indefinitely, i guess.)
Tuesday, February 08, 2005 :::
happy new year. it sounds like someone is detonating bucketloads of fireworks on a tin roof.
::: posted by chiansan at 10:02
Wednesday, February 02, 2005 :::
a paper i never thought of writing (2):
2. lust (or whatever bugs bunny is displaying when he throws himself on a platter for humphrey bogart's unseen girlfriend "baby") is not a new thing in cartoons or comics -- in addition to tijuana bibles (i don't know the history, but they have been around for quite a while), you may also have seen the work of tex avery at your local video store. i don't know exactly what actually goes on with the googly eyed wolf and the hot woman in the red dress, but i certainly have seen them (and references to them) enough to recognize them.
3. i once had a roommate who argued that masturbation was morally wrong -- his argument was based not on religion, but on kant. specifically, masturbation necessarily involved, in some way, using some other person as a means rather than an end -- objectifying that person as some kind of fantasy in one's mind. it was frustrating to argue with him in general, and i didn't really want to nitpick the details, so we never really talked about it.
sometime later, when it was long past time to argue about it, i thought of the argument that well, what you are "objectifying" not a real person but a fictional character -- and not even a fictional character with a human representation, but a cartoon? there are, of course, pornographic cartoons -- the most well known of these, perhaps, belong to japanese "hentai" anime ("hentai" can mean 'sexually perverted' or more generally irregular or abnormal -- i think it's both a noun and an adjective), but of course i assume there's more.
a long time after that, i had the idea that that ability of the cartoon or comic image to represent reality, and yet remain in an important way detached from it, may be one of the reasons "adult" cartoons and comics even exist in the first place. at least, it seems one more facet of the novelty that must have fueled those new media.
yes, i know you can say that just about ANY image represents reality while remaining detached from it -- but what i mean is that, more obviously than with, say a photograph or film of a person, the cartoon need not be tied to, or represented by, a real person. if you make up a film character, you need someone to play him or her, sure. if you make up a cartoon character, you need not anchor him or her to a physical person -- hence we have our talking animals, ghosts, modern stone age families, and so on. and, if you want your characters to be (in) your pornography, you can rest assured that only a figment of your, or someone else's imagination -- a kind of object, perhaps -- is being objectified. if that sort of thing bothers you, that is.
if you develop a crush on someone in a live action film, you usually say you have a crush on the actor or actress. if you develop a crush on a cartoon character, there really isn't anything else. there isn't a person to obsess over -- except maybe a voice actor? -- and perhaps that's part of the point. did someone somewhere -- or several someone's -- sit up one day and think, comics! porn with one less reason to feel guilty? it'll be a gold mine!
4. there's simpsons porn out there, by the way. i don't know why, but there is.
::: posted by chiansan at 10:01
a paper i never thought of writing (1):
1. when i was little, i watched a looney tunes cartoon featuring bugs bunny and elmer fudd. it's an older toon, i would guess from the 60s or maybe even the 50s, but back then, bugs and elmer cartoons still involved similar themes. i realized very recently, though, that this one involved elements that looney tunes would be unlikely to include today.
the cartoon casts elmer fudd as the head chef at a fancy restaurant, perhaps in hollywood. black tie and such. one of the guests on this particular night is none other than humphrey bogart -- i forget whether there are any other employees to inform elmer of this, but in any case, bogart (rendered with facial wrinkles, tuxedo, and such -- though at the time, how the hell would i know?) goes into the kitchen and he wants only one thing: rabbit for dinner. elmer tries to protest, for the restaurant doesn't have any rabbit to offer. but bogart is clearly not a nice man and clearly not a man you feel comfortable refusing, so elmer searches the kitchen frantically. of course, bugs enters, for no clear reason, and elmer sees a way out.
as can be guessed, the plot of the cartoon involves elmer, increasingly hysterical, trying unsuccessfully to cook bugs for dinner, and trying at the same time to stall the increasingly impatient and menacing bogart. i remember one sequence in which bugs poses as a tuxedoed waiter. it goes something like this:
(bugs comes into the kitchen)
-one lemon merengue pie, on the double!
-one lemon merengue pie, coming right up! (elmer, fooled, goes to get the pie)
-pick up pie!
-roger! (elmer gives him the pie)
-your pie, sir! (hits him in face with pie)
as elmer recovers from being hit in the face with a pie, bugs runs in and orders another pie. this is repeated several times with several different types of pies. after some number of pies, elmer wises up. preparing the next "order", he waits until the door opens, then hurls the pie at bugs. the pie misses bugs and hits humphrey bogart, who is unamused and has begun threatening physical harm if he doesn't get his rabbit.
finally, elmer must admit defeat to the implacable bogart. he cannot provide a rabbit dinner. bogart sighs and reaches into his jacket pocket -- but rather than a gun to kill poor elmer, he produces a handkerchief, which he uses to wipe his face before saying, well, i guess baby will just have to have a ham sandwich instead.
at this, bugs pops his head out of a cupboard, exclaims, BABY???? and throws himself on the nearest silver platter. as the cartoon ends, bugs winks at us and says (perhaps before putting an apple in his mouth, or making a few catcalls, if it's rabbit baby wants, it's rabbit baby gets!
::: posted by chiansan at 09:13
1. last time i was here, my aunt was driving down a street in jhongli and we heard fur elise coming from somewhere outside, in the flat ringtones that you used to hear in those greeting cards that played music. she said, do you recognize that? i said sure, it's fur elise. fur elise is everywhere in asia. but it wasn't what she meant. she said, that's the sound of the garbage. when you hear it, you know the garbage truck is coming.
in my aunt's apartment there is a PA speaker. presumably every apartment has one. at 7.30 or so a voice came out of it and advised us that the garbage was going to be collected shortly.
she was having a party for her students. we were standing around the dining table eating from small paper bowls. people were galvanized into action. the bags of garbage from the day's rather large amount of cooking were tied and brought downstairs. a woman from the 8th floor joined us on the elevator and commented that she had never seen us before.
a crowd of people gathers in the lobby, each with a few bags of garbage. the night outside is dark and only the face of another building is faintly visible across a narrow street. everyone stands around listening. presently a distant tinny music is heard. if you don't live here and aren't used to how this thing is timed, then you go outside and look, like i did, and you walk down to the intersection and see nothing and go back in.
it isn't fur elise. it's something else that brings to mind neighborhood ice cream trucks. after a few minutes it begins to get louder and across the street, the residents of the other apartment begin to head out. as the music approaches, people stream out of the buildings into the street, moving toward the sound. we all stop at the intersection.
it's dark for another moment, and finally, coming around a corner from the nearest busy street, are the headlights of the giant wheeled machine, brighter than anything else outside. in the light we can see the crowd standing to either side of the path of garbage truck as it rumbles slowly in our direction. we stand and wait for it as the tune becomes louder.
nothing is said, or nothing is heard over the sound of the engine and the hydraulics and the music that now surrounds us. the truck is white, or beige.
it happens in the glow of the rear lights -- which makes it feel like some illicit act that we would never condone in the daytime, but which we now commit collectively, in this light, which is somehow more primitive. we all step up to the mouth of the truck and throw our bags into it. a hydraulic jaw scoops down and presses the bags deeper into the truck. it moves slowly, as we would expect of a large thing. we turn away from the light and go quickly back to our residential units, mindful of the cold, not looking at each other much.
2. i once saw an old film version of h g wells' the time machine. in the far future live the eloi and the morlocks. the eloi, as i very dimly recall (sorry, i haven't read the book) spend their time lounging in togas and eating grapes or something. at certain determined times, a weird wailing siren is heard and the eloi, mesmerized, gather at some place -- perhaps the mouth of a cave. some of them are taken into the cave and eaten by the morlocks.
3. the only episode of doctor who that i have ever seen involved the doctor traveling into a futuristic urban (post-urban?) landscape of densely packed concrete buildings and a maze of passages that runs between them. this place is populated by all-female street gangs, weird men in suits that are perhaps masterminds of some kind, and maybe cannibalistic old ladies as well. in one scene we see an encounter between an unfortunate street gang member and one of the deadly machines that patrol the city. the deadly machine is a slow moving wheeled trapezoidal box several feet tall, possibly even with a silly yellow siren on it. it's beige, and reminds one of the indoor vehicles you see scooting around airports. it kills the girl, rather cheesily, i think with a laser or something.
4. one of the first music purchases i made (got an adult to make for me, really) was an album of songs inspired by (or included in episodes of) the x files. it was called songs in the key of x, and you can find it sometimes in used cd stores. i'll have to get another one, since i tossed mine last august. it was ten years old and i'd left it in the kitchen too long, and oil had condensed onto the surface, and dust had stuck to it.
one of the songs was performed by the foo fighters -- it was a cover of down in the park. the song is by gary numan and i've never heard the original version. the words are:
down in the park where the mark men meet
the machines are playing kill by numbers
down in the park with a friend called five
i was in a car crash or was it the war
but i've never been quite the same
little white lies like i was there
come to tom tom's the place to eat
like it was built in one day
you can watch the humans trying to run
oh look there's a rape machine
i'd go outside if it'd look the other way
wouldn't believe the things they do
down in the park where the chant is
death death death till the sun cries morning
down in the park with friends of mine
we are not lovers we are not romantics
we are here to serve
a different face but the words never change
::: posted by chiansan at 07:47
Wednesday, September 08, 2004 :::
music i want to hear right now but can't because i'm in mainland china and didn't bring it and don't own a computer and if i did have it maybe i wouldn't be listening to it but i'd be glad to have it anyway:
interpol - evil
interpol - take you on a cruise
bon savants - post rock defends the nation
ted leo - set you free
poster children - 0 for 1
pixies - bone machine
radiohead - scatterbrain
magnetic fields - luckiest guy on the lower east side
badly drawn boy - everybody's stalking
::: posted by chiansan at 21:02
Thursday, July 22, 2004 :::
i was already half dancing when her knock on the door came like popcorn and made me jump anyway. i had a green highlighter in one hand and some kid's problem set in the other, and i still didn't know the song well enough to have any idea that the crashing post-punk freakout was going to start the moment i opened the door.
i looked at her for less than a second before i commenced throwing myself around the room for the next two and a half minutes. she accepted my invitation to do the same, and the green pen went on the bed. i tried to throw this poor kid's problem set after it, but the thin paper floated to the floor, where i stomped all over it.
i picked it up later and finished grading it as if nothing at all had happened.
i saw interpol at the end of september 2002. we waited for them for a long time. the first song they played was the first song from their album. they followed it by playing the second song from their album.
as they started in a hush, the entire crowd was rapt with absurd reverent silence.
one guy started yelling YEAH!!! yeah...
then he turned around and said, oh! oh, i'm sorry, is this is a concert?
and someone else said, SHUT THE FUCK UP!
i have a vision now: crowds of people, shocked by their own behavior, at an interpol show, will mosh their fucking heads off.
::: posted by chiansan at 17:18
Tuesday, July 06, 2004 :::
julian coryell / aimee mann
june 29 2004
if the people in the front could please refrain from pushing. people go under and this is not a fucking football match.
please don't do that crowd surfing shit either.
