29 September 2004

The Email Archive 1997-2004, Entry #5.

Welcome again to the Archive. Entry #5 comes to us from a little state university up north. Although it possesses all the typical drunken email fare; typos: incoherence, acknowledgements of drunkenness; it has a peculiar quality that I admire. What I do so infrequently on this site is move swiftly from one topic to another, without excessive transitions. Our friend "Diggity" from Entry #1 (09.07.04) writes me an email that moves from one subject to the next so fluidly, we feel we've read a twelve page email condensed to 5 neat sentences, typed in the time it would take to chug a half-pint of milk at the junior-high lunch table. From December 12, 1999. Enjoy!

-From_:
To: malkmus@global2000.net
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 1999 00:50:56 -0500
Subject: Re: hey

Hmmmmmmm...

I'm rnk.. ber is good.. yummy 14 bers ist ooo much for one night......
I can till walk though, adn takl coherntly, just not type too well.
I'm goin to bed, god to hear you dig beck, see yaz in a few eekz.
bitch, I want som e meat.

diigerss

27 September 2004

On Biography 1: F. Scott Fitzgerald.


FSFitzgerald


To call Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up autobiographical is to put too little faith in the author’s fiction writing. By 1936 Fitzgerald’s per-story fee had been halved and halved again; he had shipped off to Hollywood to make an easy dime coughing up screenplays, only to find his work edited and mangled (from its already shoddy worth). His wife had been rehabilitated and then recommitted, his daughter out of his custody, and his art form suffering a slow evaporation from the shelves. To put it bluntly: a failing marriage, career, stature, and now reduced to writing for a magazine about his failings. None of this comes up in his essay about the reasons for his mental and physical collapse.

The immediate response is to think; this is necessary biographical data, and deserves the weight association offers a piece entitled “The Crack-Up.” Fitzgerald eludes not his own glaring crises; he avoids being labeled an “autobiographer.” His condition doesn’t need to be compared overtly to America's in the era between the depression and World War II, but his conscience and its reflections give us perspective on who we had become. Suffice it to say, pulp accounts of sensational misfortunes do not a piece of literature make. Fitzgerald offers us, without autobiography’s chronological perspective and its marginalized personal reflection, a chance to know not a whole man but what precisely is lacking from one.

What strikes me as completely useless about biographical aesthetics is that they are the culmination of circumstances compressed into a generic point of view. Fitzgerald instead investigates his lack of perspective, constantly referencing ones that have slipped away with the years. Avoiding a dredging of his personal crises, Fitzgerald has his cracking up before he has given us proper notice. Insinuating he is not the only man to crack, he knows what a cracked man has been all along:

“…men who didn’t care whether the world tumbled into chaos tomorrow if it spared their houses. I was one with them now, one with the smooth articles who said: ‘I’m sorry but business is business.’”

Fitzgerald forgoes all that shit that usually pads the end of a self-reflective piece, that makes life a little easier for the reader (but mostly the writer), by giving us some “I’ve found the will to live,” or “Well, there’s always clowning.”

Had we read a despicable man’s journey into the abyss and not an uncommon man’s repulsion of all things common (Fitzgerald’s unique gift to American letters), we would be hesitant to react strongly to the melodrama in the ending. But because he has baited us with the melodrama surrounding his personal life, the biography omitted comes to us now in an outburst of reactionary scorn. It saves us the trouble of sifting through it in long paragraph’s of eloquent verbiage, and settles much sweeter in our ears when we see this waiting for us in the last paragraph:

“I do not like any longer the postman, nor the grocer, nor the editor, nor the cousin’s husband, and he in turn will come to dislike me, so that he will never be very pleasant again, and the sign ‘Cave Canem’ is hung permanently just above my door. I will try to be a correct animal though, and if you throw me a bone with enough meat on it I may even lick your hand.”

In the tradition of all great literature, the position of the reader is confronted as the ultimate interloper between author, image, and context. This then is the simplest failing of biography. Never is the reader confronted. Here are the two greatest Frenchmen, one mentioned below and one saved for his own essay sometime soon.

Baudelaire;

“Boredom, tears have glued its eyes together.
You know it well, my Reader. This obscene
beast chain-smokes yawning for the guillotine —
you hypocrite Reader — my double — my brother!”

…and Emile Zola, from the preface to L’Assommoir:

“Ah! if the public only knew how my colleagues laugh at the appalling legend which amuses the crowd! If they only knew how the blood-thirsty wretch, the ferocious novelist, is just a petty bourgeois, a man dedicated to study and art, living in his corner, whose sole ambition is to leave as large and living work as he can! I contradict no reports, I work on, I rely on time, and the good faith of the public to discover me at last beneath this accumulated rubbish that has been heaped upon me.”

Fitzgerald constructs an essay that does not react to the reader throughout, but the parallels with the excerpts above are striking. None of the excerpts above are fiction works, but they do require a fiction writer's skill at selecting what is worth telling and what is worth omitting. The perspective Fitzgerald offers is a highly nuanced narration beyond any of autobiography's conventions. By presenting a frame of mind to the reader, the author is more human to us than anything anecdote could ever achieve.

On Biography 2: Charles Baudelaire.


Baudelaire


The form of biography, as slow to change as the techniques of French winemaking, is as influential to an artist’s career as anything produced in his/her lifetime. I feel strongly about the need for fresh perspective in biography. The typical biography exists in all incarnations, from magazine articles to encyclopedia entries (the larger the piece the more opportunity for movement within that format). But constructions have become standard.

Jean Paul Sartre wrote a biography, Baudelaire, which I read passages from and felt compelled to discuss with a very astute critic of biographers and biographies, a person that exists only in my mind. Here are the fruits of that dialogue.

Charles Baudelaire is well known in many literary circles; as an art critic (the first to review Edouard Manet, the first impressionist), a translator (of Poe, who reached critical fame in Paris to a greater degree in his lifetime than in any other place), a poet (inventor of the ‘prose poem’), and as the first voice of what we call ‘the modern era.’ He was the man who broke from romanticism, inspiring Arthur Rimbaud and T.S. Eliot. He and Walt Whitman were writing in very disparate styles at about the same time. He was a puss-filled sore to French academics during his lifetime. Now, he is their crown jewel.

What Sartre does is write a book about a man who died a few decades after his birth and whom he never accurately read. But what he produces is one of the strangest and truly invigorating biographies and character studies in existence. He unfolds a Baudelaire set within the framework of an existentialist analysis. Whether or not he is accurate is inconsequential; we do not come to philosophical criticism for the facts of a rational world. We come to Sartre for Sartre’s sensibility, and we learn as much about him as we do about the author whose name is the book’s title. What we get is an excuse for us to listen in on his ideals, without him having to drag them out for us in some manufactured love story; we get Sartre in Baudelaire, and strangely, vice-versa.

Sartre, although working in the framework of a philosophical criticism, is conscious of the biography unfolding in front of him. As much of a critique on the character of Baudelaire, Sartre’s book is a work I will call a “biographical critique.” For Sartre to take on Baudelaire not as a biographical character – a person stranded in the stale artifice of his chronology - is truly instructive, and refreshing, to the fellow critic.

An historical figure exists as a blueprint with which we construct an era. However, a study like Sartre’s moves the historical Baudelaire into the historical Sartre. Once their separate eras are confused with the context of Sartre’s study, the lines between distinct ages in modern French literature are easily blurred. The Baudelaire presented here is so set out of place by the existentialism thrust upon him, that he becomes as much a resident of our perception of his era as he is a resident of the “here-and-now.”

“Far from feeling that his existence was vague, aimless, superfluous, he thought of himself as son by divine right. He was always living in her, which meant that he had found a sanctuary. He himself was nothing more and did not want to be anything but an emanation of the divinity, a little thought which was always present in her mind.”

That’s how Baudelaire felt just before his mother remarried. This statement is as easily proven as “The ocean is composed entirely of unicorn piss.” Yet we learn little from the disputation of Sartre’s claim. The man thought very highly of his own presence, if not in the mind of his mother, then certainly on the page. To declare one’s own writing a part of one’s self is a mother declaring her child belongs to her. But the child can exert a contradictory claim; that the mother serves him.

Baudelaire is far more the poems we read than the man who composed them. I should know; it’s the reason my own poems aren’t very good. The author is more important to me than the pages he creates. Something in the process is relinquished. We read a Baudelaire enriched by his work, and not a servant to it. There. That’s my problem with biography. The life is supposed to service the audience, and the author dangles the circumstances of it as if it’s the reason for biography. Mere circumstances of living. This is bullshit. An artist’s life should be chronicled as the evolution of a man’s thought, not a chronology of events. And not a survey of tastes either.

I must place emphasis on this; it is always preferred to know a man who engages in his profession for the possibilities it can extend to others in that profession, to know the shape his art can lend to other artists and to anyone within his audience. Less essential for us to know the shell of his consumerism: what suits the man wears and what kind of car the man drives...

On Biography 3: Pedro Almodovar.

I met Pedro Almodovar three weekends ago under these circumstances. The New Times, in a 9-page article on the world’s greatest living director, fails to take into consideration any of Sartre’s biographical critique.

Here is Almodovar from the September 5th New York Times Magazine:

“Stuck in traffic in a black sedan on his way to the Palais de Festivals for the Cannes International Film Festival premiere of his new movie, ‘Bad Education,’ Pedro Almodovar seemed, as he often does, both anxious and curious. He fidgeted, he fussed… He was dressed tonight in a custom-designed Christian Dior tuxedo and was wearing dark sunglasses and looked, as he idled in traffic, like a teenager who had dressed up for a party he couldn’t wait to get to, or maybe not. He is in his 50’s now but has the bouncy effervescence of a child. It’s one of the character traits, but only one, that has played a part in making him arguably the most original and daring filmmaker working today.”

