April 2004 Archives

lede of the year

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Neil Strauss writes the best lede sentence I think I'm going to see for a really long time: here.

And an English paper that's been making the rounds (& I suspect it's a fake: there are three more by the same guy, if you increment the URL): here.

genius is paaaaaain! HHOOOAAAH!

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Just watched the first two episodes of the Beatles' Anthology, which are swell (in particular: holy cow how amazing is that footage of them playing "Some Other Guy" at the Cavern Club? does any more of that show exist?)... but reminded me irresistibly of "Magical Misery Tour," the thing that Christopher Cerf and Christopher Guest did (with Melissa Manchester on piano, apparently!) in 1972, stringing together a bunch of extremely bitter quotes from early-'70s Lennon interviews and setting them to a very Plastic Ono Band-type arrangement. Lisa hadn't heard it before, but oh look, someone's made it available...

confess fletching

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Portland has a vegan-friendly barbecue joint. Who knew that BBQ tofu could be so tasty? Not stringy/aromatic in quite the same way I remember Pearson's Texas BBQ's beef being, but awfully good. I think, actually, one of my goals for this summer is going to be to figure out a perfect veggie BBQ recipe--which might involve finding something that can be tooth-resistant after it's cooked a bit.

The trouble with spending a week or two writing very focused pieces about particular artists is that other things come in and ask for my attention, and I have to keep politely deferring them until eventually they're a very large stack and there's no room left on the "to be listened to yet" CD rack. This is the situation right now--I've got two more music things due next week, but mostly I've got comics pieces to work on, which means I can leave my ears open. I bought the Madvillain and Automato albums last week, and I've played them only once apiece. That's just negligent.

I have a bad habit of getting myself settled in somewhere and then not venturing too far from where I am. Finally got my ass down to Mississippi St. yesterday, and am almost kicking myself for not wandering around there earlier. Mississippi Records is a wonderful place, and even though I deliberately didn't buy any of its vinyl for the above-mentioned guilty reasons (even a ca.-1972/3 funk single that appears to be a musical setting of Jesse Jackson's "I Am Somebody" speech, talk about pushing my buttons), I did see five Krazy Kat books I didn't have (or had lost in the Great Collapsing FedEx Disaster) sitting there in a bookshelf underneath the jazz LPs like plump little strawberries, and snatched them up. Anybody reading this happen to have spare copies of the 1919, 1924, or "Komplete Kolor Vol. 2" books? Just asking.

Playing music this afternoon with Almucz, the super-nice German woman whose Mercury ad I answered. We'll see if I remember how to work the bass without breaking it.

the pinkish-orange sections

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While I wasn't even looking, the Washington Post put up my first graphic novel roundup. And the Voice just ran an article I'm pretty proud of, about the strange and radical moves the FCC has taken recently with regard to its policy on indecency, obscenity and "profanity"--you'll see why there are scare quotes around that last if you click.

Saw Melt-Banana the other night here in PDX, opening for Fantomas (who I had NO idea were so popular--great big room full of goths!). They seemed a little compressed by the opening slot (no encores, no covers, just a 40-minute piledrive), & they've got a new drummer, but I was jumping up and down the whole time anyway. They looked like they tend to at the end of a tour--at the beginning, they tend to be sort of spotless and bank-staff-like, at the end they look much more like the action heroes/heroines in the final scene of the movie, but better dressed. And I'm pleased to report that "RRAGG" is still the second song of their set, as it's been every time I've ever seen them... I think they & Uncle Wiggly are the only two bands I've ever seen with a traditional second song (U.W.'s was "Nerve").

(I was thinking about this when I saw David Bowie last week: there are a few songs that are fixed in his set list on this tour--"Rebel Rebel" is always first, "'Heroes'" is always last in the main set, "Ziggy Stardust" is always the last encore," and "Cactus" is almost always fifth--and fourth when it isn't. Which reminds me that I'm kind of impressed that the Pixies don't seem to have any fixed order, or fixed content, for their set lists on their current tour. Although I remember hearing that back in the '80s they occasionally just ordered their set lists alphabetically by title.)

Then, last night, I got to see the Reputation in a tiny little bar in town that was apparently the epicenter of PBR becoming the hipster beer of choice--they'd been moved there at the last minute thanks to a booking problem. "I just realized I've known you since I was nineteen!," Elizabeth said. Uh-huh. I have a feeling I'm going to be getting that a lot more in the future.

four rotators, two caps

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Ann Marie has a new blog, on which she's documenting her experience spending ten days with a blindfold on (as part of a program where she's learning to train guide dogs for the blind).

I just got back from the EMP Pop Music Conference, which was pretty great--saw some really good papers, met or re-met some cool people (hello Daphne! hello Oliver!), had dinner with a bunch of folks at an unexpectedly good restaurant called China Gate that was all done up in '50s "look! the Mysteries of the Orient!" exterior design; got to visit Kira and Eric and Becky. My paper went well, I think--people laughed when I hoped they would. And I did a Critical Karaoke thing on Swell Maps' "Vertical Slum" that went over decently too. (Josh "Jane Dark" Clover, introducing Critical Karaoke, his invention in which critics played a song that they'd thought, at one point or another, was the best song ever: "This always happens--you're a music critic, and you go to some family gathering or something, and somebody puts you on the spot and asks you what the ten best songs of all time are. And that sucks, because a number of things happen--first, you forget Chaka Khan..." The best ones were probably Julianne Shepherd on "I Like Your Smile" and Elizabeth Mendez Berry on a song I didn't know, both of which involved dancing. But they were all pretty great.)

