Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Is it just me, or have I had a total pottymouth today? I need to get to bed, I think. 'Night.

He started the Dean for America webring (add yourself to it here), and he's got a pretty damned good blog. Meet Carl with a K.

Are you in the UK (or just obsessed with their singles chart)? Do you love a bit of cheek - oh, just take the whole fucking thing - with your commentary? Then you need to read Popjustice's guide to the next 2 months. Period. It ain't what they do, it's the way that they do it.

I was remiss in not noting the return of Marcello this week, from his Easter recess. Today he posted what may well be the finest piece of music criticism I've read all year (we're a third of the way through it, you know), a review of Fleetwood Mac's Say You Will which seriously makes me want to buy it. If it's half as good as the good Mr. Carlin intimates, it may well be a masterpiece.

Stellar piece by the Voice's Gary Giddins on the Pulitzer's musical fascism.

Now Hilary Rosen's set her sights on Iraq. Thank goodness - we wouldn't want the Iraqis accessing Morpheus! Do we have any smart bombs left?

Yeah, his writing is totally (at times) fuckable, and if you don't already know it, then hop to today's must read: Nate on "Back Stabbers."

Oh, Ray? I laughed, too.

Shock! Horror! Three of the four books on my "current reading" list are nonfiction. That might be a first. Of course, all three of those are about music.

Iowa State coach Larry Eustachy has admitted he's an alcoholic. His wife is behind him, his players are behind him, even Dickie V. is behind him. Still it doesn't look good for him. Personally, I agree with Vitale; I think Eustachy should be given a second chance. Humans make mistakes, and pay the consequences for them - but I think that firing Eustachy would be too harsh a punishment.

On the flipside, how fucking - I don't even know what - to hear that "[Rockies pitcher Todd] Jones [...] was teary-eyed at times during his brief statement." Am I supposed to feel sympathy for this asshole because he "was teary-eyed" while reading a statement in which he said he was sorry for airing his anti-gay views publicly and embarassing the team - but not one in which he admitted he's wrong? He didn't apologize for what he said, he apologized for saying it to the media.

Apparently, when he holds hands with a woman in public, or kisses her, that's fine. But if I do it with another man, that's "flaunting." Fuck Todd Jones. Asshole. Cry all you fucking want.

This almost makes me wanna like Duke. [I said almost.] It certainly gives me a new respect for Nick Horvath and Shavlik Randolph. [Link via my homeboy Chrisafer.]

And as he's wont to do, The Tin Man nails this week's Buffy. Here's his superb review of "Empty Places."

As he's wont to be, Paul is, it would appear, right again. Last month, he took issue with something I posted about teenpop, suggesting that Mandy Moore is clearly the most talented of the current female bunch, and has a very good shot at a long, artistically (if not always commercially) successful career. Well, wouldn't you know it: she's just completed her forthcoming covers album, Coverage, and if the clips she's posted on her website are anything to go by, WOW! The three songs featured? Would you fucking believe selections by Todd Rundgren ("Can We Still Be Friends"), Joan Armatrading ("Drop the Pilot"), and XTC ("Senses Working Overtime"). Oh! My! Gosh! They're all three very good, too. These excerpts show quite a bit of vocal maturity (she just sounds flat-out great), and if you're still skeptical, read this, which Ms. Moore herself said of the songs on her new record:

It is a compilation of some of the most incredible music I have ever heard in my life and the fact that I got to record these songs is still unimaginable to me.

Looks like Mandy just upped the ante considerably (not that Brit and XTina'll notice), and just moved to the head of the class, as well. Incredibly impressive. Please check out the clips; I think you'll agree. These are the sound of an artist advancing and growing, pushing herself and her listeners. Who can argue with that?

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Very High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Now, this is an interesting, and long-needed, idea come to fruition. I'm wary of all the commercial capacities with which it'll inevitably be used, but like the basic premise behind it a lot. Back announcing is necessary. Don't do it, and I won't listen. Simple as that. [Corporate radio sucks, anyway.]

Beg, bitch, beg.

Ironic in that I was just thinking about posting about the fact that "Figures...just when he [Ed. note: me] names me [Addaboy] blog of the week (FINALLY DAMMIT), I don't write for 3 days of it. C'mon babe, give me an extension will ya? Pretty please? Don't make me beg!"

I'm feeling evil today. But in a good way, akin to deliciously evil. Nonetheless, babe, start beggin'.

They can send all the IMs they want. I still say, fuck the RIAA. And your little Hilary, too!

You know what I mostly download? Things I already own on vinyl and cassette. I'm not spending hundreds of dollars on software to convert those formats to mp3 files. I'm going to download them from other people. See, since I already bought and paid for those records, it's my right, as I see it, to have them in mp3 format as well. Now, of course, the recording industry feels otherwise, I'm sure (much like when they got everyone to convert their LPs to CDs in the mid-'80s). And my reply? Fuck you. You know what the CEOs of most major record companies care about? Making money. That's why the cost of CDs keeps going up. And their shortsightedness has cost them - too many people are too used to downloading music for free by now. If the major record labels had come up with a download strategy when they should have - i.e., years ago - it could be in place by now. But they didn't, and it's not. Because they're stupid and focused far too much on short-term goals. Unimoth (as Christgau calls them),, have no one but themselves to blame. And trust that there are no tears falling down my face, y'all.

From the world of college basketball, as we verge on May: Illinois makes a fine coaching choice, Texas will still be good next year, but not as good as they could've been, and in the immortal words of the Clash, should he stay or should he go? Iowa State players say he should stay.

Just what Major League Baseball needs: more public homophobes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Unquestionably, the most bizarre story the sports world has seen in some time - maybe since Iron Mike went all ubervamp on Evander's ass - is that regarding party animal Larry Eustachy. A 47-year-old, married-with-children, head coach of a Big 12 men's basketball team going to off-campus and frat parties? With players from opposing teams? And kissing young coeds? Wha-wha-what?! I don't know if it's really sad or really funny. It's likely both.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Well, after a crazy-mad-blogging Sunday like I had, wouldn't you (just about) take a day off, too?

Today's must read was posted at Daily Kos over a week ago, but I must've missed it then. It's titled The Greens, The Dems, and 2004. And I agree with almost every word of it.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Great news for Inskeeps and NPR junkies: my cousin Steve is on his way home! He should be back in the states early this week. Yay, safe and sound!

Excuse me while I have an extremely gay moment, and tell you of my love for Ikea. I know, I know, what could be more stereotypical? But when I went there with Darrell and Tony last October on our way back from D.C. - to the Potomac Mills store - I was floored. I expected, thoroughly, to loathe it as the apex of gay queendom and home furnishings. And it kinda is, but in a good way. There is so much stuff that's both utilitarian (a big plus in my book; I tend not to buy much I can't use) and cheap - not crappy, just affordable, even for those such as myself who are on I-work-for-a-non-profit budgets. To wit, my current favorite object of desire, the Svepa glasses seen here (you've gotta have Adobe Acrobat Reader to see 'em). Chas got a dozen for the roomie and me when he was up at Ikea 2 weeks ago. They're $3.95 for a set of 12! And they're gorgeous and functional! I like simple, classic design, and that's Ikea all the way - they're kinda like The Gap for your house. I'm supposed to go back up there with Chas soon (he wants a new computer desk; I like this one so much I might actually treat myself), and you can bet I'll be taking some dollars to spend on cool, useable stuff.

Most of the time, songs which include the artist's name in them (barring hiphop) are bad. Most of the time, any song titled "Sexual Guarantee" is bad. Most of the time, a group from Europe so gay they nearly make Army of Lovers look, well, not as gay as them, is bad. But most of the time, all three things don't collide at once. And most of the time, said groups - in this case, Alcazar - don't sample a classic as towering as Chic's "My Forbidden Lover." Which makes nearly any sin, including the above three, forgivable. And which also makes "Sexual Guarantee" a marvelous, smile-inducing dance-pop ball of cadmium-yellow American, it's so cheesy. And, like Kraft singles, delicious in that most obvious of ways.

Matthew over at Fluxblog has (temporarily?) quizzically changed the name of his blog to Nunchucksblog. More importantly, he'd like some assistance; please let him know what you feel the year's best hiphop singles he may have missed (that means no 50, y'all) are. It's painless, it's free, and you'll feel better about yourself later.

Belgian Jan Geerinck runs the website Jahsonic. He has fairly impeccable taste, and his website is a guide to, well, what appears to be the best of everything - from films to the history of dance music to S&M. So overwhelming, my head hurts, but in a good way. Get thee there posthaste! [Link via Troubled Diva.]

The Williams sisters single-handedly beat the Czech Republic's team, advancing the US to the quarters of the Fed Cup today. They really are world-beaters, eh?

My Pacers suck.

I read Dan Savage's "Savage Love" faithfully. And now, just for the homos, there's "Savage Love 2.0" - all queer sex and relationship, um, queeries, all the time!

You know I support Howard Dean for President in 2004. But did you know - I just discovered this myself, actually - that he has his own blog?! Not only his he anti-war and pro-gay rights, he's a blogger. Now, that's a man I want in the White House!

