Friday, June 30, 2006

The Girl From the North Country

So here I sit, in a cozy house high in the hills of Berkeley, overlooking all the ever-lovin' famous bridges in the Bay area (through some gigantic windows in the living room of Daphne's friend Leila). Drove up here today with the wife and kid. Thandie was pretty amazing about the whole thing. A six hour drive, a punch-you-in-the-face kind of heat, and barely a word of complaint. Sometimes I find it hard to believe she's really two. (Other times, that fact is all too clear.)

Today was my last official day at the IML (so I need to change that fucking blogspot bio, eh?), and last night I got pleasantly drunk (as opposed to the sort of soul-sucking drunk that has been my wont lately) with some good friends from that ill-fated Institution. Reflecting on the brilliance of these folks, and the many and varied ways in which said brilliance has been mercilessly squelched by the bureaucratic machinery of the IML (and, by extension, by academia at large), I was put in mind of my favorite Shakespeare sonnet -- number 66, as it turns out:

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone

Speaking of death -- it's been a week since I saw the Zappa Plays Zappa show at the Wiltern. That was kind of depressing too, despite the exceedingly high level of musicianship on display during the performance. I suspect they're right in billing it as the best live show on the planet right now (though in the context of 2006, that's not saying much), but it's the question of "authenticity" that gets me. Like somehow the only valid performance is one that replicates more or less exactly the shows that Zappa was doing when he was still alive. Isn't that sort of the same rut that organized religion -- one of the very things Zappa fought so hard to undermine -- gets into?

What the fuck do I know? And what does all this have to do with the title of this post? Hmmm. I've gone north. I'm surrounded by girls. I like Bob Dylan's music. So sue me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Cutting some slack for Mary Jane

Every time I think about leaving California, someone goes an does something like this.

And cuz I know that link won't work forever, here's the cut 'n paste version:

West Hollywood To Consider Easing Enforcement Of Marijuana Laws

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Pot smokers wouldn't have to worry about possessing small amounts of marijuana in West Hollywood -- or smoking it in private -- if the community's City Council adopts a proposed resolution on Monday. The resolution would instruct the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which patrols West Hollywood, not to target adults who possess small amounts of marijuana or smoke the herb in private, city officials said. Minors and drug dealers would still be subject to arrest, and smoking in public would still be prohibited.

The council has already voted to allow dispensaries of medical marijuana under the state's compassionate care law approved by voters in a statewide initiative, said Councilman John Duran. Several dispensaries that sell medical marijuana to patients with a doctor's prescription for the drug have been operating in the community for more than a year. The community also has a large gay population, some of whom are living with HIV, and Duran said some patients use marijuana to relieve side effects from AIDS medications. "Council was unanimous earlier on in supporting medicinal use of marijuana," he said. "This goes a step further. As far as I know, we're the first city in Southern California to attempt to do this. A couple of my colleagues are somewhat conservative -- not sure what they'll do -- but I believe it'll pass."

Duran said he believes the resolution will get the three out of five votes needed to pass. If approved, the new rules would go into effect "immediately," he said. The council decided to take up the issue to avoid a costly ballot initiative regarding marijuana use being pushed by a local marijuana advocacy group called the West Hollywood Civil Liberties Alliance. If the council approves the resolution, the group has agreed to drop its initiative, which would save the city thousands of dollars, Duran said. The policy change was initially proposed as an ordinance, but was changed to a resolution to avoid conflicts with state and federal laws, Duran said. An ordinance is a law, while a resolution would merely send law enforcement the message that they should "focus on more serious crimes," he said. "Under state law, possession of marijuana is still illegal under the California Health and Safety Code," Duran said. "We cannot pass laws that contradict state or federal law, but we can give direction to our sheriff's department that we consider marijuana for personal use to be a very low priority and that (officers) instead focus on more serious crimes in the city of West Hollywood."

Duran noted that after the council passed another resolution recommending that officers not arrest couples engaging in sex acts in cars that the number of such arrests went down. According to Duran, the city asked law enforcement to merely "tap on the window of the car and say `go home,"' instead of arresting couples found having sex in cars, which legally constitutes lewd conduct and a crime. He added that if deputies ignored the council's resolution, the city could opt to not renew the sheriff's contract to operate in West Hollywood and contract with another police department such as Beverly Hills, or start its own police department. Although a resolution regarding small amounts of marijuana would not be binding on the sheriff's department, Duran said he expects deputies would comply."I think, deep down, they really feel the same way we do," he said.

(via NBC news)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Yma Sumac

Good god, why has no one ever told me about this woman?

Bought her Mambo! on a whim yesterday, and can't stop playing it. Sorta goofy and beautiful all at once -- my favorite combination. And what a range, navigated with such ease! I would say she was the proto-Bjork (listen to "Five Bottles of Mambo," f'r'instance). In any case, she's anything but "easy listening" (though she usually gets classified that way).

