Saturday, June 23, 2007
Friday, June 22, 2007
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"This Mormon Church binds its adherents with the strongest bonds known under heaven. It is at once a religion, an empire, a fraternity, a trust, and a partnership in crime."
Then we spotted this rutabaga reference:
And, by the way, vegetables are not that innocent. Don't you know that they dream of responding to you? Why else are they covered with dew?
Aaah. Too much subversive pleasure music in her formative yrs., leading to the inability not to find smut virtually everywhere. Just Another Blog™ used to be the same way, till the melancholia took over. Now, we don't want to think about Bill Clinton at all, let alone his sex life. Not much chance of avoiding him & his baggage (no, not Senator C., his "reputation") for the next few (too damn many) months, we guess.
"I was born in the concentration camp in Latvia. We were there with my mother. I recollect only fascist boots and mouth-organ sound since then. When we were released in 1945, I was three. June 22 for me is the Day of Memory and Sorrow and difficult recollections of my childhood," Antonina Gureyeva, former under-aged prisoner of a fascist concentration camp, said.
The gathered laid wreaths of live flowers to the monument and paid tribute to those killed in the Great Patriotic War with a minute's silence. After that everyone could approach the Pantheon of Glory and lay flowers.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Zitface, Li'l Kobe, & Dilrod: The Icy Hot Stuntaz:* Please, ask us sometime for our take on honkies appropriating Afro-American culture. We've appropriated more than our share, but in our salad days we didn't feel we had to act & dress exactly like Iceberg Slim, James Brown, Huey Newton or Flip Wilson to be "authentic." Today's young Euro-American morons, however, have to go the whole baggy pants, bling, & gang sign route. There's even a site devoted to "white chicks flashing gang signs." (Look it up yourself, Just Another Blog™ is lazier than any stereotype you got!) Is it 'cause Euro-Amer culcha these last two decades is even less "authentic" than it was in Just Another Blog's™ day? How could it have gotten worse? We haven't the energy to think about this, let alone write something (coherent or otherwise) about it, but the subject has been on the editorial mind lately. One of these days....
*Photo for illustrative purposes only. The Icy Hot Stuntaz are not known, meant or implied to be connected with anything to do w/ this article or anything else. May not be their legal names. Not valid in Washington State.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
are being converted to Tomahawk launching SEAL carriers, the better to subvert governments that don't respect freedom & liberty the way we do."Hello, we're the new weapons inspectors."
And some interesting thoughts on the future of naval warfare. (The pipeline of cheap plastic shit made by Asian slave labor may dry up before we run out of credit w/ which to acquire it.)
DAVID HAJDU ON MUSIC
Post date 06.15.07 Issue date 06.18.07
Tonic, an ascetic little hostel for outré music and arty noise in the longtime cultural center of outré artiness, Manhattan's Lower East Side, closed down in April after nine years of hot-and-cold business--a casualty of engulfing gentrification and bureaucratic harassment, according to the club's owners. For their last night on Norfolk Street, they arranged to go out as grandly as possible and booked John Zorn, the fifty-three-year-old godhead of the downtown musical scene, to lead two sets of performances by an ad hoc assemblage of musicians in his sphere. The line for admission started forming more than three hours before showtime, and it stretched along two blocks before the doors opened. The evening was chilly and wet. I counted three open umbrellas, including my own.
A film crew was interviewing people on line, and one of the men in a group ahead of me waved down the camera operator. "If half these bullshit parasites came down here before this place closed," he told the film-maker, "it wouldn't have to close!" As the crew moved down the sidewalk, the piqued guy asked me if I had a cigarette, and I asked him to tell me about some of his favorite Tonic shows. He said this was only his second time at the club, although he loves John Zorn and had seen him play elsewhere.
About ten minutes before the first set was scheduled to start, Zorn came striding down the street, parallel to the queue, just a few feet from the people, glaring straight ahead. He was carrying his alto saxophone in a case and wearing baggy desert-camouflage pants and an orange T-shirt--the same clothes (or precisely matching ones) that he had worn each of the last three times I had seen him perform this year, once earlier at Tonic and twice at The Stone, the tiny storefront performance space that Zorn himself owns and operates on Avenue C. As he sped past, fans burst into a chant of "Zorn! Zorn!" He glowered in silence, and when the camera pointed at him he shook his head, declining the attention. I could only wonder what the shouting fans and the film crew had in mind. Why would they think that someone who makes a point regularly to appear dressed in camouflage and a T-shirt would want attention?
