Monday, August 27, 2007

So yeah, two more things

1. Alberto Gonzales is gone! Yeaaaaaaaaaa!

2. Anybody know how to install a "blog roll" on blogger blogs? Any help would be deeply appreciated.

Nodin's Top Ten Activities, August 2007

1. Biting. Arms, knees, sofas, chairs, fingers, toys, whatever, look out, it's going in my son's mouth; if he can swallow it, he will, but otherwise all those teeth he's sprouting will drive into physical objects as deep as they can. When his target's your shoulder - as it often is when he gets really sleepy - look out!
2. Pulling himself to a standing position.
3. Using said standing position to walk around whatever object he's used to pull himself up.
4. Whining. To be fair, I whine too.
5. Tilting his head to the side and smiling at observers coquettishly.
6. Grabbing anything and everything within reach (and some stuff that appears to be out of reach until it magically materializes within his little fist or his mouth; see 1).
7. Drooling copiously (teething again).
8. "Dah dah dah dah dah!" whenever excited or agitated.
9. Throwing short Boss Hog-like tantrums (cf. The Dukes of Hazzard).
10. Using every available surface for percussion. It's a lot of fun to do this along with him, as it creates a sense - real or imagined - that we're communicating somehow on a special level that makes up for the fact that we can't yet have an actual logical conversation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Modest Proposal?

Following up on Comoprozac’s idea earlier this week: that could be interesting, you know, like a limited edition rap star concept-album version of the 33 1/3 book series. To wit:

Jay-Z on Michael Jordan
DMX on Michael Vick

Kanye West on Shani Davis
Cam’ron on Dennis Rodman
LL Cool J on Sugar Ray Leonard
Ma$e on Ricky Williams
50 Cent on Terrell Owens (or Charles Barkley or Mike Tyson?)
Eminem on Tiger Woods

Ghostface Killah on Ray Lewis
P. Diddy on Barry Bonds

Feel free to add on to/expand the list (or tell me why I’m wrong).

UPDATE: Oh, come on! Anybody?!?