The others of course are a Christian Dior suit and the author’s complete ineptitude in trying to understand even a little about Almodovar or himself in the process.

Almodovar
Originally uploaded by hootielow.

Almodovar is the world’s most important living filmmaker. To see his films - to see the techniques he employs in servicing even the most minor characters - is to observe a contrast in style to almost any American director. Cartoonish even, when you compare Almodovar’s style of characterization to Tarantino’s in Kill Bill. One could justly call the American not a storyteller but a slanderer. The respect for Almodovar’s audience’s desires, perversions, and sympathies can be witnessed in countless scenes, sometimes all at once.

A scene in Talk To Her captures a man’s lover in a hospital bed, comatose. He hovers helplessly over her - fascinated - spending nights in the room with her, his only solace that he cannot express in words his true feelings for her. She wouldn’t acknowledge them anyway, and stares motionless when her real lover arrives and confronts the “other man” quietly and with what seems an excessive dignity. But the circumstances of having a beautiful woman trapped in a coma warrant only dignity from those around her. Our hero shuffles out quickly and shuts the door to cry. The scene happens so fast Tarantino couldn’t possibly have time to slaughter even half a room full of extras.

What saddens me so much about the gracious New York Times Magazine cover story is that his introduction into mainstream America, his first proper Times’ article, becomes a cliched retrospective. Its more Behind the Music than it is celebration of his great gift to filmmaking. We learn family details, schooling, influences. A chronology is offered for us to piece together as we read. I just believe that access to a director of this stature should never be taken as an excuse to churn out a vague portrait. The author should have pursued techniques that challenge his audience, to compliment a director that does the same. To me Almodovar is not so much the culmination of his own biography as he is a way of telling a story. And to see him become the kind of story he loathes is disheartening. But that’s what we’ve come to expect from a disheartening genre.

26 September 2004

from The Bridge, 1930.


BrooklynBridge


Proem: To Brooklyn Bridge.

How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest
The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,
Shedding white rings of tumult, building high
Over the chained bay waters Liberty--

Then, with inviolate curve, forsake our eyes
As apparitional as sails that cross
Some page of figures to be filed away;
--Till elevators drop us from our day . . .

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver-paced
As though the sun took step of thee, yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,--
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

Out of some subway scuttle, cell or loft
A bedlamite speeds to thy parapets,
Tilting there momently, shrill shirt ballooning,
A jest falls from the speechless caravan.

Down Wall, from girder into street noon leaks,
A rip-tooth of the sky's acetylene;
All afternoon the cloud-flown derricks turn . . .
Thy cables breathe the North Atlantic still.

And obscure as that heaven of the Jews,
Thy guerdon . . . Accolade thou dost bestow
Of anonymity time cannot raise:
Vibrant reprieve and pardon thou dost show.

O harp and altar, of the fury fused,
(How could mere toil align thy choiring strings!)
Terrific threshold of the prophet's pledge,
Prayer of pariah, and the lover's cry,--

Again the traffic lights that skim thy swift
Unfractioned idiom, immaculate sigh of stars,
Beading thy path--condense eternity:
And we have seen night lifted in thine arms.

Under thy shadow by the piers I waited;
Only in darkness is thy shadow clear.
The City's fiery parcels all undone,
Already snow submerges an iron year . . .

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.

-Hart Crane

25 September 2004

The Email Archive 1997-2004, Entry #4.

This is a damned classic. I will continue to cover up the real names of those mentioned in The Email Archive, but this one couldn't possibly be about anyone but the manwhore of Boston, Jerry Fiber. I'm sure I've said this before but I'd like to lay it down for the ages. You, Mr. Sherry, are some kind of wonderful. You have in the past made me laugh harder than anyone currently residing on the planet Earth. This email is long and a little complex. An explanation:

Jaron went to his ex-girlfriend's birthday party in Preston, England. He knew no-one there. Had broken up with her only a few days before. Had cheated on her with, as he puts it in the email below some "ho." At the birthday party, the drunken crowd begins to turn on him, and he finds himself fleeing, drunk, back to his apartment. He then unleashes a slew of slurry phone messages across the answering machines of various friends back in the United States. A few days later I called him to get the official story.

Email #4 begins with Jaron's message on "del's" answering machine, which del types out verbatim (his comments are in parentheses) and sends to a few friends. Following the typed out answering machine message is a previous email from me. My email takes excerpts from Jaron's original account of Bethany's birthday party. With arrows (-->) I splice in what I later learned from talking to him on the phone. Are we set? From February 6, 2002, with a few minor edits for readability:
...

From : del
Sent :Wednesday, February 6, 2002 4:56 PM
To :the_low@hotmail.com>, , , "gordy lordy",
Subject : Re: leave it to jerry.

addendum:
the answering machine message consisted of the following (being that's it's still on there):

 "GEEEEEEEEEE!!!!  GET IN THE MUTHAFUCKIN PIT!  hey.  it's me.  i'm fucking wasted but it's beth's fault and i have to talk to someone about this.  her friends are all assholes, especially why jocks are assholes.  shit.  i'm drunk.  .....(laughing at himself).....   well, i just wanted to talk to you about being american in england and why i'm drunk, no wait ......  GEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! (5x - with different variations).....allright well i'm fucking drunk and fraXX spXXX has good real estate over here, so i'll call tomorrow and fuck your mom's pooooosy. (still laughing at himself) oh yeah, and there was some terrorist at this party.  bye  BYE  GEEEEEEEEEEEEEE. shit.... -click-"


----- Original Message -----
From: mark loXXXX
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2002 1:08 PM
To :the_low@hotmail.com>, , , "gordy lordy",
Subject: leave it to jerry.
 
-->so i talked to jaron the following night about his little adventure at bethany's, and he mentioned a ton of details that were left out. so i've shared a few with all of you who got this email, if just for history's sake. if anyone talks to bethany do let me know, i'm sure her side of the story is... amazing.

J: i refused the booze about 10 times and she comes back with a beer. duh!!! does she not understand why i WASNT  drinking? no wonder she dyed her hair blond!!!!

--> okay thats just one of my favorite lines.

J: so i keep drinking because there was free champagne and you know how one drink leads to the next, so i was basically fucked up like a drunken frat boy from alpha sigma beta pi kalpa dalpa feta cheese!!

--> he had three drinks. a pint of beer and 2 glasses of champagne. he said he was wrecked in ten minutes. then he told me "the paranoia set in."

J: for a little bit seeing as I was receiving free drinks all night, so i was having a good time! her relatives were real nice, i gave her grandmother a kiss, (not a sloppy one just a little tounge) i talked and shook hands, did the whole 'party' thing and socialized like a politician. I didnt want to come to the party because i didnt want someone to remind me of how i broke up with beth and fooled around with a girl when i was hammered ONE night. (what was i thinking anyway, she was a ho!) oh yeah so

--> this is the first documented mention of the "ho." from what he told me a few weeks ago, he only "really really made out with" two chicks at once. the whole being "hammered ONE night" is pretty shaky, and he dumped her because HE felt guilty about cheating, that he couldnt live with himself and it was unfair to beth.

J: so after all the talking of how good beth is, in my absolute drunken stooper i say to the big jock boy, 'Then fucking hit me then! go ahead! (yeah! 1 point for the rocker!!!) so then in my stooper i run out of

-->after shouting to the dude, "fuck england and fuck you!"

J: the party onto the streets of preston. the jock comes up to me- 'no your my mate! don't leave! your a good guy!' this is all bullshit to me of course, especially drunk as shit and after all that shit he said to me. this guy is a fucking rugby player/bouncer! so anyway i come back after i ripped my button down shirt (cuz

-->ten minutes in the street "cursing the world" with no recollection as to how his shirt got ripped.

J: shevdog was really pissed right now and drunk as motherfuckin cunt)and i sat down.

--> and says to bethany, as an explanation for the ripped shirt/ running out of the party bit, "what's up."

J: beth called me a taxi which was nice, and i told her her friend was being a fookin wanker to me. she said i was the one being stupid. heres the BEST part folks! the part that reminds us innocent musicians why women, jocks, english people, and people are all stupid.

--> but first he takes the cab home, gets back to his apt, and pukes. then he leaves a message on del's answering machine. then he calls me, but i'm at work, and tells my girlfriend to give me a message. "tell mark i'm stoned."

J: so she tells me i am overemotional for walking away from the rugby player. OF course im gunna be he was threatening me and being a dick!!!! she then tells me he was JOKING. WHAT!! so i guess telling somebody, 'how could you do that to our beth' is a joke. this is not a funny situation here! she says that 'english people are different and americans dont know how to take a joke.' ok, im sorry people but how was what this guy said to me funny? all it did was make me wanna call up dave and sippy and get them over here to join in. so i was wrong for being upset apparently. it was my fault for drinking when i refused about 6 times. oh yeah, radiohead is god.

---> i hear that.

23 September 2004

"The Eiffel Ninety-Four" Fall Syllabus.

For no decent reason other than I’d like to share what will be on my mind over the next few months, I decided to post my Fall Reading List. We all make short lists here and there – out of the mind’s drivel must be some order the hand can exact on a page – and this one is no different than a list of groceries or people to round up and interrogate. Two ways to be a book shopper. 1) Walk into a bookstore and leave with a book because it’s skinny and will fit easily back into your bag going from train to bus or train to train. 2) Make a list. Having just done the former, spending $11 on a book I finished today, I decided to sit down here and give my readings for the autumn a definitive shape.

