Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The End of Academic Freedom

A bill is being passed in the US whereby students can sue professors for not teaching them what they want to be taught, not respecting the students' own opinions, and... actually, I feel too dazed by this and life in general this week to comment. The planet is insane and I'm no better. I need a good night's sleep.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Jandek to Play Another Live Gig!

If anyone has a whole lot of money and wants to fly me to England to see Jandek play live on May 22nd, I will gladly assent to give up my self-determination on non-working nights and serve as their slave for the next year; please do contact me with specific terms.

I guess he enjoyed playing the Glasgow gig!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Feeding Tube Blues

You know, I've been idly following all the rather predatory media hype over Terry Schiavo and her feeding tube, and I have to put in my own two cents here: the "liberal left" (which I consider myself more or less a part of) is fucking up. Or perhaps it's the American judiciary. Something grotesque is happening here, and it's going to do nothing to bring the American right -- drifting into an hysterical, militant Christianity -- back towards sanity, or to aid the cause of people who believe in the "right to die." How can anything good come from this at all? Terry Schiavo is a day or two away from full fledged martyrdom, and her death is going to turn into a cause for mourning and grief for a good percentage of the United States -- mostly the same people who voted for Bush. Nevermind whether Terry Schiavo would want to continue to stay alive in these circumstances; if she was a decent, intelligent person, she wouldn't want to be turned into another victory for the Bush people, another tool they could use to convince the electorate that the Republican party represent them. Something singularly cruel is being done to this woman's parents, too. It's a rather heartless spectacle, depressing all around, not aided by the fact that the most frequently circulated photograph of Schiavo shows someone who apparently is capable of emotion, care, recognition, and probably some form of thought. What the fuck is wrong with the United States, anyhow? I don't understand.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Spielberg and Cloning

...I just rewatched the sequel to Jurassic Park this weekend. It's my "favourite" Steven Spielberg film; it seems his most misanthropic -- you genuinely want to see some characters get eaten -- and in a way it most perfectly embodies the contradictions of his work, overtly praising and celebrating the family and human emotional integrity while at the same time being ruthlessly manipulative to the point of heartlessness. It seems his most auteur-like film, the most essential distillation of what he's doing -- basically a Jaws remake, but much, much more revealing (however unintentionally) of the true nature of his work. Plus there are some wonderfully fun little details. The video store poster for Arnold Schwarzenegger as King Lear is as hilarious a jab at Hollywood as I've seen (screen capture on this page, if you scroll down). I wonder if Spielberg is self-hating enough to have the mock-up identify the movie as "a Steven Spielberg film"...? Also, the cut from the mother screaming to Jeff Goldblum yawning, early in the film, somehow merits some sort of respect, makes Spielberg worthy of inclusion in the filmic fraternity sometimes referred to as "the cinema of cruelty." And what can I say, I like Pete Postlethwaite, and I admire the blatant Gorgo ripoff (sometimes ripoffs can induce a feeling of intimacy with the thief in charge). Anyhow, here's some fun trivia about the film.

But that's not what I was blogging about -- I just happened to bump into a couple of interesting links on articles on cloning. Russian scientists are apparently gearing up to clone a mammoth; and organic matter, tho' nothing likely to have DNA, has possibly been found inside a tyrannosaurus skeleton (does anyone else out there find the shortened moniker "T-rex" to be kind of offensive, a tacit admission that no one can spell?). On the heels of a viewing of The Lost World, it was kind of neat to read these stories.

I really should write something about the Jurassic Park films... The first two, anyhow. They're fascinating.

Monday, March 21, 2005

On the Simulacra of Ikea

Hey, I never noticed this before: the TVs, stereos, VCRs, and so forth in the Ikea showrooms, illustrating how their various TV stands and cabinets look when occupied, are all fakes -- empty plastic shells, props. You can pick them up, shake them -- they're hollow. The wine bottles in the wine racks are all sealed, corked, and empty -- there was never wine in them, I guess. I found this quite odd and interesting. Somewhere there's a company manufacturing these things...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hank Williams vs. Nurse with Wound

My upstairs neighbour is blasting the Hank Williams again.

