Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I love New Orleans. I grew up near enough to make clandestine overnight visits often when I was a teenager, and almost all of my most outrageous drunks have taken place down there. I've been back many times since, and I've always had a phenomenal fun time there. I've never personally run afoul of the celebrated crime in the city, although everyone I know who has actually lived there was robbed more than once.

My heart goes out to the people who've lost everything to Mother Nature, and especially to the people still there, those too poor or stubborn to get out of the way of the greenest of tooth and claw, many of whom may not last the week.

However, I say we should abandon it. When Nature makes a point as unambiguously as She did with New Orleans, it is perhaps best to collectively take step back and allow ourselves to simply be awed by how small our works are in comparison. Too Schopenhauerian for you? Think of Pompeii. The Romans had the good sense to read the writing on the wall.

I'm not a religious person, but I think I could make a good argument that regardless of whether you attribute divine intelligence to it or not, raw Nature -- pure dynamic force -- is unanswerable and truly awesome, and it has taken New Orleans almost as an afterthought, partially spurred on (or at least omni-causally spurred on) by this nation's own destructive environmental policies. I only wish it could have taken Colorado Springs instead, because I fear that the self-righteous bastards are going to claim this as God's punishment of a wicked (and, incidentally, mostly black) city.

The Blackness of New Orleans is another point that is sticking deep in my craw. The media has spent an inordinate amount of attention documenting how those poor souls left in the city -- who are certainly some of the poorest people in the United States -- are "looting" stores.

Point 1: everything in that city is water-logged trash, and no insurance company in the world is going to pick among the, say, sneakers from a Payless Shoe Source that is currently under 8 feet of water to figure out which are salvageable. Hint: nothing is salvageable.

Point 2: In the worst natural disaster to strike this continent within recent memory, America is so fucked up on the race issue that it's still all we can think about. Check these links out: (thanks to Adam Lipscomb)

Caption (emphasis added): A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005. Flood waters continue to rise in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage when it made landfall on Monday.


Caption (emphasis added): Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Black people loot. White people find stuff. Go puke your guts out now.

Point 3: They have no food, no water, most of the clothes are destroyed, and they're battling for survival. The news today mentions stories of armed police called in to stop people from "looting" grocery stores. Need I remind you THAT THEY'RE LIVING IN A GODDAMN SWAMP THAT USED TO BE THE 35TH LARGEST CITY IN THE WHOLE COUNTRY? Christ almighty. Let them take what they fucking need.

Well, whatever you do, give a little money to Red Cross.

Here's a few more pictures that I find awe-inspiring.

From Pascagoula, MS (looks like an outtake from Fitzcarraldo, no?):

Biloxi, MS:

I-10 near Slidell, LA:

Dauphin Island, AL:

Bayou La Batre, AL:

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I can't say this better than the brilliant Leonard Pierce on his LiveJournal:

Hey, writer-types, professional and otherwise!

We’re getting the band back together. That is, the editorial staff of the High Hat (of which I am privileged to be a part) is putting out a new issue. Issue #6, this will be, and if I have anything to say about it, it’ll be the boss jock issue of all time.

The High Hat, and if you don’t know ya betta ax somebody, is the best goddamn cultural studies/criticism ‘zine on the whole fuckin’ world wide web. It’s put out five issues since its inception in 2003, and they’ve been so good that if they were in paper format, you’d pay a hundred bucks for each one of them and be happy to do it please sir may I have another. Well, yes! You may! And at the low low cost of free.

What we need to make the next one even better is your help. If you’re interested in writing for the next issue of the High Hat, drop me a line (highhatmagazine at hotmail dot com) or post in comments – but only if you’re serious. We won’t take everything submitted, and even though we can’t pay you, we demand quality pieces, turned in on time, from people who really care about what they’re writing. From us you’ll get effusive praise, a deft editorial hand, and a well-read, swanky credit for your port-folio; from you we want sharp, insightful, funny (or dead serious) criticism, great prose, the best you got. This is for the love of the game, kids. If you haven’t read the Hat before, take a look, and if the excellent articles we’ve done in the past don’t convince you this is something you wanna be a part of, nothing will.

