Of Masks and Men

It has been way too long I know. I have been woefully negligent with posting anything but this is mainly because of a combination of going back to work and tackling this crazy series of articles I have due for a magazine.

The articles are fairly intensive with talking to sources, researching and editing. But the tricky bit is that both big assignments are back to back and due on the same day.

Add Zoom calls, my other job and some decluttering and my time has rapidly been filling up. It has been kind of annoying to be so busy during a time when folks are still on lockdown.

Another thing that has kept me frazzled is the way people are casting aside sage advice in favor of listening to morons. Somewhere out there, in the weirdest parts of America, Carol and Stanley Idiot are just hanging around, selfishly refusing to wear a mask, social distance or show any sense of compassion for their fellow man.

Carol and Stanley Idiot are the dumbest form of sheep. Inconvenienced by wearing a mask to help flatten the curve but exuberantly happy to wear a hunting mask when they out to kill some squirrel or whatever it is they eat. For all I know it could be possum. Sadly they are part of the new normal.

But the point being is that when John Steinbeck created a really interesting character named Lennie Small he had no idea that over eight decades there would be thousands of people walking the planet who were just as mentally challenged. Unlike Lennie though, their mental challenges are self-inflicted and their big hearts are nonexistent.

I also have had a pileup of stuff to transcribe and edit and fiddle with and it is time consuming. I also have been interviewing folks for the KDHX website which has been fun. So far I have interviewed Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s, John Doe of X, Hazel English, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. All of that has kept me busy.

Both Valentine and Frantz have books out which is why I talked to them. Remain in Love is Frantz’s new book. It covers a lot of ground and is a great oral history of New York in the 1970s, a time when so much was happening. There’s a lot of ground covered, Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, The Ramones, the Bowery etc..

But the really interesting stuff is about David Byrne and his relationship with the rest of Talking Heads. It was not rosy.

It is not pretty. I won’t ruin anything but as someone who is a fan of his music it put me in a weird spot emotionally. He was kind of a jerk back then and I sincerely hope he has mellowed with age.

Frantz also has managed to have an amazing love affair with Tina Weymouth and the book goes into that as well. It is very heartwarming in these crappy times.

Here is a link to my interview with Tim Burgess. his Twitter listening parties have been a great time occupier during all of this.

https://kdhx.org/articles/music-news/2051-telling-stories-with-tim-burgess

After talking to Burgess, which I might add was pretty cool, I got his first book. Going into the interview I was expecting him to be aloof and kind of distant. instead he was jovial, although serious, and very nice. He’s lived a real rock star life and his band is still under appreciated in the States in my opinion.

The first time I heard The Only One I Know was in 1990. My friend Jennifer took me to Wax Trax Records in Chicago and I was scouring the imports bin. The guy at the counter threw the 12″ single on and it began to play. I was in a different row from her but we could see each other. There we were, her with wildly black disheveled hair and I with a short mop, both decked out in leather jackets trying to just not stick out.

The record started and we both did that cool head bob thing you do when you her a record that hits like a delicacy on the tongue or good whiskey. it was pretty cool. I somehow managed to get one of the last codes of the damn thing and spent the rest of the day grasping it like a nun with a rosary.

From that point on I have checked in on them now and then. I think they are a great singles band with a few great albums smattered in-between. Burgess knows how to take his influences and pour them back into his music which is harder to do than it may appear.

As for his book, Telling Stories is pretty straightforward. It is a quick read and Burgess does indeed have stories that are informative, funny and insightful. Burgess has a new book, One Two Another coming out over here soon. it is a collection of lyrics accompanied by lyrics and annotations.

Now onto The Wants. They are from Brooklyn. they have a new record out called Container that is rad. They have this Interpol/Gang of Four thing going on and it totally works. They are grimy and dark and murky and they have great chords.

Their new ‘single’ is The Motor.

Fear My Society is also really good.

Beneath the surface is a serious sense for pop sensibility that also plugs into a minimal techno vibe in a few places. These guys sound like all the dark underbelly of New York places that I used to go to when New York still had such things. If you want more info on these guys check them out on social media or here: https://thewantsnyc.bandcamp.com

IDLES have a new record coming out called Ultra Mono. I love IDLES. they make great musical hissyfits and Joe Talbot has a distinctive voice. I also love that they are mostly angry. Grounds is their latest single and it does not disappoint. It flails uncontrollably in a wash of snarls and abrasive guitars.

