Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Look What the River Has Done 

La. Governor Orders Evacuation of Rest of New Orleans;
FEMA Chief: 'The Most Significant Natural Disaster to Hit the United States'

That hurricane mix tape post's looking a little less funny now, ain't it?

In my defense, those are all fairly serious songs, and "Louisiana 1927" is, in fact, more appropriate with each breathless update. As, unfortunately, is Doghouse Riley's suggestion, Memphis Minnie's "Crash On the Levee."

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Now I Am An mp3 Blog 

Awesome Hurricane Katrina All-Star Mix EP:

1) Bob Dylan - "Crash On the Levee (Down In the Flood)"

2) Charley Patton - "High Water"

3) Mekons - "The Flood"

4) Silver Jews - "New Orleans"

5) Randy Newman - "Louisiana 1927"

5) Bob Dylan - "Down In the Flood" (new version)

Suggest more. I command it.

Read the Metro Section 

What the hell is up with this paragraph?

Still, a wireless network could allow some new ways for staying in touch. A rider might dial her home number while the train is moving, hit the call button while it comes to a stop and quickly tell her husband to, say, put the casserole in the oven - all before the train pulls away again. Another rider might call his roommate and hang up after one ring - a code signaling that he is almost home. And of course, friends trying to arrange an underground rendezvous will be able to find each other more easily.

Is this even remotely related to journalism? Is it all this easy?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Friday Random Ten 

With More-Or-Less Arbitrarily Chosen Lyric Excerpts

Gang of Four - "Ether"
(There may be oil / Under Rockall)
Willie Nelson & Johnny Cash - "On the Road Again"
(Insisting that the world keep turning our way)
Trike - "Salamander"
(You are a salamander)
Gang of Four [again?] - "Outside the Trains Don't Run On Time"
(Discipline! Is his passion! Now! He says there's none!)
The Velvet Underground - "Candy Says"
(Doo-doo-wah / Doooo, doo-doo-wah)
Doc Watson - "Blue Railroad Train"
(I'm not as bad / as you might think I am)
Johnny Cash - "One"
(Well it's too late / tonight / to drag the past out into the light)
David Bowie - "What In the World"
(So deep in your room / you never leave your room)
The Rolling Stones - "Off the Hook"
(Don't wanna see her, afraid of what I'd find / Tired of letting her upset me all the time)
Husker Du - "Whatcha Drinkin'?"
(I don't care what you say / I don't care what you're drinking today)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Blown Away 

Nice to see Har Mar Superstar help out with hurricane preparedness. Them novelty pop acts, so selfless.

Oh, and:
WE HEAR that a certain Oscar-winning starlet who is black and who plays a certain weather-controlling mutant in a certain comic book-based film franchise has a nasty case of the shingles.

fake beard thrown in at no extra charge

I Smell A Webby! 

I admit it -- having returned from an unscheduled and traffic-devastating break, I still haven't gotten back into the swing of this whole blogging thing. What I need (and what in most other aspects of my life I'm often suffering from a surfeit of) is a gimmick, a self-generating sort of regular feature, like Doghouse Riley's birthdays or Rox's captions or Norbizness'... well, every goddam thing. Tell that Texan to quit hogging the gimmicks, will ya?

I had brief stabs at this sort of thing before, but nothing's ever kept my interest beyond, I don't know, three or four weeks. Which is my primary struggle with blogging. Sometimes I want to be Roy Edroso, a month later its Christgau, next thing I know, I'm writing dragon poems and arguing the total, universal superiority of Paranoid over Fun House.

In short, I've got to narrow my focus a wee bit. From now on, Buck Hill (can stylebooks start italicizing blog names, please? It just looks classier) is your one-stop source for unverified rumors about Halle Berry and pictures of famous people wearing fake mustaches.

I met a guy who's interning at Revolution Studios and he read the script of an upcoming Halle Berry/Bruce Willis vehicle. It features an extended and graphic cybersex/masturbation scene. With Halle, I think.