Deadline for application is Sept. 9th. Deadline for your completed piece is Sept. 30. Projected publication date is mid-October. Here’s what we need:

DETRITUS – the junk drawer. This is where the uncategorizable stuff goes: politics, general culture studies, games, technology, rants and raves.

MARGINALIA – our books section. Book reviews, literary criticism or theory, retrospectives on authors or genres, comics writing, state-of-fiction, whatever you got about the world on the page.

NITRATE -- film and video. Movie criticism, interviews with filmmakers, trends in cinema, video, stage and screen. If it moves, write about it.

POPS & CLICKS – our music section and general raison d’etre. Classical, rock, hip-hop, experimental, jazz, and everything before and after. Criticism, essays, laments, obituaries.

POTLATCH – every issue, we have a special themed section where we talk about one general subject or idea; in the past we’ve done potlatch pieces on Sam Peckinpah, our yearly Top Tens, democracy in popular culture, labor issues, and people who died. This time around, it’s “The Academy of the Underrated” – cultural artifacts, phenomena and trends that our writers think are criminally underappreciated by the critical consensus. Got an idea along these lines? Wanna write a piece about it? Hit us up.

STATIC – television, the drug of the nation, all hail grand pixelator. If it’s on the small screen, we wanna cover it: TV series, minis, foreign television, DVDs, anything. Smart writing wanted.

That’s it! Length is negotiable; should be at least a thousand words, though, and probably fewer than 50,000. Pay is non-negotiable: it will be zero. If you’re interested, send me your pitches in comments or via e-mail and I’ll run them past the other editors and let you know ASAP if you’re in. Thanks to everyone who wants to be part of this, and especially to everyone who already has.

(ETA: We're not just looking for writing! If you've got art, photographs, recordings, or anything else that seems relevant to the High Hat's outlook, by all means, we'd love to consider it. Note that we aren't looking for fiction or poetry, but we do occasionally run comics, games, and the like, as well as our usual essays, criticism, cult-stud and memoirish stuff.)

Monday, August 29, 2005

Jandek at the Scottish Rite Theatre, Austin TX, August 28, 2005.


Two drummers, one of whom was avant-jazz guy Chris Cogburn, and the other of whom looked 17. A young-looking bassist, too. And the man, the legend, the weirdo from all those album covers: Jandek.

Some of you may wonder: does Jandek tune his guitar? After tonight, I can say definitively that the answer is yes. Jandek does, in fact, know when his guitar is out of that god-forsaken tuning he loves so well and actually adjusted his B-string from somewhere south of plong to somewhere in the vacinity of doink.

He played for an hour and a half on the nose. After the last song, he held his guitar briefly, as if considering playing another song, then abruptly took the guitar off, put it in a case, and walked off stage.

Some of you may wonder: is Jandek a tech geek? After tonight, I can say definitively no. At one point, he accidentally hit the pickup configuration switch, changing his tone drastically, which confused him for several seconds before he decided that the new tone was a-ok with him.

This was easily the geekiest rock crowd I've ever seen. Outside, we looked like we were waiting in line for free 20-sided dice. The show was in the Scottish Rite Theatre, and we wondered through several ornate rooms, full of portraits of grumpy old men before reaching the theater. I half-suspected that we were being inducted into a fraudulent age-old conspiracy.

Some of you may wonder: does Jandek play guitar solos? After tonight, I can say definitively maybe, given a loose definition of "solo." Several times, Jandek played little picked leads that seemed as random as his chords. He seemed pleased with himself, and once even broke out into a Jandek-sized smile (i.e. tiny and secret).

What else? With two drummers, Jandek rocked the joint occasionally, stirring up music as loud and aggressive as any free jazz I've witnessed. He mostly watched the 17-yr-old drummer and the bassist, who looked to be in his early 20s, maybe. I suspect that they might be in the youth group in Jandek's apocalyptic cult. Or, as my friend suggested, perhaps they're his wards, like Robin. Jandek does have a rather Batmanish persona.

Chris Cogburn was doing the most interesting things on stage - sometimes getting high squawky noises by turning a cymbal sideways and running it up and down his drums, sometimes doing the avant-jazz standby of the superfast run through all the cymbals, changing drumsticks along the way - but it was hard to take your eyes off of Jandek. He exuded a strange blank menace, never looking at the audience at all, but somehow giving off a vibe somewhere between cult leader and serial killer. His lyrics were surprisingly trite at times, although quite a few of them had the creepy-but-beautiful old Jandek charm.

