Crown of Trinkets

Friday, December 21, 2001
(12-18-01) Yesterday (Monday--my new day off), I pounced on a Sega Dreamcast videogame console being offered on and I can now say that my life's primary struggle, that of industry and productivity versus indolence and sloth, has officially been lost.

I have big dreams for tonight: finish up a few more months of the Tape Mountain calendar, buy a present for tomorrow's Benefit Dep't gift exchange, revise my short story for Brian Miller, etc. But I'll probably end up playing Crazy Taxi or something stupid like that. Sad, really.

Speaking of indolence vs. industry, I've got a couple New Year's resolutions. 1) To stop "surfing the net" so much, and limit said "net surfing" to productive pursuits, such as what I am doing right now; 2) to write a novel during the month of January. Ned wrote one in two weeks, I guess, and even if it ends up being crap, I mean, hell, he accomplished it! So my writer pal Holly (from my temp days at Emanuel) and I are both going to attempt this ludicrous goal once the holidays have passed us by. Foolhardy, but I like it, especially with someone else taking the plunge along with me.

(12-21-01, in the office)
9:38 am: It is Christmastime in the office: women in Christmas-themed sweaters, way
way too much perfume, crock-pots full of Li'l Smokies in the kitchen, fudge
bounty, excessive fudge, fudge surfeit, and cookies.

11:08 am: Last night I went to the IPRC after work to drop off an ad for Dan's
magazine (he was depressed because Sean didn't get the reviews he'd promised
in to him on time) and fortunately for me, the sign-up sheet for the
letterpress workshop had just gone up. Yes! I got the fourth spot (out of
6) and walked away like a tiger that has just caught a ibex. I felt real,
alive: social interaction is nice.

Then I went home and played the infernal Dreamcast; this time I pulled out
"Dead or Alive 2", one of those 3-d polygon-maniacal fighting games. This
game purports to have a "story", but the most I could see was a bunch of
subtitled little vignettes thrown together slap-dash to justify why these
people are kicking the crap out of each other. The point of this game,
however, is clearly not its plot, nor is it the fairly impressive
backgrounds; no, what it is all about is voyeurism. The female fighters
have inflated bosoms and all wear skirts that leave nothing to the
imagination; it seems less like a fight than an attempt to view panties.
This, combined with the lack of plot, reminds me of some sort of "Dracula
the Dirty Old Man" style old sexploitation movie. Which is kind of
undesirable, not so much because I am anti-panty, but because one of the big
reasons I (or anyone else) play videogames is to forget about the world, not
to immerse myself in pruriently enhanced versions of the same. Blech.

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Monday, December 17, 2001
I went up to Seattle this weekend to record with the nice people in luv[sic], whose next album will be coming out soon enough on Tape Mountain. It was good recording, fruitful recording; it is hard to believe, but I think I may finally be "getting" their style, enough to play along with it, even, although if you're playing the drums, it doesn't take a whole lot to "get" it. The most amazing thing, however, was the discovery of a certain person's amazing, amazing Christian metal from the early nineties; truly awe-inspiring, and not just because of its audacious Godly lyrical content. It's seriously the most ambitious stuff I've heard in ages and ages: he is trying to create a huge God-metal universe with no other instrument besides a couple overdubbed fretless basses and some operatic vocals. And it actually kind of works. At first I just winced but then I realized: this stuff is truly amazing and it sounds like nothing else in the universe. Wow. Even though no-one who is reading this will ever hear this album (with such hits as "Low Light, and Candles" and "Parable" and something about Satan), I can't help but tell you. It is like getting struck by lightning: you can't really convey the experience, nor will anyone you know ever experience it, but you just can't stop talking about it once it happens to you.

I also got to see Brian MacDonald and his weekend visitor Ned, good ol' Ned. I ended up talking about Fighting Fantasty books for something like fifteen minutes with a friend of theirs, and I ate potato tacos. But let's talk about Fighting Fantasy books. I am proud that I am the biggest geek in the UNIVERSE! And I read my Fighting Fantasy books over and over again, the reek of goblin blood all over my orc-skin boots, my Skill level 12! and my Stamina 24! and my Luck 12! And all sorts of Provisions! No-one can touch me! Check out for more information on this preposterous obsession of my youth.