IDLES are the perfect band for the disenfranchised minority. In this case that minority are people who appreciate the awesomeness of loud, angry post-punk and want to punch Nickelback in the face. Their songs are intense, crunchy and filled with lyrics that are clever and sly. They are the real deal.

I started watching The Mandalorian which has been a nice break from the hell we are living in. I am that guy too, the one guy that thinks there is too much Baby Yoda. But it is not that big of a deal. Beyond that there is some real character development going on. And I love that it is a Western.

I also started watching Derry Girls which has been fun. I have not needed subtitles. I have heard some Americans “don’t understand” the accents. If you are American and cannot understand an Irish accent by now I can’t help you. Just saying.

Schitt’s Creek is still great and I never want it to end.

I have taken the plunge and started watching The Expanse. There is a lot going on and they just throw you in feet first.

Nonetheless, it is just gritty enough to keep me curious. It isn’t shiny or cute either which is good. At first I thought the premise was a bit hokey but it grew on me.

Edward Hopper has kept me sane during the pandemic. So many of his paintings feature figures that are in isolation despite being in a large city. His elegant landscapes of urban areas are beautiful but desolate.

As this thing goes on I find myself looking at his work and finding comfort. If there are people in his paintings they look burdened or miserable or just tired. People can relate to that. If they are landscapes or houses or gas stations they are appear desolate and abandoned. the tis another thing that resonates today. They drip of melancholy and that makes me oddly calm.

Appliance news for this month……

There is a spiffy new rotating fan that has really helped cut down on running the AC. We also got some new hospital grade air filters. Hopefully that will help keep germs and viruses at bay, or at least slow things down.

Not quite an appliance but there is a new kitchen table. It has opened up some space in way too small kitchen which is fantastic. It is nice to have the extra space.

There has been workmen outside the apartment playing terrible classic rock for the better part of two weeks now. It is like an obstacle course trying to get around them because they are of the ilk that doesn’t social distance, even outside. They are nice but….

  • 1. They have crap taste in music
  • 2. I do not know what form of English they speak
  • 3. They love to litter
  • 4. They don’t clean up after themselves
  • 5. See social distancing complaint above.

Anyway, the poor bastards have bene out in the heat taking down hornets nest and walking on roofs so I can cut them some slack. They have a cherry picker that has been out in front for a while and they love it. They go up and down all day like giddy school kids.

Randomness…

I need to see that damn comet.

They should not be playing sports.

Selfish & stupid people are going to be the end of us.

On some mornings I find myself watching old timey steam trains in North Wales. They are on webcam and you can see them as they come and go. Everyone is socially distant and wearing masks. They run mostly from Porthmadog and Tan y Bwlch.

You can see the mountains of Snowdonia in the background too which is also calming. My dad worked for a railroad and I remember when he took me to the roundhouse and it was pretty cool.

Link: https://www.festrail.co.uk

I miss being able to travel. I still have no desire to eat inside a restaurant or go bowling. I wish I could say this is all going away, but nope it is not.

I just want one day where it does;t feel like 2020 is piling on. Just one. Ok, maybe a few. Like the rest of the year.

The Sound & the Blurry

So, somehow at a time when nothing has been going on, I have been too busy to actually update this thing. Everything has been a big blur.

Days move into days and are suddenly weekends. A few minutes online suddenly becomes hours and going out has turned into a big pain in the ass. The worst part is that I still feel there is not enough time to get things done and it is kind of a bummer.

Despite being furloughed and having only my PT job, I have been insanely busy. for starters I had three freelance projects to work on. The latter was a beast with a client that gave me a two word outline and orders to ‘go.’ Don’t get me wrong the income has been sorely needed.

I hate the getting ready to go out followed by the coming in from going out. it takes so long and is such an annoying process. But this is the new normal.

So, when I have gone out it has been brief. I have been to Whisk on Cherokee a few times to pick up the amazing scones and popsicles they have been making. The strawberry hibiscus one is incredible. I want to support local business and they have never steered me astray.

It has been weird to see Cherokee street deserted and without any signs of life. Surreal actually. The Loop has bene mostly quiet. When I take my walks it is on a vacant lot or around the block a few times. It has been interesting to notice the amount of idiots outside who are not social distancing.

