Thursday, July 28, 2005

Posting from the ICA -- how novel! The Vichy Government opened, played their "Luke Haines Is Dead" (which is how they got the gig); Black Box Recorder partner John Moore played and read a poem about the death of his 17th (?) c. namesake. The late Haines himself any minute now; Sara Nixey is in the crowd, could there be a BBR reunion? Time will tell, and so will I, but not for a while -- what Sasha said about having a summer, or at least a week of one? Yeah, that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Poets who know London: Bookstore recs? Is there some Bridge St./St. Marks equiv.? Please write me, link at screen right.


Don't worry Carl: I'm not bored, I just stayed up late. (The days are long and calm here, though, the last such I expect to have for a while.) And really, if I'd been spending much of my time reading blogs, I'd have seen that your beef w/ the Pitchfork piece was essentially the same as mine, but more developed.


Douglas helps me out on the ska tip: "Shame & Scandal" = calypso by Lord Melody, apparently based on another calypso that Sir Lancelot wrote for "I Walked with a Zombie"! I first heard it through a version Ed's Redeeming Qualities (them again!) did on a tape ca. 1989....

(Speaking of calypso, a recent listen to London Is The Place For Me made me just plain sad -- Kitch's optimism, humor, and innocence -- "Underground Train" is just a light song about getting lost, forgetting your stop because you're looking at a pretty girl -- though it does eventually give way to "If Your Not White You're Black." And then he moves back to Trinidad.)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Oh. Should have posted those in reverse order, really....and there are also some timing problems, so it's all cattywompus. Maybe start from the bottom of today? Or just think Ted Berrigan.

One cooler-headed thought, and then I’ll actually, ah, wait for the argument: I worry that some of this action gets going because none of us are being entirely clear about which of the following (and which relations among the following) is being discussed at a given juncture:

1) indie-rock, the music and its practicioners (e.g. the folks on stage at Intonation)
2) the indie-rock audience (e.g. the folks who watched the folks on stage at Intonation)
3) writers/critics/editors/institution with a bias toward indie-rock (e.g. Pitchfork/Believer)

[and what do we do about (4) – those really good and often highly theoretically advanced poets who keep listening to Magnet-knows-what?]

OK. All the bad shit that I’m not happy about might turn out to be true. But gimme this: Finding it out kinda blows. Hard.

Late-breaking, and obviously relevant to the above. Went online to post all the above, had a Spidey-sense that this would be the very moment when Sasha would step up, and sure enough. I assume that the stats included, related to the artists Rob mentioned, who SFJ mostly approves and thus aren’t what he’s talking about when he talks about indie-rock, aren’t the argument, but the preliminary to a coming post, where we will hear why it is that the monocle is so oft trained so as to focus an unflattering beam on a music marginal yet hegemonic, too commercially unseaworthy to reach the fabled golden city of Pop, surely too artistically anemic to have ever been any sort of serious “challenge” to the ascendancy of hip-hop*, and yet somehow too annoyingly present in the discourse to stop writing about.

(*clause comes off as sarcastic but isn’t meant to be so)

A music that commits the cardinal sin of not behaving as though it wants to “take over the world.” (This goes back to Tony Perkins.) Indie-rock: I too dislike it, as it stands and as it stood, esp. in its smugness, its blinkered certainty that it has found The Way. But this bit about not seeking certain forms of dominance, or valuing itself mainly on its ability to achieve same – that’s not one of the things I dislike about some of its less chartbusting practictioners. Quite the opposite. (Especially given that it is such a white music.) Why is it that these characteristics that I dislike so strongly in political figures or just in private persons are suddenly supposed to become desirable when presented features of a band’s relation to the “field,” commercial and aesthetic? I will need to have this explained to me.

But I anticipate. And it’s very difficult for me not to do so, because it is in fact an issue of, if I’m using the word correctly, praxis, for me. Look: Between 1990 and now, I’ve made about 11 full-lengths (plus however many CD-EPs, Shrimper cassettes, 7”s). I can’t see any way out of understanding them as indie-rock that does not involve even more sophistry than I managed to master on my way to a doctorate. (Though oddly, the generic facts failed to convince many “indie-rock obsessives” to direct their custom our way. One problem was that our rhythm section weren’t loadies.) I don’t think one of them has sold more than 4,000, and I’m embarrassed to tell you how few others have. With a couple of exceptions related to playing w/ kindly headliners, I don’t believe I’ve ever been paid more than $400 for a show. I enjoyed the years of heavy activity, felt poor-but-honest most of the time, but I also think I was a bit of a sucker in some respects that I won’t go into here. In any case, it’s difficult for me see how I can avoid instantiating a conclusion or at least implication of pieces like K.’s, and SFJ’s EMP piece can be entirely avoided:

You, Franklin Bruno, as an exemplar of what we’re talking about: Your records (a) suck, (b) do harm. And given who you are and what you come from, it is quite unlikely that those you make in the future will do otherwise. And curiously, part of what actually makes your music bad is that enough people do not enjoy it.

Now, in one way, this sounds funny to me; how could there be an argument whose conclusion is that I should not do what I love? (Since I don’t love, e.g., maiming fellow poets.) And of course I do not mean to say that anyone means to attack my output in particular. (I suppose I’d have thought it beneath notice, given the forces at work.) But to the extent that I've come to accept a great deal of what seems to lead in this direction, you can see how one such as I might become exercised. 'Cos we all know what silliness comes if one tries to think oneself an individual, an exception, and agent.

