Monday, January 31, 2011

In Sorrow Not in Anger

There's 52 Stations on the Northern Line
None of them is yours, one of them is mine...

The very streets themselves are overlayed with memories.

This is the place you went that night when you were drunk.

That's the supermarket where you argued about organic vegetables.

Here's the place you bought her soup when she was sick.

That's the Starbucks where you waited, lost... until you realized you were at the wrong Starbucks.

And the place with the flowers. And the theater where you saw that movie with the actor she liked. The one you can't stand.

And the bar where she kissed you and the street where you fought.

And the corner where she said that horrible thing... that you never got over.

So you stay away from those places, those streets.

But sometimes, late at night, you smell something. And suddenly, you're back there. Many years removed, but still drawn to it.

But you can't participate anymore. You're gone, even though you're still there.

Like a mirror on the wall.

And the silence of the middle of the night lets the memories come rushing in.

Until you can almost see her, smell her hair, reach out to her.

Except she's not there.

She's in your heart. And everywhere you go without her, you carry her memory, you carry her essence.

You carry her still.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thinking of Egypt

Reportedly fueled by social media posts (on Twitter and Facebook), the Egyptian people seem to be rising up against the government of Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak, a dictator who's run unopposed for "President" for 3 decades, is refusing (at least for now) to step down.

The U.S. government, which has supported Mubarak for years (and outsourced much of the Bush-era torture to him), is in a difficult position. On the one hand, Mubarak has been "our" friendly dictator. On the other hand, there is that whole "exporting freedom" phrase politicians like to throw around.

From the Bonzo Dog (Doo Dah) Band's 2007 reunion album, here's a very British, very genteel version of the Kaiser Chief's "I Predict A Riot":

But revolutions are rarely neat and painless and genteel.

So (with hopes for the safety and freedoms of all involved) here's the original:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What's the Point?

Villainy! Treason! Public Naughtiness!

Apparently, Harry Nilsson was taking LSD one day and went for a walk. He was struck by how all the trees (and many other things in the neighborhood) literally ended in points.

And then he wondered what it would be like if everything in the world (including the people) had points.

And then he wondered what would happen if a round-headed boy were born into a world in which everything was required by law to have a point.

What would the point of that be? And could not having a point by the real point? At least some of the time?

Nilsson scribbled the outline to a fable, animator Fred Wolf did some drawings, and they sold the idea to ABC, who made The Point the first animated TV movie of the week.

The movie aired twice and featured Dustin Hoffman as a father narrating the story to his son and 7 new Nilsson songs (including "Me and My Arrow").

As was common in those days, the contracts didn't include provisions for video or DVD release (or, in this case, for anything beyond the initial airings). So when the movie reappeared on TV years later (and even later on video and DVD), Dustin Hoffman was replaced variously by Ringo Starr, Alan Thicke, and Alan Barzman.

But now, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast (or maybe because it's just cool), the great For the Love of Harry blog has the original Dustin Hoffman version in glorious 1971-era animation.

Click here to watch.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Video for the Crash Years

Same Song, Official Video

At the worst job I ever had, I had to report to the most boring woman who has ever lived.

I would fantasize about various industrial accidents that could befall her -- each dripping with subtext and irony.

Looking back, that may have been a sign that it wasn't the best job for me.

A week before I finally quit, she called me into her office.

"I'll make this quick," she said. But she didn't know the meaning of the word "quick." So she talked for hours.

After 5 minutes, I stopped listening. After 10, I left her office.

I walked out of the building, across the street to a park, and over to the other side of town.

I bought a round for a group of nuns who wandered into a bar.

I had a cheeseburger at an old diner that would soon be torn down.

I replaced an injured gravedigger in a game of pick-up basketball.

And eventually I made my way back.

Into the building.

Into my boss's office.

And she was still talking.

But eventually she looked up. "So you'll take care of it?"

"Absolutely," I said. I had no idea what she wanted me to take care of.

But I wouldn't have done it even if I'd known.

And when I went home that night, the job started to feel shimmery and fantastical, like something I'd dreamed about... and already had started to forget.