--thom yorke, paraphrased from some magazine article
i have now seen two shows at avalon. one of them was aimee mann, with special guest julian coryell, who's also her lead guitarist. the other one was blur, nearly a year ago.
i suppose they were not the blur i am familiar with from parklife and other albums of the 90s. i don't own the last two blur albums. i want to go out and get 13 and think tank, really. there are songs on each that i like a lot. i just haven't gotten around to it.
blur had a backup drummer, backup gospel singers, a backup keyboardist, and maybe someone else i don't remember who played random instruments such as the clarinet.
they did not have graham coxon. instead they had simon tong, who used to be in the verve. simon tong is shorter than i had imagined.
avalon holds a thousand people or something -- i guess it's a step or two down from a stadium. it's a nightclub most of the time. when you see a show there, they try to shoo everyone out at 10.30 or so, so they can clean up and start the dancing.
at some point i wondered if -- by the time you're big and famous enough to play at avalon, by the time you need a place that holds a thousand to hold the people who will want to see you -- if that also means you're big and famous enough that you necessarily play shows that end at 10.30, where everyone stands absolutely still while you play and erupts into deafening applause at the end of every song.
the blur i knew from pictures are thin, perhaps unhealthily so. when i saw damon albarn onstage he made me think of phil collins, for some reason. dave rowntree, surrounded by drums, made me think of a gorilla shaking the bars of a cage. also of the few pounds anthony hopkins put on between silence of the lambs and hannibal.
in hannibal you could see that anthony hopkins is balding. in silence of the lambs i don't think you could.
i know one picture of aimee mann, from the back of i'm with stupid. she's pretty, though in this striking, angular way. that's a picture from ten years ago.
in person, wearing a white suit jacket and turquoise tie, lit from below, her hands in her pockets, aimee mann is almost skeletally thin. she seemed to preside coolly over the band and the show like jack skellington in a nightmare before christmas.
everyone loved her. almost nobody danced. i noted some moderate head shaking from two women to my left who i think were pregnant.
there was a girl a bit in front of me who danced, as much as it was possible. she swayed a bit and put her arms out. i get the feeling that people were looking at her like she was crazy.
blur, of course, played song 2. of course. if you recall, the video for that song has the members of blur throwing themselves against the walls until they're all blown away by this windstorm.
i jumped up and down a little, and ended up bumping this girl behind me who was innocently minding her own business and trying to watch the music. i felt very embarrassed.
is there a point at which people stop coming to your shows to drink and dance and get their hearing damaged, and start coming to your shows to watch you perform songs they already know and love? when everyone's heard your album and no one's see you play?
when people fill venues to crane their necks and see you because your visible presence and the stage banter are the only special thing about it? when you start standing so that people can see you, as if you were a circus attraction?
aimee mann played an acoustic most of the show, which i expected. for some songs she switched to bass, which seemed so strange it made me really happy.
she played lots of songs that i really love, and it made me think that maybe it's not a good idea to go out and hear songs you love. i had the exact same thought when i heard dismemberment plan play you are invited. is it too much to expect ecstatic, supernormal revelation when you see someone you know play something you like?
she played save me and wise up and that's just what you are and amateur, and she played them pretty much exactly as she first wrote them. vocal melodies the same, guitar solos played note for note -- even bernard butler's several-minute solo from sugarcoated.
the stage banter was sparse and predictably genial -- she talked about how she had a cold -- she stopped everybody a few bars into the first song and apologized. not like a jerk, she was very nice about it. also, everyone in the room liked her.
and how she was taking up boxing and some fan on her message board (which she doesn't read, i think) and panicked, saying she was not "of robust physical stature."
she brought up the fact that save me was up for an oscar and lost to a song by phil collins from the disney movie tarzan.
we all booed phil collins.
i was seeing aimee mann, i was standing in a dense, still crowd, getting sleepy.
what do you do though? it's not your fault if so many people want to see you that you need a nightclub to hold them all. it's not your fault if you're so popular that if someone yells at you from the back row you can't hear because the place you're playing is huge.
aimee mann has been playing music for at least two decades, right? she's played thousands of shows, i'll bet. she knows what she's doing.
of course, she's played THOUSANDS of shows. thousands. shows like these.
i thought, what you should do is write and play and once you're popular enough that people who have never seen you want to see you, you lure them to a big show at a nightclub, and you fucking blow them away with--
aimee mann's set ended with two songs. one of them i didn't know, but... something, maybe nothing more than the fact that it was louder, but something started.
she switched the acoustic out for an electric, for the first time that night, still playing rhythm of course, but it was good to finally hear a fuzz edge on the guitar. the rest of the band came in, and i realized that they were playing LONG SHOT.
i have no fondness for this song whatsoever, and maybe it really is something cheap like its being faster, or louder, it was something. i was no longer tired, the crowd no longer heavy, and where all the other songs had ended right where they were supposed to, this one was double or triple the length it once was.
and i realize now that she does the same tuneless, chugging break on the guitar that kurt cobain does at the beginning of smells like teen spirit.
they got all the words out of the way, aimee mann for the first time having to half shout her words over a wall of music, and then we heard the only guitar solo of the night, which was glorious and ended up breaking a string. it seemed to suit julian more than his own opening set, which (i'm sorry) was nice but made me think of randy newman.
so i got what i came for.
people went crazy. she played two encores. yes, aimee mann does know what she's doing.
and you know who i expect never to let me down? they might be giants.
::: posted by chiansan at 13:20
Tuesday, June 22, 2004 :::
the beatings / oceansize / mclusky
1. interactions with hecklers:
heckler: YOUR DRUMMER IS BETTER THAN DEF LEPPARD'S DRUMMER!!!
guy from mclusky: that's because he's got two arms. and as a tip, if you're going to heckle, try to stick with the shorter sentences.
guy from mclusky: can i get some more bass on my monitor?
other guy from mclusky: and can i get some more guitar on my monitor?
first guy from mclusky: can i get more suicide girls on my monitor?
other guy from mclusky: oh right. can i have more naked breasts out of my monitor?
other guy from mclusky: which do you like better, music or breasts?
other guy from mclusky: right. i believe you THIS much.
first guy from mclusky: that's saying something you know, he's a cynic. dyou know how to spell that?
2. if the guy from mclusky (the first one, the short one with sideburns) has a day job, it's probably as a police dog trainer.
3. there are three guys in mclusky. they stand far, far apart on the stage. the guitarist and bassist (who is really another guitarist) do not approach each other at all. they seem hardly to move their feet. sharp sound fills the entire space.
i'm looking at the guitarist on the left. the wall behind him is bathed in red light. he's a shorter fellow.
every once in a while someone takes a flash photo, and the wall behind him turns blue black for a moment, and visible against the wall is a towering, bassist shaped shadow.
::: posted by chiansan at 20:55
Tuesday, June 15, 2004 :::
everything's not lost
not this actual song, but the hidden track that goes at the very end of parachutes. these things always seem to have names but they're obscure ones and difficult to find.
a while ago i saw a kid singing this song quietly to a mannequin in the lower level of a store.
no one was really around. i didn't want to interrupt.
it's a kid who works there. i saw a high glass shelf with a step ladder next to it, from where he must have taken the mannequin down. nothing else was there -- i guess it must have been the last part of a display that was being put away.
he had placed the mannequin in front of him on the counter. the mannequin was white and had no head, its limbs all ended after about six inches. the mannequin was a girl. he was undressing it. her.
mannequins are apparently all male by default, unless they have obvious breasts, in which case they are female.
i imagine her head craned up to the left, one of her arms stretched up and the other reaching down to continue that same diagonal. a body stretched out.
the mannequin wore a black hooded sweater and gray exercise shorts. under the sweater was a red tank top. he touched the clothes softly, in a way that suggested that he was thinking of someone. he folded the sweater off one of her arms, then reached around her back to take the other sleeve.
i think someone who was working with a mannequin in spirit as well as reality would have just turned it around.
he folded the sweater -- down the center first, then the sleeves into the body, then the resulting long bundle in half.
it was strange, tender -- he slid the first red strap off her shoulder with two fingers, and around then i started hearing the words.
i don't know. sometimes when people smile and close their eyes and whisper their songs like this they're about to cry.
i never meant
to do you wrong
that's what i came here to say
if i was wrong i'm sorry
don't let it stand in our way
cause my head just aches when i think of
the things that i shouldn't have done
but life is for living we all know
and i don't want to live it alone
-he was in love. and when it was over all he had left to remember her was a mannequin she had used, for some bizarre reason, to hold her clothing.
-he was in love. and when it was over she turned into a mannequin and he was left nothing else -- where there had once been someone in that place for him, who touched him and responded to his touch, now there was nothing that would explain, that would speak to him and say i'm sorry. and there was nothing else to do but take it down and put it away. it was bewildering, he didn't quite understand but he knew that was the way it had to be, so without too much fuss he did it.
he didn't know what he would do with the clothes once he had folded them, or what he would do with the mannequin once it was naked.
::: posted by chiansan at 21:45
Sunday, June 06, 2004 :::
A: are you auditioning for this thing or not?
B: a coin.
B: coin. get a coin.
B: (A and B do not break eye contact)
A: (produces coin)
B: (says nothing, gestures impatiently)
A: (flips coin. catches coin in a fist, arm outstretched toward B)
A: (without any other movement, drops it out of closed fist, without looking, palm down, in front of B)
A: (without looking)
B: i'll do it.
A: i guessed right.
B: no. i just wanted a second to think about it.
::: posted by chiansan at 19:42
Saturday, May 22, 2004 :::
in lumine tuo videbimus lumen:
may 18, 2004
i took this picture--
a skinny lady in black stands on a chair, foreground left -- the chair is not in the picture. she looks off, distressed, out of the frame, shading her eyes with a blue piece of paper; her other hand holds a phone to her ear. she's looking for someone -- maybe the person she is talking to. in the background are the massed members of the columbia college class of 2004, clad in sky blue robes and caps. uniformity is the idea, yet looking at the field full of graduates, one senses chaos. the view from above is of the flat caps tilted in every direction. an uneven slate floor, or a broken ice field, or square crackers strewn everywhere.
some of the graduates stand on their seats, presumably trying to locate their parents. about half of them appear to be carrying bottled water. the other half carry cellular phones.
the camera was disposable and nondescript -- perhaps even free. given to me by my mom -- my instruction being the photographic equivalent of 'shoot anything that moves,' with the constraint that the frame had to include my brother, somewhere.
this one didn't. i may get in trouble for it later.
the item "reading of names," in the program, unfortunately means exactly what it sounds like.
next to my brother's name are three asterisks***. this signifies that he is graduating summa cum laude.
the names are printed in exhausting small type, which is hard to see in the bright sun, three columns to a page. each column has 52 lines, except on the first page, which has 47 lines to make room for the title, and the last page, which has only enough names for 31 lines. so the total number of lines is 1,108. taking into account the students who have long names and therefore take up two lines, we arrive at the number of 1,093 members of the columbia college class of 2004.
by the time i look up from this calculation, perhaps 4 percent of the columbia college class of 2004 have been called.
the sun is very hot.
heat collects in people's hair and in the plastic chairs, which become too hot to touch.
the graduates stand up by row and form a line down the right aisle, filing in front of us all the way to the stage. 1,093 names are called in an order that is clearly not alphabetical.
ten feet from the stage steps there is a short woman who makes sure they have their tassels positioned correctly at the back right edge of the cap, then directs them around a fence i can't see from my seat, up to the side of the stage.
i will later be told by my brother that this woman is pushy.
after receiving a class pin (or whatever), each graduate shakes hands with columbia president lee bollinger, shakes hands with class day speaker tony kushner, shakes hands with dean quigley, and rushes off so as to avoid a backlog on the stage. the three of them are lined up in a row, flanking a straight path to an exit, stage right. it's like high-fiving your teammates after you hit a home run.
the dean, who has looked kind of sweaty since his appearance onstage, has to do about one handshake per second, sometimes more. occasionally there is a delay of two or three seconds -- during this respite he swigs out of a bottle of aquafina.
a video screen off to the right displays a close up view of the stage. in the background are groups of workers setting up rows and rows of white folding chairs. in the foreground are the heads of the students in the front rows, the variously tilted caps looking like a field of pixellated blue flowers.
the line of graduates bumps forward and back -- stretching and compressing. a slinky, or water sloshing in a tank -- speeding and slowing to keep pace with the steady calling of names.
a lady in another row taps the lady in front of her. she points at a family several rows up.
