnet," which is like -- Hey, read this book of rock criticism by your granny.

3) More self-service: Tickled to hear from the currently hibernating Anne Boyer that Armed Forces is among the readings that her non-fiction class can do papers on. "Didion, Capote, Bruno..." Yeah, I get that a lot.

4) Saturday, headed out w/ Bree, her mother and sister to Ten Chimneys, the summer estate that Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne ("Fon-TAN," not "TAINE," I have learned) built near Lunt's boyhood home, 1/2 hr out of Milwaukee. Oddly, or perhaps not, some of the conversation on the drive out concerned the frequent American plaint "What can one person do?" The presumed answer to which is "Very little"; what usually does not follow is the thought that one might engage in more effective collective effort from others -- and this is backed up by the valorization of the heroic individual, the lone rebel, in our popular culture. Not, I realize, a revelatory set of thoughts; but it was odd that, in the last room of the house-and-once-working-farm tour, our guide felt compelled to discuss Robert E. Sherwood's There Shall Be No Night, a 1938 play set in Finland but intended as agit-prop for our entering WWII, and which somehow was supposed to demonstrate that "an individual can make a difference." (The play ran 115 performances, poor for Lunt/Fontanne at that stage; Montgomery Clift and Sydney Greenstreet were in the cast.)

Tour and home otherwise charming -- elegant but not opulent, w/ a good deal of whimsical decoration done by Claggett Wilson, their customary set designer (grisailles) and Lunt himself (Swedish folk art motifs). Very tempted to sneak off and play the "Noel Coward Piano," badly photographed here). While waiting for the one place in town to eat to open (well, there were two, but Bree's mom didn't seem attracted to "In Cahoots"), stopped into an antique store, where Bree found a cup and saucer of the same pattern as those laid out in one of the rooms -- we can believe, if we like, that it came from the house. All I bought was a 1955 educational comic book distributed by General Electric: "Inside the Atom."

5) Bree's been going to one or two cabaret open mic nights at piano bars per week to work on her act (which it's not really my place to describe) and make connections; I go with her when I can. Even though both the performers -- a mix of theater student/hopefuls and persons who just have a couple of songs they love to sing -- and song selection are uneven, as you'd expect, I'm very drawn to this small and friendly scene, mostly because it's so uncool, relative to the community of "music lovers" I've tended to be in contact with -- seriously, these people make the most iconoclastic indie or jazz obscurationist look like Courtney Taylor-Taylor. High point of last night, for example, would be Michael, an operatically trained singer whose dream is to play Sportin' Life in Porgy & Bess, doing "When The Sun Comes Out," a lesser-known Harold Arlen tune (not from any show, but recorded on Barbara Streisand's second album); low point would be a three-person arrangement of "Suddenly, Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors -- translated into Italian.

The pianist lets people accompany themselves if they like, so last night I did "Like Young," [a faux-beatnik number by Andre Previn, (slightly) popularized by Buddy Greco, and not to be confused with The Like Young] and "Only A Monster" from Tempting, which I can't really sing but which Michael (Sportin' Life, above) adored and wants to learn. I think that's the first time I've performed one of my own songs since getting here. In terms of plain fun, doing two songs fairly casually has distinct advantages over playing for 45 minutes for a bunch of people who are often mainly concerned with figuring out whether its ok to like what they're hearing.

8) Picked up a disc in the "local" bin a local shop several weeks back: The Future of White America, swayed by the crappy-cass-release/liquid-paper lettering/Debord quote ("Every concept, as it takes its place on one side or another, has no foundation apart from its transformation into its opposite: reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real.") on the insert. (Back cover, vague reversed-value photo portrait of who-knows-who, w/ speech balloon: "breed & die you worthless fucks." A little disappointed that the music inside was 2 long tracks scrapey/pulsey guitar noise, made a little more texturally interesting by the poor recording, and 1 more on the freak-folk end, w/ about 20 secs of lyrics I couldn't make out. I was hoping for at least Comet Gain or something. I'm not unhappy that I heard it, but it's certainly not the best purchase I've made on similar grounds.

9) I've been reading poetry slowly but consistently lately, but haven't had much to say b/c I'm mostly catching up with books from the last 2 or 3 years that others have discussed well (and anyway, I'm not reading them to blog about them): The Joyous Age, Blindsight, The Cave Where You Live, Word Group. Just started Ted Mathys' Forge, need to finish Water & Power, Deborah Meadows' books, and much else.

10) Best recaptioning of fictive images of Native Americans since Entertainment! (By the way, it's strange that 2 1/2 years or so in, Jim and I have spiraled along to fairly similar formats.)

10) My mood's improved lately.

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