It has been amazing to see how many people just don’t care. I mean it is not that hard to keep away from other people. I think the hardest thing is remaining composed in the presence of the stupid who just don’t get it or have no desire to not be selfish.

This also goes for people shopping. Get what you need and get out people. don’t dawdle or linger or be annoying. This is not the time to browse or wander aimlessly.

In appliance news…..The tv remote crapped out. I had an older model that worked but I ordered a new one. It got here pretty fast, which surprised me. The food processor decided to call it a day so there is now a nifty new a Cuisinart (purchased with Target gift cards) in its stead.

I have been taking some online classes. The ones I have taken with the MoMA have been very interesting. It is nice to explore learning right now.

There is one on the history of photography that I have enjoyed. The MoMA has a Dorothea Lange exhibition right now that is virtual but will be going live again when they reopen.

I also want to see the Basquiat show that is in Boston. it looks amazing!

It looks amazing. They are still doing some interesting stuff with it, even though it has technically closed.

I saw Little Richard play at Chuck Berry’s 70th birthday party at The Pageant in October of 2001. From the time he walked on stage to the end of is set he was utterly mesmerizing.

His hips were obviously in bad shape but the voice was immaculate. It was one of those voices that made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Seeing him live underscored that he was the consummate showman.

He had so many amazing records. I know he has a slew of great singles, but I really am partial to Rip It Up. It is raw and tough and amazing.

Seeing him live it was easy to understand why his impact on both Bowie and Prince was so profound. I know people talk about Elvis a lot as the King of rock and everything, but really, the crown should go to Little Richard. He was a revolutionary.

I was also bummed to hear about the passing of Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk. I love Kraftwerk.

He was responsible for some really influential music and his legacy is also pretty profound. I was looking forward to seeing Kraftwerk at The Pageant this summer but I think that is not happening.

In a related note Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD) streamed an archived concert from their last tour.

Billed as “Live From Your Sofa” it was a really good show and a welcome relief from the tedium of the world.

I also watched some recorded concert sets from Dinosaur Jr. and Warpaint that were really amazing.

The Magnetic Fields have a new album of super short songs. They are quirky and odd and lovely all at once.

But don’t let the brevity fool you. Quickies is a terrific set of tunes. I have really enjoyed hearing their short little bursts of pop awesomeness.

The new X album Alphabetland is the best record of the year.

It is a burst of much needed punk rock attitude. I ti s a 30 minute bombast of adrenaline. I interviewed John Doe last week and he was really cool and nice and genuine.

One of the ways I am escaping right now is by sitting on my porch. There are so many birds out and it is nice to hear them. I am also taking walks which has been nice, except when there are idiots.

I still think it is too soon to reopen.

I have been watching The Last Dance on ESPN. While I am not the biggest basketball fan I appreciated Michael Jordan as a player. Having said that, my interest has been from more of a documentary film perspective. As a documentary it does everything it is supposed to do. The best thing is you do not need to be a fan of the NBA to enjoy it.

Sadly, Michael Jordan is the big jerk I suspected he was. I know being that famous would have a profound affect on someone, but he acted like an entitled baby a lot and was kind of a bully. Still, the 10 part series is compelling TV.

I am glad Dead To Me is back. It is such delicious fun.

The character dynamics are really interesting and has a great blend of hilarity, sadness and humor. Like most good dramas its main characters make poor decisions all the time.

I am curious to see where this goes moving forward.

On the other side of life, I cannot recommend Schitt’s Creek enough. It is hilarious and shows that sitcoms can be funny in the right hands. Especially if those making it are fearless and connected to the human psyche.

It is pretty inexplicable but I have been watch the late night reruns of Cannon and Barnaby Jones. I want to start by saying that Cannon needs to trim his sideburns. Those things have a life of their own. I love how Frank Cannon doesn’t take any crap and is kind of a curmudgeon. He also rocked that old school car phone.

As for Barnaby Jones there is something soothing about watching Buddy Ebsen do his thing. He is very sneaky and devious but in a very understated way. He also was catching people who have made some poor decisions.

I love how Quinn Martin Productions had a deal with Cadillac and LTD to use big cars. Every show had big cars in it.

Well that is a fade out for this one. In future days I will endeavor to do this more and not get behind.

Stay inside, be safe and get of my damn lawn!