-can you ask them if they have any film i could buy?
she adds an extra syllable to the word film. fillim. i saw she was using elf fillim in her camera, can you see if they have any extra? i'm out of fillim.
elf fillim. do the elves somehow weave it out of gold thread and silver nitrate?
the second lady gets the message to a tall boy in the front, who leans over to ask his dad(?), who leans over to ask his wife(?) if she has any more fillim. at the left end of the row the wife shakes her head no. so the first lady is out of fillim.
it hadn't occured to me. probably most of the audience has switched over to digital cameras or at least camcorders.
a while ago i read that kodak will discontinue the manufacture of film cameras. kodak will continue to produce film, but as the old cameras die, the demand for film will go wth it. so one day, perhaps we'll have the ability to shoot pictures at will, for as long as we want. the photograph will cut free from one physical body and adapt to a new, computerized existence. perhaps then there will be no stopping even to reload.
but for now, under the sun i imagine a crowd of the columbia parent class of 2004, firing away, firing themselves clean out of ammo.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:37
Friday, May 21, 2004 :::
red and black: a mixtape
i feel, in the way that one "feels" things through an imagined collective consciousness, that most people who make mixtapes will eventually make something i'm choosing to call a 'red and black' tape.
the sides of the tape are themed loosely.
side one we can call the "you're so great, i'm so sucky" side.
side two we can call the "you hate me, i hate myself, i'm going to crawl into a corner and die" side.
the theme of side one can vary somewhat. the theme of side two usually remains the same.
due simply to circumstance, we generally find side one to be cobbled together and side two to be much better assembled and impactful. circumstances usually dictate that side two is conceived first, with side one added for the sake of reaching side two and for the sake of symmetry. the impulse behind these things is often one of addictive, self-lacerating angst and unhappiness. it's difficult to assemble well a full tape side not fully about those things, but it's also difficult to assemble well two full tape sides of self-lacerating angst and unhappiness.
some thoughts --
someone probably made you feel this way. do not give your copy of the tape to this person -- at least (especially) not when feelings are still fresh.
this very idea is often behind the creation of the tape, of course. but i don't think it's a good idea. if this person cares about you, he or she will worry. if not, he or she will be confused and perhaps wary. either way, it can make things quite uncomfortable.
all of which we know, and we might take a perverse pleasure in it.
will listening to the tape make us feel better, as a way of externalizing and feeding back something we might not be able to otherwise release? do we distill life into music, deliberately creating a sort of document, something outside of ourselves? and so is this story only readable by its author, assembling a sort of golem therapist and then having a conversation with it?
i suppose that's the hope.
we live again
wishing i was john
we never change
things behind the sun
i luv the valley OH!
everything is free
i know what kind of love this is
::: posted by chiansan at 22:21
Thursday, April 29, 2004 :::
i dream a highway
this song has no end.
the words are slow, and few and their meanings seem too old even to be cryptic --
sunday morning at the diner
hollywood trembles on the verge of tears
i watch the waitress for a thousand years
saw a wheel inside a wheel
heard a call within a call
-- and notes appear like trees blinking into view at the very edge of the horizon where the lanes of the road converge, touching somewhere in the distance.
where does this highway lead? perhaps to something that we search our entire lives to return to, but that we'll never find. the highway doesn't end. the song doesn't end. space may be bounded, but a journey may not be.
though one day we might stop, that road will still be there, the horizon no less distant for all of the steps we have taken, the evergreens at the side of the highway still rising slowly to meet us and finally passing over in silence, the road still reaching to the end of our sight at a hazy point lost far away as evening falls.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:21
Monday, April 26, 2004 :::
the thermals / sleater-kinney
april 25 2004
i'll be honest about something. i came to this show expecting to be able to throw up my hands and be carried away and saved.
the last few shows i've been to have been overwhelmingly loud and it's just made me tired. the last sunday show i went to nearly put me to sleep by the end.
i'd never been this close to stage at the roxy. the thermals were overwhelmingly loud and started to make me tired. i wasn't terribly impressed with them for most of the set. the guy from the thermals struck me as the archetypal young guy in a white t-shirt carrying a guitar. they were late coming on, and they and all of their stuff were pressed up against the front of the stage, with janet weiss' drumkit looming behind them. it must have been intimidating.
i was trying to get into it, but i guess i was waiting to receive something that i wasn't getting. i was getting tired. they struck me as a blunt young band, using a lot of chord changes and yelling, perhaps not used to big crowds. and i worried that it was only my own failure to have a good time, something missing from me, from my life, that was all.
there was something else though.
some time before the thermals came on, the word ROXY was, inexplicably, projected in rotating neon green against the back curtain. also inexplicably, they started playing and someone started messing with the stage lights. the lights would go from white to yellow to red to purple to strobe. i didn't pay attention. it didn't seem to really have anything to do with the music. what was the point?
the lights went from white to green to blue to yellow to orange and for some reason then they just went OUT.
no light on the stage. the thermals kept playing, stubborn or just confused, in the dark.
a second or two and the lights came on again. i looked at him again, still singing his song, still playing, leaning into the front of the stage. but there was something there that i don't think i can describe, his mouth open and with what might have been a smile, his eyes wide, probably blinded by the lights, gazing into a point somewhere in them over our heads, something elated about his face, in that confused intensity.
i started laughing at him somewhere inside. i don't know whether the sound made it all the way out of me, but i laughed when i saw him reappear. and that -- that.
that was when i started giving something back.
::: posted by chiansan at 11:56
Tuesday, March 23, 2004 :::
my bloody valentine:
this was once one of my least favorite of the my bloody valentine songs i know, and now it's one of my favorites. about the only thing in the last four years to change the way i think about my bloody valentine, happened a few sundays ago. i watched lost in translation.
all of the color in this movie is so clean, all the outdoor scenes awash with light, whether daylight, or the bright saturating glow of neon at street level, or the softer collective shine of the skyline. it seems like the only darkness is to be found by the deliberate act of turning off the lights to go to bed. yet, there are still the night lights, perhaps, and the city light coming through curtained windows?
the achingly slow sweep of towering images in front of people who haven't slept for days.
at some point i started thinking about my bloody valentine. i don't really know why -- i had no idea kevin shields had written music for the movie, and while i made a connection, the music was only suggested to me visually.
this story is about more than making single-serving friends during travel, more than bill murray being too tall for japan, more than the way we can change so much in new places, more than exhaustion and insomnia, more than the sharing of these things. it might be more than a love story.
it might be about people trying to fill the space between and around them. it doesn't take much for that space to fall silent, to seem so vast, and so empty, and other people so unreachable, whether they're friends or strangers, or both. and the act of reaching across that space can be so fleeting even if it succeeds, and is so desperate whether it succeeds or not.
maybe it's something that only kevin shields can express, singing barely intelligible, sleepy, muffled words over (under) layers and layers of slow burning guitars.
bill murray and scarlet johansson are sitting in the hall outside a karaoke room at the end of the night. perhaps the music is still faintly audible through the walls.
she wears a pink wig. they take turns smoking the same cigarette. she puts her head on his shoulder. he folds his hands on his knee.
putting your head on someone's shoulder can mean not knowing whether you are being accepted. the acceptance is just as much a deliberate act -- one that is felt, assumed, maybe unobservable. that's why putting your head on someone's shoulder is such an act of trust. one i think i have not yet learned.
the music comes on as they ride back home in a cab, he asleep in one corner, she awake in the other, her face seen through the window and through the passing reflections of the bright streets. the slow swoop of strings over the oceanic rumble of guitar feedback echoing across everything like the light of the glowing lamps and windows that seem never to sleep.
all the red lights at the tops of the buildings, winking gently in and out of time, as if stretching out between them there were an invisible, silent sea in the dark sky high above the city.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:11
Sunday, March 14, 2004 :::
i'll be moving out soon.
i walked out yesterday because i knew you'd be coming home early and i can't face you like this anymore. i can't look at how much happier you are to see everyone else.
it's the part of the year when all the winter snow has gone, sometimes replaced by rain -- almost spring, but the air is still cold and when you leave your hands out of their pockets they go numb. i love walking on the concrete plaza in front of the marriott on the gray days that are bright under the clouds. there are no shadows, and everything has a sleepy blue cast. it's like you've just opened your eyes from having held them closed for a long time. i used to think that color was left over from dreams, somehow.
the sky churns almost like you see in pictures of the surface of jupiter.
the whole place was swept clean by the wind, and i felt as if, had i gone feeling the bricks of the plaza with my cold hands, i wouldn't have found any dirt.
that's what i was doing yesterday evening when i knew you were at home. i stayed out until i knew you would be asleep. i think you know this.
sometimes i go to bed early and pretend i'm asleep when i hear you coming home. you don't say anything because you want to leave me alone.
i don't know whether i want it to get to you or not. i can't stand thinking it's hurting you, and i can't stand thinking you understand completely and want to let me alone when i want to be let alone.
i saw a bunch of dry fallen leaves blown around in an unstable whirlwind. autumn leaves, in march. where did they come from? i questioned the trees around the plaza but they were all bare. no one was talking.
the leaves were brown and trefoiled and i could see all the veins. thinking that if all the paper crumbled away and only the veins were left, you'd have such a thin, willowy thing. like one of those tall plants in an aquarium -- the water holds them up, and they wave slowly back and forth.
i thought of calling to describe it to you. but i couldn't. i haven't really talked to you for a week or so now. and i can't ask whether you care.
but you're still so innocent when you sleep, you know that? your mouth opens a little and your eyes close and i can't see the skepticism in them anymore, or the frustration, or the distance. you have a different smile when you sleep, so different from the one i see when you shake your head at me when there's nothing else to say.
you still leave your bedroom door open. it bothered the hell out of me when i started sleeping in there, you know. there was a time when i would have made fun of you for it. but that was before it was so important what you thought of me.
it was dark but the computer was on so i came in because i still don't have one of my own. i heard you stir when i started making noise, your back turned.
and it seemed like things were peaceful between us again, and i turned off the computer and i couldn't stop myself from reaching out and touching your hair, just for a second.
is what you said, half asleep, and you shrugged slowly into your blankets a little as if to say it was okay, it was all okay. and for a moment i could let myself think about how graceful it is the way your neck curves into your shoulders when you curl up that way, and for a moment i thought i was dumb enough to tell you that i love you, and i thought in the dark maybe you'd be dumb enough to say it back.
but i didn't. i made sure the monitor was off and i sighed and i left the room.
i'll be moving out soon.
::: posted by chiansan at 01:36
Saturday, March 06, 2004 :::
street people (8)
the first time i saw country ray was freshman year. i said hi to him because i thought he was a guy named mike, who i'd met the day i moved into my dorm. it had been dark that first time, and they were both wearing hats, and both had the same amount of stubble, and were standing in front of the same alleyway. i think.
country ray is kind of a celebrity around yale. i didn't know this at the time. i addressed him as mike the first time we met, and later started thinking he really wasn't the same person.
i said, mike? country ray just sort of nodded and commenced asking me for money. i'm just out here trying to get a little money, he said. he closed his eyes and nodded deeply as he said -- for my family. i think i gave him a few dollars that time.
a lot of college freshmen are pretty sheltered, have never lived in a place with lots of homeless people -- they might hand over money out of liberal guilt. or maybe just surprise. i wonder how much panhandlers think about things like that.
i think country ray recognized me though, because he became quite enthusiastic when i walked by. it was the beginning of the year, and to get from the main part of campus to the yale bookstore to get your books, you have to walk down broadway. the street is lined with the popular shops and there's an atm down there too.
so i walked past country ray a good deal.
i think it was the second time i saw him, when he came up from his alleyway and said -- please man, can you help me out? for my family?
i took the cash out of my pocket. i remember i had some dollar bills, and there was a five in there. i handed him a dollar.
this is a mistake. displaying more money than you are willing to hand over is not a good idea.
i've watched him on the street a few times. he tends to grimace at people as he starts asking for money. his face twists and his mouth opens.
he took the dollar and shook his head desperately and said, aw come on man, food for my family, a -- a chicken!
i was quite powerless in the face of this display so i gave him the fiver as well. he was quite happy, nodding and thanking me and saying god bless you.
i didn't come out of it feeling magnanimous or anything. actually, i felt kind of like an idiot.
the next time i saw him he said come on, man, i just need five dollars -- as if he were the friend we all have who always wants to borrow money. i was quite relieved to tell him that i didn't have that much.
he said all right, all right man, then can you help me out with three? as if he were doing business. i ended up giving him three dollars.
at some point i became really uncomfortable walking down that street. i didn't feel threatened by panhandlers, exactly -- really i just didn't think i'd be able to make it all the way to the end without giving somebody money. you don't have to give anybody anything, of course. but i had difficulty saying no.
i had heard new haven's reputation as a gritty, downtrodden place, and i had had dreams about being nice to homeless people, asking their names, maybe even getting to know them.
country ray wasn't terribly interested in talking though. i tried for a while, but it didn't really work. sophomore year there was an article in the yale rumpus about a crackdown on homeless people sleeping in yale college basements. the students, i think, didn't mind terribly much. the administration, of course, was repulsed by the idea.
the article suggested that yale even set up some kind of organized way to shelter the homeless in its basements. needless to say, this hasn't happened.
country ray was interviewed briefly about the idea -- would the homeless have a problem with sheltering beneath the hand that bitch-slaps them? the answer was no.
it was five years ago.
for a while i avoided broadway altogether. if you walk down york street and cut behind toad's there's a walkway that takes you to the bookstore. this is probably silly since you're much more likely to be mugged walking behind a street than on it. after a while i got over it. it took a long time though.
still left over from that time is the instinct to peer down the street as i get to the beginning of broadway, and see if any homeless people are around. i have since gotten over my phobia of getting cash from the atms in that area.
there was a night first semester when i was walking down broadway with jacob, and i told him that it made me nervous.
he said, it's because of attitudes like that that americans are losing faith in their cities.