He occasionally fretted with his thumb. I mean, not just the low E, but all the way across, like Thurston Moore with a drumstick. Oh, I heard someone say that Thurston Moore was there, but I didn't see him (this has turned out to be a mishearing - what my friend said was that Thurston Moore should be there). One of the guys two rows up from me was in Jandek On Corwood, but it wasn't Douglas Wolk or Gary Pig Gold, so I don't know this guy's name.

There was a Jandek VIP section in front of us. In a more perfect world, it would have been filled with people no one had ever seen or heard of before. In this world, it was mostly filled with SXSW honchos.

Some of you may wonder: is an hour and a half of live Jandek exhausting? After tonight, I can say definitively that the answer is an unqualified yes.

Update: Joe Gross has his take on it here. Joe (who had the vantage point of sitting directly to my right) refers to the giant shadow and the introduction that I forgot to mention.

New update! The second drummer was Nick Hennies, who will be 26 in a couple of days. No word on the veracity of completely unsubstantiated rumor (created above and repeated nowhere else!) that he might be a member of Jandek's apocalyptic cult or, possibly, Jandek's young ward. Perhaps because they are stupid rumors!

Book No. 25: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

I'd heard quite a bit about this book over the years, and rightfully so. It's witty as hell, full of surprising twists and turns, and ultimately a mystery in the medieval sense of the word.

In short: Gabriel Syme, a poet who is also a policeman, infiltrates the Central European Council of Anarchists (didn't I mention it's a witty novel?) as Thursday, one of seven leaders code-named by the days of the week. The head of the council is Sunday, an immense man who terrifies the others. One by one, Syme discovers that none of the other men are who they seem to be, and, in the end, chases Sunday straight out of the spy novel of the first 80% of the book into pure allegorical fantasy writing.

Although I believe that Chesterton was on the opposite end of the political spectrum from my own sympathies (which, given the century between us, means squat), The Man Who Was Thursday has an ambiguous moral that appeals to and intrigues me. Smarter men than I have delved into the meanings with (one supposes) more preparation than I have had, so I'm just going to stick with the simple note that I liked it and am glad I've read it. I note that most of the recommendations for this book on the web appear to be from sci-fi and Catholic readers; however, I stand as proof that the book (well, novella, really) also appeals to liberal, highfalutin'-lit-loving humanists.

I watched Human Resources this weekend, which was an extraordinary movie. A young man, the son of a working class French family, has come home for a summer internship at the factory where his father works. His job is to prepare the factory for the 35-hour workweek, but he quickly runs up against a strident union representative. Drawing on a case history from college, he comes up with a survey that he hopes will cut through the rhetoric to get to the best solution, but his plan backfires and he learns by accident that the factory management has decided to use his survey to get rid of some workers, his father included. All of this leads to a great, messy, complicated conflict between him, his father, and the factory.

Mike Leigh wishes he had made this movie, but the truth is that Leigh doesn't have the deft touch to make class conflict into such a personal experience.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Book #24: The Confidence-Man by Herman Melville

I'll lay it out here: Moby-Dick is, without a doubt in my mind, the greatest novel in the English language, and definitely the greatest novel I've ever read. I've used those words for only two other novels: Gravity's Rainbow and Absolam! Absolam!. Well, as much as I love those two books, I love Moby-Dick even more. So it is with some degree of shame that I confess that I've read very little other Melville. Billy Budd, yes. "Bartleby," yes. But The Confidence-Man is the first of Melville's other novels published within his lifetime that I've read.

And The Confidence-Man is quite a novel. More precisely, The Confidence-Man is quite a postmodern novel, one that leaves me unshocked about its negative press in 1857 or the fact that Melville never published another work of prose in his remaining 30-odd years. I mean, it's brilliant, more philosophy than novel, but what could have prepared readers on the verge of the Civil War for a novel with no protagonist, a novel in which every statement is potentially equally truth and lie, a novel that questions the very nature of human existence and asks - no, that's not right, it demands - an immediate embrace of moral, ethical, and cultural relativism? And hell, it's not even a novel, but an extended parable, harboring parables within parables, stripping away not just the passengers' illusions, but the readers', as well, with Nabokovian economy.

