Friday, December 29, 2006

Damn, skippy...

It's been awhile since I last posted. Now, in that time I've lost a computer and a loved one and gained a new job, but I should still try to keep this thing up to date. Also, I should be getting a new computer soon.

Resolved for 2007: Try to keep that book count updated, and don't feel all embarassed when the knitting keeps me from reading for months on end.

My likely first book finished in 2007: Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace, unless I really run through it today, tomorrow, and the next day. Which is possible, but I can always just knit instead of read some more.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Fall music

I believe it has been established (on this very blog) that I am a big fan of Autumn.. October especially. The leaves turn, I get to start wearing sweaters again, the Booker prize gets awarded (again this year on my birthday!), and I get PRESENTS.

It has also been established that I like the music. So now, now I will contemplate the music I listen to at the start of fall:

The Velvet Underground, all albums: Not sure why. I think I got the Best of VU in the fall when I was 12, so maybe it's just a coding thing. But also, the mellow songs have a pretty melancholy that work well with the Indian Summer.

Van Morrison, Moondance: Well, it references October. And how October is romantic. I adore Van Morrison, and Astral Weeks is all about the spring, so this is more appropriate.

Early Harry Nilsson: I don't know why, I just do.

Wilco, Being There: Again, I code some Wilco albums by season (Summerteeth is Summer, YHF is winter), and this is certainly the autumn listening album for me.

Belle and Sebastian, If You're Feeling Sinister: It just reminds me of emotionally stunted smart kids, which TOTALLY reminds me of the start of the college school year.

Vince Guaraldi, A Charlie Brown Christmas: It is never too early to start listening to "Linus and Lucy".

So... what do you listen to in the autumn?

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Friday, September 22, 2006

New tournament!

Greg and I are running a tournament based off of the Pitchfork Top 200 Songs of the 1960s list. You can find it at the same old place as the last tournament. This time, though, I'm offering all the music up as mp3 downloads. Better get a head start on that, as I'm moving out of my apartment with stolen internet this weekend. So... vote! First round of voting ends on Sunday.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Monday, July 31, 2006

Pitchfork, Day Two

I am sunburned (because sunscreen just melts off your face in 100 degree heat). My face is puffy. I am tired, probably slightly dehydrated, and I just realized during a meeting at work that my right ear is still ringing slightly.


But please remind me to pick up my earplugs from my apartment before Lolla next weekend.

Acts I completely missed: Liars (one of the few band I felt completely unrepentant about missing for a tamale run); Aesop Rock/Mr. Lif (waiting at the other stage for Mission of Burma); Devendra Banhart (waiting at other stage for Yo La Tengo); Spoon (waiting at other stage for Os Mutantes, drowned out by Diplo’s thumping bass).

Obligatory recommendation: Tapes ‘n’ Tapes were good! Scary promoter guy for Tapes ‘n’ Tapes threatened to kill my pet/harm my weakest family member if I didn’t say that. In a really scary way. Twice!

Swedish bragging: Somehow it was charming how Jens Lekman’s entire band was composed of attractive blondes dressed in white. It’s like Jens was saying, “You know, there are so many pretty women in Sweden that they have to do something else to get noticed. Some of them become talented musicians. There are so many that I can take six of them out of the country and it’s okay.”

Ongoing inquiry: What is the proper pronunciation of Jens Lekman’s first name?

The point at which all concepts of American vs. international and pop v. indie imploded: Sub Pop-signed Cansei Ser Sexy, who are from Sao Paulo and named themselves after a Beyonce quote, played in the Biz 3 tent. Before unleashing some noisy, noisy music on us, the lead singer yelled “Are you ready for this jelly?!” many times over.

Reason my ear are still ringing: Mission of Burma. So loud. So good. So very loud. Not that Yo La Tengo were quiet, either.

Ongoing inquiry: What happened to Roger Miller’s tinnitus? Could it come back?

Best thing I brought along (apart from water): Peppermint wet naps. They burn, but then they cool.

Number of songs YLT played off of previous albums: One that I could recognize, maybe two. And one of the songs I thought I knew from a previous album was actually the advance single released from I Am Not Afraid of You. I do wish they’d played something from Nothing or before. But I did get a setlist.

Amusing bit of continuity from yesterday: A woman was taping onstage before Os Mutantes’ set. At some point, I saw her looking confused as she held a few feathers that were still up there from Man Man’s set on Saturday.

Annoyance: If somebody stays at a stage for five hours to get to the front row for the last two acts of the day, they're not going to step aside for your extremely short daughter/girlfriend/female of indeterminate relationship to you, regarless of being taller than them. Do not call these people rude. It will not make them move. Instead, show up earlier. Or hang out in back! It's easier to see!

