Friday, May 28, 2010

Cindy Lee Berryhill, "These Twisted Kicks"

As a postscipt to yesterday's ode to Cindy Lee Berryhill, here's her beautiful, recent song, "These Twisted Kicks":

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"The Butcher's Boy"

Oh dig my grave both wide and deep.
Put a marble stone at my head and feet,
and over my bones put a snow white dove
so this world will know that I died for love.

I Used to Have the Biggest Crush

...on post-punk, beatnik folk singer Cindy Lee Berryhill. I knew, just knew, that if only Cindy and I could meet in person away from one of her concerts we'd fall deeply-passionately-eternally in love. When I listened to her songs on my car stereo or in the solitude of my crappy college apartment, Cindy's yearning spoke to me. I probably mistook her yearning as longing for me. Or maybe I adopted it as my own longing and projected it back on her. Or whatever. Ms. Berryhill was the closest thing I ever had to a pop star crush. And she was no pop star. Farah Fawcett had nothing on Cindy.

I can't locate video or audio for the first Cindy Lee Berryhill song I heard back in 1987: "Damn (I Wish I Was a Man)." It was brainy, funny, and quirky--love at first listen. The rest of the album Who's Gonna Save the World changed my world. She took a form I had rejected (folk music), infused it with wit, cynicism, irony, and just a smidge of heartfelt sentimentality. That album will make my top-ten albums of the eighties list, whenever I get around to pulling it together.

Her second album, Naked Movie Star, was just as good. Or better. The sprawling epic "Yipee" became my favorite late-night DJ ace-in-the-hole, and I'm pretty sure its "bump on the head of Bukowski" aesthetic eased more than a few KRCC listeners through the night. I hope so. One never knows. Here's "Indirectly Yours," the sweet, sad single from that album

I have Cindy's first two albums on vinyl but no way to play them, except in my head. I can run through every note of every song when left alone in a dark, quiet room. Which doesn't happen often these days.

I've outgrown my crush. Cindy and I are Facebook friends, and though I admire her from afar I'm sure neither of us would fall madly in love with the other now. She's married. I'm married. We both have kids. I love my wife to death. So to speak. But I know Cindy and I would have a hell of a good conversation if we met now.


The rest of Cindy's career is a blur to me. Her album Garage Orchestra took a long time to work its way under my skin. Too long. I foolishly traded in my CD. Then bought it back. Then traded it again. Years later, I yearn to hear those songs too. I wasn't ready for the musical leaps she was making, but I like to think I could keep up now.

Here's the song "High Jump" from what I believe was Cindy's fourth album, Straight Outta Marysville:

And here is the great video for her most recent single (though it's probably five or six years old now)--"When Did Jesus Become a Republican?":

You can download the MP3 for that song at Cindy Lee's official site, which has an announcement about a new album coming soon. And you can get to know her better at her blog, Beloved Stranger: Adventures with a brain-injured spouse, musical musings, and whatever else comes to mind. Or visit her myspace page to hear more.


Final note: I once read an interview in which Cindy Lee Berryhill described her fans as pretty much just "guys with glasses." Ah, to be pigeonholed!

Perhaps that was the moment my crush died.

My Correspondence with President Obama

Dear President Obama,

Sometimes my children take business baths. A “business bath” is a short bath, reserved for times when it’s late and we have to hurry. Sometimes a business bath means no toys, and sometimes one or two toys are OK. But during business baths the kids never play with goggles and a snorkel. However, my daughter Cora believes she and her brother should be allowed to play with goggles and a snorkel during business baths.

What is your opinion on this matter? Please let us know.

Eric Bosse
Norman, Oklahoma


Dear Eric Bosse,

Your kids should be allowed to have the goggles and the snorkel. Playing with toys is fun.

President Obma


Dear President Obama,

Thank you for your reply, but have you considered that goggles and a snorkel would considerably slow down our business baths? This would make it much more difficult for us to get to bed quickly when it is late.

Thank you for your time.

Eric Bosse
Norman, Oklahoma


Dear Eric Bosse

But goggles and snorkels are fun. And you should not be asking the President of the United States. You should ask President Mama.

President Obama
White House, Alaska

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Lonely Book Reviewer

If I'm Brady Udall, I'm a little disappointed that my awesome new novel, The Lonely Polygamist, received a New York Times review so uninspired and so poorly written it wouldn't have gotten past most editors' desks. I mean, the review is fairly positive, and the book's a bestseller (on the rise at #30). But this review. Meh. And I don't use "meh" lightly.