::: posted by chiansan at 11:28
Monday, March 01, 2004 :::
i googled the word "hiroshima" last night and found that we have it as an event and not a place. who lives in hiroshima now, what's the population, what are they all doing, what are their exports, where are the good clubs? i didn't find this out last night, though i wasn't looking very long.
does it matter, if the bomb not only destroyed the city but gave it a permanent future as a destroyed city, frozen in a flash of light that burned shadows into walls?
(to be continued)
::: posted by chiansan at 07:59
Wednesday, January 14, 2004 :::
street people (7):
new haven courthouse:
at the rally they had for annette junior year, there was a guy who went up to the microphone they had on the steps of the courthouse, in front of the crowd -- he didn't have a police harassment story. he said, hey, this isn't a story about the police, but i just wanted to say, if you guys remember parminder singh. um, if you remember, parminder was homeless, he died, he lit himself on fire about a year ago.
he was having some mental problems. so, um, i just wanted to ask you all to remember him.
that was all. he stepped down after that. i didn't know the guy.
i remembered the story. i believe parminder singh lit himself on fire with gasoline outside of a restaurant somewhere close to campus. maybe mom's indian kitchen. it was sophomore year.
i remember reading about it in the paper and laughing. because the article mentioned that people inside the restaurant noticed the fire -- one guy looked outside and called the cops because initially he thought his car was on fire.
we sat in the dining hall and laughed and said, oh my god, my car's on fire! oh wait, no, it's just a guy on fire out there.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:34
Sunday, January 11, 2004 :::
street people (6):
corner of elm and york:
at the last harvard-yale game weekend, i was wandering in the street completely wasted, when i ran into annette, the flower lady. she seemed to be looking good, i don't remember if i bought a flower from her.
i think i did. but i was really in bad shape at the time. i do remember that she remembered that i had graduated, and asked how things were.
she's usually at that corner. she carries small flower stems wrapped up nicely in a cone made of a rolled up piece of paper. she gets the papers out of the boxes in copy shops where people toss printed pages they don't want. you can get a flower from annette for a dollar. i don't know where annette gets the flowers.
would you like to buy a flower for a dollar? or would you have a little change? that's what she says. she's been around for a long time, and most of the yale kids recognize her.
does she have a house? a family? i have no idea.
i guess it's nice to be able to offer something to people, rather than just asking for money. in a way, it's giving people more of a chance to give you something, without making them feel like they're being taken advantage of.
of course i don't think she makes a profit in the flower business. but maybe she doesn't intend to. i hope she makes enough to get by. that's all you need, i guess. spending all your time making enough to survive.
i spent a summer at yale some years ago, and saw her somewhat frequently. around the beginning of july, she started mentioning that her birthday was coming up, and reminding me to get a flower from her for her birthday.
i think her birthday is july 9th.
i was at a friend's place that summer, and somehow the subject of annette came up.
one of my friends shook her head. i'm not giving her anything, she said. i mean, have you seen how much weight she's gained recently?
fair enough. but i was also told later that most homeless people are not undernourished, but malnourished.
there was a student rally in support of annette junior year, on the steps of the new haven courthouse. she was being harassed by the police, and it was an opportunity for lots of homeless people to step up and tell their police harassment stories.
i think it was that the police were bothering annette because she was selling flowers without a license or something. so there was a fundraising effort so she could get enough money for a license, be a "legitimate" business owner, or something. i saw her with a little wooden wagon sometime later, with a sign on it that said THE FLOWER LADY. a few guys were helping her move some flowers. so i thought, oh, maybe things will be different for her now.
but sometime after that, she was back to just selling flowers out of her bag, like before. i don't really know what happened with the whole thing.
at the rally, she was wearing a sign around her neck that said HOMELESS CRIMINAL.
lots of student activists were there. i wasn't really an activist, but i got to bang the drums of justice. the drums of justice were really five gallon water jugs and buckets that you could turn over and pound to make noise. i had a lot of fun with it. i joined in chants of "Homeless are people too!" at some point someone started "the people united will never be defeated!" which was a little silly.
but i was caught up in it. we'd wave at passing cars, and some of them would honk at us to show their support. i remember that josh was there and this huge truck drove by and blew its horn, and it was deafening and it shook my chest, and i yelled OH MY GOD, I CAN'T FEEL MY LUNGS! giggling like an idiot.
someone said later that he'd seen me on tv.
there was a homeless guy who i think was named fernando, who seemed to be one of the organizers. he was a little scruffy, but handsome. he got up in front of the crowd and talked for a while. he said, look, it's hard, i know, we all have it hard, and what we all need is to reach out that hand, and help pull our brother up! now i've made a lot of mistakes, but i'm still trying the best i can...
and from the audience i yelled YOU CAN DO IT!
it was kind of funny.
a little later he was handing out flowers to everyone, so we could show our support for annette and all. he paused and smiled before giving me mine. now look, he said, i'm just giving you a flower. it's not because i dig you or nothin'.
i laughed and said i understood.
annette seems a little skinnier these days. but otherwise the same. i don't see her often, of course. but next time i do, i'll have to remember to ask how things are.
::: posted by chiansan at 23:07
Wednesday, January 07, 2004 :::
street people (5):
harvard square, in front of 7-eleven:
-and he says, hey man get a job.
and i say, get a JOB?
i'll box you right here, motherfucker.
i GOT a job.
::: posted by chiansan at 08:55
Thursday, December 25, 2003 :::
wolf colonel / the autumn rhythm
august 10th, or something
in a quiet field at the end of august, we looked at mars, which was bright yellow as we watched it moving through the eye of this telescope owned by a friend of a friend. it was total darkness in the field, except for streetlights, far away. walking without really being able to see, neck craned, i thought i could tell with my feet that the earth was curving away from me, that the great curve of the sky only followed that shape, a great bowl surrounding us.
i think there was a playground nearby. it was still a little cold for august. something i'm always surprised by in san diego, though not really.
i was waiting for my mom. we sat in the car and everything was silent except for the very faint wash of voices that rose and fell from the grass out there.
i thought of this song that i saw wolf colonel play. it was quiet. i don't remember the tune.
hiding from the cars
sitting on the roof and looking at the stars
i was thinkin about
a spaceship bound for mars
the autumn rhythm:
so the guitarist for autumn rhythm is a girl named valerie allen. she's little. she plays a big red guitar. she sings so loud that sometimes you see her leaning back from the microphone. you can see her smiling with her mouth open.
she speaks softly.
the bassist for the autumn rhythm is a guy named eli queen. he's also somewhat little. he doesn't sing. but they all play very loud. it's music that you'd think wasn't going to be loud, but they play it loud. the guitar parts, which don't have huge chords or anything, fill the room with echo, all the notes with space between them, and each one expands to fill all of it.
the drummer for the autumn rhythm is a guy named martin pavlinic. he is not little. actually, he looks like a hulk compared to his bandmates. he pounds away at those drums.
i didn't know when this show was, so i emailed them. i got a message from eli with an educated guess. he said he hoped i would be there, and that it would be a lot of fun. at the end of the email he said, be well.
very, very few people in my life say that.
eli swung his bass slowly back and forth, and the yellow lights bounced off the metal at the end of it, and it threw a beautiful shining arc of light on the floor, with bright little circles from the knobs surrounding it. it swept across the room, changing shape as it went out into the feet of the audience and came back and floated on the floor in front of him again. it stretched out when it went out there and sometimes followed its own curve, and maybe you could see through it. it was little again when it came back.
i don't know who else saw it.
::: posted by chiansan at 11:02
Monday, December 22, 2003 :::
what makes this movie really, really brilliant (as opposed to just really brilliant) are the little asides, the fact that they've not only covered every detail (the octopus characters soiling themselves with ink, the fact that fish have to hold their breath before putting their heads above water), they've added small, random things.
a huge cluster of undersea mines is set off deep underwater. cut to two pelicans sitting on the surface. a bubble pops up next to pelican one.
pelican two turns to pelican one and says, 'nice.'
pelican two flies away.
end of scene.
also, i love the fact that, at least for now, pixar movies are so time consuming and costly that they will never, ever be sullied by cheap, direct to video sequels (no offense to the makers of the return of jafar, aladdin and the king of thieves, or beauty and the beast: the enchanted christmas).
as far as i know.
::: posted by chiansan at 15:04
Sunday, December 21, 2003 :::
the magnetic fields:
69 love songs
love is like 69 love songs.
sometime ago, they started the performance of a john cage piece on an organ in a cathedral in europe somewhere. they played the first chord. or maybe the first note. the second chord will be played in five years, or twenty, or something. the piece lasts around 1000 years.
you couldn't sit there for so long. you would die. this is a piece of music too big to comprehend.
love is like 69 love songs.
there's too much to really contemplate at once, any more than you can look at a coin and see both sides, any more than you can see the earth from all angles.
you can take in one thing at a time, because you can only feel one way at a time.
you may think you can find the borders where it begins and ends, but does it really begin and end? music doesn't stop when you turn off the stereo. there will always be more to say, more to think, more to write, more to sing. no one will ever know everything.
love is like 69 love songs.
some people dismiss it. i don't go in for cabaret pop, they say. i don't go in for vaudeville music. and those of us who believe in it shake our heads, and sometimes our fists, and think those people are just being cynical, and wrong. but we secretly wonder if really we're not just being silly, and wrong.
love is like 69 love songs.
we all have our favorite parts, because we're all different people. people who love the same things about it do so for completely different reasons.
there are things about it that everyone likes, and parts that almost everyone likes. there are parts that only some people like, and if you're those people, you feel like you're in a special club.
there are parts no one really likes, except a few people. but they're weirdos. still, we're glad somebody likes that sort of thing.
love is like 69 love songs.
there are moments when it makes your heart fly away and take the rest of you with it, when you feel like you can say everything you were ever afraid to say, do everything you were ever afraid to do, when nothing that ever bothered you will ever bother you again, and in those moments, you are invincible.
love is like 69 love songs.
it makes us miserable, but that doesn't make us stop listening. partly because we're waiting for things to get better, partly because to be miserable is what we want.
sometimes it's a rock we want to throw at somebody else. sometimes it's a dagger we use to stab ourselves in the heart over and over and over and over.
love is like 69 love songs.
