Crown of Trinkets

Tuesday, February 27, 2001
There are a lot of good things that this world might run out of, but one good thing that we will never run out of is thrift-store copies of the Captain and Tennille's _Love Will Keep Us Together_.
email me:

Monday, February 26, 2001
Today is one of those uncharacteristically dry and warm days that we've been having this February (ordinarily Portland should look like something that needs to be wrung out around this time of year) and I'm sitting out on the fire escape of my duplex looking out on Washington St., with the sounds of kids at recess at Buckman School behind me, some bluejays cackling to my left, clear blue skies extending as far as I can see, unbesmogged, the nose of my crazy neighbor's white Citroen parked beneath me, creaky knotholey weathered wood at my feet, the sense that this fire escape could go down at any moment. How nice it is and how silly to think that I would even consider moving to Seattle and giving this up! Portland is so cool that I can hardly stand it sometimes.

*Note: I was considering moving to Seattle for this job at a speech-enabled-Web type company, but who wants to commute to Redmond every day when I could get a job, even a less satisfying job, here, maybe in downtown, and walk across the mighty Willamette instead of honking through angry traffic out to some tech mecca. Yuk.

Anyway, sitting out here on the fire escape reminds me of my freshman years at Swarthmore. I lived on the fourth floor of Parrish Hall, which was all-male on the west side and all-female on the east side, so anyway, being together with a bunch of males made things kind of interesting and my room looked out onto the main lawn (aka "Parrish Beach") and what was particularly interesting was that there was an exceptionally sturdy old rain gutter-type thing outside my window. So one day I got the idea, on a similarly gorgeous fall day in Pennsylvania, that it would be a good idea to sit out on the gutter and read my freshman English text (I think it was _The Color Purple_). I sat out there and slowly people noticed that there was some sort of maniac sitting out on the gutter. I mean, that gutter had no problems holding up a 120-pound weakling like me. No problems at all. I felt such a nice sense of peace mixed with such a rich rush of adrenaline, all under a crisp September sun. And that is how I feel now. And just like someone would always put their speakers in the window and play U2 or some other sort of liberal-arts rock, a pickup just pulled up down on Washington St. and its davenport-hoisting driver and passenger have some sort of indistinguishable post-grunge spilling out of its speakers, covering up the birds and the children shrieking and the whistling of the wind through the trees and my God it's almost spring.

email me:

Sunday, February 25, 2001
I was walking past Lone Fir Cemetery this afternoon and I started thinking about this band, the Iditarod. Their CD on Hub City is good music for walking past a cemetery in the afternoon when you are hungry and a little dizzy. Acoustic guitars fairly gently strummed, some weird twisty vocals that come within a hair's breadth of screaming (and are all the more effective for their restraint), all very good. The song that I thought about is called, fairly inexplicably, "Gold Berry White". It contains the following lyrics:

Joking when they called Jacob down the hall
Jacob, he came quickly
Angel, angel, angel
Jacob come down the hall

And the memory of my name being said by strangers in my memory of a weirdly creepy song while I was walking past a graveyard made my hair stand on end for a second. Then I bought some spinach and some mustard seed and some tofu and walked home with the sun awfully bright in my eyes.

email me:

Friday, February 23, 2001

1) When I woke up this morning, all I could think about was how much cooler _In The Mood For Love_ would have been if it were in smell-o-vision. I mean, how evocative would the smells of perfume, noodles, and cigarette smoke have been? We could have a doozy of a time with the repeating olfactory motifs. I believe Wong Kar-Wai could pull this off, too.

2) I just saw two commercials. The first of which was a noxious child-actor spot for "Game Trader" in which the kids in question get all excited about a Sega 32X game (for the non-video-geeks: horrible Sega Genesis add-on that had maybe five games made for it, all of which showed up at the swap meet untouched in depressing quantities). Then the next one showed some grizzled old bluesman bizarrely singing about having the "confused wireless blues" or something pathetic like that. But the funny thing is that he's playing through an amplifier which is unmistakably a Fender Musicmaster Bass amp, the infamous amplifier which was always the amp of last resort at Gang Wizard recording sessions because it was not nearly loud enough and it sounded farty. To be fair, this could be a result of the guitarist in GW being louder than an earthquake no matter what amplifier he was playing through... But I thought these two commercials, played one after the other, were pretty funny. Certainly better than having to put up with that unbelievably annoying "His name is Jared, and he'll lead you to Subway" commercial one more agonizing time.

