February 28, 2003 (link)
I'd like to think that, if Mr. Rogers could see all of these cartoonists' tributes to him, he'd like the one by John Cole the most (bottom of the first page). It's certainly the best one, as far as I'm concerned -- all the others are a bit cloying and sentimental, but Cole actually manages to nail what was really special about Mr. Rogers, a man who once said "I got into television because I hated it so...I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen."
current music: Can -- "One More Night"
February 27, 2003 (link)
It's such a good feeling to know you're alive.
It's funny -- after seeing the trumpet episode back in December, I remember thinking that I ought to write him a fan letter, thanking him for everything he'd given the world. I didn't, unfortunately, but I'm glad to have rediscovered how great his show was, before he died.
Rest in peace, Mister Rogers.
current music: Comus -- "Diana"
February 26, 2003 (link)
"Mr. Memory", lyrics by F. Leinweber and A. Korb, performed by Cara Stewart with the Lee Hudson Orchestra.
Real violins! A full rhythm section! Decent-sounding reverb! Restraint! All these luxuries, and more, are already evident only a few seconds into "Mr. Memory", perhaps the least defective song-poem I've heard to date -- which is to say, I can't find a thing wrong with it: it's simply a nice song.
We begin with a surging violin melody (it sounds like there are three, maybe four of them), under which a small male chorus sings wordless harmony and the rhythm section (jazz guitar, bass, drums, and what I think is a very quiet piano) plays a lilting, gently swung rhythm. Cara Stewart enters after a few bars:
Set me free, Mr. Memory
Ms. Stewart has a lovely alto voice reminiscent of Patsy Cline, which in my book is a fine thing. Good phrasing, good intonation, good tonal quality, understated delivery: ladies and gentlemen, she can sing. I love that old-time violin sound, too.
Can't you see, Mr. Memory
Does anyone remember the old handheld Merlin puzzle units, the red plastic ones with eleven blinking LEDs? We had one at my house that got a lot of use (and abuse) -- I think it's still around, actually. You could program tunes into it, play blackjack, tic-tac-toe, all sorts of stuff. It had a memory game of some sort, and I was hoping there might be a similar device somewhere out there called a "Mr. Memory". Alas, no such luck...
Night after night he's mine again it seems
The bridge gives us a bit more of a straightforward jazz rhythm, as the bass starts to walk and the violins switch over to tremolos. Right at the end, the chords do a little lift, which tricked me into thinking we were about to modulate up a half-step -- but nope, not this time.
So please, be kind
I like the way she shortens the word "off" there -- it sounds like the removal of a burden, but an oddly light one, like a bit of dust on an expensive coffee table.
Set me free, Mr. Memory
We get a sleepy little interlude here, with a miniature guitar solo and another feint at modulation. Then Cara Stewart comes back once more:
So please, be kind
On the words "be kind", she does a little gliss up to the G-sharp, and it conjures the image of an inviting smile: Wouldn't it be so easy, and lovely, to be kind, it says. Behind that smile is a crackling fireplace, a glass of wine, and the warm eyes of what gentlemen once called a "charming woman".
Set me free, Mr. Memory
In truth, the whole song is sleepy, and quite pleasantly so: it's an invitation to slumber, and perhaps, a deliberate evocation of that state of mind in which one would rather dream than wake. But it suggests not the angst-filled night, but rather the narcotic pleasure of an extended morning, one in which the sleeper briefly wakes only to decide that dreaming was, on the whole, a better place to be...
And as she fades back into the comfort of sleep, so too does the song fade away.
current music: ...but only in my dreams.
February 23, 2003 (link)
current music: Morgan's G minor loop
February 22, 2003 (link)
Seriously? Because that, and this, read like something out of Irrational Exuberance. I'm still not completely convinced it's not a put-on: "As your silver hair save that, For you got to better not there"?
current music: Can - "Halleluhwah", from Horrortrip in the Paperhouse (Live in Köln, March 2, 1972, and on the BBC, March 3, 1973)
February 19, 2003 (link)
I hadn't read this before I wrote the paragraph below about Nagisa Ni te. So are the similarities a sign of good listening on my part, or just of lazy, surface-level criticism that invokes easy antecedents instead of coming up with more nuanced responses?
This album is making me want to watch My Neighbor Totoro.