# 997 Radiohead “A Wolf at the Door” [Capitol, 2003]

Suddenly, four years later, I may have to apologize to Radiohead for my incessant shafting of Hail to the Thief. Upon its release, was nonplussed; the reversion to rawk, not-so-much-with-the electronica action was inevitable enough, but it seemed to be that Thom and the boyz (a) needed to trim the bloated tracklist by, say, 3 or 4 songs and (b) allowed the least memorable numbers to meander on waaay too long (seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to sit through the whole thing without hitting “skip” a couple times; also, how can any critic honestly claim to care about “Punchup at a Wedding”? Come on). I still sorta feel that way, but in those songs I glommed onto initially – “I Will,” “There There,” “We Suck Young Blood,” “A Wolf at the Door,” “Myxomatosis,” “2 + 2 = 5,” “Thr Gloaming” – I now detect an overarching theme that I missed at the time but picked up on en route to Abingdon several Mondays ago: a sense of outrage and horror at how cruel and heartless the world at large often is, and concern at how one’s children will weather it’s darkening storm (as opposed to the default “eff the WTO/globalization/Bushco/The Mang/etc” framework I slotted it into before, along with everything else Radiohead/Yorke have accomplished this decade excepting Johnny Greenwood’s avant-garde solo jawns). I blame (if that’s the word) this dawning realization on the altered mindset parenthood brings about and knowing that a couple good friends are about to become parents or about to try to become parents.
I’ll get to some of the other songs eventually, but right now let’s examine “A Wolf at the Door,” already scary to your humble blogger in 2003 but downright apocalyptic today. The gloomy, musky atmosphere is pierced somewhat by a sashaying organ motif that brings to mind an evil carnival of sorts before Yorke even opens his mouth; after that, strings, vocal blobs, and all kinds of other sinister sonic detritus swarms the airspace as if to mirror lyrical worries. “A Wolf at the Door” was inspired by a real-life mugging and the singer’s subsequent sense of helplessness, that sinking feeling that one isn’t even slightly in control of the flow of events. Nothing can be controlled; the world-at-large is a vampire with no compunctions about destroying you and everything you care about. I like to imagine that Yorke’s character is dining with a friend, describing an unshakable, post-mugging nightmare: “Drag him out your window/Dragging out the dead/Singing I miss you/Snakes and ladders flip the lid/Out pops the cracker/Smacks you in the head/Knifes you in the neck/Kicks you in the teeth,” and so on. As he goes on about this, however, he becomes increasingly paranoid and delusional, unable to distinguish between reality and nightmare and believing that he’s caught at the center of some conspiracy or blackmail plot designed to ruin his life and/or drive him mad. Eventually he’s banging on the table, freaking out the other patrons, foaming at the mouth: “Walking like giant cranes/And with my X-ray eyes I strip you naked in a tight little worldand are you on the list?/Stepford wives who are we to complain?/Investments and dealers/Investments and dealers/Cold wives and mistresses/Cold wives and Sunday papers/City boys in First Class don't know we're born little/Someone else is gonna come and clean it up.” By the end, he’s convinced the friend is himself a spy, a turncoat, an informant: “I wish you'd get up get over get up, get over and turn your tape off!” The dread is active, pervasive, palpable, vicarious, as though listener and narrator alike could be detained indefinitely (precient shades of “black sites”) or assasinated (shades of Aeon Flux) at any moment, struck down by a heartless omnipresence that isn’t God but might as well be for all the power it wields.
We all know that Yorke is probably overdramatizing an experience that really happened, but alter a few details and this song could viewed from the perspective of just about anyone: me, you, a celebrity hiding out from stalkers or paparazzi, the homeless lady from that Crystal Waters hit single, Perez Hilton, Marc Rich in the 1990s. We’ve all felt the wolf’s metaphorical breath at our necks once or twice; sometimes its teeth were real, sometimes not.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Shawty, You a teeeen/A teeen/A teeeeeeeeen"

L to R: Nodin, Sheyanne, and Mason playing in a pool behind our house a few weekends back
The title means zip - it's a line from some R&B song I can't dislodge from my head this week, figured I'd throw it up there. So I notice that Kanye West and Lil Wayne have a new song titled "Barry Bonds" that's hit the internets. Haven't heard the thing, no idea what the content is, but like why don't we have more rap songs titled after prominent African-American athletes? Somebody should've written a song about Shani Davis by now? Seriously, that's right up Kanye's alley - victorious-yet-resentful speedskating champ who after winning some gold medal was so tense and bitter that the lady interviewing him was moved to ask, "Shani, are you angry?" You know, that whole thing about being totally successful yet feeling put-upon by his teammates. After the events of this week, maybe a song titled "Michael Vick" would be appropriate too, huh? I don't know. The weather here has been grey and wet and blah this week, and it seems to be coloring my mood; I just feel exhausted right now. This despite just coming out of a fun weekend where Nodin and Alecia came down here so we could all attend Paula's wedding (cheesy wedding music selection, spot-on service, delicious lasagna, inventive sea-shell theme and centerpieces). Life continues to feel fairly overwhelming in a number of respects. Anyway, some links: This whole indie-rock comp dust-up and its fallout are fairly amusing (I’m not sure who to side with, but there’s no way I’d ever buy the thing unless it was as a gift to a friend); a Beyonce blurb; a Psuedosix review; Aquarelle; me doing my 5ingles thing for a second week; a review of Letters to eBay in the Detroit Metro Times; Tom on High School Musical 2.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Do 2007 Album Covers Reveal How Musicians Feel About Illegal Downloading? Round One: 50 vs. Kanye

