Wednesday, August 31, 2005

the short end of the stick

Victoria Beckham isn't a stupid git. She just doesn't suffer under the tyranny of reading.

Some of the Oxford American Music Issue is on-line, but not the piece by JT Leroy that started a discussion of fact vs. bullsh*t.

You are a quick thinker: Good for Airline Hostess and Nurse

"I belong to an enormous special-interest group that, unlike Alaskans or hobby pilots, has never exercised much clout, and that is the English-major community."

This is the reason I never dated a fellow student in my doctoral program.

Seven band names that would be impossible to book...

This guy stole my DJ name.

F*ck you, Mrs. Crabapple.
F*ck you, Mrs. Crabapple. F*ck you, Mrs. Crabapple. F*ck you, Mrs. Crabapple. F*ck you, Mrs. Crabapple. F*ck you, Mrs. Crabapple. Detention?! Why?!

What's the bigger hoax? The Piano Man or the fact that coffee is good for you?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

on beauty

The Telegraph has an excerpt from Zadie Smith's latest novel (nominated for the Booker even though it hasn't been released),
On Beauty:

This faux Brooklyn accent belonged to neither Howard nor Kiki, and had only arrived in Levi's mouth three years earlier, as he turned 12. Jerome and Zora had been born in England, Levi in America. But all their various American accents seemed, to Howard, in some way artificial - not quite the products of this house of his wife. None, though, was as inexplicable as Levi's. Brooklyn? The Belseys were located 200 miles north of Brooklyn. Howard felt very close to commenting on it this morning (he had been warned by his wife not to comment on it), but now Levi appeared from the hallway and disarmed his father with a gappy smile before biting the top off a muffin he held in his hand.

uninsured in america

More and more people I know don't have health insurance, and I can't even begin to contain my ire long enough to say something meaningful, so I'll turn instead to Malcolm Gladwell's essay in The New Yorker, "The Moral-Hazard Myth."

The U.S. health-care system, according to “Uninsured in America,” has created a group of people who increasingly look different from others and suffer in ways that others do not. The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. Half of the uninsured owe money to hospitals, and a third are being pursued by collection agencies. Children without health insurance are less likely to receive medical attention for serious injuries, for recurrent ear infections, or for asthma. Lung-cancer patients without insurance are less likely to receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. Heart-attack victims without health insurance are less likely to receive angioplasty. People with pneumonia who don’t have health insurance are less likely to receive X rays or consultations. The death rate in any given year for someone without health insurance is twenty-five per cent higher than for someone with insurance. Because the uninsured are sicker than the rest of us, they can’t get better jobs, and because they can’t get better jobs they can’t afford health insurance, and because they can’t afford health insurance they get even sicker.

you may not know how lucky you are

Trader Joe's is coming to Union Square!

beware the uncooked

A friend in New York was always trying to get me to go to raw food restaurant Quintessence, and despite my usual sense of culinary adventure, I could never quite bring myself to agree. Now I know why.

warm little world

Will Robinson Sheff of Okkervil River and Shearwater guests at said the gramophone and ponders the sad history of songwriter Tim Hardin.

It's true; we too often associate drugs and heavy drinking with wild creativity, but in the case of Tim Hardin - and in many more cases than I think people realize - all of his great work was done in spite of drugs, not because of them. Drugs ruined Tim Hardin as an artist, and in many respects they ruined him as a human being. Still, as he makes clear in "Black Sheep Boy" and, as I guess is part of the point of our little record of the same name, that was his choice.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

scenes from sunset junction

Man plays bike. (The F Train T was gravy.)

In addition to the main stages, bands cropped up everywhere.

Gravy Train protesters

A dancefloor erupts

Storefront flow

Friday, August 26, 2005

do a good deed...