I'd quote passages, but that would require rereading the piece. Go see for yourself.

The Divine Comedy, "Absent Friends"

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Old People

C'est moi.

Too often, lately, I forget about Godard, Truffault, Malle, and the rest. I hereby swear off television (as soon as Breaking Bad is done for the year) and pledge to watch as many French and Italian films as I can get my hands on this summer.

UPDATE: Like, three or four, at least!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The King of Pain and the Princess of Paradise

[dialogue with my daughter while listening to "King of Pain" by the Police]

Cora: Is he a real king?
Eric: He's the King of Pain.
Cora: Is that a real kingdom?
Eric: Pain is real.
Cora: I know, but it's not a kingdom.
Eric: True.
Cora: Does he hurt people?
Eric: Yes. Everybody hurts people, and everybody gets hurt.
Cora: What's his real name?
Eric: Sting.
Cora: Why? Is he a bee?
Eric: No.
Cora: Does he sting people?
Eric: No, that's just his name.
Cora: That's a ridiculous name.
Eric: He's a ridiculous man. He lives in Tuscany.
Cora: Oh.
Eric: Tuscany is in Italy.
Cora: I know, I know, I know!
Eric: OK, sorry.
Cora: My kingdom is called Paradise, and it's a different kind of kingdom. Instead of one person making the rules, everybody makes the rules. Even the servants. I'm the princess. I said, "Let's share everything," and everyone in the kingdom agreed. Except for two people. We put them in the dungeon. Now everyone is happy.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


If I were making a list of the ten laziest, dumbest, most broadly dismissive, least helpful articles one could slap together in half an hour for an audience of young writers, Crawford Kilian's latest would land at the top: The 10 Most Harmful Novels for Aspiring Writers.


I'm no one's biggest fan. Not really. I've never been inclined to the extremes of adoration to which so many fans seem to go. I've never been to a show where I felt I was the one in the room who knew the artist best. I've never seen a film and thought, I know this filmmaker as well as anyone in the world. Nor do I hold an actor or actress so near and dear to my heart that I feel some great kindship. Outside of my immediate family and a few close friends, there's no one I'd die for.

But I've been thinking about it lately: Who is my favorite artist? Of all the musicians, filmmakers, actors, writers, and artists I love, whom do I love most of all?

Morrissey comes to mind, as does Tom Waits. Maybe Woody Allen or Krystov Kieslowski. Maybe George Saunders. Maybe Rilke. But probably not.

I think it's Justin Sullivan of New Model Army.

More to follow.

UPDATE (January 2012): Nope. For a while I decided it was Morrissey. Then possibly Brendan Perry. For now I've settled on Mark Hollis.

Confession re: Showtunes

OK, don't tell anyone. This is just between you and me. See, there's this part of me I've suppressed and neglected over the years. I thought it would die, rot, and fall off by now, but it hasn't. Yet it hasn't grown either. It just sits there, silently occupying space in my skull. I swear I forget about it for months on end, this unwanted part. Then I hear a song from a Broadway musical, and that quiet, non-dead, non-rotting, still there part clears its throat and says softly--barely a whisper, really--"Hey, I like that. More, please." I tell it to shut the fuck up. I kick it. I chase it with an ax. I tell it to go away and leave me the hell alone. I cast aspersions on its manhood, fart in its general direction, dismiss its hipster street cred, and jam earbuds blasting British Sea Power into my ears.

But nothing works.

The other day, in a moment of weakness, I downloaded the original cast recording of Wicked.

I haven't listened to it yet, officer.

Then I downloaded the "New Broadway Cast" recording of the Rocky Horror Show. That, I listened to and, to my surprise, I kind of liked it.

I'm not going to post this, am I? Shit. I am.

Anyway, as a kid I got hooked on Man of La Mancha and Fiddler on the Roof. Later it was Rocky Horror Picture Show and Little Shop of Horrors and, horror of horrors, West Side Story. I loved them all. As a fully grown, sports-playing, mountain climbing, red-blooded American male, I cried when Rent came to town. I'm so ashamed.

But if you've got musicals to recommend, I'm all ears.