I drove back home in icky, icky heavy rain but amazingly arrived safely. Then today it was eerily sunny; this is not right for Portland. I went to get a haircut at this cheap place on Belmont and they turned off the unidentified-Asian-language drama they had going in favor of "Fox Kids"; it was weird to hear "Digimon" blasting while getting my hair cut and it wouldn't have been at all strange to hear foreign languages blaring in my ears. Interesting how that is...

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Monday, December 10, 2001
(11:30 at work)

I hope I never have to hear anything the Mannheim Steamroller ever did again! It is torture music for Christmastime! And speaking of which: the soft-rock station my cubicle/cellmate listens to has gone all Christmassy, very vexing. I did not think it was possible for anything to be more cloying than constant-rotation soft-rock, but I was wrong.

Last night I couldn't really get to sleep, so I put on my tape of Diskothi-Q's _The Wandering Jew_. I remember really liking this album a lot when it came out, but then I've noticed that I haven't exactly listened to a lot of the Shrimper stuff as of late, for whatever reason... I'm pleased to say that this album holds up quite well. It's definitely an "indie-rock" record in a lot of ways, but it's a rich and complex one; the songwriting is good (if occasionally a little jokey or in-jokey) and there's this weird, complex sort of mood to the whole thing, a nice mixture of desperation and giddiness. Not that the two are that far separated in real life.

While listening to that record, I played _Circus Atari_ on the Atari 2600 (purchased yesterday at Value Village! nice to find Atari cartridges "in the wild"), over and over again. Not only is that a great game in and of tself, but it is a great game to play while listening to said Diskothi-Q record; in that game, you are a pair of clowns attempting to break balloons by jumping up in the sky, bouncing off a teeter-totter in ways that beautifully defy physics. You describe graceful giddy arcs in the sky, bounce between rows of balloons that you are popping (destroying). And when you miss the descending clown with your paddle-controlled teeter-totter, the fallen clown kind of melts into the ground in this semi-gruesome lo-res explosion. Giddy and desperate, not necessarily the best way to spend one's time, but very enjoyable nevertheless, even when your clown brains himself after falling 50 feet out of the sky.

(3:30 at work)

My lord! Sleighbells are jingling like yuletinnitus, eighth-note jingle-jingle like the sound of nerves firing shakily, over and over, soft-rock, repeat. And I can only imagine how fabulously rich the Mannheim Steamroller must be. I swear, the Goat-Boy Xmas album, or hell, the King's Singers Xmas album my dad always used to listen to! would be sweet, sweet mercy from above in this environment.

(9:45 at home)

Today while walking home I was struck by the desire to play a guessing game: will I have anything nice in my mailbox? At first I thought: what if that package Christie Gorman has promised me shows up? Then I thought, no, don't delude yourself. But it did and it is wonderful. The two greatest prizes out of many are a) a VHS tape containing three super-8 films she did, including a beautiful, tranquil interpretation of "To The Sun" and a very moving little piece played out to Nick Drake's "Place to Be". Also included: the greatest birdsong record(s)/book(s) I've ever seen: it is from National Geographic, 1964, and the birdsongs are recorded on clear flexidiscs which are bound into a sort-of-velobound book. You put the entire thing on the record player--and it you want to hear the California Thrasher sing (inevitable Gang Wizard joke here), you cue the needle to the arrow on the book below, indicating where the California Thrasher's song is. One of the page's titles is "An Evening With Thrushes". I could not be more pleased.

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Sunday, December 09, 2001
My, what a crazy weekend, my, my.

Friday!Minmae plays on KPSU, a fine set-up and a sterling bunch of folks, marred (or marked, if you will) only by the fact that, at the end of "Saturnine Particle", when we had just entered that special trance state, this kid in a "Smith Center Crew" t-shirt runs into the station, grabs Jeff's vocal mike, and starts bellowing in a fashion not unlike the opening vocals to "Syphilis Ain't That Bad" by the Raunchy Young Lepers. Everybody in the station's jaw dropped. We stopped playing (although I started playing a tape of Sean asking "Do you know where Smith Center is?" on my handheld-recorder) and the polo-shirted man stopped bellowing. "Oh, were you guys recording?" "No, we were just broadcasting live on the air." "Oh," the guy said, and he ran back to Arby's or wherever the hell it was he came from. The rock-star life is a glamorous one.