--Fiction--
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(said $11 book)
The Real Life Of Alejandro Mayta, Mario Vargas Llosa
Collected Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges
Hopscotch, Julio Cortazar
Guermantes Way, Marcel Proust

--Nonfiction--

The Best American Essays of The Century, ed. JC Oates.
The Art of Travel, Alain de Bottom
The Lexus and The Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman
The Complete Lectures of Bertrand Russell.
Ball Four, by Jim Bouton.
Categories, Aristotle (for class)
Timaeus, Plato (class)
Selected Non-Fictions, Jorge Luis Borges
Odyssey To Ushuaia, Andres Carlstein
Passions and Impressions, Pablo Neruda
Heights of Machu Picchu, Pablo Neruda.
Tigers And Ice, Edward Hoagland
Compass Points, How I Lived, Edward Hoagland
Odd Jobs, John Updike.

--Re-reading List--

The Early Stories, John Updike.
The Black Heralds, Cesar Vallejo.
The Crack-Up, F.S. Fitzgerald
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway
Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust
Dispatches, Michael Herr
The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin.
Blow-Up and Other Stories, Julio Cortazar.

Even a monastic reader would have trouble tackling this list, and I must stress that I have no intention of reading all of these books. In fact, aside from the The Crack-Up and the Marquez book (both short works I read today) I probably wont finish any of them. But I will be sampling from them and would like to hear any opinons you might have about things you may have read.

Mostly I'm looking for departures from traditional sentence structures. I try to look for subtle differences in style - usually between two or three works at a time - juggling within genres but not necessarily confining myself to one continent. I need to explore more than just South American poetry. Essays and fiction especially; no criticism.

For an example and a comparison, here are the opening two sentences from The Crack-Up by Fitzgerald and first two of Chronicles Of A Death Foretold by Marquez. Both books have lead me to consider other topics, and to write about them. What a fucking boring pair of sentences those turned out to be. Here are two superior sets.

Fitzgerald's: "Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work –the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside- the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once. There is another sort of blow that comes from within –that you don’t feel until it’s too late to do anything about it, until you realize with finality that in some regard you will never be as good a man again."

Marquez’s: “On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at 5:30 in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on. He’d dreamed he was going through a grove of timber trees where a gentle drizzle was falling, and for an instant he was happy in his dream, but when he awoke he felt completely splattered with bird shit.”

22 September 2004

The Email Archive 1997-2004, Entry #3.

Entitled "women mathematics," this email comes from a friend I never call by a nickname. He however, has invented hundreds of his own, and reminds me of them whenever he opens his mouth. As if the person he's talking about is having a never-ending identity crisis, our author is in a constant state of self-upheaval. Call it speaking in the fourth person. Call it blissful madness.

His email, from January 19, 2002, has no logic, and really can't help you in any way. But perhaps an underlying genius is at work here. You could spend days analyzing this or a few seconds helplessly baffled. It comes from a moment when he was having girl problems. Feel bad for him, son. Not a typical email from this author, but one of many you'll read here.

From: punky421@yahoo.com>
Sent : Saturday, January 19, 2002 11:55 AM
To :the_low@hotmail.com
Subject :  women mathematics


indeed this hypothesis is true, but what about the
hyperbola of gee?

you are supposed to solve everything
-------------------------------   X men bashing
you are the enemy


of course, you could always do a truth table or use
the symbols of:

provide all my needs and be perfect = x and y
(being the factors of well being and sex)
divided by periods and hormones,
with m and h being the chocolate and soap operas.

love,
Mr Element.

20 September 2004

On Softball.

Throughout my Little League career in Queensbury, NY, one thing always baffled me: What the hell are the girls doing? The girls played softball; had their own fields, local business sponsors, fans, game times, and even their own organization, “Little League Softball.” The female sex could not have been more removed from my youth sports experience. We were never allowed to see them lace a line drive or assume a clay-caked sweat. Ten years since my last game of competitive baseball, I still know nothing about girl’s softball. They might as well have been playing on the goddamned moon.

When I was 7 and 8 years-old I lived in Maastricht; a city in the southern Netherlands. My father was awarded a Fulbright Teachers Exchange, and we lived there for almost two years while he taught English to Dutch university students. We sold our house (the only one in the neighborhood with a fenced-in baseball diamond), packed everything we owned and got on a plane. I remember leaving the second grade envious of my classmates. They were going to third grade while I, for reasons inadequately explained to me (probably because they weren’t accompanied by the Transformers theme song), was getting on a giant metal bird and sailing straight for the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Eaten by whales and lobsters; while the new season of G.I. Joe rattled through someone else’s mind and the latest Alvin and The Chipmunks 7” rotted on a Caldor shelf. But if I had to sacrifice all of the decade’s pop culture and every member of my extended family, my eight-year-old self would have done so in an instant for the chance to play Little League.

We arrived in July, and within weeks my parents had found the only youth baseball organization in Maastricht. But my addiction was satiated only briefly. The league consisted of three age groups; seven to nine, ten to twelve, and thirteen to fifteen. Each age group had one team. Unbelievable. Who the living fuck are we supposed to play against? Who in Shitsville are we practicing for? Why am I the only one of these cocksuckers using an aluminum bat? Although I can’t quote my tantrums precisely, one thing is still clear to me. For the first time in my life, the desire to win had been coldly removed from recreational sports.

I was placed on the 7 to 9 year-old team for about a week. It was a beginner’s group, and I realize now that this is when competitive sports begin for Dutch children. I was starting my third year. The coach of the 7 to 9 group moved me up with the 10 to 12-ers, who had been practicing as a team now for a few weeks. But I was a good enough player to take over the starting shortstop position, which, on a team of kids three years or so older than you, is the only prize worth a damn on God’s green earth. Now of course we must remember “starting” means “starting against no one,” so in essence its like being King of The Cemetary. Because you can practice all you want. Practice ‘till you pass out. My teammates and I made it fun of course (you get to know each other real well playing against an imaginary team), but the monotony of conditioning turned every ground ball fielded cleanly into another symptom of homesickness.

One afternoon I showed up at the park and was handed a red and white pinstriped uniform. My excitement was brief. With buttons in the front, and numbers on the backs, they were just like Yankees uniforms. But more importantly, for a die-hard Lenny “Nails” Dykstra fan they were the same pinstripes as the Mets! The irony of being stranded in Europe seemed now complete. All dressed up with no one to play.

In the US, teams are sponsored by local businesses and are suited up to entertain the community and the families of the players. Here, the dutch children were given plain red uniforms (the Maastricht soccer team’s colors), and sent out across the country to represent the community. I was told by my chainsmoking lesbian coaches, Titia and Miranda, that we were to be traveling by train this weekend to Eindhoven for a game. Eindhoven was the next big city to the north. I felt like a professional. I was traveling 20-30 miles for a game. I was the starting shortstop. I was something else too, that I wouldn’t realize until I was at the visiting team’s ballfield. I was, at eight, the youngest kid in the nation in the 10 to 12 league. And the only kid in the league with a bat that went PING!

The first Eindhoven hitter cracked a high infield fly. I heard our pitcher grown as he saw me underneath it, with my glove in the air. Fighting through the afternoon sun, I brought the ball into my glove. I had made the first out of the game. Several of my teammates politely clapped, with mitts tucked between their chests and arms, smiling to me. I remember being pissed off. We’re supposed to catch fly balls. We get benched and heckled by someone else’s parents if we don’t. This isn’t a goddamned piano recital.

Clapping. A moment in baseball history.

At first I thought there was a reason for this sportsmanship, and it sat behind home plate with a mask on. The best player the Maastricht baseball team had was our catcher, a girl named Anoeshka. She batted cleanup, and was probably our only power hitter. I didn’t even realize she was a girl until my managers introduced her to me before our second game, by saying, “She’s leading the conditioning today, because she’s our best player.” Anoeshka took off her catcher’s mask to reveal short, brown curls, and a quaintly freckled face. She didn’t say anything to me, she just smiled. Everyone liked Anoeshka and held her in the highest regard. She would lace the ball all over the outfield in practice. I always let her use my aluminum bat, the only person I trusted with it, but I never asked her any questions. I was secretly afraid of her. So too were my other teammates. I remember thinking that she might have friends who would kick us all off the team. I think the guys on the team, a little envious of her skill and determination, felt the same way.


The88AlmereGiants


[The 1988 Almere Giants. You've never heard of them, but these kids could play. Only time in my baseball career where I knew going into a game I was playing against the #1 team in the nation]

But Anoeshka was not the reason we were so well behaved. I think the reason we didn’t believe that baseball was responsible for the air we were breathing was because we were just playing to win. In the US, its not whether you win or lose, its how many candy bars can you sell.

Because Little League Baseball is a business. And if you’re nine, you work in the fuckin’ mail room.

The youth baseball leagues in the Netherlands don’t work on a system of outside sponsorship, and do not require the kids be involved with the economic fate of their activity. In Queensbury, where I played baseball from ages 9 to 13, there are around ten teams per age group, each team having roughly 15 kids. The kids are the same ones you see everyday in school, so you know whose team you’re playing against and whether or not you’re going to win. Businesses sponsor teams, which means they pay for the “uniforms” the kids wear. On the first Queensbury team I played on after returning from the Netherlands, my uniform was a t-shirt that read “Buy-Low Carpet Warehouse.” I remember going home after games, stripping it off me by the washing machine, and reading the white block lettering. What the hell is a “Buy-Low Carpet?”

Not only do the likes of “Adirondack Lumber” or “GenPak Foam Packaging” find a way to be emblazoned across your chest, a child also has to sell Hershey’s candy bars for the first month of the season to further sponsor their own league. Back in upstate New York, my inquisitive tone sounded eerily similar. What the living fuck do chocolate bars have to do with baseball? One detail was immediately clear above all others.Why are all the girls on the other side of the sports field complex?

