So, talking to Amy this weekend over drinks after mini-golf, I got some scoop that at least one person who I wonder about at least occasionally reads this blog at least occasionally. Based on how many people are reading this blog, and based on how you get here, there are a couple of you that are thinking, hey, let’s see if Google can tell me whatever happened to Ezra. Oh, god, look at that. He has a blog. How 2004. Oh well, let’s see if there’s any dirt.

And, hey, I’m OK with that. That’s part of why I bother with this thing.

But maybe I wonder about you. Maybe you didn’t bother to leave a digital trail of snail slime across the Internet like I did. But maybe I want to hear from you too, you know?

ezraball at gmail dot com if the spirit moves you.

Petty sadness

I feel very lucky that of all the horrible things I could be faced with, you know, bombs and disease and disaster and the like, my petty disappointment of the evening was to find the only Harpoon IPA in the fridge mysteriously 8/10ths empty, though fully capped. I popped one in the freezer and had to wait 20 minutes while it cooled off. Didn’t feel like a warm one. Sad.

B for Bronotosaurus go on hiatus in style

B for Blurry, B for BrontosaurusI’m bummed that just as I’m really starting to warm up to them, B for Brontosaurus is going on “Total Hiatus”. Doug and I caught their excellent show tonight Lily Pad in Inman Square.

This incarnation had them as a 12-piece ensenble, doing “American Standards”, including some Magnetic Fields, some obscure-ish 60′s pop songs (including a Lennon/McCartney song the Beatles never recorded), “Smile” (you know, the one that goes “Smile, though your heart is breaking…”, which was written by Charlie Chaplin- who knew?), and, happily, some B for Bronto originals.

Yeah, they do remind me of Jonathan Richman and TMBG and The Magnetic Fields, but I think it’s especially unfair in their case to treat them as the sum of their influences. I don’t think they’re trying to sound like anyone or be anyone other than themselves, but I bring up the comparison, because they do have a similar way of making short, heartfelt, simple-ish songs that have a deep melancholy streak, but that make you smile and feel like a kid in spite of yourself. I think it’s something that couldn’t be pulled off without an overabundance of enthusiasm and originality, and I very much think they pull it off.

So while I’m throwing out he comparisons, I will also say that as a big ensemble, they also remind me a bit of the early Belle & Sebastian albums and EPs, where there are some ambitious arrangments pulled off with a kind of Andy Hardy lets-do-the-show-right-here!-in-the-barn! kind of optimism. I am sad that they’re going on hiatus, too, because I think that if the large ensemble version would get more used to playing together, they’d really be fantastic.
Another thing I like about them: despite the small, simple songs, they think big. The whole “American Standards” thing had its own kind of ambition. Also, Ben Morse helped organize the very fun Jonathan Richman tribute show at PAs Lounge this past March.

Update: correction: It was a Rooney/Garland vehicle (and a Busby Berkeley one, too!) where they put the show on in the barn, but not an Andy Hardy movie. Also, sorry, Doug, I corrected the spelling of melancholy.

The Somerville Open

Today! The Somerivlle OpenI have to say, the idea for The Somerville Open was a stroke of genius. Local Artists & Cartoonists making a free mini-golf course in Union Square is a great idea.

We went with Amy & Doug and met up with Amy & Colin & Sam, played 9 holes, and stopped for a few drinks at The Independent afterward. (If the goal was to bring people into Union Square to spend money, mission accomplished). To get a good idea of how spiffy the course was, Editrix took better pictures than I did.

My personal favorite hole was the extremely fun and well-executed Through the Looking Glass inspired croquet game by Emily Arkin.

The Somerville Open: Somervillians enjoy free mini-golf in Union SquareIf I have any gripe, its that the actual playability of the courses left a little to be desired (holes 2 & 4 & 9 were especially frustrating for most people); I think it was especially frustrating for the many kids who came out. That said, everybody seemed to be having a pretty good time, and there wasn’t the angst over the long lines that you’d get at a regular mini-golf course.