I don't know where to start. I know next to nothing. I just named every single musical I'm familiar with (besides the Sound of Music, which was forced on me ages ago by my cruel younger sister). If you don't have the nerve to post your recommendation in the comments, I understand. Email me. It's my name at Google daught kahm.

I hang my head and await the next episode of Glee.

And crawling on the planet's face, some insects called the human race--lost in time, and lost in space, and meaning.

Black Crow King Kicks It

Cool post here from Black Crow King, offering up the originals covered by Nick Cave on Kicking Against the Pricks. Of course, it would be even cooler if she hadn't followed it by conjuring another Cavestache out of thin air and alcohol vapors. Pretty sad, I know, but no one that cool can be perfect.

Not a cover, but get a load of The Cool evident in this rehearsal of "The Ship Song":

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Miscellany: Dancing With Myself

- Today, instead of working on my book, alas, I work my hourly telecommuting job.

- Alack.

- Is it wrong to live by the Swearengen code? Seriously, is it?

- Is it wrong not to always be glad?

- I miss dancing. I miss clubs. I miss bars. I miss walking through downtown urban areas in the dark.

- In the mid-nineties, I spent countless hours dancing at clubs. Coincidentally, my weight dropped to 148 pounds around 1996. That was so, so long ago.

- There was this girl. I must have seen her fifty times over the course of a couple years. She'd dance alone around the edges of the Underground's dance floor. She was beautiful, but something about her looked closed off. I never approached her. - For that matter, at dance clubs, I never approached anyone I did not already know. Kind of missed the point, eh?

- Later, I met that woman in a group of mutual friends. There was no spark. In fact, she struck me as pretty dumb.

- I've been on a New Order kick this week. Here's the song stuck in my head--I woke up singing it:

- I really thought this post would provoke more interest from Gagaworld. So far, nothing. And this follows two months of regular daily traffic from Google searches for phrases like "Lady Gaga Rilke tattoo." Ah well. When the satirist has no audience, there's no point in the attack. I can live with that. It was kind a destructive post, anyway. And what's the point of that, Al?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Time to Give Some Back

I've waited for far too long to do what I'm about to do.

Yes, that's vague. Expect no further comment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy 85th!

Malcolm X would be 85 years old today.

PS What is it about Mississippi...?

Evening Coming Soon

Actually, evening's come and gone. I'm sleepless again, so I just went searching for a recording (bootleg or otherwise) of Michael Stipe singing "Harpers," the song he cowrote with the band Hugo Largo back in 1986 or so. I remember it because I saw R.E.M. twice in the late eighties, and for both encores Stipe stood on a metal folding chair with his back to the audience and sang "Harpers" a capella. (I'm not making this up.) I found nothing. If you can point me to such a recording, I'd be eternally grateful (until I'm dead, anyway). I couldn't even find an online representation of the Hugo Largo version from their debut album Drum (which Stipe produced).

As usual, though, I do not report back empty-handed. Here's the video for "Turtle Song" from Hugo Largo's second and final album, Mettle:

Oh, Mimi! That's gross.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


FAQ with textual analysis, context, and several suggestions for your own Rilke-quote tattoo

Nothing has drummed up more traffic for this blog than a recent passing reference made to Lady Gaga’s chic, ultra-literary tattoo quoting a quotation from the illustrious, Russian-Polish, transgendered poet and renowned global explorer Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1999). Clearly, the Lady’s admirers long to know more about this mysterious tattoo quote, about the life and philosophies and quotes of Rainer Maria Rilke, and about alternative quotes to quote for their own Gaga/Rilke-inspired tattoos. As a published author and America's "leading" Rilke scholar, I offer this list of "Frequently Asked Questions" to serve as a "central clearinghouse" of sorts for all matters Gaga-Rilkean:

Does Lady Gaga have a Rilke tattoo?

Did she cringe when she got it?
No freaking way. She's Lady Gaga.

What does Lady Gaga’s Rilke tattoo say?
The tattoo’s text, or "quote," as translated from the original Bohemian quote by noted quote translator Jack Dempsey, reads as follows:
In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?
NOTE: While I regard Dempsey as the authoritative translator of Rilke into English (as does Lady Gaga, apparently), some lesser scholars prefer the more literal translations crafted by Britain’s Nigel Tufnel. I shall endeavor to keep that ongoing and intensely bitter debate from complicating this post.

