Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On Politicians & Syllogisms.

Rhetoric is volatile. The words we choose & the order in which we choose them can't help but be powerful, influential, easily shaped & more easily misunderstood—even expertly deployed, by some, & these are (hopefully) those to whom we are asked to listen on matters of great import (e.g., "winning the future," as an audience Presidentially browbeaten with this phrase have surely grasped by now). & yet, of course, just as the most successful media have always been those that distribute porn, so is the most cunning & successful rhetoric almost unfailingly toxic, the most manipulative—dissemblance where there ought to be growth.

For those of you who didn't watch the President's speech last night, do, if only to applaud lines like "with the conviction that American Muslims are a part of our American family" & "Starting this year, no American will be kept from serving the country they love because of whom they love"
[Here's hoping I quoted those correctly; I was typing while he talked...]—&, if you're like me, to cringe a little, every time he calls America "the greatest nation on Earth," bracing yourself for the the Yertle-tower of our hubris to collapse. In short, it was a sobering speech, both in content & construct—from folksy by-name exemplars to clever interpolation of Democratic policy proposals with Republican bone-tossing. President Obama didn't even have to say it outright: going by the careful tactics of his speechwriters alone, it's hard not to recall that the world is different, irrevocably, & made of soundbytes.

Still, if you'll permit me a digression from the Main Event, his is not the rhetoric I want to discuss—the kind I so hyperbolically slandered in my introduction. Oh, no: that prize goes to Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who had the distinct pleasure of delivering last night's Conservative Rebuttal.

As much as I'd like to object to Mr. Ryan's stipulations about Obama's proposed budget, I can't in good conscience: I would never be so vain as to assume that passing skims of various news outlets & a fanatical devotion to The West Wing bring me anywhere near the level of understanding required to legitimately debate finance with a Budget Committee chair. That said, I can & do object wholeheartedly to his sleight-of-hand entangling of that very budget expertise with conservative politics, as if the one implies the other.

In fact, in my estimation, it harkens back to one of the most basic rhetorical forms in the book: the Syllogism:

Socrates is a man. All men are mortal. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

Or, from Ryan's earnest jawline:

Spending too much is bad. The government is spending too much. Therefore, Government is bad.

It's not that this statement is manifestly wrong, per se; when the government spends too much, that is, indeed, bad. Rather, poison starts to take hold with that slippery excising of the conclusion's rightful definite article—a reduction of "this period in the practices of the United States government" to the dangerously blunt "Government," which comes off as an Orwellian golem with arms made of taxes & big spiky boots bent on crushing Freedom.

There is no doubt that the size & purview of government is an issue—maybe the issue—that deserves constant reexamination & debate by its members, both citizen & legislator. Personally, as a self-professed Fruity Liberal Wuss, I tend to prefer that the government be held responsible for the wellbeing of its citizens (re: schools, roads, even—fingers crossed—health care) in ways that include more input (re: taxes) than many seem to be comfortable with. That's an opinion I'm more than willing to discuss—to rehash, ever, which policies deserve to be under federal vs. state control. What I refuse to tolerate, however—&, in fact, find unconscionably dangerous & stupid, yet manage to see regurgitated daily by men & women in tricorner hats—is this shrewd, alchemical peddling of the notion that the very idea of Government is somehow contrary to Liberty.

To be clear, the concern itself is not what's stupid. In fact, it's the seminal question behind all of the great social contract thinkers (Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau): How do we reconcile the manifest benefits of living in society with the loss of freedom that such a system seems to require? That is, why do we choose to live under a government, if its laws necessarily restrict our ability to do whatever we want? The Hobbesian picture is, as you may recall, rather bleak: he describes man's pre-societal State of Nature as a vulgar, untenable State of War, one that makes surrendering freedom in exchange for any small amount of order look all too attractive. In his description, forming a government seems to be the rock over the hard place, the better of two undesirables.