We wondered. We thought about it a bit. See, we spend a lot of time on the Internet, or at least thinking about stuff we came across while spending time on the Internet. We go here, and here, and here, and here as well. We drop in here, and there, and over there, and sometimes hit this spot as well; not to mention this site, this other one, and a couple others, like this and this and this (if not as much as we probably should). Voguing to Danzig is down, yo. We're all over the place. We come across a lot of album cover artwork. So we engaged in some baseless speculation, and here's what we came up with:

1. 50 Cent, Curtis: As his recent glossy magazine cover photos make plain, Fitty's peeved about illegal downloading, which threatens his bourgeoning military-industrial-corporate-pop empire - though one could be forgiven for interpreting his scrunched-up mugging as a manifestation of extremely painful constipation. On previous album covers, Fitty exploited the drive-by that helped propel him to fame and left him with a number of bullet wounds, rocking an uber-gangsta's musclebound, idealized invincibility. The Curtis cover suggests that former drug-hustler Jackson is presently old, grumpy, wisely concerned that Best Buy shoppers find his schtick tired and his business mongering distasteful, and is preparing to sit the purchaser down for a serious - possibly harsh - discussion about file-sharing and responsibily and RIAA cease-and-desist letters/lawsuits that he doesn't wanna have to bother with right now, as there's a running Lear stocked with Vitamin Water and lube-dripping King models, waiting to fly him to the Bahamas.

2. Kanye West, Graduation: Kanye's recent courting of hipsters via the appropriation of Daft Punk, Thom Yorke, and Peter Bjorn and John songs indicates that dude's fairly familiar with where his bread's buttered - and figures that everyone else who buys his records is cool enough with his relative hip-hop weirdness/outsider-persona/progressivity to keep on keepin' on. So the cover's total I'ma-do-my-thing-cuz-I'm-Kanye: manga manga manga, with shades of Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon and whatever Japanese animation meme is trendy with geeks these days. Translation: "La de dah!" Kanye West ain't sweatin' Limewire hustlers because plenty of folks believe in what he's about and will hold him down.

Fitty and Kanye are releasing these records on the same day - Tuesday, September 11, 2007. I'm fairly certain I know which CD I'm buying; are you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Lazy Wednesday

Seriously, I have a kick-ass blog post idea that I'll have pulled together by tomorrow or Friday, but for today, here's a quick list.

1. Dumb New Trend Alert: En route to Virginia Beach it seemed like every seventeenth car we passed had one of those fake "physical decals" that makes it appear that a hockey puck, football, or baseball had smashed/lodged into a rear windshield. Apparently this is a contemporary way of pledging one's allegiance to one sport or another. Only slightly lamer than plastering fake bullet holes all over your ride (be it a Caddy or a Datsun).

2. Hot, hot boyz! Read all about it!

3. This is what the United States gets for exporting all of its manufacturing to stay in the black. But on the other hand, now we can duck most of the blame!

4. Links! Sword Heaven, “Sights Not Long Gone”; Dinosaur Jr./Smashing Pumpkins/Shellac review feature; Brother Reade, Rap Music; the first entry in my spankin'-new weekly singles column for Minneapolis City Pages. Woooooo!

Monday, August 13, 2007

“Life’s a P(b)each”


that Italian leather-bound plot
however you like –
It won’t be missed, believe you me;

A remote island nation, you surely are:
Poisonous, quivering flora
Rabid, parasitic fauna
Hidden caches of WWII-era death toyz
Prostrate skeletons clawing still and ever-silent shores –

An unmapped paradise, perhaps
An arid no-man’s-land?
The whirlpool’s end:

A psychic vise?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

# 998 Pavement “Folk Jam” [Matador, 1999]

Ah, yaaaaaaasss – Terror Twilight’s crown jewel. This Johnny Knoxville-lookin’ dude’s take on the tune got me to thinking about it last night in bed whilst wrestling with some wicked insomnia, and I’ve come to the realization that “Folk Jam” is, in fact, the best thing Pavement ever committed to tape. Traditionally, new Silver Jews albums have driven me to write oodles of oblique poems, but “Folk Jam” represents complete and total lingual perfection, word-crafting domination, a flawless diamond; no-one can step to Steve Malkmus at this level. Silver Jew David Berman, Britt Daniel, Lil Wayne, Liz Phair, Ghostface Killah, Matthew Friedberger, Clipse, Bob Dylan, and many, many others bust out (or busted out, past-tense) zinging lines or couplets regularly, but none of them have put together an entire song that sparkles so bright or hits the same personal pressure points.

