Saturday, May 22, 2010

Funeral for a Friend

Yeah, that's right. Just like the title says, you're going to listen to a little Elton John (only a little--you can take it) and you're going to like it. Or at least keep quiet for the few short seconds it takes to play.

I guess I could have just linked to the entire Big Chill soundtrack, but that feels even more cliqued.

So in no particular order, rhyme, or reason, here are a few other things to hear. Because, sometimes, things have no rhyme or reason.

Not entirely spot on, but it keeps coming into my head, perhaps because I saw the video as part of a public theatrical presentation of a bunch of videos and earlier Athens, GA Inside Out when it came out umpteen years ago:

Because said friend has a flair for the theatrical:

Again, due to theatrics and also locale:

And, finally, because I want it at my own funeral, and I am just talking to myself here, anyway:

"O gracious light.... Now that we come to the setting of the sun..."

Not that I'm all weepy here. In fact, somewhat alarmingly far from it. I think I've shed maybe 2 tears. I don't know if it's just that I'm an unfeeling bitch/automaton. Or that I'm in shock that somebody I knew could actually, essentially systematically, purposefully, and somewhat slowly kill themselves. Or that, as the family has said (and this is a fairly close, loving family--so can't suggest they are automatons) that they already said their goodbyes more than 6 months ago and now it's more a relief and final acts to be played out--and that their lack of widespread weeping is interfering with my own grief/empathy triggers (hell, I cry along to the TV all the time).

Or other reasons. Who knows.

It's made me run; it's made me write; it's made me play music; it's made me cover myself in dirt and dog hair and cat pee (helping clean the house). But it hasn't made me cry (I can't cry anymore??? oh, geez, and now I've got Frank Zappa in my head, too).

And so while ironically sipping a drink, I compose this requiem--disjointed and (relatively) dry.


(ok, ps

And I looked and behold, a pale horse
And his name that sat on him was Death.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

You Win, Surprise Truck

Well, that didn't take long. The Surprise Truck claimed its victim/target and now others (not me--I'm nearly just a spectator; a witness however blind to this hit and run) are left to clean up the carnage.

Some day I'll do a blog on Misappropriated Songs, like the Republicans with Born in the USA and anyone who still thinks Every Breath You Take is a love song.

And so with this one. Pay attention to the lyrics, people. This is not a song for Grandma in heaven*. Not unless Grandma was a very, very unhappy woman.

But it is appropriate here. For the Surprise Truck. For everybody who has ever been in a stark, cold hotel room and knows the thoughts that pass through your head and why it's dangerous to dwell on them.

Angel. Sara McLachlan.

There's always some reason to feel not good enough
And it's hard at the end of the day....
It don't make no difference; escape it one last time.
It's easier to believe in this sweet madness--
oh, this glorious sadness [that brought you to your knees].

* Yeah, I'm aware of the "made for movie" aspect of the song.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Pledge of Allegiance

It's membership time at my local public radio station. A good time to tune away with most stations, but a reminder to me to give props and dig into the local music angle I promised.

Said station is The Current, an interesting little experiment I was highly cynical of when I first heard about it. Minnesota Public Radio was going to launch a contemporary music station? I knew what they were looking for was replacement* members for the news and classical music station members dying of old age (exaggeration but fundamentally true, demographically). The Current was to be the harmless joint given to Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard that would eventually leading to the full-blown crack addiction that is the Leadership Circle Pledge Level.

And, of course, I'm still convinced I'm right on that point, but a funny thing happened on the way to the membership drive: Minnesota Public Radio created a kickass radio station.

Not that they didn't have good, raw working material. If you know music, you know Minnesota has always had a pretty vibrant music scene, from the grunge days of TwinTone Records to the pranciness of His Purpleness, over to the jam of Flyte Tyme Productions, and now the rap, rattle, and strum of DoomTree and a host of other individual and collective artists. There are only so many jobs at restaurants these musicians--and the thousands of other musician wannabees--can have. Some of them have got to be DJs.

To the credit of the Minnesota Public Radio Powers-That-Be, they started with a station philosophy that embraced the eclectic, the independent (including the playlists and the DJs--no, let's not hang them), and the local. And after five years now, they haven't yet managed to f~ck it up.

