Monday, March 31, 2008

Kafka, Dust, SION, Japan

Okay, hello hello. I have been reading and teaching English in Tokyo now for ~4 months. I joined facebook and friended Grant Miller which I'm super duper proud of. I didn't really like the idea of facebook but I guess it's growing on me.

I have not read any really mind-blowingly good books to be honest. I am mostly through my The Complete Short Stories of Kafka, which I've been reading between books, and am even not so impressed. Some stories are good of course. For example, how can you not get chills after reading:

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect."

I feel that when he (Kafka) isn't on, he drags. Although, for example, the discussion of the relevance of tiny flying dogs to the rest of dog society should definitely not have been cut, the order and flow can be totally random.

Elizabeth Bear's Dust was good and also bad. I guess it sort of satisfied my curiosity about romance novels, which account for 30% of all book sales. I now know that I do not really care about pulp romance. The science fiction was perfectly done. No info-dumping. Just the great, gothic atmosphere of a defective generation ship and the AI angels that have been trusted to take care of it. Nano-symbionts, yes. In depth explanations, no. Perfect. Even the fact that it's Book 1 of a trilogy didn't affect the pacing, plotting or epic finale.

A little while ago I read God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. All I have to say is, "no, there are no bad Vonnegut books."

Japanese Music? Here is SION. I found out about him when I asked a friend 'is there a Japanese Tom Waits? I think there should be.' She said, 'yes, his name is SION.' He even played recently but it was really expensive and I didn't go.

The song name means: If I have sake...

I saw Star Club a few weeks ago though. It was free because of a friend of a friend of the manager. It was cool, they played all new stuff and I didn't recognize any songs, but I was also moshing or being moshed most of the time so it's hard to say for sure. I also know now that for drink cheers Japanese punks say 'hey, ho, let's go!" A lot.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Non-Fictitious Life (Volume 3)

I have been blessed to only have two near death experiences in my life and I feel as though the one when I was barely old enough to remember, for that reason, was a more traumatic event. In fact it was the first memory I ever had, other than the memory of sliding down the bannister of my old house the day before we moved out of New Jersey for good. I was always too scared to do it and my sister gave me shit constantly, so I did it on the last day we lived there, and when I told her, she didn’t believe me, but I did it for myself anyways.

My first surprisingly clear memory is when I was in my fathers lap, we were sliding down a water slide and he was wearing jean shorts. The friction of his jeans caused him to slide very slowly, worrying him that we were going to be hit from behind by the next people coming down the slide; he panicked and some faulty fatherly instinct made him decide to carry me back up the slide, thinking he could make it to the top and therefor to safety. Why that would make it less likely for us to be hit from behind is still a mystery to me, and a mystery to god and all other rational beings as to why this would be beneficial to his young son’s life.

The next thing I remember is after he dropped me, sliding down without my father there to completely fail at protecting me, while fully realizing exactly what was happening. I knew that I didn’t know how to swim while I was peacefully sliding through open and closed green plastic tubes, looking up at the alternating view of the sky and the roof of the cylinder, while my behind thudded every time one piece of tube attached to the next. I knew that I was soon to be submerged in water and I was completely aware that these would inevitably be my lasts visions of this earth. I was eerily calm when I reached the very last stretch of slide, I was suddenly exposed to the afternoon sunlight in this final stretch of glorious oxygen and surreal blue sky and clouds that seemed to last forever just before I was plunged into the blue chlorinated water of my death.

I held my breath as I swayed through the water helplessly looking at all the legs of the children and their parents; parents who would never let their children float around under the water without supervision and drown. I was completely ready to die, probably because I was too young to fully realize the consequences of dying, and the guilt my father would feel when they pulled my limp body out of the water, only feet away from the rest of my family congregating in the pool that the water slides feed into, totally unaware that seconds before I could probably see their legs and was in need of their rescue. I would have been totally unaware of the irony of my death, when finally I was suddenly yanked up from the water by someone else's mother, who says jokingly, “What are you doing down there all by yourself?” I remember thinking how much I wished this amazing, funny, kind, motherly woman was my mom.

