The photo at right has nothing to do with this item; I just thought this column was getting too word-heavy. It's a shot by Stephen Lombardo that was used for the cover of the Anderson Council's excellent album Coloursound.That's me in the chartreuse jacket, pretending to be looking at a Viewmaster card.
Sunday, February 24, 2002
Sunday, February 17, 2002
To be honest, I had no idea Sport was so popular. Granted, his albums (which sound to me like a painstakingly-arranged amalgam of Van Dyke Parks, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Smile-era Brian Wilson, and the Ink Spots) have earned him a cult following. However, the sort of listeners who are willing focus their attention for one hour on a demanding-but-rewarding CD are not generally the going-out types.
I did stay outside by the door long enough to catch Sport's first number, a characteristically melancholy ballad which somehow managed to borrow unapologetically from Bob Dylan and Stephen Foster--at the same time. Yet, despite my natural aversion to such tongue-in-cheek tricks, I found myself taken in by Sport's deep, soulful voice and the gorgeous, violin-laced arrangement (which sounded impossibly balanced, even after wafting all the way to the street). I had suspected upon hearing his discs that I would like him better live, and now I knew it was true.
Outside, I ran across Home Office Records co-owner Pierre Jelenc, who was one of the few people actually leaving the nightclub. (He'd been there to see the opening band.) His Website has a great feature called the Gigometer, which is the best opinionated guide to upcoming New York City-area live music shows.
Thursday, February 14, 2002
The Nose Knows: One of the most (unfortunately) memorable quotes I have heard about love was opined by a waitress at Bunny's Pizza'N'Booze and former high school classmate of my mother's: "I told my teenage daughter, 'You'll know it's love when you and your boyfriend can exchange snots and not think it's disgusting.'"
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
When the Rooks' last album, A Wishing Well, was released, I wrote in Offoffoff.com (warning: abominable puns ahead):
Like its namesake, it bears up a storehouse of coinage in the form of hooks and harmonies — some glittering, some dull--along with chiming guitars and bittersweet vocal turns, some sparkling new, others sounding as though they were unearthed from deep within wistful record collectors' pockets. Mazzarella, who co-produces as well as sings and writes, sounds like he came out on the losing end of one too many tosses as he tries in songs like "Happenstance" and "Vows" to make heads or tails of broken relationships. When his lyrics are as sharp and cohesive as his dazzlingly intricate arrangements, as in "Do You Have God" — "Do you have God, 'cause you don't have me to curse at anymore?"--the results are almost illegally tender, but there is no denying their genuine currency.
Tuesday, February 12, 2002
At last night's meeting, Kevin Flaherty gave a commentary on the evening's topic, Chapter 3 of The Everlasting Man. I actually enjoyed his commentary more than the actual chapter. While Chesterton's ideas in it are often brilliant and his language witty, at that late point in his career, he badly needed an editor. The book is full of instances where he used several sentences to amplify a point where one would do. However, on this point I appear to be in the minority among Chesterton fans, as many of them cite The Everlasting Man as his best. The book was certainly one of C.S. Lewis's favorites, and I believe he had it in mind when he wrote, "A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading."
Monday, February 11, 2002
There's a great atmosphere at the paper. Although it's busy, the people there have a sense of humor. (They have to, to write headlines like the one about Kurt Masur conducting "Tristan und Isolde": "Masur 'Tristan' the night away".) Last night, one copy editor was amused by a story about an elephant stampeding through a market in Bangladesh, leading some of us to make elephant jokes. My contribution was, "How can you tell when an elephant's been through a Bangladesh market? By the footprints in the curry."
Friday, February 8, 2002
Before Murdock gave his message, attendees were treated to a speech from Sam Sloan, who is running for the Bedford-Stuyvesant seat in the State Assembly. Not being familiar with Sloan, I found him strange and often hilarious. He is an extremely unprepossessing man who spins the most outrageous stories. He claims that, in 1978, he became the only non-lawyer to argue a case before the Supreme Court--I think it was The SEC vs. Sam Sloan--and he won. However, he was not able to enjoy his victory, as, at the time it was handed down, he was imprisoned in Afghanistan as a suspected spy.
When Sloan said that his eight children came from five mothers, Junto leader Victor Niederhoffer, whose job is apparently to sit in the back and throw verbal curve balls at the speakers, asked his one great question of the evening: How did he have such a way with women? It was a reasonable query, and Sloan gave it some thought. One of his answers was that many women were impressed with the fact that he owned his own home.
For some reason, I found this extremely funny. Now, normally, I have a loud laugh. In this case, since I couldn't erupt in public, all that bottled laughter zoomed to my right foot. So my high heel pounded on the floor like a horse counting to six. I will probably not be invited to a Junto meeting again.
Murdock followed Sloan, giving an entertaining and well-reasoned speech that began with examples of why conservatives and libertarians were "too nice," and moved on to suggestions on how they could better argue their viewpoints. He also put forth the standard libertarian positions on drug legalization and gay marriage, views which, while I didn't agree with them, were well-articulated nonetheless. To support his views, he worked in a quote from Jerry Garcia, confirming what I'd heard about his being a devoted Deadhead. (Now, give me someone who can argue for drug legalization and gay marriage from the point of view of the Four Seasons and I'll really be impressed.)
After the meeting, Sam Sloan approached me and I got scared, thinking I was going to be chided for my equine percussion. Instead, he surprised me--and gave a clue to his way with women--by telling me that I looked like an old girlfriend of his. Not just any old girlfriend, mind you, but the one he got into the August 1967 issue of Playboy. Naturally, I was complimented; fashionwise, I've been stuck on the August 1967 look for the past 17 years. (When I got home, I checked the photos of the woman, which Sloan has conveniently put up on his Web site, and, funnily enough, there is a resemblance.)
