June 2003 Archives

underdog v. overcat


Been a little distracted this week, as some of you may have noticed--working on that same gigantic piece I've been hacking away at for the last few weeks, plus two other medium-big pieces, research for another one, a top secret project or two and a bunch of little things. Yeah yeah yeah, the chorus goes, but what have you been doing for us?

Um. Trying to come up with a good answer for that one.

I did get to see Wire kick ass at the Bowery Ballroom last night, though. Also read the interview with them in Punk Planet today--every time I see them talk I'm a little bit more convinced that I want to treat them as a basis for at least some of my own life-philosophy.

Also listening to and enjoying: the Temptations' Psychedelic Soul (two-disc comp of the years when Norman Whitfield thought it'd be a good idea to weld straight-up Motown harmony singing to the sort of extended hippie business that the kids liked; he was absolutely right); Joseph Spence's Happy All the Time (famous telegram: "Spence lives. Bring twelve sets of medium brass strings and tape recorder").

penk fleg

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I had one of those brilliant/awful ideas the other day at Lisa's art opening, for a performance piece/recording: Monochrome Flag. The idea would be to do something very similar to what the Ex-Lion Tamers did 15 years or so ago--cover Wire's Pink Flag in its entirety, verbatim, down to the space between songs--except that all the chords would be replaced with E. Same rhythms and everything, though.

Who's into it?

offer to interrogate

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As I think I mentioned here a year or so ago, many years back I signed up for something under the name Playboy Bloodbath, after the Trumans Water song "Playboy Stabtone Bloodbath Go!" I've been getting offers addressed to P.B. ever since, but I think the one I got last night is the all-time winner: "Trace Bloodbath Family Tree for FREE!" Oh dear.

MOCCA festival was yesterday, and I'll be writing about it at length for PW, but great gosh a'mighty did I ever come home with a heavy backpack. I've got enough reading to keep me going for a LONG time after today's marathon of interviewing and writing.

sponge faction counter

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Spent most of today making phone calls & doing wall-to-wall research--it doesn't sound too grueling, but it is. But I had my sweet noise to get me through it: James Brown, the Temptations, the forthcoming Jeff Buckley thing. I think I sometimes treat music too much as an endless parade of new stuff to be concentrated on and commented on, and too little for its ability to, how do I put this, medicate with more-or-less predictable results. I put on Motherlode, I become happier than I was before--it usually works that way. I hear Jeff Buckley's guitar tone, I feel like some weight has been lifted from me, though I also become sad for him and sad in a lesser way for myself that I only got to see him play once. (It was late '92 or early '93, I think, at some kind of holiday benefit show at Tramps at which Lou Reed also played; two lines of "Hallelujah" and all of a sudden I understood why he was on the bill, despite being the only non-"name" on it.)

Plus the book of Alan Moore's scripts for The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen arrived today. I promised myself treats once I got through the day; just read the script for the first issue, and Lisa's coming home so we can go to that freaky adapted diner we like in Williamsburg (not Diner, the one whose name we always forget) and split a plate of "tobacco fries."

And MoCCA is happening Sunday, and unlike the Mermaid Parade probably won't be affected adversely by the rain. As I stood inside Jim Hanley's Universe a couple of days ago and saw Megan Kelso and a couple of other people gazing raptly at the Kramer's Ergot anthology that'll be coming out for real this weekend, I thought: comics are GOOD.

attention surf punks

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A couple of quick announcements of happening stuff:

1) This afternoon (Wednesday), 3-6 PM, I'll be filling in for Kenny G. on WFMU. Tune in! I'll be playing Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the Diagram Brothers, Grinnell Giggers, Love Execution Style, the Hoosier Hotshots, Sprout Head Uprising, etc. Any requests?

