Guided by Voices - (I Wanna Be A) Dumbcharger
"To seek the blood from precious stones is blasphemy. The perfect angels who monitor your intentions. God keeps his famous children. Be respectable."
Guided by Voices - Game of Pricks
(I once heard Bob Pollard refer to this song as "the reason why I'm better than Pavement and the Sebadoh and all those other bands" and "the song that bought my house." It was awesome. And sort of true.)
Some days you’re just stupid. You talk to people and you know you oughtn’t say what you’re about to say but you can’t think of anything else to say, much less anything better, and you’ve got to say something, so you just go ahead and say it. I’ve been stupid all day. And that’s fine with me.
Though I did get a call tonight from a very nice English professor from Johns Hopkins with a very charming Australian accent, to whom I made a crack about Berkeley Cal being full of “dope-smoking trustfund hippies in Rasta hats,” and it was impossible to tell if he found it amusing or not, in that way of professors of the arts. You can never tell if they have anything resembling a sense of humor. He really sounded happy to hear that I was leaning towards Hopkins and coming to visit in March, but seemed to think I would have a lot of debating to do with myself, because I was in store for a shitstorm of acceptance letters from competing universities. It was very flattering, and I felt like it should have boosted my self esteem, but it really didn’t. It just made me feel like it shoulda. Sort of like the girls I hit on seem to feel. Sort of like how I try not to eat meat – not so much because I feel bad for the mistreatment and horrific deaths of animals as because I feel bad because I ought to feel bad for the funny little beasties. Sort of like what that old interchangeable Russian shortstorian said about war – you’re outraged not so much because you’re outraged as because you can’t muster any outrage.
I’ve taken to calling it “JHop,” because that sounds more like the International House of Pancakes and less like Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I far prefer the one to the other.
I re-herniated the disk in my neck on Friday as the big ice storm was sweeping through town. I was doing pushups and I heard and felt something in my back pop and I collapsed on top of myself. It was sort of filmic, I imagine. Places in Northern Iowa will be powerless until some time in early March. I, on the other hand, didn’t lose power until Saturday evening, and got it back Sunday morning. My parents got a hotel room at the Marriot for the night and left me in charge of their dogs, which was kind of fun, even when the temperature in my rickety house with no insulation to speak of dipped into the upper forties. I fed the dogs, Copper and Chloe – who as a duo remind me very much of the hench-stooges from the animated 101 Dalmatians movie – Pringles, and the more Pringles I fed them, the more feral they got. It’s odd to think that one thing that’ll make a dog regress towards the state of nature is heavily processed pseudo-potato “food product” fed to them from a tennis ball can. Just like God intended.
Speaking of. That 22 week old baby drives me crazy. So after five and a half months in the womb, the baby was delivered, and it’s the youngest baby ever to survive. Which, in itself, is fine. It’s a very cute baby. It came out at like 10 ounces, but looking more or less in other respects like your average baby, and we all know that babies are cute, and we all know miniature things are awfully cute, and there’s no reason to think that a miniature baby wouldn’t be cute as a Puggle.
What drives me crazy is the unilateral way right-wingers are willing to selectively use science to prove their point. Reading this shit, you’d think that the baby popped out, shriveled and wet and sobbing, and they just wrapped it in a blanket and took it on home. It drives me crazy that, rather than pointing to the generic and widespread worthlessness of life, this proves that God in his majesty chose to begin life at conception rather than birth. Let’s face it, life is the grayest area we’ve got. The bacterium that eats our corpses are alive, and the viruses that eat our blood cells are not. Nobody’s sure about the crystals that grow in caves. It all feels pretty arbitrary to me. And not particularly sanctified.
Which isn’t so much the point. The point is, this baby is a little trophy for smug little people to hold up and use to proclaim the benevolence of the creator and the evilness of those who would choose to terminate a pregnancy. This baby was put into an incubator – an artificial womb, for those keeping track, a terribly, terribly complicated machine meant to replicate the state of the child in the womb and without which the baby would instantly die, in the manner of a geriatric who would instantly die without his Pacemaker – and given care that cost in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars per month. So, in the five months it spent in the early-birth ward, it racked up 2.5 million dollars, which is like half what Steve Austin cost before it was technically even ready to be “born,” and ended up going home with its family just a scant couple months later than it would have if it had come out normally. The point is, this is a miracle of medicine, and I don’t see what God has to do with that. People are saying, “How could you want to KILL this baby,” when, if not for tens of millions of dollars worth of machinery, the baby would have died on its own, inevitably and with absolutely zero hope for a miracle. Because we’re, again, in one of those inestimably vast gray areas. It would, one gathers from the sheep and pig and cow evidence, be pretty easy for scientists to clone a human being. But this is not life because it was not created procreatively in the normal way that we understand life to be created……… not unlike Jesus, our personal and cumulative savior.
The point is not that I dislike Christianity, because I like it very much in its Jesusesque, if not necessarily its Pauline form. I just can’t stomach the way “natural” and “holy” have come to be equated as terms. I don’t know if these people have noticed, but the American Religion is stuffed to the brim with highfalutin mysticality. Stuff almost as weird as a complicated series of wires and tubes and domed glass receptacles that mimic a woman’s innards in function.
“This water, you understand, is holy water, as differentiated from regular water by the blessing of a Priest who can trace his ordination all the way back to the apostles. It’s a very natural thing.”
I propose a new definition of idiocy: “one who is not God yet believes he or she knows precisely what constitutes a sin.”
Whatever. I’m having a stupid day. It’s a sin.
Guided by Voices - (I Wanna Be A) Dumbcharger
The thing about the Oscars in-memoriam montage for those dead whose deaths are noteworthy enough to be noted is, it’s a pretty shitty acid test for the worth of a life. Because, obviously, it would suck to be in the movie industry and deemed “not important enough” to be recognized in the Oscars ceremony. Just imagine that deliberation process between the producers.
-“Sammy Gallagher, the gaffer from that noir The Pearl of the Mohair Goat… he died last month.”
-“Yeah, that’s a classic. God damn, he was a good gaffer. The electrical wiring on that set was a joy to behold! But we’ve only got ninety seconds. Let's get our heads in the game, people!”
But also, it’s like one of those wet t-shirt contests that are judged by applause. The people that the audience knew and loved especially get rousing ovations (Don Knotts or Robert Altman), while the Japanese director who was active in the late 50s and is considered an important influence on Ozu or whatever gets only a polite and rote smattering. It’s kind of depressing.
That said, Don Knotts and Robert Altman are way better than those other guys.
Frankly, though, I hope nobody applauds when I die. Irony?
Curated by D at 1:49 AM
Red House Painters - Have You Forgotten
“That's what hell will be like, small chat to the babbling of Lethe about the good old days when we wished we were dead.”
Yesterday afternoon, I did a freaky backbend over the back of my couch and got stuck all akimbo, kind of flailing to fall and failing, trying to stand back up but suspended upside-down, blood rushing to my head, white socks and pajama pants stuck straight in the air. I can’t remember another time I’ve actually been stuck and unable to move, outside of getting a CAT scan or something. I’m getting old and shit. It’s alright, there are worse things, and it happens to everybody.
Shut out what they say, cuz your friends are fucked up anyway.
There’s this song, “Have you Forgotten” by the Red House Painters. Sometimes it’s the only song I can listen to. It’s the saddest song in the world. Especially now, since my memory is starting to go. I can’t remember whom I told what, when. I can’t remember what you said to me yesterday. This is an especially bad thing for me, because, as a condition of hating it when people find me boring, I make easily the worst conversational decisions of anyone I know. Ain’t I wacky?! Ain’t you entertained?! I’ve never had total recall or anything, but I really do try to keep track of what I’ve said, as a matter of self-preservation. It’s a big part of my ability to overcome my morally lax shit-talking – being able to convince people that either I didn’t mean what they think I meant, or that I also said something to contradict or efface myself, because, you know, I contain multitudes and all that.
And when they come around, somehow they feel up and you feel down.
But that doesn't matter, really. If I'm making a bad impression, at least I'm making an impression. What's way worse is that, I can't remember what everything used to be like, when every day wasn't the same, when every day was unique, no matter how dissimilar.
Nobody's nice. When you're older your heart turns to ice.
