Today I had the pleasure of being “on the air” and I played these songs:
the Raincoats // Running Away (Sly and the Family Stone cover)
05/08/2014 • 5:28 pm 0
Today I had the pleasure of being “on the air” and I played these songs:
the Raincoats // Running Away (Sly and the Family Stone cover)
05/05/2014 • 12:00 pm 0
I recently found this interview with Howard Finster on Youtube, which reminded me of the time I talked to Howard Finster.
When I was a kid I bought the No Alternative AIDS benefit album because it had an unlisted Nirvana song on it. I didn’t listen to much of the rest of the album, but I liked this song by Pavement called “The Unseen Power of the Picket Fence” because it was about my favorite band: R.E.M.
A good chunk of that Pavement song is just Stephen Malkmus listing the titles of songs from Reckoning, R.E.M.’s second album. The cover of that album was painted by The Reverend Howard Finster, who also did the cover of Talking Heads’ Little Creatures.
Howard Finster lived on a plot of Georgian land he’d dubbed “Paradise Gardens” and turned into a wonderland of religious art made of broken glass, concrete, bicycle wheels, and more. Years before, Reverend Finster had a vision from God, and after that he started junked materials for building a chapel. Over the decades, he constructed a masterpiece.
The members of R.E.M., being drawn as they were to Southern eccentricities, went to Paradise Gardens a lot in their early years and filmed the video for “Radio Free Europe” there.
I, of course, was drawn to anything and everything that was related to R.E.M. So, when my church’s youth group had a field trip to Paradise Gardens, I went. It was the first church field trip I ever went on, and in order to go I had to promise I’d become active in the youth group.
We got to tour the garden and meet Rev. Finster, who was sitting on the porch with his banjo looking exactly like he does in the above video. He talked to me about R.E.M. and about Elvis, and he gave me a quaint and totally ineffective 2-minute banjo lesson. It was an enriching afternoon with an ancient man who was simply effervescent, and I still have a picture of the two of us together. I found it recently, but I didn’t scan it for some reason and now it’s in a box somewhere.
I did not live up to my promise to become active in the church youth group.
05/02/2014 • 12:20 pm 0
05/01/2014 • 1:14 pm 0
One of the public radio stations in town – I can’t remember if it’s KPCC or KCRW – uses the opening of this song to ask listeners to donate their cars to the station. Or is it “text to give?” I try not to actually pay attention when they’re asking for money, so I’m a little hazy on the details.
But it drives me crazy. NPR and PRI should maintain blacklists of amazing, classic songs that affiliates cannot under any circumstances use to solicit donations. They’re creating a negative Pavlovian responses to a wonderful piece of music and they should be stopped.
This is an important issue, dear readers.
I propose that, from now on, annoying commercials only use music that is already annoying — like the music made by that band Smashmouth.
04/30/2014 • 11:57 am 2
A few years ago, I made some friends on the Internet when I recorded a scratchy version of Paul and Linda McCartney’s “Ram” on 45 RPM into my computer and put it on SoundCloud. You can read the story behind that here, although I recently disabled the audio.
One of those friends, Alan Benard, liked what I did but thought it sounded a little Chipmunky and altogether too scratchy. So, he recreated the effect digitally and then pitched it down (using math, I presume) to, in his words, “squeeze all the marijuana out of it.”
I’m not sure why he’d want to squeeze the marijuana out of the record, and anyway that’s impossible because marijuana’s fat soluble. Everybody knows that. But while his motive may have been dubious, he did succeed in making something thoroughly enjoyable.
04/29/2014 • 9:59 am 0
In November of 2010 I moved to Glassell Park, which is a neighborhood in North Los Angeles surrounded by Atwater Village to the South, Glendale to the West, Eagle Rock to the North, and Cypress Park to the East.
Now, I am officially moved out.
My original roommate, Kyle Mabson, found the apartment on Craigslist and we jumped at it because it was totally huge but priced at way under market value for LA. Part of the reason for the low price is because the apartment building is an aesthetically-unpleasing slum that is falling apart, but another big reason for the cheap living is that this neighborhood was only recently one of the worst centers of gang crime in the entire United States.
A couple of years before we moved in, the feds and the LAPD joined together to clean things up and did a fairly good job. Most of the really bad gang people went to jail right before we moved in – I actually get the sense that that’s why our apartment was vacated in the first place.