Post a comment somewhere.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

beowulf on the casting couch

If you don't know the story of Beowulf (and shame on you), here's a brief summary from SparkNotes:

King Hrothgar of Denmark, a descendant of the great king Shield Sheafson, enjoys a prosperous and successful reign. He builds a great mead-hall, called Heorot, where his warriors can gather to drink, receive gifts from their lord, and listen to stories sung by the scops, or bards. But the jubilant noise from Heorot angers Grendel, a horrible demon who lives in the swamplands of Hrothgar’s kingdom. Grendel terrorizes the Danes every night, killing them and defeating their efforts to fight back...Eventually, however, a young Geatish warrior named Beowulf hears of Hrothgar’s plight...

Hrothgar, who had once done a great favor for Beowulf’s father Ecgtheow, accepts Beowulf’s offer to fight Grendel and holds a feast in the hero’s honor...Grendel arrives. Beowulf fights him unarmed, proving himself stronger than the demon, who is terrified. As Grendel struggles to escape, Beowulf tears the monster’s arm off. Mortally wounded, Grendel slinks back into the swamp to die. The severed arm is hung high in the mead-hall as a trophy of victory.

Overjoyed, Hrothgar showers Beowulf with gifts and treasure at a feast in his honor. Songs are sung in praise of Beowulf, and the celebration lasts late into the night. But another threat is approaching. Grendel’s mother, a swamp-hag who lives in a desolate lake, comes to Heorot seeking revenge for her son’s death. She murders Aeschere, one of Hrothgar’s most trusted advisers, before slinking away. To avenge Aeschere’s death, the company travels to the murky swamp, where Beowulf dives into the water and fights Grendel’s mother in her underwater lair. He kills her with a sword forged for a giant, then, finding Grendel’s corpse, decapitates it and brings the head as a prize to Hrothgar. The Danish countryside is now purged of its treacherous monsters.

Flash forward to 2007: Robert Zemeckis has the cojones to bring this to the screen in bizarro Polar Express style and - in a possibly disastrous, possibly brilliant move - casts Crispin Glover as Grendel. And the swamp hag? Angelina Jolie, of course. The rest of the cast features Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Brendan Gleeson, John Malkovich, and Robin Wright Penn. Zemeckis is also working on the film adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.

Speaking of The Corrections...I was once on a train in New York, when the man to my left, the woman to my right, and I looked up and realized we were all reading The Corrections, and the man and I were on THE SAME PAGE.

Update: More on Beowulf and Grendel from A Fool in the Forest...

mcsweeney's recommends

McSweeney's is back in the recommending business. Some of my favorite entries this time 'round include:

  • Owning your own washer/dryer (I don't own these appliances, but anyone who's ever housed me has, so I hope to continue my lucky streak of never having used a laundromat.)
  • What the Best College Teachers Do by Ken Bain
  • Haughty Melodic by Mike Doughty
  • Italicized Garamond Ampersand [& ]
  • Ben Kingsley

When American Idiot shows up, you've entered the oldies.

where ya goin', baby?

See Jack White issue a verbal smackdown.

Via Defamer
Update: ...and shill for Coke, apparently.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I've been hoping for this news

I've had a crush on David Ulin since I started relying heavily on Writing Los Angeles while at work on my dissertation - in other words, four score and 7,000 years ago. Seeing him moderate a panel at the Festival of Books was icing on the cake. I am clearly not the only Angeleno susceptible to Ulin's charms as he has just been named the new L.A. Times Book Editor. Cheers!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

not just a quick dunk

Edmund Levin tackles the burning question, "How much did Proust know about madelines?" Stay tuned for future articles like "How much did Virginia Woolf know about lighthouses?" and "How much did Melville know about peglegs?"

laughing, golden in the sun

Possibly aware that I'm suffering from urban ambivalence, a friend passed on this clever tale by Laura Taylor Lambros titled "Free Martha," detailing the perils of serial city monogamy.

Los Angeles and I are fighting. We've reached that point in our relationship where the initial attraction has worn off and reality has set in. I mean, I love L.A., really, deep down I think we were meant to be together, it's just been rough lately...

For the longest time I denied that anything was wrong. I mean there were little things that bothered me. For example, every time it rains L.A. makes this huge deal about it, calls it a storm, tells me how to drive, and makes me late for work. And celebrities. That bothered me from the start. L.A. sees Jimmy Smits picking up dry cleaning and talks about it for weeks. L.A. can fill whole nights with talk of who is seeing who and whether so and so is gay and who is working on what and frankly I've just stopped being interested.

