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Thursday, October 30, 2003


QUOTE OF THE MONTH

It's not rock and roll...what, what the young kids, you know, when they say, you know: "show me some boogie!" or...you know, it's not that.

--Corky St. Clair


Wednesday, October 29, 2003


"JUST HOLD IT INSIDE...AND LET IT FESTER!"
 
My dream finally came true: I was required to attend a workplace conduct seminar.  Not that I was being punished for anything, all city employees were required to attend a session, but it's something I'd been wanting to do ever since I made a parody training video with my pals in the long-dormant Komedy Koven.  Chuck and Maggie both had to sit in on a tedious, humorless session at their workplace, and we decided to go nuts on the idea for a 24-hour movie (improvised, shot, edited and shown within a 24 hour timeframe, somehow incorporating a sentence of the event organizer's choosing...in this case the phrase was "if you get there before me, don't look back").  The film was in very poor taste, though we thought it was extremely funny.  Were we pushing the envelope?  You might say that.  You might consider us mavericks...but I digress.
 
So I was dreading this workplace conduct training as much as I was looking forward to it.  I wasn't sure what to expect, exactly, but we were given an advance list of scenarios to study, such as:

A coworker approaches you with a gun.  He makes a statement that you can't understand but it is apparent that he is very upset and you feel that he just threatened you.  How do you respond?  Please list all of your concerns.  Specifically describe actions that you might take.

Unfortunately we didn't get to role-play any of these scenarios.  I really wanted to play the incoherent, gun-toting maniac, but no such fun (or humiliation) was to be had.  In fact, it was a pretty dry seminar.  We were supposed to watch several videos, none of which worked.  They were supposed to be projected from a laptop but for whatever reason the three city employees sent to run the workshop couldn't get it to play (nor were they able at the same event several months earlier, so why didn't they bother to work out the kinks during the intervening span?).  One of the videos (we were told) featured a Native American man facing inappropriate behavior, first he is greeted with a hearty "how!" and then someone comments about an upcoming Redskins game.  Not too classy.
 
Personally, I thought the presenter used some inappropriate language himself, seemingly unaware as he was of the severity of some situations.  At one point he described a potentially hostile situation by alluding to the recent Hennepin County Government Center shootings (in which one person was killed) as "bringing guns into the Hennepin court center and engaging in a shoot 'em up."  A shoot 'em up?  Somehow I don't think the family of the deceased would appreciate that description. 
 
He was unable to actually use naughty words himself, which was pretty entertaining.  His example of offensive language was "that stupid question and the F-word and that stupid test was a crock."  Later he coined the term "that dumb choo-choo-choo-choo."  I hope I can remember that the next time I'm tempted to use offensive language.  Later he used inexplicable finger quotations around the words "should've known."  As in: we "should've known" that there was a "hostile environment," and he had trouble with the word corroborated, first confusing it with "collaborated," then pronouncing it "co-wabberated."  I'm always chagrined by paid public speakers who lack a certain amount of...how shall we say?...linguistic finesse.
 
The presenter fumbled awkwardly with the issue of telling jokes in the workplace.  Being an expert in the field, he shared with us the uncommon knowledge that "telling jokes of a sexual or racial nature will get you into hot water."  Ultimately, he conceded that most jokes tend to get a laugh at the expense of some specific group, and since you never know who might get their feelings hurt, you should probably just avoid telling jokes altogether.  That isn't particularly helpful.  Did he challenge us to look at why we might be laughing at jokes of a sexual or racial nature?  Nope.  He just told us to keep those dirty feelings locked up inside where they belong, which is tantamount to accepting racism and sexism.  We weren't examining our prejudices, we were just told to keep quiet about them.  I guess we have a pro-"ism" policy with a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" system implied. 
 
That was the big letdown of this whole ordeal, that we were not supplied with concrete answers.  Whether I agree with the policies or not, it would be nice to have a specific set of rules for handling these situations.  Instead, this was a pointless excercise in sharing our reactions to some hypothetical situations.  Apparently you're supposed to get out of the building as quickly as possible when threatened by deadly violence, as in the example above.  One good piece of advice was that you're not supposed to talk about the gun to the person wielding it, because that's just feeding into the idea that the only thing giving them power is the gun.  That was the extent of useful information I brought home from the event.  Too many items were passed off as a "judgment call" you have to make, which is exactly the kind of thing that shouldn't come into play, because it's those uninformed judgment calls that get people into trouble in the first place.

