Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THE ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT HOUR


Elvis Costello and Bill Frisell perform "If I Only Had a Brain."

This is what I call The Attitude Adjustment Hour: The interlude between work and gin, er, home, when it's time to recalibrate the workday brain and relax, and nothing helps as much as the right music. It sets the tone and leads you to a cool oasis where you can remember who you are. Think about it. Better yet, listen.


"Teardrop" by Massive Attack, featuring Liz Frazer, formerly of the Cocteau Twins.


Dutch indie band Bettie Serveert perform "Palomine" at the Pinkpop Festival in Landgraaf, Netherlands back in 1993. That's Carol van Dyk singing.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

LISTEN, TEABAGGER, YOU MIGHT LEARN SOMETHING



President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins goes off on tea-bagger. Excellent!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TOP THIS, RICK SANTORUM



President Barack Obama sings "Sweet Home Chicago" as part of the Mardi Gras blues celebration at the White House, February 21, 2012. The Prez joined B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Keb Mo' and Booker T, Jones during "In Performance at The White House: Red, White and Blues," as part of Black History Month. It's great to see these bluesmen honored in such splendid fashion. Let's hope we're not back to Tobey Keith come November.



Stone in the White House: Mick Jagger rocks "Miss You" with Shemekia Copeland, and Susan Tedeschi on backing vocals.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

SPRINGSTEEN PRAISES OWS



Bruce Springsteen kicked off the Grammys, and now he's kicking off a new album. The album is political and fiery, and so is Springsteen in recent interviews.

"Previous to Occupy Wall Street," he said to the Guardian, "there was no push back at all saying this was outrageous—a basic theft that struck at the heart of what America was about, a complete disregard for the American sense of history and community."

As usual, some won't get it. Back in the eighties, Ronald Reagan misunderstood "Born In The USA" and tried to use it politically, but Springsteen shut that down. Throughout his career, he's performed songs about the promise of America, pulling up the ghost of Tom Joad and the rebel spirit of early rock and roll.

The first single on the new album, "We Take Care Of Our Own," ironically recounts the broken promises of the USA, and it might be misinterpreted by people who don't pay attention. Reagan is gone, but his right wing legions of billionaire apologists are prowling the country in sweatervests, looking for an "in" to the common man they've lost touch with--and they might see this as a rallying cry. Of course, Bruce won't let them. He turned down Ronnie, and he'll turn down the current crop of Republicans--and he will continue to reject their narrowly-defined America and wrestle it back for the rest of us.

"I have spent my life judging the distance between American reality and the American dream," he told the Guardian. "What was done to our country was wrong and unpatriotic and un-American and nobody has been held to account. There is a real patriotism underneath the best of my music but it is a critical, questioning and often angry patriotism."

Springsteen gave OWS credit: "The temper has changed. And people on the streets did it. Occupy Wall Street changed the national conversation—the Tea Party had set it for a while. The first three years of Obama were under them. Nobody had talked about income inequality in America for decades—apart from John Edwards—but no one was listening. But now you have Newt Gingrich talking about 'vulture capitalism'—Newt Gingrich!—that would not have happened without Occupy Wall Street."

What did he say about Obama? "He kept General Motors alive, he got through healthcare—though not the public system I would have wanted—he killed Osama Bin Laden, and he brought sanity to the top level of government. But big business still has too much say in government and there has not been as many middle- or working-class voices in the administration as I expected. I thought Guantanamo would have been closed but now, but he got us out of Iraq and I guess we will soon be out of Afghanistan."

Saturday, February 18, 2012

CHILLIN' WITH MY BUD, D



Like I was relaxin, dude, slammin' Jaeger shots, lol, and DFW is like, Dude, what is it with literature, and I'm like, Dude, shut up, yer wasted, and DFW is like, Dude, I want to convince you that irony, poker-faced silence, and fear of ridicule are distinctive of those features of contemporary U.S. culture (of which cutting-edge fiction is a part) that enjoy any significant relation to the television whose weird pretty hand has my generation by the throat. I'm going to argue that irony and ridicule are entertaining and effective, and that at the same time they are agents of a great despair and stasis in U.S. culture, and that for aspiring fictionists they pose terrifically vexing problems. And I'm like, Dude, shut up. LMAO



So I'm slammin Jaeger shots and DFW is all, whatever, and I'm like, Dude, shut up about aspiring fictionists with their vexing problems, I've got problems of my own, and DFW is like, Dude, one of the things that makes Wittgenstein a real artist to me is that he realized that no conclusion could be more horrible than solipsism. And I'm like, Whoa, what about these extreme jalapeno poppers, and he's like, You ever read a book, and I'm like, Sure, plenty of times. And he's like, Dude, if you don't bother to read, and you're bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and Jaeger shots. And I'm like, Dude, why do you have to be such a dick?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

NOW THAT'S DANCING!



