January 31, 2011


I misspoke when I said I didn't have any resolutions. I think they were more in the urge phase than the pledge phase. More within the realm of "what must be" or "Life--and how to live it!*"

FOR 2011:
--cut internet time in half, at least
--read three books a month, at least
--learn how to do or make anything that I reasonably can, especially if it's something I buy regularly. Like french bread.
--learn more of music's history
--garden properly, rather than haphazardly
--get around to doing things or just give up on them, rather than be annoyed that I have continually procrastinated them and let them occupy my mind

Reasonable, yes? I am sharing because maybe this might inspire some more pacts. Beyond "36 Books in 52 Weeks". Also, I got a landline, to stave off future cell phone tumorage.

Did anyone else see Miranda July in O(prah) Magazine? They had her do a learning-to-love-you-more type assignment series for their readers, to get their creativity started, but some of them were weirdly negative, like a total hangover from the "Ask Dr. Phil" section, which is usually the most depressing part of even a casual gym read of O--questions and especially the advice--where the creepiest professional doctor in all of the media gives people in horrible situations "scripts" on how to confront people (rapist husband, son that stole your retirement, neighbor who slapped your child) with mealy self-help-lit language. Anyhow, maybe I am misreading MJ's contribution, but telling readers to find a corner in there house wherein to mourn a break up, or to feel their shame and LABEL IT AS SUCH is like MJ's joke on Dr. Phil acolytes and O Readers. Are O readers everywhere dutifully posting a sign that reads "CORNER OF LINGERING CHILDHOOD SHAME"? Is that powerful? Or more shaming?
I wonder.
I wonder if Miranda July got the assignment and she was totally out of practice and was looking around her house, at her shame corner, and just turned on the Bullshit Faucet.

I have checked out Alan Lomax's book from the library. Has anyone read the John Swzed biography yet and should I get it as well?

(* wasn't that a Goleta hardcore band? Oh, I think I am thinking Life But How To Live It! I am unsure where their "!" goes. Perhaps it's "Life! But How To Live It?" which makes the most sense. I am refusing to Google it. I am embracing a new median in lack of knowledge being totally ok.)

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January 29, 2011


I am I think perhaps six books in to my "36 in 52" pact. A little ahead of schedule. Just finished Kristin Hersh's memoir Rat Girl on recommendations and b/c I try to read every women-in-music memoir and book I can. I am glad the book exists, but it was a slog. Things did not get cranking until like, 150 pages in and the text is constantly interrupted with two or three lines of lyrics interspersed--that derive inspiration from that time--but after 100 pages I just started skipping them. Super impressionistic, the book kind of hovers over her teen life and doesn't really reveal much--or rather, it does so very slowly. She's frozen in depression, and so the tone reflects that.... for a long time. The book assumes that you already care who Hersh is, so there is not a lot of effort to reel the reader in and give us a reason to. The last half of the book, she is is becoming the pregnant teenage alt-rock icon in waiting, so there is some compelling action--though it almost comes too late.

Interesting bit about the reissued Kafka works, their jacket design, the publication of Kafka in America.

Add fennel seeds and this is the Flamkutchen pizza from Crust, aka what I am hungry for like 81% of my waking hours. I know a bunch of your are vegan. Sorry to gross you out with a picture of cream and bacon.

Rahmen Emanuel All that flavor. In this noodle, indeed. Also, Mike Miner on the ruling on our future mayor "Justice Bob Thomas, a former Bears placekicker, wrote the ruling as if channeling Mike Ditka. Thomas asserted that residency law in Illinois was settled from 1867 through January 24 of this year, that is, until the appellate court "issued its decision and announced that it was no longer bound by any of the law cited above....but was instead free to craft its own original standard." Much more sarcasm and ridicule ensued. Wrote Thomas, blowing off the appellate court, "Its reasons for departing from over 100 years of settled residency law are hardly compelling and deserve only brief attention."

This week's Gossip Wolf: Ga'an, Vandermark, EPMD.

ALSO: What blogs to you read? I need new and better ones to link to. MOST Everything I link to is done or hasn;t been updated in like 7 months. HELP.