Aargh!*

Oh well, at least I got some blog-fodder out of the deal.


*The Official Scrabble® Players Dictionary, Third Edition accepts three spellings of Aargh ("interj--used to express disgust"):
1. Aargh
2. Aarrgh
3. Aarrghh

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


GETTIN' BEULAH-FIED

Beulah

Those pixelated little folks are Bill Swan (l), Miles Kurosky (r), and what appeared to be a fourteen-year-old girl wielding maracas like drumsticks, dancing incongruously, and making funny faces (for some reason they allowed her to remain on stage for two whole songs).

It was difficult to choose Beulah over Rachel's (with puppets and whatnot) on a school night, but it was a whole heckuvalotta fun and I'm sure glad I did. My faith in pop at large and Beulah in particular has been restored, after Yoko failed to grab me the way their first three albums did. Any band that can overcome the obstacle-to-enjoyment that is the 400 Bar deserves...well, deserves more than they're probably getting. Maybe some cookies or sumpin', I dunno. Poor Miles claimed he was sick again, just like the last time I saw them at the 400 two years ago, but they put on a great show and the set was a sweet salad of all four records:

Disco: The Secretaries Blues
I ♥ John, She ♥'s Paul
Score From Augusta
Sunday Under Glass
Matter Vs. Space
Emma Blowgun's Last Stand
Ballad Of The Lonely Argonaut
Comrade's Twenty Sixth
If We Can Land A Man On The Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart
Hello Resolven
A Good Man Is Easy To Kill
Gene Autry
Silver Lining
Popular Mechanics For Lovers
A Man Like Me
Landslide Baby
Me and Jesus Don't Talk Anymore
Wipe Those Prints and Run

Now it's way way waaaaaaaay past my bedtime and I had to write this damn post twice because IE "unexpectedly quit" the first time around, so off I go to the land o' nod. Thanks for tuning in. Sorry about the poor image quality, I'll have to see what I can do about that.

Sunday, October 26, 2003


ENTER THE MOO SHU

Moo Shu
...and how are you fine ladies doing this evening?

Thursday, October 23, 2003

CULTURE HUNT

In the past week I've consumed:
 
School of Rock
Joan Cusack makes tightly-wound teacher stereotypes sexy again!
 
Junior Senior and The Electric Six 
Exceptionally, joyously, penetratingly good show.
 
Alice, Sweet Alice
A film that traumatized me as a child, now available on DVD.  Still creepy, but also funny.
 
Talk To Her
Good, not mind blowing.  I would've given the best screenplay Oscar to Y Tu Mama Tambien, but the soundtrack was beautiful.
 
The Conversation   
This is my third time through this film in only two years, and I still love it.  I notice something new every time I watch it. 
 
A Mighty Wind   
So glad to have it on DVD, though I was hoping for more deleted scenes.  Looking forward to the commentary track.
 
Best in Show   
Also my third time seeing this one.  Probably my favorite of the three Christopher Guest-directed mockumentaries, even though it's also the one I liked the least the first time I saw it.
 
Eternal Darkness 
Incomprehensible mess for the Nintendo Gamecube, but also intriguing and scary as Hell.  You're never quite sure what's real and what isn't...
 
I've also been dipping back into the classical sauce.  Last night I picked up a Channel Classics SACD sampler for $6 with a lot of good stuff on it, and a Jordi Savall recording of Forqueray's viol music.  As usual, these chamber recordings of Savall's never disappoint (take note you fans of cello, viola da gamba, and early/baroque music).  I also scored Horace Silver's Blowin' The Blues Away used, a smokin' album I first heard when I checked out the LP from the library five years ago. 
 
As mentioned below, I read Orwell's 1984 again and was dismayed at how frighteningly relevant it remains, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which I once had the pleasure of seeing Patrick Stewart and Mercedes Ruhl perform.  I really wish I could see that again on video (the Richard Burton/Liz Taylor version isn't nearly as good).  I also caught an excerpt from Michael Moore's new book Dude, Where's My Country? in Rolling Stone, and feel that I need to start reading some escapist literature, because my mind is overloading on negativity and despair right now.  That's probably why I'm so popular: people love that shit.  Moping around, muttering "everything sucks" and kicking the wall like a nine-year-old.  Yep, big fun. 
 
It's a dead man's party, who could ask for more?