When I was a little boy (“When I was a little boy,” he said), my dad used to put me to bed to music that he thought would soothe me. He would tuck me in and go over to my newfangled Compact Disc Player and slide in a Mozart concerto, or a pensive Miles Davis slow-burner, or a Steely Dan album. I hated it, every day. I would lay there feeling like the music was crawling on me with a needle-leg for every note, a hard black thoracic segment for every bar. I was overwhelmed by its complexity, and the longer it went on, the more scared I got. My dad probably slinked off upstairs, delighted with himself for being such a capable patrician of a father, steeping my subconscious in life’s finer consumables even as he helped me drift off and drink from Lethe. In the mornings, I would listen to Peter, Paul & Mary or an early Beatles record just to get realigned by the simplicity and purity of it – the lack of mechanism and scheming and overdetermination and, maybe more than anything, the sense that it didn’t sound so impossible. Sometimes I would stay up until I knew he was asleep, sneak over the the receiver, turn off the cd, and dial up to Top 40 radio, listen, as corny as it sounds, to Enigma's "Return to Innocence," or Paula Abdul, or Michael Jackson. I would stay up all night listening to Dr. Demento, and Art Bell's talk show about Roswell and space aliens and government coverups, and the blows real people had been dealt from on high by the Illuminati, the conspirators, the bad men in black suits. Just as long as it wasn't Amadeus. I don’t know, but I couldn’t stand music that sounded like it wasn’t made by people. Not because I didn’t like machines – maybe I just didn’t want to be raised by them. No matter what they say about his emotion, his fiery passion, I will always believe that if ever a man had the mind of a machine, it’s Mozart. Ever since, I’ve always felt a little bit of, I don't know, a spinal slither when I listen to cool jazz or baroque classical or that kind of sheen-pop that sounds like brushed metal feels to touch, because I remember them in that room with me while I tried to sleep.
When we were kids, we hated things our sisters did. Backyard summer pools, and Christmases were beautiful.
One night, a friend of mine picked up a 38 year old woman at a blues club and went with her back to her hotel at the airport. She changed into a “pink little number” in the bathroom. When they were finished, she turned on the radio and tuned it between stations. When he asked what she was doing, she said, “It’s white noise. I need it to sleep.”
Have you forgotten how to love yourself?
Over the last year, I’ve developed a pretty acute taste for Ambien. When you take it, you start to feel sleepy, but you also start to feel a little bit euphoric. The harder you fight to stay awake, the more euphoric you get. The longer you don’t sleep even though you have to, the more the drug rewards you with cartoony hallucinations and phantasmagoric perceptions, like you’re stuck in a Tilt-a-Whirl filled with Jello or something. It’s not an enhancement-drug like alcohol or weed. It’s a all-or-nothing. I’ve made some pretty horrible mistakes on Ambien.
That's when friends were nice; to think of them just makes you feel nice.
It seems like everybody’s got a drug of choice, even if it’s just his or her own endorphins, adrenaline, testosterone or estrogen. I never got into Vicodin recreationally, even when I had a lot of it, because although it changed the way I saw the world, it didn’t bring it any more in line with the way I wish it was. I hate sleeping, and I hate eating, and I hate worrying, and I hate being careful, and I don’t have to do any of them when I’m on Ambien, because when you fall asleep, it’s not like falling asleep – it’s like disappearing. I wonder if it’s what other people feel like when they sleep, just kind of melting and reconstituting, like rebooting a computer. No pillow-punching, no angst, no arduous and spontaneous reminisces of past shame. Just wake, then sleep. Just disappear. But then, you always reappear, and that can be pretty great. After all, the song after “Have You Forgotten” on my itunes playlist is Redman’s remake of “Rapper’s Delight.” Sometimes, it’s impossible not to smile.
This young reporter I did adore,
I start rockin through this rhyme like I never did before.
She said damn fly guy I'm in love with you.
Said that casanova legend must have been true.
I said by the way baby what's your name?
She said I go by the name of Lois Lane.
And you could be my boyfriend, you truly can,
Just let me cut my boyfriend called Superman.
I said he's a fairy, I do suppose,
Flyin through the air in pantyhose.
He may be very sexy or even cute
But he look like a sucka in a blue & red suit
Said I need a man who got finesse,
and his whole name across his chest.
He may be able to fly all through the night
But he can't rock a party through the early light.
He can't satisfy you with his little worm,
But I can bust you out with my Supersperm.
I go do it - I go do it - I go do it - do it - do it.
Redman, EMPD, Keith Murray - Rapper's Delight
Curated by D at 5:54 PM
I am now the owner of 42 ounces of queen olives, 4 lbs. (FOUR MOTHERFUCKING POUNDS) of pistachios, 96 individual portions of chips, 30 candy bars, 6 tubes of toothpaste, 3 sticks of deodorant, and 6.5 pounds of chicken breast. And that’s just a slim cross-section of the smorgasbord of conspicuous consumption that went on Saturday, when my mom took me to Sam’s Club and threw money at the evil empire on my behalf.
On Sunday, I got rejected by Northwestern’s English Lit. Graduate program, the first school I’ve heard from thus far. Oh well. Only six or seven more to go. I’m not taking it as badly as I would have expected, but neither am I taking it nearly as well as I would like. The last six years have been pretty silly for me, especially the last six months or so, since I’ve intentionally streamlined my life to be largely free of the impedimenta of modern
I’ve been telling people, I hope I only get into USC, so I can drop out after a couple years, try to become a TV writer, fail at that, get addicted to crack, go into remission, and become a motivational speaker…. just like my dad. Irony?
I was watching Seventh Heaven yesterday, because all I ever do is watch TV, and it was an episode about how all the kids have tattoos, and then at the end the nerdy kid who’s dating the hot daughter gives her a promise ring. He’s like, “it’s not an engagement ring… it’s a promise to be engaged ring.” And then they kiss. It was stupid, because that show sucks (faulty logic?). But I think I’m going to get a tattoo. Maybe a tattoo of a teddy bear. I really like teddy bears, and also real bears. You know who else likes bears? My dad. Go fucking figure. I once gave a girl a promise ring. From Zale’s (the ring, not the girl). A pretty little diamond embedded inside the white gold, not extended in one of those jutty cages that show off the diamond from all angles. Now she works security at an airport and I couldn’t know her less.
I’ve never seen so many fat people in one place at one time: Sam’s Club. Their little pharmacy has an entire rack – a largish rack, to boot – of blood-sugar testers and various other diabetes supplies. Now, far be it from me to mock diabetics, but let it be known that Sam’s Club’s diabetes supplies are right next to their candy aisle, where they sell, among other things, 5 pounds of Jolly Ranchers for $4, and have “value pack” bundles of king sized candy bars. (The “king sized” candy bar is one of my favorite of all pathetic euphemisms – “Take care, those among you who are not royalty! This candy bar might be too much for you to handle!”).
I was thinking, the other day, about how much fun it would be to partner with Wal-Mart to create a contest, open only to women over 200 lbs and men over 260. It would be a breakdancing competition. They would have to do their best approximation of six-steps, Arabian flips, uprocks, and, for the fearless, headspins to Rob Base’s “It Takes Two,” you know, the song that goes “YEAH! WOO! YEAH! WOO!” Anybody who just danced without at least trying to approximate breaking would be disqualified, because we don’t want just a bunch of fat people dancing. Who cares about that? That’s on some
Curated by D at 1:56 PM
Last night I listened to Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and tried to love it as ardently as people more or less like me seem to, but I failed. Sure, I mean, I’m one of the men who loves “I’m the Man Who Loves You.” “Heavy Metal Drummer” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart” scrape the softer underbelly of pop heaven, the place where songs exist that can’t actually be written by men, only given out like welfare checks from God. But the rest of it? Ehhhhh… I don’t like trying to figure out why I can’t see the brilliance in it that everybody else sees, because if I put it into words, I look like an idiot. I always look like an idiot when I’m trying to figure things out, which is a good incentive not to try to figure things out, though it really hasn’t been enough to overpower boredom and curiosity. Hypothetically, I’d say things like, “the whole album is a bunch of atmospheric padding for five great songs,” or, “when the fuck did Jeff Tweedy get the idea that he should mix the album like Throbbing Gristle?” Or, “How on earth could anybody dig the last two songs?” The fact is, I just don’t care, and I just don’t love it, and I understand that I am, by any measure of “rocker-intellectual” conventional wisdom, wrong. I always expect the album to sink in, and it just never does. And it’s not like I’m not a Wilco fan. Summer Teeth was my jam in high school.
That said, every time I write about something I dislike, I come back to it later on and it turns out that not only do I like it, but I would post scathing comments at myself if I read my own blog post about it. And not just for my cringeworthy writing.
