Friday, April 29, 2005

Expired Commodity Meat: RIP Hasil Adkins

Hasil "Haze" Adkins has died. He's best known for the song "She Said," (available on the excellent Out to Hunch CD), which is best known for the cover version by The Cramps. It is, in fact, one of the few Cramps covers that actually improves on the original, but that's not to say that the original isn't a great tune in it's own right. Hasil was a "one-man band," who could sing, play guitar and harmonica, and rock a foot-powered drum set. If he had tried to play with a band, they would probably have been completely lost trying to follow his sense of rhythm. "I taught myself how to play and I change chords and beats whenever I think I should change", he says in the liner notes for the Rockabilly Psychosis and the Garage Disease compilation. "Like for instance, you hit down on your strings and count 1-2-3-4, then change to another chord, well, I don't play that way." He couldn't even march to the beat of a different drummer--just had to do the drumming himself.
Hasil lived most of his life in Jack's Branch, a backwoods, middle-of-nowhere town in Boone County West Virginia, where he was something of a local legend, perpetually being arrested for drunk and disorderly behavior, car crashes, DUI's, and discharging firearms, and receiving fan mail from all around the world. In an ameteur documentary that a friend lent me, his lawyer describes an incident where Hasil and some friends got drunk and went to the trailer of his girlfriend to confront his husband, the situation turning into a full-blown gunfight out of a Peckinpaw movie, and miraculously nobody getting injured. A car crash sidelined his career just as he was about to get his big break, but it's hard to imagine any break big enough to get mainstream America interested in his lunatic brand of rockabilly. He was part of a dying breed, a truly unique musician in an increasingly homogenized world.

A while back, Cartoon Brew posted a story about WB's plans for the latest incarnation of their Looney Tunes roster of characters, to be called Loonatics. It looks like the most awful thing since...well, since Baby Looney Tunes. But apparantly, it wasn't bad enough. They aren't scrapping the stupid concept, but they plan to change the designs to make them more cute. Excuse me while I kill myself.

Oh, and if you live in NYC or the SF Bay Area, you really need to pick up the Chowhound Guide Book for your area. Don't be caught reading Zagat!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Whore Just Like The Rest: The Music Writings of Richard Meltzer

A Whore Just Like The Rest

The first thing I read in this book, opening at random, was Meltzer's review of Sticky Fingers from 1970. It's a negative review. Not vindictive, just dismissive, mediocre. When you read some of the curmudgeonly stuff from writers like Meltzer, Lester Bangs, or Mike Saunders, you wonder what the hell they wanted from the bands. I mean, if "Brown Sugar" and "Bitch" don't do it for ya, can you claim to have ever loved rock-n-roll in the first place?

Turns out you have to read the whole thing to really get an idea of what was going on in Meltzer's mind. And reading the whole thing isn't always easy. This book is sometimes hilarious, occasionally insightful, but often frustrating.

Meltzer had several pieces published in SPIN around '85-'86 (all reproduced here), including a rambling but hilarious bunch of stories about Lou Reed, The New York Dolls and other rock stars; one riff based on the fact that he shared a birthday with Sid Vicious, Fred Astaire and Donovan; a requiem for his friend Lester Bangs in the form of a review of Psychotic Reactions and Carbuerator Dung; and an essay on Bruce Springsteen. The latter was part of a cover story on Springsteen at the peak of Born In The USA's success, which included essays by about 10 different writers. Meltzer's was the only anti-Springsteen rant, enough to win me over forever. This was my first exposure to R. Meltzer, unless he had some stuff in Creem in the early 80s that I don't remember (actually, there were the liner notes on Pebbles Vol. 2, credited to A. Seltzer, which may have been Meltzer using a gag name, but more likely was Greg Shaw parodying Meltzer), and I immediately deemed him my favorite rock crit. Granted, his hyperbolic, self-promoting comedy played alot better when I was under 18, but there's still plenty of great stuff here.