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

WHAT'S MISSING FROM YOUR LIFE NOW

Jonathan Valania interviewed Elliott Smith for the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of Magnet, in which he described "Needle In The Hay" as "a gilded cage where Smith keeps those old demons locked away, close enough to remember but just out of arm's reach where they can never hurt him or anyone who cares about him ever again." At the time, I totally bought into Valania's optimism. Elliott's latest record (Figure 8) had been the closest he'd come to making an upbeat rock album, and when I saw him at First Ave. the place was packed and Elliott looked pretty comfortable. It seemed like he'd come a long way from the total wreck he'd been in 1997. Back then, he was blacking out and getting in fights he didn't remember, drinking too much and mixing with antidepressants until his friends staged an intervention. Since then he'd acheived a certain amount of popularity and signed with a major label. And then he was kind of quiet. He was reportedly working on a new record later in 2001, but nothing ever came of it. Valania questioned Smith, perhaps too cavalierly, about death:

What do you think happens when you die? Do you become part of some greater whole, some universal soul, or are you just worm food? Do you prefer burial or cremation?

I don't really know what happens when you die. I don't like the idea of being buried. I would prefer to walk out into the desert and be eaten by birds or something. The idea of being buried under the ground or being burned up doesn't appeal to me. I'd rather be eaten by birds.

Do you think suicide is courageous or cowardly?

It's ugly and cruel and I really need my friends to stick around, but dying people should have that right. I was hospitalized for a little while and I didn't have that option, and it made me feel even crazier. But I prefer not to appear as some kind of disturbed person. I think a lot of people try to get mileage out of it, like, "I'm a tortured artist" or something. I'm not a tortured artist, and there's nothing really wrong with me. I just had a bad time for a while.

I wasn't surprised when Kurt Cobain killed himself. I remember being home sick on New Year's Eve, watching Nirvana and the Breeders on MTV, and being scared by the manic look in Kurt's eyes. He hated the jock fans in the front row who were jumping and screaming, and he clapped back at them in an exaggerated parody of their testosterone frenzy. He was dead four months later.

I haven't thought about Elliott Smith in awhile, haven't listened to any of his records or read anything about him or wondered when a new album was coming out. I am so horribly disappointed that he killed himself.

I hate depression. I hate it for taking away beautiful people.

I hate it for making my wonderful friends hate themselves, and I hate what it's done in my family.

I hate that "Suicide Squeeze" was the record label Elliott Smith's last single came out on, but I'll probably try to get a copy of it now, anyway. There are worse addictions, I guess.

I just read 1984 for the third time and now I'm reading Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? It'd be nice to hear some good news, for a change.



...'depressing' is not a word I would use to describe my music, but there is some sadness in it -- there has to be, so that the happiness in it will matter.

--Elliott Smith (1969-2003)

Friday, October 17, 2003

FILLER

It's the official return of "Jonathan's Poetry Korner!"

Actually they're just somebody else's song lyrics. You get what you pay for.

...............................................................................

if I had
if I had more
more would be laid at your feet


if you give me
just a little smile
the dogs on my trail wouldn't drag me back to jail


I woke up in a horse's stomach one foggy morning
his eyes were crazy and he smashed into the cemetery gates


all I want is to be a happy man
all I want is to be a happy man


I've seen teeth
across the horizon
fangs spanning yellow against the earth


there ain't nothing here but ghosts
fever, rabbit dreams, and drunken boats


I woke up in a horse's stomach one foggy morning
his eyes were crazy and he smashed into the cemetery gates


all I want is to be a happy man
all I want is to be a happy man


(M. Linkous)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

CLASSIC TALES FROM THE LIBERRY #8

Last year I had a few trials dealing with an insanely needy woman looking and applying for jobs online. What drove me nuts was that no matter how much I helped her, she seemed increasingly incompetent, as though her ability to learn and retain information was getting constantly worse. Here's an example:

She comes in and asks "do you have a way to apply for jobs online?"

The problem with that question is that she has already been into this library and I have helped her with it before, so she knows the answer already. Still, I explain that we have access to the internet so yes she can.

Then she sits down at a computer and asks "how do I start?" Here we go again. She wants to find a job at US Bank, so I explain to her that we need to go to their website. "Is there a section for that or what do I do?" I tell her we need to type in their address in the address bar, and she says "it's US Bank dot com." As I demonstrate how to type it in she freaks out about the "www," wants to know why I typed that and what it means.

