<= 2004.05

2004.07 =>

[JUNE 2004.]

au renoir

Update: I take it back; I ought to do what everyone else does when running dry of independent content and open the doors to the asking meme (see here here here). Questions can go into email or the friendly & anonymous comment box: anything goes, I think, though extremely personal or otherwise weird questions might get answered by email. Everything else answered in this space.

I'm taking another of these short breaks, at least for the first little bit of July, because my brain is full of clouds and I can't seem to write anything for general consumption. Like I would love to tell you all about the Schnittke quintet I saw performed last night, and my new belief that a lot of sonically adventurous twentieth-century music wasn't meant for recording—you have to see the player wrench the sound out of his violin, and then you understand—but all I can do is send you to people's comments on the Naxos recording or, better, the program notes from last night's concert, which include a lot of Schnittke's own words. Better than mine.


goat suck u.s.a.

The word count is down for the nonce, at least until I get back from the impending apartment hunt. Too much to think about. But I do have a track from our forthcoming very-limited-edition live record ¡Llévalo a la Gente! right here: mp3 download, 2.16 mb.


Señorita gonna sing me a ranchera song
Señorita se acuesta conmigo till the break of dawn
Bésame mucho ella come los besos
Ella mastica hombres y escupe los huesos
Well you take all my cigarettes you take my pesos
Ella es una sombra
Ella chupa la cabra

You can hold her tease her sip her squeeze her
Push her drive her home
Kiss her burn her twist her turn her
Either way she'll let you go
Either way she will leave you alone

She said señor it's time to prove that you're a man
She said señor you'll never wear those clothes again
Mouth getting dry all we got is beer
No hay agua purificada here
La quiero tanto que me voy a morir
Ella es una bruja
Ella chupa la cabra

You can hold her tease her sip her squeeze her
Push her drive her home
Kiss her burn her twist her turn her
Either way she'll let you go
Either way she will leave you alone


twelve-tone gay parade

I love it when you masked anonymous folks blog for me, and thus relieve me of the duty to tell you about my latest feelings of inadequacy, or how the cat's head gets wet when she drinks out of the bathtub, or whatever.

The "big truck" reminds me of an experience I had while working at Kindercare. (FYI: don't.) At recess, I was talking to a VERY precocious 3-year old girl. For a 3-yr-old, it was a fairly deep, probing conversation. She told me she missed her mother during the day, but she understood she had to work. We were interrupted by a four-year old boy pointing at the road and shouting, "Look look! Truck! BIG truck!" Reminded me of the differing developmental rates for boys and girls.

Secondly, an Argentinian physicist dude has done some statistical analysis with note distribution in tonal music and found that it follows patterns similar to word distribution in language, while our atonal pal Schoenberg has a flat curve. I would expect that some of this is just because diatonic works will inevitably have a preponderance of certain notes because, like, that's what a key is; while the atonal composers have to do a great fancy dance of pants, constantly shifting their thematic content, in order to avoid creating the impression of a tonal center. I tend to side with those who think that Schoenberg succeeded in spite of the serial method rather than because of it. Sure, he needed some framework to get his troops across, but I for one have never shouted "Ah, there's the tone row!" at the start of a serial piece, then eagerly followed the inversions and retrogrades and what have you through the rest of it. I love Schoenberg, but I can't hear that stuff at all.

Finally, my sources inform me that Krakow, which indeed I will be visiting in August, has the world's best painting of a ferret!


your title here

As the move approaches it's getting much harder to write. It's not that anything concrete needs to be done, not for a couple more weeks; but the air has filled with the ions of change. My father shows up today for a week at an engineering conference, following which we'll go hike in the gorge or something, following which I nail down an apartment—none of these are really unusual burdens, I know, but I haven't figured out how to write and live at the same time. Like Trollope writing in the railway carriage. No idea how he did it.


the fun side of sewer overflow

There may in fact be nothing cooler than a 16-foot-tall tunnel boring machine. It's so large and bright and clean; seeing these photographs turns me back into a four-year-old. "Big truck! Big truck!"


the downfall of late romanticism

The animal (below) is a young silverfish with its extended cercae overlapping the closing bars of the final movement of Bruckner's third symphony. I mention this as it is not possible to tell from the photograph. There are few places in a Bruckner symphony where the sound of a diamond stylus colliding with a dead silverfish would be less welcome.