His blog has one of the best names in the blogsphere. That alone should be enough, but no! He posts great mp3s, tells lovely stories and reminisces, and is, inevitably as it would happen, woofy. What is it with all the woofy bloggers, anyway? Oh, yes, it's Dave and his blog, Bald Sarcasm.

Love or hate her, how can you not want to hear Courtney Love covering "Bette Davis Eyes"? I mean, really.

About damned time there was a good Dolly Parton tribute record, let alone one weighing in so heavily on her recent bluegrass recordings. But Melissa Etheridge singing "I Will Always Love You"? Ladies and gentlemen, I present what will be the theme song to the next 20 years of lesbian weddings.

All the more perplexing is the new single by recent Rolling Stone coverboys Good Charlotte. I really, really dislike them - "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" is so smarmy and sneering to nearly be vomit-inducing. They're about as "punk" as Avril.

[Side note: was discussing with Stumpy today how I blame Green Day for all this faux-punk. He disagreed slightly, saying he blames GD for Blink-182, and Blink themselves for this current crop. Either way, Billie Joe Armstrong, right or wrong, has a few things to answer for.]

The surprise, then, comes that they may actually make a decent pop combo, if they'd drop the pretense and "angst" (as Puffy said, uh-huh, yeah). "Boys and Girls" has stupid, I-should-be-in-the-Queers lyrics. But musically it's so much new wave amped up with louder riffs; it reminds me a lot of the Go-Go's and the Knack - you can nearly hear the synth pads getting hit as the "drums" are played. And the "let's go!" heading into the chorus leads to a total Cars homage. Obviously, Good Charlotte should beg Ric Ocasek to produce their new album, start sucking cock, and open for Pansy Division. Then they'd be a band I could believe in (or at least consider being convinced by).

Addendum: GC fans (and queer punk boys the world over) will want to make certain to read this slightly disturbing fanfiction regarding Benji, Billy, Joel and Paul, er... taking some of my above advice. Thanks to XRRF for the link.

Popjustice have been trumpeting them for months now, and today saw the first appearance of Triple 8 in the UK singles chart, as "Knockout" entered at, appropriately, #8. The important thing to note is this is actually a rather great pop record, reminiscent in some ways of 5ive, but with would-be raunchy guitar riffing and creamier vocals (and of course, the requisite turntable scratches so de rigeur these days - is that Linkin Park's fault?). It's perfectly punchy. The chorus is only okay, but the bridges, where the quintet harmonize like fallen angels, are absosmurfly ace. A fine debut - let's hope there's more where this came from.

Busted, this week's new charttoppers, however, are unfortunately dull, like BBMak in Sum 41 Halloween costumes. Should we applaud them for trying (they're more sincere than Avril, certainly), or boo them for not succeeding?

Excellent interview with comeback kid Randy Travis from

Funny to hear so many raving about the new Blur record; to my ears, (UK single) "Out of Time" is a fairly pedestrian, sleepytime retread of any midtempo-to-ballad track they did pre-'98. Think Tank had better be better than that. Based on the US single, "Crazy Beat" (a/k/a "we really want another US hit," a/k/a "Song 2" part 2), however, my hopes aren't high. Maybe Damon needs to hang up that coat and just go back to Gorillaz?

Mis-teeq's "Scandalous" effortlessly trumps the last 5 years, at least, of Blur records. Now this is a record with grease!

"The only people in Baghdad allowed to wear a uniform ... is who we authorize...". What the fuck does that mean? Is Iraq now a U.S. territory? It's obviously already for sale to the highest bidders...

Good Lord, Wes is an idiot. When you're presenting the new UK singles chart, dumbass, you don't say "12 new entries, 27 going down and one re-entry" and then suggest that Room 5 might stay at #1. You just said that there were no non-movers, moron. Sheesh.

Why didn't I know before now that the brilliant Michelangelo Signorile has his own website?

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Allen Anthony's "Alright" is an utter marvel, a wonder, a deep, long, tongue kiss of a record. Apparently, Anthony was in the much-missed duo Christion (remember "Full of Smoke"? Ooh!), and this song is now a single with hot-as-fresh-tar rapper Freeway taking the lead. But the original's all AA, and it's a street soul stunner, produced by the can't stop, won't stop Just Blaze. I'm so enraptured, so full of new love for this song, that I'm having trouble articulating myself about it. But the best news? There's a free download of "Alright" available over at base58, so get thee there pronto and smell the love.

I'm sorry that Charleton Heston has Alzheimer's. My grandma has that, so I know how devastating it can be. I'm not, however, sorry that Chuck's no longer the public face of the NRA. Maybe their ownership of - I mean, influence over - many politicians will finally lessen. I've said it before and I'll say it again: submachine guns (to use just one example) are not made for hunting four-legged creatures. They're made for killing people. And there's no fucking need for them, period.

I'll turn 33 in December. Andre Agassi will do so Tuesday. That's where the similarities end. Amazing Andre became the oldest man to be ranked #1 in tennis today. He's still a threat at all of '03's remaining slams, y'all, and I hope he shows that cocky whippersnapper Andy Roddick a thing or two tomorrow in the U.S. Men's Clay Court championship.

So I heard "The Humpty Dance" today, for the first time in a long time. And you know what I'd forgotten about this Digital Underground classic? How (I use a word that don't mean nothin', like) bad-ass-ly it swangs. That bassline is fucking indestructible. If "Humpty Dance" isn't enough to prove it to ya, track down their '96 release Future Rhythm and believe how they were on some serious children-of-George-Clinton shit. P-Funk with rappers 'stead of singers (and they sang sometimes, too), that's who they were. Respect!

Based on all the rain and the warmer temps, spring has sprung, or is at least springing. And with the changing of the season comes the changing of the design over at The Rub. It's electric!

I didn't feel like choosing - it's like saying which of your children do you like more, um, in a way, that is - so this week there are 2 blogs of the week, both so fresh and so clean, one a New Yorker and the other a Washingtonian, both metro/sexual, both joys to read, and both downright adorable (if their emails are indicative, and I think they are). From the 5 boroughs is Addaboy (a/k/a Adam), from the District is Cool Relax (a/k/a Ray), and you should get to know them both if you haven't already.

GeekSlut's home! And better! The heart cath was a success! Woo hoo!

Woof! Check out BJ's new pic - he's looking positively delectable.

My problem with ESPN's obsessive-compulsive coverage of the NFL draft? Actually, there are three. The first is, of course, Mel Kiper, Jr., possibly the most annoying person in all of sports broadcasting, so hyperbolic he makes Dickie V look relatively sedate(d). An other is that most of the players we're supposed to get so excited about, those drafted in the first round, will never have much of an impact in the NFL. Thirdly, do you - does anyone - really care who gets drafted in the 6th round, et cetera? Oy. This is about the only time you'll ever hear me say this: it's a good weekend to forget which channel ESPN is on your cable.

Oh, yeah, and this sure is front-page news. LeBron's going into the draft? Who knew?

You know what's actually exciting in the sports world this weekend? NASCAR Winston Cup. Junior and Gordon and Kenseth (under the California sun), oh my!

My only interest in the NBA playoffs is thus: watching my Pacers collapse again (it's time for Isiah to go), and rooting against the Lakers. But if you think I'll actually be watching any of these overpaid primadonnas padding their highlight reels, think again.

Friday, April 25, 2003

I know where I'd be next Friday, were I in D.C. I'd be here, bidding on these woofy ruggers. If you are (in D.C.), I highly recommend you are (there).

Scott Heim’s In Awe (HarperCollins, 1997) is a breathtaking novel, literally. I found my breaths growing more shallow and forced as I delved into, especially, the book’s last 50, 75 pages. It’s not a pleasant read, per sé; it’s difficult. But necessary. In its wake, I’m listening to easy-listening-type stuff, songs like Dionne Warwick’s “Déjà Vu” and the Little River Band’s “Reminiscing,” as a perverse sort of salve, but finding myself hearing their seamy underbellies, the darkness hiding in the over-produced arrangements and studio musicians, the smooth, “comforting” vocals. I can already tell that I’m going to have fever dreams about Boris, about Rex, maybe even Sarah, filtering them through my own lens, my own life. In Awe sticks in your brain like evil peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.

Lovely redesign over at Choire's place. [That's pronounced like "Corey," btw.]

little minx posted a sensational poem today. G'on and read it while it's hot, why don't'cha?

Inspirational song of the day: Gladys Knight & the Pips's "Save the Overtime (For Me)." Download NOW!

Inspirational lyric of the day:

I am a bow-tie pimp. So fresh, so clean, primp, primp, primp.

- OutKast featuring Snoop Dogg, “So Fresh, So Clean (Remix),” 2002

Thursday, April 24, 2003

At last! Nate's all-time top 100 is up.

Call the Dixie Chicks whatever you want. I call 'em brave and ballsy (if not inordinately adept at damage control). [Thanks to East West for the link.]

Please throw up a prayer, good thought, whatever you do, that GeekSlut's heart catheterization goes alright.

You know, I love me some Lil' Kim, and am feeling 50 Cent, but damn! is "Magic Stick" a bummer. Nothing we haven't heard before and heard better. And, um, Queen Bee? Hate to be the one to point it out, but you're not "the baddest chick [or bitch]" no more - that would be Trina. Anything you can do right now, she's doing better. It's a damn shame.