Sunday, August 21, 2005

Keillor's Minnesota: Like Main Street, but Fun! 

Whooo howdy, how 'bout some Sunday Night Elitism?

But Garrison Keillor could do with a little Albert Ayler in his church, and church is what Keillor is all about. Everything that comes out of his mouth in that treacly baritone, which occasionally releases into a highpitched, breathless tremolo when he wants to convey emotion, is a sermon. The homily runs something like this: we are good, if foolish and weak, and may gain redemption through compassion, laughing at ourselves, and bad poetry badly read.

Albert Ayler could only be a tonic for Keillor — a tonic we will force-feed him as they force-feed a goose in Perigord for foie gras — because Ayler's art is opposite to Keillor's shtick. Everything Keillor does is about reassurance, containment, continuity. He makes no demands on his audiences, none whatsoever. To do so would only be bad manners. Gentleness and good manners are the twin pillars of the church of Keillor.

I don't condone the smarmy highbrow tone, but I do strongly endorse taking potshots at Garrison Keillor. Eat it, public radio!

No Antonin Artaud with the Flapjacks, Please [Poetry Daily]

This Week in the City Section 

The City

Tugboat Alley
Boooorrrriinng. Hey, Times -- Staten Island doesn't count. I mean, tugboats are no substitute for outer-borough local color or self-obsessed personal essays about one's bohemian grandmother.

A Toast, With a Shot and a Beer
Perfect. Vintage City Section. Some slumming writer's oh-so-New York embellished recollections of a dive bar -- this is the section's raison d'etre. And even better -- it's quietly disappearing!

The Best People-Watching the Sky Has To Offer
Acrobatics or circus freaks? Say no more!

Hopes Fade for Aging Beauties of Admiral's Row
This could've been another perfect City Section piece -- old, decrepit relic of New York's past that most residents have, at some time or another, walked by and wondered what the hell it is. But it's too newsy and dry. No atmosphere in a piece that's begging for it. If you haven't been by Admiral's Row, check it out before it's gone -- it's like a huge Tim Burton set, all lost Victorian grandeur.

Duck Tongues and Other Security Threats
Gruff cops, funny foreigners, quietly humorous grave tone -- you keep this up, Jennifer Bleyer, and you may someday make "Talk of the Town."

Where the Play Dates Are Fun, but Itchy
Always end it on a Cute Kid Quote (tm).

The Secret Jardin
After an unexplained absence, more High Line stories. Throw in a bit of "divides her time between Paris and the United States," and you've got the reason this is City and not plain ol' boring New York/Region.

Summer's Rebels: Hell No, We Won't Go
Everyone's rich, right? ("I suspect this temptation is experienced by many New Yorkers lucky enough to own, rent or borrow a place outside the city...")

Food, Flowers, Fitness: Versatile Merchant Expands His Empire
An Italian guy who teaches Pilates? This I gotta see!

Along the Waterfront, the Mystery of the Cinnamon Buns
Two immutable rules of New York: Queens smells, City Section pieces are often poached from bulletin boards.

The Power Behind the Cones Is Leaving
Colorful local character, disappearing forever, oh-so-New York, you starting to get it?

Mama's Gone, Along With the Peach Cobbler
Addendum to immutable rule: "Web logs" too.

Who Will They Dig Up Next?
Yay! Contest! Former New Yorkers (and current New Yorker subscribers) living in Phoenix will be thrilled at another chance to make it into the metro section, especially since that asshole Metropolitan Diary editor keeps rejecting their story about the precocious kid on the 6 train in 1994.

The City [NYT]

Elie Wiesel Hates a Parade 

Look, I hate to rip on Elie Wiesel, or most Peace Prize recipients for that matter, but this:

The images of the evacuation itself are heart-rending. Some of them are unbearable. Angry men, crying women. Children, led away on foot or in the arms of soldiers who are sobbing themselves.

