September 2003 Archives

frozen lamp with roots

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The "U" mini-mix got made last night (notice how that's passive: not my fault! not mine! made through this vessel!). The Upper Crust/Unrest/Uncle Wiggly/the Undisputed Truth/U2/U.M.O./Utopia/the Urinals. V should be reasonably easy, whenever I get around to it.

Lisa lured me out of the house yesterday to go to the Whitney, and a good thing, too--otherwise I would've spent the whole day obsessing over the minutiae of where "Night Train" came from. (For the record: only part of its DNA is from Duke Ellington's "Happy-Go-Lucky Local"--the other part is from Ellington's "That's the Blues, Old Man," written by Johnny Hodges. Not the same part.)

orafying misticle

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Sometimes, when you need something oracular, it comes to you. I've been chipping away at the James Brown book for a good long while, tiny bit by tiny bit, and getting frustrated that I was getting so close to deadline and it wasn't holding together. Then, yesterday morning, I opened a package somebody had sent Dark Beloved Cloud with a subscription to the singles club that had some of the most amazing cards I've seen so far. The best came from cutting up an Art Garfunkel LP into 3" x 3" squares, and decorating them in various media. And my absolute favorite (which I'm saving for myself) is unfortunately very hard to take a decent digital photograph of, or I'd post it here. But it's a square of, I assume, the Garfunkel album, into which the person who did it has scratched a little dialogue about Memphis, followed by a decent approximation of this picture.

Wow. Soul scrimshaw. I think I wrote 4000 words today, and even though it's not working yet, I think I'm reasonably close to figuring out a way to make it work.

Plus I transcribed the "Recitation by Hank Ballard" from JB's Get On the Good Foot, which is... well... here it is--imagine an over-the-hill R&B star who's been taken under the wing of a former disciple of his, looking at a sheet of song titles and monologuing over the instrumental track of an overproduced minor hit by said former disciple from three years earlier, occasionally taking a little break off-mic to do something that makes him slur his words a little more:

"The James Brown world. There it is--the James Brown world of music, folks. The lord of funk and his disciples. Oh, wow. Incredible, man, really incredible. Speakin' about this new album from James Brown on Polydor Records. I just finished digging on it, you know. He comes from all sides on this one. Like, each track take you from one bag to another. You know. He's lowdown... he's funky... he's sentimental... and the man is sad. Throughout the whole album, you'll find these elements of moods. And when you bag up that many moods, you've gotta reach a lot of souls, in some of the most remote areas. Music such as... Good Foot. The Whole World Needs Liberation. Your Love Was Good For Me. Cold Sweat. [pause] Nothing Beats A Try But A Fail. Lost Someone, Funky Side of Town--that's a little tune James, Bobby Byrd and myself did together, you know, like it's a real dirty, lowdown, get-down [mumble]... And then there's Please, Please, Please, like you never heard it before, you know, the all-time classic, Ain't It A Groove, Make It Funky... part 3 and 4... [pause] Heh. Incidentally, I'm Hank Ballard, the Love Side man. Rapping for you on the contents of James Brown's latest album... yeah. A living legend. That's what they call him, a living legend, and guess what, that's what the man is: a real, live, living legend. Yeah, after 18 years, he's still terrorizing the music world with his funky music. And judging from his new album, he's still on the good foot of his career. James Brown world. James Brown world of music. Oh well, he deserves to be in the galaxy of stars. But it wasn't easy for James from the beginning. He had to fight his way through a mean, vicious jungle, you know, the jungle of show business. It's vicious, I tell you, I mean, very vicious, actually, I know. And my advice to all newcomers is that if you're timid and looking for mercy stay on the road that leads to a more compassionate world. 'Cause this one I know will eat you up alive, brother. I mean, alive. Yeah, I got caught running around the graveyard of losers. [sigh] But I had an unshakeable determination that I was coming out: this is not my place, you know. So I came out and joined the James Brown production. [a very strange tone in his voice] James was the only one besides myself that had a strong belief in my talent. I knew he could formulate a groove that would put my style back into this galaxy, you know. [rousing himself] James Brown world, James Brown world of music! And wow, I'm glad I'm part of this world. So is Miss Lyn Collins. Mr. Bobby Byrd. Miss Vicki Anderson. Mr. Lee Austin. Mr. Charles Bobbitt. And of course Bob Both--Mr. Bob Both, that is. Miss Lynette Washington. Mr. Danny Ray. And of course Fred Wesley and the J.B.'s. There are a great many others, you know, that I really don't have time to run off, but it's, uh, quite a few in the James Brown world. [pause] Wow. James Brown world of music. My man, your man, people's man." [fade out]