And I mention this all now, because The Current is doing several great local-artist centered activities right at the moment:
  1. All day May 15, 2010, is going to be nothing but MN music.

  2. They are streaming all month long the entire album of local artist Peter Wolf Crier. (Don't have 40 minutes or so, just listen to the first song, Crutch & Cane.

On an ongoing basis,

  1. They also have great in-studio performances (including nonlocal artists) that you can catch on YouTube. Check out Dessa and The Chacone--

    with backing vocals by Jeremy Messersmith, who had his own in-studio performance recently and whose entire album you can also stream.

  2. You can stream The Current from anywhere, anytime.

I've lived in Chicago and Portland, in addition to Minnesota. I've streamed WFUV in New York and twisted the dial both left and right in every major city I've ever been to (about 50 so far). While I will always give a shout out to central Minnesota's little KVSC ("Less Power Than a Lightbulb--and Proud of It")**, I don't think I've found any station (IMHO) so consistently entertaining as The Current.

So, no need to Panic on the streets of Minnesota (or wherever you are): Just tune in The Current, turn on, and pledge allegiance.

* Yes, at some point, of course I'll get around to talking about The Replacements.
** You can start humming Robyn Hitchcock's Man with the Lightbulb Head, if you must.

Stephen W. Hawking IS the Most Interesting Man in the World

Forget the Double X guy with his Triple X girlfriends, Stephen Hawking is the most interesting man in the world.

I mean, think about this ladies: The guy can make things happen just by wiggling his eyebrows. He lays the mysteries of the universe open at your feet. He knows all about the Big Bang and Black Holes.

Cue Pink Floyd's—although (blasphemy) I like Camper Van Beethoven's cover better—of Intersteller OverDrive.*

But enough with the double entendre, because I’m dead serious. This guy ROCKS. He really DOES lay out the mysteries of the universe for you. I remember years ago reading A Brief History of the Time and thinking, “Whoa, did he really just make me understand that?”

What brings on this burst of amore (sorry, no Dean Martin link)? Well, if you watch the Discovery channel (and surely you watch the Discovery channel) my man Stephen is on with a program called Into the Universe. (Ok, you know it's coming: Cue the Beatles. God, I love that song.)

Anyway, Stephen (my man) is at it again (he and a few buddies), making my wee little brain absorb concepts that are surely beyond its capacity.

He also reminds me what a whiney little brat I am.

How so? Well, since you watch Discovery, you know that other program, Deadliest Catch. The captains on that show frequently mention that often the big, burly tough guys last about 5 minutes on a crab boat before they turn into whiny little girls (hey, I resent/resemble that remark!)

Because it's not about physicality, it's about mental toughness. Well, with all due respect to all the Catch crews, my man Stephen can whoop your a~~ when it comes to mental toughness. He doesn't endure, he doesn't make due, he excels against all odds.

Which Peter Himmelman (LOCAL MN MUSICIAN ALERT**) and I both know shows up our whiny little a~~es—as Peter wrote in a song about a visit to a female fan, who was a quadriplegic (and, more to the point, a social activist):

I was speaking to you with my voice
You were speaking to me by choosing letters with your eyebrow
You didn't have no choice
And yet you had an attitude like that's just the way that it goes now
From the moment I saw our face
I knew all my so-called troubles were nothing
You put me in my place
I knew right then I better start living for something
Susan, I owe you an apology
For all the days I just let slide right through my hands
You are the woman with the strength of 10,000 men
(and the words come ticking out; and the words bring us together
and the words come ticking out; and the words must keep you sane)

(Peter Himmelman, Woman with the Strength of 10,000 Men)

And so, humbly, I submit: Stephen W. Hawking is the most interesting man in the world.

And so Stephen, If You're Wondering If I Want You To explain the mysteries of the universe to me, I say, yes, yes, YES!

* I know, I know--that's two references to the same band in only two blogs, but One Thing Leads to Another.
** Yes, he doesn't live here anymore, but he knows he's Minnesotan. Oy vey, ubetcha!

