Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tucker Booth attacked metaphorically!

Aight then, it's after midnight and I know I'm not going to be waking up in time for some basketball tomorrow, so I'm fixing to lay into a good blog before bed. Since maestromie, my homie Tucker never blogs, I've gotta relay the sweet sweet tidings delivered at the Venice Cafe recently, just west of the brewery in St. Louis. (The brewery thing is metaphorically instrumental in here.)

Tucker's life is an ongoing escapade of one pretty caper after another, and he recently had his guitar stolen. This is more than a bummer, as he makes his money with his guitar on the streets of St. Louis. So I lent him my guitar for the show, and we planned to duet on a couple rock songs he wrote at 16 years old. This sounded good, as I hadn't played the Venice since 2000, before I emigrated from the motherland.

Understand now that conflict dogs Tucker like scandal on republican. (e.g.) Everywhere he goes, people love him or swing at him. In this way, he's a pretty good barometer for personal issues. If people have some deep-seated crap they can't resolve, they may find Tucker a pretty good conduit for grounding them. Not in a "let's discuss" kind of way, but in a "when jealousy attacks" kind of way.

The night was mellow enough to start. Right off the bat, Tucker drops his own "Having Fun with Poetry," a song that dares the bar crowd to question his hip-hop sincerity. He also panders, dropping a few covers to assuage the typical bar distaste for anything "different". And then he taunts the red-staters, assuring them that all is right with our Lord and Saviour George W. Bush. In usual fashion, one fan polarizes with Tucker, applauds endlessly after every song and buys a copy of the album. Another begs to know if his parents really named him Tucker Booth. He shows her his driver's license.

Now at the other pole;

I'm up with Tuck to sing I Love You, a pop confection he wrote with his high school band, Sweetland. As we're bantering it up before the song, dude with the backwards cap says, "How much for a cd?" Not bad; two cd sales from a crowd of 15 or so. Tucker says, "Ten or best offer." So the dude ponies up eight bucks and gets his cd.

Good feelings, record sales, party times, in front of everybody, the dude breaks the album in half and goes back to the bar.

This was a classic moment. There aren't too many interpretations of what the guy intended to communicate, but the whole place went quiet to figure it out anyway. And Tucker says, "What do you know, it took a year to create and two seconds for a douchebag to break it in half."

Backwards hat mumbles something, and Tucker says, "You didn't even pay the full ten bucks!"

"You said 'or best offer,'" the dude says.

"Well here's my best offer," Tucker says and flips him the bird. We dedicate the song, "I Love You", to him. After the song, the guy following our set tries to cut our mic. What the hell is going on here? The guy says he thought we were going to have words with the activist at the bar.

Yes, cut our mic, we're going to start a bar fight.

After one more song, our followup decides he's ready to take the stage and proceeds with some faithful renditions of Dave Matthews and Foo Fighters. Great, now we have testosterone at the bar and top 40 at the mic, and strangely enough, they're totally there for each other. Strange coalition. We later learned that the guy who booked the show had intended Tucker to be the headliner.

Oh well. The live art showcase with brothers Jim Mahfood and DJ Mahf was commencing at the Red Sea and we hit that up. It definitely saved the night.

Nietzsche once said there was "too much beer in the German intellect." The same might be said about the St. Louis economy, or the American political discourse, or whatever; I don't wanna discourse about aggression towards "different" in the Midwest. I'll leave that to you. But man, talk about a microcosm of America.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Je suis l'antifolk!!

If you haven't lived on the Lower East Side of New York City, or some places in London, there's a good chance you've never heard of antifolk. I'm not going to try to define it here, but there's a decade-old debate that surfaced recently on the Olive Juice Messageboard when a French filmmaker invited people to submit stuff for a documentary on antifolk. I had written the following list to be published last year in Anti-Up, an antifolk magazine, but as happens to many scene 'zines, the one-man publishing firm got busy and hasn't been heard from recently. I already posted this over on the OJ Messageboard, but it can't hurt to enlighten the Myspace masses as well. Heathen though you may be.