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January 26, 2011


William has a new toy, though it's not really a toy per se. Not a typical toy you would give a six month old baby, at least, but when you are a baby, anything you cannot swallow--the cats, your socks--is your plaything. William's new toy is a gift I received as a gift from my old best friend's mom, to remember my now-deceased friend by. I think her mom is parsing out things that belonged to JJ, perhaps because you can only house so much, or maybe it's just a way to get through Christmas when you've lost a child. Regardless, the crazy scarf is here now, with us. JJ's mom knitted it for JJ and says it was JJ's favorite. It's new--I think from past the time when her and I were tightest--a few years when she was in and out of Sober Living. It is a very her scarf. What could only pass as effective winterwear for a Los Angeles winter. It's a free knit thing, about an inch and half wide at it's biggest points, a space-dyed mohair of ochre, red, hot pink, magenta, Barney purple and dark green and brown, a cascade of wild yarning that now hangs over Williams swing, where he tugs and chews on it daily.

It's a tender gift, but, basically, it looks like Perry Farrell's hair circa Nothing's Shocking

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January 25, 2011


Dan and Letha Melchior need help. You may know their names from Dan being a minor garage rock legend, or Letha's if you were a Ruby Falls fan... anyhow, Letha has cancer, and Dan has had to stop working so he can take care of her during her treatment. Bills are piling up, so they need our help. Paypal them $20 if you've got it ($10 if you don't)--do it if you are grateful for your health/insurance, if you know what it's like to have to drop your life and take care of someone you love, if you have loved a record they've put out or played on.

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January 24, 2011


I think this is a good example of how to celebrate yr achievements.

I just finished Neal Pollack's Stretch--which is book #3, if you are counting along at home or partaking in the book pact (see also: yesterday's post)-- where he writes a lot about how being destroyed by his jealous and hateful obsessions with other people's success made him act like an extra-extra asshole, and thus he got into yoga. Jealousy is the hardest thing to own up to, I think. I imagine there are writers, peaceful beings, who do not have petty and imaginary rivalries with other writers. I do not know any like that. I know no writer will actually own up to that. You can usually tell how petty and hateful and actualized these rivalries are as soon as you praise a writer's peer to them.

I will tell you, my distant and imagined, though not terribly powerful writing beef is with Chuck Klosterman's books. Not the man, who is seemingly kind and reasonable, but the place his books hold. And that there is not a girl Klosterman, culturally. And so many girls are reading the and Cocoa Puffs book at bus stops. And that he is the pentultimate in contemporary music writing and musical dudesperience. Maybe the ultimate. Maybe I am unfairly pent-ing him. And now he is thee template for success, for music writers, for music books.

I also am occasionally jealous of people who edit magazines I do not even read and think "Oh, if I had gone to college!" and then I think "Oh, then if I had that job I would have to pay attention to American Idol and keep tabs on Justin Bieber. And leave my house to go to an office by 9 am." and the jealousy goes away. It's funny like that.

That is the main part of Neal Pollack's book I appreciated. Sure, there were some laughs to be had. Lots of #realtalktuesday about farting in yoga class. Eventually I grew annoyed with him for leaving his wife at home so much with a kiddo so he could un-asshole himself in yoga classes, and not worry about anything. I assumed that's why he gets stoned every day (in the book), you would think that would work, but I don't know about bonghits. Doing tons of yoga and weed in LA and trying to return to the kind person he was in 11th grade, to re-be his 11th grade self is the plot. Which is like, the plot of every story written by a 35 yr old white dude since Portnoy's Complaint. Self-interest has ruined every book since the industrial revolution says Nora. I don't read enough Victorian novels (any) to vouch for the truth in that, but I imagine she is correct.

"Los Angeles' culture of tyrannical positivity gets another perview--this time from midwestern funnyman Neal Pollack." That is my review. Right there.

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So, I figured out the easy way (by doing) that with my new "job" (I am freelance still, so technically, it's a "gig" but that is right up there with "panties" in my words-I-hate-lexicon, so "job" it is) as the Local Sounds columnist for Chicago Tribune (AMERICAS SIXTH LARGEST NEWSPAPER! STILL!) I do not have to hustle for work as much, and so, I have some time to read.

That is a really long sentence.

Anyhow, I have managed to do a book a week the last two weeks, so maybe I am going to make a year of it. But I think, perhaps, more reasonably, three books a month. I can buy one new one, but the rest must be unread items from my extant collection. It's good to have rules, guidelines. I made no resolutions for 2011, save for thinking that the slogan for the reformulated Listerine "Less Intense, Still As Effective" would be a motto worth putting into life-practice. Who is in with me on the reading? PACT.

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January 21, 2011


Full album stream of new Talib Kweli here

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I wrote a long piece about the influence of Riot Girl for the Guardian. Enjoy.