it goes on and on and on and the moment it starts to lose your attention, even a little, you're terrified, because maybe that means you'll be bored of it completely by the time it's over. and in the end you won't love this thing, and you want to so badly.
you want to be thrilled like you were in the beginning, and you're afraid that eventually you'll just be tired of this thing that's so important, and that won't even make you sad.
love is like 69 love songs.
it takes deep and serious things and makes them sound absurd and embarrassing. it takes absurd and embarrassing things and makes them beautiful. it can make you sing at the top of your lungs that maybe your car's ugly, but then, you're ugly too. it can make you happy to be alive, happy to be anything. it can make you sing for no reason and dance alone and be happy doing it.
love is like 69 love songs.
there's so much to it that in our heads we can put it in any order we want.
which is like saying there's no order to it at all.
love is like 69 love songs.
we catch it repeating itself. we catch it talking nonsense. it speaks in metaphor and simile and cliche and idea and turn of phrase and turn of melody, perhaps because there is simply no other way. and eventually we realize that it is these things.
love is like 69 love songs.
there's no real order to it at all, once it gets into our heads.
which is like saying that we can put it in any order we want.
love is like 69 love songs.
every time we come back to it, we may think we know more, but maybe we just know differently -- happy songs become sad ones, sad songs become happy ones, old songs become goodbye songs, meaningless songs start to mean everything.
maybe everything about it was there all along. maybe it doesn't change. we do.
maybe music is a mirror. maybe love is a looking glass.
love is like 69 love songs.
it surprises us by being new, and it surprises us by being old, or by being one of those when we thought it was the other.
even old things can come back and surprise us and maybe that's just a new way of seeing us surprise ourselves.
love is like 69 love songs.
it's not really about love at all.
it's about losing your breath from exhilaration. it's about jealousy, anger, disorientation, the sun, the moon, honesty, truth, lies, alcohol, playing the guitar, circus animals, insomnia, sleeping together, sleeping alone, waking up alone, waking up not alone, petty spite, cars, death, drugs, longing, sex, joy, literature, music, clothing, the endless sky, the endless songs, the endless stories. it's about holding on and letting go. it's about beginnings and endings and everything in between. it's about zebras and harmonicas and time and space and unrest and peace and more. it's about sitting by a river and dancing all night. dancing alone. dancing together.
and without all of these things, it has no content. and when we write about it, maybe we always end up writing about something else.
love is like 69 love songs.
we throw all of our thoughts and words and time and happiness and pain at it. but in the end, will we have learned anything we didn't already know?
does it matter?
love is like 69 love songs.
it lasts about three hours and fits on three compact discs. it's produced by merge records and you can buy it for thirty dollars or so. less if you can find a used copy somewhere else.
love is like 69 love songs.
i don't know shit about it, and that should be obvious if you've read all of this. but i doubt anyone else really does either. i guess everyone knows a little bit. we want so badly to know. but anyone who claims any kind of authority is lying. or deluded. probably.
maybe at the time of its creation the one who made it might have understood. but now that it's been out in the world, it's one of us, and it belongs to no one.
or to everyone.
love is like 69 love songs.
no, it really isn't.
::: posted by chiansan at 02:42
Tuesday, December 16, 2003 :::
exile in guyville
unlike many people, i listened to whitechocolatespacegg before i listened to this album, which is considered liz phair's masterpiece. i hear traces of future songs in these songs.
supposedly liz phair has sold out. i haven't listened to her new album so i don't really know. i was expecting to be shocked by the lo-fi-ness of exile in guyville, the "sexual bravado" i'd read about was supposed to surprise me with its brazenness.
i can hear that the liz phair of 1998 is the same songwriter as the liz phair of 1993 -- or at least the same songwriter five years later.
what i hear loudest on this album, behind songs that could be used (or abused) to great effect on soundtracks for romantic comedies about twentysomethings, what surprises me with its brazenness, is the pain.
in the liners there are rows of polaroid pictures. the last one is of liz phair, in a v neck white t shirt, holding her guitar and smiling up cutely into the camera. not like the swooping, exposed woman on the album cover, of whose eyes you can only see one. not like someone who's been deeply wounded. maybe not.
liz phair sings like a smartass. in the lower register, her voice has a sort of gravelliness to it. and i wonder if that's what liz phair sounds like when she's about to cry.
this is from divorce song:
and it's true that i stole your lighter
and it's also true that i lost the map
but when you said that i wasn't worth talking to
well i had to take your word on that
but if you had known
how that would sound to me
you would have taken it back
and boxed it up and buried it in the ground
we listened to divorce song, and we had this conversation:
-if you eventually end up playing at lilith fair, do you have to have been abused as a child or something?
-liz phair now has a child.
-is she married?
-yes. i think.
-her new album is supposed to be really bad, and really top 40, or something.
-well, but she's HAPPY.
is she? i guess i don't know.
i listen to this album, and i really, really hope so.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:15
Friday, December 12, 2003 :::
the accelerator on the bus made a tearing, whining noise that eventually went away. but in the meantime i closed my eyes against my headache and listened to it come and go as the bus slowed and sped up. listened for changes in frequency.
wondering whether the bus was suddenly going to lose an axle. thinking that maybe in another life someone was drilling holes in my head.
when i woke up, rufus wainwright was singing that he was your consort, beautiful queen...
i wasn't asleep for long, and i don't remember what dreams there were. but, perhaps because i was still half asleep, i thought that in my dreams i accepted that one day we'd go our separate ways and you'd find someone, someone else, and we'd be in different places and be in touch and accept it and be friends with our own fully separate lives again and not miss the way things were, not really.
and it made me happy now, knowing that, with my eyes closed, somewhere in the passing of the dim yellow roadside lights above and the dull darkness around them and the hum of wheels against the highway, i was able to let you go.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:23
Monday, December 08, 2003 :::
background music for a sick day off from work:
wilco - yankee hotel foxtrot
outkast - the love below
blur - parklife
spiritualized - ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space
coldplay - parachutes
aimee mann - i'm with stupid
::: posted by chiansan at 18:12
people are afraid of death... of war... of disease... never finding out who they are or what they want... dogs... but don't you see none of those things are real? you want to fear something real, then fear LOVE. love is real, and it's TERRIFYING.
::: posted by chiansan at 09:07
Saturday, November 29, 2003 :::
scatterbrain / a wolf at the door
(ironically enough, this started as a review of hail to the thief but i just couldn't make it happen. i'm sorry, this could be something coherent later -- can you tell?)
1. in the reviews i've read, hail to the thief has been described variously as a holding pattern, as a greatest hits record, as a consolidation of previous gains, as a return from weirdness to understandability, as incoherent, as scattered, as a retread, as dull.
the pitchfork review by chris ott made a point that i sort of rolled my eyes at when i read it, but which i've more recently looked at in a new light. this being the comment that "just as u2 at some point started sounding like u2, all radiohead albums after this will sound like radiohead." or something.
from what i can remember, pablo honey came out as part of the early 90s grunge / alternative rock movement, or at least was thought of as such (at least it's depicted that way in retrospect). the bends, several years later, also fell into a sort of post-nirvana category. it built on radiohead's earlier music, but it really wasn't blur, or oasis, or anything.
i remember some detroit free press (?) article that described "the bony, cadaverous finger of radiohead's music." i think the article mentioned nirvana, but the real point was to bash jonny greenwood, who had come off as really arrogant in a phone interview. dissed the grateful dead, apparently.
"some young british bands are must too arrogant for their own good. take radiohead. please."
in the frenzy surrounding ok computer's release in 1997, you mostly heard lots and lots of references to pink floyd. dark side of the moon. progressive rock. concept albums. vast statements about fin de siecle society. maybe even genesis sometimes. there was a long Q article that mentioned queen. and king crimson. and pavement, and tortoise, but let's ignore that part.
when people wrote about kid a, the reference points seem to have been brian eno, Yes (maybe it was just nick hornby who talked about that), and also... ok computer. as in "this is nothing like ok computer."
when amnesiac came out less than a year later, i think it was talked about mainly with reference to its recent predecessors ("amnesiac is the bastard child of kid a"). and, for the most part, i think that's the way it is with hail to the thief.
2. something that i haven't seen mentioned in a review of hail to the thief is how long it is. at 56 minutes and change, it's the longest radiohead album -- ok computer was 53. it has 14 songs, where ok computer really only had 11 and a half.
this album gives itself a lot of space. some of the songs here state their case and end (2 + 2 = 5); others shamble on for a while (punch up at a wedding). it's a long album, which perhaps contributes to a feeling of scatteredness, of a lack of unity -- hence, "greatest hits." but there are also lots of different kinds of songs here -- which is perhaps unavoidable if you have an album of 14 full songs. there are the slashing guitars that some people missed about radiohead, there are drum machine freakouts, there are slow piano dirges, there are rants, there's introspection.
1. music review generally has to have an angle, otherwise there isn't a whole lot to do besides just describe. if you're talking about music that you're pretty sure nobody's heard of, you can get away with that -- you're introducing something. when discussing something people know about already, you need to do more.
but how much more can you do? you can situate the music in a "movement" or genre, compare to previous works by the same artist, compare to other artists, make statements about the dilemma of music writers, refer to other art forms, refer to your personal life, or try to come up with a clever gimmick (i plan to resort to many of these here).
i guess when a new group appears in the "music world" (as defined by writing, anyway), there's nothing to do but describe the music outright, or compare to already known music.
we learn words, and then when an unknown word comes along, we define it with reference to known words. the new word becomes familiar, and with usage, people come to understand what it means, or what it seems to mean. once the word is somewhat commonly understood, it can be used to define other words.
when a group releases a few albums, perhaps we get a feel for "what they sound like," and more importantly, we have old material, old vocabulary, to fall back on when we talk about the next album (or whatever).
but if we keep following the chain of definitions back to the simplest words, we'll eventually have to start pointing to things and saying well, this word describes one of those things over there. and if we do the same for music, do we eventually need to fall back on description?
-this new group, radiohead, what are they like?
-well, you know, they sound like weezer, only more melancholy.
-really, what does weezer sound like?
-well, you know, sort of like the beatles meets the gang of four.
-the beatles. the gang of four.
-who do the beatles sound like?
-well, you know, they're the beatles.
-what do they sound like?
but talking about music isn't futile, the same way that using words isn't futile. perhaps all the devices we employ when writing a review just boil down to our own personal taste, our own personal way of looking at things, and the best thing we can do is simply to write as well as we can.
2. thom yorke sings on this record, and you can hear him loud and clear. which doesn't feel unfamiliar -- but didn't he give that up a long time ago? after having pushed a lot of boundaries with their last few albums, is it now unconventional for radiohead to be conventional again? probably not. at least no one seems to think so.
perhaps it's that they've carved out a space for themselves, and on this outing they haven't really "left" it.
one is tempted to the idea that a band has only a limited time to innovate before they start "sounding like themselves." i don't know if i think that's true. but who knows. perhaps it's that once you stop carving out new space, it's easier for people to talk about you in terms of your previous work, harder to keep finding new angles.
1. as far as i can tell, people are regarding hail to the thief as quietly good -- no fanfare really, no hailing of a new revolution in music. just another good album by radiohead. they haven't generated the attention of, say, the rapture. you can really dance like crazy to the rapture, and that's makes them easy to get excited about -- dance revolutions are easy to get caught up in. but that also makes them easier to write about. i haven't listened to the rapture, really, so i can't talk.
2. i read a review somewhere that expressed disappointment that hail to the thief hadn't really brought the political commentary for which radiohead are now kind of famous (albeit, outside of their music). what with their work for jubilee2000, their vocal politics, thom yorke holding up a ralph nader sign on saturday night live, and the album title referring to george bush. there would have been that angle to use, at least. ok computer was easy to write about for similar reasons.
there are no songs here called "fuck bush" or "close the sweatshops" or "nuclear war." but you do have a song called scatterbrain, which has sparse, broken guitar chords, and sticks tapping on the rims of the drums, and contains the words:
blown by the wind
they get all
any fool can
easy pick a hole
a hole i wish i could fall in
a moving target in a
somewhere i'm not
somewhere i'm not
and for a second it does sound like maybe yorke is walking wth his head down through a cratered city with the shreds of old newspapers blowing through the street. and maybe that's the message, that forlornness, that quiet, vague hope that maybe at the end of this street is something better. however explicit radiohead are in public life, this is what they have to say now.
