Extra sugar, extra salt, extra oil and MSG!

Monday, June 30, 2003

I've been having a hard time figuring out how to write about current life and library events without revealing my identity, but the impulse to describe one of our new regulars is too strong to resist. I call her The Bearded Lady. She's around forty years old, white, with thick tufts of dark hair covering her chin. She's been banned from volunteering anywhere in the library system due to her erratic behavior. Recently she's been coming to our branch and showing up for book club meetings to eat the free food, even though she hasn't read any of the books. She's also had several "episodes" at the circulation desk. In one episode (which I didn't witness), The Bearded Lady had an overdue fine which sent her into fits of rage, yelling "I can't believe how you treat poor people!" Apparently, then, when she finally gave in and agreed to pay the fine, she reached into her wallet to produce a wad of hundred dollar bills. Last week, though, I was here and watching from a safe distance as her warbly voice rose in anger and frustration. Apparently she'd called another branch, who told her a video was ready for pick-up at this library. In fact, it was a book, a book club selection, and I can only assume that she wanted the movie so that she wouldn't have to read the book, but could fake it enough not to irritate the other club members. She sounded on the verge of tears and began shouting, "I need the video! I need the video!" The only copy of the video was at our central library, where she refused to go, nor could she send someone for her. We get a delivery once a day and it had already come that day, so we explained that there was no way we could get it for her. Still, she screamed "there's no reason you can't get it here today!" Everyone in the entire branch could hear her. By this time I was worried that she might have to be physically subdued, and was going to call for security, when my supervisor stumbled on the right combination of words to calm the woman down. The worst part of it is, the video isn't an adaptation of the book. Unfortunately my co-workers didn't pay close enough attention to notice that while the title of the book and film are the same, they are completely unrelated. I was expecting more fireworks but apparently it's been taken care of. Thank God. Still, we've been ordered to call security as soon as The Bearded Lady walks in the building, since you never know when she's going to blow up.

This odd little old man I talk to occasionally was here during that scene and told me he had encountered her before, and he told me "that woman is crazy." I guess she gets around. He's involved in some Christian charities and apparently The Bearded Lady is Jewish and completely intolerant of all other religions. I don't know the whole story but I can only imagine she approaches everything in life with the level of hyper-irrationality that she displays at the library. Clearly this is someone who needs help.

The nice old man, who I once mistakenly referred to as "Long Winded Stories Without A Point Man" is actually much more interesting and intelligent than I previously gave him credit for. His demeanor suggested otherwise, since he is very needy (especially on the computer) and usually doesn't make eye contact when he speaks. He's a small, slow-moving African-American gentleman with a quiet little voice, an interest in history, racial politics, and the Pentecostal church. I used to worry about him because he seemed to have been hoodwinked by a direct-marketing scheme, but since then I've had a few interesting conversations with him. In the course of only a few minutes, he managed to link Edward Banfield's "Unheavenly Cities," B.F. Skinner, the University of Chicago, military contracts with Unisys, Honeywell, and General Mills, Catholic Charities, Shamu and the first birth of a killer whale in captivity. "Woah," says Neo. This all started when he asked me about operant conditioning, which led to researching the work Skinner did with pigeons at the University of Minnesota. Skinner recieved funding from General Mills first, and then the National Defense Research Committee, working at transforming pigeons into missle guidance systems during WWII. The nice old man (note to self: think of a better nickname) then led the discussion to racist policies and sociological theories that wreaked havoc on the black community in Chicago, and I'm still not sure how Shamu tied into all that, but it was still pretty fascinating. He knows his stuff. We order a lot of books for him and I used to think he didn't read them, but now that I know him better I realize he does read, and think, a lot. It's nice to know people like that. It sure seems like there aren't very many left.

Friday, June 27, 2003

One of my co-workers told me that the same salesman mentioned below came back on a day when I wasn't here. Now today he walked right up to me and said he had some "amazing deals." I asked him if he remembered the last time I met him, and how I told him that there's no soliciting in this building. He said "okay, sir, you have a great day!" As he walked away I emphasized "so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't return!" He turned around, smiled and said "you have a great day!" Sigh.