When the Liedenkranz Club switched off the lights on us, J.R. Taylor and I headed with some friends of Deroy Murdock to a nearby restaurant. There, freelance writer Jeremy Hildreth told us of his impending trip to the South Sea island of Pukapuka, where he plans to live for a month with the natives. At that news, I tried unsuccessfully to picture him in a loincloth and puka shells. The image wasn't funny enough to cause any further wear to my right heel, but it still made me smile. Jeremy's last full-time job was as a senior economic analyst for Skandia.
Thursday, February 7, 2002
Manhattan Cable Nights:"There's something about sitting down for a chat with [W magazine's] Merle Ginsberg that's irresistible." Reading those words in today's Liz Smith column, I was reminded that I myself have sat down on Ginsberg's couch, but not when she was there. Both she and I have been interviewers for Manhattan Cable's "Videowave," which celebrates its 20th anniversary on February 20.
"Videowave" producer Alan Abramowitz was a real music video pioneer, debuting the show before MTV was even available on Manhattan Cable. I started interviewing bands for the show in 1988 and later branched out to do a regular editorial as well, "Obsessing With Dawn Eden". (My 1995 Obsession on the Wonderbra got the most mail.) Over the years, I've interviewed such notables as David Gray, Kirsty MacColl, Ofra Haza, Dick Dale, and the great Sixties soul singer Gloria Jones for the show. The photo at right, taken at a 1991 taping, shows me (in a rather embarrassing outfit) in bed with Buzzcocks members Pete Shelley and (grinning) Steve Diggle. The production schedule has slowed in recent years--I haven't done any new interviews since 2000--but I did a couple of Obsessions last year.
"Videowave" is on every Monday night at 11 p.m. on Channel 67 on Time Warner Cable and Channel 110 on RCN Cable. The next interviews of mine that will air are repeats of the two most recent ones I did: Canadian power-popsters Sloan (airing February 18) and Guided By Voices (done a few months after I interviewed singer Robert Pollard for Salon) (airing March 4).
Wednesday, February 6, 2002
Not Serious Enough to Be a Kangaroo Court
The Las Vegas Sun carries this peculiar dispatch from Porto Allegre, Brazil, where people who couldn't get invited to the World Economic Forum are holding a "Social Forum":
A "court" composed of figures from developing nations ruled that the $1.8 trillion Third World debt was illegal and should be forgiven.The "Court on Foreign Debt," sponsored by activist group Jubilee South, also charged lenders--including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund--with genocide and pillaging debtor nations, spokesman Alejandro Bendana said Sunday.
This prompts reader John Appelbaum to write:
For years, I have been holding "court" in the "basement" of "my mother's house" in Florida. I have a nice bench right next to the washer and dryer, a black robe, a mallet that I made back in wood shop, and a genuine horsehair wig that cost me almost $19 down at Love's Notions'n'Things. The court sessions are frequently attended by grassroots figures from the neighborhood, especially when the county parole board is feeling lenient or there is a hiring freeze at Dunkin' Donuts.
The court has heard many cases, and made rulings regarding most world figures. For example, last year I sentenced Fidel Castro to life in prison for crimes against humanity, overturned the Concordat of Worms and all decisions of the Council of Westphalia, found O.J. guilty, and granted lifetime immunity from prosecution to Augusto Pinochet. I send my rulings to all affected parties by registered mail, and, while none have replied so far (for some reason, all letters to Frederick of Bavaria keep getting returned), I am confident they are just trying to delay the inevitable day of reckoning.
So here's my question: What the hell do I have to do to get some press coverage?
John, you've got it!
Sunday, February 3, 2002
Eden in Gotham: I'll be at a couple of social/political gatherings in Manhattan this week: the Fabiani Society on Tuesday, February 5, at 6 p.m. at the Princeton Club (43rd St. near 5th Ave.), and the Junto on Thursday, February 7, at 7 p.m. at the Liedenkranz Club (6 E.87th St.). John Stossel will be speaking at the former, and Deroy Murdock at the latter.
Do You Remember Back in Old L.A.? Will the upcoming film "Scotland, PA" do for my friend John Carter what "Pulp Fiction" did for Dick Dale? I just saw a trailer for the film, and, while it looks pretty dire ("Macbeth" set in a Pennsylvania diner during the 1970s, with the french-fry cooker as the murder weapon of choice), it does prominently feature "Beach Baby," the 1974 hit that Carter wrote and produced for the First Class. So I hope the film's a hit, if only so that "Beach Baby" becomes the soundtrack of the spring.
I wrote a love letter to John Carter's music in the July 2001 issue of Fufkin.com. Here's the part where I raved about that glorious tune (warning: unbridled gushing ahead):
Scientists often do research on addictions by training laboratory animals to press a button whenever they want a certain drug that is suspected to be addictive. Lacking controlled substances, I have done similar experiments at home with my CD player's repeat button. They confirmed my longtime suspicion that "Beach Baby" is aural heroin. Once you have popped it into your CD player [it sounds especially hot on Varese Vintage's Tony Burrows comp], it becomes frighteningly easy to just keep pressing the "back" button when it ends. (Or do like me and save yourself the trouble; just program the track to "repeat".) There's so much going on in that mix, from the "Good Vibrations" organ note that opens it, to the evocative French horn riff (which Strawberry Switchblade used to add some readymade wistfulness to their UK Top Five hit "Since Yesterday"), to the kitchen-sink fade (where you can even hear John Carter singing the hook from the Flowerpot Men's "Let's Go to San Francisco"). Moreover, the whole thing's so damn bright. Even on CD, it jumps out of the speakers the way God intended 45s to do.