Saturday, February 28, 2009

Noah Jacobs. The Early Years.

My nephew Noah is an intense cat. I witnessed him perform complex steps as the only male dancer, surrounded by girls, in a performance two years ago at his dance school in Boston. He must have been but 4 years old. Am I wrong Emily? He would the Nutcracker Suite (McCauley Culkin version) repeatedly and would accurately dance many of the steps in the ballet in front of the television as it played behind him. He's a huge fan of Madonna and Bjork, both very theatrical performers to say the least. When I visit, he'll share bits of trivia about both of them and then walk me through Madonna's Immaculate Video Collection, skipping over the one's he's "not old enough to watch yet." Most recently, on Valentine's Day, we were watching The Sound of Music and he pointed out that in the You Are 16 Going On 17 Dance in the gazebo, Liesl has a barely visible string tied around her ankle helping her stay aloft for a few magical seconds more than gravity would allow. Noah has an annual Saturday Night Fever Dance Party. I'm trying to decide what artist, dancer, musician, etc. I might want to turn him onto next. Any suggestions? Merdedith Monk? Laurie Anderson? Hmmm. Maybe we should wait until he's eight for that.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Leo Kottke at the Iron Horse and a very sad story

Tonight Susanne and I went to see Leo Kottke, one of my musical heroes, at the Iron Horse. It was the second of a two night stand. Kottke is a tremendously talented acoustic guitarist; the exhale to John Fahey's inhale. He's a hilarious, surreal storyteller, disarming any cliched stage decorum and elevating the evening to divine hilarity.

I grabbed a four-top on the rail for us before Susanne arrived, and knowing that we would share the table with two strangers, I started scouting for amicable candidates. A couple who looked a little dazed but pleasant accepted my invitation. When we were all four seated we introduced each other and Susanne and I fell into a conversation. They were none too chatty. Our table-mates seemed to be on a different wavelength. Eventually we tried to draw them in and the husband told us this story. This was the first time they had been to the Iron Horse since the last time Kottke had played six years ago. They attended the show with their 15 year old daughter. On the way home from the gig, somewhere outside of Springfield on the highway, a trucker fell asleep at the wheel and plowed into them. The man received severe head trauma which triggered a stroke. The daughter was killed.

We were stunned. We realized that he was speaking in a slurred fashion. We asked them all kinds of questions, not knowing quite how to behave. They were entirely open to talking about it but every reference felt dangerous. What subjects would sadden them? We realized that they were permanently saddened. He must have felt some level of comfort with us to have brought it up at all. When Leo came onstage, we resumed our spectator roles. Susanne noted that the woman would smile and laugh at Kottke's banter but catch herself and adopt her default sullen visage. We winced when Leo went into a monologue about a stroke.

How can people enjoy music ever again after such a tragedy? I hope I never find out.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Car hits pole on Main Street

Hannah and I came upon this scene today on the way back from changing over all the posters at the Iron Horse where some vigilant Greg Brown fans were already in line for tonight's sold out show. Don't ask me what happened. I didn't witness it. But I can try to reconstruct it. The owner of the car is not in the photo. I asked the cop where he was and he said "over there" and gestured vaguely toward no one.
A. The dude comes screaming into the parking space and hits ice and consequently the pole or B. The dude looks over his shoulder to back out of the space, sees his opening, gives it the gas and BOOM he's in drive, not reverse.
In any case, he hits the pole and BOOM, the bottom of the pole ends up in the sidewalk looking like a post apocalyptic chunk of the Statue of Liberty that landed in Northampton.
This summer someone drove through the front window of Ultra Gal. It's time to lay streetcar tracks again like they had in the old days.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Albums From A Parallel Universe