But today, I stuck by my guns. I pulled out Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression. Now, I’m pretty sure I have something of an unhealthy fixation on “the underdog.” Most of my favorite bands – Pavement, XTC, even the Archers of Loaf (Madonna – motherfucking MADONNA – came to one of their gigs to try to sign them to Maverick Records, but they said no, because they’re the most incredible underdog rock entity of all time) – were, at one time or another, pegged to be “the next great big fat burning band to land like a comet and crater the heart of Top 40 rock and pop.” And we’re talking, people were saying this BEFORE the British press proclaimed every cute scruffy band to ever put out an album with a guitar to be “the greatest band of all time.” Indie rock used to be pretty ugly. I miss that. It also used to lay everything on the line. I miss that even more. When was the last time you saw a show and you thought to yourself, “how the hell are they going to drive 300 miles and still do that AGAIN TOMORROW?!” It’s been a while for me.
And that is part of why No Depression is so great for me. It’s sincere. It’s sincere, it’s smart but not smartypantsed, and they were sincerely pissed, and weary, and exhausted, and excited, and it all came out as a great big ball of nervy, wiry energy. When it came out in 1990, Farrar was 24 or so, Tweedy 23, but they sound wise, and old, and beat up, and not at all pretentious or affected. But they still rock the fuck out. They don’t sound like they’re playing country songs they haven’t earned. They don’t sound like the kids who inherited a fortune because there wasn’t anybody else to give it to, like Eric Clapton playing the blooze. They sound like the kid who inherits the family business against stiff competition because he was the right choice, but he’s not even sure it’s what he wants to do.
Only a tiny hint of Tweedy’s eventually omnipresent lachrymose irony creeps in, because he’s scared shitless and totally in awe of Jay Farrar – while still being pretty much on the straight shot to perfect popsmithery in his own right. There’s no “take off your Band-Aid cuz I don’t believe in touchdowns,” great a weird line though that is. There is, instead, a fresh-faced kid telling you that, in the summer, he and his friends “wear loose clothes and try to stay cool,” which, in its way, is an equally weird and equally great line. Tweedy sings like a quarter of the songs, and they’re all great. But it’s Farrar, man. It’s Farrar.
It makes very little sense, to me, that Black Flag and the Replacements and The Carter Family and Leadbelly should exist so comfortably and capably in his voice and his songs and, especially, in his guitar. I still remember the first time I heard “Graveyard Shift,” and it was, as much as any other song, responsible for me picking up the guitar for the first time at like age 15. So obviously, my objectivity is questionable, though I’m not sure when people decided music should be perceived objectively.
I know I talk a lot about Pitchfork, but being me and not talking about them would be sort of like being Auden and not talking about Eliot. I’ve been kind of a longtime Pitchforkmedia apologist. I respect their logorrhea and their audacity in a lot of respects. But sometimes they just do a goddamn disservice to everybody. They, and by they I mean William Bowers, whom I generally like and who is obviously ridiculously smart, gave No Depression a 6.7, the lowest of any of the three UT albums reviewed, and an awfully mediocre score by any measure. 1.7 points above 5.0, which on an academic grading scale would be failing. (Bowers is an English professor or something, after all). 3.3 points, fully a third, below Yankee Hotel Foxtrot’s perfect 10. Now, we all know the point-structure is arbitrary, polemical as much as it is anything else, “I was just trying to make a point” bullshit. But this one is one of the most depressingly dismissive reviews I’ve ever read, all I have no time for this and people who like this have been idiots all along. Trademark run: “But is being the forebearers [sic, subwitty neologism alert] of a genre whose proponents average two good songs per album really something to be proud of? All we need now is for some statistician to ascertain why No Depression is loved by a disproportionate amount of people with mustaches.” Har har. Wait, that’s not about the band at all. It’s about a trend and its followers. So is the whole review. That’s not very useful! Not even in a “taking stock” and “measuring the fallout” kind of way. Of course, what does he attack No Depression for the most? Oh, yeah, it’s earnestness (which misses a lot for Pitchfork, not even talking about “Graveyard Shift” as some kind of “meta”/recursive concept song about spearheading a new trend in independent music, which seems right up their alley). And I’m pretty sure there’s not a single wholeheartedly sincere sentence in the entire review. But I’m not going to read it again to see. I’m going to listen to No Depression again, because I like it. Goddamn it, I love it.
Curated by D at 2:24 AM
Something very interesting has happened this week. John Amaechi, an retired professional basketball player – a really bad player, it should be noted for the record – came out as a homosexual. A small handful of football and baseball players have come out before, always after the fact of their playing days, but never a basketball player.
(I'm allowed to find the title hilarious, right? I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be...)
It doesn’t seem like it should be any different. After all, they’re all sweaty, overpaid, alarmingly entitled jocks who get millions to jump or whatever. But, in an 11 man locker room, tensions seem to run a little higher.
It’s the weirdest double-edged neurosis in the world. The fear that, on the one hand, some dude will look at your junk and be turned on. Or, on the other hand, and maybe even worse, that he’ll look at your junk and not get turned on at all. You’re a professional athlete, after all – you haven’t spent decades training and honing your body to NOT turn somebody on when they look at you naked.
There’s a sort of incredible article from espn.com that almost reads like a fool-the-world piece of fake news. There are some really, really nice responses – Tracy McGrady turns out to be just about the coolest motherfucker alive (even though he, too, falls into the "as long as you don't try it with me" trap), and Grant Hill is real cool about it, and Lebron James is cool and at least very thoughtful and measured and speculative and seems to be accepting in his own right. But then the carnival starts. The quotes that they coax from some of these seven foot tall millionaires are exactly the types of things you would expect from, well, seven foot tall millionaires….. and confederate backwaters from the Florida-Georgia border with Confederate flags on the hoods of their Chevys.
Shavlik Randolf says, and I quote, “As long as you don't bring your gayness on me I'm fine.” That’s right. I repeat, just let this sink in, “As long as you don’t bring your gayness on me.”
Steven Hunter says, "Nowadays it's proven that people can live double lives. I watch a lot of TV, so I see a lot of sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness." Yeah, that’s real too. “Sick perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness.” Because all gay men are Ted Haggard. It would almost be a brilliant Christopher Guest-esque parody of what you think somebody might say in a mockumentary about gay athletes, if only a dude hadn’t actually said it.
But truly the apotheosis of weirdness is, or was until a day ago, Ray Allen, star of Spike Lee’s groundbreaking anti-discrimination-in-athletics vehicle He Got Game. "You don't want to know that there is somebody in your locker room and you are not aware of it. And maybe you had to be careful being where you put yourself in a situation where you might get hit on by a teammate."
Uh huh. Ray Allen is worried about getting hit on by a teammate. Ray Allen, media darling, one of the NBA’s all-stars, one of the greatest offensive threats and best known players in the world, a man who simulated sex with two white women, and then Rosario Dawson, in a movie – and let's face it, he's one of the worst actors I've ever seen, and he couldn't pull that off if it was pure mimesis – is worried about being mistaken, by a teammate, for a gay man, and then openly and intrusively approached in an overtly sexual manner, in the locker room. Said the gay player, “Woops, shit, sorry man… you know… I thought maybe, you know, you were gay, and we could just kind of go at it right here and now.” It’s like one of those incredibly bad scenes in movies where a gay guy kisses a straight guy because for a moment he suspects gayness, only to be spurned and cruelly turned away! Remember that scene in Boogie Nights, where Philip Seymour Hoffman tries to kiss Mark Wahlberg? Just imagine if M-Key-Mark was replaced with Ray Allen, and Hoffman was playing a mincing 2-guard for the Seattle Supersonics. That would be hilarious. And, arguably, fairly implausible.
Steve’s genius contribution to fake news for this week: “Ray Allen added, ‘Like I usually pull my pants down really slow in the locker room, and swivel my hips in a seductive manner. I wouldn't do that if a gay guy was around. That's just common sense.’”
Call him Gay Ray the Posemaster, lookin' all fine in his mock turtleneck.
But journalist LZ Granderson’s reaction is maybe my favorite, on merit of being the most strange. “I’m not impressed,” he says.
Wouldn’t it be fun to go around all day pontificating on everything that doesn’t impress you? “I’m not impressed with your drapes. I’m not impressed with your haircut. I’m not impressed with your day-to-day wardrobe. I’m not overly impressed by your personal hygiene, either, and I'm certainly not impressed by the revelation that you are a gay man. You retired already!”
See, because it’s just odd, when you start an article like this. “I am so over gay people. Specifically, John Amaechi. Not him personally -- I hear he's a delightful guy -- but gay people like him.” So, you’re over gay people. You’re over one specific gay person. But you’re not over him personally (i.e., specifically, right?). You’re over him specifically-generally? Ok, so you’re over the trend of him. I suppose we can rip that out of there, although, as a I say, he is the first pro basketball player every to come out, before or after or during his playing days.