It has been estimated that one silverfish turd would keep the average fungus happily fed for God knows how long -- depending on the temperature and humidity conditions in the location of your record collection.


do zobaczenia

Summer is the season of travel, and as soon as I get to California I'm off to eastern Europe for a week, thanks to this engineering conference in Warsaw where my father is presenting a paper. German study in on hold for now; I picked up some Polish and Czech language tapes but haven't gotten very far with them. I would type some Polish for you, but I don't know how to code the weird diacritical marks. They have some very interesting ideas about orthography, these Poles. Any sound you please can be represented by a consonant cluster containing a z.


back when i was the target market

"How well is Morrissey going to do in the Midwest?" he said. "I wouldn't venture to guess. The problem is that there is just not a really large interest in alternative music. What was called alternative in the 90's was exploding with something new, with Pearl Jam and Nirvana. It was exciting stuff."

Mr. Hurwitz said many of his concerts, including those by younger acts like Evanescence and Three Doors Down, were selling well.

"They tried to pull together Morrissey and Sonic Youth," he said, on an alternative bill. "But there are not enough people who care about it."

Aw, hell. I would have come to see you, Thurston and Kim, honest, if I had any idea what city I was going to be in on any given day this summer. Is Evanescence really all that is left to us? I am become an old and crotchety college-radio listener. Bring me my cane, and my leather strop; that mainstream needs a whupping.


one for the forest service

These days the mountain is mostly reforested, except for the lahars. We spent a while exploring the lahar and collecting water from a little brook (giardia? who knows?) and using the word "lahar" in sentences. For instance, between the clumps of ashy rock there is a great deal of soft sand arranged in little coves, so that if one wished one could probably camp out on the lahar quite comfortably. For those interested in the etymology of the word "lahar," it turns out to be Indonesian. At the end of the hike we had to ford barefoot a rushing and frigid tributary of the Kalama River, which had washed out the trail.

Wrote a couple of paragraphs in the car on the way home, while the radio gave us Beethoven's "Eroica" as part of this silly but endearing classical countdown of theirs. Oh dirty, dirty paragraphs! If this book ever gets published the Guatemalan advocacy organizations will have my head.


break the cycle

Off to climb Mount St. Helens today. No, really.


i am not myself this morning

Coffee speeds the day up. Beer slows the day down. Coffee speeds the day up. Beer slows the day down. Your brain is not your brain until you pour something into it. And its gas mileage is getting worse.


roundup on cheap-ass vinyl from music millennium, 3158 east burnside

Bartók, Mikrokosmos (excerpts), Contrasts For Violin, Clarinet and Piano. What? Bartók hung out with Benny Goodman? Apparently; there's a photo of them together on the cover, Benny politely crossing his legs clad in some amazing plaid pants, while Béla looks on from the piano in his professorial European vest. I want to learn to play some of the Mikrokosmos pieces, but I fear the Hungarian dance rhythms are beyond my current flailing piano technique.

Love and Rockets, self-titled. Shout out to Uncle Z here. This one will be for my nude California parties. If you would like to attend, the password is "Fidelio" followed by two hours of undramatic meandering.

Louis Armstrong at Carnegie Hall (1947). This should have been great—it has "Black and Blue," which Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man has forever invested with significance for me, but whoever recorded it apparently didn't know how to mike Carnegie Hall. Wouldn't they teach you how to do that at some point, if you're a recording engineer? I guess not. It sounds like you're sitting in Carnegie Hall's bathroom with a serious intestinal problem, listening to the distant concert through the door and cursing your fallible bowels for denying you the experience.