I Can’t Sing It Strong Enough insists, probably rightly, that Malkmus’ narrator is ashamed of his ancestry/family and seeks to escape it. Valid, sure, but to me “Folk Jam”’s protagonist so despises himself that his self-loathing predates even his own conception, extending back to and condemning his very national heritage and its assorted myths (and at one point going off on an apparently meaningless, but amusing, tangent). The masterful last lines – which pop into my head on occasion, unbidden – can be read two ways: a sarcastic prelude to a suicide attempt in order to escape this unrelenting self-disgust, or that the entire song has actually been a sarcastic, MFA-worthy “Dear Jane” letter. I prefer this second possibility, myself; when, in the summer of 1999, I drove around Caroline County, Maryland blasting the bootleg Twilight tape Matthew made me, that’s how I interpreted “Folk Jam.” I’d just graduated from college, was suffering through my first journalism day-job in the sticks, and was constantly bored, stressed out, stranded, alienated, depressed, and lonely. I never saw my friends and didn’t know how to make new ones; long-distance, certain people were starting to burn bridges that I still wanted to cross, and it hurt. “Folk Jam” condensed all of these emotions into a couple intense minutes. Spritely minutes, mind you. The contradiction here is that this is an incredibly lively, fiesty song; it sounds as though a three-armed American Gladiator is banging, plucking, and picking it out on a banjo as if his/her life depended upon it, probing every last crevice of the melody for different slants and angles and approaches, a hailstorm of boisterous hoedown notes overwhelming in its happy-happy-joy-joy onslaught – as is the idea was to temper the heavy pathos of the verses with a pharmacist’s perscription of Xanax. Here are those stunning closing lines: “Be as it may, I'm glad to say I'm around/Miles accrue and passengers add up/The message on the mirror says "stick with me"/Cause no one's there to read your reflection when I'm gone/Get it on.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Nothing Personal, Just Business" (seriously, couldn't think up a better title)

So far this week, this blog has been sadly short on conjecture and in-depth pop-culture babble. Chalk that up to my hurdling from a fun-but-exhausting vacation to a suddenly insane workplace and the need to tackle a bunch of pending freelance stuff; next week will see a return to the utter nonsense VtD readers have come to love, expect, and ignore. In the interim, dig this preliminary and extremely subject to change “best albums of 2007” list, offered sans commentary/links. Initially, I wanted to keep a running top 100 albums shortlist to be published here at year’s end, but the project ultimately proved so frustrating that I abandoned it in favor of a more managable 25 discs.

1. Sightings Through the Panama (Load)
2. The Dead C. Future Artists (Ba Da Bing!)
3. Carlos Giffoni Arrogance (No Fun)
4. Kieran Hebden & Steve Reid Tongues (Domino)
5. Needlegun The End of August at Hotel Ozone (MT6)
6. Burning Star Core Blood Lightning 2007 (No Fun)
7. Air Conditioning Dead Rails (Load)
8. Odd Girl Out Hurry Up and Wait (self-released)
9. Nine Inch Nails Year Zero (Interscope)
10. WZT Hearts Threads Rope Spell Making Your Bones (Carpark)
11. Deerhoof Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars/5 Rue Christine)
12. The Fiery Furnaces Widow City (Thrill Jockey)
13. Battles Mirrored (Warp)
14. Fall Out Boy Infinity On High (Island/Def Jam)
15. Heavy Winged Enough Rope (Cut Hands)
16. Arbouretum Rites of Uncovering (Thrill Jockey)
17. Prodigy Return of the Mac (Koch)
18. The Twilight Sad Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters (Domino)
19. El-P I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead (Def Jux)
20. Blitzen Trapper Wild Mountain Nation (self-released)
21. Dinosaur Jr. Beyond (Fat Possum)
22. Bring Back The Guns Dry Futures (Feow!)
23. Khate Field Report (self-released)
24. Jazkammer & Smegma Endless Coast (No Fun)
25. Albert Hammond Jr. Yours to Keep (New Line)