3) Yesterday I bought a copy of the Yak Brigade/Brown Tower split 7" at this megalopolis of a used record store (okay, "Everyday Music") here in Portland. It is weird to think that I would ever find any of those anywhere, considering that there were maybe 100 pressed and half of those went to England. It must be cosmic or something.

4) On that same shopping trip (I spent $3.00 total, and no gas money since I walked!) I also got a handful of old Peanuts paperbacks. It is surprising how funny Charles Schulz actually is sometimes--the bit where Snoopy is reading _War and Peace_ one word per day sounds like something out of Yoko Ono's _Grapefruit_. ("War And Peace Piece: Read _War and Peace_ one word per day. 1963 spring") It is too bad that Sparky has passed on and that I haven't seen much interesting Yoko Ono stuff recently; I can only imagine an artistic collaboration between the two of them...

email me:

Wednesday, February 21, 2001
Quixotic Records - The Bügsküll Page

So the unbelievably kind and generous David Roby of Quixotic Records offered to replace my lost Bugskull 10" (one of my many records that bravely ventured out into the postal void when I moved back to Oregon--and never came back) and it arrived in the mail today. This record, besides being amazing on its own merits, has been one of the preferred soundtracks to the sad, overcast days of my life, and although I'm not particularly depressed today I put it on anyway.

It's amazing how music can evoke memories like this did. It did. I remember crying over and over to "Next Wave" and "Sunny Day Song" a few years back at a particularly low point in my life (yeah, how emotional, what kind of a stoic Scandinavian Midwesterner am I?) and I was transported back to those days, but with the things I was crying about numbed, removed, and now I'm left with the memory of lying on the loveseat with the record crackling. I will take that beautiful memory in lieu of its dreadful counterpart.

I don't think I've ever listened to "Sunny Day Song" without lying down with the fleshy underside of my elbow covering up my eyes. I did it again today, unconsciously. When the 10-plus-minute song meandered to its conclusion I awoke from my dream-state and noticed the smell of that part of my body--a smell that I haven't really experienced in a while, a smell that's intimately connected with other listenings to this record and others of its ilk, which in turn are intimately connected to other memories, which in turn...

email me:

Tuesday, February 20, 2001
New York London Paris Munich

Wow, people have actually read something here. Crazy.

So I was in frosty unknown metropolis Seattle this weekend visiting some pals and recording some stuff with Bellevue-based musical combo luv(sic). Yes, that's their name. I'd met Billis (guitarist and occupant of the bedroom where we recorded) through some email correspondence (he is, to date, the only person who has mail-ordered anything from Tape Mountain, though the reader is more than welcome to change that), and he offered luv(sic) as a backing band for some Celesteville tracks. I've always been keen on playing with potentially like-minded individuals and the indescribable sounds found on their cassettes hinted at some potential. So I threw my guitar in the Metro and drove up I-5 to Bellevue.

Wow! It actually worked! Sometimes you play with people who you like personally and it sounds horrible. And sometimes you play with people and it sounds good but you don't especially want to chat with them afterwards. But the luv(sic)ites proved to be worthy on both fronts, and anyone who puts a finger-puppet of a Puritan on their high-hat is probably going to be a fellow traveller (though I don't actually own a high-hat myself). You can find luv(sic) stuff through their tape label Flimsy Cavern: "The Puritan Way" sounds like the universe exploding crossed with someone singing his guts out in the shower over some bizarre chord progression. It is neat, although indigestible for probably about 99.999999999% of the world's population. So is the concept of the universe exploding!

Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, after Bellevue I crossed Lake Washington to see Brian MacDonald (ex-housemate and formerly of the Yak Brigade!)'s new place on swanky Queen Anne Hill. Brian is one of those few people who actually get the Raunchy Young Lepers, which doesn't gibe with his gentle nature at all. We ate Ethiopian food and listened to the still-terrifying "Walking With Jiggers" Christian-puppet record. That whole genre is pretty scary in and of itself (c.f. Little Marcy, made famous by that RE/Search disc). I think I will put my Jiggers record next to my "Sing With Marcy" record and see what sort of antichrist comes from that union. Oh god I am going to dream about scary-eyed puppets tonight.