Continuing on the "learning something new" tip, this answered a question I'd had for a while, but the answer to which I've only just now taken the time to look for:
'The most outstanding difference between the Sunni and Shia doctrines of infallibility and the superhuman knowledge is that, with the former infallibility is not a quality inherent in the prophet by virtue of his being but a special grace from God. His superhuman knowledge is given to him from time to time by God, whose message he repeats to man. His merit was to be chosen by God to be his mouthpiece. Thus the Sunnis kept much closer to the Quranic text, such as verse 47 : 66 says "none in the Heaven and earth knows what is hidden but God." On the other hand, with the Shia a sinless and perfect infallibility is in the Imams and of them. They possess a secret Knowledge, inherited from their superhuman forebears, by which they know all that will happen in the world until the Day of Resurrection. Therefore they cannot err. They are the sole and ultimate authority on the interpretation of the Qur'an, the source of all truth and the only beings with the right to men's obedience. Therefore all doctrines must have their authority. As Goldziher has said, "If we may wish to state concisely the difference between Sunni and Shia Islam, we should say that the former is a church founded on the consent of the community, the latter is an authoritarian church."'
I should mention that I suspect the page I linked above was authored by a Sunni Muslim, so it's possible that a Shia source would write something a bit different. Still, interesting stuff.
"The New World", the nine-minute opening track to Nagisa Ni te's Feel, sounds at times like a cross between Low (instrumentally) and Sigur Ros (vocally). I'm not really a Sigur Ros fan, but the combination has its points. Nagisa Ni te apparently gets comparisons to "early to middle-era Pink Floyd or George Harrison"; I'm still making my way through the album, but I can hear the resemblance to certain parts of Atom Heart Mother or Obscured By Clouds on the second track, "Song About A River - Crossing Song". Alas, the drums are a bit too sluggish to get that wonderful Nick Mason lazy-eights feel -- instead of sliding, they just feel draggy and lethargic.
current music: Nagisa Ni te - Feel
February 18, 2003 (link)
I felt like learning something, but didn't know what. Then I thought back to seeking out information on lecithin with H. and actually learning a few things (most of which I don't remember). That quest was prompted by a question about Tootsie Rolls, so I decided to pick up the nearest packaged food item I could find, and look for information on the first ingredient I didn't know much of anything about. It was a jar of peanut butter, the ingredient was rapeseed oil, and so, behold: "rapes" are basically rutabagas, and so rapeseeds "are the seeds of the rutabaga, and rapeseed oil is the oil pressed from the seeds." Furthermore, "Canola oil is rapeseed oil which is low in erucic acid and is pressed from the seeds of the canola" -- the canola being, apparently, a specialized breed of, er, rape. (It seems erucic acid isn't good for us humans.)
Rutabagas! Who would've thought? I didn't know kale could be pretty, either.
current music: Dizzy Gillespie - "Rutabaga Pie"
February 14, 2003 (link)
Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
current music: Radiohead - Kid A
February 12, 2003 (link)
Whenever anyone asked me why I had such a strong dislike for Benn!ngton's F!eld Work Term, my usual answer was that I thought it was bullshit, and an incredible pain in the ass to boot. Most other colleges didn't force you to remove all of your stuff midway through the year and shuffle off for two months to some meagerly-paid internship, which half the time was some cock-and-bull story constructed by your friends or parents to cover for the fact that you were spending two months goofing off (if you were rich) or working at a shit job to pay the bills (if you weren't). Putting a two-month gap in the middle of the year had an inhibiting, fracturing effect on every kind of human relationship you might want to build -- friendships, romances, collaborations, and mentoring relationships with professors. Every time I talked to friends at other colleges, for whom winter break was a pleasant interval and a chance to relax -- rather than an occasion for desperate scrambling and massive stress -- it only deepened my resentment of, and dislike for, FWT. I thought it was a horrible thing to do, I thought it was wildly unfair to the poor kids who couldn't afford to play Employment Camp for two months, I thought it smacked in every way of the Benn!ngton-as-rich-kid-school legacy, I thought it was a sham designed to make money for the college by permitting them to rent out the dorms during ski season, and I thought the program -- and the mental health of its students -- would be better off without it.