yellow rrroses


I actually went out last night--it'd been too long since I'd braved the agora. L. & I went to see American Splendor, about which I wasn't nearly as over-the-moon as other people I know who've seen it--maybe, I think, because I've been reading the comic for a long time, so recognized immediately which parts were lifted verbatim from it, which were fiction for the sake of the movie, etc. It's a weird feeling to understand that I'd enjoy something more if I didn't get the inside references. I would have liked to have seen the real Mr. Boats, too.

We headed downtown afterwards to see Fly Ashtray's first show in 9 months or so, and first with their new drummer. It was at a club called the Orange Bear, down on Murray Street--I have vague memories of having seen the Soul Providers at an earlier incarnation of it. At the moment, though, it has the single worst mural I've ever seen on its wall: ill-designed bulbous Matisse/Picasso-style nudes (at least one of whom is extending a leg into the air that the artist doesn't seem to have bothered finishing painting, so it looks like one of those liquid-filled hollow glass legs or a lava lamp) and stripy cartoon animals cavorting (and occasionally paired up doggy-style) in a half-baked forest landscape with a couple of little pools and buildings in it. Somebody actualy thought it was a good idea. Somebody actually spent a considerable amount of time executing it. Remarkable.

Anyway: Fly Ashtray were fab as ever--a little nervous, curiously. A few new songs, a lot of old reliable standards ("Vulcan Jones," "President Stoned," two of the "Ignells" sequence), a couple of things from the Crate period. Interesting that they're now playing two of Mike Anzalone's songs, "Green Fibre" and "Ostrich Atmosphere," given that he left the band something like 12 years ago... I think they've decided that "Ostrich Atmosphere" is their big garage-rock hit. Which it really should have been, so fair enough.

Stopped in afterwards at No. Moore to see Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I love that band (and especially love Sharon Jones's voice--so Vicki Anderson!--and stage presence), but I'm starting to hate their fans. Especially the tall gangly guy she chose to dance with during one song who started humping her hip. Sugarman 3 with Lee Fields followed them, and we saw a couple of songs, but we were fading badly by that point.

Incidentally, if you've recently gotten one of those godawful s**m messages from an address at lacunae--well, somebody seems to have sent out about a zillion of them to seemingly randomly generated address, and I'm getting all the bounces, and I'm very unhappy about it. The headers suggest that they're coming from Switzerland and/or Finland. (And if you are the person who is sending them, or who is posting them to the comments section of lacunae, please know that my revenge will be slow and terrible when, not if, I find you.)

understand urges

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Boom work the room, specifically the living room, where I've spent all of today except for a couple of mail-checking runs and a quick spell in the kitchen to make a big gingery mung bean/sweet potato/celery root-based stew, which I assume L. and I will be eating for the next week. I've been admiring the washed-out cover of the reissue of Marquee Moon--the story goes that Robert Mapplethorpe took some photos of the band, they made color Xeroxes of them (they had color Xeroxes in 1977? guess so), and then they decided they liked the color-Xerox look better than the normal photo. Was disappointed, however, to discover that the first line of "Marquee Moon" itself is "I remember how the darkness doubled"--last year Chelsea sent me an email whose subject line was "I remember who had the darkness doubled" (we were talking about what kinds of comparisons between Tucker/Brownstein and Verlaine/Lloyd made what kinds of sense), and that's what I always hoped the lyric was. The goat-with-slit-throat effect, I fear.

Which reminds me of the stages of connoisseurship:
1. Received wisdom: "Marquee Moon is way better than Adventure."
2. Fairmindedness: "Of course Marquee Moon is better, but there's some really good stuff on Adventure too."
3. Equanimity: "Adventure is every bit as good as Marquee Moon--you just have to be ready for the different approach."
4. Contrarianism: "Actually, I like Adventure far better."
5. Dismissal and redirection: "I have no idea why they're making people try to buy Marquee Moon AGAIN when both the Neon Boys and the second Tom Verlaine solo album are still out print."