Whereas Hobbes's understanding of freedom might best be characterized as "being able to do what you want, when you want," both Locke & (mainly) Rousseau attempt to carve out a more positive definition. Each argues, in his own way, that true freedom is defined by the ability to protect both self & property in the interest of self-betterment—that coming together under a common set of regulations keeps the baseness Hobbes feared in check &, in that way, allows you more opportunities to pursue your goals. If everyone can do what they want, when they want, there can be no guarantee of safety; you'll constantly be looking over your shoulder, worrying that your neighbor might dominate you in some way—through harm or theft or Black Eyed Peas out of giant speakers—& there will be no greater power to rein him in. So, rather than "freedom to set your lawn on fire while wearing a silly hat," government provides us with "freedom not to be killed in your sleep"—or, as John Stewart put it in his recent interview with former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, "freedom not to have E. Coli in your spinach."

Of course, if you were to ask the men & women in tricorner hats, I think that the first thing they would tell you is that they believe the government is encroaching on exactly this kind of freedom—that the current administration is foisting laws on them that they believe will fundamentally & negatively alter their way of life. Locke had an answer for such complaints, of course: he explicitly states that any law that doesn't increase freedom should be done away with. But here's the rub: as exemplified by the videos of Chase Whiteside & New Left Media (among others), it seems that the people most steamed about this impending tyranny of our proto-Socialist government have no idea why they think that.

All Mr. Whiteside does is repeatedly ask for specifics—just as all Stewart did to Pawlenty was repeatedly ask why Obama is perceived as more tyrannical than the president who enacted a blanket education reform like No Child Left Behind—&, time after time, no answer comes. There are no reasoned arguments, no statesmanship. Rather, there are a series of talking points, ten-word answers & catch-phrases (almost all of them attributable to a certain cable news channel)—& this is, I think, the site of the real tyrannous disaster.

Because, in fact, perhaps the most crucial aspect of Locke's faith in government—Rousseau's insistence that by living in society, we are "forced to be free"—is that the public be actively involved in the practice of its government. For all the flag-waving & "LIBERTY"-shouting, people seem to have forgotten that the key component of this Democracy (or, well, Democratic Republic) they so champion is that it demands its citizens be politically involved—&, moreover, that political involvement is measured least by the ability to shout & hold a sign. It's no coincidence, perhaps, that the Tea Party has named itself after the flashiest & emptiest act of the American Revolution. Sure, the Red Coats saw we weren't to be messed with once we ruined their Earl Grey—but the Tea Party was, at its core, a single & symbolic act of thuggery. Rather, informed debate—a measured discussion of issues—is what this country was founded on, & is, in fact, the only thing that will keep it running as those founders intended.

As such, in any responsible & open society (as I believe we all wish the United States to be), there is plenty of room to point out precisely which laws you consider unnecessary. Indeed, in order to be sure our government is operating at its full Locke/Rousseau-ian freedom-supplying potential, we ought to consistently question its practice. There might even be room for me to suggest that government can be more than a glorified judge & jury—a bringer of betterment to the least well off under its purview, to make sure that they too feel their non-domination is at its peak. You can, in turn, say that my view is excessive—is naïve—is harmful, specifically, in numbers & bills passed. What you don't say, Paul Ryan, is this:

"It's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all time low, when the size of government is at an all-time high."
I mean, do you see what he did there?

Today's government is big. Today's government is mistrusted. Therefore, its bigness is the cause of its mistrust.

Not its practice, not its policies, but the very fact of its size. More Government < Less Government. It's that simplified. Seriously, now: that's the equivalent of me saying, "I slipped on a patch of ice yesterday. I was wearing my blue shirt yesterday. Therefore, blue shirts cause people to slip on ice." Correlation simply does not imply causation, no matter how much we may want it to—&, moreover, no matter how succinctly it may turn a pretty (& pretty damn manipulative) phrase. 