Fats Waller, The Real Fats Waller and African Ripples. My first real exposure to Fats was when Frank Conroy, under the nom de guerre of Dr. Jazz, would DJ while intoxicated on Iowa City public radio and liked a Waller song so much that he played it twice in a row. And he was entirely justified in doing so. Listening to Fats makes you feel like you're in the city's best speakeasy, about to do something you'll regret the next morning, but you're young and the century is young and the sidemen on horns are happy to blast away any remaining qualms. Dig it.

Debussy, La Mer and some other stuff. I think I wrote Debussy off too early. In high school I decided for no apparent reason that I didn't like him, kind of like how I decided I didn't like Haydn and only now as a grownup have discovered that he kicks ass and I was missing all this lovely music during my tender formative years. I don't know if Debussy's that good, but La Mer is more exciting than I remembered it. It would be good bathtub music.

Bruckner, Symphonies Nos. 1, 4, and 7. I couldn't stop grabbing them. They were so cheap! Like sweet candy! It seems like these days everyone's first exposure to Bruckner is through people making fun of him or pointing out that Hitler played him on the radio or whatever, but we must learn to separate late German Romanticism from the poisonous history it engendered, because it's such wonderful melodramatic overbearing stuff. Every time Bruckner picked up his pen to start another symphony you know he was telling himself, "All right, it's time to shake the towers of heaven. Again. How you like that, motherfuckers?" For this alone he deserves recognition.

Calexico, Hot Rail. I'm told this is not Calexico's best. And our mutual hometown of Tucson isn't half as romantic as the spacey mariachi instrumentals imply; all the same, I'm happy to subscribe to the illusion. It certainly beats living in Tucson. The songs are slight, but the point of this record is the atmosphere, which is high in methane. Like Titan's atmosphere. A heady brew.

Palace Brothers, There Is No One What Will Take Care Of You. Is this the record that showed up anonymously at the Drag City office and "took the indie world by storm"? It was around that time. It really does sound like someone just dropped a microphone in the corner of the room during a drunken revival meeting with a couple of beat-to-shit guitars, but I find it lovable just so. Someone described these guys as having an "inauthentic Appalachian vibe," which I like. Authenticity is so cultural-studies.

Bonnie "Prince" Billy, I See A Darkness. Famous of course for Johnny Cash covering the title track on American III. The whole thing is really strong, though, much better recorded than the Palace stuff and with Will Oldham finally getting some kind of rein on his voice. Every song is soft and brooding and about mortality. Fun for the kids!

Schubert, Quartets Nos. 13, 14, 15. Performed by the Budapest String Quartet and recorded by the Library of Congress in cozy warm mono in 1953, which my sources say is like three years before the USSR really cracked down on the Magyars, so I guess it's not that surprising to find them performing in D.C. They are so good. They sound like a single sixteen-stringed instrument. I am learning to appreciate these things much more as I continue my fumbling adventures with the cello.

Charles Ives, the four symphonies. There's a great progression here, from "subtly weird" to "utter madness!" The American Symphony Orchestra under Stokowski (with two assistant conductors) does the Fourth, and as far as I can tell they flog the score as it was meant to be flogged. Good thing the apartment next door is vacant.

Elvis Presley, worldwide gold singles, Vols. 1 & 2. I hadn't listened to any of these in a while, and I'd forgotten how raw they were. Elvis's voice is cloaked in reverb and smooth when he wants it to be, but half the time he just howls. The backing band is recorded with some major crunch and compression too; the guitar solos will break your face if you look at them cross-eyed. I limited myself to the first two volumes because I didn't really want to deal with "In the Ghetto," but America needed this.



the five bodily humours?

They ought to be. The bathtub has become the cat's primary source of water, which leads to cat-hair drain clogs, which I smote. Amazing stuff, that Drano gel—reminds me of the liner notes to Sonic Youth's Confusion is Sex—"The performance is absolutely unstable, three minutes of panic, and it still bubbles like a witches' cauldron; it'll dissolve anything."

Summer weather. We are happy and lethargic, surrounded by light. I meant to say something about the Bloomsday festivities a couple days back; obviously the holiday is inherently silly and nerdy, but the readings made me so happy. They made me want to write something good, which is certainly not a feeling I have all the time. Often you just keep pushing the wheelbarrow up the hill because you have to, because your superego will whip you with a birch switch if you don't.