End of that chain of thought for now.

I loved the “Boots” piece, and the Believer article needed to be written, and I have, as you know, no love of Pitchfork, and yes of course me and mine had a corpse in our mouths through much of the ‘90s and need to be told so over and over in the paper of record and elsewhere, please, sir, can I have another?, but something is nagging at me about Kalefa Sennah’s Intonation-fest review (I can’t call him K. as I’ve never met him, and it gives me weird images of Anthony Perkins), despite its very sharp rhetoric (nothing but the quotes from reviews are needed to skewer the site, v. K. Krausish, really), something about shooting fish in a barrel while pulling one’s punches, but I’ll reread and get back to you. Still, 15,000 for this sort of thing in Chicago, jeez, maybe I can still get a gig.

Finally finished that Lautrec bio. Informed, non-theoretical, at times speculative (but clear about when it’s being so), good but at 500 pages it took a larger bite out of this trip that I’d intended. Worth noting, from my perspective: “Outside Paris and Brodeaux, Jews were barely visible and most discontented provincials directed their more violent impulses toward beating up Italians, who were the largest immigrant group and the one most often seen as stealers of jobs and women, the usual reasons given for hating foreigners.”

But the book was mainly of use to me for the material on a figure of whom I was basically ignorant: Félix Fénéon, critic, editor, and anarchist – one of the few figures in post-Impressionist/Symbolist/avant circles at the time to take the political sympathies typical of his circle to the point of deeds, keeping a cache of detonators in his desk at his respectable day job at the War Ministry (!), and placing, on 4/4/1894, a potted plant – a hyacinth – on the window-ledge of the Foyot Restaurant, near the Palais de Luxemborg. Sweetman:

“By rights the place should have been filled with representatives of the ruling order but by a grim coincidence, the table nearest the window was occupied by Laurent Tailhade, a young poet, known like so many for his anarchist sympathies, who was dining with a woman friend. Unfortunately for Tailhade, the plant pot contained more than a hyacinth: beheath the flower was a lethan mix of dinitrobenzene and ammonium nitrate, closely packed with bullets….By a miracle no one was illed, though the poet, who had jumped up to protect his companion, was blinded in one eye and disfigured for life.”

Not quite as wild as Timothy McVeigh.

But the one untranslated French book I haven’t been able to resist buying so far, though who knows when I’ll learn to read it, is Voyage à Oarystis, an apparently brand new book, some sort of novelistic Utopia, by Raoul Vaneigem. Speaking of the happiness/delight/good fortune of women, here’s the passage on the back. I daresay even I can get this:

“Elle en avait les larmes aux yeux. Un pays où il n’y a ni temple, ni église, ni synagogue, ni mosquée, ni prêtrek, ni pasteur, ni gourou, ni barrin, ni banquier, ni marchand, ni flic, ni militaire. Quel bonheur!”

(The orthography is getting to me. Please forgive such errors as I make the rest of the trip.)

Can’t find it now, but somewhere I saw a tepid review of Madness’ The Dangermen Sessions, Vol. 1. I haven’t followed The Nutty Boys (I’m really pleased that I remembered that) recently, but I gather the current line-up now sometimes plays all-classic-ska-cover gigs as “The Dangermen,”and this is the studio equivalent. Picked up the single, “Shame and Scandal (in the Family),” which has charted here in France. Don’t know the original (and can’t fake it offline), but it’s a weird little incest-themed number credited to Lord/Pinard, seems pretty marginal, and this version isn’t up to much except a good trombone solo, even w/ Dennis Bovell prod. B-side is Marley’s “So Much Trouble in the World,” well-intentioned but middling.

#1 ‘round these parts, though, is our old friend Crazy Frog; I was reminded of his global dominance when the kid behind me in the hypermarché was buying a copy. But in the modest record shop across the street from the church in Rodez, there was only an empty spindle in the top spot on the singles wall.

I don’t know that I actually said “untoward,” but it’s possible.

Same week-old paper reports the Mercury Prize shortlist, which inc. Maximo Park, Bloc Party, and Kaiser Chiefs. I suppose the obvious thing is to say, esp. after last year’s F-Ferd. win, “oh, now those sounds can be ‘recognized,’ now that they’ve been, not to put to fine a point on it, defused.” But Arular is nominated as well, which goes to show, well, what? I’m a bit curious about at least one nominee that no one seems to have thought exportable to the U.S. (less so than those already mentioned, in any case): Hard-Fi, described here as “abrasive techno bloke-pop.” What, like Jesus the Unstoppable Tubthumper? And in a sidebar, some surprising words from a surprising source: “Dance music seems to be fading,” Simon Frith, the chairman of the judging panel, said. “Very few records from that genre are being nominated by judges. One of the themes which came through this year was that all these bands are about live performance.” Which goes to show, well, what?

I paraphrase, but:

Me: “I’m a little uneasy about this London trip” [Thurs.]
Bree: “Because of the bombs?”
Me: “Well, not because of the ‘danger’ so much, mostly because it seems untoward to be going somewhere for fun when the world isn’t much fun.”
Bree: “Will the world be any more fun if we’re somewhere other than London?”
Me: “No, but it’s all just more vivid.”
Bree: “We can go and be miserable if you want.”
Me: “OK.”