A Wolf at the Door is simultaneously terrifying and terrified, yorke finally naming and narrating all of his fears, the words both bringing fear to life and trying to beat it back.
it starts with a 3/3 melody from what sounds like a music box, and in a harrowing march of words, out come the stepford wives, the flan in the face, the secret police, the snakes and ladders. the guitars and the drums start up, and everything starts to close in as yorke rants louder and louder and finally breaks free for a moment:
i keep the wolf from the
door but he calls me up
calls me on the phone
tells me all the ways
that he's gonna mess me up
steal all my children
if i don't pay the ransom
and i'll never see em again if i
squeal to the cops
so i'm just gonna
just gonna what? that wolf is going to show up at the door, and what can we do about it? we can't protect everything that we love from everything that we fear, and there is so much in this world to fear.
and yorke's answer is only to sing the last few notes. the end of this last sentence has no words to it. and perhaps what that says is that words must eventually fail us.
we can talk about music. music just isn't the same as words, though, and some questions in life just don't have a good answer. sometimes words oversimplify, and constrain, and sometimes answering traps us. but in this wordlessness, at least, is the uncertainty, and fear, and hope.
::: posted by chiansan at 22:55
Wednesday, November 26, 2003 :::
on the subway:
the massachusetts bay transit association is about to institute a new set of guidelines for subway station performers. these were to go into effect december 1st, but have apparently been postponed until the 8th, for reasons i haven't read slowly or carefully enough to pick up. this heinous new regime involves things such as:
requirement of immediate renewal of all subway performance permits; this requires an application, passport photos, two forms of ID, a 25 dollar fee in check or money order (not including the cost of getting passport photos, presumably), proof of citizenship or other legal status, and proof of current address.
performers will be assigned specific places in which they can play. playing elsewhere is not permitted. your permit must be renewed yearly. the replacement of missing permits requires a 25 dollar fee and a waiting period of 30 days.
a ban on electrical amplification of any instrument.
a ban, specifically, on "trumpets or trumpet-like instruments," horns of any kind, electric guitars, bass, drums. use of an electric keyboard to SIMULATE the sounds of any of these instruments is also prohibited.
establishment of the right of the mbta to ban the use of any instrument it sees fit.
ability of the mbta to rescind the permit of any musician whose performance is deemed "of no entertainment value" as supported by complaints on the part of mbta passengers, station personnel, station vendors and cleaners. the performer will be given a chance to address these complaints. if complaints continue, permission to perform will be revoked and future permit requests denied.
requirement of all musicians to comply with requests from any mbta official to leave the subway premises.
requirement of all performers to carry a secondary form of ID beyond the performance permit.
all of this garbage was apparently outlined in a letter to all permit holders from someone called "Transit Realty Associates, L.L.C., as designated representative for the MBTA," on november 12th.
also, you can't use any mbta power sources. ... am i crazy, or does that mean you can't use the damn outlet in the subway station?
come on, people.
you can find info on this here. i tried looking around on the mbta website, briefly, but i could not find anything about the new policy. admittedly, i didn't look too hard, but i searched "music" and "musicians" and didn't get anything. this has for the most part been happening silently, and things are just getting mobilized as far as public outcry.
there's a petition here, and tons of other stuff at the site i link above. a google search on "mbta amp ban" will get you stuff.
i don't know where to start on this. as far as i understand (which is not much), after september 11th there were some security concerns as to musicians on the subway in boston -- and the current push for restrictive guidelines stems from passenger complaints about not being able to hear PA announcements. this could cause problems in case of an emergency, or in lots of other minor ways.
fine. fine fine fine. but you know, i can barely hear most of the announcements in t stations anyway, because the speaker systems are so crappy. the loudest thing in the t station is, not surprisingly, the train. any PA that you'd want to use to alert people to emergencies should damn well be able to drown out an electric guitar, someone drumming, the sound of the train, and hell, while we're at it, the sound of the t station exploding, people screaming, the roof collapsing... that's the sort of emergency alert system that would make me comfortable.
it's tricky, i know. it's not simple. you don't want people assaulting you with noise, and there's no accounting for taste, and you don't want someone drowning out the emergency system. but this can't be the answer, can it? this hits everybody. in recent memory, the only subway performers i've seen who haven't been amplified at all have been two guys with recorders. both of them were playing the national anthem, i think.
not to mention, the requirement for a current address causes trouble for anyone who's homeless. likewise the fact that you can't pay cash. getting a money order isn't hard, i guess. but still, it'll cost you. passport photos are pretty expensive.
and on and on.
this sucks. if you bring a walkman with a speaker, can they kick your ass out? if you're using a boombox for the purposes of "generating cash sales," your ass is busted.
someone was arrested recently, a subway artist who was helping someone who had a seizure on the t. apparently after the t authorities arrived to help, he started telling the crowd to protest the ban on subway music. they told him he couldn't do that on t property. he was walking to a different station and i think they eventually busted him for trespassing. yes folks, trespassing.
you can email the governor of massachusetts at
or the office of the secretary of transportation at
the mbta board of directors at
the mbta general manager at
well. in any case, i'm back. i don't really know what that means.
i failed to get a job today. kind of.
but my mind is moving again.
it still sucks.
i bet that somehow means you can't dance in the station either.
::: posted by chiansan at 12:30
Monday, November 10, 2003 :::
i have been gone.
needing to sort out a few things, needing to get on my feet, get my head together.
but i'll be back.
::: posted by chiansan at 00:40
Thursday, October 16, 2003 :::
take me out to the ballgame
zach clopton once said: watching baseball is a little like watching a soap opera. you start watching, you get to know the characters, and maybe you develop an interest, you find out which characters you like and don't like, and you pay attention to those. and new people come and others leave, and you watch the players you don't know interact with the ones you do know, and it goes on and on.
i'm a bad baseball fan. the last time i really followed baseball was 1998, when the padres made it all the way to the world series, only to lose in four games to the yankees. the padres have yet to win a world series game ever.
it's hard not to be very, very aware of baseball if you live in boston. as of this writing, the red sox are headed for game 7 in yankee stadium. we were told by a manager at work that to break the curse of the bambino, the sox need only to beat the yankees, not to win the series.
i root for the sox because it feels to me like history has made them underdogs. they're scrappy, they're interesting. also because i have reasons not to like the yankees. yet, somehow it's the cubs / marlins series my heart has been tied to for the last week.
even now, i haven't been paying great attention. i watched bits of games 2 and 4, but most of games 1, 5, 6, and 7. those are all games the cubs lost, and they are all games i felt in my chest and stomach as i watched. in one game the cubs were shut out. in the others they gave up leads of three or four runs.
someone close to me is from chicago. she watches the screen and talks softly to the players sometimes, telling them to do something. do something please. and when things go badly for the cubs, she chides them like little kids, or she closes her eyes and sometimes winces. just like the people in the stands tonight, watching their team slowly lose another one.
baseball moves very slowly. it is centered always around a confrontation between two people, one representative from each team. few sports share these qualities. in few sports are there pauses between every single pitch, time for the players to look at each other, time for everyone to assess the situation, time for the tv cameras to look at everybody. time for you to speak directly to a single person and tell them to please do something.
with each successive game, more and more people have been visible in the streets behind wrigley field. i don't know what those streets are called, but throngs of chicagoans filled them every night, watching on tv the game going on a few hundred yards away over the walls, going crazy every time someone hit a ball out of the park, a gift to them.
in game 1, sammy sosa finally hit his first postseason home run, for two runs off marlins closer ugueth urbina in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings. he's struggled in the playoffs, but this time he finally made it happen, against one of the best closers in the game. the marlins answered with a home run a few innings later, and the cubs lost it, 9 to 8.
in game 7, kerry wood, perhaps the best pitcher the cubs have, hit a home run to help his own cause (as the sportscasters say). the marlins answered by scoring four runs off him in two innings to take the lead for good.
the marlins are good, but (no offense) i don't know them, and perhaps for that reason i find them almost totally characterless. i can't hate them, the same way you can't really hate death. ivan rodriguez is a great player, but he strikes me only as... sort of implacable. i'm sure he loves what he does, but he doesn't do anything for me. the marlins are good, and now they're going to the world series, but i can't feel anything for them.
the announcers on fox, who annoyed me, were talking long before the game was over about how disappointed everyone in chicago must be. and i'm sure it's true. the camera operators sought out the dejected faces in the crowd, all of them wearing cubs hats, some with painted faces, some waving their GO CUBS signs bravely, some slumped over, their heads down, their chins pensively hidden in their hands.
we turned the tv off right after the final out. i didn't feel like seeing the inevitable shots of players whose season had just ended, trying to keep their chins up. we might have seen somewhere in there the parents of someone close to me, among the ranks of fans slowly walking out of wrigley for the last time until spring.
by the time the 7th inning stretch finally came around, the marlins led 9-5. the cubs scored another run later, but would go down in order in the final inning, the final score 9-6.
the wind blew into boston from somewhere today. and after the game i stood washing the dishes from the dinner we ate in front of the television, listening to it whistling outside in the darkness.
the announcers said, okay, now it's time for the seventh inning stretch, and to sing Take me out to the ballgame, we're waiting for billy corgan, rock star and member of the smashing pumpkins.
and i thought, billy corgan??
and they said, oh sorry, i've just been corrected, ex-member of the smashing pumpkins.
and sure enough, there he was. he used to live right next to wrigley field. i had no idea. he was wearing an olive green floppy hat with the cubs c on it, and maybe a sweater with horizontal stripes. he said something that the microphones didn't catch. then we saw him point out into the audience and he said okay! one, two, three...
it was strange to hear him sing several octaves lower than any smashing pumpkins song i've heard. strange to see him finish the song, and then yell, NOW LET'S GET SOME RUNS!!!
strange to see him standing there in his floppy cubs hat, probably in an upper deck somewhere, with concrete walls somewhere behind him, singing a little off key to fans perhaps already desperately trying not to lose hope, referring to his team as the cubbies:
take me out to the ball game
take me out to the crowd
buy me some peanuts and cracker jack
i don't care if i ever get back
with a root, root root for the cubbies
if they don't win it's a shame
for it's one, two,
three strikes you're out at the
old ball game
::: posted by chiansan at 02:24
Thursday, October 09, 2003 :::
sunday pt 1: positively evil guitar fuzz groove runs into overlapping lines of rap and chanting so melodically contrary as to seem atonal. the words run in desperate circles.
the bomb in my heart is beating me a b note
maybe my ear dirt is cheating on me yo
missing you on
a sunday morning it's
something new it's
but i can't find it
sunday pt 2: everything recedes into the distance. miho hatori watches the stars turn slowly around the earth. the idea of a sunday seems so trivial as we look down on ourselves from space; the sun's light chasing the shadow slowly across the world, the sun's light chased by its shadow slowly across the world. and down there, living in all this somehow, us.
don't complain about it baby
i cannot be perfect for you
still learning every sunday
just spend, just spend, just spend
::: posted by chiansan at 19:53
Monday, September 29, 2003 :::
if you're ever in quick, desperate need of a belt (i don't know, maybe you've lost weight over the course of a day and aren't wearing one, you may laugh but it happened to me today), remember this:
belts decrease the circumference of the opening of your pants (trousers for those of you in the uk), but for the belt to go all the way around your waist is cosmetic. one only needs to bring two belt loops closer together in order to achieve the same purpose.
if you can find a plastic bag -- say, a shopping bag, or even something smaller -- twist it, into a rope of sorts, and thread it through two adjacent belt loops. then tie the ends together, and you can tighten as you would when tying your shoes. then knot the bag.
these are the things i deal with in my life these days.
i was adjusting my pants. one of my brother's friends said: do american guys just go out and buy trousers that are way too big on purpose?
i have internet access in my house. almost. if anyone misses me, that's the reason i'm gone. getting my life back, one small victory at a time.