Os Mutantes: Awesome. That’s really all I have to say. The Brazilians up front were going insane. It was a little odd that they played the Americanized versions of a lot of their songs (nothing new, all these dated back to Technicolor), but still great. And I want to be their new lead singer (Zella) when I grow up, for she is awesome, and also in better shape than I am now.

Heartwarming Moment: Devendra Banhart, who publicly cites Os Mutantes as one of his biggest influences, got to come up onstage and sing backup on Bat Macumba. Awww.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pitchfork, Day One

Hot. Hot hot hot. Sweat laced with sunscreen that isn't going to absorb dripping down my into my cleavage, wet shirt, hot.

And that was at 12:30, a half hour before any of the bands started playing. It pretty much stayed that way until the next-to-the-last band played.

And they only had one Ben & Jerry's truck. What the hell? Intonation had two or three, and Intonation was smart to do that. I'm buying through the fence from the biking helado vendor today. There's no line for him.

But the music was good.

Stage I didn't see today: Biz 3. I'm going to try to at least see CSS today.

Presumed Chicago City Ordinance: All music festivals in Chicago must begin with garage rock, apparently.

Bands I didn't see, and could only kinda hear: Band of Horses (waiting at front of other stage for The Mountain Goats), Destroyer (could hear enough to ID songs, but waiting at front of other stage for Art Brut), Ted Leo (THANK YOU, interminable Ben and Jerry's line).

If the Boredoms were pirates from Philly: They'd be Man Man. Two items of note about Man Man--the A stage was covered with feathers all day because of their shenanigans, and their drummer was sporting some short shorts. In white!

The act you had to be right up front to enjoy: Mountain Goats. I thought the set was amazing (he started out with "Jenny"! He played "Cubs in 5"!), but the further out my friends were from the stage, the lower opinion dipped (from halfway back in the park, it was apparently flat and disappointing). Incidentally, Mountain Goats had the biggest crowd lingering about before the set until later in the day (I'd say not until Futureheads). The crowd in front of Art Brut was wee compared to the MG people.

Act that rocked the park: Art Brut. Hands down, seemed to get the most people moving.

Cutest moment that reinforced my love of John Darnielle: him dancing around at the back of the stage during Art Brut. When lead singer Eddie Argos was walking off stage, John hugged him. Eddie then said something that looked like "I feel like I'm about to die", and John handed him his water bottle.

Proof that I'm blind, as well as deaf: I couldn't distinguish that the Walkmen were using a totally different-looking drummer (actually the old drummer from Walkmen precursors the Recoys), because regular drummer Matt Barrick's wife is having a baby right now.

New genre of music: Jan commented that, having seen them both on the same day, he now saw some similarities between Dan Bejar and David Berman. I said, "What? Hirsute, literate, intelligent rockers of Jewish descent? Are we calling this Talmud Rock now?". If anyone can think of a third person who could be lumped in this group, I'm officially calling it a movement.

Personal highlights: John Darnielle looking at me while singing "I hope we die/I hope we both die" during "No Children"; Jan getting a picture with Eddie Argos and the drummer of Art Brut.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Before the music: Pitchfork

Acts I know I’ve seen before: Chicago Underground Duo, Mountain Goats, Destroyer (twice), Ted Leo + Pharmacists (2 or 3 times), Walkmen (5 billion times), Glenn Kotche (maybe twice), Diplo (briefly last year), The National.

Band I should have seen by now, but didn’t: Yo La Tengo.

Good idea in theory: Biz 3 Stage. I vaguely want to see a lot of these acts, but most of what I want to see here is at odds with mainstage shows. Notable exceptions exist on Sunday, because of…

The semi-hidden Sunday theme: Brazil! Well, Os Mutantes makes it obvious at the end, but early on the Biz 3 stage there are two contemporary Brazilian acts, Bonde do Role and CSS. Also, Diplo is closing out the Biz 3 Stage, and that boy likes the baile funk.

Strategic quandary, minor: I’ll likely buy a poster or two at Flatstock. I need to figure out to enjoy the rest of the day after I buy it and still leave with the poster unharmed.

Strategic quandary, major: If I want to be at the front of the stage for Os Mutantes, I will have to miss Diplo’s set, which I’d otherwise be inclined to check out, since Spoon was apparently lackluster at Lolla last year. You’d think Texans could deal with performing in the heat.

Things I wish would go away: My dry, nagging cough; the ungodly heat.

Thins I wish would stay: battery power in my cell phone, clothes on my fellow concertgoers.