Here are eight perfect albums to help define the undefinable antifolk. To preface, let's address the elements of album perfection. Good records qua albums are rare. A collection of songs is one thing, a concept album is another, but we’re talking about the perfect album — that list of songs, tied to each other in soul, which complete an integral phonic experience from start to finish. Perfect albums aren’t a bunch of hits tacked together. Nor does a perfect album have that song you always skip. Perfect albums take you from one place to another in creative succession until the record ends and you say, Damn…

I’ve got to do that again.

These criteria winnow the field to selections like Abbey Road, Led Zeppelin IV, Thriller (admit it), Nevermind, OK Computer, and others that carry the same confluence of time, place, and perfection. But these aren’t antifolk albums. Perfect antifolk albums surface even less frequently than perfect mass-market releases for a number of reasons: in a niche genre like this, fewer artists exist to attempt an antifolk masterpiece; the genre prides itself on taking risks and experimenting heavily, which can come off as sublime or disposable; because antifolk is underground by nature, some of the best work around never gets heard. Moreover, antifolk artists aren’t label-paid cash cows who have the luxury of composing all day. Most write to escape the day jobs they take to subsist as artists. This means even some of the finest antifolk composers haven’t yet recorded their piece de triomphe.

Finally, there’s the eternal question, What is antifolk? In defining a genre, you better understand the genre. Obviously the antifolk scene sports some styles that don’t really fit the bill, but are included as part of the community. In considering these albums, though, we’re talking about the essence of antifolk:

• Raw, lo-fi style, substance, attitude, technique
• Punk and folk-blues roots, amplified or acoustic
• Songwriting with a soul of protest or revolt

These elements best define antifolk, even if you find them in artists from other genres. This is what makes antifolk so crucial. You can look at Kurt Cobain covering Leadbelly’s “Black Girl” and say: that’s antifolk. Or Dave Van Ronk, who fingerpicked a Guild and sang, “All the whores are gonna drop their drawers and say, there goes the man who mugged Santa Claus…” — antifolk. Or even Fiona Apple, when she sings, “Hunger hurts, but starving works when it costs too much to love…” — antifolk.

Antifolk is a streak that runs deep in some artists. And on these eight albums, in chronological order, it runs deepest.

Bob Dylan: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, 1963
The antifolk template. Dylan wrote 11 of 13 songs on this album, compared to two of 13 on his first release a year earlier. From angry protest on "Masters of War" to dead-pan humor on "I Shall Be Free" and fauvist word-paintings on "A Hard Rain's A-gonna Fall", Dylan cast the antifolk rock-star mold with Freewheelin’. He even predicts four decades of hipsters downing pop music in "Talking World War III Blues" when he sings, "Turned on my record player... it was Rockaday Johnny singing, 'Tell your ma, tell you pa, our love's a-gonna grow, hoo-ah, hoo-ah." The album is endlessly quotable and spawned covers that still pay the man well. He didn’t have the honey-tongued sweetness of ’60s commercial folk, but he cribbed their melodies, channeled the rawness of original folk influences and at age 22 became a folk hero. It’s safe to say 120f antifolk artists start out wanting to be Bob Dylan.

Paleface: Paleface, 1991
The amazing debut from the Lower East Side stalwart, this album drips protest, to say nothing of sarcasm, irony, and disillusion. The young Paleface sang out from Loisaida, “You can say what you want, and you can think what you want, and you can live in a dream if you want.” Heading into the most prosperous decade of American Babylon, it rang true right through 9/11. Spare instrumentation and hard-strummed acoustic lay the foundation for Paleface’s antifolk style, and his penchant for saturated reverb lends a tangible presence to his words throughout.

Beck: One foot in the grave, 1994
After the success of Loser and subsequent typing as slacker and one-hit wonder, wunderkind Beck rounded out his underground credibility with a release on K Records. The album speaks only in antifolk terms: an out-of-tune, fingerpicked Skip James cover kicks it off and is followed by a showcase of raw stylings in electric and acoustic, punk and folk, noise and nuance. Every musical mistake on this record — and there are many — is forgiven for being so consistent with the sum total. This casual, intentionally ragged style set a standard for antifolk. “I know, I know,” Beck sings, “it’s the positive people, running from their time, looking for some feeling.”