We've attracted a new bunch of crazy people. One of them is a quiet, soft spoken older white man who is looking for musicals on video that don't have any objectionable moral content. The difficulty is in determining what he finds objectionable, exactly, because he thought "South Pacific" was too racy. Seriously.

Also, thirteen helicopters in formation flew over my library this morning. It was more than a little menacing.

Oh yeah, and then there's this, in case you haven't seen it already. Hot stuff, apparently.

Monday, June 23, 2003

I can only hope that the following lyrics were largely improvised:

(R. Forster, 1978)

I just want some affection
I just want some affection
I don't want no hoochie-coochie mama
No back door woman
No Green Street sex thing
I want a tiger on bended knees
With all the kindness of the Japanese
I just want some affection
Wish I heard voices, wish I was a telephone
Karen, yeah, yeah, Karen
Yeah, yeah, Karen
Yeah, yeah, Karen
Yeah, yeah, yeah
I said yeah, awww Karen

I know this girl, this very special girl
And she works in a library, yeah
Standing there behind the counter
Willing to help with all the problems that I encounter
Helps me find Hemingway
Helps me find Genet
Helps me find Brecht
Helps me find Chandler
Helps me find James Joyce
She always makes the right choice
She's no queen, she's no angel
Just a peasant from the village
She's my god, she's my god, she's my g-o-d
She's my god, yeah, yeah, she's my g-o-o-d, yeah, she's my god, now, aw she's my god now, yeah
Karen, yeah yeah, Karen (etc.)

And she stands there in the library
Like a nun in her church does
Like a nun in her church does
She stands there all alone
And she gets me something that I just can't get, now, anywhere else
'Cause the girls that I see
Walking around, yeah
The ones I see walking on the street
Are so damn, damn-damn, damn, damn cold
'Cause they must have Eskimo blood in their veins
And the one that I want I just can't see
I can't see her there
I can't see anywhere
All right!
Karen, yeah yeah, Karen
Yeah, yeah, Karen
Yeah, yeah, Karen
Yeah, yeah, Karen

Finally, my nerdification is complete. I work in a library, I wear glasses, I have strong opinions about tea, I have recently engaged in serious discussions about, well, um...role-playing games (hang your head in shame, dear boy!), and at last, my doctor prescribed not one, but two inhalers for me. Look out, ladies! Hopefully customized arch supports will be headed my way soon. I would hate to be uncomfortable while I dissect cultural minutiae with my limited peer group.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

On my way to work today I saw a shirtless guy running away from a man wielding a 2 x 4. Unfortunately this image was not accompanied by madcap banjo music.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

It's stuffy and fuzzy up in here; I'm not feeling well. Head clouded. Tired. Wishing I hadn't been hooked on Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo last weekend. Can't concentrate on any books. I started, and then put down, "The Pianist" by Wladyslaw Szpilman, in favor of a brief history of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, but it's a little too depressing to idly page through on my lunch break. I also abandoned "Brutality Garden: Tropicalia and the Emergence of a Brazilian Counterculture," by Christopher Dunn, which I'd gone so far as to actually purchase. I hope to still read it in its entirety, but was somewhat daunted by the academic nature of it (more on this later). Although I missed the much-anticipated Lisa Germano concert (foolish me), I managed to score a heavily discounted copy of the new American Analog Set CD upon it's release Tuesday night. A guy who used to work at the library now works at a local record store, and occasionally I'll get some sweet price reductions from him. Take heed, there are secret benefits to public service! You can hear a track from Amanset's "Promise of Love" by going to the Tiger Style homepage. Have fun, kids. I hope to be perky (and prolific) again soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Another group of losers came into the library trying to sell some junk. I don't know why, but there's a whole new generation of door-to-door crap-vendors spreading across the country like a virus. I went up to their point man and the guy is all like "Hi, My name is Dumbass McSellsell from Amazing Surplus Novelties Company and I've got some incredible offers for-" and I'm all like "There's no soliciting in here" and he's all like "We outta here, yo." It was hardcore.

Back when I used to kick it in downtown Excelsior (cobblestone in full effect, y'all) there were a bunch of crazy dudes wandering around, like it was their full-time job. "Local color for hire." Maybe the Rotary Club was behind it. Anyway, one of 'em used to sit on the corner with an empty milk jug and a clipboard, and every once in awhile he'd jump up, strike a pose, and yell "NO SOLICITING!!!" He was a bitter man. A simple, focused, bitter man. I kind of idolize him, in retrospect.