European folk-pop battle going on in my mind: Jose Gonzales at Intonation vs. Jens Lekman here.

Marked improvement over Intonation: Beverage sponsorship. Fuze is sponsoring, instead of Sparx, which I believe was battery acid cut with corn syrup, caffeine, and elephant testosterone.

Also: Magazine sponsorship. Readymade isn’t my favorite mag ever, but I’d rather see Martha Stewart Monthly sponsor than Vice.

Continued excellence from Intonation: The food. It looks like many of the same tents will be there, which means I can get tamales from Goose Island and corn muffins from Wishbone.

Also: Union Park. It’s really a great setup for festivals like this.

Adjacent acts that make amusing-sounding cage matches:
Chin Up Chin Up vs. Man Man
Band of Horses vs. Mountain Goats
Destroyer vs. Art Brut
(Incidentally, these are 6 consecutive bands from the Saturday main stages)

Acts I’m most looking forward to seeing: Os Mutantes, Yo La Tengo, Silver Jews, Jens Lekman, Mission of Burma

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Books! I am so behind! I will be very brief.

10 Word Book Reviews

33 1/3 books:
Love’s Forever Changes: Gnosticism and Love? The author’s high. Ignores the amazing music.

The Pixies’ Doolittle: Riding in cars with Frank Black. No Kim Deal input.

Bowie’s Low: Brian Eno!Drugs! Iggy Pop! Drugs! Berlin! Drugs! Transvestites! Drugs!

Other books:

Angela Carter, Wise Children: Twins and Shakespeare. Bawdy and fun. I always enjoy Carter.

Joe Meno, The Boy Detective Fails: I saw the play; I read the book. Each is worth doing.

Nelson Algren, Man With the Golden Arm: Old, dirty Chicago. Junkies and drunks suffer intensely, then die.

Nancy Mitford, Madame de Pompadour: French king’s mistress charms, helps start Seven Years War, dies.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The motherfucking results!

I'm not at work now, so I can use the entire word.

There were many great entries, in many (or three) great languages. Except Spanish. Fuck you, Spanish.


It was pointed out by Cranky Uncle Greg last night that the winner is not actually a movie, but a miniseries. Well, I watched in all in one sitting, and I want to count it, so I'm counting it. Also, there's apparently a 1937 movie of the name, so nyah, it does count. Drumroll, please, the winner is:

I, Motherfucking Claudius.

See Claudius (Samuel L. Jackson) put the smack down on Nero that bad mother Agrippina! Also, the original includes the line "Is there any man in Rome who has NOT slept with my daughter?", so it pretty much fits already.

Congrats, Susan! Pick the 33 1/3 book of your choice.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Contest on my M.F.'ing blog!

In honor of this summer’s only true summer blockbuster, Snakes on a Plane, I have been contemplating the following deep, burning question:

What film titles could be most improved by imagining Samuel L. Jackson barking out their title with an interjectory “m.f.’ing” thrown in?

(Sorry about the actual lack of expletives, I’m at work. I work for a church organization. I feel slightly strange typing out expletives multiple times while here.)

My best so far:
Sleepless in M.F.’ing Seattle
Women on the Verge of a M.F.’ing Nervous Breakdown
Four Weddings and a M.F.’ing Funeral

But I think others could do much better than this. Therefore, a contest:

1. Come up with the movie title that could be most improved by imagining Samuel L. Jackson barking out their title with an interjectory “m.f.’ing” thrown in. Actually, come up with as many as you want. If appropriate, any other verb form of the aforementioned curse can be used, also.

2. Post them in my comments! Before, let’s say… 5pm, Friday June 16th. Yeah, that’s after my next paycheck.

3. I will pick my favorite one then, and will award this person the 33 1/3 series book of his or her choice, provided that one can find said book on Amazon.

So yeah, get to it. Tell your friends, tell your enemies, possibly win a book.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Richard Swift and my unwarranted Google dominance

So I'm apparently the top Google hit for the phrase "I am New York/Tired and Weak/Try to write a book each time I speak". This is a quote from a Richard Swift song, and my dominance seems unwarranted.

To recap my Swiftian adventures: many moons ago, I asked someone who worked at the label with me to pick some new music for me. He picked The Novelist, a very-limited-edition album by someone he vaguely knew through Starflyer 59. The album was very good, I really liked it (think gentler-saner-Rain Dogs-era Waits), tried to talk people into buying it, and heard nothing about Mr. Swift for awhile.

Then, Secretly Canadian re-released that album with another one, he started popping up on, and he's now touring nationwide.

So yeah, I should not be the top Google hit for the title song from his first album.