Seeing Luke Haines – probably as close to M.I.A. as a stylistically white/Britpop artist is likely to come, as far as drawing on the symbolic power of political violence to the point of making you seriously wonder if we might be edging into advocacy (if not complicity) – on our first night there at the ICA will be a particularly complicated moment for me.

Unavailable for comment: Former National Front head/BNP founder John Tyndall, dead at 71 as of last Tuesday. The Times: “He presided over the movement’s heyday in the 1970’s, when one candidate won second place at a parliamentary election in West Bromwich.” Want more, look for an obit yourself.

Yes, so, did in fact see Charlie. Taking into account that I heard the dialogue in French, I have to say that unless the dialogue – in some language -- is adding entire strata of rich wit to this thing, it is an almost entirely pointless film. Or rather, its point is the same as some arbitrarily large number of recent movies (The Royal Tannenbaums comes to mind): Family fucks you up. (Unless you happen to be poor enough for enforced closeness/warmth.) “And then Willy Wonka goes into therapy”: Good as sight gag, bad as actual necessary step toward dramatic resolution. Also, taking out both the fizzy lifting drink sequence and the gobstopper makes the character of Charlie even more of a cipher: He’s not interestingly virtuous w/ no temptation to resist. For the most part, what visual imaginativeness is present is by way of a slicker “cover” of the ’71 version, a digital filling in of gaps; esp. the Mike TV sequence, which now looks a lot like the first Cruise Mission Impossible. Will give points for the Wonka Bar/2001 obelisk gag, and the changes rung on the Veruca Salt sequence. The circular design, the rather disturbing squirrel attack: Good to go, right up until the “song,” which might as well have been by the Polyfuckingphonic Spree.

I’m actually puzzled, at this point, by the status of the music – the credits read “Music: Danny Elfman//Lyrics: Roald Dahl.” But since they’d all been translated into French (no credit line that I saw for that little task!) and, even if they hadn’t, I don’t have the book here, I don’t know what this actually means – did Elfman set rhymes that are in the book, making these songs truer to the source than Newley and Briceusse’s? The original, by the way, is more of a full-on musical than is sometimes remembered: Parts of the score cloy (“Cheer Up, Charlie”) but “I Want It Now” is a terrific character number. (“I want a feast, I want a bean feast!”) And one can hardly overpraise “Candy Man”: “Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream.” (While I’m on this, n.b that while much of Newley’s work is hard to take – the Keanu/Theron Sweet November is a remake of a movie that was plenty bad in its own right – this is the very team that wrote both “If I Could Talk to the Animals” and “Goldfinger.” Plus some other Bond themes: not a bad run.)

Very telling that neither any of the kids nor Depp is put through the paces of doing an entire number – which, you know, might require the director to coax a performance*, rather than a series of three-second gestures, out of someone other than an endlessly replicated Oompa-Loompa (who I’m sure was only paid once, speaking of cheap labor). If it’s beginning to sound like I’m more of a rockist about film (you get what I mean, I’ll take it) than about music, well, it’s case by case, but as far as preferring the film that includes joy, surprise, and bite, even if one has to fill in a couple of gaps in the promixal visual stimuli, well, call me Andre and lock me out of the Cahiers offices.

*That is, one vocal peformance and a later on-set physical performance to which to sync it.

2 corrections: It’s Jennyfer, not faire, and the girls are 12.

The bulk of today's posts (separated, against my usual practice, b/c of overall length) were written offline. Adding appropriate links would take another hour or two, and this is my vacation, so you’re on your own.

And since I was recently informed that I personally may be the problem with late kapitalism, what with my kurious kritcal-yet-kovetous kathexis w/ kommodity-kitsch, it bears mention that when Bree and I went to the E. Leclerc Espace Culturel (sort of like a freestanding version of the media/electronics sections of Best Buy), she was given un cadeau, for no reason either of us were able to understand: a paperback of Au Bonheur des Dames, Zola’s 1883 novel on consumer/commercial culture, heavily informed by the author’s researches in Le Bon Marché. And she was just buying remained Charles Trenet and Yves Montand cassettes. (You really would have to go some distance to beat my squeeze for aesthetic consistency.) Me, with my two B. Biolay CDs and randomly chosen ragga comp, rien.

Have also picked up, at rummage sales, a 30 Euro French-made tux, in good repair and remarkably well-fitting, Mort Shuman’s late-‘60s LP Amerika (“Teenager In Love”/”Viva Las Vegas” and so on co-writer w/ Doc Pomus, later translator into English of most of the Brel you probably know, and eventually a well-known singer in France in his own right – hmm, could be an interesting figure to write about), and, most curiously, the standard English critical edition of Jean Toomer’s Cane.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

[slightly revised from orig. posting -- more typos than usual.]