So, here's what happens: passengers board the ship Fidéle, a Mississippi passenger ship, which, like Huck and Jim, heads down the Mississippi between slave states and free. In the first chapter, a deaf and mute man writes out Biblical definitions of Charity on a small chalkboard and is soundly rebuked by his fellow passengers. In the second chapter, a crippled black man, known as Black Guinea, begs money, and is claimed an imposter by a fictive Melville, a gruff, unpopular customs agent with a peg-leg like Ahab. The next twenty or so chapters involve conversations between people who we will, for the most part, never see again, in which confidence is discussed, usually couched within conversations about other issues, and once one side grants his trust to the other, the other takes monetary advantage of the first. In the second part of the book, which coincides with the passage of the Fidéle out of the free North and into the nebulous area between free and slave states, three characters dominate the narrative: a herb-doctor, a Missouran wearing animal skins, and, finally, a man described as a cosmopolitan. This is Melville as his most heady. The action is as follows: the herb-doctor attempts to con the Missouran, who refuses, only to be bilked out of money by the next man he meets, an agent of the Philosophical Inquiry Office, who claims to be able to bring out the goodness in man. Realizing that he has been conned, the Missouran shouts down the cosmopolitan, a man who claims to believe the best of everyone. The cosmopolitan, Frank, then has a long conversation with con-artist Charlie Noble (whose name, a nautical term, is as made-up as Mark Twain's), then meets Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, with whom he re-enacts part of his conversation with Noble, but to different ends. Frank then wonders down to talk with the ship barber, whom he either cons a free shave or he doesn't, which the invisible narrator leaps in to specifically leave ambiguous. Frank then wanders down to the sleeping quarters, where he has a conversation with an old man and a kid selling bogus goods. None of this captures the greatness of these conversations, which meander here and there and are as funny as Melville ever was, ultimately implying that all existence, all experience of the Other, all believe in oneself, is basically a con job. We are all Confidence Men.

Yeah, this is the good stuff, by turns funny and profound as hell.

I looked for decent essays on the web to cite here, but haven't found any within a few pages of Googling, so you're on your own. Also, considering that August is coming to a close and I'm not yet halfway through my stated goal of 50 books for 2005, I'm starting to doubt I'll make it. If that happens, god help us all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Scroll down to the entry entitled “John Coltrane in Rudy Van Gelder's Studio".

I'm... speechless. Someone needs to release this immediately.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Update: new links on the right.

* Monster on a Rope, replacing Melpster's lamented ex-blog.
* Too Much Information
* University of Alabama Football Report, which is strange and beautiful, neither of which adjectives can generally be applied to the U of AL's program.
* A handful of TX political blogs which I read near-daily.

Almost finished reading Melville's The Confidence Man and I have a couple of other books waiting for me at the library.

Upcoming live shows that I'm excited about:

* Jandek on August 28
* Wilco at Stubb's on Sept 24
* Gang of Four at La Zona Rosa (although I hear it's probably going to relocate to Emo's) on Oct 12

Monday, August 08, 2005

For your reading pleasure, here's an excerpt from Jon Ronson's book, as discussed in the previous post below.

Book # 23: The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson

Consider the archetypical polite Briton. Think of how inoffensive he is, how mild and easy-going a presence he has. Now consider this: Jon Ronson must be so extraordinarily polite and personable that he makes this archetypical polite Briton look like Idi Amin. How else could he have gotten these sources to talk so candidly about these subjects?

The sources in TMWSAG are, for the most part, ex-military brass, men used to power and the manipulation of truth. And the subjects are, well, as fantastic as the amalgam of conspiracy theories that fuel Robert Anton Wilson novels. Having these men admit to these beliefs is incredible, almost unbelievable; the consequences Ronson uncovers are stunningly plausable and thoroughly chilling.

