I hope that I get old before I die

Sorely disappointed in the TMBG show tonight.

I guess you can’t go home again.

I tried to make sure it wasn’t just me being all jacked up and trying to hold them up to what they meant to me when I was 16. But no, I just didn’t see the guys born of some wacky DIY art scene Brooklyn of 1986. it was very much the ZZ Top vibe you mentioned, Marco. It was all rock, with a full band, none of the feeling of “holy crap, what are these guys going to do next”.

And I felt like I was bumming out the dorky girl standing next to me who seemed super excited to be there and was doing some dance that was a cross between playing the air keyboard and flailing like a beached squid.

I walked out during “Birdhouse in your soul”, and waited for Terri and Doug in the upstairs lobby, trying to figure out if it was the 2nd or 3rd worst show ever. (1st was the Godspeed You Black Emperor show we saw at the Somerville Theater in Feb 2001, 2nd or 3rd was the Screeching Weasel show in Bloomington IN that I fell asleep at in 1995 or so).

I sort of wish that the economics of pop music were such that they could just stop touring, like the Beatles or Glenn Gould in 1964, and just make brilliant studio music and sell it to millions. This may be the last time you ever hear me lament the heyday of recorded music, but there you go.

Why is the world in love again?

At one point I had seen They Might Be Giants more than any other band. Since then, that record was beaten first by Sterolab, then Yo La Tengo, then Interpol (though let’s face it, Dubs was the mastermind behind the latter, not that they are not a fine, competent, entertaining band, just that without her I perhaps might not have seen then 8 times in a year).

Anyway, it’s been 12 years since my last TMBG show (which was either at the College of Wooster in Ohio (Pere Ubu opened) or at Depauw University (Brian Dewan opened)). Tomorrow (well, tonight technically) I break the hiatus at the show at the Somerville Theater. It’s been a long time, but it doesn’t seem like it. While I haven’t thought about them much in the last decade, if I’m honest, both my worldview (which can shift from despairing nihilism to giddy levity within the space of seconds), and my sense of aesthetics are both but ripples flowing out from the grenade they dropped in the placid pond of my 15 year old brain.

Some links to get you in the mood. First, you must go here. You must watch the John Hodgman intro. You must watch Charlottesville (especially, especially if your name is John Sayles). You must watch one or two more. If you are from Pittsburgh you must watch the one about Mr. Smalls. And then, my friend, you must watch Dallas (also especially if you are John Sayles, because if you are, you will appreciate how frighteningly much it sounds like…)

That’s how we laugh the day away in the Merry Old Land of Ez*

Today I didn’t do a bunch of things I set out to do, and I ended up doing a lot of things I thought I wouldn’t do.

Well, truth be told, I did end up doing a lot of things I really did need to do (got the IP phones working @ work, did a walkthrough of the new site with one real live actual user. I also had dinner w/Terri@ the Middle East, and then, did some RPP work (got the cards I promised Nora printed [hmmmmmm... what did Nora order from me? Inquiring minds want to know, but I can't say... yet...]))

Because of all of this action, I fully thought I was going to blow off the Sons and Daughters show at the Middle East (a Monday show– urgh, I’m old!). But I managed to wrap up the Nora printing project early, and through the magic that is California wash, cleanup now takes 15 minutes instead of an hour. So I decided, I had a ticket, why not? The very fact that it was a Monday show sort of suggested that it would be a pretty laid back affair where I could have a beer or two and maybe even sit down if necessary.

So I drove over, and made it to the show at about 11:15, about a song or two in. The celebrity math on Sons and Daughters is (refinements encouraged):

X 2 [that’s X, the LA punk band, not the algebraic x] * Camera Obscura) + ( (Johnny Cash + The Clash)/2) + (The Jam * .25) + (Yma Sumac’s whip & eyeliner / Avogadro’s number).

The guitarist had great hair. Terri bought a CD from him.

*once again, credit where it’s due, “The Merry Old Land Of Ez” is yet another Terri coinage, following yesterday’s posts/discussion re: the Wizard of Oz

Rough Easter

We had a pretty great Easter; a trip to the gym, a trip to the print shop, an afternoon and evening full of introducing The Comic Strip Presents… to (and having a lovely veg Easter dinner with) Editrix & Summervillain.

But alas, our former neighbors in space but still-neighbors-in-our-hearts Ed, Juliet, Jacob, and Colin had a pretty rough one:

…Driving home last night on 495 we were rear-ended and pushed into the car in front of us which ended up in a 5-car accident and a trip for the 4 of us in an ambulance to UMass hospital in Worcester…

Come to find out, whiplash actually hurts. My poor, poor Altima is in very sad shape at a Wrecking Lot in Marlborough, with a bashed-in trunk holding many treasures: a soon-to-be rancid half-Easter ham, some Easter cupcakes, two Easter baskets and a bag full of Easter gifts for the boys (as well as my camera).