News outlets have been engaged in furious debate over political rhetoric since the tragedy of the Arizona shootings—questioning its power, its penchant for violent imagery—& the overall consensus seems to be a blanket chill-pill issued to politicians, a challenge posed to keep their venom in check—to recognize the impossible influence of the simple act of speaking. However, I'd like to tack on an amendment: I think that the only way to really raise the level of our public debate is to drain this bile from both its content & its construct. Though calls for "Second Amendment remedies" to solve Ms. Palin's problems are certainly not helping, neither are her bite-size generalizations about the role of government (or "Obamacare," or "lamestream media," on & on). Oversimplification, rhetorical manipulation: they're symbiotic, the one the afterbirth of the other, tumbling with acrobatic precision into a muddle of pomp & circumstance & network news. Imposed ignorance is more tyrannical than any legislation, & more pernicious than any tyrant; these are issues that deserve specific, in-depth treatment, not performative summary.

Though my knowledge of The West Wing may not be enough to bring me to Ryan's financial par, Mr. Sorkin has supplied me with an exchange (from Season 4, Episode 6) that sums up my criticism of his rhetorical tactics with elegance to spare:

Debate Moderator: Governor Ritchie, many economists have stated that the tax cut, which is the centrepiece of your economic agenda, could actually harm the economy. Is now really the time to cut taxes?

Governor Robert Ritchie: You bet it is. We need to cut taxes for one reason - the American people know how to spend their money better than the federal government does.

Debate Moderator: Mr. President, your rebuttal.

President Bartlet: There it is. That's the ten word answer my staff's been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They're the tip of the sword. Here's my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I'll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while, every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that's way too big for ten words.

Because the truth is, politicians on both sides of the aisle seem to have skimmed their Shakespeare—stopped reading after Lady Macbeth whispers in her husband's ear to look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't. Either that, or they've forgotten how, once their mouths are opened & the Rubicon is crossed, all the perfumes of Arabia could never sweeten such a crude, divisive argument.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Normally, I try not to correlate songs too rigidly with post themes (re: talking & finkishness), but I have been re-Eno-ing as of late—rediscovering (though I never really leave it) one of my all-time favorite albums ever, ever, ever: Here Come the Warm Jets, his first solo effort post-Roxy Music. All of the songs are fantastic & fascinating, from more traditional glam to deconstructed instrumentals—layers of synth bubbling & receding, pulling you in like undertow. "Dead Finks" is one of the album's quirkier tracks, to be sure, but it's also catchy & wonderful—if only in reminding us that to be a zombie all the time requires such dedication.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Reflection for a Friday Evening.

If ever there comes a day when the demise of the human race looks imminent—when, for whatever reason, things get out of hand, & we accept our inevitable defeat in the face of pissed-off trees that can communicate with Mark Wahlberg forces beyond our control—if, in that time, some organization decides to create an encyclopedia of the human experience, a multi-sensory reference guide to life as lived on Earth, I hereby suggest that the official olfactory entry for "Feet" come from my stuffy closet of a dorm room.

That is all.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Sometimes I forget how fantastic this song is. But then it comes up on shuffle. & then I dance, a lot. Platonic punk, excellent lyrics—she wasn't what you'd call living, really: she was still awake! So, so good—amping, ever, for the weekend.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Strings Attached: A Rant in Three Movements.

One of the excellent things about vacation, as we all know, is having the time to catch up on all those leisure activities school almost inevitably rules out: reading, guitar-ing, nail-painting—or, most likely, watching hours upon hours of online television. This latter pastime took up a decent amount of my last few days home, still laid low with Cold & therefore on a very funky & misanthropic sleep schedule—the cure for which seemed to be drownings in Daily Show back-issues & re-re-re-viewings of all Logo shows that feature RuPaul. In doing so, however, something has come to my attention—not because I wanted it to, mind you, but because both Comedy Central & Logo have sold it quite literally all of their ad space, such that the same two thirty second spots come on back to back, every single commercial break. This something, this bothersome blotch on my entertainment experience (& my general consciousness as a sentient being) is, in fact, the forthcoming exercise in snooze-worthy Romantic Comedy, No Strings Attached. (Click for trailer-itude.)