In the music he put together that night, Zorn made a bookend to the concerts that he had organized for Tonic shortly after the club opened in 1998, events that had helped considerably to establish Tonic's credibility as a bohemian refuge. On both occasions, Zorn served in part as a creative shepherd--selecting, organizing, and hosting the performers--and also as the special guest star of his own show, sort of a recherché hydra of Ed Sullivan and the Beatles. On the last night at Tonic, the musicians drifted in and out of the club and all around the bandstand, and their playing styles varied--more than two dozen artists performed in various configurations into the early hours of the morning--though they were connected in their common passion for free improvisation, their take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward conventional Western tonality, and their conception of noise as music.
None of this thinking has been new or radical in the domains of classical music, jazz, or hardcore rock and punk for years. But neither have the ideals of free improvisation, atonality, or noise-as-music poured out of the rarefied waters of art music into the mainstream to join the standards of value applied on American Idol. Indeed, the unifying principle of much of the work performed at Tonic from its opening shows to its closing ones, as with a great deal of music at other new-music venues such as the Knitting Factory and The Stone, is not really its ostensible newness or radicalism, but rather its unacceptability in popular culture. Though commonly regarded as insular and self-referential, the world of John Zorn and his peers and followers is integrally engaged with the mainstream, in that it defines itself by its conscientious alienation from it. The music is all about status.
Zorn appeared onstage after about half an hour of performances by four small groups, one of which featured the delightful pianist Sylvie Courvoisier, who produced a spirited rhythmic sound collage by rapping and strumming every part of the inside of the instrument. One of the drummers used a violin bow to play the steel rim of his snare drum. A percussionist thwacked on a Jew's harp and yammered loopy gibberish while his partner did a slow, rudimentary tap dance. It was all resolutely different. And yet it was all nearly identical to the neo-Dada happenings of the Warhol era--the 1960s again, but without the ameliorating benefit of the drugs.
Performing in a trio with piano and drums, Zorn played an improvisation of sound graffiti sprayed in bursts and flurrying splashes of accelerating propulsion. He began with a series of short modal phrases, but quickly abandoned modality and, in little time, dropped tonality altogether, screeching and cronking. Early in his career, Zorn began to develop an expansive vocabulary of extramusical sounds that he could produce with precision on the alto saxophone, often by using only the mouthpiece of the instrument, sometimes by playing the mouthpiece through a bowl of water. For a few years, he tried to devise a system to identify all the noises he could make and to notate them with hieroglyphic-like symbols, an effort along the lines of his idol Harry Partch's attempts to invent new scales and notational methods to accommodate the odd tones, microtones, and quasi-tones that emanated from the instruments that he constructed out of old light bulbs, empty liquor bottles, and driftwood. To the uninitiated, the sounds that Zorn produces may sometimes seem like assaultive noise blurted out arbitrarily. In fact, they are assaultive noise crafted with meticulous care. For this piece, Zorn employed the entire saxophone, though he blew into it so hard that the instrument rattled in his hands and appeared about to fly apart.
After the first set, Zorn spoke briefly--very briefly--to a small group of fans and a couple of journalists assembled near the door to the club's office. "The yuppies are taking over," he warned us in a vatic hush. "We're all fucked." He lowered his head and hurried away, presumably to prepare for the second set.
The last night at Tonic presented John Zorn--a guarded man protective of his public image--as he likes to be seen: a martyrly champion of a noble and doomed cause, a victim of institutional indifference and maltreatment. He revels in his vaunted status as an outsider and a cultural insurgent; hence the meticulous screeching and cronking, as well as the guerrilla's pants. For years, before he switched to the orange T-shirt, he performed in one printed with the phrase "Die Yuppie Scum." In the few interviews he has given, Zorn has been quick to articulate his hero worship for artistic dissidents and outcasts such as Partch, Charles Ives, Joseph Cornell, and Harry Smith-- his determination to follow their example, and his fear of oppression by giant, faceless institutions. "I think the outsiders, the individualists, the people who have a messianic belief in themselves and are able to stick with their vision despite all odds ... the people that can stick with that, they're the ones that are really going to make a difference in the world," he said in an interview with the magazine JazzTimes. "And they will always be a small number, and I've always aspired to be one of that number." And this: "I see enormous corporations acting like slave masters, like the return of the pharaohs. I see co-opting all around. I see McDonald's everywhere. I see the destruction of ... the small mom and pop stores.... That is the big problem--the pharaohs controlling us. Sure, there will be independent artists, always. But they'll always be on the fringe."