However, as Lambros discovers, relationships with New York, Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, and Cleveland each present their own idiosyncratic trials and tribulations. I keep telling myself that if I never actually get involved with Austin, I can keep the dream alive forever.

Monday, August 22, 2005

in the backyard dancing

The new cutie-patootie video for "My Doorbell" is up over at, but if you want a video you'll watch over and over again in stunned awe, check out OK GO's "A Million Ways." You will want to "play that song again, another couple klonopin."

(Thanks to said the gramophone for the latter.)

sunday with scout and shellac

The Echo is my new favorite venue in L.A. (I still love you, BB) and I hereby declare I will live in Echo Park someday soon. I first went to The Echo a couple of weeks ago to see Neva Dinova and Mayday. Richard Swift was supposed to be there as well that day, but he was mysteriously absent.

Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out to see Scout Niblett opening for Shellac. I was there primarily for Scout Niblett who played some old favorites from I Am and Sweet Heart Fever and some great new songs from Kidnapped by Neptune.

Have a listen to her song "Drummer Boy" or her cover of the 1978 hit "Uptown Top Ranking" by Althia & Donna. As far as I can tell, there are no downloads out there from the new album.

Steve Albini, überproducer and Big Black founder, engineered Scout Niblett's latest, so it's no suprise they were on the same bill. Shellac rocks. They made me think I would be a hell of a lot more relaxed if I just listened to really loud music for a couple hours every day. The audience was mostly male, and it was pretty amusing to see all the boys bang their heads in unison when Shellac played "Prayer to God" from their 2000 release 1000 Hurts.

Shellac is Steve Albini on guitar/vocals, the hilarious Todd Trainer on drums, and Bob Weston on bass. Have a listen to "Watch Song" from 1000 Hurts. I believe their next album will be out soon since they joked about distributing it shrinkwrapped to a 60-foot styrofoam canoe.

By the end of the show, I was pleasantly exhausted and my friend & I decided we had entered the state of being known as "shellacked." Epitonic has mp3s from Shellac and Scout Niblett.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

lady, make a note of this

Today is the first annual Dorothy Parker Day, during which her birthplace in West End, NJ will be dedicated as a National Literary Landmark. When I lived in LA years ago, I was a fairly regular regular at a now defunct watering hole. When it was about to be closed for renovation for the new owners, some of us took the liberty to graffiti the women's room and I scrawled the following Parker poem:

Oh, seek, my love, your newer way;

I’ll not be left in sorrow.

So long as I have yesterday,

Go take your damned tomorrow!

Words to live by...I remember being quite smitten with a stranger who met me during that time and immediately guessed I was the perpetrator of that paticular writing on the wall. Parker is probably most well-known for her wit, authoring some culturally ubiquitous observations:

  • I don't care what is written about me so long as it isn't true.
  • Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.
  • The two most beautiful words in the English language are 'cheque enclosed.'
  • If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.
  • It serves me right for keeping all my eggs in one bastard.
  • I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy.
  • You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think.
  • Brevity is the soul of lingerie.
She also wrote hundreds of poems (almost all faithfully recorded here), including probably her most famous "Résumé":

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

She was not the happiest of creatures, as Jennifer Jason Leigh captured in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle. Her position as the top girl dog at the Algonquin Round Table is notable, as is her refusal to name names during the McCarthy trials and her O. Henry Prize for the short story "Big Blonde." I really could go on and on, but in the words of the immortal Ms. Parker, "All of my days are gray with yearning/(nevertheless, a girl needs fun)" so I'm off to enjoy the Sunday. I'll leave you with a recording of the poem "Men" being read by Dorothy herself (and an earlier post).