Now here's the beautiful part. There is no obvious spot for job seekers to click on, but there is a search window. She asks me what she should do next, so I tell her to type "jobs" or "employment" into the search window, which I am pointing at, and then click on "go." Silence. I repeat my instructions and she says — I'm not making this up — "I'm sorry, I was in my own little place there, could you tell me that again?"

You have got to be kidding me.

She asks me to walk her through this, proves to be so helpless that I have to do her work for her, and then zones out on me.

It's one of the most frustrating things about trying to teach someone, when the extent of their involvement is to ask "what next, what next, what next?" like a robot, instead of at any point making an effort to figure it out for themselves. My job is to help people, and I like helping people, but what I want more than anything from our public education system is to help people learn how to learn. Don't just fill them with facts that they'll forget in six months, give them the tools they need to be able to approach new challenges with confidence, rather than abject hoplesness. People need to learn how to think when faced with a variety of options. It's not necessary to know how to do everything, but you should have the skills required to make an attempt at anything. Creative problem solving. Improvisation. That's what I want to see in every curriculum.

Thank you. I will be speaking at the Best Western Starlite Village in Fort Dodge, Iowa, at half-past Wednesday on the 34th of November. Adults only, please. Bring your own napkin.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

ANOTHER WEEKEND, ANOTHER CRISIS
 
Last weekend was half-awesome, half-awful.  Friday night we went to the illustrious Restaurante de Ol' Mexico in Roseville for my roommate's birthday, where I had big cheesy enchiladas and an even bigger margarita.  A bunch of friends I haven't seen much of this year showed up and we had a pretty nice time.  Afterward we hit the Turf Club for Arcwelder and Rex Daisy.  Rex Daisy was sandwiched between Arcwelder and Volante, so it was kind of an inexplicable lineup, but I had lots of fun anyway.  I hadn't known that Mike Ruekberg moved to L.A., so the show was even more of a rare treat than usual.  Methinks the tracks they recorded as a follow-up to the 1996 album Guys and Dolls will never see the light of day, sadly.  This was, much to my own shame, only my second Arcwelder show ever, and I liked it even more than the first.  I curse myself for letting this local treasure go ignored for so long.  Space Waitress demanded to hear one of my favorite songs of theirs ("Snake Oil") and they were kind enough to oblige.  I even pogoed for a whole, um, first verse of a song.  Best I could manage.   
 
Saturday we hit my favorite local haunt, the Bryant-Lake Bowl, for Autumn Almanac with The Autumn Leaves and Their Wonderful Friends.  The "wonderful friends" turned out to be Renee Miller, The Flavor Crystals, and Stephanie Winter, who apparently joined the Autumn Leaves in May.  Renee sang "Song To The Siren" by Tim Buckley (via This Mortal Coil) with The Autumn Leaves' David Beckey on guitar, then Stephanie "Waltz Queen" Winter did a couple of tunes, followed by The Flavor Crystals, who I'd never encountered before.  They inspired Chuck and me to rock, but alas the rocking has been postponed indefinitely (or at least until Chuck gets his new guitar and we both get some amps).  Renee's sister Amy handed out some nice little gift bags as we filed in, and I enjoyed the BLB's new portobello Philly.  The only downside to the event was an overlong video of The Autumn Leaves and The Flavor Crystals playing football, but this was easily forgiven as the rest of it was so nice and homey. 
 
Kelly and I then scooted off to a housewarming/graduation party in south Minneapolis, where I made sangria, accidentally insulted a drummer, and was made to feel rather unliked*.  I nursed my wounded ego Sunday with Kiki's Delivery Service, in which the late, great Phil Hartman voices an adorable black cat and a little girl learns the finer points of being a witch. 
 
Last night we watched Miranda, which I'd hoped to blog about extensively, but it turned out to be unworthy of such attention.  Miranda stars Christina Ricci, John Hurt, and Kyle MacLachlan in a glorified student-film about a librarian who gets caught up in a web of "sexual intrigue."  Unfortunately, there was little to no library content as the main character, Frank, was completely devoid of any personality outside of an inexplicable love of Elvis and an obsession with the mysterious Miranda.  Mostly well-filmed but poorly paced and seemingly written by an unimaginative young college student, Miranda was good for a few laughs but mostly just indifferent shoulder shrugs.  Avoid.

Ooo. Just got back from Mystic River. More on that later, if I get around to it.


*I wrote some about this (the "crisis" part of the weekend) but chose to omit it in the end. Sometimes I forget that anyone can read this and I'm not just scrawling words in my little journal.