2) The ICP full-time student show, featuring some gorgeous photos by Lisa, has its opening reception this Saturday 6-9 PM.

the interpreter of blue

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Last night was a Rubulad party, maybe their best yet--as many people as ever showed up, but it was such a big space (in Manhattan, no less!) that there was actually room to maneuver. I hope that in 25 years' time people talk about Rubulad's parties the way they talk about the Factory or (in a different way) Hurrah--Chris and Sari do an amazing job of constructing environments that are just totally fun to be in. (The $3 discount at the door if you show up in costume is a great idea.) This one had a room with dancing and DJs and, at one point, a woman in a burqa playing guitar; a room with patchouli incense wafting out of it and people sitting around chatting and belly-dancing; a room where somebody was showing ultra-obscuro videos by Spanky & Our Gang, Funkadelic (ca. 1970), Mungo Jerry, etc.; a bar area with vegan treats and amazing cupcakes for sale along with the usual beverages; a great big stage with Ari Up playing the best set I've seen her do (multiple Slits songs, WFMU's Terre T. singing along) and a couple of trapeze artists wearing spangly outfits with multiple baby-bottle nipples glued onto them, swinging a bit in front of the stage and off to the sides; an art-gallery-ish area; a table for the Flaming Fire Illustrated Bible Project, featuring lots of colored pencils and sample verses for people to add their own illustrations... really great. And Jess and Wes and Alexis were all there, which made the fun redouble.

Oh, and here are a few shots of the song 'n' dance madness from yesterday. More if I find 'em.

dance droplets dance

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The thing I was being so cryptic about earlier this week just happened: the Madagascar Institute Goes Crazy Broadway Style! I answered a call in the Nonsense NYC newsletter for "people who can't really dance"--turned out that there were only a relative few slots for people who can't dance, and a lot for people who can, but I was safely in the "chorus."

The final result of all this happened at 3 PM today in front of the New York Public Library: a gigantic production number, with maybe 100 or 120 dancers doing a huge synchronized routine to some recent recording of "Summer in the City." The chorus was "protesters and counter-protesters" (I was holding a big sign that said "MAYBE!" The funniest one, I think, was the one that said "U.S.A. #6!"); then there were dancers doing much more complicated things, dressed as Midwestern tourists, Williamsburg hipsters, poodle ladies, cops, hookers, street sweepers, rats, chorus girls, trash cans, etc. It was beautiful.

Had I gotten home from it five minutes earlier, I would have avoided getting completely drenched.

dressed for broadcast

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Oh man. It's all heating up again now--I've taken to carrying around a modified reporter's notebook from Clairefontaine ("modified" in the sense that it's all squares, European-style, an affectation I love in the same way that I love using periods rather than dashes in phone numbers) with a big long list of everything I have to do, and crossing off items as they're finished, and transferring items to a new page when I've crossed out most of them... 6000 words due for sure in the next two weeks, and a couple of other things probable. Plus there's that book to work on. Which I'm doing. I swear.

Social activities from the last couple of days that have made me particularly happy: got to cook dinner for Elizabeth, who was in town (Nigerian red kidney bean stew with a peanut sauce, roasted golden beets with olive oil and a little bit of cumin, kale sauteed with garlic, rice, and a rhubarb-yogurt cake for dessert); had a delightful lunch at 18 Arhans with Sarah, who took me shopping for knives afterwards; met Lauren, who is enthusiastic and poetic and really fun to be around; went with Mer to see Rocket from the Tombs, who brought the big tweedly ROCK to Maxwell's (having not been there in a while I was having severe Maxwell's flashbacks, oh those wild early '90s); attended Lisa's friend Pete's birthday party and got to chat with a bunch of people native to her circle that I don't get to see often enough; attended Sigrid's baby shower and got to socialize with a bunch of extremely small and in some cases pre-verbal people, who were all very friendly.

I went & got interviewed this afternoon for a piece of NAJP propaganda (hey, I'll propagandize for them any time). Half an hour before the interview, I drank a pink vitamin water and ate a bunch of tofu. I will have to remember that, if only to modify it for future use--I felt like I was being scintillating, but I suspect after the fact that I was "scintillating" so hard the interviewers walked away with blinding headaches.

the shape of the letter c

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100 comments on the Movable Type version of lacunae to date! Cool.

