January 2007 Archives

it's alright, it's okay

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Regular readers of this blog, those of you who are still left, may be relieved to know that karaoke updates have largely been exiled to a KaraokeJournal. But one crucial question occurred to me at karaoke tonight: why is there no karaoke version of Elliott Smith's "Waltz #2 (XO)"? It's a great song, it's eminently singable, and it's about an uncomfortable evening at a karaoke bar!

Also: I want to do this.

ddw, product pimp

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But it's a free product, never fear: iConcertCal. Download it and plug it into iTunes, and it automatically tells you when artists in your iTunes are playing near you. So cool. And now I know that Konono No. 1 are playing here at the end of April.

two feet forward, two feet back

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It's not that I haven't been being productive, as Daffy Duck says; goodneth knowth it ithn't that. It's just that most of my projects right now are either longterm or offline or so dull it doesn't seem worth mentioning them here. And some of them are irreproducible--since Sterling's not at an age where he does terribly well at restaurants, I'm cooking at home more than ever. Last night I made a brown basmati rice pilaf with caramelized onions and shredded turnip greens, mustard greens and spinach, plus a thing with cauliflower and chickpeas and tomatoes and a bunch of spices (note to self: chuck the several-years-old super-cheap ground coriander whose preservatives it's possible to smell). Also, for instance, a friend of mine asked me to revive a long-dormant project and write a dirty limerick for her. But I haven't posted it, since I haven't heard a peep from her since I sent it to her...

Also: lots of reading to a small boy who really likes letters and numbers, lots of time living in a communal fantasy world about a fifth the size of my actual city.

okay, that's freaky

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The freaky thing is not Family Fodder's Savoir Faire CD selling for $47 on eBay--if it were out of print and hard to find and I didn't have one, I'd probably pay that much for it myself. The freaky thing is that it's not out of print--it's still in the catalogue. I mean, it's almost out of print (I think I've got a single-digit number of copies left, and incidentally if you're thinking of buying one now for "investment purposes" please please don't), but...

the king of holidays

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Here's a really great Stevie Wonder song about Martin Luther King Day that I'd never heard before Hova and Belinda of Greasy Kid Stuff fame played it at Baby Loves Disco yesterday. (Lots of kids were enjoying themselves; lots of parents were enjoying themselves a little bit more, I think. I realized that it was a bit like if our generation's parents had taken us to "Baby Loves Big Band" events. Sterling was mostly a little confused and clinging to his mama at first, then eventually warmed up to it. He liked the books and toys in the "baby chill-space" area, although he wasn't too interested in the little igloo-patterned tents that other kids were crawling in and out of.)

Here's a much less good song about the holiday, which I remember well from Back In The Day; it's still pretty fascinating as an example of the state of R&B 21 years ago.

Here's an old MLK comic, and a lovely comment from a little stuffed bull.

good new music alert

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Didn't know about this until I saw it posted on his blog, but Franklin Bruno has a new band, the Human Hearts, and a new CD called Civics--that page has a couple of MP3s, including a really good one called "Professionals In Cancun," which he describes as "yacht-rock about Amway." Haven't gotten my copy in the mail yet, but I've heard some of the songs in various incarnations over the past few years, and I'm psyched.

what's wrong with comics, pts. 1 and 2

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Here's a fascinating discussion (read the comments too--Kevin Huizenga joins the fray) of what's wrong with the current state of art-comics; as a bonus, it's triggered by a terrific and apropos-in-many-ways-to-the-problem-with-art-of-many-kinds-of-the-moment-including-some-of-my-friends' quote from Greil Marcus's Mystery Train. (I meant to bring my copy of that book back from NYC this week, since I wanted to reread the Sly Stone chapter for a piece I'm working on, and neglected to.)

And here is Christopher Bird continuing to demonstrate, rather brilliantly, what's wrong with the current state of superhero comics.

Another highlight of NYC trip (from which I've now returned, with one functional ear, sigh): a visit to ChikaLicious, a splendid and very tiny East Village restaurant whose menu consists entirely of three-course desserts, cooked by a woman named Chika and her very tiny staff (if anyone is sick, they have to close the place for the day).

playing one's own player piano

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Live at the Apollo gets favorably compared to the new Pynchon, of all things--!