Let's take a moment to praise the fact that Randy Travis is back on country radio for the first time in - in too damn long, that's how long. "Three Wooden Crosses" is taken from his latest (mostly) Christian country album, Rise & Shine, but it's not even remotely preachy. Actually, it reminds me of his classic story songs like "On the Other Hand." And it includes the word "hooker." But most importantly, it's a song about basic human values, is obviously a sincere song from Randy, is sounds just like all of his best work, traditional C&W. And it just went top 10 on the country singles chart! Hallelujah.

Go here. Page almost all the way down, until you see #49. Yelp ecstatically ("woo hoo!" is preferred). That is all.

I know, she's said it before. But I think this time, she really means it. [C'mon, she's not exactly the type for publicity stunts.] And I'm saddened by the news that Sinéad's calling it quits. There'll never be another quite like her - and that voice...

Personal to Angela, wife of Chris: well, it really kinda is gay music. I mean, did you see The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert? [For those wondering what the hell I'm talking about, page down to the entry "Morning Conversation with my Wife" for Wednesday, April 23. I'd just link it, but Blogger's archives for April still appear to be FUBAR.]

If you're going to awaken nearly an hour before your alarm goes off, circa 630am no less, I highly recommend starting your day with E.U.'s "Da' Butt".

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

And from the can-this-career-be-saved? file:

Whitney Houston guest-stars as herself and sings current single "Try It on My Own" on the May 12 finale of Fox's Boston Public.

Need I say more?

Proving once again why he's one of the best we've got (from USA Today):

Leaping in where the Baseball Hall of Fame feared to venture, Bob Costas will host Bull Durham stars Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins to open the third season of his HBO show, On the Record (May 2, 11:30 p.m. ET/PT). Bull Durham co-star Robert Wuhl and writer/director Ron Shelton also will be on hand. The Hall's invitation to Sarandon and Robbins for a Bull Durham salute was retracted by president Dale Petroskey over the stars' anti-war views.

If you haven't seen On the Record before, trust me - whether or not you're a sports fan, if you love intelligent interviews, Costas truly is must-see TV.

Personal to Jenn: who knew that Kitty's husband was so, er, "wacky"?

Busta, Missy, 50, and Jiggaman?! This is so the hiphop event of '03. Or, for that matter, the last couple of years, I'd argue. Especially with Missy being local and all, on top of it being over 4th of July weekend. Who's nearby and wants to go? You? You? You? [I'm guessing that none of you guys are interested...] Tickets go on sale this Friday. Holla!

Must reads today (just go to their blogs, you should be reading them all the time, anyway) from GeekSlut and (yesterday's post) Dogpoet, whose writing simultaneously makes me rejoice, and makes me insanely jealous.

Today I took part of my lunch and sat on the riverfront, reading more Lowenthal. And suddenly, I was struck, personally, with one of his major themes (the major theme?) in The Same Embrace, that of familial (particularly, sibling) bond(s). I have three sisters, all younger than me. I’m closest to my baby sister, born when I was nine-and-a-half. My middle sister is almost six years my junior, and we get along fine. The eldest of the girls (to me, they’ll always be “the girls,” no matter what their calendar ages), Megan, is almost 30. She and I haven’t spoken in over six years. Honestly, it’s been so long that I don’t remember exactly when we stopped speaking – or, more accurately, when she stopped speaking to me. She did remember to send an amazingly, burningly hateful email two days prior to my birthday at the end of 2001; that’s the last contact I had with her. Why we don’t speak isn’t important – well, rather, it is in some fashion, but it’s much more personal than even I’m willing to share here.

But what infuriates me, chokes me with rage and grief, is the fact that I don’t have her in my life. Megan’s, honestly, not a very nice person, I think. I’ve often told others that were I to meet her on the street as a stranger, or at a party, I don’t think we’d be friends, certainly. I don’t like her. I do, however, love her. She’s my sister. That can’t ever be changed. We share similar blood and DNA. We are our parents’ children. And I miss her, I miss being able to share my life with hers, and hear what’s going on with her. I want, desperately, to hate her, but have found I’m not able. I love her in spite of myself, in spite of the damage she’s attempted to do to our family, continually threatening to tear our fabric asunder. She’s filled with bile. But she’s still my fucking sister, and as much as she might like, she can never change that. Even if she attempts to rewrite our family history, I’ll always be lurking in her background. And there are a lot of good memories I have which I hope she shares (though I doubt it anymore). I love Megan, and I so fiercely resent that she’s taken herself from me, driven a wedge between us, set ablaze my olive branches, and excised me from her life and her from mine.

Real love was boundless and could not be divided; it was an answer to which no questions pertained.

- Michael Lowenthal, The Same Embrace, 1998, p. 270

Think and live.

I’ve been in a bit of a spell all day, buried in The Same Embrace. I was listening to Grace Jones earlier, some pop music, but it just didn’t fit, so I slapped on some headphones and listened to the local classical station. Work’s only gotten done in fits and spurts; I’m thankful I don’t have the kind of boss who lurks and peers over shoulders, because I was ravenous to read, and finish, this novel. Though like with the best of novels, once I did so, I was saddened slightly, because I didn’t want it to be over. I’m starting to come up for air – trading the Strauss and Brahms for New Edition, looking at what work I’ve yet to finish today, writing this. But I still feel not quite here, like I’m still in the backseat of Danny’s mother’s K-car en route to Washington, D.C., or having seder with the collected Rosenbaums. [I’ve traded Heart Break for The Best of Elvis Costello and the Attractions, in need of something a bit less sweet and a bit more - not sour, but acerbic.]

It’s not always the easiest read – there were a couple of moments today, reading, when I exclaimed an out loud “oh!” or raised my hand to my mouth as if stifling a similar response. But it’s also unquestionably one of the most superlative novels I’ve perhaps ever read, and combined with Avoidance proves Michael Lowenthal as one of the finest writers of fiction this country has right now. Utter undimmed genius.

The sun hits the wavering water and brilliantly scatters its reflected light, like a dropped bag of diamonds.

I walked outside my office this morning, circa 9am, for a cigarette, and was blasted by memory. The air, clean, cool, mid-50s, fresh (being as we are largely surrounded by water in Norfolk, we have amazingly clean air), was coming at me from North Webster, Indiana, summer of ’87, at Epworth Forest. Epworth is the northern Indiana summer camp for United Methodist high school kids. I spent a week there each summer of high school, in between my freshman and sophomore, sophomore and junior, and junior and senior years. It was utter bliss, and where (in 1987, my last, sterling week there) I learned about Kate Bush, and how much I wanted to kiss really cute blonde boys.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Run, don't walk, to The Day, The Night (the little minx's diary-esque) and read his essay about his Dad. It nearly brought tears to my eyes - and those who know me well know that doesn't happen often, at all. Haven't named a must read in a while, either.

After getting the aforementioned email from Scott Heim this morning, I went to the library to pick up and re-read his Mysterious Skin. The branch I went to doesn’t have it (it’s at another), so in lieu of that, I grabbed In Awe; I’ll re-read both this week. I then realized that for all my praising of his partner Michael Lowenthal’s 2002 novel Avoidance, I’ve never read his first published novel, The Same Embrace. I am, now. Wow. The way Lowenthal uses language, in ways I’ve never heard nor thought of them, is magnificent. Like in just this once sentence, regarding a kiss:

[His] tongue wrestled his, pinning the wet muscle to the side.

Fuck me, that’s gorgeous. And unexpected. That’s what the best writers do, using language in the most deliciously unexpected ways. Sure, the tongue is a muscle, and it’s wet, but I’ve never heard it described in quite that fashion. What I feel is nearly the highest praise I can give Embrace is this, just what I’m feeling: not only are these characters so richly drawn as to be inhabitable, this novel makes me want to learn more about Judaism. I want to understand. Michael Lowenthal writes like a the best sex you’ve ever had, and reading him makes me (mentally) multiply orgasmic.

Now playing – and funny how sometimes just the perfect music is on when you’re reading, something that matches so innately and works: 4 Hero’s “The Paranormal in 4 Form,” from the ’95 Macro Dub Infection – Volume One compilation.

I like to party
Everybody does
Make love and listen to the music…

- Room 5 featuring Oliver Cheatham, “Make Luv,” 2003

Is “Make Luv” particularly deep? Of course not. Haters in the UK have criticized it as the latest song from a commercial to become a hit single, but hopefully it’ll get a US release so it can be seen for what it is: a lovely house-pop record. “Make Luv” is incredibly simple, an easy identikit house beat with a sampled guitar stab (shades of Stardust sampling Chaka Khan’s “Fate”), and faint keyb chords in the background, along with the voice of Cheatham, sampled from his one and only minor R&B hit from 1982. And the fact that it’s been atop the UK charts for a month now (holding off new entries from goliaths Madonna, Robbie, and Blur this week!) says it’s crossing over. Good, solid house music crossing over is never a bad thing. This is the perfect spring-into-summer record (at least in the states, where we actually get sunshine), and deserves to be just as monstrous here as it is in the UK. Feel-good, mindless dance music as pop? This is as good as it gets.

