Friday, March 30, 2007

Of Salesmen!

No time today before I head out of town for the weekend. Here’s some Besnard Lakes. I’d be lying if I said I expected to like this album, but Devastation might be my favorite song of the year so far. Life is funny that way. Anyways, they're married and from Canada. they kind of remind me of Arcade Fire getting hit with a truck driven by Rush. Because they're both also Canadian and married. huh.

"Devastation" - The Besnard Lakes

"On Bedford and Grand" - The Besnard Lakes

Buy The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Pretext: One of the worst parts about my job is permissions. At the end of a project, we have all these pictures that the authors or editors borrowed from other books. More often than not, they're from books published by other publishers. So I get to call up said publishers and finagle a price to borrow some of their art for a new book. It's usually pretty painless, and I'm technically not publishing the book, which means it's not my obligation to pay them, but to pass that on to the publishers. But every so often, the publishers will lose one of those invoices. or the fall off a truck. three times in 6 months. and then I start getting interesting mail.
Conversation between me and a credit agency today:

Me: Hi, I get a notice you were after me today
Secretary: Yeah. you never paid the $60 usage fee from last May.
Me: See the thing here is that you don't want me, personally. You want the publisher of the book. I've been told three times that that'd get paid and I faxed them your invoice three times.
Secretary: That doesn't matter, sir. It's in your name.
Me: Listen. I am not the publisher. I don't handle those fees. What does the invoice say?
Secretary: Book publishing.
Me: and I am not the publisher. I can give you the number of the-
Secretary: Sir, you need to pay this.
Me: That's the thing, though. I don't. So I'd suggest calling the appropriate person at the massive international publishing house who is actually responsible for paying it. If you want paperwork proving that that this is in fact their responsibility I can provide it for you.
Secretary: That's not what we were told to do.
Me: Well, hold your breath, because I'll call them myself and get them to pay the people that hired you so that I can end this conversation.
Secretary: Why don't you just pay me right now and then have-
Me: You're not hearing me. I can't pay you.
Secretary (sardonically): $60?
Me: $60. The amount is not the issue. I refuse to pay you. You'll get notice that the account has been paid tomorrow.
Secretary: Sir, your personal credit is...
Secretary: Is Cotton your real name?

Me: Ummm....sure?
Secretary: Yes? You have to tell me.
Me: I'm pretty sure I don't. But that doesn't matter.
Secretary: So it is your real name?
Me: yeah, sure. So you'll get that paperwork soon.
Secretary: You're going to have to pay thi-

It actually woulda been pretty funny if it hadn't already gotten to the stage where I was getting this phone call. Anyway, it was settled by the time I left the office this evening. Still, I took off and walked around listening to Orbital for an hour before coming back. It was worth it, because it was fucking gorgeous out. I can't believe the way his season is turning. You have like 3 weeks until I start bitching constantly about how hot it is outside.
So it looks like the Iraq timeline passed in the Senate. I'm still pretty surprised at how close it turned out. It really doesn't matter, though, because Bush will be vetoing it, right?

Did anyone see this crazy Army recruiter email scandal? WHAT THE FUCK!? So yeah, if you get a chance, drop a line to Sgt. Marcia Ramode here and thank her for being such an evil bitch.

Here's a set from RJD2 at the Beta Lounge in 2002. It's so fucking good it's a little scary. His new album is probably my least favorite thing he's done, but it's still being treated harshly. I'd probably like it more if someone else's name were attached to it. Anyway, Copywrite comes out a after a bit during that, making as much as a MHz set than his own, but I'm a fan of simplicity. Ask anyone.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Not much time today but it's looking like it'll be a busy week, so I wanted to get a quick post in.
There's a really interesting interview with Jeremy Scahill here about Blackwater and all of the devious shit going on there. It's funny, because I've been following this guy's work for a couple of years now and watching him bloom as a hell of an investigative reporter, but I still didn't see this kinda of work coming for his first book. I don't know if it's shocking anymore to see our military becoming privatized like this (especially when Eisenhower was pointing out the beginnings of it 45 years ago), but still it's disturbing to see it continue to happen without opposition.

also, Kissinger sought for extradition over war crimes. I sat for 5 minutes trying to guess which country this was about. How sad.