After that, Angelo from KPSU invited us to play at a house party, and we did and it was fun. We ate horrible pizza (the Woodstock area is kind of lacking for fast and cheap food) and bought some beer. I bought some Safeway "Quackums" (imitation "Goldfish") and brought them to the party. I offered Quackums to everyone that I saw. Many people took me up and told me they tasted like cardboard. Which they do, I guess, but they also taste like "Original" flavor, which is what they are. Vegan Angelo looked through the ingredient list and pronounced them okay; militant vegan Kirstin declared them unsuitable thanks to the presence of refined sugar, which I guess is pretty scary if you think about it, but I have other life areas in which to be a militant purist, and besides, my sweet tooth is a mile long, and snarly.

We played using The Blush's amplifier as our PA, the room was full, people seemed to enjoy it, the scene was full of beautiful young people with beautiful fresh haircuts. This is not a dis, by the way; a good haircut is a joy to behold and it is something that I could stand to have right now. The Blush were sloppy and enthusiastic; Sean compared them to Ziggy-Stardust-era-Bowie but I never actually listened to that album so I'll say they sounded kind of like the Ramones and did I mention that they were enthusiastic? I ate more Quackums. The All Girl Summer Fun Band once again lived up to the "fun" part of their name; they looked like they were genuinely enjoying themselves and that enjoyment was contagious. Fun, fun, fun. I went home, kind of inebriated, went to bed; tomorrow we would rock again.

Saturday! The Cubby Creatures drove up from San Francisco for a show that we were doing together, and a nicer bunch of clarinet-and-violin-playing people you'll never meet. They, too, play with joy and enthusiasm, though it's a more mature sort of enthusiasm. We ate brunch (in my case "coffee") at the Paradox Palace Cafe and discussed everything from recording techniques to hair-metal to the job scenes in our relative metropolitan areas; it was nice.

I walked home; in my mailbox was the absolutely bewildering "Sardine" magazine, Charlie McAlister's newest creation. It is absolutely insane, a truly unstable and riotously funny blend of sardine enthusiasm, cranky recipes, and bizarre "psychological profiles". No-one else in the world could have created it except our favorite South Carolinian madman. Send him a couple bucks; it is worth it. All your friends will worry about you when you leave it on your coffee table. C.McAlister, PO Box 22086, Charleston, SC 29413.

We played at the Ash St. Saloon And Home Of Colossal Bass Drum Sounds. I played Jason of the Cubby's drum set, miked up so high that I felt like I had been implanted with bionic musculature, we rocked to a fairly appreciative audience. It was nice. The Stan McMahon Band played next and were decent enough power-pop, though they got quite samey after a while and it's never a good idea to have one person in the band devoted solely to playing guitar solos. The portland Rock Elite were out to see No. 2 but I don't understand why; they were awfully unexciting, they had that gross crunchy "rock" guitar sound (with fabulously expensive amplifiers to boot) and they just trod over the same paths that have been trod down wagon-wheel-rutty by pioneering Northwest rock acts. But then the Cubby Creatures went on and it was magical. They have great songs and they play them very well; they play their songs as though their songs matter, which may or may not be the case, but boy are they fun. I found myself involuntarily doing the Snoopy Dance (c.f. A Charlie Brown Christmas). Beautiful. Jordan and I went home, played some Tecmo Super Bowl, and crashed.

Sunday! The Goat-Boy has children and the Goat-Boy has a Christmas album. Both of them paid me a visit an hour or so ago. We all went up to my room and played guitar, recorders, "round bell" and Zube-Tube spring-sound toys; Jordan complained that it was very loud, but I love to play music along with kids. Their zeal for singing, their love of the same toys that I love, all very worthwhile. I wish we would have recorded it! Speaking of recordings, I've only listened to the Goat-Boy's Christmas album briefly, but it is actually quite tasteful and restrained. This could be a result of his not currently owning an electric guitar, but it's a pretty tranquil listen, one that you could play at your Christmas gatherings and no-one would look at you funny, something which certainly could not be said about the Raunchy Young Lepers' A Christmas Travesty.