Friday, August 19, 2005

every single one of us could use some mercy now

I can't decide which was better during Mary Gauthier's in-studio appearance this morning on KCRW: her songs or her story. It's worth checking out. The best news is that she never wrote a song until she was 35. You can watch a video for her song "Mercy Now" here. Additional music and more can be found at her website.

life rushes by, time rushes by

Over at Slate, Jonathan Ames catalogues his corporeal ruination.

Just this morning I spent at least 15 minutes on my plaque, and I'm always amazed how quickly it comes back. It's sort of like my massive credit card bills. Every month I pay them and I experience this naive sense of satisfaction that this will be the last time I ever have to do that again. But there they are the next month. Plaque and debt are clearly spiritual brothers. One area of concern in my mouth is my front right tooth. It is half fake and completely yellow but rapidly moving toward brown. I fell in a bathtub when I was 6 and chipped my tooth, and the cap hasn't been replaced in 21 years. But this tooth gives me character; it is kind of like a mood ring, growing darker each year as I grow increasingly strange.

I love the line: "I'm a writer, which means I spend my days writing e-mails."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

in defense of jonathan safran foer

I recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer's latest, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a novel that sat on my shelf for quite some time because the negative backlash had infiltrated the title selection part of my brain. What I had forgotten was the rich tapestry Foer weaves that stole my heart when I read Everything Is Illuminated. I've often told people that Foer's first novel is the only book I've ever read where I found myself unable to stop crying and unable to stop reading.

I can see why critics like Steve Almond thought Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was "desperate for attention," but I can't agree with Michel Faber (whose The Crimson Petal and The White was spectacular) that "there is much to admire, but little to love." Yes, it's true that Foer finds a gimmick and works it too hard. The novel tells the story of Oskar Schell, a precocious boy who is dealing with his father's death on 9/11. He struggles with "heavy boots," a euphemism for the weak hold he has on sanity and his debilitating depression. I loved the idea of "heavy boots," but it recurs with a relentless frequency. I was terribly moved by the idea of another character's heart broken into more pieces than it was made of:

Does it break my heart, of course, every moment of the day, into more pieces than my heart was made of, I never thought of myself as quiet, much less silent, I never thought about things at all, everything changed, the distance that wedged itself between me and my happiness wasn't the was me, my thinking, the cancer of never letting's so painful to think, and tell me, what did thinking ever do for me, to what great place did thinking ever bring me? I think and think and think, I've thought myself out of happiness one million times, but never once into it.

Unfortunately, it was not as touching the next time it was described the same way. In the big picture, though, it doesn't matter. Foer's novels make me feel. It becomes an act beyond reading. It's being put in touch with so much pain, joy, truth, beauty, death, love, hate, fear, and life that I have to stop at the end of each chapter and regroup. Before I finally picked up this novel, I read Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, and I waited to feel something, anything, but it was just a story. (I was relieved to see Old Hag felt the same way.) I may be confessing a bent toward sentimentality here, but it's so rare that reading transcends language for me, that I cherish it. As far as the much maligned gimmicks associated with Foer's second novel go, if you buy into them, they'll break your heart.

godmother of punk RIP

Esther Wong, the proprietor of L.A. venue Madame Wong's, has died at age 88.

Her Madame Wong's restaurant on Sun Mun Way in Chinatown, which she opened in 1970 with her now-deceased first husband, George Wong, originally featured Polynesian bands. But when that music attracted smaller and smaller crowds, she was persuaded in 1978 to book rock musicians for one month.

The switch immediately increased her nightly crowd from as few as a dozen to about 350, and she declared the restaurant a stage for rock, punk and new wave bands...

"I got a very bad temper," she told The Times in 1980. "When there's a bad tape, I throw it outside the window. One day I almost hit the Highway Patrol car that was right next to me."

A no-nonsense businesswoman, Wong was disparaged by some bands for her temper. She once stopped a show until two members of the Ramones cleaned up graffiti they had written on the bathroom walls.

She limited clientele to those over 21, eliminating the huge younger rock audience, to the distress of several bands. She all but banned female singers, calling them "no good, always trouble." And she regularly patrolled her establishment during performances, sniffing for marijuana smoke...