Further research:
Richard Swift - The Novelist (MP3)
Richard Swift - Looking Back, I Should Have Been Home More (MP3)

And, randomly, because the domain was my birthday gift to my friend Dan... drumroll please... Stickfigure Hamlet. It is, if possible, more awesome than it sounds.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bookstores and Unpleasant French Folk

I had a social old time at the Seminary Co-op this weekend, running into a friend from high school, another volunteer at OTS, and Alice, the GB librarian. Alice reminded me that one of the books I was holding, The Man With the Golden Arm, was the July GB Book Club selection, which may explain why I’ve been vaguely looking for it for several months.

Anyhow, I’ve just started reading it, but while flitting around Wikipedia trying to learn more about Algren, I came across this article by Louis Menand. Man, they were cold! Also, legally adopting your conquests: perhaps not the best idea. It’ll be interesting to see what comes out once the current custodians of their estates, and maybe the ones after that, pass on, and more gets released.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Dear Leslie Feist,

I recently pilfered your album Let It Die from a friend of mine. I find it pleasant, and look forward to listening to it while doing data analysis, as it will not distract me with interesting melodies or lyrics, and will probably not annoy any of my new co-workers. Thus, it will be played more at the office more than any, say, Fiery Furnaces album ever will. But before you get all high and mighty, I want to set a few things straight:

I think you are the white indie Sade. Which is not as good as being the original Sade, though it does make me want to hear you belt out Sweetest Taboo.

Well, on the other hand, you could just be the result of an experiment where they force-fed the Portishead lady Paxil until she got happy. That’s another option.

Your solo project goes by your last name, which I find a little too “early 70s post-hippie folk-rockers in L.A. doing lots of opiates” for my tastes. I feel you will somehow precipitate the coming of the indie-rock Fleetwood Mac, which I feel is imminent.

Speaking of indie, or not being so, your biggest hit to date is about REAL ESTATE. And WANTING BABIES. And you know what? Living on the second floor without a yard isn’t all that difficult, unless you live in a bad neighborhood and every time you come out of the stairwell you risk being mugged. I’m guessing you don’t.

I saw some video of yours. It was a corny 80s ripoff, or a ripoff of Le Tigre ripping off corny 80s videos. Whichever it was, your version was the weakest.

Your last name is Feist, but you aren’t very feisty.

I don’t think I’d actually pay for your album.

In short, Laura Feist, you seem to have the most successful solo project of any of the BSS/Stars collective folks. I suspect you must be romantically involved with the indie equivalent of Tommy Mattola (Gerald Cosloy?), because Emily Haines should be much, much more successful than you are.

Ms. L

Edit: Thank you to pretend Leslie Feist for error-checking my blog.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Jenniferian update

I am still thinking about a potential 27 Jennifers mix. No sequencing yet, but these are the songs that would absolutely be on it:

27 Jennifers – Mike Doughty
Photo Jenny – Belle and Sebastian
Rock ‘N’ Roll – The Velvet Underground
Jenny and the S-Dog – Stephen Malkmus
Jennifer’s Body – Hole
Jennifer Juniper – Donovan
Jenny – Sleater-Kinney
Jenny – Minders
Jenny – Mountain Goats
Jenny from the Block - J. Lo
Jennifer Johnson and Me - Conway Twitty/Bobby Bare/Robert Earl Keen (some version)
Jennifer Save Me - Golden Smog
Jennifer Jupiter - Donovan
Melanie and Jennifer and Melanie – Destroyer
Jenifa Taught Me (Derwin's Revenge) - De La Soul.
Jenny Was a Friend of Mine - Killers
Debra – Beck

Jenny, You're Barely Alive--Rilo Kiley
Jenny--Janis Ian
Poor Jenny--The Everly Brothers
Saga of Jenny orPirate Jenny
Jenny Wren--Paul McCartney
Jennifer Lost the War--the Offspring
Jennifer – Eurythmics
Jennifer Eccles - Hollies
Jen Jen Jenny – Fambooey
"Back o' the Moon" by 10,000 Maniacs
Jennifer – Stella*starr
867-5309 (Jenny) – Tommy Tutone (I'd really rather not)
Baby's Got A Brand New Hairdo - Elvis Costello
Mack The Knife - Frank Sinatra
Jennie Lee – Sam & Dean (Shuggie Otis version exists)
Jenny – Mark Eitzel
Jenny, Jenny – Little Richard
Jennifer She Said – Lloyd Cole

Any thoughts?

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Letter meme

I'm guessing everyone who sees this knows what's up, and has probably already done it. Comment if you want me to give you a letter.