Understand: there's something I really like about the idea of listening to Hank Williams through the ceiling of my apartment (aka my upstairs neighbour's floor). Not just the idea of it, not just its creation of a pleasantly basement-below-the-honky-tonk environs, which I admit has some sorta folksy conceptual appeal; but rather, because there's something about the intervening floor/ceiling's set of filters and baffles and mutes that quite improves the sound quality, bends and softens and spreads it out in a kind of interesting way. If I close my eyes and listen I can make it do interesting things in my brain. Hell, it's so good that the next time I feel like listening to Hank Williams -- and do realize that I sometimes do and can sing the whole damn lyric to "Lost Highway," and not because I have a passing regard for Jeff Buckley or Townes van Zandt or someone else who might've covered it -- I may just go upstairs and ask my neighbour to put some on. I might even buy him or her something a bit more interesting than his Greatest Hits for Christmas -- maybe they'll take the hint, if I leave a note, "If I have a choice, I like this one better. Fondly, the guy downstairs" -- maybe something with "I Heard My Mother Praying For Me," say. I could get him/her American Music by Johnny Cash, too, which, again, I find more appealing than interminable repetitions of "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line." Hell, maybe I'll buy them some Woody Guthrie and the Smithsonian Fucking Folkways Classic Mountain Music compilation, while I'm at it -- I'm getting to know their tastes pretty well and they just might dig it. The key, though, really, about being able to appreciate this kind of music, is that listening to it must be VOLUNTARY.

Right now, I'd really rather be listening to Nurse with Wound. Finally bought (rather than request a burn of or download) my first one this week (yes, I know, I'm way late, I came late to Zoviet France, too). It's Drunk with the Old Man of the Mountains. "Swamp Rat" is definitely a keeper. Put the headphones on and turned it up quite a bit and was able briefly to not hear the Hank Williams competing with it. Oh, but here's "Jambalaya!" My father used to always sing this one... Hell, he still may sometimes. And that mean’s “Kaw-liga” is next…

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Buying Furniture off the Homeless

...so there I am, sitting in my buddy's car, parked in the alley behind my building. I have my pipe in my pocket and a nicely oddened mind, which is being entertained by his interminable struggles to secure something like decent customer service from the head offices of Fido (a tale fraught with many troubles, for which we have arrived at the tentative title of "Bitten by Fido;" but it's not a tale I intend to tell tonight). I imagine that in a normal state of mind I would be more impatient to get on with my evening, since I have to hear him explain his situation several times over, as the stalwart phone people (who can do nothing themselves but talk) find new and creative ways to refuse to let him speak to their supervisors (who could actually resolve the situation). Stoned, this steadfast resistance on the part of the phone reps, and my friend's dogged insistence on negotiating the obstacles they place in his way, begin to form into somewhat of an epic narrative, with dramatic tension provided by the various unresolved questions that arise as I listen, like whether my buddy will lose his cool, flip out, and start screaming; if the phone people will actually ever just hang up on him if he continues to press his point; if they will, if he remains determined and civil, ever provide him with anything like satisfaction; and if so, how much work exactly it will take on his part. It's fascinating to see a wealthy corporation protect itself so adamantly from dealing with the customers it allegedly is serving. I sit and listen for half an hour or more before my mind starts to wander.