Friday, October 10, 2003

LIKE CALIBAN, YOU'VE SEEN IT ALL WITHOUT LANGUAGE TO USE

It's been three long years since brave Ida last came to town, and I'm so glad to see them back in action. There's been no shortage of Ida and Ida-related releases since their last proper full-length, 2000's Will You Find Me, but it's been a pretty sketchy batch. First came the leftovers of The Braille Night, then a "remix" album called Shhh... which featured some studio-session string outtakes, a new song, several different mixes of "Shotgun" and "Shrug" (that added little to the orginals), a meandering collage called "Shoreline" (featuring the gorgeous acoustic guitar line from their 7" single "Truxton Park"), and an incongruously noisy coda which might've been a live Stooges bootleg. Karla Shieckele released two albums with her band k., New Problems and Goldfish, which were fine records, but not on the level of her work with Ida. Daniel Littleton did a record with Tara Jane O'Neil titled Music for a Meteor Shower which was extremely disappointing. It's basically two people farting around on tape-- talented people, to be sure, but not an effort worthy of its nice packaging. Much better was Elizabeth Mitchell's second children's album, You Are My Sunshine, on which Dan played a large role, as well as this year's Muki, recorded by Dan and Liz under the moniker "Nanang Tatang." So while it may seem like Ida has been taking a break, everyone's been busy. I can only open they'll channel that energy into another great Ida record sometime soon.

I've seen Ida four or five times previously, and every show has been incredibly beautiful and emotional. This time, the lineup was down to just Dan, Liz, Karla, and tourmate Fred Thomas (of Satuday Looks Good To Me, His Name Is Alive, and several other bands). They played some of my favorite songs ("Maybelle," "Honeyslide," "Backburner," and "Shotgun") as well as a few I'd never heard before. They were nice enough to let me have a setlist written on some Days Inn stationary:

1. Maybelle (from Will You Find Me - 2000)
2. This Water (also from Will You Find Me)
3. Honeyslide
4. What was it
5. Laurel Canyon
6. Backburner (I Know About You - 1996)
7. Regular Girl (k. song from the Low/k. split 7" Those Girls - 2001)
8. If I Let You Down
9. Getting Nowhere (Nanang Tatang, Muki - 2003)
10. Sundown
11. Last Days Last Nights
12. Time Has Come

I was really hoping they'd open with "Maybelle," which is an amazing showcase for the trio's gorgeous harmonies. Lucky, lucky audience. They also graced us, much to Liz's dismay, with "Little Things," from I Know About You, which they obviously hadn't played in a long time. Dan speedily went over the different parts with everyone and they managed to pull it off despite the lack of practice. "Last Days Last Nights" was introduced as "the Apocalypse death jam," which was partly inspired by Schwarzenegger's recent victory. Dan rocked out a little. It was cute.

Finally, in one of the high points of my concert-going life, they did the first verse of "Thunder Road" followed by a low-key cover of the Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee." I can't imagine anything cooler. Thank you, Ida!

It was too bad more people didn't show up for this incredible performance, but I'm lucky that we could enjoy them, sitting down right up front, in a space with great sound and no smoke. I got shivers up my spine more than once, and came home with a couple of rare, self-released CDs and a cool poster. Fred Thomas was a great opening act, and he talked me into buying the clear vinyl edition of the Saturday Looks Good To Me LP, which was only $10 and had two extra songs not on the CD. What more could you want from a show?

Thursday, October 09, 2003

DOWN AT THE ARCADE
 
6:30 PM.  Thursday night.  The computer lab smells like corn dogs.
 
Tonight someone approached me and said "the lady said I was supposed to tell you the computer doesn't work" (by "the lady" she meant our volunteer who deals with internet sign-up).  When I asked her what was wrong with it she told me it wouldn't let her into any web pages.  I dutifully followed her to the computer, but she was no longer logged on, so I watched and waited as she entered her library card number into our time-monitoring software.  We started up Internet Explorer, and I asked her to try accessing the website she was looking for, so she typed "minnesota homepage" in the address bar and got 404'd.
 