Lisa and I continue to zoom, snail-like, through the parashah; today we started in on Ivor Cutler. (A personal favorite of mine: a strange old fellow who's coasted through life as a cult figure. He appeared in Magical Mystery Tour, has written radio plays and children's books and poetry books, has had his songs covered by Robert Wyatt and Jim O'Rourke, is I believe the father of Henry Cow's Chris Cutler, etc. There's more about him here, and some songs here.) Just a few more artists before Holger Czukay, and then on to D...

the aristophanes chirp

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Is there such a thing as Oulipian disorder--wanting to put restrictions on everything one does to make it more interesting? To keep myself busy for a couple of hours last night, I decided to make a little (3-inch) mix CD. So far so good. I've been paying close attention (for, really, the first time) to Television thanks to those neat new reissues of their first two albums, so decided that it should include "Marquee Moon." But how to fill the rest? Why, says Oulipo-brain, with nothing but songs by bands whose names start with the letter T--and no songs you've ever put on a mix before, either. By the morning, I had a nice little mix that goes Tenores di Bitti/Teenage Jesus and the Jerks/Talulah Gosh/Tall Dwarfs/Thai schoolchildren/Team Dresch/Carla Thomas/Television/The Tower Recordings/Thinking Fellers Union Local 282. And what are you going to call it, Lisa asked? I looked up the alpha-bravo-charlie code, and decreed that it'd be "Tango."

At which point Oulipo-brain kicked in and said "you are going to do one for each letter of the alphabet, right? I mean, you can do them all, yes? Xerobot/X-Ray Eyes/X-Ray Spex/XTC/Xiu Xiu? Quasi/Quintron/Quickspace/Queen/Suzi Quatro? You could do that! Think of how impressed... um... somebody somewhere might be really impressed by that!"

If I could train Oulipo-brain to decrease its scope, I bet I could actually do good things with it.

the flattening machination


I suspect that I posted yesterday when my mood had hit its local nadir--immediately afterwards, Lisa and I went grocery shopping, which helped, despite its circumstances. Took an hour and a half to drive to a store roughly three miles away, thanks to horrific traffic on the bridge and in the city, as well as a very peculiar thwap-thwap-thwap sound coming from under the hood of our car--we figured we'd park it in a garage and call AAA, but then all the garages were way too expensive, and we drove a few more blocks and the sound went away. We bought titanic amounts of healthy-hipster groceries and drove home feasting on chips and weird little dried-soybean snacky things. Tonight I used some of the bounty to cook Country Captain from that Crescent Dragonwagon cookbook: baked tofu in a tomato/onion/corn/green pepper sauce.

My morning regimen today: half an hour of vigorous working out while reading Nightwing and JLA, a big vanilla-spice-protein shake, and then a radio show, which went rather nicely as long as I wasn't opening my big mouth, I think. And on the commute, I started reading The Count of Monte Cristo--Elisabeth Vincentelli gave it to me on my birthday last year, saying "you have to read it, it's the best page-turner ever," etc. I'm about 100 pages in, and have no idea what took me so long to get to it.

reminders (prudent)


Attempted to go shopping for clothes today at a couple of stores people had recommended to me. This was a terrible mistake--attractive, sharp-looking clothes at Agnes B. that made me regret not having gotten an economics degree so I could've bypassed this whole stupid arty-boho-barnacle route I've taken with my life and been able to afford $200 shirts rather than dropping the price tag as if it had a bug on it; not-quite-attractive $10 remainder-of-remainder items at one of those upstairs 90% OFF EVERYTHING places, alongside things that would be almost-not-so-ugly if they didn't have a visible brand name; ultra-high-order-hipster compilations at APC that made me realize how close I came to having profitable taste for a few minutes ten years ago...

Diana Ross's Diana should be a salve for this, but isn't, in either its original Chic mix or released Motown mix. Nice to have it on hand to try, though.

upcoming, incoming


A couple of small announcements:

*I'll be DJing at Rubulad this Saturday night, 10 PM-midnight. It will be an all-vinyl set of happy party music. As many of you know, my definition of happy party music is a little bit broad, but I'll try to please whoever's around. Email me privately if you need directions.

