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Friday, November 21, 2003
OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU NOW?
I love it when indie-rock and libraries collide. Unfortunately, this time it's because of some (you guessed it!) more bad news.
One of the saddest developments in our local music scene has been the disappearance of The Legendary Jim Ruiz Group. Their last album, Sniff, came out on Chicago pop label Minty Fresh (Cardigans, Papas Fritas, Tahiti 80) back in 1998. It was a bit glossed up from their charming '95 lounge-pop debut, throwing a little disco and mariachi into the mix. After a few listens I grew to love it just as much as their first record, and waited out the years for a new one. Or at least a show. Still waiting...
There had been a few lineup changes over the years. Local legend Danny Sigelman played drums on Sniff only to get replaced by a drum machine, briefly. The band took a pretty bad hit when Jim and Stephanie Ruiz split, but the band played a few shows after that, albeit with a rougher edge to them. I can't remember the last Jim Ruiz show I saw, it might've been at the Entry, but it was probably three or four years ago. Apparently he played at Pastor Paul's Acoustic Garage Sale last year but I missed that. When Chuck, Lori and I went to Chicago to see the Clientele, they told us they'd wanted Jim Ruiz to open for them but he'd declined. Damn.
I'd heard awhile back that both Jim Ruiz and his brother Chris worked at the Minneapolis Public Library. As most people know, this is not a good place to be, beleaguered as it is by lawsuits and huge budget cuts. The other night on the local television news I saw him ("Jim Ruiz: Librarian") speaking at a public hearing regarding the woeful state of the library budget. He looked really uncomfortable, and made a statement to the effect that "these buildings are going to be empty" since the current budget plan keeps all fifteen Minneapolis libraries open but cuts twenty-five percent of the staff! Looks like that comes with a 33% reduction in operating hours too. My initial instinct is to keep the buildings open, but I'm sure if I was facing the severity of layoffs that Jim is dealing with I'd probably be the one on the local news looking uncomfortable. If you want to toss poor Minneapolis a bone, check out their wishlist or donate to their Friends of the Library.
I really hope fate throws Jim Ruiz a bone one of these days. A good, quality, happybone. Give the man a break! Or at least get him in the studio, or on stage, even if he is miserable. We love you, Jim Ruiz! Come back!
In better news, I'll be spending Thanksgiving in New York City. You probably shouldn't expect any updates to this site until next weekend, at the earliest, unless The Hang Ups show tonight or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs tomorrow give me something to blog about. Oh, and we'll be watching the extended edition DVD of The Two Towers. And shopping for audio gear. Woo hoo!
More good news! At last! There's a rough mix of a new Orange Peels song at their website, along with some cute pictures of them working on a new record.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
GBV! GBV! GBV!
My first-ever, nearly complete, chronological set list for the greatest rock band in the universe, Guided By Voices (sorry, JB):
First Avenue, Minneapolis MN 11/18/03
My Kind of Soldier
Excellent opener. I first heard "Secret Stars" when GBV opened for Cheap Trick last April and it sounded great. I'm not as crazy about the recorded version on Earthquake Glue. Something about that record just doesn't quite do it for me; the songs are really good but they sound flat on the CD (I must've been spoiled by the sonic sheen that Rob Schnapf put on Isolation Drills.) "Finks" is on the new Hardcore UFOs box, originally a bonus track on the Japanese import version of Under The Bushes, Under The Stars. After "My Kind of Solider," Bob went on a little rant about Paul Westerberg. He raved about Paul's last album (I assume he's talking about Stereo/Mono, which I loved, too) and then complained because Paul never comes to their shows.
Queen of Cans and Jars
I'll Replace You With Machines
Mascara Snakes (Phantom Tollbooth - Beard of Lightning)
A Trophy Mule In Particular
Beg for a Wheelbarrow
Things I Will Keep
Red Ink Superman (Robert Pollard - Motel of Fools)
Bull Spears (Circus Devils - The Harold Pig Memorial)
The Best of Jill Hives
Game of Pricks
Christian Animation Torch Carriers
Back to the Lake
As We Go Up, We Go Down
At this point I saw a guy in front of me pouring Cheese-Its down his throat, and then another guy came from behind me and swiped the box.