In the earliest piece included here, Meltzer is raving about Are You Experienced? in stoned, beat language, in what he "reckons" was the first published piece of American writing on Hendrix. It's a funny piece, but also an obviously passionate bit of writing about being blown away by the sheer force of music. What happened in the less-than-five-years between this and Sticky Fingers? One advantage of this book is that Meltzer has written a new introduction to each piece, putting them into context (something we'll never have from Lester). In one introduction, he quotes a letter published in Rolling Stone: "R. Meltzer's reviews are always the same. They never tell me anything I want to know about the album, and he always writes about things he more or less has contempt for. That's one sorry, useless cat." It's hard not to sympathize with the composer of that letter. For the most part, Meltzer's reviews from the 70's are useless, even if some of them are entertaining as hell. The latter category includes a roundup of fanclubs for relatively obscure acts of the time, an entirely fictional account of what went down at Altamont, and his review of an album by a band called Black Grass (who?) which has to be the funniest record review I've ever read. In Meltzer's own words,

What I did was (more or less) listen to nothing, sell every promo album that
came my way (mentioning this any chance I got), dash off daily or weekly quotas
of "reviews" and whatnot based on having eyeballed various LP covers (if even
that), always looking for ways to shuffle in fragments of bulk text from the
backs of cereal boxes, grocery lists, gratutious scattergun rants about this
that and the other--in a word, hoot up my sleeve, broadcast my abject contempt
for the food tube of the music industry, and "invent" Dada Rockcrit in the

So getting down to the why of this, what exactly it was that had this guy so annoyed about the state of rock, and it turns out that it has little to do with the music itself. In that first SPIN piece, placed at the front of the book, he laments not the decline in quality of rock music, but the disapearance of a unified rock "scene." In the mid-late 60's, rock critics were writing for fanzines, writing out of love, writing for fun. They paled around with the bands, being perceived by musicians as part of the same revolution, the guys who would get the word out about this music that was gonna change the world, the guys who would put it in context, or at the very least, as very passionate fans. By 1970, music journalists were viewed by record companies, and very likely by musicians themselves, as little more than advertising agents at best, or (as in Almost Famous) as "the enemy" at worst. Music was now a product, being pushed by a gigantic corporate machine, and the job of the rock critic was to sell the shit. Most were glad to do it, for the money, the prestige, the opportunity to meet the puppet monarchs of this world--becoming the whore of the title. And, even though Meltzer was accomplishing little beyond his own career suicide in rejecting that situation, the stance is pretty admirable.

The next chapter of the story is the punk scene. Meltzer gets deep into punk, not through the New York or London bands, but in Los Angeles. Already he's winning my heart. In the intro to the section on punk, he refuses to define the word, but acquiesces to listing the bands he does and doesn't consider "punk":

Re New York, my take is the opposite of that given by the compilers of Please
Kill Me, who feel that punk ends with the Ramones and includes Blondie. Punk
begins with the Ramones, certainly includes Lydia Lunch, James Chance, et al.
(and some tho not all of Richard Hell), but excludes Blondie, Talking Heads,
Mink DeVille and any band featuring Johnny Thunders. And the earlier
shit--Dolls, my friends The Dictators, Television, and of course Ms.
Smith--definitely not punk.
Of the Ohio people, Pere Ubu and the Cramps are
punk, the Dead Boys are just loud and snotty rock 'n' roll. (Devo isn't even on
the map.)
Jello Biafra? Barely.
England: The Pistols, the Clash, and the
Damned, obviously, and at least two generations of others, from Wire and the
Fall to the Anti-Nowhere League, but not the Stranglers...[you get the idea]
Anything after, oh, 1983: nope. Doesn't matter if it's ostensibly punk--up
the yinyang--'cus by then the moment had passed, the world which gave it rise
had expired, the market was no longer resisted, and whatever it then was was no
longer anything remotely else. It was part of the same damn, same old rock

OK, let me start by saying that defining punk and listing who is and isn't punk is a waste of time at best, an unhealthy approach to music at worst, but an amusing parlor game from a removed perspective. Now I don't agree with everything in the above, but I'm more-or-less on the same page with the guy. What I like even better is this:

All told, it was arguably the most specifically anti-totalitarian U.S. rock-roll
ever, and the one true Southern Cal "underground music" after Central Avenue
bebop of the forties.

And the great shocker in all this, greater even than
the mere fact of anything so substantial 'n' life-supporting actually happening
in L.A., was its ultimate source. Basically this wasn't kids working factories,
or on welfare, but the lawnstained, hot-tubbed progeny of "safe middle-class
homes" in Endless Summerville. To which their basic measured response was--bless
'em, may their tribe increase--was fuck!-this!-shit! in Beast Town, U.S.A. Way
to go!

Which matches up perfectly with my experience of punk. But anyway, what attracts Meltzer to the punk scene is not just the music, but (as you've probably guessed from some of the hints in the paragraphs I've quoted) its removal from the market forces of the rock record industry. L.A. punk was a local scene, self-supporting, art-for-art's sake, and one in which the bands were just the fans who happened to be onstage (and the writers were just the fans who happened to write for local zines). Meltzer surprisingly didn't write much about the punk scene as it was happening, he was "too busy experiencing" it, apparantly feeling that writing about it would have impurified it, but what he does write is passionate, interesting, and on-point at all times. He GETS punk.