This was the first of many events that made me think of my dad as pathetic and meek . I have always since been highly disappointed with the incompetence of my dad. Someone who is very intelligent but never bothered to teach me any of his valuable knowledge, a man who could fix anything if he put his mind to it, (but much preferred to take the easy way out and pay someone to do it) but who’s 25 year old son can’t even change his own oil. If it wasn’t for my mom I never would have learned to cook my own meals, clean up after myself, hold a job, basically do anything needed to live a normal functioning life.

On a lighter note, the other night I saw Leslie and the lys. A white, female, multi-talented, rapper/singer/artist (an expert bedazzler) from the great state of Iowa. When you check out her myspace page be sure to watch the videos and listen to my favorite song Zombie Killer. The show was funny, especially when she picks out people from the crowd with the best gem-sweaters and points out the beauty of each work of art and then proclaims what she will call each gem-sweater, which is usually something like "smurfette-molten-magenta-incandescent -frown-lover." Well... just as random but usually more creative than my attempt. And as she belts out the last part of the name she bumps the poor unsuspecting fan with her belly knocking them surprisingly hard onto the wood floor of the stage.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Reading again

Slow reading start this year. It was that Golden Notebook, it made me lose my incredible pace. That doesn’t matter though, no one thinks fast readers are cool. I sure as hell don’t. Actually I do, but a while ago this man bought some 20 fantasy books, and while he was paying for them he started bragging about what a fast reader he is. He said he’d read like, I don’t know, 400 books or some other ridiculous number, over the past year. He was really proud. And I said ”wow”, followed by thinking ” how sad”, because I’m a mean bookstore clerk. And then I realized that I totally would have thought he was cool if those books hadn’t all been, oh I don’t know...Brethren. I guess I need to be nicer.

I started out by reading this book called Ladies by Mara Lee. She taught/ teaches at a writing-school where some of my friends have gone the past few years and they’ve all spoken about her with enormous respect. The book was about the superficial pretentious Stockholm art-scene, worshiping beauty, and the complicated relationship between 4 women who’s fates are all entwined. It was very cleverly paced, jumping from girl to girl, back and forth through time. It’s been a while since I read a book with that kind of captivating rhythm that made me read it practically non-stop. It was a well-written, intelligent book, but I don’t know if I think absolute beauty is really that interesting. I guess it's always relevant, even though I have a hard time picturing it. (It did feel good to be able to make the connection with The Picture of Dorian Gray though.) A super funny part of Ladies was when one of the women (this otherworldly beautiful goddess) had an orgasm from looking at one of Yves Klein’s paintings. It was just. So. Perfectly. Blue.

Kimya Dawson- Blue Like Nevermind

Prince- So Blue

After that I read Heart of Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov, which is this short little book that he wrote in 1925 but which remained unpublished in the Soviet Union until 1987. The story is about a stray dog who, after having been scalded by a mean chef, meets one of Moscow's most outstanding doctors. The doctor takes him home and after gaining his trust, transplants the testicles and pituitary gland of a recently deceased man into our poor canine hero. Now this might sound like a fantastic idea, but it doesn’t turn out so great. Instead of getting a talking, thinking cute little dog, the doctor and his assistant watch him change into this semi-hairy, alcoholic, swearing dog-man with communist sympathies, and it’s hilarious.

Johnny Cash- Dirty Old Egg-Suckin' Dog

Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen- Midnight in Moscow

Sometimes I like to pretend I have a plan with the order in which I read the books, but I’m not a very strategic person so it never really works out. There’s no real connection between Heart of a Dog and A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka. I read her second book, Two Caravans, last summer, (remember those chapters written from the dog’s perspective and how, awesomely, he talked only in caps. Heeeey...I guess there was a dog-connection between Bulgakow and Lewycka). Anyways, this book was also good. It’s about a middle-aged Ukrainian woman living in the UK who has to make peace with her bitchy older sister to save their old eccentric father from the young Ukrainian gold-digger with huge boobs that he marries after their mother dies. She talks like this ”This is what I want say you bitch vixen no-tits. You have no tits, you jealous”. Great stuff. I was thinking that being Romanian and all I should start busting out the dead-on, really mean, Eastern European insults. They’re just so too the point and crushing, but I don’t know if I’m not too swedefied to pull it off. Something to think about. Even though the book was really well-written (great accents), and I find the perspective of Ukrainians in England really interesting, it did drag on for too long and it sort of lost it’s momentum after about two thirds.