Wonderfully strange and strangely wonderful video for "Crash Years" by the New Pornographers:

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Craigslist Ads and the New Wave Songs That Love Them #7

Boombox Babies

Out on Melrose, Last Saturday

Hey, guy with the giant 70s boombox on your shoulder!

It's me, the girl in the ironic 70s denim overall dress.

Your haircut and b.o. would normally be off-putting, but I'm mad at my parents and need to bring a guy to dinner who'll make my current bass-player boyfriend look good.

Wanna save yourself 6 D-cell batteries, get some free food and help a girl out this Friday?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tucson Shooting Aftermath

[Originally posted at the Mudflats Forum; more music tomorrow]

I finally figured out one of the things that's made me so angry since the shooting happened in Tucson.

I don't think anyone has said that Palin, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, etc. are directly responsible for the shootings (and anyone who has said that is wrong).

What really bothers me is that so much of the country seems to have given up on the idea that leaders should set an example.

So the Right talks endlessly about how the shooter was mentally ill and there's no direct connection to right-wing hate speech, since Palin and the others didn't directly tell him to kill.

Have our standards gotten so low that "not directly telling someone to kill" is considered acceptable?

Or admirable?

Or Presidential?

Palin (and Beck and the others) could have said at any point "this isn't right. This isn't how we settle differences in America. We're not savages."

But they don't do that. They stoke the hatred, then step back and deny any responsibility for what happened.

And maybe they're legally right. There's probably nothing that could prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law that Palin (and her ilk) caused the violence.

But "not directly telling someone to kill" is a horrible standard for leadership. It's certainly not good enough for someone who presents herself as a potential president.

John McCain (who's done many things I find reprehensible) at least recognized this fact late in the Presidential campaign when a woman at his event said Obama was an Arab and not an American. To his credit, McCain acted like a leader in that moment -- he intervened. He corrected the crazed woman. He refused to let evil and prejudice stand unchallenged.

Maybe we'll never again see a leader as bold as a Bobby Kennedy. But our standards as a country have to be higher than "not directly telling someone to kill" or else we're doomed.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I'm Changed In the Dark

Before they were the best band in the world, XTC was a jumpy punk band

The first time I saw her, she was leaning against a wall, singing.

Well, not really singing. More like chanting. With a hint of melody that disappeared if you listened hard enough.

And it was a song that sounded familiar. But at the same time I knew I'd never heard it before:

There's a hole at the bottom of my brain
At the bottom of my heart
At the bottom of the sea
That's right!

The second time I saw her, she was leaning against a wall, humming.

The same song. Except when it got to the end and she'd say very softly "That's right."

The third time I saw her was at a party. She was leaning against the keg.

I went up to her and said hi.

She looked at me and said "You know why Chinese kids don't like skateboards?"

I didn't.

But she did. Or at least she had a theory. Which unfolded over the course of 27 minutes, during which time she probably only inhaled 2 or 3 times.

It was something to do with Mao and ballbearings. And the chemical composition of rice.

And I listened. Because she was pretty. And because she was different. And because I suddenly got sucked into her monologue and desperately needed to know why Chinese kids don't like skateboards.

When she was done, she smiled and looked at me like she'd just noticed I was there.

"That's interesting," I said. Not because it was interesting (or even comprehensible), but because she had a nose ring that reflected light in a mesmerizing way and when she'd jerk her head to the left and right it would shine into my eyes just long enough to distract me from thoughts of what she'd looked like naked.

"There's a hole in the bottom of the ocean," she said, leaning over to whisper in my ear. "NASA put it in there, so they'd have someplace to bury all the rockets. Didn't you ever wonder what happens to the rockets that fall to Earth? They had to go somewhere, so they dug a hole in the ocean. But now they can't plug it up because they aren't sending up enough rockets, so the oceans are slowly draining into the center of the Earth."

Her exploration of this topic lasted 32 minutes. I nodded 163 times.

She yawned, took a pill from her pocket and drank it with a swig of beer.