Greg gave me M. I’m only gonna repeat one of his, and it’s the first one. Here we go:

Michigan – Oh, the friends. Oh, the enemies. (And all of those who’ve switched back and forth.) Oh, the asthma attacks. Oh, the free spiced mochas and trash team entries stemming thereof. Oh, the crazy guy jumping me on a bridge. For a state I’ve never inhabited, Michigan and its residents feature prominently in a lot of my stories.

Mother of Pearl – The song I listened to over and over again this morning on the way to work. It was featured on How I Met Your Mother last night, and I impulse-downloaded it. I love early-to-mid Roxy Music. And it references Thus Spake Zarathustra! Does Franz Ferdinand make such references in their poppy dance songs, I ask you? No!

Matador Records – Probably my favorite record label, if somebody made me pick one. I’m not a fan of everything, but they release tons of my favorite bands’ records. In junior high and high school, it was Pavement, Liz Phair, and Yo La Tengo. Now, it’s Belle & Sebastian, New Ps, and… Yo La Tengo.

Maid of Honor – What I’ll be about 54 weeks from now.

MG, aka “The Historian” – Awful boyfriend, great breakup story.

Michael Drew – My only full sibling. We’ve grown a lot closer than we were in the days when he tried to beat my door down with a golf club. Also, due to his arrest record and the fact that he still lives at home, he makes it extremely easy to be the good child.

Mike Mills (bassist for R.E.M., not the photographer) – An early crush. Demonstrated that my weakness for boys with glasses would overcome any aversion I felt about bad teeth.

Mould, Bob (alternately, could be “Minneapolis-St. Paul rock scene”) – I found the only college rock station in my part of Oklahoma by recognizing the lyrics to a Sugar song I’d never actually heard. Also, much of my early alt/indie education came from a friend of my dad who’d grown up in Minneapolis, who taped off large portions of his music collection for me.

Manhattan – The first Woody Allen film I remember watching. It was on late at night on TNT. I was… eleven, twelve? I loved the intro, and then fell asleep.

Mars, Veronica – The titular protagonist of the only TV show I’m really, really, REALLY into right now. Now that pub trivia has been cancelled, I'm seriously debating skipping out on socializing with lovely GB folks to watch the finale live.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Friday, April 28, 2006

I haven't been to a bar that cool since puberty.

There was a big uproar about some local hipster watering hole on Chicagoist yesterday. It got me to thinking… thinking about how the biker bar I used to go to in Enid, Oklahoma when I was little is way cooler than almost every bar in Chicago. Think… Delilah’s plus Hideout plus bikers minus Bloodshoot Records and actual good booze.

Further evidence:

It was named the Pressure Cooker, but everyone just called it “The Cooker”.

Bikers! And Hogs! Well, mostly Yamahas. But there weren’t enough bikers in Enid to have different bike gangs or anything, so all the bikers hung out, except during the occasional brawl. But I wasn’t ever there in the evenings, which was when the brawls would occur.

My mom dated one of the bikers (nickname: Fish), and he totally blew-dry his hair and used styling product and sang the praises of the courtesy flush with his roommate-brother. In 1988! (Sidenote: this led to a great story about my mom and Fish yelling out a conversation several years later, when Mom and I were on the county green, and Fish was in the county prison.)

ADDAMS FAMILY PINBALL. Accept no substitutes.

Afternoon pool tournaments twice a week, which is why I was there. What, you think I was hanging out at a biker bar by myself at age 8?

It was clearly a pro-kids sort of biker bar. More on that later.

The bartender, who was the son of the owner, always gave me peanuts or chips when I sat at the bar to do my homework.

The bikers always let me retrieve their horseshoes from the pit when I was playing outside.

There was a crank-operated water spigot outside near the horseshoe pit, for when the place got so smoky that it burned my eyes slightly.

On the jukebox: 776 – Where the Streets Have No Name. 777 – All My Exes Live in Texas (That’s Why I Hang My Hat in Tennessee) by George Strait. And the 7 stuck. I once played that song 4 times in a row trying to get U2.

When my DARE instructor talked about how rough the Cooker was in 6th grade, I realized DARE was a load of junk.

Some regular, or some relative of a regular, had a farm nearby. There was a Cooker Cookout there every year. At one of those cookouts, they printed up a bunch of white-with-red-ringer tees with the phrase “Cooker Kid” for the children of all the regulars. I am going to recreate this t-shirt at Strange Cargo or the T-shirt Deli sometime soon.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I was going to give each book I read a post, but I’m now five books behind, so forget that. Here we go:

The Velvet Underground and Nico by Joe Harvard
Once I got past the truly terrible chemistry metaphor (that seemed to indicate that water could easily be created it from its constituent elements), this was a good read. The best parts were focused on the recording process more than on the band (probably a good bet when the top guy in the band turned into an insufferable jerk). My favorite anecdote is Nico sobbing “I vant to seeng like Bob Deeeeeeee-lahn!”