Ani DiFranco: Out of Range, 1994
Heading in the opposite direction of one-take production ethic, Ani DiFranco’s sixth solo effort showed how antifolk looks with a little polish. While still raw in essence and attitude, Out of Range packages her anger in a more palatable and more potent way that helped it reach a wider audience. Thus when the album kicks off buttery smooth with "Buildings and Bridges", barbs like “We are made to fight / and and talk and fight again / and sit around and laugh until we choke” cut deeper when nestled into such a pretty groove. The title track embodies the quintessential Ani in guitar and vocal stylings, performed with a perfection not typical to a genre which prides itself on rendering brilliance with a facile technique.

Mike iLL: The Seduction of Sarah Sahonie, 1999
A picture of the sordid underbelly of urban culture, Sarah Sahonie is the penultimate antifolk opera. For just under an hour, it’s just Mike iLL, his rickety amplified Danelectro and his foot-stomp, telling the story of a disaffected small-town girl, sometimes in the first-person. The album works a miracle by foregoing direct narrative, tying one song to the next instead by theme, style, and beautiful songcraft. The ultimate effect projects the listener into the East Village, walking the streets with Mike, looking for a score. From rebellion to burlesque, morality tale, and haunting regret, this album rocks well beyond its one-man show. And he catches a primary motivator driving antifolk people to New York City in "Precious Lil' Town": "I need a reason to start these days, but I don't need no reason to ge-ge-ge-ge-get out of this place."

The Moldy Peaches: The Moldy Peaches, 2000
Whether or not you dig their garbage-rock style, one must concede that the Peaches molded a consummate antifolk album with their eponymous debut. With lyrics to make a scene ’zine gush laid over postmodern jams, the Peaches rock super slop for 19 songs in 46 minutes. Whenever they verge on pure devolution, they play something poignant enough to avoid seeming self-reflexive when they sing, “who mistook that crap for genius?” The album’s a bawdy classic, true to its ironic soul, begging you to take them seriously by not taking them too seriously.

Brer Brian: The Man with the Artichoke Heart, 2001
Channeling a healthy respect for both God and science fiction, Brer Brian spiked a selection of otherworldly compositions with two busking standards and a wholesome rendition of "His Eye Is On the Sparrow". The album’s primary revolt is effectively against the bread-and-butter disillusion that nourishes so many contemporary songwriters. Brer vents whatever rage he has through abstract compositions like Sci-fi revenge fantasy, embellishing them with a gifted musicality. It’s rough in all the right places and cheerful in its dissent, inviting everyone more to party than protest. Brer almost sounds happy as he sings, “I only hear the sound of the soil raining down on the day that I ran out of time.”

The Drive-by Proposals: The Drive-by Proposals, 2002
Perhaps the most underexposed stars of the Lower East Side, Ish Marquez and Spencer Chakedis comprise the Drive-by Proposals. Their premier effort as a team — was it even released? — rings of primeval heartache, soul revolt, and unrelenting bitterness. Marquez and Chakedis are antifolk innovators who rock passion over a variety of jangly styles, mixing power chords and grunge with rhythm and blues. And true to antifolk style, they give up a few covers, most notably Patsy Cline’s Strange. When you hear Ish explode into Much Ado About Nada with a “Whul YEAH!”, you can’t help but ask yourself where the Drive-by Proposals have been all your life.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

First radio play for "Hypocrisy In The Genius Room"

Party time. I just moments ago discovered the first radio play for my new album. And it happened in Boulder, Colorado, on KGNU 88.5 FM. I gotta give a shout out to Rob Bell on "Sleepless Nights", which runs primetime (MST) 12 am - 3 am. Thanks for playing "Pockets of Resistance." It feels good to be on a chart with Wilco and Sigur Ros.

It's most gratifying to get even one radio play, as I've sent about 100 packages to college radio stations around the US and Canada in the last week. If you want to know what I've been up to, make a list of 300 local/college radio stations around North America, Google search each one, and then contact them to make sure their listed music director is still pumping his fist against Clear Channel. Then about a week after sending them a package with the album and press info, do a Google search for "Hypocrisy in the Genius Room". With quotes. Quotes are the only way to Google search.