Marnie Stern plays frenetic guitar over Zach Hill's drums here, with with little if any other instrumentation. It's shocking that people would say she sounds like "Shella", right? Regardless, I like her guitar work more and the songs tend not to just morph into a shitty drumspaz like Hella's tend to do for me, so I'm all for it. I missed her playing at the Danger Danger house a few weeks ago (the amount of shows I've ended up missing in the last 2 months is criminal. If I'm moving soon then I should really get out more.
Anyways, here's two songs from her album. Trying to link directly to mediafire instead of the usual. Lemme know if it's not working. (edit: it's not. but if you click the link it'll send you to the download page).

"Vibrational Match" - Marnie Stern

"Put all Your Eggs in one Basket and Then Watch That Basket!!!" - Marnie Stern

Buy In Advance of the Broken Arm here

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Elmer Fudd, IRA

I fell asleep watching Looney Tunes, which I tend to do about once or twice a week. It's actually a great way to fall asleep on a good note. I don't know which asshole decided that putting the new on TV at 11 PM was okay and keeping cartoons in the morning was, but that model could stand some re-thinking.
Anyway, last night was the first Bunny V. Fudd episode. I'm not sure if you've ever seen it, but it's one of those rare shorts where neither character are fully evolved yet: Elmer still has his bulbous alcoholic nose, and Bugs is still in a prototype phase, looking much different and having a voice that sounds nothing like the one we've all come to know and love. Also, his behavior is much closer to an early Daffy Duck than anything else. He's kind of an asshole.
and that's one of the things that threw me. This would be their first encounter together, and Elmer Fudd is just out trying to photograph wildlife when this dick rabbit starts hassling him like he's goddamned paparazzi or something. No wonder he came back with a gun.
Futhermore, this is his vacation. In retrospect, I'm not sure you ever get any sort of indication as to what Mr. Fudd does for a living, and it opens up a whole mess of ways to feel bad for laughing at his misery. What if Elmer Fudd was a pediatrician? or shit, President of the LooneyUN? Commander of the Looney Allied forces at Normandy? Shit man, suddenly I'm thinking this guy needed a break! Come to think of it, that Woody Woodpecker was even worse. First thing tomorrow I'm gonna go out and buy a gun and shoot the shit out of a woodpecker. To quote Ben Edlund, "All the Walrus wanted to do was have a picnic!"
This whole thing kinda reminds me of that completely awesome piece in McSweeney's where they play Chomsky and Zinn's commentary for the Lord of the Rings movie. Probably the best thing that magazine has ever done, with apologies to T.C. Boyle.

There isn't much I can tell you about "The Honorable" Sam Winch, other than his proclivity for zany nicknames and that he appears to be from Vermont. I first heard his "Banter for the Common Man" as the theme for the seemingly-defunct Comedy Central series "The Comedians of Comedy", which followed the incredible standup tour of the same name. I couldn't tell you if Patton Oswalt is the one who picked this song for the theme, but whoever it was did a great job. His music falls in line with a lot of the roots/alt. country stuff that I usually loathe, only with a more bombastic sound and some interesting wordplay. Apparently his music has been featured on "Gray's Anatomy" recently as well, but I wouldn't know since that's one of the 7 shows on television that I don't watch.

"Banter for the Common Man" - Sam Winch

"Pachabel's Pistol" - Sam Winch

Buy The Lullabadeer here for a paltry $12.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why do they always die on Wednesdays?