The section titled Lester consists of 4 seperate pieces written about Lester Bangs after his death. The aforementioned SPIN piece is the best of these, theorizing about what it was that actually killed Lester. The diagnosis (predictably) is disillusionment with Rock-n-Roll, from which Lester, unlike Meltzer, was unable to divorce himself. "When I began writing about rock, it wasn't like I could just as easily be writing about something else. There was nothing else. Rock was THE the time Lester published his first review, in 1969, it was barely the state of Rhode Island."

Near the end are some very interesting pieces. "One White Man's Opinion" is as sober and honest an assesment of the Rodney King riots as I've ever read, an angry rant against the systemic racial violence in the LAPD that gave me chills. "Vinyl Reckoning," which I quoted at length in an earlier post, starts as a meditation on records, his record collection, his (or "one's") relationship with records, their place in one's life. There are passages within it, like the one I quoted, that read to me like perfect poetry of the vinyl hound's soul. Unfortunately, it digresses into the theme that comes up over and over, with more frequency as the years go on, in Meltzer's writing: that he "invented rock criticism" and never got his due (or even a fair paycheck), and that Robert Christgau and Greil Marcus had personal grudges against him and conspired to ruin his career, and were total assholes even apart from that anyways. The extent of bitterness this guy holds is enormous, and it doesn't help his case that most of his problems seem to be his own fault, but I can't help but admire him for stubornly sticking to his guns in a battle that he couldn't win, and probably wouldn't have gained much from even if he could.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Records bought 4/23

I have a notebook I keep in my car. It was a gift, actually, a "swinger's journal" or something like that, with fake red alligator skin cover and all kinds of cheesy retro/lounge/vegas/space age graphics all through it, making it of no practical use as a journal. So I've used it as a sort of guide to L.A., where I write down every eatery, book or record store, or other thing that sounds worth checking out some day. It's organized by neighborhood, and even has a table of contents. Incredibly geeky. So Saturday, as I planned my return to the Torrance Library to return these hip hop CDs I checked out, I noticed that there was a used record store that I would be driving right past, which I had never been to: The Record Recycler.

Record Recycler is a nice little place. The owner was actually standing there, cleaning new records. I'd like to think that revealed a great love for the form, but most likely it's just evidence that the ever-shrinking consumer base for old records, now consisting primarily of DJ's, requires such action. Unlike Record Surplus, nothing is broken down any further than the letters of the alphabet, so you have to dig through each letter to find what your looking for, which is kind of a hassle, but also more fun, and increases the chance of coming across something you want but weren't looking for. It's always funny seeing what records come up over and over. They must have had half-a-dozen copies of Sopwith Camel's album. 80's Stones records seem to be incredibly common. But even stranger is seeing albums by 80's and 90's alternative bands that at one time had some measure of buzz behind them, but have since been buried by the sands of time. Doctor's Mob? Damn, I forgot about those guys! Giant Sand? Sounds vaguely familiar...

I was almost near the end of my search, without having found anything I really wanted. I was gonna just pick up a few cheap REM and Stones records that I didn't really need, but would have filled up some gaps in my collection (like It's Only Rock n Roll for $1.99. It's not a great record, and I'm not sure I'd ever listen to it, but it's good enough that I ought to have it, ya know?), when I came across this:

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James "Blood" Ulmer - Black Rock (1982). This has been on my list for a long time. From the references I'd read to it, I thought it would probably be somewhere along the lines of Last Exit: noisy jazz-funk fusion, but that's not what it is. What it really sounds like is Zappa in jam mode, without all the weird time-signatures. Blood doesn't have Zappa's chops, but he plays some pretty crunchy shit. I'm not sure fusion is the right category for this--if it was a bunch of white guys, it would surely be considered progressive rock, or jam rock, or something. The drummer, Grant Calvin Weston, has Neil Peart-level skills, but doesn't play any of that prog bullshit, and the bassist, Amin Ali, plays a heavy-duty thump similar to Les Claypool. I would have loved to see these guys share a bill with The Minutemen.