In the time that I lived there, everything was relatively peaceful. I kept my head down for a while, but I eventually stopped being afraid of walking around by myself at night. There were frightening things, occasionally, and nights when I was stirred from sleep by the sound of a search helicopter overhead. But that’s just city stuff.
Probably the most annoying people in the neighborhood, though, were the Little Gs.
All the big gangster dudes were carted off to jail in the police sweep, which meant that the only people left were the ones who were too young to have serious warrants yet. For these kids, the police crackdown was an attack on a social structure and way of life. And they were grumpy about it.
The Polynesian slur leads me to believe it was aimed at someone else.
This created a palpable tension, but the Little Gs didn’t really do much but scowl, have Noz parties all night, play music really loud, and spray-paint retarded shit on the walls of apartment buildings and the adjacent cemetery. No big deal.
They must’ve gone through a lot of cans of spray paint during the time that I was there. Everything would get painted over within a couple of days, sometimes hours, from when they put it on the walls. But they’d keep spraying. Usually it was just the name of the gang or the nickname of somebody who had died, like Lolo.
Anyway, there was only one time when their shenanigans really got out of hand. That was in January of 2013, a few weeks after Christmas.
As part of their whole “juvenile badass” schtick, the gang kids observe an annual holiday tradition of torching all of the Christmas trees that are left out in the street. It’s tiresome and foolish, but for the most part it is also harmless — they have enough sense to move the trees into the middle of the street and away from plants and cars.
But one night, as Sarah and I came home from Pehrspace at 4:00am after a marathon session of painting the place for her Saccharine Surreality show, we noticed something that was not harmless – a tree on fire on a sidewalk right next to a lot of dry brush and only few feet away from a Ford Explorer. No person was around.
I don’t know if an explosion was imminent but it could’ve been and that wasn’t cool so I did what I hope any of my rational neighbors would’ve done and I called 911. The fire truck took about 90 seconds to arrive and put the fire out very easily. I went to sleep content in the knowledge that a potential catastrophe had been averted.
The next morning, when I was pulling out of the parking garage to go out, I saw a new graffito on the cemetery wall. It was positioned precisely so that it would be seen by people pulling out of my apartment’s parking garage, and it read: “FUCK SNITCHES, 187!” (For those who have somehow never heard Snoop’s “What’s My Name?,” “187” is cop code for murder.)
So I wrote this song about them, which is mean and unforgiving. But I was pissed. And it took me a while to record, but I finally did that. So here it is:
For the record, calling the fire department to prevent potential loss of life and property is not “snitching.”
Anyway, I’m out.
04/23/2014 • 8:43 am 0
Have you ever wanted to just go on a space walk?
04/20/2014 • 10:47 am 0
04/16/2014 • 11:29 am 0
This song is actually a left-over from the Pizza! era. There were several song ideas that we had floating around before we broke up, but most of them were just instrumental jams. This song, however, was the result of a recording back-n-forth between Duncan and me. He created the backing track – as a sketch for something more complicated later, I guess – then I wrote the vocals, then I went to his house where I recorded my vocals and he sang the background parts.
I guess we would’ve put it through the full band process after that, but we never got there.
It’s fine like it is though, right? It’s more simple than a typical Pizza! song. That’s not a slight on Pizza!, because complexity is both awesome and worthwhile. But simplicity has its own charm. Anyway, I released it last year on the Vanity Projects compilation. You can download that here, by the way. It’s got some good music on it.
I don’t have any idea what this song is about. If you think of something, please let me know.
04/15/2014 • 11:14 am 0
I’m pretty excited about voting for a female presidential candidate and watching her win.
For one, it’s about time! Women deserve an equal place in society with men, and their ascent toward parity has been thwarted and slowed, regularly, by people who are invested in the patriarchy. Having a female president would hopefully accelerate that ascent.
But I think we also just desperately need a woman in that position.
Men and women are equal, but we’re not the same. We have different manners of seeing the world and communicating. Patriarchs have used a version of that statement to justify the subjugation of women, saying that “a man’s sphere is the world of business and politics while a woman has domain over her kitchen and infants.” I take a different view. I think that men and women should each be equally represented in each sphere, not segregated into compartments.
Come to think of it — what if we amended the Constitution so that there was one male and one female senator from each state? A guaranteed 50/50 split?
Anyway, back to the Executive Branch… I think a woman should be in the Oval Office next time around so that we can start balancing things out. Maybe a man can have it back after that, and then a woman again. They can trade! We can write that into the Constitution too!