The Nicholas Brothers perform what Fred Astaire called "the greatest dance number ever filmed." This performance is from the film, "Stormy Weather," 1943. The film also featured Cab Calloway (shown here briefly), Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Lena Horne. While allied troops were fighting Hitler's antisemitism and racism abroad, at home America was still deeply segregated. This was an era when black actors and singers rarely appeared in lead roles in Hollywood movies. This movie was one of two major Hollywood musicals produced in 1943 with primarily African-American casts (the other being "Cabin in the Sky") and provided a showcase of talent not normally seen by mainstream (read: White) audiences. Years later, tap-dancing was looked down upon as old-fashioned and Uncle Tom, but the talent of these performers is undeniable and dancers like the Nicholas Brothers influenced later generations of dancers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

PITY THE BILLIONAIRE


In Bookforum, Will Bunch lays out the manipulation of Tea Party-type resentment away from the real culprits of the 2008 crisis (who benefited handsomely) to the usual suspects of conservative conspiracy in his review of Thomas Frank’s latest book, Pity the Billionaire. Bunch lays out the shift in a choice paragraph, starting with CNBC’s Rick Santelli: “The previously little-known cable reporter was instrumental in articulating the resentment that would turn the blame away from the millionaire bankers who made lousy bets on high-risk mortgage-backed securities, onto the lower-middle-class “losers” who were enticed into taking subprime loans.” Further on, “…the public didn’t need much convincing that the usual suspects—Washington liberals and their allies in the media and academia—were the real villains of the 2008 crisis.” This results in all these resentful conservatives who “pity the billionaires, who are still routinely described—despite all the evidence to the contrary—as ‘job creators.’” (Unfortunately, the story has no link online so pick up a copy of Bookforum.)

As for Thomas Frank, he wrote a book essential to understanding the bait-and-switch political con game in the heartland, "What's the Matter With Kansas." By all means pick it up and read it. In his well-researched book, Frank makes it easier to understand such a huge swath of America working hard against its own interests. As for the new one, it's on my list.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!



Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

William Shakesepeare
(1564 - 1616)

Monday, February 13, 2012

ANYBODY ALIVE OUT THERE?



Amen! Awards shows generally suck but once in a while they throw together some talented musicians who transcend the dull format and play some real music. Real music, not the canned, overproduced, radio-friendly stuff (Yes, okay, Adele is great, but I'm sooooo tired of her) but music that lights up the room with real electricity. We used to call it rock and roll, and it was rebellious and loud and unruly, unlike the mounds of auto-tuned, computerized, drum-machined, easy-listening product oozing from your speakers like Velveeta. Real music, played by real people, and not for the queasy or timid or weak of heart. It's rare these days. At the Grammys last night, in an endless, otherwise lackluster evening, that happened just a few times. Newcomer (new to me, anyway) Bruno Mars knocked 'em out with a solid a retro tune and some old school dance moves. He looked like Little Richard and danced like an old Doo-Wop singer. That was a nice surprise. Old friend Bruce Springsteen kicked out a 2012 Depression set with the energy of a tent show revival crossed with Occupy Wall Street testifyin.' And another old friend, Paul McCartney (remember Paul, from Wings? Ah, forget it...) sang a sweet tune from his new record of standards. My Valentine.


My Valentine

But things went crazy from the White Album (look it up) with a little help from his friends, including Bruce, Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters (and Nirvana) and ex-Eagle, ex-James Gang-member Joe Walsh, and played--respectfully--the side two medley of Abbey Road, something you've probably had scrimshawed on the inside walls of your skull for decades. Sure, some were puzzled. I guess some people don't know who the Beatles are anymore, or they confuse those advertainments and pop confections on the TV dessert tray for rock and roll, but Paul has traveled down some long and winding roads and he still brings it. Maybe his voice doesn't quite reach the way it did in his twenties, but whose does? It was a great few moments before the powers of mediocrity wrestled the controls from the lads and returned us to our normal programming, but one thing is safe to say: Turns out the Beatles weren't a fluke or a fad, after all. As for rock, well, Danny and the Juniors said it best: Rock and roll is here to stay. Now get out of here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

THE ARTIST



Could it be possible, in this age of dazzling 3-D movies, image-capture trick photography and computer-generated special effects, that the best film of the year is a silent movie?

Maybe so. "The Artist" is a surprising and wonderful film that challenges our notions of modern film-making and even entertainment itself. It's topped the Golden Globes nominations and is up for Best Picture at the Oscars, and stands a chance at winning against some very good films and a handful of predictable old warhorses ready for the glue factory.