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Also picked up The Ohio Players - Fire (1974). I wish I had a good scanner so I could show the hilarious, irony-free poses these guys strike on the inside of the gatefold. The most famous anecdote about them is that they used to have beautiful girls come into the studio, strip down buck nekkid, and pour honey over themselves in order to get the mojo workin'. All their covers feature photos of sweaty, naked black women. Their stuff is pretty guitar-heavy, and the climax of this particular record is "What The Hell," a funky heavy metal workout with blazing guitar solos that further gives the lie to the idea that you can draw some kind of clear line between "rock" and "R&B" without checking skin color first.

Book update:

Finished Ulysses Sunday morning. I'm on page 63 of Finnegan's Wake, and should be able to finish chapter 3 by the end of the month.

Monday, April 25, 2005

I am utterly fucked.

My transmission blew up. Best case scenario is that it'll cost me somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,500--that's if a good, cheap, used transmission can be located.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Almost Home

Molly Bloom's soliloquy is all that stands between me and completion of Ulysses. I'll probably finish this over the weekend, then devote a few days to Finnegan's Wake before beginning the summer trashy pulp reading. The question-and-answer structure of the last chapter was irritating most of the way through, but it ended up paying off nicely in the last pages. I loved the hint of Finnegan's Wake as Bloom is falling asleep and his thoughts begin to take the shape of Wake language.

On deck for May and beyond: The Invisibles by Bernhardt J. Hurwood, Nightmare in Pink by John D. MacDonald, and Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson. Then, of course, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I may actually be able to read all this before July, as those first three are all very short, and I read Order of the Phoenix in about 10 days (and that was sharing it with Bobbie!). I've really gotten hooked on MacDonald's Travis McGee books. I think I'll be reading one every year for the next 20 years. They seem like a great way to kick off the summer. Travis is a beach bum who lives on a houseboat that he won in a card game, and he gets more ass than James Bond. He's kind of a cross between Bond and Jim Rockford, maybe. But the books are great: excellent action/sex/adventure stuff, that doesn't hold back on the violence, with great digressions on any topic that comes up, whether it's the hotel industry or the works of Edie Gorme. And he lives in south Florida, so they're especially appealing to me. Nightmare in Pink is the second of the series. I had decided to try starting at the beginning (even though I've allready read 3 of them), but the first book I can only find in a reprint with an ugly-ass cover. Most of them have nifty covers that I believe are by Robert McGinnis. They seem to get better as they go along, so I wanted to get the effect of reading them in order. A Tan and Sandy Silence was the first I read, and I'd reccomend it as an intro to the series.

Beyond that, I have Absolom, Absolom lined up, but I'll probably wait until August or September before venturing that far back into literary land. Have to find a couple fun books before then.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Pasta Fun

I was excited to post that I've finally had success with a pasta sauce, but then things took a turn for the dark.

As I posted a while back, I've been trying a different sauce recipe from Marcella Hazen's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking every week. The ricotta, Bacon and Peas sauce was mediocre, probably owing to not using freshly-grated Parmesan and pouring out too much of the bacon grease. The next week I tried a standard Tomato sauce. I couldn't decide between Tomato and Sauteed Vegetables or Tomato, Garlic and Basil, so I kind of made both, sauteeing garlic with the onions, celery and carrots, and throwing some basil in at the end. Not bad, but it seriously needed much more salt than I had put into it.

This week, I made Bell Pepper and Sausage. The instructions have you peeling the peppers with a peeler. Specifically, it calls for a "swivel-head" peeler, or something, which I don't have, but I made do with a potato peeler. But it's hard to get the peel out of the crevices, and I am notoriously lazy about such things, so I just peeled as much as I could and said fuck it. Had some sweet sausage from the Italian Deli, some canned Italian tomatoes, all sorts of good stuff, and man, was it delicious. But this morning I kept burping up the taste of bell peppers. Felt pretty bad all morning.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Weekend Report, pt. 2: Sin City

Friday night, Bobbie and I ate at Senor Fish, which is allways fun because you sit outside and get to bring your own beer, and then went to see Sin City at our favorite theater, The Vista in Silverlake. I thoroughly enjoyed Sin City, although I'm not sure whether I think it's actually a good film. NPR has a great piece up about the film--Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller in an hour long interview conducted by Kevin Smith. I love that RR completely threw out the rulebook to bring these comics to the screen in a more direct way than had ever been done before, even if some of those rules (go easy on the voice-overs, for instance) are pretty good advice, and the result is, I think, a success in terms of what they were trying to accomplish, but part of that process of experimentation has to include looking at the final product and determining which things worked and which didn't. The white blood, for instance. I've seen Frank's comics, so I know what they were going for. It works great on the page, and in some instances it looks great on the screen, but more often than not I thought it looked bad and distracting.