I don’t even know where to begin. A lot has happened since I took off, and I hope to get back into rhythm by the end of this week, because I’m hopelessly out of touch with the news lately. I’ve been listening to report after report after report about the attorney purging scandal, the Walter Reed Scandal, the death of Captain America… and it’s a lot to take in. So I guess I’ll start by addressing the most seemingly trivial.

I should start by stating that, despite the cult of dork that thrives within my pasty exterior, I’ve never really been a Captain America fan. Sure, I’m aware of him, and I’ve certainly read a few stories that feature him as a character, but I’ve never been able to delve into the baffling chronology of his own series. And it wasn’t just that. Captain America always seemed too perfect to me. Just like the way I could never find the appeal in Superman, I’m afraid to say the round-eyed idealism and superior ideals of Captain America just tended to bore me to tears. Which made it all the more confusing why his death had me so moved. Maybe it was the mere proximity to my father’s death, another person who always tried to do the right thing, no matter what the personal cost. Perhaps it was that he died standing for liberty instead of justice. Maybe I’ve just got a soft spot for wings coming out of people’s heads. I truly don’t know. But in the end I think it was a combination of those things (except for the wings. I’ll never get that). And another thing. Several times in the 60-odd years since his first publication, Steve Rogers, on several occasions, was finding himself at odds with his government. And instead of bowing to the majority or giving up altogether, he gave up the costume; no, he gave up his life, to continue to do the right thing and to fight for what he believed in. Vietnam, government corruption, Watergate, these are all things that cause him to take a stand. It’s not a left thing or a right thing. It’s not about anything but realizing when something you fought for or something you love no longer shares your hope or ideals. It’s about doing what you have to for the better of everyone involved. I didn’t want Cap badmouthing George Bush. I didn’t want him punching Iraqis in the face. I just wanted him there. And strangely, the part that killed me wasn’t the death itself, or even Bendis and Maleev’s stunning Civil War: The Confession book. It was that nobody bothered to tell Joe Simon. The 93 year-old co-creator of the character, who only found out his most famous creation was dead when the newspapers started calling. "It's a hell of a time for him to go” he said. “We really need him now".

I know that I’m making political allegory to a fictional superhero, but you dial up nerd, and that's what you’re gonna get.

So kindly shut up.
I spend the bulk of yesterday listening to testimony from soldiers regarding the medical treatment they’ve received since returning from the war. Not just at Walter Reed, mind you, but all over the country, and it’s appalling. Personally, I’m not certain that this situation would be any different under any other administration, but nonetheless, for an administration that prides itself on supporting our troops, they sure have done a great job of pissing on their wounds. It’s pretty obvious how opposed to the war I am, and I know I’ve lost a lot of faith in our troops after a few of them have acted like complete savages over there. But that does nothing to change the fact that by and large our soldiers are poor and tired and over there because we sent them there. To let these people come home from a situation like that -with mental and physical scars worse than what you or I could imagine- and not provide proper medical care is unforgivable. And to deny that there is anything wrong with them at all is outright criminal. Remember how we denied PTSD after Vietnam? That worked out swell for all, let’s do it again. Can I give back my tax cut to help pay for some troops’ medicine? Can ExxonMobil? Somewhere along the way our priorities have gotten completely fucked, and it’s never going to be easy to right them when everyone’s going to have to make a sacrifice. But it’s gonna have to be done sooner than later, and I hope someone up top realizes this. Oh and hey, what the fuck, we sorta misled you about that global warming thing. our bad.

Okay, and just for the sake of putting some music up, here’s another Spiritualized song. This was how the title track of “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space was supposed to sound before Elvis’ dickhole lawyers got involved. It’s really beautiful sounding, and it crushes me that they couldn’t use it this way. If you ever get a chance to hear a live version, do it. I promise you it’s worth it.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, We are Floating in Space” (original version) – Spiritualized

I’ll be back in a day or so with some new music (Sam Winch!) and less weepy crap, I promise.