Born and educated in Shanghai, Wong grew up traveling the world with her importer father. She moved to Los Angeles in 1949 to escape the Communist regime and worked for two decades as a clerk and trainer of clerks for a shipping company before opening her restaurant.

In a related note, Exene Cervenka will have an exhibition at the Santa Monica Musuem of Art next month. (Via

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

strew the fictional forest floor like fallen leaves

DJ Taylor's essay on the elusiveness of the great rock & roll novel was mentioned on Bookslut and then became a suggestion free-for-all on largeheartedboy. So far, Harlan Ellison's Spider Kiss sounds the most promising. An excerpt from Taylor:

...this is an art-form whose outlines are subject to lightning shifts and fractures. If a music journalist has trouble keeping up with its constant recalibrations, what chance the middle-aged scrivener who thought Pink Floyd were frightfully good at Live8? And yet - again like football and comedy - in terms of themes, situations and the range of treatments available, pop ought to offer a deeply alluring landscape, both actual and symbolic, for the writer to colonise. Never mind the desperate romanticism that has invested the form since the days of Elvis; there is also pop's function as a piece of societal litmus paper. Until at least the early 1980s, it is fair to say, "music", together with professional sport and organised crime, offered the only reliable means of escape from the back street and the factory floor. Then there is the human factor, made up of the aspirations, resentments and interactions of the four or five persons crammed into the rehearsal studio together with El Sharko their rapacious manager, and the iceberg of a ruthless, predatory and potentially corrupt corporate organism lurking all the while beyond the horizon. In theory, rock'n'roll novels ought to strew the fictional forest floor like fallen leaves. In practice only the occasional muted light glimmers up through the murk.

Michael Schaub provides a round-up in the September issue of Bookslut.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

not even differences in light

I'm coming up on five months here in Los Angeles - and eerily enough, the actual date will be 6 September 2005 - so I was especially moved by the latest entry in The Diaries of Franz Kafka:

6 September 1910 Which I get over easily in any case, for I’m allowed neither one nor the other, and therefore it isn’t right for me to compare myself to you. Now you! How long have you actually been in the city how long have you been in the city I ask.

Five months. But I already know them well enough. You, I have given myself no rest. When I look back like this I don’t even know if there were any nights, it all appears to me, can you imagine it, as a single day, and there was no time of day there, not even differences in light

extraordinary machine

I'm fairly excited about the once delayed, now imminent release of Fiona Apple's latest album, Extraordinary Machine. Like the rest of the web world, I've heard a sizable portion of this album already, and I thought it sounded great. Supposedly, Ms. Apple is now dating Jon Brion, the original producer on EM who describes it as a "sore spot," so it looks like it's all coming together for her. You can listen to a song here.

don't ask anybody, just build a house

Could this be true?

Update: More on the dream dashed.

Monday, August 15, 2005

guns, trucks, pork, and mullets

If this hillbilly homage doesn't induce an epileptic seizure, it'll make you want to catch the next Rooftop Ruckus, whatever it is. Try randomly pausing during the faster parts - it's worth it.

as smart as they are

One Ring Zero used to play in my 'hood pretty regularly, and I'm ashamed to say I never saw them, even when they were appearing with collaborators like Paul Auster, Rick Moody, Jonathan Lethem, and Dave Eggers. Luckily for me, I can pretend I was there by checking out As Smart as They Are: The Author Project.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

the boys of blöödhag

Photo by Lilly Warner

If I had a crush of the week like some other sites, this week BlöödHag would be it. They are an "edu-core" band from Seattle who wage fierce metal war on illiteracy, with free admission in return for book reports, and who often rock out in local libraries. "Obviously, there was a need for blisteringly loud metal in the library system that was just not being met." Bookslut linked to a profile in the Modesto Bee by cool-ass teen Madeline Key:

The group plays super short (under two minutes) heavy metal songs detailing the life and work of science fiction authors...Ardent metal heads, they wanted to educate fans about the roots of rock. Their intent was to break the stigma and stereotypes associated with heavy metal music and their fans.

As McNulty explains, "We wanted to prove you could be smart and metal."