What does Lady Gaga’s Rilke tattoo mean?
As with any translated text, Lady Gaga’s tattoo is subject to interpretation and extrapolation. For instance, scholars differ on the phrase “the deepest hour of the night” (“die verhungerteStunde des Geschlechtesnacht” in the original Bohemian). While some academics (e.g., Noam Chomsky, Theodore Pendergrass, Cormac McCarthy) maintain that the hour from three to four a.m. is “the deepest hour” due to its statistical tendency to yield profound insights and its disproportionally high rate of failed suicide attempts, strict ironic literalists (Ernest Hemingway, Michele Foucault) regard midnight to one o’clock as “deeper” due to the greater numerical value of its digits.

But what does it really mean?
To put it plainly, Rilke is quoting that if a person were prevented from texting, tweeting, etc., then said person should submit to an invasive internal body scan (Rilke steadfastly refuses to specify whether said scan is intended literally or metaphorically), the results of which should reveal whether cancer cells are present in either malign or benignant form. This comes under frequent debate, hence the author’s numerous legal challenges of mistranslations. Lady Gaga has yet to quote her position. So to speak. [Check back frequently for updates.]

Who exactly was and/or is Rainer Maria Rilke?
Though Polish with mixed Russian blood, Rilke is widely regarded as the first "German" to discover "Paris."

Why is he/she famous?
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote six highly quotable books on etiquette. Historical documents (including rigorously analyzed photographic evidence) confirm Rilke’s claim to have "survived" the Holocoaust without dying. It is not widely recognized that Rilke's poem "Schürhakengeknittertesgesicht" (c. 1977) serves as inspiration for Lady Gaga’s hit song, "Paparazzi." He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 and an Olympic Gold Medal for bobsledding in 1984.

Was Rilke the Lady Gaga of his/her era?
Yes. Definitely.

Was Rilke pretty?
Yes, especially when his/her Adam's apple wasn't bobbing up and down like a "hyperactive yo-yo."

What is the correct pronunciation of "Rilke"?
It rhymes with "silky."

What are the lyrics of “Archaic Torso of Apollo”?
They can be found "here" and "here."

In the song “Disco Stick,” when Lady Gaga says she wants to “take a ride on his disco stick,” is she referring to Rilke?
No. This is a reference to Mark Strand.

Does Lady Gaga keep Rainer Maria Rilke’s corpse in a bronze case above her mantel?
Notwithstanding serious "structural modifications" to a wall and/or mantel, bronze cases are too heavy to mount up high like that.

So, was Rilke, like, Lady Gaga’s Mother Monster?
Answer unknown.

Um, but, hey, are you bluffin’ with your muffin?
I’m deadly serious here. Feel free to quote this post in "academic research," with complete confidence in the accuracy of the information quoted herein.

  • "You must change your wife." - Rilke
  • "All the soarings of my mind begin in my bowels." - Rilke
  • "Believe that with your feelings and your work you are the Greatest; the more strongly you cultivate this belief, the more will reality and the world flee forth from it." - Rilke
  • "For one human being to bluff another, that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation." - Rilke
  • "If you stand toe-to-toe with this bum, he'll kill you. It doesn't take a man to stand there and get your head beat off! He's just a man, Rilk, so be MORE man than him! Go get him! Eye of the Panther!" - Rilke
  • "He reproduced himself with so much humble objectivity, with the unquestioning, matter-of-fact interest of a dog who sees himself in a mirror and thinks: there's another dog." - Rilke

[Legal Notice: This post may or may not be subject to modification. Any copyright infringement is purely voluntary and malicious. Please notify the author regarding requests for enhancement.]

NOTE: If you have any questions about Rilke, Rilke tattoos, or Rilke quotes, please quote your questions here in the comments, and I'll endeavor to get back to you as soon as possible with my own quote in response.

BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Lady Gaga's Dress and Other Love Stories

Bonjour, Paris!

The blog has seen an unusual amount of traffic from Paris (and other parts of metropolitan France, but especially Paris) in the past few days--almost always via Google searches for "Eric Bossé." If your serach concerns an inheritance, c'est moi! Contact me via the email address in the "Contact" box in the lefthand column. But if your interest concerns matters other than fortune or fame or French food, you've got the wrong guy. I apologize for any confusion.