Besides Bree's parents, there are three Americans who have houses here, but only one is around currently; V., along w/her daughter and two friends (who all go to some sort of international school at home in SF, and seem shockingly torpid to me, even for 13-year-olds, brightening only at being allowed to run loose in Jennyfair -- the French equiv. of Wet Seal/Hot Topic -- and receiving the new Harry Potter by Fed Ex). In any case, the woman visiting V. and with whom we went out to dinner a few nights ago turned out to be one Joy Askew, an English singer and session keyboardist whose credits include tours with Rodney Crowell, Joe Jackson (right after Night and Day, which is impressive b/c you figure JJ would be persnickety about the parts he plays on the rec), and Laurie Anderson. More specifically, she's the woman that Anderson calls on the phone, cross-stage and mid-set, in the Home of the Brave concert film. Which is to say: I just dined/chatted with someone who played at the second concert I ever saw in my life: Shrine Auditorium, '85 or '86?, earlier on the tour that developed into that movie. She's about 50, a little silly, willing to talk about music but not the kind of "muso" we're all supposed to dislike so much. First concert: The Who, in Newcastle (her mom taught miner's kids). Talked a bit about Steve Nieve's playing, her teenage love of Chicken Shack, how she learned digitial studio techniques (she hired a teacher), and her difficulties getting much in the way of a deal for her solo work. (She seems to know V. partly through yoga and partly through working w/ her husband, whose main gig is as Bonnie Raitt's touring drummer -- also a v. personable guy who unfortunately only spends a little bit of time down here. One summer that I didn't come here, Neil Innes passed through -- Bree found him charming.) But she also spent a good deal of time explaining the composition of various kinds of sweet/savory puddings (Yorkshire, bread-and-butter, etc.) under Bree's questioning. Anyhow, I don't think I'm gonna top that this trip unless Bernie Worrell drops by for tea.


Field report: During the same dinner, Bree and I quizzed the 13 year-olds on what music they like. "Hip-hop" was the immediate response; didn't get much on particular artists beyond Eminem. Asked if they liked any rock bands at all: "Maroon 5." And (the drummer's daughter), "The Beatles." Another of the girls agreed, and added, everyone likes the Beatles...except Natalie." (Another of their friends, I assume.) "Natalie was like, The Beatles suck, and I was like, no, you don't like The Beatles, and she was like, no, they suck." (Perhaps Natalie should take up blogging.) I asked if they or their friends still liked Britney; mostly, no, though the drummer's daughter still says she does. (She'd also heard of MIA, I think through an older sister.) They also said they weren't sure they'd ever heard Nirvana; when I mentioned that they were huge around 1992, one reminded me, "that's the year I was born."


At another dinner party, two small children, 8 or 9, didn't have much luck getting Bree and I to respond to some request or order, so they went and asked their mother why we'd been invited since we didn't speak French. The mother, whose English was excellent, relayed this -- since the host was standing around, I tried to turn it to advantage by saying that we weren't sure either, but that we were glad they did. (Actually, Bree's French is, I think, getting there, though she's not to the level of understanding rapid or highly colloquial speech; her mom's fluent, and largely accepted by the locals.) Then the mother tried, with little success, to get one of her kids to admit that he'd been learning English in school. "Ce n'est pas vrai! Ce n'est pas vrai!"

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I think I'm needing to really like/love something, and soon, b/c some of my current reactions are not even curmudgeonly, but just sour. E.g.: Look, if where I went wrong was that I wasn't attending with sufficient care to Main, Lorelei, and The Swirlies, ima turn in my glove and go home, 'kay?. E.g. 2: I may see Charlie et la Chocalaterie (dubbed, here in the provinces, not version originale) here in a few days w/ Bree and three 13-year-old American girls (I'll explain later) and I'll probably enjoy it fine (I could have told you in advance they'd fuck up the songs; some people also think Moulin Rouge, and I don't mean John Huston's, was a musical), but: "crappy first version"? This has gotta be a sign of some deeper aesthetic-theoretical divide than one over whether, I don't know, The Karl Hendricks Trio were ever any good.

Monday, July 18, 2005

My condolences to the relatives, friends, and bandmates of Michael Dahlqist, Doug Meis, and John Glick, all killed last Thursday in Skokie on their way back from lunch when their car was rammed by a driver first thought to be drunk, though it has now developed that she was making a failed suicide attempt. (Story here.) The fact that these guys were in bands is hardly what makes this tragic, but I have to say a word about Michael, the only one I know personally, who was unfailingly sweet and friendly everytime I encountered Silkworm, and never less than completely committed every time I saw him play. I know that that band isn't for everybody, but they've been important to me -- Libertine was one of the first three records I had with me when I moved into my first grad school apt. -- and to some of my closest friends. He'll be missed.

I'm also sad to hear of the death of ska pioneer Laurel Aitken.

Don't feel like adding a bunch of unrelated stuff to this. Cheerier or argumentative or something next time.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Read --

Remainder of Bruns, The Materiality of Poetry (more on which later)

Gail Scott, My Paris (on the plane, I know, corny, but I'd had it around for months...):

"Sevres saucer with man waving Marie-Antoinette's head. Man on plate gleefully collecting blood in basin."

Jack Webb, The Badge:

"The battleground is Hollywood. [...] There is the next of homosexuals, which lives under constant threat of murder, shakedown and blackmail. During the war years, the homos were victims of more than one thousand robberies and other crimes -- so many that the police appealed to the armed forces to keep their personnel out of the purple district."

(Much of the book has this mixed tone of concern w/ crime and suggestion that its victims in one way or another bring it upon themselves. Curiously, there's also a statistic concerning the number of maquereau, carefully apostrophized by Webb or his ghostwriter as "French pimps," to be found in L.A. c. 1985, but I can't find the passage. (See mack.) The chapters at the end about then Captain William Parker, and the police commission (inc. brief mention of John Ferraro, later a city councilman, whose pasta-seller father was a friend of my dad's parents)

Lisa Robertson, Xeclogue

"Power is a pink prosthesis hidden in the forest."