Films are only as good as their audiences, and if people continue to skip creative and truly adveturous stories in favor of formulaic retreads and tepid, made-for-TV movies--that's what Hollywood will continue to hand them. But if people are willing to crawl out of their increasingly narrow Comfort Zones for something new--and old, in this case--and leave their comfy couches and home entertainment centers now and then, maybe better movies would be made. Maybe not. In any case, see "The Artist," a brilliant film like no other this year. Trouble is, it might spoil you for all that tepid pablum you've been swilling down for years.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

JACK DAVIS TRIBUTE: THIS SATURDAY



Jack Davis (b. December 2, 1924) is a cartooning genius. Wipe the slate of all those phoney high art pretenders, those MFAs who can't draw a straight line, those artistic ass-kissers who were born on third base and think they hit a home run. Forget about the heavy conceptual videographers with one trick up their sleeve, the chilly academic artists and those apple-polishing art teachers' pets who flatter the critics with easy-to-explain work and camera-ready wall-text. Jack Davis is the real deal. He worked his way up the ladder with mad skills in a much maligned art form, the humble comic, a medium sometimes sneered at by the Downton Abbey art aristocracy as common and frivolous, but Jack Davis could draw rings around all of them. Years ago, as a wide-eyed youth, I meticulously imitated his Mad Magazine caricatures (paying particular attention his shoes; nobody draws wingtips like Davis), slaving over his freewheeling, inspired work. I loved his film posters, too, with characters spilling out from the visual plane, the visual madness of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" poster, and his promo for NBC for "Get Smart," which I sent away for and dutifully posted over my bed. Someday, Jack Davis--and all the cartoonists and illustrators and the real workers of the art world--will be recognized after all the Jeff Koons and Damien Hirsts have been forgotten. Platinum, diamond-studded skulls? PUH--leeze. Giant teddy bears? Pure junk. The Faberge eggs of the now, useless and expensive, mere signs of wealth but certainly not taste. Check out Jack's work.


And don't miss a tribute to the man by some of the best cartoonists around--and me, too! Check this out:

FUNNY VALENTINES: A TRIBUTE TO JACK DAVIS

An exhibition featuring Peter Bagge, Nikki Burch, Art Chantry, Jack Davis, Tom Dougherty, Jesse Edwards, Ellen Forney, Art Garcia, Roberta Gregory, Charles Krafft, Jason T. Miles, Pat Moriarity, Tom Neely, Joe Newton, Ries Niemi, John Ohannesian, Augie Pagan, Eric Reynolds, Bob Rini, Johnny Ryan, Frank Santoro, SHAG, Matthew Southworth, and Jim Woodring.

Opening Reception Saturday, February 11, 6:00 to 9:00 PM

Exhibition continues through March 7, 2012

Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 S. Vale Street (at Airport Way S,)
Seattle, WA 98108 206.658.0110
Open daily 11:30 - 8:00 PM, Sunday until 5:00 PM


CLICK TO ENLARGE

FLYING



The Utah Valley University school of Aviation Science released a short, animated film on the history of flight. The film runs through Leonardo da Vinci's designs of flying machines and parachutes in the 1480s to the Montgolfier Brothers' hot air balloons in 1783, from the infamous Wright Brothers in 1903 to modern-day aviation. Next time you squeeze into an airplane seat and get overcharged for a tiny drink, raise your plastic glass to these pioneers of aviation.

Friday, February 3, 2012

SO LONG, BEN GAZZARA



Ciao, Ben Gazzara. Born Biagio Anthony Gazzara to Sicilian immigrant parents in 1930, he went on to act in a wide variety of roles, most memorably in the films of John Casavettes. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

LIBERALS ARE SMARTER



Maybe you've already heard about this study, but I need to post it. I came across it in the Huffington Post. Research at Brock University in Ontario suggests that conservatives are less intelligent than liberals--and that racists are downright dumb. I'm paraphrasing, but in the study, people who scored low on I.Q. tests in childhood proved more likely to develop prejudiced beliefs and socially conservative politics in adulthood. This corroborates earlier studies that have suggested the same thing, and it makes sense.

Dr. Gordon Hodson, the study's lead author, says people of low intelligence tend to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies which stress resistance to change and, in turn, prejudice. If you are liberal, you probably already knew that. If you are conservative, I'll have to explain it again, only much slower. Dr. Brian Nosek, a University of Virginia psychologist, agrees.

"Reality is complicated and messy," Nosek is quoted in The Huffington Post. "Ideologies get rid of the messiness and impose a simpler solution. So, it may not be surprising that people with less cognitive capacity will be attracted to simplifying ideologies."

But you knew that.