Saturday, December 10, 2005

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sit. Good Boy.

I have a cat. If I stand in the stairs down into our rec room with the door to the kitchen closed and call the cat's name, she'll race from wherever she is in the house and bump and bump and rebump her head against the door until I open it. Yesterday, on the mothership, Jerry asked his readers for lists of their desert island favorites, and as soon as I saw the offer I posted, which makes me as conditioned as my cat.

An acquaintance who works in sports talk radio once told me that the surest way to light up the phones was to revisit the Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, Yes or No? debate, and while I'm a relatively new citizen of Blogoslavia, I've little doubt that asking for personal lists is a surefire comment generator. A quick flip over to S21 just now shows that 20 comments have been posted (two by me - I couldn't control myself twice).

The impulse to rank and list, hardwired in humans, diminishes everything not elevated to top tier (which makes it a valuable tool of the elevated, as earls and barons and K St lobbyists can testify). As soon as I had posted five or six albums I immediately thought of 20 more, and one, The Magnetic Fields' *69 Love Songs,* I felt badly enough for having left it off that I posted a second time to get its name into Haloscanistan. Still, here I am, someone who professes to question the legitimacy of hierarchies, gleefully, droolingly on cue like a behavioralist's dog, pooping out a list of must-have music within 60 seconds of being asked.

I am NOT criticizing the exercise. It's fun. I've got a list of stuff off everyone's lists I hope to soon land and listen to, and I have no doubt that everything everyone posted was sincerely offered. But is there wankery and posing and posturing and competitive name-dropping involved? Absofuckinglutely, which makes it like life. I just wish I'd taken a couple of minutes before I wanked, posed, postured, and name-dropped. So I could be more elevated than my cat.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I remember exactly where I was, who I was with, what I was doing 25 years ago tonight around 11:00 when I heard. I never had any illusions that Lennon's music and Lennon the man matched: he was as big a bastard as we are all capable of being. I like to think that all his exhortations for peace and generosity and "Instant Karma" (on the radio right now on KEXP) were personal exhortations aimed at his own propensity for violence and greed and depression, and that's what gives the songs their emotional oomph in me. "Imagine" is a terrible song if he is hectoring me. It's plaintive if he's hectoring himself.


A few blinks ago I posted about Eno/Gabriel and the World Cup Does Broadway as a bridge to begin discussing the boundary that's not a boundary between acceptable commercialism and unacceptable commercialism. Today's Washington Post has a front page article on some of the same issues I raised about the trend of today's indies to not view having their songs used in commercials as "selling out." Bob Mould is quoted. S'funny: Husker Du is always mentioned in a paragraphical biography of Mould - as it should be - but never Sugar, an outstanding band whose *Copper Blue* is one of my favorite albums.


Hey! how about some music:

Deerhoof - Wrong Time Capsule

Portastatic - I Want to Know Girls

The Portastatic was on the weekly picks a few ago. Deerhoof I'll be writing about soon.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Group of Death

While the USMNT is ranked 8th in the world by FIFA, no one seriously believes that the US is the 8th best soccer team in world, so their not being one of the eight seeded teams for Friday's World Cup group draw is neither unfair or surprising. Still, gaining a seed would probably have spared the US what most likely will be a brutal draw. Here are the pots, with the seeded teams in Pot One:

Pot One: Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico and Spain
Pot Two: Australia, Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Tunisia, Ecuador, Paraguay
Pot Three: Croatia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine
Pot Four: Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Costa Rica, Trinidad & Tobago, United States
Special Pot: Serbia & Montenegro

The US cannot draw Mexico (same region). If the US draws either Argentina or Brazil, they will not draw either Ecuador or Paraguay (since they couldn't be drawn with either Argentina or Brazil). This is double-edged: other than host Germany, Argentina and Brazil are clearly the best two teams of the seeded. The question becomes, is it better to draw Argentina or Brazil and one of the African minnows (or Australia) or draw England, France, Italy, Spain, or (worse case) Germany and maybe get stuck with Ecuador or Paraguay?

Who the USMNT gets pulled with from Pot Three, though, will determine whether they get through group play. The Dutch, though traditionally chokers, are as physically skilled as any team not Brazilian. The Portugese would like nothing better than to play the team that stunned them in the first game of the opening round in 2002 (and cost them advancement). Poland beat the US in 2002, decisively, in a game the USMNT thought they had to win (and if South Korea hadn't tied Portugal the Americans wouldn't have advanced). The Swedes, the Czechs, the Croatians, all would be difficult. The Swiss and Ukrainians wouldn't be easy.