It’s easy to love me now
Would you love me if I was down and out?
Would you still have love for me?

- 50 Cent featuring Nate Dogg, “21 Questions,” 2003

Trash your preconceived notions about 50 Cent you got from “Wanksta” and “In Da Club.” This is the other side of 50, the – gasp! – sensitive side, even if his idea of a beautiful thing to say is “I love you like a fat kid love cake” (gotta give him props for cleverness, though). It’s actually an awfully interesting way to spin a pseudo-love song, asking, Would you still love me if I wasn’t successful? Would you stick with me through the bad patches? For better or worse, richer or poorer? Honestly, the last rapper I’d expect to hear asking about the kinds of things you hear in marriage vows is 50 (well, maybe Kool Keith and El-P, but you know what I mean). And he pulls it off. Where an idiot like Nelly sounds smarmy and insincere on “Dilemma,” 50 sounds believable. Augmented by a perfect old-soul guitar riff, looped into infinity, this is the thuggish version of LL’s “I Need Love,” the ’03 remix. And it’s damned near flawless.

I never much cared for New Edition’s Jackson 5 period, probably because I’ve never much cared for the Jackson 5’s twee early records. “Candy Girl” is a song by teens for teens (and preteens), and I didn’t even like it then (I was in my second British invasion period: Duran Duran, Culture Club, and Eurythmics were my trinity). As they matured, however, N.E.’s music did the same, reaching its glorious apotheosis on their ’88 album N.E. Heartbreak. This album’s triumph comes down to four elements: Ralph Tresvant, Johnny Gill, and sterling production and songwriting. [Let’s be honest here – Bell, Biv(ins) and Devoe have never been much more in New Edition than glorified backup singers, largely for the good reason that they’re not very good singers. Have you listened to the Poison album lately?]

In Tresvant and Gill, however, N.E. had a pair of singers blessed with creamy tenor voices who could both take the lead. And lead they did. What catches my ear first in their finest moment, the single “You’re Not My Kind of Girl,” however, isn’t the singing, but the production tricks in the song’s intro. Listen with headphones, and hear the channel-jumping “you’re very pretty”s going back and forth, buried in the mix. And then what’s done with the “sorry”s, toyed and toggled into submission, almost cut and scratched, but not quite, with Johnny wailing over it all. The track is purely synthetic, of its moment but never sounding too dated. But “Girl”’s coup de grace is the twist I didn’t notice until very recently: not only is Ralph singing lead, he’s got Johnny backing him up on the verses, adding a deep, gorgeous harmony. Ralph’s voice is on the thin side, but strong and urgent, reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s coo at moments (such as his “giiii-iiirl” which opens the second verse like a waterfall). And did you hear that, buried in the second chorus? It’s a vibraslap! BBD do their standing-on-the-corner-rappin’-with-the-fellas thing for the bridge, and then it’s onto the third chorus, vamping its way out, but not before one last, thrilling “Wooo!” from Johnny, before he and Ralph go over and over “you’re not my, you’re not, you’re not, my kind…” as the song closes on itself. This is state-of-the-heart R&B.

Marilyn Manson’s “mOBSCENE” is a snarling, growling beast of a single, in that finest of Manson traditions. It’s got Marilyn’s ever-clever lyrical twists (my favorite is “be obscene, baby – not heard”), it’s got a wickedly brilliant faux-cheerleading chant (“Be! Obscene! Be! Be! Obscene!”), it’s got grinding, whirling-dervish guitars, smacking you upside the head until you nearly wanna scream “I submit!” It’s got nifty little technoid touches, courtesy of new member and coproducer Tim Skold (formerly of the gigantic goth-industrial godheads Skinny Puppy). And it’s got, most importantly, Marilyn himself sounding like he’s ready to eat you. He’s your horror-movie fever dream in the flesh, screaming for yours anyway he can get it. This ain’t the sound of teenaged rebellion, though (though it could be used as its conduit, and doubtless will by a myriad of black-clad teens, God love ‘em) – this is the sound of America cracking at its seams. Marilyn’s got a needle and thread, but he’s also got a new pattern. He’s John Ashcroft’s worst nightmare, and for that alone you should love him. But if that’s not enough for you, take him, sunder him, serve him up, and give thanks. He’s no personal Jesus; he’s the antiChrist superstar, baby, and he’ll die for his sins. On his own terms. Not yours.

Wow. There's something oddly appropriate about being awakened by a thunderstorm at 4am and then discovering (because, of course, you can't go back to sleep) that you just received email from Scott Heim. Yes, that Scott Heim, author of In Awe and the brilliant Mysterious Skin - whaddaya mean you haven't read it? Get thee to a bookstore or public library, now! - and husband of Avoidance author Michael Lowenthal. [Apparently, Scott found this post about his husband's most recent novel.] I will never tire, nor be jaded, about getting email from authors I've read; it's not only because it often causes me to have a "Sally Field moment" (this brilliant writer likes my little corner of the web?!), but because email from any reader means something - that he's taken time to write (all of my unsolicited email thus far has come from male readers, shocking I know). I'm going to Boston next month for a long weekend. Dare I? [Or, Scott, if you're reading this as well, dare I?]

Monday, April 21, 2003

So disturbing. In case there was any question how the Department of Justice feels about your privacy... (and we certainly already knew what the fucking RIAA's stance is).

Sunday, April 20, 2003

My cousin Steve was in today's Washington Post Magazine. Here's the article. Looks like I'm going to be able to go see him (assuming he's back in the U.S.) and his lovely wife, along with this guy and this guy in early June. Awwright!

Those in the know should know that Stumpy's back posting today.

Yeah, I know, nearly no posting this weekend, and I've been around, too (though consciously trying to not spend so much time in front of the computer). Am working on a piece on the divine Grace Jones - now that I've mentioned it, we'll see if it gets done - and a new mix/comment project on r-and-b #1s of the early '80s (better than you think, much better!). Surprisingly, some of these records are new to me - like Yarbrough & Peoples' "Don't Waste Your Time," which is fucking great and very S.O.S. Band. It also includes a bit sampled in Madonna's "La Isla Bonita" (the bongo bit).

Saturday, April 19, 2003

How did I miss this the first time? Spinning the Roots' Phrenology again, reevaluating, and sweet Jesus, how much does Cody ChestnuTT sound like Terence Trent D'Arby on "The Seed 2.0"? Whoa! I'm still not convinced on Phrenology, but this is a killer single: hiphop but not of it, per sé, more rockist than the Roots usually are, but you can still connect the dots from "Proceed" to this, which is a testament to their greatness and artistic movement, pushin' forward always.

The Jesus- and tennis-loving gay porn star Jeff Palmer has a blog. It's fascinating like a car crash.

Lots of hot man-on-man action, and superb writing: your new blog of the week is Intertextual.

Also new: a selection of what I feel is my best blogwork, "greatest hits." As these things always are, it's to your left.

Friday, April 18, 2003

God bless VH-1's 50 Greatest Hip Hop Artists for reminding me of the marvelousness that is Biz Markie's "Spring Again" (the followup to "Just A Friend," y'all). Tasty!

Happy first birthday to the Rub! Paul's blog is at the top of my musicblog section for good reason(s). So read it.

Where the hell is Q-Tip?! The last time we heard from him, he was singing friggin' backup on Jigga's "Girls, Girls, Girls"!

On the flipside, one of '03's worst (and certainly most disappointing) singles is "I Know What You Want" by Busta Rhymes and Mariah Carey featuring Flipmode Squad. Busta, Busta, Busta, you know better! "What's It Gonna Be?!" this isn't, by furlongs. The beat is absolutely wack (and as annoying as the Chinese water torture that is 50's "Wanksta," or that vile pseudo-lover's rock of Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go"), Mariah adds nothing other than her by now obnoxious cooing (even on her own records, she sounds like a guest artist - honey, going from being the biggest singer on the planet to becoming Ashanti is not the way to go), Busta sounds just plain bored. The only saving grace is Rah Digga (from whom we really need another solo album; I love the way she spits), but she can't save this waterlogged mess. Oh Busta, where art thou?

I'm starting to succumb. You already know that "In Da Club" is the banger of the year, but I'll be damned if 50 Cent's "21 Questions" (featuring Nate Dogg) isn't a damned fine follow-up - love the old-soul guitar lick that's endlessly looped, and the simple, simple beat. And you know, I may have to eat my earlier words; 50's starting to prove to me, as I creep deeper into Get Rich Or Die Tryin', that the boy's got some skillz on him.

That having been said, the hiphop single of '03 is still Freeway's "What We Do... ." It's got an energy and urgency I haven't heard in the genre since circa Illmatic, or Wu-Tang's first salvos. Fucking head-crackin', man!

GeekSlut's falling in love. It's a beautiful thing.
He also wants to give lots more federal funding to daycare-assistance programs. Jenn, d'you think Vicki'd let us hire him to lobby for us? [For those who aren't aware, we work with a program which helps low-income parents pay for daycare while working or in school. It's a beautiful thing, too. I'd put a link to our website here, but it sucks and hasn't been updated in eons.]

I'd better start saving some coin: Aerosmith. Kiss. Together. [9/17 in Virginia Beach, anyone wanna join me? Or subsidize me?]