"If I have a baby," she announced, "it won't be born in a hospital. Because the hospitals drill holes in the bottom of babies' brains and insert a tiny chip. It doesn't do anything yet, but one day someone in Montana will flip a switch and the chip will activate. Only it won't be babies anymore, it'll be grown-ups, an army of grown-ups following the commands of that guy. In North Dakota."

"You mean Montana?" I asked.

She leaned into me again. "They want you to think it's Montana. They're very clever that way. You'll spend all your time looking in Montana and won't ever suspect they packed everything up and moved it to Fargo."

10 minutes into that conversation I started to back away. The nose ring no longer reflected light in my eyes. I realized her legs were too thin. And I knew that no matter how naked she got, she'd never stop talking.

Jumpy, nervy, disjointed, disconnected talking.

This wasn't drug-taking as a way of opening the "Doors of Perception." It wasn't the cool, trippy, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" drug-taking.

This was a rambling, incoherent, paranoid schizophrenic, speed-freak marathon, drug-taking. (And I don't mean that in a good way.)

And when she stopped, I said "Nice talking to you," even though it wasn't. Even though I'd hardly done any talking.

And she started to chant, wanting to sing:
There's a hole at the bottom of my brain
At the bottom of my heart
At the bottom of the sea...

So before I turned away, I smiled a sad smile for her.

And said "That's right!"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Never Gonna Survive

Lights blink in the city

Gina was crazy.

That's not a diagnosis. Or a value judgment. It's how she described herself.

In High School, she'd tell us all that she had bathwater running through her veins. But she really wanted ice water.

Gina hated the humidity. And every summer she'd complain about the weather.

"I'd rather be up north," she said. "Where it's cold. Where there's no light. No heat."

She was the first girl most of us knew who wore a bikini. Then the first girl any of us had ever seen who wore a string bikini. It shouldn't have looked good on her, but her attitude made it work.

She was also the first person in my High School to get a tattoo. Which caused a minor scandal and was the only subject at four complete faculty meetings. They wanted to discipline her, but they couldn't think of any rule she'd violated. So they agreed to keep an eye on her.

And the guidance counselor started "accidentally" running into her in the hallways so he could ask if everything was okay at home.

One night, she told us of her plan to hitchhike northwest. She was going to go to Saskatoon or somewhere in the Yukon Territory. "Just gonna pack my toothbrush. And a bikini," she said.

And we'd all swoon, even though we weren't quite sure what we were swooning over.

Junior year, she got sick two weeks before the end of school. It was 90 degrees out with 90% humidity. She was shivering, but didn't want to go to the nurse. "It's the first time in my life I've felt like the temperature was right."

When she collapsed in sixth period, they took her to the hospital.

She was in the hospital for a few weeks. Then, one night that summer, she vanished.

Her Mom said the only thing she took was her toothbrush. And the bikini.

The other day it was warm. For the first time in months.

There was a warm breeze blowing in through the mountains.

I was driving and I rolled down my window, enjoying the breeze. Enjoying the heat that was almost too much to bear, but still oddly enjoyable.

And I thought of Gina for the first time in years. Because my blood felt like bathwater. And I suddenly knew what it was like to crave ice in my veins.

I'd always imagined her in the Far North. Found frozen to death wearing only the bikini. Finally it would be cold enough for her -- a cigarette on her blue lips, maybe a needle sticking out of a blue vein.

And if it weren't for Facebook, I'd still imagine have that image.

But there Gina was -- older, heavier. But with the same eyes.

And in the course of several emails, she said she did hitchhike out of town. She made it 400 miles, to her Dad's house. And she finished High School there, went to college, got married, and settled into a suburban life with kids and a picket fence.

She didn't remember saying she wanted ice water in her veins. She didn't remember the bikini or how scandalous her tattoo was. She talked about High School as if it was another lifetime. Which, I guess, it is.

And, Gina added, "We were all a little crazy back then. At least I know I was."

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Just Something Fun

Just because.

Sometimes the world is sad beyond belief.

So, after the tragic events of this weekend, I wanted to post something that's just goofy and silly.