Let's start with the title, Ronson's jumping-off point. Apparently, military intelligence in the late 70s/early 80s decided that they needed super-soldiers, Warrior Monks who could walk through walls and kill living creatures by force of will. The living creatures they used in their experiments were goats, which, unlike dogs, the military believes to be unbondable animals. People don't make friends with goats.

Ronson uncovers the men who instigated these trials, the man who developed the philosophy behind these ideas, the man who claims to have succeeded in killing a goat by force of will, and some of the other ideas that relate to or grew out of the Warrior Monk ideal as envisioned in the 70s, including the use of psychic spies (which, tangentially, led to the Heaven's Gate mass suicides), and, most shockingly, the development of psychological torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. It's the latter part where evil, in all its banality, truly rears its ugly head. Most of the stories in the book left me puzzled at the motives of the military in developing these surreal ideas. When we get to the current practices of the military, we get to the stuff of nightmares.

Ronson has casually dropped throughout the book little tidbits about the military's return to the Warrior Monk ideas - his interviewees are constantly allowing that they've been in contact with the military recently and will perhaps be working closely with PSYOPS (the psychological operations) or some similar division. Ronson even manages a meeting with some of the current PSYOPS operatives and believes at first that he learned nothing from this meeting. It's not until later that the truth about what they've told him finally sinks in: the military is blatantly hiding its cruelest and most unusual punishments under the guise of slanted stories. The army is blaring Barney The Dinosaur at prisoners? Ha, ha, ha. That's not so bad. A man released from Guantánamo reports that they played an all-female Fleetwood Mac cover band to him? Weird, but that's hardly torture. Abu Ghraib? Those soldiers were out of control.

Well, no, on all counts. Ronson hunts down the patent for a subliminal sound method that has been bought and classified by the military. He even manages to raise a person on the phone at the number associated with the subliminal sound company and has a conversation so bizarre that it's hard to even describe. Ronson finds person after person who tell him that the soldiers at Abu Ghraib were under orders to take those harrowing pictures, that there was a method to that madness.

It's that unquestioned methodical destruction of human beings that I find so unsettling. Ronson has drawn a clear picture of insanity run rampant in the halls of power in the U.S. What madness lies behind Donald Rumsfeld's eyes? What sort of people are we to allow this sort of evil to have its way in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay? If this book were fiction, these stories would be considered Moliere-level satire. As is, they are true crime and horror stories addressing unpunished acts of unspeakable psychological violence. Recommended for anyone who gives a shit about the world we live in.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Continuing my descent into publishing lists instead of my usual half-baked Peggy Hill-ish musings, here's 50 books I'd carry with me to the proverbial desert island (you know the one, with the monkey butlers and coconut-powered electricity?).

A Death In the Family (Agee)
A Feast Of Snakes (Crews)
A Theory of Justice (Rawls)
Absolam! Absolam! (Faulkner)
As I Lay Dying (Faulkner)
Being and Nothingness (Sartre)
Being And Time (Heidegger)
Bleak House (Dickens)
Blood Meridian (McCarthy)
Collected Poems (James Wright)
Collected Writings (Paine)
Critical Path (Buckminster Fuller)
Cryptonomicon (Stephenson)
Democracy and Education (Dewey)
Gravity's Rainbow (Pynchon)
Gulliver's Travels (Swift)
Heart of Darkness (Conrad)
I And Thou (Buber)
If On A Winter's Night A Traveler (Calvino)
Invisible Man (Ellison)
Labyrinths (Borges)
Leaves of Grass (Whitman)
Life On the Mississippi (Mark Twain)
Malloy, Malone Dies, & The Unnameable (Beckett)
Moby Dick (Melville)
My Bondage and My Freedom (Douglass)
On Being Blue (Gass)
Pale Fire (Nabokov)
Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (Panofsky)
The Affluent Society (Galbraith)
The American Language (Mencken)
The Big Sleep (Chandler)
The Chuang Tzu (Burton, trans.)
The Crying of Lot 49 (Pynchon)
The Devil's Larder (Crace)
The Dream Songs (Berryman)
The Golden Bough (Frazer)
The Idiot (Dostoevsky)
The Making of the English Working Class (Thompson)
The Man In the High Castle (Dick)
The Moviegoer (Percy)
The Plague (Camus)
The Populist Moment (Goodwyn)
The Strange Career of Jim Crow (Woodward)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Hurston)
Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (Wittgenstein)
Ulysses (Joyce)
Watchmen (Moore)
Ways of Seeing (Berger)
Wise Blood (O'Connor)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

And 100 desert island discs, although it pains me to think of what I left off. In fact, I should probably scrap this list and start over. But that would take a lot of time.

