Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sad and pretty, occasionally witty

I had a revelation yesterday while I was writing an artist blurb for the Noise Pop program guide. I pulled up the MySpace page for the woman, Laura Gibson, and clicked on her music. And I sat, stunned. It was so beautiful. Time stopped. The pain in my wrists fled. The air smelt of fresh baked cookies. I heard birds sing and frogs burp (or whatever they do), even though my windows were shut tight and I live in urban Oakland.

I listened to all four songs on the site. Then I listened to them again. And then I went to her regular site and read all about her, about how her dad was a forest ranger and her mom was a kindergarten teacher, how her first shows had been in nursery homes and her nephew's classroom. How the members of Norfolk & Western, a Portland band which is good buddies with M. Ward, had loved her music so much that they'd asked to adorn it with singing saws and violas and trumpets.

But what exactly had struck such a chord in me? Sure, she sounded a bit like Jolie Holland and Cat Power, and a lot like Karen Dalton (a '70s New York folk singer who had a stunning, Billie Holliday-ish warble, and whose first album, It's So Hard to Tell You Who's Going to Love You the Best, is a must own). She had a voice that seemed tentative and uncertain, but also brutally honest and sincere. And the playing was so intimate that you felt like you were eavesdropping on a woman playing in her bedroom late at night.

But really what it came down to was this: Gibson's songs were sad and pretty. And I like songs that were sad and pretty. Or fun and goofy. Or smart and witty. Sure, every once in a while I like something else, but those are the three types I'm most drawn to. Put all of them together -- see early Belle & Sebastian -- and I'm in ecstasy.

And what does that say about me? Well, I've got a new theory. It's that the type of music that you like is also the type of person you're attracted to. Now, you may laugh, but I tried this theory out at a book swap party last week, and it proved highly informative. Of course, now it'll be harder for you to think about what you truly like musically and how it matches up with what you like romantically. (One person, who wasn't at the party but was later informed of the theory, joked, "I like my music with nice breasts.") But you should try anyway. If for no reason than it's interesting to try to categorize what you generally like about music.

And then you should buy tickets to see Laura Gibson on February 28 at the Swedish American Hall.

Friday, January 26, 2007

You are what you eat ... and eat and eat

So, I went to the Fancy Food Expo this week, thanks to Tracie's tip. It had been 13 years since I went last, way back in 1994 when I worked at the knish stand. On that day, I went a little crazy on the fancy finger foods, gorging on everything in sight, including the free French champagne, which meant I showed up woozy and bloated for my first shift as a waiter at Centerfolds. Sort of like this (note how my no-hawk is really coming in here):

This time I knew better. Thanks to Tracie's friend's suggestion, I ate mostly savory things first, saving the sweets for last (and forgoing the bubbly).

The whole thing - two huge rooms of every kind of fancy food available to stores, caterers, and restaurants - reminded me of the Alternative Press Expo, where all the exhibitors were desperate to get your business. I only snacked at tables where other people were gorging, so that I wouldn't be drawn into conversation about the delicate flavor of their crackers and cheeses. Or how many kinds of pickles they sold.

Some random observations:

Texas is not a country, even if its booths were situated in the International corridor, right next to England and Australia.

Korean chocolates taste like taffy that's been stuck under a desk for a week.

You feel more like a glutton if you carry your toothpick from booth to booth, even though you're helping the environment by conserving tiny pieces of wood.

They're doing crazy things with sugared/flavored nuts these days.

All packaged Indian foods taste the same, whether they be from New Zealand or Germany.

Darth Vader looks less menacing as a gumball machine.

After a while, I actually got tired of all the chocolate mousse and candied yak butter. I took one last pic of some disturbing candles and headed home.

That night, I came back to the city for the Black Lips. I've decided that whenever Fresh Pink tells me a show is worth seeing then I should drag my tired ass out of the Three Kinds of Stupid podcast editing suite, and go. She's always right! It's amazing.

The Black Lips, also, were amazing. I never thought frat rock would be popular again, but then again I didn't see the Hives' as a major label band either. Anyway, the Lips friggin' rocked, they covered Jacques Dutronc's "Hippie Hippie Hooray," and they spit up in the air and caught it in their mouths (I have to try this at the next TKS bash). These things are what make up a great, dumb rock band.

And I've decided that I really like great, dumb rock bands. I like my music either really smart (Don Lennon, Flaming Lips) or really dumb (the Sonics, Lil' Kim). Maybe dumb is the new smart.

All of this has got me thinking about a new relationship theory. But I have to test it out a bit before I reveal it.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Girl Talk

So, last week Joanna and I went to see Girl Talk. I tried to get Brent and Megan and Russ to go too, but I'm glad they begged off. Because it was weird.

Why? Because I realized something that I bet I'm going to have to realize a lot over the next 30 years or so.

I'm old.

There's no other way to describe what we witnessed. Or what we experienced, I guess I should say.
Girl Talk is a guy from Philly. One guy, one laptop, one ugly sweatshirt. He looks like he's about 23, but apparently he's in his mid-30s and has been making mashups and remixes for nearly a decade.

And his deal is that he encourages his audience to get onstage with him. At last year's Be the Riott Festival, his set got shut down after 10 minutes because so many people climbed up that the venue staff freaked out. This didn't happen at the Independent. No, they allowed around 100 people to jam up there onstage with him.

So what we got to watch was a bunch of incredibly young and dorky suburban dudes and their underage girlfriends poorly act out routines they'd witnessed on MTV or BET. Wow. A little of this goes a long way, unless you're a pedophile or addicted to bad reality TV shows. Neither of which I am, thanks.

As for the music, it was fine. Fun, almost. But something was missing. He was sort of the laptop version of Cut Chemist or one of those turntablists who are all fancy shmancy and not dancy. Not that the crowd wasn't dancing. Or Girl Talk wasn't trying. Here he is showing us his underwear.

But it felt like the Emperor's new underoos, er, clothes. These kids were up there dancing because Pitchfork told them to, not because it was that great.

I thought that maybe I was just not getting it. But then we ran into some more older folks, people who put on a dance night of their own, and they reiterated my comments. Of course, they were high and one of them kept grabbing my neck and jamming her breasts against face, but they agreed with our assessment.

See, this year I'm trying to be more careful in my criticism. Because recently someone used my last name as a verb which meant to criticize incessantly and without information. And while I was touched by this usage, I would like to think that it could be used to mean criticizing something after being informed or experiencing it.

Or even better, it could stand for making sweet sweet love.

You decide.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's all Greek to me, part 3

More Greece. Here's a black sand beach on Santorini. Notice the stray dog lying in the sand, all emaciated and sad looking. These dogs are everywhere. My first night I arrived at 3 a.m. and discovered that my hostel reservation was for the next night and they were full up. So I wandered around the streets, considering whether or not to sleep outside (it was 70 degrees and perfect). But then homeless guys and homeless dogs started following me up and down the streets and so I ended up talking a different hostelier into giving me a cot in a hallway for 10 euros. Hello, Greece.

Here I am with the famed Santorini in the background. It really is a monument to man's immense insanity. "Hey let's put a village on a cliff, where any volcanic blast can knock us down into the ocean." But damn if that sunset isn't worth eating your toenails for. It just went on and on until I felt guilty of drinking in all that beauty, as if there were little children in China who were starved for sunsets.

And we end with the most bizarre picture of my trip. It's not from Greece; rather, it's from the Vienna airport, and as far as I can tell it's some artist's rendition of this mom's Vijayjay.

Those crazy Austrians.

It's all Greek to me, part 2

Okay, more Greece. There was an awesomely named restaurant called...Moustache! I imagined that Lee/Brian/Moustachio the Indie Rocker Bartender Man About Town Who Stole Eric's Woman That Night eats here when he visits Rini's family (this is much Rickshaw inside joking, which probably isn't that funny even if you know what I'm talking about).

Around the corner on the isle of Mykonos (my favorite overall), you can find On the Rocks and the Jam Bar (which plays, you guessed it, bad Jammy Jam Rock). At On the Rocks, I drank flaming Absinthe and watched some of the whitest people ever try to get funky to the hits of the day (think Justin Timberlake, My Humps, Nelly F's Maneater which I came to really enjoy).

After listening to all the Eurotrash disco and Top 40 pop, I was really jonesing for some good indie music. Imagine my surprise when I saw this poster for a bar that played everything from Franz Ferdinand to the Clash to, um, Metallica. Sadly, it wasn't open yet, since nothing on Ios opens until 11 p.m. (and that's when the vomit starts to flow down it's narrow, quaint footpaths).

This is a very talkative Swedish guy, who went on the cave-swim boat tour. In the background on the right you can sort of see the Brazilian girl I was in love with (she had a boyfriend back in Berlin, where she was taking classes) and on the left there's the French couple I was in love with (they looked straight out of a Tintin book, complete with cowlicks).

Here you can see the white buildings of Ios. These are the buildings that first convinced me to want to come to Greece, back when I watched For Your Eyes Only in 7th grade (my mom wanted me to see the Muppets Take Manhatten with her; it was my first act of rebellion; talk about embarrassing) and then when I saw Summer Lovers with a very young Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher (this was only 2 years ago but the movie was filmed in the 80s and made everything, including threesomes, seem so perfect). The buildings, at least, really are perfect. This is where I want to come to die. My grandchildren can push me up the hills in a wooden wheelbarrow. Ah, that'll be the life.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's all Greek to me, part 1

So I've been meaning to put up some pictures of my Greece trip for ages, but really the pictures kinda blow. The Greek Islands are the kind of place that don't transfer well to a small disposable point-and-shoot camera. So after a while I stopped taking pics of nature and started taking them of weird street signs. Like this one.

It looks like a sign for "Hot & Sour Soup ahead" but it's actually one directing you to the emergency slide on the ferry.

This one seems to suggest that the Robot Walk Olympics will be taking place shortly.

Here's some cool graffiti outside a bar. Andy Warhol is indeed dead.

There were a cool nature shots, including this one, in which the rock seems to be made of stacked up french fries.

And here's where some farmer accidentally found the Venus de Milo. It was buried in a field where there's now a smattering of garbage. It was so quiet that I could hear the people talking who were swimming way down at the bottom of the hill (no, there's no indie rock club here, although there is a small scene in Athens, which of course I attempted to uncover).

Thursday, January 4, 2007

a picture's worth 50,000 words

So, for this year's NaNoWriMo thing, Chris suggested that people make a piece of art to go along with their novel. And then they could bring them to the final party and auction them off.

For my piece, I did a comic novel in four panels. Kind of reminded me of when David Lasky did that mini-comic version of James Joyce's Ulysses. He had to leave a lot of stuff out too.

Here it is...