Halfway through --

David Sweetman, Explosive Acts: Toulouse-Lautrec, Oscar Wilde, Felix Feneon and the Art & Anarchy of the Fin de Siecle.

"Some time in the 1880s a new craze began to catch on at the Moulin. It had grown out of the polka, a mildly scandalous dance for two that had come from Eastern Europe and which itself had developed from an earlier passion for the waltz....One should not, however, imagine that this was anything like the strictly choreographed can-can performed in today's Moulin Rouge by a chorus line of identically dressed dance; in the 1880s, the can-can was a wild display of individual skills. There were several names for this new dance; the most common at the time was the chahut, slang for something like a 'riot'."

and a few pages earlier --

"The crowds who crammed the Mirliton every night to hear [Aristide] Bruant's songs and see Lautrec's paintings, may have come for little more than the thrill of the vulgar but they were nevertheless obliged to hear and see something of those who lived beneath their own level of bourgeois comfort. And this mix of radical politics and popular entertainment quickly attracted other entrepeneurs."

[I don't want to get all post-(fall-of)-Commune Montmatre = post-(rise-of)-Reagan Bronx (or London 1977 or London 2003-5, whatever one takes those to be post-) on you, but it's striking that the very last sentence above, especially, could appear in a number of historical contexts w/ little or no adjustment.]


Haven't kept pace with each Lady S. track or their order of release, so I have no view on whether she's in a downhill bike race w/ "Ch-Ching," but "9 to 5"? Freakin' Two-Tone, man, explictly so in the video (which makes the song feel esp. like peak-period Madness): It's grime like "Our House" is ska. Love it. (Thank you J-Shep via Jane.)

But I'll bet she probably wasn't really sick in NY -- she had just gotten word that the Sufjan Stevens disc she'd had couriered to the club had arrived.


I bear a mild physical resemblance to Karl Rove. But also to Courbet's portrait of Proudhon.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

[Glad to hear Sasha's crunching the stats. The following is unrelated to that, but it does fall under "pith and marrow":]

I think that I'd better just own up to the following two precepts, which I would have to say guide both my critical practice and my plain old experience or music, poetry, and so on, and which are near-axiomatic for me:

1) A great deal of worthwhile ("good," "great," I don't much care what the evaluative term here is) art, high, mass, or whatever, has been created in support of, with inspiration from, and or by believers in all manner of false and non-explanatory theories of: art, language, the mind, the body, the emotions, the interactions between any and all of these, supernatural agents and entities, [extend list indef.]

Corollary: Since worthwhile art has been produced in the name of irreconcilable positions, (1) holds no matter which (if any) theories of any or all of the above, currently fashionable or rejected but coming up on the inside, happen to be true.

2) Your favorite musician does not, in fact, possess magical powers.

(I could have named some other kinds of artists -- painters might have been good mid-last-century -- but I'm pretty sure musician is the category this needs to be said about right now.)

feu d'artifice


The Time coverage of the London bombing pushes me closer to uttering those left not-exactly-pieties I abjured before crossing. Not about the event, but the way it's being used, which is hardly a surprise, but still. Even the text on the cover, all the words that surround the image Jane posted a few days ago: INSIDE THE MANHUNT//AN IRAQ CONNECTION//AMERICA: WHY OUR TRAINS AREN'T SAFE ENOUGH -- no, no fearmongering in our house. And in the story, a characterization of America's enemies: "Men and boys with small lives and big hopes for the afterlife visit jihadist websites, meet like-minded rejects at the local mosques, pay a visit to one of the overseas imams known for radical preaching and then -- well, no one case say for sure." "Rejects" seems an unhelpful characterization, but I'm unsure what it hides. More transparently: Doesn't more or less anyone who believes in a personal afterlife have "high hopes" regarding same?

Back of the book, 2-inch Q&A w/ Maggie Gyllenhall (bad pic):

--When you said recently that the U.S. was responsible in some way for the 9/11 attacks you upset a lot of people [not a Q, n.b.]

--It's a time when if you want to say something that's complicated, you have to do it very carefully. I realized the red carpet is not the place to have that conversation. I was surprised and really hurt by the way what I said was misinterpreted.

--Do you want to clarify what you meant?

--No. I just don't think it's the right place.

Yeah, M., probably a good call. (For completeness' sake, here's a story on the original comments I hadn't even heard about until picking up Time, and the inevitable damage-controlled publicist-scripted follow-up.)


responsibility, desert: related but not synonymous.


Every so often, Sasha mentions that we're gonna see the i-rock-beat-down screed presently, but then he cannily switches to an all/alt-yogurt format. One outside possibility: Sheff aced our man, who has now realized that The Shins actually will change your life, and skipped that Lady Sovereign show to listen to Picaresque a few more times. No? Step up, before I'm reduced to repeated postings about triple-creme brebis.


Google homepage in French today...nice touch.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Posting from Upland. Packed, closed up apt., drove out here yesterday afternoon, leaving car w/ parents while I'm away. Dinner at "The Royal Cut," prime rib house w/ slight Portugese influence in Chino, to which 'rents had found birthday coupon (Fri. was my mother's); interminable discussion of whether waiter would allow my father to order the free entree instead. Surprised that, after the bombing in London, no issue was raised about the safety of my trip* -- in Oct. 2001, when I was about to leave on a long tour with Jenny, I allowed my mother (and to some extent, Bree) to convince me, for her/their peace of mind, to cancel a flight and head out to D.C. by Amtrak. (Coincidentally, this was all also around the last time I moved house.) Last night, some concern about how hard LAX would be to negotiate, and, my father said something about this being a "volatile world," over cake, but that was as far as it went.