Here, nicked off Hey Dullblog ("for people who think about the Beatles maybe a little too much") is a dog who only responds to bad Liverpudlian accents:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

He's Got This Dream About Buying Some Land

He's gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands...

Gerry Rafferty, best known for "Baker Street" and the Stealer's Wheel hit "Stuck in the Middle with You," is dead at age 63. Although his later career had few sucesses, he created at least three (and arguably four) nearly perfect pop songs.

I know three important things about Gerry Rafferty:

The name of his first solo album was Can I Have My Money Back?

The first Stealer's Wheel album (the one with "Stuck in the Middle with You") was produced by Lieber & Stoller ("Yakety Yak," "Jailhouse Rock," "Spanish Harlem," etc.). Rafferty had already quit the band by the time the record came out and started to sell millions.

And then there was a record store. In a mall. Where I found myself before I knew how uncool mall record stores were.

But in the carefully ranked pantheon of cool, record stores were still up there (even if they were in malls). And the record store clerks knew this and wanted you to know it too -- especially the ones who weren't quite cool enough to work to work in non-mall record stores.

So, while I was perusing the cut-outs, someone's Mom wandered up to the counter and asked for a Gerry Rafferty album. Except she didn't know the name Gerry Rafferty. Or the name of any of his songs. Instead, she asked if the clerk could identify a song for her. And then she started to sing (in a screechy, off-key way) the opening sax part of Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street."

The clerk let her go on for longer than he needed to. Then she stopped, somewhat embarrassed. And said she was going to get the record for her daughter, who loved the song.

A few years later, record store clerks would stop knowing much about music. A few years after that, record stores started to close and never come back. And now, you can limit your embarrassment to your smartphone because if you wanna know who sings any song in the world, hey, there's an app for that.

But this was back then.

"I know exactly what you're talking about," said the clerk. As he bounded up the aisle, I caught a glimpse of an intricate tattoo carefully hidden by a long-sleeve black t-shirt.

He picked through the albums, frowning, then squatted and went through the stacks stored below the inventory that was on display.

Finally, the clerk reared up to full height, as triumphant in his own way as the Raphael Ravenscraft sax solo on "Baker Street." As he handed the woman a record, I thought for a second the clerk (with hair all disheveled and eyes barely containing his fury at having to service the bourgeoisie) could have been a bear -- if bears listened to twitchy new wave bands and took speed in the woods.

The woman thanked the clerk and clutched the record to her. "My daughter will love this."

But when she turned back to walk to the cash register, I saw what she was carrying. It wasn't a Gerry Rafferty record at all -- it was a Sex Pistols album.

I looked at the clerk, who smiled conspiratorially at me, and held a finger to his lips.

Part of me knew it was wrong. But who was I to argue with anyone cool enough to work in a record store (even if it was in a mall)? And in pursuit of the cool and the dangerous, I didn't say anything. And who knows, maybe her daughter grew to love the Sex Pistols and became the bass player for an amazing pop-punk band (hopefully one that recognized how great a sax solo can sound).

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Up with Glenn Close

What Little Remains of My Mind has Now Officially Been Blown

So... Glenn Close used to sing, record, and tour with Up with People.

This actually explains her character in Fatal Attraction better than any movie review ever could.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Reasons to Love Northern Climates

A lot of my friends in L.A. ask me why I love the northernmost areas of the world. Wouldn't I rather be on a warm beach? Or feeling the hot Santa Ana winds blow through the palm trees?


And here's a few reasons why:

Photo by Anchorage Daily News reader Iwao Hiraga of Chena Hot Springs Road on 09/16/10.

Photo by Anchorage Daily News reader me-Lilianne from Bliss Street in Anchorage on 11/14/2009.

Finally -- Reykjavik, Iceland, a city where they have no formal New Year's Eve fireworks. A city where people buy and set off glorious fireworks displays to welcome the New Year -- and manage to do it year after year without injuring themselves (h/t to the Iceland Weather Report).

Happy 2011 to everyone. I hope the year brings you hope, health, and happiness.

And music. Lots of great music.