So then I climbed Queen Anne Hill with Ethopian heartburn (bad idea) and had a gazillion cups of coffee with my old pal Cathy from college at this trendy but not bad place where hours earlier Brian and I had seen a line to get in the door. Every yuppie there had either a black leather or a Columbia jacket. Yuk. The coffee was good though and my stomach steadfastly accepted all of it. Good stomach.

Last night back in beautiful homey Portland I walked over to see "In The Mood For Love" at the Portland Int'l Film Festival. The line was awfully long (though not as long as the lines for "Crouching Tiger") and deservedly so. Rich saturated color combined with repeated haunting musical motifs, themes of unexpressed/inexpressible love, pretty awe-inspiringly beautiful. Wong Kar-Wai's stuff always hits me pretty hard and this is no exception.

Then last Friday (sorry this isn't chronological) I saw the Derome/Tanguay musical duo, these wacky Quebecois who played an assortment of trinkets that surely puts my trinket collection to shame. They played jew's harps, bird-calls, electronic cricket-boxes, ha-ha groan hammer guts, slide-whistles, plastic sirens, and slightly more prosaic (but still fine) saxophone, flute, and drums. My jaw hit the floor about a trillion times. In their eyes, everything is an instrument and everything is beautiful--the swish of drum-brushes through air, the equipment case picked up and used as a rattle, children's toys subtly manipulated for their characteristic squeak. They had approximately five ocarinas between the two of them (more jaw-dropping sounds) I had promised myself not to buy any CD's this month (unemployment issues) but I had to buy "Plinc! Plonc!" from them afterwards. It is cool, although I wish they had utilized more toys in their version of "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are". Oh well. If you are in or near San Diego, they are playing this Wednesday at some place I forget. Oh man oh man oh man.

Today I think I will try to finalize the Yak Brigade box set, at least the CDR part of it. I've roped Ned Raggett of KUCI/Usenet fame, Christie Gorman of the Nearsighted Revolution, and hopefully Rob Carmichael of Catsup Plate into writing little essays on the Yak Ampersand/Yak Brigade phenomenon. It will be a huge mess of inexpensive self-indulgent fun--don't miss out!

email me:

Monday, February 12, 2001
Oh yeah, I meant to talk about Saadat Turkoz. She sang Kazakh and Turkish and Azerbaijani folk songs in strong ululating voice last night in the less-than-majestic (but still cool) basement of It's A Beautiful Pizza here in lovely Portland, Oregon. I was moved. She sang a capella, with wonderful control over vowel quality and dynamics. The crowd was silent and reverent, the indie-rock-looking couple sucking face and feeling each other up in front of me notwithstanding. A few things I took home from the performance:

* The human vocal tract is beautiful and should be appreciated.

* Performing alone is a beautiful, vulnerable thing, and should be appreciated.

* I wish my great-grandpa Jake, the immigrant from Russia, had lived long enough for me to hear him playing the zither and the mouth organ. I really wish I could have heard that. I can only imagine what sort of songs he'd heard in his life. He was one of the "Volga Germans" who came over in his teens, I believe, from near the Black Sea--right before the Russian Revolution went down. What sort of impact would it have had on young Jake to hear old Jake? Would his songs have sounded anything like what I heard last night? I don't suppose so, and I suppose he probably liked polka or something relatively pedestrian like that, but still.

* I was going to be angry about the gropefest unfolding in front of me during Ms. Turkoz's set, but then I realized that I was young and full of P.D.A.s at one point. I was embarrassed to even think about it. It's hard to imagine feeling that kind of lust right now--I feel pretty dead below the waist. That's not so bad, really.

God, this winter feels like I'm hibernating--I'm expending no resources, just huddling in front of the fireplace or the computer, just waiting for the leaves to jump back on the trees.

* When I was watching the show I was conscious of these memories and thoughts flooding into my mind. I wanted to tell them, stay out! I am enjoying the singing! But there isn't much to the moment without memories backing it up.

Rollerball were great, too, as always, sweetly transcendent. They are not afraid to look uncool. They are ululating, bizarrely gyrating, singing soft ballads that sweep across the room like a soft fog. Many are the times I've seen their show and felt like I was about three inches off the ground.

Now back to my resume.

email me:

Finished watching _Pusher_, this Danish movie my brother picked up on a whim at Movie Madness (the box said it was like a "Scandinavian _Trainspotting_). It was okay despite the fact that it didn't contain any beauty or any joy whatsoever except for a possible bit of joyless beauty in the last scene.