HONORABLE MENTION: Panda Bear, Eric Copeland, Christy & Emily, The Vocokesh.

Last Week in Alecia, Nodin, Voguing to Danzig, Virginia Beach, and so forth

Enjoy! Alecia took the /night/fireworks photos, which are nothing short of amazing. She thinks she could sell them, and I agree!

Heavy Winged "Enough Rope" review

As longtime Voguing to Danzig readers know, I regularly offer links to my articles here once they’ve hit the web. But, like, I submitted the review below to a frequently updated website that I’ve been writing for years three frickin’ months ago and it hasn’t been published yet. Three months! With print magazines that’s normal and understandable. Here, not so much, and I’m tired of asking the editor what’s up. It wouldn’t feel like so much of a big deal if the label wasn’t based in the Netherlands and hadn’t sent me this disc and another one, and if the label guy, a kindly fellow ILM poster, hadn’t sent the package to me at my personal request. Granted, the CD is long sold out, but fair is fair. Not hating on the editor, who will remain nameless and has got a lot on his plate and maybe just lost the email message. Whatever – here’s the review in question:

Heavy Winged
Enough Rope
(Cut Hands)

Yeah, I know – Enough Rope is already sold out, and it ain’t fair, you’d just now heard of Heavy Winged, etc. Get used to it; that’s just how this Brooklyn, NY/Portland, OR trio rolls. Dudes’ conceit seems to be “watch this space” – their myspace – “and pounce with your PayPal bounce as soon as we announce our latest improvised-straight-to-tape, limited-to-50-copies cdr/lp/cassette.” It’s a blink-and-you’re-outta-luck dare, a tease, and it’s worth the temptation because Heavy Winged are downright psych-o-pathic. A 4-track recording of the band’s only show to date – Brooklyn, sometime in June 2006 - Rope falls somewhere between shred-y metal and outright noise. “Varcolac 1” finds guitarist Ryan Hebert generating a violent, vascillating vibration which must have required a rec room full of pedals, because there’s more ax wildin’ happening at the same time – contemplative plinks and otherworldly drones filling the space where bassist Brady Sansone and drummer Jen Binderman should’ve been, though one wonders if their parts were simply expirated by Hebert’s full-court press. At first, “Varcolac 2” looks to be another Hebert showboat, albeit more narrowly murderous, until his bandmates’ thump arrives in time for the chordage to become crudely flashy, the three elements punching away at your brainstem. On “Varcolac 3” the three decompress, slipping into a spacious, dirge-y almost-jazz groove that’s as much a relief for us as it is for them, but by “Varcolac 4” the heat’s back up for a balls-out, run-on denoucement so full-tilt and white-hot that you’ll question whether you were even actually even awake - or alive - prior to experiencing it.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Power, Knowledge, etc.

Prior to leaving on vacation, I submitted this to as part of my appeal to join their writing staff. No reply as-yet , and re-reading this thing now, it’s fairly lame, so no surprise, really.

Security, Territory, Population
By Michel Foucault
Palgrave, hardcover

“I must apologize, because I will be more muddled than usual today. I’ve got the flu and don’t feel very well. I was bothered all the same, since I had some misgivings about letting you come here and then telling you at the last minute that you could leave again. So, I will talk for as long as I can, but you must forgive me for the quantity as well as the quality.”