Whatever the case — there have been 44 dudes in a row and many of them have been awesome dudes who have done awesome things BUT inevitably there are awesome things that weren’t done (or terrible things that were done) simply because there wasn’t a female mind in the room.
…But for whom shall I vote?
Don’t get me wrong… I like a lot about Hillary Clinton. I can’t imagine not voting for her if she’s the Democratic nominee. But I felt that way before, last time there was talk about her running. Yet when 2008 rolled around, I found myself not only voting for her opponent in the primary but telling my friends to do the same.
I did that because she’s an unapologetic warmonger.
There are a lot of theories about why Barack Obama was able to surge ahead of the supposed “inevitable” nominee in 2008. Some have posited a belief that sexism is more recalcitrant than racism, which may be true. Others have pointed to Obama’s messianic swagger and charismatic words, which certainly played a large role.
But I know that I turned away from Hillary because she refused to say she was sorry for voting to invade Iraq. Now that I’m watching the machinations of another run come together, I’m realizing that I still feel that way.
I don’t know if Obama would have had the spine to speak out against the war if he was in the US Senate instead of the Illinois Senate. But the point is that he did speak out against it — and before someone jumps in the comments to tell me how horrible he is for drone strikes and escalating Afghanistan, let me just say that, first, I’m talking about campaign rhetoric pre-presidency and, second, it’s a far different thing to start a war than to make mistakes prosecuting an inherited one.
And he was right to not want us to start the war. It was so obvious that war was a bad idea!
Obama wasn’t some magical prophet who somehow knew that something that looked really good on paper would actually become one of the biggest mistakes in American history. It didn’t look good on paper! It was opposed by pretty much every expert with a cool head who was far enough from Dick Cheney to not have to worry about being literally eaten by him.
John Edwards, the third wheel in that election who is typically an utter embarrassment to humanity itself, did one thing in the 2008 cycle that I admire: he said he was sorry for his vote to authorize the war. He admitted that he made a mistake – he used that word – and he expressly acknowledged that the Bush administration “manipulated” evidence “to fit a political agenda.” Sure, he left out the part about the fact that most rational observers noticed that the Bush administration was manipulating evidence while it was doing it, but politics is politics and we have reason to believe that maybe he just spent too much time on his hair to actually read the bills he signed.
Anyway, Hillary Clinton refused to apologize. She ceded the moral high ground in the argument on the Iraq War to John Edwards. Ceding the moral high ground to John Edwards, in anything, is just sad.
Some make a case that her team thought she’d appear “soft” if she did so, while others more cynically say that she was merely carving out a distinction between herself and her two chief rivals. I’m sure she’s sensitive to being portrayed as politically calculating.
But she still did the wrong thing. Now she has time to correct her mistake.
So I make a plea: Apologize, Secretary Clinton! Please! Admit your mistake, even if you have to keep up the pretense that you were “misled” and not “acting in a politically calculated way.”
If she apologizes, then I will be a foot soldier for her election. But if she doesn’t apologize…
Well, the alternative to apologizing is continuing with a narrative that she made the right decision when she voted to authorize the invasion.
It means that she’s stubbornly clinging to the idea that invading Iraq was the right thing to do despite the still incalculable loss of life, liberty, limbs, and property. Despite the false pretenses that led us there, which were based on evidence that was put together in a crassly-manipulative-at-worst, criminally-incompetent-at-best fashion. Despite the destabilization not only of the nation we invaded but the volatile region surrounding it. Despite the damage to the Afghanistan war effort and the recruitment surge for our enemies. Despite the suffering of young veterans whose horrific PTSD is the result of the war that Hillary Clinton authorized with nothing but the guarantees of the likes of Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney that things wouldn’t go the way they did.
If she still doesn’t think she fucked up, then she is fucked up.
It won’t mean that she’s soft if she say’s she’s sorry. It will mean that she’s a human and that she has a capacity to learn from and grow from her mistakes. It will telegraph the message that she’s not going to engage in more wars of choice when she’s in the White House. It will demonstrate that she’s a strong leader who puts her country over herself.
As I said – I have a hard time imaging not voting for her if she’s nominated. But this dampens my enthusiasm. And if a viable competitor were to arise before the primaries, I might give that person more consideration than I would otherwise. And that’s because this isn’t just about the past. I think that being able to admit mistakes is crucial to leadership, and I don’t think that America should go forward with the same reckless abandon and refusal of responsibility that it has in the past.
The next president, like all presidents, will face crucial foreign policy questions that we can only begin to anticipate. I want to have full confidence in her.