Looking out the windshield, I notice a homeless guy dragging some furniture down the alley. He's got a 8"X4" sheet of some sort of wood and a large-backed chair with ripped grey upholstery that he's juggling, shifting about, dragging, picking up, dropping. Clearly he's just dragged these from a dumpster. I gather these guys prefer to be called "binners," that "dumpster diver" is politically incorrect (perhaps because it suggests jollity and sport, rather than a grim struggle for survival; "binner" has more dignity, I guess). My first thought is that the guy is having a bitch of a time, and I observe his efforts rather neutrally, as one might watch an ant dragging a dead beetle along the sidewalk, feeling, if anything, only an idle admiration for its gumption, when I realize that I've been intending to buy another chair for my apartment for quite some time, in case guests come over. This chair looks potentially comfortable enough for someone to sit and watch a film in, say, while being slim and small enough to fit in my bachelor pad; plus I imagine I can get a fairly good deal on it. My final thought is the first and only marginally altruistic one that flashes through my mind, offered as justification for spending money: I'll be sparing said binner from his labours, doing him a good turn. We're just behind my building, after all; it's easier for me to carry it to my place than for him to carry it to... wherever exactly he's carrying it. His doorway, his stash, his niche in another alley.

I get out of the car. He has just lost control of the sheet and the chair and half-toppled over with them, cursing. He is covered in grime, appears to be in his early 40's, and has dark facial hair and a wiry build. His first glance at me conveys suspicion and fear.

"Hey, buddy, are you planning on selling that thing?" I say, indicating the chair, and his face immediately flushes with relief.

"You bet!"

"How much do you want for it?"

"Anything you want to give me!"

Well, he's clearly not much of a capitalist, but I figure a shop might offer him five bucks for it. I offer him seven, and he takes it, grinning. He explains that the plywood is for a buddy who is building something, and lets me know -- nice guy! -- that there's an easy chair down the alley, too, in case I want it. I consider it. Somehow, the idea of liberating furniture from the garbage myself seems less legitimate, more of an indignity, than buying it off a binner; by his claiming it and dragging it down the alley, by the sweat of his labour, he has transformed it from garbage to commodity, whereas for me to take a chair from the garbage myself... it would remain garbage.

I briefly meditate on this as he drags his plywood out of the way of an oncoming car. As we prepare to part, he presents me with a blackened fist, raised in some sort of apparent handshakelike gesture of completion. I don't know what to do with it, though. Do I punch it, knuckles to knuckles? I look at my own hand in obvious confusion and then briefly place my open hand over his fist.

Sensing my confusion, he explains, "I do it like this because you don't know where my hand has been."

This strikes me for a moment, and then I shoulder the chair and begin to haul it towards the back door of my building.

"It cuts off your circulation," he calls. "Be careful." He continues on his way with the sheet of wood.

"It's okay, I live right here," I say. I feel a bit guilty about that, afterwards -- like maybe he might feel a flicker of resentment at being reminded that of the two of us, I'll be sleeping indoors tonight. But probably he was just happy to have gotten rid of the chair and made a bit of cash...

When I get back downstairs, chair safely in my apartment (where I pause to take another hit off my pipe) my friend is still on the phone with Fido. I meditate on all these hierarchies we're implicated in, hierarchies of wealth, of power. How we tend to concentrate so much more on the shit that flows down on us from above, the injustices and inequities that we are the victims of, rather than the shit that flows out from behind us, and the effect it has on those even lower in the chain, spattered with it, rummaging through the stuff we throw away.

It's not a bad chair, anyhow. Wonder how the rest of his night went...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Black Fucking Mountain, Man; plus Thoreau

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. What a show, folks.

The aggressive bouncers of Richards on Richards finally cleared the place around 1:30 AM, while my guitarist buddy networked with the Black Mountain keyboard player, trying to make connections. My interaction with the keyboard player, one Jeremy Schmidt, when I stumbled up, went like this:

Me: I really liked what you were doing, man. Some really nice textures in there. It kept being the instrument that I stood out and noticed...

Jeremy: Thanks!

Me: Do you guys listen to the Acid Mothers Temple a lot?

Jeremy: I sure do!