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Thursday, December 06, 2001
Why is my right thumb sore? Could it be from drumming? This morning I woke
up with a gargantuan splinter in my right palm (between thumb and
forefinger) from my splintery-broken-handle drum-brush, and it made an
unpleasant morning (running on 5 hours of sleep, after about the same last
night) even more unpleasant. It might be (my right arm was sore after last
Saturday), but more likely it is from the fact that yesterday I received the
ENTIRE MAME COLLECTION in the mail. Something like 3,000 arcade games
emulated on my PC, though a lot of those are duplicates. It is completely
overwhelming: I could spend my entire life in my living room if someone
were to fill the rest of the room with ramen and give me a hot-pot to cook
the ramen in and a catheter. But of course that would not be so pleasant,
although MAME itself is very pleasant. Images of "Mt. Dilaudid" at the end
of _Infinite Jest_ come to mind. Goodness.

So I played this silly, silly game from Japan ("PuLiRuLa") in which you are a prancing
kid in some pretty overtly Little Nemo-esque adventures, bashing bizarre
creatures with your magic wand, turning them into platypuses and swine. It
was ridiculous and repetitive, but it was short and kind of fun and
eventually I brought the peaceful embrace of time's course to a world where
time had stopped; how noble of me.

This morning I woke up tired and cranky and sore-thumbed and besplintered
but let me tell you: there is no better way to wake oneself up thoroughly
than removing a deeply embedded splinter with no tools besides one's fingers
and thumbnails. (And yes, I used a lot of hydrogen peroxide.) On the bus,
instead of reading the bleak Sartre I've been reading recently (yes I am
pretentious, but hey! I never read it in college or high-school!), I
pampered myself with an issue of _King-Cat Classix_ by John Porcellino; very
entertaining even though it is very juvenile compared to his beautiful works
as of late.

Damn this thumb! This after the blisters and cuts from drumming on Saturday
and Sunday. I will be sore and I will not be a hand model, no thanks to the
Logitech Wingman Pro gamepad and my cheesy garage-sale brushes, poop.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2001,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

from fascinating spam: it is interesting to see who is still useing the "tape" designation in this fascinating post-tape age. (ps: I rarely check the address, so don't bother spamming unless your spam is fascinating.) Three "tapeman"s! Tapepimp, tapenut, tapemaker, tapemafia, several tapenades. Fascinating, fascinating.
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Monday, December 03, 2001
Wow: Last Plane to Jakarta, aka John Darnielle's literary concern, takes on the lost-cassette subject, beginning with Party of One, Peter from Diskothi-Q's ancient side-project. Nice.

Last night was yet another in the fantastically unsuccessful series of Minmae/Celesteville/Moral Crayfish series at It's A Beautiful (Marginal/Spotty/Dairy-Laden) Pizza. We knew everyone in the audience by name, and there was one person who was not related by blood ties or amorous bonds to someone in one of the bands. We decided to create a "collective". Why? Because, well, everyone in these three bands is in someone else's band (except Dan), and let's face it, collectives are popular. Everyone, especially in Portland, loves "art" or "film" or "music" collectives. We will be the Tape Mountain Collective, mostly because "Amplitude = 1/F^2 Collective" sounds wonky and is unmemorizable, and "Airborne Virus Collective" would get us all thrown in jail.

Despite the poor attendance figures, it was a good time, for me at least. Minmae played with new bassist Jeff Somers and it rocked: despite having played together as a three-piece all of two times before the show, this lineup gelled pretty much perfectly. My vigorous drumming caused the delicate metal wire-brush that I was using on the ride cymbal (right hand) to explode mid-second-song. I was pretty quick to grab the spare plastic brushes I had brought (25 cents, garage sale, indestructible), and continue, with wiry shrapnel covering the snare drum and the carpet below. I'm lucky I didn't lose an eye... but it was exciting. It would have been nice if more people could have seen it... but that's okay.