“I do not mean to belittle Amaechi's experience…,” Granderson writes, “But I can't help but wonder: When will somebody simply man up?” Granderson is himself a divorcee and an openly gay man, and I just gotta wonder. When are all these homosexuals who are engaged to women just gonna man up and come out of the closet to their spouses-to-be? I don’t mean to belittle his experience or anything…
And I’m not trying to attack Granderson, because he’s obviously a smart guy, and a good guy, he just wants what’s best for the future. But the way he said it, it just reeks of, I dunno, something. Bloggerism. You know, like this entire post. The difference in my mind being, of course, that I don’t get paid and am therefore full well entitled to be a gigantic judgmental tool. But come on! I'm not impressed?! You can dance the standing-still, Mr. Granderson. I'm pretty fucking impressed.
And, at any rate, yesterday John Amaechi and every other gay athlete got a pretty solid reason not to come out while they’re still playing professional ball. “You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known,” said 2000 Olympic Team point guard Tim Hardaway. "I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I am homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States." That’s right. He represented America (This is our countraaaaaay) to the world at large in the Olympics. U.S.A! U.S.A!
I read his comments at first, and they were incredibly disturbing, obviously. In his playing days, Tim Hardaway was my favorite point guard. He was a slasher, a driver, a shooter, a star like Streisand, Cher, or Nathan Lane in the Bird Cage. The kind of guy every would-be diva wants to dance and shimmy and wiggle like. He was a dynamo on the court. He was a legend, the type of player I aspired to be in my mind every time I clumsily mauled the rock. "Hardaway, for three!" *Clang.* Since he retired, he’s done some half-time commentary. Seeing him speak, at length, for the first time was one of those revelations that you get sometimes when somebody you’ve idolized for years turns out to be unbearable. (All About Eve without the all the elegance). The man is clearly an idiot. He’s got the public speaking skills of a seeing-eye dog that has spent some time with a blind kid in a second grade class.
Maybe we can blame Boo Radley for goading us into giving idiot manchilds the benefit of the doubt. Boo wasn’t scary! It turned out to be real sad, Jem and Dill being scared of him and all, and we loved Boo Radley at the end of the day. We hoped Boo was an object lesson. We hoped you could have faith in people. When you see Tim Hardaway on TV, you can’t help but imagine his only state of being is a kind of captivated, childlike fixation – because that’s the way he looks at the teleprompter, terrified and drowning in a cataract of words rushing at him.
Which made his comments all the more chilling (and embarrassing). Because Tim Hardaway didn’t, like, write this in his blog when he was drunk as fuck. He didn’t accidentally let it slip out to an interviewer who told him it was all off the record. He didn’t get high on crack and go to a strip club and get overheard by a lesbian stripper who sold him out to a tabloid. Nope, he CALLED IN TO A RADIO CALL-IN SPORTS SHOW. To tell the guy. That he hates gay people. The tape is unbearable, because he’s simultaneously stammering, and completely on autopilot. He’s not espousing an opinion in the sense that it’s something he’s deliberated on and come to a conclusion about. He’s just saying something, because it’s just something that he says. “I hate gay people,” he says. Pretty incredible.
Even more incredible? The question that prompted his tirade was as follows: “You know what you are saying there is flatly homophobic? It's bigotry?”
The very first words of his response: "Well, you know I hate gay people.”
Then Hardaway later tried to, in a very sad way, offer something that split the difference between an ineffectual retraction and an offensive apology to CBS reporter Jim Berry. (The following was nicked from the awesome website outsports.com, “the ballin’ site for gay sports fans and athletes” – what a great tagline).
Berry: "Do you think some people would view that as bigoted as someone white saying I hate black people?"
Hardaway: "Probably so. I don't condone it. And if people have a problem with that, I'm sorry. I'm saying that I can't stand being around that person knowing that they sleep with somebody of the same sex."
Berry: "So if you had a family member who was gay, you're saying that you hate them?"
Hardaway: "Yes. Yes. Yeah. I wouldn't talk to them."
Berry: "Tell me why."
Hardaway: "I just told you. 'Cause I don't condone it."
Ladies and gentlemen, we are living and loving in an age of enlightenment.
Hardaway’s comments have been roundly criticized by the press – it even made all the 5:30 national news broadcasts – and they’re being called some of the most hateful things ever said by a professional athlete. Sadly, and not entirely surprisingly, Hardaway’s diatribe(s) prompted a rash of hatemail to Amaechi from people of similar mindsets, all of whom, I’m sure, brandish bibles like blunderbusses and hold them overhead like lanterns of truth to guide their hateful way. They’ll throw Romans at you, even though they haven’t read it and it’s confusing as hell and right after Paul gets done talking about how God forces people to be gay (“God gave them up to vile affections”) he says, “judge not lest ye be judged.” They’ll throw Leviticus at you, saying any man who lays with a man (as with a woman) is to be punished by death, and always ignore the fact that the “as with a woman” part runs parallel twice, not just once. Death to all fornicators, after all.
Then they’ll ignore the fact that there are 613 laws in the OT the breaking of which is to be punished with death, including eating leavened bread during the Fest of Unleavened Bread. That’s right, eating leavened bread during the Fest of Unleavened Bread is a grievous sin on par with homosexuality, and the only just recompense is death by stoning. Repent, ye sinners, repent, and eat less leavened bread. And don’t forget, Catholics, God needs a confession for every sin, of either omission and commission, and Jesus said the Old Testament laws all still apply.
Then, of course, they’ll forget to mention that these are the only two actual mentions of anything resembling non-young-boy-prostitute homosexuality in the one million verses of the bible, Old and New Testament combined, and that, in fact, eating blood seems to be far more grievous to God (and yes, that includes rare meat). They’ll forget to mention, like Dante done told you, “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Because all you straight fornicators, face facts, there’s no special straight hell for the straight lot of you. I’m willing to bet almost, if not exactly one-hundred percent of heterosexual male basketball players, not unlike most American Christian republicans or atheist liberals, have had pre- or extra-marital sex. Be like Mike, the theory goes, and get blown by prostitutes after away games. Have twenty kids with seventeen baby-mamas. And remember, any man who looks at a woman with lust in his eyes has already committed adultery in his heart, according to Jesus in Matthew. So, you unwashed impenitent masses of men leading lives of quiet desperation and possible latent homosexuality (forgive yourselves already! It’s ok if you let it be!), you’ll all be seeing a whole lot more of Satan first hand. And I’ll be right there with you. But at least I won’t have been such an asshole.
The best part so far, though, is an excerpt from the apparently big-hearted and witty (and sexily accented) Amaechi's book from ESPN the magazine. “The NBA locker room is the most flamboyant place I’ve ever been. Guys flaunted their perfect bodies. They bragged about sexual exploits. They primped in front of the mirror, applying cologne and hair gel by the bucketful. They tried on each other’s $10,000 suits, admired each other’s rings and necklaces, it was an intense camaraderie that felt completely natural to them. Surveying the room, I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself; And I’m the gay one.”
God bless you.
Curated by D at 9:50 PM
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to invent a time machine. Then I’m going back to the third century. I’m going to find Saint Valentine before he martyrs himself. I’m bringing him back to the 21st century. I’m going to show him a good time. I’m going to buy him a decent hooker. I’m going to give him a good, but not too good, cigar. I’m going to get him a little bit lit on cognac, and take him around to a good museum or two to let him in on what he’s missed. Then I’m going to nail him the back of the head with a sock full of Canadian quarters, and when he comes too, he’ll be inextricably bound to an office chair with wheels on the bottom, and he’ll have a high-E guitar string wrapped around each one of his bicuspids, cuspids, incisors and molars and pulled tight. They will be attached to a harness on a pitbull trained for pulling. He will thusly be yanked down a street until he gets to the top of a very tall hill, where he will disengage from the dog harness and go hurtling down the precipice into a forest of rubber balls and jacks with their metal tendrils sharpened to gleaming, jagged points. The balls will gum up the tires and he will fly, face first, into the jacks. His momentum will carry him oh, a good four or five feet, leaving behind a wake of road-rashed skin and hair. Then, I’ll collect up the ends of all of the guitar strings, still attached to his teeth, and wrap them around the landing pads of a helicopter hovering just overhead. The helicopter will then swoop up and away to the nearest large body of salty, dirty water, where poor Saint Valentinus will be dropped from, oh, say, 200 feet. There, a team of hooligans in kayaks will paddle around, shocking the water with powerful tazers, and a team of frogmen in rubber suits will make absolutely sure that Saint Valentinus does not drown or die. He will be defibrillated or otherwise resuscitated if need be, before being dunked back in the water. After I get tired of watching this show, he will be hauled onto a garbage barge and set out to sea, where he will be forced to sustain himself for no less than one month by eating the refuse of the city’s poorest denizens, and drinking his own urine. A team of trained, licensed safety specialists will be on hand at all times to make sure he does not take his own life. Every night, they will beat him mercilessly with large fish, and then filet the fish in butter with asparagus and artichokes and feast upon them sumptuously and perhaps with histrionic moans of pleasure, such as, “Oh my god, this fish is delicious, have you ever tasted such wonderful food?” while Saint Valentinus eats the scab off a Band-Aid he found stuck to the bottom of a flowerpot full of syringes. (I just gagged a little bit thinking of that one.)