Tuesday Miscellany: The Random Lechery of Distraction

1. In Which the Blogger Whines about His Obligations
"Eric Bosse folds his hands across his chest, closes his eyes, and tips back into the waiting arms of summer."
That was my Facebook status yesterday, when I thought I was done for the semester. But Eric Bosse was wrong.

I had grand fantasies about summer starting today, about working for five or six hours on my Magnificent Mistakes manuscript. Reality intervenes. My office computer is on the fritz. I brought my laptop, but there are two or three important, work-related things I have yet to do. And we've dipped into our savings in the last few weeks, so it's time to make up the difference through hourly work on my second job--which I can do remotely, on my own schedule, for as many or as few hours as I'd like. Which is nice. But...

Sorry, summer, you'll have to wait one more day.

2. In Which the Blogger Justifies His Retreat from Facebook

Oh, by the way, I'm off Facebook for a while. Again. Why? Well, as Rilke told us a century ago, Facebook is distracting:
Isn't it the most harrowing, the most unreal milieu one can possibly imagine? Nay, it passes one's wildest conceits, this sort of variété. The ground slips away from under your feet, air, sky, everything real, and apparently for ever.... How blindly we abuse that which has never been contemplated, never experienced; diverting ourselves with things collected together without rhyme or reason, and placed all higgledy-piggledy.
I stayed away for nearly two weeks back in March, which felt like a substantial break. I drifted back, though, because I missed my friends--and because, as the semester built toward its bigger projects and larger assignments, the scraps of time I could find lent themselves to quick Facebook posts. I  consider the blog as a space in which to develop my thoughts, a place for extended conversations with those who might be interested and willing to go out of their way.

But as the semester's demands grew, my free time shrank. Now, though, while I'm on the verge of finishing my book and actually reading for pleasure again, I've declared my intention to steer clear of the oh-so-random lechery of distraction that is Facebook. I hope I can manage it.

As my friend Julie said, Facebook has jumped the shark. All those privacy incursions have accumulated along with the proliferation of notifications of friends' activities. Facebook isn't half the fun it used to be, despite all the great, brief, witty interactions and occasional, more meaningful exchanges that can be had.

Or perhaps I'm just not in the mood.

3. In Which the Blogger Celebrates the Return of an Heirloom

Six or eight months ago, my watch broke. I don't consider it my watch, though. It's Paul's. Paul was one of my two or three closest friends, until he betrayed me by dying of cancer five years ago. The bastard. Not long after his death, his wife (another dear friend) gave me his watch. Apparently Paul treasured it. It's not quite my style, but I love it because he loved it.

Then the clasp broke. And when it did, it was on my wrist. I couldn't get it off.

This happened on the day I cracked a joke that Paul's widow's new boyfriend was superior because he was not dead and had better taste in music.

I had to pry the watch from my wrist with pliers.

Sorry, Paul. Message received.

4. In Which the Blogger Confesses to Hearing a Voice in His Head

The night Paul died, I was two thousand miles away. I had been with him just the day before, at the end of a six-day trip to Texas. It was clear when I said goodbye to him that this would be the last time. Paul was long gone at that point, floating away on a cloud of morphine bliss. The tumors were everywhere--his arms, his remaining leg, his chest, his brain. I kissed his forehead, held my baby girl down over him so she could kiss him too, and we left.

The next day, he died around noon.

That night, as I lay in bed, I swear I heard a whispered voice speak to me from inside my skull.

"It's all right," he said. "It's all right, it's all right."

There was more, but I'll have to dig up an old journal to find the rest.

5. In Which the Blogger Links to One of His Movies (Again)

Here's a short film that Paul and I acted in. It was written and directed by Paul's younger brother, with whom I'd love to work again someday. We shot it in Colorado Springs, where we all lived at the time--and where none of us lives now. Paul is the guy with the white cup:

Damn him for dying. (Thank God he was an atheist!)

6. In Which the Blogger Pays Tribute to His Late Friend's Taste in Music

I'd never otherwise post this video, but this one's in Paul's honor:

[Updates to follow, throughout the day. Maybe.]

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Upon Rereading "The Garden of Forking Paths"

Borges inspires me.

Borges discourages me.

A page of Borges is fifty of anyone else.

Borges scuffs the earth and opens an infinite abyss of possibilities.

Borges steps up, puts a hand on my shoulder, and whispers that at this moment in another reality he is turning a knife in my back.

