Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Sky's Not Falling

But the water level's rising! I love (and by love, I mean hate) how President Job can look right into the face of evidence for global warming-agitated weather and still claim that the debate rages on.

This is starting to veer from the Book of Job to the Book of Jonah, but if I lived in D.C. I'd still be more worried about blight and disease than whales. At least until the glaciers melt.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Axl Rose Allegedly Bites Security Guard!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Intonation Fest

I spent the weekend covering the Intonation Fest, which was a blast. Lots of good music, more acts to put in my mental Rolodex as bands I've seen (Roky Erickson), and I got to talk with Jon Brion for over an hour late last night. How cool is that?

On the way home, though, something spooky happened. On the train, with the rain just beginning to trickle down, a homeless guy (or at least someone stoned into an approximation of a homeless guy) interrupted the silence on the green line with a haunting, haunted, hushed rendition of a few versus from "Stairway to Heaven" sung to no one. That song is sometimes invoked as a punchline, but boy, was it powerful last night, not unlike Gavin Bryers' fascinating, hypnotic "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet.".

Imagine a soulful but very subdued voice offering this to an audience he may or may not have been aware even existed:

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our souls
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last

And then he went silent.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Sasha Frere-Jones: critic?

Sasha Frere-Jones is one of the most prominent and talented music writers working today, and he was that way well before he joined the prestigious staff of the New Yorker. He typically does a remarkable job making experimental music and hip-hop understandable and even enjoyable to many readers unfamiliar with those fields, something a good deal of music writers can't usually do, even with a captive, in-tune audience. Heck, the fact that S F-J even gives hip-hop the time of day sets him apart from 90% of white, older than 30 music writers.

But is he much of a critic? I'm not sure. His current piece on Radiohead never quite makes clear why he never followed, let alone respected, the British band. Or, in his words, why "until recently, I hadn’t seen much point in doing so,” especially considering the band, for the past ten years or so, has been extremely worth following. At the very least they were worth following because (again by his own admission) he knew so many people who urged him to do just that. Critics should keep abreast of things, you know? The number of people I know who still respond with knee-jerk antipathy to the suggestion they listen to, say, Justin Timberlake or, even better, see him live, are missing out. Heck, maybe S F-J was just exaggerating for effect, since this Slate piece on Radiohead from a few years ago seems pretty well informed, if a little pretentious. So maybe I misunderstood

More to the point, however, the New Yorker piece goes on to explain what changed his mind, and frankly here's where it's my turn not to follow. Based on three recent concerts, he constantly compares Radiohead to haze-inducing, pot-smoking jam-bands, ending with a flat-out comparison to the Grateful Dead. Huh? As a musician, S F-J should know better. Indeed, as someone attuned to the creation of electronic or other sample-based music, he clearly knows the difference between "jamming" and improvisation and composition, and points it out in the piece. Radiohead's songs are obviously very composed, S F-J concedes. That's why they're relatively concise. The Grateful Dead's music as well as that of their followers, by and large, is not.

Further, there's nothing remotely psychedelic about Radiohead, a band currently indebted to '90s Brit-pop (by way of Morrissey) and electronic (by way of Warp) than anything close to the '60s or that hippie aesthetic.

So why bring up the Dead in the first place? Just because some Radiohead fans dance badly and smoke pot? Get out much, S F-J? Welcome to concerts. At least Radiohead fans don't smell like Dead fans. Maybe that's the key difference.

Much better than the New Yorker piece, albeit more esoteric than outright funny, is the Radiohead bit S F-J posted on his own personal website, which reveals a much greater contempt for the group (or at least a general snobbishness) and makes you wonder whether he was somehow pressured into a positive take in the wider read pages of the New Yorker, a magazine whose classical critic, Alex Ross, wrote what could be the definitive take on the braininess and creative brawn of Radiohead.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


This morning, while watching TV, Baby Z. suddenly exclaimed: "Want Kleenex!" She then left the room for a few seconds, came back with a tissue, and wiped her nose (which wasn't even messy). I asked her if she could then throw the tissue away, and she said "No, Daddy do," and handed it to me. Go figure.

Lately she's also been running around manically, chanting "Oh no! Where is it?! I'm looking!" Kids are great mimics and parrot all sorts of stuff, but for the life of me I can't remember what I did to stick this in her head. Or, for that matter, guess why it's stuck in her head in the first place. Is she even really looking for something? Whatever "it" is, I've yet to see her find "it." Typically something else will catch her eye and bump her out of her OCD loop. Very strange.

