Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Winner

More Songs About Buildings and Food
What band has a higher percentage of awesome album covers?
And don't say "Pink Floyd."

Big boys' night out last night for me and little b. We went to Coney Island and I paid for $1.25 for a little Coke in a bottle and it was so worth it. B spun around on his counter seat as he ate his bunless hot dog, holding it like a microphone. The dishwashers in the back were just then discovering the first Strokes album--how old is that now? I forget.

And then we stopped by Borders to look for a new collection by Mark Strand which of course they don't carry because it doesn't have "Heartsongs" in the title. But it was "Educators' Weekend," where they get teachers to sign up for junk mail. Usually, I resist, but a raffle was coming up and I felt lucky for some reason. I tell the Borders guy at the sign up table that didn't have any I.D. to prove I was a teacher, and he says "that's okay--people generally don't lie about being teachers." Was that offensive? Probably just funny but true, I guess.

And then I won. The secret is to stick around. The first teacher who won must have moved on to World Market or something because they drew again, called my name, and awarded me with a bag filled with five pounds of red tissue paper, a bag of SBC coffee beans, and a travel mug. It doesn't even bother me that the cosmic list tallying how many more I'm allowed to Win in this life has been reduced by one for such a silly reward--it's just nice to be Chosen every once in awhile. Me. Chosen.

And in another strange twist, last evening the Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings and Food passed '77 for my favorite Talking Heads album. Their positions had been reversed for the last eighteen years at least, and now this. Pretty shocking.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Justice at Last

Sometimes I get an album and only give it 1/2 a listen before forgetting about it, only to rediscover it much later its awesomeness, leaving myself to wonder how my judgment could have been so poor the first time around.

This time, it's with Justice's album "cross" or whatever you call it--it's just a symbol of the cross, like on the one guy's chest here. I don't know anything about the group, but from the picture, they look like they've got that French grime-hip look totally dialed in. Sometimes I wish I could pull that off. Grimey is easy. Hip eludes me.

Usually don't dig much electronica, which is what Justice is, I guess. But then I hear Boards of Canada or Air or LCD Sound System or now Justice and I think "dang, there must be a whole world of cool electronic music out there just wondering what's taking me so long." And perhaps there is.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The War: Episode I

Okay, I'll be watching all of this, I think. What an amazing show that was.

It's odd--I think that I have carried this feeling in the past that Burns's projects were sometimes too apolitical, scrubbed somewhat so as not to offend anyone and to reach as wide an audience as possible. I wanted more of a stand, one way or the other, and I think in this episode we saw something of that. To my eyes at least there seemed to be a deliberate attempt to confront the mythic status of WWII as the last great "noble" war, in which good and evil was clearly separated and in which we (good) were were all united in pursuing the higher goal.

Tonight, Burns's subjects kept emphasizing the ignoble, like the admissions from a couple different men on Guadalcanal that they "never took a prisoner." MacArthur was portrayed as a bumbler and a coward. The guy from Minnesota emphasized that he and his friends didn't sign up out of patriotism, but to get out of the boring Midwest. Lots of time spent on the internment camps for Japanese Americans, too. And then look at how Burns ends this episode: with the guy recounting his night spent wishing a guy would hurry up and die so that he could get some sleep, only to find out the next day that it was his now dead best friend. It was more than just a "war is Hell" kind of statement.

I think Burns is trying to counter the WWII hagiography of movies like Saving Private Ryan and Pearl Harbor, or at least add some complexity to the popular image. That's what I saw, anyway.

I had no idea how unprepared for war we were in 1941--the idea that we didn't even raise a gun in combat until August of 1942 is staggering to me. But then, most of what I knew about WWII I learned from a stack of old war comic books called The Haunted Tank that I came across once as a kid. Man, those were good. I think the ghost of Gen. Robert E. Lee looked over the tank for some reason. It made sense at the time.

What to do.