Though normally I suspend judgment until after I've seen the film behind even the most painfully stupid of trailers, I feel that, in this case, such postponement is unnecessary. I think I can safely say, hand wavering above my crystal ball (re: watching one of its four TV spots for the 794th time), that this movie is, plainly put, the worst—a bloated & depressing amalgamation of every painfully stupid rom-com convention scraped into a lumpy pile of utter failure. Okay, it's possible that my view is somewhat clouded by the truly inhuman amount of times I've been asked to look at its excuse for advertising—but, hyperbole aside, here are a few of my infinite problems with this future box-office bomb (please, Dog—if there's any justice left in the universe...).

1) An Open Letter to Natalie Portman.

Dear Natalie Portman,

As you are no doubt aware, you are about to be nominated for a bevy of prestigious awards, after a spectacular (& spectacularly demanding) role in one of the best films to come out this year. You just worked under (genius on toast) Darren Aronofsky, were held parallel to Winona Ryder, & got cozy with Vincent Cassel & Mila Kunis respectively. While I understand, therefore, that a role opposite Ashton Kutcher allows you one more notch in your "I Movie-Boffed the Cast of That 70s Show" punchcard, I think there are greater ramifications to consider in jumping from a smart & moving piece of art to this deformed excuse for a film.

Really, though: the former presents the psychologically complex story of a perfectionist cracking under pressure, replete with interweaving lines of symbolism & understated suspense, while the latter centers around period jokes & unfunny references to Up. & did I mention Ashton Kutcher? What else does this man have to do to earn himself a permanent Dignity Vacuum stigma? Does no one else remember Punk'd? How about that physically-painfully stupid movie he made with Brittany Murphy (RIP, Tai) about a honeymoon-gone-wrong in Europe? I find it next to impossible that I'm the only one who feels this way.

So maybe you were in the crappy modern Star Wars movies, & sure, your way of pronouncing certain consonants makes me want to strangle puppies, but that doesn't change the fact that you're better than this, ladyfriend. Seriously now.

Kisses & Snuggles,

P.S. I would totally support you shaving your head again. Just saying—it looked awesome.

2) Imagining this plot is the more expedient version of a lobotomy.

There are only two ways this movie could end. Seriously: even the tagline spells it out in binary terms: "Can Sex Friends Stay Best Friends?" So, either the answer is yes, & everyone sheds a tear for the 21st century (with a simultaneous cringe at the term "Sex Friends), or—as anyone with a basic understanding of the causal order of a sentence will bet—the answer is no, & the two protagonists end up together. I mean, I would include the third option of "No, & after a blow-out argument, they part ways, never see each other again," or even the fourth option of "No, because they were both the same person all along, & now, in a race against time, they have to disarm a missile aimed at the Pentagon by Katherine Heigl," but both of these options seem more than slightly to the left of what this advertising calls for.

& while we're talking plot, let me just add quickly: This would Never. Happen. I mean, of course I've grasped that films are fictional—that hobbits & wizards don't actually hang out in the New Zealand countryside, etc.—but in such non-fantastical settings, when your movie is clearly placing itself in the "Telling It Like It Is About Relationships" paradigm, I feel it's not invalid for me to point out that this kind of relationship does not occur naturally in the world. Or, if it does, it's because movies like this are made, & two people with ad space for brains decide to give it a go. Really, though: best friends who suddenly realize they're sexually attracted to each other (already straining the bounds of probability, but fine), & yet refuse to start a relationship, because... Why? Because there are 100 minutes of screen time left to use up is the real reason, but it seems incongruous to me that two people who are "best friends" (re: communicate often in a way that is pleasant to both) would be unable to outline something slightly less schizophrenic than Friends With Benefits that suits both their needs. I mean, Natalie Portman's character explains that she doesn't want to eat breakfast with her man in the morning, Ashton agrees to those terms, & yet they insist on being Sex Friends instead of Girl/Boyfriend Who Don't Eat Together In the Morning.