Most people in this country are afraid of the city, which endlessly frustrates me. Since we're trained to fear or depsise the city, many of us in the suburbs seem to think it's okay to behave inappropriately when we're visiting downtown, like those of us who urinate in the streets, for example. To them I say "go back to Anoka!" I've always thought the suburbs were just as weird and dangerous as the suburbs, if not more so (and let's not even talk about rural areas). My life experience is proof enough. I've had more problems with violence and property damage in the suburbs, and there's a healthy dose of weirdos in both locales. A friend of mine from back in the Excelsior days has since moved out of state, and thinks that Minnesota breeds and encourages lunatics. Maybe he's right. Maybe cities are scary, dangerous places and it's just a factor of living in Minnesota that the crazy people can be found all over the place. I guess you'd have to be a little nuts to put up with this weather year after year. Still, I don't plan on leaving, at least not until Patriot Act II (aka "The Big Brother Bill") takes effect and all us free-thinkers are herded into cages. Quick! Scurry off to Sweden! Or Canada! Or New Zealand! As long as I'm a U.S. citizen, though, I'll probably be living here. Unless I become a famous actor, or rock star, or author, or something. Which is pretty likely, 'cause I'm comin' at fame and fortune wit' a quickness. You know it's true. Don't deny it. I'm destined for greatness. You can't stop me: I'm a bum rush of one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

After the Yo La Tengo concert, some guy walked by me and said "great set." I looked at him like "who the Hell are you?" I mean, yeah, sure, it was okay, I guess. Did he really want to talk to me? Did I have any interest in talking to him? Actually he said "great shirt." Oh! Oh, yeah, thanks. I was wearing my newly acquired Lifter Puller commemorative reunion show t-shirt (seriously, it's commemorative). I think he was wearing a Trogdor shirt but he'd already walked by me so I couldn't really see it. I would've returned the compliment if I wasn't so dopey, and we could've taken a moment to bask in our respective coolness. Yeah. That would've been great.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Well, they were kinder than I was expecting. Yes, Ira made fun of our lake-counting methods, but they didn't try to kill us with distorted organ squeals like the show I saw in NYC. I bought ear plugs and didn't need them for most of the show. Plus, here we could actually stand up front and see the band (amid the uncharacteristically stoic all-ages crowd). They started off with a quiet number, busted out the percussion for a crack at "Nuclear War," and kept it pretty mellow throughout, despite a hearty dose of their usual guitar feedback hystrionics. That helped make this show more palatable overall.

My favorite YLT shows were during the "And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out" tour, but I only first saw them on the "I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One" tour, so it's not as if I'm a seasoned YLT veteran. This time around they've had a few problems with the songs. Last night Ira was goofing-up the keyboard part on "Season of the Shark," and at the NYC show I saw they were having problems synching the various keyboard and guitar parts. It probably wouldn't hurt for them to have a fourth player on stage, but usually they pull it off, so more power to 'em. We're in an age where pre-recorded tracks aren't scoffed at (I even saw Superchunk play with an off-stage keyboardist), so it's kind of impressive that Yo La Tengo manages to play these full-sounding songs as a trio.

Unfortunately we got there too late to see The Clean (I had to console myself with a copy of the new two-disc Clean anthology), but we were rewarded with a bonus appearance of Robert Scott & Co. onstage with YLT for one of the encore performances. I didn't know the song they played but it was a nice little poppy tune, and YLT had a few tricks up their sleeves as well, performing a sloppy version of Beat Happening's "Cast A Shadow" (with a grinning Ira on drums), Big Star's "Take Care," and what I think was "Dreaming" by Blondie. They were gracious enough to ask the audience for requests, as well, which gave us the most awesome "Deeper Into Movies," "From A Motel 6," and a Georgia-sung version of "Tom Courtenay," like the one on the "Camp Yo La Tengo" EP.