Reason #1 to love Bongwater: Ann Magnuson's use of "deus ex machina" in "Obscene & Pornographic Art."

Do any of you have any idea how much I fucking LOVE Marilyn Manson? He promised last year that his forthcoming The Golden Age of Grotesque would be influenced by 1930s Berlin, and he wasn't kidding. The video for first single "mOBSCENE" is out - watch it here, at Launch - and it's like Cabaret goes to hell. Utterly delicious. The song includes a cheerleading chant, too, and is classic Manson. Can't wait to see him at Ozzfest this summer. [Many thanks to Paul for the tipoff.]

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Oh, Ben, has your article gone to press yet? You might want to read this. [For those not-Ben readers, it concerns Russell Simmons' continuing work as the unofficial Ambassador of Hip-Hop.]

Michaelangelo Matos went to what sounds like rock-crit heaven (except they're all still alive) for the past week. I am insanely jealous.

Note: this piece is kind of half-baked, I think. But I'm worked on it on-and-off for two days, and now the oven's shut off, and I still want to serve it, so here goes. I may flesh it out and give up a "director's cut" in the future (which probably means I won't). Comments to the usual address.


I so vividly recall watching my first Grammy ceremony in 1984. Eurythmics were performing “Sweet Dreams,” with Annie Lennox in her full-on Elvis P. drag. My Mom said to me, slightly alarmed, “is that a boy or a girl?” ”Mom,” I sneered as only a teenage would-be hipster can, “it’s a girl, of course. It’s Annie Lennox. This is Eurythmics, they’re up for Best New Artist!” They didn’t win, of course; that honor went to fellow gender-bender Boy George and his group Culture Club, who were presented the award live via satellite from London by Joan Rivers, back when she was still kinda funny and semi-outrageous. George’s acceptance speech is forever imprinted on my memory:

Thank you, America. You’ve got taste, wit, and you know a good drag queen when you see one.

I was enthralled that this huge popstar had the balls to say such a thing on national television! I was a big CC fan anyway; that only deepened after this moment. One of my favorite singers had all but come right out and announced that he was gay! It was an unbelievably thrilling moment for a geeky, lonely 13-year-old farm boy who thought he was the only one anywhere.

Just this week, I finally got my copy of the reissue of Will Fellows’ Farm Boys (University of Wisconsin Press, 1996) from my homo book club (Insight Out). I love this book, for one simple reason: these guys are in many ways a lot like me. I grew up on a farm in northern Indiana, which we moved to soon after I’d turned 4. My family stayed there for 20 years. Sometimes, I loved Maple Lane Farm, and am very fortunate to have had it as a part of my youth: the endless yard for running and playing, the huge wraparound concrete porch (the farmhouse was over 100 years old) for games requiring a firm surface (and for writing in colored chalk), my mother’s enormous gardens, which I loathed helping her weed but which gave us bounties upon bounties of food for years on end (to this day I’m amazed that most people I meet have never had rhubarb, a staple of my childhood diet).

The flipside was being a “thoughtful, sensitive” boy in a largely rough-and-tumble rural environment. I spent two years, for example, in 4-H. My chosen area was cooking. Suffice it to say, the fellow members of the Future Livestockers club were not very impressed by my demonstration on how to properly sift flour. [One of them actually showed us how to castrate a boar; I nearly passed out.] And I often loathed being a farm boy: baling hay in 90+-degree heat? But there are books to be read! Once I started junior high, which involved a bus ride into a town of 6,000, it just got worse. The last thing I wanted to do was shovel manure or feed calves at 430am – what if the “town kids” smelled the farm on my clothes? I rather would’ve died. As it, our junior high then combined four elementary schools, three of which were in town; only ours, Laketon, was a “country” school. The town kids, then, were already predisposed to dislike the Laketon kids. The last thing I wanted to do was give them more grist for their mill of adolescent cruelty.

I never developed a work ethic commensurate with growing up on a farm. I’ve always known that I was a city boy at heart, and moving as I did 3 years ago to Norfolk, VA only proves it. Knowing that I was gay – which I knew by the age of 11 – didn’t help matters. Fortunately, I was never ashamed of it. But I knew to make sure it wasn’t public information, either. It seemed to go against everything I learned in school, from my parents, in church, so I hid it, and in essence, hid myself for my last six years of school. I was firmly convinced I was the only one. That’s why the (seemingly) sudden stardom of Boy George came as such a relief, such a rush. Finally, an, er, role model. Someone who showed that you didn’t have to be heterosexual to be popular and successful. I didn’t dress like him, or affect any of his mannerisms, but I did get every record I could, and laid my hands on all of his press clippings (limited largely to Rolling Stone and something called Smash Hits or Top Hits, which had lyrics to current pop hits and photos of the stars accompanying them).

Later there came Pete Burns, Morrissey, Bob Mould, Elton John, Michael Stipe… but the Boy was the first, and he told dreaming farm boys all over the midwest of the U.S. that you could be gay and still give everyone the finger. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.

We've all been there, and Dogpoet's there right now. Send him some love and positive vibes, why don't'cha?

Tossed off a quick ‘n dirty mix for this guy this week; suffice it to say we have very similar tastes in music. Largely rhythmic, mostly stuff he doesn’t have (no highspeed connection yet, poor boy), it’s titled he who rocks the party rocks the body.

1. Eminem, “Kim.” Still his greatest single record (albeit with “Lose Yourself” nipping at its heels), this is hiphop as primal scream therapy, the natural Jungian progression of pop(ular) music. Draw the line from Synchronicity to this, six minutes of brutal anguish. Disturbing, yes, but you can’t listen to it and not be moved in one direction or another. And contrary to popular (kneejerk liberalistic) belief, this isn’t about killing or misogyny – it’s about little Marshall crying out to be loved. His “Kim, Kim? Why didn’t you love me?” wail is chilling, and sad.
2. N.W.A., “Straight Outta Compton.” The black Sex Pistols, no less, no more – just as important, just as fleeting. “Fuck tha Police” may have been the lit match, but “Compton” was the gasoline-soaked fuse.
3. Panjabi MC featuring Jay-Z, “Beware of the Boys (Mundian to Bach Ke) (Remix).” Thanks to Jigga, America’s finally starting to hear some bhangra, and understand (hopefully) that Indian music isn’t limited to Bollywood tracks sampled by the likes of Dre and Tim. Because of its world-conquering appeal (thanks to David Hasselhoff’s talking car?), this is the Magna Carta of bhangra, or at least its “Rock Around the Clock.” Not the first, but the first hit. And thus the template for many.
4. Cam’ron featuring Juelz Santana, “Oh Boy.” The best single Just Blaze produced in ’02, without the annoyingly cloying, sucking-up-to-radio feel of Cam’s “Hey Ma” followup. That pitched-up “oh boy” sample is a worldbeater.
5. Camp Lo, “Luchini (AKA This Is It).” Does everything Gerry Mulholland says a single’s supposed to do, perfectly. Their one shining moment, but what a moment.
6. Justin Timberlake, “Rock Your Body (Video Version).” I’m increasingly convinced that this is the single of the year, even more than “Cry Me A River.” J.T. pulls off this smooth, r-and-b-flavored pop/dance track, so effortlessly, like he’s not even breaking a sweat. The video version adds in my favorite J.T. mannerism: more beatboxing! Then Justin says “gonna have you naked by the end of this song” – and before you know it, you’re in bed, body-rockin’ all night long. There are worse things, you know.
7. the Neptunes, “I’m A Slave 4 U (Instrumental).” Do you think Britney’s a nasty girl? Pharrell and Hugo do. Proof that the Neptunes can do anything, produce anyone. Amazing track.
8. Vanity 6, “Nasty Girl.” Well, I had to. Wouldn’t you?
9. Go Home Productions, “I’m A Slave 4 Daft Britney.” Which sends La Brit to her logical conclusion: space. She’s interplanet Janet, she’s a galazy dream. GHP (with some help from Daft Punk) proves it definitively.
10. Basement Jaxx, “Miracles Keep On Playin’ (Red Alert Remix).” The Brixton boys supercharge their most powerful engine, “Red Alert,” and put diesel in the tank to boot. House on steroids, but without that nasty edge.
11. VHS Or Beta, “Teenage Dancefloor (live).” Bad-ass would-be indie boys getting down with their bad selves, in much more convincing fashion than the Rapture and their ilk. This is the sound of a dreamed-of collaboration between Steve Albini and Nile Rodgers.
12. Chic, “My Forbidden Lover.” And from one of their children to the parent themselves. Not (just) great disco, but great funk, great soul, and one of the greatest bands ever. Nile Rodgers practically invented the modern-era chicken-scratch guitar style of riffing, and with Bernard Edwards behind him on drums (and two heavenly femme singers), he couldn’t lose. If you only know them as the group behind “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” get their Risqué album and learn. This, an album track therefrom, is one of their career highlights.
13. brainchild, “countryside.” This former blogger (we miss ya, kid!) composed this original track which he said reminded him of long country drives while growing up in Indiana. A lovely, loping, shuffling beat and some nearly detuned notes atop it, too short at 1:08. A genuine beat treat.
14. Aaliyah, “One In A Million.” The sexiest song ever, complete with crickets chirping softly in the background to remind you that it’s nighttime – the right time for love.
15. Marianne Faithfull, “Broken English.” Not as jarring a segue as you might think, Faithfull’s 1980 leap into the great forwards suits her more perfectly than ever, now. Her cracked-leather vox melds expertly with the synth-heavy sonics of the (then) day and a guitar line which reminds me of Rush (in a good way, I mean).