Worse case scenario? Germany, Holland, Paraguay. Best case scenario? Spain, Angola, Ukraine.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I've just read an interview with Steve Reich in the November 2005 issue of Wire. He makes this statement about when he was a student in the late 1950s studying for his MA:

You could sound like Boulez, Cage, Stockhausen, Berio, etc, or get laughed at.

Reich also complemented Berio on being more "musical" and "generous" than others on that list.

Somewhere else, I think in another issue of Wire, I read someone recommending Berio's Sinfonia. I can - and will - get access to a cd with Berio's Chemins 2 and 4, Points on a Curve, Chorale, and Ritorno.

I had never heard of Berio. Is the CD I can get my hands on a good place to start? And of course, more juicily, what political nerve is Reich striking both in his statement about his MA and when he singles Berio out for compliment over the others?
Allies? There Are No Allies.

CIA deliberately lies to Italian secret services so that Italians cannot capture known terrorist:

The strategy worked for more than a year until Italian investigators learned that Nasr had not gone to the Balkans after all. Instead, prosecutors here have charged, he was abducted off a street in Milan by a team of CIA operatives who took him to two U.S. military bases in succession and then flew him to Egypt, where he was interrogated and allegedly tortured by Egyptian security agents before being released to house arrest.


"The kidnapping of Abu Omar was not only a serious crime against Italian sovereignty and human rights, but it also seriously damaged counterterrorism efforts in Italy and Europe," said Armando Spataro, the lead prosecutor in Milan. "In fact, if Abu Omar had not been kidnapped, he would now be in prison, subject to a regular trial, and we would have probably identified his other accomplices."

First, can we stop using the phrase "Global War on Terror," b/c as far as this administration is concerned, this is our war. That train bombing in Madrid, those tube bombings in London? Pissant attacks. This is another symptom of the disease of exceptionality, the pride a college football player takes in playing injured, the pride a fencer takes in his facial scars. This is survivor's pride, and unlike survivor's remorse, pride leads to revenge, and revenge is not to be shared with those who were not similarly attacked, and since we're exceptional, nobody else was attacked like us.

Second, torture. The CIA wanted to torture Abu Omar and was afraid that the Italians, if they captured him first, wouldn't allow the Americans to torture him. A choice was made: lie to an alleged ally so that a man suspected of plotting against the United States could remain free to continue plotting until such a time that Italian sovereignty could best be violated in order to capture the man and illegally render him unto Egypt for torturing. Makes you proud, yes?

This is beyond moral imbecility. What if, in the interim between the possibility of Abu Omar's capture by the Italians and his capture by the CIA he had been highly responsible for a vicious attack anywhere, not just the US, which his capture by the Italians might have prevented? Since he was in Italy, perhaps he was plotting an attack there: the US decides it's more important to our interests that he go free until he can be picked up for torturing by us? Our right to expedite the torture of Abu Omar trumps treaties, international relations and obligations, national laws, and good faith.

Because this is our war. Ours, ours, ours. Because it's true: we are exceptional.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Buying a Novel for a Friend?

I've been an admirer of Mantel thoughout her career, and recommend all her books. *Beyond Black* has made many lists, including the NYT top 100. The best review is from the New York Review of Books, not only for its insights into the book but for background on Mantel, her life and her previous work.

Evil is a topic always present, just sometimes more than others, and these days seem like more than more. Evil is cultural, and culture disseminates evil as product, but evil is also personal, impulsive, biological. Which prompts which, the cultural the personal, the personal the cultural, and how each affect the other, this is what interests Mantel. Along with much else. Easily the best novel released in 2005 that I've read.

More of my favorites from this year.

Animal Collective (hear "Grass" here) (hear "Prospect Hummer" here) is often compared to the Fiery Furnaces. Both are from Brooklyn, and while the FFs are brother and sister, AC is a combine of lifelong friends. Both groups are deemed "experimental," a term which is leaving me more and more dissatisfied.

I don't dislike the Fiery Furnaces (I want to clarify). I do like Animal Collective's music more. It seems strange to say this about a band wearing dog and cat masks for a publicity shoot, but their music seems much less postured than FF's to me. I realize whimsy may be as off-putting to some as earnestness is to others, but I like it.

The Posies reunited. I think it would be impossible for them to ever make another album as brilliant as *Frosting on the Beater," one of the great albums ever, and *Every Kind of Light* isn't great, but it's pretty damn good.

The Pernice Brothers "There Goes the Sun" can be heard here.

If I can find any downloads for the New Order, Royksopp, and Rachid Taha albums I'll post them.