Then, I’ll return Saint Valentinus to his own time, and he’ll be so exhausted, he won’t even have time to martyr himself. So he’ll never become a Saint, and it won’t be necessary for me to go back in time and abuse him in such a way, and all balance will be restored. I won’t have committed any atrocities, Valentus will have died, not a Saint, but merely a man, at peace with himself, and billions of people could have lived without the unquenchable anxiety of Valentine’s Day. Who loses? Greeting card companies and those people who work in flower shops. And nuts to them! Greedy carpetbaggers.
Curated by D at 3:58 PM
“So I'm not unsympathetic.
I see why you left,
There's no one to know,
There's nothing to do,
The city's been dead
Since you've been gone.”
The Dismemberment Plan - The City
I have about as complicated an emotional history with the Dismemberment Plan as I have with any other band. They’re not one of my favorites. Far from it. Sometimes their verbose puerility, their hyperactive plurality, their insistence on overcomplicating what might be a good idea if only it was kept simple, seriously aggravates me. Then I realize, these are criticisms that strike me as awfully familiar.
Art is supposed to be all about empathy. Coming into contact with something foreign to you and coming to understand it, identify with it, sympathize with it, and inculcate it in some way into the fiber of your being. You’re supposed to use art to improve yourself. Not like self-help or something. It’s just supposed to help you love the world a little more, or at least further complicate your hatred of it. It’s supposed to offer some new perspective on things, to shine a new light in an old dusty corner, to be a beacon (ed: and give him head whenever he wants). The problem with this is that, on their best album, The Emergency & I, Travis Morrison seems to BE me. Except better. And I don’t mean, like, “I know how you feel, Travis, what universal sentiments!” I mean, like, “Travis, why are you me?! Give me my soul back!”
Finally, I know what it is. I know why part of me doesn’t like – actively dislikes – The D-Plan, even their magnum opus. It’s competition with the creator. It’s a Greek weaver claiming she can weave better than Aphrodite. It’s the Angel of Light bragging about town that he could rule Heaven better than God. It’s hubris. It’s anger that I can’t create a document about how it feels to be me better than Travis Morrison created a document about how it feels to be me. I’m sure this isn’t an uncommon feeling, so come on, people, has there ever been anything so frustrating?
And I know how self-important all this sounds, so let me make it clear that I am not saying I’m any good at all, and I AM saying that the Dismemberment Plan’s Emergency & I IS very good. I’m not saying, “I get this album in a special way that has nothing to do with the way you listen to music or understand music, especially this album,” because for all I know this is the way everybody feels about this album, sans my pretentious reservations. I’m just talking about me here.
Emergency & I is the only album – the only cohesive artistic statement of any kind, really – that sounds or reads or looks or feels the way it feels to be me, without leaving out anything important or meaningful or worth documenting or passing on about myself. It’s a sad-sack asshole idiot of an album. It’s an uneven, hyperliterate, irritating smart-aleck of an album. It’s a guilt-ridden, flustered, overly self-aware nerd of an album. It’s a flexible, athletic, witty, coulda-been jock (if it cared enough) of an album. It’s ashamed. It looks at the future with a dour eye, but dreams of a pleasant tomorrow. It doesn’t really have any malice, it’s not really angry, but it is – and this is the adjective that has been used to describe me more than any other – pretty fuckin’ prickly.
“When they let you down on cue, when you give up way before you even try, then you know you’ve got the jitters.”
I’ve read a million reviews of E&I, trying to “get” it – and by “get it” I don’t mean understand it, rather I mean to love it unequivocally, which, again, is like trying to get myself to love myself unequivocally, which is a fool’s errand – and the reviews don’t really help me. They emphasize how original the D-Plan is, how little the record sounds like records past, how forward-thinking and progressive it is, what a powerful mark it makes on the world of independent rock music. Which is all just utter bullshit, even if it’s true. It’s “I’m TS Eliot and I’m a quack motherfucker” stuff. It all splits the difference between saying “we don’t believe in true, pure progress” and “we believe that progress is a necessary precept of truly enjoying or elevating or appreciating anything,” which is as stupid as anything could possibly be.
I have a friend, whom I’ll call Spike, because his name rhymes with that, who is fond of characterizing music that he has disqualified from potentially enjoying by calling it “easy” and saying something like, “it’s nothing I couldn’t do.” And they say rock and roll comes from the blues! For shame!
But hang on, isn’t what I’m saying even worse? That part of me hates the Dismemberment Plan because I couldn’t, haven’t, won’t, and can’t do what they did?
Well, d’uh! Wave to Salieri.
Here’s a paragraph from formerly-notorious and now completely uncared-about ex-Pitchfork reviewer Brent DiCrescenzo’s review of the disc: “Dismemberment Plan spit in the face of modern music. Perhaps their coup is more analogous to an unexpected sloppy french kiss, in terms of saliva imagery. But Emergency & I heralds a new era in rock and roll. Nothing else you own sounds like this record, yet everything you own echoes throughout. The Dismemberment Plan's chromosomes carry the superior DNA of rock's genealogy through a natural sexual affair with music, not the cold process of cloning. The perfect nucleotides of the Pixies, Talking Heads, Fugazi, and Prince spindle in beautiful double-helixes throughout these 12 tracks. Specific moments recall Gang of Four ("8 1/2 Minutes") or Radiohead ("The Jitters"), but this melange is wholly unique-- boiled down for synapse-popping flavor. Certainly some will scratch their heads, but innovation is never unanimously understood.”
I, also, love a magician. But this, my friends, is bullshit. And apeshit. And batshit. And totally reductive of what actually makes this album magical. By playing the “innovation” card,” what actually makes E&I special – taking things back to first principles – is whitewashed and thrown in the trunk. The entire review is the kind of damned-lie Pitchfork pretension that makes the kind of people who ought to love them hate them. This is where music critics almost unilaterally turn into assholes, and none more than BD. When they start talking about “sounds like.” And I’m not saying sonic touchstones aren’t useful, because they obviously are. The Beatles sound more like the Kinks than they do like Metallica, ok, fine. We all know songs that don’t sound like anything special that sound like the most unique, wonderful, singular things in the world to us. Who gives a shit if D-Plan doesn’t sound like anything else, even if Mr. Di wants to try to map a genealogy of the band in spite of that? Who gives a shit whom they sound like or don’t sound like? Isn’t it more important what they sound like and don’t sound like?
There’s only a pair of sentences in the review that gets anywhere close to rubbing me right without being worse than sort of awful: “A full range of emotions-- orgasm, loss, confusion, uncertainty, resignation, rage-- ooze from The Dismemberment Plan. Paradox is woven throughout-- the alien and the nostalgic, the nascent and the classic.” We’ll chalk the parallel syntax up to formalism, and not sloppy writing, yeah? But the point is, this totemism is the record’s most special element. It’s not that they use keyboards, and people hadn’t been using keyboards in a while. It’s not that they hop around into different time signatures, because wait, didn’t Slint do that a decade before? To hell with innovation, and really who gives a fuck?
I don’t think this record sounds like me because I’m innovative, that’s for sure.
This record is great because, from an eighth of the way through the very first note of “The City,” which is just a guitar note – not even a chord, not even a double-stop, without so much as a lick of legato or vibrato or fuzz or anything to distinguish it from any other guitar note ever played in a garage or a basement or an attic – I can identify it as “The City” by the Dismemberment Plan. And that very plain distinctiveness, that emotional residue of eating some vanilla yogurt on a warm afternoon and remembering that day and every second of that minute for the rest of your life, is far more important and wonderful than any kind of Himmler-inflected genetic singularity that invokes a Master Race hybrid of Prince and Brainiac. I hear it and remember how it feels to be myself.
“Sometimes I stand on my roof at night
And watch as something seems to happen somewhere else.
I feel like the breeze will pick me up and carry me away,
Out and over the iridescent grid,
Up and away from the bar fights and neon lights,
Out and away from everything that makes me what I am.