I saw this week that MTV2 (how I wish that was on Cox Cable!) is continuing their “22 best” with an upcoming special on the 22 greatest bands of all time. I voted, and so should you; my choice was the Smiths. But most of the rest of my top 5 weren’t even listed as nominees (yet Blink-182 was?!). Herewith:

1. The Smiths. Their arrival caused a seismic shift in music (not that you’d know it – much like the Velvet Underground, the Pixies, and Sonic Youth [see below], they never sold a lot of records, but nearly everyone who bought one started a band. Plus, there’s the cult of Morrissey, a cult figure if ever there was). They recorded “How Soon Is Now?,” one of the greatest singles of all time, and backed it up. They flamed out rather than faded away, leaving at arguably the peak of their powers with Strangeways, Here We Come. They were honest. They were real. Morrissey’s one of the greatest lyrical geniuses of all time – damned right I’d put him up there with Lennon/McCartney. Musically, Johnny Marr’s to his generation as Pete Townshend was to his. And in Joyce/Rourke you get one of the finest rhythm sections of at least the ‘80s, and a surprisingly funky one at that, considering Morrissey’s disdain for black music and their indie roots. A whole defiantly greater than the sum of its parts, all cogs oiled and working at peak capacity, ladies and gentlemen, the Smiths.

2. Public Enemy. Not greater than the sum of their parts, but great because of three integral parts, those being of course comic relief Flavor Flav, voice of America (if rap, as he once posited, is the black CNN, he’s Wolf Blitzer, Aaron Brown, Larry King, and James Earl Jones rolled into one) Chuck D, and the pop-altering production of the Bomb Squad. I still defend It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back as the greatest album ever recorded. Period.

3. Sonic Youth. The teenage riot Thurston, Kim, Lee, and Steve (and now Jim) have made for over 20 years has gotten a lot of people out of bed. Bending and manipulating guitars like no other band of their era, with Steve keeping the beat and Kim often playing bass against it, SY are true innovators, following their muse whether on a series of independent labels or as part of a major (as they have been for over a decade). Fiercely indie by nature and even more creative, they’re a raging wall of sound influenced as much by downtown NYC jazz as Television, and as New York as you can get. They’ll never go gold. They don’t care. That’s (part of) why you should.

4. New Order. You can blame them for Madchester, for bringing techno and house into pop songs, for the greatest World Cup single ever (‘90’s “World In Motion,” credited to englandneworder), and for enlarging and expanding upon the legacy from which they sprang, Joy Division. Joy Division were amazing, crafting atmospherics seemingly out of air, with the added asset of Ian Curtis’ prescence, which was even greater than his fine vocals. Bernard Sumner doesn’t have the same presence, but has something better-suited for New Order: he’s a great lyricist, and imbues his lyrics with believability. He’s all there, right there, right here, with you in your room, as he sings. Their comeback single of last year, “Here to Stay,” proves their point unquestionably, 20 years on from “Blue Monday.” Any questions? Track down a copy of their (now out of print) ’88 comp Substance, preferably the double-disc version with B-sides. And believe.

5. Chic. The greatest band to rise out of disco was, in fact, a band, not a studio creation. Sampled by thousands, loved by millions, and still the greatest band of the ‘70s: more influential than the Pistols, more elastic than Steely Dan, more soulful than Earth, Wind & Fire. Funkier than you think, better than you realize, and more talented than you are. They’d better fucking make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The next five (alphabetically):
Guns ‘N Roses
Daryl Hall & John Oates
Steely Dan
The Velvet Underground

Honorable mention:
N.W.A./Sex Pistols. Each made one breathtaking, earth-shattering album, and then ceased to be relevant (the fact that N.W.A. put out another pair of records should be ignored, as they’re awful). Even if you ignore their respective legacies (Dr. Dre, Inc. and Ice Cube, Hollywood mogul in the case of the former; Public Image Limited in the case of the latter), it’s not possible to ignore either Straight Outta Compton or Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. And why the fuck would you want to? They didn’t invent gangsta rap or punk, but they blew them up like no one before.

Prince and the Revolution/Prince and the New Power Generation. Not truly groups, these were Prince and his backing bands. But they’re backing bands par excellence, the genuine inheritors to the P-Funk legacy, elastic, fantastic, and orgasmic. Honorable honorable mention goes to the unnamed band Prince toured with in ’86, recorded on Sign “O” the Times’ “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night,” featuring the incomparable Sheila E. on percussion.

Why is it that being “bitchy,” a/k/a nasty, is so often so prized by the gay community – gay men, at least? I understand that being clever and witty and cutting is often an important skill for gay men, often how we get ourselves out of adolescent (and post-) scrapes and would-be fights; those who can’t (or won’t) fight with their fists fight instead with their words. And heaven knows gay men have defense mechanisms for days. But why do we so frequently turn them on each other, the very people who are supposed to be (theoretically, at least) our brothers? I’m not a fan of this culture of bitchiness, and I’m not just saying so because I don’t have the quickest wit around (I think of good comebacks, sometimes… 5 minutes later). I simply don’t see the point in tearing each other down. Even when said in “good fun,” eventually, the words (can) take a toll. There are few things (thank goodness for the bear “movement,” as it were, doing at least a small part to combat body fascism) about my brotherhood which I loathe more. Words can and do hurt – and who should know that better than us?

And I’m vowing, right here, right now, with all of you as witnesses, to cut down on the catty remarks myself. [Except towards Stumpy, because he’s not gay, so it doesn’t count. Plus, we’re just stoopid with each other.] Feel free to call me on it if I don’t stand by it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Finally, Buffy was new last night. As always, for my money the best blogger reviewing the episodes is The Tin Man. Here's his review of "Dirty Girls."

And what the fuck is with UPN sticking a rerun (next week, "Bring on the Night," good ep if you missed it) in their "Buffy's Final Hours" countdown?! Idiots.

I haven't seen these in years. I remember seeing my cousin wearing them when he was 16 or so; I would've been 12. If I didn't know I was gay beforehand, I sure as hell did afterwards! Shame that he's now thrice-divorced and, well, kind of a loser (for other reasons). But as a teen - mmm!

Finished reading Keith Fleming's The Boy with the Thorn in His Side today, a lovely piece of memoir. Fleming is the nephew of novelist and man of letters Edmund White, and after a his parents' divorce and a stay in a psychiatric hospital, was taken in by White in his NYC apartment in the mid-'70s. Fleming charts the course of his hospitalization (which was largely for no good reason, except for the fact that his stepmother was a nasty woman), his romance with a young Latina two years his junior, and most of all, the (two) years living with "Uncle Ed." It's a fascinating window on one of (gay) America's greatest living novelists, and a fascinating coming-of-age story of a midwestern hetero teen in the '70s. And, of course, it's titled after a Smiths song, generally a sign of quality (or at least good taste). This Boy has both.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Almost literally pants-wettingly hilarious: would you like to go to Camp Mariah?

It's a good day in the blogsphere: another must read comes from Dogpoet, on childhood body-image issues. [In trying to sum it up succintly, I fear I made it sound much less interesting than it is. I don't declare must reads idly, you know. Trust me on this one.]

Today's must read is particularly pertinent on this tax day (mine went in the mail about 10am, natch). It's a highly intelligent, well researched, and impassioned (yet still entirely rational) discourse on Washington, DC's taxation without representation by Chrisafer.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Busy reading today. And a bit uninspired. It'll pass, I swear.

It's all but official (and will be just that later this evening: 930pm EST press conference scheduled): Roy Williams is about to don Carolina blue. I think it's a good move and the right time; he'd never be able to make a cleaner break than now. And Roy vs. Coach K in ACC games? This could be fun.


Intertextual: great writer, great life, fascinating rhythm.
Ocean Pacific: but not in that sense.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

What's the (sports) world coming to? Tiger didn't win the Masters, and Serena lost for the first time in '03. Yet, why do I have the feeling these losses are going to result in each of them having even better years?

What the hell is Ja Rule thinking, taking on Eminem and 50 Cent? Ja Rule is a Nelly, a Hammer - pure pop and all soft. Eminem is a phenomenally gifted lyricist (and 50 Cent doesn't make a half-bad riding partner). wants to know who you think wins this round, based on the freestyles they've released. Listen to excerpts here.

I didn't sleep long enough, but still woke up this a.m. feeling very refreshed. The roomie was out last night, so I kept the apartment cool (lows in the 50s, had some windows open) and wrapped myself in my comforter. Also had the local classical station, WHRO, on, at a barely imperceptible volume, so that my subconscious (and dreams?) was haunted by string quartets, which I find sumptuous.