*Bree and I are taking a side trip there around the 28th.

Incongruous can of Egyptian fava-bean spread in pantry, w/ Arabic lettering -- though it's true that Italians eat something similar. Noted that Don Letts' recent doc Punk: Attitude was showing on IFC around 11, but I was too tired. (Though I ended up flipping around in Rip It Up for an hr. in bed.)

Earlier yesterday, loaded maybe 50 CDs onto computer, packed ambitiously regarding reading as well -- I've been guilty of pooh-poohing this sort of idea in the past, but yes, we need an iPod for books. (Mailman arrived just in time w/ SPD order, Xanthippe, and Belladonna pamphlets -- and returned letter w/ check to Dan Bouchard, I must've made a mistake on the address, so no Poker 6 until I return.) It's not all like that: Have Jack Webb's recently republished The Badge for the plane.

Unsure of whether and how often I will post from France -- menus/village life might be dull reading. Bree's parents are connected there, but I don't know that they've gotten DSL in the 3 years since I've visited (or even that it's available), so extended online activity may just be frustrating.

To self -- things I hope I can fit in, other than packing and related tasks, between returning here (Aug. 13) and leaving for Chi. (aiming for Sept. 1 to drive out; classes being the 20th):

--Basquiat show
--Vince's Spaghetti in Ontario
--decent Sushi somewhere
--breakfast at Pantry
--Watts Towers
--'farewell' (temp?) show @ The Press w/ Refrigerator, WCKR SPGT (tentatively, 8/19)
--similar reading @ The Smell (tentatively, 8/28)
--see Sat. eve. movie at Hollywood Forever celeb cemetery (have been trying to make it to one all summer)

Friday, July 08, 2005

Yes, Ange, "no pieties," and perhaps "no bona fides" as well -- that expresses fairly well why I've blanked every time I've considered posting since Thursday morning. Say more? No. Sometimes, just -- no.


And as much as any death anywhere in the name of, among other abstractions, faith or nation is a death that does not occur in the world we wish to build (confusion of tenses = the best I can do), the person that I am cannot help be hit, not harder, but at a particular angle, by the death on February 8 of Jason Tharp, whose (presently unnamed) drill instructor appears to have thought it more important that the 19-year old Marine recruit learn to swim than that he not drown. That, at least, is my understanding from accounts that I have read or heard. According to the same AP/CNN story, the investigation so far has judged his death "accidental, but preventable," and continues:

"Additionally, the Marine Corps investigation recommended disciplinary action to be taken against three other Marine instructors for other incidents involving Tharp a day before he died. The other Marines include a swimming instructor who threatened Tharp with tossing him into the pool if he did not go into the pool on his own, a drill instructor who grabbed Tharp and struck him on his forearm and a training officer who saw Tharp being struck and did not report it."

Further information here, including a link to a story that reproduces passages from Stark's letters home, recently released by his parents. He had apparently enlisted as a way to raise money to study art, and quickly realized that he had made a mistake.


I will have to find another day and another way to express the distinct but also visceral form of disgust that grips me whenever I hear coverage, even or especially of the balanced variety, of the educational debate over "intelligent design." Listen to the Maryland highschool students quoted near the beginning of the piece, and despair. Then listen to the pastor interviewed a bit later, and rage.


Here in our United States, we mock and destroy the unfit and unwilling, the better to raise a force to protect the right of some to claim that we are all made in the divine image.


If there must be Christianity, let more of it be of the less-worldly, turn-of-the-century (19th/20th) sort expressed by Amos R. Wells, the author of Social Evenings (see previous post). The United Society of Christian Endeavorers, of which Wells was an engine, may have had some early influence on the AA movement, but the pages I have seen seem sketchy and unreliable, so no link. However, "Things," the poem of his found at the bottom of the homepage of a Lutheran thrift store in Clifton, Texas, may not be my cup of tea, prosodically speaking, but is singularly apropos to the material burden I am laboring under now. And here is the text of Photographic Courtship, a 1902 one-act musical by Wells, with music (not reproduced) by one Thomas Martin Towne. Again, not exactly Der Zar laesst sich photographieren, but certain quatrains of "We guess it won't be bad by half," the second song down, have their charm, as young lovers Mehitable and Obadiah sing:

A modern husband, modern wife,
We'll order spick-and-spandy,
A folding-pocket-Kodak life,
With daylight catridge handy.


At a loss as to what to make of an email that appeared today, purporting to invite me to contribute to The Huffington Post.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Last few days: Interfiled a few boxes of records that had never been alphebetized w/ those that are, while also culling some (not enough) for sale. Same for books, while packing about 8 boxes, with maybe 4 or 5 to go (this doesn't count those that I never unpacked in my 3 years or so in this apartment, which I thought I might be leaving on a couple of previous instances). Sold/traded to a total of 4 shops (interesting find: Tim Dlugos' Little Caesar book), took remainder, plus 2 shopping bags of cassettes, pre-recorded and otherwise, to Out of the Closet (but bought 2 LPs, Dr. Buzzard's and Livingston Taylor). Rented self-storage in Ontario, about $50/mo. less than comparable spots in L.A., carried in one carload of boxes, a drop in the bucket. Ate, at various points, at an Italian deli called Pinnochio's in Burbank (Chili John's being closed for the summer), Papa Christo's in the so-called "Latino-Byzantine District," and The Mirage on Garey Ave. in Pomona, a weird lunch buffet of really uninspiring Chinese steam table food and much better and fresher Pakistani dishes. Left the 16-bit master for 0PB record for Dennis in the presumably trustworthy hands of Nathan Wilson at Rhino Claremont. Drops in Sept., I think.