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society by Andy Miller
Not quite as good as Fusilli’s Pet Sounds book, but in the same vein (though Pet Sounds focused more on the artist, TKATVGPS more on the recording): really brilliant guy writes really brilliant album that tanks commercially, but is eventually seen as his masterpiece. Unfortunately, this entire process makes guy go really nuts.

What I also enjoyed was the discussion of b-sides and non-album tracks around the time. The Kinks had a ton of these, which is why all the recent re-releases almost double the album size with bonus tracks. This book came out right before the re-releases, so it’s strange to read Miller describing how rare, say, “Wonderboy” is, when I now have it on my iPod.

Candyfreak by Steve Almond
CANDY! CANDY CANDY CANDY CANDY CANDY! I like Candy. I’ve been eating lots of Lake Champlain chocolate since reading this book. Almond does a good job of staying on the right side of the Klosterman line, where his muddled social life comes up, but doesn’t overwhelm the ostensible subject of the book.

Freakonomics by Steves Levitt and Dubner
If you don’t know the basics of this book, you’re probably not reading this. It was fun finally getting to read the entire thing, though.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
It was a compelling read, and I finished it quickly, but… sigh. It was very well-written and tightly-plotted. I just don’t care about morally suspect upper-middle class (or above) middle-aged British men caught up in very artificially constructed moral conundra. It was so spare. It makes me long for a good fabulist or magical realist book, with all attendant messiness. No more British novels for a little while, at least.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Book #13: The Bell by Iris Murdoch

Man, could those women with ill-defined moral codes stop it with the troublemaking?

Other than that, Murdoch is great at describing the internal ditherings of indecisive, flawed folks. I like the two books I've read by her, but they both seem to march on in a somewhat grim, predetermined fashion. It somehow does manage to be wickedly funny, though.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Proof that I read books that aren't about music.

Book #12: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

I almost feel bad writing a SURLY about this. This book covers a year that included multiple hospitalizations for Didion's daughter (Quintana Roo died around the time the book was published); during the first hospitalization, her husband passed away while they were getting ready for dinner.

That being said... you gotta know that a writer whose work is as bleak as Didion's is going to write amazingly on one of the most unrelentingly bleak of topics. And she does, in her way.

Incidentally, if you don't like Didion that much, here's a crazy mean essay about her.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Frankie say read this book.

Have I mentioned that I’m co-running an Indie Rock Tournament, with the willing/capable/gullible Greg? Because I am.

Next up, bookwise: Simon Reynolds’s Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978-1984 It’s really good. Even though it’s a cycle of “band is interesting, signs to label, oh, look at their decline”, it’s good. Even though it ends with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, it’s good. If you have any interest in the music of this era, I'd strongly suggest you check it out.

My one small complaint: he uses the exact same phrasing (roughly “Unlike some punk bands who claimed not to be proficient but who were actually skilled players, really had no clue how to play.”) for two bands, the Slits and the Raincoats. Who… happen to be the most prominent all-female groups in the book. And… Cinderella’s Big Score refuted that (well, at least for the Slits) before this book came out. I’d not mind so much, but there was a weird undercurrent of masculine/hard/phsyical/good and feminine/soft/intellectual/bad that went on in his book on electronic music, Generation Ecstacy And he co-wrote a book about gender and rock and roll! Shouldn’t he notice what he’s doing?

But apart from my gender squabbles… a fine book.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Thursday, April 06, 2006


So, I'm again about 4 books back on keeping up with this thing. In fact, I completed Murmur by J. Niimi before the last couple of bookson this list. What to say about this book... it is a book about the R.E.M. album written by a University of Chicago student. I could emphasize this with a lot of "No, really. REALLY"'s after some of those nouns, but it'd probably be easier to just quote a paragraph from the book (incidentally, about a Wire song) to make the point:

The second half of each chorus ("Squared to it/ Faced to it/ It was not there") seems to imply that the true nature of the thing to which the song continually alludes was eventually uncovered, but that its uncovering was stillborn for the fact that it could still be only communicated through the Leviathan of psuedo-bureau-speak. "It" was never to be revealed, the triumph of its discovery evaporated into clouds of lingua franca, a mutual conspiracy necessary for each party's continued sustenance. Wire turns the expected climax of the chorus into a meditative anticlimax.
So if you'd like to read an entire book like that (and I'm not coming down on either side, just noting that the entire book rolls this way), then get to it.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Jennifer Project.