Oh right, and the joke. Ira said they went for a canoe ride and he was confused as to why their guide kept announcing different lake names (Lake Calhoun, Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles) when it seemed to him like one continuous lake. He didn't want to take away our claim of being the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but suggested that we have questionable criteria for what constitutes a lake in this state. Touché. They were really very nice, though. Thank you, Yo La Tengo!

Here follows another in our continuing series of incomplete playlists:

Nuclear War
Little Eyes
Season of the Shark
Tiny Birds (Way to go, James! They should let you sing more often.)
Let's Save Tony Orlando's House (woo!)
Moonrock Mambo
Georgia vs. Yo La Tengo
From a Motel 6
Tom Courtenay
Deeper Into Movies (rock!)
Sugarcube (woo!)
Cast a Shadow (woo! woo!)
Take Care (awwww...thaz purty)

Monday, June 09, 2003

I got hit in the shoulder by a glass, I got beer spilled on my head, and I got shoved around a lot, but the two nights of Lifter Puller reunion shows this weekend were pure heaven. The first show was the best. I dabbled in the mosh pit (then slunk off for some Metamucil) and hung out with Tom Roach backstage. Tom was their original bass player; I met him in '95 or '96 in a class at the U of M and he invited me to see his band at the entry one cold winter night. I was instantly hooked. They sounded a lot different, then: the band was less brash, and Craig's voice was more nasal. I still remember a song with a lyric about "makin' out with sewer rats" that I don't think they ever recorded. I thought they were odd and fascinating, and I kept going to their shows even as my friendship with Tom devolved from intermittent to non-existant. When "Half Dead and Dynamite" came out in 1997, it was a new Lifter Puller with a bigger sound and attitude. From then on the songs focused on sordid tales of the nightlife, and the fans became numerous and rabid. Tom left in 1998, I think, but Lifter Puller beat out the Hang Ups to become my favorite local band. It was great seeing him again because he's a super nice guy, and he was as excited by the reunion shows as I was.

I knew Tom fairly well (we went to a costume party once which I'm convinced was the inpiration for "Hardware"), and I used to talk to Craig a little bit at those early shows. Dan I didn't know at all. Steve, of course, I idolize. He's the greatest rock-star wannabe in the tri-state area, Har Mar be damned. I once asked him about getting involved in the Hawaii show and he asked me if I had a beer keg. Nope. Then he said he might want me to arm-wrestle a guy who was "even skinnier" than I was. It never worked out, but my favorite memories of Lifter Puller involve him:

(1) I was helping set up for an Off The Record session and asked if Steve needed a vocal mic. The other band members replied with a vehement "no."

(2) Craig had to re-string his guitar in the middle of a show, so Steve busted out a tiny novelty guitar and danced around the stage, Hawaii-style, to keep the audience entertianed.

(3) Apparently frustrated by technical problems, Steve went nuts at the Turf Club and broke his keyboard in half with his elbow, which was soon covered in blood. I never did get the story on that. It was scary and exciting, like good punk rock should be.

My only real complaint about the reunion shows were the guys who just would not shut up on Saturday. Yes, we know the lyrics, and that's great, but we came to hear Craig sing them. I belted out a few lines myself but could've been spared the steady barrage coming out of some of these guys' huge mouths. Still, the new Triple Rock venue was a great place to see the band for (probably) the last time. The sound was pretty good, it's small enough to feel intimate but large enough to prevent uncomfortable crowding, and it hasn't yet acquired that layer of grime which can be found in most local clubs. Above all, it was a true joy to see Lifter Puller play again, especially to see Dan Monick and Steve Barone in the flesh, with real working instruments. Meanwhile, let's hope Craig and Tad take The Hold Steady out on the road sometime.

For the few curious, here's an incomplete, non-sequential list of songs they played:

Nassau Colliseum
To Live and Die in LBI
Candy's Room
Space Humping $19.99
Lifter Puller vs. The End of The Evening
Sangre de Stephanie
Let's Get Incredible
Math is Money
I Like The Lights
Katrina and the k-hole
Touch My Stuff
The Bears
Sherman City
Rock for Lite Brite
Back in Blackbeard
Half Dead and Dynamite

Friday, June 06, 2003

Here's a nice one to kick-off your weekend: a young woman came in wearing a white tank top and shiny red shorts that read "HOTTIE" across her bottom. Needless to say she had a baby slung in her arms.