It's not an exact science, but supposedly these stations note their rotation of the album to the College Music Journal charts, to which the "record companies" pay attention. Then the so-called record companies pour money on whoever charts the most! Wow! Awesome!!! Dolla billz, y'all!!

I've come to view that as something of a fruitless hope, because the music industry is not really about how many college radio stations are playing your stuff, but who you know. But who's making music for the sake of the industry? What I've come to enjoy about this process is connecting with people and saying, "Hey, I'm sending you a copy of my new album. I hope you like it." It's even gratifying if they respond to an email or say, "Great. Can't wait to hear it." This must be preferable to a pile of generic packages addressed "attn:Music Director" on their desks.

Don't get me wrong, if this process enables me to support myself completely with music, and play constantly instead of in hitches and starts all around the town, I'm down with it. But I'm not hanging my hat on cold-calling a network of think-different stations with built-in turnover rates. I'm just hoping somebody there finds it and likes it.

I had a radio show in college at the midnight slot. My buddy Jeremiah and I called it "Bad Like Michael," and it was generally a bunch of kitsch records with a liberal application of sound effects over our dialogue. We were more about an hour of uninterrupted "Superbowl Shuffle" extended remix, featuring the Fridge, Walter Payton, Jim McMahon... the trainers... the concessioneers... second cousins of inactive-list special teams players... contest winners. And then follow that up with Bad Company's "Feel Like Makin' Love." You feel that?

It was sort of a scattered affair. We were freshmen.

But anyway, it's good to have Colorado's KGNU represent for The Frozen Food Section, because my bro got his inspiration for the label name as a snowboarder out in those parts, and Tucker and Jon make the occasional run there for the odd show. I'll keep you updated on the airplay of the new album, and if you really want to hear the new stuff on your local station, you can call and make a request! And rock, rock on!!! Whoever charts the most wins!!!!

respectfully yrs,


Thursday, November 3, 2005

The lovealicious 1977

I've had something on my mind for awhile now... since about 1995, actually, the year I graduated high school. This thought has had plenty of time to percolate, and it's developed from passive observation to ludicrous metaphysical speculation. So enjoy.

Or don't. If you're feeling dyspeptic already, I understand. Just go.

My high school class was a fresh bunch. Not hand-on-the-thigh fresh, mind you, but fresh like produce, once-vogue hip-hop vernacular fresh. Fonky fresh, as it were, we were. What set us apart from other classes at my high school was this: we were the first class in the that didn't prize deprecation and humiliation of underclassmen.

The classes before us were rich with assholes. The kind who thought it senior privilege to book underclassmen or roundhouse you without warning. So we were stuffed in trash cans, roughed up for backtalk, or generally spat upon for being of a more tender age. So tender, aged 14 or so. And probably lame, definitely awkward, but rarely deserving of violence.

So our class rose to power, planted daisies in a big '95 on the main lawn, and generally made love to everybody in the high school. We weren't hippies about it (though we had a choice selection of hippies), but we basically just weren't unwarranted dicks like every previous class prized as a right of passage (vis a vis Dazed and Confused). My man Rob Nof even gave his senior speech about how worthwhile it was to be cool to underclassmen. Et cetera.

I thought it was interesting anyway, and still love the people I went to high school with. We just had our ten year reunion, and everybody was beautiful and full of life. The classes following ours had a more humane sensibility as well. It was like an old regime had crumbled. A pretty defined line of demarcation.

But the really interesting thing is that the trend has proven (anecdotally) to be nationwide. Frequently I meet somebody with an identifiable spark, and they end up being from the class of '95 or thereafter. I've found myself persistently gravitating to people my age or younger. My buddy Chad has friends taking the SATs, for God's sake. On the other hand, classes before us in the same age group often have that same old-school mindset, only translated into the workforce. But people from the class of 1995 and on are dreamers. Imagineers and poets. Artists and musicians who learn quickly and tire quickly of being in a position that doesn't realize their purpose.

And I think it has to do with Star Wars.