We went on to talk about AMT's last Seattle gig, which I missed; Kinski, tonight's first opening act, were apparently there, as well. The conversation confirmed, as if the music still left anything that required confirmation, that these guys are onto some very cool stuff. A heavier, more melancholy, more jam-oriented atmosphere infused much of tonight's set than one would necessarily have expected from the CD, but that, for me, was a very very good thing. Everything that I really like about their recording was augmented, and there was lots of space opened up for creating swirling, druggy soundscapes (hence the question). The band have a definite we-don't-care-how-we-look ambience that may restrict their, uh, marketability, but maybe that's the point -- and who doesn't want to jam their middle finger up the market's ass, these days?

But it's 2 AM and I gotta work in the morning. And on that topic, check out this Thoreau quote, folks:

...the laboring man has not leisure for a true integrity day by day; he
cannot afford to sustain the manilest relations to men; his labor would be
depreciated in the market. He has no time to be any thing but a machine. How can
he remember well his ignorance -- which his growth requires -- who has so often
to use his knowledge? We should feed and clothe him gratuitously sometimes, and
recruit him with our cordials, before we judge of him...

Reading it for the second time tonight, a bit twisted, I rebelled against something that I felt was somewhat classist in this sentiment, some presumption that workers are less cultured or such, which I hadn't noticed before; but I kept coming back to the one sentence, "How can he remember well his ignorance -- which his growth requires -- who has to so often use his knowledge?" That's my life in a nutshell, folks. I have no time or energy to really open myself up, to attain humility, to remember how ignorant I am; I have to play expert all goddamn day. I don't know very much about life at all -- except that as long as I have to work full time, this condition will not change much. To even lie back, exhale, and take the time to connect to my situation emotionally -- to ask myself where I am, let alone how I feel about it -- seems a luxury.

Ah, work. At one point, the bassist for Black Mountain stepped up to the mike to suggest that they'd play the encore we were demanding, but we were the ones "who had to work in the morning." I shouted in reply: "Fuck work!" I may be eating those words, oh, about five hours from now, but sometimes one needs to rebel just a little, even if in thoroughly harmless ways.

Please God, make the hangover mild.

To my audience: GO SEE BLACK MOUNTAIN.

Post Script: well, as God would have it, I had to duck out of class once my students were working on a grammar exercise to lock myself in the staff toilet and vomit. It's now 4:20 in the afternoon and I still have a mild headache, and I think I'm about to have another bout of diarrhea (one of the very few words the correct spelling of which remains a constant issue for me). Unless they noticed how red my eyes are and said nothing, tho', I think I passed for a sober, functional ESL teacher today. What does not kill me makes me... well, kind of tired and sore, in this instance. I will survive.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Work Sucks (on a) Black Mountain (in a) Cow Freakshow

Ah. I like my job, really, except lately I have this new class I have to prepare materials for, which is sapping most of my energy for doing other things, like drinking, smoking pot, going to concerts, watching movies, and, most significantly, writing. It's been awhile since I've had the time/energy/inspriration to write anything substantial at all -- even my blog is suffering. I'll try to make time to write about tonight's Black Mountain gig at Richards on Richards (a cause of some excitement, thus far; I've never seen Mr. McBean perform live, under any alias). Meantime I just have to try to keep people amused here however I can, noting whatever trivial amusements I encounter in my cyberschelppings.

So here's an article about the world's first recorded cow freakshow. What can I say, it amuses me.

Friday, March 11, 2005

John Lurie website developments

Well, here's some news. John Lurie, erstwhile leader of the Lounge Lizards and soprano sax player, has removed the "tour" section from his rather infrequently updated website, Strange and Beautiful, and replaced it with an "art" section. For the last five years, anyone visiting his site has seen an announcement that "John will be taking a hiatus from music while he works on a book," supposedly entitled What do you Know about Music, you're not a Lawyer. The "live archive" only stood as a reminder of how long it had been since Lurie and co. had performed -- not since 1999. Over the last few years, while dealing with (apparently) a period of illness and deep disillusionment with the music business, and whilst doing some work acting -- on the series Oz, I hear, for one, tho' I've never seen any of his work there -- Lurie has been busy reinventing himself as a painter. Don van Vliet he's not, but his paintings are still rather pleasing, and make for amusing temporary desktops. I still am fondest of the "One Bird Wants to Fuck Two Snakes; Snakes are Appalled" painting that graced the cover of the Lounge Lizards final (?) recordings, Queen of All Ears, but it's fun perusing Mr. Lurie's art. Pardon me if I don't try to say anything particularly articulate about it.