So I'm not unsympathetic.
I see why you left,
There's no one to know,
There's nothing to do,
The city's been dead
Since you've been gone…
All I ever say now is goodbye.”
I’m always uncomfortable with the phrase “genius” being applied to rock musicians. Genius, it just seems to me, should be saved for people who do something the execution of which is totally out of the realm of comprehension for normal people. Bach, for example, is a genius. If you actually pay attention to the Brandenburg Concertos and don’t write them off as dentist music, as us young turks always tend to do, it will literally make you spit. I mean, it won’t literally make you spit, but it will blow your fucking mind, just in scope and range and depth and breadth and height and complication of execution. And it doesn’t seem right to slot a 3 chord rock song alongside it. It seems to cheapen both. But then I realize, I’m just being a fucking asshole, because while Bach might be THE genius (as Douglas Adams, a virtuoso-motherfucker-genius in his own right, propounds), but that doesn’t mean other, lesser people can’t be, too. Because who draws that arbitrary line? Cocky assholes, that’s who. “The City” by the Dismemberment Plan, by any criteria or rubric by which I know of to judge it, is absolute genius. Except, obviously, the one I apply to Bach.
“The ghosts of graffiti they couldn’t quite erase.”
I’ve put in the work and the time to be able to hit that note. You know the note. “The city’s been dead, since you’ve been GOOOOOOOOONE!” It’s an A-flat, which is a half-step shy of being the highest note a true tenor can REALLY hit. I, like Travis Morrison, am a good singer for being a bad singer. If the song was a half-step up, his voice would quiver and waver and strain. But it doesn’t. Most of Weezer’s first album was played on guitars tuned a half-step lower than standard guitar tuning for the same reason. T-Moz understands his limitations, and plays to his strengths, and even manages to turn his weaknesses into strengths. Musicologically, when he made E&I, Travis knew just enough to know that he knew enough to make music that’s perfect. This is the lesson that is out of my range, and out of your range, and out of Travis Morrison’s range ever since. It’s not anything you can control. It’s a “you’ve got it or you don’t” thing, and none of us have it. And if we do have it, we’re going to lose it. And if we did have it, we’re kicking ourselves for not having it anymore.
All over the record, there’s a back-handed knowledge of indie-rock, the only white American cultural movement in forever that has, at its best, managed to be both authentic in the way of “movement”-based art, as well as accessible and loveable in a way that Dada or cubism never could be. There’s an ambivalent pillaging of black music, culture, and syntax, half-informed by a goodwill spirit of sharing and equality, half-informed by the guilt of the gentrifier and the thief of soul music. Wanting to talk black without being that white guy who talks black. There’s wielding the guitar like a punk, treating it as the Enemy like a true Sex Pistol. There’s wailing for style points instead of purity. There’s everything I ever wanted for myself but couldn’t get, because God didn’t give it to me. And that’s why I hate the fucker, and I hate his fucking album. It’s hubris.
I remember October, 2002-ish, at Gabe’s Oasis, standing there with my arms around a girl I’d known for years but with whom I was on what would be the first of many official “dates,” screaming out at the top of my lungs “I LOVE A MAGICIAN!” during Injury Time, screaming it and screaming it and screaming it right into her ear, “I LOVE A MAGICIAN! I LOVE A MAGICIAN!” Right into her ear. I love a magician. And that’s why I hate the fucker, and I hate his fucking album. It’s hubris. It's a unilateral conviction that I deserve something that I didn't earn.
There’s a one-star review on Amazon.com that made me smile. “A fellow music fan told me to give this a listen. I hated it. The songs are not melodic, thats a tough voice to listen to , the musicianship is nothing interesting. Its just weird music! I tried, listened to it like 50 times, but its just not good. I don't know, maybe I'm too old.” [all sic]. It conjures to mind all the times I’ve been in social situations and irritated some poor soul straight out of his wits just by being my own abrasive self. Later, they always ask our mutual friend, “who the fuck is that kid?!” Well, he’s me. But way better.
Curated by D at 11:03 PM
This old-school self-inspecting Livejournal throwback post is narrated by Colin Moulding and Andy Partridge of XTC. I don’t care what else you do today. Download “King for a Day,” if only because it’s my favorite song. Isn’t that worth something?
XTC – King for a Day
XTC – The Disappionted
Everyone’s creeping up to the money god,
Putting tongues where they didn’t ought to be.
On stepping stones of human hearts and souls,
Into the land of nothing for free.
I found out today that I have a mouse in my house, a phrase that I like a lot, but a state of vermin-infestation that I’m not too fond of at all. (Stephen: “One day Dr. Seuss had a realization like that and it led to a wealth of literary output: ‘My cat is wearing a hat!’”). I was washing dishes that have been in the sink since 1976, and I was heard to scream, “What the shit?!” when the little fucker scurried across the kitchen floor and launched its little black self into a tiny, we’re talking teeny-tiny hole under my cabinets, which is doubtless the door to Mouseville. Or Mouse-Yale.
I don’t want to kill one of the Rescuers. I keep having these fantasies that my entire house is filled with mice; that if I ripped off the fabric covering the back of my couch there would be a cornucopia of mice climbing over mice, like a machine made of mice, nightmarescape style; that there are mice scurrying through my desk building a Town Hall; mice between the springs in my bed waiting until I fall asleep to get a good look at me and have a good laugh, put their noses right up against mine and titter their pipsqueak Bob Newhart titters. And as much as I love mice for their fuckin’ outrageous cuteness, their tiny spasmodic noses and presumably incredible senses of humor, I can’t help but feel that this mouse somehow symbolizes my ineptitude at being alive, or at least, being responsible. And, for that reason, I want to tear it in half with my two hands and fling its guts at a blank canvas, then wait a couple days until they dry and turn black, and then call it my masterpiece. But I won’t. I’ll get some of those humane traps that don’t work and engage in a lengthy war-game with the mouse until, finally, I give up and fucking move.
I’ll get in my car and drive somewhere far away and start a new life. But here’s the kicker. There’s a motherfucking MOUSE IN MY CAR TOO. I thought somebody was pranking me when I opened my glovebox and it was completely full of shredded napkins. But then, my friend Julie got in my car and said, “you have a mouse,” and that was that. I had a mouse. It chewed up my car registration. Completely. The only part that still exists is the corner that says “car registration,” and that’s how I know it chewed up my car registration. I cannot escape my own invented symbology.
All shuffle round in circles.
Their placards look the same,
With a picture and a name
Of the ones who broke their hearts.
Did you know that you can drop a mouse out of a plane and it will hit the ground, get up, and run away? Resistance is futile.
Everyones licking up to the new king pin,
Trying to get way up with a smile.
"Sing for your supper, boy, and jump to a finger click."
Ain't my way of living in style.
A couple of days ago, one of my friends got into Yale’s comparative literature program. I’m really happy for him, but the spiteful part of me (my heart, probably) was hoping what actually happened was, a Mexican called him and told him “you’re going to jail,” but it sounded like Yale, you know, cuz he was Mexican. But nope. A man named Pericles called him and told him, “you’re in.”
My hatred of Yale cannot be overstated, for however many reasons. Because it’s twenty minutes away from where I lived when I loved my life with the wholehearted, almost vocational dedication of an upper-crust preadolescent, before the financial problems, before the bullies and the idiots and the frat-satyrs pissed on its magic. Because Harold Bloom taught there, and he looks very much like Jabba the Hut. Because everybody I don’t want to leave eventually goes there, like it’s some kind of Neverland where they’ll never die and come visit me once a year, ageless and throbbing with youth, while every year I get a little older and a little closer to being dead without having touched god’s face with my fingertips, smile lines cut into my face with age’s broken spirits-bottle. Because it’s got secret societies, and the argument could be made that all I’ve ever wanted is to be in a really good secret society, one that simulates the world and vastly improves on it. Because it’s got secret societies, and the argument could be made that the only thing I really loathe is the elitism that asserts that some people deserve things that other people can’t have. Because Yale is a cool name. Because Yale symbolizes (there’s that ugly word again) everything I want for myself but cannot get, because fuck me, who the fuck am I? Not Yale material, that’s for sure!
Will bear me on their shoulders
To a secret shadow land
Where a sombre marching band
Plays a tune for broken hearts.