Of all the Facebook "Notes" games and lists circulating, this is my favorite. Here's the link. Using Wikipedia and Flickr following several random search steps, you come up with a band name, an album name, and an album cover. Then use whatever graphics program you're handy with to design an imaginary album. Even if you don't have the urge to create some, browse the gallery for some laugh out loud albums that often look as plausible or moreso than actual releases. The fun doesn't stop with the graphics. Many contributors are writing bio blurbs for their bands!
Above album from Scott Coar. Below is my contribution with bio.
Delphinium Hesperium (born Delphine Chunkley) has surprised everyone with her new collection, Thoughts On The Unthinking. Many artists feel tremendous pressure to really deliver on their 17th album and Hesperium has emerged with a winner. This may mark the beginning of a new musical and philosophical direction for the "exterminator's daughter." Following her departure three years back as lead singer of bagpipe reggae combo Jah Plaid, she released a solo acoustic synth-pop record produced by Brent Fumcho (Ironing Board, Blunt Stool) and proved that she had indeed been a key ingredient in JP. Her next three albums only cemented her place in the then newly burgeoning "Regurgitata" scene but after an epic bout with female pattern baldness and a nasty Febreze habit, she took a break from music and became a cross-county knitter, winning or placing in several 10K or longer races. She has foregone albums 5-16 and skipped directly to number 17 and it was well worth the wait. We look forward to her rumored collaboration with Robert Plant.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

All messed up on Kierkegaard and white people

Raven Books recently brought in a bunch of the Introducing Series from the UK's Icon Books and has them priced for $5 each. They are easy to digest overviews of the pantheon of history's thinkers and ideas. More Schoolhouse Rocks than Monarch or Cliff Notes, I was embarrassed to even consider buying them. But then I was flipping through the book version of the hilariously accurate website Stuff White People Like and discovered that I am already an embarrassment and hopelessly uncool by virtue of the very behaviors that I thought were my nuanced indicators of hip. So screw it. I've got no image to keep up and I might as well face the truth about my liberal arts degree from UMass too. I was too busy planning my radio show or looking at girls in class to learn a damn thing in those seven years. So I bought the Keirkegaard and Hegel books and I'm feeling less ignorant by the minute. Laugh if you must. Attention white people! Elliot Smith's album Either/Or is named after a Kierkegaard book of the same name. (Oh. You knew that? Okay. But I can spell Kierkegaard without looking now.) As a matter of fact, the whole notion of Stuff White People Like is that white people think they are Kierkegaard's "Aesthete A" when in fact they are unwitting philistines, a flock of conformists in non-conformist masks. Those cheeky marketing bastards are more insidious than we suspected. Meanwhile, I'm afraid something I like doing now will end up on Stuff White People Like and reveal my utter predicatibility in attempting to be unpredictabe again. (In truth, I don't think I am any more than 98% pretentious. But dammit! Even being self-deprecating is on the list!) Here are some examples from this complete list.

#116 Black Music that Black People Don’t Listen to Anymore
#112 Hummus
#111 Pea Coats
#108 Appearing to Enjoy Classical Music
#102 Children’s Games as Adults
#88 Having Gay Friends
#85 The Wire
#67 Standing Still at Concerts (!)
#62 Knowing What’s Best for Poor People
#35 The Daily Show/Colbert Report
#34 Architecture
#25 David Sedaris
#22 Having Two Last Names
#15 Yoga
#14 Having Black Friends

You know, it's almost too easy to mock white people...American white people anyway. And as Kierkegaard, or more specifically his Judge Wilhelm persona suggests, a way out of this endless loop of seeking meaning and failing, or being exposed, is to choose despair. Give up. Aimee Mann did it. You can too! Stop trying so hard. Then you will achieve a more transparent self, free of hidden fears and regrets, able to escape from claustrophobic self-interest.

(Photo: Final frame of "Magnolia.")

Saturday means breakfast at Jake's and a walkabout with Dave and two separate Gorey references.

