Wednesday, November 29, 2006


"To the Bird Who Flew Into Our Second-Story Picture Window Earlier This Week"


Oh, bird.
Why did you do that?
Surely you noticed my bald head
as I sat on the couch reading a book.
Did that not alert you to the impending danger?
Shall we get a shade?
Poor little guy.
What kind of bird are you, anyway?
Several pretty yellow feathers,
and many more gray ones.
You're too big to be a finch, methinks.
Here's another question:
How am I going to get you off the lower roof?

As I stare at you, I wonder:
Are those Xs that were your eyes?
And are both legs really sticking straight up into the air?
'T'would be comical if it weren't so sad.

Going back to the fact of my bald head in the window
(You know, the thing that should have warned you),
I have to wonder further:
Was this self-inflicted?
My broken or bruised rib
(a story for another post)
My chronically aching back
Perhaps these are as nothing
To whatever birdy woes beset you.

If it matters to you
Wherever you are
You have conveniently provided my daughter
With her first real-world illustration
Of the mystery of death.
For this I must thank you.
Bird, bird, bird; bird is the word.


Waking up this morning
I see your now-frozen body is still on the lower roof.
Ah, godammit, I must buy a ladder.

But no! What is this?
A murder of crows
Seem intent on carrying you off somewhere
And... uh... what?! Eating you?!


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Two bits

Gotta be quick (it's 4 AM, after all), but here you go:

1. lowercase lifestyle recently had an interesting post on P-Music. I'll let you decide for yourself whether the results are worth listening to (I for one enjoyed them), but I can't resist the urge to mention that I have long been skeptical of the old saw that (traditional) recordings (be they LPs, CDs, or whatever) are unchanging artifacts -- that view (often trotted out as a deficiency of recorded music) seems to overlook the (admittedly subtle) ways seemingly stable objects can appear to change depending on the context in which they are consumed. To take a banal example -- most recordings sound different depending on whether they are experienced in a car, via headphones, in the company of others, solo, and so on.

2. I recently relocated an old email in which my friend Alex Tarr pointed me toward this amazing post on X-Ray music (over at Kevin Kelly's blog). Holy cow! Talk about bricolage! Talk about the uncanny! And talk about fascism -- as fucked up as things are with the music industry nowadays, at least we don't have to deal with "music patrols." (Yet.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Flashbacks and free associations

Just a moment ago, sitting in this comfy chair, listening to some music, I had two flashbacks.

Flashback the first was brought on by a late-night showing of the classic Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky that I happened to catch the last half of the other night. Man, what a beauty. The first time I saw it (maybe fifteen years ago) I had just had my wisdom teeth removed and was spacing out on all sorts of pain-killers. I realize now that the thing is just as weird when seen straight. Strange, surreal edits, evocative panoramic images, and a killer, sorta creepy score by Prokofiev.

Flashback the second has to do with all this rain. That may be the number one question I get since moving to Portland: "Does it rain a lot?" Well, sure. I love it. Once, while still in my first or second year of high school (back when I was seriously considering filmmaking as a career) I wrote a sort of science-fictiony screenplay about a young man who lived on a planet where it rained all the fucking time. I imagined that planet in part because I wanted to live there, I guess. So maybe Portland is that planet. Home at last!

Okay. Enough reminiscing. More turkey, please.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

It's tricky, alright

Can't imagine what is driving this lawsuit against Run DMC. Unless maybe it's the fact that capitalism makes assholes of us all.

Counselor Schultz has it backwards, by the way. Copyright wasn't created specifically for protection, but rather to provide "incentives" for producers, artists, writers.

"It's Tricky" really is an entirely different song from "My Sharona." It is driven rhythmically more by the rappers' (original) lyrics than by the (altered) Knack riff. In other words, while "My Sharona" has a melody and lyrics that follow the riff's rhythm pretty closely, Run DMC play with and around that rhythm in fresh and exciting ways. Not that one tune is necessarily better than the other; the point is only that they are different.

With "It's Tricky," Run DMC were simply riffing on a riff. And at a basic level, what else is the history of music?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's the timetable, stupid (or: It's about freakin' time, part 2)

It's really a pity Russ Feingold has bowed out of the '08 prez race. Here's the latest bit of (very welcome) logic and sanity from the good senator.

It's so simple, really. Allow me to quote the above-linked piece:

"My legislation recognizes that a target date for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq will help pressure the Iraqis to get their political house in order. Simply announcing when we will begin redeployment, without any end date, is unlikely to put adequate pressure on the Iraqis. [...] A target date isn’t just critical to our Iraq policy, it is essential for our national security policy. We cannot adequately focus on the pressing national security challenges we face around the globe when so many of our brave troops are in Iraq, and so many billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being spent there. A timetable ensures that we can refocus our resources on fighting terrorist networks and on addressing trouble spots around the world that threaten our national security."

July 1, 2007: keep your fingers crossed.

My new motto

To be taken with the requisite grain of salt:

"There is nothing worse than cold coffee and warm beer."

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's about freakin' time

Man, I really got behind with the posting and the blogging, eh? I think it was Zappa who once said that "time is the thing"; that's my only excuse.