I’ve been thinking all day about one of the strangest standoffs I ever had. I worked, for six months or so, with a girl whom I completely fell for the day I met her (and, incidentally, about whom I, the other day, accidentally invented the greatest epithet ever: "gravity-cunted"). It’s a crush that never really subsided, but has become kind of abstracted and diffuse. It used to be a beam of light, and now it’s the shine of a disco ball, bouncing into patterns but shapeless and formless and in the background, sort of like the way I feel about Jesus. Anyway, every month or so I would ask her out, and she would say yes or no or shoot me down or not but it would never lead to anything as such, other than one mega-awkward kiss, because I was a cowardly lion and because… well, if you saw her, and you know me, you would know (“Indeed, the whole of her body gave the impression of having been chiseled by a master engraver into a life-sized slab of creamery butter”). One day, I sent her an email that said, “You know, I realized why I like you so much. You’re the only person I’ve ever met who’s all at once a pretty girl, a beautiful woman, and a hot chick. Fake date soon?” She called me the next day, clearly pissed off, and yelled at me about something completely unrelated, a job that I'd told her I could get her if she wanted it. "I can live my own life" or some bullshit. Then she logged on AIM and lambasted me for about a minute and a half (“I’m flattered, but I’m not interested” – NEVER SAY THIS TO SOMEONE, IF YOU’RE A FUCKING HUMAN BEING and you don’t hate their fucking guts) and then told me, “I’ve actually started dating somebody else.” Then she said she was going to go clean her apartment. Well, I went and bawled my fucking tongue and half my brain out of my head on my bed (which is saying a lot, because once I went through a patch where I didn’t cry for seven years) and tried to fall asleep. Then, at 11:30 that night, right after I’d managed to drink myself passed out, she called me and asked if I could still get her the job she'd yelled at me about that afternoon (“I just got a bill for like $200”). I’d already told the person she "wasn't interested," I said, and she hung up, dreamy and flustered, seeming to have no idea that what she’d just done to me was akin to cutting out my eyes and pissing in my ocular cavities, to paraphrase Phil Hartman. The next morning, she called me and asked if she wanted to go get coffee that day – I now realize that this was her great conciliatory gesture – and I can’t say no. So I went and stood in the rain in front of the Java House. She was fifteen minutes late, and playfully mocked me for wearing black, like I was so sad – which I was, and the fact that she knew it is exactly why I was so in love with her. We went in, and I think she bought my cup of coffee for me, and she charmed the crap out of me, as she always did, but I wasn’t about to take it lying down, so I did that thing that you do, that last-ditch thing. I had a professor describe it once while he was teaching Milton. He was talking about Satan in Paradise Lost, and he said he was acting: “Like you act when somebody’s broken up with you. You let yourself go, you stop showering, you stop brushing your hair, you walk around acting all self-piteous. But the girl doesn’t care, you haven’t made a dent in her armor. All you’ve done is wasted your own time, and made yourself look like a fool.” I started describing, to her, my general misery and malaise, and she challenged me to list the reasons my life was so bad, and the things that were wrong with me. I did. Then, she offered to list the things that are good about me. I deferred, but she insisted. “You have really good skin… You have really nice bone-structure… you’re really good at telling stories…” then she totally ran dry. All three of which, by the way, are exactly, to a one, the only compliments I could ever get my notoriously uncomplimentary harlequin (and I mean Harlequin like the Batman villainess, not harlequin like the comedia dell’arte character) of an ex-girlfriend to give me. I started digging my thumbnail into my palm, because that’s what I do when I’m about to lose my shit. So she walked me, caffeinated and philosophically powder-kegged, back to my car, where, for some reason (it was an apropos reason, not some batshit looney reason), I grabbed my ankle in one hand and swung myself around as fast as I could in a tight circle, hopping on one foot. She said I had good balance. Good balance. Then she left.
Well, the way that were living
Is all take and no giving.
There’s nothing to believe in.
The loudest mouth will hail the new found way
To be king for a day.
Curated by D at 12:01 AM
I know this is relative and it wouldn’t be significant if it were true, but I think it would have been neat if nature had given humans no prerogative to evolve past 3 feet tall. Like, the average man would be 3 feet tall, and the equivalent of a 7 foot giant as we understand them would be a towering 42 inches. Offensive linemen would weigh 160 pounds. Ceilings in skyscrapers would be 5 feet tall, significantly saving on lumber, steel, and drywall construction costs. Sports cars would have 7.5 inch wheels, and huge spinner rims on SUVs would be a head-turning 11 inches. Cats would be puma-sized, tigers significantly bigger. McDonalds would celebrate its "whopping" world-famous eighth-of-a-pounder. The average baby would weigh 3.5 pounds. The morbidly obese would weigh not less than 120 pounds. Bond James Bond, 007 would be a sexual metaphor on a whoooooole different level. Dwarfism would be said to affect those 2 feet tall and under. Machine guns would fire .381 millimeter shells, and KRS-One would have rhymed, “got myself an Uzi and my brother a four-and-a-half.” Going fishing would be borderline-suicidal. Eating an apple would be a project. If you finished a baseball steak, you would get it for free. An eighth of weed would be a whole hell of a lot of weed, and a 20 oz. of Old English would knock you on your ass.
Best of all, J.R.R. Tolkien might not have been famous.
The world would be a much more charming place.
Curated by D at 6:46 PM
50 Cent is hilarious sometimes, because he’ll spit all furious like,
and then, like two lines later, he’ll be like,
Lookin' for a slut wit a nice butt to get a nut,
which may or may not be genius, but is also, intentionally or not, a lot like a C&C Music Factory song from like 1990.
Trying to get a nut to move your butt to the dance floor.
It will be interesting to see if, in the year 2057, they will worship 50 like George Carlin does Bill & Ted, and Princeton Universtiy Press will publish the collected poems of 50 Cent as a slim annotated volume, and young literature students will read it in awe, take notes in the margins ("irony?" or "what a capacious intellect!" or "note formalist rhetorical stategies, neutered violence," or double-underline couplets like "I'm the hardest from New York, my flow is bonkers, all the other hard n***s, they come from Yonkers"), and adulate the memory of Fiddy with superlative praises. Frankly, though, I’m fine with people calling Fiddy a genius when he dies, as long as that epithet doesn’t escape the Factory. Shit, throw in Technotronic and I’ll give you Lloyd Banks.
Shakespeare, Dante, Homer, sub-European dance track producers, and G-Unit. Truly towering intellects. Gonna make you sweat!
Now THAT, my friends, is GENIUS.
Also: have you ever noticed that the saxophone break in the middle of this song rips of "Salt Peanuts" by Dizzy Gillespie? Incredible!
Curated by D at 9:09 PM
Yesterday, I went to my parents’ house to do some laundry. The first load was about the size of God's ballgag, and it wouldn't dry in a single cycle. It was too big. I opened the door halfway through the second drying cycle and it was all steaming and damp and shit. So I threw on some dirty clothes and went to dinner with some friends. Woke up the next morning. Went to transfer the laundry. It had been transferred, and there was a condom, which either fell out of a pocket or was scoured for by anxious, idle fingers, sitting on top of the washing machine. Parents are insufferable busy-bodies. It’s awesome. I always wonder what, exactly, a parent's reaction to something like that feels like.
Curated by D at 12:41 PM
So, I'm thinking, the next time we turn a Nick Hornby book into a movie... instead of casting, oh, say, John Cusack (High Fidelity)
or Jimmy Fallon (Fever Pitch)
or Hugh Grant (About a Boy)
Why don't we cast Nick Hornby?
I think it'll really add a dimension to the depicted love affair with Catherine Zeta Jones.
Curated by D at 5:19 PM
Having just finished watching Hannibal -- which is a plotless baggy monster and terrible and one of those "shocking" installments that tarnishes a perfectly good legacy (like Once Upon A Time In Mexico or Terminator 3), but is great to look at -- I am reminded of the fact that some friends of mine went to it in a crowded theatre on opening day, and during the showing a black woman exclaimed, quite loudly, "I know he ain't going to make that man eat his own brain. MMMMM HMMMMM!"
Am I still drunk? Because it's seven in the morning. There was a funeral wake at the bar I went to last night. So, while a bunch of catty girls who think they're hotter than each other knitted scarves, and my friends screamed at Hawkeyes on TV, several dignified and teary funerales hugged a lot and cried a little. For some reason I seemed to be the only person who found this interaction a enervating and awkward. And awkwardness, like most other things in this world, is an excuse to drink excessively. The shortlist:
-Asked a bartender to marry me for playing Elvis Costello. Was not kidding. Did not amuse bartender.
-Got into a discussion about shoes and hats with a man who owns 75 hats and 100 pairs of shoes, who gave me a piece of paper for a reason I can't remember, but that was related to the new Dinosaur Jr shoes, with a word I can't read on it.
When he gave it to me he acted like he was doing me a seriously huge favor, though.