It was a dismayed-head-shaking moment.  I was feeling pretty beaten down after hours of helping people type their library card numbers and find video games on-line.  Same thing night after night.  Young library school students: educate yourselves about foxkids.com, pbskids.org, cartoonnetwork.com, nick.com, Shockwave, and the Disney Channel.  Prepare yourselves for the hordes upon hordes of goggle-eyed kids and adults looking for Lizzie McGuire and pictures of their incarcerated family members.  Make sure you know the ins-and-outs of printers and copy machines.  Learn how to remain friendly and helpful when answering the same dumb question for the eleventy-millionth time (I'm sorry, but there really are dumb questions).  Try to remain calm as politicians and pundits attack your profession; develop responses both measured and aggressive.  Be warned that you might be getting yourself into something that you weren't expecting.  Feel fortunate that you will learn a lot about people and how the world really operates.  Make sure you get enough sleep, and have a life outside of your work.  Drink lots of water.  Wash your hands frequently.  Consider investing in a lightweight bulletproof vest.  Always choose a seat in the corner, facing the room.  Never trust a naked bus driver.   
 

Today's helpful advice has been brought to you by: 

COLONEL SLAPDADDY'S OLD-FASHIONED KENTUCKY RYE WHISKEY
"It's not really good, but it's pretty good."® 
 
 
P.S. You did not really win a DVD player.  Don't click on that link.



CURSES!  IT'S THE DREADED "META-BLOGGER!"
 
As you may have noticed, the library content of my blog has dwindled.  I've posted the occasional news story, but the tales of woe have pretty much disappeared.  This is partly because nothing new is happening.  I see the same old problems, and, for the most part, I have the same reactions.  The good news is that this place has been doing really well, I think our new staff have worked out for the best in terms of the changes we've been making to the building, our policies, and the general atmosphere of how we deal with patrons.  I really miss all of my old co-workers, but the new ones are a great bunch. 
 
My blog was never intended to be focused on the profession, or even on my personal work experiences specifically, but I'm finding that as I decrease the pressure I put on myself to keep the blog full of funny library stories, the more fun I have blogging and the more I actually get written.  The downside is, of course, that the spike in my readership I've seen since June was brought about mainly by people looking for library stories.  I'm sort of torn now, because I don't want to give the impression that this is a "library blog," and continually let down all the folks stopping by for a daily dose of office humor.  It just ain't here no more, people. 
 
Late one night I was toying with the idea of changing the name of my blog to "Spores, Molds, & Fungi," but I'm not sure that's such a hot idea.  For now, the otherwise meaningless suffix "v2.0" will have to suffice.  During my hiatus I had intended to strip this blog down to just the library stuff, but as it turns out, I'm doing just the opposite.  In summary: I'm still here, and I'll probably stay here, but I may not be offering what you came for.  You have my apologies.  "Liberry Blooze" has turned into little more than a run-of-the-mill online journal, and I'm just fine with that. 
 
Stay tuned.  If you're lucky, something catastrophically uproarious will happen to me soon, and the previous three paragraphs will prove themselves moot.  Maybe we'll be boarded by pirates or something.  We've already been hit by a car, had a tree and a bush burned down, been infested with cockroaches, and had a peeping tom poke a hole through the ceiling of the women's restroom, so there's not a whole lot left that could go wrong, really...
 
Murphy's Law should kick in any moment now.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

A BOOT FULL OF ASHES HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN

As much as I've been trying to stay on top of new CD releases this year, there have been a few surprises along the way. Last night I spotted a new album by Rachel's at my local rekkid store, called Systems/Layers. It's everything you'd want from a Rachel's album, and I think it's a significant improvement over 1999's Selenography. Even more surprise came in the form of a hilarious little Q&A with Jason Noble in this week's Onion AV Club. The bad news, though, is that Rachel's are coming to Minneapolis on the same night that Beulah is playing the 400 Bar. Dammit dammit dammit! Maybe, if the stars are aligned correctly, I'll get really lucky and the Rachel's show will be an early evening event. Please take a moment and meditate for cosmic intervention, won't you please? Oh, and wish good luck for my car, too: the damn "service engine soon" light came on AGAIN. Inside, I'm screaming.



Tuesday, October 07, 2003

TOYS

Among the many fabulous fringe benefits of being a public employee, sometimes you have cool co-workers who get transferred to other departments-- like, say, water works-- but who still drop by occasionally and give you presents for no particular reason. This summer I recieved a "Beast Wars Neo Transformer" from a former co-worker and her husband, who is a driven (okay, "obsessive") robot-toy collector. Most people I work with know about my affinity for penguins, and when he spotted this transforming penguin robot at a Chicago toy convention, I was lucky enough to pop into his mind. Of course, I had no idea how complicated the Transformers milieu has become since I was a young lad, hungry for the overpriced new toys and mesmerized by the simplistic cartoon (now available on DVD ferchrissakes).