(This segment of) my real problem, I think, is not with the movie itself, but with what it aggressively exemplifies: I really, strongly dislike the way our (pop) culture has created this Thing called a Relationship™, with all its predictable stages & homogenized definitions—a marketing tool posing as a life choice. It's touted as the Next Level for the sexually involved; once your dating HP is high enough, you're implicitly prescribed a certain number of phone calls per week, texts per hour, dates per month, lavishness on Valentines Day—not because any of this matters to your emotional health, per se, but because it sells more copies of Glamour, which are intentionally besotted with articles about how many calls per week, on & on. In fact, I say, a relationship is a relationship: you have one with every person you know, as long as you have some relation to them. &, when one turns Romantic, it ought to do so on your terms, not Cosmo's.

Also, in that vein: while I have no real problem with the basic concept of No Strings Attached Sex, I do think it's a little dicy to base your plot around two characters daring each other to sleep together repeatedly without developing feelings. Because, as all we callous youngsters know, feelings are for losers (of this contest, at least), & sex is better when 100% separate from them—"without love getting in the way," as the trailer so eloquently puts it. Sarcasm lenses removed: I think that's a bummer of a message. Which is why I'm almost positive that this movie will end with its opposite—or, if it doesn't, is pseudo-unconscionable. Which is why seeing it is, as aforementioned, inconsequential.

3) That. Fucking. Balloon.

Because it's called No Strings Attached! Get it, guys? Get it? Because balloons have strings, right?! & so do N*Sync songs relationship metaphors! So, see, this movie is clever. There's, like, symbolism. It's totally not possible that this screenwriter was flicking through Real Housewives re-runs with one hand & doing basic Sudoku with the other, while periodically grunting into a faulty vocoder a script that makes the Glee writers look like Mensa scholars. I swear to you, if this movie's "I really loved you all along!" climactic scene involves a balloon metaphor—or, really, stringed objects of any kind—I may suffer a psychotic break.

To guard against this very real possibility—or, at least, to soften the blow somewhat—I took these past five minutes to dredge up every balloon metaphor I could & cram them all into this totally rawkin' Romantic Comedy Climactic Speech:

"[Natalie Portman character], wait!"
"What, [Ashton Kutcher character]?"
"It's just— I—"
"What?! What else could you possibly have left to say?"
"I— You— We're like balloons."
"Like what?"
[ She turns, disgustedly, to leave. ]
"No, wait! Hear me out. Like that balloon I gave you after we first got together. Except—well—I think we were more like the kind clowns use to make the animals: bending to what we thought the other wanted, twisting ourselves into all these shapes. Fun & inconsequential—no strings attached. [ Bing! ] But even those get old after a while. No matter how nice they look for a day or two, they always start to wilt. Party decorations deflating after some long-past birthday, sinking lower & lower. That's where I was: hovering, just above the ground, just waiting to pop. But then, you came along, & I started floating again. I started flying. It felt so good, I forgot that helium balloons can be even trickier: if you don't keep them tied down right, they just float away into nothing & leave some poor kid on the ground, wondering what he did wrong. [ Pause for effect. ] So, what I'm trying to say, [Natalie Portman character], is that... Well... You're my helium. & I can think of nothing better than being tied to a cart with you for the rest of my life, as a vaguely homeless-looking man drags us through tourist destinations. Because without you? [ Voice-quiver-rising-inflection. ] I float away."
"Oh, [Ashton Kutcher character]! You had me at 'vaguely homeless-looking'!"