In still another, he reaches out and grips my arm as I slip.

In yet another he embraces me, and we fall together for a while.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Love is a Salad Fork

You think you know someone, then some tectonic plate buckles deep within the earth of your love. Your body shakes. You duck and cover. And when you stand up, you see devastation and destruction everywhere you turn.

I learned something about my wife this weekend, now everything has changed.

Years ago, when we lived in a region with attractive geographical features, my wife confessed to a preference for small spoons over big--for the teaspoon over the tablespoon, as it were. I was touched by her trust in me, moved that she would reveal such an intimate detail so soon in our time together. Ever since, each and every time I fetch a spoon for her, I make the effort to deliver a small one. A big one would be an insult. I’d sooner jam a butter knife between my ribs than hand my wife a tablespoon.

This is the sort of small act of love which goes unnoticed from day to day yet accumulates over a lifetime and gives depth to a relationship. When I bring my wife a cup of ice cream, I do not announce that I have hand-washed a marinara-encrusted teaspoon in her honor when I could have grabbed a clean tablespoon from the drawer. I simply offer her the cup with the spoon in it.

When I place a bowl of handmade-from-scratch soup on the table before my wife, does she notice the soup? Yes, of course. Does she register the teaspoon I lay down as a symbol of my deepest devotion? I don't know. And I do not need to know, because love, True Love, sends my fingers reaching for one spoon and not another down through the years.

Then came Sunday.

Together, we assembled a feast of tabouli and hummus, black olives and roasted red peppers, sliced tomatoes and fresh baby spinach, and thin slices of zucchini, fried. We sat at the table with our kids, and after I passed out the napkins I handed my wife the wrong kind of fork.

Surely you must know, dear reader, that salad forks are smaller than regular forks. The tines of a salad fork are shorter than the tines of other forks. Salads must be more shallow than other foods, I once thought. But I thought wrong.

My wife held up the regular fork and stared me in the eye. "Do you even know me?" she asked. "If you knew anything about me, you would give me a small fork."

I grant that surely she was teasing. Yet I felt as though the fork in her hand had stabbed through my heart. Nine years we've been together! Nine years I've handed her small spoon after small spoon, and never once had she spoken of the lengths of forks.

Had I known, I would have emblazoned her predilection on my mind. Was it possible that in all this time this was the first long fork I had pressed into my wife’s hands? The odds would be like coin coming up tails more than a thousand flips in a row--not impossible, but...

Not possible!

Yet there I was, face to face with my blunder, astonished by my failure to recognize something essential to the nourishment of my beloved. My. Heart. Fell. My shoulders collapsed. In fact, melted by my wife's discontent, my whole body and soul gushed into a pool on the tile floor before our children's eyes.

My barefoot wife folded her legs on her chair as the kids splashed through me in rubber boots, laughing, kicking my clothes to the corner. My wife reached across the table to my place, swapped that long fork for my salad fork, and ate in silence.

Over and over as I sloshed through the kitchen I promised myself never to forget. Never to forgive the error of my ways. Never to admit another long fork into our home.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Serious Business

What's your favorite New Order song of, say, the post-1990 era?

Here's mine:

And what ever happened to Bernard Sumner's new band? I can't remember the name and don't feel like digging it up....


But, of course, I did. Here's Bad Lieutenant's lead single, "Sink or Swim":

I miss Peter Hook, Grampa...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Divide and Conquer?

I'm mulling over the prospect of splitting this blog into three. Broadly speaking, my posts fall into three categories: music, politics (and political satire), and personal/family stuff. For me, the music and the personal and family posts belong together. I can't explain why, except to say that music is personal. The political posts were initially this blog's focus, and I come back to them from time to time. Ditto for my interest in political satire. So, that's two blogs' worth of material right there. And then there's writing. I've already set aside a space for that.  I'm not sure it makes sense to keep all these things under one blog title. It's got to be confusing for readers who don't know me.

On the other hand, three blogs is a lot. One is nice. Two is probably manageable. Three?

That would be overkill.

In any case, I'm heading into another withdrawal from Facebook as summer begins. I hope to keep this blog going with daily writing warmup posts (whatever they may be--most likely memoirs woven through with music videos). And I intend to gradually cultivate The 39th Draft as a resource for young and beginning writers. It has been four and a half years since I taught a creative writing course, and I'd like to keep that side of my career as an educator alive and well. This will be one way.