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January 20, 2011


B&E do "Ante Up"


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Hillary Frank, who is a frequent contributor to This American Life, interviewed Matt and I about William's difficult first week of life is the current episode of her birth/parenting podcast. Here we are laughing and crying about it, a mere six months later!

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January 17, 2011


via David Dark's blog: Ray Waddle's essay on DH Lawrence, MLK, and searching the American soul.

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I wrote about the psychedelic festival last week for this weekend's paper--dunno if you are a Tribune reader, but if you are, you will see it soon--but I listened to all the bands, and was reminded 1. How much I like Verma. Kinda Hawkwind, kinda Can/motorik beat, woman singer. Here is their recent cassette for download. 2. SERIOUS psychedelic bands have the best bios. None of the trad barf of so and so met this person and then this ex-member channeled heartbreak into a unique combo of the Beatles later pop thrust with early-Pink Floyd meets Econochrist... all the stuff that is supposed to make your band sound interesting but presents it as even worse than their Pavement meets Pavement rip likely is--ANYHOW. Psyche bands--their bios are all about "confronting a dynamic new plane of conciousness" or the band itself being like a body that in turn represents the cosmos. Now THAT'S a plan for a band, thats a good fucking reason or concept to start a band with. Aim impossibly high, have an immeasurable goal--like creating vibrational harmony in all that hear your music.

Do you imagine that's why Michael Cera is in a band? Universal vibes? The actor Michael Cera? I feel bad for him. Actually, just almost. Verging on almost. Everyone wants to punch him in his guileless doughface. I bet he knows, but what if he doesn't? He showed up at the Bottle this week and there was cash lain on the bar and dares made from drunkard to drunkard. Who would be the one to put a fist to his million dollar face? The Empty Bottle would have gotten on TMZ!


And then their punishment will to be to come up here and put our baby back to bed, meaning set into his crib, without waking him, as many times as it takes until he stays down. Which is like the parenting version of the bucket game on The Bozo Show, but you get infinity tries.

That's right, I just compared my own son to a ping pong ball. That's what he is, in my oafish little hands, proverbially. I am too short for his crib and so in order to move him in to there, where he now sleeps, he kept rolling--and waking--just as I got to the end of my reach, like a warm and squishy log, out of my arms. My solution: I ordered the sturdiest looking step stool I could find on Amazon. Upon it's arrival I realized it's very likely a medical aid stool. Like for the elderly to rest their feet on while pooping? Or for someone to sit on in the shower while they help an old person on a taller stool? It's a medical stool of unknown purpose, which I stand on nightly to tower over the crib and deposit my log/son.

Also, also, I finished a book. It's not one in rhyme about getting your jammies on (Though Sandra Boynton's Pajama Time is a great read at 10 pages), even! It is the book of my reappearing celebrity dream-wraith, Anthony Bourdain, the book which I told him I was given for Christmas, by my mother, in my last dream. Next time he shows up I can tell him I liked it. As an essayist, he's conversational and enjoyable. It was a breeze and also filled my noggin with food fantasy and new knowledge. The most unexpected things: the essay about being a dad, his humility and also THAT HE IS BEST FRIENDS WITH ERIC RIPERT. That shocked me a little. Eric Ripert, the frenchiest french chef to ever appear on TV, perhaps more gentle, more effusively Fronch-y than even Jacques Pepin! Total odd couple celebrity chef BFFs. I thought the only thing Eric Ripert can say in English is "I fund zee feeshe, too, eez uuh, deelijeszh"--so what do they talk about? Mind=boggled. I WILL ASK THEM WHEN THEY SHOW UP IN MY DREAMS!

CAPS LOCK! and goodnight!

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January 10, 2011


I did not forget about you. Only sort of. Just a tiny bit. I was busy teaching my baby son how to pet the cats with respect for fur. Tito (FKA "Wyatt") doesn't care, he is so desperate to be acknowledged and touched, he returned again and again to the little guy for what could only be called a session of depilation and ear-yanking. I know, Tito, we've all been in that horrible place, where you'll take bad love from anyone who will give it.