P.S. I apologize for the amount of time it’s been since I last updated this. It would be easy to say that I’ve been inundated with grief and that I just haven’t been able to compose myself to post anything coherent or something, but the truth is that every time I start writing something it turns into some mushy half-assed tribute to my dad, and despite my best efforts, this will not turn into on my watch. It hasn’t been an easy time for me lately, that can’t be denied. Neither can the fact that everyone dies and it’s something we all have to live with. It never goes away, and forgetting about it isn’t an option. Fortunately, it gets easier, and you learn to live with the loss, and to hopefully everyone learns a thing or two. I’m not an expert on grief, and I’ve never claimed to be. In fact I’ve so far been one of the luckiest people I know on that front. But it occurred to me in the darkest period of mourning that I’m doing stuff like this for documentation, and if I seclude myself and my most emotionally active, then why am I bothering at all? I actually just heard a collective sigh of relief as I proclaimed that I’m gonna start writing about my feelings more. No, I promise it will barely be noticeable.
I do, though, want to thank everyone that sent a card or a message or called to see how I was doing. On top of the wedding and funeral It’s been absolutely insane with me lately (I couldn’t get into ¾ of the stuff even if I wanted to), and I can’t describe how nice it was to be reminded that y’all were there for me. Reminded is a poor choice of words, though. I could never forget that. Assured. Thanks again guys and I love you all more than you know. It’s all too easy to forget how lucky and blessed you are sometimes, and I’m eternally grateful this isn’t one of those times.
The funeral was one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen and it was truly fitting. Only in my family could the younger brother of the deceased tell a story about punching him in the face and his son tell a story about him accidentally exposing himself to hundreds of my sister’s wedding guests. It was perfectly fitting. I’m not gonna get much more into it any more than this, but I truly walked out of there feeling like the luckiest man in the world.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

About 15 years ago I received a letter from my father. It was part of my confirmation course in church, and the parents were each required to write us a letter and vice versa. I think I was expecting to receive the standard fare of "great job!" or "way to church!" stuff. The pastor of my church arrived to read the letters with me -another part of the deal- and I sat there with a lemonade as we went through it. I have no specific recollection of what I wrote to them in their letter, but that probably supports the idea that it wasn't very good. Completely love and sincere but hastily thrown together without much thought of it. What they wrote to me were two of the most devastating things I've ever read.
I have to preface this with by saying that my father has had health problems for my entire life. I spent months as a baby with my parents friends and family while my parents were in Boston for surgery. He got a permanent intravenous tube when I was seven. When I was in middle school, he had a liver transplant. Oh and he's probably broken about 25-20 bones in his life. But at the same time he was the healthiest person I knew. The only person in my family who didn't drink and he jogged all the time; miles and miles every day. Well, every day he wasn't in the hospital or sporting a skiing/boating/building accident. But he would always just bounce back up with remarkable speed and determination. My mom always says that he's had seven miracles. I cannot itemize these, but I can account for a few. Seven times that he beat the medical odds by surviving. But this is before all that. When I just knew he'd had a liver transplant and a little... i don't know, clumsy? No, he moved with a certain grace, he was an outstanding athlete, starting in three sports in high school and later becoming an All-American lacrosse player. But he somehow would ski into trees, or fall into ditches. Have you ever seen The Royal Tenenbaums? You know the scene where Danny Glover's character is walking along Anjelica Huston and just falls into a hole? That actually happened to him, several times. That's my dad: white Danny Glover. Except my father has never said "I'm to old for this shit". at least not in my presence.
So anyway, I'm opening this letter with Dick (the reverend) and the letters both just put together this story, the story of the first of those miracles. It took place a few months before I was born. He had been diagnosed with a very rare and serious liver disease, Primary sclerosing cholangitis (This is what NFL legend Walter Payton died of). He needed to seek intensive surgery immediately. and my dad prayed his heart out. My pregnant mom was a mess, too. She told me once that during this time she lost her great grandmother's giant canary diamond (whatever that means) and shrugged it off without a care, saying "if Ned makes it through this it'll be worth it".
and it was in these letters that they told me what they were praying for and dreaming of: My father getting to meet me, the only child he had with his new wife. Not to see me grow old, not even to see me grown. Just to meet me. and when he made it through. When their prayers had been answered, they broke down and wept with joy for a day when I was finally born. and every day since then, he said in his letter and my mom said in hers, they were just counting as a blessing. This was no longer a matter of counting down the days, but counting up. He got to see the 5 children that he raised grow into adulthood. He got to know and love 6 grandchildren. The pleasure he took with this, this gift of life and love and family was so apparent. He was just zealous in his very being. He fought off one medical problem after another over the years, with continued liver problems and eventually being diagnosed with cancer this past August. and he died at 11:06 this morning, holding my hand and surrounded by loved ones.
It was peaceful, and there was no pain. Two days ago, he was scheduled to be released from the hospital this afternoon. The doctors were very worried that he’d developed an infection on his heart valve. Through the grace of God it wasn’t, and the said he’d get to go home after being in the hospital for two straight weeks. But complications developed. I was in visiting him last night, and he was in a lot of pain. The sores on his mouth and the morphine made his speech very difficult to understand, and you could see the frustration in his eyes when he is trying with great effort to tell his parents that he loves them, and they can’t understand. Then his liver failed late last night. Things obviously deteriorated from there and he was unconscious by the time I got there this morning.
Things have kind of been a haze since then. I’m running on sheer willpower at the moment, and will completely zonk out as soon as I finish typing this. I‘ve been crying all day and looking after my mom, cleaning up the house, etc. But throughout everything, I can still just think to myself how lucky I am, how lucky we all have been, to have had such a kind and caring and loving and patient role model in my life. I have had the fortune of knowing and loving my father. and I remind myself of those letters and how blessed we were. I still own those letters. and if my place burned to the ground right now my wife and those letters would be the only things I make sure I had safe.