I realize now that it was a complex. It wasn’t just a collection of fields, it was a collection of fields separated by fences, by distance, by angles. You couldn’t even really see the girl’s softball teams practicing. This is reason why Queensbury was not only a less enjoyable experience than the baseball I played in the Netherlands, it was also an competitive environment removed of a certain amount of accountability for the actions of the players, the coaches, and the fans.

At any game I played in the Netherlands – in various small towns and medium-sized towns linked by the country’s rail system – the game experience was remarkably different from that of the crowds back home. What struck me the most was how I was part of the dialogue between players and viewers. The parents would cheer for their kid and their respective teammates, but they didn’t yell to them the Hey c’mons and the Let’s gos that meant nothing except the explicit urgency for which they were yelled. The parents would encourage when necessity demanded, but would never do so at the expense of our focus on the game. I’m not saying when I returned home all civility went out the window, but there were remarkable differences in the crowd’s behavior. For instance, I remember my father asking my grandfather to leave a game because he was shouting extremely precise corrective criticism at my team’s infielders. I remember a bunch of other people’s parents never possessing the decency to excuse themselves.

But bleacher behavior aside, the most glaring differences with Queensbury baseball were those most subtle details that distinguished winners from losers. At the end of every game was the humiliating winner-loser handshakes. I remember staring at the kids who’d beaten my team as I shuffled by with outstretched hand in silence. Even people I recognized from the hallways of school every day were like aliens to me, aliens from a world where all one could feast upon was confidence. As if beating your friends wasn’t a fulfilling double shot of hubris on the rocks, the winning team was treated to a round of free sodas at the Little League snackbar. The rest of us took our clay-choked esophagi back home to Mom’s kitchen.

These of course, are just details. One must look to a case study in order to really relive the sport’s failings. Fortunately, I had a backstage pass to the Humiliation Festival that was the 1991 Queensbury Little League Minors Tournament.
At the end of the regular season there is a playoff tournament to determine who is the best team of that year. Of course after playing the same teams you already know who the best team is but you play the tournament anyway. This is where most of my cartoonish memories of Queensbury were shaped. Parents, coaches, and players, lose their fucking minds during the playoffs.

My team, Buy-Low Carpet Warehouse, was playing for third place in the Queensbury end of the year playoffs. We were playing Moran’s Sporting Goods, and the umpire behind home plate just happened to be the father of the Moran’s third basemen. We’re up by a run, our best pitcher on the mound, last inning. Game is in the motherfuckin’ bag I think, as I see the bottom of the lineup warming up. Crouched behind home plate, looking out at David Mills through my catcher’s mask, its three outs and we go home third placers. And the umpire calls nearly every pitch David throws a ball. And David does something nearly unheard of in the annuls of Little League. He walks five of the next six batters. He probably didn’t walk five more players his entire youth baseball career, but he walked five that inning. And Moran’s Sporting Goods celebrated right at home plate, as I stood with my mask and glove in hand, the guy on third waltzing carefully home to touch the plate and signify our defeat. I’m not saying I still haven’t gotten over finishing fourth place the year after I traveled to an island on the North Sea to compete (as the youngest player in league history no less) in a countrywide tournament in a professional baseball player’s uniform; all I’m insinuating is, if there were girls on our team… never would’ve happened. Not a fuckin’ chance.

The reason I volunteered to play catcher for the duration of my Little League career in Queensbury is because Anoeshka played the position. If in eight seasons of Little League in the US I could have learned anything else from the opposite sex, I would have been the better ballplayer and the better person for it. And I’m sure if I asked her today what the difference between softball and baseball is, she would probably answer, “A softball seems like a baseball; maybe a little softer, a little bigger. But I don't know, I've never seen one.”

19 September 2004

Preface to "The Poetry Of M. Soto."

I’d like to introduce you all to an extraordinary archive of despicable poetry, and one of the genuinely original pieces of American literature. "The Poetry of M. Soto" will appear here periodically, and hopefully his original artwork as well. A little background…

When I moved to New York on September 1, 2001, my loft apartment was just a floor and four walls; two of sheet rock, two of windows. There was a refrigerator but no stove; a bathroom but no closets, a counter but no cupboards. But for my roommate Eric Silverstrim and I, there were two items left behind by former tenants. One was eerily and conspicuosly placed on the heater waiting for us. The other was hidden in a flat space above the shower stall. Above the shower was a video tape. On the heater, a book.

The video was useless, as Eric and I owned no VCR. We wouldn’t know its contents until we met the neighbor – who had a video of his own – at our building’s only town hall meeting of mutual grief and conspiracy theories, 10 days later. We’ll save the story of the video and all the rest of it for other postings.

The notebook on the heater was a bound sketchbook with glittery stickers covering its entirety; on the spine “Mark Loves Yoko.” I picked it up and leafed through a few random Anime-style characters done in pastel markers and instructions for spells. But these were only used as decorum for the main attraction: a collection of handwritten poems. Had the author stuck to black ink I probably would have recognized the significance of the document right then and there. As it turns out the gold, blue, pink, silver, and neon green ink was too much to spark my interest. I shut the book and left it on the heater.

Although not the first story I would think of telling about the following Tuesday, one of the numerous side-effects of it’s unfolding events was that for about a week in New York, there was really no more reliable distractions. The city became an extremely literal and unimaginative place. By 6pm on the 11th, I and my roommate Eric (a vague acquaintance at the time) were thrust into a situation where we were going to know each other extremely well or we were going to go fucking bonkers. We looked over at the heater and started on page one.

Within an hour, we were passing the book back and forth, giving stirring readings of these anything but literal, cracked-out acid casualty tomes that were destined to fall into our hands. For the next 3 months, we would throw parties as excuses to give public readings of these poems. We would hold Oprah-style discussion groups about the significance of each reference, and who the author might be. There were three clues.

One: each poem was signed, with “M. S???” The poems were bad but the handwriting was not. Still, each piece seemed to have a different three letters following the M. S… Hunched over the text, a group of readers were never able to distinguish more than this. We called him M. Soto, the closest we came, but even that we knew was not correct.

Second: A phone number, probably Yoko’s. Yoko is the ex-girlfriend he curses in nearly every poem. We dialed it once, and no one answered.

Third: In the back, at the end of the poem, a long string of letters and numbers. It was labeled “Probation Case #” Probably our finest clue, but telling in itself.

Taken individually they lose a considerable amount of their mythology; but as a whole they represent the worst collection of American literature ever assembled. They are so truly awful in their execution, form, grammar, logic, significance, and purpose, that they could never be parodied or duplicated. Bad poetry is difficult for even a casual reader; these works are so horrible they share all of the qualities of good poetry. It is difficult to use conventional forms and techniques to write original, engaging poetry. Just as hard to ignore every rule of writing and do it consistently. M. Soto’s craft only breaks down; the more he writes the less communicated; the more he describes an image the darker it becomes. For our first selection, this is “Nasty Wakes & Tasty Dreams.” Enjoy!

[NOTE: The grammar, spelling, enjambment, and capitalizations are maintained throughout. Any typographical errors are his. Also, I feel compelled to add, I AM NOT M. SOTO, although I would love to take credit for them and possibly base a musical around them someday.]

18 September 2004

The Poetry of M. Soto, Entry #1

"Nasty Wakes & Tasty Dreams" 7-13-99

"Ripe nipples, whip cream
tasty tongue, & seaping cum -

Come oh wondrous wonderl-
and of orgasmic dreams &
cream of fulfilling & undeniable
sums of steam

Passionate, while monkey
sex & dolphin styles to make
the ocean waves, we all
want some -

Blinking club lights & nothing
is what it seems -

Exoctic, eroctic and ecstasy
blows softly, when the wind
rustles through the leaves
of an absorbing oaken tree -

Full figure bodies, size 10’s
and size 2’s in pants & dresses,
everything is much different
when sweaty hard bodies touch
each other -

Eyes are scanning & doing the
touching, fingers feel & do the
fucking, intimacy is fun, exciting
and new, with a strange and
unknown lover -

Satin sheets & boxers, of white
to show ignorant innocence,
turn grey to black, to end any
building of knowing one another
& then what else is their -
[page two]

wasteland happiness, feel, touch,
smell, taste, experience, what’s
right is right isn’t always fair -

long hair, short, a naughty
exhibitionists style of love,
turn hidden, erotic behind
closed doors -

Mirrors are passageways of
the soul through brown
eyes, lose control, as deep dark
secrets & unique sex styles of
koala are told & more -

To come, end down, look around
and turn their gone the next day
turn new -

So few left with the question
of who is next & the story
continues to be the same, some-
times with lame people & the good are so few -

On cue, to score wet points
to dress exotically once again
lovely, burning, passionate
desires-

With liars but the rest on
black silken nights on pink silken
sheets & red satin shadows, on
pillow cases, tell the same glory
when the wood is in its place
burning by the inside wall, touched
by innocent fire -"

-M. S???

On Top Lists.

I read Bryan's post from a few days ago and in a comment to his site told him I would forward along excerpts from a paper I wrote about his writing. Then I figured, why the hell not post it here. Below are excerpts from a lengthy review of four music lists I found online. I handed this in to a class, and beyond finding Bryan's list the most thoroughly put-together and engaging article, it got me out of having to tackle a more serious topic for my assignment. What I have excerpted refers primarily to this list and this one.. Parts I took out reference this list and this list..

------

Pitchfork, Del, Rolling Stone, BMOC Online.
Large and Small Scale Rock Criticism On The Web


On "Del’s Definitive Top 50 Albums You NEED To Own."