I Did Not See Radiohead Last Night

And I could have. Do I regret the decision? No, not really. I'm alone with Baby Z. right now while Alma is travelling for work, so I would have needed a babysitter. And honestly there were better ways to spend the $50 for a ticket (not including selling it on eBay for $300, ha ha). But more to the point, I've seen Radiohead - what, four, maybe five times before? And they've always been good. In fact, I think they're always good. So in a sense, I don't need to see them at all, since I know how the show will turn out: good! Besides, they'll be back when they have a new album to promote.

This is actually the second time I've turned down Radiohead tickets, in a small venue no less, which brings up another point: I've seen every single band I've ever wanted to see, even bands that had been broken up for years, at least one time. Heck, I've seen many of them multiple times! I haven't seen any of them as many times as I've seen the Drive-By Truckers, but I've seen enough of them enough times that given the choice between heading out for the night and staying in, I often stay in.

Does this make me old?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Where Am I?

Back from vacation! I was in Canmore, Alberta, Canada, and it was very, very pretty. I'll post a picture soon to make all of you swoon and exclaim "hey, that looks like where they filmed 'Brokeback Mountain!'" To which I will respond, "it IS where they filmed 'Brokeback Mountain!'" Well, more or less. But we did meet the sled dog that had a cameo in that movie as a wolf. At the same sled dog kennel (even in the great outdoors, 150 dogs smell like 150 dogs) we met another tenant who was indeed 90%wolf, and looked it. Still a sweetie, though. He even let Baby Z. give him a pat.

While the region was full of stealthy wolves and moose, and home to not so shy big horned elk, what makes Canmore and the Banff National Park area so special and famous and the sheer number of bears, both black bears and grizzlies. We didn't see any, of course, but their stories both preceded and followed us. As in, "You didn't see the bear? There was one hanging around here this morning." Or the local newspaper story that contained the line "the bear chased the mountain biker on his bike."

Then again, who am I to complain? A year ago, right around this time (the peak of breeding/berry season), a bear ate some girl in Canmore. So better to hear about them then see them, I suppose.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Entertainment Weekly's Redesign Sucks

EW used to be one of the most reliable reads in the magazine world. Smart, funny, well written. It may still be those things, somewhere, but who can read the damn thing? The articles/reviews are shorter, there's more charts, sidebars, quotes and charticles popping up all over the place and cluttering the pages, and ever more lists. The magazine has instantly dumbed itself down, and for what purpose? My understanding was that EW was doing quite well. Why did they have to go and mess things up right after I renewed? Now it looks and reads like Spin's ADD-addled cousin, and as anyone who reads Spin will (hopefully) attest, that's not a good thing.

Then again, maybe that was the objective: redesign EW to appeal, like so many publications these days, to the robust and extensive non-reader market. Everything now must be shorter, louder, simpler. The once savvy and snazzy EW has transformed into the print equivalent of yelling slowly at someone who doesn't speak English.

Why should I even bother writing when all trends point to mass illiteracy? I agree more and more with my sister that America cripples itself with some disturbingly anti-intellectual traits. I can only imagine the focus group results that lead to the EW change:

"We're dumb, and we like it that way, dammit! Give me something short, loud and simple. Treat me like I'm twelve-years old and stupid. Stop covering things I won't see or read and stick to the blockbusters and bestsellers, ideally the ones with big explosions and small words, please. And above all else, I like my pages busy. So rather than each page containing one long piece, how about a dozen little paragraph-sized pieces per page, with lots of pictures to look at? That would be a lot easier to browse when I'm on the can. Thanks! P.S. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are HOT! More of them, please."

Friday, June 02, 2006

Red Hot Chili Petty

The first time I heard that Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Dani California" I thought, hey, this sounds just like Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance." I guess I wasn't the only one. Odd that both bands record with Rick Rubin. You'd think he might have noticed.

Then again, Nickelback famously didn't notice ripping off themselves.

Hey, music is hard!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Homeland Security to New York City: "Never Heard of You."

New Yorkers tend to think of themselves as the center of the universe, and for that they should be resented and ridiculed. However, even an anti-New Yorker must concede the city has several attributes of international note. And yet Homeland Security apparently cut funds to NYC due to its paucity of icons and monuments.

Well, I'll give them this: now that the World Trade Center's gone, there's certainly one less icon!

Jeez, the nerve of our dumb government. If there's one city that probably needs a little extra TLC on the security front ...