Thursday, July 26, 2007

Yet another Melvins show I’ll miss

It’s getting harder to be a Melvins fan at my age, not because their music is going downhill—quite the opposite. I mean, have you heard (A) Senile Animal? Fuckin’ hell, it brings the ROCK. No, it’s just that they seem to blow through town on their yearly visit always on a weekday and usually a weekday when I’ll be in school. Even if the evening was free, hanging at the Double Door until one in the morning on a Thursday night is not really my bag, not at 36. I grow old… you know the rest.

The best SPAM ever

Hello my friend!
I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog, if medicine prices here: [web address withheld] are bad.
Look, the site and call me 1-800 if its wrong..
My dog and I are still alive :)

Monday, July 16, 2007


How did I miss this? Well, I couldn’t fly to New York for it. Damn, it’ll never happen again. Ah well, here’s some reportage and photos, video, all that:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Funny

In my constant and ever-growing obsession with all things Arrested Development, I’m providing this link:

Michael Cera’s short films with his buddy Clark Duke are very much inspired by The Office with a slight Tenacious D (the HBO shorts, not the music) tinge. I laughed at the opening credits alone. That and seeing Michael Cera simulate a blowjob on a banana. “Hey, what’s this remind you of?” Ha-ha, indeed. Well, the ha-has come not because the show is mired in crude gags but due to the very opposite. After some smart (and a few silly) jokes, the ultimate lowbrow goof feels well won. You can admit to enjoying it and still maintain some level of superiority. That’s magic!

Monday, July 09, 2007

After stewing over the decision for an absurdly long time I finally rented Brick. I have an ongoing list of movies I need to see, and like many people that list completely leaves my mind the moment I walk into a video store. Maybe it’s the thin boxes all staring out at me; I just can’t seem to think when I see them. The colors, they scramble my eyes and destroy most motor functions. I become a zombie standing mouth-agape, limps dangling like sausages, a dead look in the tired eyes.

Ah, but Saturday I had a written list. Success! I found Brick and took it home, very late and after a long day of no note. I made tea, finished off the last of some leftovers and slid into bed, laptop ablaze, the DVD inserted and ready.

Man, oh man, I was bowled over. Sure, the idea seems cute and clever at first: a Dashiell Hammett style mystery set in high school starring that kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun. And Lucas Haas, for fuck’s sake. Before long anything close to affection has drifted and you’re left with a dense and absorbing plot. And Richard Roundtree!

The dialogue is straight out of Hammett. Not Chandler, Hammett, the real hardboiled writer, the guy who certainly knew how to write loner detectives, shady ladies and dialogue so tight and hard you could strike a match off it. I was thrilled.

Funny aside: I mentioned the film to a coworker today who agreed with me that it was quite good. He did point out that he felt old since he did not understand some of the teenage slang in the film. I had to tell him that he was really too young, since all of those expressions— “bulls”, “yage” and so forth—were older than his parents. Yeah, when the protagonist refers to a tough as “the ape” it was straight out of the best of the hardboileds.

Friday, July 06, 2007

You got a reaction: ZZZZZZZZ

I’m sure he gets more than his share of hits, but check out Matt “VENGEANCE IS MINE!!” Fraction’s blog thing and scroll down a bit to find the review he wrote for the newest album by the increasingly dull White Stripes.

Xtop first hipped me to these guys when they had two records under their belts. Back then they were undeniably exciting, though I’ll never understand why my hipper-than-me pals couldn’t hear the similarity to early Led Zeppelin. The third record is where I dropped off, mainly because, as good as it was, I still couldn’t get off those first two. By the time the next two came out I was sick of the whole thing. The piano based White Stripes do nothing for me. In fact, when I hear that song about the doorbell I want to smash things. It is clearly the most obnoxious song since No Doubt’s “Hey Baby.” But I had not ruled out the Stripes entirely. “Blue Orchid” is a damn good song, probably due to its simplicity and short length. Jack White ought to take that into consideration. I don’t know, I heard the title track of the new CD and, while it has nice parts, especially the noisy little solos and noodlings, it is over-long and clearly trying too hard. Not to mention that Jack White’s “la la la la [etc.]” shit just sounds lazy.

I’m off to listen to some Otis Redding now. Ta.