Display case at Northampton Antique Center on Market Street. Looking up, looking out.
Never mind Comcast and Verizon! Get online with this revolutionary product!
The Ghastly Handbag, straight out of Edward Gorey.
I picked up a bunch of old photos to use in my artwork. The baby pictures are always the creepiest. They're usually taken with some sort of big white cloth beneath them that dominates the photo and creates a ghostly effect. Why not just frame it more tightly?
An engaging poster for tonight's show at the Elevens. I have a request to make of all the people who do flyering downtown. Please don't put flyers in front of the papers in newspaper boxes. This is obnoxious and engenders disrespect. There's enough room for us to co-exist without covering each other up. I often take a few minutes to clean up a bulletin board and maybe you should too. If we all do a little maintenance it will be infectious. A fine example is in Main Street Cleaners. The people who flyered for the BID meeting...will you take the damn things down? They are an out-of-date blight on Main Street and they hurt your cause by example. Harumph.
Outside Masonic Street Laundry, beneath a strawberry, two dogs eagerly await a basket of warm, fluffy towels.

Jodi gave me this amazing book from the mid-19th century. What a generous gift!
Gustave Doré was an Alsacian artist who specialized in book illustrations. Born in Strasbourg, France, on January 6, 1832, he began his artistic career in Paris when he was only 15 years old. His drawings and illustrations were groundbreaking and very popular, although he never won the acclaim of the artistic elite in France. In his later years, he spent much time in London, where he also opened a very popular gallery. He died on January 23, 1883, at the age of 51.

Doré is probably most famous for his depictions of numerous scenes from the Bible, but he also produced illustrations for many other books, including Milton, Dante, La Fontaine, Don Quixote, Baron Munchhausen, etc. It looks like Edward Gorey must have drawn some inspiration from him, especially from a picture like "Hagar In The Wilderness," below. Barry Moser also has a copy of this book I bet.

Thanks again, Jodi. Gosh.
Jim tears through the latest issue of Bust magazine. (Photo and caption by Dave)

Animal Party

Here on the Bridge Street side of Rt. 9, off of Market Street, the blessed bohemian proletariat hippy love gods live life as the animals we are. We are not proud or exclusive. We merely acknowlege our stripes and whiskers and fleas and Joe's. Thanks to Julia and co. for allowing the pix.
Below: The strings and the stats.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Who Was George Washington? (NSFW)


Author of "Harvey Wasserman's History of the United States," Wasserman said today: "Washington inherited substantial riches from his wife Martha, the widow of Daniel Custis, a wealthy plantation owner who died when she was 26. She married George soon thereafter. He was (and is) often referred to as "the richest man in America," but this title is in dispute. He was an aggressive land speculator who, as a British and then an American officer, did not hesitate to personally profit from the conquests of Indian land. Tax records show he owned more than a hundred slaves in his most prosperous years. Though he began to reject the 'peculiar institution,' and stopped buying more in his later years, he was also capable of selling off slaves he didn't like or trust. At least two personal servants, Hercules and Oney Judge, ran away from his household. He freed a number of slaves when he died in 1799, pending Martha's death. She died in 1802 after burning the personal letters in her possession (though some survived, including one complaining that their marriage lacked 'fire between the sheets')."
Wasserman recently wrote the piece "Was George Washington a gay pot smoker?" He added: "The evidence is also clear that Washington, like many other American farmers, grew significant quantities of hemp. It was (and is) a profitable and reliable cash crop, easy to grow, with no extraordinary demands for cultivation, watering or fertilizing. As a hardy perennial, it needs no year-after-year replanting, pesticides or herbicides. In one of his meticulous agricultural journals, dated 1765, Washington notes his being late in separating the male hemp plants from the female. There is little reason to do that except to make the females ripe for smoking. As a hard-working farmer, Washington would certainly be stunned to hear that hemp is today illegal in the nation he helped found.

"As an exceedingly complex and contradictory character, the Father of Our Country remains a topic of endless controversy and fascination. The last word on his attitudes toward slavery, his farming techniques and the details of his marriage will certainly be debated for centuries to come."