Found, in an older box that I thought might contain printed matter I no longer need, the run of Lowghost, a circulated-to-contributors publication Paul Vangelisti edited in 1998, the last few copies of my Seeing Eye chapbook (1999), and Amos R. Wells' Social Evenings, an 1894 collection of religious parlor games from which I collaged this poem. Also, many insufferably twee zines (though I come off as less of an ass in interviews conducted this millenium) and two issues of The Stalker, a 4-pager dedicated entirely to hating on Urge Overkill. Simpler times. Simpler, lamer times.

Life of the mind not v. lively at the moment, for obvious reasons. Continued cover/sample discussion backchannel w/ J., sparing those of you to whom this seemed recherche. Read most of Bruns' The Material of Poetry: Annoyed at the characterization of some notions of Levinas' as constituting a radical break with everything anyone else has ever thought about ethics. Polished off, over the last two weeks, one of the few bottles of alcohol I've ever bought primarily (as it turns out, entirely) for my own consumption.

Not feeling as dire as this probably sounded; it's the syntax.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

3 min. 'til 7 p.m.; manager and asst. still at work; currently hammering on my window frame.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Well, I can't, but glad there was something.


Curious that Jane would choose today to write about the geography of waveforms, a mixed metaphor edging into synesthesia, because I've been spending much of the day* looking at their graphic representations while digitizing records. (Today: Woodentops and Slow Children b-sides, Tony Fox's "Shippin' Your Ass Back to Arkansas," Dynasty's "I Don't Want To Be a Freak (But I Can't Help Myself)" some Julie Andrews.) Talk about your static -- one can get lost for hours in cleaning up these things. I've been around this sort of thing in studios and mastering labs (0PB did not, in fact, record exclusively onto wet clay through a sharpened stick), but haven't really spent much time doing it "hands on" before. Just proceeding by trial and error, the effects of the noise reduction algorithms I have access to sound pretty crude to my ears, but going in and removing the more exposed pops with the little drawing tool is hours of barely-cognitive fun, a little like mastering the easy levels of a video game, or working out blackheads. (Sorry for the image.) I've never been especially loud listener to music -- is even this, I wonder, evidence of idealism?

*Except for coffee with newly-engaged and -tenured Scott Saul, during which, while flipping through the copy of AF I was giving him, I noticed that there are other places where the dates aren't consistent. Fuck fuck fuck.


While I'm there: The short answer to Jane's pointed question is just that the very notion of a "cover album," as opposed to some other kind, is itself an artifact of (white)-rock auteurism. It's not a meaningful distinction in most other genres: No one would have called a Peggy Lee or Frank Sinatra album a "cover album." I was even stretching the term by applying it to what are, generically, jazz records (DeLaria and Gold Sounds), though I'd argue that if these are cover albums in the contemporary sense, this is because they are responsive to the original recorded versions of the songs performed, as well as (or perhaps instead of) the songs "as such," as would be the case on a typical jazz date.

(Apologies to everyone who already knows this: I say "the contemporary sense" because (I apologize if everyone knows this), the terminology of "covers" dates back to song-plugging days; even the first recording of a song would have been termed a cover, in the sense of "coverage." (Lieber and Stoller used the word this way when I interviewed them.) The idea of a distinction particular record that is the primary text and "cover versions" of that comes somewhat later, and persists.)

I did not claim that covering and sampling were one and the same practice; though I did point out common features, which, I freely admit, will look more significant to one such as I who affords songs some entity-like status (or at least believes that they are treated as having same by much of our everyday and even considered critical practice, and that, where applicable, it is not so easily done without -- but you've all heard this bit before).

I agree that covering doesn't confound the identity of the author -- unless one leaves off the writing credits! -- but would nonetheless suggest that it can confound the question of whether the author is the source of meaning. This might have been clearer if I had figured out places to slip in references to Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes and Caetano's A Foreign Sound.

To get all this to cohere -- and to distinguish between a couple of possible ways race fits into it -- would take a chapter or a conference presentation. My provisional steps (i.e., deleted posts) were not edifying; for now, I'll answer Jane's pointed questions with three others.

What do we make of the fact that our man Luther Vandross got his big break placing a song in The Wiz?

What do we make of Jason Moran's prepared-jazz-piano version (cover?) of "Planet Rock"?

Why do I keep seeing the Nouvelle Vague disc, which may have digital elements but is largely acoustic, filed in "electronica"?


Don't worry, I promise I'll talk to someone else next time.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Happy birthday to Bree! (She doesn't read this; I'm just saying.)