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Well, Did You Ever?—Iggy Pop & Debbie Harry.

In case you were curious, this is basically what happens when you take the contents of my brain, shake them up, run them through a blender, & add salt. In short, it's deeply excellent, profoundly bizarre, furnished with a kind of grotesque beauty, & full of farm animals.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Joy of Organs.

[ NOTE: Musical, not spleens. That's a post for a darker day. ]

Oh, dearest Reader (she says, with a world-weary sigh). It would seem that my New Years Resolution to write more has gone rather unfulfilled since—well, since I made it. This is due in part to the fact that I was away (in the Apple),  then with Cold,  then amping up to perform in a Bowie tribute show (this past Saturday in Woostah, for the Thin White Duke's 64th—a total blam blam had by all). Meanwhile, a friend got me hooked on crack-cocaine  Dollhouse, the most recent(ly cancelled) Joss Whedon show, about the ethics of programmable people—except with adventure & kung-fu & zexy, zexy ladies. The point is, whatever free time I had between traveling via Fung Wah & strumming out "Andy Warhol" was spent drool-headedly following the travails of Echo & co., leaving writing where it so often unfortunately lies: on the wayside of my Silly Putty brain, dear Reader. The way-far-away-side.

Anyhow. Now that I've finally cajoled myself over to these keys, I'm struck with an onslaught of things to write about—so much so that I actually began an entry titled "Things That Are Good" & proceeded to make a giant cross-genre list (from "Jhonen Vasquez" to "themed Band-Aids"), which was proving a) too long, b) too tiring, & c) using up a fair amount of topics that would make better fleshed-out posts of their own. (The Band-Aids epic is in the works as we speak.) So, with that in mind, I've chosen but one of these many bustling topics, & it goes a little something like this:

Uses of the Organ in Popular Music.

I believe I briefly mentioned this particular preference of mine a few weeks ago when commending the song "Change" by The Young Veins for its skillful deployment thereof. I just think the organ makes such a wonderfully rock 'n' roll sound—which, on the other hand, often damns it as too retro for the modern rock outfit. (Think "Light My Fire"; it was a 60s staple.) Still, I say it transcends decades—or, at least, ought to—& here's some proof:

[ EDIT: In this post's original conception, it was almost all old(er) songs, which were then replaced, in favor of championing my intended agenda—that is, getting '10s bands back to the organ trend. However, having been tut-tutingly reminded of some I eventually excised, I've decided to add them back. Because, really, they're damn good—&, one can only hope, inspiring. ]

Incense & Peppermints—Strawberry Alarm Clock.

We'll start squarely in that classic era, though, with some of my favorites there from—first of which is this bizarre nugget, the epitome of 60s-trancey. Incense & peppermints, the color of time... Giddy-wonderful.

Whiter Shade of Pale—Procol Harum.
This song always reminds me of Martin Scorcese's contribution to the New York Stories short-film trio—the one with Nick Nolte the painter & Rosanna Arquette, his assistant. Moreover, though, this is just a painfully fantastic song, primarily because of its organ's warble: rounded but shrill, soft but biting. Bitter, so bitter, but beautifully so.

She's Not There—The Zombies.
The Platonic pop song—harmonized & catchy; builds & bridges amping to a sustained trill of chorus; bubbling, upbeat, but just minor enough to retain some edge. Perfect for car-singing, city-walking, & the like.

Rock Lobster—The B-52s.
What love I have for this band. I've often told a friend, who does a flawless Fred Schneider impression, that if I could choose anyone to narrate my life, if would be him. Evidence of why, here.

In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida—Iron Butterfly.
Another movie-reminiscent track: this time, from the climactic scene of Manhunter, featuring the first (& oft-forgotten) portrayal of Hannibal Lecter, by Brian Cox instead of Mr. Hopkins. It's a really excellent movie—& an excellent song, long & dark & rambling through the Gadda-Da-Vida (or, rather, Garden of Eden, when you're not too languid & drug-tongued). Perfect soundtrack for ceiling staring, late-night hairbrush vocals—&, of course, final-battling serial killers.