Shocker in Gloomtown
(unknown song...likely something from Earthquake Glue.)
Skills Like This
The Brides Have Hit Glass
Get Under It (Robert Pollard - Not in my Airforce)
Mix Up The Satellite
The Main Street Wizards
Gold Heart Mountaintop Queen Directory
Watch Me Jumpstart
Hey Aardvark (an obscure one from the "Static Airplane Jive" EP)
Murder Charge (going all the way back to 1990's Same Place the Fly Got Smashed)
Harrison Adams (also from "Motel of Fools," the song that made the EP worth owning)
Buzzards and Dreadful Crows
Alone, Stinking and Unafraid (Lexo and the Leapers - Ask Them...out-of-print #2 in the Fading Captain Series...I have to get a copy of this!)
Tractor Rape Chain
I Am A Scientist
It was a long, awesome show with a great mix of songs. Bob was at his mic-cord twirling, prancing, unbalanced best. The new bass player, Chris Slusarenko, faired well, though Crystal complained about the lack of smooching between him and Nate Farley (a la Nate and Tim Tobias). Maybe they'll work their way up to it. Openers The Go were loud and boring until they closed up their set with "Meet Me at the Movies" from their 1999 Sub Pop record Watcha Doin'. Singer Bobby Harlow seemed dangerously inebriated (or was it an elaborate act?), knocked over his mic stand and ended up on the floor. Just a rest stop on the road to stardom.
Most excellent of all, this was my first GBV show with Kelly. I wonder if we could get married by Bob? It wouldn't be legal or anything, but I think it could be a beautiful commitment ceremony, with loud music, cheap beer, and lots and lots of presents. One can only dream.
Monday, November 17, 2003
MORE SAD NEWS
In this endlessly dismal year, another musical legend has passed who, sadly, will probably be overlooked. Arthur Conley, who recorded one of the best songs about music ever, "Sweet Soul Music," might better be described as a one-hit wonder, but when you've co-written and sung a song that good, you deserve to be called a legend. Do yourself a favor and hunt it down, it's guaranteed to perk you right up.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
WELCOME TO YEAR TWO!
Happy anniversary, me. To celebrate, I have re-instated the archives, though in a slightly edited form. Check out late-winter/early-spring when I was much more ornery and political (you may notice the nickname "Dr. Chameleon" sprinkled liberally throughout, which was my pseudonym back when I foolishly imagined I could blog anonymously).
Sorry that the permalinks still don't work. My crack team of technical specialists have been on extended vacation, so extended that I've forgotten where they went or how to get in touch with them. In fact, they may very well be figments of my imagination. Flights of fancy. Specks of whimsy.
Where was I? Oh yeah, heaping praise on myself. Go, me! I rock! And so do all of you. Give yourselves all a kiss on the cheek for me.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
DEEP KARMA CANYON
Bad news abounds re: Return of the King. First, Christopher Lee has apparently been cut entirely from the film. In a show of spectacularly poor planning, the Saruman death scene that should've been in The Two Towers was slated to open ROTK but got dropped. We won't know what happened to Saruman until the extended edition DVD release of ROTK, which is certain to perplex a majority of viewers. Pretty damn stupid, if you ask me, when they painted him as the primary villain throughout the first two films, even more than the books did. Unconfirmed reports place the running time of ROTK at 210 minutes (3.5 hours!), a good half-hour longer than the first two films of the trilogy, and they're relegating the fate of Saruman to home video. Very disappointing.
Even worse, though, is this story from the Internet Movie Database:
Movie hunk Orlando Bloom lashed out at Lord of the Rings co-star Sir Ian McKellen at a film awards this week after the gay actor after said he wanted to kiss him. McKellen had joked at London's British Independent Film Awards on Tuesday night that he was only attending in the hope of smooching hunky Bloom. However, when the 26-year-old arrived and was asked about the cheeky remarks he failed to see the funny side. He coldly shot back, "I'm not gay. I've got a girlfriend."