At times, Del’s reviews are insightful, passionate, and skillfully written. Other times he possesses all the qualities of a child with a hyperactivity disorder sucking on a can of Mountain Dew. I read his brief reviews of some of the most complexly conceived albums I’ve ever heard and I say to him, “Go… go on for pages.” Other times, I hear him get going about a disc I certainly would love to know more about and I get, “Sick sick SICK!” or “Unbelievable,” or “…reeks of emotional turmoil,” or “one big mind fuck.” I come across these reactions half adoring the enthusiasm of a man whose record collection demands that he tell you you need to be a participant in it (in caps no less), and half thinking, “If I own this record, will I talk like a 14-year old skateboarder too?” His list demands that you trust his critical insights to some degree, while simultaneously allowing for elbows-out-arm-flailing enthusiasm for the technical wizardry of a rail slide.

There are of course, plenty of gems; and the list without the descriptions that follow each album reads as a primer for the album genre. If he was more careful in keeping his reviews thematically focused on the construction of an album, his writing would benefit from less about the physicality of the listening experience.

When I approach a piece of music, I’m not reviewing someone’s “slinky guitar leads,” or their “crunchiest, slammin guitar riffs,” or how that manages, ‘to accompany a throbbing but jazzy bass.” All that describing the playing stuff comes off sounding like poorly written erotica. I can’t help but to become suspicious of anyone who stumbles into nonsense descriptions like “uncanningly deep” (presumably a kind of deep uncharacteristic of the way we can goods). We’re reviewing albums here, how they’re costructed, how they fill the space between speakers, and how they invite the listener. I don’t care how many instruments you play, don’t play your reviews on your bass, or they sound like an entry for “movement” in a Breakdancer’s Thesaurus.

What becomes apparent to the reader is how inadequate a foundation is for judging a record. We see a definite lineage here, mostly on the british side of the argument, and beginning no earlier than 1965. And not even the gritty side of 65, the Kinda Kinks or My Generation side of 1965. We go from Revolver to Pink Floyd fairly canonically, fairly conservatively, and skip from 1979’s the Wall to Nevermind without explanation. From there, American rock with a capital A is the dominant aesthetic by which all are judged. Bitches and Blue are tossed as a sort of Negro parsely on the side of our roast beef on white bread sandwich. Where the distinction for the inclusion of these records are concerned, we get the support of Ornette and Chuck.

“run dmc - raising hell..Another one i'm going to catch hell for, but look...” From whom? The white boy rock academia? Please, just give us the reason and not the confrontation. The reviewer’s first example of catching hell is for Pink Floyd’s The Wall, and, judging that it is the #3 choice I would say it’s a foundation for his musical taste. So early in the list he begins to make claims to the inadequacy of his choices versus the popular opinion. And he implies there is a popular aesthetic, an end-all to the argument. The Wall has been included on every single rock album list I have ever seen.

“and brought about the notion of a musician and a performer,” talking about James Brown, as if this “notion” was not invented by any number of other musicians who performed for audiences, like Cab Calloway or the choruses from ancient Greek tragedies. If he’s implying a writer who performs his own music for the TV audience, he may have something here, at least in regards to the combination of a man who sings and dances his own material. but again, the “notion” he describes is strangely incomplete.

I love most of all the enthusiasm that peppers the list. Getting passed the self-deprecating style inherent in the task of picking one’s favorite music and then gushing about it like a 15 year-old girl with a $50 Claire’s Boutique gift certificate, Del’s list is a fan’s rant with fists drawn. If only it could be a little more astute where it’s confrontational, we might actually feel better about being impressed by his vast knowledge of popular music.


On "BMOC Online’s QHS 200 Albums List."

O’Connor of BMOC Online proves the small scale can show us very little, yet precise reviewing outweighs lengthy reviewing every time. Although he’s a rock archivalist who avoids advancing a preconceived notion whenever possible, his writing is never dull or ineffective.

When Rolling Stone asked for 200 lists from artists and contributors, they created a composite 500 that – although I too find fault in a greatest hit collectioned, various artists-sprinkled list – rivals nothing in the scope of the albums included and genre’s represented. By choosing a group of 8 friends who from each other established their pop music foundations, a composite list could only be predictably limited. What can be taken away however, and what makes the list very useful to the people I know, is that it traces the roots of our own popular music education. I can see where each album on the list comes from, who finds it most important, and how many of the 8 of us agree.

To give an example; OK Computer is hands down the most important record ever to be released in Warren County, NY. Without it, a list of this caliber would be controlled by The Bends, Siamese Dream, and probably any number of bands who made music that was trivialized by this album. Take Radiohead out of the list entirely, and ultra-lame 90s bands would rear their ugly heads. Nirvana’s entire canon would be used to justify the relevance of the decade. Achtung Baby in the top 20, etc etc etc. A lot of what puts OK Computer so high up is because of how superior it is to everything that came out around it. Siamese Dream, Purple, Superunknown, Morning Glory, Common People, all epic albums diminished when Radiohead, accidentally or intentionally, decided to make a magnum opus. Pitchfork’s got it at numero uno for the nineties, and their number one eighties album, Daydream Nation, gets a far more concise working of the guitar heavy rock opus in OK Computer. All records compare to it, and its exceptional quality places it around only Nevermind and The Bends as objects of immediate comparison. No late nineties album that followed placed higher than #56’s The Soft Bulletin, and only The Bends and Wowee Zowee bring the mid-nineties into the Top 25. All of the rest of the top 25 is backward glances to rock’s founding masterpieces. Its tough to argue that OK Computer isn’t the perfection of our rock criteria, our hopes and ideals placed in the hands of one band and executed with precision. Despite not making my list and being inferior to Kid A as an album experience, it is my anti-nostalgic attitude that limits only its place on my list and not my awe of it. Beyond a doubt, it’s importance is crucial to O’Connor’s list not just as a basis of comparison, but for the logic that results from those comparisons. O’Connor’s list is oddly enough, far more logical than the Pitchfork list, because our pop lineage is so easily traced.

O’Connor gives each of the top 50 a short quip, a raison d’etre, and he handles it less like a declaration of taste than an imperceptable nod to his reading audience (his reading audience admittedly being the same people who made the list). What I like about his short responses to albums is that they recognize the reader and the reader’s taste. He seems to go above and beyond the call of duty to explain an album’s placement. I find myself nodding along to his one or two sentence proclamations. They do not challenge any of my preconceived notions, but they convince me in their restrictive tone that his opinion is common knowledge. As much as I think an album has been relegated to marginality, he’ll pen something like:

“The most sonically astonishing album released in the wake of "Nevermind," "Siamese Dream" boldly fuses grunge with classic rock sensibility and surreal balladry. The songs are long and complex, but I dare you to find a dull moment.”

And I can’t help but think… yeah he might be right. Surreal balladry… what a strangely beautiful way to describe one of rock’s worst named songs, “Mayonnaise.” And in reality, mayonnaise is a gorgeous word. Surreal for the name of a love song.

The top 16 rank with 6 or 7 lists, and this is a testament that eight people who all know more about rock music than any other group of friends I have ever met. We may disagree at the far ends of the list, but O’Connor shows us how music sensibilities are not conceived from a self-righteous decree or aesthetic. We owe the music we hear in our lives to the people who first put it there, and it was astounding to see how that music came together in one declarative statement.

16 September 2004

from "Lecture At Pratt Institute," Brooklyn; 1973.


KahnDhaka

"Most of all we mustn't forget that in a city the street must be supreme. It is actually the first institution of the city. It is a decision out of commonality that you choose a place out of all places to build where others can settle. It is a very important decision. Its of the same importance as the positioning of temples in Greek days amongst the hills. Of all the hills, this hill is chosen for the temple. And then all the other hills sort of beckon to it as though bowing to this decision, because you do not see the hills. No, you see them as only respecting this eulogizing kind of building which is remarkable in that it has never been there before.

"I have books in my place. I like English history. I like the bloodiness of it somehow - you know it's horribly bloody - but out of it came something. Its really just a miscuing of how things are made and if you were to write a history of fear I think you would write the most true of history books. And I have eight volumes, and I only read the first volume, and only the first chapter, because every time I read it I also read something else into it. And the reason is that I'm really interested in reading Volume Zero. And maybe when I get through that, Volume Minus One.

"And that is the beauty of our work in that it deals with recesses of the mind from which what is not yet said and what is not yet made comes. And I think its important for everybody because desire is infinitely more important than need. And its disgraceful not to be able to supply the need. It mustn't be considered an achievement if the country gives us our needs. It must be a foregone conclusion if you're brought up in this world. But desire, to stymie the qualities of the not yet said and the not yet made, desire is the very reason for living.

"The measure of a city is the degree or the quality of its availabilities. We are living in a country which is the richest of all in availabilities, if we were to speak up. And I'm glad we don't, because as soon as we become conscious of it, it'll be as ruinous as McCarthy, who spoiled our true consciousness; our sense of democracy. He tried to define it and called for sides to be held, to be counted, and therefore destroyed the beauty of what democracy could be. And we're suffering to this day because of the attempt to isolate the qualities of democracy. I believe that availabilities are really in this country. And we don't really appreciate them because they are to be had. We want more of it because it's the very nature of us.
SomeIdiot

"And so availability is the hallmark of America. And it's been bandied around, its been kept from certain people, but I think its just there. You're about to assert yourself, and you find it comes your way. And I think that in the city, if I were to make a city plan, I think I would say, "In what way can I make an 'architecture of connection,' which would enliven the mind as to how the availabilities can be even more enriched than they are?" Put them into focus. They lose their character because the original inspirations are gone. Other people take over and you do not sense the inspirational moments which made those institutions possible. And there are many still that are, in the air, completely possible."

-Louis Kahn.

15 September 2004

On Borat.