Other highlights: Seth Sanders on the relationship between heavy metal, evil, and the demand for judgement in Black Sabbath; Amy Phillips on how exactly the White Stripes have managed to get away with not being questioned about race much; Franklin Bruno on "Is That All There Is?"; Peter Stampfel and Jeannie Scofield doing a lunchtime performance of some of Stampfel's project where he's recording a song apiece from every year of the 20th century. Disappointments: the non-appearance of Jewlia Eisenberg, Carrie Brownstein and Margo Jefferson, all of whose pieces I'd wanted to see.

the lift, the tug, the slide

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It would appear that Maya's got a blog! Go Maya!

Off to Seattle tomorrow morning for the EMP's pop conference, where I'm presenting a paper on "the ersatz Beatles of 1964." This should be a blast. Although I realized last night that I really should have called it "The Butchered Covers."

Last night, in fact, I realized this as I was at the David Bowie show with Lisa. Although we'd seen his early-morning gig in front of the NBC building a few months ago, this was the first full-on show either of us had seen in a long time. (For me, it'd been the "Glass Spider" tour in 1987, yikes, which was also the first time I'd gotten to hang out with Elizabeth at length; for her, it'd been the "Sound+Vision" tour in 1990, on the way to which her car caught fire while she was listening to "Ashes to Ashes.")

Decent if slightly too slick band, featuring the fabulous Gail Ann Dorsey; they refrained from bubbada bubbada, aside from a little bit on the final encore ("Ziggy Stardust"). Bowie in very high spirits, chatting at length between songs, in almost alarmingly good shape--who cuts his hair, anyway, and how many mortgages would I have to take out to get mine cut by them? And wasn't "Sound+Vision" going to be the last time he played his old hits? We got plenty of them last night, as well as some serious trainspottery stuff--"A New Career in a New Town"!! I tend to think of myself as being sort of take-it-or-leave-it about Bowie, but I kept having "oh right, 'Fashion,' I love this song!" moments. (Does this mean Prince is going to be playing "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" and "Feel U Up" on tour 14 years from now? I hope so. But maybe he has to be in Tin Machine first.)

The Polyphonic Spree opened... judging from their new material, I can't think of many other bands who so completely said everything they had to say with their first record.

global lighting fixations

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We're back in Portland now, and we have a CAR. We are very, very happy about this.

I'm sure I must have done something over the last four days, but I cannot for the life of me remember what, aside from the fact that I averaged four or five hours' worth of sleep a night. Well, I got to go to dinner with Caryn and a bunch of other NYC friends and then see the Thermals. And dinner with Ms. Gaw and Lauren. And lunch with the fabulous Klara Hobza. And somewhere in there I wrote a couple of fairly long articles. And saw the Whitney Biennial. And read Matos's awesome book about Sign 'O' the Times. (Typing the title of that record always makes me try to remember who observed that the standard keyboard has a dollar sign, but not a peace sign.)

And we took the Greyhound bus to Salem and got a CAR. More the color of Lisa's Telecaster than my Strat. Very beautiful.

I promise to attempt more substance tomorrow.

why I smile

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Friends: I am happy right now. I've gotten four hours of sleep at best, I'm seeing the world through a foot of mucus from the cold that descended upon me as soon as I got on the plane to New York, my head is pounding, and I cancelled three social appointments yesterday (and had to turn down a post-practice dinner with my fabulous 801 bandmates so that I could finish a hefty piece for the Voice and prepare my tax materials for our accountant, who we're seeing in a couple of hours, both of which nonetheless took me until around 4 in the morning to say "this is as done as it's going to get."

(And band practice itself was ridiculous--the rest of the band sounded great for not having played in five months, but I'd left my good bass in Portland, attempted to fix my ancient Taiwanese Kay bass so that the action on it wouldn't be roughly two inches, and ended up separating the neck from the body. I called the practice space and said "hey, we're supposed to play at three, but my bass just died--" "Oh my God I'm so sorry! I can cancel your appointment, don't worry about the deposit or anything." "No, no, I think we still want to practice anyway--" "Wow, that's so cool, y'know..." "...Oh. No, the bass player didn't die. The bass is broken. The bass player is sick, but he's hanging in there." So, after trying and failing to find someone who could lend me a bass for the day, and not wanting to spend another $45 renting one for three hours, I ended up just hunt-and-pecking the bass parts on the keyboard in the practice room. For, you know, that Doors effect.)

But I am happy. And you know why? Because God Is My Co-Pilot, a.k.a. Douglas's Favorite Band Ever, played last night for the first time in four years. It was a fundraiser for ABC No Rio, and apparently the reunion just kinda ended up being scheduled--a one-off, although they might do a Scandinavian tour a little later in the year, I understand. This was, of course, a slightly new lineup: Sharon & Craig, and Christine Bard, and then Matt Bua and some guy named Jason I didn't know. They sounded great. A few new songs, a few late-period live standards ("Leave You Alone," "Hutzulka," "Smooth & Clean"), a few things pulled out of the deep deep catalogue--a very short song called "Uncircumcised Twin" (maybe a Plastic Idols cover?), which I think they'd only ever played once before about ten years ago; "I Tanz Jo Net"; freaking "Moonshake," my favorite unreleased GodCo song (actually a medley of two Margaret Fiedler songs). And they ended with "Two Meats." And Sharon made fun of me from the stage every chance she got. Only a few people in the audience I recognized from the old days--notably GodCo's old fan club president Nancy, who is now Danny, and his friend Joe, plus Chris from Fly Ashtray. I will be floating from this one for a while yet.