Follow me now, it gets abstract. 1977 was a great and awful year. It was typically beset by terrorist hijackings and senseless violence not so unlike that of my early high school years. (Okay, way unlike, but metaphorically, see.) But 1977 had a few worldwide cultural earthquakes that changed the way people thought. And one of those was Star Wars.

America was in a pretty f'ed up state, riding off the heels of Vietnam, Watergate, and the rise of terrorism as a refreshing new alternative for desperate fundamentalists. Star Wars beamed on the American psyche and global consciousness, giving them something - anything - to believe in. It did for America what the Beatles did a decade before, following JFK's assassination. The very title was an invitation: "A New Hope".

The film captivated the world's imagination. To a Beatles degree. Why? Because it did give everybody a new hope. It drew existence in simpler terms, with fresh heroes and clearer villains, and gave us a Force that "surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds us together." That buzz still persists almost thirty years later (although in a less artful, commercially distasteful way) because people still love the soul of the movie.

But I'd like to propose that the lovealicious new hope which inspired the world in 1977 permeated deep into the developing consciousness of unsuspecting babies around the world. And we're unwittingly fresher for it, demanding ideals realized in our lives, not settling for less. We think different and act accordingly (oh yeah, the Apple ][ was released in 1977 too, so props to Jobs and Wozniak as well as Lucas).

So I gets to rambling here. The suggestion is outrageous and oversimplified, and yet I stand by it. I could introduce other ludicrous notions (like the fact that Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx both died in '77, passing the torch), but I digress. Intuitively, I'll buy that for a dollar. It's not provable by western science, but what is?

Oh, this is: Kanye West and I were born on the same day. Boo-yah! And I've probably sold at least 1,000 records in my life. So while his record goes platinum, I foresee mine going drywall. At least.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I don't think Kanye West is an idiot.

I'd like to throw this out there: Kanye West isn't an idiot for saying, "George Bush doesn't care about black people" on live national television.

It seems like everybody I talk to about it thinks that Kanye is so dumb for saying something so blatantly illegitimate, so crass, so politically incorrect. I've even gotten the impression that people feel he's done a disservice to black people.

I mean really, do you think George W., Texan, number 43, doesn't care about African-Americans?

It'd be pretty stupid to say that. But only because it's politically incorrect and he's had two high-profile African-Americans in his cabinet. No, he's probably fine with African-Americans. But I doubt he's real comfortable around black people. I have a Texan friend who had never talked to a black person until high school.

I don't want to talk tons about race here, because you're always tip-toeing the line of saying something too honest, like "George Bush doesn't care about black people," and then you're in hot water. Instead, I want to propose that Kanye West isn't an idiot, because he put his finger on the pulse of something that so many people are feeling, however illegitimate. And while consensus isn't a virtue, it's nice to see that shit actually voiced by someone with the legitimacy to voice it - through the mouth of the media monopoly itself. Not by some pundit, not by some garbage show host who blathers on so much they devalue everything else they say, but by a black person speaking not for African-Americans, but for black people. The blatant disregard for fairness in Kanye's words only holds the mirror back to the Bush administration.

I, for one, said "Amen!" Not because I think GW is racist, but because I felt Kanye played conduit for all the people in New Orleans suffering while GW took a couple extra days of vacation. I mean seriously, the guy's taken more holiday time than any other president in history. He's the ultimate fortunate son, and the spangles of his leadership really don't show unless he's following through on a family grudge. What does he care about New Orleans? Nothing, until the polls show that people care that he doesn't.

This is where I sick myself out, because I hate suspecting the worst in people, even if its as inept a leader as George Bush. But if politicians were as forthright as Kanye West, it'd be a lot easier to know the score in America.

This isn't Kanye, but the lyrics are still pretty on:


Tuesday, September 6, 2005

I've discovered Edamame.

It's time to speak of things carnal. Like Carnie's, in LA. Or con carne south of the border. (Or, actually, LA too.) Yes, omnivorous friends, it's time we talked about meat. It's a provocative topic - if you're a dedicated member of PETA - and worthy of a blog or two or countless activist websites. So allow me to brief you on how carnology weighs on my life currently.