Hoo boy.  All the interesting stuff I've done lately is already a week old or more.  Maybe I should change my screen name to "La-Z-Boy."  Anyway, here's a quick recap of the Lilys show I saw at the 400 Bar last Friday: 
The opening band, the Swirlies, were a total mess.  I don't know if they always suck or were just having an off-night, but they certainly weren't apologetic or even aware of how bad they were.  A couple of songs sounded good but the rest were either obnoxious or monotonous. The band sounded like they weren't sure of what their individual parts were, or how those parts were supposed to go together.  The drummer would just pound away, oblivious, while the bass player noodled and one of the guitar players dicked around with a delay pedal, and the girl playing keyboards was inaudible, and so on.  Pretty damn annoying.
The Lilys were great.  They played a questionably short set, around 40 minutes long, but what they did play was excellent.  "Will My Lord Be Gardening," especially, was a knock-out live.  They ended with a great pop song called "Ginger," which is on "A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns," an out-of-print mini-album.  In fact, most of their records are out of print, which is a huge annoyance.  I've managed to get most of their stuff from 1996 forward, but I still haven't heard any of their earlier work. 
Kurt Heasley doesn't sing so much as melodically inflect.  He sounds like a cross between Ray Davies and Colin Blunstone.  Well, probably more like Colin Blunstone, if he was singing over the Davies' guitars. The bass player was a cute little Keef wannabe.  He had dark hair combed down over his eyes, and an impressive grimace (with extreme lower-lip jutting action!), which was occasionally broken by a genuine smile. 
Kurt was playing an acoustic and an electric guitar, but he broke a string on the latter pretty early on.  I don't know if that threw him off and resulted in the short set, or what, but in the end he hopped off the front of the stage into the crowd and wandered to the back of the room, guitar still in tow.  I followed him, expecting to hear more music, but instead watched as he held court over a small circle of fans, including Brian Tighe of the Hang-Ups.  Kurt played a bit of "Here Comes A Regular," which he claimed was the first song he learned on guitar, but that was the end of that.  Mostly he just talked to a girl who was hanging on him and asked everyone where the nightlife was at.  Brian and I got bored around the same time and wandered off, only he had the rest of his pals and bandmates to go hang out with.  I had to slink off into the night...alone.

Thursday, June 05, 2003


Saturday night we went to Iridium and had an amazing meal. I had a pepper-crusted yellow fin tuna with an orange soy sauce that was surprisingly mild; it didn't overpower the fish with sweetness. She had salmon that was wrapped in potato straws, like hashbrowns, with a buttery sauce. We shared a baked brie that was good but suffered from its poor vehicle: two little bits of dry toast. The cocktails were great, though, so overall we gave the food at Iridium high marks.

The real reason we were there, however, was to see the McCoy Tyner trio with Bobby Hutcherson. McCoy Tyner has been to the Twin Cities many times over the past few years but I've never managed to go see him. What a fool I was! Tyner, best known for his work in Coltrane's famous '60s quartet, really lived up to the title "living legend." His sound ranged from lightning-fast Tatum-like runs to big, complex chords in the tradition of Rachmaninoff. It was just stunning. Hutcherson, meanwhile, is my all-time favortie jazz musician. I've never had the opporunity to see him, so I was both excited and nervous, because you never know how these old guys are going to sound. Fortunately he was amazing. I've never seen a jazz combo improvise so fully and successfully before, and certainly not a group who looked like they were having so much fun while they were doing it. I was lucky enough to hear them play "African Village," from Tyner's 1968 Blue Note LP "Time For Tyner," which featured Bobby Hutcherson. "African Village" is one of those great, stretched out, driving modal numbers that grabs you and doesn't let go. Live it was even better, in part because the bass solo was significantly better. It was simple but amazing and worked much better than the off-key bowed bass solo by Herbie Lewis on the original recording. They also played a great tune called "Festival in Bahia" which I'd never heard before. I would've loved to have stayed for another set, but they were sold out and our bill was already skyrocketing. Fortunately we got a concession prize in the form of two umbrellas left by the father/daughter pair sitting next to us. Protection from the rain! We really needed it, and we crept off into the night like the thieves we were.