Heard Petra Haden and The Sell-Outs last night at the John Anson Ford. Lovely: 10 women (one pregrant), with PH singing lead and sort-of-conducting, reproducing the solo arrangements of the record, pretty much flawlessly and with greater sonic clarity. (Nice acoustics, that venue.) The record was one sort of feat, this was another -- one you almost wouldn't think her capable of bringing off, given how nervous and scattered (but good-humored) she seemed in the breaks. Highlights: What the gender switch does to "Tattoo," the changes to the original phrasing in "Maryanne with the Shaky Hands," the finger-to-the-lips wah-wah "guitar" solo, the fact that PH picks her spots instead of singing flat-out gorgeously all the time. As silly as this project is, it's also musically thoughful and detailed -- it's fun somebody cared about, which is hardly the worst thing art can be. Sat w/ Steve Cronk, who else -- but I had to move back somewhere around side 2 because we were in front of the one guy who decided that an a cappella show would be a good opportunity to drink 8 beers and keep up a running commentary.

(By the way, though I've come to realize that, for good or ill, that there was more Who [via Minutemen] in 0PB than either Beatles or Stones, Sells Out isn't an album I'm especially invested in -- I think Kyle and I were more Meaty, Beaty, Big & Bouncy types. But when I listened to it for the first time in years to write about PH's record, I was impressed by how little it conforms to what "powerful" rock is supposed to sound like. The expanded CD has unusually strong extras -- how had I never heard "Glow Girl" before?)

Opened by Stephen Prina, who's teaching at Harvard now (I hadn't known this) but was back for the summer, resembling both Lenin and Peter Yarrow in a plaid suit. His acoustic set, roughy: Magnetic Fields' "I Don't Want To Get Over You," Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," Anthony & The Johnsons' "You Are My Sister" (I had to have this i.d.'s for me), Loudon Wainwright's "One Man Guy," Carole King's "It's Too Late," "All The Young Dudes," and three songs from Push Comes To Love. (I may be forgetting one or two.) This set seemed less in-quotation-marks than some of his other musical performances -- I've heard about one, in a gallery context, consisting of piano/vocal versions of alternating songs from each Sonic Youth and Steely Dan album up to that time, with "Whipping Post" in the middle -- but still more distant than (to make the obvious comparison) Rodney Graham's. Prina's deal is that he's not so much covering the song as treating the original record as though it was a text that might be transcribed and reproduced by other instruments -- notably, his voice, as became obvious when he recited the spoken bit at the end of "Dudes" (which I'm not finding transcribed anywhere), deadpan, or did his best to catch every note of Joni's melismas. (The first was intentionally funny, the second, not so much -- I couldn't help notice that his vocal strengths and weaknesses are similar to my own.) Whatever this is, it's not a pop methodology.

Tenor of the whole affair was more art than alt -- it was promoted by SASSAS, the same people who put on events at Schindler House. Which isn't to say that the crowd wasn't genuinely enthusiastic -- no rock-show impress-me-ism. Nor backstaginess -- all the principals were out in front of the venue saying hi to friends w/in 10 minutes of the encore. Said hi to Prina, Weba Garretson, Ron Sures, Petra's sister Rachel, and Billboard writer Steven Mirkin, who has also been scripting voice-overs for an upcoming reality show in which the surviving members of INXS audition a new lead singer. [If you've mad it this far, this is what we call "burying the lead."] And on the way in, I was right in front of Miranda July, so I turned around and politely told her I'd enjoyed her movie (quite true, though it's the short version), which I'd just seen the night before.


Splurged on 2-disc reissue of ABC's The Lexicon of Love, which I'd only ever had on beat-up vinyl. You only need to hear about 40 seconds to realize that Trevor Horn napped his way through Dear Catastrophe Waitress, too bad. EC-isms in Fry's lyrics even more pronounced than I'd remembered. Haven't listened to the extras yet, but the booklet notes, frustratingly, the existence of early demos of songs called ""Surrender," "Do As I Say," and "Boomerang," "too rough for inclusion here." (Not to mention the prescient promo video that helped get them signed -- would have made a great enhanced CD.)


Well, just to register a mild defense of my supposed home discipline rather than cede the entire field to poetry -- philosophers, even analytic philosophers*, do come up with questions now and again. You know, "begins in wonder," all that.

*Rare, possibly mythical breed reputed to be found in the company of "indie-rockers" and "language poets."


I've finally gotten vinyl-to-mp3 worked out so that it's not a hassle to set up again every time, mostly because I keep coming across things from which I want to digitize a couple tracks as I sort and pack LPs for the move. (General plan to start posting some of these, though not until I've amassed 50 or 60.) Douglas and others have recommended the Griffin iMic, but I've bought and returned two in the last 6 months; they haven't worked correctly, and I don't think it's because I'm an idiot. It seems I'm getting a decent stereo track this way: Turntable-jacks --> 1/8" adapter --> line in to Mac --> Audacity, while monitoring as a Garageband track (which I don't save) --> edit** and export to .wav file --> drag that to iTunes and "convert to MP3" (b/c its easier than figuring out LameLib). Does the fact that this is working without the iMic have something to do with my turntable having a built-in pre-amp? (And even if it didn't, couldn't I just leave it connected to my stereo amp and go out to the computer for that?) Anyway, this works.


Deleted notes on about my packing/moving process; can't subject you to that. I haven't forgotten my promised to post something more general on covering/sampling (though the issues were on my mind re the show report above). But the week got away from me, and this entry has taken even longer than the loose time-limit I impose on myself. Tomorrow's light, so we'll see.

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