Music update: we were back in LA two weekends ago, and I managed to get some more tracking done for the new IJG album(s), which are, in any case, still pretty far from completion. Certainly nothing else will be ready for release this year. (If I had my way (read: if I had the cash) we would bang out each record pretty quickly, because I hate feeling like there is a backlog of compositions to be committed to disc. But alas, that's not the world we live in.)

Apropos of nothing: I absolutely love being in the studio. Almost any studio. If I could, I would live there. Okay, that's an overstatement, but I really do get off on the whole context -- the topography, the culture, the lingo, the heightened sense of perception, and, perhaps especially, the uncanny sense of being able to stop time -- which I suppose is one of the byproducts of looping a single performance over and over in order to evaluate, punch in, mix, or whatever. Yeah, time is the thing.

Incidentally (still), that "time-stopping" quality is particularly interesting when you're doing what is essentially a "big band project" -- cuz that's what the IJG has become, at least in terms of its instrumental structure -- via the more rock-oriented technique of overdubbing. With the exception of two moderate sized sessions (one with five and one with seven players), most of the personnel for the current crop of recordings have assembled and done their thing in groupings of three or less.

Anyway: far more important things happened last week, as we all know.

The evening before the election, just before heading up to Simi Valley for the second of the abovementioned sessions, I spent an hour or so with my good friend "Charlie" (of IML fame). We hung out for a while on the porch of the Santa Monica apartment he shares with his wife and two boys. The whiskey was flowing, and believe me, I would have partaken if I hadn't been on my way to the session (alas, I discovered that evening how incredibly great (and windy!) is the distance between Simi Valley and LA). But I had to content myself with the stimulating conversation, which inevitably wound around to the subject of politics. We were both a little anxious about what was going to happen the next day.

And as it turned out, Daphne and Thandie and I spent most of election day itself in the airport, trying to get back to PDX. We were a little desperate, in fact -- our brief reunion with LA had grown old fast, and now that we had finished all of our tasks for this trip, we were more than ready to get home. While making our way through security, I noticed Flavor Flav (of Public Enemy and now VH-1 fame) sending his famous clock through the x-ray machine. It seemed oddly portentous somehow -- about time, indeed.

And then, at some point while we were 30,000 feet above it, the landscape changed -- though none of us would really know about that until much later in the evening.

So what do I think of the Democratic "sweep"? After the initial giddiness and (hell, I'll admit it) the cheap satisfaction of watching petulant pricks like Tony Snow and Ken Mehlman get their various degrees of come-uppance -- there is the recognition that this is only the first step in a much longer process. In some ways, the damage has already been done. The election does not change the impression that Mr. Bush has been the "winner" all along -- having signed the death sentences of (so far) nearly 3000 American soldiers (kids, really) and many many more Iraqi civilians in order to follow through on his personal bloodlust against Saddam Hussein. For those people, and for others, like Malachi Ritscher, this election came too late. (Thanks, Darcy, for the link.)

The narrative that seems to have taken hold is that America was "duped" into going into Iraq, and now the Democrats, the new sheriffs in town, are going to give us a saner foreign policy. All well and good, and the sooner we get out, the better -- but there's a deeper, more accurate way to describe what has happened in the last few years. Many of us who actually paid attention in history class understood from the get-go that the prospect of forcibly establishing a democracy in a foreign society -- a society that hadn't chosen that path of its own accord -- was what the sages would call a really bad idea. I remember literal rioting in the streets in San Francisco when we were playing a gig there on the evening that this fucking war started. None of these folks were duped, I can assure you. They and many others knew this was going to be a fiasco from the beginning.

Now there's a subtle but very definite swoon running through the country as old man Bush -- you know, the one behind the first Iraq war -- seems to be taking over behind the scenes, pushing his son's insane administration back toward a more "palatable conservatism." Maybe that was the game all along -- a weird plan to check a few more items off the Bush family wish list: Bush 43 gets to "kick Hussein's ass," and Bush 41 gets a second term (or at least two years' worth). Let's not forget: Bush the elder may be more pragmatic than his son, but he is still an asshole. Let's not forget that it was his careless parading of American forces through the gulf region during the first war that provided Osama bin Laden with a key pretext. And, though one is tempted to surmise that Bozo the Clown would have been a better Defense Secretary than Rumsfeld (no offense, Bozo), let's not assume that Robert Gates is necessarily the best solution to that particular problem either. Two words: Iran-Contra.

(And by the way, shame on you, Tim Russert, for your pronounced fascination with the father-son story unfolding here. The tale may read like one of the Henry plays, but you sure ain't no Shakespeare.)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Goo Goo Ga Joob

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Thandie Durkin "eggman series." A delightful addition to any living room. Shall I start the bidding?

Eggman no. 1:

Eggman no. 2:

Egg family:

(Artist background: a 2-and-a-half year old who makes her home in Portland, Ms. Durkin learned to draw faces, eggmen, and four letters ("T," "H," "A," and "N") sometime in the last week. Her father can barely keep up with her.)