*I'll also be DJing on WFMU this Monday, noon-3. It will be mostly CDs, and probably light on the happy party music, though who knows?

*And I'm happy to report that, thanks to Lisa's scanning skills, there's now a gallery of covers people have made for the dbc singles club!

sings of bowling

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Somehow I got the idea that the right way to start today was half an hour with a treadmill on its harshest setting. I'm not sure exactly where this idea came from, but I will be on guard against anything coming from that general direction in the future.

This was, of course, followed by seeing this, and thinking "dear God, I need to get the piles of CDs off my desk RIGHT NOW." So most of the writing I have to do got temporarily tabled while I whisked away mounds of discs, purged about 500 of them, and got the piles on my desk down to... um, a more manageable level. While listening to The Very Best of WCKR SPGT. My case is hopeless.

quick poll

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I was just reminded of an academic game in one of David Lodge's books--Small World, maybe?--where all of the teachers admit, in turn, the most important piece of literature they've never read. So here's a question for everyone reading this: what's the book you really, really should've read but haven't?

I'll start: One Hundred Years of Solitude.

battery dream

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A little fragment of a dream that I remember from last night: I was at some kind of large, formal dinner in a restaurant, about three people clockwise from the host, but bored and distracted. I was eating my salad, but then I noticed something gleaming and metallic in it--there was a battery in my salad! I picked it out, but then I noticed that there were another couple of batteries. I pulled them out, too, then called over a waiter to explain. The waiter peered over my head, reached into the salad with a couple of special tongs, and removed a few more batteries. "That should be it," he said, and left me to the rest of the salad.

bachelor plastic

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Lisa's out of town for the weekend (hanging out on Fire Island with her peeps), so have I been going out on the town and raising hell? Not unless you count taking a couple of hours Friday night to see Erase Errata at the Bowery Ballroom. (New songs mostly explore a side of EE I really like, though neglect a few other sides I like too; their cover of "Boris the Spider" made me smile.) I've basically just been here, researching and writing--well, "writing toward"--a great big article due Monday. Last night, I found myself with 3000 words and no particular organization; at a loss for how to put it together, I went into my dusty suitcase, found my dusty/tacky Camelbak, and pulled out one of the Oblique Strategies "pills" from its pocket. "Give the game away," it said. Which didn't quite help me organize it, but made me realize that there was one fairly uncomfortable point I still had to make in the piece.

Also took a break last night to cook something labeled as "frijoles etc. casserole"--not sure what that is supposed to mean, but it was a big stew of pinto beans, zucchini, onions and sweet red peppers, poured into a baking pan, topped with a cornmeal crust, and baked. I also made a very successful tomatillo salsa from Crescent Dragonwagon's book: dump a pound and a half of tomatillos, two cloves of garlic, half a big onion, half a cup of cilantro, a jalapeno (if you like; I went without) and a teaspoon of salt into a food processor, process until smooth, and you're done. Mmm.

The playlist for the weekend: Chicken Lips' DJ Kicks comp, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive: The Anthology (love that version of "Reach Out, I'll Be There"), Britta Phillips & Dean Wareham's Sonic Souvenirs EP, Stereolab's Instant O in the Universe EP (which is so good that whenever I put on something from the slush pile that I don't like, within a song or two I start thinking "life is too short not to listen to that Stereolab EP again right now").

arcing drizzle


This happens every year when I return from the playa, but it's worth noting: I become acutely aware of how hydrated or not my body is, and observe that I'm normally sort of dehydrated a lot of the time. And have been attempting to rectify that with lots of water and Emergen-C.

Lisa & I went to see The Ex last night at the Knitting Factory. I really like the fact that whenever they change lineups (bassist Luc has left & been replaced by stand-up bassist Rozemarie) they throw out their set and write a new batch of songs, but only a couple of the new songs have the kind of arc of development I like in Ex songs--most of them are groove-and-repeat, which is a formula that works for lots of other bands but not for them. Loved the first encore, though: a song with a riff they picked up from a band they played with in Republic of Congo. Maybe my problem is just that I've seen way too many bands at the Knit, as great a sound-system as it has--if I'd seen them someplace I'd never seen a band before, I'd probably have enjoyed them even more than I did. Change of venue time!

so sugary, so highway

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I bought myself a guitar today. It was $5, on the street, missing three strings and one peg, and appeared to be a self-contained battery-powered unit (but with real strings). Sadly, replacing the batteries seems to have done no good. It all worked out rock-wise, though: the Oblique Strategies practiced & pretty much nailed most of our songs. I got to play the lead guitar part on "Third Uncle," too.