Apart from the vainglory of such messiah talk, there is a sizable problem with Zorn's ongoing self-projection as a repressed, misunderstood, and underappreciated musical outcast. It is the fact that he is now a well-established and celebrated figure, a composer recognized not only in the downtown institutions in which he has always thrived, and in the sibling bodies that he has founded and run for the advancement of his own work and that of his kindred souls and protégés, such as The Stone and his record company Tzadik, but in major cultural institutions as well. The pharaohs of the arts establishment have bestowed honor and riches upon him. Last year he won a MacArthur "genius" grant ($500,000), and in March he received the William Schuman Award from the Columbia University School of the Arts, one of the largest grants given to an American musician ($50,000). The latter is given for lifetime achievement, and has gone previously to composers such as Milton Babbitt, Gunther Schuller, and Steve Reich.
But the achievements of Zorn's lifetime so far are a mixed lot--all of them extraordinary in one way or another, some indisputably significant, others dubious. He is certainly important and may well turn out to be historic as a symbol of musical adventurism and an inspiration to other composers--like Eric Satie, an enigmatic provocateur with an outsize mystique who stirred acolytes to do work better than his own. Over the decades since Zorn emerged as a model of the free-spirited genre-bending associated with downtown Manhattan, he has drawn countless musicians and composers into his orbit, and he has recorded or performed with dozens of them, including some fine ones, among them the composer and trumpeter Dave Douglas, the guitarist Bill Frisell, the pianists Anthony Coleman and Wayne Horvitz, the cellist Erik Friedlander, and the drummer Joey Baron.
Zorn is an exceptional artist, without question, because he prizes and seeks exceptionalism above all. This is not to say that he is exceptionally good at his art. What he is good at--so very good as to suggest a kind of genius--is being exceptional. Unfortunately, uniqueness is not an aesthetic value; it is a term of classification. To say that Zorn is one of a kind, as he certainly is, is to ignore the larger matters of his nature as an artist and, more significantly, the nature of his work, much of which is thin and gimmicky, and some of which is elementally corrupt.
Through his fiercely individualistic modes of working, Zorn deters attention to the work itself. He is obsessed with processes and systems, and he is often cavalier about their results. In the small-ensemble performances and albums that first brought him attention, Zorn led improvising musicians in what he called "game" pieces. Zorn did not compose them, exactly, but was responsible for them in that he invented and supervised the unprecedented system of rules for their spontaneous invention by the performers. He devised a set of signal cards, each of which indicated, in code, when certain musicians should play: now, the brass instruments; now, drums and guitar; now, the person to the left of the last person who played; now, nobody.... Further upending the standard notions of compositional authority or prerogative, Zorn left it to the musicians to call for the cards to be changed. His role was to stand in front of the group, hold up the cards, and switch them at the players' demand. The meaning of these cards changed as he added body-language cues, such as how high he held the sign and whether or not he was wearing a baseball cap at the moment.
The byzantine rules--to which the audience was never privy--were the artwork, such as it was. As Zorn explained, "What I came up with was this kind of game structure that talks about when people play and when they don't play but doesn't talk about what they do at all." Not what, but when: the content, the music itself, scarcely mattered to Zorn, who was concerned mainly with the novelty of its system of generation, a scheme not devised in service to the expression of human feelings, but brazenly indifferent, if not hostile, to them. As such, Zorn's game work was less an innovation in the creative process than a debasement of it.