-Drunk-dialed almost everyone in my new phone and shriek-screamed rants at them for as long as I could sustain them. Highlights (i.e., the only parts I can remember) include, "I'm better than the Kennedys!" and "Come on! You know it and I know it!" which referred to something unspecified.
-Watched friend call other friend's phone until it was turned off, then tried to access his voicemail by guessing his pin number for like two hours.
Another one to wipe off the conscience.
Curated by D at 7:02 AM
I’ll take this time
To tell my friends
What I’m thinking of.
On second thought,
I’ll think some more
And tell you later on.
She don’t even care,
But I would die
For her love.
~Teenage Fanclub, “December”
For the last few hours, I’ve been listening to a fraction of the unsolicited mixtapes and mix cds and playlists of various kinds that I made for people but, you know, never got the opportunity to give to them. It’s strange, it really is, how they evolve in your head. At the beginning, they’re just a bunch of songs you’re throwing together because the transitional aesthetics seem somehow appropriate. They’re in the same key, or one song ends with a drum fill and the next song starts with a drum roll, or they’re both about birds, or, most likely, they both rip off the Beach Boys. You listen to them and maybe cringe a little, because you know there’s a song on there that the hypothetical recipient won’t like or get or appreciate, but if only they could listen to it with your ears – or if not your ears, then ears that have you in mind. You’re thinking, “I know Guided by Voices isn’t the easiest band to swallow for a girl with a Milli Vanilli obsession, but I’ve just got a feeling about this one.” The darker songs, the less accessible songs, the most goddamn meaningful songs become a Joycean gambit, like standing under a window in the rain until you die of exposure… if not necessarily on that level.
Then, after you’ve listened to them a couple of times, you lose that sense of risk, and the tapes become perfect compositional mosaics, Picasso-esque gestalt collages that aren’t just ten songs per side – they’re two sides that perfectly dovetail and form a kind of manifesto on your enormous crush (romantic crush or, more rarely, hetero dude-crush) on the target of the tape.
The great folly of the mixtape compiler is always assuming the audience will share in your view of aggregate history, much less your sense of the importance of momentary associations. Aggregate history is tricky, because it has to do with the way thinking about musical transcends you. You know, like when you see a girl wearing a Nirvana shirt, and you get to talking, eventually the conversation is going to get to, “So, do you like Pixies?” (Except you say THE Pixies because if you don’t it sounds pretentious). If she knows them, it becomes “What about Sonic Youth,” and then, “So, the Wipers?” And eventually – even if you have to go all the way down to Beat Happening, and God forbid you ever have to bring up Beat Happening in an important conversation (talk about divisive –never mention Beat Happening or abortion in a conversation with a promising pretty girl) – you get to something she doesn’t know. Because men are smarter than women. I’m just kidding. But, I’m talking about me over here, and I have an incredible knack for falling in love with the most aloof women imaginable. The thing about aloof women is, they don’t tend to have unquenchable thirsts for college rock trivium from the 1980s. The upshot of that is, you know a lot more than they do, so you can teach them. The problem is, usually they don’t care at all.
So, in terms of aggregate history, you have to find a way to use the history that shaped their own taste for them instead of against them. Carolyn the Terrible, for example, was a huge fan of the Shins. (Carolyn the Terrible also instigated my brilliant New York-themed mixtape, New York’s Alright if You Like Saxophones (New York’s Alright if You’re a Homosexual)). (Why don’t I have any friends who would get that?). There are any number of pop bands over the years that have put a little honey in the James Mercer pot, but there is a reason the Shins have become what they have. And the problem with the people who discover the Shins like a bolt from the blue is, they’re about as apt to be impressed by the Boo Radleys as they are by being handed an iron girder and being told it’s from the Sears Tower. This is the same reason most girls would read this and accuse me of ripping off High Fidelity. Not because I’m a part of the class and culture of sad sacks who contributed to the composition of High Fidelity (not that they’ve read it, but they saw it once). But because they would think I’m ripping it off.
So you have to find songs that are somehow undeniable.
But this leads directly into the bigger problem: momentary associations. Because they tend to taint your conception of the undeniable, they are incredibly dangerous, and incredibly tempting Edenic quinces that you just want to pluck right into a prominent spot on the tape. But just because you one time had a transcendent night, say, laying in the back of a flat-bed truck with some girl watching the clouds float over the moon like a wave of grain and dandelion fluff and you couldn’t stop thinking about “Kicked it in the Sun” by Built to Spill and so “Kicked it in the Sun” has become permanently entrenched in your conception of not only your relationship of that person, but the very concept of that person, so you can’t possibly understand how they couldn’t like “Kicked it in the Sun.” And you have to take a very deep breath and ask yourself, will this person, who is a big Milli Vanilli fan, like this tape if I put “Kicked it in the Sun” as the second track?
She will not.
Right about at this point in your understanding of the mixtape you’re making or have made (but not yet given), your relationship with the hypothetical recipient always sours, breaks, unspools, or somehow otherwise ceases to exist except as a heap on the floor, waiting around to be swept into the dustbin. This is the point that you lay in bed listening to the mixtape and realize what you were really saying all along. You put “Thirteen” by Big Star on it, and when Alex Chilton is singing, in that perfect perfect alto, about taking her to the pool, you realize that, in your cowardly way, you were asking her to go to the pool with you. Or, when Stephen Malkmus sings, “You’re the kind of girl I like, because you’re empty and I’m empty, and you can never quarantine the past,” you were telling her that you’ve forgotten everything that happened to you before she popped up and you promise to never think about anything again. And you start to get a little embarrassed, because you’ve been saying some things that you realize could have come off as a little bit creepy at the end of the day if only you’d had the guts to say them. But really, you didn’t have the guts to say them. In fact, you were going to have some popular musicians say them for you, but you didn’t even have the guts to have them say it, because the tape, elaborate packaging and all, is still in your possession. In fact, you’re laying on your bed listening to it, and you’re no longer on speaking terms with the person who was supposed to get the fucking thing. Holy shit, did I really put a Joni Mitchell song on this tape that goes “Star bright, star bright, you’ve got the loving that I like alright”?
That’s about the point that the tape somehow turns the corner and becomes a scathing indictment of everything they stand for. Because when Joni Mitchell sings “I shouldn’t have got on this flight tonight,” and then she’s like “I’ve got the headphones on, I can’t drown you out of my mind,” you’re like, “Who the fuck do you think you are, bitch?” And what motivation could I possibly have had for putting a Flaming Lips song about bugs on this thing if I didn’t secretly hate you all along?
So you like Pavement? Do you like Urusei Yatsura?
It’s getting harder all the time, too, because musical omnivores are increasingly becoming dismissive of the masculinist oblique love song tradition of the guitar rock of the last 25 years and more and more forward-thinking. Synthesizer bleeps and shit. And there’s nothing wrong with synthesizer bleeps. But the beautiful thing about the mixtape used to be, it was a way to sit there and play a guitar for a girl without sitting there and playing a guitar for a girl. If anybody in Cambridge, Massachusetts is currently wooing a girl he invited to his dorm room by covering a Silver Apples song with a Roland 909 and a sequenced saw-synth bassline, I will eat my hat.
And the ones who aren’t musical omnivores are weird specialists who know what they like and don’t like anything else. Delta blues, Stax soul, 80s dance pop, dubstep, Dipset (those chicks are fucking weird), even Counting Fucking Crows. Making a mixtape for these people is suicide, because just by being out of their element, you’re out of your element. It’s like, don’t take a girl you think you might marry to a Godard movie, unless you think you might divorce her, too. The people who aren’t wound too tight for living are much harder to make mixtapes for, unfortunately.
Why do I bring all this up? When the daily high temperature hovers around -1 degree Fahrenheit, you don’t have a job, you’re absurdly over-educated, too smart to have any fun, and you have nothing else to do, your life’s organizing principle becomes baroque and heavy-handed symbolism. My dad gave me this ipod dock speaker thing that’s incredibly loud and sounds incredibly good, just because he's a nice guy. It was on my bedside table. Then I wanted the sound to hit both of my ears equally, so I put it on my headboard. But then I couldn’t reach it easily. So I decided, instead of putting it back on the bedside table, to put it on the bed, where the other person would be. (In the original 8billion megapixel version of the photo, you can zoom in close enough to see that "Seeing Other People" by Belle & Sebastian is playing, in the great tradition of absurdly sentimental metaphors, in place of my alternate pillow).
Then I thought, why not make it sing to me the way I used to try to sing to people?
Fuckit, I’m gonna go make a mixtape. One that I’m never gonna give to anybody.
Curated by D at 11:54 PM