I should also pause to note the improbably delicious curry served by the pub: green apples and raisins and other sweet things simmered in mild spices and poured over French fries. Oh my Lord it was good. Whoever invented it deserves an equestrian statue in the public park.


summer lovin'



blue bloom is on the rye

Happy Bloomsday one and all. Our local festivity is at a downtown pub; I shall quaff porter. I shall wear my nerdy Joyce T-shirt if I can find it; I think it's at the bottom of the closet somewhere. One of my teachers in college said, "Joyceans are the Trekkies of the literary world. They carry potatoes around in their pockets. It's bizarre."


la guerra sigue

I waited, strong in faith, and the sun arrived. No more of this hiding as if in a bunker. No more checking weather.com to see what it's like outside.

Sobering. Someone in one of the Guatemala books I read—by now there have been so many that I can no longer attribute anything to a specific source—said that the most enduring scar from the 36-year civil war is that now violence is seen as the only solution to any problem; after a lifetime of combat, it's the only language that anyone knows how to speak.


two years of wandering means eight goddamn years until the nostos

I bit the bullet and signed up with eHousing. Surely they will help me find my Berkeley Dream Cottage or Dream Duplex or Dream Barn or whatever, and surely I will pay through the nose for it. I can't say I mind, really. For the next six years I won't have any real money anyway, just an arbitrary amount of debt.

I bit another bullet and finally succumbed to the Spirit of 1999 by signing up for a cell phone. If I'm going to spend a week wandering unfamiliar sidewalks and trying to set up appointments with suspicious property owners, I'll probably need the little devil. I wish I were able to push these logistics aside for now and enter that blesséd state of detached contemplation (or some similar Keatsian effusion) necessary to produce these damn paragraphs, but it's sort of a problem. Whinge, whinge, whinge, whinge / You tell me why there's no food in the fridge. I know, I could be Charles Ives and selling insurance.


this album also available on 8-track cartridge

Yesterday in Erik's closet we found a worn and scratchy gem of a record.

Journey back with us to a time in celestial space for an interstellar adventure filled with romantic fantasies and sci-fi wizardry. Follow Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker as they battle the evil forces of the Galactic Empire and, with a lotta help from their friends, ultimately triumph by destroying the Death Star.

We invite you to enjoy the most powerful themes of John Williams' magnificent score as recorded by our own Electric Moog Orchestra. We think you will find this album a stunning breakthrough in electronic music.

The main theme is stirring and all, but the real highlight is the orchestra's rendition of the "cantina band" song, which is what the ATF should be blasting through their loudspeakers at rural militias in order to drive them mad.


schemata spatula

Each morning it seems a little surprising that the earth is still here, that I can still breathe and perceive, that the slapdash machinery of body and brain didn't just fall apart overnight. Almost ten thousand days it's been running. And there's probably twice that to go, unless one of those planes really does fall from the sky.

For those who are interested in this novel, I am nearing the end of the first half and plotted out the second half last night. It makes sense to me. I know how it will end. It's a really weird book in several respects but, thus far (and this is honestly surprising), a good book—I don't want to jinx it, but after a hundred single-spaced pages I haven't yet fucked up my conception. Which is more than I can say for anything else I've written.

There are four parts. You probably all know that the Maya, like most if not all Mesoamerican cultures, had/have a strong conception of a four-pointed universe aligned to the cardinal directions. So the four parts are called:

South is not quite finished, but West ought to be shorter than the others, so I'd say the book is about half written. It ends with West since that is the direction of the setting sun, associated with the color black and with death. Oh yes, of course this is a cheerful book. I mean, it's Guatemala.


feeling my way

I know you all have been lying awake at night thinking, what the hell is up with Frank Black's "The Snake?"