Monday, May 10, 2010

It's the Surprise Blog!

Why start a blog?

Well, as the Avett Brothers say: “Ain't it like most people (I'm no different), we love to talk on things we don’t know about.” (Ten Thousand Words)

And thus, as you see, the name of this blog and what it will primarily talk about.

Why start a blog now?

Well, I won’t bore you with details (or myself, since I’m essentially talking to myself here), but let’s just say I’ve encountered a Surprise Truck (Camper Van Beethoven aka Cracker, lyrics edited):

Well, some people say
That it's the ice cream truck
But it's not
No, it's not
It's not the magic bus
And it's not one of those family buses
And it's not the sheriff's truck
And it's not the cement truck
No, it's the surprise truck
Surprise truck
It's the surprise truck

and although I’m not the one who got run down (I am talking metaphorically, here), it was a bit of shock. And music has always been how I’ve processed what I’m feeling.

As a poor recent travel companion (a gal who didn’t really know me all that well when we started our shared pilgrimage) can attest, absolutely everything can remind me of a song, and it will likely burst out of me unexpectedly. For instance I may not even know I’m sad until I suddenly find myself singing the last few lines of Brides of Jesus by Little Feat:

[It brings] you so much sorrow
That you may be entertaining angels unawares

(specifically, the version sung by Syd Straw for former David Letterman drummer Anton Fier’s supergroup, The Golden Palominos).

An annoying habit, but not unique to me. So, as another song notes: 3 or more of us, and it’s an organization; 50 or more and it’s a movement (Alice’s Restaurant, Arlo Guthrie). Well, welcome to the first movement of Ten Thousand Words.

What this is NOT:

  1. An attempt to be a professional music blog. I’m not a professional critic, I’m a fan of music, and not anywhere near the most informed one you’ll ever come across.

  2. Thorough analysis on any band, musical genre, or song “meaning,” providing accurate and complete background info on any said subject. Again, I’m not a professional, I’m a fan.

  3. Fair and balanced. Hello, I’m a fan.

What this will ATTEMPT to be:

  • Thematic or event-matic (well, it's a word now)—because I like to pretend I’m organized, and it gives me something to hang a hat on—a home base to start from (Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head, Elvis Costello).
  • Local—by no means exclusively but with attempts to bring to light local Minnesota musicians others may not have heard of (see bullet points #1-3 above).
  • Legal – I want to include clips—they’ll appear just as hypertext links—but they’ll be fair use one way or another. I’m a fan. I support music. I buy music, and you can, too!
  • About music I love, as I reflect on it and describe it in my own head—see points #1-3 in “not” section above. I’ll write like a fan, who is thinking “Oh, you’ve got to hear this.”
  • Which is to say I will undoubtedly from time-to-time (if not all the time) sound stupid, uninformed, of dubious musical taste, pretentious, obnoxious, ridiculous, and a host of other ‘ous-es’ that may occur to you. The good news for you is you don’t have to read this if you don’t like it or don’t want to—and I Can’t Make You Love Me, if you don’t. (See what I mean?) Don’t waste your time flaming me; I’m sure you’ve got better things to do.
On the other hand, if you do stumble upon this and have a comment you want to make, or have a useful, informative, and gently phrased correction—that would be great. And if you have another music suggestion you want to add to a particular blog via comment—that would be terrific. Most of my biggest music loves/finds have come at the recommendation of others. Seven of my favorite of the ten thousand words out there are “Oh, you’ve got to hear this!”

So, now that I’m done talking to myself about talking to myself about music, next time I’ll start talking to myself about music.

A final note on my use of a copyright or watermark on images and video of mine in these posts: That is in regards to commercial or uncredited use of those materials by people other than the artists themselves. If any artist sees media featuring themselves, they are free to use it for any reason, (and I can provide an unmarked version, if they ask). Any artist that feels the use of any material here is not promotional and infringes on their rights: Let me know, I'll take it down. I'm writing about you or showing information about you because I like what you do and want you to eat, have a roof over your head, medical, dental, retirement, etc. I don't want to steal your image or your creative work, I want more people to buy it.