I shouldn't talk about her in the past tense, of course, cuz she's still alive. For the record, though, her heyday was the 50s. Such a repressive time, such interesting music. Wonder if they'll say the same about this decade... anyway, I digress.

Also picked up a bunch of DVDs for Thandie: concerts by Etta James (talk about great art, check out her "I'd Rather Be Blind"), George Clinton (at Montreaux, of all places), Bob Marley, The Buena Vista Social Club documentary (hell, she loved the one about Howlin' Wolf, so I figured why not?), the original Batman movie (that's right, the cheesy one -- Yo Ho!), and The Wiz (say what you will about this Sidney Lumet / Diana Ross / Nipsy Russell / Michael Jackson weird-fest, it's still much hipper than the 1939 Judy Garland film).

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mortality, immortality, and critics

Came across this crazy picture of Frank Zappa tonight, courtesy of European superfan Paul Berkholst.

I know Zappa was no sentimentalist, but this image, taken shortly before his death, moved me. Maybe it's because we took Thandie to the beach the other day, and she panicked when I tried to show her that the ocean was nothing to be scared of by wading into it. It was as if she was afraid that all that water was going to wash me away, mercilessly. It wasn't like I wasn't already aware of the extent to which little kids depend on their parents... but that moment was something more, something that cut straight to an awareness that I'm not going to be on this fucking planet forever.

How does one live completely? In my case, I want to be a great artist and a great human being (father, husband, friend). Is the tradeoff, well, dying of prostate cancer at age 53? I used to think I was willing to make that kind of sacrifice -- one of the reasons I've developed such poor sleep habits. (Health be damned! There's more music to be written!) Now I'm not so sure. I need another solution.

It doesn't help when the rest of the world is unbelievably slow catching up with the "art" part. But thanks to Mr. Berkholst, I discovered more forcefully than ever before that Zappa went through the same shit. Here, for instance, is a clipping from PB's collection (check out his blog at the site above): a generally bad review of a live performance with the LSO (you'll need to click on it to read it):

(Who the fuck is "Howard Brubeck," by the way?)

The IJG actually hasn't gotten many bad reviews, though there are a few if you search for them (google "Industrial Jazz Group" and "Ken Waxman" sometime). But we definitely haven't "broken through" like we should have by now. I've started imagining myself stuck in the same pattern when I'm 80: writing strange, beautiful, interesting music, and continuing to be unable to afford to keep a band together.

This is a scary time to be an artist.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More commentary

This sentence was uttered by Thandie when I asked her why she was refusing to help me clean up her high chair, which she had liberally decorated with peas, meatballs, and strawberries:

"I'm just a baby."

Dumb question

Why isn't it called a "webl" instead of a "blog"?


From Billy Jenkins:

"The musician is losing ground in this DIY technological age. You're looking at the screen now and maybe half listening to music. And a lot of that music is 'found sound', cut and paste and machine originated.

"The real musician has quietly been shown the door. You might enjoy them safely within the cages of a concert hall, regurgitating the only repertoire deemed safe - that which contains revivalism, nostalgia and familiarity.

"'Art' music, that deemed non commercial and worthy of government support by way of the Arts Council, not only has the above ingredients, but must also be 'culturally inclusive', 'educational' and above all - controllable.

"Not only does the creative musician have to compromise their artistic vision to suit 'funding criteria', they also, to satisfy educational addendum, have to reveal (and thus weaken) the mystery and magic of their art."


Friday, June 02, 2006

A new review

How's that for a generic headline?

Anyway, this one's from Scott Yanow at LA Jazz Scene:

"It is fair to say that the Industrial Jazz Group plays unpredictable music. Heard along the way are strong hints of rock & roll, blues, Eastern European folk music, dixieland, r&b, dance music, avant-garde ensembles and Stravinsky, and that is only in the opening number 'Doo Wha?' Led by pianist Andrew Durkin and consisting of seven horns and a three-piece rhythm section, the Industrial Jazz Group can almost be thought of as an American version of Willem Breuker's Kollektief. Alternating complex written ensembles with jammed sections and overheated solos, their music is avant-garde but never dry or meandering; not with their wacky sense of humor and knowledge of earlier styles.

"The band's strong musicianship and ability to instantly switch styles keeps it from merely being a musical comedy act although there are sections on Industrial Jazz A Go Go (available from where it will be difficult not to chuckle. Mixing together satire and reverence for the many musical idioms, the Industrial Jazz Group is both a crack up and a memorable musical experience. This is a band that certainly deserves to be much better known."

Thanks, Scott!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Click this

If I had a remote that could control the universe, I'd probably never let Adam Sandler make another movie.