Well I'm a snake oh yes I'm very smart
So pretty and so timid that's a rabbit's way
A little pessimistic but that's okay
A pig or a goat well they wouldn't let you be mistreated
So I guess on that note I am not the one you needed

The answer, of course, is that ol' Frank was born in 1965, the Year of the Snake. The snake and the delicate rabbit are incompatible; far better for a bunny is a goat ("Nice couple") or a pig ("Good, very good, and everything will be fine"). Frank's love life was derailed by the stars. As far as Horse (1978) and Rat (1972), the wise Chinese say "No, no, no."


"such fertile ground for amateur psychoanalysis"

Dream: I am at Powell's Books with π. It is near closing time; almost no one is in the store. An old man says, "You two are such a cute couple. Can I take your picture?" We sit on a bench and he snaps a Polaroid, which he then hands to me. As it develops I realize that I am the only person in the photo. I look around me. I am alone in the store.


only a trace of sweetness

Capitol Hill Blue, a publication whose political slant appears to be "feisty," reports that if the Bush administration were a movie, we would definitely be in Act III.

In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as "enemies of the state."

Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.

I seem to be in retirement from Portland. It's been a gray week and I am fixed on the future now, on the life to come; I scurry to the grocery store and back, and aside from that I stay in my apartment. I am suddenly afraid of meeting people I know on the street. I want to make a clean break. As opposed to the cat, who all day sits at the window in a dream of the invisible world past the courtyard. Last night I dreamt that I took her into the Catalina mountains so that she could see the expanse of desert before her and understand what the world is; she ran off into the underbrush; I sat and tried to write for a spell; then I became worried that she was lost and went searching through the cactus and creosote. When I at last found her she was torturing a lizard. "For shame!" I cried, and carried her back down the trail.

I did get out of the bunker long enough to see the FOUND Magazine reading at Powell's. The tour is hitting all fifty states, and if they are coming near you, you really should check them out. Here is a helpful partial chart:

     Boston             September 16
     Brooklyn           September 23
     Chicago            October 7
     Iowa City          October 14
     Tucson             December 1

Go ahead and mark that calendar.


echar gasolina en el tractor

In Iraq, gas costs five cents a gallon.

So yesterday I discovered you can listen to Harold Caballeros on Guatemalan radio here. He had a great parable about a tractor, complete with "chugga-chugga" tractor noises. I'm becoming obsessed with this man. He is both a doctor AND an apostle, has written several books, and actually came to Portland not long ago. Did he have Deity-inspired prophecies for Portland? You bet!

Father, let the fire of the Holy Spirit come all over the Northwest. And I see a trumpet--golden trumpet...huge golden trumpet....a mighty horn. And the Holy Spirit says, "I am giving a voice to the Northwest. I am giving a voice in this nation to the Northwest. And the miracles I performed a hundred years ago in this area I will do again. And I tell you tonight I restore unto you a double portion,' says the Lord. There's a mighty, mighty revival of healing coming to Portland, Oregon.

If that isn't enough, he's been promoting social change in tiny towns like Almolonga, Guatemala, which recently turned evangelist and now, as a sign of God's favor, is growing enormous carrots. Here a Welsh believer encounters the vegetables.


oremos por guatemala

Uncle Z, who is old enough to remember Reagan as something other than a good-natured amnesiac in California, sez:

Pablo, as President, Reagan was a hell of an actor. He was exactly the type of plastic facade the US needed in 1980. Pessimistic uncertainty coupled with malaise would be the best way to describe the '70s. Suffice it to say that Reagan paved the way for spokesmodels. With Nancy feeding him lines, his oratorical delivery was sublime and was simply a symbol representing the American Dream of hope and prosperity at the expense of substantial debt. Conversely, Carter was very realistic and depressing, yet he has been a saint with his post-presidency magnanimous endeavours. Supply-side economics aka "Reaganomics", "Voodoo Economics" is great for Republican business owners under the guise of trickle-down economics.