Mike Doughty played “27 Jennifers” during his Old Town show this weekend, and it got me to thinking about the songs that feature Jennifers, Jenny/i/ie/eys, and Jen(n)s. Were there 27 such songs good enough to put on a mixtape? Well, we’re getting there, and you should feel free to help. The ground rules are: song must feature a Jen(nifer) in its title, or such a character must play a prominent role in the song itself. Thus far, we have:

27 Jennifers – Mike Doughty
Photo Jenny – Belle and Sebastian
Rock ‘N’ Roll – The Velvet Underground
Jenny and the S-Dog – Stephen Malkmus
Pop Goes the World – Men Without Hats
Jennifer’s Body – Hole
Jennifer Juniper – Donovan
Jennifer – Stella*starr
Jenny – Sleater-Kinney
867-5309 (Jenny) – Tommy Tutone (sigh)

…and I know I’m forgetting several. So, do you know any?

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Long-delayed, and not much substance.

I have fallen sorely behind in my SURLY-writing. I’ve also fallen behind on reading (thanks, knitting!); so much so that I have only finished 3 books since last posting.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea by Kim Cooper (33 1/3 Series)

I didn’t know too much about the background of the album, or the start of Elephant 6, so this was a fine book to read. Isn’t Elephant 6 perhaps deserving of a book just about the collective, though? C’mon, there’s a book about Emo.

Cinderella’s Big Score: Women of the Punk and Indie Underground By Maria Raha.

Lots of fun information, and the introductions to each time period were great overviews of music and feminist issues that were important at each epoch. However, the actual meat of the book, the analyses of lots and lots of bands, were a bit lacking because they were all so short. “Here’s this band! A little history! Why they were important as feminists.”. I realize that a more expansive analysis would have made this quite the tome, but I may have cut out the chapter about Peaches to hear more about Patti Smith.

Underground by Haruki Murakami
Very good. Haunting. Not the best book to read on the El.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I Will Dare

Book 6: Let it Be (Replacements) by Colin Meloy (33 1/3 Series)

First off, this is not really about the ‘Mats Let It Be. At least not about the making of it. The sooner you let go of that notion, the happier you’ll be with what the book actually is, which is the memories of someone who came to love “college rock” slowly, his tastes shaped by the whims of distant cool friends and relatives, and built by perusing magazines and record stores, looking for the bands he vaguely remembered someone mentioning. The album is a focal point of this process, and a jumping-off point for ruminations on becoming a music fan. Change all the pronouns from masculine to feminine, and you pretty much have my early years, so I adore this book for completely selfish reasons that may not translate well to anyone else. Its portrait of the indie fan as a young man is absolutely dead-on, right down to the embarrassing music he loved before. Oh, and the author is in a pretty good band, too.

There is a small continuity error in the book, but I pointed it out to the editors, who are fixing it in the reprint and now mailing me a free book from the series, so we should forgive them for that.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Friday, January 20, 2006

It's not terrific, but it's competent.

Book 5: Belle and Sebastian: This is Just a Modern Rock Story by Paul Whitelaw

Things I learned from this book:
-People in bands together should not date.
-The band, their manager, and generally everyone in the book agrees with me that Sinister and Waitress are currently the strongest albums Belle and Sebastian have made.
-Arab Strap was a wee bit peeved about that album title.
-Stuart is a connoisseur of abnormal pants.
-Isobel is the reason Arab Strap and Peasant falter, because Stuart indulged her too much. (See first point.)

Even though the author takes pains to say that maybe Isobel was unfairly blamed for tension within the band, he then goes on to make her sound like a silly twit afraid of travel, sex, adulthood, big crowds, and rock music (oh, and she’s incapable of sustaining an entire solo album). With her memorable quotes including “back when Chris used to bring cakes to practice, that’s when I liked being in the band” and “when you’re on the road, you’re always bent over, rummaging in your suitcase, it can hurt your back”, either Whitelaw is very cruelly sending her up, or she’s an utter twee twit. And speaking of twee, the italicized intros and outros to each chapter are god-awfully precious. Must we keep referring to Stuart Murdoch as “the curious boy”?

Apart from that, though, it provides interesting background on a band that shunned publicity for a long time, and shows the importance of the welfare system for artists in Scotland in the early to mid-90s. Seriously. Everyone was on the dole.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The count-up continues...