But the other reason, which I never much talked about, was that I couldn't do it. Not just the money, for there wasn't any; my family has been below the poverty line something like 25 years out of the 26 I've been alive, and there was simply no money to rent an apartment for two months -- almost all of my college tuition came from loans, grants, and my work-study hours, and I was lucky if I had $100 left at the end of a term, despite working as many as 30 hours per week. That was bad enough, but as someone recovering from a full-blown case of panic disorder, the idea of moving alone to a foreign city, with no money and no friends and no support structure, was simply an impossibility. This wasn't something I would've been proud to admit, any more so than I was proud to tell my First Aid teacher that I was having a hard time completing the CPR unit because doing artificial respiration into a dummy redolent of bleach was giving me a panic attack (but I did tell her, because the alternative was failing the class, and to her credit she was decent enough about it). But much as the spatially inept despise sports, so too did my condition serve as a lens for my hatred of FWT, and all of the half-steppings and connivings it forced me into. (The people in the office were perfectly nice, by the way -- more's the pity.)
Thus, we have yours truly, living at home in rural New Hampshire for his first FWT, having -- in a flash of dubious insight -- constructed himself, as his job for the winter term, a scheme for raising money for scholastic chess. Armed with a hilarious tape on telemarketing, a check for $50 or so, and the good name of the New Hampshire Chess Association, I did...well, absolutely nothing, basically. I ended up coming perilously close to failing the FWT, and certainly burned up any goodwill I had with the luminaries of the NHCA, which was a shame as they were nice people who couldn't really be expected to understand what a basket case I was at the time (especially as I didn't tell them, and was remarkably good at concealing the extent of my near-agoraphobia).
We already knew then, in the winter of 1995, that we were leaving New Hampshire for the house in Maryland; keeping two households was a tremendous strain on my family's emotional and financial resources, and the absence of any good work for my father -- or good special education for my brother -- in NH made the choice easy, at least on paper. There was something bittersweet, in the midst of all that claustrophobia, about spending that last winter there; I remember walking out into the swamp late that February, only a day or two before I was to return to school, and watching the sunset from the clearing in the middle: This is really beautiful, I thought to myself, and I can't believe I'm only seeing this now, now that I'm about to leave it. Everything was white and crystalline and remarkably quiet -- quiet in a way that I've yet to find anywhere but New Hampshire: even Vermont was noisy, if for no other reason than its proximity to a highway. But the silence in New Hampshire was breathtaking, and was the perfect setting for my formative experiences with much of my favorite music -- Debussy's La Mer, Satie, Kind of Blue, and the song that gave this site its name, among so many others. It was -- and I hope still is -- a beautiful place, one that for all its flaws had a spirit I'm grateful to have shared in.
Through his connections as a contractor, my father happened to come by a stack of records left behind by some tenant departing, no doubt, in haste from one of the properties owned by his employer (and landlord). Most of them had "CROWE" written on the cover in black permanent marker, and many of them looked dirty and smelled like mildew. It wasn't quite a treasure trove, and there was plenty there that didn't interest me, but I picked out a few records that did -- a few Grateful Dead albums, three or four Mahavishnu LPs, Santana's Abraxas, a couple Jefferson Airplane releases, and so on -- and set them aside. (One of my favorite things about acquiring vinyl in the CD age is being able to amass large numbers of albums cheaply -- or for free! -- and not listen to them. Perhaps that sounds strange, but I've always loved the one about the man with the huge library who, when asked if he had read all of his books, replied, "Don't be foolish -- who would want a library full of books they'd already read?")
So I'm sitting downstairs in the de facto listening room -- picture red carpeting over a cement floor, big bamboo chairs with vinyl cushions spray-painted various colors: you've got the idea. It's probably cold, and dark, and it's 1995 and there's no Internet (or there might as well not be, since I don't even own a computer) and my best friend from college won't even be there next term, he's gone off to Colorado to pursue other dreams, so I'm feeling quite alone. The other part of there being no Internet, and this is a way the world has changed, now: the only music I can listen to is the music I have right there. I can't go look for Transona Five or Seamonster1 or whomever on the Internet, and if I want to hear a sound, I better hope I've got it right there or can make it myself, because I'm not going to find it on the radio.