Oh, spare me the queer-bashing, Legolas! I wonder if Orlando is aware that the ultimate fate of Legolas is to sail into the West with Gimli. I can just picture him refusing to shoot the scene for fear it would tarnish his image as a virile heterosexual (cue laughter).
Finally, and less catastrophically, Annie Lennox performs a song called "Into The West" on the soundtrack. I can only hope it's better than the Enya song in Fellowship of the Ring or the warbling "Gollum's Song" they snuck onto the end credits of The Two Towers. Peter Jackson has yet to impress me with his taste in songs, but I know that my opinion is really important to him so I'm feeling optimistic this time around. Seriously, though, the preview looks amazing. In fact, those two minutes of ROTK footage were more exciting than any of the full-length films I've seen in the last few months. Now if I can just convince myself that PJ isn't really going to do another remake of King Kong. He's joking, right? It's just a smokescreen to keep us off his trail. I'm sure of it. So sure. Saussure. Meep. Mork. Moop.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Lately, "the online" has been siphoning away my funds about as fast as I can make 'em. I hope you're happy, Mr. Cheney.
First, the used goods:
Sparklehorse - Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot
Their 1995 Capitol debut, pre-Mark-Linkous-brush-with-death, but just as quirky and haunting as their following two albums. Getting this makes up for the long wait inbetween new releases.
Lounge Ax Defense and Relocation
Featuring a bunch of bands I love: GBV, Archers of Loaf, Yo La Tengo with The Coctails, Superchunk, Tortoise, Rachel's, etc. John says they used to play tracks from this on Radio K, so maybe I'll recognize a few. I got it for a steal, under $3.
Grant Green - The Complete Quartets with Sonny Clark
I also picked up this two-disc set for a pretty good price. Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet but the only Grant Green album that's disappointed me so far was Am I Blue?, so chances are high that this will be another good investment. I'm not usually a soul jazz fan but there's something rrrrrrreeeeaaalllll fine about the moods Mr. Green sets.
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band - The Complete Set (1923-24)
Some of the finest classic jazz you can buy. This is an out-of-print collection on the Challenge label I've been eyeing for awhile, featuring Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds, Johnny St. Cyr, and other early greats.
And now...the real wallet-busters:
Guided by Voices - Fast Japanese Spin Cycle
A great EP from 1993. You never know if these miscellanious GBV releases are going to be worth it, but this one's a real winner. I've already listened to it a half-dozen times, probably. Makes a great stocking-stuffer!
GBV - My Kind Of Soldier
This is a new import single with a cover of Cheap Trick's "Dusted" and a tune written and sung by Doug Gillard. Unfortunately, it isn't worth the high price tag.
GBV - Hardcore UFOs: Revelations, Epiphanies and Fast Food in the Western Hemisphere
Here's the big splurge, though I got a pretty good deal from Insound. Disc one: a greatest hits compilation, notable for louder mastering on early tracks like "Exit Flagger," and the inclusion of the "Teenage FBI" demo (sans Ric Ocasek production). The sequencing is kind of shaky, though, as it's chronological and there's a lot of abrupt switching between slow songs and balls-out rockers. Disc two is mostly b-sides and tracks that have never been seen on CD before, including one of my favorite GBV releases ever, the 1995 Tigerbomb 7" EP. This was a big selling point for me. Disc three is a collection of previously unreleased material, disc four is a collection of live material, and disc five features their 1986 (!) recording debut, the "Forever Since Breakfast" EP. On top of all that, there's a DVD with two documentaries, some live performances, and some videos I've never seen (who knew they made a video for "Glad Girls?").
Sun Kil Moon - Ghosts of the Great Highway
Mark Kozelek's (Red House Painters) new band. The first track is named "Glenn Tipton," after the Judas Priest guitarist. This is lookin' really good so far.