Borat


I retrieved from the mail slot yesterday morning the new New Yorker, and opened it on the flight of stairs back to #2A. For a magazine I subscribe to, it seems to me a fucking ridiculous cat-and-mouse game to bait a loyal reader with 6 subscription cards every week. But it thrusts me into articles I normally would not read first. Example: on the stairs the magazine splits open at a subscription card and beneath it, an ink drawing of Borat. A moment to consider that what I'm looking at is indeed Borat, and then a confirmation, followed by me leaning hand on brick in the stairwell laughing out loud. Borat, a character from "Da Ali G Show" on HBO, has been causing quite a stir among Kazakhstan's "in the know."

From The New Yorker 09.20.04, pg. 40:

"Roman Vassilenko, the press secretary for the Embassy of Kazakhstan, wants to clear up a few misconceptions about his country. Women are not kept in cages. The national sport is not shooting a dog and then having a party. You cannot earn a living being a Gypsy catcher. Wine is not made from fermented horse urine. It is not customary for a man to grab another man's khrum. "Khrum" is not the word for testicles... His Kazakh words "resemble some gibberish Polish," Vassilenko said. And while Borat has claimed that "in Kazakhstan the favorite hobbies are disco dancing, archery, rape, and table tennis," Vassilenko concedes onlyy the first and last."

The rest of the piece goes on to cite how the Anti-Defamation League has commented on the character's anti-semitism, and the chance of it being misinterpreted by Ali G's audience. Although Sasha Cohen (who plays Borat and Ali G) is jewish, Borat's anti-semitic rants are not where the primary possibility for misterpretation lies. What I love about the character (and to counter what some say is harmful about him), is that he shows us not how we ourselves misinterpret foreign, especially Islamic, cultures; but how we try too hard to understand them. As a result, we help further our own misunderstanding. In the Borat segment "American Hobbies," Borat strings an endless number of absurd Kazakh customs across Americans (from karate instructors to dance teachers), and not only do the instructors tolerate them, they accomodate them. When Borat tells his karate instructor about his wife constantly trying to rape him, the instructor offers the opportunity for Borat to show him how. What's at work here is not a comedy where we can laugh at what Borat pretends is true, but a kind of farce where the unwitting accomplice refuses to acknowledge that the cultural differences between them are incompatible. Borat wants to know how he can defend himself from a jew's "claws." His instructor is more than willing to show him how, without realizing that jews don't have claws, and that there is no way to defend against something that doesn't exist.

A few minutes later at a dance class, Borat is asked to draw a picture to describe how he feels. Borat draws a picture of the made-up "Tichnik Massacre," where he describes his people murdering Uzbehk civilians. The dance instructor, seemingly on autopilot, asks Borat if he feels sad. "No, we did the killing." Borat turns our sympathy for victims of ethnic cleansing back on itself, a joke so truly shocking I myself only noticed it on a second viewing. It attests to my own accomodation of foreign cultures; seeing a stick-figure drawing of bodies and soldiers, I can't help but prepare myself for immediate sympathy.

There is a quote from Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, who says "What Americans don't understand is wit is something that takes thousands of years to develop." Although I won't give British humor any more credit than it deserves, Americans are gullible in a way that is wonderful to watch. Our innocence in the face of foreign customs attests to our ability to simultaneously open up to new cultures and isolate ourselves from them. Although the anti-semitic rants of his character are edgy and unprecedented, Borat is sharpest as the prototypical "foreigner," expoiting our begrudging forgiveness of other cultures. He's "the other," who sneaks in here by complex laws we don't understand, yet manages to be welcomed with open arms.

14 September 2004

On "Pet Sounds," 1966.


PetSounds



Not the experience of every teenager, but it has the suburban boy, over-sensitive and overwhelmed with a sense of his own awkward place in what seems like an awkward world. The lyrics are adequate, if not for their erudition and wit, for their lack of pretention. The music is a bit awkward as well; tunes that seem maladjusted for the blues-influenced British rock of the previous year just beginning to find an audience. And as the follow-up to the album Beach Boys Party (driven by it’s all the way to #2 single Barbara Ann), Pet Sounds sets itself apart in its own era, our era, and from previous Beach Boys recording.

Seven part harmonies and painfully intricate performances for what amounts to little more than antique music box jingles. One finds it difficult to associate a live band with the arrangement of You Still Believe In Me. The toy horn honking has to be the most demeaning instrument for a serious studio musician to play. But what distances this record from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – a direct descendant – is that it doesn’t hinder all creative expression by being a slave to its own refinement. In other words; it’s a smooth and polished record, but smoothed by a breeze and not a steamroller.

The harmonies match some of the instrumentation’s awkwardness. Complex vocal arrangements have the singers slightly up on the beat, trying to move within the strange confines laid down for them by Brian while the rest of them were touring Japan. It’s only when the instrumental tracks are played in stereo (or even better, when heard on Brian Wilson’s Live at the Roxy), that one hears what was intended for each song. Brian put all four tracks of the instrumental recordings back on one track of an eight-track machine, freeing up seven tracks for vocal harmonies. As far as the engineering is concerned it is precisely conceived. Yet its inexact execution is what has me as fascinated by it still, as fixated on what makes it beautiful as any other record I’ve ever heard.

American and British rock have always differed, if not in purpose, in execution. Striving to be represented by their greatest records, both participate in an aesthetic where melody and performance are not emphasized in equal measure. From Bowie to Blur, Pink Floyd to Radiohead, the British are fixated on the construction of a song; production, arrangement, instrumentation. Or what I will simply call “melody.” Americans haven’t given as much of a damn about the craft as they have about the resulting sound. Start with Cab Calloway, or Robert Johnson if you must; but from Elvis to the MC5, Horses to In Utero, melody has never been as essential as the vocal takes, the phrasing, the playing. The Stooges could never have been British and the Stone Roses a band from St. Louis. Impossible. Those bands that measure out melody over performance are usually British. Those bands that perform it before they’ve finished writing it are usually the Americans. The Clash are raw, but they sound cleaner and play better than The Ramones ever will. Ambiguities develop in this argument, but it usually is a measure of the greatness of the artist in question; Dylan, The Beatles, The Stones, and The Beach Boys, all have difficulty fitting into their respective molds. The performance of Pet Sounds is what fascinates me. The melodies have been written about far better in other places.

Mistakes abound in Pet Sounds. Caroline, No is a fragment. Brian Wilson goes sharp in the chorus both times. Don’t Talk… starts with Wilson missing the note entirely, swimming flat and sharp to find it, and if that’s not enough, it appears to me the engineer missed the start of the tape. The beginning is so abrupt, its like a warm slow crescendo has already been waiting for us in some fourth dimension. I never found this album’s mistakes unique or exceptional, but when I first heard the a-capella version of the album on the third disc of the The Pet Sounds Sessions, I realized what sits on the ear in these tracks is so complex that a single listen is an overwhelming amount for the ear to take. The music’s surface elements control the listener’s attention, making what I would consider rock’s first difficult listen. As similar to parts of Rubber Soul and Revolver as a Beach Boys album could be, it still does not satisfy on the first listen in quite the same way.

The songs are poorly sung. None of these men are classically trained. None of them can enunciate clearly. Brian’s phrasing is atrocious. Mike Love sings just flat. Brian sings just sharp. Carl Wilson couldn’t be less enthused. Is Dennis Wilson’s only here to offer a tasty morsel to the patient listener? You think he could at least find an animal to feed on the cover. He did none of the drumming. The cover is one of rock music’s worst. Any attempt to dispute its purpose is questionable. Even the idea of the title, “Brian’s pet sounds” is thoroughly mocked by the picture. They feed fenced in petting zoo goats, and look deathly afraid of them in the process. Obviously a record executive’s idea to throw the boys into some fun environment to help the album out. ‘Oh, you’re not surfing? No car songs? Hmmm… how about a fun time at the San Diego Zoo, or the Lake George Zoo?” And the pictures on the back of the sleeze, of the Japanese tour that Brian didn’t even go on (because he was too busy writing and arranging the music you’re listening to), make the band out to be a maurading bunch of frat-boy samurais.

However, the album contains three classics of 1960s American pop music, as well as two classics of any era of pop music (I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times and God Only Knows, which McCartney called the greatest song ever written). A four-disc boxed set, released in 1999, treats listeners to the entire album in stereo and without instrumentation. When you listen to the a-capella version, the harmonies allow us breathing room to understand how the voices shapes the whole.

The effect is not merely a great record, it is as profound an experiment one will find in art. The harmonies on I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times... Ugh... all I can say is, when the harmonies drop out of the chorus on the album version, and Brian sings the title unaccompanied, we feel relieved for the subsided cacophony. In the a-capella version, the voices weaving together is enough to fill the ear. When compiling the boxed set, someone realized that by taking the music out, one could essentially reverse the creative process. Band returns from Japan, music is finished. Band works harmonies into the music. The harmonies become their own great recording, regardless of the music they accentuate.

There are several girls, that when I kissed them for the first time my whole body surged with the effect of their warm, shapeless lips. And I wonder listening to Pet Sounds if ever there will be a kiss quite like that again, or if that adolescent wonder of what lust and love tasted like, what it could be; and if its possible to experience precisely that complex infatuation again. But that kind of wonder is considered and relinquished in the mind of the 23-year old Wilson. The last petals that made love an exciting, unfathomable sensation, are given an adieu over these 13 tracks. By the time we hear Caroline, No, the profound surge of lust has reached its backlash. I find it admirable for a man to consider as a subject for a pop album the loss of adolescent infatuation. It’s a subject few songwriters have approached so strongly. Dylan never wrote a song from that perspective, always from beyond it. It is a testament to the album’s necessary place in pop music to have something that captures the richly textured emotions of youth. They are given a sweet farewell on this album.

13 September 2004

Sep. 6, 2004 three/two.