By the way, the story goes that when Lurie was founding Strange and Beautiful as a label, he considered naming his company "I'm naked," so his employees, when answering the phone, would have to say "Hello, I'm naked." Haw.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Homosexual Duck Necrophilia on the Internet

The Fortean Times just provided me a link to a Guardian article on duck necrophilia. What interests me is that I saw the original some months ago: there's a PDF file out there on homosexual duck necrophilia -- probably the most fun phrase I've ever entered into a search engine. I wonder if someone was just surfing the web, bumped into this particular story, and decided to make a news report out of it...? Kinda like I'm doing now. When news is news...

By the way, animal necrophilia has been made illegal in Oregon, though assumedly the law is not designed for ducks.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Another Really Hard Free Cell

23424. Sheesh.

One Small Step for a Blogger; Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 37 today. Crank up "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan," someone, willya?

Also: a blogger was admitted to an official White House press briefing this week. Does this mean I'm a member of the press, too? How can I get perks out of this, I wonder...?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Fantomas vs. Naked City

With apologies to Mike Patton, I just listened to the first Fantomas album back to back with Naked City's Torture Garden today, and you know what? I don't think I'll ever bother with the first Fantomas album again; why would I, when I can just listen to Torture Garden? It's amazing how much better that album is -- nothin' to do with issues of authenticity or originality or anything; it's just flat-out more musically exciting.

I'll still listen to Fantomas' Director's Cut disc, though... another matter entirely. Actually, I think I'll spin it now.

See y'all at tomorrow's Bukowski movie at the Ridge.

Friday, March 04, 2005


I remember well from my acidhead days the way sounds had colour and taste equivalents; browsing for interesting reading as per my morning rituals, I have encountered the story of a 27-year-old woman who has this ability in spades (without chewing up little bits of paper, apparently). How fortunate she seems to me! Someone should come up with a designer drug that does nothing but enhance one's experience of synaesthesia -- put me down for a hundred lot.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Dog Dreams, Dog Suicides, plus Reverse Culture Shock

I dreamed of dogs last night. The narrative was unclear, but I was going through doors and alleyways, trying to get somewhere important, when I was surrounded by dogs -- all of them very friendly, nuzzling me, licking me, wanting my attention. All big, confident, intelligent-seeming dogs -- just the kind of dog I'm fond of. I remember feeling a bit of fear at being surrounded by so many, and gratitude that they were all so nice to be around. I delayed myself, held up the person I was with, because I was having so much fun saying hi to the dogs.

Browsing the Fortean Times this morning, then, looking for interesting headlines, this story caught my eye, of a bridge in Glasgow where five (unrelated) dogs have apparently leaped to their death. It's all quite mysterious... Why would dogs kill themselves, and why at this particular spot?

Hey, if anyone reads this: overseas correspondent Jetbert is considering a return to Vancouver. What should he be ready for when he gets back here, after years of teaching in Japan? How can we help soften the transition? What Vancouver news does he need to know? I've already told him that Gordon Campbell is probably on the way out and reminded him that he should get here for the jazz and film festivals... and that parking is a bitch downtown. What else?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Corpse Art Factory

One wonders if this guy (one Gunther von Hagens) , who makes art out of plasticized corpse bits, has any friends among the Viennese Aktionists (whose performances often involved ritualistic use of steaming animal organs, blood, and such)?

It's probably just as well that I'm not that interested in these matters, tho' it's oddly pleasing to know that it's going on out there, somehow.

DDT linked to Frog Hermaphroditism

Frog mutations interest me, what can I say?