Am bowling this afternoon, and then having dinner (pot roast!) at Steve & Jenn's. Should be splendid. I love Sundays.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Here's the last major college hoops news of the season (well, apart from the coaching carousel [a/k/a Oh Roy, Where Art Thou?] and who's declaring for the draft): T.J. Ford wins the Wooden. And it's wrong. David West? Oh, yeah. Nick Collison? Yeah. Ford? No. He's just not the impact player those two seniors are.

''We already know the women of America support us.''

Yes, Martha, I'm sure all women in the U.S. are massively concerned with whether or not they can become members of an exclusive Georgia golf club. That's why you had maybe 50 protesters with you today at Augusta National. This has nothing to do with "civil rights," or "equality" - this is one woman's crusade for her 15 minutes. And look at that clock, Martha. It reads 14:59.

Now, Tiger's absurd comeback? That's interesting. Is there nothing the man can't do on a golf course? I guess we'll see tomorrow.

A discovery like this makes staying in on a Saturday night worth it. 20 records, 2 turntables, crossfade and mix to your heart's content! [Link via the genius that is Swish Cottage.]

Addendum: I recommend mixing A. Jahanvash's "Emotional Extremism" with "Sudgitschin Sound" by Extra Produktionen. The beats don't quite match, but the EP track sounds very nice at about half-volume mixed into the marvelous Jahanvash deep house excursion.

Where has Courtney Love gotten to? I miss miss miss her, and Hole too (though I suspect that they really are history as a band). She needs to a) rock the fuck out of another (good) film like she did in The People Vs. Larry Flynt, and b) rock the fuck out of the music biz with a rocking return to active duty. I never understood why so many dissed Celebrity Skin - the title track rips new assholes cross-country, while "Malibu" is a gorgeous, burnt-ember remembrance of things past a la Stevie Nicks (albeit a bit less metaphorical, and with louder guitars). And Live Through This is just a fucking classic. If you think Kurt wrote her lyrics, fine, be a sexist (you think Biggie wrote Kim's too, don't'cha?), and fuck you too.

Courtney is a rock star, and the world needs her now more than ever.

New NYC queer blog (well, new to me): Show World. Very candid, very honest, very good writing. [When it comes to blogs, you know, it's generally writing over content, at least for me.]

Alas, I wasn't gonna keep naming Stumpy the blog of the week ad infinitum, so there's a new sheriff in town this week. It's GeekSlut, only the second blog I've ever read which, er, um... I found particularly arousing, let's put it that way. You know what to do.

The most marvelous nonfiction book I've come across of late is undoubtedly Garry Mulholland's This Is Uncool: the 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk and Disco (Cassell Illustrated, UK, 2002). Mulholland writes for and the wonderfully literate Mojo amongst other publications, and has taken it upon himself to provide a guide to the 500 greatest singles (in chronological order) in UK history, beginning with the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy In the UK." His choices are ridiculously varied and nearly always interesting. And what, you ask, does Mulholland think makes a great single? Well...

A great single stands alone from and transcends an artist's usual work. It uses every prodcution trick in the book, without fear of accusations of gimmickry or novelty, to get on the radio or the club DJ's decks, to make it more than just a recording of a live performance. It must have hooklines, even when those hooklines subvert or ignore the singalong chorus norm. ... It should want to be a hit, even if it fails. ... It must speak directly to you.

Add to this my own personal Theory One of pop: Everybody has one good single in them. ... [I]t's those one-shots, ignored in the official histories of rock, that make pop the unpredictable, shocking, frighteningly stupid, and stupendously clever spectrum of communication that it is. Though it may be uncool to say so.

I couldn't fucking say it better myself, so I'm glad someone else said it for me. In addition, the book's liberally littered with full-color repros of many of the selection's original sleeves - and to give you an indication of just how deep and wide Mulholland casts his nets, those singles pictured amidst the introduction are by Josef K, Grandmaster [Flash] & Melle Mel, the Stone Roses, Adam & the Ants, the Smiths, Chaka Khan, Deee-Lite, and the Beastie Boys. Quit a tidy mix if you ask me.

And another thing, which scares and delights me equally. Not to sound big-headed, but I think that Mulholland and I seem to think a bit similarly at times. To wit: Mulholland on ABC's "Poison Arrow":

It was a marriage made in pop heaven when Trevor Horn's crashing, widescreen prodcution met Martin Fry's arch pop vision and everyman croon. ABC's The Lexicon of Love [is] the greatest post-modern pop album of the era... .

And here's what I said back in January:

horn starts with a three-note descension on the piano, introduces synth-claps, then a synth snare track (very metronomic), string fills (played on a keyboard), that signature horn motif… and just keeps piling the elements on throughout the song. of course, it’s not all about horn here; let’s not forget the brilliant presence and soulboy vocals of martin fry – he’s bryan ferry without the arched eyebrow and knowing glance. his lyrics as well nail how real people (okay, artsy real people) feel in and out of love, and much of the credit for abc’s success must rest on his shoulders. but it’s horn’s immaculate production that sends much of the lexicon of love over the top and into rarified air; abc never worked with horn again, and never made a better album.

Alarming. Lovely, but alarming. Put it this way: if you like my blog, you're gonna fucking love this book. I found it at the public library, God bless 'em.

Addendum:'s got it, US readers. UK readers shouldn't have any difficulties.

Further Addendum: The This Is Uncool website! Brill!

Must read: Scott suggests you do something spontaneous this weekend.

Mark Romanek has made a select number of videos - less than 20 in all. But most of them are unequivocably brilliant, and thanks to his website, you can now watch them online, and they look just as gorgeous as they do on your telelvision (Quicktime required). [Oh, and Bob? He also directed the film One Hour Photo.]

The rain has stopped! The rain has stopped! And furthermore, for the first time in an entire week, the sun's out! Woo hoo! It's gonna be, as Bill Withers sang, a lovely day. I just know it.

Hopefully by now you realize that GeekSlut is deliciously slutty, and deliciously gorgeous. But did you understand what a deliciously fine writer he is? Read his chronicles of "the second Tom" (no relation), and see.

Friday, April 11, 2003

I am so. Incredibly. Uncool. I've been listening, this evening, to a vinyl copy of the first cassette I ever owned. It was given to me by this man, back when we were boys, in 7th grade, for my birthday. I turned 12. And the thing is, I know it's bad. Not good-bad like Showgirls or Glitter (movie not soundtrack), just bad. As in appallingly slick el-lay pop-rock from the early '80s. It won six Grammys in '83, including album of the year. It hit #1 and spawned a #1 single written for an Arquette sister. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Toto IV. Why do I love it so?

David over at Swish Cottage has got a smashing new competition, 20 in 20. Know pop music? Lots of it? [Quickly?] Then you could win a prize...

Stump, don't insult Britney like that. She's far superior to Chesney.

Many thanks, as well - I'm feeling very full of thanks today - to Gaz, Chris at Fly Over Country, TMFTML, and others for their encouraging words regarding the piece I wrote a couple days ago about my Dad. It felt a little weird to post something so personal on a blog where there's been so little of that in the last 8 months, but I'm glad I did. Merci beaucoup.

Today has been a very good reminder of just how blessed I am. You know who you are; thank you beyond words.

In case you're wondering how/why I'm posting so many (and such wordy) pieces in such rapid succession, it's simple: I've been writing a lot at work (I can't blog, but I can compose in Word) and then posting once I get home. So know you know.

I was standing on the massive, concrete wraparound porch of my parents’ house, endlessly rewinding and playing the Cure’s “Disintegration,” tears racing down my face.

It’s August 1989, and my then best friend RB has just left. For good. For who knows how long. To the east coast. Hundreds upon hundreds of miles away. RB and I have, over the years, had a shall-I-say complex relationship, but it’s always been one filled with brotherly love. But on that warm summer day, all I felt was abandoned. He was the one who understood me in ways no one else did, the executor of my secrets, the one person I trusted above all others.

The Disintegration album has always been a favorite of mine; not only do I find it to be the Cure’s finest moment, I think it’s one of ‘89’s best as well. It’s blissfully bathed in depression, “Love Song” being its lone exception. Robert Smith’s lyrics are at their most gloriously bathetic, while the band’s accompaniment augments, but never overtakes, his sentiments. Every single time I listen to it (which is fairly often due to its brilliance, especially if I’m feeling blue or down), I’m taken back to that day, watching RB’s Honda CRX (or was it the Beetle?) going down the gravel driveway of our farm.

He’d had a rough summer. Things weren’t going well with his family, and his manic depression seemed to be growing in scope. He was nearly 18, and being completely smothered and stifled by the small town in which we grew up. RB had been accepted at a college for high school students (I’ve never completely gotten that) in the northeast, and after a day at work (and at home) which seemed to him completely emblematic of his life at that point, he decided he’d had enough. So he went home on a break from work (all of us worked there that summer, a very tight gang of four), packed his things, and got ready to take off, with only a note to his parents. But I was off that day, lazing at home. So he came to call.