I'm having a hard time -- whom do I miss? I'm not sure: maybe it's "pure" loneliness -- and I want a piece of music that will help me to feel like the world is full of possibilities, and not dead ends. And I think to myself, "I want to hear something that starts quietly and simply, in E minor, with a feeling of foreboding. I want it to use those beautiful sounds that they had in the early '70s, sounds they never seemed to get right again, like the timbre of a Rhodes run through a vintage phaser. And I want it to build, and build, and then do all kinds of wonderful, explosive things that make perfect sense and yet make me feel completely surprised and delighted."
And I took out the Mahavishnu Orchestra's Between Nothingness and Eternity for the first time ever -- never having heard a note of it, to my knowledge -- and lowered the needle onto the song that takes up the record's entire B-side, "Dream":
And it did just that.
current music: It's quiet.
February 10, 2003 (link)
Oh, never mind. I should learn to actually look at my links before posting them.
So instead, here are the chords to three Ida songs, from an old email to Scott:
The harmonies in "Down On Your Back" are especially remarkable -- they remind me of the Chopin Prelude in A Minor, or even a bit of Tristan. And that little addition in the third verse around the Bsus2 is very beautiful. Mr. Littleton knows a thing or two about chords, I think.
Predictably I've also been seeing a lot of "cellophane bondage" searches too. Sigh.
Already, someone got here by searching for the chords to "I Am Calling You"! I can't remember much of the song, I'm afraid, but as far as I can remember the chorus went something like: Em7b5, A7, Dm7b5, G7sus. I hope that's helpful in some way.
current music: Robbie Basho -- "Wounded Knee Soliloquy"
February 8, 2003 (link)
This made me laugh out loud:
unrelated note: in the electric end, toward the beginning, you can hear someone (i think eddie) laughing to sterling, "what are you doing man? you're just yelling!" to which sterling replies "EEEEYAAAYAYAGHHA!""Sterling" is Jandek, by the way -- or some people think so, at least.
Despite being every bit as overwrought as it's said to be, I actually find something strangely appealing -- even moving -- about Arcesia's "Butterfly Mind". The lyrics are at times ridiculous ("Don't let a wasp grab you / Don't let a hand nab you"), and when Johnny Arcessi strains for those high notes, the effect is basically comic. And yet there's something that, in the midst of all that over-emoting, manages to in fact be genuinely emotive. Maybe it's the way the chords and melody slowly fall, downward chromatically (by half-steps); in that respect it's a bit reminiscent of that song -- was it from Bagdad Cafe? -- that went "I, ah-ah-I / Am calling you", and like that song it's overblown and yet it's at heart an unexpectedly well-written song and there's a part of it that works.
Bizarre realization: in a way, the opening line of "Butterfly Mind" mirrors the opening of the final movement of Bruckner's Ninth Symphony. The Bruckner opens with an ascending minor ninth -- B, C-B-A#; if you include the pedal tone on the guitar -- the presence of which means that Arcessi is entering at the minor ninth -- then the Arcesia opens the same way: E, F-E-D#. Weird. The comparison seems almost sacrilegious, and yet there's something there, I think.
(This is part of why I keep this page going: I'd like to think that the world is, in some roundabout way, a better place for having a site that analyzes the connections between Arcesia and Bruckner. I was going to write "if there is another site out there that's doing something similar, I'd love to know about it", but in fact, there is, though he needs to write more, more, more!)
current music: Paul Panhuysen -- "Partita for 16 Long Strings of Equal Length"
February 3, 2003 (link)
"Total Woman", lyrics by Marguerite, sung by Bonnie Haven.
Our piano player starts us off with some downward arpeggios in D major, not without lyricism in a "Summer Me, Winter Me" kind of way. After that we're joined by a wheezy harmonica for a moment, and then Bonnie Haven comes in with her country drawl:
I read that book from front to back
When I first heard this song, I wondered: what book, and what's for you, exactly? My best guess was that "Total Woman" was some sort of sex advice book, something along the same lines as The Sensuous Woman. A quick trip to Google, and I had my answer: in the 1970s, a woman named Marabel Morgan had a minor bestseller with Total Woman, a book of sex advice for Christian women. Not having read it, I can't speak for the contents of the book, but one site refers to it as "[portraying] women as mindless robots intent on keeping men happy no matter what the cost to their own self-esteem". Regardless, the book apparently earned a fair amount of notoriety, and was considered (to quote an Amazon.com reviewer) "revolutionary for [its] time, because Christians were only beginning to talk publicly about sex as something pleasurable to be enjoyed by husband and wife rather than a chore to be performed."