Letter vs. Spirit

What strikes me as funny after my second week of class is the way in which people have an inability to understand implication. Too often we are hung up on specific definitions and cannot see irony or the evolution of ideas and words.

A micro example:

I’m sitting in class. It is a class on the Harlem Renaissance. While waiting for the professor to arrive, some of the students, myself included, are discussing the material we have read in preparation for the evening’s discussion. One woman, a dash over middle age and very educated, having studied at the U of C and other impressive environs, raises the question that has bothered her all week: if “renaissance” literally means rebirth, why was it used in regard to the African American surge of creativity in the 1920s? Should it not be “birth” and not “rebirth”?

Surely there are many answers to this question. I’ll begin with the one my instructor offered later in the evening. The rebirth refers to the second wave of creative and intellectual production from African Americans that started before the 20th Century. Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, you know the names. They preceded the so-called Harlem Renaissance and essentially, by this understanding, paved the way for the second wave, or rebirth, of African American artists and thinkers.

But fuck that answer.

The real problem I have with these questions is that they evidence a literal mind. “Renaissance” has a literal meaning, rebirth if you will, but the word itself has taken on a different meaning in our culture, one that conjures up images of Italian paintings full of angels, scientific explorations and a great leap out of the darkness of ignorance. The Renaissance with a capital R signifies more than a mere rebirth. It is a symbol for an epoch of truly staggering artistic production, thought and knowledge. Thus, the term “Harlem Renaissance” is meant to be a nod to the old Italian time of Michelangelo and Leonardo and that whole gang, aligning the work of the post WWI African Americans in New York and the surround areas with the intellectual tradition began hundreds of years and miles away.

This woman also made the mistake of comparing what she saw as the misuse of renaissance with the German Reunification. To her it should have been “unification” as “reunification” implies a second uniting. Still, to reunite is to, well, re-unite two entities previously united and then cleaved, like Germany. So “reunification” works fine in both her literal definition and in the symbolic meaning.


It disturbs me that there is this lack of ability to infer coming from educated people. Seriously, what is the problem? Thinking about writing a thesis project, and someday a doctorate, makes one search for the minutiae and over scrutinize the details to the point where they sap real meaning. There is no shortage of words that have evolved in our contemporary usage. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ is a good example. Critics (rightfully) lambasted it for not really having much in the way of passion. Mel, and his God fearing supporters, shot back by reminding us that “passion” in its proper usage, implied pain and suffering, or something along those lines. Regardless, “passion” is not understood in that way here in the 21st century. One can argue about original definitions and feel oh so smart for knowing a small bit of etymological data, but they ignore the way etymology works. Worse, in this case they defend an act of obfuscation.

Mel knew that the word passion has a different connotation but he didn’t care. He made his snuff film and kept a misleading title. He may very well be like those who cling to antiquated and literal to a fault definitions. Hey, I do it too. I can’t stand the way people misuse the word “ignorant.” All my young life I thought the word meant intentionally rude. And when people mix up imply and infer it makes me see red. And what about pronunciation? How do you pronounce “forte”? If you do anything with the E at the end you’re mispronouncing the word. Still, anyone who pronounces it “fort”, while correct, is an overbearing prick.

The magic of words is that they evolve. The simple rule is this: if enough people agree on a rule, it is the rule. Words don’t hold elected office; they stay or go based on usage and majority understanding. Sometimes this is not such a bad thing. Sometimes it is lamentable. I am not sure which side to champion but after class I think I’m leaning toward the side that understands the connotations of words and is not so hung up on the letter of the law.

Academics… what the fuck?

Old Man at the Old Man Show

What was I doing going to see The Police on a Thursday night when I had a class to go to, a class I had spent a week preparing for, a class that was and is sure to kick my ass? These days when a band I like comes to town I get excited and then almost immediately annoyed. Then depressed. The idea of buying tickets, standing in line for a seat or a spot on the floor, waiting through an opening act that is sure to, at best, bore me, waiting the grueling length of time it takes for roadies to set up the gear and then the equally punishing amount of time for the band to get off their diva asses and finally take the stage, well, that is starting to become less and less appealing to these old man bones.