Animal Collective - Sung Tongs - 2004
Beach Boys - Pet Sounds - 1966
Beach Boys - Sunflower / Surf's Up - 1971
Beatles - Revolver - 1966
Big Star - #1 Record/Radio City - 1972/1974
Big Star - Third-Sister Lovers - 1975
Black Sabbath - Paranoid - 1971
Dock Boggs - Country Blues: Complete Early Recordings - 1997
Richard Buckner - Devotion & Doubt - 1997
Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady - 1979
John Cage - Indeterminacy - 1959
Calexico - Hot Rail - 1998
Camper Van Beethoven - Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart - 1988
Can - Ege Bamyasi - 1972
Can - Future Days - 1973
Cardinal - Cardinal - 1994
Ray Charles - Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music - 1963
Gene Clark - White Light - 1972
Clash - London Calling - 1979
Jimmy Cliff - The Harder They Come - 1972
Ornette Coleman - The Shape Of Jazz To Come - 1959
John Coltrane - Live At Birdland - 1963
John Coltrane - A Love Supreme - 1964
Congos - Heart of the Congos - 1977
Richard Davies - Barbarians - 2000
Miles Davis - In A Silent Way - 1969
Miles Davis - Tribute to Jack Johnson - 1970
Nick Drake - Pink Moon - 1972
Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline - 1969
The Fall - Hex Enduction Hour - 1982
The Feelies - The Good Earth - 1986
Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat - 2004
Funkadelic - Maggot Brain - 1971
Serge Gainsbourg - Histoire De Melody Nelson - 1971
Galaxie 500 - On Fire - 1989
Gang Of Four - Entertainment! & Yellow EP - 1979
Geraldine Fibbers - Lost Somewhere Between the Earth & My Home - 1995
Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express - 1986
Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane- 1988
Guided By Voices - Alien Lanes - 1995
Isaac Hayes - Hot Buttered Soul - 1969
Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra - Fairy Tales & Fantasies: The Best of Lee and Nancy - 1989
Hüsker Dü - New Day Rising - 1985
George Jones - The Essential George Jones: The Spirit Of Country - 2001
Kinks - The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society - 1968
Peter Laughner - Take The Guitar Player For A Ride - 1995
Louvin Brothers - When I Stop Dreaming: Best Of - 1995
Love - Forever Changes - 1969
Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs Vol. 1 - 1999
Meat Puppets - II - 1984
Mekons - Original Sin - 1985
Mekons - Rock N' Roll - 1989
Charles Mingus - The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady - 1963
Minutemen - Double Nickels on the Dime - 1984
Mission of Burma - Signals, Calls And Marches - 1981
Mission of Burma - Vs. - 1982
Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers - 1976
Thelonious Monk - Thelonious Monk Trio - 1952
Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners - 1957
Neu! - Neu! - 1972
Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea - 1998
Os Mutantes - Os Mutantes - 1968
Gram Parsons - G.P. / Grievous Angel - 1973
Pavement - Crooked Rain Crooked Rain - 2004
Pere Ubu - The Modern Dance - 1978
Pixies - Surfer Rosa - 1988
Ramones - Rocket To Russia (expanded) - 1977
Replacements - Let It Be - 1984
Charlie Rich - Feel Like Going Home: The Essential Charlie Rich - 1997
Richard Hell and the Voidoids - Blank Generation - 1977
Roky Erickson - I Have Always Been Here Before: The Anthology - 2005
Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street - 1972
Slits - Cut - 1979
Sonic Youth - Daydream Nation - 1988
Spoon - Girls Can Tell - 2000
Stereolab - Transient Random-Noise Bursts With Announcements - 1993
Stooges - Fun House (expanded) - 1970
Television - Marquee Moon (expanded) - 1977
Richard and Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight - 1974
Richard and Linda Thompson - Shoot Out The Lights - 1982
Richard Thompson - Rumor and Sigh - 1991
Townes Van Zandt - High, Low, and In Between/The Late Great Townes Van Zandt - 1972
Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat - 1967
Velvet Underground - Loaded - 1970
Velvet Underground - Quine Tapes Disc Three - 1969
Tom Waits - Rain Dogs - 1985
Scott Walker - Scott 4 - 1969
Speedy West & Bryant, Jimmy - Stratosphere Boogie: The Flaming Guitars of - 1995
The Who - Sell Out - 1967
The Who - Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy - 1971
Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - 2002
Wilco - A Ghost is Born - 2004
Hank Williams - 24 of Hank Williams' Greatest Hits - 1984
Bob Wills - The Essential Bob Wills 1935-1947 - 1992
Wire - Pink Flag - 1977
Wire - Chairs Missing - 1978
Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One - 1997
Neil Young - Rust Never Sleeps - 1979
Neil Young - Dead Man - 1996
Zombies - Odessey & Oracle - 1968

