Weekend Update 25 Oct 2008

Mme Dubs had a baby shower today, and I spent my stag time doing work, listening to some of the mountains of vinyl that we got from Mme Dubs’s dad this summer, going to Taco Bell, doing some work (since I was so busy this week doing things that are Not Officially My Job at work that I didn’t get to do some things that are officially my job that I actually really needed and wanted to do), talking to my folks, and reading things I have written in various notebooks for the last two years.

Now Dubs is home and I’m trying to figure out where to hide while she watches the Penn State game at 8pm.

I spent a lot of the time on the phone with the parents today talking politics– and in the middle of the phone call they got robo-called by Hank Williams Jr. campaigning for McCain. Must be nice to be in a swing state– all we get are people begging us for money so that the Democrats can write big checks to the radio and television stations in the swing states.

Facebook still turns up people from my past who I never thought I’d hear from again, but who ended up doing amazing things with themselves. But there seem to be diminishing returns; I feel like for a while there, I was finding someone new every day, and now it’s about one or two every two weeks.

So maybe I’ll be blogging more.

Had a lovely dinner last night with various peeps, and I ran my Halloween costume idea past them and it seemed to go over well, so it is a go. Summervillain even lent me a fabulous orange jumpsuit that he had left over from two bands ago to make it happen. More on that next week…

Warning: comments busted

Another nice thing about HONK! was that we ran into Amy C and Colin both days (the first day on purpose, the second day by accident). Anyway, Amy (gently) yelled at me for not approving her blog comments and not returning her emails. The email problem is a PEBKAC issue with me. The blog comments are a mysterious problem with WordPress that a complete reinstall and reimport has not been able to fix. But basically, if something gets stuck in my spam filter, I have to write SQL to free it. So I apologize in advance if your comment does not post immediately. Or in a week. I’ll get around to fixing this eventually, but I blog to do the things I don’t do at work, and I do plenty of debugging on a daily basis.

More thoughts on HONK!

We went to the parade today, and while my video from that is uploading, I have some amendements to make from my prior post.

I was sort of sour on the whole politics angle of the HONK! bands. I think what I said was true, that basically, if the goal is to convert the unconverted, spectacles like this aren’t going to be the forum where that happens. My experience is that the only time peoples’ minds are changed is when there is some personal connection between two people that transcends politics, and then they have to reconcile their feelings to their viewpoints. Anyway, so, maybe people are not going to hear the Leftist Marching Band’s song about Wal-Mart and are suddenly going to see the light and say, yeah, they treat their workers like crap, I’m not going to shop there.

But I think there is something to the politics of the music itself that I basically buy into. First off, it’s just a total non-product. Very few of the bands there were even selling CDs. None of these people are making their living from their music, they are just out there for the joy of the thing. (I’m guessing here, to be fair: but I suspect that only a relative handful of people are making a living from music these days, and the folks in the HONK bands have not given up their day jobs). But the format of this kind of music is just not salable; it can barely even be recorded well. I mean, it technically can be recorded, and it can even sound pretty good. But unless you have a really crazy sound system at home, it’s just not going to sound like 10 horns and 5 percussionists (or more) standing 3 or 4 feet away from you, there’s not going to be a crowd dancing all smelly after a day of dancing.

I also feel like it opens a viable door for popular music. I guess it’s not popular in the sense that a lot of people like it. But it is pop music in the sense that you don’t need any kind of specialized cultural context or background to have an immediate visceral human reaction to people blowing horns and banging drums in front of you. It’s a popular music that you can participate in just by listening to it and ditching the snobbery and admitting that you like it– you don’t have to buy a T-Shirt, you don’t have to participate in some kind of record store nerd snottery, you don’t have to claim your turf as part of a subculture (there were townies, trustafarians, old crusty Cambridge folkies, new somerville yuppies with their kids in their maclaren strollers, and Click and Clack the Tappett Brothers for god’s sake). You can just listen and shake your butt and be happy to be in the middle of something great on a couple of gorgeous New England autumn days.

... and it was beautiful... but so's Maine

And I love that it just harkens to a time when if you wanted music, you just made it. You didn’t go shopping.

Honk! 2008 photos and video

HONK! 2008

I’ve mentioned the HONK! festival in previous years. The third one is happening this weekend (parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square is just 2 hours from now). You can read more about them and what they’re about at their website.

Here’s Providence RI’s What Cheer? Brigade, who knocked my socks off last year (strongly recommend watching this full screen since it’s rather dark).

A shorter clip:

And another, where it’s actually light and you can sort of see them. The gorilla guy wore a scarier but probably significantly less hot mask this year.