Somehow, don't ask me how, I've watched less television in 2007 than almost any other year in my life. I think it's in part because I improved the feng shui in our living room, where there is no tv, so that it's a nicer place to hang than it used to be. But it has been nice, and quiet-like, and now PBS has to run that durn Ken Burns's fifteen hour WWII documentary. Fifteen hours?! It's ridiculous. My station will be able to fit two or three pledge drives in that span of time.

So yeah, am having a tough time figuring out how much time to devote to this. I think it's necessary, but a pain, too, like cleaning out your gutters.

I wonder if Ken Burns is rich or not. Can you get rich doing documentaries for PBS? I might have to have my friend Bob, who once got me J.D. Salinger's address and phone number, to dig up Burns's too so I can scope his crib on Google Earth.

Friday, September 21, 2007

New Band of Horses!

The school radio station got the new Band of Horses so I borrowed it and I'm currently trying to break a record for number of plays in a single day. They/He are one of those groups where you just wanted them not to change too much on their next record and thank goodness but they didn't. It was playing kind of loud in the kitchen while little b was eating supper and he goes "It's a sound museum! This is the sound museum!" and he was right.

Just in time for this record, too, because I was close to getting obsessed with MIA--but not quite. I can still only take Kala for about three songs in a row.

In other news, karma got me in the form of the Akron/Family review in Pitchfork, where they not only describe the best song on the new record as "Phishy" (ouch!) and then only give it a 7.3 or something. That hurt.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Request for AP, or other students

I don't know if any of y'all AP students will be reading this in time, but I just saw that Kid Nation is premiering tonight. If you could see a way to tape the episode for me, that'd be great; I don't have a working vcr these days. I'm curious to see what parallels, or outright allusions, there might be to Lord of the Flies. There'll be some extra credit in there for you, unless you're a past student, in which case I promise to write a better recommendation letter for you than I would have otherwise.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Maybe you go along knowing that the White Album/ Let it Be period may have provided us with the coolest era of Beatles haircuts. You know that. But sometimes you think secretly that the White Album is too long, and you know you don't know these records as well as you should. But then one day you hear St. Vincent cover "Dig a Pony" in the back of a London taxi, and it finally dawns on you just how negligent you have been. It makes you think that you could cover that song, or should, as soon as you can teach yourself how to play more than G C and D--oh, and Bm.

I don't know what it is about this version. Just really dig it. Sounds kind of like the old PJ Harvey 4 Track Demos record.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Nothing says "class" like a manila folder.
Thanks to everyone who came out last night to support Dana and me at the big readin'. What a great crowd that was, and they weren't even drunk or anything. I'm already trying to think about how to do this more often.
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007


As part of the "First Fridays" poetry series, my friend Dana Barret and I will be reading this Friday, September 7, at the Three Rivers Co-op . 7:30 sharp or so.

It will be totally fun--if you come.

Super-Secret after-party TBA, but I bet I don't get invited to it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Okay, I like The Golden Compass

I have a fair bit of the old fantasy and occasional sci-fi vein in me, stretching back to the days when Dungeons & Dragons came in a box with a thin blue rule book, and including books like Lloyd Alexander's series and the Michael Moorcock Elric novels, and of course Tolkien. But this is not a part of me that I like to acknowledge too often any more because I like to think that I have grown up or something, whatever that means. In fact, when I read Jonathan Strange & Dr. Norrell last year, I felt embarrassed to talk about it some times. I need to loosen up more.

However, so many folks have talked up the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials series that I've always been curious, and in a hammock at the lake this weekend, I gave the first volume, The Golden Compass, a try. I have to say: it is a ripping good yarn. It has some of the problems that most books in this genre have, but it's hard to notice them as I get pulled along by the adventure of it all. I love the "daemons" and the "armored bears" and the intrigue. It's a great change of pace.

There's a movie trailer online for the film version that's coming out this fall, and though it has some big names and some money behind it, it looks, like everything has to look now, I suppose, like something trying to ride the Harry Potter coat tails. I sure hope it's better than that, though.

Who knows. Maybe I'd like Harry Potter. Maybe I should just get it all over with at once--turn on some Phish and read the HP books straight through.