So, sorry to just puke this up on you, but I might not be posting much for a while, and you deserve at least an explanation as to why. I have to go start on his obituary now and I’m far more terrified of writing that than this.

So as I was walking out of the hospital last night and I put my headphones and just hit the shuffle songs button, not really sure of what I wanted to hear. The first was metal and the second was Willie Nelson singing reggae songs. The third one was this and I almost collapsed right there on the train platform in front of the lady and her sister who were smoking a joint with their three toddlers sharing a bench with them.

Waitin’ for Superman (live) – The Flaming Lips

and this because it’s the sort of encouragement everyone needs to hear I swear if this guy was a cult leader I’d so have a robe on right now.

anyways, this will help uh, cleanse your palate:
height="350" width="425">

Friday, March 02, 2007

I just totally came out of a haze with this and realized that the Thermals show is on Tuesday. I'm really lucky, because I would've totally forgotten about it and missed it after buying tickets. So yeah. So these are from the first album that Hutch and Kathy put out under the sensible moniker Hutch & Kathy. It was one of their many efforts before the Thermals. It's a little folkier (I guess is the word to use) than the Thermals' sound, if only in instrumentation, with largely accoustic numbers and some harmonica. featured throughout. Still, it's got the same enthusiasm and giddiness that I've grown to enjoy with all of their projects. I'm really excited for this show.

"In Brilliance" - Hutch & Kathy

"You Can Count On Change" - Hutch & Kathy

Buy Hutch & Kathy here.

I came across that quote that I was trying to remember to publish in here a few weeks ago, but completely forgot about it. I'd heard Zinn quoting it a few times here and there, but it was lot more terrifying when taken in it's original utterances (or recordings there of):
"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger." -- Hermann Göring at the Nuremberg trials


Okay, I'm gonna finish listening to the rest of Elvis' In Person and pass the hell out so I can get up and go to work tomorrow. and then, yes and then the weekend. huzzah. heh I can never think of late-period elvis anymore without thinking of Bubba Ho-Tep. Sweet.