As Orgel points out, "Thematically, a lot of music, especially heavy metal, is based upon literary references, both lyrically and in the associated artwork. "For instance, Queen's 'News of the World' cover is from an Astounding Science Fiction Magazine cover picture. Had J. R. R. Tolkien not created his master work, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, there would be no 'Ramble On' by Led Zeppelin. Had Melville never put pen to paper, there would be no 'Leviathan' by Mastodon."

BloodHag demands to see library cards. They get angry at illiteracy and assign book reports. They throw books into the audience. They offer free admission to concertgoers who read a novel from their "required reading list' and then write an essay...

Is their message working? Orgel says the comment they most often receive is that a book they threw from the stage hit someone on the head and became the first book that person had read in years, and that he or she was back to get another one.

You can check them out for yourself:

Thursday, August 11, 2005

CBGB lives to rock another day

A civil court judge has ruled that evicting CBGB's would just be wrong.

"CBGB has proven itself worthy of being recognized as a landmark -- a rare achievement for any commercial tenant in the ever diverse and competitive real estate market of New York City," she wrote in the ruling, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press by the Save CBGB's Coalition.

"It would be unconscionable for this court to allow petitioner to proceed with its intent to evict CBGB ... because it failed to notice that monies were outstanding for approximately four years," the judge wrote.

I wonder if I can get away with "failing to notice" my student loans.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

this week's netflix

Meantime: I was really looking forward to this TV movie from director Mike Leigh that has the distinction of featuring the first screen performances of Gary Oldman and Tim Roth. But as it turned out, this was the week I was visited by the Netflix gremlins. I put the DVD in, and the only audio that worked was the foley track (if that's what it's called). I could hear a woman scratch her arm, but I couldn't hear a single spoken word. I contemplated watching the film that way, out of sheer perversity and the fact it looked good, but in the end I gave up. It's possible that switching from Dolby to DHS might have solved the problem, but I didn't figure that out until it was too late.

Nowhere Man: Now here's where the gremlins got nasty. For some totally unknown reason, not only did I put this film in my Netflix queue, but I actually had it saved before its release. The description was so vague that everytime I read it, I still had no idea what it was about. Something about humor that stings like a BB. I figured there must have been some reason to watch it if I saved it, right? Wrong. This is the kind of film that undergrads make and force their friends to watch in return for free Jaeger. I'm not even going to talk about it, but I will share this quote from a fan (read: the filmmakers) on IMDB: "This no budget hand grenade rips apart the mold of gutless, brainless and disingenuously politically correct products that have become DE rigger in film-making today."

Marathon Man: I had never seen this film before and it rocked! Unlike the action blockbusters of today that leave your mind the minute you walk out of the theater, scenes from the movie have stayed with me all week: Laurence Olivier pushing his dental pick into Dustin Hoffman's cavity (No! It's not safe!), the Jews chasing the Weisse Engel through the diamond district, Dustin Hoffman realizing William Devane has driven him back to the torture site, the diamonds falling through the grates and then Olivier eating one, Dustin Hoffman jumping the ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the amazing old fogie car chase through the Upper East Side. If you're like me and have gone this long without seeing this film, it's your lucky day.

Free Radicals a.k.a. Böse Zellen: Apparently, people in Austria are just as lonely and messed up as everyone everywhere else. Lives of the troubled intersect and while the film is pretty enjoyable, there is little to no resolution. The acting is decent, the storylines are engaging enough, and now that I think about it, there was a lot of sex.

Dead Like Me (S1, E2-6), The Wire (S1, E4-5), and Carnivale (S1, E3-4) were also in the mix. I am so enjoying Carnivale, even if (or more likely, because) it's just an extension of what I think about all day. I'd try to get a job writing for the series if it wasn't, um, cancelled. So's The Inside. Do I have bad taste or do the networks?

