April 2003 Archives
Las Vegas is an overwhelming array of impossibly overwrought boxes, so kitsch-"beautiful" they become nearly sublime, as varied as they can be within their kitsch-"beautiful" parameters, but all of them contain exactly the same horrible thing. Everything is built around the slot machines. You pass the slot machines when you go from anywhere to anywhere. They're all tuned to the same major triad, I always notice, and I wonder whether the canned pop songs that get piped into all the casinos are actually all in the same key, or whether it just seems that way. (Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" harmonized nicely with the slots, I observed.)
I am generally about as culture-liberal as it's possible to be, but going to Vegas turns me into a straight-up Frankfurt School type. Everything--EVERYTHING--on the Strip is about creating an atmosphere of false plenitude. Look how much money we have! We have so much money! We replicate the architectures of people of the past who were famous for having lots of money, not because we want the same things they wanted for the same reasons they wanted it but because it signifies how much money we have! There is abundance here! Everything you could ever want to eat is at our buffet! Art by the biggest names is on our gallery walls! Everywhere in the slot rooms, you hear the kssh kssh kssh of coins hitting molded metal! Money is everywhere here! Money takes away complications! Money means nothing at all to us! Money means nothing at all here! So spin the wheel!
Rant over. Other notes: Katrina and Colin (whose wedding Lisa was photographing) got married by an Elvis impersonator, in a chapel with a drive-through option (which they didn't exercise). (He was funny and charming, and drove up in a vintage big black Cadillac.) Then there was a reception in a trailer park--"I wanna play craps in my wedding dress!," the bride announced. Also, we noticed a whole lot of people around the Flamingo Hotel with unusual hair colors/piercings/etc.; turns out there was a great big goth convention going on there, called Convergence. I really have to keep my ear closer to the tracks.
I finished the mini-mix, which was made considerably easier to sequence when I discovered that the 3" CD-Rs actually hold 24 minutes of music, not 20. Ended up not using a theme at all for this one, though thanks for all the suggestions, and I'll probably take you up on some of them sometime soon. The sequence ended up going Television Personalities, the Red Crayola with Art & Language, the Bangles, the Raincoats, Slant 6, Mclusky, the White Stripes, Uncle Wiggly, the Rogers Sisters, Pascal Comelade, the Magick Heads, Fat Day. Very, uh, indie-rock. Also sort of dbc-centric (3 out of 12, though none from actual dbc releases.)
Live music highlight of the last few days: Erase Errata (who have gotten TUFF-sounding on tour! plus they have lots of fab new songs! plus Sara still has a guitar tone even skinnier than Craig Scanlon's!) just edged out by their opening band Les Georges Leningrad, who rocked the best costumes I think I've ever seen on a rock band (esp. the singer/keyboardist wearing a black body suit, a black bandana tied around her eyes, and fake blood dripping down from it) and sounded like Michael Zilkha's dreams: some sort of combination of Mars (R.I.P. Sumner Crane), Teenage Jesus & the Jerks and Kid Creole & the Coconuts. I can't really imagine them making a very good record, but on the other hand that's what I said about Bikini Kill too, and I was seriously wrong about that.
I'm going off to Las Vegas for the weekend, where my plan is to eat garlic bread.
Saw McLusky last night at Mercury Lounge. Very good, very Pixies-y, very loud, and I want the bass player's job: he basically gets to stand there, look like Boobah from Cerebus, scream every so often, and play three-note parts. Beautiful. After the first song I wanted to yell "where's the kittens?" but, sadly, didn't. (Besides, the kittens are here.)
Spent something like seven hours in the editing room at Columbia yesterday, trying to get a very rough version of "Contes de Fees" together in iMovie. It occurred to me once I started that I had, in my plans, completely neglected the fact that it's an accepted cinematic convention to have the sound at a given moment come from a synchronized visual part one is about to see or has just seen, rather than necessarily what's on the screen at that moment. Then it occurred to me that I actually have no idea how to edit a movie/video, and that what I had done was the effective equivalent of booking a world tour for my band, heading off to the airport with all my gear, and then suddenly remembering I'd forgotten to learn how to play guitar.
Cooked a bit more Passover-friendly food this weekend--a sort of matzoh farfel/vegetable kugel thingie, and sauteed cucumber (which sounded like it might've been great or might've been dodgy, and I'm still making up my mind). Lisa came home from Kansas City today, and we devoured most of what was left.
Lisa's away this weekend (helping her mom back in Kansas City), and Edie, ordinarily the most sweet-tempered of cats, is not taking it well. I know just how she feels. I'm at home, delaying work on things I really shouldn't be delaying, listening to Asa-Chang and Junray's Tsu Gi Ne Pu (which is exactly the kind of record I buy so you don't have to), cooking Passover-friendly food, and realizing I've fallen out of touch with a lot of people here in NYC.
Spent this morning and a chunk of this afternoon at the Guggenheim, seeing Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle, specifically 2 and parts of 3. I think one can plot a chart (of style rather than quality) that goes The Matrix-->really good David Lynch-->Cremaster-->watching paint dry. I mean, beautiful objects at the center of the image-sequence (I won't quite call it a "narrative"), no shortage of things to look at or think about, but S L O W...
So I have this stack of blank 3" CDRs, and I want to make a mix CD (max. time 20 min. or so), but I need a theme. Whoever suggests one I end up using gets a copy. (This is a blatant attempt to get you to use the comment feature.)
Observe the new category, off to the left: shows & such that I'm probably going to be at. (Though actually the Ganzfeld party is starting to look unlikely.) Observe, also, my general panic at what I have to do in the tiny sliver of the semester that remains, hence the relatively small number of shows scheduled over the next couple of weeks.