I'm no dyed-in the wool vegetarian, and like any good American, I'm addicted to fast food and am a frequent customer of Omaha Steaks. Oh, I claimed vegetarianism for a month in seventh grade, when the Eco-club was full of delicious older women (eighth-graders), but when the Principia Middle School cafeteria dropped their vintage '91 chicken strips on that ass, I was outed. There's something about a mechanically separated strip of chicken that is just irresistable when it's been battered and fried and twice dipped in Heinz.

My family has an interesting history in meat alternatives, however. In the mid-'80s, Mom and Dad signed up for the burgeoning trend called "Royal American". As seen on PM Magazine, this freeze-dried line of soy-based meals and beverages was really taking off as a convenient, healthy alternative to KFC. We had "tasters", small parties where friends and acquaintences could come over, taste, and sign onto someone's downline for the network marketing. That's right... Royal American was not sold in stores.

Nor were they particularly tasty. In fact, their soy-based powdered milk was awful. My brothers and I used to gag on it nightly, begging our parents not to make us drink it. Somehow, my eldest brother Jon managed to convince my parents that he had become a vegetarian, and thus did not drink milk. Which included soy-based Royal American milk. Ummm, I'm not quite sure how my parents bought it, but Jon got out of drinking powdered soy milk because he was a vegetarian.

The company folded. Perhaps it was the network marketing approach, perhaps it was their dreadful freeze-dried soy stroganoff, perhaps it was my brother's cunning logic. Either way, my dad still has his navy Royal American tie, tiled with small golden sowers. He even wears it from time to time, proving that at heart, he knows Royal American was just ahead of its time. Or that he has a tremendously understated sense of kitsch.

Much of family has toyed with vegetarianism. Like most intelligent people, I think we know that vegetarianism makes more sense than the meat-heavy diet espoused by most of America. Economically, physiologically, ecologically. But hanging your hat with the herbivore party isn't a casual thing. It's a lifestyle decision, like buying a Hummer, using Emoticons, or listening to Phish. You're either in, or you're out.

I'm definitely out. I love the reasons to be a vegetarian. But I love eating cow more. Whether it's Burger Kang nationwide, Dick's in Seattle, In 'N Out in Cali, or Five Nice Guys in DC (who I've yet to try, actually), a hamburger feels like home. I'll even slum it at White Castle if the mood is right. A hamburger is just more American than, say, Lee Iacocca, or George Bush. (Not that the latter's a stretch.) And try as I may to reduce the intake of meat into my diet, I always return to a good burger.

And Taco Bell. And General Tso's Chicken. And bacon.

You see my dilemma. Recently, however, I've discovered Edemame. "Edemame" is crazy talk for "soy bean," a distinction utilized to great effect by Whole Foods to leaven the sticker price. (It might be Japanese, not crazy talk. According to, it means "Beans on Branches." I don't know.) The first time I had these, I thought, like any good American, "Why would anyone eat these?" Eating them seemed to be more about a cultural experience than any kind of savory delight.

But the taste grew on me each time someone forced the cultural experience on me. Now I've started buying them for myself, they're so good, particularly with sea salt.

This spike in edemame consumption coincides with an internal monologue I've been running. It's just struck me as odd recently that we kill an animal and eat it. Only cultural mores dictate that dog or horse is any more taboo than cow or pig. But isn't it kind of odd that we kill an animal and eat it? Like if you were in the wild, you'd have to approach an animal, kill it, peel its skin off, cook it, and eat the tasty parts. If you think about it long enough, it seems sort of koyaanisqatsi. Obviously, the opposite argument that species overpopulate without predators could seem just as well out of balance. But something don't sit right with the idea that we'd milk a cow for most of its useful life, then thank it by chowing down on the rest of it.

No easy answers tonight. Until I find some, I've got edemame and a nation of fast food at my service.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Save your 'Hi'

This morning I stepped up to the bus stop, as I do about five days a week, and checked the schedule for the next bus. Headed my way was a quasi-homeless looking black dude I'd seen around the block a few times. I know he's not homeless, because he goes in and out of a pretty nice house across from the bus stop. But he's got the powderkeg look that says "try me," the pimp limp and the dischevelled style that many homeless affect to great effect.