Another: I want to start a reading series here in Norman, a hybrid of open-mike night and featured reader series. And I'm tempted to start a workshop of some kind, though these ideas aren't developed yet.

Anyway, though I don't mean to fish for compliments, I do want some feedback about whether this blog holds together and makes sense to you (you dozen or so regular readers). Email me or post in the comments. Thanks for your time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Inveterate Bigot's Stunning Admission

I am surprised this didn't get more airtime in the news this week. On Wednesday, in response to attention garnered by Family Research Council cofounder George Reker's outing as a flaming hypocrite, Tony Perkins released a statement on behalf of the F.R.C. Within Perkins' remarks was this stunning-but-hardly-surprising admission (emphasis mine):
While we are extremely disappointed when any Christian leader engages in the very activities that they "preach" against, IT IS NOT SURPRISING. The Scriptures clearly teach the fallen nature of all people. We each have a choice to act upon that nature or accept the forgiveness offered by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and do our best to ensure our actions, both public and private match our professed positions.
Or, to use Perkins' own words in a slightly different order that does not change their meaning one iota:
Got that? It's no surprise when Christian leaders are hypocrites. It is no surprise when a man who devotes his life to cultivating hatred and condemnation of homosexuals turns out to be one. This, according to one of the antigay Christian right's heroes!

I know Dan Savage and others have said so ten thousand times, and attentive people of any political persuasion know it to be true--but to have one of these homophobic hate-mongers step out and freely admit that it is "not surprising" that a homophobe would turn out to be gay--well, that strikes me as a statement to remember. It seriously undermines whatever foundation of credibility these charlatans had.

Friday, May 7, 2010

If a James Album Drops in the Forest

...does anyone hear it?

Well, eventually I do.

(Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!)

I am not sure how I missed this--in fact, I'm stunned that I missed it then missed it again and again--but one of my favorite bands, James, reunited and released an album in 2007. I found out about it tonight.

And the strange thing is, right around the time it was released, I went fishing for new albums by James and came home empty handed. As far as I knew, Pleased to Meet You (2001) was the band's final studio recording. Tim Booth had made a solo album or two along the way--which included the transcendent song "Down to the Sea" (video below)--but that was that for the band, or so it seemed, and I thought "Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)" was the last I'd hear from James.

Not so. After posting an old James b-side yesterday (via the band's Facebook feed), I discover tonight, by accident, 2007's Hey Ma--which, to my dismay, stirred up its share of controversy in the UK upon release. The cover art (a baby reaching for a gun, shown above) was banned from billboards, and the band refused to replace the image.

I'm downloading Hey Ma even as I type, and I'll update this post when I've had time to soak it in. In the meantime, here's an unofficial, fan-made video (featuring some grisly war footage, so watch at your own risk) for the devastating yet somehow luminous title song, "Hey Ma":

And here's the album's other single (as far as I can tell--things get a little blurry in the post-video age), as performed live on Jools Holland's show:

In my humble (and still-forming) opinion, these songs belong right there with James' best. I'm willing to chalk up this huge oversight in my music collection to the stresses of parenthood and a new job. Around the time this came out, I was starting a new, high-pressure job; my wife was on bed-rest during the final trimester of a difficult pregnancy; and we had just packed up and moved our house, dog, and daughter for the second time in twelve months.

So yeah, I forgive myself. A joy postponed is, in this case, still a joy.


And that's not all. While filling in the gaps in my James discographical knowledge, I learned that James just released a new EP in the past couple weeks. It's called The Night Before, and it's next up in my dowload queue. Joy multiplied...


As promised, here's the video for Tim Booth's solo song "Down to the Sea," which I lovelovelove:

More to follow...


UPDATE: I've listened to Hey Ma twice now, and it blows me away. In 2007, James was still very much in its prime. Can't wait for this year's "mini-albums." I'll download The Night Before in the next few days. The next one is due out in August, I believe.

UPDATE #2: Here are samples (and one full track) from the new minialbum, via A jumped-up pantry boy and The Independent: Clickety click.


...more beautiful songs. In the meantime, if you're hungry for new and exotic (or not-so-exotic) beauty, feed yourself with those lists in the readers' comments under the original post. And, if you haven't yet, chime in.