Monday, August 08, 2005

baby steps in the neverending story

Today, my horoscope read, "Wrap things up as quickly as possible, even if it means you have to skip finishing off the package with a pretty bow. It's time to move on, and you need to start on your next project." So I said hell yeah and finished another chapter for my dissertation called "Hot Gospel: The Literary Life of Aimee Semple McPherson." Break out the bourbon.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

mix post: california edition

"I came to the far West, which I had been taught by novelists and poets to think of as a place of freedom. I came, because I like freedom; I am staying because I like the climate." - Upton Sinclair

Click through with your left and then save with your right.

California Brown and Blue - Denison Witmer

California Demise - Olivia Tremor Control

California - Low

California - Lucero

California Hustlin' - Arthur Dodge

Elliot Gould Is in California Split - Head of Femur

Blurred Just the Same - The Dying Californian

I Heart L.A. Two - Subtle

L.A. City - Ox

California Plates - Scrabbel

El Caminos in the West - Grandaddy

Via largehearted boy, mystery & misery, funtime OK, scenestars, Bars & Guitars, said the gramophone, songs:illinois, Uncommon Folk
Former editions can now be found at the bottom of the column to your right...

Friday, August 05, 2005

things are looking up

I just won tickets to see Neva Dinova, Richard Swift, and Mayday at The Echo on Saturday night. The description sounds great:

While they share similar zip codes, a split EP, and a mega tour, Neva Dinova have less in common with Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst than the press would have you believe. Singer Jake Bellows maintains a swarthy Jeff Buckley-inspired drawl and manages to show slightly less self-loathing. Also playing tonight is Cursive guitarist Ted Stevens — another bluesy Nebraskan — whose band Mayday plays '50s-influenced indie rock that falls somewhere between Roy Orbison and Morricone. But the act to look out for is opener Richard Swift. Recently signed to Secretly Canadian, his chamber pop has the honest resonance of Elliott Smith and Nick Drake, but gives those troubled troubadours' studied brooding a miss. (Thanks to flavorpill!)

parental fantasies

Whenever I see a child being unreservedly encouraged to explore his/her creative side, I either want to:
a) travel back in time to somehow be the adopted child of these supportive parents, or
b) travel forward into the future where maybe I can treat my currently nonexistent children with such largesse.

Meet lucky Thomas at The Adventures of Art Lad.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

the right to rock a gingham dress

Over at Being There, Zayne Reeves lists the 25 Greatest Country Albums of All Time. A taste:

4. Time (The Revelator), Gillian Welch

To this very day, there is a contingency of music fans who insist that Gillian Welch is somehow inauthentic or committing a kind of desecration against Americana music because she had the audacity to be born somewhere north of McShantytown, Georgia. Their argument is that, because she wasn't raised on a farm that grew cow manure and hard scrabble authenticity in equal quantities, she somehow doesn't have the right to rock a gingham dress, play the banjo and present her great art to paying audiences. Here's what I have to say to that: I was born in Memphis and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama so, to steal Brett Butler's line, I'm so southern that I'm related to myself and I think Welch is a genius.

8. Satan Is Real, The Louvin Brothers

Whether you are a true believer or not, Satan Is Real grabs you by the collar and shakes you senseless with its conviction and with Ira Louvin's need for salvation. The troubled genius of the pair (like Carter Stanley was to The Stanley Brothers), Ira was a tormented man who felt that God was calling him for a life outside of music and yet he was never able to pull himself away from a life on the road and that tear in his soul put a meanness in him that was redeemed by the way his voice held all the contradictions you could ever find in human behavior.

Via an aquarium drunkard

While we're on the subject, I thought I'd toss in a song that's been sweet to me lately. Sung by Gordon McIntyre (of the Scottish band Ballboy) and Laura Cantrell on John Peel's 2003 Christmas broadcast, "I Lost You But I Found Country Music" is a mere slip of a song about loneliness and the power of music to reinvent shared time.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Two feline-related posts in one week may be a bit much, but it's true: stuff + cats = awesome.