Update (9/30)!
The original rule (to the extent that it existed) was one disc, one slot, so I generally went with one disc from multi-disc compilations. But that rule annoyed me, so I have scrapped it in favor of No Compilations With More Than Two Discs And Keep Those To A Minimum. Here's what's different:

+ Congos - Heart of the Congos - 1977
+ Funkadelic - Maggot Brain - 1971
+ Thelonious Monk - Thelonious Monk Trio - 1952
+ Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners - 1957
+ Os Mutantes - Os Mutantes - 1968
+ Townes Van Zandt - High, Low, and In Between/The Late Great Townes Van Zandt - 1972
+ Hank Williams - 40 Greatest Hits - 1978

- Emerson String Quartet - Bartók: 6 String Quartets, Disc One (captures Quartets 1, 3, and 5) - 1988
- James Brown - Star Time Disc Three - 1991
- Flying Burrito Brothers - Hot Burritos! - The Flying Burrito Brothers Anthology 1969-1972 Disc One (captures the first two FBB albums) - 2000
- Thelonious Monk - Monk's Dream - 1962
- Os Mutantes - Best Of Os Mutantes -- Everything Is Possible! - 1999
- Lee 'Scratch' Perry - Arkology Disc Two - 1997
- Hank Williams - The Original Singles Collection...Plus, Disc Two - 1992

It's a list! In this case, my top-rated 100 movies, according to my Netflix ratings (with a couple of non-Netflix movies thrown in for fun and accuracy). Consider it definitive proof that I'm the middlingest of the middlebrows.