Thinking about it, most of my problems with Sin City come from the original stories, which are just kinda retarded. I'm not really interested in discussing most of the obvious sexist/mysoginist material, but the one aspect I did find interesting was that all these stories revolve around a "knight in shining armor" type who is fighting to protect or avenge a woman (in all cases, an appropriately young [especially in relation to her leading man, in some cases bordering on pedophelia], beautiful, "perfect" woman) in a world where that sort of thing just doesn't make sense--where evil is so pervasive and all-powerful that virtue seems pointless. The picture of corrupt power in Sin City is like a leftist nightmare of capitalism: the rich can get away with any crime, and anyone who stands up to them gets steamrolled.

Things I liked: Rory Gilmore, clothed in bondage attire, in full femme fatale mode. The voluptuos Carla Gugino. The whole Girls of Oldtown concept. Hell, if I'm watching a movie wherein sexy chicks in dominatrix garb are displaying deadly skill with samurai swords and weapons that look like that thing Krull had, only shaped like a swastika, you won't hear me complain. And I liked Clive Owen, both for the character he played and the performance he gave. Totally Bogart: he's not some super-warrior, no great skills, just a guy who knows how to handle himself, who's smart and clever enough to survive a situation that he shouldn't be able to, like Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe. The scene in the car with Del Toro's corpse (I believe this was the scene Tarantino directed) was fantastic. Willis, playing the steel-eyed stoic hero...I dunno, I can generally do without that stuff, but it was better than Armagedon, for sure. And Mickey Rourke played it pretty well, a better Ben Grimm-type than I expect to see in the FF movie.

Generally speaking, I think Rodriguez is better when he's working with other people's material--From Dusk 'til Dawn is still his best work. Watching most Rodriguez flicks, you get the feeling that he had a hundred ideas of stuff that would be cool to put into a movie, but no ideas about a good story. The first Spy Kids works, based mostly on simplicity, and I remember thinking El Mariachi was pretty good, but most of the hype for that film was centered around what it wasn't rather than what it was: "proof that you can make an entertaining action movie without a huge budget!" And after that, the series just fell the fuck off. So I think Sin City, for all the flaws the material posesses, is probably better than anything he could come up with on his own.


Fresh Air piece on Lipstick & Dynamite, a new documentary about the history of female wrestling. Includes interview with The Fabulous Moolah.

2 hours of different versions of Hawaiian War Chant!

Weekend Report, pt. 1

This was gonna be a little longer, but I'm dividing it up. My thoughts on Sin City will be forthcoming.

Brandie has been taking a Saturday class at Otis college, on the other side of town, and driving her to and from takes up a hell of a lot of time, so we've been taking advantage of it by spending a few hours doing stuff on the west side. A few weeks ago, we ate at Flossie's Soul Food in Torrance, then visited Watts Towers. The next week, Baby Blues BBQ followed by The Museum of Jurassic Technology. Last week, Bobbie had a hair appointment, so I was going to find something to do by myself, but then Brandie came down sick and didn't go to class, so instead I went to Pasadena and hit the comic store, buying the first four installments of Grant Morrison's 7 Soldiers saga, and the new Flaming Carrot that came out last December, and got a peanut butter and banana shake at Connall's. This week, Bobbie was getting her headshots done, so I did get a day of solo westside exploration.

Bobbie has an ipod shuffle that she listens to while exercising, and I loaded all the Beastie Boys albums on it, except for License to Ill, because I only have that on vinyl. So I looked through the L.A. Library website to see if they had any CD copies around. There were a few listed, but it wouldn't let me reserve any, but one was at the Torrance branch, so I decided to swing by. I had a little difficulty finding the place--it's in a shopping center. Tiny place, with a few small shelves of CD's, and all the hip hop on the bottom shelf. License to Ill was not there (most likely lost), but what they did have was a treasure trove of turn-of-the-millennium underground hip hop: Quasimodo, Lootpack, The Roots, The People Under The Stairs, and several others that escape me at the moment. So I took the Lootpack, Quasimodo and PUTS discs and continued on. Hopefully I'll be able to return these to the local library and not have to drive clear out to Torrance again.

Next, lunch at Phillips' BBQ in Inglewood. This is pretty much the legendary L.A. BBQ joint. I knew I wanted beef ribs, but was a little unsure what to order. The dinner seemed like a lot of money for a quick lunch, but the only other way to get it was as a "sandwich." I went with the sandwich, ordered it hot, and got a coke and cole slaw. The sandwich turns out to be 3 whole ribs, with two pieces of white bread on the side. There's no place to eat, so I had to sit in my car eating these messy ribs and drinking a coke out of a bottle in a paper bag. Possibly the most purely Angelino experience I've ever had. I guess it would have been more complete if I'd gone in the market next door and got a 40 oz to drink, but that would probably have been too desperate.