The Sun City Girls' _Torch of the Mystics_ sounds a lot more like Led Zeppelin than I had thought, but it gets better toward the end and it is exceptional dishwashing music. It lasted exactly as long as my three days' worth of dishwashing. One could do worse than making music for washing dishes.

I didn't do anything today that would get me closer to getting a job. I spent all day rocking, sleeping, washing dishes, and watching joyless Danish movies. Someday I'll look back at these unencumbered days of spartan directionlessness and I'll bet I'll get kind of misty-eyed. I'll probably be sitting behind a desk. Or I'll be caring for a child. Or I'll be doing something worthwhile. Right now I am like steam condensing on a cold window and I'll vaporize again soon.

email me:

Friday, February 09, 2001
More on the "audiophile" question:

I've recently been digging into my boxes and boxes of cassettes again and it's been rewarding. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but for some reason while I was down in California I obtained some virulent format-snobbery bug. I was spoiled by random access to tracks; easy, painless fast-forwarding; the lack of danger (whenever you put a tape onto any tape player I own there is a chance that it will be eaten); the lack of hiss; etc.

But now I broke out a couple tapes: 1) my tape of the Verlaines' _Juvenilia_ 2) Soul Junk's _1950: Free Shrimp_, and it's clear that my enjoyment of this fine music is not reduced by the fact that I have to rewind the tape. There's something noble about the cassette. Listening to a cassette requires effort, both in the "rewinding" sense and in the "listening fatigue" sense that the audiophile drones kvetch about on any system that costs less than a hundred K or so. Juvenilia is the one Verlaines record (at least from their classic, pre-sucking period) that I don't own on some more dignified format, and I've been silly not to play it just because it's on cassette; so many of its songs still give me goosebumps, even after hearing them a million times. And _Free Shrimp_ is still a crazy, crazy record, not as good as _1950_ the CD/LP, but still an earnest screech of sweet almost-concord and howling discord toward the heavens.

So yeah, they may be the red-headed stepchild of the music industry, as Rob Carmichael of Catsup Plate pointed out to me, but they've still got a lot of life left to them. Listen to your cassettes before they are only faded memories!

email me:

Thursday, February 08, 2001
Well all right; it works. Cool. Right now I am not seeing Hochenkeit play at Berbati's Pan--not that I didn't want to see them but I'm planning on seeing a highly atypical two shows this weekend anyway so that would be crazy, plus I wasn't in the mood for Unwound-style loud rock, or smoke, or noise. Social interaction would have been okay but when do you ever have time for social interaction at a rock show? I'm always wearing earplugs, and I'm deaf anyway, so the only time you can talk to anyone is in between sets, or when someone steps outside, etc. etc. I think the older I get, the more cranky I get about these things.

Friday and Sunday I'll see Rollerball play, Friday with Jackie-O Motherfucker (whom I like but who haven't provided a completely satisfactory live experience for me yet), and Sunday with someone I forget who promises to do a lot of ululating. Ululation is key.

Music, music, music. My turntable has been fritzing out lately (*note: by using "fritz" as a negatively-tinged verb I have no intention of denigrating Walter Mondale, American hero) so I went out to old reliable Union Gospel Ministries thrift store today to buy a new one. Well, I found two turntables (for the princely sums of $2 and $1). It turns out that one of the turntables I bought, a "Linn Sondek LP12", is apparently this arcane magical audiophile turntable that commands princely sums on internet auction sites, only functions in rooms with non-parallel cork-lined walls, puts an audio broomstick up your ass, and makes even the grottiest Dead C record sound like Celine Dion. It is scary! And I haven't even bought a stylus for it yet! Actually, I'm afraid to even ask how much the stylus would cost. It would probably cost more than the rest of my "system" put together (which admittedly isn't very much). I've had my brushes with crazy elitism of the "tube amps only" kind, the "no corporate music" scree, etc. etc. All these things are nice but my hyper-radical days are on the wane; now all I want to do is listen to crackly old Ruth Welcome electric-zither records while sitting on my new futon, doing a crossword puzzle (New York Times Wednesday edition) in a cool-but-not-too-cold room.

diary entry over! Now I'll go do the above instead of talking about it. --J.

email me:

It's February 8th and I am wading like a long-legged water bird into this whole blogger thing. Let's see how it works!
email me: