30 March 2009

My sister-in-law had a gig at Duff's Garage (I love this website, by the way. Don't go to Austin, indeed!) tonight with her "Sentimental Gentlemen." Man, that girl can sing. She's also super cute.

But it's a weird scene. I just don't know what to do with a bunch of adult males (and it was pretty man-heavy in there tonight) who basically dress in costume to go out on a random Monday night. My favorite guy there was this older Japanese guy who had the slicked-back do, and a rockabilly jacket (with embroidered Asian motifs all over it), and Dockers. There was also a guy who looked like he was a 4th place winner at an Iggy Pop look-alike contest, and another one who was a dead ringer for Legs McNeil.

It was a good show. Joy's new lineup is really tight (even though the new bass player looks more like a member of Weezer than a guy in a country-swing band) and she sounded great. If you get a chance you should come see them play.

Quick Thoughts

Make of them what you will:

1. My current favorite song is the acoustic version of "Overkill" by Men at Work (actually, originally by Men at Work. This version just by the lead singer guy, Colin Hay.). I'm listening to it on repeat over and over. I think it might be brilliant, but I'm not sure what it is supposed to be about. What I get from it is that it is a discussion of thinking about something (I think a relationship) obsessively. And Colin Hay has a totally beautiful, weird voice. This song was also randomly part of a Scrubs episode from a couple of years ago. Listen to it. Or wait until January--this one will end up on my 2009 year-end mix.

2. In the midst of all the exciting things in my life (?), I totally forgot that Tricky was performing in town on Friday night, and I didn't get tickets, and I didn't go. I'm sort of sad about this. On the other hand, my experience with Tricky shows is kind of like that fairy tale in which the girl puts on those shoes and can't stop dancing and dances right to her death. Or like the Pied Piper leading all the children out of Hamlin. It's hypnotic. And I'm not easily suggestible.

3. I went and saw I Love You, Man today. It was disappointing, which is saying something, because I had super low expectations. What I realized is that I don't want to watch Paul Rudd play some milquetoast straightman for 2 hours. Paul Rudd without edge is just pretty. That is not enough, particularly when I know the edge is there to be had. Also, it is weirdly a romantic comedy, and that is, hands down, my least favorite genre of film. Yuk. I will say this though--I find humor centered on Rush fairly effective, as well as any running gag in which someone tries to do impressions/accents and always sounds the same. I do not, however, find Lou Ferringo humor funny in the least.

4. I am really angry that I am going to be forced to watch that X-Men Wolverine Origins nonsense film. I don't like comic-films (second least favorite film genre--after romantic comedies), but Liev Schreiber I love. And he's going to be all cat-like. So I have to see it, but I don't have to like the fact that I have to see it.

5. The Space Room is not the same since the smoking ban. It still has the best jukebox, cheapest drinks, and most accurate day-glo wall mural of the Portland skyline in town, but it isn't the same. How am I going to remember that I was even there in the morning if I can't smell the sin in my hair when I wake up?

28 March 2009

Note To Qwanty

Pro hard boiled eggs.

Isn't it nice to know that after all these years there are still things that we don't know about one another?

You are still a mystery to me!

Late Night Rambling.

Just this morning I had a revelation. And this might seem like a totally pretentious thing for me to say. But it is 3:30 in the morning, and I've had a hell of a night, and so I'm going to say it anyway. I had a revelation and it was this: I've become a writer--without even realizing it. Don't freak out. I'm not saying that I am a good writer. But I probably spend more time now in my life writing than I do reading. And I've always thought of myself as a reader (let's face it, after female, daughter, sister, and Oregonian, it is probably the identity category I am most likely to attribute to myself). But in terms of sheer time commitment, I now write more than I read. Not just the blog--but emails, and comments to students, and other stuff too. I write daily. And sometimes for hours a day. And that is a big deal for someone who has always fought her writing. So it was an interesting thing to realize, and maybe a teeny tiny bit of a personal triumph, if I can be a little self indulgent for a moment.

And then I had a rather extraordinary day. Not extraordinary in terms of the world--I didn't take over another country, or walk on the moon, or give birth to eight babies at once, or anything like that. But I had a day that was not ordinary for me. That was more than ordinary. And as I drove home tonight and thought about that day, I was reminded about how woefully inadequate all my attempts at conveying my own experience in words really are. I could try to tell you about my day, but you might not understand why or how it was extraordinary. You might believe me when I tell you that is my experience of it, but you don't know it. You go on faith that I am reporting something as true, or as true as it can be.

I can tell you that I love someone. And I can even try to characterize that love--I can say that I love someone like a brother. Or that I feel platonic love. Or that I feel the remnants of romantic love. But the truth is, everyone that I love, I love differently. And there aren't words to describe those differences. And sometimes the differences are so slight (yet so profound) that there just aren't words to convey the subtlety. I can't explain the color or tone of the love I feel for a particular person. And I also know (or rather, believe,) that no two people who love me love me in the same way. I know this because their love feels different to me. Yet we have this one word that we try to make fit in all kinds of situations with other words that can't possibly express the nuances involved and we hope that other people know-what-we-mean.

Listen, I'm not saying anything that other people, much smarter and more articulate people, haven't said before me and better. All I'm saying is that today (tonight, tomorrow, now--I guess) I am especially struck by the folly of all of us trying to express ourselves. Writing, speaking, reading one another. Trying to do it better. Trying to be more transparent, more efficient, more eloquent, more creative. Trying to communicate experience so that we feel more connected. So that we feel understood.

This is what I do for a living--at least for now. I try to help people do this. And it is a losing battle.

26 March 2009

Boston Crazy

So, I've known a lot of freakin' nutheads in my life. (For example, the person from whom I first heard the term "nuthead". That would be Obi, the Nigerian pharmacist I worked with during the Drugstore Cowgirl days. He would say it when he disapproved of someone--usually a drug seeker--and he would shake his head very slowly back and forth. When I think of this word, I always hear it being said with a Nigerian accent and that slow head shake.)

One of those nutheads was A (I won't use her whole first name, you know, just in case), my roommate the year that I lived in Boston. Here are some facts about her that should convince you that she was c-r-a-z-y:

1. She had decorated her room and the kitchen entirely in apple-themed items. (She was in school to get her teaching degree.) We had apple plates, an apple hot pad, apple napkin holders, apple picture frames, and a giant (REALLY GIANT) apple candle. There is no way that I can convince you about how much apple crap she had, but you can ask Mikey J. He witnessed it.

2. She was agoraphobic. She would get herself out of the house for her classes and her student teaching, but when she came home afterward, she would take off her clothes, and put on her pjs and not leave again. This is a weird, and potentially really unpleasant, quality in a roommate. The only way I could get her out of the apartment was to offer to get ice cream with her at JP Licks.

3. She felt that clothing was "too binding." This explains why she would come home and immediately put on pajamas, with nothing underneath. And why she did the Jane Fonda workout naked. I found this out one morning when I forgot something in the apartment and came back unexpectedly.

4. She had lots of food hangups. Most notably, she refused to eat anything prepared by anyone other than her grandmother. She'd go home every weekend and her grandmother would make her a bunch of food and she'd bring it back to the apartment on Sunday nights and eat it for the rest of the week. She also claimed to hate melted cheese. I found this particularly offensive. Who hates melted cheese? It meant no lasagna, no pizza, no grilled cheese sandwiches. Messed up.

5. She was obsessively crushed out on William Hurt. It is strange enough that William Hurt should be anyone's #1 hottie, but she was SERIOUSLY into him. For her birthday, kinda as a joke, I got her a film still of WH from The Accidental Tourist and then I put it in a frame with hearts all the way around it. This excited her tremendously. She almost burst into tears when she opened it. More strange yet, she put it on the nightstand next to her bed and every night before she turned off the light she would pick it up and talk to it, and kiss it goodnight. Further, she tried to get me to kiss it once or twice (this I would not do). She also took it home with her on the weekends, and I think that she even slept with it under her pillow a few times.

There is more, but they get a little too personal, and even though I know that she will never read this, and none of you will ever meet her, I won't write about them in a public forum. But if you buy me a drink I might tell you about them---

24 March 2009


Somehow my very innocent post about seminarians at Peet's has gotten completely out of control. I apologize to everyone for the off-colour banter between my cousin and one of my nearest and dearest. They have long had a contentious relationship.

(And my sincere apologies to John Cusack, who did nothing to deserve to be drawn into this nastiness. Except maybe agree to be ugly in Being John Malkovich. Why, John? Why?)

Take note

You know what's weird? When some guy from Engineering hits on a lady during a teaching seminar. I would not think that would be a good place to find ladies. 1. You are both under fluorescent lights--which, as we all know, are very unflattering. 2. You are in close proximity to a lot of other, really, really bored people who are likely to notice you touching said lady's knee repeatedly, when there is no discernible reason to do so. 3. There is no alcohol present. 4. If said lady does not return your advances (and how could she, given the circumstances?!), you have to avoid eye contact when you see her on campus for the foreseeable future.

Someone needs to send a memo to Engineering.

23 March 2009

Closing the Generation Gap

So, I don't know what y'all did on Friday night, but I devoted myself to the noble pursuit of helping my 13-year-old cousin procure a copy of the Twilight 2-disc limited edition DVD. This is, I will remind you readers, the second Friday night of my life I have devoted to Katlyn and her Twilight obsession. And I don't really mind. Because I love her even more than I dislike Twilight.

I'm not going to bore you with the details of our odyssey, but I can tell you that it wasn't the most fun pursuit of my life, and it caused us to spend a lot of time in the car, driving around together. Two things saved the night from utter ruin.

The first thing was the conversation. She badly wants to be able to talk to me about the guys (celebrities) she finds "hot". But she's thirteen, and so she gets crushed out on really young, really pretty, kinda girly guys. I'm not thirteen, and even when I was, I don't think that was my thing. So I can't really "relate". This has been going on for a couple of years now. I think that it disappoints her. But during our epic car ride, she happened to ask me if I ever watch That 70s Show. When I told her that I was pretty well acquainted with show, she said, "there is a really hot guy on that show." I groaned inwardly, because I was going to have to tell her that I wasn't a big Ashton fan either. But then she said something unexpected, "I think that Hyde guy is really cute. I mean, he does a lot of drugs and that is gross, but he's cute anyway." Whoo-hoo! Something that we could finally bond over. Of course, Hyde is the hottest character on that show. There was, I'm sort of embarrassed to say, actual high-fiving in the car over the relief of us actually finding someone we could agree on. We also talked about strip clubs a little (she doesn't approve of them) and how it is hard for her to find Robert Pattison attractive now that she knows he played a gay man in a film (you couldn't pay her enough to do that. It must mean that he is actually kind of gay). It's interesting to talk to someone who is thirteen. I recommend it.

The second thing that saved our night was that, at some point, I stuck the CD "Feed the Animals" by Girl Talk in the stereo. Girl Talk is a DJ who creates music (in this case one big, long album-length song) almost purely out of sampling. Normally, this is not my kind of thing. At all. But he uses a lot of 80s stuff, and some fun rock stuff, and I can recognize almost half of what is on there. And it seems pretty witty--both what he chooses and how he puts it together. But what is brilliant is that this is the PERFECT thing for a thirty-something to listen to with a young teen. Because SHE knew everything I didn't, and vise versa. And we both hear stuff in it that we like, and have an equal investment in the music. We listened to the whole album, twice. (I also got to look cool, since I was letting her listen to something that was really pretty objectionable.) I highly recommend this if you have to spend time with a teenager in the near future. You'll both enjoy it.

(By the way, we did finally get a copy of the DVD. She seemed quite pleased with it. It makes me shudder to even imagine how many times she's actually going to watch it--)

19 March 2009

Holy, Holy, Holy

The closest coffee shop to home is Peet's, down at the bottom of the hill. This is fine with me, because of all the chain coffee shops, I find Peet's to be the most acceptable. BUT, there is something really weird about my Peet's, which is that, for some reason I have yet to understand, it is always teeming with male seminary students.

Now, before I get too far into this post, I want to make it clear that this is not an anti-religion post, nor is is an anti-Pastor Jack post (because, Marcus, you are my baby cousin and if you start blowing hard I can always just tell you to shut it, or distract you by talking about my love affair with If Lucy Fell, or I can bring up the topic of degnoming).

What I want to talk about here is the super weird culture that this creates in the coffee shop. First of all, it is full of dudes hugging, offering to buy one another drinks, and talking about how much they love one another. There are really large, really well-worn bibles on most of the tables. You hear the words, "secular," "outreach," "blessing," and the phrase, "God's will" a whole lot more than you do in most other contexts. There is also a LOT of conversation about mission trips, particularly to Mexico. These conversations are often interrupted by the appearance of yet another seminary student, or sometimes a pastor, and conversation ceases for another round of hugging, I-love-you-man-ing, and discussion about what everyone's mothers and sisters (and wives!) are currently up to. Sometimes the hugs are preceded by an enthusiastic clap shake--you know, the shake that starts like a low-5, but ends in a vigorous shake. Weird.

I don't hate these guys because they are Christians, or because they are evangelists (although I am careful about what I read in front of them because I am sort of terrified about them noticing me and starting a conversation with the phrase, "Do you know G--?"). I sort of hate these guys because, if they weren't seminary students, they would be philosophy majors. They would have equally annoying conversations about Nietzsche and Hegel and Kant and his cows. Instead of having spiky hair and wedding rings, they would all wear black and sport tribal tattoos. They wouldn't carry around bibles, but they would carry around really beat up notebooks that they might journal/do pen and ink drawings in.

Both groups of guys are sort of annoying, but in totally similar ways. I'm more used to hanging out in coffee shops with the Nietzsche guys, and I'm less worried about them trying to convert me (I've got mad philosophy skills that I can shut them up with anyway), so I can tune them out more easily. But I find it almost impossible to grade the huge stack of student essays I have in front of me with the chattering of seminary guys in the background.

18 March 2009


Today I was driving up Foster, and I saw two small goats tethered and eating grass on the sidewalk.

15 March 2009

*Kings* To Watch or not to Watch

I gave two hours tonight to watching the first episode of Kings, the new NBC show loosely based on the biblical story of King David. I mostly did this because I was half hoping that it would feature Ian McShane in a business suit, talking to an unattached head in iambic pentameter. That didn't happen--although there were several speeches with Shakespearean themes (Shakespearean lite) littered throughout the two hour premiere.

This is a strange show. And I don't know yet if I'm interested in it or not. One problem is that part of the premise is that the action takes place in a world that is very, very similar to ours, but that clearly is not ours. This is a form of fiction I don't do well with. I either want my fiction to take place in the "real" world, or I want it to be utterly fantastical. (I prefer the former, in general. But if I'm going fantasy or sci fi, I want the created world to be fairly "otherworldly". This was, by the way, one of the reasons I initially had a lot of trouble with the Pullman His Dark Materials series. Too in-between-y.) Another problem is that, like with a lot of fantasy/sci fi (and I actually would consider this show to fit in that category), Kings might, in fact, prove really cheesy. For example, leaders are "chosen" by a swarm of butterflies that form a crown around the head of the elect. This event is actually shown at the end of the first episode. It is silly. And also pretty heavy handed. These considerations might prove deal breakers, but I can't tell yet.

On the positive side, the show has the potential to create a world somewhat like that in Carnivale, a series that I loved. To me, the strength of that narrative was that, while it felt like an epic showdown between good and evil, individual characters were ultimately too morally ambiguous to wear either black or white hats. If Kings moves in the direction of subtlety and ambiguity, it might actually be very good. I am also intrigued by the fact that there is a gay villain. (Or at least, I think that the character is going to be a villain, and, after the first episode, it is clear that he is gay.) There has been some discussion about this already in the media, and I'm interested to see how this particular character is developed.

Finally, Ian McShane is awesome, and it might just be worthwhile to watch it for his performance. He plays a king, but he is a political leader with real power, and not just a figurehead. There is a moment in the first episode that reminded me of what I loved so much about Al Swearengen. At the end of a meeting with his cabinet, he makes gestures toward dismissing everyone, but before he is done, one of the cabinet members stands up. It is clearly a premature move on the member's part, and he has clearly broken protocol. The king stares at the man. There is a very long silence, and the whole shot depends on the power of McShane's stare to create a kind of dramatic tension. The cabinet member is clearly terrified, and the rest of the room is perfectly still in anticipation. McShane never speaks. And I don't think that I exhaled until after the unfortunate man sat back down again.

So, we'll see. I'll at least watch next week . . .

13 March 2009

Thoughts for Today

1. With the rather unexpected news that Mike Bellotti is stepping into his new role as AD at University of Oregon sooner rather than later, the big question everyone is asking is this: will Bellotti's first piece of business be to fire basketball coach Ernie Kent? The consensus before this announcement today seemed to be that Bellotti would wait until after current AD Pat Kilkenny had made a decision about the future of Oregon's men's basketball. This is an especially important time in the history of that program, given the fact that construction is starting on the new Phil Knight-sponsored arena. (It sounds like it is going to be an amazing facility.) Anyway--it will be an interesting situation to watch unfold. Everyone seems excited about new football coach Chip Kelly, who has been a fairly successful offensive coordinator, but who has never been a college-level head coach.

2. I was at Borders this morning in the 'Couve and I saw one of the strangest pieces of marketing. They had a feature table that was full of manga. OK, not weird in and of itself. BUT, the table was also laden with Japanese candy and boxes of Pocky! Now don't get me wrong, I love me some Pocky. But I don't think of Borders as my main Pocky outlet. It kinda freaked me out. Also, did you know that Pocky dipped in DARK chocolate is called (I kid you not) "Man's Pocky." Um. Why? The ladies can't handle dark chocolate? That is certainly not true.

3. I am confused. Am I supposed to LOVE Russell Brand, or HATE him? I don't think that trying to answer this question should send me into existential crisis, yet it almost does . . .

4. For the record, I think that it is totally weird that Anthony LaPaglia is in So I Married an Ax Murderer. How do you go from that to Murder One to Without a Trace? And how does Lantana fit into that trajectory?

12 March 2009

Up is Down, Black is White

Everything is all topsy-turvy. I don't know if is the economy, or my own personal circumstances, or what, but I keep asking myself this question:

Is 2009 really my 1991?

Let me explain:

This weird thing has been happening in the last couple of weeks. The weird thing is that, very suddenly, I have started to respond in a noticeably different way to hearing Nirvana on the radio. I have never been a huge Nirvana "fan". I do not own any Nirvana. There are a few songs on my i-pod, maybe. (I borrowed one of Blake's CDs, probably. The same way that H.I.M. found its way onto my i-pod.) Before three weeks ago, chances would have been even between me listening to something by Nirvana if it came on the radio, and turning to another station. But now, it's a sure thing that I am going to listen. There is upwards of an 80% chance that I will even turn it up. It's strange.

And the way I feel? Comforted. And not in a nostalgic kind of way. I'm not nostalgic about Nirvana. Comforted, and happy, as if I am hearing it for the first time and feeling really glad that it is in my life. As if it is something newly good--not oldly good. Which, again, is weird because I never thought it was that "good" to begin with. I mean, I think I have always been little more than indifferent to Nirvana.

How do I explain this? Well, I can't totally. But I have been developing a theory. In 1991 I was doing the following things: 1. learning to drive, 2. writing a lot of notes with multicolored pens, 3. applying to all-women's colleges, 4. picking out hair ribbons that matched my socks and turtlenecks, 5. leading a Camp Fire group--badly. I was also crying a lot, since one of my two best friends was moving to Norway (the one who was not Qwanty). Actually, come to think about it, I was crying a lot generally. I was one weepy teenager. I was also listening to a lot of Erasure and Kon Kan, thanks to Buzo-created mixes, and Music for the Masses over and over again. There was probably also a lot of Roxette and "Unbelievable" and "Groove is in the Heart" playing in my life that year too. (Camp dances. Pep assemblies. Car rides.) I knew that Nirvana was around, but it wasn't a big part of my reality. And I was not feeling particularly angsty, or angry, or disaffected. I was much, much too suburban and honor societied-out for that.

But now? Oh, G--. At 34 I think I'm turning into a 15-year-old boy. I am angry and I sort of want to break stuff. I think that no one understands me. I want to stomp around in heavy boots and clothing made for warmth-and-not-fashion and wear my hair over my face and draw disturbing images in a notebook that I carry around with me all the time. Well, maybe not really. But kinda. Enough that it actually feels eerily good to listen to a tiny blonde dead man scream lyrics that I mostly don't understand into my car.

10 March 2009

Pretty Packages

(Well, with it sounding as if Rudy is going to be ok, I can concentrate on other things. Thank goodness. Portland fans are particularly fragile at this point in the season.)

Two separate events have led to this post. First, OMD dropping the "Enola Gay" lyrics last week on the Make-Ready. This made me start to think about OMD the band. Second, hearing a 3-play from the Beastie Boys during a "menage a trois" weekend on KUFO this past weekend. As it turns out, Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and the Beastie Boys are both bands that have produced albums that I think are almost perfect. And by that, I do not mean that they are amongst the greatest albums of all time, necessarily. What I mean is that there is something truly wonderful about listening to them from beginning to end. What I mean is that they have a sort of integrity as a whole that I appreciate and enjoy. Here are five examples of what I mean:

The Best of OMD: Ok, it might be super-lame to include a best of album. But hear me out. The album is organized chronologically. And if you sit and listen to it over one sitting, you get to really hear the progression of the band (and I daresay it is representative of a lot of the electronica bands that formed in the late 70s/early 80s and stayed together through the mid-90s) from synth-heavy to synth/rock balanced. Think Depeche Mode. The difference between an album like Speak and Spell (which is probably unfair to talk about, since it so clearly is influenced by the contributions of Vince Clarke, but, well, you know) and an album like Violator is really the proportion of synth elements to instrumental elements, and, particularly, the obvious guitar presence. Anyhoo, it is pretty satisfying to hear that progression taking place over the course of one album. The other thing I like about this as whole is the fact that OMD is actually a strangely versatile band. You wouldn't think so, right? But there is a lot of variety. There are tracks that are clearly dance-y, some that are croon-y, some that are sort of epic sounding. (Well, epic in that alternative-dance-music kind of way). And they are a band that has been often experimental, either with their sound or in their lyrics. For example, I am always sort of surprised when I listen to songs like "Electricity" and "Telsa Girls." What kind of songs are these, anyway? I have a hard time figuring out what these songs are FOR.

For example. The song "If You Leave" is one of the most inexplicable pieces of music I can imagine. The comments that follow, of course, are influenced by the approximate 83 times that I have seen Andrew McCarthy get bleary-eyed over Molly Ringwald's fugly homemade dress in Pretty in Pink (arguably the movie I know the best in the entire world, although my knowledge of Heathers is also impressive). "If You Leave" is a completely inappropriate song to play at a prom, or any dance of any sort. Unless it is a dance where no one is supposed to dance. It is not fast enough to dance alone (you know, alone in a group) to. The lyrics suggest that it is a love song, but it is not slow enough to slow dance to. It's just a bit too dance-y. It's impossible. Whatever you do, you end up looking like an idiot. It makes sense that Blane and Andie go out into the parking lot to make out in front of some headlights (although it does not make sense why Andie cannot hold onto her purse and smooch Blane at the same time). They look stupid, but they look a lot less stupid than their classmates who are inside, trying to decide whether "If you Leave" is a couples or all skate.

The best song on this album, by the way, is "So in Love", which is almost in the middle of the CD version of the album. If you don't listen to the words, you might think that this is a super romantic song. It is not. It is cold and bitter. Sung sweetly. Good music for watching yourself cry in the mirror to. (I mean, I assume so. If you were into that sort of thing.)

License to Ill: This may be the only album that I own on vinyl, cassette AND CD. Really. I think it is one of the best ROCK albums of all time. Disagree. Go ahead. I've given you lots of ammunition in that statement. I get it. But it rocks. Hard.

But this is not why I like to listen to it beginning to end. I like to listen to it beginning to end because I also think that it is a great piece of storytelling. For years, I talked about writing an article called "Narrative Structure in License to Ill." I'm not ever going to actually do it, but I do think that it's fascinating. First of all, the narration is shared. This, of course, isn't weird given the rap/hip hop influences of the Beastie Boys. What IS weird though is that the narration itself is phenomenally linear and traditional. (And by traditional, I mean downright DWG traditional.) It is even folky. Seriously. Their stories often have clear beginnings, middles, ends. There is fairly little meta-discourse--fairly little editorializing. The "morals" come directly from the stories themselves. THERE IS NO DOUBLE CONSCIOUSNESS IN BEASTIE BOYS SONGS. This may be obvious. They are middle-class Jewish boys (were boys). It is a completely different narratological strategy from the tradition that they are, presumably, borrowing from. It's also part of the reason that the record has been sort of personally embarrassing to them. (More on this in a moment.)

But the narratives are shared. There are clearly three voices, but, arguably, only one perspective. Stories are dropped by one speaker and picked up by another. But the sense is that all three voices are in agreement about the events in the songs and the interpretation of those events. While there is some differentiation between the personalities, it is slight and rather one-dimensional. (Um, like Ad-rock is the sort of the kooky one.) What makes this especially interesting is what that perspective IS. It is the perspective of really, really dirt-baggy young men. It is about bravado, a lack of understanding of mortality or other consequences of action. It is about a lack of sensitivity. It is about a lack of responsibility generally. And what is awesome about that is that it is a kind of reflection of reality of a particular kind of guy. A guy who TOTALLY exists in this world, but rarely has an outlet (or the creativity or the native intelligence) to honestly express himself. I'm not saying that this was really who any of these guys were at the time. What they created was a self-consciously constructed narrative voice (in three parts). It is also not to say that it wasn't really who these guys were at the time. The reason that it works, and that it is convincing, is because there was some truth to it. But that is also why they felt a need to apologize to women (including their mothers and significant others) years after the album. It was offensive. It does suggest, and even say outright, some pretty awful things about women. I don't care. It's not like some boys (here I am being very intentional with my language) don't really say those things--further, it isn't like some don't really think those things. The expression of the ideas puts them on the table in a productive way. The fact that they are self-consciously constructed versions of those ideas (constructs that, in and of themselves contain some irony and self-mocking), make them somewhat more safe versions of the real-world attitudes that they represent.

Like a book of short stories, License to Ill presents its audience with a series of themes, and variations upon them. The album is littered with references to White Castle, slutty and criminal women, unnecessary violence. The repetition and variation of these themes over the course of the album creates a portrait of a dystopic white teenage wasteland. It isn't an accurate portrait of late 1980s Jewish Brooklyn or the Jersey suburbs, but it IS, it seems to me, an accurate portrait of how those environments might be perceived by dirtbag teenage boys, characterized by their extreme self-centeredness and myopia.

Plus, did I mention that it rocks? That it is completely listen-able? That it is often very funny and witty--on both the lyrical level and in terms of the sampling?

Abbey Road: To be fair, I suppose that I should remind my readers that Abbey Road might, in fact, be my favorite album of all time. Certainly it is my stuck-on-a-desert-island-with-only-one album. I'm starting to get really long winded here, so I will limit myself. The very best thing about this album is that it represents all of what the Beatles offered in their (relatively) short career. There is a good, and ultimately radio-friendly love song ("Something"), psychedelia ("Because"), a straight ahead rock and roll song ("Come Together") a MEDLEY!, and a goofy Ringo song ("Octopus's Garden", which, if you have been paying attention, you know was my introduction to the Beatles.) If I ever have a boy child, I will name him Maxwell. After "Maxwell's Silver Hammer." Is it a cliche to name a child after a Beatles song? Maybe. Do I care? No. Suck it.

Listening to Abbey Road, like reading the novel Frankenstein, is enriched by knowing the story behind it. Not only does it encompass all the facets of the Beatles' sound, it also has a narrative trajectory ("Come Together"--an invitation to gather, to "The End") and is made more moving by the fact that it represents the end of band altogether. This is part of the brilliance too of the John and Paul sides of the album. It is split in two. Two sides of one coin. Two different voices that must be contained, yet cannot be contained together. The metaphoric potential--

And, of course, don't get me started on the cover art . . .

Louder Than Bombs: Oh damn. Another compilation. I'm not very good at this, am I? But really, it's a lovely package. You might notice some themes by now. There is variety on this disc, right? You have the black songs like "Asleep" and "Unlovable", the dance-y "William, It Was Really Nothing" and "Sheila Take a Bow", and the super, super, super sexy "Hand in Glove" and "Rubber Ring." ("Rubber Ring" is one of the MOST sexy songs I can think of, actually. It's up there with "So Alive" and "Low" and "Hey Pretty"--but I digress.) Sure, often Moz's lyrics are completely self-indulgent and insipid, but they are accompanied by Johnny Marr's guitar, and what could be LESS self-indulgent and insipid than that? (Oh, Johnny Marr.)

And that's another thing about the album--that same yin/yang quality provided by the Lennon/McCartney partnership. There is something amazingly satisfying about what comes out of partnerships with tension. (Not interpersonal tension--creative tension. I don't believe that interpersonal tension is necessary for creative tension. So there.)

"Ask" is maybe my favorite song on the album. I'm shy! I'm coy! I need to be coaxed! If I were a sensitive dude, I would also spend my summer inside, writing poems to some girl in a European city-state!

You will notice that I am beginning to get rummy. I've been writing for a long time now. And I am also drinking afternoon beer. As a result, this is turning into a noticeably inconsistent post.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
: In general, I am somewhat conflicted about Wilco and about Jeff Tweedy (who, mostly, I think is sort of annoying). And I know that this is an enormously popular album. But, really, it is lovely, from start to finish. I think that what makes this such a well-packaged album is the transitions. There is nothing jarring about them. One song feeds sort of seamlessly into the next. And it isn't that the whole album sounds the same (oh, does it? I don't think it does.), it is more that there is a strong internal logic to the tracks and the way that they are arranged.

The first time I ever listened to this album was the day after one of the most fun parties I've ever been to. It was at Jane's parents' house, which is, well, an unusual place. The party was HUGELY eventful. The next day, I went to Jane's, ostensibly to help her clean the place (we drank out of "real" glasses, so there was a lot of cleaning to do). But really, we spent most of the day sitting in the living room, with all the windows open, and the gauzy curtains blowing, listening to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on continuous play, while we debriefed about the party for hours. The only thing that really marked the time was the way that the light changed in the room. We must have sat there for six hours.

Now, good memories related to an album is not enough to land it on this list. What does land it on the list is this: listening to YHF is actually just like sitting in a living room while light changes and a slight breeze rolls through. It is time passing without notice.

And it contains the cutest KISS-related song of all time, which always makes me think of Chuck Klosterman now.

Are you (the plural you) still reading? There are others too, but this is fairly representative of what I mean. When Chinese Democracy came out in the fall, Klosterman wrote that it was the last album that would be considered as a whole, thanks to our current music-delivery technology. I hope that isn't true. There is something about the whole of something--songs strung together with some sort of intention--that is, well, more than the sum of the parts. This is why I love (and fear for) the art of the mix--there is much that can be expressed in the art of the compilation.

09 March 2009

I had some really important sports thoughts on Friday. So important that I completely forgot them until today.

1. I hate football a lot. And of all the NFL teams out there, I think I hate the Cowboys the most. But even I had to applaud their decision to cut T.O. And since I understand that it would be ridiculous for a future hall of famer to not find another job tout de suite (and don't think that I wasn't hoping against hope that he'd just become another unemployment statistic), I am at least glad to hear that a) he only has a one year contract with the Bills. He might even be enough of a pain in their ass that one year is all it will take for them to want to "set a new tone in the locker room" as well. b) he will be freezing off extremities that will not be named here. (I am a lady, afterall.)

2. As much as I hate football, and the Cowboys, there is something I hate even more. (Yes, fake hustle, but that's not what I am talking about right now.) Mercenary athletes. Athletes who only care about the bottom line and don't seem to be moved at all by the franchise for which they play--not the city, the fans, the tradition of a program. I think that loyalty is worth a little something. Perhaps this has to do with growing up in a one-sport, one-team town like PDX. But here, we like our athletes to like being our athletes. (And if you don't believe that, consider the true outpouring of love and regret over the passing of Kevin Duckworth last year.) Anyhoo--I suppose the 2-year contract between mercenary athlete Manny Ramirez and the Dodgers, from that city-without-a-soul, is fitting. But G--, how can anyone really celebrate THAT? I mean, I get it. The guy is a great baseball player, or something. But he just doesn't seem to care that much about who he plays for. I would think that even the zombie fans in LA would care about the lack of enthusiasm. (And I know, I know, everyone reports that Ramirez wants to be playing in LA, but he sure doesn't sound like it when he talks. And, sure, everyone tries to make as much money as he or she can, but faking a little enthusiasm about the job can't hurt.)

Finally, a word to the gentlemen of the Blazers: please win tonight. Phil Jackson said in a press conference this week that the reason that the Lakers have a sizable losing streak at the Rose Garden is because of the incessant rain and all the depressing faces in Portland. AHHHH! Take your crystals and your incense and well, you know, Mr. Jackson.

Today I asked Ella (who is still a week shy of being 4, officially) if she knew who the Blazers are playing tonight. She said, "no, who?" I said, "the Lakers." She made a face like something really foul had just hit her nose and said, "Oh, I don't like the Lakers."

She's not even four, people! We're all so proud.

Very Important Query

Why are coffee sleeves ubiquitous now?

I mean, I try to remember to bring my own coffee mug, but I don't always. And then I get a paper cup, which I already feel sort of guilty about. And now they just AUTOMATICALLY put extra cardboard around my coffee every time it is in a paper cup. This is too bad, for a few reasons:

Most of the time I get an Americano with (cold) soy milk. The soy milk cools the coffee down easily enough that I can hold the cup comfortably without something between my hand and the cup.

I have 2 reusable sleeves of my own that I pretty much always have with me (whether I have a mug or not). One of them is silicone and pink and works beautifully. The other (a recent birthday gift from a thoughtful friend) is black, beautifully designed, and can actually also be worn as a bracelet. But I don't get to use them. Unless I take off the cardboard sleeve, which seems kind of rude after someone went to the trouble to put it on.

It also just isn't very (and I HATE this term, by the way), green.

Coffee with milk almost NEVER requires a sleeve. And if you are one of those assholes that orders your latte "extra hot" or--worse yet--at a specific temperature, you deserve burnt hands.

So what I am saying is this: can we go back to the days when the sleeves were optional? Please.

08 March 2009

A message from your friendly vampire

I hate Daylight Savings Time.


I like the dark. I do not like having to adjust to getting up an hour early in the spring--and I mean, BARELY the spring, now that the brain trust in Washington decided to extend DST. It really added insult to injury that, on the same day that I lost a full hour of weekend, it also freakin' snowed in Portland. I do not like the assumption that light is somehow better than darkness, or that the only form of S.A.D. is a reaction to less light. Screw that.

It's enough to make me want to move to Arizona. Those crazy, old Republicans have it right. Down with DST.

06 March 2009

Happy Birthday!

I just returned home from the second and final night of Mikey J's birthday extravaganza 2009. (He mildly objects to the "extravaganza" part, but that's how I like to think of it.)

Tonight was the mellow part of the celebration--dinner at Dots (eat your heart out displaced Portlanders!) and our now customary Friday night drinks at North, which we redecorated in our heads as we downed our bevies.

For his birthday, I got Mike tickets to the Reading Frenzy benefit at Holocene last night. It made me happy to be able to support RF, which is my favorite alternative media outlet. I also figured it would make Mike happy to attend an event where he could see Carrie Brownstein (who was showing some of her Thunderant shorts) and Corin Tucker, who was playing a short set of all-new solo songs. He loves those Sleater-Kinney girls!

There were also a couple of readings, and other bands (we both sort of liked Explode into Colors) and there were a lot of hipsters. Mike had a few drinks, and found one guy and one girl who he wanted to rumble with. The guy, he argued, deserved an ass kicking for sporting a ridiculous mullet-becomes-a-rat-tail. The girl's offence was wearing overly ironic garb. She was dressed like Bailey from WKRP, but she wasn't as cute. He kept his cool though. During Tucker's show a drunk, loud, obnoxious S-K fangirl almost got a beat down. I could have gotten behind that one. She was truly deserving. But, ultimately, Mikey is a lover (so I hear), and not a fighter. Thus, she got off easy with just a well-justified verbal lashing.

We also heard a horrible short story about a giant slug and a "vixen" named Teresa, delivered by the guy behind How's Your News and we saw one of the ladies that Mike has recently been on a date with. All in all, it was an entertaining evening.

Happy birthday, Mikey J! The anniversary of your birth is something worth celebrating.

03 March 2009

One more

for Qwanty. (And maybe also for J-Bro, if she's out there somewheres.)

We went to the Delta for a little Portland soul on my birthday. And by "Portland soul" I mean corn and black eyed pea fritters and a lovely drink that was made with Earl Grey-infused vodka and soy milk (over ice). The dinner party was made up of myself, my parents, Ryan, Joy, and my lovely niece and nephew.

They were playing the Beach Boys. This pleased my niece, who loves her some Beach Boys, some Buddy Holly, and some Joan Jett. (Go figure.)

This also led to a startling revelation about my mother, the Kare Bear. Apparently, her favorite Beach Boys song is "The Sloop John B." Weird, huh? I didn't know that this was anyone's favorite Beach Boys song.

That Karen is an original.

Speaking of Grandparents

OK, so have I ever written about the "Hunter's Banquet" (now, I guess called the "Sportsman's Banquet")? I don't think that I have. Which is weird, because the HB is one of the strangest things that is not really exactly a part of my life, but is something that sort of borders uncomfortably on my life. I forget about it most of the year. And then, suddenly, all the men in my family (with the exception of my youngest brother) are making plans to attend this event together and I am reminded again of the fact that this very weird thing is sort of part of my life experience. Let me explain:

For decades, my grandfather has been involved in a yearly event called the Hunter's Banquet. I have never attended this event (more on this in a moment), but here is my understanding of it: a bunch of church-goin' men who like to kill things for sport and have lifetime memberships to the NRA get together once a year for fellowship. They show off their recent taxidermy work, tell tall tales about fishing and hunting, win fishing/hunting related door prizes (everything from scopes, to knives, to gloves), and eat game. (And also bridge mix, which is sprinkled on the tables and is meant to represent--I kid you not--scat. Marvelous.)

The reason that I only have a shadowy idea of what happens at this event is that, for most of my youth, I was not invited because this was a men (and manchildren) only event. Now, it is true that I would not, at any point in my life, have been interested in attending this event. But the absolute exclusion based on my gender never really sat well with me. To make matters worse, I knew that there were women allowed to serve the men at the banquet, but this was the extent to which they were allowed to participate. Think I am exaggerating? Part of the event used to be that there was a bell that someone would ring every time a man mentioned anything about a female--be she a lady, or a doe. Um. Really.

At some point this started to change. I don't know that there are many women who go now, but my niece went this year and it sort of sounds like everyone enjoyed having her here. (How could they not. As any of you who have met her know, she's a damn charming person.) That said, I am sort of ashamed to admit that I harbour some negative feelings toward this event. It represents a lot of stuff that I really hate and that I don't have much of a sense of humor about. On the other hand, it isn't my deal. And I really only have to hear about it once a year, which amounts to nothing more than a mild irritation.