::: posted by chiansan at 20:37
Tuesday, September 16, 2003 :::
johnny cash is dead at age 71. he died on friday.
one time we were at disneyland, waiting in line to go on space mountain.
lines at disneyland sometimes took an hour, even back then. half an hour was nothing out of the ordinary, if you went at a popular time. which, i still being young, was the only time i was ever there.
i saw a guy in line, perhaps behind us and perhaps ahead of us. he had a white shirt divided up into two columns of text. one was i red caps, the other in blue caps. i don't remember which was which.
the left one said:
IN AMERICA THEY HAVE
AND STEVIE WONDER
the right one said:
IN CANADA WE HAVE
::: posted by chiansan at 17:54
Tuesday, September 09, 2003 :::
1997-1998 (the last year i listened to the radio) -----
just about the only thing i ever remember reading about a now defunct band from new york called lincoln (not to be confused with another band from the uk named lincoln, who are not defunct, and sound very different), was an article in the san diego union-tribune describing a show on their tour with marcy playground, sometime senior year of high school. i still own, and like, lincoln's only album, but don't listen to it that much anymore. but they re-entered my mind recently when i suddenly realized that two members, danny weinkauf (?) and dan miller, now tour with they might be giants. it was quite a shock.
i don't remember much from the article, except:
it started with a brief description of john wozniak, the guy from marcy playground, and how he squinted a lot. this, it was suggested, might turn into a new rock star behavior: "the squint".
it was okay, but not great. suggested that marcy playground were fine, but might improve and put on a much better show next time.
it ended with a brief description of lincoln, including the songs Carversville (it's about in-breeding) and Wish You were Dead (it contains the line "i wish that you were dead"). commented that they were from new york, and that they were very nasal, or sugary, or something. dressed like revenge of the nerds. "an acquired taste. like cod liver oil." that was the last line.
i was on the chinatown bus a week ago and realized that five years separate me from the last really extensive radio listening i ever did, in high school. that goo goo dolls song from city of angels (iris) came on the bus radio, and it was something about that song that "transported me instantly back to (insert year -- in this case 1998)," as people say when they hear old songs that they never heard except on the radio. and i realized that i'm old enough to think of music i've heard on the radio and think it's old.
i left for college at the end of august 1998 and never really listened to the radio again.
1. marcy playground:
sex and candy / sherry frazier / st. joe on the school bus
marcy playground's very popular first single and less popular second and third singles. were they actually singles? i don't know. i always liked st. joe the best. i loved the words. it probably had a biblical double meaning of some kind but i never really bothered thinking about it. something about the bassline made me think of Come as you Are. but i don't remember it.
the video for sex and candy had lots of weird things in it, surreal rooms with jagged stylized holes in the walls, spiders descending from protruding fingers like yoyos, john wozniak's head poking in from somewhere. weird light blue furniture. i think i saw an interview where he said he wanted the video to be kind of surreal and not too logical. like erotic dreams maybe. i think the song might have just been popular because the chorus said "i smell sex and candy." sure, maybe everyone's going "no shit!". but it was really, really popular. some people hated it. it was discussed some, as being about "postcoital odors" or something. right.
they say your mom she's a bore
they make her beg them for more
aunt mary says
they have the darkness there
in their eyes
recall - sex and candy: all of it, though there weren't many words.
sherry frazier: just the words "sherry frazier," and one other line, just because the article in the union-tribune quoted it. i think i only heard it once.
st. joe: just the chorus, really. but it's a great chorus.
2. squirrel nut zippers:
i heard this song on the radio in san diego just a week or two ago. "from the one hit wonder section." they were described by someone or other as "neo swing" before brian setzer was really (briefly) popular. i saw them perform on an mtv new year's special of some kind. seemed like they were having a good time. it was a fun song. i think i first heard it on 91X, now the sort of blanket alternative radio station in san diego. i started listening to that station at the beginning of senior year. that and 92.5, which was a bit more eclectic and died soon after i left for college. it's now a soft contemporary station. the morning i left for the east coast, i called them and requested they play Airbag at about 6 in the morning. they had just played paranoid android but i hadn't heard it.
i listened for airbag as we drove around that morning. i don't think they ever played it.
recall: all. it was really catchy. plus, i just heard it again recently, so it's not quite fair.
3. harvey danger:
they made a video for this, which was basically just the band playing. the lead guy from harvey danger looked a little bit like the guy from squirrel nut zippers. both of them look a little bit like greg proops. the guitarist was asian.
i liked this song a lot for a while. it was later used in the movie disturbing behavior, starring nick marsden, katie holmes, and william sadler. really they only used one or two lines, edited without great subtlely:
paranoia paranoia everybody's
coming to get me,
i, i'm not sick but i'm not well
cause i'm in hell...
it really went:
paranoia paranoia everybody's
coming to get me,
just say you never met me,
i'm running underground with the moles,
i, i'm not sick but i'm not well
and i'm so hot
cause i'm in hell...
i, i'm not sick but i'm not well,
and it's a sin,
to live so well
i don't think they were ever heard from again. but flagpolesitta was really catchy, sort of a geek anthem. their album was called where have all the merrymakers gone?
recall: all, except the part indicated by question marks above.
4. our lady peace:
i was told once that the guy from our lady peace had beautiful eyes but a terrible voice. he was pretty nasal. i didn't mind too much, but i didn't like this song all that much either. the video involved some guy (not in the band i think, but maybe the person to whom the song is addressed) struggling to free himself from some debris underwater.
a nice bridge. it sounds like the guitar is going through a vocoder somehow. i'm sure there's a better way to describe that.
recall: chorus and one verse, i think. there weren't a lot of words.
5. reel big fish:
i was obsessed with this song and bought the album (turn the radio off) in november or december. i saw the video once, before i really listened to the song, and it was sort of amusing. it shows the band (there are 8 of them) being recruited from a fast food restaurant by some faceless men in suits, and given prisoner-type jumpsuits that say SKA BAND on them.
ska was apparently popular that year, and for a while this was my favorite song. i concentrated on memorizing the words every time i heard it on the radio. i also read an article at some point pondering whether the song's instruction to sell out was ironic. because they really had sold out? because they had and didn't care? who knows?
i didn't like the album terribly much, and sold it the next year. i now regret that. it was perhaps the first album i had that used lots and lots of cuss words. it dealt with a lot of "oh god i'm in a band" issues, as well as over the top romantic / crazy stuff ("fuck you bitch! i love you i'm not crazy!")
i think reel big fish are still around, of course. i lived with someone who liked them last year. he had the clean edit of the album and was surprised that another one existed.
for us to mentally tie music to a particular time may require us to stop listening to it when that time has passed. bittersweet symphony was really popular that year too, but it's not tied anymore, if it ever was. i own Urban hymns, and when i think of bittersweet symphony i think of the other songs on that album. i'd be surprised if reel big fish had stopped playing after being really, really famous. i could easily find out, of course. but i won't now, because i want to know what i can bring back on my own, how i've understood it by myself.
we often associate different styles, or types, with different time periods, but often (or always) these thrive, or at least survive, outside the narrow time windows in which we pigeonhole them. every time we announce a revival (a punk revival, a garage rock revival, a ska revival, a jazz revival), we can ask ourselves whether the thing we're reviving was ever actually dead. reel big fish were played for a while, then gradually they weren't. and for a lot of people, that's where they fall off the map, and that's where they stay in our, in my, memory. in that year.
to actually go listen to an album as well as listening to the single, to keep listening to it beyond the radio shelf life, is in some way to remove it from time. but even records in our collections fall out of favor, and when we listen to them again they might be pinned to something. which might not be bad. it's just the way it is. the radio presents us constantly with new things; the old things need to be pushed away. and if we don't think about them for a while, they might be ghosts the next time we see them.
recall: all. i had some trouble with the second verse, which struck me, because i remember that that's the part i memorized first.
6. the mighty mighty bosstones:
the impression that i get
i loved this song too, and they had other singles from this album (titled let's face it), but this was the first, i think, and my favorite among them. it was just so... happy i guess.
i was told that the mighty mighty bosstones now sound "hardcore -- because everyone who used to like ska now likes hardcore." i don't know what to make of this. they're from boston so who knows, maybe i'll see them someday.
recall: i don't remember any of the verses in their entirety, or in order. but everyone remembers the chorus, and when i think about it now, the way they rearrange it in the coda ("outro") seems really great.
never had, but i'd better knock on wood,
cause i'm sure it isn't good
and i'm glad i haven't yet
that's the impression that i get
7. white town:
this was a sort of dark, slow (but still danceable!), synth piece, supposedly sung by a man to another man (or anyone who likes girls and not guys, i guess). i could never be your woman, he says. for a while i thought it was actually sung by a woman, but once you realize it's a man, it takes on some new meanings. i heard it in a bar in new york last week. sort of shrouded vocals, without sounding very "80s." really well written musically, i thought.
recall: none really. a line or two. but it's a good song. mostly i remember what sounds like a horn or string sample being played from a broken record. it made me think of the darth vader theme from star wars.
8. foo fighters:
everlong / monkey wrench
i always preferred monkey wrench, though i may be alone in this. i also knew the foo fighters before i knew dave grohl was in nirvana. i was aware that there was some kind of to do about their formation but i never realized that that was what it was. i was young.
i bought this album, but sold it the next year after ignoring it for freshman year of college. i now regret that. i don't think i know anyone who still listens to the foo fighters very much. but they're still putting out new singles and albums. that dave grohl can really write those guitar hooks.
the video for everlong was really cool though. weird. dave grohl's hand gets really big and he beats people up with it. weird dream sequences, the drummer is dave's "wife," nunchakus made of logs.
recall: all, i think. though i have almost no idea now what the words to many of the other songs on that album were.
9. the wallflowers:
jakob dylan doesn't really sound like bob dylan at all. his voice is really whispery and i guess a little gravelly or something but in any case doesn't sound anything like bob. i think he looks a little like richard ashcroft. maybe it's the eyes.
this is one of those melancholy songs, but with uplifting moments that everyone can sing. it was quite popular on top 40 radio for a long time. the wallflowers did a few other singles from that album, but i don't think they were nearly as popular. i associate this song with getting up really early to go to either school during the week, or to work at harry's coffee shop on sunday's. for six days a week i was getting up at 5.50 or so. it was terrible, and to my mind now seems nearly incomprehensible. i was staying up until midnight most nights as well. the other song i associate with cold early mornings (we live near the coast) and dim light and fatigue and showering half asleep, is Brick by ben folds five. that was really popular too.
recall: not much. chorus and some scattered lines. but i can still hear jakob dylan saying them and i can hear what the song sounds like.