More landmarks of my personal NYC vanishing: Dojo East on St. Mark's Place, whose hijiki-tofu dinner I must've eaten three times a week as a 22-year-old, is all brown-papered up, with a badly misspelled sign in one window saying, in essence, thank you for all your patronage over the years and we hope we'll be back. Apparently Dojo West still exists, but it's not the same.

you looped it, you looped it

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A few music-related pleasures from the last couple of days:

*Being on an airplane, watching VH1 Classic, getting excited because they were showing something credited as 3rd Bass's "Gas Face"--then realizing that it was actually "Pop Goes the Weasel." Which was not a disappointment anyway.

*Kiki and Herb's show at Joe's Pub last night: Kiki about seven sheets to the wind when it started and considerably more when it finished, since she's gotten into the habit of calling for a refill by banging her mic against the glass. "Everything Happens to Me" was the first actual cabaret-chanteuse-era-type song I've ever heard them do--there was another June Christy joke later in the evening, too (I first heard that song via Christy's recording with Stan Kenton). Nothing too surprising in the repertoire otherwise (I think every time I've ever seen them they've done Butt Trumpet's "I'm Ugly And I Don't Know Why"), but a few inspired alterations. "Space Oddity" got some emendations ("Tell my wife--internationally acclaimed and extremely beautiful supermodel Iman--I love her very much..."). And the actual focus of this particular show was Kiki in an expansive storytelling mood: there was a very, very long anecdote about her affair with Nancy Pelosi's father back in the '50s, as well as an attempt to tell a story about Billie Holiday that got derailed about four times before Kiki brushed it aside with "Billie Holiday: a really fun gal, ladiesngennamen," and got on with the next song.

*Listening to the woman who drove our cab home singing along, lustily, with the Kinks' "Lola" on the car radio, and flashing back to singing it at karaoke with Maria and Sara at EMP last year.

dept. of you and everyone else

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I get email messages every week or so from people who want to know how they, too, can write a 33 1/3 book--the series that more people want to write than to read! Many of them write to me to ask about it despite not having read mine! In any case, here you go, sport.

I also get email messages, roughly as often, from people who want to know how they can write for a living. Brian K. Vaughan puts it much better than I could. Pull-quote #1: "'Writer's block' is just another word for video games." Pull-quote #2: "Stop making excuses and start making art."

In other news, it's amazing how many electronic devices I now routinely cram into my backpack for an out-of-town trip. Computer + charger. Cell phone + charger. Digital recorder + phone link. iPod + charger + connector + headphones. GoLite + charger. I am sure that almost all of these will be the same small device in a few years, and I can't wait for my two-way wrist computer.

magi are better than files

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Dylan Meconis made me a birthday card:

I am a lucky person. Thanks to everybody who showed up to the birthday bash; I now know that Play-Doh is precisely the right thing to have sitting out on a table if you're going to have a bunch of artistically inclined people coming over to eat carrot halwa and chocolate cake and hasty pudding and cupcakes and apple crumble and ice cream.

Also, continuing with the JB video linkfest: Bedazzled! has an early-'70s Soul Train appearance with "Get on the Good Foot," "Soul Power," a few bars of "Escape-Ism," and "Make It Funky," plus James Brown revealed to be considerably shorter than Don Cornelius. No wonder he launched Future Shock.

Also also, since I realized I didn't mention it here: after a long dormancy, the Dark Beloved Cloud Singles Club is back in action--I just sent two new singles out to subscribers a few days ago. For details on how to subscribe (hint: it does not involve money), see this page.

tagged at 37

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Happy birthday to me! Lisa just gave me an excellent present: a painting by the gifted but non-human Thai artist Plai Chompon.

And I've been tagged by Sharon Mesmer with the five-little-known-things-about-myself meme. So:

1. While I have zero interest in most things having to do with military history, I am fascinated by surrender tickets.

2. I was in a very, very short-lived band called the Cranberries in the fall of 1992. The one song we recorded, "Saturday," did end up on a record, but by then we obviously couldn't be called the Cranberries any more.

3. I've drawn exactly one comic book: a 24-hour comic inspired by a bunch of texts from Jerome Rothenberg's amazing anthology Technicians of the Sacred.

4. My favorite candy is Botan Rice Candy.

5. I was given my first wok by a woman who worked for a restaurant-supply company, listened to my radio show in the early summer of 1990, called up the station, and asked if she could take me out to dinner after the show. She took me out for sushi (comped by the restaurant), drove me back to my house, dropped me off, and asked me, as she was about to leave, if I'd like a wok. I don't know what happened to the wok.