Spent the weekend at SPX, the small-press-comics expo, covering it for Publishers Weekly. It was a neat way to spend a couple of days in Bethesda, MD, I got to have dinner with my dear Aunt Joan and Uncle Bernard, and I made a couple of friends, notably a fabulous young cartoonist named Vanessa (sadly, my attempt to matchmake her w/ another cartoonist failed to work out, even as several newly formed cartoonist couples were being all smoochy-face in the Tunnel of Love that passes through the wall in the lobby of the Holiday Inn where everybody was staying and the convention was being held). But it was also an odd experience in a couple of ways--I was hanging out socially with a bunch of cartoonists who are friends of mine, like (Oblique Strategies singer supreme) Leela Corman, but realizing that their way of relating to each other depends very strongly on drawing for each other (and, in some cases, drawing ON each other), and that's something I'm unable to do.

I did, however, decide that for next year's APE (the similar expo in San Francisco), I'm going to put together a mini-comic with comics pieces done by people in the comics industry who don't tend to do comics at all. Several luminaries have already agreed to contribute to it.

and a turkey in the oven

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Oh, and here's the text of a little flyer that I handed out on Tuesday (with some help from Jess), asking people very seriously if they knew about the "new art theme"--there were 500 copies, and they had a map of the new city layout on the back:


Beyond belief, beyond the dogmas, creeds, and metaphysical ideas of religion, there is immediate experience. It is from this primal world that living faith arises.

Regrettably, we did not realize quickly enough that a lot of genuinely awful, brain-addled, New Age-damaged art would also arise from it. Effective immediately, the Beyond Belief theme is rescinded; our replacement art theme for this year is Thanksgiving Dinner at Grandma's.

The concentric streets that make up our city are hereby renamed in the order of Thanksgiving dinner:

The Esplanade
Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Turkey (vegetarians are welcome to refer to this street as Tofurkey)
Cranberry Sauce
Creamed Onions
Green Beans
Pumpkin Pie

We considered naming the radial streets after NFL teams or something, but decided that they will be named after the hours of Thanksgiving dinner and subsequent sports-watching: 2:00, 2:30, 3:00, and so on, up to 10:00. That's all anybody ever calls those streets, anyway. However, the plazas at 3:00 and 9:00 will be referred to as the Gravy Boats.

(Ticket prices this year weren't quite high enough to allow us to make a second set of street signs, but if anyone feels like making new signs themselves, or altering the ones that are already there, hey, go for it.)

The Man now stands atop Grandma's House, in the middle of the playa--the destination to which everyone arrives, sooner or later. Grandma's House is framed by a border that represents her Lawn, including sixteen niches which provide space for her Living Lawn Ornaments. In order to fulfill this role, you must be body-painted bright pink and stand on one foot, in a flamingo pose. Those who would prefer not to be body-painted may simply go out without sunscreen for a couple of hours.

The steps of Grandma's House lead up to a chamber on its topmost level. The center of this chamber will be marked by a sign representing a giant-screen TV set, which will perfectly align upon a common axis with the spine of Burning Man. Here, you may sit in a tryptophan haze (or whatever) and stare at the pretty lights. Immediately below, you will see the outline of Grandma's Basement. Grandparents' basements are of extremely ancient origin, and no one can reliably decipher what they're meant to contain. So don't go in there unless you've got some serious time to kill.

David Best's temple will now be renamed the Oven Rack, and will be dedicated to the preparation of delicious food. Visitors are invited to attach one item they'd like to cook; on Sunday night, it will be ceremonially roasted. Bring utensils.

The Oven Rack will mark the outermost edge of Thanksgiving dinner. Participants who pass beyond it will escape into a void where all things that we know, rely on, measure, or believe in lose their relevance. All things that reside within it are called Leftovers.