You Keep Me Hanging On—The Ferris Wheel (Supremes cover).
A really profoundly excellent cover that showcases the organ with room to spare. Some say it's inferior to the Vanilla Fudge version, but personally, I prefer this less popular take. More soulful, I think. Funkier.

Raw Power (Live, Mantra Sessions, '77)—Iggy Pop (feat. David Bowie).
One of my all-time Iggy favorites, live & Bowied, punched up with an airy organ accompaniment. Mmmmmhmm. (Download the whole album HERE, thanks to brilliant & beautiful angels over at Punk Not Profit.)

Teengenerate—The Dictators.
Who ever said a punk song couldn't have a church-worthy intro? Moreover, if you aren't into the Dictators, be so, & quick. Their first album, Go Girl Crazy! was a major inspiration to the founders of Punk Magazine, who (so the story goes) first coined the term.

All the Young Dudes—Mott the Hoople.
Written by Bowie for Ian Hunter—a glam anthem if ever there was one, made all the better by its synthy augmentation. (Also: a thousand props to Nikki Luparelli & co. for ending with it on Bowie night!)

Glass Smash—The View.
I've been meaning to write about this band for an eon & a half—because I adore them, heart & soul—because Kyle Falconer's voice is perfect in every way (screamy, scratchy, super-fucking-Scottish)—&, of course, because one of their songs has a prominent organ riff.

Jonathan David—Belle & Sebastian.
Adorable & meandering—off their singles collection, Push Barman to Open Old Wounds. Like their best: sweet but never saccharine, evocative of a bike ride in summer down some endless midwest highway.

Always Crashing in the Same Car—David Bowie.
Okay, I know, Bowie overload—but at least allow me my proof that the organ works even in Eno-abstracted electronica. Also, it's my personal opinion that everyone should listen to this song more than they do.

Dreaming of You—The Coral.
Best for last, of course. Not "best song," necessarily, but definitely "best use of an organ in (my) recent memory." Quick & choppy & wonderful—unabashed showcasing of my most beloved of instruments, & there's even some brass in there. Songs like this make me dare to hope we're ever-closer to my dream of reigniting the big band craze...

Of course, I'm missing millions, I'm sure. If you can help my brain reclaim these glaring omissions, please, comment. I'll be ever-grateful.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

I think it would be an understatement to say this band blew the fucking house down at the Bowie show this past Saturday. I mean, everyone was fabulous, of course of course, but this band gets extra points in my mind, for two important reasons: 1) Their lead singer (nymmed David Jackel! How excellent!) has a perfect voice for Bowie covers & therefore, bolstered by a seamless backing track, was able to fully deliver. 2) They played "Sweet Thing." (!!!) I'm sorry: I still can't get over the extent to which that made my night. Because it's always been one of my all-time favorites, ever, but I've also always felt alone in that opinion—if not entirely, then at least enough so I'd never in my wildest dreams expect someone to do a (really good) live cover. & the response of Mr. Jackel when thanked (perhaps too profusely)? "Of course." Excellently, excellently played, sirs.

So, of course intrigued (& blessed with relatives who know just enough about me come holiday season to prescribe generous amounts of iTunes), I went exploring & ended up purchasing their album & EP & even tracking down their free download from Bandcamp. (I'm one to delve—what can I say...) I'm still processing, of course, but so far I like what I hear. As of now, I've provided their album opener for your listening pleasure: just jaunty enough—guitar wailing right, beats egging on the 2-4-2-4, glammed out vocals. No organ, sure, but excellently played, indeed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot.