I am going to make this a self-selecting tag, so the first three people who leave a comment here with a link to where they've posted their own five-things lists (I think you might have to leave off the http bit, though) can consider themselves tagged.

on the radio

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I was on WNYC's Soundcheck today, talking about Live at the Apollo and Live at the Apollo.

"Levez-vous!"

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I like to think of the reason mail isn't being delivered today as being a national day of mourning for James Brown. (A few more YouTube links for you... yes, the first two are both "Sex Machine," but distinctly different versions.)

Plus: Marva Whitney on Playboy After Dark! I've written about that particular performance before, and she sure seems to have been in a bittersweet mood at the time.

new year's revolutions

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Resolved for 2007: lacunae is where I write about whatever the hell I feel like writing about, professional, personal or otherwise. Will it be so boring that people stop looking at it? Maybe; the Internet is big, and if you find yourself getting annoyed, there are lots of other things to look at elsewhere. But nothing is as boring as silence--which has done more damage to lacunae's hit counts than any nattering about recipes or parenting I might have featured here--and I no longer have the inclination to impose silence on this blog.

More on other New Year's resolutions are below, but first I should note how a few of last year's worked out. One was to keep a handwritten diary every morning when I woke up. I actually did that, and it worked out great; I feel like I didn't lose a lot of time that would otherwise have disappeared from my memory, and when I need to check what I did on a particular day, I can find out. I'm continuing to do that (in another Moleskine Diary), but I think it's progressed from "resolution" to "habit." (Ditto for using my Apollo goLITE, a.k.a. the "happy lamp," acquired from Costco a few months ago for considerably more than what I imagine is the cost of the little blue LEDs that make up its array. Does it work? At least as well as elephant repellant, if you see what I mean.)

Another was to read a graphic novel every day, on average (defined as "squarebound comic"). I kept a running tally of them in my diary, and ended up reading... 150 of them that I made note of, not 365. That's still kind of a lot. I'll probably keep tabs in my diary on how many I read this year, but not with a particular goal in mind.

Graphic novels I own and particularly regret not having gotten to by the end of 2006: Brian Chippendale's Ninja (it's sitting on my bookshelf, taunting me, balanced on top of the considerably smaller Absolute New Frontier), Osamu Tezuka's Ode to Kirihito, Hiroaki Samura's Ohikkoshi: Take It Easy Comics, the first couple of volumes of Naoki Urasawa's Monster, and Amy Kim Ganter's Sorcerers & Secretaries. (Yes, I stocked up on recommended manga very late in the year, in the hopes of finding something I'd like, and can report that I am already kind of obsessed with Death Note. Yes, I am one of those people Christopher is making fun of in the Death Note entry here. But I forgive him, because of the Uncanny X-Men entry.)

(My own year-end comics best-of list ended up posted here, in the middle of a typically longwinded and incomprehensible-if-you're-not-following-this-stuff 52 Pickup entry. Read too late in the year or it would very likely have made the list: Max's Bardín the Superrealist.)

In 2005, I realized that New Year's resolutions are easier to keep if they're specific and measurable. In mid-2006, it was pointed out to me that they're easier still to keep if there are rewards built in for meeting those specific and measurable goals. So this week I made a list of rewards I can dangle in front of myself as a carrot. (Speaking of which, on the eating-and-drinking-healthier front: the plan for 2007 is that when I want a snack, I'll eat some carrots first, and when I'm thirsty, I'll drink a glass of water first; if I'm still hungry or thirsty after that, I'll eat or drink whatever I want.) I've got a good 15 or so things I'm resolved to do--either on a one-time basis or regularly--marked down in my pocket notebook, and each one's got a reward assigned to it: stuff I feel like I want to happen because I deserve it. Will see how that goes.

One other note on 2006: it was the year when I stopped thinking of myself as a music critic who also writes about comics and started thinking of myself as a comics critic who also writes about music. That's partly because I finished the book, but also because there was so much backstabbing and -biting going on in the music-criticism world this year. If music crits devoted half as much passion and energy to thinking and writing about what they're listening to as they did in 2006 to taking swipes at each other... well, criticism would be a lot more interesting right now.

Also returning to this blog shortly, most likely: cooking. I need to investigate Laurie Colwin's books, having had them enthusiastically recommended to me by Sara Ryan and Steve Lieber last night after I praised a spice cake cooked by Sara, apparently from one of Colwin's recipes.