Since turning 36 I seem to feel every year, every cigarette and every drink I have ever imbibed all aching within me deeply as if I had a tolerance for life in my younger days that has finally waned. My energy comes from a can (Red Bull) or a mug (green tea since coffee hurts too much to even contemplate) and though I am trying to get my ass on a bike or a track (padded in order to save the knees) I seem to more often rely on artificial stimulants, though I know a wee bit of cardio would surely be more effective. Perhaps knowing that exercise and eschewing the tiny killers (smokes, booze, caffeine) would add years instead of erase them is what makes me fall back on vices. There’s that lingering adolescent in spirit who thinks life is simply not worth living, the rebel who often thinks of smothering the world in the blackest tar. Oh, I was young once!

Okay, this is merely the product of being tired. I saw the concert. I stayed up later than I should have and I woke early due to being programmed by years of 9-5 repetition. 6:30 comes and I snap awake, alarm or no alarm. ‘Tis a sad state of affairs. Please take that into consideration in regard to the above.

Anyway, the class was cancelled so I managed to go to the show guilt free. I had driven to work that day so my car was nearby. I swooped out of the office early, grabbed the ride and picked up the brother, holder of the tickets and Police fanatic. We then picked up our cousin at the train station and headed north toward Wrigley Field, home of Chicago’s hard luck baseball team, countless drunken yuppie “fans” and the worst acoustics you’ll ever hear when seeing an overpriced reunion concert.

I must say that the ticket price for this show, while steep, does not rival that if the average Rolling Stones concert. And The Police, despite this tour, are sure to not return with the kind of regularity that Mick and Co. demonstrate. We had nosebleed seats to be sure, but it could have been worse. Thankfully there were video screens flanking the stage so we could see the band as more than tiny ants frenetically moving far below. Of course one wonders how this differs from watching a concert movie, but I’ll dispense with that crashing train of thought for the moment.

The opening act consisted of a Sting look-alike that, I’m told, is his spawn. He sure sounded like him. He played bass and sang for a three piece outfit. The drummer was agile and flashy. The guitarist was understated at times and used generous amounts of echo to accent his bar chords. Hmm… sounds like another band I’ve heard of.

Once the opening act (whose name I couldn’t read from my elevated heights) finished playing to the crowd of people struggling to find their seats, the excitement returned. I was going to see The Police. I love The Police. Stewart Copeland is one of my heroes. Along with Dale Crover and Keith Moon, he’s a supreme example of innovative percussion in rock music. And he seemed to better sum up the personality of The Police than Sting ever could. Sting was the face and the voice, but, as his solo career has proven time and again, he’s nothing without Stewart and Andy. And what about Andy Summers? An underrated guitarist, Summers always brought reggae and jazz sensibilities to the pop/rock trio. He plays subtly at times and frighteningly fierce at others. His moveable chord progression in “The Bed’s Too Big Without You” seems to anchor the song as much as Sting’s descending bass line; the solo for “Driven to Tears” is a small gem of avant-garde feedback freak out. Summers once said that he is most proud of the opening effect of “Synchronicity II” an alarm sound he coaxed from his instrument that, apparently, filled most of a reel. Of course, the band used a short piece of it to kick off the song, but I like to think that Summers, oddball guitar freak he is, has the full recording at home, waiting to annoy rude dinner guests.

Perhaps I am being unfair to old Sting. I mean, I liked the guy in the ‘80s, but everything he has done since the disbanding of The Police has put me to sleep. The lute is a fine instrument and I admire him for trying to branch out, but he can stay home and fuck his wife for 8 hours so why does he insist on fucking over his old fans? I know, I know, he’s exploring his interests and that’s all that matters, but still when I listen to any of the Police records I can’t help but get angry at Sting for everything he’s done as a solo artist. Ah, I’ll never feel old so long as Sting is around because he will always be older, as evidenced by his choice of instrument and waning enthusiasm. The Sting of 1983 was a monster, jumping and playing his ass off. Now his output is something akin to dinner music. It seems clear that when musicians get old they gravitate toward world music (that annoying umbrella term) as a means of reinvigorating a shrinking muse. Sting, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, they all pimp the African and Eurasian when it suits their needs.