I didn't like the ketchup-y sauce on the ribs, but the meat itself was amazing. Really substantial stuff that was as tough as meat can be without being "too tough," if you follow me. Slaw was no good. This later prompted yet another discussion with Bobbie over the philosophy of BBQ: whether quality of sides is even an issue in assessing BBQ. I say there's really only 3 factors that need to be balanced: quality of meat, skill of preparation (mostly to do with the flavor it gets from smoke, dry rub or other spices), and the sauce. Anything else is an afterthought, maybe worth docking half-a-point if it's bad or adding half-a-point if it's exceptional. Bobbie felt the sides are intrinsic to the overall BBQ experience.

From there, I hit Record Surplus, hoping to pick up some punk vinyl, or possibly score a used disc of License to Ill. No dice, but I got a cheesy exotica record (Arthur Lyman's Taboo) for $4. Final stop was to be Primo's Donuts on Sawtelle, allegedly one of the best donuts in town, but I arrived a few minutes after their 3 o'clock closing time. No big deal: I've tasted 2 of the 3 donuts that are held as the best in L.A., and they all just taste like donuts. Great donuts, but the difference between a great donut and a mediocre donut is not much, ya know?

Mostly I spent this weekend going through the Comedy Class Reunion show which I had filmed last week, and learning how to use Windows Movie Maker and edit this stuff down. The show itself was a real learning experience, in regard to working the camera, changing the tape, dealing with the battery, etc. I think I've got it down now. Still need to load Nero 6.6 Ultra or whatever it's called onto the computer so I can burn DVD's. That should be lotsa fun. So busy, busy, busy, which is nice, because when I finally did sit down for an hour Sunday evening to drink a rum and coke, smoke a bowl, and watch Cartoons That Time Forgot Vol. 2 (there's a post on this coming up, for sure) with a hiphop soundtrack, it felt earned. Satisfyin'.

So Arrested development is over for the year, if not forever. Pathetic how Fox is treating this show, but with none of my shows on HBO right now, this leaves my Sunday nights open (unless I happen to be able to catch King of the Hill, which is on at, what, 8 in the morning now?). My TV is now pretty much confined to two nights: the Tuesday night Buffy Methodone double-header of Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, and Lost on Wednesday. Oh, and Bill Maher. Damn, it just occurred to me that I missed Bill Maher this week.

I have a great urge to skip, or at least skim, the penultimate chapter of Ulysses. It's really rather annoying, but I want to be able to claim the whole book as read, so I have to bite my lip and read these last 16 pages. I should be able to begin the final chapter by the weekend.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Conservative Whining

So you know about this "Academic Bill of Rights" that Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley (seriously, do a Google News Search on this guy's name and get an idea of the looney laws he sponsors) is pushing through? The basic idea is that it would allow students to sue their professors for not teaching creationism (or something like's a pretty vague bill, as far as I can tell). There's apparantly some effort to push through a similar bill in California. Of the Florida bill:

The bill sets a statewide standard that students cannot be punished for professing beliefs with which their professors disagree. Professors would also be advised to teach alternative “serious academic theories” that may disagree with their personal views.

According to a legislative staff analysis of the bill, the law would give students who think their beliefs are not being respected legal standing to sue professors and universities.

Students who believe their professor is singling them out for “public ridicule” – for instance, when professors use the Socratic method to force students to explain their theories in class – would also be given the right to sue.

“Some professors say, ‘Evolution is a fact. I don’t want to hear about Intelligent Design (a creationist theory), and if you don’t like it, there’s the door,’” Baxley said, citing one example when he thought a student should sue.

Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, warned of lawsuits from students enrolled in Holocaust history courses who believe the Holocaust never happened.

Similar suits could be filed by students who don’t believe astronauts landed on the moon, who believe teaching birth control is a sin or even by Shands medical students who refuse to perform blood transfusions and believe prayer is the only way to heal the body, Gelber added.

I work at a liberal-as-fuck college, and my job involves processing donations that come in. Many of these come in with notes saying things like "I will give to the college when you stop teaching anti-American liberal propaganda to the students," or some such nonsense (we also get alot of demands to fire the Basketball coach, or promises of more money when the Track Team improves). I have one in front of me right now, a $50 check with a note saying they'll give more when the college "hires more conservative/republican professors."