All that said, I’d like to thank the good folks at the Westborough Fire Department, the State Police and the pediatric unit at UMass-Worcester Medical Center. Top-notch work on what was, for them, an incident of minimal severity but for us, severe enough to make us very glad to be alive.


I’m off to be the wizard

The movie starts with opening credits over scenes of sky and clouds, and a Debbie Harry voice-over. Then, a charming 19-year-old Jean-Michel Basquiat is in the hospital; he is released, the swooning nurses wave and giggle. Basquiat walks downtown, past the Guggenheim, through Times Square (of 1981), past the Empire State Building, into the Lower East Side (of 1981). He gets kicked out of his apartment, falls in love with a model driving a convertible, he says “I’m off to BE the wizard”, he walks into an underground club where— mid-morning— a rapper and DJ are kicking out out the beats to ten or so dancing patrons, he buys and smokes a joint, jokes around with Fab 5 Freddie, he says “in this town you have to think big just to survive”, he walks past several instances of his own grafitti, he tries to sell a painting, he sees all his band’s gear stolen, he tags some buildings, he talks his way into a limo, into several clubs, he kisses Debbie Harry, finds a fortune, buys a car, and drives until dawn. Interspersed are performances from various post-punk bands of the day: Tuxedomoon, DNA, The Plastics, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, and James White and the Blacks.

It’s Downtown 81, a movie originally called “New York Beat Movie”, shot in 1981, thought lost, but rediscovered and released in 2000. The soundtrack was sort of destroyed, so all vocals were re-dubbed (Basquiat’s lines spoken by someone else, naturally; when we were watching, props to Terri for noticing how weird the voice sync was, and wondering if it had all been overdubbed, Fellini-style— she turned out to be correct). I went to see it at the Brattle with Matt Shaw back in the day, and recently, with Terri’s new interest in Tuxedomoon (my God, is “Luther Blissett” a great song, ) ordered it from Netflix. The plot is super hokey (I’ve got to find the girl/sell my painting to pay my landlord/recover the gear stolen by a rival band!), and much of the dialogue is atrocious. But it’s such a great slice of NYC in 1981, Basquiat is so smooth, and New York looks so totally beat, it makes you want to cry for a time when every square centimeter of Manhattan wasn’t overrun by hedge fund managers and their ilk (though perhaps that may be changing in a hurry, if last week turns out to be a harbinger of a sudden change in the economics of NYC and consequently its real estate).

We originally had tix to see Tilly and the Wall at the Middle East tonight, but decided not to go. Instead, we followed up Downtown 81 with The Wizard of Oz on TCM. How interesting to watch it as an adult. It’s so iconic; there is hours of entertainment in just trying to separate the icon from what’s actually there, whatever being actually there menas.

The Brattle used to have a contest where the winner got to pick out a double feature. Terri and I have batted about the merits of various pairings, and one that we keep coming back to (and props to Terri for originally thinking of it originally, I think) is a pairing of The Great Ziegfeld and The Wizard of Oz. Several cast members of the Wizard of Oz are Ziegfeld Follies alumni, namely Ray Bolger and Billie Burke (a.k.a. Mrs. Florenz Ziegfeld). Frank Morgan (a.k.a. the man behind the curtain) is in both films. And both have ridiculously over the top production numbers, sets, and cinematography. The Great Ziegfeld doesn’t have any flying monkeys, but then again, The Wizard of Oz doesn’t have William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Yet another perceptive note on Terri’s part (Terri, if I trusted you to blog every brilliant thing you said, I would just be letting you blog this yourself!): the black and white bit of the Wizard of Oz? If you look closely, it’s actually not really black and white. It’s sepia-toned. Some hardcore technically-oriented film geek probably knows the answer to this, but I wonder if it always this way, or if it has something to do with its conversion for color TV or if it was converted to all color film at some point after color was more common. Regardless of why, the effect is that the scenes in Kansas seem more bland than the sharp, classic look of true black and white; it seems more like nostalgia, like an idealized memory of farming America, or an idealized memory of home.

There has also been a WONDERFUL promo of John Waters running on TCM lately, talking about why Dorothy is insane for wanting to get back to Kansas. It’s not on YouTube, but there is a slightly longer version available on the TCM website that is well worth the minute or two of your life it takes to watch it! Go now! I don’t care if you’re at work! Money quote:

I’m the only child in the audience who wondered why she ever wanted to go back to Kansas. Why would she want to go back to Kansas in the this dreary black and white farm with this aunt who dressed badly and seemed mean to me, when she could live with magic shoes, winged monkeys, and gay lions?? I never understood it.