So begins the fifth of thirteen chapters contained in Security, Territory, Population, the latest in a continuing series of texts excavating Michel Foucault’s College De France lectures; it’s an interesting quote for three reasons. First, it’s one of the few personal detours Foucault allows himself herein; second, his illness did not in anyway deter him from delivering a lengthy, thorough address; and third, this reviewer was a year and change past his first birthday and thousands of miles way when the late “archeology of systems of thought” philosopher uttered them, in his native French, on February 8, 1978.

Palgrave’s uniformly handsome hardback editions bring to mind rock, pop, and jazz reissue collections – the Miles Davis deluxe boxes, exhaustive Grateful Dead sets, and so on – that labels trot out to shore up their bottom lines and leave music geeks salivating with anticipation. Anyone with a dog-eared copy of Power/Knowledge molding away in storage can claim a basic understanding of Foucault’s work. Anyone who has plowed through – and absorbed and grasped – Madness & Civilization, Discipline & Punish, both volumes of The History of Sexuality, and myriad other published texts can boast a significantly advanced understanding. Anyone who is snapping up these College De France books as soon as they become available, on or whatever, and desperately gnawing through them – think of ‘em as immaculately produced, vintage live bootlegs with kick-ass liner notes – is a Master’s level Foucault scholar, aspires to be one someday, or totally insane.

This isn’t to condemn Security, Territory, Population, which is mostly concerned with the gradual, incremental evolution of government as we now know it, from the concept of royal sovereignty-cum-dictatorship to a system by and for a given body of people. As ever, Foucault traces events from the 16th and 17th centuries forward as plagues, scarcities, and other population-related issues necessitate the formation of bureaucracies and period social thinkers wrestle with The Little Prince, the many-splendered notion of God as a “shepherd” overseeing his “flock” – and religious leaders serving as terrestrial emissaries, with ever-decreasing relevance – and nation-states shifting from spiritual in purpose to eternally-sustaining entities. In light of U.S. president George W. Bush’s secret and illegal manuevers here and abroad – under the supposed guise of strengthening and protecting “the homeland” – the publication of Security, Territory, Population seems especially timely, as pro-“democracy” neocon thinking collapses into prolonged chaos in Iraq and the U.S. Administration contemplates transforming a Western-hostile Iran. The September 11, 2001 tragedy began a drift, a reversion, back towards a government orchestrated by one man with the assistance of impassive sycophants – a democracy turning into a dictatorship with the professed mission of turning dictatorships into democracies.

Fascinating stuff, and there is more besides in Security, Territory, Population. As a window into the genesis of ideas that would later be developed and eloquently elaborated upon elsewhere, it’s an instructive, revealing document that reenforces the timeless veracity of Foucault’s fabled “power is knowledge is truth” axiom. Yet the getting there itself – and this is true in all entries of this series – will be something of a slog for readers not accustomed to tackling rambling, intellectual tomes. The subject matter isn’t beyond the average educated adult’s comprehension, but the speaker’s tangental or referential detours pile up quickly and threaten at times to lose us completely en route to some overarching point – a failing that Joan Didion’s otherwise excellent Political Fictions shares. This is no fault of the publishers’ or Foucault himself; it would have been dishonest to amend these remarks, and the nature of lectured notes lends itself to meandering. Here my comparison to music breaks down somewhat. Recordings capture audience reaction; the Palgrave books offer no receptive equivalent. It would be interesting to know what Foucault’s students made of his volumnous, footnoted-to-hades-and-back remaks, if they disagreed or felt he didn’t go far enough in his theories – alas.

Worse is that Security, Territory, Population feels no more personally revealing than any of the man’s other interviews, writings, or speeches – which weren’t all that revealing themselves. There is no sense that we are learning anything special about him as an individual – besides the fact that he was as likely as anybody else to get sick and perhaps as determined to do continue to do his job despite the fact of his illness. Ultimately one comes away enlightened, but also a mite queasy, head swimming, reaching for a collection of Garfield cartoons.