Without making too much of his admiration for messiah figures, it is clear that a dominant theme of Zorn's career has been his dedication to attempting to invent new musical paradigms and launch new movements. At some point in his late twenties or early thirties, Zorn grew more interested in his Jewish heritage, as many artists (and non-artists) of all backgrounds turn to their roots as they age. The results of Zorn's ethnic awakening have included a body of more than five hundred shortish compositions with the group title "Masada," named for the famous Jewish martyrdom site of the Roman era; his record label Tzadik (tzaddik denotes a righteous person, a saintly person, in Hebrew); and an umbrella effort that is broader, more ambitious, and more nebulous, which Zorn calls Radical Jewish Culture.
Zorn has overseen the performance and the recording of the Masada pieces by ensembles of various sorts--art rockers, chamber groups, and a jazz quartet featuring Zorn on alto saxophone, Dave Douglas on trumpet, Greg Cohen on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. As compositions, the Masada pieces are simple and repetitious, inspired loosely by traditional melodies and, for the most part, constructed with the standard tools: minor keys and folk-dance rhythms. Many of the tunes are charming and elegiac, unique among Zorn's generally oppressive work; and Douglas, Cohen, and Baron are all players of uncommon sensitivity, employed well here. Zorn, too, though scarcely on the level of his bandmates as an instrumentalist, plays with rare nuance and delicacy on some of the Masada CDs.
Beyond the Masada pieces, the concerts and recording projects organized by Zorn under the rubric of Radical Jewish Culture have been a mishmash of works, some related so tenuously to Jewish culture that Zorn's application of the phrase seems less radical than cynical. An early example, and just one of many, is Zorn's multi-artist, two-CD tribute to Burt Bacharach, titled Great Jewish Music. The collection features a hodgepodge of artists associated with Zorn, as well as Sean Lennon, playing Bacharach hits such as "Close to You," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "What's New Pussycat," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." The music is delightful pop schmaltz; but apart from the Yiddish origins of that term, it is no more Jewish music than this sentence is Magyar language because its writer has great-grandparents from Hungary.
Zorn was asked, on NPR, what exactly it is that makes music Jewish. "Well, you know, I've been doing this for quite a while and I don't think I can honestly answer that question very accurately," he said. "It could be a lot of things. It could be just an intention of it wanted to be that. It could be a scale. It could be some dramatic subject or theme. It could be something historical. It could be something that's just emotional. It could [be] a lot of things. It could be nothing. I don't know." But to identify something or someone as Jewish and then accept "nothing" as a legitimate reason--surely this is in some way to deny the richness, and even the legitimacy, of Jewishness; it is, in its whatever-ism about its own identity, reckless and demeaning to real Jewish culture. Zorn, following up on the Bacharach CD, approached Dave Brubeck with the proposition of honoring his work in the "Great Jewish Music" series, and Brubeck had to tell Zorn that he is not Jewish. Thinking of "Blue Rondo à la Turk" and "Pick Up Sticks," I wonder why Zorn presumed that Brubeck is a Jew. Was it the cantorial part that Brubeck once included in a religious oratorio about social justice? But Brubeck, a Catholic, has also composed a mass. Or was it his nose?
On that last night at Tonic, Zorn headed back to the stage for the second set, and fans once again yelled out to him, "Zorn! Zorn!" Somebody hollered "Shalom!" and Zorn replied, "What it is!" What it is? That is a perfectly, bafflingly appropriate salutation for the living master of creative delusion.
David Hajdu is The New Republic's music critic
I do not worship my toaster (1 of 6) posted by williamyard on 2007-06-15 13:25:38
although it makes a mean piece of toast.
I like a piece of toast now and again. Sometimes slathered with peanut butter, or like yesterday with a couple of those plastic cheese rectangles, some mayo, and a couple slices of tomato. But often, just plain toast. "Dry," as the cognocenti say.
Likewise, I worship no artist, although from time to time I like to consume his or her product. The important words in the previous sentence are "product" and "consume."
Music, like other products, has important implications for civilization. For example, much of it ends up in landfill. I like a little bebop during fellatio. Then there are those savvy dentists who fill our heads with it to drown out the drill.
Also, some of it is leaking into outer space. Perhaps one day a technologically and morally superior civilization in another galaxy will hear, say, Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor or Bjork crooning "Human Behaviour," fly into a rage, haul ass to our planetary system and pop Earth like a zit.