And for some bonus random connections, Waters talks much about Margaret Hamilton, whom Warhol did several portraits of in the 80′s, around the time he was collaborating with Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Debbie Harry was in John Water’s Hairspray.

Mice and men and merde and mort

I was on the red line train going over the Longfellow Bridge this morning, and my phone started ringing. I already had one IT support call this morning (not technically my job but I work at a startup and there are a lot of things that aren’t technically my job that are actually my job), so I prepared for the worst. Instead, it was Terri calling to let me know that the cats were in the kitchen batting around a tiny mouse. Before the train went back underground, I suggested trapping it.

Throughout the day, I got updates. Terri trapped the mouse under a box and put phone books on it. The cats were still going crazy. Terri trapped a second mouse under another box and put some very hefty fashion magazines on top of it.

Before we get to the next part of the story, you should note that there’s a homeless guy who usually sits somewhere on Surface Road between South Station and my office building. I have suspected that sometime last fall he seems to have quit moving from his bundle of blankets to go to the bathroom, because the stench is sort of unbelieveable. One day, the place he had been the day before was surrounded by police tape and the guy was nowhere to be seen. I was a little worried that he had died in the night (it was freezing cold that day) or some other such horrible end. And while I was one of probably thousands who walked by him each day and did nothing, I still felt the vague twinge of guilt for a few minutes. But the next day, I saw him on a different corner. And since then, this pattern of police tape, disappearance, and reappearance has happened a couple of times since, except without the same twinge of guilt on my part.

Anyway, today on my way home, I got confirmation on the bathroom habits. He was shuffling down the street, right in front of the Federal Street Dunkin’ Donuts, his pants down around his ankles, carrying a stack of Boston Phoenixes, his legs covered in shit.

So, part of me thinks that I should call the police. I mean, generally, I know that calling the police and locking people up is generally not the solution to all society’s ills, and some of the statistics (like 1% of American adults are in prison!) are just insane. But I think that walking down the street covered in your own feces is pretty much a sign that you need some kind of help you’re not getting and you’re also in sort of an emergency type situation.

And I knew that if I didn’t call the police, probably nobody else would, either. I’ve been reading a book that’s not a book I would normally read (and there’s a story behind this, but it’s not that interesting), about social psychology and marketing, and there’s a long digression on the Catherine Genovese incident in which a woman was murdered in Queens in 1964, with many witnesses who did nothing to stop her attacker. Subsequent newspaper and magazine coverage led to a lot of handwringing about the depersonalization of urban life. But the book details subsequent psychological experiments that got a little more specific about the phenomenon: when a situation’s emergency status is at all ambiguous, people look to others for cues on how to act, and therefore, usually, nobody does anything at all, because everybody’s too busy figuring out if it’s an emergency or not.

Anyway, this was a long way of saying that I knew I probably should do something about/for this guy, but no, I did not. I rationalized this by saying that if I called the police it would probably take hours, and I had to go home and kill some mice. On the train home, I thought, maybe I should blog it. Which made me regret I hadn’t taken a picture, but maybe that was for the best.

When I got home, there was the second major moral conundrum of the day. Do I kill the mice? I had planned on it, but it is easier said than done. Do I just put them in some kind of container and let them suffocate or starve? Seems wrong to do it so slowly. But I don’t think I could muster up the violence to bludgeon one to death. Honestly, if I come back as a mouse, and if I end up dying by a human device, I hope that it is one of the plain old snappy traps that offer instant death, and not one of those things where you get stuck in glue or trapped in some kind of container or just slowly squeezed.

I decided that I had (sort of) failed one moral test for the day, so the mice were getting a reprieve.

I was going to slide a piece of cardboard under the boxes, tape them up, drive them to the woods behind Dilboy Field, and let them free. I boxed the first one up. It was pretty scared, because there was a lot of squeaking. The second one I realized pretty quickly was already dead. Not sure whether it just died of starvation, fright, or whether the cats had batted it around too much before Terri intervened.

I took the one remaining squeaker, packed him in his box into the trunk, and drove over to the parking lot at Dilboy Field. Sadly, when I untaped the box, I didn’t hear any squeaking. Poor little guy must have had a little mousey heart attack from the fright. Alas.

On the way home, listening to some guy on NPR talk about blah, blah, blah, Bear Stearns, blah blah blah Ben Bernanke, blah blah blah, I kept hearing this little heartbeat sound. I sort of wondered if it was car trouble or some kind of freaky mouse version of the telltale heart. I eventually figured out that the iPod in my coat was still playing from the train ride home. It was playing “Showroom Dummies” by Kraftwerk.