Before this job, I had practically the same job at an extremely conservative school, and I think I remember getting one similar note (which had the word "homophobia" in it, and sounded like it may have been inspired by a specific incident). Why this descrepency? Are conservatives more likely to get offended by this sort of thing? Or is it that liberals have the sense not to go to a college where Ken Starr is the Chair of the fucking law school?

The very fun CHUD thread on the Florida bill.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Apply this bullticky to records, to the recorded-music EXPERIENCE, pre CD, and the material component--grooved, sculpted vinyl--more than holds its own. So supremely vulnerable is this whatzostuff, so susceptible to further onslaughts of form--resculptings, regroovings, smirchings and encrustings--that a whole hot WAD of variations on theme is table-set and served from the getgo:
Stations of sonic show & tell, shown/told...all the skips, sticks, jumps, hisses, cracklepops which document devotion, confirm get-off or loathe, it's abuse either way...flat black plastic: as "interactive" as silly putty (or a slice of pizza)...wear-and-tear as index of both age and youth--the record's age and the object-management blunders of YOUR youth...ditches-cum-glitches fractionalizing, obliterating, rendering inaccessible even quasi-original sound, grave-marking its exit from this auditory life...(hey, I once got a used Sun Ra elpee, took it home and found a hole in it--not the spindle hole--a CRATER at the start of one track clear through to the other side...books, by comparison, don't suffer such wear/tear in finite time, or rather, their wear/tear doesn't normally preclude continued full-bore interaction, doesn't annihilate lines, pages, whole chapters (or render them especially unreadable)...even in their DISPOSABILITY, a residuum of sonic potential: records as frisbees--the adventitious sounds of flight and smackup...
all pentultimate to the final outpost of vinyl irony: the unit record, irrespective of its health or welfare, DECOMMISSIONED...freed of sonic obligation...serving no ongoing material function but to give body to a cover and sleeve...silenter than a Cage silence piece...

-R. Meltzer, Vinyl Reckoning
From A Whore Just Like The Rest

Related: The Low End Theory currently has a post dedicated to hip hop songs about recdord-digging.

Not related: Grill season has officially begun! Last night, I fired the sucker up for the first time this year and barbecued some chicken, and threw a few esparagus on there for good measure.

I have only the last two chapters (100 pages) to go in Ulysses!


Bakshi at the Egyptian!

Ralph Bakshi in person at The Egyptian, April 29-May 1! The three nights of double features: Fritz the Cat/Heavy Traffic on Friday, Wizards/Coonskin(AKA Streetfight) on Saturday, Lord of the Rings/American Pop on Sunday, with a grab bag of shorts on both Friday and Saturday. I've allways loved Bakshi, even though almost all of his movies are complete messes. It's not just that I love animation, and I love the idea of adult themes being used in animation, but I love the specific style and feel of Bakshi's stuff. It's sexy, sweaty, it's of a piece with the cinema of the 70s, and yet...cooler. It's just right, everything I love about cartoons translated into transgressive film. I've been wanting to go back and reassess his body of work, so this gives me a perfect opportunity.

The obvious thing to do would be to check out LotR/American Pop, neither of which I've ever seen. I'm not gonna, though. I have a mild curiosity about his LotR, but I'm sure it's pretty terrible, and that screening will probably be overflowing with Tolkien geeks anyway. I'm planning on going to both the Friday and Saturday screenings, even though that's alot of movie to sit through.

Fritz the Cat is one of my favorite movies of all time. I've been listing it in my top 10, and I think at one time I even had it as my #1. I really believe this movie gets the shaft, as most people view it as one juvenile joke (cartoon characters indulging in sex, drugs, violence and profanity) stretched out for two hours. Too me, it's a great story about a young guy going out on the road to find adventure and figure out who he is, like Huck Finn. The cynical view of the counterculture is a stark contrast to the hippie films of only a few years earlier, and I'd go so far as to say that this is my favorite film about the 60s generation--surely alot better than that bore of a film, Easy Rider. And the stony animation is just fantastic.

On the other hand, I haven't seen it since...I guess around '92. It's reall due for a reevaluation, and I'm starting to doubt it's place on my top 10. Just as, several years ago, I had to admit that I was just too old to have Pink Flamingos in my top 10, I'm wondering if it's not a more juvenile film than I remember.