PLEASE NOTE: All other artworks for 2003 must immediately be altered and renamed to express the spirit of Thanksgiving at Grandma's House, or they will be burned down tonight by our roving "Pilgrim Squad." No more altars, no more crucifixes, no more prayer wheels, no more half-baked pseudo-religious claptrap--just a tasty, fully-cooked dinner at Grandma's house with annoying, intoxicated people you only see once a year, and a roaring fire at the end.

burning details

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I didn't promise you stories--those I'll give you in person. I promised you details:

The "ball pit" in Flight to Mars's maze that you had to enter head-first on your back so you could be pulled up by somebody's flailing hand through several feet of little plastic balls and then dive back down to find your way out - the Owl's Roost with its Chinese-restaurant condiment temple and Oblique Strategies coin-op "pill" machine - Lisa's brilliant invention "Truckocopia," a little remote-controlled truck with a trunk full of presents and a tape player blaring Herb Alpert's greatest hits that she drove up to people to give them nice little things (and ended up getting almost as many back) - Lisa's jeweled Camp Juju Apple photo sign and Jess's enormous Homeland Security Sound System banner and puffy yellow-on-black HS3 armbands - the Golden Shower of Comfort with its video cameras installed in the corners to discourage outside campers from adding to the gray water (and its strictly enforced no-showering-alone rule) - the Chi Spot - Angie in her doctor's gown sticking a stethoscope onto everyone's chest and giving them sugar pills - Comfort and its piles of soft things and mammoth 50-gallon bag of candy-coated popcorn - too many people giving away little beads and trinkets - Antoun & Raven's "Four Elements of Burning Man" T-shirts ("blinky/thumpy/furry/naked") - Comfort publishing its own literary magazine - the House of Cards - the Man with its pyramid base, temporary human statues, and insta-shrines - the incredible Temple of Honor and the hordes standing around it on Sunday afternoon sobbing - the twenty-foot-high chandelier that fell from the sky and crashed into the deep playa - the giant urinal that was allegedly a tribute to Duchamp but actually didn't come off so interestingly - the "DNA platforms" - Liz Goodman's florid letter of introduction for her friend Gabriel Roth - Aaron Mandel's totally brilliant one-year-later-but-still-instant story - "No Diving," the video pool installation on the path to the Man, and how it was sort of outclassed by the actual pool one camp brought - Kira and her stripper pole and "boob bike," Eric with his printed furry gear, both of their can-do attitudes - the "imaginary tattoos" and "imaginary piercings" I gave people (took a Polaroid, drew the tattoo on the Polaroid or pierced the Polaroid with a little labret, gave the subject the Polaroid) - the Mojito Hut, which brought God's perfect food, Pringles (Lisa on dropping one: "POOP!--Pringle Out of Place!") - her Pink Rock City project - "watch out for the sandworms" - the Church of Wow and their actually inventive laser/smoke machine combination - the couple whose wedding ceremony I performed on the street, in front of a 15-foot-high "sex sling" that some guy came over and asked if he could borrow - the bagpiper at the burn playing "Iron Man" - Meredith's theremin/violin set at Center Cafe - the Spoon Return Center in all its glory - the Eggchair vs. Pyromid Death Match - the colored/illuminated X-ray charts in the Wholly Other - the woman who beckoned me over, whispered "love! love! love! love!" and hit me in the chest to make sure the idea sank in - kindly, innocent Michael restraining Meltdown Girl at the temple burn - the wedding in Comfort being restaged after the groom's mother arrived a day late - the Sunrise Station, a little NYC-style "subway station" way way way out on the playa, aimed to face the rising sun (and the couple having some fun in there who recognized me when Lisa & I arrived there in the middle of the night and yelled "Hey! Tattoo guy! Come on in!") - the fig-leaf-wearing couple passing out refrigerated slices of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the day - carrying a yoke of lanterns on my back on the Lamplighters' path Monday night - La Contessa, the galleon on wheels, zooming across the playa and drag-racing a couple of whales - the 70-foot-high pyramidal Comfort beacon (and the plan to turn it off for a little while after the burn to confuse trippers) - the unexpectedly adorable and touching Temple of Dog - the gigantic and scary-looking Temple of Gravity - dust all over everything, of course.