kings county clerks like to chat

I am still having important mail forwarded to me from Brooklyn, so a few weeks ago, I received a jury summons. Once I got around to taking a look at it, I realized I had missed my summons date. I called the Kings County Clerks' Office to find out a) how to change my residency with them and b) if I was in trouble. The clerk who answered the phone, upon hearing that I now lived in L.A., barraged me with questions for the next half hour: have you seen any celebrities? what's the weather like? how much do apartments cost? are you an actress? have there been any earthquakes? I politely answered all queries, especially because I had still not found out if I was in trouble. Eventually, problems solved, I managed to get off the phone with an exchange of well-wishing. The most surreal part of the experience was that the entire time I was talking to the clerk, I had no idea if I was on the phone with a man or a woman.

music hurts

The inaugural edition of Music Hurts features articles on drummer girls, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and current band logos, among sundry others.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

the beautifully worthless

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I got a job bartending brunch at a local brewery-restaurant. It was excrutiatingly slow a lot of the time, so I really got a chance to know my fellow servers. Just the other day, I was remembering the fierce wit of a woman named Ali. She discovered that the best response to any customer complaint was to say, "Touché."

"This french toast isn't cooked all the way through."

"My beer tastes like it was poured through old socks."

"My child can only eat sugar-free food. What do you have on the menu that's sugar-free?"

It was perfect. Ali was a writer - unpublished, as we all were then - and I remember her wanting to write a book about waitressing, which I always thought would be brilliant in her hands. I lost touch with her after we both left the brewery, but I've thought of her often when I've told the "Touché" story. So you can imagine my delight when I discovered her book, The Beautifully Worthless, reviewed in the latest issue of Bookslut. Buy it. You won't be disappointed. I haven't even read it, but I know.

I write the songs of love and special things

I feel like this critique of the top 10 worst song lyrics ever could have been stretched to 100 easily. Here's my vote (though this might change as the day progresses):

Well, I love a rainy night
You can see it in my eyes

Yeah, I love a rainy night

Well, it makes me high

Ooh, I love a rainy night

You know I do, yeah, yeah

I love a rainy night

Feel free to add your votes in the comments.

brinig on the coasts

"In California, men and women had a most distressing or amusing habit (it depended on your own mood) of ripping themselves open so that you could see their insides, their brains and intestines. In New York, it was rare to enter into anyone; nearly all the inhabitants were locked away in desperate silences." - Myron Brinig, The Flutter of an Eyelid (1933)

Monday, August 01, 2005

go take your damned tomorrow

The Guardian has an interesting article on Dorothy Parker to coincide with "You Might As Well Live," a play about the writer being performed at the Edinburgh Festival. (Via Maud Newton)

Essential reading: The Portable Dorothy Parker

Unfortunate Coincidence
By the time you swear you’re his,
Shivering and sighing,
And he vows his passion is
Infinite, undying—
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.

lorrie moore hits the nail on the head

Q: What did you pick up from living in New York years ago?
LM: That it was completely inspiring and stimulating and a great place to walk and brainstorm but that I couldn’t get much actual work done there.

pumpkin empanadas

I used to cook quite often, but I've been on a bit of a hiatus. Yesterday, in honor of our book club choice - The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck - I broke out the mixing bowls and cookie sheets and made some pumpkin empanadas. I'd suggest the empanadas, but not The News.


Pumpkin Filling
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
1/4 teaspoon ginger, optional
1/8 teaspoon cloves, optional

Empanada Dough
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 (1/4 ounce) packages dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
2 generous pinches cinnamon
3 cups flour, divided in half
generous 3/4 cup vegetable shortening


For filling: Mix ingredients together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine water, sugar, salt, yeast, baking powder, and cinnamon. Using an electric mixer, gradually blend in half of the flour. Add shortening and thoroughly mix, then gradually blend in remaining flour.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts, ten shape each into 4 dough balls. Slap the dough balls between the palms of your well-floured hands until somewhat flattened, then roll on a floured surface until circles approximately 4 inches in diameter and 1/8 inch thick. Put about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in the center of each circle, fold over, and seal edges by pressing lightly with a fork on both sides.

Bake on greased cookie sheet until golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes (watch carefully; they can burn quickly).

Via Gourmet Sleuth