The Metro North stops in Beacon on the Hudson Line, 2 stops south of Poughkeepsie. Immediately conspicous to the solo traveler are the 1) number of couples on the train, 2) number of New Yorkers on the train, 3) number of people on the train, 4) number of people getting off at Beacon. Where the hell are all these hip couples and small groups doing 1 1/2 hours outside of New York? They're going to an art museum on the east bank of the Hudson River; a 240,000 sq. foot contemporary art museum called Dia:Beacon. I traveled there with my Steno-Pad, my Precise-V, and myself. I was the only solo visitor at the museum on September 6th. I guarantee it.

The space itself consists of three floors; a roofish level, a main expanse, and a dark cave. Every exhibition space in the gallery is enormous. Easily the size of several Wal-Marts, the museum holds art not fitted for your average small airport. Some of the works are goddamned buildings unto themselves. And then there's the building that holds them: steps from the train, overlooking the river in the lush Catskill greens, and majestic.

When you get to the museum the cappuccinos are fantastic, the onlookers discerning, the staff educated. Wondering if we New Yorkers need to come to a place strikingly familiar to the place we just left, my mind was thinking coffee and Dia:Beacon was providing. After a cup, I thrust myself into the museum and spent the afternoon sipping among cobblestone terraces and critiquing the works around me.

Here are some reactions to two exhibits. The place is so big it warrants at least two trips, and I won't whittle away at your attention span with much more than a tasting. Visit it if you have the opportunity. Dia:Beacon commands the imagination like few museums in upstate New York can.
...

36 Date Paintings, 55 Years (1966-2000); by On Kawara.

In one of the galleries main exhibition spaces was a series of 8x10 unframed black canvases, with a date in white on each. I started with the first date in the gallery, 18 Mai 2000, and decended through the evenly spaced paintings, one for each year. Here are some sample dates:

Apr. 30 1999
19 Dec. 1998
Feb. 11, 1997

At first glance, I was not terribly inspired by a man's desire to wake each morning and paint the date on a canvas. A slave to time, he is never free from the weight of his work. But when I started participating in the piece, the works became a to my own preconceived notions of time. With each year I was able to deduce with what I might have been doing on each day. On a date I couldn't pinpoint, I would make a general assumption.

Example: Jan. 28, 1987. The Glens Falls Country Club used to allow people in winter time, when the golf course was closed, to go sledding on the hills. The hills are exaggerated in my mind, but no less exceptionally steep for the fairways of a golf course. I remember a weeknight in January of 1987 (the next winter I would be in Europe) I went with a friend's parent to go sledding on the course. I can't say for certain that I was sledding on Tuesday the 27th, but the dates on the walls had a way of bending themselves around your memories. For the first time, a date to me was more than time's fixed pronouncement. January of 1987, for me, will be a month of night sledding, instead of an isolated instance. Time can be convenient, if you decide it should serve you instead of you serving it.

When I encountered the dates that preceded my birth, or dates for which I was simply too young to generate a specific memory, I had lost interest in the exhibit. What does Apr. 25, 1983 mean to you? History can become a bland resting place for the mind if a flavor of personal experience cannot be culled from it.

It was at this point that a staff member of the museum grabbed my attention and stated, "No pens are allowed in the gallery."

"But this is the redesigned Precise-V."

"Here, you can use this." And she, with a straight face I'd never have been able to maintain, hands me a fucking pencil.

"I haven't used a pencil in 10 years. Why can't I use a pen?"

"Because of their permanence." Exactly. Just the wrong words to hear when the coffee is wearing off. Had a person recovered the black box recorder from the cerebral plane crash caused by her ignoble gift, one would have heard, "Exactly the problem with every exhibit on the basement floor. Contemporary art has less permanence than the ink in my pen." I thought about how a lot of the paintings I saw were exceptional as works extending a dialogue toward interior and graphic designers rather than toward other painters. So much of contemporary art is instructive to other art forms rather than their own. This is not a fault, and it can be fairly well argued that great philosophers have inadvertently aided greeting card writers. But I was just so put off about the pen thing, and not having a pretty hipster girl to hang on, that I stood confused by the 10 black canvases referencing the sixties. Just a decade that cannot generate an experience, only a reaction to it. The same feeling one gets in a museum surrounded by someone else's art. I was stranded in a mental and physical aimlessness by the overwhelming art surrounding me. But then I stumbled in the Richard Serra exhibit, and was 1) awe-strucketh, and 2) able to hide in his sculpture and continue using my pen.
...

Torqued Ellipse I & II, Double Torqued Ellipse, and 2000; by Richard Serra

Richard Serra's steel ellipses were breathtaking. One should consider, and I have for many years, living in a space where the area of the ceiling differs slightly from the area of the floor, and the walls never maintain a straight line. All movement becomes exaggerated, as if by pacing around the room the room paces too. In this regard, architecture and sculpture are granted the possibility for dialogue, and Serra seems to me the one saying, "Move forward."

In the Serra sculpture, one can be disconnected entirely from nature save the light that enters the ellipse's top. The steel walls extend to the concrete ceilings, with the aluminum sliding doors at each end of the gallery space buttressing the steel cocoon in which one stands. The texturing of materials comprising the gallery aesthetics cannot compete with one eyeful of the blue-black river, grassy shores, arcing trees, and distant pine forests on the hills outside the gallery walls. Nature's textures are far more complex than man's; even if man is trying to create uniformity, flaws show in the brick, the shine of aluminum, the footprinted floors. Serra's steel is multi-toned, visually unsettling. Chrome ellipses would fail for the same way these succeed. Within a man-made structure, nature's endless tones are hinted.


DiaBeaconSerra



I walked back to the Metro North station with enormous ideas posed abstractly in my mind; giant metal thoughts that pushed my imagination outward. Still, they were comfortably set apart by what was already hanging on the walls.

Sep. 6, 2004 four/one


PreciseV5


A new Pilot Precise-V5 is out, and preliminary trials began on September 6th, 2004. I walked into the Duane Reade on 125th looking for the same old thing. I left with the new model of a pen that has remained unchanged since I began using it in 1995. The redesign is almost entirely cosmetic. But by "almost entirely" you must read; "My neuroses have become my primary caretakers since my motor skills surrendered to the lord and savior Caffeine back in '95, and I can notice even the slightest 1/8th of an ounce difference in weight." Beware: you are about to encounter totally fucking worthless information.

Although I will concede the Uni-ball Deluxe Micro is the superior mass-produced pen, I dislike the hard scrape I create when my particular style of pen-grip strikes the page. The closer the pen comes to running out of ink (and you haven't a clue when that will be), the more the pen grates and scratches. I've only begun to have the same problem with this ever-so-slightly-heavier Precise-V.

In tenth grade biology (the eternal dungeon of Beatrice Gancher) I sat behind a guy named Anders Mattson. Aside from having the best first name ever, he had the first Pilot Precise-V I'd ever used. He found it discarded on the floor, the tip bent at a 45 degree angle. Like someone had fallen asleep signing their life away and vanished into thin air, finally free from the misery of betty gancher's "Cornell Method of Note-taking."

He let me borrow it, and I found it to be suited to my style. My pen grip is nearly horizontal; not like a slight lean into the soft pocket of skin between the thumb and pointing finger, I mean like remashing mashed potatoes with a fork. Flat. With the bent tip of Anders's pen, I could lean the pen at the same angle, yet the tip would strike the page almost vertically. Only a Precise-V can be bent like this. With such a modification, my penmanship had been lifted from the level of a squirrel's to the gifted script of a 6-year old. If my life depended on it - and thank god it didn't - I could have started taking legible notes.

This would prove to be an anomaly in my writing career until the evening of September 6, 2004. On my way back to Harlem on the Metro North Railroad, I took out the pen and stuck it to the lines of my $1.59 Mead Steno-Pad. That's when I noticed the bent tip. At some point in the afternoon I must have recapped it half-hazardly, causing a slight bend at the silver extended point. The pen moved across the page in an arabesque sweep. The feeling of pulling the table cloth off the dining room table without disturbing a single salad fork. Beautiful. And a famous name popped into my head. "Anders Mattson."

The new Precise-V has changed it's ink window from a long, thin rectangle to a long, thin parallelogram ([----] to /----/). Geometric Style! It looks like its fucking moving, man! The new V5 ("extra fine") is not grey anymore, but black. The old black one, the V7 (just "fine"), I have yet to find anywhere. For those of you who like to write four words to a line, who can't contain even a row of lower case C's in a college-ruled notebook, or who write only in 20x24 sketch pads; you calligraphic savages are shit out of luck.

If they've already arrived at a store near you, know they come highly recommended from the obsessive-compulsive scribe over here at The Eiffel Ninety-Four. If it's worth the risk of a wasted $2.15, try bending the tip to a 45 degree angle. Til they redesign the pen again, I'm a believer.

And a little occupational safety tip: spare yourself a little knuckle strain by taking the cap off entirely when you write, instead of sticking it on the back. She's a little back-heavy, Darlin'.

12 September 2004

At The Laundromat.

The man who jams the same dollar bill into a quarter machine over and over again doesn’t notice the conspicuously placed “Out of Order” sign as fast as you do, and never will.

10 September 2004

The Email Archive 1997-2004, Entry #2.

The Email Archive is a feature which runs on no regular basis, but offers readers the chance to look back at some of the emails I've received (or they themselves have sent) over the last 9 years.

Our first posting (on 9.07.04) featured an email from within the midst of that wonderful rite of passage, the first fall semester. Go back and smell the booze on your browser's breath! For our second, I'd like you to join me in a trip back to those last days of high school. Although these sentiments have subsided I'm sure, our author "reen-job" will bring you right back to that feeling of intense nausea and ennui brought on by the profound endlessness of senior year.