Sunday morning we returned to the Playwright tavern for an excellent brunch. I had crab cakes served over a big Caesar salad, with coffee and mimosas, and we finished off with some warm strawberry-rhubarb pie. Yum. We kicked around for a little bit and decided to see The Matrix Reloaded at the AMC Empire 25, a gargantuan movie theater stretching far up into the sky. There are two balconies that you can go out onto and get a nice, quiet view. After the film, we had a lot to talk about, so we settled ourselves at a hip little bar on Ninth Avenue called E (for "Eatery," they claim). I had a mojito followed by the single most expensive cocktail I've ever consumed, a $12 sidecar made with Hennessy. Youch!

Weak now with hunger, exaggerated by the booze and intense conversation, we struggled down the block in search of food. None of the Thai restaurants in midtown have any freakin' vegetarian food. The pad thai was always served with shrimp and most places didn't have tofu anywhere on the menu. Still, we saw a birght orange beacon in the distance that led us to Vynl, a seemingly perfect combination of vegetarian food and LPs. The menus were attached to old records; I got a Lionel Richie album and she got Streisand. Vynl not only had tofu pad thai, but the tofu was pressed and baked, not fried, and maybe it was just because I was so hungry and happy, but that was the best tofu I've ever had. The place was cheap, too, which was amazing. If you're looking for a cheap, veggie-friendly place in the Midtown West region, I highly recommend Vynl, located on Ninth Ave and W 54th St.

We went back to the hotel (a cool little place called Hotel 41) and watched Memento on DVD, because, really, can you ever get enough Carrie-Anne Moss in one day? I think not.

We had breakfast in bed Monday, and it came so late they gave it to us free. Fortunately this gave us extra time to get packed, so it was a nice, leisurely morning. We even caught a bit of Hudson Hawk on cable, an underappreciated, silly film if ever there was one. The rain was really coming down that day, unfortunately, and most everything seemed closed, so we ended up at a *shudder* TGI Friday's, of all places, to dry off and have a Guinness before heading to the airport. It was a surreal, unpleasant experience that's better left forgotten, but only a minor scuff on an otherwise fabulous, relaxing, loving weekend.

Oh, yeah, and then I had a huge, messy, spicy, wonderfully disgusting tuna hoagie at the Philadelphia airport on my way back. I'm sure I looked like Richard Beymer (Benjamin Horne) in the second episode of "Twin Peaks" as I was scarfing it down. Been watching a lot of Twin Peaks lately. It's my first time through (though I did see the pilot when it originally aired), and I'm loving it up. Episode two was directed by David Lynch and features the most exaggerated sandwich eating I've ever seen on film. It's simply beautiful.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

As you may have noticed, I haven't been too interested in writing about my job lately.  Just music, music, music, music, and travel.  To those who've kept reading: thank you.  If I was truly generous I'd start a new blog for all the personal/artistic stuff and keep this one focused on da liberry blooze, but I hate to see an empty blog with only one post per month, so you've just gotta sift through all this for the stuff you're interested in.  Today, however, I do have a mildly amusing tale from the library: 
A woman came in looking for help finding geopolitical information.  She had a list of general questions to answer, and the instructions asked the student to choose a country in Africa to do their assignment on.  I told her she'd have to pick a country (seriously, this was an important step), and led her to the relevant section (the DTs or the 960s, depending on your system). Now she tells me that the assignment was actually to do Europe, not Africa, despite what the worksheet said, so she wanted to see the books about Europe.  I asked her which country she wanted to do, and she didn't understand that she couldn't just pick "Europe."  I found myself saying something like "Europe is a continent, made up of different countries.  Your assignment says that you need to choose a specific country."  Around this time it came out that she was doing her daughter's homework.  I think the kid would've been better off doing it herself.

"Well, that was our trip to that place, and here's a map of Europe we drew: we saw France, Berlin, and Europe, and England..." 