8 ½ (Fellini, 1963)
A Man Escaped (Bresson, 1957)
Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)
Band of Outsiders (Godard, 1964)
The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, 1965)
Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004)
The Big Lebowski (Coen, 1998)
The Big Sleep (Hawks, 1946)
The Birds (Hitchcock, 1963)
Blue Velvet (Lynch, 1986)
Breathless (Godard, 1960)
Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia (Peckinpah, 1974)
Casablanca (Curtiz, 1942)
Chinatown (Polanski, 1974)
Citizen Kane (Welles, 1941)
The Day The Earth Stood Still (Wise, 1951)
Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995)
Deliverance (Boorman, 1972)
Double Indemnity (Wilder, 1944)
Duck Soup (McCarey, 1933)
The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980)
End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (Fields, 2004)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn (Raimi, 1987)
F For Fake (Welles, 1976)
The General (Keaton, 1927)
Gimme Shelter (Maysles, 1970)
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (Jarmusch, 2000)
The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974)
The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Leone, 1966)
Goodfellas (Scorcese, 1990)
Gosford Park (Altman, 2001)
The Grand Illusion (Renoir, 1938)
A Hard Day’s Night (Lester, 1964)
High and Low (Kurosawa, 1963)
His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940)
Human Resources (Cantet, 1999)
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (Jones, 2002)
The Incredibles (Bird, 2004)
The Iron Giant (Bird, 1999)
Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997)
The Jerk (Reiner, 1979)
Junior Bonner (Peckinpah, 1972)
Kill Bill Vol I & II (Tarantino, 2003-04)
La Jetee (Marker, 1962)
L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934)
L'Avventura (Antonioni, 1960)
The Lady Eve (Sturges, 1941)
The Last Wave (Weir, 1977)
The Long Goodbye (Altman, 1973)
The Lords of the Rings Expanded Editions (Jackson, 2001-03)
M (Lang, 1931)
The Maltese Falcon (Huston, 1941)
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Ford, 1962)
The Man Who Would Be King (Huston, 1975)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Weir, 2003)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)
Metropolis (Lang, 1927)
Miller's Crossing (Coen, 1990)
My Neighbor Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988)
Night And Fog (Resnais, 1955)
Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)
Nosferatu (Murnau, 1929)
On the Waterfront (Kazan, 1954)
Once Upon A Time In the West (Leone, 1968)
Pennies From Heaven (Ross, 1981)
The Philadelphia Story (Cukor, 1940)
Princess Mononoke (Miyazaki, 1997)
Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielburg, 1981)
Raising Arizona (Coen, 1987)
Ran (Kurosawa, 1985)
Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)
Ride The High Country (Peckinpah, 1962)
Rio Bravo (Hawks, 1959)
The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson, 2001)
The Rules of the Game (Renoir, 1939)
Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)
The Searchers (Ford, 1956)
The Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, 1954)
Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972)
Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2002)
Stagecoach (Ford, 1939)
The Straight Story (Lynch, 1999)
Strangers On A Train (Hitchcock, 1951)
Straw Dogs (Peckinpah, 1971)
Sullivan's Travels (Sturges, 1942)
Sunset Boulevard (Wilder, 1950)
Taxi Driver (Scorcese, 1976)
The Thin Man (Van Dyke, 1934)
The Third Man (Reed, 1949)
Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948)
Two-Lane Blacktop (Hellman, 1971)
Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)
When We Were Kings (Gast, 1996)
The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)
Yojimbo (Kurosawa, 1961)
Young Frankenstein (Brooks, 1974)

List Maintenance Update (9/30)!
I'm adding a link to these lists, so I want to get 'em accurate and all.

Here's what's different from the original list:
+ A Man Escaped (Bresson, 1957)
+ The Empire Strikes Back (Kershner, 1980)
+ Human Resources (Cantet, 1999)
+ L'Atalante (Vigo, 1934)
+ The Last Wave (Weir, 1977)
+ Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Weir, 2003)

Combined: Kill Bill Vol I & II
Combined and clarified: Lord of the Rings Expanded Editions

- All About Eve (Mankiewicz, 1950)
- Charade (Donen, 1963)
- Key Largo (Huston, 1948)
- The Palm Beach Story (Sturges, 1942)
- Star Wars (Lucas, 1977)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Book No. 22: Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock & Roll by Nick Tosches

I read two Tosches books ten years ago - Hellfire, about Jerry Lee Lewis, and Dino, about Dean Martin. Both were freakin' brilliant. Then I read a fiction book, Cut Numbers, that was awful. I haven't read any Tosches since, but I went to the library to get Where Dead Voices Gather recently. They didn't have it, so I got this one instead.

It's pretty clearly Tosches' first book. The arguments don't hang together so much as they sit next to each other, patiently waiting for the former to peter out. I mean, as a collection of facts and anecdotes, it's interesting, but as a narrative or position paper, it's, well, a collection of facts and anecdotes.

I'm still interested in WDVG, and I've been thinking a bit about re-reading Hellfire and Dino, so I'm not giving up on Mr. Tosches. Country inspired me to play my Emmett Miller disc for the first time in a few years, which is never a bad thing (although the cover picture of Miller in blackface is embarrassing enough that I never, ever let that disc leave the house). Miller very clearly influenced Jimmy Rodgers, Bob Wills, and Hank Williams, and you can hear what exactly each artist took from his style - the smooth delivery interrupted by occasional feral yowls and the seamless blend of country, jazz, and blues. Great stuff, and I'm sure that Tosches is directly responsible for Miller's legacy remaining unforgotten. Hopefully, WDVG, which deals with similar subject matter, will far surpass this book.

Richard Posner always seemed like a misinformed dick when I had to read his effluvia in grad school. I'm happy that Jack Shafer (who I don't always agree with) has taken his cruddy article in Sunday's NY Times Review of Book to task.

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