The ol’ PowerBook is dead again. It worked OK for about three weeks since it came back from AppleCare, then one day, the whole screen-fuzzing-over thing started again, periodically, with increasing frequency, until about two weeks ago, when the display just completely stopped working ever.
So, yesterday, I spent about 30 minutes on hold waiting for someone at AppleCare, listening to four of the world’s worst songs over and over, before I had to give up (to head to The Somerville Open).

Today, I had fewer committments, so I stayed on hold longer, until I finally got someone, who stuck to the script (reboot, reboot from CD, reset the power unit, blah blah), though I knew it was going to end up with my having to send it back.

While things could be worse, the mere fact that I have to send it back again means I do have to rescind my earlier positivity about AppleCare.

Recent culcha

  1. Read The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. Loved it, like Terri did, but different.
  2. Read The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Very different, but also loved. Must send a copy to Quentin, because it reminds me (plot-wise) of Zorg and Andy, though, knowing Quentin, probably very different in spirit.
  3. Saw Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly. Yeah, what I expected. Having read a bio of Dick last year, I couldn’t help but think of the actual house he lived in which was supposedly much as the house of wacky stoner friends in the book/movie.
  4. Have been watching Peep Show via Netflix. Imagine actually laughing out loud at a TV show.
  5. Finally, finally watched a Fellini film, Nights of Cabiria, which was fantastic. I can even overlook the godawful “hooker with a heart of gold” plot. Why did I wait so long for this? I suspect it’s because I think of foreign films from the 50′s and 60′s and think of the French new wave which I just. don’t. get., and I guess without consciously thinking about it, I lumped Fellini in the same bucket, which is just dumb in hindsight, but there you go.
  6. Watched The Wild One (the Brando movie). Unintentionally hilarious (mean, mean, bikers who are gone wild on that evil jazz music!), but now I can say I saw it.
  7. Are going to see La Dolce Vita at the Brattle tonight to continue the Fellini kick.

“It was only real because we said it was real.”

Terri and I watched the extremely inspirational Gigantic tonight. I was an enormous TMBG fan in high school, and while I had to eventually let go during their long drought of sub-par records on a major-label, I still carry a torch. (Actually, the best stuff they’ve done in recent years is perhaps the Dunkin’ Donuts commercials that are currently playing).

Anyway, I came to talk about the movie. Perhaps the best part were some of the extras, like them doing “Birdhouse in your Soul” in 1990 with Doc Severinson and the Tonight Show Orchestra (!). Some interesting fans were interviewed, too, like Sarah Vowell, who talked about how they’re an alternative to “Bacchanalian” rock music (“you can listen to They Might Be Giants and not have to pretend to be more messed up than you are”), and Ira Glass who had some quirky comments. (Dave Eggers shows up without managing to say anything insightful).

The concert footage that seemed shot for the documentary was fine, but I would have liked to have seen more old footage (maybe very little exists? maybe much belongs to Elektra?).

But I found it inspirational tonight in the way I found TMBG inspirational as a teenager, hearing “Ana Ng” for the first time, on “Modern Times”, the radio show that ran from midnight to 6am on WYEP in Pittsburgh, DJed by Harry the Wire. I heard it and I just thought “what in the world is this?!“. I didn’t know you could just make a song stop when it was done, even if it was only a minute and a half long, instead of pummeling the chorus into the ground and fading out. (I still hadn’t heard The Minutemen or The Ramones; of course, I still despise The Ramones, who, despite the short songs, are all about pummelling dumb ideas into the ground, and then picking them up and using them again in the next song).

TMBG were just so unabashedly smart, which was refreshing to me. They broke rules that you didn’t know were rules until you heard them breaking them. And they were so optimistically sad (which is expounded at length by many in the film).

The title of this post comes from a bit in the movie where Flansburgh mentions that they were reviewed in People magazine before they even had an official album, just cassettes that they made themselves and sold at shows.

The only bad part of the film is that like many documentaries, it suffers from the desire to over-inflate its subject; after nearly two hours of hearing about great John and John are, and how they, like invented music, I felt like I just ate five bowls of frosted sugar bombs.