[ Well, apparently my resolution not to procrastinate is already done for. However, I can tally some points for my resolution to spend less time mainlining internet—or, rather, traveling & being forcibly kept from it, twitching in my sans-wireless straight jacket. However, I wrote this, so it's going up anyway. I'm being resolute, after all. ]

I'm on a bus right now, actually—New York-bound to flail a bit with old friends—but I realized that I should probably post something internet-ward, 1) because I haven't in a trillion-zillion years (finals like a Sisyphean triathlon, I swear), & 2) it's almost the New Year, & that's a time when people are supposed to publicize feelings of good cheer. So, with that in mind, here are some scattered thoughts:

—For Decorated Evergreen Day this year, I received many wondrous wonders, the most striking of which was ultimately Rat Girl, the recently published memoir by Kristin Hersh (former frontwoman of Throwing Muses, since gone solo). It's one of those books (as in, the best kind) that grabs you by the throat & shakes, made of phrases that burrow inside your brain like termites & yell, loud, until you exorcise them with your own creativity. After devouring most of it in a matter of hours, I wrote 300% more songs than I've written in the past two months combined (that is, three), & even started writing prose again—structured, personally, with intent. So, that's been beyond wonderful—feeling inspired, fingers electrified, full of fizz—& it bodes well when it comes at an ending/beginning, I think.

—Also now mine is a special edition, bound-book publication of the Inception script—which, I'm going to be honest, was one of those gifts that makes your face into a bad-smell grin: "Oh…! Thanks…! …" & even your pauses have a rising inflection. Still, after investigating it a little, I found it was actually pretty fascinating: a transcribed conversation between Nolan & his brother (who wrote the short story on which Memento was based) reveals my once-derided idol to have totally admirable intentions & right-on opinions about cinema. I meant to type up a section of it here as proof, but I just realized I left the book in Bostonia (& I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling stupid-brain!). I may revisit this when I get back, though—it's definitely worth sharing. Anyhow, my point is, Happy Birthday, Jesus: I've officially forgiven one of your brethren.

—Apparently, this is a time of year when people get resolute. Here's my list (published, honestly, for my own later self-guilting more than anything else; I assume you are, at best, neutral):

  • Keep up with my own writing—both this online outlet & the ramblings so recently begun.
  • Stay healthy, in mind & body.
  • Learn to play guitar with a pick.
  • Learn to appreciate my brother's pet rat, despite its really, manifestly gross tail.
  • Respond to text messages.
  • Avoid oatmeal.
  • Remind the people I love that I love them, because that doesn't happen nearly enough—at least in proportion to just how much they all (you all) mean.
  • Use erasable writing implements until March (at least), so the last two digits of every date won't be messily crossed out. (I can Never. Remember.)

—Last night, as another sort of year-winding-down activity, I had a chance to reconnect with Childhood Friends—the kind who, though you inevitably go months without communication, having grown up & out of your neighborhood proximity, you still can fall immediately back into kinship with at the drop of a dime. One of the many topics broached—as we are Wild & Wooly Women of the World these days—was the baffling & kind of wonderful stupidity that tumbles from most people's mouths when they're trying to hit on you. Of course, I've collected a list of my favorites ("Hey, that shirt's very becoming on you. Of course, if I were on you, I'd be coming, too." B-dum-chhh!), but all of this is really just a set-up for the breathtaking realization I had just now:

That guy Dave from Slime Time Live is blessed with a plethora of the world's most beautifully disgusting pick-up lines. (You're welcome for the pictures in your brain.)

—Tonight, at midnight, I'm blowing a kiss to the sky. Feel free to catch it. [ POST SCRIPT: I'll do it at 11:11 on 1/1/11, too. ]

Happy Fuckin' New Year.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

An excellent album-opener (The Real Ramona: check it), as well as a literal description what we'll all be doing in a scant few hours (10!… 9!… 8!…). A beginning about an ending—a seething, surreal rock song—Hersh's gift to me meets my gift to you—sound's gift to everybody—like the snows of yesteryear, & Auld Lang Syne.