Here is but one sample--Nina Simone's rendition of "Ne Me Quitte Pas":

Don't leave me. Don't leave me. Don't leave me.

"To the Oklahoma Lawmakers" (a poem by Lauren Zuniga)

Dear Oklahoma State Legislators,

I dare you to watch this:

Ain't got no religion bouncing around in my head, but thank god for Lauren Zuniga going viral!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

James, "Promised Land"

Appropos of election day in the U.K. (why I'm interested, I can't say), here's a 1989 b-side from the band James:

Promised Land by 'James'

And here's the best James single (though not their best song), performed live a couple years or so ago:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

David Sylvian, "Orpheus" and "Small Metal Gods"

This song tumbles from one of my favorite albums, Secrets of the Beehive, when you whack it with a stick. Released as a single in late 1987 or early 1988 (I don't remember and can't be bothered to look it up, apparently), "Orpheus" forever altered my sense of the potential for instrumentation and arrangement within the structure of a pop song.

Tragically (or fortunately, I suppose), I never found or joined or knew of a band that could explore such stripped-down jazz sounds, though in my rock-star-wannabe years I yearned for just such a group. I lacked the musical training and talent to realize the dream, and I never met the songwriting collaborator who could take me there--though perhaps I came close with one restless, brilliant, undiscovered guitarist who shall herein remain nameless. (Neal Koga.)

Anyway, this song! It's beautiful. So is the video. Secrets of the Beehive was David Sylvian's third solo album (or fourth, depending on what and how you count--I use toes, but never more than one from any given foot) after the breakup of his avant-synth band Japan. Give a listen, and then some:

I gave a moment's thought to making some broad claim about how most of Sylvian's career since the early nineties seems to be a long, meandering journey from and toward (but never back again to) Secrets of the Beehive. Then I checked out what he's been up to lately. And I found this:

And my world is richer, thicker, and more full of honey for it. I'm off to swing a stick at this new(ish) album: Manafon, to see what else falls out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


It looks like my favorite super-brainy music blogger is at least partially back from her self-imposed retirement. Check out Condemned to Rock 'n Roll. I don't know how Larissa does it, but her every post is a carefully conceived, well written, deeply philosophical essay. And she's got great taste in music, to boot, though this post (called "Am I a Music Snob?") grants right off the bat that music taste is highly personal and complicated--so complicated, in fact, that the expression of preferences, of likes and dislikes, often verges on the hateful and petty:
Snobbery and elitism are present in every facet of life, especially in the realm of cultural or artistic objects like visual art, films and books, but perhaps are most rampant and rabid in the area of music. Music snobbery or “hipsterdom” is maybe as visible as it is because music is an omnipresent art that large amounts of the population enjoy, and the more fanatic people get about music, the more in-fighting and one-upping can occur. You can call it the Pitchfork Syndrome: a two-pronged phenomenon that takes in both the über-hipster persona of Ryan Schreiber and friends and the mob-like attitude to run either a critic or artist out of town. Like every other preference in the artistic world, music taste is used for both self-definition and group affiliation. People have a need to identify themselves in relation to the world around them – there wouldn’t be so many personal profiles, blogs and widgets on-line if this weren’t true.
Read the rest here.

Cocteau Twins, "Heaven or Las Vegas"

Times like this, when I've got nothing but the Clever to give to the blog, I clam up. I wait for the heart to open again, and wait for the world to reach out and catch my fall. For now, though, I err on the side of silence. Keep quiet, I tell myself. Wait for it, wait for it.

This thing, this mood, often happens toward the end of a semester, when I'm reading student essays more or less nonstop and various deadlines loom. So...

So what? Exactly: So what?


When I hear this song, I shut my eyes and breathe deep.

I saw the Cocteau Twins on tour when they came through Denver, oh, circa 1994 or so. It felt like church must feel for some. No. It felt better than church. It was church-plus-sex. It was ecstasy. It was like listening to an angel pray.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why not?

Some albums stick in your memory when, really, they should vanish forever. I wanted to recreate the Pretty In Pink soundtrack here, in its entirety, in video form. But videos do not exist for two of the songs--not in any capacity--and I lack the determination to see this project through. As is often the case. But here's my favorite of the bunch:

And while I'm at it, this is a decent place to deposit this video, which I had never seen before, and which fails wildly to reflect the depths of this great song:

It's painful, really, yet kind of cute.