There’s always room for Ello

November 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

The next wave of social networking engagement is at hand: my wife just sent me an invitation to join ElloelloPJ.

As an early adopter of Friendster, Myspace, Tribe, Facebook, Google+,  Pinterest and Twitter (of which only the latter three profiles are still maintained – and I know I am forgetting some others that were part of the web’s early yearnings for user generated content) I feel a duty to accept the Ello come-on. In its beta stage the service looks promising– the clean design and ad-free platform are attractive selling points, especially to those who recall the slow-loading clutter of MySpace. The Facebook dilemma of what to do about overzealous and obnoxious posters is addressed by the Noise / Friends portal structure. In short, a clean slate with a few improvements.

Did I mention you have to access this treasure trove of social engagement on-line, via computer? It’s true. There is no actual place called Ello. You have to be able to hook up a machine to a system of electronic data-carrying metal wires and have some kind of email address to join the fun. In fact at this stage you have to be invited to join. I will invite you if you ask me to, but it’s up to you to go to a library or someplace warm where you will be allowed to interact via the internet with others who are able. If you are someone who has a home with an internet connection (which I do, very thankfully) it might be easier. You still have to pay for the service, though, and the people who own the networks will turn your service off if you don’t send money. Most things in USA are like that, you know.

I think we should use money in other ways: feeding people, keeping people in homes, helping families in distress, ensuring that everyone is healthy, educating children. In fact, since the experts want to start educating children exclusively on computers, every family should have a computer and internet for free. Maybe some really rich people will figure out a way to make that happen.

Frappucino Station

November 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Having passed the half century mark I am subject to a few quirks and quarrels. For instance, it is now unlikely that I will ever be a professional sports follower. Also, I find video games to be stupid, cell phones unnecessarily ubiquitous, and Facebook mind-destroying. People shouldn’t drive when they can take a bus, or to rephrase, people shouldn’t drive. I think consumerism, greed, hypocrisy, and ignorance are all heads on the same monstrous body we know as commerce.

My opinions, especially at this hour of the morning, may seem draconian, but they are here for you to read. I’m just one person with one brain, wobbly sleepy synapses, having just gotten up after a bad dream about going to work at Starbucks and being put on frappucino duty, thinking about how annoyed I am that for ten seconds yesterday in the break room at work I watched an alleged journalist accuse liberal pols of sending the message that “voters are dumb”. I winced, but then I realized that among my thickly huddled beliefs is this little pipsqueak in the back:

American democracy has long been overtaken by corporate interests and, more specifically, the individuals who profit from them. Conservative politicians are only in it for the money, unless they are so naive as to think that they are actually fulfilling some moral manifest by foisting their sexist, racist, homophobic visions on a community that is actually trying to live and work together in harmony.

So, yes, it might be true that I think people who vote against gun legislation and for open carry, who deny climate change, who deny women their reproductive rights, who think only straight people can have a family, who continue to buy gas guzzlers – thereby maintaining the profit margins of oil companies who “own” the destruction of the planet, who view the ideals of liberty and justice as only pertaining to themselves, who teach kids that evolution is a lie, who feel a sense of entitlement so strongly that they grab and keep everything within reach and take it away from others, who do not want to pay taxes because “it’s my money”, who wish America was the way it used to be (when? in slavery days? before suffrage? when it was run by a bunch of rich white thieves? oh… wait that’s now…), who mistake media visibility for integrity, who mistake bully tactics for morality, who mistake racist propaganda for journalism, are dumb.

But that’s only my opinion.

Stamp Album

November 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

I don’t usually shill, but I am excited to pick this one up. Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (full disclosure: I worked in their archives for a few years – a dream job if there ever was) have taken the old idea of short form classics and released a new album full of them. The longest piece is the Mahler – go figure – at 8:28, but most clock in around six and a half minutes, exactly the length of your next student film.

Red vinyl, please.

The suits in the suites may not get it, but this would make a splendid box set of 7″ vinyl. The Mahler Cycle LP Box sold out – why not? It would also be a nod to the historical relevance of the format. The 7 inch “Extended Play” disk was a crossing-over point from cumbersome 10 and 12 inch 78s to convenient 12 inch albums.

Deutsche Grammophon 7″ Image borrowed from shakedownrecords.com

The popularization of orchestral works we now take for granted happened in mid-century living rooms where people sat in front of furniture with built-in phonographs. No home was without at least one classical music album, and often that one album was a selection of short works or excerpts. The “sampler” was a standard marketing tool, usually available at a low price. Other compilations were programs, high brow mood music.  Masterpieces in Miniature seems related to these types of releases, especially in light of the SF Symphony’s previous offering – a new version of the other album found on every 20th century hi-fi.

Borrowed from eil.com

Jet Boys of NW

November 10, 2014 § 3 Comments

The underground music culture of mid-eighties DC is fondly remembered by its participants as a continuous spectacle of club shows as documented in the pages of fanzines and broadcast on WMUC. Everybody was in a band or at least had a roommate who was. Punk rock was the core of the scene, but it should be realized that punk was already becoming a legacy genre – the first wave – Minor Threat, Government Issue, etc. had already moved on. The Revolution Summer soundtrack was provided by Rites of Spring – they didn’t have a record out, but the cassette is around here someplace. Cool kids hung around Food for Thought and tried out new noise at DC Space. We read Truly Needy and WDC Period, fanzines that are now archived at the University of Maryland.  I played in a band called Donut Safari.

DCpixx

I moved to DC from Richmond VA after a few months of hanging out with a band called Holiday – to even dip a toe into the lineage of that group would amount to getting dunked in the zeitgeist of the era I’ll save it for another time. Holiday cut one record that I know of and it was one side of a 45 that they shared with another band. I might still have it around here someplace.