I have been watching Christian television. "What?" I hear you say, "that's impossible—you don't have a television!" Indeed. This weekend I found myself having to write about a Pentecostal church service in Guatemala, which is not the sort of thing I thought to attend when I was there, so I called up Marlowe, who is my man when it comes to the Christians. He pointed out that tbn.org has 24-hour streaming video of evangelist services, so I watched some of those, then hit upon enlace.org, the Spanish-language version. So far I've seen "Para tí Mujer," which is a Jesus-for-women talk show, and, more to the point, "Pentecostés Hoy," in which Apóstol Raúl Vargas preaches live from San José, Costa Rica. Apparently if you're affiliated with the Assembly of God you get to call yourself an apostle after a while. At least in Central America.

But curse you, push media, I have to wait two whole days to watch "Jesus Es Señor," hosted by Harold Caballeros in Guatemala City. Sr. Caballeros runs El Shaddai, whose stated purpose is to write Guatemala into the list of nations that shall be saved as written in Revelation 21:24.


morning in america

The "Paul Kerschen & the Cast of Thousands" live recordings are finished—my God, they sound good. They sound better than the record in several respects. I'll try to have some mp3s of new songs up relatively soon, and probably we will put out a very-limited-edition 2-CD set free to members of the fan club. You get to be a member of the fan club by sending me an email and telling me you would like to have the CD.

Yesterday the parent of a friend, a fairly conservative gentleman, said to me, "I haven't yet decided whether Reagan numbers among the great presidents, but he did give people a good feeling again—a positive attitude. And with a that sort of positive attitute, a country can get an awful lot done." I was sort of taken aback to hear anyone float the possibility of Reagan being a great president, the airport-naming lobbies aside, but admittedly I was too young during the eighties to detect any national Good Feeling or lack thereof, and most of my subsequent looks back have been through the filter of Central American history and Reagonomic theory as manifested in the policies of the current administration, so I'm not impartial. But I still do not understand how supply-side economics is supposed to help anyone.


marie cries to herself at the window

The weekend already? How odd. I suppose that's why happy drunken people were setting off fireworks last night, at ten, as I fell asleep with twilight still in the air; and now I've woken, again at ten, in the sun. God, and maybe not even God, knows why I needed twelve hours of sleep—this part of the book is really exacting a toll from me, and a bag of walnuts is probably not a balanced diet. On the plus side, if this continues I will never know night again. I have no reason to be out after dark.

Ambivalence.babakoto.org has a little black raincloud hovering over it—it is a well-spoken black raincloud, occasionally a German raincloud. With so many of us pecking away at our novels, will someone not strike gold?


five horsepower!

To hell with hybrids; I want one of these. I want to putter along silently at 25 miles an hour. And if I ever start thinking that 25 miles an hour is not fast enough, that will be a signal to rethink my lifestyle.


the public eye

Though I am retrenching in my burrow and my brief time of playing Portland rock clubs may be coming to a close, Erik and I are going to try to record most of our live set tonight. I may have audible goodies to post soon.

Little review here. Ah, fame.

We all leave as the wind; she is gone and we also shall go. Such things often happen in the way of love. There is despair and mercy, illusion and security. Though the body of desire cannot understand the secrets, adversity cannot knock away the polo ball of good fortune. One must hear with the ear of the mind and the heart, not with that of the body. The struggle of the spirit with the body of desire is unending. Lament! For there is cause to mourn.

Conference of the Birds (I haven't read it), Farid-Ud-Din Attar


fight song

Thank you intermittent sun, coffee, new black shirt, Nick Lowe, my invention of the all-natural cancer-fighting peanut-butter-and-blueberry-preserves sandwich, and so on, into the future, toward the end of desire, toward the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Word count is back up. I am girded. My visor is down.


the tourism office

I would like to take this moment to welcome you all to June. June is a fascinating region with many natural resources, a proud history, and a rich culture; I hope you enjoy it. June has also been designated a No Bullshit Zone. I have had to wade through plenty of bullshit lately, and enough is enough. Neither poverty nor pains of the heart will keep me from writing this month. Before long I will move house and all will be changed. All will be new. If I could only do something about the shitty band practicing across the street. Today they've shifted from bad riot-grrl punk to bad riot-grrl surf.


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