So he's coming up to me this morning and I think, "Alright, neighborhood dude has a question for me." Though I think the actual Onion tag would've been closer to "Area Nut Offers Threat, Wisdom."

Eyeballing me at a few paces, he says, "Huh?" Sort of as if I hadn't responded to a previous querie. Since I hadn't heard anything prior, I looked back and greeted him with a, "Hey." His response to this, perhaps appropriately? was "Fuck you."

Beat that logic. I'm not positive my "Hey" came off as an insult, but I know enough to cede fair ground to the wandering not-homeless guy, so I just walked to the part of the curb where I sit to wait for the bus. One must pick one's battles, indeed, and I wasn't headed into battle with some neighborhood character on a Sunday morning.

He lumbered off down the block on one of his aimless patrols and I sat down to read "Wired" magazine. The thought dawned on me today that you can cover just about everything you need to with subscriptions to "Wired" and "New Yorker" magazine. Coast to coast, new school to old, technology to technique. Dig both. And dig that as I aimed to engage myself in an interview with Jon Stewart, the thought came that my reading material illustrated the gap between me and not-homeless pretty well. Well enough to rationalize our exchange, anyway, whether that gap spans white to black, privileged to disenfranchised, or sane to unstable.

It's a moot point whether or not the thought holds any validity; probably just the psyche in overdrive spinning tales to explain. I doubt not-homeless has any such sociological premeditations on the moment. Halfway down the block, the dude turned and said, "Save your 'Hi.'"

I suppose I will.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quelle machine extraordinaire

I was encouraged to find a single off of Fiona Apple's "unreleased" album released on iTunes today. The unreleased album is amazing, the now-released "Parting Gift" single is amazing, and Fiona's stuff is generally in a class above commercial music made today. She's an artist using her voice and the piano. I wonder what she'd paint or sculpt or create with film.

After all the fuss made by the devoted fans for Sony to "free" Fiona, it's clear that she herself wasn't happy with the unreleased recordings, and labored on to make them more what she wanted. I imagine it put both Sony and Fiona in a bind to have valued fans demanding her work, casting Sony as the corporate bad guy. But from a business sense, it didn't make too much sense that they would shelve an artist who's two for two in platinum releases.

For my part, I called Sony's licensing department to inquire about licensing the property for release on the Frozen Food Section. Seriously! But like I said, shelving a twice-platinum artist doesn't make sense, nor does licensing one out to a startup. I didn't hear back.

While releasing a Fiona album would be pretty rad for the FFS, it's also rad to be reaching out to connect in the way that she does with her fans. Knowing how much hearing her new stuff feeds my creative soul, I know how I hope ears hear my new album. Summed up in a head nod. Captivated in a mental affirmative. Totally, totally.

Hope you dig it when it's out this month: Hypocrisy in the Genius Room

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I made eye contact with a dog the other day.

It's always an interesting study in humanity to make eye contact with people in the city. It tells you who's interested or willing or not scared to acknowledge a complete stranger as a person. It doesn't tell you much about a person, but it tells you something.

Peoples' first instinct when making eye contact is what interests me. Dudes frequently just make eye contact as a parry to see if they will be judged desirable. Methinks this is why so many ladies know better than to make eye contact with such dudes. It's a vibe thing, of course, and the eye-contact-hunting dudes put off the "I-wanna-get-wit-you-but-probably-can't-so-I'm-checking-the-eye-contact" vibe. Which, I guess, is all guys.

Present company excepted.

Alright, really, it's all guys. But beyond the Men-Seeking-Heartrate crowd, I'm most interested in how people react to generic eye contact. I think the most common is the 'pretend it didn't happen' crowd, who look away immediately. There's usually a followup glance to ascertain whether or not the other person is still looking, and then it turns into eye contact tag, whereby both parties are saying, "I wasn't looking. I wasn't looking. I wasn't."

My favorite is when people just smile and keep going. Don't have to pursue it, don't have to get their phone number or something. Just, like a ray of sunshine on a passing face.