The Hang Ups - s/t
Released on Trampoline Records, which is Pete Yorn's label. Sounds like a good return to form for the Hang Ups, who had a dark period where they tried too hard to be a "rock" band, as opposed to the sweet gentle pop group we know they really are. Whatever you call it, I like it a lot (though I could do with a little less keyboard...sorry Marcel). They're playing the Uptown this Saturday, and a CD release party is set for Friday, Nov. 21 at First Ave.
But wait- there's more! I got some DVDs, as well:
David Cross - Let America Laugh
Pretty funny, though not quite as good as the preview on his CD led me to believe it would be. There is footage of him shooting off fireworks in Minneapolis, fireworks which kept me and my roommate awake all night, but otherwise there's little to no footage from First Ave., or the party my friends were at. They give way too much screen time to some of David's more drunk, annoying fans, but there is definitely some entertainment value to be found here, especially when Bob O. makes a brief appearance late in the show.
Tenacious D - The Complete Masterworks
I been waitin' on this for a loooooong time. It's got the goods: the six HBO shorts that started it all, three music videos, some TV appearances, and more. Unfortunately a few of the new shorts (directed by Liam Lynch and projected at live shows) were testing even my comedic boundaries. Think bodily fluids. In excess. Really nasty stuff. This questionable-quality factor only increased when we watched the behind-the-scenes tour footage (similar to David Cross' DVD), which was occasionally quite appalling. I'll watch Jack Black goof around for hours, no problem, the unsettling part was seeing #1 'D fan Lee getting it on with a succession of inebriated young fans. Apparently the man has no shame, no morals, and no boundaries. It's too bad when the joke spills over into real life, and Lee was taking things deep into Wyckyd Sceptre territory. Maybe I'm just jealous.
For the first-time ever on DVD, retaining it's fabulous mono soundtrack. This Criterion Collection release features, for the first time, film credits (who knew that Steven Soderbergh did some of the music himself, or that his father appeared in the film?), some deleted scenes, and two commentary tracks, including one in which Soderbergh interviews himself. He plays himself with a bloated self-importance that's sometimes hilarious, sometimes tedious. Imagine listening to Grad Wombish drone on for an hour and a half (those of you who know Grad). Some of what he says is truthful, but it's distorted through a ridiculously egotistical lens. This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I'm glad to have it in the popular "Digital Versatile Disc" video format.
My body and I haven't been getting along too well lately, so after a smokey outing to see Crooked Fingers and Azure Ray last week, I stayed in all weekend, missing the Starfire benefit concert in Duluth and the intriguing 15 Head production Sacred Space (isn't this great?..I'm blogging about what I didn't do). On the bright side, I got caught up on a lot of movie watching, including the above DVD selections and the somewhat disappointing duo of Moonlight Mile and Darling, a 1965 John Schlesinger film starring Julie Christie. Bitingly satirical and occasionally hilarious, but overlong for a film about a flighty, unlikeable character.
Feeling a little better this week, Kelly and I got out to the theaters to see The Matrix: Revolutions and The Singing Detective. Though I'd love to go over "Revolutions" with a gigantic dialogue eraser, I actually liked it better than the second entry in the series, if only because my expectations were so low this time around, and the mega-battle sequence in Zion was f---ing amazing. Toward the end it really looked like Hell in there, which may be just another anvil-heavy metaphor (you know: "War is Hell") to pile on the overcooked Wachowski Bros. heap, but I liked it despite (or because of?) its pomposity. Disappointments abound, but overall I thought the groaners were fewer in number and shorter in length than those in Reloaded. Not feeling terribly satisfied by the conclusion, but I'm going to give it some more thought (and I'll have to watch the whole trilogy again after Revolutions comes out on video, even though it means sitting through the tedious "burly brawl" and other pointless sequences from Reloaded).