To speak of my own shame: I watched SALT. Oh, sweet lord alive, it was bad. A gamine Angelina Jolie even with the full thrust of some plurfy wigs, slim cut suit pants and high kicking her way through impression of an anorexic girl in a lunchroom fight--all teeth and bones a-gnashing--well, it never achieved that level of spectacle you wish for in a big budget Hollywood thrillride. No thrill, hardly any ride to boot. From the opening scene, where she is forced to gargle gasoline, bloodied, twisting and begging in her Maidenform bra, I already knew I did not care, as this one is 4 Tha Patriarchal Rape Fantasy N U. Those pesky fake North Koreans should have made her drink the damn thing and then given her a curbie--that would have shown people what an action movie is. Skinhead gang style violence in the first 30 seconds! And shame of shame, I downloaded it legally! FOR MONEY! What can I say? It was the weekend! Documentaries and subtitles are for the workdays, but like most Americans, intellectually, I am a real piglet on the weekends. I prefer the Bourne trilogy, where someone is bound to yell "Shut it down!" or "Take him down!" every 2-3 minutes, which just rachets up the pace and lets you know an explosion is going to happen and someone is going to walk away from it like they didn't notice. Thats my favorite part of all movies, when that happens.

MEANWHILE: ALL MONF LONG! MCA has a show of Chicago Comics up, which includes the big gun talents like Anders Nilsen and Lili Carre (my fave) and Paul Hornschmeier whose name I have sure just misspelled.

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January 04, 2011


I can't sleep, I just keep awake-dreaming about the garden, which I think we will do right this year because no one wants to see it turn into a vegetable ghetto. I think it's going to be a lot of pink flowers or all sorts. Hot pink and light pink and purple. Just neon boogie up all up the trellis.

I know this imagining I am having is as much a function of actual desiring to garden as it is a fantasy for time and energy. Time and energy, as I have known them, are likely gone for good, being a new mom and all. The new version of having time: When Matt comes home from his NEW JOB (SO PROUD! I KNOW YOU ARE A REAL ARTIST--AN AESTHETE UNDER THAT NICE SUIT!) I will trade the baby to him for a time and work and then work again when they are both fast asleep circa midnight. Such is the nature of our lives right now and it is just fine. It is all fine, because we get William out of this deal. I get to spend all day everyday with this funny little guy we made who now REALLY wants to figure out a way to get around the house on his own steam, and turn his town pages and have a tooth to chew with. LONGING FOR A TOOTH: THE BABY WILLIAM STORY.

In my future free time, I would like to read a whole book--a book that is not about rearing or making or feeding your child, even! And plant Giant Indiana Coxcomb through the whole yard. THIS IS MY PLEDGE!

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January 03, 2011


Miles and I still have not completed our year end round up. Perhaps it's too late, Maybe we will just do a thing about the records we came late to, or what we liked that is old and not even of this just-passed year. I have this idea that somehow this talk is useful, to point to stuff that is off all radars, resist the psychic death of 1 million fake Animal Collectives and million dollar Kanye vids of dead girls pawed. I am reminded, at this time, of interviewing Mark Anderson from Positive Force about a decade ago--about what I am not sure--and him responding to a question saying he didn't pay attention to some controversial mainstream/underground debate of the time because it was just--not too stupid--but it was distracting from the real work to be done, so he just kept his head down and kept on working. Kanye, he provokes a lot of great writing in my crit peers, and a lot of outrage from a myriad of factions and parties, but I think, really, really, no matter how dazzling his artistry, no matter how much he embodies the American zietgeist, no matter how much he is putting idiotic, rich and diamond-studded macho into the cultural foreground (we never catch a break from that one) I don't even want to get into it. Because it feels like it's just taking the bait. Taking the bait formed much of my early career, but at this point, I'm not going to do 1200 words of outrage over something that is built to outrage me. Dazzling rich assholes being self-obsessed and sexist (to misquote Thurston) is, and will always be, the status quo.

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January 02, 2011


My dreamlife has a recurring cast: Anthony Bourdain, various Top Chef cast, my parents, friends from jr. high. Recently, NY Times pop critic Jon Caramanica appears in the context of a nightmare I have: I somehow wind up with a job in the Times newsroom. It is always strange and cut throat and competitive--fellow critics sending mariachi bands to my desk so I cannot work, people stealing stories. In every dream I think, if I can find Jon, he can explain how to get out of here, how to lose this horrible job. And, when I do find him, he only speaks in code--or so I think it's code for something--holding forth about Cam'ron lyrics. It's very Lynchian, when he explains, he will speak very intently but also be brushing his teeth or demonstrating something. He is my dreamlife sage, but also a real life sage; 'These ratings and rankings make a statement about not only the presumed quality of the album, but also about institutional decisions regarding an artistís worthiness, and about those institutionsí desire to be seen acknowledging an artistís worthiness."

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