There's no accounting for taste.
w.y. (2 of 6) posted by basman on 2007-06-15 13:43:41
I'm gonna' read this piece and then maybe you and I can have some fun.
sho nuff, bas! (3 of 6) posted by williamyard on 2007-06-15 13:45:43
W.Y. (4 of 6) posted by basman on 2007-06-15 15:09:23
But W.Y. how could you not worship Zorn?
He's a Tzaddik as were Milton Berle, Milton Friedman, and John Milton, whose B Side, Lost in Paradise, had a semenal impact, especially on those who like some Bebop while, as you say, formulating their exit strategy.
I have heard rumours out of Cailfornia that a certain Zorn-like W.Y. during a transformative period of his life, and not that long ago in fact, for 39 months wore nothing but a pair of plaid sweatpants (held up only by a TNR braided money belt), knock off Converse Hightops and a ragged sweat shirt that said in bold purple print “Teplukhin Come Home: All Is Forgiven”, all encased in a glittery circle of these: ":-)".
Anyway, as the foregoing creakily shows, I cannot match you for wit. But, that conceded, I think Hajdu has a point, makes a good argument for it, and gives Zorn a good, spritely, not unimportant deconstructing upside his showily contrarian head.
"...formulating their exit strategy"--I like it. (5 of 6) posted by williamyard on 2007-06-15 15:59:25
Would Zorn object if I wore a "Die Toaster Zorn" T-shirt at one of his "concerts"?
At 53, he's not getting any younger--nor, apparently, is his act. That could be part of the problem. Years ago I read an interesting piece about men in their sixties and seventies. The article included photos. The guys shared two characteristics. First, they'd made multiple, fairly radical shifts in vocations over the years: a cop became a nightclub owner became a bike messenger became a botanist, that type of thing. Second, they all looked a good ten to fifteen years younger than their chronological ages, and they sounded it, too. I attribute their vitality to their restlessness--leaving their comfort zones for new challenges.
Hajdu's report makes Zorn sound a lot older than 53. A cranky old man, wedded to his "art" like a man in a crappy marriage.
Buckminster Fuller said, "God is a verb." That's as close as an accurate description of God as I, an agnostic, have heard. It implies that the less verb-like and the more noun-like we become, the further we stray from the divine.
Zorn seems stuck in his noun-ness. Per Hajdu's telling, Zorn's shtick is his exceptionalism--but it's the adjective "exceptional" modifying the noun (Zorn) rather than the adverb "exceptionally" modifying how the noun plays. He's an empty toaster. To produce toast, Zorn needs to remember how to be unexceptional (i.e., give his ego the slip). But has he toasted himself into a corner?
He should understand that the toaster I currently use is new. My old toaster unwittingly toasted a plastic fork that fell into it a couple weeks ago. (Try it sometime. If you like migraines, you'll love the fumes.)
Sorry I didn't really address your comments, bas. I'm just riffin' on a slow Friday. BTW, I always like seeing Hajdu in here.
you've got me laughing out loud, God bless you (6 of 6) posted by basman on 2007-06-15 16:04:18
More anon, perhaps.
©2007 The New Republic
We thought we would commit a possibly prosecutable (though not necessarily illegal) act because of the information that will be discussed in the next (above) item.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
In no particular order (other than the order in which we remember these non-entities) here's the candidate bogroll for '08:
On the sidelines:
Now we check all the links, and come to the realization we're as bad off as we've been in (our) living memory.
UPDATE: No, Just Another Blog hasn't been able to access Kucinich.us for a while either. Forces of repression @ work? (Updated very late.)
LATER: Working now. (20 June 0627)
*Note quality/style of website. Can one determine anything important about candidates from their websites?
And a commenter has some advice for the locals:
I hold you SoCal residents accountable for continuing to elect these crooks (Cunningham, Hunter, Cox, Rohrabacher, Feinstein, etc.)! Quit bitching about Dupont and start voting the REAL problems out of office!No shit, SoCal. These pricks are an embarrassment. Vote early, vote often, and vote 'em out!
Posted by: FastEdd Jun 12, 2007 9:05:13 PM
Monday, June 18, 2007
They're at it again! The Meat Beetles have three new numbers available for listening or downloading. Mrs. George W(orst) Bush on ld vcls on one of 'em.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
From Femmes Fatales.
Where are they now? Belinda? Too well off to be seen w/ poor people.