Heavy Traffic and Street Fight I saw once each, in high school, and thought they were both pretty neat, but incoherent messes. It will be interesting to see how they feel now. And Wizards I saw multiple times through college, and liked quite a bit, but for some reason I have a distinct feeling that this is going to come off boring now. But they're also showing the "Night of the Bat-Bat" episode of New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. God, I love that show, and I haven't seen an episode since college!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Food Related Stuff

I got Marcella Hazen's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking from the library, and I've been trying some of the recipes. Sunday, I made what is apparantly the most famous recipe in the book, the roast chicken. The strength of this recipe is in its simplicity: you take two lemons, poke a few holes in them, stuff them inside a chicken, and cook it. That's it (well, a little salt and pepper). It turns out incredibly moist and juicy, the moisture from the lemons keeping it from drying out. Monday, I made one of the pasta sauces. I'm going to try a different sauce every week. I made fussilli with riccotta, bacon and peas sauce. You're supposed to pour off most of the bacon grease, and retain 2 tablespoons, but I don't think I retained enough, and you can't unpour that shit once you pour it out. Turned out OK, but probably could have been better.

Saturday, prior to our previously mentioned visit to the Museum of Jurassic Technology, we ate at Baby Blues BBQ in Venice. Nice little sit-down place with loud blues music playing (I would have preferred more John Lee Hooker, less Stevie Ray Vaughn, but not bad). Bobbie got a pulled pork sandwich, I got Memphis style ribs. Ribs were good, probably too fatty, but with a nice, peppery crust. Pork sandwich was excellent, served on a good, crusty roll that may have come from LaBrea Bakery. The roll was a point of contention, with Bobbie, a purist, arguing that it was only proper to serve BBQ on soft, white Wonderbread rolls, while I countered that the good french bread elevated the BBQ. Three sauces: a mild, tomato-based sauce; a spicy red vinegar sauce, very authentic to the North Carolina style; and an extra-spicy, vinegar-y sauce that was just delicious. Coleslaw was good, crisp and creamy. Baked beans were a nice medly of southwest beans (the item listed on the menu as "Pork and Beans" was probably closer to what I was looking for, but it was all too much for me to eat anyway). Definitely better than Zeke's, Robin's or Dr. Hogly Wogly's, which is about the extent of my L.A. BBQ experience. I'll probably try Phillip's in the coming weeks.

Random Stuff:

Jonathan Gold examines hot chocolate in L.A.

A lengthy post at Tiki Central regarding Frances Langford's Outrigger Restaurant, a landmark from my hometown. I never actually ate there, but I remember driving past it often, and seeing Langford's gigantic yacht parked in the adjoining marina. Nearby Langford Park was a big part of my childhood, where I played T-Ball and hung out on the playground throughour my youth.

Belatedly, R.I.P. Mitch Hedberg. He was one of those comics that you either loved or hated or thought was allright.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Museum of Jurassic Technology

Last weekend, we finally visited The Museum of Jurassic Technology, an L.A. landmark I've been wanting to see for some time. It was...strange. The nature of the exhibits at the MJT are not as self-explanatory as your average museum. You go to the Natural History Museum, you see a big dinosaur skeleton, and you don't really need any more explanation. But when you're confronted with something like Tell the Bees...Belief, Knowledge and Hypersymbolic Cognition, it's pretty hard to figure out what the fuck your looking at. I think you're probably expected to read up on all the exhibits on the website before you go.

The whole place is darkly lit, and the exhibits have an extremely random quality to them, which at times gave me the feeling I was in some sort of strange dream. In fact, what it reminded me the most of, was the Quay bros. film Institute Benjamenta, particularly the scene where the protagonist is wandering through the corridors of the institute and comes upon a glass case filled with powdered stag antlers, with protruding straws to snort the stuff through. The curators seem to have an artistic bent, and I got the distinct impression I was supposed to appreciate the atmosphere as much as any knowledge I might obtain. A film presentation explaining Geoffrey Sonnabend's Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter consisted largely of images of waterfalls, opera music, and German and English text being read simultaneously (and thus indecipherably).

My favorite exhibit was, without a doubt, the micro-miniatures: tiny sculptures meticulously carved from the heads of needles, viewable only through a magnifying glass, and even smaller mosaics built from pieces cut from butterfly wings, and viewable only through microscopes! Another great one was a display of corroded dice from the collection of Ricky Jay. And possibly the strangest was a collection of letters to the Mt. Wilson Observatory by crazy people. Some of these reminded me of the old lady in Donnie Darko who wrote the book on time travel.

Disturbing Visions

As I was drifting towards sleep last night, I involuntarily got the half-dream image in my mind of someone picking little pieces of ham or bacon from between his toes. This was horrible.