I know I said I'd tell the crack story, but that kinda ties into the Velvet Underground and I can't post them right now. I am aware of how ridiculous this story sounds and how underwhelming it will be when I finally get around to telling it, but that's for the courts to decide. Besides, I'm hellbent on saving my C+ material for when I'm really struggling for something to think up.
So, it's about quarter to two on a friday morning, and I'm completely sober and unable to sleep because of the crazy storm beating down on this house I live in*. I've come to the startling realization lately that I am far more productive in the evening/night than I am in the morning. At work, it takes me three cups of coffee just to sit at my desk, and about an hour of dicking around on wikipedia before I start actually getting shit done. Yet when I leave at 7, I can't pull myself away from whatever task is at hand because I'm cruising through it. So I've made a deal with myself that focusing on getting a healthy amount of sleep isn't as important as maximizing my productivity, so we'll see how that turns out. Also, there's a brand new espresso machine in the kitchen that's screaming for me to put it to use. nice.
Anyways, I'm actually ashamed to be writing something so... tired. Something so seemingly obvious and easy. But goddamned if my last two days hasn't been flooded with racism. First there's that fucking insane op-ed piece that was pissing everyone off so much lately. This shit is paramount to perhaps all but the Klan literature of the 30s as the most disgusting and acrimonious tripe I've ever seen.
Then there was the story this morning on DN about Gary Tyler, whom I had never heard of before. It's fucking heartbreaking. I sat there at my desk just listening to this interview and background and it's just like you're slapped in the face with just the a state government that is just so insanely backwards and ridiculous that you're just left aghast. I mean, I'm in no place to talk, I'm from Pennsylvania, for God's sake. But regardless, this case is just dizzying in its unabashed corruption and racism, and this man has been jailed for the majority of his life because of that. and solely that. It's not that I do this sort of thing often and I never send you these sort of forwards, right? but this afternoon I had a prayer answered. and I don't pray. and one of the things I was thinking about while I was listning to this guy's mother talking about his life and the NYT reporter pointing out a similar case in which the races where reversed to the white killer getting out of prison in 10 while Tyler, at 17 became the one of youngest person ever sentenced to the electric chair and thinking Maybe I should happy with what I got. So I had my prayer answered this morning and I feel like I have to react to that somehow, so just write a pissy letter or email a form letter to Kathleen Blanco if you have the time. It'd help me square up so I can get out of this praying thing even. and what the hell, it might make a difference.
And the third thing was just a podcast that I listen to, and it's a very entertaining and nonthreatening show that I listen to every couple of weeks and they were talking about three somewhat somewhat well-known actors, all of whom have relatively hard to pronounce names and are of West African descent. and in a completely and entirely innocuous moment the hosts began mixing up their names andone of them worried aloud whether this would be construed as racism. and it goe me thinking about that. How quickly people are to be concerned with being seen as a racist. So much so that you see people acting like complete idiots just to not appear the way the genuinely aren't. and I think it's because we bandy that word about for so many situations that it's become sort of a something we're more afriad of catching accusation for than actually working to end.
Let's face it. Racism isn't going to end in our lifetimes. Not even if we're really, really lucky. But that doesn't mean it isn't something we can't have an active open dialogue about how to at least discourage it, then we're already fucked. I don't know if banning the N word in New York is going to make sweet fuck all of a difference, but at least it'll be interesting to observe in a city where you can enjoy constant abuse of foul language at any time of day. So next time use your head. racism and ignorance are not the same thing. It's a fine line, but one worth paying distinction.

**It's funny, because I swear I woke up this morning thinking of how I'm officially sick of the damned winter and how ready I was for weather warm enough for me to spend a weekend drinking on my back porch. and this will come. Like last year, I've vowed to spend whole weekends drunk on the porch, and I shall. But this storm is totally reminding me that I've got a rainy Spring to enjoy before I start thinking about passing out shirtless next to the grill.