Played, fruitfully, with the Sweater Girls this weekend--Thor's new song (for which I wrote a verse, of which in turn Leela drastically improved a line) sounds great, & they're all really fun to play with. Also recorded a (quiet, pretty, keyboard-y) version of Stiff Little Fingers' "Alternative Ulster" for the Wanna Buy A Bridge? tribute project.
The class critique on my drawing project finally happened today. People were sort of confused by it, but they kept arguing about it for a long while, which I found totally gratifying. Now I have to figure out what I'm doing for my final project for that class--I suspect I'm going to try a 24-hour comic. I think the word I'm looking for is "unwise."
Every so often I get downcast because nobody reads this thing. Then somebody lets it slip that they saw something confusing on it a few days ago, and it's usually somebody that I had NO IDEA read it. Oh dear.
Went, yesterday, to the opening of the first-year MFA students' showcase show in Schermerhorn. I'd been in Coco's class with all of them last semester--so nice to see what they're all turning into!
Oh, the weather outside is nasty,
And the sky's like a rhinoplasty.
But since there's no need to wail,
Let it hail! let it hail! let it hail!
Finished the drawings last night, after a fashion. Thought for a few minutes today about how I would describe them if I weren't, for instance, the person who had made them. The technique, I decided, is seriously lacking; the content, on the other hand, is borderline unforgivable.
There is an Arthur Russell night going on right now at Plant, and I had really wanted to be there, but the weather (cf. above) is beyond miserable, and so was I after class ended at 10, having been on my feet since early in the morning (yoga class this day was mostly let's-try-that-a-few-more-times work on a couple of poses for which my body is singularly ill-adapted). So instead I've just got "Tell You (Today)" in my head.
The three-part Clairol goop has come off my new haircut, which was perfectly adequate but removed the remainder of my Limahl-esque blond chunks, and I am once again new-wave-ified (though this time I think it's a little closer to Nik Kershaw). To pass the time while I was letting my hair steep, I've been working on a haggadah for this year's family Passover ceremony--stealing bits and pieces from various haggadahs I got from the library, writing some parts of my own, using Torah text from the Everett Fox translation I like so much. I hope the relatives like it. Meanwhile, in the next room, Lisa's listening to the final Coltrane of our parashah--The Olatunji Concert, a blistering blowout from 1967, in the course of which he rips a few previously untouched layers off "My Favorite Things."
Other current listening includes two Daniel Johnston things I've gotten in the mail in the last week or so: the new one, Fear Yourself, on which Mark Linkous does what he can to add fancy rich arrangements to some very lispy recent Johnston recordings (which is probably not the best thing to do with them, honestly--it makes Johnston sound like he's being propped up and wheeled out, instead of punchin' like Joe), and the deeply-unexpected-for-a-BMG-package reissue of his first two cassettes, Songs of Pain and More Songs of Pain, which are not quite as scary-hilarious-fierce as they were when I first heard them almost 15 years ago, but are close. (The problem could be simply that they lose something from their professional presentation: the hand-glued cassette format of their original release has something monstrously plaintive about it that a nice double-CD package doesn't.)
The drawing is going... okay. I'm having issues with my composition, but unfortunately they're mostly issues that come up after I've been drawing something for two hours or so and realize I should've done it another way. And the piece I was working on today is sort of painfully high-school, I'm realizing now. More to do tomorrow.
Tax info finally in to the accountant, stack of new CDs by the player, all's well. It's a very DFA evening around here, as I got both the cheap label-centered mix they did for Muzik magazine and the too-expensive mix they did for the French series "Colette," which is all oddities by e.g. Minimal Compact and the Invisible Girls and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, plus new Rapture and Juan Maclean tracks. Mmm. Plus I just got back from seeing the Thermals at the Mercury Lounge, who gave me la rock (and reminded me of how much I'm looking forward to playing with the Sweater Girls this weekend); they opened with my two favorite songs from the album, and finished about 20 minutes later.
The class I'm getting the biggest buzz from this week is probably my drawing class, where the assignment we've been given is to look over a list of 40 contemporary artists (a very odd list, which it turns out was put together by the teaching assistant--it includes a lot of installation/object/photographic artists, as well as people who paint and draw), learn a little about them, pick two that we particularly respond to, find out as much as we can about their life and work, do quick sketches of 20 or 30 of their pieces, and then do two more fully realized original pieces that draw on their ideas (rather than on their images). Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter are VERY popular with my classmates, it appears--I think 1 in 4 picked each of them as one of their two. I picked the very odd couple of Paul Laffoley and Eric Fischl. Laffoley makes huge diagrammatic paintings of machines to change the ontology of the universe etc., with science-fictional themes and words all over the place--I really like the crazy intensity of his ideas. Fischl I have more of an attraction/repulsion reaction with: I love the energy & the presence of the artist's hand in his early drawings (esp. the glassine drawings) (I'm maybe a little too fond of the idea that if I make artwork it has to be clear that it came from my hand), and I admire his devotion to the emotional content of his images (which are mostly photo-based & involve moments of uncertainty and awkwardness, lots of naked people, and dogs), but he's repeating himself these days in a way that seems more pernicious with him than with Laffoley, and a lot of his content creeps me out.
Even so, I really like doing sketches of the Fischl pieces--in part because they're drawing people, which I haven't especially gotten to do before, and maybe in part because his line is like a million-times-better version of mine sometimes. I've got an idea for what I want to do for my original-but-inspired-by pieces, too, but it involves a number of drawings of actual humans, and I'm not sure I know how to draw them from scratch rather than from a Fischl drawing. We'll see, I suppose--it's due Monday.