(By the way, I’ll save you the trouble of making similar arguments about the Secret Chiefs 3 or any of my other heroes who, yes, incorporate “exotic” instruments and rework Indian or Middle Eastern traditional melodies. There’s an unmistakable artistry to some of these composers (Trey Spruance) that Sting lacks. Perhaps he’s too busy posing with the lute and soaking up the self-satisfaction to work a little harder on his music.)

So I feared Sting would fuck things up. I had total faith in Stew and Summers, faith not betrayed, but Sting I was unsure of. To my surprise he didn’t totally suck. His bass playing was as interesting as it always was in the ‘80s, a strange sort of beast that thumps and stutters on “Roxanne”, slides and oozes on “Contact” and bounces wonderfully on “Demolition Man.” Sting can still play the bass wonderfully. Sadly, he butchered a few of the songs with his trademark baby-talk chants. “Roxanne” was transformed into “Roxanne-ooh!” which the crowd was invited to chime back (and did like good little lambs); “Regatta de Blanc” was a welcomed insertion into “Can’t Stand Losing You” which was once sung by Sting with a bit of “The Banana Boat Song” thrown in for poor measure. This time it worked, though the climax of the recorded version was duplicated in a needless gesture of indulgence. The power of the first crescendo was essentially robbed by a repeat. The guys can still play, there’s no doubt, but they need to remember the power of the short, well-constructed song and not drag them out live until they are rendered into static sing-a-longs.

Really that is the problem. I’m a purist when it comes to a pop rock act like this. I want to hear a relatively faithful rendition of my favorite songs. Sting always was good at recreating the material into something far more obnoxious. Remember his version of “Roxanne” at Live Aid? Or worse, the god fucking awful song “Don’t Stand So Close to Me 86” that appeared on the unessential singles collection. A by product of too much studio time and band animosity, I doubt the three members were even in the same room when that piece of crap was recorded. But remember that both these offenses were committed as Sting was rising in popularity, the clear leader (though weakest link) of a powerful band soon to implode.

Aside from extended or reworked songs, I had little complaints with the show. Sure, they pulled out some predictable choices but they augmented those with a few more “deep cuts” that were nice to hear. A few songs sounded weak and tired, even ones I was eagerly anticipating, others were surprisingly well played, powerful and exciting. “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” a song I love and defend, sounded damn good stripped down three-piece style. (Though Stewart didn’t hit the snare drum fill toward the end that I have obsessed over since the song was a fresh radio hit. Seriously, when the song is on the radio and that little drum fill comes up, I get goose bumps in anticipation and have to play air drums even if I am driving down the expressway.) And I thought “Invisible Sun” sounded really good as well. Damn near haunting and perfect. These studio/keyboard heavy Ghost in the Machine songs that one might expect to suffer live actually amazed me more than anything. I was very happy that the boys did not have a back up band or pre-recorded synth tracks to accompany them. Nope, it was a raw three-man band playing live with little to no frills (save for the silly light show and nostalgia montage).

For the record, my ideal Police set would have looked like this:

Next to You
Hole in My Heart
Bring on the Night
On Any Other Day
The Bed’s Too Big Without You
Does Everyone Stare?
No Time This Time
When the World is Running Down, You Make the Best of What’s Still Around
Driven to Tears
Man in a Suitcase
Invisible Sun
Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
Demolition Man
Hungry for You (J'aurais Toujours Faim de Toi)
O My God
Ms. Gradenko
Synchronicity II
Tea in the Sahara
Murder By Numbers

Dare to dream.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Words Without Borders, Motherfucker

A sample from the website Words Without Borders, which I plug for personal reasons, yes, but it really is a good site with damn good material। I like the above story very much. Here’s another I enjoyed:

This one is a piece form something longer, which I need to fine and finish। The inevitable Murakami comparison came to me, though I am sure both writers would deny any similarities. And Koreans and Japanese would surely flay me for suggesting as much.

While we’re at it, read this:

It’s an interview with one of the Crack writers of Mexico, a guy responsible for a book that has taunted me from the shelves of the obnoxiously hip Myopic Bookstore। I will buy the book very soon, I am sure, especially after having read this little interview. I mean, you can’t fault a guy who dismisses House of the Spirits and claims Faulkner as the best American writer.

So this may give you an idea of how I’m spending my summer.