In tangentially related news: I just read the book "Wigfield" by Amy Sedaris, Steven Colbert, and Paul Dinello, all of whom you may've seen on "Strangers With Candy" and "Exit 57" on Comedy Central.  I haven't seen those shows, but my friends have, and in the interest of trying to seem cool and in-the-know, I checked out the book from my local library (aka "the place where I work," aka "the circus of evil").  As Bob Odenkirk once wrote: "read about TV!" 
"Wigfield" was great, despite the distractingly bad, unfunny photography by Todd Oldham.  It's written in the first-person by a fictional author (and former highway line-painter) who manages to get a job writing a book about the death of the American small town for Hyperion.  Inexperience, ineptitiude, booze, strippers, and rampant hostility get in the way.  The author, Russell Hokes, ends up in the small enclave of junkyards, used auto-parts stores, strip clubs, and chemical dumps known as "Wigfield."  Hokes spends the majority of the book struggling to meet the 50,000 word requirement set by the publisher, dipping into a seemingly endless well of mixed-metaphors and hyperbole.  He manages to plagarize from dictionaries and newspapers, and stumbles across a brilliant plan: interviewing the people of Wigfield.  The book writes itself!  Well, actually the townspeople do, but you get the picture. Hilarity ensues.
There were a couple of good library-related bits in "Wigfield," one of which I'm going to reprint here with *ahem* total legality:
"All of a sudden I am being shunned. I'm an outcast. Nobody will talk to me. It's just like The Scarlet Letter, the only difference being that my isolation is due to narrow-minded people refusing to think as individuals condemning an innocent without having accurate information. In The Scarlet Letter, the woman is shunned because she is a harlot. She deserved what she got. I think she came on to a priest or something. I don't remember; I only saw the movie once. I checked it out from the library. That's right, a movie from the library! For my money, it was hard to be excited about libraries until they started checking out movies. I can't wait until the switchover is complete. What better way to show the obsoleteness of a book than by setting it next to a DVD? I'm glad libraries are leading the charge against books.

Monday, June 02, 2003

This is an e-mail I recently sent to info@yolatengo.com:
Dear YLT,

I was at the April 25 show at the Beacon in NYC, where we (the audience) were nearly pummeled to death by some kind of keyboard instrument.  I'm thinking especially of "Georgia vs. Yo La Tengo."  What in the heck was that thing?  Oh, how it hurt.  Whoever shouted out "Free Bird!" deserved it, maybe, but the rest of us could've used a little lower volume.  I've been told that it's easier to face your fears if you can name them, so I want the name of that malicious keyboard.  It was a great show, though.  I was especially glad to see the guys from Sun Ra's Arkestra and the blue-tongued children's chorus.  Looking forward to the upcoming shows in Minneapolis.


Here's their response:
The keyboard in question was our beloved Ace Tone organ.  The wild sound it was making was due to some combination of pedals we were putting it through that I actually don't know what they are (though I probably wouldn't say even if I did).  See you in Mpls.

I like to think that "see you in Mpls." is a veiled threat spoken in a menacing tone, like, "Oh, you didn't like the noise, huh?  Now we're really gonna crank it up!"  Be prepared...wear earplugs (and maybe diapers).

Don't forget: Lifter Puller reunion shows at the new Triple Rock extendo-venue Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and Yo La Tengo are playing with New Zealand pop legends The Clean on Sunday and Monday at First Avenue. Busy weekend!


The Lilys - "Precollection," "Will My Lord Be Gardening"
Bobby Womack - "Hang On In There"
Joe Jackson - "One More Time"
Reba Fritz - "#302"
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Y Control"

The City Pages got their review of The Lilys' "Precollection" half-right. The second track, "Mesulina" sounds nothing like Nick Drake (try Syd Barrett or Robyn Hitchcock), and the title track has more in common with My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division than the Smiths. "Precollection" and "Will My Lord Be Gardening" are exactly what I was hoping for -- driving, hypnotic, British Invasion-meets-shoegazer music -- but the rest of the album is spotty. The aforementioned "Mesulina" sounds largely improvised (read: messy and meandering), and "Mystery School Assembly" frustrates with its on-the-edge-of-rocking tension that never lets up. Just let it rock, dammit! As it stands, "Precollection" has its moments but will either have to grow on me or go ignored in favor of "The 3-Way" and the "Selected" EP.