Book 4: Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem

Lethem is very, very clever. Lethem wants to show you how he can combine Raymond Chandler and Philip K. Dick. Lethem will not really explain why animals can talk, or what babyheads are. Lethem will make you smirk about everyone being addicted to their own specialized drug mixes. Lethem will let you tie that to today’s use of psychotropics and will let you feel smart and superior with minimal effort. But Lethem can’t quite make you believe that, over the course of a six year lapse that happens in this book, wallets and trashcans and guns (see the title!) start making their own music.

I actually liked this book, although I found the world Lethem constructed a little too busy (at least by the point of the singing trashcans... why?). Also, due to the lack of description of the “babyheads” (a class of people messed up by genetic engineering), I kept picturing them all as large-scale baby Stueys. Still, it’s a fun, smart read; I could see this being made into a very intelligent first-person mystery video game quite easily.

I'm now reading a lot of books on music, so expect it to get less respectable around here. I'm almost done with the Belle and Sebastian bio, y'all!

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Books and Surliness

I have no clue how much I read throughout the course of a given year. Sure, I’m usually reading something, but I go through periods when I’m reading magazines/websites/cookbooks/craft books, when I can’t find a book to fit my mood and thus thumb through the first 20 pages of every book in the house before I start trolling the used bookstores, and when I get so busy with various other things in my life that my reading rate slows waaaaay down.

Therefore, I’ve decided to count the books I read this calendar year. This is in part inspired by the 50 Book Challenge on LJ (and VCB’s book blog), but I’m not really looking to hit a certain number, just see what number I hit.

Of course, if the number is looking low, this public documentation may compel me to read more to make myself look better. Can’t measure position without affecting momentum, you know.

With this count, I also introduce a new feature: I will write a Short, Unenlightening Review of Literature for this Year (SURLY) for each book I read. I’ve finished three books far, so let’s get started.

Book 1: Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
I admit, I read this almost entirely because there’s a Decemberists song about the author. It’s sweet, though a little slight, and I liked the earlier part of the book, focusing on the oppression of knowing you’re a mediocre child around smart people better than the latter part of the book, where the emotional distance of the family and each person’s escape into mysticism to fill the void was rather relentlessly expounded upon. Also, although I’ve not seen the movie, I kept picturing the parents as Juliette Binoche and Richard Gere. Way too attractive to be these people.

Book 2: The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ by Jim Fusilli
This book is like crack to me, as I mentioned in an earlier post. Fusilli covers all of the songs on Pet Sounds, and somehow manages to link Brian Wilson’s sadness to his use of complex harmonies without it sounding like bullshit. It’s a pretty good primer of the Beach Boys up to the recording of Pet Sounds, though it doesn’t get to the part where PAUL MCCARTNEY IS EVIL.

Book 3: After the Quake by Haruki Murakami (partial re-read)

Hey, it’s Haruki Murakami. Hey, it’s emotionally alienated people in weird situations. But this time… there’s a naturally occurring reason! I love Murakami’s short stories (Elephant Vanishes is one of my favorite works of his), and I’ve been meaning to finish this slim volume since I saw the Steppenwolf adaptation of the last two stories. All these stories occur after the Kobe earthquakes, but before the subway attacks later in 1995 (a time during which Murakami lived in America, teaching at Princeton). I’m going to have to pick up his nonfiction work about the latter tragedy, Underground, because his work here is lovely.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Behind the Music" + books + good music = love

Oh dear. I’ve just found another cultural product on which I can (and probably will) spend much time and money. I’ve known about it for some time, but I didn’t get addicted until my grandma hooked me up. I’m not even done with the first voyage, but I want to take another trip soon.

Yes, folks, I’ve finally started reading the 33 1/3 series.

I suppose my ardor is pretty predictable. I love books, these are books. I like critically acclaimed music, most of these books are about highly regarded albums and are often written by esteemed music critics or indie musicians. And I love the VH1-style “Behind the Making of the 50 Greatest Albums that Rocked the 90s” shows. (My love for the show on the making of Back In Black by AC/DC exceeds the love I’ve felt for many actual people.) And now, I have books that read like smarter versions of these shows, largely about music I actually really adore. Sweet.

Right now, I’m working through Jim Fusilli’s take on Pet Sounds. It’s a pretty straight-ahead work; a little preface on the author’s tough times and how his life was saved by rock and roll, then right into Brian Wilson’s emotional problems and studio habits. I know other books in the series take different approaches (at least one of the books is a novella), but this was a good starter (not least of all because I adore this album). As smart as she is, though, I suspect my grandmother opted to pick this one over my other recommendations of The Replacements’ Let It Be and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea because she knows who the Beach Boys are.

Now I just have to stay away from that “Purchase all books in this series!” button on Amazon…

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...