After our rubato intro, the pianist plays three bass notes to set the tempo, drums and guitar come in, and the weirdness begins:
I smartly placed some self-stick photos
"Smartly" is kind of a funny word here; it makes me think of soldiers on drill and people in power suits, rather than craftiness and (I assume) sexy pictures. Speaking of pictures, I've never run into one of these self-stick photos -- I take it they were a thing of the '70s? And I wonder where exactly it was that "he couldn't help but see" -- briefcase? Refrigerator? The insides of his eyelids?
When gleefully he ripped them up
If I were a marriage counselor, I'd stop her right here: "gleefully"? If your husband is ripping up sexy pictures of you "gleefully", then I suspect you've got some issues rather more urgent than that of becoming a "total woman". Some shades of voodoo in that other line, too.
Now the man from glad looked awful mad
Huh? Who's the "man from glad"? At first I thought she was saying that her husband came metaphorically flying downward from glad to mad -- in other words, that she put him in a really bad mood. Then I idly speculated that she was paid a visit by a particularly unhappy representative of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, but they weren't founded until 1985...
I told him, leave me sandwich be
"Leave me sandwich be"? What can you say to that, really? If there's any justice in the world, the youth of tomorrow will pick that one up: "Hey, can I borrow ten bucks?" "No way, man -- leave me sandwich be." So this raises the question: was the "man from glad" an employee of the GLAD company? I normally associate them with trash bags, but it's plausible that they'd make cellophane. But would they really pay a house call to wrap a woman in cellophane for, presumably, her husband's delectation? I suppose there are worse ways to make a living. Still, the thought of Tom Bosley in a bondage ad -- yikes...
The book didn't say hot it would be
This is the part where JDR might say: "Dude, you wrapped yourself in cellophane, okay? I mean, what exactly did you think would happen?"
It also didn't mention
Actually, it did -- just look in the index, under "Kazoo, sounding like a".
Now the drums play a little fill, and it sounds like we're going to go into a typical song-poem solo section -- guitar solo, piano solo, harmonica solo, whatever -- or at least some sort of bridge, right? But no, it just becomes a random little two-bar lull, with no particular distinction from what came before (except for the drummer, who changes over from the hi-hat to the ride cymbal). This section kept reminding me of something, and after a few listens I realized what it was: "And if you threw a party / And invited everyone you knew..."! Hey, one could do a medley! (Or not.)
As I stood by the door, I tried to ignore
Oh dear me. Do they sell opaque cellophane? I suppose it would defeat the "Total Woman" purpose to get in clothed. Couldn't you get a babysitter or something?
I shed much grace when they laughed in my face
This poor woman is just surrounded by supportive people -- her husband gleefully rips up pictures of her, and her children laugh in her face. Then again, how easy can it be to live with someone whose idea of a good time is getting shrinkwrapped? "Dad", alas, isn't a swinger:
And as I tried to explain "Total Woman" again
Of course, if she didn't know he was bringing his boss home for dinner...but how could she not, assuming (in this "Total Woman" universe) she was, most likely, cooking it? I can't say I'm too impressed with either of them.
He hissed with a glare, "Now we make a great pair,
Ms. Haven sings this so happily -- triumphantly, even! Yay, I sabotaged my husband's career and scarred my kids for life by engaging in cellophane bondage play in front of my whole family and my husband's boss too! Whee! ("Yes: that's how we dress when we're ruined," said she.)
The band stumbles into an ending, one which clearly hadn't been rehearsed enough (if at all) but which they just about succeed in making plausible -- except that, at the very last moment, Bonnie Haven comes in, uttering a single word:
Was she trying to count out an extra bar or two? Were there more lyrics to get through (doubtful)? Or was it studio chatter that the mixing engineer didn't bother to mute? Whatever it is, it's completely comic -- a bit like the sax skronk at the end of the Muppet Show theme! -- and a fitting way to end such a strange little song.
current music: leave me sandwich be.
The Young Visiters [sic], Daisy Ashford