Due to a program misprint (which said they were going on in statue park at 8:00, not 6:00), I almost missed What Cheer?. Happily, I did not, though I did miss the first few minutes of their set while I was distracted by these folks playing in front of the T station, whose name I did not catch.

Also a notable group from earlier on were the Loyd Family Players who were sort of a Brazilian-style drum group from California (yes, many bands trek very far to make the fest).
Loyd Family Players, HONK! 2008(Photo by Terri)

Loyd Family Players at HONK! 2008

There were lots of other bands as well who were also notable, but it’s almost impossible to see them all, what with 4 simultaneous stages going on all around Davis Square. Anyhow, I love the HONK! fest, and the general outpouring of energy and creativity and feel like I’m in a good place when such awesome stuff happens within walking distance of my house.

Davis Square during HONK! 2008

Still, I’m not a political guy, and while I wish them luck in their project, I’m mainly there for the spectacle and the talented musicians and the spirit of the thing. My impression of the effectiveness of most acts of political street theater is the same as Tom Lehrer’s eventual opinion of political satire:

I don’t think this kind of thing has an impact on the unconverted, frankly. It’s not even preaching to the converted; it’s titillating the converted. I think the people who say we need satire often mean, “We need satire of them, not of us.” I’m fond of quoting Peter Cook, who talked about the satirical Berlin cabarets of the ’30s, which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War. You think, “Oh, wow! This is great! We need a song like this, and that will really convert people. Then they’ll say, ‘Oh, I thought war was good, but now I realize war is bad.’” No, it’s not going to change much.

Obscure economic indicator: the HBS turkey

I shudder to think of the kind of macroeconomic mayhem that can be caused when the current batch of HBS students graduate, since they seem to have nothing better to do in school than start Facebook groups to protest the presence of wild turkeys on campus. Money quote:

“The first time I saw the turkey was during my second week of school,” he said. “I’m from California, so seeing a turkey roaming the campus blew my mind. I remember stopping a girl who was a year ahead of me to bring her attention to the fact that there was a turkey a few feet away from us. She looked at me like I was five years old.”

The only heartening thing in there is that she has a classmate that thinks she’s a dope too.

Kelly Link @ the Harvard Book Store

Summervillain sent me an email yesterday morning that there was a Kelly Link reading at Harvard Book Store at 7pm; he and Trixie couldn’t go, but he figured I was interested. He was correct.

At about 6 I left work, made time for a drink with the kids from work at Kingston Station (the kids were drinking beer, I left after one martini), and made it to the HBS right as the reading started.

I thought I had blogged more about her, but I can only find one passing mention, which is too bad because she’s been pretty much my favorite writer for a couple of years now. So, the Internets can fill you in on her as easily as I can, but I just recommend reading a couple of stories that are freely available online. “The Specialist’s Hat” had me so creeped out the night that I read it that I didn’t want to go downstairs alone and made Terri come with me. I think about “The Hortlak” every time I go into a convenience store late at night. And I have always loved “The Faery Handbag” because it mentions the Garment District in Cambridge near where I used to work.

She read part of one story from her new young adult book Pretty Monsters, and she basically just stopped as soon as it started to get really scarey. For the record, she mentioned that the Brian Johnson mentioned in the story is based on her real cousin, Brian Johnson, who told her to write the story.

Highlights from the Q&A:

  • The story “Magic for Beginners” is indeed inspired by Buffy the Vampire Slayer which she claims to have been obsessed with for a while. Specifically, it started with ideas that she had for it that couldn’t or wouldn’t be done on TV (diferent actors playing the same characters each episode, no regular airing schedule, etc.)
  • She had a good response to the question about why the new collection of stories is categorized as young adult when none of her others are. I can’t reproduce the answer perfectly, but the many points included that her stuff is always hard to categorize, that she thinks it’s definitely YA and it’s more than just a convenient marketing label, and that it is does not involve looking back on youth with nostalgia but instead has an immediacy and the sense of intense critical importance of everything.
  • She didn’t talk too much about her reasons for publishing this with large publisher (Viking) this time rather than publishing it through the Small Beer Press which she runs with her husband. But she did mention that she got far more creative control over the whole thing than she ever expected including working with the illustrator she wanted and veto power on the cover art. She said it was kind of a nice change to have someone else do everything, and just have to say “yes” or “no”.

No photos: it would have felt weird.

Postscript: I’ve wondered this before in respect to seeing films at the Brattle Theater but what is it about Cambridge audiences that laughter is their only reaction to any critical moment in any performing art? There were just moments in the story where there was certainly some sort of emotional peak or moment of revelation, but where laughter was totally inappropriate. It’s some kind of bizarre intellectual emotional repression that’s endemic to our fair neighboring city.