As I soon discovered, Transformers has become a long drawn-out tale (with an endless potential for new toy manufacturing, of course). Here's the story of "Beast Wars Neo," but really all I care about is my imported toy penguin which transforms into a harpoon-shooting robot (bless the Japanese for continuing to produce toys with projectiles while American manufacturers cower under the threat of potential lawsuits). The penguin is, of course, a character in his own right, named Break. He is a "polar operative," described here:

Amazingly strong in coldness, Break gives full play to his abilities on frigid worlds. He is bold and quick to lose his temper, but is also fiercely concerned for his comrades. The Break Anchors he launches from his right arm are massively destructive. Break loves bathing in ice water and is quite tidy.

Unfortunately, both my roommate and I have been collecting new toys at an alarming rate. I just replaced my faulty Daewoo DVD player with a Pioneer DV-563A that plays both DVD-Audio and SACDs. I don't think DVD-A is going to take off, but I'm hoping SACDs will stick around awhile and prove to be worth it.

Of course, I needed some software to go with the unit, so I bought the DVD-A of Pet Sounds which, humorously, includes three different surround sound mixes (Brian Wilson originally mixed the album in mono). I'm excited about the video extras on this disc, and my Pet Sounds/Smile-obsessed mind is willing to pay for every opportunity to hear different takes on the same album (I already have the single disc CD with mono and stereo mixes, and the Pet Sounds Sessions box set).

On the SACD front, I purchased the hybrid remaster of Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, The Byrds' Greatest Hits (so I can compare the SACD sound to the various Byrds CD reissues I already have), The Isley Brothers' 3 + 3, and Miles Davis' Round About Midnight.

Time will have to tell if the new formats are really a marked improvement, as a Nintendo Gamecube arrived on the heels of my stack o' audio booty. We briefly listened to the Isleys while playing Resident Evil, got distracted by the new Strong Bad e-mail, and soon ran out of steam completely. Much fun to be had in the coming days, however. Ideally by December we'll only have to leave the house to go to work. Next step: to develop remote control robot librarians and media specialists so we can work from home.

Monday, October 06, 2003

HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

I haven't been going to shows much lately (still can't believe I missed both Built to Spill and Lisa Germano), and after seeing Calexico at the Fine Line on Tuesday I remembered why: nowhere to park, $14 to get in, $6.25 for a gin and tonic, no place to sit, choking on other people's cigarette smoke, annoying folks abound. Guh. The band was good but I was so tired that we left early. They did a cover of the Minutemen's "Jesus and Tequila" that was totally funkdafied and pretty much made the trip worth it, but just barely. The opening act, Ireland's The Frames, quoted from "Ring of Fire" and the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory soundtrack, then did a cover of a Daniel Johnston song in what seemed like a desperate plea for hipster cred. Unfortunately they were so professional and Coldplay-esque that I just wanted them to shut up. Maybe if we hadn't had to wait through them I would've been more energetic for the main event: combine Ennio Morricone and Dick Dale in an indie-rock tumbler (with a splash of Portishead) and you've got yourself a tasty little Calexico. The mariachi-style horns were especially great, and the pedal steel, accordion, and vibes only sweetened the deal. Too bad I wasn't able to enjoy it more.

Wednesday night we fared much better at the Turf Club, where our friend Margaret's band Shimmy was playing. Again, we were forced to suffer through a mediocre opening band, but here we could sit and talk to people and drink cheaply. Being that it was late on a weeknight, the place was pretty empty, which was fine by me, though not so great for the band. This was the first time we'd seen Shimmy with their new drummer, and the first time I'd seen them when not feeling horribly ill, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Plus, I was able to take a picture of them with my phone, which still seems really cool to me. Looking forward to future Shimmy shows. Check 'em out.