The most intriguing eye contact moments are the ones in which I find dogs to be more open to a connection than human beings. Beneath the bustle of some social fuss, dogs will look out and make a more honest connection than all the human pretense above them.

If I'm not clear about what I mean, I mean me, looking at a dog, who stares back at me.

This happened just the other day when I was on an escalator heading up. I looked down and saw some smiling dog waiting on his owner. The dog looked up at me, riding the moving staircase, and we stared at each other until he disappeared beneath the next level.

It's also intriguing to find youth who connect naturally at a young age. I've seen kids at three years old who are more aware of their surroundings than some 12 or 14-year-olds. Or 30-year-olds. It's like a little meter of consciousness.

I'm not drawing any conclusions here, just imagining that even anonymous eyes connect on a level that reflects the universe. It may not even be the eyes themselves, but the moment which divulges that everything's connected.

"For what man sees is what man is and opened eyes can help crippled minds / To stand." (Bayonettes and Battlefields, April 2000)

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Album updates and the crock pot

I've resigned myself to blog. It's not a light decision, as I don't really care for the word 'blog'. I'd be totally into it if it were called dazzlepantsing or scrappleranting. Or writing.

So as to make these blog posts more interesting than the flashdance Burberry-Coach quiz above (do I care which Paris will choose?), I'll make a concerted effort to document the currents of my mind with all the promotion and record salesmanship you'd expect from a proud Frozen Food Section rep.

In the spirit of both, The Frozen Food Section has albums coming out by both my brother Jon and I this month. Jon's will feature the amazing underground hip-hop king MF DOOM. It'll be a 12" vinyl platter with instrumentals, acapellas and remix, plus a b-side with Serengeti and Hi-Fidel. Should be amazing. We're hoping it'll be the FFS's first big seller, even though all of our artists are amazing.

My album is the sum total of about four years of writing and two years of buying a worthy home studio on credit (via my job at Apple), teaching myself ProTools well enough to produce an album, and actually recording it. A few samples are here on MySpace, as well as more on the FFS site. Hope you dig them all. When it's finally time to play and promote the album, I'll have probably spent about 15 grand on credit to get it done.

I anticipate the day that this is my job.

On the cerebral front, I recently heard an NPR broadcast about how the 1893 Parliament of World Religions influenced American artists by exposing them to eastern culture. I was struck by the fact that such a conference, held in Chicago, could have a widespread influence upon a greater body of artists. Why? Because such a conference held today would likely have little or no influence upon a city, much less a nation, beyond an uptrend in retail sales.

The global village is so tightly bound together that serious movements are reduced to passing fads. I attribute this to the fact that there isn't enough isolation to percolate genuine change. We can browse foreign cultures casually in a way that doesn't strike us deep like the Parliament of World Religions did the heartland. In that day, the visitation of eastern influence and religion was a source of wonder and impression, whereas today, we see the world through a web browser pretty regularly. And what's worse, that's Internet Explorer for many.

Certainly, this exposure can result in sincere inspiration to a creative soul. But in terms of a widespread influence, there is such opportunity for selective exposure, the concept of a movement (i.e., impressionism, cubism, postmodernism) is kind of scattered. Unless you can truck a crate of cultural creatives to China or Thailand or wherever, there'll be no movement, because everybody's into their own thing.

I'm not preaching cultural doomsday or global homogeny, but it's kind of nice when a phenomenon can have a lasting effect in the eyes and ears of a greater audience. Not for the sake of consensus, but a communal consideration of something big. I imagine we'll see one sometime soon, whether or not the world has shrunk with the passage of the Telecommunications Bill. (Wow, that was 9 years ago.) I guess 9/11 was the closest we've had in years, and that has resonated more in politics and war than artists creating beautiful things. Lots of bitching and bad liberal slogans, but not a lot of beautiful things.

Maybe I'm wrong about the beautiful things.

I was going to tie this all into a metaphor of the crock pot, giving the flava (yeah, I'm taking it hip-hop!!) the time it needs to percolate. But I'm spent. To close, the redeeming line from Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, : "Melinda had a reputation of being postmodern in bed."