The Singing Detective, on the other hand, was a little movie that reached high, but its lackluster visual style and muddled jumbling of reality and fantasy left me cold. Here's an alarming news article posted February 19, 2003 on IMDB:
Robert Downey Jr.'s movie comeback in Mel Gibson's The Singing Detective has been put back after disappointing reviews at the Sundance Film Festival. Bosses at Paramount haven't confirmed a date for the release of the movie adaptation of British playwright Dennis Potter's quirky story, in which Downey Jr. plays a hallucinating hospital patient suffering from a skin disease. And now the film's release is classed as "uncertain" after mixed reviews at the recent Sundance Film Festival. Meanwhile, Downey Jr. is in negotiations to re-team with pal Gibson in the fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise.
If I'd seen it at 2AM on the Sundance channel, I'd assume it never had a theatrical release, but I'd be wrong. Based on a well-recieved 1986 mini-series, it boasts a helluva cast (Jeremy Northam, Alfre Woodard, Adrien Brody, Robin Wright Penn, and Mel Gibson in so much makeup as a balding psychotherapist you'll hardly recognize him), and was directed by actor/director Keith Gordon, who made Mother Night, one of my favorite films. Unfortunately this one is a bit of a mess. The sound was terrible and it had the look of a late-night cable show (circa 1992) to it, so the only thing that kept me going was the curiosity of trying to understand just what the heck was going on. I'm not sure it was worth the effort, though. I'm still stunned that this wasn't something they made five years ago that got shelved, but it looks like it was delayed by less than a year, tops. Mr. Brody isn't doing a very good job of riding that post-Oscar wave. First Dummy came out to horrible reviews, now this. He'll be back next year in M. Night Shyamalan's new film, which I can only hope will be better than Signs.
Oof! That's all for now. I'm going to try to keep a short rope on my bank account from here 'til Christmas, that is, excepting for The Two Towers extended edition DVD and the Alien Quadrilogy DVD box set that comes out next month...I...must...have them...immediately!!! Thank you and good night.
Monday, November 10, 2003
THE NEW BREED
Lookit me, I'm famous or somethin'! The illustrious Steven M. Cohen was kind enough to mention me in his article for Public Libraries Magazine. I'm sure this will help me rake in many new readers who hunger for tossed-off, single sentence film reviews and incomplete indie-rock setlists, crucial tools for librarians navigating the information-choked sea we call "the online."
Saturday, November 08, 2003
FREAKS & GEEKS
If there's one positive thing I can say about the internet, it's that it really encourages people to be weird. Act like a nut on the street and most people will ignore you (trust me, I know), but get crazy online and suddenly you're cool: Check it out.
This tribute to fuzzy rodents has been brought to you by Steve Burns, whom some of you may recall from the children's television program "Blue's Clues." He has since transformed himself into an alternative rock superstar, working with Flaming Lips producer and Mercury Rev member Dave Fridmann. Cool!
From animated canine frolicker...
...to laid-back purveyor of Awesome Sauce®:
Thursday, November 06, 2003
It's time to move on from the reader's advisory brouhaha. Let's all have a friendly little chuckle, now, shall we?
As I mentioned somewhere below, I recently sat through Daredevil: The Movie, The Ride (dragging two poor souls along with me into the depths of b-movie Hell), and it was about as bad as I expected it would be. Jon Favreau was somewhat entertaining as Franklin "Foggy" Nelson, but Ben Affleck was his usual wooden self, Jennifer Garner completely lacked charisma, and Colin Farrell was just ridiculous. Plus they filmed the whole thing in L.A. so most of the New York backdrops are fake, and it shows. Batman Returns played up the artificiality of the comic book and film mediums by creating a very stylized urban landscape. It was completely fake, but it had its own brilliant aesthetic (that of Bo Welch, who was also responsible for Edward Scissorhands). Daredevil's production design, however, just looks cheap and sloppy.
On the bright side, Daredevil featured the single worst line ever written for a film. That's a pretty impressive honor, don't you think? We had to watch the scene about five times just to catch every delicious nuance of this clumsy sentence:
My sense of sound gave off a kind of radar sense.