Let's not forget: these men and women lived in Gaza for 38 years. Successive governments, from the left and the right, encouraged them to settle there. In the eyes of their families, they were pioneers, whose idealism was to be celebrated.

is a bit misleading. Many of those "heart-rending" images were of protesters who moved in around the same time as the news cameras, including a couple West Bank settlers hoping to produce enough of these images to make a West Bank withdrawal a little less politically expedient.

And here they are, obliged to uproot themselves, to take their holy and precious belongings, their memories and their prayers, their dreams and their dead, to go off in search of a bed to sleep in, a table to eat on, a new home, a future among strangers.

With only hundreds of thousands of dollars to aid in their tragic journey.

It's a fairly reasonable column, despite these little nits, though it does partake in one of my very favorite modern double standards -- holding Mahmoud Abbas personally responsible for individual Palestinians "organiz[ing] military parades with masked fighters, machine guns in hand, shooting in the air as though celebrating a great battlefield victory," but, after noting quite accurately that the settlers were encouraged and funded by people like Ariel Sharon, not holding him accountable for those settlers now behaving "in an offensive and undignified manner." The whole damn region is, like any other, full of assholes, and their biggest enablers are their leaders.

Next Week: My Personal Relationship to the Subjugation of the Welsh 

The Newest Indians:
This ethnic apprehension can be found even among the older tribes, where outmarriage, or exogamy, has created a contemporary population that doesn't look nearly as ''Indian'' as the characters of our movies and HBO westerns. What results from this can get funky. For example, among coastal Indian tribes, who depend upon tourism, it is not uncommon to see them dressed as Plains Indians with full feathered headdresses and other outfits that were never their custom. It is a practice known as ''chiefing,'' and in some tribes it is as regulated as jewelry sales. This is the market force, ethnic-wise: coastal Indians know that they have to look like an outsider's vision of an Indian in order to be accepted by tourists as Indian.

My maternal grandfather was Indian. I'm using the old American definition of race: how one is recognized and treated by white folks. Grandpa was a middle-class homeowner who moved to the suburbs, fought in all three of the great (then less great, and finally completely ungreat) mid-century wars, and eventually married a (white) midwestern farmgirl, but he was pretty goddam Indian by that old definition, despite never speaking a word, as far as I know, of the Algonquin-related ancestral language of the Lenape (you -- and I, for most of my life -- may know them better as the Delaware).

My grandfather lived in the west, far from the original home of the Lenape, but not too far from their post-forced "exodus" home of Kansas. As a young man he would, on the occasional weekend, dress up like the aforementioned Plains Indians and head out to Seven Falls, where he and his buddies would make up "traditional Indian dances" and perform them for white folks, to make a little beer money. To me it sounds like a brilliantly fun con job and a conveniently literal example of the performative aspect of ethnic identity in America (but then, I don't get out much).

"Do genetics make you Indian or does culture? Or can either one?"

My grandfather had the genetics but not the "culture," except for his forced placement in the role of non-white, which was purely physical. In his youth, he made the most of it, and he eventually lived the mid-century upgrade of the American Dream. I have the genetics too, but diluted enough to cause me to look "white." And I think that still, unfortunately, the most useful definition of race in this country remains the one I used earlier -- how the white folks perceive and treat you. Which this piece barely touches on, except to say that the white foks are getting defensive about their whiteness, and would I mind not calling them "white folks" over and over again.