Fortunately, for the Celesteville set, I had anticipated low attendance, and had planned my set accordingly. I convinced all five people in the audience (six when Jordan showed up) to sit up on the stage, turned all the lights off, and played soft non-spaz songs to them by the light of one red candle. There was something sacred about it, something intimate, something that made it feel, to me at least, that it was okay that there was no-one else there. We were recreating "parlor-rock", that most neglected of early-nineties indie-pop styles (c.f. Harriet Records, Wimp Factor 14, Vehicle Flips), whose tenets basically included "non-traditional, swankier venues", "nice refreshments", "dialogue between audience and performers"; it was casual, it was intimate, at the end Sean and I were playing our guitars with our asses. So nice, so beautiful. More Parlor Rock! That will have to be appended to the Tape Mountain Collective Manifesto.

I wasn't sure if Moral Crayfish was going to play, but Dan did; he was pissed off and he basically threw screwdrivers at his guitar for eight minutes. It was the most half-assed, punk-rock thing I've seen in ages. Only Dan Cohoon could have performed that set. Beautiful.

Tonight we play again at the same cheesy venue with people who presumably actually have friends; it may be entertaining. Watch this space.

Okay, we played again at IABP. The other bands had lots of friends so it was quite packed, meaning unappreciative fans of the other bands got to witness us in maximum rock form. Here's the text of what I scrawled last night in my "Floral Mode" cute Korean notebook (big thanks to Aileen for this one!):

Here is some news from the future: the future smells like fennel seed, as did the deodorant that was stolen from my gym locker at Boone Valley Community School, Renwick, Iowa, 50577, in 7th grade. I did not know this previously but it came to me in a free-associative trance state during Minmae ballad "Let Boredom Have The Dance". So it must be true. I played the drums with my backup brushes after destroying my good brushes last night. The backup brush I use in my left hand is an inch or so too short (broken handle, hey, they were a quarter!) so I kept hitting my index finger (2nd joint from the tip) against the rim of the snare drum. There is blood on my snare head, my blood, type A! But it was unusually rocking. Sean and I were at the confluence of two rivers: two rock rivers. Surprising and coherent, these streams.

W e t C o n f e t t i are up now and they have expensive equipment and they are kind of "proggy". The guitar/bass stuff is actually not so horrible, but the drummer is making the mistake of playing too many notes in too little time; god, he has four cymbals, including a "china" cymbal, and he is fantastically loud, even through earplugs, and he has one of those facial-hair tufts below his lower lip and he is wearing a "Leinenkugel's Red" shirt, the wackness of that beer having been established in the Cledis Diaries. God, drummers. They are a different breed and their instrument is like bagpipes: god forbid anyone should play them indoors. This band apparently has many, many friends (this room is full of people). Holy hell are they loud: it is really cruel to be this loud. They don't sound so bad (they are kind of intense) but some smaller amps and some brushes wouldn't hurt things. The bassist's left-hand technique utilizes only one hand position: closed fists (such aggression.)

Foobooooook they are the rehearsal-rockiest, fooooooobbooooookk they are loud; their attempts at beauty and emotion are crushed under hugeass waves (huge asswaves?) of sound/amplitude. It is like a backhoe trying to be sad but the only way a backhoe is ever sad is if it blows a gasket.

Z Drogi: Better, way, in spirit; going for some sort of Svankmajer-soundtrack feeling, but god the guitarist does not fit in at all; riffing over something utterly unconducive to riffs, through what must be the most canned-sounding distortion pedal ever. God, is this what I sound like when I try to do "experimental" stuff? Heaven forbid! Still, they are kind of interesting and they are trying, even if they are failing. Noble.

Okay, that's it for this weekend. Dan is still pissed because no-one showed up to his show; poor kid, he needs a hug. If you see Dan, give him a hug and promise him you won't be fooled by the guy playing Christmas carols on the piano upstairs at It's a Beautiful Pizza That Has Been Prepared By Dreadlocked Hippies next time. Promise him that you will listen, and that you will show up, and curse Portland mayor Vera Katz and her no-postering ordinance, and perhaps you can make Dan Cohoon happy. What nobler goal can there be?

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