That summer I washed windows with (Donut Safari founder) DJ Tommy B, listened to records and wrote reams of lyrics. I played guitar about as well as the next person – I was less of a punk anyhow and liked to listen to Television, Small Faces and Big Star – old bands. My housemates Neil Haggerty and Tom Rafferty had a band called Jet Boys of NW – this was the coolest band I had ever heard. They played about four gigs (one at WMUC where I got to play along on a de-tuned autoharp with a beercan slide.) Definitely influenced by Sonic Youth – they were the gold standard then – but certainly not a lesser entity.

Tom, Neil and his music/life mate Jennifer moved to New York I guess right after I moved to San Francisco. I had a couple of letters from them, and from DJ Tommy B, who is still my LinkedIn “contact”. One time Pussy Galore played at a club near my apartment, so I went to see them and Neil came over to hang out. I gave him a pair of pants.

Sometime after that, Tom, Neil, and Jennifer moved to San Francisco where we shared a place. Royal Trux had been their side project in NY – the record was mysterious and damaged – entirely unique – and they were bringing it to the coast. We booked studio time and played two songs I had never even heard before. Some kids in Chicago had offered to put it out on their new label, Drag City. Listening to it now is still a slightly disorienting experience.

Seeing some lukewarm reviews in Forced Exposure and other fanzines (where had the fanzines gone? SF was the shittiest excuse for a music scene I had ever lived in…) validated this effort so we continued on for a while – I’m not sure how long – before I quit the band. Well, I wasn’t really ever in the band. But we were friends and there are some fine moments captured on old cassettes around here someplace.

Workbench

November 7, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ikea and their ilk, in their practice of keeping the particle board manufacturers in business and the sidewalks blocked with almost once-useful hunks of computer workstation, may have stuck such pursuits out behind the shed, but the pleasures of building-your-own will never fade. Anyone who has ever taken a shop class from an instructor who could thump you in the chest with his shortened index finger for not wearing eye protection will attest to the pride that may be taken in the conversion of a pile of pine into a shiny new shelving unit or a do-it-yourself doghouse. My dad taught me how to do many things and sanding was one of them. Instrumental, however, in my handyman education, were the stacks of Popular Mechanix and other DIY materials that accumulated around the basement.

After 30 years of apartment dwelling it is a relief to be in our new home, hanging pegboard downstairs and installing shelves in the closets with my own two hands (all fingers still intact, as of this writing). Every weekend I look down the stairs wistfully at the basement clutter, mentally mapping the solid teak rec room and the mud room with a view. And the shop: a good, solid workbench with a mounted vise. A table saw. Pegboard everywhere, with hanging tools silhouetted in red. Mini floods dousing the area in pure and clarifying light. And I, in shop glasses, Red Wings, and well-worn Pendleton, humming along with the radio executing one masterpiece of mid-century handcrafted genius after another, as found in the pages of Workbench, 35 cents / March-April / 1968.

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Dr. Sax

November 6, 2014 § Leave a comment

Clarinet is my thing, but it is a rare woodwinds fiend who cannot appreciate the bold and brash contributions of Adolphe Sax, especially on his bicentennial.

Antoine-Joseph Sax – image borrowed from History Today

Imagine a world without Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Steve Lacy, Ralph Carney, Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street, Steely Dan’s Deacon Blues (I’ll learn to work the saxophone. I play just what I feel. Drink Scotch whiskey all night long. And die behind the wheel… an Ohrwurm if there ever was).

Just when the saxophonist bumped the trumpeter off the top of the hip heap is up for debate – they both had to endure the reign of the electric guitarist shortly thereafter anyhow.

One thing to note is that the brass player/singer has the advantage of instrument mobility that few other wind instrumentalists share. Hence Louis Armstrong / Louis Prima / Chet Baker. The saxophone hangs around the player’s neck from a strap and relies upon a thin fragile reed to make a big boss sound. One wrong move and it’s back to soaking, please pardon the delay ladies and gentlemen. The saxophonist excels at text-less exhortations.

Blue Morning

November 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

No surprises this morning for a relatively new Tennessee voter. I am pleased to see that our county is an oasis of blue in a desert of red on the election maps, but as a Green Party supporter I am a mere patch of thirsty grass thereupon. The usual disappointing election season practices once again turned what is supposed to be a cultivation of civic responsibility into a forum for dimwitted infomercial tactics.

tnmapPolitico

Image borrowed from Politico

I knew from experience that there would be much to enrage educated citizens if they even glanced at a television screen over the past 90 days, but I will never forget the stupefied expression on the face of a co-worker as he stirred his coffee while thinly-veiled hate speech blared from the break room flat screen (always tuned, inexplicably, to FOX Business Channel). I felt a twinge of embarrassment as he commented in a quiet west African accent that the message seemed a little far fetched. I agreed quickly and said something like “… worst problem in our system is that the rich control the broadcast messages…” and went back to my desk feeling powerless and ridiculous. That is not the way it is supposed to be.

I am proud of my blue county, at least. Many have probably mused over the color choices meant to represent left and right in United States elections – flag colors to be sure, but more, too. Red used to mean “communist” back when society lived in fear of having to share the means of production amongst the people who generated the capital. Now it is reclaimed by the victors in that struggle, taken away from the working class and foisted back upon them as a media generated mirage of conservative religious and so-called traditional values. Red is now the color of bullies.

Blue. According to William Gass:

“Of the colors, blue and green have the greatest emotional range. Sad reds and melancholy yellows are difficult to turn up. Among the ancient elements, blue occurs everywhere: in ice and water, in the flame as purely as in the flower, overhead and inside caves, covering fruit and oozing out of clay. … Blue is therefore most suitable as the color of interior life.” -On Being Blue

According to Miles:

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