10. ben folds five:
i later learned more about ben folds five when i heard Song for the Dumped. also i got a promo copy of a song from ben folds's collaboration with william shatner. the song was In Love. now that was weird.
the video for brick had them playing in several inches of water while a projection screen behind them showed some grainy, probably sort of depressing images related to the story -- apparently it's about the narrator taking his girlfriend to get an abortion while her parents are away. i don't think i would have figured that out.
i think it's the video's images of waking up early in the morning and getting in a freezing car that stick in my mind. because that was what i was doing a lot of the time. it was cold that year. my car had a black steering wheel, which meant an incredibly hot steering wheel by the afternoon, which was when i would open my car, which would normally have been sitting in the sun all day because i never got to school early enough to get a good parking spot.
everyone liked this song, and tons of people in san diego still love blink-182. they went on to nationwide popularity and later put out singles including what's my age again? and Small things and Adam's song. and others, i assume.
this was played at high school dances because everyone liked it so much, even though it pretty much wasn't good for dancing unless you wanted to mosh. i always thought the chord progression was cribbed from pachelbel's canon in d. i didn't care though. blink-182 headlined the 91X new year's show at the end of 1998 (i think it was). they played this song during the countdown.
i saw the video once. it involved the lead singer, mark, going to a theater with friends (the rest of the band) and seeing an ex girlfriend (that's partly what the song is about). he sees her and loses it and falls to his knees really melodramatically and throws his popcorn everywhere. it's hilarious.
there are shots of the band playing. in fact, that's what's on the screen when everyone goes in to the movie.
recall: chorus, second verse, and half of the first verse. i had originally written "all" but now i can't think of the beginning of the first verse. which is a little embarrassing.
what i got / wrong way
the lead guy from sublime died before they got really popular. it was really unfortunate; he was by all indications on his way to kicking his drug habit, but died of an overdose. of what, i forget. there was a story in either time or newsweek.
they're from southern california, and people still like them there. they're still played on the radio, unlike most other members of whatever "ska uprising" occured back then. it makes me think of hot days and sunburned people wearing sunglasses and carrying surfboards. the crowding of auto traffic in downtown la jolla right around the time school got out.
recall: not sure because i haven't tried. but i'll bet i know all the words to both of these songs. there are many more. it's not that surprising.
13. the spice girls:
if you wanna be my lover / say you'll be there
i have no idea whether the first spice girls single was really called that, but just about everyone who was attending to any sort of mass media heard it. thom yorke said something like, "i agree with whoever said they're soft porn... if i have kids i'll move to an island where you can't get any spice girls stuff." well, thom is a father now. is england now an island where you can't get any spice girls stuff?
i don't remember the words to say you'll be there, but the video took place in a desert or something.
on the mtv year end special, 1997, marilyn manson and puff daddy were asked to name some of the spice girls. they failed. marilyn manson said, "er, there was that one that slept with the manager, right?"
i read an interview somewhere where the spice girls mentioned the line "i really really really wanna zigazig ha..." and said it was about sex.
also, ginger spice was apparently originally called sexy spice. in the preview for the spice girls movie (which i heard someone say was actually pretty good) there's a clip of her dressed as wonder woman, cracking a whip. sporty spice was my favorite. everyone was supposed to have a favorite spice girl, right?
posh spice is now married to david beckham or something.
that first single didn't have many words. there was a verse or two, but i don't think i ever knew what the words were. also, i could never figure out who was singing what.
as i said, most of the second single is lost to me. i only remember the part where they all yell "i'll give you anything and this i swear, just promise you'll always be there!!!" maybe if i think about it some more.
i think this is the most popular blur song in the united states. which is a shame, though it's a good song. that weird, illogical riff at the beginning. a friend of mine said this album was supposed to sound like the fall, or pavement, but i hadn't listened to either the fall or pavement, so i had no idea.
i bought this blur album, my first, in the summer of 1999, mostly because i read an interview where jonny greenwood said lots of good things about graham coxon. er, should i be admitting that?
no one really knew the words, i suspect. i own this album. i like it. i saw the video once. it was funny. so perhaps the song has been sort of torn out of time and followed me, but the video remains stuck back there in 1997. most videos do, don't they? but with dvd, that may change.
staring at the sun
this was the first u2 song i ever heard -- in the sense that it was the first song i understood to be by u2. as someone born in 1980, i know that puts me far behind the starting line. i liked it a lot though, i remember stopping my homework at the desk in my room and just listening to it. it really did sound like the painfully bright sun was somehow shining all the way through the music. there was a kind of glare to it, as if it were coming at you through the reflection off a car hood on a bright day.
recall: bits and pieces. i liked what i heard though, especially the part where it sounds like bono is saying "duty free ahhh... she never really belonged to me..." that duty free bit is probably wrong. i don't own any u2 albums, but i heard pop some years later. i never really listened far enough enough times to recall hearing staring at the sun. but the second song was called mofo. i liked that one.
16. the verve:
bittersweet symphony / lucky man
for all people care in this country, the verve only had one song, and that's a bad thing. what a song though. it was everywhere for a while, which eventually annoyed me. i expect it to be used in films and other media in the future. for now the only example i can come up with is at the end of cruel intentions. where reese witherspoon busts sarah michelle gellar with the dead ryan philippe's diary.
the video where richard ashcroft is walking down the street bumping people out of the way. i remember telling someone this song was overplayed. he said well it's really good, so it's not really overplayed. i didn't agree that it was really good (now i do though). so i shrugged.
three years after that, i bought the album, the verve's last. and it's awesome, and bittersweet symphony is not my favorite song on it, by a long shot. but in 1997 i was drawn in mainly by the string loop, stolen from the rolling stones, that would get them in so much trouble and perhaps speed their final breakup. it really sounded like a stately, fanciful sampling job the first time i heard it. i don't know how i picked that up.
17. mark morrison:
return of the mack
i didn't know why this song was so popular. mark morrison singing in this weird accent (or maybe, now that i think of it, it was just a jazzy style or something), from the back of his throat, something about how he's the mack, he's returning. i guess it was a pretty good dance song, or was produced that way. i liked it better after a white, but i never understood.
recall: chorus only. later i heard that mark morrison was arrested in the uk for threatening someone (possibly a police officer) with a taser.
everyone talked about how chumbawamba were anarchists or something, and how this song was about the working class. the video was not that interesting. some scenes from a bar.
believe it or not, i like this album. i bought it for my brother, for christmas, and he said he didn't like any of the songs except tubthumping. so i listened to it that entire winter break, while applying to colleges. it's a lot of fun, and the anarchist thing doesn't even really come through enough to be bothersome. there are a lot of random samples. the cuss words are all bleeped out. the liners have little notes that say "due to the intricacies of u.s. copyright law, the material sampled here cannot be reprinted. you can read it at www.chumba.com." i never went to look.
recall: how many words did this song have? come on. oh, and it also sampled Danny Boy, though i never saw a resemblance besides in the words.
walking on the sun
in the 91X year end poll, this was voted top song of 1997. which didn't bother me, i liked it. especially the electric organ parts. this was one of those songs where it was fun to memorize all the words. i've forgotten most of them though.
smashmouth later went on to record a song for the soundtrack to Can't hardly wait, which starred jennifer love hewitt and charlie korsmo. i saw an mtv thing where someone said that jennifer love hewitt had a big crush on steve, the lead guy in smashmouth. i don't think that was ever substantiated. probably a joke.
more recently, they covered the monkees for the soundtrack to Shrek. that was a fun movie.
20: shawn colvin:
sunny came home
this was about a girl who comes home and burns the house down to get revenge on someone or other. a good song. shawn colvin is a woman. this song won a grammy for record of the year (record meaning single, not album, which confused the hell out of me for a while). shawn colvin, as far as i know, hasn't been heard from again.
if it was the 1997 grammys, bob dylan won best album with Time out of Mind. but i never heard that one on the radio. even after the grammys. just the wallflowers. too bad.
recall: all. i think i may have also seen it, or even had to sing it, at a karaoke bar in taiwan.
21. david bowie and trent reznor:
i'm afraid of americans
really, what the hell was going on here? not that i didn't like the song, but really, it just seems so ridiculous to me now that david bowie worked with trent reznor and they did a song called i'm afraid of americans. now that i'm more familiar with nine inch nails, i can see trent's influence (he didn't sing much), but... what the hell? i still can't get over it.
one of my friends hated it. but i secretly liked it. loud nine inch nails crunch, and david bowie saying i'm afraid of americans!!! absurd. though i'm surprised that it hasn't been revived to voice anti-american sentiment. maybe it's because some friend of george bush's owns the record company that's in charge of it. who knows...
i know nothing about the song, whether it was on david bowie's album of that year, or what. i was cashiering at harry's one sunday, and a guy walked up with a david bowie shirt that said Earthling on it (i didn't know that was the album til later). i should have asked him.
recall: don't want to say. i'm afraid of americans.
all around the world
it may be even more embarrassing for me to say so, but i liked this one too. no, the whining didn't annoy me too much. yes, i know it's pompous. but come on, it was fun. i remember i was listening to this song as i drove into the parking lot before one of my college interviews (i'm not saying which one though if you want to know you can ask).
take me away
cos i just don't wanna stay
and the lies you made me say
are getting deeper every day
these are crazy days
but they make me shine
time keeps rolling back...
i listened to the rest of be here now, about a year later. i don't remember liking it very much.
recall: all of it i think. i haven't heard any new oasis songs. however i did read an interview with the gallaghers in gear magazine, where they both gave separate answers to the same questions. to the question "which gallagher brother is smarter?" they both said oh, i am... at the end of the piece, there was a little note that said the gallagher brothers had been interviewed separately.
the djs on 91x predicted that this song would come in in the top 5 in that year end poll. as far as i know, it didn't come close. everyone seemed to think it was really good, but you know, i really didn't see it, for a long long time. after a while i got to like it, especially the piano part at the end. even after i owned ok computer, which changed my life, i didn't like karma police that much, and i guess it's not a favorite of mine even now. but it was the first radiohead song i ever heard.
i remember the night that i bought ok computer. i went to tower records and was deliberating whether to get it, or to get beck's album odelay. the clincher was that on my way over from home (it takes 5 minutes or something) they played Creep. which is still a terribly catchy song. i flipped a coin and it came up in favor of beck. i bought ok computer anyway. it changed my life.
i doubt there is a vast, sinister conspiracy behind every single thing done by the radio industry (besides the conspiracy to make as much money as possible). but i still wonder why it's the way it is. most of the above songs aren't played anymore. on visits home (the only time when i listen to the radio) i can still hear stone temple pilots, or alice in chains, or soundgarden. but then, they're really famous in this country. i haven't heard song 2 on the radio for years.
sometimes i feel like radio is in the process of creating a kind of cultural memory. there must always be a sense of change, of progress -- or, in order to make money, the radio needs to constantly present something new, and things get phased out because they have to. perhaps this reinforces a sense of music's "evolution," a progression through different fads, styles, popularities. there is always a "popular music."
at the turn of the century i wondered what would happen to 80s stations -- if they would stay "80s stations" until the 80s were two, or three, or four, decades removed from the present? i haven't really checked, but i suspect those stations now play "music from the 80s, 90s, and today..." will we need more and more stations to accommodate the growing catalog of "oldies"? will "80s music" as we know it eventually die out, slowly forced from places it once solely inhabited?
so, is it necessary somehow to have the memory of a musical past, but unnecessary to have it reach back too far? commercial radio in its current form hasn't been around for too long (uh, well i guess this is more complicated than i'm allowing), i suppose. if music, as remembered on the radio, is to die out, how will it do so? will years slowly be eaten up, the representatives of each period disappearing together? or will the ranks thin until each year is represented by ten singles, then five, then two, then one?
i heard sun ra quoted as saying "musics don't die -- musicians die." it seems strange to think about even the music of the 80s in those terms, but eventually that too will change. and when the music exists not even in that form of memory, ... what?
if you check the liner notes for the lincoln album, you can see that this song has like ten extra musicians. perhaps they were betting the farm on that song.
it was the last album i bought as a high school student. there was a girl i liked. i was sort of angsty about it. the album is a little depressing, in a high-register, bittersweet sort of way.
the song struck me as just... strange. revenge of the nerds, cod liver oil.
and is the album now just an artifact, a souvenir, and is that what happens to all albums we stop listening to? i look over my music collection and i worry about the cds i am starting to recognize more by sight as i page past them, or bypass the cd case entirely for stuff i still have in jewel boxes. it's still me in there, but perhaps a part of me that i recognize more as past than as present. that's what i fear.
danny weinkauf (?) and dan miller now play with they might be giants. i don't know what happened to chris temple. i don't remember what the drummer's name was.
when the world is square and your tires are flat
and you lose your keys
and your favorite fat hat
you're leaping frogs
and you're eating bees
and asking saint jude for a pretty please
::: posted by chiansan at 19:28