Here follows a partial list of the shows I'm going to in the coming months. Looks exciting, but exhausting:

Ida - Wed 10/8 Weisman 8PM $8/10
(opening: Fred Thomas)

Arcwelder and Rex Daisy - Fri 10/10 Turf Club
(opening: Volante)

Junior Senior and The Electric Six - Sat 10/18 Entry 8PM $10/10

Broadcast and Iron & Wine - Fri 10/24 400 Bar 8PM $10/12

Cosmic Slop Dance Party - Fri 10/24 Kitty Kat Club 9PM no cover

Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra - Sat 10/25 Ted Mann 8PM

Beulah - Mon 10/27 400 bar 8PM

Smattering - Sat 11/1 Sculpture Garden conservatory 7PM-midnight Free (aa)

Crooked Fingers and Azure Ray - Wed. 11/5 Turf Club 8PM $8/10

Damien Jurado - Thurs 11/6 Entry 8PM $8/10
(opening: Rosie Thomas)

Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players - Fri 11/7 Weisman (aa)

The Shins - Fri 11/14 First Ave 6PM $12/12

Guided by Voices - Tues 11/18 First Ave 8PM $12/15
(opening: The Go...you remember, Jack White's old band from Dee-troit)

Minnesota Orchestra - Nov 20-22 Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique, John Adams: violin concerto, Mozart Impresario overture

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Sat 11/22 First Ave 6PM $12/12 (aa)

And that's not even all the shows that I'm interested in (see also: Killing Joke, The Hang Ups, Peaches, Glen Campbell, Simon & Garfunkel, Lucinda Williams, Bettie Serveert, Al Franken, Low, Enon- argh!) only the ones I think I'll actually make it to. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: CHAMPION OF WOMEN

Two years after Premiere ran a story about Schwarzenegger's alleged sexual improprieties, the LA Times (registration required...ugh) comes out with a report of more groping incidents. King Conan, clearly eager to display his political savvy, made this cogent statement in his defense:

"...a lot of what you see in the stories is not true...at the same time, I have to tell you what I always have to say: wherever there is smoke, there is fire. That's true."

That is so true, and indeed a very useful phrase in all kinds of circumstances.

Q: "Mr. Schwarzenegger, is it true that you view women as mere objects designed for the sole purpose of amusing your every whimsy?"

A: "Whe-ah dehs smoke, dehs fi-yuh."

Q: "How do you respond to criticisms of your attempt to portray a sympathetic Nazi in With Wings of Eagles?"

A: "Eet's like I say: whe-ah dehs smoke, dehs fi-yuh."

I expect that if Schwarzenegger wins the election next Tuesday, Californians will be seeing a lot more smoke and fire in their future.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

NO COMMENT

"I think librarians, unfortunately, some of them at least, are more interested in allowing pornography to go to children than they are fighting terrorism."

--Ed Meese, 09/30/03


I'm working on forming a crack team of Anti-Terrorism Librarian Commandos as we speak. Our struggles in the fight for freedom will be relayed via twenty-two minute long segments edited together by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray for the Bravo cable network. We'll prove that dastardly Meese wrong with some good old fashioned elbow-grease and earwax! It's time to put the "counterattack" back into "Information Science."



HOORAY FOR SHRUB!
 
Finally, the kid did something I can be happy about: he signed the Do Not Call Registry into effect.  
 
Of course, he also signed the $800 million dollar Homeland Security Appropriations bill as well.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not opposed to keeping ourselves safe, but I am distressed at the seeming gap between Bush's lofty claims of hunting down terrorists to secure our borders and the reality in which Osama bin Laden has become a forgotten priority, shrouded in the dust kicked up by the rubble of Iraq.  Why are we not after the man most closely associated with causing the horror that was 09/11/01?  This story collects various sources detailing the distortion of bin Laden's image in our administration's collective mind. 
 
Unfortunately, the government has a history of declaring bin Laden Public Enemy No. 1, then making no effort to stop him.  Clinton dropped the ball originally in 1996, letting bin Laden flee from Sudan into the labyrinth that is Afghanistan, and Bush, in a move that smacks of foolish pride in retrospect, rejected a Taliban offer to hand over bin Laden to a third-party nation in October 2001.  Wouldn't it be better to have him in someone's custody than not know where he is at all?  Or is he not really the dangerous mastermind that he was once painted as?  It's this cycle of icon/obscurity which leads me to believe that either bin Laden is a convenient scapegoat, or the U.S. Government has a vested interest in keeping him alive and active.  What's particularly scary about the second scenario is that it encompasses two very different administrations run by each of our major political parties.  Now, please, expand upon my paranoid conspiracy theory.  I want ideas, people.



NORM COLEMAN: INTO FLOGGING
 
This is just ridiculous, all the way around (though another report of the same story makes it sound ever-so-slightly less like a circus).  I hope Chuck D gave Normy a copy of Rhythm & Business: The Political Economy of Black Music.














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