That's right, we're not talking about his sense of hearing, but his sense of sound, which gives off...a kind of radar sense...a sense...that gives off a sense. Interesting...interesting. This was in voiceover, mind you, so it's not like it would've been hard to change, but they'd probably already booted the screenwriter by then, and I don't imagine that Mr. Affleck is much of an improvisor. I'm just constantly amazed that with the amount of money that goes into a production like this they can't do better than "my sense of sound gave off a kind of radar sense."
Fun fact: Coolio was in the film as one of Matt Murdock's clients, but they cut his scenes. I can just imagine how much better it would've been with a little Coolio action.
Saturday, November 01, 2003
A GOOD QUESTION
A patron comes up to me and asks "do you have any books on, like, females gettin' pregnant and stuff?"
Politely bypassing the issue of male pregnancy, I lead her to the RG 500s, whereupon she says "naw, I'm talkin' about, like, readin' books."
Reading books? I'm not familiar with that special sub-category of printed material. Befuddled, I ask her what she means by reading books, and her answer is "like A Child Called It." Oh. Well...okay, there isn't really a section for that kind of thing, though...
Ah, reader's advisory. I'm not so good at it because I don't read the books that normal people like. In high school I read a lot of trashy sci-fi and fantasy, and I have a horrible memory, so I like to re-read things, which means that right now I'm considering re-reading a bunch of Clive Barker novels (so far I haven't made it past the considering stage, though). I'm also re-reading the Strangers in Paradise comic book series, which can be depressing at times, but is otherwise an amazing work of art and fiction. I recently read Of Mice and Men for the first time, and I'm glad I did, but didn't I just say that I need to stop reading depressing books?
The problem is I don't read mysteries, or thrillers, or romance novels. I don't read Oprah books (not knowingly, anyway), or popular books about abused children. I've read a lot of non-fiction books about music, Mozart and Haydn biographies, books on jazz, politics: stuff people in this neighborhood could care less about.
Fortunately, the patron did ask for Omar Tyree books. Of course they were all checked out, but at least that was something concrete I could latch on to, and maybe recommend some similar books (or what I imagine might be of interest to an Omar Tyree reader, based on content and other local reading habits I've observed). If only we could organize a library based on each individual's personal interests...Digital library, anyone?
Fiction makes me mad, anyway. Maybe it's just serialized fiction, but I've felt cheated or disappointed so many times. The Star Wars prequels, for example, have been disastrous. Angel went horribly sour about a year and a half ago, and while recent episodes have been entertaining, it's asking a lot for us to conveniently forget one major character (Cordelia) that we'd invested a lot in over the course of three years. Twin Peaks, meanwhile, never wrapped-up or made any sense, and no matter how hard you try there's no logic to be found in the black lodge/white lodge/red room situation. Lynch works by instinct, and you can be darn sure he didn't have it all planned out in such a way that you could answer the riddle (if he had, wouldn't Fire Walk With Me have been more than just a surreal Zalman King film?). I seem to have a masochistic bent toward unfinished works; I also have major obsessions with Mozart's Requiem and The Beach Boys' lost Smile album.
Maybe I need to read more, or read the right things, but printed fiction is a lot less likely to involve me in characters the way movies and (a few) television shows can. I think it's the sound, even more than the moving image, that makes the difference, especially the music. Nothing can affect me the way music can, especially when it's used right. Of course, film music can also go horribly awry, as in Mystic River during an early, overblown scene in the movie (minor spoiler alert!): Sean Penn screaming "noooooooo!" in an overhead shot with the camera pulling back dramatically, Eastwood's amateurish compostion blaring on the theater speakers. It's almost enough to make your emotions shut down completely, thus ruining a pivotal scene.
So I'm usually at a loss to help people who come looking for suggestions. Sure, there's Booklist, BookWire, A to Zoo, Amazon, a bunch of individual library "what do I read next?" sites, and seminars, but none of those can do the same job as someone who reads the stuff and can tell you what you might enjoy if, say, you like Sue Grafton but not Dennis Lehane. Unfortunately I'm not one of those people, not unless you tell me that you prefer H.C. Robbins Landon over Maynard Solomon. That's right, "who?"