I think I knew something was wrong when I saw RB drive up. I wish I still had my journal from that year – was I even keeping one? I don’t recall. And neither do I recall all of the precise details. What I remember is him telling me what was happening, and what had already happened (he’d lashed out at one of our closest friends at work), and saying “I’m sorry, Tom,” as if he were letting me down (which, in a sense, he was – I needed him around desperately, and I think he knew that). We embraced, and I started crying immediately. He probably had to pry himself out of my bearhug. Then he was in his car, kicking up clouds of dust as he drove down the driveway lined in maple trees. [Dad even named our property Maple Lane Farm, and had signs made which he proudly posted at the end of the driveway.] I stood there, on the porch, sobbing for a good 10, 15 minutes. I was confused, I was hurt, I was, as they say of those grieving, utterly bereft. Robert Smith and company provided my only possible soundtrack. And there’s a little part of me which, every time I play the cassette (I still have my original 1989 copy), still cries.

At my workplace, on my floor, there’s a phone in the bathroom. That’s because our floor also houses a crisis line, and during off hours, there’s often only a crisis line volunteer present. Even if s/he is in the bathroom, the phone still has to be answered. It’s a multiline phone, and rings often. And on days like today, I so badly want to answer it while I’m peeing, and just say “Pizza Hut” or something. There’s a reason Stumpy and I often lapse into Beavis and Butt-Head voices, you see.

It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you‘ve given everything
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these, time and time again

-Foo Fighters, “Times Like These,” 2002

In just four lines, Dave Grohl says more about what the U.S. should be doing and feeling post-9/11 (and amidst Operation That’s The Man Who Tried To Kill My Daddy – no offense whatsoever to our brave troops in the Middle East [who have all of my respect], all offense intended towards George “Iraq to the highest bidder!” Bush) than in albums by Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and Darryl fucking Worley. Where Worley’s “Have You Forgotten?” is a kneejerk bullshit “patriotic” pastiche of the lowest order (is he on Rummy’s payroll?), Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These” speaks eloquently about what’s important and what’s not. [A point driven home by its video, which features people getting rid of the detritus of their lives.]

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Wow. Jenn and Mike both wrote some very beautiful things today about their friends, of which I'm privileged to be one. I can only hope that I'm as good to them as they are to me. Neither of them has any idea how much their love and support mean to me.

Gotta give some love to my boy Chris publicly, 'cause if it weren't for the encouraging email he sent earlier this week after my rambling, semi-personal piece on Rehoboth (posted Tuesday, Blogger's still having major archive problems), I wouldn't've kept it up, likely. But I think I may start peeling back a few layers here and there now; the post below being a case in point.

Was listening to Foreigner’s “Waiting for a Girl Like You” today at work, and it made me think of my Dad, and the cold, cold northern Indiana winter of ’81-’82. “Waiting” for some reason reminds me of “Cool Night” by Paul Davis – it’s got that similar, ironically icy, keyboard feel to it – and I’m incapable of hearing “Cool Night” without thinking of my father. We had a number of days off from school that winter, due to cold and snow (in climes which see hard winters, yes, school can be cancelled for extreme cold/wind chills). One of those days, Dad took me to work with him. As a sideline to our small family farm (64 acres, maybe 100 cows or so), he sold veterinary supplies on a multi-county route of farms throughout a 50-mile-or-so radius from our house. This particular day, the heat in his truck was broken, but he had a portable space heater rigged up somehow, at my feet. That was utterly necessary, because the air temperature that day might’ve only broken double digits if we were lucky; I recall a weather report at one point telling us the wind chill was –16 degrees. And we drove along, Dad letting me listen to the radio; I picked the then-giant from Chicago, WLS-AM. They played all the best hit pop and rock tunes, and I loved them passionately. Oddly – perhaps because of the weather and implicit irony? – the only song I vividly remember hearing that day was Paul Davis’s first hit. That day’s always held fast in my memory, I think because it was one of the rare instances in which I felt like Dad was paying attention to me, like he was really my Dad, not just some guy who worked backbreakingly hard to put food on the table and clothes on our backs. I felt loved by a man I craved a relationship with, but always felt distant from. I was not, I think, the son he imagined or perhaps even hoped for.

Dad’s the fifth of seven brothers, raised on a farm in central Indiana. He graduated from high school in 1960, by which point the oldest of his brothers (my uncles) was already a teacher at his school. Dad went on to receive a B.S. in Animal Sciences from Purdue in ’64. He married Mom in ’67, and three years later to the month, I was born, the first of four kids, but the only son. Dad was a dairy farmer for nearly 35 years, until he went into the ministry in the mid-‘90s (he’s now a Pastor in the United Methodist Church). His world revolved around hard, physical labor – I saw him sustain broken ribs on more than one occasion, either from being kicked by an ornery cow, or from falling out of the second-floor hayloft. When he finally came in the house and was able to relax, the den was his territory. Dad’s never been a drinker, so that wasn’t a concern. What he wanted to do was relax by watching some sports; it really didn’t matter what it was. As I got older, I felt increasingly distant from Dad. I didn’t understand his world of bluecollar work and football. Mom was the one who encouraged my reading, who went to PTA meetings and band concerts and spelling bees. So I summarily began to reject everything I saw my Dad standing for.

That’s unquestionably why, when I first registered to vote immediately after my 18th birthday, I registered as a Democrat. Now I better understand that choice, and stand firmly behind it – the Dems as the party of Ted Kennedy, not Joe Lieberman. But back then, all I knew was that it was different from Dad. During most of my teenage years, I didn’t really have a relationship with him; he was a cipher who had nothing to do with my life, apart from making money. I made one last stab at pleasing him, by taking up a sport my sophomore year of high school. I was always fairly gawky; my limbs shot out before I was ready for them, and all through elementary school and junior high was one of the tallest kids in my class. I also wasn’t particularly strong. So cross country seemed ideal – anyone can run, right? Suffice it to say that I wasn’t fast, but I tried, I busted my ass out on the course.

Dad never came to a single meet.

I know now, and maybe even subconciously knew then, that he couldn’t – our meets, mostly held after school before twilight waned, were at the exact time when he had to start getting ready to milk the cows, to pay for things like my snazzy blue New Balance running shoes. And please don’t misunderstand; I adore my father now. There’s no living man I admire more. Adulthood has helped me to see and understand the sacrifices he made for his family. But back then, I wanted nothing to do with him, especially after my non-championship season.

I love sports now, some at least – most obviously to readers, college basketball. I like football, too, though baseball’s appeal has always and likely ever will eluded me. I can go home and watch NASCAR Winston Cup races with Dad, and enjoy them. But as in most every man, I think, there’s yet a part of me that only lives to make my Dad proud, to earn his praise. Back on that bitterly cold day in January 1982, however, all I knew was that he was proud. We stopped at a local grain elevator where Dad liked to shoot the shit with the guys, and I distinctly remember him showing me off, perhaps even having me demonstrate to his friends what a smart kid he had. [I’m typical – too smart for my own good, and I knew it all too early. Which means I’ve always had a tendency to slack.]

I don’t want to marry a man just like Dad. But even as I make my way into my mid-30s, I do want my Dad to like the man I decide to spend my life with. And I still want to make him proud.

I love you, Dad.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Must read: Paul is loving the Lisa Marie Presley album?! Wha-wha-what?!

Would you blog already, Beavis? It's not like you're doing anything besides going to Luna, right? *grin*

Addendum: I stand corrected. You'd be amazed how much importance high school baseball and softball games have to idiot 50-something still-takes-laundry-home-to-his-mother high school radio station managers (i.e., Stumpy's boss) in central Indiana. Really, you would.

How the fuck is it that Justin's (he's like Madonna or Britney now - no last name needed) so fucking on?! "Cry Me A River" and "Rock Your Body" might, just might be the two best singles of 2003. I am so pissed that his tour with XTina, the "Justified and Stripped" tour, isn't coming to Norfolk/VA Beach this summer. Maybe a trip to DC is in order? Whatcha think, Chris, you game to go?

Today I’m very attracted to Kate Bush’s music, but particularly her more militaristic singles – not “The Man with the Child in His Eyes” nor “Wuthering Heights,” but more, much more like “Hounds of Love” and “Sat in Your Lap,” with their thunderous drums and stabbing string sections, coming off like an alternate-universe Sousa march of the soon-dead. “Experiment IV” as well, but more because of its snare tattoo which ends each chorus, and its shudder-inducing lyrics (it’s really a quite terrifying song: “they told us what they wanted/was a sound that could kill someone”). Kate Bush is (was?) a master of musical disguise, moving so seemingly effortlessly from records like these to “The Sensual World,” in which I’ve always imagined her a Russian czarina circa 1920, swathed in red velvet, drinking from golden goblets, the epitome of pure pleasure. Her ’86 comp The Whole Story is a collection of utter genius; neither has there been nor will there be another musician with her reach and talent and essential Kate-ness.

If this were The Real World, as opposed to the real world, I’d be in the confessional right now. I feel like I’m entering some uncharted new stage of my life, looking for love, looking for partnership, looking for a husband, and not quite fucking sure how to go about it all. I’m terrified of being alone while I grow old, while I age. But I also know I’m finally ready for it – the companionship, not the being alone; my life’s fairly steady and certain, and I’m just in that place. About fucking time, eh? I suppose some people, some men never get there, never want it. But I am, and I do. Who ever knew that dating, that courtship is so hard?

I’m not desperate by any means, but I am hungry.

Some say that heaven is hell
Some say that hell is heaven

-Kate Bush, “Sat in Your Lap,” 1981

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