To my mind, I'm just as Indian, despite immersion and membership in the great club of whiteness, as these well-intentioned ethnic tourists and archivists. And I'm not Indian. I don't think of or describe myself as Indian (excepting in this blog post, of course). But I did personally know my grandfather, I did visit him fairly often in the nursing home where he lived out the end of his life, mentally gone for the most part, but still conscious of his imposed ethnicity, more powerful in this country than any self-proclaimed one. As a brain-damaged, malnourished, smoke-ravaged diabetic, he still delivered a Special Forces-caliber knockout punch to another patient who called him a "nigger" at mealtime one day. And I still have his side of the family, still living in Colorado. And living, by the bizarre quirks of that ever-capricious wacky white society, more or less as "black" (my "white card" genetic make-up, should I ever be asked to break it down, would make me 1/8th Indian and 1/16th "black"). And I think, though it is self-serving, that a personal and physical connection to an "ethnic" past affords one a slightly a better understanding of the implications of racial makeup than a reconstructed (and heavily-researched) but ultimately impersonal one.

But don't listen to me. I'm just another white boy with ethnic anxiety and liberal guilt.

I Do Believe I've Had Enough 

This building is screwed.

By the way -- I'm back in New York now, as you may have guessed. Just to remind myself of what I'd been missing, I caught the Bird Flu, took some tainted smack, briefly became editor of the New York Press, and traded my fifth amendment rights for convenient L access. Tomorrow, as a respected member of the east cost media elite, I shall weigh in on Cindy Sheehan and Judy Miller (new angle: same woman??).

If I was a master thief, perhaps I'd rob them 

The latest issue of Brit music (and, occasionally, film) mag Uncut is packaged with an interesting-but-fated-to-be-disappointing cd of the entirety of Highway 61 Revisited covered by various artists. Highlights: Westerberg's "It Takes a Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry," Dave Alvin's title track, and, intermittently over its six minutes, the Drive-By Truckers' "Like a Rolling Stone." "Queen Jane Approximately" and "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," by American Music Club and The Handsome Family (these limeys love the pseudo-Americana, don't they?), are two songs lovely enough to be basically unfuckupable, despite both artists' seeming shared conviction that what this near-perfect album needed was to be, you know, a little boring.

Before Songdog's intolerably twee "Desolation Row" had reached Ophelia 'neath the window, I removed it from the stereo and replaced it with the lovely and probably justly obscure Robyn Hitchcock double-album Dylan cover project, Robyn Sings. It's a beautiful album, especially the acoustic side, though I admit I bought it to hear Hitchcock's live cover of Dylan's infamous 1966 Manchester show. And Hitchcock, unlike Rolling Stone partisan Greil Marcus, agrees with me that "Visions of Johanna" is Dylan's best.

stolen from an oooold Fark photoshop contest

Which got me to thinking about Mr. Dylan's oft-pondered and pontificated-on status as an artist meant to be covered.

Frankly, I don't see it. I still have friends who repeat the old line about loving Dylan but hating his voice, which just means that you don't really like Bob Dylan that much; that's perfectly fine -- I hate Joy Division, among plenty of other Great and Important and Influential Artists.

And, if you are an artist covering Dylan, and you've decided to enunciate and emphasize the melody, could you at least give some sort of shit about interesting phrasing, especially if you're Marc Carroll covering "Tombstone Blues," which, I'm sorry, has no melody and relies entirely on delivery? These are long songs with no choruses, people, let's all pitch in to make this, Uncut's 50 millionth Dylan cover cd, at least half-listenable.

Which is all a long, pointless way of getting to my music nerd point, which is that I could curate a better tribute album with one earbud tied behind my back. Off the top of my head, here are examples of actual, good Dylan covers:

The Box Tops -- "I Shall Be Released"
Paul Westerberg -- "Positively 4th St." (alt: "All I Really Wanna Do")
Nina Simone -- "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues"
The Mekons -- "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (Hoboken, 2004 -- was this recorded?)
Robyn Hitchcock -- "Visions of Johanna"
Rod Stewart -- "Mama, You Been On My Mind"
Them -- "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"
The Byrds -- "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" (if repeating a track isn't allowed, I sub "Nothing Was Delivered")

So -- for the three or four you of hanging around while Roy Edroso's off secretly Fringe Festing, what's yer favorite Dylan cover? First person to mention the Dead will have their trackbacks deleted.

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