Spent yesterday at Field Day, about which I'm writing for the Voice, but the short version is that it was De. Press. Ing. --aside from Radiohead, who were fine as always, and the clips they showed after most of the bands by homestarrunner.com. Especially this one.

Incidentally, if anybody I've given a mix CD to lately finds that it doesn't work (or starts distorting), let me know--I seem to have inadvertently burned some coasters lately.

Lisa and I went to see the Clean last night--I believe they're about to do a U.S. tour opening for Yo La Tengo, and if you get a chance to see them, do. There are lots of bands I like who've been around on and off as long as they have (since '78 or so), but I can't think of any who've aged as gracefully as they have--they play together so naturally, it's a thrill to hear. The songs sound different now, since they've each changed the way they play: Hamish's drumming is subtler and more decorative than his old Mo Tucker slam, Robert is chording on his bass much more, David has realized he's got the best rhythm section on the planet and is letting them carry the beat while he opens up more space in his guitar playing. It probably helps that they don't have any particular hits they always have to play (with the possible exception of "Point That Thing Somewhere Else," of which the live album they were selling at the gig, Syd's Pink Wiring System, contains recorded version #11 or so--at this point I think of it more as a stylistic gesture than a signature song).

Audience was pretty old-school--I saw members of at least four of the bands that had been on Cleaned Out, the Clean tribute EP I put together, and that record came out 11 years ago.

Yesterday I was on a consumer-products high for much of the day, actually: the Fall's Peel sessions comp Words of Expectation rocks like I knew it would, the Alan Moore festschrift Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman is out... I thought again of that Mark Strand poem, "Eating Poetry":

Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

Otherwise: I currently have 319 emails in my inbox, each one of which has something else I have to do before I can respond to/move/delete it. I described my life to L. yesterday as like a five-dimensional version of one of those 15-squre puzzles: much to be done, the way to each thing blocked by something else.

my body is an underfunded museum

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Back from L.A. and BEA--jetlagged, grouchy as hell, but back.

Book Expo America seems to get bigger, physically, every year; this year it was in the L.A. Convention Center, and occupied three gigantic display floors in two separate buildings--55 aisles of displays, 60 or so booths per aisle, I think. Plus a whole lot of meeting rooms. Nearly every major and minor American book publisher comes to BEA (and quite a few European and Asian publishers, too), and they're all desperately hawking their wares. The big publishers put bound galleys of their big summer and fall books in mountainous arrays for people to take, and every morning when the doors open there's the first wave of the feeding frenzy. (I kept thinking of the one line I really liked from The Corrections, which had been the most mountainous array two years ago: "Pyramids. Pyramids of shrimp.") I returned home with my suitcase and my backback both loaded to bursting with books, all of which were freebies. Have only read three things so far: the new issue of The Believer (excellent), from the cleverly designed McSweeney's booth; Alison Bechdel's Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life Forms to Watch Out For (not as good as her last one, but still very funny), and A.A. Clifford's Sex Life (possibly the worst science fiction novel I've ever read, though that's sort of why I read it: the concept is that in 2268, the world is a high-tech utopia, except that if you don't have sex five times a day you'll die from this bizarre disease--what can I say, it kept me conscious on the shuttle bus back from Newark).

Went to a bunch of parties in L.A. Most were book-business affairs, but (with the fabulous Alisa McCoy) I also went to a very strange thing called Cannibal Flower, at which I was one of maybe five people in normal-ish street clothes. Lots of bad-in-a-distinctively-L.A.-way paintings on the walls, loud trebly music, a room with a blacklit toy-filled (but dry) kiddie pool occupied by two starlets painting their nails, a Troma-girl hostess wearing some sort of contortionistic corset thingie and shoes that would've been 7-inch heels had they not also been 10-inch platforms, etc. I am attempting to recover.