The Best American Non-Required Reading 2007 was next. There were a few things in there that made me laugh so hard I teared up while riding the buss. It was The Best American Article Titles from The Best American Trade Magazines. (Like Herb Quarterly- Thyme Out! What the herb experts aren’t telling you). But, all in all, I'm not sure the selection really was as good as last year. I feel like that is a whiny thing to say though. Because I’m suspecting I didn’t feel that way before I read "Sore Eyes- The Reader Geek's" amazon-review of it. I didn’t want to listen to him or her. But his or her words just got stuck in my brain, and basically ruined it for me. So I have no opinion. Except that the whole first section was great and that the Middle American Gothic- article was wonderful. (Brian Green’s dangerous idea-presentation of the Multiverse, blew my mind of course. And made me feel like finishing my essay was no longer important.)

Next was Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut. I’m really excited about him because he's really starting to grow on me. And there’s still a ton of Vonnegut-books that I haven’t read, so now I know I can just pick one up when I need something really good, right? (Are there ”bad” Vonnegut-books that aren’t worth reading?). One really cool thing about reading Cat’s Cradle after reading Feynman’s stories about the Manhattan-project was realizing how well Vonnegut portrayed the archetypical scientist in Hoenikker, the father of a dwarf, of a nerdy guy, an according to Vonnegut freakishly tall girl (6 feet), and the atomic bomb.

Thats it. I’m going to bike down town and pick up my copy of Daniel Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music, which my incredibly talented cousin/piano-goddess Oli recommended to me. Also, I have to tell you that sadly, I'm failing Experimental Music and Sound Art. Maybe that book will help my brain somehow.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Abstract But Intact

here's a couple clips from the television show "The Mighty Boosh." I've devoted the last two days to watching it, abandoning all attempts at normal sustenance. After watching some interviews with the two main characters/writers they confirmed a longstanding suspicion. Howard Moon and Vince Noir are incredibly high at what seems to be all of the time. I probably could have guessed it when I saw their talking dj gorilla roomeate named bollo. That's "bollo" in a british accent which makes it sound cooler...and exotic, and when bollo says his own name it sounds pretty cool too.

The first half of most of the episodes are totally bland and boring, like a turtle trying to get out of his shell. Then in the second half it explodes into colorful nonesense and can only be appreciated by those who appreciate music.

I figure we owe some music to our readers. I found this cd on the curb outside of my house being thrown out by my next door neighbors. It's Cee-Lo Green the Soul Machine, half of Gnarles Barkley. Cee-lo shows his multi-facetedness on this album because the soul machine is also a bad-ass rapper who can intimidate, making up for his lack of height and baratone vocals. I chose a much more soulful song that shows Cee-Lo's softer side, a softer side that is shown when he makes his son, barely old enough to enunciate, say "I am Kingston Calloway, and I am the son of the soul machine" in the intro.

Cee-Lo Feat. Pharrell - The Art of Noise

The next is off Electric Gypsyland Volume I. I've already posted a song from volume II, which is the same balkan gypsy bands and songs as volume I, remixed differently. The two compilations mix the songs of the three most famous balkan gypsy bands, but this song is a megamix and mixes two of the three bands plus one artist I've never heard of in one track. It's extremely layered and reminds me more of the direction they were going towards in the second volume without as much dreamy distortion that makes the second volume so unique, the way only a band like animal collective remixing can make it. Check out Volume 2's MySpace page.

Are You Gypsified (Megamix) - Olaf Hund Vs Ursari De Clejani / Taraf De Haïdouks / Koçani Orkestar

The last track is indeed to please the pasty indy kids who read our blog. This song is the title track from Paparazzi Lightning, and although it's not the most downloaded song from the album, it makes me understand why Ghostland Observatory frontman Aaron Behrens has been compared to Freddy Mercury, not that I ever doubted it. They just released a new album called Robotique majestique, which you can buy from their label's website, Trashy Moped recordings. Also check out their myspace page.

Ghostland Obervatory - Paparazzi lightning