I would spend many a day deep in the trenches with this gentleman, fighting the war that was high school. Although I can't speak for both of us, I believe we would have been voted dual homecoming kings if we'd just gotten more sleep. When high school ended, we did just that; and haven't engaged in scholastic espionage and extra-curricular geurilla warfare much since.

If this doesn't take you back, you were probably a captain of Key Club or some shit. From March 22, 1998:
...

X-From_: @scapegoat.darklight.com
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 20:45:27 -0500
Organization: xxxxxx Lmtd.
To: malkmus@global2000.net
Subject: well, well, well


Mr loXXXX,
I've been looking through my files, and according to our records, we have another fun filled day of school for you this Monday. We have a couple of guest speakers scheduled for tomorrow. Aside from Ned CriXXXp performing varous acts of queerness, we have something very special for you. Tomorrow afternoon a Mr. GXXy AlXXn will come clean and proclaim his mother fucking faggity assed homosexual gay loving peice of shit'ness to the entire eigth period class. We're asking everyone to bring a dessert to pass around for this momentous event. We hope to see you there!

see ya in hell.
reen-job

PS: Don't forget to bring your camera to tomorrows show, Brandy will be there, and she'll be sporting her new, full grown mustache! Fun for the whole family!

09 September 2004

from Fafblog! "Stand Tall, Florida!"

"Florida has been in the news lately - and for something other than election fraud! - where millions of residents are once again battling the elements for the right to continue living in an overheated swamp infested with blood-sucking insects and killer reptiles. You make Giblets proud, Florida! Your devotion to the suburban colonization of nature is absolute!

Yes Californians get an earthquake now and then, yes it snows up north. But only you have decided to shuffle off to an enormous foul poisonous bog afflicted with giant man-eating lizards which is routinely punched from the sky by storm titans who seek to blot it from the very sight of God!

You have recognized that it is Man's Great Destiny to colonize every inch of the planet even - no! especially! - those parts of the earth that are so comically inhospitable that the assembled forces of God and Nature lash out in a concerted attempt to destroy their aged, enfeebled residents on a regular basis! If you liked sunny weather you could have moved to Arizona. If you liked tourist traps you could have moved to Las Vegas. If you liked vast political corruption you could have moved to Chicago. But your Faustian striving for a ranch home in a noxious wind-battered wasteland has driven you to boldly live where no one else would ever want to before!

Giblets awaits the day when humans will build gated communities at the bottom of the ocean, in the heart of the Sahara, on the Moon, inside active volcanos, within the snarling engorged throats of mad and slavering Elder Gods! Let no region, no matter how inhospitable, slow your suburban sprawl! You are the pioneers of tomorrow, and from Giblets's sane and survivable mild north Atlantic climate, he salutes you!"

-Giblets, of Fafblog!

08 September 2004

On "John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band," 1970.

I approach solo albums from a different perspective than other albums. Even though Blood On the Tracks has a living, breathing drummer, I tend to think of the drumming as an emotional extension of Dylan’s voice. Sorry boys, nice playing, but its all Dylan to me. And while we're at it, are Dylan albums even solo albums? Why does rock even have a category for solo albums? Very few records I know of qualify as being nearly or totally conceived by one person. Stevie’s records in the mid-70s? Most surviving blues recordings pre-1937? Elliott Smith’s early recordings? Does one have to play every instrument and produce the damn thing? And if one does, how can they possibly be compared to a solo artist who was in a band and then quit it, only to form a semi-new band that is completely overshadowed by his presence in it?

What seems to distinguish the solo album is its ability to be a self-critique; otherwise we call it a collection of songs. Something of the artist must be brought to the forefront, to include the listener in a conflict that is not worked out with the conscious presence of other musicians. Plastic Ono Band is not a collection of songs offered by a musician who is constantly pursuing a creative zenith. It has no need for other musicians, and is not dependent on them. Lennon is the only persona. What we know of The Beatles is essential for understanding this album. Fortunately, Lennon has to worry little about his audience or future audiences being familiar with them.

Plastic Ono Band is a solo album because it’s not a Beatles album, but also because the person singing the songs is confronting himself. And even though Ringo drums and Phil Spector (of Let It Be) produces, the one thing the listener doesn’t have, that most distances it from a Beatles record is John. The John Lennon of 1962 or 1969 is conspicuously absent. What replaces him is a response to that Lennon, a response to the self, a critic of it. Rock never had a figure do this. Elvis never sat down and pounded out a few melodies about what it was like to be “Elvis,” a figment of the public’s fascination comprehendible only by quotation marks. Had he done this, it probably would have saved his life. This kind of self-critique may have saved John Lennon’s. Lennon steps out of the past ten years and stares himself down; what he sees and what he concludes is, for lack of a better name, rock’s finest solo album.

If you’re interested in tracing the roots of the songs on Plastic Ono Band, start with the White Album’s "Yer Blues." It's as different from the same year’s "Across The Universe" or "Bungalow Bill" as "Lay Lady Lay" is from "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35." But you need to consider 1968’s other fragments: the pieces that became Happiness Is A Warm Gun, the piece inserted into Paul’s “I’ve Got A Feeling,” (the melancholy demo “Everyone Had A Hard Year) and the Polythene Pam, Wild Honey Pie, and Mean Mr. Mustard bits. Even though these lack the lyrical acidity found in Plastic Ono Band, they are Lennon’s resignation from epic songwriting. “After All You Need Is Love,” Lennon penned only one A-side, “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” John seemed to give two fucks about Paul getting the big epic singles – Hey Jude, The Long and Winding Road, Let It Be, Get Back, etc. etc…

His two contributions to Abbey Road’s first side, “Come Together” and “I Want You” are expressions of the minimalism he’d developed by early 1969. But whereas “Come Together” relies on alliteration and nonsense words, and “I Want You” leaves the listener in sprawling sonic repetitions based around a single lyric, the lyrics to Plastic Ono Band are direct, acidic, and self-critical. Abbey Road has the progression of his minimalist intentions, but they are realized on Plastic Ono Band.

I purchased the studio demos of his 1970 solo sessions about a year ago. From these recordings its apparent the work began as a reaction to what he’d created with George Martin and the band. Take 1 of “God” is played on a banjo, sung in a timid falsetto. “I Found Out” begins as a Fred McDowell-esque bottleneck guitar and vocal growl. “Well Well Well” is brutally simple on the release, two verses, one repeated, over a repetive groove; its demo consists of only one verse, repeated (like the title) three times. What the final album became is not as bare as a record can be. Elliott Smith’s Roman Candle can claim to be “more minimal,” but Lennon only began with this intention. Plastic Ono Band developed into an album where each song is unable to realize any one instrument to its fullest extent. The instrumentation is consciously limited to a very small scope. Three chord rock songs have never been apologetic for their limited musicality. But they have rarely been able to sustain this aesthetic to the instruments, lyrics, and production. The White Album may have a plain white cover, but it also has a yacht full of violins sailing through its harbor.

What’s left to be said? A track by track analysis? The album doesn’t warrant one. Within the chimes that begin “Mother” and end “God” are some of the simplest melodies and lyrics a musician can offer. Drums, piano, bass, guitar, vocals. No singer but John, usually double tracked. No orchestration, no harmonies, occasional choruses, no conscious radio singles. Lennon was in a position few artists are privileged to assume, responsible for no one, not even himself. If for no other reason, the album is extraordinary to me because a culture has never asked its heroes to be anything more than heroes. Lennon could never be the hero we would have expected him to be. So he opted out. I’m sure it would pleased Lennon to no end if he could have followed up his “We’re bigger than Jesus” comment a few decades later with, “After the Last Supper, Christ should’ve gone solo.” I’m not saying John Lennon is Christ, but at least for a few brief moments on this record, and moreso than on any other record, he’s honest.

07 September 2004

The Email Archive 1997-2004, Entry #1.

If you sent me an email in 1997 or after, chances are I still have it. 1997 was the year I stopped using "Telnet" to log into my email server. My provider had switched its name from the so early-90s sounding "GlobalOne," to the doomed to be immediately archaic, not quite 21st century sounding, "Global2000." For some reason I was forced to download Eudora Light, which stored all of my sent and received emails on the hard drive of my Pentium 75 Packard Bell. That hard drive has been bumped from computer to computer, and along the way my hotmail and yahoo accounts have, for the most part, kept my received emails safely preserved. For who... I have no idea. But I decided to go through some of this massive archive last night, and found enough gems to publish them here on occasion. My correspondents over the years have been, and continue to be, succinctly witty writers.

If anyone would be interested in hosting an extremely extensive and quite enjoyable selection of emails, please let me know. For our first selection, I've chosen an email from a man named Diggity to me, October 7, 1998. The full names have been obscured to preserve the sanctity of private correspondence. Sort of.

Enjoy!
...

X-From_: XXXXXXXXXXX
Wed Oct 7 22:12:25 1998
To: malkmus@global2000.net
Date: Wed, 7 Oct 1998 22:10:08 -0400
Subject: Re: hey

Juast sittin back drinkin a six pack of Honey Brown, damn that's good!
Anyway, the beer got me thinkin of New York, seeing as it's made in
Rochester, it's pretty much all I drink, cause the New York thing. How
are ya? Please excuse me if the message makes no sense, my roommate is
anal, and absolutly hates alchohol, and having it in the room is his
pet peev, . Yes, I can get drunkn on a six pack. I don't drink much, so I
am stiull a lightwierhght. Wo w ai Fukc ed that one up real bad,
OJkaty, I should go now, cause I ccan;t type to o well now, bye bye,
beem thninkning of you, Need to get dome vcoffee to r bring up here,
could you pick me up a half pound or so nect time tyo gom donw to toga?
I have a friend eith a cfoffee maker. Bye thanks I'll pay you later.
this weekeknds of course.

Digigty