Bobby Womack's "Hang On In There" is on the "Across 110th Street" soundtrack and comes at a perfect time, when contemporary R & B has little to offer. The Isley Brothers' new album was written and produced solely by R. Kelly, who appears under the inappropriate moniker "The Pied Piper," and who nearly buries the band on the dawn of their semicentennial. Ernie Isley, though featured prominently in the baroque liner-notes photography, can barely be heard on the record, largely replaced by slippery synths and the occasional session musician (who in the Hell is Donnie Lyle and why is he playing most of the guitars here?). Ron Isley sounds as great as ever, which is the only saving grace of the record. It's one of those "I'd listen to him read from the telephone book" situations, and in this case, a telephone book might be preferable to R. Kelly's eyeroll-inducing platitudes of love and money. And so Bobby Womack comes as a sweet reminder of how good soul music can be. Even J.J. Johnson's macked-out score is awfully damn appealing, as are the snippets of film dialogue.

Buying "Look Sharp," my first Joe Jackson album on CD (I've had "I'm The Man" on vinyl for quite a few years), reminds me of how much I love late-'70s and early-'80s new wave, when it was still punk-oriented and not totally hair-driven. XTC, Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, The Jam, The Vapors. Hell, even the first Police record was good. It all kind of blends together: pub rock, power pop, punk, new wave, post punk. Let's Active, Mission of Burma, The Go-Betweens, The English Beat, Eddie & the Hot Rods. My mind goes fuzzy and genres lose their meaning. Did I mention The Cars? The Raspberries? Big Star? Cheap Trick? I love it all. I just hope I get around to buying a new car soon so I can listen to this stuff while enjoying the warm weather. God knows they don't play enough of it on the radio.

Finally, I had to get the Reba Fritz CD Modern Lives. I had a few of these songs on a cassette release from many years ago and was longing to hear them again in the new "digital compact disc" format. I love the song "#302" so much, especially since she recorded this slick sitar-y version with Ed Ackerson. My roommate extraordinaire Johnny Smokes recorded the final days of June Sunday, Reba's old band, when she did the song in a more off-kilter arrangement. I remember the Space Waitress, lurking about at the time of those basement recordings, described an inter-band argument over the "lighter fluid" lyrics. As printed in the CD, the lyrics are supposed to be "your eyes are strange like lighter fluid," but if you listen she's singing "your eyes are strange, your lighter fluid," which really doesn't make any sense at all, but who cares? The song is gorgeous. End of story. It's a short, wonderful record, and I wish she'd come back!

While we're at it, what happened to Smattering? They disappeared a few years ago after releasing an excellent, impossible to find untitled CD, resurfaced to play one show last summer with another new lineup, and promptly disappeared again. Matt Olson, where art thou? I love you! Come back! The split EP they did with Mountain Singers last year was good, not great, despite the novelty of Bill McGuire returning after a prolonged absence from the music scene. Fortunately, Accident Clearinghouse did a beautiful cover of "All For Show" on their recent album Full Moon Night, which is almost as good as hearing the song for the first time. It feels like the first time. Feels like the very first time. Open up the door, won't you open up the door? Yeah.

By the way, if you're into sweaty, sex-drenched rock'n'roll (y'know, like Foreigner), check out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs full-length "Fever To Tell." It's really good, despite all the hype. They received a near-lethal level of publicity based on a five-song EP released two years ago. It probably should've killed them, but they prevailed and I'm thankful for it. The YYYs pump rock excitement like Sleater-Kinney used to. There's more than a touch of Patti Smith in there, too, but without all the cultural significance and a whole heck of a lot more fun, if you ask me. Sure, Karen's lyrics are laced with profanity, but it's not just relentless party rock. I made the mistake of buying the Electric Six full-length on the strength of the "Danger! High Voltage" single, which I guess owes a lot to Jack White since nothing else on the record is nearly as groovy. I was expecting something inbetween Stereo Total and Andrew W.K., but instead it's just loud; it doesn't get the booty movin' at all. I guess my point is that there's much dumber music out there in this new tidal wave of hip young rock bands, so don't write-off the YYYs until you've given them a fair listen. And now...more lyrics from Lou Gramm and Mick Jones (no, the other Mick Jones):

I'm a little bit high
You're a little bit shy
You're making me sing
For your sweet, sweet thing.

Pure poetry, no?

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