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...